Algernon Sidney and the Restoration Crisis, 1677-1683 by Jonathan Scott

By Jonathan Scott

This publication completes the examine of the existence and political considered Algernon Sidney (1623-1683), which begun with Algernon Sidney and the English Republic, 1623-1677 (1988). within the strategy it bargains a reinterpretation of the key political concern of Charles II's reign, and of its eu and seventeenth-century contexts. Like its predecessor, the publication spans the disciplines of highbrow and political heritage. Its dual concentration is the final six years of Sidney's existence, which culminated within the well-known public drama of his trial and execution for treason in 1683, and in his significant political paintings, the Discourses relating executive, which was once used as facts opposed to him on the trial. This intertwining of occasions and ideas demands an exam of the connection among the sensible and highbrow points of the difficulty of 1678-1683 typically.

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Under Charles II, the situation was both more complicated, and more fragile. The religious and military state of western Europe in the 1670s was even more threatening than in the 1620s. The protestant Netherlands, a part-Elizabethan creation, narrowly escaped annihilation by a BourbonStuart alliance in 1672-3. The attack on the Netherlands was accompanied by an attempt to legalise catholic worship in England. In late 1680, as we will see, the House of Commons looked back to these events as the beginning of the last stage in the European design to destroy protestantism.

The Emperor has martyred them in Hungary, and what has been done in Bohemia, they say, broke the Prince Electors heart... Every session of Parliament we are still troubled with popery. In the descent of four kings, still the Parliaments have been troubled with Popery . . 26 The specific problem, however, was domestic. It was that once again the nation's own government was abandoning its primary duty to protect the country from this menace. And as under Charles I, it wasn't just foreign policy that was involved.

These problems arise for two obvious reasons. Firstly such a framework doesn't allow for the fluidity of the real crisis — the rapidity with which such secondary expedients, and individual stances in relation to them, changed in response to changing events. Secondly it doesn't allow for the secondary status of the succession issue itself. Thus part of the problem is the attempt to organise an account of a three-to-five-year crisis around an issue which didn't actually feature prominently for more than one or two months of it.

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