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The First Civil War came to an end in 1646 when Charles surrendered to the Scottish after four years of fighting. However Parliament’s victory was not inevitable, during the first two years Parliament suffered a number of losses, for example they lost Bristol in 1643, which caused many to question Parliament’s ability to win the war and advocate a peace negotiation with the King. A number of factors contributed to Parliament’s victory, yet it was not primarily Parliament’s superior economic resources. Although their superior economic resources contributed, it was arguably the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant that explain Parliament’s victory. The Scottish alliance has been identified as a turning point in the war, while Pym’s tactical genius also played a vital role in laying the foundations of Parliament’s military power. Consequently it can be agreed that Parliament’s superior economic resources accounted for its victory to a certain extent, as they allowed Parliament to finance their army effectively, but it was essentially due to the Scottish alliance that Parliament was able to win the war.
The most important factor for Parliament’s victory was the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant in 1643, which provided the terms on which the Scottish entered the war. The signing of the Covenant played an important role in restoring Parliament’s morale, as it gave fresh resolve to some wavering Parliamentarians who were loosing hope that the war could be won in 1643. This was vital in ensuring that Parliament was able to continue its war efforts and defeat the Royalists. Furthermore, the treaty provoked the King to sign the Cessation Treaty with the Irish Catholic rebels in 1643; this was a huge publicity failure alienating a large number of his supporters and angering many of those who were wavering in their support of Parliament. Therefore Charles unintentionally secured greater support for Parliament’s war efforts. The alliance with Scotland brought an army of 22,000 skilled men led by the leader Alexander Leslie; the Scottish were experienced soldiers who had already acquired successful battle experience in the two Bishops’ Wars. The increase in manpower and expertise greatly aided Parliament’s war efforts, as demonstrated by the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644 - the battle in the North was Parliament’s first decisive victory and disrupted Charles’ monopoly power over the Northern area and resources. The Scots’ first military objective was to take Newcastle, which they soon successfully occupied, however the main prize in the North was York, as the King had chosen to make York his temporary capital. Consequently Sir Thomas Fairfax moved towards York from the South, joining the Scottish and Manchester’s Eastern Association army. The gathering of Parliament’s forces drove Prince Rupert to abandon his position in Shrewsbury and march to his relief, leading to the Battle of Marston Moor, which virtually destroyed Royalist power in the north of England. Subsequently the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant was the most important factor accounting for Parliament’s victory, as the Scottish involvement meant the King was forced to divert his resources between the North and South, allowing Parliament to siege areas such as Newcastle and York. Furthermore because of the Scottish influence in the North Parliament was able to redeploy its armies to the Midlands and the South. The importance of the Covenant was also highlighted by leading Parliamentarian’s at the time, John Pym saw the treaty as essential to Parliament’s prospects while Manchester thought the Scottish indispensable to Parliamentarian prospects. The signing of the Covenant can also be linked to Pym’s tactical genius, as it was his final contribution to Parliament’s war effort. Consequently the Scottish alliance was arguably more of an important factor than Pym’s tactical genius and Parliament’s economic resources, because both those factors had been present since the outbreak of war, yet it was 1643 when the Scots became involved that has been identified as the turning point.
Pym’s tactical genius also heavily influenced Parliament’s victory in the First Civil War, as he was able to hold together a divided Parliament creating a bridge between the ‘War’ and ‘Peace’ party, despite their conflicting aims, and implementing an infrastructure that ensured Parliament could take full advantage of its long-term strengths. Pym was able to use the dangers and disasters of the military situation to persuade conservative MPs to adopt radical measures. For example Pym used the failure at Edgehill in 1642 and Rupert’s assault on Brentford to persuade MPs to establish compulsory weekly assessments that imposed a specific sum of tax on each county, forming the basis of an effective financial system. Furthermore in 1642 Pym was able to reduce local obstruction by establishing the Midland and Eastern Association, which co-ordinated county administration and military effort. The army of the Eastern Association became Parliament’s most effective force and the Royalists never managed to invade East Anglia. Therefore Pym’s tactics allowed Parliament to organise their forces effectively and defend key areas that provided a number of resources. This can be linked to Parliament’s superior economic resources, as the retention of East Anglia meant Parliament enjoyed a populous, wealthy and sizeable geographical base where taxes could be roused. A further example of Pym’s influence came after the breakdown of peace negotiations at Oxford in 1643, where he was able to convince Parliament to assume powers of taxation. Pym organised loans from City financiers and introduced several fiscal innovations such as; excise duties - a sales tax- and a sequestration ordinance, which confiscated Royalist properties. These financial measures ensured that Parliament could afford to supply and pay its armies securing their loyalty; this contrasted to Charles’ troops as most of the commanders were forced to pay their troops out of their own pocket. Furthermore it was Pym who proposed an alliance with Scotland in 1643 and persuaded Parliament to agree, by avoiding total commitment to Scottish Presbyterianism by agreeing to call an Assembly of Ministers to devise a scheme of reform. Consequently without Pym’s tactics there may have never been an alliance with Scotland, and with the rich south-eastern counties under control, the support of the navy and the Scottish alliance, those who took over Pym’s role arguably had the best material for success. However the Scottish alliance still remains the most important factor, as although influential Pym’s importance is limited by his death in 1643 and Parliament’s failure up to that point. The resistance at Hull and Gloucester and the unexpected success of the Eastern Association armies, along with Essex’s victory at Newbury bought Parliament time to come to alliance with Scotland, yet without this it was very unlikely Parliament would win the war – even Pym saw the treaty as essential to Parliament’s war efforts. Yet Pym’s tactic’s remains more important than Parliament’s economic resources, as his tactics meant Parliament was able to employ their resources effectively – at the outbreak of war Charles’ success was much down to Parliament failing to employ their resources. This demonstrated that although they possessed resources, without making proper use of them Parliament would not have won the war.
Finally, although not the most important factor, Parliament’s superior economic resources did contribute to Parliament’s victory. Parliament controlled London and East Anglia the richest and most heavily populated areas of England, which meant they were able to raise money and men without difficulty. Furthermore the territory that Parliament controlled was rich in iron, for producing cannon and other weapons, cloth to supply uniforms and leather to supply saddles and shoes- enabling Parliament to have successfully equipped soldiers. Consequently the New Model Army was the first fully professional, properly paid, properly equipped and professionally led army – however it was not created until 1645, therefore Parliament’s victories before their creation, such as the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644, weakens the argument that Parliament’s superior economic resources were behind their ultimate victory. Parliament also held control of the ports where trade was able to produce taxation, this contrasted to Charles who was dependent on his supporters for money, and it also allowed Parliament to prevent Charles from importing foreign goods and aid. However Parliament’s economic resources was not the most important factor explaining their victory due to a number of reasons. Firstly it took time for Parliament’s resources to kick in and become effective, which demonstrated that without Pym’s tactics Parliament’s economic advantage may not have been put to good use and impacted the outcome of the war. Additionally Charles was not without his own material advantage – Charles held control over the North of England, the whole of Wales and the South West of England, which had sources of cloth and leather. Furthermore, Charles also began to develop an effective administration and military system from 1643; for example splitting the nation into six districts, collecting taxes more efficiently and appointing ‘grandees’. Additionally, despite their economic superiority, Parliament still suffered looses as late as 1644, for example Essex’s attempt to undermine the King’s position in Cornwall was a total failure. Consequently Parliament’s superior economic resources was not the most important reason for Parliament’s victory, as although it meant Parliament was able to supply and pay their troops, had the Scottish alliance not increased Parliament’s man power – the Royalists had 18,000 men while Parliament now had 27,000 – and attacked Charles from another front is was unlikely Parliament would have won the war. Furthermore without Pym’s tactics the resources may not have been taken advantage of effectively and therefore had limited effects on Parliament’s war efforts; it was Pym that devised effective taxing systems such as compulsory weekly assessments.
In conclusion, rather than Parliament’s superior economic resources accounting for its victory in the First Civil war, it was ultimately the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant that allowed Parliament’s victory over the Royalists. Although Parliament’s resources allowed for them to finance the war, as the rich and prosperous South East was ideal for taxing, critics have identified the Scottish alliance as the turning point in the civil war. The Scottish alliance forced Charles to divert his attention to the North as well as the South and allowed Parliament to outnumber Charles’ forces by 9,000 men – man power being arguably more important than economic resources. Pym’s tactical genius was also an important factor of Parliament’s victory as it laid the foundations for victory by employing full use of Parliament’s economic resources, such as his taxing systems. Furthermore Pym was behind the alliance with Scotland, as he proposed the idea, and then convinced Parliament to agree to the idea. However his influence was arguably less important than the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant, as his death in 1643 meant he no longer influenced Parliament’s decisions. Furthermore over time the Royalists also began to develop an effective administration system, for example splitting the nation into six districts; this infers that Pym’s tactics were not the most important reason behind Parliament’s victory. However, it can be argued, Pym’s tactics were more important than Parliament’s economic resources, as without Pym, Parliament may not have been able to use their economic advantage effectively. Consequently, although Parliament’s superior economic resources aided their victory, it was the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant that mostly accounted for Parliament’s success, closely followed by Pym’s tactical genius.
Many historians argue that after the dissolution of Parliament in 1629 Charles attempted to establish an absolutist political system, whereby all authority is vested in one ruler. When considering the evidence of Charles’ autocratic nature, the reforms of religion can be said to support the view that Charles was attempting to establish absolutism, whereas the financial and local government reforms challenge the idea. The most important argument against the idea that Charles was attempting to create absolutism was that England was in dire need of reformation; local government was inefficient and England was in severe debt, reaching nearly £1 million pounds by 1630. Consequently rather than attempting to establish a totalitarian regime, Charles was simply reacting to the inefficiencies and issues that existed within England at the time, implementing the reforms necessary if England were to remain a powerful and competitive state.
The most important evidence that disputes the idea that Charles was attempting to create absolutism were the financial reforms that Charles implemented. By 1630 England was in severe debt at around £1 million pounds and without Parliament’s subsidies Charles needed to find another method in order to raise revenue. Charles chose to raise revenue by employing William , the Attorney General, to search through England’s history and find forgotten laws, lapsed policies and medieval precedents that could be used to raise income. An example of this was the revival of forest laws, which allowed Charles to fine landowners who estates now encroached on the ancient boundaries and Ship Money, an ancient tax used to build ships and protect trade from piracy, which Charles implemented in 1634. The revival of these old taxation systems dispute the idea that Charles was attempting to create ‘absolutism’, as they had been forgotten under the wealthy Tudor monarchs who had no use for them, and other monarchs such as Elizabeth I had employed similar methods. Furthermore the fact that 98% of the Ship Money tax was collected in 1635 demonstrates that the nation was not greatly opposed to Charles’ new forms of raising revenue. An alternative reason for Charles’ financial reforms can be explained by the fact that prior to 1630 England had been involved in a number of failed Foreign policy escapades with France and Spain; the La Rochelle expedition of 1627 and the Cadiz expedition of 1625. Since Parliament had refused to grant any subsidies and been dissolved in 1629, Charles recognized the need to find another method to raise revenue to improve England’s weapons and training. Charles’ financial reforms also link to Charles’ reforms of the Church and local government; he needed to raise money to restore the impoverished Church buildings to their former glory and many of the issues regarding the inefficiencies of local government resolved around the fact that Charles could not afford to pay local officials. Consequently it can be argued that rather than trying to create ‘absolutism’, Charles’ was acting within his right as King to impose the financial reforms required to address England’s debt crisis, and build up the financial security that would allow him to improve the militia in order to face the foreign powers.
Charles’ reforms to local government can also be used to argue against the belief that he was trying to create ‘absolutism’ during the Personal Rule, as his lack of interest in politics demonstrate that his decision to rule without parliament was more likely to be a result of frustration rather than a strategy to create ‘absolutism’ – a frequent comment on papers sent to him for a decision was ‘Do it if you find it suit my service’ and he rarely attended meetings of the privy council. Furthermore many of Charles’ problems during the 1620s originated in the inefficiency of local government who were unpaid and expected to carry out unpopular policies such as the Ship Money tax in1634; therefore the King needed to make local officials fear the Crown more than they feared the disapproval of their neighbours. The King chose to appoint around 50 Justices of Peace to each county who met four times a year at the Quarter Sessions. These sessions created a court of law and administrative forum, that examined whether the counties were being well run, it also allowed directives to be passed on from the Privy Council – improving the communication between central and local government. This illustrates that Charles’ reforms were focused on improving the political system in England, and due to his lack of interest in politics, demonstrates he was willing to delegate power to the Privy Council and officials rather than attempting to concentrate all power within himself. After the worst harvest of the early Stuart period in 1630 and food riots breaking out, many feared that more unrest would erupt. In reaction to this, Charles administered the Book of Orders in 1631. This instructed justices to supervise local officers and make quarterly reports to the sheriff, who would then pass the information on to the Privy Council. This was put in place to see that justices prevented vagrancy, placed poor children in apprenticeships, punished delinquents, put the idle to work and kept the roads repaired. The fact that the Book of Orders was instigated as a response to the food epidemic also demonstrates that rather than attempting to create ‘absolutism’, Charles was reacting to events and hardships that existed at the time. Furthermore Charles was careful to remain within the law when implementing his policies, as if his actions were seen as illegal he may have jeopardized the co-operation of the county elites, without which royal authority could not be sustained. The reforms made to local government can be linked to the reforms of the Church, as they were both focused on ‘Thorough’; improving the accountability of local government and the Church to the King. Consequently, as with Charles’ financial reforms, the changes made to local government lay within his right as King. Charles’ attempt to improve the efficiency of government challenges the view that he was implementing the changes to create ‘absolutism’, with the most important evidence of this being his lack of interest in politics.
On the other hand, Charles’ reformations of the Church arguably demonstrate that Charles was in fact attempting to establish absolutism. Charles employed Archbishop Laud to coordinate his policies with the Church in 1633, which concentrated on two main areas in particular: the suppression of preaching and changes to the conduct of services. Laud attempted to supress religious liberty, imposing uniformity in Church worship; for example in 1629 Charles ordered that each lecturer ‘read divine service according to the liturgy printed by authority, in his surplice and hood before the congregation’. This was because religious freedom was too difficult for Charles to control the content of, and a threat to the authority of the bishops, therefore by eradicating religious freedom Charles was evidently attempting to control and influence people’s beliefs– indicating his desire to create ‘absolutism’. Furthermore in order to make sure his policies were carried out and efficiently administered, Laud used ‘Thorough’, which was designed to improve accountability. This involved ordering Bishops to live in their diocese and either he or his commissioners visiting each one to see whether the Bishop was enforcing uniformity, known as ‘ Visitations’. Clergy infringing these new reforms were brought before the Court of High Commission, a prerogative court allowing the King to control the sentence. An example of this was Alexander Leighton’s case in 1630, where he was fined, pilloried, lashed, had his ears cut off, his nose slit and ears branded for attacking the bishops in ‘Sion’s Plea Against the Prelacy’. Additionally, hostile books and pamphlets were censored. This is a further example of Charles’ endeavour to create ‘absolutism’, as it demonstrates Charles’ willingness to persecute those that exerted resistance towards his reforms. Furthermore the fact that Archbishop Laud was Arminian meant that many of the new reforms were heavily influenced by Arminianism. The most radical change of the Church service was that the altar was to be placed in the east end and railed off from the rest of the Church; this created the impression that the minister was of a separate class and able to mediate between the people and God. This alteration to the Church service resulted in a service similar to the Catholic mass, causing much opposition – alienating and offending large sections of the population, and thus demonstrating Charles’ disregard of the will of the people. In 1640 the Crown issued a set of ecclesiastical canons, which stated that every parish priest had to read a doctrine on the Divine Right of Kings four times a year. This stressed the King’s importance to the people, and detached himself from the rest of society as the ruler chosen by God, isolating himself as an authoritarian ruler. Consequently Charles clearly attempted to establish a form absolutism through the Church, as he imposed religious uniformity and prosecuted those that opposed his reformations. However it could also be argued that Charles was forced to intervene with the Church, due to the fact it had become impoverished since the reformation and the gentry were taking advantage of taxes meant for the Church. Furthermore there was not universal dissatisfaction to the Church reforms and Charles was prepared to tolerate different theological views from his own, provided that those who held them maintained outward conformity and submission.
In conclusion, Charles’ reformations to a variety of areas across society can be argued to be a response to the inefficiencies that existed within society during the 1630s in England. Charles’ reforms were therefore an attempt to maintain England’s authority with regards to foreign powers such as France and Spain. The religious reforms can also be linked to this, as the uniformity of the Church that Charles and Laud attempted to establish would present England as a unified state to foreign powers, rather than a divided society that may pose as a threat to the King. Furthermore the fact that Charles’ reforms remained within the law and had also been implemented in the past by other monarchs challenges the idea that Charles was trying to create ‘absolutism’, but rather acting within his right as King. Finally, Charles’ lack of interest with politics suggests that he had no intention or desire to create ‘absolutism’.