Religious Radicalism, Toleration and Major-generals


Religious toleration

  • Cromwell accepted religious toleration
  • Anti-tolerationists wanted a firm, rigid and disciplined church e.g. presbyterian scots
  • Conservative tolerationists wanted some religious toleration- accepted presbyterians, independents and baptists but rejected catholics and socinians e.g. Political independents
  • Radical tolerationists questioned the role of parliament being able to restrict religion, only a small minority e.g. Henry Vane (A Vane's Healing Truth)
  • Toleration Act 1650 made conservative toleration the official position
  • Can be argued that Cronwell was between conservative and radical toleration- the insturment formalised a broad toleration that many radicals had called for 
  • Issue of religious toleration was apparent in the Biddle case and the Naylar Crisis because OC was unsure on whether they should ne punished 
  • Cromwell's regime allowed more religious toleration than ever before and even for some time afterwards 
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Cromwell and Catholics

Toleration of religious radicals such as the quakers, fifth monarchists and baptists made Cromwell think about the relationship between and individuals faith and the state

Cromwell did have some toleration towards the Catholics e.g. prevented some of their executions (protested at a Jesuit priests executiom in 1654) 

During Cromwell's rule a group know as the Blackloists were established that controlled the direction of catholicism for that time- they proposed that:

  • they would accept Cromwell as protector
  • swear a parliamentary oath of allegience
  • allow the pope to appoint 6 english bishops but only give them limited power
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Cromwell and the Jews

Cromwell was tolerant of the jews because of his millenarianism- if the millenium was to be established, the jews needed to be converted as it says in the Bible 

An Amsterdam jew p;roduced a petition to allow the jews to officially come and live in England and practise their worship and trades freely

Cromwell insisted that this petition was put before the protectorate council and attended every meeting- however the protectorate council refused

Cromwell made it possible for jews to come and live in England although it was unofficially- because of his belief in millenarianism 

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The major-generals meant that Englad was split into 11 boroughs and each was managed by a general from the army e.g. Lambert controlled the Yorkshire borough 

This was a good example of miliitary ruling, and as well as that the major generals meant that people saw an increase in religious radicalism and taxes e.g. the Decimation tax- a fine on the wealthy royalists (10% of their annual income) to pay for local militias 

Major-generals was a result of the failure of the Western Design, the first protectorate parliament and the renewed royalist threat

Durston (2001) indicated how the generals traditional image of 'kill joys' for their attempt to 'surpress and control' the population limited their power 

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Reactions to major-generals

Government were concerned with the level of military rule and the interference in the local governments- initially the major-generals didn't do any purges and aimed to work with the local MPs but eventually many major-generals removed men to make their rule more efficient- confirming the fear of the gentry 

Finance concerns were due to the high levels of taxation e.g. the Decimation tax- levels of taxation had risen drastically since the defeat of Charles, mainly to fund the militia. The decimation tax hindered the acceptance of the protectorate for many royalists and it didn't even raise enough money needed for the local militias

Religious issues included the spread of radicalism- many religious radicals had been or were members of the army and therefore their power raised a social, economic and political threat e.g. the explosion of Quakerism in the 1650's. Major-generals also made connections with those of the gentry regarded as radicals, Durston (2001) says that the central feature of the major-generals was not military ruling but Godly rule

Cromwell's reaction was not great- he opposed the decimation tax and the milita bill when proposed, and returned to a 'healing and settling' approach. OC did praise the generals at the opening of the second protectorate parliament but then sought their removal- pushed him towards abandoning the instrument and adopting the Humble Petition and Advice 

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