The Origins of the Civil War 1640-1642
The Election of the Long Parliament
A consensus is a general agreement or shared attitude. The Anti- court Consensus is referring to the majority of MP’s who assembled in November 1640. These MP’s agreed that the courts policies had to be stopped. In November 1640 Parliament was united in a set of negative attitudes:
- Wanted to punish the Kings advisors “Windibank, Finch especially Laud and Wentworth”
- Determined to stop a move of the church into Catholicism. Laudian changes had to be reversed.
- They wanted to restore Constitutional balance between the rights of the subjects and the rights of the king. They believed the last 10 years had been Charles attempt to set up a semi-absolutist state.
- Wished to eliminate the financial innovation of personal rule: Forest law, Ship Money.
- They wanted to get rid of the court of Wards which had doubled its income during the personal rule, as well as Star Chamber and High Commission- Basically all prerogative courts were to be abolished.
Many MP’s believed that the Parliament of 1640 would be the last chance to reverse the trends of the 1630’s before England became a Roman Catholic dominated absolutist state. Many were apprehensive about Wentworth, whose record in Ireland indicated a minister who could ruthlessly get things done and could make absolutism work.
The Aims of MP’s
MP’s saw that their job in Parliament was to restore the old constitution as they saw it- not to start a revolution. The MP’s were united in their fear of popery and fear of absolutism. In 1640 no one could foresee that in 1642 a section of Parliament would find itself at war with the king, there would be an armed rebellion and that in 1649 finally the execution of Charles.
The First Session of the Long Parliament Nov 1640-1641
The fall of Wentworth (Earl of Stratford) Nov 1640- May 1641
First target of the anti-court consensus were the Kings evil advisors. Laud was arrested and sent to the tower eventually executed in 1645 (WOOO). Wentworth was feared in Ireland and hated in England; English Gentry believed he was trying to set up an absolutist state in England. Parliament was determined to eliminate the threat of a ruthless minister. He was impeached; Parliament claimed he was a threat to Charles kingdom due to the fact he wanted to bring his Irish army over to England to use as a force to continue the Personal Rule, and as Parliament saw it, use the Irish army to establish a dictatorship. The advice he gave to Charles rebounded on him.
Evidence of actual treachery was difficult to obtain so Pym resorted to an Act of Attainder (treason). Charles signed this act because he was under pressure from the mobs. Wentworth was executed in May 1641, after being betrayed by Charles who did not stand up for his advisors.