SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY government was the business of the king and his ministers on the one hand, or of the upper class on the other-but not of the whole people. There are grounds, however, for treating the constitutional struggles of the century as steps towards democratic government, or the form of it that was attained in England in the early twentieth century. Such progress as was made was the more striking by contrast with the general extinction of parliaments on the Continent.
The Stuarts reigned in England from 1603 to -1714, and tn two hundred and forty years, (1567-1806) produced one able man, Charles II. (or two, if we credit them with William III.). Of the rest of the family, none was English in outlook (with the exception of Anne) or free from very grave defects of judgment. They were called on to hold their own against the English gentry and the London merchants, two classes which had attained considerable importance during the Middle Ages, and had worked hand in hand with the very successful Tudors. Expenses of government were then met from the king's own pocket. He had rents and customs duties (tunnage and poundage), but the rents were fixed, money was falling in value, and every monarch of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries found his income inadequate. Parliament, however, desired to obtain control of policy if it granted extra subsidies (crude property taxes). Very able rulers might have shown results in policy and war that would have silenced critics, but the Stuarts seldom gave value for money.
Religious disputes in many minds bulked larger than the money question. The upper class, which provided all the members of both Houses, was in general strongly Protestant. It held lands which had formerly belonged to the monasteries, it liked forms of Church government in which prominent laymen could share, and its aesthetic inclinations were towards simplicity in ritual. The Church in England still included clergy and laity who were strongly Presbyterian in opinion;
and there were extremists-Independents, Anabaptists, Brownists-who had openly seceded. The Stuarts, even when not suspected of tenderness for Roman Catholicism, were firmly attached to what we should call High Church practices and to autocratic government by bishops, because popular government in the Church was a step towards popular government on the State.