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English Civil War history influenced New England before the American Revolution.
English history influenced the thinking of American colonials, so that
Americans in the 1700's repeated the same arguments that Englishmen used against King Charles I and his use of taxation and an army in the 1600's.
English politics and religious regulation made life hard for Protestants
(especially those outside the Church of England who wanted less pomp in the
church), and for those who wanted more freedom from arbitrary rule by the King.
Before the English Civil War of the 1640's, Englishpersons left England to avoid
English politics and religious regulation.
New England was so far away that communications between England and New
England commonly took six months. Furthermore, the colonies initially were
small and weak. So until about 1750, the King and Parliament took little
notice of the colonies and left them alone to struggle as best they could by
It is important to understand the English Civil War that brought an end
to the reign of Charles I, if one is to truly understand the feelings that drove
families to New England in the 1630's.
Charles I (1600-1649) matured into a strong-willed Stuart monarch and an
advocate of the divine right of kings. Charles was forced into conflict with
Parliament that led to civil wars, first with Scotland in 1637, then with
England (in 1642-46 and again in 1648), ending with his death by execution.
The most relevant aspect of his character, which hugely influenced
contemporary events, was Charles' religiosity; he was a supporter of high
Anglican worship which encouraged ritual and decorum. His marriage to Henrietta
Maria of France, a Roman Catholic, added to his unpopularity.
Charles dissolved Parliament three times between 1625 and 1629. (The
Winthrop fleet started their sailings to New England at this time, in 1630. )
Charles ruled without summoning Parliament for 11 years. Unrest in Scotland -
because Charles attempted to force a new prayer book on the country - put an end
to his personal rule without Parliament. . Funds to quash the rebellion
were limited and Charles was forced to call first the Short Parliament then the
Long Parliament. Conflict in the House led to a foolish decision, prompted by
Henrietta, to have five members arrested and civil war erupted.
In 1642 Charles took an army to attack, at Nottingham, an army assembled by
Parliament. The king's supporters, known as the Cavaliers, came from the ranks
of both peasants and nobility. The Parliamentary forces were generally the civil
militia forces of towns, which militia was generally formed from the emerging
middle classes, especially Puritan Protestants who viewed Charles as pushing the
country into becoming a Catholic country. The Puritans, because they did not use
the wigs of court, and used plain hairstyles, were known as the Roundheads. This
force of Roundheads was molded by Oliver Cromwell, into what Cromwell styled as
the New Model Army. After about three years of battles between Cavaliers and the
New Model Army, Cromwell soundly defeated the Cavaliers at Naseby in 1645. A
year later, Charles surrendered a year later to the Scottish forces. In 1648
Parliament put Charles on trial for treason. He was found guilty by one vote (68
to 67) and his execution was ordered for 1649. Thus series of war between the
forces of the King and the forces of Parliament became known as the Glorious
Revolution of England.
The same arguments that Englishmen used against Charles I in the Glorious
Revolution were used the next century by Americans against the Crown and