Exclusion Bill

From Academic Kids

The Exclusion Bill crisis ran from 1678 till 1681. Its focus was the exclusion of King James II and VII from the thrones of England, Ireland and Scotland because he was a Roman Catholic. The Tories were those who opposed this exclusion, while the Whigs supported it.

In 1670 James had declared openly that he was a Roman Catholic. His secretary, Edward Coleman, had been named by Titus Oates during the Popish Plot as a conspirator to subvert the kingdom. The English establishment could see that in France a Catholic king was ruling in an absolutist way, and a movement gathered strength to avoid the scenario recreating itself in England, as it would, if James were to succeed his brother Charles, who had no legitimate heir. In 1679, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury introduced a bill into the Commons with the intention of excluding James from the succession. As it was likely that the bill would become law, Charles exercised his prerogative power to dissolve Parliament. Successive Parliaments attempted to pass a bill, and were similarly dissolved. Shaftesbury's party (beginning to be known as the “Whigs”) involved the whole country in a mass movement, primarily by keeping the fears raised by the Popish Plot alive. Every November on the anniversary of Elizabeth I's accession, they organised huge processions in London in which the Pope was burnt in effigy. The King's supporters (the “Tories”) were able to muster their own progaganda in the form of memories of the equally tyrannous regime of the Commonwealth government and its austerities. Above all, the Crown was always able to label the Whigs as subversives and closet nonconformists. By 1681, the mass movement had died down, and the bill was dropped.

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