Charles I and the Scottish Parliament
From 'A History of the British Nation' by AD Innes, 1912
James [VI of Scotland], then, had carried matters at least as far as it was safe to venture. But when Charles I ascended the throne he was guided in Scotland as in England by considerations which left popular feeling out of account. It was enough for him to believe that he was acting within his rights; whether, in so doing and enforcing his own will he was serving the people's interests it was for him and not for them to judge.
His own religious convictions were deep and sincere, and he had no qualms about compelling his people whether in England or in Scotland, to conform to them. Moreover he had the singularly unfortunate habit of forgetting that, if he wished to enforce unpopular measures, it was at least advisable to seek means of conciliation instead of accumulating causes of irritation; that if he was bent on alienating one section of the community, it would be politic to secure support in other quarters.
The religious innovations under James VI had been possible because the old king had kept on good terms with the magnates. The one thing wanting to combine the whole country in a solid opposition to the Royal policy was a quarrel between the magnates and the Crown. A means of irritating the magnates lay ready to the king's hand; having discovered his opportunity, he did not neglect to seize it. Since the party of the Reformation had triumphed in Scotland, quantities of Church lands had been granted away; every great landowner and many of the small ones had profited thereby.
Act of Revocation
Charles was no sooner on the throne than he issued an Act of Revocation, resuming for the Crown all grants of land made since the death of James V in 1542. The Revocations were not intended to be pure confiscations; the holders were to receive compensation assessed by a commission. But as a matter of course the assessment was more than sufficiently adverse to the holders to create in them a rankling sense of injustice.
It was part of Charles's scheme to appropriate a portion of the revenues accruing to make provision for the clergy. What are called in England "tithes" and in Scotland "teinds" had in the course of the Reformation passed into the hands of miscellaneous laymen who had no other connection with the lands.
When the arrangements for the Revocation were completed, a process which occupied some five years, the landowners were enabled to recover the teinds at a low price, a portion only being appropriated to the ministerial stipends. The clergy benefited and the Crown benefited; but the "Titulars of Teind," as the holders had been called, got only about two years' purchase by way of compensation, and the landowners got only ten years' purchase.
Thus both these bodies were driven into an attitude of angry hostility to the Crown, while, in the eyes of the clergy, the financial benefits they received were by no means an equivalent for the increased control of the Crown over the Church. And now when the clergy kicked against the pricks, the sympathies of every nobleman and every laird or landowner were on their side instead of on the king's. And as in the case of ship-money in England, human nature ignored the honest intention behind the arbitrary act, and assumed that the whole tiling had been done in order to increase the power of the Crown.
Having thus combined a united opposition where his father had been careful to preserve for himself powerful sectional support, Charles proceeded with that ecclesiastical reconstruction which James had carried as far as he dared, thereby also attracting the sympathies of Puritan England, already sufficiently alarmed and irritated, to the cause of the Scottish Presbyterians. Scottish Presbyterianism too had already felt its sympathies aroused for the English parliament, both on account of its Puritanism, and because of the alarm generated by the Catholic successes on the Continent and the failures of Buckingham's administration.
This article is excerpted from the book, 'A History of the British Nation', by AD Innes, published in 1912 by TC & EC Jack, London. I picked up this delightful tome at a second-hand bookstore in Calgary, Canada, some years ago. Since it is now more than 70 years since Mr Innes's death in 1938, we are able to share the complete text of this book with Britain Express readers. Some of the author's views may be controversial by modern standards, particularly his attitudes towards other cultures and races, but it is worth reading as a period piece of British attitudes at the time of writing.