The Fall of Clarendon
From 'A History of the British Nation' by AD Innes, 1912
Two other great consequences followed upon the [Dutch] war. The first was constitutional. Popular feeling had been wholly in favour of the war, and parliament at the outset voted very large supplies. The indignation was all the greater when it became apparent that the money was being scandalously squandered. But hitherto, while parliament had voted or refused to vote the supplies called for by the king and his ministers, it had hardly attempted to claim control over the actual expenditure.
Appropriation of supply
Now it insisted that the supplies voted for the war should be expended on the war. The principle of the "appropriation of supply" was for the first time laid down; that is, it was claimed that parliament could vote money for a particular object, and was entitled to see that that money should be spent upon that object and not upon something else, a claim which involved parliamentary control over the national accounts.
The Fall of Clarendon
The second consequence was a personal one; it led to the fall of Clarendon. He had been called to guide the affairs of state at a moment when the first necessity was the establishment of an equilibrium between parties still smarting and sore from the effects of a great civil war and a series of revolutionary governments, and of an equilibrium between the Crown and the parliament when Crown and parliament each was seeking so to manipulate affairs as to procure its own ascendency.
Partisanship would have won the minister a cheap popularity with one section or another of the opposing forces. Clarendon had given way to partisanship only on the Church question. By so doing he had alienated the Puritans, but had not won popularity with the Cavaliers, or at least the courtiers, because he at the same time assumed the attitude of a censor of court manners and morals.
He opposed the parliamentary claim to appropriation of supplies as an interference with the royal prerogative, and he opposed the claim put forward by Charles that the Crown could suspend the operation of the penal laws as unconstitutional. He was not responsible for the war or for its mismanagement, but popular opinion held him responsible for both.
Exile in France
When the Dutch sailed up the Medway popular indignation demanded a scapegoat, and all parties found the most convenient scapegoat in Clarendon. He was threatened with impeachment, which he was prepared himself to face; but Charles, who was afraid of awkward revelations, persuaded him to flee from the popular wrath to France.
He was impeached and condemned in his absence. In his exile he wrote his stately, and in some respects invaluable, History of the Great Rebellion. The king was released from the hampering control of a mentor, who, however useful he might be on occasion, was exceedingly tiresome and uncomfortably exacting.
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.