A Constitutional and Legal History of England

By Goldwin Smith | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVI
Charles the Second and James the Second: political arithmetic

A DYNASTY RESTORED

"ASK for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls," said the poet and prophet Jeremiah. "Tampering is the useless vice of restless and unstable minds," said Edmund Burke. These quotations well describe the mood and mind of many Englishmen as they turned away from the tampering and ineffective experiments of the Commonwealth and Protectorate and sought the familiar signposts along the old paths.

The events of 1660 not only ended the arbitrary rule of the civilian and military groups that dominated the eleven years of the interregnum. They also restored the old institutions of government, the legislative and fiscal authority of Parliament, and the executive power of the monarchy. The new king was Charles II ( 1660-1685). Many descriptions have been penned of this king who came back from exile over the water to take his heritage. Charles II has not suffered from a lack of biographers. Most of those who have written about him have not, however, been inhibited by deep knowledge of the historical evidence. The drama of the period has attracted the shaping imagination of the novelist, the poet and the dilettante. Too frequently lacking has been the caution of the professional historian. A few years ago Professor Clyde L. Grose remarked very wisely that "the convincing biographer who would portray Charles as a great and good king must have consummate literary skill and a general blindness as to facts."

____________________
1

Clyde L. Grose, "Charles the Second of England", The American Historical Review, XLIII ( 1938).

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