Tory (British Political Party) - 1678–1760 - 1678–1688

1678–1688

As a political term, Tory entered English politics during the Exclusion Bill crisis of 1678–81. The Whigs (initially an insult — 'whiggamore,' a cattle driver,) were those who supported the exclusion of James, the Duke of York from the succession to thrones of Scotland and England & Ireland (the 'Petitioners'), and the Tories (also an insult, derived from the Middle Irish word tóraidhe, modern Irish tóraí — outlaw, robber, from the Irish word tóir, meaning 'pursuit', since outlaws were "pursued men".) were those who opposed the Exclusion Bill (the Abhorrers). In a more general sense, the Tories represented the more conservative royalist supporters of Charles II, who endorsed a strong monarchy as a counterbalance to the power of Parliament, and who saw in the Whig opponents of the Court a quasi-Republican tendency (similar to that seen in the Long Parliament) to strip the monarchy of its essential prerogative powers and leave the Crown as a puppet entirely dependent upon Parliament. That the Exclusion Bill was the central question upon which parties diverged, did not hinge upon an assessment of the personal character of the Duke of York (though his conversion to Catholicism was the key factor that made the Bill possible), but rather upon the power of Parliament to elect a monarch of its own choosing, contrary to the established laws of succession. That the Parliament, with the consent of the King, had such power was not at issue; rather, it was the wisdom of a policy of creating a King whose sole title to the Crown was the will of Parliament, and who was essentially a Parliamentary appointee.

On this original question, the Tories were, in the short run, entirely successful; the Parliaments that brought in the Exclusion Bill were dissolved, Charles II was enabled to manage the administration autocratically, and upon his death the Duke of York succeeded without difficulty. The rebellion of Monmouth, the candidate of the radical Whigs to succeed Charles II, was easily crushed and Monmouth himself executed. In the long run, however, Tory principles were to be severely compromised.

Besides the support of a strong monarchy, the Tories also stood for the Church of England, as established in Acts of Parliament following the restoration of Charles II — both as a body governed by bishops, using the Book of Common Prayer, and subscribing to a specific doctrine, and also as an exclusive body established by law, from which both Roman Catholics and Nonconformists were excluded.

James II, however, during his reign fought for a broadly tolerant religious settlement under which his co-religionists could prosper—a position anathema to conservative Anglicans. James' attempts to use the government-controlled church to promote policies that undermined the church's own unique status in the state, led some Tories to support the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The result was a King established solely by Parliamentary title, and subject to legal controls established by Parliament, the principles that the Tories had originally "abhorred". The Tories' sole consolation was that the monarchs chosen were close to the main line of succession — William III was James II's nephew, and William's wife Mary was James's elder daughter. The Act of Toleration 1689 also gave rights to Protestant dissenters that were hitherto unknown, while the elimination of a large number of bishops who refused to swear allegiance to the new monarchs allowed the government to pack the episcopate with bishops with decidedly Whiggish leanings. In both these respects the Tory platform had failed; however, the institutions of monarchy and of a state Church survived.

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