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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Through the connexion of England with Scotland


But

then, through the connexion of England with Scotland, and the accession of a new dynasty, a state of things ensued under which the continued maintenance of the position taken up in home and foreign politics was rendered doubtful. The question arose whether the policy of England would not differ from that of Great Britain and be compelled to give way to it. The attempt to decide this question, and the reciprocal influence of the newly allied countries, brought on conflicts at home which, though they in the main arose out of foreign relations, yet for a long while threw those relations into the background.

If we were required to express in the most general terms the distinction between English and French policy in the last two centuries, we might say that it consisted in this, that the glory of their arms abroad lay nearest to the heart of the French nation, and the legal settlement of their home affairs to that of the English. How often have the French, in appearance at least, allowed themselves to be consoled for the defects of the home administration by a great victory or an advantageous peace! And the English, from regard to constitutional questions of apparently inferior importance, have not seldom turned their eyes away from grievous perils which hung over Europe.

The two great constitutional powers in England, the Crown and the Parliament, dating back as they did to early times, had often previously contended

with each other, but had harmoniously combined in the religious struggle, and had both gained strength thereby; but towards the middle of the seventeenth century we see them first come into collision over ecclesiastical regulations, and then engage in a war for life and death respecting the constitution of the realm. Elements originally separate unite in attacking the monarchy; meanwhile the old system breaks up, and energetic efforts are made to found a new one on its ruins. But none of them succeed; the deeply-felt need of a life regulated by law and able to trust its own future is not satisfied; after long storms men seek safety in a return to the old and approved historic forms so characteristic of the German, and especially of the English, race. But in this there is clearly no solution of the original controversies, no reconciliation of the conflicting elements: within narrower limits new discords break out, which once more threaten a complete overthrow: until, thanks to the indifference shown by England to continental events, the most formidable dangers arise to threaten the equilibrium of Europe, and even menace England itself. These European emergencies coinciding with the troubles at home bring about a new change of the old forms in the Revolution of 1688, the main result of which is, that the centre of gravity of public authority in England shifts decisively to the parliamentary side. It was during this same time that France had won military and political superiority over all its neighbours on the mainland, and in connexion with it had concentrated an almost absolute power at home in the hands of the monarchy. England thus reorganised now set itself to contest the political superiority of France in a long and bloody war, which consequently became a struggle between two rival forms of polity; and while the first of these bore sway over the rest of Europe, the other attained to complete realisation in its island-home, and called forth at a later time manifold imitations on the Continent also, when the Continent was torn by civil strife. Between these differing tendencies, these opposite poles, the life of Europe has ever since vibrated from side to side.


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