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The origin and organization of the covenanting movement during the reign of Charles I, 1625-41: with a particular reference to the West of Scotland

MacInnes, Allan Iain (1987) The origin and organization of the covenanting movement during the reign of Charles I, 1625-41: with a particular reference to the West of Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

`Our main feare to have our religion lost, our throats cutted, and our poor countrey made an English province.' As graphically articulated by Robert Baillie, minister of Kilwinning in Ayrshire (and subsequently principal of the university of Glasgow), the apprehensions which motivated the Scots to promulgate the National Covenant on 28 February 1638, were as much nationalist as religious. The primary purpose of this thesis is to argue that although religion, more specifically the imposition of liturgical innovations, was undoubtedly the issue which precipitated the termination of Charles I's thirteen year personal rule, the Scots were collectively reacting against innovatory policies conceived at Court, policies intent on the fundamental restructuring of Scottish government and society as well as the implementation of economic no less than religious uniformity throughout the British Isles. The failure of Charles I was not just a matter of political presentation, though his authoritarian style of government was instrumental in provoking Scots to revolt in defence of civil and religious liberties. The emergence of the Covenanting Movement entailed a substantial rejection of Charles' personal rule both with respect to policy content and political direction. Paradoxically, the elite who manufactured revolution in name of the Covenanting Movement were to draw on lessons learned from Charles I in promoting the central reorientation of Scottish government between 1638 and 1641. During these years, marked ostensibly by the imposition of constitutional checks on absentee monarch in Kirk and State and the replacement of the Court by the National Covenant as the political reference point for Scottish society, the revolutionary essence of the Covenanting Movement demonstrably lay in its organisational capacity to exert unprecedented demands for ideological conformity, military recruitment and financial supply. Accordingly, this thesis is intent on providing not just an exhaustive and detailed reconstruction of mainstream political developments between 1625 and 1641, but also a systematic and comprehensive analysis of the conduct of the personal rule, the emergence of the Covenanting Movement and the radical nature of the Scottish revolution which was to serve as the model for terminating the personal rule of Charles I in England and Ireland. Occasional comparisons and contrasts are drawn where apposite with contemporaneous political developments elsewhere in Europe. A brief introduction sets the scenes with regard to past commentaries on the origin and organisation of the Covenanting Movement during the reign of Charles I. Thereafter, the first three chapters define the flexible nature of the political nation in Scotland and expound its aspirations nationally and internationally in the wake of the union of the Crowns in 1603, aspirations which were compromised politically by James VI's departure south but not undermined critically until the accession of Charles I in 1625 as an absentee monarch ill-versed in the composition of the Scottish body politic and manifestly insensitive to its personal fears of provincialism. The single most fractious yet least comprehensive issue of the personal rule was the Revocation Scheme - Scotland's equivalent to the Schleswig-Holstein question. Although a lord justice-clerk of the last century has complemented Charles I for setting the whole law of tithes (teinds) on a sound footing, the aspects of the Revocation Scheme which mattered to his Scottish subjects were its specious introduction, its authoritarian implementation, its technical complexities and, above all, its wholescale disregard for landed title and privilege. Three chapters have been devoted to unravelling its comprehensive scope but limited impact and another three to its political ramifications, notably its permeation of a climate of dissent and its progressive sapping of the will of the Scottish administration to uphold monarchical authority. Fiscal aspects dominate the next three chapters. Charles' dogmatic pursuit of economic uniformity is identified as marking a critical shift, the moving of the disaffected element within the political nation to open collusion verging on civil disobedience to obstruct the implementation of directives from Court. The pursuit of uniformity, especially evident in Charles' promotion of the common fishing and tariff reform, coupled to his cavalier disregard for the establishment of sound money in Scotland, served not only to induce economic recession but to differentiate between the royal interest and the national interest. This crucial differentiation which was to underwrite the Scottish revolution was simultaneously carried a combustible stage further by Charles' censorious management of his coronation parliament, by his exemplary prosecution of James Elphinstone, Lord Balmerino, as a leader of the disaffected element and by his public endorsement of episcopally inspired campaigns to eradicate nonconformity in the Kirk. The rallying of the disaffected element and their mounting of public demonstrations against liturgical innovations, as manifest by the rioting which greeted readings from the Service Book in Edinburgh during the summer of 1637, form the substance of the next three chapters and are complemented by the subsequent two which trace the progressive emergence of the tables from a vehicular organisation for public protest into a provisional government resolved on a radical interpretation of the National Covenant. In spite of the apparent conservatism of its framing, this document was in essence both a nationalist and radical manifesto to secure the fundamental reordering of government in Kirk and State while reasserting the political independence of the Scottish people. Rather than seek to retread ground well served by political narratives of the Covenanting Movement following its emergence in 1638, the last three chapters prior to the conclusion scrutinise the revolutionary attainments of the elite directing the cause from the first constitutional defiance of Charles I at the general assembly of 1638 through recourse to hostilities between Covenanters and Royalists during the Bishops' Wars of 1639-40. Having brought to bear sufficient military and political pressure to oblige Charles I to concede diplomatic recognition for the Scottish state as an independent identity within the British Isles, a concession furthered by the willingness of the Covenanting leadership to export revolution, the entrenchment of oligarchic control over Scottish affairs was consummated by the parliament of 1641. Because the contrasting political fortunes of Charles I and the Covenanting Movement nationally are appraised summarily in the penultimate chapter, the formal conclusion takes the unconventional format of providing a regional perspective - that of the west of Scotland - to successive government by Crown and Covenant between 1625 and 1641. Although local particularism persisted throughout these sixteen years, there was a significant difference in the regional response to centralised directives before and after 1638. That the grievances of the west tended to coalesce with the rest of Scotland in the course of the personal rule suggests that Charles I, regionally as well as nationally, was the political architect of his own downfall. By way of contrast, despite unprecedented ideological, military and financial demands, the Covenanting Movement retained wholescale support in the west for its national endeavou

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Cowan, Prof. I.B. and Duncan, Prof. A.A.M.
Date of Award: 1987
Depositing User: Geraldine Coyle
Unique ID: glathesis:1987-864
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:27
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/864

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