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The rise of party

Alternative interpretations of the two party system

a) View of Paul de Rapin, contemporary historian, cited in Christopher Hill, A Century of Revolution

  Political or State Cavaliers Arbitrary Tories
Cavaliers   Moderate Tories
  Ecclesiastical or Church Cavaliers Rigid Churchmen
    Moderate Churchmen
  Political or State Parliamentarians Republican Whigs
Parliamentarians   Moderate Whigs
  Ecclesiastical or Church Parliamentarians Rigid Presbyterians
    Moderate Presbyterians

b) View of Robert Walcott, English Politics in the Early Eighteenth Century

COURTIERS Court Whigs Court Tories Churchill Tories Walpole-Townsend Whigs Harley Tories Rochester Tories Junto Whigs Nottingham Tories October Club Tories Country Whigs Country Tories COUNTRY


1) Definition of party - a collection of rational principles or the expression of a 'class' or self-interest? Identifying party during this period is not an exact science. Often linked to the idea of 'opposition', parties became more coherent when in opposition. A definition of party should include men of like minds grouping together in a semi-formal manner, identifying themselves by party labels, adhering loosely to a common philosophy and having some sort of organisation.

2) Historiography - Whig histories talk of survival of the parties of the exclusion crisis after 1688, important for the progressive view of history to establish a lineage for important constitutional institutions; revisionist, Namierite view (see Walcott) argued that Court-Country (i.e. government and everyone else) divisions replaced the two party system in the period following 1688; Plumb, Holmes and Speck have successfully rehabilitated party during this period.

3) Party organisation - this existed in the country at large in the form of election committees, regional Whips and fund raisers. In the House, the administration side was well organised via the use of government officers, the opposition sporadically so.

4) Party history - men began to group themselves into parties in the 1670s; labels Whig and Tory were used during the Exclusion crisis. The Tories espoused the cause of the Crown and became committed to an ideology of passive obedience and non-resistance to lawfully appointed monarchs including such ideas as the Divine Right of Kings. The Whigs developed rival theories of republicanism or contractual government which meant that a breach of trust on the part of the ruler could lead to a withdrawal of support. They argued that it was the right of all subjects to resist misgovernment. Once the crisis had passed, the particular ideologies that had brought the parties into existence were eclipsed but the names and the divisions remained. Whigs were the only coherent party during this period but failed in their attempt to remove James as successor to Charles and in the reaction that followed their leader, the earl of Shaftesbury fled and they were persecuted.

5) Religion - a vital part of the two parties' differing ideologies. Whigs wedded to the idea of a Protestant succession and supported the claims of the Protestant dissenters arguing for tolerance. Tories, not necessarily supporters of Roman Catholicism but wedded to the theories of Anglicanism, and thus resisted any attempts to tamper with the succession. Were not willing to allow dilution of the Church of England's authority by giving concessions to dissenters.

6) Other ideological differences. Whigs in favour of the financial interests of the City of London and pro-commerce in general. Tories, the party of small landed proprietors. In matters of taxation, foreign policy and war strategy the parties usually took clear opposing lines. The Tories usually supporting the more economical, isolationist approach.