As we were beginning to celebrate America’s Birthday this year I came across Michael Barone’s article Our First Revolution (N.Y. Sun July 3, 2007). It was basically a summary of the thesis of his new book Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval that Inspired America's Founding Fathers in which he argues that America owes her Liberties not "directly" to our Founding Fathers but rather to William of Orange (1650-1702) during the period of English history known as the "Glorious Revolution of 1688-1689".
As the historian, J. H. Elliott, has noted, one reason the Spanish colonies in the Americas had difficulty winning independence and establishing self-government is that they had no legislative assemblies, no experience with self-government. The British colonies of North America, thanks to this successful revolution, had such assemblies and the colonists — the founders — had such experience. "Without 1688," as Christopher Hitchens has written, "there would have been no 1776."
The American founders consciously imitated the makers of the First Revolution. They set up a government where power would be shared by executive and legislative branches. Provisions of the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth amendments were copies or expansions of provisions in the Declaration of Right.
Alexander Hamilton persuaded the First Congress to establish a funded national debt and a Bank of the United States. And in the 20th century, American presidents followed the foreign policy followed by Britain for most of the time since 1689 in opposing expansionist tyrannical regimes in Europe and around the world.
We owe much to the founders. But we owe something as well to the men and women who made, what I call, Our First Revolution nearly a century before.
Before approaching Barone’s tome I decided to read a "primer" on this period since I did not know too much about these events other than England’s last Catholic King, James II (1633-1701), was deposed by the Dutch Calvinist William of Orange. I chose Ungrateful Daughters: The Stuart Princesses Who Stole Their Father's Crown by Maureen Waller (St. Martin’s Griffin 2002).
Before commenting on Waller's book, Ungrateful Daughters, here’s a quick primer on this period…
James II became King in 1685 when his brother Charles II died. (Their father Charles I was beheaded in 1649 when the monarchy was overthrown by Oliver Cromwell's Parliament. Charles II was restored King in 1660.) James had two daughters with his wife Anne Hyde, a commoner: Princess Mary and Princess Anne. When Anne Hyde died, he married an Italian Princess, Mary Beatrice of Modena. James II and Queen Mary Beatrice had a son in 1688, James Francis Edward, and a daughter Louise Marie in 1692. (James also had four legally illegitimate children with his mistresses, Arabella Churchill. Anne Hyde and Queen Mary Beatrice also had many children who were stillborn or did not survive childhood.)
Princess Mary, the older sister, married her first cousin, William of Orange of Holland. (William’s mother, Mary (1631-1660), was Charles and James' sister.) They had no children. Princess Anne, the younger sister, married George, the Prince of Denmark. They had no children who survived childhood despite Anne's seventeen pregnancies.
In 1688, the Dutch prince, William of Orange came for the crown and ousted King James II. James II, Queen Mary Beatrice, and the infant Prince of Wales, James Francis Edward, fled to France and protection of Louis XIV. In 1689 William was crowned King William III and Mary was crowned Queen Mary II. They were co-monarchs of England, Scotland, Ireland, etc.
The second part of Ungrateful Daughers can be found here.
Image: (L to R) King James II, Princess Mary, Princess Anne, and William of Orange (Nicholas de Largillière, National Maritime Museum; Sir Peter Lely, National Portrait Gallery; William Wissing, The Royal Collection; Godfried Schalcken, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam respectively)
Tags: Glorious Revolution, Ungrateful Daughters, King James II, William of Orange, King William III, Stuart Monarchy, Maureen Waller, Michael Barone