A Limited Monarchy

The Glorious Revolution turned England into a limited monarchy, a type of government in which a constitution or legislative body limits the monarch's powers. English rulers still had much power, but they had to obey the law and govern in partnership with Parliament. In an age of absolute monarchy elsewhere in Europe, the limited monarchy in England was quite radical.

Among the people who lived at the time of the Glorious Revolution was the political thinker, John Locke. Events in England helped shape his philosophy. Much later, Locke's ideas about government and natural rights would influence the Americans who drew up the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

England's Constitutional Government Evolves

In the century following the Glorious Revolution, three new political institutions arose in Britain: political parties, the cabinet, and the office of prime minister. The appearance of these institutions was part of the evolution of Britain's constitutional government—that is, a government whose power is defined and limited by law.

Political Parties

In the late 1600s, political parties emerged in England as a powerful force in politics. At first, there were just two political parties—Tories and Whigs.

Tories were generally aristocrats who sought to preserve older traditions. They supported broad royal powers and a dominant Anglican Church.

Whigs backed the ideas embodied in the Glorious Revolution. They were more likely to reflect urban business interests, support religious toleration, and favor Parliament over the crown. For much of the 1700s Whigs dominated Parliament.

The Cabinet System

The cabinet, another new feature of government, evolved in the 1700s after the British throne passed to a German prince. George I spoke no English and relied on the leaders in Parliament to help him rule. Under George I and his German-born son George II, a handful of parliamentary advisors set policy. They came to be referred to as the cabinet because of the small room, or “cabinet,” where they met.

In time, the cabinet gained official status. It was made up of leaders of the majority party in the House of Commons. The cabinet remained in power so long as it enjoyed the support of the Commons.

If the Commons voted against a cabinet decision, the cabinet resigned.

Influence of the Glorious Revolution
  English Bill of Rights Writings of John Locke Constitutional Government
OUTCOME IN ENGLAND
  • People elect representatives to Parliament, which is supreme over the monarch.

  • All citizens have natural rights.

  • People have natural rights such as life, liberty, and property.

  • There is a social contract between people and government.

  • Government is limited and defined by law.

  • Political parties, the cabinet, and the office of prime minister arise.

IMPACT ON THE UNITED STATES
  • Colonists believed that they too had rights, including the right to elect people to represent them.

  • Locke's ideas shaped the American Revolution and the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

  • Government is limited and defined by law.

  • The new nation formed a constitutional government with two parties and even stronger provisions for the separation of powers.

Analyze Charts

A common protest during the American Revolution was “no taxation without representation.” Which outcome in England influenced that idea?


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments