England's Glorious Revolution
One reason that many Englishmen had been willing to support James’ accession to the throne despite his Catholicism was that, in 1685, he had no living sons. On the insistence of his brother, King Charles, his two daughters by his first wife had been raised as Protestants. The heir presumptive to the throne was James’ older daughter Mary, who had married the Protestant William of Orange, the hereditary head of state in the Dutch Republic. James’ second wife, the Catholic Mary of Modena, had borne four girls and a boy, but all had died in childhood. In the summer of 1688, however, she gave birth to a healthy boy, who was baptized as a Catholic, and would of right succeed his father on the English throne. The prospect of a succession of Catholic monarchs continuing into the indefinite future was more than most Englishmen could stand. The 17th century had been plagued by almost endless religious wars between Catholics and Protestants, and there was still too little trust between the antagonists to make either one comfortable with the idea of being ruled by the other.
This can be considered Europe’s last religious war: James’s Irish and French forces were Catholic and William’s Dutch, English, and French (Huguenot) forces were Protestant. But the lines were blurred—William’s Holland and England were allied with the Catholic Holy Roman Empire of Austria, and the Pope, one of Louis XIV’s most devoted enemies, supported their cause. From that time on, European wars tended to be motivated more by straightforward power struggles among nation states than by efforts to exalt one religious tradition over another.
Boston’s Slightly Less Glorious Revolution
It took some time for the news of the English revolution to reach the American colonies, and it wasn’t until early April in 1690 that a ship from the English colony of Nevis in the West Indies brought copies of a declaration by William, and a response by civil and church leaders, making it clear the Prince of Orange was now in charge of England. The ship’s captain, a Maine man, took the documents straight to a Boston printer who immediately began printing copies. The governor and sheriff soon arrived and demanded that the documents be handed over, but it was too late—the news was out.
A couple of days later, a provisional government, named the “Council for the Safety of the People and Conservation of the Peace,” was formed for the purpose of replacing the dominion government with something more permanent. Radical clerics wanted to start with new elections and a clean slate, free of the moderates who had welcomed the Andros government in its early days. But the council chose a wiser course: they recalled the General Court that Dudley had dissolved three years earlier. Both clerical and moderate parties were represented, and Simon Bradstreet, also recalled, had been the last governor under the charter. (87 years old, he was still politically active, and had chaired the safety council.) This was a good way of making it clear to the new monarchy that everyone in Massachusetts Bay, not just a few fire-breathing clerics, rejected the government the former king had imposed on them.