Why were the Whigs unable to prevent the accession of James II in 1685?

gsenviro | Student

James II was the king of England, Ireland and Scotland from 1685 to 1688. James II was a Roman Catholic and Heir apparent to his brother, King Charles II who had no legitimate children. Fearing that a Roman Catholic king would be an absolutist like the King of France, a bill known as the "Exclusion Bill" was introduced in the parliament that would have excluded James II from the line of succession. The people who supported this bill were called "Whigs," while those who opposed it were called "Tories." The Whigs, led by Anthony Ashley Cooper, first Earl of Shaftesbury, created a mass movement by reminding the public about the Popish Plot (a fictitious Catholic scheme to kill Charles II). 

However, King Charles II repeatedly blocked the passage of this bill by dissolving any parliament supportive of the bill. These included the Cavalier Parliament, the Habeas Corpus Parliament and the Exclusion Bill Parliament. The king also did not allow the parliament to meet despite multiple petitions from the Whigs. Any grand jury that would have presided over James II's indictment was also dissolved, including the Middlesex Jury on 26 June 1680. When the bill was finally introduced in the House of Lords on 15 November, 1680, it was defeated by a vote of 63-30, despite the Whigs' efforts. By this time, the mass movement in favor of this bill had also died down and the Whigs had lost the support of the public; the bill did not pass.

James II's popularity increased after a plot to assassinate the king and James was revealed in 1683. A number of notable Whigs were implicated, the Earl of Essex committed suicide, while others were forced into exile. 

These events meant very little opposition to James II's accession to the throne in 1685.

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