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I had one exam with the following question:

About the Glorious Revolution (1688-1689), mark true (T) or False (F):

  1. In 1688, after the deposition of James II, the English parliament was divided in two groups, Tories and Whigs, whose political characteristics corresponded to the religious creed professed: Tories, conservatives, were Catholics; Whigs, liberals, were Anglicans.

The answer sheet marks the affirmation as correct; but I thought it was wrong on the basis that it was too easy an association between a political party and a religious faith.

Edit: The correct answer sheet now marks the affirmation as "false". Which is fine to me.

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It might've been better if it said that the Tories were more sympathetic to Catholicism, and that they were "high church" supporters. –  NL7 Apr 9 at 14:20

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I was deeply suspicious of this simplistic view, but research quickly shows that it isn't completely absurd. In general, the Tories are the King's party and could be expected to support the King's position (which at the time was believed to be that England should return to Catholicism.) The Whigs offered less support to the crown. (the notion of an opposition party and a loyal opposition would emerge for 100 years or more).

That's the simple view. Truth was, as it always is, more complex.

Despite the small number who could actually participate in the choice of representatives, political questions were hotly discussed among the upper classes, who were divided into two well-defined parties, Tories and Whigs. These owed their origin to the excitement of the Civil War, when those who supported Charles I were called Cavaliers and those who opposed him, Roundheads. During the latter years of Charles II, the former party, which upheld the divine right of kings and the supremacy of the Anglican Church, received the name of "Tory." Their opponents, who advocated the supremacy of Parliament and championed toleration for the Dissenters, came to be called Whigs. Outlines of European History

Note that the Tories supported the king, but an Anglican church; the Whigs supported greater toleration. Neither party is "Catholic", although given the choice, the Tories support an established church.

On the other hand,

When James II had forced the Tories to choose between their church and their king they could but choose their church. It was a Protestant and reformed church, the spiritual center of a civilization to which the alternative was a Bourbon Stuart civilization, having as its agent the priest, the dragoon, and the hangman, and its threatening outpost on England's western flank in barbarous Ireland. Great Britain Since 1688

The text is less well written, but the Tories chose a Protestant church over a despotic Catholic king; the tories explicitly reject the priest (catholicism)

A third source suggests (to me) an answer: these simplistic views were held by fanatical fringes on each side.

The two groups most displeased with the Revolution Settlement were the most ideologically opposed sects of Britons, Jacobite Tories who supported the exiled Catholic King James II and phanatick Covenanters who desired a powerful church protected by but powerful over the state Joseph Moore

Jacobite Tories did fit the definition. I think the exam oversimplifies a situation in a way which I find very sad. The glorious revolution is one of those peculiar events in history where we can be sure that the participants were just as confused about their roles as we are, and we can identify with their confusion, their passion, and their inability to escape a situation that did not tolerate passivity. The exam question erases all that, and makes them alien creatures with pre-determined opinions. (On my oath, I didn't spot the irony till I'd already finished the sentence.)

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Note also that there are those who say that the northnern American colonies tended to get populated with transplanted Whigs and Dissenters, and the southern with transplanted Tories (eg: The Virginia Cavaliers), thus creating the germ of the North/South cultural divide the USA maintains to this day. –  T.E.D. Apr 9 at 12:36
Mark, your explanation is great; I accepted this answer because it is more complete, although fdb's answer below is more to the point. –  Joseph Apr 9 at 14:08
You are correct that @FDB is more to the point. I commend him. –  Mark C. Wallace Apr 9 at 16:22

For most of the time in question, Catholics were excluded from standing for, or even voting for, parliament. So there could not really be any opposition between Catholics and Protestants within parliament itself, as the cited question seems to imply.

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