Facts and Events
Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury PC (22 July 1621 – 21 January 1683), known as Anthony Ashley Cooper from 1621 to 1631, as Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, 2nd Baronet from 1631 to 1661, and as The Lord Ashley from 1661 to 1672, was a prominent English politician during the Interregnum and during the reign of King Charles II. A founder of the Whig party, he is also remembered as the patron of John Locke.
Anthony Ashley Cooper was born in 1621 and had lost both of his parents by the age of eight. He was brought up by Edward Tooker and other guardians named in his father's will, before attending Exeter College, Oxford, and Lincoln's Inn. After he married the daughter of Thomas Coventry, 1st Baron Coventry, in 1639, Coventry's patronage secured Cooper a seat in the Short Parliament, although Cooper lost a disputed election to a seat in the Long Parliament. During the English Civil War, Cooper initially fought as a Royalist, before departing for the Parliamentary side in 1644. During the English Interregnum, he served on the English Council of State under Oliver Cromwell, although he opposed Cromwell's attempt to rule without parliament during the Rule of the Major-Generals. He also opposed the religious extremism of the Fifth Monarchists during Barebone's Parliament.
As a member of the Council of State, Cooper opposed the New Model Army's attempts to rule the country following the downfall of Richard Cromwell, and he encouraged Sir George Monck's march on London. Cooper served as a member of the Convention Parliament of 1660, which determined to restore the English monarchy, and Cooper was one of twelve members of parliament who travelled to the Dutch Republic to invite King Charles II to return to England. Shortly before his coronation, Charles created Cooper Lord Ashley, so when the Cavalier Parliament assembled in 1661 he moved from the House of Commons to the House of Lords. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1661–1672. During the ministry of the Earl of Clarendon, Shaftesbury opposed the imposition of the Clarendon Code and supported Charles II's Declaration of Indulgence (1662), which the king was ultimately forced to withdraw. After the fall of Clarendon, Ashley was one of the members of the so-called Cabal Ministry, serving as Lord Chancellor 1672–1673. He was created Earl of Shaftesbury in 1672. During this period, John Locke entered Ashley's household. Ashley took an interest in colonial ventures and was one of the Lords Proprietor of the Province of Carolina; in 1669, Ashley and Locke collaborated in writing the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina. By 1673, Ashley was worried that the heir to the throne, James, Duke of York, was secretly a Roman Catholic.
After the Cabal Ministry ended, Shaftesbury became a leader of the opposition to the policies pursued by Thomas Osborne, Earl of Danby. Danby favoured strict interpretation of the penal laws, enforcing mandatory membership of the Church of England. Shaftesbury, who sympathised with the Protestant Nonconformists, briefly agreed to work with the Duke of York, who opposed enforcing the penal laws against Roman Catholic recusants. By 1675, however, Shaftesbury was convinced that Danby, assisted by the bishops of the Church of England, was determined to transform England into an absolute monarchy, and he soon came to see the Duke of York's own religion as linked to this issue. Opposed to the growth of "popery and arbitrary government", throughout the latter half of the 1670s Shaftesbury argued in favour of frequent parliaments (spending time in the Tower of London, 1677–1678 for espousing this view) and argued that the nation needed protection from a potential Roman Catholic successor to King Charles II. During the Exclusion Crisis, Shaftesbury was an outspoken supporter of the Exclusion Bill, although he also endorsed other proposals that would have prevented the Duke of York from becoming king, such as Charles II's remarrying a Protestant princess and producing a Protestant heir to the throne, or legitimising Charles II's illegitimate Protestant son the Duke of Monmouth. The Whig party was born during the Exclusion Crisis, and Shaftesbury was one of the party's most prominent leaders.
In 1681, during the Tory reaction following the failure of the Exclusion Bill, Shaftesbury was arrested for high treason, although the prosecution was dropped several months later. In 1682, after the Tories had gained the ability to pack London juries with their supporters, Shaftesbury, fearing a second prosecution, fled the country. Upon arriving in Amsterdam, he fell ill, and soon died, in January 1683.