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Rump Parliament

Rump Parliament

Rump Parliament: see English civil war.
The Rump Parliament was the name of the English Parliament after Colonel Pride on December 6 1648 had purged Long Parliament of those members hostile to the intentions of the Grandees in the New Model Army to try King Charles I for high treason.

"Rump" normally means the hind end of an animal; its use meaning "remnant" was first recorded in the above context. Since 1649, the term "rump parliament" has been used to refer to any parliament left over from the actual legitimate parliament.

Execution of Charles I and the abolition of the Monarchy

When it became apparent to the leaders of the New Model Army that the Parliament - then controlled by the Presbyterian faction - was ready to come to an agreement with the King that would both restore him to his throne (though without effective power) and negate the power of the Army, they resolved to shatter the power of both King and Parliament. Pride's Purge brought the Parliament to heel, under the direct control of the Army; the remaining Commons then on 13 December 1648 broke off negotiations with the King. Two days later, the Council of Officers of the New Model Army voted that the King be moved from the Isle of Wight, where he was prisoner, to Windsor "in order to the bringing of him speedily to justice". In the middle of December the King was moved from Windsor to London.

On 4 January 1649, an ordinance was passed by the Commons to set up a High Court of Justice in order to try Charles I for high treason in the name of the people of England. The Lords rejected it and as it did not receive Royal Assent, Charles would ask at the start of his trial on 20 January in Westminster Hall "I would know by what power I am called hither. I would know by what authority, I mean lawful authority", to which there was no strong legal answer to be given under the constitutional arrangements of the time.

He was convicted with fifty-nine Commissioners (Judges) signing the death warrant.

The execution of Charles I was delayed to January 30, so that the House of Commons could pass an emergency bill to make it an offence to proclaim a new King, and to declare the representatives of the people, the House of Commons, as the source of all just power. On 6 February the House of Lords was abolished; followed by the abolition of the monarchy on 7 February, and the establishment of a Council of State on 14 February. Finally, on 19 May an An Act declaring England to be a Commonwealth was passed.

Commonwealth of England

During the time of the Commonwealth of England (1649 - 1653), the Rump passed a number of acts in the areas of religion, law, and finance. Most of the members of the Rump wanted to promote "godliness", but also to restrict the more extreme puritan sects like the Quakers and the Ranters. An Adultery Act of May 1650 imposed the death penalty for incest and adultery and 3 months imprisonment for fornication; the Blasphemy Act of August 1650 was aimed at curbing extreme religious "enthusiasm". To stop extreme evangelicals from preaching, they formed a "Committee for the Propagation of the Gospel" which issued licenses to preach. To allow Puritans freedom of worship, they repealed the Elizabethan requirement of compulsory attendance at an Anglican Church. As lawyers were overrepresented in the Rump Parliament, the Rump did not respond to the popular requests made by the Levellers to change the expensive legal system.

The Rump raised revenue through the sale of Crown lands and Church property both of which were popular. However revenue raised through excise levies and through an Assessment Tax on land were unpopular as they affected everyone who owned property. The proceeds from confiscated Royalist estates were a valuable source of income, but it was a two edged sword. It ingratiated Parliament to people like John Downes who were making a fortune from the business but it did nothing to heal the wounds of the Civil War.

Oliver Cromwell

In 1653, after learning that Parliament was attempting to stay in session despite an agreement to dissolve, and having failed to come up with a working constitution, Cromwell’s patience ran out. On April 20 he attended a sitting of Parliament and listened to one or two speeches. Then he stood up and harangued the members of the Rump. This speech does not survive but has often been paraphrased, for instance in the Book of Days:

You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately ... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!

He then declared "you are no Parliament" and called in a troop of soldiers, under the command of Major-General Thomas Harrison, ordering them to clear the chamber. According to Dickens and Belloc, he then turned the Speaker's Mace, the symbol of Parliamentary power, declared it a "fool's bauble", and ordered the troops "here, carry it away".

A more detailed record of the event is recounted by Thomas Salmon in his Chronological Historian (London, 1723, 106), thus:

"[Cromwell] commanded the Speaker to leave the Chair, and told them they had sat long enough, unless they had done more good, crying out You are no longer a Parliament, I say you are no Parliament. He told Sir Henry Vane he was a Jugler [sic]; Henry Martin and Sir Peter Wentworth, that they were Whoremasters; Thomas Chaloner, he was a Drunkard; and Allen the Goldsmith that he cheated the Publick: Then he bid one of his Soldiers take away that Fool's Bauble the mace and Thomas Harrison pulled the Speaker of the Chair; and in short Cromwell haveing turned them all out of the House, lock'd up the Doors and returned to Whitehall."

Salmon does not cite his own sources but the version is sufficiently detailed to suggest that he had access to descriptions of the event that were certainly current in his time, and were probably derived from eye-witness descriptions. It is therefore probably at least accurate in general tone, if not precise detail.

Within a month of the Rump's dismissal, Oliver Cromwell on the advice of Harrison and with the support of other officers in the Army, sent a request to Congregational churches in every county to nominate those they considered fit to take part in the new government. On 4 July a Nominated Assembly, nicknamed the "Assembly of Saints" or Barebone's Parliament (named after one of its members), took on the role of more traditional English Parliaments.

End of the Rump Parliament

Richard Cromwell, the third (and eldest surviving) son of Oliver Cromwell, was appointed Lord Protector after his father's death. He called the Third Protectorate Parliament in 1659. However, along with the Army, it was unable to form a stable government and after seven months the Army removed him and on 6 May, 1659, it reinstalled the Rump Parliament. The Rump Parliament issued a declaration establishing a "Commonwealth without a king, single person, or house of lords". However after a few months divisions in the Commonwealth were settled by force of arms. On the 12 October the Rump voted to declare the seven commissioners' responsibility for the Army void and appointed Charles Fleetwood commander-in-chief under the Speaker of the House. The next day on 13 October 1659 the Army in London under the command of John Lambert assisted by Charles Fleetwood excluded the Rump from Parliament by locking the doors to the Palace of Westminster and stationing armed guards outside. Lambert and Fleetwood created a 23 member Committee of Safety to govern the country in place of the Rump with General Fleetwood and Lambert directly under him, commander of the Army in England and Scotland.

Sir Arthur Haselrig appealed to other Army generals to support the Rump against Fleetwood and Lambert. Fearing anarchy, General George Monck, commander-in-chief of the English army in Scotland, declared that he was ready to uphold Parliament's authority and march at the head of his army to London. Lambert marched north against Monck in November 1659, but Lambert's army began to melt away, and he was kept in suspense by Monck till his whole army deserted and he returned to London almost alone. On 24 December 1659 the chastened Fleetwood approached the Speaker, William Lenthal, asking him to recall the Rump. The same day Lenthall took possession of the Tower and appointed commissioners for its government. The Rump met again on 26 December 1659. Parliament declared Monck commander-in-chief in England as well as Scotland.

In January 1660, Monck marched into England, as Lambert's supporters in the Army were cashiered and his authority crumbled. When Sir Thomas Fairfax emerged from retirement to declare his support for Monck, Army support for Monck became almost unanimous. Monck entered London in February 1660 and he allowed the Presbyterian members, 'secluded' in Pride's Purge of 1648, to re-enter parliament on 21 February 1660. The Long Parliament dissolved itself on 16 March, 1660 after preparing legislation for the Convention Parliament which formally invited King Charles II to be the English monarch in what has become known as the Restoration.

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