encountered many of the same problems as James I and Charles I, namely difficulties with the lower house of Parliament.

[10. 'Humble Petition and Advice' (1657): Constitutional settlement under the Protectorate as an alternative to the Instrument of Government (1653). The initial draft proposed that Cromwell should become King and for this role given sufficient finances and demanded he rule with regular parliaments (Parliament would now include an upper house, the House of Lords had been abolished in 1649). The renewal of kingship intended to limit Cromwell's power rather than extend it. It's authors hoped to establish a constitutional monarchy rather than the arbitrary reign of the early Stuart kings. For Cromwell the offer was attractive as it had come from Parliament and therefore had a legality about it that was lacking in the Instrument of Government, the brainstorm of the Army Council. Cromwell definitely carefully considered the offering - but seems to have refused the office of kingship knowing the opposition to monarchy of powerful figures in the Army Council and the potential for renewed civil war if he took the crown. In 1657 the Army petitioned Cromwell in response to rumours he would accept the crown. After weeks of what he himself described as 'consternation of spirit', Cromwell finally declined the crown, opting for the 'good old cause', but out of political necessity rather than genuine conviction, it would seem. However by rejecting the title of king Cromwell had not rejected the Humble Petition itself, and therefore a revised version was drawn up. The Lord Protector then accepted the modified version. Cromwell would remain Lord Protector, but could now nominate his successor and appoint members of the upper chamber of Parliament. Many opposed this and Edmund Ludlow, infamous republican politician, asserted the move was the climax of the Protectorate's ambition to usurp absolute power of the state. However Cromwell's acceptance exposes how desperate the Protector was to reach a balanced constitutional agreement for England. Thus his position after 1657 represented a compromise - though Cromwell enhanced the civilian basis of government, the Army still loomed strong as a principal power. Hence Cromwell used his powers to admit many of his military and political allies into the new upper house (as a safeguard to rebuke any unsavoury legislation the lower house tried to pass). Republicans quickly condemned this move. However the new constitution did not solve Cromwell's problems - Parliament was prorogued just months after the Humble Petition and Advice had been inaugurated. Further he was forced to dismiss his friend and ally Colonel Lambert for failing to take the oath of loyalty to the new constitution. Ultimately Cromwell's continued frustration illustrates that by the end of his political career (he would die the following year) he had failed to create a constitutional form of government acceptable to the political nation at large.]

The political nation and the populace at large resented central government efforts at curbing 'immorality', which reached its peak under the Major-Generals. Despite improvement of England's foreign trade and successes in foreign policy against the Dutch and Spanish, Cromwell's regime lacked legitimacy and unity. This was, for the Protectorate, fatally exposed after his death in 1658. Traditionally coverage of the events and issues of the period 1658-60 have seen the eventual outcome of Restoration of the Stuart dynasty in May 1660 as inevitable, and thus the events between the death of Oliver Cromwell and 1660 as an interlude. It is questionable though just how inevitable the restoration of Charles II actually was. Initially the Cromwellian system continued to function under the nominated heir Richard Cromwell. The theme that dominated Oliver Cromwell's rule continued to be the principal concern under his successor - i.e. a stable, acceptable, and effective government. Ignoring the Army grandees (officers who belonged to the Army Council: typically conservative-minded, but some like Cromwell, Ireton and Fairfax were religious radicals) and favouring 'monarchists', the early acts of the new regime encouraged hope that military influence would be diminished and the Protectorate might secure wider support base among the political nation. Ultimately, that the Protectorate could become an acceptable governmental form.

By May 1659, the Protectorate had been toppled by yet another military coup d'état. A key factor in the collapse of Richard Cromwell's authority was the defection of Lambert, Fleetwood, and Desborough. His father had perhaps been shrewd in his decline of the offer of the throne on several occasions in light of the objection of these men to it and the power they could muster if necessary. Ultimately, the Protectorate rested on the Army rather than consensus, and when this foundation was removed and turned against the regime, it toppled.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.