Commonwealth of England

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The Commonwealth of England was the republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

 which ruled first England
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

, and then Ireland
Kingdom of Ireland
The Kingdom of Ireland refers to the country of Ireland in the period between the proclamation of Henry VIII as King of Ireland by the Crown of Ireland Act 1542 and the Act of Union in 1800. It replaced the Lordship of Ireland, which had been created in 1171...

 and Scotland
Kingdom of Scotland
The Kingdom of Scotland was a Sovereign state in North-West Europe that existed from 843 until 1707. It occupied the northern third of the island of Great Britain and shared a land border to the south with the Kingdom of England...

 from 1649 to 1660. Between 1653–1659 it was known as the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland. After the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

 and the execution of Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

, the republic's existence was initially declared by "An Act declaring England to be a Commonwealth" adopted by the Rump Parliament
Rump Parliament
The Rump Parliament is the name of the English Parliament after Colonel Pride purged the Long Parliament on 6 December 1648 of those members hostile to the Grandees' intention to try King Charles I for high treason....

, on 19 May 1649. Executive power had already been entrusted to a Council of State
English Council of State
The English Council of State, later also known as the Protector's Privy Council, was first appointed by the Rump Parliament on 14 February 1649 after the execution of King Charles I....

. The government during 1653 to 1659 is properly called The Protectorate
The Protectorate
In British history, the Protectorate was the period 1653–1659 during which the Commonwealth of England was governed by a Lord Protector.-Background:...

, and took the form of direct personal rule by Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader who overthrew the English monarchy and temporarily turned England into a republican Commonwealth, and served as Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland....

 and, after his death, his son Richard
Richard Cromwell
At the same time, the officers of the New Model Army became increasingly wary about the government's commitment to the military cause. The fact that Richard Cromwell lacked military credentials grated with men who had fought on the battlefields of the English Civil War to secure their nation's...

, as Lord Protector
Lord Protector
Lord Protector is a title used in British constitutional law for certain heads of state at different periods of history. It is also a particular title for the British Heads of State in respect to the established church...

; this arrangement led to the state being labelled a "crowned republic
Crowned republic
A crowned republic is a form of constitutional monarchy where the monarch's role is ceremonial and all the royal prerogatives are prescribed by custom and law in such a way that the monarch has little or no discretion over governmental and constitutional issues.The term has been used to describe...

". The term Commonwealth is, however, loosely used to describe the system of government during the whole of 1649 to 1660, when England was de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

, and arguably de jure
De jure
De jure is an expression that means "concerning law", as contrasted with de facto, which means "concerning fact".De jure = 'Legally', De facto = 'In fact'....

, a republic (or, to monarchists, under the English Interregnum
English Interregnum
The English Interregnum was the period of parliamentary and military rule by the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell under the Commonwealth of England after the English Civil War...

).

The Rump Parliament (1648–1653)


The Rump was created by Pride's Purge
Pride's Purge
Pride’s Purge is an event in December 1648, during the Second English Civil War, when troops under the command of Colonel Thomas Pride forcibly removed from the Long Parliament all those who were not supporters of the Grandees in the New Model Army and the Independents...

 of those members of the Long Parliament
Long Parliament
The Long Parliament was made on 3 November 1640, following the Bishops' Wars. It received its name from the fact that through an Act of Parliament, it could only be dissolved with the agreement of the members, and those members did not agree to its dissolution until after the English Civil War and...

 who did not support the political position of the Grandees in the New Model Army
New Model Army
The New Model Army of England was formed in 1645 by the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War, and was disbanded in 1660 after the Restoration...

. Just before and after the execution of King Charles I on 30 January 1649, the Rump passed a number of acts of Parliament creating the legal basis for the republic. With the abolition of the monarchy, Privy Council
Privy Council of the United Kingdom
Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign in the United Kingdom...

 and the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

, it had unchecked executive, as well as legislative, power. The Council of State, which replaced the Privy Council, took over many of the executive functions of the monarchy. It was selected by the Rump, and most of its members were MPs. Ultimately, however, the Rump depended on the support of the Army with which it had a very uneasy relationship.

Structure of the Rump


In Pride's Purge
Pride's Purge
Pride’s Purge is an event in December 1648, during the Second English Civil War, when troops under the command of Colonel Thomas Pride forcibly removed from the Long Parliament all those who were not supporters of the Grandees in the New Model Army and the Independents...

, all MPs (including most of the political Presbyterians) who would not accept the need to bring the King to trial had been removed. Thus the Rump never had more than 200 members (less than half the number of the Commons in the original Long Parliament). They included: supporters of religious independents who did not want an established church and some of whom had sympathies with the Levellers; Presbyterians who were willing to countenance the trial and execution of the King; and later admissions, such as formerly excluded MPs who were prepared to denounce the Newport Treaty negotiations with the King.

Most Rumpers were gentry
Gentry
Gentry denotes "well-born and well-bred people" of high social class, especially in the past....

, though there was a higher proportion of lesser gentry and lawyers than in previous parliaments. Less than one-quarter of them were regicide
Regicide
The broad definition of regicide is the deliberate killing of a monarch, or the person responsible for the killing of a monarch. In a narrower sense, in the British tradition, it refers to the judicial execution of a king after a trial...

s. This left the Rump basically a conservative body whose vested interests in the existing land ownership and legal systems made them unlikely to want to reform these.

Rump issues and achievements


For the first two years of the Commonwealth, the Rump faced economic depression and the risk of invasion from Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 and Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

. (By 1653 Cromwell and the Army had largely eliminated these threats).

There were many disagreements amongst factions of the Rump. Some wanted a republic, but others favoured retaining some type of monarchical government. Most of England's traditional ruling classes regarded the Rump as an illegal government made up of regicides and upstarts. However, they were also aware that the Rump might be all that stood in the way of an outright military dictatorship
Martial law
Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law...

. High taxes, mainly to pay the Army, were resented by the gentry. Limited reforms were enough to antagonise the ruling class but not enough to satisfy the radicals.

Despite its unpopularity, the Rump was a link with the old constitution, and helped to settle England down and make it secure after the biggest upheaval in its history. By 1653, both France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 had recognised England's new government.

Rump reforms


Though the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 was retained, episcopacy was suppressed and the Act of Uniformity
Act of Uniformity 1559
The Act of Uniformity set the order of prayer to be used in the English Book of Common Prayer. Every man had to go to church once a week or be fined 12 pence , a considerable sum for the poor. By this Act Elizabeth I made it a legal obligation to go to church every Sunday...

 was repealed in 1650. Mainly on the insistence of the Army, many independent churches were tolerated, although everyone still had to pay tithe
Tithe
A tithe is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a contribution to a religious organization or compulsory tax to government. Today, tithes are normally voluntary and paid in cash, cheques, or stocks, whereas historically tithes were required and paid in kind, such as agricultural products...

s to the established church.

Some small improvements were made to law and court procedure, for example all court proceedings were now conducted in English rather than in Law French
Law French
Law French is an archaic language originally based on Old Norman and Anglo-Norman, but increasingly influenced by Parisian French and, later, English. It was used in the law courts of England, beginning with the Norman Conquest by William the Conqueror...

 or Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

. However, there were no widespread reforms of the Common Law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

. This would have upset the gentry, who regarded the Common Law as reinforcing their status and property rights.

The Rump passed many restrictive moral laws to regulate people's behaviour, such as closing down theatres and requiring strict observance of Sunday
Blue law
A blue law is a type of law, typically found in the United States and, formerly, in Canada, designed to enforce religious standards, particularly the observance of Sunday as a day of worship or rest, and a restriction on Sunday shopping...

. This antagonised most of the gentry.

The dismissal of the Rump


Cromwell, aided by Thomas Harrison, forcibly dismissed the Rump on 20 April 1653, for reasons that are unclear. Theories are that he feared the Rump was trying to perpetuate itself as the government, or that the Rump was preparing for an election which could return an anti-Commonwealth majority. Many former members of the Rump continued to regard themselves as England's only legitimate constitutional authority. The Rump had not agreed to its own dissolution when it was dispersed by Cromwell and legislation from the period immediately before the Civil War -- the Act against dissolving the Long Parliament without its own consent (11 May 1641) -- gave them the legal basis for this view.

Barebone's Parliament, July–December 1653


The dissolution of the Rump was followed by a short period in which Cromwell and the Army ruled alone. Nobody had the constitutional authority to call an election, but Cromwell did not want to impose a military dictatorship. Instead, he ruled through a 'nominated assembly' which he believed would be easy for the Army to control, since Army officers did the nominating.

Barebone's Parliament was opposed by former Rumpers and ridiculed by many gentry as being an assembly of 'inferior' people. However, over 110 of its 140 members were lesser gentry or of higher social status. (An exception was Praise-God Barbon, a Baptist merchant after whom the Assembly got its derogatory nickname.) Many were well educated.

The assembly reflected the range of views of the officers who nominated it. The Radicals (approximately 40) included a hard core of Fifth Monarchists
Fifth Monarchists
The Fifth Monarchists or Fifth Monarchy Men were active from 1649 to 1661 during the Interregnum, following the English Civil Wars of the 17th century. They took their name from a prophecy in the Book of Daniel that four ancient monarchies would precede Christ's return...

 who wanted to be rid of Common Law and any state control of religion. The Moderates (approximately 60) wanted some improvements within the existing system and might move to either the radical or conservative side depending on the issue. The Conservatives (approximately 40) wanted to keep the status quo (since Common Law protected the interests of the gentry, and tithes and advowson
Advowson
Advowson is the right in English law of a patron to present or appoint a nominee to a vacant ecclesiastical benefice or church living, a process known as presentation. In effect this means the right to nominate a person to hold a church office in a parish...

s were valuable property).

Cromwell saw Barebone's Parliament as a temporary legislative body which he hoped would produce reforms and develop a constitution for the Commonwealth. However, members were divided over key issues, only 25 had previous parliamentary experience, and although many had some legal training, there were no qualified lawyers.

Cromwell seems to have expected this group of 'amateurs' to produce reform without management or direction. When the radicals mustered enough support to defeat a bill which would have preserved the status quo in religion, the conservatives, together with many moderates, surrendered their authority back to Cromwell who sent soldiers to clear the rest of the Assembly. Barebone's Parliament was over.

In 1653, Cromwell established his Protectorate
The Protectorate
In British history, the Protectorate was the period 1653–1659 during which the Commonwealth of England was governed by a Lord Protector.-Background:...

, making himself a king-like figure until the year of his death in 1658.

The Commonwealth (1659–1660)


The Protectorate might have continued if Cromwell's son Richard
Richard Cromwell
At the same time, the officers of the New Model Army became increasingly wary about the government's commitment to the military cause. The fact that Richard Cromwell lacked military credentials grated with men who had fought on the battlefields of the English Civil War to secure their nation's...

, who was made Lord Protector
Lord Protector
Lord Protector is a title used in British constitutional law for certain heads of state at different periods of history. It is also a particular title for the British Heads of State in respect to the established church...

 on his father's death, had been capable of carrying on his father's policies. Richard Cromwell's main weakness was that he did not have the confidence of the New Model Army
New Model Army
The New Model Army of England was formed in 1645 by the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War, and was disbanded in 1660 after the Restoration...

.

After seven months the Grandees in the New Model Army army removed him and, on 6 May 1659, they reinstalled the Rump Parliament
Rump Parliament
The Rump Parliament is the name of the English Parliament after Colonel Pride purged the Long Parliament on 6 December 1648 of those members hostile to the Grandees' intention to try King Charles I for high treason....

. Charles Fleetwood
Charles Fleetwood
Charles Fleetwood was an English Parliamentary soldier and politician, Lord Deputy of Ireland from 1652–55, where he enforced the Cromwellian Settlement. At the Restoration he was included in the Act of Indemnity as among the twenty liable to penalties other than capital, and was finally...

 was appointed a member of the Committee of Safety
English Committee of Safety
The Committee of Safety, established by the Parliamentarians in July 1642, was the first of a number of successive committees set up to oversee the English Civil War against King Charles I, and the Interregnum.-1642–1644:...

 and of the Council of State, and one of the seven commissioners for the army. On 9 June he was nominated lord-general (commander-in-chief) of the army. However, his power was undermined in parliament, which chose to disregard the army's authority in a similar fashion to the pre–Civil War parliament. The Commons on 12 October 1659, cashiered General John Lambert
John Lambert (general)
John Lambert was an English Parliamentary general and politician. He fought during the English Civil War and then in Oliver Cromwell's Scottish campaign , becoming thereafter active in civilian politics until his dismissal by Cromwell in 1657...

 and other officers, and installed Fleetwood as chief of a military council under the authority of the speaker
Speaker of the British House of Commons
The Speaker of the House of Commons is the presiding officer of the House of Commons, the United Kingdom's lower chamber of Parliament. The current Speaker is John Bercow, who was elected on 22 June 2009, following the resignation of Michael Martin...

. The next day Lambert ordered that the doors of the House be shut and the members kept out. On 26 October a "Committee of Safety" was appointed, of which Fleetwood and Lambert were members. Lambert was appointed major-general of all the forces in England and Scotland, Fleetwood being general. Lambert was now sent, by the Committee of Safety, with a large force to meet George Monck, who was in command of the English forces in Scotland, and either negotiate with him or force him to come to terms.

It was into this atmosphere that General George Monck, governor of Scotland under the Cromwells, marched south with his army from Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

. Lambert's army began to desert him, and he returned to London almost alone. On 21 February 1660, Monck reinstated the Presbyterian members of the Long Parliament 'secluded' by Pride, so that they could prepare legislation for a new parliament. Fleetwood was deprived of his command and ordered to appear before parliament to answer for his conduct. On 3 March Lambert was sent to the Tower, from which he escaped a month later. Lambert tried to rekindle the civil war in favour of the Commonwealth by issuing a proclamation calling on all supporters of the "Good Old Cause
Good Old Cause
The Good Old Cause was the retrospective name given by the soldiers of the New Model Army for the complex of reasons for which they fought, on behalf of the Parliament of England....

" to rally on the battlefield of Edgehill. But he was recaptured by Colonel Richard Ingoldsby
Richard Ingoldsby
Colonel Sir Richard Ingoldsby was an English officer in the New Model Army during the English Civil War and a politician who sat in the House of Commons variously between 1647 and 1685...

, a regicide
Regicide
The broad definition of regicide is the deliberate killing of a monarch, or the person responsible for the killing of a monarch. In a narrower sense, in the British tradition, it refers to the judicial execution of a king after a trial...

 who hoped to win a pardon by handing Lambert over to the new regime. The Long Parliament dissolved itself on 16 March.

On 4 April 1660, Charles II
Charles II of England
Charles II was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War...

 issued the Declaration of Breda
Declaration of Breda
The Declaration of Breda was a proclamation by Charles II of England in which he promised a general pardon for crimes committed during the English Civil War and the Interregnum for all those who recognised Charles as the lawful king; the retention by the current owners of property purchased during...

, which made known the conditions of his acceptance of the crown of England. Monck organised the Convention Parliament, which met for the first time on 25 April. On 8 May it proclaimed that King Charles II had been the lawful monarch since the execution of Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

 in January 1649. Charles returned from exile on 23 May. He entered London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 on 29 May, his birthday. To celebrate "his Majesty's Return to his Parliament" May 29 was made a public holiday, popularly known as Oak Apple Day
Oak Apple Day
Oak Apple Day or Royal Oak Day was a holiday celebrated in England on 29 May to commemorate the restoration of the English monarchy, in May 1660...

. He was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 23 April 1661.

Radicals vs. conservatives


Parliament had, to a large degree, encouraged the radical political groups which emerged when the usual social controls broke down during the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

. It had also unwittingly established a new political force when it set up the New Model Army
New Model Army
The New Model Army of England was formed in 1645 by the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War, and was disbanded in 1660 after the Restoration...

. Not surprisingly, all these groups had their own hopes for the new Commonwealth.

Levellers


Led by John Lilburne
John Lilburne
John Lilburne , also known as Freeborn John, was an English political Leveller before, during and after English Civil Wars 1642-1650. He coined the term "freeborn rights", defining them as rights with which every human being is born, as opposed to rights bestowed by government or human law...

, Levellers
Levellers
The Levellers were a political movement during the English Civil Wars which emphasised popular sovereignty, extended suffrage, equality before the law, and religious tolerance, all of which were expressed in the manifesto "Agreement of the People". They came to prominence at the end of the First...

 drew their main support from London and the Army. In the Agreement of the People
Agreement of the People
An Agreement of the People was a series of manifestos, published between 1647 and 1649, for constitutional changes to the English state. Several versions of the Agreement were published, each adapted to address not only broad concerns but also specific issues during the fast changing...

, 1649, they asked for: a more representative and accountable parliament, to meet every two years; a reform of law so it would be available to, and fair to all; and religious toleration. Though they wanted a more democratic
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 society, their proposed franchise did not extend to women or to the lowest orders of society.

Levellers saw the Rump as little better than the monarchy it had replaced, and they showed their displeasure in demonstrations, pamphlets and mutinies. While their numbers did not pose a serious threat to the government, they scared the Rump into action and a Treasons Act was passed against them in 1649.

Diggers


Led by Gerrard Winstanley
Gerrard Winstanley
Gerrard Winstanley was an English Protestant religious reformer and political activist during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell...

, Diggers wanted an even more equal society than the Levellers. They advocated a lifestyle that bore many similarities to later understandings of communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

, with communal ownership of land, and absolute equality for males and females in law and education. They existed in only very small numbers and faced a very strong opposition, even from the Levellers.

Religious sects


The breakdown of religious uniformity and incomplete Presbyterian Settlement of 1646 enabled independent churches to flourish. The main sects (see also English Dissenters
English Dissenters
English Dissenters were Christians who separated from the Church of England in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.They originally agitated for a wide reaching Protestant Reformation of the Established Church, and triumphed briefly under Oliver Cromwell....

) were Baptists, who advocated adult rebaptism
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

; Ranters, who claimed that sin did not exist for the "chosen ones"; and Fifth Monarchy Men, who opposed all "earthly" governments, believing they must prepare for God's kingdom on earth by establishing a "government of saints".

Despite greater toleration, extreme sects were opposed by the upper classes as they were seen as a threat to social order and property rights.
Catholics
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 were also excluded from the toleration applied to the other groups.

Conservatives


Conservatives were still dominant in both central government
Central government
A central government also known as a national government, union government and in federal states, the federal government, is the government at the level of the nation-state. The structure of central governments varies from institution to institution...

 and local government
Local government
Local government refers collectively to administrative authorities over areas that are smaller than a state.The term is used to contrast with offices at nation-state level, which are referred to as the central government, national government, or federal government...

. In the former, the Rump was anxious not to offend the traditional ruling class whose support it needed for survival, so it opposed radical ideas. In the latter, that ruling class dominated through the influence of traditional regional gentry.

See also



  • First Anglo-Dutch War
    First Anglo-Dutch War
    The First Anglo–Dutch War was the first of the four Anglo–Dutch Wars. It was fought entirely at sea between the navies of the Commonwealth of England and the United Provinces of the Netherlands. Caused by disputes over trade, the war began with English attacks on Dutch merchant shipping, but...

     and Admiral Robert Blake for the role played by sea power during this period
  • Anglo-Spanish War (1654)
    Anglo-Spanish War (1654)
    The Anglo-Spanish War was a conflict between the English Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell and Spain, between 1654 and 1660. It was caused by commercial rivalry. Each side attacked the other's commercial and colonial interests in various ways such as privateering and naval expeditions. In 1655, an...

  • Commonwealth
    Commonwealth
    Commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Historically, it has sometimes been synonymous with "republic."More recently it has been used for fraternal associations of some sovereign nations...


External links