The Lord Protector: Religion and Politics in the Life of Oliver Cromwell

By Robert S. Paul | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
PRINCEPS: THE CONSTITUTION AND THE MAJOR-GENERALS (1653-1656)

I
The Lord Protector

LAMBERT'S written constitution, long prepared, was accepted, for there was no alternative, and this "Instrument of Government" was put into operation almost immediately. Hereby it was established "That the supreme legislative Authority of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the Dominions thereunto belonging shall be and reside in one Person, and the people assembled in Parliament; the style of which person shall be, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland."1 Although this meant that the constitution was to return to the traditional form of a single person and Parliament, it also meant that this person was committed to accept any limitations which Parliament might impose. On the other hand, there were safeguards employed to prevent any hostile person from being elected to Parliament, or from sitting if they were elected,2 and there was a definite provision that "the Persons elected shall not have the power to alter the Government as is hereby settled in a single Person and a Parliament".3

____________________
1
The text of the Instrument of Government is in Whitelocke, 571-7; Gardiner , Const. Docs., 405-17. The Instrument nominated Cromwell "Lord Protector" for life; it provided that the Lord Protector was to control the militia and exercise his government with the consent of Parliament when it was sitting, or with the advice and consent of a council of twenty-one members; legislation was to be initiated by Parliament when in session, and the Lord Protector had no right of veto (if the Protector's consent was not given to a bill within twenty days, it still became law); provision was made for national religion, and there was to be religious freedom for all but Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, and such as "hold forth and practise licentiousness". The most significant articles, however, were those which ensured triennial Parliaments (which within the space of three months could not be dissolved without their own consent), and which ensured that Parliament should be summoned should the Lord Protector fail to summon it himself (Articles X-XII, XX).
2
Articles XIV-XVI.
3
Article XII.

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