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

By Robert S. Paul | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINETEEN
THE KINGSHIP AND THE END (September 1656--September 3, 1658)

I
Parliament, Nayler, and the Militia Bill

THE Second Protectorate Parliament has the unique distinction of being the only Parliament in British history which has offered the crown of the three nations to a commoner. Yet there was no sign of any such inclination when first it met on September 17, 1656. The Major-Generals and local officials had exerted their influence to secure the election of those known to be sympathetic to the government, but they had not been nearly as successful in this as they would have liked. Major-General Kelsey had suggested that no member ought to be allowed to take his seat without pledging support to the Protector and to the constitution laid down in the Instrument of Government,1 and although this suggestion was not adopted, tickets were issued on the authority of the Council without which no member was allowed to enter the House. In this way--according to Cromwell--about one hundred and twenty members were excluded,2 Even so, the House was by no means docile, as the later debate on the excluded members showed, and the Council's action aroused considerable criticism from the government's supporter-notably from Henry Cromwell,3 and even from the Lord Protector himself.4

Cromwell's opening speech5 reflected his anxiety at the dangers

____________________
1
Kelsey to Thurloe, Thurloe S.P., V, 384; Kelsey to Cromwell, Cal. S.P. Dom. ( 1656-57), 87.
2
Speech February 27, 1657, W.S., IV, 418. About 100 signed a protest against the Council's action. This remonstrance and the names of those who signed it appear in Whitelocke, 651-3. The excluded members included Hazelrigge, Scott, Ashley Cooper and Maynard. Cf. Newsletter, September 1, C.P., III, 73.
3
Henry Cromwell to Thurloe, October 6, 1656. Thurloe S.P., V, 477-8.
4
Burton's Diary, I, 384. Cf. infra, p. 351 f.
5
W.S., IV, 260-79; L-C, II, 508-53.

-350-

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