England: Parliament 1640-1660 - Archontology.org

England: Parliament: 1640-1660

3/13 Nov 1640 - 30 Jul/9 Aug 1647 William Lenthall
30 Jul/9 Aug 1647 - 5/15 Aug 1647 Henry Pelham
6/16 Aug 1647 - 20/30 Apr 1653 William Lenthall
20/30 Apr 1653 - 4/14 Jul 1653 dissolved
5/15 Jul 1653 - 12/22 Dec 1653 Francis Rous
12/22 Dec 1653 - 3/13 Sep 1654 dissolved
4/14 Sep 1654 - 22 Jan/1 Feb 1655 William Lenthall
22 Jan/1 Feb 1655 - 17/27 Sep 1656 dissolved
17/27 Sep 1656 - 4/14 Feb 1658 Sir Thomas Widdrington [27 Jan/6 Feb 1657 - 17/27 Feb 1657: Speaker (acting for incumbent): Bulstrode Whitelock]
4/14 Feb 1658 - 27 Jan/6 Feb 1659 dissolved
27 Jan/6 Feb 1659 - 14/24 Apr 1659 Chaloner Chute [9/19 Mar 1659 - 14/24 Mar 1659: Speaker (acting for incumbent): Sir Lislebone Long; 16/26 Mar 1659 - 14/24 Apr 1659: Speaker (acting for incumbent): Thomas Bampfield]
15/25 Apr 1659 - 22 Apr/2 May 1659 Thomas Bampfield
22 Apr/2 May 1659 - 7/17 May 1659 dissolved
7/17 May 1659 - 13/23 Oct 1559 William Lenthall
13/23 Oct 1659 - 26 Dec 1659/5 Jan 1660 dissolved
26 Dec 1659/5 Jan 1660 - 16/26 Mar 1660 William Lenthall [13/23 Jan 1660 - 21/31 Jan 1660: Speaker pro tempore (acting for incumbent): William Say]
Speaker, Other House
20/30 Jan 1658 - 4/14 Feb 1658 Nathaniel Fiennes
4/14 Feb 1658 - 27 Jan/6 Feb 1659 dissolved
27 Jan/6 Feb 1659 - 22 Apr/2 May 1659 Nathaniel Fiennes

Long Parliament and Rump Parliament (1640-1653)

The Long Parliament summoned by King Charles I and convened on 3 Nov 1640 at Westminster became a revolutionary body, and was the center of resistance to the king during the English Civil Wars (1642-1651). By the end of 1648, Charles I was captured by the army and turned to the parliament for further trial. On 6 Dec 1648 Colonel Thomas Pride expelled all but about 75 members of the Long Parliament ("Pride's Purge"). The surviving group, known as the Rump Parliament (1648-1653), brought Charles I to trial.

As there was no legal authority to exercise the state power as did the king, on 4 Jan 1649 the House of Commons declared themselves to have "the Supreme Power in this Nation," giving to their resolutions the force of law [1, pp. 110-111].

Resolved, &c. That the Commons of England, in Parliament assembled, do Declare, That the People are, under God, the Original of all just Power:

And do also Declare, that the Commons of England, in Parliament assembled, being chosen by, and representing the People, have the Supreme Power in this Nation:

And do also Declare, That whatsoever is enacted, or declared for Law, by the Commons, in Parliament assembled, hath the Force of Law; and all the People of this Nation are concluded thereby, although the Consent and Concurrence of King, or House of Peers, be not had thereunto.

On the day when King Charles I was executed in London, the Commons passed (30 Jan 1649) [1, pp. 125-126] "An Act prohibiting the Proclaiming any Person to be King of England or Ireland, or the Dominions thereof," thus terminating the line of Stuart monarchs in England and Ireland.

The next step in constituing a new political structure of England was the passing (17 Mar 1649) [1, pp. 166-167] of "An Act for the Abolishing the Kingly Office in England, Ireland, and the Dominions thereunto belonging," effective in the Commonwealth of England and Ireland, Dominion of Wales, islands of Guernsey and Jersey, and town of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

And whereas it is and hath been found by experience, that the Office of a King in this nation and Ireland, and to have the power thereof in any single person, is unnecessary, burthensom and dangerous to the liberty, safety and publique interest of the people, and that for the most part, use hath been made of the Regal power and prerogative, to oppress, and impoverish and enslave the Subject; and that usually and naturally any one person in such power, makes it his interest to incroach upon the just freedom and liberty of the people, and to promote the setting up of their own will and power above the Laws, that so they might enslave these Kingdoms to their own Lust; Be it therefore Enacted and Ordained by this present Parliament, and by Authority of the same, That the Office of a King in this nation, shall not henceforth reside in, or be exercised by any one single person; and that no one person whatsoever, shall or may have, or hold the Office, Stile, Dignity, Power or Authority of King of the said Kingdoms and Dominions, or any of them, or of the Prince of Wales, Any Law, Statute, Usage or Custom to the contrary thereof in any wise notwithstanding.

The Parliament went on to pass "An Act for abolishing the House of Peers" (19 Mar 1649) [1, pp. 167-169]. Thus, the political power resided in the Parliament and the Council of State, appointed by the Commons on 14-15 Feb 1649.

When the Rump Parliament exposed intention to nominate its own members to judge new elections, Lord General Oliver Cromwell led a body of troops to Westminster and forcibly expelled the Rump Parliament (20 Apr 1653).

Supreme Authority, Nominated or "Barebone's" Parliament (1653)

Considering that the Rump Parliament had betrayed the aspirations of the Puritans, Major-General Thomas Harrison proposed a Parliament based upon the ancient Jewish Sanhedrin or Assembly of Saints. The idea was supported by Cromwell and other Army radicals. The Army Council sent letters to the congregational churches inviting suggestions of fit persons to sit in a new assembly. From the names submitted, the Council chose 140 members: 129 for England, 5 for Scotland, and 6 for Ireland. The writs for summong an assembly of "divers Persons, fearing God, and of approved Fidelity and Honesty" were signed by Cromwell on 6 Jun 1653. The delegates of what was defined in the Instrument signed by Cromwell as the Supreme Authority met for an informal meeting on 4 Jul 1653 and held the first formal session in St. Stephen's Chapel on 5 Jul 1653, on which day the first order of business was the election of Francis Rous as Speaker. By a resolution of 6 Jul 1653 the assembly assumed the name of Parliament (extended to the Parliament of the Commonwealth of England on 7 Jul 1653) that was officially announced in the Proclamation of 12 Jul 1653. However, this parliament known as Nominated (or Little or Barebones) Parliament proved to be short-lived as on 12 Dec 1653, its conservative members voted to "to deliver up unto the Lord General Cromwell the Powers which they received from him." On 16 Dec 1653, the first Commonwealth constituion, the "Instrument of Government," was accepted by Cromwell establishing the system of Protectorate.

Protectorate Parliaments (1654-1659)

The First Protectorate Parliament was summoned under the terms of the Instrument of Government and consisted of a single chamber of 400 English and Welsh MPs with an additional 30 each from Scotland and Ireland. After the Parliament drew up a series of amendments to the Instrument of Government aimed at strengthening its powers, Cromwell dissolved it (22 Jan 1655).

The Second Protectorate Parliament convened at Westminster on 17 Sep 1656 and proposed a new constitution in the Humble Petition and Advice, which was adopted 25 May 1657. When Parliament reconvened for its second session on 20 Jan 1658, the MPs excluded in 1656 were re-admitted, along with an additional 42 nominated members of the Other House permitted by the Humble Petition. This Parliament was dissolved by the Lord Protector on 4 Feb 1658.

After the death of Oliver Cromwell the Third Protectorate Parliament was summoned (9 Dec 1658) on the basis of the old franchise. It had been in session for almost three months when it was dissolved (22 Apr 1659) by Lord Protector Richard Cromwell following a military coup carried out by Fleetwood and Desborough.

Rump Parliament and Long Parliament (1659-1660)

On 6 May 1659 the military officers carried out a coup by declaring that they have invited the members of the Parliament who "continued sitting till the 20th of April, 1653, to return to the exercise and discharge of their trust", and they "gently" persuade Speaker Lenthall to accept the invitation. The Rump Parliament convened on 7 May 1659 and issued a declaration establishing "commonwealth without a king, single person, or house of lords," thus effectively terminating Richard's protectorship. However, in a few months it became clear that the Rump was unable to govern. On 13 Oct 1659, it was dissolved by the army under General Lambert and substituted with the 23-member Committee of Safety. However, Sir Arthur Haselrig appealed to other Army generals to support the Rump against Lambert, and General George Monck, commander-in-chief in Scotland, declared that he was ready to uphold Parliament's authority. Lambert marched north against Monck in November 1659, but most of Lambert's army deserted. On 24 Dec 1659 the revolted army units resolved to restore the Parliament and approached the Speaker, William Lenthal, asking him to resume his authority that he presumably had never regarded as lost. The same day Lenthall took possession of the Tower and appointed commissioners for its government. The Rump met again on 26 Dec 1659. On 21 Feb 1660, Monck reversed Pride's Purge and returned the secluded members of the Long Parliament. However, the reinstated Long Parliament resolved (9 Mar 1660) that a new assembly will be elected to deal with the restoration and dissolved itself on 16 Mar 1660.

The final dissolution of the Long Parliament was announced in "An Act for removing and preventing all Questions and Disputes concerning the Assembling and Sitting of this Present Parliament" (S.R. 12 Car.II c.1) assented to 1 Jun 1660. [3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8]

3 Nov 1640 - 6 Dec 1648 Long Parliament, Westminster
6 Dec 1648 - 20 Apr 1653 Rump Parliament, Westminster
4 Jul 1653 - 12 Dec 1653 Supreme Authority, Nominated Parliament, Westminster
3 Sep 1654 - 22 Jan 1655 First Protectorate Parliament, Westminster
17 Sep 1656 - 26 Jun 1657 Second Protectorate Parliament, session I, Westminster
20 Jan 1658 - 4 Feb 1658 Second Protectorate Parliament, session II, Westminster
27 Jan 1659 - 22 Apr 1659 Third Protectorate Parliament, Westminster
7 May 1659 - 13 Oct 1659 Rump Parliament, Westminster
26 Dec 1659 - 21 Feb 1660 Rump Parliament, Westminster
21 Feb 1660 - 16 Mar 1660 Long Parliament, Westminster
25 Apr 1660- 13 Sep 1660 Convention Parliament, Westminster

[1] "The Journals of the House of Commons", Volume VI.
[2] "Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 16421660. Vol. II: Acts and Ordinances from 9th February, 1649, to 16th March, 1660" ed. by C. H. Firth and R. S. Rait, (London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1911).
[3] "Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell," 4 vols., by W.C. Abbott (Harvard Univ. Press).
[4] "The Lives of the Speakers of the House of Commons", by James Alexander Manning (London, 1850).
[5] "Dictionary of National Biography" (Smith, Elder, London, 1900).
[6] "English Historical Facts 1603-1688", by Chris Cook and John Wroughton (Rowman and Littlefield, Totowa, NJ, 1980).
[7] "The Restoration of Charles II 1658-1660" (The Huntington Library, San Marino, CA 1955).
[8] "The Two Protectors: Oliver and Richard Cromwell," by Sir Richard Tangye (Partridge, London, 1899).
Last updated on: 03 Feb 2019 15:35:15