Rump Parliament

From Academic Kids

The Rump Parliament was the remnant of the Long Parliament, following Pride's Purge on 6 December 1648. The Long Parliament was recreated from the Rump on 7 May 1659 when General George Monck reinstated the members 'secluded' by Pride. The Speaker throughout the Rump Parliament's existence was the Speaker of the Long Parliament, William Lenthall.

When it became obvious to the Grandees in the Army and Parliament that they could not negotiate a settlement with King Charles I and they could not trust him to resist raising an army to attack them, they reluctantly came to the conclusion that they would have to kill him. The House of Commons on 13 December 1648 broke off negotiations with the King. Two days later, the Council of Officers of the New Model Army voted that the King be moved from the Isle of Wight, where he was prisoner, to Windsor "in order to the bringing of him speedily to justice". In the middle of December the king was moved from Windsor to London.

On 4 January 1649 an ordinance was passed by the House of Commons to set up a High Court of Justice in order to try Charles I for high treason in the name of the people of England. The House of Lords rejected it and as it did not get royal consent, Charles would ask at the start of his trial 20 January in Westminster Hall "I would know by what power I am called hither. I would know by what authority, I mean lawful [authority]", to which there no strong legal answer to be given under the constitutional arrangements of the time. Charles was found guilty with fifty nine Commissioners (Judges) signing the death warrant.

On 30 January the execution of Charles I was delayed by several hours so that the House of Commons could pass an emergency bill to make it an offence to proclaim a new King, and to declare the representatives of the people, the House of Commons, as the source of all just power. On 6 February the House of Lords was abolished; the monarchy went the same way on 7 February, and a Council of State established on 14 February. This was followed up on 19 May 1649 with An Act declaring England to be a Commonwealth which formally created the Commonwealth of England.

Between 1649 and 1653 the Rump passed a number of Acts in the area of Religion, Law, and Finance. Most of the members of the Rump wanted to promote "godliness", but also to restrict the more extreme puritan sects like the Quakers and the Ranters. An Adultery Act of May 1650 imposed the death penalty for adultery and fornication; the Blasphemy Act of August 1650 was aimed at curbing extreme religious "enthusiasm". To stop extreme evangelicals from preaching, they formed a "Committee for the Propagation of the Gospel" which issued licences to preach. To allow Puritans freedom of worship, they repealed the Elizabethan requirement of compulsory attendance at (an Anglican) Church. As lawyers were overrepresented in the Rump Parliament, the Rump did not respond to the popular requests made by the Levellers to change the archaic and expensive legal system. The Rump raised revenue through the sale of Crown lands and Church property both of which were popular. However revenue raised through excise levies and through an Assessment Tax on land were not so popular as they affected everyone who owned property. The proceeds from confiscated Royalist estates were a valuable source of income, but it was a two edged sword. It ingratiated Parliament to people like John Downes who were making a fortune from the business but it did nothing to heal the wounds of the Civil War.

In 1653, after learning that Parliament was attempting to stay in session despite an agreement to dissolve, and having failed to come up with a working constitution, Cromwellís patience ran out. On April 20 he attended a sitting of Parliament and listen to one or two speeches. Then he stood up and harangued the members of the Rump in a speech which has often been paraphrased as "You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!" He then called in a troop of soldiers, under the command of Major-General Thomas Harrison, ordering them to clear the chamber and to "Take away that fool's bauble" referring to the Speaker's Mace, the symbol of Parliamentary power.

Within a month of the dissolution, Oliver Cromwell on the advice of Harrison and with the support of other offices in the Army, sent a request to Congregational churches in every county to nominate those they considered fit to take part in the new government. On 4 July a Nominated Assembly, nickednamed the "Assembly of Saints" or the Barebones Parliament (named after one of its members), took on the role of more traditional English Parliaments.

Richard Cromwell, the third son of Oliver Cromwell, was appointed Lord Protector after his father's death. He called the Third Protectorate Parliament in 1659. However, along with the Army, it was unable to form a stable government and after seven months the Army removed him and on 6 May, 1659, it reinstalled the Rump Parliament. After disagreements with the Army the Rump Parliament was physically prevented from assembling by the Army on 12 October. General George Monck was in command of the English forces in Scotland. Fearing anarchy, he marched at the head of his army to London. He entered London after meeting little opposition and he allowed the Presbyterian members, 'secluded' in Pride's Purge of 1648, to re-enter parliament when the Rump Parliament reassembled on 24 December 1659 which recreated the Long Parliament. The Long Parliament dissolved itself on 16 March, 1660 after preparing legislation for the Convention Parliament which formally invited King Charles II to be the English monarch in what has become known as the Restoration

The word "rump" normally refers to the back end of an animal; its use meaning "remnant" was first recorded in the above context. Since 1649, the term "rump parliament" has been used to refer to any parliament left over after the true parliament has formally dissolved.

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