Monarchy to a Republic and back 1603-1685

“In a democracy everyone has the right to be represented, even the jerks.”
  Chris Patten

                Upon the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, under the terms of Henry's will, the Crown should have passed to Lady Anne Stanley, a descendant of Henry VIII's sister Mary Tudor. (Elizabeth's second cousin once-removed, Viscount Beauchamp, son of Lady Catherine Grey, was more senior, but he was considered illegitimate because his parents' marriage was annulled.)
Throughout her reign Elisabeth had tried to ensure a Protestant succession but as neither Beauchamp nor Lady Anne nor any other was powerful enough to defend a claim, an Accession Council met and proclaimed James King of England. He and his wife were crowned on 25th July 1603 at Westminster Abbey.   Scotland and England remained separate states.   James VI of Scotland ascended the English throne as James I of England.   His great grandfather was Henry VII.   For the first time England and Scotland shared the same monarch.
                The Accession Council is a ceremonial body, which assembles on the death of a monarch to proclaim his or her successor king or queen and to receive a religious oath from the new monarch.
The arguments between James I of England and Parliament were between obedience and liberty.   He faced a country and organised society, many of whom had doubts about his loyalty and represented to them an unknown quantity.   He rapidly realised that it was possible to buy his way out of a shortage of support in some of the institutions.   He appreciated that his influence over the House of Lords could be extended and his income augmented by the sale of titles.   A peerage cost £8,000.   Thus the number of temporal peers was doubled and the House of Lords lost prestige, tending to side with the King in his disputes with the Commons.   This use of the “Divide and Rule” technique initially made the House of Commons as acquiescent as it had been under Elizabeth I but became a source of resentment which was to have profound consequences.
The historian, Carl Bridenbaugh, in his book Vexed and Troubled Englishmen, wrote of early 17th century England, “Anyone who reads manorial records cannot fail to be astonished at the extensive participation of nearly every adult male in local affairs.   Sooner or later, through appointment by manorial courts, the artificer, the copyholder, the poor husbandman and even the day labourer were called upon...nearly all males in the rural parish, officers and servants, learned the rudiments of being governed and, to some extent, of governing.
The people of England were beginning to understand the rudiments of government, both how to govern and how to be governed.
James introduced a separate oath of allegiance to himself in 1609 following the Gunpowder Plot.   The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was a failed attempt by a group of provincial English Catholics to kill King James, his family, and most of the Protestant aristocracy in a single attack by blowing up the Houses of Parliament during the State Opening on 5th November 1605.
In the Case of Prohibitions (1607) a historical English court decision was made that established the supremacy of the courts. King James I placed himself in the position of judge for a dispute.   When the case went before Sir Edward Coke, the Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, he overturned the decision of the King and held that cases must only be tried by those with legal training and must be subject to the rule of law.   Coke famously describes the function of judges as being "not to make but to declare the law, according to the golden mete-wand of the law and not by the crooked cord of discretion."

In the Case of Proclamations (1611) English common law courts judges emphatically asserted that they possessed the right to determine the limits of the Royal Prerogative – a preliminary skirmish before the major battle that was to take place when James I’s son became King.   These two Cases showed that the judiciary were flexing their muscles and starting to challenge the divine rights of Kings.
In 1621 the House of Commons consisted of about four hundred gentlemen. Foreign affairs were dominated by the dangerous situation in Europe, by the perils of external wars and the perception of the danger of Popery at home.   Two considerations dominated English home policy: religion and money; all else was built on this foundation.   Parliament as an institution was becoming self-conscious and a group of members saw themselves as the representatives of the people and guardians of the constitution.   It began to re-assert itself and drew on the traditions and structures of the previous centuries, which had been minimised.   Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were low points in parliamentary history due to the infrequent sitting of Parliament and their tendency to rule as though they were absolute monarchs, but now we were about to see Parliament’s powers increase dramatically.  
James I attitude to Parliament was clearly influenced by his experience as King of Scotland.   He acceded to the Scottish throne whilst still a child.   He was one year old when he was proclaimed King.  The result was a succession of Regents who controlled the country.   The Regents summoned the Scottish Parliament, which sat behind closed doors.   There were many contenders for Regent.   As a result murders and assassinations became a regular occurrence.   In one ten month period in the early 1570s no less than six rival Parliaments were called by the different contenders for Regent.   When James came of age he refused to summon the Scottish Parliament.   Instead he called Conventions to which his supporters were invited.   He looked to the Church for ways to control Parliament by appointing Parliamentary Bishops who had no ecclesiastical function but who demanded the right to sit in Parliament.   Prior to the Reformation Bishops had sat in Parliament by right.   The absolutist style of Monarchy practised by James meant that he felt able to rule without calling the Scottish Parliament.   England was a different matter.   Once again we find that a King that wanted absolute power threatened the small steps towards democracy that had been achieved over the centuries.   James believed in the Divine Right of Kings, a belief which he passed on to his son Charles I with all the consequences which then followed.   
 James I understanding of royal power had derived from high Calvanism.   Since God is sovereign it is “atheism and blasphemy to dispute what God can do.”   It followed that the Almighty, having designated kings to rule in his name, “it is presumptuous and high contempt in a subject, to dispute what a king can do.”   James had ordained that government by bishops and monarchy stood or fell together and his son Charles implicitly accepted all that.   “No Bishops, No King” was the slogan.

The Commons were asked to provide funds to support opposition to Spain in the Palatinate.   Against the King’s wishes, the House debated much wider issues and finally made an assertion of the “ancient and undoubted birth-rite” of Englishmen to debate any subject in Parliament without fear of arrest or punishment.   James I tore up the protestation and dissolved Parliament.
The King passed away in 1625 and Charles I ascended the throne on March 27 1625, with a war newly declared on Spain.
In 1620, Frederick V, Elector of Palatine, the husband of Charles's sister Elizabeth, had lost his hereditary lands in the Palatinate to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II, who had instigated the Thirty Years War in 1618.   Having agreed to help his brother-in-law regain the Palatinate, Charles declared war on Spain, hoping to force the Catholic Spanish King Phillip IV, who had no interest in politics, to intercede with the Emperor on Frederick's behalf.
 Meanwhile at home the people were becoming restless.   They had four main subjects of complaint against the King and Thomas Wentworth (later to become Earl of Strafford) articulated these in 1626.   Wentworth had been an MP since 1614.   They were that they were imprisoned without cause, pressed for services abroad, taxed without leave of Parliament and oppressed by the billeting of soldiers in their houses.   Wentworth did not blame the King - he blamed the Administration and he offered quadruple administrative reform.   Charles gave his answer: They must trust his “royal word”.   He would make no other promises.   The propositions were to be remodelled into a formal petition.   The petition called on the King to observe the existing law of the land, which was as binding on him as on his subjects.   This was a direct attack on the Divine right of Kings.
        In enacting the Petition, Parliament attempted to seek redress on the following points:
  • Taxation without Parliament's consent
  • Forced loans
  • Arbitrary arrest
  • Imprisonment contrary to Magna Carta
  • Arbitrary interference with property rights
  • Lack of enforcement of habeas corpus
  • Forced billeting of troops
  • Imposition of martial law
  • Exemption of officials from due process
  The King was under great financial pressure, and agreed to look into the "abuses", but maintained his prerogative rights.
The Petition of Right was drawn up by the jurist Sir Edward Coke.   He summarised Parliamentary and individual freedom as follows:
that no man hereafter be compelled to make or yield any gift, loan, benevolence, tax, or such like charge, without common consent by Act of Parliament; and that none be called to make answer, or take such oath, or to give attendance, or be confined, or otherwise molested or disquieted concerning the same or for refusal thereof; and that no freeman, in any such manner as is before mentioned be imprisoned or detained.

On June 7th 1628 the King reluctantly consented to the Petition of Right.   A great constitutional advance had been accomplished, but in practical politics the passing of the Petition of Rights and the negotiations which led up to it so hardened the King and inflamed the Commons one against the other that it was unlikely that any accommodation could ever again be reached. 
Parliament was split between those members that saw themselves as the representatives of the people and those who supported the King.   Thomas Wentworth was among the latter.   When he became President of the Council of the North he said, “For whatever he be that ravels forth into questions the right of a King and of a people, shall never be able to wrap them up again into the comeliness and order wherein he found them.”  

In January 1629, Charles opened the second session of Parliament, which had been prorogued in June 1628, with a moderate speech on the issue of tonnage and poundage. Members of the House of Commons began to voice their opposition in light of the Rolle case. Rolle was an MP who had his goods confiscated for not paying tonnage and poundage.   This was seen by many MPs as a breach of the Petition of Rights, who argued that the privilege of freedom from arrest extended to goods.   When Charles ordered a parliamentary adjournment in March, members held the Speaker, John Finch, down in his chair whilst three resolutions against Charles were read aloud. The last of these resolutions declared that anyone who paid tonnage or poundage not authorised by Parliament would "be reputed a betrayer of the liberties of England, and an enemy to the same".   Though the resolution was not formally passed, many members declared their approval.   The provocation was too much for Charles, who dissolved parliament the same day.   Charles resolved not to be forced to rely on Parliament for further monetary aid.   Immediately, he made peace with France and Spain. For the following eleven years Charles ruled without a Parliament.
The first skirmishes of the British Civil War started in Edinburgh with the introduction of a new prayer book put together by Archbishop Laud.   Laud’s attempt to anglicise the Church in Scotland led to the “Bishop’s war”.   Riots ensued.   Before 1636 rule without Parliament was regarded as a temporary state of affairs.   Thereafter it seemed for a while that Laud’s vision of authority vested in King, Council and Convocation might prevail as a new, permanent policy.   What smashed this golden dream was the King’s inability adequately to curb his personal expenditure and his foolish blundering into war in Scotland.   In March 1638 the Scots prepared a document known as the National Covenant.   It was a covenant between the Scots and God, not the King.   It laid down the rights of the Scottish people to govern themselves without interference from the King and their freedom to practice Presbyterian worship.   The Covenant was signed by no less than 300,000 people – making it the first wide scale vote in our history.   Perhaps, not surprisingly, Charles rejected it.   By the summer of 1638 the Scots were in rebellion.   The King had attempted to enforce the Laudian Liturgy.  A riot in St. Giles Cathedral followed by a general rising was the instant result.   From every point of view the war was a folly.   The King could not afford it.   A crisis was fast approaching.   The armies gathered.   All about the King was the evidence of his own failure.   The Scots were demanding unqualified religious freedom, the English were clamouring for a parliament, the Treasury was empty and the taxes did not come in.

To subdue the Scots, Charles needed more money; therefore, he took the fateful step of recalling Parliament in April 1640.   Although Charles offered to repeal ship money, and the House of Commons agreed to allow Charles to raise the funds for war, an impasse was reached when Parliament demanded the discussion of various abuses of power during his Personal Rule.   As both sides refused to give ground on this matter, Parliament was dissolved in May 1640, less than a month after it assembled; thus, the Parliament became known as the “Short Parliament”, but before dissolution the Clergy Act was passed removing the Lords Spiritual from the House of Lords.   This was a sensible move towards democracy beginning the separation of Church from State.   Unfortunately it was reversed by the Clergy Act of 1661 which brought them back.
Charles I asked Thomas Wentworth, now the Earl of Strafford to raise an Irish army to defeat the Scots.   Strafford was more than happy to lead a cavalry force against the rebellious Scots.   However his bellicose tactics were disastrous and the English were routed at Newburn.   Charles called the Long Parliament, which quickly turned its fire on Strafford as a warmonger and a meddler.   Parliament once again raised their grievances.   John Pym, a former friend and ally of Strafford, demanded on behalf of the House of Commons: No taxes without Parliament’s consent; a new Parliament every three years and Parliament only to be dissolved with its own consent.   These demands by Pym are regular themes in the battle for power between King and Parliament.   They are points of continuity.   Again and again the institutional and cultural memory reverts and reasserts them.   Our political culture was becoming embedded.
Strafford took his seat in the House of Lords in November 1640.   The sanctimonious Puritan Pym knew he had to defeat Strafford, so brought forward an Act of Impeachment against him.   Strafford was committed to the Tower, and in March 1641 his trial began – one of the most memorable of State Trials.    It took place in Westminster Hall, which has held several notable trials including that of Sir William Wallace, the Scottish patriot, in 1305.   Wallace had been condemned, then hanged, drawn and quartered after his trial.   The quarters were sent to Newcastle, Berwick, Stirling and Perth.  The whole House of Commons was present for Strafford’s trial, with them commissioners from Scotland and Ireland, eighty peers as judges and the King and Queen as spectators. The management of the proceeding was entrusted to Pym who exploited a mechanism developed 300 years before. For seventeen days Strafford, unaided, against thirteen accusers who relieved one another, argued the charges, which they brought forward. The impeachment seemed likely to fail, so a Bill of Attainder was proposed which simply decreed treason on the basis of a general presumption of guilt. King Charles had to sign the Act of Attainder.   A Bill of Attainder is a Bill passed by Parliament acting as judge and jury and imposing sentence on a single person. The Bill required signing by the monarch and the minimum sentence was loss of all titles and lands, the maximum was death.
 The trial went on, Strafford closed his eloquent defence on the 13th April, and the attainder was hurried on, and passed on the 21st.   Without any evidence or testimony Strafford had been found guilty but the King refused his assent. King Charles I allowed his 11-year-old son to plead for Strafford’s life in the House of Lords.   All to no avail.   The popular excitement rose to a panic, a report was spread that the House of Commons was to be blown up and twice within a week a cracking of the floor caused the flight of the Members.   At last, moved by the tears of his wife, who hated Strafford, and was on the point of fleeing to France; influenced also by the intrigues and sophistry of the Bishop of Lincoln; the King gave his assent to the Attainder; and his Minister, who had trusted in his promise of protection, was beheaded on Tower Hill, May 12th 1641.
    Cardinal Richelieu said of Strafford “The English Nation was so foolish that they would not let the wisest head among them stand on its own shoulders”.   The Cardinal, who was not known for sympathy famously remarked “Give me six lines written by the hand of an honourable man, and I will find in them something to make him hang”.   Ireland erupted.   Charles’s hapless decision to allow his most loyal and devoted servant to go to the scaffold marked the beginning of the end of his reign.

The importance of the Strafford trial is that it is both a demonstration of the power of Parliament but also a trial run for the trial of the King.   Parliament was acquiring the taste for blood.   Charles II reversed the attainder of the Earl of Strafford in 1662 for what that was worth.
By 1641 there had been mounting tension between the House of Commons and King Charles I.   The House passed a document known as the “Grand Remonstrance”.   It was a detailed and essentially propagandist justification of the Common’s actions and an attack on the King’s actions.   It claimed for Parliament that it could impose reformation on the Church of England and impose upon the King such “councillors, ambassadors and other ministers as the parliament might have cause to confide in”.  It beseeched the King to “concur with the humble desires of your people in a parliamentary way, for the preserving the peace and safety of the kingdom from the malicious designs of the popish party.”   It set out all the unconstitutional acts of Charles I and the good work that Parliament had done.   The battle lines between King and Parliament were being drawn.   Led by John Hampden, the MP for Buckingham, who Charles had earlier imprisoned for refusing to pay “ship money”, which had made Hampden the most popular man in England, and John Pym, the Commons was gradually developing into a general legislative body.
Orders in Parliament regulating procedure were beginning to appear at this time.   Amongst them the following order was passed on May 1st 1641 – All the members that come after eight to pay 1 shilling, and those that do not come the whole day to pay 5 shillings.
The Privy Council had become too large to be an efficient advisory or executive body, having increased to over fifty members.
Judicial and administrative functions continued to overlap.   The Court of Star Chamber originated as a small group of Privy Councillors strengthened by a few judges, who sat as a court to try important offenders and cases not assigned to the regular courts.   It took its name from the stars worked on the roof of the special chamber of the King’s palace in Westminster, where it met.   It was later demolished.   Initially its proceedings were heard in public and recorded.   Its downfall came about because, as part of the Privy Council, it also had administrative duties.   Hence, Royal Proclamations were issued by the full body and breaches of them tried by Star Chamber, convictions being secured without a jury and heavy penalties imposed.   The power of the court of Star Chamber had grown considerably under the Stuarts, and by the time of Charles I it had become a byword for misuse and abuse of power by the King and his circle.   James I and his son Charles used the court to examine cases of sedition, which, in practice, meant that the court could be used to suppress opposition to royal policies.   It became used to try nobles too powerful to be brought to trial in the lower courts.   Court sessions were held in secret, with no right of appeal, and punishment was swift and severe to any enemy of the crown.
Charles I used the Court of Star Chamber as a sort of Parliamentary substitute during the years 1628-40, when he refused to recall Parliament.

  This arbitrary procedure so aroused the opposition of the House of Commons that the Long Parliament abolished the Court in 1641 and severely curtailed the judicial powers of the Council.   But this step did not secure the independence of the judiciary, for the Stuart Kings continued to remove unsympathetic judges.
In 1642 rumours reached Charles that Parliament intended to impeach his Catholic Queen, Henrietta Maria.   Their marriage had become a true love match so he determined to take drastic action.   He attempted to arrest five members of the House of Commons for treason.   The five members had escaped by river.   For the first and last time in English history the sovereign entered the House of Commons.   He called out the names of the five members and on receiving no reply, asked Speaker Lenthall if they were present.   The Speaker made the famous reply: “May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak, in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me whose servant I am; and humbly beg your Majesty’s pardon that I cannot give any other answer than this to what Your Majesty is pleased to demand of me.”
“Well”, replied the King, “since I see all my birds are flown, I do expect from you that you shall send them unto me as soon as they return hither, but assure you on the word of a King I never did intend any force, but shall proceed against them in a legal and fair way; for I never meant any other”.   He then left the chamber.   This action was an open clash between two opposing sovereignties.   One element of the constitution was under open attack by another and must defend itself.    Charles could no longer feel safe in London and he travelled north to raise an army against Parliament; the Queen, at the same time, went abroad to raise money to pay for it
The House of Lords was small and was treated almost like a royal council rather than one of the Houses of Parliament, but when the House of Lords sat on 15th April 1642 out of 124 peers 82 were absent.   Charles could no longer rely on the aristocracy.

  On 22nd August 1642 King Charles I raised the regal battle standard over Nottingham castle and declared war against Parliament.   A bit late in the day, he declared that he would “uphold the Protestant Religion, the Laws of England, and the Liberty of Parliament”.
The House of Commons during the civil war dominated parliament, but it was far from being a representative assembly.   There were 492 Members of Parliament, but of the 382 borough seats 265 were so small as to be meaningless as far as them being representative of the people in those seats, and in any case many of the MPs for them were nominations of the King.   Of the other seats many had been bought or obtained by bribery and corruption.   Wealthy industrialists and merchants were beginning to acquire land and seats from the landed gentry, but only the landed interests were represented in parliament.   The vote was confined to 3 out of every 100 adults.   With a population of about 6.0 million this meant that the electorate was about 180,000 or an average of 360 electors per constituency.
Parliament decided to raise its own army.   In 1643 King Charles established his court in Oxford.   Parliament struck an alliance with the Scots and the King’s army was defeated.   Oliver Cromwell came to prominence.   In the years 1644-45 Cromwell created a model army.   He fought for the preservation of Parliament and in 1645 at the battle of Naseby the King’s army was defeated.  
                                      Parliamentarians saw themselves as “watchmen” over the constitution, who wanted to preserve the essentials of the ancient monarchy.   Indeed, in 1645 only one MP voted for a republic while the vast majority still saw kingly government as the best of all the possible alternatives.   But there was no sign that Charles would ever compromise with them. As the king bluntly stated, “There are three things I will not part with – the Church, my crown and my friends, and you will have much ado to get them from me”.   He would fight to the end.   Where did that leave parliament? "Monarchy from the Middle Ages to Modernity" by David Starkey
                                         Even with his defeat at the battle of Naseby Charles would not share power and for the next two years he plotted for victory.   Eventually Cromwell decided Charles had to go and with a defeat at the battle of Preston, Charles last hope had gone.   Members of Parliament sympathetic to Charles were weeded out and Charles was put on trial.   His experience in dealing with Parliament had taught him nothing.
   The conventional view of historians is that the bloodiest civil war in the history of the United Kingdom with a quarter of a million people killed had been fought to decide the supremacy of Parliament.   The total population of 6 million in 1642 had fallen to 5.7 million by 1649.   The historian, Earl Russell argues an alternative viewpoint – that England had almost fallen into war – through a clash between low taxation and increased public spending on war, through the English inability to comprehend the subsumption of English identity into an idea of “Britain”, and through the inability of government to enforce a single religious standpoint.   He wrote “it’s not a conspiracy, it’s a cock-up.”
  Nevertheless nothing was done to share the fruits of victory with the people.   Indeed, when Colonel Rainsborough suggested that the new Parliament of 1647 should be based on adult suffrage, Cromwell fiercely opposed him, he thought that a franchise not based on property would lead to the majority confiscating the possessions of the minority.   Cromwell’s view prevailed.   Cromwell was not a democrat and speaking to his comrades he asked them to consider the Old Testament:
     “They were first families where they lived, and had heads of families, and they were under judges, and they were under kings.   When they came to desire a king, they had a king; first elective, and secondly by succession.   In all these kinds of government they were happy and contented.”

   So long as people accept the aims of democracy, they will cherish certain fundamental rights, and it is upon these that constitutions will be built.   Neither the rule of law, nor any other principle of a constitution – free elections, the supremacy of Parliament, the separation of powers, the right to criticise the Government – can on its own, guarantee the preservation of democracy against arbitrary government.   But in conjunction with these, the rule of law, by its insistence on governmental powers being defined, affords that certainty to the individual which is essential if he or she is to be free to lead and plan their own life.   This is a critical and important point to always bear in mind in a democracy.
Fateful debates on democracy; human dignity and the future of England took place between Oliver Cromwell and his followers at St. Mary’s Church, Putney in the summer of 1647.   It was the first gathering at which ordinary people in England spoke freely about how they thought they should be governed.   After five years of civil war, often without pay, and with King Charles I –“that man of blood” – imprisoned at Hampton Court, they had lost all the timid deference of their upbringing.
 The Levellers, (“who declared that all degrees of men should be levelled, and an equality should be established”) were radical agitators who emerged during the Civil War.   They held that authority could only come from the people, not from kingly patronage.   In 1646, their leader, John Lilbourne, who had been imprisoned by the Star Chamber in 1638 for importing Puritan literature, was accused of insulting the Earl of Manchester, he told the Lords that the people of England had given them no authority to judge him.   He argued for every man to have the right to vote and was arrested for publishing pamphlets arguing the case.   He was imprisoned.   The Earl of Manchester fought for the Parliamentarians in the civil war but opposed the trial of Charles I.   He became Lord Chamberlain under Charles II.
  Long before the astonishing events of 1647, John Lilburne had applied his mind to the question: how was Parliament to be reformed?   His fullest list of specific reforms had been set out previously in London’s Liberty in Chains:
·    annual parliaments (so that MPs could not for more than a few months lose sight of the fact that they owed their position to their electors);
·   published proceedings, in place of the entirely secret proceedings behind which Parliament constantly hid.   The only way to discover how MPs voted was to go to the House of Commons and listen, if you could get in.   Publication of division lists ran the risk of instant prosecution;
·    payment of MPs, to ensure against the monopoly of the wealthy; and
·   equal constituencies and the complete abolition of “rotten” boroughs, which sent MPs to Parliament solely through the patronage of a peer or a landowner, sinecure seats and royalist stooges. Paul Foot "The Vote"
        Although these demands were quite specific they were a long way from universal suffrage.   They recognised that each voter should have a vote of equal value, but there was no demand for every adult regardless of sex to have a vote or for the vote to be by way of secret ballot.   There was no attempt at eliminating racial or religious discrimination; Jews and Catholics were still being discriminated against.   Nevertheless Lilburne’s pamphlets set the scene for some of the great democratic debates in the history of democracy.   What is important about this period of history is that democracy, as we would understand it today is starting to show its face.
    The Levellers published two manifestos: The Case of the Army Truly Stated and the Agreement of the People.   The advocates of people power wanted parliaments accountable to all men and elected on the basis of manhood suffrage.   Soldiers who had ventured their lives to achieve a just constitutional settlement thought it reasonable that they, as well as the men of property should have a place in that settlement.   Wilder spirits pressed for the abolition of the privileges of the Crown and the House of Lords.   Everyone was agreed on the principle of religious toleration (“The ways of God’s worship are not at all entrusted by us to any human power”).   Resolutions were passed concerning the frequency and duration of parliaments and the absolute supremacy of the House of Commons.   Cromwell effectively killed the Agreement of the People by referring it to a committee.

   The spread of Leveller ideas into the Army was inevitable.   The New Model Army, particularly the cavalry units, was composed in large part of spirited volunteers.   These soldiers had taken up arms to secure freedom and liberty, many of them Congregationalists and Baptists drawn in on the issue of religious toleration, and were increasingly conscious of Parliament’s political and religious shortcomings.   There was also a clear institutional interest: the army was threatened by the Long Parliament.   The Presbyterian majority sought to neuter the army, and the increasing republican threat it posed, by disbanding part of it, largely unpaid, and committing the rest to service in Ireland.   By late April several cavalry regiments elected ‘agitators’ or ‘agents’ to represent and articulate their institutional and political view- representative democracy in action.   They practised what they preached.   By May a significant part of the army’s junior officers and rank and file had identified with the agitators in opposition to Parliament. When the Commons attempted to implement the disbanding of army units, the agitators of sixteen regiments called for resistance and a general meeting of the army.
With Oliver Cromwell in the chair, the general council of the New Model Army came together at Putney church in October 1647.   The Levellers argued that they had earned the right to be enfranchised:
if ever a people shall free themselves from tyranny, certainly it is after seven years’ war and fighting for their liberty” said Maximilian Petty.
 Ireton argued that the franchise should be restricted to property holders. In response Edward Sexby angrily replied:
“There are many thousands of us soldiers that have ventured our lives; we have little propriety in the kingdom as to our estates, yet we have had a birthright.   But it seems now, except a man hath a fixed estate in this kingdom, he hath no right in this kingdom.   I wonder we were so much deceived.   If we had not a right to the kingdom, we were merely mercenary soldiers”.
Sexby was articulating the views of the ordinary soldiers.   They knew that many of those that owned the land had got it by being soldiers for the King and had received it for being victorious in battle, or at least their forefathers had.   These soldiers had defeated the King in battle so why shouldn’t the land be theirs, with everything that went with it including the right to vote in elections?   They did not demand the land, which really would have sparked off a revolution, but they did demand the right to vote.   Without such a just cause there was no morality in their participation in the war.   The Levellers challenged the notion that political rights went with the land.   They argued that the two were separate.   That the people had rights.   Cromwell dismissed this argument describing the people as having “no interest but the interest of breathing”.     
The Army council reassembled on the 29 October 1647 to discuss The Agreement of the People.   Cromwell faced his most powerful opponent in Colonel Thomas Rainsborough, the highest-ranking officer to oppose him.   The discussion started with legal wrangling but eventually the first clause of the Agreement which called for equal size constituencies was read.   Debate began.
Henry Ireton protested:
“The words were unclear.   Did they mean that everyone would have the vote, or simply that the people who now had the vote would be more equally represented by fairly drawn constituency boundaries?”
Maximilian Petty answered him: “We judge that all inhabitants that have not lost their birthright should have an equal voice in elections”.   
Colonel Rainsborough in a historic speech gave the definitive answer to Petty:
“For really I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest he; and therefore truly, Sir, I think it’s clear, that every man that is to live under a government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that Government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not  bound in a strict sense to that government that he hath not had a voice to put himself under…”  
With these magnificent words Rainsborough sets out the case for universal suffrage in which democracy is a system of government in which the people – all the people regardless of their station in life – participate (women were not yet included).   The power of government is exercised through the people or their representatives and only a government elected as such has the legitimacy to govern.
John Wildman gave support to Rainsborough: “I conceive that’s the undeniable maxim of government: that all government is in the free consent of the people.”
Lord Lindsay in “The Essentials of Democracy” commented “That seems to me the authentic note of democracy.   The poorest has his own life to live, not to be managed, or drilled by other people.   His life is his and he has to live it.   None can divest him of that responsibility.”

Who are the people?   It did not include women.   As one female Leveller claimed: “an equal interest with the men of this nation in those liberties and securities contained in the Petition of Right, and other good laws of the land”.      
  Throughout all the discussions and debates regarding the right to vote there was hardly any mention of women’s rights.   The demand for equality was still a long way away.   Occasionally a voice might be heard about women’s equality and the Petition of Rights, applied equally to both men and women, but that voice was muffled and for the most part unheard.   The big issue was whether the people had supremacy over parliament or the other way round.   Ultimately parliament exists with the consent of the people.   If parliament loses that consent it loses its power for it derives its power from the people.   Yet for centuries parliament neither had the consent of the people nor was it representative of the people.   Those in parliament were primarily there because of wealth, connections and land and this was to remain the case for another two hundred years.
  Henry Ireton spoke for the wealthy and landed gentry invoking the support of God :
“I think that no person has a right to an interest or share in the disposing of the affairs of the kingdom, and in determining or choosing those that shall determine what laws we shall be ruled by here – no person has a right to this, that has not a permanent fixed interest in the kingdom...”
What did Henry Ireton, who was Cromwell’s son-in-law, mean by “permanent fixed interest”?   He could only mean the ownership of land.   Since 1429 the vote could only be exercised by a man holding land worth 40 shillings.   Ireton did not distinguish between the 40-shilling freeholder and the man with land worth £1,000.   In Ireton’s mind the essential requirement was a permanent interest no matter how big or how small.   His main concern seemed to be that once you take away the right to vote, often inherited in effect with the land, the next step would be to take away the land.   The undercurrent to these debates was the fear of revolution in which those with land lost it.
Rainsborough responded to Henry Ireton’s point:
The foundation of all law is the people.   If the people have no say in the making of that law, its foundation collapses.   I do not find anything in the law of God, that a lord should choose twenty burgesses and a gentleman but two, or a poor man shall choose none.  The whole proposition that votes should be linked to property was absurd.   What about a man who has an estate and a vote, but then loses his estate?   Should he then lose his vote”?
The arguments raged back and forth, but underlying the main proposition of the Levellers was the charge: How can those that govern and make laws which the people have to abide by if the people have not given their consent to those that govern them?   The consent could only be given by the people exercising their right to vote.
Henry Ireton was now much less confident.   He started by saying that if poor people without a vote didn’t want to live in this country, they could go and live in another country.   Confronted at once with the absurdity of this argument, he conceded the point of principle and went on:
 “I do acknowledge that which you take to be so general a maxim…. that the original power of making laws…. does lie in the people, but who were “the people?   They were the people possessed of the permanent interest in the land.   As for the rest, they ought to give respect to the property of men that live in the land”.  
At the end of the Putney debates there is no record of a vote having been taken, but correspondence shortly afterwards indicates that there was a consensus amongst the Levellers with only three being against.   The three were Ireton, Cromwell and Lt. Col. William Goffe who had signed Charles I death warrant.   The Levellers wanted each parliament not to last more than two years and those representatives to parliament should be from equal size constituencies.   The concept of votes of equal value was now raising its head.   This concept, whilst accepted by all as fair has rarely if ever been implemented.   So, even today there are huge differences in the size of the electorate in different constituencies with the effect that the value of each vote can vary enormously.   There was also agreement that most of the judicial powers of the King and the House of Lords should be abolished.
But who were to be the electorate in this new Parliament?   There was no clear answer, but there was a consensus that there should be no property qualification.   When it was proposed that there should be a £20 qualification Colonel Rainsborough spoke against it and the matter was dropped.   Universal suffrage for men was the answer but in one of those strange anomalies beggars and servants were excluded.
Eventually, after walkouts and tantrums, the levellers agreed that their demands should be submitted to Parliament, and that Parliament should dissolve itself at the very latest by 1 September 1648.
On the weekend of 6th and 7th November 1647 the Generals realised their own interests differed from that of the ordinary soldiers.   After all, the Generals were nearly all landed noblemen with a position in society.   By agreeing with the rank and file they would be giving up some of their own privileges.   They already had the right to vote.   In a classic political move they disbanded the General Council and put all outstanding matters to a committee.   In other words the issue was put into the long grass.   They got away with it because despite resistance they promised that the final proposals would be put to the soldiers for decision at a rendezvous, which would be held very soon.   The soldiers were then ordered to return to their regiments.
By a great act of folly the Levellers accepted the disbanding of the General Council of the New Model Army.   It never met again.   As soon as it had dispersed the Levellers realised their mistake, but it was too late.   United together they were strong, discussion and debate took them forward, hope and aspiration motivated them, but separated they could no longer represent anybody, let alone the soldiers that put them there.  
The rendezvous was held at Ware on the 15th November after much preparation and lobbying by both sides.   General Thomas Fairfax who had made his name with distinguished action at the battles of Marston Moor and Naseby spoke to each in turn of the seven regiments that had been invited to the rendezvous.   In a classical political speech, delivered with his customary modesty he pleaded for unity and emphasised the necessity of discipline and loyalty.   It was the kind of speech which is more common today in the era of party politics when a Leader is speaking to a party which is riddled with dissension.   He promised that the arrears of pay would be met and ended by calling for a vote of confidence.   If he did not get it he would give up his command.   He said that the Remonstrance (protestation) proposed the reform of Parliament.   In reality there was nothing specific in the Remonstrance.
The Levellers lead by Rainsborough never stood a chance.   They were even refused permission to put their case directly to the regiments.
One by one the regiments acclaimed Fairfax and his Remonstrance.   Serious trouble for the generals came from only two regiments who had disobeyed orders by coming to the rendezvous uninvited.   Colonel Thomas Harrison’s and Colonel Robert Lilburne’s regiments had decided to attend the rendezvous even though they were expressly ordered not to go to it.   As the rebel troops arrived at the field, many of them with Levellers papers in their hats, they chanted slogans hailing The Agreement of the People.   Well-rehearsed platoons of officers rode into both regiments, tearing the papers from the soldiers’ hats and urging the men to listen to their beloved general and obey him.   When the more courageous dissenters in Lilburne’s regiment continued to shout for freedom and the people’s rights’ their ringleaders were plucked from the throng.   Three men were singled out as leading mutineers, summarily charged and convicted.   They were forced to throw dice for their lives. "The Vote" by Paul Foot

The loser in this game of Russian roulette was Private Richard Arnold who was then shot in the head, at the front of the regiment, by the other two.   After this vicious and outrageous war crime there were calls for those responsible to be brought to account, all to no avail, but shocking as the act had been, it had demonstrated the power of the Generals.   Thomas Harrison was deprived of his commission and was later executed at the Restoration.
In the years that followed, Cromwell, Ireton and Fairfax made sure that never again would they be put in the position where they had to listen to the democratic will of the army.   For a brief period they had seen at first hand how powerful a democratic army could be and it frightened them.   Armies rely on discipline and the army, which was Cromwell’s key strength, was in danger of mutiny.   Since this time private soldiers have never again been allowed to question their officers.
John Lilburne and his friends would not accept defeat and immediately set to work on another petition, once again based on “The Agreement of the People”.   This new constitutional settlement was debated at length in what became known as the Whitehall debates in December 1648 and January 1649.
Surprisingly, they dropped their demand for universal suffrage, perhaps realising how strong and powerful the opposition to it was.   Nevertheless in abandoning this principle their cause was weakened.   Now they argued for regular Parliaments and equal size constituencies, which would create votes of equal value – at least for those entitled to vote.   Today this demand has still not been met and is still one of the fault lines in our democracy.   In the 2005 General Election the Western Isles had an electorate of 21,585, The Isle of Wight, 108,253.   In other words a vote in the Western Isles was worth five times a vote in the Isle of Wight.   The second Agreement was presented to Parliament on 20th January 1649.   Discussion was deferred as Parliament had rather more important matters to resolve namely the fate of King Charles I.  
Charles had suffered a heavy defeat at the battle of Preston, finishing off any hopes he might have had of victory.   The Army wanted to put Charles on trial for treason on the grounds that it was he that had started the war and in addition he had enlisted the Scots to fight for him at Preston.   A “Remonstrance of the Army” was presented to Parliament in November 1648.   MPs rejected it.   They wanted to negotiate with the King.
In debating the Remonstrance in Parliament in 1648 much was made of the doctrine Salus Populi Suprema Lex  (Let the good of the people be the supreme law) to provide moral authority for the attack of the Army on the King.    It claimed that ultimate sovereignty lay with the people, there being a contract between King and people, which if broken (as Charles had done) entitled the people to take whatever action was required to re-establish their sovereignty even if that meant revolution.
A clash between the Army and the MPs was inevitable.   Parliament wanted a peaceful settlement
But the army wasn’t prepared to concede again.   Its officers now moved with lightning speed.   On 1 December it seized the king, who had escaped into light, protective custody on the Isle of Wight; on 6 December Colonel Thomas Pride entered the House of Commons and purged it of the Presbyterian majority.   One hundred and eighty-six members were turned away, forty-one were arrested and eighty-six didn’t turn up.   Cromwell left the North for London, making known his support for the purge. Monarchy from the Middle Ages to Modernity - David Starkey.

Pride was later to oppose Cromwell becoming “King” and played little part in protectorate politics.
No English law could be discovered that dealt with the trial of the monarch. The order convening the court was written by a Dutch lawyer, Isaac Dorislaus, and dated back to the Roman era, wherein the Praetorian Guard (a military body) could legally overthrow a tyrant.
In January 1649, lawyers had fled the Inns of Court to avoid involvement in the prosecution of Charles I.   A barrister named John Cooke accepted the brief.   He was instructed to frame a charge “to the end that no chief officer may hereafter presume to enslave or destroy the English nation and expect impunity for so doing”.   Cooke deposed more than 30 witnesses to prove Charles’s command responsibilities – not merely for starting the conflict but also for supervising the torture of prisoners of war and for directing plunder and pillage of the homes of non-combatants.   Cooke’s masterstroke was to include the word “tyrant” in the charge – tyranny being the one crime of which a ruler, and only a ruler, could be guilty.   Through his scrupulous conduct, Cooke established for the first time that a head of state could be held accountable for his actions.   This principle is now well established in many modern democracies but it is not universally accepted.   The big question was could a King commit treason in his own realm?
At the restoration Cooke was subjected to a rigged trial at the Old Bailey followed by disembowelling at Charing Cross in front of Charles II.
The rump parliament elected a court of commissioners 135 strong on 1 Jan 1649. However, only 68 of these obeyed this summons. None of the existing high court judges agreed to preside over the court, and a lawyer called John Bradshaw was elected president.

The House of Lords threw this ordinance out the very next day. However, the Commons re-enacted the ordinance on the 4th, although only 46 MP's were now in the House, and only 26 of these voted for the ordinance.   At the same time the Commons declared itself as the Supreme Power in the land.   This was a very important point in the history of Parliament and in the history of democracy.   There were no qualifications.   The House of Commons was supreme over the Monarch and the House of Lords, even if they did not accept it. 
The trial of Charles I opened on the afternoon of 20th January, with further sessions on the 22nd and 23rd.   With quiet dignity the King exasperated the Commissioners by refusing to answer the charges against him.   He did not recognise the jurisdiction of the High Court and challenged the basis on which the purged House of Commons could claim to represent the people of England.  
Apart from the Commissioners and the King, the hall was crowded with soldiers to guard against possible attacks. Bradshaw was short tempered and long-winded and apparently wore an iron hat, fearing for an assassination attempt.
Charles laughed openly at the charges and questioned the right of a minority of Parliament to try him.   “Is this the bringing of the King to his Parliament?” he asked….”Let me see a Legal Authority warranted by the Word of God, the Scriptures, or warranted by the Constitution of the Kingdom”.   He warned that a parliamentary or military tyranny would be a disaster for England.   After him there would be anarchy or oppression when the known constitutional landmarks were torn away. David Starkey -"Monarchy from the Middle Ages to Modernity".
Each session of the trial ended with Bradshaw ordering the soldiers to remove the King - thus emphasising the overriding presence of the Army in the proceedings and underlining the King's claim that the present administration was a worse threat to the liberty and welfare of the people of England than he had ever been.
On 24th January, thirty-three witnesses against the King were heard by a sub-committee of the High Court and the following day their depositions were read out in a public session.   The depositions proved the King's personal participation in the wars gave evidence of his approval of various atrocities and demonstrated his intention of stirring up and continuing the wars.   On 26th January, the Commissioners drafted the sentence, condemning Charles Stuart as a "tyrant, traitor, murderer and public enemy to the Commonwealth of England".
During the trial in Westminster Hall the top of Charles’s cane came off.   Instead of a rush of courtiers to pick it up everybody looked away, not wanting to show any sign of deference.   Perhaps it was at this point that Charles realised that the verdict was a foregone conclusion.
The final session of the trial was held on 27 January.   Bradshaw's 40-minute address to the prisoner asserted that even a King was subject to the law, and that the law proceeded from Parliament.   Furthermore, Charles Stuart had broken the sacred reciprocal bond between king and subject.   By making war on his own people, he had forfeited his right to their allegiance.   Declaring Charles guilty of the charges against him, Bradshaw ordered the sentence to be read out.   To his great dismay, Charles was not allowed to speak and was abruptly led away from the court to await his execution.

On 30th January the King was beheaded in Whitehall after being found guilty of impeachment.   His last words were” I have delivered my conscience; I pray God do take those courses that are best for the good of the kingdom and your own salvation”.
on 17 March 1649, the House of Commons passed an act stating “That the Office of a King, in this nation… is unnecessary, burthensome, and dangerous to the liberty, safety, and public interest of the people of this nation; and therefore ought to be abolished”.   An attempt was made to eradicate the very word “king” from the language, and all the images and icons of monarchy were removed.   After almost two centuries, the supreme symbol of monarchy – the Imperial Crown itself – was smashed.   The Commonwealth of England, ruled by the Rump Parliament, was established. David Starkey - "Monarchy from the Middle Ages to Modernity"
On 19 March 1649 the House of Commons abolished the House of Lords.   This revolutionary action did not obtain the consent of either Lords or the King and so it was not recognised as a valid law after the restoration of the King.   This was a step forward on the road to democracy but the step backwards came with the restoration of the King.
Some of the Upper Chamber became burgesses to parliament and this secured their admission to the Commons.   The first part of the abolishing Act was as follows:
The Commons of England assembled in Parliament, finding by too long experience that the House of Lords is useless and dangerous to the people of England to be continued, have thought fit to ordain and enact, and be it ordained and enacted by this present Parliament, and by the authority of the same, that from henceforth the House of Lords in Parliament shall be and is hereby wholly abolished and taken away; and that the Lords shall not from henceforth meet or sit in the said House called the Lords' House, or in any other house or place whatsoever ...
After the execution of Charles I, a Council of State was formed with Cromwell at its head and England was declared a republic.   Initially Cromwell did not intend to replace the King, but to oblige him to work with Parliament in a democratic manner.   Initially, like Charles, who was convinced that he was carrying out God’s will, there was a clash of interests and motives of diverse groups of members of Parliament.   Among these were Puritans, Catholics and the new Levellers, who voted for a more tolerant application of laws.   Deciding that a Parliament voicing too many different opinions was not workable, Cromwell and his minister Pride, began to reduce the number of Parliamentarians.   They created the Rump parliament, in 1649, of 53 members, which renamed the government of England as the Commonwealth, at the same time abolishing the House of Lords and the monarchy.   This was followed by further reducing the numbers of Parliamentarians to fifteen. E. Swinglehurst - "The History of the Kings and Queens of England and Scotland."

Cromwell became the “Lord Protector” – King in all but name with a Council and a new parliament.   In his Oath of Engagement in 1649 Oliver Cromwell declared “I do declare that I will be true and faithful to the Commonwealth of England as the same is established, without a King or House of Lords.”
After Charles’s exe           After Charles’s execution the rich and powerful, in desperation now looked to Cromwell and Ireton to defend them.   The second Agreement presented in January, never got off the ground.   The fear of revolution permeated the air.   John Lilburne, William Walwyn, Thomas Prince and Richard Overton published some devastating pamphlets.   Parliament reacted and denounced them for sedition.   All four were arrested in dawn raids, sounds familiar in today’s terrorist era, and thrown into different prisons.
 Incarcerated in the Tower of London on May 1st 1649 they proclaimed the third An agreement of the free people of England.   In this they argued for a Parliament of four hundred representatives:
in the choice of whom (according to natural right) all men of the age of one-and-twenty years and upwards (not being servants, or receiving alms, or having served the late king in arms or voluntary contributions) shall have their voices, and be capable of being elected to that supreme trust — those who served the king being disabled for ten years only”.
They also argued for a salary for representatives to be determined by the new Parliament and that the Parliament should:
continue in full power for the space of one whole year; and that the people shall, of course, choose a parliament once every year”.
In a spectacular but necessary declaration they addressed the issue of property:
“We therefore agree and declare that it shall not be in the power of any Representative in any wise to render up or give or take away any part of this Agreement, nor level men's estates, destroy propriety, or make all things common.   And if any Representative shall endeavour, as a Representative, to destroy this Agreement, every member present in the House not entering or immediately publishing his dissent shall incur the pain due for high treason and be proceeded against accordingly; and if any person or persons shall by force endeavour or contrive the destruction thereof, each person so doing shall likewise be dealt withal as in cases of treason”
This took the wind out of the sales of those like Henry Ireton who had spread the fear that with democracy property would be confiscatedIt was not to be.
This third Agreement never got off the ground.   Cromwell had learnt his lesson.   When a mutiny broke out, within two weeks of the Agreement being published, the three ringleaders were shot in the churchyard at Burford whilst their followers were forced to witness the executions from the church roof.
In their trial in October 1649 all four prisoners were acquitted and released from prison.   This was really the last gasp of the Levellers.   The Rump Parliament would not allow them to publish any further pamphlets so their main method of communicating with their followers was cut off.   There were to be no more pamphlets.
This was a significant turning point for democracy.   Many of its principles had been articulated.   The question now, was how soon could they be put into practice?   The discussion had begun.
There is no doubt that the Levellers played a prominent part in this.    Perhaps for the first time in British history the concept of sovereignty belonging to the people was raised and articulated widely.   It had gradually become accepted that sovereignty no longer rested with the King.   The big question still to be resolved was whether it rested with Parliament or with the people.   This struggle was to last through the centuries until the present and today it still continues.   The Levellers wanted MPs to be the people’s representatives in Parliament, with annual elections to keep them regularly accountable to the people and so that no MP could regard the job for life they wanted no MP to be in more than two successive Parliaments.   They took democratic accountability further than we have done so today with their proposal that magistrates and judges should be elected annually.   The separation of powers was not part of their vocabulary.   Their vision was “Power to the people”.   A refrain often heard in modern times.

Parliament, having killed the King had actually reached a pinnacle and thereafter rapidly went into decline.   Britain’s institutions were easily destroyed within a short period of time, yet the political culture and memory of political behaviour was not destroyed.
In the mean time Cromwell had been busy fighting battles in Ireland and against King Charles’s son in Scotland.   Victory in these battles gave him power, which he used to determine his own methods for election to Parliament.   Charles II landed in Scotland in 1650 in the hope of rallying the Scots against the English.   In an effort to avert war Cromwell wrote to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland appealing with them to break their alliance with the royalists “I beseech thee in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”   The Church did not listen and Cromwell invaded, eventually wiping out the Scot’s army at the battle of Worcester in 1651.
During the 1640s and 1650s bribery and corruption was common, but Parliament’s treatment was harsh.   On 25th June 1651 the House of Commons:
 Resolved, That, upon Consideration of the several Charges against Edward Lord Howard, of Escreek, and the Proofs reported, and his Answer and Defence thereupon; the Parliament doth, upon the whole Matter, declare and adjudge, That the said Edward Lord Howard is guilty of Bribery.
It further Resolved, That Edward Lord Howard, of Escreek, be discharged from being a Member of this Parliament, and for ever disabled to sit in any Parliament; and from bearing any Office, or Place of Trust, in this Commonwealth; and be fined Ten thousand Pounds: And that he be committed to the Tower during the Pleasure of Parliament.
Ten thousand pounds was a huge sum, the equivalent of one million pounds today, and what a contrast to the kind of treatment a Member of Parliament got then, compared to the light way these matters are treated today.   It is thought that Lord Howard never paid the fine and eventually he was released from the Tower of London, but what a lesson it taught him.
In April 1653, the Rump Parliament was dissolved.   Cromwell went to the House of Commons and said “It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue and defiled by your practise of every vice.   Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government.   Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage.”   He then pointed at several individuals and called them “whoremasters, drunkards, corrupt and unjust men.   Ye have no more religion than my horse.   Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation.   Perhaps ye think this is not parliamentary language.   I confess it is not, neither are you to expect such from me.   It is not fit that ye should sit as a parliament any longer.   Ye have sat long enough unless you had done more good. …. In the name of God, go”.   Thus Cromwell acted like a dictator or even like the King that had been deposed.   All this was from a man who had moved the second reading of a Bill to introduce annual parliaments during the Long Parliament.   Esau was a biblical character.

 When Cromwell called on the people to govern themselves he did not mean it literally and when the “Rump” parliament of 1653 wanted to go on indefinitely replacing old members with new ones Cromwell shut it down in a classic coup d’etat.   He crossed the line from mere bullying to outright dictatorship, undoing at a stroke the entire point of a war he himself had fought against a king’s unparliamentary conduct. 
The Rump parliament was succeeded by three Parliaments dominated by Cromwell.   The first Parliament was the short Barebones Parliament in 1653.   This Parliament was not elected at all so much for the people and democracy.
"This puppet assembly, for which the name of one of its members, a Mr. Barebone, seemed to contemporaries an appropriate title, proved incapable of fulfilling the Army’s expectations or indeed of legislating at all.   The officers compelled it to resign its powers to Cromwell, whom they presented with a proposed constitution called “The Instrument of Government”.   There was to be a Parliament elected on a franchise with a very high property qualification; but the widest powers of government were to be entrusted to “a single person”.   Cromwell acceded to their request, and thereafter the de facto sovereign signed himself until his death “Oliver P.” (Protector)". Biography of a Nation by J. Enoch Powell and Angus Maude
Barebone was an Anabaptist preacher whose fiery sermons attracted huge crowds and often occasioned riots.
Major-General Thomas Harrison called for a ruling body based upon the Old Testament Sanhedrin of 70 selected "Saints".   With some modifications, Oliver Cromwell and the Council of Officers embraced Harrison’s idea. The members of the new Assembly were nominated by the Council of Officers and approved by the Council of State.   Recommendations sent in from congregational churches around the country were considered but not always accepted.   Deliberations continued throughout May 1653 and final agreement was reached early in June.   There were a total of 140 delegates: 129 representatives for England, five for Scotland and six for Ireland (the Scottish and Irish delegates were English soldiers serving in those countries).   Only about one-third of the delegates were drawn from the traditional ruling élites of their regions, though most of the others were minor gentry and landowners.   A further five members, including Cromwell, Lambert a General who had fought at Marston Moor, and Harrison, were later co-opted onto the Assembly.  
The Nominated Assembly first met on 4 July 1653 in an atmosphere of optimism and euphoria, but it lasted less than six months.   Although it was unelected, the Assembly assumed the title of the Parliament of the Commonwealth on 12 July.  
The Instrument of Government was a constitutional settlement drafted by Major-General John Lambert during the autumn of 1653 and adopted by the Council of Officers when the Nominated Assembly surrendered its powers to Oliver Cromwell in December. Lambert's original intention had been that the old constitution of King, Lords and Commons should be replaced by one of King, Council and Parliament.   In discussion with a few trusted advisers, after the abdication of the Nominated Assembly, Cromwell amended the Instrument to avoid reference to the royal title.
The Instrument of Government united England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland under one system of government with a parliament of 460 members from all four countries.   It spelt out the role of the Lord Protector showing his responsibilities and limitations.   He had a Council of State with 21 non elected members.   The electorate for parliament consisted of those men with an estate valued at £200 or more an astronomic sum in those days.
The Instrument of Government was England's first written constitution. It was adopted by the Council of Officers on 15 December 1653 and Cromwell was installed as Lord Protector the next day.  
  More than 100 of the old boroughs were abolished in the 1653 Parliament, but they were revived again later either under Cromwell or under his son Richard, who succeeded him as “Lord Protector” in 1658.
Cromwell ordered in 1654 that MPs not be admitted to the House of Commons unless they signed a promise to be true and faithful to the Lord Protector and Commonwealth of England.
Also in 1654 a total union of England and Ireland was conceived, the Irish Parliament being abolished in favour of 30 Irish MPs at Westminster.

The First Protectorate Parliament under “The Instrument of Government” duly assembled on 3 September 1654, but promptly turned upon its creators and attempted to amend “The Instrument of Government”, despite the pledge of loyalty exacted from its members, and to gain control of the Army.   After a few weeks the Lord Protector was reduced to dissolving it in January 1655 which meant that MPs never finished revising the Instrument of Government and so it was never legally endorsed.   This was the nearest we have come to having a formal written constitution.
The second Parliament was elected on a franchise limited to people with £200 worth of property.   Cromwell was attracted to the property qualification.   This reduced the number of people voting even from the Register from which the Long Parliament was elected in 1640.   The decline in the county vote was particularly severe.   This was a real setback for the pursuit of democracy.   Parliament was even fewer representatives than it had been.   As for the MPs elected, they came from almost exactly the same backgrounds, and were almost exactly the same people, as in the previous Parliaments under the King.
 Nevertheless Parliament and Cromwell still clashed.   The alternative now lay between anarchy and a military dictatorship, exercised by Cromwell.   To maintain the administration against the malignants (royalists) on the one hand and the disruptive forces on the other, Cromwell organised the country into eleven districts with a major-general at the head of each as a subordinate dictator.  The major-generals exacted funds for the maintenance of the forces and imposed a puritanic code of morality and worship.       
  After almost four centuries of being excluded, in 1656 Cromwell readmitted the Jews to England.   A Dutch Jew called Menasseh ben Israel petitioned Cromwell to allow the Jews to return.
  Cromwell could see the attraction of allowing them back.   There was the popular belief that the Second Coming of Christ could not occur until Jews existed in all the lands of the earth.   There was also a shattered economy to be rebuilt after the devastating Civil War.

  Cromwell summoned the most eminent judges, divines and merchants to a National conference in Whitehall.   The debate was inconclusive.   The lawyers were happy, but the clerics and merchants were opposed.   In classic political style, to stop them reaching the wrong decision Cromwell dissolved the meeting.   He then in dictatorial fashion gave the rich Jews of Amsterdam permission to come to London and transfer their vital trade interests from Holland to England.   This was an important step forward in breaking down religious discrimination, but it was a long time before the Jews were able to be citizens.   What were Cromwell’s motives for doing this?   Did he really care about discrimination or did he just want more taxation?   Perhaps it was the latter, for when the Republic was overthrown this legislation was not revoked.
In the third Parliament, which was elected in 1657, the old 40-shilling franchise was reintroduced, as was the House of Lords.   One step forward for democracy and one step back.   The new Parliament proved to be more hostile to the Army than its predecessor; the Council of Officers felt themselves obliged to debar, directly or indirectly, some hundred and fifty members, mostly from the south and east of England.   The emasculated assembly refused to pass a militia bill and complained of the impositions of the major-generals.
         On 23 February 1657 a document called the Humble Address and Remonstrance and later changed into the Humble Petition and Advice, demanded the return of the monarchy and the House of Lords together with a highly generous monetary settlement to the Crown, was presented to Parliament by Sir Christopher Packe.
         Reform of the House of Lords was one thing but return of the monarchy?   That was something else.   If the monarchy was to be returned should it be offered to Charles II or could it even be contemplated that it should be offered to Cromwell.   Several centuries later Lord Acton said “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”   This was so true of Cromwell.   The more power he accumulated the more power he wanted, but even Cromwell thought that this might be a step too far.   After all, a quarter of a million people had died in the English Civil War over the argument about the power of the monarchy and yet here they were less than ten years after Charles I had been executed debating whether the monarchy should be returned.   This was a real set back for the progress of democracy.   Nevertheless on 31st March the Speaker of the House of Commons offered the crown to Oliver Cromwell at the Banqueting House in Whitehall, the very same place where Charles I had met his fate.
the Speaker in a long speech whose object was “to commend the title and office of a King in this nation; as that a King first settled Christianity in this island; that it had been long received and approved by our ancestors, who by experience found it to be consisting with their liberties, that it was a title best known to our laws, most agreeable to their constitution, and to the temper of the people.”   But Oliver’s speech in reply showed every public sign of genuine indecision, as well as incorporating some flowery compliments: “he observed the rich treasure of the best people of the world being involved therein, it [the invitation] ought to beget in him the greatest reverence and fear of God that ever possessed a man in the world”.   But after all “The thing is of weight, the greatest weight of anything that was ever laid upon a man.”    Considering this weight: “I think I have no more to desire of you at this time, but that you will give me time to deliberate and consider what particular answer I may return to, so great a business as this”.   In short, the Protector wanted a brief time “to ask counsel of God and of my own heart”.   It remained to be seen what advice these two powerful organs were likely to give.   In the meantime a committee was to be set up to discuss the matter with him further. Antonia Fraser "Cromwell our Chief of Men".
In the end Cromwell declined, deciding to be the Protector instead, which had virtually all the powers of the monarchy in all but name.   So why did Parliament suggest that Cromwell could be King in the first place?   The reality is that by custom the King’s powers were limited.   The King had to govern with the consent of Parliament.   Laws had to be agreed and Parliament had to give approval to increases in taxation, all by ancient custom.   Parliament felt more comfortable with this and was not too happy to throw it overboard.   A Protector was a new institution, not bound by custom and with all the indications of dictatorship.   Was Cromwell so arrogant that unlimited power appealed to him?   Probably, or certainly – that is the question?   The investiture for Protector took place in June 1657.

With regard to the House of Lords: it was easy to gauge the Protector’s reactions.     Indeed, his conviction that some kind of second chamber was necessary to modify the actions and reactions of the surviving single chamber of the former Commons showed one of the clearest instances of the way time and experience had radically transformed many of Cromwell’s theories.   The man who in the 1640s was supposed to have spoken enthusiastically of turning the Earl of Manchester into “plain Mr Montague” had now no time for such fantasies.   It was the sheer problems of rule, which interested him.   Perhaps the House of Lords, in whatever form it was to be resurrected, did not represent the acme of political perfection, but in an imperfect society it was sometimes necessary to accept imperfect solutions. Cromwell our Chief of Men, Antonia Fraser
There was a consensus in the middle and upper classes (the electorate) about the need for a second chamber.   The big question, still the subject of great debate today, was how was it to be constituted and what powers should it have?   Cromwell wanted a powerful administrative body, which he effectively controlled and which added to his executive power.   The House of Commons being an elected body, at least on paper, could not always be relied upon to do the bidding of the government.
Although Cromwell had no ideological opposition to hereditary Peers he created some himself - they were not accountable to him.   There seemed to be only one answer to meet Cromwell’s requirements.   The House of Lords (whether it was called that or not) should consist of nominations, with Cromwell being the only person doing the nomination.   This increased his control.   The man whose career had come to fruition by opposing an all-powerful monarchy was now accumulating all the trappings of power that he could muster.   Democracy had briefly shown signs of flowering. Now it was being trampled upon.
                The House of Lords was established by a Bill passed by Parliament on 11 March 1657.   Initially it was to consist of seventy members, all nominated by Cromwell
The question of who was now to be chosen was held over till the summer as the great central issue of the kingship remained to be debated and the writs for the new House were not issued till the end of the year.   Nevertheless from the first moment such a method of choice was agreed the result was likely to be not so much the base-born aristocracy of jumped up fellows of satirical imagination, nor indeed the new noblesse of officers which Bordeaux for example believed Cromwell intended to create, so much as a simple Cromwellian clique of men united by the patronage which had promoted them.   That after all was basically what Cromwell had hoped to bring about with his balancing second chamber, even if he did not present it in such bald terms.   The revival of a form of House of Lords was therefore a straightforward political achievement, not a piece of romantic social legislation. Cromwell our Chief of Men, Antonia Fraser
                Nominations for the House of Lords were controversial.   Sixty-three Lords were nominated and summoned but of those only forty-two accepted and of those only thirty-seven came to the first meeting.   The hereditaries that were summoned were worried that if they accepted their ancient rights would be prejudiced, and once they had accepted the summons they would lose their peerages.   They did not want by choice something, which had been given them by birth.   The summoning of people from different walks of life also gave rise to social snobbery.   Cromwell packed the nominations with relatives, friends and acquaintances.   No doubt today they would have been described as Cromwell’s Cronies.   The end result of this was that the old guard did not turn up giving preponderance to the military amongst those that did.   
The Other House was first called to sit on 20 January 1658.   Those summoned by Cromwell included: seven peers who would have sat in the House of Lords if it still existed, and other baronets and gentlemen of old family and fortune; Eighteen of Cromwell’s relatives including two sons, Richard and Henry; three sons-in-law, three brothers-in-law.   There were also several of the leading members of his council, and twenty-one Colonels of his army; some of the old members of the long parliament; and a few other distinguished lawyers and civilians.   However, a number of these refused to take their places.   The innovation was unpopular with the more extreme republicans, who saw in it a potential re-establishment of an aristocratic class; their fears were doubtless stoked by Cromwell’s opening address to the two houses, which he began with the traditional introduction “My Lords, and gentlemen of the House of Commons”. But some of the old peers also found its egalitarian composition an insult to their lineage. The Earl of Warwick, previously supportive of Cromwell, was recorded as saying that "He could not sit in the same assembly with Colonel Hewson, who had been a shoe-maker, and Colonel Pride, who had been a drayman". Only 42 of those summoned accepted (including only one of the old peers); one, Sir Arthur Haselrig, defiantly took up his seat in the House of Commons.
Cromwell created Edmund Dunch as Baron Burnell of East Wittenham in a charter whose seal provided one of the most remarkable encroachments of Cromwell upon the Royal seal, since it showed him actually wearing the ermine-lined robe of the Kingship which he had in fact abandoned.   
The Second Chamber was subjected to immediate contentious scrutiny in the Commons.   There was sharp disagreement about the actual status of the new chamber, symbolised by the arguments over its name.   Should it be called the Other House, thus only claiming the powers recently accorded to it in the Humble Petition and Advice?   Or should it be named the House of Lords, in which case might it not be able to claim all the old powers of that body, including its judicial position?   This argument ran on for some time, only being settled after Cromwell’s death, during the time of his son’s Protectorate, by being called neither the House of Lords nor the Other House as it had been described in the Humble petition and Advice but by being called the Upper House.  
The arguments in the Commons showed how deeply the concept of a nominated chamber had outraged the deepest social instincts of the time.   Many thought that the people had been set free in 1649 when the House of Lords had been abolished and yet here they were with it now having been resurrected.   On the other hand, in favour of the new chamber, it was the lawyers who put the case for the need for a balance against the over-hasty passing of laws by the Commons.   Similar arguments are put today.  The military in their turn waxed indignant at the public slights on the composition of the new body, taking them as personal insults.
The new session of Parliament opened on 20 January 1658.   Cromwell defended the concept of a nominated second chamber:
“You granted that I should name another House,” he cried, “and I named it with integrity, I did.   I named it out of men that can meet you wheresoever you go, and shake hands with you, and tell you that it is not titles, it is not lordship, it is not this or that that they value, but a Christian and English interest.   Men of your own rank and quality, and men that I approved my heart to God in choosing… loving the same things that you love, whilst you love England and whilst you love religion.”   And above all he threatened them with the army of Charles Stuart, described vividly if inaccurately as being “at the waterside, drawn down towards the waterside, ready to be shipped for England”.   What could not be expected of “blood and confusion” if they were threatened by such a force, when the very efforts in Parliament had been merely to strengthen the King’s hand?   “If this, I say, be the effect of your sitting…” said the Protector finally, “I think it high time that an end be put to your sitting and I do declare to you here that I do dissolve this Parliament.”   He ended his speech on a note, which was not so much violent as sombre: “Let God judge between you and me.”  Cromwell our Chief of Men by Antonia Fraser
            Cromwell did in one short act what Prime Minister Tony Blair took ten years to do.   By the end of Blair’s Premiership he had appointed over half the members of the House of Lords.
Cromwell dissolved Parliament on the 4th February 1658.   As so often with Cromwell he had lost his temper and when that happened he became ruthless.   The House of Commons had debated the system of government set out in the Humble Petition and Advice for fourteen days without result.   All this in spite of the fact that Cromwell had sworn to it as had every member who had taken an oath to support it before entering the House.   Yet now they could not agree.   The pressures on Cromwell were increasing and there were signs of revolt building up against his dictatorship, so in classical Cromwell style he dissolved Parliament, just like any monarch might have done.   Once again there was a split between the government and Parliament.   Cromwell’s death eventually brought resolution to the problem.
On 3 September 1658 Cromwell died.   His son and successor, Richard Cromwell, lacked his influence with the Army; and the Petition and Advice constitution was so like a monarchy that it was clear that the bourgeoisie would accept Charles II if he would accept them, and if the Army could be disposed.   When the Grandees deposed Richard Cromwell in a palace revolution and seized power for themselves, revulsion occurred.   The Grandees were led by General Lambert who virtually governed the country with his officers as the “Committee of safety”.   The English army of occupation in Scotland, under command of the ex-Royalist adventurer General George Monck, had hitherto taken no part in English political intrigues.   Monck had concentrated on purging it of left-wing elements and enforcing “discipline.”  Now he became the hope of the conservative classes in the State, frightened of the radicalism of the English armies.   Monck took charge of the situation.   With the approval and financial backing of the Scottish gentry, he marched down from Scotland with his purged and disciplined army, and declared for a free Parliament elected on the old franchise, to the applause of the bourgeoisie and gentry.   For all knew that a “free” Parliament meant the dominance of the landed classes.   “Freedom” was a relative term.   A grateful Charles II later made Monck the Duke of Albemarle.
           Shrewdly, Charles II gave Richard Cromwell a place at court.   Richard lived until 1712 seeing many changes in the British constitution.   I wonder what his father would have thought of them?
On April 4th 1660, the future Charles II issued the Declaration of Breda, which made known the conditions of his acceptance of the crown of England.   Monck organised the Convention Parliament.  The Convention Parliament also known as the English Convention was elected in April 1660.   It was elected after the Rump of the Long Parliament had finally voted for its own dissolution.   Elected as a "free parliament", i.e. with no oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth or to the monarchy, it was predominantly Royalist in its constitution. It assembled for the first time on April 25th 1660.
After the Declaration of Breda the Convention Parliament then proceeded to conduct the necessary preparation for the Restoration Settlement. These preparations included the necessary provisions to deal with land and funding such that the new regime could operate.
 "On 1 May 1660 Parliament declared that the government should be by king, Lords and Commons.   A week later, Charles was proclaimed by both Houses.    The king and his court made haste to return to England.   He was greeted with joy in London, where he processed through the streets.   The diarist John Evelyn recorded: “I stood in the Strand, and beheld it, and blessed God:   And all this without one drop of blood, and by that very army, which rebelled against him.” Monarchy from the Middle Ages to Modernity David Starkey
  On May 8th it proclaimed that King Charles II had been the lawful monarch since the execution of Charles I in January 1649.   Charles returned from exile on May 23rd.   He entered London on May 29th, his 30th birthday.
  In 1660 Charles II passed the test of indemnity and oblivion – it was said indemnity for his friends and oblivion for his enemies.   Only the regicides were executed together with five others, amongst whom was Sir Henry Vane, who Charles described as “A man too dangerous to live”.   Between 1643 and 1653 Vane had effectively been the civilian head of the Parliamentary government.
The Lord Chancellor’s office dates from 602 and has been held by a Peer since 1771.   “It is the duty of the Lord Chancellor ordinarily to attend the Lords House of Parliament as Speaker of the House.”   On this rule, dating from June 9 1660 depends the Lord’s claim to have one of its two ex-officio members of the cabinet.   In spite of the longevity of this rule the Blair government changed it so that the Members of the House now elect the Speaker of the House of Lords – a good thing from the perspective of democracy.   Also the role of the Lord Chancellor was changed and now in 2008 the Lord Chancellor sits in the House of Commons.
 Charles II dissolved the Convention Parliament on 29th December 1660. He was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 23rd April 1661.
 The succeeding parliament, which was elected in May 1661 set about both systematically dismantling all the legislation and institutions which had been introduced during the reign of Cromwell's “Commonwealth and Protectorate' and confirming Acts of the Convention Parliament.
  When King Charles II ascended the throne he reversed most of the reforms introduced by the Cromwell Parliaments.   The old voting system was restored and the rotten boroughs brought back.   Parliament was as unrepresentative and undemocratic as ever it had been in the reign of his father; so little progress after so much conflict.
   The restoration of the monarchy was followed by the reinstatement of the House of Lords, not by any statute or resolution of the Convention Parliament, but simply by its assembling again.   After the restoration of the monarchy the twin oaths of supremacy of the Church and allegiance to the Crown were restored and extended to peers.   The Cromwell period laid the foundations for many critical aspects of British politics.   King versus the rest was a politicisation, which outlasted Cromwell – later it became a cornerstone of party politics.
  Parliament thought and hoped that it was getting a constitutional monarchy with peace and stability with the return of Charles II but it soon realised that religion was once again about to raise its ugly head.   After all the trials and tribulations democracy was back to where it was at the time of Charles I. 

 The Corporation Act of 1661 improved the regulation of Corporations but limited the holding of municipal office to members of the Church of England.
   The Corporation Act of 1661 belongs to the general category of test acts, designed for the express purpose of restricting public offices in England to members of the Church of England.   It was not directly aimed against Roman Catholics, but against the Presbyterians. It was passed in December 1661, the year after the Restoration.   It was at that time entirely reactionary.   The Cavaliers were in power, and they aimed at nothing short of restoring England to its state before the time of the Commonwealth.   It required all the prudence of the Earl of Clarendon, the Chancellor, to restrain them.   The Corporation Act represents the limit to which he was prepared to go in endeavouring to restrict the power of the Presbyterians. They were influentially represented in the government of cities and boroughs throughout the country, and this act was designed to dispossess them.   Clarendon lost his influence when he criticised the private life of Charles II.
The Act provided that no person could be legally elected to any office relating to the government of a city or corporation, unless he had within the previous twelve months received the sacrament of "the Lord's Supper" according to the rites of the Church of England. He was also commanded to take the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, to swear belief in the Doctrine of Passive Obedience, and to renounce the Covenant.
In default of these requisites the election was to be void.   A somewhat similar act passed eleven years later, known as the Test Act, prescribed for all officers, civil and military, further stringent conditions, including a declaration against transubstantiation.
The Test Acts were a major setback for the progress of democracy.   Here was blatant discrimination based on the grounds of religion.   It was to take nearly two hundred years before it was reversed.
What was remarkable about Charles II’s succession was that on regaining the throne he repealed every single Act from the time of Cromwell, save two: the Navigation Act and the readmission of the Jews, both of which he considered to be sufficiently in the national interest to overcome his distaste for the regicide.
Over the centuries the House has imposed restrictions on what members can or cannot do.   For instance in 1666 the House passed the first of a number of resolutions forbidding MPs who are barristers – vividly described as “such members of the House as are of the long robe” – from practising as counsel before the House or its committees, or advising as counsel to a private bill or parliamentary proceeding. "Parliament under Blair" Peter Riddell
The relations between the Crown and Commons again became strained in 1667 when an Act excluding Roman Catholics from sitting in either House was forced through the legislature.   At this time there arose the familiar party distinctions of Whig and Tory.   Rules of procedure in the House were getting tougher.   On February 13th 1667 the following rule was passed – That every defaulter in attendance, whose excuse shall not be allowed this day, be fined £40.00, and sent for in custody, and committed to the Tower till the fine be paid.
        By the Secret Treaty of Dover in 1670 Charles obtained £300,000 per annum from Louis XIV for agreeing to return to Roman Catholicism when the opportunity offered.   This gave him independence from Parliament, but it did not do him much good.
        The discrimination against Roman Catholics increased with the passing of the Test Act of 1672 (the long title of which is "An act for preventing dangers, which may happen from popish recusants".   This act enforced upon all persons filling any office, civil or military, the obligation of taking the oaths of supremacy and allegiance and subscribing to a declaration against transubstantiation and also of receiving the sacrament within three months after admittance to office.   It is particularly ironic because by now Charles II was a secret Roman Catholic.   The oath for the Test Act of 1672 was:
"I, N, do declare that I do believe that there is not any transubstantiation in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, or in the elements of the bread and wine, at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever."
The passing of this Act was a harbinger of problems to come for it directly affected James II, (reigned: 1685 to 1688), the son of Charles I, and brother of Charles II.   James II survived the embarrassment of 1673 but it was but a prelude to the fight that would break out on his accession in 1685.

James, as Lord Admiral, held such a public office; but, as a now convinced Catholic, he could take neither the required oaths nor the Anglican sacrament.   The deadline for swearing the oaths was 14 June; that day James surrendered the Admiralty to the king.   His resignation resolved the immediate issue; it raised, however, a much bigger one: if as a Roman Catholic, James could not be Lord Admiral how could he be entrusted with the infinitely greater responsibility of kingship?   And, if not, could Parliament break the sacred line of succession and the integrity of its monarchy for the sake of its religion? Monarchy from the Middle Ages to Modernity by David Starkey.
In the seventeenth century the term “democracy” began to shake off its negative connotations of mob rule and property confiscation.  Now, it was used to defend and justify existing political arrangements and the urgent need for new ones.
The list of boroughs, which had the right to elect a Member of Parliament, had grown slowly over the centuries as Monarchs gave out more Royal Charters, but the last Charter was given to Newark in 1674.   From then until the Reform Act of 1832 the number of English MPs remained the same at 513.   This is an important point.   By freezing the number of Members of Parliament for 158 years Parliament became more and more unrepresentative as the towns began to grow rapidly as a result of the industrial revolution.   It is no surprise that a lot of people were to become frustrated.
One of the most famous Acts in history was passed in 1679.   The Act of Parliament which popularly goes by the name of Habeas Corpus progressed through Parliament and only passed as a result of a joke.   In his book “History of his Own Times”,  Gilbert Burnet wrote “Lord Grey and Lord Norris were named to be the tellers: Lord Norris, being a man subject to vapours, was not at all attentive to what he was doing: so, a very fat lord coming in, Lord Grey counted him as ten: as a jest at first: but seeing Lord Norris had not observed it, he went on with this missreckoning of ten: so it was reported that they that were for the Bill were in a majority, though indeed it went the other side: and by this means the Bill passed.
There is no reason to doubt that this light-hearted joke which became serious was actually the cause of habeas corpus reaching the Statute book.   The manuscript minutes of the House of Lords, which were kept by the clerk at the table, give the numbers in the division as fifty-seven ayes and fifty-five noes, a total of one hundred and twelve, whereas the same minutes and the journal show that no more than one hundred and seven peers had attended at any time during the sitting.
It was noticed at once that something was wrong; but as soon as the decision was declared, Shaftesbury had the presence of mind to rise and speak until a number of Lords had entered and left and so the vote could not be taken again.   Shaftesbury was a man of great deviousness although his instincts were basically liberal.
At this time the procedure in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords was that one side stayed in the chamber and was counted there, while the other side went out and was counted afterwards as they came back.   Only in the nineteenth century did first the House of Lords and then the House of Commons provide themselves with two lobbies for voting, one for the ayes and one for the noes, so that both could be counted simultaneously.
After the Restoration, Parliament recognised the necessity of finding the King new sources of revenue to cover the expenses of government.   Charles II was granted the proceeds of the duties on spirits, cider and beer for life, and these became part of his regular income, or what came to be known during the reign of William III as the “Civil List

Instead of consulting with the Privy Council Charles II consulted with only a small group of members.   This group was known as the Cabinet or Cabal, the former because it met in the King’s closet, the latter from the initials of the men composing it – Clifford, a Catholic, Arlington, who in 1674 was cleared of an embezzlement charge and made Lord Chancellor, Buckingham, who excelled in debauchery and wit and had Catholic sympathies, Ashley and Lauderdale, who aimed to bring about the absolute power of the crown in Church and State.   Its members were not a true committee of the Privy Council.   They were called together merely to consider such problems as the King chose to submit to them.   The cabal was justly unpopular.   Not only did it tend to increase the personal influence of the monarch, since policy was formulated in secret outside the main body of the Council, but the uncertainty as to who actually tendered advice made it impossible for Parliament to fix responsibility for miss-government. 
The commencement of party warfare in parliamentary life may be dated from the Stuarts, and to account for the designations of Whig and Tory it is necessary to look at the parliamentary troubles of Charles II in 1679-80 when, acting under the encouragement of Louis XIV he made a misguided attempt to govern without a legislative chamber.   In 1679 the monarch refused a Speaker to his Commons, finding that functionary obnoxious and between this date and 1681 parliament was prorogued seven times
Parliament sat outside London in 1681 when suspected Catholic plots forced MPs to flee to Oxford.   Between 1679 and 1681 there were three Parliaments returned by the electorate and each had a majority of Members opposed to James II succeeding Charles II.   Charles quickly dissolved the Parliaments.   He was prepared to concede some powers of the King but was not prepared to accept the abolition of the inherited right of James.
The discords of the previous reign were revived.   The “town and country” party petitioned zealously for the reassembling of parliament, while the Court party counter-petitioned “to declare their abhorrence of the tumultuary petitioning.”   Those who were urging on the struggle for popular representation were designated Petitioners.   The King’s friends were expressively stigmatised as Abhorrers. From these two parties arose the nicknames Whigs and Tories.
The Petitioners, looking upon their adversaries as entirely devoted to the Court and the popish faction gave them the name of Tories, a title given to Irish robbers, villains and cut-throats.   The Abhorrers considered the Petitioners as men entirely in the principles of the reprobated parliament of 1640 gave them the name Whig or “sour-milk” formerly appropriated to Scottish Presbyterians.

The Abhorrers, who were the mainstay of Charles’s unconstitutional procedure, did not get much tolerance from the Commons.   When the parliament reassembled several members were expelled.   A resolution was passed in October 1680 saying “That it is the undoubted right of the subject to petition for the calling of parliament, and that to traduce such petitions as tumultuous and seditious is to contribute to the design of altering the constitution.” 
At the time of Charles II death in 1685 Parliament described it as “His death at the moment of his triumph”.   By now he had ruled without Parliament since 1681 and was well on his way to returning the Roman Catholic religion to Britain – a move which was more absolute in nature than it was when his father Charles I was executed.
By the end of Charles II reign in 1685 how far had we travelled down the road to democracy?   Not very far.   The Kings had been disabused of their divine right, there had been a devastating civil war, but the people did not exercise power.   Jews and Catholics were still discriminated against.   Only the wealthy had a vote.   The votes were not of equal value because the constituencies were still widely unequal.   The secret ballot had not been introduced.   Patronage prevailed.
In their book The Unreformed House of Commons, Edward and Annie Porritt state that “In the time of James II the Duke of Newcastle was reckoned to control sixteen MPs,  Lords Aylesbury and Teynham eight each; Lords Huntingdon and Preston and Sir Robert Holmes (colleague and adversary of Samuel Pepys at the Admiralty) six each”.   Just six people controlled some 10% of the members.    It is interesting that when the House of Lords still had considerable power members of the Lords were manipulating the membership of the House of Commons.   Perhaps they could foresee where ultimately power would reside.
  The House of Lords was unelected.   Yet Parliament was gradually becoming more important in the affairs of the nation.   There was still a long way to go.   The struggle for democracy was now to revolve around making Parliament a democratic body representative of all of the people.
Over the next century we were to see the rise of the role of Prime Minister with a consequent diminution of power of the King.   Perhaps because of the diminution of power the principle of Monarchy was to become more acceptable to the people after the instability of the previous centuries.
Somehow Parliament managed to maintain its institutions awareness and memory.   The result was that Parliament provided a remarkable stability.   It ebbed and flowed but it survived along with its customs.   May be this is the triumph of the English constitution,  

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