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of soldiers. As in the absence of the Speaker they could not technically be considered to be a House, those who interfered were able to aver, without literary untruthfulness, that there had been no forcible dissolution of Parliament.
In a very short time Cromwell had agreed with the officers on the constitution to be adopted under the name of The Instrument of Government. The executive power was to reside in a Lord Protector and Council, the members of which were to be appointed for life, Cromwell being named as the first Protector. The legislative power was assigned without restriction to a Parliament elected by constituencies formed, so far as the counties were concerned, upon a new franchise, the franchise in the boroughs being left in its old anomalous condition. This latter concession to prejudice was, however, of less importance, as a sweeping redistribution of seats, copied with little alteration from the scheme put forward in The Agreement of the People, largely increased the number of the county members, and disfranchised in equally large numbers the smaller boroughs which had fallen under the influence of the country gentlemen. The Parliament thus constituted was to meet once in three years and to sit at least for five months. Any Bill passed by this body was to be suspended for twenty days to give an opportunity for the Protector to explain objections he might entertain to it. If Parliament refused to listen to his objections, the Bill became law in spite of him, provided that it contained nothing contrary to the Instrument itself. The negative voice about which so much had been heard in the last years of Charles I. was, therefore, not assigned to the Protector. For all that, the control over the executive is of greater importance to the development of representative institutions than legislative independence, and in this respect the hold of Parliament over the executive was of the flimsiest description, consisting merely of the right to propose six names whenever there was a vacancy in the Council, out of which the Council would select two, and the Protector again make his choice between the two. Even the financial arrangements, through which Parliaments usually make their way to power, were settled in such a way as to debar the elected House from obtaining even indirect control. It is true that the Instrument started with the sweeping generalisation that ‘no tax, charge, or imposition’ was to be ‘laid upon the people but by common consent in Parliament,’ but this statement was followed by a clause assigning to the Protector £200,000 for civil expenses, besides as much as was needed for keeping up the navy, as well as an army of 30,000 men, and this sum, to which no definite limits were placed, was to be raised out of the customs ‘and such other ways and means as shall be agreed upon by the Protector and Council’. As to the army and navy thus secured, the Protector was to dispose and order them with the consent of Parliament during its short session, but during all the rest of the three years with the consent of the Council only. It would, however, be a mistake to say that the Instrument established absolute government in England. The Protector was bound to act under the control of the Council, and though scarcely any record of the political action of that body has been preserved, there is enough to show that whilst Cromwell’s per
sonal influence over it was necessarily great, it was by _
no means a mere tool in his hands. The constitutional control to which the Protector was subjected was therefore a real one, though that control was in the hands of a body meeting in secret and sufliciently self-centred to make no bid for popularity by the speeches made in the course of discussions amongst its members, as a more popular assembly would have done. Finally, religious liberty was secured for all congregations which did not admit ‘ Popery or Prelacy’ ; whilst the right of issuing ordinances with the force of law was granted to the Protector and Council till the first Parliament met.
It has frequently been urged that the Instrument was the earliest example of that system of fixed constitutions, of which the most notable instance is that of the United States, and must therefore rank with
such constitutions rather than with the system of Par
liamentary supremacy which was ultimately adopted in England. The comparison with the American constitution, however, can only stand with those who are resolved to fix their attention on similarities and to ignore differences. The Instrument, it is true, resembles the Constitution of the United States in refusing to submit the holders of executive authority to the constant control of the legislature, and in setting forth the relations between the bodies of the State in a written document. On more important points there is a world-wide distinction. In America, the whole federal constitution is redolent of popular control. Every four years the President is re-elected or replaced, and though Congress cannot dismiss a President except by a judicial impeachment, it has complete control over the finances, and can leave him without supply. Add to this the ingrained habit of the American people in giving vent to popular opinion, and in pressing it on the notice of the government which it has given to itself, and we shall find little cause to seek in the Constitution of the United States for a justification of the Instrument—a document drawn up by soldiers and endowing the chief of the State and his councillors with a lifelong tenure of office, with an abundant armed force, and with a power of taxation adequate to all ordinary requirements in time of peace. The question raised by the Instrument was not whether
‘the national control was to be exercised indirectly
through Parliament, or directly through a popular vote, but whether it should be exercised at all. The constitutional principles alike respected in England and America are diametrically opposed to those on which the government of the Protectorate was founded. °~ Westminster as"Lord Protector under the ' ' of the Instrument. His Council consisted of seven officers and eight civilians, the most notable of the latter being Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper—better known by the title long afterwards conferred on him by Charles II. as the Earl of Shaftesbury—who had been an active member of the Councils formed after the break-up of the Long Parliament. Little as is known of his actions during this period of his life, his rallying to the Protectorate can only be explained as the result of the conviction that Oliver was in earnest
in his intention of giving to the new government a
preponderatingly civilian character, and of keeping it out of the hands of fanatics on one hand, and of soldiers on the other. In Thurloe, who had acted as Secretary to the Council since the spring of 1652, the Protector acquired an ofiicial whose ability was beyond dispute, who was appalled by no labours, and one who, with the aid of the network of spies whose poverty he utilised, was keen-sighted in penetrating the secrets of conspirators at home and abroad.