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the case, as has often been said, that the majority of the members were mere enthusiasts, but the enthusiasts settled down to Parliamentary work, seldom absenting themselves from the House, and being always ready to vote when a division was called; whilst those who distrusted them could not always be brought to a due sense of the importance of their Parliamentary duties, and were apt to be led away by interest or pleasure from supporting their opinions by their votes. Two questions were soon found to divide the parties, that of law reform, more especially the reform of Chancery, and that of a religious organisation other than compulsory uniformity under Bishops or Presbyters. On both these questions Cromwell was intensely interested, and there can be little doubt that if the nominated Parliament had conducted itself with due regard for practical exigencies, it would have retained his good-will to the end. Unfortunately this was not the case. It proposed a total abolition of the Court of Chancery, thus handing over to the hostile judges of the Common Law that system of equity which had been growing up with beneficial results for generations, whilst it also took in hand with a light heart the codification of the law, though not a single practising lawyer had a seat in the House, in the hope that' the great volumes of law would come to be reduced into the bigness of a pocket book'. No wonder that Cromwell dropped into a friend's ear the words: "I am more troubled now with the fool than with the knave ". No wonder either that in September he drew aside from Harrison, under whose influence he had decided in favour of summoning the nominees, and that he listened with greater respect to Lambert, the military representative of constitutionalism and the determined opponent of political fanaticism.
Cromwell's position was rendered difficult by his association with this ill-starred assembly. On September 14 a broadside was scattered in the streets charging him with treason to 'his Lords the people of England,' not because he had broken up the miserable remnant of the Long Parliament, but because he had stood in the way of the election of a new House, and it is highly probable that a large number of people who had nothing to do with the distribution of broadsides shared in this opinion. Still greater was the danger of an appeal to the army, with which the writers concluded. It was known that many of the soldiers, and even of the officers, were restive under the suspension of popular elections, and it was found necessary to secure submission by cashiering Lieutenant-Colonel Joyce,who had formerly, as a cornet, carried off the King from Holmby House, and who now threw himself on the side of those who cried out for constitutional rights.
On the subject of Church organisation, Parliament was as subversive as on the subject of law reform. Many of its members held with the Fifth Monarchy preachers, that the government of the State ought to be exclusively in the hands of the Saints, and, not unnaturally, concluded that they were themselves the Saints; thus taking a broad issue in defiance of the theory that the government ought to be administered or controlled by the elected representatives of the nation. The immediate dispute, however, turned on the unwillingness of the advanced party to continue any sort of endowment of the clergy. Cromwell, it is true, on more than one occasion had expressed himself strongly against the existing tithe system and would have been perfectly ready to concur in any plan for the removal of its abuses, or for substituting for it—as had been suggested in The Agreement of the People presented by the army—a more equitable mode of raising the money needed by the clergy. Further than that he was not likely to go, and matters were brought to a crisis by a resolution passed on November 17 for the abolition of patronage, and still more by the decision of the House on December 10—though only by a majority of two—to reject a scheme of Church government founded in the main on the lines drawn by Owen, in which the payment of tithes was taken as a financial basis.
Some time before the last vote was taken, the principal officers, under Lambert's leadership, had had under consideration a plan of a written constitution in which the executive power was to be strengthened and conferred upon Cromwell with the title of King, whilst the legislative power was to be conferred on an elected assembly, thus embodying the ideas which had been enunciated by Cromwell in his conference with the lawyers and politicians at the end of 1651. When this constitution was complete it was shown to Cromwell, who objected to the royal title, and who seems also to have been unwilling to have anything to do with another violent dissolution. On December 10, when the vote on Church organisation was taken. Lambert and his allies found their opportunity. It is probable that they promised Cromwell that the House should be dissolved by its own action, and that, on receiving this assurance, he preferred not to be informed of the course by which this desirable end was to be attained. The course indeed was simple enough. The conservative reformers, if they chose to attend in anything like their full strength, were in a majority, and on the 12th they got up early and flocked to the House, where, before their bewildered opponents could rally in force, they immediately voted that Parliament should resign its powers into the hands of the Lord General. Then, starting for Whitehall in procession with the Speaker at their head, they announced to Cromwell the decision they had taken. Their advanced colleagues kept their seats, but upon attempting to remonstrate were expelled by a body 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