the Rump and Barebones Parliament - Background


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The Rump and Barebones Parliament, 1649-53
Background to the Rump 1649-53
The Rump had to deal with external problems such as the rebellions in Ireland and the Scottish
Royalist invasion as well as the war with the Dutch.
They also faced economic problems due to bad harvest in 1649 and 1650 which caused considerable
social distress adding to the already mountainous debt.
Politically they faced opposition from the conservatives and the radicals and many were not willing to
accept a government associated with regicide. Therefore the Rump turned to the army for support.
This did not help with appeasing the people as the army was keen for reform in a direction which
would push away both the Royalist and Presbyterian gentry who had supported Parliament.
The MP's in the Rump were generally conservative and had only reluctantly agreed to the Kings
execution or had come to terms with it afterwards as they could see no other course of action which
would bring peace and not because they were convinced republicans.
MP's such as Sir Arthur Heselrige, Thomas Scot and Sir Henry Vane who despite being convinced
republicans were not in Favour of sweeping political or social changes. They felt that setting up a
republic was enough and they should focus on stabilising the country.
The Rump was continually torn as it was not radical enough for those expecting political and religious
changes yet it wasn't respectable enough for the support of many of the gentry.
In 1649 with the execution of the king the Rump moved towards setting up the Republic. This lead to
the abolition of the House of Lords on 6th February 1649 which lead to the formal abolition of the
monarchy a day later and the abolition of the Council of State on the 14th.
Over 100 MP's who absented themselves at the time of Prides Purge were readmitted during
February but were still naturally more conservative minded. Many still refused to contemplate trying
to reinstate themselves, still viewing the Prides Purge as an illegal act.
In January 1650 the Rump succeeded in alienating the traditional elements in the political nation who
may have been prepared to accept and cooperate with them despite their regicide. This was through
imposing an `engagement' requiring all adult males to `engage obedience' to the current parliament
with the main features including them promising obedience to `the commonwealth as is now
established without a king or House of Lords' and refusal meant being barred from all public offices.
In effect this was asking them to accept that the Prides Purge and execution of the king were legal.
Many former Parliamentarians and Royalist gentry felt this was too much and preferred to drop out
of public life. They may have served the Rump on the basis that it was a government and better than
anarchy or rule by the radicals or the army. But accepting the legality of the events of 1648-9 was
unthinkable. This meant that the Rumps support from the beginning was narrow.
The Rump did little to reassure the religious radicals and Independents on the question of religious
toleration when introducing their religious acts.

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The act enforcing attendance at church was repealed by the Speakers casting vote; such was the
strength of the conservative Presbyterians who returned after Prides Purge. A blasphemy act was
passed in August 1650 and in May an act making adultery a capital offence.
The execution of the King had lead to many religious radicals coming to the surface and radical
political groups also emerged including the Diggers and many other who gained much support during
this time.…read more


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