The Rump 1649-1653

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The Rump and the Commonwealth

Why was the Rump successful 1649-1653?

Although it was easy to be critical of the Rump, it did in fact achieve a level of degree of settlement and internal peace and kept military dictatorship at bay

  • Rump often criticised because it executed the King, it abolised the monarchy and the House of Lords, it was an illegal regime because it was merely a rump (small proportion) of the original parliament
  • It was seen as a instrument of the army grandees, it was destroyed by the army which claimed that it was self-seeking, self-perpetuating and had failed to introduced the necessary reform
  • Clement Walker, one of the MPs purged by Pride described it as "the fag end, this veritable Rump of Parliament with corrupt maggots in it."
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The Rump and the Commonwealth

In reality, the Rump was successful because:

  • It was not revolutionarly. Many of those MPs who voted for execution of the King did so out of desperation
  • They oppose the particular king not the office of king. Then realise that they cannot invite one of Charles' sons to take over
  • Monarchy was abolished by default not out of revolutionary ideology
  • Rump was also conservative because many of the more conservative MPs who could not accept Charles' execution, return in Feb 1649, so the radicals are outnumbered
  • Men such as Sir Arthur Haslrigge and Sir Henry Vane didn't like the Rump but realised it was all they have left - determined that country will descend into anarchy
  • Cromwell, now politically the most powerful army leader who was also politically conservative - did make strenuous efforts to prevent the execution of the King
  • Most MPs in Rump from traditional governing class of landowners and hence were moderate. At the same time very worried about growth in the number of radical sects, men who sought to "turn the World upside down" - priority to suppress the sects rather than bringing in reforms
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Rump's Successes

In Ireland

  • Rump sent Cromwell to Ireland to put end to Civil War there (July 1649-May 1650)
  • Despite excesses committed at Drogheda and Wexford, where most of the inhabitants are slain, Cromwell did end the fighting and imposed a harsh new settlement
  • English control more firmly established as Catholic landowners have estates confiscated (Act of the Setlling of Ireland 1652)
  • "Curse of Cromwell" stored up problems for the furture but in short term successfull
  • Conquest continued after Cromwell's return in 1650 under Ireton and Fleetwood.


  • Problems here as Charles' heir Charles hoping to use Scotland as spring-board for restoration of the monarchy in England Charles proclaimed King in Endinburgh Feb 1649 & crowned 1651
  • Cromwell defeated Scots at Dunbar 1650 and against at Worcester in 1651. Charles' hopes gone
  • No serious royalist uprisings
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Rump's Successes

War against the Dutch

  • Growing trade rivalry between England and the Dutch, especially after 1648, when Dutch gained official independence from Spain at the end of the Thirty Years War
  • Rump passed two Navigation Acts 1650/51. These led to naval war with Dutch 1652-53 in which English forces under Admiral Blake had upper hand e.g. Battle of the Downs 1652

Rump gained some support:

  • Jan 1650 all office holders had to take an Engagement (oath of allegiance) to the Rump. Non-subscribers banned from office.
  • During 1649 Rump used this Engagement to purge local communities of its enemies - in Herefordshire 40% of committee members were outsted.
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Rump's Successes


  • Used land confiscated from royalists, Crown and Church to help pay soldiers and mount campaigns in Ireland, Scotland and against the Dutch
  • First English regime with a standing army to its name
  • Rump also kept taxation levels high
  • Treated its creditors badly and found it hard therefore to attract loans - little money squeezed out of the city
  • Nonetheless, financial situation by April 1653 was far more desperate - debt stood at less than £1 million

Radical Groups

  • Levellers horrifed at Rump's assumptions of power with army backing. Lilburne produced "England's New Chains Discovered" claimed that Rump had upsurped its authority.
  • However Leveller mutiny at Burford 1649 quickly dealt with the 4 leaders who were put in the Tower - Lilburne, Overton, Walwyn and Prince in March 1649
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Rump and Radicals

Fifth Monarchists

  • Believed that end of world was at hand and that the Saints should rule in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ
  • Major-General Harrison, associate of Cromwell, was notable leader
  • Ideas sounded radical, claimed that force was legitimate to overthrow existing regimes and wanted to establish the rule of the Godly
  • Also wanted abolition of the entire legal system. May have had 10,000 members at their height but most were from lower orders and were not a threat to the regime
  • Their importance in the Barebone's Parliament has exaggerated their politcal importace in this period
  • Under the Rump there is little persecution of this group because they are not seen as a threat and had support in some sections of the Army leadership.
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Rump's Failures

Rumps "failures" in the eyes of the Army - in fact its unwillingness to introduce radical reform probably helped to maintain political stability and prevent further social unrest

Failed to carry out extensive reforms of the legal system

  • Levellers wanted big reduction in the number of laws and speedier resolution of legal cases
  • Summer 1649 measures relieve those imprisoned for debt were defeated
  • 1650 Rump decreed that all legal cases to be conducted in English
  • Hale Commission advocated series of law reform but they were rejected by Rump in Feb 53
  • Many MP's, like Bulstrode Whitelock, were lawyers whp argued for status quo, claiming that those in favour of reforms knew little about the law
  • Others opposed to reforms advocated by radcials like Levellers and the Army Leadership
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Rump's Failures

Rump failed to resolve the deep divsions over religion which had helped to cause the war and which had widened there after

  • If the Rump had tried to impose a religious settlement, there might well have been unrest
  • Church of England effectively already dismantled, episcopacy abolished and Prayer Book banned
  • Parliament had to introduce the Directory of Worship in 1644
  • Rump repealed statutes enforcing attendence at parish church
  • In reality Rump could find no easy solution to the religious divisions between those who wanted a coercive national Church, probably Presbyterian in nature and those who were religiously Independents and opposed this idea
  • Carried out survey in parishes in 1649 with view to mergers and rationalisation of parishes. Little achieved in face of local opposition
  • 1650 Commission to propogate the Gospel in the North and Wales (the "dark corners of the realm")
  • Rump ratified tithes in 1652, so everyone had to pay for upkeep of church minister even if they didn't attend his services.
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Rump's Failures

It failed to deliver electoral reform 

  • Levellers and many Army leaders want to widen franchise, equalise electoral districts and have regular elections 
  • Three plans produced 1648 by Levellers, 1649 Army grandees and 1650 by a Rump committee. None were enacted

Rump was seen as self-perpetuating 

  • Cromwell dissolved Rump in April 1653 claiming that it had sat too long and had failed to hold fresh elections to gain legitimacy
  • More recent research claims that Cromwell dissolved the Rump because it was planning to hold an election and Army were frightened that a new parliament would bring back royalists and moderates who would try to get rid of the army. 
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