This Parliament, which had seen how Cromwell had handled the two former, the long one and the short one, had surely learned the wit to behave themselves better to him than those had done?Thomas Hobbes: Behemoth
What can we expect from Parliament, now that the House of Commons has returned, more turbulent than ever? After Parliament won the Civil War, it found itself dethroned by its own creature, Cromwell. Champions of Parliament today should take care. In previous posts I gave Hobbes’s own account of the events of 1553:
Cromwell had dismissed two parliaments in a year, and next called a more supine parliament, forced by oath to obey him. Now Hobbes continues his Socratic dialogue to describe the events he witnessed:
A. The following year, 1654, had nothing of war, but was spent in civil ordinances, in appointing of judges, preventing of plots (for usurpers are jealous), and in executing the King’s friends and selling their lands. The 3rd of September, according to the instrument, the Parliament met; in which there was no House of Lords, and the House of Commons was made, as formerly, of knights and burgesses; but not as formerly, of two burgesses for a borough and two knights for a county; for boroughs for the most part had but one burgess, and – some counties six or seven knights. Besides, there were twenty members for Scotland, and as many for Ireland. So that now Cromwell had nothing else to do but to show his art of government upon six coach-horses newly presented to him, which, being as rebellious as himself, threw him out of the coachbox and almost killed him.
B. This Parliament, which had seen how Cromwell had handled the two former, the long one and the short one, had surely learned the wit to behave themselves better to him than those had done?
A. Yes, especially now that Cromwell in his speech at their first meeting had expressly forbidden them to meddle either with the government by a single person and Parliament, or with the militia, or with perpetuating of Parliaments, or taking away liberty of conscience; and told them also that every member of the House, before they sat, must take a recognition of his power in divers points. Whereupon, of above 400 there appeared not above 200 at first; though afterwards some relenting, there sat about 300.
Again, just at their sitting down he published some ordinances of his own, bearing date before their meeting ; that they might see he took his own acts to be as valid as theirs. But all this could not make them know themselves. They proceeded to debate of every article of the recognition.
B. They should have debated that before they had taken it.
A. But then they had never been suffered to sit Cromwell being informed of their stubborn proceedings, and out of hope of any supply from them, dissolved them.
All that passed besides in this year, was the exercise of the High Court of Justice upon some royalists for plots.
- Behemoth: The History of the Causes of the Civil Wars of England, and the Councils and Artifices by Which They Were Carried on from the Year 1640 to the Year 1660 by Thomas Hobbes
- Thomas Hobbes – Behemoth (Clarendon edition)
- Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
- Killers of the King by Earl Spencer
- Prince Rupert: The Last Cavalier by Earl Spencer
- Charles I and the People of England by David Cressy
- Cromwell, Our Chief of Men by Lady Antonia Fraser
- Civil War London by David Flintham