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THE FOURTH VOLUME.
FROM THE DEATH OF KING CHARLES I. TO THE CORONATION OF KING CHARLES II. IN SCOTLAND. 1648.
Upon the death of the late king, the legal constitution was dissolved, and all that followed till the restoration of king Charles II. was no better than a usurpation under different shapes; the house of commons, if it may deserve that name, after it had been purged of a third part of its members,* relying upon the act of continuation, called themselves the supreme authority of the nation, and began with an act to disinherit the prince of Wales, forbidding all persons to proclaim him king of England, on pain of high-treason. The house of lords was voted useless; and the office of a king unnecessary, burdensome, and dangerous. The form of government for the future was declared to be a free commonwealth; the executive power lodged in the hands of a council of state of forty persons,t with full powers to take care of the whole administration for one year; new keepers of the great seal were appointed, from whom the judges received their commissions, with the name, style, and title, of, custodes libertatis Anglice authoritate parliamenti; i. e. keepers of the liberties of England by authority of par
# According to Ecbard, not above a fifth part of the commons were left. On account of the reduced and mutilated state of the house, they were called the Rump Parliament. This name was first given to them by Walker, the author of the History of Independency, by way of derision, in allusion to a fowl, all devoured but the rump; and they were compared to a man who would never cease to whet and whet his knife, till there was no steel left to make it useful.” Dr. Grey, and Rapid.--Ed.
† According to Whitelocke, who gives their names, the council consisted of thirtyeight persons only.-- ED.
liament. The coin was stamped on one side with the arms of England between a laurel and a palm, with this inscription, " The Commonwealth of England;" and on the other, a cross and harp, with this motto, “ God with us."* The oaths of allegiance and supremacy were abolished, and a new one appointed, called the Engagement, which was, to be true and faithful to the government established, without king or house of peers. Such as refused the oath were declared incapable of holding any place or office of trust in the commonwealth; but as many of the excluded members of the house of commons as would take it, resumed their places.
Such was the foundation of this new constitution, which had neither the consent of the people of England, nor of their representatives in a free parliament. “And if ever there was a usurped government mutilated, and founded only in violence (says Rapint), it was that of this parliament.” But though it was unsupported by any other power than that of the army, it was carried on with the most consummate wisdom, resolution, and success, till the same military power that set it up, was permitted by Divine Providence with equal violence to pull it down.
The new commonwealth in its infant state met with opr position from divers quarters: the levellers in the army gave out, that the people had only changed their yoke, not shaken it off; and that the Rump's little finger (for so the house of commons was now called) would be heavier than the king's loins. The agitators therefore petitioned the house to dissolve themselves, that new representatives might be chosen. The commons, alarmed at these proceed; ings, ordered their general officers to cashier the petitioners, and break their swords over their heads, which was done accordingly. But when the forces passed under a general review at Ware, their friends in the army agreed to distinguish themselves by wearing something white in their hats ;£ which Cromwell having some intelligence of beforehand, commanded two regiments of horse who were not in the secret, to surround one of the regiments of foot; and having condemned four of the ringleaders in a council of war, he commanded two of them to be shot to death by
;• * On which a man of wit observed, “ that God and the commonwealth were not both on a side.” Dr. Grey.-Ed. † Vol. 2. p. 573, folio.
# Whitelocke, p. 387. 389.