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major-generals, rule of the

major-generals, rule of the. The division of England into twelve military districts, each under the direct rule of a major-general, was in part a consequence of the breakdown of the Instrument of Government, in part Cromwell's response to Penruddock's rising in March 1655. The emergency measure was deeply resented by many of the local gentry, the natural rulers of the shires, and the major-generals were bitterly attacked as men of low birth. Others disliked the attempt to impose laws against immorality and irreligion. As soon as a Parliament was called in January 1657, it refused to provide funds for the scheme and a search for a new government settlement began. Though the regime of the major-generals was neither as ruthless nor as effective as has been suggested, it stayed in the national mind as a dire warning against army rule and religious fanaticism.

J. A. Cannon

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