Humble Petition and Advice

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Humble Petition and Advice. The second written constitution of the Protectorate, formulated by its second Parliament early in 1657. Originally, its main purpose was to make Cromwell king, but it also proposed a new second chamber (‘the other house’), to be nominated by him. Other innovations were that no member of either House could be excluded (as many MPs had been in 1656) except by that House's own decision, that the appointment and removal of privy counsellors were subject to Parliament's approval, and that the regular revenue was precisely stated (£1,900,000 was finally agreed). The established church was to have a confession of faith, and the bounds of toleration outside it were more strictly defined.

Cromwell was much drawn to a constitution bearing Parliament's authority, the Instrument of Government having only the army's, but he was asked to accept all of it or none, and he did not want the crown. Skilfully, he protracted negotiations for six weeks, until Parliament agreed to let him have the new constitution with the old title. The succession problem was settled by empowering him to name his own successor.

Austin Woolrych