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Instrument of Government

Instrument of Government. The written constitution under which Oliver Cromwell became lord protector on 16 December 1653. Its author was Major-General Lambert, who had never approved of Barebone's Parliament and helped to engineer its abdication on 12 December. Like the army's earlier Heads of the Proposals, which he had helped to draft, the Instrument was a prescription for limited monarchy, and it originally named Cromwell as king. Cromwell declined the crown, but eventually accepted authority as protector under the instrument's terms.

These were that he should govern by the advice of a council, whose members it named and who were not dismissible at pleasure. On his death the council was to elect his successor. Legislative power was vested in a single-chamber parliament representing England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland and elected at least every three years on a property franchise. Bills must be submitted to the protector for his consent, but could become law without it if they did not contravene the instrument itself. He was to have sufficient revenue for the navy, an army of 30,000, and £200,000 a year for civil government, but for any more he must come to Parliament. A national church was to be maintained, but with freedom of worship for protestant dissenters.

Austin Woolrych

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