April 20

1653

Oliver Cromwell dissolves the Rump Parliament

“You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately … Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!” With these words General Oliver Cromwell ordered the English Parliament, called “the Rump” because it was all that remained after the last legitimate Parliament elected in 1640 had been purged of dissident members, disbanded at the point of the sword.

The Rump had been instrumental in reshaping the religious landscape of Britain. They had abolished the requirement that all worship must be in an Anglican church, allowing some other forms of Protestantism to flourish while cracking down on extremists such as Quakers and Ranters. They mandated a government license to preach and tried to enforce sexual morality with stiff penalties against adultery or fornication.

On April 20, 1653, when it seemed as if the Rump would not honour its pledge to dissolve itself Cromwell dismissed them with a troop of soldiers and hard words:

It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice. Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government. Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money. Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse. Gold is your God. Which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. You were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance. Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God’s help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do.

I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place. Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there [the Speaker’s Mace] , and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!

The body that Cromwell appointed to replace the Rump was supposed to be filled only by godly Puritans; it came to be known as “Barebone’s Parliament” after one its more famous members, Praise-God-and-Flee-Fornication Barebones (brother of the equally wonderfully-named Fear-God Barebones or, according to another source, Rise-Up-and-Tell-the-Glory-of-Emmanuel Barebones or, according to yet another source, Christ-Came-Into-The-World-To-Save-Thee Barebone and If-Christ-Had-Not-Died, Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Barebone. The latter was known locally simply as Damned Barebone).

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