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111. THE INSTRUMENT OF GOVERNMENT (1653)

The government of the commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the dominions thereunto belonging.

1. That the supreme legislative authority of the commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the dominions thereunto belonging, shall be and reside in one person and the people assembled in parliament; the style of which person shall be the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

2. That the exercise of the chief magistracy and the administration of the government over the said countries and dominions, and the people thereof, shall be in the lord protector, assisted with a council, the number whereof shall not exceed twenty-one nor be less than thirteen.

3. That all writs, process, commissions, patents, grants, and other things, which now run in the name and style of the keepers of the liberty of England by authority of parliament, shall run in the name and style of the lord protector; from whom, for the future, shall be derived all magistracy and honours in these three nations. And [he shall] have the power of pardons, except in case of murders and treason, and benefit of all forfeitures for the public use; and shall govern the said countries and dominions in all things by the advice of the council, and according to these presents and the laws.

4. That the lord protector, the parliament sitting, shall dispose and order the militia and forces, both by sea and land, for the peace and good of the three nations by consent of parliament; and that the lord protector, with the advice and consent of the major part of the council, shall dispose and order the militia for the ends aforesaid in the intervals of parliament.

5. That the lord protector, by the advice aforesaid, shall direct in all things concerning the keeping and holding of a good correspondency with foreign kings, princes, and states; and also, with the consent of the major part of the council, have the power of war and peace.

6. That the laws shall not be altered, suspended, abrogated, or repealed, nor any new law made, nor any tax, charge, or imposition laid upon the people, but by common consent in parliament, save only as is expressed in the thirtieth article.

7. That there shall be a parliament summoned to meet at Westminster upon the 3rd day of September, 1654, and that successively a parliament shall be summoned once in every third year, to be accounted from the dissolution of the present parliament.

8. That neither the parliament to be next summoned nor any successive parliaments shall, during the time of five months to be accounted from the day of their first meeting, be adjourned, prolonged, or dissolved, without their own consent.

9. That as well the next as all other successive parliaments shall be summoned and elected in manner hereafter expressed: that is to say, the persons to be chosen within England, Wales, the isles of Jersey, Guernsey, and the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed to sit and serve in parliament shall be, and not exceed, the number of 400; the persons to be chosen within Scotland ... the number of 30; and the persons to be chosen ... for Ireland ... the number of 30.

10. That the persons to be elected to sit in parliament from time to time ... shall be according to the proportions and numbers hereafter expressed....[1]

14. That all and every person and persons who have aided, advised, assisted, or abetted in any war against parliament since the first day of January, 1641 — unless they have been since in the service of the parliament and given signal testimony of their good affection thereunto — shall be disabled and incapable to be elected or to give any vote in the election of any members to serve in the next parliament or in the three succeeding triennial parliaments.

15. That all such who have advised, assisted, or abetted the rebellion of Ireland shall be disabled and incapable forever to be elected or give any vote in the election of any member to serve in parliament; as also all such who do or shall profess the Roman Catholic religion....

17. That the persons who shall be elected to serve in parliament shall be such, and no other than such, as are persons of known integrity, fearing God, and of good conversation, and being of the age of twenty-one years.

18. That all and every person and persons seised or possessed to his own use, of any estate, real or personal, to the value of 200, and not within the aforesaid exceptions, shall be capable to elect members to serve in parliament for counties....[2]

23. That the lord protector, with the advice of the major part of the council, shall at any other time than is before expressed, when the necessities of the state shall require it, summon parliaments in manner before expressed; which shall not be adjourned, prorogued, or dissolved without their own consent during the first three months of their sitting. And in case of future war with any foreign state a parliament shall be forthwith summoned for their advice concerning the same.

24. That all bills agreed unto by the parliament shall be presented to the lord protector for his consent; and in case he shall not give his consent thereto within twenty days after they shall be presented to him, or give satisfaction to the parliament within the time limited, that then, upon declaration of the parliament that the lord protector hath not consented nor given satisfaction, such bills shall pass into and become laws, although he shall not give his consent thereunto — provided such bills contain nothing in them contrary to the matters contained in these presents.

25. That Henry Lawrence [and 14 others] ... , or any seven of them, shall be a council for the purposes expressed in this writing. And upon the death or other removal of any of them, the parliament shall nominate six persons of ability, integrity, and fearing God, for every one that is dead or removed, out of which the major part of the council shall elect two, and present them to the lord protector, of which he shall elect one.... And in case of corruption or other miscarriage in any of the council in their trust, the parliament shall appoint seven of their number, and the council six, who, together with the lord chancellor, lord keeper, or commissioners of the great seal for the time being, shall have power to hear and determine such corruption and miscarriage, and to award and inflict punishment, as the nature of the offence shall deserve; which punishment shall not be pardoned or remitted by the lord protector....

26. That the lord protector and the major part of the council aforesaid may, at any time before the meeting of the next parliament, add to the council such persons as they shall think fit, provided the number of the council be not made thereby to exceed twenty-one, and the quorum to be proportioned accordingly by the lord protector and the major part of the council.

27. That a constant yearly revenue shall be raised, settled, and established for maintaining of 10,000 horse and dragoons and 20,000 foot in England, Scotland, and Ireland, for the defence and security thereof; and also for a convenient number of ships for guarding of the seas; besides 200,000 per annum for defraying the other necessary charges of administration of justice and other expenses of the government — which revenue shall be raised by the customs, and such other ways and means as shall be agreed upon by the lord protector and the council, and shall not be taken away or diminished, nor the way agreed upon for raising the same altered, but by the consent of the lord protector and the parliament.

28. That the said yearly revenue shall be paid into the public treasury, and shall be issued out for the uses aforesaid....

30. That the raising of money for defraying the charge of the present extraordinary forces both at sea and land, in respect of the present wars, shall be by consent of parliament and not otherwise; save only that the lord protector, with the consent of the major part of the council, for preventing the disorders and dangers which might otherwise fall out both by sea and land, shall have power, until the meeting of the first parliament, to raise money for the purposes aforesaid; and also to make laws and ordinances for the peace and welfare of these nations where it shall be necessary, which shall be binding and in force until order shall be taken in parliament concerning the same....

32. That the office of lord protector over these nations shall be elective and not hereditary and, upon the death of the lord protector, another fit person shall be forthwith elected to succeed him in the government; which election shall be by the council.... And until the aforesaid election be past, the council shall take care of the government and administer in all things as fully as the lord protector, or the lord protector and council, are enabled to do.

33. That Oliver Cromwell, captain-general of the forces of England, Scotland, and Ireland, shall be and is hereby declared to be lord protector of the commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the dominions thereto belonging, for his life.

34. That the chancellor, keeper or commissioners of the great seal, the treasurer, admiral, chief governors of Ireland and Scotland, and the chief justices of both the benches, shall be chosen by the approbation of parliament; and, in the intervals of parliament, by the approbation of the major part of the council, to be afterwards approved by the parliament.

35. That the Christian religion, as contained in the Scriptures, be held forth and recommended as the public profession of these nations; and that, as soon as may be, a provision less subject to scruple and contention, and more certain than the present, be made for the encouragement and maintenance of able and painful teachers, for instructing the people, and for discovery and confutation of error, heresy, and whatever is contrary to sound doctrine; and that, until such provision be made, the present maintenance shall not be taken away nor impeached.

36. That to the public profession held forth none shall be compelled by penalties or otherwise; but that endeavours be used to win them by sound doctrine and the example of a good conversation.

37. That such as profess faith in God by Jesus Christ, though differing in judgment from the doctrine, worship, or discipline publicly held forth, shall not be restrained from, but shall be protected in, the profession of the faith and exercise of their religion; so as they abuse not this liberty to the civil injury of others and to the actual disturbance of the public peace on their parts; provided this liberty be not extended to popery nor prelacy, nor to such as, under the profession of Christ, hold forth and practice licentiousness....

41. That every successive lord protector over these nations shall take and subscribe a solemn oath, in the presence of the council and such others as they shall call to them, that he will seek the peace, quiet, and welfare of these nations, cause law and justice to be equally administered, and that he will not violate or infringe the matters and things contained in this writing, and in all other things will, to his power and to the best of his understanding, govern these nations according to the laws, statutes, and customs thereof.

42. That each person of the council shall, before they enter upon their trust, take and subscribe an oath, that they will be true and faithful in their trust, according to the best of their knowledge, and that in the election of every successive lord protector they shall proceed therein impartially, and do nothing therein for any promise, fear, favour, or reward.

Ibid., II, 813 f.


[1] From one to thirteen members are assigned to each shire and borough of England and Wales. The allotment of representation in Scotland and Ireland is left to the protector and his council. The following articles deal with electoral procedure and the duties of local officials.

[2] The next four articles provide detailed rules for the summoning of parliament or its meeting in default of such summons.


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