Friday, 15 November 2013

Cromwell versus Walpole Parts 3& 4: Cromwell, you are not the Father. Also wooo Government.

I'm going to bundle these last two parts together so that I can actually get back to writing things I enjoy. I mean, this has all been written since May but shut up I have a system Ok?

Returning to the issues that plagued the downfall of the office of Lord Protector, it is important to understand that Cromwell was never legitimately recognised as leader. 1653's Instrument of Government, which named Cromwell as Lord Protector, never gained (or attempted to gain) political or civilian support; following the forced dismissal of the Rump Parliament in April 1653, Cromwell's power was based entirely on the force of the army. When the First Protectorate Parliament was called in September 1654, the wide political spectrum it encompassed, from Republicans to Royalist sympathisers, united in condemning the Instrument of Government; opposite to Cromwell's desire to have them register his numerous drafted ordinances composed in the nine months between the acceptance of the Instrument and the Parliamentary. Many felt that the office of Lord Protector that had been created for him, and that 'Lord Protector' was essentially another word for 'King', despite his compromise in rejecting the title of 'King Oliver' -offered as part of the later Humble Petition. A letter to Richard Mayor was signed 'Your loving brother, Oliver P'[1], or 'Oliver, Protector', in a similar manner to how a monarch would sign off his letters. It is easy to understand why Oliver's position as head of government worried the political nation,  signing his letters off in a similar manner to a King.

            Following the failure of the Instrument of Government, Cromwell sought a more constitutionally viable alternative, offered to him in the Humble Petition and Advice of 1657. A limit to the Protector's powers, a restored Upper House in Parliament, and a Privy Council were all proposed. Unlike the Instrument of Government, the Humble Petition and Advice would be regarded as legitimate, having been composed with the backing of the New Cromwellians in Parliament, rather than the army's Instrument. The issue came with the length of time between the presentation of the Petition to Cromwell, and his acceptance. By the time he accepted a modified version of the Petition in May, Cromwell had little more than a year to secure its position as being a legitimate direction for Government before his death.

            This meant that when Richard Cromwell inherited the office of Lord Protector, an office designed purely around his father's steadfast personality, it soon collapsed. Their personalities were excruciatingly different as noted by the Prince de Conti in 1660: 'Well that Oliver, tho' he was a traitor and a villain, was a brave man, had great parts, great courage, and was worthy to command; but that Richard, that coxcomb and poltroon, was surely the basest fellow alive; what is become of that fool?'[2], further proof that his contemporaries viewed him as being unable to rule. After the army turned on him in 1659 the concept of the Humble Petition and the office of Lord Protector was abandoned, being declared unsuccessful, Parliament struggled to find a more apt solution to the lack of leadership than inviting back the exiled Charles Stuart on tantalising terms, restoring the monarchy to its position in 1649, bar the looming threat of Civil War.

            Yet again, the development of the office of Prime Minister completely contrasts the development of the role of Lord Protector, in that it's development was sanctioned, however unwillingly, by the monarchs following the Interregnum, giving it legitimacy. For William of Orange to usurp the throne of his father-in-law, James II,  he had to compromise with the Parliaments in 1688's Glorious Revolution, removing the concept of having a King being placed on the throne by Divine Right, but through constitutional allowance. The Parliaments were fairly lenient with the terms of the Bill of Rights, placing relatively few restrictions on the monarch; where William wanted the English throne to antagonise the French, the Whigs of Parliament wanted to be rid of the Catholic ruler, fearing that he may begin to antagonise the Protestant population. Parliament could, however, disapprove of actions and limit powers (such as the power of the veto after William's death in 1702) as they consensually saw fit. The New Chartists described the Bill of Rights role aptly, saying that it 'shifted the absolute power of the monarch into the hands of the parliamentary oligarchy’[3], and of course William and Mary accepted this shift as a necessary sacrifice to take the English throne from the Catholic James.

            The only point of Wilkinson's argument I agree with is his acknowledgment of the important role that Anne had to play in the development of the modern monarchy, saying that 'she formed the link between Stuart personal rule and the Whig monopoly of power under Walpole which ushered in the age of constitutional monarchy.'[4]. She happily took a backseat approach to politics, allowing her ministers to take a key role in the direction of Government policy. With the nature of her successor having already been organised by Parliament before her ascension to the English throne, there was little for her to be concerned over. The issues of her personal life, such as her friendship with the Duchess of Marlborough and the death of her husband in 1708 were far more important to her, and therefore her ministers and Parliament were forced to take control of the affairs of the country. Her rare input was never ignored, admittedly, but it was so rare that the two party system that would give rise to Walpole was allowed to flourish and debate over legislation and lines of policy, with key ministerial figures being chosen not necessarily by the ruler, but by the party they represented.
           Where Anne had taken a backseat approach to British politics, George I practically encouraged his ministers to take control, granting them-and more importantly Walpole, the powers that essentially equated to the office of Prime Minister: First Lord of the Treasury, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Leader of the House of Commons, the first appointment being gained in 1721. Walpole didn't need to commit regicide or use army force to gain power, he had the backing of a Whig majority Parliament and the ability to manoeuvre domestic affairs without causing too much discontent.

            Before and after Cromwell, the monarch was able to remove ministers as they saw fit. However, the numerous sacrifices of power in the years between Cromwell and Walpole is evidenced most clearly by George II's reign. Despite his disdain for Walpole he was left with little choice but to retain him. Walpole had a huge backing in Parliament, and whilst it was technically in his power to remove Walpole, it meant that nothing would pass in Parliament, as the powers granted to Parliament through the Glorious Revolution ensured that the monarch couldn't force acts through Parliament, and the loss of the right to veto meant that he could do little to stop those that he disagreed with. This opinion is validated by Jeremy Black, who states that 'it was expedient to keep the minister [Walpole] if he wanted to enjoy parliamentary support'[5]. This is a far cry from Cromwell, who only kept himself in office not through willing compromises by the power holders, but through fear of the army that backed him. Parliament, not the army, and not the monarch, was in charge of who remained in the office of Prime Minister.

            If one final point is to be made concerning the differences between the office of Prime Minister and Lord Protector, you need only look to the manner in which their holders lost office. Cromwell died, and his hereditary office was passed on to his previously discussed son. Walpole, however resigned in 1742 with the rise of the Tories in Parliament and the widespread belief that the aging Walpole was unable to sustain a military campaign following pressure to enter the War of Jenkin's Ear against the Spanish. Therefore, he resigned from office before he was forced. Because he resigned with no formal way to replace him, the Parliament chose a candidate for George II's next Prime Minister, filling the power vacuum that had been left behind. Walpole's successor was the Whig, Spencer Compton, whose poor health led to a weak and short time in office. His successor, Pelham, cemented the vital nature of the newly created office, by orchestrating the British side of the War of Austrian Succession, and then the later peace talks.

            To summarise, Cromwell's moves in creating the office of Lord Protector were too many, and too quickly implemented. His policies highlighted his contradictory nature which meant that no political group could securely support his position. That, and the fact that his office lacked any real legitimacy, ensured that when his weak successor Richard took the office of Lord Protector that it wouldn't be long until further alternatives were sought, eventually leading to the restoration of the wily Charles II. In contrast, the development of the office of Prime Minister was a long process, brought about by the increase in the role of ministers and the sanctioned decrease in monarchical power, allowing the rise of the two party system to the point where the monarch had little control over who their ministers- traditionally favourites- would be. Therefore, when Walpole lost office due to Parliamentary pressure in 1742, the two party system could choose someone to take his place in the King's cabinet.


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The New Chartists were a political group in 1998, who called for a new Bill of Rights as the 1688 edition did little to establish the rights of the populace
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[5] Black, J. Georges I & II: Limited Monarchs. Published in History Today Volume 5, Issue 2 2011 [online]
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