Assess the View That Cromwell Was Principally to Blame for the Parliamentary Difficulties in the 1650s.

January 31, 2017/ Free Online/ 0 comments

Assess the view that Cromwell was principally to blame for the parliamentary difficulties in the 1650s.

For Cromwell to be principally to blame for the parliamentary difficulties in this period, the case must be that in each parliament discussed in the passages given, Cromwell was the main reason for the problems of that period. Roots passage does not seem to support that argument; it argues that Cromwell lost patience with the Rump parliament, however does not give a direct reason for this. Instead, Roots gives examples of behaviour that seemed inappropriate by the standards of the time, that being ???[rumours] of a bill that would provide for Rumpers to sit automatically in any new assembly. This discussion appears in each of the passages, i.e. Cromwell lost patience; there is however debate on this point because all parliaments had their own vested interests and it was the challenge facing Cromwell to tie together the conflicting interests of a presbeterian dominated parliament with a radical army and a country desperate to return to normality, however the parliament in question were at fault for creating problems. From this, as will be shown later, we can conclude that the blame for the difficulties will inevitably be shared, however we can also conclude that none of the passages successfully answers the question without being analysed and used to come to a conclusion.
From the passages however, it could be argued that Cromwell made a mistake in dissolving the Rump with force (i.e. using the army), as this delegitimized any following parliament, and since no bill that would shine a bad light on the Rump ever actually appeared, Cromwell can be seen to be at fault here. This could be drawn from Roots??™ passage, when he says ???Troops were called in and the members bundled out as Cromwell complained that it was all their fault???, and by mentioning this military action Roots does a more persuasive job of answering the question than the other authors who do not mention how further parliaments were dissolved; this is because Roots gives a direct example in the form of the military action that was taken of how Cromwell caused problems, i.e. further parliaments would fear this action and it would cause unnecessary pressure on parliamentary members. However, while this bills existence cannot be confirmed, there is no doubt that the members of the Rump delayed the parliaments existence for too long, as Cromwell did have to use military force to ensure its demise. At this point, it seems that from Roots argument can be drawn some strong evidence in favour of the ???Cromwell not to blame??? argument, however one could still argue that the Rump in itself was a problem that Cromwell could be blamed for, because the difficulties within that parliament regarding how long it existed for could well be the fault of Cromwell, as he played such a large role in the execution of the king and was therefore was partially responsible for troubles that arose as a result of the following parliaments, for example the conservative ??“ radical split that existed in both the Barebones parliament and the Second Protectorate Parliament. Therefore it seems that Roots argument in response to the interpretation in question is less persuasive than Hills and Cowards, as both of their passages discuss this split between MPs and together cover a larger range of the period.
A theme which presents itself across each passage is that of religion, as Cromwell undoubtedly saw all of his responsibilities as a leader as Godly, seen in most of his speeches. In terms of addressing this theme as a cause of difficulties, if we were to group the passages from Coward and Macinnes, the argument they put forward is far more persuasive than either Roots or Hill. This is because they both make the point that on the issue of religion, the blame can only be shared between Cromwell and the MPs that caused difficulties, whereas Hill and Roots fail to address this, whether it be in the Naylor case or the disagreement over religious liberties between Cromwell and the FPP MPs. For example, by saying: ???what worried [Cromwell] deeply was that…this was yet another indication of the alarming discrepancy between himself and the opinion represented in parliament about the extent of religious liberty that could reasonably be allowed,??? Coward provides support for the argument against the one in question by implying the blame is shared, as does Macinnes by saying: ???while [MPs] shared with Cromwell…a desire to preserve a broad, established Church of England, they were less convinced about tolerating a generous freedom of worship.??? These statements are proven true by Cromwells publicised dispute with those who punished Naylor so severely and in Cromwells speech at the dissolution of the FPP, where he criticises them for ???Dissettlement and division, discontent and dissatisfaction,??? therefore on this theme Coward and Macinnes do a more persuasive job of answering the question.
Christopher Hills interpretation of the difficulties regarding the Barebones parliament can be linked Roots interpretation by the fact that Hills passage on the whole also seems to support the argument that Cromwell was not to blame for the difficulties. Hill clearly sees the MPs in parliament as part of the problem as does Roots, however Hills reasoning for them being part of the problem is more persuasive, as Hill mentions other contemporary figures that agreed with the idea of these MPs being a cause of difficulties at the time, for example the army and conservative MPs. There is evidence for this being the case in the fact that the attendance at votes from July ??“ October 1653 fell by half, whereas the only evidence Roots uses to support his point is the fact that there might have been a bill that would discredit the Rump. Therefore, in terms of arguing against the interpretation in question, Hills passage does a more convincing job that Roots.
Although the consistency of Cromwells failure to create a successful parliament seems apparent, we must remember that consistent problems in parliament lie outside of Cromwells control as well, for example the conservative ??“ radical split between MPs that is also apparent in the James Naylor incident which is mentioned by Coward in his passage; many believed that Naylor was punished too severely including Cromwell ??“ others did not. Either way, that stood out as a difficulty that many would argue was out of Cromwells control, in which case Cowards and Hills passages are useful when addressing this line of argument, more so than any of the other passages because they directly addresses the fact that religious intolerance could cause problems: ???This…was a fear that was not new; indeed Cromwell had lived with it since at least 1644 when his quarrel with the earl of Manchester had brought home to him the possible implications of Presbyterian intolerance,??? and ???The conservative MPs in 1653 were upset by the radicals reforming programme.??? Hill suggests this well because he gives examples of other contemporary groups that agreed with this argument, as previously mentioned, and Cowards suggestion also has credibility because, as he mentions, Cromwell himself regarded the Naylor case as something which was significant a difficulty enough for ???parliament [to stand] in need of a check or balancing power.??? This could be used to argue against the interpretation in question, because they suggest that religious intolerance in parliaments acted as a major cause of difficulty that lay outside of Cromwells control, who whilst at fault for this, for example having used force to expel the Rump which led to illegitimacy of later parliaments, was not at fault for the difficulties because he set out a leadership style that several parliaments did not abide by. However, Cowards passage discusses this more directly, and therefore does a better job of answering the question at this stage.
Regardless of who Coward truly believed was to blame for these difficulties, he supports strongly the idea of the intolerance of some MPs and their refusal to accept Cromwells leadership style being a reason for the difficulties in the Second Protectorate Parliament: ???What worried him deeply about what had happened was that, like the Biddle case earlier, this was yet another indication of the alarming discrepancy between himself and the opinion represented in parliament.??? This argument can also be seen in the passage from Macinnes, however Coward does a better job of supporting the idea that Cromwell was not to blame for the difficulties due to this, because Macinnes suggests that despite the blame being shared at the time of the FPP, Cromwell was also at fault because he ???[was] intent on intimidation and self-glorification.??? This fear of intolerance could also be the reason why Cromwell rejected the Crown and the First Humble Petition, implying that Coward??™s argument is seen across the period, that being that Cromwell was not principally to blame as he simply did his best to deal with issues that were always going to exist in that parliament, specifically the intolerance of MPs. This is further evidence that Cowards argument does a better job of answering the question than Macinnes because it is more supportive of one side of the argument. Futhermore, during the second session of the SPP, ???those MPs??? showed again their intolerance in their reaction to Cromwell??™s nomination of some members to his ???other house???. In this case, the problem was certainly started and ended by Cromwell, however he did what he did for fear of a Leveller??™s revival, and it seems fair to say that in his position of power, should he fear an uprising from his assembly, the difficulties that come as a result are not his fault.
Macinnes makes a valid point relating to Cromwells ???self-glorification???, which would suggest that his passage in one aspect is more persuasive than any others as it makes a point that no others do, stating that the FPP were assembled in order to commemorate a war victory, which could be used to support the argument that the difficulties of the time were mainly the fault of Cromwell, because at the time it seems that the parliamentarians were the ones who wished to change the situation for the better; as mentioned in Macinnes source, they saw a problem in Cromwells ???control of the army [and] his effective veto over constitutional change???. This being the case, Macinnes seems to make a valid point which points to Cromwell being principally to blame for these particular parliamentary difficulties. However, there is no real continuity across the period in this argument; parliament had other quarrels with Cromwell in each of the different parliaments in question, such as the issue of religious liberty. Instead, the continuity lies in the intolerance of parliament to accept Cromwells leadership style, a problem suggested by all of the other authors. Secondly, Macinnes states that Cromwell had a ???veto over constitutional change???, which were this true would mean Cromwell was at fault regarding these difficulties. However, during the short space of time that the FPP existed, Cromwell presented the parliament with 84 bills for ratification and succeeded in abolishing rotten boroughs. Not only this, but if we look forward we see Cromwell also attempted to solve the problems of the SPP with constitutional change, for example he intended to bring back the House of Lords, as mentioned by Coward (implying he addresses this difficulty more effectively than Macinnes). Therefore, since we cannot directly put the blame for these parliamentary difficulties down to one person or group of people, we must assess Cromwells true intentions, which based on the consistency of his leadership style seem sound.
In conclusion, although Cromwell cannot be completely omitted from fault, since he is the common denominator in each of these parliaments that undergo difficulties, there are also consistent themes that cause difficulties that lay outside of Cromwells control, and since on the whole it seems that Cromwell chose the pragmatic, often successful way of solving these difficulties, and since the passages that support this argument do so more successfully than those which do not, it seems that Cromwell was not in fact principally to blame for the parliamentary difficulties, but instead the blame was shared.

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