by DJ Webb
It is interesting to see some parallels between the government of England under the English Commonwealth in the 1650s and the revolutionary constitutional settlement being gradually established in recent years. One thing I have just noticed is the parallel with the second chamber of Parliament.
The intention of recent constitutional changes is that the revising chamber should not consist of the landed interest, people who have dominated the country for centuries, but should be cronies, appointed purely on the basis of their support for the constitutional revolution.
Cromwell’s Other House was established in 1656 as a check on the Lower House, as one of the provisions of the Humble Petition. Cromwell refused to adopt the title of king in the draft of the Humble Petition, but accepted the other proposals in May 1656, giving him the title of Lord Protector, providing for Parliaments every three years, and for him to nominated 40-70 members for life, with a quorum of 21.
Interestingly, most of the peers refused to sit in the Other House, apart from one, and Cromwell had difficulty finding enough appointees to accept the positions (a difficulty not encountered today, where senior people are all too eager to angle for life peerages). So the Wikipedia article tells us of the 63 people nominated by Cromwell, only 42 accepted the positions.
The Other House lasted for less than three years, and was finally dissolved in April 1659. The intention of English Common Law, that the Crown, the House of Commons and the House of Lords should balance each other, and each should be constituted according to time-honoured common-law principles, has been badly traduced. I cannot regard those accepting life peerages as honourable people, and I would like to see all legislation since the introduction of “life peerages” called into question in a new constitution setup.