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The Long Parliament

John Pym - Prominent leader of the English Parliament and architect of Parliament’s victory over the King.

The Long Parliament. — Parliament met in November 1640. The King was at its mercy. The Parliament was determined, first to punish the King's councillors and, secondly, to make absolute government by the monarch impossible.

Led by Pym and Hampden, the Commons impeached Wentworth ( now Earl of Strafford ) and Laud. Strafford was charged with treason, but the evidence was weak, and the impeachment was exchanged for a Bill of Attainder. The agreement of the Lords and the King was compelled, by fear of popular violence, and Strafford was executed on 12th May 1641.

Acts were passed forbidding all the unconstitutional methods of taxation employed by the King. Other acts suppressed all the extraordinary courts which had been the most effective weapons of the Crown, the Star Chamber, the Council of the North, the Council of Wales and the Court of High Commission. An act was passed to ensure that Parliament should never again be suspended for more than three years. It was also enacted that the existing Parliament should not be dissolved without its own consent. Upon ecclesiastical questions there was no agreement.

A bill to abolish the episcopacy was brought into the Commons, but went no further. A bill to remove the bishops from Parliament passed the Commons, but was lost in the Lords. Many desired the tolerance of Puritan scruples about rites and ceremonies, while some would have liked to abolish the Book of Common Prayer.

None were prepared to grant unlimited freedom of conscience which was to be a dream for many years to come.

In September 1641 Charles visited Scotland in the futile hope of conciliating all parties in that country. Before his return a rebellion broke out in Ireland. Its causes were national sentiment, the hatred inspired by the policy of plantation and fear for the Catholic religion. Strafford's death, and the disbandment of the army which he had formed, gave the opportunity.

Beginning in Ulster, the revolt soon spread over most of Ireland and was marked by great cruelty. Military intervention was necessary but to raise armies and appoint commanders was the King's privilege and Parliament dared not trust the King with an army.

The John Pym published the Grand Remonstrance which recited all the crimes of his reign, real or imaginary, and ended with a petition for the appointment of ministers whom Parliament could trust. The Remonstrance was only passed by a majority of 11. From this time the division of parties in Parliament was irreconcilable.

The King in his reply claimed full freedom to choose his advisers. Later his personal attempt to arrest five members, Pym, Hampden, Holles, Hazlerigg and Strode, on a charge of treason embittered the conflict. In order, however, to gain time to send the Queen to Europe, he agreed to a bill for the exclusion of the bishops from the House of Lords. When she was gone he proceeded to York, where many of the northern nobility and gentry enthusiastically came to his support.

There followed an interchange of manifestos ending with the Nineteen Propositions in which the Parliament claimed, amongst other things, that its official approval should be necessary for the appointment of privy councillors, ministers of state and chiefs of the courts of common law. The King refused these demands.

Both parties prepared for war and the King raised his standard at Nottingham on 22 August 1642.


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