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The National Archives Civil War
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Why did Britain become a republic?

Case study 2: New government - Source 2

Simplified transcript

An account of the setting up of the Commonwealth in 1649

(By permission of Taylor & Francis: Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson, by his widow Lucy, published by George Routledge, 1906, pp. 272-3)

After the death of the king it was debated and decided to change the form of government from monarchy to commonwealth. The House of Lords was voted dangerous and useless, and ended. A council of State was to be chosen annually for the management of affairs, accountable to the Parliament. It would consist of forty councillors and a president. Twenty of these would step down every year, and twenty new ones come in. It is true, at that time almost every man fancied a form of government, and was angry, when this came out, that his own ideas didn't take place. Among these, John Lilburne, a wild, spirited man, who never was quiet in anything, published criticisms. The Levellers made a disturbance with a kind of rebellion, which Cromwell soon calmed, the Levellers being betrayed by their own leaders.

Cromwell finished the conquest of Ireland. The angry Presbyterians spit fire out of their pulpits and tried to stir up the people against the Parliament. They entered into a plot of treason with Scotland, which had now received and crowned the son of the late king. He led them here in a great army, but God upset their plans. Our ministers were murdered in Spain and Holland. The Dutch, in these unsettled affairs, hoped to gain by making war, but they were beaten and had to ask for peace. But how public business went on, I shall leave to the stories that were written then, and only in general say that the hand of God was seen in benefiting and saving the Parliament until Cromwell's ambition unhappily interrupted them.