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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


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 resolved to change the form of government from monarchical into commonwealth, and the house of lords was voted dangerous and useless thereunto, and dissolved. A council of state was to be annually chosen for the management of affairs, accountable to the parliament, out of which, consisting of forty councillors and a president, twenty were every year to go off by lot, and twenty new ones to be supplied. It is true, at that time every man almost was fancying a form of government, and angry, when this came forth, that his invention took not place; and among these John Lilburne, a turbulent, spirited man, that never was quiet in anything, published libels; and the levellers made a disturbance with a kind of insurrection which Cromwell soon appeased, they indeed being betrayed by their own leaders.

But how the public business went on, how Cromwell finished the conquest of Ireland, how the angry presbyterians spit fire out of their pulpits, and endeavoured to blow up the people against the parliament, how they entered into a treasonable conspiracy with Scotland, who had now received and crowned the son of the late king, who led them in hither in a great army, which the Lord of hosts discomfited; how our ministers were assassinated and murdered in Spain and Holland; and how the Dutch, in this unsettlement of affairs hoped to gain by making war, wherein they were beaten and brought to sue for peace,- I shall leave to the stories that were then written ; and only in general say that the hand of God was mightily seen in prospering and preserving the Parliament till Cromwell's ambition unhappily interrupted them.