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The Commonwealth took its origins from a vote by the Rump Parliament on 4 January 1649, ‘That the people are, under God, the original of all just power’, and that they, the Commons, possessed supreme authority as the people's representatives. Two days later they set up the High Court of Justice which tried Charles I. The abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords followed, and another brief Act on 19 May formally declared England to be a Commonwealth. From February, executive authority was vested in a Council of State, accountable to the Rump, elected annually by it, and drawn mainly from its own members.

The Commonwealth expanded to include Scotland and Ireland after the army's conquest of those countries. The Rump's materialist outlook and evident aversion to ‘a godly reformation’ brought it under increasing pressure from the army during 1652 to make way for a successor. Eventually it did introduce a bill for a new parliament to meet in November 1653, but its contents (which do not survive) left the army unsatisfied, and Cromwell in a rage expelled the Rump on 20 April. The brief experiment of a nominated assembly (‘*Barebone's Parliament’, July–December 1653) ended in its own abdication, and on 16 December the Commonwealth gave way to the Cromwellian Protectorate. It was briefly restored in May 1659, after a coup by the army against Richard Cromwell, but renewed quarrels between the officers and the Rumpers soon exposed the political bankruptcy of both. General Monck was enthusiastically acclaimed when he opened the way to the Restoration by readmitting the members ‘secluded’ in Pride's Purge on 21 February 1660.

Subjects: British History.

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