The Barebone’s Parliament, also known as the Little Parliament, the Nominated Assembly, and the Parliament of Saints, comes into being on July 4, 1653, and is the last attempt of the English Commonwealth to find a stable political form before the installation of Oliver Cromwell (pictured) as Lord Protector. It is an assembly entirely nominated by Oliver Cromwell and the New Model Army‘s Council of Officers. It acquires its name from the nominee for the City of London, Praise-God Barebone. The Speaker of the House is Francis Rous. There are a total of 140 nominees – 129 from England, five from Scotland, and six from Ireland. The Barebone’s Parliament is preceded by the Rump Parliament and succeeded by the First Protectorate Parliament.
The assembly, inspired by the Jewish Sanhedrin, meets for the first time on July 4 in the council chamber at Whitehall. Cromwell opens proceedings with a speech around two hours long. He begins by summing up the “series of Providences” that have brought them to this point, starting with the Short Parliament and singling out 1648 as the “most memorable year that ever this nation saw.”
The assembly then adjourns before sitting in full on the following day. On that day they elect Francis Rous, initially as chairman. He is not known as Speaker until a month later. Henry Scobell is appointed as Clerk. On July 12, the assembly publishes a declaration declaring itself to be the parliament of the Commonwealth of England. This is the first time that it has been formally described as a parliament.
By early September, Cromwell is said to be growing frustrated with the assembly’s in-fighting between different groups. Attendance also begins to fall. Over one hundred members are present at most votes in July, dropping to an average turnout of 70 by October. Various bills inflame conflict between the radical and moderate members – bills to abolish the Court of Chancery, regulate legal fees, tithes, and speeding up the settlement of cases in the Court of Admiralty all become bogged down in conflict. At this point, however, radical members are still mainly outnumbered in votes by moderate and conservative members.
This changes during November and December when debate returns to the question of tithes. On December 6, the committee appointed to consider the question presents their report, covering the question of how unfit ministers are to be ejected, naming commissioners who will have the job of enacting this, and retaining support for tithes in prescribed circumstances. In a defeat for the moderates, the first clause is voted down 56 to 54. Two days later, moderates come to the House and demand that the assembly abdicate its powers, criticising radical members for threatening the well being of the Commonwealth by fomenting disagreement. Rous and around 40 members walk out and go to Cromwell at Whitehall, presenting a document signed by nearly 80 members that declares: “Upon a Motion this day made in the House, that the sitting of this Parliament any longer as now constituted, will not be for the good of the Commonwealth.” Those left in the house are soon confronted by troops requesting that they leave. On December 12, 1653, the members of the assembly vote to dissolve it.