Such an argument, however, told as much against the Parliament in which they sate as against the administration itself, and the bulk of the Assembly contented themselves with declining to recognize the Constitution or Protectorate as of more than provisional validity. They proceeded at once to settle the government on a Parliamentary basis. The "Instrument" was taken as the groundwork of the new Constitution, and carried clause by clause. That Cromwell should retain his rule as Protector was unanimously agreed; that he should possess the right of veto or a co-ordinate legislative power with the Parliament was hotly debated, though the violent language of Haselrig did little to disturb the general tone of moderation. Suddenly, however, Cromwell interposed. If he had undertaken the duties of Protector with reluctance, he looked on all legal defects in his title as more than supplied by the consent of the nation. "I called not myself to this place," he urged, "God and the people of these kingdoms have borne testimony to it." His rule had been accepted by London, by the army, by the solemn decision of the judges, by addresses from every shire, by the very appearance of the members of the Parliament in answer to his writ. " Why may I not balance this Providence," he asked," with any hereditary interest?" In this national approval he saw a call from God, a Divine Right of a higher order than that of the kings who had gone before.
But there was another ground for the anxiety with which he watched the proceedings of the Commons. His passion for administration had far overstepped the bounds of a merely provisional rule in the interval before the assembling of the Parliament. His desire for "settlement" had been strengthened not only by the drift of public opinion, but by the urgent need of every day; and the power reserved by the "Instrument" to issue temporary ordinances "until further order in such matters, to be taken by the Parliament," gave a scope to his marvellous activity of which he at once took advantage. Sixty-four Ordinances had been issued in the nine months before the meeting of the Parliament. Peace had been concluded with Holland. The Church had been set in order. The law itself had been minutely regulated. The union with Scotland had been brought to completion. So far was Cromwell from dreaming that these measures, or the authority which enacted them, would be questioned, that he looked to Parliament simply to complete his work. " The great end of your meeting," he said at the first assembly of its members, " is healing and settling." Though he had himself done much, he added, " there was still much to be done." Peace had to be made with Portugal, and alliance with Spain. Bills were laid before the House for the codification of the law.
The plantation and settlement of Ireland had still to be completed. He resented the setting these projects aside for constitutional questions which, as he held, a Divine call had decided, but he resented yet more the renewed claim advanced by Parliament to the sole power of legislation. As we have seen, his experience of the evils which had arisen from the concentration of legislative and executive power in the Long Parliament had convinced Cromwell of the danger to public liberty which lay in such a union. He saw in the joint government of " a single person and a Parliament" the only assurance " that Parliaments should not make themselves perpetual," or that their power should not be perverted to public wrong. But whatever strength there may have been in the Protector's arguments, the act by which he proceeded to enforce them was fatal to liberty, and in the end to Puritanism. " If my calling be from God," he ended, " and my testimony from the People, God and the People shall take it from me, else I will not part from it." And he announced that no member would be suffered to enter the House without signing an engagement "not to alter the Government as it is settled in a single person and a Parliament." No act of the Stuarts had been a bolder defiance of constitutional law; and the act was as needless as it was illegal.
One hundred members alone refused to take the engagement, and the signatures of three-fourths of the House proved that the security Cromwell desired might have been easily procured by a vote of Parliament. But those who remained resumed their constitutional task with unbroken firmness. They quietly asserted their sole title to government by referring the Protector's Ordinances to Committees for revision, and for conversion into laws. The "Instrument of Government" was turned into a bill, debated, and after some modifications read a third time. Money votes, as in previous Parliaments, were deferred till "grievances" had been settled. Put Cromwell once more intervened. The royalists were astir again; and he attributed their renewed hopes to the hostile attitude which he ascribed to the Parliament. The army, which remained unpaid while the supplies were delayed, was seething with discontent. " It looks," said the Protector, "as if the laying grounds for a quarrel had rather been designed than to give the people settlement.
Judge yourselves whether the contesting of things that were provided for by this government hath been profitable expense of time for the good of this nation." In words of angry reproach he declared the Parliament dissolved.
With the dissolution of the Parliament of 1654 ended all show of constitutional rule. The Protectorate, deprived by its own act of all chance of legal sanction, became a simple tyranny. Cromwell professed, indeed, to be restrained by the " Instrument": but the one great restraint on his power which the Instrument provided, the inability to levy taxes save by consent of Parliament, was set aside on the plea of necessity. " The People," said the Protector in words which Strafford might have uttered, " will prefer their real security to forms." That a danger of royalist revolt existed was undeniable, but the danger was at once doubled by the genera1 discontent. From this moment, White-lock tells us, "many sober and noble patriots," in despair of public liberty, " did begin to incline to the King's restoration." In the mass of the population the reaction was far more rapid. " Charles Stuart," writes a Cheshire correspondent to the Secretary of State, " hath five hundred friends in these adjacent counties for every one friend to you among them." But before the overpowering strength of the army even this general discontent was powerless. Yorkshire, where the royalist insurrection was expected to be most formidable, never ventured to rise at all.