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more Cromwell


You wrote:  What does Cromwell’s rule have to do with contemporary American political life?

All paranoid delusions about theocratic rule aside, Cromwell’s Protectorate had and continues to exert tremendous influence on the Anglo-American political system and the collective political subconscious.  From his day forward, latent memories of the “Major Generals”, the suspension of civil liberties, the threat of military rule shaped constitutional development and political theory.  Certainly John and Sam Adams, Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders could look at British rule under George III and immediately harken back to Cromwell.  Cromwell shaped American and British attitudes against standing armies and strong central government, and in myriad other ways influenced the history of both countries down to this day.  That, at least, is one of the central premises behind Kevin Phillips’ “The Cousins Wars”–and I think he makes rather a good case.


… As for Cromwell, how about this, from the Instrument of Government, 1653:

XXXV. That the Christian religion, as contained in the Scriptures, be held forth and recommended as the public profession of these nations; and that, as soon as may be, a provision, less subject to scruple and contention, and more certain than the present, be made for the encouragement and maintenance of able and painful teachers, for the instructing the people, and for discovery and confutation of error, hereby, and whatever is contrary to sound doctrine; and until such provision be made, the present maintenance shall not be taken away or impeached.

XXXVI. That to the public profession held forth none shall be compelled by penalties or otherwise; but that endeavours be used to win them by sound doctrine and the example of a good conversation.

XXXVII. That such as profess faith in God by Jesus Christ (though differing in judgment from the doctrine, worship or discipline publicly held forth) shall not be restrained from, but shall be protected in, the profession of the faith and exercise of their religion; so as they abuse not this liberty to the civil injury of others and to the actual disturbance of the public peace on their parts: provided this liberty be not extended to Popery or Prelacy, nor to such as, under the profession of Christ, hold forth and practice licentiousness.

XXXVIII. That all laws, statutes and ordinances, and clauses in any law, statute or ordinance to the contrary of the aforesaid liberty, shall be esteemed as null and void.

As theocracies go, that’s pretty libertarian…


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