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The new written constitution

One of the most important items of business which the Council addressed in late December was to “perfect” the new written constitution and to render it into a form fit for printing and circulating. The document was clearly in an advanced state by 16 December, sufficient for the new government to be launched and the constitution read out during the ceremony in Westminster Hall. However, the constitution was not printed for a further fortnight or more, until 2 January 1654. In the interim Protector and Council appear to have been working on the document, perhaps making further changes to its content and amending some of the clauses. Although the Council’s own order books merely point to repeated directions to “perfect” the document and reveal the curious delay in its publication, there is other evidence that the constitution printed in early January varied in some respects from the version of mid December. At least six summaries of the constitution were produced unofficially and circulated during the latter half of December. They were presumably based upon notes made during its public recitation on 16 December. In several respects these summaries differed from the final constitution, the definitive text which was published on 2 January 1654, perhaps therefore revealing amendments made by Protector and Council between 16 December and the beginning of January. The final, official version of the written constitution, known as the Instrument of Government, became readily available from 2 January and it soon circulated widely both as a separate pamphlet and through substantial summaries and extensive extracts carried in almost all the newspapers in editions which went to press on or after 4 January. 

The full text of the constitution ran to 42 clauses and a little over 4,500 words. For the full text of the document click here.


down to
 December 1653

The protectorate established, 
12-15 December

The protectorate inaugurated, 
16 December

The protectorate 
at work, 
17-20 December

The new written constitution

the instrument of government 
– full text

The instrument of government 

The protectorate 



Picture of Robert Cromwell


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