The Vote of No Addresses, 1648

At the Putney Debates of November 1647, Colonel Rainsborough proposed breaking off negotiations with King Charles and allowing Parliament to force through a settlement on its own terms. Rainsborough and the army radicals mistrusted the King; some were calling openly for the overthrow of the Monarchy. Oliver Cromwell and the Grandees opposed the radicals, preferring to work towards a negotiated settlement, until they too were alienated by the King's escape from Hampton Court and the gradual realisation of his secret dealings with the Scots. Crucially, Cromwell turned against the King when a letter to the Queen was intercepted in which Charles discussed his plots and intrigues in detail.

Parliament made one last attempt to reach a settlement with the Four Bills, proposed in December 1647. When the King rejected the Bills, Sir Arthur Hesilrige proposed that negotiations should be broken off. The House of Commons voted for the proposal on 3 January 1648. The House of Lords, however, opposed the Vote because its own authority was indirectly threatened. Without the Lords' assent, the Vote could not be passed. The impasse was broken by the intervention of the Army. On 11 January, the Army Council at Windsor declared in favour of the Vote. A riot over taxes in London was used as a pretext by the House of Commons to request that Fairfax send troops to occupy Whitehall for the protection of Parliament. Two regiments were ordered up to London; the Peers most opposed to the Vote took the hint and slipped quietly away.

On 11 February 1648 the Declaration of the Vote of No Addresses was passed by Parliament. To demonstrate the King's untrustworthiness, the Declaration listed all the complaints and grievances against him, going right back to the beginning of his reign. No more confidence was to be placed in him and Parliament declared its intention to settle the government of the nation on its own terms. The passing of the Vote was denounced by the Scottish representatives on the Committee for Both Kingdoms and resulted in the ending of the alliance between Parliament and the Scots. However, the Vote was repealed in August 1648 after the defeat of the Royalists and Engagers at the battle of Preston in order to facilitate the final negotiations between King and Parliament at the Treaty of Newport.


S.R. Gardiner, History of the Great Civil War vol. iv (London 1894)

David Underdown, Pride's Purge (Oxford 1971)


Text of the Vote of No Addresses