THE LORD PROTECTOR
- Chapter XX – The Commonwealth-The Rump-Ireland
- Chapter XXI – Scotland-Dunbar and Worcester
- Chapter XXII – The Lord Protector
- Chapter XXIII – England’s Greatest Strength
- Chapter XXIV – The Major Generals
- Chapter XXV – Dallying With the Crown
- Chapter XXVI – The Death of Cromwell
- Chapter XXVI – Cromwell’s Place in History
The Commonwealth, The Rump, and Ireland
The Commonwealth of England was practically established when, at the death of Charles I, the monarchal principle was put to sleep, and the Parliament adopted a new great seal, bearing a representation of the House of Commons, with the words, “In the first year of Freedom by God’s blessing restored, 1648” (1649).
This device was suggested by the witty Harry Marten, who, while the measures for changing the form of the Government were in preparation, had used the words, “Restored to its ancient form of Commonwealth.” A member questioned the propriety of the word “Restored,” as he had never heard of the antiquity of the Commonwealth. Marten made the whimsical but ingenious rejoinder, that there was a text which had often troubled his spirit concerning the man who was blind from his mother’s womb, but whose sight was at length restored to the sight which he should have had.
A proclamation was issued declaring that instant death would be the portion of anyone who should proclaim Charles II, or any other, King, without the consent of the Parliament. It was ordered that all court proceedings should be conducted in the name of the Parliament of England. One hundred pounds was voted as a gratuity to the King’s executioner.
One week after the King’s death (February 6, 1649) the Commons, by a vote of forty-four to twenty-nine on the previous question, and by unanimous vote on the main question, solemnly abolished the House of Lords. On the next day they passed a vote running thus: “It hath been found by experience, and this House doth declare, that the office of the King, in this nation, and to have the power thereof in any single person, is unnecessary, burthensome, and dangerous to the liberty, safety, and public interest of the people of this nation, and therefore ought to be abolished.”
On February 13, the Parliament, now consisting only of the “Rump” of the old House of Commons, provided for the creation of a Council of State, which was henceforth to have the executive power and to consist of forty-one persons. Cromwell, Bradshaw, Fairfax, Whitelock, Marten, Ludlow, and Vane were members.
On March 21, the Parliament passed a declaration stating their reasons for establishing a Commonwealth, which contained a full account of their past grievances, together with an appeal to the popular prejudices by aspersing the King’s memory under the old and absurd fable that he had possessed a guilty knowledge of the cause of his father’s death.
On April 25, the Parliament attempted to restore public confidence by passing an act of oblivion.
On May 19, the Parliament enacted:
“That the people of England, and of all the dominions and territories thereunto belonging, are and shall be, and are hereby constituted, made, established, and confirmed to be, A Commonwealth or Free State; and shall from henceforth be governed as a Commonwealth or Free State, by the supreme authority of this nation the representatives of the people in Parliament, and by such as they shall appoint and constitute officers and ministers under them for the good of the people; and that without any King or House of Lords.”
When the Council of State first met, Cromwell seems to have been chosen as its President, though afterwards Bradshaw filled the office.
Soon (March 13, 1649) John Milton was pressed by the Council of State to accept service as one of the Latin secretaries for the Commonwealth. He was then engaged in other work, was writing history, had contracted an unhappy marriage, and was planning a series of papers proclaiming the pernicious doctrine that divorce is a boon to society. But he was wanted especially to write a reply to that book of Charles I, Eikon Basilikè—The King’s Image. Its pathos and tender piety were smiting the consciences of all Englishmen.
Immediately after the death of Charles, this book had arisen as an advocate almost out of his grave. It was printed and sold within a very few days of his execution. The King was at once assumed to be its author, and the claim has never been successfully denied, although the question has ever since been the subject of an interesting controversy. The book contains the King’s answer to all the political accusations which the Parliamentary party had made against him; and it was written with so much piety and meekness, and his sufferings were referred to with so much patience, that it caused a tremendous revulsion of feeling. The demand for the book was so great that it passed rapidly through forty-seven editions, amounting to 48,500 copies, which were disposed of in England alone. Translations appeared in foreign countries, and the sentiment that the King had indeed died a martyr began to take such a firm hold upon the public mind, that the Parliamentary party implored John Milton to write a reply, which he promptly proceeded to do in a book entitled Eikonoklastes, or The King’s Image Destroyed. But his style was so sarcastic and severe that it only increased the anger of the Royalists and Presbyterians.
Milton was now forty-one years old. He had been educated at St. Paul’s School, and taken his degree at Cambridge. A season of travel on the Continent had added much to the stores of his mind. He had already produced Comus, besides a number of religious treatises. His political essays, sometimes coarse in expression, sometimes harsh with passion, always suggesting the partisan and the advocate, and seldom the philosopher, were nevertheless powerful additions to the discussions of the times. Firm in his self-confidence, he had already promised the world that he would write a poem which would be the glory of his country. While pursuing his arduous duties as Cromwell’s secretary, he became totally blind. Long afterwards, in a forced retirement which followed the Restoration, he wrote Paradise Lost, and sold it to his publisher for five pounds, with the promise of five more when 1,300 copies should be sold. He had received one thousand pounds for Eikonoklastes. In the following noble sonnet, he paid a tribute of homage to the Puritan leader:
Cromwell, our chief of men, who through a cloud
Not of war only, but detractions rude,
Guided by faith and matchless fortitude,
To peace and truth thy glorious way hast plough’d,
And on the neck of crowned fortune proud
Hast reared God’s trophies, and his work pursued,
While Darwin stream with blood of Scots imbrued,
And Dunbar field resounds thy praises loud,
And Worcester’s laureat wreath. Yet much remains
To conquer still; peace hath her victories
No less renowned than war; new foes arise
Threat’ning to bind our souls with secular chains;
Help us to save free conscience from the paw
Of hireling wolves, whose gospel is their maw.”
Oliver Cromwell was very busy in these days. The marriage settlement was still to be arranged for his son Richard, idle Richard, who had taken no part in these big wars. Oliver advised him to learn business, to study mathematics, to read Raleigh’s History of the World, to do something, anything, that would make the world respect him. Richard was by this time much in love with Mistress Dorothy, and there was much correspondence between Richard’s father and Dorothy’s father concerning her portion. Oliver was exacting, Mr. Mayor was cautious and thrifty. But Richard was impetuous, in short, a fond lover. “Sir,” writes Oliver to Mr. Mayor, “my son had a great desire to come down, and wait upon your daughter. I perceive he minds that more than to attend to business here.” A little more negotiation followed, and then all was agreed to. At last they were married (May 1, 1649), and Richard led a dull, stupid, respectable, and uneventful life at Hursely, acquiring nothing from the experience of the times to fit him for his future Protectorship.
Discontent, jealousy, suspicion, seem to be spreading all over the land. The Army becomes infected. John Lilburne, an officer, is writing vicious pamphlets about England’s New Chains Discovered. Whalley’s regiment mutinies. Cromwell, furious in the face of insubordination, hastens to their quarters at Bishopsgate, arrests fifteen of the ringleaders, condemns six of them to death, but pardons five, and makes an example of one young trooper, Lockyer, who is shot. This quells the mutiny, and order is restored.
But Lilburne’s pamphlets are very troublesome. They spread disorder everywhere. Their author is now a close prisoner in the Tower, but his virile pen has wrought much mischief. The Levelers rise, knowing not what they would have, exactly, but they dislike the present order of things. Their aspect is threatening. The country people swell their ranks. Their of husbandry are converted into arms. Their rude implements must be crushed. Cromwell marches upon them, Fairfax being with him. The Levelers retreat north, sorry now that they ever held a grievance. The Lieutenant-General follows them with speed. All through a Sunday and Monday in the middle of May he rides after them. He covers nearly fifty miles in a day, comes up with them at midnight on Monday at the town of Burford. There is no resistance. Three of them are shot to death. He gathers others into a church, and harangues them in the Puritan style, and then pardons them. “England’s New Chains” are now worn without further revolt, and Cromwell returns to London to be banqueted and thanked. He had saved the nation from anarchy. And now for Ireland.
Never, since the Catholic massacre of 1641, had the English Government been able to assert its power in that distressed country. Unpunished crime had made the bigoted rebels bold to continue the most atrocious cruelties. The heir to the throne, now calling himself Charles II, had renewed Ormond’s commission as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and the whole island, except the city of Dublin, was held by parties hostile to the Parliament. Ormond, an able and audacious Royalist, had planted his troops in many of the old castles. Owen Roe O’Neil, of an ancient extraction, swayed the native Catholics, and bade defiance to all English, either for King or Parliament. Abbas O’Teague led the excommunicated hordes. In Ulster there were Episcopalians for the King, Presbyterians for the King and the Covenant, and many Sectarians for the Parliament. In Dublin there was Michael Jones, a General commanding for the Parliament, who had just won a great victory by beating the Marquis of Ormond’s army.
The Parliament selected Oliver Cromwell to go to Ireland as Lord Lieutenant, with plenary powers to reduce that country to obedience. He arrived in Dublin August 15, 1649. Henry Cromwell, his gallant son, and Henry Ireton, his son-in-law, were with him. A fearful anarchy prevailed on all sides. The war which had broken out in 1641 had embodied the Irish method of demanding religious liberty for Catholics. Looking back from this enlightened age, we must see that the native population had been sorely oppressed. The narrow spirit of the times had denied to them the right to practice their religion according to the forms in which they had been instructed. A Catholic had no protection for his conscience before the pale of English law, and when their churches were closed, and their lands and money confiscated, they resisted, as people who are treated with like rigor by the ruling powers must ever have the right to resist. But their extreme barbaric ignorance, their savage hatred of their oppressors, and the native fierceness of their disposition, led them beyond the line of conduct of a just rebellion into acts of cruelty and ferocity which made them resemble wild beasts. The story of their brutal treatment of the English settlers has already been told. Cromwell, with a mind oblivious of their own wrongs, brought his invading hosts to conquer them, and wreak a fearful vengeance on their crimes. But his purpose was not one of indiscriminate slaughter. Immediately after his arrival at Dublin, he issued a declaration, warning his soldiers against the practice of any cruelties, pillage, or robbery upon the common people, or those not in arms, and he threatened with death any who disobeyed in this respect. He was transported to believe himself the captain of the Most High, commissioned by Eternal Heaven to lift that unhappy land out of centuries of ignorance and superstition, and to cleave the way for the true gospel of Christ by the power of his sword.
“It is a principle,” observes a philosophic French writer, “that every religion which is persecuted becomes itself persecuting, for as soon as by some accidental turn it arises from persecution, it attacks the religion which persecuted it, not as a religion, but as a tyranny.”
On the 3rd of September Cromwell appeared before Drogheda, or Tredagh, as it was then called, and summoned it to surrender. This city is situated in the province of Leinster, thirty-one miles north of Dublin, on the historic Boyne River. The summons being denied, he planted his batteries with extreme leisure, and did not begin to play his guns until one week after. His official report to Speaker Lenthall of this affair is terrible in its simplicity and directness. He writes:
“Upon Tuesday, the 10th of this instant, about five o’clock in the evening, we began the storm; and after some hot dispute we entered, about seven or eight hundred men; the enemy disputing it very stiffly with us. And indeed, through the advantages of the place, and the courage God was pleased to give the defenders, our men were forced to retreat quite out of the breach, not without some considerable loss.”
He does not tell the fact that he, viewing this repulse from the batteries, placed himself at the head of the charging column, and led the second attack in person. But he says:
“Being encouraged to recover their loss, they made a second attempt; wherein God was pleased so to animate them that they got ground of the enemy, and, by the goodness of God, forced him to quit his entrenchments. … Divers of the enemy retreated into the Mill-Mount: a place very strong and of difficult access, being exceedingly high, having a good graft, and strongly palisadoed. The Governor, Sir Arthur Aston, and divers considerable officers being there, our men getting up to them, were ordered by me to put them all to the sword. And indeed, being in the heat of action, I forbade them to spare any that were in arms in the town: and, I think, that night they put to the sword about 2,000 men; divers of the officers and soldiers being fled over the bridge into the other part of the town, where about 100 of them possessed St. Peter’s Church-steeple, some the Westgate, and others a strong Round Tower next the Gate called St. Sunday’s. These being summoned to yield to mercy, refused. Whereupon I ordered the steeple of St. Peter’s Church to be fired, when one of them was heard to say in the midst of the flames, ‘God damn me, God confound me, I burn, I burn!’”
Night put a stop to the dreadful carnage. But at daybreak it was resumed. Sir Arthur Aston, the English Governor, and Sir Edmund Verney, son of the standard-bearer at Edgehill, were slain. The frightened survivors were caught and killed. Especial delight was manifested in killing the priests. But two of these men escaped the first slaughter, and they were found the next day, and knocked on the head by the soldiers. In all, 3,000 men were put to the sword. Cromwell justifies his conduct by a soldier’s logic. He writes:
“I am persuaded that this is a righteous judgment of God upon these barbarous wretches, who have imbrued their hands in so much innocent blood, and that it will tend to prevent the effusion of blood for the future: which are the satisfactory grounds to such actions, which otherwise cannot but work remorse and regret. The officers and soldiers of this garrison were the flower of their army; and their great expectation was, that our attempting this place would put fair to ruin us, they being confident of the resolution of their men, and the advantage of the place. … And now give me leave to say how it comes to pass that this work is wrought. It was set upon some of our hearts, that a great thing should be done, not by power or might, but by the Spirit of God. And is it not so, clearly? That which caused your men to storm so courageously, it was the Spirit of God who gave your men courage, and took it away again; and gave the enemy courage, and took it away again; and gave your men courage again, and therewith this happy success. And therefore it is good that God alone have all the glory.”
We have told the story of this frightful encounter chiefly in Cromwell’s own words, because Cromwell, as his own witness, has not attempted to evade any part of the responsibility for the slaughter. His purpose in killing the garrison of Drogheda is very plainly expressed by him, and that the result which he so acutely anticipated was speedily accomplished, is shown by this testimony from Carte, the biographer of Ormond: “The execrable policy of that Regicide,” says Carte, “had the effect he proposed. It spread abroad the terror of his name.”
Cromwell entreated the Parliament to send him money and recruits. “We keep the field much,” he wrote, “our tents sheltering us from the wet and cold. But yet the country sickness overtakes many: and therefore we desire recruits, and some fresh regiments of foot, may be sent us. For it’s easily conceived by what the garrisons already drink up, what our field army will come to, if God shall give more garrisons into our hands.”
From Drogheda Cromwell marched to Dundalk, a seaport town. He was not a bloodthirsty man; in spite of all the rigors of his battles his policy was that of a stern but humane general. Leading an unconquerable army, he sent this summons to the Governor of Dundalk. A bloodthirsty man would not have written thus:
“12th September, 1649.
“I offered mercy to the Garrison of Tredagh (Drogheda), in sending the Governor a Summons before I attempted the taking of it. Which being refused brought their evil upon them.
“If you, being warned thereby, shall surrender your Garrison to the use of the Parliament of England, which by this I summon you to do, you may thereby prevent effusion of blood. If, upon refusing this Offer, that which you like not befalls you, you will know whom to blame. I rest, your servant,
Dundalk surrendered; so did Trim, to the South of it. The intrepid commander left a force of Ironsides to garrison each captured city, which diminished the strength of his marching column, and he sent divers parties to conquer other strongholds. Upon receiving the reports of his operations, the Parliament made haste to send him more troops, which joined him in due time.
After refreshing his soldiers at Dublin, Cromwell (September 23) marched south, and proceeded to invest his troops in some twenty Irish strongholds with scarcely any opposition. The Castle of Arklow, belonging to Ormond, was taken without resistance. At Limerick, Ferns, and Enniscorthy strong castles fell into his hands with varied spoil. By October 1, he had reached the southeastern extremity of Ireland and come before Wexford, a seaport city seventy-four miles south of Dublin, situated at the mouth of the river Slaney, in the province of Leinster. A large garrison of English and Irish soldiers was strongly fortified in this town, under the command of Colonel David Sinnott, and it was their fierce intention to resist the Puritan invaders to victory or death.
Cromwell has been often anathematized as a man of blood for his massacres at Drogheda and Wexford. But an examination of the facts must vindicate his conduct. He had offered fair terms to the garrison at Drogheda before assaulting their stronghold, and they had preferred to take the chances of battle. At Wexford he urged for many days the peaceable surrender of the place, postponing the last extremity of war even after he perceived that the defenders were trifling with him, and were prolonging the negotiations only to gain time for receiving reinforcements. The correspondence which passed between Cromwell and David Sinnott, the Governor of Wexford, is sufficient to exculpate the Puritan leader from the charge of a thirst for human blood. His first summons was as follows:
“To the Commander-In-Chief of the Town Of Wexford.
“Before Wexford, 3rd October, 1649.
“Having brought the Army belonging to the Parliament of England before this place, to reduce it to its due obedience: to the end effusion of blood may be prevented, and the Town and Country about it preserved from ruin, I thought fit to summon you to deliver the same to me, to the use of the State of England.
“By this offer, I hope it will clearly appear where the guilt will lie, if innocent persons should come to suffer with the nocent. I expect your speedy answer; and rest, Sir, your servant,
To this Sinnott replied:
“For the Lord-General Cromwell.
“Wexford, 3rd October, 1649,
“I received your Letter of Summons for the delivery of this Town into your hands. Which standeth not with my honour to do of myself; neither will I take it upon me, without the advice of the rest of the Officers and Mayor of this Corporation; this town being of so great consequence to all Ireland. Whom I will call together, and confer with; and return my resolution to you to-morrow by twelve of the clock.
“In the mean time, if you be so pleased, I am content to forbear all acts of hostility, so you permit no approach to be made. Expecting your answer in that particular, I remain, my Lord, your Lordship’s servant,
Cromwell’s answer was brief and to the point:
“I am contented to expect your resolution by twelve of the clock to-morrow morning. Because our tents are not so good a covering as your houses, and for other reasons, I cannot agree to a cessation. I rest, your servant,
But Sinnott adroitly spun out the correspondence until the 9th, and Cromwell’s official report says:
“Our cannon being landed, and we having removed all our quarters to the south-east end of the Town, next the Castle, which stands without the Walls, 6th October, it was generally agreed that we should bend the whole strength of our artillery upon the Castle; being persuaded that if we got the Castle the Town would easily follow. Upon Thursday the 11thinstant (our batteries being finished the night before), we began to play betimes in the morning; and having spent near a hundred shot, the Governor’s stomach came down; and he sent to me to give leave for four persons, intrusted by him, to come unto me, and offer terms of surrender. Which I condescended to, two Field-Officers, with an Alderman of the Town, and the Captain of the Castle brought out the Propositions enclosed, which for their abominableness manifesting also the impudency of the men, I thought fit to present to your view—together with my Answer:”
The propositions contained in addition to the usual conditions for the lives and property of the inhabitants some severe stipulations for the permanent establishment of the Catholic religion, stipulations which were very repugnant and utterly offensive to the leader of a Puritan Army. But Cromwell wrote a very patient and reasonable reply, and his report continues:
“Whilst these papers were passing between us, I sent the Lieutenant General, Michael Jones, with a party of dragoons, horse and foot, to endeavour to reduce their Fort, which lay at the mouth of their harbour, about ten miles distant from us. To which he sent a troop of dragoons; but the Enemy quitted their Fort, leaving behind them about seven great guns; betook themselves, by the help of their boats, to a Frigate of twelve guns lying in the harbour, within cannon-shot of the Fort. The dragoons possessed the Fort: and some seamen belonging to your Fleet coming happily in at the same time, they bent their guns at the Frigate, and she immediately yielded to mercy—both herself, the soldiers that had been in the Fort, and the seamen that manned her. And whilst our men were in her, the Town, not knowing what had happened, sent another small vessel to her; which our men also took.
“The Governor of the Town having obtained from me a Safe-conduct for the four persons mentioned in one of the papers, to come and treat with me about the surrender of the Town, I expected they should have done so. But instead thereof, the Earl of Castlehaven brought to their relief, on the north side of the river, about five-hundred foot. Which occasioned their refusal to send out any to treat; and caused me to revoke my safe-conduct, not thinking it fit to leave it for them to make use of it when they pleased.”
Still Sinnott wrote apologies for not surrendering, and still Cromwell sent him fairly polite replies; one of which follows:
“For the Commander-In-Chief In The Town Of Wexford,
“Before Wexford, 11th October, 1649.”Sir,
“I have had the patience to peruse your Propositions; to which I might have returned an Answer with some disdain. But, to be short—
“I shall give the Soldiers and Noncommissioned officers quarter for life, and leave to go to their several habitations, with their wearing-clothes; they engaging themselves to live quietly there, and to take up arms no more against the Parliament of England. And the Commissioned Officers quarter for their lives, but to render themselves Prisoners. And as for the Inhabitants, I shall engage myself that no violence shall be offered to their goods, and that I shall protect the Town from plunder.
“I expect your positive Answer instantly; and if you will upon these terms surrender and quit, [and] shall, in one hour, send forth to me Four Officers of the quality of Field-Officers, and Two Aldermen, for the performance thereof, I shall thereupon forbear all acts of hostility. Your servant,
As Sinnott still vacillated, the Irish officer in charge of the Castle was bribed to surrender it. The Roundheads then stormed the walls of the town and entered it with their ladders. The garrison resisted gallantly but their chance of life was now gone. The entire force under arms, and some of the noncombatants, were violently put to death to the number of 2,000. The townspeople fled away in terror and the city became the spoil of Cromwell’s troopers. Those who attempted to escape by boats so overloaded the frail crafts that they met death in the water. Cromwell continues his report:
“I believe, in all, there was lost of the enemy not many less than two thousand, and I believe not twenty of yours from first to last of the siege. And indeed it hath, not without cause, been deeply set upon our hearts, that, we intending better to this place than so great a ruin, hoping the town might be of more use to you and your army, yet God would not have it so; but by an unexpected providence, in His righteous justice, brought a just judgment upon them; causing them to become a prey to the soldier who in their piracies had made preys of so many families, and now with their bloods to answer the cruelties which they had exercised upon the lives of divers poor Protestants! Two instances of which I have been lately acquainted with. About seven or eight score poor Protestants were by them put into an old vessel; which being, as some say, bulged by them, the vessel sank, and they were all presently drowned in the Harbour. The other [instance] was thus: They put divers poor Protestants into a Chapel (which, since, they have used for a Mass-house, and in which one or more of their priests were now killed), where they were famished to death.
“The soldiers got a very good booty in this place; and had not they had opportunity to carry their goods over the River, whilst we besieged it, it would have much more: I could have wished for their own good, and the good of the Garrison, they had been more moderate. Some things which were not easily portable, we hope we shall make use of to your behoof. There are great quantities of iron, hides, tallow, salt, pipe- and barrel-staves; which are under Commissioners’ hands, to be secured. We believe there are near a hundred cannon in the Fort, and elsewhere in and about the Town. Here is likewise some very good shipping; here are three vessels, one of them of thirty-four guns, which a week’s time would fit to sea; there is another of about twenty guns, very near ready likewise. And one other Frigate of twenty guns, upon the stocks; made for sailing; which is built up to the uppermost deck; for her handsomeness’ sake, I have appointed the workmen to finish her, here being materials to do it, if you or the Council of State shall approve thereof. The Frigate, also, taken beside the Fort, is a most excellent vessel for sailing. Besides divers other ships and vessels in the Harbour.
“This Town is now so in your power, that of the former inhabitants, I believe scarce one in twenty can challenge any property in their houses. Most of them are run away, and many of them killed in this service. And it were to be wished, that an honest people would come and plant here; where are very good houses, and other accommodations fitted in their hands, which may by your favour be made of encouragement to them. As also a seat of good trade, both inward and outward; and of marvellous great advantage in the point of the herring and other fishing. The Town is pleasantly seated and strong, having a rampart of earth within the wall near fifteen feet thick.
“Thus it hath pleased God to give into your hands this other mercy. For which, as for all, we pray God may have all the glory. Indeed your instruments are poor and weak and can do nothing but through believing, and that is the gift of God also.
“I humbly take leave, and rest, your most humble servant,
This was the “Curse of Cromwell” which the Puritan invader had fastened upon Ireland. To this day his memory is execrated by the native Catholics. There were many rumors in England of his progress, some of which indicated that he had been slain and his Army destroyed; others, that his pathway was marked by fire and death and conquest; on hearing which a Royalist poet, Will Douglas, wrote thus:
Cromwell is dead, and risen; and dead again, And risen the third time after he was slain No wonder! For he’s messenger of Hell: And now he buffets us, now posts to tell What’s past; and for one more game new counsel takes Of his good friend the Devil, who keeps the stakes.
The duties and the fatigues of war could never disengage Cromwell’s heart from those whom he had left at home. He wrote this letter to the father of Richard’s wife. There is an exquisite tenderness and pathos in it; the soldier in a hostile country is homesick, we suspect:
“For my beloved Brother Richard Mayor, Esquire, at Hursley: These.
“Ross, 13th November, 1649.
“I am not often at leisure, nor now, to salute my friends; yet unwillingly to lose this opportunity. I take it, only to let you know that you and your Family are often in my prayers. As for Dick, I do not much expect it from him, knowing his idleness; but I am angry with my Daughter as a promise-breaker. Pray tell her so; but I hope she will redeem herself.
“It has pleased the Lord to give us (since the taking of Wexford and Ross) a good interest in Munster, by the accession of Cork and Youghal, which are both submitted; their Commanders are now with me. Divers other lesser Garrisons are come in also. The Lord is wonderful in these things; it’s His hand alone does them; oh that all the praise might be ascribed to Him!
“I have been crazy in my health; but the Lord is pleased to sustain me. I beg your prayers. I desire you to call upon my Son to mind the things of God more and more! alas, what profit is there in the things of this world! except they be enjoyed in Christ they are snares. I wish he may enjoy his Wife so, and she him; I wish I may enjoy them both so.
“My service to my dear Sister and Cousin Ann; my blessing to my Children, and love to my Cousin Barton and the rest. Sir, I am, your affectionate brother and servant,
Young Charles the Second had come as far as the Isle of Jersey, being strongly tempted to join Ormond in Ireland; but when the story of how his affairs were failing there was brought to him he came not thither. Prince Rupert, bearing an Admiral’s commission, and having done some bold things on the high seas which were not far from piracy, had reached the coast of Ireland, expecting further glory. He now sailed away to the West Indies, where he soon after lost his brother, Prince Maurice, beneath a tempestuous wave. Rupert troubled the Parliament but little henceforward.
From Wexford Cromwell proceeded to Ross. Ormond, Castlehaven, and other generals were there, but after providing a strong garrison, they themselves discreetly retired. The Governor, Sir Lucas Taafe, made some show of intending to resist, but Cromwell’s sharp letters and sharper batteries brought him to his senses in time, and he surrendered. “You may see how God pulls down proud stomachs,” was Oliver’s comment. Sir Lucas had stipulated for liberty of conscience for the inhabitants of Ross, and Cromwell replied, “As for that which you mention concerning liberty of conscience, I meddle not with any man’s conscience. But if, by liberty of conscience, you mean a liberty to exercise the Mass, I judge it best to use plain dealing, and to let you know, where the Parliament of England have power, that will not be allowed of.” The English part of the garrison enlisted under him. There was victory everywhere; but neither the magnificent Army which Cromwell himself had organized and disciplined until it was sensible and pliant to his lightest designs, nor its incomparable and splendid achievements, could evoke any sentiment in his devout heart but that of fervent gratitude to Heaven as the fountain of all mercies. He wrote:
“We are able to say nothing as to all this but that the Lord is still pleased to own a company of poor worthless creatures; for which we desire his name to be magnified, and that the hearts of all concerned may be provoked to walk worthy of such continued favours.”
Intelligence came to him that the sentiment of the people at Cork was daily becoming more favorable to a Parliamentary allegiance. He prayed the Parliament to send money, clothes, shoes, and stockings for his men, and likewise new soldiers. “Through the same blessed Presence that has gone along with us,” he wrote, “I hope, before it be long, to see Ireland no burden to England, but a profitable part of its Commonwealth.”
Cromwell was prostrated by sickness at Ross. And so were many of his followers. “To the praise of God I speak it,” he said, “I scarce know one officer of forty amongst us that hath not been sick. And how many considerable ones we have lost, is no little thought of heart to us.” But he would never stop the work he had undertaken. He sent Ireton and Jones ahead with the Army, who came up with Lord Inchiquin and the rebels, and after an inconsiderable engagement put them to flight. Cromwell soon joined them and sat down before Waterford.
In describing his many fresh victories to the Parliament as he lay in the cold November nights before Waterford, he makes use of this characteristic language:
“Sir, what can be said in these things? Is it an arm of flesh that hath done these things? Is it the wisdom and counsel, or strength of men? It is the Lord only! God will curse that man and his house that dares to think otherwise! Sir, you see the work is done by a Divine leading. God gets into hearts of men, and persuades them to come under you. I tell you, a considerable part of your Army is fitter for an hospital than the field: if the Enemy did not know it, I should have held it impolitic to have writ this. They know it; yet they know not what to do.”
He then undertakes to advise his brethren in England against dissensions. “I beg of those that are faithful,” he says, “that they give glory to God. I wish it may have influence upon the hearts and spirits of all those that are now in place of government, in the greatest trust, that they may all in heart draw near to God; giving him glory by holiness of life and conversation.” Was it a wonder that these letters of the great Puritan were publicly read, by order of Parliament, in all the pulpits of England? He hopes—
“that these unspeakable mercies may teach dissenting brethren on all sides to agree, at least, in praising God. And if the Father of the family be so kind, why should there be such jarrings and heartburnings among the children? And if it will not be received that these are the seals of God’s approbation of your great Change of Government—which indeed are no more yours than these victories and successes are ours—yet let them with us say, even the most unsatisfied heart amongst them, that both are the righteous judgments and mighty works of God. He hath pulled the mighty from his seat, and called to an account for innocent blood. He thus breaks the enemies of his Church in pieces. And let them not be sullen, but praise the Lord, and think of us as they please; and we shall be satisfied, and pray for them and wait upon our God. And we hope we shall seek the welfare and peace of our native country: and the Lord give them hearts to do so too. Indeed, Sir, I was constrained in my bowels to write thus much.”
It was thus that his faith stirred the heart of Cromwell in the gloom of the winter siege in that hostile country.
Waterford was, for the present, unassailable. Large reinforcements had just arrived for the rebels. Cromwell’s Army was in no condition to attempt to storm it; and so, on the 2nd of December, 1649—”So terrible a day,” he says, “as ever I marched in all my life”—he set out for Cork, but paused to beat Ormond at a place called the Fort of Passage.
Under Cromwell’s extraordinary genius his pen possessed a power equal to that of his sword. Arrived at Cork he published A Declaration for the Undeceiving of Deluded and Seduced People, in which he replied to all the charges of cruelty and persecution which the Irish priests had made against him since his coming into their country. There is a tone of thunder in his scorn. In speaking of their Union which was organized to resist him, he says:
“By the grace of God, we fear not, we care not for it. Your covenant is with Death and Hell! Your union is like that of Simeon and Levi: ‘Associate yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; take counsel together, and it shall come to naught!’ For though it becomes us to be humble in respect of ourselves, yet we can say to you: God is not with you. You say, Your union is against a common enemy, and to this, if you will be talking of ‘union,’ I will give you some wormwood to bite on; by which it will appear God is not with you. … You, unprovoked, put the English to the most unheard of and most barbarous massacre (without respect of sex or age) that ever the Sun beheld.”
He boldly advances upon polemic grounds:
“He that bids us ‘contend for the faith once delivered to the saints,’ tells us that we should do it by ‘avoiding the spirit of Cain, Corah, and Balaam’; and by building up ourselves in the most holy faith—not pinning it upon other men’s sleeves. Praying ‘in the Holy Ghost,’ not mumbling over Matins. Keeping ‘ourselves in the love of God,’ not destroying men because they will not be of our faith. ‘Waiting for the mercy of Jesus Christ,’ not cruel, but merciful! But, alas, why is this said? Why are these pearls cast before you? You are resolved not to be charmed from ‘using the instrument of a foolish shepherd’! You are a part of Antichrist, whose Kingdom the Scripture so expressly speaks should be ‘laid in blood’; yea, ‘in the blood of the saints.’ You have shed great store of that already!”
The recent abuses spring up in his mind. He says:
“Arbitrary power is a thing men begin to be weary of, in Kings and Churchmen; their juggle between them mutually to uphold Civil and Ecclesiastical Tyranny begins to be transparent. Some have cast off both; and hope by the grace of God to keep so. Others are at it! Many thoughts are laid up about it, which will have their issue and vent. This principle, That people are for Kings and Churches, and saints are for the Pope or Churchmen, as you call them, begins to be exploded, and therefore I wonder not to see the Fraternity so much enraged. I wish the people wiser than to be troubled at you; or solicitous for what you say or do.”
His hatred of Popery blazes out:
“But how dare you assume to call these men your Flocks, whom you have plunged into so horrid a rebellion, by which you have made them and the country almost a ruinous heap? And whom you have fleeced and polled and peeled hitherto, and make it your business to do so still. You cannot feed them! You poison them with your false, abominable and antichristian doctrine and practices. You keep the Word of God from them; and instead thereof give them your senseless orders and Traditions. You teach them ‘implicit belief’; he that goes amongst them may find many that do not understand anything in the matters of your Religion. I have had few better answers from any since I came into Ireland that are of your Flocks than this, That indeed they did not trouble themselves about matters of Religion, but left that to the Church! Thus are your Flocks fed; and such credit have you of them. But they must take heed of ‘losing their Religion.’ Alas, poor creatures, what have they to lose?”
He answers their allegation that he came to despoil them of their lands, thus:
“But what? Was the English Army brought over for this purpose, as you allege? Do you think that the State of England will be at five or six millions charge merely to procure purchasers to be invested in that for which they did disburse little above a quarter of a million? … No, I can give you a better reason for the Army coming over than this. England hath had experience of the blessing of God in prosecuting just and righteous causes, whatever the cost and hazard be! And if ever men were engaged in a righteous cause in the world, this will scarce be a second to it. We are come to ask an account of the innocent blood that hath been shed, and to endeavour to bring to an account—by the blessing and presence of the Almighty, in whom alone is our hope and strength—all who, by appearing in arms, seek to justify the same. We come to break the power of a company of lawless rebels, who having cast off the authority of England, live as enemies to human society; whose principles, the world hath experience, are, to destroy and subjugate all men not complying with them. We come, by the assistance of God, to hold forth and maintain the lustre and glory of English liberty in a nation where we have undoubted right to do it; wherein the people of Ireland (if they listen not to such seducers as you are) may equally participate in all benefits; to use their liberty and fortune equally with Englishmen, if they keep out of arms.”
The expenses of his military operations were enormous, and the extraordinary drain upon the resources of his already impoverished country moved him to the deepest solicitude. But he looked upon the Irish war as a necessity of civilization and of Protestantism, and with this view before his mind he wrote to the Parliament on the subject as follows:
“Sir, I desire the charge [cost] of England as to this War may be abated as much as may be, and as we know you do desire, out of your care to the Commonwealth. But if you expect your work to be done, if the marching Army be not constantly paid, and the course taken that hath been humbly represented, indeed it will not be for the thrift of England, as far as England is concerned in the speedy reduction of Ireland. The money we raise upon the counties maintains the garrison forces; and hardly that. If the active force be not maintained, and all contingencies defrayed, how can you expect but to have a lingering business of it? Surely we desire not to spend a shilling of your treasury, wherein our consciences do not prompt us. We serve you; we are willing to be out of our trade of war; and shall hasten, by God’s assistance and grace, to the end of our work, as the labourer doth to be at his rest. This makes us bold to be earnest with you for necessary supplies: that of money is one. As there be some other things—which indeed I do not think for your service to speak of publicly, which I shall humbly represent to the Council of State—wherewith I desire we may be accommodated.”
With the opening of the year 1650, he gives his soldiers a breathing spell, while he, spurning to spare himself, turns his attention to rehabilitating the courts of justice in Dublin, and doing much other work not only in the way of conquest but of pacification.
Michael Jones, his valiant aide, perished under the privations of the war, and Cromwell speaks thus touchingly of his death:
“The noble Lieutenant-General—whose finger, to our knowledge, never ached in all these expeditions—fell sick; we doubt upon a cold taken upon our late march and ill accommodation: and went to Dungarvan, where, struggling some four or five days with a fever, he died; having run his course with so much honour, courage, and fidelity, as his actions better speak than my pen. What England lost hereby, is above me to speak. I am sure I lost a noble friend and companion in labours. You see how God mingles out the cup unto us. Indeed we are at this time a crazy company: yet we live in His sight; and shall work the time that is appointed us, and shall rest after that in peace.”
On the 29th of January he again took the field. “Though God hath blessed you with a great longitude of land,” he wrote to Speaker Lenthall, “along the shore, yet hath it but little depth into the country.” His second campaign was planned to accomplish the reduction of the inland fortresses. There was grave reason for his haste. The Parliament was becoming alarmed at the unmistakable tendencies in Scotland for Charles II. Cromwell was the only Englishman capable of restoring English authority in that kingdom. A formal letter, recalling him to England, had already been dispatched, but he delayed his return until he could still further advance the work in Ireland. His march was northward, and every day almost he took a castle, a garrison, or a town. Kilkenny Castle opened its gates as soon as he appeared before them. Next Clogheen House submitted. Then Roghill Castle, the town of Knocktofer, and a fort called Old Castletown, were taken. Fitzharris Castle attempted a defense, but was carried by storm, and all its officers were slain, the common soldiers being spared. These conquests required the Lord-Lieutenant to leave many of his troops behind to do garrison duty, and, as he had sent Ireton and Henry Cromwell on other service, he arrived at the town of Fethard with only two hundred followers, and without ladders or guns, and sent his summons in the night. They rashly fired on his trumpeter, which they would have dearly repaid had he been better accompanied. But when they found it was really Cromwell who stood outside the walls they yielded their town to him, although there were then “about seventeen companies of the Ulster foot in Cashel, above five miles from thence.” Gaining some reinforcements, Callan was taken, and some officers “who betrayed our garrison of Enniscorthy” were hanged. Ballysonan and Craigue House fell, and then Cromwell, for the first time since coming to Ireland, faced an officer of high rank, the Earl of Castlehaven. But Castlehaven had no spirit to stand before the indomitable conqueror, and vanished away. Leighlin Castle was reduced by assault; Gowran Castle resisted, but was taken by storm, and its officers were shot to death with the exception of one who had urged a surrender at the first summons. “In the same Castle also,” says Cromwell, “we took a Popish priest, who was chaplain to the Catholics in this regiment; who was caused to be hanged.”
On the 25th of February, 1650, the Commons gratefully passed a vote of thanks to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland for his services; and they then ordered that Cromwell’s family should have the use of the lodgings called the Cockpit, a sumptuous royal house in Whitehall. Cromwell thought that his mission was not yet sufficiently accomplished to permit of his return to England, and he wrote thus to the Speaker:
“Having given you this account concerning your affairs, I am now obliged to give you an account concerning myself, which I shall do with all clearness and honesty.
“I have received divers private intimations of your pleasure to have me come in person to wait upon you in England, as also copies of Votes of the Parliament to that purpose. But considering the way they came to me was but by private intimations, and the Votes did refer to a Letter to be signed by the Speaker, I thought it would have been too much forwardness in me to have left my charge here, until the said Letter came; it being not fit for me to prophesy whether the Letter would be an absolute command, or having limitations with a liberty left by the Parliament to me, to consider in what way to yield my obedience. Your Letter came to my hands upon Friday, the 22nd of March, the same day that I came before the City of Kilkenny, and when I was near the same. And I understood by Dr. Cartwright, who delivered it to me, that reason of cross winds, and the want of shipping in the West of England, where he was, hindered him from coming with it sooner; it bearing date the 8th of January, and not coming to my hands until the 22nd of March.
“The Letter supposed your Army in Winter-quarters, and the time of the year not suitable for present action; making this as the reason of your command. And your forces have been in action ever since the 29th of January; and your Letter, which was to be the rule of my obedience, coming to my hands after our having been so long in action, with respect had to the reasons you were pleased to use therein, [I knew not what to do.] And having received a Letter signed by yourself, of the 26th of February, which mentions not a word of the continuance of your pleasure concerning my coming over, I did humbly conceive it much consisting with my duty, humbly to beg a positive signification what your will is; professing (as before the Lord) that I am most ready to obey your commands herein with all alacrity; rejoicing only to be about that work which I am called to by those whom God hath set over me, which I acknowledge you to be; and fearing only in obeying you, to disobey you.
“I most humbly and earnestly beseech you to judge for me, whether your Letter doth not naturally allow me the liberty of begging a more clear expression of your command and pleasure. Which, when vouchsafed unto me, will find most, ready and cheerful obedience from, Sir, your most humble servant,
On March 22, he sat down before the town of Kilkenny, and demanded its reduction to the obedience of the State of England, “from which,” he wrote, “by an unheard-of massacre of the innocent English, you have endeavored to rend yourselves. And as God hath begun to judge you with His sore plagues, so will he follow you until he hath destroyed you, if you repent not.” But his demand was stoutly refused by Sir Walter Butler, its Royalist governor. Thereupon the batteries began to play on the town walls until, after a hundred cannon shot, a breach was forced, and a storming party entered. This brought the garrison to a sense of its peril, and, on the fourth day, the city was rendered to him. Some officers who had revolted from the Parliament service were quickly hanged.
Amid the deep concerns of State and war, Cromwell took time to write letters to his family, which, more than any other evidence we can present, disclose the real piety and nobility of his mind. To Richard Mayor he said:
“The taking of the City of Kilkenny hath been one of our last works; which indeed I believe hath been a great discomposing the Enemy—it’s so much in their bowels. We have taken many considerable places lately, without much loss. What can we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? Who can fight against the Lord and prosper? Who can resist His will? The Lord keep us in His love.
“I desire your prayers; your Family is often in mine. I rejoice to hear how it hath pleased the Lord to deal with my Daughter. The Lord bless her and sanctify all His dispensations to them and us. I have committed my Son to you; I pray counsel him. Some Letters I have lately had from him have a good savour: the Lord treasure up grace there, that out of that treasury He may bring forth good things.”
And then to Richard Cromwell he wrote this letter, which only a Puritan father could write to a beloved son:
“For my beloved Son Richard Cromwell, Esquire, at Hursley in Hampshire: These.
“Carrick, 2nd April, 1650.
“I take your letter kindly: I like expressions when they come plainly from the heart, and are not strained nor affected.
“I am persuaded it’s the Lord’s mercy to place you where you are: I wish you may own it and be thankful, fulfilling all relations to the glory of God. Seek the Lord and His face continually: let this be the business of your life and strength, and let all things be subservient and in order to this! You cannot find nor behold the face of God but in Christ; therefore labour to know God in Christ, which the Scripture makes to be the sum of all, even Life Eternal. Because the true knowledge is not literal or speculative; [no] but inward; transforming the mind to it. It’s uniting to, and participating of, the Divine Nature (Second Peter 1:4): ‘That by these ye might be partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.’ It’s such a knowledge as Paul speaks of (Philippians 3:8-10): ‘Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the Knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For whom I have suffered the loss of all things; and do count them but dung that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness which is of the Law, but that which is through the Faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by Faith; that I may know Him, and the power of His Resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings; being made conformable unto His death.’ How little of this knowledge is among us! My weak prayers shall be for you.
“Take heed of an unactive vain spirit! Recreate yourself with Sir Walter Raleigh’s History; it’s a Body of History; and will add much more to your understanding than fragments of Story. Intend [endeavour] to understand the Estate I have settled: it’s your concernment to know it all, and how it stands. I have heretofore suffered much by too much trusting others. I know my brother Mayor will be helpful to you in all this.
“You will think, perhaps, I need not advise you to love your wife! The Lord teach you how to do it; or else it will be done ill-favouredly. Though Marriage be no instituted Sacrament, yet where the undefiled bed is, and love, this union aptly resembles [that of] Christ and his Church. If you can truly love your Wife, what [love] doth Christ bear to His Church and every poor soul therein, who ` gave Himself’ for it and to it! Commend me to your Wife; tell her I entirely love her, and rejoice in the goodness of the Lord to her. I wish her everyway fruitful. I thank her for her loving Letter.
“I have presented my love to my Sister and Cousin Ann, etc., in my Letter to my Brother Mayor. I would not have him alter his affairs because of my debt. My purse is as his: my present thoughts are but to lodge such a sum for my two little Girls; it’s in his hand as well as anywhere. I shall not be wanting to accommodate him to his mind; I would not have him solicitous. Dick, the Lord bless you every way. I rest, your loving Father,
Retracing his steps a little, he came before Clonmel (May 9) in Tipperary, on the river Suir, and met the stoutest foe he had encountered in all Ireland. The commander in Clonmel was Hugh O’Neil, who fought Cromwell’s storming hosts until it became a death-struggle in the trenches. For four hours the soldiers were at push of pike, and there were more Roundheads slain than in any other engagement of that campaign. But night came and O’Neil drew out his forces and retreated. Cromwell, having battered down the castle, occupied the town, and when he found the garrison had quitted it, he set out after them and slew two hundred in the pursuit.
The Puritan Parliament passed a humane act for the settlement of Ireland whereby “all husbandmen, ploughmen, laborers, artificers, and others of the meaner sort” should be exempt from punishment for the awful massacre, which Cromwell had already avenged; and prescribing graded punishments, under trial at law, of death, banishment, or confiscation of their estates, for those who held official positions or had influenced the atrocities against the Protestants. A Protestant Church of Ireland was likewise established, and the Puritan doctrines of righteousness and salvation were preached every Sunday from pulpits where Calvinistic Presbyterianism had never before been heard. In a large part of Ireland the ancient faith was well-nigh exterminated. This arrangement of order, piety, and peace was the “Curse” which Cromwell put upon the country, and even Lord Clarendon admits that Ireland never flourished to such an extent before.
He would have lingered in Ireland through the approaching summer, but affairs in Scotland would not wait.
He appointed his son-in-law, Henry Ireton, his Deputy Lord-Lieutenant. For Ireton’s judgment, vigor, and tact he entertained a high regard, and Ireton’s prosecution of the Irish work was brilliantly pressed forward until, on the 11th of November, 1651, he died of the plague before the beleaguered walls of Limerick. Edmund Ludlow, who, in spite of the sour Memorials he has left us, was a valiant soldier of the Commonwealth, succeeded to the command of the Irish forces at the death of Ireton. Henry Cromwell was likewise appointed to continue in Ireland, where he acquitted himself with most admirable ability and courage. Leaving these men to subdue the last sparks of rebellion, Oliver Cromwell, having set the “Curse of Cromwell” on that land in such a way as to restore the distracted nation to peace and prosperity, embarked on board a Parliamentary frigate, and in the last days of May returned to England. He had killed men in the trade of war. Alas! many thousands of them had fallen before his sword. But his practice first and last was to offer quarter, and then, if resisted, to pursue his victory to the last extremity. He held with all successful Generals, that battles are fought to conquer, not to conciliate, the enemy. This was the extent of his “cruelties” in Ireland. He had been equally “cruel” in England at Marston Moor and Naseby, and he was soon to employ the same policy against the Scots at Dunbar and Worcester. Ireland, in spite of her woes, was never before so tranquil as in the days of his ascendency, nor has she ever since been so prosperous in her commerce and her industry.
Fairfax and the chief officers of the Army, with the members of Parliament and of the Council of State, met him on Hounslow Heath and escorted him to London. “What a crowd come out to see your Lordship’s triumph,” said one of his admirers. “Yes,” answered Oliver, with that dry humor which he was ever fond to indulge, “but if it were to see me hanged, how many more would there be!”
Scotland, Dunbar And Worcester
The heroic Marquis of Montrose, acting under a commission from Charles II, had returned to Scotland, followed by a troop of mercenary foreign soldiers, with the design of restoring that country to the authority of his royal master. Montrose had written a poem containing these lines, characteristic of his own daring soul:
“He either fears his fate too much, Or his deserts are small, That dares not put it to the touch To gain or lose it all.”
The rise of the Independents in England had caused great consternation to the Presbyterian party in Scotland, and the execution of Charles I had pinched the conscience and wounded the vanity of the Scots, insomuch that many of their considerable men were now intriguing for the succession of the younger Charles to the Crown. Many assurances had secretly been given to Montrose that as soon as he should appear he would be joined by his old adherents and by many of the nobility who were ostensibly opposing him. Notwithstanding these promises, Argyle, who enjoyed at this time all the power of a dictator, prepared so comprehensively to crush his old enemy, that when Montrose landed in Scotland he found himself compelled to depend almost wholly upon his foreign battalion. The number of his men was small. Nearly a thousand of them had perished by shipwreck on the way over. He was entirely destitute of cavalry, and was thereby prevented from obtaining necessary intelligence of the enemy’s movements. The Earl of Sutherland, while marching to join him with fifteen hundred men, was intercepted by Argyle’s troops under General David Leslie and Colonel Strachan, and he immediately took service with them. The Covenanters surprised Montrose at Corbiesdale, when he had but six or seven hundred Germans and a few personal friends with him. His situation was entirely hopeless, but with the chivalrous courage which distinguished him as one of the most illustrious of the Cavaliers, he formed his soldiers for battle and fought until a hundred of them were killed and the rest ran away. He himself was taken prisoner, and, after receiving many indignities and oppressions from those who should have treated so eminent a man with the forms of decency, he was publicly hanged (May 21, 1650), his head was suspended on a pole, and his body was ignominiously buried beneath the gibbet. He was but thirty-eight years old at the time of his death.
While destroying in this cruel manner the man who carried the commission of Charles II as Lieutenant-General of Scotland, Argyle had formed a compact with Charles himself by which the young King was to be crowned in Scotland. Charles, after demurring for many months, had swallowed his prejudices and subscribed the Covenant with the insincerity and contempt which were characteristic of his family in their political performances. He wrote to the Committee of Estates, with all the ardor of a Presbyterian: “We have, with you, Religion, the Gospel, and the Covenant, against which Hell shall not prevail, much less a number of sectaries stirred up by it.” The Royalists in the three kingdoms were encouraging this alliance as a source of deliverance; Charles finally went to Scotland, and was crowned King; and it was high time that the English Parliament should take alarm. It was now clear that they must either invade Scotland or be invaded by Scotland. They determined upon the former course.
Oliver Cromwell had returned to London on the 31st of May, 1650. He desired Fairfax to lead the army into Scotland, but Fairfax, controlled by his Presbyterian wife, refused to go, and resigned his commission. Thereupon Cromwell was appointed (June 26) Captain-General and Commander-in-chief of all the forces raised or to be raised by authority of Parliament within the Commonwealth of England.
Fairfax was in some respects a good soldier, but he was woefully out of place in his nominal position of General. He gives this pitiable account of himself: “From the time they [the Army] declared their usurped authority at Triplow-Heath, I never gave my free consent to anything they did. But being yet undischarged of my place, they set my name in way of course to all their papers, whether I consented or not: and to such failings are all authorities subject. Under Parliamentary authority many injuries have been done; so here hath a General’s power been broken and crumbled into a leveling faction, yet even this, I hope, all impartial judges will interpret as force and ravishment of a good name, rather than a voluntary consent, which might make me equally criminal with that faction. And if, in a multitude of words, much more in a multitude of actions, there must be some transgressions, yet I can truly say, they were never designedly or wilfully committed by me.” A Short Memorial, quoted by Harris, Life of Cromwell, p. 141. See the interview between Fairfax and Cromwell and the officers, in which they endeavored to persuade Fairfax to go with the Army to Scotland, in Whitelock, Vol. III, p. 207, who observes: “None of the committee [was] so earnest to persuade the General to continue his commission as Cromwell and the soldiers; yet there was cause enough to believe that they did not overmuch desire it.”
While the Army preparations were going forward, Cromwell one day took Ludlow aside and discoursed to him about public affairs in that enthusiastic manner which led Sir Philip Warwick to scoff at him as the Inspired Seraphic Independent. In this interview Ludlow notes that Cromwell talked for almost an hour upon the 110th Psalm. It was the General’s way of expressing his faith in the Providence of God. It was characteristic of him. It was characteristic of his party. The Psalm is short and reads thus:
“The Lord said unto my Lord: Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power; in the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning: Thou hast the dew of thy youth. The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. The Lord, at thy right hand, shall strike through Kings in the day of his wrath. He shall judge among the Heathen; he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.”
While Cromwell is bustling amid the preparations for a new war, being deprived of the companionship of his family, he writes hastily to obtain the latest word from them. His son Richard—idle Dick—seems undutiful and neglectful. He has just become a father, and Oliver writes to Mr. Mayor in these words. Is there “hypocrisy,” is there “cant” in these private utterances to those who were of his flesh and blood? Could any man write these wonderful letters and be a hypocrite?
“For my very loving Brother Richard Mayor, Esquire, at his House at Hursley: These.
“Alnwick, 17th July, 1650.
“The exceeding crowd of business I had at London is the best excuse I can make for my silence this way. Indeed, Sir, my heart beareth me witness I want no affection to you or yours; you are all often in my poor prayers.
“I should be glad to hear how the little Brat doth. I could chide both Father and Mother for their neglects of me: I know my Son is idle, but I had better thoughts of Doll [Dorothy]. I doubt now her husband hath spoiled her; pray tell her so from me. If I had as good leisure as they, I should write sometimes. If my Daughter be breeding, I will excuse her, but not for her nursery! The Lord bless them. I hope you give my Son good counsel; I believe he needs it. He is in the dangerous time of his age; and it’s a very vain world. O, how good it is to close with Christ betimes; there is nothing else worth the looking after. I beseech you call upon Him. I hope you will discharge my duty and your own love: you see how I am employed. I need pity. I know what I feel. Great place and business in the world is not worth the looking after; I should have no comfort in mine but that my hope is in the Lord’s presence. I have not sought these things; truly I have been called unto them by the Lord; and therefore am not without some assurance that He will enable His poor worm and weak servant to do His will, and to fulfil my generation. In this I desire your prayers. Desiring to be lovingly remembered to my dear Sister [Mayor’s wife], to our Son and Daughter, to my Cousin Ann and the good Family, I rest, your very affectionate brother,
Cromwell marched north on the 29th of June, 1650—less than one month since his return from Ireland. His army numbered about sixteen thousand horse and foot. John Lambert, an officer who had attracted notice by his service at Marston Moor and Naseby, and was now only thirty-one years old, was his Major-General. Charles Fleetwood, afterwards his son-in-law, was General of the Horse. Whalley, his cousin, who had charge of the King’s person at the time Charles was permitted to escape from Hampton Court, was Commissary-General. Overton, Pride, and George Monk were among his colonels. His rank and file was composed of the flower of the Ironsides. John Rushworth accompanied him as his secretary.
By the 22nd of July the Army had reached Berwick, the northernmost part of England, and crossed the Tweed. It then marched northward along the coast of Scotland to Dunbar, and thence to Musselburgh, a small town but six miles from Edinburgh. In the latter place Leslie was fortified with a strong army, and Cromwell endeavored to provoke him to fight; but Leslie, wary of the man who had won the victory at Marston Moor after he himself had lost it, would not appear now. A drenching rain and lack of provisions compelled Cromwell to draw back his forces, seeing which, Leslie attacked his rear, “and indeed,” says Oliver, “had like to have engaged our rear brigade of horse with their whole army, had not the Lord by his Providence put a cloud over the moon, thereby giving us opportunity to draw off those horse to the rest of our army.” Upon which, Leslie withdrew to his trenches. Cromwell writes:
“The Enemy, when we drew off, fell upon our rear; and put them into some little disorder: but our bodies of horse being in some readiness, came to a grabble with them; where indeed there was a gallant and hot dispute; the Major-General and Colonel Whalley being in the rear; and the Enemy drawing out great bodies to second their first affront. Our men charged them up to the very trenches, and beat them in. The Major-General’s horse was shot in the neck and head; himself run through the arm with a lance, and run into another place of his body, was taken prisoner by the Enemy, but rescued immediately by Lieutenant Empson of my regiment. Colonel Whalley, who was then nearest to the Major-General, did charge very resolutely; and repulsed the Enemy, and killed divers of them upon the place, and took some prisoners, without any considerable loss. Which indeed did so amaze and quiet them, that we marched off to Musselburgh, but they dared not send out a man to trouble us. We hear their young King looked on upon all this, but was very ill satisfied to see their men do no better.”
Again he says:
“I did not think advisable to attempt upon the Enemy, lying as he doth: but surely this would sufficiently provoke him to fight if he had a mind to. I do not think he is less than six or seven thousand horse, and fourteen or fifteen thousand foot. The reason, I hear, that they give out to their people why they do not fight us, is, Because they expect many bodies of men more out of the North of Scotland; which when they come, they give out they will then engage. But I believe they would rather tempt us to attempt them in their fastness, within which they are entrenched; or else hoping we shall famish for want of provisions; which is very likely to be, if we be not timely and fully supplied.”
Cromwell drew his officers about him and made them a characteristic discourse upon the greatness of the work that was to be performed. He spoke to them “as a Christian and a soldier,” and besought them to be doubly and trebly diligent, to be worthy and wary, for sure enough, he said, they had work before them. But had they not had God’s blessing hitherto? “Then let us go on faithfully,” he cried, “and hope for the like still!” The officers, who believed him to be, indeed, the “Inspired Seraphic Independent,” received his words with acclamations. No man could come in contact with him and escape the magnetic spell of his enthusiasm. Every soldier in his army loved him and was fearless of any foe when he was on the field.
And Cromwell loved a jest. On that same evening of his discourse to the officers, he heard a great shout among the soldiers and looked out of the window. Some of the men had found a Scotch churn filled with rich cream, which they were greedily drinking from their iron hats. One fellow, who seemed afraid he would miss his portion, raised the churn to his mouth and attempted to drink from it; but another merrily pushed it up until it fell over his head, spilling the cream over his clothing, and sticking fast on his head like a great hat. Cromwell laughed heartily at the ludicrous sight.
On another occasion, when Cromwell rode out with a small guard to reconnoiter, a Scottish soldier from a concealed position discharged his carbine at him, but missed his mark. Cromwell called to him that if he had been one of his soldiers he would have cashiered him for firing at such a distance.
When he brought his troops before Hume Castle and demanded its surrender, the Governor answered, “I know not Cromwell; and as for my Castle, it is built on a rock.” The guns were then turned upon the stronghold, which caused the doughty Governor to write this singular epistle to Cromwell:
“I, William of the Wastle, Am now in my Castle; And aw the dogs in the town Shanna gar me gang down.”
But his poetry brought forth such a shower of shot and shell that he soon abated his tone and made a hasty capitulation.
A “Paper War,” the usual accompaniment of those unhappy strifes, then ensued. The Kirk of Scotland violently denounced Cromwell and the Independents through many bitter pamphlets, and Cromwell replied in letters of equal rancor and ability. In one of these papers he said:
“Indeed we are not, through the grace of God, afraid of your numbers, nor confident in ourselves. We could—I pray God you do not think we boast—meet your Army, or what you have to bring against us. We have given—humbly we speak it before our God, in whom all our hope is—some proof that thoughts of that kind prevail not upon us. The Lord hath not hid His face from us since our approach so near unto you.”
And here come strange words from a General to an armed foe:
“Your own guilt is too much for you to bear: bring not therefore upon yourselves the blood of innocent men, deceived with pretences of King and Covenant; from whose eyes you hide a better knowledge! I am persuaded that divers of you, who lead the People, have laboured to build yourselves in these things; wherein you have censured others, and established yourselves ‘upon the Word of God.’ Is it therefore infallibly agreeable to the Word of God, all that you say? I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken. Precept may be upon precept, line may be upon line, and yet the Word of the Lord may be to some a Word of judgment; that they may fall backwards, and be broken, and be snared and be taken! There may be a spiritual fulness, which the World may call drunkenness; as in the second Chapter of Acts. There may be, as well, a carnal confidence upon misunderstood and misapplied precepts, which may be called spiritual drunkenness. There may be a Covenant made with Death and Hell! I will not say yours was so. But judge if such things have a politic aim: To avoid the overflowing scourge; or, To accomplish worldly interests? And if therein we have confederated with wicked and carnal men, and have respect for them, or otherwise have drawn them in to associate with us, Whether this be a Covenant of God, and spiritual? Bethink yourselves; we hope we do.
“I pray you read the Twenty-eighth of Isaiah, from the fifth to the fifteenth verse. And do not scorn to know that it is the Spirit that quickens and giveth life.
“The Lord give you and us understanding to do that which is well-pleasing in His sight. Committing you to the grace of God, I rest, your humble servant,
Here is the passage from Isaiah:
“In that day shall the Lord of Hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of His people. And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate. But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way! The Priest and the Prophet have erred through strong drink; they are swallowed up of wine; they are out of the way through strong drink. They err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness; so that there is no place clean. Whom shall he teach knowledge? Whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little and there a little. For with stammering lips and another tongue will He speak to this people. To whom He said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest, and this is the refreshment; yet they would not hear. But the Word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little, That they might go, and fall backward, and be broken and snared and taken! Wherefore hear ye the Word of the Lord, ye scornful men that rule this people which is in Jerusalem!”
We assume that honest David Leslie, the Scottish General, cherished but little real sympathy for the casuistries under which the Kirk theologians were endeavoring to reconcile austere Presbyterianism with the profligate branch of the Episcopalian party that was represented by the young King Charles. But Leslie, in a very brief letter, and with no relish for the business, forwarded to Cromwell, by command of the General Assembly, a Declaration, “wherein we are resolved,” said Leslie, “by the Lord’s assistance, to fight your army when the Lord shall be pleased to call us thereunto.” Unhappy Leslie! Upon him and upon his party Cromwell straightway pours out the vials of his wrath. He writes:
“But that under the pretence of the Covenant mistaken and wrested from the most native intent and equity thereof a King should be taken in by you, to be imposed upon us; and this [be] called ‘the Cause of God and the Kingdom’; and this done upon ‘the satisfaction of God’s People in both Nations,’ as is alleged, together with a disowning of Malignants; although he [Charles Stuart] who is the head of them, in whom all their hope and comfort lies, be received; who, at this very instant, hath a Popish Army fighting for and under him in Ireland; hath Prince Rupert, a man who hath had his hand deep in the blood of many innocent men of England, now in the head of our Ships, stolen from us upon a Malignant account; hath the French and Irish ships daily making depredations on our coasts; and strong combinations by the Malignants in England, to raise Armies in our bowels, by virtue of his commissions, who hath of late issued out very many to that purpose: How the [Godly] Interest you pretend to have received him upon, and the Malignant Interests in their ends and consequences [all] centring in this man, can be secured, we cannot discern! And how we should believe, that whilst known and notorious Malignants are fighting and plotting against us on the one hand, and you are declaring for him on the other, it should not be an ‘espousing of a Malignant Party’s Quarrel or Interest’; but be a mere ‘fighting upon former grounds and principles, and in defence of the Cause of God and the Kingdoms, as hath been these twelve years last past,’ as you say: how this should be ‘for the security and satisfaction of God’s People in both Nations’; or [how] the opposing of this should render us enemies to the Godly with you, we cannot well understand. Especially considering that all these Malignants take their confidence and encouragement from the late transactions of your Kirk and State with your King. For as we have already said, so we tell you again, It is but [some] satisfying security to those who employ us and [who] are concerned, that we seek. Which we conceive will not be by a few formal and feigned Submissions, from a Person [i.e. Charles II] that could not tell otherwise how to accomplish his Malignant ends, and [is] therefore counselled to this compliance, by them who assisted his Father, and have hitherto actuated himself in his most evil and desperate designs; designs which are now again by them set on foot. Against which, How you will be able, in the way you are in, to secure us or yourselves? [this it now] is (forasmuch as concerns ourselves) our duty to look after.
“If the state of your Quarrel be thus, upon which, as you say, you resolve to fight our Army, you will have opportunity to do that; else what means our abode here? And if our hope be not in the Lord, it will be ill with us. We commit both you and ourselves to Him who knows the heart and tries the reins; with whom are all our ways; who is able to do for us and you above what we know: Which we desire may be in much mercy to His poor People, and to the glory of His great Name.”
One evening (July 28) Cromwell placed his army within a mile of Edinburgh, “so tired and wearied for want of sleep,” said Cromwell, “and so dirty by reason of the wetness of the weather, that we expected the enemy would make an infall upon us.” Whereupon Leslie endeavored to insert his troops between the Lord General and his supplies. At dawn of the next morning Cromwell perceived the dangerous situation. There were hasty marchings by both armies and a severe skirmish, but the English succeeded in regaining their quarters at Musselburgh. It became clear by this time that it was Leslie’s policy to remain in safety behind the walls of Edinburgh, and to tire out the strength and patience of his enemy. It was a wise design. Cromwell could not conveniently unload his provisions at Musselburgh, his men were falling sick, and, after exhausting every expedient to provoke an engagement, he was forced to retreat to Dunbar where there was a fine harbor and he could fortify himself for the winter and wait a chance for battle.
Dunbar is situated about thirty miles northeast of Edinburgh on high ground on the rockbound coast. The town is on a sort of peninsula, about a mile and a half across its breast from sea to sea; and to landward of it are huge hills which are impassable except by one road. As Oliver, with an uncomfortable sense of being in full retreat, passed through these hills, Leslie, leading an army of 23,000 men, followed him and blocked up the passes. On one side of the Parliamentary host was the sea, on the other side a range of unscalable hills and a hostile army. The ground on which they had set their tents was marked with plashes of water and rough bent grass. It was no suitable place for a fight. The Roundheads were in a trap.
For the first time in his life Cromwell was in despair, “being sensible of our disadvantages,” he wrote, “and having some weakness of the flesh.” His men now numbered scarce 11,000, and they were all conscious of the grave peril of their situation. Cromwell, standing for the first time in the presence of palpable defeat, wrote the following letter to Sir Arthur Hazelrig, plainly intimating his expectation of the annihilation of his command.
“To the Honourable Sir Arthur Hazelrig, at Newcastle or elsewhere: These. Haste, haste.
“Dunbar, 2nd September, 1650.
“We are upon an Engagement very difficult. The Enemy hath blocked-up our way at the pass at Copperspath, through which we cannot get without almost a miracle. He lieth so much upon the Hills that we know not how to come that way without great difficulty; and our lying here daily consumeth our men, who fall sick beyond imagination.
“I perceive, your forces are not in a capacity for present release. Wherefore, whatever becomes of us, it will be well for you to get what forces you can together, and the South to help what they can. The business nearly concerneth all Good People. If your forces had been in a readiness to have fallen upon the back of Copperspath, it might have occasioned supplies to have come to us. But the only wise God knows what is best. All shall work for Good. Our spirits are comfortable, praised be the Lord, though our present condition be as it is. And indeed we have much hope in the Lord; of whose mercy we have had large experience.
“Indeed, do you get together what forces you can against them. Send to friends in the South to help with more. Let H. Vane know what I write. I would not make it public, lest danger should accrue thereby. You know what use to make hereof. Let me hear from you. I rest, your servant,
“P. S.: It’s difficult for me to send to you. Let me hear from you after you receive this.”
His position was indeed very similar to that of Essex in 1644, when he surrendered his army to Charles on the Cornwall promontory. But before Cromwell had dispatched his letter to Hazelrig, Leslie brought his troops down to the foot of the hills and placed them in such a position that the practiced eye of the Puritan leader joyfully discerned that there was still a chance for victory. He called quickly to Lambert and Monk, who likewise perceived the error of the Scottish formation.
Between the two armies a wide and deep brook ran. Far on the left of Cromwell’s men there was a ford except at which the stream was impassable. Leslie placed his foot near this ford and then surrounded them with his horse, concentrating the full strength of his army on this right wing. Cromwell believed that if he could but pass over the ford he would be able to strike such a blow on the foot soldiers as would force them back upon their own horse and throw the whole into confusion. To cross the ford first would be a point of vantage. With the armies in these postures the night fell.
An English soldier, who strayed too near this ford, was captured and taken before General Leslie. “Soldier,” asked the General, “how will you fight, when you have shipped half of your men, and all your great guns?” “Sir,” replied the Roundhead, “if you please to draw down your men, you shall find both men and great guns too!” An officer demanded how he dare answer the General so saucily. “Sir,” he said, “I only answer the question put to me.” Leslie set him at liberty, and he returned across the brook to Cromwell, complaining that he had been plundered of twenty shillings, which Cromwell made good to him from his own pocket.
Early on the morning of Tuesday, September 3, soon after three o’clock, the English were astir. The Lord General had explained his plan, and selected Lambert, Fleetwood, Whalley, and Monk to lead the charge. It was indeed victory or destruction. Lambert was slow to leave his tent, and Cromwell chafed at the delay. But by four o’clock the Ironsides were at the ford—were passing over. “They were actuated,” said Cromwell, “with as much courage as ever hath been seen in any action since this war.” There was a loud alarm in the Scottish camp. Their bugles called their men to arms. Before they were well aware of it, the English were upon them. The Roundhead horse were bravely met by the Scottish foot. Leslie’s men had hardly time to light their gun-matches. They were forced to use sword and pike. Oliver’s foot came across the stream and were bravely repulsed. Whalley’s horse was killed under him, but he quickly mounted another. They charged again, and the fight raged for nearly an hour. The Scottish horse attempted an onset, but were so fairly in the rear of their own infantry that they could make little headway. “The Covenant, the Covenant!” cried the Scots, now beginning to give ground. “The Lord of Hosts!” answered the English, “The Lord of Hosts!” Just then the tardy sun rose far out in the distant ocean. Oliver saw it. “Let God arise!” he shouted, “Let his enemies be scattered!” Old Noll, as the soldiers loved to call him, was in the heat of the battle, directing every movement of his men. “They run! I profess they run!” he cried. They were indeed beginning to yield. The words of the 117th Psalm sprang from the lips of the enthusiastic conqueror; to his warring hosts it sounded like a hymn of battle. “O! praise the Lord, all ye nations; praise him, all ye people!” he cried. “For his merciful kindness is great towards us; and the truth of the Lord endureth forever. Praise ye the Lord!” The troops caught the psalm from his lips and repeated it. He pressed to the front; once more the Roundheads charged—and won. The pursuit and slaughter were kept up for eight miles. Three thousand Scots were slain. Ten thousand of them were taken prisoners. All their artillery, ammunition, colors, and stores, and 15,000 arms, were captured. Leslie was foremost in the flight—he got to Edinburgh, thirty miles away, by nine o’clock that morning. The power of the Scots was crushed. The young King, who, before the Scots would fight for him, had been forced to sign a disgraceful declaration acknowledging that his late father had been justly punished for his sins, fled in terror to the Highlands. The English had won their victory by their gallant and invincible charge; they lost not over a score of men in the battle.
On the day after this victory Oliver wrote to his wife this touching letter:
“For my beloved Wife Elizabeth Cromwell, at the Cockpit: These.
“Dunbar, 4th September, 1650.
“I have not leisure to write much. But I could chide Thee that in many of thy Letters thou writest to me, That I should not be unmindful of thee and thy little ones. Truly, if I love you not too well, I think I err not on the other hand much. Thou art dearer to me than any creature; let that suffice.
“The Lord hath showed us an exceeding mercy—who can tell how great it is! My weak faith hath been upheld. I have been in my inward man marvellously supported; though I assure thee, I grow an old man, and feel infirmities of age marvellously stealing upon me. [He was now 51 years old.] Would my corruptions as fast decrease! Pray on my behalf in the latter respect.
“The particulars of our late success Harry Vane or Gilbert Pickering will impart to thee. My love to all dear friends. I rest thine,
He appears unable to express his joy and thankfulness in the victory too fervently. Writing to Richard Cromwell’s father-in-law, he says:
“I desire my love may be presented to my dear sister Mayor’s wife, and to all your family. I pray tell Doll I do not forget her nor her little Brat. She writes very cunningly and complimentally to me; I expect a letter of plain dealing from her. She is too modest to tell me whether she breeds or not. I wish a blessing upon her and her husband. The Lord make them fruitful in all that’s good. They are at leisure to write often; but indeed they are both idle and worthy of blame.”
He seemed to yearn for frequent letters from his family, and they seemed to write all too infrequently.
The same day he wrote to Ireton, who was winning rapid victories in Ireland, and was soon to die there:
“We have been engaged upon a service the fullest of trial ever poor creatures were upon. We made great professions of love; knowing we were to deal with many who were Godly, and [who] pretended to be stumbled at our Invasion: indeed, our bowels were pierced again and again; the Lord helped us to sweet words, and in sincerity to mean them. We were rejected again and again; yet still we begged to be believed that we loved them as our own souls; they often returned evil for good. We prayed for security: [against young Charles Stuart’s designs.] they would not hear or answer a word to that. We made often appeals to God; they appealed also. We were near engagements three or four times, but they lay upon advantages. A heavy flux fell upon our Army; brought it very low, from Fourteen to Eleven thousand: Three-thousand five-hundred horse, and Seven-thousand five-hundred foot. The enemy Sixteen-thousand foot, and Six-thousand horse.”
After writing to the Parliament a full account of his operations in Scotland up to this time, he spoke in these eloquent terms of the duties of the hour. He believed that the promise “The saints shall possess the earth” was in course of fulfillment, and his words sound like those of the ancient Prophets, with whom, indeed, he felt his spirit to be in kindred intercourse:
“Thus you have the prospect of one of the most signal mercies God hath done for England and His People, this War—and now may it please you to give me the leave of a few words. It is easy to say, The Lord hath done this. It would do you good to see and hear our poor foot to go up and down making their boast of God. But, Sir, it’s in your hands, and by these imminent mercies God puts it more into your hands, To give glory to Him; to improve your power, and His blessings, to His praise. We that serve you beg of you not to own us, but God alone. We pray you own His people more and more; for they are the chariots and horsemen of Israel. Disown yourselves—but own your Authority; and improve it to curb the proud and the insolent, such as would disturb the tranquillity of England, though under what specious pretences soever. Relieve the oppressed, hear the groans of poor prisoners in England. Be pleased to reform the abuses of all professions—and if there be any one that makes many poor to make a few rich, that suits not the Commonwealth. If He that strengthens your servants to fight, please to give you hearts to set upon these things, in order to His glory, and the glory of your Commonwealth, [then] besides the benefit England shall feel thereby, you shall shine forth to other Nations, who shall emulate the glory of such a pattern, and through the power of God turn—in to the like!
“These are our desires. And that you may have liberty and opportunity to do these things, and not to be hindered, we have been and shall be (by God’s assistance) willing to venture our lives; and [will] not desire you should be precipitated by importunities, from your care of safety and preservation; but that the doing of these things may have their place amongst those which concern well-being, and so be wrought in their time and order.
“Since we came in Scotland, it hath been our desire and longing to have avoided blood in this business; by reason that God hath a people here fearing His name, though deceived. And to that end have we offered much love unto such, in the bowels of Christ; and concerning the truth of our hearts therein, have we appealed unto the Lord. The Ministers of Scotland have hindered the passage of these things to the hearts of those to whom we intended them. And now we hear, that not only the deceived people, but some of the Ministers are also fallen in this Battle. This is the great hand of the Lord, and worthy of the consideration of all those who take into their hands the instruments of a foolish shepherd—to wit, meddling with worldly policies, and mixtures of earthly power, to set up that which they call the Kingdom of Christ, which is neither it, nor, if it were it, would such means be found effectual to that end—and neglect, or trust not to, the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit; which is alone powerful and able for the setting up of that Kingdom; and, when trusted to, will be found effectually able to that end, and will also do it! This is humbly offered for their sakes who have lately too much turned aside: that they might return again to preach Jesus Christ, according to the simplicity of the Gospel; and then no doubt they will discern and find your protection and encouragement. Beseeching you to pardon this length, I humbly take leave; and rest, Sir, your most obedient servant,
Cromwell marched back to Edinburgh, in triumph entered the city this time, and began another “Paper War” with the preachers who were shut up in the Castle far above him. In this controversy he drives home the fact that they have departed from the Puritan fold by their resumption of the Stuart allegiance. He said:
“And although they [the Scottish Ministers] seem to comfort themselves with being sons of Jacob, from whom (they say) God hath hid His face for a time; yet it’s no wonder when the Lord hath lifted up His hand so eminently against a Family as He hath done so often against this [the Stuart Family], and men will not see His hand, it’s no wonder if the Lord hide His face from such; putting them to shame both for it and their hatred of His people, as it is this day. When they purely trust to the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, which is powerful to bring down strongholds and every imagination that exalts itself—which alone is able to square and fit the stones for the new Jerusalem—then and not before, and by that means and no other, shall Jerusalem, the City of the Lord, which is to be the praise of the whole Earth, be built; the Sion of the Holy One of Israel.”
The Scottish pamphleteers had said some harsh things about the late King’s execution, which stirred Cromwell to speak his mind boldly as to that, and the new government in England:
“Now if the Civil Authority, or that part of it which continued faithful to their trust [an allusion to Pride’s Purge], and true to the ends of the Covenant, did, in answer to their consciences, turn-out a Tyrant, in a way which the Christians in after times will mention with honour, and all Tyrants in the world look at with fear; and [if] while many thousands of saints in England rejoice to think of it, and have received from the hand of God a liberty from the fear of like usurpations, and have cast-off him [young Charles Stuart] who trod in his Father’s steps, doing mischief as far as he was able (whom you have received like fire into your bosom, of which God will, I trust, in time make you sensible): if, I say, Ministers railing at the Civil Power, and calling them murderers and the like for doing these things, have been dealt with as you mention, will this be found a ‘personal persecution’? Or is sin so, because they say so? They that acted this great business (the King’s Execution) have given a reason of their faith in the action; and some here are ready farther to do it against all gainsayers.”
When the Scottish ministers attempted to reprove the English Puritans, and made themselves “the judges and determiners of sin,” Cromwell said:
“This [method of censure] was not practised by the church since our Saviour’s time, till Antichrist, assuming the Infallible Chair, and all that he called Church to be under him, practised this authoritatively over civil governors. The way to fulfill your ministry with joy is to preach the Gospel; which I wish some who take pleasure in reproofs at a venture, do not forget too much to do.”
In the midst of his solemn polemics, he strikes out some wise truths of public policy:
“Indeed, you err through mistaking of the Scriptures. Approbation is an act of conveniency in respect of order; not of necessity, to give faculty to preach the Gospel. Your pretended fear lest Error should step in, is like the man who would keep all the wine out of the country lest men should be drunk. It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy, to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon a supposition he may abuse it. When he doth abuse it, judge. If a man speak foolishly, ye suffer him gladly because ye are wise; if erroneously, the truth more appears by your conviction [of him.] Stop such a man’s mouth by sound words which cannot be gainsayed. If he speak blasphemously, or to the disturbance of the public peace, let the Civil Magistrate punish him: if truly, rejoice in the truth. And if you will call our speakings together since we came into Scotland—to provoke one another to love and good works, to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and repentance from dead works; [and] to charity and love towards you, to pray and mourn for you, and for your bitter returns to our love of you, and your incredulity of our professions of love to you, of the truth of which we have made our solemn and humble appeals to the Lord our God, which He hath heard and borne witness to: if you will call [these things] scandalous to the Kirk, and against the Covenant, because done by men of Civil callings—we rejoice in them, notwithstanding what you say.”
It must be repeated, Cromwell was not a man of blood. He had treated the Scottish people with great leniency, and he vainly hoped by the power of his pen to convert them to his own Independent theology, rather than to compel their obedience to England by military conquest. He wrote to the Council of State:
“I am in great hopes, through God’s mercy, we shall be able this Winter to give the People such an understanding of the justness of our Cause, and our desires for the just liberties of the People, that the better sort of them will be satisfied therewith; although, I must confess, hitherto they continue obstinate. I thought I should have found in Scotland a conscientious People, and a barren country: about Edinburgh it is as fertile for corn as any part of England; but the People generally (are so) given to the most impudent lying and frequent swearing, as is incredible to be believed.”
On the 24th of December the great castle was surrendered to him, together with a store of ordnance more vast than could be found in any other stronghold in Scotland.
The praying quality of Cromwell’s godly men and his high appreciation of piety in the Army, are shown in a letter which the Lord General wrote to Colonel Hacker, refusing to appoint one Captain Hubbert to a place then held by Captain Empson:
“I pray let Captain Hubbert know I shall not be unmindful of him, and that no disrespect is intended to him. But indeed I was not satisfied with your last speech to me about Empson, That he was a better preacher than fighter or soldier,-or words to that effect. Truly I think he that prays and preaches best will fight best. I know nothing [that] will give like courage and confidence as the knowledge of God and Christ will; and I bless God to see any in this Army able and willing to impart the knowledge they have, for the good of others. And I expect it to be encouraged, by all the Chief Officers in this Army especially; and I hope you will do so. I pray receive Captain Empson lovingly; I dare assure you he is a good man and a good officer; I would we had no worse.”
His wife at London is proud of his career and writes him (December 27) intimating that it will advance his interest if he write occasionally to Oliver St. John, now Lord Chief justice, and to John Bradshaw, now President of the Council of State [her letter is quoted in Chapter 1]. Letters also came from London informing him of his appointment as Chancellor of the University of Oxford, a compliment which pleased him much, and called forth this letter:
“To the Reverend Dr. Greenwood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, and other Members of the Convocation.
“Edinburgh, 4th Feb., 1650.
“I have received by the hands of those worthy Persons of your University sent by you into Scotland, a Testimony of very high respect and honour, in [your] choosing me to be your Chancellor. Which deserves a fuller return, of deep resentment [appreciation], value and acknowledgement, than I am any ways able to make. Only give me a little to expostulate, on your and my own behalf. I confess it was in your freedom to elect, and it would be very uningenuous in me to reflect upon your action; only (though somewhat late) let me advise you of my unfitness to answer the ends of so great a Service and Obligation, with some things very obvious.
“I suppose a principal aim in such elections hath not only respected abilities and interest to serve you, but freedom [as] to opportunities of time and place. As the first may not be well supposed, so the want of the latter may well become me to represent to you. You know where Providence hath placed me for the present; and to what I am related if this call were off [Lord Lieutenant of Ireland], I being tied to attendance in another Land as much out of the way of serving you as this, for some certain time yet to come appointed by the Parliament. The known esteem and honour of this place is such, that I should wrong it and your favour very much, and your freedom in choosing me, if, either by pretended modesty or in any unbenign way, I should dispute the acceptance of it. Only I hope it will not be imputed to me as a neglect towards you, that I cannot serve you in the measure I desire.
“I offer these exceptions with all the candour and clearness to you, as [leaving you] most free to mend your choice in case you think them reasonable; and shall not reckon myself the less obliged to do all good offices for the University. But if these prevail not, and that I must continue this honour, until I can personally serve you, you shall not want my prayers That that seed and stock of Piety and Learning, so marvellously springing up amongst you, may be useful to that great and glorious Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ; of the approach of which so plentiful an effusion of the Spirit upon those hopeful plants is one of the best presages. And in all other things I shall, by the Divine assistance, improve my poor abilities and interests in manifesting myself, to the University and yourselves, your most cordial friend and servant,
In February, 1651, he was stricken down by a dangerous sickness—the “infirmities of age” were indeed stealing upon him. His friends in England, including the Parliament and the Council of State, were greatly alarmed. But he recovered his strength and health, and wrote this letter to Bradshaw:
“Indeed, my Lord, your service needs not me; I am a poor creature; and have been a dry bone; and am still an unprofitable servant to my Master and you. I thought I should have died of this fit of sickness; but the Lord seemeth to dispose otherwise. But truly, my Lord, I desire not to live, unless I may obtain mercy from the Lord to approve my heart and life to Him in more faithfulness and thankfulness, and [to] those I serve in more profitableness and diligence. And I pray God, your Lordship, and all in public trust, may improve all those unparalleled experiences of the Lord’s wonderful workings in your sight, with singleness of heart to His glory, and the refreshment of His People; who are to Him as the apple of His eye; and upon whom your enemies, both former and latter, who have fallen before you, did split themselves.”
At the same period he wrote to his wife—wrote often to her doubtless, but too few of his family letters have been preserved. Those that do exist are profoundly attractive, illuminating as they do the secret soul of Cromwell. Of the persons referred to, “Betty” and “him” are his daughter Elizabeth and Claypole, her husband; “the Lord Herbert” is Henry Somerset, eldest son of the Marquis of Worcester, a Protestant only because the times made it expedient to be one, and therefore to be avoided:
“For my beloved Wife Elizabeth Cromwell, at the Cockpit: These.
“Edinburgh, 12th April, 1651.
“I praise the Lord I am increased in strength in my outward man. But that will not satisfy me except I get a heart to love and serve my heavenly Father better; and I get more of the light of His countenance, which is better than life, and more power over my corruptions: in these hopes I wait, and am not without expectation of a gracious return. Pray for me; truly I do daily for thee and the dear Family; and God Almighty bless you with all His spiritual blessings.
“Mind poor Betty of the Lord’s great mercy. Oh, I desire her not only to seek the Lord in her necessity, but in deed and in truth to turn to the Lord; and to keep close to Him; and to take heed of a departing heart, and of being cozened with worldly vanities and worldly company, which I doubt she is too subject to. I earnestly and frequently pray for her and for him. Truly they are dear to me, very dear; and I am in fear lest Satan should deceive them, knowing how weak our hearts are, and how subtle the adversary is, and what way the deceitfulness of our hearts and the vain world make for his temptations. The Lord give them truth of heart to Him. Let them seek Him in truth, and they shall find Him.
“My love to the dear little ones; I pray for grace for them. I thank them for their letters; let me have them often.
“Beware of my Lord Herbert’s resort to your house. If he do so, it may occasion scandal, as if I were bargaining with him. Indeed, be wise—you know my meaning. Mind Sir Henry Vane of the business of my estate. Mr. Floyd knows my whole mind in that matter.
“If Dick Cromwell and his Wife be with you, my dear love to them. I pray for them: they shall, God willing, hear from me. I love them very dearly. Truly I am not able as yet to write much. I am very weary; and rest, thine,
And here is another, the last that we have from this husband to his wife:
“For my beloved Wife Elizabeth Cromwell, at the Cockpit: These.
“Edinburgh, 3rd May, 1651.
“I could not satisfy myself to omit this post, although I have not much to write; yet indeed I love to write to my Dear, who is very much in my heart. It joys me to hear thy soul prospereth: the Lord increase His favours to thee more and more. The great good thy soul can wish is, That the Lord lift upon thee the light of His countenance, which is better than life. The Lord bless all thy good counsel and example to all those about thee, and hear all thy prayers, and accept thee always.
“I am glad to hear thy Son and Daughter are with thee. I hope thou wilt have some good opportunity of good advice to him. Present my duty to my Mother, my love to all the Family. Still pray for thine,
Some of the good people of Durham had petitioned the Parliament to convert “the houses of the late Dean and Chapter,” in the city of Durham into a college or school of literature, but the matter had slumbered while more active affairs flour. fished. It is evidence of the common respect that was held for Cromwell’s liberal mind that those who were pushing the college establishment now made a perilous midwinter journey to Edinburgh to secure his co-operation in the scheme. He entered into the project with hearty accord, and wrote to Speaker Lenthall in these terms:
“Truly it seems to me a matter of great concernment and importance; as that which, by the blessing of God, may such conduce to the promoting of learning and piety in those poor rude and ignorant parts; there being also many concurring advantages to this Place, as pleasantness and aptness of situation, healthful air and plenty of provisions, which seem to favour and plead for their desires therein. And besides the good, so obvious to us, [which] those Northern Counties may reap thereby, who knows but the setting on foot this work at this time may suit with God’s present dispensations; and may—if due care and circumspection be used in the right constituting and carrying-on the same—tend to, and by the blessing of God produce, such happy and glorious fruits as are scarce thought on or foreseen.”
Upon the receipt of his letter there was some further debate concerning the school, but it was put aside until seven years later, when, in the fulness of his own power, he erected a seat of learning at Durham with considerate generosity to its necessities.
He marched near to Stirling, where Charles II and the remnant of the Scottish Army were in winter quarters, but finding them too strongly fortified, and the weather terribly severe, he returned to Edinburgh and passed the winter there. In April he marched west and entered Glasgow where his Army spent ten days. He was again thrown into a violent sickness—the third attack this winter. The disease was an ague; and the Council of State was instructed by the Parliament to request him to return to England for milder air. Two physicians were sent from London to see him. But he was undaunted in the face of sickness, and wrote thus hopefully:
“I shall not need to recite the extremity of my last sickness: it was so violent that indeed my nature was not able to bear the weight thereof. But the Lord was pleased to deliver me, beyond expectation; and to give me cause to say once more ‘He hath plucked me out of my grave!’ My Lord, the indulgence of the Parliament expressed by their Order is a very high and undeserved favour: of which although it be fit I keep a thankful remembrance, yet I judge it would be too much presumption in me to return a particular acknowledgement. I beseech you give me the boldness to return my humble thankfulness to the Council for sending two such worthy persons, so great a journey, to visit me. From whom I have received much encouragement, and good directions for recovery of health and strength, which I find [now] by the goodness of God, growing to such a state as may yet, if it be His good will, render me useful according to my poor ability, in the situation wherein He hath set me.”
In approaching Glasgow, Lambert, commanding the advance guard, encountered a considerable force of Scots and fought them, slaying 2,000 and taking nearly 600 prisoners.
Hear the words of the great Puritan in closing his account of their victory:
“This is an unspeakable mercy. I trust the Lord will follow it until He hath perfected peace and truth. We can truly say we were gone as far as we could in our counsel and action and we did say one to another, we knew not what to do. Wherefore, it’s sealed upon our hearts, that this, as all the rest, is from the Lord’s goodness, and not from man. I hope it becometh me to pray, That we may walk humbly and self-denyingly before the Lord, and believingly also. That you whom we serve, as the authority over us, may do the work committed to you, with uprightness and faithfulness, and thoroughly, as to the Lord. That you may not suffer anything to remain that offends the eyes of His jealousy. That common weal may more and more be sought, and justice done impartially. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro; and as He finds out His enemies here, to be avenged on them, so will He not spare them for whom He doth good, if by His loving kindness they become not good. I shall take the humble boldness to represent this Engagement of David’s, in the Hundred-and-nineteenth Psalm, verse Hundred-and-thirty-fourth, ‘Deliver me from the oppression of man, so will I keep Thy precepts.’”
How often and how quickly his history turns from the soldier to the man! On one day he writes of a battle in which the destinies of his country hang upon his sword. On the next the welfare of a human soul stirs him to the deepest emotion. Richard Cromwell—Idle Dick—is still a most despicably lazy and vain young man. Cromwell’s sorrow is intense, and he sternly rebukes the young man’s shiftless course in this painful letter to Mr. Mayor:
“To my very loving Brother Richard Mayor, Esquire, at Hursley: These.
“Burntisland, 28th July, 1651.
“I was glad to receive a letter from you; for, indeed, anything that comes from you is very welcome to me. I believe your expectation of my Son’s coming is deferred. I wish he may see a happy delivery of his wife first, for whom I frequently pray.
“I hear my son hath exceeded his allowance, and is in debt. Truly I cannot commend him therein; wisdom requiring his living within compass, and calling for it at his hands. And in my judgment, the reputation arising from thence would have been more real honour than what is attained the other way. I believe vain men will speak well of him that does ill.
“I desire to be understood that I grudge him not laudable recreations, nor an honourable carriage of himself in them; nor is any matter of charge, like to fall to my share, a stick with me. Truly I can find in my heart to allow him not only a sufficiency but more, for his good. But if pleasure and self-satisfaction be made the business of a man’s life, [and] so much cost laid out upon it, so much time spent in it, as rather answers appetite than the will of God, or is comely before His Saints, I scruple to feed this humour; and God forbid that his being my Son should be his allowance to live not pleasingly to our Heavenly Father, who hath raised me out of the dust to be what I am!
“I desire your faithfulness (he being also your concernment as well as mine) to advise him to approve himself to the Lord in his course of life; and to search His statutes for a rule of conscience and to seek grace from Christ to enable him to walk therein. This hath life in it, and will come to somewhat; what is a poor creature without this? This will not abridge of lawful pleasures; but teach such a use of them as will have the peace of a good conscience going along with it. Sir, I write what is in my heart; I pray you communicate my mind herein to my Son, and be his remembrancer in these things. Truly I love him, he is dear to me; so is his wife; and for their sakes do I thus write. They shall not want comfort nor encouragement from me, so far as I may afford it. But, indeed, I cannot think I do well to feed a voluptuous humour in my Son, if he should make pleasures the business of his life—in a time when some precious Saints are bleeding and breathing out their last, for the safety of the rest. Memorable is the speech of Uriah to David (Second Samuel 11:11).
“Sir, I beseech you, believe I here say not this to save my purse, for I shall willingly do what is convenient to satisfy his occasions as I have opportunity. But as I pray he may not walk in a course not pleasing to the Lord, so I think it lieth upon me to give him, in love, the best counsel I may; and know not how better to convey it to him than by so good a hand as yours. Sir, I pray you, acquaint him with these thoughts of mine, and remember my love to my Daughter, for whose sake I shall be induced to do any reasonable thing. I pray for her happy deliverance, frequently and earnestly.
“I am sorry to hear that my Bailiff in Hantshire should do to my Son as is intimated by your letter. I assure you I shall not allow any such thing. If there be any suspicion of his abuse of the Wood, I desire it may be looked after, and inquired into; that so, if things appear true, he may be removed—although, indeed, I must needs say he had the repute of a godly man, by divers that knew him, when I placed him there.
“Sir, I desire my hearty affection may be presented to my Sister; to my Cousin Ann, and her Husband, though unknown. I praise the Lord I have obtained much mercy in respect of my health; the Lord give me a truly thankful heart. I desire your prayers; and rest, your very affectionate brother and servant,
Second Samuel 11:11: “And Uriah said unto David, The Ark, and Israel, and Judah abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I, then, go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing.”
After returning to Edinburgh, Cromwell marched north to make a final attempt on Perth, to dislodge the young King, and end the war. So well were his plans conceived that by August 1 he had placed his Army in Fife, so as to cut off the Scots from their base of supplies, and he now expected to force them to come out of Perth and fight.
But young Charles Stuart, prompted by that spirit of romantic bravery which distinguished his unfortunate house, immediately adopted a brilliant expedient which surprised and temporarily baffled the astute Cromwell, and filled every Puritan breast in England with alarm. In a moment of supreme self-assertion he snatched the command of the Scottish troops away from the Committee of Preachers who had hitherto held full authority, and passed to the West and South of Cromwell’s position, and, by a swift march, invaded England (August 6, 1651) with an army of 14,000 men. It was his expectation that all who were discontented with the present government would flock to his standard, and that he would soon be enabled to assume the Crown of his fathers in all its ancient splendor and authority.
Cromwell was deeply mortified by the stratagem that had been played upon him, but he prepared to dispel this new peril with all his energy and skill.
He wrote to the Speaker:
“I do apprehend, that if he [Charles II] goes for England, being some few days march before us, it will trouble some men’s thoughts; and may occasion some inconveniences; which we hope we are as deeply sensible of, and have been, and I trust shall be, as diligent to prevent, as any. And indeed this is our comfort, that in simplicity of heart as towards God, we have done to the best of our judgments; knowing that if some issue were not put to this Business, it would occasion another Winter’s war: to the ruin of your soldiery, for whom the Scots are too hard in respect of enduring the Winter difficulties of this country; and to the endless expense of the treasure of England in prosecuting this war. It may be supposed we might have kept the Enemy from this, by interposing between him and England. Which truly I believe we might: but how to remove him out of this place, without doing what we have done, unless we had had a commanding Army on both sides of the River of Forth, is not clear to us; or how to answer the inconveniences aforementioned, we understand not.”
Leaving Monk with 7,000 men in charge of military operations in Scotland, he dispatched Lambert with the larger part of the horse to follow Charles with all possible rapidity. “With the rest of the horse,” he wrote “and nine regiments of foot, most of them of your old foot and horse [his Ironsides], I am hastening up; and shall, by the Lord’s help, use utmost diligence.” He wrote letters to the Parliament acquainting them with what had occurred and besought them to call out all the militia of the kingdom to intercept the invaders. Then he proceeded with the infantry in the trail of Lambert.
As Charles pursued his hasty march down through England he became greatly disappointed by the failure of his friends to join his Army. Many of the Scots who were with him began to repent of their rash adventure, and fell away. The English Presbyterians had received no notice of his coming, and his progress was much too rapid to draw them into his march. The old Cavaliers needed nothing but the sound of his bugle to call them forth in all their old enthusiasm, but they were Episcopalians, and the bigoted men who controlled the policy of Charles’ Army would permit the enlistment of no one, not even in this dangerous extremity, who would not subscribe the Covenant. The Earl of Derby did lead a body of Royalists in Lancashire, but they were quickly suppressed, and the Earl afterwards lost his head for the attempt. Under these circumstances Charles sped on past York, Nottingham, and Coventry, summoning each town to surrender, but scarcely pausing to receive their negative replies, for the steady tread of Cromwell’s pursuit was ever in his ears. He reached the city of Worcester on the 22nd of August, having but a few more men than he had started with, probably 16,000. He was permitted to enter the city, and was encouraged and sustained by the devotion of the populace. Six days later Cromwell came in sight with an army of 30,000 men.
The battle of Worcester was fought on the 3rd of September, 1651 (Oliver’s fortunate day), about four o’clock in the afternoon. The city is on the bank of the Severn River. Cromwell built two bridges of boats across the river, and passed about half his Army over to the side opposite the city, under Fleetwood, where a large party of Scots promptly engaged him in a hot fight and were pressed back. Charles watched the fight from the roof of the old Cathedral, and when he saw so many of the English go across the river he decided that it would be well to sally forth and attack Cromwell’s main body. This was done, and the struggle was as fierce as any which the great leader had ever witnessed—”as stiff a contest for four or five hours,” he wrote, “as I have seen.” His men were repulsed; many of them were the raw militia levies, and would not stand before the furious Scots, who were fighting with the energy of despair. Cromwell himself had been with Fleetwood on the other side of the river, had been the first man in fact to cross the bridge of boats, and he had driven all before him. But now he is back on the Worcester side. A glance shows him the danger. He spurs forward his horse. He rides in the very front to a regiment of Scottish foot and offers them quarter, and they fire their guns at him. His men press forward again. There is no dismay when he is with them. The Scots retreat into Worcester streets, and the English press in upon them pell-mell. Charles himself is doing a soldier’s part; he makes one gallant charge at the head of his troops, but it avails not. On the other side the Scots turn to Fleetwood’s bridges, and hurry across to the city. Fleetwood follows them, and they are thus surrounded by Cromwell on the one hand and Fleetwood on the other. And then it is hot passion, and blood, and woe. Their fort within the city is taken, and Cromwell turns their own guns upon them. Many hundreds of them are slain. Duke Hamilton, brother to the former Duke, is killed. Seven thousand surrender, including nearly the whole of the Scottish nobility in arms. Many others fly—weary, frightened fugitives, who are pursued and struck down by Lambert, hunted, killed, or taken, in every by-path in the Midland counties.
The young King left Worcester with fifty or sixty friends about six o’clock in the evening, and rode twenty-six miles without a stop. Then he separated from his companions and rode through the forest to Bascobel, on the borders of Staffordshire, and stopped at the house of a farmer named Penderell. To him he discovered his identity, and Penderell kept him with him for some days garbed as a wood-chopper. He had many narrow escapes, and once climbed hastily into a tall oak tree while a party of Parliamentary soldiers paused beneath to discuss his whereabouts. It was even said that Charles spent two or three days in Cromwell’s Army disguised as a boy servant to one of the Puritan officers. He went to Bristol disguised as a serving man to one of his faithful friends, but could find no suitable vessel there for his departure. After many adventures, in the course of which his person became known to some forty men and women, he succeeded in obtaining a passage from Shoreham, in Sussex, and sailed away for France, there to remain in comparative quiet until after the death of his relentless foe.
Worcester was Cromwell’s last battle. He wrote to the Parliament:
“The dimensions of this mercy are above my thoughts. It is for aught I know a crowning mercy. Surely, if it be not, such a one we shall have, if this provoke those that are concerned in it to thankfulness; and the Parliament to do the will of Him who hath done His will for it, and for the Nation; whose good pleasure it is to establish the Nation and the Change of the Government, by making the People so willing to the defence thereof, and so signally blessing the endeavours of your servants in this late great work. I am bold humbly to beg, That all thoughts may tend to the promoting of His honour who hath wrought so great salvation; and that the fatness of these continuous mercies may not occasion pride and wantonness, as formerly the like hath done to a chosen Nation (Deuteronomy 32:15); but that the fear of the Lord, even for His mercies, may keep an Authority and a People so prospered, and blessed, and witnessed unto, humble and faithful; and that justice and righteousness, mercy and truth, may flow from you, as a thankful return to our gracious God.”
When the Parliament received these tidings they voted that the anniversary of Worcester should be a holiday for all time to come.
It will be seen that Cromwell’s art in war was to find out his enemy and fight him on sight. In the campaign in Scotland there were three occasions on which the strategy of his enemy placed him in peril—at Musselburgh, when he was cut off from his supplies; at Dunbar, when he found his Army in a trap; and in Fife, when he permitted young Charles to pass around behind him and invade England.
After Worcester he never drew his sword in war, and it was in the Senate and in the Council Chamber that his genius was henceforth to shine. He returned to London ten days after the Worcester battle, and was received with all the pomp and acclamation which a grateful people could bestow upon their deliverer. Chaplain Hugh Peters was much impressed by the magnificence of Cromwell’s triumph, and, amid the booming of cannon and the huzzas of the people, he could not refrain from saying, “This man will be King of England yet!” Why not? He had conquered England, and Ireland, and Scotland. What better man was there to assume the government?
The Rump Expelled-The Lord Protector
The Power of Cromwell’s sword had by this time placed the Commonwealth of England upon an assured and successful foundation. At the beginning of the year 1651 the three kingdoms had been rocking in the throes of civil war. When that year closed, there was scarcely in all Great Britain or Ireland a hostile soldier under arms. A solid and substantial peace ensued, and much of the bitterness of the strife was forgotten amid the material prosperity which began to attend the nation. Sir Harry Vane and Oliver St. John, the most astute politicians in England, were sent as commissioners to Scotland, and they succeeded by their diplomatic skill in securing the voluntary consent of all the counties and towns of that conquered country to a permanent affiliation with the Commonwealth. “The great shot of Cromwell and Vane,” wrote Baillie, the Scottish Covenanter, “is to have a liberty of all religions without any exception.”
The new Government, having pacified its own dominions, turned its ambitious attention to foreign conquests. The kingdom of Portugal, which had given aid and comfort to Prince Rupert’s fleet, was humiliated and made to sue for pardon. A war with Holland was entered upon (1652) on account of the English Navigation Act. In the first engagement at sea the great Dutch commanders, Van Tromp and De Ruiter, won the advantage over Blake, the English Admiral; and Van Tromp fixed a broom to his main mast as a warning that he intended to sweep the English ships from the sea. Smarting under this taunt, Blake (1653) gathered together an invincible Navy, and attacked Tromp; and after a three days’ fight in which both the armadas were handled with the utmost skill and bravery, the Dutchman was beaten. The power of England was henceforth esteemed by all the world as invulnerable both on the land and the sea. “In two years,” said Algernon Sidney, “our fleets grew to be as famous as our land armies, and the reputation and power of our nation rose to a greater height than when we possessed the better half of France and had the Kings of France and Scotland for our prisoners.”
But the steady development of the naval power under the direction of the Parliament, and the consequent rivalry of interest between the Army and the Navy, produced a grave jealousy in the Army. An order from the Parliament employing several regiments of soldiers to serve in the Navy increased the discontent. With Blake winning victories every day, the Parliament would soon stand unassailable with the Navy behind it. The eminent services of Cromwell might soon be forgotten in the newer glories of Blake. Cromwell and his Army were in favor of putting an end to the Dutch war. The Parliament and Blake, winning prizes every day, discouraged all negotiations for peace.
That Cromwell had for a long time intended to forcibly terminate the Long Parliament seems to be beyond dispute. He and Ireton had discussed it frequently, as we have already seen, in the days of the treaties with Charles. He had spoken of it to Ludlow. He had declared it boldly to Whitelock, adding an astounding suggestion about taking it upon himself to be King. His complaint to Whitelock was that the Army had begun to have a strong distaste against the Parliament; that they were overcome with pride, and ambition, and self-seeking; that they engrossed all places of honor and profit to themselves and their friends; that they meddled in private matters between parties, contrary to the usage of Parliaments, and were unjust and partial in such affairs; and that many of them led scandalous lives.
A further reason for Cromwell’s growing aversion was the estrangement which had taken place between himself and young Sir Harry Vane—”young Sir Harry” still, for his father yet sat beside him in Parliament, and died in 1654. Vane was to the Parliament what Cromwell was to the Army and what Blake was to the Navy. Since the execution of the King, to which he had been unalterably opposed, Vane had lost ground in Cromwell’s esteem. Now, as Treasurer of the Navy, his genius had just perfected a plan for raising £120,000 a month for the war with Holland, and for the consequent increase of the power of the fleet. Besides, he was proposing to publicly sell all the royal palaces in order to remove from the eyes of any ambitious man in the kingdom a palpable temptation to seize the Crown.
But Vane was forced by an almost universal demand to make some preparations for the election of a new Parliament. The existing basis of representation was outrageously unfair. Some of the boroughs which were represented by two members had scarcely a house upon them. The single county of Cornwall elected forty-four, while more thickly populated counties, like Essex, had only six. The entire symmetry of the Parliament, as representative of the English people, had been destroyed by Pride’s Purge.
The popular discontent impelled the Army leaders to send the Parliament a remonstrance appealing for the dissolution of that body. They acknowledged that the Parliament had completed great undertakings, and had overcome gigantic difficulties. Yet it was not fair to the rest of the nation, they said, to be excluded from bearing any part in the service of their country. It was now full time for them to give place to others; and they therefore desired them, after appointing a council to execute the laws, to summon a new Parliament, and establish that free and equal government which they had so long promised the nation.
The Rump members were naturally averse to a free election, as it was not unlikely that a quick revulsion of feeling would take place among the people that would result in the election of a Parliament which would restore the banished Stuarts, and cause the abandonment of all that had been accomplished for the national liberty. They therefore prepared a bill upon a general plan suggested long before by Henry Ireton for a free election, but with the important provisions added to it—first, that all the present members were to continue to hold their seats without re-election; and, secondly, that a committee of the Rump was to superintend the elections and judge of their validity and fitness. November 3, 1653, the thirteenth anniversary of the assembling of the Long Parliament, was fixed as the period of their sitting.
The introduction of this bill in Parliament threw Cromwell into a violent rage. He desired to see a new Parliament elected which would represent the Independent party alone, esteeming the time as not yet ripe for entrusting the whole people with a voice in the Government. But while the safeguards in Vane’s bill would prevent the election of a Royalist majority, the increasing prestige of the Navy would likewise operate towards the choosing of a body favorable to Vane and Blake, rather than to Cromwell and the Army. He inwardly resolved that, rather than throw away the fruits of his great victories, or place them in jeopardy at the hands of a new and possibly hostile Parliament, he would dissolve the Rump without immediate provision for its successor. His strong desire to avoid an ignominious ejection of a Parliament so illustrious in the eyes of the world, drew from him many overtures for its peaceful and honorable retirement. Since the preceding October he had held fully a dozen meetings with their leaders, but had not yet secured their consent to its dissolution.
In the meantime, Vane’s bill was hurried through its legislative stages in April 1653, and was soon made ready for passage. On the 19th of April, Cromwell summoned all the Parliamentary leaders to his lodgings at Whitehall. On Cromwell’s side there were St. John, Lambert, Harrison, Fleetwood, Desborough, and many other principal officers of the Army. With Vane were Whitelock, Hazelrig, Scott, Marten, Sidney, and seventeen others. The discussion was acrimonious and lasted until after midnight. The Parliament men reproached the Army leaders with a desire to assume all the civil as well as the military power. The Army men brusquely replied that the members of Parliament would not be permitted to prolong their own power. The conference degenerated into what was very much like a fight for the spoils of war. Harrison remarked that Cromwell merely desired to pave the way for the Government of Jesus and his Saints; and it was answered that Jesus ought to come quickly then, for if he delayed it long he would come too late—he would find his place occupied. To all of Cromwell’s entreaties the Parliament men replied, “that nothing would do good for this nation but the continuance of this Parliament.” He attempted to draw them into a committal that neither Royalists nor Presbyterians should enjoy the electoral franchise. “For it’s one thing to love a brother,” he said, “to bear with and love a person with different judgment in the matters of religion, and another thing to have anybody so far set in the saddle on that account, as to have all the rest of his brethren at mercy.” But they stubbornly refused to make him any promises. He told them they were endeavoring only to perpetuate themselves in authority, and again they answered that only so could the good of the nation be secured. Midnight came without any satisfactory concessions on either side. Finally Vane promised to suspend further proceedings about the bill until after another conference with the military party, and with this understanding they separated.
The next morning (April 20, 1653) shortly after the Parliament met, Colonel Ingoldsby, and afterwards a second and a third messenger, came hastily to Cromwell to say that the members were pushing to a final vote the bill for the election of a new Parliament and the continuance of their own seats therein. All the sleeping passion in the General’s breast was aroused by this perfidious proceeding. He summoned a reliable body of troops from his own regiment of Ironsides and walked briskly to the Parliament House. As he entered the Commons’ Chamber, he said to St. John that he had come with a purpose of doing what grieved him to the very soul, and what he had earnestly with tears besought the Lord not to impose upon him, that he would rather be torn in pieces than do it; but there was a necessity in order to the glory of God and good of the nation. He sat down in his accustomed seat, clad in plain black clothes and gray worsted stockings, and listened attentively to the debate on the bill. Then he beckoned to Major-General Harrison and whispered that he judged the Parliament ripe for a dissolution, and thought this was the time for doing it. Harrison replied that the work was very great and dangerous, and asked him to seriously consider before he engaged in it. Whereupon Cromwell sat still for some fifteen minutes. The question for passing the bill was then put, and Cromwell said to Harrison, “This is the time I must do it,” and rose up, put off his hat, and began to speak. There were not more than fifty-three members present. At the start he said much in commendation of the Parliament for their valuable public services, but as the importance of his purpose began to press upon his mind, he changed his style and spoke with a tongue of flame. He loaded them with reproaches, saying that they had no heart to do anything for the public good, that they had espoused the corrupt interest of Presbytery and the lawyers, who were the supporters of tyranny and oppression. He accused them of an intention to perpetuate themselves in power, and said that they had brought forward the act of dissolution merely because they had been forced to do so, although he believed they never intended to observe its provisions. He told them—and there was the roar of the lion in his voice now—that the Lord had done with them, and had chosen other instruments for the carrying on his work that were more worthy.
Sir Peter Wentworth was the only man who dared to rise amid that tempest of wrath. He said that this was the first time he had ever heard such unbecoming language given to the Parliament, and that it was the more horrid in that it came from their servant—their servant whom they had so highly trusted and obliged. But when Wentworth had gone thus far, Cromwell clapped on his hat and interrupted him with, “Come, come, we have had enough of this!” He walked furiously up and down the floor. “I will put an end to your prating,” he cried, in a high voice. He stamped his feet upon the floor—no man had ever seen the like of such rage in a Parliament before. “It is not fit that you should sit here any longer. You are no Parliament!” Oh, the scorn of his tone! “I say you are no Parliament!” To an officer he cried, “Call them in, call them in”; and the grim companions of his battles entered, with eyes alert and guns ready, and waited his further orders.
“I say you are no Parliament.” They are on their feet now, their faces blazing with amazement. Sir Harry Vane gravely speaks: “This is not honest; yea, it is against morality and common honesty.” Cromwell is all passion. “Sir Harry Vane, Sir Harry Vane! The Lord deliver me from Sir Harry Vane!” He glares on Tom Challoner, and says, “Some of you are drunkards!” His eye lights on Harry Marten, and he cries, “Some of you are lewd-livers, living in open contempt of God’s commandments!” His flashing eyes pass from face to face and he says, “Some of you are corrupt, unjust persons, scandalous to the profession of the Gospel.” As the once great Parliament stands cowering before him, he thunders out their final doom. “Depart, I say!” They began to go out. There was no gainsaying this man. They understood then, perhaps, why he had never been defeated in his battles. His eye fell upon the Mace, the emblem of authority, but it aroused no respect in his mind. “Take away that bauble,” he said to one of his soldiers. Lenthall still sat in the Speaker’s chair. His dignity was imperturbable, and when Cromwell ordered him to come down he tarried. Harrison then took him by the hand and helped him down, and he vanished. So did they all; and as young Sir Harry walked sadly away, Cromwell said to him reproachfully, alluding to the broken agreement of the night before, that he might have prevented this extraordinary course, but he was a juggler and had not so much as common honesty. The bill which had produced this scene of violence was taken by Cromwell and carried away under his cloak, and was never found afterwards. Cromwell was the last to leave that historic Chamber, and as he passed out he locked the door and took the key with him. The State of England was then without King, Lords, or Commons; it was bereft of all legal government whatsoever.
The expulsion of the Long Parliament was one of the most remarkable scenes in English history. And yet Cromwell said, “Not a dog barked at their going.” As a violation of popular liberty it certainly surpassed the attempt of Charles to arrest five of its members. The Parliament had sat nearly thirteen years. It had secured for Englishmen substantial liberties which have never faded away, and which will always be a boon to mankind. The temptations of power had made it tyrannical, perhaps corrupt. But while the high spirit of patriotism which had marked the first years of its sitting had indisputably deteriorated, while the unanimity of its design to promote the nation’s welfare had given place to factious and sectarian jealousies, while its various purgings had left it as the mere Rump of a great original, it was still, with all its faults, yea, with all its crimes, the venerable champion of England’s liberties, and it deserved a more felicitous exit from the stage.
Cromwell left the vacant Parliament House and went to the Council of State, who were in official session. As he entered he said to them, “Gentlemen, if you are met here as private persons, you shall not be disturbed; but if as a Council of State, this is no place for you, and since you can’t but know what was done at the House this morning, so take notice, that the Parliament is dissolved.” John Bradshaw, the President, attempted to oppose him. “Sir,” said Bradshaw, “we have heard what you did in the House this morning, and before many hours all England will hear it. But, sir, you are mistaken to think that the Parliament is dissolved, for no power under Heaven can dissolve them but themselves; therefore take you notice of that.” But Cromwell’s will could not be turned by words like these, and the Council of State vanished as the Parliament had done.
Cromwell’s power was now supreme. As “Lord General and Commander-in-Chief of all the Armies and forces raised and to be raised,” he was naturally the highest authority in the nation. But he seems to have desired to establish at least the forms of a constitutional government. He accordingly issued a summons to 140 Puritan Englishmen, “persons fearing God, and of approved fidelity and honesty,” to assemble at Whitehall on the 4th of July, to whom was to be committed “the peace, safety, and good government of the Commonwealth.” This body is known in history as the Little Parliament, or in a more familiar way as Barebone’s Parliament, from the spiritual prominence of one of its members, Praise-God Barebone, or Barbone, who was a leather merchant in London. Among the members were some notable men—Admiral Blake; Alderman Ireton, a brother of the dead soldier; Richard Mayor, the father-in-law of Richard Cromwell; men of good family, as Colonel Charles Howard and Colonel Edward Montague; and many who were neither notable nor of good family. They were all Puritans, and, generically, Independents, but they were subdivided into Anabaptists, or those who believed that infant baptism was not valid, and Millenarians, or Fifth Monarchy men, who believed that after the rotative domination in the world of the Assyrian, Persian, Greek, and Roman Empires, the reign of Christ for a thousand years was at last about to begin on this earth.
Cromwell inaugurated their session by a very remarkable speech, which is in part an apology for his conduct, in part a statement of the existing situation, and in part a sermon of the times. He told them that the last Parliament had been dismissed, partly, because of their intention not to give the people a right of choice, forgetting that the men whom he was then addressing had not been called by the people’s right of choice, but by his own command. His own broad toleration of religious beliefs was indicated by this exhortation:
“Therefore, I beseech you—but I think I need not—have a care of the whole flock! Love the sheep, love the lambs; love all, tender all, cherish and countenance all, in all things that are good. And if the poorest Christian, the most mistaken Christian, shall desire to live peaceably and quietly under you, I say if any shall desire but to lead a life of godliness and honesty, let him be protected!”
He counseled them in regard to their choice of officials. “If I were to choose any servant,” he said, “the meanest officer for the Army or the Commonwealth, I would choose a godly man that hath principles.”
He then committed the whole of the civil power into their hands, as a Parliament, to be exercised in accordance with the provisions of The Instrument of Government, drawn up by himself and his officers. And the announcement of the coming of the Millennium, of the beginning of the Reign of the Saints, was given to them in this peroration, than which no stranger address was ever heard in a civil gathering before. But there was nothing of hypocrisy about it. It was an outburst of faith and pious joy, a song of prophecy from an earnest soul, which believed that, after battling with the darkness, it now bathed in the eternal presence of the Spirit of Christ. He said:
“Indeed, I have but one more word to say to you; though in that perhaps I shall show my weakness: it’s by way of encouragement to go on in this Work. And give me leave to begin thus. I confess I never looked to see such a Day as this—it may be nor you neither—when Jesus Christ should be so owned as He is, this day, in this Work. Jesus Christ is owned this day by the Call of You; and you own Him by your willingness to appear before Him. And you manifest this, as far as poor creatures may do, to be a Day of the Power of Christ. I know you well remember that Scripture, ‘He makes His People willing in the day of His power.’ God manifests this to be the Day of the Power of Christ; having, through so much blood, and so much trial as hath been upon these Nations, made this to be one of the great issues thereof: To have His People called to the Supreme Authority. He makes this to be the greatest mercy, next to His own Son. God hath owned His Son; and He hath owned you, and made you own Him. I confess I never looked to have seen such a day; I did not. Perhaps you are not known by face to one another; indeed I am confident you are strangers, coming from all parts of the Nation as you do; but we shall tell you that indeed we have not allowed ourselves the choice of one person in whom we had not this good hope, That there was in him faith in Jesus Christ, and love to all His people and Saints.”
While the Little Parliament was appointing its committees, Cromwell had organized a Council of State in conformity with The Instrument of Government. This Council consisted of thirty-one members, and it soon became apparent that upon it must devolve the discharge of the actual duties of the State. Cromwell had hoped that his Parliament would, by a kind of divine intuition, be enabled to wisely administer the government; but, while they spent whole days in seeking the Lord, they had not sat a week before he discerned that the Reign of the Saints on earth, in other words, the Fifth Monarchy, had not yet been established from on high. His strivings after these unattainable things are full of pathos. He wrote thus to Fleetwood, his son-in-law, now commander-in-chief in Ireland, and married to Bridget Cromwell, Ireton’s widow:
“Fain would I have my service accepted of the Saints, if the Lord will; but it is not so. Being of different judgments, and those of each sort seeking most to propagate their own, that spirit of kindness that is [in me] to them all, is hardly accepted of any. I hope I can say it, My life has been a willing sacrifice—and I hope—for them all. … If the day of the Lord be so near as some say, how should our moderation appear! If every one, instead of contending, would justify his farm of judgment by love and meekness, Wisdom would be [justified of her children]. But, alas!”
Then follows this sad reflection, his pen and thoughts running into the sorrows of David in their kindred feeling:
“I am, in my temptation, ready to say, Oh, would I had wings like a dove, then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest!”
He recalls himself to his duty, and says:
“I bless the Lord I have somewhat keeps me alive: some sparks of the light of His countenance, and same sincerity above man’s judgment. Excuse me thus unbowelling myself to you: pray for me; and desire my friends to do so also. My love to thy dear Wife, whom indeed I entirely love, both naturally and upon the best account; and my blessing, if it be worth anything, upon thy little Babe.”
Surely, no hypocrite could write thus. His design for a Theocratic Government was impracticable, let us even say fanatical, but he himself was devoutly moved by his “transports” to believe in the certainty of the unveiling of God’s mysteries upon earth. But his faith became shaken by the cold hand of experience.
The Little Parliament, believing that Cromwell’s deposit of power in their custody was genuine, as he intended it to be, began to attempt the reformation of the country. They first attacked the clergy as a privileged class which derived its functions from the papacy, claiming that all men had an equal right to preach at will. They abolished the system of tithes as a relic of Judaism. Learning and the Universities were deemed unnecessary and incompatible with the spirit of the true Gospel. The lawyers were then taken into consideration, all, including Cromwell, having a special pique at that profession. Indeed, Cromwell had said to Ludlow, that the main operation of the law, as at present constituted, was to maintain the lawyers, and assist the rich in oppressing the poor. He added that Cooke, who was justice in Ireland, by proceeding in a summary and expeditious way, determined more causes in a week, than Westminster Hall in a year. Ireland, he observed, was a clean paper in that particular, and capable of being governed by such laws as should be found most agreeable to justice, which might be so impartially administered there, as to afford a good precedent to England itself, “where, when we shall once perceive that property may be preserved at so easy and cheap a rate, we shall certainly never allow ourselves to be cheated and abused as we have been.”
Finally, it was determined to destroy the Court of Chancery, the highest court of judicature in the kingdom. There was some palliation for their deep contempt of the heaviness of the law when it is stated that there were 23,000 causes of from five to thirty years’ continuance then lying undetermined in Chancery. One member not inaptly said that for dilatoriness, chargeableness, and a faculty of bleeding people in the purse-vein, even to their utter perishing and undoing, the Court of Chancery surpassed any court in the world. The Parliament began to forget the manner of their assembling under Cromwell’s invitation, and to assume a direct power from the Lord, which pleased not the Lord General. Cromwell resolved to dismiss this Parliament. But they were by this time divided among themselves, and he could not get a clear majority to do his bidding. It was necessary to dissemble, and Cromwell was a political dissembler of the first rank.
On Monday morning, the 12th of December, 1653, those members who were faithful to Cromwell, including Francis Rouse, the Speaker, met early by concert and resolved, “That the sitting of this Parliament any longer, as now constituted, will not be for the good of the Commonwealth; and that therefore it is requisite to deliver-up unto the Lord General Cromwell the powers which we received from him.” They then hastened away to Whitehall where a formal deed transferring their powers to Cromwell was waiting them, and so great was his desire for haste that they signed their names on separate bits of paper which were afterwards pasted on the document itself. They then disappeared from Whitehall and from history. General Harrison and about twenty more were in the meantime met in the House where they placed one of their brethren in the chair and began to draw up protests against abolishing the Reign of the Saints. But presently Colonel White came with a body of soldiers from Cromwell and asked them what they did there, to which they answered that they were seeking the Lord. “Then you may go elsewhere,” said he, “for to my certain knowledge, he has not been here these many years.”
The conduct of the Little Parliament had highly alarmed all those of the legal and clerical professions, in fact, all the scholars and men of mind, and had turned their thoughts towards Cromwell as a desirable head of the State. His formal assumption of authority was a necessity of the times—the only settlement of a great emergency. The officers of the Army and the common soldiers demanded it; the rest of the population of England clearly expected it. And Cromwell consented to it as a public duty.
A new Instrument of Government was drawn up by Lambert. It consisted of forty-two articles and comprised a clear and liberal constitution. It provided for the appointment of a new Council of State to consist of not more than twenty-one nor less than thirteen persons; the head of the State was to be one person to be called the Lord Protector, who was to be the supreme magistrate. He could pardon all crimes but murder and treason, and he held the prerogatives of peace, war, and alliance; he was obliged to summon a Parliament every three years, and allow them to sit five months without interruption; all bills passed by the Parliament were to be submitted to the Lord Protector, but if within twenty days they were not returned with his approval, they were then to become laws by the single voice of the Parliament. But they were not to touch the Army in number or pay, nor legislate against any man’s conscience except as to the Catholics, nor make any alteration in the Instrument of Government. The Army was to consist permanently of 20,000 foot and 10,000 horse. During the intervals of Parliament the Lord Protector and his Council might enact laws, which must afterwards receive the assent of the Parliament. The chief officers of the State were to be chosen by and with the advice and consent of the Parliament, or, in times of its non-sitting, by the Council, subject to their future confirmation by the Parliament. Cromwell was named the Lord Protector and was to hold office for life, but it was distinctly declared that it was not hereditary, but elective, and at his death the Council should fill his place immediately.
Was this the Instrument of a tyrant or of a constitutional ruler? The privileges which were reserved to the Protector were not nearly equal to the well-defined prerogatives of the King. It is true that in reserving to himself the entire control of the Army, Cromwell was to be the chooser of his own bounds; but there is a very clear and definite purpose in this Instrument to establish a Government by the people, in so far as the people could be trusted in those bitter times, with a sufficient authority in the background to rescue the destinies of England whenever they might seem to be in peril.
We have seen that the Little Parliament was dissolved on Monday, December 12, 1653. On Friday, the 16th, Cromwell was installed at Westminster as Lord Protector amidst great pageantry. He left Whitehall preceded by the Commissioners of the Great Seal; after them came the judges and Barons of the Exchequer in the insignia of their office; then the Council of State; the Lord Mayor and Aldermen in their scarlet robes; and then Cromwell, dressed in a plain but rich suit of black velvet, riding in the coach of state with its outriders, and attended by the chief officers of the Army and an imposing escort of soldiery. A chair of state was set for him in Westminster Hall and he stood beside it, uncovered, while the Instrument of Government was read and a solemn oath administered, by which he bound himself to support it. He then sat down and resumed his hat, and General Lambert presented him with a sword in its scabbard, representing the Civil Sword. The Lord Protector accepted this, and put off his own, signifying that military rule was ended. He was then proclaimed Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, after which he returned to Whitehall in the same order in which he had come thence, being greeted along the line of march by the acclamations of the citizens and soldiers. On arriving at Whitehall, he immediately provided that all the ceremony and state should be observed with regard to his person that was usual with the Kings of England.
England’s Greatest Strength
Cromwell, at the time of his installment as Lord Protector, was a little past fifty-four years of age. His frame was cast in a large mold, and lacked but two inches of six feet in height. His head was massive—”you might see it,” said John Maidstone, “a storehouse and shop both of a vast treasury of natural parts.” There was the historic wart above the right eyebrow, nose large and wide at nostril, full lips, and deep gray eyes, full of all tenderness, or, if need be, of all fierceness. Rich dark brown locks, now showing many a silver hair, fell flowing below his collar-band. A slight mustache only partially covered his upper lip, while just under his nether lip was a little tuft of beard scarce half an inch long. A hero he was, whose face and figure had been bathed in the storms of battle, and on which the eternal dignities of a great life had set an indelible and distinguished mark.
After his death, when it was esteemed a sign of moral obliquity to praise him, John Maidstone, who knew him well, said:
“His temper [was] exceedingly fiery, as I have known, but the flame of it [was] kept down for the most part, or soon allayed with those moral endowments he had. He was naturally compassionate towards objects in distress, even to an effeminate measure; though God had made him a heart wherein was left little room for any fear, but what was due to himself, of which there was a large proportion, yet did he exceed in tenderness towards sufferers. A larger soul, I think, hath seldom dwelt in a house of clay than his was.”
Continuing his description with a candor which proves its truthfulness, Maidstone says:
“I do believe, if his story were impartially transmitted, and the unprejudiced world well possessed with it, she would add him to her nine worthies, and make up that number a decemviri. He lived and died in comfortable communion with God, as judicious persons near him well observed. He was that Mordecai that sought the welfare of his people, and spake peace to his seed, yet were his temptations such, as it appeared frequently, that he, that hath grace enough for many men, may have too little for himself; the treasure he had being but in an earthern vessel, and that equally defiled with original sin, as any other man’s nature is.”
There was no seed of hypocrisy in Cromwell’s heart. In times of danger he could practice dissimulation and concealment in affairs of State, but his soul was so thoroughly enveloped in the mysticism of what he believed to be a personal communion with God, that there was no guile in his religion. This trait is indicated in General Harrison’s exhortation to him about the time of the Little Parliament. “My dear lord,” said Harrison, “let waiting upon Jehovah be the greatest and most considerable business you have every day; reckon it so more than to eat, sleep, or counsel together. Run aside sometimes from your company, and get a word with the Lord. Why should not you have three or four precious souls always standing at your elbow, with whom you might now and then turn into a corner? I have found refreshment and mercy in such a way.”
Immediately after his assumption of the Protectorate, his council, by virtue of the powers conferred by The Instrument of Government, passed certain wise ordinances, regulating the financial and political exigencies of the nation. Other ordinances—perhaps not so wise—were enacted in matters of religion, by which the Government assumed to inspect the characters of the preachers. And yet it was a time of complete religious toleration and liberty, excepting popery, which the Puritan party sternly refused to recognize as a part or parcel of the scheme of life in England. But Cromwell, greater than his fellows, perceived their weakness when he said, “Every sect saith, ‘Oh, give me liberty.’ But give him it, and, to his power, he will not yield it to anybody else. Liberty of conscience is a natural right, and he that would have it, ought to give it.” He in time broadened his own mental powers so as to look upon Catholicism with the eye of a statesman instead of with that of the fanatic. He wrote to Cardinal Mazarin, the French Prime Minister, in these remarkable words, the style proving the letter his own and not Milton’s:
“The obligations, and many instances of affection, which I have received from your Eminency, do engage me to make returns suitable to your merits. But although I have this set home upon my spirit, I may not (shall I tell you, I cannot?) at this juncture of time, and as the face of my affairs now stands, answer to your call for Toleration.
“I say, I cannot, as to a public Declaration of my sense in that point; although I believe that under my Government your Eminency, in the behalf of Catholics, has less reason for complaint as to rigour upon men’s consciences than under the Parliament. For I have of some, and those very many, had compassion; making a difference. Truly I have (and I may speak it with cheerfulness in the presence of God, who is a witness within me to the truth of what I affirm) made a difference; and, as Jude speaks, ‘plucked many out of the fire,’ the raging fire of persecution, which did tyrannise over their consciences, and encroached by an arbitrariness of power upon their estates. And herein it is my purpose, as soon as I can remove impediments, and some weights that press me down, to make a farther progress, and discharge my promise to your Eminency in relation to that.”
He writes again, yet more definitely: “I desire from my heart—I have prayed for it—I have waited for the day to see union and right understanding between the godly people, Scots, English, Jews, Gentiles, Presbyterians, Independents, Anabaptists, and all.”
But more remarkable than his change of sentiment concerning Catholic toleration was his magnanimous attempt to restore the Jews to the privileges of English residents. These unfortunate people were despised and persecuted in all parts of Christendom as the murderers of Jesus, and the superstitious hatred which had arisen against them in the Middle Ages had made them the wretched victims of cruel and barbarous tortures on every hand. Yet the fire of their afflictions molded them into a patient, industrious, and thrifty race. Under the laws of Europe they could neither own land nor acquire public honors. Abhorred by all the rest of mankind, and deprived of both the political and religious liberties which are so dear to the human heart, the unhappy Jews seemed by a common agreement to have made the acquisition of wealth their sole endeavor. They, therefore, began to occupy almost every channel of trade until their influence upon commerce forced from the world a universal acknowledgment. In 1290 they had been publicly banished from England, since which time, with individual exceptions, their presence had been unknown in the British dominions. After the lapse of three and a half centuries, Cromwell resolved to remove this harsh proscription from the wretched race. As an act of toleration, this project appealed to his conscience; as a beneficent help to a deserving people, it won the approval of his most liberal mind, while he was quick to recognize, as the head of the State, its unbounded influence upon the industrial system of England.
The claims of the Jewish race were first brought to Cromwell’s attention by Manassah Ben Israel, a rich Amsterdam Jew, of Portuguese origin. This man was believed to be the most erudite of all his people, and he was respected for this as well as for his correct life. His wife was of the family of Abrabenels, and boasted a descent from the tribe of Judah and the royal house of David. Manassah had applied to the Long Parliament, immediately upon the establishment of the Commonwealth, for a passport to come into England, and his request had been granted. But other affairs had prevented him from making the journey, until, in October, 1655, he learned that Cromwell would not be unwilling to see him, and he accordingly came to London. As soon as he arrived in the English capital, he published a pamphlet, entitled, A Humble Address to the Lord Protector in Behalf of the Jewish Nation.
Cromwell received him with a cordial welcome, and summoned to a conference a distinguished body of lawyers, citizens, and preachers, before whom he placed, with many favorable remarks, the propositions of Manassah Ben Israel. These articles were so entirely simple and reasonable that human pity is all the more profoundly extended to a race that was compelled to sue for such concessions. The Jew asked that those of his countrymen who would be willing to reside in England might have the protection of the government; that they might purchase or erect a synagogue in London; that they might possess a cemetery for the burial of their dead; that they might be allowed to trade as other English merchants; that they might determine disputes among themselves without resort to the English courts, where both parties to the cause were so agreed; and that such laws as were hostile to these privileges might be revoked. Four conferences were held, which Cromwell personally attended. Sir Paul Ricaut, who was present, said he never heard a man speak so well as Cromwell did at one of these meetings. The lawyers and citizens were generally favorable to admitting the Jews, but the preachers quoted a hundred texts of Scripture forbidding it. Since the preachers were largely the makers of public opinion, Cromwell deemed it expedient to put an end to the open discussion of his project. He was thus baffled in his desire to grant them lawful establishment. But he issued to many of them his dispensation to come to London, and engage in their avocations of life; and it was not long, under his tacit protection, before they had gathered together a Hebrew community and opened a synagogue.
The public benefits arising out of the expansion of trade taught the Lord Protector to welcome to the shores of England every man of decent character, without respect to race or creed. A notable incident of his liberal policy toward the Jews was the appearance of Rabbi Jakob Ben Azahel, who came all the way from Asia to go to Huntingdon, there to study the family tree of one whose habitual use of the language of the Psalms suggested that he might be of Jewish origin, nay, perhaps even the promised Lion of the House of Judah.
The most important ordinance of his Council was that which consolidated permanently the two kingdoms of England and Scotland. This was an undertaking which the Long Parliament, under the colossal leadership of Sir Harry Vane, had attempted to accomplish, but without entire success. Cromwell’s ordinance was passed April 12, 1654, and was entitled, “Scotland made one Commonwealth with England.” This act declared that Scotland shall be incorporated with England, and in every Parliament, to be held successively, thirty persons shall be elected from Scotland. Kingship was abolished there; the arms of Scotland were to be borne with the arms of the English Commonwealth; and many feudal institutions, including servitude and vassalage, were taken away. Superiorities, lordships, and jurisdictions were abolished, and the heritors freed from military service, and all forfeitures fell to the Lord Protector. The effect of this ordinance was to destroy the ancient power of the great nobles, which had survived in Scotland long after its decay in England, and to ease the burdens of the common people. No reparation was made to the despoiled lords, as their recent invasion of England had given a fine pretext for the sequestration of their estates. But there was no opposition; and the Lord Protector’s ordinance was paramount.
Another ordinance related to the settlement of a Gospel ministry, by which Cromwell fondly hoped to establish a tolerant and enduring Puritanism throughout England. There was as much confusion in the spiritual as in the political affairs of the country. Episcopacy had been officially overthrown; Presbyterianism had not in England, as in Scotland, been established. Cromwell was heart and soul for Independency—the independence of each congregation, whereby a complete freedom of worship might be enjoyed without oppression from clerical persons or synods. With this purpose in his mind, the Lord Protector chose thirty-eight men, the best of the English Puritans, and organized them as a body of Triers. Among them were nine laymen with Francis Rouse at their head, and twenty-nine preachers. Cromwell had not taken pains to get men of a certain sect for his Triers; there were Independents, Presbyterians, and even a few Anabaptists among them. Any person desiring to hold a church living, or levy tithe or clergy dues in England, had first to be tried and approved by these men. It was the Lord Protector’s notion of the right means of teaching the true Gospel in England. Baxter testifies that these Triers—
“saved many a congregation from ignorant, ungodly, drunken teachers. … So that, though many of them were somewhat partial to the Independents, Separatists, Fifth-Monarchy men and Anabaptists, and against the Prelatists and Arminians, yet so great was the benefit, above the hurt that they brought to the church, that many thousands of souls blessed God for the faithful ministers whom they let in, and grieved when the Prelatists afterward [at the Restoration] cast them out again.”
Other ordinances forbade the subjects to compass or imagine the death of the Lord Protector; to raise forces against the present Government; to deny that the Lord Protector and the people assembled in Parliament are the supreme authority of the nation, or that the exercise of the chief magistracy is centered in him; to affirm that the Government is tyrannical, usurped, or illegal, or that there is any Parliament now in being; and to proclaim any of the posterity of the late King. Severe penalties were prescribed to effect the suppression of profane swearing and immoral vices.
The fanaticism of the times led to many extravagances in religion, and those who suffered from deluded minds made the extraordinary claims to divine inspiration which are so apt to follow periods of excitement and enthusiasm. A body of men who indulged in wild and whirling words were known as Ranters. They interpreted Christ’s fulfilling the law for his people as a discharge from any obligation or duty the law required from them, and they argued that it was now no sin to do those things which formerly had been sinful. The slavish fear of the law being taken away, all things that man did were good if he did them with the mind and persuasion of virtue.
A respectable and elevated sect sprang up in the Quakers, yet their practices gave much offense in those formal times. These men refused to put off their hats, or to observe any of the established forms of courtesy, holding that the Christian religion required of its votaries that they should be no respecters of persons. They opposed war as unlawful, denied the payment of tithes, and disclaimed the sanction of an oath. They married in a form of their own, not submitting in this respect to the laws of their country; and they declared that the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper were of temporary obligation, and were now become obsolete. Yet among this sedate community there was one John Robins who proclaimed himself to be God Almighty; and some of his followers addressed him in that character with a devotion which would seem remarkable, were it not remembered that even in this day of ours similar claims are made, and similar faith is extorted in cases where enthusiasm has gone mad.
Another notable pretender was James Naylor, who was saluted by his devout admirers as “The Everlasting Son, the Prince of Peace, the Fairest among Ten Thousand.” Naylor professed to believe that the Second Person of the Trinity was incarnated in him. He affected to raise the dead, and Dorcas Ebery announced that he had restored her to life after she had lain two days in the grave. When he passed through the streets of Bristol, a multitude of women followed him, and sang, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Israel, Hosanna in the Highest!” When he was tried before the Parliament for blasphemy, General Skippon quoted Cromwell as having said that he had always been for allowance to tender consciences, but that he never intended to indulge such things as were now under trial. The point illustrates Cromwell’s disapproval of extreme fanaticism. These extravagant people—and there were many of them whom we have not paused to describe—must not be assumed to represent the English Puritans. Their public appearances were the usual episodes of a disordered state of society.
Contrary to the general expectation of his enemies, the manifestations of opposition to Cromwell’s government were few and mild. But, on the other hand, congratulatory addresses were sent to him by the fleet, by the Army, and by many of the chief corporations and official persons in England. The congregations of saints everywhere assured him of their fealty. The Royalists, while hating the man who had executed their King, expected more lenient treatment from him than they had received from the Parliament, and were contented to bide their time. The Presbyterians were filled with satisfaction to see the Independents turned out by the man whom they had claimed to own. It looked like the dawn of peace at home, and, in the meantime, the Lord Protector was feeding the pride of his countrymen by his conquests on the seas.
It was his boast that he would make the name of an English citizen as necessary of respect throughout the world as that of a Roman had ever been. The first fruits of this resolution, which simply meant that he proposed to conduct a vigorous foreign military policy, came from the war with Holland. He had been a little fearful of the loyalty of the renowned Admiral Blake, though without cause, and had recalled General Monk from Scotland, and given him the chief command at sea. Blake gracefully accepted this humiliation like a true sailor, and continued at his post, notifying the fleet that “it was not the business of seamen to mind State affairs, but to keep foreigners from fooling us.” The third in command in the Navy was Dean, who had risen from a common seaman to the reputation of a bold and excellent officer.
On the 2nd of June, 1654, the English fleet under Monk and Dean engaged the Dutch fleet under Van Tromp, De Ruiter, and De Witte. Each Navy consisted equally of about a hundred sail. For two days the battle was fiercely fought. A jealousy between the Dutch admirals threw the advantage to the English. On the third day Blake came up with a fresh squadron, and produced a panic among the Dutch. Van Tromp tried to hold his ships in line, but they fled down the wind, seeking shelter along the shallow coast of Zealand. Monk took eleven of their ships, sunk eight, and blew up two with gunpowder. He took 1,300 prisoners, besides killing many of the Dutch sailors. His own loss was not heavy.
This defeat was a fearful blow to the pride of Holland, who had thought to straightway crush the new Commonwealth by her invincible armada. She hastily dispatched her ambassadors to England to sue for peace. Cromwell received them imperturbably, and before terms could be arranged, another battle occurred.
Holland had made haste to repair her fleet, and by the end of July Tromp was enabled to sail with about eighty ships, and De Witte had twenty-five more. Monk and Blake had for eight weeks blockaded the channels of the Dutch merchantmen at the mouth of the Texel, and on the evening of the 29th they cleared for a decisive action. Monk issued an order, containing all of Cromwell’s spirit of war, that “no English ship should surrender to the enemy, and that they should accept no surrender of the vessels against which they fought. Their business was not to take ships, but to sink and destroy to the extent of their power.” On the first day of the battle, night came before anything decisive had been done. On the second day, the wind was so high that each fleet was busy in its own preservation. On the third day, which was Sunday, July 31, the engagement was resumed with great fury, when a musket ball struck the illustrious Van Tromp, and he fell dead on the deck of his ship. This irretrievable disaster broke the spirits of the Dutch. They fled again, but with greater loss than before. Nearly thirty of their ships were burned or sunk, a large number of seamen was killed, and 1,200 of them were taken prisoners. The English had 500 killed and 800 wounded.
These victories threw the English people into ecstasies of delight. “The sovereignty of the seas,” which England had long claimed, was now conceded to her prowess. The Navigation Act which had produced the war was allowed to stand. Cromwell proposed the novel plan of a maritime alliance between Holland and England, but did not press his demand, and soon after the last fight he consented to the terms of a generous peace.
In the meantime, young Charles Stuart and his peripatetic Court beheld with detestation and dismay the firm foundations of the Lord Protector’s Government. Charles was now in Paris, where the exigencies of his banishment compelled himself and his courtiers actually to suffer both the pangs of hunger and the humiliation of poor clothes. In this emergency it naturally occurred to the minds of the distressed Royalists to employ foul means for the destruction of a foe who had proved himself invulnerable in honorable warfare.
With the approval of the wandering heir it was decided that Cromwell must be assassinated. A proclamation purporting to come direct from the hand of Charles was distributed in England, offering a colonel’s commission and £500 a year to any soldier who would kill the Lord Protector.
There are good grounds for doubting the authenticity of this instrument, but in Thurloe (Vol. I, p. 708) the Duke of York coolly writes to Charles proposing the full plan of an assassination in language which shows that it had been discussed by Charles in person.
Under the cloak of patriotism there are always instruments available for such atrocities. An enthusiastic young Royalist named John Gerard came secretly to England and completed the details of the plot. Cromwell was to be murdered on the road as he passed from Whitehall to Hampton Court, and Charles II was to be instantly proclaimed. The assassins were in ambush, and Cromwell, who learned of the conspiracy only a few hours before it was to have been consummated, escaped by crossing the water at Putney. He succeeded in capturing Gerard and Vowel, the ringleaders, and some of their confederates. Afraid to risk a trial by jury, the Lord Protector instantly erected one of his high courts of justice before whom the two misguided men were straightway sentenced to death, and they soon after perished on the scaffold.
A similar attempt at his assassination was made some time later by Miles Sindercomb. Sindercomb had been a zealous soldier in the Parliamentary Army, but had let his sympathies carry him into the councils of the Levelers, and had been condemned to be shot. A pardon was granted to him, and he was allowed to enlist with Monk’s Army in Scotland, where his talent for plotting caused him to be cashiered. Returning to London, he managed to attach himself to Cromwell’s life guard, and for a consideration of £1,600, he basely contracted to destroy the Lord Protector. His first plan was to fire his blunderbuss at Cromwell, whom he found to be so well guarded that he was forced to abandon it. He then arranged to set fire to the palace of Whitehall in the night, hoping to suffocate the Deliverer in the conflagration. On Thursday night, January 8, 1657, the sentinel on guard caught the smell of fire, and upon a hasty examination of the premises, discovered a vast quantity of wildfire so placed as to make the destruction of the palace and its inhabitants assured had not the guard been called at once to extinguish it. Cromwell and his Council were quickly called. There was much agitation. Sindercomb was taken and thrust in the Tower. He was soon afterwards tried by a jury, found guilty, and sentenced to death, but cheated the gallows by taking poison the night before the date for his execution (February 13, 1647).
In order to prevent such base designs, Cromwell now organized a bureau of information and sent his spies into every corner of Europe, who kept him fully advised not only of the plans of the Royalists, but of their conversation and gossip, so that it was not long before he became familiar with everything that was contrived or said against him in any part of the world. This system of secret intelligence was so exhaustive and universal that it cost Cromwell £60,000 a year to pay his agents. One of his informants was Sir Richard Willis, a confident of Lord Clarendon’s, and who was considered an able and wise man. Cromwell procured a secret interview with Willis, and assured him that he did not intend to injure any of the King’s party; his design was rather to save them from ruin; they were apt, after their cups, he said, to run into foolish and ill-concerted plots, which would only bring them to disaster. All he desired was to be informed of their plots so that none might suffer for them, and if he cast any of them into prison, it should only be for a short period; and if they were interrogated, it should be about some trifling discourse, but not about the main business. Willis accepted £2,000 a year, and his secret revelations to Cromwell kept the Royalist party in amazement as to the quickness with which the Lord Protector followed up all their plotting.
Once, the Duke of Richmond, who had stood high in the confidence of Charles I, asked Cromwell’s leave to travel abroad, which was granted on the explicit condition that he would not see the royal heir. When the Duke returned, he presented himself before the Lord Protector, who demanded to know whether he had strictly observed his promise, and was answered by the Duke that he had not seen young Charles. Cromwell inquired, “When you met Charles Stuart, who put out the candles?” The Duke was too much startled to reply. “And what,” continued Oliver, “did Charles Stuart say to you?” Richmond protested that nothing confidential had passed. “Did he not give you a letter?” The Duke said, “No.” Then Oliver, with a scorn which may easily be imagined, cried out, “The letter was sewed into the lining of your hat!” He seized the hat, discovered the treasonable paper, and sent the Duke to the Tower.
After Gerard’s futile attempt on his life, and in view of the further discussions of his murder which were reported to him in every post, Cromwell told the Royalists openly, that assassinations were base and odious, and he never would begin such shameful practices; but he warned them that if the first Provocation came from them, he would retaliate and would never stop until he had exterminated the royal family. But he was alarmed for his safety from these cowardly foes. While he wore no secret armor, he carried weapons for his defense, and his old mother never heard a gun fired in the Park without sending hastily to inquire whether Oliver was killed.
About this time an accident occurred from which Cromwell narrowly escaped a painful death. The Count of Oldenburgh had presented him with six fine Friesland coach horses, and Cromwell intrepidly attempted to drive them through Hyde Park. The exhilaration of the drive encouraged him to apply his whip with too much freedom, whereupon the spirited beasts sprang away from his control, and he was thrown from the box upon the pole between them and dragged some distance, but finally disengaged himself and fell to the ground without serious hurt. In his fall a pistol which he carried in his pocket was discharged, which betrayed to his guards the haunting sense of danger that oppressed him.
Cromwell’s fearlessness of the anger of foreign Courts was disclosed in his treatment of Don Pantaleon Sa, a brother of the Portuguese Ambassador. A quarrel had occurred between the Don and an English gentleman; and the former, with some of his compatriots from the Embassy, while lying in wait for the Englishman in the dusk of evening, attacked the first-comer, and assassinated the wrong man. Don Pantaleon then fled to the Embassy and claimed an Ambassador’s privilege from arrest. But Cromwell ordered him to be seized, in defiance of the law of nations, defining for himself the ambassadorial privilege as extending only to the Ambassador in person and not to his suite. The Portuguese Minister pleaded for his brother’s pardon, but the Lord Protector was inexorable. In the meantime a treaty of peace between England and Portugal was under consideration, and on the very day that the Portuguese Ambassador, in the depths of human woe, signed this treaty, his erring brother was beheaded on the scaffold by Cromwell’s order. This bold vindication of the law gave great satisfaction to the people.
To show the dominant will and fixed purposes of Cromwell, we copy this letter to Thurloe which serves formal notice upon all the place-holders in England that the Lord Protector will write no recommendation or suggestion but it must be instantly obeyed:
To Mr. Secretary Thurloe.
“Whitehall, 28th July, 1655.
“You receive from me, this 28th instant, a Petition from Margery Beacham, desiring the admission of her Son into the Charterhouse; whose Husband was employed one day in an important secret service, which he did effectually, to our great benefit and the Commonwealth’s.
“I have wrote under it a common Reference to the Commissioners; but I mean a great deal more: That it shall be done, without their debate or consideration of the matter. And so do you privately hint to — —. I have not the particular shining bauble for crowds to gaze at or kneel to, but—To be short—I know how to deny Petitions; and whatever I think proper, for outward form, to ‘refer’ to any Officer or Office, I expect that such my compliance with custom shall be looked upon as an indication of my will and pleasure to have the thing done.Thy true friend.
Cromwell’s power now surpassed that of any ruler in Europe, and his state was equal to the most magnificent. Ambassadors from every nation crowded the waiting rooms of his palaces. His family was established at Whitehall in regal luxury. His mother had its choicest apartments. With him were his wife and three of his daughters—Elizabeth, his favorite; Mary, “the handsome likeness of himself”; and Frances, his youngest, affectionately called “Frank” in the domestic circle, and looked upon by all the gossips of Europe as soon to wed Charles II. But when the Earl of Orrery suggested this match to Oliver, the Protector answered that the King could never forgive his father’s blood. Orrery urged that Cromwell was but one among many who had brought the King to the block, but with this marriage he would be alone in restoring him, and he might stipulate to still command the Army. Cromwell replied that Charles “is so damnably debauched that he would undo us all.” And there the matter ended. Mrs. Hutchinson, Cromwell’s bitter foe, says of him at this period, “To speak the truth of himself, he had much natural greatness, and well became the place he had usurped.”
Sir Philip Warwick, a staunch Cavalier, said, “I lived to see him [Cromwell] appear of a great and majestic deportment, and comely presence.” Even Lord Clarendon, the most partial of Royalists, wrote of him, “As he grew into place and authority, his parts seemed to be raised, as if he had concealed his faculties till he had occasion to use them; and when he was to act the part of a great man, he did it without any indecency, notwithstanding the want of custom.” Lord Digby’s “Sloven” had now indeed become, in verification of Hampden’s prophecy, the greatest man in England.
The purity of this Puritan’s Court was an unusual thing amidst the luxury and splendor of his station. A writer of the times observes that “whereas formerly it was very difficult to live at Court without a prejudice to religion, it is now impossible to be a courtier without it.” Dr. Bates says, “His own Court was regulated according to a severe discipline; here no drunkard, nor lewd-liver, nor any guilty of bribery, was to be found, without severe punishment.” Whitelock relates that when he informed Cromwell of the Queen of Sweden’s plan to visit England, the Lord Protector would give her no encouragement, placing his objection upon the ill example she would give by her course of life, and no diplomatic reasoning would induce him to alter his determination. A Danish Ambassador came to England and was received by Cromwell with marks of great favor until it was made known that he was a man of evil habits, whereupon the Lord Protector refused to have further intercourse with him, and the Dane was forced to return to his own country. Milton says of Cromwell:
“He was a soldier disciplined to perfection in a knowledge of himself. He had either extinguished, or by habit learned to subdue, the whole host of vain hopes, fears, and passions which infest the soul. He first acquired the government of himself so that on the first day he took the field against the external enemy, he was a veteran in arms.”
It was in the banqueting room at Whitehall that the Lord Protector received the Ambassadors. He stood on a raised platform three steps higher than the floor, before a chair of state. Each Ambassador was required to make an obeisance three times, the first at the entrance, the second midway, and the third at the foot of the platform, which Cromwell would acknowledge by a slight bow of his head.
On the declaration of peace between Holland and England, the Dutch Ambassador, after describing the manifestations of popular joy, writes to his government of a State dinner given to him by the Lord Protector, and speaks thus of Cromwell’s manners:
“The music played all the time we were at dinner. The Lord Protector had us into another room, where the Lady Protectrice and others came to us, where we had also music and voices, and a psalm sung, which His Highness gave us, and told us that it was yet the best paper that had been exchanged between us. And from thence we were had into a gallery next the river, where we walked with His Highness about half-an-hour, and then took our leaves. My Lord Protector showed a great deal of kindness to my wife and daughter in particular.”
As required by his Instrument of Government, Cromwell issued writs calling the Parliament to meet on the 3rd of September, 1654. Soon afterwards, he went in great pomp to London, where he was entertained at dinner by the Lord Mayor and Aldermen. At the conclusion of the feast, the Lord Protector, exercising for the first time this prerogative of royalty, conferred the honor of knighthood upon the Lord Mayor, and graciously presented him with his own sword which he took from his belt for that purpose.
Cromwell’s engagement to call a free Parliament was an extremely hazardous matter. The only electors who had been disfranchised were those who had borne arms against the Parliament in the late wars. This left the great majority of Englishmen free to vote, and to most of them Cromwell’s yoke was irksome and hateful. The Episcopalians of course despised him; so, likewise, did the Presbyterians. The Republicans had turned from him, suspicious of his integrity. The fanatics—the Fifth Monarchy men and the Anabaptists—regarded him as one fallen from grace. To give these men the power of calling a Parliament which was to hold an authority co-ordinate with himself in the Government, taxed the fortitude of a man so great as Cromwell. But he was hopeful of establishing at least the forms of a constitutional government. He intended, if the nation would be pliable to his views of policy, to bestow upon his countrymen a representative government, under which all measures for the public good should receive their consent in Parliament.
The Parliament met according to the call. In the assembly were Richard and Henry Cromwell; Whitelock; Lenthall, the old Speaker; General Skippon; Sir Francis Rouse; Lord Herbert, the son of the Marquis of Worcester; Dr. Owen, of Oxford; many officers of the Army; Fleetwood; Lambert; and Claypole. More prominently, there were Lord Fairfax, Bradshaw, Hazelrig, and old Sir Harry Vane—the son staying sulkily at home.
In all there were 340 Englishmen, thirty Scots, and thirty Irish, a total of 400 members.
The 3rd of September was Sunday, the Lord Protector’s Fortunate Day, and he had insisted on calling the Parliament together on that day. The formal opening of the House did not take place until the next day. Cromwell rode in State from Whitehall. Several hundred gentlemen and officers went before him bareheaded; likewise his life guard and the servants of his household. On one side of his coach was Sir Walter Strickland, the captain of his guard. On the other side was Colonel Charles Howard. Henry Cromwell and Lambert sat in the coach with him, both uncovered. After him came Claypole, his son-in-law and Master of the Horse, with a led horse richly caparisoned. Next were the officers of the government, including the Commissioners of the Treasury and of the Seal. After hearing a sermon in Westminster Abbey, the Lord Protector, with the same following, proceeded to the Painted Chamber, and inaugurated his Parliament.
He made them a speech which no other man could imitate. It was full of fervid piety, of rugged eloquence, of wise statesmanship, of political instruction. His sentences must sometimes have sounded rambling and obscure. His oratory suggests that he started a pregnant sentence with his mind so concentrated on his thought that his words would in spite of himself become tangled and involved. It is not so with his letters, which are usually models of clear expression. But notwithstanding this grave defect in his speeches, it requires no serious mental strain to follow his ideas, which are at all times uppermost.
He told his Parliament that they were met on the greatest occasion that England ever saw, and that they had on their shoulders the interests of all the Christian people in the world. It would have been beyond all their thoughts, some months since, after so many changes and turnings as the nation had labored under, to have such a day of hope as that was. He devoutly quoted David’s Psalm: “Many, O Lord, my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward; they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.” He referred to the lesson that Dr. Goodwin had preached to them that morning—of Israel’s bringing out of Egypt through a wilderness by many signs and wonders, towards a place of rest. But he deftly reminded them that it was thus far only towards it. He then passed to the miseries of the late wars, and attacked the theories of the Levelers in desiring the extirpation of social distinctions. He said that a nobleman, a gentleman, a yeoman, had been the ranks and orders of Englishmen for hundreds of years. He spoke of the driving-out of Anti-Christ, by which he meant popery, and Dr. Laud’s imitations of popery. He praised the liberty of conscience and the liberty of the subject as two things as glorious as God had given them, but severely censured those fanatics who prated of liberty to such an extent that they inveighed against the printing of the Bible, lest it should be unfairly imposed upon the consciences of men. The Presbyterians had formerly caused the axe to be laid at the foot of an irresponsible pulpit, so that no man might preach unless ordained. Now, there were many who looked upon an ordained preacher, no matter how holy and pious he might be, with contempt. He criticized this condition as exhibiting too much of an imposing spirit in matters of conscience, “a spirit,” said he, “unchristian enough in any times, most unfit for these times, denying liberty of conscience to men who have earned it with their blood!”
He reviewed with a broad charity some of the worst features of the prevailing sectarianism. He dwelt upon the Fifth Monarchy notion—that, after the reign of Nebuchadnezzar in Assyria, of Cyrus in Persia, of Alexander in Greece, and of the Caesars in Rome, Jesus Christ himself should reign on earth through his saints for a thousand years. He said patiently that they could all honor the notion that Christ would have a time to set up his reign in their hearts, by subduing those corruptions, and lusts, and evils that are there, “which,” he added with grim wisdom, “now reign more in the world than, I hope, in due time they shall do. And when more fullness of the Spirit is poured forth to subdue iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness, then will the approach of that glory be.” It was General Harrison whom he was attacking here—his former friend, but now, as the leader of these very Fifth Monarchy men, denouncing Cromwell as an usurper, until the Lord Protector had been forced to put him under restraint. “If the magistrate,” said he, indicating himself, “by punishing visible miscarriages, save them by that discipline, God having ordained him for that end, I hope it will evidence love and not hatred, so as to punish where there is cause.”
He denounced those who proclaimed that liberty and property are not the badges of the Kingdom of Christ, and that laws, instead of being regulated, should be abrogated and subverted. During the recent troubles, when family was against family, husband against wife, parents against children, and there was nothing in the hearts and minds of men but “Overturn, overturn, overturn!” the common enemy slept not! The emissaries of the Jesuits never came in such swarms as they had done since those things had been set on foot. They had attempted to pervert and deceive the people.
Passing from this mournful review of the religious differences of his people, Cromwell made some references to the condition of foreign affairs; He told them of the peace with Holland, of the danger of a war with France unless she abated somewhat her contemptuous bearing towards this young Commonwealth. A desirable alliance had been formed with Sweden, another with Denmark. France and Spain, their Catholic neighbors, they could expect no good from. English ships were now sovereign on the seas. He had made peace with Portugal, by which many commercial advantages were secured to England, but above all, he had exacted that for his countrymen, which had never been granted to Protestants in that country before—the privilege of liberty of conscience, and to worship in chapels of their own. “There is not a nation in Europe,” he said, “but is very willing to ask a good understanding with you.”
One thing more his Government had done—it had called together this free Parliament; he repeated the words, a free Parliament.
He then came to the great question of taxes—always a burning question in troublous times. He spoke of the charges for the Army, and the expenditure of £120,000 a month for the Navy. All forfeited lands had been sold—the King’s, Queen’s, bishops’, Dean-and-Chapters’ lands; still much more money was needed. The bounteous mercies of God which he had pointed out to them but indicated the entrances and doors of hope, “whereby, through the blessing of God, you may enter into rest and peace. But you are not yet entered!” “You were told today,” he continued, in words which exhibited his anxious hope for a good understanding with this Parliament, “of a people brought out of Egypt towards the land of Canaan; but through unbelief, murmuring, repining, and other temptations and sins wherewith God was provoked, they were fain to come back again, and linger many years in the wilderness before they came to the Place of Rest. We are thus far, through the mercy of God. We have cause to take notice of it, that we are not brought into misery, but have, as I said before, a door of hope open. And I may say this to you: If the Lord’s blessing and His presence go along with the management of affairs at this meeting, you will be enabled to put the topstone to the work, and make the nation happy. But this must be by knowing the true state of affairs. … And therefore I wish that you may go forward, and not backward, and that you may have the blessing of God upon your endeavors. It’s one of the great ends of calling this Parliament, that the Ship of the Commonwealth may be brought into a safe harbor, which, I assure you, it will not be, without your counsel and advice. … I do therefore persuade you to a sweet, gracious, and holy understanding of one another, and of your business.” He concluded by telling them that he had not spoken these things as one who assumed dominion over them, but as one who had resolved to be their fellow servant, for the welfare of the people.
There was general satisfaction with the matter of his speech, and murmurs of approbation were heard from every part of the hall. But the people were not ready to turn their backs upon the flesh-pots of Egypt.
It is notable that Cromwell did not claim the prerogative usually observed by the Sovereign in naming a Speaker for the Parliament. When, therefore, he had withdrawn, and the members had assembled in their own House, the selection of a Speaker was their first task. Cromwell’s friends—to be known henceforth as the Court party—named Lenthall for the office. An Opposition party was instantly unmasked through a counter-proposal to elect Bradshaw. But there was no serious contest, and Lenthall, the famous Speaker of the Long Parliament, took the chair.
It was clearly the duty of this Parliament, having consented to assemble under the Instrument of Government, to raise no question concerning the authority under which they sat. To attack Cromwell’s right to call them together would obviously destroy their own authority as representatives, and change their condition from that of a free Parliament into that of an irresponsible convention. By accepting Cromwell’s dictatorship as the natural result of his conquest in their behalf over an anciently established government, they might have enjoyed the distinguished honor of settling the nation in peace and prosperity on the conditions which he pressed upon them. But following on the heels of a sanguinary rebellion, in the midst of a great revolution, with the smoking embers of the people’s rage threatening to change the present confusion into a more dreadful anarchy, with this situation confronting them, the Parliament fell to debating constitutional principles at a time when constitutional principles could mean nothing but the maxims of the existing Government.
On the second day of their sitting Bradshaw moved that they should form themselves into a Committee of the Whole, to deliberate on the question whether the Parliament should approve of the system of government by a single person and a Parliament, as provided for in The Instrument of Government. The motion led to a fierce debate, and was carried by a majority of five votes—a defeat for the Lord Protector. All through the week the contest raged, and on Monday of the next week. Bradshaw, Hazelrig, and Scott were marshalling a formidable Republican party to attack the dictatorship. Oliver had defied the lightning before; he perceived the necessity for doing so once again.
On Tuesday morning, the 12th of September, 1654, when the members came to the House, they found that during the preceding night Cromwell’s soldiers had taken possession of all the principal posts in the city. Those who made an effort to enter the House were told by armed guards that the doors were locked, but that they might repair to the Painted Chamber, where the Lord Protector desired to meet them. Thither they all presently gathered, being moved with varied emotions of curiosity, indignation, or despair. He had bound himself by solemn oath not to interfere with their sitting for five months. But what was he now about to do?
Cromwell began to address them with a grave and sorrowful demeanor, rousing himself at times into flashes of fire, of scorn and anger, and then relapsing into a deep melancholy which seemed to overwhelm his soul.
He told them it was not long since he had met them there, on an occasion which gave him much more content. He had told them then that they were a free Parliament. And so they were, whilst they would acknowledge the government and authority which called them thither. But certainly that word, free Parliament, implied a reciprocation or it implied nothing at all. He had always been of this mind since he first entered upon his office. If God will not bear it up, let it sink! He then made a declaration which astonished many of those who were charging all the existing ills to his ambition.
“I called not myself to this place. I say again, I called not myself to this place! Of that God is witness—and I have many witnesses, who, I do believe, could lay down their lives bearing witness to the truth of that; namely, that I called not myself to this place. And being in it, I bear not witness to myself (or my office), but God and the people of these nations have also borne testimony to it and me. If my calling be from God, and my testimony from the people, God and the people shall take it from me, else I will not part with it! I should be false to the trust that God hath placed in me, and to the interest of the people of these nations, if I did.”
Very dramatic was Oliver, always—either when fighting his battles, or in those sterner duties when he was breaking the backs of his Parliaments. He told them how he had come to his present elevation. “I was by birth a gentleman, living neither in any considerable height, nor yet in obscurity. I have been called to several employments in the nation—to serve in Parliament, and others; and—not to be overtedious—I did endeavor to discharge the duty of an honest man in those services, to God and his People’s interest, and to the Commonwealth.” He referred to various occasions on which he believed himself to have been the special instrument of God’s Providences, and told them that having seen the wars ended, he had hoped in a private capacity to enjoy the fruits of their conquests. But after the battle of Worcester he had discovered the design of the Long Parliament to perpetuate itself. He himself had been tempted by some of its eminent members to connive at their intentions, by which vacancies were to be supplied by new elections, and the House to sit from generation to generation. That Parliament had been dissolved. Hoping then that a few might settle the affairs of the nation, he had called the Little Parliament, and had desired to lay down his power into their hands! “I say to you again,” he solemnly asseverated, “in the presence of that God who hath blessed, and been with me in all my adversities and successes, that was, as to myself, my greatest end! A desire perhaps, I am afraid, sinful enough, to be quit of the power God had most clearly by this Providence put into my hands, before he called me to lay it down, before those honest ends of our fighting were attained and settled—I say, the authority I had in my hand being so boundless as it was, for, by Act of Parliament, I was General of all the forces in the three nations of England, Scotland, and Ireland, in which unlimited condition I did not desire to live a day—we called that meeting, for the ends before expressed.”
The Little Parliament had re-consigned to his hands the power he had delivered unto them, and had dissolved. Then there was no Government. The officers of the Army had drawn up the existing model without his knowledge, and had pressed him to accept the chief place. He had long refused to do this until they convinced him that The Instrument Of Government, instead of advancing his power, which he already possessed, would limit him to a co-ordinate authority with a free Parliament. He told them that his consent to this request had drawn forth the congratulations of noblemen, gentlemen, and yeomen throughout the country. But they—his hearers—to sit and not own the authority by which they sat, astonished more men than himself.
He told them that there were certain fundamental principles which were deeper than the law. The government by a single person and a Parliament was a fundamental. That Parliaments should not make themselves perpetual was a fundamental. Liberty of conscience in religion was a fundamental. The control of the sword by the Supreme Magistrate and the Parliament was a fundamental.
There were other things, he said, which were circumstantials. The present Army of 30,000 men could be reduced to 15,000 if they would but unite to compose the spirits of the people. But they must accept the government as then established so that succeeding Parliaments would not forever try to alter it. And rather than throw away the government, which had been acknowledged by God and approved by men, he would be willing to be rolled into his grave and buried with infamy.
There was no room for doubting the spirit of a man who could speak thus to 400 members of Parliament! He is coming to the point now.
He told them that he had proposed to himself to obtain an acknowledgment of the full authority of The Instrument of Government, and of his own powers under that Instrument, before permitting them originally to assemble. He had not done so. What he had forborne to do upon a just confidence at first, they necessitated him unto now. As the authority which called them together was so little valued, and so much slighted, he had caused a stop to be put to their entrance into the Parliament House, until they should testify their consent to the existing government. “I am sorry!” he cried, “I am sorry! And I could be sorry to the death that there is cause for this! But there is cause. And if things be not satisfied which are reasonably demanded, I, for my part, will do that which becomes me, seeking my counsel from God.” He informed them that there was a parchment in the Lobby, without the Parliament door, which he required them all to sign before they might resume their Parliamentary privileges, which bound them to be true to him as Lord Protector, and to preserve the government in a Single Person and a Parliament. If they would but do this, he reminded them that they had power to pass laws without his consent, and that he would cheerfully permit them to limit his own prerogatives in anything that would tend to the preservation of the cause and interest so long contended for.
When he had finished, about a hundred withdrew to the Lobby and signed the Acknowledgment. Within a few days some 200 others signed. The rabid Republicans—Bradshaw, Hazelrig, Scott, and a hundred others—turned their backs on Oliver and on his Parliament, and went their ways in deep anger. The reduced and circumscribed Parliament resumed its debates, talked of religion, investigated some “scandals” in the pulpit, and then fell again to debating everlastingly of constitutional rule. Abraham Cowley, the poet, inquired about that time, “Did we fight for liberty against our Prince, that we might become slaves to our servant?”
But while Oliver sat impatiently at hand, forced to perceive in their pedagogic contumacy the certain failure of his fond scheme for a co-ordinate Parliament, an event occurred in his own household which bowed his head with deepest sorrow. His mother was ninety-four years old. She had watched her son’s career with a mother’s anxiety for its dangers. Ludlow says, “At the sound of a musket she would often be afraid her son was shot, and could not be satisfied unless she saw him once a day at least.” On the 16th of November, 1654, the dear old woman was called home. Cromwell sat at her bedside; his great soul had never known a bereavement like this. A little before her death she gave him her blessing in these words—we can almost see the fading eyes and hear the sweet voice across two centuries: “The Lord cause His face to shine upon you, and comfort you in all your adversities, and enable you to do great things for the glory of your Most High God, and to be a relief unto His people. My dear son, I leave my heart with thee. A good night!” And so she passed away.
The Pedant Parliament accomplished nothing. It ignored Oliver, it ignored the national necessities. It spent the time in idle words. In Scotland the pay of the soldiers was thirty weeks in arrears and there was some talk among them of displacing General Monk, choosing the fanatic Overton to command them, and marching into England to adjust grievances themselves. Even this prospect did not move the Parliament to patriotic action. No scheme of taxation was devised to meet this issue. But Oliver sent for Overton to come to Whitehall, and, when he came, he put him in the Tower. By The Instrument of Government he must wait five months on this Parliament to finish its business. It seemed that the time would never pass. Meanwhile their debates kept up, and other persons were beginning to repeat their talk of constitutional rule. There was real danger from Royalist plots, yet they never heeded it. Oliver was visibly irritated. Someone suggested that five months need not mean five calendar months. The soldiers were paid by months of four weeks, or twenty-eight days. This was enough. On Monday morning, January 22, 1655, he summoned them before him. They felt secure for twelve days longer, and wondered what he would now say.
More in sorrow than in anger he addressed them. There was no disguise in the words in which he told them of their failure. He told them that instead of peace and settlement, instead of mercy and truth being brought together, and righteousness and peace kissing each other, to reconcile the people of these nations, only weeds and nettles, briers and thorns had thriven under the shadow of their tree. Attempts had been made to undermine the loyalty of the Army. In some quarters a mutinous spirit had appeared. The Cavalier party were already arming for another uprising. But the State had received no succor from the Parliament. “I do not know,” he said, with fine scorn, “whether you have been alive or dead. I have not once heard from you all this time; I have not, and that you all know.” He criticized them for the time they had spent in debating against a hereditary succession. If the hereditary principle had been inserted in The Instrument of Government, he declared that he would have rejected it. “I can say that no particular interest, either of myself, estate, honor, or family, are, or have been, prevalent with me to this undertaking.” He quoted from Ecclesiastes: “Who knoweth whether he may beget a fool or a wise man?” Then came an expression of that constant belief that the Divinity of Christ was identified with England’s present government, and that he himself was God’s especial servant for the work in hand. He said, in one of his enthusiastic bursts:
“Supposing this cause, or this business must be carried on, it is either of God, or of man. If it be of man, I would I had never touched it with a finger. If I had not had a hope fixed in me that this cause and this business was of God, I would many years ago have run from it. If it be of God, He will bear it up. If it be of man, it will tumble; as everything that hath been of man since the world began hath done. And what are all our histories, and other traditions of actions in former times, but God manifesting Himself, that he hath shaken, and tumbled down and trampled upon, everything that He had not planted? And if this is so, let the All-Wise God deal with it. If this be of human structure and invention, and if it be an old plotting and contriving to bring things to this issue, and that they are not the births of Providence, then they will tumble. But if the Lord take pleasure in England, and if He will do us good, He is very able to bear us up! Let the difficulties be whatsoever they will, we shall in His strength be able to encounter with them. And I bless God I have been inured to difficulties; and I never found God failing when I trusted in Him. I can laugh and sing, in my heart, when I speak of these things to you or elsewhere.”
He answered some of the charges that had been made against his “cunning,” and his “ambition,” protesting that he had at the first and now acted only from an urgent necessity. Then came this amazing conclusion:
“I think myself bound, as in my duty to God, and to the people of these nations, for their safety and good in every respect—I think it my duty to tell you that it is not for the profit of these nations nor for common and public good, for you to continue here any longer. And therefore I do declare unto you that I do dissolve this Parliament.”
The Pedant Parliament disappeared, and Cromwell’s cherished plan of governing England under constitutional forms was simultaneously dissolved.
The Major-Generals–Foreign Policy
When the English nation, by the failure of its Parliament, refused to give its assent to Cromwell’s policy of State, it forced him to become, through the necessities of a sanguinary revolution, theoretically, and in the best interpretation of the words, a usurper, a tyrant, and a despot.
We do not mean that he was a usurper as Richard the Third was a usurper, seizing the chief place in the State because of the splendor of its robes and the glitter of its Crown. We do not mean that he was a tyrant as Henry VIII was a tyrant, making his own will the law of his people because he derived the most pleasure in making his own will paramount. We do not mean that he was a despot as Ivan the Terrible was a despot, sacrificing human life with gleeful persistence, because in killing his subjects he demonstrated his personal power. He was a usurper because the law as it stood provided for the succession of another ruler. He was a tyrant because the necessities of the revolution required him to meet desperate emergencies with prompt and bold expedients. He was a despot because he occupied his high place unrecognized by the law and maintained his government by force. But even in the front of such a startling paradox, we maintain that, as usurper, tyrant, and despot, Cromwell stood for the liberties of the people against the encroachments of Church and State under the forms of law. And it was the inspiration of all his labors to hope that a free Parliament might in time be assembled, which would gratefully accept the Commonwealth he had established and consent to maintain it for posterity.
His most obnoxious exercise of supreme authority was the establishment of his oppressive system of the Major-Generals. The avenues of secret intelligence which brought to his ears the faintest whispers of treason whenever and by whomever they were spoken, had been employed recently by the Protector to divine the latest plots for his overthrow. Royalists and Republicans were hand in hand in these enterprises. Charles Stuart had come to the Dutch seacoast to be in readiness to invade England whenever it might be safe for him to do so. Lord Clarendon, his Chancellor, expressed himself as being “cocksure” of their uprising. The place appointed for the first outbreak was Yorkshire, where Sir Henry Slingsby and Lord Malevrier were seized and sent to prison before they could make much headway. The next effort was made in the South of England. On Sunday night, March 11, 1655, about 200 Cavaliers, led by Sir Joseph Wagstaff, Colonel Penruddock, and Major Grove, entered the city of Salisbury, and seized the judges and the high sheriff and his deputies in their beds. The next morning they commanded the sheriff to proclaim King Charles. He refused—said he would be hanged first. Failing to obtain the popular support which they had expected, they returned towards Cornwall. Captain Unton Crook pursued them, overtook them at three o’clock in the morning at South Moulton in Devonshire, smote them fiercely, and ended their insurrection. Wagstaff escaped. Penruddock and Grove, two very gallant Cavaliers, were tried by jury, found guilty, and beheaded. Many of their followers were hanged; many others were sent as slaves to Barbadoes.
So quick was Cromwell to stamp out these seditious fires that active plotting ceased from that time forward. Not even the chivalrous devotion of the old Cavaliers to the royal cause could henceforth impel them to lead their undisciplined household servants against the trained soldiery who now occupied every county in England. But Cromwell was not content with having crushed them. He determined to sap their life energies, and with this purpose in his mind he divided England into twelve military divisions and appointed the chief officers of his Army to command therein as Major-Generals.
Fleetwood, who became one of the Major-Generals, had married Ireton’s widow, Bridget Cromwell, and had been appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland. But Fleetwood was not the man for Ireland, and the piercing eye of Cromwell soon perceived that a bolder hand must guide the policy in that country. Still he was not ready to displace Fleetwood without a further trial of his parts, but he sent Henry Cromwell on a service of inspection to Ireland, in order that he might obtain a trustworthy account of the State’s business there, and wrote thus to Fleetwood:
“Whitehall, 22nd June, 1655.
“I write not often; at once I desire thee to know I most dearly love thee, and indeed my heart is plain to thee as thy heart can well desire; let nothing shake thee in this. The wretched jealousies that are amongst us, and the spirit of calumny turn all into gall and wormwood. My heart is for the People of God; that the Lord knows, and will in due time manifest, yet thence are my wounds, which though it grieves me, yet through the grace of God doth not discourage me totally. Many good men are repining at everything, though indeed very many good are well satisfied, and satisfying daily. The will of the Lord will bring forth good in due time.
“It’s reported that you are to be sent for, and Harry to be Deputy, which truly never entered into my heart. The Lord knows, my desire was for him and his Brother to have lived private lives in the country; and Harry knows this very well, and how difficultly I was persuaded to give him his commission for his present place. This I say as from a simple and sincere heart. The noise of my being crowned, etc. are similar malicious figments.
“Use this Bearer, Mr. Brewster, kindly. Let him be near you: indeed he is a very able holy man; trust me you will find him so. He was a bosom-friend of Mr. Tillinghurst; ask him of him; you will thereby know Mr. Tillinghurst’s spirit. This Gentleman brought him to me a little before he died, and Mr. Cradock; Mr. Throughton, a godly minister being by, with Mr. Tillinghurst himself, who cried ‘Shame!’
“Dear Charles, my dear love to thee; and to my dear Biddy, who is a joy to my heart, for what I hear of the Lord in her. Bid her be cheerful, and rejoice in the Lord once and again: if she knows the Covenant of Grace, she cannot but do so. For that Transaction is without her; sure and stedfast, between the Father and the Mediator in His blood; therefore, leaning upon the Son, or looking to Him, thirsting after Him, and embracing Him, we are His Seed; and the Covenant is sure to all the Seed. The Compact is for the Seed; God is bound in faithfulness to Christ, and in Him to us; the Covenant is without us; a Transaction between God and Christ. Look up to it. God engageth in it to pardon us; to write His Law in our heart; to plant His fear so that we shall never depart from him. We, under all our sins and infirmities, can daily offer a perfect Christ; and thus we have peace and safety, and apprehension of love, from a Father in Covenant, who cannot deny Himself. And truly in this is all my salvation; and this helps me to bear my great burdens.
“If you have a mind to come over with your dear Wife, etc., take the best opportunity for the good of the Public and your own convenience. The Lord bless you all. Pray for me, that the Lord would direct, and keep me His servant. I bless the Lord I am not my own; but my condition to flesh and blood is very hard. Pray for me; I do for you all. Commend me to all friends. I rest, your loving father,
But in January of the next year Fleetwood came to London to join Whitelock and others in the custody of the Treasury, and Henry Cromwell was appointed Lord Deputy to Ireland, and he conducted a vigorous but patient and magnanimous administration there. Cromwell counseled his son in these sagacious words:
“For my Son Henry Cromwell, at Dublin, Ireland.
“Whitehall, 21st November, 1655.
“I have seen your Letter writ unto Mr. Secretary Thurloe; and do find thereby that you are very apprehensive of the carriage of some persons with you, towards yourself and the public affairs.
“I do believe there may be some particular persons who are not very well pleased with the present condition of things, and may be apt to show their discontent as they have opportunity: but this should not make too great impressions in you. Time and patience may work them to a better frame of spirit, and bring them to see that which, for the present, seems to be hid from them; especially if they shall see your moderation and love towards them, if they are found in other ways towards you. Which I earnestly desire you to study and endeavour, all that lies in you. Whereof both you and I too shall have the comfort, whatsoever the issue and event thereof be.
“For what you write of more help, I have long endeavoured it; and shall not be wanting to send you some farther addition to the Council, so soon as men can be found out who are fit for the trust. I am also thinking of sending over to you a fit person who may command the North of Ireland; which I believe stands in great need of one; and I am of your opinion that Trevor and Colonel Mervin are very dangerous persons, and may be made the heads of a new rebellion. And therefore I would have you move the Council that they be secured in some very safe place, and the farther out of their own countries the better.
“I commend you to the Lord; and rest, your affectionate father,
And a little later, Oliver sends Henry this soothing letter, containing words which will greatly profit the young man’s mind, much harassed, doubtless, by the difficulties of his position:
“For my Son Harry Cromwell.
“Whitehall, 21st April, 1656.
“I have received your letters, and have also seen some from you to others; and am sufficiently satisfied of your burden, and that if the Lord be not with you, to enable you to bear it, you are in a very sad condition.
“I am glad to hear what I have heard of your carriage: study still to be innocent; and to answer every occasion, roll yourself upon God, which to do needs much grace. Cry to the Lord to give you a plain single heart. Take heed being over-jealous, lest your apprehensions of others cause you to offend. Know that uprightness will preserve you; in this be confident against men.
“I think the Anabaptists are to blame in not being pleased with you. That’s their fault! It will not reach you, whilst you with singleness of heart make the glory of the Lord your aim. Take heed of professing religion without the power: that will teach you to love all who are after the similitude of Christ. Take care of making it a business to be too hard for the men who contest with you. Being over-concerned may train you into a snare. I have to do with those poor men; and am not without my exercise. I know they are weak; because they are so peremptory in judging others. I quarrel not with them but in their seeking to supplant others; which is done by some, first by branding them with antichristianism, and then taking away their maintenance.
“Be not troubled with the late Business: we understand the men. Do not fear the sending of any over to you but such as will be considering men, loving all godly interests, and men that will be friends to justice. Lastly, take heed of studying to lay for yourself the foundation of a great estate. It will be a snare to you: they will watch you; bad men will be confirmed in covetousness. The thing is an evil which God abhors. I pray you think of me in this.
“If the Lord did not sustain me, I were undone: but I live, and I shall live, to the good pleasure of His grace: I find mercy at need. The God of all grace keep you. I rest, your loving father,
“My love to my dear Daughter (whom I frequently pray for) and to all friends.”
The appointment of the Major-Generals (August 1655) gave to those officers supreme control over the persons and property of all who lived within their jurisdiction. Cromwell, who affected to consider that the recent insurrections involved the whole of the Royalist party, now prescribed a measure of the utmost severity against them. He issued an order that they should all be assessed the tenth penny of their possessions, and as most of them had been already reduced to poverty by the exactions of the war, the distress caused by this harsh measure was most extreme. No regard was paid to former compositions, articles of capitulation, or acts of indemnity. Harassed as they had already been by the rigors of the conquerors, the Cavaliers were again required to purchase their immunity from prison by paying the most extravagant sums.
The Major-Generals collected these taxes with relentless precision, and discharged the other extraordinary powers of their offices in a manner which placed the liberties of all Englishmen in bondage. They were expected to look after the good of the Commonwealth, both as to religious and civil affairs, according to their own discretion. They could silence or eject “scandalous” ministers; summon disaffected or suspected persons before them, and send them to prison if impulse or expediency suggested it to their minds. All stage plays and public sports were strictly suppressed. They had command of the militia of the counties, and troops were kept ready under vast public charge to march wherever their presence might be deemed necessary. There was no appeal from their exactions but to the Lord Protector and his Council, and well might Cromwell say, “Many good men are repining at everything!”
Yet was England in the zenith of her glory. A military dictatorship oppressed her people at home, but the same institution exalted her power and glory abroad. We have seen that Holland, Sweden, Denmark, and Portugal had made haste to claim terms of amity and peace with her. France and Spain were now vying with each other to obtain an alliance with the Protector. They addressed him obsequiously as “the Most Invincible of Sovereigns,” the “Greatest and Happiest of Princes.” When Louis of France wrote to him as “Your Serene Highness,” Cromwell refused to receive the letter. “What?” said Louis to Mazarin, “are we to call this fellow our brother?” “Call him your father, Sire,” answered the wily minister, “if it will secure his friendship.” “It was hard to discover,” wrote Clarendon, “which feared him most—France, Spain, or the Low Countries.” The King of Spain sent an ambassador to express his great satisfaction with Cromwell’s accession to the government, and solemnly engaged himself, if Oliver would go one step further and take the Crown upon him, to hazard the Crown of Spain in his defense.
After apparently dallying with the ambassadors from both Paris and Madrid, Oliver determined to form an alliance with France. But in June 1655, there came news to England of cruelties to the Protestants of Piedmont which caused him to break off the treaty until their protection could be secured. The Duke of Savoy had decided to convert his Protestant subjects in the Valleys of the Alps to Catholic tenets even at the cannon’s mouth. These Savoyards were a pious and industrious peasantry, said to be descendants of the ancient Waldenses. They had long since thrown off the yoke of Rome, and when the Catholic soldiers came among them and were met with a stubborn rejection of the Roman dogmas, a sanguinary massacre ensued, which spared neither age nor sex. All manner of cruelties and atrocities were put upon these poor suffering ones. They were driven out of their houses and away from their fields, and when they attempted to fly, many of them were slaughtered by the roadside.
On the day that the news of this affair reached England, the French treaty was to have been signed. But Cromwell threw it indignantly aside. He refused to negotiate further until Louis and Mazarin would assist him in restoring the Savoyards to their houses. He gave £2,000 from his own purse to their relief and sent collectors to obtain contributions from others who were able to give. He wrote to Louis by the hand of Milton in this lofty arid pathetic strain:
“To the Most Serene and Potent Prince, Louis, King of France.
“Most Serene and Potent King, Most Close Friend and Ally:
“Your Majesty may recollect that during the negotiation between us for the renewing of our League (which many advantages to both Nations, and much damage to their common Enemies, resulting therefrom, now testify to have been very wisely done), there fell out that miserable Slaughter of the People of the Valleys; whose cause, on all sides deserted and trodden down, we, with the utmost earnestness and pity, recommended to your mercy and protection. Nor do we think your Majesty, for your own part, has been wanting in an office so pious and indeed so human; in so far as either by authority or favour you might have influence with the Duke of Savoy: we certainly, and many other Princes and States, by embassies, by letters, by entreaties directed thither, have not been wanting.
“After that most sanguinary Massacre, which spared no age nor either sex, there was at last a Peace given; or rather, under the specious name of Peace, a certain more disguised hostility. The terms of the Peace were settled in your Town of Pignerol: hard terms; but such as those poor People, indigent and wretched, after suffering all manner of cruelties and atrocities, might gladly acquiesce in; if only, hard and unjust as the bargain is, it were adhered to. It is not adhered to; those terms are broken; the purport of every one of them is, by false interpretation and various subterfuges, eluded and violated. Many of these People are ejected from their old Habitations; their Native Religion is prohibited to many: new Taxes are exacted; a new Fortress has been built over them, out of which soldiers frequently sallying plunder or kill whomsoever they meet. Moreover, new Forces have of late been privily got ready against them; and such as follow the Romish Religion are directed to withdraw from among them within a limited time so that everything seems now again to point towards the extermination of all among those unhappy People, whom the former Massacre had left.
“Which now, O Most Christian King, I beseech and obtest thee, by thy right-hand which pledged a League and Friendship with us, by the sacred honour of that Title of Most Christian, permit not to be done: nor let such license of Savagery, I do not say to any Prince (for indeed no cruelty like this could come into the mind of any Prince, much less into the tender years of that young Prince, or into the woman’s heart of his Mother), but to those most accursed Assassins, be given. Who while they profess themselves the servants and imitators of Christ our Saviour, who came into this world that He might save sinners, abuse His most merciful Name and Commandments to the cruelest slaughterings. Snatch, thou who art able, and who in such an elevation art worthy to be able, those poor Suppliants of thine from the hands of Murderers, who, lately drunk with blood, are again athirst for it, and think convenient to turn the discredit of their own cruelty upon their Prince’s score. Suffer not either thy Titles and the Environs of thy Kingdom to be soiled with that discredit, or the peaceable Gospel of Christ by that cruelty, in thy Reign. Remember that these very People became subjects of thy Ancestor, Henry, most friendly to Protestants; when Lesdiguières victoriously pursued him of Savoy across the Alps, through those same Valleys, where indeed the most commodious pass to Italy is. The Instrument of that, their Paction and Surrender, is yet extant in the public acts of your Kingdom; in which this among other things is specified and provided against, That these People of the Valleys should not thereafter be delivered over to any one except on the same conditions under which thy invincible Ancestor had received them into fealty. This promised protection they now implore; promise of thy Ancestor they now, from thee the Grandson, suppliantly demand. To be thine rather than his whose they now are, if by any means of exchange it could be done, they would wish and prefer; if that may not be, thine at least by succour, by commiseration and deliverance.
“There are likewise reasons of State which might give inducement not to reject these People of the Valleys flying for shelter to thee: but I would not have thee, so great a King as thou art, be moved to the defence of the unfortunate by other reasons than the promise of thy Ancestors, and thy own piety and royal benignity and greatness of mind. So shall the praise and fame of this most worthy action be unmixed and clear; and thyself shalt find the Father of Mercy, and His Son Christ the King, whose Name and Doctrine thou shalt have vindicated, the more favourable to thee, and propitious through the course of life.
“May the Almighty, for His own glory, for the safety of so many most innocent Christian men, and for your true honour, dispose Your Majesty to this determination. Your Majesty’s most friendly
“Protector of the Commonwealth of England.
“Westminster, 26th May, 1658.”
His intercession was potent, and Mazarin compelled the Duke of Savoy to make restitution, so far as it could be done, to his injured subjects. Then, the Protector consented to form the alliance with France. It was an unique tribute to the puissance of Cromwell that Louis, the brother-in-law of that Charles Stuart whom Oliver had brought to the block, should have made so many condescensions before the English government would grant its political affiliation.
Cromwell’s political sagacity has been severely censured for his treaties with both Sweden and France. It has been said that his power should have been thrown to the side of Spain as a check to the dangerous ambition of France, and that the interests of Europe would have been better preserved by curbing the tendency of Sweden to northern conquests. This might have been the natural policy of England under the ancient theories of government. But Cromwell was an individual force in the world. He had an individual mission to accomplish. He doubtless argued to himself that a French treaty would secure the liberties of the long-oppressed Huguenots, and that the Protestant interest everywhere would be advanced by the picturesque alliance of two anti-Catholic nations so renowned as England and Sweden. And his maxims were correct. On the other hand, the Spaniards were much more intolerant and bigoted than the French. They had erected the atrocious and bloody tribunal of the Inquisition. They had dotted the land with the graves of tortured martyrs. And it was upon Spain that Cromwell determined to hurl his armies, and punish her for her crimes against humanity.
In December 1654, Cromwell had dispatched a fleet to the Spanish West Indies under command of Admiral Penn (father of William Penn the Quaker) and Admiral Venables. No living man save the Lord Protector knew the object of that fleet. So secret was his purpose that not even to the Admirals would he disclose it, but presented them with sealed orders which they were not to open until they arrived at Barbadoes. Here they discovered that they were to attack the Spanish possessions in the New World. Taking on board 5,000 of their expatriated countrymen, which, added to those they had brought from England made their total number 9,000 men, they determined to attempt St. Domingo, the only place of strength in the island of Hispaniola. But Cromwell had in this enterprise been unfortunate in his selection of leaders. Neither Penn nor Venables was equal to a great undertaking. There was disagreement among the officers, the exiled soldiers from Barbadoes were an unruly set, and there was much sickness.
When the fleet of sixty ships appeared off Hispaniola the Spanish residents were struck with terror and fled away from their houses. But the English, fearing to land in a populous part of the island, sailed some sixty miles along the coast. They then disembarked and attempted without guides to make their way to St. Domingo on foot. For four days they tramped through the woods with but scant food, and, what was worse in that tropical climate, without water. They soon became completely demoralized, whereupon the Spaniards attacked them with an inconsiderable force and drove them in frantic terror back to their ships, killing 600 and wounding many more.
Knowing well the punishment that would fall upon them if they returned to England on the heels of such a needless disaster, Penn and Venables sailed for the island of Jamaica. On May 3, 1655, they assailed and captured this island, which is by far the most valuable of the English possessions in the West Indies. The importance of the acquisition of Jamaica was overlooked in England beside the ignominious failure at St. Domingo, but Cromwell himself instantly perceived its value.
He wrote to Admiral Goodson, giving him minute instructions concerning the war with Spain, and said:
“We are sending to you, with all possible speed, seven more stout men-of-war, some of them forty guns, and the rest not under thirty, for your asistance. This ship goes before, with instructions, to encourage you to go on in the work. … And I hope your counsels will enter into that which may be for the glory of God and good of this Nation. It is not to be denied but the Lord hath greatly humbled us in that sad loss sustained at Hispaniola; and we doubt we have provoked the Lord; and it is good for us to know and to be abased for the same. But yet certainly His name is concerned in the work; and therefore though we should, and I hope do, lay our mouths in the dust, yet He would not have us despond, but I trust give us leave to make mention of His name and of His righteousness, when we cannot make mention of our own. You are left there; and I pray you set-up your banners in the name of Christ; for undoubtedly it is His cause. And let the reproach and shame that hath been for our sins, and through (also we may say) the misguidance of some, work-up your hearts to confidence in the Lord, and for the redemption of His honour from the hands of men who attribute their success to their Idols, the work of their own hands. And though He hath torn us, yet He will heal us; though He hath smitten us, yet He will bind us up; after two days He will revive us, in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight. The Lord Himself hath a controversy with your Enemies; even with that Roman Babylon, of which the Spaniard is the great underpropper. In that respect we fight the Lord’s battles; and in this the Scriptures are most plain. The Lord therefore strengthen you with faith, and cleanse you from all evil: and doubt not but He is able, and I trust as willing, to give you as signal success as He gave your Enemies against you. Only the Covenant-fear of the Lord be upon you.”
No details escaped Cromwell’s cautious mind. To Daniel Serle, the Governor of Barbadoes, he wrote:
“Having said this, I think fit to let you know that we have twenty men-of-war already there [at Jamaica], and are sending eight more, many whereof have forty guns and upwards, and the rest above thirty. We hope the plantation is not wanting in anything; having at the least seven thousand fighting men upon the place: and we are providing to supply them constantly with fresh men; and we trust they are furnished with a twelvemonth’s victuals; and I think, if we have it in England, they shall not want. We have also sent to the colonies of New England like offers with yours, To remove thither; our resolution being to people and plant that Island. And indeed we have very good reason to expect considerable numbers from thence, forasmuch as the last winter was very destructive, and the summer hath proved so very sickly. I pray God direct you.”
To General Fortescue, at Jamaica, he wrote, showing his care of England’s most distant possessions:
“And let me tell you, as an encouragement to you and those with you to improve the utmost diligence, and to excite your courage in this business, though not to occasion any negligence in prosecuting that affair, nor to give occasion to slacken any improvement of what the place may afford, that you will be followed with what necessary supplies, as well for comfortable subsistence as for your security against the Spaniard, this place may afford, or you want.
“And therefore study first your security by fortifying: and although you have not moneys, for the present, to do it in such quantities as were to be wished; yet, your case being as that of a marching army, wherein every soldier, out of principles of nature, and according to the practice of all discipline, ought to be at pains to secure the common quarter, we hope no man amongst you will be so wanting to himself, considering food is provided for you, as not to be willing to help to the uttermost therein. And therefore I require you and all with you, for the safety of the whole, that this be made your most principal intention. The doing of this will require that you be very careful not to scatter, till you have begun a security in some one place. Next I desire you that you would consider how to form such a body of good Horse as may, if the Spaniard should attempt upon you at his next coming into the Indies with his Galeons, be in readiness to march to hinder his landing; who will hardly land upon a body of Horse; and if he shall land, [you will] be in a posture to keep the provisions of the country from him, or him from the provisions, if he shall endeavour to march towards you.
“We have sent Commissioners and Instructions into New England, to try what people may be drawn thence. We have done the like to the Windward English Islands; and both in England, and Scotland, and Ireland, you will have what men and women we can well transport. To conclude: As we have cause to be humbled for the reproof God gave us at St. Domingo, upon the account of our own sins as well as others’, so, truly, upon the reports brought hither to us, of the extreme avarice, pride and confidence, disorders and debauchedness, profaneness, and wickedness, commonly practiced amongst the Army, we can not only bewail the same, but desire that all with you may do so; and that a very special regard may be had so to govern, for time to come, as that all manner of vice may be thoroughly discountenanced, and severely punished; and that such a frame of government may be exercised that virtue and godliness may receive due encouragement.”
Then, in one of those measures which are often made necessary by the gruesome necessities of conquest, he instructed his son, Henry Cromwell, who was now Lord Deputy of Ireland, to seize and transport to Jamaica one thousand Irish maidens and an equal number of young men, in order to increase the population as rapidly as possible.
Penn and Venable now ventured to return to England, but the story of their St. Domingo folly had so embittered the Lord Protector, that he was overcome with passion, and threw them both into confinement in the Tower—a warning to his other commanders to win their battles or suffer lasting disgrace.
Admiral Blake, whose fame was now spread over Europe, sailed with the second fleet in the spring of 1655, in another direction. With thirty fine ships he entered the Mediterranean, whose waters had not been ploughed by any English Navy since the Crusades. From one end to the other of that beautiful sea there was no power to resist him. Alexander VII, who had just ascended the Chair of St. Peter, trembled in daily expectation of hearing the Protector’s guns thundering at the gates of Rome. The Duke of Tuscany, seeing the Puritan fleet approaching Leghorn, made haste to repay those losses which English merchantmen had sustained from his rapacious greed. Blake then cast anchor before Algiers, and after punishing the pirates who had infested those parts, he compelled the Dey of Algiers to permanently suppress them. Coming before Tunis he made similar demands of the Dey, who arrogantly told him to look upon his castles on the shore and his ships in the bay, and do his worst. The intrepid Admiral took him at his word, and sailed so close to the shore that the guns in the castles on the hills could not harm him. He sent out his sailors in their long-boats, who set fire to the Tunisian fleet and destroyed it. He then battered down the castles on the shore, and took what spoil he could carry away, and departed. Montague was soon afterwards joined in the command with Blake, and Cromwell personally directed their movements at sea in so far as their policy was concerned.
The war with Spain was prosecuted with great brilliancy. On one occasion Blake and Montague intercepted the plate fleet from America and captured almost incalculable treasure.
Again they pursued a Spanish fleet of sixteen sail to the Bay of Santa Cruz where they faced a line of seven forts and a strong castle. The Spanish ships were placed with their broadsides to the sea and the guns on shore were in readiness to join them should the English dare to venture an attack. But Blake indomitably approached and fought them at close range for four hours, at the end of which he had destroyed all their ships by fire. The enraged Governor on shore now thought to destroy him, but the wind suddenly changed and Blake sailed happily away, almost without harm. This was the last and most formidable action of the great Admiral. The hardships of his life on shipboard had afflicted him with dropsy and scurvy, and he set sail toward England in order that his spirit might pass away amidst the beloved scenes of his native land. As his ship came within sight of Plymouth (April 20, 1657), he expired. He had lived an inflexible Republican, and throughout all the changes in the Government he had never sought opportunity for private aggrandizement, but was content to serve his country as a true and simple sailor. As such he achieved a fame as glorious as any that British annals preserve.
Oliver pushed the war with vigor and enthusiasm, eagerly watching, cautiously directing, every movement of his fleets. His spirit is disclosed in these words:
“Make any peace with any state that is Popish and subjected to the determination of Rome and of the Pope himself—you are bound, and they are loose! It is the pleasure of the Pope at any time to tell you, That though the man is murdered, yet his murderer has got into the sanctuary. And equally true is it, and hath been found by common and constant experience, that peace is but to be kept so long as the Pope saith Amen to it.”
England had no treaty with any Catholic State except France, and Cromwell said, “And there is no other Popish State we can speak of, save this only, but will break their promise or keep it as they please upon these grounds, being under the lash of the Pope, to be by him determined.”
He formed a new and more intimate treaty with France (March 23, 1657), by which a French and English assault was to be made upon the Spanish power in the Netherlands. Louis was to contribute 20,000 and Cromwell 6,000 men. The Spaniards at that time held three French towns on the northernmost coast of France—Gravelines, Mardike, and Dunkirk, and it was the object of the expedition to reduce these places. If successful, Gravelines was to belong to France, and Mardike and Dunkirk to England.
Sir William Lockhart was the English commander, a brave Scot who had come into England in the Duke of Hamilton’s ill-fated invasion, but had since obtained Cromwell’s pardon, married the Protector’s niece, Robina Sewster, and was now winning diplomatic and military honors in France.
Contrary to Cromwell’s desire, the French authorities planned to besiege Gravelines, their town, first. This did not please the Lord Protector. He fain would have his two towns taken first—put into his possession as guarantee of good faith. He was a plain-spoken man. “I pray you tell the Cardinal for me,” he wrote to Lockhart, “that we desire, that the design be Dunkirk rather than Gravelines.” He would send over “Two of our old regiments and two more, if need be, if Dunkirk be the design.” The Cardinal yielded, marched first for Mardike, captured it (September 21,1657), and delivered it to the English. Don John of Austria, aided by the English Duke of York, made an attempt to retake it, but was repulsed. Siege was then laid to Dunkirk.
Dunkirk was a more important stronghold, and was the key to Belgium (then called Flanders) on the North and East. In aspiring to Dunkirk, it was not only Cromwell’s aim to crush the nest of pirates who preyed thence on English commerce, but also to convince all Europe at once that in thus planting himself between three warring neighbors like France, Holland, and Spain, he would keep the peace between them and stop the spread of the Holy Empire, which both Spain and Rome would have made universal.
As soon as Dunkirk’s peril was made known to the Spaniards, Don John hastened thither with 15,000 men, the Duke of York and a few Irish regiments being again with him. A great battle was fought before the walls of the city June 14, 1658. The first charge was made by the English, and the French were coldly inactive. Lockhart’s own regiment broke the line of the Spaniards and put their foot to flight. Then the French horse charged the Spanish cavalry. The Ironsides shouted the Psalms as of old, and pushed their advantage, never wavering in their magnificent advance. It was the last fight of Cromwell’s Army. Soon the Spaniards, Don John, the Duke of York, and the Irish contingent were in full flight, their men being slaughtered at every step—a crushing, killing blow that the Lord Protector dealt that day to his Spanish enemy, causing his rapid and permanent decline.
But in spite of his vast and permanent military successes abroad, the main object of Cromwell’s foreign policy was the organization of a Protestant Alliance that would dictate religious toleration to the rest of Europe; and in this benign project he did not succeed. Sweden and Denmark were in open war. Holland was jealous and irritable. The narrow Protestant princes of Germany would not see beyond the borders of their own States. Only the prestige of England and of Oliver was great throughout the world.
Dallying with the Crown
“If there was a man in England,” says Daniel Neal, in his History of the Puritans, “who excelled in any faculty or science, the Protector would find him out, and reward him according to his merit.” He directed the learned professors of the universities to mark the rising youth of England, and commend to his attention such as they deemed apt for public station. His choice of men throughout his administration was wise and fortunate, and gave great satisfaction to the nation.
The magnanimous conduct by which he won Lord Broghill’s friendship deserves to be related. Lord Broghill had lain quiet on his estate in England after the death of Charles I, until he felt that he could no longer endure the humiliation which his party then suffered. Accordingly he determined to apply to young Charles Stuart, then a wanderer on the Continent, for a commission authorizing him to raise an insurrection in England. He appealed to the Earl of Warwick for a pass to go to Spa to be treated for the gout, and when this pretext was presented to Cromwell and his Council, backed by the recommendation of Warwick, who believed in his friend’s honesty of purpose, the pass was issued, and Broghill came to London to receive it. By the time he arrived there, Cromwell had learned the whole story of his intentions, and, coming in person to Broghill’s lodging, he demanded to know for what purpose his Lordship was going abroad. Broghill answered, to Spa to be treated for his gout. Then Cromwell told him that he knew all, and that the Council had ordered him to the Tower for treason. The frightened Lord at first denied that his designs were treacherous, but he was finally compelled to confess his purposes, upon hearing which Cromwell astounded him by offering him a military command in Ireland with high rank, if he would fight against the Irish papists, assuring him that no oaths or obligations would be exacted of him beyond his promise to assist in subduing the Irish rebellion. Broghill at first demurred, but when the alternative of imprisonment was put before him, he accepted the generous offer, and was a steadfast servant of the Commonwealth.
Cromwell was extremely solicitous that the great nobles who were yet in England should come to his Court, or at least accept his Government with passive obedience, and to that end he made them many courteous advances. “The nobles and great men,” says Dr. Bates, who was physician, in turn, to Charles I, to Oliver, and to Charles II, “(for with some few of them he had an intimacy) he delighted with raillery and jesting, contended with them in mimical gestures, and entertained them with merry collations, music, hunting, and hawking. When he was in the country, he used once or oftener a year, to give the neighbours a buck, to be run down in his park, and money to buy wine to make merry with.” He had all the human emotions, this Oliver, both grave and gay. He loved horses and deer, and was extremely fond of music, having a great organ in the gallery at Hampton Court where it was frequently played to him. In an interview with the old Marquis of Hertford, a staunch King’s-man and royal counselor, Cromwell told the Marquis that he was weary of the cares of Government, and begged him, as one familiar with affairs of State, to give him some advice. The grizzled nobleman objected on the ground that he had been a Privy Counselor to the late King, and it would be highly inapposite for him to offer advice to the Protector. But Cromwell pressed him until the Marquis with much feeling, said, “Our young master that is abroad—that is, my master, and the master of us all—restore him to his Crowns, and by doing this you may have what you please.” Cromwell answered quietly that in his circumstances he could not trust, nor could the King forgive.
His yearning desire for recognition from the people without regard to party, which was stubbornly withheld by many men, can be appreciated when it is remembered that nearly all the bosom friends of his earlier triumphs were now bitterly hostile to him. Vane, Lambert, Harrison, Bradshaw, Hazelrig, Ludlow, Lawson, Rich, Okey, Alured, Wildman, and Lilburne, once his devoted adherents, were now in opposition to his government and the declared enemies of his person.
Cromwell was easy of access to anyone who had occasion to see him. George Fox, the Quaker leader, had been subjected to some governmental injustice, and sought the Protector. The interview was satisfactory. As Fox was withdrawing, Cromwell caught him by the hand. “Come again to my house,” he said. “If thou and I were but an hour of the day together, we should be nearer one to the other. I wish no more harm to thee than I do to my own soul.”
His mind broadened as his public policy expanded. While he was an Independent by conviction, he extended his friendship and confidence to men of all other opinions. Manton prayed at his inauguration; Baxter preached at his Court; Calamy was consulted by him in spiritual affairs; yet all three were Presbyterians. Dr. Browning, Episcopal Bishop of Exeter, was treated by Cromwell with marked respect. Another Episcopalian, Dr. Barnard, he rescued from the slaughter at Drogheda, and made him his almoner. He advanced Archbishop Usher to places of honor and profit. His behavior was equally humane to those whose faith was intolerable to other Englishmen. To John Bidwell, a Unitarian suffering banishment in Scilly, he granted a pension of a hundred crowns a year. Jeremiah White and Peter Sterry he placed among his chaplains, though their speculations concerning the ends of Providence were far from the beaten path of Puritanism. John Goodwin, denounced by all the ministers at his Court, continued constantly in his favor. Even the Catholics who avoided seditious company, though proscribed by the laws of England, were treated with secret sympathy by Oliver. Sir Kenelm Digby, a refined and sensible Catholic, who was hospitably entertained at Whitehall, said to Secretary Thurloe:
“My obligations to his Highness are so great that it would be a crime in me to behave myself so negligently as to give cause for any shadow of the least suspicion, or to do anything that might require an excuse or apology. I should think my heart were not an honest one if the blood about it were not warmed with any the least imputation upon my respects and my duty to his Highness to whom I owe so much.”
Beyond all, his undisguised respect for Manassah Ben Israel, and for the Jews for whose protection the Rabbi pleaded, must set Cromwell high above the bigotry which marked his age.
His law courts were administered by honest and able judges. Clarendon says, “In matters which did not concern the life of his jurisdiction, he seemed to have great reverence for the law, rarely interposing between party and party.” And Coke says, “Westminster Hall was never replenished with more learned and upright judges than by him; nor was justice either in law or equity, in civil cases more equally distributed, where he was not a party.” Sir Matthew Hale, a Royalist, was chosen by Cromwell for a judge of the Common Pleas Court entirely because of his reputation for perfect honesty. Bishop Burnet’s father, who was likewise a Royalist, was sent for to come from Scotland and serve as a judge, his piety and integrity outweighing his political disabilities.
Still, there were occasions on which the Lord Protector construed his “law of necessity” unto the packing of juries, the removal of unpliant judges, and the illegal commitment of men to prison. The high-sheriff of Wilts writes to Oliver that he is choosing on the juries only those who will work his Highness’ pleasure. “Baron Thorp [a judge] and Judge Newdigate,” says Whitelock, “were put out of their places for not observing the Protector’s pleasure in all his commands.” Bradshaw, the President of the Regicides’ Court, was removed from his place of Chief Justice of Chester because of his cooling loyalty. When the disturbing John Lilburne—Freeborn John—was tried for writing seditious pamphlets, and acquitted by the jury, Oliver kept him in prison notwithstanding his vindication. Colonel Rich was imprisoned at Windsor, and General Harrison at Pendennis, without legal process. Likewise Lord Willoughby of Parham, Lord Tufton, Colonel Ashburnham, Sir Robert Sherley, Sir Luke Fitzgerald, and seven others were sent to the Tower because the Protector felt his government to be safer with them there. And, yet, in spite of all, England was governed with infinitely more liberality and justice at home, and under a policy which secured a vaster respect abroad, than she had known or was to know under any Stuart King.
Writs were issued for a new Parliament. Cromwell had determined once again to appeal to his people for constitutional support. The Royalists were again restrained from voting, and the vast influence of the military organization was employed through the Major-Generals to aid such candidates as were thought to be favorably disposed towards the ruling power. By this means Bradshaw was defeated. But Hazelrig, Scott, and Cooper, together with other irreconcilable Republicans, were elected. Vane, who tried in three places, missed in all.
A brief word should be spoken of Sir Harry Vane before dismissing him from our story. His three attempts to gain a seat in this Parliament were frustrated by the interference of two of the Major-Generals—Whalley and Lilburne. In much chagrin he retired to Raby Castle, the ancient seat of his family, in Durham, where he wrote a treatise advocating the adoption of a written constitution for the government of his country. When Cromwell, upon the failure of the Parliament, issued a declaration (March 14, 1656), calling upon the people to observe a general fast, in the hope that some better way might be divinely revealed, Vane wrote a tract, entitled “A Healing Question propounded and resolved upon Occasion of the late public and seasonable Call to Humiliation in order to Love and Union amongst the Honest Party, and with a Desire to apply Balm to the Wound before it become incurable.” In this discourse his Republican principles were defined with decorous insistence. The document was sent to Cromwell by the hand of Fleetwood, but the Protector soon returned it to its author, who straightway published it. Cromwell summoned his old friend before the Council, which demanded bonds in the sum of £5,000 for his future silence. Vane imperiously refused to recognize this judgment, and was committed to prison in Carisbrooke Castle. After a confinement of four months he was released, and returned to Raby Castle smarting under his wrongs. Yet he believed that the Reign of the Saints was now established, and that the Fifth Monarchy had been inaugurated on earth, and that a divine Prince of Peace would soon appear in the second advent. When, however, he was urged to accept the present Government, he mournfully replied that he would defer his share in its benefits until he came to Heaven. He was seen no more until Richard’s Parliament assembled. Always active and aggressive, he was still for popular government. In a passionate speech he referred to Richard as “an idiot without courage, without sense, nay, without ambition,” and then said:
“One could bear a little with Oliver Cromwell, though contrary to his oath of fidelity to the Parliament, contrary to his duty to the public, contrary to the respect he owed that venerable body from whom he received his authority, he usurped the Government. His merit was so extraordinary, that our judgments, our passions, might be blinded by it. He made his way to empire by the most illustrious actions; he had under his command an Army that had made him a Conqueror, and a People that had made him their General. But as for Richard Cromwell, his son, who is he? What are his titles? We have seen that he has his sword by his side; but did he ever draw it? And what is of more importance in this case, is he fit to get obedience from a mighty nation who could never make a footman obey him? Yet we must recognise this man as our King, under the style of Protector! a man without birth, without courage, without conduct. For my part, I declare, Sir, it shall never be said that I made such a man my master.”
Upon the restoration of Charles II, Vane would not have been molested if he had preserved a discreet silence; but as his tongue and pen were kept busy attacking monarchy, he was again made prisoner in a lonely castle on the Scilly Islands off Land’s End in the Atlantic, and, after two years, was brought to trial for his share in the late King’s dethronement and death, and was condemned. Even then, Charles would have pardoned him, but his carriage before the Court was so proud and his denunciation of royalty so scathing, that his execution was deemed necessary to the safety of the Crown; and so, on the 14th of June, 1662, he was beheaded on Tower Hill.
The Second Protectorate Parliament met on the 17th of September, 1656. Cromwell addressed them as usual, and explained to them the state of the nation and of foreign affairs. He bitterly reproached the Royalist party for their continual agitations by which a permanent settlement was prevented. He referred to their frequent conspiracies as a justification of his plan of the Major-Generals. He once more palliated all the acts of his administration on the plea of necessity. By reducing the rate of taxes he said his government had incurred debts of more than two million pounds. He told them of the mischievous plottings of the Jesuits in England. He reminded them of their high duty to the nation, and in every sentence of his speech he gave utterance to his inexhaustible religious enthusiasm and earnest belief that God was doing all.
There had been 400 members elected, and, as we have already said, there were some among them who were unwelcome to the Protector. As the members left the Council-chamber to repair to their House, they were stopped in the lobby and informed that none might serve unless certified as acceptable to the Lord Protector. Three hundred received certificates. One hundred, including all the Republicans and others known to be unfriendly, were rejected. A high-handed proceeding, of course—tyrannical, despotic—defensible only on the ground of necessity, but on that ground easily understood, and, conceding Cromwell’s honesty of purpose to settle the nation, perfectly excusable.
Oliver Cromwell desired to be King of England. And why should he not be the King? The word King comes from König, and means the man that can! Every monarch in Europe, if he trace his title back far enough, will find his kingship dating from a battle fought and won. And who among the battle heroes shall stand before Cromwell? Why should he not be the King?
The situation in which his destiny had placed him was such that he found himself in possession of all the authority of the most autocratic sovereign. But he had not assumed to put on the Crown, and without the Crown it was impossible for Englishmen to forget the traditions of their country sufficiently to look upon a Lord Protector as other than a ruler for an emergent period. As King of England his person would soon be in a measure forgotten amid the resplendent glories of his Office, but as Lord Protector he was disdainfully looked upon by very many as a parvenu. The laws permitted the people to obey a usurping King, but they were silent concerning homage to a Lord Protector. As King he might hope that at least some of the ancient Peers, with their incalculable influence on public opinion, would in time come into his presence, from which, as Lord Protector, he saw with deep chagrin they now contemptuously absented themselves. As King his government would be accepted by the great body of the people as a settlement of all popular distempers; as Lord Protector he was merely an expedient for the occasion. As King his office would be established upon the ancient foundations of the laws of England, while as Lord Protector it rested simply upon an Instrument devised by himself and his officers. As King he would be legally entitled to discharge all the functions of the State; as Lord Protector he was merely a General of the Army arbitrarily exercising the civil and military powers of government. His position was anomalous, unhappy, and full of peril. His own wonderful abilities had put him in the lead of all other men, and now, in order to secure his own safety as well as to establish the results of the war upon permanent principles, it seemed necessary that he should go the full length of his course and assume the Crown.
The first mention of Cromwell in connection with the Kingship was made by Hugh Peters, Oliver’s Army chaplain, to General Ludlow, on the way home from the great victory of Worcester. “This man will be King of England yet,” said the fanatic Peters. Again, only two days after receiving information of the death of his son-in-law, Henry Ireton, who was a most uncompromising Republican, than whom “no man could prevail more nor order him farther,” Cromwell called a meeting of the Parliamentary and Army leaders at Speaker Lenthall’s house (December 10, 1651), and told them that now that the old King was dead, and his son being defeated, he held it necessary to come to a settlement of the nation. This was the first open and official discussion of the Kingship, and Whitelock reports that it proceeded as follows:
§ Speaker: My Lord, this company were very ready to attend your Excellency, and the business you are pleased to propound to us is very necessary to be considered. God hath given marvellous success to our forces under your command, and if we do not improve these mercies to some settlement, such as may be to God’s honour and the good of this Commonwealth, we shall be very much blame-worthy.
§ Harrison: I think that which my Lord General hath propounded is to advise as to a settlement both of our civil and spiritual liberties, and so that the mercies which the Lord hath given in to us may not be cast away: how this may be done is the great question.
§ Whitelock: It is a great question, indeed, and not suddenly to be resolved, yet it were pity that a meeting of so many able and worthy persons as I see here should be fruitless. I should humbly offer, in the first place, whether it be not requisite to be understood in what way this settlement is desired, whether of an absolute republic, or with any mixture of monarchy.
§ Cromwell: My Lord Commissioner Whitelock hath put us upon the right point; and indeed it is my meaning that we should consider whether a republic or a mixed monarchical government will be best to be settled; and if any thing monarchical, then in whom that power shall be placed.
§ Sir Thomas Widdrington: I think a mixed monarchical government will be most suitable to the laws and people of this nation; and if any monarchical, I suppose we shall hold it most just to place that power in one of the sons of the late King.
§ Colonel Fleetwood: I think that the question, whether an absolute republic or a mixed monarchy be best to be settled in this nation, will not be very easy to be determined.
§ Lord Chief Justice St. John: It will be found that the government of this nation, without something of monarchical power, will be very difficult to be so settled as not to shake the foundation of our laws and the liberties of the people.
§ Speaker: It will breed a strange confusion to settle a government of this nation without something of monarchy.
§ Colonel Desborough: I beseech you, my lord, why may not this as well as other nations be governed in the way of a republic?
§ Whitelock: The laws of England are so interwoven with the power and practice of monarchy, that to settle a government without something of monarchy in it, would make so great an alteration in the proceedings of our law, that you have scarce time to rectify, nor can we well foresee, the inconveniences which will arise thereby.
§ Colonel Whalley: I do not well understand matters of law, but it seems to me the best way not to have any thing of monarchical power in the settlement of our government; and if we should resolve upon any, whom have we to pitch upon? The King’s eldest son hath been in arms against us, and his second son likewise is our enemy.
§ Sir Thomas Widdrington: But the late King’s third son, the Duke of Gloucester, is still among us, and too young to have been in arms against us, or infected with the principles of our enemies.
§ Whitelock: There may be a day given for the King’s eldest son or for the Duke of York, his brother, to come into the Parliament, and upon such terms as shall be thought fit and agreeable both to our civil and spiritual liberties; a settlement may be made with them.
§ Cromwell: That will be a business of more than ordinary difficulty; but, really, I think, if it may be done with safety and preservation of our rights, both as Englishmen and as Christians, that a settlement of somewhat with monarchical power in it would be very effectual.
A surprising result of this conference was that the soldiers who were present were strongly opposed to the monarchal form of Government, while the lawyers and the other civilians, except Widdrington, were in favor of it.
Nearly a year later (November 1652), Whitelock records that, on a fair evening, while walking in St. James’ Park, to refresh himself after business of toil, and for a little exercise, he met the Lord General Cromwell. Before passing to the momentous interview which then took place, it should be said that Whitelock, while a pompous, egotistical, and self-inflated man, yet possessed great wisdom, was deeply learned in the law, and was a sagacious and influential member of the Parliament. Cromwell, while holding his vanity in contempt, cherished a great respect for his indisputable abilities, and in the days of the Protectorate was glad to appoint him to the most important official positions, on one occasion sending him as Ambassador to Queen Christina of Sweden. The conversation in St. James’ Park is undoubtedly authentic, although, as it was written out for the world after the Restoration, Whitelock may have changed the color of his own words or of those of Cromwell to suit the altered conditions. His history, usually dull and tedious, becomes suddenly most interesting in this grave discourse. He says that Cromwell saluted him with more than ordinary courtesy, and desired him to walk aside with him, that they might talk privately, which they did to this effect:
§ Cromwell: My lord Whitelock, I know your faithfulness and engagement in the same good cause with myself and the rest of our friends, and I know your ability in judgment and your particular friendship and affection for me, indeed I am sufficiently satisfied in these things, and therefore I desire to advise with you in the main and most important affairs relating to our present condition.
§ Whitelock: Your Excellency hath known me long, and, I think, will say that you never knew any unfaithfulness or breach of trust by me; and for my particular affection to your person, your favours to me, and your public services, have deserved more than I can manifest, only there is (with your favour) a mistake in this one thing, touching my weak judgment, which is uncapable to do any considerable service for yourself or this Commonwealth; yet to the utmost of my power I shall be ready to serve you, and that with all diligence and faithfulness.
§ Cromwell: I have cause to be, and am, without the least scruple of your faithfulness, and I know your kindness to me, your old friend, and your abilities to serve the Commonwealth, and there are enough besides me that can testify it; and I believe our engagements for this Commonwealth have been and are as deep as most men’s, and there never was more need of advice and solid hearty counsel than the present state of our affairs doth require.
§ Whitelock: I suppose no man will mention his particular engagement in this cause, at the same time when your Excellency’s engagement is remembered, yet to my capacity and in my station few men have engaged further than I have done and that (besides the goodness of your own nature and personal knowledge of me) will keep you from any jealousy of my faithfulness.
§ Cromwell: I wish there were no more ground of suspicion of others than of you; I can trust you with my life, and the most secret matters relating to our business; and to that end I have now desired a little private discourse with you; and really, my lord, there is very great cause for us to consider the dangerous condition we are all in, and how to make good our station, to improve the mercies and successes which God hath given us, and not to be fooled out of them again, nor to be broken in pieces by our particular jarrings and animosities one against another, but to unite our counsels and hands and hearts, to make good what we have so dearly bought with so much hazard, blood, and treasure; and that the Lord having given us an entire conquest over our enemies, we should not now hazard all again by our private janglings, and bring those mischiefs upon ourselves which our enemies could never do.
§ Whitelock: My lord, I look upon our present danger as greater than ever it was in the field, and (as your Excellency truly observes) our proneness to destroy ourselves, when our enemies could not do it. It is no strange thing for a gallant Army (as yours is) after full conquest of their enemies, to grow into factions and ambitious designs, and it is a wonder to me that they are not in high mutinies, their spirits being active, and few thinking their services to be duly rewarded, and the emulation of the officers breaking out daily more and more in this time of their vacancy from their employment; besides, the private soldiers, it may be feared, will in this time of their idleness grow into disorder, and it is your excellent conduct, which, under God, hath kept them so long in discipline, and free from mutinies.
§ Cromwell: I have used and shall use the utmost of my poor endeavours to beep them all in order and obedience.
§ Whitelock: Your Excellency hath done it hitherto even to admiration.
§ Cromwell: Truly God hath blessed me in it exceedingly, and I hope will do so still. Your lordship hath observed most truly the inclinations of the officers of the Army to particular factions, and to murmurings, that they are not rewarded according to their deserts, that others who have adventured least have gained most, and they have neither profit, nor preferment, nor place in Government, which others hold who have undergone no hardships nor hazards for the Commonwealth; and herein they have too much of truth, yet their insolency is very great, and their influence upon the private soldiers works them to the like discontents and murmurings.
Then as for the members of Parliament, the Army begins to have a strange distaste against them, and I wish there were not too much cause for it, and really their pride and ambition and self-seeking, engrossing all places of honour and profit to themselves and their friends, and their daily breaking forth into new and violent parties and factions.
Their delays of business and the power in their design to perpetuate themselves, and to continue the power in their own hands; their meddling in private matters between party and party, contrary to the institution of Parliaments; and their injustice and partiality in those matters, and the scandalous lives of some of the chief of them; these things, my lord, do give too much ground for people to open their mouths against them and to dislike them.
Nor can they be kept within the bounds of justice and law or reason, they themselves being the supreme power of the nation, liable to no account to any, nor to be controlled or regulated by any other power, there being none superior or co-ordinate with them.
So that unless there be some authority and power so full and so high as to restrain and keep things in better order, and that may be a check to these exorbitances, it will be impossible in human reason to prevent our ruin.
§ Whitelock: I confess the danger we are in by these extravagances and inordinate powers is more than I doubt is generally apprehended; yet as to that part of it which concerns the soldiery, your Excellency’s power and commission is sufficient already to restrain and keep them in their due obedience, and, blessed be God, you have done it hitherto, and I doubt not but by your wisdom you will be able still to do it.
As to the members of Parliament, I confess the greatest difficulty lies there, your commission being from them, and they being acknowledged the supreme power of the nation, subject to no control, nor allowing any appeal from them.
Yet I am sure your Excellency will not look upon them as generally depraved, too many of them are much to blame in those things you have mentioned, and many unfit things have passed among them; but I hope well of the major part of them, when great matters come to a decision.
§ Cromwell: My lord, there is little hopes of a good settlement to be made by them, really there is not; but a great deal of fear that they will destroy again what the Lord hath done graciously for them and us; we all forget God, and God will forget us, and give us up to confusion; and these men will help it on, if they be suffered to proceed in their ways; some course must be thought on to curb and restrain them, or we shall be ruined by them.
§ Whitelock: We ourselves have acknowledged them the supreme power, and taken our commissions and authority in the highest concernments from them, and how to restrain and curb them after this it will be hard to find out a way for it.
§ Cromwell: What if a man should take upon him to be King? § Whitelock: I think that remedy would be worse than the disease. § Cromwell: Why do you think so? § Whitelock: As to your own person the title of King would be of no advantage, because you have the full kingly power in you already, concerning the militia, as you are General.
As to the nomination of civil officers, those whom you think fittest are seldom refused; and although you have no negative vote in the passing of laws, yet what you dislike will not easily be carried, and the taxes are already settled, and in your power to dispose the money raised. And as to foreign affairs, though the ceremonial application be made to the Parliament, yet the expectation of good or bad success in it is from your Excellency, and particular solicitations of foreign ministers are made to you only;
So that I apprehend indeed less envy and danger and pomp, but not less power and real opportunities of doing good in your being General than would be if you had assumed the title of King.
§ Cromwell: I have heard some of your profession observe that he who is actually King, whether by election or by descent, yet being once King, all acts done by him as King are lawful and justifiable, as by any King who hath the crown by inheritance from his forefathers; and that by an act of Parliament in Henry VII’s time, it is safer for those who act under a King (be his title what it will) than for those who act under any other power. And surely the power of a King is so great and high, and so universally understood and reverenced by the people of this nation, that the title of it might not only indemnify in a great measure those that act under it, but likewise be of great use and advantage in such times as these, to curb the insolences and extravagances of those whom the present powers cannot control, or at least are the persons themselves who are thus insolent.
§ Whitelock: I agree in the general with what you are pleased to observe as to this title of King, but whether for your excellency to take this title upon you, as things now are, will be for the good and advantage either of yourself and friends, or of the Commonwealth, I do very much doubt, notwithstanding that act of Parliament ii. Hen. VII, which will be little regarded or observed to us by our enemies if they should come to get the upper hand of us.
§ Cromwell: What do you apprehend would be the danger of taking this title?
§ Whitelock: The danger I think would be this—one of the main points of controversy betwixt us and our adversaries is whether the government of this nation shall be established in monarchy or in a free state or commonwealth, and most of our friends have engaged with us upon the hopes of having the government settled in a free state, and to effect that, have undergone all their hazards and difficulties. They being persuaded (though, I think, much mistaken) that under the government of a commonwealth they shall enjoy more liberty and right, both as to their spiritual and civil concernments, than they shall under monarchy, the pressures and dislike whereof are so fresh in their memories and sufferings.
Now, if your excellency shall take upon you the title of King, this state of our cause will be thereby wholly determined, and monarchy established in your person; and the question will be no more whether our government shall be by a monarch or by a free state, but whether Cromwell or Stuart shall be our King and monarch.
And that question, wherein before so great parties of the nation were engaged, and which was universal, will by this means become in effect a private controversy only; before, it was national what kind of government we should have, now it will become particular who shall be our governor, whether of the family of the Stuarts or of the family of the Cromwells.
Thus the state of our controversy being totally changed, all those who were for a commonwealth (and they are a very great and considerable party) having their hopes therein frustrated, will desert you, your hands will be weakened, your interest straitened, and your cause in apparent danger to be ruined.
§ Cromwell: I confess you speak reason in this, but what other thing can you propound that may obviate the present dangers and difficulties wherein we are all engaged?
§ Whitelock: It will be the greatest difficulty to find out such an expedient; I have had many things in my private thoughts upon this business, some of which perhaps are not fit or safe for me to communicate.
§ Cromwell: I pray, my lord, what are they? You may trust me with them; there shall no prejudice come to you by any private discourse betwixt us; I shall never betray my friend; you may be as free with me as with your own heart, and shall never suffer by it.
§ Whitelock: I make no scruple to put my life and fortune in your excellency’s hand, and so I shall if I impart these fancies to you, which are weak and perhaps may prove offensive to your Excellency, therefore my best way will be to smother them.
§ Cromwell: Nay, I prithee, my lord Whitelock, let what they will, they cannot be offensive to me, but I shall take it kindly from you; therefore, I pray, do not conceal those thoughts of yours from your faithful friend.
§ Whitelock: Your Excellency honours me with a title far above me, and since you are pleased to command it, I shall discover to you my thoughts herein, and humbly desire you not to take in ill part what I shall say to you.
§ Cromwell: Indeed I shall not, but I shall take it (as I said) very kindly from you.
§ Whitelock: Give me leave, then, first to consider your Excellency’s condition: you are environed with secret enemies; upon your subduing of the public enemy, the officers of your Army account themselves all victors, and to have had an equal share in the conquest with you.
The success which God hath given us hath not a little elated their minds, and many of them are busy and of turbulent spirits, and are not without their designs how they may dismount your Excellency, and some of themselves get up into the saddle—how they may bring you down and set up themselves.
They want not counsel and encouragement herein, it may be, from some members of the Parliament, who may be jealous of your power and greatness, lest you should grow too high for them, and in time overmaster them; and they will plot to bring you down first, or to clip your wings.
§ Cromwell: I thank you that you so fully consider my condition; it is a testimony of your love to me and care of me, and you have rightly considered it, and I may say, without vanity, that in my condition yours is involved, and all our friends, and those that plot my ruin will hardly bear your continuance in any condition worthy of you.
Besides this, the cause itself may possibly receive some disadvantage by the strugglings and contentions among ourselves; but what, sir, are your thoughts for prevention of those mischiefs that hang over our heads?
§ Whitelock: Pardon me, sir, in the next place, a little to consider the condition of the King of Scots.
This Prince being now, by your valour and the success which God hath given to the Parliament and to the Army under your command, reduced to a very low condition, both he and all about him cannot but be very inclinable to hearken to any terms whereby their lost hopes may be revived of his being restored to the Crown, and they to their fortunes and native country.
By a private treaty with him you may secure yourself and your friends, and their fortunes; you may make yourself and your posterity as great and permanent, to all human probability, as ever any subject was, and provide for your friends. You may put such limits to monarchical power as will secure our spiritual and civil liberties, and you may secure the cause in which we are all engaged; and this may be effectually done by having the power of the militia continued in yourself, and whom you shall agree upon after you.
I propound therefore for your Excellency to send to the King of Scots, and to have a private treaty with him for this purpose; and I beseech you to pardon what I have said upon the occasion; it is out of my affection and service to your Excellency, and to all honest men; and I humbly pray you not to have any jealousy thereupon of my approved faithfulness to your Excellency and to this Commonwealth.
§ Cromwell: I have not, I assure you, the least distrust of your faithfulness and friendship to me, and to the cause of this Commonwealth, and I think you have much reason for what you propound; but it is a matter of so high importance and difficulty, that it deserves more of consideration and debate than is at present allowed us. We shall therefore take a further time to discourse of it.
Since that conversation in the Park with Whitelock, there had been various public and semi-public discussions of the project, and upon the ousting of the Long Parliament, a few of Cromwell’s officers had pressed him to use that opportunity for assuming the regal dignity. But he had steadily refused to seize the shining diadem without at least an appearance of popular consent. It was now left to this Second Parliament to formally invite him to wear the Crown.
But before they drew their discussions towards that stupendous topic, they endeavored to impress upon the Lord Protector a proper sense of the vast unpopularity of his institution of the Major-Generals. Their efforts met with so much success that Cromwell withdrew his Major-Generals and abandoned the harsh system of decimation by which he had so severely oppressed the Royalists (January 1657). This arrayed against him General Lambert, who, smarting already over the loss of the Lord Deputyship of Ireland, was now most reluctant to part with his military privileges in the North.
The negotiations for his assumption of the Crown began in February and lasted until May 1657. On Monday, February 23, Sir Christopher Pack, an alderman, and member for London, gravely asked leave to introduce a Remonstrance from the Parliament to his Highness. The debate ran into the night, and when Pack received permission to read his paper a candle was brought in to enable him to do so. His Remonstrance proved to be a new Instrument of Government, in which the powers of the Parliament were somewhat more clearly defined and those of the Single Person rather enlarged. The discussion of this paper ran through the early spring, and under its new name, “Petition and Advice Presented to his Highness,” the fact was finally acknowledged with all the formality of pen and ink, that Oliver Cromwell was desired by his people represented in Parliament to take upon himself the title and office of King of England. The vote was 123 for the Kingship and 62 against. In the opposition were Lambert, Desborough, and Fleetwood, who passionately declared that Cromwell would never consent to it, “and therefore that it was very strange that any men should importune the putting such a question, before they knew that he would accept it, unless they took this way to destroy him.”
On the Friday following Alderman Pack’s broaching of the subject, the Kingship, having reached the public as a matter of news, was a question of very general debate. New party lines were instantly formed to square with the new proposition. And a delegation of 100 officers came to the Lord Protector to tell him that they had heard of the project with real dismay; that its evil effects would be a scandal to the people of God, hazardous to His Highness’s person; and would clear the way for the return of Charles Stuart.
Oliver answered them, that he now specifically heard of this project for the first time; he had not been caballing about it, for it or against it. He said, with some scorn, that the title of King need not startle them so palpably, as they had already offered it to him and pressed him to accept it when his government was formed! The title was a mere feather in the hat. He suggested that all expedients had thus far failed. The Little Parliament, the First Protectorate Parliament, the Major-Generalcies had merely increased the common embarrassment. A House of Lords, as proposed to accompany the Kingship, would have a real value as a check upon any arbitrary propensities of a Single House of Commons. This was a reference to the case of one James Naylor who had permitted a company of ignorant women to worship him as Christ, whereupon this, Parliament had condemned him to ride in a cart with his face to the tail, to be whipped, to be branded, to be set in the pillory, to be bored through the tongue with a hot iron, and then to labor in prison. He dismissed the officers somewhat sharply; the matter was not in shape for him to say Yes or No.
On Thursday, March 31, the Parliament waited upon him in the banqueting house in Whitehall, and presented their Petition and Advice, in which they offered him the Kingship with the power of naming his own successor. It was this principle of the succession which led Lambert to oppose Cromwell’s elevation, as his great ambition led him vainly to suppose that he would be made Lord Protector at Cromwell’s death. Cromwell’s reply was dignified, thoughtful, and earnest. He did not refuse, neither did he display any coquetry or rash judgment in the face of such an overpowering temptation. He told them they had had time to prepare their plan; they must give him time to decide his course. He had lived the latter part of his life in the fire, in the midst of troubles. But nothing that had befallen him since he first engaged in the affairs of this Commonwealth had so moved his heart and spirit with the fear and reverence of God that became a Christian, as did this that they had offered him. He was perhaps at the end of his work, and he must not run upon such a work as this without due consideration. He must have time to ask counsel of God and of his own heart, and would give them a decision as speedily as the importance of the question would permit.
Three days later (April 3) Cromwell wrote the Speaker that if he would send a committee to Whitehall he would give them an answer. The committee came—Lord Broghill, General Montague, the Earl of Tweedale, his cousin General Whalley, his brother-in-law General Desborough, and Bulstrode Whitelock.
He told them a sickness yesterday and the day before had prevented him from replying to their offer earlier. He must bear testimony how careful the Parliament had been of religion and civil liberty. He desired through this committee to return the Parliament his grateful thanks. But he must needs say, that that might be fit for them to offer which might not be fit for him to undertake. He begged them not to urge his reasons for it, excepting this, that he was not able for such a trust and charge. He had not been able to find it his duty to God to undertake this charge under that title. Really and sincerely it was his conscience that guided him to this answer, and he desired them to convey the substance of it to the Parliament.
This rejection of the high office was not peremptory. But it conveyed to all the grave doubts which filled the Lord Protector’s mind in regard to the wisdom and propriety of such a step. The opposition of the Army was becoming formidable. They had fought to destroy Kingship and could not now look with favor on the proposition to revive it. Without the full consent of the Army, Cromwell could do nothing.
On April 8, the Parliament came again to the Lord Protector and, reminding him that they spoke in the name of the three nations, implored him to accept their Petition and Advice. He answered that he put great value on the desires and advice of his Parliament. There were many things in their paper which he would be glad to have elucidated to him. This meant that the negotiations might go on.
But the Fifth-Monarchy men looked on the proposal to name Cromwell King as a proposal to put him in the place of King Jesus, whose reign of a thousand years on earth was now ready to begin, if Oliver would but keep himself in the background. Accordingly, on the next day a large number of them gathered on Mile-End Green, near London. They had many chests of arms and many seditious pamphlets. One Venner, a wine-cooper, was their leader, and they were going to restore King Jesus and end King Oliver. But Oliver was well posted on their foolish plot; he and Thurloe were in possession of all its details. Before they had had time to greet each other at their rendezvous, Cromwell’s soldiers charged them and arrested all the ringleaders. General Harrison, who was of their sect though not now with them, was likewise imprisoned. A very watchful Lord Protector!
Then the matter of the Kingship was resumed. On April 11, the committee appeared at Whitehall and presented to His Highness the reasons why he should be King. The arguments were spoken by the different members with clearness and force, and were based upon the grounds of expediency and law. Oliver debated with them, suggested his doubts, had them repeat their advice, asked further time to consider, and told them (this being Saturday) to come again on Monday morning.
So on Monday morning, April 13, the full committee of ninety-nine persons waited upon him at Whitehall. He spoke at greater length than he had previously done on this question. He quoted some Latin maxims with easy confidence and displayed great learning and readiness in the law. Replying to their statement that the Kingship was known to the law and the Protectorship was not, he told them a King was made by supreme authority in the nation and that title could be changed by a similar supreme authority. What four or five letters gave the word King any superior signification? Twice the supreme authority had been exercised under titles differing from that—once by a Long Parliament called Keeper of the Liberties of England, and now by a Lord Protector. He had taken his present place not so much out of hope of doing any good as out of a desire to prevent mischief and evil. He was ready to serve, so far as he could, not as a King, but as a Constable. As the speech proceeded and the magnitude of the occasion impressed itself upon him and them, he turned his thoughts from the office to himself and to the history which had become associated with his destiny. With a touch of swelling pride, he told them this memorable secret of his success:
“If you do not all of you, I am sure some of you do, and it behooves me to say that I do, know my calling from the first to this day. I was a person who, from my first employment, was suddenly preferred and lifted up from lesser trusts to greater: from my first being a Captain of a Troop of Horse, and did labour as well as I could to discharge my trust, and God blessed me therein as it pleased Him. And I did truly and plainly—and in a way of foolish simplicity, as it was judged by very great and wise men, and good men, too—desire to make my instruments help me in that work. And I will deal plainly with you: I had a very worthy friend then, and he was a very noble person, and I know his memory is very grateful to all—Mr. John Hampden. At my first going out into this engagement, I saw our men were beaten at every hand. I did indeed, and desired him that he would make some additions to my Lord Essex’s army, of some new regiments, and I told him I would be serviceable to him in bringing such men in as I thought had a spirit that would do something in the work. This is very true that I tell you; God knows I lie not. ‘Four troops,’ said I, ‘are most of them old decayed serving men, and tapsters, and such kind of fellows, and,’ said I, ‘their troops are gentlemen’s sons, younger sons and persons of quality. Do you think that the spirits of such base and mean fellows will ever be able to encounter gentlemen, that have honour, and courage, and resolution in them?’ Truly I did represent to him in this manner conscientiously, and truly I did tell him, ‘You must get men of a spirit, and take it not ill what I say—I know you will not—of a spirit that is likely to go on as far as gentlemen will go, or else you will be beaten still.’ I told him so; I did truly. He was a wise and worthy person, and he did think that I talked a good notion, but an impracticable one. Truly I told him I could do somewhat in it. I did so [that is, he himself enlisted such men], and truly I must needs say this to you—impute it to what you please—I raised such men as had the fear of God before them, as made some conscience of what they did. And from that day forward, I must say to you, they were never beaten, and wherever they were engaged against the enemy, they beat continually! And truly this is matter of praise to God, and it hath some instruction in it to own [acknowledge] men who are religious and godly.”
He then discussed their argument that it was “necessary” for him to assume the royal title, and proved to them that it was not necessary. The grounds of expediency were next approached, and his remarks showed them that he was very far from having come to a decision, but that the tendency of his thoughts was to reject the title. He told them to come to him again the next day, and dismissed them.
The next day, which was Tuesday, they came to Whitehall, and Cromwell sent word that he could not see them as he was not in health. On Wednesday they came again, but the Lord Protector was suffering from a cold. Again on Thursday they appeared, and Oliver met them. The committee labored with him, endeavoring with much learning and some eloquence to overcome his scruples. They told him he was rejecting the advice of his Parliament, which not even the actual Kings of England would do. They appealed to his sense of duty. After hearing their speeches, he told them to come again tomorrow.
On Friday the Parliament came to him, but he would not meet them. On Monday, April 20, they came again, and he addressed them ambiguously in the old strain, keeping every mind in doubt and satisfying them in nothing, and concluding with an invitation to come the next day. On Tuesday they came and in his longest speech he presented them with his views on their Petition and Advice, except as to the Kingship, which he did not even mention.
The Parliament returned to Westminster much disappointed. They had expected a decisive answer, and were met merely with further procrastination. But it was the general opinion that Cromwell would accept the title in his own time, and the House spent the next two weeks in further debating the proposed new rules of government under their Petition and Advice.
In the meantime the Lord Protector held several private conferences with the Parliamentary leaders, in which his scruples were not put forward so prominently. He was frequently closeted with Whitelock, Lord Broghill, Thurloe, and others for three or four hours together, when he would sometimes lay aside his greatness, and by way of diversion make verses, directing every one in his turn to try his skill at rhyming. He usually called for pipes and tobacco, and frequently smoked with them. But after being most familiar he could instantly resume a natural and imposing dignity.
Whitelock relates another anecdote which illustrates Cromwell’s affability. “As they” [Cromwell and Ireton], he says, “went home from my house, their coach was stopped and they examined by the guards, to whom they told their names; but the captain of the guards would not believe them, and threatened to carry these two great officers to the court of guard. Ireton grew a little angry, but Cromwell was cheerful with the soldiers, gave them twenty shillings, and commended them and their captain for doing their duty.”
But while some of Cromwell’s scruples in the Kingship arose from his conscience, they would have been silenced had not the chiefs of the Army so plainly indicated their opposition to the scheme. Sir Francis Russell wrote (April 27) to Henry Cromwell, his son-in-law, that he expected in his next letter to address him as Duke of York, as the Lord Protector was expected soon to take the kingly power upon him. Cromwell told Whitelock privately that he was satisfied in his own mind of the expediency of accepting the Crown, and Whitelock says the arrangements for his coronation were made. But the most obstinate resistance was encountered in his own family. Fleetwood and Desborough, the one married to his daughter, the other to his sister, opposed him inflexibly. So did his cousin, General Whalley. Cromwell had them to dinner, and told them the monarchy was but a feather in a man’s cap, and he therefore wondered that men would not please the children and permit them to enjoy their rattle. But they told him there was more in this matter than he perceived, that those who were the most assiduously pressing the title upon him were the secret friends of Charles Stuart, and that he would inevitably ruin himself and his friends if he yielded to this temptation. He answered them merely that they were over-scrupulous. On another occasion, when he had called the Parliament to receive his reply, he met Desborough in the Park and told him that he expected to consent, to which Desborough answered that he then gave both the cause and Cromwell’s family for lost, and while he would not act against him, neither would he affiliate with his plans in the future. When Desborough arrived at his house he met Colonel Pride and told him of Cromwell’s resolution to accept the Crown. Pride vowed that he should never do it, and when asked how he would prevent it, said it could be done by presenting a petition against it from the Army to the Parliament. They both went to Dr. Owen and prevailed upon him to draw up a petition.
The Parliament was in session, expecting every moment to be summoned to Whitehall to receive Cromwell’s affirmative answer, when Desborough announced that there was a deputation of officers outside who desired to present a petition. It was at once assumed that as Desborough announced the petition its contents were favorable to the Kingship. The amazement of the House may therefore be partially understood when they heard the petition read, in which the officers declared that they had hazarded their lives against Monarchy, and were still ready to do so, in defense of the liberties of the nation, that having observed in some men great endeavors to bring the nation again under its old servitude, by pressing their General to take on him the title and government of a King, in order to destroy him, and weaken the hands of those who were faithful to the public, they therefore humbly desired that the Parliament would discountenance all such persons and endeavors, and continue steadfast to the good old cause, for the preservation of which they for their parts were most ready to lay down their lives. This petition was signed by nine Colonels, eight Majors, and sixteen Captains, who, with those officers who were opposing the title as members of the House, made up the majority of the Army officers then stationed at London.
There was great consternation in the Parliament, and the clerk had scarcely finished reading the petition before Cromwell was apprised of the affair. He sent instantly for Fleetwood and reproached him for permitting the petition to be brought in when he already knew of his resolution to refuse the Crown unless the Army would consent. He instructed him to go at once to the House and prevent any discussion of the petition, and by another messenger he summoned them to Whitehall. This was on the 8th of May, 1657.
It was certainly an extraordinary occasion. Here was a man who was both a supreme conqueror and a dictator, met with a perfectly friendly Parliament to refuse the title of King of England which they had implored him to accept. He could see the sullen Army in the background. The offer was the colossal temptation of his life; its rejection was doubtless his greatest disappointment. He said:
“Mr. Speaker: I come hither to answer that that was in your last paper to your committee you sent to me, which was in relation to the desires that were offered me by the House in That they called their Petition [The Petition and Advice]. I confess, that business hath put the House, the Parliament, to a great deal of trouble, and spent much time [February 23 to May 8, over ten weeks]. I am very sorry for that. It hath cost me some, too, and some thoughts, and because I have been the unhappy occasion of the expense of so much time, I shall spend little on it now.”
He spoke in commendation of some of the improvements that they proposed to introduce into the government, in regard to liberty of conscience and civil rights. He then said:
“I have only had the unhappiness, both in my conferences with your committees, and in the best thoughts I could take to myself, not to be convinced of the necessity of that thing which hath been so often insisted on by you—to wit, the title of King—as in itself so necessary as it seems to be apprehended by you. And yet I do, with all honor and respect, testify that, cæteris paribus, no private judgment is to be in the balance with the judgment of Parliament. But in things that respect particular persons, every man who is to give an account to God of his actions, he must in some measure be able to prove his own work, and to have an approbation in his own conscience of that which he is to do or to forbear. And whilst you are granting others’ liberties, surely you will not deny me this, it being not only a liberty but a duty, and such a duty as I cannot without sinning forbear to examine my own heart and thoughts and judgment, in every work which I am to set my hand to, or to appear in or for. … I have truly thought, and I do still think, that, at the best, if I should do anything on this account to answer your expectation, at the best I should do it doubtingly. And certainly whatsoever is so is not of faith. And whatsoever is not so, whatsoever is not of faith, is sin to him that doth it.”
He was approaching the climax; they hardly yet believed he would refuse. He said:
“I, lying under this consideration, think it my duty—Only I could have wished I had done it sooner, for the sake of the House, who have laid such infinite obligations on me; I wish I had done it sooner for your sake, and for saving time and trouble; and for the committee’s sake, to whom I must acknowledge I have been unreasonably troublesome! But truly this is my answer, That (although I think the Act of Government doth consist of very excellent parts, in all but that one thing, of the title as to me) I should not be an honest man, if I did not tell you that I cannot accept of the Government, nor undertake the trouble and charge of it—as to which I have a little more experimented than everybody what troubles and difficulties do befall men under such trusts and in such undertakings [sentence breaks down]—I say I am persuaded to return this Answer to you, that I cannot undertake this Government with the title of King. And that is mine answer to this great and weighty business.”
The Parliament silently withdrew. The Kingship was thus put aside forever.
The House granted the Protector some needed supplies, putting a tax of £340,000 a month on England, £6,000 on Scotland, and £9,000 on Ireland. They completed their Petition and Advice, providing for the continuation of the present title of Lord Protector, and creating a second House, intended to be a House of Lords, to consist of seventy members to be named by Cromwell, but which was alluded to at all times dubiously as “the Other House.” They stipulated for the admittance of the excluded members, for an election of a free Parliament once in three years, for the non-interference with their privileges, and for a disuse of the law-making power by the Lord Protector and his Council. Cromwell approved this Instrument, and the Parliament adjourned June 20, not to meet again for seven months. The purposes of this long adjournment were to allow Cromwell to choose the members of the Other House and to install him a second time as Lord Protector under the authority of the Parliament.
On the 26th of June, 1657, Cromwell, with most magnificent ceremonies, was again proclaimed Lord Protector. He entered Westminster Hall with all the pomp that his civil and military administration could afford. A platform was raised at the upper end of the hall, on which there was a chair of State. Cromwell stood in front of this wearing the robes of State. Around him were the Earl of Warwick, the Dutch and French Ambassadors, Richard Cromwell, Fleetwood, Claypole, the Earl of Manchester, Lord Wharton, Montague, Whitelock, and others, all with drawn swords. After the heralds had commanded silence, Speaker Widdrington, on behalf of the Parliament, presented him with a rich and elegant robe of purple velvet, lined with ermine; a Bible, ornamented with bosses and clasps, richly gilt; a sword of exquisite workmanship; and a scepter of massy gold; each of which was explained by Widdrington to be symbolical of his relations to the State. Cromwell then took the oath, and after a prayer by Mr. Manton, the heralds proclaimed him Lord Protector, the trumpets sounded, and the people shouted their loud huzzas. After this Cromwell returned to Whitehall in all the sovereignty of a King save the name and the Crown.
Was this inauguration sufficient to preserve his power? Could it maintain his prestige and authority? Did his necessary dictatorship and despotism receive any greater degree of real loyalty from the people? We fear not. It seems rather to be possible to trace, from the day on which the public became aware of his inability to accept the Kingship, a gradual and almost imperceptible diminution of the power of his sway, a doubt of the sufficiency of his government, and an ill-disguised wish for the ancient forms of King and Parliament. But while his honors sat wearily on him at home, his name abroad was becoming more than ever illustrious. His Ironsides—his God-fearing men, his men of religion—were winning those victories at Mardike and Dunkirk which have been already described, and Louis XIV had personally come to their camp to inspect the Army, he said, of a Prince whom he had always considered as the greatest and happiest in Europe. Lord Fauconberg, who married Mary Cromwell (November 18, 1657), was sent by Oliver on a wedding tour as ambassador to France, and was received by Louis like a Prince of the Blood.
Within a few weeks of this second inauguration Cromwell resigned the office of Chancellor of the University of Oxford, considering it incompatible with his present dignity to longer hold that position.
When the Parliament (January 20, 1658) reassembled, the Other House, which had been created in the interim, occupied the House of Lords. Under the Petition and Advice the 100 excluded members sat with the Commons. In the Other House, sitting as Lords, were Richard and Henry Cromwell, Whitelock, Lisle, Glyn, Widdrington, Desborough, Sir Francis Rouse, Alderman Pack; William Lenthall, the Long Parliament Speaker; Jones, Fleetwood, and Claypole. Hazelrig had been named a Lord, but he scornfully rejected the title. Oliver had summoned sixty-one members, including several of his Council, some gentlemen of family, and a few lawyers and officers. Of eight ancient peers who were called only two responded, Lord Eure, and Lord Fauconberg, his son-in-law. Lords Warwick, Manchester, Mulgrave, and Wharton refused to come. The Earl of Warwick, his old friend, whose grandson, Mr. Rich, was now married (November 11, 1657) to Fanny Cromwell, declared that he could not sit in the same assembly with Colonel Hewson, who had been a shoemaker, and Colonel Pride, who had been a drayman. The experience of this Other House was very dismal. The House of Commons refused to treat it with any respect, its pretensions were received with very general contempt, and even Cromwell finally became ashamed of it.
Cromwell opened the Parliament in the House of Lords under a canopy of State, commencing his speech with the ancient form, “My Lords and Gentlemen.” He told them that after the expense of so much blood and treasure they were now to search for what blessings God had in store for these nations. The cause of the quarrel, in which most of them had been actors, was the maintaining of the liberty of these nations, our civil liberties as men, our spiritual liberties as Christians. Poisonous popish ceremonies had been imposed upon those that were accounted the Puritans of the nation, and professors of religion among us, driving them to seek their bread in a howling wilderness, as was instanced to our friends who were forced to fly for Holland, New England, almost anywhither, to find liberty for their consciences.
He then descanted in his exalted way on the 85th Psalm, and expounded the mercies of God, “who had pardoned all their iniquities and covered all their sin, and taken away all His wrath. Pardoning, as God pardoneth the man whom he justifieth! He breaks through, and overlooks iniquity, and pardoneth because He will pardon. And sometimes God pardoneth nations, also.” Hear this Puritan speaking to his Parliament! If he could only make them see as he saw, and feel as he felt, all would yet be well!
“But what’s the reason, think you,” he continued, “that men slip in this age wherein we live? As I told you before, they love not the works of God. They consider not the operation of His laws. They consider not that God resisted and broke in pieces the Powers that were, that men might fear Him, [that they] might have liberty to do and enjoy all that we have been speaking of. Which certainly God has manifested to have been the end, and so hath He brought the things to pass! Therefore it is that men yet slip, and engage themselves against God.”
He said he was in infirm health and could not speak long; he had been much in ill health of late, we find by the old books. If they succeeded in the work which they had been called there to do, “You,” said Oliver, “shall all be called the Blessed of the Lord. The generations to come will bless us. You shall be ‘the repairers of breaches, and the restorers of paths to dwell in!’ And if there be any higher work which mortals can attain unto in the world beyond this, I acknowledge my ignorance of it.”
After concluding his speech, the Lord Protector withdrew, and the trouble instantly began. The new House sent a message to the old House proposing that his Highness be requested to have a day of fasting. Under the incendiary lead of the restored Republicans, Hazelrig and Scott, the old House began a heated debate as to what name their new House was to have. The Petition and Advice simply called it the Other House. For five days the time-serving members debated this foolish point, forgetting that their continued discussions might spread abroad and bring about a Restoration in time which would lay the heads of some of these very speakers beneath the revengeful axe of Charles II.
Scott was executed among the Regicides. Hazelrig died just in time to escape a like fate.
It was a bad time for dissensions among the Puritans. A few days ago the Duke of Ormond, disguised so that not even Cromwell’s matchless system of espionage could detect him, had come into England. He stopped at Colchester to play at shuffleboard and drink hot ale with the farmers, and then came right on to London, “a rustic-looking man.” He was just from Flanders, had organized a Spanish invasion, had four Irish regiments already at his service—the same which had fled before Montague and Lockhart on the Continent; Don John had promised 10,000 Spaniards more, and Ormond was come to England to stir up the Royalists to revolt, so that a general and bloody war might ensue.
Oliver knew these things—all but the presence of Ormond in his capital—and he summoned his refractory Parliament before him January 25, only five days after their last meeting. He was still feeling indisposed, but he delivered an address which gave them a full and forcible view of the domestic and foreign situation. Without indicating an alarm within his own mind, he spoke with a candor and directness which left no room in the minds of any of them to doubt the peril that surrounded them. It was, perhaps, his ablest speech. He vividly described the dangers from abroad which threatened the common cause of Puritan England and of Protestantism. He told them in still more direct words of the perils which infested the country from the Cavaliers at home. His own life had been attempted—his assassination had been publicly urged as a boon to the nation in a pamphlet entitled Killing No Murder.
This rare pamphlet [is] severally alleged to have been written by William Allen, by Colonel Silas Titus, and by Colonel Edward Sexby. Sexby, while a prisoner in the Tower of London, professed that he “owned it as his work, and was still of the same judgment” (Thurloe, Vol. VI, p. 560). It is dedicated to Cromwell and opens in a style of lively irony. “To your Highness,” says the writer, “justly belongs the honour of dying for the people; and it cannot choose but be an unspeakable consolation to you in the last moments of your life, to consider with how much benefit to the world you are likely to leave it. It is then only, my Lord, the titles you now usurp will be truly yours. You will then be indeed the deliverer of your country, and free it from a bondage little inferior to that from which Moses delivered his. This we hope from your Highness’s happy expiration, who are the true father of your country; for, while you live, we can call nothing ours, and it is from your death that we hope for our inheritances.” … This scurrilous and wicked pamphlet created a great excitement and undoubtedly threw Cromwell into much perturbation of mind.
But especially he directed their attention to the condition of the Army. His soldiers on the 25th of January were barefoot. Both those here and in Scotland were six months in arrears in their pay, and those in Ireland were much more behind. He intimated very plainly that either with or without their help he would do his duty to the nation. He said:
“I have taken my oath to govern according to the laws that are now made, and I trust I shall fully answer it. And know, I sought not this place. I speak it before God, Angels, and Men: i did not. You sought me for it, you brought me to it; and I took my oath to be faithful to the interests of these nations, to be faithful to the Government. All those things were implied, in my eye, in the oath to be faithful to this Government, upon which we have now met. And I trust, by the grace of God, as I have taken my oath to serve this Commonwealth on such an account, I shall—i must—see it done, according to the Articles of Government. That every just interest may be preserved; that a godly ministry may be upheld, and not affronted by seducing and seduced spirits; that all men may be preserved in their just rights, whether civil or spiritual. Upon this account did I take oath, and swear to this Government! And so having declared my heart and mind to you in this, I have nothing more to say, but to pray, God Almighty bless you.”
He had pointed out their dangers; from the mountain tops he had warned them. What would they do?
For ten days longer the Parliament continued to invite destruction by its unimpeded torrent of debate. Some very useful bills were indeed presented; there were some members there who desired to see this government succeed. But Hazelrig, Scott, and other Republicans who disliked the framework of the new constitution, shutting their eyes to the spirit of it, were utterly irrepressible. Oliver stood nearby, and the gathering gloom on his brow might have indicated to them that they were trifling with the lion. But they seemed to forget about England and all her interests, and talked on unceasingly.
Unceasingly, until Oliver stopped them. On the 4th of February, 1658, he came down to the House of Lords and summoned both Houses before him. It was only fifteen days since their reassembling. His bearing was now calm and dignified, but his speech was full of suppressed passion. He reminded them that they had called him to take his present place. He reproached them for not supporting the government. He would rather have lived under his woodside and tended a flock of sheep than rule alone. He informed them that Charles Stuart had an army at the water’s edge ready to invade England, which they had known and had taken no measures to prevent. The speech was brief and full of cold scorn. Its concluding sentence struck amazement into the dull, constitutional heads of the members. After mentioning the threatened invasion, he said, “And if this be so, I do assign it to the cause—your not assenting to what you did invite me to by yourPetition and Advice, as that which might prove the settlement of the nation. And if this be the end of your sitting, and this be your carriage, I think it high time that an end be put to your sitting. And I do dissolve this parliament. And let God be the judge between you and me.”
The members filed out of the ancient halls, chagrined under his stinging rebuke. And as his Second and last Parliament vanished finally from the scene, Cromwell felt, perhaps for the first time, the full weight of the refractory empire whose government must be borne upon his shoulders alone.
Death of Cromwell
To keep English Puritanism paramount, with its Open Bible and Drawn Sword—this was the mission which it was Oliver Cromwell’s destiny to fulfil. In the matter of finances he was grievously embarrassed, for he dared not now to lay a general tax without consent of Parliament. One Cony, who had refused to pay an arbitrary assessment, had been imprisoned, and when he employed counsel to defend him, Cromwell audaciously sent his three lawyers to the Tower. But the incident convinced him that popular consent was essential to taxation, and his broad perceptions at once conceived another Parliament which might prove to be more patriotic to the cause. With a third Parliament, pliable to his will, he hoped for a law which would permit him to fill his empty coffers by taxing the Royalists even to one half of their estates.
It was not long before he discovered the presence of the Duke of Ormond in London; and that nobleman, one morning in March, while reposing at the house of a Catholic surgeon in a very thorough disguise, was thunderstruck when his friend Lord Broghill came to him direct from Cromwell and advised him to leave England immediately. He adopted the advice with alacrity and made haste to the Continent, where he informed Charles Stuart that it was useless to attempt an invasion at present, Oliver being too well prepared for them.
An insurrection which had been stirred up in London was crushed by the watchful Protector, and its leaders were punished. It is amazing to find that Sir William Walter was concerned in this affair, and that even Fairfax was expected to support it at the proper time. Among the ringleaders was Dr. John Hewit, an Episcopal clergyman, who had contributed his personal influence towards the plot to restore the exiled King. He was brought to trial before a High Court of justice, and with him was arraigned Sir Henry Slingsby, who, not content with his connection with a former assassination plot, had just been caught tampering with the officers at Hull, seeking to gain that famous fortress over to the interest of his master. Slingsby was an uncle of Lord Fauconberg, the Protector’s son-in-law, but this served him not. Neither could numerous petitions from prominent persons in behalf of Dr. Hewit secure mercy for him. Both the offenders were beheaded on Tower Hill on the 8th of June, 1658.
In the same June days the crowning victory of Oliver’s wars was secured by the capture of Dunkirk, and Mazarin sent over a splendid embassy personally to congratulate the Protector.
Amid the exhilaration of victory, personal afflictions began to fall upon Cromwell. Young Robert Rich, the Earl of Warwick’s grandson, who had married Frances Cromwell last November, died in February (16, 1658), after a wedded life of only three months, and poor Fanny’s heart was broken. Cromwell sympathized passionately with her sorrow. The Earl of Warwick, who was much esteemed by Cromwell, died on May 19 of this year. Just before his death, while bowed under the bereavement of young Rich’s demise, the Earl had written to Oliver in these words, replying to a letter of condolence from the Protector, which has not been preserved: “Others’ goodness is their own; yours is a whole country’s, yea, three Kingdoms’, for which you justly possess interest and renown with great and good men; virtue is a thousand escutcheons. Go on, my Lord; go on happily, to love religion, to exemplify it. May your Lordship long continue an instrument of use, a pattern of virtue, and a precedent of glory.”
But a greater trial was in store for Cromwell. His favorite daughter, Elizabeth Claypole, fell sick of a painful and distressing malady, affecting the internal organs. The physicians did not seem to understand her case, and they were unable to afford her any relief. The Protector flung aside all business of the State and sat by her bedside for twenty-four days. It was a sorrowful scene there at Hampton Court, when, on the 6th day of August, 1658, this beloved daughter breathed her last.
The painful agonies of her long sickness had cut like a knife to Cromwell’s heart, and her death was insupportable and crushing. When, after her funeral, he failed to recover his accustomed strength and it became necessary to acknowledge that he was dangerously sick, a fearful alarm possessed his friends. The stupendous results that would follow the death of the Lord Protector had not been seriously considered by the Puritans until the moment when the grim specter seemed to approach.
He had been in ill health for some time. As far back as the battle of Dunbar he had written to his wife that he had felt the infirmities of age stealing over him. The robust energies of life had been prematurely sapped by the too vigorous existence which he had led. His gout seemed to leave his leg and retire into his body, and for four or five days he was racked with intolerable pain in his bowels and back, which made it impossible for him to sleep. But by August 17 he was so far improved as to be able to ride out for an hour, to the unspeakable joy of his friends. Within a few days it developed that his sickness was due to an intermittent, or tertian, fever and ague, the fits attacking him with great violence every other day. On one of the intermediate days (August 24), he felt well enough to be removed from Hampton Court to Whitehall, and the only business that he would consider was that the writs for calling the new Parliament be postponed.
In one of his moments of repining for the death of the dear Elizabeth, he had them read this passage from Philippians: “Not that I speak in respect of want; for I have learned in whatever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and by all things, I am instructed; both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” His thoughts reverted over many years to his firstborn, Robert, who had died at Felsted School, nineteen years ago, in the flower of young manhood. “That Scripture did once save my life,” he told them, “when my eldest son died, which went as a dagger to my heart indeed it did.”
He then repeated Paul’s words: “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again, wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want; for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” His habit of expounding was strong. “It’s true, Paul, you have learned this, and attained to this measure of grace. But what shall I do? Ah, poor creature, it is a hard lesson for me to take out. I find it so.” But when he again came to the words, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” his faith was strong, and he cried, “He that was Paul’s Christ is my Christ too!”
While he was taking that last ride in the fresh air at Hampton Court, George Fox, the Quaker, approached him to intercede for the Society of Friends. This was on August 20. “I met him riding into Hampton Court Park,” says Fox, “and before I came to him, as he rode at the head of his Life Guard, I saw and felt a waft of death go forth against him.”
But the belief which had followed Cromwell throughout his life, that he was privileged to hold personal communication with the Most High God, was strangely asserted in these last days. He besought the Lord that, for the good of his people, he would spare his life a little longer; and he then announced that his prayer had been granted, using a manner of such mysterious assurance that his hearers were transported with amazement.
One of his chaplains, Dr. Goodwin, thereupon made this strange prayer: “Lord, we beg not for his recovery, for that Thou hast already granted, and assured us of, but for his speedy recovery.”
The whole body of that theology which had ever been the meat and drink of his soul, sustained him in the hour of his last combat. He spoke of there having been two covenants—one of works, in which personal responsibility was a fearful thing; and one of grace, in which the Father of Mercy overlooks and pardons all, to those who believe. “There were two,” he exclaimed, while earth was growing dark around him, “two, but put into one before the foundation of the world.” Again: “It is holy and true, it is holy and true, it is holy and true! Who made it holy and true? Who kept it holy and true? The great Mediator of the Covenant!” Here was indeed the very soul of Puritanism on its deathbed! “The Covenant is but one,” he said. “Faith in the Covenant is my only support. Yet, if I believe not, he abides faithful!”
“Whatsoever sins thou hast, doest, or shall commit,” he said, “if you lay hold upon free grace, you are safe, but if you put yourself under a covenant of works, you bring yourself under the law, and so under the curse; then you are gone.”
His eyes, great and glorious, their fire undimmed by sickness, fell upon his weeping wife and children. Tenderly he said to them, “Love not this world. I say unto you, it is not good that you should love this world. Children, live like Christians—I leave you the Covenant to feed upon!”
There were moments when excruciating pain seemed to plunge his faith into darkness. Once he moaned, “Is there none that says, ‘Who will deliver me from the peril?’” Nearly every Puritan in England was then praying for him. “Man can do nothing,” he said, “God can do what He will. Is there none that will come and praise God?”
All his mighty battles were but as children’s combats compared with this death struggle. “Lord,” he said, speaking with Omnipotence again in that confidential way, “Thou knowest that if I desire to live, it is to show forth Thy praise and declare Thy works?” Three times he cried, with extreme vehemence of spirit, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” Election, Predestination, were the images that arose in his mind. And then the promises of Christ relieved him: “All the promises of God are in Him: Yes, and in Him, Amen; to the glory of God by us, by us in Jesus Christ.” Soon all was serene. “The Lord hath filled me with as much assurance of His pardon, and His love, as my soul can hold.” There was self-abasement in this: “I think I am the poorest wretch that lives, but I love God, or rather am beloved by God.” The conflicts of his life suggested this to the Christian soldier: “I am a conqueror, and more than a conqueror, through Christ that strengtheneth me!”
His fever had now become a double tertian, twice turning the blood in his veins on every alternate day, then leaving him in a chill like death. He uttered this prayer: “Lord, though I am a miserable and wretched creature, I am in covenant with Thee through grace. And I may, I will, come to Thee for Thy People. Thou hast made me, though very unworthy, a mean instrument to do them some good, and Thee service; and many of them have set too high a value upon me, though others wish and would be glad of my death; but Lord, however Thou dost dispose of me, continue and go on to do good for them. Give them consistency of judgment, one heart, and mutual love, and go on to deliver them; and with the work of reformation make the name of Christ glorious in the world. Teach those who look too much upon Thy instruments, to depend more upon Thyself. Pardon such as desire to trample upon the dust of a poor worm, for they are Thy people too. And pardon the folly of this short prayer—even for Jesus Christ’s sake. And give us a good night, if it be Thy pleasure. Amen.”
On Thursday night, September 2, Thurloe, his faithful secretary, and Fauconberg, his son-in-law, together with four or five of the Council, being present, he was asked to name his successor. He had written a paper containing his wishes in the matter, previous to the assembling of his first Parliament, and Thurloe was told where it could be found. The strictest search failed to discover it, and Cromwell seemed strangely reluctant now to nominate his successor. But when they named Richard for the office, he at length indicated his consent that it should be so. Then Cromwell turned his thoughts again to Heaven. “Truly God is good,” he said, “indeed he is. He will not leave me.” His love of life was strong. “I would be willing to live to be further serviceable to God and His people, but my work is done. Yet God will be with His people.”
But the end was fast approaching. He tossed upon the bed in utter weariness all through the night. They offered him a drink. “It is not my design to drink or to sleep,” he said, “but my design is to make what haste I can to be gone.” The last extremity indeed!
A storm arose—the most tempestuous storm of wind and rain that England had known. It was impossible for horses to walk in it. All day of Friday, the 3rd of September, 1658, the anniversary of Dunbar and of Worcester, the elements raged, while Oliver Cromwell lay speechless and in his last agony. Late in the afternoon, about four o’clock on his Fortunate Day, his spirit passed out amid the lightnings.
The Lord Protector was dead!
Cromwell’s Place in History
Cromwell had finished his work. He had sprung from the heart of the people of England to vindicate their liberties. He had walked up and down the earth like a war god arrayed in the thunders of battle. He had conquered his autocratic King and all the nobility of England. He had overthrown a bloody rebellion in Ireland and transformed the environment of that mad people into industry and peace. In the space of one year he had entirely subdued Scotland, which had successfully resisted the Kings of England for 800 years.
His military career had been prodigious, far excelling the contemporaneous work of Gustavus Adolphus and of Wallenstein. The brilliance of his victories outshone the single battle of William the Conqueror and all the contests in the Wars of the Roses. His political domination was not surpassed by the ephemeral sway of Napoleon, and in martial supremacy he was equal to Caesar. Individually, his pure patriotism, his sacrifice to duty, his public wisdom, and his endeavor for the right course in every difficulty, gave him a transcendent character which, in the history of dangerous epochs, suggests but two men who are worthy to be compared with him as righteous rulers—Washington and Lincoln. Among the world’s heroes he stands high above all the rest, because the results of his illustrious performances are of more enduring benefit to mankind.
He was not ambitious to found a dynasty, and he permitted the succession to fall to Richard, because he knew that the existing order of things would suffer a less rude shock at Richard’s hands than if he turned the Government over to Lambert or to Fleetwood. It has been asked why he did not restore Charles II to the throne under constitutional pledges. But when this had been proposed to him, he replied, “Charles is so damnably debauched he will undo us all”; and the history of the reign of Charles and of James demonstrates that Cromwell’s connivance in the Restoration would not have enhanced his own fame nor England’s welfare. His foresight was too astute to permit him to hope for the preservation of the Commonwealth under its present form, although he believed that its principles were ineffaceably established.
When he stood at the head of that supreme Army, whose victories had worn away the last fabric of a legal but oppressive administration, he discovered that by the law of necessity the government had fallen upon his shoulders. It was a thankless task, which no other man in England could have successfully encountered. As he trod on in the line of strict duty, he perceived with crushing sorrow that his burden afforded neither joy to himself nor gratitude to his people.
But while his government was unstable as simply an expedient of the time, and while it was so soon to fade away, his work must endure while men inhabit the earth. For Cromwell and his Puritan hosts engrafted it imperishably upon civilization, that nations have the right to govern themselves, and that all just powers in the State are derived from the people. Above all else, he destroyed the dangerous theory of a fundamental union between Church and State, whereby the rulers assume the right to coerce the consciences of dissenters; and he broke in pieces an ecclesiastical system which promised to become as intolerant and tyrannical as that which it had displaced. He insisted that it was the natural right of every individual to worship God from his own heart and lips, free from the interposition of all sacerdotal machinery. And the absolute freedom of conscience and equality before the law which are so largely the principles of modern civilization, wherever they may have had their birth, flourished into healthy and permanent life under the nourishing and zealous care of Oliver Cromwell’s government.
He has no monument in England, and he can have none with the sanction of the government, because a monument to Cromwell would be an official acknowledgment of successful rebellion. But the great Deliverer needs no marble shaft while mankind cherishes the remembrance of his works.
When the news of Cromwell’s fatal sickness reached Ireland, Henry Cromwell solicitously inquired, “Where is that person of wisdom, courage, conduct, and (which is equivalent to all) reputation at home and abroad, which we see necessary to preserve our peace? Would not good men fear one another, and the world them?”
But while Lambert, until the abolishment of the Major-Generals had stirred him to mortal enmity against Cromwell, had expected to succeed to the Protectorship, and while Fleetwood, even at the death of Oliver, had held some faint hopes of being called to the office, yet there was none of sufficient courage to gainsay Richard’s claim. Accordingly, within three hours of Oliver’s death, Richard was proclaimed Lord Protector. There was no tumult, nor any apparent opposition, although the Cavalier party instantly became alert and impatiently awaited their opportunity to rise. “There is not a dog that wags his tongue,” wrote Thurloe, “so great a calm as we are in.”
That incomparable Army, which the great Puritan had molded into the finest military machine in Europe, received the intelligence of his death in the lethargy and gloom of hopeless sorrow. They felt that they had “not lost a General and Protector only, but a dear and tender father to them all and the Lord’s people.”
But within four days of Cromwell’s death Thurloe’s watchful eye detected the signs of revolt. On September 7 he wrote to Henry Cromwell that there were already secret murmurings that Richard was not a soldier and had no common interest with the Army, and that he ought to resign the command to one of their own Generals.
In the meantime, preparations for the late Protector’s funeral were made, and the body, after lying in state for more than two months, was buried with the greatest pomp in Westminster Abbey, that dormitory of Kings. The malignant revenge of the Stuarts afterwards caused it to be disinterred and hanged at Tyburn, the head to be placed on a pole over Westminster Hall, where it stood against the blasts of twenty winters, and the body, together with those of his sainted mother and Ireton and Bradshaw, to be thrown into a lime pit in St. Margaret’s churchyard.
Richard called a Parliament which might have done something for the good of the nation. But as the Army cabal led by Fleetwood and Desborough considered Parliaments offensive on general principles, they forced Richard to dismiss this one, and then they dismissed Richard, who retired into obscurity after a pusillanimous reign of seven months and twenty-eight days. He lived in exile for twenty years after the Restoration, away from wife and children, apparently more in fear of his creditors than of the wrath of his King, who despised him. On his return to England he assumed the name of Clark for a short time. He died in 1712 at the advanced age of eighty-six years.
After the deposition of Richard, Henry Cromwell resigned his post in Ireland and passed the remainder of his days in England. He was an accomplished and able man, and might have preserved the glory of his house had Oliver entrusted him, instead of Richard, with the government. He was happily married and lived in honorable retirement at Spinney Abbey, and died when forty-six years old. With the resignation of Henry from the Lord Deputyship, the fall of the Cromwell family was complete, and they passed out of history, whose gilded page no descendant of theirs has since notably invaded. Of Cromwell’s daughters, Bridget, who had successively married Ireton and Fleetwood, died at fifty-seven; Mary, Lady Fauconberg, at seventy-five; and Frances, married to Robert Rich and afterwards to Sir John Russell, at eighty-two. All of the Protector’s children who married left offspring except Mary, and the line is still in existence.
After Richard Cromwell’s deposition the Long Parliament was permitted to return, and it made an attempt to settle the peace of the nation. But jealousy and ambition prevented its success. Lambert was for a moment supreme with the Army, but his insignificant parts were unequal to such a heroic situation. George Monk, with the Army from Scotland, marched down to London, silent, cautious, and watchful, and overthrew Lambert. He first dismissed the Long Parliament and then restored it; and finally, when he perceived that nothing would pacify his countrymen but the succession of Charles II, he permitted that remarkable body which had held the name of Parliament for seventeen years, with its history at once illustrious and contemptible, glorious and base, to arrange for the recall of the King. On the 29th of May, 1660, after Cromwell had been twenty months dead, Charles Stuart entered London. His people, wearied with civil wars, forgot their battles and their wounds, and welcomed him back to the heritage of his fathers with glad acclamations. But in the hearts of the Ironsides, who at Blackheath received Charles that day with loyalty and peace, there must have been many sad and tender and touching memories of that beloved General who had been the wonder of Europe and the glory of his age, Oliver Cromwell.