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had fatally identified itself with the party of arbitrary
government. For the people of the Mass or of the Book
of Common Prayer there was among the parliamentarians
of whatever shade no toleration.

While the Independent chief had triumphed in the 1644
north, Essex, the Presbyterian chief, had met with dis-
aster in the west. Lured by false hopes of a sympathy
which he was not likely to find among a population of
primitive character and swayed by the royalist gentry, he
had entangled himself among the hills of Cornwall. There
he had been surrounded and lost the whole of his infantry.
Charles's letter of thanks to the Cornishmen may still be
read upon church walls. The Presbyterian parliament
received its defeated general with Roman magnanimity,
but Presbyterian ascendancy received a sore blow in the
capitulation of Lostwithiel as well as in the victory of 1^44
Mars ton.

The Presbyterians saw their danger and opened negoti- 1645
ations with the king, whose commissioners met theirs at
Uxbridge. The Scotch, strong monarchists as well as
strong Presbyterians, chiefly impelled the movement.
Establishment of Presbyterianism and temporary resig-
nation of the militia, that is, the power of the sword,
were the terms offered to Charles. To these he would
not assent. To the resignation of the power of the sword
his queen, who swayed his counsels from Paris, would by
no means agree, and the treaty, after much futile discus-


sion, failed. The king was encouraged in resistance by
1644 the meteoric victories of Montrose, who, having passed
from the Covenanting to the royalist side, was, with an
army composed of wild Highlanders and Irish, together
with a handful of Scotch gentlemen, overthrowing army
1644- after army of the Covenant and its Presbyterian chief,
Argyle. By his rejection of Presbyterianism Charles once
more welded the Scotch, who had before been inclined
towards him, to the parliament. The overtures of parlia-
ment were always loaded with the exclusion from par-
don of a number of the king's friends, to which Charles
honourably refused his consent.

Alarmed by the rising star of Cromwell and the grow-
ing force of the sectaries, the Presbyterian and aristocratic
party in the two Houses scarcely desired to conquer. This

1644 had become apparent when at the second battle of New-
bury the Presbyterian and aristocratic commander Man-
chester failed to press his advantage and allowed the king's
army to retire unmolested and afterwards to return and
carry off its cannon. High words had then passed be-
tween Manchester and Cromwell, Cromwell being resolved
to conquer, as he saw that there was no other way to peace.
The thorough-going party now determined to get rid of
lukewarm leadership. This they effected by carrying

1645 through parliament a Self-Denying Ordinance, under
purist pretences, requiring all the members of either House
of parliament within forty days to lay down their offices
or commands. The Ordinance did not forbid re-appoint-
ment, and Cromwell, indispensable to victory, was thus
retained. At the same time and with the same view to deci-

1645 sive action the army was remodelled. Instead of the local
levies, such as that of the Eastern Counties' Association,


which were with difficulty brought to act outside their
own districts, it was resolved to form a more regular and
national army. This was the New Model. It was freely
recruited from all sources and partly by impressment.
But its commanders and the core of it were Independent,
and their spirit diffused itself through the mass. At its
head was placed Fairfax, the parliamentary chief in the
north. The new general was owner of a great estate and
heir to a peerage, a disinterested patriot, a man of literary
tastes and a writer of verses as well as a soldier, a kins-
man of the translator of Tasso, and one of the inheritors
of the protestant chivalry of which Spenser was the poet.
His first act, when he afterwards occupied Oxford, was to
place a guard over the library of the University.

The king's army, after storming and ruthlessly sacking
Leicester, met the New Model at Naseby, and was totally 1645
overthrown, Rupert, as usual, after a victorious charge,
going headlong off the field and leaving the day to Crom-
well. Again Cromwell emphasized the share of the Inde-
pendents in the great victory. " Honest men," he wrote
to Lenthall, "served you faithfully in this action. Sir,
they are trusty ; I beseech you, in the name of God, not
to discourage them. . . . He that ventures his life for the
liberty of his country, I wish to trust God for the liberty
of his conscience, and you for the liberty he fights for."
This paragraph was omitted by the Presbyterian and
moderatist parliament in sending Cromwell's letter to the

Naseby was decisive. Its moral effect on the king's cause
was enhanced by the capture of his papers, a selection of
which the parliament published under the title of "The
King's Cabinet Opened." Most of the letters were drafts


or copies of those written by Charles to his wife. The
nation saw that Charles, while i^egotiating with tlie Houses
at Westminster, had never regarded them as a lawful parlia-
ment; that he had intrigued for the landing in England of
an Irish army and of the savage mercenaries of the Duke
of Lorraine ; that he had been prepared to purchase catho-
lic aid by abolishing the laws against English catholics ;
worst of all, that no reliance could be placed upon his word.
" The Key of the King's Cabinet," wrote a London pam-
phleteer, "as it hath unlocked the mystery of former
treaties, so I hope it will lock up our minds from thoughts of
future." It may be surmised that the king in writing to
the queen, who was bent upon the recovery of arbitrary
power, might say something for the purpose of pacifying
her mind ; but for this the readers of " The King's Cabinet
Opened " were not likely to make allowance. Soon after
Naseby Montrose's marvellous career of victories was closed
1645 by his total defeat at Philiphaugh, and the last hope of
Charles was gone.

Fairfax and Cromwell had still much work to do in ex-
tinguishing the embers of the war, particularly in Wales
and the western counties. In Monmouthshire the catho-
lic Marquis of Worcester, king of those parts, whose
princely revenues had at first furnished Charles with
money to take, the field, made the last stand for him in
his palace castle of Raglan. Bristol was surrendered by

1645 Rupert, who thus covered the disgrace of Fiennes. Ox-

1646 ford itself, the citadel of royalism, fell. The king's Great
Seal was broken. The records of his anti-parliament had

1646 been burnt. When in the west the stout old royalist.
Sir Jacob Astley, surrendered with the king's last remain-
ing force, he said to his captors, " My masters, you have


now done your work, and you may go play ; unless you
will fall out among yourselves." Fall out among them-
selves they did, as revolutionists generally have done,
when the work of destruction was complete and that of
reconstruction took its place.

After some aimless and hopeless wanderings the king
rode northward and put himself into the hands of the 1646
Scotch, whose armies still lingered on the south of the bor-
der, waiting for arrears of pay. At Newcastle nineteen
propositions were submitted to him by commissioners from 1646
the parliament, and were pressed on his acceptance by the
Scotch. The chief propositions were the abolition of epis-
copacy, the acceptance of the Covenant, the establishment
of Presbyterianism, and the surrender of the militia to par-
liament for twenty years. Could the king have brought
himself ,to consent to the religious articles he would at once,
as a Covenanting king, have had the Scotch upon his side.
But in his attachment to the church of England Charles
was immovable on political as well as on religious grounds.
He told his wife, ever ready as a catholic to sacrifice
a heretic church if she could keep the sword, that
religion would sooner recover the sword than the sword ^
would religion. He rated high the political influence,
while he might well confide in the absolutism, of the
Anglican clergy. In debates with Henderson, the Scotch
prophet who was sent to convert him, he firmly and ably
defended his Anglican faith. The Scotch now gave him up 1647
to the English parliament. They are accused of having
sold him. This they certainly did not, though, as to the
precise moment of the surrender, they may not have been
without an eye to the arrears of their pay, which they
received at the same time. Charles's Anglicanism was,


perhaps, almost as much political as religious ; but to it he
may fairly be called a martyr.

The war over, the nation craved for a peaceful settle-
ment. All were weary of carnage, havoc, confiscation,
excise, assessments for the pay of the army, financial
confusion, depreciation of property, reduction of rents, and
depression of trade. Most grievous was the war to the
labouring poor, who felt its evils and bore its burdens with-
out caring much for either party, and at last had turned
out with clubs in their hands to protect their cottages, corn-
bins, and poultry-yards against both. Among the chief
sufferers by the civil fury were the royalist and episcopal
clergy, of whom a large number, according to their martyr-
ologists two thousand, had been ejected from their livings,
a fifth only of their income being paid by way of indem-
nity to their wives and children. They had identified
themselves with political usurpation, and were deprived on
political as well as religious grounds. Charles himself half
justified the ejection in saying that the church would give
him back the sword. It was also alleged that Puritan
clergymen had been plundered of their livings under Laud
and that compensation was due them from the spoilers.
But it has been truly said that this proscription extin-
guished whatever hope there was of reconciliation between
the Anglicans and the other sections of the religious com-

There is reason to believe that, as usual, with revolution-
ary ascendancy and sequestration had come corruption,
that suitors to the parliament could do nothing without a
bribe, and that saints and patriots were making scandalous
gains. The Speaker, Lenthall, among others, was accused
of growing rich at the public cost. Large gifts of money


or estates had been voted to powerful men for their ser-
vices to the commonwealth, among others to Cromwell,
who, however, laid a great part of the gift on the altar of
his country. Of corruption as well as of bloodshed the
people were sick.

How was the peaceful settlement to be made? Sir
Jacob Astley's prognostication was speedily fulfilled. On
the morrow of victory began the irrepressible conflict be-
tween the two sections of the victorious party, the Presby-
terians and the Independents; the Presbyterians still
aiming at a monarchy under the control of parliament
with a Presbyterian church establishment and no tolera-
tion ; the Independents still aiming at Congregational
freedom, and the more thorough-going of them at reli-
gious freedom unlimited for all protestants. Of republicans
there were as yet but few. The foremost were Henry
Marten and Lilburne. Marten was a libertine of the
political as well as of the moral sphere, who, when a ques-
tion arose about the provision of a chaplain for the king,
could say that he would like to provide the king at once
with two chaplains to prepare him for heaven. Lilburne
was a born agitator with the qualifications as well as the
propensities of his tribe, the enemy of each established
authority in turn, aiming, if he could be said to have any
aim, at direct government by the people, which would
have been practically no government at all, of a courage
proved in the field, a ready writer with a popular style,
and never to be put down. His devotion, disinterested
unless vanity is interest, to popular right, earned him the
invaluable nickname of " Honest John." He and his dis-
ciples were well named Levellers, for, had their schemes
taken effect, nothing above the dead level of a vast popu-


lace would have remained. Wildman and Rainsborough
were also leaders of the extreme party.

Vacancies in the House of Commons had been filled up
to the number of about a hundred and fifty by the election
of new members called Recruiters. The Recruiters in-
cluded some new men of mark, such as Ireton, Cromwell's
son-in-law, a man of legal culture, a political philosopher,
and at the same time a man of action ; Fleetwood, a deeply
religious soldier; Ludlow and Algernon Sidney, "com-
monwealth's men " or republicans, like Marten, of the
Roman mould. Notwithstanding these accessions the
Presbyterians still had the majority. Outside the House
they had with them London, the commercial wealth and
respectability of which shrank from sectarian violence, and
the Scotch, whose commissioners remained to lend moral
support to their friends, though their army had been with-
drawn. Moderation, fear of revolutionary violence, hatred
of military rule made for them in the country at large.
Their leaders, Holies, Stapleton, Maynard, and Glyn, were
politicians or men of the gown, and of comparatively
little mark, manifestly wanting in statesmanship though
they seem not to have been wanting in courage.

The Independent party was in the minority in both
Houses of parliament, though it generally received the
support of Selden and the other lawyers who were opposed
to the Presbyterians from their hatred of ecclesiastical dom-
ination. It had its stronghold in the Army, and its leaders,
religious and political, in Cromwell and Ireton. Fair-
fax, the commander-in-chief and the victor of Naseby, was
simply a soldier of the cause, disinterested, single-minded,
bent on performing his military duty to the common-
wealth, comparatively little of a politician and some-


what under the influence of a royalist wife. The army-
might truly say of itself, as it did, that it was not an army
of mercenaries, like those which have supported military
usurpations. It was a body of English citizens, and not
the least worthy of English citizens, in arms for a national
cause. It had saved that cause, and it had a right to a
voice in the settlement. Cromwell, who was the soul of
it, was not, like Bonaparte, a child of the camp ; he was a
religious patriot, who, when he was past middle age, had
drawn his sword in the service of conscience. He pro-
fessed, and with apparent sincerity, his desire of keeping
the army in subordination to the civil government.
Mutiny he quelled with decisive firmness, heedless of risk
to his popularity as well as to his person. Power and pre-
eminence had come to him, but there is no reason to think
that he had as yet foimed any design of revolutionary ambi-
tion. There is even reason to believe that he thought of
transferring himself and his veterans to the field of religious
war in Germany. His ecclesiastical ideal was protestant
comprehension. His political ideal may be said to have
been parliamentary monarchy with fair representation and
law reform. It was towards this that he worked when
supreme power at last came into his hands. It may be
true that he did not exercise much forecast but was guided
by circumstance, which he called the finger of God, and
was content with understanding and controlling the actual

Neither of the great parties as yet thought a settlement
possible without the king. The nation at heart was still
monarchical. The road of Charles from Newcastle, where
the Scotch surrendered him, to Holmby in Northampton- 1547
shire, where the parliament fixed his residence, was


thronged by crowds of people, some of whom came to be
touched by him for the king's evil ; and the church bells
were rung in his honour. . He was approached by the leaders
of both parties, and a long and tangled series of negotia-
tions ensued. The questions, as before, were the settle-
ment of the church and the command of the military force,
to which, as usual, was added the treatment of Delin-
quents, or man who had been in arms for the king against
the parliament, a point on which the king was credit-
ably tenacious, remembering Strafford. The lands of the
bishops and cathedral chapters, which parliament was con-
fiscating, formed a fourth matter of dispute. The Pres-
byterians were most inflexible on the church question;
the Independents, less tenacious on the church question,
were more exacting in their political demands.

Feeling his hold on national sentiment, and seeing that
both parties needed him, Charles thought to play them
off against each other and in the end set his foot upon
both. Had the men with whom he was dealing been
weak, his game might have been successful. As he had to
deal with Cromwell and Ireton it proved his ruin. Through
the net of intrigue and deceit which he wove they burst at
last by taking his life. A solution of the problem was not
easy, since it was certain that Charles, replaced on his
throne, would not, like a puppet king of our day, acquiesce
in gilded impotence and lip worship, but would seek to
regain real power, while parliament, meeting only at his
summons, and liable to dissolution at his pleasure, would
have no valid security against his attempt. He had, more-
over, shown that he held it lawful for the purpose of sav-
ing the church and throne to practise deception, and that
he deemed himself not bound by concessions made undei


compulsion. The provisional establishment of Presbyteri-
anism and the temporary transfer of the militia to the
parliament, to which, when hard pressed, he at last in-
timated his willingness to consent, would have been of
little value, since he would certainly have employed the
time in machinations for the reversal of both concessions.
Now, as afterwards in 1688, the most hopeful course appar-
ently was the dethronement of Charles in favour of one of
his sons, or, what would have been better, in favour of his
nephew, the Elector Palatine, whose weakness would in
reality have been a qualification for the place. This idea
was in fact entertained ; but the Prince of Wales would not
take his father's crown ; the second son, the Duke of York,
was spirited away, and the third, Gloucester, was a child.
The idea of what is now called constitutional monarchy,
a royal figure-head, with advisers who really govern desig-
nated by parliament, could enter nobody's mind distinctly
at that time. To show the tenacity of old ideas, peerages
for parliamentary chiefs were subjects of speculation.

The parliament, in which the majority was still Presby-
terian, wanted to disband the army. The army was re-
solved not to be disbanded, and had a good ground for
resistance in the shape of heavy arrears of pay, which the
parliament, with its finances in disorder notwithstanding
its sequestration of Delinquents and confiscation of the
lands of bishops and chaptei'S, was unable to discharge.
But the controversy presently extended beyond arrears of
pay or any grievance of a merely military kind. The army
became a political organization, with representative agents
entitled Adjutators, and put forth political manifestoes and
demands. The leaven of the political Levellers, whose
prophet was John Lilburne, worked in the soldiers' quar-


ters. With it worked the leaven of religious enthusiasts
and visionaries such as the F'ifth Monarchy Men, of whom
the New Model general, Harrison, a man of humble origin,
but high standing as a soldier, was the chief, and who
called for the immediate establishment of the kingdom of
Christ on earth, but did not propose to inaugurate it by
complying with the injunction to Peter and putting up
the sword into the sheath. The revolution, at the out-
set and through tKe greater part of its course, had been a
movement of the upper and middle class under leadership
largely aristocratic; now the abyss of democracy began to
yawn. As the parliament had sought to bring the king
under its control, these revolutionists of the New Model
army sought to bring the parliament under the control of
the people, whose sovereignty they proclaimed aloud. They
demanded manhood suffrage, biennial parliaments, and dis-
solution of parliament only with its own consent. They
demanded fundamental laws for the preservation of popular
right which the parliament should have no power to repeal.
They called angrily on the existing House of Commons to
bring its own tenure to a close. Questions and problems of
our own time put in an appearance before their hour.
Manhood suffrage was discussed ; it was vindicated on the
ground of right ; it was combated on the ground of policy,
which required that the voters should have a stake in the
country, and for the reason that poverty would be open
to corruption. Ireton, the philosophic soldier, was the chief
thinker; Lilburne the chief agitator. Ireton's Heads of
Proposals and 'Lilburne's Agreement of the People, each
of them embodying a democratic scheme of government,
were the chief manifestoes. From sovereignty of the parlia-
ment it was coming to sovereignty of the people. Sover-


eignty of the people direct was the aim of the impetuous
Lilburne, while the philosophic Ireton was for a more tem-
pered constitution. Ireton's scheme for an ecclesiastical
polity did not abolish episcopacy, which to Independents
appeared a less evil than Presbyterian rigour, but it took
away from the bishops the power of coercion or of calling
in the civil magistrate to enforce their censures, while
it abrogated all laws binding to attendance at church, and
all restrictions on religious meetings or free preaching.
Thorough-going reformers did not fail to call for the aboli-
tion of the House of Lords. Cromwell's influence in the
conferences held among the politicians of the New Model
was conservative. He wanted to rebuild on the old foun-
dations, though with securities for liberty, above all for
religious liberty, and to keep in touch with the spirit
and traditions of the nation. Manhood suffrage he dep-
recated as tending to anarchy, and generally he let it be
seen that he hoped little from sweeping change. With
his monarchical tendencies he seems never to have parted,
though he was constrained for a time to break with
monarchy. At a conference held somewhat later be-
tween the leaders of the House and those of the army
he disgusted Ludlow and other republicans by keeping
himself " in the clouds " and refusing to declare for a
monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy, maintaining that any
one of them might be good in itself or for the particular
country, according as Providence should direct. He was
convinced, he subsequently said, that a republic was desir-
able, but not convinced that it was feasible. All the
schemes of the republicans or extreme politicians of any
kind for the government of the nation by a parliament
freely elected were practically suicidal, since a parliament


freely elected would certainly have been adverse to their
cause and would have restored the king.

To keep touch with the army, to retain influence over
it, so as to be able to speak to parliament and the king
in its name and with assurance of its support, without
sharing the revolutionary violence or the chimeras of its
wilder spirits, was the arduous task of Cromwell and the
other Independent leaders. Mutiny in such an army
would be more terrible than battle itself. Yet Crom-
well, when in the sequel he was called upon to face it,
showed not less resolution and decision than sympathy
with his comrades in arms and reluctance to shed their
blood. He dashed, sword in hand, into the mutinous
ranks, arrested the ringleaders, and by court-martial sen-
tenced to death three of them. The three were allovi^ed
to cast lots for life, and one only died.
1647 The first blow openly struck by the army chiefs at the
parliament was the abduction of the king, who was carried
off from Holmby House by Cornet Joyce of Fairfax's Life
Guards, and when he asked for the commission, was bidden
by the Cornet to " behold the troop," which he playfully
pronounced a good warrant and fairly writ. Charles was
not sorry to get out of the hands of the narrow and sour-

Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 40 of 84)