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visaged Presbyterians, who melted down his chapel plate
for a dinner service, and denied him a household and an
Anglican chaplain, into those of the Independents, who
were inclined to treat him with more -indulgence, partly
perhaps because, being of lower rank, they felt his majesty
more. The Independents allowed him to be visited by
his children, and Cromwell, who saw the re-union, being
himself a very loving husband and father, was moved to
tears of sympathy by the sight. It is a doubtful compli-


ment to Cromwell's foresight or sagacity to say that if
Charles would have trusted him and accepted his terms
he would certainly have replaced him on the throne.
The respect shown Charles by the Independents, and the
manifest widening of the breach between them and the
Presbyterians, confirmed the king in the belief that he
had only to be patient and keep up the game of intrigue
with both parties and with the Scotch, to a large section
of whom he had also reason to look for aid, in order to
bring about his unconditional reinstatement.

A dead-lift effort of the parliament to disband the army 1647
was met by the solemn engagement of the army not to be
disbanded. The parliament, in desperate mood, ordered
London to be fortified and forbade the approach of the
army within forty miles. In defiance of the injunction the
army advanced to Uxbridge. There it denounced eleven 1647
of the leading Presbyterian members of the House of
Commons, including Stapleton, Holies, Glyn, and May-
nard, and demanded their impeachment. Parliament gave
way, voted the eleven members leave of absence, demol-
ished the fortifications of London, and appointed commis- 1647
sioners to treat with the army. The treaty failed ; the
quarrel broke out again. The members of the Indepen-
dent minority in the two Houses seceded and presented
themselves in the camp. The army then entered London
and marched through the main streets to display its over-
whelming power. It kept its discipline, however, strictly,
and was guilty of no outrage. But parliament had suc-
cumbed to military force, though we have always to re-
member that the military force in this case was a body,
not of praetorians or janissaries, but of men who had fought
for a public cause.


1647 The king is now placed at Hampton Court. There the
parleyings with him, both on the part of the Presbyte-
rians with the Scotch commissioners their allies, and on
that of the Independent leaders, still go on, neither section
seeing its way to a settlement without him, while he dal-
lies with them both and plays his waiting game. He is
meantime corresponding with the queen in Paris, who
continues to cherish hopes of foreign intervention in his
favour, and imperiously dissuades him from concession.
Thorough-going men in the army, on the other hand, such
as Harrison and Rainsborough, regard these parleyings
with the king as treason to God and the cause. Crom-
well loses the confidence of his party, and his life is sup-
posed to be threatened by the Levellers. He is at last
undeceived as to the king's game. According to an anec-
dote, which seems pretty well attested, he was informed
that a messenger bearing, unknown to himself, a letter
from Charles to Henrietta sewn up in his saddle, would
at a certain hour be at the Blue Boar Inn in Holborn.

1647 He, with Ireton, both of them being disguised as troopers,
waylaid the messenger, ripped open his saddle, found the
letter, and read the proofs of the king's duplicity.

Hints, from what quarter is uncertain, were conveyed to
the king of danger to his life. He fled with his attend-
ants, Ashburnham and Berkeley, from Hampton Court
and put himself into the hands of Colonel Hammond, the

1647 Governor of Carisbrooke Castle, in the Isle of Wight,
who, though an Independent and a connection of Crom-
well, was understood to have taken his governorship that
he might avoid sharing the extreme counsels of his party.
Hammond at first wavered between his military duty and
his loyalty to the king. His " trials " and " temptations "



in this wise drew anxious and unctuous letters from Crom-
well, but he at last preferred his military duty, and held
Charles as a prisoner for the parliament.

In parliament, notwithstanding military coercion and
the expulsion of the eleven members, moderatism, if not
Presbyterianism, was still in the ascendant. Overtures
were again made to the king in the shape of a compro-
mise embodied in four Bills, including resignation of 1^^"^
the militia. Charles dallied and at last declined.
His refusal gave the ascendancy to the thorough-going
party, which carried a vote of No Addresses. He was
looking for something better than a compromise with
parliament. He had entered into communication with
a party in Scotland, headed by the Duke of Hamilton,
which was more royalist than Presbyterian, and pro-
posed to invade England in his cause. In concert with
the Scotch invasion there was to be a rising of the royal-
ists in England. An instrument embodying this plan
with the terms on which Scotch assistance was to be given
was signed by Charles and the Scotch commissioners, wrapt
in lead, and buried in the garden at Carisbrooke.

To the Independents and the parliament of England
the danger was now extreme. A royalist reaction had
set in. Fear and hatred of military rule prevailed. Par-
liament, trampled on by the army, had lost national
respect. The people were galled by the assessments for
the payment of the soldiery. They were exasperated,
and in several places they revolted, not without bloodshed,
against the austere Puritan rule which denied them their
Christmas feast, their Sunday sports, their May-poles,
their bear-baitings, and their plays. Bad harvests had
increased the discontent and the disaffection. The pens


of royalist pamphleteers had been active, and had not
spared Cromwell's character or his red nose. Hamilton,
with an army, large, though ill-organized and ill-com-

^^^^ manded, crossed the border. The flames of loyalist in-
surrection burst out at several points, most fiercely in
Kent, Essex, and Wales. Part of the fleet at the same
time revolted and gave itself up to Rupert. But the
English rising had no head. Charles had in vain at-
tempted to escape from Carisbrooke. In London the
insurrection flashed in the pan, and that all-important
centre was secured for the parliament. Operating from
it, a veteran army under good commanders prevailed over
the numerically superior, but disjointed, forces of its
encircling foes. Cromwell, after stamping out the insur-
rection in Wales, rushed on Hamilton, who was marching

1648 southwards, out-generalled him, and at Preston in Lan-
cashire cut his army to pieces. Fairfax quelled the ris-
ing in the southern counties and drove the remnant of

1648 it into Colchester, which, after a long siege and a brave
defence, fell. After this second civil war the victors
were in a sterner mood. Of the gallant defenders of
Colchester, Lucas and Lisle were shot after surrender.
Capel and Goring were reserved for the judgment of
parliament, and for the time let off with banishment,
but when regicides had mounted to power were, with
Hamilton, condemned to death, though Goring escaped
the block. This, at all events in comparison with Jaco-
bin bloodthirstiness, was mercy. The humanity of the
English compared with the French Revolution, though
largely traceable to political and social antecedents,
showed a difference between the characters of the two
nations in respect of self-control.



Charles had now made it plain that to parley with him
was idle, and that to trust him would be suicide. Parlia-
ment, nevertheless, made one more desperate effort to
treat with him, and sent commissioners for the purpose to 1648
Newport. It was thereupon purged by the Independents.
Colonel Pride, with his soldiery, posted himself at the 1648
door of the House and turned back moderatist members
to the number of one hundred and forty-three, some of
whom were put under arrest. The army and its chiefs
were now, without disguise, the supreme .power. We
have once more to remind ourselves that this was not a
common army, but a political party in arms.

Before Charles's flight to Carisbrooke, the more violent
of the republicans and the sectaries had begun to talk of
bringing him to justice. But when he, under the mask of
amicable negotiation, laid and fired the train for a second
civil war, brought Scotch invasion on England, and com-
pelled the army once more to fight against heavy odds for
its life and for all it had won, the cry for justice on the
great Delinquent grew louder and prevailed. Before the
army took the field a prayer-meeting had been held at
Windsor, at which those present resolved, after seriously
seeking the Lord, that it was their duty, if ever the Lord
brought them back in peace, to call Charles Stuart, that
man of blood, to an account for the blood he had shed and
mischief he had done to his utmost against the Lord's
cause and people in these poor nations. At the close of
the war the army, by the mouth of Ireton, had demanded
that the capital and grand author of their troubles, the
person of the king, might be speedily brought to justice
for the treason, blood, and mischief of which he had been
guilty in bringing about by his commissions, commands,


procurements, and, in his own sole interest, all the wars
and troubles and miseries that attended them. The cup
had been filled up by the blood of the army favourite,
Rainsborough, who was murdered by royalists at Don-
caster. Cromwell seems now to have seen the finger of
God, to have made up his mind with his usual decision
and with his usual force to have bent those around him to
his will. The king was taken from Carisbrooke to Hurst

1648 Castle and thence brought to London by Harrison. He
expressed a. fear of assassination, but Harrison assured him
that whatever was done would be done in the way of open

In the way of open justice, at any rate, everything
was done, and with a Puritan solemnity strikingly con-
trasted with the Parisian levity which characterized
the trial of Louis XVI. The trial and execution of

1649 Charles I. were the work of a small party of men deem-
ing themselves the instruments of God and acting with
iron resolution in the face of a horror-stricken and para-
lyzed nation. The members of the high court of justice
had a precedent in the execution of Mary queen of Scots,
besides Hebrew examples of the punishment of idolatrous
kings, which were probably more present to their minds.
But the awfulness of the act is marked by the abstention
of half the men named as judges, by the long struggles
which evidently took place in the Painted Chamber, to
which the judges retired, before sentence could be pro-
nounced, and by the difficulty found in collecting, out of
a body of one hundred and thirty-five named as judges,
fifty-eight signatures to the death-warrant. It seems
that an alteration having become necessary in the date
of the warrant when some had already signed, erasure


and interlineation were preferred to re-engrossment, lest
those who had signed once should refuse to sign again.
Fairfax attended only a preliminary meeting and refused
to take part in the trial. His royalist wife, who was
present, nearly drew the fire of the soldiers upon the
gallery by her scornful ejaculations.

That part of the prolix indictment which charged
Charles with the bloodshed of the first civil war was
groundless. Supposing that in the struggle for supreme
power he had struck the first blow, the war had been a
regular war, and when, after its close, parliament treated
with him for a settlement, an act of amnesty was virtually
passed. Treason against himself the king could not com-
mit, and the resolution passed just before the trial, that by
the fundamental laws of the kingdom it was treason in the
king of England for the time being to levy war against
the parliament and the kingdom of England, besides being
revolutionary, could have no retroactive effect. Even
from a moral point of view, the only acts of Charles in
the first civil war which could be deemed treason against
the nation were his invitation to foreigners and Irish
rebels to invade the kingdom. Against these might be
set the introduction of a Scotch army by the parliament.
But treasons on both sides had been cancelled by the
subsequent treatings. The act for which, whatever might
be its legal aspect, Charles morally deserved to suffer was
the conspiracy by which he brought on the second civil
war while he was carrying on friendly negotiations with
the parliament. For this apparently, unless royalty was
impeccable, he merited, and unless his person was invio-
lable, he might expect to share, the doom of his instru-
ments, Hamilton, Capel, Lucas, and Lisle.


Tradition says that the night after Charles's execution
Lord Southampton with a friend got leave to sit up witli
the body in the banqueting house at Whitehall ; that at
two in the morning they heard the tread of someone com-
ing slowly upstairs ; that a man entered, muffled up, and
with his face hidden in a cloak, approached the body,
looked at it for some time, shook his head, sighed "cruel
necessity; " then departed as he had come ; and that Lord
Southampton used to say that, though he could not see
the man's face, he took him, from his voice and gait, to
be Cromwell. Necessity was probably Cromwell's sole
motive for an act which he might think justified by
Charles's conduct in regard to the second civil war, but
which, without necessity, it is most unlikely that he would
ever have done. To make terms with Charles had been
found to be impossible ; there appeared to be no one to
replace him on the throne; and in banishment he would
never have ceased to conspire. The wrath of the army,
too, had probably got beyond control. Thus there might
be apparently, a melancholy necessity, in which, as usual,
Cromwell saw the finger of God.

Nothing, however, can be less true than that the action
of the English regicides " struck a damp like death through
the heart of flunkeyism, of which flunkeyism has gone
about incurably sick ever since." Flunkeyism gained at
least as much as it lost. The king, who had trampled on
law and right, was made to appear the assertor of law and
public right against an illegal tribunal. The touching
piety and dignity with which he bore himself upon the
scaffold effaced the memory of his misdeeds. Instead of
a dethroned tyrant he became a saint and a martyr.
1649 The groan which, when his head fell, arose, after a moment


of shuddering silence, from the crowd was the expression
of a general feeling and prophetic of a restoration.

To the children of Charles, who were in its hands, the
Commonwealth was very kind ; unlike the French Repub-
lic, which butchered the wife and sister of Louis XVI. and
killed the child his son by maltreatment. The queen had
been impeached, not unjustifiably, since she attempted to
bring foreign troops, and such a band of foreign banditti
as the Lorrainers, into the kingdom. But it was not
likely that more than a threat was intended.



Charles I. Executed 1649; Cromwell Proclaimed Lord Protector


TyiTH the head of the monarch fell, for the time, the

monarchy, and with the monarchy fell the House

of Lords, the lives of the two being bound up with each

1649 other. Both had been solemnly voted out of existence
by a resolution of the Commons, declaring that the people
are, under God, the original of all just power, and that
the Commons of England in parliament assembled, being
chosen by and- representing the people, have the supreme

1649 power in this nation. A new great seal was made, bear-
ing, instead of the effigy of the king, on one side a map
of England and Ireland, with the arms of the two coun-
tries ; on the other a representation of the House of
Commons with the inscription, ''In the First Year of
Freedom, By God's Blessing Restored, 1648." The
oath of allegiance became an oath to be true and faith-
ful to the Commonwealth of England. The statue of
Charles was thrown down and on the pedestal was
engraved the inscription. Exit Tyr annus Regum Ultimus.
The English revolutionists, however, did not tear dead
Plantagenets and Tudors out of their graves. To signalize
the abolition of the House of Lords, three of its members
had themselves elected to the House of Commons. Rank



and majesty changed their seat. At a city dinner a peer
ostentatiously gave place to an officer of the Common-
wealth. On the question of abolishing the House of
Lords or retaining it as a merely consultative body, there
had been, even in a House of Commons purged of its anti-
revolutionary elements, a division of forty-four to twenty- 1649
nine. So strong was still tradition.

Such judges as would consent, being half of the bench,
were reappointed, and justice held its usual course.
County and borough institutions were left intact; sav-
ing that the London council, as a great power, was packed
for the Commonwealth. The titles of the lords were not
abolished. Only with regard to the monarchy was a dis-
position shown to obliterate the past.

This is the first national republic. The republics of
antiquity were not national, but municipal ; nor were
they really democratic, since the mass of the people were
slaves. The republics of medieval Italy were also muni-
cipal, not to mention that they still acknowledged the
Emperor. The federation of the Swiss Cantons was at
this time a mere league. In the United Netherlands,
besides the incompleteness of their union and the hegem-
ony of Holland, the Stadtholderate, hereditary in the
House of Orange, had been a monarchy under another
name. The English republic was premature, the mass
of the people being still monarchists. It was a leap into
the political future. It was the aspiration and work of a
party, small compared with the nation, and its life, sus-
tained only by that party, was short. So sensible a
republican as Blake could believe that the end of all
monarchy was at hand ; but destiny mocked his dream.
Yet abiding interest attaches to the Commonwealth as


having pointed the way for the exodus of European
society from the hereditary system.

The king, by whose writ parliament sat, was in his
grave, and the House of Commons, reduced by seces-
sion, decimated by Pride's purge, and coerced by the
army, had not the shadow of right to call itself the
representation of thei people. Its only assured con-
stituency was the army. The somewhat doctrinaire
Ireton, in the new Agreement of the People which was

1649 presented to parliament by the army and which em-
bodied his views, proposed an immediate dissolution of
the House and an election with an equal distribution
of seats. Had his proposal been adopted without a
narrow party restriction on the exercise of the suf-
frage, there would have been an overwhelming defeat
of his cause. The continued existence of the Long
Parliament was justified by revolutionary necessity. As
Marten shrewdly said, in the case of the Commonwealth
as in that of Moses the best foster-mother of the child
was its mother.

The need of a strong executive was felt, to undertake
the duties performed by the Committee of Safety and
afterwards by the Committee of Both Kingdoms. A

1649 Council of State was annually elected by parliament.
There were forty-one members, including all the chiefs
except the austere theorist Ireton. But the number
which took part in the sittings and carried on the gov-
ernment was far smaller. The members of the commit-
tee being also members of the House of Commons and
in the ascendant there, sufficient unity of counsels was
secured. A leading spirit of the Council of State was
Sir Henry Vane, who showed that a man of specula-


tion, even if he is somewhat of a dreamer, may, when set
to work, prove himself a man of action. He is at ail
events untrammelled by the selfish interests of the men
of the world.

The execution of the king and the transition from mon-
archy to a republic could not take place without general
disturbance. The fountains of the political deep were
broken up. There ensued a carnival of wild sects and
chimeras. One set of visionaries anticipated the move-
ment of the present day against private property in land,
which they, like the heirs of their fancy, styled a relic of
Norman conquest, and proceeded to put their theory into
practice, though, it seems, only by digging up commons
. which had been enclosed. Communism took little hold.
More hold was taken by Harrison's idea that the godly
should rule the state. The most formidable of the dis-
turbers were the political Levellers in the army, who had '
imbibed the radical teaching of Lilburne and regarded all
authority save that of the popular vote direct as tyranny
to be put down. Among these there was a great mutiny,
which Fairfax and Cromwell quelled with decisive firm- 1649
ness, and at the same time with the utmost economy of
blood. How great was the danger was seen when Lock-
yer, a trooper who had been shot for mutiny in London,
was borne to his grave with military pomp, six trumpets
sounding his knell, an escort of a hundred soldiers head- i
ing his funeral procession, his horse clad in mourning led
behind him, his corpse adorned with bundles of rosemary
one half bathed in blood, among which his sword was
laid, while thousands followed in rank and file with sea-
green and black ribbons, the badges of the cause, on their
hats and on their breasts, women bringing up the rear.


and thousands more meeting the procession in the church-
yard at Westminster.

Royalism, though its sword was broken, continued to
fight with its pen, and a storm of pamphlets, violent and
scurrilous in the extreme, assailed the revolutionary gov-
ernment. But more effective than any pamphlet or any
editorial of a royalist journal was " Eikon Basilike ; the

1649 Pourtraicture of his Sacred Majestic in His Solitudes and
Sufferings," which showed what may be done by a skil-
ful manipulator of opinion. This book pretended to be a
devotional autobiography of Charles, revealing the pious
and martyr-like beauty of his character. It was really
the work of Gauden, an Anglican divine, who afterwards
claimed and received his reward. But it was greedily
accepted by the royalists as genuine, had an immense cir-
culation, and produced an immense effect. To shatter

1649 the Eikon, the Council of State called out Milton, who
plied his hammer with all his might, but whose appeal to
the intellect was weak compared with the effigy which

1649 had taken hold of the heart. Milton was made Latin
secretary to the Council of State, which employed Latin
as the diplomatic language, and he became the state pam-
phleteer, defending the revolutionary and regicide repub-
lic in the court of European opinion, where he had a
violent and grossly personal encounter with Salma^ius,
the renowned scholar whose pen the royalists had enlisted
in their cause. It is on a principle something like that of
the social contract that he bases the responsibility of kings
and maintains the right of tyrannicide in default of more
regular justice.

Higher far and of more abiding interest than Milton's
onslaught on the Eikon or on Salmasius had been his


earlier treatise, " Areopagitica," or plea for unlicensed 1644
printing. This makes an era in the history of that lib-
erty which is of all liberties the most precious and the
surest guardian of the rest. There had so far been no
legal censorship. But government had always assumed
the right of controlling the utterance of opinion. The
famous passages of Milton's treatise have implanted them-
selves in the British mind, and are lasting safeguards of the
principle they enshrine. But to allow perfect freedom
of publication was impossible for a government beset with
enemies and struggling to maintain itself against insur-
rection and mutiny; in a besieged city opinion must for a
time be under restraint. The secretary of the Council
of State had to comply with measures of repression from
which the author of the " Areopagitica " would shrink.

Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 41 of 84)