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Yet a council of which Vane was a leading member could
hardly be inclined to interfere beyond the exigencies of
the time with the freedom of the press. The press law
of the Commonwealth was not a settled policy, but a sort 1649
of martial law applied to the press, and it was not so
enforced as to prevent the continuance of royalist journal-
ism and pamphleteering, which the government combated
through an organ of its own.

The government was less well advised in trying to
coerce opinion by a test, called the Engagement, binding
first all officials, afterwards the whole population, to be
faithful to the Commonwealth. This test, like all tests,
could only act as a sieve, sifting honesty from dishonesty
and throwing honesty aside.

. It does not seem that the Council interfered beyond the
measure of necessity with the regular course of justice.
For cases of treason in which it could not have relied on
VOL. I вАФ 37



678 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

royalist jurymen, who would have deemed the treason
1649 virtue, it set up a high court of justice ; but the court
was thoroughly respectable, was guided by lawyers, was
regular in its procedure, and kept the rules of evidence.
It in no way resembled the revolutionary tribunal of the
Jacobins. John Lilburne was an honest, restless, and
turbulent fanatic, a forcible writer and speaker, who
being utterly unable to understand the times, persisted
in attempts to upset the government by unanswerable
and unreasonable appeals to the Great Charter and the
Petition of Right. Him the government allowed to be
1649 tried by a jury, by which he was acquitted amidst a whirl-
wind of popular applause, such as showed the Council
in what peril it stood, and forced it to get rid of the
1652 formidable agitator by temporary banishment. That for
a government subsisting by the sword it was sparing of
blood, its severest censors allow. This was the more to
its credit, as the defeated cavaliers at once began to show
their chivalry by assassination. Two envoys of the Com-

1649 monwealth, Dorislaus in Holland and Ascham in Spain,

1650 were murdered, and the murders were applauded by the
party.

The vigour of the Council, especially, it seems, of Vane,
was shown in the organization of a powerful fleet, which
was required for defence against Rupert, who, wdth re-
volted ships of the English navy, was piratically sweep-
ing the seas, and was abetted and harboured by the
1650 government of Portugal. This fleet was regular and
national, not impressed, and has been, not without reason,
regarded as the foundation of the regular British navy. ,
The best of all foundations in fact was laid when justice
was for the first time done to the claims of the common



XXII THE COMMONWEALTH 679

sailor, who felt in better treatment and higher rewards
the change to a democratic government. Democracy finds
it necessary to purchase by liberality that which monarchy
can command.

The scene shifts to Ireland, a name full of sorrow, 1641
of misery, almost of despair. While a civil war of men
was raging in England, in Ireland there had raged a civil
war of fiends. It had been commenced by the natives
with massacre, for which the colonists, when they could,
took fearful vengeance, and it had been carried on in the
spirit in which it had begun. The Irish population of
Island Magee was massacred, man, woman, and child, by
the Scotch garrison of Carrickfergus, and among the ser- 1641
vices credited to Cole's regiment we find that of having
"starved and famished, of the vulgar sort, whose goods
were seized on by this regiment, seven thousand." When
the Irish landed in England or Scotland as auxiliaries of
the king or Montrose, they committed similar atrocities
and they were regularly refused quarter. To fill the cup
of mutual hatred, intense antipathy of religion was added
to the intense antipathy of race and the mortal struggle
for the land. In the war between the American frontiers-
man and the Red Indian, or in that between the Anglo-
Indian and the Sepoy mutineer, more, perhaps, in the
latter than in the former, we have something like a
counterpart of the war between the races and religions
in Ireland. There had been three parties in the island;
that of the Celtic and Catholic Irish ; that of the king,
who was ably and honourably represented by the Deputy,
Ormonde ; and that of the parliament. The party of
the parliament split, in Ireland as in England, into a
section of Presbyterians, there formed by the Scotch in



680 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

Ulster, and a section of Independents. By the catholic
Celts a provisional government was formed for the con-'

1642 duct of the struggle, under the title of the Council of
Kilkenny. The predominant influence in the Council
was ecclesiastical, the managers were priests, and to take
supreme control as well as to carry the assurance of the
pope's sanction and sympathy, a Nuncio, Rinuccini, was
sent from Rome. This congress was more like an em-
bodiment of Celtic and catholic nationality than anything
which had appeared before. But it was divided into two
parties, whose main object was not the same. The main
object of the priests and of the nuncio was the restoration
of the catholic religion ; the main object of the catholic
lords and of the agrarian peasantry was the recovery of
the land. The divergence perplexed their policy, espe-
cially when they were dealing with the king, to whom, as
he looked for English support, open alliance with Roman
Catholicism was ruin. No really powerful leader showed
himself among them. Their chiefs quarrelled as Parnel-
lites and Anti-Parnellites have quarrelled since. Their
best man was Owen Roe O'Neill, a soldier trained abroad,
who came as a patriot to fight for the deliverance of

1646 his race. One signal victory at least the Celts won,
but it had no permanent result, and in general the
stronger race, though far inferior in numbers, pre-
vailed. Charles tampered with the rebel Irish, and,
Ormonde being too honourable for underhand or disloyal
dealings, employed for the purpose Glamorgan, the dis-

1641 closure of whose intrigue brought infamy and disaster on
his employer's cause. Strafford's Irish army for the sub-
jugation of England had never been forgotten. Among
the terms of settlement tendered Charles by the parlia-



XXII THE COMMONWEALTH 581

mentarians had been the surrender by him to parliament
of the conduct of the war in Ireland.

While the war raged in England neither the king
nor the parliament had force to spare for the other
island, and parliament, with an exhausted treasury,
could pay soldiers for Ireland only by the issue of
debentures to be located on the forfeited lands of
the Irish rebels, binding itself when the conflict should
have ended, to a sweeping measure of confiscation.
Thus Ireland weltered in bootless carnage and havoc,
the fatal gulf between her races and religions deepen-
ing all the time, till, by the close of the second civil
war in England, Cromwell's hands were set free. He 1649
then passed with a veteran army to Ireland. He put
forth a stern declaration against the maltreatment of the
people by the soldiery, with an assurance of protection to
the peaceable and quiet ; the first voice of order and hu-
manity that had been heard in Ireland for eight years. He
then morally ended the war by two terrible blows. The 1649
slaughter of the garrisons of Drogheda and Wexford,
when they had refused to surrender on summons and the
places had been taken by storm, was deplored by Crom-
well himself as a melancholy necessity, and his memory
owes little to the worshippers who have spoken of it in a
different strain. That garrisons refusing to surrender on
summons might be put to the sword was the law of war
in that day, and such was the regular practice of the
catholic armies of Spain and the Empire, which, indeed,
did not limit the slaughter to the garrison. Nay, it*
seems that the Duke of Wellington held that a garrison
standing a storm could be lawfully put to the sword, and
even that such an example might in the end be a saving



582 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

of blood. In this Irish war quarter had been given on
neither side. The papal legate, Rinuccini, reports with
exultation after a victory that the Irish had taken no
prisoners, that the vanquished had been put to death
without mercy, and that the slaughter had gone on for
two days after the battle. Among those stained with that
blood and with the blood of the great massacre, were some
of the defenders of Drogheda and Wexford ; so at least
Cromwell believed. Of the garrisons part only were
native Irish. At Drogheda, Cromwell led the assault in
person, and his passions were no doubt fiercely fired.
As a rule he was not cruel in war. It seems difficult to
deny that the number of surrenders which followed and
the speedy collapse of the war were due to the effect
produced by Cromwell's blows on the mind of people sus-
ceptible of such impressions, or that blood was thus saved
in the end. Had the garrison surrendered on summons,
their lives would have been spared. Horrible and heart-
rending these massacres were ; so were the massacres of
Sepoys after the Indian mutiny.

Peace having been made, Cromwell in a manifesto
characteristically clumsy, incoherent, and earnest, rea-
soned with the Irish and declared his policy both civil
and religious, showing that it was not, as their priests
had been leading them to believe, one of extermination.
He declared that he would not take or suifer to be taken
the life of any man not in arms otherwise than by due
course of the law, and that although he could not toler-
ate the Mass, he would not interfere with conscience,
but would endeavour to walk patiently and in love
towards the Roman Catholics to see if at any time it
should please God to give them another or a better mind.



XXII THE COMMONWEALTH 683

He challenged them to show that since his coming into
Ireland a single man not taken in arms had been slain
or punished without an endeavour on his part to do
justice. The manifesto was at least addressed to the
hearts and understandings of the people, not to their
fears. Of a part of the vagabond savagery with which
the country swarmed after the war, Cromwell got rid
by encouraging enlistment in continental armies, which
presently gave birth to the famous Irish Brigade.

It now remained to satisfy the claims of the holders
of debentures, Adventurers, as they were called, and of
the soldiers who had received debentures as their pay.
To do this the catholic land-owners in three out of four
provinces of Ireland were deprived of their lands, receiv-
ing nominal indemnities in Connaught, to which province i653
catholic land-ownership, with its social and religious
influences, was to be confined. The common people,
mechanics and labourers necessary to the cultivation of
the soil, were not included in the sentence of de-
portation ; they were left in their homes under new
masters, better masters probably so far as training in
industry was concerned, though aliens in race and in re-
ligion. Still the measure was ruthless, and one at which
we shudder and from which humanity would recoil at
the present day. This was in 1653. In 1685 Louis
XIV. expelled the Huguenots from France. In 1731
the catholic Prince Bishop of Salzburg expelled the
whole protestant population of his principality. A few
years after the deprivation of the catholic land-owners of
Ireland the catholic Duke of Savoy butchered the pro- 1655
testant population of his valleys. In Ireland it was ^ '''^'
a mortal struggle between two races for the land, and



584 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap

the Celt had shown that Celtic victory meant not only
the expropriation but the massacre of the Teuton. The
Teuton was the later comer, but after a denizenship of
nearly five centuries he could hardly be called an intruder,
to say nothing of the still earlier Scandinavian settlements.
That the mass of the Celtic Irish were at this time still
barbarous and exposed to the treatment to which bar-
barians are held liable by a self-styled civilization, may
be an odious fact, but is a fact, wherever the blame may
have lain. There was no such excuse in the case of the
Huguenots or in that of the people in the protestant val-
leys of Savoy.
1650 From Ireland the scene shifts again to Scotland.
Returning from his Irish victories, Cromwell was called
upon to take the field against the Scotch. Of the Cove-
nanting party in Scotland, that section which was more
royalist than Covenanting had invaded England under
Hamilton and met its doom in the fight at Preston, after
which Cromwell, visiting Scotland, had been well received
by the more religious section and its head, the politic
Argyle. But all the Scotch Presbyterians were mon-
archists by profession. They hated the thing monarchy,
it was said of them, but they must have the name of it.
Stronger than their attachment to monarchy was their
abhorrence of toleration and of the Independents and
other sectaries who were masters of the regicidal Com-
monwealth and whose ascendancy extinguished the hope,
kindled in Scotch hearts, of bringing England under the
Kirk. The influence of the storm gathering in the north
on the mind of the English parliament had been shown of
late by moral and religious legislation, calculated to con-
ciliate the English Presbyterians, from the religious part



XXII THE COMMONWEALTH 586

of which the tolerant spirit of the Independents would
have recoiled, though the pretensions to Messiahship and
the Antinomianism to which the wild times were giving
birth must have put a severe strain on toleration.

The Scotch at once recognized Charles II. as king of 1649
both countries, thereby virtually declaring war against
the English Commonwealth, on which, moreover, they
avowed their intention of forcing their form of church
government. They invited Charles to Scotland pro-
vided he would take the Covenant. Charles hated the i
Covenant and those who were tendering it to him ; but
he took the pledge and prepared to sail for Scotland.
At the same time he secretly authorized Montrose, who 1650
promised him restoration without the Covenant, to
make another attempt. Montrose, with his usual dar-
ing, made the attempt, but the unstable Highlander
failed him, he was overwhelmed by the troops of David
Leslie at Carbisdale, captured and carried to Edinburgh, 1650
where he suffered at the hands of the vengeful Kirk the
usual fate of the enemies of the Lord. The key to Mont-
rose's course as a politician it is difficult to find. Prob-
ably there was no key but impulse. He constantly averred
that he was still faithful to the original Covenant. But
he could hardly have pretended that his attitude towards
it had not changed since the day when he signed it and in
its cause attacked and took prisoner the catholic and
royalist Earl of Huntly. Soaring ambition, the restless
spirit of the old Scotch nobility, hatred of his rival Argyle
and Argyle's Presbyterian following, with an attachment
to the crown which by fighting and conquering in the
royal cause was raised to the pitch of a passionate and
religious loyalty, will probably go far to account for his



586 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

career. What is certain is that he was a most romantic
figure, showed miraculous generalship on a small scale,
and, in the scarlet mantle trimmed with gold lace which
he wore to his execution, died as he had lived, a most
brilliant and gallant gentleman.
1650 Montrose's attempt having failed, Charles unblushingly
disclaimed it ; and it is hard to say who lied most, he or
the Covenanters who pretended to believe his disclaimer.
He came to Scotland, bowed his neck to the abhorred
Presbyterian yoke, took the Covenant with his tongue in
his cheek, and enacted with his Covenanting supporters
one of the most farcical scenes in history. At his side
was his congenial friend the Duke of Buckingham, at
whose scandalous dissoluteness leaders of the Kirk con-
nived because he cynically advised Charles to put him-
self wholly in their hands. Charles was even called upon
publicly to deplore the sins of his prelatical father and
the idolatry of his catholic mother. "The king," says
Burnet, " wrought himself into as grave a deportment as
he could ; he heard many prayers and sermons, some of
a great length. I remember in one fast day there were
six sermons preached without intermission. I was there
myself, and not a little weary of so tedious a service.
The king was not allowed so much as to walk abroad
on Sundays ; and if at any time there had been any
gaiety at court, such as dancing or playing at cards, he
was severely reproved for it. This was managed with so
much rigour and so little discretion that it contributed
not a little to beget in him an aversion to all sort of
strictness in religion." It was likely to make him an
atheist or a Roman Catholic ; in fact, it made him both.
Once, later on, Charles's patience broke down and he



XXII THE COMMONWEALTH 587

bolted. The incident was called The Start. It is
needless to say that, bad as the boy's conduct was, that
of the Kirk elders who bribed and forced his conscience
was worse. Presbyterian Scotland, however, accepted
Charles as king and armed in support of his pretensions
to the throne.

Rather than have a Scotch army in the bowels of
England stirring up all the elements of disaffection, the
Council of State resolved to assume the offensive and
invade Scotland. Fairfax, though since the beginning
of the king's trial he had entirely withdrawn from the
political field, was still commander-in-chief, and had con-
tinued pun\itually and loyally to perform the duties of
that office. But the end of his revolutionary sympathies
had been reached. His wife was a strong Presbyterian.
He had himself leanings that way. To ask him to com-
mand an invasion of Presbyterian Scotland was too much.
In spite of earnest solicitations in which Cromwell warmly,
and, there can be no doubt, sincerely, joined, he persisted
in resigning, and retired to his stately mansion, his books
and coins, at Nun Appleton. His retirement was fatal
to the union between the Independents and the moder-
ate Presbyterians which it was now Cromwell's object
to preserve. Cromwell, taking the command, invaded 1660
Scotland. He was there encountered by David Leslie,
his confederate at Marston, with an army greatly supe-
rior in numbers but inferior in quality to the veterans
of Naseby and the Irish campaign ; all the more inferior
when ministerial fanaticism had purged it of ungodly
officers and soldiers to ensure to it the favour of the
Lord. Cromwell was a tactician rather than a strate-
gist, and above all a leader of cavalry. He failed to



588 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

force the line of defence covering Edinburgh which
Leslie had taken up. At last he was in great straits,
and would have been in greater had not the sea been
kept open for him by the new naval power of the Com-
monwealth. He was obliged to fall back, was in danger
of having his retreat cut off, and although hope always
burned in him as a pillar of fire, he evidently felt as if
his situation was almost desperate, when a false move
of the Scotch, inspired, it seems, by the overweening
confidence of the preachers, gave him an unexpected
opening for attack. He seized it with his usual deci-
1650 sion, and in the battle of Dunbar utterly shattered the
Scotch army. The attack was made at dawn. As the
sun rose upon the field of victory, CromwelFs spirit was
uplifted with religious enthusiasm. " Let God arise," he
cried, "and let his enemies be scattered." At a halt in
the chase he struck up a psalm. At Dunbar the Puritan
spirit was seen in its highest exaltation, and at the same
time in its identity with the spirit of Joshua rather than
with the spirit of Jesus. Glad were the tidings of Dun-
bar to the English Independents. They hung the capt-
ured colours in Westminster Hall ; they struck medals
bearing Cron^^well's likeness, in spite of his protest. They
showed their release from fear of the Presbyterians by
giving legislation a liberal turn.

The Scotch, Cromwell treated not as enemies, but as
misguided friends. Such, in fact, had been the tenor of
the manifesto which he put forth on entering Scotland.
He expressed his surprise, however, at finding that under
the Presbyterian system there lay, beneath the surface
of enforced godliness, much that was not godly. His
observation seems to be confirmed by the criminal records



xxii THE COMMONWEALTH bSy

of the time, especially in regard to sexual offences. His
victory at once shook the rigid rule of the church and
made way for comparative freedom of opinion.

Monarchical parties in Scotland were now fused by de-
feat, and objections to association with Engagers, as the
political followers of Hamilton were called, were waived
by all except a very stiff section dubbed Remonstrants.
Charles was crowned by the coalition at Scone, and to l^ci
win his kingdom for him a new army was formed under
David Leslie. Leslie again showed his skill as a tacti-
cian on the defensive. In trying to manoeuvre him out
of his lines between Falkirk and Stirling Cromwell got to
the north of him. Leslie then slipped away and, taking
Charles with him, invaded England, where it was hoped
the royalists would rise in their young king's favour. In
Lancashire they did rise under their local chief, Lord
Derby, but the movement was weak and was easily
quelled. National antipathy was still too strong to wel-
come Scotch invasion. Not only did Leslie's army find
cold welcome, but the militia and trained bands turned
out at the call of the government with a readiness which
seemed to betoken general acquiescence in the new rule.
At Worcester, whither Charles's march had been directed
in the vain hope of reinforcement from the royalist west-
ern counties and from Wales, his army was brought to
bay, hemmed in by a superior force under Cromwell, who
had followed from the north, and, after a brave resist-
ance, totally destroyed. Charles, after adventures in 1651
which he found honour in lowly places, escaped to the
continent.

Worcester was Cromwell's " crowning mercy," and the
topmost step of the stair up which fortune had led him



590 THE UNITED KINGDOM chai.

to supreme power. He was now not only the leading
man but master of the situation ; he was lodged in the
forsaken palace of royalty, and received almost royal
homage. That he had long been scheming for supreme
power, as his enemies and detractors averred, is not

1649 likely, since a year and a half before he had married
his eldest surviving son, the heir of his fortunes, to the
daughter of a private gentleman, Mr. Mayor, treating
about the marriage settlement with an interest which he
would scarcely have shown had he looked forward to
being master of a kingdom's wealth. Probably he told
his own secret when he said that no one rose higher than
he who did not know whither he was going. How far
he was led by patriotism, how far by ambition, in the
course which he now took, who can tell ? Who can see
across two centuries and a half into a heart so deep as
that of Cromwell ?

1652 On the return of Cromwell to London, after Worcester,
was passed an Act of Oblivion, due no doubt to his
influence, and an earnest of his policy, which was recon-
ciliation and the reunion of the nation. The Act was
niggardly, but in every division on the clauses of the Bill
he voted on the side of mercy.

Cromwell's Scottish victories produced a fruit more
glorious than Dunbar, a fruit which, if dust could feel,
would have made the dust of the great Edward re-

1652 joice. They were followed by an incorporating union of
Scotland with England. For this the road had been
opened by conquest, and conquest in defensive war, which
gives the conqueror his full privilege. Yet Cromwell
and the Council of State acted like true statesmen, not in
the spirit or with the demeanour of conquerors, but with



XXII THE COMMONWEALTH 691

all possible respect for the honour and feelings of the
Scottish nation. A commission was sent down to Scot-
land, where it submitted a tender of union to repre-
sentatives of the Scottish shires and boroughs. Stiff
Presbyterians shrank from incorporation with a republic
of Independents ; high royalists shrank from incorpora-
tion with a republic of any kind ; while separate nation-
ality could not be resigned without a pang. But
Cromwell's rule had already abated prejudice. It had
cleansed and lighted Edinburgh and given her a better



Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 42 of 84)