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shares with him the executive power. He is the head and
representative of the nation, the captain-general of its
forces, the source of magistracy, and the fountain of
honour. In his name all writs and commissions run.
With his council, he has the power of peace and war ;
but in case of war parliament is at once to be called. The
Protector, like the king, nominates the great officers of


state ; but his nominations of the chancellor, the treasu-
rer, the chief justices and the governors of Scotland and
Ireland, must be approved by parliament.

In place of the privy council nominated by the king at
his pleasure is a council of state, in number not less than
thirteen or more than twenty-one, vacancies in which are
to be filled by a mixed process, parliament designating
six persons of integrity, ability, and fearing God ; the
council, of these six, choosing two ; and the Protector, of
these two, choosing one.

The parliament is a single elective house. It has the en-
tire power of legislation and taxation, to the Protector being
reserved only a suspensive veto on legislation for twenty
days. It must be called once at least in every three years,
as the Triennial Act had prescribed, and sit for five
months. It is to be elected on a reformed footing, the
petty boroughs being disfranchised, the franchise being
transferred from them to large towns, more members
being given to the counties, and the franchise being
extended from freehold to all property, real or per-
sonal, including copyhold and leasehold, of the value
of two hundred pounds ; a conservative qualification in
those days. Special borough franchises seem not to have
been abolished. The general result would be a con-
stituency largely yeoman and middle-class. Clarendon
speaks of the reform as one fit to be made more warrant-
ably and in a better time. To estimate its value we have
only to consider what was done in the next two centuries
by the rotten boroughs. The representation of Scotland
and Ireland was to be regulated by the Protector and the
council. Excluded from voting were all Roman Catho-
lics, all who had made war on the parliament, unless they


had since given proof of their good affection, and all who
had taken part in the Irish rebellion. Cromwell would
no doubt have treated peacable acquiescence as sufficient
proof of good affection.

The command of the forces had been the final bone of
contention between Charles and the parliament. The
Instrument gives it to the Protector with parliament, if
parliament is sitting; if parliament is not sitting, to
the Protector with the council.

The Christian religion contained in the Scriptures,
that is to say, Puritanism, is professed by the nation.
The established church and the national clergy are re-
tained, but a provision less objectionable than tithe is to
be made for the clergy. There is to be full liberty out-
side the establishment for all such as profess faith in God
by Jesus Christ, so long as they abuse not this liberty to
the civil injury of others or the disturbance of the public
peace ; and all laws and ordinances contrary to that lib-
erty are to be null and void. The liberty, however, is
not to extend to popery or prelacy, nor to the preaching
or practice of licentiousness under the profession of

Cutting right athwart the constitutional principles of
the Instrument is an enactment dictated by dire necessity
and laying bare the foundation of the Protectorate. Pro-
vision is made irrespectively of the authority of parlia-
ment for a constant yearly revenue to maintain an army
of thirty thousand men.

Three articles Cromwell treated as fundamental ; gov-
ernment by a single person and parliament, toleration,
and the settlement of the army.

Lacking to this written constitution are a power of


interpretation and a power of amendment. But the power
of amendment was subsequently exercised by parliament,
with the consent of the Protector.

Oliver Cromwell was to be the first Protector, and the
Instrument named for the first term the members of the
council of state, which included the chiefs, military and
political, of the Commonwealth party. The Protector
and council are empowered to legislate provisionally by
ordinance till the parliament meets.

This constitution, launched on stormy waters and tem-
pest-tossed from the outset, was never fairly tried. But
under it, had it taken effect, government would ap-
parently have been national ; party at least, could hardly
have reigned; cabal and intrigue, the workings of per-
sonal ambition, no constitution can exclude. The Protec-
tor is not an autocrat ; he must carry his council with
him. Public opinion acts on government through a par-
liament elected by the people, which in its turn takes part
in the election of the members of council who elect the
Protector, and, when sitting, divides with the Protector
the control of the forces, besides approving the appoint-
ment of the great officers of state. The members of the
council of state, unlike the members of the American
administration, may sit in parliament, as the whole of
Cromwell's first council did ; and they would answer for
the policy of the government there. Thus authority,
stability, and continuity would, if the constitution worked
as its framers desired, be reconciled with the just and
settled influence of national opinion.
1653 The Protector was installed with moderate state, and
during the next five months freely exercised the power of
provisional legislation reserved to him in the Instrument,


developing in fact by a series of ordinances his policy in
all departments, civil, religious, diplomatic, and moral,
including the union of the Kingdoms, or Commonwealths 1654
as they are now to be called.

He then opened his first parliament with a speech 1654
which stamped 'the Protectorate as conservative and its
policy as that of maintaining a national church and
protecting civilized society against the Fifth Monarchy
and the Levellers. He was able to announce an honour-
able and advantageous peace with Holland, peace with
Portugal, and good relations with Sweden and Denmark,
the protestant powers of the north. " Blessed be God,"
he said, " we see here this day a free parliament, and that
it may continue so I hope is in the heart of every good
man of England ; for my own part, as I desired it above
my life, so to keep it free I shall value it above my life."
This, he afterwards said, was the hopefuUest day his eyes
ever saw. That the parliament had been freely elected
within the Avidest limits of loyalty to the Commonwealth
was at once shown by the appearance of a formidable
opposition, composed partly of irreconcilable republicaijis,
partly of Presbyterians, anti-republicans at heart and
mortal enemies to Cromwell's policy of toleration. In-
stead of proceeding to business, the Presbyterians and the
irreconcilable republicans combined fell to overhauling
the Instrument of Government and questioning the
right of the Protector. The answer to their questionings
was that, if they wanted divine right, Heaven, by Crom-
well's hands, had saved them all ; and if they wanted
human right, it was by virtue of his writ that they were
there. The writ bore on the face of it an engagement not
to disturb the government as settled in a single person and

VOL. 1 вАФ 39


1654 a parliament. It became necessary to put to each member
a test re-affirming the obligation of the writ, which was
taken by about three hundred of the four hundred mem-
bers in attendance, while it was refused by the rest. The
Presbyterians having, as Cromwell said, since they had
ceased to be oppressed by the bishops, become themselves
the greatest oppressors, ever bent on persecution, and
alarmed by the growth of strange sects, strove to limit the
toleration secured to Christian sectaries under the Instru-

1654 ment. They pounced upon Biddle, a Socinian, and would
evidently have dealt with him in the spirit of their atro-
cious enactment under the Long Parliament, had not the
Protector snatched him from their fangs and sent him off
to kind confinement in the Scilly Islands. The coalized
oppositions had thus assailed two of the Protector's three
fundamentals. It seems that they assailed the third fun-
damental, the settlement and control of the army, at least
by withholding supplies, which drove the army to free
quarters and endangered its subordination. The Protec-
tor expostulated with fervour. At length, weary of the
fractiousness of the parliament and of its waste of time,

1655 he called it before him in the Painted Chamber, and
after another long speech of expostulation pronounced its
dissolution. He could say with truth that he had allowed
it to deal freely with everything but the foundations of
his government. To allow these to be subverted would
have been to throw the nation back into the vortex of
confusion from which it had just emerged.

There was now a recurrence to unparliamentary gov-
ernment, legislation by ordinance, and what, without para-
mount necessity, would be justly branded as arbitrary
rule. It must be borne in mind, however, that Cromwell


was not a despot. He had always to carry with him his
council of state, and such men as Lambert, Fleetwood,
Desborough, Montague, Lisle, and Skippon were not
likely to be ciphers. If his policy ever wavers, deference
to the council may, as has been suggested, have been the

Against the payment of customs duties imposed by ordi-
nance in council a legal protest was made by a merchant
named Cony, who, if the question had been decided in
his favour, would have broken up the army, and with
the army the government. He was silenced, apparently
not in the most regular way. Such are the incidents of
revolutions, and they are reasons for avoiding revolutions
and making the past as far as possible slide quietly into
the future.

It may well be that military command had made Crom-
well somewhat arbitrary, and that his dizzy elevation
had not been without effect even upon that strong head.
But if it was by force that he upheld his tottering govern-
ment, it was in something other than force that he strove
to give it root. " I perceived," says Baxter, an adverse
and unexceptionable witness, " that it was Cromwell's de-
sign to do good in the main and to promote the Gospel
and the interest of godliness, more than any one had done
before him ; except in those particulars which his own
interest was against : and it was the principal means that
henceforward he trusted to for his own establishment, even
by doing good : that the people might love him, or at
least be willing to have his government for that good, who
were against it, as it was usurpation." " Some men," says
Baxter, "thought it a very hard question, whether they
should rather wish the continuance of an usurper who


would do good, or the restitution of a rightful governor
whose followers would do hurt. " We may be sure that an
increasing number chose the first horn of the dilemma.
Algernon Sidney, no uncritical judge, said that the Pro-
tector had very just notions of liberty. Milton, though he
uttered some anxious words of warning, remained steadily
Oliverian. The question is, whether the man was tending
and working towards the restoration of constitutional
liberty or away from it. Milton must have thought he
was tending and working towards it. What Milton
might have thought had his hero put on the crown, we
cannot tell.

Cromwell had told the parliament that by quarrelling
with the government it was nursing conspiracy. The
truth of his words was proved by a rising of the royal-

1655 ists in the north and west ; in the west under Penrud-
dock on a serious scale. This was put down with vigour,
and the royalists rose no more. But there was never an
end of plotting against the Protector's life by royalists,
irreconcilable republicans, Fifth Monarchy men, or all
combined. Hume says Cromwell's nerve was shaken,
but he has embellished a passage in the work of Dr. Bate,
court physician to Charles II. Cromwell took precau-
tions, of which the author of " Killing no Murder " told
him, and Gerard and Vowel showed him, he had need.
But there is no reason to believe that the fear of assassina-
tion, unmanning as it usually is, shook his nerve or affected
his policy. It certainly never overcame his clemency. Of
the forty men arrested for the murder plot of Vowel and

1654 Gerard only two suffered; only two suffered for Slingby's
plot to deliver Hull to the Spaniards and give up London
to fire and blood. For the rising of the royalists under


Penruddock, though a number were transported, few were
put to death. Ormonde, Cromwell's most formidable as
well as most respectable opponent, came to London in dis-
guise to organize conspiracy. His presence was detected.
Cromwell took Lord Broghill, Ormonde's former associate,
aside and said, " If you wish to do a kindness to an old
friend; Ormonde is in London, warn him to be gone."

It was after the royalist rising of Penruddock in the 1656
west that Cromwell had recourse to the appointment of
major-generals, district commanders empowered, each in
his province, to keep order, organize the defensive forces,
disarm rebellion, and apply the moral code of the Protec-
torate. To these administrative duties was added the
more odious and arduous task of collecting the income
tax of ten per cent., which, after the risings in the north
and west, the Protector determined to levy upon the
Cavaliers. An exceptional tax laid on a political party
could be reconciled with the Act of amnesty only on the
strained hypothesis that the whole party had been mor-
ally implicated in the insurrection. It could not fail to
perpetuate and embitter a division, which it was the ob-
ject of a healing policy to efface. The major-generals
seem to have done their unpopular duty well. Yet Crom-
well felt that the experiment was a failure and allowed it,
when parliament met, to be voted down.

With his royalist enemies the Protector dealt firmly yet
mercifully. With old republican friends, estranged from
him and plotting or acting against him, such as Harrison,
Ludlow, and Overton, he dealt tenderly, never inflicting
on them anything worse than temporary restraint or dis-
missal from the service. Nor did he hurt their con-
sciences by the imposition of any test or oath.


Necessity compelled Cromwell to interfere in some
degree with the ordinary course of justice. Lilburne,

1653 who came over from the continent on his usual mission
of unsettlement, having been acquitted by a sympathiz-
ing jury, was sent back to prison after his acquittal,
probably for his own good. He was presently liberated,
and, his fire as an incendiary having burnt out, died a

1657 Quaker and in peace. Conspirators in assassination plots
Avere sent before a high court of justice, consisting of
the judges, Avith some officers of state and a number of
other commissioners, which sat in Westminster Hall, pro-
ceeded according to the forms of law, and, unless the sub-
version of the government and the assassination of its
head were no crime, shed not a drop of innocent blood.

1655 One ordinance restrained the publication of news ; an-

1655 other, towards the end of the Protectorate, established a
censorship of the press. But it does not appear that the
first ordinance practically went, or that the second was
intended to go, beyond the actual necessities of police.
Even a government after Milton's own heart could not
have permitted the circulation of "Killing no Murder,"
or of what purported to be a royal proclamation promis-
ing rewards for the assassination of the Protector by
pistol, sword, or poison. Tracts very hostile to the Pro-
tector and his government were allowed to circulate
with freedom.

Triumphant over royalist rebellion, successful in diplo-
macy and war, Cromwell, after seventeen months of per-

1656 sonal government, ventured again to call a parliament.
This time nothing was to be risked. The known mal-
contents, about ninety in number, were from the first
excluded. The exclusion, though veiled under a legal


form, was an act of arbitrary power. The justification
for it was that if these members had been allowed to take
their seats they would have done their best to overturn
the government ; that if they had overturned the govern-
ment, they would have brought in, not the republic, of
which Vane dreamed, nor the reign of the saints, of which
Harrison dreamed, nor the Covenanting king and the
Calvinistic church, of which the Presbyterians dreamed,
but the Stuarts ; and that if they had brought in the
Stuarts they would have annulled the revolution, wrecked
the cause, and, if they were regicides, have set their own
heads, as some of them ultimately did, on Temple Bar.

After the exclusion, the parliament still numbered some
three hundred and sixty members, friendly in the main.
A decisive moment had now arrived. A long train of
waggons was bearing through London streets the golden
spoils and trophies of Blake's victories over Spain. A
poet was writing,

" Let the brave generals divide the bough,
Our great Protector hath such wreaths enow;
His conquering head has no more room for bays;
Then let it be as the glad nation prays,
Let the rich ore forthwith be melted down,
And the State fixed by making him a crown;
With ermine clad and purple, let him hold
A royal sceptre made of Spanish gold."

The time seemed to conservatives, probably to Crom-
well himself, to have come for completing the restoration
of the old political constitution by reviving the hereditary
monarchy and the House of Lords. The Protector was 1657
invited by the parliament to take- upon him the govern-
ment by the title of king.


Then followed the most anxious deliberation in Crom-
well's life, a deliberation not the less anxious because
in familiar consultation with his friends his anxiety some-
times disguised itself in levity. He spoke himself of
royalty with indifference as a feather in the cap, a shin-
ing bauble to dazzle the kneeling crowd. It is not in-
credible that a man who has done great things in a great
cause may, by the grace of Heaven, keep his heart above
tinsel. But in the frame of mind in which the nation
then was, the title of king might, apart from any love
of tinsel, seem essential to the policy of reconstruction.
The people, as they then were, mostly craved for it. The
lawyers, as their formularies were identified with it, fan-
cied that they could not get on without it. It was con-
stitutional, while the title of Protector was revolutionary ;
it indemnified, under the statute of Henry VII., persons
adhering to a king in possession, while the title of Pro-
tector technically did not. There cannot be any doubt that
Cromwell himself was minded to accept it. But the stern
republicans of the army were resolved against monarchy.
It was not for a king that they had faced death on the
field of battle. To their opposition Cromwell yielded.
Probably he not only yielded to it, but respected it. To
be turned from his course by fear, it has been truly said,
was not a weakness to which he was prone. But ardent,
sanguine, full of resources as he was, he was the victim
of no illusions. He knew the difference between the
difficult and the impossible. He faced difficulty with-
out fear, he recognized impossibility without repining,
and turned his mind steadily towards the future.

So it was decided that Cromwell should not mingle with
the crowd of kings ; that he should wear no crown but


Worcester's laureate wreath, and the laureate wreath of
Milton's verse. His monarcliy would not have been a
Stuart monarchy. It would have been a constitutional
and protestant monarchy, with parliamentary legislation,
parliamentary taxation, reform of the electorate, an en-
lightened and vigorous administrative, the service of
the state open to merit, law reform, church reform, uni-
versity reform, the union, political and commercial, of
the three kingdoms, Ireland settled, the headship of the
protestant interest in Europe, and a large, though not full,
measure of liberty of conscience. Such it would have
been while its founder lived. After him would have come
a dynasty with dynastic infirmities and accidents. But
this dynasty would have been bound, as a manifest emana-
tion from the national will, by pledges even stronger than
those which bound the line of Hanover to constitutional
government. Nor could it have restored prelacy.

Part of the policy of restoration, however, was carried
into effect by the set of enactments called the Humble
Petition and Advice, to which the Protector gave his 1657
assent. Instead of an elective Protectorate, Cromwell
was empowered to nominate his successor. The Upper
House of Parliament was revived. It was to consist of
not more than seventy or less than forty members, to be
nominated by the Protector with the approval of par-
liament. The constitution in some minor particulars was
more strictly defined ; it received for the first time as
a whole the sanction of parliament, which was extended
to the series of ordinances made under the Instrument
of Government by the Protector in council at the time
when parliament was not sitting. Thus all was placed
upon a legal basis.


1657 To mark the legal commencement of his power, the
Protector was installed with greater solemnity than be-
fore and with ceremonies more resembling a coronation.
An account of the pageant is given us by Whitelock,
who, though no lover of Cromwell, seems to have been
impressed. In Westminster Hall, under a canopy, was
placed a chair of state upon an ascent of two degrees;
down the hall were seats for parliament, the dignitaries
of the law, the mayor and aldermen of London. Thither
on the twenty-sixth of June, 1657, went the Protector
with his council of state, his ministers, gentlemen, ser-
geants-at-arms, officers, and heralds. His Highness, stand-
ing under the canopy of state, the Speaker, in the name of
the parliament, put on him ' the robe of purple lined with
ermine,' delivered to him the Bible, richly gilt and bossed,
girt on him the sword of state, and put a golden sceptre
into his hands. Only the crown was wanting. The
Speaker then gave him the oath to observe the constitution,
with good wishes for the prosperity of his government.
The chaplain next by prayer recommended the Protector,
the parliament, the council, the forces by land and sea,
the whole government and people of the three nations
to the blessing and protection of God. Then the people
gave a shout and the trumpets sounded. The Protector
took his seat in the chair of state, with the ambassadors
of the friendly nations and the high officers of the Pro-
tectorate round him, and, as he did so, the trumpets
sounded again, heralds proclaimed the title of his High-
ness, and the people shouted once more, " God save the
Lord Protector." At the gorgeous coronation of Napo-
leon, someone asked the republican general Augereau,
whether anything Avas wanting to the splendour of the


scene. " Nothing," replied Augereau, " but the half mil-
lion of men who died to do away with all this." There
was not much in Cromwell's installation to do away with
which any man had died. The pageantry was solemn
and symbolic, without tinsel or outworn forms.

More state, however, after this legal inauguration was
observed in the Protector's household and about his
person. His family was treated as half royal ; the title
of Lord was given to his chief officers. He conferred
baronetcies, hereditary honours, as well as knighthood.
He made two peers. It is pretty clear that the restora-
tion of hereditary monarchy, though in a constitutional
form, and of an hereditary peerage, was still in his mind.
Had he succeeded, there would have been an anticipative
1688 with a reformed House of Commons and a Puritan
instead of an Anglican church establishment.

This parliament wasted time and violated one of the 1656
fundamentals by the persecution of Naylor, a fanatic.
But it voted supplies, and on the whole during its first
session acted cordially with the Protector. Hope dawned
on the enterprise. But the dawn was once more overcast.

Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 44 of 84)