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When parliament met again after the recess it was with i658
the excluded members restored to their seats and with an
upper House. The upper House was a false move and a
failure. The selection of the members had been good,
and the response to the writs was on the whole satisfac-
tory, though of the old nobility who had been summoned
most refused seats beside Cromwellian generals who had
once been mechanics, while Manchester, as Cromwell's old
enemy, was sure to decline. Yet the arrangement would
not work. The Protector said that he wanted something
to stand between him and the lower House, his direct con-


tests with which were no doubt laying a heavy strain
npon his government. But to make up the House of
Lords he had been compelled to take many of his sup-
porters from the House where the great battle of supplies
was to be fought, and he had thus probably broken up
the lead for the government there. The consequence was
that the lower House fell foul of the upper, and the ship
became unmanageable once more. In vain the Protector
addressed to the Commons a long and earnest expos-
tulation. Haselrig, Scott, and the other irreconcilable
republicans, having the upper hand in the Commons,
meant mischief and were not to be soothed. At length
the Protector had to dissolve the parliament with thunder
in his tone. '' If this be the end of your sitting and this
be your carriage, I think it high time that an end be put
1658 to your sitting. And I do dissolve this parliament. And
let God be judge between you and me."

In these contests with refractory parliaments the sol-
dier and statesman had to play the part of an orator. He
was too old to learn a new art. He did not prepare his
speeches ; and when he was asked to write out one of
them a few days after it had been delivered, he declared
that he could not remember a word of it. Clumsier or
more uncouth compositions than the reports which have
come down to us the records of oratory do not contain.
We can understand the contempt expressed for them by a
polished sceptic like Hume. The grammar is hopeless,
the confusions of metaphor are grotesque. We have God
" kindling a seed " ; the Lord " pouring the nation from
vessel to vessel till he poured it into your lap " ; God
"bringing people to the edge of Canaan and enabling
them to lay the topstone to their work." The last and


most illustrious editor only provokes our criticism by his
running commentary of devout ejaculations. But the
speeches are not king's speeches. There runs through
them all a strong though turbid current of thought.
They are the utterances of one who sees his object clearly,
presses towards it earnestly, and struggles to bear forward
in the same course the reluctant wills and wavering minds
of other men. The great features of the situation, the
great principles on which the speaker was acting, are
brought out, as Guizot says, with a breadth and force
which are strong proof of statesmanlike intellect, perhaps
not a small proof of good faith. He pleaded to deaf ears.
It is vain to rail at those who refused to listen to him, and
thwarted him to the end. They were not great men.
They were contending, many of them at least, in single-
ness of heart for what they believed to be the good cause.
They might say with truth that Cromwell had changed ;
that the language of the head of the state was not that of
a soldier of the revolution ; that his mind had grown
broader ; that his vision had been purged, since he had
risen to a higher point of view and to clearer air ; and as
he had changed, they might represent him to themselves
as a renegade. Such partings there are in all revolutions.
Nor is it unlikely that Cromwell, satisfied of the necessity
of his measures, and conscious of the goodness of his mo-
tives, may have carried matters with too high a hand and
shown too little respect for old associations and for opin-
ions with which he had once expressed sympathy, if they
had not been in some degree his own. Respect is always
due to those who struggle for law and liberty against what
they believe to be lawless power. Yet these men were
paving the way for the restoration of the Stuarts.


When the necessary supplies could not be obtained from
parliament, the Protector was compelled to levy the old
taxes by ordinance in council. But he did this with re-
luctance and with a manifest desire to return to parlia-
mentary taxation as well as to parliamentary government
in other respects. The spoils of Spanish galleons cap-
lg57~ tured by Blake helped his treasury for a time. Still his
great difficulty was finance. He was rolling up debt while
the pay of his soldiers was in arrear. It does not appear
that he ever thought of funding the debt, which besides
relieving him of the financial pressure would have
bound the public creditor and commerce in general by a
strong tie to his government. There was, at all events,
no waste or corruption. The Protector offered to lay the
financial administration open to the most rigorous inspec-
tion. He was not afraid, he said, on that score to face
the nation. He was ready to do anything except to allow
the government to be overturned ; rather than that, he
said, he would be rolled with infamy into his grave.

Amidst all his difficulties, parliamentary or financial,
through all his struggles with rebellion or conspiracy, the
great objects of Cromwell's national policy were steadily
pursued. On what he deemed a right settlement of the
church above all things he had set his heart. His policy
was not, like that of Milton and the thorough-going Inde-
pendents, disestablishment, but comprehension, with a
complete outside toleration of all tolerable opinions, that
is, of all except popery, prelacy, and such as were
revolutionary or immoral. In London, Lancashire, and
less perfectly elsewhere Presbyterianism had been organ-
ized and the Protector left it ; otherwise Congregation-
alism seems to have been practically the rule, with no


small diversity of creeds among the ministers, Baptists
who did not object to an establishment being included.
For that da}^ a great stride was made if men who differed
about infant baptism could own a common Christianity
and worship side by side. Within the protestant pale
the clerical test was to be character rather than creed.
The commissioners appointed under the Protectorate to
weed and recruit the church on that principle appear, on
the whole, to have done their work well. They deprived
Pocock, the great orientalist, but this mistake was set
right. The anti-Cromwellian Baxter at least admits that
the commission put in able and serious preachers who
lived a godly life, of what tolerable opinions soever they
were, so that many thousands of souls blessed God. Of
the ejections, he says, six out of seven were not for opinion
or on political grounds, but for insufficiency or scandalous
conduct. Anglicans were left in their livings if they
would forego the use of the Anglican ritual. Thus the
protestants reaped the religious fruits of the revolution.
The parish system and even patronage remained undis-
turbed. Some better mode of payment than tithe was
contemplated. But with that thorny question the Pro-
tector did not find time in his short reign to deal.

Papists and prelatists were still excluded from tolera-
tion. Prelatists, however, were generally unmolested and
allowed to hear Jeremy Taylor in peace. Once, after a
great royalist rising, a fierce ordinance was launched 1655
against the ejected Episcopalian clergymen, who would
probably be active in fomenting disturbance ; but it seems
that it was intended only to intimidate, and that there
were no prosecutions. There is reason to believe that
Cromwell himself was not disinclined to unprelatical



episcopacy. He honoured Bishop Usher and gave two
hundred pounds for the bishop's funeral. Wilkins, who
married his sister, was afterwards a bishop. Prelatists
were not, like papists, excluded from the franchise by the
Instrument of Government. Papists, popish priests at
least, Cromwell could not venture openly to tolerate. But
he could truly tell Mazarin that he dealt mercifully with
them, nor did he ever rack conscience.

Sectaries Cromwell protected as far as he dared. Bid-
die the Socinian he had rescued from the first parliament;
Naylor he tried to rescue from the second parliament, which
showed its temper by sentencing a delirious but harmless
fanatic to be whipped, branded, have his tongue bored
with a hot iron, ride a bare-backed horse, and be impris-
oned during the parliament's pleasure. In the controversy
between Cromwell and his parliaments, there can be no
doubt which was the side of religious freedom. Quakers
in those days were not all of them peaceful children of the
inner light ; some of them were aggressive, interrupted
the worship in the " steeple-houses," insulted the preach-
ers, and offended public decency by going about naked
and proclaiming woe upon the realm. Cromwell had to
leave disorder to be dealt with by the magistrates. But
he liked to commune with such enthusiasts as George Fox.
This may have been partly his policy. Yet it seems pos-
sible that, much as his intellect had grown and his worldly
wisdom had increased, he may have in some degree re-
tained his simplicity, and have remained open even to
fanatical preaching of the doctrine which had been to him
in early days, the spring of spiritual life. He tried to pro-
cure a legal re-admission of the Jews to England, whence
they had beeen excluded since the time of Edward I.,


and, failing in this, himself opened the door to individual
Jewish immigrants. He, of course, devoutly believed in
the people of the old covenant, and understood as little
as others the Talmudic Judaism with which he had in
fact to deal or its probable working as a parasitic growth
on the tree of national life.

The years of Cromwell's rule over Scotland, as Burnet,
a Scotchman and not a Cromwellian, says, were reckoned
years of great prosperity. This, free trade with England,
never before enjoyed, nor for half a century to be enjoyed
again, would in itself be enough to secure. Baillie, the
staunchest and narrowest of Presbyterians, corroborates
the statement of Burnet in regard to Glasgow, where he
lived. Scottish society, after wars between factions, be-
tween sections and sub-sections of factions, was, not less
than that of England, in need of a constable. In Scotland
the constable was Cromwell's vice-gerent, General Monck,
who, while he was ready to serve anybody, as in the sequel
he showed, served everybody well. Monck proclaimed
the Protectorate with promises of freedom of trade with
England ; fair measure to Scotland in apportioning taxa-
tion ; abolition of all tenures implying vassalage and
servitude ; liberation from feudal services ; and popular
courts baron in place of heritable jurisdictions. He seems
to have kept good order without giving much cause
for complaint of military rule. His arms carried law
into the Highlands, whither the Scotch government had
never been strong enough to carry it. The wild High-
lander was bridled with forts for his own good. Lord
Broghill, who for a time presided over the administration,
seems likewise to have done well and even to have won
golden opinions. Cromwell formed a plan for carrying
VOL. I вАФ 40


Christianity as well as law into the Highlands, which had
hitherto been heathen. The yoke of a most oppressive
aristocracy was broken, and law reigned in its place.
Justice was dispensed by judges, some of them English, of
whom a Scottish jobber plaintively spoke as "kinless
loons." Without family connections to guide their judg-
ments, they gave satisfaction to the kinless. For the
kinless altogether it was a good time. " The meaner sort
in Scotland," an English official could say, " live as well
and are like to come into as thriving a condition as when
they were under their own great lords, who made them
work for their living no better than the peasants of
France." A middle class began to raise its salutary head.
Independent soldiers sometimes took the word of God out
of the mouth of his minister ; sometimes they sat in deri-
sion on the stool of repentance ; one of them, at least,
guided a Scottish maiden in ways which did not lead to
heaven, and with the partner of his offence was severely
punished. But on the whole their discipline seems to
have been excellent. Released for the time alike from
the tyranny of the prelates and from the tyranny of the
Kirk, the Scottish mind enjoyed a spell of freedom of which
it appears to have taken advantage, it might be in some-
what erratic ways. Strong Presbyterians, moreover, com-
plained that the English were slack in their persecution
of witches. Scotch patriotism is represented by recent
writers as having resolutely rebelled against union and
brooded over the memory of Bannockburn. But where
is the proof of this? Do we not now in these days of
historical revival think more of Bannockburn than did the
people of those times? "All this prodigious mutation
and transformation had been submitted to with the same


resignation and obedience, as if the same had been trans-
mitted by an uninterrupted succession from king Fergus :
and it might well be a question, whether the generality of
the nation was not better contented with it, than to re-
turn into the old road of subjection." So says Clarendon
when by the Stuart Restoration the union with Scotland
is being repealed.

That Cromwell wanted to extirpate the Irish people is
false. It is true that he wanted to extirpate Irishry. He
wanted, that is, to root out the lawlessness, turbulence,
and thriftlessness which were the faults or rather the mis-
fortunes of the Celt, and to plant English law, order, in-
dustry, and prosperity in their room. The catholic Celts
in 1641 had attempted to extirpate the protestant Saxons.
Having been beaten after a struggle of hideous atrocity,
they forfeited to the victors the ownership of a great
part of their land, which was divided among adventurers
who had advanced money for the war, and soldiers who
had received land scrip as their pay. This was the fell
outcome of a strife perennially waged between the
races for the land. It was not Cromwell's doing, though
he accepted it when it was done. To take the land from
the victor and restore it to the vanquished, had such been
his desire, would have been utterly beyond his power.
Besides, what was he to do with the victorious race?
Eject it from the island? Otherwise must there not
have been a perpetually renewed war of race? It was
evidently the desire of the Protector to rule Ireland for
her good, as he understood it, that is by making her a
second England in order and industry. When he was
in command there he had shown himself determined
to protect the common people if they would be quiet


and obey the laws. Land-owners and priests who had
led rebellion and massacre it was out of his power,
even if he wished it, to protect. In his manifestoes he
addressed the Irish not as though they were Canaanites
or noxious savages, but in the language of earnest and
benevolent expostulation. He got as many of those who
had taken an active part in the rebellion as he could out
of the way, at the same time ridding the island of turbu-
lence and brigandage, by his encouragement of military
emigration. Destitute women and children unhappily
were left, of whom some hundreds were shipped to the
West Indies, a horrible termination of a long train of
horrors. In keeping up the proportion between the sexes
in the colonies Cromwell was wise.

It is said that Cromwell ought to have recognized
Irish nationality, and based on it his policy of reconstruc-
tion. How could he recognize that which did not exist?
The Celts of Ireland were not a nation, but the wreckage
of dissolved clans. Their only bond of union besides race
was a religion, the priests of which had been the most
active leaders of the rebellion, with a papal nuncio at
their head to show that they were the liegemen of a
foreign power. Could Cromwell build civilization on
tribalism, industry on lethargy, order on lawlessness, how-
ever fascinating and picturesque? Had his policy been
maintained, the Celt, in three out of the four provinces,
would have been for a time the labourer, with the Saxon
proprietor for his master, and would thus have received
a training in industry of which he otherwise had little
chance. Nor could any Saxon master be more oppressive
and insolent than the loafing and coshering gentleman
who represented the old Celtic chief. The Mass, Crom-


well plainly told the Irish, would not be suffered. But
he declared that he meddled with no man's conscience.
Evidently he did not want to meddle more than he could
help with any man's form of worship. Nor is it likely
that Mass ceased to be performed. The Protector gave
Ireland the best chance of peace and justice by a legisla-.
tive union with England which brought both her races
and both her religions under the broad segis of imperial
rule. He gave her deliverance from the alien Establish-
ment. He gave her the inestimable boon of free trade
with England. He sent her good government in the
person of his son Henry, who showed himself on the side
of mercy and toleration. He sent her justice such as she
had rarely before known, in the person of his chief justice,
Cooke. He regarded her, to use his own phrase, as a
blank paper, open for the trial of measures of law reform
to which, in England, vested interests were insuperably
opposed. That she prospered under him there can be no
doubt. Clarendon, an adverse witness, testifies to the
marvellous growth of buildings, not only for use but for
beauty, of plantations, and other signs of material im-
provement. Had Oliver lived longer, or left heirs of his
policy, Ireland, three parts of it at least, might have been
as Ulster, and the Irish problem would, in one way at all
events, have been solved. Of the disasters and horrors
which followed the dissolution of the union ; of the gov-
ernment of Ireland as a dependency by crown influence
and corruption ; of the restoration of the alien church
with its bloated uselessness and its tithe-proctors ; of the
fatal shackles laid on Irish trade and industry ; of the
rekindling of the fires of enmity between the races and
religions under James II.; of the outpouring of pro-


testant vengeance in penal legislation against the catholics
which ensued, the blame rests, not on the Protector, but
on those by whom his work was undone. The restrictions
afterwards laid on Irish trade and industry by the com-
mercial jealousy of England were fully as great a source
of mischief as anything else, and these would have been
precluded by the union.

Not least among the objects of the Protector's policy
was law reform. Had not professional prejudice stood in
the way, had not the sons of Zeruiah, to use his own
phrase, been too strong for him, he would have put an end
to the delays of the court of chancery and to the absurd or
iniquitous mysteries of technical law. What he was de-
barred from doing in England he did in Ireland, where
the despatch of causes by his chief justice put to shame
the dilatoriness of the English courts. He would also
have revised the criminal law in the light of humanity.
Though never theoretically a democrat, and now half
a king, he was still a man of the people, and a friend of
justice to the poor. It was a scandalous thing, he said,
that a man should be hanged for a theft of twelvepence
or sixpence, when greater crimes went unpunished. Had
he succeeded, the savage multiplication of capital offences
which dyed the code of the next century with blood
might have been averted, and the work of Romilly might
have been forestalled. The Protector's power was used
for popular purposes though concentrated in a strong
1655 Commerce was strenuously fostered. A committee of
trade was formed, and Whitelock, who was one of the
members, tells us that this was an object on which the
Protector's heart was greatly set. To open up trade, as


well as to form a protestant league, treaties were made
with the northern powers. The treaty with Denmark
opened the Sound. There was free trade with Scotland
and Ireland. Cromwell may, therefore, rank among the
free traders. He believed in the navigation laws, but so
did Adam Smith ; and, in truth, the navigation laws,
though rightly repealed in our time, appear, as a meas-
ure of national policy in a struggle with commercial rivals,
who were not cosmopolitan, to have had the desired effect.
The colonial policy of the Protectorate seems to have
been liberal and benevolent. The Puritan Protector
showed his love of Puritan New England by respecting
her independence while he favoured her trade. " English
history," says the American historian, "must judge of
Cromwell by his influence on the institutions of England;
the colonies remember the years of his power as the period
when British sovereignty was for them free from rapacit}^
intolerance, and oppression. " That abstention from inter-
ference did not proceed from lack of interest in the
colonies the Protector showed by his attention to the
affairs of Newfoundland, to which he sent the first real
governor in the person of the able and honest Treworgie. 1653
"Even in our island," says the last local historian of
Newfoundland, "the sagacious statesmanship and firm,
strong hand of Cromwell made themselves felt." In
proposing to transfer the New Englanders to Jamaica,
the Protector's object probably was not only to give them
a more genial abode, but to plant a stronghold of pro-
testantism and of English commerce within the realms
granted by the papacy to Spain. Herein he erred, and
mankind may be thankful to the fathers of the American
republic who clung to their austere home.


Of Cromwell's foreign policy the great aim was to unite
protestant Christendom and put England at its head. He
bore himself as the successor of Gustavus Adolphus and
of the councillors of Elizabeth. He formed alliances with
the protestant powers, Holland, Sweden, and Denmark.
Christina, queen of Sweden, the daughter of Gustavus,
before the madness which mingled with the heroic blood
of Vasa had made her its prey, heartily acknowledged her
father's heir. Her master of ceremonies was not so kind ;
but when Whitelock, the English ambassador, made his
entry into the Swedish capital it snowed ; and it was trying
for the master of ceremonies to stand bareheaded in a
snowstorm, bowing to the representative of a regicide
republic. It appears that Cromwell had thought of a still
closer union of protestant states, and even of some common
organ for the propagation of protestantism to countervail
the catholic Propaganda. When the papal Duke of Savoy
persecuted with hellish cruelty the people of the pro-

1656 testant valleys, Cromwell at once stretched his mighty
arm over his oppressed brethren in the faith. The
passionate zeal which he showed in this cause, and which
rings through his secretary's sonnet, amidst all his home
difficulties, and with the dagger of the assassin at his
breast, seems a strong proof of the genuineness of his
religious feeling. In chastising by the hand of Blake the

1655 pirates of Algiers and Tunis, he presented himself as the
champion of Christendom. Having to choose between
France and Spain, on the rivalry between which Euro-
pean policy hinged, Cromwell decided for France on the
religious ground. France, he said, though catholic, was
less papal than Spain, while Mazarin was no bigot, but
an Italian statesman, and feared Cromwell, men thought,


more than the devil. In fact, Cromwell was able through
his influence over Mazarin to extend his protection to the

Was this policy an anachronism? Had the treaty of
Westphalia finally closed the struggle between the relig-
ions in Europe ? The Vaudois were still being persecuted.
The Huguenots were still being harassed. The fires of
the Inquisition were still burning. Louis XIV., with his
satrap, James II., the revocation of the Edict of Nantes,
the expulsion of the protestants of Salzburg, were still to

Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 45 of 84)