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come. Two contrasted and antagonistic masses of opinion
and character, two realms which to a fervent protestant
might seem, one that of light, the other that of darkness,
still divided Europe. Apart from specific dogma, pro-
testant countries were natural allies. The Puritanism
of which Cromwell was himself the offspring and the
champion, was it not a birth of that day, and was not
the papacy its natural foe? Cromwell was a religious
enthusiast without much culture. His enthusiasm, when'
it came into play, was not unlikely to carry him beyond the
bounds of reason. From this tendency his project of pro-
testant union under English leadership may not have been
free. At all events his policy was moral and grand.

Less easy is it to defend the Protector's conduct in
attacking Spain without definite cause or declaration of war.
Here he may well be said to have been acting out of date, in
the spirit of the Elizabethan buccaneers. Nor can it be
doubted that his object was in part to replenish his empty
treasury from the treasure fleets of Spain, though it was
in part to break, in the interest of England, the Spanish
monopoly of those golden realms. His apology would be
that there was no peace beyond the line, and that in those



634 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap

waters Spain, on the strength of a papal grant, waged per-
petual war on all mankind. It might also be pleaded for
him that there was what may be called normal war be-
tween France and Spain; that both those powers had
courted his alliance, and neither could complain if he ac-
cepted the alliance of its rival. If he, and England with
him, sinned, the punishment followed ; for the possession
of Jamaica and the other slave islands proved a curse, and
a burden, though mitigated by emancipation, it remains at
this hour.

It has been truly said that Englishmen are not at ease
in their aggrandizement unless they can believe them-
selves to have a moral object, and that Cromwell was ii;i
this respect a typical Englishman. But the combination
was more genuine, the illusion at least was easier in the
case of one who served the God of the Old Testament
than it is in that of the imperialist of the present day.

To the charge of having unwisely taken part with the
more dangerous against the less dangerous of the two
powers, the fair answer would be that the decay of
Spain was not then apparent ; that nobody could have
foreseen Louis XIV. ; and that Louis XIV. would never
have been the tyrant of Europe if England had not been
put under his feet by the restored Stuarts.

England seems to have still hankered for a Calais as a
gate for her continental ambition. Cromwell won for
her, as the price of his alliance with France, Dunkirk, an
1658 acquisition which would now be insane, but was less so
when Dunkirk was a commercial key and had been a
lair of privateers.

To the fatal war with the Dutch, Cromwell's wisdom
put an end, though he was too haughty and exacting in



xxiii ' THE PROTECTORATE 635

his negotiations for peace. His chief object was the exclu-
sion from power of the house of Orange, allied by mar-
riage to the Stuarts. This he obtained, not from the
States General, but from Holland, the republican rulers
of which were no less desirous of keeping the Stadthold-
erate in abeyance than Cromwell was of depriving the
Stuart pretender of support. The protestant republics
were natural allies of the protestant commonwealth, but
commercial rivalry prevailed, and the estrangement had
been increased by the late war.

Of the majesty with which this upstart bore himself
in his dealings with foreign powers, of the height of
grandeur to which he raised his country, the royalist his-
torian is the unwilling witness. He gave England a con-
fidence in herself which she has never lost. He perhaps
gave her too much confidence in herself, at least taught
her to be too self-asserting. His saying that he would
make the name of Englishman what that of Roman had
been, a swelling phrase on his lips, becomes mere arro-
gance on ours. Between him and the jingo of the present
day if there is an affinity, the contrast also is great.

A Puritan government was always in danger of med-
dling too much with private tastes and habits. Yet the
meddling does not seem to have been very vexatious or
oppressive. Bear-baiting, bull-fighting, and cock-fighting
were prohibited. Horse-racing was forbidden for a time,
but a major-general gives permission for a horse-race,
saying that it is not the Protector's intention to abridge
gentlemen of their sport, but only to prevent the con-
fluence of enemies to the government. Cromwell himself
was a lover of horses. If betting was prohibited, few,
seeing what a gambling-table the turf can become, would



636 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

deem the prohibition noxious. Duelling, the privilege of
a caste, was denied to the gentry. Houses of ill-fame and
gambling-houses were suppressed ; the licensing of taverns
was strictly controlled. The boundary of legitimate
interference was approached when blasphemy and swear-
ing were made penal. It was overstepped when May-
poles were prohibited as heathen. Village wakes may
have been sometimes scenes of riot. Harsh and mis-
chievous was the closing of the theatre, though, if the
office of the drama is to purify the affections, its office was
hardly performed by the drama of the later Stuarts.
Players were treated "as vagabonds. Opera was allowed,
the Protector being fond of music. Light, though not
licentious literature was free and abounded. The worst
of the system probably was the Puritan Sabbath, with its
dull gloom and its denial of innocent pastimes on Sunday
afternoon. In reading Evelyn's diary we do not feel that
there is a pall over social life, while the opening pages of
Pepys introduce us at once to a convivial and card-playing
society. Still, there may have been enough of restraint
to cause natural disaffection and to make a large, though
not the best, class welcome a return to license.

Cromwell was not, like Eliot, Pym, and Hampden, culti-
vated ; yet he had been bred at a classical school and at
Cambridge, and, what was of more consequence, he had
been trained intellectually by converse with the highest
intellects on the highest subjects of the time. Though
unlearned himself, he fostered learning. He saved the
Universities of Oxford and Cambridge from the fanaticism
which would have destroyed them as seats of mere human
knowledge. Of the University of Oxford he made him-
self chancellor, and startling is the appearance of his name



XXIII THE PROTECTORATE 637

in a series of high churchmen and Tories. He founded 1657
the University of Durham. Alone of English princes he
set himself to draw merit and promise from the universi-
ties into the service of the state. The men whom he
placed in academical office were Puritans, of course, and
as Puritans narrow, but they were learned, and ruled well.
Nor was the narrowness extreme, since now it was that
Oxford was in part the home of the circle, including
Wilkins, Boyle, Wallis, Seth Ward, and Wren, which
gave birth to the Royal Society. At the Restoration,
Clarendon found the University of Oxford abounding in
excellent learning, a result due, as he thinks, to the good-^
ness and richness of the soil, which could not be made
barren by all the stupidity and negligence, but choked the
weeds and would not suffer the poisonous seeds, which
were sown with industry enough, to spring up. The soil
must have exhausted its virtues in the effort, if we may
judge from its products after the Restoration. Mr.
Masson has given us a list of about seventy men of
literary or scientific celebrity, actual or to come, who were
alive at the midpoint of Oliver's Protectorate, and lived
under his rule, some freely and others by compulsion.
The list includes, besides religious waiters and preachers.
Waller, Milton, Harrington, Wilkins, Wallis, Cudworth,
Algernon Sidney, Andrew Marvell, Petty, Boyle, Bunyan,
Temple, Dry den, Locke, Hales, Hobbes, Walton, Fuller,
Pocock, Davenant, Browne, Jeremy Taylor, Cleveland,
Denham, Cowley, Barrow, and South. Hobbes, Dave-
nant, and Cowley are instances of men who returned
from exile to live and write under the Protector's rule.

" Cromwell," says Burnet, " studied to seek out able
and honest men and to employ them ; and so having heard



088 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

that my father had a very great reputation in Scotland for
piety and integrity, though he knew him to be a royalist,
he sent to him desiring him to accept of a judge's place
and to do justice in his own country, hoping only that he
would not act against his government ; but he would not
press him to subscribe or swear to it." The man had a
royal eye for merit and a royal heart to advance it in the
state. He was not too nice in scrutinizing the opinions of
able men, nor, so long as they served England well, did he
too curiously inquire how they would serve Cromwell.
There is no pledge of genuine greatness rarer or more
decisive than the choice of men as associates who will not
be tools. Blake, who gained the naval victories of the
Protectorate, was a republican ; Lockhart, the chief in-
strument of the Protector's foreign policy and one of
the first diplomatists of the day, as well as a distinguished
soldier, was an old royalist whose value Cromwell had
discerned ; so was Monck. Broghill, who served the Pro-
tectorate well in various capacities, not only was a zealous
royalist, but was on the point of departure for the conti-
nent to concert measures with Charles II. when Cromwell
surprised him by a visit and made him his own. White-
lock, the Protector's legal adviser, was, as Cromwell must
have known, far from a devoted Oliverian. Sir Matthew
Hale, chief justice under the Protectorate, had been coun-
sel to Strafford ahd Laud, and had tendered his services to
the king ; he well justified the Protector's choice by brav-
ing the wrath of the Protector himself, who, tried beyond
endurance by the resistance to the establishment of his
government, had been betrayed into one of those brief
outbreaks of arbitrary temper which, though culpable in
themselves, showed by contrast his general desire of gov-



xxin THE PROTECTORATE 639

erning by law. The Protector's second self was Thurloe,
a man of supreme ability and the rival of Walsingham
In the skill with which he managed the secret service so
necessary to the safety of his chief and of government.
A conspirator assured Cromwell that when in France he
l>ad not seen the Pretender. He Avas told that he spoke
the truth, since the interview had been in the dark. Lock-
hart passed afterwards into the service of the Restoration
as ambassador at Paris, and still showed the spirit of the
Protectorate in altered times. The king of France pro-
duced a private letter from the king of England, obtained
by corrupt influence and contrary to Lockhart's public
instructions. " Sire," said Lockhart, " the king of Eng-
land speaks to your Majesty only through me."

Royal natures, even on a throne, love simplicity of life.
The Protector was treated as half a king ; he had a court
and he kept state as the head of a nation. But it was
a state modest and rational compared with that of a
Grand Monarch. Unrefined, and accustomed to the com-
radeship of the camp, he was apt in private to relieve his
burdened mind with rude humour, boisterous merriment;
and even practical jokes. But when he received ambassa-
dors, he knew how to show himself the peer of kings. A
leading part of his entertainments was music, which was
his chief pleasure. The court was the first household
in England, and, as enemies confessed, a good pattern
to others, though it might not be altogether free from
upstart vanity or intrigue. Whitehall was the scene
of work. But sometimes the Protector shuffled off his
coil of anxious business, and escorted by his life guards,
whose attendance was no needless pageantry, rode down
to Hampton Court. There he refreshed liis soul with



640 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap

quiet and country air. Thither he had brought an organ
to chase away for an hour the throng of eating cares.
His chief joy and comfort, however, were in his family,
to which through all the chances and changes of his life,
alike in trial and in victory, his heart had turned. All
the members of it were gathered round him in the hour
of his greatness and of his peril, and remained bound by
strong affection to him and to each other. One was miss-

1644 ing, Oliver, the eldest, who had died when in arms for
the cause, and whose image, as we know from Cromwell's
last utterances, never left his father's heart. Among the
rest the Protector's mother, ninety years old, was brought
to a scene strange to her and in which she had little com-
fort, for every report of a gun she heard seemed to her
her son's death, and she could not bear to pass a day with-
out seeing him with her own eyes. We may trust the
brief account of her end which is found among the dry
state papers of the unsentimental Thurloe. " My Lord

1654 Protector's mother, ninety-four years old, died last night.
A little before her death she gave my lord her blessing in
these words, ' The Lord cause his face to shine upon you
and comfort you in all your adversities, and enable you to
do great things for the glory of your Most High God, and
to be a relief unto His people. My dear son, I leave my
heart with thee. A good night.'" Jealousies there were
sure to be in a new-made court.

It was impossible that a government resting on an army
should ever cease to wear the aspect of a dominion of the
sword, or fail to be in that respect odious to a free and
law-loving nation. But the discipline of Cromwell's sol-
diers was excellent. " Sure," says Clarendon, " there was
never any such body of men so without rapine, swearing,



XXIII THE PROTECTORATE 641

drinking, or any other debauchery but the wickedness
of their hearts."

The Protector's government was taking root, as a gov-
ernment, whatever its title, was sure to do when it gave
the people peace at home, grandeur abroad, free trade, an
open course for industry, and practical improvement.
Even the old nobility were becoming satisfied of its stabil-
ity, and willing to ally themselves with the blood of its
chief. Lord Fauconberg married one daughter of Crom-
well ; the heir of the Earl of Warwick married another.
The crown and church lands had sold well and their pur-
chasers had formed a guard for the new order of things,
like that formed for the French revolution by the peasant
proprietary which it had created, though on a far smaller
scale. Foreign powers evidently thought the Protectorate
firmly established. Financial difficulties were pressing;
there was a debt of upwards of two millions and an an-
nual deficit*, parliamentary supply was indispensable; but
Cromwell was looking forward to meeting parliament
again, and apparently with a fair prospect of success.

On the threshold of success was death ; it was death 1658
for the Protector in a strange form ; for, after all the
battles and sieges, and all the plots of assassins, he died of
grief at the loss of a favourite daughter and of watching
at her side. When he found his end approaching he
turned resolutely from the world to God. Napoleon's last
words were '-'•Tete d'armee'^; Cromwell's were a prayer
not unworthy to be the last utterance of Puritanism, which
in fact expired when he died. A hurricane which blew
just before his death seemed to mark the momentous <3har-
acter of the event, and to presage the storms which were •
to come.

VOL. 1 — 41



642 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

Hallam, the most orthodox of Whigs, hating the relig-
ious enthusiast and the political usurper, says that the
Protector had sucked only the dregs of a besotted fanat-
icism, and contrasts him with Napoleon, to whom the
stores of reason and philosophy were open. Cromwell's
fanaticism, at all events, did not lead him to sacrifice the
lives of millions and the happiness of nations to the star
of his own destiny. Yet he had set out as a fanatic,
though his fanaticism was sincere and grand. Nor could
he ever entirely put off the intellectual or the moral
obliquity by which the character is beset. Up dangerous
paths he had climbed, or rather had been drawn, to the
height of power, and no doubt he had more than once
slipped on the way. On one terrible occasion he had
slipped indeed- That he had been led far from the sim-
plicity of his early faith and enthusiasm, he was not uncon-
scious. On his death-bed, he asked a minister whether
those who had once been in a state of grace could fall
from it, and being told that they could not, said that if it
was so, he was saved, for he was sure that he had once
oeen in a state of grace. He had undergone the evil influ-
ences, not only of faction, but of civil strife. His vision
as a statesman could not extend beyond the horizon of his
age, an age of state churches, of commercial monopoly, of
religious and territorial war. But without being a demi-
god, he may have been a very great man. Nor is it
strange that to a very great man a great nation in the
throes of a revolution which stirred the depths of its soul,
should have given birth. The Protector's greatness ex-
torted the respect of enemies who countenanced plots
against his life and afterwards trampled on his corpse. So
much surely has never been done by any other ruler in



XXIII THE PROTECTORATE 643

five troubled years, amidst constant danger to his person
as well as to his government. A longer period of Crom-
well, or of persistence in his policy, might have averted
not only the reaction in England, with all the evil which
it wrought, but the ascendancy of Louis XIV., and have
changed the course of European history. The three king-
doms would have remained united, free trade among them
might have sealed the union, and they would all have been
rid of state prelacy. For the time Cromwell's work was
undone, and on his fame settled a cloud of obloquy, which
now and then lifted when disaster and disgrace under
other governments forced England to think of his glory.
Nor was this feeling otherwise than creditable to the
nation so far as it arose from abhorrence, however mis-
directed, of usurpation, and from respect for constitutional
liberty and law. The cloud is now dispersed, and Crom-
well's work and name are accepted by his countrymen, to
some of whom, perhaps, he has become an object of ex-
cessive admiration. As the world goes on and intelli-
gence spreads the importance of individual leaders grows
less, and hero-worship as a serious theory, if it is appli-
cable to the past, is not applicable to the present. Yet,
at a crisis, there may still be a call for a leader, and
it is something to know that England has produced a
leader indeed. Posthumous influence through their
works is given to many, personal influence beyond their
lives to few, but among those few is Oliver Cromwell.
Maidstone, who was steward of the Protector's house-
hold, said after his death, when flattery, at all events, was
mute, " His body was well compact and strong, his
stature under six feet (I believe, about two inches), his
head so shaped as you might see it a store-house and shop



044 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

both, of a vast treasury of natural parts. His temper
exceedingly fiery, as I have known ; but the flame of it,
kept down for the most part, was soon allayed with those
moral endowments he had. He was naturally compassion-
ate towards objects in distress, even to an effeminate
measure ; though God had made him a heart wherein was
left little room for any fear but what was due to Himself,
of which there was large proportion. A larger soul, 1
think, hath seldom dwelt in a house of clay than his was.
I do believe, if his story were impartially transmitted, and
the unprejudiced world well possessed with it, she would
add him to her nine worthies, and make up that number a
decemviri. He lived and died in comfortable communion
with God, as judicious persons near him well observed.
He was that Mordecai ' that sought the welfare of his
people, and spake peace to his seed ;' yet were his temp-
tations such as it appeared frequently that he, that hath
grace enough for many men, may have too little for him-
self ; the treasure he had being but in an earthen vessel,
and that equally defiled with original sin as any other
man's nature is." The last sentence shows that Maidstone,
though a loving, was not a wholly uncritical observer.


Evolutionists must admit that, after all, much depends
upon the man. Who was to fill Cromwell's place? It
seems that he had executed a paper naming his successor,
but the paper could not be found. There appears no
reason to doubt that in his last moments he nominated his
eldest son, Richard. Richard was weak, as his father must
have too well known. But who else was there? Henry,
the younger son, was a man of fine character and had ruled
Ireland well, but he was not strong enough to stand by



XXIII THE PROTECTORATE 645

his own strength alone. Ireton was dead. Of the army
chiefs not one was a statesman ; Lambert, the most brill-
iant soldier, least of all. Fleetwood was not more than
respectable. Desborough was a hot republican full of tur-
bulent ambition. Thurloe and Broghill were statesmen,
but they had no hold on the army and no following.
There was Fairfax ; but Fairfax had sunk the soldier of
the Commonwealth in the grandee, and had married his
daughter to the by no means Puritan Duke of Buck-
ingham. Richard had the shadow of hereditary right.
He was a country gentleman and sportsman with little of
the Puritan about him. He had scarcely mingled in poli-
tics ; he was free from the stain of regicide ; he had made
no enemies ,* he was personally popular even with Cava-
liers. On the other hand, he was not a soldier and had no
hold upon the army. His undisturbed succession, how-
ever, showed that the Protectorate had taken root. Pro-
fessions of adhesion came in from all the counties. Foreign
powers recognized at once. Neither Mazarin nor Lewis de
Haro would have anything to say to Charles Stuart. The
royalists were passive, and when at length they rose in
the north, under Booth, they were easily put down.
Richard had shown folly and added somewhat to the finan-
cial difficulties by giving his father an enormously costly
funeral, debasing thereby the memory which he intended
to exalt. But in his new elevation he bore himself with
unexpected dignity. He had Thurloe to manage for him,
Broghill and other eminent men in his councils.

Thurloe, managing for the Protectorate, called a parlia- 1658-
ment. He called it on the unref ormed footing, with all
the petty boroughs, which he deemed more favourable to
the government than the reformed ; a bad omen, as well as



646 THE UNITED KINGDOM chap.

a sad relapse. The parliament, however, proved friendly,
and in spite of the desperate resistance of the irrecon-
cilable republicans, the men, as they styled themselves, of
the good old cause, recognized the Protectorate and the
upper House. So far Thurloe and the Protectorate tri-
umphed. But close to Westminster and Whitehall the
storm was gathering at Wallingford house, the residence
of Fleetwood, where he, with Lambert, Desborough, and
other army chiefs, sat brooding over the memory of their
ascendancy and plotting to regain it. They demanded in
effect that Richard should give up to them the command of
the army ; in other words, supreme power. The irrecon-
cilable republicans, madly bent on overturning the Protec-
torate, leagued themselves with the malcontent soldiers.

Richard, though at first he showed a sense of his right
and duty as the head of the state, wanted firmness
for steady resistance, and weakly allowed a convention of
the army to be called. Between that convention and the
parliament a collision ensued. The army chiefs turned
out the parliament by force and deposed the Protector,
who, conscious of his own unfitness for command, was
1669 ready enough to retire, with a moderate provision, into
private life. To throw a decent veil over the government
of the sword, the army chiefs recalled the Rump, which
went to work as if all that had occurred since Pride's
Purge had been a blank. When the Rump tried to
control them, they turned it out again. Then, feeling
that they could not dispense with some show of civil
government, they recalled it once more.

There ensued a wild scene of dissolution and distraction,
while political speculation was running crazy in Harring-



Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 46 of 84)