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revolutions, as they move forward, stratum is super-
imposed above stratum. Coke, Selden, Eliot, Hampden,
Pym, the first generation of constitutional reformers,
were now succeeded by a new generation of various
revolutionary shades — Ireton, Ludlow, Hutchinson,
Algernon Sidney, Fleetwood, and Blake. Cromwell,
from his success as commander, his proved experience,
and his stern adherence to the great dividing doctrine
of toleration, was the natural leader of this new and
powerful group. Sidney's stoical death years after
on Tower Hill, and Blake's destruction of the Spanish
silver-galleons in the bay of Santa Cruz, the most
splendid naval achievement of that age, have made a
deeper mark on historic imagination, but for the pur-
poses of the hour it was Ireton who had the more im-
portant part to play. Ireton, now five-and-thirty, was
the son of a country gentleman in Nottinghamshire,


had been bred at Oxford, and read law in the Temple.
He had fought at Edgehill, had ridden by Cromwell's
side at Gainsborough and Marston Moor, and, as we
have seen, was in command of the horse on the left
wing at Naseby, where his fortune was not good.
No better brain was then at work on either side, no
purer character. Some found that he had "the prin-
ciples and the temper of a Cassius in him," for no
better reason than that he was firm, never shrinking
from the shadow of his convictions, active, discreet,
and with a singular power of drawing others, includ-
ing first of all Cromwell himself, over to his own
judgment. He had that directness, definiteness, and
persistency to which the Pliables of the world often
misapply the ill-favored name of fanaticism. He was
a man, says one, regardless of his own or any one's
private interest wherever he thought the public service
might be advantaged. He was very active, indus-
trious, and stiff in his ways and purposes, says an-
other; stout in the field, and wary and prudent in
counsel ; exceedingly forward as to the business of the
Commonwealth. "Cromwell had a great opinion of
him, and no man could prevail so much, nor order
him so far, as Ireton could." He was so diligent in the
public service, and so careless of all belonging to him-
self, that he never regarded what food he ate, what
clothes he wore, what horse he mounted, or at what
hour he went to rest. Cromwell good-naturedly im-
plies in Ireton almost excessive fluency with his pen;
he does not write to him, he says, because "one line
of mine begets many of his." The framing of con-
stitutions is a pursuit that has fallen into just dis-
credit in later days, but the power of intellectual con-
centration and the constructive faculty displayed in
Ireton's plans of constitutional revision, mark him as


a man of the first order in that line. He was enough
of a lawyer to comprehend with precision the prin-
ciples and forms of government, but not too much
of a lawyer to prize and practise new invention and
resource. If a fresh constitution could have been
made, Ireton was the man to make it. Not less re-
markable than his grasp and capacity of mind was
his disinterestedness. When he was serving in Ire-
land, Parliament ordered a settlement of two thou-
sand pounds a year to be made upon him. The news
was so unacceptable to him that when he heard of it
he said that they had many just debts they had better
pay before making any such presents, and that for
himself he had no need of their land and would have
none of it. It was to this comrade in arms and coun-
sel that Cromwell, a year after Naseby (1646), gave
in marriage his daughter Bridget, then a girl of two-

The king's surrender to the Scots created new en-
tanglements. The episode lasted from May, 1646, to
January, 1647. It made worse the bad feeling that
had for long been growing between the English and
the Scots. The religious or political quarrel about
uniform presbytery, charges of military uselessness,
disputes about money, disputes about the border
strongholds, all worked with the standing interna-
tional jealousy to produce a tension that had long been
dangerous, and in another year in the play of Scottish
factions against one another was to become more dan-
gerous still.

Terms of a settlement had been propounded to the
king in the Nineteen Propositions of York, on the
eve of the war in 1642; in the treaty of Oxford at
the beginning of 1643; i" the treaty of Uxbridge in
1644-45, the failure of which led to the New Model

at \Vlnd^.ir Castle.
Majesty the Queen.



and to Naseby. By the Nineteen Propositions now
made to him at Newcastle the king was to swear to
the Covenant, and to make all his subjects do the
same. Archbishops, bishops, and all other dignitaries
were to be utterly abolished and taken away. The
children of papists were to be educated by Protestants
in the Protestant faith; and mass was not to be said
either at court or anywhere else. Parliament was to
control all the military forces of the kingdom for
twenty years, and to raise money for them as it might
think fit. An immense list of the king's bravest
friends was to be proscribed. Little wonder is it that
these proposals, some of them even now so odious,
some so intolerable, seemed to Charles to strike the
crown from his head as effectually as if it were the
stroke of the ax.

Charles himself never cherished a more foolish
dream than this of his Scottish custodians, that he
would turn Covenanter. Scottish Covenanters and
English Puritans found themselves confronted by a
conscience as rigid as their own. Before the summer
was over, the king's madness, as it seemed to them,
had confounded all his Presbyterian friends. They
were in no frame of mind to apprehend even dimly
the king's views of the divine right of bishops as the
very foundation of the Anglican Church, and the one
sacred link with the church universal. Yet they were
themselves just as tenacious of the divine right of
presbytery. Their Independent enemies looked on
with a stern satisfaction that was slowly beginning to
take a darker and more revengeful cast.

In spite of his asseverations, nobody believed that
the king "stuck upon Episcopacy for any conscience."
Here, as time was to show, the world did Charles
much less than justice; but he did not conceal from


the queen and others who urged him to swallow Pres-
bytery, that he had a political no less than a religious
objection to it. "The nature of Presbyterian govern-
ment is to steal or force the crown from the king's
head, for their chief maxim is (and I know it to be
true) that all kings must submit to Christ's kingdom,
of which they are the sole governors, the king having
but a single and no negative voice in their assemblies."
When Charles said he knew this to be true, he was
thinking of all the bitter hours that his father had
passed in conflict with the clergy. He had perhaps
heard of the scene between James VI and Andrew
Melville in 1596; how the preacher bore him down,
calling the king God's silly vassal, and taking him by
the sleeve, told him that there are two kings and
two kingdoms in Scotland : there is Christ Jesus the
King, and his kingdom the kirk, whose subject King
James VI is, and of whose kingdom not a king, not
a lord, not a head, but a member. "And they whom
Christ has called and commanded to watch over his
kirk and govern his spiritual kingdom, have sufficient
power of him and authority so to do, the which no
Christian, king nor prince, should control and dis-
charge, but fortify and assist."

The sincerity of his devotion to the church did not
make Charles a plain-dealer. He agreed to what was
proposed to him about Ireland, supposing, as he told
Bellievre, the French ambassador, that the ambiguous
expression found in the terms in which it was drawn
up, would give him the means by-and-by of interpret-
ing it to his advantage. Charles, in one of his letters
to the queen, lets us see what he means by an am-
biguous expression. 'Tt is true," he tells her, "that it
may be I give them leave to hope for more than I
intended, but my words are only 'to endeavor to give


them satisfaction.' " Then he is anxious to explain
that though it is true that as to places he gives them
some more hkely hopes, "yet neither in that is there
any absolute engagement, but there is the condition
'of giving me encouragement thereunto by their
ready inclination to peace' annexed with it."

It is little wonder that just as Royalists took dis-
simulation to be the key to Cromwell, so it has been
counted the master vice of Charles. Yet Charles was
not the only dissembler. At this moment the Scots
themselves boldly declared that all charges about their
dealing with Mazarin and the queen were wholly false,
when in fact they were perfectly true. In later days
the Lord Protector dealt with Mazarin on the basis of
toleration for Catholics, but his promises were not to
be publicly announced. Revolutions do not make the
best soil for veracity. It would be hard to deny that
before Charles great dissemblers had been wise and
politic princes. His ancestor King Henry VII, his
predecessor Queen Elizabeth of famous memory, his
wife's father Henry IV of France, Louis XI, Charles
V, and many another sagacious figure in the history
of European states, had freely and effectively adopted
the maxims of Machiavelli. In truth, the cause of
the king's ruin lay as much in his position as in his
character. The directing portion of the nation had
made up its mind to alter the relations of crown and
Parliament, and it was hardly possible in the nature
of things — men and kings being what they are —
that Charles should passively fall into the new posi-
tion that his victorious enemies had made for him.
Europe has seen many constitutional monarchies at-
tempted or set up within the last hundred years. In
how many cases has the new system been carried on
without disturbing an old dynasty? We may say


of Charles I what has been said of Louis XVL
Every day they were asking the king for the impos-
sible — to deny his ancestors, to respect the constitu-
tion that stripped him, to love the revolution that de-
stroyed him. How could it be?

It is beside the mark, again, to lay the blame upon
the absence of a higher intellectual atmosphere. It
was not a bad intellectual basis that made the catas-
trophe certain, but antagonism of will, the clash of
character, the violence of party passion and person-
ality. The king was determined not to give up what
the reformers were determined that he should not
keep. He felt that to yield would be to betray both
those who had gone before him, and his children who
were to come after. His opponents felt that to fall
back would be to go both body and soul into chains.
So Presbyterians and Independents feared and hated
each other, not merely because each failed in intellec-
tual perception of the case of their foe. but because
their blood was up. because they believed dissent in
opinion to mean moral obliquity, because sectional
interests were at stake, and for all those other reasons
which spring from that spirit of sect and party which
is so innate in man, and always mingles so much evil
with whatever it may have of good.

The undoing of Charles was not merely his turn
for intrigue and double-dealing; it was blindness to
signs, mismeasurement of forces, dishevelled confu-
sion of means and ends. Unhappily mere foolishness
in men responsible for the government of great states
is apt to be a curse as heavy as the crimes of tyrants.
With strange self-confidence Charles was hard at
work upon schemes and combinations, all at best most
difficult in themselves, and each of them violently in-
consistent wnth the other. He was hopefully nego-

n the original miniature by John Hoskins, at Montagu
House, by permission of the Duke of Buccleuch.



tiating with the Independents, and at the same time
both with the CathoHc Irish and with the Presbyterian
Scots. He looked to the support of the Covenanters,
and at the same time he rehed upon Montrose, be-
tween whom and the Covenanters there was now an
antagonism almost as vindictive as a Corsican blood-
feud. He professed a desire to come to an under-
standing with his people and Parliament, yet he had
a chimerical plan for collecting a new army to crush
both Parliament and people; and he was looking each
day for the arrival of Frenchmen, or Lorrainers, or
Dutchmen or Danes, and their march through Kent
or Suffolk upon his capital. While negotiating with
men to whom hatred of the Pope was the breath of
their nostrils, he was allowing the queen to bargain
for a hundred thousand crowns in one event, and a
second hundred in another, from Antichrist himself.
He must have known, moreover, that nearly every
move in this stealthy game was more or less well
known to all those othen players against whom he
had so improvidently matched himself.

The queen's letters during all these long months
of tribulation shed as much light upon the character
of Charles as upon her own. Complaint of his lack
of constancy and resolution is the everlasting refrain.
Want of perseverance in his plans, she tells him, has
been his ruin. When he talks of peace with the Par-
liament she vows that she will go into a convent, for
she will never trust herself with those who will then
be his masters. "If you change again, farewell for-
ever. If you have broken your resolution, nothing
but death for me. As long as the Parliament lasts
you are no king for me; I will not put my foot in
England." We can have no better measure of
Charles's weakness than that in the hour of adversity,


so desperate for both of them, he should be thus ad-
dressed by a wife to whom he had been wedded for
twenty years.

His submission is complete. He will not have a
gentleman for his son's bedchamber, nor Montrose
for his own bedchamber, without her consent. He
will aot decide whether it is best for him to make
for Ireland, France, or Denmark, until he knows what
she thinks best. "If I quit my conscience," he pleads,
in the famous sentiment of Lovelace, ''how unworthy
I make myself of thy love!" With that curious
streak of immovable scruple so often found in men
in whom equivocation is a habit of mind and practice,
he had carefully kept his oath never to mention mat-
ters of religion to his Catholic queen, and it is only
under stress of this new misconstruction that he seeks
to put himself right with her, by explaining his posi-
tion about apostolic succession, the divine right of
bishops, and the absolute unlawfulness of Presbyte-
rianism, even the ally and confederate of rebellion.

Nothing that he was able to do could disarm the
universal anger and suspicion which the seizure of
the king's papers at Naseby had begun, and the dis-
covery of a copy of Glamorgan's treaty at Sligo (Oc-
tober, 1645) ^^^^ carried still deeper. The Presby-
terians in their discomfiture openly expressed their
fears that the king was now undone forever. Charles
in a panic offered to hand over the management of
Ireland to his Parliament, thus lightly dropping the
whole Irish policy on which he had for long been
acting, flinging to the winds all his engagements, un-
derstandings, and promises to the Irish Catholics,
and handing them over without conditions to the
tender mercies of enemies fiercely thirsting for a
bloody retaliation. His recourse to foreign powers


was well known. The despatch of the Prince of
Wales to join his mother in France was felt to be
the unsealing of "a fountain of foreign war"; as
the queen had got the prince into her hands, she
could make the youth go to mass and marry the
Duke of Orleans's daughter. Ten thousand men
from Ireland were to overrun the Scottish lowlands,
and then to raise the malignant north of England.
The King of Denmark's son was to invade the north
of Scotland with three or four thousand Dutch vet-
erans. Eight or ten thousand French were to join
the remnant of the royal army in Cornwall. Even
the negotiations that had been so long in progress at
Miinster, and were by-and-by to end the Thirty Years'
War and consummate Richelieu's great policy in the
treaties of Westphalia, were viewed with apprehen-
sion by the English reformers, for a peace might
mean the release both of France and Spain for an
attack upon England in these days of divine wrath
and unsearchable judgments against the land. Prayer
and fasting were never more diligently resorted to
than now. The conflict of the two English parties
lost none of its sharpness or intensity. The success
of the policy of the Independents, so remarkably
shown at Naseby, pursued as it had been against com-
mon opinion at Westminster, became more command-
ing with every new disclosure of the king's designs.
In the long and intricate negotiations with the king
and with the Scots at Newcastle, Independent aims
had been justified and had prevailed. The baffled
Presbyterians only became the more embittered. At
the end of January, 1647, ^ ^i^w situation became
defined. The Scots, unable to induce the king to
make those concessions in religion without which not
a Scot would take arms to help him, and having re-


ceived an instalment of the pay that was due to them,
marched away to their homes across the border. Com-
missioners from the Enghsh ParHament took their
place as custodians of the person of the king. By
order of the two houses, Holmby in the county of
Northampton was assigned to him as his residence,
and here he remained until the month of June, when
once more the scene was violently transformed.



IF ever there was in the world a revolution with
ideas as well as interests, with principle and not
egotism for its mainspring, it was this. At the same
time as England, France was torn by civil war, but the
civil war of the Fronde was the conflict of narrow aris-
tocratic interests with the newly consolidated suprem-
acy of the monarch. It was not the forerunner of
the French Revolution, with all its hopes and promises
of a regenerated time; the Fronde was the expiring
struggle of the belated survivors of the feudal age.
The English struggle was very different. Never was
a fierce party conflict so free of men who, in Dante's
blighting phrase, "were for themselves." Yet much
as there was in the Puritan uprising to inspire and
exalt, its ideas, when tested by the pressure of circum-
stance, showed themselves unsettled and vague ; prin-
ciples were slow to ripen, forces were indecisively dis-
tributed, its theology did not help. This was what
Cromwell, henceforth the great practical mind of the
movement, was now painfully to discover.

It was not until 1645 that Cromwell had begun to
stand clearly out in the popular imagination, alike of
friends and foes. He was the idol of his troops. He
prayed and preached among them ; he played uncouth
practical jokes with them; he was not above a snow-

14 209


ball match against them; he was a brisk, energetic,
skilful soldier, and he was an invincible commander.
In Parliament he made himself felt, as having the art of
hitting the right debating-nail upon the head. The saints
had an instinct that he was their man, and that they
could trust him to stand by them when the day of trial
came. A good commander of horse, say the experts,
is as rare as a good commander-in-chief, he needs so
rare a union of prudence with impetuosity. What
Cromwell was in the field he was in council ; bold, but
wary; slow to raise his arm, but swift to strike; fiery
in the assault, but knowing when to draw bridle.
These rare combinations were invaluable; for even the
heated and headlong revolutionary is not sorry to
find a leader cooler than himself. Above all, and as
the mainspring of all, he had heart and conscience.
While the Scots are striving to make the king into a
Covenanter, and the Parliament to get the Scots out of
the country, and the Independents to find means of
turning the political scale against the Presbyterians,
Cromwell finds time to intercede with a Royalist gen-
tleman on behalf of some honest poor neighbors who
are being molested for their theologies. To the same
time (1646) belongs that well-known passage where
he says to one of his daughters that her sister bewails
her vanity and carnal mind, and seeks after what will
satisfy : "And thus to be a Seeker is to be of the best
sect next to a Finder, and such an one shall every faith-
ful, humble Seeker be at the end. Happy Seeker,
happy Finder!"

In no contest in our history has the disposition of
the pieces on the political chessboard been more per-
plexed. What Oliver perceived as he scanned each
quarter of the political horizon was first a Parliament in
which the active leaders were Presbyterians, confronted

THE CRISIS OF 1647 211

by an army, at once suspected and suspicious, whose
active leadeps were Independents. The fervor of the
preachers had been waxing hotter and still hotter, and
the angry trumpet sounding a shriller blast. He saw
the city of London, which had been the mainstay of
the Parliament in the war, now just as strenuous for
a good peace. He saw an army in which he knew that
his own authority stood high, but where events were
soon to show that he did not yet know all the fierce
undercurrents and dark and pent-up forces. Finally,
he saw a king beaten in the field, but still unbending
in defense of his religion, his crown, and his friends,
and boldly confident that nothing could prevent him
from still holding the scale between the two rival bands
of his triumphant enemies. Outside this kingdom he
saw the combative and dogged Scots who had just
been persuaded to return to their own country, still
sharply watching English affairs over the border, and
still capable of drawing the sword for king or for Par-
liament, as best might suit the play of their own in-
furiated factions. Finally there was Ireland, dis-
tracted, dangerous, sullen, and a mainspring of
difficulty and confusion, now used by the Parliament
in one way against the army, and now by the king in
another way against both army and Parliament. The
cause in short, whether Cromwell yet looked so far in
front or not, was face to face with the gloomy alter-
natives of a perfidious restoration, or a new campaign
and war at all hazards.

There is no other case in history where the victors
in a great civil war were left so entirely without the
power of making their own settlement, and the van-
quished so plainly umpires in their own quarrel. The
beaten king was to have another chance, his best and
his last. Even now if we could read old history like


a tale of which we do not know the end, whether it
should be that sentiment has drawn the reader's sym-
pathies to the side of the king, or right reason drawn
them to the side of the king's adversaries, it might
quicken the pulse when he comes to the exciting and
intricate events of 1647, ^"^ sees his favorite cause,
whichever it chances to be, trembling in the scale.

Clarendon says that though the Presbyterians were
just as malicious and as wicked as the Independents,
there was this great difference between them, that the
Independents always did what made for the end they
had in view, while the Presbyterians always did what
was most sure to cross their own design and hinder
their own aim. These are differences that in all ages
mark the distinction between any strong political
party and a weak one; between powerful leaders who
get things done, and impotent leaders who are always
waiting for something that never happens.

The pressure of the armed struggle with the king
being withdrawn, party spirit in Parliament revived in
full vigor. The Houses were face to face with the
dangerous task of disbanding the powerful force that
had fought their battle and established their authority,
and was fully conscious of the magnitude of its work.
To undertake disbandment in England was indispen-
sable; the nation was groaning under the burden of
intolerable taxation, and the necessity of finding troops
for service in Ireland was urgent. The City clamored
for disbandment, and that a good peace should be made
with his Majesty. The party interest of the Presby-
terian majority, moreover, pointed in the same way;

Online LibraryJohn MorleyOliver Cromwell → online text (page 15 of 35)