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his deliverance. It is worth examining. The Par-
liamentary majority hoped for the establishment of
Presbytery and the restoration of the king, and so did
the Scottish invaders. Yet the English Presbyterians
were forced into hostility to the invaders though both
were declared Covenanters, because Scottish victory
would mean the defeat of the Parliament. The Scot-
tish Presbyterians were hostile or doubtful, because
they found their army in incongruous alliance with
English cavaliers. The Scots under Hamilton were
to fight for the Covenant; their English confederates,
under Langdale, were openly fighting for the antago-
nistic cause of church and king, and refused point-
blank to touch the Covenant. If the Scotch invaders
should win, they would win with the aid of purely
Royalist support in the field, and purely Royalist sym-
pathy in the nation. The day on which they should
enter London would be the day of unqualified triumph
for the king, of humiliation for the English Parlia-
ment, and of final defeat both for the great cause and
i6 241


the bra\e men who for nearly twenty years had toiled
and bled for it. For whose sake, then, was the Pres-
byterian Royalist at Westminster to fast and pray? It
was the sorest dilemma of his life.

If this was the supreme crisis of the rebellion, it
was the supreme moment for Cromwell. On May i,
1648. by order of Fairfax and the council of war, he
rode off to South Wales to take command of the Par-
liamentary forces there. He carried in his breast the
unquenched assurance that he went forth like Moses or
like Joshua, the instrument of the purposes of the Most
High ; but it was not in his temperament to forget that
he might peradventure be misreading the divine coun-
sels, and well he knew that if his confidence were not
made good, he was leaving relentless foes in the Parlia-
ment behind him, and that if he failed in the hazardous
duty that had been put upon him, destruction sure and
unsparing awaited both his person and his cause.
While Cromwell thus went west, Fairfax himself con-
ducted a vigorous and decisive campaign in Kent and
Essex, and then (June 13) sat down before Colchester,
into which a strong body of Royalists had thrown
themselves, and where they made a long and stubborn
defense. Lambert, with a small force, was despatched
north to meet Langdale and the northern cavaliers, and
to check the advance of the Scots. Here (July 8)
Hamilton crossed the border at the head of ten thou-
sand men, ill equipped and ill trained, but counting on
others to follow, and on the aid of three thousand
more under Langdale. Three days later, as it hap-
pened. Cromwell's operations in Wales came to a suc-
cessful end with the capture of Pembroke Castle. He
instantly set his face northward, and by the end of the
month reached Leicester. The marches w^ere long
and severe. Shoes and stockings were worn out, pay


was many months in arrears, plunder was sternly for-
bidden, and not a few of the gallant warriors tramped
barefoot from Wales into Yorkshire. With fire in
their hearts, these tattered veterans carried with them
the issue of the whole long struggle and the destinies
of the three kingdoms. The fate of the king, the
power of Parliament, the future of constitutions, laws,
and churches, were known to hang upon the account
which these few thousand men should be able to give
of the invaders from over the northern border. If the
Parliament had lost Naseby, the war might still have
gone on, whereas if Hamilton should now reach Lon-
don, the king would be master for good.

It was on August 12th that Cromwell joined Lam-
bert on the high fells between Leeds and York, the
united force amounting to some eight thousand men.
Still uncertain whether his enemy would strike through
Yorkshire or follow a western line through Lancashire
and Wales, he planted himself here so as to command
either course. Scouts brought the intelligence that
the Scots and Langdale's force, afterward estimated
by Oliver at twenty-one thousand men, were marching
southward by way of Lancashire and making for Lon-
don. As Cromwell knew, to hinder this was life and
death, and to engage the enemy to fight was his busi-
ness at all cost. Marching through the Craven
country down the valley of the Ribble, he groped his
way until he found himself in touch with the enemy's
left flank at Preston. Hamilton was no soldier: his
counsels were distracted by jealousy and division, na-
tional, political, and religious, his scouting was so ill
done that he did not know that any serious force was
in his neighborhood ; and his line extended over seven
leagues from north to south, Preston about the center,
and the van toward Wigan, with the Ribble between


van and rear. For three days of hard fighting the
battles, named from Preston, lasted. That they were
the result of a deliberately preconceived flank attack,
ingeniously planned from the outset, is no longer be-
lieved. Things are hardly ever so in war, the military
critics say. As in politics, Oliver in the field watched
the progress of events, alert for any chance, and ever
ready to strike on the instant when he knew that the
blow would tell. The general idea in what was now
done was that it would be better to cut off Hamilton
from Scotland than directly to bar his advance to

The first encounter at Preston (August 17) was the
hardest, when English fell upon English. For four
fierce hours Langdale and his north-country Royalists
offered "a very stiff resistance" to the valor and reso-
lution of Cromwell's best troops, and at this point the
Cromwellians were superior in numbers. At last the
Royalists broke; the survivors scattered north and
south, and were no more heard of. Next day it was
the turn of Hamilton and his Scots. With difiiculty
they had got across the Ribble overnight, wet, weary,
and hungry, and Oliver's troopers were too weary to
follow them. At daybreak the Scots pressed on, the
Ironsides at their heels in dogged pursuit, killing and
taking prisoners all the way, though they were only
fifty-five hundred foot and horse against twice as
large a force of Scots. "By night," says Oliver, "we
were very dirty and weary, having marched twelve
miles of such ground as I never rode in my life, the
day being very wet." On the third day (August 19)
the contest went fiercely forward. At Winwick the
Scots made a resolute stand for many hours, and for
a time the English gave way. Then they recovered,
and chased the Scots three miles into Warrington.

From the original portrait at Hamilton Palace.


Hamilton lost heart, and directed Baillie to surrender
his infantry to Cromwell, while he himself marched
on with some three thousand horse over the Cheshire
border into Delamere Forest. 'Tf I had a thousand
horse," wrote Cromwell, "that could but trot thirty
miles. I should not doubt but to give a very good ac-
count of them; but, truly, we are so harassed and
haggled out in this business that we are not able to do
more than walk at an easy pace after them. They are
the miserablest party that ever was; I durst engage
myself with five hundred fresh horse and five hundred
nimble foot, to destroy them all. My horse are mis-
erably beaten out, and I have ten thousand of them
prisoners.'' Hamilton was presently taken (August
25), and so the first campaign in which Cromwell had
held an independent command-in-chief came to a glor-
ious close. When next year Hamilton was put upon
the trial that ended in the scaffold, he said of Crom-
well that he was so courteous and civil as to perform
more than he promised, and that acknowledgment was
due for his favor to the poor wounded gentlemen that
were left behind, and by him taken care of, and "truly
he did perform more than he did capitulate for."

The military student counts Preston the finest ex-
ploit of the war, and even pronounces it the mark of
one of those who are born commanders by the grace
of God. At least we may say that in the intrepid
energy of the commander, the fortitude, stoutness,
and discipline of the men, and the momentous political
results that hung upon their victory, the three days of
Preston are among the most famous achievements of
the time. To complete his task — for he was always
full of that instinct of practical thoroughness which
abhors the leaving of a ragged edge — Cromwell again
turned northward to clear the border of what had been


the rear of Hamilton's force, to recover the two great
border strongholds of Berwick and Carlisle, and so to
compose affairs in Scotland that the same perilous
work should not need to be done over again. He bar-
gained with Argyle, who desired nothing better, for
the exclusion from power of the rival factions of Ham-
iltonians and English, and left a government of ultra-
Presbyterians installed, to the scandal of English In-
dependents, but in fact Cromwell never showed himself
more characteristically politic.

The local risings in England had been stamped out
either by the alertness of the Parliamentary authorities
on the spot, or by the extraordinary vigor of the Derby
House Committee, which was mainly Independent.
Fairfax never showed himself a belter soldier. The
City, as important a factor as the Houses themselves,
and now leaning to the king upon conditions, threat-
efied trouble from time to time ; but opinion wavered,
and in the end the City made no effecti\'e move. The
absence of political agreement among the various ele-
ments was reflected in the absence of Royalist con-
cert. The insurrection in England was too early,
or else the advance from Scotland was too late.
By the time when Cromwell was marching through
the midlands to join Lambert in Yorkshire, the
dead-weight of the majority of the population, who
cared more for quiet than for either king or Parlia-
ment, had for the time put out the scattered fires.
The old international antipathy revived, and even Roy-
alists had seen with secret satisfaction the repulse of
the nation who in their view had sold their king.

Meanwhile in Parliament the Presbyterians at first
had not known what to wish, but they were now at no
loss about what they had to fear. The paradox had
turned out ill. The invaders had been beaten, but


then the invaders were of their own persuasion, and
the victors were the hated Sectaries with toleration
inscribed upon their banners. The soldier's yoke would
be more galling than ever, and the authority of Crom-
well, which had been at its lowest when he set out for
Wales, would be higher than it had ever been when
he should come back from Scotland.

The Lords had become zealous Royalists. They
would not even join the Commons in describing the in-
vading Scots as enemies. In both Houses the Presby-
terians had speedily taken advantage of the absence
of some of the chief Independents in the field, and were
defiantly flying the old colors. In the days when
Oliver was marching with his Ironsides to drive back
the invasion that would have destroyed them all, the
Lords regaled themselves by a fierce attack made upon
the absent Cromwell by one who had been a major of
his and enjoyed his confidence. The major's version
of the things that Oliver had said would have made a
plausible foundation for an impeachment, and at the
same moment Holies, his bitterest enemy, came back
to Westminster and took the Presbyterian lead. So
in the reckless intensity of party hatred the Parliament
were preparing for the destruction of the only man
who could save them from the uncovenanted king.
They were as heated as ever against the odious idea of
toleration. On the day after the departure of Oliver
they passed an ordinance actually punishing with death
any one who should hold or publish not only Atheism,
but Arianism or Socinianism, and even the leading-
doctrines of Arminians, Baptists, and harmless Quak-
ers were made penal. Death was the punishment for
denying any of the mysteries of the Trinity; or that
any of the canonical books of Old Testament or New
is the word of God ; and a dungeon was the punishment


for holding that the baptism of infants is unlawful and
void, or that man is bound to believe no more than his
reason can comprehend. Our heroic Puritan age is
not without atrocious blots.

Nevertheless the Parliamentary persecutors were well
aware that no ordinance of theirs, however savory or
drastic, would be of any avail unless new power were
added to their right arm, and this power, as things
then stood, they could only draw from alliance with
the king. If they could bring him off from the Isle of
Wight to London before Oliver and his men could
return from the north, they might still have a chance.
They assumed that Charles would see that here too
was a chance for him. They failed to discern that
they had no alternative between surrendering on any
terms to the king, whose moral authority they could not
do without, and yielding to the army, whose military
authority was ready to break them. So little insight
had they into the heart of the situation, that they took
a course that exasperated the army, while they per-
sisted in trying to impose such terms upon the king as
nobody who knew him could possibly expect him to
keep. Political incompetency could go no further, and
the same failure inevitably awaited their designs as had
befallen Cromwell when, a year before, he had made a
similar attempt.

On the day after the news of Oliver's success at
Warrington the Parliamentary majority repealed the
vote against further addresses to the king, and then
hurried on to their proposals for a treaty. The nego-
tiations opened at Newport in the Isle of Wight on the
1 8th of September, and were spun out until near the
end of November. "They who had not seen the
king," says Clarendon, "for near two years found his
countenance extremely altered. From the time that

From the original portrait in the collection of the Marqnis of Lothian, at Nevvbattle Abbey, Dalkeith.


his own servants had been taken from him he would
never suffer his hair to be cut, nor cared to have any
new clothes, so that his aspect and appearance was very
different from what it had used to be; otherwise his
health was good, and he was much more cheerful in
his discourses toward all men, than could have been
imagined after such mortification of all kinds. He
was not at all dejected in his spirits, but carried himself
with the same majesty he had used to do. His hair
was all gray, which, making all others very sad, made
it thought that he had sorrow in his countenance,
which appeared only by that shadow." There he sat
at the head of the council-table, the fifteen commission-
ers of the Parliament, including Vane and Fiennes,
the only two men of the Independent wing, seated at a
little distance below him. Charles showed his usual
power of acute dialectic, and he conducted the proceed-
ings with all the cheerfulness, ease, and courtly gravity
of a fine actor in an ironic play. The old ground of
the propositions at Uxbridge, at Newcastle, at Oxford,
at Hampton Court, was once more trodden, with one
or two new interludes. Charles, even when retreating,
fought every inch with a tenacity that was the despair
of men who each hour seemed to hear approaching
nearer and nearer the clatter of the Cromwellian

Church government was now as ever the rock on
which Charles chose that the thing should break off.
Day after day he insisted on the partition of the apos-
tolic office between Bishops and Presbyters, cited the
array of texts from the Epistles, and demonstrated that
Timothy and Titus were cpiscopi pastorum, bishops
over Presbyters, and not cpiscopi grcgis, shepherds
over sheep. In all this Charles was in his element,
for he defended tenets that he sincerely counted sacred.


At length after the distracted ParHament had more
than once extended the allotted time, the end came
(November 27). Charles would agree that Episco-
pacy should be suspended for three years, and that it
might be limited, but he would not assent to its abo-
lition, and he would not assent to an alienation of the
fee of the church lands.

A modern student, if he reads the Newport treaty
as a settlement upon paper, may think that it falls
little short of the justice of the case. Certainly if the
parties to it had been acting in good faith, this or
almost any of the proposed agreements might have
been workable. As it was, any treaty now made at
Newport must be the symbol of a new working coali-
tion between Royalist and Presbyterian, and any such
coalition was a declaration of . war against Indepen-
dents and army. It was to undo the work of Preston
and Colchester, to prepare a third sinister outbreak of
violence and confusion, and to put Cromwell and his
allies back again upon that sharp and perilous razor-
edge of fortune from which they had just saved

It was their own fault again if the Parliament did
not know that Charles, from the first day of the nego-
tiations to the last, was busily contriving plans for his
escape from the island. He seems to have nursed a
wild idea that if he could only find his way to Ireland
he might, in conjunction with the ships from Holland
under the command of Rupert, place himself at the
head of an Irish invasion, with better fortune than had
attended the recent invasion of the Scots. "The great
concession I have made to-day," he wrote to a secret
correspondent, "was merely in order to my escape."
While publicly forbidding Ormonde to go on in Ireland,
privately he writes to him not to heed any open com-


restraint; Ormonde should pursue the way he is in
with all possible vigor, and must not be astonished at
any published concessions, for "they would come to

Watching the proceedings with fierce impatience, at
last the army with startling rapidity brought the
elusive conflict to a crisis. A week before the close
of negotiations at Newport, a deputation from Fairfax
and his general council of officers came up to the house
as bearers of a great remonstrance. Like all that came
from the pen of Ireton, it is powerfully argued, and it
is also marked by his gift of inordinate length. It
fills nearly fifty pages of the Parliamentary history,
and could not have been read by a clerk at the table in
much less than three hours. The points are simple
enough. First, it would be stupidity rather than
charity to suppose that the king's concessions arose
from inward remorse or conviction, and therefore to
continue to treat with him was both danger and folly.
Second, he had been guilty of moral and civil acts
judged capital in his predecessors, and therefore he
ought to be brought to trial. Other delinquents be-
sides the king in both wars, ought to be executed, and
the soldiers ought to have their arrears paid. This
was the upshot of the document that the body of offi-
cers, some of whom had capital sentence executed
upon themselves in days to come, now in respectful
form presented to the House of Commons.

The majority in the Commons, with a high spirit
that was out of all proportion to their power, insisted
on postponing the consideration of the demands of "a
council of Sectaries in arms.'' In fact they never
would nor did consider them, and the giant remon-
strance of the army went into the limbo of all the other


documents in which those times were so marvelously
fertile. As a presentation of the difficulties of the
hour, it is both just and penetrating; but these after
all were quite as easy to see as they were hard to over-
come. We usually find a certain amount of practical
reason even at the bottom of what passes for political
fanaticism. What Harrison and his allies saw was
that if king and Parliament agreed, the army would
be disbanded. If that happened its leaders would be
destroyed for what they had done already. If not,
they would be proclaimed as traitors and hinderers of
the public peace, and destroyed for what they might be
expected to do.

FINAL CRISIS — Cromwell's share in it

IT is one of the mortifications of Cromwell's history
that we are unable accurately to trace his share in
the events that immediately preceded the trial of the
king. It was the most critical act of his history. Yet
at nearly every turn in the incidents that prepared it,
the diligent inquirer is forced to confess that there is
httle evidence to settle what was the precise part that
Cromwell played. This deep reserve and impenetrable
obscurity was undoubtedly one of the elements of his
reputation for craft and dissimulation. If they do not
read a public man in an open page, men are easily
tempted to suspect the worst.

When the negotiations were opened at Newport
Cromwell was on his march into Scotland. He did
not return until the later days of October, when the
army and its leaders had grown uncontrollably restive
at the slow and tortuous course of the dealings between
the king and the commissioners of the Parliament.
Cromwell had thus been absent from Westminster for
six months, since the time of his first despatch to put
down the Royalist rising in Wales. The stress of
actual war had only deepened the exasperation with
which he had watched the gathering clouds, and which
had found expression in the fierce language at the
memorable prayer-meeting at Windsor. All this,



however, is a long way from the decision that events
were hurrying on. and from which more rapid and less
apprehensive minds than his had long ceased to shrink.
With what eyes he watched the new approaches to the
king, he showed in a letter to the Speaker. After giv-
ing his report as a soldier, and showing that affairs in
Scotland were in a thriving posture, he advances (Oc-
tober 9) on to other ground, and uses ominous lan-
guage about "the treachery of some in England, who
had endangered the whole state and kingdom of Eng-
land, and who now had cause to blush." in spite of all
the religious pretences by which they had masked their
proceedings. This could only mean his Presbyterian
opponents. "But God, who is not to be mocked or
deceived, and is very jealous when his name and reli-
gion are made use of to carry on impious designs, has
taken vengeance on such profanity, even to astonish-
ment and admiration. And I wish, from the bottom
of my heart, it may cause all to tremble and repent who
have practised the like, to the blasphemy of his name
and the destruction of his people, so as they may never
presume to do the like again, and 1 think it is not
unseasonable for me to take the humble boldness to
say thus much at this time.''

Writing to Colonel Hammond (November 6), the
custodian of the king, a month later from before the
frowning walls of Pontefract Castle, Cromwell
smiles in good-humored ridicule at the notion that it
would be as safe to expect a good peace from a settle-
ment on the base of moderate Episcopacy as of Pres-
bytery. At the same time he vindicates his own Pres-
byterian settlement in Scotland, throwing out his
guiding principle in a parenthesis of characteristic
fervor and sincerity. "I profess to thee I desire from
my heart, I have prayed for it, I have waited for the


day to see union and right understanding between the
godly people — Scots, English, Jews, Gentiles, Presby-
terians, Independents, Anabaptists, and all." Still if the
king could have looked over Hammond's shoulder as
he read Cromwell's letter, he would not have seen a sin-
gle word pointing to the terrible fate that was now
so swiftly closing upon him. He would have seen
nothing more formidable than a suggestion that the
best course might be to break the sitting Parliament
and call a new one. To Charles this would have little
terror, for he might well believe that no Parliament
could possibly be called under which his life would be
put in peril.

A few days later Cromwell gave signs of rising
anger in a letter to two members of Parliament, who
inclined to lenient courses toward delinquents. "Did
not the House," he asks, "vote every man a traitor who
sided with the Scots in their late invasion? And not
without very clear justice, this being a more prodigious
treason than any that hath been perfected in England
before, because the former cjuarrel was that English-

Online LibraryJohn MorleyOliver Cromwell → online text (page 18 of 35)