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land. Cromwell, hearing the momentous news, acted
with even more than his usual swiftness, and having
taken Perth on August 2d, was back again at
Leith two days later, and off from Leith in
pursuit two days after his arrival there. The chase
lasted a month. Charles and twenty thousand Scots
took the western road, as Hamilton had done in 1648.
England w^as, in Cromwell's phrase, much more un-
steady in Hamilton's time than now, and the Scots
tramped south from Carlisle to Worcester without any
signs of that eager rising against the Commonwealth
on which they had professed to count. They found
themselves foreigners among stolid and scowling
natives. The Council of State responded to Crom-
well's appeal with extraordinary vigilance, fore-
thought, and energy. They despatched letters to the
militia commissioners over England, urging them to
collect forces and to have them in the right places.
They dwelt on the king's mistaken calculations, how
the counties, instead of assisting him everywhere with
the cheerfulness on which he was reckoning, had united
against him ; and how, after all his long march, scarcely
anybody joined him, "except such whose other crimes
seek shelter there, by the addition of that one more."
The lord-general, making his way south in hard
marches bv Berwick, York, Xottino-ham, was forced to


leave not a few of his veterans on the way, worn out
by sickness and the hardships of the last winter's cam-
paign in Scotland. These the Council directed should
be specially refreshed and tended.

Cromwell's march from Perth to Worcester, and
the combinations incident to it, have excited the warm
admiration of the military critics of our own time.
The precision of his operations would be deemed re-
markable even in the days of the telegraph, and their
success testifies to Cromwell's extraordinary sureness
in all that concerned the movements of horse, as well
as to the extraordinary military talent of Lambert, on
which he knew that he could safely reckon. Harrison,
who had instantly started after the Scottish invaders
upon his left flank, and Lambert, whom Cromwell
ordered to hang upon their rear, effected a junction on
August 13th. Cromwell, marching steadily on a line
to the east, and receiving recruits as he advanced (from
Fairfax in Yorkshire among others), came up with
Lambert's column on August 24th. Fleetwood joined
them with the forces of militia newly collected in the
south. Thus three separate corps, starting from three
different bases and marching at long distances from
one another, converged at the right point, and four
days later the whole army, some thirty thousand strong,
lay around Worcester. "Not Napoleon, not Moltke,
could have done better" (Honig, IIL, p. 136). The
energy of the Council of State, the skill of Lambert
and Harrison, and above all the stanch aversion of the
population from the invaders, had hardly less to do
with the result than the strategy of Oliver.

It was indispensable that Cromwell's force should
be able to operate at once on both banks of the Severn.
Fleetwood succeeded in crossing Upton Bridge from
the left bank to the right, seven miles below Worcester,


thus securing access to both banks. About midway
between Worcester and Upton, the tributary Teme
flows into the Severn, and the decisive element in the
struggle consisted in laying two bridges of boats, one
across the Teme, and the other across the Severn, both
of them close to the junction of the broader stream
with the less. This was the work of the afternoon of
September 3d, the anniversary of Dunbar, and it be-
came possible for the Cromwellians to work freely
with a concentrated force on either left bank or right.
The battle w^as opened by Fleetwood after he had
transported one of his wings by the bridge of boats
over the Teme, and the other by Powick Bridge, a
short distance up the stream on the left. As soon as
Fleetwood advanced to the attack, the Scots on the
right bank of the Severn offered a strong resistance.
Cromwell passed a mixed force of horse and foot over
his Severn Bridge to the relief of Fleetwood. To-
gether they beat the enemy from hedge to hedge, till
they beat him into Worcester. The scene then
changed to the left bank. Charles, from the cathedral
tower observing that Cromwell's main force was en-
gaged in the pursuit of the Scots betw^een the Teme and
the city, drew all his men together and sallied out on
the eastern side. Here they pressed as hard as they
could upon the reserve that Cromwell had left behind
him before joining Fleetwood. He now in all haste
recrossed the Severn, and a furious engagement fol-
lowed, lasting for three hours at close quarters and
often at push of pike and from defense to defense. The
end was the "total defeat and ruin of the enemy's
army; and a possession of the town, our men entering
at the enemy's heels and fighting with them in the
streets with very great courage." The Scots fought
with desperate tenacity. The carnage was what it

From a miniature on ivory in the collection of Sir Richard Tangye.


always is in street warfare. Some three thousand
men lay dead ; twice or even three times as many were
taken prisoners, including most of the men of high
station; Charles was a fugitive. Not many of the
Scots ever saw their homes again.

Such was the battle of Worcester, as stiff a contest,
says the victor, as ever I have seen. It was Oliver's
last battle, the "Crowning Mercy." In what sense
did this great military event deserve so high a title?
It has l)een said, that as military commander Crom-
well's special work was not the overthrow of Charles
I, but the rearrangement of the relations of the three
kingdoms. Such a distinction is arbitrary or para-
doxical. Neither at Naseby and Preston, nor at
Dunbar and Worcester, was any indelible stamp im-
pressed upon the institutions of the realm ; no real in-
corporation of Ireland and Scotland took place or was
then possible. Here, as elsewhere, w^hat Cromwell's
military genius and persistency secured by the subju-
gation alike of king and kingdoms, was that the waves
of anarchy should not roll over the work, and that
enough of the conditions of unity and order should
be preserved to ensure national safety and progress
when affairs returned to their normal course. In Ire-
land this provisional task w^as so ill comprehended as
to darken all the future. In Scotland its immediate
and positive results were transient, but there at least
no barriers were raised against the happier relations
that were to come after.



WHEN God, said Milton, has giveii victory to the
cause, "then comes the task to those worthies
which are the soul of that enterprise to be sweated and
labored out amidst the throng and noises of vulgar and
irrational men." Often in later days Cromwell used
to declare that after the triumph of the cause at Wor-
cester, he would fain have withdrawn from promi-
nence and power. These signs of fatigue in strong men
are often sincere and always vain. Outer circumstance
prevents withdrawal, and the inspiring demon of
the mind within prevents it. This was the climax of
his glory. Nine years had gone since conscience,
duty, his country, the cause of civil freedom, the cause
of sacred truth and of the divine purpose, had all, as
he believed, summoned him to arms. With miracu-
lous constancy victory had crowned his standards.
Unlike Conde, or Turenne, or almost any general that
has ever lived, he had in all these years of incessant
warfare never suffered a defeat. The rustic captain of
horse was lord-general of the army that he had brought
to be the best disciplined force in Europe. Tt was now
to be seen wdiether the same genius and the same for-
tune would mark his handling of civil affairs and the
ship of state plunging among the breakers. It was
certain that he would be as active and indefatigable in


peace as he liad proved himself in war; that energy
would never fail, even if depth of counsel often failed;
that strenuous watchfulness would never relax, even
though calculations went again and again amiss; that
it would still be true of him to the end, that he was a
strong man, and in the deep perils of war, in the high
places of the field, hope shone in him like a pillar of
fire when it had gone out in all others. A spirit of
confident hope, and the halo of past success — these are
two of the manifold secrets of a great man's power,
and a third is a certain moral unity that impresses him
on others as a living whole. Cromwell possessed all
three. Whether he had the other gifts of a wise ruler
in a desperate pass, only time could show.

The victorious general had a triumphant return.
The Parliament sent five of its most distinguished
members to greet him on his march, voted him a grant
of £4000 a year in addition to £2500 voted the year
before, and they gave him Hampton Court as a coun-
try residence. He entered the metropolis, accom-
panied not only by the principal officers of the army,
but by the Speaker, the Council of State, the Lord
Mayor, the aldermen and sheriffs, and many thousand
other persons of quality, while an immense multitude
received the conqueror of Ireland and Scotland with
volleys of musketry and loud rejoicing. In the midst
of acclamations that Cromwell took for no more than
they were worth, it was observed that he bore himself
with great affability and seeming humility. With a
touch of the irony that was rare in him, but can never
be wholly absent in any that meddle with affairs of
politics and party, he remarked that there would have
been a still mightier crowd to see him hanged. \\^hen-
ever \\'orcester was talked of. he never spoke of him-
self, but talked of the gallantry of his comrades, and


gave the glory to God. Yet there were those who
said "this man will make himself our king," and in
days to come his present modesty was set down to
craft. For it is one of the elements in the poverty of
human nature that as soon as people see a leader know-
ing how to calculate, they slavishly assume that the
aim of his calculations can be nothing else than his own
interest. Cromwell's moderation was in truth the
natural bearing of a man massive in simplicity, purged
of self, and who knew far too well how many circum-
stances work together for the unfolding of great
events, to dream of gathering all the credit to a single

Bacon in a single pithy sentence had, in 1606, fore-
shadowed the whole policy of the Commonwealth of
1650. This Kingdom of England, he told the House
of Commons, "having Scotland united, Ireland re-
duced, the sea provinces of the Low Countries con-
tracted, and shipping maintained, is one of the greatest
monarchies in forces truly esteemed that hath been in
the world." The Commonwealth on Cromwell's re-
turn from the "Crowning Mercy" had lasted for two
years and a half (February i, 1649 — September,
1651). During this period its existence had been
saved mainly by Cromwell's victorious suppression of
its foes in Ireland and in Scotland, and partly by cir-
cumstances in France and Spain that hindered either of
the two great monarchies of western Europe from
armed intervention on behalf of monarchy in England.
Its Protestantism had helped to shut out the fallen
sovereignty from the active sympathy of the sacred
circle of Catholic kings. Cromwell's military success
in the outlying kingdoms was matched by correspond-
ing progress achieved through the energy and policy of
the civil government at Westminster. At Christmas,


1650, or less than two years after the execution of
Charles, an ambassador from the King of Spain was
received in audience by the ParHament, and presented
his credentials to the Speaker. France, torn by in-
testine discord and with a more tortuous game to play,
was slower, but in the winter of 1652 the Common-
wealth was duly recognized by the government of
Louis XIV, the nephew of the king whom the leaders
of the Commonw^ealth had slain.

Less than justice has usually been done to the bold
and skilful exertions by which the Council of State
had made the friendship of England an object of keen
desire both to France and to Spain. The creation of
the navy, by which Blake and other of the amphibious
sea-generals won some of the proudest victories in all
the annals of English seamanship, was not less strik-
ing and hardly less momentous than the creation of the
army of the New Model. For the first time, says
Ranke, since the days of the Plantagenets an English
fleet was seen in the Mediterranean, and Blake, who
had never been on the quarter-deck of a man-of-war
until he was fifty, was already only second in renown to
Oliver himself. The task of maritime organization
was carried through by the vigor, insight, and adminis-
trative talents of Vane and the other men of the Parlia-
ment, who are now so often far too summarily de-
spatched as mere egotists and pedants. By the time that
Cromwell had effected the subjugation of Ireland which
Ireton, Ludlow, and Fleetwood completed, and the sub-
jugation of Scotland which Monk and Deane com-
pleted, he found that the Council of State had been as
active in suppressing the piratical civil war waged by
Rupert at sea, as he himself had been with his iron vet-
erans on land. What was more, they had opened a mo-
mentous chapter of maritime and commercial policy.


111 will had sprung up early between the Dutch and
English republics, partly from the dynastic relations
between the house of Stuart and the house of Orange,
partly from repugnance in Holland to the shedding of
the blood of King Charles, and most of all from the
keen instincts of commercial rivalry. It has been justly
remarked as extraordinary that the tw'o republics,
threatened both of them by Stuart interests, by Catho-
lic interests, and by France, should now for the first
time make war on each other. In the days of their
struggle with Spain the Dutch did their best to per-
suade Queen Elizabeth to accept their allegiance and
to incorporate the United Provinces in the English
realm. Now it was statesmen of the English Com-
monwealth w4io dreamed of adding the Dutch Republic
to the union of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Of
this dream in shape so definite nothing could come, and
even minor projects of friendship were not discussed
without a degree of friction that speedily passed into
downright animosity. To cripple the naval power of
Holland would at once satisfy the naval pride of the
new Commonwealth, remove a source of military dan-
ger, and exalt the maritime strength and the commer-
cial greatness of England. The Navigation Act of
1 65 1 was passed, the one durable moment of republican
legislation. By this famous measure goods were only
to be admitted into England either in English ships,
or else in ships of the country to wdiich the goods
belonged. Whatever else came of it — and its effects
to the direct and indirect were deep and far-reaching
for many years to come — the Navigation Act made
a breach in the Dutch monopoly of the world's
carrying trade. An unfriendly Holland seemed as
direct a peril as the enmity of France or Spain, and
before long it was perceived how easily a combination


between Holland and Denmark, by closing the gates of
the Baltic, might exclude England from free access to
the tar, cordage, and the other prime requisites for the
building and rigging of her ships. The blow at the
Dutch trade monopoly was a fresh irritant to Dutch
pride, already embittered by the English claim to
supremacy and the outward symbols of supremacy in
the narrow seas, as well as to a right of seizure of the
goods of enemies in neutral ships. War followed
(1652) and was prosecuted by the Commonwealth
with intrepidity, decision, and vigor not unworthy of
the ancient Senate of Rome at its highest. Cromwell
had little share, so far as we are able to discern, in this
memorable attempt to found the maritime ascendancy
of England ; that renown belongs to Vane, the organ-
izer, and to Blake, Deane, and Monk, the sea-generals.

To Cromwell for the time a war between two Prot-
estant republics seemed a fratricidal war. It was in
conflict with that ideal of religious union and Eng-
land's place in Europe, which began to ripen in his
mind as soon as the stress of war left his imagination
free to survey the larger world. Apart from this, he
grudged its consumption of treasure, and the vast bur-
den that it laid upon the people. He set the charge at
£120,000 a month, or as much as the whole of the taxes
came to, and there was besides the injury done by war
to trade. The sale of church lands, king's lands, and
delinquent's lands did not suffice to fill the gulf. Em-
barrassed finance as usual deepened popular discontent,
heightened the unpopularity of the government, and
put off the day of social and political consolidation.
Events or visions were by-and-by to alter Cromwell's
mind, not for the better.

In the settlement of the nation no progress was
made. Dangerous reefs still showed at every hand on


the face of the angry sea. The ParHament in 1646
had ordered the estabhshment of the Presbyterian sys-
tem, but the country was indifferent or hostile ; classes,
elderships, synods were in decay; even the standard
confession of faith was still in essential articles uncon-
firmed by law ; the fierce struggle over toleration was
still indecisive and unsettled; ecclesiastical confusion
was complete. The Westminster divines, after long
buf¥etings from the Erastian Parliament, and the tri-
umphs of the hated Independents, had ceased to sit
soon after the king's death. Presbyterian had become
frankly a name for a party purely political. The state
was as little settled as the church. For the formal
machinery of government Cromwell cared little. What
he sought, what had been deep in his mind amid all
the toils of war, was the opening of a new way for
righteousness and justice. Parliament, the State, the
strength and ordering of a nation, to him were only
means for making truth shine in the souls of men, and
right and duty prevail in their life and act. "Disown
yourselves," he exhorted the Parliament after the vic-
tory at Dunbar, "but own your authority ; and improve
it to curb the proud and insolent, such as would dis-
turb the tranquillity of England, though under what
specious pretenses soever. Relieve the oppressed, hear
the groans of poor prisoners in England. Be pleased
to reform the abuses of all professions ; and if there
be any one that makes many poor to make a few rich,
that suits not a Commonwealth."

In the course of an interview that Cromwell sought
with him, Ludlow hinted pretty plainly the suspicions
that influenced this austere party. They had not liked
the endeavor to come to terms with the king, and they
were shocked by the execution of the mutineer at Ware.
Cromwell owned dissatisfaction at the attempted treaty

by S. Cooper at Windsor Castle, by special permission
of Her INIajesty the Queen.

From a



with the king to be reasonable, and excused the exe-
cution done upon the soldier as absolutely necessary
to prevent things from falling into confusion. He
then said that the Lord was accomplishing wdiat was
prophesied in the i loth Psalm, and launched out for at
least an hour, says Ludlow, w^ith an audible moan, in
the exposition of that Psalm. Finally he follow'ed up
his declaration of fidelity to a free and equal Common-
wealth by describing how^ the substance of what he
sought was a thorough reformation of the clergy and
the law. And he traveled so far on the road with the
Leveler and the Digger as to declare that "the law, as
it is now constituted, serves only to maintain the law-
yer, and to encourage the rich to oppress the poor."
This was in truth the measure of Cromw^ell's ideals of
social reform. Although, however, law-reform and
church-reform w'ere the immediate ends of government
in his eyes, the questions of Parliamentary or other
machinery could not be evaded. Was the sitting frag-
ment of a House of Commons fit to execute these re-
forms, or fit to frame a scheme for a future constitu-
tion? Was it to continue in permanence whole or
partial? Cromwell's first step on his return was to
persuade a majority to fix a date at w^hich the Parlia-
ment should come to an end. and when that was
done we hear little more of him for many months.
It was easy to see wdiat would follow. The date fixed
for the expiry of the Parliament was three years off.
The time was too long for effective concentration, and
too short for the institution of a great scheme of com-
prehensive reform. A provisional government work-
ing within the limits of a fixed period, inevitably works
at a heavy disadvantage. Everything is expected
from it, yet its authority is impaired. Anxiety to
secure the future blunts attention to the urs^encies of


the present. Men with a turn for corruption seek to
make hay while the sun shines. Parties are shifting
and unstable. The host of men who are restless with-
out knowing what it is that they want, are never so
dangerous. A governing body in such a situation was
certain to be unpopular. "I told them," said Crom-
well afterward, "for I knew it better than any one man
in the Parliament could know it ; because of my manner
of life which had led me everywhere up and down the
nation, thereby giving me to see and know the temper
and spirits of all men, and of the best of men — that
the nation loathed their sitting."

This was probably true enough; unfortunately the
systems that were now one after another to take the
place of the Parliament were loathed just as bitterly.
"It is not the manner of settling these constitutional
things," he said, "or the manner of one set of men
or another doing it ; there remains always the grand
question after that; the grand question lies in the ac-
ceptance of it by those who are concerned to yield
obedience to it and accept it." This essential truth of
all sound government he had in the old days pro-
claimed against the constitution-mongers of the camp,
and this was the truth that brought to naught all the
constructive schemes of the six years before him. For
it became more and more apparent that the bulk of the
nation was quite as little disposed to accept the rule of
the army as the rule of the mutilated Parliament.

In December (1651) Cromwell held one of the con-
ferences, in which he had more faith than the event
ever justified, between prominent men in Parliament
and leading officers in the army. He propounded the
two questions, whether a republic or a mixed monarchy
would be best; and if a monarchy, then who should be
the king. The lawyers, St. John, Lenthall, White-


locke, were of opinion that the laws of England were
interwo\-en with monarchy. They were for naming a
period within which one of Charles's sons might come
into the Parliament. Desborough and Whalley could
not see why this, as well as other nations, should not
be governed in the way of a republic. That was the
sentiment of the army. Cromwell thought that it
would be difficult, and inclined to the belief that, if it
could be done with safety and preservation of rights
both as Englishmen and Christians, "a settlement with
somewhat of monarchical power in it would be very

A little later his reflections brought him to use words
of deeper and more direct import. We need invoke
neither craft nor ambition to explain the rise of the
thought in Cromwell's mind that he was perhaps him-
self called to take the place and burden of chief gover-
nor. The providences of ten years had seemed to
mark him as the instrument chosen of heaven for the
doing of a great work. He brooded, as he told men,
over the times and opportunities appointed to him by
God to serve him in ; and he felt that the blessings of
God therein bore testimony to him. After Worcester,
he hoped that he would be allowed to reap the fruits of
his hard labors and hazards, the enjoyment, to wit, of
peace and liberty, and the privileges of a Christian and
a man. Slowly he learned, and was earnestly assured
by others, that this could not be. The continuing un-
settlement was a call to him that, like Joshua of old, he

Online LibraryJohn MorleyOliver Cromwell → online text (page 23 of 35)