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of faction, they grasped power, did nothing to redress
the wrong that their rivals had committed.



WHITELOCKE, in his mission to Sweden ( 1653-
1654), saw Oxenstierna, the renowned minister
who had played so great a part in the history of Gus-
tavus Adolphus and of the Protestant world — one of
the sages, not too many of them on his own showing,
who have tried their hand at the go\-ernment of men.
The chancellor enquired about Cromwell's age, health,
children, family, and temper, and said that the things
that he had done argued as much courage and wisdom
as any actions that had been seen for many years. Still
the veteran was not dazzled. He told Whitelocke that
the new Protector's strength would depend upon the
confirmation of his office by Parliament. As it was.
it looked to him like an election by the sword, and the
precedents of such elections had always proved dan-
gerous and not peaceable, ever since the choice of Ro-
man emperors by the legion. Christina, the queen,
went deeper, and hit on a parallel more to the point.
"Your general," she said, "hath done the greatest
things of any man in the world; the Prince of Conde
is next to him, but short of him." Much of his story,
she proceeded, "hath some parallel with that of my an-
cestor Gustavus the First, who from a priv^ate gentle-
man of a noble family was advanced to the title of


Marshal of Sweden, because he had risen up and res-
cued his country from the bondage and oppression
which the King of Denmark had put upon them, and
expelled that king; and for his reward he was at last
elected King of Sweden, and I believe that your gen-
eral will be King of England in conclusion." "Pardon
me. Madam," replied the sedate Whitelocke, "that can-
not be, because England is resolved into a Common-
wealth : and my general hath already sufficient power
and greatness, as general of all their forces both by sea
and land, which may content him." "Resolve what
you will," the queen insisted, "I believe he resolves to
ht king; and hardly can any power or greatness be
called sufficient, when the nature of man is so prone as
in these days to all ambition." Whitelocke could only
say that he found no such nature in his general. Yet
it needed no ambition, but only inevitable memory of
near events, to recall to Cromwell the career of Gus-
tavus Vasa, and we may be sure the case often flitted
through his mind.

Two Parliaments were held during the Protectorate,
the first of them assembling in 1654 on the third of Sep-
tember, the famous anniversary day of the Cromwel-
lian calendar. It lasted barely five months. A glance
at the composition of it was enough to disclose the ele-
ments of a redoubtable opposition. The ghost of the
Long Parliament was there in the persons of Brad-
shaw, Scott, Hazelrigg, and others, and although Vane
was absent, the spirit of irreconcilable alienation from
a personal government resting on the drawn sword was
"both present and active. No Royalist was eligible,
but the Presbyterians of what would now be called the
extreme right were not far from Royalists, and even
the Presbyterians of the center could have little ardor
for a man and a system that marked the triumph of the


hated Independents. The material for combinations
unfriendly to the government was only too evident.

They all heard a sermon in Westminster Abbey,
where the Protector had gone in his coach with pages,
lackeys, lifeguards, in full state. Henry Cromwell
and Lambert sat with him bareheaded in the coach,
perhaps in their different ways the two most capable
of all the men about him. After the sermon they
crossed over from the Abbey to the Painted Chamber,
and there Oliver addressed them in one of his strange
speeches — not coherent, not smooth, not always even
intelligible, but with a strain of high-hearted fervor
in them that pierced through rugged and uncouth
forms ; with the note of a strong man having great
things to say, and wrestling with their very greatness
in saying them ; often rambling, discursive, and over-
loaded ; often little better than rigmarole, even though
the rigmarole be lighted now and again with the flash
of a noble thought or penetrating phrase ; marked by a
curious admixture of the tone of the statesman's coun-
cil-chamber with the tone of the ranter's chapel ; still
impressive by their laboring sincerity, by the weight of
their topics, and by that which is the true force of all
oratory worth talking about, the momentum of the
orator's history, personality, and purpose.

The Protector opened on a high and characteristic
note, by declaring his belief that they represented not
only the interests of three great nations, but the in-
terest of all the Christian world. This was no rhetor-
ician's phrase, but a vivid and unchanging ideal in his
mind after he had gained a position lofty enough to
open to his gaze the prospect beyond the English
shores. Here hyperbole ended, and the speech became
a protest against the Leveling delusions of the Saints
and the extremists; a vindication of the policy of the


government in making- peace abroad, and saving trea-
sure and settling religion at home ; and an exhortation
to a holy and gracious understanding of one another
and their business. The deeply marked difference in
tone from the language in which he had opened the
Little Parliament indicates the growing reaction in
the Protector's own mind, and the rapidity with which
he was realizing the loud call for conservative and
governing quality in face of the revolutionary wreck-

The specters of old dispute at once rose up. Those
who could recall the quarrel between king and Parlia-
ment found that after all nothing was settled, hardly
even so much as that the government of the three
kingdoms should be a Parliamentary government.
The mutual suspicions of Parliament and army
were as much alive as ever. The members no sooner
returned to their own chamber than they began in-
stantly to consider the constitution under which they
existed. In other words, they took themselves seri-
ously. No Parliament supposing itself clothed with
popular authority could have been expected to accept
without criticism a ready-made scheme of government
fastened on it by a military junto. If the scheme was
to be Parliamentary, nothing could be more certain
than that Parliament itself must make it so. A Pro-
tector by right of the army was as little tolerable to the
new Parliament as a king by divine right had been to
the old. They sat there by the authority of the good
people of England, and how could it be contended that
this authority did not include the right of judging the
system on which the good people of England were
henceforth to be governed?

That was the very ground on which Oliver had
quarreled with the Rump. He now dealt with the first


Parliament of the Protectorate as decisively, if not
quite so passionately, as with the Parliament of the
Commonwealth. After constitutional discussion had
gone on for less than a fortnight, members one morn-
ing found Westminster Hall and its approaches full of
soldiers, the door of the House locked in their faces,
and only the gruff explanation that the Protector de-
sired them to meet him in the Painted Chamber. Here
Oliver addressed them in language of striking force,
winding up with an act of power after the model of
Pride's Purge and the other arbitrary exclusions. His
keynote was patient and argumentative remonstrance,
but he did not mince his meaning and he took high
ground. He reminded them that it was he who by the
Instrument was laying down power, not assuming it.
The authority he had in his hand, he told them, was
boundless. It was only of his own will that on this
arbitrary power he accepted limits. His acceptance
was approved by a vast body of public opinion ; first by
the soldiers, who were a very considerable part of these
nations, when there was nothing to keep things in
order but the sword ; second by the capital city of Lon-
don, and by Yorkshire, the greatest county in England ;
third by the judges of the land; and last of all by the
Parliament itself. For had not the members been
chosen on a written indenture, with the proviso that
they should not have power to alter the government by
a single person and a Parliament. Some things in the
Instrument, he said, were fundamental, others were
only circumstantial. The circumstantials they might
try to amend as they might think best. But the four
fundamentals — government by a single person and a
Parliament, liberty of conscience as a natural right, the
non-perpetuation of Parliament, the divided or bal-
anced control of the militia — these were things not to

From the portrait at Chequers Court, by permission of Mrs. Frankland-Russell-Astley.


be parted with and not to be touched. "The wilful
throwing away of this government, such as it is, so
owned Ijy God, so approved by men, were a thing
which, and in reference not to my good, but to the good
of these nations and of posterity, I can sooner be will-
ing to be rolled into my grave and buried with infamy,
than I can give my consent unto."

Then the stroke fell. As they had slighted the au-
thority that called them, he told them that he had
caused a stop to be put to their entrance into the Par-
liament House, until they had signed a promise to be
true and faithful to the Lord Protector and the Com-
monwealth, and not to alter the government as settled
in a single person and a Parliament. The test was
certainly not a narrow nor a rigid one, and within a
few days some three hundred out of the four hundred
and sixty subscribed. The rest, including Bradshaw.
Hazelig, and others of that stalwart group refused
to sign, and went home. Such was the Protector's
short w^ay with a Parliamentary opposition.

The purge was drastic, but it availed little. By the
very law of its being the Parliament went on with the
interrupted debate. Ample experience has taught us
since those days that there is no such favorite battle-
ground for party conflict as a revision of a constitution.
They now passed a resolution making believe that
Oliver's test was their own. They affirmed the fun-
damentals about the double seat of authority, about
Oliver's Protectorate for life, about a Parliament every
three years, as gravely as if members had not just
signed a solemn promise not to reject them. Then
they made their way through the rest of the two-and-
forty articles of the Instrument, expanding them into
sixty. They fought the question whether the Protec-
torate should be hereditary, and by a large majority


decided that it should not. Protector and Parliament
wrre to determine in conjuction what composed the
doctrines within the public profession of religion, and
what on the other hand were damnable heresies; but
these two things defined, then Parliament could pass
bills dealing with heresies, or with the teaching and dis-
cipline of established ministers, over the head of the
Protector. On the all-important chapter of the mili-
tary forces, the Parliament was as much bent upon ex-
tending its association in authority with the Proteetor,
as the Protector had in old days been bent upon the
same thing in respect of King Charles. During his
life Parliament was to have a voice in fixing the num-
bers of the armed force; after his death, it was to de-
cide the disposal of it ; and the sum fixed for it was to
be reconsidered by Parliament five years later. In all
this there was nothing unreasonable, if Parliament was
in reality to be a living organ. Such was the work of

It was now that Oliver realized that perhaps he
might as well have tried to live with the Rump. We
have already seen the words in which he almost said
as much. The strange irony of events had brought
him within sight of the doctrines of Strafford and of
Charles, and showed him to have as little grasp of
Parliamentary rule and as little love of it as either of
them. He was determined not to accept the revised
constitution. "Though some may think that it is an
hard thing," he said, "to raise money without Parlia-
mentary authority upon this nation, yet I have another
argument to the good people of this nation, whether
they prefer having their will, though it be their de-
struction, rather than comply with things of Neces-
sity." But this is the principle of pure absolutism.
Then as to the armed forces, though for the present


that the Protector should have in his power the miHtia
seems the hardest thing, "y^t, if the power of the militia
should be yielded up at such a time as this, when there
is as much need of it to keep this cause, as there was to
get it for the sake of this cause, what would become of
us all ?" If he were to yield up at any time the power
of the militia, how could he do the good he ought, or
hinder Parliament from making themselves perpetual,
or imposing what religion they pleased upon men's
conscience ?

In other words, Cromwell did not in his heart believe
that any Parliament was to be trusted. He may have
been right, but then this meant a dead-lock, and what
way could be devised out of it? The representatives
were assuredly not to blame for doing their best to
convert government by the sword into that Parlia-
mentary government which was the very object of the
civil war, and which was still both the professed and
the real object of Cromwell himself. What he did was
to dissolve them at the first hour at which the Instru-
ment gave him the right.

A remarkable passage occurs in one of the letters of
Henry Cromwell to Thurloe two years later (March
4, 1657), which sheds a flood of light on this side of
the Protectorate from its beginning to the end. The
case could not be more w^isely propounded. "I wish
his highness could consider how casual [incalculable]
the motions of a Parliament are, and how many of
them are called before one be found to answer the ends
thereof; and that it is the natural genius of such great
assemblies to be various, inconsistent, and for the most
part froward with their superiors ; and therefore that
he would not wholly reject so much of what they offer
as is necessary to the public welfare. And the Lord
gave him to see how much safer it is to rely upon


persons of estate, interest, integrity, and wisdom, than
upon such as have so amply discovered their envy and
ambition, and whose facidty it is by continuing of con-
fusion to support themselves." How much safer, that
is to say, to rely upon a Parliament with all its slovenly,
slow, and froward ways, than upon a close junto of
military grandees with a standing army at their back.
This is what the nation also thought, and burned into
its memory for a century to come. Here we have the
master-key to Cromwell's failure as a constructive



WITH the dismissal of the first ParHament a
new era began. For twenty months the Pro-
tectorate was a system of despotic rule, as undisguised
as that of Tudor or Stuart. Yet it was not the dicta-
torship of Elizabeth, for Cromwell shared authority
both in name and fact with the council, that is, with the
leaders of the army. What were the working rela-
tions between Oliver and the eighteen men who com-
posed his Council of State, and to what extent his
policy was inspired or modified by them, we cannot
confidently describe. That he had not autocratic
power, the episode of the kingship in 1657 will show
us. That his hand was forced on critical occasions we

The latter half of 1654 has sometimes been called
the grand epoch of Oliver's government. Ireland and
Scotland were in good order; he had a surplus in the
chest ; the army and navy seemed loyal ; his star was
rising high among the European constellations. But
below the surface lurked a thousand perils, and the
difficulties of government were enormous. So hard
must it inevitably be to carry on conservative policy
without a conservative base of operations at any pomt
of the compass. Oliver had reproached his Parlia-
ment with making themselves a shade under which


weeds and nettles, briars and thorns, had thriven.
They were Hke a man, he told them, who should protest
about his liberty of walking abroad, or his right to take
a journey, when all the time his house was in a blaze.
The conspiracies against public order and the founda-
tions of it were manifold. A serious plot for the Pro-
tector's assassination had been brought to light in the
summer of 1654, and Gerard and Vowel, two of the
conspirators, had been put to death for it. They were
to fall upon him as he took his customary ride out from
Whitehall to Hampton Court on a Saturday afternoon.
The king across the water was aware of Gerard's de-
sign, and encouraged him in it in spite of some of his
advisers who thought assassination impolitic. It was
still a device in the manners of the age. and Oliver's
share in the execution of the king was taken, in many
minds to whom it might otherwise have been repug-
nant, in his case to justify sinister retaliation.

The schisms created in the republican camp by the
dispersion of the old Parliament and the erection of
the Protectorate naturally kindled new hopes in the
breasts of the Royalists. Charles, with the sanguine
credulity common to pretenders, encouraged them. If
those, he told them, who wished the same thing only
kne\\- each other's mind, the work would be done with-
out any difficulty. The only condition needed was a
handsome appearance of a rising in one place, and then
the rest would assuredly not sit still. All through the
last six' months of 1654 the Royalists were actively at
work, under the direction of leaders at home in com-
munication with Charles abroad. With the new year
their hopes began to fade. The division common to all
conspiracies broke out between the bold men and the
prudent men. The Royalist council in England,
known as the Sealed Knot, told the king in February


that things were quite unripe : that no rising in the
army was to be looked for, and this had been the mani-
stay of their hopes ; that the fleet was for the usurper ;
that insurrection would be their own destruction, and
the consolidation of their foes. The fighting section,
on the other hand, were equally ready to charge the
Sealed Knot with being cold and backward. They
pressed the point that Cromwell had full knowledge of
the plot and of the men engaged in it. and that it
would be harder for him to crush them now than later.
Time would enable him to compose quarrels in his
army, as he had so often composed them before. In
the end the king put himself in the hands of the for-
ward men. the conspiracy was pushed on, and at length
in March the smoldering fire broke into a flickering
and feeble flame. This is not the only time that an
abortive and insignificant rising has proved to be the
end of a wide-spread and dangerous combination. In
Ireland we have not seldom seen the same, just as in
the converse way formidable risings have followed
what looked like insignificant conspiracies.

The Yorkshire Royalists met on the historic ground
of Marston Moor, and reckoned on surprising York
with a force of four thousand men ; when the time
came, a hundred made their appearance, and in despair
they flung away their arms and dispersed. In North-
umberland the cavaliers were to seize Newcastle and
Tynemouth, but here, too. less than a hundred of them
ventured to the field. At Rufford in Sherwood Forest
there was to have been a gathering of several hundred,
involving gentlemen of consequence ; but on the ap-
pointed day, though horses and arms were ready, the
country would not stir. At midnight the handful
cried in a fright that they were betrayed, and made off
as fast as they could. Designs were planned in Staf-


fordshire, Cheshire, Shropshire, but they came to
nothing, and not a blow was struck. Every county in
England, said Thurloe, instead of rising for them
would have risen against them. The Protector, he
declared, if there had been any need, could have drawn
into the field, within fourteen days, twenty thousand
men, besides the standing army. "So far are they
mistaken who dream that the affections of this people
are toward the House of Stuart." ^

The only momentary semblance of success was what
is known as Penruddock's rising in the west. A band
of Wiltshire Royalists rode into Salisbury, seized in
their beds the judges who happened to be on circuit,
and the wilder blades were even for hanging them.
But they could not get the greasy caps flung up for
King Charles in Wilts, nor did better success await
them in Dorset and Somerset. They were never more
than four hundred. Even these numbers soon dwin-
dled, and within three or four days a Cromwellian
captain broke in upon them at South Molton, took
most of them prisoners, and the others made off. Wag-
staffe, one of the two principals, escaped to Holland,
and Penruddock, the other, was put upon his trial along
with a number of his confederates. It is curious that
this was the first time that treason against the govern-
ment had been submitted to juries since 1646, and the
result justified the confident hopes of a good issue.
Thirty-nine offenders were condemned, but some of
them Cromwell reprieved — "his course," says Thurloe,
"being to use lenity rather than severity." Only some
fourteen or fifteen suffered death, including Pen-

In the army, though there was no disaffection, a

1 March i6, 1655. See Mr. Firth's examination of the
rising in " Englisli Historical Review," 1888-89.


mutinous section was little less busy than the Royalists.
Harrison, who had been in charge of King Charles on
his fatal journey from Hurst Castle to Windsor, was
now himself sent a prisoner to Carisbrooke. Wildman,
who had been one of the extremist agitators so far
back as 1647, was arrested, and the guard found him
writing a "declaration of the free and well-affected
people of England now in arms against the tyrant
Oliver Cromwell, Esquire." It is no irrational docu-
ment on the face of it, being little more than a re-
statement of the aims of the revolution for twelve
years past. But it is not always palatable for men in
power to be confronted with their aims in opposition.
The Protector spared no money in acquiring infor-
mation. He expended immense sums in secret service,
and little passed in the Royalist camp abroad that was
not discovered by the agents of Thurloe. Cecil and
Walsingham were not more vigilant or more success-
ful in their watch over the safety of Elizabeth than
was CromwelTs wise, trusty, and unwearied secretary
of state. Plotters were so amazed how the Lord Pro-
tector came to hear of all the things contrived against
him that they fell back on witchcraft and his familiar-
ity with the devil. A gentleman got leave to travel,
and had an interview with the king at Cologne one
evening after dark. On his return, he saw the Pro-
tector, who asked him if he had kept his promise not
to visit Charles Stuart. The gentleman answered that
he had. But who was it. asked Cromwell, that put
out the candles when you saw Charles Stuart? He
further startled the traveler by asking whether Charles
had not sent a letter by him. The gentleman denied,
Cromwell took his hat, found a letter sewn up in the
lining of it, and sent him to the Tower. Cromwell's
informant was one Manning, and this transaction was


his ruin. The Royahsts at Cologne suspected him,
his rooms were searched, his ciphers discovered, and
his correspondence read. Manning then made a clean
breast of it, and excused his treason by his necessities,
and the fact that he was to have twelve hundred pounds
a year from Cromwell for his work. His only chance
of life was a threat of retaliation by Cromwell on some
Royalist in prison in England, but this was not forth-
coming, and Manning was shot dead by two gentlemen
of the court in a wood near Cologne.

On every side the government struck vigorous
blows. Especial watch was kept upon London. Orders
were sent to the ports to be on guard against surprise,
and to stop suspected persons. The military forces
were strengthened. Gatherings were put down.
Many arbitrary arrests were made among minor per-

Online LibraryJohn MorleyOliver Cromwell → online text (page 27 of 35)