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sons and major; and many were sent to Barbadoes to
a condition of qualified slavery. The upright and
blameless Overton was arbitrarily flung into prison
without trial, kept there for three years, and not re-
leased until after Cromwell's death and the revival of
Parliament. When that day arrived both Thurloe
and Barkstead, the governor of the Tower, quaked for
the strong things that they had done on the personal
authority of the Protector. The stories told in 1659
are a considerable deduction from Burke's praise of the
admirable administration of the law under Cromwell.
But though there was lawless severity, it did not often
approach ferocity.

Subterranean plots and the risings of hot-headed
country gentlemen were not all that Cromwell and the
council had to encounter. The late Parliament had
passed no effective vote of money. The government
fell back upon its power of raising taxes by ordinance.
The validity of the ordinance was disputed ; the judges


inclined to hold the objections good; and it looked for
a moment as if a general refusal to pay customs and
excise might bring the whole financial fabric to the
ground. The three counsel for Cony, the merchant
who had declined to pay the customs dues, were sum-
moned before the Protector and the Council of State.
After hearing what they had to say, Oliver signed a
warrant for their committal to the Tower for using
words tending to sedition and subversive of the gov-
ernment. Violation of the spirit and letter of the law
could go no further. They were soon set free, and
Cromwell bore them no malice, but the people not un-
reasonably saw in the proceeding a strong resemblance
to the old Star Chamber. The judges were sent for,
and humbly said something about Magna Charta.
The Protector scoffed at Magna Charta with a mock
too coarse for modern manners, declared that it should
not control actions which he knew to be required by
public safety, reminded them that it was he who made
them judges, and bade them no more to suffer the
lawyers to prate what it would not become them to
hear. The judges may have been wrong either in their
construction of the Instrument, or in their view that a
section of the Instrument did not make a good law.
But the committal of three counsel to prison by the
executive, because their arguments were too good to be
convenient, was certainly not good law whatever else
it was. Judges who proved not complaisant enough
were displaced. Sir Peter Wentworth, who had tried
to brave Cromwell at the breaking up of the Long Par-
liament, tried to brave him now by bringing a suit
against the tax collector. The Protector haled him
before the council ; Wentworth said that he had been
moved by his constant principle that no money could
be levied but by consent of Parliament. Cromwell


commanded him to drop his suit, and \\'entworth

The Protector never shrank in these days from
putting his defense in all its breadth. "If nothing
should be done," he said with scorn, "but what is ac-
cording to law, the throat of the nation might be cut
while we send for some one to make a law. It is a
pitiful notion to think, though it be for ordinary gov-
ernment to live by law and rule — yet if a government
in extraordinary circumstances go beyond the law, it
is to be clamored at and blottered at." Sometimes he
was not afraid to state the tyrant's plea even more
broadly still. "The ground of Necessity for justify-
ing of men's actions is above all considerations of in-
stituted law, and if this or any other State should go
about to make laws against events, against what may
happen, then I think it is obvious to any man they will
be making laws against Providence ; events and issues
of things being from God alone, to whom all issues
belong." As if all law were not in its essence a device
against contingent cases. Nevertheless these pious
disguises of what was really no more than common
reason of state, just as reason of state is always used
whether by bad men or by good, do not affect the fact
that Cromwell in his heart knew the value of legality
as well as anybody that ever held rule, only he was the
least fortunate of men in affecting his aim.

"It was now," says Oliver, "we did find out a little
poor invention, which I hear has been much regretted ;
I say there was a little thing invented, which was the
erection of your major-generals." This device had all
the virtues of military simplicity. In the summer and
autumn of 1655 England and Wales were mapped out
into a dozen districts. Over each district was planted
a major-general, Lambert, Desborough, Fleetwood,

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


Skippon, \\'halley. Barkstead, Goffe, and the rest, all
picked veterans and the trustiest of them. Their first
duties were those of high pohce, to put down unlawful
assemblies by force ; to disarm Papists and persons
dangerous to the peace of the nation; to exact a bond
from any householder considered to be disaffected
for the good behavior of his servants, and the servants
were to appear before the major-general or his deputy
wherever and whenever called upon. Persons in this
category were to be registered, and if they changed
their abode, the major-general was to be informed.
Anybody coming from beyond the sea was to report
himself, and his later movements were to be followed
and recorded. The major-general was further to keep
a sharp eye upon scandalous ministers, and to see that
no disaffected person should take any share in the edu-
cation of youth.

All this, however, was the least material part of the
new policy. The case for the change rested on the
danger of more daring plots and more important ris-
ings, the inadequateness of local justices and parish
constables, the need of the central government for
hands and eyes of its own, finally on the shadows of
division in the army. There were those in the late
Parliament who thought the peril inconsiderable, but
Thurloe tells us that, "his Highness saw a necessity
of raising more force, and in every county, unless he
would give up his cause to the enemy." This involved
a new standing militia for all the counties of England,
and that again in^'olved a new money charge. "What
so just as to put the charge upon those whose disaffec-
tion was the cause of it?" Such a plan needed no more
than the "decimation" of those against whom, after
personal inquisition made, they chose to set the mark of
delinquency or disaffection. From such persons they


were instructed to exact one tenth of their annual in-
come. For these exactions there was no pretense of
law ; nor could they be brought into the courts, the only
appeal being to the Protector in Council. The Parlia-
ment had been dissolved for meddling with the Instru-
ment of Government. Yet all this was contrary to the
Instrument. The scheme took some time to complete,
but by the last three months of 1655 it was in full

Two other remarkable measures of repression be-
long to this stern epoch. An edict was passed for
securing the peace of the Commonwealth (November.
1655), ordering that no ejected clergyman should be
kept in any gentleman's house as chaplain or tutor, or
teach in a school, or baptize, or celebrate marriages, or
use the Prayer Book. That this was a superfluity of
rigor is shown by the fact that it was never executed.
It is probable that other measures of the time went
equally beyond the real necessities of the crisis, for ex-
perience shows that nothing is ever so certain to be
overdone as the policy of military repression against
civil disaffection. The second measure was still more
significant of the extent to which despotic reaction was
going in the methods of the government. Orders were
issued that no person whatever do presume to publish
in print any matter of public news or intelligence with-
out leave of the secretary of state. The result of this
was to reduce the newspaper press in the capital of the
country to a single journal coming out twice a week
under two different names. Milton was still Latin
secretary, and it was only eleven years since the ap-
pearance of his immortal plea for unlicensed printing.

"Our ministers are bad," one of the major-generals
reports in 1655, "our magistrates idle, and the people
all asleep." The new authorities set resolutely to


work. They appointed commissioners to assess the
decimation of dehnquents, not however without con-
stant reference to the Protector and Council for direc-
tions how individuals were to be dealt with. The
business of taxing the Cavaliers in this high manner
was "of wonderful acceptation to all the Parliament
party, and men of all opinions joined heartily therein."
That men of one opinion should heartily rejoice at the
compulsory exaction of rates and taxes from men of
another opinion, is in accord with human nature : not
that the activity of the major-generals prevented the
imposition of a general property tax in 1656. The
Cavaliers submitted with little ado. Wider irritation
was created by stringent interference with ale houses,
bear-baiting, and cock-fighting. Lord Exeter came to
ask Whalley whether he would allow the Lady Grant-
ham cup to be run for at Lincoln, for if so he would
start a horse. 'T assured him," reports Whalley to
the Protector, "that it was not your Highness' inten-
tion in the suppression of horse-races, to abridge gen-
tlemen of that sport, but to prevent the great conflu-
ences of irreconcilable enemies" ; and Exeter had his
race. Profane and idle gentry whose li\es were a
shame to a Christian commonwealth were hunted out,
and the government were adjured to banish them.
"We have imprisoned here," writes the choleric major-
general in Shropshire, "divers lewd fellows, some for
having a hand in the plot, others of dissolute life, as
persons dangerous to the peace of the nation : amongst
others those papists who went a-hunting when they
were sent for by Major Waring; they are desperate
persons, and divers of them fit to grind sugar-cane or
plant tobacco, and if some of them were sent into the
Indies, it would do much good." One personage when
reprimanded warned the major-general that if he were


sent to prison it would cause the godly to pour forth
prayers and tears before the Lord. The staunch officer
replied that thousands of men in tears would never dis-
quiet him, if he knew that he was doing his duty in the
way of Providence.

The only defense of reason of state is success, and
here the result soon proved to be not success but failure.
While so man}- individuals and orders were exasper-
ated, no great class of society was reconciled. Rigid
order was kept, plotters were cowed, money was
squeezed, but the keenest discontent was quickened in
all those various organized bodies of men with lively
minds and energetic interests, by whom in the long
run effective public opinion in every community is gen-
erated. Oliver must soon have seen that his change of
system would cut up his policy of healing and con-
ciliation bv its roots.



^T/'AXT of money has ever been the wholesome
> V check on kings, on ParHaments. and cabinets,
and now in his turn it pinched the Protector. In spite
of the decimation screw, the militia often went short
of their pay, and suffered both trouble and jeers in
consequence. Apart from the cost of domestic ad-
ministration, Cromwell had embarked, as we shall see,
on a course of intervention abroad ; and he was soon in
the same straits as those against which Strafford had
long ago warned his master, as the sure result of a
foreign policy to be paid for by discontented subjects.
In June, 1656, the Protector held a conference with
his council and some of the principal officers of the
army. There were those who advised him to raise
money on his own direct authority by forced loans or
general taxation. There is reason to suppose that
Cromwell himself leaned this way, for before long he
chid the officers for urging the other course. The de-
cision, however, was taken to call a new Parliament.

The election that went forward during the summer
of 1656 had all the rough animation of the age and
well deserves consideration. Thurloe writes to Henry
Cromwell that there is the greatest striving to get into
Parliament that ever was known ; every faction is be-
stirring itself with all its might ; and all sorts of dis-



contented people are incessant in their endeavors. The
major-generals on their side were active in electioneer-
ing arts, and their firmly expressed resignation to the
will of over-ruling Providence did not hinder the most
alert wire-pulling. They pressed candidates of the
right color, and gave broad hints as to any who were
not sober and suitable to the present work. Every
single major-general was himself a candidate and was
elected. At Dover the rabble were strong for Cony,
who had fought the case of the customs dues, and the
major-general thinks he was likely to be elected unless
he could be judiciously "secluded." At Preston, once
the scene of perhaps the most critical of all Cromwell's
victories, the major-general expected much thwarting,
through the peevishness of friends and the disaffection
of enemies. In Norwich an opposition preacher of
great popularity was forbidden to go into the pulpit.
A sharp eye was kept upon all printed matter finding
its way through the post. Whalley reports that the
heart is sound in what he calls the mediterranean part
of the nation ; people know that money will be wanted
by the government, but they will not grudge it as the
price of a settlement. At the same time he is unhappy
lest Colonel Hutchinson or Sir Arthur Hazelrig
should get in, just as his superiors dreaded the return
of Sergeant Bradshaw and Sir Henry Vane. Des-
borough is uneasy about the west, but he makes it his
business to strengthen the hands of the honest sober
people, leaving the issue to the wise Disposer.

Norfolk was one of the most alarming cases. "If
other counties should do as this," says the major-gen-
eral, "it would be a sufficient alarum to stand upon our
guard, the spirit of the people being most strangely
heightened and molded into a very great aptness to
take the first hint for an insurrection, and the county
especially so disposed may most probably begin the


scene." He suggests that preparations for calling out
the militia would be a sensible encouragement for
the friends of the government. At Ipswich, when the
writ was read, somebody rose and complained of the
reference to his Highness' Parliament; the king had
never called it his Parliament ; and such an innovation
should be a warning not to vote for swordmen nor for
the Protector's friends; thereupon another called out
that they were all his friends. One opposition can-
didate assured his audience that his Highness had sent
for three thousand Swiss to be his body-guard ; that
he had secretly sold the trade of England to the Dutch,
and would grant no convoy from Holland ; that most
of the counties in England would bring up their num-
bers in thousands, in spite of Oliver and his redcoats ;
and that he would wager his life that not five hundred
in the whole army wouM resist them. Another cry
was that the free people of England would have no
more swordmen, no more decimators. nor anybody in
receipt of a salary from the State.

"On Monday last," writes Goffe, "I spoke with Mr.
Cole of Southampton, whom I find to be a perfect
Leveler — he is called by the name of Common Free-
dom. He told me he was where he was, and where the
army was seven years ago, and pulled out of his pocket
the 'Agreement of the People.' He told me he would
promise me not to disperse any of those books, and that
it was his intention to live peaceable, for that he knew
a w^r was not so easily ended as begun. Whereupon,
with the best exhortation I could give him, I dismissed
him for the present. . . . Mr. Cole is very angry
at the Spanish war, and saith we deal most ungrate-
fully with them, for that they were so civil to us in
the time of our late difference, and that all our trade
will be lost."

An energetic manifesto was put out against the


government, stating with unusual force the reasons
why dear Christian friends and brethren should bestir
themselves in a day of trouble, rebuke, and blasphemy ;
why they should make a stand for the pure principles
of free-born Englishmen against the power and pomp
of any man, however high he might bear himself.
Half the books in the Old Testament are made to
supply examples and warnings, and Hezekiah and
Sennacherib, Jethro and Moses, Esther, Uzzah, Absa-
lom, are all turned into lessons of what a voter should
do or abstain from doing. The whole piece gives an in-
structive glimpse of the state of mind of the generation.
Earnest remonstrances are addressed to those who
think that God has gone out of Parliaments, and that
the time for Christ's kingdom is come. Others hold
that the Protector had at least given them liberty of
conscience in worshiping God, a thing worth all else
put together, and a thing that Parliament might very
likely take away. Some again insist that elections are
of no purpose, because the Protector with his redcoats
will very soon either make members do what he wants,
or else pack them off home again. All these partizans
of abstention — the despair of party managers in every
age — are faithfully dealt with, and the manifesto closes
with the hackneyed asseverations of all oppositions, an-
cient and modern, that if only the right sort of Parlia-
ment were returned burdens would be eased, trade
would revive, and the honor of the country now lying
in the dust among all nations would be immediately
restored. Did not their imprisoned friends speak?
Did not their banished neighbors speak ? Did not their
infringed rights speak? Did not their invaded prop-
erties speak? Did not their affronted representatives
who had been trodden upon with scorn, speak? Did
not the blood of many thousands speak, some slain


with the sword, others killed with hunger; witness
Jamaica? Did not the cries of their honest seamen
speak, the wall and bulwark of our nation, and now so
barbarously forced from wives and children to serve
the ambitions and fruitless designs of one man ?

By way of antidote the major-generals were armed
with letters from the Protector and instructions from
Thurloe, and any one found in possession of a bundle
of the seditious documents was quickly called to sharp
account. Earlier in the summer Sir Henry Vane had
put out a pamphlet without his name, which at first was
popular, and then on second thoughts was found im-
practicable, because it simply aimed at the restoration
of the Long Parliament. ' Vane was haled before the
Coimcil (August 21), where he admitted the writing
and publishing of the "Healing Question," though in
dark and mysterious terms, as his manner was. He
was ordered to give security, refused, and was sent to
prison at Carisbrooke, where he lay until the end of the
year. An attempt was made to punish Bradshaw by
removing him from his office of Chief- Justice of Chesh-
ire, but the council changed their mind. The well-
directed activity of the major-general was enough to
prevent Bradshaw's return for that county, and he
failed elsewhere. So the Protector was free of those
who passed for the two leading incendiaries.

The Parliament met in September, 1656. and Oliver
adddressed it in one of his most characteristic speeches.
He appealed at great length to the hatred of Spain, on
the standing ground of its bondage to the Pope: for
its evil doings upon Englishmen in the West Indies,
for its espousal of the Stuart interest. Then he
turned to the unholy friendliness at home between
Papists, all of them "Spaniolized," and Cavaliers: be-
tween some of the Republicans and Royalists : between


some of the Commonwealth men and some of the mire
and dirt thrown up by the revolutionary waters. He
recalled all the plots and the risings and attempted
risings, and warned them against the indolent suppo-
sition that such things were no more than the nibbling
of a mouse at one's heel. For the major-generals and
their decimation of Royalist delinquents, he set up a
stout defense. Why was it not righteous to make that
party pay for the suppression of disorder which had
made the charge necessary? Apart from the mere
preservation of the peace, was it not true that the
major-generals had been more effectual for dis-
countenancing vice and settling religion than anything
done these fifty years? The mark of the cavalier in-
terest was profaneness, disorder, and wickedness ; the
profane nobility and gentry, that was the interest that
his officers had been engaged against. "If it lives in
us, I say, if it be in the general heart, it is a thing I
am confident our liberty and prosperity depend upon —
reformation of manners. By this you will be more
repairer of breaches than by anything in the world.
Truly these things do respect the souls of men and the
spirits — zvhich arc the men. The mind is the man.
If that be kept pure, a man signifies somewhat; if not,
I would very fain see what difference there is between
him and a beast."

In the mighty task that was laid upon them, it was
no neutral or Laodicean spirit that would do. With
the instinct of a moral leader, with something more
than trick of debate or a turn of tactics, Cromwell told
them : "Doubting, hesitating men, they are not fit for
your work. You must not expect that men of hesi-
tating* spirits, under the bondage of scruples, will be
able to carry on this work. Do not think that men of
this sort will ever rise to such a spiritual heat for the


nation as shall carry you a cause like this ; ac will meet
all the oppositions that the devil and wicked men can
make." Then he winds up with three high passages
from the Psalms, with no particular bearing on their
session, but in those days well fitted to exalt men's
hearts, and surrounding the temporal anxieties of the
hour with radiant visions from another sphere for the
diviner mind.

Of the real cause of their assembling, deficit, and
debts, the Protector judiciously said little. As he ob-
served of himself on another occasion — and the double
admission deserves to be carefully marked — he was not
much better skilled in arithmetic than he was in law,
and his statement of accounts would certainly not
satisfy the standards of a modern exchequer. In-
capacity of legal apprehension, and incapacity in
finance, are a terrible drawback in a statesman with a
new state to build. Before business began, the Pro-
tector took precautions after his own fashion against
the opposition critics. He and the council had already
pondered the list of members returned to the Parlia-
ment, and as the government made their way from the
Painted Chamber to their House, soldiers were found
guarding the door. There was no attempt to hide the
iron hand in velvet glove. The clerk of the Common-
wealth was planted in the lobby with certificates of the
approval of the Council of State. Nearly a hundred
found no such tickets, and for them there was no ad-
mission. This strong act of purification was legal
under the Instrument, and the House when it was re-
ported, was content with making an order that the per-
sons shut out should apply to the council for its appro-
bation. The excluded members, of whose fidelity to
his government Cromwell could not be sure, comprised
a faithful remnant of the Long Parliament; and they


and others, ninety-three in number, signed a remon-
strance in terms that are a strident echo of the protests
which had so often been launched in old days against
the king. Vehemently they denounced the practise
of the tyrant to use the name of God and religion and
formal fasts and prayer to color the blackness of the
fact; and to command one hundred, two hundred, or
three hundred to depart, and to call the rest a Parlia-
ment by way of countenancing his oppression. The
present assembly at Westminster, they protested, sits
under the daily awe and terror of the Lord Protector's
armed men. not daring to consult or debate freely the
great concernments of their country, nor daring to

Online LibraryJohn MorleyOliver Cromwell → online text (page 28 of 35)