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Anglicans like Taylor nor from the liberal Puritans
like Cromwell and Milton, that the central stream of
toleration flowed, with strength enough in time to miti-
gate law and pervade the national mind.



HE entered the sanctuary," says Cardinal de Retz
of a French politician, "he lifted the veil that
should always cover everything that can be said or can
be believed, as to the right of peoples and the right of
kings — rights that never agree so well together as in
unbroken silence." This was the root of the difficul-
ties that for nine years baffled the energy of Cromwell.
The old monarchy had a mystic as well as a historical
foundation. The soldier's monarchy, though Crom-
well believed it to rest upon the direct will of heaven,
yet could only be established on positive and practical
foundations, and these must of necessity be laid in face
of jealous discussion, without the curtain of convention
to screen the builders.

Meanwhile a new and striking scene was opening.
The breakdown of military rule, consternation caused
by plot upon plot, the fact that four years of dictator-
ship had brought settlement no nearer, all gave an irre-
sistible impetus to the desire to try fresh paths. Sir
Christopher Packe, an active and influential representa-
tive of the city of London and once Lord Mayor, star-
tled the House one day (February 23, 1657) by asking
leave to bring forward a proposal for a new govern-
ment, in which the chief magistrate was to take upon
himself the title of king, and the Parliament was to


consist of two Houses. Violent controversy immedi-
ately broke out, and Packe was even hustled to the
bar to answer for his boldness. The storm quickly
died down ; he had only precipitated a move for which
the mind of the House was ready; leave was given
to read his paper; and the Humble Petition and Ad-
vice, as that paper came in time to be called, absorbed
the whole attention of the public for four months to

That Cromwell should have had no share in such a
step as this may seem incredible in view of the im-
mense power in his hands and of his supreme command
over popular imagination. Yet the whole proceeding
was obviously a censure of some of his most decisive
acts. He had applauded the Instrument of Govern-
ment that had made him Protector. The Instrument
was now to be remodeled, if not overthrown. He had
broken the first Parliament of the Protectorate for
wasting its tmie on constitutional reform; yet consti-
tutional reform was the very task that his second Par-
liament was now setting about more earnestly than
ever. He had tried government by major-generals,
and exacted taxes for which no sanction was given by
law. That system was swept away, and in the new
project a clause was passed against taxation without
consent of Parliament, stringent enough to satisfy the
sternest of popular reformers. Only six months ago
he had shut the doors of the House against a hundred
duly elected members ; and in the previous Parliament
he had in the same w^ay insisted that no member should
sit who had not signed a recognition of his own au-
thority. All these high-handed acts were now for-
mally stamped as wrong. It was laid down that
persons legally chosen by free election could only be
excluded from Parliament by judgment and consent.


of that House whereof they were members. The sub-
stitution of the title of king for protector was there-
fore the least part of the matter. The real question
that must have weighed upon Cromwell was whether
the greater title did not carry with it lessened power;
whether, although his style and dignity were undoubt-
edly exalted, the exaltation in substance was not rather
that of the Parliament. Assent to a change in name
and form was at bottom a revolution in policy, and in
this revolution, with all that it involved, Cromwell
slowly, ponderously, and after long periods of doubt
and misgivings decided to acquiesce. Yet the change
of title was a momentous thing in itself, in the eyes
alike of those who sought it and those who resisted.
The strongest advocates of the kingship were the law-
yers, that powerful profession of which historians and
politicians do not always recognize the permeating
influence even through the motions of revolutionary
politics. The lawyers argued for a king, and their
points were cogent. The office of a king, they said,
is interwoven with the whole body of the law and the
whole working of national institutions. The pre-
rogatives of a king with all their limits and dimensions
are well understood, but who can define the rights or
the duties of a protector ? The people, again, only love
what they know; and what they know is the crown,
the ancient symbol of order, unity, and rule. These
were sound arguments, appealing to Cromwell's con-
servative instincts. The only argument by which he
could have refuted them was a demonstration that
the Protectorate had brought a settlement, and this was
just what the Protectorate had as yet notoriously failed
to do. It is impossible not to believe that in this crisis
of things Cromwell had convinced himself that the


From the balance of argument he turned, as states-
men must or should, to the balance of forces; to that
formidable host of armed men whom he had welded
into the most powerful military instrument in Europe,
whom he had led to one victory after another in nine
years of toil and peril, whom he had followed rather
than led in all the successive stages of their revolution-
ary fervor, whose enthusiasms were the breath of his
nostrils. How would these stern warriors view the
sight of their chief putting on the mantle of that hated
office and title which they had been taught to regard
as the ensigns of bondage, and against which the Lord
of Hosts had borne such crushing witness. Well
might Oliver say that he had lived all the latter part
of his life in the fire, in the midst of troubles, and that
all the things together that had befallen him since he
was first engaged in the affairs of the Commonwealth
could not so move his heart and spirit as did this

With angry promptness the officers showed their
teeth. Lambert and others of the military leaders
instantly declared against the new design. Within
three days of Packe's announcement a hundred of
them waited on the Protector and besought him not
to listen to the proffer of the crown. It would dis-
please the army, and the godly; it would be a danger
to the nation and to his own person ; it would one day
bring back the exiled line. Cromwell dealt very faith-
fully with them in reply. He liked the title as little
as they liked it, a mere feather in a hat, a toy for a
child. But had they not themselves proposed it in
the Instrument? Here he glanced at Lambert, for-
merly the main author of such a proposal in 1653, and
now in 1657 the main instigator of opposition. Crom-
well continued in the same vein of energetic remoa-


strance, like a man wearied, as he said, of being on all
occasions made a drudge. Strangely does he light up
the past. His reply was a double arraignment of him-
self and of them for the most important things that
most of' them had done. He said it was they who had
made him dissolve the Long Parliament. It was they
who had named the convention that follow^ed, which
went to such fantastic lengths that nobody could be
sure of calling anything his ow^n. It was they wiio
had pressed him to starve out the ministers of religion.
Was it not they too who must needs dissolve the Par-
liament in 1655 for trying to mend the Instrument, as
if the Instrument did not need to be mended? They
had thought it necessary to have major-generals, and
the major-generals did their part well. Then after
that, nothing would content them till a Parliament was
called. He gave his vote against it, but they were con-
fident that somehow they would get men chosen to
their heart's desire. How they had failed therein, and
how much the country had been disobliged, was only
too well known. Among other things, this string of
reproaches helps to explain the curious remark of
Henry Cromwell while walking in the garden of Lud-
low's country house at Monkstown in Dublin Bay.
"You that are here," he said, "may think that my
father has power, but they make a very kickshaw of
him at London."

Oliver's rebuke made the impression that he had cal-
culated. Time w^as gained, and a compromise agreed
to. The question of the kingly title was postponed
until the end of the bill, and the rest of its proposals
went forward in order. On any view this delay on
Cromwell's part was a piece of sound tactics. Those
who would not have valued the other reforms without
a king as keystone of the reconstructed arch, assented


to the reforms in the hope that kingship would follow.
Those who hated the kingship, pressed for enlargement
of the constitution with the hope that the question of
the crown would drop. When the clause was at last
reached (March 25), the title of king was carried by
one hundred and twenty-three to sixty-two. Opera-
tions in the House were completed by the end of March,
and on the last day of the month ( 1657) the new con-
stitution engrossed on vellum was submitted to the
Protector at Whitehall. He replied in a tone of dig-
nity not without pathos, that it was the greatest weight
of anything that was ever laid upon a man ; that he
might perhaps be at the end of his work ; that were he
to make a mistake in judgment here, it were better that
he had never been born! and that he must take time
for the utmost deliberaton and consideration. Then
began a series of parleys and conferences that lasted
for the whole of the month of April, with endless du-
bitances, postponements, and adjournments, iteration
and reiteration of arguments. Cromwell's speeches
were found "dark and promiscuous," nor can a modern
reader wonder; and he undoubtedly showed extraor-
dinary readiness in keeping off the point and balking
the eager interlocutor. One passage (April 13) is
famous. He told them that he had undertaken his
position originally not so much out of a hope of doing
any good, as from a desire to prevent mischief and evil.
"For truly I have often thought that I could not tell
what my business was, nor what I was in the place I
stood in, save comparing myself to a good constable
set to keep the peace of the parish." That, he said,
had been his content and satisfaction in all the troubles
he had undergone, that they still had peace. Nobody
any longer doubts that this homely image was the
whole truth. The question was whether the con-

From the original portrait in possession of Miss Disbrowe.


stable's truncheon should now be struck from his hand,
or more boldly grasped. Time after time they parted,
in the words of Clarendon, "all men standing at gaze
and in terrible suspense according to their several hopes
and fears, till they knew what he would determine.
All the dispute was now within his own chamber, and
there is no question that the man was in great agony,
and in his own mind he did heartily desire to be king,
and thought it the only way to be safe."

The feeling of his friends may be gathered from
Henry Cromwell, then in Ireland. 'T look on some
of them," he said, speaking of the "contrariant" offi-
cers, as 'S'ainly arrogating to themselves too great a
share in his Highness* government, and to have too
big an opinion of their own merit in subverting the
old." He thinks the gaudy feather in the hat of au-
thority a matter of little concern either way. If the
army men were foolish in resenting it with so much
heat, the heat of those who insisted on it was foolish
too. Whether the gaudy feather decked the hat or
not, anything would be better than the loss of the
scheme as a whole; the scheme was good in itself, and
its loss would puff up the contrariants and make it
easier for them, still remaining in power as they would
remain, to have their own way. It is plain that the
present dissension on the kingship was an explosion of
griefs and jealousies that were not new.

At last Cromwell declared to several members that
he was resolved to accept. Lambert, Desborough, and
Fleetwood warned him that if he did, they must with-
draw from all public employment, and that other offi-
cers of quality would certainly go with them. Desbor-
ough, happening after he knew the momentous decision
to meet Colonel Pride, told him that Cromwell had
made up his mmd to accept the crown. "That he shall


not," said the unfaltering Pride. "Why,'' asked the
other, "how wilt thou hinder it?" "Get me a petition
drawn," answered Pride, "and I will prevent it." The
petition was drawn, and on the day when the House
was expecting Oliver's assent, a group of seven-and-
twenty officers appeared at the bar with the prayer
that they should not press the kingship any further.
Pride's confidence in the effect of a remonstrance from
the officers was justified by the event. When news of
this daring move against both the determination of the
Protector, and the strong feeling of the Parliament,
reached Whitehall, Cromwell was reported as ex-
tremely angry, calling it a higli breach of privilege,
and the greatest injury they could have offered him
short of cutting his throat. He sent for Fleetwood,
reproached him for allowing things to go so far, while
knowing so well that without the assent of the army
he was decided against the kingship ; and bade him go
immediately to Westminster to stay further proceed-
ings on the petition, and instantly invite the House to
come to W^hitehall to hear his definite reply. They
came. He gave his decision in a short, firm speech,
to the effect that if he accepted the kingship, at the
best he should do it doubtingly, and assuredly what-
ever was done doubtingly was not of faith. "I can-
not," he said, "undertake this government with the
title of king; and that is mine answer to this great
and weighty business." This was all he said, but
everybody knew that he had suffered his first repulse,
a wound in the house of his friend. He set his mark
on those who had withstood him, and Lambert was
speedily dismissed. It is not easy to explain why, if
Cromwell did not fear to exile Lambert from place,
as he had not feared to send Harrison to prison, he
should not have held to his course in reliance on his


own authority in the army. Clarendon supposes his
courage for once to have failed, and his genius to have
forsaken him. Swift, in that whimsical list of Mean
and Great Figures made by several persons in some
particular action of their lives, counts Cromwell a
great figure when he quelled a mutiny in Hyde Park,
and a mean one the day when, out of fear, he refused
the kingship. As usual Cromwell was more politic
than the army. It is strange that some who eulogize
him as a great conservative statesman, yet eulogize
with equal fervor the political sagacity of the army,
who as a matter of fact resisted almost every conserva-
tive step that he wished to take, while they hurried
him on to all those revolutionary steps to which he
was most averse. However this may be. we may at
least be sure that "few men were better judges of what
might be achieved by daring." and that if he deter-
mined that the occasion was not ripe, he must be
assumed to have known what he was about.

The House proceeded with their measure on the
new footing, and on June 26th Oliver was solemnly in-
stalled as Lord Protector under the new law. Though
the royal title was in abeyance, the scene marked the
conversion of what had first been a military dictator-
ship, and then the Protectorate of a Republic, into a
constitutional monarchy. A rich canopy was prepared
at the upper end of Westminster Hall, and under it
was placed the royal Coronation Chair of Scotland,
which had been brought from the x\bbey. On the
table lay a magnificent Bible, and the sword and scepter
of the Commonwealth. When the Lord Protector
had entered, the Speaker, in the name of the Parlia-
ment, placed upon his shoulders a mantle of purple vel-
vet lined with ermine, girt him with the sword, de-
livered into his hands the scepter of massy gold, and


administered the oath of fidehty to the new constitu-
tion. A prayer was offered up, and then Cromwell,
amid trumpet blasts and loud shouting from the peo-
ple who thronged the hall, took his seat in the chair,
holding the scepter in his right hand, with the am-
bassador of Louis XIV on the one side, and the
ambassador of the United Provinces on the other.
''What a comely and glorious sight it is," said the
Speaker, "to behold a Lord Protector in a purple robe,
with a scepter in his hand, with the sword of justice
girt about him, and his eyes fixed upon the Bible!
Long may you enjoy them all to your own comfort and
the comfort of the people of these nations." Before
many months were over, Oliver was declaring to them,
"I can say in the presence of God. in comparison with
whom we are but like poor creeping ants upon the
earth, that I would have been glad to have lived under
my woodside, to have kept a flock of sheep, rather than
undertake such a government as this."

The Protectorate has sometimes been treated as a
new and original settlement of the crucial question of
Parliamentary sovereignty. On the contrary, the his-
tory of the Protectorate in its two phases, under the
two Instruments of 1653 and 1657 by which it was
constituted, seems rather to mark a progressive return
to an old system than the creation of a new one. The
"Agreement of the People" (1649) ^"^'^^ the embodi-
ment of the idea of the absolute supremacy of a single
elective House. The "Instrument of Government"
( 1653) went a certain way toward mitigating this
supremacy by entrusting executive power to a single
person, subject to the assent and cooperation of a coun-
cil itself the creation, at first direct and afterward in-
direct, of the single House. The "Humble Petition
and Advice" (1657) in effect restored the principle of


monarchy, and took away from Parliament the right in
future to choose the monarch. The oath prescribed
for a pi ivy council was an oath of allegiance to the per-
son and authority of the Lord Protector and his suc-
cessors, and he was clothed with the more than regal
right of deciding who the successor should be. On
him was conferred the further power of naming the
members of the new Second House. On the other
hand, the council or cabinet by whose advice the
Lord Protector was bound to govern, was to be ap-
proved by both Houses, and to be irremovable without
the consent of Parliament. The Protectorate then was
finally established, so far as constitutional documents
go and in rudimentary forms, on the same principles
of Parliamentary supremacy over the executive and of
ministerial responsibility that have developed our mod-
ern system of government by Parliamentary cabinet.



THERE is no sign that the wonderful fortunes that
had befallen him in the seventeen years since
he quitted his woodside, his fields and flocks, had
altered the soundness of Cromwell's nature. Large af-
fairs had made his vision broader ; power had hardened
his grasp; manifold necessities of men and things had
taught him lessons of reserve, compliance, suppleness,
and silence ; great station brought out new dignity of
carriage. But the foundations were unchanged. Time
never choked the springs of warm affection in him, the
true refreshment of every careworn life. In his family
he was as tender and as solicitous in the hour of his
glory as he had been in the distant days at St. I\'es and
Ely. It was in the spring of 1654 that he took up his
residence at Whitehall. "His wife seemed at first un-
willing to remove thither, tho' she afterward became
better satisfied with her grandeur. His mother, who
by reason of her great age was not so easily flattered
with these temptations, very much mistrusted the issue
of affairs, and would be often afraid, when she heard
the noise of a musket, that her son was shot, being
exceedingly dissatisfied unless she might see him once
a day at least." Only six months after her installation
in the splendors of Whitehall the aged woman passed


away. "My Lord Protector's mother/" writes Thurloe
in November, "of ninety-four years old. died the last
night, and a little before her death gave my lord her
blessing in these words : 'The Lord cause his face to
shine upon you, and comfort ye in all your adversities,
and enable you to do great things for the glory of your
most high God, and to be a relief unto his people ; my
dear son, I leave my heart with thee; a good-night.' "
His letters to his wife tell their own tale of fond
importunity and affectionate response :

'I have not leisure to write much,' he says to her from
Dunbar. ' But I could chide thee that in many of thy letters
thou writest to me, that I should not be unmindful of thee and
thy little ones. Truly if I love you not too well, I think I err
not on the other hand much. Thou art dearer to me than
any creature, let that suffice.'

And then he told her, as we have seen, that he was
growing an old man and felt the infirmities of age
marvelously stealing upon him. He was little more
than fifty, and their union had lasted thirty years.
Seven months later he writes to her that he is increased
in strength in his outward man :

But that will not satisfy me, except I get a heart to love
and serve my heavenly Father better. . . . Pray for me ; truly
I do daily for thee and the dear family, and God Almighty
bless ye all with his spiritual blessings. . . . My love to the
dear little ones ; I pray for grace for them. I thank them for
their letters: let me have them often. ... If Dick Cromwell
and his wife be with you, my dear love to them. I pray for
them; they shall, God willing, hear from me. I love them
very dearly. Truly I am not able as yet to write much. I
am weary, and rest, ever thine.


He was ever, says Thurloe, a most indulgent and
tender father. Richard Cromwell, as history well
knows, had little share of the mastering energies that
made his father "chief of men." With none but re-
spectable qualities, with a taste for hawking, hunting,
and horse-racing, he lacked strenuous purpose, taking
life as it came, not shaping it. When the time arrived
for his son's marriage, Cromwell, though plunged
deep in public anxieties, did his share about the choice
of a wise connection, about money, about the life of
the young couple, with prudent care. Henry Crom-
well, an active soldier, an administrator of conspicuous
judgment and tact, and a politician with sense and
acuteness, had been commander-in-chief in Ireland
since 1655, and his father thought well enough of him
in 1657, though still hardly thirty, to make him lord-
deputy in succession to Fleetwood. Five years before,
Fleetwood had married Bridget Cromwell, widow of
the brave and keen-witted Ireton. Elizabeth, said to
have been Oliver's favorite daughter, was married to
Claypole, a Northamptonshire gentleman, of respect-
able family and estate. These two were staying at the
Cockpit in Whitehall in 1651. "Mind poor Betty of
the Lord's great mercy,'' writes Cromwell to her
mother. "Oh, I desire her not only to seek the Lord
in her necessity, but in deed and in truth to turn to the
Lord; and to take heed to a departing heart, and of
being cozened with worldly vanities and worldly com-
pany, which I doubt she is too subject to. I earnestly
and frequently pray for her and for him. Truly they
are dear to me, very dear ; and I am in fear lest Satan
should deceive them — knowing how weak our hearts
are, and how subtle the Adversary is, and what way
the deceitfulness of our hearts and the vain world make
for his temptations."


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







Not long after the establishment of the second Pro-
tectorate, the youngest daughters made matches which
were taken by jealous onlookers to be still further signs
of the growth of Cromwell's reactionary ambition.
Lady Mary, now one-and-twenty, married Lord Fau-
conberg, and Lady Frances in the same week married

Online LibraryJohn MorleyOliver Cromwell → online text (page 30 of 35)