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Robert Rich, grandson and heir of the Earl of War-
wick. Swift tells Stella how he met Lady Faucon-
berg at a christening in 17 10, two years before her
death. He thought her extremely like her father's

The Protector delighted in music, was fond of
hawking, hunting, coursing, liked a game of bowls,
and took more than a sportsman's pleasure in fine
horses. There is little evidence that he was other than
indifferent to profane letters, but as Chancellor of the
University of Oxford he encouraged the religious
studies of the place, helped in the production of Wal-
ton's polyglot bible, and set up a college at Durham.
Cromwell had compass of mind enough to realise the
duty of a state to learning, but the promotion of reli-
gion was always his commanding interest.

Precisians found the court at Whitehall frivolous
and lax, but what they called frivolity was nothing
worse than the venial sin of cheerfulness. One of the
Dutch ambassadors in 1654 describes what life at court
was like on occasions of state, and the picture is worth
reproducing :

The Master of the Ceremonies came to fetch us in two
coaches of His Highness about half an hour past one, and
brought us to Whitehall, where twelve trumpeters were ready,
sounding against our coming. My lady Nieuport and my
wife were brought to His Highness presently . . . who re-
ceived us with great demonstration of amity. After we staid a


little, we were conducted into another room, where we found
a table ready covered. His Highness sat on one side of it
alone; my lord B., N., and myself at the upper end, and
Lord President Lawrence and others next to us. There
was in the same room another table covered for other
lords of the council and others. At the table of my Lady
Protectrice dined my lady N., my wife, my lady Lambert,
my lord Protector's daughter, and mine. The music played
all the while we were at dinner. The Lord Protector [then]
had us into another room, where the lady Protectrice and
others came to us: where we had also music, and wine, and a
psalm sung which His Highness gave us, and told us it was
yet the best paper that had been exchanged between us ; and
from thence we were had into a gallery, next the river, where
we walked with His Highness about half an hour, and then
took our leaves, and were conducted back again to our houses,
after the same manner as we were brought.

Baxter tells a less genial story. Cromwell, after
hearing him preach, sent for him. The great divine
found him with Broghill, Lambert, and Thurloe.
Cromwell "began a long and tedious speech of God's
providence in the change of government, and how God
had owned it, and what great things had been done at
home and abroad in Spain and Holland." Lambert
fell asleep. Baxter attacked the change of govern-
ment, and Cromwell with some passion defended it.
"A few days after, he sent for me again to hear my
judgment about liberty of conscience, which he pre-
tended to be most zealous for, before almost all his
privy council ; where, after another slow tedious speech
of his, I told him a little of my judgment. And when
two of his company had spun out a great deal more of
the time in such-like tedious, but more ignorant
speeches, some four or five hours being spent, I told
him that if he would be at the labor to read it, I could

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



tell him more of my mind in writing in two sheets, than
in that way of speaking in many days." And this in
truth we may well believe. It was the age of long dis-
course and ecstatic exercises. John Howe, who had
first attracted Cromwell by preaching for two hours,
and then turning the hour-glass for a third, has told us
that on a Sunday or a fast-day he began about nine in
the morning with a prayer for about quarter of an
hour, in which he begged a blessing on the work of the
day, and afterward expounded a chapter for about three
quarters ; then prayed for an hour, preached for an-
other hour, and prayed for half an hour: then he re-
tired to refresh himself for quarter of an hour or more,
the people singing all the while, and then came again
into the pulpit, and prayed for another hour, and gave
them another sermon of about an hour's length ; and
then concluded toward four o'clock with a final half
hour of prayer.

Cromwell had that mark of greatness in a ruler that
he was well served. No prince had ever abler or
more faithful agents in arms, diplomacy, administra-
tion. Blake, Monk, Lockhart, Thurloe are conspicu-
ous names in a list that might easily be made longer.
Familiars Cromwell had none. The sage and in-
defatigable Thurloe, who more closely than any of the
others resembled the deep-browed counselors that
stood around the throne of Elizabeth, came nearest to
the heart of the Protector's deliberations. Thurloe
tells us of himself that he always distrusted his own
counsels, when they sprang from moments of despond-
ency — an implication that wisdom goes with cheerful-
ness, of which Cromwell was most likely the inspirer.
The extent and manner of his resort to advice is no
small measure of the fitness of a man for large affairs.
Oliver was not of the evil Napoleonic buifd. He was


liable to bursts of passion, he had his moods, he was un-
wisely and fatally impatient of Parliamentary discus-
sion ; but nobody knew better the value of consultation
in good faith, of serious conference among men sin-
cerely bent on common aims, of the arts of honest per-
suasion as distinguished from cajolery. Of that pettish
egotism which regards a step taken on advice as humili-
ation, he had not a trace ; he was a man. There are no
signs that he ever had, what even strong men have not
always been without, a taste for sycophants. White-
locke has described how upon great businesses the Pro-
tector was wont to advise with himself, Thurloe, and
a few others; how he would shut himself up with them
for three or four hours together, "would sometimes be
very cheerful, and laying aside his greatness would be
exceedingly familiar, and by way of diversion would
make verses with them, and every one must try his
fancy. He commonly called for tobacco, pipes, and a
candle, and would now and then take tobacco himself;
then he would fall again to his serious and great busi-
ness." This did not prevent persons around him from
knowing that whatever resolutions His Highness took
would be his own. Chatham inveighing against Lord
North in 1770, charged him with being without that
sagacity which is the true source of information —
sagacity to compare causes and effects, to judge of the
present state of things, and to discern the future by
a careful review of the past. "Oliver Cromwell, who
astonished mankind by his intelligence," he proceeds,
"did not derive it from spies in the cabinei of every
prince in Europe; he drew it from the cabinet of his
own sagacious mind." Yet there is a passage in a letter
from Thurloe to Henry Cromwell not many weeks
before the end, where that faithful servant regrets his
master's too ready compliance. "His Highness finding



he can have no advice from those he most expected it
from, saith he will take his own resolutions, and that
he cannot any longer satisfy himself to sit still, and
make himself guilty of the loss of all the honest party;
and truly I have long wished that His Highness would
proceed according to his own satisfaction, and not so
much consider others."



WE have all learned that no inconsiderable part of
history is a record of the illusions of statesmen.
Was Cromwell's foreign policy one of them? To the
prior question what his foreign policy was, no single
comprehensive answer can be given. It was mixed;
defensive and aggressive, pacific and warlike; zeal for
religion and zeal for trade; pride of empire and a
steadfast resistance to a restoration of the royal line
by foreign action. Like every other great ruler in
intricate times and in a situation without a precedent,
he was compelled to change alliances, weave fresh com-
binations, abandon to-day the ardent conception of
yesterday. His grand professed object was indeed
fixed ; the unity of the Protestant interest in Christen-
dom, with England in the van. Characteristically
Cromwell had settled this in his mind by impulse and
the indwelling light. It proved to be an object that
did not happen to fit in with the nature of things.
Unluckily, in the shoals and shifting channels of inter-
national affairs, the indwelling light is but a treacher-
ous beacon. So far as purely national aims were con-
cerned, Cromwell's external policy was in its broad
features the policy of the Commonwealth before him.^

1 See above iv, chap. 5.



What went beyond purely national aims and was in a
sense his own, however imposing, was of questionable
service either to the State or to the Cause.

At the outset his policy was peace. The Common-
wealth had gone to war with the Dutch, and Crom-
well's first use of his new power was to bring the con-
flict to an end (April, 1654). His first boast to his
Parliament was that he had made treaties not only
with Holland, but with Sweden, Denmark, and Por-
tugal. These treaties were essentially commercial, but
they implied general amity, which in the Dutch case
did not go very deep. "Peace," said Oliver, using the
conventional formula since worn so painfully thread-
bare on the eve of every war by men armed to the teeth,
"peace is desirable with all men, so far as it may be had
with conscience and honor." As time went on, designs
shaped themselves in his mind that pointed not to peace
but to energetic action. He went back to the maritime
policy of the Long Parliament. Even in coming to
terms with the Dutch in 1654 he had shown a severity
that indicated both a strong consciousness of mastery,
and a stiff intention to use it to the uttermost. This
second policy was a trunk with two branches, a daring
ideal with a double aspect, one moral, the other mate-
rial. The Protector intended to create a Protestant as-
cendancy in continental Europe, and to assert the rights
and claims of English ships and English trade at sea.
The union of all the Protestant churches had long been
a dream of more than one pious zealot, but Cromwell
crystallized the aspirations after spiritual communion
into schemes of secular policy. In spirit it was not
very unlike the Arab invaders who centuries before
had swept into Europe, the sword in one hand and the
Koran in the other, to conquer and to convert. If he
had only lived, we are told, his continental policy might


have been the rudiment of something great, the foun-
dation of a Protestant and mihtary state that might
have been as powerful as the Spanish monarchy at the
beginning of the century, and might have opened for
England an age if not of happiness, yet of vast great-
ness and ascendancy (Seeley). There is no reason to
think that any such sacrifice of national happiness to
national ascendancy was ever a true account of Oliver
or of his ideals. Those baleful policies were left for
the next generation and Louis XIV, the solar orb now
first diffusing its morning glow above the horizon.
Justly has it been said (Gardiner) that if Oliver had
been granted these twenty years more of life that en-
thusiastic worshipers hold necessary for the success
of his schemes, a European coalition would have been
formed against the English Protector as surely as one
was formed against Louis of France.

When peace was made with the Dutch (April, 1654)
the government found themselves with one hundred
and sixty sail of "brave and well-appointed ships swim-
ming at sea." The Protector and his council held
grave debate whether they should be laid up or em-
ployed in some advantageous design, and against which
of the two great crowns, France or Spain, that design
should be directed ; or whether they would not do bet-
ter to sell their friendship to both the powers for a
good sum of money down. Lambert opposed the pol-
icy of aggression in the Spanish Indies. The scene,
he said, was too far off; the difficulties and the cost
had not been thought out; it would not advance the
Protestant cause; we had far more important work
at home — the reform of the law, the settlement of Ire-
land, and other high concernments. Whether Lam-
bert stood alone, or held views that were shared by
colleagues in the council, we cannot say. Cromwell


argued, on the other hand, that God had brought
them there to consider the work that they might do
all over the world as well as at home, and if they
waited for a surplus they might as well put off that
work forever. Surely the one hundred and sixty
ships were a leading of Providence. The design would
cost little more than laying up the ships, and there was
a chance of immense profit. The proceedings of the
Spaniard in working his silver mines, his shipping and
transshipping, his startings and his stoppages, his man-
agement of trade-winds and ocean-currents in bringing
the annual treasure home — all these things were con-
sidered with as much care as in the old days, a couple
of generations ago, when Drake and Hawkins and the
rest carried on their mighty raids against the colonial
trade of Spain, and opened the first spacious chapter
in the history of the maritime power of England.
From the point of view of modern public law the pic-
ture of the Council of State, with Oliver at the head of
the board discussing the feasibility of seizing the West
Indies, is like so many hearty corsairs with pistols,
cutlasses, and boarding-caps resolving their plans in
the cabin of the Red Rover or Paul Jones's Ranger.
But modern public law, such as it was, did not extend
to the Spanish Main. It is true that Spain refused to
grant freedom from the Inquisition and free sailing
in the West Indies, and these might have been legiti-
mate grounds of war. But it is hard to contend that
they were the real or the only grounds. Historians
may differ whether the expedition to the West Indies
was a scheme for trade, territorial aggrandizement,
and naked plunder of Spanish silver ; or only a spirited
Protestant demonstration in force. Carnal and spir-
itual were strangely mingled in those times. "We that
look to Zion," wrote a gallant Anabaptist admiral of


the age, "should hold Christian communion. We have
all the guns aboard." Whether as substance of the
policy or accident, plunder followed.

To disarm the Spanish king's suspicion the Pro-
tector wrote to assure him that the despatch of the fleet
to the Mediterranean implied no ill intent to any ally
or friend, "in the number of which we count your
majesty" (August 5, 1654). If the king could have
heard the arguments at the Council of State he might
have thought that this amicable language hardly an-
swered to the facts. Cromwell's earliest move in his
new line was to despatch Blake with one strong fleet to
the Mediterranean (October), and Penn and Venables
(December, 1654) with another to the West Indies.
In each case the instructions were not less explicit
against French ships than Spanish. Blake alarmed
France and Spain, menaced the Pope, and attacked
the Barbary pirates. The expedition against Saint
Domingo was a failure; it was ill-found, ill-conceived,
and ill-led. Before returning in disgrace the com-
manders, hoping to retrieve their name, acquired
the prize of Jamaica. These proceedings brought the
Protector directly within the sphere of the great Euro-
pean conflict of the age, and drew England into the
heart of the new distribution of power in Europe that
marked the middle epoch of the seventeenth century.
From the Elizabethan times conflict on the high seas
had ranked as general reprisal and did not constitute 1
a state of war, nor did it necessarily now. The status
of possessions over sea was still unfixed.^ Cromwell,
however, had no right to be surprised when Philip
chose to regard aggression in the Indies as justifying
declaration of war in Europe. A further consequence
was that Spain now began warmly to espouse the cause

1 Corbet's "Spanish War," 1585-87, viii-ix.— Navy Record Society, 1898.


of the exiled line, and in the spring of 1656 PhiHp IV
formally bound himself to definite measures for the
transport of a Royalist force from Flanders to aid in
the English Restoration.

The power of Spain had begun to shrink with the
abdication of Charles V. Before the middle of the
seventeenth century Portugal had broken off; revolt
had shaken her hold in Italy; Catalonia was in stand-
ing insurrection; the United Provinces, had finally
achieved their independence; by the barbarous expul-
sion of Moors and Jews she lost three millions of the
best of her industrial population ; her maritime suprem-
acy was at an end. Philip IV, the Spanish sovereign
from a little time beiore the accession of Charles I in
England to a little time after the restoration of Charles
II, was called by flatterers the Great. "Like a ditch,"
said Spanish humor — "the more you dig away from it.
the greater the ditch." The Treaty of Westphalia
(1648), the fruit of the toil, the foresight, and the
genius of Richelieu, though others gathered it, weak-
ened the power of the Germanic branch of the House
of Hapsburg, and Mazarin, the second of the two fa-
mous cardinals who for forty years governed France,
was now in the crisis of his struggle with the Spanish
branch. In this long struggle between two states, each
torn by intestine dissension as well as by an external
enemy, the power of England was recognized as a
decisive factor after the rise of the republic; and be-
fore Cromwell assumed the government Spain had
hastened to recognize the new Commonwealth. Crom-
well, as we have seen, long hesitated between Spain
and France. Traditional policy pointed to France, for
though she was predominantly Catholic, yet ever since
the days of Francis I the greatest of her statesmen, in-
cluding Henrv IV and Richelieu, had favored the Ger-


man princes and the Protestant powers, from no special
care for the reformed faith, but because the Protestant
powers were the adversaries of the emperor, the head
of the CathoHc party in Europe.

Mazarin endeavored to gain Cromwell from the
moment of his triumphant return from Worcester. It
is the mark of genius to be able to satisfy new demands
as they arise, and to play new parts with skill. Ex-
pecting to deal with a rough soldier whom fortune and
his sword had brought to the front, Mazarin found
instead of this a diplomatist as wary, as supple, as
tenacious, as dexterous, as capable of large views, as
incapable of dejection, as he was all these things him-
self. The rude vigor of the English demands and the
Lord Protector's haughty pretensions never irritated
Mazarin, of whom it has been aptly said (Mignet)
that his ambition raised him above self-love, and that
he was so scientifically cool that even adversaries never
appeared to him in the light of enemies to be hated,
but only as obstacles to be moved or turned. It was
at one time even conjectured idly enough that Maza-
rin designed to marry one of his nieces to the sec-
ond son of Oliver. For years the match went on be-
tween the Puritan chief who held the English to be
the chosen people, and the Italian cardinal who de-
clared that though his language was not French, his
heart was. Mazarin's diplomacy followed the vicis-
situdes of Cromwell's political fortune, and the pur-
suit of an alliance waxed hotter or cooler, as the Pro-
tector seemed likely to consolidate his power or to let
it slip. Still both of them were at bottom men of di-
rect common sense, and their friendship stood on nearly
as good a basis for six or seven years as that which
for twenty years of the next century supported the
more fruitful friendship between Sir Robert Walpole


and Cardinal Fleury. A French writer, eminent both
as historian and actor in state affairs, says of these
negotiations that it is the supreme art of great states-
men to treat business simply and with frankness, when
they know that they have to deal with rivals who will
not let themselves be either duped or frightened
(Guizot). The comment is just. Cromwell was
harder and less pliant, and had nothing of the caress
under which an Italian often hides both sense and firm-
ness. But each was alive to the difificulties of the other,
and neither expected short cuts nor a straight road.
Mazarin had very early penetrated Cromwell's idea of
making himself the guardian both of the Huguenots in
France, and of the Protestant interest throughout
Europe. In the spring of 1655 the massacre of the
Protestants in the Piedmontese valleys stirred a wave
of passion in England that still vibrates in Milton's
sonnet, and that Cromwell's impressive energy forced
on Europe. At no other time in his history did the
flame in his own breast burn with an intenser glow.
The incident both roused his deepest feelings and was
a practical occasion for realizing his policy of a con-
federation of Protestant powers, with England at the
head of them, and France acting in concert. To be
indifferent to such doings, he said, is a great sin, and
a deeper sin still to be blind to them from policy or
ambition. He associated his own personality with the
case in a tone of almost jealous directness that struck
a new note. It was his diplomatic pressure upon
France that secured redress, though Mazarin, not with-
out craft, kept for himself a foremost place.

No English ruler has ever shown a nobler figure
than Cromwell in the case of the Vaudois. and he had
all the highest impulses of the nation with him. He
said to the French ambassador that the woes of the


poor Piedmoiitese went as close to his heart as if they
were his own nearest kin; and he gave personal proof
of the sincerity of his concern by a munificent contri-
bution to the fund for the rehef of the martyred popu-
lation. Never was the great conception of a powerful
state having duties along with interests more mag-
nanimously realized.

Now was the time when the Council of State directed
their secretary to buy a new atlas for their use, and to
keep the globe always standing in the council chamber.
The Venetian representative in London in 1655 de-
clares that the court of the Protector was the most
brilliant and most regarded in all Europe : six kings
had sent ambassadors and solicited his friendship. The
glory of all this in the eyes of Cromwell, like its inter-
est in history, is the height that was thus reached
among the ruling and established forces of Europe by
Protestantism. The influence of France, says Ranke.
had rescued Protestantism from destruction; it was
through Cromwell that Protestantism took up an inde-
pendent position among the powers of the world. A
position so dazzling was a marvelous achievement of
force and purpose, if only the foundation had been
sounder and held better promise of duration.

The war with Spain in which England was now in-
volved by her aggression in the West Indies roused
little enthusiasm in the nation. The Parliament did
not disapprove the war, but showed no readiness to
vote the money. The Spanish trade in wine, oil, sugar,
fruit, cochineal, silver, w^as more important to English
commerce than the trade with France. It is worthy
of remark that the Long Parliament had directed its
resentment and ambition against the Dutch, and dis-
played no ill will to Spain ; and much the same is true
of the Little Parliament — and even of Cromwell him-


self in early stages. The association of France in
the mind of England with Mary Stuart, with the
queen of Charles I, and with distant centuries of by-
gone war, was some set-off to the odium that sur-
rounded the Holy Office, the somber engine of religious
cruelty in the Peninsula ; and the Spanish Armada was
balanced in popular imagination by the Bartholomew
Massacre in France, of which Burleigh said that it
was the most horrible crime since the Crucifixion.
No question of public opinion and no difficulties at the
exchequer prevented the vigorous prosecution of the
war. Blake, though himself a republican, served the
Protector with the same patriotic energy and resource
that he had given to the Commonwealth until after
the most renowned of all his victories, and worn out

Online LibraryJohn MorleyOliver Cromwell → online text (page 31 of 35)