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straits Oliver sounded some of the republicans, includ-
ing men of such hard grit as Ludlow and Vane. Henry
Cromwell was doubtful and suspicious of any such
combination, and laid down the wholesome principle,
in party concerns, that one that runs along with you
may more easily trip up the heels than he that wrestles
with you. We go wrong in political judgment if we
leave out rivalries, heart-burnings, personalities, even
among leading men and great men. History is apt
to smooth out these rugosities ; hero-worship may
smooth them out; time hides them; but they do their
work. Less trace of personal jealousy or cabal is to
be found in the English rebellion than in almost any
other revolutionary movement in history, and Crom-
well himself was free from these disfigurements of
public life. Of Lambert, fine soldier and capable man
as he was, we cannot afiirm so much, and he had
confederates. Henry Cromwell's clear sight never
failed him, and he perceived that the discussion was
idle. "Have you, after all," he asks Thurloe, "got any
settlement for men to swear to ? Does not your peace
depend upon his Highness' life, and upon his peculiar
skill and faculty, and personal interest in the army as
now modelled and commanded? I say, beneath the
immediate hand of God, if I know anything of the
affairs of England, there is no other reason why we are
not in blood at this dav." In other words, no settle-



ment was even now in sight, and none was possible if
Cromwell's mighty personality should be withdrawn.
This judgment from such a man is worth a whole
chapter of modern dissertation. It was the whole
truth, to none known better than to the Lord Protector




ONE parting beam of splendor broke through the
clouded skies. The Protector, in conformity
with the revised treaty made with France in March
(1658), had despatched six thousand foot, as well as a
naval contingent, as auxiliaries to the French in an
attack by land and sea upon Dunkirk. The famous
Turenne was in general command of the allied forces,
with Lockhart under his orders at the head of the Eng-
lish six thousand. Dramatic elements were not want-
ing. Cardinal Mazarin was on the ground, and Louis
XIV, then a youth of twenty, was learning one of his
early lessons in the art of war. In the motley Spanish
forces confronting the French king were his cousins
the Duke of York and the Duke of Gloucester, the two
sons of Charles I, and like Louis himself grandsons of
Henry of Navarre. Along w^ith the English princes
were the brigades of Irish and Royalist English who
had followed the fortunes of the exiled line, and who
now once more faced the ever-victorious Ironsides.
Cromwell sent Fauconberg. his new son-in-law, to
Calais with letters of salutation and compliment to
the French king and his minister, accompanied by a
present of superb English horses. The emissary was
received with extraordinary courtesies alike by the



monarch and the cardinal, and the latter even conducted
him by the hand to the outer door, a compliment that
he had never before been known to pay to the ambassa-
dor of any crowned head.

The Battle of the Dunes (June 14) was fought
among the sandhills of Dunkirk, and ended in the de-
struction of the Spanish army. "The English," says
a French eye-w4tness, "pike in hand, charged with such
stubborn vigor the eight Spanish battalions posted on
the high ground of the downs, that in face of musketry
fire and stout resistance the English drove them head-
long from their position." These were the old or
natural Spaniards as distinguished from Walloon and
German, and were the flower of the Spanish army.
Their position was so strong that Lockhart at first
thought it desperate; and when all was over he called
it the hottest dispute that he had ever seen. The two
Stuart princes are said to have forgotten their wrongs
at the hand of the soldier who had trained that invin-
cible band, and to have felt a thrill of honorable pride
at the gallantry of their countrymen. Turenne's vic-
tory was complete, and in a week Dunkirk surrendered.
Then came a bitter moment for the French. The king
received Dunkirk from the Spaniards, only to hand
over the keys according to treaty to the English, and
Lockhart at once took possession in the name of the
Lord Protector. Mazarin knew the price he was pay-
ing to be tremendous. The French historians^ think
that he foresaw^ that English quarrels would one day
be sure to enable France to recover it by sword or
purse, and so in time they did. Meanwhile the Iron-
sides gave the sage and valiant Lockhart trouble by
their curiosity about the churches : they insisted on
keeping their heads covered; some saw in the sacred

1 Bourelly, p. 261. Cheruel Hist, de F7-ance sons Mazarin, iii. 292-5.

From the original portrait by John Riley, by permission of
the Rev. T. Ctoir.well Bush.



treasures good material for loot; and one of them
nearly caused a violent affray by lighting his pipe at
a candle on the altar where a priest was saying Mass.
But Lockhart was strict, and discipline prevailed.
Hardly less embarrassing than want of reverence in the
soldiery were the long discourses with which Hugh
Peters, the Boanerges of the military pulpit, would
fain have regaled his singular ally, the omnipotent
cardinal. Louis XIV despatched a mission of much
magnificence bearing to Cromwell a present of a sword
of honor with a hilt adorned with precious gems. In
after days when Louis had become the arch-persecutor
and the shining champion of divine right, the pride of
the Most Christian King was mortified by recollecting
the profuse compliments that he had once paid to the
impious regicide.

The glory of their ruler's commanding place in
Europe gratified English pride, but it brought no com-
posure into the confused and jarring scene. It rather
gave new nourishment to the root of evil. "The
Lord is pleased to do wonderfully for his Highness,"
said Thurloe after Dunkirk, "and to bless him in his
affairs beyond expression," but he speedily reverts
to the grinding necessity of putting affairs on some
better footing. Men with cool heads perceived that
though continental acquisitions might strengthen our
security in one way, yet by their vast cost they must
add heavily to the financial burdens that constituted
the central weakness of the Protectorate, and pre-
vented the real settlement of a governing system.
For the Protector himself the civil difficulties against
which he had for seven years with such manful faith
and heroic persistency contended were now soon to
come to an end. He told his last Parliament that he
looked upon himself as one set on a watch-tower to


see what may be for the good of these nations, and
what may be for the preventing of evil. The hour of
the dauntless sentinel's relief soon sounded. Death
had already this year stricken his household more than
one sore blow. Rich, who had married Frances
Cromwell in November, died in February. Elizabeth
Claypole lost her youngest son in June. All through
the summer Elizabeth herself was torn by a cruel
malady, and in August she died at Hampton Court.
For many days her father, insensible even to the cares
of public business, watched with ceaseless devotion by
the bedside of the dearest of his children. He was
himself ill with gout and other distempers, and his
disorders were aggravated by close vigils and the depth
of his affliction. A low fever seized him, presently
turning to a dangerous ague. He met his council
from time to time and attended to affairs as long as
he was able. It was in these days (August 20) that
George Fox met him riding in Hampton Court, "and
before I came to him," says the mystic, "as he rode at
the head of his lifeguard I saw and felt a waft of death
go forth against him." A little later he was taken to
London, and while St. James's was being made ready,
he stayed at Whitehall. He quitted it no more. "He
had great discoveries of the Lord to him in his sickness,
and had some assurances of his being restored and
made further serviceable in his work. Never was
there a greater stock of prayers going for any man
than there is liow going for him, and truly there is a
general consternation upon the spirits of all men, good
and bad, fearing what may be the event of it, should it
please God to take his Highness at this time. Men's
hearts seemed as sunk within them." When the great
warrior knew that the end was sure, he met it with the
confident resignation of his faith. He had seen death


too often and too near to dread the parting hour of
mortal anguish. Chaplains, preachers, godly persons,
attended in an adjoining room, and came in and out,
as the heavy hours went on, to read the Bible to him or
to pray with him. To one of them he put the moving
question, so deep with penitential meaning, so pathetic
in its humility and misgiving, in its wistful recall of
the bright bygone dawn of life in the soul : ^^Tell me,
is it possible to foil from grace?" ''No, it is not pos-
sible," said the minister. "Then," said the dying
Cromwell, '7 am safe, for I knozv that I zi'as once in

With weighty repetitions and great vehemency of
spirit he quoted the texts that have awed or consoled
so many generations of believing men. In broken
murmurs of prayer he besought the favor of Heaven
for the people; that they might have consistency of
judgment, one heart, and mutual love ; that they and
the work of reformation might be delivered. "Thou
hast made me, though x-ery unworthy, a mean instru-
ment to do them some good, and thee service; and
many of them have set too high a value upon me,,
though others wish and would be glad of my death.
Pardon such as desire to trample on the dust of a poor
worm, for they are thy people too." All the night 0:
the 2d of September he was very restless, and "there
being something to drink offered him, he was desired
to take the same and to endeavor to sleep ; unto which
he answered, 'It is not my design to drink or to sleep,
but my design is to make zi'hat haste I can to be gone.' "
On Monday, the 30th of August, a wild storm had
raged over land and sea, and while Cromwell was
slowly sinking, the days broke upon houses shattered,
mighty trees torn up by the roots, foundered ships, and
drowning men.


Friday, the 3d of September, was the anniversary
of two of his most famous victories. It was just eight
years since w4th radiant eye he had watched the sun
rise over the ghstening waters at Dunbar, and seen the
scattering of the enemies of the Lord. Now he lay in
the stupor of helpless death, and about four o'clock in
the afternoon his days came to their end.

His remains were privately interred in King Henry
the Seventh's chapel three weeks later, and for a cou-
ple of months a waxen effigy in robes of state with
crown and scepter was exhibited at Somerset House.
Then (November 23) the public funeral took place,
with profuse and regal pomp, and amid princes, law-
givers, and warriors who have brought renown and
power to the name of England the dust of Oliver
Cromwell lay for a season in the great time-hallowed

In a little more than two years the hour of ven-
geance struck, and a base and impious revenge it
proved. A unanimous resolution of the House of Com-
mons directed the savage ceremonial, and the date was
the anniversary (January 30, 1661) of the execution of
King Charles twelve years before. "It was kept as a
very solemn day of fasting and prayer. This morn-
ing the carcases of Cromwell, Ireton, and Bradshaw
(which the day before had been brought from the
Red Lion Inn, Holborn) were drawn upon a sledge
to Tyburn [a stone's throw from where the Marble
Arch now^ stands], and then taken out of their coffins,
and in their shrouds hanged by the neck until the
going down of the sun. They were then cut down,
their heads taken off, and their bodies buried in a
grave under the gallows. The coffin in which was
the body of Cromwell was a very rich thing, very
full of gilded hinges and nails." The three heads

From a miniature by Crosse at W indsor Castle. By special
permission of Her Majesty the Queen.



were fixed upoji poles, and set up at the southern end
of Westminster Hall, where Pepys saw them four
days after on the spot at which the regicides had
judged the king.^

To imply that Cromwell stands in the line of Euro-
pean dictators with Charles V or Louis XIV or Napo-
leon is a hyperbole which does him both less than
justice and more. Guizot brings us nearer to the
truth when he counts Cromwell, William HI. and
Washington as chief and representative of sovereign
crises that have settled the destinies of nations. \Mien
we go on to ask what was Cromwell's special share
in a mission so supreme, the answer, if we seek it
away from the prepossessions of modern controversy,
is not hard to discern. It was by his military genius,
by the might of the legions that he created and con-
trolled and led to victory upon victory ; it was at Mars-
ton and Naseby, at Preston and Worcester, in Ireland
and at Dunbar, that Cromwell set his deep mark on
the destinies of England as she was, and of that vaster
dominion into which the English realm was in the
course of ages to be transformed. He was chief of a
party who shared his own strong perception that nei-
ther civil freedom nor political could be made secure
without the sword, and happily the swordsman showed
himself consummate. In speed and vigor, in dash and
in prudence, in force of shock and quick steadiness
of recovery; in sieges, marches, long, wasting cam-
paigns, pitched engagements; as commander of horse,
as tactician, and as strategist, the modern expert ranks
Cromwell among the foremost masters of the rough
art of war. Above all. he created the instrument

1 So I read Pepys. In any case, however, evidence points to the fact
that the heads were uUimately fixed on the roof outside.



which, in disciphne, skill, and those highest military
virtues that come of moral virtues, has never been

Li our own half-century now closing, alike in west-
ern Europe and across the Atlantic, the torch of war
has been lighted rather for Unity of race or state than
for Liberty. Cromwell struck for both. It was his
armed right hand that crushed the absolutist preten-
sions alike of crown and miter, and then forced the
three kingdoms into the mold of a single state. It
was at those decisive moments when the trembling bal-
ance hung on fortune in the battle-field that the un-
conquerable captain turned the scale. After we have
discussed all the minor aspects of his special policies
on this occasion or the other, after we have scanned all
the secondary features of his rule, this is still what in
a single sentence defines the true place of Cromwell in
our history.

Along with this paramount claim, he performed the
service of keeping a provisional form of peace and de-
livering the nation from the anarchy in which both
order and freedom would have been submerged. He
made what some of the best of his contemporaries
thought mistakes ; he forsook some principles, in his
choice of means, which he intended to preserve in work-
ing out the end ; and some of his difficulties were of his
own creation. Yet watchfulness, self-effacement, ver-
satility and resource, for the time and on the surface,
repaired all, and as "constable of the parish" his per-
sistency was unfaltering and unmatched. In the
harder task of laying the foundations of a deeper order
that might be expected to stand after his own imperious
control should be withdrawn, he was beaten. He
hardly counted on more. In words already quoted, "I
did out of necessity," he said, "undertake that business,.


not so much out of a hope of doing any good as out
of a desire to prevent mischief and evil." He reared
no dam, no bulwark strong enough to coerce either
the floods of revolutionary faction or the reactionary
tides that came after. "Does not your peace," as
Henry Cromwell asked, "depend upon his Highness's
life, and upon his peculiar skill and faculty and per-
sonal interest in the army?" That is to say, the Pro-
tectorate was no system, but only an expedient of indi-
vidual supremacy.

Richard Cromwell, it is true, acceded without oppo-
sition. For a few months the new Protector bore the
outward ensigns of supreme power, but the reality of
it was not his for a day. The exchequer was so di-
lapidated that he underwent the humiliation of beg-
ging Mazarin to lend him fifty thousand pounds. The
Council of War sought an early opportunity of setting
up their claim to military predominance. The ma-
jority in the new Parliament was undoubtedly favor-
able at first to Richard and his government, but a
constitution depending for its life on the fluctuations
of majority and minority in incessant divisions in the
lobbies of the House of Commons was evidently not
worth a month's purchase. Authority in the present
was sapped and dislodged by arraigning the past.
Financial deficit and abuses in administration were ex-
posed to rigorous assault. Prisoners of state, com-
mitted on no more lawful warrant than the Protector's
will, were brought up to the bar from the Tower and
strong places elsewhere, attended by applauding
crowds, and received with marks of sympathy for the
victim and resentment against the dead oppressor.
Dunkirk, Jamaica, the glories of Blake, the humili-
ation of Spain, went for nothing against the losses of
trade. The struggle between Parliament and army.


so long quelled by the iron hand of Oliver, but which
he was never able to bring to enduring adjustment,
broke into flame. Richard Cromwell, a man of honor
and sense, but without the prestige of a soldier, suc-
cumbed and disappeared (May, 1659). The old quar-
rel between military power and civil fought itself to
an end in one of those squalid scenes of intrigue,
egotism, mutual reproach, political impotency, in
which so many revolutions since have expired. Hap-
pily no blood was shed. Then the ancient line was
recalled, the Cavaliers infuriated by old defeat and
present ruin, the bishops eager to clamber into their
thrones again, the bulk of the nation on the same
side. At the new king's right hand was Clarendon;
1)ut fourteen years of exile, with all its privations, con-
tumelies, and heartsickness of hope perpetually de-
ferred, had soured him and blotted out from his mind
the principles and aspirations of the old days when he
had stood by the side of Pym and Hampden against
Laud, Strafford, and Charles. The monarchy no
doubt came back with its claims abated. So much the
sword of Oliver had made safe. But how little had
been permanently done for that other cause, more pre-
cious in Oliver's sight than all the rest, was soon shown
by the Act of Uniformity, the Test Act, the Conven-
ticle Act, the Five Mile Act, and the rest of the appa-
ratus of church privilege and proscription.

It is hard to resist the view that Cromwell's revolu-
tion was the end of the medieval, rather than the be-
ginning of the modern era. He certainly had little
of that faith in Progress that became the inspiration of
a later age. His respect for Public Opinion, supposed
to be the driving force of modern government, was a
strictly limited regard. In one sense he was no demo-
crat, for he declared, as we have seen, that the ques-

Drawn by George T. Tobin from the portrait by Sir Peter Lely in the
Pitti Gallery, Florence.



tion is not what pleases people, but what is for their
good. This came rather near to Charles's words upon
the scaffold, that the people's liberty lay in the laws,
"not their having a share in government; that is noth-
ing pertaining to them."

On the other hand, he was equally strong that
things obtained by force, though never so good in
themselves, are both less to the ruler's honor and less
likely to last. "What we gain in a free way, it is bet-
ter than twice as much in a forced, and will be more
truly ours and our posterity's" (ante. Book in.,Chap.
iii.) ; and the safest test of any constitution is its ac-
ceptance by the people. And again : "It will be found
an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his
natural liberty upon a supposition he may abuse it."
The root of all external freedom is here.

In saying that Cromwell had the spirit, insight, and
grasp that fit a man to wield power in the greatest
affairs, we only repeat that he had the instinct of gov-
ernment, and this is a very different thing from either
a taste for the abstract ideas of politics, or the passion
for liberty. The instinct of order has been as often
the gift of a tyrant as of a hero, as common to some
of the worst hearts in human history as to some of the
best. Cromwell was no Frederick the Great, who
spoke of mankind as dicsc vcrdainmte Race вАФ that ac-
cursed tribe. He belonged to the rarer and nobler type
of governing men who see the golden side, who count
faith, pity, hope, among the counsels of practical wis-
dom, and who for political power must ever seek a
moral base. This is a key to men's admiration for
him. His ideals were high, his fidelity to them, while
sometimes clouded, was still enduring, his ambition
was pure. Yet it can hardly be accident that has
turned him into one of the idols of the school who hold,


shyl}' as yet in England, but nakedly in Germany, that
might is a token of right, and that the strength and
power of the state is an end that tests and justifies
all means.

When it is claimed that no English ruler did more
than Cromwell to shape the future of the land he gov-
erned, we run some risk of straining history only to
procure incense for retrograde ideals. Many would
contend that Thomas Cromwell, in deciding the future
of one of the most powerful standing institutions of
the country, exercised a profounder influence than
Oliver. Then, if Cromwell did little to shape the fu-
ture of the Church of England, neither did he shape
the future of the Parliament of England. On the side
of constitutional construction, unwelcome as it may
sound, a more important place belongs to the sage and
steadfast, though most unheroic, Walpole. The devel-
opment of the English constitution has in truth pro-
ceeded on lines that Cromwell profoundly disliked.
The idea of a Parliament always sitting and actively
reviewing the details of administration was in his sight
an intolerable mischief. It was almost the only sys-
tem against which his supple mind, so indifferent as it
was to all constitutional forms, was inflexible. Yet
this for good or ill is our system to-day, and the sys-
tem of the great host of political communities that
have followed our parliamentary model. When it is
said, again, that it was owing to Cromwell that non-
conformity had time to take such deep root as to defy
the storm of the Restoration, do we not overlook the
original strength of all those great Puritan fibers from
which both the Rebellion and Cromwell himself had
sprung? It was not a man, not even such a man as
Oliver ; it was the same underlying spiritual forces that
had made the Revolution which also held fast against


the Restoration. We might as well say that Crom-
well was the founder of nonconformity.

It has been called a common error of our day to
ascribe far too much to the designs and the influence
of eminent men, of rulers, and of governments. The
reproach is just and should impress us. The momen-
tum of past events, the spontaneous impulses of the
mass of a nation or a race, the pressure of general
hopes and fears, the new things learned in "novel
spheres of thought," all have more to do with the
progress of human affairs than the deliberate views
of even the most determined and far-sighted of our
individual leaders. Thirty years after the death of
the Protector a more successful revolution came about.
The law was made more just, the tribunals were puri-
fied, the press began to enjoy a freedom for which
Milton had made a glorious appeal, but which Crom-
well dared not concede, the rights of conscience re-
ceived at least a partial recognition. Yet the Decla-
ration of Right and the Toleration Act issued from a
stream of ideas and maxims, aims and methods, that

Online LibraryJohn MorleyOliver Cromwell → online text (page 33 of 35)