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of them he planted divines who had in convocation
been parties to the unlawful canons on which the Com-
mons were at the moment founding an impeachment
of treason. This was either one of his many random
imprudences, or else a calculated challenge. Cromwell
blazed out instantly against a step that proclaimed the
king's intention of upholding Episcopacy just as it
stood. Suddenly an earthquake shook the ground on


which they stood, and threw the combatants into un-
expected postures.


The event that now happened inflamed the pubHc
mind in England with such horror as had in Europe
followed the Sicilian Vespers, or the massacre of St.
Bartholomew, or the slaughter of the Protestants in
the passes of the Valtelline by the Spanish faction only
twenty-one years before. In November the news
reached London that the Irish had broken out in bloody
rebellion. The story of this dreadful rising has been
the subject of vehement dispute among historians ever
since, and even in our own day has been discussed with
unhistoric heat. Yet the broad facts are sufficiently
clear to any one capable of w^eighing the testimony of
the time without prejudice of race or faith; and they
stand out in cardinal importance in respect both to
leading episodes in the career of Cromwell, and to the
general politics of the Revolution.

The causes of rebellion in Ireland lay deep. Con-
fiscations and exterminations had followed in deadly
succession, and ever since the merciless suppression of
the rising of the Ulster chieftains in the reign of Eliza-
beth, the elements of another violent outbreak had been
sullenly and surely gathering. Enormous confisca-
tions had been followed by the plantation of Scotch
and English colonists, and the clearance of the old
owners and their people. The colonists thought no
more of rights and customs in the aboriginal popula-
tion than if they had been the Matabele or Zulu of a
later time. Besides the great sweeping forfeitures,
rapacious adventurers set busily to work with eagle
eyes to find out flaws in men's title to individual es-


tates, and either the adventurer himself acquired the es-
tates, or forced the possessor to take a new grant at
an extortionate rent. People were turned ofif their
land without compensation and without means of sub-
sistence. Active men left with nothing to do and
nothing of their own to live upon, wandered about the
country, apt upon the least occasion of insurrection or
disturbance to be heads and leaders of outlaws and
rebels. Strafford (1632-40), in spite of his success
upon the surface, had aggravated the evil at its
source. He had brought the finances into good order,
introduced discipline into the army, driven pirates out
of the Channel, imported flax-seed from Holland and
linen-weavers from France. But nobody blessed or
thanked him, everybody dreaded the weight of his
hand, and in such circumstances dread is but another
word for hate. The genius of fear had perfected the
work of fear ; but the whole structure of imperial
power rested on a shaking bog. The great inqui-
sition into titles had alarmed and exasperated the old
English. The northern Presbyterians resented his
proceedings for religious uniformity. The Catholics
were at heart in little better humor ; for though Straf-
ford was too deep a statesman to attack them in full
front, he undoubtedly intended in the fullness of time
to force them as well as the Presbyterians into the
same uniformity as his master had designed for Scot-
land. He would, however, have moved slowly, and
in the meantime he both practised connivance with the
Catholic evasion of the law, and encouraged hopes of
complete toleration. So did the king. But after
Strafford had gone to his doom in England, Puritan
influences grew more powerful, and the Catholics per-
ceived that all the royal promises of complete toleration,
like those for setting a Hmit to the time for inquisition


into titles of land, were so many lies. No Irish con-
spirator could have laid the train for rebellion more
effectively. If any one cares to find some more rea-
sonable explanation of Irish turbulence than the simple
theory that this unfortunate people in the modern
phrase have a double dose of original sin, he should
read the story how the O' Byrnes were by chicane, per-
jury, imprisonment, martial law, application of burn-
ing gridirons, branding-irons, and strappado, cheated
out of their lands.

While these grievances were rankling all over Ire-
land, and the undying animosities of the dispossessed
chieftains of Ulster were ready to break into flame,
priests and friars from Spain had swarmed into the
land and kindled fresh excitement. No papist con-
spiracy was needed to account for what soon happened.
When one deep spring of discontent mounts to a head
and overflows, every other source becomes a tributary.
Maddened as they were by wholesale rapine, driven
forth from land and homes, outraged in every senti-
ment belonging to their old rude organization, it is no
wonder if the native Irish and their leaders of ancient
and familiar name found an added impulse in passion
for their religious faith.

At last that happened which the wiser heads had
long foreseen. After many weeks of strange stillness,
in an instant the storm burst. The Irish in Ulster sud-
denly (October 23, 1641) fell upon the English colo-
nists, the invaders of their lands. The fury soon
spread, and the country was enveloped in the flames of
a conflagration fed by concentrated sense of ancient
wrong, and all the savage passions of an oppressed
people suddenly broke loose upon its oppressors.
Agrarian wrong, religious wrong, insolence of race,
now brought forth their poisonous fruit. A thousand


murderous atrocities were perpetrated on one side, and
they were avenged by atrocities as hideous on the other.
Every tale of horror m the insurgents can be matched
by horror as diaboHc in the soldiery. What happened
in 1 64 1 was in general features very like what hap-
pened in 1798, for the same things come to pass in
every conflict where ferocious hatred in a persecuted
caste meets the ferocious pride and contempt of its per-
secutors. The main points are reasonably plain.
There is no question by whom the sanguinary work
was first begun. There is little question that it was
not part of a premeditated and organized design of in-
discriminate massacre, but was inevitably attendant
upon a violent rising against foreign despoilers. There
is no question that though in the beginning agrarian or
territorial, the rising soon drew after it a fierce struggle
between the two rival Christian factions. There is
little question that, after the first shock. Parsons and
his allies in authority acted on the cynical anticipation
that the worse the rebellion, the richer would be the for-
feitures. There is no question that the enormity of
crime was the subject of exaggeration, partly natural
and inevitable, partly incendiary and deliberate. Nor
finally is there any question that, even without exag-
geration, it is the most barbarous and inhuman chapter
that stains the domestic history of the kingdom. The
total number of Protestants slain in cold blood at the
outbreak of the rebellion has been fixed at various
figures from four thousand to forty, and the latest
serious estimate puts it at five-and-twenty thousand
during the first three or four years. The victims of
the retaliatory slaughter by Protestants upon Catholics
were countless, but Sir William Petty thinks that
more than half a million Irish of both creeds perished
between 1641 and 1652.


The fated international antipathy between Enghsh
and Irish, that hke a volcano is sometimes active,
sometimes smoldering and sullen, now broke forth in
liquid fire. The murderous tidings threw England
into frenzy. It has been compared to the fury with
which the American colonists regarded the use of red
Indians by the government of King George; or to the
rage and horror that swept over the country for a mo-
ment when the tidings of Cawnpore arrived; and I
need not describe it. The air was thick, as is the way
in revolutions, with frantic and irrational suspicion.
The catastrophe in Ireland fitted in with the governing
moods of the hour, and we know only too well how
simple and summary are the syllogisms of a rooted dis-
trust. Ireland was papist, and this was a papist ris-
ing. The queen was a papist, surrounded at Somerset
House by the same black brood as those priests of Baal
who on the other side of St. George's Channel were
described as standing by while their barbarous flock
slew old men and women wholesale and in cold blood,
dashed out the brains of infants against the walls in
sight of their wretched parents, ran their skeans like
red Indians into the flesh of little children, and flung
helpless Protestants by scores at a time over the bridge
at Portadown. Such was the reasoning, and the
damning conclusion was clear. This was the queen's
rebellion, and the king must be her accomplice. Sir
Phelim O'Neil, the first leader of the Ulster rebellion,
declared that he held a commission from the king him-
self, and the story took quick root. It is now manifest
that Charles was at least as much dismayed as any of
his subjects; yet for the rest of his life he could never
wape out the fatal theory of his guilt.

That Catholic Ireland should prefer the king to the
Parliament for a master was to be expected. Puritan-


ism with the Old Testament in its hand was never an
instrument for the government of a community pre-
dominantly Catholic, and it never can be. Nor was it
ever at any time so ill fitted for such a task as now,
when it was passionately struggling for its own life
within the Protestant island. The most energetic
patriots at Westminster were just as determined to
root out popery in Ireland, as Philip H had been to
root out Lutheran or Calvinistic heresy in the United

The Irish rebellion added bitter elements to the great
contention in England. The Parliament dreaded lest
an army raised for the subjugation of Ireland should
be used by the king for the subjugation of England.
The king justified such dread by trying to buy military
support from the rebel confederates by promises that
would have gone near to turning Ireland into a sep-
arate Catholic state. Meanwhile we have to think of
Ireland as weltering in bottomless confusion. Parlia-
mentarian Protestants were in the field and Royalist
Protestants, Anglicans and Presbyterians; the Scots
settlers to-day standing for the Parliament, to-morrow
fighting along with Ormonde for the king ; the Confed-
erate Catholics, the Catholic gentry of the Pale, all in-
extricably entangled. Thus we shall see going on for
nine desperate years the sowing of the horrid harvest,
which it fell to Cromwell after his manner to gather in.



THE king returned from Scotland in the latter part
of November (1641), baffled in his hopes of aid
from the Scots, but cheered by the prospect of quarrels
among his enemies at Westminster, expecting to fish
in the troubled waters in Ireland, and bent on using
new strength that the converts of reaction were bring-
ing him for the destruction of the popular leaders.
The city gave him a great feast, the crowd shouted
long life to King Charles and Queen Mary, the church
bells rang, wine was set flowing in the conduits in
Cornhill and Cheapside, and he went to Whitehall in
high elation at what he took for counter-revolution.
He instantly began a quarrel by withdrawing the guard
that had been appointed for the Houses under the com-
mand of Essex. Long ago alive to their danger, the
popular leaders had framed that famous exposition of
the whole dark case against the monarch which is
known to history as the Grand Remonstrance. They
now with characteristic energy resumed it. The Re-
monstrance was a bold manifesto to the public, setting
out in manly terms the story of the Parliament, its
past gains, its future hopes, the standing perils with
which it had to wrestle. The most important of its


single clauses was the declaration for church con-
formity. It was a direct challenge not merely to the
king, but to the new party of' Episcopalian'. Royal-
ists. These were not slow to'take ap the challenge,
and the fight was hard. So; deep had liie di^isdoArnow
become within the walls of the Commons.' that the
Remonstrance was passed only after violent scenes and
by a narrow majority of eleven (November 22).

Early in November Cromwell made the first pro-
posal for placing military force in the hands of Parlia-
ment. All was seen to hang on the power of the
sword, for the army plots brought the nearness of the
peril home to the breasts of the popular leaders. A
month later the proposal, which soon became the
occasion of resort to arms though not the cause, took
defined shape. By the Militia Bill the control and
organization of the trained bands of the counties was
taken out of the king's hands, and transferred to a
lord general nominated by Parliament. Next the two
Houses joined in a declaration that no religion should
be tolerated in either England or Ireland except the
religion established by law. But as the whirlpool be-
came more angry, bills and declarations mattered less
and less. Each side knew that the other now intended
force. Tumultuous mobs found their way day after
day to hoot the bishops at Westminster. Partizans
of the king began to flock to Whitehall, they were
ordered to wear their swords, and an armed guard was
posted ostentatiously at the palace gate. Angry frays
followed between these swordsmen of the king and the
mob armed with clubs and staves, crying out against
the bishops and the popish lords. The bishops them-
selves were violently hustled, and had their gowns
torn from their backs as they went into the House of
Lords. Infuriated by these outrages, they issued a


foolish notification that all done by the Lords in their
absence would be null and void. This incensed both
Lord? andConimoas sn-l added fuel to the general flame,
and the unlucky prelates were impeached and sent to
pfts6i^. ' Tbe kingtriesl to change the governor of the
Tower and to install a reckless swashbuckler of his
own. The outcry was so shrill that in a few hours the
swashbuckler was withdrawn. Then by mysterious
changes of tact he turned first to Pym, next to the
heads of the moderate Royalists, Hyde, Falkland, and
Culpeper, The short history of the overtures to Pym
is as obscure as the relations between Mirabeau and
Marie Antoinette. Things had in truth gone too far
for such an alliance to be either desirable or fruitful.
Events immediately showed that with Charles honest
cooperation was impossible. No sooner had he estab-
lished Falkland and Culpeper in his council, than
suddenly, without disclosing a word of his design, he
took a step which alienated friends, turned back the
stream that was running in his favor, handed over the
strong fortress of legality to his enemies, and made
war inevitable.

Pym had been too quick for Strafford the autumn
before, and Charles resolved that this time his own
blow should be struck first. It did not fall upon men
caught unawares. For many weeks suspicion had
been deepening that some act of violence upon the pop-
ular leaders was coming. Suspicion on one side went
with suspicion on the other. Rumors were in the air
that Pym and his friends were actually revolving in
their minds the impeachment of the queen. Whether
the king was misled by the perversity of his wife and
the folly of the courtiers, or by his own too ample
share of these unhappy qualities, he perpetrated the
most irretrievable of all his blunders. A day or two


before, he had promised the Commons that the security
of every one of them from violence should be as much
his care as the preservation of his own children. He
had also assured his new advisers that no step should
be taken without their knowledge. Yet now he sud-
denly sent the Attorney-General to the House of Lords,
there at the table (January 3, 1642) to impeach one of
their own number and five members of the other
House, including Pym and Hampden, of high treason.
Holies, Haselrig, and Strode were the other three.
No stroke of state in history was ever more firmly and
manfully countered. News came that officers had
invaded the chambers of the five members and were
sealing up their papers. The House ordered the im-
mediate arrest of the officers. A messenger arrived
from the king to seize the five gentlemen. The House
sent a deputation boldly to inform the king that they
would take care that the five members should be ready
to answer any legal charge against them.

Next day a still more startling thing was done.
After the midday adjournment, the benches were again
crowded, and the five members were in their place.
Suddenly the news ran like lightning among them,
that the king was on his way from Whitehall with
some hundreds of armed retainers. The five members
were hurried down to the river, and they had hardly
gained a boat before the king and a band of rufflers
with swords and pistols entered Westminster Hall.
Passing through them and accompanied by his nephew,
the elector Palatine, the king crossed the inviolable
threshold, advanced uncovered up the floor of the
House of Commons to the step of the chair, and de-
manded the five accused members. He asked the
Speaker whether they were there. The Speaker re-
plied in words that will never be forgotten, that he had


neither eyes nor ears nor tongue in that place but as
the House might be pleased to direct. " 'T is no mat-
ter," the king said. "I think my eyes are as good as
another's." After looking round, he said he saw that
all his birds were flown, but he would take his own
course to find them. Then he stammered out a few
apologetic sentences, and stepping down from the
chair marched away in anger and shame through the
grim ranks and amid deep murmurs of privilege out at
the door. His band of baffled cutthroats followed
him through the hall with sullen curses at the loss of
their sport. When next he entered Westminster Hall,
he was a prisoner doomed to violent death. Cromwell
was doubtless present, little foreseeing his own part in
a more effectual performance of a too similar kind in
the same place eleven years hence.

Never has so deep and universal a shock thrilled
England. The stanchest friends of the king were in
despair. The Puritans were divided between dismay,
rage, consternation, and passionate resolution. One
of them, writing in after years of his old home in dis-
tant Lancashire, says : "I remember upon the occasion
of King Charles I demanding the five members of the
House of Commons. Such a night of prayers, tears,
and groans I was never present at in all my life: the
case was extraordinary, and the work was extraordi-
nary." It was the same in thousands of households all
over the land. The five members a few days later
returned in triumph to Westminster. The river was
alive wath boats decked with gay pennons, and the air
resounded with joyful shouts and loud volleys from
the primitive firearms of the time. Charles was not
there to see or hear. Exactly a week after the Attor-
ney-General had brought up the impeachment of the

From the original portrait in the National Portrait Gallery.


five members, he quitted Whitehall (Jamiary 10), and
saw it no more until all had come to an end seven years

This daring outrage on law, faith, and honor was
a provocation to civil war and the beginning of it.
After such an exploit the defenders of the Parliament
would have been guilty of a criminal betrayal, if they
had faltered in facing the issue so decisively raised.
Pym (January 14) moved that the House should go
into committee on the state of the kingdom, and Crom-
well then moved the consideration of means to put the
kingdom into a posture of defense. Hampden by and
by introduced a motion to desire the king to put the
Tower of London and other parts of the kingdom,
with the militia, into such hands as the Parliament
might confide in. In this way they came to the very
essence of the dispute of the hour. Was the king to
retain the sword? For some weeks debate went on.
It was suggested to the king that the militia might be
granted for a time. "By God, not for an hour !" cried
Charles. "You have asked that of me in this which
was never asked of a king, and with which I will not
trust my wife and children."

As the call to arms was every day more plainly felt
to be inevitable, it is no wonder that many men on the
popular side recoiled. The prospect was dreadful,
and even good patriots may well have asked them-
selves in anguish whether moderation, temper, good
will, compromise, might not even now avert it. Pym
showed here, as always, a consummate mastery of all
the better arts of Parliamentary leadership. It is not


easy to tell exactly at what moment he first felt that
peace with the king was hopeless, but at any rate he
was well assured that it was so now. As they neared
the edge of the cataract, his instincts of action at once
braced and steadied him. He was bold, prompt, a
man of initiative resource and energy without fever,
open and cogent in argument, with a true statesman's
eye to the demand of the instant, to the nearest ante-
cedent, to the next step; willing to be moderate when
moderation did not sacrifice the root of the matter;
vigorous and uncompromising when essentials were
in jeopardy. Cromwell too was active both in the
House and the country, little of an orator but a

Things moved fast. In April the king with an
armed force demanded admission into Hull, where he
would have a port for the introduction of arms
and auxiliaries from abroad. The governor shut
the gates and drew up the bridge. The king pro-
claimed him a traitor. This proceeding has always
been accounted the actual beginning of the great civil
war. On August 22, 1642, one of the memorable
dates in our history, on the evening of a stormy day
Charles raised the royal standard in the courtyard at
the top of the castle hill at Nottingham. This was the
solemn symbol that the king called upon his vassals
for their duty and service. Drums and trumpets
sounded, and the courtiers and a scanty crowd of on-
lookers threw up their caps, and cried, "God save King
Charles and hang up the Roundheads!" But a gen-
eral sadness, says Clarendon, covered the whole town.
Melancholy men observed many ill presages, and the
king himself appeared more melancholy than his wont.
The standard itself was blown down by an unruly wind
within a week after it had been set up. This was not


the first time that omens had been against the king.
At his coronation he wore white instead of purple, and
"some looked on it as an ill presage that the king, lay-
ing aside his purple, the robe of majesty, should clothe
himself in white, the robe of innocence, as if thereby
it were foresignified that he should divest himself of
that royal majesty which would keep him safe from
affront and scorn, to rely wholly on the innocence of a
virtuous life which did expose him finally to calami-
tous ruin." Still worse was the court preacher's text
on the same august occasion, chosen from the Book of
Revelation : "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will
give thee a crown of life," "more like his funeral ser-
mon when he was alive, as if he were to have none
when he was to be buried."

A day or two after raising the standard, Charles
appointed to be general of the horse Prince Rupert, the
third son of his sister the Queen of Bohemia, now in
his twenty-third year. The boldness, energy, and
military capacity of the young adventurer were des-
tined to prove one of the most formidable of all the
elements in the struggle of the next three years.
Luckily the intrepid soldier had none of Cromwell's
sagacity, caution, and patience, or else that "provi-
dence which men call the fortune of war" might have
turned out differently.

The Earl of Essex, son of Queen Elizabeth's favor-
ite, was named general of the Parliamentary forces,
less for any military reputation than from his social
influence. "He was the man," said the preacher of his

Online LibraryJohn MorleyOliver Cromwell → online text (page 8 of 35)