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Commonwealth (Continued).


New Parliament - War with Spain - Victories and Death of Blake - Proposal to make Cromwell King - He refuses - New Constitution-Parliament of two Houses - Opposition of the Commons - Its Dissolution - Reduction of Dunkirk - Sickness and Death of Cromwell - His Character - Richard Cromwell Protector - Parliament summoned and dissolved - The Officers recall the Long Parliament - It is expelled, and is again reinstated - Monk s opposition - His march to London - Addresses the House - Joins the insurgent Citizens of London - Dissolves the Long Parliament - Rising under Lambert - Monk's Message to the King - The two Houses recall the King - He lands at Dover and enters London.
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Cromwell opened the year 1656 amid a multitude of plots and discontents. The enemies of the republic, royalists, anabaptists, levellers, were all busy in one quarter or another. Cleveland, the poet, who had been taken prisoner nine years before by David Leslie, at Newcastle, and expected to be hanged for his tirades against the Scotch, but had been dismissed by Leslie with the contemptuous words, "Let the poor knave go and sell his ballads," was now seized by colonel Haynes for seditious writings at Norwich but Cromwell also dismissed him with like indifference.

At the close of the year the Jews, who had been forbidden England, hopeful from the more liberal mercantile notions of Cromwell, petitioned to be allowed to reside in this country, under certain conditions. Cromwell was favourable to the petition, which was presented by Manasseh Ben Israel, a great Portuguese Jew, of Amsterdam, though his council was against it on Scripture grounds; but Cromwell silently took them under his protection. There was also a great committee of trade in the house, under the earnest advocacy of the protector, for promoting commerce. Meantime, Cromwell vigorously prosecuted the war against Spain. Blake and Montague were ordered for the coast of Spain, to destroy the shipping in the harbour of Cadiz, and to see whether Gibraltar could not be seized, which Cromwell, in his letter to the admirals, pointed out as admirably adapted to promote and protect our trade, and keep the Spaniard in check. Yet even this project was not carried out without trouble from the malcontents. Some of the captains of the fleet, tampered with by Charles's emissaries, declared their disapproval of the enterprise, contending that we, and not the Spaniards, were in fault. Cromwell sent down Desborough to them, who weeded them out, and put others in their places. Blake and Montague then set sail, and reached the neighbourhood of Cadiz and Gibraltar in April, but found their defences too strong; they then proceeded to Lisbon, and brought the treaty with the Portuguese to a termination, and afterwards made an alarming visit to Malaga, and to Sallee, to curb the Moors. In July they returned to the Tagus, and in September a part of the fleet under captain Stayner, fell in with and defeated a fleet of eight sail, coming from America. He destroyed four of the vessels, and captured two, containing treasure worth from two hundred and fifty thousand pounds to three hundred thousand pounds.

Before this treasure reached England, Cromwell, who had exhausted his finances to fit out the fleet and prosecute the war with Spain, was compelled to call a parliament, not only to obtain supplies, but to take measures for the security of the nation against the designs of the royalists and their coadjutors, the levellers. This met on the 17th of September, 1656. But Cromwell did not allow all the members elected to sit in this parliament, any more than in the former ones. He knew well that his government and such a parliament could not exist together. The members elected, therefore, were not admitted to sit except they had a certificate of their approval by the council from the chancery clerk. By the withholding of such certificates, nearly one-fourth of the members were excluded. This created a terrible outcry of invasion of parliamentary privileges. Haselrig, Scott, Ashley Cooper, and many other violent republicans were excluded. The excluded members signed an indignant protest, and circulated it in all parts of the country, with the list of their names appended.

The protector opened this purged parliament with a very long speech, which, so far from being a farrago of the unmeaning, unintelligible, and entangled stuff which Hume represents it, is one of the most remarkable speeches ever addressed to parliament by any ruler. Carlyle truly observes of it, "No royal speech like this was ever delivered elsewhere in the world! It is, with all its prudence - and it is very prudent - sagacious, courteous, right royal in spirit; perhaps the most artless, transparent piece of public speaking this editor has ever studied. Rude, massive, genuine, like a block of unbeaten gold. The man himself, and the England he presided over, there and then, are to a singular degree visible in it - open to our eyes, to our sympathies. He who would see Oliver, will find more of him here, than in most of the history books yet written about him."

There was, in fact, displayed in it a depth and breadth of policy, an active, earnest spirit of national business, a comprehension of and desire for the establishment of such principles and prosperous measures, a recognition of the rights of the whole world, as affected by the conduct of this one great nation, which have no parallel for true Christian philosophy since the days of Alfred. We have since then had great and valiant warriors, our Edwards and Henrys, but not a man who combined with the highest military genius and success, a genuine, lofty, and loving Christian sentiment, and an earnest business-like mind like Cromwell. He at once laid down the principle, that all hostility to the commonwealth originated in the hatred of its free and Christian character; and he showed that all these enemies, of whatever theories, had united themselves with Spain. That Spain was the grand adversary of this country, and had been so from the reformation, because she was bigotedly wedded to the system of popery, with all its monks, Jesuits, and inquisitors. He recapitulated its attempts to destroy Elizabeth and her religion; the vain attempts of the Long Parliament to make peace with it, because in any treaty where the pope could grant absolution, you were bound and they were loose, the murder of Ascham, the Long Parliament's ambassador, and no redress to be obtained: and now he informed them, and offered to produce the proofs, that Charles Stuart had put himself in league with Spain, and still more strange, the levellers, pretending to demand a freer and more republican government, had entered into the unnatural alliance with Charles and Spain to murder him and destroy the commonwealth.

All this was perfectly true. Sexby, the leveller, had gone over to Charles, and thence to Spain, to solicit aid towards a popish invasion, offering first to kill Cromwell himself. He obtained forty thousand crowns for the use of his party, and a promise of six thousand men when they were ready to land in England, who should wait in Flanders. Some of this money, when remitted to the accomplices in England, Cromwell intercepted, as he assured the parliament. Sexby followed to accomplish his design of assassinating the protector, as we shall find anon. Cromwell proceeded to remind parliament of the insurrections excited by Charles's emissaries, Wagstaff and Rochester, and the conspiracy of Gerard and Vowel, the outbreaks at Salisbury, Rufford Abbey, and a score of other places; of Wildman taken in the act of penning his call to rebellion, of the design to destroy Monk in Scotland, and of similar instigations in the army in Ireland; of the plottings of the Lord Taafe with Hyde at Antwerp; and, finally, that there had been an attempt to blow him up with gunpowder in his own house, and an officer of the guard had been engaged to seize him in his bed. These last lie characterised as "little fiddling attempts nob worth naming," and which he regarded no more than he did " a mouse nibbling at his heel." But he told them that the animus altogether was of that un-English and un-Christian character, that it became them to fight manfully against it, and though they were low in funds, they should still put forth all their energies to crush this malignant power of Spain, whence the other enemies drew their strength. He assured them that France was well disposed to them, and that all the rest of the world was at peace with them; and, therefore, the greater the complication of interests amongst their Spanish and domestic enemies, then, he exclaimed, "that in the name of God is the greater reason for you to act vigorously, and waste no precious time!"

He then assured them that the major-generals had done good service in every quarter, that the improvement of the ministry had become manifest through the exercise of the commissioners, and that the presbyterians had themselves expressed their approbation of what had been done in that respect. He strongly recommended to them further equalisation and improvement of the laws, so that every one should have cheap and easy justice, and that the purification of the public morals should be carefully attended to - " The cavalier interest, the badge and character of continuing profaneness, disorder, and wickedness in all places," having worked such deplorable effects. "Nobility and gentry of this nation!" he exclaimed; "in my conscience it was a shame to be a Christian, within these fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen years in this nation; whether in Caesar's house' or elsewhere! It was a shame, it was a reproach to a man, and the badge of 4 Puritan' was put on it." As they would maintain nobility and gentry, he told them they must not suffer these classes "to be patronisers or countenancers of debauchery and disorders! And therefore," he concluded, "I pray and beseech you, in the name of Christ, show yourselves to be men; quit yourselves like men! It doth not infer any reproach if you do show yourselves men - Christian men, which alone will make you quit yourselves."

In the early days of the sitting of this parliament - that is, in the beginning of October - came the news of Stayner's victory over the Spanish Plate fleet, and the capture of the treasure; and in the beginning of November the money arrived, and thirty-eight wagon-loads of silver were sent up from Portsmouth to the mint to be coined, amid universal rejoicings. Before the year closed, also, Cromwell, by the help of Mazarin, effected a temporary separation of interests betwixt Charles Stuart and the duke of York; but it did not last long. But by this time colonel Sexby was in England, watching his opportunity to murder Cromwell. He was daring enough to introduce himself amongst the protector's escort in Hyde Park, and he and his accomplices had filed nearly through the hinges of the gates through which the protector was accustomed to pass, so that they might create a sudden obstruction and confusion, during which Sexby might shoot Cromwell. But not being able to succeed to his mind, Sexby returned to Flanders to consult with the royal party, and left sixteen hundred pounds in the hands of one Miles Sindercomb, a cashiered quartermaster, who was to carry out the bloody design. Sindercomb took a house in Hammersmith, where the road by which the protector passed to and from Hampton Court was very narrow, and there he prepared an "infernal machine," consisting of a battery of seven blunderbuses, which was to blow Cromwell's coach to atoms as it passed; but the machine did not answer, or could not be used from the crowd of guards; and then Sindercomb resolved to set fire to Whitehall by night, and kill Cromwell as he came out in the confusion. He had bribed a great number of accomplices, many of them in the palace itself, and had probably a considerable number of fellow conspirators, for he had a hundred swift horses in stables in the neighbourhood, on which he and his confederates might escape, the deed being done. All this was with the privity and approbation of Charles, Clarendon, and the rest of that court, and shows the state of moral principle in it, and which, after the restoration, broke over England like a pestilence. They were constantly dabbling in attempts at assassination, and in the Clarendon papers themselves we have Clarendon's own repeated avowals of his satisfaction in them. He styles these base assassins "brave fellows and honest gentlemen," and thinks it a pity that any agent of the protectorate abroad should not have his throat cut.

But Sindercomb's wholesale bribery led to the detection of the plot. Amongst those tampered with was Henry Toope, a life guardsman, who revealed the scheme. On the 8th of January Sindercomb attended the public worship in the evening at Whitehall Chapel. Toope, Cecil - a fellow who had been engaged in the construction of the infernal machine - and Sindercomb were arrested, and having been seen about general Lambert's seat, it was examined, and there was found a basketful of the most inflammable materials, strong enough, it was said, to burn through stones, and a lighted slow-burning match, calculated to reach the combustibles about midnight. There were found also holes bored in the wainscoat, to facilitate the communication of the fire, and of draughts to encourage it. Toope and Cecil gave all the information that they could, but Sindercombe was obstinately silent, and being found guilty by a jury of high treason, was condemned to die on Saturday, the 13th. But the evening before, his sister taking leave of him, contrived to carry some poison to him, and the next morning he was found dead in his bed.

Parliament adjourned a week for the trial and examination of the plot, and appointed a day of thanksgiving on Friday, the 23rd. But though Sindercombe was dead, Sexby was alive, and as murderously inclined as ever, and to prevent interrupting other affairs, we may now follow him also to his exit. Though neither fleet nor money were ready to follow up the blow if successful, the gloomy anabaptist once more set out for England with a tract in his possession, called " Killing no Murder," which was no doubt his own composition, though colonel Titus, after the restoration, claimed the merit of it. This tract, taking it as a settled fact that it was a noble piece of patriotism and virtue to kill a tyrant, pronounced Cromwell a tyrant, and therefore declared that it was a noble deed to kill him. It eulogised Sindercombe as the Brutus or Cato of the time. Sexby, disguised like a countryman, and with a large beard, travelled about distributing this pamphlet, but he was tracked, discovered, and lodged in the Tower. There he either went mad or pretended it, made a voluntary confession, found to be intended only to mislead, and, falling ill died in the following January.

One of the first things which this second parliament of the protectorate did was to abolish the authority of the major-generals. Cromwell had assured them that they were doing good service in suppressing disturbances, and he told them so again; but there were many complaints of their rigour, especially of levying heavy fines on the royalists; and parliament, on the 29th of January, voted their withdrawal. The next matter, which occupied them for above three months, was the case of James Naylor, the quaker, which we shall refer to under the review of the religion of this period. Before this was settled, it entered on a far more momentous question - no less than whether they should not make Cromwell king.

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Pictures for Commonwealth (Continued).

Malaga
Malaga >>>>
Cromwell refusing to accept the crown
Cromwell refusing to accept the crown >>>>
Richard Cromwell
Richard Cromwell >>>>
Death of Cromwell
Death of Cromwell >>>>
Richard Cromwell signing his Abdication
Richard Cromwell signing his Abdication >>>>
General Monk
General Monk >>>>
Landing of Charles II
Landing of Charles II >>>>

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