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Commonwealth (Continued). page 5


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The character of Cromwell has been drawn according to the bias of the various parties who depicted him. With the royalists he was an adventurer and usurper; with the ultra-republicans a traitor. Some have been pleased to regard him as a canting hypocrite, and others as the perfect specimen of a hero and a statesmen. All have been compelled to acknowledge the pre-eminence of his genius and the force of his character. Clarendon, the royalist historian, concludes his portraiture with these remarks: - "In a word, as he was guilty of many crimes against which damnation is denounced, and for which hell-fire is prepared, so he had some good qualities which have caused the memory of some men in all ages to be celebrated, and he will be looked upon by posterity as a brave, wicked man." On the other hand a modern biographer has exalted him to the skies as a perfect saint and demigod, in whom there is no possible flaw, and whose darkest act has some sublime excuse; but as the same eccentric writer has also placed Mahomet on the pedestal of perfection, and made his mission as sacred as that of our Saviour - an apotheosis which he will doubtless confer on the deistical old tyrant, Frederick of Prussia - his estimate has all the less value. The simple fact is, that Oliver Cromwell was a great man with a great man's faults, but with talents, virtues, and noble intentions which far outweigh them. That he was an earnest and liberty-loving man of the highest purposes and the most enlightened views, few persons can compare his history with those which went before and came after it without conceding. He was led on by the force of circumstances and the predominance of his genius, to the highest place in his country; and had not the immaturity, in the nation, of the principles on which he and his party acted, compelled him to restrain the wildness of one party, and the despotism of others, he would undoubtedly have left to his country the august legacy of a system of government, such as no country then, and few now have attained to. He was far before his age; and the fact which so strongly attests the virtue and patriotism of the man, is, that he became arbitrary and a dictator to establish, if possible, not a despotism, but a free and tolerant government.

When we compare the lawlessness of the reigns before him, the debauchery and bigotry of those which came after; when we recall the bloody scaffolds, the crowded dungeons, the brandings, the ear-loppings, the nose-slittings, the wholesale ruin of families on account of their religious faith, and all the villainies and merciless oppressions of the Star- chambers and High Commission Courts, with the mildness and forbearance of the commonwealth - the fierce intolerance of even republican presbyterianism, with the freedom of faith which Cromwell established, and his zealous care for a ministry not of any particular dogmas but of genuine and generous piety - blind, indeed, must be the man who does not recognise, in all its admirable proportions, the memory of one of the most truly great men which any age or nation has produced. The heroes and statesmen of the commonwealth have left doctrines and examples which are still the study and the imitation of nations. The vigour, and stern, high principle of Cromwell awed all the crowned heads of Europe, and raised the fame of England abroad higher than it had ever reached before. Our Edwards and Henrys claim great prestige as warriors; but since the time of Alfred no man has sate in the supreme seat of these realms, who at the same time legislated with the same bold, earnest, and Christian wisdom and integrity for the people at large. Till Bonaparte arose and overran all Europe, there was no name which received so universally the homage of the world for victory and high fortune as that of Cromwell; and if we look at the principles which each of these two conquerors promulgated, there can be no estimate of true fame in which Cromwell will not rise far beyond the modern.

In private life he was at once simple, and yet maintained a dignity, says one of his worst calumniators, "such as might befit the greatest monarch." His letters to his familiar friends and the members of his family display his character in a most amiable and pious light, and he was accustomed to unbend amongst his officers and ministers in a manner that none but a man with a kind heart and good conscience could do. Ludlow tells us that on one occasion, after a very serious debate, he threw, in a frolic, a cushion at his head, and when Ludlow took up another cushion to throw it in return, he escaped laughing, and ran down stairs in such a hurry that he had nearly fallen. He would sometimes frankly tell the nobility of their drinking the health of the king and royal family, and without the slightest ill- humour advise them to be more cautious. He was extremely temperate in his diet, though liberal in his table for his officers and public company. He delighted in music, and gave choice entertainments, where the greatest masters were engaged. He surrounded himself with all the great minds of the age, and their talents were called into service for their country. Milton was his Latin secretary; Milton's friend, Thurloe, was his intimate friend and secretary of state; Hartlib, a learned Pole, another friend of Milton's, he esteemed and pensioned; Andrew Marvel was a frequenter of his house; archbishop Usher, though a prelate, was high in his regard; Waller, and even the youthful Dryden were his friends; and even where he could not restrain his parliament from harsh measures, he mitigated their rigour. He pensioned John Biddell, the unitarian, liberated the misguided James Naylor, though he could not save him from the barbarity of the parliament, and delighted to see and converse with George Fox. Though the miseries which the civil war inflicted on the country reduced its internal condition to one of much suffering, yet, says Bate, in his Elenchus Motuum, after finding many faults mixed with his merits, "Now trade began to flourish, and, to say all in a word, all England over there were halcyon days."

On his death-bed the protector had been asked to name his successor. Empowered by the "Petition and Advice," he had already named him in a sealed packet which now, however, could not be found, and though he was supposed to say Richard, it was so indistinctly, that it was by no means certain. However, Richard was proclaimed in London and Westminster, and then in all the large towns at home, and in Dunkirk and the colonies abroad. At first all appeared favourable for the peaceable succession of Richard. All parties hastened to congratulate him. Foreign ministers sent addresses of condolence, and intimations of their desire to renew their alliances. From all parts of the country, and from the city, and from one hundred congregational churches, poured in addresses, conceived in the most fulsome affectation of religion. " Their sun was set, but no night had followed. They had lost the nursing father, by whose hand the yoke of bondage had been broken from the necks and consciences of the godly. Providence had taken the breath from their nostrils, but had-given them instead the noblest branch of that renowned stock, a prince distinguished by the beauty of his person, but still more by the eminent qualities of his mind." Cromwell had been a Moses, but his son was a Joshua. Elijah was gone, but Elisha remained.

The royalists were confounded to find all pass over so smoothly, but all who knew the retiring, facile disposition of Richard, and the volcano of raging materials which lay in the sects, factions, and parties which at that moment divided and internally agitated England, could only look on it as the lull before the tempest. This same external. sycophancy was displayed in the funeral of the protector. The body lay in state at Somerset House, all the ceremonial being copied from that of the interment of Philip II. of Spain. The rooms were hung with black cloth, and wax lights were kept burning. An effigy of Cromwell lay on a bed of state, and which was supposed to rest upon the coffin. In one hand was the sceptre, in the other the globe, the crown was not on his head, but rested on a cushion at the back of it, and on each side lay various pieces of his armour. The body was secretly buried by night in a vault in Westminster Abbey, as there were rumours of an intended insurrection during the funeral; the ceremony, however, continued for eight weeks, the effigy being after a time placed erect, with the crown upon its head. In fact, the protector, after his decease, was treated with all those royal honours which he had refused during life, and the people who could enact or could tolerate "this, could not be far off monarchy. In fact, long before these ceremonies were at an end, all the elements of discord and confusion were actually fermenting - the certain heralds of the return to the ancient state of things. Richard Cromwell had all his life long displayed a penchant only for a quiet country life. He had no ambitions, either military or' political. He had lived in his domestic retirement, neither entering the field or the cabinet, and his father, in his letters, was continually j calling him "indolent Dick." It was impossible that such a man could ever curb the fierce and conflicting factions with which he was surrounded; it is most probable that he only longed to be well rid of the whole onerous burden.

There were various chiefs in the army, so nearly equal in rank and influence, that there was certain to be strife for the chief command. Fleetwood had married a sister of the present protector's; Desborough was his uncle; his brother Henry, who was lord-lieutenant of Ireland, was a much more resolute and able man than himself; and Monk, in Scotland, had great power in his hands. The chief command in the army lay, by the late instrument, in the protector himself; but the officers of the army met and drew up a petition that the chief command should be conferred on some one of the generals who had shown his attachment to the cause by his services, and that no officer should be deprived of his commission except by sentence of a court martial. Richard, by the advice of Thurloe, replied that he had appointed general Fleetwood lieutenant-general of the forces, but that to give up the supreme command would be to violate the "Petition and Advice," by which he held his own authority. This did not content the officers; they still held their meetings, a liberty which Oliver had wisely suppressed, and there were many suspicions expressed amongst them. They asserted that Henry Cromwell would soon be placed above Fleetwood, who, though a conscientious man, was a very weak and vacillating one, and they demanded that Thurloe, St. John, and Pierrepont, Richard's ablest counsellors, should be dismissed, as enemies to the army. It was clear that a collision must take place betwixt these parties and Thurloe, and his friends advised Richard to call a parliament, by which he would not only be able to curb the power of the officers, but to raise money for the payment of the soldiers. The nation was keeping a large fleet under Ayscue or Ayscough, part of which was cruising in the Baltic, to protect the English allies, the Swedes, against the Danes and Dutch, and another under Montague was blockading the Dutch coast. Money, therefore, was absolutely necessary to defray expenses, and Richard consented to call a parliament. It was a necessary evil, a formidable undertaking; for the five months that passed before their meeting, Richard ruled with all the outward state, and with more than the quiet of his father. But his father, with all his vigour and tact, had never been able to manage a parliament, every one of which immediately set about to overthrow him; what hope, then, that Richard's placid temper could contend with such a restless and domineering body? It was absolutely impossible, and he was immediately made sensible of it. To introduce as many members of the commons as he could favourable to his views, he departed from his father's plan of only calling them from the larger boroughs and the counties, and returned the franchise to the lesser and decayed boroughs. Every means was used besides to obtain the return of men favourable to the government; and in Scotland and Ireland, from whence thirty members each were admitted, the elections were conducted under the eyes of the commander of the forces. But, notwithstanding, from the very first assembling of the commons, they showed that they were likely to be as unmanageable as ever. When Richard summoned the commons to meet him in the lords, scarcely half the members attended, lest they should sanction the existence of a body that they disclaimed. The commons were as much divided as the army. There were the friends of the government, who were instructed to stand firm by the "Petition and Advice," and the government, founded by it, of one ruling person and two houses of parliament. Then there were the presbyterians and republicans, who were for no lords nor protector either, and were led on by Haselrig, Scott, Bradshaw, Lambert, Ludlow, and others of those united parties, with whom Vane and Fairfax now co-operated. Fairfax, from the moment when he showed his disapprobation of the death of Charles I., had retired to private life, but now he reappeared, and, though become a royalist at heart, his spirited lady no doubt having roused that feeling in him, he voted with the republican party," as most likely to prevail against the protectorate, and thus pave the way to monarchy. Besides these, there were many neutrals or moderates, and a considerable sprinkling of young royalists, who, by Charles's advice, had got in under other colours.

However much these parties differed amongst themselves, there were sufficient of them adverse to the protectorate to commence an immediate attack upon it. They fell at once to debating the legality of the "Petition and Advice," and of course the government by a single person and two houses. They asked what was the "Petition and Advice," and they declared it to be an instrument of no force, passed by a very small majority of a house from which a hundred members had been forcibly excluded. The debates on this question were long and violent. Though parliament met on the 27th of January, it was the 14th of February before they had decided that Richard's right to the protectorate should be settled by another bill, but with much restricted prerogative, and it was not till the 28th of March that they allowed the right of the other house to sit, but with no superiority to the commons, and with no authority to send messages to it except by members of the house. These points settled, there were high demands for a searching inquiry into the management of all departments of the state, with heavy charges ot waste, embezzlement, oppression, and tyranny, in the collection of the excise. Threats of impeachment were held out against Thurloe and the principal ministers, as well as against Butler and some others of the officers.

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Pictures for Commonwealth (Continued). page 5

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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