1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cromwell, Oliver
CROMWELL, OLIVER (1599–1658), lord protector of England, was the 5th and only surviving son of Robert Cromwell of Huntingdon and of Elizabeth Steward, widow of William Lynn. His paternal grandfather was Sir Henry Cromwell of Hinchinbrook, a leading personage in Huntingdonshire, and grandson of Richard Williams, knighted by Henry VIII., nephew of Thomas Cromwell, earl of Essex, Henry VIII.’s minister, whose name he adopted. His mother was descended from a family named Styward in Norfolk, which was not, however, connected in any way, as has been often asserted, with the royal house of Stuart. Oliver was born on the 25th of April 1599, was educated under Dr Thomas Beard, a fervent puritan, at the free school at Huntingdon, and on the 23rd of April 1616 matriculated as a fellow-commoner at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, then a hotbed of puritanism, subsequently studying law in London. The royalist anecdotes relating to his youth, including charges of ill-conduct, do not deserve credit, the entries in the register of St John’s, Huntingdon, noting Oliver’s submission on two occasions to church censure being forgeries; but it is not improbable that his youth was wild and possibly dissolute. According to Edmund Waller he was “very well read in the Greek and Roman story.” Burnet declares he had little Latin, but he was able to converse with the Dutch ambassador in that language. According to James Heath in his Flagellum, “he was more famous for his exercises in the fields than in the schools, being one of the chief match-makers and players at football, cudgels, or any other boisterous game or sport.” On the 22nd of August 1620 he married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir James Bourchier, a city merchant of Tower Hill, and of Felstead in Essex; and his father having died in 1617 he settled at Huntingdon and occupied himself in the management of his small estate. In 1628 he was returned to parliament as member for the borough, and on the 11th of February 1629 he spoke in support of puritan doctrine, complaining of the attempt by the king to silence Dr Beard, who had raised his voice against the “flat popery” inculcated by Dr Alabaster at Paul’s Cross. He was also one of the members who refused to adjourn at the king’s command till Sir John Eliot’s resolutions had been passed.
During the eleven years of government without parliament very little is recorded of Cromwell. His name is not connected with the resistance to the levy of ship-money or to the action of the ecclesiastical courts, but in 1630 he was one of those fined for refusing to take up knighthood. The same year he was named one of the justices of the peace for his borough; and on the grant of a new charter showed great zeal in defending the rights of the commoners, and succeeded in procuring an alteration in the charter in their favour, exhibiting much warmth of temper during the dispute and being committed to custody by the privy council for angry words spoken against the mayor, for which he afterwards apologized. He also defended the rights of the commoners of Ely threatened by the “adventurers” who had drained the Great Level, and he was nicknamed afterwards by a royalist newspaper “Lord of the Fens.” He was again later the champion of the commoners of St Ives in the Long Parliament against enclosures by the earl of Manchester, obtaining a commission of the House of Commons to inquire into the case, and drawing upon himself the severe censure of the chairman, the future Lord Clarendon, by his “impetuous carriage” and “insolent behaviour,” and by the passionate vehemence he imparted into the business. Bishop Williams, a kinsman of Cromwell’s, relates at this time that he was “a common spokesman for sectaries, and maintained their part with great stubbornness”; and his earliest extant letter (in 1635) is an appeal for subscriptions for a puritan lecturer. There appears to be no foundation for the statement that he was stopped by an order of council when on the point of abandoning England for America, though there can be little doubt that the thoughts of emigration suggested themselves to his mind at this period. He viewed the “innovations in religion” with abhorrence. According to Clarendon he told the latter in 1641 that if the Grand Remonstrance had not passed “he would have sold all he had the next morning and never have seen England more.” In 1631 he converted his landed property into money, and John Hampden, his cousin, a patentee of Connecticut in 1632, was on the point of emigrating. Cromwell was perhaps arrested in his project by his succession in 1636 to the estate of his uncle Sir Thomas Steward, and to his office of farmer of the cathedral tithes at Ely, whither he now removed. Meanwhile, like Bunyan and many other puritans, Cromwell had been passing through a trying period of mental and religious change and struggle, beginning with deep melancholy and religious doubt and depression, and ending with “seeing light” and with enthusiastic and convinced faith, which remained henceforth the chief characteristic and impulse in his career.
He represented Cambridge in the Short and Long Parliaments of 1640, and at once showed extraordinary zeal and audacity in his opposition to the government, taking a large share in business and serving on numerous and important committees. As the cousin of Hampden and St. John he was intimately associated with the leaders Cromwell’s first parliamentary efforts. of the parliamentary party. His sphere of action, however, was not in parliament. He was not an orator, and though he could express himself forcibly on occasion, his speech was incoherent and devoid of any of the arts of rhetoric. Clarendon notes on his first appearance in parliament that “he seemed to have a person in no degree gracious, no ornament of discourse, none of those talents which use to reconcile the affections of the standers by; yet as he grew into place and authority his parts seemed to be renewed.” He supported stoutly the extreme party of opposition to the king, but did not take the lead except on a few less important occasions, and was apparently silent in the debates on the Petition of Right, the Grand Remonstrance and the Militia. His first recorded intervention in debate in the Long Parliament was on the 9th of November 1640, a few days after the meeting of the House, when he delivered a petition from the imprisoned John Lilburne. He was described by Sir Philip Warwick on this occasion:—“I came into the House one morning well clad and perceived a gentleman speaking whom I knew not, very ordinarily apparelled; for it was a plain cloth suit which seemed to have been made by an ill country tailor; his linen was plain and not very clean; . . . his stature was of a good size; his sword stuck close to his side; his countenance swollen and reddish; his voice sharp and untunable and his eloquence full of fervour . . . I sincerely profess it much lessened my reverence as to that great council for he was very much hearkened unto.” On the 30th of December he moved to the second reading of Strode’s bill for annual parliaments. His chief interest from the first, however, lay in the religious question. He belonged to the Root and Branch party, and spoke in favour of the petition of the London citizens for the abolition of episcopacy on the 9th of February 1641, and pressed upon the House the Root and Branch Bill in May. On the 6th of November he carried a motion entrusting the train-bands south of the Trent to the command of the earl of Essex. On the 14th of January 1642, after the king’s attempt to seize the five members, he moved for a committee to put the kingdom in a posture of defence. He contributed £600 to the proposed Irish campaign and £500 for raising forces in England—large sums from his small estate—and on his own initiative in July 1642 sent arms of the value of £100 down to Cambridge, seized the magazine there in August, and prevented the king’s commission of array from being executed in the county, taking these important steps on his own authority and receiving subsequently indemnity by vote of the House of Commons. Shortly afterwards he joined Essex with sixty horse, and was present at Edgehill, where his troop was one of the few not routed by Rupert’s charge, Cromwell himself being mentioned among those officers who “never stirred from their troops but fought till the last minute.”
During the earlier part of the year 1643 the military position
of Charles was greatly superior to that of the parliament. Essex
was inactive near Oxford; in the west Sir Ralph
Hopton had won a series of victories, and in the north
Civil War.Newcastle defeated the Fairfaxes at Adwalton Moor, and all Yorkshire except Hull was in his hands. It seemed likely that the whole of the north would be laid open and the royalists be able to march upon London and join Charles and Hopton there. This stroke, which would most probably have given the victory to the king, was prevented by the “Eastern Association,” a union of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, constituted in December 1642 and augmented in 1643 by Huntingdonshire and Lincolnshire, of which Cromwell was the leading spirit. His zeal and energy met everywhere with conspicuous success. In January 1643 he seized the royalist high sheriff of Hertfordshire in the act of proclaiming the king’s commission of array at St Albans; in February he was at Cambridge taking measures for the defence of the town; in March suppressing royalist risings at Lowestoft and Lynn; in April those of Huntingdon, when he also recaptured Crowland from the king’s party. In May he defeated a greatly superior royalist force at Grantham, proceeding afterwards to Nottingham in accordance with Essex’s plan of penetrating into Yorkshire to relieve the Fairfaxes; where, however, difficulties, arising from jealousies between the officers, and the treachery of John Hotham, whose arrest Cromwell was instrumental in effecting, obliged him to retire again to the association, leaving the Fairfaxes to be defeated at Adwalton Moor. He showed extraordinary energy, resource and military talent in stemming the advance of the royalists, who now followed up their victories by advancing into the association; he defeated them at Gainsborough on the 28th of July, and managed a masterly retreat before overwhelming numbers to Lincoln, while the victory on the 11th of October at Winceby finally secured the association, and maintained the wedge which prevented the junction of the royalists in the north with the king in the south.
One great source of Cromwell’s strength was the military reforms he had initiated. At Edgehill he had observed the inferiority of the parliamentary to the royalist horse, composed as it was of soldiers of fortune and the dregs Cromwell’s soldiers. of the populace. “Do you think,” he had said, “that the spirits of such base, mean fellows will ever be able to encounter gentlemen that have honour and courage and resolution in them? You must get men of a spirit that is likely to go as far as gentlemen will go or you will be beaten still.” The royalists were fighting for a great cause. To succeed the parliamentary soldiers must also be inspired by some great principle, and this was now found in religion. Cromwell chose his own troops, both officers and privates, from the “religious men,” who fought not for pay or for adventure, but for their faith. He declared, when answering a complaint that a certain captain in his regiment was a better preacher than fighter, that he who prayed best would fight best, and that he knew nothing could “give the like courage and confidence as the knowledge of God in Christ will.” The superiority of these men—more intelligent than the common soldiers, better disciplined, better trained, better armed, excellent horsemen and fighting for a great cause—not only over the other parliamentary troops but over the royalists, was soon observed in battle. According to Clarendon the latter, though frequently victorious in a charge, could not rally afterwards, “whereas Cromwell’s troops if they prevailed, or though they were beaten and routed, presently rallied again and stood in good order till they received new orders”; and the king’s military successes dwindled in proportion to the gradual preponderance of Cromwell’s troops in the parliamentary army. At first these picked men only existed in Cromwell’s own troop, which, however, by frequent additions became the nucleus of a regiment, and by the time of the New Model included about 11,000 men.
In July 1643 Cromwell had been appointed governor of the Isle of Ely; on the 22nd of January 1644 he became second in command under the earl of Manchester as lieutenant-general of the Eastern Association, and on the 16th of February 1644 a member of the Committee of Both Kingdoms with greatly increased influence. In March he took Hillesden House in Buckinghamshire; in May was at the siege of Lincoln, when he repulsed Goring’s attempt to relieve the town, and subsequently took part in Manchester’s campaign in the north. At Marston Moor (q.v.) on the 2nd of July he commanded all the horse of the Eastern Association, with some Scottish troops; and though for a time disabled by a wound in the neck, he charged and routed Rupert’s troops opposed to him, and subsequently went to the support of the Scots, who were hard pressed by the enemy, and converted what appeared at one time a defeat into a decisive victory. It was on this occasion that he earned the nickname of “Ironsides,” applied to him now by Prince Rupert, and afterwards to his soldiers, “from the impenetrable strength of his troops which could by no means be broken or divided.”
The movements of Manchester after Marston Moor were marked by great apathy. He was one of the moderate party who desired an accommodation with the king, and was opposed to Cromwell’s sectaries. He remained at Lincoln, did nothing to prevent the defeat of Essex’s army in the west, and when he at last advanced south to join Essex’s and Waller’s troops his management of the army led to the failure of the attack upon the king at Newbury on the 27th of October 1644. He delayed supporting the infantry till too late, and was repulsed; he allowed the royal army to march past his outposts; and a fortnight afterwards, without any attempt to prevent it, and greatly to Cromwell’s vexation, permitted the moving of the king’s artillery and the relief of Donnington Castle by Prince Rupert. “If you beat the king ninety-nine times,” Manchester urged at Newbury, “yet he is king still and so will his posterity be after him; but if the king beat us once we shall all be hanged and our posterity be made slaves.” “My lord,” answered Cromwell, “if this be so, why did we take up arms at first? This is against fighting ever hereafter. If so let us make peace, be it ever so base.” The contention brought to a crisis the struggle between the moderate Presbyterians and the Scots on the one side, who decided to maintain the monarchy and fought for an accommodation and to establish Presbyterianism in England, and on the other the republicans who would be satisfied with nothing less than the complete overthrow of the king, and the Independents who regarded the establishment of Presbyterianism as an evil almost as great as that of the Church of England. On the 25th of November Cromwell charged Manchester with “unwillingness to have the war prosecuted to a full victory”; which Manchester answered by accusing Cromwell of having used expressions against the nobility, the Scots and Presbyterianism; of desiring to fill the army of the Eastern Association with Independents to prevent any accommodation; and of having vowed if he met the king in battle he would as lief fire his pistol at him as at anybody else. The lords and the Scots vehemently took Manchester’s part; but the Commons eventually sided with Cromwell, appointed Sir Thomas Fairfax general of the New Model Army, and passed two self-denying ordinances, the second of which, ordering all members of both houses to lay down their commissions within forty days, was accepted by the lords on the 3rd of April 1645.
Meanwhile Cromwell had been ordered on the 3rd of March
by the House to take his regiment to the assistance of Waller,
under whom he served as an admirable subordinate. “Although
he was blunt,” says Waller, “he did not bear himself with pride
or disdain. As an officer he was obedient and did never dispute
my orders or argue upon them.” He returned on the 19th of
April, and on the 23rd was sent to Oxfordshire to prevent a
junction between Charles and Prince Rupert, in which he
succeeded after some small engagements and the storming of
Blechingdon House. His services were felt to be too valuable
to be lost, and on the 10th of May his command was prolonged
for forty days. On the 28th he was sent to Ely for the defence
of the eastern counties against the king’s advance; and on the
10th of June, upon Fairfax’s petition, he was named by the
Commons lieutenant-general, joining Fairfax on the 13th with
six hundred horse. At the decisive battle of Naseby (the 14th
of Naseby.of June 1645) he commanded the parliamentary right wing and routed the cavalry of Sir Marmaduke Langdale, subsequently falling upon and defeating the royalist centre, and pursuing the fugitives as far as the outskirts of Leicester. At Langport again, on the 10th of July 1645, his management of the troops was largely instrumental in gaining the victory. As the king had no longer a field army, the war after Naseby resolved itself into a series of sieges which Charles had no means of raising. Cromwell was present at the sieges of Bridgwater, Bath, Sherborne and Bristol; and later, in command of four regiments of foot and three of horse, he was employed in clearing Wiltshire and Hampshire of the royalist garrisons. He took Devizes and Laycock House, Winchester and Basing House, and rejoined Fairfax in October at Exeter, and accompanied him to Cornwall, where he assisted in the defeat of Hopton’s forces and in the suppression of the royalists in the west. On the 9th of January 1646 he surprised Lord Wentworth’s brigade at Bovey Tracey, and was present with Fairfax at the fall of Exeter on the 9th of April. He then went to London to give an account of proceedings to the parliament, was thanked for his services and rewarded with the estate of the marquess of Worcester. He was present again with Fairfax at the capitulation of Oxford on the 24th of June, which practically terminated the Civil War, when he used his influence in favour of granting lenient terms. He then removed with his family from Ely to Drury Lane, London, and about a year later to King Street, Westminster.
The war being now over, the great question of the establishment of Presbyterianism or Independency had to be decided. Cromwell, without naming himself an adherent of any denomination, fought vigorously for Independency as a policy. In 1644 he had remonstrated at the removal by Crawford of an anabaptist lieutenant-colonel. “The state,” he said, “in choosing men to serve it, takes no notice of their opinions. If they be willing faithfully to serve it, that satisfies. Take heed of being sharp ... against those to whom you can object little but that they square not with you in every opinion concerning matters of religion.” He had patronized Lilburne and welcomed all into his regiment, and the Independents had spread from his troops throughout the whole army. But while the sectarians were in a vast majority in the army, the parliament was equally strong in Presbyterianism and opposed to toleration. The proposed disbandment of the army in February 1647 would have placed the soldiers entirely in the power of the parliament; while the negotiations of the king, first with the Scots and then with the parliament, appeared to hazard all the fruits of victory. The petition from the army to the parliament for arrears of pay was suppressed and the petitioners declared enemies of the state. In consequence the army organized a systematic opposition, and elected representatives styled Agitators or Agents to urge their claims.
Cromwell, though greatly disliking the policy of the Presbyterians, yet gave little support at first to the army in resisting parliament. In May 1647 in company with Skippon, Ireton and Fleetwood, he visited the army, inquired Parliament and the army.into and reported on the grievances, and endeavoured to persuade them to submit to the parliament. “If that authority falls to nothing,” he said, “nothing can follow but confusion.” The Presbyterians, however, now engaged in a plan for restoring the king under their own control, and by the means of a Scottish army, forced on their policy, and on the 27th of May ordered the immediate disbandment of the army, without any guarantee for the payment of arrears. A mutiny was the consequence. The soldiers refused to disband, and on the 3rd of June Cromwell, whom, it was believed, the parliament intended to arrest, joined the army. “If he would not forthwith come and lead them,” they had told him, “they would go their own way without him.” The supremacy of the army without a guiding hand meant anarchy, that of the Presbyterians the outbreak of another civil war.
Possession of the king’s person now became an important consideration. On the 31st of May 1647 Cromwell had ordered Cornet Joyce to prevent the king’s removal by the parliament or the Scots from Holmby, and Joyce by his own authority and with the king’s consent brought him to Newmarket to the headquarters of the army. Cromwell soon restored order, and the representative council, including privates as well as officers chosen to negotiate with the parliament, was subordinated to the council of war. The army with Cromwell then advanced towards London. In a letter to the city, possibly written by Cromwell himself, the officers repudiated any wish to alter the civil government or upset the establishment of Presbyterianism, but demanded religious toleration. Subsequently, in the declaration of the 14th of June, arbitrary power either in the parliament or in the king was denounced, and demand was made for a representative parliament, the speedy termination of the actual assembly, and the recognition of the right to petition. Cromwell used his influence in restraining the more eager who wished to march on London immediately, and in avoiding the use of force by which nothing permanent could be effected, urging that “whatsoever we get by treaty will be firm and durable. It will be conveyed over to posterity.” The army faction gradually gathered strength in the parliament. Eleven Presbyterian leaders impeached by the army withdrew of their own accord on the 26th of June, and the parliament finally yielded. Fairfax was appointed sole commander-in-chief on the 19th of July, the soldiers levied to oppose the army were dismissed, and the command of the city militia was again restored to the committee approved by the army. These votes, however, were cancelled later, on the 26th of July, under the pressure of the royalist city mob which invaded the two Houses; but the two speakers, with eight peers and fifty-seven members of the Commons, themselves joined the army, which now advanced to London, overawing all resistance, escorting the fugitive members in triumph to Westminster on the 6th of August, and obliging the parliament on the 20th to cancel the last votes, with the threat of a regiment of cavalry drawn up by Cromwell in Hyde Park.
Cromwell and the army now turned with hopes of a settlement to Charles. On the 4th of July Cromwell had had an interview with the king at Caversham. He was not insensible to Charles’s good qualities, was touched by the paternal affection he showed for his children, and is said to have declared that Charles “was the uprightest and most conscientious man of his three kingdoms.” The Heads of the Proposals, which, on Charles raising objections, had been modified by the influence of Cromwell and Ireton, demanded the control of the militia and the choice of ministers by parliament for ten years, a religious toleration, and a council of state to which much of the royal control over the army and foreign policy would be delegated. These proposals without doubt largely diminished the royal power, and were rejected by Charles with the hope of maintaining his sovereign rights by “playing a game,” to use his own words, i.e. by negotiating simultaneously with army and parliament, by inflaming their jealousies and differences, and finally by these means securing his restoration with his full prerogatives unimpaired. On the 9th of September Charles refused once mere the Newcastle Propositions offered him by the parliament, and Cromwell, together with Ireton and Vane, obtained the passing of a motion for a new application; but the terms asked by the parliament were higher than before and included a harsh condition—the exclusion from pardon of all the king’s leading adherents, besides the indefinite establishment of Presbyterianism and the refusal of toleration to the Roman Catholics and members of the Church of England.
Meanwhile the failure to come to terms with Charles and provide a settlement appeared to threaten a general anarchy. Cromwell’s moderate counsels created distrust in his good faith amongst the soldiers, who accused him of “prostituting the liberties and persons of all the people at the foot of the king’s interest.” The agitators demanded immediate settlement by force by the army. The extreme republicans, anticipating Rousseau, put forward the Agreement of the People. This was strongly opposed by Cromwell, who declared the very consideration of it had dangers, that it would bring upon the country “utter confusion” and “make England like Switzerland.” Universal suffrage he rejected as tending “very much to anarchy,” spoke against the hasty abolition of either the monarchy or the Lords, and refused entirely to consider the abstract principles brought into the debate. Political problems were not to be so resolved, but practically. With Cromwell as with Burke the question was “whether the spirit of the people of this nation is prepared to go along with it.” The special form of government was not the important point, but its possibility and its acceptability. The great problem was to found a stable government, an authority to keep order. If every man should fight for the best form of government the state would come to desolation. He reproached the soldiers for their insubordination against their officers, and the army for its rebellion against the parliament. He would lay hold of anything “if it had but the force of authority,” rather than have none. Cromwell’s influence prevailed and these extreme proposals were laid aside.
Meanwhile all hopes of an accommodation with Charles were
dispelled by his flight on the 11th of November from Hampton
Court to Carisbroke Castle in the Isle of Wight, his
object being to negotiate independently with the
Scots, the parliament and the army. His action,
the king.however, in the event, diminished rather than increased his chances of success, owing to the distrust of his intentions which it inspired. Both the army and the parliament gave cold replies to his offers to negotiate; and Charles, on the 27th of December 1647, entered into the Engagement with the Scots by which he promised the establishment of Presbyterianism for three years, the suppression of the Independents and their sects, together with privileges for the Scottish nobles, while the Scots undertook to invade England and restore him to his throne. This alliance, though the exact terms were not known to Cromwell—“the attempt to vassalize us to a foreign nation,” to use his own words—convinced him of the uselessness of any plan for maintaining Charles on the throne; though he still appears to have clung to monarchy, proposing in January 1648 the transference of the crown to the prince of Wales. A week after the signing of the treaty he supported a proposal for the king’s deposition, and the vote of No Addresses was carried. Meanwhile the position of Charles’s opponents had been considerably strengthened by the suppression of a dangerous rebellion in November 1647 by Cromwell’s intervention, and by the return of troops to obedience. Cromwell’s difficulties, however, were immense. His moderate and trimming attitude was understood neither by the extreme Independents nor by the Presbyterians. He made one attempt to reconcile the disputes between the army and the politicians by a conference, but ended the barren discussion on the relative merits of aristocracies, monarchies and democracies, interspersed with Bible texts, by throwing a cushion at the speaker’s head and running downstairs. On the 19th of January 1648 Cromwell was accused of high treason by Lilburne. Plots were formed for his assassination. He was overtaken by a dangerous illness, and on the 2nd of March civil war in support of the king broke out.
Cromwell left London in May to suppress the royalists in Wales, and took Pembroke Castle on the 11th of July. Meanwhile behind his back the royalists had risen all over England, the fleet in the Downs had declared for Charles, and the Scottish army under Hamilton had invaded the north. Immediately on the fall of Pembroke Cromwell set out to relieve Lambert, who was slowly retreating before Hamilton’s superior forces; he joined him near Knaresborough on the 12th of August, and started next day in pursuit of Hamilton in Lancashire, placing himself at Stonyhurst near Preston, cutting off Hamilton from the north and his allies, and defeating him in detail on the 17th, 18th and 19th at Preston and at Warrington. He then marched north into Scotland, following the forces of Monro, and established a new government of the Argyle faction at Edinburgh; replying to the Independents who disapproved of his mild treatment of the Presbyterians, that he desired “union and right understanding between the godly people, Scots, English, Jews, Gentiles, Presbyterians, Anabaptists and all; . . . a more glorious work in our eyes than if we had gotten the sacking and plunder of Edinburgh . . . and made a conquest from the Tweed to the Orcades.”
The incident of the Second Civil War and the treaty with the Scots exasperated Cromwell against the king. On his return to London he found the parliament again negotiating with Charles, and on the eve of making a treaty which Charles himself had no intention of keeping and Cromwell supports the Remonstrance. regarded merely as a means of regaining his power, and which would have thrown away in one moment all the advantages gained during years of bloodshed and struggle. Cromwell therefore did not hesitate to join the army in its opposition to the parliament, and supported the Remonstrance of the troops (20th of November 1648), which included the demand for the king’s punishment as “the grand author of all our troubles,” and justified the use of force by the army if other means failed. The parliament, however, continued to negotiate, and accordingly Charles was removed by the army to Hurst Castle on the 1st of December, the troops occupied London on the 2nd; while on the 6th and 7th Colonel Pride “purged” the House of Commons of the Presbyterians. Cromwell was not the originator of this act, but showed his approval of it by taking his seat among the fifty or sixty Independent members who remained.
The disposal of the king was now the great question to be decided. During the next few weeks Cromwell appears to have made once more attempts to come to terms with Charles; but the king was inflexible in his refusal to part with the essential powers of the monarchy, or with the Church; and at the end of December it was resolved to bring him to trial. The exact share which Cromwell had in this decision and its sequel is obscure, and the later accounts of the regicides when on their trial at the Restoration, ascribing the whole transaction to his initiation and agency, cannot be altogether accepted. But it is plain that, once convinced of the necessity for the king’s execution, he was the chief instrument in overcoming all scruples among his judges, and in resisting the protests and appeals of the Scots. To Algernon Sidney, who refused to take part in proceedings on the plea that neither the king nor any man could be tried by such a court, Cromwell replied, “I tell you, we will cut off his head with the crown upon it.”
The execution of the king took place on the 30th of January 1649. This event, the turning-point in Cromwell’s career, casts a shadow, from one point of view, over the whole of his future statesmanship. He himself never repented of the act, regarding it, on the contrary, as “one which The execution of Charles I.Christians in after times will mention with honour and all tyrants in the world look at with fear,” and as one directly ordained by God. Opinions, no doubt, will always differ as to the wisdom or authority of the policy which brought Charles to the scaffold. On the one hand, there was no law except that of force by which an offence could be attributed to the sovereign, the anointed king, the source of justice. The ordinance establishing the special tribunal for the trial was passed by a remnant of the House of Commons alone, from which all dissentients were excluded by the army. The tribunal was composed, not of judges—for all unanimously refused to sit on it—but of fifty-two men drawn from among the king’s enemies. The execution was a military and not a national act, and at the last scene on the scaffold the triumphant shouts of the soldiery could not overwhelm the groans and sobs raised by the populace. Whatever crimes might be charged against Charles, his past conduct might appear to be condoned by the act of negotiating with him. On the other hand, the execution seemed to Cromwell the only alternative to anarchy, or to a return to despotism and the abandonment of all they had fought for. Cromwell had exhausted every expedient for arriving at an arrangement with the king by which the royal authority might be preserved, and the repeated perfidy and inexhaustible shiftiness of Charles had proved the hopelessness of such attempts. The results produced by the king’s execution were far-reaching and permanent. It is true that Puritan austerity and the lack of any strong central authority after Oliver’s death produced a reaction which temporarily restored Charles’s dynasty to the throne; but it is not less true that the execution of the king, at a later time when all over Europe absolute monarchies “by divine right” were being established on the ruins of the ancient popular constitutions, was an object lesson to all the world; and it produced a profound effect, not only in establishing constitutional monarchy in Great Britain after James II., with the dread of his father’s fate before him, had abdicated by flight, but in giving the impulse to that revolt against the idea of “the divinity that doth hedge a king” which culminated in the Revolution of 1789, and of which the mighty effects are still evident in Europe and beyond.
The king and the monarchy being now destroyed in England,
Cromwell had next to turn his attention to the suppression of
royalism in Ireland and in Scotland. In Ireland
Ormonde had succeeded in uniting the English and the
Ireland.Irish in a league against the supporters of the parliament, and only a few scattered forts held out for the Commonwealth, while the young king was every day expected to land and complete the conquest of the island. Accordingly in March 1649 Cromwell was appointed lord-lieutenant and commander-in-chief for its reduction. But before starting he was called upon to suppress disorder at home. He treated the Levellers with some severity and showed his instinctive dislike to revolutionary proposals. “Did not that levelling principle,” he said, “tend to the reducing of all to an equality? What was the purport of it but to make the tenant as liberal a fortune as the landlord, which I think if obtained would not have lasted long.” Equally characteristic was his treatment of the mutinous army, in which he suppressed a rebellion in May. He landed at Dublin on the 13th of August. Before his arrival the Dublin garrison had defeated Ormonde with a loss of 5000 men, and Cromwell’s work was limited to the capture of detached fortresses. On the 10th of September he stormed Drogheda, and by his order the whole of its 2800 defenders were put to the sword without quarter. Cromwell, who was as a rule especially scrupulous in protecting non-combatants from violence, justified his severity in this case by the cruelties perpetrated by the Irish in the rebellion of 1641, and as being necessary on military and political grounds in that it “would tend to prevent the effusion of blood for the future, which were the satisfactory grounds of such actions which otherwise cannot but work remorse and regret.” After the fall of Drogheda Cromwell sent a few troops to relieve Londonderry, and marched himself to Wexford, which he took on the 11th of October, and where similar scenes of cruelty were repeated; every captured priest, to use Cromwell’s own words, being immediately “knocked on the head,” though the story of the three hundred women slaughtered in the market-place has no foundation.
The surrender of Trim, Dundalk and Ross followed, but at Waterford Cromwell met with a stubborn resistance and the advent of winter obliged him to raise the siege. Next year Cromwell penetrated into Munster. Cashel, Cahir and several castles fell in February, and Kilkenny in March; Clonmel repulsing the assault with great loss, but surrendering on the 10th of May 1650. Cromwell himself sailed a fortnight later, leaving the reduction of the island, which was completed in 1652, to his generals. The re-settlement of the conquered and devastated country was now organized on the Tudor and Straffordian basis of colonization from England, conversion to Protestantism, and establishment of law and order. Cromwell thoroughly approved of the enormous scheme of confiscation and colonization, causing great privations and sufferings, which was carried out. The Roman Catholic landowners lost their estates, all or part according to their degree of guilt, and these were distributed among Cromwell’s soldiers and the creditors of the government; Cromwell also invited new settlers from home and from New England, two-thirds of the whole land of Ireland being thus transferred to new proprietors. The suppression of Roman Catholicism was zealously pursued by Cromwell; the priests were hunted down and imprisoned or exiled to Spain or Barbados, the mass was everywhere forbidden, and the only liberty allowed was that of conscience, the Romanist not being obliged to attend Protestant services.
These methods, together with education, “assiduous preaching ... humanity, good life, equal and honest dealing with men of different opinion,” Cromwell thought, would convert the whole island to Protestantism. The law was ably and justly administered, and Irish trade was admitted to the same privileges as English, enjoying the same rights in foreign and colonial trade; and no attempt was made to subordinate the interests of the former to the latter, which was the policy adopted both before and after Cromwell’s time, while the union of Irish and English interests was further recognized by the Irish representation at Westminster in the parliaments of 1654, 1656 and 1659. These advantages, however, scarcely benefited at all the Irish Roman Catholics, who were excluded from political life and from the corporate towns; and Cromwell’s union meant little more than the union of the English colony in Ireland with England. A just administration, too, did not compensate for unjust laws or produce contentment; the policy of conversion and colonization was unsuccessful, the descendants of many of Cromwell’s soldiers becoming merged in the Roman Catholic Irish, and the union with England, political and commercial, being extinguished at the Restoration. Cromwell’s land settlement—modified by the restoration under Charles II. of about one-third of the estates to the royalists—survived, and added to the difficulties with which the English government was afterwards confronted in Ireland.
Meanwhile Cromwell had hurried home to deal with the
royalists in Scotland. He urged Fairfax to attack the Scots at once in their own country and to forestall their invasion; but Fairfax refused and resigned, and The
Worcester.Cromwell was appointed by parliament, on the 26th of June 1650, commander-in-chief of all the forces of the Commonwealth. He entered Scotland in July, and after a campaign in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh which proved unsuccessful in drawing out the Scots from their fortresses, he retreated to Dunbar to await reinforcements from Berwick. The Scots under Leslie followed him, occupied Doon Hill commanding the town, and seized the passes between Dunbar and Berwick which Cromwell had omitted to secure. Cromwell was outmanœuvred and in a perilous situation, completely cut off from England and from his supplies except from the sea. But Leslie descended the hill to complete his triumph, and Cromwell immediately observed the disadvantages of his antagonist’s new position, cramped by the hill behind and separated from his left wing. A stubborn struggle on the next day, the 3rd of September, gave Cromwell a decisive victory. Advancing, he occupied Edinburgh and Leith. At first it seemed likely that his victories and subsequent remonstrances would effect a peace with the Scots; but by 1651 Charles II. had succeeded in forming a new union of royalists and presbyterians, and another campaign became inevitable. Some delay was caused in beginning operations by Cromwell’s dangerous illness, during which his life was despaired of; but in June he was confronting Leslie entrenched in the hills near Stirling, impregnable to attack and refusing an engagement. Cromwell determined to turn his antagonist’s position. He sent 14,000 men into Fifeshire and marched to Perth, which he captured on the 2nd of August, thus cutting off Leslie from the north and his supplies. This movement, however, left open the way to England, and Charles immediately marched south, in reality thus giving Cromwell the wished-for opportunity of crushing the royalists finally and decisively. Cromwell followed through Yorkshire, and uniting with Lambert and Harrison at Evesham proceeded to attack the royalists at Worcester; where on the 3rd of September after a fierce struggle the great victory, “the crowning mercy” which terminated the Civil War, was obtained over Charles.
Monk completed the subjugation of Scotland by 1654. The settlement here was made on more moderate lines than in Ireland. The estates of only twenty-four leaders of the defeated cause were forfeited by Cromwell, and the national church was left untouched though deprived of all powers of interference with the civil government, the general assembly being dissolved in 1653. Large steps were made towards the union of the two kingdoms by the representation of Scotland in the parliament at Westminster; free trade between the two countries was established, the administration of justice greatly improved, vassalage and heritable jurisdictions abolished, and security and good order maintained by the council of nine appointed by the Protector. In 1658 the improved condition of Scotland was the subject of Cromwell’s special congratulation in addressing parliament. But as in Ireland so Cromwell’s policy in Scotland was unpopular and was only upheld by the maintenance of a large army, necessitating heavy taxation and implying the loss of the national independence. It also vanished at the Restoration.
On the 12th of September 1651 Cromwell made his triumphal entry into London at the conclusion of his victorious campaigns; and parliament granted him Hampton Court as a residence with £4000 a year. These triumphs, however, had all been obtained by force of arms; the more difficult task now awaited Cromwell of governing England by parliament and by law. As Milton wrote:—
“Cromwell! our chief of men, who through a cloud
Cromwell’s moderation and freedom from imperiousness were acknowledged even by those least friendly to his principles. Although the idol of his victorious army, and in a position enabling him to exercise autocratic power, he laboured unostentatiously for more than a year and a half as a member of the parliament, whose authority he supported to the best of his ability. While occupied with work on committees and in administration he pressed forward several schemes of reform, including a large measure of law reform prepared by a commission presided over by Matthew Hale, and the settlement of the church; but very little was accomplished by the parliament, which seemed to be almost exclusively taken up with the maintenance and increase of its own powers; and Cromwell’s dissatisfaction, and that of the army which increased every day, was intensified by the knowledge that the parliament, instead of dissolving for a new election, was seeking to perpetuate its tenure of power. At length, in April 1653, a “bill for a new representation” was discussed, which provided for the retention of their seats by the existing members without re-election, so that they would also be the sole judges of the eligibility of the rest. This measure, which placed the whole powers of the state—executive, legislative, military and judicial—in the hands of one irresponsible and permanent chamber, “the horridest arbitrariness that ever was exercised in the world,” Cromwell and the army determined to resist at all costs. On the 15th of April they proposed that the parliament should appoint a provisional government and dissolve itself. This compromise was refused by the parliament, which proceeded on the 20th to press through its last stages the “bill for a new representation.” Cromwell hastened to the House, and at the last moment, on the bill being put to the vote, whispering to Harrison, “This is the time; I must do it,” he rose, and after alluding to the Cromwell expels the Long Parliament. former good services of the parliament, proceeded to overwhelm the members with reproaches. Striding up and down the House in a passion, he made no attempt to control himself, and turning towards individuals as he hurled significant epithets at each, he called some “whoremasters,” others “drunkards, corrupt, unjust, scandalous to the profession of the Gospel.” “Perhaps you think,” he exclaimed, “that this is not parliamentary language; I confess it is not, neither are you to expect any such from me.” In reply to a complaint of his violence he cried, “Come, come, I will put an end to your prating. You are no parliament, I say you are no parliament. I will put an end to your sitting.” By his directions Harrison then fetched in a small band of Cromwell’s musketeers and compelled the speaker Lenthall to vacate the chair. Looking at the mace he said, “What shall we do with this bauble?” and ordered a soldier to take it away. The members then trooped out, Cromwell crying after them, “It is you that have forced me to this; for I have sought the Lord night and day that He would rather slay me than put me upon the doing this work.” He then snatched the obnoxious bill from the clerk, put it under his cloak, and commanding the doors to be locked went back to Whitehall. In the afternoon he dissolved the council in spite of John Bradshaw’s remonstrances, who said, “Sir, we have heard what you did at the House this morning...; but you are mistaken to think that the parliament is dissolved, for no power under heaven can dissolve them but themselves; therefore take you notice of that.” Cromwell had no patience with formal pedantry of this sort; and in point of strict legality “The Rump” of the Long Parliament had little better title to authority than the officers who expelled it from the House. After this Cromwell had nothing left but the army with which to govern, and “henceforth his life was a vain attempt to clothe that force in constitutional forms, and make it seem something else so that it might become something else.”
By the dissolution of the Long Parliament Cromwell as commander-in-chief was left the sole authority in the state. He determined immediately to summon another parliament. This was the “Little” or “Barebones Parliament,” consisting of one hundred and forty persons selected by the council of officers from among those nominated by the congregations in each county, which met on the 4th of July 1653. This assembly, however, soon showed itself impracticable and incapable, and on the 12th of December the speaker, followed by the more moderate members, marched to Whitehall and returned their powers to Cromwell, while the rest were expelled by the army.
Cromwell, who had no desire to exercise arbitrary power and whose main object therefore was to devise some constitutional limit to the authority which circumstances had placed in his hands, now accepted the written constitution drawn up by some of the officers, called the Instrument of Government, the earliest example of a “fixed government” based on “fundamentals,” or constitutional guarantees, and the only example of it in English history. Its authors had wished Oliver to assume the title of king, but this he repeatedly refused; and in the instrument he was named Protector, a parliament was established, limited in powers but whose measures were not restricted by the Protector’s veto unless they contravened the constitution, the Protector’s executive power being also limited by the council. The Protector and the council together were given a life tenure of office, with a large army and a settled revenue sufficient for public needs in time of peace; while the clauses relating to religion “are remarkable as laying down for the first time with authority a principle of toleration,” though this toleration did not apply to Roman Catholics and Anglicans. On the 16th of December 1653 Cromwell was installed in his new office, dressed as a civilian in a plain black coat instead of in scarlet as a general, in order to demonstrate that military government had given place to civil; for he approached his task in the same spirit that had prompted his declaration to the Little Parliament of his wish “to divest the sword of all power in the Civil administration.”
In the interval between his nomination as Protector and the summoning of his first parliament in September 1654, Cromwell was empowered together with his council to legislate by ordinances; and eighty-two were issued in all, dealing The government of the Protector. with numerous and various reforms and including the reorganization of the treasury, the settlement of Ireland and Scotland and the union of the three kingdoms, the relief of poor prisoners, and the maintenance of the highways. These ordinances in many instances showed the hand of the true statesman. Cromwell was essentially a conservative reformer; in his attempts to purge the court of chancery of its most flagrant abuses, and to settle the ecclesiastical affairs of the nation, he showed himself anxious to retain as much of the existing system as could be left untouched without doing positive evil. He was out-voted by his council on the question of commutation of tithes, and his enlightened zeal for reforming the “wicked and abominable” sentences of the criminal law met with complete failure. Most of these ordinances were subsequently confirmed by parliament, and, “on the whole, this body of dictatorial legislation, abnormal in form as it is, in substance was a real, wise and moderate set of reforms.” His ordinances for the “Reformation of Manners,” the product of the puritan spirit, had but a transitory effect. The Long Parliament had ordered a strict observance of Sunday, punished swearing severely, and made adultery a capital crime; Cromwell issued further ordinances against duelling, swearing, race-meetings and cock-fights—the last as tending to the disturbance of the public peace and the encouragement of “dissolute practices to the dishonour of God.” Cromwell himself was no ascetic and saw no harm in honest sport. He was exceedingly fond of horses and hunting, leaping ditches prudently avoided by the foreign ambassadors. Baxter describes him as full of animal spirits, “naturally of such a vivacity, hilarity and alacrity as another man is when he hath drunken a cup of wine too much,” and notes his “familiar rustic carriage with his soldiers in sporting.” He was fond of music and of art, and kept statues in Hampton Court Gardens which scandalized good puritans. He preferred that Englishmen should be free rather than sober by compulsion. Writing to the Scottish clergy, and rejecting their claim to suppress dissent in order to extirpate error, he said, “Your pretended fear lest error should step in is like the man who would keep all wine out of the country lest men should be drunk. It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon a supposition he may abuse it. When he doth abuse it, judge.” It is probable that very little of this moral legislation was enforced in practice, though special efforts were made under the government of the major-generals. Cromwell expected more results from the effects of education and culture. A part of the revenue of confiscated church lands was allotted to the maintenance of schools, and the question of national education was seriously taken in hand by the Commonwealth. Cromwell was especially interested in the universities. In 1649 he had been elected D.C.L. at Oxford, and in 1651 chancellor of the University, an office which he held till 1657, when he was succeeded by his son Richard. He founded a new readership in Divinity, and presented Greek MSS. to the Bodleian. He appointed visitors for the universities and great public schools, and defended the universities from the attacks of the extreme sectaries who clamoured for their abolition, even Clarendon allowing that Oxford “yielded a harvest of extraordinary good and sound knowledge in all parts of learning.” In 1657 he founded a new university at Durham, which was suppressed at the Restoration. He patronized learning. Milton and Marvell were his secretaries. He allowed the royalists Hobbes and Cowley to return to England, and lived in friendship with the poet Waller.
Cromwell’s religious policy included the maintenance of a national church, a policy acceptable to the army but much disliked by the Scots, who wanted the church to control the state, not the state the church. He Cromwell’s church policy.improved the incomes of poor livings by revenues derived from episcopal estates and the fines of delinquents. An important feature of his church government was the appointment on the 20th of March 1654 of the “Triers,” thirty-eight clerical and lay commissioners, who decided upon the qualifications of candidates for livings, and without whose recommendation none could be appointed; while an ordinance of August 1654 provided for the removal of the unfit, the latter class including besides immoral persons those holding “popish” or blasphemous opinions, those publicly using the English Prayer Book, and the disaffected to the government. Religious toleration was granted, but with the important exception that some harsh measures were enacted against Anglicans and Roman Catholics, to neither of whom was liberty of worship accorded. The acts imposing fines for recusancy, repealed in 1650, were later executed with great severity. In 1655 a proclamation was issued for administering the laws against the priests and Jesuits, and some executions were carried out. Complete toleration in fact was only extended to Protestant nonconformists, who composed the Cromwellian established church, and who now meted out to their antagonists the same treatment which they themselves were later to receive under the Clarendon Code of Charles II.
Cromwell himself, however, remained throughout a staunch
and constant upholder of religious toleration. “I had rather
that Mahommedanism were permitted amongst us,”
he avowed, “than that one of God’s children shouldHis
toleration. be persecuted.” Far in advance of his contemporaries on this question, whenever his personal action is disclosed it is invariably on the side of forbearance and of moderation. It is probable, from the absence of evidence to the contrary, that much of this severe legislation was never executed, and it was without doubt Cromwell’s restraining hand which moderated the narrow persecuting spirit of the executive. In practice Anglican private worship appears to have been little interfered with; and although the recusant fines were rigorously exacted, the same seems to have been the case with the private celebration of the mass. Bordeaux, the French envoy in England, wrote that, in spite of the severe laws, the Romanists received better treatment under the Protectorate than under any other government. Cromwell’s strong personal inclination towards toleration is clearly seen in his treatment of the Jews and Quakers. He was unable, owing to the opposition of the divines and of the merchants, to secure the full recognition of the right to reside in England of the former who had for some time lived in small numbers and traded unnoticed and untroubled in the country; but he obtained an opinion from two judges that there was no law which forbade their return, and he gave them a private assurance of his protection, with leave to celebrate their private worship and to possess a cemetery.
Cromwell’s policy in this instance was not overturned at the Restoration, and the great Jewish immigration into England with all its important consequences may be held to date practically from these first concessions made by Cromwell. His personal intervention also alleviated the condition of the Quakers, much persecuted at this time. In an interview in 1654 the sincerity and enthusiasm of George Fox had greatly moved Cromwell and had convinced him of their freedom from dangerous political schemes. He ordered Fox’s liberation, and in November 1657 issued a general order directing that Quakers should be treated with leniency, and be discharged from confinement. Doctrines directly attacking Christianity Cromwell regarded, indeed, as outside toleration and to be punished by the civil power, but at the same time he mitigated the severity of the penalty ordained by the law. In general the toleration enjoyed under Cromwell was probably far larger than at any period since religion became the contending ground of political parties, and certainly greater than under his immediate successors. Lilburne and the anabaptists, and John Rogers and the Fifth Monarchy men, were prosecuted only on account of their direct attacks upon the government, and Cromwell in his broad-minded and tolerant statesmanship was himself in advance of his age and his administration. He believed in the spiritual and unseen rather than in the outward and visible unity of Christendom.
In foreign policy Cromwell’s chief aims appear to have been to support and extend the Protestant faith, to promote English trade, and to prevent a Stuart restoration by foreign aid—the religious mission of England in the world, Foreign policy.her commercial interests, and her political independence being indissolubly connected in his mind. The beginning of his rule inherited a war with France and Holland; the former consequent on Cromwell’s failure to obtain terms for the Huguenots or the cession of Dunkirk, and the latter—for which he was not responsible—the result of commercial rivalry, of disputes concerning the rights of neutrals, of bitter memories of Dutch misdeeds in the East Indies, and of dynastic causes arising from the stadtholder, William II. of Orange, having married Mary, daughter of Charles I. In 1651 the Dutch completed a treaty with Denmark to injure English trade in the Baltic; to which England replied the same year by the Navigation Act, which suppressed the Dutch trade with the English colonies and the Dutch fish trade with England, and struck at the Dutch carrying trade. War was declared in May 1652 after a fight between Blake and Tromp off Dover, and was continued with signal victories and defeats on both sides till 1654. The religious element, however, which predominated in Cromwell’s foreign policy inclined him to peace, and in April of that year terms were arranged by which England on the whole was decidedly the gainer. The Dutch acknowledged the supremacy of the English flag in the British seas, which Tromp had before refused; they accepted the Navigation Act, and undertook privately to exclude the princes of Orange from the command of their forces. The Protestant policy was further followed up by treaties with Sweden and Denmark which secured the passage of the Sound for English ships on the same conditions as the Dutch, and a treaty with Portugal which liberated English subjects from the Inquisition and allowed commerce with the Portuguese colonies. The two great Roman Catholic powers now both bid for Cromwell’s alliance. Cromwell wisely inclined towards France, for Spain was then a greater menace than France alike to the Protestant cause and to the growth of British trade in the western hemisphere; but as no concessions could be gained from either France or Spain, the year 1654 closed without a treaty being made with either. In December 1654 Penn and Venables sailed for the West Indies with orders to attack the Spanish colonies and the French shipping; and for the first time since the Plantagenets an English fleet appeared in the Mediterranean, where Blake upheld the supremacy of the English flag, made a treaty with the dey of Algiers, destroyed the castles and ships of the dey of Tunis at Porto Farina on the 4th of April 1655, and liberated the English prisoners captured by the pirates.
The incident of the massacre of the Protestant Vaudois at this time decided Cromwell’s policy in favour of France. In response to Cromwell’s splendid championship of the persecuted people—which has been well described as “one of the noblest memories of England”—France undertook to put pressure upon Savoy, in consequence of which the persecution ceased for a time; but Cromwell’s intervention had less practical effect than has generally been supposed, though “never was the great conception of a powerful state having duties along with interests more magnanimously realized.” The treaty of Pinerolo withdrew the edict ordering the persecutions, but they were soon afterwards renewed, and in 1658 formed the subject of another remonstrance by Cromwell to Louis XIV. in his last extant public letter before his death. The treaty of Westminster (24th of October 1655) dealt chiefly with commercial subjects, and contained a clause promising the expulsion from France of political exiles. Meanwhile the West Indian expedition had been defeated at Hispaniola, and war was declared by Spain, who now promised help to Charles II. for regaining his throne. Cromwell sent powerful English fleets to watch the coast of Spain and to prevent communications with the West Indies and America; on the 8th of September 1656 a fleet of treasure ships was destroyed off Cadiz by Stayner, and on the 20th of April 1657 Blake performed his last exploit in the destruction of the whole Spanish fleet of sixteen treasure ships in the harbour of Santa Cruz in Teneriffe. These naval victories were followed by a further military alliance with France against Spain, termed the treaty of Paris (the 23rd of March 1657). Cromwell furnished 6000 men with a fleet to join in the attack upon Spain in Flanders, and obtained as reward Mardyke and Dunkirk, the former being captured and handed over on the 3rd of October 1657, and the latter after the battle of the Dunes on the 4th of June 1658, when Cromwell’s Ironsides were once more pitted against English royalists fighting for the Spaniards.
Such was the character of Cromwell’s policy abroad. The inspiring principle had been the defence and support of Protestantism, the question with Cromwell being “whether the Christian world should be all popery.” He desired England to be everywhere the protector of the oppressed and the upholder of “true religion.” His policy was in principle the policy of Elizabeth, of Gustavus Adolphus, and—in the following generation—of William of Orange. He appreciated, without over-estimating, the value of England’s insular position. “You have accounted yourselves happy,” he said in January 1658, “in being environed by a great ditch from all the world beside. Truly you will not be able to keep your ditch nor your shipping unless you turn your ships and shipping into troops of horse and companies of foot, and fight to defend yourselves on terra firma.” He did not regard himself merely as the trustee of the national resources. These were not to be employed for the advancement of English interests alone. “God’s interest in the world,” he declared, “is more extensive than all the people of these three nations. God has brought us hither to consider the work we may do in the world as well as at home.” In 1653 he had made the astonishing proposal to the Dutch that England and Holland should divide the habitable globe outside Europe between them, that all states maintaining the Inquisition should be treated as enemies by both the proposed allies, and that the latter “should send missionaries to all peoples willing to receive them, to inculcate the truth of Jesus Christ and the Holy Gospel.” Great writers like Milton and Harrington supported Cromwell’s view of the duty of a statesman; the poet Waller acclaimed Cromwell as “the world’s protector”; but the London tradesmen complained of the loss of their Spanish trade and regarded Holland and not Spain as the national enemy. But Cromwell’s dream of putting himself at the head of European Protestantism never even approached realization. War broke out between the Protestant states of Sweden, Denmark, Holland and Brandenburg, with whom religion was entirely subordinated to individual aims and interests, and who were far from rising to Cromwell’s great conceptions; while the Vaudois were soon subjected to fresh persecutions. On the other hand, Cromwell could justly boast “there is not a nation in Europe but is very willing to ask a good understanding with you.” He raised England to a predominant position among the Powers of Europe, and anticipated the triumphs of the elder Pitt. “It was hard to discover,” wrote Clarendon, “which feared him most, France, Spain or the Low Countries.” The vigour and success with which he organized the national resources and upheld the national honour, asserted the British sovereignty of the seas, defended the oppressed, and caused his name to be feared and respected in foreign courts where that of Stuart was despised and neglected, command praise and admiration equally from contemporaries and from modern critics, from his friends and from his opponents. “He once more joined us to the continent,” wrote Marvell, while Dryden describes him as teaching the British lion to roar. “Cromwell’s greatness at home,” said Clarendon, “was a mere shadow of his greatness abroad.” “It is strange,” wrote Pepys in 1667 under a different régime, “how everybody nowadays reflect upon Oliver and commend him, what brave things he did, and made all the neighbour princes fear him.” To Cromwell more than to any other British ruler belongs the credit of having laid the foundation of England’s maritime supremacy and of her over-sea empire.
Cromwell’s colonial policy aimed definitely at the recognition and extension of the British empire. By March 1652 the whole of the territory governed by the Stuarts had submitted to the authority of the Commonwealth, and the Navigation Act of the 9th of October 1651, by which colonial Cromwell and the empire.goods could only be imported to England in British ships and all foreign trade to the colonies was restricted to products of the exporting country, sought to bind the colonies to England and to support the interests of the shipowners and merchants, and therefore of the English maritime supremacy, the act being, moreover, memorable as the first public measure which treated the colonies as a whole and as an integral part of Great Britain. The hindrance, however, to the general development of trade which the act involved aroused at once loud complaints, to which Cromwell turned a deaf ear, continuing to seize Dutch ships trading in forbidden goods. In the internal administration of the colonies Cromwell interfered very little, maintaining specially friendly relations with the New Englanders, and showing no jealousy of their desire for self-government. The war with France, Holland and Spain offered opportunities of gaining additional territory. A small expedition sent by Cromwell in February 1654 to capture New Amsterdam (New York) from the Dutch was abandoned on the conclusion of peace, and the fleet turned to attack the French colonies; Major Robert Sedgwick taking with a handful of men the fort of St John’s, Port Royal or Annapolis, and the French fort on the river Penobscot, the whole territory from this river to the mouth of the St Lawrence remaining British territory till its cession in 1667. In December 1654 Cromwell despatched Penn and Venables with a fleet of thirty-eight ships and 2500 soldiers to the West Indies, their numbers being raised by recruits at the islands to 7000 men. The attack on Hispaniola, however, was a disastrous failure, and though a landing at Jamaica and the capture of the capital, Santiago de la Vega, was effected, the expedition was almost annihilated by disease; and Penn and Venables returned to England, when Cromwell threw them into the Tower. Cromwell, however, persevered, reminding Fortescue, who was left in command, that the war was one against the “Roman Babylon,” that they were “fighting the Lord’s battles”; and he sent out reinforcements under Sedgwick, offering inducements to the New Englanders to migrate to Jamaica. In spite of almost insuperable difficulties the colony took root, trade began, the fleet lay in wait for the Spanish treasure ships, the settlements of the Spaniards were raided, and their repeated attempts to retake the island were successfully resisted. In 1658 Colonel Edward Doyley, the governor, gained a decisive victory over thirty companies of Spanish foot, and sent ten of their flags to Cromwell. The Protector, however, did not live to witness the final triumph of his undertaking, which gave to England, as he had wished, “the mastery of those seas,” ensuring the English colonies against Spanish attacks, and being maintained and followed up at the Restoration.
Meanwhile, the first parliament of the Protectorate had met in September 1654. A scheme of electoral reform had been carried by which members were taken from the small and corrupt boroughs and given to the large hitherto unrepresented towns, and which provided for thirty Parliamentary difficulties.representatives from Scotland and from Ireland. Instead, however, of proceeding with the work of practical legislation, accepting the Instrument of Government without challenge as the basis of its authority, the parliament immediately began to discuss and find fault with the constitution and to debate about “Fundamentals.” About a hundred members who refused to engage not to attempt to change the form of government were excluded on the 12th of September. The rest sat on, discussing the constitution, drawing up lists of damnable heresies and of incontrovertible articles of faith, producing plans for the reduction of the army and demanding for themselves its control. Incensed by the dilatory and factious proceedings of the House, Cromwell dismissed the parliament on the 22nd of January 1655. Various dangerous plots against his government and person were at this time rife. Vane, Ludlow, Robert Overton, Harrison and Major Wildman, the head of the Levellers, were all arrested, while the royalist rising under Penruddock was crushed in Devonshire. Other attacks upon his authority were met with the same resort to force. The judges and lawyers began to question the legality of his ordinances, and to doubt their competency to convict royalist prisoners of treason. A merchant named Cony refused to pay customs not imposed by parliament, his counsel declaring their levy by ordinance to be contrary to Magna Carta, and Chief Justice Rolle resigning in order to avoid giving judgment. Cromwell was thus inevitably drawn farther along the path of arbitrary government. He arrested the persons who refused to pay taxes, and sent Cony’s lawyers to the Tower. Hitherto he had been scrupulously impartial in raising the best men to the judicial bench, including the illustrious Matthew Hale, but he now appointed compliant judges, and, alluding to Magna Carta in terms impossible to transcribe for modern readers, declared that “it should not control his actions which he knew were for the safety of the Commonwealth.” The country was now divided The major-generals.into twelve districts each governed by a major-general, to whom was entrusted the duty of maintaining order, stamping out disaffection and plots, and executing the laws relating to public morals. They had power to transport royalists and those who could not produce good characters, and supported themselves by a special tax of 10% on the incomes of the royalist gentry. Enormous numbers of ale-houses were closed—a proceeding which excited intense resentment and was probably no slight cause of the royalist reaction. Still more serious an encroachment upon the constitution perhaps even than the institution of the major-generals was Cromwell’s tampering with the municipal franchise by confiscating the charters, depriving the burgesses, now hostile to his government, of their parliamentary votes, and limiting the franchise to the corporation; thereby corrupting the national liberties at their very source, and introducing an evil precedent only too readily followed by Charles II. and James II.
It was in these embarrassed and perilous circumstances that Cromwell summoned a new parliament in the summer of 1656. In spite of the influence and interference of the major-generals a large number of members hostile to the government were returned, of whom Cromwell’s Refusal of the crown.council immediately excluded nearly a hundred. The major-generals were the object of general attack, while the special tax on the royalists was declared unjust, and the bill for its continuation rejected by a large majority. An attempt at the assassination of Cromwell by Miles Sindercombe added to the general feeling of anxiety and unrest. The military rule excited universal hostility; there was an earnest desire for a settled and constitutional government, and the revival of the monarchy in the person of Cromwell appeared the only way of obtaining it. On the 23rd of February 1657 the Remonstrance offering Cromwell the crown was moved by Sir Christopher Packe in the parliament and violently resisted by the officers and the army party, one hundred officers waiting upon Cromwell on the 27th to petition against his acceptance of it. On the 25th of March the Remonstrance, now termed the Petition and Advice, and including a new scheme of government, was passed by a majority of 123 to 62 in spite of the opposition of the officers; and on the 31st it was presented to Cromwell in the Banqueting House at Whitehall whence Charles I. had stepped out on to the scaffold. Cromwell replied by requesting a brief delay to ask counsel of God and his own heart. On the 8th of May about thirty officers presented a petition to parliament against the revival of the monarchy, and Fleetwood, Desborough and Lambert threatened to lay down their commissions. Accordingly Cromwell the same day refused the crown definitely, greatly to the astonishment both of his followers and his enemies, who considered his decision a fatal neglect of an opportunity of consolidating his rule and power. In particular, his acceptance of the crown would have guaranteed his followers, under the act of Henry VII., from liability in the future to the charge of high treason for having given allegiance to himself as a de facto king. Cromwell himself, however, seems to have regarded the question of title as of secondary importance, as merely (to use his own words) “a feather in the hat,” “a shining bauble for crowds to gaze at or kneel to.” “Your father,” wrote Sir Francis Russell to Henry Cromwell, “hath of late made more wise men fools than ever; he laughs and is merry, but they hang down their heads and are pitifully out of countenance.”
On the 25th of May the petition was presented to Cromwell again, with the title of Protector substituted for that of King, and he now accepted it. On the 26th of June 1657 he was once more installed as Protector, this time, however, with regal ceremony in contrast with the simple formalities observed on the first occasion, the heralds proclaiming his accession in the same manner as that of the kings. Cromwell’s government seemed now established on the firmer footing of law and national approval, he himself obtaining the powers though not the title of a constitutional monarch, with a permanent revenue of £1,300,000 for the ordinary expenses of the administration, the command of the forces, the right to nominate his successor and, subject to the approval of parliament, the members of the council and of the new second chamber now established, while at the same time the freedom of parliament was guaranteed in its elections. Difficulties, however, appeared immediately the parliament got to work. The republicans hostile to the Protectorate, excluded before, now returned, took the places vacated by strong supporters of Cromwell who had been removed to the Lords, and attacked the authority of the new chamber, opened communications with the disaffected in the city and army, protested against unparliamentary taxation and arbitrary imprisonment, and demanded again the supremacy of parliament. In consequence Cromwell summoned both Houses to his presence on the 4th of February 1658, and having pointed out the perils to which they were once more exposing the state, dissolved parliament, dismissing the members with the words, “let God be judge between me and you.”
During the period following the dissolution Cromwell’s power appeared outwardly at least to be at its height. The revolts of royalists and sectaries against his government had been easily suppressed, and the various attempts to assassinate him, contemptuously referred to by Cromwell as “little fiddling things,” were anticipated and prevented by an excellent system of police and spies, and by his bodyguard of 160 men. The victory at Dunkirk increased his reputation, while Louis XIV. showed his respect for the ruler of England by the splendid reception given to the Protector’s envoy, Lord Fauconberg, and by a complimentary mission despatched to England.
The great career, the incidents of which we have been following, was now, however, drawing to a close. Cromwell’s health had long been impaired by the hardships of campaigning. Now at the age of 58 he was already old, and his firm, strong signature had become feeble and trembling. The responsibilities and anxieties of government unassisted by parliament, and the continued struggle against the force of anarchy, weighed upon him and exhausted his physical powers. “It has been hitherto,” Cromwell said, “a matter of, I think, but philosophical discourse, that a great place, a great authority, is a great burthen. I know it is.” “I can say in the presence of God, in comparison of whom we are but like poor creeping ants upon the earth, I would have lived under my woodside to have kept a flock of sheep rather than undertook such a government as this.” “I doubt not to say,” declared his steward Maidston, “it drank up his spirits, of which his natural constitution afforded a vast stock, and brought him to his grave.”
Domestic bereavements added further causes of grief and of weakened vitality. On the 6th of February 1658 he lost his favourite daughter, Elizabeth Claypole, and he was much cast down by the shock of his bereavement and of her long sufferings. Shortly afterwards he fell ill of an intermittent fever, but seemed to recover. On the 20th of August George Fox met him riding at the head of his guards in the park at Hampton Court, but declared “he looked like a dead man.” The next day he again fell ill and was removed from Hampton Court to Whitehall, where his condition became worse. The anecdotes believed and circulated by the royalists that Cromwell died in all the agonies of remorse and fear are entirely false. On the 31st of August Death.he seemed to rally, and one who slept in his bedchamber and who heard him praying, declared, “a public spirit to God’s cause did breathe in him to the very last.” During the next few days he grew weaker and resigned himself to death. “I would,” he said, “be willing to be further serviceable to God and his people, but my work is done.” For the first time doubts as to his spiritual state seemed to have troubled him. “Tell me is it possible to fall from grace?” he asked the attendant minister. “No, it is not possible,” the latter replied. “Then,” said Cromwell, “I am safe, for I know that I was once in grace.” He refused medicine to induce sleep, declaring “it is not my design to drink or to sleep, but my design is to make what haste I can to be gone.” Towards the morning of the 3rd of September he again spoke, “using divers holy expressions, implying much inward consolation and peace,” together with “some exceeding self-debasing words, annihilating and judging himself.” He died on the afternoon of the same day, his day of triumph, the anniversary both of Dunbar and of Worcester. His body was privately buried in the chapel of Henry VII. in Westminster Abbey, the public funeral taking place on the 23rd of November, with great ceremony and on the same scale as that of Philip II. of Spain, and costing the enormous sum of £60,000. At the Restoration his body was exhumed, and on the 30th of January 1661, the anniversary of the execution of Charles I., it was drawn on a sledge from Holborn to Tyburn, together with the bodies of Ireton and Bradshaw, accompanied by “the universal outcry and curses of the people.” There it was hanged on a gallows, and in the evening taken down, when the head was cut off and set up upon Westminster Hall, where it remained till as late as 1684, the trunk being thrown into a pit underneath the gallows. According to various legends Cromwell’s last burial place is stated to be Westminster Abbey, Naseby Field or Newburgh Abbey; but there appears to be no evidence to support them, or to create any reasonable doubt that the great Protector’s dust lies now where it was buried, in the neighbourhood of the present Connaught Square.
As a military commander Cromwell was as prompt as Gustavus, as ardent as Condé, as exact as Turenne. These, moreover, were soldiers from their earliest years. Condé’s fame was established in his twenty-second year, Gustavus Cromwell’s military genius.was twenty-seven and Turenne thirty-three at the beginning of their careers as commanders-in-chief. Cromwell, on the other hand, was forty-three when he fought in his first battle. In less than two years he had taken his rank as one of the great cavalry leaders of history. His campaigns of 1648 and 1651 placed him still higher as a great commander. Worcester, his crowning victory, has been indicated by a German critic as the prototype of Sédan. Yet his early military education could have consisted at most of the perusal of the Swedish Intelligencer and the practice of riding. It is not, therefore, strange that Cromwell’s first essays in war were characterised more by energy than technical skill. It was some time before he realized the spirit of cavalry tactics, of which he was later so complete a master. At first he speaks with complacence of a mêlée, and reports that he and his men “agreed to charge” the enemy. But before long he came to understand, as no other commander of the age save Gustavus understood it, the value of true “shock-action.” Of Marston Moor he writes, “we never charged but we routed them”; and thereafter his battles were decided by the shock of closed squadrons, the fresh impulse of a second and even a third line, and above all by the unquestioning discipline and complete control over their horses to which he trained his men. This gave them not merely greater steadiness, but, what was far more important, the power of rallying and reforming for a second effort. The Royalist cavalry was disorganized by victory as often as by defeat, and illustrated on numerous fields the now discredited maxim that cavalry cannot charge twice in one day. Cromwell shares with Frederick the Great the credit of founding the modern cavalry spirit. As a horsemaster he was far superior to Murat. His marches in the eastern campaign of 1643 show a daily average at one time of 28 m. as against the 21 of Murat’s cavalry in the celebrated pursuit after Jena. And this result he achieved with men of less than two years’ service, men, too, more heavily equipped and worse mounted than the veterans of the Grande Armée. It has been said that his battles were decided by shock action; the real emphasis should be laid upon the word “decided.” The swift, unhesitating charge was more than unusual in the wars of the time, and was possible only because of the peculiar earnestness of the men who fought the English war. The professional soldiers of the Continent could rarely be brought to force a decision; but the English, contending for a cause, were imbued with the spirit of the modern “nation in arms”; and having taken up arms wished to decide the quarrel by arms. This feeling was not less conspicuous in the far-ranging rides, or raids, of the Cromwellian cavalry. At one time, as in the case of Blechingdon, they would perform strange exploits worthy of the most daring hussars; at another their speed and tenacity paralyses armies. Not even Sheridan’s horsemen in 1864–65 did their work more effectively than did the English squadrons in the Preston campaign. Cromwell appreciated this feeling at its exact worth, and his pre-eminence in the Civil War was due to this highest gift of a general, the power of feeling the pulse of his army. Resolution, vigour and clear sight marked his conduct as a commander-in-chief. He aimed at nothing less than the annihilation of the enemy’s forces, which Clausewitz was the first to define, a hundred and fifty years later, as the true objective of military operations. Not merely as exemplifying the tactical envelopment, but also as embodying the central idea of grand strategy, was Worcester the prototype of Sédan. The contrast between a campaign of Cromwell’s and one of Turenne’s is far more than remarkable, and the observation of a military critic who maintains that Cromwell’s art of war was two centuries in advance of its time, finds universal acceptance.
At a time when throughout the rest of Europe armies were manœuvring against one another with no more than a formal result, the English and Scots were fighting decisive battles; and Cromwell’s battles were more decisive than those of any other leader. Until his fiery energy made itself felt, hardly any army on either side actually suffered rout; but at Marston Moor and Naseby the troops of the defeated party were completely dissolved, while at Worcester the royalist army was annihilated. Dunbar attested his constancy and gave proof that Cromwell was a master of the tactics of all arms. Preston was an example like Austerlitz of the two stages of a battle as defined by Napoleon, the first flottante, the second foudroyante.
Cromwell’s strategic manœuvres, if less adroit than those of Turenne or Montecucculi, were, in accordance with his own genius and the temper of his army, directed always to forcing a decisive battle. That he was also capable of strategy of the other type was clear from his conduct of the Irish War. But his chief work was of a different kind and done on a different scale. The greatest feat of Turenne was the rescue of one province in 1674–1675; Cromwell, in 1648 and again in 1651, had two-thirds of England and half of Scotland for his theatre of war. Turenne levelled down his methods to suit the ends which he had in view. The task of Cromwell was far greater. Any comparison between the generalship of these two great commanders would therefore be misleading, for want of a common basis. It is when he is contrasted with other commanders, not of the age of Louis XIV., but of the Civil War, that Cromwell’s greatness is most conspicuous. Whilst others busied themselves with the application of the accepted rules of the Dutch, the German, and other formal schools of tactical thought, Cromwell almost alone saw clearly into the heart of the questions at issue, and evolved the strategy, the tactics, and the training suited to the work to which he had set his hand.
Cromwell’s career as a statesman has been already traced in
its different spheres, and an endeavour has been made to show the
breadth and wisdom of his conceptions and at the
same time the cause of the immediate failure of his
manship.constructive policy. Whether if Cromwell had survived he would have succeeded in gradually establishing legal government is a question which can never be answered. His administration as it stands in history is undoubtedly open to the charge that after abolishing the absolutism of the ancient monarchy he substituted for it, not law and liberty, but a military tyranny far more despotic than the most arbitrary administration of Charles I. The statement of Vane and Ludlow, when they refused to acknowledge Cromwell’s government, that it was “in substance a re-establishment of that which we all engaged against,” was true. The levy of ship money and customs by Charles sinks into insignificance beside Cromwell’s wholesale taxation by ordinances; the inquisitional methods of the major-generals and the unjust and exceptional taxation of royalists outdid the scandals of the extra-legal courts of the Stuarts; the shipment of British subjects by Cromwell as slaves to Barbados has no parallel in the Stuart administration; while the prying into morals, the encouragement of informers, the attempt to make the people religious by force, were the counterpart of the Laudian system, and Cromwell’s drastic treatment of the Irish exceeded anything dreamed of by Strafford. He discovered that parliamentary government after all was not the easy and plain task that Pym and Vane had imagined, and Cromwell had in the end no better justification of his rule than that which Strafford had suggested to Charles I.,—“parliament refusing (to give support and co-operation in carrying on the government) you are acquitted before God and man.” The fault was no doubt partly Cromwell’s own. He had neither the patience nor the tact for managing loquacious parliamentary pedants. But the chief responsibility was not his but theirs. John Morley (Oliver Cromwell, p. 297) has truly observed of the execution of Charles I., that it was “an act of war, and was just as defensible or just as assailable, and on the same grounds, as the war itself.” The parliamentary party took leave of legality when they took up arms against the sovereign, and it was therefore idle to dream of a formally legal sanction for any of their subsequent revolutionary proceedings. An entirely fresh start had to be made. A new foundation had to be laid on which a new system of legality might be reared. It was for this that Cromwell strove. If the Rump or the Little Parliament had in a business-like spirit assumed and discharged the functions of a constituent assembly, such a foundation might have been provided. It was only when five years had passed since the death of the king without any “settlement of the nation” being arrived at, that Cromwell at last accepted a constitution drafted by his military officers, and attempted to impose it on the parliament. And it was not until the parliament refused to acknowledge the Instrument as the required starting point for the new legality, that Cromwell in the last resort took arbitrary power into his hands as the only method remaining for carrying on the government. For much as he hated arbitrariness, he hated anarchy still more. While therefore Cromwell’s administration became in practice little different from that of Strafford, the aims and ideals of the two statesmen had nothing in common. It is therefore profoundly true, as observed by S. R. Gardiner (Cromwell, p. 315), that “what makes Cromwell’s biography so interesting in his perpetual effort to walk in the paths of legality—an effort always frustrated by the necessities of the situation. The man—it is ever so with the noblest—was greater than his work.” The nature of Cromwell’s statesmanship is to be seen rather in his struggles against the retrograde influences and opinions of his time, in the many political reforms anticipated though not originated or established by himself, and in his religious, perhaps fanatical, enthusiasm, than in the outward character of his administration, which, however, in spite of its despotism shows itself in its inner spirit of justice, patriotism and self-sacrifice, so immeasurably superior to that of the Stuarts.
Cromwell’s personal character has been inevitably the subject of unceasing controversy. According to Clarendon he was “a brave bad man,” with “all the wickedness against which damnation is pronounced and for which hell fire Personal character.is prepared.” Yet he cannot deny that “he had some virtues which have caused the memory of some men in all ages to be celebrated”; and admits that “he was not a man of blood,” and that he possessed “a wonderful understanding in the natures and humour of men,” and “a great spirit, an admirable circumspection and sagacity and a most magnanimous resolution.” According to contemporary republicans he was a mere selfish adventurer, sacrificing the national cause “to the idol of his own ambition.” Richard Baxter thought him a good man who fell before a great temptation. The writers of the next century generally condemned him as a mixture of knave, fanatic and hypocrite, and in 1839 John Forster endorsed Landor’s verdict that Cromwell lived a hypocrite and died a traitor. These crude ideas of Cromwell’s character were extinguished by Macaulay’s irresistible logic, by the publication of Cromwell’s letters by Carlyle in 1845, which showed Cromwell clearly to be “not a man of falsehoods, but a man of truth”; and by Gardiner, whom, however, it is somewhat difficult to follow when he represents Cromwell as “a typical Englishman.” In particular that conception which regarded “ambition” as the guiding motive in his career has been dispelled by a more intimate and accurate knowledge of his life; this shows him to have been very little the creator of his own career, which was largely the result of circumstances outside his control, the influence of past events and of the actions of others, the pressure of the national will, the natural superiority of his own genius. “A man never mounts so high,” Cromwell said to the French ambassador in 1647, “as when he does not know where he is going.” “These issues and events,” he said in 1656, “have not been forecast, but were providences in things.” His “hypocrisy” consists principally in the Biblical language he employed, which with Cromwell, as with many of his contemporaries, was the most natural way of expressing his feelings, and in the ascription of every incident to the direct intervention of God’s providence, which was really Cromwell’s sincere belief and conviction. In later times Cromwell’s character and administration have been the subject of almost too indiscriminate eulogy, which has found tangible shape in the statue erected to his memory at Westminster in 1899. Here Cromwell’s effigy stands in the midst of the sanctuaries of the law, the church, and the parliament, the three foundations of the state which he subverted, and in sight of Whitehall where he destroyed the monarchy in blood. Yet Cromwell’s monument is not altogether misplaced in such surroundings, for in him are found the true principles of piety, of justice, of liberty and of governance.
John Maidston, Cromwell’s steward, gives the “character of his person.” “His body was compact and strong, his stature under six foot (I believe about two inches), his head so shaped as you might see it a storehouse and a shop both of a vast treasury of natural parts.” “His temper exceeding fiery, as I have known, but the flame of it, ... kept down for the most part, was soon allayed with those moral endowments he had. He was naturally compassionate towards objects in distress even to an effeminate measure; though God had made him a heart wherein was left little room for fear, ... yet did he exceed in tenderness towards sufferers. A larger soul I think hath seldom dwelt in a house of clay than his was. I believe if his story were impartially transmitted and the unprejudiced world well possessed with it, she would add him to her nine worthies.” By his wife Elizabeth Bourchier, Cromwell had four sons, Robert (who died in 1639), Oliver (who died in 1644 while serving in his father’s regiment), Richard, who succeeded him as Protector, and Henry. He also had four daughters. Of these Bridget was the wife successively of Ireton and Fleetwood, Elizabeth married John Claypole, Mary was wife of Thomas Belasyse, Lord Fauconberg; and Frances was the wife of Sir Robert Rich, and secondly of Sir John Russell. The last male descendant of the Protector was his great-great-grandson, Oliver Cromwell of Cheshunt, who died in 1821. By the female line, through his children Henry, Bridget and Frances, the Protector has had numerous descendants, and is the ancestor of many well-known families.
Bibliography.—A detailed bibliography, with the chief authorities for particular periods, will be found in the article in the Dict. of Nat. Biography, by C. H. Firth (1888). The following works may be mentioned: S. R. Gardiner’s Hist. of England (1883–1884) and of the Great Civil War (1886), Cromwell’s Place in History (1897), Oliver Cromwell (1901), and History of the Commonwealth and Protectorate (1894–1903); Cromwell, by C. H. Firth (1900); Oliver Cromwell, by J. Morley (1904); The Last Years of the Protectorate, 1656–1658, 2 vols., by C. H. Firth (1909); Oliver Cromwell, by Fred. Harrison (1903); Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, by T. Carlyle, ed. by S. C. Lomas, with an introd. by C. H. Firth (the best edition, rejecting the spurious Squire papers, 1904); Oliver Cromwell, by F. Hoenig (1887); Oliver Cromwell, the Protector, by R. F. D. Palgrave (1890); Oliver Cromwell ... and the Royalist Insurrection ... of March 1655, by the same author (1903); Oliver Cromwell, by Theodore Roosevelt (1900); Oliver Cromwell, by R. Pauli (tr. 1888); Cromwell, a Speech delivered at the Cromwell Tercentenary Celebration 1899, by Lord Rosebery (1900); The Two Protectors, by Sir Richard Tangye (valuable for its illustrations, 1899); Life of Sir Henry Vane, by W. W. Ireland (1905); Die Politik des Protectors Oliver Cromwell in der Auffassung und Tätigkeit ... des Staatssekretärs John Thurloe, by Freiherr v. Bischofshausen (1899); Cromwell as a Soldier, by T. S. Baldock (1899); Cromwell’s Army, by C. H. Firth (1902); The Diplomatic Relations between Cromwell and Charles X. of Sweden, by G. Jones (1897); The Interregnum, by F. A. Inderwick (dealing with the legal aspect of Cromwell’s rule, 1891); Administration of the Royal Navy, by M. Oppenheim (1896); History of the English Church during the Civil Wars, by W. Shaw (1900); The Protestant Interest in Cromwell’s Foreign Relations, by J. N. Bowman (1900); Cromwell’s Jewish Intelligencies (1891), Crypto-Jews under the Commonwealth (1894), Menasseh Ben Israel’s Mission to Oliver Cromwell (1901), by L. Wolf. (P. C. Y.; C. F. A.; R. J. M.)
- Life of Sir H. Vane, by W. W. Ireland, 222.
- C. H. Firth, Cromwell, p. 324.
- John Morley, Oliver Cromwell, p. 393.
- Frederic Harrison, Oliver Cromwell, p. 214.
- John Morley, Oliver Cromwell, p. 483.
- Frederic Harrison, Cromwell, p. 34.