Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 50.djvu/166

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


the intended invasion (Whitelocke, Memorials, iii. 207, ed. 1853). The letter in which he congratulated Cromwell on the victory of Dunbar marks his complete reconciliation with the policy of the republic, and is also the fullest exposition of his religious views which has survived (Nickolls, Original Letters addressed to Cromwell, 1743, fol., p. 24). On 14 Feb. 1651 the parliament selected St. John (with Mr. Walter Strickland for his colleague) to negotiate a close alliance between the United Provinces and England. Their instructions directed them to propose not only ‘a confederacy perpetual,’ but, if that were accepted, ‘a further and more intrinsecal union’ between the two nations. Great hopes were built upon the embassy. Marvell addressed St. John in a copy of Latin verses, dwelling upon the significance of his name and his mission, while a suite of nearly 250 persons showed the desire of the English government to enhance the prestige of its negotiators and secure their safety (Marvell, Works, ed. Grosart, i. 413). St. John arrived at the Hague on 17 March, but three months of negotiating ended in failure. The servants of the ambassador were assaulted in the streets by exiled cavaliers, and the lives of their masters were threatened. The proposed league failed because the Dutch refused to expel the English royalists from their dominions, or to make the princess of Orange answerable for their intrigues against the English commonwealth. The political union of the two republics was in consequence never actually proposed. On 20 June St. John left Holland, haughtily telling the Dutch commissioners that they would repent of having rejected his offers (Gardiner, Commonwealth and Protectorate, i. 357–65; Geddes, John De Witt, i. 157; Report on the Duke of Portland's MSS. i. 557, 605; Thurloe, i. 174–195; Grey, Examination of Neal's Puritans, iv. App. li.; Rawlinson MS. C. 366, Bodleian Library). He had shown no great skill as a diplomatist, but he was full of wrath at his failure, and contemporaries asserted that the passing of the Navigation Act was largely due to his resentment (Ludlow, Memoirs, i. 267, ed. 1894; Clarendon, Rebellion, xiii. 155, 169).

On 27 June 1651 parliament rescinded the vote of October 1649, which relieved judges from their attendance in the house while they executed their offices. This enabled St. John to take his seat again without the necessity of expressing his dissatisfaction with the treaty of Newport, which was exacted from other members of the house (Case of Oliver St. John, p. 11). On 2 July 1651 he gave an account of his embassy to parliament. On 6 Sept. he was sent with three other members to congratulate Cromwell on his victory at Worcester (Commons' Journals, vi. 593, 595, vii. 13). Two months later the committee for the reformation of the universities appointed St. John chancellor of the university of Cambridge in place of the Earl of Manchester (27 Nov. 1651; Baker, History of St. John's College, i. 230). As chancellor, however, he interfered very little in the government of the university (Thurloe, vii. 574, 582). St. John was also chosen by parliament as one of the eight commissioners to be sent to Scotland in order to settle the civil government of that country, and to prepare the way for an incorporating union with England (23 Oct. 1651). He arrived in Scotland in January 1652, and returned to England in the following May, having successfully achieved the purpose of his mission (Commons' Journals, vii. 30; Scotland and the Commonwealth, Scottish History Society, 1895, pp. xxiii, 32, 40, 42).

St. John's attitude during the events which led to the elevation of Cromwell to the protectorate is somewhat difficult to define. At the Restoration it was alleged ‘that he was the dark lantern and privy counsellor in setting up and managing affairs in the late Protector's time,’ a charge which he strenuously denied (Case of Oliver St. John, p. 5). He certainly desired to see the Long parliament dissolved, and on 14 Nov. 1651 he was teller with Cromwell for the motion resolving that a date for the dissolution should be fixed (Commons' Journals, vii. 36; cf. Whitelocke, Memorials, ed. 1853, iii. 4). In the conference on the settlement of the government which took place on 10 Dec. 1651, St. John declared ‘that the government of this nation, without something of monarchical power, will be very difficult to be so settled as not to shake the foundation of our laws and the liberties of the people’ (ib. ii. 373). After Cromwell had turned out the Rump he wished, according to Ludlow, to persuade St. John and others to draw up a new constitution, but there is no evidence that St. John had any part in drawing up the instrument of government (Ludlow, Memoirs, i. 358). He did not sit either in the council of state set up by the officers in April 1653, or in the Little parliament. He says himself: ‘In October I fell sick so dangerously, that from that time untill the end of May [1654] my friends expected death.’ Of his conduct during the protectorate he adds: ‘He named me one of the council, and summoned me one of the council, and summoned me to sit in that which was called the other House. I never would come to his