Page:EB1911 - Volume 07.djvu/511

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

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 The battle
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