Page images
PDF
EPUB

for new measures. Every day these men, who felt the truest affection for their country, were disturbed in their homes at London, or in their more tranquil rural retreats, by reports of the massacre of the Protestants in Ireland, of the King's connivance at it, of his insincerity and falsehood, of his projects, of the punishments already inflicted on many of their brethren, of the acknowledged Popery of the Queen, of the semi-Romanism of the King of the persecutions in Scotland, the daily banishment of the best Christians in the kingdom, and by other signs and events no less alarming.

When everything seemed to announce that the Protestants of England would ere long be either trampled down by Popery or massacred by the sword, these serious men arose, and called upon the King, through the Commons, not to deceive the expectations of his subjects. But when they found that prince, deaf to their prayers, raising troops to overawe the Parliament, and already victorious in several encounters, they resolved in a spirit of devotedness, to save with God's assistance their country and their faith, by withdrawing from their families and exposing their lives in arms.

Oliver now exchanged his parliamentary career for another that had become more necessary.

The Huntingdonshire yeoman, who had given the Commons some proofs of his eloquence, was about to astonish the army still more by his courage and genius. The fervent orator was now to show himself a great general, and to become one of the greatest statesmen of modern times.

On the 7th of February, Cromwell contributed £300, a large, sum for his small fortune, towards the salvation of Protestantism and of England. He then joined the parliamentary army with his two sons, respectively twenty and sixteen years

and shortly after raised two companies of volunteers at Cambridge. The departure of his sons Oliver and Richard must have caused great sorrow in the peaceful abode of the Huntingdon farmer. With difficulty could these young men tear themselves from the embraces of their mother and of their sisters. But the hour was come, when their country called for the greatest sacrifices. All must now be prepared either to stretch their necks to the sword, or to bow them beneath the yoke of the Pope. Cromwell's domestic society was a pleasing one; he had a wife whom he loved most tenderly; his good mother was still living; he had passed the age of ambition ; yet he became a soldier. “You have had my money: I hope in God I desire to venture my skin. So do mine,” said he, with noble simplicity, on a later occasion. For the space of seventeen years, from this day until that of his death, all his thoughts, however well or ill conceived, were for Protestantism, and for the liberty of his fellow-citizens.

of age ;

It is from this moral point of view that we must study Cromwell; this was his ruling principle; and this alone explains his whole life.

Can we look upon the departure of the Huntingdon volunteer as an insignificant event ?

There was a great work to be accomplished: no less than the settlement of England upon its double foundations of Protestantism and liberty; for on these depended her future destinies.

Where was the man to be found great enough for so important a task ?

One day, a member rose and addressed the House in an abrupt but warm tone. His appearance was anything but courtly, and his dress did not add to his importance. Lord Digby leant forward and with astonishment inquired of Hampden, the name of the speaker. Hampden, who was a man of excellent abilities, and whom, said Baxter, “friends and enemies acknowledged to be the most eminent for prudence," answered with a smile : “That sloven whom you see before you hath no ornament in his speech ; that sloven, I say,

if we should ever come to a breach with the King, (which God forbid !) in such a case, I say, that sloven will be the greatest man in England."

The sloven was Oliver Cromwell. To those who like his cousin Hampden, had enjoyed the intimacy of his private life, he had already revealed the strength of his will and the greatness of his genius; and he was then beginning to manifest both to the nation in his parliamentary life. Ere long, in his military and political career, he was to make himself known to the world as the greatest man of his age, but at the same time as a godly Christian.

CHAPTER III.

SCHISM BETWEEN THE KING AND THE PARLIAMENT.

Conquest of Liberty–Beginning of the War-Cromwell's Frankness

Letter to Barnard—Intervention in Favor of Hapton Parish- Doubtful Advantages-Cromwell's Expedient-Fortune of War changesCromwell refuses to take part in Disorderly Living-Death of Hampden-The two Parliaments-Battle of Marston Moor-A Letter and an Episode—Prudence and Compassion-Cromwell's Military Character

– Becomes the Real Chief-Battle of Naseby-The King's cabinet opened-Storming of Bristol-Glory to God !-Christian Union-Discipline-Piety-King surrenders to the Scots—Ireton-Cromwell's Letter to his Daughter Bridget-King given up to Parliament-Cromwell's Illness-Letter to Fairfax-Cromwell and his Soldiers-Unity of Man.

The time had come when one of the noblest victories ever gained by the human race, was to be achieved. Constitutional liberty was about to be won for all future ages.

This could not be attained without a terrible struggle—without great sacrifices; for it is only by such means, alas ! that society advances. The despotism about to be struck down was destined to furnish one distinguished victim. “Charles," says a royalist writer, "struggled ineffectually against the force of things; the age had outstripped him; it was not his nation only, but the whole human race, that dragged him along; he desired what was no longer possible. The liberty that had been won was first to be swallowed up in a military despotism that deprived it of its anarchy; but what was taken from the fathers was restored to the children, and remained as a final result to England.*

* Les Quatre Stuards, by M. de Chateaubriand. Euvres completes, vi. * Clarendon, Hist. Rebellion, book x.

set up

[ocr errors]

On the 22d of August, 1642, at six o'clock in the evening, the King planted the royal standard at Nottingham, and formally called his subjects to arms; but the wind, which was very tempestuous, blew it down the very night it had been

At a short distance from the same place, the Earl of Essex was organizing the parliamentary army, in which Cromwell was immediately made a captain.

He immediately inspected his troop, and marked the commencement of his military career by that frankness which is one of the distinctive features of his character. He was unwilling to follow.the tortuous and hypocritical path of the Parliament—fight against the King and pretend at the same time that they were marching in his defence. It is Clarendon himself who gives us this information. Soldiers," said he to his company,

I will not deceive you, nor make you believe, as my commission has it, that you are going to fight for the King and Parliament.* Cromwell carried his frankness even to rudeness : and this, rather than duplicity, is the fault we detect in him. He was determined to fight against all whom he found opposed to him, whoever they might be. He continued, according to Clarendon's account: “If the king were in front of me, I would as soon shoot him as another; if your conscience will not allow you to do as much, go and serve elsewhere.” These latter words have been doubted; and in truth Clarendon, or rather those from whom he derived the report, may have easily exaggerated what 01iver actually said. But, even if we are to admit the correctness of the report, we may look upon it simply as an energetic manner of saying: “Do not be mistaken: we are fighting against the king.”

Cromwell was not simply a captain : his vigilant eye was everywhere. He knew how to baffle conspiracies, and give sound advice to men whose sentiments differed from his own, Mr. Robert Barnard, a gentleman of his acquaintance, but a bad Protestant, was favorable to the royalists, and associated

« PreviousContinue »