« PreviousContinue »
SCHISM BETWEEN THE PARLIAMENT AND THE ARMY.
The Two Parties, Presbyterians and Independents-Claims of the Army
- Joyce-The King's Leaning towards the Independents-Army Manifesto— Religious Liberty-Eleven Members accused—Errors-Iufluence of Oppression-Unlawful Intervention of the Presbyterians-Opposition of the Army-Independent Influence-Cromwell favorably disposed towards the King-Charles's Blindness-Letter found in the Saddle—The Silk Garter and the Hempen Halter-Cromwell despairs of Charles—The King's Flight—He reaches the Isle of Wight-Cromwell suppresses the Levellers—Treaty with the Scots-Charles's Reply to Parliament, The Pit and he that diggeth it.
THERE were now two parties in England, which every day assumed a more distinct character: the Presbyterians and the Independents, or Parliament and the Army. “Modern readers, mindful of the French Revolution,” says Carlyle, “ will perhaps compare these Presbyterians and Independents to the Gironde and the Mountain. And there is an analogy; yet with differences. With a great difference in the situations; with the difference, too, between Englishmen and Frenchmen, which is always considerable; and then with the difference between believers in Jesus Christ and believers in Jean Jacques, which is still more considerable."*
Some of the leading men of the Presbyterian party in Parliament (Holles, Stapleton, Harley, Sir William Waller, &c.) were old officers, who, being unsuccessful under Lord Essex, had no great love for the victorious army or its brave general. They wished to disband it; but the soldiers, who had shed
* Letters and Speeches, i. 289.
SCHISM BETWEEN THE PARLIAMENT AND THE ARMY. 65
their blood in the lawful defence of their country, claimed, prior to their disbanding, not recompense and reward, but simply their due—forty-three weeks arrears of pay. Oliver, who had resumed his seat in Parliament, was deputed by that body to go to the army and endeavor to quiet it.
On his return, he received the thanks of the House.
On the 2d of June, (1647,) an unexpected event occurred to accelerate the course of events. A body of five hundred men, under the orders of Cornet Joyce, proceeded to Holmby House, where the King was staying, and brought him off along with them. Charles flattering himself that this struggle between the Presbyterians and independents would end in the extirpation of both, and greatly delighted with anything that would imbitter their disputes, willingly accompanied the soldiers.
Another motive led him to incline to the side of the Independents and of the Army. It was held impossible for Charles to come to an understanding with the Presbyterians, considering, as he did, that Episcopal government was essential to Christianity, while the Presbyterians were bound by their Covenant to abolish Episcopacy. On the other hand, there was always an opening for some arrangement with the Independents, who were disposed to use all their exertions with Parliament to tolerate Episcopacy, as well as the other sects. They were convinced that if the opposite party once got the upper hand, they would tyrannize over conscience, as much as the bishops themselves had done in the early years of Charles's reign. In fact the Presbyterians, whenever they offered to treat with the King, always proposed that steps should be taken to suppress the Independent opinions, as well as those of other sectaries.*
On the 10th of June, the principal officers of the army (Fairfax, Cromwell, Hammond, Ireton, Lambert, and others) wrote to the Lord Mayor and Common Council of the City
• Neale, History of the Puritans, ii. 440, London, 1837.
of London,* demanding satisfaction for their undoubted claims as soldiers ; protesting against the misrepresentations of which they had been made the victims; declaring that their cause could not be separated from that of the Parliament and the people; and desiring “a settlement of the peace of the kingdom and of the liberties of the subject," according to the promises made before the war,-promises for which many of their dearest companions in arms had lost their lives.
But the principal point of the army-manifesto was religious liberty. The Independents consented that the Presbyterian religion should be the religion of the nation ; thus, granting to the latter body a superiority over their own party ; but they claimed for all Christians the full enjoyment of civil and religious rights. This, says Lord Clarendon, was their great charter, and they were determined not to lay down their arms until they had obtained it. The Independents had shed their blood for Parliament in maintaining the liberties of England, and they thought it strange they should be allowed no other liberty than that of expatriation. The Presbyterians in the English Revolution represented, generally, order, moderation, and respect for the Constitution ; but the Independents, it must be acknowledged, knew much better than they the great principles of religious liberty. If we call to mind the manner in which Presbyterianism afterwards vanished from England, leaving behind it only a small number of Unitarian congregations, we cannot help thinking that some bad principle must have crept into this party. Scotland is the true country for this system of church-constitution, which has never been able to maintain its footing on the south of the Tweed, though it has borne the fairest fruits in the north, and is now producing fairer fruits than ever.f
* Carlyle, i. 296-300.
† A young “Presbyterian Church in England,” professing the principles of the Free Church of Scotland, at present numbers about eighty congregations; and the good spirit hy which it is animated would seem to be a warrant of its progress and duration.
The officers of the army, in their petition to the Lord Mayor and city of London, continue thus :-“We have said before, and profess it now, we desire no alteration of the civil government. As little do we desire to interrupt, or in the least to intermeddle with the settling of the Presbyterian government. Nor did we seek to open a way for licentious liberty, under pretence of obtaining ease for tender consciences. We profess, as ever in these things, when once the state has made a settlement, we have nothing to say but to submit or suffer. Only we could wish that every good citizen, and every man who walks peaceably in a blameless conversation, and is beneficial to the Commonwealth, might have liberty and encouragement; this being according to the true policy of all states, and even to justice itself.”
This was no doubt written by Cromwell, and it is impossible to find terms at once more just, wise, and moderate. Perhaps in no other case has a victorious party employed language similar to it. Every politician and age will know how to appreciate such examples.
On the 16th of June, the army, still at Saint Albans, accused of treason eleven members of the House of Commons: Holles, Waller, Stapleton, and eight others, all of whom asked leave to retire for six months.
This is one of the epochs in the Protector's life that has been the most severely handled by English, French, and German historians. The old narratives,” says Mr. Carlyle, * “written all by baffled enemies of Cromwell, (Holles, Waller, &c.) are full of mere blind rage, distraction, and darkness; the new narratives, believing only in Machiavelism,' &c., disfigure the matter still more. Common history, old and new, represents Cromwell as having underhand,—in a most skilful and indeed prophetic manner,-fomented or originated all this commotion of the elements; steered his way through it by 'hypocrisy,' by 'master-strokes of duplicity,' and such like. As is the habit hitherto of history.”
* Cromwell's Letters and Speeches, i. 287.
To this we will add the opinion of Lilburne, the most unmanageable and least credulous of the republicans, who had several sharp altercations with Cromwell, and who wrote to him on the 25th of March in this same year in the following terms :-“I have looked upon you, as among the powerful ones of England, as a man with heart perfectly pure, perfectly free from all personal views.” Such testimony as this is deserving of far more confidence than the insinuations or the clamors of Ludlow and the Protector's other enemies. *
We have no desire to make an indiscriminate apology for Cromwell and his friends; but we wish to be equitable, and to take into consideration the influences by which he must have been acted upon. There was at that time a twofold oppression in England. The friends of liberty had been oppressed by the tendency of the crown towards absolute power; and the popular independent church had been harassed from the reign of Elizabeth, and even prior to that, by the state-church. Oppression may sometimes have a good effect
upon the sufferers, but it also has a bad one. land it gave greater energy to the love of liberty and to the religious life; but it also produced in the friends of civil and religious freedom a certain rudeness, acrimony, violence, and exaggeration. This will be found at all times in political and religious parties which have long been trodden down. To whom must we ascribe the blame? Are not the oppressors far more guilty than their victims ? Cromwell and his party would no longer permit themselves to be checked, not even by their old friends. The torrent, kept for a time within its channel, bursts forth with the greater fury, when once the banks are broken through. It overthrows every obstacle, and deep gulfs mark its devastating course.
Parliament was now in the greatest perplexity, not knowing what to do to satisfy the Presbyterians and the City of London on the one hand, the Independents and the army on
* M. Guizot seems to have placed too much confidence in Ludlow's Memoirs.