Four Lectures on the English Revolution by Thomas Hill Green



From Vol. III of Green’s Works, edited by R.L. Nettleship
Longman, Green & Co., London, 1888

From the Editor’s Preface:

The four lectures on ‘The English Revolution’ were delivered for the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution in January 1867; he did not intend them for publication, but they are printed on the recommendation of competent judges. … I am also indebted to Mr. C.H. Firth for revising the lectures on ‘The English Revolution.’

OXFORD, August, 1888.

Transcriber’s Note: Page numbers are the same as in the Works, so commence at {277}. All of the footnotes appear to have been added by the editor, and have been located under the paragraphs or quotations to which they relate, and renumbered accordingly, with a few transcriber’s notes, which are marked “Tr.”



The period of which I am to speak is one of the most trodden grounds of history. It has not indeed the same intense attraction for an Englishman which the epoch of 1789 has for the Frenchman, for the interest in one case is purely historical, in the other it is that of a movement still in progress. Our revolution has long since run its round. The cycle was limited and belonged essentially to another world than that in which we live. Doubtless it was not insulated; its force has been felt throughout the subsequent series of political action and reaction, but the current along which European society is being now carried has another and a wider sweep. In the one we are ourselves too thoroughly absorbed to contemplate its course from without. From the other we have emerged far enough for our vision of it to be complete and steady.

But though this is so, and though the period in question is perhaps more familiar than any other to historical students, it may be doubted whether its character has ever been quite fairly exhibited. By partisans it has been regarded without ‘dry light,’ by judicious historians with a light so dry as not at all to illustrate the real temper and purpose of the actors. In reaction from the latter has appeared a mode of treatment, worked with special force by Mr. Carlyle, which puts personal character in the boldest relief, but overlooks the strength of circumstance, the organic life of custom and institution, which acts on the individual from without and from within, which at once informs his will and places it in limits against which it breaks itself in vain. Such oversight leaves out an essential element in the tragedy of human story. In modern life, as Napoleon said to Goethe, political {278} necessity represents the destiny of the ancient drama. The historic hero, strong to make the world new, and exulting in his strength, has his inspiration from a past which he knows not, and is constructing a future which is not that of his own will or imagination. The providence which he serves works by longer and more ambiguous methods than suit his enthusiasm or impatience. Sooner or later the fatal web gathers round him too painfully to be longer disregarded, when he must either waste himself in ineffectual struggle with it, or adjust himself to it by a process which to his own conscience and in the judgment of men is one of personal debasement.

It is as such a tragic conflict between the creative will of man and the hidden wisdom of the world, which seems to thwart it, that the ‘Great Rebellion’ has its interest. The party spirit of the present day is ill-spent on it. Neither our conservatism nor our liberalism, neither our oligarchic nor our ‘levelling’ zeal, can find much to claim as its own in a struggle which was for a hierarchy under royal licence on the one side, and for a freedom founded in grace on the other. But if our party spirit is out of place here, not less so is our censoriousness. As our critical conceit gets the better of our political insight when we judge of the political capacity of a nation or class by the roughness of its ideas or the bad taste of its utterances, so it masters our historical sense when we treat the enthusiasm of a past age as simulation, its unscrupulousness as want of principle, and the energy which regards neither persons nor formulae in going straight to its end as a selfish instinct of aggrandisement. Yet, again, we do but dishonour God and the rationality of his operation in the world, if, by way of cheap honour to our hero, we depreciate the purposes no less noble than his own which crossed his path, and find nothing but unreason in that necessity of things which was too strong for his control.

It will be my endeavour in speaking of the short life of English republicanism to avoid these opposite partialities, and to treat it as the last act in a conflict beginning with the Reformation, in which the several parties had each its justification in reason, and which ended, not simply, as might seem, in a catastrophe, but was preliminary to a reconciliation of the forces at issue of another kind than could to an actor in the conflict be apparent. If I seem to begin far back, I must trust to the sequel for vindication.

{279} The Reformation, we know, opened a breach in the substantial unity of Christendom, or rather brought to view in a new form one as old as the conflict between the spirit and the flesh. Such a breach lies deep down in the constitution of man, as a spirit self-determined and self-contained, yet related to a world which it regards as external and its opposite, and so related that from this world it receives its character, nay, in the proper sense, its reality. Outward ordinances were in St. Paul’s eyes fleshly and alien to the spirit. Yet had they been the spirit’s schoolmaster, and in outward ordinances it was fain in turn to embody itself when it went forth to recast the world in a Christian society.

The Christianity of the west remained till the Reformation essentially a Christianity of ordinances. The opposition of church and empire, of ecclesiastical and secular jurisdiction, was not in any proper sense an opposition of the spirit and the world. The church and its law had not yet been questioned by the reason, and hence their authority had not been recognised as rational. The obedience rendered to them was that of the servant rather than of the son. The Christ who ruled through them was still a ‘Christ after the flesh.’ The two swords which Peter showed to Jesus were taken by medieval fancy as emblematic of the double sovereignty of church and state, and indeed fitly represented the sameness in kind of the two powers. Each was a carnal weapon, nor was there any essential distinction between the objects to which each was applied. Neither touched the spirit, or rather the spirit was not in a state to be conscious of the wound. To the higher intellects of the time, like Dante, the co-ordination of the two seemed an evil, for under the name of a separation between the spiritual and temporal was covered an antagonism of sovereignties equally temporal. The one thwarted, supplemented, combined with the other in the same sphere of outward relations. Together they built up the firmament of custom and ordinance, which the boundless spirit had not yet learned to feel as a limitation.

The Reformation, however, had a history. Not only was it struggling into life during the whole fifteenth century; it was the result of the same spiritual throes which long before had issued in movements superficially most opposite to it; in the impulse to find in Palestine the Christ whom ordinances had hidden, in periodic revulsions from recognised and {280} comfortable usage to monastic poverty and contemplation, in the scholastic effort to rationalise and thus reconcile to the spirit the dogmas of the church. All these movements, however, the church, as an outward authority, had been able to direct. She had been general of the crusades, had stereotyped monasticism into a ceremonial discipline, and had kept the schoolmen to the work of spinning threads of which she held the ends. Thus the very effort of the reason to break its shell had complicated its confinement. As it was growing more conscious of its inward rights, the institutions in which it had to acquiesce were becoming more artificial, and the dogmas to be accepted by it more abstract. The result was such a conscious entanglement in the yoke of bondage, holding back the believer from free intercourse with God, as provoked the spiritual revolt of Luther.

‘Justification by faith’ and ‘the right of private judgment’ are the two watchwords of the Reformation. Each indicates a new relation between the spirit and outward authority. ‘Faith’ in the Lutheran language is raised to a wholly different level from that which it had occupied in the language of the church. It no longer means the implicit acceptance of dogma on authority, for lack of which the ‘infidel’ was out of the pale of salvation. As with St. Paul it expressed the continuous act in virtue of which the individual breaks loose from the outward constraint of alien ordinances, and places himself in a spiritual relation to God through union with his Son, so with Luther faith is simply the renunciation by which man’s falser self, with its surroundings of observance and received opinion, slips from him that he may be clothed upon with the person of Christ. The ghost of scholasticism, no doubt, still haunted Luther, and led him astray into disquisitions on the relation of faith to the other virtues. But according to his proper idea, faith was no positive, finite virtue at all. It was the absorption of all finite and relative virtues, as such, in the consciousness of union with the infinite God. Again the spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God, as mysteries which Christ had opened. Again the handwriting of ordinances contrary to us was blotted out. Again the conscience moved freely in a redeemed world. [1]

[1] [This passage, from ‘Justification by faith’ occurs in the essay on Dogma, above, pp. 178-179.]

{281} How was this new consciousness of spiritual freedom and right to be reconciled with submission to institutions which seemed to rest on selfish interest or the acquiescence of the animal nature? How was the dominion of God in the believer’s soul to be adjusted to his dominion in a church which restrained the operations of his spirit, and in a state which only honoured him with the lips? Such was the practical question which the Reformation offered to European society. Raised first and in its rudest form by Münzer’s anabaptists, it worked with more subtle influence in all the countries which felt the Reformation. The opposition between the inward and outward, between reason and authority, between the spirit and the flesh, between the individual and the world of settled right, no longer a mere antithesis of the schools, was being wrought into the political life of Christendom. It gives the true formula for expressing the nature of the conflict which issued in the English commonwealth.

This conflict was rightly regarded by the higher intellects that took part in it as but a stage in a vaster one of which all christendom was the arena [1]; as a completion of the Reformation, a struggle against the catholic reaction. In the special form which it assumed in England we shall find the reason why the course of religious, and indirectly of political development, with us has been different from that which obtained severally in protestant Germany, in France, and in southern Europe. It is only by considering the modes in which the spiritual forces brought into play in the Reformation had their relations adjusted elsewhere, that we can appreciate the nature of their collision and reconciliation in England. These modes may be summed as respectively jesuitry, the divorce of the secular from the religious, and the complete assimilation of the religious to the political life of states. The power by which the catholic church met the new emergency, the new demand for personal spiritual satisfaction, was, speaking broadly, jesuitry. So long as human life remained in that ‘wholeness’ which is health, there was no room for such an agency. The catholic of the middle ages had no thought of a spiritual world beyond that presented to him in the outward institutions of the church. His sins were sins against some established ordinance, which the upholder of the ordinance could absolve. But with the awakened conscience of a spiritual world, apart from all {282} ordinances, to which the soul in its individual essence for good or evil was related, came a new need of spiritual direction. Where the reason was strong enough to be a law to itself, this direction was found in the Bible as interpreted by the individual conscience. Where the authority of the church retained its hold, it could only do so by regulating the most secret intricacies of personal experience, and by meeting the importunities of personal fear or aspiration by an answer equally personal. Through the jesuits, as educators and confessors, it was able to do this. It supplied an elaborate mechanism through which the individual might work out his own justification in disregard of recognised outward duties. The protestant idea of an inward light, to whatever extravagances it might be open, stimulated the sense of a universal law which the inward light revealed. Hence it has issued, as among the quakers, in a far-reaching zeal of cosmopolitan philanthropy. Jesuitry, on the other hand, is the ruin of all public spirit. It satisfies the individual soul and reconciles it to the church by casuistical devices which give the guise of reason to the interested suggestions of personal passion. In saving the soul it ruins nations, not because it proposes a higher law than that of which the kingdoms of this world are capable, but because it makes salvation a process of self-seeking no other than the satisfaction of the hunger of sense. In southern Europe jesuitry had its way. Sometimes it might justify the tyrant, sometimes (as in France under the League) the tyrannicide; but it was equally antagonistic to rational freedom. Acting on the ruler, it derationalised the state, which came to be, not the passionless expression of general right, but the engine of individual caprice under alternating fits of appetite and fear. Acting on the subject, again, it gave him over to private interests in the way either of vicious self-indulgence or of the religious zeal which compounds for such indulgence. The creature of the jesuits is no longer spontaneously loyal to the institutions under which he is born, nor yet has he, like the puritan, a new law written on his conscience which he is to enact in society, but he has a transaction of his own to negotiate with a power wielding spiritual terrors. He may be either rake or devotee, but never a citizen, as the Spain and southern Germany of the seventeenth century too plainly testified.

[1] [Amended from “area”. Tr.]

Thus directed, then, the conflict between inward and {283} outward interest ends in such a supremacy of the former as gives the state over to caprice and undermines the outward morality which forms the moral man. So far as catholic countries have escaped, or recovered from, such a result, they have done so by the gradual obliteration or confinement within strict limits of all personal interest in religion. The Romance nations, it has been often remarked, have not the same instinct of spiritual completeness as the Teutonic. They are not distressed by the spiritual divorce which is implied in leaving religion and morality as unreconciled principles of action. Thus in some of them we find a political and social interest growing up in complete independence of the church, and organising itself with a rational regularity which the protestant politician, constantly thwarted in schemes which he deems secular by religious intrusion, may sometimes be disposed to envy. Religion, meanwhile, is regulated, and the agencies such as jesuitry by which it might interfere with secular life are carefully watched. Under such regulation it is left to itself. To the citizen it becomes a mere ceremonial. His attitude towards it is simply passive. At best it does but fill up the vacancies of his social life or comfort him in his final seclusion from it. The devout become a class by themselves, estranged from the activities of civil life. Only for them and for women, as the passive element in society, is religion a permanent influence. Wherever in catholic countries, under the influence of the revolutionary revival of the last century, the reorganisation of society has been achieved, it has only been under the condition of this confinement and passivity of religion. In France, as the source of this revival, the condition has been most fully realised. It is the natural sequel, indeed, of the compromise of interests effected by Henry IV.

To the Germans, as to every other nation, the quickened Christianity of the Reformation brought not peace but a sword. Their religious wars, however, were rather brought on by crowned violence and the ambition of the house of Hapsburg than the result of any strife of principles involved in lutheranism itself. The protestantism of North Germany, growing up under the protection of princes, from the first blended with the existing institutions of the state. It escaped internal rupture, and had not seriously to fight for existence till the time of the thirty years’ war. It then {284} owed its preservation, not to itself, but to the sword of Gustavus and the diplomacy of Richelieu, and Germany emerged from the war in such a state of wretchedness and exhaustion, that popular religion was in no condition to assert itself against princely patronage and control during the ‘constituted anarchy’ which followed the peace of Westphalia. This circumstance, acting on the German instinct of comprehension, prevented the antagonism of the secular and religious from developing itself in the lutheran countries. The German, with his speculative grasp, has no difficulty in regarding church and state as two sides of the same spiritual organism. To him each expresses an idea which is the necessary complement of the other, and each alike commends itself to his reason. How little the reality of either church or state may correspond to the idea, how powerless in action may be the permeating strength of German thought, an Englishman needs not to be told. But it is important to observe the effect of this union of strength with weakness, of the faculty of intellectual fusion with moral acquiescence, in reconciling the freest spiritual consciousness to secular limitations, and in healing the breaches of religious strife. All that we associate with the term ‘sectarian’ is for good or evil unknown in Germany. The conflict of reason and authority has not indeed ceased among the countrymen of Luther. It has its wars and its truces, its conquerors and its victims; but its arena has been the study and the lecture-room, not the market-place or the congregation.

The Reformation in England begins simply with the substitution of royal for papal power in the government of the church. If Henry VIII. had left a successor capable of wielding his sceptre, English religion would scarcely have grown up, as it has done, in the bracing atmosphere of schism. During the minority of Edward, a form of protestant episcopacy, unique among the reformed churches, grew up with a certain degree of independence, while at the same time ideas of a different order, whose mother was Geneva, were working undisturbed. The Marian persecution, while it strengthened the influence of the aggressive Genevan form of protestantism on England, completed its estrangement from the state. Thus when ‘anglicanism,’ episcopal, sacramental, ceremonial, was established by Elizabeth, it had at once to deal with an opposite system, thoroughly formed and {285} nursed in antagonism to the powers of this world. This system is, so to speak, the full articulation of that voice of conscience, of the inner self-asserting spirit, in opposition to outward ordinance, which the Reformation evoked. In this light let us consider its action in England.

The lutheran doctrine, as we have seen, brings the individual soul, as such, into direct relation to God. From this doctrine the first practical corollary is the placing of the bible in the hands of the people; the second is the exaltation of preaching. From these again follows the diffusion of popular education. The soul, admitted in its own right to the divine audience, still needs a language. It must know whom it approaches, and what it is his will to give. But as the intercourse is inward and spiritual, so must be the power which regulates it; not a priest or a liturgy, but the voice of the divine spirit in the bible, interpreted by the believer’s conscience. Religion being thus internalised and individualised, preaching, as the action of soul on soul, becomes the natural channel of its communication. It is the protestant’s ritual, by which the heart is elevated to the state in which the divine voice speaks not to it in vain. Education, again, is the means by which the individual must be rendered capable of availing himself of his spiritual independence.

A people’s bible, then, a reading people, a preaching ministry, were the three conditions of protestant life. The force which results from them is everywhere an unruly one. With the English, who have neither the acquiescence nor the comprehensive power of the Germans, it at once, to use the language of a German philosopher, ‘stormed out into reality.’ It demanded and sought to create an outward world, a system of law, custom, and ordinance, answering to itself. Not only is the law of the bible to be carried directly and everywhere into action; whatever is of other origin is no law for the society whose head is Christ. An absolute breach is thus made between the new and the old. Those who by a conscious, deliberate wrench have broken with the old, and lived themselves into the new, are the predestined people of God. Outside them is a doomed world. They are the saints, and their prerogative has no limits. They admit of no co-ordinate jurisdiction which is of the world and not of Christ. The sword of the magistrate must be in their hands, or it is a weapon of offence against Christ’s people.

{286} Such a system soon builds again the bondage which it began with destroying. Originating, as we have seen, in the consciousness of a spiritual life which no outward ordinances could adequately express, it hardens this consciousness into an absolute antithesis, false because regarded as absolute, between the law of Christ and the law of the world. The law of Christ, however, must be realised in the world, and thus from this false antithesis there follows by an inexorable affiliation of ideas, a new authority, calling itself spiritual, but binding the soul with ‘secular chains,’ which from the very fact of its sincerity and logical completeness, from its allowing no compromise between the saints and the world, is more heavy than the old. It behoves us to note well these conflicting tendencies to freedom and bondage, often almost inextricably convolved, which puritanism contained within itself. It was the temporary triumph of the one tendency that made the commonwealth a possibility, and the interference of the other that stopped its expansion into permanent life. The one gave puritanism its nobility during its period of weakness while it struggled to dominion; the other made its dominion, once attained, a contradiction in fact which no individual greatness could maintain.

Puritanism, in the presbyterian form, had obtained supremacy in Scotland, while it was still struggling for life in England. In execution of its principle that a system of positive law was to be found in the bible, so absolute and exclusive as to leave no room for things indifferent, it not only established an absolute uniformity of church government and worship, but made itself virtually the sovereign power in the state. Without scruple or disguise it pursued ‘the work of reformation’ by conforming under pains and penalties the manners and opinions of men to a supposed scriptural model. In England, though the theory of puritanism was the same speculatively, its position was happily different. No one who believes that the scriptures are to be looked to, not for a positive moral law, much less for a system of church polity and ceremonial, but for moral impulse and principle, can sympathise with the doctrine, which at first was the ostensible ground of puritan opposition to the church of England, that whatever scripture does not command, it forbids. In contrast with this, the position of the early protestant bishops, that the true rule for matters of church {287} polity is practical expediency, if it fitted less aptly the interest of its maintainers, would seem to represent the higher wisdom that gives the world its due, and recognises the continuity of custom and institution which builds up the being that we are. Compared, indeed, with such pedantry as that of Cartwright, the great puritan controversialist under Elizabeth, the ‘judiciousness’ of Hooker becomes real philosophy. But in the confused currents of the world it is not always the party whose maxims are the more rationally complete which has the truer lesson for the present or the higher promise for the future. The reforming impulse, the effort to emancipate the inward man from ceremonial bondage, was with puritanism rather than with the church. Judaic itself, it yet broke the pillars of Judaism. Its limitations were its own, and happily it had no chance of fixing them finally in an outward church. Its force belonged to a larger agency, which was transforming religion from a sensuous and interested service to a free communion of spirit with spirit, and just for this reason it kept gathering to itself elements which its own earthen vessel could not long contain.

From the puritanism of Cartwright to that of Milton is a long step upwards; it answers to the descent from the anglicanism of Hooker to that of Laud or Heylin. The ‘Polity’ of Hooker, under an appearance of theological artifice, covers a statesmanlike endeavour to reconcile the protestant conscience to the necessities of the state and society. The anglicanism of Laud was simply the catholic reaction under another name. The political change corresponded to the theological. Elizabeth had ruled a nation. James and Charles never rose beyond the conception of developing a royal interest, which religion should at once serve and justify. Thus there arose that combination, by which the catholic reaction had everywhere worked, of a court party and a church party, each using the other for the purpose of silencing the demand for a ‘reason why’ in politics and religion. Charles and Laud alike represent that jesuitical conscience (if I may be allowed the expression) which is fatal to true loyalty. As Milton has it, ‘a private conscience sorts not with a public calling.’ Such a conscience may be true to a cause, as Charles and Laud were doubtless, from whatever reason, both true to the cause of a sacerdotal church. But it dare not look into the law of liberty, or {288} conceive the operation of God except in a system of prescribed institutions, about which no questions are to be asked, and in the maintenance of which cruelty becomes mercy and falsehood truth. Through the policy of the fifteen years which preceded the Long Parliament, a policy sometimes outrageous, sometimes trivial, the same purpose runs. The promulgation of the Book of Sports, the torturing of writers against plays and ceremonies, the persecution of calvinism, the suppression of the lectureships by which the more wealthy puritans sought to maintain a preaching ministry uncontrolled by the bishops, all tend to divert the human spirit from the consciousness of its right and privilege to acquiescence in what is given to it from without. Whether this diversion were effected in the interest of court or sacerdotalism, whether the head of the sacerdotal system were the old pope or ‘my lord of Canterbury,’ ‘lineally descended from St. Peter in a fair and constant manner of succession,’ mattered little. The result, but for puritan resistance, must have been that freedom should yield in England, as it had yielded in Spain and South Germany, and was soon to yield in France, to a despotism under priestly direction, which again could end only in the ruin of civil life, or in its recovery by the process which relegates religion to women and devotees.

The body of protestant resistance, however, had no organic unity but that of a common antagonism. Already there was in existence a sect, not yet directly opposed to presbyterianism, but created by the demand for a more free spiritual movement than that system allowed of. The men commonly reckoned as the authors of independency or congregationalism, an influence which more than any other has ennobled the plebeian elements of English life, bore the fitting names of Brown and Robinson. That the brownists were a well-known sect as early as 1600 is shown by the healthy hatred of Sir Andrew Aguecheek, who ‘would as lief be a brownist as a politician.’ It was in 1582, when the puritans were discussing the propriety of temporary conformity, that Brown wrote his treatise on ‘Reformation, without tarrying for any,’ and by way of not tarrying for any in his own case, took to preaching nonconformity up and down the country. After seeing the inside of thirty-two prisons as the reward of his zeal, he betook himself to Holland, carrying a congregation with him. This he afterwards left, and it does not seem {289} certain whether the subsequent brownist congregations were directly affiliated to it. Certain views of church polity, however, were current among them, which formed the principles of independency in later years. The chief of those were the doctrine of the absolute autonomy of the individual congregation, and the rejection of a special order of priests or presbyters. Each congregation was to elect or depose its own officers, the officer who should preach and administer the sacraments among the rest. When tho number of communicants in a congregation became too large to meet in any one place, a new one was to be formed, but no congregation or sum of congregations was to have any control in regard to doctrine or discipline over another.

Such a system of church government may not in itself be of more interest than others. As giving room for a liberty of prophecy which the rule of bishops or a presbytery denies, its importance was immense. This appears already in Robinson’s disavowal of the pretension to theological finality. Robinson, driven from England by episcopal persecution, had formed a congregation at Leyden. Here, in regard at least to the reformed churches of the continent, he gave up the strict separatist doctrine of the original brownists, ‘holding communion with these churches as far as possible.’ In 1620 the younger part of his congregation transferred itself to America, where it founded the colony of New Plymouth. His well-known exhortation to them at parting breathes a higher spirit of christian freedom than anything that had been heard since christianity fixed itself in creeds and churches.

‘If God reveal anything to you by any other instrument of his, be as ready to receive it as ever you were to receive any truth by my ministry; for I am verily persuaded the Lord has more truth yet to break forth out of his holy word. For my part, I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition of the reformed churches, who are come to a period in religion, and will go at present no farther than the instruments of their reformation. The lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw; whatever part of his will God has revealed to Calvin, they will rather die than embrace it; and the calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things. This is a misery much to be lamented, for though they were burning and shining lights in their time, yet they penetrated {290} not into the whole counsel of God, but were they now living, would be as willing to embrace farther light as that which they first received. I beseech you remember, it is an article of your church covenant, that you be ready to receive whatever truth shall be made known to you from the written word of God. Remember that … for it is not possible the christian world should come so lately out of such thick anti-christian darkness, and that perfection of knowledge should break forth at once.’ [1]

[1] [Neal, Puritans, i. p. 477, Ed. 1837.]

It is as giving freer scope than any other form of church to this conviction, that God’s spirit is not bound, that independency has its historical interest.

During the period of Laud’s persecution the difference between the presbyterian and independent order of ideas could not come prominently to view. The court and sacerdotal party would recognise no distinction but a greater or less violence of opposition to the ceremonies enforced by the High Commission, and to the arminianism and Sunday sport, which were the great means, one inward, the other outward, of evaporating the consciousness of spiritual privilege and strength. The so-called puritans were mostly of presbyterian sympathies, but their ministers, though under frequent suspensions, adhered to their benefices. They were obliged, indeed, by statute to use no other than the established liturgy, but no statute then existed, like that passed after the Restoration, requiring absolute agreement of opinion with everything contained in the liturgy. The attitude of temporary conformity under protest might therefore be a legitimate one for a puritan minister; at any rate it was the one commonly held. A certain number, however, insisting like the original Brown on a nonconformity that would tarry for no man, formed separate congregations, and these were known as Brownists. Their only chance, however, under Laud, was either to keep in absolute hiding or withdraw to Holland or New England. If there were many of them in England at the meeting of the Long Parliament, their presence was due to an order in council of 1634, a strange instance of the blindness of persecution, which prohibited emigration to New England without royal licence.

In the Long Parliament, at the time of its meeting, the only recognised representative of independency was young Sir Harry Vane. He was not, indeed, properly of the {291} independent or any other sect. Baxter, who hated him as a despiser of ordinances, gives him a sect to himself; but he represented that current of thought which flowed through independence, but could not be contained by it. His ideas are worth studying, for they are the best expression of the spirit which struggled into brief and imperfect realisation during the commonwealth. In his extant treatises, entitled a ‘Retired Man’s Meditations’ and a ‘Healing Question,’ and in extracts from other writings preserved by his contemporary biographer Sikes, we find, under a most involved phraseology and an allegorising interpretation of scripture, a strange intensity of intellectual aspiration, which, if his secondary gifts had been those of a poet instead of a politician, might have made him the rival of Milton. The account of him by Baxter, who, with all his saintliness, was never able to rise above the clerical point of view, may be taken to express the result, rather than the spirit, of his doctrines.

‘His unhappiness lay in this, that his doctrines were so cloudily formed and expressed, that few could understand them, and therefore he had but few true disciples. Mr. Sterry is thought to be of his mind, but he hath not opened himself in writing, and was so famous for obscurity in preaching (being, said Sir Benjamin Rudyard, too high for this world and too low for the other) that he thereby proved almost barren also, and vanity and sterility were never more happily conjoined’ (a clerical pun). ‘This obscurity was by some imputed to his not understanding himself; but by others to design, because he could speak plainly when he listed. The two courses in which he had most success, and spake most plainly, were his earnest plea for universal liberty of conscience, and against the magistrate’s intermeddling with religion, and his teaching his followers to revile the ministry, calling them blackcoats, priests, and other names which then savoured of reproach.’ [1]

[1] [Reliquiae Baxterianae, p. 76.]

His zeal for liberty of conscience and disrespect for ministers were early called into play by his experience as governor of Massachusetts. The eldest son of one of the most successful courtiers of the time, he had, when a boy, shown a soul that would not fit his position.

‘About the fourteenth or fifteenth year of my age,’ he said of himself on the scaffold, ‘God was pleased to lay the foundation or groundwork of repentance {292} in me … revealing his Son in me, that … I might, even whilst here in the body, be made partaker of eternal life.’

In this temper he was sent to Oxford, where he would not take the oath of supremacy, and was consequently unable to matriculate. He then spent some time at Geneva. On his return, his nonconformity gave such offence to the people about court, that the powers of Laud were applied in a special conference for the purpose, to bring him to a better mind. The final result is best stated in the words of a court clergyman: [1]

‘Mr. Comptroller Vane’s eldest son hath left his father, his mother, his country, and that fortune which his father would have left him here, and is, for conscience’ sake, gone to New England, there to lead the rest of his life, being but twenty years of age. He had abstained two years from taking the sacrament in England, because he could get no one to administer it to him standing. He was bred up at Leyden; and I hear that Sir Nathaniel Rich and Mr. Pym have done him much hurt in their persuasions this way.’

Already on the voyage he found that he had not left bigotry behind him. He had, according to Clarendon, ‘an unusual aspect, which made men think there was somewhat in him of extraordinary.’ He seems to have had long hair, a lustrous countenance, and the expression of a man looking not with, but through, his eyes. ‘His temper was a strong composition of choler and melancholy.’ These ‘circumstances of his person’ and his honourable birth, ‘rendered his fellow-passengers jealous of him, but he that they thought at first sight to have too little of Christ for their company, did soon after appear to have too much for them.’ [2] It appeared notably enough in the matter of Anne Hutchinson, with whom he had to deal as governor of Massachusetts, having been chosen to that office soon after his arrival, while still only twenty-three. This brought him into direct relation to the spirit which the clergy called sectarian, and of which he became the mouthpiece and vindicator under the commonwealth. Let us consider what that spirit was. I have already ventured to describe faith in the higher lutheran sense as the absorption of all merely finite and relative virtues, as such, in the consciousness of union with the infinite God. From this principle, as extravagances, if we like, but necessary {293} extravagances, are derived the fanatic sects of the seventeenth century, antinomians, familists, seekers, quakers. We live perhaps an age too late for understanding them. The ‘set gray life’ of our interested and calculating world shuts us out from the time when the consciousness of spiritual freedom was first awakened and the bible first placed in the people’s hands. Here was promised a union with, a realisation of, God; immediate, conscious, without stint, barrier, or limitation. Here, on the other hand, were spirits thirsting for such intercourse. Who should say them nay? Who could wonder if they drank so deep of the divine fulness offered them, that the fixed bounds of law and morality seemed to be effaced, and the manifestation of God, which absorbs duty in fruition, to be already complete? The dream of the sectary was the counterpart in minds where feeling ruled instead of thought, of the philosophic vision which views the moving world ‘sub quadam specie aeterni.’ It was the anticipation in moments of ecstasy and assurance of that which must be to us the ever-retreating end of God’s work in the world. Its mischief lay in its attempt to construct a religious life, which is nothing without external realisation, on an inward and momentary intuition. It is needless to investigate the history of Mrs. Hutchinson’s antinomian heresy, which bears the normal type. It expressed the consciousness of the communication of God to the individual soul apart from outward act or sign. Its formula was that sanctification, i.e. a holy life, was no evidence of justification; and this again was said to lead to a heresy as to the nature and operation of the Holy Ghost. Practically, perhaps, it was the result of reaction from the rule of outward austerity under which she lived. It must have escaped persecution, had she not employed it (in this, again, anticipating the sectaries of the commonwealth) as a weapon of offence against the puritan ministers. It was the custom in the colony to hold weekly exercises, in which lay people expounded and enforced the sermons heard on Sunday. Mrs. Hutchinson was allowed to hold such an exercise for women, and unhappily soon turned exposition into hostile criticism. This roused the fury of the more rigid professors, who demanded her death as a heretic. Vane protected her, and in consequence, though supported by the Boston people, was superseded by Winthrop in the annual election of governor. This led, soon afterwards, to his return {294} to England; not, however, before Roger Williams had, through Vane’s influence with the Indians, obtained a settlement at Rhode Island, and there, for the first time in Christian history, founded a political society on the basis of perfect freedom of opinion. In Rhode Island Mrs. Hutchinson found shelter, but was pursued by the clergy with hideous stories of her witchcraft and commune with the devil. These Baxter with malignant credulity was not ashamed to accept, and to ascribe her cruel murder by the Indians to the judgment of heaven.

[1] [Strafford’s Letters, i. p. 463.]

[2] [The life and Death of Sir Henry Vane, by George Sikes, p. 8, Ed. 1662.]

I dwell at some length on this story, because it exhibits in little the forces whose strife, tempered but not governed by the practical genius and stern purpose of Cromwell, formed the tragedy of the commonwealth. Here we find the puritan enthusiasm by a necessary process, when freed from worldly restraints, issuing in the sectarian enthusiasm, and then weaning and casting out the child that it has borne. We see the rent which such schism makes in a society founded not on adjustment of interests but on unity of opinion, and may judge how fatal this breach must be when the society so founded, like the republic in England, is but the sudden creation of a minority, and exists, not in a new country with boundless room where the cast-off child may find shelter, but in the presence of ancient interests, which it ignores but can neither suppress nor withdraw from, and in the midst of an old and haughty people, proud in arms, whom it claims to rule but does not represent. In detachment from both parties stands the clear spirit of Vane, strong in a principle which can give its due to both alike, yet weak from its very refusal to obscure its clearness by compromise with either. This principle, which became the better genius of independence in its conflict with presbyterianism, I will endeavour to state as Vane himself conceived it.

The work of creation in time, he held, which did but reflect the process by which the Father begets the eternal Son, involved two elements, the purely spiritual or angelic, represented by heaven or the light, on the one hand, and the material and animal on the other, represented by the earth. Man, as made of dust in the image of God, includes both, and his history was a gradual progress upward from a state which would be merely that of the animals but for the fatal gift of rational will, to a life of pure spirituality, which he {295} represented as angelic, a life which should consist in ‘the exercise of senses merely spiritual and inward, exceeding high, intuitive and comprehensive.’ This process of spiritual sublimation, treating the spirit under the figure of light or of a ‘consuming fire,’ he described as the consuming and dissolving of all objects of outward sense, and a destruction of the earthly tabernacle, while that which is from heaven is being gradually put on. In the conscience of man, the process had three principal stages, called by Vane the natural, legal, and evangelical conscience. The natural conscience was the light of those who, having not the law, were by nature a law unto themselves. It was the source of ordinary right and obligation. ‘The original impressions of just laws are in man’s nature and very constitution of being.’ These impressions were at once the source and the limit of the authority of the magistrate. The legal conscience was the source of the ordinances and dogmas of the christian. It belongs to the champions of the covenant of grace as much as to their adversaries. It represents the stage in which the christian clings to rule, letter, and privilege. It too had its value, but fell short of the evangelical conscience, of the stage in which the human spirit, perfectly conformed to Christ’s death and resurrection, crucified to outward desire and ordinance, holds intercourse ‘high, intuitive and comprehensive’ with the divine.

Doctrine of this kind is familiar enough to the student of theosophic and cosmogonic speculation. Whether Vane in his foreign travels had fallen in with the writings of Jacob Boehme we cannot say, but the family likeness is strong. The interest of the doctrine for us lies in its application to practical statesmanship by the keenest politician of a time when politicians were keen and strong. That it should have been so applied has been a sore stumbling-block to two classes of men not unfrequently found in alliance, sensational philosophers, and theologians who find the way of salvation in scripture construed as an act of parliament. The man above ordinances, as Vane was called by his contemporaries, [1] was naturally not a favourite with men whom he would have reckoned in bondage to the legal conscience. Baxter’s opinion of him has been already quoted. To the lawyers, calling themselves theologians, of the next century he was even less intelligible. Burnet had ‘sometimes taken pains to see if I could find out his meaning in his words, yet I could never reach it. And since many others {296} have said the same, it may be reasonable to believe that he hid somewhat that was a necessary key to the rest.’ [2] Clarendon had been more modest; when he had read some of his writings and ‘found nothing in them of his usual clearness and ratiocination in his discourse, in which he used much to excel the best of the company he kept’ (the company, we must remember, that called Milton friend), ‘and that in a crowd of very easy words the sense was too hard to find out, I was of opinion that the subject of it was of so delicate a nature that it required another kind of preparation of mind, and perhaps another kind of diet, than men are ordinarily supplied with.’ [3] Hume was superior to such a supposition; ‘This man, so celebrated for his parliamentary talents, and for his capacity in business, has left some writings behind him. They treat all of them of religious subjects and are absolutely unintelligible. No traces of eloquence, even of common sense, appear in them.’ In this language is noticeable a certain resentment common to men of the world and practical philosophers, that a man whom they deem a fool in his philosophy should not be a fool altogether. From his derided theosophy, however, Vane had derived certain practical principles, now of recognised value, which no statesman before him had dreamt of, and which were not less potent when based on religious ideas struggling for articulate utterance, than when stated by the masters of an elegant vocabulary from which God and spirit were excluded.

[1] [Amended from “cotemporary”. Tr.]

[2] [Burnet, Own Time, p. 108, Ed. 1838.]

[3] [Clarendon on ‘Creasy’s answer to Stillingfleet,’ as quoted in the Biographia Britannica (art. ‘Vane.’)]


In Vane first appears the doctrine of natural right and government by consent, which, however open to criticism in the crude form of popular statement, has yet been the moving principle of the modern reconstruction of Europe. It was the result of his recognition of the ‘rule of Christ in the natural conscience’ in the elemental reason, in virtue of which man is properly a law to himself. From the same idea followed the principle of universal toleration, the exclusion of the magistrate’s power alike from the maintenance and restraint of any kind of opinion. This principle did not {297} with Vane and the independents rest, as in modern times, on the slippery foundation of a supposed indifference of all religious beliefs, but on the conviction of the sacredness of the reason, however deluded, in every man, which may be constrained by nothing less divine than itself.

‘The rule of magistracy’ says Vane, ‘is not to intrude itself into the office and proper concerns of Christ’s inward government and rule in the conscience, but it is to content itself with the outward man, and to intermeddle with the concerns thereof in reference to the converse which man ought to have with man, upon the grounds of natural justice and right in things appertaining to this life.’ [1]

[1] [‘A Retired Man’s Meditations,’ (quoted by Forster, Eminent British Statesmen, iv. p. 84).]

Nor would he allow the re-establishment under the name of christian discipline, of that constraint of the conscience which he refused to the magistrate. Such discipline, he would hold, as he held the sabbath, to be rather a ‘magistratical institution’ in imitation of what was ‘ceremonious and temporary’ among the Jews, ‘than that which hath any clear appointment in the gospel.’ [1] Christ’s spirit was not bound. A system of truth and discipline had not been written down once for all in the scriptures, but rather was to be gradually elicited from the scriptures by the gradual manifestation in the believer of the spirit which spoke also in them. A ‘waiting,’ seeking attitude, unbound by rule whether ecclesiastical or secular, was that which became a spiritual church. The application of this waiting spirit to practical life is to be found in the policy of Cromwell.

[1] [Sikes, quoted by Forster, ib. p. 81, note.]

It would be unfair to ascribe the theory of Vane in its speculative fulness to the independents as a body. It seems, however, to be but the development of the view on which Mr. Robinson had dwelt in his last words to the settlers of New Plymouth; and, so far as it could be represented by a sect, it was represented by the independents. It came before the world, in full outward panoply, in the army of Cromwell. The history of its inevitable conflict with the spirit of presbyterianism on the one hand and the wisdom of the world on the other, of its aberrations and perplexities, of its brief triumph and final flight into the wilderness, is the history of the rise and fall of the English commonwealth. I have yet {298} to speak, however, of the representation of the wisdom of the world in the Long Parliament.

Before the outbreak of the war, as I have explained, Vane was the only man in the house of commons whose opinions were recognised as definitely opposed both to episcopacy and presbyterianism. In the lords his only recognised follower was lord Brook, known to the readers of Sir Walter Scott as the ‘fanatic Brook,’ really an eminent scholar and man of letters, who was shot in storming the close at Lichfield in the first year of the war, leaving as a legacy to the parliament a plea for freedom of speech and conscience. The majority of the parliament, however, had no special love for the presbyterian discipline and theology. Their favour to it was merely negative. They dreaded arminianism, as notoriously at that time the great weapon in the hands of the jesuits; they objected to the high episcopacy as sacerdotal, and as maintaining a jurisdiction incompatible with civil liberty. In 1641 a modified episcopacy on Usher’s plan was a possible solution of the difficulty. Each shire was to have a presbytery of twelve members, with a bishop as president who, ‘with assistance of some of the presbytery,’ was to ordain, degrade, and excommunicate. Though the pressure of strife with the king prevented anything being done to carry out this resolution, it probably represented the views even of the more advanced parliamentary leaders; but only, however, as afterwards appeared, on the supposition that the presbyters with their bishop should be strictly under civil control. The worldly wisdom of the Long Parliament was, in the party language of the times, essentially erastian.

As the presbyterian claims mounted higher, this became more apparent. The calling of the assembly of divines, and the adoption of the covenant, might seem to give presbyterianism a sufficiently broad charter of privilege; yet both these steps were taken by parliament with restrictions which showed its temper. The ordinance which called the assembly gave it power ‘until further order should be taken by parliament to confer of such matters concerning the liturgy, discipline, and government of the church of England, or the vindicating of the doctrine of the same from false aspersions and misconstructions, as shall be proposed by both or either house of parliament, and no other.’ [1] It concludes by providing {299} that ‘this ordinance shall not give them, nor shall they in this assembly assume to exercise, any jurisdiction, power, or authority ecclesiastical whatsoever, or any other power than is herein particularly expressed.’ This document has nothing revolutionary about it. It is the natural utterance of what Brook pronounced to have been an ‘episcopal and erastian parliament of conformists.’ This parliament, however, had soon under military necessity to raise a spirit which no episcopacy or erastianism could lay. The divines came to Westminster, according to Brook, all conformists, with the exception of eight or nine independents. They came, that is, from the cooling atmosphere of benefices, and had not yet begun to discuss the liturgy or object to a modified episcopacy. If they came conformists, however, they did not long remain so. Contact with each other, and the applause of London congregations, essentially presbyterian in their sympathies, bred a warmer temper. The introduction of the Scotch commissioners, and the adoption of the covenant, gave spirit and strength to their disciplinarian humour, and in a few months, men who had come to the assembly anxious only for some restraint on episcopal tyranny, were clamouring for the establishment of presbyterianism as jure divino.

[1] [Rushworth, June 12. 1643.]

I have spoken of the adoption of the covenant in England as matter of military necessity. It was the condition of alliance between parliament and the Scotch; without this alliance the year 1644 would in all probability have been fatal to the parliamentary cause. Supposing the Scotch army to have simply held aloof, the royal party would have been so triumphant in the north as to enable the king to advance with irresistible force on Lichfield. Till the parliament had secured it, however, it could not be trusted to stand aloof; it might at any time have been gained for the king by his consenting, as he did too late in 1648, to the covenant. The English negotiators, of whom Vane was the chief, had hoped to secure the alliance by a merely civil league, and when the Scotch insisted on the adoption of the religious covenant, they still succeeded in having the document entitled ‘league and covenant’ instead of ‘covenant’ alone. In later years, as we shall see, they always insisted on interpreting it as a league in virtue of which each kingdom was to help the other in the establishment of what religion it chose, not as binding either to any particular form. {300} The desirableness of such interpretation is more obvious than its correctness. By the first and second clauses, as they originally stood, the covenanters bound themselves to ‘the preservation of the reformed religion in Scotland,’ and ‘the reformation of religion in England and Ireland, in doctrine, worship, discipline and government’; also to the ‘extirpation of prelacy.’ After the words ‘reformation etc.’ Vane procured the insertion of the qualification ‘according to the word of God,’ in order to avoid committal to any particular form. To ease the conscience of those who favoured Usher’s form of episcopacy, prelacy was interpreted to mean ‘church government by archbishops, bishops, their chancellors and commissaries, deans, chapters, archdeacons, and all other ecclesiastical officers depending on that hierarchy.’ This modified covenant was taken by the parliament and the assembly at Westminster, and enjoined on every one over the age of eighteen. Practically it was by no means universally imposed even on the clergy; in Baxter’s neighbourhood none took it. Still, its operation was to eject from their livings some two thousand clergymen, whose places were mostly filled by presbyterians. A shifty and exacting alliance was thus dearly purchased at the cost of at once spreading loose over the country an uncontrolled element of disaffection to the parliament, and giving vent to a spirit of ecclesiastical arrogance which would soon demand to rule alone. This spirit was not long in showing itself. The Scotch army entered England at the beginning of 1644, and throughout that year the kirk, either by petition or through the commons in England, was pressing for a presbyterian settlement of church government in England. At last the assembly, still under special permission from parliament, was allowed to proceed to the discussion of this question. The first step was to propose a vote in the assembly that presbyterian government was jure divino. The only opponents of this decree were the small band of independents headed by Goodwin, the lay assessors Selden and Whitelock representing the erastian majority in parliament, whose only clerical supporter seems to have been Lightfoot the Hebraist. Selden, a layman of vast ecclesiastical lore, had a way of touching the sorest points of clerical feeling. In 1618 he had written his great work disproving the divine origin of tithes, and had been brought, in consequence, before the {301} High Commission court. There, with the ordinary suppleness of the erastian conscience, he signed the following recantation: [1]

‘My good lords, I most humbly acknowledge my error in publishing the history of tithes, and especially in that I have at all (by shewing any interpretation of scripture, or by meddling with councils, canons, fathers, or by what else soever occurs in it) offered any occasion of argument against any right of maintenance jure divino of the ministers of the gospel; beseeching your lordships to receive this ingenuous and humble acknowledgment, together with the unfeigned protestation of my grief, that I have so incurred his majesty’s and your lordships’ displeasure.’

[1] [Neal, Puritans, i. p. 471.]

The consciousness of debasement does not strengthen one’s affection for those who have been the occasion of it, and perhaps Selden’s remembrance of his usage by the ‘old priest’ may not have quickened his friendship for the ‘new presbyter.’ ‘In the debates of the divines,’ says Whitelock, ‘Mr. Selden spoke admirably and confuted divers of them in their own learning. Sometimes when they had cited a text of scripture to prove their assertion, he would tell them, “Perhaps in your little pocket bibles with gilt leaves (which they would often pull out and read) the translation may be thus, but the Greek or the Hebrew signifies thus and thus,” and so would totally silence them.’ [1] Whitelock himself opposed much grave law-logic to the claims of the divines, which he quotes at length in his memoirs, but his most satisfactory argument, to modern ears, is the simple one, ‘If this presbyterian government be not jure divino, no opinion of any council can make it to be what it is not; and if it be jure divino, it continues so still, although you do not declare it to be so.’ [2] The divines, however, thought otherwise. Presbyterianism was duly voted jure divino, and parliament in 1645 was applied to to enforce the jus divinum under pains and penalties. That the presbyterian jus was divinum parliament could never be induced to decide. It was very near doing so on one occasion, when the divines had contrived to bring the question on in a packed house, but by the skill of sergeant Glyn and Whitelock in talking against time the danger was averted. At length, however, under pressure from the Scots and city of London, it established a presbyterian régime. This régime, {302} never carried out save in London and Lancashire, was the same in kind as that existing in Scotland, except that the ‘kirk session’ was called a parochial presbytery, and the combination of parochial presbyteries not a presbytery as in Scotland, but a ‘classis.’ This was referred to in Milton’s lines,

    ‘To ride us with a classic hierarchy
Taught ye by mere A.S. and Rutherford.’ [3]

It was established, however, with such erastian limitations that while it excluded the independents, it gave no satisfaction to the Scots. The independent principle was violated on two points; both by the subjection of the independent congregation to the ‘classis,’ and by the method of ordination adopted which recognised the presbyter as of a distinct order, to be set apart by other presbyters, instead of as a simple officer appointed by a single congregation. The thoroughgoing presbyterians were alienated by the refusal to the church of the absolute power of the keys. The offences for which the presbyteries were allowed to suspend from the sacrament or excommunicate were distinctly enumerated, and an ultimate appeal, in all ecclesiastical cases, was given to the parliament. The whole system, moreover, was declared for the present merely provisional. The restrictions at once raised an outcry among the Scots and the presbyterians of the city, and the assembly itself was bold enough to vote a condemnation of the clause giving a final appeal to parliament. A seasonable threat of a praemunire, however, from the commons, laid the rising dust in the assembly; but the mounting spirit of the new forcers of conscience was shown in the opposition made to the petition which the independents offered to parliament, that their congregations might have the right of ordination within themselves, and that they might not be brought under the power of the ‘presbyterian classes.’ It would be tedious to follow the war of committees, sermons, pamphlets, which this request, modest in itself, and more modest in form, excited. The assembly, the city, the Scotch parliament, urged the maintenance of an absolute uniformity. No plea of conscience was to be listened to. To admit one was to admit all. The independent claim was schismatic, and, as such, excluded by the covenant. In the words of a pamphlet of the time; ‘to let men serve God {303} according to conscience is to cast out one devil that seven worse may enter.’ The new synod of the city clergy, meeting at Sion House, petitioned the assembly to oppose with all their might ‘the great Diana of the independents,’ and not to suffer their new establishment ‘to be strangled in the birth by a lawless toleration.’ The language of the Scotch parliament, addressed through their president to the two houses at Westminster, was specially high and irritating. ‘It is expected,’ says the president, ‘that the honourable houses will add the civil sanction to what the assembly have advised. I am commanded by the parliament of this kingdom to demand it, and in their name do demand it.’ The temper in which this demand was made, was shown by a declaration against ‘liberty of conscience and toleration of sectaries,’ published at the same time by the Scotch, in which, after taking due note of ‘their own great services,’ they announce that, ‘being all bound by one covenant, they will go on to the last man of the kingdom in opposing that party in England which was endeavouring to supplant true religion by pleading for liberty of conscience.’ Evidence might be tediously multiplied to show, that if Marston Moor and Naseby had been won by the Scots and the trained bands of the city, the civil sword would really have been applied ‘to force the consciences which Christ set free,’ at a time when these consciences were at their quickest, to a conformity, if not more oppressive than that exacted by Laud, yet more fatal to intellectual freedom.

[1] [Whitelock, Memorials, i. p. 209, Ed. 1853.]

[2] [Whitelock, i. p. 294.]

[3] [On the new forcers of conscience under the Long Parliament.]

Meanwhile the parliamentary erastians had a power at their back, no child of their own, too strong for the Scots and the assembly, and soon to prove too strong for parliament itself. The first note of alarm at this power had been sounded by the wary Scots about the end of 1644.

‘One evening,’ says Whitelock, ‘Maynard and I were sent for by the Lord General’ (Essex) ‘to Essex House. There we found with him the Scotch commissioners, Mr. Hollis, Sir Philip Stapleton’ (presbyterian leaders in the commons) ‘and others of his special friends. After compliments, and that all were set down in council, the lord chancellor of Scotland was called on to explain the matter on which he desired the opinion of Maynard and Whitelock. ‘Ye ken verra weel that lieutenant-general Cromwell is no friend of ours, and not only is he no friend to us and to the government of our church, but he is also no well-wisher to his excellency” {304} (Essex), “whom you and we all have cause to love and honour; and if he be permitted to go on his ways, it may endanger the whole business; therefore we are to advise of some course to be taken for prevention of this business. Ye ken verra weel the accord’ ’twixt the two kingdoms, and the union by the solemn league and covenant, and if any be an incendiary between the two nations, how he is to be proceeded against. Now the matter is, wherein we desire your opinions, what you tak the meaning of this word incendiary to be, and whether lieutenant-general Cromwell be not sike an incendiary as is meant thereby, and which way wad be best to tak to proceed against him, if he be proved to be sike an incendiary, and that will clepe his wings from soaring to the prejudice of our cause. Now, ye may ken that by our laws in Scotland we clepe him an incendiary whay kindleth coals of contention in the state to the public damage; whether your law be the same or not, ye ken best who are mickle learned therein; and therefore, with the favour of his excellency, we desire your judgment in these points.”’ [1]

In reply, Maynard and Whitelock, after much disquisition on the meaning of the word ‘incendiary,’ one ‘not much conversant in our law,’ explain that lieutenant-general Cromwell is ‘a gentleman of quick and subtle parts, and one who hath (especially of late) gained no small interest in the house of commons, nor is he wanting of friends in the house of peers, nor of abilities in himself to manage his own defence to the best advantage,’ and that on the whole, till more particular proof of his incendiarism should be forthcoming, it would be better not to bring the matter before parliament. The incendiarism of lieutenant-general Cromwell really consisted in this, that he had (again to quote Whitelock) ‘a brave regiment of horse of his countrymen, most of them freeholders, or freeholders’ sons, who upon matter of conscience engaged in this quarrel. And thus being well armed within by satisfaction of their own consciences, and without by good iron arms, they would as one man stand firmly and charge desperately.’ [2] Nearly every military success of importance that had been won for the parliament had been won by these soldiers of conscience, and unhappily their conscience was not of a kind that would brook presbyterian uniformity. At the time of the conference at Essex House, {305} Cromwell, with the help of the persuasive arts of Vane, was moving the parliament, disgusted with the practical inefficiency of its conservative and presbyterian commanders, to measures which would give it an army led by officers mostly of his own training, and fired by that religious inspiration of which freedom of conscience was the necessary condition.

[1] [Whitelock, i. pp. 343-7.]

[2] [ib. i. p. 209.]

The story of the new-modelling of the army, of the self-denying ordinance, and of the special exemption of Cromwell from its operations, is too well known to need repetition. Two points deserve special notice; one, the long discussion against the imposition of the covenant on the new army, ending in an ordinance of parliament after the army was already formed, that it should be taken by the officers within twenty days, which does not appear to have been ever carried into effect; the other, that the self-denying ordinance, as originally passed by the commons, excluded from military command, during the war, all members of either house of parliament. It would thus have been general and prospective in its operation. In this form, the lords, with judicial blindness, rejected it. The commons then sent it up in a new form, merely discharging from their present commands those who were at present members of either house of parliament. In this form it was passed, and thus when Vane at the end of 1645 carried a measure, declaring vacant the seats of those members who had adhered to the king and ordering them to be filled, the officers of the new-model army were eligible, and elected in large numbers. If the party of the army and the sectaries had not thus gained a footing in the house, the course of history would probably have been very different.

The new-model army went to the war, according to May, the clerk of the Long parliament, ‘without the confidence of their friends and an object of contempt to their enemies.’ [1] Their outward triumph it is needless to describe; we should rather seek to appreciate the nature of the spiritual triumph which the outward one involved. It used to be the fashion to treat the sectarian enthusiasm of the ‘Ironsides’ as created, or at least stimulated, by Cromwell. The army went mad, and it was to gain Cromwell’s private ends. The prevalent conception of our time, that the great men of history have not created popular ideas or events, but merely expressed or {306} realised them with special effect, excludes such a view. The sectarian enthusiasm, as we have seen, was a necessary result of the consciousness of spiritual right elicited by the Reformation, where this consciousness had not, as in Scotland, been early made the foundation of a popular church, but had been long left to struggle in the dark against an unsympathetic clergy and a regulated ceremonial worship. The spirit which could not ‘find itself’ in the authoritative utterance of prelates, or express its yearnings unutterable in a stinted liturgy, was not likely, when war had given it vent and stimulus, to acquiesce in a new uniformity as exact as that from which it had broken. It had tasted a new and dangerous food. Taught as it had been to wait on God, in search for new revelations of him, it now read this lesson by the stronger light of personal deliverances and achievements, and found in the tumultuous experience of war at once the expression and the justification of its own inward tumult.

[1] [Breviary of the History of the Long Parliament, Maseres, Tracts, i. 74.]

It is a notion which governs much of the popular thought of the present day, and which the most cultivated ‘men of feeling’ are not ashamed to express, that the world is atheised when we regard it as a universe of general laws, equally relentless or equally merciful to the evil and to the good. If such a notion, through mere impatience of thought, can dominate an educated age, we may well excuse uncultivated men, who clung close to God, for believing him to manifest himself to his favoured people by sudden visitation and unaccountable events. This was indeed the received belief of Christendom at the time of our civil war. The man who was to vindicate a higher reason for God’s providence, and to be called an atheist for doing so, was still at Mr. van den Ende’s school in Amsterdam. It was in the realisation of the belief by individuals that the difference lay. Where the bible was not in the hands of the people, it could be regulated by priests and ceremonial. Elsewhere it was controllable by state-churches, or by ecclesiastical authority, claiming to be jure divino like the presbyterian, and which appealed to popular reason, but to this reason as regulated by fitting education and discipline. Everywhere, in ordinary times, law and custom would put a veil on the face which the believer turned towards God. But now in England the bands were altogether loosed. Enthusiasts who had been waiting darkly on God while he was hidden behind established {307} worships and ministrations of the letter, who had heard his voice in their hearts but seen no sign of him in the world, were now enacting his work themselves, and reading his strange providences on the field of battle. Their own right hand was ‘teaching them terrible things.’ Here was the revelation of the latter days, for which they had been bidden to wait. That which they had sought for literally ‘with strong crying and tears,’ which they had not found in the system of the church, in the reasoning of divines, in the ungodly jangle of the law, was visible and audible in war. There

        God glowed above
With scarce an intervention …
… his soul o’er theirs.
They felt him, nor by painful reason knew.’ [1]

[1] [ ‘My own East!
How nearer God we were. He glows above
With scarce an intervention, presses close
And palpitatingly, his soul o’er ours!
We feel him, nor by painful reason know!’

Henceforth, whatever authority claimed their submission as divine, must come home to their conscience with a like directness, and this the jus divinum of the presbyterians failed to do. This new spiritual force the ministers had left to itself. While they were wrangling at Westminster or settling warmly into the berths which the episcopal clergy had vacated, it had been gathering strength unheeded. At the outbreak of the war each regiment had a regular minister as its chaplain, but after the battle at Edgehill made it clear that the business would be a longer one than had been expected, these divines, according to Baxter, withdrew either to the assembly or to their livings. Baxter himself lost an opportunity which he afterwards regretted, in declining the chaplaincy of Cromwell’s regiment, ‘which its officers proposed to make a gathered church.’ ’These very men,’ he says, ‘that then invited me to be their pastor, were the men that afterwards headed an army, and were forwardest in all our charges; which made me wish I had gone among them, for all the fire was in one spark.’ [1] The news of the battle of Naseby, however, so far stirred Baxter, then living at Coventry, that he must needs join his old friends, and for two years he moved about with the army, as chaplain to Whalley’s regiment which had been {308} formed out of Cromwell’s. The sectarian spirit he then found too strong for his mild piety to control.

[1] [Reliquiae Baxterianae, p. 51.]

‘We that lived quietly at Coventry did keep to our old principles; we were unfeignedly for king and parliament; we believed the war was only to save the parliament and kingdom from papists and delinquents and to remove the dividers, that the king might return again to his parliament, and that no changes might be made in religion but with his consent. But when I came to the army among Cromwell’s soldiers, I found anew face of things which I never dreamt of. The plotting heads were very hot upon that which intimated their intentions to subvert church and state. Independency and anabaptistry were most prevalent. Antinomianism and arminianism were equally distributed.’

Hot-headed sectaries in the highest places, Cromwell’s chief favourites, were asking what were the lords of England but William the Conqueror’s colonels, or the barons but his majors, or the knights but his captains? ‘plainly showing that thy thought God’s providence would cast the trust of religion and the kingdom upon them as conquerors.’ Of some of these dangerous men, particularly of Harrison and Berry, then reckoned Cromwell’s prime favourites, Baxter gives a more particular account. Berry

‘was a man of great sincerity before the wars, and of very good natural parts, affectionate in religion, and while conversant with humbling providences, doctrines, and company, he carried himself as a great enemy to pride. But when Cromwell made him his favourite and his extraordinary valour met with extraordinary success, and when he had been awhile most conversant with those that in religion thought the old puritan ministers were dull, self-conceited men of a lower form, and that new light had declared I know not what to be a higher attainment, his mind, aim, talk and all were altered accordingly. Being never well studied in the body of divinity or controversy, but taking his light among the sectaries, he lived after as honestly as could be expected in one that taketh error for truth.’

‘Harrison,’ says Baxter, ‘would not dispute with me at all, but he would in good discourse very fluently pour out himself in the extolling of free grace, which was savoury to those that had right principles, though he had some misunderstandings of free grace himself. He was a man of excellent natural parts for affection and oratory; but not well seen in the principles of his religion; of a sanguine {309} complexion, naturally of such a vivacity, hilarity, and alacrity as another man hath when he hath drunken a cup too much; but naturally also so far from humble thoughts of himself, that it was his ruin.’ [1]

[1] [Reliquiae Baxterianae, p. 57.]

One day, during the fight at Langport, Baxter happened to be close to Harrison just as Goring’s army broke before the charge of the Ironsides, and heard him ‘with a loud voice break forth into the praises of God, as if he had been in a rapture.’ [1] Such a temper could only be moderated by one who shared its raptures, its wild energy, its scorn of prescription, and who yet had the practical wisdom, the wider comprehension, of which it was incapable. Such a one was Cromwell, a tumultuous soul, but with a strange method in his tumult. The old notion, that this method consisted in a persistent design of personal aggrandisement, may be taken to have been dispelled once for all by the publication of his letters and speeches. That he was a genuine enthusiast, that he was perfectly sincere in the sense that his real ends were those that he professed, that his own advancement was not his object, but merely the condition or result of his getting work done which others could not do, this is the only theory that will explain the facts, if we include among the facts his own language at times when there can have been no motive for insincerity, and the impression which he made on his contemporaries, not when they looked back on his acts in the light of personal grievance, but at the time when they were done. The life-long hypocrisy which the opposite theory ascribes to him is incompatible with the personal attraction which a revolutionary leader must exercise if he is to do his work. In Napoleon, though he did not so much lead a revolution as turn revolutionary forces to military account, there was no touch of hypocrisy. His hard selfishness and his zeal for the material improvement of European life were equally explicit. The assertion, however, of Cromwell’s unselfish enthusiasm is quite consistent with the imputation to him of much unscrupulousness, violence, simulation, and dissimulation, sins which no one has escaped who ever led or controlled a revolution; from which in times like his no man could save his soul but by such saintly abstraction as Baxter takes credit for to himself, and Mrs. Hutchinson to her husband, which in aspiration to heaven leaves earth to its chance.

[1] [Reliquiae Baxterianae, p. 54.]

{310} When Baxter was with the army he found that ‘Cromwell and his council took on them to join no religious party, but to be for the equal liberty of all.’ This account corresponds with the conception of Cromwell’s views to be gathered from his own letters. His relation to the sectaries was the same practically as we have seen Vane’s to have been more speculatively. Without any of Vane’s theosophy, he had the same open face towards heaven, the same consciousness (or dream, if we like,) of personal and direct communication with the divine, which transformed the ‘legal conscience’ and placed him ‘above ordinance.’ Having thus drunk of the spring from which the sectarian enthusiasm flowed, he had no taste for the reasonings which led it into particular channels, while he had, more than any man of his time, not indeed the speculative, but the political instinct of comprehension. In this spirit he entered on the war, where it soon took practical body from the discovery that ‘men of religion’ alone could fight ‘men of honour,’ and that the men of religion, once in war, inevitably became sectaries. To him, as to his men, the issues of battle were a revelation of God’s purpose; the cause, which in answer to the prayers of his people God owned by fire, had the true jus divinum. The practical danger of such a belief is obvious. To Cromwell is due the peculiar glory, that it never issued, as might have been expected, in fanatic military licence, but was always governed by the strictest personal morality and a genuine zeal for the free well-being of the state and nation.

His extant letters, written during the first years of the war, written, be it remembered, by a farmer-squire, forty-four years old, simply exhibit a man of restless and infectious energy, gathering about him, without reference to birth or creed, the men who had the most active zeal for the common cause and promoting of religion, and gradually, as the work of these men grew in importance and was more visibly owned by God, asserting their claims in a louder key. In their tone they sometimes recall the man who some years before, in a parliamentary committee of enclosures, had defended the cause of some injured countrymen of his with so much passion and so ‘tempestuous a carriage,’ that the chairman had been obliged to reprehend him. Among the most frequent topics are the discouragement of his soldiers by their want of pay and supplies (to be borne in mind with reference {311} to subsequent history), his anxiety for godly men and the offence he was giving by the promotion of men of low birth or sectaries. A letter to his cousin, solicitor-general St. John, may be taken as an instance. It was written during the period of feeble management that preceded the self-denying ordinance, before Vane had got the upper hand in the house. [1]

‘Of all men I should not trouble you with money matters, did not the heavy necessities my troops are in, press upon me beyond measure. I am neglected exceedingly!… If I took pleasure to write to the house in bitterness, I have occasion…. I have minded your service to forgetfulness of my own and soldiers’ necessities…. You have had my money; I hope in God, I desire to venture my skin, so do my men. Lay weight upon their patience; but break it not!… Weak counsels and weak actings undo all! all will be lost, if God help not! Remember who tells you.’

[1] [Carlyle, Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches, No. xvii.]

In the same letter he says, ‘My troops increase. I have a lovely company; you would respect them, did you know them. They are no “anabaptists”; they are honest sober christians; they expect to be used as men.’

Of the way in which this ‘lovely company’ had been got together we have such indications as this in a letter [1] to the Suffolk committee. ‘I beseech you be careful what captains of horse you choose, what men be mounted. A few honest men are better than numbers. If you choose godly honest men to be captains of horse, honest men will follow them…. I had rather have a plain, russet-coated captain that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows, than that which you call a gentleman, and is nothing else. I honour a gentleman that is so indeed.’

[1] [Carlyle, Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches, No. xvi.]

In another letter [1] he says, ‘It may be it provokes some spirits to see such plain men made captains of horse. It had been well that men of honour and birth had entered into these employments; but why do they not appear? Who would have hindered them? But seeing it was necessary the work must go on, better plain men than none; but best to have men patient of wants, faithful and conscientious in their employment…. If these men be accounted “troublesome to the country,” I shall be glad you would send them all to me. I’ll bid them welcome. And when they have fought for you, and endured some other difficulties of war {312} which your “honester” men will hardly bear, I pray you then let them go for honest men!’

[1] [Carlyle, Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches, No. xviii.]

Writing to a rigid presbyterian general, who had got the ear of the Earl of Manchester, and had suspended an officer for unconformable opinions, he says, [1] ‘The state in choosing men to serve it, takes no notice of their opinions; if they be willing faithfully to serve it, that satisfies…. I desire you would receive this man into your favour and good opinion. I believe, if he follow my counsel he will deserve no other but respect from you. Take heed of being sharp, or too easily sharpened by others, against those to whom you can object little but that they square not with you in every opinion concerning religion. If there be any other offence to be charged upon him, that must in a judicial way receive determination.’

[1] [Carlyle, Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches, No. xx.]

I will quote extracts from other letters of Cromwell, as illustrating the temper in which he won his victories, and his view of them as the consecration of a new military church, having claims that were not to be put by. One is from a letter written just after the battle of Marston Moor, [1] to his brother-in-law, colonel Walton, who had lost a son in it.

‘Truly England and the church of God hath had a great favour from the Lord, in this great victory given unto us, such as the like never was since this war began. It had all the evidences of an absolute victory gained by the Lord’s blessing upon the godly party principally, We never charged, but we routed the enemy…. God made them as stubble to our swords. We charged their regiments of foot with our horse, and routed all we charged. … Sir, God hath taken away your eldest son by a cannon-shot. It brake his leg. We were necessitated to have it cut off, whereof he died. Sir, you know my own trials this way; but the Lord supported me with this, that the Lord took him into the happiness we all pant for and live for. There is your precious child, full of glory, never to know sin or sorrow any more…. Before his death he was so full of comfort that to Frank Russell and myself he could not express it, “It was so great above his pain.” This he said to us. Indeed, it was admirable. A little after, he said one thing lay upon his spirit. I asked him what that was? He told me it was that God had not suffered him to be any more the executioner of his enemies…. Truly he was exceedingly beloved in the army of all that knew him. But {313} few knew him; for he was a precious young man, fit for God. You have cause to bless the Lord. He is a glorious saint in heaven; wherein you ought exceedingly to rejoice. Let this drink up your sorrow; seeing these are not feigned words to comfort you, but the thing is so real and undoubted a truth. … Let this public mercy to the church of God make you to forget your private sorrow.’

[1] [Carlyle, Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches, No. xxi.]

The other quotation is from the conclusion of his account of the storming of Bristol, addressed to the Speaker of the house of commons; [2]

‘All this is none other than the work of God. He must be a very atheist that doth not acknowledge it…. Sir, they that have been employed in this service know that faith and prayer obtained this city for you. I do not say ours only, but of the people of God with you and all England over, who have wrestled with God for a blessing in this very thing. Our desires are that God may be glorified by the same spirit of faith by which we ask all our sufficiency, and have received it. It is meet that he have all the praise. Presbyterians, independents, all have here the same spirit of faith and prayer; the same presence and answer; they agree here, have no names of difference; pity it is it should be otherwise anywhere! All that believe have the real unity, which is most glorious; because inward and spiritual, in the body, and to the head. For being united in forms, commonly called uniformity, every Christian will for peace-sake study and do as far as conscience will permit. And for brethren, in things of the mind we look for no compulsion but that of light and reason.’

[1] [Carlyle, Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches, No. xxxi.]

With such a spirit and such a cause, with a leader who could so express it, and as it seemed manifestly owned by God, the army rested victoriously from its labours in the field by midsummer 1646. For the next year it was looking on, with an impatience that gradually became unmanageable, while the presbyterian majority in parliament was contriving its suppression. The leaders of this majority were, on the one hand, the lawyers, Holles, Glyn, and Maynard, on the other, the military members, such as Sir Philip Stapleton, who had been removed from their command by the self-denying ordinance. The motives of these men were a mixture of zeal for presbyterian uniformity, fear of unsettling the monarchical basis of government, and animosity to the army, as sectarian, {314} democratic, and generally irreverent to dignities, or, in their language, dangerous to gentry, ministry, and magistracy. The ministry and magistracy of the city backed them, vigorously worrying parliament every week with statements of church grievances. In December, 1646, the lord mayor in person presented a petition, complaining specially of the contempt put on the covenant, and of the growth of heresy and schism, the pulpits being often usurped by preaching soldiers. To cure these evils they pray that the covenant may be imposed on the whole nation, under penalties; that no one be allowed to preach who has not been regularly ordained, and that all separate congregations be suppressed. In answer to this parliament passed an order against lay-preachers, to be enforced by local magistrates, an order not very likely to be effective, when the preachers were soldiers. A glimpse of what was going on is given by an extract from Whitelock’s Memoirs (ii. 104) of about the same date: ‘A minister presented articles to the council of war against a trooper, for preaching and expounding the scripture, and uttering erroneous opinions. The council adjudged that none of the articles were against the law or articles of war, but that only the trooper called the parson “a minister of antichrist;” for which reproach they ordered the trooper to make an acknowledgment; which he did, and was one night imprisoned.’ In contrast with this lenience of the council of war may be placed a declaration of the provincial assembly of the London ministers, which after a denunciation of twelve specific heresies, winds up with the following résumé: [1] ‘We hereby testify our great dislike of prelacy, erastinianism, brownism, and independency, and our utter abhorrency of anti-scripturism, popery, arianism, socinianism, arminianism, antinomianism, anabaptism, libertinism, and familism; and that we detest the error of toleration, the doctrine that men should have liberty to worship God in that manner as shall appear to them most agreeable to the word of God.’ Edwards, in his ‘Gangrena,’ published while this storm was at its height, had been even more minute. He enumerated a hundred and seventy-six erroneous doctrines then prevalent, distributed among sixteen sects, and appealed to parliament, taking warning from the example of Eli, to use coercive power for their suppression, or to put an end to a {315} toleration, ‘at which the dear brethren in Scotland stand amazed,’ and which is ‘eclipsing the glory of the most excellent Reformation.’ To us this agitation has its comic side. To Milton, a competent judge, it was serious enough;

    ‘Men whose life, learning, faith, and pure intent
Would have been held in high esteem with Paul,
Must now be named and printed heretics
By shallow Edwards and Scotch what d’ye call.’

[1] [Neal’s Puritans, ii. 265.]

To the sectarian soldiers, who had been fighting, not for a theory of parliamentary right, but for a spiritual freedom which the sacerdotal establishment had not allowed, ‘who knew what they fought for, and loved what they knew,’ it represented a power which threatened to rob them of all for which they had shed their blood. The danger was at its height when the Scotch army was still in England and the king in its keeping. If the king had then closed with the presbyterian offers, he might have returned to London and directed the whole power of parliament (which had still Massey’s soldiers at command), the presbyteries, and the Scotch against the sectarian army. A new and more desperate civil war must have followed, to end probably in a reaction of unlimited royalism. Charles, however, with all his ability, had not enough breadth of view even to play his own game with advantage. He would play off the two parties against each other, without committing himself to either, trusting that while they tore each other to pieces, Montrose’s army and the ‘Irish rebels,’ with whom he had already a treaty, would come in and settle the business in his favour. Thus while he was still with the Scotch, or even before, he was tampering unsuccessfully with Vane and the independents, till at last the Scotch got tired of him, and having received their arrears of pay from the parliament at the beginning of the year 1647, returned back to their own country.

During all this interval, Cromwell was at his place in parliament, watching events. His position was a strong one. The quartering of the army in the midland counties prevented any sudden advance of the Scots on London, and the election of several of his military friends, notably his son-in-law Ireton, to the vacant seats at the end of 1645, established a regular communication between the army and parliament. Among the old members his supporters were chiefly Vane, Marten, and St. John, men in several respects antipathetic to {316} Cromwell and each other, but for the present held together by a common antagonism. Vane’s interest was for freedom of opinion on deep religious grounds. So far he and Cromwell were at one; but Vane had qualities, as appeared in the sequel, which unfitted him to lead a revolution when it took military form. He was reputed physically a coward; he had none of the rough geniality which gives personal influence at such times; military interference and the predominance of an individual were specially abhorrent to him. Marten was of a rougher type. In the earlier stages of the war he alone had avowed republicanism. He was the wit of the house of commons, the one man of the time whose recorded speeches can be read with pleasure. Presbyterian uniformity Marten hated with a hearty hatred, but he was avowedly void of religious feeling, and thus out of sympathy with the moving spirit of the time. On him, even less than on Vane, could Cromwell have any personal hold. In August, 1643, when the house was censuring Mr. Saltmarsh, a minister who had urged that if the king would not grant the parliamentary demands, he and the royal line should be ‘rooted out,’ Marten vindicated him, saying that ‘it were better one family should be destroyed than many.’ Upon this, we are told, there was a storm in the house, and many members ‘urged against the lewdness of Mr. Marten’s life, and the height and danger of his words.’ The indignation was such that he was committed to the tower for a time, and did not resume his seat for a year and a half. St. John was an erastian lawyer, who had pleaded for Hampden in the ship-money business, and was now about head of his profession. There was a darkness both in his skin and his character, which in contrast with his intellectual light won him the nickname of the ‘dark-lantern.’ He was strong for liberty of conscience, but had a lawyer’s belief in the necessity of monarchy, and would always take the shortest road to his end. With him Cromwell’s friendship was personal, and like all his personal friendships, lasting. He was the practical link between the enthusiasm of the military saint and the wisdom of the world. In concert with these men, Cromwell had anxiously watched and hastened the negotiations for the withdrawal of the Scotch. Their withdrawal, however, and the removal of the king in parliamentary custody to Holmby, though it simplified the dangers by which the cause was {317} threatened, by no means removed them. During the first half of 1647, the presbyterian managers were pressing forward their two projects of a reconciliation with the king and the disbanding of the army, necessary for the success of their cause. Their plan for dealing with the army was to send part of it to Ireland, under Massey and Skippon as generals, of whom one was a creature of their own, the other a strong presbyterian; to disband the rest, with the exception of a few regiments that could be managed; and to retain no one except Fairfax above the rank of colonel, a restriction aimed specially at Cromwell. Votes to this effect passed the house in the spring of 1647, not apparently without great pressure from the city, which was constantly presenting petitions against the army and lay preachers, roughly enforced by mobs of apprentices. But meanwhile the army had got a parliament of its own. The several troops in a regiment elected each a representative to form the regimental council, from which again one member was delegated to join the general council of the army. The president of this council seems generally to have been Berry, one of Cromwell’s special friends, whose character we have heard described by Baxter. The army had thus a regular organisation of opinion, and henceforward came to regard itself and to act as the true representative of the ‘godly interest’ in England, sanctioned by a higher than parliamentary authority. At first its demands were modest enough. They were all ready to go to Ireland, if only Cromwell and Fairfax might lead them; they were ready to disband so soon as they should get their arrears of pay and be secured by an act of indemnity against punishment for offences committed during war. The nominal difficulty at last was about the arrears of pay. Parliament would only agree to pay arrears for eight weeks, and the army asserted its claim for at least fifty weeks. Meanwhile the militia of the city had been placed in trusty presbyterian hands; the king had accepted provisionally (with what insincerity his correspondence showed) the preliminary presbyterian propositions, and pressed for a personal treaty. The lords so far assented to this as to vote that he should be brought to Oatlands, in the neighbourhood of London. If once this had been done, he would have been in direct communication with interests hostile to the army, and the fusion of royalism and presbyterianism would for the time have been {318} complete. Holles and his friends thought the prize was within their grasp, and against the discreet advice of Whitelock pressed the disbanding. The tone of the army grew higher, till one day at the beginning of June, news was brought to the parliament that a troop of horse, under one cornet Joyce, had appeared at Holmby and demanded the king of the commissioners. ‘The commissioners,’ in the words of Whitelock, ‘amazed at it, demanded of them what warrant they had for what they did; but they could give no other account but that it was the pleasure of the army.’ The king afterwards asked them for their commission. Joyce answered, ‘that his majesty saw their commission; the king replied that it had the fairest frontispiece of any he ever saw, being five hundred proper men on horseback.’ [1] On the same day that this happened, Cromwell had ridden out of town with one servant to the quarters of the army, just in time to escape forcible detention by Holles’s friends. The plot now thickened. The army had a general rendezvous at Triploe Heath, and greeted the parliamentary commissioner who met them there with cries of ‘justice! justice!’ Thence gradually moving towards London, they sent up articles of charge against Holles and ten other members, for obstructing the business of Ireland, and acting against the army and the liberty of the subject. During two months they waited for the execution of their demands, sending parliament a reminder now and then, but maintaining perfect self-restraint. Holles and his party, on the other hand, showed all the precipitation of weakness. Under their management the authorities of the city got together a loose army of militiamen, of which the command was given to Massey, and organised the mob of apprentices, which finally put so much pressure on parliament that the speaker and many members of both houses took refuge with the army. This was the turning-point. The army, now under parliamentary sanction, easily walked through Massey’s lines, and quartered in the suburbs. The city was in a panic. ‘A great number of people attended at Guildhall. When a scout came in and brought news that the array made a halt, or other good intelligence, they cry “one and all!” But if the scouts reported that the army was advancing nearer them, then they would cry as loud, “Treat, treat, treat!”’ [2] The corporation, {319} its cheap vaunts at an end, sent resolutions to the army in favour of ‘a sweet composure.’ In calm indifference to its good words and its bad, the army on August 6 marched through London, ‘in so orderly and civil a manner, that not the least offence was offered by them to any man in word, action, or gesture.’

[1] [Whitelock, ii. 154.]

[2] [ib. ii. 189.]

The king, now in the hands of the army, had been following its movements, and when it finally established its headquarters at Putney, he was allowed to live in considerable state at Hampton Court, with his own attendants, but under the guard of Colonel Whalley, Cromwell’s trusted cousin. Here he stayed till his flight to Carisbrook in the Isle of Wight, in the following November. Those who explain Cromwell’s life by its result, as a long scheme for his own elevation, suppose that during this period he carried on private negotiations with the king, first perhaps with the view of restoring him to power under his own direction, but afterwards to lure him on to destruction; that with this object he encouraged him by vain hopes to refuse the proposals of parliament, and finally to escape from Hampton, whence by some mysterious means he was guided to an asylum of Cromwell’s own preparing at Carisbrook. Such a view is expressed even in the panegyric of Marvell, written on Cromwell’s return from Ireland in the summer of 1650;

    ‘What field of all the civil war
Where his were not the deepest scar?
And Hampton shows what part
He had of wiser art,

    Where, twining subtle fears with hope,
He wove a net of such a scope
That Charles himself might chase
To Carisbrook’s narrow case;

    That thence the royal actor borne
The tragic scaffold might adorn.’

In this, however, as in other cases, history is really less personal and mysterious than is commonly supposed. Cromwell and Ireton doubtless negotiated personally with the king during the summer of this year, but it was on the basis of a public program for resettlement agreed to by the army and communicated to parliament. At the same time the parliament, still presbyterian in feeling, was submitting to the king, in conjunction with the Scots, propositions the {320} same in substance as those which he had rejected when with the Scotch army at Newcastle. One of the essential points in the army’s scheme, of which more will be said afterwards, was that it allowed the use of the Common Prayer, and provided against the compulsory imposition of the covenant. The parliamentary scheme, on the other hand, was conceived in the strict presbyterian sense. When the proposals of the army were publicly presented to Charles in the month of July, he treated them in a way which set the heart of the army against him once for all. Cromwell and Ireton, however, continued to treat with him. They simply wanted to keep him from closing with the presbyterians, not having made up their minds to any further step, while he strangely fancied that he was cajoling them and playing off the army against the parliament. They did not, while treating him with all respect, for a moment lower their tone with him. They would not consent to kiss his hand, and the king himself complained that no promise of favour or decoration could affect them. Their perfect explicitness is witnessed by two opposite authorities, both good, and both on different grounds unfriendly to Cromwell, by Berkley the king’s confidant, and the wife of colonel Hutchinson. By the middle of September they had given up all hopes of him. It is a well-known story that Charles sent a letter to the queen, sewn in the skirt of the messenger’s saddle, in which he said that the army and the Scots were both courting him, and that he should close with the party that bid fairest, probably with the Scots; that Cromwell and Ireton having secret information of this, sat drinking, in the dress of common troopers, at the Blue Boar in Holborn, where the messenger was to put up; that there they seized him, ripped up the skirts of the saddle, and found the letter. This story has received many embellishments, such as that the letter said that Cromwell and Ireton were expecting a silken garter, but would find a hempen cord, but is probably in substance true. There was no need, however, of any such mysterious discovery to satisfy Cromwell and Ireton that the king was playing a double game. With that inability to conceal exultation in his own artifice which was one of his most curious characteristics, he told them so plainly, while they pronounced no less plainly that God had hardened his heart.

While these negotiations were going on, the sectarian {321} enthusiasm of the army was becoming rapidly republican, and worse than this, the republican was but one mode of the ‘levelling spirit,’ the spirit of resentment against ‘gentry, ministry, and magistracy’ in general, which might at any time break into flames. The soldiers had their own printing-press from which pamphlets, voted seditious by the parliament, were constantly issuing. Cromwell and Ireton, at the prayer-meetings of the army, which they were in the habit of attending, could feel its pulse, and tell when the beating of the heart was no longer controllable. They were clearly neither of them republicans of deliberate purpose, but some time during the autumn of 1647 they found that the only way to control the levelling impulse was to yield to the republican. It was probably because they had thus made up their minds that things must be worse before they were better, that they allowed the king a liberty at Hampton, of which he availed himself to come to an understanding with Capel, Ormond, and Lauderdale for a combined royalist rising in England, Ireland, and Scotland. On November 8 he escaped from Hampton, and made for Carisbrook. He preferred this asylum to Scotland under a notion, for which there was clearly some foundation, that he had an interest in the army, and that Hammond, the governor, might be wrought upon.

During the month of October, Cromwell in his place at Westminster was pressing forward the propositions of parliament to the king, and in doing so, he found himself in opposition to the small party of thorough republicans, which consisted chiefly of the newly-elected officers of the army. This has been reckoned a piece of his duplicity, as he must have known, it is said, that the king, relying on his interest elsewhere, would reject the propositions and thus make a final breach with the parliament. It is to be observed, however, that he supported them on two conditions, one that a clause should be inserted securing liberty of conscience, the other that a limit should be put to the duration of the presbyterian government. The real key to his conduct in this crisis, as throughout the subsequent history, is his desire for such a reconciliation of parties as would at once prevent government by a faction and secure the ‘godly interest.’ With this object he sought, without breaking wholly from the moderate presbyterians, to commit parliament to such a {322} policy as would conciliate the milder spirit of the army. The strength of the levelling spirit, which made such conciliation essential, was soon formidably apparent; only the courage and persuasiveness of Cromwell could have held it down. On November 15 the dangerous regiments were ordered to a rendezvous at Ware, where Fairfax and Cromwell met them. A ‘remonstrance’ was read by Fairfax to the troops. It recited their old demands for pay and indemnity and for the calling of a new and free parliament; these Fairfax said that he was willing to support, if the soldiers would promise perfect obedience to his orders. This satisfied all the regiments but one, which showed signs of mutiny. Cromwell then rode along its armed front, looking the men literally in the face. Eleven, whose looks he did not like, he ordered out of the ranks. The men acquiesced. Three were then tried on the field and condemned to die. One only, however, was shot, and the rest pardoned. Thus at the loss of a single life the plague of mutiny was for the time stayed. The secret of the good temper of the army was a renewed assurance that their leaders would not again imperil the cause of the Lord’s people by ‘carnal conferences’ with his crowned enemy.

The king was followed to Carisbrook by four bills, which formed the ultimatum of the parliament. They represent the predominance of independency in the house, which the efforts of Cromwell and his friends had at last attained. They make no more mention of religion, but simply secure the supremacy of the commons. These Charles rejected, while at the same time, swallowing his zeal for bishops and liturgy, he signed a treaty with the Scots, which, at the price of the establishment of presbyterianism, secured him a Scotch army to deliver him from the sectaries and restore him to London on terms that would have made him virtually irresistible. This was the beginning of the end. On January 3, 1648, Cromwell writes to Governor Hammond, evidently in high spirits: ‘The House of Commons is very sensible of the king’s dealings, and of our brethren’s (the Scots), in this late transaction…. It has this day voted as follows: 1st, they will make no more addresses to the king; 2nd, none shall apply to him without leave of the two houses, upon pain of being guilty of high treason; 3rd, they will receive nothing from the king.’ Henceforth there could be but two {323} alternatives. Either the new royalist rising would prevail and restore a short-lived tyranny of presbyters to end in a longer one of priests, or it would fail, and on its wreck be established a military republic.


In the last lecture I followed the course of events to the time when it became clear that a military republic was the only possible alternative for an unconditional triumph of Charles. Whether this republic should be more or less exclusive, depended on the possibility of bringing the English presbyterians to an understanding with the erastian or independent party in parliament, and both to an understanding with the army. During the spring of 1648 we find Cromwell, true to his instinct of comprehension, working for this end, and rewarded by all parties with jealousy for his pains. He had a conference at his house, Ludlow tells us, ‘between those called the grandees of the house and army, and the commonwealth’s men.’ The grandees of the house would probably be the original members of the Long parliament who might be of erastian or independent sympathies, such as St. John, Nathaniel Fiennes, one or two uninteresting lords, and perhaps Vane, who was not a declared republican. The commonwealth’s men, not grandees, would be members elected to fill up vacancies at the end of 1645, such as Ludlow himself, Hutchinson, and Thomas Scott, officers of the army, but not of Cromwell’s training. Marten, though in standing a grandee, headed this republican party. The grandees, according to Ludlow, with Cromwell at their head, ‘kept themselves in the clouds, and would not declare their judgments either for a monarchical, aristocratical, or democratical government, maintaining that any of them might be good in themselves, or for us, according as providence should direct us. The commonwealth’s men declared that monarchy was neither good in itself, nor for us. That it was not desirable in itself they urged from the eighth chapter of the 1st book of Samuel, where the choice of a king was charged upon the Israelites by God himself as a rejection of him.’ That it was not good ‘for us’ was proved ‘by the infinite mischiefs and oppressions we had suffered under {324} it and by it; that indeed our ancestors had consented to be governed by a single person, but with this proviso, that he should govern according to the direction of the law, which he always bound himself by oath to perform; that the king had broken this oath, and therefore dissolved our allegiance, protection and obedience being reciprocal; that … it seemed to be a duty incumbent upon the representatives of the people to call him to account for the blood shed in the war … and then to proceed to the establishment of an equal commonwealth, founded upon the consent of the people, and providing for the rights and liberties of all men.’ So elaborate an utterance of republican formulae did not look like conciliation, and finally, says Ludlow, ‘Cromwell took up a cushion and flung it at my head and then ran downstairs; but I overtook him with another, which made him hasten down faster than he desired.’

He was not more successful with the presbyterians, whose leaders he got to confer with the independents, and whom he afterwards addressed in the city. ‘The city,’ according to a contemporary presbyterian writer, ‘were now wiser than our first parents, and rejected the serpent and his subtleties.’ The presbyterian zeal in fact, as it boasted of itself, would learn nothing by events. During the summer of 1648, while the army under Cromwell and Ireton was trampling out the royalist risings and scattering the intrusive Scots (no longer led by Lesley), Holles availed himself of the absence of the military members to return to the house and regain his majority. Under his direction, and at the pressure of the city, negotiations in the exclusive presbyterian interest were re-opened with the king. These led to concessions on his part, only made to gain time, which at last, in the beginning of December, in a house of two hundred and forty-four, were voted a sufficient basis of agreement. This vote made the final rent between military and parliamentary power, and Vane, who more than anyone else dreaded this rent, resisted it to the utmost. Marten, however, was already bringing up Cromwell from the north, and Cromwell a few days before had given voice to the ‘great zeal he found among his officers for impartial justice on offenders.’ Soldiers full of the same zeal were already in the suburbs. The day after the vote was passed, colonel Pride ‘purged’ the house of the ‘royalising’ members; within two days Cromwell appeared in it arm in {325} arm with Marten, and the military republic was virtually established.

It is needless to repeat the story of the king’s trial and execution, or tell how his judges wore all the dignity of men who believed themselves in the sight of God and the world to be violating the false divinity of consecrated custom that a true divinity might appear, or how Charles, after a few bursts of misplaced contempt or passion, yet at the last, in Marvell’s words,

        ‘Nothing common did or mean
Upon that memorable scene,
But with his keener eye
The axe’s edge did try;

    Nor called the gods, with vulgar spite,
To vindicate his helpless right;
But bowed his comely head
Down, as upon a bed.’

The new government, in the exhilaration of sudden success, and conscious that its strength lay in the awe which it inspired, ‘went on roundly with its business.’ Considering its position, however, it kept its hands strangely free from blood. It had the temptation, generally so fatal in times of revolution, of feeling irresistible force at its command for the moment without the least guarantee of permanent stability. Yet its severity was confined to inflicting banishment and confiscation on fifteen magnates who had been prominent in the second war, to imprisoning a few others, and to killing Hamilton, Holland, Capel, and colonel Foyer. Of these, Capel alone, according to the ideas of the time, could have hoped for a better fate, for he alone was exempt from the charge of treachery, but the very greatness of his character, as Cromwell with his usual explicitness stated, made it necessary for the commonwealth that he should die.

Meanwhile the purged house of commons was constituting itself a sovereign power. Only such members were re-admitted to it who would declare dissent from the vote that the king’s concessions afforded a ground of settlement. First and last about a hundred and fifty members seem to have been admitted on these terms. Two days after the king’s death the lords sent a humble message to the commons inviting them to a conference on the condition of the state. The commons took no heed of the message, which was {326} repeated several times, till February 6, when they responded by a vote that the tipper house was ‘useless, dangerous, and ought to be abolished.’ The next day ‘kingship’ was abolished by a formal vote, and soon afterwards the executive government was delegated to a council of state of forty members, to be nominated yearly by the commons. The accessories of republicanism were arranged mainly by Marten, who clearly did his work with glee. At his instance the old ‘great seal’ was broken, and a new one made with the arms of England and Ireland on one side, and a ‘sculpture or map of the commons sitting’ on the other. Under this new seal, and under oath to ‘the parliament and people,’ the judges were to hold their commissions, which six of the twelve agreed to do. A new coinage was also issued with a cross and harp and the motto ‘God with us’ on one side; the arms of England between a laurel and palm, with the legend ‘Commonwealth of England,’ on the other. At the same time the royal statues were all taken down, and on the pedestals was inscribed with the date, ‘Exit tyrannus regum ultimus.’ All these were the devices of Mr. Henry Marten. A more serious business was the issue of an ‘engagement’ to the new government. This, though at first promulgated in a severe retrospective form, was finally reduced to a promise of fidelity to the ‘commonwealth, as established without king or lords.’ Without taking this engagement, no one was to have the benefit of suing another at law, ‘which,’ says Baxter, ‘kept men a little from contention, and would have marred the lawyers’ trade.’

The question whether Charles deserved his death, is one which even debating societies are beginning to find unprofitable. His death was a necessary condition of the establishment of the commonwealth, which, again, was a necessary result of the strife of forces, or more properly, the conflict of ideas, which the civil war involved. At first sight, indeed, it might seem the result merely of accident, or at any rate of personal action and character, of the military talent of Cromwell, of the nature of the army which he got together, of the parliamentary animosities begotten of the self-denying ordinance, of the foolish confidence of Charles in his ability to shatter the two parties against each other, and lastly of the resolution of Cromwell in self-defence to command the situation. Beneath the confused web of personal relations, {327} however, may be seen the conflict of those religious ideas which I have spoken of as resulting from the action of the Reformation on the spirit of Christendom. On the one hand was the jus divinum of a sacerdotal church; not simply appealing by ritual or mystery to the devout, but applied at once to strengthen and justify a royal interest. To this was opposed the jus divinum of the presbyterian discipline, resting, not on priestly authority, but on the popular conscience, yet claiming to be equally absolute over body and soul with the other. Their antagonism elicited the jus divinum of individual persuasion, a right hitherto unasserted in christendom, which, while the old recognised rights were in the suspense of conflict, became a might. In the rapture of war it felt its strength, and a master-hand gave it the form and system which it lacked. The ancient order, too weak to regulate or absorb it, tried blindly, while it was still armed and exultant, to crush it, and itself necessarily fell to pieces in the attempt. But this might of individual persuasion, though in a revolutionary struggle it could conquer, was unable to govern. It was a spirit without a body, a force with no lasting means of action on the world around it. Even at the present day its office is to work under and through established usage and interests, rather than to control them. Much less capable was it of such control, when it was still in the stage of mere impulse or feeling, with none of the calm comprehension which comes of developed thought.

When it first faced the world in organic shape as a military republic, it already presented practical contradictions which ensured its failure. The republic claimed, and claimed truly, to be the creation of the impulse of freedom, yet it found nothing but sullen acquiescence around it; it spoke in the name of the people, not half of whom, as lady Fairfax said, it represented; it asserted parliamentary right, though parliament had been ‘purged’ (nearly clean) to make room for it; it was directed by men of a ‘civil’ spirit, and had civil right to maintain, while it rested on the support of armed enthusiasts, who cared only for the privilege of saints. It was, in fact, founded on opinion, the opinion of a few, brought to sudden strength and maturity, as it might have been in an Athenian assembly, by debate in and about the parliament and in the council of the army, but which had {328} no hold either on the sentiment or the settled interests of the country. In the counties which throughout the war had served as the screen of London, those, that is, which formed the eastern association, together with Buckinghamshire and Berkshire, it seems to have had a certain amount of genuine support. Here the influence of Cromwell and his immediate friends, in Berkshire especially the influence of Marten, was strong; and the sentiment emanating from London, through the pervasive action of sectarian preachers was quickly felt. Even here, however, the sympathy was with the new government as a source of religious reform and protection of tender consciences, rather than as republican; and close at its doors the commonwealth had evidence of a different feeling, not only opposed to it, but on which it could not hope to work. In the spring of 1648, before Cromwell took the field, when the whole country was simmering with insurrection, the parliament had been specially troubled with a movement under its own eyes, of which Whitelock has given a particular account. [1] A petition from Surrey was brought up by some hundreds of the petitioners in person, that the king might ‘forthwith be established on his throne, according to the splendour of his ancestors.’ The petition was not presented to the commons till the afternoon, ‘when some of the countrymen, being gotten almost drunk, and animated by the malignants, fell a quarrelling with the guards, and asked them “why they stood there to guard a company of rogues.” Then words on both sides increasing, the countrymen fell upon the guards, disarmed them, and killed one of them’; till more soldiers were brought up, and the countrymen dispersed. About the same time there was a ‘high and dangerous riot’ in the city, which began in Moorfields about ‘sporting and tippling on the Lord’s day,’ contrary to the ordinance of parliament. [2] For a whole day the rioters seem to have been masters of the city. They seized the lord mayor’s house, and took thence a ‘drake.’ With this they ‘possessed a magazine in Leadenhall,’ and then ‘beat drums on the water to invite the seamen for God and king Charles.’ The next day a couple of regiments crushed the tumult. All the time a general lawless riot was spreading over Kent, got up by malignants, who circulated a rumour that the parliament meant to hang two men in every town.

[1] [Whitelock, ii. 313.]

[2] [April 10, Rushworth, vii. 1051.]

{329} If such things could happen where the parliament could make itself felt most quickly, we may imagine the popular condition in regions where there was the same ignorance, the same liability to panic, the same tendency to tippling and gaming not on Sundays only, for malignants to work on in the interest of ‘God and king Charles,’ and where no voice from the republican headquarters ever penetrated. ‘The inconstant, irrational, image-doting rabble,’ as the proud republicans called it, which, when the king was being brought from Newcastle to Holmby, had thronged his path to be touched for the evil, which eagerly bought up fifty editions in twelve months of the Eikon Basilikè with the picture of the king at his prayers, was constant enough in two feelings, of which the republicans would have done well to take account, a reverence for familiar names, and a resentment against virtues which profess to be other than customary and commonplace. It was at once the merit and the weakness of the commonwealth’s men that they irritated these feelings at every point.

    ‘Before them shone a glorious world,
Fresh as a banner bright, unfurled
To music suddenly;’ [1]

and they could not wait to attain it by slow accommodations to sense and habit. They believed that God through them was ‘casting the kingdoms old into another mould,’ and in the pride of triumphant reason they took pleasure in trampling on the common feelings and interests, through which reason must work, if it is to work at all. In the writings of Milton, the true exponent of the higher spirit of the republic, we find on the one hand a perfect scorn of the dignities and plausibilities then as now recognised in England (which makes him the best study for a radical orator that I am acquainted with), on the other, a free admission of the sensual degradation of the people, which estranged them from a government founded on reason. In the latter respect there is a marked contrast between the language he held at the beginning of the war, when ‘he saw in his mind a noble and puissant nation rousing itself like a strong man after sleep,’ and the language of the ‘Eiconoclastes,’ where he admits that the people ‘with a besotted and degenerate baseness of spirit, except some few who yet retain in them the old English {330} fortitude and love of freedom, imbastardised from the ancient nobleness of their ancestors, are ready to fall flat and give adoration to the image and memory of this man, who hath more put tyranny into an act than any British king before him.’ To him, throughout, the puritan war had seemed a crisis in the long struggle between the spirit and the flesh, a great effort to reclaim the spirit from ‘the outward and customary eye-service of the body,’ and a system of political asceticism was its proper result. Such a system to its believing supporters was the commonwealth. Its claim was not gradually to transmute, but suddenly to suppress, the feeling of the many by the reason of the few; a claim which all the while belied itself, for it appealed to popular, and even natural right, and which implied no concrete power of political reconstruction. It was a democracy without a δημος, [2] it rested on an assertion of the supremacy of reason, which from its very exclusiveness gave the reason no work to do.

[1] [Wordsworth, Ruth.]

[2] [Greek demos = people, Tr.]

The great interests of the nation at that time may be taken as the landed, the mercantile, and the clerical; and the republic at starting might reckon on hostility from each of them. With the landed interest it dealt at once too severely to have its friendship, and too lightly to crush it. If it had adopted a sweeping measure of confiscation, as other revolutionary governments have done, and as it did itself in Ireland, it might have settled the soldiers on the confiscated lands, thus easing itself of their too obtrusive support, while it established a permanent interest in its favour over the whole country. As it was, the land was only confiscated in a few special cases, when it was given to the various grandees of the parliament, in reward of services, and in return for money spent on the public behalf. The ordinary gentry who had been in arms for the king, ‘delinquents,’ as they were called, were allowed to retain their estates on payment by way of composition of some part of the income. They thus retained their old means of influence, along with a memory of a grievance to intensify their natural royalism. Nor was the trouble got over once for all at the foundation of the commonwealth. The composition paid on the estates was one of the chief sources of revenue, and when, through a Dutch war or the like, the republic was short of money, delinquents were hunted out who had hitherto escaped. Thus the sore was kept running, and if the humbled gentry, like {331} colonel Poyer of Pembroke, were ‘sober and penitent in the morning,’ they were also like him often ‘drunk and full of plots in the afternoon.’ Their meetings for horse-races and cock-fighting were reckoned nurseries of disaffection, and the best security against them was that secrets sworn to over the bottle were not generally well kept.

The royalist squire, when he was not at a cock-fighting, would often have his loyalty fanned by an excluded episcopal clergyman whom he had taken as his chaplain. A large number of the clergy, as we have seen, had been driven from their livings by the imposition of the covenant. A fifth of the yearly income of their several benefices was set apart for the benefit of their families (an example not followed at the ejectment of St. Bartholomew’s day), but the excluded clergy themselves were liable to be driven from their old parishes, and would generally take refuge with the royalist gentry. It would seem indeed that under the commonwealth, which, in England at least, was true to its principle of toleration, there was nothing to prevent an episcopalian clergyman who would recognise the republican government from being presented to a living or from using the Common Prayer in his church. Some residue of the old assembly still sat at Westminster, to examine men who presented themselves for ordination or induction to livings, but they had no power to compel such presentation, and there is no sign that they were uniformly resorted to. From passages in Baxter’s life we may infer that many moderate episcopalians, men, that is, who were in favour, according to the technical language of the time, of compresbyterial, as distinct from prelatical, episcopacy, held benefices under the new régime. Still there were no doubt numbers of excluded ‘prelatical divines’ about the country, and while they were natural enemies of the commonwealth, the presbyterian ministers were not its friends. Whatever was not sectarian in it, was erastian. Its very existence they reckoned a violation of the covenant, and, if its abolition of kingship could have been borne, its refusal to give the presbyteries a coercive jurisdiction, its declared intention to remove all penal ordinances in matters of conscience, they could not brook. They refused to read its ordinances from the pulpit, as had previously been done, they prayed openly against it, and turned the monthly fast into a general exercise of disaffection. The parliament on its part issued stringent {332} injunctions that all ministers should subscribe the engagement of fidelity to the commonwealth, and finding that the monthly fast had become a ‘fast for strife and debate,’ it declared its abolition and appointed fasts of its own on special occasions. The ministers, however, ‘condemned the engagement to the pit of hell’ and shut up the churches on the new fast days. According to Baxter, as a general rule only the sectarians and the old cavaliers, who were seldom ‘sick of the disease of a scrupulous conscience,’ would swallow the engagement. He not only refused it himself, but circulated letters against it among the soldiers, ‘barking monitories and mementoes,’ in Milton’s phrase. Yet he seems to have been left undisturbed, nor except at the universities do we hear of any penalties for the refusal of the engagement being inflicted. The parliament knew that the presbyterian pulpit was the most powerful lever of popular opinion in the country, and showed a magnanimous patience in dealing with it. It put out declarations, promising protection to the ministers in their benefices, and a maintenance of all ordinances that had been made for reformation in doctrine, worship, and discipline, except such as were penal and coercive. At last it passed an order that state affairs were not to be discussed in sermons, and appointed a committee to receive informations against such as disregarded it. The beneficed ministers, however, stimulated by missives from the Scotch kirk, now in arms for Charles II., continued, says the gentle Mrs. Hutchinson, to ‘spit fire out of their pulpits,’ and even the rout of their allies at Dunbar, though it made their tongues less dangerous, did not make them more smooth.

The reason of the case is obvious. It is the true nemesis of human life that any spiritual impulse, not accompanied by clear comprehensive thought, is enslaved by its own realisation. Presbyterianism at the beginning of the war had been a struggling impulse, noble, but not understanding its own nobleness. It had now, with success, hardened into an interest; its inarticulate idea had become a shallow, though articulate formula; and it was seeking to suppress the spiritual force in which it had itself originated. The genuine commonwealth’s men, on the other hand, were still in the stage of the ‘unbodied thought.’ They announced principles. In practice the presbyterian clergy should be supported and well paid, but universal toleration must be maintained, and tithes were {333} declared judaic and objectionable. The offensiveness of such principles did more to provoke the clergy than the excellence of the practice, which Baxter, at least, was obliged to confess, did to conciliate them.

The best illustration of the real feeling of the republican clique in London towards the preaching presbyterian royalists is to be found in Milton’s treatise on the ‘Tenure of kings and magistrates,’ written just at this crisis, when he was in constant communication with the chief commonwealth’s men.

‘Divines, if we observe them, have their postures and their motions no less expertly than they that practise feats in the artillery ground. Sometimes they seem, furiously to march on, and presently march counter; by-and-by they stand, and then retreat; or if need be, can face about or wheel in a whole body, with that cunning and dexterity as is almost unperceivable, to wind themselves by shifting ground into places of more advantage. And providence only must be the drum; providence the word of command, that calls them from above, but always to some larger benefice…. For while the hope to be made classic and provincial lords led them on, while pluralities greased them thick and deep, to the shame and scandal of religion, more than all sects and heresies they exclaim against; then to fight against the king’s person, and no less a party of his lords and commons, or to put force on both the houses was good, was lawful, was no resisting of superior powers; they only were powers not to be resisted who countenanced the good, and punished the evil. But now that their censorious domineering is not suffered to be universal, truth and conscience to be freed, tithes and pluralities to be no more, though competent allowance provided, and the warm experience of large gifts, and they so good at taking them, yet now to exclude and seize on impeached members, to bring delinquents without exemption to a fair tribunal by the common law against murder, is to be no less than Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. He who but erewhile in the pulpits was a cursed tyrant, an enemy to God and saints, laden with innocent blood, is now, though nothing penitent, a lawful magistrate, a sovereign lord, the Lord’s anointed, not to be touched, though by themselves imprisoned.’ [1]

[1] [Milton’s Prose Works, ii. pp. 45 and 6, ed. 1848.]

When we reflect that the men of whom this was written were the most active and popular section of the beneficed {334} clergy, and that the other section, the accommodating episcopalians, had been covertly hostile to the parliament all along, we shall appreciate the estrangement of the ideas, that were ruling for the time, from the average sentiment of the country. The only agency through which the government could now hope to work on this sentiment was that of the independents and sectaries, who were unbeneficed, and even the support of the independents was not very hearty, for independency in the larger towns was becoming an ‘interest,’ while that of the sectaries might at any time become unmanageable.

The republic, having thus to reckon on open hostility from the clergy, and on a deeper hatred, tempered with fear, from most of the gentry, had no countervailing influence with the commercial class. This class, which never loves experiments in government, took its political tone largely from the presbyterian preachers; and in the city, as we have seen, gave great strength in the crisis of 1648 to the royalist reaction. The financial necessities, moreover, of an armed republic aggravated the offence of its moral and spiritual innovation. Hitherto the army had been supplied with provisions by a system of free quarter. Its leaders had been quite aware of the popular grievance which this system caused, and which only its admirable discipline prevented from being far greater. The removal of it had been a constant topic in the documents issuing from the army-council; but this implied the introduction of new and heavy taxation. The purged parliament, however, had spirit for the work, and quickly imposed an ‘assessment’ of 90,000_l_. a month (more than 1,000,000_l_. a year). Such a burden was sure to be a permanent source of complaint, but for the present the impressive display of restrained power, with which the new government had begun its rule, and the apprehension that it might be the only present alternative for a worse rule of levellers, had made the city more civil. At the special instance of Cromwell and Vane it advanced money on security of the tax, and the lord mayor, with other city magnates, was placed on the committee of assessment. A prompt suppression of a levelling mutiny by Cromwell, in May 1649, seems for the time to have composed the commercial mind, and a few days after a great banquet was given by the city to the parliament and officers of the army, remarkable chiefly {335} for the description of it by Whitelock, which indicates that in one respect at least, good taste, superior to that of our times, went along with puritan gravity. ‘The feast was very sumptuous, the music only drums and trumpets, no healths drunk, nor any incivility.’ The mercantile interest was further conciliated by an act passed soon afterwards (the beginning of legislation which was gradually to transfer the carrying trade of the world from the Dutch to the English), to the effect that no foreign ship should bring merchandise to England except such as was of the growth or manufacture of the country to which the ship belonged. Still the breach between the high spiritual endeavour on which alone the republic really rested, and the aspiration of the smug citizen who left such endeavour to his minister and to Sundays, was too great for orderly and vigorous administration to fill. The condition of this administration, moreover, was that Cromwell should keep its enemies at a distance.

With such dangerous elements all around it, the household of the republic was by no means united in itself. It rested on a temporary coalition between three sets of men, between whom as we have seen there was no real love; the genuine commonwealth’s men, a section of the ‘grandees of the parliament,’ and the leaders of the army. The ‘grandees of the parliament’ had, with scarcely an exception, kept their hands from the death-warrant of Charles. They recognised the new order of things partly to avoid a breach with the army, partly from fear of presbyterian ascendency and an unchecked royalist reaction. So far as they looked ahead at all, they probably contemplated a re-establishment of monarchy in the person of the duke of Gloucester, the late king’s youngest son, whom the parliament had in its keeping. This at least was the case with Whitelock, who was in his way a representative man. On the new council of state (of forty), which included seven peers or eldest sons of peers, five baronets, four knights, and some temporising lawyers, this section had a numerical majority. On the other hand, the stiff republicans were in a decided minority on the council. Only ten regicides were upon it, and from these must be deducted Cromwell and one or two officers whom he could command, and who were not republican on principle. The most eminent of this section were Marten, Bradshaw, Ludlow, and Scott. Bradshaw, a special friend of Milton, had presided at the trial of Charles, {336} in a high beaver hat lined with steel, with the composure, according to Milton, of a man with whom the trial of kings had been the business of life. He was afterwards president of the council of state, where Whitelock, a rival and perhaps jealous lawyer, complains that he did not understand the nature of his office, and made long discourses of his own that no one wanted to hear. Scott had been an officer in the new-model army, but seems already to have been jealous of Cromwell, being one of those men with whom hatred of the ‘rule of a single person’ was a principle of life. In later days, when Monk was supreme, the restoration inevitable, and the republicans fleeing, he stood up in parliament and said that, though he knew not where to hide his head, yet he must say that not his hand only but his heart had been in the execution of Charles. As might be expected, the restoration brought him the honour of martyrdom for his cause. Ludlow was a man of the same temper. His qualities were clearly much valued by Cromwell, and there seems to have been more real friendship between them at this time than Ludlow, looking back upon it from his exile at Vevay in the light of subsequent events, was willing to admit. Marten alone had some touch of the modern French republican about him. We have seen with what zest he arranged the more sensational incidents of the commonwealth. When the motion for the abolition of the house of lords, as ‘useless and dangerous,’ was being discussed, he proposed to substitute the words ‘useless but not dangerous.’ On another occasion, it is said, in drawing up a republican document, he spoke of ‘England being restored to its ancient government of commonwealth,’ and in answer to an objection that a commonwealth never before existed in England, quoted a text which had always puzzled him, where a man blind from his birth was said to be ‘restored’ to the sight he should have had. Under cover of this gaiety, however, and of a life reputed to be lewd, Marten had a strong republican enthusiasm, which he carried with him to his death through an imprisonment of twenty years.

These republicans, one would suppose, must have felt the uneasiness of their position. They had been the first to appeal from the unpurged parliament to the army. Ludlow, indeed, in his memoirs professed to have been shocked when Cromwell, in the spring of 1647, whispered to him in the house {337} that Holles and his party would never leave ‘till the army pulled them out by the ears’; yet by his own confession a few months later, during the treaty of Newport, he urged Ireton to put force on the parliament before Ireton himself was prepared to do so, and Marten had done the like with Cromwell. To the army they had thus appealed, but to the army, now that they were successful, they no longer meant to go. Its enthusiasm was not theirs. They had too much of the ancient Roman in them, Marten, perhaps, rather of the ancient Greek, to sympathise with the ‘foolishness of Christ’ as it was presented in the army. It was not in them that men, whose pastime was preaching and being preached to, who discovered strange lights in their bibles to interpret strange events, could find a natural leader, but in one who in his private prayers would ‘throw himself on his face and pour out his soul with tears for a quarter of an hour,’ who never went into battle without a text to feed on, who sang psalms as he led them to victory. The army, though it had no representative of its peculiar spirit on the council of state except Cromwell, was the real constituency of the republican parliament. It contained dangerous elements over which parliament had not the least control, and which might at any time overturn the parliamentary system. These may be summed up as the spirit of simple military arrogance, represented by Lambert, the levelling spirit represented by Lilburne and Wildman, and the ‘Fifth Monarchy’ spirit represented by Harrison. Lambert appears to have had the most conspicuous military talent of any of Cromwell’s officers. In the critical spring of 1648 he held an independent command in the north of England. He showed great skill in hanging on the skirts of Hamilton’s army before Cromwell joined him, and afterwards headed the pursuit. At Dunbar he led the fatal attack on the Scotch right wing, and next year when Charles was marching to Worcester, hung on his flank with cavalry, as he had before done on Hamilton’s. But as soon as he was off active service, he became mischievous. Vain, restless, and of extravagant habits, he perpetually chafed alike against Cromwell’s control and the authority of the parliament. He alone of the leading officers had never obtained a seat in parliament, and thus never became habituated to its civilising influence. Mrs. Hutchinson, while including him and Cromwell in the same condemnation, admits that there was this difference, {338} that while the one was gallant and great, the other had nothing but an unworthy pride, most insolent in prosperity and as abject and base in adversity.’ The term ‘leveller,’ then as now, was very loosely and ambiguously applied. According to Mrs. Hutchinson, who is a good authority on this point, the nickname was originally given to a:

‘certain sort of public-spirited men,’ who, when the presbyterian and independent factions were at their hottest, ‘declared against the ambition of the grandees of both and against the prevailing partiality, by which great men were privileged to do those things for which meaner men were punished. Many then got shelter in the house and army against their debts, by which others were undone. The lords, as if it were the chief privilege of nobility to be licensed in vice, claimed many prerogatives, which set them out of the reach of common justice, which these good people would have had equally belong to the poorest as well as to the mighty.’ ‘But,’ continues Mrs. Hutchinson, taking a turn at philosophy, ‘as all virtues are mediums and have their extremes, there rose up after under the same name a people who endeavoured the levelling of all estates and qualities, which these sober levellers were never guilty of desiring.’ [1]

[1] [Life of colonel Hutchinson, ii. 125; ed, 1885.]

This account corresponds with the tenor of the petitions which we read of as presented to the republican parliament by ‘levellers.’ They are simply a continuation of the agreements and remonstrances issued by the council of the army during the agitation of 1648, which in the main no doubt expressed the mind of Cromwell and Ireton. Their demand is for reforms, which for the most part stood over for nearly another two hundred years, till they began to be carried out by the ‘purged parliament’ of 1832. With minor variations according to circumstances, they pray, firstly, for a cheap and expeditious process of law, to be the same for all, with no exemptions in virtue of tenure or privilege; the laws to be written and in English; secondly, the abolition of all feudal courts, payments, and privileges; thirdly, the maintenance of the clergy by some other method than tithes, which, let us remember, were not then commuted, but were a perpetual source of carnal dispute between the clergy and the farmers; fourthly, the removal of monopolies, custom-duties, and excise, and the imposition of equal taxation; fifthly, the abolition of imprisonment for debt; all {339} estates to be liable for debt, and the rich not to turn prisons into places of protection; sixthly, the establishment of perfect freedom of conscience; and seventhly and lastly comes the demand, which presented the real difficulty, the dissolution of the sitting parliament, with provision for calling a new one at regular intervals.

This, we shall agree, is a sufficiently large and reasonable programme of reform. Sometimes farther details appear, of a kind which show a curious forecast of modern legislation, such as the establishment of registers of mortgage and the sale of lands. The rational desire for reform, however, which these petitions indicate, was always liable in the army to pass into a spirit of mutiny and disaffection, or into an ecstatic revolt, such as constantly appeared in those times against the clothing, literal and metaphorical, with which custom has covered the nakedness of human life. The grand mover of the mutinous spirit was John Lilburne, the object of Marten’s well-known joke, that if he were the only man left in the world, John would quarrel with Lilburne and Lilburne with John. His obligations to Cromwell were of long standing. In a tract published in 1647 he says to Cromwell, ‘You took compassion on me when I was at death’s door, and in 1640 set me free from the long tyranny of the bishops and the Star chamber.’ (In 1640 no one will suppose that Cromwell’s sympathy was other than disinterested.) ‘I have looked on you,’ he proceeds, ‘as the most absolute, single-hearted great man in England, untainted and unbiassed with ends of your own.’ He did not long continue, however, to use this language. He had made himself useful to Cromwell in the matter of the self-denying ordinance by showing up certain scandals in connection with the earl of Manchester and other officers of the original army. This made him many enemies, one of the obscurer of whom prosecuted him for damaging his character. The case was decided against Lilburne, who was called on for heavy damages. He appealed to the parliament, and its disregard of his appeal was the beginning of a long series of grievances, accumulating in intensity as grievances do, and gradually drawing within the circle of his animosity every one who declined to make his vindication the sole object of political action. Cromwell and Marten seem really to have done what they could to help him, but he would not wait to be helped. From time to {340} time a parliamentary committee was appointed to consider his case, but before anything could be done, there would appear some violent pamphlet of his against parliament and its grandees in general, for which he would be lodged in the tower. ‘Jonah’s cry,’ ‘The oppressed man’s oppression,’ ‘The just man’s justification,’ ‘Jugglers discovered,’ are among the titles of his tracts, all most trenchantly written, that appeared during the military agitation which culminated in the rendezvous at Ware. Because Cromwell would not break on his account with ‘the grandees of the parliament’ and the more worldly-wise of the officers, he became one in Lilburne’s eyes who had bartered his high calling for the glory of the world. His supposed machinations were exhibited in a pamphlet published during the first months of the commonwealth, under the title ‘The hunting of the foxes from Triploe Heath to Whitehall by five small beagles’; the foremost ‘beagle’ being Lilburne. [1] It strongly illustrates the freedom of discussion allowed in the army, which indeed was the condition of its peculiar enthusiasm, that this and other seditious manifestoes from the same hand, such as ‘England’s new chains discovered,’ had apparently unchecked circulation in it, and that at a time when a strong leaven of mutiny was at work. At three different places in the spring of 1649, in London, at Banbury, and at Salisbury, while the ‘five beagles’ were happily under lock and key in the tower, the troops broke into open revolt. Through want of leaders, and the swift energy of Cromwell, the revolt was suppressed without bloodshed, and of the captured mutineers, altogether some two thousand in number, only five were shot. It is a fact probably unique in military history, that the one who was shot in London was carried to the grave with military honours, followed by the whole body of troops quartered about the city with the ‘levelling’ badges in their hats. The fact is unique because the army also was unique, being not a mercenary machine, or even an embodiment of patriotic impulse, but an armed organisation of opinion.

[1] [“Lilburn” amended to “Lilburne”, twice. Tr.]

Contemporaneously with this outburst of mutiny, the levelling spirit had taken another direction, sufficiently peaceable, but equally tending to sap the foundation of a government resting on opinion.

‘In April of the year 1649,’ says Whitelock, [1] ‘the council of state had intelligence of new {341} levellers at St. Margaret’s Hill, near Cobham in Surrey, and at St. George’s Hill, and that they digged the ground and sowed it with roots and beans; one Everard, once of the army, is the chief of them.’ A few days after Everard was brought before the general. He said that he ‘was of the race of the Jews; that all the liberties of the people were lost by the coming in of William the Conqueror, and that ever since the people of God had lived under tyranny and oppression worse than that of our forefathers under the Egyptians. But now the time of deliverance was at hand…. And that there had lately appeared to him a vision, which bade him arise, and dig and plough the earth, and receive the fruits thereof; that their intent is to restore the creation to its former condition…. That they intend not to meddle with any man’s property … but only with what is common and untilled; … that the time will suddenly be that all men shall willingly come in, and give up their lands and estates, and submit to this community …, For money, there was not any need of it, nor of clothes more than to cover nakedness…. As their forefathers lived in tents, so now it would be suitable to live in the same,’ with more to the like effect. ‘I have set down this the more largely,’ adds Whitelock, ‘because it was the beginning of the appearance of this opinion, and that we might the better understand and avoid these weak persuasions.’

[1] [iii. p. 17.]

This ‘persuasion,’ ‘weak’ though it might be, was simply an expression of that individual consciousness of spiritual capacity and right, which had been strong enough to pull down an ancient church and monarchy, and was now tearing off the encumbrances by which, as it seemed, ages of selfish activity had clogged its motion. It was the sectarian enthusiasm, seeking wildly to withdraw itself from secular, as it had already done from religious ordinance. Ultimately clothed and in its right mind under the form of quakerism, it was to serve as a permanent protest against the plausibilities of the world, and to supply a constant spring of unconventional beneficence to English life. Even in this rude agricultural form, which it took among the diggers on Cobham Heath, it was perfectly peaceable. ‘They would not defend themselves with arms, but would submit unto authority, and wait till the promised opportunity be offered, which they conceived to be at hand.’ Their existence, however, showed that the enthusiasm which {342} had created the commonwealth was taking the inevitable course which made it useless as a support for any civil government whatever.

A kindred impulse to theirs, moreover, was at work in high places of the army, where it did not forswear the use of a carnal sword. Major-general Harrison was now directing his course by a verse in the prophet Daniel, which promises the kingdom of the world to the saints of the Most High, and was looking to the Rump parliament to introduce this kingdom with all speed. If their factions and worldly interests prevented them from doing so, Cromwell, he held, by some method above that of civil government, could and would. It was not for a constitutional theory or a pagan republicanism that he had been fighting, but for a dominion of grace, and he would not long be still while grandees of parliament, whom God had never owned in war, wrangled over the legal adjustment of his mercies. Overton, the governor of Hull, was the most eminent of those who shared his view, which, however, was but the legitimate doctrine of the military saint.

During more than two years, from the midsummer of 1649 to the autumn of 1651, the republican oligarchy was able to shut its eyes to the real situation. The military spirit was absorbed in the conquest under Cromwell of Ireland and Scotland, and the English royalists, hardly recovered from their crushing failure at home, were watching the fortune of war in these other countries. The only chance for the permanence of republicanism was that it should avail itself of this interval to establish itself on a more popular basis, and initiate practical reforms. If it had had the will or ability to do so, the levelling clamour, which with the return of the army was sure to be heard again, would have had nothing in popular sentiment to appeal to. The name of a ‘free parliament’ had been made to English ears, by the very men to whom it was now a word of ill omen, the familiar symbol of good government. The interference with the ordinary course of justice by special courts and parliamentary committees was a grievance that everyone could understand. An ecclesiastical anarchy, such as the journal of George Fox the quaker exhibits to us, was a scandal that came home to the parochial mind. In an ordinary parish, a presbyterian clergyman would be in possession of the benefice, to attempt {343} an irritating but ineffectual discipline and haggle over tithes, while in the same place there would be a knot of ‘common-prayer men’ with an excluded minister at hand to stimulate their zeal, and a congregation of baptists or independents, who, now that their friends were in power, would see no reason why their enemies should be beneficed. In the absence of any settled rule, each party might hope by local faction or intrigue to get the tithes for itself, and meanwhile would resist the payment of them to its adversaries.

The only hopeful line then for the commonwealth’s men to take would have been to provide for the election of a new parliament by reformed constituencies, to abolish all criminal prosecution not sanctioned by the common-law, to reform chancery and simplify legal process, and to resettle the church on some plan that would admit at least the independents and the ‘moderate’ or anti-prelatist episcopalians, and substitute a fixed salary for tithes. Whether this line was practicable for them is another question. They had no hold on popular feeling; a powerful Scotch army, with the young king in its keeping, was in the field against them, and the presbyterian clergy were praying for its success. Under such circumstances there was much plausibility in Henry Marten’s argument that their ‘commonwealth was yet an infant, of a weak growth and a very tender constitution’; and therefore his opinion was, ‘that nobody could be so fit to nurse it as the mother who brought it forth; and that they should not think of putting it under any other hands till it had obtained more years and vigour.’ Marten, however, had forgotten that the true mother of the republic was not the Rump parliament, but the army, whose maternal discipline, unless some foster-parentage could be found in popular interests, would be too much for the child as soon as it sought to take a way of its own.

The essential difficulty of the situation was aggravated by the oligarchical temper which it bred in the republican leaders. With the best of them this temper took that higher form which appears in Milton’s complaint, [1] that when God has given the victory to a cause in the field of battle, ‘then comes the task to those worthies which are the soul of it, to be sweat and laboured out amidst the throng and noses of vulgar and irrational men.’ Even in this form it cannot face facts, for it is {344} not this pride of exclusion but the higher pride, which can possess itself in sympathy and comprehension, that represents the divine reason in the world. But the pride of protected intellect, once clothed with political power, soon passes into the jealousy of a clique. So it was within our memory in France under the Orleanist régime, and so it was with the leading spirits of the Long parliament. They mistook the success of their military administration for a real faculty of government, and hugged power for its own sake, in the mood of a self-conscious aristocracy of virtue. If this was the case with the best of them, a more vulgar kind of self-interest was sure to prevail among the rest. Thus, though their administration was singularly pure, they got credit even among their best friends, if Milton’s ‘Second defence’ may be taken as expressing his real mind, for a spirit of faction and obstructiveness.

[1] [Tenure of kings and magistrates.]

The one man among them who seems really to have comprehended the situation, was Sir Henry Vane. Shrinking from the touch of military violence, he had withdrawn from parliament after Pride purged it, though the purgation was specially in his interest, and had only been induced to join the council of state at the pressing instance of Cromwell. He at once saw the need of popularising the government, and stirred the question of new elections. A committee for considering the question seems to have been constantly sitting during the first year of the commonwealth, with Vane as its chairman, which reported at the beginning of 1650 in favour of a new parliament of four hundred members, and a re-arrangement of constituencies. A corresponding resolution was voted by the house, but no bill was introduced, and meanwhile Vane’s energies were absorbed by the management of the wars with the Scots and the Hollanders. On this, as on the other pressing questions, parliament could never get beyond the stage of resolutions. It resolved to deal with the question of tithes, to provide for popular education out of ecclesiastical funds, and to simplify the law, but no actual legislation was achieved. Thus by the autumn of 1651 it could take credit for an effective administration of war and finance, and for the introduction of a preaching ministry and schoolmasters into Wales. Towards facing the hostile forces which only slumbered around them, towards meeting the demands of the enthusiasm of reformation to {345} which they owed their temporary power, they had done absolutely nothing. On September 6 they heard the speaker read Cromwell’s account of the battle of Worcester, ‘a mercy’ of which ‘the dimensions are beyond my thoughts,’ ‘it is for aught I know a crowning mercy.’ Cromwell, meanwhile, was riding up to London with a look which Mr. Peters, his chaplain, interpreted, or afterwards believed himself to have interpreted, to mean that he would be king of England yet. At Aylesbury he was met, on behalf of the parliament, by St. John and Whitelock, both special representatives of the lawyer’s desire for ‘settlement,’ and ‘government by a single person,’ with whom, especially with St. John, he had long discourse. On the 16th, we read in Whitelock, he took his seat in the house, and there is the significant addition, ‘the parliament resumed the debate touching a new representative,’ also ‘of an act of oblivion and general pardon, with some expedients for satisfaction of soldiery and the ease of the people.’ The question of settlement was now in the hands of one who would not allow it to tarry.


In the last lecture we saw that the immediate result of Cromwell’s presence in the house after his return from Worcester was the revival of the questions of a new election and a general settlement, which, during the last two years the republican oligarchy, with its head in the bush, had not chosen to face. In pressing these questions Cromwell was true to the instinct of comprehension which had governed his course throughout. It appears from the Memoirs of Berkley, who had been the chief negotiator with him on the king’s behalf in the summer of 1647, that he was then convinced of the difficulty of establishing a government on so narrow a foundation as was afforded either by the army or an oligarchical parliament. His project at that time was to restore the king on the condition of his calling a new parliament, from which he declared royalists should be excluded. This forms the basis of the propositions which the army offered to the king, while he was still in their keeping, and which, with expansion and variation according to circumstance, were pressed upon parliament during the following {346} year. They provide that the sitting parliament should come to an end within a year; that afterwards a parliament should be summoned every two years, to sit for not less than a hundred and twenty, or more than two hundred and forty days; that members should be taken away from the decayed towns, and representation awarded to the several counties according to the amount of taxation. No one who had borne arms for the king was to be eligible to parliament for five years. The old privy council was to be superseded by a council of state, of which the members for the next seven years were to be agreed on at once; after that they were to be nominated by parliament. The coercive jurisdiction of bishops was to be abolished; the use of the common prayer and the taking of the covenant to be alike voluntary. Subject to these conditions the king was to be restored, and a general act of oblivion was to be passed, with power to parliament to except certain persons, not more than five in number, from its benefit.

This document was supposed to come directly from the hand of Ireton, who was more at his ease in composition than Cromwell. As Cromwell says in a letter of this period to his daughter, Ireton’s wife, he writes to her rather than to her husband, ‘for one line of mine begets many of his.’

‘In these declarations and transactions of the army,’ says Whitelock, [1] ‘colonel Ireton was chiefly employed, or took on him the business of the pen.’ He was ‘of a working and laborious brain and fancy, and set himself much upon these businesses, wherein he was encouraged and assisted by lieutenant-general Cromwell, his father-in-law. Having been bred in the Temple, he had a little knowledge of law, which led him into the more errors.’

[1] [ii. 162.]

If Ireton, however, held the pen, the scheme, we may be sure, was Cromwell’s no less than his, and a more statesmanlike plan of reconstruction it is difficult to conceive. If carried out in its completeness it would have given England at once a genuine parliamentary government and a free national church. Two centuries of government by borough-mongering and corruption, of church-statesmanship and state-churchmanship would have been saved. Charles, as we have seen, rejected it, and began his game anew. No such opportunity for reconciliation could ever occur again, but Cromwell’s purpose remained the same, {347} though his mode of executing it varied with events. The anxiety for a settlement which should reconcile the old interests with the new enthusiasm is the key to his subsequent conduct. The reconciliation, for reasons which I have sufficiently described, was, in fact, impossible. The new piece would not fit the old garment. To us, looking backward with historical calmness, it seems well that it would not, for the enthusiasm adjusted to the interests would have been poetry translated into prose. That of which it is the essence to be motive, negative, abstract, would have become fixed, positive, and concrete. The sudden palpable reconciliation of the spirit and the flesh, apparently, perhaps, a spiritualising of the flesh, would have been really a carnalising of the spirit. The hopelessness, however, of the pacification which he contemplated was the tragedy of Cromwell’s later life. In the stress of protecting the ‘godly interest’ against itself, ‘worldly mixtures’ inevitably came to prevail over the pure spiritual fire. To the saints he seemed in serving the Lord’s people to lose his own soul, and his conscience was too sympathetic not to shrink under their judgment. Its burden, perhaps, found voice in his exclamation on his death-bed that ‘he knew he had been in grace once.’

There were certain qualities and beliefs in Cromwell, well known in their outward character, which have won for him par excellence the title of hypocrite. Looked at from the inner side, which the preservation of his letters enables us to see, they appear as the plastic medium through which an honest purpose of conciliation worked, and for lack of which the same purpose was inoperative in others. The ultimate spring of his conduct was a belief, wrought to special strength in the formation and triumphant leadership of the sectarian army, that he was the chosen champion of the despised people of the Lord. In the realisation of this belief, it was his habit (in modern language) to wait on events, and to surrender himself to temporary sympathy with men of the most various views. That this sympathy, though sometimes unctuous and exaggerated in expression, was yet perfectly genuine, is proved by its evident infectiousness. Nor was it really deceptive. There is no sign that he ever committed himself to the positive maintenance of the doctrines of the men to whose sympathy he appealed. On the contrary, {348} there is evidence that the protection of the godly interest in its freedom of conscience, by whatever means might be available, was the only line of conduct to which he ever committed himself, and to this he was faithful throughout. He caught eagerly at every element in the character or belief of those with whom he had to do, which might be turned to account for the furtherance of this end. When it ceased to further it, it lost his sympathy. The interpretation which the men whom he thus treated naturally put on his conduct was that he sought to use them for his selfish purposes. But it was just the qualities which ruined his reputation with the less compliant of his contemporaries and with posterity that enabled him to do his work. For his reputation he cared little, for his work much. What we call waiting on events, he called a recognition of the ‘outward dispensations’ of God. His belief that this guidance was divine made him at once more bold and more free from selfish regards in following it. There is a touch of nature in a letter of his to Oliver St. John, written just after his rout of Hamilton’s army. [1]

‘Remember my love to my dear brother, H. Vane. I pray he make not too little, nor I too much, of outward dispensations…. Let us all be not careful what men will make of these actings. They, will they, nill they, shall fulfil the good pleasure of God; and we shall serve our generations. Our rest we expect elsewhere; that will be durable. Care we not for to-morrow, nor for anything.’

[1] [Carlyle, ib. No. lxvii.]

This utterance, fresh from the heart, explains the subsequent alienation of Cromwell from Vane and the high republicans. He had the fatalism about him without which nothing great is achieved in times of political crisis; the consciousness of a divine work that must be done through him, though personal peace and honour were wrecked in the doing. They were men of theory and principle, ‘brave men and true.’ but with a sense of what was ‘due to their own reputation,’ or, to speak, more kindly, men who would sacrifice themselves or a nation indifferently to the maintenance of what might merely be a formula. In these days of playing at heroes among the ‘inferior races,’ such men, perhaps, receive less credit than is their due, nor is it my purpose to measure the man of principle against the ‘man of destiny,’ who may be a political gambler, but merely to indicate their inevitable {349} collision. If Cromwell had been a political gambler, he would not have been always showing his hand, nor should we have the strange collection of impromptu letters and speeches, speeches of which ‘he could not recall four words’ after they were spoken, which let us see into the workings of his soul.

In the last lecture I showed that during the interval between the final break of the independents and army with the king, marked by the vote of no more addresses at the beginning of 1648, and his setting out for the extinction of Hamilton, Cromwell was labouring for such a reconciliation of parties as would gain for the inevitable commonwealth a more general support than that of the professed republican clique. The equal impracticability of presbyterians and republicans, or, if we like, their equal devotion to principle, made reconciliation impossible, and the republicans for the time triumphed. Strong in a text of scripture, in a theory of right borrowed from the municipal republics of Holland and Switzerland, they shut their eyes and had their way. Cromwell knew well to what such a spirit must lead, and his irritation at it once broke out in a conversation with Ludlow. ‘They were a proud set of people,’ he said, ‘only considerable in their own conceits.’ For the time, however, he had to leave them to their conceit, that he might crush the common enemy. During the campaign, the direction in which the logic of events, of ‘outward dispensations,’ was leading became more apparent, and the sense of it pervades his letters. The rapture of successful war brought back to him the old enthusiasm, the consciousness of being the chosen leader of the saints. The righteous judge, he thought, had been appealed to in battle, and had shown which cause was his ‘even to amazement and admiration.’

‘Surely, sir,’ he writes to the speaker after the rout at Preston, ‘this is nothing but the hand of God; and wherever anything in this world is exalted, or exalts itself, God will pull it down; for this is the day wherein he alone will be exalted. It is not fit for me to give advice … more than to pray you, and all that acknowledge God, that they would exalt him, and not hate his people, that are as the apple of his eye, and for whom even kings shall be reproved.’ [1]

[1] [ib. No. lxiv.]

The prosaic meaning of these new ‘dispensations,’ we {350} shall say, was that the military excitement against the royal ‘delinquent’ had become uncontrollable, that Hamilton’s invasion, instigated and aided by the royalist presbyterians in England, had rendered their fusion with the commonwealth’s men impossible, and that the republic must represent the latter party and the army alone. This was no doubt the final judgment which Cromwell’s practical insight had unwillingly arrived at. But we do not really understand this judgment or its consequences, till we appreciate the ‘wondrous alchemy’ of the enthusiasm with which it was fused and molten in Cromwell’s own mind. The whole mental process is exhibited in a letter to Colonel Hammond, written when it had become clear that the presbyterian majority in parliament were determined to treat with the king and restore him to London. Its object was to induce Hammond to disregard the impending vote of parliament, which (as we have seen) would have been ruinous to the cause of free conscience, and to give the king up to the army.

‘You say,’ he writes,’ God hath appointed authorities among the nations to which active or passive obedience is to be yielded. This resides in England in the parliament.’ Then comes Cromwell’s reply to this view; ‘Authorities and powers are the ordinance of God. This or that species is of human institution, and limited, some with larger, others with stricter bands, each one according to its constitution. But I do not therefore think the authorities may do anything, and yet such obedience be due. All agree that there are cases in which it is lawful to resist…. The query is whether ours be such a case.’ In answer to this query, Cromwell commends to Hammond three considerations; ‘first, whether salus populi be a sound position; secondly, whether in the way in hand’ (i.e. by the proposed treaty), ‘really and before the Lord, before whom conscience has to stand, this be provided for; or if the whole fruit of the war is not like to be frustrated, and all most like to turn to what it was, and worse…. Thirdly, whether this army be not a lawful power, called by God to fight against the king upon some stated grounds; and being in power to such ends, may not oppose one name of authority, for those ends, as well as another name, since it was not the outward authority summoning them that by its power made the quarrel lawful, but the quarrel was lawful in itself…. My dear friend, let us look into providences; surely they mean somewhat. {351} They hang so together; have been so constant, so clear, unclouded. Malice, swoln malice against God’s people, now called ‘saints,’ to root out their name; and yet they’ (the saints) ‘getting arms, and therein blessed with defence and more! I desire he that is for a principle of suffering would not too much slight this…. Not the encountering difficulties makes us to tempt God; but the acting before and without faith. If the Lord have in any measure persuaded his people, as generally he hath, of the lawfulness, nay of the duty, this persuasion prevailing on the heart is faith; and acting thereupon is acting in faith; and the more the difficulties are, the more the faith…. Have not some of our friends, by their passive principle, … been occasioned to overlook what is just and honest, and to think the people of God may have as much or more good the one way than the other? Good by this man against whom the Lord hath witnessed; and whom thou knowest!’ [1]

[1] [Carlyle, ib. No. lxxxv.]

That the enthusiasm of this letter is sincere it would be hard to dispute; that it might be a dangerous cover for self-deceit, not less so. That in Cromwell, as a matter of fact, it was an expansive element, in which a sympathy with the ‘waiting spirit’ of the sectaries, such as was necessary for their guidance, went along with a prevailing zeal for the ‘salus populi’ and a clear judgment of its needs, is the only interpretation that will explain the history as a whole. To the guidance of a man possessing such a strange compound of qualities, it is due that our great religious war ended not simply in blood, but in a real step forwards of English society.

‘God’s providence and necessity, not his own choice,’ as he solemnly said, having forced him to pull down monarchy and put the republic in its place, he once more pressed forward his plan for a general adjustment of interests under a new parliament. The possibility of a settlement, however, which should secure the ‘godly interest,’ was very different now from what it would have been if Charles’s spleen and superstition had permitted him honestly to come to terms in 1647. Then Cromwell had hoped by restoring the king with a council, which might have been under his own direction, to obtain that unity of initiative under a familiar name, which, important at all times, is specially necessary when order is to be rebuilt out of a chaos of factions heated with civil war.

{352} Henceforward there could but be two alternatives. The familiar unity might be obtained, as it was ultimately to be at the blessed Restoration, but only at the cost of an absolute suppression of the ‘godly interest’: or an unfamiliar unity might take its place, but only on the condition of its maintenance by a hand that could hold the sword, and a temper that by either force or sympathy could control the sectaries, a condition which death might at any time remove. The military ecstasy, however, was still strong upon Cromwell, and he had a spirit for the work. In Whitelock’s journal of February 25, [1] not quite a month after the execution of Charles, we read,

‘From the council of state Cromwell and his son Ireton went home with me to supper; where they were very cheerful, and seemed extremely well-pleased; we discoursed together till twelve o’clock at night, and they told me wonderful observations of God’s providence in the affairs of the war, and in the business of the army’s coming to London and seizing the members; in all which were miraculous passages.’

[1] [ii. 540.]

Cromwell had yet to learn that the providence on which he waited wrought by a longer method, because it had a wider comprehension than was dreamt of in the puritan philosophy.

In the following spring Cromwell was appointed to the command of the army that was to conquer Ireland. Thence he was recalled in the summer of 1650, and shortly afterwards was sent into Scotland. Thus till his return from the battle of Worcester in September 1651, he had no chance of pressing his projects of conciliation and reform at the headquarters of government. Such glimpses as we have, however, of his civil activity during this period show a constant tendency in the same direction. It was he who prevailed on Vane to join the council of state, and obtained a modification of the engagement to suit Vane’s views. Thus to restore to the government the ablest civilian of the time, who had a special dislike for military domination, was a strange course if it was his object to clear the way for himself, but a most natural one if his object was general conciliation. Again, in the summer of 1650, when it was proposed to send the army under Fairfax into Scotland, and while Fairfax, ‘being hourly persuaded by the presbyterian ministers and his own lady, who was a great patroness of them,’ was doubting of the justness of the war, and finally resolving to lay down his {353} command, Cromwell was foremost in urging him to retain it. The memoir-writers of the time, interpreting events by the jealousy of later years, treat Cromwell’s earnestness on this occasion as simulated, a piece of the ‘great subtlety with which he now carried himself,’ but what its object might be, if it were simulated, they do not explain. If his object were personal aggrandisement, it is unaccountable that he should go out of his way to put the command of the army in the hands of another. If on the other hand it were a general settlement, it was quite natural that he should seek to conciliate the presbyterian interest to the commonwealth, in the person of the man who alone combined presbyterian sympathies with toleration of the sectaries.

But though Cromwell, during this period, was quite free from the thought which Mr. Peters attributed to him, ‘that he would be king of England yet,’ still the impatience for an establishment of a ‘free church of saints’ in a free state, and the ‘heat of inward evidence’ that he was himself the man to achieve it, was growing constantly stronger in him. He led his army into Ireland, as Joshua into Canaan, and his last letter to the parliament, as he was setting sail from Milford Haven, offered to their consideration the removal of penal statutes that enforce the consciences of honest conscientious men. His conquest of Ireland, and afterwards of Scotland, was achieved in and through a constant fire of enthusiasm.

‘It was set upon some of our hearts,’ he writes after the storm of Tredah, ‘that a great thing should be done, not by power or might, but by the spirit of God. And is it not so, clearly? That which caused your men to storm so courageously, it was the spirit of God, who gave your men courage, and took it away again; and gave the enemy courage, and took it away again; and gave your men courage again, and therewith this happy success.’ [1]

[1] [Carlyle, ib. No. cv.]

During his brief sojourn in London between the two wars it appears from a dialogue with Ludlow [1] that his thoughts were running on the need of swift reforms, especially of the law, and that he ‘was feeding on’ the hundred and tenth psalm; ‘The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion…. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power; in the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning.’ The experience of the Scotch campaign, full, as he conceived, {354} of miraculous passages, was not likely to temper his consciousness of a divine mission. ‘There may be a spiritual fulness,’ he writes to the general assembly of the kirk, [2] ‘which the world may call drunkenness, as in the second chapter of the Acts.’ In such spiritual fulness he lay on September 2, with a sickly, half-starved army about Dunbar, in the face of an enemy double in number and apparently commanding his position, yet sure, as he says, that just ‘because of their numbers, their advantages, and their confidence, because of our weakness, our strait, we were in the mount, and in the mount the Lord would be seen, and that he would find a way of deliverance for us.’ Through ‘an high, act of the Lord’s providence’ Lesley made a false move, and the way of deliverance was found.

‘It is easy to say,’ he writes to parliament after the victory, ‘the Lord hath done this. It would do you good to see and hear our poor foot go up and down making their boast of God. But it’s in your hands, and by these eminent mercies God puts it more into your hands to give glory to him; to improve your power and his blessings to his praise…. Disown yourselves and own your authority…. Relieve the oppressed, hear the groans of poor prisoners in England. Be pleased to reform the abuses of all professions; and if there be any one that makes many poor to make a few rich’ (a hit at the lawyers), ‘that suits not a commonwealth.’ [3]

[1] [Memoirs, p. 123; ed. 1751.]

[2] [Carlyle, ib. No. cxxxvi.]

[3] [Carlyle, ib. No. cxl.]

It was this exhilaration of energy in the Lord’s work, not a vulgar ambition of kingship, that shone in Cromwell’s countenance as he rode up from Worcester a year later, and that made him press, as we have seen, on the first day when he resumed his seat in the house, for measures of settlement and reform. ‘Peace hath her victories,’ as Milton wrote to him at this time, ‘no less renowned than war,’ but they were to be won not in days but in centuries, and by the energy not of feeling but of thought. He had a temper, he once said of himself, that ‘caused him often to overact business,’ and his trusted ‘son Ireton,’ in whose ‘working brain’ the same plans were combined with a more cautious and calculating temper, was no longer at hand to restrain him. He had died at his post in Ireland three months after the battle of Worcester; his death, we are told, ‘striking a great sadness in Cromwell.’ [1] ‘No man could prevail with him so much or {355} order him so far as Ireton could,’ but there is no reason to think that had Ireton lived he would have altered, though he might sometimes have checked, Cromwell’s career. If Cromwell had died when Ireton did, he would have died like him in the full odour of republican sanctity, and his subsequent breach with the republicans was due to his pressing forward the army project of reform and reconstruction which had first taken shape in Ireton’s brain. In his letter to the parliament after Dunbar he professed a desire (a notable instance of his frankness) not to ‘precipitate them by importunities’ in the work of settlement, and he was true to his profession. For a year and a half, however, from September 16, 1651, to April 20, 1653, he loyally endeavoured to rouse the republican oligarchy to the necessities of the situation. If his importunity was not pressing, that of the people was, and it was clear that the parliament must give some practical ‘reason why’ for its existence, or lose its prestige. Petitions from the country were constantly coming in, all conceived in the ‘levelling’ sense which I described in the last lecture. Their general burden is that tithes may be either abolished as levitical and Romish, or gathered into a common treasury, and then some part of them applied to the maintenance of a godly ministry in each county; that those ‘drunken, malignant, scandalous, and profane ones,’ that go under the name of ministers, be put to work for their living; that justice may be given, not bought, and all matters of meum and tuum determined free, yet by a written law; that some check may be put on the swarms of lawyers, attorneys, and solicitors, nourished with the bread of oppression by long and tedious suits. Sometimes they wax eloquent, hoping that ‘justice may come down like a mighty stream, free for the poorest to resort unto, too strong for the richest to divert.’ The Rump parliament meanwhile, not, we may fairly suppose, considering its previous inaction, without pressure from Cromwell, showed great activity in appointing committees to consider grievances, and in pressing resolutions, which if carried out would have made English law more cheap, and English land more free, than it has ever been since. There was no result however in the way of effective legislation, and the old conviction of the army, that it was the true parliament and judicature of the nation, was beginning to revive. At the end of 1650 letters were read in {356} the house, ‘that officers of the army by commission from Lambert did determine controversies between party and party; wherewith the people were much satisfied with the quick despatch they received with full hearing.’ At the same time petitions were circulating in the army for reform of abuses and a new parliament, in the same tone which had prevailed when the army had before (in the year 1648) been in direct contact with the civil power. The real fact was that the parliament was once more face to face with its true, its sole constituency, the military saints, with whom its conceit of antique republicanism would avail little, unless it could realise in the hard world of ‘interests’ the reforming enthusiasm which had created it. Such realisation, if possible at all, was clearly impossible to an oligarchy which had always been unpopular and was becoming factious.

[1] [Whitelock, iii. p. 371.]

We have not the means of tracing in detail the conduct of Cromwell during this crisis. It is clear that he made no secret of his thoughts. In November 1651 he obtained a vote of the house that it would put a term to its sitting, but only one so remote as November 1654. The next question necessarily was, how should the new election, and the general work of reconstruction, be regulated? That it would require rigorous control in the presence of the royalist gentry and the angry presbyterian clergy, was abundantly clear. Was this control to be in the hands of the Rump oligarchy, disunited, estranged from the army, incapable of swift and secret action as a deliberative assembly must be, or in the hands of a single person who had a name of terror and hope, and to whom the heart of the army was as his own? This was the real question at issue, and at the end of 1651 we find Cromwell, at a conference which he invited between the grandees of parliament and the officers, explicitly stating it. It was as impossible for him now, however, as it had been on a like occasion in 1648, to bring about an understanding. The great lawyers of the house generally were in favour of government by a single person, but only St. John seems to have shared Cromwell’s views as to who the single person should be. Whitelock was in favour of restoring monarchy in the person of the duke of Gloucester. To the enthusiasts of the army the very name of monarchy was blasphemy against Christ, whom they were expecting shortly to restore the kingdom to the saints. The theoretical republicans of {357} the Rump were in favour of constituting themselves a permanent body on the Venetian model, only filling up vacancies as they should occur.

In this dead-lock of conflicting jealousies and opinions the year 1652 passed away, the only vigour being shown in the prosecution of the Dutch war and the settlement of Scotland. Cromwell’s views were well known, and one day when in debate he spoke of Mr. Marten accidentally as ‘Sir Harry,’ Marten interrupted him by saying with a low bow, ‘I always expected when your majesty became king, you would make me a knight.’ He was clearly most unwilling, however, to break with the parliament, which he had absolutely in his hands, and if its leaders could have been induced, recognising their weakness and swallowing their formula, to invest him with a temporary dictatorship, he would have kept them at peace, as he alone had hitherto done, with the army, and worked with them constitutionally for the settlement of the nation. As it was, there are indications that he controlled the discontent of the army as long as he was able. Lambert’s vanity had been rudely affronted by the Rump, and his busy brain was brewing mischief. Harrison was becoming impatient for the inauguration of the ‘fifth monarchy.’ The military saints were finding, as Cromwell afterwards expressed it, that ‘all tenderness was forgotten to the good people, though it was by their hands and their means that the parliament sat where it did.’ ‘The reformation of law,’ he adds, ‘was a thing that many good words were spoken for; but we know that many months together were not sufficient for the settling of one word, “incumbrances.”’ [1]

[1] [Carlyle, ib. Speech I.]

By the beginning of the year 1653, Sir Henry Vane, who had hitherto been organising victory for Blake, had become alive to the danger of military domination, which he specially dreaded, and was pressing forward a bill for a new parliament. It was upon this bill that the final rupture with Cromwell took place. In its chief features it corresponded with the petitions of the army and levellers which had been rife in the agitation of 1647-8. There was to be a parliament of four hundred members, who should be distributed among the counties according to wealth and population. In the boroughs there was to be a uniform rental qualification of householders; in the counties such a property qualification {358} as should exclude tenants subject to control. There was to be a freehold qualification of 40_s_., a copyhold of 5_l_., and a leasehold of 20_l_. annual value. This system of distribution and qualification was afterwards adopted by Cromwell, except that he substituted for the property qualifications the uniform, and very high, one of 200_l_. of real or personal estate. Cromwell’s objection to the bill was that it gave the existing members the right both of sitting in the new house without re-election and of deciding on the admissibility of new members. In other words it constituted the Rump a many-headed dictatorship, to regulate the work of reconstruction. To this he opposed a plan of his own for delegating the re-settlement to an assembly of notables, to be specially summoned for the purpose; a plan which we may readily admit was merely meant as such a screen for his own dictatorship as would satisfy the demands of the ‘fifth monarchy’ or republican officers. As usual he behaved with, perfect explicitness. On April 19 he had a conference of members of parliament and officers of the army at his lodgings, and urged the importance of an immediate dissolution and a convocation of notables. St. John was the only civilian who supported him, but according to his own account the meeting closed with an understanding that Vane’s bill should not be pressed. Next morning the conference was renewed, but in the presence of only a few ‘parliament men,’ of whom Whitelock was one. The sequel is best described in his words. [1]

‘Cromwell being informed during this debate that the parliament was sitting, and that it was hoped they would put a period to themselves, which would be the most honourable dissolution for them; hereupon he broke off the meeting, and the members of parliament with him left him at his lodgings and went to the house, and found them in debate of an act, the which would occasion other meetings of them again, and prolong their sitting.’ This was Vane’s bill, which he was pressing through its last stages, in disregard, according to Cromwell, of the pledge given the night before. Colonel Ingoldsby brought word to Cromwell of what the house was doing, ‘who was so enraged thereat, expecting they should have meddled with no other business but putting a period to their sitting without more delay, that he presently commanded some of the officers of the army to fetch a party {359} of soldiers, with whom he marched to the house.’

[1] [iv. p. 4.]

The rest of the story is too familiar to need repetition. It is noticed, however, that he did not introduce the soldiers at once, but sat quietly in his place, till the motion was put from the chair, ‘that the bill do now pass.’ It was then, at the last moment, i.e. at which it was possible to stop the establishment of a permanent oligarchy under the forms of law, that he broke into a violent speech, which ended with his calling in the soldiers. His conduct at this crisis, as throughout his public life, corresponded exactly to the account which he gave of it himself. Into parliament, as into battle, he carried the ‘waiting spirit’ in which the sectaries believed. He trusted for guidance to a sudden inspiration interpreting the necessity of events. At last, at the critical point, just when he saw Lesley making a gap in his line at Dunbar, ‘the spirit of God was strong upon him,’ he would no longer consult ‘flesh and blood,’ but took the decisive step. The dissolution of the Rump was clearly inevitable so soon as it broke with and sought to defy its armed constituency, which, as Cromwell had always maintained, was an equally legitimate authority with itself, and far more truly representative. The violence of manner with which Cromwell turned it out and locked the door, of which, says Whitelock, even ‘some of his bravadoes were ashamed,’ is quite unique in his history, and doubtless aggravated the difficulty of subsequent reconciliation with the commonwealth’s men. The best explanation of it is a remark in one of his private letters; ‘I have known my folly do good, when affection (passion) has overcome my reason.’ It is a curious trait in his character, that when wrought up after much hesitation to a decisive act, of which he saw the danger, he gave the loose to that boisterous vehemence for which he had early been noted, but which he could generally suppress. The same trait appears in his behaviour at the signature of the death-warrant of Charles.

He had now to grapple with the question which the Rump had fingered in vain. The Lord’s people were to be saved from themselves, and the interests of the world so reformed and adjusted that it might yield them fit habitation. The task, as I have shown in the previous lectures, was in the nature of the case a hopeless one. The claim of the saints was at once false and self-contradictory; false, for the secular world, which it sought to ignore, had rights no less divine than its own; {360} and self-contradictory, since even amongst the most sectarian of the sectaries it was constantly hardening into authority hostile to the individual persuasion in which it originated. ‘That hath been one of the vanities of our contest. Every sect saith, “Oh, give me liberty.” But give it him, and to the best of his power he will yield it to no one else.’ [1] Cromwell’s labour, however, was not wholly in vain. During five years, by the mere force of his instinct of settlement, his commanding energy, and that absorbing sympathy miscalled hypocrisy, which enabled him to hold the hearts of the sectaries even while he disappointed their enthusiasm, he at least kept the peace between the saints and the world, secured liberty of conscience, and placed it on ground which even the flood of prelatical reaction was not able wholly to submerge. But while protecting the godly interest, he was obliged more and more to silence its pretension. A gradual detachment from the saints, and approximation to the ancient interests, was the necessary policy of his later years.

[1] [Carlyle, ib. Speech III.]

The dissolution of the Rump caused no derangement of administration. As captain-general in a council of officers, Cromwell directed all officials to continue their work, and summoned a body of notables to act as a constitutive assembly. The change was generally acceptable to puritan sentiment.

‘I told the parliament,’ said Cromwell afterwards, ‘what I knew better than anyone else, because of my manner of life, which took me up and down the country, thereby giving me to know the temper of all men, that the nation loathed their sitting. I knew it, and when they were dissolved, there was not so much as the barking of a dog, or any general and visible repining at it.’ [1]

[1] [ib.]

The addresses of congratulation which came in from all parts of the country quite bore out this statement. It was not from the pagan republicanism of the commonwealth-clique that Cromwell had difficulty to apprehend, but from the smothered fire of the fifth-monarchy men, with whom the necessities of settlement compelled him, to break. This soon became apparent in the assembly of notables. They elected an executive council, of which Cromwell was an ordinary member, and for five months all went smoothly along. Then the fifth-monarchy enthusiasm, represented by general Harrison, and stimulated by anabaptist ministers who met with him ‘at one {361} Mr. Squib’s house,’ became unmanageable. It fell foul of ‘ministry and magistracy,’ demanding the simple abolition of tithes and of the court of chancery, and the establishment of the judicial law of Moses, to be administered ‘according to the wisdom of any man that would interpret the text this way or that.’ [1] This led to the resignation of the assembly, whether under pressure from Cromwell it is difficult to say, but certainly with his good-will. Henceforth he let it be known explicitly that the world must have its due and settled interests be maintained. A few days after the council of state presented him with an ‘instrument of government,’ establishing a protectorate with a free parliament, to be elected according to the original scheme of Ireton, Vane, and Cromwell himself. Under this instrument he ruled for about four years, when ‘the petition and advice,’ passed by his second parliament, took its place, which did not materially alter the system, but put it on a parliamentary basis.

[1] [Carlyle, ib. Speech XIII.]

The protectorate must have the credit of having been at least perfectly true to the great end of settlement, and of having been, however arbitrary, yet perfectly honest in its arbitrariness. It was quite free from the jugglery with recognised names and institutions which is the chosen device of modern despotism. The three points of the Cromwellian programme—restoration, so far as might be, of the old constitution, reform of the law, and the protection of the godly interest—were really inconsistent with each other, for to restore the constitution was impossible without a restoration of royalism, and the restoration of royalism meant the subjection of the godly, while a reformation of the law, not resting on a constitutional basis, hung only on the thread of a single life. His effort, however, to govern constitutionally was genuine and persistent. Two conditions he always announced as fundamental, the sovereignty of the protector, and the maintenance of liberty of conscience. The protectorate was ‘what he would be rolled in the grave and covered with infamy sooner than give up.’ It was for a liberty of conscience, he always said, better than episcopacy or presbyterianism had allowed, that the army, the true national representative, had shed its blood. To surrender it would be to violate his most sacred trust. Subject to these two conditions he would give parliament its way, but {362} in the first the republican minority, in the second the presbyterian majority, would not acquiesce. One of his parliaments imprisoned Biddle the socinian, the other was very near burning poor James Nayler, the quaker, but finally let him off with putting him on the pillory and boring through his tongue. In both cases Cromwell interfered. The final breach, however, with each of his parliaments was due to its insisting on a discussion of the basis of government by a single person. To tolerate this, in the presence of royalist plots, sanctioned by a proclamation in Charles Stuart’s name for the assassination of ‘the base mechanic fellow, Oliver Cromwell,’ and of fifth-monarchy men who were gathering arms to fight for ‘king Jesus’ under the standard of the tribe of Judah, would have been ‘to let all run back to blood again.’

He was thus constrained to carry out the reform of law, and the settlement of religion, by the method of ordinances of council, most of which were subsequently confirmed by his second parliament. In this way he reformed chancery and simplified legal procedure. As regarded the church, since the dissolution of the assembly, there had been, as I before explained, no regular system, but the only recognised way of becoming eligible for a benefice was through presbyterian ordination, though it was probably not uniformly resorted to. For this Cromwell substituted a board of ordination, representing presbyterians, independents, and baptist preachers alike, and containing a certain number of laymen. No one was to have a claim to levy tithes till approved by this board, which seems, however, to have had power to delegate its authority to subordinate boards in the provinces. Other county boards were established for ‘detecting and rejecting scandalous, ignorant, and insufficient ministers.’ An ordinance for the more equal distribution of church property completed the ecclesiastical reform.

This scheme was liberally worked, and except to the believers in the necessity of episcopal ‘succession,’ for which Cromwell had no bowels, opened a wider door than has been open since. It appears that episcopalians in Baxter’s sense, and arminians, had now access to the benefices, though the ordainers might sometimes be more severe with them than with others. Even the high prelatists, so long as they kept free from plots, were allowed to form congregations and use the common prayer, which had never been the case under {363} the presbyterian régime. Of the fidelity of Cromwell to the work of reformation and godliness, which he had undertaken to reconcile with a general settlement, the best evidence is the eye-witness of Baxter and Burnet; both were royalists, and Baxter, at least, personally unfriendly to Cromwell.

The unruliness of the elements which Cromwell had wrought into a system of rational government became sufficiently apparent at his death. My limits do not allow me to trace minutely the course of events which led to the restoration. For some time a triangular contest went on between the junto of officers, headed by Fleetwood and Lambert, which Cromwell had kept in hand to the last, the court party of real statesmen, such as Thurloe and Whitelock, who supported Richard Cromwell, and the republicans headed by Vane and Scott. The slumbering fanaticism of Fleetwood once more broke out into a zeal for a dominion of grace. He allowed the officers, whom Cromwell had kept at their commands at a distance, to get together in London, and collogue with the more violent clergy. Henry Cromwell, watching events from Ireland, saw what was coming and warned Fleetwood in a tone worthy of his father’s son. Fleetwood, however, was deaf to such advice, and finally combined with the republicans to overthrow Richard Cromwell and restore the Rump parliament. Tho republicans, however, though they did not scruple now any more than they had done in 1648, to apply to the soldiers for support, could not long agree with them. The Rump soon took courage to cashier the dangerous officers, and afterwards, at the request of Monk, who was advancing from Scotland with an army purged of enthusiasts, removed their regiments from London. The situation was now at Monk’s command. The presbyterians, still in possession of most of the pulpits, began to reassert their claims, and Monk, a man without ideas, combined with them as the stronger party. After a brief saturnalia of ordinances against quakers and sectaries, they listened to the fair promises of Charles Stuart, and gave themselves over to a king who was already a papist, and a court which had but one strong conviction, that presbyterianism was no religion for a gentleman.

Thus ended, apparently in simple catastrophe, the enterprise of projecting into sudden reality the impulse of spiritual freedom. Its only result, as it might seem, had been to {364} prevent the transition of the feudal into an absolute monarchy, and thus to prepare the way for the plutocracy under feudal forms which has governed England since the death of William III. This, however, is but a superficial view. Two palpable benefits the short triumph of puritanism did win for England. It saved it from the catholic reaction, and it created the ‘dissenting bodies.’ If it seems but a poor change from the fanatic sacerdotalism of Laud to the genteel and interested sacerdotalism of modern English churchmanship, yet the fifteen years of vigorous growth which Cromwell’s sword secured for the church of the sectaries, gave it a permanent force which no reaction could suppress, and which has since been the great spring of political life in England. The higher enthusiasm, however, which breathed in Cromwell and Vane, was not puritanic or English merely. It belonged to the universal spiritual force which as ecstasy, mysticism, quietism, philosophy, is in permanent collision with the carnal interests of the world, and which, if it conquers them for a moment, yet again sinks under them, that it may transmute them more thoroughly to its service.

‘Death,’ said Vane on the scaffold, ‘is a little word, but it is a great work to die.’ So his own enthusiasm died that it might rise again. It was sown in the weakness of feeling, that it might be raised in the intellectual comprehension which is power. ‘The people of England,’ he said again, ‘have been long asleep. I doubt they will be hungry when they awake.’

They have slept, we may say, another two hundred years. If they should yet wake and be hungry, they will find their food in the ideas which, with much blindness and weakness, he vainly offered them, cleared and ripened by a philosophy of which he did not dream.