Imágenes de páginas

cognised that such a step would be too unpopular to meet with success, and resolved that another Parliament must be summoned. Before the new Parliament met, Oliver had recourse to one of those startling privileges which the Instrument might be quoted as having conferred on his Government. That constitution assigned to the Council the right of examining and rejecting such members as might be elected without possessing the qualifications imposed by it on members of Parliament, a right which the Council now exercised in the rejection of at least ninety-three hostile members. In the case of Royalists chosen by constituencies the Council was undoubtedly in the right in annulling their elections, at least so far as the constitution was concerned. In refusing admission to Republicans like Scott and Hazlerigg. it was compelled to have recourse to a quibble. It was true that the Council was empowered by the Instrument to reject members who were not 'of known integrity'. That body with at least the tacit approval of the Protector now interpreted those words as giving them power to reject members not of known integrity to the existing constitution. For once in his life Oliver demeaned himself to act in the spirit of a pettifogging attorney. Base as the action was, it was only possible because the greater number of those admitted to their seats, whether through the pressure put upon the country by the Major-Generals, or because they

looked with more hopefulness to the Protector, were now prepared to give him their support. In the speech with which Oliver opened the session on September 17, he did his best to rouse the indignation of his hearers against Spain. “Why, truly,” he urged, “your great enemy is the Spaniard. He is a natural enemy. He is naturally so; he is naturally so throughout-by reason of that enmity that is in him against whatsoever is of God.” It was the keynote of Oliver's feeling in this matter in his more exalted mood. His sentiments as a patriotic Englishman found vent in a long catalogue of wrongs suffered at the hands of Spaniards from Elizabeth's time to his own. His defiance of Spain was followed by an attack on Charles Stuart,—now dwelling on Spanish soil, and hopefully looking to Spain for troops to replace him on the throne—in which he referred to him as “a captain to lead us back into Egypt'. Then came a retrospect on the Cavalier plots and a justification of the Major-Generals, who had been established to repress them. The war with Spain must be prosecuted vigorously—in other words, money must be voted to maintain the struggle at home and abroad. Oliver's speech did not all turn upon what ordinary men term politics. “Make it a shame," he cried, “ to see men bold in sin and profaneness, and God will bless you. You will be a blessing to the nation ; and by this will be more repairers of breaches than by anything in the world. Truly these things do respect the souls of men, and the spirits—which are the men. The mind is the man. If that be kept pure, a man signifies somewhat; if not, I would very fain see what difference there is betwixt him and a beast. He hath only some activity to do some more mischief.” It was the voice of the higher–because more universal-Puritanism which rang in these words, a voice which soared to worlds above the region of ceremonial form or doctrinal dispute, echoing, as from the lips of a man of practical wrestlings with the world, the voice of the imaginative poet who, in the days of his youth, had taught that

So dear to Heaven is saintly chastity
That, when a soul is found sincerely so,
A thousand liveried angels lackey her,
Driving far off each thing of sin and guilt,
And in clear dream and solemn vision
Tell her of things that no gross ear can hear,
Till oft converse with heavenly habitants
Begin to cast a beam on the outward shape,
The unpolluted temple of the mind,
And turns it by degrees to the soul's essence

Till all be made immortal. Oliver had to touch earth again with a financial statement and to crave for Parliamentary supplies. A demand for money was not particularly welcome to the members, and they preferred to wrangle for some weeks over the case of James Naylor, a fanatic who had allowed himself to be greeted as the Messiah

by his feminine admirers. In October news came that Stayner, in command of a detachment from Blake's fleet, had destroyed or captured a part of the Plate Fleet off the Spanish coast, and in the following month the carts were rolling through the London streets on their way to the Tower with silver worth £200,000. Emboldened by this success, Oliver's confidants brought in a bill perpetuating the decimation of the Royalists by act of Parliament. The bill was rejected, and hard words were spoken of the Major-Generals. Oliver accepted the decision of the House, and the Major-Generals were withdrawn.

There is good reason to believe that Oliver consented willingly to the vote. He was never one to persist in methods once adopted, if he could obtain his larger aims in some other way. The debates had revealed that the house was divided into two parties, a minority clinging to the army as a political force, and a majority calling for the establishment of the government on a civil basis. The latter was even more devoted to the Protector than the former, and Oliver, who in his heart concurred with their views, was prepared, as indeed he had been prepared in 1654, to submit the Instrument to revision. The difference was that he was assured now—as he had not been assured then---that Parliament would sustain the fundamental principles which he regarded as the most precious part of the constitution.

In January, 1657, a fresh attempt to assassinate the Protector—this time by Miles Sindercombegave reason, or perhaps excuse, for loyal demonstrations, and a month later the House entered upon the discussion of a proposal for a constitutional revision, ultimately known as The Humble Petition and Advice, of which the article which attracted the most general attention was that which reconstituted the Kingship in the person of Oliver, with the power of nominating his own successor. The demand for the revival of the Kingship was no mere work of zealous flatterers. The crown was held in the House to be the symbol of civilian as opposed to military government, but for this reason the offer of it was assailed by the leading officers, headed by Lambert who, in 1653, had offered the crown to the man to whom he now refused it. So far as the officers were concerned, they appear to have been actuated, in part at least, by a dread that a Parliamentary Protectorate would in the end turn out to be other than a Puritan Protectorate. Lambert's own motives were somewhat more difficult to unravel. Possibly he regarded a Kingship by the grace of Parliament less of a boon than a Kingship by the grace of the army. Still more probably was he moved by a personal grievance in seeing Fleetwood, who had now returned from Ireland, higher than himself in the favour of the Protector, perhaps even in the favour of the army. In any case he carried on

« AnteriorContinuar »