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had thus displeased him." These audacious reasoners went further still. "What," they asked,"were the Lords of England but William the Conqueror's colonels, or the Barons but his majors, or the Knights but his captains?" "They plainly showed me," complained Baxter, "that they thought God's providence would cast the trust of religion and the Kingdom upon them as conquerors; they made nothing of all the most wise and godly in the armies and garrisons that were not of their way. Per fas aut nefas, by law or without it, they were resolved to take down not only Bishops and liturgy and ceremonies, but all that did withstand their way. They . . . most honoured the Separatists, Anabaptists and Antinomians; but Cromwell and his council took on them to join themselves to no party, but to be for the liberty of all."
'To "be foFThe liberty of all' was recognised as being Cromwell's position. There is every reason to suppose that he had at this time little sympathy with the aspirations of those who would have made the army the lever wherewith to obtain political results otherwise unobtainable. In his Bristol despatch he had pointedly adhered to the doctrincTtliat the sword had been placed by God in the hands of Parliament, and for the present he was inclined to look to Parliament alone for the boon he asked of it. What makes Cromwell's biography so interesting is his perpetual effort to walk in the paths of legality—
an effort always frustrated by the necessities of the ; situation.
It is difficult for us, nursled as we are under a regime of religious liberty, to understand how hateful Cromwell's proposal was in the eyes of the vast majority of his contemporaries. Not only did it shock those who looked down with scorn on the vagaries of the tub-preacher, but it aroused fears lest religious sectarianism should, by splitting up the nation into hostile parties, lead the way to political weakness. To every nation it is needful that there be some bond of common emotion which shall enable it to present an undivided front against its enemies, and such a bond was more than ever needful at a time when loyalty to the throne had been suspended. It was I Cromwell's merit to have seen that this bond would : be strengthened, not weakened, by the permission I of divergencies in teaching and practice, so long as there was agreement on the main grounds of spiritual I Puritanism. If on the one hand he was behind Roger j Williams in theoretical conception, he was in advance of him in his attempt to fit in his doctrines with the j practical needs of his time.
Some assistance Cromwell had from men with whom, on other grounds, he had little sympathy. The Westminster Assembly of divines, which had been sitting since 1643, had done its best to impose the Presbyterian system on England, but in the House of Commons there was a small group of Erastian lawyers, with the learned Selden at their head, which was strong enough to carry Parliament with it in resistance to the imposition upon England of a Scottish Presbyterianism—that is to say, of an ecclesiastical system in which matters of religion were to be disposed of in the Church Courts without any appeal to the lay element in the State; though, on the other hand, it must not be forgotten that in those very Church Courts the lay element found its place. The Erastians, however, preferred to uphold the supreme authority of the laity represented in Parliament—as the lawyers of the preceding century had upheld the authority of the laity represented in the King—probably because they knew that the lay members of the Presbyterian assemblies were pretty sure to fall under the influence of the clergy. Selden indeed was no admirer of the enthusiasms of the"sects; but his cool, dispassionate way of treating their claims would, in the end, make for liberty even more certainly than the burning zeal of a Williams or a Cromwell.
With the surrender of Astley at Stow-on-the-Wold a new situation was created. The time had arrived to which Cromwell had looked forward after the second battle of Newbury, the time when Charles—no longer having any hope of dictating terms to his enemies— would probably be ready to accept some compromise which might give to Cromwell and the Independent party that religious freedom which the Presbyterians at Westminster found it so hard to concede. It did not need a tithe of Cromwell's sagacity to convince him that a settlement would have a far greater chance of proving durable if it were honestly accepted by the King than if it were not. Yet it did not augur well for a settlement that Charles, knowing that if he remained at Oxford a few weeks would see him a prisoner in the hands of the army, rode off towards Newark, which was at that time besieged by the Scots, and on May 5, 1646, gave himself up to the Scottish commander at Southwell. The Scots having extracted from him an order to the Governor of Newark to surrender the place, marched off, with him in their train, to Newcastle, where they would be the better able to maintain their position against any attack by the army of the English Parliament. If Charles expected to make the Scots his tools, he was soon undeceived. He was treated virtually as a prisoner under honourable restraint, and given to understand that he was expected to establish Presbyterianism in England.
A few days before Charles left Oxford, Cromwell had come up to Westminster to take part in the discussions on a settlement which were certain to follow on the close of the war. He saw his views better supported in the House of Commons than they had been when he was last within its walls. A series of elections had taken place to fill the seats vacated by the expulsion of Royalists, and the majority of the recruiters—as the new members were called—were determined Independents, that is to say, favourers of religious liberty within the bounds of Puritanism. Amongst them were Ireton, who had commanded the left wing at Naseby, and who was soon to become Cromwell's son-in-law; Fleetwood, now a colonel in the New Model Army ; Blake, the defender of Taunton, hereafter to be the great admiral of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, together with other notables of the army. Yet the Presbyterians still kept a majority in the HouseT They had "alreacTy, on March 14, secured the"passing of an ordinance establishing Presbyterianism in England, though it was to differ from the ScottfsK'system in that the Church was placed, in the last resort, under the supreme authority of Parliament. An English Presbyterian could not, even when we needed Scottish help, conform himself entirely to the Scottish model. It is true that the ordinance was only very partially carried out, but there can be little doubt that it would have been more generally obeyed if the negotiations, which the Parliamentary majority in accordance with the Scots were conducting with the King at Newcastle, had been attended with success.