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considerable number of you, be seduced to take up arms in opposition to, or hindrance of these our just undertakings, we hope, by this brotherly premonition, we have freed ourselves from all that ruin which may befall that great and populous city; having hereby washed our hands thereof.”
The army marched, and the City at once made its submission. The bare facts of the case told heavily against Cromwell in the eyes of those whose schemes he had frustrated. In May he had protested that the army would disband at a word from Parliament, and had renounced all thought of bringing military force to control aflairs of State. In June he had made himself the leader of the army to disperse a force which was being raised by the orders of Parliament. The very words in which he, writing in the army’s name, had announced his decision must
also have told against him. It would have been far‘
better if he had simply announced that the new circumstances which had arisen had forced upon him the conviction that he had gone too far and had driven him to acknowledge to himself and others that obedience to a Parliament might have its limits, and that those limits had now been reached. The line, it would have been easy to say, must be drawn when Parliament was preparing civil war, not in defence of the rights of Englishmen, but to impose upon the country a system alien to its habits with the assist
ance of a Scottish army. Unhappily it was in TCF5r_riwfel'l’s_'n'ature to meet the difficulty in another way. When most inconsistent he loved to persuade himself that he had always been consistent, and in taking refuge in the statement that the army put forward its claim to be heard as Englishmen rather than as soldiers, he committed himself to a doctrine so manifestly absurd that it could only be received with a smile of contemptuous disbelief. Cromwell, in fact, stood at the parting of the ways. For him there was but one choice—the choice between entire submission to Parliamentary authority and the establishment of military control. No wonder that he instinctively shrunk from acknowledging, even to himself, the enormous importance of the step he was taking: still less wonder that he did not recognise in advance the unavoidable consequences of the choice—the temporary success which follows in the wake of superior force, and the ultimate downfall of the cause which owes its acceptance to such means.
The immediate results developed themselves without long delay. The army, doing its best to carry on the work of violence under legal forms, proceeded to charge eleven of the leading Presbyterian members with attempting to throw the kingdom into fresh war, as well as with other misdemeanours. The accused persons retaliated by pressing forward their scheme for gaining the assistance of a Scottish army, and for bringing up English forces devoted to their cause against the army under Fairfax and Cromwell. Fairfax and Cromwell were too near the centre of affairs to be so easily baflled by specious words. On June 26 a menacing letter from the army made the eleven members feel that their position was untenable, and voluntarily—so at least they asserted—-they withdrew from their seats in Parliament. Who could now doubt that—under the thinnest of veils—the army had taken the supreme control of the government into its hands? CHAPTER III.
THE NEW MODEL ARMY AND THE KING.
IN his desire to escape from the undoubted evils of military government, Cromwell had the best part of the army behind him. Nor did it, at the moment, appear very difficult to attain this object by coming to terms with the King, especially as the army leaders were prepared to make concessions to Charles’s religious scruples. Claiming freedom for themselves in matters of conscience, they were ready to concede it in return, and, for the first time since he had ridden out of Oxford, Charlesowas allowed to receive the ministrations of his own chaplains, and to join in offering prayer and praise in the familiar language of the Prayer Book of the Church.
towards the settlement of that religious question which
It was a long step
had created so impassable a gulf between the King and the Presbyterians.
The constitutional question remained to be dis- ‘
cussed, and the burden of framing terms to bind the King fell upon Cromwell’s son-in-law, Ireton, rather than upon Cromwell himself. Cromwell indeed would
never have consented"--tO see Charles replaced in the
old position,'-.-l)|-:i't"'h'e was unskilled in constitutional ni-<;eti,.es:''and'he left such details to others. The main of the situation was not long in revealing -itself. Charles, who had been removed to Windsor,
talked as if the dispute between the Houses and the “Sir,” replied Ireton, “you have an intention to be the
soldiers might be referred to his decision.
arbitrator between Parliament and us; and we mean It was not that there was any definite constitutional
to be it between your Majesty and Parliament.”
idea in Charles’s mind. With him it was rather a matter of feeling than of reason that he could occupy no other place in the State than that which tradition confirmed by his own experience had assigned to the man who wore the crown. For him as for another as weak for all purposes of government, as richly endowed
with the artistic temperament as himself,
Not all the waters of the salt, salt sea _
Under whatever forms, Parliamentary or constitutional, he and no other was to be the supreme arbiter, empowered to speak in due season the decisive word —always just, always in the right. What was passing before his eyes did but confirm him in his delusion. There had been a quarrel between army and Parliament. Where was it to end unless he sat in judgment
to dispense equity1to both? Against that will—call