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pared to stand by Parliament if it would proceed in Yet on the 6th, one of the days appointed for its considera
earnest with the Bill for the new elections. tion, the Bill was quietly passed over. By degrees it came out that the Bill, when completed, would be one authorising Vane’s pet scheme of partial elections, the old members not only retaining their seats but forming an election committee with power to exclude any member whose presence was distasteful to them. There are even reasons to believe that it was intended that this arrangement should be a permanent one, and that each successive Parliament should have the right of shedding such members as were not to its taste. Parliament was to adjourn till November, that it might be out of its power to repeal or amend the
Moreover, as soon as the Bill was passed,
act under military pressure.
Such an arrangement must have irritated Cromwell to the uttermost. On April 15, having been absent from Parliament for a month, he returned to his place to plead against it. “ It is high time,” was the answer vouchsafed by one of the leading personages to his pleading for a new Parliament, “to choose a new general.” Cromwell, in reply, offered hisfiresignation, but as no oflicer could be found to take his place, the demand for it was soon dropped. Still anxious for Why should
not the difficulty be got over by a temporary suspension
a compromise, he made a fresh proposal.
of the Parliamentary system, and a body of rightthinking men appointed to take into consideration the necessities of the time, and to prepare the way for its re-establishment. This proposal was taken into consideration at a meeting of oflicers and Parliamentarians on the 19th, but, as might have been expected, it provoked opposition and, after a sitting prolonged far into the night, the conference broke up on an undertaking given, as it would seem, by Vane, that the members of the House who were present would do their best to hinder the progress of the Bill on the following morning.
When the morning arrived, the House, taking the bit between its teeth, threw aside the engagements of its leaders and insisted on roceeding with the Bi To the pecuniary interests of the Parliamentary rank and file it was far more important to escape the necessity of facing their constituents than it was to such men as Vane or Bradshaw, who would almost certainly be re-elected in any case. Yet it has never been alleged that either Vane or Bradshaw took steps to persuade the excited House to act in conformity with the promise given the evening before. Harrison at once despatched a message to Cromwell to warn him of the danger, and Cromwell evidently regarded the action of the members as a clear breach of faith on the part of Vane. Hurrying to the House, without
giving himself time to change the plain black clothes
and the grey worsted stockings which appear to have been considered unsuitable to a member in his place in Parliament, he sat for a while in silence. When the Speaker put the question that ‘ this Bill do pass,’ he rose to speak. Dwelling at first on the pains and care of the public good which had characterised the early days of the Long Parliament, he proceeded to blame the members for their later misconduct, holding up to scorn ‘their injustice, delays of justice, selfinterest, and other faults . . . charging them not to have a heart to do anything for public good,’ and to have ‘ espoused the corrupt interest of Presbytery and lawyers who were the supporters of tyranny and oppression’. Their last crime was the present attempt to perpetuate themselves in power. “Perhaps,” he continued, his wrath growing upon him as he spoke, “you think this is not Parliamentary language. I confess it is not, neither are you to expect any such from me.” Then striding up and down the floor of the House, he pointed to individual members, charging them with corruption or immorality. “It is not fit,” he added, “that you should sit as a Parliament any longer. You have sat long enough, unless you had done more good.” Then, upon a remonstrance from Sir Peter Wentworth, he took the final step. “ Come, come !” he cried, “I will put an end to your prating. You are no Parliament. I say you are no Parliament. I will put an end to your sitting.” Then turning to Harrison, he uttered the fateful words, “Call them in; call them in”. The door was thrown open and thirty or forty musketeers tramped in. “This,” exclaimed Vane, “is not honest, yea it is against morality and common honesty.” It was to Vane’s broken word that Cromwell, whether truly or falsely, attributed the necessity of acting as he was now doing. Doubtless with a touch of sadness in his voice, he addressed his old friend—his brother, as he had long styled him—with the veiled reproof : “Oh, Sir Henry Vane ! Sir Henry Vane! The Lord deliver me from Sir Henry Vane ! ”
The hall of meeting was soon cleared. Harrison handed Speaker Lenthall down from the chair. Algemon Sidney had to be removed with some show of compulsion. Most of the members yielding to the inevitable trooped out without even this nominal resistance. “ It’s you,” said Cromwell as they filed past him, “that have forced me to this, for I have sought the Lord night and day that He would rather slay me than put me upon the doing of this work.” Glancing at the mace he asked “What shall we do with this bauble ? ” Ordering Captain Scott to remove it from the table, he bade him take it away. When all was over, carrying the Bill on Elections under his cloak, he returned to Whitehall. In the afternoon he dispersed—in like manner—the Council of State, assuring its members that they could sit no longer, the Parliament having been dissolved. “ Sir,” replied Bradshaw, “we have heard what you did at the House in the morning, and before many hours all England will hear it ; but, Sir, you are mistaken to think that the Parliament is dissolved; for no power under heaven can dissolve them but themselves; therefore take you notice of that.”