« AnteriorContinuar »
as their teaching was concerned, Puritan in their ideas, and lax in their ceremonial observances, and thus the ecclesiastical changes initiated by the Long Parliament had been received by the bulk of the laity rather as the removal of innovations than as the establishment of something entirely new. The honour in which episcopacy and the Prayer Book were now held was mainly confined to the Royalist gentry and to scholars expelled from the Universities, and was therefore understood to be closely connected with political aims. Even so, there was no attempt as yet on the part of the Government to suppress the use of the Prayer Book in private houses, and there is reason to suppose that if no political disturbances had followed, no such attempt would have been made at a later time. The system of the Protectorate was undoubtedly the most
than public opinion would, if left to itself, have sanctioned.
"Not only by its legal reforms did the Protectorate
tolerant yet known in England—more tolerant, indeetin
strive to commend itself to the nation. Oliver had never thrown his heart into the Dutch war, and a little before he dissolved the Long Parliament, a great English victory in a battle which began off Portland and ended under Cape Grisnez, had secured the mastery over the Channel to the English fleet. That fleet rallied to the new Government ; even Blake, who was hostile at first, accepting the result of political
changes, and finally throwing in his lot with the Protectorate, on the ground that it was the business of the navy to leave politics alone, and—though the expression is not traceable on sufficient evidence to Blake’s lips—‘ to keep foreigners from fooling us’. The wound that Blake received off Portland incapacitated him from taking a considerable part in the later battles of the war, the burden lying for the most part on Monk, who won victories off the Gabbard in June and off the Texel in July, not long after the nominated Parliament had entered on its unlucky career. In the latter conflict, Tromp, the great Dutch admiral whose ill success was due not to any failure of his powers or to any want of manliness in his crews, but to the inefficiency of the Government he served, was killed by a shot as he was entering into the battle. Even whilst the nominated Parliament was still in session, a negotiation with the Dutch had been opened, and this negotiation, which was countenanced by Oliver from the first and carried on earnestly by him as Protector, ended in a peace signed on April 5, 1654.
Those who wish to estimate the value of Oliver’s foreign policy and its bearing upon the fortunes of the government he hoped to establish will do well to study at length the story of his negotiation with the Dutch, and of his contemporary excursions into the domain of Continental affairs. It is beyond doubt that he was desirous of peace with the Dutch on the ground
that they were Protestants, and that he was also desirous of allying himself with other Protestant States for the protection of Protestants under persecution by Roman Catholic Governments. Yet, not only did this fail to hinder him from exacting hard terms from the Dutch, but the motive of hisdiplomacy is revealed in his eagerness to make an agreement with his actual enemies a step to immediate hostilities with other nations. At one time he proposed a plan for the partition between England and the Netherlands of so much of the globe as lies outside Europe whilst he was at the same time negotiating with the Governments of France and Spain, offering to make common cause with one or the other in the war then raging between them. No doubt some religious element could be imported into either quarrel. To help Spain against France, at least in the way he proposed, was to vindicate the French Protestants against a persecution to which they were to some extent exposed, in spite of the acceptance by their Government of the Edict of Nantes. To assist France against Spain was to weaken the most bigoted Roman Catholic Government in existence.
What we are here concerned with, however, is not the details of Oliver’s foreign policy, but its conception as a whole. It is true that the existing position of affairs in Europe,—in which France and Spain were
. neutralising the forces of one another—was almost an
invitation to the strong military and naval power of the Protectorate to extend its influence at the expense of one or other of the rivals; but, so far as this consideration may have played its part in bringing Oliver to a decision, it has left no traces in his recorded words. Obviously, when he undertook the negotiation with the Dutch, he had two courses before him, either to lay the foundations of a general peace, or to leave himself free to push military and naval enterprises in other directions. It was the latter course on which he res0lved—a course which has gained him the admiration of a posterity prompt to recognise in Oliver the ruler who, having received from the Commonwealth an excellently organised army and navy, was the first to apply those potent instruments of conquest to the acquisition of over-sea dominion. What posterity has failed to observe is that this design was incompatible with his other design of settling the government of England on a constitutional basis. By his resolve to seek military employment for the magnificent force that he had welded together, and to find reasons for going to war with some nation or other, rather than be driven into war by the necessity of upholding the honour and interests of the country, Oliver was compelled to keep up a military and naval establishment which may not have been in excess of the taxable capacity of the nation; but which at all events imposed a burden much heavier than that to which Englishmen had been accustomed to submit. Before Parliament met, after many hesitations he had resolved to send out one fleet under Blake into the Mediterranean to enforce the release of English prisoners taken by the pirates of the Barbary coast, and another fleet under Penn to seize upon Hispaniola or some other West Indian island as a response to the refusal of Spain to allow English merchantmen to trade even with English colonies in the West Indies, as well as to various acts of violence already committed by Spanish officials in American waters.
That in both these cases Oliver was justified inf seeking redress can hardly be denied. As regardsl
Spain, he had already made a twofold demand on Cardenas, the Spanish ambassador, first, for liberty of trade in the Indies—not necessarily, so far as our information goes, for liberty of trade with Spanish possessions—and, secondly, for entire liberty of religion for English merchants and sailors in their own houses on Spanish soil and in their ships in Spanish ports— he not being satisfied with the offer of Spain to renew the stipulations of the treaty signed by Charles I., in which the Inquisition was debarred from acting against English Protestants so long as they created no scandal. Both demands were promptly rejected. “ It is,” replied Cardenas, “to ask my master’s two eyes.” Oliver’s notion that he could attack a Spanish colony