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secondly, that care should be taken ‘to reduce within bounds that exorbitant power which the prelates have assumed to themselves,’ whilst maintaining ‘the golden reins of discipline,’ and demanding ‘a general synod of the most grave, pious, learned and judicious divines to consider all things necessary for the peace and good government of the Church’. So convinced was Cromwell that the Remonstrance would be generally acceptable to the House, that he expressed surprise when Falkland gave his opinion that it would give rise to some debate. It was perhaps because the Remonstrance had abandoned the position of the Root-and-Branch Bill and talked of limiting episcopacy, instead of abolishing it, that Cromwell fancied that it would gain adherents from both sides. He forgot how far controversy had extended since the summer months in which the Root-and-Branch Bill had been discussed, and how men who believed that, if only Charles could be induced to make more prudent appointments, intellectual liberty was safer under bishops than under any system likely to approve itself to a synod of devout ministers, had now rallied to the King.
It was, by this time, more than ever, a question whether Charles could be trusted, and Cromwell and his allies had far stronger grounds in denying than their opponents had in affirming that he could. After all, the ecclesiastical quarrel could never be finally settled without mutual toleration, and neither party was ready even partially to accept such a solution as that. As for Cromwell himself, he regarded those decent forms which were significant of deeper realities even to many who had rebelled against the pedagogic harshness of Laud, as mere rags of popery and superstition to be swept away without compunction. With this conviction pressing on his mind, it is no wonder that, when the great debate was over late in the night, after the division had been taken which gave a majority of eleven to the supporters of the Remonstrance, he replied to Falkland’s question whether there had been a debate with: “I will take your word for it another time. If the Remonstrance had been rejected, I would have sold all I had the next morning, and never have seen England any more; and I know there are many other honest men of the same resolution.”
There was in Cromwell’s mind a capacity for recognising the strength of adverse facts which had led him—there is some reason to believe *—to think of emigrating to America in 1636 when Charles’s triumph appeared most assured, and which now led him to think of the same mode of escape to a purer atmosphere if Charles, supported by Parliament, should be once more in the ascendant. On neither of the two occasions did his half-formed resolution develop into a settled purpose, the first time because, for some unknown reason, he hardened his heart to hold out till better times arrived; the second time because the danger anticipated never actually occurred.
* See the argument for the probability of the traditional story, though the details usually given cannot be true, in Mr. Firth’s Oliver Cromwell, 37.
In the constitutional by-play which followed—the question of the Bishops’ protest and the resistance to the attempt on the five members—Cromwell took no prominent part, though his motion for an address to the King, asking him to remove the Earl of Bristol from his counsels on the ground that he had formerly recommended Charles to bring up the Northern army to his support, shows in what direction his thoughts were moving. The dispute between Parliament and King had so deepened that each side deprecated the employment of force by the other, whilst each side felt itself justified in arming itself ostensibly for its own defence. It was no longer a question of conformity to the constitution in the shape in which the Tudors had handed it down to the Stuarts. That constitution, resting as it did on an implied harmony between King and people, had hopelessly broken down when Charles had for eleven years ruled without a Parliament. The only question was how it was to be reconstructed. Cromwell was not the man to indulge in constitutional speculations, but he saw distinctly that if religionsuch as he conceived it—was to be protected, it must be by armed force. A King to whom religion in that form was detestable, and who was eager to stifle it by calling in troops from any foreign country which could be induced to come to his aid, was no longer to be trusted with power.
So far as we know, Cromwell did not intervene in the debates on the control of the militia. He was mainly concerned with seeing that the militia was in a state of efficiency for the defence of Parliament. As early as January I4, 1642, soon after the attempt on the five members had openly revealed Charles’s hostility, it was on Cromwell’s motion that a committee was named to put the kingdom in a posture of defence, and this motion he followed up by others, with the practical object of forwarding repression in Ireland or protection to the Houses at Westminster. Though he was far from being a wealthy man, he contributed £600 to the projected campaign in Ireland, and another £500 to the raising of forces in England. Mainly through his efforts, Cambridge was placed in a state to defend itself against attack. Without waiting for a Parliamentary vote, he sent down arms valued at £100. On July 15 he moved for an order ‘to allow the townsmen of Cambridge to raise two companies of volunteers, and to appoint captains over them’. A month later the House was informed that ‘ Mr. Cromwell, in Cambridgeshire, hath seized the magazine in the castle at Cambridge,’ that is to say, the store of arms—the property of the County—ready to be served out to the militia when called upon for service or training, ‘and hath hindered the carrying of the plate from that University ; which, as was reported, was to the value of £ 20,000 or thereabouts’. Evidently there was one member of Parliament prompt of decision and determined in will, who had what so few—if any—of his colleagues had—the makings of a great soldier in him.
When at last Essex received the command to create a Parliamentary army, Cromwell accepted a commission to raise a troop of arquebusiers—the light horse of the day—in his own county. He can have had no difficulty in finding recruits, especially as his popularity in the fen-land had been, if possible, increased by his conduct in a committee held in the preceding summer, where he bitterly resented an attempt of the Earl of Manchester to enclose lands in defiance of the rights of the commoners. He was, however, resolved to pick the sixty men he needed. We can well understand that in choosing his subordinates he would be inspired by an instinctive desire to prize those qualities in his soldiers which were strongly developed in his own character, in which strenuous activity was upheld by unswerving conviction and perfervid spiritual emotion. He could choose the better because he had neighbours, friends and kinsmen from whom to select. The Quarter-master