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the King to London without directions of the Parliament’. “His mission,” he further stated, was “to prevent a second war discovered by the design of some men privately to take away the King, to the end he might side with that intended army to be raised; which, if effected, would be the utter undoing of the kingdom.” To this profession his actions were suitable. During the whole of the day he remained quiet, never hinting for an instant that he had any intention of doing more than preserve the King’s person against violence. In the course of the day, however, he took alarm at some rumours of an impending attack, and
made up his mind, probably nothing loth, that the '
danger could only be met by removing the King to safer quarters. About half-past ten at night he roused Charles from his slumbers, invited him to follow him on the following morning, and on giving assurances that no harm would follow received the promise he required. On the morning of the 4th, as Charles stepped from the door of the house, he was confronted by Joyce and his 500 troopers. The King at once asked whether Joyce had any commission for what he was doing. “ Here,” replied Joyce, turning in the saddle as he spoke, and pointing to the soldiers he headed, “is my commission. It is behind me.” “It is a fair commission,” replied Charles, “and as well written as I have seen a commission in my life: a company of handsome, proper gentlemen, as I have
seen a great while.” Having selected Newmarket as his place of residence, Charles not unwillingly, as it seemed, set out in this strange companionship. On that very morning, or on the previous evening, Cromwell, feeling himself no longer safe at Westminster, slipped away and rode off to join the army at N ewmarket. Both Fairfax and Cromwell declared for the King’s return to Holmby, no doubt considering ]oyce’s removal of the King to be unnecessary, and,
under the circumstances, unauthorised. It was only
on Charles’s positive refusal to return that he was allowed to continue his journey.
It would not be long before the army would have to experience the difficulties which beset a negotiation with Charles. It had first to come to an understanding with Parliament. Before Cromwell’s arrival, the Agitators had presented to Fairfax a representation of their old complaints, accompanied with a reminder to Parliament that some particular persons—the Presbyterian leaders were evidently aimed at—had been to blame. In another declaration, known as A Solemn Engagement of the Army, these complaints were more forcibly reiterated, with the addition, first of a demand for the erection of a Council of the army, composed partly of officers and partly of Agitators; and secondly, of a vindication of the army from harbouring wild schemes, ‘such as to the overthrow of magistracy, the suppression or hindering of Presbytery, the establish
ment of Independent government, or the upholding of a general licentiousness in religion under pretence of liberty of conscience’. That these two clauses were added under Cromwell’s influence—if not by his own pen—can hardly be doubted. On the one hand, if the army was to intervene in politics, it must speak through some organ, having, as far as possible, the character of a political assembly; and, on the other hand, it must be made clear to all that its aims were as little subversive as possible. If the Presbyterians would acknowledge that their designs had met with an insuperable obstacle, and would resign power into hands more likely to use it with prudence, the crisis might be tided over without leaving behind it more evil consequences than were necessarily connected with the intervention of an armed force.
Unhappily the Presbyterians were the most unlikely persons in the world to grasp the realities of the situation. They firmly believed, not only that their cause was just, but that the army—without a shadow of excuse—had deliberately, even before the London militia had been reorganised, plotted the seizure of the King’s person, with the object of establishing anarchy in the Church and military despotism in the State. Each party, in short, was convinced that it was acting on the defensive; and, in politics, as in all other spheres of life, results are to be traced less to facts which actually exist than to the as
sumptions relating to those facts in the minds of the actors. Parliament actively pursued its preparations for resistance, planning the formation of the nucleus of a fresh army at Worcester, and granting permission to the City to raise cavalry as well as infantry. The soldiers were undoubtedly right in holding that nothing less than the outbreak of another civil war was impending.
Before the irrevocable step was taken, Parliament sent commissioners to persuade the army to disband on the payment of an additional £ 10,000. On the loth, the commissioners finding the soldiers at a rendezvous on Triploe Heath were received by a general refusal to accept the terms till they had been examined by the new Army Council. The army then significantly marched to Royston, several miles on the road to London. In the evening a letter was sent off to the magistrates of the City, the chief supporters of the new Presbyterian military organisation. It can hardly be questioned that this letter represented the ideas at that time entertained by Cromwell, or that in great part, if not entirely, it was written by him. Striving to blind himself to the fact that he was heading military resistance to the civil power, he announced that those in whose name he spoke were acting, not as soldiers, but as Englishmen. “We desire,” he proceeded, “a settlement of the kingdom and of the liberties of the subject according to the votes and declarations of Parliament which, before we took up arms, were by Parliament used as arguments and inducements to invite us and divers of our dear friends out—some of whom have lost their lives in this war, which being by God’s blessing finished, we think we have as much right to demand and see a happy settlement, as we have to our money, or the other common interest of soldiers that we have insisted upon.” Then followed a renewal of the protest that the army had no wish to introduce licentious liberty, or to subvert the Civil Government. “We profess,” continued Cromwell, “as ever in these things, when the State has once made a settlement, we have nothing to say, but submit or suffer. Only we could wish that every good citizen and every man that walks peacefully in a blameless conversation, may have liberties and encouragements, it being according to the just policy of all States, even to justice itself.” Then followed the practical conclusion. “These things are our desires—beyond which we shall not go, and for the obtaining these things we are drawing near your city—declaring with all confidence and assurance that, if you appear not against us in these our just desires, to assist that wicked party that would embroil us and the kingdom, neither we nor our soldiers shall give you the least offence.” Should things proceed otherwise, it would not be the army that "would give way.