« AnteriorContinuar »
broader religious teaching than that presented by Calvin's logic; but knowing that they were in a comparatively small minority they, perhaps not unnaturally, fell back on the protection of the King, who was in ecclesiastical matters completely under the influence of Laud.- The result of Charles's consultations with such Bishops as were at hand had been the issue of a Declaration which was prefixed to a new edition of the articles, and is to be found in Prayer Books at the present day. i'The King's remedy for disputes in the Church on predestination and such matters was to impose silence on both parties, and it was in view of this policy that Cromwell raked up an old story to show how at least twelve years before, his old schoolmaster, Dr. Beard, had been forbidden to preach any doctrine but that which the member for Huntingdon stigmatised as Popish, and this too by a prelate who was now seeking, in a less direct way, to impose silence on Puritan ministers. 'Other members of Parliament had striven to oppose the ecclesiasticism of the Court by the intolerant assertion that Calvinism alone was to be preached. Cromwell did nothing of the kind. He did not even say that those who upheld what he calls 'tenets of Popery' were to be silenced. He merely asked that those who objected to them might be free to deliver their testimony in public. There is the germ here of his future liberal policy as Lord Protector—the germ too of a wide difference of opinion from those with whom he was at this time acting in concert.'
Little as we know of Cromwell's proceedings during the eleven years in which no Parliament sat, that little is significant. His interference in temporal affairs was invariably on the side of the poor. In 1630 a new charter was granted to Huntingdon, conferring the government of the town on a mayor and twelve aldermen appointed for life. To this Cromwell raised no objection, taking no special delight in representative institutions, but he protested against so much of the charter as, by allowing the new corporation to deal at its pleasure with the common property of the borough, left the holders of rights of pasture at their mercy; and, heated by a sense of injustice to his poorer neighbours, he spoke angrily on the matter to Barnard, the new mayor. Cromwell was summoned before the council, with the result that the Earl of Manchester, appointed to arbitrate, sustained his objections, whilst Cromwell, having gained his point, apologised for the roughness of his speech. It is not unlikely that it was in consequence of this difference with the new governors of the town that he shortly afterwards sold his property there, and removed to St. Ives, where he established himself as a grazing
* My argument would obviously not stand if the remainder of the speech printed in Rushworth were held to be genuine. There is, however, good reason to know that it is not (Hist. of Eng., 1603-1642, vii., 56, note).
farmer. Nor was he less solicitous for the spiritual than for the temporal welfare of his neighbours. Many Puritans were at this time attempting to lessen the influence of the beneficed clergy, who were, in many places, opposed to them, by raising sums for the payment of lecturers, who would preach Puritan sermons without being bound to read prayers before them. The earliest extant letter of Cromwell's was written in 1636 to a City merchant, asking him to continue his subscription to the maintenance of a certain Dr. Wells, 'a man of goodness and industry and ability to do good every way'. "You know, Mr. Story," he adds, "to withdraw the pay is to let fall the lecture, and who goeth to warfare at his own cost?"
In 1636 Cromwell removed to Ely, where he farmed the Cathedral tithes in succession to his maternal uncle, Sir Thomas Steward. Soon after he was settled in his new home, there were disturbances in the fen country which the Earl of Bedford and his associates were endeavouring to drain. On the plea that the work was already accomplished, the new proprietors ordered the expulsion of cattle from the pastures scattered amongst the waters. The owners, egged on by one at least of the neighbouring gentry, tumultuously resisted the attempt to exclude them from their rights of commonage. We are told, too, that ' it is commonly reported by the commoners in the said fens and the fens adjoining, that Mr. Cromwell, of Ely, hath undertaken—they paying him a groat for every cow they have upon the common—to hold the drainers in writ of law for five years, and that in the mean time they should enjoy every foot of their commons '. That Cromwell should have taken up the cause of the weak, and at the same time should have attempted to serve them by legal proceedings, whilst keeping aloof from their riotous action, is a fair indication of the character of the man. No wonder he grew in popularity, or that in 1640 he was elected by the borough of Cambridge to both the Parliaments which met in that year.
In the Short Parliament Cromwell sat, so far as we know, as a silent member. Of his appearance in the Long Parliament we have the often-quoted description of his personal appearance from a young courtier. "I came into the House," wrote Sir Philip Warwick, "one morning well clad, and perceived a gentleman speaking whom I knew not, very ordinarily apparelled, for it was a plain cloth suit which seemed to be made by an ill country tailor; his linen was plain, and not very clean ; and I remember a speck or two of blood upon his little band, which was not larger than his collar. His hat was without a hat-band. His stature was of a good size; his sword stuck close to his side; his countenance swollen and reddish, his voice sharp and untuneable, and his eloquence full of fervour, for the subject matter would not bear much of reason, it being on behalf of a servant of Mr Prynne's who had dispersed libels against the Queen for her dancing and such like innocent and courtly sports; and he aggravated the imprisonment of this man by the counciltable unto that height that one would have believed the very Government itself had been in great danger by it. I sincerely profess it lessened much my reverence unto that great council, for he was very much hearkened unto; and yet I lived to see this very gentleman whom, by multiplied good escapes, and by real but usurped power, having had a better tailor, and more converse among good company, appear of great and majestic deportment and comely presence." Curiously enough the so-called servant of Prynne— he was never actually in Prynne's service at all—was no other than John Lilburne, who was such a thorn in the flesh to Cromwell in later years. In undertaking the defence of the man who had been sentenced to scourge and imprisonment for disseminating books held to be libels by Charles and his ministers, Cromwell announced to his fellow-members his own political position. In life—and above all in political life—it is not possible to satisfy those who expect the actions of any man to be absolutely consistent. Later generations may be convinced not only that Charles was sincere in following a course which he believed to be the right one, but that this course commended itself to certain elements of human nature, and was, there