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The one way of escape still lay in an understanding with the King. With the King, however, no agreement was possible. Charles, hopelessly at fault in his judgment of passing events, stood aloof in the assurance that the strife amongst the opponents would serve but to weaken both. In the negotiations carried on with the army simultaneously with the latest Parliamentary struggle, he fought every point stubbornly. To extricate themselves from this difficulty, Cromwell and Ireton joined in a vote for resuscitating the Newcastle propositions, and allowed Charles to be formally requested to give his consent to those extravagant Presbyterian demands. Charles, driven to the wall, expressed his preference for The Heads of the Proposals. Cromwell and Ireton contrived to persuade themselves that he was in earnest, and gave their support to the King's demand for a personal negotiation with Parliament on that basis.
Under these circumstances the Independent party and the army split in two. The greater number of the superior officers, together with the Parliamentary leaders of the party, Vane, St. John and Fiennes, supported Cromwell and Ireton in an attempt to persuade Parliament to open the negotiations asked for by the King. As was not unnatural, there were others, Rainsborough in the army, and Marten in the House of Commons, who gathered round them a new Republican party, declaring it useless to enter into a fresh discussion with Charles, and even talking of imprisoning him in some fortress. Coalescing with the Presbyterians, who wished merely to summon Charles to accept a selection from the Newcastle Propositions, they beat Cromwell on the vote, in spite of his warning that by disowning the King they were playing into the hands of men who 'were endeavouring to have no other power to rule but the sword '. Inside and outside the House Cromwell was denounced as a mere time-server, who had no other end in view but his own interests. Cromwell's only answer was to urge Charles more pressingly than before to make the concessions without which his restoration to any kind of authority was out of the question. Conscious of his own integrity, he still hoped for the best, even from Charles. "Though it may be for the present," he wrote to a friend, " a cloud may be over our actions to those who are not acquainted with the grounds of them, yet we doubt not God will clear our integrity and innocence from any other ends we aim at but His glory and the public good." Yet September passed away, and Charles had made no sign.
Charles's silence did but strengthen the party amongst the soldiers which aimed at cutting the political knot with the sword. In the Army Council indeed Cromwell was still predominant, and on October 6 it agreed to meet on the 14th, to formulate terms which the King might be able to accept. In the interval everything was done to come to a private understanding with Charles. Charles, however, was trusting to the probable Scottish invasion, and saw in the events taking place more closely under his eyes no more than a chance of discrediting Cromwell and his associates. When the Army Council met on the 14th, the subject of continuing the negotiations had to be dropped. The position was well explained in a letter from a Royalist. "The secret disposition," he wrote, "is that there is no manner of agreement between the King and the army; all this negotiation having produced no other effect but to incline some of the chief officers not to consent to his destruction, which I believe they will not, unless they be overswayed; but cannot observe that they are so truly the King's as that they will pass the Rubicon for him, which if they could do, considering the inclination of the common soldiers, and generally of the people they might do what they would; but they are cold, and there is another faction of desperate fellows as hot as fire."
Almost, if not altogether, in despair, Cromwell sought a compromise with the Presbyterians on the basis of the temporary establishment of Presbyterianism as the national religion, with as large a toleration as he could persuade them to grant. When the House of Commons refused to extend toleration to the worship authorised by the Prayer Book, it was obvious that the scheme was not one which had a chance of obtaining the assent of Charles. Cromwell's hope of uniting Parliament and army in bringing pressure upon the King was as completely frustrated as his former hope of bringing about an understanding between the King and the army. His impotence could not but give encouragement to the other 'faction of desperate fellows as hot as fire' to demand a settlement on quite another basis from that on which Cromwell and the other army leaders had vainly attempted to found a Government.
In all his efforts, Cromwell's aim had been to strengthen the chances in favour of the new toleration by intertwining it with the old constitutional pillars of King and Parliament. His schemes, based as they were on a thoroughly political instinct which warned him against the danger of cutting the State adrift from its moorings, had broken down mainly in consequence of the resistance of the King. It was but natural that earnest men should seek new modes of gaining their ends when the old ones proved ineffective. As the years of revolution passed swiftly on, new and more drastic schemes appeared upon the surface, not, as is often said, because in some unexplained way revolutions tend in themselves to strengthen the hands of extreme men, but because the force of conservative resistance calls forth more violent remedies. The misgovernment of Buckingham and Laud had fostered the Parliamentary idea. The resistance of Parliament to toleration had led to the conception by the army leaders of the idea of Parliamentary reform, and now the failure of those leaders produced the plan of founding a government not on institutions sanctified by old use and wont, but on a totally new democratic system. Outside the army, the main supporter of the new principles was John Lilburne, who had been a lieutenant-colonel in Manchester's army before the formation of the New Model, a man litigious and impracticable, but publicspirited and prepared to accept the consequences of his actions on behalf of his fellow-citizens or of himself. During the troubles he spent a great part of his life in prison, and at the present time he had been more than a year in the Tower. He had a large following in the army, and early in October five regiments deposed their Agitators, and choosing new ones, set them to draw up a political manifesto which, under the name of The Case of the Army Truly Stated, was laid before Fairfax on the 18th.