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recently by the army leaders in The Heads of the Proposals. What was new was that they proposed in the first place to secure religious freedom and other rights by the erection of a paramount law unalterable by Parliament; and in the second place to establish a single House of Parliament—all mention of King or House of Lords was avoided—with full powers to call executive ministers to account—a House which was to be elected by manhood suffrage—an innovation which they justified on the ground that 'all power is originally and essentially in the whole body of the people of this nation '. It was a complete transition from the principles of the English Revolution to those of the French.
Against the foundation of a government on abstract principles, Cromwell's whole nature—consonant in this with that of the vast majority of the English people— rose in revolt On the 20th he poured out his soul in the House of Commons in a three-hours' speech in praise of monarchy, urging the House to build up the shattered throne, disclaiming on behalf of the whole body of officers any part in the scheme of the party of the new Agitators, who were now beginning to be known as Levellers. It was to no purpose. Monarchy without a King was itself but an abstract principle, and Charles would accept no conditions which would not leave him free to shake off any constitutional shackles imposed upon him. Only four days before the delivery of Cromwell's speech, Charles had assured the French Ambassador that he trusted in the divisions in the army, which would be sure to drive one or other of the disputants to his side.
The immediate result of Charles's resolution to play with the great questions at issue was an attempt by Cromwell and the officers to come to terms with the Levellers. On October 28 a meeting of the Army Council was held in Putney Church, to which several civilian Levellers were admitted, the most prominent of whom was Wildman, formerly a major in a now-disbanded regiment. Fairfax being out of health, Cromwell took the chair. The Agitators put the question in a common-sense form. "We sought," one of them said, "to satisfy all men, and it was well; but, in going to do it, we have dissatisfied all men. We have laboured to please the King; and, I think, except we go about to cut all our throats, we shall not please him; and we have gone to support a House which will prove rotten studs.' I mean the Parliament, which consists of a company of rotten members." Cromwell and Ireton—theycontinued—had attempted to settle the kingdom on the foundations of King and Parliament, but it was tc be hoped that they would no longer persist in this course. Ireton could but answer that he would never join those who refused to
'attempt all ways that are possible to preserve both, and to make good use, and the best use that can be of both, for the kingdom'. The practical men had become dreamers, whilst the dreamers had become practical men. The Levellers, at least, had a definite proposal to make, whilst Cromwell and Ireton had none. Since the appearance of The Case of the Army, the Agitators had reduced its chief requirements into a short constitution of four articles, which they called The Agreement of the People intending, it would seem, to send it round the country for subscription, thus submitting it to what, in modern days, would be called a plebiscite, though apparently it was to be a plebiscite in which only affirmative votes were to be recorded. Nothing could be more logical than this attempt to find a basis of authority in the popular will, if the other basis of authority, the tradition of generations, was to be of necessity abandoned.
Cromwell, of all men in the world, was reduced to mere negative criticism. The proposal of the Agitators, he admitted, was plausible enough. "If," he said, "we could leap out of one condition into another that had so precious things in it as this hath, I suppose there would not be much dispute; though perhaps some of these things may be well disputed; and how do we know if, whilst we a -e disputing these things, another company of men shall gather together, and they shall put out a paper is plausible as this? I do
not know why it may not be done by that time you have agreed upon this, or got hands to it, if that \m the way; and not only another and another, but marm of this kind; and if so, what do you think the consequence would be? Would it not be confusion? . . . But truly I think we are not only to consider what the consequences are . . . but we are to consider the probability of the ways and means to accomplish it, that is to say that, according to reason and judgment, the spirits and temper of this nation are prepared to receive and go along with it, and that those great difficulties which lie in our way are in a likelihood to be either overcome or removed. Truly to anything that's good, there's no doubt on it, objections may be made and framed, but let every honest man consider whether or no these be not very reasonable objections in point of difficulty; and I know a man may answer all difficulties with faith, and faith will answer all difficulties really where it is, as we are very apt all of us to call faith that perhaps may be but carnal imagination and carnal reasoning."
Not a word had Cromwell to say on behalf of any possible understanding with the King. All that he could do was to stave off a declaration in favour of the establishment of a democratic Republic, by proposing that the Army Council should reduce into formal shape the engagements entered upon at Newmarket and Triploe Heath. As those engagements had been put forward as demands to Parliament— not to the King, this suggestion at least thrust aside for the time being the thorny question of the possibility of coming to an understanding with Charles. Cromwell's proposal, however, was not likely to secure unanimity. Wildman, on behalf of the Levellers, refused to be bound by engagements which he personally held to be unjust. On this Cromwell asked for the appointment of a committee to examine this question, as well as any others upon which there was a difference of opinion. He pleaded with his audience not to approach the matters in controversy 'as two contrary parties' His hearers were in no temper to profit by the suggestion. Wildman threw out a hint that if Parliament were to patch up an arrangement with the King, it would detract from natural right. The expression at once divided the assembly into two camps. Ireton declared that there was no such thing as natural right. Cromwell asked for the appointment of a committee to discuss the questions that had been raised about the engagements of the army. A Captain Audley sensibly urged the controversialists to remember that it was no time for empty disputation. "If we tarry long," he said, "the King will come and say who will be hanged first." Neither Audley's judicious remark, nor Cromwell's words thrown in from time to time in favour of peace, could stop the wrangle, which at least served to draw from Cromwell the