Imágenes de páginas

methods by which he intended to work, though he never had any doubt of the object against which his energies were to be directed. He had contended first against irresponsible monarchical power, then in turn against military anarchy, Presbyterian tyranny, the political supremacy of the army, and abstract theories of government. He was ready to meet each danger as it arose, with the help of all who, whatever their opinions on other points might be, were ready to join him in attacking the abuse which he wished at the time to abate. If, like Ludlow, they persisted in looking too far ahead, there was nothing for it but to silence them, if it were but by flinging cushions at their heads

In the Spring of 1648 Cromwell and his political allies had thus to deal with a very complicated situation. They had to face not merely Charles's intrigue with the Scots, but also the widely spread discontent in England. Especially in the towns, men were weary of military dictation, and of the increased taxation by which the army was supported. Parliament too was as unpopular as the army. Englishmen were no less weary of the prolonged uncertainty which neither army nor Parliament seemed capable of bringing to an end. In their longing for a settled government, a considerable part of the population turned their eyes to the throne, as the ancient basis of authority and order. If England had been polled, there would probably have been a large majority in favour of Charles's restoration to power, and yet, it was precisely amongst those whose system was most democratic that the most intense opposition to a restoration was to be found.

To Cromwell, man of order and discipline as he was, a restoration unaccompanied with security against the old mischief was intolerable. Of his own disinterestedness he gave at this time undeniable proof. Parliament having granted him lands valued at £1,680 a year, proceeded to reduce his pay at the same time that it reduced that of other officers, by the large sum of £1,825. Far from taking umbrage at this diminution of his income, he presented not less than £5,000 to the public cause, and also abandoned the arrears due to him, which at that time amounted to £1,500. Certainly dangers were gathering thickly. An intercepted letter from the King's agent at the Hague disclosed Charles's expectation to be succoured not only by an Irish army but by a Dutch one. Common prudence taught Cromwell to do everything in his power to conciliate any party that might stand by his side against so extensive a combination. When his scheme for placing the Prince of Wales on the throne was revived about the middle of March, some of the Episcopal clergy preferred an understanding with the army to an understanding with the Scots. Towards the end of the month, Cromwell was still in negotiation with members of the Royalist party, the purport of which it is impossible to define, but which probably had its rise in his persistent desire to maintain royalty in some shape or form as a basis of order. It is at least certain that he gained much obloquy from his own party. "I know," he wrote to a friend, "God has been above all ill reports, and will in His own time vindicate me. I have no cause to complain." It was never Cromwell's way to answer calumny by a public explanation of his conduct.

At last, however, Cromwell came to the conclusion that nothing was to be hoped from an understanding with the Royalists; and it therefore became more necessary to secure the co-operation of the English Presbyterians. An attempt to win the City Magistrates by concessions was, however, promptly repulsed. On April 6 it became known in London that Charles had all but succeeded in effecting his escape, and on the 9th a City mob was rushing westwards along the Strand with the intention of overpowering the soldiers at Whitehall and the Mews. A charge of cavalry ordered by Cromwell drove them back, but it was not till the following day that the tumult was suppressed. All this while the Hamilton party, which was keen for an invasion of England, was gaining strength in Scotland. So black did the outlook become that one more appeal was made to the King, and there are strong reasons for believing that he was warned that, if he persisted in refusing compliance to the demands made upon him—whatever they may have been—Parliament would proceed, on April 24, to depose him, and to crown the Duke of York, who was still in their hands, as James II. Charles replied by sanctioning a plan for his son's escape, and before the appointed day arrived the boy was well on his way to the Continent.

The first resistance to Parliament came from an unexpected quarter. As early as on February 22, Colonel Poyer, the Governor of Pembroke Castle, had refused to deliver up his charge till his arrears had been paid, and on March 23 he had proceeded to seize the town. At first no more than a local difficulty was apprehended, and Colonel Horton was despatched to suppress the rising. On his arrival he wrote that he was likely to have the whole of South Wales on his hands. Almost at the same time it was known at Westminster that a Scottish army was actually to be raised. Presbyterian as was the majority of the English Parliament, it had no mind to have even its favourite religion established by an invading army of Scots, especially as that army would be the army of the Scottish nobility, who were supposed not to feel any warm attachment to the Presbyterian cause except so far as their own interests were connected with it. It was the hesitation of the English Presbyterians between their political and their ecclesiastical aims which alone could have given a free hand to Fairfax and Cromwell. It was Cromwell who, seconded by Vane, carried a vote in the House for granting concessions which the City under the pressure of the recent intelligence, was now prepared to accept as satisfactory. A further vote that the House would not alter the fundamental government of the kingdom by King, Lords and Commons, was supported by the leading Independents. The House then proceeded to declare itself ready to concur in a settlement on the ground of the propositions laid before the King at Hampton Court, that is to say, on the ground of the establishment of Presbyterianism without any liberty of conscience whatsoever. Whether Cromwell was in his place when the last two votes were taken is uncertain. At all events we can hardly be wrong in supposing that he had no objection to the Presbyterians amusing themselves with another hopeless negotiation whilst the army took the field. He had had too much experience of Charles's character as a diplomatist to imagine that he was likely to aim at anything more than hoodwinking his opponents till the time came when he might deem it advisable to hoodwink his allies.

Cromwell's presence was imperatively needed at head-quarters, which were now established at Windsor. He found the army in an agitated condition, and we

« AnteriorContinuar »