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forces of Scotland and Ireland. For many years the problem of the relations between the three countries had been inviting a solution. Both Scotland and Ireland had social and political interests of their own, and the natural reluctance of the inhabitants of either country to see these merged in those of the wealthier and more numerous people of England would in any case have called for delicate handling. The rise for the first time of a powerful army in England made her relations with the two other countries even more difficult than before, and had contributed fully as much as zeal for Presbyterianism to the ridiculous scheme of re-establishing Charles I. as a covenanting King. After the defeat of Hamilton, indeed, Argyle and the Scottish clergy had welcomed Cromwell's support in the overthrow of the power of the nobility, but the dread of English predominance had not been entirely dispelled, and the King's execution added a sentimental grievance to other causes of alarm. In refusing to allow any English government to dispose of Scotland, the Scots were undoubtedly within their rights; but when on February 5 they proclaimed Charles II. not merely as King of Scotland, but as King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, they took up a position which no English government could allow to remain unchallenged, whilst in adding a condition that Charles was to be admitted to power only on his engagement to rule according to the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant, they put forward the monstrous claim to control the religious development of England and Ireland, as well as of their own country.
The necessity—according to these conditions—of coming to an understanding with Charles, made Scotland little dangerous for the moment, and enabled the English Parliament to turn its attention to Ireland, to which Charles I. had looked hopefully after the failure of the Hamilton invasion. Ormond, who had formerly headed Charles's partisans in Ireland, now returned to that country as the King's Lord Lieutenant, and brought under his leadership, not only his old followers, but the army of the Confederate Catholics. Though Owen O'Neill, at the head of an army raised amongst the Celts of Ulster, kept aloof, the way seemed open for Ormond to attack Dublin, which was now guarded by a Parliamentary garrison under Michael Jones, and was almost the only place in Ireland still holding out for England. As in Scotland, so in Ireland, the question was not so much whether England was to win forcible mastery over those portions of the British Isles outside her borders, as whether they were to be used to determine the political institutions of England herself. The attacks on Ireland and Scotland, which were now to follow, were in a certain sense acts of defensive warfare.
To no man more than Cromwell was this thought present. An Englishman of Englishmen—his bitterest complaint against the late King had been that he had attempted to 'vassalise' England to a foreign nation, and when on March 15 he was named to the command, he explained to his brother officers the reasons which inclined him to accept the post. "Truly," he said, "this is really believed :—If we do not endeavour to make good our interest there, and that timely, we shall not only have our interest rooted out there, but they will, in a very short time, be able to land forces in England and put us to trouble here; and I confess I have these thoughts with myself that perhaps may be carnal and foolish: I had rather be overrun with a Cavalierish interest than a Scottish interest; had rather be overrun by a Scottish interest than an Irish interest, and I think of all this is most dangerous; and, if they shall be able to carry on their work, they will make this the most miserable people in the earth; for all the world knows their barbarism—not of any religion almost any of them, but, in a manner, as bad as Papists—and truly it is thus far that the quarrel is brought to this State that we can hardly return into that tyranny that formerly we were under the yoke of . . . but we must at the same time be subject to the kingdom of Scotland and the kingdom of Ireland for the bringing in of the King. Now it should awaken all Englishmen who perhaps are willing enough he should have come in upon an accommodation; but now he must come in from Ireland or Scotland."
In these words are revealed the convictions that dominated Cromwell's action at this period of his life. So far as it lay in him, he would never admit that Scotland, still less that Ireland, should impose a government upon England. On July 12 he set out for Ireland. Before he could embark he received the welcome news that Michael Jones had defeated Ormond at Rathmines, and that Dublin was consequently out of danger. When he landed at Dublin, his intention was, as soon as possible, to make his way into Munster and rally round him the Protestant colonists who formed a considerable part of the population of the towns on the coast. It was, however, necessary first to protect Dublin from an attack from the north, from which quarter Owen O'Neill, who, after long hesitation, had thrown in his lot with Ormond, was expected to advance. Accordingly, on September 1, Cromwell marched upon Drogheda, which was held for the King by a garrison of about 2,800 men, mainly composed of Irishmen, under Sir Arthur Aston. On the 10th Cromwell summoned the place, and on the refusal of the governor to surrender opened a cannonade on the south-eastern angle. It was impossible for the garrison—short of ammunition as it was—to hold out long, and on the second day, when a breach had been effected, Cromwell gave the word to storm. The assailants, though twice driven back, were, on the third attempt, successful. Aston, with about three hundred men, took refuge on a huge artificial mound, known as the Mill Mount Angry at the prolonged resistance, Cromwell gave the word to put to the sword all who were in arms. The hasty word was ruthlessly obeyed, and some two thousand men were slaughtered in cold blood. There is no doubt that in what he did, Cromwell was covered by the strict law of war, which placed a garrison refusing surrender outside the pale of mercy; but the law had seldom been acted on in the English war, and it is permissible to doubt whether Cromwell would have acted on it on this occasion, if the defenders had been others than 'Irish Papists,' as he scornfully called them. The memory of the Ulster massacre of 1641, not merely as it really was, but accompanied by all the exaggerations to which it had been subjected by English rumour, was ever present to his mind, and he regarded every Irishman in arms, not as an honourable antagonist, but as either a murderer or a supporter of murderers.