Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

up by St. John, was brought to the House of Commons by himself and Vane. By them it was passed on to Hazlerigg, who in his turn passed it on to Sir Edward Dering, by whom it was actually moved in the House. As it was finally shaped in Committee, this bill, whilst absolutely abolishing archbishops, bishops, deans and chapters, transferred their ecclesiastical jurisdiction to bodies of Commissioners to be named by Parliament itself. v Cromwell evidently had no more desire than Falkland to establish the Church Courts of the Scottish Presbyterian system in England.'

This bill never passed beyond the Committee stage. It was soon overshadowed by the question whether Charles could be trusted or not. The discovery of the plots by which he had attempted to save Strafford's life, and the knowledge that he was now visiting Scotland with the intention of bringing up a Scottish army to his support against the Parliament at Westminster strengthened the hands of the party of Parliamentary supremacy, and left its leaders disinclined to pursue their ecclesiastical policy till they had settled the political question in their own favour. Important as Charles's own character—with its love of shifts and evasions—was in deciding the issue, it must not be forgotten that the crisis arose from a circumstance common to all revolutions. When a considerable change is made in the government of a nation, it is absolutely necessary, if orderly progress is to result from it, that the persons in authority shall be changed. The man or men by whom the condemned practices have been maintained cannot be trusted to carry out the new scheme, because they must of necessity regard it as disastrous to the nation. The success of the Revolution of 1688-89 was mainly owing to the fact that James was replaced by William; in 1641 neither was Charles inclined to fly to the Continent, nor were the sentiments of either party in the House such as to suggest his replacement by another prince, even if such a prince were to be found. All that his most pronounced adversaries—amongst whom Cromwell was to be counted—could suggest was to leave him the show and pomp of royalty, whilst placing him under Parliamentary control and doing in his name everything that he least desired to do himself. It was a hopeless position to be driven into, and yet, the feeling of the time being what it was, it is hard to see that any remedy could be found.

Before Charles returned from Scotland, which he had visited in the vain expectation of bringing back with him an army which might give him the control over the English Parliament, an event occurred which brought to light the disastrous impolicy of his opponents in leaving upon the throne the man who was most hostile to their ideas. The Irish Roman Catholic gentry and nobility, having been driven into Royalism by fear of Puritan domination, had agreed with Charles to seize Dublin and to use it as a basis from which to send him military aid in his struggle against the Parliament of England. In October 1641, before they could make up their minds to act, an agrarian outbreak occurred in Ulster, where the native population rose against the English and Scottish colonists who had usurped their lands. The rising took the form of outrage and massacre, calculated to arouse a spirit of vengeance in England, even if report had not outrun the truth—much more when the horrible tale was grossly exaggerated in its passage across the sea. Before long both classes of Roman Catholic Irishmen, the Celtic peasants of the North and the Anglo-Irish gentry of the South, were united in armed resistance to the English Government.

It was a foregone conclusion that an attempt to reconquer Ireland would be made from England. Incidentally the purpose of doing this brought to a point the struggle for the mastery at Westminster. If an army were despatched to Ireland it would, as soon as its immediate task had been accomplished, be available to strike a decisive blow on one side or the other. It therefore became all-important for each side to secure the appointment of officers who might be relied on—in one case to strike for the Crown, in the other case to strike for the Commons. Pym, who was leading his party in the House with consummate dexterity, seized the opportunity of asking, not merely that military appointments should be subject to Parliamentary control, but that the King should be asked to take only such councillors as Parliament could approve of. Cromwell was even more decided than Pym. The King having named five new bishops, in defiance of the majority of the Commons, it was Cromwell who moved for a conference with the Lords on the subject, and who, a few days later, asked for another conference, in which the Lords should be asked to join in a vote giving to the Earl of Essex power to command the trained bands south of the Trent for the defence of the kingdom, a power which was not to determine at the King's pleasure, but to continue till Parliament should take further order.

Cromwell was evidently for strong measures. Yet there are signs that now, as at other times in his life, he underestimated the forces opposed to him.v His allies in the Commons, Pym and Hampden at their head, were now bent on obtaining the assent of the House to the Grand Remonstrance, less as an appeal to the King than as a manifesto to the nation. The long and detailed catalogue of the King's misdeeds in the past raised no opposition. Hyde was as ready to accept it as Pym and Hampden. The main demands made in it were two: first, that the King would employ such councillors and ministers as the Parliament might have cause to confide in; and secondly, that care should be taken 'to reduce within bounds that exorbitant power which the prelates have assumed to themselves,' whilst maintaining' the golden reins of discipline,' and demanding 'a general synod of the most grave, pious, learned and judicious divines to consider all things necessary for the peace and good government of the Church'. So convinced was Cromwell that the Remonstrance would be generally acceptable to the House, that he expressed surprise when Falkland gave his opinion that it would give rise to some debate." It was perhaps because the Remonstrance had abandoned the position of the Root-and-Branch Bill and talked of limiting episcopacy, instead of abolishing it, that Cromwell fancied that it would gain adherents from both sides. He forgot how far controversy had extended since the summer months in which the Root-and-Branch Bill had been discussed, and how men who believed that, if only Charles could be induced to make more prudent appointments, intellectual liberty was safer under bishops than under any system likely to approve itself to a synod of devout ministers, had now rallied to the King.

It was, by this time, more than ever, a question whether Charles could be trusted, and Cromwell and his allies had far stronger grounds in denying than their opponents had in affirming that he could. After all, the ecclesiastical quarrel could never be finally

« AnteriorContinuar »