Imágenes de páginas

of Philip IV. as—thanks to the brush of Velasquez— they meet us in every noted gallery in Europe, are not those of a man remarkable for wisdom, but he had none of the lingering hesitancy of his grandfather, Philip II. He ordered the seizure of the property of English merchants in Spanish harbours; and Oliver, after balancing for two years between France and Spain, had the question decided by his own mistaken belief that the world of Elizabeth remained unchanged. The breach with Spain necessitated a reconsideration of the relations between England and France. Ever since his accession to the Protectorate, Oliver had evaded the demands of the French Ambassador, Bordeaux, for a cessation of the war of reprisals at sea which had been bequeathed him by the Commonwealth. As English privateers captured more prizes than those of the French, he was in no hurry to bring the situation to an end till he obtained of Mazarin, the virtual ruler of France, a tacit understanding that the Huguenots should no longer be maltreated, and an express undertaking to expel from France the English Royal family and the chief Royalists in attendance on the exiled Court. Whilst these questions were still under discussion, an event occurred which, more than any other single action in his life, brought into relief the higher side of Cromwell's character and policy. In January, 1655, the young Duke of Savoy —or rather his mother, who, though he had come to years of discretion, acted in his name—ordered that the Vaudois, whose religion, though now akin to the Protestantism of the seventeenth century, dated from mediaeval times, should be removed from the plain at the foot of the Piedmontese Valleys into which they had spread, to the upper and barer reaches, on the pretext that they had broken the bounds assigned them by his ancestors. In April his troops entered the valley, slaying and torturing as they went. When the news reached England in May, Oliver's heart was moved to its depths. He ordered a day of humiliation to be held, and a house-to-house visitation to collect money for the sufferers. Upwards of £38,000 was gathered in the end, the Protector heading the list with £2,000. He sent a Minister to Turin to remonstrate, but his warmest appeals were addressed to Mazarin, the all-powerful Minister of Louis XIV., as some French troops, acting as allies of the Duke in his war against the Spaniards in Italy, had been concerned in the massacre. Mazarin was plainly told that there would be no treaty with France till these massacres were stopped. The French Minister had been so long deluded of his hope of a treaty that this threat alone might not have terrified him, but he feared that Oliver would hire the Protestant Swiss to take part against the Duke of Savoy, and that all thought of fighting the Spaniards in Italy would have to be laid aside for that year. Communications passed

between Paris and Turin, and the Duke of Savoy issued his pardon—such was the term employed—to the surviving Vaudois.

Milton's sonnet marks well this highest point of the Protector's action upon Continental States:—

Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold;
Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshipped stocks and stones

Forget not: in thy book record their groans

Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold
Slain by the bloody Piedmontese, that rolled
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans

The vales redoubled to the hills, and they

To heaven. Their martyred blood and ashes sow
O'er all the Italian fields, where still doth sway

The triple Tyrant; that from these may grow
A hundred fold, who having learnt thy way
Early may fly the Babylonian woe.

In championing the Vaudois, Oliver's Puritanism had served the noblest interests of humanity. With somewhat of the poet's fervour Milton saw in the defence of the oppressed victims of the Duke of Savoy a challenge to the spiritual tyranny of Papal Rome. It made Oliver, we may be sure, more ready to take up the challenge of Spain, and to come to terms with the French Government which had spoken on the side of tolerance. Yet, enthusiastically Puritan as he was, he could not deal with the external affairs of England from a merely or even a mainly religious point of view. His position would not allow it—nor his character. The mingling of spiritual with worldly motives might produce strange results. At one time it elevated and ennobled action. At another time the two motives might clash together, the one frustrating the other. In the stand taken by Oliver on behalf of the Vaudois, the spiritual had predominated over the material aim. In the breach with Spain, his belief in the predominance of the religious motive burnt strongly in Oliver's own mind: it was less conspicuous to onlookers.

The first result of the quarrel between England and Spain was the conclusion of a commercial treaty with France, which put an end to the war of reprisals which had now lasted more than six years. All question of a closer alliance was reserved, perhaps rather because it demanded time for consideration than because there was any doubt in Oliver's mind as to his intention in the matter. Before the war had been far prolonged the exiled King took refuge in the Spanish Netherlands, holding close communication with Englishmen who plotted the destruction of the Protector, whilst privateers issuing from Dunkirk and Ostend preyed upon English commerce and irritated the London merchants who had no enthusiasm for a religious war, and who regretted the loss of their goods seized in Spanish ports. In the spring and summer of 1656 the necessity of doing something against an active enemy established so near the English coast would have driven Oliver into the arms of France

even if he had not already contemplated such an alliance. Yet it was during these very months that the desired end seemed to be eluding his grasp. Mazarin, unwilling to allow an English garrison to occupy Dunkirk as the price of the Protector's alliance, was doing his best to come to terms with Spain, which would have enabled him to dispense with English aid. It was not till the approach of autumn that the French Minister, discovering that his overtures to Philip IV. had been made in vain, bowed to the inevitable, and agreed to hand over Dunkirk to England, if it could be wrested from Spain by the united effort of the two countries. What a vista was opened up of vast military and naval expenditure by the mere enunciation of such a project! The reduction of the army in the summer of 1655 could hardly be maintained under these altered circumstances; and with an increased army and navy, what chance was there for that government according to the Instrument which had been the corner-stone of Oliver's domestic policy?

The difficulty was the greater because in the summer of 1656 it appeared that the plan of policing the country by a militia under Major-Generals had broken down financially. Meetings of officers were summoned in June to discuss the situation, and though the Protector was at first inclined to raise

fresh taxation on his own sole authority, he soon re

« AnteriorContinuar »