« AnteriorContinuar »
on Cardenas, the Spanish ambassador, first, for liberty of trade in the Indies —not necessarily, so far as our information goes, for liberty of trade with Spanish possessions—and secondly for entire liberty of religion for English merchants and sailors in their own houses on Spanish soil and in their ships in Spanish ports—he not being satisfied with the offer of Spain to renew the stipulations of the treaty signed by Charles l., in which the Inquisition was debarred from acting against English Protestants so long as they created no scandal. Both demands were promptly rejected. “It is,” replied Cardenas, “to ask my master’s two eyes.” Oliver’s notion that he could attach a Spanish colony in the \Vest Indies and yet remain at peace with Spain, can only be explained by his admiration for Elizabethan methods, which led him to suppose that the existing Spanish Government would be as ready as that of Philip II. to put up with a_ system which kept peace in Europe whilst war was being waged in America. It is not, however, with problems of international morality that we are at present concerned. Before Blake could sail for the Mediterranean or Penn for the West Indies, Parliament would meet, and would be confronted by the fact that, in addition to his fleets, the Protector had on foot a land force of 57,000 men, a number exceeding by no less than 27,000 the 30,000 which the Instrument itself had laid down as the normal strength of the army. It is true that he could hardly have met his engagements with a smaller force. Ireland was only recently subdued and an insurrection against the English conquerors—known as Glencairn’s rising—was in full swing in Scotland, whilst the dread of a Royalist movement in England required the maintenance of more troops than would be needed in more peaceful times, whilst other regiments were already preparing for embarkation in the \Vest Indian fleet. \Vhen it was remembered that it was throughhis command of the services of these soldiers that Oliver had been raised to power, and that he could still count on their support to maintain him in it, can it be wondered at that, at a time when he called upon the nation to bear the burden of enterprises which he had originated without asking its consent, there should be some effort, on the part of a Parliament which had jcome to look upon
itself as representing the nation itself, to impose some limits upon the burdens which had already far outgrown even the prescriptions of the Instrument itself?
The elections to the first Protectorate Parliament were held under peculiar conditions. In the boroughs still permitted to return members, the old conditions existed, but in the counties to which a redistribution of seats had transferred the electoral power hitherto possessed by small villages under the influence of the neighbouring landowners, a uniform franchise of the ownership of real or personal property worth £200 had been established by the Instrument. So far as we can trace any direct issue before the constituencies, the elections turned on the approval or renunciation of the policy of the advanced party in the nominated Parliament, and on this the electorate gave no uncertain sound. That party was practically swept away, and a full approbation thereby accorded to the conservative policy which had been the main strength of the appeal made to the country by the new government. lt did not follow that the new constitution would meet with the same approbation. A not inconsiderable number of the Commonwealth men, such as Bradshaw and Hazlerigg, sore at their expulsion from the benches of the Long Parliament, had been returned, together with a goodly company of political Presbyterians, who might be expected to do their best to free Parliament from the shackles of the Instrument.
Under these circumstances, Oliver’s speech at the opening of Parliament was a masterpiece of skill. Dwelling on the points on which he and the majority of his hearers were in agreement, he kept out of sight those on which differences might arise. lle called for healing and settlement, for orderly government which might replace the confusions of the past and stem the tide of fanaticism in the present. He dwelt not on the extent of the liberty of conscience proclaimed in the Instrument, but on the restrictions imposed in that document, especially on such teachers as “under the profession of Christ, hold forth and practise lice-:tiousness.” He held up for acceptance the doctrine that, when such a result was to