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As Cromwell stepped more pronouncedly to the front, his advocacy of religious liberty would become well-nigh irresistible.
On January I9, I644, the Scottish army, under the Earl of Leven, crossed the Tweed. Newcastle was pushed back into York, where he was besieged by the combined forces of Leven and the Fairfaxes. On May 6, Lincoln, which had been regained by the Royalists, was retaken by Manchester, who, taking Cromwell with him, pushed on to join in the siege of York. Rupert, however, sent hastily northward by Charles, succeeded in raising the siege; and on July 2 a battle was fought on Marston Moor, in which the Royalist army, successful at first, was utterly crushed by Cromwell’s skill. Having routed Rupert*s horse, he drew bridle and hurried back to the assistance of the Scottish infantry, which was holding its own against overwhelming numbers of the enemy. The King’s regiments of foot were routed or destroyed by his impetuons charge. Cromwell had redeemed the day after the three generals, Leven, Manchester and the elder Fairfax, had fled from that which they deemed to be a complete disaster. Before long the whole of the north of England, save a few outlying fortresses, was lost to the King.
In the south, matters were going badly for Parliament. \Valler’s army, checked at Cropredy Bridge, melted away by clesertion; whilst Essex, attempting an inroad into Cornwall, was followed by the King. Essex himself and his cavalry succeeded in making their escape, but on September ‘2 the whole of his infantry surrendered to Charles at Lostwithiel. Unless Manchester came to the rescue, it would be impossible to avert disaster. Manchester, however, was hard to move. Between him and his lieutenant-general there was no longer that good understanding which was essential to successful action. Manchester, longing for peace on the basis of a Puritan and Presbyterian settlement of the Church, could not be brought to understand that, whether such an ending to the war were desirable or not, it could never be obtained from Charles. Cromwell, on the other hand, aimed at religious toleration for the sects, and that security which, as his practical nature taught him,
was only attainable by the destruction of the military defences in
In Manchester the desire for peace showed itself in sheer reluctance
that if terms were offered for a peace such as might not stand with the ends that honest men should aim at, this army might prevent such a mischief." This attack on the Scots led to an attack on the English nobility, amongst whom the sects found scant favour. He hoped, he said in words long afterwards remembered against him, to “live to see never a nobleman in England.” lle is even said to have assured Manchester that it would never be well till he was known as plain Mr. Montague. Manchester persisted in doing nothing till a distinct order was given him to march to the defence of London, now laid open by Essex’s mishap.
Manchcster’s reluctance to engage in military operations was probably strengthened by the knowledge that Vane, who, since Pym’s death in the winter of I643, was the most prominent personage amongst the war party at \Vestminster, had come down to York, at the time of the siege, to urge the generals to consent to the deposition of the King, and he could not but suspect that the arrival of Charles Louis, Elector Palatine, the eldest surviving son of Charles’s sister Elizabeth, on August 30, had something to do with the design for placing him on his uncle’s throne. The design, if it really existed, came to nothing, probably because it was hopeless to carry it out in the teeth of the generals. It was only with the utmost difficulty that Manchester’s hesitation was overcome, and that he was induced to face Charles’s army at Newbury. The battle fought there on October 27 was a drawn one. That it did not end in a Parliamentary victory was mainly owing to Manchester’s indecision. \Vhen, a few days later, the King reappeared on the scene, he was allowed to relieve Donnington Castle, in the immediate neighbourhood of Newbury, no attempt whatever being made to hinder his operations. In the controversy which followed, Manchester went to the root of the matter when he said: “If we beat the King ninety and nine times, yet he is King still, and so will his posterity be after him; but if the King beat us once we shall all be hanged, and our posterity made slaves.” “ My Lord,” answered Cromwell, if this be so why did we take up arms at first?
This is against fighting ever hereafter. If so, let us make peace, be it never so base.” Each of the two men had fixed upon one side of the problem which England was called upon to solve. lllanchester was appalled by the political difficulty. There stood the Kingship accepted by generation after generation, fenced about with safeguards of law and custom, and likely to be accepted in one form or another by generations to come. A single decisive victory gained by Charles would not only expose those who had dared to make war on him to the hideous penalties of the law of treason—but would enable him to measure the terms of submission by his own resolves. If Manchester had had the power of looking into futurity, he would have argued that no military success—not even the abolition of monarchy, and the execution of the n1onarch—would avail to postpone the restoration of Charles’s heir for more than a little while.
Cromwell’s reply did not even pretend to meet the difficulty. It was not in him to forecast the prospects of kingship in England, or to vex his mind with the consequences of a problematical Royalist victory. It was enough for him to grasp the actual situation. It is true that, at this time, he had not got beyond the position from which the whole of the Parliamentary party had started at the beginning of the war-the position that the war must be ended by a compact between King and Parliament. To Cromwell, therefore, whose heart was set upon the liberation of those who, in his eyes. were the people of God, and the overthrow of that which he regarded as a substitution of ceremonial observances for the religion of the heart, the immediate duty of the moment was to secure that, when the time of negotiation arrived, the right side should be in possession of sufficient military force to enable it to dictate the terms of peace. It was his part not to consider what the King might do if he proved victorious, but to take good care that he was signally defeated. Strangeito say, the folly of the Presbyterian party-——strong in the two Houses, and in the support of the Scottish army, was playing into Cromwell’s hands. On November 20. ten
days after Cromwell’s altercations with Manchester, Parliament sent to Oxford terms of peace so harsh as to place their acceptance outside the bounds of possibility. The royal power was to be reduced to a cipher, whilst such a form of religion as might be agreed upon by the Houses, in accordance with the Covenant, was to be imposed on all Englishmen, without toleration either for the sects favoured by Cromwell, or for the Church of Andrewes and Laud which found one of its warmest and most conscientious supporters in Charles. Every man in the three kingdoms, including the King himself, was to be bound to swear to the observance of the Covenant. Such a demand naturally met with stern resistance. “There are three things,” replied Charles, “I will not part with-the Church, my crown, and my friends; and you will have much ado to get them from me.” It needed no action on the part of Cromwell to secure the failure of such a negotiation, and, as far as we are aware, no word passed his lips in public on the subject.
On November 25, Cromwell appeared in Parliament to urge on the one thing immediately necessary, the forging of an instrument by which the King might be ruined in the field. It was much that the existing military system by which separate armies, to a great extent composed of local forces, and therefore unable to subordinate local to national objects, had been placed under commanders selected for their political or social eminence, had completely broken down. So far was this recognised that, two days before Cromwell’s arrival at \Vestminster, a committee had been appointed, without opposition, to _“consider of a frame or model of the whole militia." It was perhaps to assist the committee to come to a right conclusion that upon his arrival at VI-iestminster, Cromwell indignantly assailed Manchester as guilty of all the errors which had led to the deplorable result at Newbury. Manchester was not slow in throwing all the blame on Cromwell, and it seemed as if theigravest political questions were to be thrust aside by a personal altercation. So angry were the Scottish members of the Committee of both kingdoms, a body which had recently been appointed