« AnteriorContinuar »
in Saffron \Valden Church, was told that no one present would volunteer for Ireland unless a satisfactory answer were given to four questions: \Vhat regiments were to be kept up in England? Who was to command in Ireland? \Vhat was to be the assurance for the pay and maintenance of the troops going to Ireland? Finally, what was to be done to secure the arrears due to the men and indemnity for military actions in the past war which a civil court might construe into robbery and murder? In addition to these demands, a petition was drawn up in the name of the soldiers, asking for various concessions, of which the principal ones concerned the arrears and the indemnity. If the Presbyterian leaders had been possessed of a grain of common sense, they would have seen how hopeless it was to retain the submission of an army of whose material interests they were so oblivious. As it was, they treated the action of the soldiers as mere mutiny, summoned the leading officers to the bar, and declared all who supported the petition to be enemies of the State and disturbers of the peace.
Cromwell’s position was one of great difficulty. As a soldier and a man of order, he abhorred any semblance of mutiny, and he had shown by his readiness to accept a command in Germany that he had no wish to redress the balance of political forces by throwing his sword into the scale; but it did not need his distrust of the political capacity of the Presbyterian leaders to help him to the conclusion that they were wholly in the wrong in their method of dealing with the army. It was not a case in which soldiers refused to obey the commands of their superiors in accordance with the terms of their enlistment. They were asked to undertake new duties, and in the case of those who were expected to betake themselves to Ireland, actually to volunteer for a new service, and yet, forsooth, were to be treated as mutineers, because they asked for satisfaction in their righteous claims.
Cromwell, even if he had wishcd to oppose the army to the Parliament, would have had nothing to do but to sit still, whilst his opponents accumulated blunder after blunder. The House of Commons being unable to extract any signs of yielding from the officers it had summoned to the bar, sent them
back to their posts. It then appointed Skippon, a good discipliiiariaii, of no special repute as a general, to command in Ireland; after which it, without offering in any way to meet the soldiers’ demands, sent a new body of commissioners, amongst whom was Sir \Villiam \Valler, now a stout adherent of the Presbyterian cause, to urge on the formation of a new army for Ireland. The commissioners, on their arrival at Saffron \Valden, were not slow in discovering that the officers did not take kindly to the idea of Skippon’s command. “ Fairfax and Cromwell,” they shouted, “and we all goi.” The commissioners gained the promise of a certain number of officers and soldiers to go to Ireland; but, on the whole, their mission was a failure. They had not been empowered to offer payment of arrears, and, as they ought to have foreseen, the indignation of the large number of soldiers who complained that they were being cheated of their pay, threw power into the hands of the minority, known as the “Godly party,” which held forth the doctrine that, now that Parliament was shrinking from the fulfilment of its duty, it was time for the army to step forward as a political power, and to secure the settlement of the nation on the basis of civil and religious liberty. The idea was also entertained amongst them that it would be easier for the army than it had been for Parliament to come to terms with the King, and that it was for the soldiers to fetch him from Holmby and to replace him, on fair conditions, on the throne.
Of Cromwell’s feelings during these weeks we have little evidence. From the house which, since the preceding year, he had occupied with his family in Drury Lane, he watched events, without attempting to modify them. In the latter part of April, both he and Vane, who was now his fast friend, with a friendship cemented by a common interest in religious liberty, absented themselves, save on a few rare occasions, from the sittings of Parliament. The incalculable stupidity of the Presbyterian leaders must have made him more than ever doubtful of the possibility of getting from them a remedy for the evils of the nation. By the end of April it was known that only 2,320 soldiers had volunteered for Ireland. Then, and not till then, Parliament came to the conclusion that something ought to be done about the arrears, and ordered that
I From the Painting by Sir Peter Lely, in the collection of the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, at Gnodwood House, Sussex.