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by a general election. The plan thus agreed on was carried into practice on the morning of the 6th, when Colonel Pride stood with a military guard at the door of the House, turning back or arresting the members who had voted for a continuance of the negotiation with the King. \Vhen Cromwell returned to Westminster, on the evening of the same day, he declared that he had not “ been acquainted with the design; yet, since it was done, he was glad of it, and would endeavour to maintain it.” As “Pride’s purge” had not been resolved on before the previous night it was physically impossible that he should have been informed of the resolution taken. There can be little doubt that he had given his sanction to the other plan ofa dissolution, and had also concurred in the language ascribed to Ireton and Harrison on the previous evening. “\Vhere,” they had said of the House, “have we either law, warrant, or commission to purge it, or can anything justify us in doing it but the height of necessity to save the kingdom from a new war that they, with the conjunction of the King, will presently vote and declare for, and to procure a new and free representative, and so successive and free representatives, which this present Parliament will never suffer, and without which the freedoms of the nation are lost and gone ! ” It will be worth while to remember these words, when at last the continuance of the now truncated Parliament was brought to an end.
It was Cromwell’s habit to accept the second best, when the best proved unattainable. As to subjecting the King to a traitor’s death, Cromwell, as on so many other occasions, exercised a moderating influence. Ireton, it seems, would have been satisfied if Charles were tried and sentenced, after which he might be left in prison till he consented “to abandon his negative voice, to part from Church lands” and “to abjure the Scots.” Cromwell even wanted the trial itself to be deferred. By a small majority the Army Council resolved that Charles’s life should be spared. As a last effort in this direction, Lord Denbigh was despatched to \Vindsor—to which place Charles had been removed—to lay before him conditions on which he might yet be permitted to live. Charles, who cannot but have known the nature of the overtures he brought, refused even to see the messenger. Though no
THE NEVV MODEL ARMY AND THE KING. 103
direct evidence has reached us, it can hardly be doubted that the terms offered included the renunciation of the negative voice and the abandonment of the Church, that is to say, of Bishops’ lands, or in other words, the abandonment of the control over legislation and of episcopacy. Here at last Charles found no possibility of evasion, and driven as he was to the wall, the true gold which was in him overlaid by so much ignorance and wrong-headcdness was revealed in all its purity. For him the only question was whether he should betray the ordinance of God in Church and State. The incapable ruler—the shifty intriguer—was at once revealed as the sufferer for conscience sake.
Neither Cromwell nor his brother-officers had an inkling of this. To them Charles, in refusing this final overture, had asserted his right to be the persecutor of the godly and the obstructor of all beneficent legislation. Their patience was at length exhausted. On January 1, 1649, an ordinance was sent up to the Lords creating a High Court of Justice for the trial of the King, accompanied by a resolution that “ by the fundamental laws of this kingdom it is treason in the King of England for the time being to levy war against the Parliament and Kingdom of England." “If any man whatsoever,” said Cromwell when this ordinance was under debate, “hath carried on the design of deposing the King, and disinheriting his posterity; or, if any man hath yet such a design, he should be the greatest traitor and rebel in the world; but since the Providence of God hath cast this upon us, I cannot but submit to Providence, though I am not yet provided to give you advice.” In the last words were the last symptoms of hesitation on Cromwell’s part. Somehow or another all his efforts to save Charles from destruction had failed, and it was as much in Cromwell’s nature to attribute the failure to Providence as it was in Charles’s nature to regard himself as the earthly champion of the laws of God.
The House of Lords having refused to pass the ordinance, the House of Commons declared “the people to be, under God, the original of all just power,” and in consequence, “the Commons of England in Parliament assembled” to be capable of giving the force of law to their enactments. From this time forth the name of an Act was given to the laws passed
by a single House. On January 6, such an Act erected a High Court of Justice for the trial of the King, on the ground that he had had a wicked design to subvert his people’s rights, and with this object had levied war against them, and also, having been spared, had continued to raise new commotions. Therefore, that no chief officer or magistrate might hereafter presume to contrive the enslaving or destroying of the nation, certain persons were appointed by whom Charles Stuart was to be tried.
Having once given his consent to the trial, Cromwell threw himself into the support of the resolution with all his vigour. “l tell you,” he replied to some scruples of young Algernon Sidney on the score of legality, “we will cut off his head with the crown upon it.” When a majority of the members of the Court refused to sit; when divisions of opinion arose amongst those who took their places; when difficulties, in short, of any kind arose, it was Cromwell who was ready with exhortation and persuasion to complete the work which they had taken in hand. His arguments appear to have been directed not to the technical point whether Charles had levied war against the nation or not, but to convince all who would listen that there had been a breach of trust in his refusal to do his utmost for the preservation of the people. Charles, on the other hand, maintained, as he was well entitled to do, that he was not being tried by any known law, and that the violence used against him would lead to the establishment of a military despotism over the land. Nothing he could say availed to change the determination of the grim masters of the hour. On January 27, sentence of death was pronounced by Bradshaw, the President of the Court, and on the 30th this sentence was carried into execution on a scaffold erected in front of the Banqueting House of his own palace of \Vhitehall.
That Cromwell, once his mind made up, had contributed more than any other to this result can hardly be doubted. lf we are to accept a traditional story which has much to recommend it, we have something of a key to his state of mind. “The night after King Charles was beheaded,” we are told, “my Lord Southampton and a friend of his got leave to sit up by the body in the Banqueting House at \Vhitehall. As they were sitting
HENRY HARTE N (on In/I), after Sir Peter Lely; JOHN BRADSHA\V (on I‘/g/Ill