« AnteriorContinuar »
Council the right of examining and rejecting elected members, a right which was now exercised in the rejection of at least ninety~three hostile members. Such action was only possible now because the majority of those admitted to their seats, whether through the pressure put upon the country by the Major-Generals, or because they looked with more hopefulness to the Protector, was now prepared to give him their support. In the speech with which Oliver opened the session on September I7, he did his best to rouse the indignation of his hearers against Spain. “\Vhy, truly,” he urged, “your great enemy is the Spaniard. He is a natural enemy. He is naturally so; he is naturally so throughout—by reason of that enmity that is in him against whatsoever is of God.” It was the key-note of Oliver’s feeling in this matter in his more exalted mood. I-Iis sentiments as a patriotic Englishman found vent in a long catalogue of wrongs suffered from Spaniards from Elizabeth’s time to his own. His defiance of Spain was followed by an attack on Charles Stuart,—now dwelling on Spanish soil, and hopefully looking to Spain for troops to replace him on the throne —in which he referred to him as “acaptain to lead us back into Egypt." Then came a retrospect on the Cavalier plots and a justification of the Major-Generals, who had been established to repress them. The war with Spain must be prosecuted vigorously—in other words, money must be voted to maintain the struggle at home and abroad. Oliver’s speech did not all turn upon what ordinary men term politics. “ Make it a shame,” he cried, “to see men bold in sin and profaneness, and God will bless you. You will be a blessing to the nation; and by this will be more repairers of breaches than by anything in the world. Truly these things do respect the souls of men, and the spirits—which are the men. The mind is the man. If that be kept pure, a man signifies somewhat; if not, I would very fain see what difference there is betwixt him and a beast. He hath only some activity to do some more mischief.” It was the voice of ;the higherbecause more universal—Puritanism, which rang in these words, a voice which soared to worlds above the region of ceremonial form or doctrinal dispute, echoing, as from the lips of a man of practical wrestlings with the
world, the voice of the imaginative poet who, in the days of his youth, had taught that
So dear to Heaven is saintly chastity
That, when a soul is found sincerely so,
A thousand liveried angels lackey her,
Tell her of things that no gross ear can hear,
And turns it by degrees to the soul*s essence
Oliver had to touch earth again with a financial statement and to crave for Parliamentary supplies. A demand for money was not particularly welcome to the members, and they preferred to wrangle for some weeks over the case of James Naylor, a fanatic who had allowed himself to be greeted as the Messiah by his feminine admirers. In October, news came that Stayner, in command ofa detachment from Blake’s fleet, had destroyed or captured a part of the Plate Fleet off the Spanish coast, and in the following month the carts were rolling through the London streets on their way to the Tower with silver worth £200,000. Emboldened by this success, Oliver’s confidants brought in a bill perpetuating the decimation of the Royalists by act of Parliament. The bill was rejected, and hard words were spoken of the Major-Generals. Oliver accepted the decision of the House, and the Major-Generals were withdrawn.
There is good reason to believe that Oliver consented willingly to the vote. He was never one to persist in methods once adopted, if he could obtain his larger aims in some other way. The debates had revealed that the House was divided into two parties, a minority clinging to the army as a political force, and a majority calling for the establishment of the government on a civil basis. The latter was even more devoted to the Protector than the former, and Oliver, who in his heart concurred with their views, was prepared, as
indeed he had been prepared in I654, to submit the Instrument to revision.
The difference was that he was assured now—as he had not been assured then—that Parliament would sustain the fundamental principles which he regarded as the most precious part of the constitution.
In January, -1657, a fresh attempt to assassinate the Protector—this time by Miles Sindercombe—gave reason, or perhaps excuse, for loyal demonstrations, and a month later, the House entered upon the discussion of a proposal for a constitutional revision ultimately known as T/ze Humble Petition and Advice, of which the article which attracted the most general attention was that which reconstituted the Kingship in the person of Oliver, with the power of nominating his own successor. The demand for the revival of the Kingship was no mere work of zealous flatterers. The crown was held in the House to be the symbol of civilian, as opposed to military government, and the offer of it was therefore assailed by the leading officers, headed by Lambert who, in I653, had offered the crown to the man to whom he now refused it. Lambert’s motives are, at this time, difficult to unravel. Possibly he regarded a Kingship by the grace of Parliament less ofa boon than a Kingship by the grace of the army. Still more probably was he moved by a personal grievance in seeing Fleetwood, who had now returned from Ireland, higher than himself in the favour of the Protector, perhaps even in the favour of the army. In any case he carried on the campaign with consummate skill, keeping aloof from the constitutional question, and throwing all his strength into the argument—which the rudest soldier could understand—that the army had not rejected one king in order to set up another. When he won over Fleetwood and Disbrowe, the son-in-law and brother-in-law of the Protector, to his side, he had practically won the game, especially as he was able to back a petition against a revival of the Royal title by the subscription of a hundred officers. Oliver kept up the negotiation with Parliament as long as he could, but in the end he refused the crown offered to him rather than alienate the army. The remaining articles of the Humble Petition and Advice were then agreed to, and on June 26, Oliver was solemnly installed as Protector. under a Parliamentary title, with all but Royal pomp at \Vestminster Hall.
Too much has been made by some modern writers of Oliver’s defeat on the question of the Kingship. The title, as he himself truly said, would have been but a feather in his cap. It is doubtful whether its acceptance would have disarmed a single enemy. The rocks upon which the Protector was running were of a far too substantial character to be removed by the assumption of an ill-fitting symbol. Whether he wore a crown or not, no one could have regarded Oliver as Charles I. had been regarded; or even as \Villiam III., who in some sort continued the Protector’s work, came afterwards to be regarded.
Apart from the really unimportant question of the crown, the military party had been beaten all along the line. Not only had the Major-Generals disappeared, and Lambert himself, driven to surrender all his offices, military or civil, retired to the cultivation of tulips at \Vimbledon; but the Humble Petition and Advice, that is to say, a Parliamentary constitution, had entirely displaced the Instrument of government as the fundamental law of the three nations. The more important of the stipulations of the new constitution were necessarily of the nature of a compromise. In return for the establishment of a second House composed of his own nominees, the Protector was able to abandon the claim of the Council to exclude members of what must now be regarded as the House of Commons—seeing that a vote with which he was dissatisfied would be of no avail if it was no more than the vote of a single House. Nor was it only an occasional check on the old House that he had gained. The new House was, in the first place, nominated by himself, and was endowed with the right of excluding from its benches any new member nominated by himself or by a future Protector. As he took care to name no one who was not a strong Puritan and devoted to the Protectorate, he expected that the new llouse would be able, for all time, to reject legislation contrary to the interests of Puritanism or to the Protectoral constitution. The question of finance, which had wrecked the last Parliament, was settled in a way equally satisfactory to the Protector. The number of soldiers to be kept on foot was passed over in silence, whilst the same sum, £1,800,000,
which had been approved by the first Protectorate Parliament as needful for the wants of the army and navy, together with those of the domestic government, was now granted, not for five years as had been proposed by the former Parliament, but till the Protector and the two Houses agreed to alter it. The scheme by which the Instrument had fixed the strength of the army at 30,000 men, and had then left it to the Protector and Council to levy whatever supplies they thought needful for its support, was deliberately left out of account. On paper, the terms of agreement showed fairly enough. England had at last got a constitution which was no production of a military coterie. Protector and Parliament were at last at one. Unfortunately, those who had welcomed this fair concord took little account of the forces which were likely to govern events in the not far distant future—the force of the army, whose handiwork had been set at nought— the force of the Parliamentary tradition strengthened by the work of the Long Parliament—and, above all, the force_ of discontent with the shifting sands on which the new Government was built, a discontent which might easily show itself in a national call for the restoration of the Stuart King— not because his person was loved, but because he would bring with him what appeared to be the strong basis of old use and wont.
Oliver was not wholly absorbed in constitutional struggles or in foreign conflicts. In administration his Government stands supreme above all which had preceded it, because no other ruler united so wide a tolerance of divergencies of opinion with so keen an eye for individual merit. He could gather round him the enthusiastic Milton to pen those dignified State Papers in which he announced his resolution to the Powers of Europe; Andrew Marvell, the most transparently honest of men, who, with all his admiration for Oliver, had, mingled in the verses written by him as a panegyric on his patron, those lines recording Charles’s dignified appearance on the scaffold, which will be remembered when all his other writings in prose or verse are forgotten. In Oliver’s Council sat Bulstrode \Vhitelocke, the somewhat stolid lawyer who, too cautious to give a precedent approval to Oliver’s revolutionary acts, was always ready to accept the situation created by them, and