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Italy, visit the Pope, and plunder Rome. “Their first thought is pillage,” added the French Ambassador who reported these vapourings perhaps not without exaggeration. Charles X. was a great soldier, but he was by no means the oppressed saint of Oliver’s imagination.
There can be little doubt that the maintenance of a war in the heart of Germany, even with a Swedish ally, would have been far beyond Oliver’s means. Even the occupation of the Flemish ports had taxed his resources to the uttermost. In the speech in which he had sung the high praises of the Swedish king, he had been obliged to plead the necessities of the army as a ground for his demand for fresh supplies. The pay of the army was far in arrear, and it was on the army that he depended to keep down hostile parties at home and to stave off a Royalist attack from abroad. Nor was that army needed for purposes of mere defence. Picturing to himself all the majority of the Continental nations as actuated by a wild desire to assail England, he inferred that attack was the best defence. “You have counted yourselves happy,” he said to Parliament, “in being environed with a great ditch from all the world beside. Truly you will not be able to keep your ditch, nor your shipping, unless you turn your ships and shipping into troops of horse and companies of foot; and fight to defend yourselves on lerra
This then was what Oliver’s much lauded foreign policy had come tomore regiments, and even higher taxation than that which the vast majority of Englishmen believed to be far too high already. A great Continental war, with all its risks and burdens, was dangled before the eyes of a Parliament to which such an outlook had no attractions. That Parliament was no longer the body which had voted the new constitution. Not only were there now two Houses, but the composition of the older House had been significantly altered. The most determined supporters of the Protectorate had been withdrawn to occupy the benches of the new House, whilst the clause of The Humble Petition and Advice, which prohibited the Protector from ever again excluding members duly elected from what had now become the House of Commons, opened its doors to his most determined enemies. The men who
now found their way to their seats, such as Hazlerigg and Scott, were opposed heart and soul to the whole system of the Protectorate, and longed for the reestablishment of Parliamentary supremacy. Such men were the more dangerous because they were sufficiently versed in Parliamentary tactics to know the advantage of a rallying cry which would bring the lukewarm to their side. The powers and attributes of the other House were ill-defined in the constitutional document to which it owed its birth, and it was easy to gain adherents by urging that it was not entitled either to the name or the privileges of the House of Lords of the Monarchy. After some days of wrangling, the Protector resolved to put an end to the debates. It was hard, he complained, to have accepted a constitutional settlement on the invitation of that very Parliament, and then to have it brought into question. “I can say," he continued, “ in the presence of God—in comparison with whom we are but like poor creeping ants upon the earth—l would have been glad to have lived under my wood side to have kept _a flock of sheep, rather than to have undertaken such a government as this. But undertaking it by the advice and petition of you, I did look that you who had offered it unto me should make it good.”
Such language must appear to those who judge by the recorded words and actions of this Parliament to be without adequate justification. It is undeniable that the constitution contained no definition of the powers of the new House, and if there had been no other than the ostensible question at issue, it would have been unreasonable in Oliver to hurry on a crisis before attempting, directly or indirectly, to suggest terms of compromise. As a matter of fact this question of the other House was very far from covering the whole ground of debate. A petition to which thousands of signatures were appended was being circulated in the City, asking for a complete restitution of Parliamentary supremacy and—no doubt to catch the support of a certain section of the army—for an enactment that no officer or soldier should be cashiered without the sentence of a court-martial. Oliver was perfectly right in holding that the attack on the other House was equivalent to an assault on the constitutional Protectorate. He had himselflooked to that House as restoring to him in another
form the powers which he had abandoned when he let fall the Instrument. By keeping in his own hands the selection of its members, and providing that that House should have a veto on subsequent nominations—the principle of inheritance being totally excluded—he imagined that he had sufficiently provided for the future. His objects in so doing may be taken as those set forth by a writer who had ample means of gathering his intentions. “ It was no small task for the Protector to find idoneous men for this place, because the future security of the honest interest seemed—under God—to be laid up in them ; for by a moral generation, if they were well chosen at the first, they would propagate their own kind, when the single person could not, and the Commons, who represented the nation, would not, having in them for the most part the spirit of those they represent, which hath little affinity with a respect of the cause of God.” It is easy to criticise such a principle from a modern point of view. Yet if the morality of Oliver’s political actions are ever to be judged fairly, it must never be forgotten that the right of an honest Government to prevent the people from injuring themselves by out-voting the saner members of the community was rather than any democratic or Parliamentary theory, the predominant note of his career. It is this at least which explains his assent to the choice of the nominated Parliament, as well as his breach with the Parliaments which he dismissed in I655 and I658.
Such views could not but lead the Protector to a breach with his second Parliament as well. The men who were grumbling at the insolence of his new lords were, as he well knew, prepared to follow up their attack by another more directly aimed at his own authority. The remainder of the Protector’s speech is only intelligible on this supposition. Professing his intention to stand by the new constitution, he accused his opponents of a design to subvert it. “ These things,” he asseverated, “ lead to nothing else but to the playing of the King of Scots’ game—ifI may so call him—and I think myself bound before God to do what I can to prevent it; and if this be so, I do assign it to this cause—your not assenting to what you did invite me to by your Petition and Advice, as that which might prove the settlement of the nation;
206 OLIVER CROMVVELL.
and if this be the end of your sitting, and this be your carriage, I think it high time that an end be put to your sitting. And I do dissolve this Parliament! And let God bejudge between you and me! "
No man knew better than Oliver the weight of the blow that had fallen on him. His attempt to govern constitutionally with a Parliamentary constitution had proved as impracticable as his attempt to govern constitutionally with a military constitution. For a whole week he shut himself up, meditating apart from his council on the means of repairing the disaster. Only once during the whole time did he even appear in his family circle. Then after prolonged consultation with advisers gathered from far and near. he resolved to summon another Parliament to meet in that very spring. He at least would stand firmly by the constitution to which he had sworn, and he could but hope that the nation would be equally loyal when the choice between ordered liberty and the unrestricted government of a single House was fairly set before the electors. It was the remedy applied afterwards by \Villiam Ill. to a similar mischief, and not applied in vain.
Unfortunately for Cromwell the circumstances were not the same. It is unnecessary here to discuss the relative merits of written and unwritten constitutions on the one hand, or of a dominant Parliament and a dominant executive on the other. One or the other form of government may be desirable in different nations or at different times. The one thing needful is that the institutions of a nation, whatever they be, shall be supported by the national sentiment. It was this that Oliver had never succeeded in evoking, because he had never appealed to it, and was hardly likely to succeed in evoking now. He could, for a time—and only for a time—rule England with an army. He could not rule it with a piece of paper. At no long distance, as he already saw, the unchecked supremacy of Parliament would bring back the Stuarts, because the traditional hold of the old monarchy upon the minds of men was the only power capable of keeping in check alike the tyranny of the army, and the anarchy which could not but arise if contending parties were left to struggle for the mastery without fear of military intervention. Oliver’s own power for