« AnteriorContinuar »
the entire absence of any popular desire amongst the laity outside the families of the Royalist gentry and their immediate dependents to bring back either episcopacy or the Prayer Book. Riots there occasionally were, but these were riots because amusements had been stopped, and especially because the jollity of Christmas was forbidden; not because the service in church was conducted in one way or another. It is sometimes forgotten that the Puritan or semiPuritan clergy had a strong hold upon the Church down to the days of Laud, and that the Calvinistic teaching which had been in favour even with the Bishops towards the close of the reign of Elizabeth had been widely spread down to the same time, so that the episcopalians could not count on that resistance to organic change which would certainly have sprung up if the Laudian enforcement of discipline had continued for seventy years instead of seven.
\Vhilst episcopacy found its main support in the King, the sects found their main support in the army, and Parliament at once fell in with the popular demand for weakening the army. Before February was over, it had resolved that 6,600 horse and dragoons should be retained in England, whilst, except the men needed for a few garrisons, not a single man of the infantry of the New Model Army was to be retained in the service. Their place was to be supplied by a militia which, consisting as it did of civilians pursuing their usual avocations for the greater part of the year, and, except in times of invasion or rebellion, only called out for a few days’ drill, would be most unlikely to join in any attempt to cross the wishes of Parliament. As cavalry would, in the long run, be unable to act without the support of infantry, the 6,600 horse kept on foot would also be powerless to impose a policy by force on the Parliament. As more than half of the infantry, whose services in England were no longer needed, would be needed to carry on the war in Ireland, now almost entirely in the hands of the so-called rebels, it was thought that the numbers required for this purpose would volunteer for service in that country, whilst the remainder would readily be induced to return amongst the civilian population out of which they had sprung.
Having thus, in imagination, weakened the army as a whole, the Presby
terian majority proceeded to deal with the officers of the cavalry destined for service in England. Retaining Fairfax as Commander-in-chief, they voted that no officer should serve under him who refused to take the Covenant, and to conform to the Church-government established by Parliament. They also voted that, with the exception of Fairfax, no officer should hold a higher rank than that of colonel; in other words, they pronounced the dismissal of Lieutenant-General Cromwell from the service. It was characteristic of Cromwell that in a letter written by him to Fairfax his personal grievance finds no place. “Never,” he writes, “were the spirits of men more embittered than now. Surely the Devil hath but a short time. Upon the Fastday,” he adds in a postscript, “divers soldiers were raised, as I heard, both horse and foot—near two hundred in Covent Garden—to prevent us soldiers from cutting the Presbyterians’ throats! These are fine tricks to mock God with.” Yet, irritated as he was, he gave no sign of any thought of resistance. “ In the presence of Almighty God, before whom I stand,” he declared to the House, “I know the army will disband and lay down their arms at your door whenever you will command them.” His own dismissal he took calmly. Towards the end of March he was in frequent conference with the Elector Palatine who had offered him a command in Germany, where the miserable Thirty Years‘ \Var was still dragging on, and where the cause of toleration, apparently lost in England, might possibly be served.
The Presbyterian leaders, Holles, Stapleton, Maynard, and the rest of them, must have flattered themselves that they were at last in the full career of success. To have Cromwell’s word for it that the army would accept disbandment, and to see the back of the man whom they most feared, was a double stroke of fortune on which they could hardly have calculated. In their delight at the good fortune which had fallen into their laps, they forgot, in the first place, that there were many officers, besides Cromwell, who mistrusted their policy; and in the second place that, if these officers were to be deprived of their influence over the private soldiers, care must be taken to leave no material grievance of the latter unrelieved. On March Ql and 22 a deputation from Parliament meeting forty-three officers