« AnteriorContinuar »
terested assassins, was ever present to his terrified apprehension, and haunted him in every scene of business or repose. Each action of his life betrayed the terrors under which he laboured. The aspect of strangers was uneasy to him: with a piercing and anxious eye he surveyed every face to which he was not daily accustomed. He never moved a step without strong guards attending him: he wore armour under his clothes, and farther secured himself by offensive weapons, a sword, falchion, and pistols, which he always carried about him. He returned from no place by the direct road, or by the same way which he went. Every journey he performed with hurry and precipitation. Seldom he slept above three nights together in the same chamber: and he never let it be known beforehand what chamber he intended to choose, nor intrusted himself in any which was not provided with back doors, at which centinels were carefully placed. Society terrified him, while he reflected on his numerous, unknown, and implacable enemies: solitude astonished him, by withdrawing that protection which he found so necessary for his security. SICKNESS OF THE PROTECTOR. His body also, from the contagion of his anxious mind, began to be affected; and his health seemed sensibly to decline. He was seized with a slow fever, which changed into a tertian ague. For the space of a week, no dangerous symptoms appeared; and in the intervals of the fits he was able to walk abroad. At length the fever increased, and he himself began to entertain some thoughts of death, and to cast his eye towards that future existence, whose idea had once been intimately present to him; though since, in the hurry of affairs, and in the shock of wars and factions, it had, no doubt, been considerably obliterated. He asked Goodwin, one of his preachers, if the doctrine were true, that the elect could never fall or suffer a final reprohation. "Nothing more certain," replied the preacher. "Then am I safe," said the protector: "for I am sure that once I was in a state of grace." His physicians were sensible of the perilous condition to which his distemper had reduced him: but his chaplains, by their prayers, visions, and revelations, so buoyed up his hopes, that he began to believe his life out of all danger. A favourable answer, it was pretended, had been returned by heaven to the petitions of all the godly; and he relied on their asseverations much more than on the opinion of the most experienced physicians. "I tell you," he cried with confidence to the latter, " I tell you, I shall not die of this distemper: I am well assured of my recovery. It is promised by the Lord, not only to my supplications, but to those of men who hold a stricter commerce and more intimate correspondence with him. Ye may have skill in your profession; but nature can do more than all the physicians in the world, and God is far above nature." 50 Nay, to such a degree of madness did their enthusiastic assurances mount, that, upon a fast day, which was observed on his account both at Hampton Court and at Whitehall, they did not so much pray for his health, as give thanks for the undoubted pledges which they had received of his recovery. He himself was overheard offering up his addresses to heaven; and so far had the illusions of fanaticism prevailed over the plainest dictates of natural morality, that he assumed more the character of a mediator interceding for his people, than that of a criminal, whose atrocious violation of social duty had, from every tribunal, human and divine, merited the severest vengeance. HIS DEATH AND CHARACTER.
Meanwhile all the symptoms began to wear a more fatal aspect; and the physicians were obliged to break silence, and to declare, that the protector could not survive the next fit with which he was threatened. The council was alarmed. A deputation was sent to know his will with regard to his successor. His senses were gone. and he could not now express his intentions. They asked him whether he did not mean that his eldest son, Richard, should succeed him in the protectorship. A simple affirmative was, or seemed to be, extorted from him. Soon after, on the 3rd of September, that very day which he had always considered as the most fortunate for him, he expired. A violent tempest, which immediately succeeded his death, served as a subject of discourse to the vulgar. His partisans, as well as his enemies, were fond of remarking this event; and each of them endeavoured, by forced inferences, to interpret it as a confirmation of their particular prejudices. The writers, attached to the memory of this wonderful person, make his character with regard to abilities, bear the air of the most extravagant panegyric: his enemies form such a representation of his moral qualities as resembles the most virulent invective. Both of them, it must be confessed, are supported by such striking circumstances in his conduct and fortune as bestow on their representation a great air of probability. "What can be more extraordinary," it is said, " than that a person of private birth and education, no fortune, no eminent qualities of body, which have sometimes, nor shining talents of mind, which have often, raised men to the highest dignities, should have the courage to attempt, and the abilities to execute, so great a design as the subverting one of the most ancient and best established monarchies in the world? That he should have the power and boldness to put his prince and master to an open and infamous death? Should banish that numerous and strongly allied family? Cover all these temerities under a seeming obedience to a parliament, in whose service he pretended to be retained? Trample too upon that parliament in their turn, and scornfully expel them as soon as they gave him ground of dissatisfaction? Erect in their place the dominion of the saints, and give reality to the most visionary idea, which the heated imagination of any fanatic was ever able to entertain? Suppress again that monster in its infancy, and openly set up himself above all things that ever were called sovereign in England? Overcome first all his enemies by arms, and all his friends afterwards by artifice? Serve all parties patiently for a while, and command them victoriously at last? Overrun each corner of the three nations, and subdue with equal facility, both the riches of the south, and the poverty of the north? Be feared and courted by all foreign princes, and be adopted a brother to the gods of the earth? Call together parliaments with a word of his pen, and scatter them again with the breath of his mouth? Reduce to subjection a warlike and discontented nation, by means of a mutinous army? Command a mutinous army by means of seditious and factious officers? Be humbly and daily petitioned, that he would be pleased, at the rate of millions a year, to be hired as master of those who had hired him before to be their servant? Have the estates and lives of three nations as much at his disposal as was once the little inheritance of his father, and be as noble and liberal in the spending of them? And lastly (for there is no end of enumerating every particular of his glory,) with one word bequeath all this power and splendour to his posterity? Die possessed of peace at home, and triumph abroad? Be buried among kings, and with more than regal solemnity; and leave a name behind him not to be extinguished but with the whole world; which as it was too little for his praise, so might it have been for his conquests, if the short line of his mortal life could have stretched out to the extent of his immortal designs!" 41
My intention is not to disfifure this picture, drawn by so masterly a hand: I shall only endeavour to remove from it somewhat of the marvellous; a circumstance, which, on all occasions, gives much ground for doubt and suspicion. It seems to me, that the circumstance of Crotowel's life, in which his abilities are principally discovered, is his rising from a private station, in opposition to so many rivals, so much advanced before him, to a high command and authority in the army. His great courage, his signal military talents, his eminent dexterity and address, were all requisite for this important acquisition,
Vol, VIH. P D
Yet will not this promotion appear the effect of supernatural abilities, when we consider, that Fairfax himself, a private gentleman, who had not the advantage of a seat in parliament, had, through the same steps, attained even a superior rank, and, if endued with common capacity and penetration, had been able to retain it. To incite such an army to rebellion against the parliament, required no uncommon art or industry: to have kept them in obedience had been the more difficult enterprise. When the breach is once formed between the military and civil powers, a supreme and absolute authority, from that moment, is devolved on the general; and if he be afterwards pleased to employ artifice or policy, it may be regarded, on most occasions, as great condescension, if not as superfluous caution. That Cromwel was ever able really to blind or over-reach either the king or the republicans, does not appear: as they possessed no means of resisting the force under his command, they were glad to temporise with him, and, by seeming to be deceived, wait for opportunities of freeing themselves from his dominion, if he seduced the military fanatics, it is to be considered, that their interests and his evidently concurred, that their ignorance and low education exposed them to the grossest imposition, and that he himself was at bottom as frantic an enthusiast as the worst of them, and, in order to obtain their confidence, needed but to display those vulgar and ridiculous habits, which he had early acquired, and on which he set so high a value. An army is so forcible, and at the same time so coarse a weapon, that any hand, which wields it, may, without much dexterity, perform any operation, and attain any ascendant, in human society. The domestic administration of Cromwel, though it discovers great abilities, was conducted without any plan either of liberty or arbitrary power: perhaps, his difficult situation admitted of neither. His foreign enterprises, though full of intrepidity, were pernicious to national interest, and seem more the result of impetuous fury or narrow prejudices, than of cool foresight and deliberation. An eminent personage, however, he was in many respect*,