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Title: Four Lectures on the English Revolution
Author: Green, Thomas Hill
Language: English
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From Vol. III of Green’s _Works_, edited by R.L. Nettleship
Longman, Green & Co., London, 1888

From the Editor’s Preface:

The four lectures on ‘The English Revolution’ were delivered for
the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution in January 1867; he did
not intend them for publication, but they are printed on the
recommendation of competent judges. ... I am also indebted to Mr. C.H.
Firth for revising the lectures on ‘The English Revolution.’

OXFORD, August, 1888.

Transcriber’s Note: Page numbers are the same as in the _Works_,
so commence at {277}. All of the footnotes appear to have been
added by the editor, and have been located under the paragraphs or
quotations to which they relate, and renumbered accordingly, with a
few transcriber’s notes, which are marked “Tr.”


LECTURE I     277


The period of which I am to speak is one of the most trodden grounds
of history. It has not indeed the same intense attraction for an
Englishman which the epoch of 1789 has for the Frenchman, for the
interest in one case is purely historical, in the other it is that
of a movement still in progress. Our revolution has long since run
its round. The cycle was limited and belonged essentially to another
world than that in which we live. Doubtless it was not insulated; its
force has been felt throughout the subsequent series of political
action and reaction, but the current along which European society
is being now carried has another and a wider sweep. In the one we
are ourselves too thoroughly absorbed to contemplate its course from
without. From the other we have emerged far enough for our vision of
it to be complete and steady.

But though this is so, and though the period in question is perhaps
more familiar than any other to historical students, it may be
doubted whether its character has ever been quite fairly exhibited.
By partisans it has been regarded without ‘dry light,’ by judicious
historians with a light so dry as not at all to illustrate the
real temper and purpose of the actors. In reaction from the latter
has appeared a mode of treatment, worked with special force by Mr.
Carlyle, which puts personal character in the boldest relief, but
overlooks the strength of circumstance, the organic life of custom
and institution, which acts on the individual from without and from
within, which at once informs his will and places it in limits
against which it breaks itself in vain. Such oversight leaves out an
essential element in the tragedy of human story. In modern life, as
Napoleon said to Goethe, political {278} necessity represents the
destiny of the ancient drama. The historic hero, strong to make the
world new, and exulting in his strength, has his inspiration from a
past which he knows not, and is constructing a future which is not
that of his own will or imagination. The providence which he serves
works by longer and more ambiguous methods than suit his enthusiasm
or impatience. Sooner or later the fatal web gathers round him too
painfully to be longer disregarded, when he must either waste himself
in ineffectual struggle with it, or adjust himself to it by a process
which to his own conscience and in the judgment of men is one of
personal debasement.

It is as such a tragic conflict between the creative will of man and
the hidden wisdom of the world, which seems to thwart it, that the
‘Great Rebellion’ has its interest. The party spirit of the present
day is ill-spent on it. Neither our conservatism nor our liberalism,
neither our oligarchic nor our ‘levelling’ zeal, can find much to
claim as its own in a struggle which was for a hierarchy under royal
licence on the one side, and for a freedom founded in grace on the
other. But if our party spirit is out of place here, not less so
is our censoriousness. As our critical conceit gets the better of
our political insight when we judge of the political capacity of a
nation or class by the roughness of its ideas or the bad taste of
its utterances, so it masters our historical sense when we treat
the enthusiasm of a past age as simulation, its unscrupulousness
as want of principle, and the energy which regards neither persons
nor formulae in going straight to its end as a selfish instinct
of aggrandisement. Yet, again, we do but dishonour God and the
rationality of his operation in the world, if, by way of cheap honour
to our hero, we depreciate the purposes no less noble than his
own which crossed his path, and find nothing but unreason in that
necessity of things which was too strong for his control.

It will be my endeavour in speaking of the short life of English
republicanism to avoid these opposite partialities, and to treat it
as the last act in a conflict beginning with the Reformation, in
which the several parties had each its justification in reason, and
which ended, not simply, as might seem, in a catastrophe, but was
preliminary to a reconciliation of the forces at issue of another
kind than could to an actor in the conflict be apparent. If I seem to
begin far back, I must trust to the sequel for vindication.

{279} The Reformation, we know, opened a breach in the substantial
unity of Christendom, or rather brought to view in a new form one
as old as the conflict between the spirit and the flesh. Such a
breach lies deep down in the constitution of man, as a spirit
self-determined and self-contained, yet related to a world which
it regards as external and its opposite, and so related that from
this world it receives its character, nay, in the proper sense, its
reality. Outward ordinances were in St. Paul’s eyes fleshly and alien
to the spirit. Yet had they been the spirit’s schoolmaster, and in
outward ordinances it was fain in turn to embody itself when it went
forth to recast the world in a Christian society.

The Christianity of the west remained till the Reformation
essentially a Christianity of ordinances. The opposition of church
and empire, of ecclesiastical and secular jurisdiction, was not in
any proper sense an opposition of the spirit and the world. The
church and its law had not yet been questioned by the reason, and
hence their authority had not been recognised as rational. The
obedience rendered to them was that of the servant rather than of
the son. The Christ who ruled through them was still a ‘Christ after
the flesh.’ The two swords which Peter showed to Jesus were taken
by medieval fancy as emblematic of the double sovereignty of church
and state, and indeed fitly represented the sameness in kind of the
two powers. Each was a carnal weapon, nor was there any essential
distinction between the objects to which each was applied. Neither
touched the spirit, or rather the spirit was not in a state to be
conscious of the wound. To the higher intellects of the time, like
Dante, the co-ordination of the two seemed an evil, for under the
name of a separation between the spiritual and temporal was covered
an antagonism of sovereignties equally temporal. The one thwarted,
supplemented, combined with the other in the same sphere of outward
relations. Together they built up the firmament of custom and
ordinance, which the boundless spirit had not yet learned to feel as
a limitation.

The Reformation, however, had a history. Not only was it struggling
into life during the whole fifteenth century; it was the result
of the same spiritual throes which long before had issued in
movements superficially most opposite to it; in the impulse to find
in Palestine the Christ whom ordinances had hidden, in periodic
revulsions from recognised and {280} comfortable usage to monastic
poverty and contemplation, in the scholastic effort to rationalise
and thus reconcile to the spirit the dogmas of the church. All these
movements, however, the church, as an outward authority, had been
able to direct. She had been general of the crusades, had stereotyped
monasticism into a ceremonial discipline, and had kept the schoolmen
to the work of spinning threads of which she held the ends. Thus the
very effort of the reason to break its shell had complicated its
confinement. As it was growing more conscious of its inward rights,
the institutions in which it had to acquiesce were becoming more
artificial, and the dogmas to be accepted by it more abstract. The
result was such a conscious entanglement in the yoke of bondage,
holding back the believer from free intercourse with God, as provoked
the spiritual revolt of Luther.

‘Justification by faith’ and ‘the right of private judgment’ are the
two watchwords of the Reformation. Each indicates a new relation
between the spirit and outward authority. ‘Faith’ in the Lutheran
language is raised to a wholly different level from that which it
had occupied in the language of the church. It no longer means the
implicit acceptance of dogma on authority, for lack of which the
‘infidel’ was out of the pale of salvation. As with St. Paul it
expressed the continuous act in virtue of which the individual breaks
loose from the outward constraint of alien ordinances, and places
himself in a spiritual relation to God through union with his Son, so
with Luther faith is simply the renunciation by which man’s falser
self, with its surroundings of observance and received opinion,
slips from him that he may be clothed upon with the person of
Christ. The ghost of scholasticism, no doubt, still haunted Luther,
and led him astray into disquisitions on the relation of faith to
the other virtues. But according to his proper idea, faith was no
positive, finite virtue at all. It was the absorption of all finite
and relative virtues, as such, in the consciousness of union with
the infinite God. Again the spirit searcheth all things, even the
deep things of God, as mysteries which Christ had opened. Again the
handwriting of ordinances contrary to us was blotted out. Again the
conscience moved freely in a redeemed world. [1]

[1] [This passage, from ‘Justification by faith’ occurs in the essay
on Dogma, above, pp. 178-179.]

{281} How was this new consciousness of spiritual freedom and right
to be reconciled with submission to institutions which seemed to rest
on selfish interest or the acquiescence of the animal nature? How
was the dominion of God in the believer’s soul to be adjusted to his
dominion in a church which restrained the operations of his spirit,
and in a state which only honoured him with the lips? Such was the
practical question which the Reformation offered to European society.
Raised first and in its rudest form by Münzer’s anabaptists, it
worked with more subtle influence in all the countries which felt the
Reformation. The opposition between the inward and outward, between
reason and authority, between the spirit and the flesh, between
the individual and the world of settled right, no longer a mere
antithesis of the schools, was being wrought into the political life
of Christendom. It gives the true formula for expressing the nature
of the conflict which issued in the English commonwealth.

This conflict was rightly regarded by the higher intellects that took
part in it as but a stage in a vaster one of which all christendom
was the arena [1]; as a completion of the Reformation, a struggle
against the catholic reaction. In the special form which it assumed
in England we shall find the reason why the course of religious,
and indirectly of political development, with us has been different
from that which obtained severally in protestant Germany, in France,
and in southern Europe. It is only by considering the modes in
which the spiritual forces brought into play in the Reformation
had their relations adjusted elsewhere, that we can appreciate the
nature of their collision and reconciliation in England. These
modes may be summed as respectively jesuitry, the divorce of the
secular from the religious, and the complete assimilation of the
religious to the political life of states. The power by which the
catholic church met the new emergency, the new demand for personal
spiritual satisfaction, was, speaking broadly, jesuitry. So long
as human life remained in that ‘wholeness’ which is health, there
was no room for such an agency. The catholic of the middle ages had
no thought of a spiritual world beyond that presented to him in
the outward institutions of the church. His sins were sins against
some established ordinance, which the upholder of the ordinance
could absolve. But with the awakened conscience of a spiritual
world, apart from all {282} ordinances, to which the soul in its
individual essence for good or evil was related, came a new need
of spiritual direction. Where the reason was strong enough to be a
law to itself, this direction was found in the Bible as interpreted
by the individual conscience. Where the authority of the church
retained its hold, it could only do so by regulating the most secret
intricacies of personal experience, and by meeting the importunities
of personal fear or aspiration by an answer equally personal. Through
the jesuits, as educators and confessors, it was able to do this.
It supplied an elaborate mechanism through which the individual
might work out his own justification in disregard of recognised
outward duties. The protestant idea of an inward light, to whatever
extravagances it might be open, stimulated the sense of a universal
law which the inward light revealed. Hence it has issued, as among
the quakers, in a far-reaching zeal of cosmopolitan philanthropy.
Jesuitry, on the other hand, is the ruin of all public spirit. It
satisfies the individual soul and reconciles it to the church by
casuistical devices which give the guise of reason to the interested
suggestions of personal passion. In saving the soul it ruins nations,
not because it proposes a higher law than that of which the kingdoms
of this world are capable, but because it makes salvation a process
of self-seeking no other than the satisfaction of the hunger of
sense. In southern Europe jesuitry had its way. Sometimes it might
justify the tyrant, sometimes (as in France under the League) the
tyrannicide; but it was equally antagonistic to rational freedom.
Acting on the ruler, it derationalised the state, which came to be,
not the passionless expression of general right, but the engine of
individual caprice under alternating fits of appetite and fear.
Acting on the subject, again, it gave him over to private interests
in the way either of vicious self-indulgence or of the religious zeal
which compounds for such indulgence. The creature of the jesuits is
no longer spontaneously loyal to the institutions under which he is
born, nor yet has he, like the puritan, a new law written on his
conscience which he is to enact in society, but he has a transaction
of his own to negotiate with a power wielding spiritual terrors. He
may be either rake or devotee, but never a citizen, as the Spain and
southern Germany of the seventeenth century too plainly testified.

[1] [Amended from “area”. Tr.]

Thus directed, then, the conflict between inward and {283} outward
interest ends in such a supremacy of the former as gives the state
over to caprice and undermines the outward morality which forms the
moral man. So far as catholic countries have escaped, or recovered
from, such a result, they have done so by the gradual obliteration
or confinement within strict limits of all personal interest in
religion. The Romance nations, it has been often remarked, have not
the same instinct of spiritual completeness as the Teutonic. They are
not distressed by the spiritual divorce which is implied in leaving
religion and morality as unreconciled principles of action. Thus
in some of them we find a political and social interest growing up
in complete independence of the church, and organising itself with
a rational regularity which the protestant politician, constantly
thwarted in schemes which he deems secular by religious intrusion,
may sometimes be disposed to envy. Religion, meanwhile, is regulated,
and the agencies such as jesuitry by which it might interfere with
secular life are carefully watched. Under such regulation it is left
to itself. To the citizen it becomes a mere ceremonial. His attitude
towards it is simply passive. At best it does but fill up the
vacancies of his social life or comfort him in his final seclusion
from it. The devout become a class by themselves, estranged from the
activities of civil life. Only for them and for women, as the passive
element in society, is religion a permanent influence. Wherever
in catholic countries, under the influence of the revolutionary
revival of the last century, the reorganisation of society has been
achieved, it has only been under the condition of this confinement
and passivity of religion. In France, as the source of this revival,
the condition has been most fully realised. It is the natural sequel,
indeed, of the compromise of interests effected by Henry IV.

To the Germans, as to every other nation, the quickened Christianity
of the Reformation brought not peace but a sword. Their religious
wars, however, were rather brought on by crowned violence and the
ambition of the house of Hapsburg than the result of any strife of
principles involved in lutheranism itself. The protestantism of
North Germany, growing up under the protection of princes, from
the first blended with the existing institutions of the state.
It escaped internal rupture, and had not seriously to fight for
existence till the time of the thirty years’ war. It then {284}
owed its preservation, not to itself, but to the sword of Gustavus
and the diplomacy of Richelieu, and Germany emerged from the war in
such a state of wretchedness and exhaustion, that popular religion
was in no condition to assert itself against princely patronage and
control during the ‘constituted anarchy’ which followed the peace
of Westphalia. This circumstance, acting on the German instinct of
comprehension, prevented the antagonism of the secular and religious
from developing itself in the lutheran countries. The German, with
his speculative grasp, has no difficulty in regarding church and
state as two sides of the same spiritual organism. To him each
expresses an idea which is the necessary complement of the other,
and each alike commends itself to his reason. How little the reality
of either church or state may correspond to the idea, how powerless
in action may be the permeating strength of German thought, an
Englishman needs not to be told. But it is important to observe
the effect of this union of strength with weakness, of the faculty
of intellectual fusion with moral acquiescence, in reconciling the
freest spiritual consciousness to secular limitations, and in healing
the breaches of religious strife. All that we associate with the term
‘sectarian’ is for good or evil unknown in Germany. The conflict
of reason and authority has not indeed ceased among the countrymen
of Luther. It has its wars and its truces, its conquerors and its
victims; but its arena has been the study and the lecture-room, not
the market-place or the congregation.

The Reformation in England begins simply with the substitution of
royal for papal power in the government of the church. If Henry
VIII. had left a successor capable of wielding his sceptre, English
religion would scarcely have grown up, as it has done, in the
bracing atmosphere of schism. During the minority of Edward, a form
of protestant episcopacy, unique among the reformed churches, grew
up with a certain degree of independence, while at the same time
ideas of a different order, whose mother was Geneva, were working
undisturbed. The Marian persecution, while it strengthened the
influence of the aggressive Genevan form of protestantism on England,
completed its estrangement from the state. Thus when ‘anglicanism,’
episcopal, sacramental, ceremonial, was established by Elizabeth,
it had at once to deal with an opposite system, thoroughly formed
and {285} nursed in antagonism to the powers of this world. This
system is, so to speak, the full articulation of that voice of
conscience, of the inner self-asserting spirit, in opposition to
outward ordinance, which the Reformation evoked. In this light let us
consider its action in England.

The lutheran doctrine, as we have seen, brings the individual soul,
as such, into direct relation to God. From this doctrine the first
practical corollary is the placing of the bible in the hands of the
people; the second is the exaltation of preaching. From these again
follows the diffusion of popular education. The soul, admitted in
its own right to the divine audience, still needs a language. It
must know whom it approaches, and what it is his will to give. But
as the intercourse is inward and spiritual, so must be the power
which regulates it; not a priest or a liturgy, but the voice of the
divine spirit in the bible, interpreted by the believer’s conscience.
Religion being thus internalised and individualised, preaching,
as the action of soul on soul, becomes the natural channel of its
communication. It is the protestant’s ritual, by which the heart is
elevated to the state in which the divine voice speaks not to it in
vain. Education, again, is the means by which the individual must be
rendered capable of availing himself of his spiritual independence.

A people’s bible, then, a reading people, a preaching ministry, were
the three conditions of protestant life. The force which results from
them is everywhere an unruly one. With the English, who have neither
the acquiescence nor the comprehensive power of the Germans, it at
once, to use the language of a German philosopher, ‘stormed out into
reality.’ It demanded and sought to create an outward world, a system
of law, custom, and ordinance, answering to itself. Not only is the
law of the bible to be carried directly and everywhere into action;
whatever is of other origin is no law for the society whose head is
Christ. An absolute breach is thus made between the new and the old.
Those who by a conscious, deliberate wrench have broken with the old,
and lived themselves into the new, are the predestined people of
God. Outside them is a doomed world. They are the saints, and their
prerogative has no limits. They admit of no co-ordinate jurisdiction
which is of the world and not of Christ. The sword of the magistrate
must be in their hands, or it is a weapon of offence against Christ’s

{286} Such a system soon builds again the bondage which it began
with destroying. Originating, as we have seen, in the consciousness
of a spiritual life which no outward ordinances could adequately
express, it hardens this consciousness into an absolute antithesis,
false because regarded as absolute, between the law of Christ and
the law of the world. The law of Christ, however, must be realised
in the world, and thus from this false antithesis there follows by
an inexorable affiliation of ideas, a new authority, calling itself
spiritual, but binding the soul with ‘secular chains,’ which from
the very fact of its sincerity and logical completeness, from its
allowing no compromise between the saints and the world, is more
heavy than the old. It behoves us to note well these conflicting
tendencies to freedom and bondage, often almost inextricably
convolved, which puritanism contained within itself. It was the
temporary triumph of the one tendency that made the commonwealth
a possibility, and the interference of the other that stopped its
expansion into permanent life. The one gave puritanism its nobility
during its period of weakness while it struggled to dominion; the
other made its dominion, once attained, a contradiction in fact which
no individual greatness could maintain.

Puritanism, in the presbyterian form, had obtained supremacy in
Scotland, while it was still struggling for life in England. In
execution of its principle that a system of positive law was to be
found in the bible, so absolute and exclusive as to leave no room for
things indifferent, it not only established an absolute uniformity
of church government and worship, but made itself virtually the
sovereign power in the state. Without scruple or disguise it pursued
‘the work of reformation’ by conforming under pains and penalties
the manners and opinions of men to a supposed scriptural model. In
England, though the theory of puritanism was the same speculatively,
its position was happily different. No one who believes that the
scriptures are to be looked to, not for a positive moral law, much
less for a system of church polity and ceremonial, but for moral
impulse and principle, can sympathise with the doctrine, which at
first was the ostensible ground of puritan opposition to the church
of England, that whatever scripture does not command, it forbids. In
contrast with this, the position of the early protestant bishops,
that the true rule for matters of church {287} polity is practical
expediency, if it fitted less aptly the interest of its maintainers,
would seem to represent the higher wisdom that gives the world its
due, and recognises the continuity of custom and institution which
builds up the being that we are. Compared, indeed, with such pedantry
as that of Cartwright, the great puritan controversialist under
Elizabeth, the ‘judiciousness’ of Hooker becomes real philosophy.
But in the confused currents of the world it is not always the party
whose maxims are the more rationally complete which has the truer
lesson for the present or the higher promise for the future. The
reforming impulse, the effort to emancipate the inward man from
ceremonial bondage, was with puritanism rather than with the church.
Judaic itself, it yet broke the pillars of Judaism. Its limitations
were its own, and happily it had no chance of fixing them finally
in an outward church. Its force belonged to a larger agency, which
was transforming religion from a sensuous and interested service to
a free communion of spirit with spirit, and just for this reason it
kept gathering to itself elements which its own earthen vessel could
not long contain.

From the puritanism of Cartwright to that of Milton is a long
step upwards; it answers to the descent from the anglicanism of
Hooker to that of Laud or Heylin. The ‘Polity’ of Hooker, under an
appearance of theological artifice, covers a statesmanlike endeavour
to reconcile the protestant conscience to the necessities of the
state and society. The anglicanism of Laud was simply the catholic
reaction under another name. The political change corresponded to the
theological. Elizabeth had ruled a nation. James and Charles never
rose beyond the conception of developing a royal interest, which
religion should at once serve and justify. Thus there arose that
combination, by which the catholic reaction had everywhere worked,
of a court party and a church party, each using the other for the
purpose of silencing the demand for a ‘reason why’ in politics and
religion. Charles and Laud alike represent that jesuitical conscience
(if I may be allowed the expression) which is fatal to true loyalty.
As Milton has it, ‘a private conscience sorts not with a public
calling.’ Such a conscience may be true to a cause, as Charles
and Laud were doubtless, from whatever reason, both true to the
cause of a sacerdotal church. But it dare not look into the law of
liberty, or {288} conceive the operation of God except in a system of
prescribed institutions, about which no questions are to be asked,
and in the maintenance of which cruelty becomes mercy and falsehood
truth. Through the policy of the fifteen years which preceded the
Long Parliament, a policy sometimes outrageous, sometimes trivial,
the same purpose runs. The promulgation of the Book of Sports, the
torturing of writers against plays and ceremonies, the persecution
of calvinism, the suppression of the lectureships by which the more
wealthy puritans sought to maintain a preaching ministry uncontrolled
by the bishops, all tend to divert the human spirit from the
consciousness of its right and privilege to acquiescence in what
is given to it from without. Whether this diversion were effected
in the interest of court or sacerdotalism, whether the head of the
sacerdotal system were the old pope or ‘my lord of Canterbury,’
‘lineally descended from St. Peter in a fair and constant manner of
succession,’ mattered little. The result, but for puritan resistance,
must have been that freedom should yield in England, as it had
yielded in Spain and South Germany, and was soon to yield in France,
to a despotism under priestly direction, which again could end only
in the ruin of civil life, or in its recovery by the process which
relegates religion to women and devotees.

The body of protestant resistance, however, had no organic unity
but that of a common antagonism. Already there was in existence
a sect, not yet directly opposed to presbyterianism, but created
by the demand for a more free spiritual movement than that system
allowed of. The men commonly reckoned as the authors of independency
or congregationalism, an influence which more than any other has
ennobled the plebeian elements of English life, bore the fitting
names of Brown and Robinson. That the brownists were a well-known
sect as early as 1600 is shown by the healthy hatred of Sir Andrew
Aguecheek, who ‘would as lief be a brownist as a politician.’ It was
in 1582, when the puritans were discussing the propriety of temporary
conformity, that Brown wrote his treatise on ‘Reformation, without
tarrying for any,’ and by way of not tarrying for any in his own
case, took to preaching nonconformity up and down the country. After
seeing the inside of thirty-two prisons as the reward of his zeal,
he betook himself to Holland, carrying a congregation with him.
This he afterwards left, and it does not seem {289} certain whether
the subsequent brownist congregations were directly affiliated to
it. Certain views of church polity, however, were current among
them, which formed the principles of independency in later years.
The chief of those were the doctrine of the absolute autonomy of
the individual congregation, and the rejection of a special order
of priests or presbyters. Each congregation was to elect or depose
its own officers, the officer who should preach and administer the
sacraments among the rest. When tho number of communicants in a
congregation became too large to meet in any one place, a new one was
to be formed, but no congregation or sum of congregations was to have
any control in regard to doctrine or discipline over another.

Such a system of church government may not in itself be of more
interest than others. As giving room for a liberty of prophecy
which the rule of bishops or a presbytery denies, its importance
was immense. This appears already in Robinson’s disavowal of the
pretension to theological finality. Robinson, driven from England by
episcopal persecution, had formed a congregation at Leyden. Here, in
regard at least to the reformed churches of the continent, he gave up
the strict separatist doctrine of the original brownists, ‘holding
communion with these churches as far as possible.’ In 1620 the
younger part of his congregation transferred itself to America, where
it founded the colony of New Plymouth. His well-known exhortation
to them at parting breathes a higher spirit of christian freedom
than anything that had been heard since christianity fixed itself in
creeds and churches.

  ‘If God reveal anything to you by any other instrument
  of his, be as ready to receive it as ever you were
  to receive any truth by my ministry; for I am verily
  persuaded the Lord has more truth yet to break forth out
  of his holy word. For my part, I cannot sufficiently
  bewail the condition of the reformed churches, who are
  come to a period in religion, and will go at present no
  farther than the instruments of their reformation. The
  lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw;
  whatever part of his will God has revealed to Calvin,
  they will rather die than embrace it; and the calvinists,
  you see, stick fast where they were left by that great
  man of God, who yet saw not all things. This is a misery
  much to be lamented, for though they were burning and
  shining lights in their time, yet they penetrated {290}
  not into the whole counsel of God, but were they now
  living, would be as willing to embrace farther light as
  that which they first received. I beseech you remember,
  it is an article of your church covenant, that you be
  ready to receive whatever truth shall be made known to
  you from the written word of God. Remember that ... for
  it is not possible the christian world should come so
  lately out of such thick anti-christian darkness, and
  that perfection of knowledge should break forth at once.’

[1] [Neal, _Puritans_, i. p. 477, Ed. 1837.]

It is as giving freer scope than any other form of church to this
conviction, that God’s spirit is not bound, that independency has its
historical interest.

During the period of Laud’s persecution the difference between
the presbyterian and independent order of ideas could not come
prominently to view. The court and sacerdotal party would recognise
no distinction but a greater or less violence of opposition to the
ceremonies enforced by the High Commission, and to the arminianism
and Sunday sport, which were the great means, one inward, the other
outward, of evaporating the consciousness of spiritual privilege
and strength. The so-called puritans were mostly of presbyterian
sympathies, but their ministers, though under frequent suspensions,
adhered to their benefices. They were obliged, indeed, by statute
to use no other than the established liturgy, but no statute then
existed, like that passed after the Restoration, requiring absolute
agreement of opinion with everything contained in the liturgy. The
attitude of temporary conformity under protest might therefore be
a legitimate one for a puritan minister; at any rate it was the
one commonly held. A certain number, however, insisting like the
original Brown on a nonconformity that would tarry for no man, formed
separate congregations, and these were known as Brownists. Their only
chance, however, under Laud, was either to keep in absolute hiding
or withdraw to Holland or New England. If there were many of them in
England at the meeting of the Long Parliament, their presence was due
to an order in council of 1634, a strange instance of the blindness
of persecution, which prohibited emigration to New England without
royal licence.

In the Long Parliament, at the time of its meeting, the only
recognised representative of independency was young Sir Harry Vane.
He was not, indeed, properly of the {291} independent or any other
sect. Baxter, who hated him as a despiser of ordinances, gives him
a sect to himself; but he represented that current of thought which
flowed through independence, but could not be contained by it. His
ideas are worth studying, for they are the best expression of the
spirit which struggled into brief and imperfect realisation during
the commonwealth. In his extant treatises, entitled a ‘Retired Man’s
Meditations’ and a ‘Healing Question,’ and in extracts from other
writings preserved by his contemporary biographer Sikes, we find,
under a most involved phraseology and an allegorising interpretation
of scripture, a strange intensity of intellectual aspiration,
which, if his secondary gifts had been those of a poet instead of a
politician, might have made him the rival of Milton. The account of
him by Baxter, who, with all his saintliness, was never able to rise
above the clerical point of view, may be taken to express the result,
rather than the spirit, of his doctrines.

  ‘His unhappiness lay in this, that his doctrines were so
  cloudily formed and expressed, that few could understand
  them, and therefore he had but few true disciples.
  Mr. Sterry is thought to be of his mind, but he hath
  not opened himself in writing, and was so famous for
  obscurity in preaching (being, said Sir Benjamin Rudyard,
  too high for this world and too low for the other) that
  he thereby proved almost barren also, and vanity and
  sterility were never more happily conjoined’ (a clerical
  pun). ‘This obscurity was by some imputed to his not
  understanding himself; but by others to design, because
  he could speak plainly when he listed. The two courses in
  which he had most success, and spake most plainly, were
  his earnest plea for universal liberty of conscience, and
  against the magistrate’s intermeddling with religion,
  and his teaching his followers to revile the ministry,
  calling them blackcoats, priests, and other names which
  then savoured of reproach.’ [1]

[1] [_Reliquiae Baxterianae_, p. 76.]

His zeal for liberty of conscience and disrespect for ministers
were early called into play by his experience as governor of
Massachusetts. The eldest son of one of the most successful courtiers
of the time, he had, when a boy, shown a soul that would not fit his

  ‘About the fourteenth or fifteenth year of my age,’ he
  said of himself on the scaffold, ‘God was pleased to
  lay the foundation or groundwork of repentance {292} in
  me ... revealing his Son in me, that ... I might, even
  whilst here in the body, be made partaker of eternal

In this temper he was sent to Oxford, where he would not take the
oath of supremacy, and was consequently unable to matriculate. He
then spent some time at Geneva. On his return, his nonconformity gave
such offence to the people about court, that the powers of Laud were
applied in a special conference for the purpose, to bring him to a
better mind. The final result is best stated in the words of a court
clergyman: [1]

  ‘Mr. Comptroller Vane’s eldest son hath left his father,
  his mother, his country, and that fortune which his
  father would have left him here, and is, for conscience’
  sake, gone to New England, there to lead the rest of his
  life, being but twenty years of age. He had abstained two
  years from taking the sacrament in England, because he
  could get no one to administer it to him standing. He was
  bred up at Leyden; and I hear that Sir Nathaniel Rich and
  Mr. Pym have done him much hurt in their persuasions this

Already on the voyage he found that he had not left bigotry behind
him. He had, according to Clarendon, ‘an unusual aspect, which made
men think there was somewhat in him of extraordinary.’ He seems to
have had long hair, a lustrous countenance, and the expression of a
man looking not with, but through, his eyes. ‘His temper was a strong
composition of choler and melancholy.’ These ‘circumstances of his
person’ and his honourable birth, ‘rendered his fellow-passengers
jealous of him, but he that they thought at first sight to have too
little of Christ for their company, did soon after appear to have too
much for them.’ [2] It appeared notably enough in the matter of Anne
Hutchinson, with whom he had to deal as governor of Massachusetts,
having been chosen to that office soon after his arrival, while still
only twenty-three. This brought him into direct relation to the
spirit which the clergy called sectarian, and of which he became the
mouthpiece and vindicator under the commonwealth. Let us consider
what that spirit was. I have already ventured to describe faith in
the higher lutheran sense as the absorption of all merely finite and
relative virtues, as such, in the consciousness of union with the
infinite God. From this principle, as extravagances, if we like, but
necessary {293} extravagances, are derived the fanatic sects of the
seventeenth century, antinomians, familists, seekers, quakers. We
live perhaps an age too late for understanding them. The ‘set gray
life’ of our interested and calculating world shuts us out from the
time when the consciousness of spiritual freedom was first awakened
and the bible first placed in the people’s hands. Here was promised
a union with, a realisation of, God; immediate, conscious, without
stint, barrier, or limitation. Here, on the other hand, were spirits
thirsting for such intercourse. Who should say them nay? Who could
wonder if they drank so deep of the divine fulness offered them,
that the fixed bounds of law and morality seemed to be effaced, and
the manifestation of God, which absorbs duty in fruition, to be
already complete? The dream of the sectary was the counterpart in
minds where feeling ruled instead of thought, of the philosophic
vision which views the moving world ‘sub quadam specie aeterni.’ It
was the anticipation in moments of ecstasy and assurance of that
which must be to us the ever-retreating end of God’s work in the
world. Its mischief lay in its attempt to construct a religious
life, which is nothing without external realisation, on an inward
and momentary intuition. It is needless to investigate the history
of Mrs. Hutchinson’s antinomian heresy, which bears the normal type.
It expressed the consciousness of the communication of God to the
individual soul apart from outward act or sign. Its formula was that
sanctification, _i.e._ a holy life, was no evidence of justification;
and this again was said to lead to a heresy as to the nature and
operation of the Holy Ghost. Practically, perhaps, it was the result
of reaction from the rule of outward austerity under which she lived.
It must have escaped persecution, had she not employed it (in this,
again, anticipating the sectaries of the commonwealth) as a weapon
of offence against the puritan ministers. It was the custom in the
colony to hold weekly exercises, in which lay people expounded and
enforced the sermons heard on Sunday. Mrs. Hutchinson was allowed
to hold such an exercise for women, and unhappily soon turned
exposition into hostile criticism. This roused the fury of the more
rigid professors, who demanded her death as a heretic. Vane protected
her, and in consequence, though supported by the Boston people, was
superseded by Winthrop in the annual election of governor. This
led, soon afterwards, to his return {294} to England; not, however,
before Roger Williams had, through Vane’s influence with the Indians,
obtained a settlement at Rhode Island, and there, for the first time
in Christian history, founded a political society on the basis of
perfect freedom of opinion. In Rhode Island Mrs. Hutchinson found
shelter, but was pursued by the clergy with hideous stories of her
witchcraft and commune with the devil. These Baxter with malignant
credulity was not ashamed to accept, and to ascribe her cruel murder
by the Indians to the judgment of heaven.

[1] [_Strafford’s Letters_, i. p. 463.]

[2] [_The life and Death of Sir Henry Vane_, by George Sikes, p. 8,
Ed. 1662.]

I dwell at some length on this story, because it exhibits in little
the forces whose strife, tempered but not governed by the practical
genius and stern purpose of Cromwell, formed the tragedy of the
commonwealth. Here we find the puritan enthusiasm by a necessary
process, when freed from worldly restraints, issuing in the sectarian
enthusiasm, and then weaning and casting out the child that it has
borne. We see the rent which such schism makes in a society founded
not on adjustment of interests but on unity of opinion, and may judge
how fatal this breach must be when the society so founded, like the
republic in England, is but the sudden creation of a minority, and
exists, not in a new country with boundless room where the cast-off
child may find shelter, but in the presence of ancient interests,
which it ignores but can neither suppress nor withdraw from, and in
the midst of an old and haughty people, proud in arms, whom it claims
to rule but does not represent. In detachment from both parties
stands the clear spirit of Vane, strong in a principle which can give
its due to both alike, yet weak from its very refusal to obscure its
clearness by compromise with either. This principle, which became the
better genius of independence in its conflict with presbyterianism, I
will endeavour to state as Vane himself conceived it.

The work of creation in time, he held, which did but reflect the
process by which the Father begets the eternal Son, involved two
elements, the purely spiritual or angelic, represented by heaven or
the light, on the one hand, and the material and animal on the other,
represented by the earth. Man, as made of dust in the image of God,
includes both, and his history was a gradual progress upward from a
state which would be merely that of the animals but for the fatal
gift of rational will, to a life of pure spirituality, which he {295}
represented as angelic, a life which should consist in ‘the exercise
of senses merely spiritual and inward, exceeding high, intuitive
and comprehensive.’ This process of spiritual sublimation, treating
the spirit under the figure of light or of a ‘consuming fire,’ he
described as the consuming and dissolving of all objects of outward
sense, and a destruction of the earthly tabernacle, while that which
is from heaven is being gradually put on. In the conscience of man,
the process had three principal stages, called by Vane the natural,
legal, and evangelical conscience. The natural conscience was the
light of those who, having not the law, were by nature a law unto
themselves. It was the source of ordinary right and obligation.
‘The original impressions of just laws are in man’s nature and very
constitution of being.’ These impressions were at once the source and
the limit of the authority of the magistrate. The legal conscience
was the source of the ordinances and dogmas of the christian. It
belongs to the champions of the covenant of grace as much as to their
adversaries. It represents the stage in which the christian clings to
rule, letter, and privilege. It too had its value, but fell short of
the evangelical conscience, of the stage in which the human spirit,
perfectly conformed to Christ’s death and resurrection, crucified to
outward desire and ordinance, holds intercourse ‘high, intuitive and
comprehensive’ with the divine.

Doctrine of this kind is familiar enough to the student of theosophic
and cosmogonic speculation. Whether Vane in his foreign travels
had fallen in with the writings of Jacob Boehme we cannot say, but
the family likeness is strong. The interest of the doctrine for us
lies in its application to practical statesmanship by the keenest
politician of a time when politicians were keen and strong. That
it should have been so applied has been a sore stumbling-block to
two classes of men not unfrequently found in alliance, sensational
philosophers, and theologians who find the way of salvation
in scripture construed as an act of parliament. The man above
ordinances, as Vane was called by his contemporaries, [1] was
naturally not a favourite with men whom he would have reckoned in
bondage to the legal conscience. Baxter’s opinion of him has been
already quoted. To the lawyers, calling themselves theologians, of
the next century he was even less intelligible. Burnet had ‘sometimes
taken pains to see if I could find out his meaning in his words, yet
I could never reach it. And since many others {296} have said the
same, it may be reasonable to believe that he hid somewhat that was
a necessary key to the rest.’ [2] Clarendon had been more modest;
when he had read some of his writings and ‘found nothing in them of
his usual clearness and ratiocination in his discourse, in which he
used much to excel the best of the company he kept’ (the company, we
must remember, that called Milton friend), ‘and that in a crowd of
very easy words the sense was too hard to find out, I was of opinion
that the subject of it was of so delicate a nature that it required
another kind of preparation of mind, and perhaps another kind of
diet, than men are ordinarily supplied with.’ [3] Hume was superior
to such a supposition; ‘This man, so celebrated for his parliamentary
talents, and for his capacity in business, has left some writings
behind him. They treat all of them of religious subjects and are
absolutely unintelligible. No traces of eloquence, even of common
sense, appear in them.’ In this language is noticeable a certain
resentment common to men of the world and practical philosophers,
that a man whom they deem a fool in his philosophy should not be
a fool altogether. From his derided theosophy, however, Vane had
derived certain practical principles, now of recognised value, which
no statesman before him had dreamt of, and which were not less potent
when based on religious ideas struggling for articulate utterance,
than when stated by the masters of an elegant vocabulary from which
God and spirit were excluded.

[1] [Amended from “cotemporary”. Tr.]

[2] [Burnet, _Own Time_, p. 108, Ed. 1838.]

[3] [Clarendon on ‘Creasy’s answer to Stillingfleet,’ as quoted in
the _Biographia Britannica_ (art. ‘Vane.’)]


In Vane first appears the doctrine of natural right and government
by consent, which, however open to criticism in the crude form of
popular statement, has yet been the moving principle of the modern
reconstruction of Europe. It was the result of his recognition of the
‘rule of Christ in the natural conscience’ in the elemental reason,
in virtue of which man is properly a law to himself. From the same
idea followed the principle of universal toleration, the exclusion
of the magistrate’s power alike from the maintenance and restraint
of any kind of opinion. This principle did not {297} with Vane and
the independents rest, as in modern times, on the slippery foundation
of a supposed indifference of all religious beliefs, but on the
conviction of the sacredness of the reason, however deluded, in every
man, which may be constrained by nothing less divine than itself.

  ‘The rule of magistracy’ says Vane, ‘is not to intrude
  itself into the office and proper concerns of Christ’s
  inward government and rule in the conscience, but it
  is to content itself with the outward man, and to
  intermeddle with the concerns thereof in reference to
  the converse which man ought to have with man, upon
  the grounds of natural justice and right in things
  appertaining to this life.’ [1]

[1] [‘A Retired Man’s Meditations,’ (quoted by Forster, _Eminent
British Statesmen_, iv. p. 84).]

Nor would he allow the re-establishment under the name of christian
discipline, of that constraint of the conscience which he refused
to the magistrate. Such discipline, he would hold, as he held the
sabbath, to be rather a ‘magistratical institution’ in imitation
of what was ‘ceremonious and temporary’ among the Jews, ‘than that
which hath any clear appointment in the gospel.’ [1] Christ’s spirit
was not bound. A system of truth and discipline had not been written
down once for all in the scriptures, but rather was to be gradually
elicited from the scriptures by the gradual manifestation in the
believer of the spirit which spoke also in them. A ‘waiting,’ seeking
attitude, unbound by rule whether ecclesiastical or secular, was that
which became a spiritual church. The application of this waiting
spirit to practical life is to be found in the policy of Cromwell.

[1] [Sikes, quoted by Forster, _ib_. p. 81, note.]

It would be unfair to ascribe the theory of Vane in its speculative
fulness to the independents as a body. It seems, however, to be but
the development of the view on which Mr. Robinson had dwelt in his
last words to the settlers of New Plymouth; and, so far as it could
be represented by a sect, it was represented by the independents.
It came before the world, in full outward panoply, in the army of
Cromwell. The history of its inevitable conflict with the spirit of
presbyterianism on the one hand and the wisdom of the world on the
other, of its aberrations and perplexities, of its brief triumph and
final flight into the wilderness, is the history of the rise and fall
of the English commonwealth. I have yet {298} to speak, however, of
the representation of the wisdom of the world in the Long Parliament.

Before the outbreak of the war, as I have explained, Vane was the
only man in the house of commons whose opinions were recognised as
definitely opposed both to episcopacy and presbyterianism. In the
lords his only recognised follower was lord Brook, known to the
readers of Sir Walter Scott as the ‘fanatic Brook,’ really an eminent
scholar and man of letters, who was shot in storming the close at
Lichfield in the first year of the war, leaving as a legacy to the
parliament a plea for freedom of speech and conscience. The majority
of the parliament, however, had no special love for the presbyterian
discipline and theology. Their favour to it was merely negative. They
dreaded arminianism, as notoriously at that time the great weapon in
the hands of the jesuits; they objected to the high episcopacy as
sacerdotal, and as maintaining a jurisdiction incompatible with civil
liberty. In 1641 a modified episcopacy on Usher’s plan was a possible
solution of the difficulty. Each shire was to have a presbytery of
twelve members, with a bishop as president who, ‘with assistance of
some of the presbytery,’ was to ordain, degrade, and excommunicate.
Though the pressure of strife with the king prevented anything being
done to carry out this resolution, it probably represented the views
even of the more advanced parliamentary leaders; but only, however,
as afterwards appeared, on the supposition that the presbyters with
their bishop should be strictly under civil control. The worldly
wisdom of the Long Parliament was, in the party language of the
times, essentially erastian.

As the presbyterian claims mounted higher, this became more apparent.
The calling of the assembly of divines, and the adoption of the
covenant, might seem to give presbyterianism a sufficiently broad
charter of privilege; yet both these steps were taken by parliament
with restrictions which showed its temper. The ordinance which
called the assembly gave it power ‘until further order should
be taken by parliament to confer of such matters concerning the
liturgy, discipline, and government of the church of England, or
the vindicating of the doctrine of the same from false aspersions
and misconstructions, as shall be proposed by both or either house
of parliament, and no other.’ [1] It concludes by providing {299}
that ‘this ordinance shall not give them, nor shall they in this
assembly assume to exercise, any jurisdiction, power, or authority
ecclesiastical whatsoever, or any other power than is herein
particularly expressed.’ This document has nothing revolutionary
about it. It is the natural utterance of what Brook pronounced to
have been an ‘episcopal and erastian parliament of conformists.’
This parliament, however, had soon under military necessity to raise
a spirit which no episcopacy or erastianism could lay. The divines
came to Westminster, according to Brook, all conformists, with the
exception of eight or nine independents. They came, that is, from the
cooling atmosphere of benefices, and had not yet begun to discuss the
liturgy or object to a modified episcopacy. If they came conformists,
however, they did not long remain so. Contact with each other, and
the applause of London congregations, essentially presbyterian in
their sympathies, bred a warmer temper. The introduction of the
Scotch commissioners, and the adoption of the covenant, gave spirit
and strength to their disciplinarian humour, and in a few months,
men who had come to the assembly anxious only for some restraint
on episcopal tyranny, were clamouring for the establishment of
presbyterianism as _jure divino_.

[1] [Rushworth, June 12. 1643.]

I have spoken of the adoption of the covenant in England as matter
of military necessity. It was the condition of alliance between
parliament and the Scotch; without this alliance the year 1644 would
in all probability have been fatal to the parliamentary cause.
Supposing the Scotch army to have simply held aloof, the royal party
would have been so triumphant in the north as to enable the king to
advance with irresistible force on Lichfield. Till the parliament
had secured it, however, it could not be trusted to stand aloof; it
might at any time have been gained for the king by his consenting, as
he did too late in 1648, to the covenant. The English negotiators,
of whom Vane was the chief, had hoped to secure the alliance by a
merely civil league, and when the Scotch insisted on the adoption of
the religious covenant, they still succeeded in having the document
entitled ‘league and covenant’ instead of ‘covenant’ alone. In later
years, as we shall see, they always insisted on interpreting it as a
league in virtue of which each kingdom was to help the other in the
establishment of what religion it chose, not as binding either to
any particular form. {300} The desirableness of such interpretation
is more obvious than its correctness. By the first and second
clauses, as they originally stood, the covenanters bound themselves
to ‘the preservation of the reformed religion in Scotland,’ and ‘the
reformation of religion in England and Ireland, in doctrine, worship,
discipline and government’; also to the ‘extirpation of prelacy.’
After the words ‘reformation etc.’ Vane procured the insertion of
the qualification ‘according to the word of God,’ in order to avoid
committal to any particular form. To ease the conscience of those
who favoured Usher’s form of episcopacy, prelacy was interpreted to
mean ‘church government by archbishops, bishops, their chancellors
and commissaries, deans, chapters, archdeacons, and all other
ecclesiastical officers depending on that hierarchy.’ This modified
covenant was taken by the parliament and the assembly at Westminster,
and enjoined on every one over the age of eighteen. Practically it
was by no means universally imposed even on the clergy; in Baxter’s
neighbourhood none took it. Still, its operation was to eject from
their livings some two thousand clergymen, whose places were mostly
filled by presbyterians. A shifty and exacting alliance was thus
dearly purchased at the cost of at once spreading loose over the
country an uncontrolled element of disaffection to the parliament,
and giving vent to a spirit of ecclesiastical arrogance which would
soon demand to rule alone. This spirit was not long in showing
itself. The Scotch army entered England at the beginning of 1644,
and throughout that year the kirk, either by petition or through
the commons in England, was pressing for a presbyterian settlement
of church government in England. At last the assembly, still under
special permission from parliament, was allowed to proceed to the
discussion of this question. The first step was to propose a vote in
the assembly that presbyterian government was _jure divino_. The only
opponents of this decree were the small band of independents headed
by Goodwin, the lay assessors Selden and Whitelock representing
the erastian majority in parliament, whose only clerical supporter
seems to have been Lightfoot the Hebraist. Selden, a layman of vast
ecclesiastical lore, had a way of touching the sorest points of
clerical feeling. In 1618 he had written his great work disproving
the divine origin of tithes, and had been brought, in consequence,
before the {301} High Commission court. There, with the ordinary
suppleness of the erastian conscience, he signed the following
recantation: [1]

  ‘My good lords, I most humbly acknowledge my error
  in publishing the history of tithes, and especially
  in that I have at all (by shewing any interpretation
  of scripture, or by meddling with councils, canons,
  fathers, or by what else soever occurs in it) offered any
  occasion of argument against any right of maintenance
  _jure divino_ of the ministers of the gospel; beseeching
  your lordships to receive this ingenuous and humble
  acknowledgment, together with the unfeigned protestation
  of my grief, that I have so incurred his majesty’s and
  your lordships’ displeasure.’

[1] [Neal, _Puritans_, i. p. 471.]

The consciousness of debasement does not strengthen one’s affection
for those who have been the occasion of it, and perhaps Selden’s
remembrance of his usage by the ‘old priest’ may not have quickened
his friendship for the ‘new presbyter.’ ‘In the debates of the
divines,’ says Whitelock, ‘Mr. Selden spoke admirably and confuted
divers of them in their own learning. Sometimes when they had cited
a text of scripture to prove their assertion, he would tell them,
“Perhaps in your little pocket bibles with gilt leaves (which they
would often pull out and read) the translation may be thus, but the
Greek or the Hebrew signifies thus and thus,” and so would totally
silence them.’ [1] Whitelock himself opposed much grave law-logic
to the claims of the divines, which he quotes at length in his
memoirs, but his most satisfactory argument, to modern ears, is the
simple one, ‘If this presbyterian government be not _jure divino_,
no opinion of any council can make it to be what it is not; and if
it be _jure divino_, it continues so still, although you do not
declare it to be so.’ [2] The divines, however, thought otherwise.
Presbyterianism was duly voted _jure divino_, and parliament in
1645 was applied to to enforce the _jus divinum_ under pains and
penalties. That the presbyterian _jus_ was _divinum_ parliament
could never be induced to decide. It was very near doing so on one
occasion, when the divines had contrived to bring the question on
in a packed house, but by the skill of sergeant Glyn and Whitelock
in talking against time the danger was averted. At length, however,
under pressure from the Scots and city of London, it established
a presbyterian régime. This régime, {302} never carried out save
in London and Lancashire, was the same in kind as that existing in
Scotland, except that the ‘kirk session’ was called a parochial
presbytery, and the combination of parochial presbyteries not a
presbytery as in Scotland, but a ‘classis.’ This was referred to in
Milton’s lines,

    ‘To ride us with a classic hierarchy
    Taught ye by mere A.S. and Rutherford.’ [3]

It was established, however, with such erastian limitations that
while it excluded the independents, it gave no satisfaction to the
Scots. The independent principle was violated on two points; both by
the subjection of the independent congregation to the ‘classis,’ and
by the method of ordination adopted which recognised the presbyter
as of a distinct order, to be set apart by other presbyters, instead
of as a simple officer appointed by a single congregation. The
thoroughgoing presbyterians were alienated by the refusal to the
church of the absolute power of the keys. The offences for which
the presbyteries were allowed to suspend from the sacrament or
excommunicate were distinctly enumerated, and an ultimate appeal,
in all ecclesiastical cases, was given to the parliament. The whole
system, moreover, was declared for the present merely provisional.
The restrictions at once raised an outcry among the Scots and the
presbyterians of the city, and the assembly itself was bold enough
to vote a condemnation of the clause giving a final appeal to
parliament. A seasonable threat of a _praemunire_, however, from
the commons, laid the rising dust in the assembly; but the mounting
spirit of the new forcers of conscience was shown in the opposition
made to the petition which the independents offered to parliament,
that their congregations might have the right of ordination within
themselves, and that they might not be brought under the power of
the ‘presbyterian classes.’ It would be tedious to follow the war
of committees, sermons, pamphlets, which this request, modest in
itself, and more modest in form, excited. The assembly, the city, the
Scotch parliament, urged the maintenance of an absolute uniformity.
No plea of conscience was to be listened to. To admit one was to
admit all. The independent claim was schismatic, and, as such,
excluded by the covenant. In the words of a pamphlet of the time; ‘to
let men serve God {303} according to conscience is to cast out one
devil that seven worse may enter.’ The new synod of the city clergy,
meeting at Sion House, petitioned the assembly to oppose with all
their might ‘the great Diana of the independents,’ and not to suffer
their new establishment ‘to be strangled in the birth by a lawless
toleration.’ The language of the Scotch parliament, addressed through
their president to the two houses at Westminster, was specially high
and irritating. ‘It is expected,’ says the president, ‘that the
honourable houses will add the civil sanction to what the assembly
have advised. I am commanded by the parliament of this kingdom to
demand it, and in their name do demand it.’ The temper in which this
demand was made, was shown by a declaration against ‘liberty of
conscience and toleration of sectaries,’ published at the same time
by the Scotch, in which, after taking due note of ‘their own great
services,’ they announce that, ‘being all bound by one covenant, they
will go on to the last man of the kingdom in opposing that party in
England which was endeavouring to supplant true religion by pleading
for liberty of conscience.’ Evidence might be tediously multiplied
to show, that if Marston Moor and Naseby had been won by the Scots
and the trained bands of the city, the civil sword would really have
been applied ‘to force the consciences which Christ set free,’ at a
time when these consciences were at their quickest, to a conformity,
if not more oppressive than that exacted by Laud, yet more fatal to
intellectual freedom.

[1] [Whitelock, _Memorials_, i. p. 209, Ed. 1853.]

[2] [Whitelock, i. p. 294.]

[3] [_On the new forcers of conscience under the Long Parliament._]

Meanwhile the parliamentary erastians had a power at their back, no
child of their own, too strong for the Scots and the assembly, and
soon to prove too strong for parliament itself. The first note of
alarm at this power had been sounded by the wary Scots about the end
of 1644.

  ‘One evening,’ says Whitelock, ‘Maynard and I were
  sent for by the Lord General’ (Essex) ‘to Essex House.
  There we found with him the Scotch commissioners, Mr.
  Hollis, Sir Philip Stapleton’ (presbyterian leaders in
  the commons) ‘and others of his special friends. After
  compliments, and that all were set down in council, the
  lord chancellor of Scotland was called on to explain the
  matter on which he desired the opinion of Maynard and
  Whitelock. ‘Ye ken verra weel that lieutenant-general
  Cromwell is no friend of ours, and not only is he no
  friend to us and to the government of our church, but he
  is also no well-wisher to his excellency” {304} (Essex),
  “whom you and we all have cause to love and honour; and
  if he be permitted to go on his ways, it may endanger
  the whole business; therefore we are to advise of some
  course to be taken for prevention of this business. Ye
  ken verra weel the accord’ ’twixt the two kingdoms, and
  the union by the solemn league and covenant, and if any
  be an incendiary between the two nations, how he is to
  be proceeded against. Now the matter is, wherein we
  desire your opinions, what you tak the meaning of this
  word _incendiary_ to be, and whether lieutenant-general
  Cromwell be not sike an incendiary as is meant thereby,
  and which way wad be best to tak to proceed against
  him, if he be proved to be sike an incendiary, and that
  will clepe his wings from soaring to the prejudice of
  our cause. Now, ye may ken that by our laws in Scotland
  we clepe him an incendiary whay kindleth coals of
  contention in the state to the public damage; whether
  your law be the same or not, ye ken best who are mickle
  learned therein; and therefore, with the favour of his
  excellency, we desire your judgment in these points.”’ [1]

In reply, Maynard and Whitelock, after much disquisition on the
meaning of the word ‘incendiary,’ one ‘not much conversant in our
law,’ explain that lieutenant-general Cromwell is ‘a gentleman of
quick and subtle parts, and one who hath (especially of late) gained
no small interest in the house of commons, nor is he wanting of
friends in the house of peers, nor of abilities in himself to manage
his own defence to the best advantage,’ and that on the whole, till
more particular proof of his incendiarism should be forthcoming,
it would be better not to bring the matter before parliament. The
incendiarism of lieutenant-general Cromwell really consisted in this,
that he had (again to quote Whitelock) ‘a brave regiment of horse of
his countrymen, most of them freeholders, or freeholders’ sons, who
upon matter of conscience engaged in this quarrel. And thus being
well armed within by satisfaction of their own consciences, and
without by good iron arms, they would as one man stand firmly and
charge desperately.’ [2] Nearly every military success of importance
that had been won for the parliament had been won by these soldiers
of conscience, and unhappily their conscience was not of a kind that
would brook presbyterian uniformity. At the time of the conference
at Essex House, {305} Cromwell, with the help of the persuasive arts
of Vane, was moving the parliament, disgusted with the practical
inefficiency of its conservative and presbyterian commanders, to
measures which would give it an army led by officers mostly of his
own training, and fired by that religious inspiration of which
freedom of conscience was the necessary condition.

[1] [Whitelock, i. pp. 343-7.]

[2] [_ib_. i. p. 209.]

The story of the new-modelling of the army, of the self-denying
ordinance, and of the special exemption of Cromwell from its
operations, is too well known to need repetition. Two points deserve
special notice; one, the long discussion against the imposition of
the covenant on the new army, ending in an ordinance of parliament
after the army was already formed, that it should be taken by the
officers within twenty days, which does not appear to have been ever
carried into effect; the other, that the self-denying ordinance, as
originally passed by the commons, excluded from military command,
during the war, all members of either house of parliament. It would
thus have been general and prospective in its operation. In this
form, the lords, with judicial blindness, rejected it. The commons
then sent it up in a new form, merely discharging from their present
commands those who were at present members of either house of
parliament. In this form it was passed, and thus when Vane at the
end of 1645 carried a measure, declaring vacant the seats of those
members who had adhered to the king and ordering them to be filled,
the officers of the new-model army were eligible, and elected in
large numbers. If the party of the army and the sectaries had not
thus gained a footing in the house, the course of history would
probably have been very different.

The new-model army went to the war, according to May, the clerk of
the Long parliament, ‘without the confidence of their friends and an
object of contempt to their enemies.’ [1] Their outward triumph it is
needless to describe; we should rather seek to appreciate the nature
of the spiritual triumph which the outward one involved. It used to
be the fashion to treat the sectarian enthusiasm of the ‘Ironsides’
as created, or at least stimulated, by Cromwell. The army went mad,
and it was to gain Cromwell’s private ends. The prevalent conception
of our time, that the great men of history have not created popular
ideas or events, but merely expressed or {306} realised them with
special effect, excludes such a view. The sectarian enthusiasm, as we
have seen, was a necessary result of the consciousness of spiritual
right elicited by the Reformation, where this consciousness had
not, as in Scotland, been early made the foundation of a popular
church, but had been long left to struggle in the dark against an
unsympathetic clergy and a regulated ceremonial worship. The spirit
which could not ‘find itself’ in the authoritative utterance of
prelates, or express its yearnings unutterable in a stinted liturgy,
was not likely, when war had given it vent and stimulus, to acquiesce
in a new uniformity as exact as that from which it had broken. It had
tasted a new and dangerous food. Taught as it had been to wait on
God, in search for new revelations of him, it now read this lesson
by the stronger light of personal deliverances and achievements, and
found in the tumultuous experience of war at once the expression and
the justification of its own inward tumult.

[1] [_Breviary of the History of the Long Parliament_, Maseres,
Tracts, i. 74.]

It is a notion which governs much of the popular thought of the
present day, and which the most cultivated ‘men of feeling’ are
not ashamed to express, that the world is atheised when we regard
it as a universe of general laws, equally relentless or equally
merciful to the evil and to the good. If such a notion, through
mere impatience of thought, can dominate an educated age, we may
well excuse uncultivated men, who clung close to God, for believing
him to manifest himself to his favoured people by sudden visitation
and unaccountable events. This was indeed the received belief
of Christendom at the time of our civil war. The man who was to
vindicate a higher reason for God’s providence, and to be called
an atheist for doing so, was still at Mr. van den Ende’s school in
Amsterdam. It was in the realisation of the belief by individuals
that the difference lay. Where the bible was not in the hands
of the people, it could be regulated by priests and ceremonial.
Elsewhere it was controllable by state-churches, or by ecclesiastical
authority, claiming to be _jure divino_ like the presbyterian, and
which appealed to popular reason, but to this reason as regulated by
fitting education and discipline. Everywhere, in ordinary times, law
and custom would put a veil on the face which the believer turned
towards God. But now in England the bands were altogether loosed.
Enthusiasts who had been waiting darkly on God while he was hidden
behind established {307} worships and ministrations of the letter,
who had heard his voice in their hearts but seen no sign of him in
the world, were now enacting his work themselves, and reading his
strange providences on the field of battle. Their own right hand
was ‘teaching them terrible things.’ Here was the revelation of the
latter days, for which they had been bidden to wait. That which
they had sought for literally ‘with strong crying and tears,’ which
they had not found in the system of the church, in the reasoning of
divines, in the ungodly jangle of the law, was visible and audible in
war. There

        God glowed above
    With scarce an intervention ...
         ... his soul o’er theirs.
    They felt him, nor by painful reason knew.’ [1]

[1] [                     ‘My own East!
    How nearer God we were. He glows above
    With scarce an intervention, presses close
    And palpitatingly, his soul o’er ours!
    We feel him, nor by painful reason know!’
                        BROWNING, Luria.]

Henceforth, whatever authority claimed their submission as divine,
must come home to their conscience with a like directness, and
this the _jus divinum_ of the presbyterians failed to do. This new
spiritual force the ministers had left to itself. While they were
wrangling at Westminster or settling warmly into the berths which
the episcopal clergy had vacated, it had been gathering strength
unheeded. At the outbreak of the war each regiment had a regular
minister as its chaplain, but after the battle at Edgehill made it
clear that the business would be a longer one than had been expected,
these divines, according to Baxter, withdrew either to the assembly
or to their livings. Baxter himself lost an opportunity which he
afterwards regretted, in declining the chaplaincy of Cromwell’s
regiment, ‘which its officers proposed to make a gathered church.’
’These very men,’ he says, ‘that then invited me to be their pastor,
were the men that afterwards headed an army, and were forwardest in
all our charges; which made me wish I had gone among them, for all
the fire was in one spark.’ [1] The news of the battle of Naseby,
however, so far stirred Baxter, then living at Coventry, that he must
needs join his old friends, and for two years he moved about with the
army, as chaplain to Whalley’s regiment which had been {308} formed
out of Cromwell’s. The sectarian spirit he then found too strong for
his mild piety to control.

[1] [_Reliquiae Baxterianae_, p. 51.]

  ‘We that lived quietly at Coventry did keep to our old
  principles; we were unfeignedly for king and parliament;
  we believed the war was only to save the parliament
  and kingdom from papists and delinquents and to remove
  the dividers, that the king might return again to his
  parliament, and that no changes might be made in religion
  but with his consent. But when I came to the army among
  Cromwell’s soldiers, I found anew face of things which
  I never dreamt of. The plotting heads were very hot
  upon that which intimated their intentions to subvert
  church and state. Independency and anabaptistry were most
  prevalent. Antinomianism and arminianism were equally

Hot-headed sectaries in the highest places, Cromwell’s chief
favourites, were asking what were the lords of England but William
the Conqueror’s colonels, or the barons but his majors, or the
knights but his captains? ‘plainly showing that thy thought God’s
providence would cast the trust of religion and the kingdom upon
them as conquerors.’ Of some of these dangerous men, particularly of
Harrison and Berry, then reckoned Cromwell’s prime favourites, Baxter
gives a more particular account. Berry

  ‘was a man of great sincerity before the wars, and of
  very good natural parts, affectionate in religion, and
  while conversant with humbling providences, doctrines,
  and company, he carried himself as a great enemy to
  pride. But when Cromwell made him his favourite and his
  extraordinary valour met with extraordinary success, and
  when he had been awhile most conversant with those that
  in religion thought the old puritan ministers were dull,
  self-conceited men of a lower form, and that new light
  had declared I know not what to be a higher attainment,
  his mind, aim, talk and all were altered accordingly.
  Being never well studied in the body of divinity or
  controversy, but taking his light among the sectaries, he
  lived after as honestly as could be expected in one that
  taketh error for truth.’

  ‘Harrison,’ says Baxter, ‘would not dispute with me at
  all, but he would in good discourse very fluently pour
  out himself in the extolling of free grace, which was
  savoury to those that had right principles, though he had
  some misunderstandings of free grace himself. He was a
  man of excellent natural parts for affection and oratory;
  but not well seen in the principles of his religion; of a
  sanguine {309} complexion, naturally of such a vivacity,
  hilarity, and alacrity as another man hath when he hath
  drunken a cup too much; but naturally also so far from
  humble thoughts of himself, that it was his ruin.’ [1]

[1] [_Reliquiae Baxterianae_, p. 57.]

One day, during the fight at Langport, Baxter happened to be close
to Harrison just as Goring’s army broke before the charge of the
Ironsides, and heard him ‘with a loud voice break forth into the
praises of God, as if he had been in a rapture.’ [1] Such a temper
could only be moderated by one who shared its raptures, its wild
energy, its scorn of prescription, and who yet had the practical
wisdom, the wider comprehension, of which it was incapable. Such
a one was Cromwell, a tumultuous soul, but with a strange method
in his tumult. The old notion, that this method consisted in a
persistent design of personal aggrandisement, may be taken to have
been dispelled once for all by the publication of his letters and
speeches. That he was a genuine enthusiast, that he was perfectly
sincere in the sense that his real ends were those that he professed,
that his own advancement was not his object, but merely the condition
or result of his getting work done which others could not do, this
is the only theory that will explain the facts, if we include among
the facts his own language at times when there can have been no
motive for insincerity, and the impression which he made on his
contemporaries, not when they looked back on his acts in the light
of personal grievance, but at the time when they were done. The
life-long hypocrisy which the opposite theory ascribes to him is
incompatible with the personal attraction which a revolutionary
leader must exercise if he is to do his work. In Napoleon, though
he did not so much lead a revolution as turn revolutionary forces
to military account, there was no touch of hypocrisy. His hard
selfishness and his zeal for the material improvement of European
life were equally explicit. The assertion, however, of Cromwell’s
unselfish enthusiasm is quite consistent with the imputation to him
of much unscrupulousness, violence, simulation, and dissimulation,
sins which no one has escaped who ever led or controlled a
revolution; from which in times like his no man could save his
soul but by such saintly abstraction as Baxter takes credit for to
himself, and Mrs. Hutchinson to her husband, which in aspiration to
heaven leaves earth to its chance.

[1] [_Reliquiae Baxterianae_, p. 54.]

{310} When Baxter was with the army he found that ‘Cromwell and his
council took on them to join no religious party, but to be for the
equal liberty of all.’ This account corresponds with the conception
of Cromwell’s views to be gathered from his own letters. His relation
to the sectaries was the same practically as we have seen Vane’s
to have been more speculatively. Without any of Vane’s theosophy,
he had the same open face towards heaven, the same consciousness
(or dream, if we like,) of personal and direct communication with
the divine, which transformed the ‘legal conscience’ and placed him
‘above ordinance.’ Having thus drunk of the spring from which the
sectarian enthusiasm flowed, he had no taste for the reasonings which
led it into particular channels, while he had, more than any man of
his time, not indeed the speculative, but the political instinct of
comprehension. In this spirit he entered on the war, where it soon
took practical body from the discovery that ‘men of religion’ alone
could fight ‘men of honour,’ and that the men of religion, once in
war, inevitably became sectaries. To him, as to his men, the issues
of battle were a revelation of God’s purpose; the cause, which in
answer to the prayers of his people God owned by fire, had the true
_jus divinum_. The practical danger of such a belief is obvious. To
Cromwell is due the peculiar glory, that it never issued, as might
have been expected, in fanatic military licence, but was always
governed by the strictest personal morality and a genuine zeal for
the free well-being of the state and nation.

His extant letters, written during the first years of the war,
written, be it remembered, by a farmer-squire, forty-four years old,
simply exhibit a man of restless and infectious energy, gathering
about him, without reference to birth or creed, the men who had the
most active zeal for the common cause and promoting of religion, and
gradually, as the work of these men grew in importance and was more
visibly owned by God, asserting their claims in a louder key. In
their tone they sometimes recall the man who some years before, in a
parliamentary committee of enclosures, had defended the cause of some
injured countrymen of his with so much passion and so ‘tempestuous a
carriage,’ that the chairman had been obliged to reprehend him. Among
the most frequent topics are the discouragement of his soldiers by
their want of pay and supplies (to be borne in mind with reference
{311} to subsequent history), his anxiety for godly men and the
offence he was giving by the promotion of men of low birth or
sectaries. A letter to his cousin, solicitor-general St. John, may
be taken as an instance. It was written during the period of feeble
management that preceded the self-denying ordinance, before Vane had
got the upper hand in the house. [1]

  ‘Of all men I should not trouble you with money matters,
  did not the heavy necessities my troops are in, press
  upon me beyond measure. I am neglected exceedingly!...
  If I took pleasure to write to the house in bitterness,
  I have occasion.... I have minded your service to
  forgetfulness of my own and soldiers’ necessities.... You
  have had my money; I hope in God, I desire to venture my
  skin, so do my men. Lay weight upon their patience; but
  break it not!... Weak counsels and weak actings undo all!
  all will be lost, if God help not! Remember who tells

[1] [Carlyle, _Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches_, No. xvii.]

  In the same letter he says, ‘My troops increase. I have
  a lovely company; you would respect them, did you know
  them. They are no “anabaptists”; they are honest sober
  christians; they expect to be used as men.’

  Of the way in which this ‘lovely company’ had been got
  together we have such indications as this in a letter
  [1] to the Suffolk committee. ‘I beseech you be careful
  what captains of horse you choose, what men be mounted.
  A few honest men are better than numbers. If you choose
  godly honest men to be captains of horse, honest men will
  follow them.... I had rather have a plain, russet-coated
  captain that knows what he fights for, and loves what
  he knows, than that which you call a gentleman, and is
  nothing else. I honour a gentleman that is so indeed.’

[1] [Carlyle, _Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches_, No. xvi.]

  In another letter [1] he says, ‘It may be it provokes
  some spirits to see such plain men made captains of
  horse. It had been well that men of honour and birth
  had entered into these employments; but why do they not
  appear? Who would have hindered them? But seeing it was
  necessary the work must go on, better plain men than
  none; but best to have men patient of wants, faithful and
  conscientious in their employment.... If these men be
  accounted “troublesome to the country,” I shall be glad
  you would send them all to me. I’ll bid them welcome. And
  when they have fought for you, and endured some other
  difficulties of war {312} which your “honester” men will
  hardly bear, I pray you then let them go for honest men!’

[1] [Carlyle, _Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches_, No. xviii.]

  Writing to a rigid presbyterian general, who had got
  the ear of the Earl of Manchester, and had suspended an
  officer for unconformable opinions, he says, [1] ‘The
  state in choosing men to serve it, takes no notice of
  their opinions; if they be willing faithfully to serve
  it, that satisfies.... I desire you would receive this
  man into your favour and good opinion. I believe, if he
  follow my counsel he will deserve no other but respect
  from you. Take heed of being sharp, or too easily
  sharpened by others, against those to whom you can object
  little but that they square not with you in every opinion
  concerning religion. If there be any other offence to be
  charged upon him, that must in a judicial way receive

[1] [Carlyle, _Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches_, No. xx.]

I will quote extracts from other letters of Cromwell, as illustrating
the temper in which he won his victories, and his view of them as the
consecration of a new military church, having claims that were not
to be put by. One is from a letter written just after the battle of
Marston Moor, [1] to his brother-in-law, colonel Walton, who had lost
a son in it.

  ‘Truly England and the church of God hath had a great
  favour from the Lord, in this great victory given unto
  us, such as the like never was since this war began. It
  had all the evidences of an absolute victory gained by
  the Lord’s blessing upon the godly party principally, We
  never charged, but we routed the enemy.... God made them
  as stubble to our swords. We charged their regiments of
  foot with our horse, and routed all we charged. ... Sir,
  God hath taken away your eldest son by a cannon-shot.
  It brake his leg. We were necessitated to have it cut
  off, whereof he died. Sir, you know my own trials this
  way; but the Lord supported me with this, that the Lord
  took him into the happiness we all pant for and live
  for. There is your precious child, full of glory, never
  to know sin or sorrow any more.... Before his death he
  was so full of comfort that to Frank Russell and myself
  he could not express it, “It was so great above his
  pain.” This he said to us. Indeed, it was admirable. A
  little after, he said one thing lay upon his spirit. I
  asked him what that was? He told me it was that God had
  not suffered him to be any more the executioner of his
  enemies.... Truly he was exceedingly beloved in the army
  of all that knew him. But {313} few knew him; for he was
  a precious young man, fit for God. You have cause to
  bless the Lord. He is a glorious saint in heaven; wherein
  you ought exceedingly to rejoice. Let this drink up your
  sorrow; seeing these are not feigned words to comfort
  you, but the thing is so real and undoubted a truth. ...
  Let this public mercy to the church of God make you to
  forget your private sorrow.’

[1] [Carlyle, _Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches_, No. xxi.]

The other quotation is from the conclusion of his account of the
storming of Bristol, addressed to the Speaker of the house of
commons; [2]

  ‘All this is none other than the work of God. He must
  be a very atheist that doth not acknowledge it.... Sir,
  they that have been employed in this service know that
  faith and prayer obtained this city for you. I do not
  say ours only, but of the people of God with you and all
  England over, who have wrestled with God for a blessing
  in this very thing. Our desires are that God may be
  glorified by the same spirit of faith by which we ask all
  our sufficiency, and have received it. It is meet that
  he have all the praise. Presbyterians, independents, all
  have here the same spirit of faith and prayer; the same
  presence and answer; they agree here, have no names of
  difference; pity it is it should be otherwise anywhere!
  All that believe have the real unity, which is most
  glorious; because inward and spiritual, in the body, and
  to the head. For being united in forms, commonly called
  uniformity, every Christian will for peace-sake study and
  do as far as conscience will permit. And for brethren, in
  things of the mind we look for no compulsion but that of
  light and reason.’

[1] [Carlyle, _Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches_, No. xxxi.]

With such a spirit and such a cause, with a leader who could so
express it, and as it seemed manifestly owned by God, the army rested
victoriously from its labours in the field by midsummer 1646. For
the next year it was looking on, with an impatience that gradually
became unmanageable, while the presbyterian majority in parliament
was contriving its suppression. The leaders of this majority were, on
the one hand, the lawyers, Holles, Glyn, and Maynard, on the other,
the military members, such as Sir Philip Stapleton, who had been
removed from their command by the self-denying ordinance. The motives
of these men were a mixture of zeal for presbyterian uniformity, fear
of unsettling the monarchical basis of government, and animosity to
the army, as sectarian, {314} democratic, and generally irreverent
to dignities, or, in their language, dangerous to gentry, ministry,
and magistracy. The ministry and magistracy of the city backed them,
vigorously worrying parliament every week with statements of church
grievances. In December, 1646, the lord mayor in person presented a
petition, complaining specially of the contempt put on the covenant,
and of the growth of heresy and schism, the pulpits being often
usurped by preaching soldiers. To cure these evils they pray that
the covenant may be imposed on the whole nation, under penalties;
that no one be allowed to preach who has not been regularly ordained,
and that all separate congregations be suppressed. In answer to this
parliament passed an order against lay-preachers, to be enforced by
local magistrates, an order not very likely to be effective, when
the preachers were soldiers. A glimpse of what was going on is given
by an extract from Whitelock’s Memoirs (ii. 104) of about the same
date: ‘A minister presented articles to the council of war against
a trooper, for preaching and expounding the scripture, and uttering
erroneous opinions. The council adjudged that none of the articles
were against the law or articles of war, but that only the trooper
called the parson “a minister of antichrist;” for which reproach
they ordered the trooper to make an acknowledgment; which he did,
and was one night imprisoned.’ In contrast with this lenience of
the council of war may be placed a declaration of the provincial
assembly of the London ministers, which after a denunciation of
twelve specific heresies, winds up with the following résumé: [1] ‘We
hereby testify our great dislike of prelacy, erastinianism, brownism,
and independency, and our utter abhorrency of anti-scripturism,
popery, arianism, socinianism, arminianism, antinomianism,
anabaptism, libertinism, and familism; and that we detest the error
of toleration, the doctrine that men should have liberty to worship
God in that manner as shall appear to them most agreeable to the word
of God.’ Edwards, in his ‘Gangrena,’ published while this storm was
at its height, had been even more minute. He enumerated a hundred and
seventy-six erroneous doctrines then prevalent, distributed among
sixteen sects, and appealed to parliament, taking warning from the
example of Eli, to use coercive power for their suppression, or to
put an end to a {315} toleration, ‘at which the dear brethren in
Scotland stand amazed,’ and which is ‘eclipsing the glory of the most
excellent Reformation.’ To us this agitation has its comic side. To
Milton, a competent judge, it was serious enough;

    ‘Men whose life, learning, faith, and pure intent
    Would have been held in high esteem with Paul,
    Must now be named and printed heretics
    By shallow Edwards and Scotch what d’ye call.’

[1] [Neal’s _Puritans_, ii. 265.]

To the sectarian soldiers, who had been fighting, not for a theory of
parliamentary right, but for a spiritual freedom which the sacerdotal
establishment had not allowed, ‘who knew what they fought for, and
loved what they knew,’ it represented a power which threatened to
rob them of all for which they had shed their blood. The danger was
at its height when the Scotch army was still in England and the king
in its keeping. If the king had then closed with the presbyterian
offers, he might have returned to London and directed the whole
power of parliament (which had still Massey’s soldiers at command),
the presbyteries, and the Scotch against the sectarian army. A new
and more desperate civil war must have followed, to end probably
in a reaction of unlimited royalism. Charles, however, with all
his ability, had not enough breadth of view even to play his own
game with advantage. He would play off the two parties against each
other, without committing himself to either, trusting that while they
tore each other to pieces, Montrose’s army and the ‘Irish rebels,’
with whom he had already a treaty, would come in and settle the
business in his favour. Thus while he was still with the Scotch,
or even before, he was tampering unsuccessfully with Vane and the
independents, till at last the Scotch got tired of him, and having
received their arrears of pay from the parliament at the beginning of
the year 1647, returned back to their own country.

During all this interval, Cromwell was at his place in parliament,
watching events. His position was a strong one. The quartering of
the army in the midland counties prevented any sudden advance of
the Scots on London, and the election of several of his military
friends, notably his son-in-law Ireton, to the vacant seats at the
end of 1645, established a regular communication between the army
and parliament. Among the old members his supporters were chiefly
Vane, Marten, and St. John, men in several respects antipathetic to
{316} Cromwell and each other, but for the present held together by
a common antagonism. Vane’s interest was for freedom of opinion on
deep religious grounds. So far he and Cromwell were at one; but Vane
had qualities, as appeared in the sequel, which unfitted him to lead
a revolution when it took military form. He was reputed physically
a coward; he had none of the rough geniality which gives personal
influence at such times; military interference and the predominance
of an individual were specially abhorrent to him. Marten was of a
rougher type. In the earlier stages of the war he alone had avowed
republicanism. He was the wit of the house of commons, the one man
of the time whose recorded speeches can be read with pleasure.
Presbyterian uniformity Marten hated with a hearty hatred, but he
was avowedly void of religious feeling, and thus out of sympathy
with the moving spirit of the time. On him, even less than on Vane,
could Cromwell have any personal hold. In August, 1643, when the
house was censuring Mr. Saltmarsh, a minister who had urged that if
the king would not grant the parliamentary demands, he and the royal
line should be ‘rooted out,’ Marten vindicated him, saying that ‘it
were better one family should be destroyed than many.’ Upon this, we
are told, there was a storm in the house, and many members ‘urged
against the lewdness of Mr. Marten’s life, and the height and danger
of his words.’ The indignation was such that he was committed to
the tower for a time, and did not resume his seat for a year and a
half. St. John was an erastian lawyer, who had pleaded for Hampden in
the ship-money business, and was now about head of his profession.
There was a darkness both in his skin and his character, which in
contrast with his intellectual light won him the nickname of the
‘dark-lantern.’ He was strong for liberty of conscience, but had a
lawyer’s belief in the necessity of monarchy, and would always take
the shortest road to his end. With him Cromwell’s friendship was
personal, and like all his personal friendships, lasting. He was
the practical link between the enthusiasm of the military saint and
the wisdom of the world. In concert with these men, Cromwell had
anxiously watched and hastened the negotiations for the withdrawal
of the Scotch. Their withdrawal, however, and the removal of the
king in parliamentary custody to Holmby, though it simplified the
dangers by which the cause was {317} threatened, by no means removed
them. During the first half of 1647, the presbyterian managers were
pressing forward their two projects of a reconciliation with the
king and the disbanding of the army, necessary for the success of
their cause. Their plan for dealing with the army was to send part
of it to Ireland, under Massey and Skippon as generals, of whom
one was a creature of their own, the other a strong presbyterian;
to disband the rest, with the exception of a few regiments that
could be managed; and to retain no one except Fairfax above the
rank of colonel, a restriction aimed specially at Cromwell.
Votes to this effect passed the house in the spring of 1647, not
apparently without great pressure from the city, which was constantly
presenting petitions against the army and lay preachers, roughly
enforced by mobs of apprentices. But meanwhile the army had got a
parliament of its own. The several troops in a regiment elected each
a representative to form the regimental council, from which again
one member was delegated to join the general council of the army.
The president of this council seems generally to have been Berry,
one of Cromwell’s special friends, whose character we have heard
described by Baxter. The army had thus a regular organisation of
opinion, and henceforward came to regard itself and to act as the
true representative of the ‘godly interest’ in England, sanctioned
by a higher than parliamentary authority. At first its demands
were modest enough. They were all ready to go to Ireland, if only
Cromwell and Fairfax might lead them; they were ready to disband so
soon as they should get their arrears of pay and be secured by an
act of indemnity against punishment for offences committed during
war. The nominal difficulty at last was about the arrears of pay.
Parliament would only agree to pay arrears for eight weeks, and the
army asserted its claim for at least fifty weeks. Meanwhile the
militia of the city had been placed in trusty presbyterian hands;
the king had accepted provisionally (with what insincerity his
correspondence showed) the preliminary presbyterian propositions, and
pressed for a personal treaty. The lords so far assented to this as
to vote that he should be brought to Oatlands, in the neighbourhood
of London. If once this had been done, he would have been in direct
communication with interests hostile to the army, and the fusion
of royalism and presbyterianism would for the time have been {318}
complete. Holles and his friends thought the prize was within their
grasp, and against the discreet advice of Whitelock pressed the
disbanding. The tone of the army grew higher, till one day at the
beginning of June, news was brought to the parliament that a troop of
horse, under one cornet Joyce, had appeared at Holmby and demanded
the king of the commissioners. ‘The commissioners,’ in the words of
Whitelock, ‘amazed at it, demanded of them what warrant they had for
what they did; but they could give no other account but that it was
the pleasure of the army.’ The king afterwards asked them for their
commission. Joyce answered, ‘that his majesty saw their commission;
the king replied that it had the fairest frontispiece of any he ever
saw, being five hundred proper men on horseback.’ [1] On the same
day that this happened, Cromwell had ridden out of town with one
servant to the quarters of the army, just in time to escape forcible
detention by Holles’s friends. The plot now thickened. The army had
a general rendezvous at Triploe Heath, and greeted the parliamentary
commissioner who met them there with cries of ‘justice! justice!’
Thence gradually moving towards London, they sent up articles of
charge against Holles and ten other members, for obstructing the
business of Ireland, and acting against the army and the liberty of
the subject. During two months they waited for the execution of their
demands, sending parliament a reminder now and then, but maintaining
perfect self-restraint. Holles and his party, on the other hand,
showed all the precipitation of weakness. Under their management the
authorities of the city got together a loose army of militiamen,
of which the command was given to Massey, and organised the mob of
apprentices, which finally put so much pressure on parliament that
the speaker and many members of both houses took refuge with the
army. This was the turning-point. The army, now under parliamentary
sanction, easily walked through Massey’s lines, and quartered in the
suburbs. The city was in a panic. ‘A great number of people attended
at Guildhall. When a scout came in and brought news that the array
made a halt, or other good intelligence, they cry “one and all!” But
if the scouts reported that the army was advancing nearer them, then
they would cry as loud, “Treat, treat, treat!”’ [2] The corporation,
{319} its cheap vaunts at an end, sent resolutions to the army in
favour of ‘a sweet composure.’ In calm indifference to its good words
and its bad, the army on August 6 marched through London, ‘in so
orderly and civil a manner, that not the least offence was offered by
them to any man in word, action, or gesture.’

[1] [Whitelock, ii. 154.]

[2] [_ib_. ii. 189.]

The king, now in the hands of the army, had been following its
movements, and when it finally established its headquarters at
Putney, he was allowed to live in considerable state at Hampton
Court, with his own attendants, but under the guard of Colonel
Whalley, Cromwell’s trusted cousin. Here he stayed till his flight
to Carisbrook in the Isle of Wight, in the following November. Those
who explain Cromwell’s life by its result, as a long scheme for his
own elevation, suppose that during this period he carried on private
negotiations with the king, first perhaps with the view of restoring
him to power under his own direction, but afterwards to lure him on
to destruction; that with this object he encouraged him by vain hopes
to refuse the proposals of parliament, and finally to escape from
Hampton, whence by some mysterious means he was guided to an asylum
of Cromwell’s own preparing at Carisbrook. Such a view is expressed
even in the panegyric of Marvell, written on Cromwell’s return from
Ireland in the summer of 1650;

    ‘What field of all the civil war
    Where his were not the deepest scar?
        And Hampton shows what part
        He had of wiser art,

    Where, twining subtle fears with hope,
    He wove a net of such a scope
        That Charles himself might chase
        To Carisbrook’s narrow case;

    That thence the royal actor borne
    The tragic scaffold might adorn.’

In this, however, as in other cases, history is really less personal
and mysterious than is commonly supposed. Cromwell and Ireton
doubtless negotiated personally with the king during the summer
of this year, but it was on the basis of a public program for
resettlement agreed to by the army and communicated to parliament.
At the same time the parliament, still presbyterian in feeling, was
submitting to the king, in conjunction with the Scots, propositions
the {320} same in substance as those which he had rejected when
with the Scotch army at Newcastle. One of the essential points in
the army’s scheme, of which more will be said afterwards, was that
it allowed the use of the Common Prayer, and provided against the
compulsory imposition of the covenant. The parliamentary scheme,
on the other hand, was conceived in the strict presbyterian sense.
When the proposals of the army were publicly presented to Charles
in the month of July, he treated them in a way which set the heart
of the army against him once for all. Cromwell and Ireton, however,
continued to treat with him. They simply wanted to keep him from
closing with the presbyterians, not having made up their minds to any
further step, while he strangely fancied that he was cajoling them
and playing off the army against the parliament. They did not, while
treating him with all respect, for a moment lower their tone with
him. They would not consent to kiss his hand, and the king himself
complained that no promise of favour or decoration could affect them.
Their perfect explicitness is witnessed by two opposite authorities,
both good, and both on different grounds unfriendly to Cromwell, by
Berkley the king’s confidant, and the wife of colonel Hutchinson. By
the middle of September they had given up all hopes of him. It is a
well-known story that Charles sent a letter to the queen, sewn in the
skirt of the messenger’s saddle, in which he said that the army and
the Scots were both courting him, and that he should close with the
party that bid fairest, probably with the Scots; that Cromwell and
Ireton having secret information of this, sat drinking, in the dress
of common troopers, at the Blue Boar in Holborn, where the messenger
was to put up; that there they seized him, ripped up the skirts
of the saddle, and found the letter. This story has received many
embellishments, such as that the letter said that Cromwell and Ireton
were expecting a silken garter, but would find a hempen cord, but is
probably in substance true. There was no need, however, of any such
mysterious discovery to satisfy Cromwell and Ireton that the king was
playing a double game. With that inability to conceal exultation in
his own artifice which was one of his most curious characteristics,
he told them so plainly, while they pronounced no less plainly that
God had hardened his heart.

While these negotiations were going on, the sectarian {321}
enthusiasm of the army was becoming rapidly republican, and worse
than this, the republican was but one mode of the ‘levelling spirit,’
the spirit of resentment against ‘gentry, ministry, and magistracy’
in general, which might at any time break into flames. The soldiers
had their own printing-press from which pamphlets, voted seditious
by the parliament, were constantly issuing. Cromwell and Ireton, at
the prayer-meetings of the army, which they were in the habit of
attending, could feel its pulse, and tell when the beating of the
heart was no longer controllable. They were clearly neither of them
republicans of deliberate purpose, but some time during the autumn of
1647 they found that the only way to control the levelling impulse
was to yield to the republican. It was probably because they had
thus made up their minds that things must be worse before they were
better, that they allowed the king a liberty at Hampton, of which
he availed himself to come to an understanding with Capel, Ormond,
and Lauderdale for a combined royalist rising in England, Ireland,
and Scotland. On November 8 he escaped from Hampton, and made for
Carisbrook. He preferred this asylum to Scotland under a notion, for
which there was clearly some foundation, that he had an interest in
the army, and that Hammond, the governor, might be wrought upon.

During the month of October, Cromwell in his place at Westminster
was pressing forward the propositions of parliament to the king,
and in doing so, he found himself in opposition to the small
party of thorough republicans, which consisted chiefly of the
newly-elected officers of the army. This has been reckoned a piece
of his duplicity, as he must have known, it is said, that the king,
relying on his interest elsewhere, would reject the propositions
and thus make a final breach with the parliament. It is to be
observed, however, that he supported them on two conditions, one
that a clause should be inserted securing liberty of conscience, the
other that a limit should be put to the duration of the presbyterian
government. The real key to his conduct in this crisis, as throughout
the subsequent history, is his desire for such a reconciliation of
parties as would at once prevent government by a faction and secure
the ‘godly interest.’ With this object he sought, without breaking
wholly from the moderate presbyterians, to commit parliament to such
a {322} policy as would conciliate the milder spirit of the army.
The strength of the levelling spirit, which made such conciliation
essential, was soon formidably apparent; only the courage and
persuasiveness of Cromwell could have held it down. On November 15
the dangerous regiments were ordered to a rendezvous at Ware, where
Fairfax and Cromwell met them. A ‘remonstrance’ was read by Fairfax
to the troops. It recited their old demands for pay and indemnity
and for the calling of a new and free parliament; these Fairfax said
that he was willing to support, if the soldiers would promise perfect
obedience to his orders. This satisfied all the regiments but one,
which showed signs of mutiny. Cromwell then rode along its armed
front, looking the men literally in the face. Eleven, whose looks he
did not like, he ordered out of the ranks. The men acquiesced. Three
were then tried on the field and condemned to die. One only, however,
was shot, and the rest pardoned. Thus at the loss of a single life
the plague of mutiny was for the time stayed. The secret of the
good temper of the army was a renewed assurance that their leaders
would not again imperil the cause of the Lord’s people by ‘carnal
conferences’ with his crowned enemy.

The king was followed to Carisbrook by four bills, which formed
the ultimatum of the parliament. They represent the predominance
of independency in the house, which the efforts of Cromwell and
his friends had at last attained. They make no more mention of
religion, but simply secure the supremacy of the commons. These
Charles rejected, while at the same time, swallowing his zeal for
bishops and liturgy, he signed a treaty with the Scots, which, at the
price of the establishment of presbyterianism, secured him a Scotch
army to deliver him from the sectaries and restore him to London on
terms that would have made him virtually irresistible. This was the
beginning of the end. On January 3, 1648, Cromwell writes to Governor
Hammond, evidently in high spirits: ‘The House of Commons is very
sensible of the king’s dealings, and of our brethren’s (the Scots),
in this late transaction.... It has this day voted as follows: 1st,
they will make no more addresses to the king; 2nd, none shall apply
to him without leave of the two houses, upon pain of being guilty
of high treason; 3rd, they will receive nothing from the king.’
Henceforth there could be but two {323} alternatives. Either the new
royalist rising would prevail and restore a short-lived tyranny of
presbyters to end in a longer one of priests, or it would fail, and
on its wreck be established a military republic.


In the last lecture I followed the course of events to the time
when it became clear that a military republic was the only possible
alternative for an unconditional triumph of Charles. Whether
this republic should be more or less exclusive, depended on the
possibility of bringing the English presbyterians to an understanding
with the erastian or independent party in parliament, and both to
an understanding with the army. During the spring of 1648 we find
Cromwell, true to his instinct of comprehension, working for this
end, and rewarded by all parties with jealousy for his pains. He had
a conference at his house, Ludlow tells us, ‘between those called
the grandees of the house and army, and the commonwealth’s men.’ The
grandees of the house would probably be the original members of the
Long parliament who might be of erastian or independent sympathies,
such as St. John, Nathaniel Fiennes, one or two uninteresting
lords, and perhaps Vane, who was not a declared republican. The
commonwealth’s men, not grandees, would be members elected to fill up
vacancies at the end of 1645, such as Ludlow himself, Hutchinson, and
Thomas Scott, officers of the army, but not of Cromwell’s training.
Marten, though in standing a grandee, headed this republican party.
The grandees, according to Ludlow, with Cromwell at their head, ‘kept
themselves in the clouds, and would not declare their judgments
either for a monarchical, aristocratical, or democratical government,
maintaining that any of them might be good in themselves, or for us,
according as providence should direct us. The commonwealth’s men
declared that monarchy was neither good in itself, nor for us. That
it was not desirable in itself they urged from the eighth chapter
of the 1st book of Samuel, where the choice of a king was charged
upon the Israelites by God himself as a rejection of him.’ That it
was not good ‘for us’ was proved ‘by the infinite mischiefs and
oppressions we had suffered under {324} it and by it; that indeed our
ancestors had consented to be governed by a single person, but with
this proviso, that he should govern according to the direction of
the law, which he always bound himself by oath to perform; that the
king had broken this oath, and therefore dissolved our allegiance,
protection and obedience being reciprocal; that ... it seemed to be a
duty incumbent upon the representatives of the people to call him to
account for the blood shed in the war ... and then to proceed to the
establishment of an equal commonwealth, founded upon the consent of
the people, and providing for the rights and liberties of all men.’
So elaborate an utterance of republican formulae did not look like
conciliation, and finally, says Ludlow, ‘Cromwell took up a cushion
and flung it at my head and then ran downstairs; but I overtook him
with another, which made him hasten down faster than he desired.’

He was not more successful with the presbyterians, whose leaders he
got to confer with the independents, and whom he afterwards addressed
in the city. ‘The city,’ according to a contemporary presbyterian
writer, ‘were now wiser than our first parents, and rejected the
serpent and his subtleties.’ The presbyterian zeal in fact, as it
boasted of itself, would learn nothing by events. During the summer
of 1648, while the army under Cromwell and Ireton was trampling out
the royalist risings and scattering the intrusive Scots (no longer
led by Lesley), Holles availed himself of the absence of the military
members to return to the house and regain his majority. Under his
direction, and at the pressure of the city, negotiations in the
exclusive presbyterian interest were re-opened with the king. These
led to concessions on his part, only made to gain time, which at
last, in the beginning of December, in a house of two hundred and
forty-four, were voted a sufficient basis of agreement. This vote
made the final rent between military and parliamentary power, and
Vane, who more than anyone else dreaded this rent, resisted it to the
utmost. Marten, however, was already bringing up Cromwell from the
north, and Cromwell a few days before had given voice to the ‘great
zeal he found among his officers for impartial justice on offenders.’
Soldiers full of the same zeal were already in the suburbs. The day
after the vote was passed, colonel Pride ‘purged’ the house of the
‘royalising’ members; within two days Cromwell appeared in it arm
in {325} arm with Marten, and the military republic was virtually

It is needless to repeat the story of the king’s trial and execution,
or tell how his judges wore all the dignity of men who believed
themselves in the sight of God and the world to be violating the
false divinity of consecrated custom that a true divinity might
appear, or how Charles, after a few bursts of misplaced contempt or
passion, yet at the last, in Marvell’s words,

        ‘Nothing common did or mean
        Upon that memorable scene,
        But with his keener eye
        The axe’s edge did try;

    Nor called the gods, with vulgar spite,
    To vindicate his helpless right;
        But bowed his comely head
        Down, as upon a bed.’

The new government, in the exhilaration of sudden success, and
conscious that its strength lay in the awe which it inspired, ‘went
on roundly with its business.’ Considering its position, however,
it kept its hands strangely free from blood. It had the temptation,
generally so fatal in times of revolution, of feeling irresistible
force at its command for the moment without the least guarantee of
permanent stability. Yet its severity was confined to inflicting
banishment and confiscation on fifteen magnates who had been
prominent in the second war, to imprisoning a few others, and to
killing Hamilton, Holland, Capel, and colonel Foyer. Of these, Capel
alone, according to the ideas of the time, could have hoped for a
better fate, for he alone was exempt from the charge of treachery,
but the very greatness of his character, as Cromwell with his usual
explicitness stated, made it necessary for the commonwealth that he
should die.

Meanwhile the purged house of commons was constituting itself a
sovereign power. Only such members were re-admitted to it who would
declare dissent from the vote that the king’s concessions afforded
a ground of settlement. First and last about a hundred and fifty
members seem to have been admitted on these terms. Two days after the
king’s death the lords sent a humble message to the commons inviting
them to a conference on the condition of the state. The commons took
no heed of the message, which was {326} repeated several times, till
February 6, when they responded by a vote that the tipper house
was ‘useless, dangerous, and ought to be abolished.’ The next day
‘kingship’ was abolished by a formal vote, and soon afterwards the
executive government was delegated to a council of state of forty
members, to be nominated yearly by the commons. The accessories of
republicanism were arranged mainly by Marten, who clearly did his
work with glee. At his instance the old ‘great seal’ was broken, and
a new one made with the arms of England and Ireland on one side, and
a ‘sculpture or map of the commons sitting’ on the other. Under this
new seal, and under oath to ‘the parliament and people,’ the judges
were to hold their commissions, which six of the twelve agreed to do.
A new coinage was also issued with a cross and harp and the motto
‘God with us’ on one side; the arms of England between a laurel and
palm, with the legend ‘Commonwealth of England,’ on the other. At the
same time the royal statues were all taken down, and on the pedestals
was inscribed with the date, ‘Exit tyrannus regum ultimus.’ All these
were the devices of Mr. Henry Marten. A more serious business was the
issue of an ‘engagement’ to the new government. This, though at first
promulgated in a severe retrospective form, was finally reduced to a
promise of fidelity to the ‘commonwealth, as established without king
or lords.’ Without taking this engagement, no one was to have the
benefit of suing another at law, ‘which,’ says Baxter, ‘kept men a
little from contention, and would have marred the lawyers’ trade.’

The question whether Charles deserved his death, is one which even
debating societies are beginning to find unprofitable. His death
was a necessary condition of the establishment of the commonwealth,
which, again, was a necessary result of the strife of forces, or more
properly, the conflict of ideas, which the civil war involved. At
first sight, indeed, it might seem the result merely of accident, or
at any rate of personal action and character, of the military talent
of Cromwell, of the nature of the army which he got together, of the
parliamentary animosities begotten of the self-denying ordinance, of
the foolish confidence of Charles in his ability to shatter the two
parties against each other, and lastly of the resolution of Cromwell
in self-defence to command the situation. Beneath the confused web of
personal relations, {327} however, may be seen the conflict of those
religious ideas which I have spoken of as resulting from the action
of the Reformation on the spirit of Christendom. On the one hand was
the _jus divinum_ of a sacerdotal church; not simply appealing by
ritual or mystery to the devout, but applied at once to strengthen
and justify a royal interest. To this was opposed the _jus divinum_
of the presbyterian discipline, resting, not on priestly authority,
but on the popular conscience, yet claiming to be equally absolute
over body and soul with the other. Their antagonism elicited the
_jus divinum_ of individual persuasion, a right hitherto unasserted
in christendom, which, while the old recognised rights were in the
suspense of conflict, became a might. In the rapture of war it felt
its strength, and a master-hand gave it the form and system which it
lacked. The ancient order, too weak to regulate or absorb it, tried
blindly, while it was still armed and exultant, to crush it, and
itself necessarily fell to pieces in the attempt. But this might of
individual persuasion, though in a revolutionary struggle it could
conquer, was unable to govern. It was a spirit without a body, a
force with no lasting means of action on the world around it. Even at
the present day its office is to work under and through established
usage and interests, rather than to control them. Much less capable
was it of such control, when it was still in the stage of mere
impulse or feeling, with none of the calm comprehension which comes
of developed thought.

When it first faced the world in organic shape as a military
republic, it already presented practical contradictions which
ensured its failure. The republic claimed, and claimed truly, to be
the creation of the impulse of freedom, yet it found nothing but
sullen acquiescence around it; it spoke in the name of the people,
not half of whom, as lady Fairfax said, it represented; it asserted
parliamentary right, though parliament had been ‘purged’ (nearly
clean) to make room for it; it was directed by men of a ‘civil’
spirit, and had civil right to maintain, while it rested on the
support of armed enthusiasts, who cared only for the privilege of
saints. It was, in fact, founded on opinion, the opinion of a few,
brought to sudden strength and maturity, as it might have been in
an Athenian assembly, by debate in and about the parliament and in
the council of the army, but which had {328} no hold either on the
sentiment or the settled interests of the country. In the counties
which throughout the war had served as the screen of London, those,
that is, which formed the eastern association, together with
Buckinghamshire and Berkshire, it seems to have had a certain amount
of genuine support. Here the influence of Cromwell and his immediate
friends, in Berkshire especially the influence of Marten, was strong;
and the sentiment emanating from London, through the pervasive action
of sectarian preachers was quickly felt. Even here, however, the
sympathy was with the new government as a source of religious reform
and protection of tender consciences, rather than as republican;
and close at its doors the commonwealth had evidence of a different
feeling, not only opposed to it, but on which it could not hope to
work. In the spring of 1648, before Cromwell took the field, when the
whole country was simmering with insurrection, the parliament had
been specially troubled with a movement under its own eyes, of which
Whitelock has given a particular account. [1] A petition from Surrey
was brought up by some hundreds of the petitioners in person, that
the king might ‘forthwith be established on his throne, according
to the splendour of his ancestors.’ The petition was not presented
to the commons till the afternoon, ‘when some of the countrymen,
being gotten almost drunk, and animated by the malignants, fell a
quarrelling with the guards, and asked them “why they stood there
to guard a company of rogues.” Then words on both sides increasing,
the countrymen fell upon the guards, disarmed them, and killed one
of them’; till more soldiers were brought up, and the countrymen
dispersed. About the same time there was a ‘high and dangerous riot’
in the city, which began in Moorfields about ‘sporting and tippling
on the Lord’s day,’ contrary to the ordinance of parliament. [2]
For a whole day the rioters seem to have been masters of the city.
They seized the lord mayor’s house, and took thence a ‘drake.’ With
this they ‘possessed a magazine in Leadenhall,’ and then ‘beat drums
on the water to invite the seamen for God and king Charles.’ The
next day a couple of regiments crushed the tumult. All the time a
general lawless riot was spreading over Kent, got up by malignants,
who circulated a rumour that the parliament meant to hang two men in
every town.

[1] [Whitelock, ii. 313.]

[2] [April 10, Rushworth, vii. 1051.]

{329} If such things could happen where the parliament could make
itself felt most quickly, we may imagine the popular condition in
regions where there was the same ignorance, the same liability to
panic, the same tendency to tippling and gaming not on Sundays only,
for malignants to work on in the interest of ‘God and king Charles,’
and where no voice from the republican headquarters ever penetrated.
‘The inconstant, irrational, image-doting rabble,’ as the proud
republicans called it, which, when the king was being brought from
Newcastle to Holmby, had thronged his path to be touched for the
evil, which eagerly bought up fifty editions in twelve months of
the Eikon Basilikè with the picture of the king at his prayers, was
constant enough in two feelings, of which the republicans would have
done well to take account, a reverence for familiar names, and a
resentment against virtues which profess to be other than customary
and commonplace. It was at once the merit and the weakness of the
commonwealth’s men that they irritated these feelings at every point.

    ‘Before them shone a glorious world,
    Fresh as a banner bright, unfurled
    To music suddenly;’ [1]

and they could not wait to attain it by slow accommodations to sense
and habit. They believed that God through them was ‘casting the
kingdoms old into another mould,’ and in the pride of triumphant
reason they took pleasure in trampling on the common feelings and
interests, through which reason must work, if it is to work at all.
In the writings of Milton, the true exponent of the higher spirit
of the republic, we find on the one hand a perfect scorn of the
dignities and plausibilities then as now recognised in England (which
makes him the best study for a radical orator that I am acquainted
with), on the other, a free admission of the sensual degradation of
the people, which estranged them from a government founded on reason.
In the latter respect there is a marked contrast between the language
he held at the beginning of the war, when ‘he saw in his mind a noble
and puissant nation rousing itself like a strong man after sleep,’
and the language of the ‘Eiconoclastes,’ where he admits that the
people ‘with a besotted and degenerate baseness of spirit, except
some few who yet retain in them the old English {330} fortitude and
love of freedom, imbastardised from the ancient nobleness of their
ancestors, are ready to fall flat and give adoration to the image
and memory of this man, who hath more put tyranny into an act than
any British king before him.’ To him, throughout, the puritan war
had seemed a crisis in the long struggle between the spirit and
the flesh, a great effort to reclaim the spirit from ‘the outward
and customary eye-service of the body,’ and a system of political
asceticism was its proper result. Such a system to its believing
supporters was the commonwealth. Its claim was not gradually to
transmute, but suddenly to suppress, the feeling of the many by the
reason of the few; a claim which all the while belied itself, for
it appealed to popular, and even natural right, and which implied
no concrete power of political reconstruction. It was a democracy
without a δημος, [2] it rested on an assertion of the supremacy of
reason, which from its very exclusiveness gave the reason no work to

[1] [Wordsworth, _Ruth_.]

[2] [Greek demos = people, Tr.]

The great interests of the nation at that time may be taken as
the landed, the mercantile, and the clerical; and the republic at
starting might reckon on hostility from each of them. With the landed
interest it dealt at once too severely to have its friendship, and
too lightly to crush it. If it had adopted a sweeping measure of
confiscation, as other revolutionary governments have done, and as
it did itself in Ireland, it might have settled the soldiers on
the confiscated lands, thus easing itself of their too obtrusive
support, while it established a permanent interest in its favour
over the whole country. As it was, the land was only confiscated
in a few special cases, when it was given to the various grandees
of the parliament, in reward of services, and in return for money
spent on the public behalf. The ordinary gentry who had been in arms
for the king, ‘delinquents,’ as they were called, were allowed to
retain their estates on payment by way of composition of some part of
the income. They thus retained their old means of influence, along
with a memory of a grievance to intensify their natural royalism.
Nor was the trouble got over once for all at the foundation of the
commonwealth. The composition paid on the estates was one of the
chief sources of revenue, and when, through a Dutch war or the like,
the republic was short of money, delinquents were hunted out who
had hitherto escaped. Thus the sore was kept running, and if the
humbled gentry, like {331} colonel Poyer of Pembroke, were ‘sober and
penitent in the morning,’ they were also like him often ‘drunk and
full of plots in the afternoon.’ Their meetings for horse-races and
cock-fighting were reckoned nurseries of disaffection, and the best
security against them was that secrets sworn to over the bottle were
not generally well kept.

The royalist squire, when he was not at a cock-fighting, would often
have his loyalty fanned by an excluded episcopal clergyman whom he
had taken as his chaplain. A large number of the clergy, as we have
seen, had been driven from their livings by the imposition of the
covenant. A fifth of the yearly income of their several benefices
was set apart for the benefit of their families (an example not
followed at the ejectment of St. Bartholomew’s day), but the excluded
clergy themselves were liable to be driven from their old parishes,
and would generally take refuge with the royalist gentry. It would
seem indeed that under the commonwealth, which, in England at least,
was true to its principle of toleration, there was nothing to
prevent an episcopalian clergyman who would recognise the republican
government from being presented to a living or from using the Common
Prayer in his church. Some residue of the old assembly still sat at
Westminster, to examine men who presented themselves for ordination
or induction to livings, but they had no power to compel such
presentation, and there is no sign that they were uniformly resorted
to. From passages in Baxter’s life we may infer that many moderate
episcopalians, men, that is, who were in favour, according to the
technical language of the time, of compresbyterial, as distinct from
prelatical, episcopacy, held benefices under the new régime. Still
there were no doubt numbers of excluded ‘prelatical divines’ about
the country, and while they were natural enemies of the commonwealth,
the presbyterian ministers were not its friends. Whatever was not
sectarian in it, was erastian. Its very existence they reckoned a
violation of the covenant, and, if its abolition of kingship could
have been borne, its refusal to give the presbyteries a coercive
jurisdiction, its declared intention to remove all penal ordinances
in matters of conscience, they could not brook. They refused to
read its ordinances from the pulpit, as had previously been done,
they prayed openly against it, and turned the monthly fast into a
general exercise of disaffection. The parliament on its part issued
stringent {332} injunctions that all ministers should subscribe the
engagement of fidelity to the commonwealth, and finding that the
monthly fast had become a ‘fast for strife and debate,’ it declared
its abolition and appointed fasts of its own on special occasions.
The ministers, however, ‘condemned the engagement to the pit of
hell’ and shut up the churches on the new fast days. According to
Baxter, as a general rule only the sectarians and the old cavaliers,
who were seldom ‘sick of the disease of a scrupulous conscience,’
would swallow the engagement. He not only refused it himself, but
circulated letters against it among the soldiers, ‘barking monitories
and mementoes,’ in Milton’s phrase. Yet he seems to have been left
undisturbed, nor except at the universities do we hear of any
penalties for the refusal of the engagement being inflicted. The
parliament knew that the presbyterian pulpit was the most powerful
lever of popular opinion in the country, and showed a magnanimous
patience in dealing with it. It put out declarations, promising
protection to the ministers in their benefices, and a maintenance
of all ordinances that had been made for reformation in doctrine,
worship, and discipline, except such as were penal and coercive. At
last it passed an order that state affairs were not to be discussed
in sermons, and appointed a committee to receive informations against
such as disregarded it. The beneficed ministers, however, stimulated
by missives from the Scotch kirk, now in arms for Charles II.,
continued, says the gentle Mrs. Hutchinson, to ‘spit fire out of
their pulpits,’ and even the rout of their allies at Dunbar, though
it made their tongues less dangerous, did not make them more smooth.

The reason of the case is obvious. It is the true nemesis of
human life that any spiritual impulse, not accompanied by clear
comprehensive thought, is enslaved by its own realisation.
Presbyterianism at the beginning of the war had been a struggling
impulse, noble, but not understanding its own nobleness. It had
now, with success, hardened into an interest; its inarticulate idea
had become a shallow, though articulate formula; and it was seeking
to suppress the spiritual force in which it had itself originated.
The genuine commonwealth’s men, on the other hand, were still in
the stage of the ‘unbodied thought.’ They announced principles.
In practice the presbyterian clergy should be supported and well
paid, but universal toleration must be maintained, and tithes were
{333} declared judaic and objectionable. The offensiveness of such
principles did more to provoke the clergy than the excellence of the
practice, which Baxter, at least, was obliged to confess, did to
conciliate them.

The best illustration of the real feeling of the republican clique in
London towards the preaching presbyterian royalists is to be found in
Milton’s treatise on the ‘Tenure of kings and magistrates,’ written
just at this crisis, when he was in constant communication with the
chief commonwealth’s men.

  ‘Divines, if we observe them, have their postures and
  their motions no less expertly than they that practise
  feats in the artillery ground. Sometimes they seem,
  furiously to march on, and presently march counter;
  by-and-by they stand, and then retreat; or if need be,
  can face about or wheel in a whole body, with that
  cunning and dexterity as is almost unperceivable, to
  wind themselves by shifting ground into places of
  more advantage. And providence only must be the drum;
  providence the word of command, that calls them from
  above, but always to some larger benefice.... For while
  the hope to be made classic and provincial lords led them
  on, while pluralities greased them thick and deep, to
  the shame and scandal of religion, more than all sects
  and heresies they exclaim against; then to fight against
  the king’s person, and no less a party of his lords and
  commons, or to put force on both the houses was good,
  was lawful, was no resisting of superior powers; they
  only were powers not to be resisted who countenanced
  the good, and punished the evil. But now that their
  censorious domineering is not suffered to be universal,
  truth and conscience to be freed, tithes and pluralities
  to be no more, though competent allowance provided, and
  the warm experience of large gifts, and they so good at
  taking them, yet now to exclude and seize on impeached
  members, to bring delinquents without exemption to a fair
  tribunal by the common law against murder, is to be no
  less than Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. He who but erewhile
  in the pulpits was a cursed tyrant, an enemy to God and
  saints, laden with innocent blood, is now, though nothing
  penitent, a lawful magistrate, a sovereign lord, the
  Lord’s anointed, not to be touched, though by themselves
  imprisoned.’ [1]

[1] [Milton’s Prose Works, ii. pp. 45 and 6, ed. 1848.]

When we reflect that the men of whom this was written were the
most active and popular section of the beneficed {334} clergy, and
that the other section, the accommodating episcopalians, had been
covertly hostile to the parliament all along, we shall appreciate
the estrangement of the ideas, that were ruling for the time, from
the average sentiment of the country. The only agency through which
the government could now hope to work on this sentiment was that of
the independents and sectaries, who were unbeneficed, and even the
support of the independents was not very hearty, for independency
in the larger towns was becoming an ‘interest,’ while that of the
sectaries might at any time become unmanageable.

The republic, having thus to reckon on open hostility from the
clergy, and on a deeper hatred, tempered with fear, from most of the
gentry, had no countervailing influence with the commercial class.
This class, which never loves experiments in government, took its
political tone largely from the presbyterian preachers; and in the
city, as we have seen, gave great strength in the crisis of 1648 to
the royalist reaction. The financial necessities, moreover, of an
armed republic aggravated the offence of its moral and spiritual
innovation. Hitherto the army had been supplied with provisions
by a system of free quarter. Its leaders had been quite aware of
the popular grievance which this system caused, and which only its
admirable discipline prevented from being far greater. The removal
of it had been a constant topic in the documents issuing from the
army-council; but this implied the introduction of new and heavy
taxation. The purged parliament, however, had spirit for the work,
and quickly imposed an ‘assessment’ of 90,000_l_. a month (more than
1,000,000_l_. a year). Such a burden was sure to be a permanent
source of complaint, but for the present the impressive display of
restrained power, with which the new government had begun its rule,
and the apprehension that it might be the only present alternative
for a worse rule of levellers, had made the city more civil. At the
special instance of Cromwell and Vane it advanced money on security
of the tax, and the lord mayor, with other city magnates, was placed
on the committee of assessment. A prompt suppression of a levelling
mutiny by Cromwell, in May 1649, seems for the time to have composed
the commercial mind, and a few days after a great banquet was given
by the city to the parliament and officers of the army, remarkable
chiefly {335} for the description of it by Whitelock, which indicates
that in one respect at least, good taste, superior to that of
our times, went along with puritan gravity. ‘The feast was very
sumptuous, the music only drums and trumpets, no healths drunk, nor
any incivility.’ The mercantile interest was further conciliated by
an act passed soon afterwards (the beginning of legislation which
was gradually to transfer the carrying trade of the world from the
Dutch to the English), to the effect that no foreign ship should
bring merchandise to England except such as was of the growth or
manufacture of the country to which the ship belonged. Still the
breach between the high spiritual endeavour on which alone the
republic really rested, and the aspiration of the smug citizen who
left such endeavour to his minister and to Sundays, was too great for
orderly and vigorous administration to fill. The condition of this
administration, moreover, was that Cromwell should keep its enemies
at a distance.

With such dangerous elements all around it, the household of the
republic was by no means united in itself. It rested on a temporary
coalition between three sets of men, between whom as we have seen
there was no real love; the genuine commonwealth’s men, a section
of the ‘grandees of the parliament,’ and the leaders of the army.
The ‘grandees of the parliament’ had, with scarcely an exception,
kept their hands from the death-warrant of Charles. They recognised
the new order of things partly to avoid a breach with the army,
partly from fear of presbyterian ascendency and an unchecked
royalist reaction. So far as they looked ahead at all, they probably
contemplated a re-establishment of monarchy in the person of the duke
of Gloucester, the late king’s youngest son, whom the parliament had
in its keeping. This at least was the case with Whitelock, who was in
his way a representative man. On the new council of state (of forty),
which included seven peers or eldest sons of peers, five baronets,
four knights, and some temporising lawyers, this section had a
numerical majority. On the other hand, the stiff republicans were
in a decided minority on the council. Only ten regicides were upon
it, and from these must be deducted Cromwell and one or two officers
whom he could command, and who were not republican on principle.
The most eminent of this section were Marten, Bradshaw, Ludlow, and
Scott. Bradshaw, a special friend of Milton, had presided at the
trial of Charles, {336} in a high beaver hat lined with steel, with
the composure, according to Milton, of a man with whom the trial of
kings had been the business of life. He was afterwards president of
the council of state, where Whitelock, a rival and perhaps jealous
lawyer, complains that he did not understand the nature of his
office, and made long discourses of his own that no one wanted to
hear. Scott had been an officer in the new-model army, but seems
already to have been jealous of Cromwell, being one of those men with
whom hatred of the ‘rule of a single person’ was a principle of life.
In later days, when Monk was supreme, the restoration inevitable,
and the republicans fleeing, he stood up in parliament and said
that, though he knew not where to hide his head, yet he must say
that not his hand only but his heart had been in the execution of
Charles. As might be expected, the restoration brought him the honour
of martyrdom for his cause. Ludlow was a man of the same temper.
His qualities were clearly much valued by Cromwell, and there seems
to have been more real friendship between them at this time than
Ludlow, looking back upon it from his exile at Vevay in the light of
subsequent events, was willing to admit. Marten alone had some touch
of the modern French republican about him. We have seen with what
zest he arranged the more sensational incidents of the commonwealth.
When the motion for the abolition of the house of lords, as ‘useless
and dangerous,’ was being discussed, he proposed to substitute the
words ‘useless but not dangerous.’ On another occasion, it is said,
in drawing up a republican document, he spoke of ‘England being
restored to its ancient government of commonwealth,’ and in answer
to an objection that a commonwealth never before existed in England,
quoted a text which had always puzzled him, where a man blind from
his birth was said to be ‘restored’ to the sight he _should have
had_. Under cover of this gaiety, however, and of a life reputed to
be lewd, Marten had a strong republican enthusiasm, which he carried
with him to his death through an imprisonment of twenty years.

These republicans, one would suppose, must have felt the uneasiness
of their position. They had been the first to appeal from the
unpurged parliament to the army. Ludlow, indeed, in his memoirs
professed to have been shocked when Cromwell, in the spring of 1647,
whispered to him in the house {337} that Holles and his party would
never leave ‘till the army pulled them out by the ears’; yet by his
own confession a few months later, during the treaty of Newport, he
urged Ireton to put force on the parliament before Ireton himself
was prepared to do so, and Marten had done the like with Cromwell.
To the army they had thus appealed, but to the army, now that
they were successful, they no longer meant to go. Its enthusiasm
was not theirs. They had too much of the ancient Roman in them,
Marten, perhaps, rather of the ancient Greek, to sympathise with the
‘foolishness of Christ’ as it was presented in the army. It was not
in them that men, whose pastime was preaching and being preached to,
who discovered strange lights in their bibles to interpret strange
events, could find a natural leader, but in one who in his private
prayers would ‘throw himself on his face and pour out his soul with
tears for a quarter of an hour,’ who never went into battle without
a text to feed on, who sang psalms as he led them to victory. The
army, though it had no representative of its peculiar spirit on the
council of state except Cromwell, was the real constituency of the
republican parliament. It contained dangerous elements over which
parliament had not the least control, and which might at any time
overturn the parliamentary system. These may be summed up as the
spirit of simple military arrogance, represented by Lambert, the
levelling spirit represented by Lilburne and Wildman, and the ‘Fifth
Monarchy’ spirit represented by Harrison. Lambert appears to have had
the most conspicuous military talent of any of Cromwell’s officers.
In the critical spring of 1648 he held an independent command in the
north of England. He showed great skill in hanging on the skirts of
Hamilton’s army before Cromwell joined him, and afterwards headed
the pursuit. At Dunbar he led the fatal attack on the Scotch right
wing, and next year when Charles was marching to Worcester, hung on
his flank with cavalry, as he had before done on Hamilton’s. But
as soon as he was off active service, he became mischievous. Vain,
restless, and of extravagant habits, he perpetually chafed alike
against Cromwell’s control and the authority of the parliament.
He alone of the leading officers had never obtained a seat in
parliament, and thus never became habituated to its civilising
influence. Mrs. Hutchinson, while including him and Cromwell in the
same condemnation, admits that there was this difference, {338} that
while the one was gallant and great, the other had nothing but an
unworthy pride, most insolent in prosperity and as abject and base
in adversity.’ The term ‘leveller,’ then as now, was very loosely
and ambiguously applied. According to Mrs. Hutchinson, who is a good
authority on this point, the nickname was originally given to a:

  ‘certain sort of public-spirited men,’ who, when the
  presbyterian and independent factions were at their
  hottest, ‘declared against the ambition of the grandees
  of both and against the prevailing partiality, by
  which great men were privileged to do those things for
  which meaner men were punished. Many then got shelter
  in the house and army against their debts, by which
  others were undone. The lords, as if it were the chief
  privilege of nobility to be licensed in vice, claimed
  many prerogatives, which set them out of the reach of
  common justice, which these good people would have had
  equally belong to the poorest as well as to the mighty.’
  ‘But,’ continues Mrs. Hutchinson, taking a turn at
  philosophy, ‘as all virtues are mediums and have their
  extremes, there rose up after under the same name a
  people who endeavoured the levelling of all estates and
  qualities, which these sober levellers were never guilty
  of desiring.’ [1]

[1] [_Life of colonel Hutchinson_, ii. 125; ed, 1885.]

This account corresponds with the tenor of the petitions which we
read of as presented to the republican parliament by ‘levellers.’
They are simply a continuation of the agreements and remonstrances
issued by the council of the army during the agitation of 1648, which
in the main no doubt expressed the mind of Cromwell and Ireton.
Their demand is for reforms, which for the most part stood over for
nearly another two hundred years, till they began to be carried out
by the ‘purged parliament’ of 1832. With minor variations according
to circumstances, they pray, firstly, for a cheap and expeditious
process of law, to be the same for all, with no exemptions in
virtue of tenure or privilege; the laws to be written and in
English; secondly, the abolition of all feudal courts, payments, and
privileges; thirdly, the maintenance of the clergy by some other
method than tithes, which, let us remember, were not then commuted,
but were a perpetual source of carnal dispute between the clergy and
the farmers; fourthly, the removal of monopolies, custom-duties, and
excise, and the imposition of equal taxation; fifthly, the abolition
of imprisonment for debt; all {339} estates to be liable for debt,
and the rich not to turn prisons into places of protection; sixthly,
the establishment of perfect freedom of conscience; and seventhly and
lastly comes the demand, which presented the real difficulty, the
dissolution of the sitting parliament, with provision for calling a
new one at regular intervals.

This, we shall agree, is a sufficiently large and reasonable
programme of reform. Sometimes farther details appear, of a kind
which show a curious forecast of modern legislation, such as the
establishment of registers of mortgage and the sale of lands. The
rational desire for reform, however, which these petitions indicate,
was always liable in the army to pass into a spirit of mutiny and
disaffection, or into an ecstatic revolt, such as constantly appeared
in those times against the clothing, literal and metaphorical, with
which custom has covered the nakedness of human life. The grand mover
of the mutinous spirit was John Lilburne, the object of Marten’s
well-known joke, that if he were the only man left in the world, John
would quarrel with Lilburne and Lilburne with John. His obligations
to Cromwell were of long standing. In a tract published in 1647 he
says to Cromwell, ‘You took compassion on me when I was at death’s
door, and in 1640 set me free from the long tyranny of the bishops
and the Star chamber.’ (In 1640 no one will suppose that Cromwell’s
sympathy was other than disinterested.) ‘I have looked on you,’ he
proceeds, ‘as the most absolute, single-hearted great man in England,
untainted and unbiassed with ends of your own.’ He did not long
continue, however, to use this language. He had made himself useful
to Cromwell in the matter of the self-denying ordinance by showing up
certain scandals in connection with the earl of Manchester and other
officers of the original army. This made him many enemies, one of the
obscurer of whom prosecuted him for damaging his character. The case
was decided against Lilburne, who was called on for heavy damages.
He appealed to the parliament, and its disregard of his appeal
was the beginning of a long series of grievances, accumulating in
intensity as grievances do, and gradually drawing within the circle
of his animosity every one who declined to make his vindication the
sole object of political action. Cromwell and Marten seem really
to have done what they could to help him, but he would not wait to
be helped. From time to {340} time a parliamentary committee was
appointed to consider his case, but before anything could be done,
there would appear some violent pamphlet of his against parliament
and its grandees in general, for which he would be lodged in the
tower. ‘Jonah’s cry,’ ‘The oppressed man’s oppression,’ ‘The just
man’s justification,’ ‘Jugglers discovered,’ are among the titles
of his tracts, all most trenchantly written, that appeared during
the military agitation which culminated in the rendezvous at Ware.
Because Cromwell would not break on his account with ‘the grandees
of the parliament’ and the more worldly-wise of the officers, he
became one in Lilburne’s eyes who had bartered his high calling for
the glory of the world. His supposed machinations were exhibited in a
pamphlet published during the first months of the commonwealth, under
the title ‘The hunting of the foxes from Triploe Heath to Whitehall
by five small beagles’; the foremost ‘beagle’ being Lilburne. [1]
It strongly illustrates the freedom of discussion allowed in the
army, which indeed was the condition of its peculiar enthusiasm,
that this and other seditious manifestoes from the same hand, such
as ‘England’s new chains discovered,’ had apparently unchecked
circulation in it, and that at a time when a strong leaven of mutiny
was at work. At three different places in the spring of 1649, in
London, at Banbury, and at Salisbury, while the ‘five beagles’ were
happily under lock and key in the tower, the troops broke into open
revolt. Through want of leaders, and the swift energy of Cromwell,
the revolt was suppressed without bloodshed, and of the captured
mutineers, altogether some two thousand in number, only five were
shot. It is a fact probably unique in military history, that the
one who was shot in London was carried to the grave with military
honours, followed by the whole body of troops quartered about the
city with the ‘levelling’ badges in their hats. The fact is unique
because the army also was unique, being not a mercenary machine, or
even an embodiment of patriotic impulse, but an armed organisation of

[1] [“Lilburn” amended to “Lilburne”, twice. Tr.]

Contemporaneously with this outburst of mutiny, the levelling spirit
had taken another direction, sufficiently peaceable, but equally
tending to sap the foundation of a government resting on opinion.

  ‘In April of the year 1649,’ says Whitelock, [1] ‘the
  council of state had intelligence of new {341} levellers
  at St. Margaret’s Hill, near Cobham in Surrey, and at
  St. George’s Hill, and that they digged the ground and
  sowed it with roots and beans; one Everard, once of the
  army, is the chief of them.’ A few days after Everard was
  brought before the general. He said that he ‘was of the
  race of the Jews; that all the liberties of the people
  were lost by the coming in of William the Conqueror,
  and that ever since the people of God had lived under
  tyranny and oppression worse than that of our forefathers
  under the Egyptians. But now the time of deliverance was
  at hand.... And that there had lately appeared to him
  a vision, which bade him arise, and dig and plough the
  earth, and receive the fruits thereof; that their intent
  is to restore the creation to its former condition....
  That they intend not to meddle with any man’s property
  ... but only with what is common and untilled; ... that
  the time will suddenly be that all men shall willingly
  come in, and give up their lands and estates, and submit
  to this community ..., For money, there was not any need
  of it, nor of clothes more than to cover nakedness....
  As their forefathers lived in tents, so now it would
  be suitable to live in the same,’ with more to the
  like effect. ‘I have set down this the more largely,’
  adds Whitelock, ‘because it was the beginning of the
  appearance of this opinion, and that we might the better
  understand and avoid these weak persuasions.’

[1] [iii. p. 17.]

This ‘persuasion,’ ‘weak’ though it might be, was simply an
expression of that individual consciousness of spiritual capacity and
right, which had been strong enough to pull down an ancient church
and monarchy, and was now tearing off the encumbrances by which, as
it seemed, ages of selfish activity had clogged its motion. It was
the sectarian enthusiasm, seeking wildly to withdraw itself from
secular, as it had already done from religious ordinance. Ultimately
clothed and in its right mind under the form of quakerism, it was
to serve as a permanent protest against the plausibilities of the
world, and to supply a constant spring of unconventional beneficence
to English life. Even in this rude agricultural form, which it took
among the diggers on Cobham Heath, it was perfectly peaceable.
‘They would not defend themselves with arms, but would submit unto
authority, and wait till the promised opportunity be offered, which
they conceived to be at hand.’ Their existence, however, showed that
the enthusiasm which {342} had created the commonwealth was taking
the inevitable course which made it useless as a support for any
civil government whatever.

A kindred impulse to theirs, moreover, was at work in high places
of the army, where it did not forswear the use of a carnal sword.
Major-general Harrison was now directing his course by a verse in
the prophet Daniel, which promises the kingdom of the world to the
saints of the Most High, and was looking to the Rump parliament to
introduce this kingdom with all speed. If their factions and worldly
interests prevented them from doing so, Cromwell, he held, by some
method above that of civil government, could and would. It was not
for a constitutional theory or a pagan republicanism that he had
been fighting, but for a dominion of grace, and he would not long
be still while grandees of parliament, whom God had never owned in
war, wrangled over the legal adjustment of his mercies. Overton, the
governor of Hull, was the most eminent of those who shared his view,
which, however, was but the legitimate doctrine of the military saint.

During more than two years, from the midsummer of 1649 to the autumn
of 1651, the republican oligarchy was able to shut its eyes to the
real situation. The military spirit was absorbed in the conquest
under Cromwell of Ireland and Scotland, and the English royalists,
hardly recovered from their crushing failure at home, were watching
the fortune of war in these other countries. The only chance for the
permanence of republicanism was that it should avail itself of this
interval to establish itself on a more popular basis, and initiate
practical reforms. If it had had the will or ability to do so, the
levelling clamour, which with the return of the army was sure to be
heard again, would have had nothing in popular sentiment to appeal
to. The name of a ‘free parliament’ had been made to English ears,
by the very men to whom it was now a word of ill omen, the familiar
symbol of good government. The interference with the ordinary course
of justice by special courts and parliamentary committees was a
grievance that everyone could understand. An ecclesiastical anarchy,
such as the journal of George Fox the quaker exhibits to us, was a
scandal that came home to the parochial mind. In an ordinary parish,
a presbyterian clergyman would be in possession of the benefice, to
attempt {343} an irritating but ineffectual discipline and haggle
over tithes, while in the same place there would be a knot of
‘common-prayer men’ with an excluded minister at hand to stimulate
their zeal, and a congregation of baptists or independents, who,
now that their friends were in power, would see no reason why their
enemies should be beneficed. In the absence of any settled rule,
each party might hope by local faction or intrigue to get the tithes
for itself, and meanwhile would resist the payment of them to its

The only hopeful line then for the commonwealth’s men to take would
have been to provide for the election of a new parliament by reformed
constituencies, to abolish all criminal prosecution not sanctioned
by the common-law, to reform chancery and simplify legal process,
and to resettle the church on some plan that would admit at least
the independents and the ‘moderate’ or anti-prelatist episcopalians,
and substitute a fixed salary for tithes. Whether this line was
practicable for them is another question. They had no hold on popular
feeling; a powerful Scotch army, with the young king in its keeping,
was in the field against them, and the presbyterian clergy were
praying for its success. Under such circumstances there was much
plausibility in Henry Marten’s argument that their ‘commonwealth was
yet an infant, of a weak growth and a very tender constitution’; and
therefore his opinion was, ‘that nobody could be so fit to nurse it
as the mother who brought it forth; and that they should not think of
putting it under any other hands till it had obtained more years and
vigour.’ Marten, however, had forgotten that the true mother of the
republic was not the Rump parliament, but the army, whose maternal
discipline, unless some foster-parentage could be found in popular
interests, would be too much for the child as soon as it sought to
take a way of its own.

The essential difficulty of the situation was aggravated by the
oligarchical temper which it bred in the republican leaders. With
the best of them this temper took that higher form which appears
in Milton’s complaint, [1] that when God has given the victory
to a cause in the field of battle, ‘then comes the task to those
worthies which are the soul of it, to be sweat and laboured out
amidst the throng and noses of vulgar and irrational men.’ Even in
this form it cannot face facts, for it is {344} not this pride of
exclusion but the higher pride, which can possess itself in sympathy
and comprehension, that represents the divine reason in the world.
But the pride of protected intellect, once clothed with political
power, soon passes into the jealousy of a clique. So it was within
our memory in France under the Orleanist régime, and so it was with
the leading spirits of the Long parliament. They mistook the success
of their military administration for a real faculty of government,
and hugged power for its own sake, in the mood of a self-conscious
aristocracy of virtue. If this was the case with the best of them,
a more vulgar kind of self-interest was sure to prevail among the
rest. Thus, though their administration was singularly pure, they got
credit even among their best friends, if Milton’s ‘Second defence’
may be taken as expressing his real mind, for a spirit of faction and

[1] [_Tenure of kings and magistrates_.]

The one man among them who seems really to have comprehended the
situation, was Sir Henry Vane. Shrinking from the touch of military
violence, he had withdrawn from parliament after Pride purged it,
though the purgation was specially in his interest, and had only been
induced to join the council of state at the pressing instance of
Cromwell. He at once saw the need of popularising the government, and
stirred the question of new elections. A committee for considering
the question seems to have been constantly sitting during the
first year of the commonwealth, with Vane as its chairman, which
reported at the beginning of 1650 in favour of a new parliament of
four hundred members, and a re-arrangement of constituencies. A
corresponding resolution was voted by the house, but no bill was
introduced, and meanwhile Vane’s energies were absorbed by the
management of the wars with the Scots and the Hollanders. On this, as
on the other pressing questions, parliament could never get beyond
the stage of resolutions. It resolved to deal with the question of
tithes, to provide for popular education out of ecclesiastical funds,
and to simplify the law, but no actual legislation was achieved.
Thus by the autumn of 1651 it could take credit for an effective
administration of war and finance, and for the introduction of a
preaching ministry and schoolmasters into Wales. Towards facing the
hostile forces which only slumbered around them, towards meeting
the demands of the enthusiasm of reformation to {345} which they
owed their temporary power, they had done absolutely nothing. On
September 6 they heard the speaker read Cromwell’s account of
the battle of Worcester, ‘a mercy’ of which ‘the dimensions are
beyond my thoughts,’ ‘it is for aught I know a crowning mercy.’
Cromwell, meanwhile, was riding up to London with a look which Mr.
Peters, his chaplain, interpreted, or afterwards believed himself
to have interpreted, to mean that he would be king of England yet.
At Aylesbury he was met, on behalf of the parliament, by St. John
and Whitelock, both special representatives of the lawyer’s desire
for ‘settlement,’ and ‘government by a single person,’ with whom,
especially with St. John, he had long discourse. On the 16th, we
read in Whitelock, he took his seat in the house, and there is the
significant addition, ‘the parliament resumed the debate touching a
new representative,’ also ‘of an act of oblivion and general pardon,
with some expedients for satisfaction of soldiery and the ease of the
people.’ The question of settlement was now in the hands of one who
would not allow it to tarry.


In the last lecture we saw that the immediate result of Cromwell’s
presence in the house after his return from Worcester was the revival
of the questions of a new election and a general settlement, which,
during the last two years the republican oligarchy, with its head
in the bush, had not chosen to face. In pressing these questions
Cromwell was true to the instinct of comprehension which had governed
his course throughout. It appears from the Memoirs of Berkley, who
had been the chief negotiator with him on the king’s behalf in the
summer of 1647, that he was then convinced of the difficulty of
establishing a government on so narrow a foundation as was afforded
either by the army or an oligarchical parliament. His project at
that time was to restore the king on the condition of his calling a
new parliament, from which he declared royalists should be excluded.
This forms the basis of the propositions which the army offered
to the king, while he was still in their keeping, and which, with
expansion and variation according to circumstance, were pressed
upon parliament during the following {346} year. They provide that
the sitting parliament should come to an end within a year; that
afterwards a parliament should be summoned every two years, to sit
for not less than a hundred and twenty, or more than two hundred and
forty days; that members should be taken away from the decayed towns,
and representation awarded to the several counties according to the
amount of taxation. No one who had borne arms for the king was to be
eligible to parliament for five years. The old privy council was to
be superseded by a council of state, of which the members for the
next seven years were to be agreed on at once; after that they were
to be nominated by parliament. The coercive jurisdiction of bishops
was to be abolished; the use of the common prayer and the taking of
the covenant to be alike voluntary. Subject to these conditions the
king was to be restored, and a general act of oblivion was to be
passed, with power to parliament to except certain persons, not more
than five in number, from its benefit.

This document was supposed to come directly from the hand of Ireton,
who was more at his ease in composition than Cromwell. As Cromwell
says in a letter of this period to his daughter, Ireton’s wife, he
writes to her rather than to her husband, ‘for one line of mine
begets many of his.’

  ‘In these declarations and transactions of the army,’
  says Whitelock, [1] ‘colonel Ireton was chiefly employed,
  or took on him the business of the pen.’ He was ‘of a
  working and laborious brain and fancy, and set himself
  much upon these businesses, wherein he was encouraged
  and assisted by lieutenant-general Cromwell, his
  father-in-law. Having been bred in the Temple, he had
  a little knowledge of law, which led him into the more

[1] [ii. 162.]

If Ireton, however, held the pen, the scheme, we may be sure,
was Cromwell’s no less than his, and a more statesmanlike plan
of reconstruction it is difficult to conceive. If carried out
in its completeness it would have given England at once a
genuine parliamentary government and a free national church. Two
centuries of government by borough-mongering and corruption, of
church-statesmanship and state-churchmanship would have been saved.
Charles, as we have seen, rejected it, and began his game anew.
No such opportunity for reconciliation could ever occur again,
but Cromwell’s purpose remained the same, {347} though his mode
of executing it varied with events. The anxiety for a settlement
which should reconcile the old interests with the new enthusiasm is
the key to his subsequent conduct. The reconciliation, for reasons
which I have sufficiently described, was, in fact, impossible. The
new piece would not fit the old garment. To us, looking backward
with historical calmness, it seems well that it would not, for
the enthusiasm adjusted to the interests would have been poetry
translated into prose. That of which it is the essence to be motive,
negative, abstract, would have become fixed, positive, and concrete.
The sudden palpable reconciliation of the spirit and the flesh,
apparently, perhaps, a spiritualising of the flesh, would have been
really a carnalising of the spirit. The hopelessness, however, of
the pacification which he contemplated was the tragedy of Cromwell’s
later life. In the stress of protecting the ‘godly interest’ against
itself, ‘worldly mixtures’ inevitably came to prevail over the pure
spiritual fire. To the saints he seemed in serving the Lord’s people
to lose his own soul, and his conscience was too sympathetic not to
shrink under their judgment. Its burden, perhaps, found voice in
his exclamation on his death-bed that ‘he knew he had been in grace

There were certain qualities and beliefs in Cromwell, well known in
their outward character, which have won for him _par excellence_
the title of hypocrite. Looked at from the inner side, which the
preservation of his letters enables us to see, they appear as the
plastic medium through which an honest purpose of conciliation
worked, and for lack of which the same purpose was inoperative in
others. The ultimate spring of his conduct was a belief, wrought
to special strength in the formation and triumphant leadership of
the sectarian army, that he was the chosen champion of the despised
people of the Lord. In the realisation of this belief, it was his
habit (in modern language) to wait on events, and to surrender
himself to temporary sympathy with men of the most various views.
That this sympathy, though sometimes unctuous and exaggerated in
expression, was yet perfectly genuine, is proved by its evident
infectiousness. Nor was it really deceptive. There is no sign that he
ever committed himself to the positive maintenance of the doctrines
of the men to whose sympathy he appealed. On the contrary, {348}
there is evidence that the protection of the godly interest in its
freedom of conscience, by whatever means might be available, was
the only line of conduct to which he ever committed himself, and to
this he was faithful throughout. He caught eagerly at every element
in the character or belief of those with whom he had to do, which
might be turned to account for the furtherance of this end. When
it ceased to further it, it lost his sympathy. The interpretation
which the men whom he thus treated naturally put on his conduct was
that he sought to use them for his selfish purposes. But it was just
the qualities which ruined his reputation with the less compliant
of his contemporaries and with posterity that enabled him to do his
work. For his reputation he cared little, for his work much. What
we call waiting on events, he called a recognition of the ‘outward
dispensations’ of God. His belief that this guidance was divine made
him at once more bold and more free from selfish regards in following
it. There is a touch of nature in a letter of his to Oliver St. John,
written just after his rout of Hamilton’s army. [1]

  ‘Remember my love to my dear brother, H. Vane. I pray
  he make not too little, nor I too much, of outward
  dispensations.... Let us all be not careful what men will
  make of these actings. They, will they, nill they, shall
  fulfil the good pleasure of God; and we shall serve our
  generations. Our rest we expect elsewhere; that will be
  durable. Care we not for to-morrow, nor for anything.’

[1] [Carlyle, _ib_. No. lxvii.]

This utterance, fresh from the heart, explains the subsequent
alienation of Cromwell from Vane and the high republicans. He had the
fatalism about him without which nothing great is achieved in times
of political crisis; the consciousness of a divine work that must
be done through him, though personal peace and honour were wrecked
in the doing. They were men of theory and principle, ‘brave men and
true.’ but with a sense of what was ‘due to their own reputation,’
or, to speak, more kindly, men who would sacrifice themselves or
a nation indifferently to the maintenance of what might merely be
a formula. In these days of playing at heroes among the ‘inferior
races,’ such men, perhaps, receive less credit than is their due, nor
is it my purpose to measure the man of principle against the ‘man
of destiny,’ who may be a political gambler, but merely to indicate
their inevitable {349} collision. If Cromwell had been a political
gambler, he would not have been always showing his hand, nor should
we have the strange collection of impromptu letters and speeches,
speeches of which ‘he could not recall four words’ after they were
spoken, which let us see into the workings of his soul.

In the last lecture I showed that during the interval between the
final break of the independents and army with the king, marked by
the vote of no more addresses at the beginning of 1648, and his
setting out for the extinction of Hamilton, Cromwell was labouring
for such a reconciliation of parties as would gain for the inevitable
commonwealth a more general support than that of the professed
republican clique. The equal impracticability of presbyterians and
republicans, or, if we like, their equal devotion to principle,
made reconciliation impossible, and the republicans for the time
triumphed. Strong in a text of scripture, in a theory of right
borrowed from the municipal republics of Holland and Switzerland,
they shut their eyes and had their way. Cromwell knew well to what
such a spirit must lead, and his irritation at it once broke out in a
conversation with Ludlow. ‘They were a proud set of people,’ he said,
‘only considerable in their own conceits.’ For the time, however, he
had to leave them to their conceit, that he might crush the common
enemy. During the campaign, the direction in which the logic of
events, of ‘outward dispensations,’ was leading became more apparent,
and the sense of it pervades his letters. The rapture of successful
war brought back to him the old enthusiasm, the consciousness of
being the chosen leader of the saints. The righteous judge, he
thought, had been appealed to in battle, and had shown which cause
was his ‘even to amazement and admiration.’

  ‘Surely, sir,’ he writes to the speaker after the rout
  at Preston, ‘this is nothing but the hand of God; and
  wherever anything in this world is exalted, or exalts
  itself, God will pull it down; for this is the day
  wherein he alone will be exalted. It is not fit for me
  to give advice ... more than to pray you, and all that
  acknowledge God, that they would exalt him, and not hate
  his people, that are as the apple of his eye, and for
  whom even kings shall be reproved.’ [1]

[1] [_ib_. No. lxiv.]

The prosaic meaning of these new ‘dispensations,’ we {350} shall say,
was that the military excitement against the royal ‘delinquent’ had
become uncontrollable, that Hamilton’s invasion, instigated and aided
by the royalist presbyterians in England, had rendered their fusion
with the commonwealth’s men impossible, and that the republic must
represent the latter party and the army alone. This was no doubt the
final judgment which Cromwell’s practical insight had unwillingly
arrived at. But we do not really understand this judgment or its
consequences, till we appreciate the ‘wondrous alchemy’ of the
enthusiasm with which it was fused and molten in Cromwell’s own mind.
The whole mental process is exhibited in a letter to Colonel Hammond,
written when it had become clear that the presbyterian majority in
parliament were determined to treat with the king and restore him to
London. Its object was to induce Hammond to disregard the impending
vote of parliament, which (as we have seen) would have been ruinous
to the cause of free conscience, and to give the king up to the army.

  ‘You say,’ he writes,’ God hath appointed authorities
  among the nations to which active or passive obedience
  is to be yielded. This resides in England in the
  parliament.’ Then comes Cromwell’s reply to this view;
  ‘Authorities and powers are the ordinance of God. This
  or that species is of human institution, and limited,
  some with larger, others with stricter bands, each one
  according to its constitution. But I do not therefore
  think the authorities may do _anything_, and yet such
  obedience be due. All agree that there are cases in which
  it is lawful to resist.... The query is whether ours be
  such a case.’ In answer to this query, Cromwell commends
  to Hammond three considerations; ‘first, whether _salus
  populi_ be a sound position; secondly, whether in the way
  in hand’ (_i.e._ by the proposed treaty), ‘really and
  before the Lord, before whom conscience has to stand,
  this be provided for; or if the whole fruit of the war
  is not like to be frustrated, and all most like to turn
  to what it was, and worse.... Thirdly, whether this army
  be not a lawful power, called by God to fight against
  the king upon some stated grounds; and being in power
  to such ends, may not oppose one name of authority, for
  those ends, as well as another name, since it was not
  the outward authority summoning them that by _its_ power
  made the quarrel lawful, but the quarrel was lawful in
  itself.... My dear friend, let us look into providences;
  surely they mean somewhat. {351} They hang so together;
  have been so constant, so clear, unclouded. Malice, swoln
  malice against God’s people, now called ‘saints,’ to root
  out their name; and yet they’ (the saints) ‘getting arms,
  and therein blessed with defence and more! I desire he
  that is for a principle of suffering would not too much
  slight this.... Not the encountering difficulties makes
  us to tempt God; but the acting before and without faith.
  If the Lord have in any measure persuaded his people, as
  generally he hath, of the lawfulness, nay of the _duty_,
  this persuasion prevailing on the heart is faith; and
  acting thereupon is acting in faith; and the more the
  difficulties are, the more the faith.... Have not some
  of our friends, by their passive principle, ... been
  occasioned to overlook what is just and honest, and to
  think the people of God may have as much or more good the
  one way than the other? Good by this man against whom the
  Lord hath witnessed; and whom thou knowest!’ [1]

[1] [Carlyle, _ib_. No. lxxxv.]

That the enthusiasm of this letter is sincere it would be hard to
dispute; that it might be a dangerous cover for self-deceit, not
less so. That in Cromwell, as a matter of fact, it was an expansive
element, in which a sympathy with the ‘waiting spirit’ of the
sectaries, such as was necessary for their guidance, went along with
a prevailing zeal for the ‘_salus populi_’ and a clear judgment of
its needs, is the only interpretation that will explain the history
as a whole. To the guidance of a man possessing such a strange
compound of qualities, it is due that our great religious war ended
not simply in blood, but in a real step forwards of English society.

‘God’s providence and necessity, not his own choice,’ as he solemnly
said, having forced him to pull down monarchy and put the republic
in its place, he once more pressed forward his plan for a general
adjustment of interests under a new parliament. The possibility of a
settlement, however, which should secure the ‘godly interest,’ was
very different now from what it would have been if Charles’s spleen
and superstition had permitted him honestly to come to terms in 1647.
Then Cromwell had hoped by restoring the king with a council, which
might have been under his own direction, to obtain that unity of
initiative under a familiar name, which, important at all times, is
specially necessary when order is to be rebuilt out of a chaos of
factions heated with civil war.

{352} Henceforward there could but be two alternatives. The familiar
unity might be obtained, as it was ultimately to be at the blessed
Restoration, but only at the cost of an absolute suppression of
the ‘godly interest’: or an unfamiliar unity might take its place,
but only on the condition of its maintenance by a hand that could
hold the sword, and a temper that by either force or sympathy
could control the sectaries, a condition which death might at any
time remove. The military ecstasy, however, was still strong upon
Cromwell, and he had a spirit for the work. In Whitelock’s journal of
February 25, [1] not quite a month after the execution of Charles, we

  ‘From the council of state Cromwell and his son
  Ireton went home with me to supper; where they were
  very cheerful, and seemed extremely well-pleased; we
  discoursed together till twelve o’clock at night, and
  they told me wonderful observations of God’s providence
  in the affairs of the war, and in the business of the
  army’s coming to London and seizing the members; in all
  which were miraculous passages.’

[1] [ii. 540.]

Cromwell had yet to learn that the providence on which he waited
wrought by a longer method, because it had a wider comprehension than
was dreamt of in the puritan philosophy.

In the following spring Cromwell was appointed to the command of
the army that was to conquer Ireland. Thence he was recalled in the
summer of 1650, and shortly afterwards was sent into Scotland. Thus
till his return from the battle of Worcester in September 1651, he
had no chance of pressing his projects of conciliation and reform at
the headquarters of government. Such glimpses as we have, however,
of his civil activity during this period show a constant tendency
in the same direction. It was he who prevailed on Vane to join the
council of state, and obtained a modification of the engagement to
suit Vane’s views. Thus to restore to the government the ablest
civilian of the time, who had a special dislike for military
domination, was a strange course if it was his object to clear the
way for himself, but a most natural one if his object was general
conciliation. Again, in the summer of 1650, when it was proposed to
send the army under Fairfax into Scotland, and while Fairfax, ‘being
hourly persuaded by the presbyterian ministers and his own lady, who
was a great patroness of them,’ was doubting of the justness of the
war, and finally resolving to lay down his {353} command, Cromwell
was foremost in urging him to retain it. The memoir-writers of the
time, interpreting events by the jealousy of later years, treat
Cromwell’s earnestness on this occasion as simulated, a piece of the
‘great subtlety with which he now carried himself,’ but what its
object might be, if it were simulated, they do not explain. If his
object were personal aggrandisement, it is unaccountable that he
should go out of his way to put the command of the army in the hands
of another. If on the other hand it were a general settlement, it
was quite natural that he should seek to conciliate the presbyterian
interest to the commonwealth, in the person of the man who alone
combined presbyterian sympathies with toleration of the sectaries.

But though Cromwell, during this period, was quite free from the
thought which Mr. Peters attributed to him, ‘that he would be king of
England yet,’ still the impatience for an establishment of a ‘free
church of saints’ in a free state, and the ‘heat of inward evidence’
that he was himself the man to achieve it, was growing constantly
stronger in him. He led his army into Ireland, as Joshua into Canaan,
and his last letter to the parliament, as he was setting sail from
Milford Haven, offered to their consideration the removal of penal
statutes that enforce the consciences of honest conscientious men.
His conquest of Ireland, and afterwards of Scotland, was achieved in
and through a constant fire of enthusiasm.

  ‘It was set upon some of our hearts,’ he writes after
  the storm of Tredah, ‘that a great thing should be done,
  not by power or might, but by the spirit of God. And is
  it not so, clearly? That which caused your men to storm
  so courageously, it was the spirit of God, who gave
  your men courage, and took it away again; and gave the
  enemy courage, and took it away again; and gave your men
  courage again, and therewith this happy success.’ [1]

[1] [Carlyle, _ib_. No. cv.]

During his brief sojourn in London between the two wars it appears
from a dialogue with Ludlow [1] that his thoughts were running on
the need of swift reforms, especially of the law, and that he ‘was
feeding on’ the hundred and tenth psalm; ‘The Lord shall send the
rod of thy strength out of Zion.... Thy people shall be willing in
the day of thy power; in the beauties of holiness, from the womb of
the morning.’ The experience of the Scotch campaign, full, as he
conceived, {354} of miraculous passages, was not likely to temper
his consciousness of a divine mission. ‘There may be a spiritual
fulness,’ he writes to the general assembly of the kirk, [2] ‘which
the world may call drunkenness, as in the second chapter of the
Acts.’ In such spiritual fulness he lay on September 2, with a
sickly, half-starved army about Dunbar, in the face of an enemy
double in number and apparently commanding his position, yet sure,
as he says, that just ‘because of their numbers, their advantages,
and their confidence, because of our weakness, our strait, we were
in the mount, and in the mount the Lord would be seen, and that he
would find a way of deliverance for us.’ Through ‘an high, act of
the Lord’s providence’ Lesley made a false move, and the way of
deliverance was found.

  ‘It is easy to say,’ he writes to parliament after
  the victory, ‘the Lord hath done this. It would do
  you good to see and hear our poor foot go up and down
  making their boast of God. But it’s in your hands, and
  by these eminent mercies God puts it more into your
  hands to give glory to him; to improve your power and
  his blessings to his praise.... Disown yourselves and
  own your authority.... Relieve the oppressed, hear the
  groans of poor prisoners in England. Be pleased to reform
  the abuses of all professions; and if there be any one
  that makes many poor to make a few rich’ (a hit at the
  lawyers), ‘that suits not a commonwealth.’ [3]

[1] [_Memoirs_, p. 123; ed. 1751.]

[2] [Carlyle, _ib_. No. cxxxvi.]

[3] [Carlyle, _ib_. No. cxl.]

It was this exhilaration of energy in the Lord’s work, not a vulgar
ambition of kingship, that shone in Cromwell’s countenance as he
rode up from Worcester a year later, and that made him press, as we
have seen, on the first day when he resumed his seat in the house,
for measures of settlement and reform. ‘Peace hath her victories,’
as Milton wrote to him at this time, ‘no less renowned than war,’
but they were to be won not in days but in centuries, and by the
energy not of feeling but of thought. He had a temper, he once
said of himself, that ‘caused him often to overact business,’ and
his trusted ‘son Ireton,’ in whose ‘working brain’ the same plans
were combined with a more cautious and calculating temper, was no
longer at hand to restrain him. He had died at his post in Ireland
three months after the battle of Worcester; his death, we are told,
‘striking a great sadness in Cromwell.’ [1] ‘No man could prevail
with him so much or {355} order him so far as Ireton could,’ but
there is no reason to think that had Ireton lived he would have
altered, though he might sometimes have checked, Cromwell’s career.
If Cromwell had died when Ireton did, he would have died like him in
the full odour of republican sanctity, and his subsequent breach with
the republicans was due to his pressing forward the army project of
reform and reconstruction which had first taken shape in Ireton’s
brain. In his letter to the parliament after Dunbar he professed a
desire (a notable instance of his frankness) not to ‘precipitate
them by importunities’ in the work of settlement, and he was true
to his profession. For a year and a half, however, from September
16, 1651, to April 20, 1653, he loyally endeavoured to rouse the
republican oligarchy to the necessities of the situation. If his
importunity was not pressing, that of the people was, and it was
clear that the parliament must give some practical ‘reason why’ for
its existence, or lose its prestige. Petitions from the country
were constantly coming in, all conceived in the ‘levelling’ sense
which I described in the last lecture. Their general burden is that
tithes may be either abolished as levitical and Romish, or gathered
into a common treasury, and then some part of them applied to the
maintenance of a godly ministry in each county; that those ‘drunken,
malignant, scandalous, and profane ones,’ that go under the name
of ministers, be put to work for their living; that justice may be
given, not bought, and all matters of _meum_ and _tuum_ determined
free, yet by a written law; that some check may be put on the swarms
of lawyers, attorneys, and solicitors, nourished with the bread of
oppression by long and tedious suits. Sometimes they wax eloquent,
hoping that ‘justice may come down like a mighty stream, free for the
poorest to resort unto, too strong for the richest to divert.’ The
Rump parliament meanwhile, not, we may fairly suppose, considering
its previous inaction, without pressure from Cromwell, showed
great activity in appointing committees to consider grievances,
and in pressing resolutions, which if carried out would have made
English law more cheap, and English land more free, than it has ever
been since. There was no result however in the way of effective
legislation, and the old conviction of the army, that it was the true
parliament and judicature of the nation, was beginning to revive. At
the end of 1650 letters were read in {356} the house, ‘that officers
of the army by commission from Lambert did determine controversies
between party and party; wherewith the people were much satisfied
with the quick despatch they received with full hearing.’ At the same
time petitions were circulating in the army for reform of abuses and
a new parliament, in the same tone which had prevailed when the army
had before (in the year 1648) been in direct contact with the civil
power. The real fact was that the parliament was once more face to
face with its true, its sole constituency, the military saints, with
whom its conceit of antique republicanism would avail little, unless
it could realise in the hard world of ‘interests’ the reforming
enthusiasm which had created it. Such realisation, if possible at
all, was clearly impossible to an oligarchy which had always been
unpopular and was becoming factious.

[1] [Whitelock, iii. p. 371.]

We have not the means of tracing in detail the conduct of Cromwell
during this crisis. It is clear that he made no secret of his
thoughts. In November 1651 he obtained a vote of the house that it
would put a term to its sitting, but only one so remote as November
1654. The next question necessarily was, how should the new election,
and the general work of reconstruction, be regulated? That it would
require rigorous control in the presence of the royalist gentry and
the angry presbyterian clergy, was abundantly clear. Was this control
to be in the hands of the Rump oligarchy, disunited, estranged from
the army, incapable of swift and secret action as a deliberative
assembly must be, or in the hands of a single person who had a name
of terror and hope, and to whom the heart of the army was as his
own? This was the real question at issue, and at the end of 1651 we
find Cromwell, at a conference which he invited between the grandees
of parliament and the officers, explicitly stating it. It was as
impossible for him now, however, as it had been on a like occasion in
1648, to bring about an understanding. The great lawyers of the house
generally were in favour of government by a single person, but only
St. John seems to have shared Cromwell’s views as to who the single
person should be. Whitelock was in favour of restoring monarchy in
the person of the duke of Gloucester. To the enthusiasts of the
army the very name of monarchy was blasphemy against Christ, whom
they were expecting shortly to restore the kingdom to the saints.
The theoretical republicans of {357} the Rump were in favour of
constituting themselves a permanent body on the Venetian model, only
filling up vacancies as they should occur.

In this dead-lock of conflicting jealousies and opinions the year
1652 passed away, the only vigour being shown in the prosecution
of the Dutch war and the settlement of Scotland. Cromwell’s views
were well known, and one day when in debate he spoke of Mr. Marten
accidentally as ‘Sir Harry,’ Marten interrupted him by saying with
a low bow, ‘I always expected when your majesty became king, you
would make me a knight.’ He was clearly most unwilling, however, to
break with the parliament, which he had absolutely in his hands,
and if its leaders could have been induced, recognising their
weakness and swallowing their formula, to invest him with a temporary
dictatorship, he would have kept them at peace, as he alone had
hitherto done, with the army, and worked with them constitutionally
for the settlement of the nation. As it was, there are indications
that he controlled the discontent of the army as long as he was able.
Lambert’s vanity had been rudely affronted by the Rump, and his busy
brain was brewing mischief. Harrison was becoming impatient for
the inauguration of the ‘fifth monarchy.’ The military saints were
finding, as Cromwell afterwards expressed it, that ‘all tenderness
was forgotten to the good people, though it was by their hands and
their means that the parliament sat where it did.’ ‘The reformation
of law,’ he adds, ‘was a thing that many good words were spoken for;
but we know that many months together were not sufficient for the
settling of one word, “incumbrances.”’ [1]

[1] [Carlyle, _ib_. Speech I.]

By the beginning of the year 1653, Sir Henry Vane, who had hitherto
been organising victory for Blake, had become alive to the danger of
military domination, which he specially dreaded, and was pressing
forward a bill for a new parliament. It was upon this bill that the
final rupture with Cromwell took place. In its chief features it
corresponded with the petitions of the army and levellers which had
been rife in the agitation of 1647-8. There was to be a parliament of
four hundred members, who should be distributed among the counties
according to wealth and population. In the boroughs there was to be
a uniform rental qualification of householders; in the counties such
a property qualification {358} as should exclude tenants subject
to control. There was to be a freehold qualification of 40_s_., a
copyhold of 5_l_., and a leasehold of 20_l_. annual value. This
system of distribution and qualification was afterwards adopted by
Cromwell, except that he substituted for the property qualifications
the uniform, and very high, one of 200_l_. of real or personal
estate. Cromwell’s objection to the bill was that it gave the
existing members the right both of sitting in the new house without
re-election and of deciding on the admissibility of new members. In
other words it constituted the Rump a many-headed dictatorship, to
regulate the work of reconstruction. To this he opposed a plan of his
own for delegating the re-settlement to an assembly of notables, to
be specially summoned for the purpose; a plan which we may readily
admit was merely meant as such a screen for his own dictatorship
as would satisfy the demands of the ‘fifth monarchy’ or republican
officers. As usual he behaved with, perfect explicitness. On April 19
he had a conference of members of parliament and officers of the army
at his lodgings, and urged the importance of an immediate dissolution
and a convocation of notables. St. John was the only civilian who
supported him, but according to his own account the meeting closed
with an understanding that Vane’s bill should not be pressed. Next
morning the conference was renewed, but in the presence of only a
few ‘parliament men,’ of whom Whitelock was one. The sequel is best
described in his words. [1]

  ‘Cromwell being informed during this debate that the
  parliament was sitting, and that it was hoped they would
  put a period to themselves, which would be the most
  honourable dissolution for them; hereupon he broke off
  the meeting, and the members of parliament with him left
  him at his lodgings and went to the house, and found
  them in debate of an act, the which would occasion other
  meetings of them again, and prolong their sitting.’ This
  was Vane’s bill, which he was pressing through its last
  stages, in disregard, according to Cromwell, of the
  pledge given the night before. Colonel Ingoldsby brought
  word to Cromwell of what the house was doing, ‘who was so
  enraged thereat, expecting they should have meddled with
  no other business but putting a period to their sitting
  without more delay, that he presently commanded some
  of the officers of the army to fetch a party {359} of
  soldiers, with whom he marched to the house.’

[1] [iv. p. 4.]

The rest of the story is too familiar to need repetition. It is
noticed, however, that he did not introduce the soldiers at once,
but sat quietly in his place, till the motion was put from the
chair, ‘that the bill do now pass.’ It was then, at the last moment,
_i.e._ at which it was possible to stop the establishment of a
permanent oligarchy under the forms of law, that he broke into a
violent speech, which ended with his calling in the soldiers. His
conduct at this crisis, as throughout his public life, corresponded
exactly to the account which he gave of it himself. Into parliament,
as into battle, he carried the ‘waiting spirit’ in which the
sectaries believed. He trusted for guidance to a sudden inspiration
interpreting the necessity of events. At last, at the critical point,
just when he saw Lesley making a gap in his line at Dunbar, ‘the
spirit of God was strong upon him,’ he would no longer consult ‘flesh
and blood,’ but took the decisive step. The dissolution of the Rump
was clearly inevitable so soon as it broke with and sought to defy
its armed constituency, which, as Cromwell had always maintained,
was an equally legitimate authority with itself, and far more truly
representative. The violence of manner with which Cromwell turned
it out and locked the door, of which, says Whitelock, even ‘some of
his bravadoes were ashamed,’ is quite unique in his history, and
doubtless aggravated the difficulty of subsequent reconciliation
with the commonwealth’s men. The best explanation of it is a remark
in one of his private letters; ‘I have known my folly do good, when
affection (passion) has overcome my reason.’ It is a curious trait
in his character, that when wrought up after much hesitation to a
decisive act, of which he saw the danger, he gave the loose to that
boisterous vehemence for which he had early been noted, but which he
could generally suppress. The same trait appears in his behaviour at
the signature of the death-warrant of Charles.

He had now to grapple with the question which the Rump had fingered
in vain. The Lord’s people were to be saved from themselves, and
the interests of the world so reformed and adjusted that it might
yield them fit habitation. The task, as I have shown in the previous
lectures, was in the nature of the case a hopeless one. The claim
of the saints was at once false and self-contradictory; false, for
the secular world, which it sought to ignore, had rights no less
divine than its own; {360} and self-contradictory, since even amongst
the most sectarian of the sectaries it was constantly hardening
into authority hostile to the individual persuasion in which it
originated. ‘That hath been one of the vanities of our contest. Every
sect saith, “Oh, give me liberty.” But give it him, and to the best
of his power he will yield it to no one else.’ [1] Cromwell’s labour,
however, was not wholly in vain. During five years, by the mere
force of his instinct of settlement, his commanding energy, and that
absorbing sympathy miscalled hypocrisy, which enabled him to hold the
hearts of the sectaries even while he disappointed their enthusiasm,
he at least kept the peace between the saints and the world, secured
liberty of conscience, and placed it on ground which even the flood
of prelatical reaction was not able wholly to submerge. But while
protecting the godly interest, he was obliged more and more to
silence its pretension. A gradual detachment from the saints, and
approximation to the ancient interests, was the necessary policy of
his later years.

[1] [Carlyle, _ib_. Speech III.]

The dissolution of the Rump caused no derangement of administration.
As captain-general in a council of officers, Cromwell directed all
officials to continue their work, and summoned a body of notables to
act as a constitutive assembly. The change was generally acceptable
to puritan sentiment.

  ‘I told the parliament,’ said Cromwell afterwards, ‘what
  I knew better than anyone else, because of my manner of
  life, which took me up and down the country, thereby
  giving me to know the temper of all men, that the nation
  loathed their sitting. I knew it, and when they were
  dissolved, there was not so much as the barking of a dog,
  or any general and visible repining at it.’ [1]

[1] [_ib_.]

The addresses of congratulation which came in from all parts of the
country quite bore out this statement. It was not from the pagan
republicanism of the commonwealth-clique that Cromwell had difficulty
to apprehend, but from the smothered fire of the fifth-monarchy
men, with whom the necessities of settlement compelled him, to
break. This soon became apparent in the assembly of notables. They
elected an executive council, of which Cromwell was an ordinary
member, and for five months all went smoothly along. Then the
fifth-monarchy enthusiasm, represented by general Harrison, and
stimulated by anabaptist ministers who met with him ‘at one {361}
Mr. Squib’s house,’ became unmanageable. It fell foul of ‘ministry
and magistracy,’ demanding the simple abolition of tithes and of
the court of chancery, and the establishment of the judicial law of
Moses, to be administered ‘according to the wisdom of any man that
would interpret the text this way or that.’ [1] This led to the
resignation of the assembly, whether under pressure from Cromwell it
is difficult to say, but certainly with his good-will. Henceforth
he let it be known explicitly that the world must have its due and
settled interests be maintained. A few days after the council of
state presented him with an ‘instrument of government,’ establishing
a protectorate with a free parliament, to be elected according to the
original scheme of Ireton, Vane, and Cromwell himself. Under this
instrument he ruled for about four years, when ‘the petition and
advice,’ passed by his second parliament, took its place, which did
not materially alter the system, but put it on a parliamentary basis.

[1] [Carlyle, _ib_. Speech XIII.]

The protectorate must have the credit of having been at least
perfectly true to the great end of settlement, and of having been,
however arbitrary, yet perfectly honest in its arbitrariness. It was
quite free from the jugglery with recognised names and institutions
which is the chosen device of modern despotism. The three points of
the Cromwellian programme--restoration, so far as might be, of the
old constitution, reform of the law, and the protection of the godly
interest--were really inconsistent with each other, for to restore
the constitution was impossible without a restoration of royalism,
and the restoration of royalism meant the subjection of the godly,
while a reformation of the law, not resting on a constitutional
basis, hung only on the thread of a single life. His effort, however,
to govern constitutionally was genuine and persistent. Two conditions
he always announced as fundamental, the sovereignty of the protector,
and the maintenance of liberty of conscience. The protectorate
was ‘what he would be rolled in the grave and covered with infamy
sooner than give up.’ It was for a liberty of conscience, he always
said, better than episcopacy or presbyterianism had allowed, that
the army, the true national representative, had shed its blood. To
surrender it would be to violate his most sacred trust. Subject to
these two conditions he would give parliament its way, but {362} in
the first the republican minority, in the second the presbyterian
majority, would not acquiesce. One of his parliaments imprisoned
Biddle the socinian, the other was very near burning poor James
Nayler, the quaker, but finally let him off with putting him on
the pillory and boring through his tongue. In both cases Cromwell
interfered. The final breach, however, with each of his parliaments
was due to its insisting on a discussion of the basis of government
by a single person. To tolerate this, in the presence of royalist
plots, sanctioned by a proclamation in Charles Stuart’s name for the
assassination of ‘the base mechanic fellow, Oliver Cromwell,’ and of
fifth-monarchy men who were gathering arms to fight for ‘king Jesus’
under the standard of the tribe of Judah, would have been ‘to let all
run back to blood again.’

He was thus constrained to carry out the reform of law, and the
settlement of religion, by the method of ordinances of council, most
of which were subsequently confirmed by his second parliament. In
this way he reformed chancery and simplified legal procedure. As
regarded the church, since the dissolution of the assembly, there
had been, as I before explained, no regular system, but the only
recognised way of becoming eligible for a benefice was through
presbyterian ordination, though it was probably not uniformly
resorted to. For this Cromwell substituted a board of ordination,
representing presbyterians, independents, and baptist preachers
alike, and containing a certain number of laymen. No one was to have
a claim to levy tithes till approved by this board, which seems,
however, to have had power to delegate its authority to subordinate
boards in the provinces. Other county boards were established for
‘detecting and rejecting scandalous, ignorant, and insufficient
ministers.’ An ordinance for the more equal distribution of church
property completed the ecclesiastical reform.

This scheme was liberally worked, and except to the believers in
the necessity of episcopal ‘succession,’ for which Cromwell had no
bowels, opened a wider door than has been open since. It appears that
episcopalians in Baxter’s sense, and arminians, had now access to
the benefices, though the ordainers might sometimes be more severe
with them than with others. Even the high prelatists, so long as
they kept free from plots, were allowed to form congregations and
use the common prayer, which had never been the case under {363}
the presbyterian régime. Of the fidelity of Cromwell to the work of
reformation and godliness, which he had undertaken to reconcile with
a general settlement, the best evidence is the eye-witness of Baxter
and Burnet; both were royalists, and Baxter, at least, personally
unfriendly to Cromwell.

The unruliness of the elements which Cromwell had wrought into a
system of rational government became sufficiently apparent at his
death. My limits do not allow me to trace minutely the course of
events which led to the restoration. For some time a triangular
contest went on between the junto of officers, headed by Fleetwood
and Lambert, which Cromwell had kept in hand to the last, the court
party of real statesmen, such as Thurloe and Whitelock, who supported
Richard Cromwell, and the republicans headed by Vane and Scott. The
slumbering fanaticism of Fleetwood once more broke out into a zeal
for a dominion of grace. He allowed the officers, whom Cromwell had
kept at their commands at a distance, to get together in London,
and collogue with the more violent clergy. Henry Cromwell, watching
events from Ireland, saw what was coming and warned Fleetwood in a
tone worthy of his father’s son. Fleetwood, however, was deaf to
such advice, and finally combined with the republicans to overthrow
Richard Cromwell and restore the Rump parliament. Tho republicans,
however, though they did not scruple now any more than they had
done in 1648, to apply to the soldiers for support, could not long
agree with them. The Rump soon took courage to cashier the dangerous
officers, and afterwards, at the request of Monk, who was advancing
from Scotland with an army purged of enthusiasts, removed their
regiments from London. The situation was now at Monk’s command. The
presbyterians, still in possession of most of the pulpits, began to
reassert their claims, and Monk, a man without ideas, combined with
them as the stronger party. After a brief saturnalia of ordinances
against quakers and sectaries, they listened to the fair promises of
Charles Stuart, and gave themselves over to a king who was already
a papist, and a court which had but one strong conviction, that
presbyterianism was no religion for a gentleman.

Thus ended, apparently in simple catastrophe, the enterprise of
projecting into sudden reality the impulse of spiritual freedom.
Its only result, as it might seem, had been to {364} prevent the
transition of the feudal into an absolute monarchy, and thus to
prepare the way for the plutocracy under feudal forms which has
governed England since the death of William III. This, however, is
but a superficial view. Two palpable benefits the short triumph
of puritanism did win for England. It saved it from the catholic
reaction, and it created the ‘dissenting bodies.’ If it seems but a
poor change from the fanatic sacerdotalism of Laud to the genteel
and interested sacerdotalism of modern English churchmanship, yet
the fifteen years of vigorous growth which Cromwell’s sword secured
for the church of the sectaries, gave it a permanent force which no
reaction could suppress, and which has since been the great spring
of political life in England. The higher enthusiasm, however, which
breathed in Cromwell and Vane, was not puritanic or English merely.
It belonged to the universal spiritual force which as ecstasy,
mysticism, quietism, philosophy, is in permanent collision with the
carnal interests of the world, and which, if it conquers them for a
moment, yet again sinks under them, that it may transmute them more
thoroughly to its service.

  ‘Death,’ said Vane on the scaffold, ‘is a little word,
  but it is a great work to die.’ So his own enthusiasm
  died that it might rise again. It was sown in the
  weakness of feeling, that it might be raised in the
  intellectual comprehension which is power. ‘The people of
  England,’ he said again, ‘have been long asleep. I doubt
  they will be hungry when they awake.’

They have slept, we may say, another two hundred years. If they
should yet wake and be hungry, they will find their food in the ideas
which, with much blindness and weakness, he vainly offered them,
cleared and ripened by a philosophy of which he did not dream.

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