1902 Encyclopedia > John Lambert

John Lambert
English Parliamentary general and politician
(1619-94)




LAMBERT, JOHN (1619-1690, was born in 1619 at Calton Hall in the parish of Kirkby 'Malham, in the West Riding of Yorkshire. His family was of ancient lineage, and long settled in the county. He studied at the Inns of Court, but without snaking the law his profession. In 1640 he married Frances, daughter of Sir William Lister. He was present at the great meeting of the Yorkshire gentry on Heyworth Moor (3d June 1642), and in September was appointed a captain of horse under Lieutenant-Colonel Fairfax. He did good service at the siege of Hull (11th October 1612), at Bradford (5th March 1644), and at the important engagement at Selby (10th April 1614). At Marston Moor (2d July 1644) lie commanded part of Sir Thomas Fairfax's cavalry on the right wing. He was sent into York to arrange terms for the surrender of the city, which took place July 16, 1644. When the " New Model " army was formed in the beginning of 1645, Colonel Lambert was appointed commissary-general of the army in the north. He beat the royalists at Keighley and Ferrybridge, and took several strong places. He followed Fairfax's campaign in the west of England in 1646, and was a commissioner with Cromwell and others for the surrender of Oxford in the same year.

When the quarrel between the army and the parliament began, Lambert threw himself warmly into the army's cause. He is said by Clarendon to have assisted Ireton in drawing up the several addresses and remonstrances issued by the army, both men having had some experience in the law, and being " of a subtle and working brain." In August 1647 Lambert was sent as major-general by Fairfax to take charge of the forces iu the northern counties. His wise and just managing of affairs in those parts is commended by Whitelocke. He displayed personal courage in suppressing a mutiny among his troops, kept strict discipline, and showed much diligence in hunting down the moss-troopers who infested the moorland country.

When the Scotch army under the marquis of Hamilton invaded England in the summer of 1648, Lambert was obliged to retreat till Cromwell came up from Wales, and joining him destroyed the Scotch army in three days' fighting from Preston to Warrington. Lambert pressed Hamilton with the cavalry, and took him prisoner at Uttoxeter, a few clays after the battle. He then marched back into Scotland, where be was left in charge of the troops. In December 1648 he sat down before Pontefract Castle, which held out till March 1649. Lambert was thus absent from London at the time of the violence put upon the parliament by Colonel Pride, and the other sue mores which led to the king's death.

Cromwell, when appointed to the command of the war in Scotland (26th July 1650), took Lambert with him as major-general. He was wounded at Musselburgh, but was with Cromwell at Dunbar on the 2d of September, when the soldiers begged that Lambert might lead them the next day, and Cromwell willingly gave his consent. He defeated the "Protesters" or "Western Whigs" at Hamilton, on the 1st of December 1650. In the following July he was sent over into Fife to get a position in the rear and flank of the Scotch army near Falkirk, and force them to decisive action by cutting off their supplies from Perth. A battle fought at Inverkeithing, with heavy loss to the Scots, in which Lambert behaved with great gallantry, gave him the position he required, and he improved it by taking Inchgarvie and Burntisland. Charles now (as Lambert had foreseen) made for England. Lambert with the cavalry was ordered to harass his march down the western shires, while Cromwell followed through Yorkshire and the Midlands. In the action at Warrington Bridge Lambert again distinguished himself by his personal courage, and at Worcester also (3d September 1651), where he commanded the forces on the eastern bank of the Severn, and had his horse shot under him. Parliament now conferred on him a grant of lands in Scotland worth £1000 per annum.

In November 1651 he was made a commissioner to settle the affairs of Scotland, and on the death of Ireton he was appointed lord deputy of Ireland in February 1652. He accepted the office with pleasure ; but his magnificent preparations offended the Commons, who limited his office to the term of six 'swaths. Lambert hereupon resigned the deputyship without entering on its duties.





Notwithstanding this affront Lambert took part with Cromwell in the expulsion of the Rump (20th April 1653) and its council of state. He was joined to the lord-general and two others as additional members of the little parliament of nominees, making up the number to one hundred and forty-four. He presented the act of resignation of that assembly, and was principally concerned in drawing up the address requesting Cromwell to assume the protectorate, and the Instrument of Government, which was the constitution of the Protectoral rule. At the installation of Cromwell he bore a prominent part. In the parliament of 1654, and again in 1656, Lambert (or Lord Lambert as he is now generally called) sat as member for the West Riding of Yorkshire. When the proposal to declare Oliver king was started in parliament (February 1657) he at once declared strongly against it. A hundred officers headed by Fleetwood and Lambert waited on the Protector, and begged him to put a stop to the proceedings. Lambert was not convinced by Cromwell's arguments, and Cromwell and he henceforward never spoke to each other as friends. On his refusal to take the official oath of allegiance to the Protector, Cromwell deprived him of his commissions, givinc, him, however, a pension of £2000 a year. He retired to his house and garden at Wimbledon, and appeared no more in public during Oliver Cromwell's lifetime.

On the accession of Richard he seems to have expected the first place in the army, but was not unwilling to be second to Fleetwood. The Protector was between two parties - the court party, who wished to hold to the " Petition and Advice," and the army party or Wallingford House party, who, whilst supporting Richard as Protector, wished to put the control of the army into stronger hands. Richard saw that to deliver up the power of the sword was to abdicate, and refused to make Fleetwood general. Lambert was elected for Pontefract in Richard's parliament, and took part with the republican malcontents who soon combined with Wallingford. House. Councils of officers were held, which Lambert, though holding no commission, was invited to attend. They determined to stand by the " good old cause" and to demand the dissolution of the parliament as being too full of monarchical and Presbyterian notions --in fact, to pnt the civil power aside and set up a military government in its stead. The Protector dissolved parliament (22d April 1659). The officers, unable to rule without a parliament, restored the Rump as representing the Commonwealth (7th Jlay 1659). Richard's Protectorate had practically ended with his parliament, and he now laid down the show of royalty. Sir George Booth and Sir Thomas Middleton headed a royalist rising in Cheshire, which Lambert put down after a sharp encounter near Chester. He promoted a petition from his army that Fleetwood might be made lord-general and himself major-general. The republican party in the house took offence. The Commons (12th October 1659) cashiered Lambert, Desborough, and other officers, and retained Fleetwood's commission as chief of a military council of seven, republicans of the old sort. Lenthall, the speaker, was to give his orders to the army. On the next day (13th October) Lambert caused the doors of the House to be shut and the members kept out. On the 26th a "committee of safety" was appointed, of which Lambert was a member. He was also appointed major-general of all the forces in England and Scotland, Fleetwood being general. Lambert was now sent with a large force to meet Monk, who was in command of the English forces in Scotland, and either negotiate with him or force bins to terms. Monk, however, declared for the liberty and authority of parliament, and set his army in motion southward. The committee of safety was obeyed no more than the Rump had been. The soldiers themselves cried out for the restoration of parliament, and on the 26th of December the Rump was recalled to restore some appearance of lawful authority.

Meanwhile the bulk of Lambert's army was dissolved by the mere appearance of Lord Fairfax in arms on Marston Moor, and he was kept in suspense by Monk's deceits and delays, till his whole army fell from him, and he came back to town almost alone. Monk marched unopposed to London, and declared for a " free parliament." The " excluded " Presbyterian members were recalled. Lambert was sent to the Tower (3d March 1660), from which he escaped a month later (9th April 1660). He tried to rekindle the civil war in favour of the Commonwealth, but was speedily recaptured, and sent back to the Tower (24th April). On the Restoration be, along with Vane, was exempted from danger of life by an address of both Houses to the king. The next parliament (1662) brought a charge of high treason against them. Vane was beheaded, but Lambert was spared, and remained in custody in the island of Guernsey for the remainder of his life. He died at the age of seventy-five, in 1694.

Lambert would have left a better name in history if he had been a Cavalier. His genial, ardent, and excitable nature, easily raised and easily depressed, was more akin to the royalist than the puritan spirit. Vain and sometimes overbearing, as well as ambitious, he believed that Cromwell could not stand without him, and, when Cromwell was dead, he imagined himself equal to succeed him, and thought that the first place must be his by right. Yet his ambition was less selfish than that of Monk. Lambei t is accused of no ill faith, no want of generosity, no cold and calculating policy. Lambert was not merely a soldier. He was an able writer and speaker, and an accomplished negotiator, and took pleasure in quiet and domestic pursuits. He learnt his love of gardening from Lord Fairfax, who was also fns master in the art of war. He painted flowers, besides cultivating them, and incurred the blame of Mrs Hutchinson by "dressing his flowers in his garden and working at the needle with his wife and his maids." Ile made no special profession of religion ; but no imputrtX as is cast upon his moral character by his detractors. It 1ms been said that he became a Roman Catholic before his death. (F. w. c.*)







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