1902 Encyclopedia > England > [English History] The Early Stuarts and the Commonwealth: James I; Charles I; Cromwell.

(Part 28)


Part 28: The Early Stuarts and the Commonwealth: James I; Charles I; Cromwell.

The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 had been the final victory gained on behalf of the independence of the English church and state. The fifteen years which followed had been years of successful war; but they had been also years during which the nation had been also years during which the nation had been preparing itself to conform its institutions to the new circumstances in which it found itself in consequence of the great victory. When James arrived form Scotland to occupy the throne of Elizabeth he found a general desire for change. Especially there was a feeling that there might be some relaxation in the ecclesiastical arrangements. Roman Catholics and Puritans alike wished for a modification of the laws which bore hardly on them. James at first relaxed the penalties under which the Roman Catholics suffered, then he grew frightened by the increase of their numbers and reimposed the penalties. The Gunpowder Plot (1605) was the result, followed by a sharper persecution than ever.

The Puritans were invited to a conference with the king at Hampton Court (1604). They no longer asked, as many of them had asked in the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign, to substitute the Presbyterian discipline for the Episcopal government. All they demanded was to be allowed permission whilst remaining as ministers in the church to omit the usage of certain ceremonies to which they objected. It was the opinion of Bacon that it would be wise to grant their request. James thought otherwise, and attempted to carry out the Elizabethan conformity more strictly than it had been carried out in his predecessor’s reign.

In 1604 the Commons agreed with Bacon. They declared that they were no Puritans themselves, but that, in such a dearth of able ministers, it was not well to lose the services of any one who was capable of preaching the gospel. By his refusal to entertain their views James placed himself in opposition to the Commons in a matter which touched their deeper feelings. As a necessary consequence every dispute on questions of smaller weight assumed an exaggerated importance. The king had received a scanty revenue with his crown, and he spent freely what little he had. As the Commons offered grudging supplies, the necessity under which he was of filling up the annual deficit led him to an action by which a grave constitutional question was raised.

From the time of Richard II. to the reign of Mary no attempt had been made to raise duties on exports and imports without consent of parliament. But Mary had, under a specious pretext, recommenced to a slight extent the evil practice, and Elizabeth had gone a little further in the same direction. In 1606 a merchant named Bate resisted the payment of an imposition—as duties levied by the sole authority of the crown were then called. The case was argued in the Court of Exchequer, and was there decided in favour of the crown. Shortly afterwards new impositions were set to the amount of £70,000 a year. When parliament met in 1610 the whole subject was discussed, and it was conclusively shown that, if the barons of the exchequer had been right in any sense, it was only in that narrow technical sense which is of no value at all. A compromise attempted broke down, and the difficulty was left to plague the next generation. The king was always able to assert that the judges were on his side, and it was as yet an acknowledged principle of the constitution that parliament could not change the law without the express consent of the crown, even if, which was not the case in this matter, the Lords had sided with the Commons. Jane’s attempt to obtain further supplies from the Commons by opening a bargain for the surrender of some of his old feudal prerogatives, such as wardship and marriage, which had no longer any real meaning except as a means of obtaining money in an oppressive way, broke down, and early in 1611 James dissolved his first parliament in anger. A second parliament, summoned in 1614, met with the same fate after a session of a few weeks.

The dissolution of this second parliament was followed by a short imprisonment of some of the of the more active members, and by a demand made through England for a benevolence to make up the deficiency which parliament had neglected to meet. The court represented that, as no compulsion was used, there was nothing illegal in this proceeding. But as the names of those who refused to pay were taken down, it cannot be said that there was no indirect pressure.

The most important result of the breach with the parliament of 1614, however, was the resolution taken by James to seek refuge from his financial and other troubles in a close alliance with the king of Spain. His own accession had done much to improve the position of England in its relation with the Continental powers. Scotland was no longer available as a possible enemy to England, and though an attempt to bind the union between the two nations by freedom of commercial intercourse had been wrecked upon the jealously of the English Commons (1607), a legal decision had granted the statues of national subjects to all persons born in Scotland after the king’s accession in England. Ireland, too, had been thoroughly overpowered at the end of Elizabeth’s reign, and the flight of the earls of Tyrone and Tyconnel in 1607 had been followed by the settlement of English and Scottish colonists in Ulster, a measure which, in the way in which undertaken, sowed the seeds of future evils, but undoubtedly conduced to increase the immediate strength of the English Government in Ireland.

Without fear of danger at home, therefore, James, who as king of Scotland had taken no part in Elizabeth’s quarrel with Philip II. not only suspended hostilities immediately on his accession, and signed a peace in the following years, but looked favourably on the project of a Spanish alliance, in order that the chief Protestant and the chief Catholic powers might join together to impose peace on Europe, in the place of those hideous religious wars by which the last century had been disfigured. In 1611 circumstances had disgusted him with his new ally, but in 1614 he courted him again, not only on grounds of general policy, but because he hoped that the large portion which would accompany the hand of an infanta would go far to fill the empty treasury.

In this way the Spanish alliance, unpopular in itself, was formed to liberate the king from the shackles imposed on him by the English constitution. Its unpopularity, great from the beginning, became greater when Raleigh’s execution (1618) caused the Government to appear before the world as truckling to Spain. The obloquy under which James laboured increased when the Thirty Years War broke out (1618), and when his daughter Elizabeth, whose husband, the Elector Palatine, was the unhappy claimant to the Bohemian crown (1619), stood forth as the lovely symbol of the deserted Protestantism of Europe. Yet it was not entirely in pity for German Protestants that the heart of Englishmen beat. Men felt that their own security was at stake. The prospect of a Spanish infanta as the bride of the future king of England filled them with suspicious terrors. In Elizabeth’s time the danger, if not entirely external, did not come from the Government itself. Now the favour shown to the Roman Catholics by the king opened up a source of mischief which was to some extent real, if it was to a still greater extent imaginary. Whether the danger were real or imaginary, the consequence of the distrust resulting from the suspicion was the reawakening of the slumbering demand for fresh persecution of the Roman Catholics, a demand which made a complete reconciliation between the crown and the Lower House a matter of the greatest difficulty.

In 1621 the third parliament of James was summoned to provide money for the ear in defence of his son-in-law’s inheritance in the Palatinate, which he now proposed to undertake. But, it soon appeared that he was not prepared immediately to come to blows, and the Commons, voting a small sum as a token of their loyalty, passed to other matters.

Indolent in his temper, James had been in the habit of leaving his patronage in the hands of a confidential favourite, and that position was now filled by George Villers, marquis and afterwards duke of Buckingham. The natural consequence was that men who pair court to him were promoted, and those who kept at a distance from him had no notice taken of their merits. Further, a system of granting monopolies and other privileges had again sprung up. Many of these grants embodies some scheme which was intended to serve the interests of the public, and many actions which appear startling to us were covered by the extreme protectionist theories then in vogue. But abuses of every kind had clustered round them, and in many cases the profits had gone into the pockets of hangers-on of the court, whilst officials had given their assistance to the grantors even beyond their legal powers. James was driven by the outcry raised to abandon these monopolies, and an Act of Parliament in 1624 placed the future grant of protections to new inventions under the safeguard of the judges.

The attack on the monopolies was followed by the charges brought by the Commons before the Lords against persons implicated in carrying them into execution, and subsequently against Lord Chancellor Bacon as guilty of corruption. The sentence passed by the Lords vindicated the right of parliament to punish officials who had enjoyed the favour of the crown, which had fallen into disuse since the accession of the House of York. There was no open contest between parliament and king in this matter. But the initiative of demanding justice had passed from the crown to the Commons. It is impossible to overestimate the effect of these proceedings on the position of parliament, The crown could never again be regarded as the sun of the governmental system.

When the Commons met after the summer adjournment a new constitutional question was raised. The king was at last determined to find troops for the defence of the Palatinate, and asked the Commons for money to pay them. They in turn petitioned the crown to abandon the Spanish alliance, which they regarded as the source of all the mischief. James told them that they had no right to discuss business on which he had not asked their opinion. They declared that they were privileged to discuss any matter relating to the commonwealth which they chose to take in hand, and embodied their opinion in a protest, which they entered on their journals. The kings tore the protest out of the book, and dissolved parliament.

Then followed a fresh call for a benevolence, this time more sparingly answered than before. A year of fruitless diplomacy failed to save the Palatinate from total loss. The ill-considered journey to Madrid, in which Prince Charles, accompanied by Buckingham, hoped to wring from the Spanish statesmen a promise to restore the Palatinate in compliment for his marriage with the infanta, ended also in total failure. In the autumn of 1623 Charles returned to England without a wife, and without hope of regaining the Palatinate with Spanish aid.

He came back resolved to take vengeance upon Spain. The parliament elected in 1614 was ready to second him. It voted some supplied on the understanding that, when the kind had matured his plans for carrying on the war, it should come together in the autumn to vote the necessary subsidies. It never met again. Charles had promised that, if he married a Roman Catholic lady, he could grant no toleration to the English Catholics in consideration of the marriage. In the autumn he had engaged himself to marry Henrietta Maria, the sister of the king of France, and had bound himself to grant the very conditions which he bad declared to the Commons that he never would concede. Hence it was that he did not venture to recommend his father to summon parliament till the marriage was over. But though there was but little money to dispose of, he and Buckingham, who, now that James was sick and infirm, were the real leaders of the Government, could not endure to abstain from the prosecution of the war. Early in 1625 an expedition, under Count Mansfeld, was sent to Holland, that it might ultimately cut its way to the Palatinate. Left without pay and without supplies, the men perished by thousands, and when James died in March, the new king had to meet his first parliament burthened by a broken promise and a disastrous failure.

When parliament met (1625) the Commons at first contented themselves with voting a sum of money far too small to carry on the extensive military and naval operation in which Charles had embarked. When the king explained his necessities, they intimated that they had no confidence in Buckingham, and asked that, before they granted further supply, the king would name counsellors whom they could trust, to advise him on its employment. Charles at one dissolved parliament. He knew that the demand for ministerial responsibility would in the end involve his own responsibility, and, believing as he did that Buckingham’s arrangements had been merely unlucky, he declined to sacrifice the minister whom he trusted.

Charles and Buckingham did their best to win back popularity by strenuous exertion. They attempted to found a great Protestant alliance on the Continent, and they sent a great expedition to Cadiz. The Protestant alliance and the expedition to Cadiz ended in equal failure. The second parliament of the reign (1626) impeached Buckingham for crimes against the state. As Charles would not dismiss him simply because the Commons were dissatisfied with him as a minister, they fell back on charging him with criminal designs. Once more Charles dissolved parliament to save Buckingham. Then came fresh enterprises and fresh failures. A fleet under Lord Willoughby was almost ruined by a storm. The king of Denmark, trusting to supplies from England which never came, was defeated at Lutter. A new war, in addition to the Spanish war, broke out with France. A great expedition to Rhé, under Buckingham’s command (1627), intended to succour the Huguenots of Rochelle against their sovereign, ended in disaster. In order to enable himself to meet expenditure on so vast a scale, Charles had levied a forced loan from his subjects. Men of high rank in society who refused to pay were imprisoned. Soldiers were billeted by force in private houses, and military officers executed martial law on civilians. When the imprisoned gentlemen appealed to the King’s Bench for a writ of habeas corpus, it appeared that no cause of committal had been assigned, and the judges therefore refused to liberate them. Still Charles believed it possible to carry on the war, and especially to sent relief to Rochelle, now strictly blockaded by the French Government. In order to find the means for this object he summoned his third parliament (1628). The Common at once proceeded to draw a line injuries of which they complained. Charles was willing to surrender his claim to billet soldier by force, to order the execution of martial law in time of peace and to exact forced loans, benevolence or any kind of taxation, without consent of parliament; but he protested against the demand that he should surrender the right to imprison without showing cause. It was argued on his behalf that in case of a great conspiracy, it would be necessary to trust the crown with unusual powers to enable it to preserve the peace. The Commons, who knew that the crown had used the powers which it claimed, not against conspirators, but against the commonwealth itself, refused to listen to the argument, and insisted on the acceptance of the whole Petition of Right, in which they demanded redress for all their grievances. The king at last gave his consent to it, as he could obtain money in no other way. In after times, when any real danger occurred which needed a suspension of the ordinary safeguards of liberty, a remedy was found in the suspension of the law by Act of Parliament; such a remedy, however, only became possible when king and parliament were on good terms of agreement with one another.

The time was as yet far distant. The House of Commons brought fresh charges against Buckingham, whose murder soon after the prorogation removed one subject of dispute. But when they met again (1629) they had two quarrels left over form the preceding session. About a third part of the king’s revenue was derived from customs duties, which had for many generations been granted by parliament to each sovereign for life. Charles held that this grant was little more than a matter of form, whilst the Commons held that it was a matter of right. But for the other dispute the difficulty would probably have been got over. The strong Protestantism of Elizabeth’s reign has assumed a distinctly Calvinistic form, and the country gentlemen who formed the majority of the House of Commons were resolutely determined that no other theology than the Calvinistic should be taught in England. In the last few years a reaction against it had arisen, especially in the universities, and those who adopted an unpopular creed, and who at the same time showed tendencies to a more ceremonial form of worship, naturally fell back on the support of the crown. Charles, who might reasonably have exerted himself to secure a fair liberty for all opinions, promoted these unpopular divines to bishoprics and livings, and the divines in turn exalted the royal prerogative above parliamentary rights. He now proposed that both sides should keep silence on the points in dispute. The Commons rejected his scheme, and prepared to call in question the most obnoxious of the clergy. In this irritated temper they took up the question of tonnage and poundage, and instead of confining themselves to the great public question, they called to the bar some custom-house officers who happened to have seized the goods of one of their members. Charles declared that the seizure had taken place by his orders. When they refused to accept the excuse, he dissolved parliament, but not before a tumult took place in the House, and the speaker was forcibly held down in his chair whilst resolutions hostile to the Government were put to the vote.

For eleven years no parliament met again. The extreme action of the Lower House was not supported by the people, and the king had the opportunity, if he chose to use it, of putting himself right with the nation after no long delay. But he never understood that power only attends sympathetic leadership. He contented himself with putting himself technically in the right, and with resting his case on the favourable decisions of the judges. Under any circumstances, neither the training nor the position of judges is such as to make them fit to be the final arbiters of political disputes. They are accustomed to declare what the law is, not what it ought to be. These judges, moreover, were not in the position to be impartial. They had been selected by the king, and were liable to be deprived of their office when he saw fit. In the course of Charles’s reign two chief justices and one chief baron were dismissed or suspended. Besides the ordinary judges there were the extraordinary tribunals, the court of High Commision nominated by the crown to punish ecclesiastical offenders, and the court of Star Chamber, composed of the privy councilors and the chief justices, and therefore also nominated by the crown, to inflict fine, imprisonment, and even corporal mutilation on lay offenders. Those who rose up in any way against the established order were sharply punished.

The harsh treatment of individuals only calls forth resistance when constitutional morality has sunk deeply into the popular mind. The ignoring of the feelings and prejudices of large classes has a deeper effect. Charles’s foreign policy, and his pretentious claim to the sovereignty of the British seas, demanded the support of a fleet, which might indeed be turned to good purpose in offering a counterpoise to the growing navies of France and Holland. The increasing estrangement between him and the nation made him averse to the natural remedy of a parliament, and he reverted to the absolute practices of the Middle Ages, in order that he might strain them far beyond the warrant of precedent to levy a tax under the name of ship-money, first on the port towns and then on the whole of England. Payment was resisted by John Hampden, a Buckinghamshire squire; but the judges declared that the king was in the right (1638). Yet the arguments used by Hampden’s lawyers sunk deeply into the popular mind, and almost everyman in England who was called on to pay the tax looked upon the king as a wrong-doer under the forms of law.

Any Government which, from want of sympathy with the feelings of the masses, offends the sense of rights by the levy of taxes for which it does not venture to ask their consent, is also likely to treat with unfeeling harshness the religion of thinking men. So it was in the reign of Charles. He gave authority to William Laud, since 1633 archbishop to Canterbury, to carry out his design of reducing the English Church to complete uniformity of ceremonial. The practice in most churches differed from the laws under which public worship was intended to be guided. Laud did his best to carry out the letter of the law, under the belief that uniformity of worship would produce unity of spirit, and in some cases he explained away the law in the direction in which he wished it to be bent. The communion table was removed from the centre of the church to the east end, was spoken of as an altar, and was fenced in with rails, at which communicants were expected to kneel. At the same time offence was given to the Puritans by an order that every clergyman should read the Declaration of Sports, in which the king directed that no hindrance should be thrown in the ay of those who wished to dance or shoot at the butts on Sunday afternoon. Many of the clergy were suspended or deprived, many emigrated to Holland or New England, and of those who remained a large part bore the yoke with feelings of ill-concealed dissatisfaction. Suspicion was easily aroused that a deep plot existed, of which Laud was believed to be the centre, for carrying the nation over to the Church of Rome, a suspicion which seemed to be converted into a certainly when it was known that Panzani and Con, two agents of the pope, had access to Charles, and that in 1637 there was a sudden accession to the number of converts to the Papal Church amongst the lords and ladies of the court. The rising feeling may be traced in the poems of Milton. L’Allegro and Il Penseroso—probably written in 1632—are full of thoughts which denote him to have been at that time of no special school. The Comus, written in 1634, is stamped with the impress of the Puritan ideal without the Puritan asperity; whilst the Lycidas, in 1637, contains lines directed aggressively against the system of Laud as serving merely as a steeping-stone to Rome.

In the summer of 1638 Charles had long ceased to reign in the affections of his subjects. But their traditionary loyalty had not yet failed, and if he had not called on them for fresh exertions, it is possible that the coming revolution would have been long delayed. Men were ready to shout applause in honour of Puritan martyrs like Prynne, Burton, and Bastwick, whose ears were cut off in 1637, or in honour of the lawyers who argued such a case as that of Hampden. But no signs of active resistance had yet appeared. Unluckily for Charles, he was likely to stand in need of the active co-operation of Englishmen. He had attempted to force a new Prayer-Book upon the Scottish nation. A riot at Edinburgh in 1637 quickly led to national resistance, and when in November 1638 the General Assembly at Glasgow set Charles’s orders at defiance, he was compelled to choose between tame submission and immediate war. In 1639 he gathered an English force, and marched towards the border. But English laymen, though asked to supply the money which he needed for the support of his army, deliberately kept it in their pockets, and the contributions of the clergy and of official persons were not sufficient to enable him to keep his troops long in the field. The king therefore thought it best to agree to terms of pacification. Misunderstandings broke out as to the interpretation of the treaty, and Charles having discovered that the Scotch were intriguing with France, fancied that England, in hatred of its ancient foe, would now be ready to rally to his standard. After an interval of eleven years, in April 1640 he once more called a parliament.

The short Parliament, as it was called, demanded redress of grievances, the abandonment of the claim to levy ship-money, and a complete change in the ecclesiastical system. Charles thought that it would not be worth while even to conquer Scotland on such terms, and dissolved parliament. A fresh war with Scotland followed. Went-worth, now earl of Strafford, became the leading adviser of the king. With all the energy of his disposition he threw himself into Charles’s plans, and left no stone unturned to furnish the new expedition can avail when soldiers are determined not to fight. The Scotch crossed the Tweed, and Charles’s army was well pleased to fly before them. In a short time the whole of Northumberland and Durham were in the hands of the invaders. Charles was obliged to leave these two counties in their hands as a pledge for the payment of their expenses; and he was also obliged to summon parliament to grant him the supplies which he needed for that object.

When the Long Parliament met in November 1640, they were in a position in which no parliament had been before. Though nominally the Houses did no command a single soldier, they had in reality the whole Scottish army at their back. By refusing supplies they would put it out of the king’s power to fulfil his engagements to that army, and it would immediately pursue its onward march to claim its rights.

Hence there was scarcely anything which the king could venture to deny the Commons. Under Pym’s leadership, they began by asking the head of Strafford. Nominally he was accused of a number of acts of oppression in the north of England to make the king absolute, and in Ireland. His real offence lay in his attempts to make the king absolute, and in the design with which he was credited of intending to bring over an Irish to crush the liberties of England. If he had been a man of moderate abilities he might have escaped. But the Commons feared his commanding genius too much to let him go free. They began with an impeachment. Difficulties arose, and the impeachment was turned into a bill of attainder. The king abandoned his minister, and the execution of Strafford left Charles without a single man of supreme ability on his side. Then came rapidly a succession of blows at the supports by which the Tudor monarchy had been upheld. The courts of Star Chamber and High Commission and the Council of the North were abolished. The raising of tonnage and poundage without a parliamentary grant was declared illegal. The judges who had given obnoxious decisions were called to answer for their fault, and were taught that they were responsible to the House of Commons as well as the king. Finally, a bill was passed providing that the existing House should not be dissolved without its own consent.

It was clearly a revolutionary position which the House had assumed. But it was assumed because it was impossible to expect that a king who had ruled as Charles had ruled could take up a new position as the exponent of the feelings which were represented in the Commons. As long as Charles lived he could not be otherwise than an object of suspicion; and yet if he were dethroned there was no one available to fill his place. There arose therefore two parties in the House, one ready to trust the king, the other disciplined to put any confidence in him at all. The division was the sharper because it coincided with a difference in matters of religion. Scarcely any one wished to see the Laudian ceremonies upheld. But the members who favoured the king, and who formed a considerable minority, wished to see a certain liberty of religious thoughts, together with a return under a modified Episcopacy to the forms of worship which prevailed before Laud had taken the church in hand. The other side, which had the majority by a few votes, wished to see the Puritan creed prevail in all its strictness, and were favourable to the establishment of the Presbyterian discipline. The king, by his unwise action, tarew power into the hands of his opponents. He listened with tolerable calmness to their Grand Remonstrance. But his attempt to seize the five members whom he accused of high treason made a good understanding impossible. The Scottish army had been paid off some months before, and civil war was the only means of deciding the quarrel.

At first the fortune of war wavered. Edgehill was a drawn battle (1642), and the campaign of 1643, though it was on the whole favourable to the king, gave no decisive results. Before the year was at an end parliament invited a new Scottish army to intervene in England. As an inducement, the Solemn League and Covenant was signed by all Parliamentarian Englishmen, the terms of which were interpreted by the Scotch to bind England to submit to Presbyterianism, though the most important clauses had been purposely left vague, so as to afford a loophole of escape.

The Battle of Marston Moor, with the defeat of the Royalist forces in the north, was the result. But the battle did not improve the position of the Scots. They had been repulsed, and the victory was justly ascribed to the English contingent. The composition of that contingent was such as to have a special political significance. It leader was Oliver Cromwell. It was formed by men who were fierce Puritan enthusiasts and who for the very reason that the intensity of their religion separated them from the mass of their countrymen had learnt to uphold with all the energy of zeal the doctrine that neither church nor state had a right to interfere with the forms of worship which each congregation might select for itself. They were commonly known as Independents, from the communities which had sprung up under the name of Separatists in the reign of Elizabeth, and which maintained the principle of congregational independence; though many other sects found a place in their ranks.

The principle advocated by the army, and opposed by the Scotch and the majority of the House of Commons, was liberty of sectarian association. Some years earlier, under the dominion of Laud, another principle had been proclaimed by Chillingworth and Hales, that of liberty of thought to be maintained within the unity of the church. Both these movements conduced to the ultimate establishment of toleration,—the one by permitting those to worship as they saw fit whose faith was too definite to enable them to be content with outward forms by which their particular belief was not clearly expressed, the other by allowing those whose charity was greater than their polemical zeal to find a common ground to worship side by side with others whose beliefs did not entirely coincide with their own.

For the present the Independence were to have their way. The Presbyterian leaders, Essex and Manchester, were not successful leaders. The army was remodelled after Cromwell’s pattern, and the king was finally crushed at Naseby (1645). The next year (1646) he surrendered to the Scots. Then followed two years of fruitless negotiations, in which after the Scotch abandoned the king to the English parliament, the army took him out of the hands of the parliament, whilst each in turn tried to find some basis of arrangement on which he might appear to sit on the throne without again misdirecting the government. Such a basis could not be found, and when Charles stirred up a fresh civil war and a Scottish invasion (1648), the leaders of the army vowed that, if victory was theirs, they would bring him to justice. To do this was necessary to drive out a large number of the members of the House of Commons, by what was known as Pride’s Purge, and to obtain from the mutilated Commons the dismissal of the House of Lords, and the establishment of a high court of justice before which the king was brought to trial, and sentenced to death. He was beheaded on a scaffold outside the windows of Whitehall (1649).

The government set up was a government by the committees of a council of state nominally supporting themselves on the House of Commons, though the members who still retained their placed were so few that the council of state was sufficiently numerous to form a majority in the House. During eleven years the nation passed through many vicissitudes in its forms of government. These forms take no place in the gradual development of English institutions, and have never been referred to as affording precedents to be followed. To the student of political science, however, they have a special interest of their own, as they show that when men had shaken themselves loose from the chain of habit and prejudice, and had set themselves to build up a political shelter under which to dwell, they were irresistibly attracted by that which was permanent in the old constitutional forms of which the special development had of late years been so disastrous. After Cromwell has suppressed resistance in Ireland (1649), had conquered Scotland (1650), and the overthrown the son of the late king, the future Charles II., at Worcester (1651), the value of government by an assembly was tested and found wanting. After Cromwell had expelled the remains of the Long Parliament (1653), and had set up another assembly of nominated members, that second experiment was found equally wanting. It was necessary to have recourse to one head of the executive government, controlling and directing its actions. Cromwell occupied this position as Lord Protector. He did all that it was in his power to do to prevent his authority from degenerating into tyranny. He summoned two parliaments, of only one House, and with the consent of the second parliament he erected a second House, so that he might have some means of checking the Lower House without constantly coming into personal collision with its authority. As far as form went, the constitution in 1658, so far as it differed from the Stuart constitution, differed for the better. But it suffered from one fatal defect. It was based on the rule of the sword. The only substitute for traditional authority is the clearly expressed expression of the national will, and it is impossible to doubt that if the national will had been expressed it would have swept away Cromwell and all his system. The majority of the upper and middle classes, which had united together against Laud, was now re-united against Cromwell. The Puritans themselves were but a minority, and of that minority considerable numbers disliked the free liberty accorded to the sects. Whilst the worship of the Church of England was proscribed, every illiterate or frenzied enthusiast was allowed to harangue at his pleasure. Those who cared little for religion felt insulated when they saw a Government with which they had no sympathy ruling by means of an army which they dreaded and detested. Cromwell did his best to avert a social revolution, and to direct the energies of his supporters into the channels of merely political change. But he could not prevent, and it cannot be said that he wished to prevent, the rise of men of ability from positions of social inferiority. The nation had striven against the arbitrary government of the king; but it was not prepared to shake off the predominance of that widely spreading aristocracy which, under the name of country gentlemen, had rooted itself too deeply to be easily passed by. Cromwell’s rule was covered with military glory, and there can be no doubt that he honestly applied himself to solve domestic difficulties as well. But he reaped the reward of those who strive for something better than the generation in which they live is able to appreciate. His own faults and errors were remembered against him. He tried in vain to establish constitutional government and religious toleration. When he died (1658) there remained branded on the national mind two strong impressions which it took more than a century to obliterate—the dread of the domination of a standing army, and abhorrence of the very name of religious zeal.

The eighteen months which followed deepened the impression thus formed. The army had appeared a hard master when it lent its strength to a wise and sagacious rule. It was worse when it undertook to rule in its own names, to set up and pull down parliaments and Governments. The only choice left to the nation seemed to be one between military tyranny and military anarchy. Therefore it was that when Monk advanced from Scotland and declared for a free parliament, there was little doubt that the new parliament would recall the exiled king, and seek to build again on the old foundations.


FOOTNOTES (page. 343)
1 James I. was very fond of calling himself "King of Great Britain," a geographical description which reminds one of Cnut’s "King of all England." And the same style was freely used by his successors. But the kingdom of Great Britain did not really begin till Anne’s Act of Union. The more accurate, though rarer, style of the stewarts is "King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland."

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