HISTORY  OF  THE  ENGLISH  SPEAKING  PEOPLES


The  Great  Cromwell


by  Winston  Churchill



........Cromwell rode in from the Army to his duties as a Member of Parliament. His differences with the Scots and his opposition to Presbyterian uniformity were already swaying Roundhead politics. He now made a vehement and organised attack on the conduct of the war, and its mismanagement by lukewarm generals of noble rank, namely Essex and Manchester. Essex was discredited enough after Lostwithiel, but Cromwell also charged Manchester with losing the second Battle of Newbury by sloth and want of zeal. He himself was avid for the power and command which he was sure he could wield; but he proceeded astutely. While he urged the complete reconstitution of the Parliamentary Army upon a New Model similar to his own in the Eastern Counties, his friends in the House of Commons proposed a so-called "Self-denying Ordinance," which would exclude members of either House from military employment. The handful of lords who still remained at Westminster realised well enough that this was an attack on their prominence in the conduct of the war, if not on their social order. But there were such compelling military reasons in favour of the measure that neither they nor the Scots, who already dreaded Cromwell, could prevent its being carried. Essex and Manchester, who had fought the King from the beginning of the quarrel, who had raised regiments and served the Parliamentary cause in all fidelity, were discarded. They pass altogether from the story.


During the winter months the Army was reconstituted in accordance with Cromwell's ideas. The old personally raised regiments of the Parliamentary nobles were broken up and their officers and men incorporated in entirely new formations. These, the New Model, comprised eleven regiments of horse, each six hundred strong, twelve regiments of foot, twelve hundred strong, and a thousand dragoons, in all twenty-two thousand men. Compulsion was freely used to fill the ranks. In one district of Sussex the three conscriptions of April, July, and September 1645 yielded a total of 149 men. A hundred and thirty-four guards were needed to escort them to the colours.


At the King's headquarters it was thought that these measures would demoralise " the Parliamentary troops; and no doubt at first this was so. But the Roundhead faction now had a symmetrical military organisation led by men who had risen in the field and had no other standing but their military record and religious zeal. Sir Thomas Fairfax was appointed Commander-in-Chief. Cromwell, as Member for Cambridge, was at first debarred from serving. However, it soon appeared that his Self-denying Ordinance applied only to his rivals. The urgency of the new campaign and military discontents which he alone could quell forced even the reluctant Lords to make an exception in his favour. In June 1645 he was appointed General of the Horse, and was thus the only man who combined high military command with an outstanding Parliamentary position. From this moment he became the dominant figure in both spheres.


Amid these stresses Archbishop Laud, who languished ailing in the Tower, was brought to the scaffold. Roundheads, Scots, and Puritans alike could all combine upon this act of hatred. The House of Commons upon a division rejected his appeal to be decapitated rather than hanged, drawn, and quartered. Overnight however this barbarous decision was mitigated, and after he had uttered atf unyielding discourse the old man's head was chopped offiri a dignified manner.


The desire of all Englishmen for an end to the unnatural strife forced itself upon the most inflamed partisans. "Clubmen" reappeared. Large numbers of farmers and their labourers, together with townsfolk, assembled in many parts of the country with such weapons as they could find, protesting against the exactions and pillage of the contending forces. They now showed themselves rather more favourable to the King than to the Parliament. Largely to please the Scots, a parley for a peace settlement was set on foot at Uxbridge, near London, and on this many hopes were reposed, though not by the die-hards in Parliament. For twenty days the village and its inns were divided between the delegates of the two sides. They met and argued with grave ceremony. But neither King Charles nor the Roundhead executive had the slightest intention of giving way upon the two main points— Episcopacy and the control of the armed forces. In the fourth year of the war these still presented themselves as issues upon which no compromise was possible. Uxbridge only proved the ferocious cq|istancy of both parties in their struggle for supreme power.


The antagonism of the Scots towards Cromwell and the pressure to enforce by law Presbyterian conformity against independent sectarianism were now at their height. Echoes of Marston Moor mingled with doctrinal differences. The Independents made strong play with the episodes of the battle. Leven and a part of the Scottish army had run away, while Cromwell and his Ironsides had remained to conquer. The Scots retorted by accusing Cromwell of personal cowardice in action; but this theme did not carry conviction. Their unwarrantable and intolerant interference in English life, though well paid, had drawn upon them a formidable animosity, and their main object of enforcing Presbyterianism was now frustrated by forces hitherto unimagined but wielding a sharp and heavy sword.


At the same time the Marquis of Montrose sprang upon the scene. He had been a Covenanter, but having quarrelled with Argyll went over to the King. Now he made himself known to history as a noble character and brilliant general. He pledged his faith to Charles, arid distracted all Scotland by a series of victories gained against much larger forces, although sometimes his men had/only stones to throw before falling on with the claymor^ Dundee, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Perth, and Edinburgh were at one time or another in his power. He wrote to Charles assuring him that he would bring all Scotland to his rescue if he could hold out. But a decisive battle impended in the South.

On June 14, 1645, the last trial of strength was made. Charles, having taken Leicester, which was sacked, met Fairfax and Cromwell in the fine hunting country about Naseby. The Cavaliers had so often saved themselves by the offensive spirit, which Rupert embodied to the eclipse of other military qualities, that they did not hesitate to attack uphill the Roundhead army of twice their numbers. The action followed what had almost become the usual course. Rupert shattered the Parliamentary left, and though, as at Edgehill, his troopers were attracted by the Parliamentary baggage column, he returned to strike heavily at the central Roundhead infantry. But Cromwell on the other flank drove all before him.^and also took control of the Roundhead reserves. The royal foot, beset on all sides by overwhelming numbers, fought with devotion. The King wished himself to charge to their rescue with the last reserve which stood about his person. He actually gave the order; but prudent hands were laid upon his bridle by some of his staff, and the royal reserves wheeled to the right and ggtreated above a mile. Here they were joined by Rupert, who had seen nothing but success, the Royalist cavalry quitting the field intact. The foot were killed or captured. Quarter was given, and the butchery was less than at Marston Moor. A hundred Irish women who were found in the Royalist camp were put to the sword by the Ironsides on grounds of moral principle as well as of national prejudice. Naseby was the expiring effort of the Cavaliers in the open field. There still remained many sieges, with reliefs and manceuvrings, but the final military decision of the Civil War had been given.



Cromwell later recorded his impressions in repellent sentences: "I can say this of Naseby, that when I saw the enemy draw up and march in gallant order towards us, and we a company of poor, ignorant men"— thus he described veterans for the most part, the best-equipped, best-disciplined, and most highly paid troops yet seen in England, and twice as numerous as their opponents—"to seek how to order our battle, the General having commanded me to order all the horse, I could not, riding alone about my business, but smile out to God in praises in assurance of victory, because God would, by things that are not, bring to naught things that are. Of which I had great assurance—and God did it."


The Axe Falls


BY the spring of 1646 all armed resistance to the Parliamentary Army was beaten down. Sir Jacob Astley, caught and defeated with the last troops of the King at Stow-on-the-Wold, said to his captors, "Well, boys, you have done your work, and may go home and* play—unless you fall out with one another."


The Puritans had triumphed. In the main the middle class, being more solid for Parliament, had beaten the aristocracy and gentry, who were divided. The new money-power of the City had beaten the old loyalties. The townsfolk had mastered the countryside. What would some day be the "Chapel" had beaten the Church. There were many contrary examples, but upon the whole this was how it lay. The Constitution however was still unsettled. All that Charles had stood for in the days of his Personal Rule was swept away; but much wider issues, for which the nation and the times were unripe and unready, had been opened. All these focused in the office and the person of the King. Charles was now ready to yield upon the control of the armed forces, but for the sake of the Episcopal establishment of the Church of England he was prepared to continue the struggle singlehanded. Montrose had been defeated in the autumn of 1645 at Philiphaugh, near the Border, by detachments from the regular Scottish army in England. Yet it was to the Scots Government that Charles eventually turned. He saw the deep division which was now open between Scotland^nd the Ironsides. He had no physical resources, but he li&ped that his Sovereign Majesty, though stripped of power, might yet raise, from what seemed a most adverse quarter, a new resource for his unquenchable purpose. He also had expectations of aid from France, where Queen Henrietta Maria had taken refuge. In the event all her efforts on his behalf came to nothing, and she never saw her husband again.


After some agonising months, in which Rupert too easily surrendered Bristol, and one Royalist fortress after another was reduced, the King thought to come to London alone and argue what had been lost in war with his subjects. There was a great desire for this in many quarters. He apparently had no fear for the security of his person. The Common Council in the City and a potent element in Parliament and in the Roundhead army favoured the plan; but in the end he resolved to place himself in the hands of the Scots. A French agent obtained from them a verbal promise that the King should be secure in his person and in his honour, and that he should not be pressed to do anything contrary to his conscience. On this he resorted to the headquarters of the Scottish army, which, with the Roundheads, was besieging Newark. Newark fell, and the Scots immediately turned northwards.


The King had persuaded himself he was a guest; but he soon found he was a prisoner. When on the march he asked a Scottish officer to tell him how he stood, General David Leslie peremptorily forbade the conversation to continue. Although treated with ceremony, he was closely guarded, deprived of all intercourse with his personal followers, and his windows were watched lest an uncensored letter should be thrown into the street. Kept at Newcastle in these hard circumstances, he entered upon nearly a year's tenacious bargainings on the national issues at stake. He wrangled with the Scots, who strove to force him to accept the Covenant and impose Presbyterianism upon England. At the same time he argued the constitutional issues which the English Parliament presented to him. Parliament's plan was to keep Charles captive till they had built him a constitutional and religious cage, and meanwhile to use his name and sign manual for all that they wished to do in their party interest. He was to subscribe to the Covenant; the bishops were to be abolished. The Fleet and militia were for twenty years to be in the hands of Parliament. An immense catalogue of pains and penalties, described as "branches" and "qualifications," flung all his faithful friends and supporters into a kind of Attainder as wholesale as that which had smitten the house of Lancaster after Towton. As a modern writer remarkable insight has it, "Charles had only to abandon his crown, his Church, and his friends, and he might, for what it was worth, be King of England still. . . . King of England—a prisoner in a foreign camp, forbidden to have his own chaplains, reduced to reading the Prayer Book alone in his bedroom, so becoming that dangerously attractive figure, the Injured Man." 1

The King naturally hoped to profit by the differences between Parliament and the Army and between the English


1 G. M. Young, Charles 1 and Cromwell.


and Scottish Governments. He delayed so long that the Governments came to terms without him. In February 1647 the Scots, having been paid an instalment of half the sum due to them for their services in England, handed over Charles under guarantee for his safety to Parliamentary Commissioners and returned to their own country. This transaction, though highly practical, wore and still wears a sorry look. The jingle


Traitor Scot, Sold his King for a groat


was on many lips. The confusion and distresses of the year 1646, with its interminable constitutional and religious discussion and the paralysis of national life, created fierce and general discontent, and from every quarter eyes were turned in new loyalties towards the King.


When the Scots had taken their payment Charles was led with the greatest deference southward to Holmby House in Northamptonshire by his new owners. His popularity became at once manifest. From Newcastle southwards the journey was a progress of cheering crowds and clashing bells. To greet the King, to be freed from the cruel wars, to have the Old England back again, no doubt with some important changes, was the national wish. Completely broken in the field, as previously in the Parliamentary struggle, Charles was still incomparably the most important figure in England. Every one was for the King, provided he would do what they wished. Stripped of all material weapons, he was more than ever conscious of the power of the institution which he embodied. But a third and new partner had appeared upon the English scene. The Ironside Army, twenty-two thousand strong, was not yet the master, but was no longer thf servant, of those who had created it. At its head stood its renowned and trusted generals: Thomas Fairfax, Commander-in-Chief; Oliver Cromwell, its sun of glory; Henry Ireton, its brain and in a large degree its conscience. Beneath them, upon the grim parades, . stirred political and religious controversies sufficient in themselves for civil and social wars far more embittered than that which had been finished.


Parliament had been refreshed by the election of new Members to fill the Royalist vacancies. It contained a strong Independent group which supported the Army. But the majority still represented the Presbyterian interest and strove for a strictly limited monarchy. The Army in no way shared the religious views of its Presbyterian employers. Their fiercest fighters, their most compulsive preachers, their most passionate sectaries, were almost as much opposed to a Presbyterian Establishment as to the Episcopacy. They differed from the Scots as much as from Archbishop Laud. Freedom of religious conviction was wrought in them by the variety and vigour of their sects. They were ready indeed to dragoon others; but who should dragoon them?


Now that the war was won most Members of Parliament and their leaders had no more need of the Army. It must be reduced to modest proportions. The civil power must reign. The expenses must be curdled. A large number of regiments should be employed in Ireland to avenge the Irish massacres of 1641. Suitable garrisons must be maintained in England. As for the rest, let them go to their homes with the thanks of the House of Commons to cheer them in their later life. But here a matter very awkward on such occasions obtruded itself. The pay of the Army was in arrears. In March 1647 the foot were owed for eighteen weeks and the horse for forty-three. At Westminster in this once great Parliament it was felt that a six-weeks' payment should efface the debt. The soldiers did not look upon all this in the same way. Differing in many great things from one another, they were united upon the question of pay. They were resolved not to go to Ireland or be disbanded to their homes until it was settled— and other matters as well in which they took an interest. A serious dispute between Parliament and the Army thus began, both sides flushed with the sense of having a victory in their hands for which they deserved a reward.


In the first phase of the dispute Parliament assumed it had the power to give orders. Cromwell, as Member for Cambridge, assured them in the name of Almighty God that the Army would disband when ordered. But he must have used a different language in the other quafter, because when the Army received the Parliamentary decisions they responded by a respectful petition from the officers. In this document, drawn up probably by Ireton, they asked for themselves and their men arrears of pay, indemnity for acts done in the war, guarantees against future conscription, and a pension for disabled men, widows, and children. "Whereas," they said, "the necessity of war has put us upon many actions, which the law would not warrant (nor have we acted in time of settled peace); we humbly desire that before our disbanding a full and sufficient provision may be made by ordinance of Parliament (to which the royal assent may be desired) for our indemnity and security in all such services." Even after Mar-ston Moor and Naseby the victorious Ironsides did not feel sure that anything counted without the royal authority. They sought a guarantee which would be national and permanent, and for all the tight-knit majority organisation at Westminster this guarantee the kingly office alone could supply. Here is the salient fact which distinguishes the English Revolution from all others: that those who wielded irresistible physical force were throughout convinced that it could give them no security. Nothing is more characteristic of the English people than their instinctive reverence even in rebellion for law and tradition. Deep in the nature of the men who had broken the King's power was the conviction that law in his name was the sole foundation on which they could build...... 


....................


TO  BE  CONTINUED