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Oliver Cromwell was descended of an ancient and respectable family in Huntingdonshire, and was son of Robert Cromwell, Esq. by Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Richard Steward, Knt. He was born in the parish of St. John, Huntingdon, April 24, 1599, and on the 23d of April, 1616, was admitted of Sidney College, Cambridge, under the tuition of Mr. Richard Howlett, who then observed of him, that he was not so much inclined to speculation as to action. Whilst he continued there, his father died, upon which he returned home, and fell into great irregularities of conduct, which induced his mother to remove him to Lincoln's Inn, in order to divert him from his extravagancies by the study of the law. But so sedentary an employment not suiting his disposition, he soon returned into the country, and continuing his former course of life, spent a great part of his paternal estate. At length he reformed his conduct, and became equally remarkable for the strictness of his morals, and his punctual application to all the external duties of religion; and having now an estate of 5001. a year left him by Sic Robert Steward, his mother's brother, he married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir James Bourchier, of Essex. In 1628, being chosen a member of the third parliament of King Charles I. he was appointed one of the committee of religion; and in 1637, upon the severities inflicted on the Puritan party, of which he professed himself, by archbishop Laud, he resolved, with several others, to remove into New England, but was prevented by a proclamation, prohibiting the disorderly transporting his Majesty's subjects to the plantations in America, without a royal licence. The king had afterwards ample reason to repent this exercise of his prerogative. The year following, by his opposition to the draining of the fens in Lincolnshire and the Isle of Ely, Cromwell gained so considerable an
interest in those parts, that he was elected burgess for the town of Cambridge, in 1640, to serve in the long parliament, in which he vigorously promoted the grand remonstrance of grievances.
Such was the oriarin and slow advancement of a man who afterwards, in the course of a few years, was observed suddenly to emerge from his obscurity, raise himself to power and distinction, usurp the command of armies, overturn one of the most ancient monarchies of Europe, sentence his sovereign to death, and seat himself in his place. He is undoubtedly one of the most eminent and singular personages that occurs in history; the strokes of his character are as open and strongly marked as the schemes of his conduct were, during the time, dark and impenetrable. His extensive capacity enabled nim to form the most enlarged projects; his enterprising genius was not dismayed with the boldest and most dangerous. Carried by his natural temper to magnanimity, to grandeur, and to an imperious and domineering policy, he yet knew when necessary to employ the most profound dissimulation, the most oblique and refined artifice, the semblance of the greatest moderation and simplicity. A friend to justice, though his public conduct was one continued violation of it; devoted to religion, though he perpetually employed it as the instrument of his ambition; he was engaged in crimes from the prospect of sovereign power, a temptation which is in general irresistible to human nature; and by using well that authority which he obtained by fraud and violence, he has lessened, if not overpowered, our detestation of his enormities, by our admiration of his success and of his genius.
Those who imagine they can trace, in every action of an extraordinary personage, some presage of his future grandeur, will find their experience contradicted, and BKGIAND.] CROMWELL.
their discernment of no avail in the character of Cromwell. His first appearance on the great theatre of the world was little portendve of his subsequent elevation. His conduct as a member of the house appears to have been below contempt. So early as 1629, we find him complaining of one, who, he was told, preached flat pOpery. It is amusing to observe the first words of this fanatical hypocrite correspond so exactly with his character. His person was ungraceful and plain; his countenance rugged and mean; his dress slovenly and negligent. His delivery was harsh and uncouth; his manner awkward and embarrassed. So singularly does nature distribute her talents, that, in a nation abounding with sense and learning, a man who, by superior personal merit, was to make his way to supreme dignity, and compel the parliament to make him a tender of the crown itself, was yet incapable of expressing himself with common precision or propriety, but at all times delivered his harangues in a manner of which a peasant of the most ordinary capacity would justly be ashamed of. Upon an examination of his various speeches, we may discover that his great defect consists not only in his want of elocution, but in his want of ideas. Indeed the sagacity of his actions, and the absurdity of style of speaking, form one of the most singular contrasts ever known.
The very narrow limits to which we are confined, will enable us to present only a few observations upon this extraordinary man, with a rapid detail of his most prominent exploits. When the war broke out, he first commanded a troop of horse, and immediately distinguished himself by securing Cambridge, and taking prisoner, after a bold manoeuvre, at St. Albans, the high sheriff of Hertfordshire. For these services he was appointed a colonel in the army of the parliament; and obtained a victory at Gainsborough, over a party of royalists commanded by the gallant Cavendish. His activity, his personal courage, a quick discernment which saw and a resolution that overpowered every obstacle, soon procured him the notice and esteem of his superiors; and he succeeded, in 1644, to the rank of lieutenant-general under the earl of Manchester. He principally contributed to the victory at Marston-Moor; and though he yet held but a secondary rank, was already considered as the most able and conspicuous among the enemies of the king. He had connected himself with the independants, a set of men who rejected all ecclesiastical establishments, and would admit of no spiritual courts, no government among pastors, no interposition of the magistrate in religious concerns, no fixed encouragement annexed to any system of doctrines or opinions. The enthusiasm of the presbyterians led them to reject the authority of prelates, to throw off the restraints of liturgies, to retrench ceremonies, to limit the riches and authority of the clergy. The fanaticism of the independants, exalted to a higher pitch, abolished all ecclesiastical government, disdained creeds and systems, neglected every ceremony, and confounded all ranks and orders. Their political principles were entirely republican. They aspired to a total abolition of the monarchy, and even of the aristocracy. In consequence of these ideas, they were declared enemies to all proposals of peace between the contending parties of the king and parliament; and they adhered to the maxim, that whoever draws the sword against the sovereign, must throw away the scabbard. That such were the views and projects of Cromwell, appears in his disputes with the earl of Manchester. Cromwell had reproached him with not pushing the advantages obtained by the arms of the parliament; and, in the public debates, asserted, that this nobleman had wilfully neglected, at Dennington castle, a favourable opportunity of finishing the war by a total defeat of the royalists. Manchester, by way of recrimination, informed the parliament, that at another time, Cromwell having proposed