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page of the work, we shall confine our remarks to the latter, not less brilliant, characteristic of this prodigy of the past.
Oliver Cromwell lived in an age when the military power of England was vested in that class of persons, whose services were required only when the immediate exigences of the state called them into exercise; the era of standing armies had not then commenced, and the troubles of that period brought into existence a new, and perhaps, as this country has long been and is now situated with regard to her foreign policy, a more suitable arrangement. We are quite certain, that dependent as England, at this time, was upon the nerve and honesty of its yeomen, the groundwork of the protector's power was framed, and his primary successes may be attributed to the zeal and firmness of his ironsided troops, as well as in their unbounded confidence in the talent of their leader, and their belief in the righteousness of their cause, added to his promptitude in raising troops for the service of the parliament. There appears to have been a judgment in the selection of his recruits, which, at all times, gave him a decided superiority over his enemies in the field; while Cook says, that “most of Cromwell's men were freeholders and freeholders' sons, who, upon matter of conscience, engaged in the quarrel, and being well armed within by the satisfaction of their own consciences, and without by good iron arms, they would, as one man, stand firmly, and charge desperately."
Cromwell's genius, thus supported, had ample opportunity of proving itself, and, accordingly, we find him, after raising the standard of revolt, by suddenly surprising and taking the castle of Cambridge, in 1642, with his usual boldness of character, acting a prominent part in the first attitude of defiance assumed between the parliament and the king. The following extract conveys a very clear idea of this important and disastrous alternative.
“Though there were still an apparent reluctance on both sides to make the final appeal to the sword, the king on the one hand, and the parliament on the other, began, as soon as Cromwell's proceedings obtained publicity, to assume an attitude of defiance. Charles, without assigning any specific reason for the act, issued an order of array, which was conveyed to the sheriffs of the several counties, and, in part, at least, carried into effect. The parliament, again, passed an act, by which it was declared high treason to take up arms, except by virtue of a warrant signed by the speaker. This was followed by a commission, authorising the earl of Essex and others to raise men for the service of the state; and hence almost every town, village, and hamlet, throughout England, exhibited the melancholy spectacle of a place of military muster. Cromwell did not wait for any definite instructions touching the mode of procedure necessary in such a case. With the indifference to responsibility which is not often acquired, except by a lengthened exercise of delegated power, he moved rapidly into Hertfordshire, where he seized the high sheriff when in the act of reading a proclamation in which lord Essex, with his abettors and adherents, were pronounced traitors. Ile then passed into Suffolk, where the friends of the king were exerting themselves to enrol troops
for the service of their master; and made prisoners, at Lowestoffe, of Sir Thomas Barber, Sir John Peters, and twenty other gentlemen of distinction. His activity and zeal were not slow in attracting the notice of the parliament. A colonel's commission was granted to him, and, besides being authorised to increase his troop to a regiment of horse, he was joined with lord Manchester in the chief command of the six associated counties; Essex, Hertford, Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge, and Huntingdon.” P. 224.
The army of Charles, after the failure of an attempt to surprise Hull, proceeded to Nottingham, and from thence, marching westward, and skirting the borders of Wales, arrived, in October, at Shrewsbury, where his numbers were augmented to about 10,000. This oblique movement having turned the position of Essex's army, at Northampton, which amounted to 15,000 men, obliged him to take up a new line at Worcester, parallel with the royal army; but the latter, by a masked and rapid movement, passed Essex before he was aware of their leaving Shrewsbury, and halted, for the night, at Edgecoat. On the 23d of October the battle of Edgehill was fought, which was not decisive to either party, but gives rise to doubt and conjecture, and serves, as one of those circumstances in history, to probe into, and investigate the secret principles of men's actions.
The cause of Cromwell's absence from the field has never been satisfactorily accounted for. Party feelings have given a prejudicial interpretation, when, perhaps, the real circumstances which have given rise to a stigma, on one side, of cowardice, and on the other of political jealousy, have been obscured by the conflicting statements which have been made. We should be much more ready to ascribe the latter cause, than to assign the former; the intrepidity of Cromwell's character resting upon too firm a foundation to be shaken by the mere possibility of such being the case; nor do we think it fair to presume on such a feeble supposition, against such a host of opposite proofs. We will, however, allow the writer to give his own opinion.
“In the battle of Edgehill, which, as our readers cannot be ignorant, ended without awarding a decisive victory to either party, Oliver Cromwell took no share. According to some accounts his absence from the field was inevitable, and proved a source of deep mortification to himself; according to others, he purposely kept aloof, from motives either of personal fear or political jealousy. • He, with his troop of horse,' says Lord Holles, 'came not in; impudently and ridiculously affirming, the day after, that he had been all that day seeking the army and place of fight, though his quarters were but at a village near hand, whence he could not find his way, nor be directed by his ear, when the ordnance was heard, as I have been credibly informed, twenty or thirty miles off. How far this statement may be credited, coming as it does from an avowed enemy, we are not called upon to decide; but if the future protector did absent himself from the battle, when he might have done otherwise, it were worse than childish to attribute the circumstance to personal fear. It may be, however, that here, as well as elsewhere, Cromwell permitted affairs to take their course, because he saw that the whole merit of a victory which it rested with him to secure, would be awarded to another; and if so, then
is his conduct strictly in agreement with that deep and resolute selfishness, for which we have already given, and shall again find ample cause to give him credit." P. 227.
The method employed by Cromwell to try the firmness of his troops, is amusing and highly characteristic of the subtlety of his mind: this is particularly mentioned by Heath. United with the bold features of Cromwell's character, we find a chivalrous daring which threw off the common disguise assumed by many of the parliamentary leaders, who affected to fight for “King and Parliament,” even while the first was in the field against them; unwilling to mislead his men by this subterfuge of expression, he tells them that “if the king chanced to be in the body of the enemy, he would as soon discharge his pistol upon him as upon any private man, and, if their consciences would not let them do the like, he advised them not to list themselves under him.” Thus did this great leader win the hearts of his followers, and convey to their individual feelings the properties of his own enthusiastic and vigorous mind. At Grantham, a flying corps of cavalry, of double his own number, were routed with considerable loss; and meeting the main body of a light and independent army under General Cavendish, of which the corps of cavalry already routed formed a part, the impetuosity of his attack completely disordered them, and they were all, including the general himself, put to the sword. The battle of Marston Moor next followed, the result of which forms an important epoch in the history of Cromwell, whose successes upon this occasion appear to have excited the jealousy of the Scottish generals Crawford and Hollis, who claimed for themselves the merit of the victory, and accused Cromwell of personal cowardice. To investigate the conflicting statements respecting these dissensions, would lead us out of our present views, and to whichever of the generals the greatest merit may be awarded, the results were fatal to the interest of Charles in the north.
The defeat of Waller at Copsedy Bridge, and the surrender of the army of Essex in Cornwall, discomfited the parliamentarians, although it did not de press their ardour, and they hastened once more to place the forces of the latter in a state to renew the contest: we cannot help here alluding to the unfortunate lenity of Charles, in granting such easy terms to his vanquished opponents. Actions such as these eventually ruined him. His personal friends, Warwick and Clarendon, attribute the act to constitutional clemency, while our author assigns the event to a mistaken and shortsighted policy; but, with deference to each of these authorities, we go further, and attribute such an oversight to that natural imbecility of character which prevented the unhappy monarch from acting with the firmness and decision which the events of that period so particularly required.
While the royal army was retreating secretly towards Oxford,
after their defeat at Newbury, Cromwell urged the Earl of Manchester to allow him to make a forward movement with his cavalry, and, in consequence of the earl's refusal to comply with his request, a “bitter recrimination" and distrust arose between them. This occurrence produced some very important civil, as well as military, results, as will be seen in the following extract:
“Cromwell was not remiss in endeavouring to counterwork those whom, with great truth, he regarded as his natural enemies. By the exercise of extraordinary finesse, he brought forward and successfully carried through the Self-denying Ordinance,-a measure which deprived of military authority every individual belonging to the peerage, by declaring it inexpedient for any member of the great council to absent himself, under any pretext whatever, from his duties in parliament. The principle of the bill was not, indeed, admitted till after much bitter recrimination had passed between Cromwell and his late commander, the earl of Manchester; during the progress of which they mutually accused one another of disaffection to the great cause, and even of backwardness in the hour of danger; but it received, at length, the sanction of both houses, and the men of greatest experience hitherto employed under the parliament, the earls of Essex, Manchester, and Denbigh, laid down, in consequence, their commissions." P. 249.
Dissimulation formed a strong trait in the character of Cromwell, and sometimes a low cunning appears to have affected his judgment. We can understand well how ordinary men act under such mean impulses, but we expect and even feel disappointed and angry with human nature, when ambition unites with despicable malice, and the hero condescends to maim his enemy by treachery and guile. We regard Cromwell's character as one of the most striking combinations of dissimilar qualities that history can afford us: human nature seems to have been capricious at his birth, and to have been undetermined whether she would produce a monster or a god; for his mind exhibited a power, majesty, and resolution almost more than human, while, at the same time, there existed deformities that ought to be the qualities of only the lowest classes of mind. The age was one of fanaticism and hypocrisy: for although in many was found the purest enthusiasm, in others was seen the vilest deceit. It probably was a fashion of the time to be mysterious and unmeaning, and, therefore, it may be that greatness, like that of Cromwell, fell into the error of its opposite, of employing obscure means when its own more illustrious principles would have sought the brightest paths that truth and sincerity could have afforded.
Cromwell, after a series of successes, for a particular detail of which we must refer the reader to the memoir itself, returned, with the warm welcome of his party, to his seat in parliament;—we will give the writer's own words:
“We shall not pause to describe the nature of the reception with which Cromwell was welcomed back to his place in the house of Commons. Let it suffice to state that, in addition to a grant of £25000 a year, to be paid to him and his children for ever, out of the lands lately belonging to the Marquess of
Winchester, it was ordered that the lieutenant-general be recommended as a fit person to receive the honour of the peerage; and that the king be requested to create him a baron, with a right of succession to the heirs male of his body lawfully begotten. This was, indeed, a strange decree for an assembly to pass which bore arms against the very sovereign whom they still treated as the fountain of honour; and it fell, as indeed it could not but fall, absolutely to the ground. Nevertheless, it stands on record a veritable witness of the respect in which Cromwell was then held by all parties; more especially by that which, within a brief space afterwards, was doomed to suffer total annihilation at his hands." P. 262.
How much we are reminded by this passage of the inconsistency of human character; the Self-denying Ordinance act is here set at nought in spirit and in deed, by the creation of the lieutenant general to be a baron of the realm. The republican Cromwell becomes a peer, a member of that aristocracy which he contemned, and had taken every opportunity of humiliating during the whole course of his career. These inconsistencies of conduct, however, occur so frequently upon our pages of history that, although they cease to create our surprise, they cannot fail to excite our regret that patriotism and public duty should commonly yield to the dictates of self-interest.
The king, after a series of disasters, shut himself up in Oxford; from whence, being closely pressed on all sides, he escaped, on the 5th of May, 1656, either from the treachery of Rainsburgh, or, more probably, through the connivance of Cromwell. Attended only by two humble friends, he arrived at the head-quarters of the Scottish army, before Newark, which led to a dispute between the Scotch and English parties, as to the disposal of the royal captive; but a vote of the house, and a bribe of £100,000 brought him into the hands of the enemy, to the eternal disgrace of Leslie, the Scottish general.
Retaining more strongly than ever the affection of the army, Cromwell could bid defiance to his enemies; and for his own protection, and the furtherance of his ambitious views, he excited in their minds a jealousy of the government, and induced them to assert their rights, and, “as the champions of public freedom, to take part in the deliberations of government."
While the king was deliberating upon the overtures of the three parties, and foolishly making no concealment of the contempt in which he held them, the circumstance occurred which was the forerunner, and probably the cause, of his ultimate unhappy fate. The narrative is taken from the memoirs of Lord Broghil, and is stated to be written in Cromwell's own words.
“The reason of an inclination to come to terms with him, (the king), said Cromwell, ‘was, we found the Scots and Presbyterians began to be more powerful than we, and were strenuously endeavouring to strike up an agreement with the king, and leave us in the lurch; wherefore we thought to prevent them, by offering more reasonable conditions.
But while we were