Sivut kuvina

and perplexities generally bring out in the strongest light.

Cunning is the natural defence of the weak. A prince, there

fore, who is habitually a deceiver when at the height of power, is not likely to learn frankness in the midst of embarrassments and distresses. Charles was not only a most unscrupulous, but a most unlucky dissembler. There never was a politician to whom so many frauds and falsehoods were brought home by undeniable evidence. He publicly recognized the Houses at Westminster as a legal parliament, and, at the same time, made a private minute in council, declaring the recognition null. He publicly disclaimed all thought of calling in foreign aid against his people: he privately solicited aid from

France, from Denmark, and from Lorraine. He publicly

denied that he employed Papists: at the same time he privately, sent to his generals directions to employ every Papist that would serve. He publicly took the sacrament at Oxford, as a pledge that he never would even connive at Popery : he privately assured his wife that he intended to tolerate Popery in England; and he authorized Lord Glamorgan to promise that Popery should be established in Ireland. Then he attempted to clear himself at his agent's expense. Glamorgan received, in the royal handwriting, reprimands intended to be read by others, and eulogies which were to be seen only by himself. To such an extent, indeed, had insincerity now tainted the king's whole nature, that his most devoted friends could not refrain from complaining to each other, with bittergrief and shame, of his crooked politics. His defeats, they said, gave them less pain than his intrigues. Since he had been a prisoner, there was no section of the victorious party which had not been the object both of his flatteries and of his machinations: but never was he more unfortunate than when he attempted at once to cajole and to undermine Cromwell, a man not easily to be either cajoled or undermined. "Cromwell had to determine whether he would put to hazard the attachment of his party, the attachment of his army, his own greatness, nay, his own life, in an attempt, which would probably have been vain, to save a prince whom no engagement could bind. With many struggles and mis givings, and probably not without many prayers, the decision was made. Charles was left to his fate. The military saints resolved that, in defiance of the old laws of the realm, and of the almost universal sentiment of the nation, the king should expiate his crimes with his blood. He for a time ex

pected a death like that of his unhappy predecessors, Edward the Second and Richard the Second. But he was in no danger of such treason. Those who had him in their gripe were not mid-night stabbers. What they did they did in order that it might be a spectacle to heaven and earth, and that it might be held in everlasting remembrance. They enjoyed keenly the very scandal which they gave. That the ancient constitution and the public opinion of England were directly opposed to regicide, made regicide seem strangely fascinating to a party bent on effecting a complete political and social revolution. In order to accomplish their purpose, it was necessary that they should first break in pieces every part of the machinery of the government; and this necessity was rather agreeable than painful to them. The Commons passed a vote tending to accommodation with the king. The soldiers excluded the majority by force. The Lords unanimously rejected the proposition that the king should be brought to trial. Their house was instantly closed. No court, known to the law, would take on itself the office of judging the fountain of justice. A revolutionary stribunal was created. That tribunal pronounced Charles a tyrant, a traitor, a murderer, and a public enemy; and his head was severed from his shoulders before thousands of spectators, in front of the banqueting hall of his own palace. In no long time it became manifest that those political and religious zealots, to whom this deed is to be ascribed, had committed, not only a crime, but an error. They had given to a prince, hitherto known to his people chiefly by his faults, an opportunity of displaying, on a great-theatre, before the eyes of all nations and all ages, some qualities which irresistibly call forth the admiration and love of mankind, the high spirit of a gullant gentleman, the patience and meekness of a penitent Christian. Nay, they had so contrived their revenge, that the very man whose whole life had been a series of attacks on the liberties of England now seemed to die a martyr in the cause of those very liberties. No demagogue ever produced such an impression on the public mind as the captive king who, retaining in that extremity all his regal dignity, and confronting death with dauntless courage, gave utterance to the feelings of his oppressed people, manfully refused to plead before a court unknown to the law, appealed from military violence to the principles of the constitution, asked by what right the House of Commons had been purged of its most respectable members, and the House of Lords deprived

[ocr errors]

of its legislative functions, and told his weeping hearers that
he was defending not only his own cause, but theirs. His
long misgovernment, his innumerable perfidies, were forgotten.
His memory was in the minds of the great majority of his
subjects associated with those free institutions which he had,
during many years, labored to destroy: for those free institu-
tions had perished with him, and, amidst the mournful silence
of a community kept down by arms, had been defended by
his voice alone. From that day began a reaction in favor
of monarchy and of the exiled house, a reaction which
never ceased till the throne had again been set up in all its
old dignity.
At first, however, the slayers of the king seemed to have
derived new energy from that sacrament of blood by which
they had bound themselves closely together, and separated
themselves forever from the great body of their countrymen.
England was declared a commonwealth. The House of
Commons, reduced to a small number of members, was nom-
inally the supreme power in the state. In fact, the army and
its great chief governed every thing. Oliver had made his
choice. He had kept the hearts of his soldiers, and had

obroken with almost every other class of his fellow-citizens.

Beyond the limits of his camps and fortresses he could scarcely be said to have a party. Those elements of force which, when the civil war broke out, had appeared arrayed

oãgainst each other, were combined against him; all the Cav

aliers, the great majority of the Roundheads, the Anglican Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Roman Catholic Church, England, Scotland, Ireland. Yet such was his genius and resolution that he was able to overpower and crush every thing that crossed his path, to make himself more absolute master of his country than any of her legitimate kings had been, and to make his country more dreaded and respected than she had been during many generations under the rule of her legitimate kings.

England had already ceased to struggle. But the two other kingdoms which had been governed by the Stuarts were hostile to the new republic. The Independent party was equally odious to the Roman Catholics of Ireland, and to the Presbyterians of Scotland. Both those countries, lately in rebellion against Charles the First, now acknowledged the authority of Charles the Second. - -

But everything yielded to the vigor and ability of Crom.


well. In a few months he subjugated Ireland, as Ireland had never been subjugated during the five centuries of slaughter which had elapsed since the landing of the first Norman settlers. He resolved to put an end to that conflict of races and religions which had so long distracted the island, by making the English and Protestant population decidedly predominant. For this end he gave the rein to the fierce enthusiasm of his followers, waged war resembling that which Israel waged on the Canaanites, smote the idolaters with the edge of the sword, so that great cities were left without inhabitants, drove many thousands to the Continent, shipped off many thousands to the West Indies, and supplied the void thus made by pouring in numerous colonists, of the Anglo-Saxon blood, and of the Calvinistic faith. Strange to say, under that iron rule, the conquered country began to wear an outward face of prosperity. Districts which had recently been as wild as those where the first white settlers of Connecticut were contending with the red men, were in a few years transformed into the likeness of Kent and Norfolk. New buildings, roads, and plantations were every where seen. The rent of estates rose fast; and soon the English landowners began geomplain that they were met in every market by the products of Ireland, and to clamor for protecting laws. From Ireland the victorious chief, who was now in name, as he had long been in reality, Lord General of the armies of the Commonwealth, turned to Scotland. The young king was there. He had consented to profess himself a Presbyterian, and to subscribe the covenant; and, in return for these concessions, the austere Puritans who bore sway at Edinburgh had permitted him to hold, under their inspection and control, a solemn and melancholy court in the longdeserted halls of Holyrood. This mock royalty was of short duration. In two great battles Cromwell annihilated the military force of Scotland. Charles fled for his life, and, with extreme difficulty, escaped the fate of his father. The ancient kingdom of the Stuarts was reduced, for the first time, to profound submission. Of that independence, so manfully defended against the mightiest and ablest of the Plantagenets, no vestige was left. The English parliament made laws for Scotland. The English judges held assizes in Scotland. Even that stubborn church, which has held its own against so many governments, scarce dared to utter an audible murmur.

Thus far there had been at least the semblance of harmony between the warriors who subjugated Ireland and Scotland and the politicians who sate at Westminster; but the alliance which had been cemented by danger was dissolved by victory The parliament forgot that it was but the creature of the army. The army was less disposed than ever to submit to the dictation of the parliament. Indeed the few members who made up what was contemptuously called the Rump of the House of Commons had no more claim than the military chiefs to be esteemed the representatives of the nation. The dispute was soon brought to a decisive issue. Cromwell filled the House with armed men. The speaker was pulled out of his chair, the mace taken from the table, the room cleared, and the door locked. The nation, which loved neither of the contending parties, but which was forced, in its own despite, to respect the capacity and resolution of the general, looked on with patience, if not with complacency.

King, Lords, and Commons, had now in turn been vanquished and destroyed; and Cromwell seemed to be left the sole heir of the powers of all three. Yet were certain limitations still imposed on him by the very army to which he owed his immense authority. That singular body of men was, for the most part, composed of zealous republicans. In the act of enslaving their country, they had deceived themselves into the belief that they were emancipating her. The book which they most venerated furnished them with a precedent which was frequently in their mouths. It was true that the ignorant and ungrateful nation murmured against its deliverers. Even so had another chosen nation murmured against the leader who brought it, by painful and dreary paths, from the house of bondage to the land flowing with milk and honey. Yet had that leader rescued his brethren in spite of themselves; nor had he shrunk from making terrible examples of those who contemned the proffered freedom, and pined for the fleshpots, the taskmaskers, and the idolatries of Egypt. The object of the warlike saints who surrounded Cromwell was the settlement of a free and pious commonweath. For that end they were ready to employ, without scruple, any means, however violent and lawless. It was not impossible, therefore, to establish by their aid a monarchy absolute in effect; but it was probable that their aid would be at once withdrawn from a ruler who, even under

« EdellinenJatka »