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Cromwell from other armies was the austere morality and the fear of God which pervaded all ranks. It is acknowledged by the most zealous Royalists that, in that singular camp, no oath was heard, no drunkenness or gambling was seen, and that, during the long dominion of the soldiery, the property of the peaceable citizen and the honour of woman were held sacred. If outrages were committed, they were outrages of a very different kind from those of which a victorious army is generally guilty. No servant girl complained of the rough gallantry of the redcoats. Not an ounce of plate was taken from the shops of the goldsmiths. But a Pelagian sermon, or a window on which the Virgin and Child were painted, produced in the Puritan ranks an excitement which it required the utmost exertions of the officers to quell. One of Cromwell’s chief difficulties was to restrain his musketeers and dragoons from invading by main force the pulpits of ministers whose discourses, to use the language of that time, were not savoury; and too many of our cathedrals still bear the marks of the hatred with which those stern spirits regarded every vestige of Popery.
To keep down the English people was no light task even for that army. No sooner was Risingugm“ the first pressure of military tyranny felt, 22233233 than the nation, unbroken to such servi- “"PP'E‘M' tude, began to struggle fiercely. Insurrections broke out even in those counties which, during the recent war, had been the most submissive to the Parliament. Indeed, the Parliament itself abhorred its old defenders more than its old enemies, and was desirous to come to terms of accommodation with Charles at the expense of the troops. In Scotland, at the same time, a coalition was formed between the Royalists and a large body of Presbyterians who regarded the doctrines of the Independents with de_ testation. At length the storm burst. There were risings in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Kent, Wales. The fleet in the Thames suddenly hoisted the royal colours, stood out to sea, and menaced the southern coast. A great Scottish force crossed the frontier and advanced into Lancashire. It might ,well be suspected that these movements were contemplated with secret complacency by a majority both of the Lords and of the Commons.
But the yoke of the army was not to be so shaken ofi”. While Fairfax suppressed the risings in the neighbourhood of the capital, Oliver routed the Welsh insurgents, and, leaving their castles in ruins, marched against the Scots. His troops were few, when compared with the invaders; but he was little in the habit of counting his enemies. The Scottish army was utterly destroyed. A change in the Scot— tish government followed. An administration, hostile to the King, was formed at Edinburgh; and Cromwell, more than ever the darling of his soldiers, returned in triumph to London.
And now a design, to which, at the commencement Proceeding, of the civil war, no man would have dared “manna to allude, and which was not less incon
ng' sistent with the Solemn League and Covenant than with the old law of England, began to take a distinct form. The austere warriors who ruled the nation had, during some months, meditated a fearful vengeance on the captive King. When and how the scheme originated; whether it spread from the general to the ranks, or from the ranks to the general; whether it is to be ascribed to policy using fanaticism as a tool, or to fanaticism bearing down policy with headlong impulse, are questions which, even at this day, cannot be answered with perfect confidence. It seems, however, on the whole, probable that he who seemed to lead was really forced to follow, and that, on this occasion, as on another great occasion a few years later, be sacrificed his own judgment and-his own inclinations to the wishes of the army. For the power which he had called into existence was a power which even he could not always control; and, that he might ordinarily command, it was necessary that he should sometimes obey. He publicly protested that he was no mover in the matter, that the first steps had been taken without his privity, that he could not advise the Parliament to strike the blow, but that he submitted his own feelings to the force of circumstances which seemed to him to indicate the purposes of Providence. It has been the fashion to consider these professions as instances of the hypocrisy which is vulgarly imputed to him. But even those who pronounce him a hypocrite will scarcely venture to call him a fool. They are therefore bound to show that he had some purpose to serve by secretly stimulating the army to take that course which he did not venture openly to recommend. It would be absurd to suppose that he, who was never by his respectable enemies represented as wantonly cruel 0r implacably vindictive, would have taken the most important step of his life under the influence of mere malevolence. He was far too wise a man not to know, when he consented to shed that august blood, that he was doing a deed which was inexpiable, and which would move the grief and horror, not only of the Royalists, but of nine tenths of those who had stood by the Parliament. Whatever visions may have deluded others, he was assuredly dreaming neither of a republic on the antique pattern, nor of the millennial reign of the saints. If he already aspired to be himself the founder Of a new dynasty, it was plain that Charles the First was a less formidable competitor than Charles the Second would be. At the moment of the death of Charles the First the loyalty of every Cavalier would be transferred, unimpaired, to Charles the Second. Charles the First was a captive: Charles the Second would be at liberty. Charles the First VOL. I. K
was an object of suspicion and dislike to a large proportion of those who yet shuddered at the thought of slaying him : Charles the Second would excite all the interest which belongs to distressed youth and innocence. It is impossible to believe that considerations so obvious, and so important, escaped the most profound politician of that age. The truth is that Cromwell had, at one timeymeant to mediate between the throne and the Parliament, and to reorganise the distracted State by the power of the sword, under the sanction of the royal name. In this design he persisted till he was compelled to abandon it by the refractory temper of the soldiers, and by the incurable duplicity of the King. A party in the camp began to clamour for the head of the traitor, who was for treating with Agag. Conspiracies were formed. Threats of impeachment were loudly uttered. A mutiny broke out, which all the vigour and resolution of Oliver could hardly quell. And though, by a judicious mixture of severity and kindness, he succeeded in restoring order, he saw that it would be in the highest degree difiicult and perilous to contend against the rage of warriors, who regarded the fallen tyrant as their foe, and as the foe of their God. At the same time it became more evident than ever that the King could not be trusted. The vices of Charles had grown upon him. They were, indeed, vices which difficulties and perplexities generally bring out in the strongest light. Cunning is the natural defence of the weak. A prince therefore, 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 recognised 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 dis~ claimed all thought of calling in foreign aid against his people: he privately solicited aid from France, from Denmark, and from Loraine. 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 authorised 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 bitter grief 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.
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 misgivings, 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.