Front Page Titles (by Subject) ESSAY III.: CONTINUATION OF THE SAME SUBJECT.—CHARACTER OF POLITICAL PARTIES.—THE DEISTS.—THE PRESBYTERIANS.—THE INDEPENDENTS.—THE ROYALISTS.—THE SOLDIERS.—THE PEOPLE. - The Historical Essays and Narratives of the Merovingian Era
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ESSAY III.: CONTINUATION OF THE SAME SUBJECT.—CHARACTER OF POLITICAL PARTIES.—THE DEISTS.—THE PRESBYTERIANS.—THE INDEPENDENTS.—THE ROYALISTS.—THE SOLDIERS.—THE PEOPLE. - Augustin Thierry, The Historical Essays and Narratives of the Merovingian Era 
The Historical Essays, published under the Title of “Dix Ans d’Études historiques,” and Narratives of the Merovingian Era; or, Scenes of the Sixth Century, with an Autobiographical Preface (Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1845).
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CONTINUATION OF THE SAME SUBJECT.—CHARACTER OF POLITICAL PARTIES.—THE DEISTS.—THE PRESBYTERIANS.—THE INDEPENDENTS.—THE ROYALISTS.—THE SOLDIERS.—THE PEOPLE.
What was Cromwell’s talent? what were Charles I.’s faults? How did one gain power? how did the other lose it? Was it hypocrisy or fanaticism which made the fortune of the first? was it too sudden a recourse to force, or the ill-advised employment of cunning, which destroyed the fortune of the second? These are questions which are often proclaimed as the fundamental points which the history of the English Revolution ought to solve. These various problems would doubtless furnish good precepts on the art of becoming a despot, and on that of maintaining despotic power: but it is not easy to say what profit those would derive from it who are anxious only to live in peace with themselves and others. Moreover, it was neither Charles Stuart nor Oliver Cromwell who was concerned in the Revolution of England; it was the English nation and liberty.
Royal misfortunes! Genius of the founders of empires! These are the words which still have the strongest hold on our pity or admiration. That the misfortunes of a king should be more affecting to kings than those of another man; that in the eyes of Cæsar’s courtiers, the genius of Cæsar, which enables them to grow fat in inactivity, should be the greatest of geniuses, this can be understood; but we, citizens and the sons of citizens, by what other standard can we measure our interests and enthusiasm, than by the greatness of misfortunes and the morality of actions? What are the personal miseries of Charles Stuart, compared to the collective miseries of the English people? What is Cromwell’s craftiness compared to the great idea of liberty? The king has perished: but how many men have perished for the other cause! The families of patriots have dearly paid for one single hope. The king is dead: but the nation, which could not die, was forced to contemplate within itself the instrument of its own servitude; it saw the insignia of its father land trampled upon by traitors, and the name of liberty derisively inscribed on the swords of its conquerors.
We must say that M. Villemain has not been blind to the existence of the English people, as the primary agent and object in the Revolution of England. This people had long groaned under the weight of a government which existed over them but not for them. They implored relief, and received threats as their sole answer. They made efforts which were punished as crimes. In 1640, strong from their long indignation, they rose at last, confronted their masters, and proposed to them, as equals to equals, a compact of reason and justice in exchange for the hostilities of oppression: they were dismissed and deceived; and they then appealed to the sword as to the last of arbitrators. War ensued, and liberty was victorious. The chief of the power surrendered; he then became more tractable, and his conquerors commenced stipulating with him the conditions of peace. Such was the first epoch of the English Revolution.
But during the distractions of war, liberty was forgotten, even by those who fought for it. They insisted on remaining armed, and making the citizens obey them. These became indignant, and as their only answer, the former offered their resistance to the enemy; they proposed to the king to retrieve his defeats, and restore his authority, on condition that they should share it. The debates produced by this plot fill up the second epoch. The army wanted to sell itself dear; the king wanted to buy it cheap. The king secretly attempted other alliances; but he was weak, the army was strong: the army resolved to punish him; and taking on itself alone the care of ruining the dawn of liberty, sacrificed to its own fortune him with whom it had endeavoured to ally itself. From that period, the army reigned as the court had reigned; it reigned with a variety of license for the soldiers, and of despotism for their leaders; but the oppression of the citizens was uniform and constant: such was the third epoch.
The fourth epoch commenced at the death of Cromwell, with divisions in the army; the spirit of liberty re-appeared among the people; but the army, upon this menacing resurrection, returned to their old plan of a league with the Royalists; a leader had the honour of accomplishing it, and he also had the honour only to include himself in the treaty, and of selling his companions in arms at the same time that he sold the people. Such are the events, the course of which filled up the twenty years of the English Revolution, from the year 1640 to the 29th of May, 1660, the day of Charles II.’s entry.
It was in this circle of events that the various parties which history has distinguished, acted, namely, the Deists, the Presbyterians, the Independents, the Royalists, the soldiers, and finally the people, a party composed of the vulgar portion of all the others, a species of common centre to which they all tended, and in which the weakest of each sect met. The sect of the Deists was the least numerous, the most reasonable, and not the least energetic; it numbered Sydney in its ranks. Its idea of liberty was great and elevated. Liberty appeared to it both simple and universal, belonging to no government, but possible under several; the result of reason and human will, not of a fortuitous and temporary arrangement. The Presbyterians believed liberty to be necessarily excluded from a people who were under Episcopal discipline, and especially from those who professed the Roman Catholic faith; with these exceptions, they acknowledged it to be compatible with various forms either political or religious. But the Puritans or Independents believed it to be compatible with but one form, religion without priesthood, and government without a head. Of these three sects, the first was always equally calm and firm; there could be no fanaticism among those who excluded nothing. The doctrines of the Presbyterians, on the contrary, were not without danger; their proscription of episcopacy rendered them malevolent and violent; their tolerance on other points, unphilosophical because not universal, easily degenerated into an indolent skepticism, and a cowardly tendency to follow fortune. Whitelocke deserted to Cromwell, Hollis to Charles II.; whilst Sidney, from a more elevated position, neither hoped nor feared any thing from the chance which disposed of power: neither of the Parliaments, the dictator, the military councils, nor the king, were able for one moment to arrest his eyes, fixed as they were on liberty. The Puritans, who confined the idea of independence within the narrow circle of a precise formula, and kept it captive there, would with too great facility make the false equation of liberty with the exclusive symbol in which they placed it. It is true that from incessantly aspiring after a fixed and sensible object, the minds of most of these men contracted a remarkable habit of determination and energy. They were the dupes of the confusion of their ideas; but they nobly accepted the persecutions under the republic, and the scaffold under Charles II. The Royalists, enemies to all these parties, opposed them, either from a hatred of liberty, from the fear of a concurrence of ambition, or from affection for the person and family of Charles Stuart. This last species of Royalists appeared the most rare. What the generality of them liked, was not the king; it was royalty; it was the pleasure of signing commissions and giving pensions. Their secret worship was for this power; their idolatry adored the crown which was its visible sign. “My son,” said old Windham, “be faithful to the crown; I charge you never to abandon the crown, even should you see it suspended on a bush.”
Such were the parties: as for the people, whom we have reckoned amongst them, and which participated at the same time in the nature of each, it appeared successively, and according to the chances of fortune, entirely Presbyterian, entirely Independent, entirely Royalist. The necessity for making acclamations, caused it to celebrate all the victories; but if each formula figured in its language, none penetrated into its conviction. The people was egotistical, as it was natural that it should be. It had no regard but for its own interest; in return, its interest was equally despised by all those who governed, and whom it applauded by turns.
Let us return to the history of Cromwell. The indication of some passages of the book which forms the subject of this article, will render more striking the four epochs which we have distinguished in the twenty years of the English revolution. At the period of the defeat of the Royalists, and the surrender of Charles I., M. Villemain shows us the parliamentary army, unaccustomed to civil life, and wanting nothing but war and rank. When the king was carried off by the army, the Parliament claimed its prisoner; General Fairfax requested Charles to return of his own accord; the king refused: “General,” said he, “I have as much credit in the army as you have.” The king, indeed, found friendship and attentions in the camp. The officers paid court to him, and he paid court to the soldiers. It was treating between equals. “I must play my game as much as I can,” he said. But he played his game so ill, that he raised against him his future allies: it was the cause of his ruin. After the death of Charles I., the oppression of the army made itself felt by the people, and the oppression of the chief by the army. Pamphlets denounced to the citizens the second chains of Great Britain, whilst Cromwell had those soldiers shot who dreamed of claiming their rights as free men; but the Royalists were protected and welcomed. Ludlow, when imprisoned in the Tower, received a visit from a noble Irishman, who offered him his influence with the Lord Protector. The project of a reconciliation occupied at the same time the son of Charles I., and Cromwell’s family; a duchess was mediatrix: Cromwell condescended to excuse himself to the ancient nobles for not agreeing with Charles, and he gave them to understand that their fortune would not suffer from it; but everywhere the public cry was, Down with the courtiers and the soldiers! The arms of the Protector, placed over the gates of Somerset-house, were covered with mud at his death. Richard Cromwell had not courage to continue the tyranny, and he was disliked by the officers; he was deposed; the army was divided, and the patriots rallied; movements were preparing: the officers then thought of renewing the compact already attempted in vain with Charles II. and the Royalists. Fleetwood, Cromwell’s son-in-law, and several others, conceived this idea. George Monck executed it.
Monck, first a deserter from the royal army, afterwards a creature of Cromwell’s, succeeded in this enterprize by means of mystery and lies. “His policy,” says M. Villemain, “was a profusion of false oaths; it must even be admitted that he carried to excess the precaution of perjury.” Whilst conducting his manœuvres, he said to Ludlow, “We must live and die for the republic;” and placing his hand in that of the inflexible Haslerig, he swore to oppose the elevation of Charles Stuart, or of any one else. We find in M. Villemain’s work great truth of character, and the talent of bringing forward events as yet unperceived. For example, we are indebted to him for being the first to remark, that the odious epithets of abominable and factious, men capable of every crime, and worthy of all contempt, with which the most philosophic historians have loaded the party of the levellers, were productions of Cromwell’s mind, and the ordinary accompaniment of the insults with which he pursued those who resisted him, whilst condemning them to death. It is from his lips that these words passed into history. M. Villemain has likewise discovered that the denomination of madmen and fanatics, with which Hume and Voltaire branded the most noble patriots, was really the invention of Monck; that he was the first who used it, and brought it into fashion to assist the restoration.
The history of Cromwell is written with gravity, clearness, and elegance without effeminacy. It has the entirely novel merit of being composed from memoirs and original documents, and of reproducing with perfect exactness the tone of the period. More precision and unity in the political views might be desired; but in our opinion, there is no other work which presents so complete a picture, and gives so accurate an idea of the great revolution of 1640.