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7: Oliver Cromwell and His Parliaments - Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century 
The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century: Religion, the Reformation and Social Change (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001).
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Oliver Cromwell and His Parliaments
Oliver Cromwell and his parliaments—the theme is almost a tragi-comedy. Cromwell was himself a Member of Parliament; he was the appointed general of the armies of Parliament; and the Victorians, in the greatest days of parliamentary government, set up his statue outside the rebuilt Houses of Parliament. But what were Cromwell’s relations with Parliament? The Long Parliament, which appointed him, he first purged by force and then violently expelled from authority. His own Parliament, the Parliament of Saints, which to a large extent was nominated by his government, was carried away by hysteria, rent by intrigue and dissolved, after six months, by an undignified act of suicide. Of the parliaments of the Protectorate, elected on a new franchise and within new limits determined by the government, the first was purged by force within a week and dissolved, by a trick hardly distinguishable from fraud, before its legal term; the second was purged by fraud at the beginning and, when that fraud was reversed, became at once unmanageable and was dissolved within a fortnight. On a superficial view, Cromwell was as great an enemy of Parliament as ever Charles I or Archbishop Laud had been, the only difference being that, as an enemy, he was more successful: he scattered all his parliaments and died in his bed, while theirs deprived them of their power and brought them both ultimately to the block.
Nevertheless, between Cromwell and the Stuarts, in this matter, there was a more fundamental difference than this; for even if he could never control his parliaments in fact, Cromwell at least never rejected them in theory. This is not because he was deliberately consistent with his own parliamentary past. Cromwell was deliberately consistent in nothing. No political career is so full of undefended inconsistencies as his. But he was fundamentally and instinctively conservative, and he saw in Parliament part of the natural order of things. He did not regard it, as Archbishop Laud had regarded it, as “that hydra” or “that noise”: he regarded it as the necessary legislature of England; and it was merely, in his eyes, an unfortunate and incomprehensible accident that his own particular parliaments consistently fell below the traditional standard of usefulness. Therefore again and again he summoned and faced them; again and again he wrestled with the hydra, sought to shout down the noise; and again and again, in the end, like the good man in a tragedy, caught in the trap of his own weakness, he resorted to force and fraud, to purges, expulsions and recriminations. He descended like Moses from Sinai upon the naughty children of Israel, smashing in turn the divine constitutions he had obtained for them; and the surprised and indignant members, scattered before their time, went out from his presence overwhelmed with turbid oratory, protestations of his own virtue and their waywardness, romantic reminiscences, proprietary appeals to the Lord, and great broken gobbets from the Pentateuch and the Psalms.
Why was Oliver Cromwell so uniformly unsuccessful with his parliaments? To answer this question we must first look a little more closely at the aims and character both of Oliver Cromwell and of that opposition to the Court of Charles I of which he was first an obscure and ultimately the most powerful representative: an opposition not of practised politicians (the practised politicians of 1640 were dead, or had lost control, by 1644), nor of City merchants (the great London merchants were largely royalist in 1640),1 but of gentry: the backwoods gentry who, in 1640, sat on the back benches of Parliament, but who, as war and revolution progressed, gradually broke through the crumbling leadership which had at first contained them: the Independents.
Now these Independent gentry, it is important to emphasize, were not, as a class, revolutionary: that is, they did not hold revolutionary ideas. There were revolutionaries among the Independents, of course. There were revolutionaries in Parliament, men like “Harry Marten and his gang”—Henry Neville, Thomas Chaloner and others: intellectual republicans who had travelled in Italy, read Machiavelli and Botero and cultivated the doctrine of raison d’état; just as there were also revolutionaries outside Parliament: the Levellers and the Fifth Monarchy Men. But if these men were the successive sparks which kindled the various stages of revolution, they were not the essential tinder of it. The majority of the Members of Parliament, who at first accidentally launched the revolutionary movement and were afterwards borne along or consumed by it, were not clear-headed men like these. They were not thinkers or even dreamers, but plain, conservative, untravelled, country gentlemen whose passion came not from radical thought or systematic doctrine but from indignation: indignation which the electioneering ability of a few great lords and the parliamentary genius of John Pym had contrived to turn into a political force, and which no later leaders were able wholly either to harness or to contain. These were the men who formed the solid stuff of parliamentary opposition to Charles I: men whose social views were conservative enough, but whose political passions were radical, and became more radical as they discovered depth below depth of royal duplicity. These were the men who became, in time, the Independents; and Cromwell, though he transcended them in personality and military genius, was their typical, if also their greatest, representative.
Why were these men, in 1640, so indignant? They were indignant, above all, against the Court. Curiously it was the Court of James I rather than the Court of Charles I which aroused their strongest moral feelings; but then most of them were now middle-aged and those of them who had previous parliamentary experience had necessarily acquired it before 1628—the younger men, brought up under Charles I, tended to be royalist.2 It was the corrupt, extravagant Court of James I and the Duke of Buckingham, whose lavish expenses, “so vast and unlimited by the old good rules of economy,”3 first insulted their own necessarily careful estate-management, and whose open, vulgar immorality further scandalized their severe Puritan spirits.4 But James I, by combining with his faults a certain political canniness, had postponed the impact of this indignation, and the very extravagance of his Court, with its sinecures and monopolies and pensions, had often bribed the potential leaders of opposition into silence. His son had corrected the moral abuses,5 but by his political faults had nourished and increased and armed that indignation which those abuses had first engendered. Indeed, by his very parsimony Charles I hastened his own failure: for by cutting down the extravagance of the Court he had cut down the alleviating perquisites which had previously divided the opposition, and by raising the revenue from wardships he had rendered “all the rich families of England . . . exceedingly incensed and even indevoted to the Crown.”6 By 1640 political and moral indignation were combined against the House of Stuart and were together a powerful force in the hands of those practical politicians who perhaps shared it, who could certainly exploit it and who thought (but wrongly) that they could also control it.
And what were the positive ideals of these outraged but largely unpolitical conservative gentry? Naturally, in the circumstances, they were not very constructive. These men looked back, not forward: back from the House of Stuart which had so insulted them to the House of Tudor of which their fathers had spoken; and in the reign of Elizabeth they discovered, or invented, a golden age: an age when the Court had been, as it seemed, in harmony with the country and the Crown with its parliaments; an age when a Protestant queen, governing parsimoniously at home and laying only tolerable burdens on “her faithful Commons,” had nevertheless made England glorious abroad—head of “the Protestant interest” throughout the world, victor over Spain in the Indies, protector of the Netherlands in Europe. Since 1603 that glorious position had been lost. King James had alienated the gentry, abandoned Protestantism for “Arminian” policy at home and popish alliances abroad, made peace with Spain and surrendered, with the “cautionary towns,” the protectorate over the Netherlands. When the religious struggle had broken out anew in Europe, it was not the King of England who had inherited the mantle of Queen Elizabeth as defender of the Protestant faith: it was a new champion from the north, the King of Sweden. In the 1630s, when Gustavus Adolphus swept triumphantly through Germany, he became the hero of the frustrated, mutinous English gentry; and when he fell at Lützen, scarcely an English squire but wrote, in his manor-house, a doggerel epitaph on the new pole-star of his loyalty, “the Lion of the North.”
Such were the basic political views, or prejudices, of the English back-benchers who poured into Parliament in 1640. But they had social views also, and these too led them back to the same golden age of the Protestant queen. First there was the desire for decentralization—the revolt of the provinces and of the provincial gentry not only against the growing, parasitic Stuart Court, but also against the growing, “dropsical” City of London; against the centralized Church, whether Anglican or “Presbyterian”; and against the expensive monopoly of higher education by the two great universities. All this was implied in the Independent programme.7 And also, what we must never forget, for it was a great element in the Protestant tradition, there was the demand for an organic society responsible for the welfare of its members. Ever since, among the first Reformers, “the Commonwealth Men,” had protested against the irresponsibility, the practical inhumanity, the privileged uselessness of the pre-Reformation Church, the English Protestants had laid emphasis upon the collective nature of society and the mutual obligations of the classes which make it up.8 Under Elizabeth, and especially in the long reign of Lord Burghley, something more than lip-service had been paid to this ideal; but under the Stuarts, and particularly in the reign of James I (that formative era of English Puritanism), the ideal had again been eclipsed as Court and Church became once again openly parasitic upon society. Those were the years in which the cry for social justice had become insistent and the Common Law, so extolled by its most successful practitioner, Sir Edward Coke, became, in other eyes, one of the most oppressive of social burdens. When the Anglican Archbishop Laud had failed in his desperate, purblind, but in some respects heroic, efforts to reform society centrally and from above, the Puritan opposition inherited much of his programme and sought to realize it in another form, as a decentralized, Independent commonwealth. The radicals would have achieved such reformation violently and devised new paper constitutions to secure and preserve it. The conservative Puritans, who were radical only in temper, not in their social or political doctrines, shied away from such novel remedies. Believing just as sincerely in a better, more decentralized, more responsible society, they looked for its achievement not to Utopia or Oceana but, once again, to a revived Elizabethan age.9
Such was the common denominator of positive philosophy shared by many of the back-bench Members of Parliament in 1640, as it emerges, by way of protest, from their pamphlets, their diaries, their letters to their patrons, their parliamentary ejaculations both before and after that crucial date. It is astonishing how faithfully it is reflected in the letters and speeches, as afterwards in the groping policy, of Oliver Cromwell. “Reformation of law and clergy,” social justice for the “poor people of God” secured not by radical revolution but by patriarchal benevolence, a revival of the glories of “Queen Elizabeth of famous memory”—a protectorate over the Netherlands, a privateering war in the West Indies, and the leadership of “the Protestant interest” in Europe—all these recur in his later policy. Even the uncritical worship of Gustavus Adolphus is there. Perhaps nothing is more tragi-comic in Cromwell’s romantic foreign policy than his cultivation of the robber-empire in the Baltic, to which he would have sacrificed English commercial interests, and, in particular, of Queen Christina, whom he fondly courted with a pompous embassy, rich gifts and his own portrait. For was she not both a Protestant heroine and a virgin queen—her father, the great Gustavus, and “Queen Elizabeth of famous memory” rolled into one? In fact she was not. Even as he wooed her, that flighty Nordic blue-stocking was secretly being converted to popery by Jesuit missionaries, and Cromwell had to transfer his uncritical devotion to her successor.
But this was in the future. In 1640 Oliver Cromwell was still, like the other country gentry who had followed their patrons to Westminster, a mere back-bencher, a lesser ally of his kinsmen the Barringtons, John Hampden and Oliver St. John, a client of the Earl of Warwick. He never dreamed that his views would one day have more power behind them than theirs, or that the views which they all shared would be expressed otherwise than by the remonstrances of a faithful if indignant Parliament to a wayward but, they hoped (once his “evil counsellors” were removed), ultimately amenable king. None of them dreamed, in 1640, of revolution, either in Church or in State. They were neither separatists nor republicans. What they wanted was a king who, unlike Charles I, but like the Queen Elizabeth of their imagination, would work the existing institutions in the good old sense; bishops who, unlike the Laudian bishops, but like Bishop Hall or Archbishop Ussher, would supervise their flocks in the good old sense of “the sweet and noble” Anglican, Richard Hooker.10 At first they hoped that King Charles would adjust himself, would jettison a few Stuart innovations, give a few guarantees, and become such a king of the State, such a supreme governor of the Church. It was only when King Charles had shown himself quite unadjustable that revolution, though unwanted, took place, generating its own momentum and driving basically conservative men to radical acts such as they would never have imagined before and would shudder to recollect afterwards, and facing them with fundamental problems of which they had never previously thought. It was only by an extraordinary and quite unpredictable turn of events that one of these back-benchers, Oliver Cromwell, having ruined all existing institutions, found himself, in 1649, faced with the responsibility of achieving, or restoring, the lost balance of society. It was a formidable responsibility for one so arbitrarily brought to eminence, but Cromwell took it seriously, for he was essentially a serious and a modest man; the question was, how could it be carried out?
The radicals, of course, had their plans: they were the intellectuals, or the doctrinaires, the new men and the young men of the revolution. They intended to continue the revolution, to create new engines of force, and to impose thereby new and untried but, in their eyes, hopeful constitutions. But Cromwell was not a radical or an intellectual or a young man. He did not want to continue the revolution, which had already, in his eyes and in the eyes of his fellow-gentry, got out of control. He wanted to stop it, to bring it under control, to bring “settlement” after an unfortunate but, as it had turned out, unavoidable period of “blood and confusion.” Nor did he believe in new constitutions, or indeed in any constitutions at all. He did not believe, as some of his more wooden colleagues believed, in the divine right of republics any more than in the divine right of kings. Forms of government were to him “but a mortal thing,” “dross and dung compared with Christ,” and therefore in themselves quite indifferent. He was not, he once said, “wedded or glued to forms of government”: had not the ancient Hebrews, God’s own people, fared equally well, according to circumstances, under patriarchs, judges and kings?11 Acceptability, or, as he called it, “acceptance,” was to him the only test of right government. In his indignation against Charles I he might denounce monarchy, but in cooler moments he would admit that a government “with something monarchical in it” was probably the most acceptable, and therefore the best. In his indignation against the Earl of Manchester he might express his hope of living “to see never a nobleman in England”; but in cooler moments he could insist that “a nobleman, a gentleman, a yeoman” were “the ranks and orders of men whereby England hath been known for hundreds of years,” and that “nobility and gentry” must be kept up.12 Fundamentally, in his eyes, it was the fault of persons, not of institutions, which had been fatal to the ancien régime: “the King’s head was not taken off because he was King, nor the Lords laid aside because Lords, neither was the Parliament dissolved because they were a Parliament, but because they did not perform their trust.”13 In politics Oliver Cromwell was not a theorist or a doctrinaire, but an opportunist.
Opportunists who do not believe in the necessity of particular constitutions take what lies nearest to hand, and what lay nearest to Cromwell’s hand when he found himself called upon to restore his ideal Elizabethan society was naturally the surviving débris of the Elizabethan constitution. Parliament had been savaged—and by none more than himself—but its rump was there; the king had been destroyed, but he himself stood, if somewhat incongruously, in his place. Naturally he saw himself as a new Queen Elizabeth—or rather, being a humble man, as a regent for a new Queen Elizabeth; and he prepared, like her, to summon a series of deferential parliaments. Surely, since he was one of them, and since they all earnestly pursued the same honest ideal, the members would agree with him, just as they had agreed with “that Lady, that great Queen”? Surely he had only to address them in the Painted Chamber, to commend them in a few eloquent phrases, to leave them to their harmonious deliberations, and then, having received from them a few “good laws,” to dismiss them, in due time, amid applause, complimentingly, with a “Golden Speech”?
Alas, as we know, it did not happen thus. It was not with golden speeches that Cromwell found himself dismissing his parliaments, but with appeals to Heaven, torrents of abuse—and force. This was not merely because the basis of legitimacy and consent was lacking: Queen Elizabeth, like Cromwell, was disputed in her title, and Cromwell, like Queen Elizabeth, was personally indispensable even to those extremists who chafed at his conservatism. The fatal flaw was elsewhere. Under Oliver Cromwell something was missing in the mechanics of parliamentary government. It was not merely that useful drop of oil with which Queen Elizabeth had now and then so gracefully lubricated the machine. It was something far more essential. To see what that omission was, we must turn from the character to the composition and working of those uniformly unfortunate assemblies.
The methods by which Queen Elizabeth so effectively controlled her parliaments of—for the most part—unpolitical gentry are now, thanks to the great work of Sir John Neale and Professor Notestein, well known.14 They consisted, first, in electoral and other patronage and, secondly, in certain procedural devices among which the essential were two: the presence in Parliament of a firm nucleus of experienced Privy Councillors, and royal control over the Speaker. Now these methods of control are of the greatest importance in the history of Parliament, and if we are to consider Oliver Cromwell as a parliamentarian it is necessary to consider his use both of this patronage and of these procedural devices. This, I think, has not before been attempted. My purpose in this essay is to attempt it. I believe it can be shown that it was precisely in this field that Cromwell’s catastrophic failure as a parliamentarian lay. In order to show this it will be necessary to take Cromwell’s parliaments in turn and to see, in each case, how far the patronage of the government and its supporters was used, and who formed that essential nucleus of effective parliamentary managers, that compact “front bench” which, under the Tudors, had been occupied by the royal Privy Council.
Of course, Cromwell did not inherit the system direct from Queen Elizabeth. In the intervening half-century there had been many changes—changes which had begun even before her death. For in the last years of Elizabeth both methods of royal control had been challenged: the Puritans had developed a formidable parliamentary “machine” independent of the Privy Council, and the Earl of Essex had sought to use aristocratic patronage to pack the House of Commons against the queen’s ministers. But in the event, thanks to the parliamentary ability of the two Cecils, neither of these challenges had been successful. It was only after the death of the queen, and particularly after the rejection of Robert Cecil by James I, that the indifference of the Stuart kings and the incompetence of their ministers had enabled a parliamentary opposition to develop and to organize both patronage and procedure against the Crown. By 1640, when the Long Parliament met, the tables had been completely turned. In that year the opposition magnates—the earls of Bedford, Warwick and Pembroke—showed themselves better boroughmongers than the royal ministers, and the failure of Charles I to secure the election to Parliament, for any constituency, of his intended Speaker could be described by Clarendon as “an untoward and indeed an unheard of accident, which brake many of the king’s measures and infinitely disordered his service beyond a capacity of reparation.”15 Thus in 1640 both patronage and procedure were firmly in the hands of the opposition. But this turning of the tables did not entail any change in the system by which Parliament was operated. It merely meant that the same system which had formerly been operated by the Crown was now operated against it. John Pym, the ablest parliamentary manager since the Cecils, resumed their work. He controlled the patronage, the Speaker, and the front bench. From 1640 until 1643 Parliament, in his hands, was once again an effective and disciplined body such as it had never been since 1603.
With the death of Pym in 1643 his indisputable empire over Parliament dissolved and lesser men competed for its fragments. First St. John, then Vane among the radicals, Holles among the conservatives, emerged as party leaders; but they cannot be described as successful party leaders: the machine creaked and groaned, and it was only by disastrously calling in external force—the Army—that the Independents were able, in the end, to secure their control. On the other hand, once Parliament had been purged and the king executed, a certain unity of counsel and policy returned. The Rump Parliament, which governed England from 1649 to 1653, may have been justly hated as a corrupt oligarchy, but it governed effectively, preserved the revolution, made and financed victorious war, and carried out a consistent policy of aggressive mercantile imperialism. Its rule was indeed the most systematic government of the Interregnum; and since this rule was the rule not of one known minister but of a number of overlapping assemblies operating now as Parliament, now as committees of Parliament, now as Council of State, while some of the administrative departments were notoriously confused and confusing, it is reasonable to ask who were the effective managers who made this complex and anonymous junta work so forcefully and so smoothly. This is a question which, in my opinion, can be answered with some confidence.
We have, unfortunately, no private diaries of the Rump Parliament which can show who managed its business or debates, but we have later diaries which show at least who claimed to have managed them; and from this and other evidence I believe we can say that, at least after 1651, the policy of the Rump was controlled by a small group of determined and single-minded men. Up to the summer of 1651 the ascendancy of these men is not so apparent, but with the policy which prevailed after that date it can, I think, be clearly seen. For in 1651, with the passing of the Navigation Act and the declaration of war against the Netherlands, the old Elizabethan ideal of a protectorate over the Netherlands was jettisoned in favour of a new and opposite policy, a policy of mercantile aggression against a neighbouring Protestant power. Furthermore, this policy, we are repeatedly told, was the policy not of the whole Parliament but of “a very small number,” with allies in the City of London, “some few men” acting “for their own interest,” “some few persons deeply interested in the East India trade and the new Plantations.”16
Now the identity of these few men, or at least of their parliamentary managers, can hardly be doubted, for they never tired of naming themselves. They were Sir Arthur Hesilrige and Thomas Scot. In the later parliaments of the Interregnum, whose proceedings are fortunately known to us, Hesilrige and Scot appear as an inseparable and effective parliamentary combine. Together they head the list of those republicans whom Cromwell twice excluded from his parliaments. Together they are named by Ludlow as the principal champions of sound republican doctrine. Together they appear, in the Commons’ Journals, as tellers for strictly republican motions. Moreover, not only did they repeatedly claim for themselves all the republican virtue of the Rump Parliament in general, but, in particular, the policy for which they most extolled the Rump was always precisely that policy of mercantile aggression which had been launched in 1651 with the triumphant but, in the eyes of serious-minded Protestants, fratricidal war against the Netherlands.
For Hesilrige and Scot were not only republicans. They were also, to use a later term, “Whigs.” If republics were to them the best of all forms of government, that was not merely because of classical or biblical precedents, nor because of the iniquity of particular kings: it was because republics alone, in their eyes, were the political systems capable of commercial empire. Like the later Whigs, who were also accused of a preference for “oligarchy,” they found their great example in the mercantile republic of Venice. “Is there anything but a Commonwealth that flourishes?” asked Scot: “Venice against the pride of the Ottoman Empire”;17 and he never ceased to urge a reversion to the aggressive commercial policy of 1651–53. “We never bid fairer for being masters of the whole world.” “We are rival for the fairest mistress in the world—Trade.” “It is known abroad—the Dutch know—that a Parliament of England can fight and conquer too.” “You never had such a fleet as in the Long Parliament,” echoed Hesilrige; “all the powers in the world made addresses to him that sat in your chair”; “trade flourished, the City of London grew rich, we were most potent by sea that ever was known in England.” When Cromwell expelled the Rump, he afterwards declared, “there was not so much as the barking of a dog or any general or visible repining at it”; and his gentry-supporters agreed with him: “there was neither coroner nor inquest upon it.” But some squeaks there were, and it is interesting to see whence they came. At the crucial moment, when an agreed solution was almost in sight, it was Hesilrige who swept down from seventy miles away and by his presence and oratory prevented the other members from surrendering to less than force; and when they had been expelled by force, it was from the City of London that the only plea for their restoration came: a petition whose paternity is easy to recognize—for six years later it was implicitly claimed by Thomas Scot.18
Now it is interesting to note that this policy, the “Whig” policy of mercantile aggression which I have ascribed to Hesilrige and Scot and their allies in the City, though it was carried out by an Independent Parliament carefully purged of unsympathetic elements, was flatly contradictory to the declared views and prejudices of those ordinary Independent gentry whom Cromwell represented and who, in their general attitude, foreshadowed rather the Tory squires than the mercantile Whig pressure-group of the next generation.19 Cromwell himself always favoured the Elizabethan policy of an alliance with and a protectorate over the Netherlands, and it was this policy which Oliver St. John had, until 1651, pressed upon the Dutch government at The Hague. The defection of St. John in 1651 had enabled the “Whig” party to carry their war policy, but in 1653, when Cromwell had expelled the Rump, he lost no time in ending the war they had begun. Further, Cromwell and his colleagues had revolted, in part, against the centralization of trade in the City of London, which had caused the decay of local boroughs and local industry: they had no wish to fight (and pay for) mercantile wars in the interest of the City; and afterwards, when they denounced the Rump, they “cast much dirt and unsavoury speech” on it as “a trading Parliament.”20 Decentralization, the provinces against the City, and the Protestant interest—these were their political slogans, the slogans which they had uttered in the 1630s and 1640s and would utter again after 1653, but which went altogether unheeded by those Rumpers who had temporarily seized control of the revolution. Finally, the Rump Parliament—and this was one of Cromwell’s greatest grievances against it—showed itself increasingly indifferent to that Protestant “concern for social justice” which loomed so large in the Independent programme. War on Protestants abroad in the interest of City merchants was accompanied at home, in those years, by a privileged scramble for public property which seemed a mockery of Puritan ideals. The republic of Hesilrige and Scot might call itself a “Commonwealth,” but in fact, said a real republican, “it was an oligarchy, detested by all men that love a Commonwealth”;21 or, if it were a commonwealth, it was only, according to the sour definition of Sir Thomas More: “a certain conspiracy of rich men procuring their own commodities under the name and title of a Commonwealth.”
Thus the policy of the Rump in the years 1651–53—the years, that is, when the Army’s resentment was mounting against it—was not only the policy of a small managing group which had obtained control of the assembly: it was also a policy essentially opposed to the aims of those Independents who had made the revolution. For all their insistence upon decentralization, social justice and Protestant alliances, those Independents had proved quite incapable of making such a policy even in their own Parliament which their own leader had purged in their interest. Unable, or unfitted, to exercise political power, they seemed doomed to surrender it to any organized group, however small, which was capable of wielding it—even if that group used it only to pursue policies quite different from their own. Though the “Tory” Independents had made the revolution and, through the Army, held power in the state, the “Whigs” had contrived to secure power in Parliament. To correct this and create a government of their own, the Independents had the choice between two policies. Either they could preserve the republican constitution and beat the “Whigs” at their own game—or, if that was too difficult for natural back-benchers, they could remove their rivals by force and place over Parliament a “single person,” like-minded with themselves, to summon, dismiss and, above all, guide and regulate their assemblies. This latter course was entirely consistent with their general political philosophy; it was also the easier course; and consequently they took it. The crucial question was, did the new “single person” understand the technique of his task? He had in his hands all the power of the State; but had he in his head the necessary knowledge of parliamentary management: that is, patronage and procedure to prevent another usurpation of the vacant front benches? Would he now fill them with his Privy Councillors and thus cement, as Queen Elizabeth had done, the natural harmony between the faithful, if somewhat inarticulate, Commons and the Throne?
If this was what Cromwell hoped to do, his first opportunity after the expulsion of the Rump was perhaps his best, for the Parliament of Saints, the Barebones Parliament of 1653, was, after all, largely a nominated, not an elected, assembly. And yet, as it turned out, this experiment proved to be Cromwell’s most humiliating failure. The Barebones Parliament is a classic example of an unpolitical assembly colonized from within by a well-organized minority. It was so colonized not merely because the majority of its members were unpolitical—that is true of most assemblies—but because Cromwell himself, in summoning it, was quite unaware of the real inspiration behind it, and made no attempt to convert it, by preparation or organization, into a useful or even workable assembly. As he afterwards admitted, it was a tale not only of the members’ weakness but of his own: “the issue was not answerable to the simplicity and honesty of the design.”22
The evidence for this is sadly plain. For what was in the minds of Cromwell and his conservative allies when they decided, or agreed, to summon the Barebones Parliament? We look, and all we find is a well-meaning, devout, bewildered obscurity. The Independents had no political theories: believing that forms of government were indifferent, they counted simply on working with the existing institutions, and now that the existing institutions—first monarchy, then republic—had been destroyed, they were at a loss. “It was necessary to pull down this government,” one of them had declared on the eve of the expulsion, “and it would be time enough then to consider what should be placed in the room of it”; and afterwards it was officially stated that “until the Parliament was actually dissolved, no resolutions were taken in what model to case the government, but it was after that dissolution debated and discussed as res integra.”23 In other words, having expelled the Rump Parliament which had betrayed the Independent cause, the Independent officers found themselves in a quandary. They had acted, as Cromwell so often acted, not rationally nor with that machiavellian duplicity with which his victims generally credited him, but on an impulse; and when the impulsive gesture had been made and the next and more deliberate step must be taken, they were quite unprepared.
Over the unprepared the prepared always have an advantage. In this case the prepared were the new radical party which had replaced the broken Levellers: the extreme totalitarian radicals, the Anabaptists and their fighting zealots the Fifth Monarchy Men. These men had already established themselves in the Army through their disciplined tribunes, the chaplains; they already controlled many of the London pulpits; and for the capture of direct power they had two further assets: an organization, in the form of the Committee for the Propagation of the Gospel in Wales, which was now totally controlled by their energetic Welsh leader, Vavasour Powell, and his itinerant missionaries; and a patron at the highest level in Major-General Harrison, the commissioner in charge of the Welsh Propagators and—what was now more important—the alter ego of the unsuspecting Cromwell. In the Rump Parliament, which after all had been the residue of a parliament of gentry, lawyers and merchants, these radical zealots had had little influence. Indeed, they had been its most violent enemies, for the Rump, unlike Cromwell, had been well aware of their subversive activities and had for some time been preparing, in spite of constant obstruction, to discontinue the Welsh Propagators who formed their essential committee. It was largely to forestall, or avenge, so crucial a blow that Harrison had urged Cromwell to expel the Parliament.24 When he had expelled it, Cromwell had played into the hands of the radicals. They had used him to destroy their enemy for them; and they now looked forward to using him still further, as a means of achieving direct political power.
As so often in the history of Oliver Cromwell, there is something at once tragic and comic in the manner of his deception by the Fifth Monarchy Men. To him they were merely good religious men, and when he found that his own exalted mood of indignation against the Rump was shared by them, he followed their advice, little suspecting what deep-laid political schemes lurked behind their mystical language. “Reformation of law and clergy”: was not that precisely his programme? A milder, cheaper, quicker law; a decentralized, godly, Puritan clergy; were not these his ambitions? How was he to know that by the same phrase the Anabaptists meant something quite different and far more radical: wholesale changes in the law of property, abolition of tithe, the extension over England of the closely organized, indoctrinated religious tribunes who had already carried their gospel over Wales “like fire in the thatch”? Oliver Cromwell suspected no such thing. When Harrison urged him to expel the Rump as the persecutors of the “poor saints in Wales,” he innocently acquiesced; and when he found that the refusal of the Rump to renew their authority had left the Welsh Propagators without a legal basis, he as innocently supplied them with a substitute, writing to them to ignore strict legality and “to go on cheerfully in the work as formerly, to promote these good things.” Months afterwards the greatest crime of the Rump would still seem to him to be its attempt to disband those Welsh Propagators, “the poor people of God there, who had men watching over them like so many wolves, ready to catch the lamb as soon as it was brought out into the world.”25 This romantic view of a knot of Tammany demagogues, who concealed their sharp practices behind lachrymose Celtic oratory, was soon to be sadly dispelled.
As soon as they had secured the expulsion of the Rump, the Fifth Monarchy Men were ready for the next step. What they required was a legislature nominated by the supposedly “independent” churches, some of which had been completely penetrated and were now safely controlled by them. Only in this way could so unrepresentative a party achieve power. Therefore when Cromwell remained poised in doubt, he soon found himself besieged by willing and unanimous advisers. “We humbly advise,” the Saints of North Wales wrote to him from Denbigh (the letter was composed by the local Fifth Monarchy panjandrum Morgan Llwyd), “that forasmuch as the policy and greatness of men hath ever failed, ye would now at length, in the next election, suffer and encourage the saints of God in his spirit to recommend unto you such as God shall choose for that work.”26 Another Fifth Monarchy preacher, John Rogers, was even more precise. He urged that an interim junto of twelve, “like to Israel’s twelve Judges,” be first set up; that a Sanhedrim of seventy men “or else one of a county” be then nominated, in which “the righteous of the worthies of the late Parliament” might also be included; and that in all cases of doubt the General should “consult with the Saints (Deuteronomy i. 13) and send to all discerning spirited men for their proposals.”27 Through Harrison, these proposals were urged in the council of officers;28 under this double pressure, direct and indirect, Cromwell easily yielded; and the Barebones Parliament, when it was summoned, was, in fact, a body constituted almost exactly as required in the Fifth Monarchy programme. The twelve councillors were appointed, and the members of the new Parliament were to be elected by the local churches29 which the radicals had often penetrated. Some few members were to be nominated directly by the council.
Whom would the churches elect? Cromwell’s own demands were moderate and sensible. He called for “known men of good repute”—that is, respectable Puritan, even if unpolitical, gentry; and such were the men he himself seems to have nominated: Lord Lisle, his own kinsmen, his own medical man Dr. Goddard, etc.30 But the radicals had more definite, more positive, views: they were determined to send to Parliament only reliable radical party-members. The chance survival of the correspondence of one of their Welsh sympathizers, Colonel John Jones of Merionethshire, clearly shows their electioneering tactics:31 for in Wales at least there were now no “independent” churches, only Vavasour Powell’s dragooned itinerant missionaries. Consequently even the formality of election was there unnecessary. “I presume,” Harrison wrote to Colonel Jones, “brother Powell acquainted you our thoughts as to the persons most in them to serve on behalf the Saints of North Wales: Hugh Courtney, John Browne, Richard Price out of your parts.” In other words, the three members for North Wales were simply nominated in London by Harrison and Powell and their names communicated, as a courtesy, to a prominent supporter in the district. It need hardly be added that all three were prominent Fifth Monarchy Men, and all were duly “elected.” No doubt the three members for South Wales—Vavasour Powell’s own district—were similarly chosen. Two of them also appear to have been Fifth Monarchists.32 Similarly in England, wherever radical preachers controlled the churches, radical politicians were recommended to the council as Members of Parliament, and Harrison, on the council, saw to it that they were approved.33 So the Fifth Monarchists and their fellow-travellers, a compact minority, moved en bloc to Westminster. It was machine-politics, and it worked like magic. Complacently Harrison could write to a friend that “the Lord had now at last made the General instrumental to put the power into the hands of His people”; but that, he added, “was the Lord’s work, and no thanks to His Excellency.”34 The innocent Cromwell was still quite unaware of the revolutionary movement which he was sponsoring.
Thus the Barebones Parliament was “elected,” and when it met, on 4 July 1653, Cromwell addressed it in his most exalted style. Now at last, he thought, he had a Parliament after his heart, a Parliament of godly men, gentry of his own kind, back-benchers, not scheming politicians—with a sprinkling, of course, of Saints. He had a sound Speaker too, Francis Rous, a gentleman, a religious man and a typical Cromwellian: elderly, unpolitical, “Elizabethan,” a step-brother of Pym and a friend of Drake. Surely so pure a body could be trusted to make good laws. Having urged them to do so, he withdrew altogether from the scene and waited for the good laws to emerge. He did not seek to control Parliament; though elected to its committees he did not sit on them; in an honest attempt “to divest the sword of all power in the civil administration” he drew aside, as Queen Elizabeth and her Privy Council had never done, from the business of managing Parliament, and waited for results.
The results were as might have been expected. The Cromwellian back-benchers were as clumsy old bluebottles caught in the delicate web spun by nimble radical spiders. The radicals were few—there were only eighteen definitely identifiable Anabaptists or Fifth Monarchy Men,35 of whom five were from Wales; but it was enough. They made a dash for the crucial committees;36 Harrison, unlike Cromwell, sat regularly both in the House and on its committees; and outside the clerical organizers of the party had the London pulpits tuned. The oratory of Blackfriars created for the radicals that outside pressure which in the past had enabled Pym to intimidate the royalists and Vane to intimidate the “Presbyterians.” Within six months the radicals had such control over the whole assembly that the Cromwellian conservatives, panic-stricken at their revolutionary designs, came early and furtively to Whitehall and surrendered back to the Lord General the powers which, through lack of direction, they had proved incapable of wielding.
Who were the parliamentary managers of the Barebones Parliament who thus filled the vacuum left by Cromwell’s inability or refusal to form a party? Once again, I think, they can be identified. Arthur Squibb a Fifth Monarchy Man, was a London lawyer with Welsh connections,37 and Samuel Moyer, a Baptist, was a London financier and member of the East India Company who had recently been added—no doubt by Harrison—to the Council of State. Both were sincere radicals in politics and religion, as they afterwards showed in their eclipse; both had done well out of the revolution; they had worked together on important financial committees, particularly on the permanent Committee of Compounding; they are named together among the earliest public spokesmen for the Barebones Parliament;38 and in the end, when Cromwell had discovered how he had been abused, it was Squibb and Moyer who, with Harrison and the preachers, were singled out for his revenge.39 In the committees of the Barebones Parliament, where the radicals concentrated their strength, Samuel Moyer, their link with the Council of State, headed the list by sitting, as no other man did, on seven standing committees; and we know from Cromwell himself that Squibb’s house in Fleet Street was the central office of the party, “and there were all the resolutions taken that were acted in that House day by day; and this was true de facto—I know it to be true.”40 Against this highly organized party-machine—the Welsh electioneering machine of Vavasour Powell, the publicity-making machine of the London pulpits now controlled by the party, and the parliamentary caucus of Harrison, Squibb and Moyer—Cromwell, for immediate purposes, had nothing: nothing, that is, except the ultimate basis of his rule—force.
It was by force, in the end, that the little group of radicals who refused to accept the suicide of the majority were expelled. While Speaker Rous, that “old bottle,” as the radicals called him, who was unable to contain the new wine, went off “with his fellow old bottles to Whitehall” to surrender their authority, some thirty radical members remained in the House at Westminster. Too few to count as a quorum, they could not legally act as a parliament; but they called Samuel Moyer to the mace and began to register their protests. They were interrupted by two colonels who ordered them to leave and then, meeting with no compliance, “went out and fetched two files of musketeers and did as good as force them out; amongst whom,” says a saddened Welsh radical, “I was an unworthy one.”41 “And why should they not depart,” retorted a conservative pamphleteer, “when their assembly was by resignation dissolved, since they were but one degree above a conventicle, and that place, famous for the entertainment of so many venerable assemblies, was not so fit for them as Mr. Squibb’s house, where most of their machinations were formed and shaped.”42
Cromwell’s reply to the collapse of the Barebones Parliament was not to devise—he never devised anything—but to accept a new constitution. Just as, after his impulsive dismissal of the Rump, he had accepted the ready-made plans of Major-General Harrison and his party of Saints for a Parliament of their nominees, so now, after the sudden disintegration of that Parliament, he accepted from Major-General Lambert and his party of conservative senior officers the newly prefabricated constitution of the Instrument of Government. By this the new Protectorate was set up, and Cromwell, as Lord Protector, carefully limited by a council of senior officers, was required, after an interval of nine months, to summon a new parliament based on a new franchise. Since this new franchise was, basically, the realization of the plan already advanced by the conservative senior officers seven years earlier in Ireton’s Heads of Proposals, it must be briefly analysed: for if ever the Independent gentry got the kind of parliament for which they had fought, it should have been in the two parliaments of the Protectorate elected on the franchise which they had thus consistently advocated. If social composition were sufficient to secure a harmonious and working parliament, that success should now be assured.
The most obvious feature of the new franchise is that while preserving property qualifications, and thus substantially the same social level of representation, it notably altered the distribution of membership, drastically cutting down the borough representation and greatly increasing the county representation. Compared with these facts, the creation of four new boroughs or three new county seats are insignificant adjustments of detail. In fact, the new franchise, in spite of these four new boroughs, reduced the total number of parliamentary boroughs in England and Wales from 212 to 106 and the total number of borough members in Parliament from 413 to 133. At the same time the county representation was increased from 90 out of 509 seats to 264 out of 400 seats. In other words, whereas in previous parliaments borough members had occupied 83 per cent and county members 17 per cent of the seats, in Cromwell’s parliaments borough members were now to occupy 34 per cent and county members 66 per cent. The county representation was thus quadrupled, the borough representation more than halved.
What is the significance of this sweeping change? The Victorian writers who saw in Cromwell an early nonconformist Liberal supposed that he had in some way “modernized” the franchise. Had he not disfranchised rotten boroughs and enfranchised new boroughs? But the overall change, the gigantic switch from borough seats to county seats, seems to me more significant than such modifications of detail. Modern Marxist historians, believing that the Protectorate was a device of the rich, a forcing-house of capitalism, suppose that the new franchise was “designed to bring the electoral system into something like correspondence with the property-distribution in the country.”43 But where was the wealth of England? Much of the new wealth was wealth from trade, concentrated—as the Independent gentry indignantly complained—more and more in the City of London. Even if we consider landed wealth only, it can hardly be argued that its distribution was better represented by the new members than by the old. Landed wealth was distributed among noblemen, merchants and gentry. Cromwell’s parliaments under the new franchise contained no English peers and very few merchants.44 They were parliaments of gentry, and not necessarily of the richer gentry either. The chief difference between the new and the old members was that whereas the old had been predominantly borough gentry the new were predominantly county gentry. What does this difference between “borough gentry” and “county gentry,” in fact, mean?
A glance at English parliamentary history at any time between 1559 and 1832 provides the answer. The borough gentry were client gentry; the county gentry were not—they were, or could be, independent of patronage. It was largely through the boroughs that patrons and parliamentary managers had, in the past, built up their forces in Parliament. It was through them that Essex had built up a party against Cecil and Cecil against Essex, through them that Charles I might have resisted the opposition magnates and the opposition magnates were, in fact, able to resist him. Further, at all times, it was through the boroughs that able men—lawyers, officials, scholars—got into Parliament as the clients of greater men and provided both the Administration and the opposition with some of their most effective members. The “rotten” boroughs, in fact, performed two functions: first, they made Parliament less representative of the electors than it would otherwise have been; secondly, they made it less inefficient as an instrument of policy.
Now, if, as I have suggested, the Independent gentry were, in fact, the rural “back-bench” gentry, such as were afterwards represented in the Tory party of Queen Anne and the first two Georges, it is clear that they, like the later Tories, would be opposed to the borough system as being, by definition, a device of the front-bench politicians to evade the “equal representation” of “the people”—that is, of the country gentry—and to introduce “courtiers” instead of honest country gentry into parliament. It is true, many of them had themselves been returned in this manner in 1640; but their own front-bench leaders, the “Presbyterian” magnates, had then deserted them, and by 1647 they were clamouring for decentralization in Parliament as in government, law, Church and education. They demanded a Parliament not of untrustworthy “courtiers” or experts but of sound, honest, representative men like themselves: a “more equal representative” of real Independents, uncontrolled by any professional caucus; and since, in their own language, “it was well understood that mean and decayed boroughs might be much more easily corrupted than the numerous counties and considerable cities,”45 they sought it by a reduction of “corrupt” borough seats and a multiplication of “independent” county seats.46
That had been in 1647, when the Independents had been in opposition. Now they were in power; but their philosophy had not changed. It was not merely that they were committed by their past: that would be too cynical an interpretation. Their philosophy was genuinely held: experience had not yet shown the inherent impossibility of a completely back-bench Parliament or the inherent difficulty of decentralization by a revolutionary central government; and Cromwell no doubt supposed that honest, Independent country gentlemen, freely elected from within the Puritan fold, would naturally agree with the aims and methods of his rule. Further, from the point of view of Cromwell and his council, there were certain compensations. If, by disfranchising the boroughs, the government had deprived itself of a system of patronage, it had equally denied that system to opponents who might, like the opponents of Charles I, be more skilful in using it. Besides, to make doubly sure, the new government prudently added to the English Parliament a new system of exclusively government patronage which had not been, and indeed could not have been, considered in 1647. The sixty new Scotch and Irish seats created by the Instrument of Government were not, of course, designed for genuine representatives of the newly conquered Scots or Irishmen: they were safe pocket-boroughs for government nominees.
A Parliament of congenial, unorganized, Independent county gentry, like-minded with himself, reinforced by sixty direct nominees and saved, by the franchise, from the knavish tricks of rival electioneers—surely this would give Cromwell the kind of Parliament he wanted. Especially after the radical scare of 1653, on which he was now able to dwell, and which had made him appear, even to many of those “Presbyterians” who shuddered at his regicide past, a “saviour of society.” Therefore, when the members had assembled in September 1654, and had listened to a sermon on the arrival of the Israelites, after their years in the Wilderness, at their Land of Rest, Cromwell felt able to apply the text to them and to congratulate them too on having at last, “after so many changings and turnings,” arrived at a period of “healing and settling.” Furthermore, he assured them, they were now “a free Parliament”; just as he had not sought to control the elections, so he would not in any way control or interfere with their deliberations. Instead, he urged them to discover among themselves “a sweet, gracious and holy understanding of one another”; and having so urged them, he once again swept off to Whitehall to await, in olympian detachment, the results of their deliberations.
He did not have to wait long. Able men can work any system, and even under the new franchise the experienced republicans had contrived to re-enter parliament. Once in, they moved with effortless rapidity into the vacuum created by the Protector’s virtuous but misguided refusal to form a party. The speed with which they operated is astonishing: one is forced to conclude either that Hesilrige and Scot were really brilliant tacticians (a conclusion which the recorded evidence hardly warrants), or that Cromwell had no vestige of an organization to resist them. At the very beginning they nearly got their nominee—the notorious regicide John Bradshaw—in as Speaker. Having failed they displaced the rival Speaker by the old dodge of calling for a Committee of the Whole House. At once Hesilrige and Scot were in control of the debates; the floating voters drifted helplessly into their wake; and the whole institution of the Protectorate came under heavy fire. Within a week Cromwell had repented of his words about “a free Parliament,” and all the republican members, with Hesilrige, Scot and Bradshaw at their head, had been turned out by force. Legislation was then handed back to the real back-benchers for whom the Parliament had been intended.
Ironically, the result was no better. Again and again Cromwell, by his own refusal to organize and his purges of those who organized against him, created in Parliament a vacuum of leadership; again and again this vacuum was filled. A pure parliament of back-benchers is an impossibility: someone will always come to the front; and since Cromwell never, like the Tudors, placed able ministers on the front benches, those benches were invariably occupied from behind. The first to scramble to the front were always the republicans: they were the real parliamentary tacticians of the Interregnum. But when they were removed, a second group advanced into their place. It was this second group who now, by their opposition, wrecked Cromwell’s first Protectorate Parliament.
Who were they? As we look at their programme, shown in their long series of successive amendments to the new constitution which had been imposed upon them, we see that, basically, it is the programme of the old “country party” of 1640. The voice that emerges from those “pedantic” amendments, as Carlyle so contemptuously called them, is the voice of the original opponents of Charles I, the voice even of Cromwell himself in his days of opposition. It protests, not, of course, against the decentralization which by his ordinances he had been carrying out, which was still his policy, and of which the new franchise itself was one expression, but against the machinery of centralization whereby this policy was declared: against the new Court, the new arbitrariness, the new standing army, the new taxes of that Man of Blood, Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell was caught up in the necessities and contradictions of power and found himself faced by his own old colleagues in opposition. In his days of opposition he too, like them, had demanded a parliament of back-benchers. Now he had got it—when he was in power. By a new franchise and a new purge he had confined Parliament to the old country party just at the time when he had himself inherited the position, the difficulties and the necessities of the old Court.
But who were the leaders who gave expression and direction to this new country party? A study of the tellers in divisions, which is almost all the evidence we possess, enables us to name the most active of them. There was John Bulkley, member for Hampshire, Sir Richard Onslow, member for Surrey, and, above all, Colonel Birch, member for Hereford; and the interesting fact about these men is that they were all old “Presbyterians”—men who had been arrested or secluded in Pride’s Purge. Thus, when the republicans had been removed, it was not the Independents who had occupied the vacant front benches—that indeed would have been contrary to their nature: it was the “Presbyterians.” Heirs of the original front-bench opposition of 1640, first expelled by the army, then disgusted by the act of regicide, they had now decided to stomach the usurper as the only immediate guarantee against the even greater evil of social revolution; but they were not going to accept him on his terms: they were going to fight for their own.
And did no one seek to serve the cause of Independency against these new, revived “Presbyterian” opponents? Yes, the new Government had its champions, but it is interesting to note that they too were not Independents. In the Barebones Parliament it was Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, a former royalist, since turned “Presbyterian,” who had now come back to politics as a Cromwellian and had sought in vain, and without support from Cromwell, to organize parliamentary resistance against the radical extremists. He had been by far the most active parliamentarian on the “conservative” side, one of their elected representatives on the Council of State, their regular teller in controversial divisions; and when his efforts had been in vain, it was another former royalist, Sir Charles Wolseley, who had proposed and carried out the act of resignation whereby the radicals had been cheated of their victory. Now, in the Parliament of 1654, the same two ex-royalists emerged again as the opponents of the new “country party.” Only this time their roles were reversed. Leaving Sir Charles Wolseley to inherit his position as the champion of Cromwellian government, Cooper, a far abler man, now appeared less as a protagonist than a mediator: he sought not to preserve the Protectorate in the new authoritarian form in which it stood, but to make such compromises with the opposition as would make it a tolerable form of government, a form of government such as the original Independents had always demanded. Consistently with that original programme, he even sought to civilize the institution by making Cromwell king. But once again Cromwell, aloof at Whitehall, never supported this voluntary ally who now foreshadowed the only practical solution of his problem and was afterwards to prove the most formidable parliamentary tactician of the next reign; and before the abrupt end of the session Cooper drew the consequences. Despairing of Cromwell, he crossed the floor and joined Colonel Birch in opposition. A fortnight later the Protector, now dependent entirely on the Army officers, came suddenly down to Westminster prematurely to dissolve yet another parliament. “I do not know what you have been doing,” he declared, “I do not know whether you have been alive or dead!”—it is difficult to conceive of Queen Elizabeth or Lord Burghley making such an admission—and with the usual flood of turbid eloquence, hysterical abuse and appeals to God, he dissolved prematurely what was to have been his ideal parliament.
For the next year Cromwell surrendered entirely to his military advisers. He still hankered after his old ideals—it is a great mistake, I think, to suppose that he ever “betrayed” the revolution, or at least the revolution for which he had taken up the sword. But he resigned himself to the view that those ideals could best be secured by administration, not legislation. After all, “forms of government” were to him indifferent: one system was as good as another, provided it secured good results; and now it seemed to him that the ideals of the revolution—honest rule such as “suits a Commonwealth,” social justice, reform of the law, toleration—would be better secured through the summary but patriarchal rule of the major-generals than through the legal but wayward deliberations of even an Independent Parliament. And, in fact, the major-generals did attempt such things: as Cromwell afterwards admitted, even while he attacked them, “you, Major-Generals, did your parts well.”47 Unfortunately, like Archbishop Laud before him, he was soon to discover that in politics, good intentions are not enough. The major-generals, like the Laudian bishops, might seek to supervise J.P.s, to reform manners, to manage preachers, to resist enclosures; but all this was expensive, and when the Spanish war, like Laud’s Scottish war, proved a failure, the major-generals themselves begged Cromwell, for financial reasons, to do what even Laud had had to do: to face a Parliament. If Cromwell, like Laud, had apprehensions, the major-generals comforted him. Confident, as military men so often are, of their own efficiency, they assured him that they, unlike the bishops, could control the elections and secure a Parliament which would give no trouble. So, in the autumn of 1656, after the most vigorous electioneering campaign since 1640, a Parliament was duly elected.
The result was not at all what the major-generals had expected. Ironically, one of the reasons for their failure was that very reduction of the borough seats which the Independents had themselves designed. In the interest of decentralization, Cromwell and his friends had cut down a system of patronage which now at last they had learned to use. In the period of direct rule by the major-generals, the government had “remodelled” the boroughs and converted them into safe supporters;48 but alas, thanks to the new franchise, the boroughs were now too few to stem the tide, and from the uncontrollable county constituencies, which the new franchise had multiplied, the critics of the government—genuine Independent critics of a new centralization—were returned, irresistible, to Westminster. The major-generals had secured their own election, but little more: thanks to their own new franchise, their heroic electioneering efforts had proved vain; and Cromwell, when he saw what they had done, did not spare them. “Impatient were you,” he told them, “till a Parliament was called. I gave my vote against it; but you were confident by your own strength and interest to get men chosen to your hearts’ desire. How you have failed therein, and how much the country hath been disobliged, is well known.”49 He might well rub it in, for one of the first acts of the Parliament thus called was to vote out of existence the whole system of the major-generals.
Thus, in spite of vigorous efforts to pack it, Cromwell’s second and last Protectorate Parliament consisted largely of the same persons as its predecessor; and in many respects its history was similar. Once again the old republicans had been returned; once again, as not being “persons of known integrity, fearing God and of good conversation,” they were arbitrarily removed. Once again the old back-benchers, the civilians, the new country party, filled the vacuum. But there was one very significant difference. It was a difference of leadership and policy. For this time they were not led by the old “Presbyterians.” A new leadership appeared with a new policy, and the Independents now found themselves mobilized not against but for the government of Oliver Cromwell. Instead of attacking him as a “single person,” they offered now to support him as king.
The volte-face seems complete, and naturally many were surprised by it; but, in fact, it is not altogether surprising. The new policy was simply the old policy of Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, the policy of civilizing Cromwell’s rule by reverting to known institutions and restoring, under a new dynasty, not, of course, the government of the Stuarts, but the old system from which the Stuarts had so disastrously deviated. For after all, the Independents had not originally revolted against monarchy: the “Whig” republicans, who now claimed to be the heirs of the revolution, had, in fact, been belated upstarts in its course, temporary usurpers of its aims. The genuine “Tory” Independents, who had now reasserted themselves over those usurpers, had merely wanted a less irresponsible king than Charles I. Nor had they wanted new constitutions. They had no new doctrines: they merely wanted an old-style monarch like Queen Elizabeth. Why should they not now, after so many bungled alternatives, return to those original limited aims? Why should not Cromwell, since he already exercised monarchical power, adjust himself more completely to a monarchical position? In many ways the policy of the “Kingship party” in Parliament—however denounced by the republicans as a betrayal of the revolution which they sought to corner—was, in fact, the nearest that the Puritans ever got to realizing their original aims. Consequently it found wide support. The country party and the new court at last came together.
Who was the architect of this parliamentary coup? There can be no doubt about his identity. Once again, it was a former royalist. Lord Broghill, a son of the 1st Earl of Cork, was an Irish magnate who had become a personal friend and supporter of Cromwell. He was now Member of Parliament for County Cork, and his immediate supporters were the other members for Ireland, whom, no doubt, as Cromwell’s Irish confidant, he had himself helped to nominate. There was Colonel Jephson, member for Cork City and Youghal, where Broghill’s family reigned; there was Colonel Bridge, member for Sligo, Roscommon and Leitrim; there was Sir John Reynolds, member for Tipperary and Waterford; and there was Vincent Gookin, member for Kinsale and Bandon, Surveyor-General of Ireland. In other words, Lord Broghill was a great parliamentary manager, like the earls of Warwick and Bedford in 1640. While the major-generals, as officials, had organized the attenuated boroughs of England in their support, Broghill, a private landlord, wedded to an entirely different programme, had organized another area of influence, in Ireland. If the “Presbyterians’ had been, in some respects, a Scottish party, and the Fifth Monarchy Men a Welsh party, the “Kingship-men” were, in their first appearance, an Anglo-Irish party.50
Once again the remarkable thing is the ease with which the new leadership secured control over Parliament. Just as the eleven “Presbyterian” leaders, whenever they were allowed to be present in 1647–48, had always been able to win control of the Long Parliament from Vane and St. John; just as, after 1649, the little group of republicans dominated every parliament to which they were admitted; just as a score of radical extremists dominated the Barebones Parliament of 1653, or a handful of old “Presbyterians” the Purged Parliament of 1654, so the little group of “Kingship-men” quickly took control, against the protesting major-generals, of the Parliament of 1656. Their success illustrates the complete absence of any rival organization, any organization by the government—and, incidentally, the ease with which Cromwell, if he had taken the trouble or understood the means, could have controlled such docile parliaments.
For there can be no doubt that Cromwell himself, though he stood ultimately to gain by it, was at first completely surprised by Broghill’s movement. As he afterwards said, he “had never been at any cabal about the same.”51 Indeed, when Broghill’s party first made itself felt in Parliament, it was positively opposed to the declared policy of the Protector; for Cromwell was still committed to the system of government by major-generals, and his faithful shadow, Secretary Thurloe, had already drafted a speech urging the continuation of that system—a speech which the sudden, belated conversion of his master and himself to the “Kingship party” left undelivered in his files.52 Furthermore, the previous advocate of kingship, Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, had been firmly excluded from the present Parliament by order of Cromwell himself. We are obliged to conclude that Cromwell at first genuinely intended to support the major-generals, and that, in jettisoning them, he did not follow any deliberate course. He simply wearied of them, as he had wearied in turn of the king, of the “Presbyterians,” of the Levellers, of the Rump, of the Saints; and having wearied, he surrendered once again to a new party, just as, in the past, he had surrendered in turn to Vane, to Ireton, to Harrison, to Lambert—successive mentors who had successively promised to lead him at last out of the “blood and confusion” caused by their predecessors to that still elusive elixir, “settlement.”
Having captured a majority in Parliament, the “Kingship party” set methodically to work. The government of the major-generals was abolished; the kingship, and the whole political apparatus which went with it—House of Lords, Privy Council, State Church, and old parliamentary franchise—was proposed. Except for the Army leaders, whom such a policy would have civilized out of existence, and the obstinate, doctrinaire republicans, all political groups were mobilized. The officials, the lawyers, the Protectoral family and clients, the government financiers—all who had an interest in the stability of government—were in favour. At last, it seemed, Cromwell had an organized party in Parliament. He had not made it: it had made itself and presented itself to him ready-made. It asked only to be used. What use did Cromwell make of it?
The answer is clear. He ruined it. Unable to win over the Army leaders, he wrestled with them, rated them, blustered at them. “It was time,” he protested, “to come to a settlement and leave aside these arbitrary measures so unacceptable to the nation.”53 And then, when he found them inexorable, he surrendered to them and afterwards justified his surrender in Parliament by describing not the interested opposition of serried brass-hats but the alleged honest scruples of religious Nonconformist sergeants. Of course, he may have been right to yield. Perhaps he judged the balance of power correctly. Perhaps he could not have maintained his new monarchy without Army support. There was here a real dilemma. And yet the Army could certainly have been “remodelled”—purged of its politicians and yet kept strong enough to defend the new dynasty. As Monck afterwards wrote, and by his own actions proved, “there is not an officer in the Army, upon any discontent, that has interest enough to draw two men after him, if he be out of place.”54 Cromwell’s own personal ascendancy over the Army, apart from a few politically ambitious generals, was undisputed. Instead of pleading defensively with the “Army grandees” as an organized party, he could have cashiered a few of them silently, as examples to the rest, and all opposition to kingship would probably have evaporated; for it was nourished by his indecision. The total eclipse first of Harrison, then of Lambert, once they had been dismissed—though each in turn had been second man in the army and the State—sufficiently shows the truth of Monck’s judgment.
Be that as it may, Cromwell never, in fact, tried to solve the problem of army opposition. After infinite delays and a series of long speeches, each obscurer than the last, he finally surrendered to it and accepted the new constitution only in a hopelessly truncated form: without kingship, without Lords, without effective Privy Council. Even so, in the view of Lord Broghill and his party, it might have been made to work. But again, Cromwell would not face the facts. Neither in his new Upper House nor in his new Council would he give the “Kingship-men” the possibility of making a party. Spasmodic, erratic gestures now raised, now dashed their hopes, and led ultimately nowhere; the leaders of the party wrung their hands in despair at the perpetual indecision, the self-contradictory gestures of their intended king; and in the end, in January 1658, when the Parliament reassembled for its second session, the old republicans, readmitted under the new constitution, and compacted by their long exile, found the “Kingship-men” a divided, helpless, dispirited group, utterly at their mercy.
At once they seized their opportunity. The lead was given by their old leader, Sir Arthur Hesilrige. Why, he asked, had the preacher, in his opening address, said nothing in praise of “that victorious Parliament,” the Rump? “I cannot sit still and hear such a question moved and bide any debate.” Whereupon that other oracle of the republicans, Thomas Scot, “said he could not sit still but second such a notion, to hear one speak so like an Englishman to call it a victorious Parliament.” From that moment the incorrigible combine was at work again, each seconding the other, filibustering unchecked with long, irrelevant speeches on the horrors of the ancien régime, boastful personal reminiscences, the divine right of parliaments, the virtue of regicide, the glories of the Rump. Hesilrige, who once spoke for three hours on past history, beginning with the Heptarchy, prophesied a two months’ debate and “hoped no man should be debarred of speaking his mind freely, and as often as he pleased.” As for himself, “I could speak till four o’clock.” Within ten days all constructive business had become impossible: the Parliament, the French ambassador reported to his government, “était devenu le parlement de Hesilrige,” and as such Cromwell angrily dissolved it, “and God judge between you and me.”55 Before he could summon another, he was dead.56
If Oliver Cromwell’s parliaments were thus consistently hamstrung through lack of direction, the one Parliament of his son Richard was, if anything, more chaotic—and that in spite of immense efforts to prepare it. For weeks before it met, Secretary Thurloe and the Council, on their own admission, did “little but prepare for the next Parliament.”57 The old franchise, and with it the old opportunities of borough patronage, was restored. The Council, as Ludlow sourly remarks, “used their utmost endeavours to procure such men to be chosen as were their creatures and had their dependencies on them.”58 But the result was as unsatisfactory as ever. The “Kingship party” was now dead: they would have fought to make Oliver king, but who would fight to put the crown on Richard’s head rather than on that of Charles II? Lord Broghill did not even sit in the new Parliament. On the other hand, the republicans were full of confidence. The demoralization of the Cromwellians gave them hope; in organization they were supreme; and when the Parliament met it was soon clear that Hesilrige and Scot were once again its masters.
Masters for what? Certainly not to lead it to constructive legislation. Republicanism in England, except in their fossilized minds, was dead: perhaps it had never been alive outside that limited terrain. Certainly it had not inspired the beginning of the rebellion, and certainly it was extinct at the end of it. From 1653 onwards, when the “Whig” policy which they had grafted on to the revolution had been repudiated, Hesilrige and Scot and their friends were simply obstructionists. They had a doctrine and a parliamentary organization. Thanks to that doctrine, and that organization, and the absence of any rival organization, they had achieved power for a time; but when their policy had been rejected, and they proved incapable of modifying it or making it acceptable, they could never recover power and they could use their clear, hard, narrow doctrine and their unrivalled parliamentary organization solely to destroy every rival party in Parliament, until the enemy they hated most of all, the monarchy of the Stuarts, returned to crush them and their rivals alike. From 1653 onwards the republicans were simply the saboteurs of every Parliament to which they could gain admittance. The weakness of the executive was their opportunity: an opportunity not to advance a cause, but simply to destroy their own rivals; and in no Parliament was that weakness so tempting to them, or that destruction so easy, as in the Parliament of Richard Cromwell, who was too feeble to adopt his father’s methods and expel them.
Consequently the record of Richard’s Parliament makes pitiful reading—even more pitiful than that of Oliver’s parliaments, which at least is enriched by the serious purpose and volcanic personality of the Protector. In vain Richard’s Speaker, regularly rebuked for his inability to control the debate, protested at the irrelevancy of members: “we are in a wood, a wilderness, a labyrinth. Some affirmative, some negative, which I cannot draw into one question. . . . The sun does not stand still, but I think you do not go forward.” Even a new and more forceful Speaker, who himself pitched into the debate, answering everyone and laying about him “like a Busby among so many school boys,” proved hardly more effective.59 Most pitiful of all was the fate of Mr. Secretary Thurloe, the chief representative of the Protector in his Parliament, the man who was accused of having packed the Parliament with at least eighty of his nominees. If only he had done so, as it was his duty to have done, the government might have fared better.60 In fact, attempting to defend the indefensible, romantic, irrational foreign policy of the government, Thurloe found himself hopelessly left behind as one speaker after another carried the debate off into irrelevant byways. Before long, Thurloe, instead of defending his foreign policy, was defending himself against a charge of having sold English subjects into slavery in the West Indies; and in a debate on the constitution he even found himself in a minority of one.61
The Secretary of State in a minority of one! The mere thought of such a possibility would have made Mr. Secretary Cecil or Mr. Secretary Walsingham—if they could even have conceived such a thought—turn in their graves. And yet this is the man whom historians have supposed—merely on account of the number of letters which he either wrote or received or steamed open—to be the genius of Cromwellian government!62 When such a thing could happen it was clear that the old Elizabethan system of which the Cromwellians had dreamed, and indeed any parliamentary system, had indeed broken down.
Thus Oliver Cromwell’s successive efforts to govern with and through Parliament failed, and failed abjectly. They failed through lack of that parliamentary management by the executive which, in the correct dosage, is the essential nourishment of any sound parliamentary life. As always with Cromwell, there is an element of tragic irony in his failure: his very virtues caused him to blunder into courses from which he could escape only by the most unvirtuous, inconsistent and indefensible expedients. And the ultimate reason of this tragic, ironical failure lies, I think, in the very character of Cromwell and of the Independency which he so perfectly represented. Cromwell himself, like his followers, was a natural back-bencher. He never understood the subtleties of politics, never rose above the simple political prejudices of those other backwoods squires whom he had joined in their blind revolt against the Stuart Court. His first speech in Parliament had been the protest of a provincial squire against popish antics in his own parish church; and at the end, as ruler of three kingdoms, he still compared himself only to a bewildered parish-constable seeking laboriously and earnestly to keep the peace in a somewhat disorderly and incomprehensible parish. His conception of government was the rough justice of a benevolent, serious-minded, rural magistrate: well intentioned, unsophisticated, summary, patriarchal, conservative. Such was also the political philosophy of many other English squires who, in the seventeenth century, turned up in Parliament and, sitting patiently on the back benches, either never understood or, at most, deeply suspected the secret mechanism whereby the back benches were controlled from the front. In ordinary times the natural fate of such men was to stay at the back, and to make a virtue of their “honesty,” their “independency,” their kinship rather with the good people who had elected them than with the sharp politicians and courtiers among whom they found themselves. But the 1640s and 1650s were not ordinary times. Then a revolutionary situation thrust these men forward, and in their indignation they hacked down, from behind, the sharp politicians and courtiers, the royalists and “Presbyterians,” who had first mobilized them. Having no clear political ideas, they did not—except in the brief period when they surrendered to the republican usurpers—destroy institutions, but only persons. They destroyed parliamentarians and the king, but not Parliament or the throne. These institutions, in their fury, they simply cleaned out and left momentarily vacant. But before long the vacancy was refilled. By careful tests and a new franchise, Parliament was reopened—to Independents (that is, back-benchers) only; under careful reservations and a new title, the throne was reoccupied—by an Independent (that is, a back-bench) ruler. At last, it seemed, Crown and Commons were in natural harmony.
Alas, in political matters natural harmony is not enough. To complete the system, and to make it work, something else was necessary too: an Independent political caucus that would constitute an Independent front bench as a bridge between Crown and Parliament, like those Tudor Privy Councillors who gave consistency and direction to the parliaments of Henry VIII and Elizabeth. Unfortunately this was the one thing which Cromwell always refused to provide. To good Independents any political caucus was suspect: it smacked of sharp politicians and the Court. An Independent front bench was a contradiction in terms. Even those who, in turn, and without his support, sought to create such a front bench for him—Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, Sir Charles Wolseley, Lord Broghill—were not real Independents, but, all of them, ex-royalists. Like his fellow-squires (and like those liberal historians who virtuously blame the Tudors for “packing” their parliaments), Cromwell tended to regard all parliamentary management as a “cabal,” a wicked interference with the freedom of Parliament. Therefore he supplied none, and when other more politically minded men sought to fill the void, he intervened to crush such indecent organization. In this way he thought he was securing “free parliaments”—free, that is, from caucus-control. Having thus secured a “free parliament,” he expected it automatically, as a result merely of good advice, good intentions and goodwill, to produce “good laws,” as in the reign of his heroine Queen Elizabeth. He did not realize that Queen Elizabeth’s parliaments owed their effectiveness not to such “freedom,” nor to the personal worthiness of the parties, nor to the natural harmony between them, but to that ceaseless vigilance, intervention and management by the Privy Council which worthy Puritan back-benchers regarded as a monstrous limitation of their freedom. No wonder Cromwell’s parliaments were uniformly barren. His ideal was an Elizabethan Parliament, but his methods were such as would lead to a Polish Diet. Consequently, each of his parliaments, deprived of leadership from him, fell in turn under other leadership and were then treated by him in a manner which made them feel far from free. Only in Cromwell’s last year did a Cromwellian party-manager, without encouragement from him, emerge in the House of Commons and seek to save the real aims of the revolution; but even he, having been tardily accepted, was ultimately betrayed by his inconstant master. In that betrayal Cromwell lost what proved to be his last chance of achieving the “settlement” which he so long and so faithfully but so unskilfully pursued.
Thus it is really misleading to speak of “Cromwell and his parliaments” as we speak of “Queen Elizabeth and her parliaments,” for in that possessive sense Cromwell—to his misfortune—had no parliaments: he only faced, in a helpless, bewildered manner, a succession of parliaments which he failed either to pack, to control or to understand. There was the Parliament of Hesilrige and Scot, the Parliament of Squibb and Moyer, the Parliament of Birch, the Parliament of Broghill, and the Parliament of Hesilrige once again; but there was never a Parliament of Oliver Cromwell. Ironically, the one English sovereign who had actually been a Member of Parliament proved himself, as a parliamentarian, the most incompetent of them all. He did so because he had not studied the necessary rules of the game. Hoping to imitate Queen Elizabeth, who, by understanding those rules, had been able to play upon “her faithful Commons” as upon a well-tuned instrument, he failed even more dismally than the Stuarts. The tragedy is that whereas they did not believe in the system, he did.
[1. ]Mrs. Valerie Pearl, in her valuable work, London and the Outbreak of the Puritan Revolution (Oxford, 1961), has shown the strength of royalism in the effective City government until the internal revolution of Dec. 1641: a revolution described by Clarendon, History of the Rebellion (1843), pp. 149–50, and in the anonymous Letter from Mercurius Civicus to Mercurius Rusticus (1643), printed in Somers Tracts (1811), iv, 580.
[2. ]This point—that the royalist members were, on an average, ten years younger than the parliamentarians in 1640—is clearly illustrated by D. Brunton and D. H. Pennington, Members of the Long Parliament (1954), pp. 14–20.
[3. ]Clarendon, History of the Rebellion, ed. W. D. Macray, i, 12.
[4. ]For the indignation which even courtiers, brought up at the orderly Court of Queen Elizabeth, felt at the vulgarity and immodesty of the Court of James I, see the letters of Lord Thomas Howard and Sir John Harington printed in N. E. McClure, Letters and Epigrams of Sir John Harington (Philadelphia, 1930), pp. 32–34, 118–21.
[5. ]As even the Puritan Mrs. Hutchinson vividly admits. See her Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson (Everyman edition), p. 67.
[6. ]Clarendon, History of the Rebellion,i, 199.
[7. ]I have touched upon this aspect of the Independent programme in my essay, The Gentry 1540–1640 (Economic History Society, 1954), p. 43.
[8. ]I do not mean to imply that such views were not held in the Catholic Church after the Reformation. The revolt was European, and both Protestant and Catholic Churches inherited it, and competed with each other in formulating it. Similar “collectivist” doctrines were formulated by the Jesuits in Spain; but in England, being Protestant, it was part of the Protestant tradition.
[9. ]Most recent writers—and not only Marxists and Fabians, for the same bias is to be found in the Roman Catholic W. Schenk’s book, The Concern for Social Justice in the Puritan Revolution (1948)—have tended to find the evidence of such an interest in social reform only among the radical sects, who certainly made most noise about it. But I believe that just as much interest, in a more practical, less doctrinaire way, was shown by the conservative Independents. It can be discovered in their projects for law reform and Church matters, in their educational work (on which see especially Mr. W. A. L. Vincent’s excellent study, The State and School Education, 1640–1660, 1950), in the ordinances of the Protector and Council between Dec. 1653 and Sept. 1654 and in the social policy carried out in the period of administration by major-generals.
[10. ]The conservatism of the opposition in secular matters is generally admitted. In Aug. 1643 Henry Marten was sent to the Tower, without a division, for expressing republican sentiments. In Church matters the “Presbyterian” clergy and the extreme sectaries naturally expressed clear anti-Anglican sentiments; but the laity (as the history of the Westminster Assembly showed) had no intention of submitting to such clerical extremists. In fact, the spiritual advisers of the Independents, William Ames, Thomas Hooker, Hugh Peter, etc., were “non-separating congregationalists,” who never disowned the Anglican Church (see Perry Miller, Orthodoxy in Massachusetts, Cambridge, Mass., 1933, pp. 177 ff.; R. P. Stearns, Hugh Peter, Urbana, 1954, p. 12, etc.). It was Henry Parker, a formidable Independent thinker, whose praise of Hooker I have quoted. Parker also described Bishop Hall as “one of the greatest assertors, and in that the noblest, of episcopacy” (W. K. Jordan, Men of Substance, Chicago, 1942, pp. 70–71). When in power, Cromwell granted far greater liberty to Anglicans than the revengeful Anglicans of the Restoration were disposed to admit (see R. Bosher, The Making of the Restoration Settlement, 1951, pp. 9–14), and appointed for Archbishop Ussher a State funeral in Westminster Abbey, with an Anglican service.
[11. ]Clarke Papers,i (Camden Society, 1891), 369. This indifference to forms of government, which implied a rejection of Charles I’s rule without any particular constitutional alternative, was a commonplace among the Cromwellian Independents. Sir Henry Vane similarly held that “it is not so much the form of the administration as the thing administered wherein the good or evil of government doth consist” (The People’s Case Stated in The Trial of Sir Henry Vane, Kt., 1662, p. 106). Cf. Stephen Marshall, A Letter to A Friend in the Country (1643): “Among the divers kinds of lawful governments, monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, no one of them is so appointed of God as to exclude the other from being a lawful government”; and Hugh Peter, Mr. Peter’s Message with the Narration of the taking of Dartmouth (1646), p. 2: “For it is certain that good men may save a nation when good laws cannot”; and A Dying Father’s Legacy (1660), p. 110: “I nowhere minded who ruled, fewer or more, so the good ends of government be given out . . .” Cf. the similar views of other Independents quoted in E. Ludlow, Memoirs, ed. C. H. Firth (1894), i, 184–85, and T. Burton, Parliamentary Diary (1828), iii, 260, 266.
[12. ]B. Whitelocke, Memorials (1853), iii, 374; Camden Miscellany,viii (1883), 2; W. C. Abbott, Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell (Harvard, 1937–47), iii, 435, and iv, 273.
[13. ]MS. Tanner, iii, 13, quoted in Clarke Papers,iii (1899), p. viii, n. 1.
[14. ]Wallace Notestein, The Winning of the Initiative by the House of Commons (British Academy Lecture, 1924); J. E. Neale, The Elizabethan House of Commons (1949); Elizabeth I and her Parliaments (1953).
[15. ]R. N. Kershaw, “The Elections for the Long Parliament,” in English Historical Review, 1923; Clarendon, History of the Rebellion,i, 220. The extent to which the party of opposition in 1640 was an aristocratic party, controlled by certain great boroughmongering lords, has, I think, been insufficiently emphasized by historians, although Clarendon, as a contemporary, takes it for granted. Pym was a client of the Earl of Bedford (“wholly devoted to the earl of Bedford,” Clarendon, op. cit. i, 245); those who afterwards became Independents were largely (like the Independent preachers) clients of the Earl of Warwick, to whom Cromwell himself remained a constant ally, even when their rôles were reversed (ibid. p. 544). For the Earl of Warwick as head of a political party, see A. P. Newton, The Colonising Activities of the Early Puritans (New Haven, 1914), passim. For some of his electioneering activities, see J. H. Hexter, The Reign of King Pym (Cambridge, Mass., 1941), pp. 44–45. For the electioneering activities of the earls of Pembroke, see Violet A. Rowe, “The Influence of the Earls of Pembroke on Parliamentary Elections 1625–1641,” in English Historical Review, 1935, p. 242. On the other hand, the electioneering feebleness of the government is shown by Archbishop Laud’s refusal to avail himself of the borough-patronage at his disposal at Reading, or, apparently, at Oxford (see Laud, Works, 1847–60, vi, 587; M. B. Rex, University Representation in England, 1604–1690, 1954, p. 145). And yet, if Laud had chosen to recommend Sir Thomas Gardiner for Reading, there would have been a sound royalist Speaker instead of Lenthall, and the disaster so emphasized by Clarendon would never have occurred. It is difficult to over-estimate the consequences which might have flowed from so slight an exertion.
[16. ]These statements concerning the fewness of the makers of Rump policy, made by Pauluzzi the Venetian resident, Daniel O’Neil the royalist agent, and the later Dutch ambassadors, are quoted by S. R. Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth and Protectorate (1894), ii, 120 n.
[17. ]The fashionable cult of Venice reached its height under the Commonwealth. The republicans Harrington and Neville made it their ideal; the anonymous tract, A Persuasive to a Mutual Compliance (1652), prophesies for the Rump a future comparable with that of Venice (Somers Tracts,vi, 158); James Howell’s laudatory Survey of the Signorie of Venice, of her admired policy and method of government, was published in 1651; etc., etc.
[18. ]Abbott, Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell,iii, 453; Burton, Parliamentary Diary,iii, 97, 111–12, etc.
[19. ]This distinction between the “Whig” policy of the Rump and the “Tory” policy of the Cromwellian Independents is well illustrated in the person of a prominent champion of the former and enemy of the latter, Slingsby Bethel. In his pamphlet The World’s Mistake in Oliver Cromwell (1668) he attacked Cromwell precisely because he had reversed the mercantilist policy of the Rump; in his Interest of Princes and States (1680) he attacks the gentry as the chief obstacle everywhere to rational mercantile policy; and in the days when Whigs and Tories existed in fact, not merely in embryo, he was Whig sheriff of London in the year of the Popish Plot.
[20. ]Burton, Parliamentary Diary,i, pp. xxv, xxviii. For Independent complaints against the growth of the City of London and its monopoly of trade, see ibid. i, pp. cx, 177, 343–44. For the same complaint resumed by a Tory back-bencher a generation later, see The Memoirs of Sir John Reresby (1875), p. 333.
[21. ]Burton, Parliamentary Diary,iii, 134.
[22. ]Abbott, Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell,iv, 489.
[23. ]Ludlow, Memoirs,i, 351; [Anon.] A True State of the Case of the Commonwealth (1654), quoted by Firth in Ludlow, op. cit. i, 358, n.
[24. ]The history of the struggle over the Welsh Propagators can be followed in T. Richards, The Puritan Movement in Wales (1920). See also Alan Griffith, A True and Perfect Relation of the whole Transaction concerning the Petition of the Six Counties, etc. (1654).
[25. ]Abbott, Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell,iii, 13, 57.
[26. ]Milton State Papers, ed. J. Nickolls (1743), p. 120; cf. J. H. Davies, Gweithiau Morgan Llwyd (Bangor, 1899 and 1908), ii, 264.
[27. ]John Rogers, A Few Proposals, quoted in Edward Rogers, Life and Opinions of a Fifth Monarchy Man (1867), p. 50.
[28. ]See Harrison’s letters on this subject in the Jones correspondence (see below, n. 31; also Ludlow, Memoirs,i, 358; Clarke Papers,iii, 4).
[29. ]Since this essay was written, Mr. Austin Woolrych, in an interesting article on “The Calling of Barebones Parliament,” in English Historical Review, July 1965, has argued that whatever demands or suggestions were made, the Members of that Parliament were not “elected” by the Churches, but nominated by the Council of Officers, and that the various letters from the Churches, proposing particular members, were not replies to requests but unsolicited proposals. Although convinced by Mr. Woolrych’s argument, I have not altered my text. The effective difference is anyway slight, since the Council naturally would be in many cases, and demonstrably was in others, guided by the local Saints. Mr. Woolrych’s conclusions make the achievement of the Fifth Monarchy Men in “colonizing” a purely “nominated” assembly even more remarkable.
[30. ]Lord Lisle was evidently nominated by the council, since he sat for Kent but had not been nominated by the churches of Kent, whose list of nominees survives (Milton State Papers, p. 95).
[31. ]Some of these letters were published in the Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Historical Society (1861), pp. 171 ff. (The originals are now MS. 11440 in the National Library of Wales.) Colonel Jones afterwards separated himself from the Fifth Monarchy Men, married Cromwell’s sister and supported the Protectorate; but at this time, as his letters show, he was a complete fellow-traveller with Harrison and Vavasour Powell.
[32. ]The three members for South Wales were James Phillips, John Williams and Bussy Mansell. According to J. H. Davies, Gweithiau Morgan Llwyd,ii, p. lxiii, two of them were Fifth Monarchists. Louise Fargo Brown, Baptists and Fifth Monarchy Men (Washington, D.C., 1912), p. 33, only identifies one of them, viz. John Williams, as a Baptist or Fifth Monarchy Man; but whether formally enrolled in the party or not, Bussey Mansell certainly voted with the radicals and was one of the last-ditchers on the radical side who were ultimately turned out by force (see his letter in Thurloe State Papers, 1742, i, 637).
[33. ]Apart from the Welsh seats, I deduce that other constituencies were thus “colonized” from the few surviving lists sent in by the churches. Thus, although the churches of Norfolk and Gloucester proposed miscellaneous names, many of which were not accepted by the council, the churches of Suffolk and Kent proposed solid lists of radical voters (Milton State Papers, pp. 92–95, 124–25).
[34. ]S. R. Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth,ii, 222.
[35. ]Brown, Baptists and Fifth Monarchy Men, p. 33. It is often stated that the extremists had a “party” of about sixty (e.g., by H. A. Glass, The Barebones Parliament, 1899; Brown, op. cit., p. 33, and The First Earl of Shaftesbury, New York, 1933, p. 55; Margaret James, “The Tithes Controversy in the Puritan Revolution,” in History, 1941); but I do not think that so definite a statement can properly be made. It rests on the numbers in divisions, as recorded in the Commons’ Journals and on two (slightly different) voting-lists for the last crucial debate, one of which is quoted from Thomason E. 669 by Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth,iii, 259 (it is also in Thurloe State Papers,iii, 132), and the other, without reference, by Glass. But divisions were not always on a straight conservative-radical issue and it is not proper to label members permanently as “Cromwellians” or “radicals” on the basis of one imperfectly recorded division (Glass’s list gives Squibb as a conservative, which is ridiculous, and the lists anyway do not distinguish, among those who did not vote on the conservative side, between radicals, abstainers and absentees). Further, many of those who voted as radicals in 1653 afterwards, when separated from the radical leaders, conscientiously served the Protectorate, having no doubt been—like Cromwell himself—innocent fellow-travellers with the extremists. From a critical study of the tellers in divisions, and from other sources, it is certainly possible to identify the leaders on both sides: Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, Sir Charles Wolseley, Sir Gilbert Pickering, Alderman Tichborne, on the conservative side; Harrison, Samuel Moyer, Arthur Squibb, Colonel Blount, John Ireton and Thomas St. Nicholas on the radical side. No doubt there were others—like the solid bloc of Baptists and Fifth Monarchists—whose position can be as clearly defined. But it is likely that the ordinary back-benchers belonged to no “party,” but voted according to the occasion, and that the success of the radicals consisted in managing floating voters as well as in having control over disciplined voters.
[36. ]The committees most heavily colonized by the radicals were, naturally, those concerned with the essential parts of their programme, viz. tithes and the law. The Committee for a New Model of the Law contained all the principal radicals, and out of its eighteen members no less than thirteen voted on the radical side in the crucial last debate.
[37. ]He had begun his career in the office of a Welsh lawyer, Sir Edward Powell, and was connected by marriage with the Welsh judge John Glyn.
[38. ]After Cromwell’s opening speech, the members adjourned till 8 a.m. next day for “a day of humiliation for a blessing upon their meeting, not any minister speaking before them (as was proposed), only themselves. Amongst the rest was Mr. Squibb and Samuel Moyer” (Clarke Papers,iii, 9).
[39. ]After the institution of the Protectorate, Squibb was forced to give up his offices as keeper of the prison at Sandwich and teller of the exchequer (Cal. S.P. Dom. 1654, pp. 116, 272). He was involved in Venner’s Fifth Monarchy rising of 1656 (Thurloe State Papers,vi, 185). At the Restoration he and his brothers sought in vain to recover the tellership of the exchequer (Cal. S.P. Dom. 1661–2, p. 369; 1663–4, pp. 121, 582; 1666–7, pp. 182–83, 535). He was imprisoned in the Tower in connection with a Fifth Monarchy sermon in 1671 (Cal. S.P. Dom. 1671, p. 357). Moyer disappeared from the Council of State and all official positions at the same time. He reappeared to present the republican and Fifth Monarchy petition in Feb. 1659 (Commons’ Journals, 9–15 Feb. 1659; Burton, Parliamentary Diary,iii, 288) and again another petition on 12 May 1659 (Commons’ Journals, s.d.).
[40. ]Abbott, Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell,iv, 489.
[41. ]Thurloe State Papers,i, 637; cf. [? Samuel Highland] An Exact Relation of the late Parliament, 1654 (Somers Tracts,vi, 266–84); Clarke Papers,iii, 9–10.
[42. ]Confusion Confounded, or a Firm Way of Settlement Settled (1654).
[43. ]C. Hill and E. Dell, The Good Old Cause (1949), p. 445.
[44. ]For merchant representation in Cromwell’s parliaments, see M. P. Ashley, Commercial and Financial Policy of the Protectorate (1934), pp. 6–8.
[45. ]Ludlow, Memoirs,ii, 48. The same argument was a commonplace among the later Tories.
[46. ]Mr. Ivan Roots, in his book The Great Rebellion (1966), p. 182, criticizes this part of my essay on the ground that the Instrument of Government, which changed the parliamentary franchise, was the work not of “Independent country gentry” but of “a group of officers.” But this is to ignore the previous history of the reforms. The Instrument of Government merely put into effect changes which had been advocated by Independent members of Parliament, and their constituents, since 1645 (and indeed before), and which had been worked out in detail in the Rump Parliament in 1650–51. The “group of officers” realized what the “Independent country gentry” had long demanded.
[47. ]Burton, Parliamentary Diary,i, 384.
[48. ]See B. L. K. Henderson, “The Cromwellian Charters,” in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 1912, pp. 129 ff.
[49. ]Burton, Parliamentary Diary,i, 384.
[50. ]The Irish basis of the “Kingship party” was pointed out by Firth, “Cromwell and the Crown,” in English Historical Review, 1902, 1903.
[51. ]Burton, Parliamentary Diary,i, 382.
[52. ]The draft is in Thurloe State Papers,v, 786–88, where it is described as “minute of a speech in Parliament by Secretary Thurloe”; but, in fact, I can find no evidence that it was ever delivered, and I presume that it is a draft. In any case, delivered or undelivered, it shows that Thurloe, and therefore Cromwell, had intended to continue the major-general system, which, in fact, they jettisoned.
[53. ]Burton, Parliamentary Diary,i, 382.
[54. ]Thurloe State Papers,vii, 387.
[55. ]Burton, Parliamentary Diary,iii, 874, 117, 141, and ii, 437 (and cf. iii, 140); Bordeaux to Mazarin, 18 Feb. 1658, cited in F. Guizot, Histoire de la république d’Angleterre (Paris, 1864), ii, 629.
[56. ]For the failure of the “Kingship party” in Cromwell’s last year see the analysis of their tactics in R. C. H. Catterall, “The Failure of the Humble Petition and Advice,” in American Historical Review, Oct. 1903 (ix, 36–65). Catterall concludes that Cromwell was wiser than the “Kingship-men” and was working, more slowly, more prudently and more patiently than they, to the same result: “Time was the essential requisite. . . . Time, however, was not granted.” What one thinks of Cromwell’s plans and prospects of success must depend on one’s estimate of his character as revealed by his previous career, and here I must dissent from Catterall. I cannot agree that patience was “a quality always at Oliver’s disposal and always exercised by him,” nor find, in his career, evidence of a slow and prudent progress towards a clearly envisaged political aim. Rather he seems to me to have successively borrowed and then impatiently discarded a series of inconsistent secondhand political systems; and I see no reason to suppose that he was any nearer to a final “settlement” at the time of his death than at any previous time in his history of political failure.
[57. ]Thurloe State Papers,vii, 562.
[58. ]Ludlow, Memoirs,ii, 49, and references there cited, cf. Calendar of State Papers (Venetian), xxxi, 276–77, 282, 284, 285.
[59. ]Burton, Parliamentary Diary,iii, 192, 269–70, 281, 333, and iv, 205, 213, 234, 243.
[60. ]In fact, Thurloe protested, “I know not of three members thus chosen into the House.” Burton, Parliamentary Diary,iv, 301.
[61. ]Burton, Parliamentary Diary,iii, 399, 287; and cf. [Slingsby Bethel] “A True and Impartial Narrative . . . ,” in Somers Tracts,vi, 481.
[62. ]The political ability of Thurloe seems to me to have been greatly overrated by historians. His skill in counter-espionage is attested by his own state papers, and it excited such admiration at the time that it afterwards became legendary; but otherwise he seems to have been merely an industrious secretary who echoed his master’s sentiments (and errors) with pathetic unoriginality. A good secretary is not necessarily a good Secretary of State.