Source: Preface to The Clarke Papers. Selections from the Papers of William Clarke, Secretary to the Council of the Army, 1647-1649, and to General Monck and the Commanders of the Army in Scotland, 1651-1660, ed. C.H. Firth (Camden Society, 1901). Vol. 1.
The collection from which the papers printed in this volume are selected was bequeathed to Worcester College, Oxford, in 1736. Their donor, Dr. George Clarke, a great benefactor of that college and of the University, was Judge Advocate-General from 1684 to 1705, and Secretary at War from 1692 to 1704. His father, Sir William Clarke, was the original owner of these papers. Lives of both father and son are given in the Dictionary of National Biography (vol. x. pp. 424, 448). An account of the papers themselves is contained in Mr. Coxe’s Catalogue of Manuscripts in the possession of Oxford Halls and Colleges, 1852, vol. ii. It is strange that no historian has hitherto thought fit to make use of them. My own attention was first called to the collection by the librarian of Worcester College, H. A. Pottinger, Esq., to whom and to the authorities of the college the thanks of the Camden Society are due for their kindness in facilitating the use of these papers, and the permission to publish them. Since the papers were inspected by Mr. Coxe, Mr. Pottinger has discovered some additional volumes, including the most valuable of all, that containing the debates of the Council of the Army in 1647.
William Clarke, who was probably born about 1623, was admitted a student of the Inner Temple in 1645. When the New Model was organised, John Rushworth was appointed Secretary to the General and Council of War, with William Clarke and another assistant as subordinates. Clarke acted as secretary to the commissioners who negotiated the surrender of Oxford in June, 1646, and to those who tried to arrange terms between the Parliament and the Army in July, 1647 (Sprigge, Anglia Rediviva, ed. 1854, p. 258; Rushworth, vi. 606). He seems to have taken part in the invasion of Scotland in July, 1650,a and from the autumn of 1651 to the Restoration was Secretary to the Army of Occupation in Scotland. From 1654 that army was under the command of Monck, and Clarke laid the foundation of his subsequent fortunes by gaining the confidence of his commander. Edward Phillips, in the narrative of the Restoration which he added to Baker’s Chronicle, describes the attempts of Monck’s opponents to win over Clarke.
“He also writ to Mr. Clarke, the General’s Secretary, who was an active useful Instrument in his affairs, to seduce him from his Service; the truth is, the greatest part of Clarke’s Estate was in England, and he was a man of so civil and ingenuous a Conversation that he might have been the better excused in a Neutrality to both Parties, and his Interest did direct him to it. But he was resolved to hazard all his Fortunes in the General’s Bottom, and would not by threats or cunning, which were both used by Lilburn to him, be prevailed with to quit his Party. For which his fidelity and constancy, at this time, he was ever after so much esteemed by the General, that he trusted him with his most secret transactions.”
—Ed. 1670, p. 688.
Not long after the Restoration Clarke was knighted and, on 28th January, 1661, appointed Secretary at War (Cal. State Papers, Dom., 1660-1. p. 490). Sir William Coventry described him to Pepys as one of the “sorry instruments” by whom Monck was lucky enough to effect great things (Pepys’ Diary, 12th July, 1666). Clarke accompanied Monck to sea in 1666, and was mortally wounded in the battle with the Dutch off Harwich, 2nd June, 1666. He was buried in the chancel of Harwich Church, where an elaborate tablet to his memory was erected by his widow. Monck, in commending her and his child to the favour of the King, wrote of Clarke that in him he had lost “a faithful and indefatigable servant,” and that he could not express “too much kindness to his memory” (Cal. State Papers, Dom., 1665-6, p. 471). Clarke had married Dorothy, daughter and coheiress of Thomas Hyliard, of Hampshire, and Elizabeth Kimpton.a A letter from Sir Thomas Clarges to her on her husband’s death is preserved in the British Museum.b
“I am so afflicted for the losse of my deare friend Sir William Clerk that I have more need to receive consolation from others then to give it. But I cannot omitt writeing to your Ladyship to desire and beseech you since this fatall stroke cannot be recalled that your Ladyship will have so much respect to that sweete pledge of both your loves, as for his sake to moderate your grief, that your health be not impaired by it.”
The widow took the advice, married again in the same year, and lived till 1695. Her second husband, Samuel Barrow, who had been chief physician to the Army in Scotland, became at the Restoration physician in ordinary to the King, and Advocate-General of the Army.
The special value of the Clarke Papers consists in the light which they throw upon the history of the Army during the period when its political importance was greatest. By their assistance we can follow more closely the history of the quarrel between the Parliament and the Army, and appreciate with more exactness than before the causes of the revolutions of 1647 and 1648. The newsletters reveal the state of feeling in London and in the Army as the quarrel progressed. The correspondence of the Agitators shows how the revolt in the Army began and by what means it was carried out. The debates of the Council of the Army illustrate in the most striking manner the political views of the soldiers, the dissensions which arose amongst them, and the character of the Army leaders. They elucidate more than one dark passage in Cromwell’s political career, and justify the high estimation of Ireton’s ability expressed by his contemporaries.
In February and March, 1647, Parliament passed a series of votes for the disbanding of the Army. They also determined that a body of 3,000 horse, 1,200 dragoons, and 8,400 foot, to be drawn from the army of Sir Thomas Fairfax, should be employed for the reconquest of Ireland. An army consisting of 5,400 horse and 1,000 dragoons, together with about 10,000 foot for garrison service, was to be maintained in England. The terms on which the disbanding was to take place were calculated to rouse legitimate discontent. The soldiers were to receive a very small portion of the pay due to them, and they were offered very insufficient securities for their large arrears of pay. They were promised an Act of Indemnity for acts done in pursuance of the orders of their commanders during the war, but that Act when passed was regarded by them as insufficient for their protection. Finally, it was evident that the disbanding would be followed by severe measures for the enforcement of Presbyterian orthodoxy and the punishment of sectaries. As the policy of Holles and the Presbyterian leaders developed itself, protests against it multiplied both from the Army itself and from the Independents outside the Army. But all petitions against that policy were suppressed, and the petitioners sometimes punished (pp. 2, 26, 92).
About March 21, 1647, a petition was circulated amongst the officers setting forth their objections to the proposed scheme for disbanding.
1. “First, whereas the necessity and exigence of the War, hath put us upon many actions, which the Law would not warrant, nor we have acted in a time of setled peace; we humbly desire, that before our disbanding, a full and sufficient provision may be made by Ordinance of Parliament (to which the Royall assent may be desired) for our indempnity and security in all such cases.
2. “That Auditors or Commissioners may be speedily appointed and authorised to repaire to the headquarters of this Army, to audite and state our accompts, as well for all former services as for our services in this Army; and that before the disbanding of the Army, satisfaction may be given to the Petitioners for their arreares, that so the charge, trouble, and loss of time, which we must otherwise necessarily undergoe in attendance for the obtaining of them may be prevented. . . .
3. “That those who have voluntarily served the Parliament in the late Warrs may not hereafter be compelled by press or otherwise to serve as souldiers out of this Kingdome. Nor those who have served as horsemen may be compelled by press to serve on Foot, in any future case.
4. “That such in this Army as have lost their limbs, and the wives and children of such as have been slain in the service, and such officers or souldiers as have sustained losses, or have been prejudiced in their estates, by adhering to the Parliament; or in their persons by sickness or imprisonment under the Enemy, may have such allowances and satisfaction, as may be agreeable to Justice and equity.
5. “That till the Army be disbanded as aforesaid, some course may be taken for the supply thereof with moneys, whereby we may be enabled to discharge our quarters, that so we may not for necessary food be beholden to the Parliament’s Enemies, burthensome to their friends, or oppressive to the Country, whose preservation we have always endeavoured, and in whose happiness we should still rejoice.”
Moderate though these demands were, Fairfax was directed at once to put a stop to any further proceeding in that petition, and to send up Lieutenant-General Hammond, Colonel Robert Hammond, Colonel Lilburn, Colonel Pride, and Lieutenant-Colonel Grime, who were concerned in promoting it, to answer for their conduct at the bar of the House of Commons (pp. 1-4, Book of Army Declarations, 1647, pp. 1-5). On March 30, the House of Commons passed a declaration, condemning the petition as tending to put the Army into a distemper and mutiny, and declaring that those who continued to promote it should be proceeded against as enemies to the State and disturbers of the public peace.
On April 15, six parliamentary commissioners were sent to Saffron Walden to confer with Fairfax and his officers on the engagement of the body of soldiers destined for the service of Ireland. A full narrative of their proceedings is given on pp. 5-15. The result of their mission showed a general unwillingness in both officers and soldiers to engage upon the terms offered. The officers in general maintained a somewhat neutral attitude, declining emphatically to engage themselves, but promising to promote and not to hinder the engagement of their soldiers (p. 7). A few of the higher officers undertook to go in person, but in more than one regiment soldiers refused to follow the example of their commanders, and mutinied when they were drawn out to march (pp. 12-15).
Left to themselves by the indecision of their officers, the soldiers began to act without them. In a paper entitled An apology of all the private soldiers in Sir Thomas Fairfax his army to their commission officers, they stated their grievances and called on their officers to stand by them for the redress of these wrongs.
“The Lord put a spirit of courage into your hearts that you may stand fast in your integrity that you have manifested to us your soldiers; and we do declare to you that if any of you shall not, he shall be marked with a brand of infamy for ever, as a traytor to his country and an enemy to this Armie. . . . We have been quiet and peaceable in obeying all orders and commands, yet now we have just cause to tell you, if we be not relieved in these our grievances, wee shall be forced to that, which we pray God to divert, and keep your and our hearts upright.”a
A somewhat similar letter was at the same time addressed to Fairfax, Cromwell, and Skippon, which Skippon, on April 30, delivered to the House of Commons (Rushworth, vi 474). It was signed by the representatives of eight regiments of horse and presented by three troopers. At the command of the House the three troopers were called in and examined; their answers are printed in Appendix B on pp. 430, 431. The letter itself is printed, from the copy addressed to Skippon, in Cary’s Memorialsof the Civil War, i. 201, and in the Lords Journals, ix. 164; other versions, with slight verbal variations, are to be found in Prynne’s The Hypocrites Unmasking, 1647, and in the Book of Army Declarations, p. 9.
The immediate result of this letter was an order sending Skippon, Cromwell, Ireton, and Fleetwood to Saffron Walden to acquaint the soldiers with the votes of the House respecting their pay and indemnity, and to examine into the origin of the letter from the eight regiments (see pp. 20, 21, 33). A narrative of the proceedings of the commissioners is printed on pp. 27-31, and reports of the debates which took place between them and the officers on May 15, 16, follow on pp. 33-44, 45-78. These reports were probably taken down by William Clarke at the time in shorthand, though apparently his notes were not transcribed at length till 1662 (p. 31). It is obvious that the author was not at the time a very skilful note-taker. There are frequent blanks in the report and it is often very confused. It is also probable that the person who finally transcribed the notes added to the confusion by mistaking the order of some of the pages. Nevertheless, with all its errors, the report gives an extremely valuable and interesting picture of a curious scene. The meetings in the church at Saffron Walden on May 15, 16, were attended by about 200 officers and a certain number of private soldiers, probably representatives sent by different regiments. Skippon presided, and one after another the chief officers gave an account of the temper of their respective regiments and their reception of the votes of Parliament. Each regiment made a return of its grievances, and (by consent of the great majority of the officers) Lambert and others were appointed to collect from these regimental returns a summary of the common grievances of the whole army, to be presented to the commissioners and transmitted to Parliament (pp. 36, 42, 97). Over these returns a number of disputes took place. More than once varying returns were presented by different officers for the same regiment. Lieutenant-Colonel Jackson and Captain White quarrelled violently over the account presented from Fairfax’s own foot regiment (pp. 53, 57). There were disputes also as to the regiments of Colonel Graves and Sir Hardress Waller (pp. 56, 59-62). Colonel Sheffield, as the spokesman of the minority willing to accept the terms offered by Parliament, objected to the presence of private soldiers, and fell foul of Colonel Hammond and Colonel Whalley (pp. 40, 65, 77, 85). Skippon had the greatest difficulty in maintaining order. More than once he urged the officers “to hear one another with sobriety,” to “forbear acclamations,” to “speak with moderaration or else be silent.” “God knows it is a very great pressure to my spirit to hear and observe such clashings and jarrings amongst you, I am sure there can no good come of it” (pp. 48, 49, 58, 77).
It was finally proposed that two of the commissioners should go up to London to represent the desires of the Army to Parliament, and remove any misrepresentations which might be made of the action of the officers (p. 76). In accordance with this desire, and in obedience to a similar order from Parliament, Cromwell and Fleetwood were sent up to London with an elaborate report signed by all four commissioners (pp. 94-99). Cromwell presented this report to the House of Commons on May 21, expressing his belief that the soldiers would disband when ordered, but would certainly not engage to go to Ireland (p. 99). The House replied by some minor concessions to the demands of the soldiers, but made no further addition to the eight weeks’ pay before promised. On May 25 a series of votes were passed fixing the dates and places at which the different regiments were to be disbanded. Cromwell and Fleetwood remained in London for the rest of the month. Fairfax, whose stay in London had caused injurious comment, was ordered down to the Army (pp. 11, 85, 93, 101). He arrived at Saffron Walden on May 20, and removed his head-quarters to Bury on May 25. Immediately on his arrival he issued a letter to the commanders of the several regiments, informing them that they were to give notice to their soldiers, that the grievances of the Army had been presented to the House of Commons, and were taken into consideration by them. “I do therefore require the souldiers to forbear any further actings by them selves without their officers in any irregular ways, and all officers are strictly to see to it in their several charges, that there be no more such meetings or consultations of souldiers at Bury or elsewhere” (Rushworth, vi. 495). It was too late, however, for such an order to produce obedience. Already the soldiers had formed an organised council of representatives and agreed on their plan of action.
In their report the four commissioners had stated that in their opinion “the officers thus joyning with the soldiers againe in a regular way to make knowne and give vent to their greivances, hath contributed much to allay precedent distempers, to bring off the souldiers from their late wayes of correspondencie and actings among themselves, and to reduce them again to a right order and regard to their officers in what they do” (p. 99). This view was too sanguine. Concerted action amongst the soldiers seems to have begun towards the end of April, 1647, when representatives of eight regiments of horse drew up the letter to Fairfax, Cromwell, and Skippon. In their examination the three troopers said that the letter “was drawn up first at a rendezvous of several of those regiments, and afterwards they had several meetings about it by agents from each regiment in several places” (Rushworth, vi. 474, cf. pp. 21, 33). One consequence of the mission of the four officers to Saffron Walden in May was the introduction of a similar organisation amongst the foot regiments. One or two soldiers were chosen from each troop or company to draw up and present their statements of grievances (pp. 66, 96). “The committee of troopers met at St. Edmundsbury, and the foot, who chose two out of every company, sent them to confer with the troopers, and every foot soldier gave fourpence a piece towards defraying of the charges of that meeting” (Rushworth, vi. 485). Throughout the Agitators of the horse regiments continued to take the lead, sending letters to other regiments, and writing to the Army of the northern association to persuade it to stand by the new model (pp. 88, 89). The Agitators were in constant communication with London and received news of all the votes of Parliament directly they were passed. A remarkable paper entitled Advertisements for the managing of the Councells of the Army (p. 22), possibly from the pen of Sexby, sketches out the line of conduct which they adopted. The news of the votes of May 18 for the disbanding of the Army precipitated open mutiny. “Believe it, my deare fellowes, wee must now be very active to send to all our several regiments of Horse and Foote and let them knowe that nothing but destruction is threatened. Loving friends, be active, for all lies at stake” (pp. 85, 86). In reply to this exhortation from one of their correspondents in London the Agitators at Bury issued a circular letter urging their regiments to resist disbanding. “Resolve neither to take monie nor march one from another, but lett all your actions be joyn’d. And if any orders should come to your particular regiments to march from the rest of the Army, march not while you have consulted with the rest of the Army” (p. 87). The General was to be petitioned in the name of the soldiers “to have him, in honour, justice, and honestie, to stand by you.” Skippon “and all other officers that are not right” were to be told to leave the Army (p. 100). A printing press was to be got into the Army in order to set forth the wrongs of the soldiers and to disabuse the people of their prejudices against them (pp. 22, 86). The counties were to be stirred up to petition for their rights, and to appeal to the Army to assert them (p. 101). The magazine and artillery train at Oxford, which the Parliament intended to remove to London, were to be seized by a party of 1,000 horse (pp. 105, 114). When the commissioners of the Parliament came to pay off the General’s regiment of foot, which was to be the first disbanded, they and the £7,000 they brought with them were to be seized on the way (pp. 106, 107).
The question whether this plan of action was inspired by the officers, or to what extent the officers were cognisant of it, is of some interest. The three troopers who brought the letter of the eight regiments of horse, “being demanded whether any of their officers were engaged in it . . . answered that they thought very few of them knew or took notice of it” (Rushworth, vi., 474). A number of officers were active in framing petitions to Parliament against the proposed terms of disbandment, and some sought to procure the support of the soldiers to these petitions (pp. 2, 25, 45). Now and then one would exhort his soldiers to “stand for their liberties” and refuse to engage for Ireland, but most of them, whilst refusing to engage themselves, made no attempt to prevent their men from enlisting (pp. 7, 56). With the exception of two or three subalterns (such as, perhaps, Lieutenant Chillenden,a and certainly Cornet Joyce) none of the officers seem to have been implicated in the bolder schemes for active resistance to disbanding set on foot by Sexby and the Agitators. Sexby was perfectly able to conceive such a scheme unaided, and there were many other men of ability amongst the Agitators. Colonel Wogan attributes great importance to the action of Captain John Reynolds, but confuses the events of May with those of June, and draws liberally on his imagination to supply the defects of his memory (pp. 421-429).
The question of the part played by Cromwell and Ireton with respect to this movement in the Army is of more importance. The theory of Cromwell’s opponents is that he first, by his false protestations that the Army should disband whensoever they should be commanded, induced the Parliament to pass the disbanding votes, and then, by means of the Agitators, induced the Army to refuse to disband. This is the theory set forth by Colonel Wogan (pp. 425-427). It is also the theory of Clement Walker, who says, speaking of the disbanding ordinance—
“To the passing of this Ordinance, Cromwell’s protestations in the House with his hand upon his breast, ‘In the presence of almighty God, before whom he stood, that he knew the Army would disband and lay down their arms at their doore, whensoever they should command them,’ conduced much: this was maliciously done of Cromwell to set the Army at a greater distance with the Presbyterian party and to bring them and the Independent party nearer together. . . . And at the same time when he made these protests in the House he had his Agitators (Spirits of his own and his son Ireton’s conjuring up in the Army though since conjured down by them without requital) to animate them against the major part of the House . . . to ingage them against disbanding and going for Ireland . . . and to insist upon many other high demands, some private as souldiers, some publique as statesmen.”
(History of Independency, ed. 1648, pt. i. p. 31.)
A similar theory is embodied in Butler’s well-known verses—
The first votes for disbanding were passed on February 18, 19, 23, 25, 26, and during the first week of March, 1647 (Commons Journals). A news letter of February 18, 1647, observes, “Cromwell is dangerously ill with an imposthume in his head, whereby his party is now the weaker in the House,” so that he was probably not in the House when the original decision to disband was taken (Clarendon MS., 2,439). His dissatisfaction with the policy of the Presbyterians was notorious, and he openly showed that he would have no hand in forwarding it. “Young Vane and Cromwell,” says a news letter, “often forbear coming to the House,” and Holles complains that Cromwell and his friends purposely absented themselves from the Committee of both Kingdoms (Clarendon MS., 2,504; Holles Memoirs, § 79). He even thought of leaving England and taking service in Germany under the Elector Palatine (Gardener, Great Civil War, iii. 36). Twice indeed, once apparently in March, and again on May 21, he did profess his belief that the Army would disband when Parliament ordered them; but to suppose that this was done merely to encourage the policy of which he was the declared opponent requires clear and conclusive evidence. (Lilburn, Jonah’s Cry, p. 4; Clarendon MS., 2,520). All the evidence points another way.
These papers show the real origin of the movement which resulted in the election of the Agitators, and explain what Cromwell’s attitude really was. He sympathised with the grievances of the soldiers, but urged them to accept the terms offered rather than cause a new war. He pressed the officers “to have a very great care to make the best use” they could of the votes of Parliament, and to employ their own influence with their men “to worke in them a good opinion of that authority that is over both us and them.” He bade them remember that, “if that authority falls to nothing, nothing can follow but confusion” (p. 72). Ireton seems to have been equally desirous to mediate between the Army and the Parliament (p. 102). On this point the evidence afforded by these papers is confirmed by the testimony of their supposed accomplices, the Levellers and the Agitators.
“O Cromwell” wrote Lilburn on March 25, 1647, “I am informed this day by an officer out of the Army and by another knowing man yesterday, that came a purpose to me out of the Army, that you and your agents are like to dash in pieces the hopes of our outward preservation, their petition to the House, and will not suffer them to petition till they have laid down their arms, because, forsooth, you have engaged to the House they shall lay down their armes whenever they shall command them.”
(Jonah’s Cry out of the Whale’s Belly, 1647, p. 4).
In the autumn of 1647, when the Agitators fell out with Cromwell and Ireton, their backwardness at the commencement of the breach was made an argument against them.
“We hope it will be no discouragement unto you,” wrote the Agitators to the soldiers, “though your Officers, yea, the greatest Officers, should apostatise from you; Its well known that the great Officers which now oppose, did as much oppose secretly when wee refused to disband according to the Parliament’s Order; and at last they confessed the Providence of God was the more wonderfull, because those resolutions to stand for Fredom and justice began among the Souldiers only.”
(“A copy of a Letter sent by the Agents of Several Regiments,” 1647.)
Still more definite are the statements of John Wildman in the pamphlet against Cromwell and Ireton which he entitles Putney Projects.
“I shall not prejudge the singleness of Cromwell’s or Ireton’s hearts as to public good, in their first associating with the Army at Newmarket, but it’s worth the knowing that they both in private opposed those gallant endeavours of the Army for their country’s freedom. Yea, their arguments against them were only prophesies of sad events; confusion and ruin, said they, will be the portion of the actors in that design, they will never be able to accomplish their desires against such potent enemies. They were as clearly convinced, as if it had been written with a beam of the Sun, that an apostate party in Parliament (viz. Hollis his faction) did subject our laws and liberties to their inordinate wills and lusts, and exercised such tyranny, injustice, arbitrariness, and oppression, as the worst of arbitrary courts could never parallel. But to oppose a party of tyrants so powerful; hic labor hoc opus est, there was a lion and a bear in the way. And lest mere suspicion of their compliance with the Army in any attempt to affront those insulting tyrants should be turned to their prejudice, they were willing, at least by their creatures, to suppress the soldiers first most innocent and modest petition C. Rich sent several orders to some of his officers to prevent subscription of that petition. And the constant importunity and solicitation of many friends could not prevail with Cromwell to appear, until the danger of imprisonment forced him to fly to the Army (the day after their first rendezvous) for shelter. And then both he and Ireton joining with the Army, and assuming offices to themselves (acting without commissions and being outed by the self-denying Ordinance of Parliament, and the General having no power to make general officers) they were engaged in respect to their own safety to crush and overturn Hollis his domineering, tyrannical faction. And to that end their invasion of the people’s freedom, their injustice and oppression, was painted in the most lively colours to the people’s eyes, and petitions to the General against those obstructors of justice in parliament, drawn by Cromwell himself, were sent to some counties to subscribe, and then the most mellifluous enamouring promises were passed to petitioners of clearing and securing their rights and liberties, then the General engaged himself to them that what he wanted in expression of his devotion to their service should be supplied in action: and hereby their names were ingraven in the peoples hearts for gallant patriots, and the most noble heroes of our age.”
But though the officers might at first hold back the time came when they were forced to decide. When they undertook to collect, to summarise, and to represent to Parliament the grievances of the soldiers, they practically made their cause their own. Parliament strove to separate the privates from their officers, but in vain (pp. 84, 87). The Agitators summoned the soldiers to stick by their officers as their officers had stuck by them. “Stand with your officers, and one with another you need not fear. If you divide you destroy all” (p. 87).
When the Council of War met at St. Edmundsbury on May 29, the Agitators of ten regiments of horse and six regiments of foot presented a petition to the General, begging him “to appoint a rendezvous speedily for the Army, and also to use your utmost endeavour it be not disbanded before our sad and pressing grievances be heard and fully redressed” (Book of Army Declarations, p. 16). By 84 votes to 7, the Council resolved that a general rendezvous should take place, and by 82 to 4 passed the remonstrance against disbanding which a small committee had drawn up (pp. 108-111). See The Opinion and Humble Advise of the Councell of Warre convened at Bury St. Edmunds, 29 May, 1647. In relation to the Votes of Parliament communicated to us by your Excellency, and the desires of our advice thereon. (Book of Army Declarations, p. 12.)
“The officers,” writes an observer, “now owne the Souldiers and all that’s done, and doe beginne to bestirre themselves. . . . Itt is incredible the Unitie of Officers and Souldiers” (p. 113).
The friends of Sir Thomas Fairfax urged him to leave the Army in case it decided to oppose the Parliament’s commands (pp. 104, 122). He chose to adhere to the votes of the Council of War, and wrote to the Committee at Derby House to announce that he could not undertake to draw out the regiments under his command to be disbanded at the time appointed (p. 116). At the same time he sent the Parliament the resolutions of the Council of War, and entreated them that there might be “ways of love and composure thought upon.” “I shall do my endeavours,” he added, “though I am forced to yield something out of order, to keep the Army from disorder or worse inconveniences” (May 30; Book of Army Declarations, p. 12; Rushworth, vi. 497-499).
Whatever Fairfax might desire, the Army was fast passing beyond control. His own regiment of foot, which was to have been disbanded on June 1, was, as the Agitators had designed, the first to break out into open revolt (pp. 100, 106, 113).
The commissioners came to Chelmsford on the evening of Monday, May 31, escorted by three troops of horse to guard the money. When they arrived they found that about two hours before they came the regiment had marched away towards Raine, on the way to the general rendezvous at Newmarket. Major Gooday, one of those officers of the regiment who remained faithful to the Parliament, had met his company on the march, and “demanding of them by what order they removed their quarters, they answered the horse caused them to remove; further expressing that they received orders from the Agitators” (Cary, Memorials of the Civil War, i. 220). Lieutenant-Colonel Jackson and Major Gooday reported that they had used their utmost endeavours to dispose the soldiers for the service of Ireland, and complained that some of their officers had refused to read the votes and declarations of Parliament to their companies (Tanner MSS., lviii. p. 127). Next day Jackson and Gooday were sent after their men to endeavour to induce them to return.
The commissioners give the following account of the result:
“This day we sent Lievtenant-Colonel Jackson, Major Goodday, and Captain Heifeild to Raine, where we were informed that the souldiers of the Generall’s foote Regiment had appointed a Rendezvous. There mett about a thousand. At the approach of the officers we sent thither, the souldyers cryed out, There comes our Enimies. When they were acquainted with the votes, declaracions, and ordiuances of Parlement, they asked the officers, what doe you bringing your two-penny pamphletts to us? And afterwards they seized upon the wagons with what ammunicion was in them and the chirurgeons chests, and have carryed them away towards Halstead and Heueningham, where they quarter this night. To morrow they are to be at Sudberry and Lavenham; which is the quarter that is appointed them, by Gravenor, the quarter master Generall. By the way some of the souldiers have comitted very great outrages. At Braintry they broke open a man’s house, and tooke away fiftie pounds. Upon complaint to the Lievtenant, they were apprehended, but those into whose custodie they were put gave them their libertie againe. Some part of the money was restored, but they conveyd away at least foure and twentie pounds. There is one Captain White who is the most active man in this buisines, and issues out orders as if he were the Lievtenant Colonel. There went away with this Pegiment, as we are enformed, two Captains, and a Captain Lievtenant. Many of the souldyers haveing beene dealt withall, profess that money is the onely thing that they insist upon. And that 4 moneths pay would have given satisfaccion; but for the present, are carryed away togeather, as in a torrent. Some officers of thes Regiments, as we feare, have fully recruited their companyes, under pretence, for the service of Ireland, but being listed, doe indispose them all they can as by experience is evident. We now conceive our being here is altogeather unprofitable in order to the service we are comaunded downe upon. And therefore offer it to your Lordships, &c. consideracion, whether it may not be convenient to require our returns.a
Of the objects of the Agitators three had now been gained. Fairfax and the officers had cast in their lot with the soldiers, a general rendezvous of the Army had been ordered to take place on June 5, and the disbanding of Fairfax’s regiment had been prevented. It remained to secure the artillery train which had been left at Oxford on the surrender of that place in 1646. On May 31 the Derby House Committee had ordered the removal of the train and the magazine from Oxford to London (pp. 114, 117). Oxford was garrisoned by Colonel Richard Ingoldsby’s regiment, which, though not represented amongst the Agitators who had signed the petition of May 29, was politically one of the most radical in the Army. The regiment was to have been disbanded at Woodstock on June 14, and money was sent down to pay them off. When too late the money was ordered back, but the soldiers mutinied and stopped the wagons which carried it. They were encouraged by the near neighbourhood of Colonel Rainborow’s regiment, which, though ordered into Hampshire, and designed for the reduction of Jersey, had left its quarters, expelled its officers, and turned back to assist in the seizure of the magazine. Rainborow found his regiment on May 30 quartered about Abingdon, having thrown off any semblance of obedience.
“When I came,” he writes, “I found most of my officers come up to the general quarters of the regiment, who all the time till then had not dared so much as to appear amongst them; but they had not been long in their quarters, ere the Majorserjeant was almost killed by his own soldiers; and his ensign, if he had not exceedingly well defended himself against another company, he had been cut all to pieces; but in defending himself he hath wounded divers of them, two whereof, I am confident, cannot possibly scape with life.”
(Cary, Memorials of the Civil War, i. 221.)
To assist in the seizure of the magazine a body of 500 or possibly 1,000 troopers from different cavalry regiments, under the command of Cornet Joyce of Fairfax’s regiment of horse, had been collected by the Agitators and despatched to Oxford (p. 106). After making all safe at Oxford, Joyce with some 500 men started north to Holdenby, in Northamptonshire, where the King was in keeping. The King’s guards consisted of portions of the regiments of Colonel Graves and Sir Robert Pye, and a few dragoons, all under the command of Colonel Graves. Whilst their commanders supported the Parliament, the soldiers themselves were completely in sympathy with the rest of the Army (pp. 44, 59-62, 113). The Parliamentary leaders were well aware of the disaffection of the King’s guard, and there had been rumours a month earlier that some of the foot regiments would “go for Holdenby” and fetch the King. Of the importance of retaining the custody of the King Holles and his friends were well aware, but they seem to have been anxious to come to an agreement with Charles first, and whilst they deliberated and negotiated the soldiers acted. They were discussing the removal of the King, and negotiating for the ard of a Scotch army, when the news came that Joyce, on the morning of June 3, had seized Holdenby and secured the King.
A despatch from Bellièvre to Mazarin, June, 1647, gives the following account of the situation:
“Suyvant l’ancien usage d’Angleterie depuis dix jouis nous deliberons sans rien conclure, cherchans les moyens d’empescher que le Roy de la Grande Bretagne tombe entre les mains de l’armée, puisqu’il n’a point d’asseurance qu’ elle veuille faire aucune chose à son advantage. D’une douzaine de propositions dont la moins bonne eust mieux valu que de ne rien faire il n’a pas esté possible de obliger ceux du Parlement qui estoient dans ce dessein à en executer aucune, et cependant nous apprenons par un homme qui vient d’arriver de la part des Commissionaires qui sont a Humby, à la verité sans avoir de leurs lettres, que la maison est investie par un party destaché de l’armée qui demande le dit Roy, et quoyque celui qui le garde tesmoigne ne le vouloir pas remettre entre leurs mains, sans en avoir l’ordre du Parlement, il est à croire qu’il l’aura rendu, s’il est vrai qu’il soit pressé, n’estant pas en estat de resister aux forces qui environnent cette maison qui n’a pas ny fossez ny murailles qui la ferment.”
On the plans of the Presbyterian leaders, Dr. Denton, a London physician, often very well informed on political movements, writes thus to Sir Ralph Verney, June 14, 1647:
“I have gathered many scraps and looked as far into the clouds as I can, and the result I make to myself is this (but I have only several collections for my grounds and those not very authentic) that the Scots and a Presbyterian party there of some members, not without the counsel of the Queen or some French party, had a design of carrying the King into Scotland, and to set him in the head of an army there, and to bring him up to London, and so to quell the Independent party; but, if I rightly guess, a false Presbyterian father betrayed them to his Independent son; and so the army to prevent them seized the King. Dunfermline is gone into France, sent it is thought to get the Prince into Scotland, and so to play the game the better by that means.”a
In the fourth article of the charge of the Army against the Eleven Members it was asserted that Holles and others had invited the Scots to march into England, and had sent to the Queen in France, “advising her speedily to send the Prince into Scotland to march into this kingdom at the head of an Army.”
The knowledge of these designs, and the desire to prevent their execution, decided Cromwell to cast in his lot with the Army. The possibility of the introduction of a foreign force to maintain the Presbyterian leaders in power, and restore the King to his throne without adequate security for religious or political liberties, demanded immediate action. Abandoning his vain attempt at mediation, he joined Fairfax and the Army in their opposition to the Parliament.
A letter written by a soldier in London, June 1, says:
“The greatest and newest newes is, our general hath declared his resolution to owne the Armie in this their just action, and hath sent for Lieut.-Gen. Cromwell downe to him. I heare he is going out of towne this day. The certainty of this I cannot averre but ’tis not very unlikely. I think before I can take another opportunity I shall have matter of great moment to write to you. The Lord smile upon the Saints, and that will prove sufficient to astonish their enemies. The King’s person is secured by or armie or by some for it; this is not altogether unprobable tho’ I doe a little question whether it be yet done. Very great are the expectations of this daye’s business.”a
Cromwell seems to have left London on June 3, and to have joined Fairfax at Kenford, near Bury, on Friday, June 4, or more probably, on Saturday, June 5. On the 4th, Fairfax had received news of the seizure of the King by Joyce, and on Saturday morning he was informed that the King had been carried from Holdenby and was on his way to Newmarket.
The question to what extent Cromwell was responsible for the seizure of the King has been often discussed. John Harris, in a tract published in December, 1647, entitled The Grand Designe, definitely asserts that he was directly responsible:
“It was by some persons at L.-Gen. Crumwel’s, he himself being present, upon Monday at night before Whitsunday 1647 [May 31] resolved, that for as much as it was probable that the said Hollis and his party had a determination privately to remove the King to some place of strength or else to set him in the head of another army; that therefore Cornet George Joyce should with as much speed and secrecy as might be repair to Oxford, to give instructions for the securing the garrison, magazine and trains therein, from the said party then endeavouring to get the same, and then forthwith to gather such a party of Horse as he could conveniently get to his assistance, and either secure the person of the King from being removed by any other, or, if occasion were, to remove him to some place of better security, for the prevention of the designe of the aforesaid pretended traiterous party: which was accordingly done, both with the knowledge and approbation of L.-G. Crumwell, although he afterward (like a subtle Fox) would not be pleased to take notice of it.”
Lilburn, in his Impeachment of High Treason against Cromwell and Ireton, 1649, adds these additional details, that the order was delivered to Joyce “in Cromwell’s own garden in Drury Lane, Col. Charles Fleetwood being by.” This he practically asserts on the authority of Joyce himself.
Major Huntington, in his Reasons for laying down his commission, says:
“Advice was given by Lieut.-Gen. Cromwell and Commissary General Ireton to remove the King’s person from Holdenby, or to secure him there by other guards than those appointed by the Commissioners of Parliament: which design was thought most fit to be carried on by the private soldiery of the Army, and promoted by the agitators of each regiment; whose first business was to secure the garrison at Oxford, with the guns and ammunition there; and from thence to march to Holdenby in prosecution of the former advice; which was accordingly acted by Cornet Joyce.”
Huntington also says that Joyce, “being told that the General was displeased with him for bringing the King from Holdenby, answered, that Lieutenant-General Cromwell had given him orders at London, to do what he had done, both there and at Oxford.”
In a tract written in 1659, Joyce describes a quarrel between himself and Cromwell in 1648, in the course of which Cromwell
“called him a rascal many times, and with great threats said that he would make him write a vindication of him against a book entitled, The Grand Design Discovered. Wherein were many things declared concerning Cromwell’s carriage towards Joyce, before he went to Holmby for the King; which afterwards he called God to witness he knew nothing of.” (A Narrative of the Causes of the late Lord General Cromwell’s Anger against Lieut-Col. George Joyce.)
Joyce’s narrative is full of wild inaccuracies, but it is evident that Cromwell did not admit the truth of the definite statement published by Harris. How much did he admit? On this point Huntington’s statement is definite and probably correct. He states that when Fairfax demanded who gave orders for the removal of the King, Ireton replied
“that he gave orders only for securing the King there, and not for taking him away from thence. Lieutenant-General Cromwell, coming then from London, said, That if this had not been done, the King would have been fetched away by order of Parliament; or else Colonel Graves, by the advice of the Commissioners, would have carried him to London, throwing themselves upon the favour of the Parliament for that service.”
Since Cromwell approved Joyce’s preventing the removal of the King from Holdenby, his objection must have been to the second part of the story published by Harris.
Harris asserted that Cromwell gave orders not merely “to secure the person of the King there from being removed by any other,” but also, “if occasion were, to remove him to some place of better security.”
Cromwell constantly denied that he had sanctioned the removal of the King from Holdenby.
The account of the interview of the officers with the King on June 7 (p. 125) states plainly that all the officers, amongst whom were Cromwell and Ireton, told the King that he had been removed from Holdenby “without their privity, knowledge, or consent” (cf. Memoirs of Sir P. Warwick, p. 299).
Fairfax writes in the same strain to Lenthall on June 7: “I can clearly profess (as in the presence of God) for myself, and dare be confident of the same for all the officers about me, and the body of the Army, that the remove of his Majesty from Holdenby was without any design, knowledge, or privity thereof on our part” (Old Parliamentary History, xv. 410). As Fairfax had two days before heard the statements of Cromwell and Ireton which Huntington reports, it is clear that he drew a sharp distinction between the King’s removal from Holdenby and what the commissioners term “the changing of the King’s guards.” Ireton’s answer defines Cromwell’s position. Cromwell, like Ireton, had authorised “securing the King there, not taking him thence.” If that be so, Joyce was not telling the truth when he said that Cromwell authorised both the seizure and the removal of the King, and Harris was misinformed when he repeated Joyce’s statement. The earlier statements of Joyce are of considerable importance. The narrative printed by Rushworth, and attributed by Masson on good internal evidence to Joyce himself, affords conclusive proof that the removal of the King from Holdenby was an afterthought, and not part of Joyce’s original plan. Joyce states that he seized Holdenby early on the morning of Thursday, June 3, occupied the house, set his guards, and dismissed the troopers to their quarters.
“All this being done it grew towards noon . . . . All was quiet in the said present security of his Majesty till tidings came that Graves was gone quite away . . . . None could tell what was become of him, and some of his damning blades did say and swear they would fetch a party, which party could not be from the Army, but must be from some other place. And therefore to prevent disturbance and blood and for the peace sake of the Kingdom, all declared unanimously, that they thought it most convenient to secure the King in another place from such persons as could cunningly or desperately take him away contrary to order.”
(Rushworth, vi. 514.)
About ten o’clock the same night the soldiers sent Cornet Joyce to the King, and Joyce saw the King in bed and announced his intended removal to him. Early next morning, Friday the fourth of June, they set out for Newmarket.a
Two other pieces of evidence confirm the view that the removal of the King was not at first intended. The Declaration delivered by Joyce to the commissioners in charge of the King speaks only of preventing a design to take away the King. Moreover Joyce was uncertain whither to take the King, and suggested first Oxford, then Cambridge. Newmarket was proposed by the King himself. If the removal of the King had been pre-determined his destination would also have been pre-arranged (Old Parliamentary History, xv. 394; Rushworth, vi. 516). So the story originally told by Joyce is both consistent and probable. If it be true that the removal of the King was not part of Joyce’s original design, is it probable that it was part of his original instructions? Joyce’s later statement that he removed the King from Holdenby in pursuance of instructions received from Cromwell is inconsistent with his earlier statement that the removal was forced upon him by the demands of his soldiers.
As soon as Joyce had seized Holdenby and secured the King he wrote a letter announcing his success. Holles gives the following account of it in his Memoirs:
“Joyce, after seizing and carrying away the King, immediately sends up a letter to certify what he had done, with directions that it should be delivered to Cromwell, and, if he is absent, to Sir Arthur Haslerig or to Colonel Fleetwood; which letter was given to Colonel Fleetwood, as one Lieutenant Markham informed the House, saying that the messenger that brought it told him so; nor did Sir Arthur Haslerig make a clear answer, when he was asked concerning it in the House: Colonel Fleetwood being at that time gone to the Army so that he could not be examined.”
(Memoirs, § 96.)
The story as told by Holles was written several months later, and the note entered by Lawrence Whitacre in his diary on June 8 is probably more accurate.
“The House was informed by Mr. Holles of a letter was come to his hands written from Holmby by Cornet Joyce with directions that it should be delivered to Lieut.-Gen. Cromwell, or in his absence to Sir Arthur Haslerig or Col. Fleetwood; whereby Mr. Holles would have inferred that those three gentlemen held correspondence with that Cornet, and so had intelligence of that party’s carrying away the King and the Commissioners from Holmby; but Sir Arthur Haslerig denied any knowledge he had thereof, and the names of none of those gentlemen did appear upon the superscription of that letter, so that there was no further proceeding upon it at that time.”
The letter printed on p. 118 is probably the letter thus referred to by Holles and Whitacre. There is no superscription, but it was evidently written to some superior officer who was largely responsible for what Joyce had done. He practically says, ‘I have carried out your instructions, send me fresh instructions at once.’ Its contents substantially correspond to the orders which may be supposed to have been given by Cromwell to Joyce. ‘I have secured the King. I have not arrested Colonel Graves because he has escaped. I shall attend to the directions of the parliamentary commissioners within certain limits, but on other points obey no orders but those of the General.’ Nothing is said of the removal of the King from Holdenby to Newmarket, or to any other place. If the conclusion that the letter was addressed to Cromwell be accepted, it confirms the view of his relations to Joyce which has been stated in the last few pages.
Fairfax, in his Short Memorials, states that he “called for a Council of War to proceed against Joyce, but the officers, whether for fear of the distempered soldiers, or rather (as I suspected) a secret allowance of what was done, made all my endeavours in this ineffectual” (Maseres, Select Tracts, i. 448). Some inquiry there probably was into the conduct of Joyce, and it is probable that it was in connection with that inquiry that Clarke obtained copies of the two letters from Joyce here printed (pp. 118-120). The officers in general certainly held that Joyce had done good service to the Army, and he was not only pardoned but promised promotion.
On September 4, 1647, the “Committee of General Officers” passed a resolution “that Commissary-Generall Ireton and Colonel Rainborow bee desired to move the Generall that Cornett Joyce may have the troope of Captain Layton, latelie deceased, in Colonel Fleetwood’s regiment, the Generall having engaged to give him the first that falls.” (Clarke MSS., vol. lxvi.)
On the treatment of the King whilst he was in the custody of the Army there are several papers in this volume. After Whalley had delivered him from the hands of Joyce he refused to go back to Holdenby, and insisted on continuing his journey to Newmarket (pp. 122, 123). A news letter from the latter place describes his first interview with Fairfax and the officers (p. 124). Fairfax ordered special precautions to be taken by Whalley for the security of the King’s person, fearing a rising in Norfolk (p. 130). The King requested Fairfax to allow the Duke of Richmond and two favourite chaplains to attend him; but Fairfax was unwilling directly to sanction their admission, as it was contrary to the orders of Parliament (p. 137). He was also afraid of some “intention to surprise the King to London,” and warned Whalley to be on his guard against it (p. 139). “Be careful of the King’s secureing,” wrote Cromwell and Hewson to Colonel Whalley; but at the same time they urged him to be “exact only in faithfulness to his trust,” and in other things to consult the King’s wishes as far as possible (p. 140). Hoping for a speedy accommodation with the Royalist party, they freely allowed the Royalists to come to see the King. “When the Army was in their greatest glory, and the enemy under their foot, yet we were ever humane and Christian to them, and now, being so near a reconciliation, we should not shew any aversion or indisposition” (p. 216).
The mutiny in the New Model, crowned by Joyce’s seizure of the King, was followed by similar acts of insubordination amongst the military forces in the rest of the kingdom.
Skippon’s regiment at Newcastle sympathised with the regiments stationed in the south (p. 125). The Army of the Northern Association, a separate organisation under the command of General Poyntz, resolved, in spite of the efforts of its commander, to associate itself with the demands of Fairfax’s forces. In May the Agitators of the eight regiments of horse had sent a declaration to the Northern Army, explaining the cause of their proceedings, and had also despatched three of their number to arrange joint action (pp. 90, 92, 121).a Vainly Poyntz issued orders prohibiting meetings amongst the soldiers, and requiring the arrest of these incendiaries (p. 142). On July 8 he was arrested in his own quarters, and carried prisoner to Pontefract (p. 163). The three Agitators wrote to Fairfax giving an account of what they had done, and forwarding a series of charges against Poyntz, signed by representatives of every regiment in the Northern Army (pp. 163-170).
One result of the division in the Army was naturally a change in the officers of many regiments. Fairfax was on July 19 appointed commander-in-chief of all the land forces in the pay of the Parliament (Lords’ Journals, vii. 339); but even before that date he had commenced appointing new officers in the regiments immediately under his control to take the place of those who had seceded. Barkstead became colonel of Fortescue’s regiment, Pride of Harley’s, Overton of Herbert’s, Harrison of Sheffield’s, Horton of Butler’s, Thomlinson of Pye’s; Scroope succeeded Greaves, and Twisleton, Rossiter. Many officers of lower rank either left the Army, or were even in some cases expelled by their soldiers (see pp. 139, 428).a
To restore or to maintain any semblance of order amongst soldiers who had thus shaken off the bonds of discipline was a task of very great difficulty. Equally difficult was the task of uniting these armed politicians for common political action. In the rendezvous at Newmarket on June 4 and 5, a common statement of the grievances of the Army was agreed to and subscribed by the officers and soldiers. On the second of these dates “a Solemn Engagement of the Army” was read, assented to, and subscribed, which forms a sort of military version of the “Solemn League and Covenant.” It began by a recital of the causes which led them first to elect Agitators to represent their grievances, and now to refuse to disband. It concluded by an assertion of their willingness to disband when their just demands were satisfied; and a refusal to disband, divide, or suffer themselves to be disbanded or divided, until their demands were satisfied and security given against future wrongs. What satisfaction and security should be regarded as sufficient was to be decided by a council,
“to consist of those general officers of the Army (who have concurred with the Army in the premises) with two commission officers, and two souldiers to be chosen for each Regiment, who have concurred and shall concur with us in the premises, and in this agreement; and by the major part of such of them, who shall meet in Council for that purpose, when they shall be thereunto called by the General.a”
(Rushworth, vi. 505-512.)
The idea of reinforcing the slackened bond of discipline by this Act of Association for common political ends may have occurred to many: its actual form was pretty certainly due to Ireton. To Ireton also was due the Declaration of the Army of June 14, in which they went beyond the statement of their grievances as soldiers, and proceeded to propound their desires “for the settling and securing of our own and the kingdom’s common Right, Freedom, Peace, and Safety.” (Rushworth, vi. 564-570.)
That Declaration contains in it the demands afterwards embodied in the “Heads of the Proposals of the Army,” which are developed in the latter into a number of definite articles offered for the consideration of Parliament and people.
Here, as in the letter of the officers from Royston, the soldiers demand a voice in the settlement of the kingdom on the ground
“that we are not a meer mercenary Army hired to serve any Arbitrary power of a State, but called forth and conjured by the severall Declarations of Parliament to the defence of our owne and the people’s just Rights and Liberties; and so we took up Armes in judgement and conscience to those ends, and have so continued in them, and are resolved according to your first just desires in your Declarations, and such principles as we have received from your frequent informations, and our own common sense concerning those our fundamental rights and liberties, to assert and vindicate the just power and rights of this Kingdome in Parliament for those common ends premised against all arbitrary power, violence, and oppression, and against all particular parties or interests whatsoever.”
It contains also a memorable vindication of the right of the Army to resist the authority of Parliament in defence of their just rights and liberties, which is frequently appealed to in the debates of the following October (pp. 260, 268).
Ireton bases the right of resistance on the “Law of Nature and of Nations,” citing the example of the Scots, the Dutch, and the Portuguese.
“Such also,” he continues, “were the proceedings of our ancestors of famous memory to the purchasing of such Rights and Liberties, as they have enjoyed through the price of their bloud, and we (both by that and the later bloud of our deare friends and fellow soldiers) with the hazard of our own, do now lay claim unto.”
Whilst thus asserting the theoretical right of the Army to resist under certain conditions the authority of Parliament, Ireton is careful at the same time to fix a limit to the practical exercise of this right.
The first aim of the Army is declared to be to have Parliaments “rightly constituted, that is, freely, equally, and successively chosen.” Parliament is to be purged of delinquents, corruptions, and members unduly elected. The duration of this and of future Parliaments is to be legally fixed; new Parliaments are to be summoned at definite intervals, and to continue sitting for a definite time. When these reforms are effected, the Army will willingly submit to the authority of Parliament.
“Thus a firm foundation being laid in the authority and constitution of Parliaments for the hopes, at least, of common and equall right and freedom to ourselves and to all the freeborn people of this land; we shall for our parts freely and cheerfully commit our stock or share of interest in this kingdome into this common bottome of Parliaments, and though it may (for our particulars) go ill with us in one Voyage, yet we shall thus hope (if right be with us) to fare better in another.”a
Just as the Army promises to submit to the authority of Parliament, provided certain reforms in its constitution are granted, so it also professes that it seeks neither “to overthrow Presbytery or hinder the settlement thereof,” provided that some toleration for “tender consciences” be guaranteed. They demand
“that such who, upon conscientious grounds, may differ from the established formes may not for that be debarred from the common Rights, Liberties, or Benefits belonging equally to all as men and members of the Commonwealth, while they live soberly, honestly, and inoffensively towards others, and peacefully and truthfully towards the State.”
This promise to accept the establishment of Presbyterianism, if freedom of conscience were provided for, is more than once repeated. It is stated with equal clearness in the letter of Fairfax and his officers to the City of London (June 10), which Carlyle on good grounds supposes to have been written by Cromwell.
Again on September 9, in a discussion in the Council of War at Putney, Cromwell
“expressed himself to this effect. That whereas it hath been suggested to this Kingdom that hee hath a desire to cast down the Foundation of Presbytery, and to advance and set up Independency, hee declares, that hee desires nothing more then to see this poore tottered nation established in Truth and Peace, and this languishing Commonwealth restored to their just rights and liberties”
(Two Declarations from his Excellency Sir Thomas Fairfax, etc., 1647.)
There was, however, one point in which the Army would be satisfied with nothing short of complete surrender. They demanded that “those persons who in the late unjust and high proceedings against the Army appeared to have the will, the confidence, credit and power, to abuse the Parliament and Army and endanger the Kingdome,” should “not continue in the same power,” but “be made incapable thereof for the future.” This was emphasised by the impeachment of Holles and ten other Presbyterian leaders. Permanent exclusion from political power was a thing to which Holles and his friends would not submit without a struggle. They would have appealed to arms as soon as the news came that the Army had refused to disband, if only the City had been ready to back them (p. 117). A news letter amongst Clarendon’s papers, says:
“on the 3rd [of June] the Mayor of London called a Common Council to consider of the present affaires of the Citty, wherein it was resolved by one unanimous consent that they would have noe more war. Concerning how the Parliament took this I have noe more, but that at the first there were some that were pleased to show their mettle in very high expressions, but at last without taking any resolution they rose in very great distraction, being now informed of the resolution of the City whereon they built their chiefest hope.”
(Clarendon MS., 2527.)
Incitements to the citizens to fight were not wanting, but produced no effect.
Another news letter, of June 7, adds: “Yesterday Col. Massey as he passed through the streets in his coach, exhorting the cittizens to defend themselves against the madd men in the Army, who if they should prevaile would demand the heads of the best citizens, and of the chief men of the Parliament as well as his head” (ibid. 2528).
On the news that the Army was marching on London, and was come as far as St. Albans, a more warlike spirit prevailed, and the trained bands were called out (June 11-12); but the next day a conciliatory answer was sent to the letter of the officers of the Army, and the idea of resistance abandoned (pp. 132-135). More than once there were riots caused by the disbanded soldiers and officers of the old armies of Essex and Waller, who clamoured for their pay at the doors of the House of Commons, and threatened the lives of unpopular members (pp. 136, 141). The Presbyterian clergy openly denounced Fairfax and his soldiers in their sermons (p. 150). Whilst the commissioners of the Army and the commissioners of the Parliament were negotiating, news that soldiers were being enlisted in London reached head-quarters (p. 152).
In May, 1647, an ordinance appointing a new committee for the control of the London militia had been passed, by which a number of aldermen and officers belonging to the Independent party, who had done good service during the war, were put out of the committee and their places filled up by Presbyterians (Rushworth, vi. 472, 478). The Presbyterian commissioners now proceeded to purge the London trained bands by expelling officers who were accused of being Independents or suspected of supporting the Army, and the officers thus expelled applied to the Army for redress (pp. 152-156).
On July 16 the Agitators laid before the General Council of the Army (or “the General Council of War” as it is here termed) a paper in which they demanded an immediate march on London, in order to obtain the restoration of the militia to the hands of the old commissioners, the release of all prisoners illegally committed, a declaration against the entrance of any foreign forces into England, and the placing of all military forces in the country under the command of Fairfax (pp. 170-175). A great debate took place in the Council of the Army on the question of marching up to London. Over 100 officers and Agitators were present, and the discussion lasted till twelve at night (p. 214). Cromwell and Ireton vehemently opposed a march on London, and succeeded in persuading the Council to be content to send a summary of their demands to Parliament, and require an answer within four days. Cromwell was especially anxious to arrive at a settlement of the differences between the Army and Parliament by means of the treaty which was still being negotiated.
“It will be for our honour and honesty to do what we can to accomplish this work by way of a treaty. . . . . Whatsoever we get by a treaty will be firm and durable, it will be conveyed over to posterity. We shall avoid the great objection that lies against us that we have got things of the Parliament by force, and we know what it is to have that stain lie upon us”
At the same time he held that certain preliminary demands necessary for the present security of the Army during the treaty, and certain grievances whose redress admitted of no delay, might be properly obtained by an ultimatum requiring an answer within a certain specified time (p. 191). Force was not to be used except in the last resort, “except we cannot get what is for the good of the kingdom without force” (p. 202). At the same time he urged that the friends of the Army in the House of Commons were steadily gaining ground; that any appeal to force would alienate the middle party in the House who were neither Presbyterian nor Independent, and stop the mouths of their friends; he reminded his hearers of their old hopes of obtaining their ends through Parliament, and begged them not to abandon those hopes.
“It hath been in most of our thoughts that this Parliament might be a reformed and purged Parliament, that we might see there men looking at public and common interests only. . . . . . This is the principle we did march upon when we were at Uxbridge and when we were at St. Alban’s, and surely the thing was wise and honourable and just. . . . . . If we wish to see a purged Parliament let me persuade every man that he would be a little apt to hope the best”
Ireton opposed the march on London for reasons very similar to those put forward by Cromwell. He expected less from the treaty, deemed the question of the London militia of less importance, and urged that there was no sufficient ground for the proposed movement (pp. 194-199). Above all, however, he was anxious that before any new quarrel with the Parliament took place the Army should vindicate the integrity of its intentions by declaring publicly to the kingdom what its political objects were, and how it meant to secure the liberties of the people (p. 179). He had been charged by the General and the rest of the commissioners of the Army appointed to treat with Parliament to draw up a series of proposals for the settlement of the kingdom. With a single assistant, apparently Lambert, he had sketched out the first draft of the document afterwards known as the “Heads of the Proposals of the Army.” In it he hoped “to set down something that may be a rule to lay a foundation for the common rights and liberties of the people and for an established peace in the nation” (cf. pp. 343-349).
The scheme thus drawn up was to be tendered to the parliamentary commissioners, and to be transmitted by them to Parliament as the basis of a settlement. It would serve also as a manifesto from the Army to the nation, and for that reason Ireton was eager to get it adopted and published before a new breach took place between the Parliament and the Army. On July 17, the day after the debate on the question of marching to London, the draft of the proposals was submitted to the Council. Unfortunately Clarke’s report of the discussion ends abruptly, but a few references to the debates are to be found in his reports of the October meetings of Council (pp. 181, 189, 197, 211). The result was that the draft propositions were referred to a committee of twelve officers and twelve Agitators (p. 216).
Parliament yielded to the peremptory demands of the Army, and passed an ordinance replacing the London militia in the hands of the old commissioners (Rushworth, vi. 626, 629, 632-5). At once counter-petitions were set on foot in the City; tumults began, and on July 26 the two Houses were forced by mob-violence to recall their votes. The riots of July 26, the flight of Lenthall to the Army, and the entry of the Army into London are the subject of letters printed on pp. 217-223. Before the Army entered London the “Propositions” had been finally revised, and they were published on August 2 with a declaration to the Parliament and the nation. In the fortnight which had elapsed since the draft was laid before the Council the propositions had undergone some modification in the hope that they would obtain the King’s concurrence. Sir John Berkeley describes Ireton as permitting him to examine the draft of the proposals and to make certain alterations in them. “He permitted me to alter two of the articles and that in most material points; and I would have done a third, which was the excluding seven persons from pardon and the not admitting of our party to sit in the next parliament” (Memoirs of Sir J. Berkeley, Maseres, p. 363).
When the proposals were privately submitted to the King he objected to the two points mentioned by Berkeley, and still more to the fact that though there was nothing against the Church government established, yet there was nothing done to assert it. The latter reason had great weight with the King in his final rejection of the Army terms (ibid., pp. 367, 368). Major Huntington confirms the account of the private submission of the “Proposals” to the King, which probably took place about July 21 (Reasons for laying down his Commission, Maseres, p. 401). He states that Ireton, Rainborow, Hammond, and Rich “attended the King at Woburn, for three hours together, debating the whole business with the King upon the Proposals; upon which debate many of the most material things which the King disliked were afterwards struck out, and many other things were much abated by promises.” The precise nature of these changes is thus stated by Wildman in his Putney Projects,” 1647, p. 14.
“When the Proposalls were first composed, there was a small restriction of the King’s negative voice: it was agreed to be proposed, that whatsoever bill should be propounded by two immediate succeeding Parliaments, should stand in full force and effect as any other law, though the King should refuse to consent. . . . . This was expunged.”
(2.) “In that rough draft it was proposed, that all who have been in hostility against the Parliament, be incapable of bearing office of power, or publique trust for ten years, without consent of Parliament. But in further favour of the King’s interest, these ten years of excluding delinquents from power or trust, were changed to five years.”
(3.) “It was further added, after this intercourse with the King, that the Councell of State should have power to admit such Delinquents to any office of power or trust before those five yeares were expired . . . .”
(4.) “In the composure of the proposalls it was desired that an Act for the extirpation of Bishops might be passed by the King. . . . . This Proposall was so moderated that the office and function of Bishops might be continued; and it is now only proposed that the coercive power and jurisdiction of Bishops extending to any Civill penalties upon any be abolished.”
(5.) “After this Treaty with the King, the proposall for passing an Act to confirm the sale of Bishops lands was wholly obliterated; and though the Army afterward desired the Parliament to proceed in the sale and alienation of those Lands, yet that was none of their proposalls in order to a peace with the King, but according to their proposalls for a setled peace, the King was first to be established in his throne with his usurped power of a negative voyce to all lawes or determinations of Parliament, and then they knew that the King might be at his choyce, whether he would permit an alienation of these lands.”
One of this committee of four who discussed the “Propositions” with the King, viz. Colonel Rainborow, gave John Lilburn “a full account of that business,” and of Ireton’s “base juggling and underhand dealings” (Lilburn’s Impeachment of High Treason against Oliver Cromwell and Henry Ireton, 1649, p. 55). It was doubtless Lilburn who supplied Wildman with the information he embodies in his tract.
A detailed criticism of these Heads of Proposals is given by Mr. Gardiner in the preface to his Constitutional Documents of the Puritan Revolution (pp. xlviii.-l.). “It contained,” he concludes, “too much that was new, too much in advance of the general intelligence of the times to obtain that popular support without which the best constitutions are but castles in the air; and even if this could have been got over, there was the fatal objection that it proceeded from an army.” Even after the occupation of London had taken place, Parliament, instead of taking up the Heads of the Proposals as the basis of a settlement of the kingdom, “sent to the King a revised edition of the propositions of Newcastle, differing mainly in this, that it proposed a limited toleration for dissentient Puritans, whilst forbidding all use of the book of Common Prayer.” In his reply to their propositions, the King, on September 14, expressed a preference for the Proposals of the Army, as more conducive “to the satisfaction of all interests and a fitter foundation for a lasting peace (Rushworth vii. 810). Major Huntington’s letter (p. 225) shows that the King expected the leaders of the Army to stand by him in procuring an offer of better terms from the parliament. The question of a new treaty was discussed in the House of Commons on September 22 and 23, 1647. Marten and his party were eager for the passing of a vote to make no further addresses to the King. Cromwell and Ireton on the other hand opposed Marten’s motion, and the House finally resolved on September 23 that they would once again make application to the King.
This decision led to much discontent amongst the Levelling party in the Army as also outside of it, and “the credit and reputation” of both Cromwell and Ireton was much blasted thereby (p. 228). They were accused of falsely representing it to be the desire and sense of the Army that this new application should be made to the King. The charge is thus stated by Wildman in his Putney Projects (p. 43):
“When the answer of the King’s was voted by the Parliament to be a denial of the Propositions, a question was stated whether any more addresses should be made to the King, and the determination was very dubious: but then a Cabinet Councell of the Grandees was called, Sir John Eveling, Mr. William Perpoint, and Mr. Fines, Sir Henry Vane, and Cromwell, and Ireton, own paucis aliis: and O how was the quintessence of their braines extracted, in plausible arguments for a new addresse to the King! how were the imaginary mischiefs, and dangerous consequences of a refusall presented in most lively emblems! and I conclude from the event, that in such a Cabinet Councell the question was first concluded in the affirmative, and then the debate of the question was managed in the House with much seeming solemnity; but when the potency of reason, and justice, against any further addresses, began to tryumph over their feminine reasons, a Member (no question one of the same confederacy) produced a reason like Goliah’s sword, with this inscription, there’s none like this, its (saith he) the sense of the Army that a further addresse be made to the King: this led every reason captive, and so the debate ended. . . . . . Com. Gen. Ireton without a proxie sometime averred as much in effect in the House, ‘You must (saith he) looke for opposition, whenever you shall cease your addresses to the King, and then your case would be sad, if you should have no strength adhere unto you, and if you now cease, I cannot promise you the Armies assistance.’ ”
When this charge was made against Cromwell by Sexby in the debate in the Council of the Army on October 28, he replied that what he had spoken in Parliament he had spoken as his own sense, and not in the name of the Army.a Ireton’s answer was, that he did believe it to be the sense of the Army that a second address should be made to the King (pp. 228-232).
Whilst the public utterances of Ireton and Cromwell were thus misinterpreted by the Levellers, their private conferences with the King and their apparent intimacy with his agents Berkeley and Ashburnham gave rise to still greater suspicions. After the King came to Hampton Court,
“Mr. Ashburnham had daily some message or another from the King, to Cromwell and Ireton, who had enough to do both in the Parliament and Council of the Army, the one abounding with Presbyterians, the other with Levellers, and both really jealous that Cromwell and Ireton had made a private compact and bargain with the King; Lilburn printing books weekly to that effect, and Sir Lewis Dives afterwards acknowledged to me, that being his fellow prisoner he had daily endeavoured to possess him with that opinion; of which, although he were not persuaded himself, yet he judged it for the King’s service to divide Cromwell and the Army. On the other hand the Presbyterians were no less confident of their surmises, and amongst them, Cromwell told me that my Lady Carlisle affirmed, that I had said to her Ladyship, that he was to be Earl of Essex and Captain of the King’s guards. . . . . . These and the like discourses made great impression on the Army; to which Mr. Ashburnham’s secret and long conferences contributed not a little; insomuch that the Adjutators, who were wont to complain that Cromwell went too slow towards the King, began now to suspect that he had gone too fast and left them behind him.”
(Memoirs of Sir John Berkeley, Maseres’ Select Tracts, i. 368-372).
A pamphlet complains that the officers make an “idoll of the King.”
“Why are they so familiar with Ashburnhame and others, his chief agents? Why permit they so many of his deceitful clergy to continue about him? Why doe themselves kneele, and kisse, and fawne upon him? Why have they received favours from him, and sent their wives or daughters to visit him, or to kiss his hand, or to be kissed of him? Oh shame of men! Oh sin against God! What, to doe thus to a man of blood, over head and eares in the blood of your dearest friends and fellow commoners?”
(A Call to all the Souldiers of the Army by the Free People of England, 1647, p. 5.)
Another charge was that the engagement of June 5, referring the political government of the Army to the elected General Council of the Army, had not been kept, and that its authority had been gradually superseded by the Council of War, and by other committees of officers.
Lilburn wrote to Cromwell on July 1:
“You have robbed, by your unjust subtlety and shifting tricks, the honest and gallant Agitators of all their power and authority, and solely placed it in a thing called a counsell of war, or rather a Cabinet junto of seven or eight proud self-ended fellows, that so you may without control make up your own ends.”
(Jonah’s Cry, p. 9).
Sir John Berkeley observes:
“Out of my discourses and inquiries, I collected these observations: First, that the Army was governed partly by a Council of War, and partly by a Council of the Army, or Agitators, wherein the General had but a single voice; that Fairfax, the General, had little power in either; that Cromwell, and his son Ireton, with their Friends and Partisans, governed the Council of War absolutely, but not that of the Army, which was the most powerful, though they had a strong party there also; but the major part of the Adjutators carried it. Amongst these Adjutators there were many ill-wishers of Cromwell, looking on him as one who would always make his advantages out of the Army.”
(Memoirs of Sir John Berkley, Maseres’ Tracts, i. 364.)
Later the complaint of the Levellers became:
“that the General Councils (which according to their engagements ought to have consisted only of two select commission officers, and two private souldiers, chosen by every regiment, with such generall officers as assented to the engagement, and no other) were nevertheless overgrown with Collonels, Lieut.-Collonels, Majors and others not chosen, and many of them dissenters from the said engagement.”
(England’s New Chains Discovered, pt. 2, p. 3, 1649. See also The Hunting of the Fexes from Newmarket and Triploe Heath to Whitehall, Somers’ Tracts, vi. 45.)
The blame of these concessions to the King and the burden of the other charges was laid upon Ireton and Cromwell both, but most on Ireton. Wildman appeals to “my once much honoured Cromwell,” as if hoping that his pen “could possibly awaken Cromwell’s conscience from the dead” (Putney Projects, p. 37). Sometimes it is suggested that Ireton was the tempter.
“Before it be too late deal plainly with Ireton, by whose cowardly or ambitious policy Cromwell is betrayed into these mischievous practices . . . . And if Cromwell instantly repent not, and alter his course, let him know also, that ye loved and honoured just, honest, sincere and valiant Cromwell, that loved his country, and the liberties of the people above his life, yea, and hated the King as a man of blood, but that Cromwell ceasing to be such, he ceaseth to be the object of your love.”
Sometimes it was suggested that they were accomplices, and that their occasional differences were but the clearer proof of their secret alliance.
“One of the surest tokens of confederates in evill, is not only when one of his fellowes is vehement, fiery or hot in any of their pursuits, to be patient, cold or moderate to pacify his partner, and like deceitfull Lawyers before their clients to quallify matters; but sometimes seeme to discord or fall out and quarrell in Councels, reasonings and debates; and yet nevertheless in the end to agree in evill; which they doe purposely, to hold upright men in a charitable (though doubtfull) opinion, that if such and such a man be not godly and upright they know not whom in the world to trust.”
(A Call to all the Souldiers of the Armie by the Free People of England, etc., 1647, pp. 4, 6.)
The dissatisfaction and suspicion roused by all these different causes found expression in renewed disturbance in the Army and amongst the Levelling party in general. Meetings took place amongst the soldiers, and several regiments elected new representatives under the pretext that the officers had broken their engagements (pp. 349, 367). A declaration published in November, 1647, by Colonel Whalley’s troop, attacks the Agitators elected in June, saying:
“That upon several informations that those formerly employed by us did more consult their own advancement than the public settlement, we were induced, about the 19th of October last, to make choice of two new Agitators for a regiment.”
The authority given these new Agitators
“was only to act according to our first engaged principles with the consent and advice of the General, the Council of War, and the Agitators first elected, to clear those things that seemed dubious to us, to prevent misinformations,” etc.
(Reprinted by Maseres, Select Tracts, i. lxv.)
These new representatives usually styled themselves “Agents,” but are often described as “Agitators,” both by themselves and others (pp. 259, 264, 279). It is convenient to use the term “Agents” in order to distinguish the new Agitators from the old. Five regiments of horse took the lead in this movement, those of Cromwell, Ireton, Fleetwood, Whalley, and Rich; and their representatives signed the “Case of the Army,” which is dated October 9, 1647. By the beginning of November four other regiments of horse and seven of foot had also elected Agents, and associated themselves with the demands of the original five (Rushworth, vii. 859).
A certain number of persons, claiming to represent the Levellers of London and other districts, made common cause with the protesting soldiers (pp. 235, 251; cf. Rushworth, vii. 876-8). The most prominent of these was John Wildman, a follower of Lilburn’s, who was adopted by the Agents as their mouthpiece, and was probably the author of the “Case of the Army,” and some other tracts published in their name (pp. 269, 352, 356).
The new Agents commenced operations by the presentation of a manifesto, entitled “The Case of the Army stated,” which was presented to the General on October 18. It is well summarised by Godwin, History of the Commonwealth, ii. 445; and was accompanied by a letter which is printed in extenso by Rushworth (vii. 485; see also these debates, pp. 227, 229, 241, 293, 304, 346, 354, 356, 360, 373). The General Council of the Army, at its meeting on October 22, appointed a committee to sit the next day for the consideration of the papers thus presented. On the 28th the Agents presented a further paper, clearing themselves from the charge of seeking to divide the Army. The summary of their political demands, entitled “The Agreement of the People,” though not published till a few days later, seems to have been presented at the same time (p. 236; Rushworth, vii. 849, 850, 859; Godwin, ii 449).
The debates to which the presentation of these papers gave rise extended from October 28 to November 11 (pp. 226-418). The reports now printed were probably taken down in shorthand by William Clarke himself.
At the General Council which met at Putney on October 28 the presenters of the “Case of the Army” were represented by two soldiers and two outsiders, and also by three of the original Agitators (p. 226). One of the latter, Sexby, opened the proceedings by a statement of the causes of the present discontents in the Army. Their leaders, he complained, had laboured too much to satisfy the King and to support the Parliament, instead of simply seeking to carry out the engagements of the Army and taking a direct course to settle the kingdom. He concluded by a personal attack upon Cromwell and Ireton for advocating a further application to the King in the parliamentary debates of September 22 and 23 (pp. 227-232).
The discussion then turned on the “Agreement of the People,” and Cromwell, after some remarks on the importance of the constitutional changes demanded in it, replied, “Before we take this paper into consideration, it is fit for us to consider how far we are obliged, and how far we are free.” The engagements of the Army as set forth in their public declarations must first be considered. When that was done they would know how far they were free to adopt the proposals of the Agents (pp. 236-240).
Ireton took the same line, whilst Wildman and Colonel Rainborow argued that the consideration of the justice of the demands now put forward should precede the consideration of earlier engagements (240-247). Cromwell proposed the appointment of a committee to consider the engagements in question, and Colonel Goffe suggested a prayer meeting (pp. 250-255). Both these propositions were finally accepted, but not till a long and excited discussion had taken place between Ireton and Wildman on the nature of obligations in general, and the question when they were binding and when they might be broken (pp. 257-279).
On the morning of October 29 the prayer meeting took place at the Quartermaster-General’s quarters at Mr. Chamberlain’s house (pp. 257, 259, 280-285). It was followed by a fresh discussion in the Council on the question of the engagements of the Army, in the course of which both Cromwell and Ireton emphatically disavowed any private and personal engagements whatever (pp. 293, 294). In an eloquent speech the latter declared that he desired the consideration of engagements not so much for the sake of the engagements themselves as for the sake of the reputation and good name of the Army.
“I would not have this Army . . . . to incur the scandal of neglecting engagements, and laying aside all consideration of engagements, and juggling, and deceiving, and deluding the world, making them believe things in times of extremity which they never meant”
The “Agreement of the People” was next read, and a general debate took place over the first article, which claimed manhood suffrage (p. 299). On this point the discussion was long and passionate (pp. 299-345). Ireton, while professing his willingness to support a reasonable extension of the franchise, opposed manhood suffrage as dangerous in itself, and still more dangerous from the principles upon which it was claimed (pp. 322, 333, 340). Cromwell and Colonel Rich supported Ireton (pp. 309, 315, 332). The former again proposed the appointment of a committee to agree upon a reasonable compromise (p. 328). The proposal was backed by Lieutenant Chillenden, Captain Rolfe, and others, and was finally accepted (pp. 337, 338). A fresh debate then arose on the question of the statements made in the “Case of the Army,” and Ireton passionately vindicated the officers from the charge of dividing the Army, and retorted the charge on the new Agents (pp. 346-348). He went on to compare the “Heads of the Proposals of the Army” with the “Agreement,” in order to show that the main demands of the latter were substantially contained in the “Proposals” (p. 349). Wildman in answer criticised the “Proposals” in detail, in order to show that by the authority they reserved to the King and the House of Lords “the foundation of slavery was rivetted more strongly than before” (p. 353). Ireton defended the proposals, and charged Wildman with being the author of the “Case of the Army” (pp. 356-361).
On October 30 the Committee of Officers and Agitators appointed to prepare “somewhat to be insisted upon and adhered unto for settling the kingdom,” held a meeting, and agreed to a number of articles relative to the constitution of future Parliaments (pp. 363-367). With the exception of the article on the suffrage, these propositions were substantially the same as those contained in the “Heads of the Proposals.”
The result of the deliberations of the Committee was a clause desiring the extension of the franchise “to all freeborn Englishmen or persons made free denizens of England, who have served the Parliament in the late war for the liberties of the kingdom . . . . or voluntarily assisted the Parliament in the said war with money, arms, etc.” (p. 367). Though this guaranteed the rights of the soldiers, it did not go as far as the Agitators desired, and they seem finally to have obtained a vote in favour of manhood suffrage of the General Council.
In a letter from the Agents to the regiments which they represented, dated November 11, they say that the first article of the agreement having been long debated “it was concluded by vote in the Affirmative; viz. that all souldiers and others, if they be not servants or beggars, ought to have voices in electing those that shall represent them in Parliament, although they have not fortie shillings a year by freehold land. And there were but three voyces against this your native freedome.” Cromwell and Ireton continued to oppose this further extension, the former saying that it “did tend very much to anarchy” (p. 411; cf. p. 309).
In the later constitutions and the suggested constitutions of the period the question of the suffrage was variously treated. The “Agreement of the People,” presented to Parliament January 15, 1649, embodies the view finally adopted by the governing party in the Army. It proposed:
“That the electors in every division shall be natives or denizens of England, not persons receiving alms, but such as are assessed ordinarily towards the relief of the poor: not servants to and receiving wages from any particular person. And in all elections except for the Universities they shall be men of 21 years of age or upwards, and housekeepers dwelling within the division for which the election is.”
The restrictions are those suggested in these debates of October, 1647 (pp. 313, 335, 341, 342).
Ireton, who in the “Heads of the Proposals of the Army” had first suggested the redistribution of seats according to the rates borne by the respective counties in the burdens of the kingdom, was probably also the author of this proposal for basing the franchise on the payment of rates for the relief of the poor. It does not appear in the scheme of the Levellers or in the Instrument of Government. The views of the former are contained in the “Agreement of the Free People of England,” put forth by Lilburn and his friends, May 1, 1649. It gives the franchise “according to natural right” to “all men of the age of 21 years and upwards not being servants or receiving alms.” The Instrument of Government, on the other hand, reproducing the scheme which the Long Parliament was engaged in passing when Cromwell expelled it, restricted the franchise in the counties to persons possessing real or personal estate to the value of £200, and left the right of voting in the boroughs unaltered.
The debates of the Council on November 1 turned mainly on the subject of the King and the House of Lords. Wildman argued that by the fundamental constitution of the kingdom neither King nor Lords had any right to a negative voice in legislation, and that they ought to be expressly deprived of the right which they had usurped (pp. 367, 385-387). Ireton had no great difficulty in refuting the proof of these statements which Wildman attempted to derive from the coronation oath (pp. 386, 387, 399), but his own opinion and the general sense of the Army were both strongly in favour of limiting the power of the Lords. The Committee appointed by the Council of Officers had originally decided that the Lords should possess a suspensive veto only (p. 396). For this a more elaborate scheme suggested by Ireton was finally substituted, stipulating that laws passed by the House of Commons should be binding for the people even without the consent of the Lords (pp. 394, 397, 407). But the Lords would not be so bound “for their own persons and estates as the Commons are” unless they expressly consented to it (pp. 391, 394, 397, 405). Lords who happened to be officers of state were to be liable to the judgment of the Commons; those who were not were to be tried and judged only by their peers (p. 409). The suggestion that Lords and Commons should sit together as one House appears to have been considered and rejected (p. 395). The Act of March 19, 1649, which abolished the Upper House as useless and dangerous, declared that such Lords, as had “demeaned themselves with honour, courage, and fidelity to the Commonwealth,” should be capable of sitting in Parliament, “if they shall be therunto elected.” Ireton seems to have proposed a similar provision at this time, but the precise text of his proposal is missing (p. 395).
The articles brought forward by the Committee treated the King’s negative voice in the same fashion as the legislative power of the Lords. The first draft of the “Heads of the Proposals” had given the King a suspensive veto. In their final form, however, nothing at all was said about the King’s negative voice; it was simply passed over in silence (cf. p. 357). In place of that, the Army demanded the King’s assent to certain stipulated concessions which were held essential to the peace and safety of the kingdom, and proposed that when these things were provided for he should be restored to his throne without diminution to his personal rights, and without further limitation to the exercise of his regal power (Art. xiv., cf. pp. 358-9) Wildman and his party insisted that this involved the restoration of the King with an unlimited negative voice, and that he could not safely be allowed any share whatever in legislation (pp. 362, 385). In reply Ireton pointed out that matters essential to safety were already provided for; that the King by confirming the ordinances made by Parliament would practically admit the right of the Parliament to make laws without his consent where the safety of the nation was concerned; and that the article proposed by the committee gave the House of Commons power to enact laws binding on all commoners.
“Itt takes away the negative voice of the Lords and of the Kinge too, as to what concernes the people; for itt says that the Commons of England shall bee bound by what judgement and above what orders, ordinances, or lawes shall bee made for that purpose by them; and all that followes for the Kinge or Lords is this, that the Lords or Kinge are not bound by that law they pass for their own persons or estates as the Commoners are, unlesse they consent to it”
(pp. 389-391, 407).
The debates of November 3 are very briefly reported, and the reports of those which took place on the four following days are missing altogether. An attempt is made to supply some account of them in Appendix E. On November 5 the extreme party succeeded in obtaining a vote for a general rendezvous of the Army, and procured from the Council a letter to Parliament intimating that the Army was opposed to any further applications to the King. On November 8, however, Cromwell, who had long been sensible of the dangers of division and anarchy caused by these disputes in the Council, carried a vote recommending the General to order the representative Officers and Agitators to return to their regiments until the intended rendezvous had taken place (p. 412). On the following day the Council was adjourned for a fortnight; but before it separated a declaration was drawn up, explaining that the letter of November 5 was not intended to mean that the Council opposed Parliament’s sending any further propositions to the King, “our intentions being only to assert the freedom of Parliament” (p. 416). It was also decided that instead of the one general rendezvous of the Army, which had been previously settled, there should be three separate reviews, to take place at different places on successive days.
The first rendezvous took place on November 15 near Ware. The Levellers attempted to convert it into the general rendezvous which they so much desired. The regiments of Harrison and Robert Lilburn broke loose from the control of their officers, and came to the field of the review intending to make it an armed demonstration in favour of the “Agreement of the People.” Cromwell’s action was again decisive, and the incipient mutiny was quelled by the execution of a single mutineer.a A remonstrance drawn up in the name of the General was read at the head of every regiment. Like the engagement of June 5, which it supplements and completes, it was evidently the composition of Ireton (v. p. 348). Fairfax declares that he and the other commanders have done their best to carry out the ends of the Newmarket engagement, and complains of the discontents and divisions which the Agents have caused in the Army. He announces that without redress of these abuses and disorders he will not continue in command, but professes his willingness “to adhere to, and to conduct, and live and die with the Army in the lawful prosecution” of certain specified aims. Those aims are the obtaining of six demands which concern the Army as soldiers, and the attainment of the following political objects for the kingdom at large.
“A period to be set for this present Parliament, to end so soon as may be with safety; and provision thereunto to be made for future Parliaments, for the certainty of their meeting, sitting, and ending, and for the freedom and equality of elections thereto; to render the House of Commons, as near as may be, an equal representative of the people that are to elect. And, according to the Representation of the Army of June 14, to leave other things to, and acquiesce in, the determinations of the Parliament; but to remind the Parliament of, and mediate with them for, redress of the common grievances of the people, and all other things that the Army have declared their desire for.”
He concluded by exacting from the officers and soldiers of every regiment the subscription of a definite promise to be bound by the decision of the General Council of the Army as to the prosecution of the objects thus enumerated. On the other hand, “for the matter of ordering conduct and government of the Army,” they were to be “observant and subject to the General, the Council of War, and their officers.” (Old Parliamentary History, xvi. 340-345.)
By this new compact between Fairfax and his soldiers the political aims of the Army were clearly defined and its action was restricted to certain definite objects. The acceptance of the engagement was followed by the restoration of good relations between officers and men and by the revival of discipline. Some few of the discontented party continued to plot mutiny, but they were either reduced to submission or promptly expelled from the Army. A few weeks later the “General Council of the Army” itself ceased to exist, and the system of representation, established by the engagement of June 4, was never revived. A constitutional experiment so remarkable is worth tracing to its close.
The vote of November 8 had simply dismissed the Agitators and the representative officers to their several regiments, “there to reside until the said rendezvous be over, and until his Excellency shall see fit to call them together again according to the Engagement” (p. 412). The Council met again, on November 25, in the town hall at Windsor, and continued to meet throughout December and during the first week of January, 1648. There is little doubt that the Agitators continued to take part in its debates, privates as well as officers. Parliamentary Commissioners came to Windsor to arrange with the Council of the Army the question of pay and the disbanding of supernumeraries. A letter from Windsor, dated December 31, says:
“The Parliament’s Commissioners have been at the headquarters with us now this three days, and had divers meetings with our councils, and joined with us in prayer, and other things tending to the good of the kingdom and the army, and have had full satisfaction in all things upon the votes of the Houses, to their hearts desire and content. And the officers came to them and assured them the spirit of the army was, that since God hath put an opportunity into their hands of purpose to settle the kingdom, if God should honour the army to be further helping to them, the army would live and die with them and for them willingly. Whereby they were much joyed, and received their expressions with abundance of thanks. . . . . The Agreement was sweet and comfortable, the whole matter of the kingdom being left with the Parliament.”
(Rushworth, vii. 928, 935, 951.)
The most important subject treated with the Parliamentary Commissioners was the reorganisation of the Army and the disbanding and payment of those soldiers who were not to be included in the new establishment. With the concurrence of Fairfax and the Council, this was effected by a series of Parliamentary resolutions, in accordance with which a standing army of about 23,000 men was to be kept up (Rushworth, vii. 935, 992, 995). Supernumeraries, soldiers enlisted since the Newmarket engagement, and superfluous local levies were disbanded in large numbers (ibid., 921, 929, 946, 953, 997, 1007, 1011, 1042). A number of rules were established for the billeting and quartering of the soldiers to be still maintained (ibid., 956). Above all, a considerable reduction in the pay of the Army was agreed upon, though it was stipulated by the soldiers that the said reduction should hold good for time of peace merely, and that in case of a new war their pay and allowances should be again increased (ibid., pp. 995, 996; see also an imperfect letter of Fairfax’s amongst Clarke’s MSS.,) One of the last acts of the Council was to vote an addition to the number of Army chaplains.
“The Councell of the Army having information of the willingnesse and readinesse of divers Godlye men of the ministrye to bestowe theyr paynes to preach the ghospell of Christ in the Armye, it was resolved by the Counsell that some of them whose hearts God should most incline to that worke, should be desired to come to the Army for that purpose and be assured from the Counsell of all encouragement thereto and good acceptance of theyr paynes therein.”
(Clarke MS. Jan. 9, 1647.)
In pursuance of this vote John Canne became chaplain of Robert Lilburn’s regiment, and a number of other divines became attached to the Army.
Whilst the headquarters were at Windsor the Council of War frequently met to condemn persons implicated in the recent disturbances. Captain-Lieutenant Bray, Major Cobbet, and several privates were tried and condemned, but the proceedings closed with a general reconciliation and remission of punishments (Rushworth vii., 922, 937, 940, 942, 943). The meeting of December 21 is thus described in a letter which Rushworth reprints from the Perfect Diurnal.
“The General Council of the Army met in the Castle at Windsor; the greatest part of that day was spent in several declarations made by divers officers concerning the present juncture of affairs; many exhortations to unity and affinity, and motions made for passing by offences that had, through weakness, come from brethren.
“Major White laid hold of this opportunity, made an acknowledgement that he had spoken some words rashly at Putney, for which he was censured by that Council; desired that he might be looked upon as one that desired the good of the Army; and, that being restored into favour he should readily submit to the discipline of the Army. This was unanimously approved of, and the major accordingly readmitted into the General Council.
“Wednesday, December 22, was, according to appointment, kept as a solemn fast by the general and officers; the duties of the day were performed by divers of the officers, amongst whom there was a sweet harmony: the Lieutenant-General, Commissary General Ireton, Col. Tichburne, Col. Hewson, Mr. Peters, and other officers prayed very fervently and pathetically; this continued from nine in the morning till seven at night. In the evening a motion was made that whereas Col. Rainsborough had acted some things which gave offence, that in regard of his present acknowledgment, his former service might not be forgotten; but that the Council would move the General to write to the House, that he might be made Vice-admiral; which was assented to by all, and a letter written to Mr. Speaker accordingly.
“Thursday, December 23, the General Council of the Army again met. . . . . This day also the Council of War sat about the trial of Captain-Lieuentant Bray, Mr. Crosman, Mr. Allen, and others; but upon their acknowledgment of their rash and irregular proceedings, and promise to submit to the discipline of the Army for the time to come, they were dismissed and sent to their several regiments.”a
The last meeting of the Council took place on January 8, 1648. “This Saturday the General Council of the Army met at the Castle at Windsor, where the appearance was great, and they were very unanimous in debate.” Without a single opposing voice they agreed upon the Declaration presented to Parliament on January 11, announcing their satisfaction with the recent vote for no further addresses to the King, and promising to support the Parliament in settling the kingdom without him (Rushworth, vii. 959, 961).
“To-morrow,” continues the letter, “all the council that met this day are to dine with the General in Windsor Castle, to congratulate the unity of the Army and to take their leaves each of other before they be dispersed into the several garrisons and great towns, which the Army will punctually perform against the 15th of January.”
So ended the assembly instituted in pursuance of the Engagement of June 5—the most thoroughly representative of all the different councils which successively spoke in the name of the Army. Subsequent councils contained no representatives of the common soldiers. The assembly which met at St Albans on November 7, 1648, though often spoken of as the General Council of the Army, was in reality composed solely of officers, and styled itself “the General Council of Officers of the Army” (Rushworth, vii. 1320, 1330, 1366. Old Parliamentary History, xviii. 160, 266, 458, 516).
In May, 1649, Colonel Scroope’s regiment and portions of several others mutinied, demanding the re-establishment of the General Council of the Army according to the Engagement of June 5, 1647, which they accused their officers of having broken. The rising was suppressed by Cromwell at Burford, and one of the leaders, Cornet Henry Denne, published a pamphlet entitled the “Levellers Designe Discovered,” in which he explained the aims of the mutineers, and retracted the opinions which he had held in common with them. On the question of the General Council and the reasons which led to its dissolution he speaks as follows:
“I shall declare what satisfaction I have received that so I may give the same satisfaction unto others. . . . . Such a councell indeed the ingagement required. And such a councell was constituted in the Army, acting, and transacting of matters pertaining to the discipline of the Army. And so long was this councell continued, untill the inconvenience thereof was so far manifest; that most of the Regiments of horse and foot did petition his Excellency to send back the severall agitators to their respective regiments untill he should be pleased to resummon them; professing a willingnesse in themselves to submit unto his Excellency with his Councell of War, according to the pristine discipline of the Army. His Excellency having received these petitions did not immediately send back the Agitators (as requested). But having first summoned a councell, and communicated the petitions unto them; it was by them concluded that according to the petitions of the severall regiments the Councell of Agitators should be dissolved, untill his Excellency should see cause to resummon them. Now this being so: his Excellency cannot be charged with violation of that ingagement, neither doth there remain any obligation on his Excellency to have continued or revived any such councell.”
(The Levellers Designe Discovered, p. 4, 1649.)
Unfortunately the debates of the Council during the final meetings at Windsor are not recorded by Clarke, or at least have not survived. In some of these gatherings business of great importance was treated, but most of them seem to have been devoted to military rather than political affairs. The peculiar value of the reports of the debates on the Agreement of the people lies in the fact that in them the fundamental principles of politics were discussed. In the course of the argument the political theories of the two parties in the army, and the characters of their leaders, are clearly defined and exhibited. Both these points deserve and require a more detailed consideration.
The views of the extreme party amongst the sectaries are set forth in the pamphlets of Lilburn, Overton, and others, and are well summarised by Thomas Edwards in his Gangraena. In the third part of that work, published in 1646, he enumerates the erroneous opinions held by the “sectaries” in political as well as in religious matters. He complains that just as they neglected authority in religion so they rejected it in politics.
“As they do in matters of religion and conscience fly from the scriptures, and from supernaturall truths revealed there, that a man may not be questioned for going against them, but only for errors against the light of nature and right reason; so they do also in civill government and things of this world, they go from the lawes and constitutions of kingdoms, and will be governed by rules according to nature and right reason; and though the lawes and customes of a kingdome be never so plain and cleer against their wayes, yet they will not submit, but cry out for naturall rights derived from Adam and right reason”
(Gangraena, pt. iii. p. 20).
Accordingly in these debates we hear much of the laws of nature and of natural rights. It was held that every man born in England, every “free born Englishman,” possessed certain rights which were termed his “birthright.” The phrase “birthright” was not altogether new in English political discussions, but had usually been employed in a more limited signification. “Subjects,” said Sir Robert Berkeley during Hampden’s trial, “have a birthright in the laws of this kingdom.” The word is used in a similar fashion in the Act of Settlement. Ireton employs it with the same meaning in one of his speeches.
“If you call that your birthright, which is the most fundamental part of your constitution, then let him perish that goes about to hinder you of the least part of your birthright”
The Levellers sometimes used the term to denote certain inherited constitutional rights. They believed that the English commons had possessed these rights under the Saxons, and were unjustly deprived of them by the Norman Conquest (cf. pp. 318, 368). “To purchase our inheritances that have been lost,” “to recover our birthrights and privileges as Englishmen,” were alleged by them to be the cause for which they had taken up arms (pp. 235, 322).
The negative voice of the King, and the power of the House of Lords, they asserted to be a part of the bondage imposed on England by the Norman Conquest (pp. 401, 402). According to some of their pamphleteers the law and the constitution alike were part of the Norman yoke.
“The greatest mischief of all and the oppressing bondage of England ever since the Norman yoke,” says Lilburn, “is a law called the common law. The laws of this nation,” he adds, “are unworthy a free people, and deserve from first to last to be considered, and seriously debated, and reduced to an agreement with common equity and right reason, which ought to be the form and life of every government. Magna Charta itself being but a beggarly thing, containing many marks of intolerable bondage, and the laws that have been made since by Parliaments have in very many particulars made our government much more oppressive and intolerable”
(Lilburn, Just Man’s Justification, pp. 11-15; Edwards, Gangraena, iii. 194).
Park, in his edition of the Harleian Miscellany, reprints three pamphlets by John Hare, setting forth this theory of the consequences of the Norman Conquest, viz. (1.) St. Edward’s Ghost, or Anti-Normanism; being a patheticall Complaint and Motion, in the behalf of our English Nation against her grand yet neglectedGrievance, Normanism, 1647 (vol. viii. p. 94); (2). Plain English to our wilful bearers with Normanism, 1647 (vol. ix. p. 90); (3). England’s proper and only Way to an Establishment in Honour, Freedom, Peace, and Happiness; or the Norman Yoke once more uncased; and the Necessity, Justice, and present Seasonableness of breaking it in pieces demonstrated, 1648 (vol. vi. p. 36).
The theory which the Levellers thus put forward found eager acceptance in the Army. In attempting to find an historical basis for the rights which they claimed the soldiers were but following the example of the lawyers. When they represented the liberties they demanded as an inheritance from the past, fictitious though the pedigree might be, they adopted the conventional method of English political controversy. But in fact they rested their claims far more on abstract justice and pure reason, and demanded their rights, not merely as the lawful inheritance of Englishmen, but as the natural rights of all men. Their argument is well summed up by Edwards.
“That, seeing all men are by nature the Sons of Adam, and from him have legitimately derived a naturall propriety, right, and freedom, Therefore England and all other Nations, and all particular persons in every Nation, notwithstanding the difference of Lawes and Governments, rancks and degrees, ought to be alike free and estated in their naturall Liberties, and to enjoy the just Rights and Prerogative of mankind, whereunto they are Heirs apparent; and thus the Commoners by right are equall with the Lords. For by naturall birth all men are equally and alike born to like propriety, liberty, and freedom; and as we are delivered of God by the hand of nature into this world, every one with a naturall innate freedom, and propriety, even so are we to live, every one equally and alike to enjoy his birthright and priviledge.”
(Gangraena, pt. iii., p. 16.)
First and most important of these rights was the right to a voice in the election of Members of Parliament. The only legitimate foundation of a government was the consent of the governed.
“I thinke its cleare,” says Rainborow, “that every man that is to live under a governement ought first by his own consent to putt himself under that governement; and I doe thinke that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that government that he hath not had a voice to putt himself under”
“Every man born in England cannot, ought nott; neither by the law of God nor the law of nature, to bee exempted from the choice of those who are to make lawes, for him to live under, and for him, for ought I know to die under”
Wildman lays down the same principle.
“That’s the undeniable maxim of government; that all governement is in the free consent of the govern’d. If so then upon that account there is noe person that is under a just governement or hath justly his own unlesse hee by his owne free consent be putt under that governement”
We judge that all inhabitants that have not lost their birthright should have an equal voice in elections”
As Ireton points out, the argument for universal suffrage was based on an absolute natural right, paramount to existing laws or constitution (pp. 301, 307, 325, 327). The law of nature was invoked against the law of the land.
These natural rights were held to be inherent, indefeasible rights, which no positive law or constitution could take away. As the crown lawyers had asserted that some powers were so inseparable from the King’s person, that Acts of Parliament to deprive him of them were void, so now the spokesmen of the soldiers denied that any law or custom could deprive the people of their rights. Edwards thus states their contention:
“That whatever the Fundamentall Constitutions of Kingdomes and Commonwealths have been by forefathers, whatever agreements, compacts have been of subjection and obedience of such a people for themselves and posterities to one, as under kingly government, or to more, yet the men of the present age, following many hundred years after, ought to be absolutely free from what their forefathers yeelded unto, and freed from all kinds of exorbitancies, molestations, without exception or limitation, either in respect of persons, officers, degrees, or things, and estated in their naturall and just Liberties agreeable to right reason.”
(Gangraena, pt. iii.)
Throughout the debates these principles are assumed by the supporters of the Agreement. “If there is a constitution that the people are not free, that should be annulled,” says Mr. Pettus (p. 336). If the engagements of the Army had given away anything that was the people’s right, they were unjust and therefore void (p. 251). If a thing were just and the people’s due, no engagement to the contrary was binding (pp. 261, 301). In accordance with these principles the spokesmen of the soldiers demanded the abolition of the law which restricted the franchise to forty-shilling freeholders. “I think,” said Rainborow, “that the law of the land in that thing is the most tyrannical law under heaven” (p. 311). They demanded on the same grounds the abolition of the power of the King and the House of Lords, and especially the taking away of their share in legislation.
“To give the Kinge a legislative power,” argued Wildman, “is contrary to his own oath at his coronation, and itt is the like to give a power to the Kinge by his negative voice to deny all lawes. And for the Lords, seeing the foundation of all justice is the election of the people it is unjust they should have that power”
“Both the power of the Kinge and Lords,” argued another, “was ever a branch of tyranny, and if ever a people shall free themselves from tyranny certainly itt is after seven yeares’ warre and fighting for their liberty”
“Itt will never satisfie the godly people in the Kingedome unlesse that all government be in the Commons and that freely”
Already on May 20, 1647, a petition had been addressed to the House of Commons as “the supreme authority of this nation,” and had been ordered by them to be burnt as a high breach of privilege.
To what extent the articles drawn up by the committee of the General Council limited the powers of the King and Lords, and how far the demand for universal suffrage was successful has already been shown (pp. l.-liii.). There were, however, other rights which were to be secured by a different process.
In the articles drawn up by the Committee of the Council of the Army the represented announce that they reserve to themselves certain fundamental rights which their representatives are not empowered to abrogate or give away (pp. 407, 409). No man is to be impressed; no man compelled to any form of religion; no man disquieted for acts done during the war. The idea of inserting these reservations and the substance of the reservations themselves are both taken from the first Agreement of the People, presented to the Council of the Army in Oct. 1647. The four reserves contained in that document ran thus:
“1. That matters of Religion, and the wayes of God’s Worship, are not at all intrusted by us to any humane power, because therein we cannot remit or exceed a tittle of what our consciences dictate to be the mind of God, without wilfull sin: nevertheless the publike way of instructing the nation (so it be not compulsive) is referred to their discretion.
“2. That the matter of impresting and constraining any of us to serve in the wars is against our freedome; and therefore we do not allow it in our Representatives; the rather because, money (the sinews of war) being alwayes at their disposall, they can never want numbers of men apt enough to engage in any just cause.
“3. That after the dissolution of the present Parliament no person be at any time questioned for anything said or done, in reference to the late publike differences, otherwise then in execution of the judgements of the present Representatives or House of Commons.
“4. That in all Lawes made or to be made, every person may be bound alike, and that no Tenure, Estate, Charter, Degree, Birth, or Place, do confer any exemption from the ordinary course of legall proceedings whereunto others are subjected.”
These reservations were practically a “Declaration of the Rights of Man” expressed by means of negatives and restrictions. Similar reservations, six in number, besides an elaborate article concerning the limits of religious freedom, are embodied in the second Agreement of the People, presented to Parliament from the Army in January 1649 (Gardiner, Constitutional Documents, p. 279).
In the desire to limit the powers of the government, and guarantee the rights of the individual, the Levellers went still further, and the third Agreement of the People, published by Lilburn and his friends in May, 1649, contains no less than eighteen provisions restricting the power of future Parliaments. To limit the power of Parliament was in fact the chief aim of these and similar stipulations.
The events of the spring of 1647 had sowed in the minds of the soldiers a deeply-rooted distrust of parliamentary assemblies, and a well grounded objection to their omnipotence. The exercise of an unlimited or arbitrary power by such as have been trusted with supreme and subordinate authority, and the prevalence of corrupt interests powerfully inclining most men once entrusted with authority to pervert the same for their own domination, are the chief reasons given for Lilburn’s Agreement and for the reservations contained in it. Though these reservations disappear in the Instrument of Government, the imposition of a written constitution, the provisions it contains for the securing of religious liberty, the clause nullifying bills contrary to the tenor of the “Instrument,” the absence of any provision for its amendment, and the opposition to all proposals for its alteration, are manifestations of the same feeling. Cromwell never more truly represented the views of the Army than when he forbade his first Parliament to alter the Instrument, and the distinction which he drew between fundamentals which must be accepted, and circumstantials which might be altered, is but an echo of the tenth article of the Agreement of January, 1649.
In any discussion of the political principles set forth in these debates one other point requires special notice. Speakers on both sides refer to society and government as resting on a contract. “The King,” says Cromwell, “is King by contract;” referring no doubt to the fundamental contract between King and people which James II. was voted to have broken (p. 366).
“We are under a contract,” says Ireton, and he proceeds to argue that on this contract or covenant between man and man private property both in land and goods is founded (p. 263).
Mr. Pettus goes further and states the origin and purpose of the contract.
“Every man is naturally free . . . . when men were in so great numbers that every man could not give his voice . . . . men agreed to come unto some form of governement that they who were chosen might preserve propertie”
As these debates explain the political views of the soldiers, so they elucidate the character and position of their leaders. Fairfax himself was absent from the most important debates on account of illness (p. 226). When he was present he contented himself with presiding in silence, and left Ireton and Cromwell to expound his views. “He was of few words in discourse or council,” observes Whitelock, and according to Sprigge he suffered at times from an impediment in his speech (Anglia Rediviva, ed. 1854, p. 325).
Ireton is a statesman to whose influence and ability historians have hardly done justice. To his military talents, he added great business capacity and indefatigable industry. Ludlow attributes his death to his “immoderate labours,” and another of his associates in Ireland describes him as “seldom thinking it time to eat till he had done the work of the day at nine or ten at night, and then will sit up as long as any man hath business with him” (Cooke, Monarchy no creature of God’s making, 1652). Bred a lawyer, he possessed a larger stock of political and constitutional knowledge than his fellow officers. Clarendon terms him “a scholar conversant in the law, and in all that learning which had expressed the greatest animosity and malice against regal government” (Rebellion, xiii., 175). He had also what Whitelock styles “a working and laborious brain and fancy” (Memorials, ii., 163). He was fertile in formulas, ingenious in devising constitutional expedients, and skilled in putting the political ideas of himself or others into legal shape. As no one amongst the superior officers possessed these varied qualifications to the same extent he naturally became the penman of the Army. Imperfect though the records of these debates are, they show that Ireton was also an excellent and sometimes an eloquent speaker. Above all he was a ready debater, expressing himself clearly and forcibly, swift to seize an argumentative advantage, to press home the the consequences of a principle, or to point out the importance of a precedent. Confident, however, of the soundness of his own logic, he did not always fairly appreciate the strong points of an opponent’s case. His defect was that he was too positive and dogmatic, and sometimes his brother officers lost their tempers and declined to be dictated to. Less sympathetic than Cromwell, he roused more opposition, and was eager to convince when Cromwell was anxious only to unite. Over Cromwell Ireton exercised great influence — the influence which a man of definite views exercises over a friend whose mind is not yet made up about everything.
Ireton’s own political position has been much misunderstood. Clarendon represents him as “so radically averse from monarchy and so fixed to a republican government, that if he had lived he would either by his counsel and credit have prevented” Cromwell’s assumption of the protectorate, or “publicly opposed and declared against it” (Rebellion, xiii., 175). “Ireton,” says Burnet, “had the principles and the temper of a Cassius in him. He stuck at nothing that might have turned England to a commonwealth” (Own Time, 1833, ed. i., 85).
As a matter of fact, so long as monarchy could be maintained, Ireton sought to maintain it. Throughout 1647 and 1648, he was the leader and spokesman of the moderate party in the Council of the Army. The constitution was always in his mouth; he was anxious to change as little of it as necessary and to preserve as much of it as possible. His declarations on this point are clear and frequent.
“I doe not seeke, nor would not seeke, nor will joyne with them that doe seeke the destruction of Parliament or Kinge. Neither will I consent with those, or concurre with them who will not attempt all the wayes that are possible to preserve both, and to make good use, and the best use that can be of both for the kingedome (p. 233). Where I see thinges would not do reall mischief I would hold to positive constitution. . . . . soe long as I can with safetie continue a constitution I will doe it (p. 350). Rather then I will make a disturbance to a good constitution of a kingedome wherein I may live in godlinesse, and peace, and quietnesse, I will parte with a great deale of my birthright”
Hence the vigour with which he opposed manhood suffrage.
“To me, if there were nothing but this, that there is a constitution, and that constitution which if you take away you leave nothing of constitution, and consequently nothing of right or property [it would be enough] I would not goe to alter that, though a man could propound that which might in some respects bee better, unlesse it could be demonstrated to me that this were unlawful or that this were destructive”
Manhood suffrage, he maintained, would destroy property. Men might be elected who had no stake in the country, and they might vote down all property (pp. 303, 314). It would endanger liberty itself.
“If there be anything at all that is a foundation of liberty itt is this, that those who shall chuse the lawmakers shall be men freed from dependance upon others. . . . I think if wee from imagination and conceits will go about to hazard the peace of the kingdom to alter the constitution in such a point, wee shall see that libertie that we soe much talke of and contend for shall bee nothing by this our contending for it, by putting it into the hands of those that will give it away when they have itt”
Ireton’s objections to the principles on which the demand was based were still stronger than his objection to the demand itself. He denied altogether that any man had by birthright any claim to a voice in the government of his country. He denied with equal bluntness the theory that no man was bound to obedience to any government, unless he had by his own free consent put himself under that government (pp. 302, 319). Arguments about abstract justice he abhorred and dreaded:
“When I do hear men speake of laying aside all engagements to [consider only] that wild or vast notion of what in every man’s conception is just or unjust, I am afraid and do tremble att the boundlesse and endlesse consequences of itt”
Equally keen was his perception of the danger of appeals to natural rights and the law of nature.
“I wish wee may all consider of what right you challenge that all the people should have right to Elections. Is itt by the right of nature? If you will hold forth that as your ground, then I thinke you must deny all property too. . . . . By that same right of nature, whatever it bee that you pretend, by which you can say one man hath an equall right with another to the chusing of him that shall governe him, by the same right of nature hee hath an equall right in any goods he sees, meate, drinke, clothes, to take and use them for his sustenance. . . . . If upon these grounds you doe paramount to all constitutions hold uppe this law of nature, I would faine have any man shew me where you will end”
(p. 307; cf. pp. 303, 310, 314, 336).
In the heat of his opposition to these theories of abstract right which he heard put forward, Ireton denied all political rights to persons not freeholders possessing a permanent interest in the country (pp. 302, 307, 314). He answered the Levellers of 1647 very much as Lord Braxfield answered the Reformers of 1794.
“ ‘A government in every country,’ said Braxfield, ‘should be just like a corporation, and in this country it is made up of the landed interest, which alone has a right to be represented. As for the rabble, who have nothing but personal property, what hold has the nation of them? They may pack up their property on their backs and leave the country in the twinkling of an eye, but landed property cannot be removed.’ ”
(State Trials, xxiii. 231.)
In practice, however, Ireton was not prepared to push his opposition to the extremes to which his logic might have carried him. Throughout he announced his willingness to support a reasonable extension of the franchise, providing it was limited “to the fix’t and settled people of this nation,” to “men who are like to be freemen and not given up to the wills of others” (pp. 313, 344). At the same time no one was more eager for parliamentary reform of other kinds:
“I will not arrogate that I was the first man that putt the Army upon the thought either of successive Parliaments or more equall Parliaments; yet there are some heere that know who they were putt us upon that foundation of libertie of putting a period to this Parliament, that wee might have successive Parliaments, and that there might bee a more equall distribution of elections”
According to Wildman and Sexby the soldiers had engaged for their own freedom and for the recovery of their lost liberties (pp. 318, 322). They demanded securities for their personal rights, and a voice in the making of the laws they had to live under (pp. 318, 354). Securities for the rights of parliaments would not satisfy them, for they feared the parliament’s privileges as much as the King’s prerogative.
In Ireton’s view the war had been originally undertaken “for the liberty of Parliaments,” that the law of the Kingdom might be determined by its representatives in Parliament, and “that the will of one man should not be a law” (pp. 327, 333). Circumstances had led him to demand now not only securities for the liberty of parliament, but guarantees as to its composition. “The rectification of the supreme authority of the Kingdom,” “the reduction of the supreme authority to that constitution which is due to the people of this Kingdom,” he declared to be the necessary condition of the Army’s submission to parliament, and a condition which it was justified in using force to obtain (pp. 267, 268). Further than this Ireton was not prepared to go. The devices by which he sought to reconcile the real sovereignty of the House of Commons with the concession of a nominal share in legislation to the House of Lords, and a strictly limited veto to the Crown, are significant illustrations of his statesmanship. He thought to effect a political revolution by a change in the machinery of the constitution without any alteration in its outward form, and without a corresponding change in the spirit of the nation.
Equally conservative in temper, Cromwell set less value on constitutional forms and had less faith in political machinery. He was not, as he expresses it, “wedded and glued to forms of government” (p. 277). His criticisms of the “Agreement of the People” deal not so much with the justice or even the expediency of the particular things proposed as with the general danger of change:
“This paper doth contain in it very great alterations of the very government of this kingdom, alterations from that government it hath been under, I believe I may almost say since it was a nation, and what the consequences of such an alteration as this would be, if there were nothing else to be considered but the very weight and nature of the things contained in this paper, wise men and godly men ought to consider”
Other parties might be formed and put forth other schemes for new constitutions equally plausible and seek to impose them on the country:
“And if so what do you think the consequence of that would be? Would it not be confusion? Would it not be utter confusion? Would it not make England like Switzerland, one county against another as one canton of the Swiss is against another? And if so what would that produce but an absolute desolation—an absolute desolation to the nation”
He proceeds to lay down the principle that, in proposing a change of such importance, the first thing to consider is “whether, according to reason and judgement, the spirits and temper of the people of this nation are prepared to receive and to go along with it” (p. 237). “In the government of nations that which is to be looked after is the affections of the people, and that I find which satisfies my conscience in the present thing” (p. 369). Compared with the question of its acceptance by the people, the question of the particular form of the government was unimportant. This he illustrates by the case of the Jews, governed successively by patriarchs, judges and kings. Under all these governments they were happy and contented. Moreover, there were other things more important than the form of the government. Even if you change the government to the best possible form of government “it is but a moral thing.” “It is but as Paul says, ‘dross and dung’ in comparison of Christ.” Why should they contest so much for merely temporal things? If every man in the kingdom were so bent on realising his ideal of government that he was willing to fight to establish it, the state would come to desolation (p. 370). His conclusion was that the question what government were fittest for the kingdom should be left to Parliament to determine. The Army should content itself with insisting that parliaments should be fairly elected, regularly summoned, and dissolved at regular intervals (ibid). Though willing to use force against the Parliament when he regarded it as necessary, he was anxious to limit the use of force to cases in which its employment was absolutely indispensable. “I do not know that force is to be used except we cannot get what is for the good of the kingdom without force” (p. 202, cf. p. 185). The good of the people he declares to be the principle by which his actions are guided.
“That’s in all our hearts to profess above anything that’s worldly the public good of the people, and if that be in our hearts truly and nakedly I am confident it is a principle that will stand” (p. 259). “If that be not the supreme aim of us under God our principles fall”
This does not mean that the wishes of the people are to be implicitly followed. “That’s the question, what’s for their good, not what pleases them” (p. 209). In these words there is already a foreshadowing of the Protectorate.
Many other illustrations of Cromwell’s character are to be found in these speeches. The good sense with which he checks the exaggerated religious enthusiasm of some of his friends is specially notable. Accused of want of faith when he mentions the difficulties in the way of establishing the new constitution proposed by the Agitators, he replies:
“I know a man may answer all difficulties with faith, and faith will answer all difficulties really where it is, but we are very apt all of us to call that faith which perhaps may be but carnal imagination”
His dignified vindication of himself from the charge of being affrighted by difficulties is admirable (pp. 247, 289). Equally good is his criticism of the claims of those who assert themselves to have received special revelations or “particular dictates from God” (pp. 375, 379).
Other characteristic passages are his description of his own eager and sanguine temperament (p. 191), and his blunt answer to the charge of seeking his own ends (p. 179).
The speeches of Goffe and Rainborow are valuable to all who care to understand the temper of the Puritan soldier. Goffe was one of the mystical enthusiasts whom every revolution produces As he was an Englishman of the 17th century his enthusiasm took a religious rather than a political turn. He rejoiced to belong to that “company of saints” who were “chosen, and called, and faithful,” whose desire was to “follow Christ wheresoever he goes” (p. 283). Cromwell in difficulties generally moved for a Committee; Goffe invariably proposed a prayer-meeting. Always “seeking the Lord,” he fancied that he heard the voice of God answering his prayers, inspiring his resolves, and dictating his actions (pp. 253, 283, 374). In the revolutions which he witnessed he saw God “throwing down the glory of all flesh,” the kingdom of Antichrist falling, the “latter days” beginning, and the personal reign of Christ at hand (p. 282). Three-quarters a Fifth Monarchy man, he differed from most of that sect in one very important particular. They were eager to realise their visions by force and at once, and believed that the day of their triumph had come. Their feeling is well expressed in the hymn of one of their preachers:
Goffe on the other hand possessed a certain patience; a willingness, as he said, to wait upon the Lord till his own season. “It may be there is a better opportunity that the Lord will give us” (p. 284).
Rainborow was much more like a modern radical. His enthusiasm was more secular and more national. He, too, talks of “God’s people,” but it is merely as an occasional synonym for “the honest men of England” (pp. 246, 273). He had fought for no vision of a heavenly kingdom, but for his own freedom and “for the liberties of the people of England” (pp. 272, 273). By the people of England he meant neither an oligarchy of country gentlemen, nor a limited number of freeholders, but “every man born in England,” “the poor man,” “the meanest man in the kingdom” (pp. 304, 305, 309). If rich men alone were to have votes,
“One part would make hewers of wood and drawers of water of the other five, and so the greatest part of the nation be enslaved” (p. 320). If there were to be no extension of the franchise “what shall become of those many men that have laid themselves out for the Parliament of England in this present war, that have ruined themselves by fighting, by hazarding all they had? They are Englishmen. They have now nothing to say for themselves”
Political difficulties might beset the attempt of the Army to secure the liberties of the nation, but they must be faced and vanquished as at Marston or Naseby.
“Let difficulties be round about you, have you death before you, the sea on each side of you and behind you, are you convinced the thing is just, I think you are bound in conscience to carry it on; and I think at the last day it can never be answered to God that you did not do it. For I think it is a poor service to God and the Kingdom to take their pay and to decline their work”
How long Cromwell and Ireton would be able to hold back men like Goffe and Rainborow, and how far they would be able to control them, depended mainly on the turn which events took. More than once during those debates, voices had been heard demanding the punishment of the King. “Is it just or reasonable,” asked Wildman, “to punish with death those that according to his command do make war . . . and then to say that there is a way left for mercy for him . . . who was the great contriver of all” (p. 384). At present, however, only one of the higher officers seems to have backed this demand. On November 11, Colonel Harrison “made a narration concerning some thinges that lay upon his spirit,” denounced the King as a man of blood, and demanded his prosecution. Cromwell and Ireton answered him, the one putting several cases in which murder was not to be punished, the other urging that the Army ought not to take unlawful ways even to bring a delinquent to justice. Cromwell and Fairfax added that the question of the King’s future treatment ought to be left to the determination of Parliament (pp. 417, 418). But whether in the end the Army would be content to leave the question to parliament did not depend entirely upon the wishes of its leaders.
It remains to add a few words on the editing of the papers printed in this volume. William Clarke appears to have taken copies of letters received at the head quarters of the Army, and to have kept draughts or copies of most of those sent out. These were transcribed into books at a later period. In the case of those now printed, this transcription took place in 1662. In some instances these original copies and draughts have survived, but they were generally destroyed when the second copy was made. In the same way the rough notes of the debates taken in shorthand in 1647 were not written out till 1662. The result of this system is seen in the large number of clerical errors which the letters contain. Where both copies have survived a comparison of the text of the two sometimes supplied a correction. At other times, in order to complete the sense, it was necessary to supply the words which are printed between square brackets. Some verbal slips were also corrected, and the punctuation frequently amended.
In the debates, errors of all kinds were still more frequent, though fortunately the most important speeches are also the best reported. In some cases the meaning of the speakers was obscured by inversions in the order of words, clauses, and even sentences. Sentences were often mixed together, and the tail of one sometimes inserted in the middle of the next. Where possible these mistakes of the reporter, or the transcriber of his notes, have been corrected, and the alterations made pointed out in the foot notes. Other obscure passages have been elucidated by supplying words between square brackets, or suggesting paraphrases below. The text has been also amended by omitting useless repetitions, and inserting stops. A certain amount of emendation of this kind was absolutely necessary in order to make the debates intelligible, but as few changes as possible have been made.
The Index will be contained in the second volume.
[a ]Some of his letters from Scotland are amongst the Tanner MSS. in the Bodleian. Cary prints Clarke’s accounts of the captures of Stirling and Dundee (Memorials of the Civil War, ii. 327, 367). In August, 1651, he asked for the post of Keeper of the Scotch Records (ibid. p. 332). Other letters of his are printed in the newspapers. See also Old Parliamentary History, xx. 28, 56.
[a ]By this marriage Clarke became in some way connected with Gilbert Mabbott, another of Rushworth’s assistants, whose numerous letters in this correspondence testify to their familiarity. Mabbott’s son was named Kympton Mabbott.
[b ]Egerton MS., 2618, f. 125. The letter is dated from on board the “Royall Charles,” 8th June, 1666. This volume contains other papers belonging to the collections of Sir William Clarke, including the key to a numerical cypher, dated Sept. 1656 (f. 49). Clarke’s diary relating to the events of his last service at sea, April 23—June 1, 1666, is also in the British Museum, Additional MS., 14286.
[a ]Book of Army Declarations, pp. 9-11. Compare the comments on page 15 of these papers.
[a ]Pages 85, 100, 105. References in the letters on pp. 83, 86 seem to show that some officers helped the Agitators with money.
[a ]Hudibras, pt. ii. canto ii.
[a ]Tanner MSS., lviii. f. 129. The Earl of Warwick, Sir Gilbert Gerard, and Sir Harbottle Grimston to the Derby House Committee, June 1, 1647.
[a ]Verncy MSS. This passage and the extract from Bellièvre were kindly comunicated to me by Mr. Gardiner.
[a ]Tanner MSS., lviii. f. 123, signed W. R. This letter was read in the House of Commons June 3, and may have had something to do with Cromwell’s leaving London. He seems to have left in the company of Hugh Peter.
[a ]The statement that the removal of the King was first determined on in the interview on the evening of June 3 is confirmed by the letters of Lord Montagu of June 3 and 4, and his narrative of June 8. (Old Parliamentary History, xv. 393, 396.)
[a ]A similar manifesto from the Agitators to the soldiers in Wales was issued later (p. 159). In several counties a large party seems to have sided with the Army against the Parliament (pp. 130, 138, 222).
[a ]It would not be difficult to estimate the number and fix the names of the officers who separated themselves from the Army at this period. The list given in Sprigge supplies a list of the officers of the New Model in 1646. The engagement of various officers on March 22, 1647, supplemented by the report of the parliamentary commissioners on April 27, gives the names of those who expressed themselves satisfied with the concessions of Parliament, and undertook to serve in Ireland. (Lords’ Journals, vii. 114, 152, 220, 345; Rushworth, vi. 465). In Fortescue’s, Lilburn’s, Herbert’s, and some other regiments, a considerable number of soldiers engaged for Ireland. On the rupture with Parliament in the beginning of June several officers succeeded in bringing off part of their soldiers; for instance Colonel Greaves (Lords’ Journals, vii. 243, 267), Sir Robert Pye (Lords’ Journals, vii. 243), Lieut.-Colonel Jackson (Lords’ Journals, vii. 243), Captain Farmer (Lords’ Journals, vii. 258). Part of Fairfax’s lifeguard left him (Lords’ Journals, vii. 264, 282). On the other side the names of those who adhered to Fairfax may be gathered from the signatures to the Petition presented April 27 (Rushworth, vi. 471), and from the lists of attendances at various councils of war given in the book of Army declarations published in 1647.
[a ]Rushworth’s text of this Declaration, vol. vi. pp. 564-570, differs in some phrases from that printed in the Book of Army Declarations, 1647, pp. 36-46, and the version in the Old Parliamentary History, said to be reprinted from the original Declarations printed at Cambridge, gives two very important paragraphs not contained in either of the others (xv. 466).
[a ]Other accounts of Cromwell’s speech are given in the note on p. 230. Mr. Gardiner points out that the speech which Cromwell defends must have been made on September 22nd, as he arrived too late for the debate of the 23rd.
[a ]The best account of the rendezvous is given in a letter of William Clarke’s, contained in a pamphlet entitled A Full Relation of the Proceedings at the Rendezvous at Corkbush Field in Hartford Parish on Monday last, 1647. It is reprinted by Maseres, Select Tracts, i. lv.
[a ]Insubordination, however, was not yet entirely at an end. On February 23 some of the Lifeguard of Fairfax presented a petition to their General, protesting against the terms on which they were to be disbanded, and backed it by a mutinous demonstration, for which several were tried by a court-martial (Rushworth, vii. 1006, 1009, 1010). A certain William Clarke was condemned to death, but pardoned. Harrison’s regiment mutinied when ordered into the west, for which Henry Gethings, an Agitator, and two soldiers were sentenced to death, but also pardoned. Another leading Leveller Corporal Thompson, who had escaped from custody, was arrested by Cromwell himself at the door of the House of Commons, and tried about the same time. (The Kingdom’s Weekly Post, March 2-9, 164⅞; A Vindication of Lieut.-Gen. Cromwell, etc., against a libell signed by one Tompson, by A. C., March 7, 164⅞.)
Last modified April 10, 2014