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Politics and the Army in the English Civil War Part 3

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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. 3.


a caricature of the protector richard cromwell:

From the Clarke Collection


The documents contained in this third instalment of the ‘Clarke Papers’ are selected from volumes xxv. to xxxi. of the MSS. in Worcester College Library. Those volumes consist mainly of newsletters sent from the headquarters of the army in England, or from persons connected with the army, to the headquarters of the army in Scotland. Interspersed among them are a few private letters addressed to General Monck, and copies of other documents which came into William Clarke’s possession during his tenure of office as Monck’s secretary. Clarke had been left behind in Scotland in August 1651, when Cromwell marched into England in pursuit of Charles II., and there are many letters from him, giving an account of the progress of the subjugation of Scotland by Generals Monck and Deane. He acted as secretary to Colonel Robert Lilburne during Lilburne’s command in Scotland, and when Lilburne left Scotland he recommended him warmly to his successor. After describing the position of affairs in Scotland to Monck, and stating the measures he thought expedient, he concluded: ‘I presume to recomend unto you Mr. Clarke, an old Gentleman of the State’s, and one that would bee most usefull and servissable to your selfe, havinge the transsactions of all affaires that have pass’d both in Major Generall Deane’s time and myne in this Nation, and one whome I conceive you have sufficient experience [of], both for his abilitie and honestie, and knowes as well as I can informe you how serviceable he may be unto you if you thinke fit to continue him in this place as Secretary, which he hath supplyed since the late Major General Deane went hence, and wherein I thincke noe man could be more honest and active. Wherefore presuming that he is soe well knowne to you, and that his merrit will sufficiently speake for him, I shall not be further troublesome then to beg your pardon, and intreat you to be confident it is out of a reall respect and honour towards you that I have taken this confidence upon mee.’ (January 21, 165¾.)

A number of the letters and papers contained in volumes xxv. to xxxi. of the Clarke MSS. relate to the military administration of Scotland during the period from 1653 to 1659. These with other papers of the same nature have been collected and published for the Scottish History Society, in two volumes entitled ‘Scotland and the Commonwealth’ (1895), and ‘Scotland and the Protectorate’ (1899).

This volume of the ‘Clarke Papers’ contains therefore few references to Scotland. There is, however, a curious account of an interview between the Protector and the Scottish representatives in the Parliament of 1654, and there are some allusions to the debates on the union of the two nations in the Protector’s Second Parliament (pp. 22, 80, 81, 96).

The greater part of this volume consists of newsletters sent from England to the headquarters of the army in Scotland in order to keep the commander there and his officers informed of the condition of affairs at home and abroad. Two or three such letters were regularly despatched every week by agents employed for the purpose, who were usually either officials or persons in some way connected with the army.

Of the newswriters whose letters appear in these pages, the chief were George Downing—sometime scout-master general of the army in Scotland, and subsequently one of Cromwell’s diplomatic agents; Gilbert Mabbott, a connection of William Clarke’s, many of whose letters are printed in the preceding volumes; and John Rushworth, the author of the ‘Historical Collections.’ All sign the letters with initials merely. These newsletters are so numerous that it was impossible to print more than a selection from them, and in many cases a short extract from a letter has been considered sufficient. For much of the information which these letters generally contain is also to be found in ‘Mercurius Politicus,’ and it was not desirable to reprint matter already accessible, and in itself of no particular importance, which would have involved the exclusion of more valuable historical material.1 On the other hand, these newsletters contain personal details about the Protector and other people of note which the newspapers do not give. They supply in addition a considerable amount of military news, as to promotions, movements of regiments, trials by court-martial, and other matters specially interesting to soldiers, of which the newspapers say little or nothing. They possess also a certain value as representing the impression which the political events recorded produced upon the army and persons connected with it, and the views which the military party wished others to accept.

The letter describing Cromwell’s expulsion of the Long Parliament supplies an instance of this. There is an obvious attempt to soften and tone down the violence and illegality of the general’s proceedings. Cromwell’s denunciatory speech is merely alluded to as ‘something said by the general;’ the Speaker is described as ‘modestly pulled’ out of the chair, and Parliament as ‘dissolved with as little noyse as can bee imagined’ (pp. 1, 2). The letters which follow this contain many new details about the incidents of the few weeks which intervened between the expulsion of the Long Parliament and the meeting of its successor. Cromwell used his power with moderation, suppressing an abusive ballad against the late Parliament, which was sung generally through London (p. 3). But when eleven aldermen petitioned that that assembly might sit again, he told the petitioners ‘hee took it ill they should goe about to obstruct the proceedings for the good of the people, and that himself and those about him (turning to the officers) would make good what was done with their bloods.’ The subscribers of the petition were promptly deprived of any offices they held under the state (pp. 6, 8).1 Other letters describe the schemes for a new constitution, and the selections of the persons called together to form the Little Parliament (pp. 4, 6-8). Its sudden conclusion is briefly related, and the expulsion of those of its members who refused to abdicate their power is told in the same way as the expulsion of the Long Parliament was. Twenty-seven members remained in the House, to whom ‘Colonel Gough presently came, and with all meekness told them that he was fearfull their stay might prove prejudiciall to the Commonwealth.’ They asked if he had any authority, and he owned he had none, ‘but sweetly argued it with them,’ and when they refused to be convinced ‘he opened the doore, and presently entered one file of Musketters, upon whose appearance the remaining part of the House withdrew’ (p. 11).

In September 1654 the Protector called his first Parliament, and the dissastisfaction which the establishment of the Protectorate and the nature of the new constitution had produced among some of the officers began to reveal itself. Two Colonels, Okey and Alured, were tried by court-martial, and a third, Saunders, was called upon to deliver up his commission, for promoting a petition which attacked the Instrument of Government (pp. 10-12, 17). Two ministers, Feake and Simpson, preached against the Government, the latter denouncing the ‘Triers’ as anti-christian, and saying ‘that he could with as good a conscience goe to the Pope and his Cardinalls for their approbation as to them’ (pp. 13-15). The Council of Officers, however, supported the Protector’s Government, and presented a petition on behalf of liberty of conscience, which Parliament was then threatening to restrict (pp. 11, 13). At the end of December horse and foot regiments were quartered in Westminster and guns planted about Whitehall and St. James’s, on the rumour of a plot to overthrow the Protectorate by aid of the army in Scotland (p. 16). But these precautions were more probably the result of the widespread plot for a Royalist insurrection which had long been in preparation. ‘It was not thought fitt to lett the blades goe on any longer who were att worke to have brought new troubles uppon us,’ and therefore at the beginning of January 1655 many of the chief plotters were arrested (p. 17). On January 22 Cromwell dissolved Parliament, asserting that ‘under their shaddow and thorrow theire Howse and its resolucions, bryers and thornes were grown up, even to the hazard of all,’ meaning that their hostility had encouraged the designs of the Cavaliers and the Levellers. Of this speech the newsletters contain brief summaries (pp. 19, 20).

In spite of the many arrests made the Royalists persisted in their design. The rising was originally fixed for February. ‘Yesterday,’ says a letter dated February 13, ‘they intended to have taken away the life of his Highnesse, this day to rise in all the westerne partes, tomorrow in all the northerne partes of the nation’ (p. 22). Through the vigorous measures of the Government they were obliged to postpone the date to March 8 (p. 27); but though there were gatherings of men in arms near Nottingham, Newcastle, York, Shrewsbury, and elsewhere, it was at Salisbury alone that action followed.1 On March 12 Sir Joseph Wagstaff and Colonel Penruddock with 200 or 300 horse seized the judges on circuit at Salisbury and proclaimed Charles II. On the night of March 14 the party was routed by Captain Croke at South Molton, and the insurrection came to an end (pp. 25-30). The newsletters contain many details about the trial and punishment of the prisoners (pp. 32-38).

In the summer of 1655 the Protector made a considerable reduction in the numbers of the standing army and a small reduction in its pay which it was estimated would lessen the cost of the army by 28,000l. per month (pp. 39, 46, 49). At the same time a new standing militia of horse was organised in all the counties of England, partly to supply the place of the regular troops disbanded, partly as a military police to prevent future insurrections. England was divided into eleven districts, and a major-general appointed to command the militia of each district. The necessary funds were procured by a tax of ten per cent. on the incomes of the Royalists (pp. 39, 42, 50). In August 1655 the officers of the new militia were feasted by the Protector at Whitehall (p. 47). On March 5, 1656, the Protector made a speech to the Aldermen and Common Council of London, setting forth the reasons for the establishment of the militia and the major-generals, and explaining the beneficial results of the institution. ‘This way,’ he said, ‘the Lord hath owned by making more effectuall than was expected, and by receiving a good acceptation with those who of late stood at some distance with us’ (p. 65).

In September 1656 the second Parliament of the Protectorate met. The newsletters give a summary of Cromwell’s opening speech, and there is also a notice of one made by him to a meeting of officers a few days earlier (pp. 72, 73). About 120 republican members were excluded (pp. 73-75, 85). After their exclusion the war with Spain was approved, many of the Protector’s ordinances confirmed, and great activity shown in legislation. ‘The whole House,’ it was asserted, ‘are unanimous in carrying on the best things for the good of the nation both spirituall and temporall’ (p. 76). This harmony was interrupted by the discussions on the case of James Naylor, and brought to an end of the excited debates over the bill for legalising the position of the major-generals (pp. 84-88).

Still greater divisions arose over the proposal to make the Protector king. The newsletters prove that this was no new suggestion. According to one it had been actually moved in the Parliament of 1654 (p. 16). It was rumoured in May 1655 that the making of a new Great Seal was to be immediately followed by the crowning of the Protector (pp. 38, 42). In August 1655 a printed petition was circulated in London, in the name of the freeholders of England, urging Cromwell to assume the crown under the title of King or Emperor; but the petition was suppressed by the Protector’s Council (pp. 48, 51). The revival of Monarchy had been again suggested in Parliament in January 1657 (p. 87), and when on February 23 Alderman Pack formally presented the draft of a monarchical constitution to the House, it can have been no great surprise to politicians. A newsletter dated a fortnight earlier says that ‘many citizens of London’ had been laying wagers ‘that we shall have suddenly an alteration of the present Government’ (p. 88).

Thurloe assured Monck that the scheme originated with Parliament and not with the Protector: ‘His Highness knew nothing of the particulars till they were brought into the House’ (p. 90). Another writer, probably John Rushworth, prophesied that the proposal would be carried in spite of the opposition of the soldiers. The majority of the Parliament, he said, ‘are so highly incensed against the arbetrary actings of the Major Generalls that they are greedy of any powers that will be ruled and limited by law’ (p. 91). Thurloe was specially pleased by the revival of a Second House. ‘Wee judge here that this House thus constituted will bee a great security and bullwarke to the honest interest . . . and will not bee soe uncertaine as the House of Commons, which depends upon the election of the people’ (p. 93).

The army opposed the scheme from the beginning. At its first introduction all the Major-Generals voted against it (p. 91), and the officers expressed ‘the feares and jealousies that lay upon them in relation to the Protector’s alteracion of his title’ (p. 92). Two addresses were presented by the officers to Cromwell on the subject, and Cromwell ‘was pleased to use such tender and plaine discovery of his constant regard to his army and the antient cause of the honnest people under his government, and gave such Christian assurance thereof that amounted to a large satisfaccion’ to the deputation (p. 96). The excitement in the army seemed to be allayed (p. 98).

Parliament passed one after another the Articles of the Petition and Advice, with less opposition than was expected (p. 97). Some of them met with general approval. ‘This day,’ says a letter of March 19, ‘the House passed the clause for Liberty of Conscience, and indeed much more to satisfaction generally than as in the Instrument of Government.’ At the end of March took place the offer of the crown to Cromwell. Reports of three of Cromwell’s speeches in the conferences which followed are in Clarke’s letter books—the speeches numbered VII, VIII, IX in Carlyle’s collection. As they differ very little from the reports which are the basis of Carlyle’s versions, it was deemed enough to collate them, and to set down the various readings which Clarke’s reports supply (pp. 99-101, 103). There is also a copy of the speech of the Protector on May 25, accepting the Petition and Advice (appendix number 30 in Carlyle), which has been collated in the same way (p. 112). Cromwell refused the crown on May 8, after a new petition against kingship, urging Parliament to press the Protector no further, had been presented to the House (pp. 108-110). Of the rest of the proceedings of the session the newsletters give little information; nor do they supply much about the second session of the parliament, which began on January 23, 1658, except a brief account of the opening of the session and of the Protector’s speech (p. 132). Clarke’s papers however contain a report of the speech with which the Protector dissolved this parliament (speech XVIII in Carlyle). This is printed at length because it differs more than the others from Carlyle’s version (p. 136). It supplies contemporary evidence for the tradition that when Cromwell closed his denunciation of the conduct of the conduct of the House by calling on God to judge between his opponents and himself, many of the Commons answered by crying ‘Amen’ (p. 139).

One cause of this sudden dissolution was the deadlock caused by the refusal of the republican opposition, now triumphant in the Commons, to recognise the new House of Lords. Another was the imminent danger of an alliance between the opposition in Parliament and the malcontents in the army. A petition, intended to be presented by the republican party in London, was to formulate the programme of the military and civil opponents of the government (p. 180). The sudden dissolution frustrated this plan, and it was followed up by measures for the purgation of the army. Lambert, who had expressed his dissatisfaction with the new constitution, had been dismissed from all his commands in the previous July, though his pay had been for the present continued (pp. 113, 114, 119). Now in February 1658 Major Packer and five other officers commanding the Protector’s own regiment of horse were cashiered for declaring ‘their dislike of the present government,’ after Cromwell himself had ‘laboured to satisfie them’ without success (p. 140). The officers in general, to whom, two days after the dissolution, the Protector ‘spake in a very large discourse of about two hours,’ were more easy to convince, and declared that this speech ‘gave a general satisfaction to them all’ (p. 139). Over two hundred signed the address presented to Cromwell on March 27 (pp. 141, 145). In March and April there was much talk of a new Parliament, and of something to be done to secure ‘a more absolute settlement than the Petition and Advice doth hold forth’ (p. 145). This probably refers to a renewal of the attempt to convert the Protectorate into a monarchy, which was confidently expected. Every little thing which could be construed as evidence of this intention was noticed and commented upon. When the Protector’s son-in-law, Robert Rich, died, it was observed that ‘His Highness mourned three daies in purple (as is used by persons of his quality)’ (p. 142). In May 1658 a report that the Master of the Wardrobe was having made up ‘the two capps of crimson and purple velvet, worne onely by princes,’ is said to ‘make the people talke largely of kingship’ (p. 150). Bordeaux, the French ambassador, who was an acute observer of English politics, reported to his government in March 1658 that he saw more signs of a disposition to make Cromwell king than to overthrow his power (Guizot, ‘Cromwell and the English Commonwealth,’ ii. 584, 586, 589, 596).

Among other subjects mentioned in the newsletters are the death and funeral of Blake (pp. 115, 118), the marriage of Skippon (pp. 115, 118), Fairfax’s endeavours to obtain the release of his son-in-law, the Duke of Buckingham (pp. 123, 129), duels (p. 131), a celebrated trial (p. 125), and many miscellaneous items of London gossip. There are frequent references to the Protector’s schemes for the reform of the law. The military party was strongly in their favour, though they ‘much startled’ the lawyers (pp. 61, 64, 76, 80). In a short speech to his second Parliament, which is not included in Carlyle’s collection, the Protector dwelt with satisfaction on the many good laws they had made, ‘the effect whereof the people of this Commonwealth will with comfort finde hereafter’ (p. 83).

The letters throw little light on the Protector’s ecclesiastical policy, though they notice incidents such as the sermons of Simpson, Sturgion, Feake, and others against Cromwell (pp. 13, 51, 62, 146), the debates about Naylor’s case (p. 84), the expulsion of Quakers from the army (p. 122), and John Lilburne’s conversion to quakerism (p. 62). Cromwell’s answer to the petitioners on behalf of John Biddle is noted, apparently with approval (p. 53). An account of the ‘Common Prayer Booke meetings’ in London about Christmas 1657 shows the extent and limits of the toleration allowed to Anglicans under the Protector’s government (p. 130).

Among the Clarendon papers in the Bodleian there is a report of a short answer made by Cromwell on January 5, 1654, to an address presented by ‘the ministers of the French church of London’ which has escaped notice, and will serve to supplement the scanty information about ecclesiastical matters this volume supplies.

‘The substance of his Highnesse answer to us was:

‘That he saw we were pleased to take notice of what he had formerly said to us, wherein he had declared his heart to us, and had said it indeed, and did say it still. That we should goe on in one way, and that it should be his joye to see we would doe, as we had said we should: to live in the love which is in Christ Jesus, and to honnour our profession with a holy life (though for his part he knew no other wayes but we did soe), for whatsoever our profession were, that is that would doe it, namely the power of godlinesse. He did exhort us then to goe on in doing soe, and promised us his Protection, and that he would be ready to serve us. That he did hope that God would grant him the grace to keep his Arck in these nations; and desired our prayers for him that he might improuve that authority which the Lord had given him for the good of God’s people.’1

On the foreign and colonial policy of the Protector the newsletters themselves contain little of importance, but other letters among these papers, and the documents added in the Appendix, contain information of value.

In 1653 when Cromwell expelled the Long Parliament the war with the Dutch was still in progress, and there are occasional references to captures of Dutch ships, the movements of the English fleet, and the peace negotiations (pp. 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9). It seemed probable that England in alliance with Spain would take up the cause of Condé and the Frondeurs of Bordeaux. Lieutenant Colonel Sexby had been sent to the south of France by the Council of State about the end of 1651 to enquire into the condition of the country and the temper of the people ‘in order to prevent danger and create an interest.’ He returned to England about the end of 1653, and early in 1654 presented to the newly made Protector the scheme printed in Appendix A (p. 197). It proposed that England should intervene in the French civil war by hiring out ships and men to the Spaniards. Six thousand foot and fifteen hundred horse, paid by Spain, were to be landed in the south of France to secure Rochelle and other ports. Cromwell seriously considered the project. In October 1653 he had sent Joachim Hane, a German engineer employed in the English army in Scotland, to enquire into the condition of Rochelle and other fortified places and ports. Hane’s narrative, which is among the Clarke Papers, has been printed, but relates almost entirely to his personal adventures.1 By the summer of 1654 Cromwell had made up his mind to have nothing to do with Sexby’s scheme, and at the end of 1654 a treaty between France and England was on the point of conclusion. Then, however, it was broken off, and when the royalist insurrection of March 1655 took place the French seemed disposed to take advantage of it to attack England (pp. 21, 23, 29-35, 37). On May 7, 1655, the French ambassador came to take leave of the Protector, ‘and yet that afternoon the peace was revived,’ and in October following the long delayed treaty was concluded (pp. 38, 61).

In 1655 a Swedish ambassador came to England to negotiate an alliance between the Protector and Charles Gustavus of Sweden. The newsletters describe the quarrel about precedence which took place at his reception between the Spanish and French ambassadors, and the rumour that 20,000 English soldiers were to be sent to the support of the Swedes (pp. 46, 49). Nothing for the present came of these negotiations. The Protector about the end of the year also thought of intervening in the war which had broken out in Switzerland between the Protestant and the Catholic cantons. Cromwell was zealous for the cause of the Protestants. ‘Their want is monie’ wrote Thurloe to Monck, ‘which they pray a supply of from his Highnesse, who will strayne himself uppon this occasion, although itt can ill bee spared. All that concernes the profession of religion is att stake in this warre in these parts’ (p. 63).

Cromwell was prevented from giving the Swiss the pecuniary assistance they asked by the cost of the war with Spain which commenced in October 1655. It was the natural consequence of his attack on Hispaniola and the conquest of Jamaica. An account of ‘the grounds of undertakinge the designe of attemptinge the Kinge of Spaine in the West Indies’ and a very curious report of a debate in the Protector’s Council on the subject are printed in Appendix B (p. 203). Both are derived from the papers of Edward Montagu, in the possession of the Earl of Sandwich. The Society is indebted to the Earl of Sandwich for allowing them to be copied, and to Dr. Gardiner for transcribing them. At the conclusion of the peace with the Dutch in the spring of 1654, the Protector found himself with ‘a hundred and sixty sail of brave ships well appointed swimming at sea.’ It seemed to him better and cheaper to employ them in some enterprise which would keep up the reputation acquired by the late war, and ‘improve it to some good’ rather than to lay up the ships (p. 207). The arguments which led to the employment of this fleet against Spain instead of France are stated in Montagu’s first paper to very much the same effect as in Thurloe’s account of the Protector’s foreign policy. ‘The attempt upon France,’ recommended by Spain, ‘was apprehended difficult and unprofitable, the Spaniard’s aims beinge but to sett us two together by the eares.’ On the other hand ‘the attemptinge the Spaniard’ was held profitable and easy, and also as advantageous to the Protestant cause as the weakening of France would be detrimental (p. 203). The Protector and his councillors exaggerated the facility with which the Spanish possessions in America might be conquered and the Plate fleet intercepted (p. 204). The moment seemed to them propitious for the attempt because the Spaniards were ‘engaged in a warr with France, and very weake evereywhere at present.’ Another argument was that ‘the worke is like to be more acceptable to the people of all sorts and the Parliament than any can be.’ But though the war was expected to be popular, it was as well to begin it when Parliament was not sitting. ‘If this opportunity be omitted, it is to be doubted whether we shall ever be soe well fitted for it, or get the consent of a Parliament to doe it.’ Moreover it was very possible that the attack would not lead to a war with Spain in Europe. ‘Notwithstandinge our warr with the Spaniard in America, it is possible, if not reasonable to expect that wee may have peace and trade in Europe; for his necessitye of our trade will require it, but especially his interest in Flanders which he hath no way to releive with forces or monyes but through our Channell, which if hee have warr in Europe he will certainly be debarred of’ (p. 205). In the Protector’s Council the chief opponent of the proposed West Indian expedition was Major-General Lambert. Apart from the cost and the difficulty of the enterprise, both of which he held to be underestimated, he urged that the reform of the law, the settlement of Ireland, and home affairs in general demanded all the attention of the Government. To this Cromwell replied that God had brought them where they were ‘to consider the worke wee may doe in the world as well as at home’; and that to adjourn the attempt until the Government had a surplus meant putting it off for ever. ‘It was told us,’ he concluded, ‘that this designe would cost little more than laying by the shippes, and that with hope of greater profitt’ (p. 207).

The expedition under the command of Penn and Venables sailed for the West Indies in December 1654. ‘The designe,’ says an intercepted letter, ‘is secrett, knowne to the designer onely, whoe saith if hee thought his shirt knew it hee would burne it’ (p. 12). In March 1655 its safe arrival at Barbadoes was known in England (pp. 29, 41); at the end of June news came of the landing at Hispaniola, and of the capture of its chief city without opposition (pp. 44, 46, 48); in August the taking of Jamaica was announced and the truth about the disastrous defeat at Hispaniola gradually became known (pp. 47-8). A narrative of the expedition by an officer engaged in it, which contains many new details, is printed on pp. 54-60. The author is evidently of opinion that if the attack upon the city of San Domingo, attempted on April 17, had been persisted in, the city might have been captured. He describes the murmuring of the old soldiers in his regiment when they received the General’s orders to retreat, and were forced to abandon their wounded comrades (p. 56). The regiment in question was Colonel Richard Fortescue’s, in which the author of the narrative was then a captain.1

Penn and Venables returned to England about the beginning of September 1655 and were both sent to the Tower (pp. 51-2). A Spanish ambassador, the Marquis de Leyde, had been negotiating in England since April 1655, but now asked for his passports (pp. 34-5, 38-9, 43, 53, 60), and Spain seized all English ships and merchants in its ports (pp. 52, 60). The breach was complete.

When the merchants complained of these seizures, the Protector answered that he would reinforce Jamaica with an additional army, and that he was confident thereby to repair their losses twentyfold, which gave great satisfaction (p. 52). To these reinforcements there are several references in these letters. A regiment under Colonel Humphreys was sent in June 1655 (pp. 40, 42, 43). Lieutenant-General William Brayne and two other regiments followed in 1656 (p. 86), but two hundred of Brayne’s regiment and many officers were shipwrecked off the coast of Ireland (p. 77).1

The Protector’s second parliament approved of the war with Spain, but showed some reluctance to sanction the increased taxation it necessitated. The war was estimated to cost a million a year, and the military party, who were extremely zealous against the Spaniards, grumbled that Spain and Flanders could not be taken with a bare vote (pp. 75, 76, 81, 82, 85).

In March 1657 the Protector concluded an alliance with France, by which an auxiliary force of 6,000 English soldiers was to co-operate in the conquest of Flanders. The newsletters mention the raising of these troops, but the nature of their employment was at first kept a secret (pp. 95, 106, 107). The English auxiliaries consisted of six regiments of a thousand men each, levied for the purpose. Of these regiments the colonels were Sir John Reynolds, commander of the whole force, Major-General Thomas Morgan, his second in command, and Colonels Roger Alsop, Henry Lillingstone, Samuel Clarke, and Brice Cochrane. Morgan had previously served as Monck’s second in command in Scotland. His letters to Monck, together with the letters of two other officers who had served under Monck, give an excellent account of the campaign (pp. 110, 116, 134, 160). One of these officers was probably Joachim Hane, the engineer employed to fortify Mardyke (pp. 120, 127, 129). Another was Richard Hughes, once Monck’s lieutenant (‘Scotland and the Protectorate,’ pp. 100, 107), and during the campaign in Flanders lieutenant-colonel of Sir Brice Cochrane’s regiment (pp. 124, 148, 150, 151, 159). The first service of the English contingent was at the siege of St. Venant, where they distinguished themselves by the courage with which they stormed the outworks of the town. ‘Marshall Turinn with most of the nobilitie in the army have had a high respect for us ever since,’ writes Morgan (p. 117). Mardyke was captured in September 1657, and immediately handed over to an English garrison. The fort was weak, its outworks ruinous, and the whole place insufficient to afford proper accommodation for the troops necessary to hold it (pp. 120, 126). An attempt of the Spaniards to retake it by surprise was successfully repulsed (pp. 122, 124), but the garrison lost very heavily from sickness and hardships. ‘We have about 2,000 men,’ says a letter, ‘but not accomodation for 600 of them; hence the shifts wee make for lodginge are very hard and unholesome, tending to the destruction of many every day.’ The rest of the English contingent suffered almost as much. ‘Our souldiers that lye up and downe in the French quarters sicken and dye very fast for want of good accomodacion, soe that by the next spring they will bee reduced to a very small number, if they hould on as they doe’ (pp. 122, 123, 125, 128). According to Morgan the 6,000 were reduced to 3,000 by February 1658 (p. 135). But in the spring a large number of recruits were sent over, and also the greater part of the regiments of Colonel Salmon and Colonel Gibbon (pp. 119, 129, 149, 151, 152, 158). In May 1658 Turenne laid siege to Dunkirk, and the English regiments again distinguished themselves by the energy with which they attacked the outworks, carried on their approaches, and repulsed the sallies of the garrison. ‘The English souldiers,’ writes Hughes, ‘behaving themselves very handsome, have gained a generall applause from all the grandees of the army; the French horse, who formerly hated us, have become very loving and civill, and had rather engage with us than with their owne foote’ (p. 151). They lost many men in unsuccessful attempts to storm the counterscarp (p. 158).

In June 1658 Condé and Don John with 16,000 or 18,000 men came to raise the siege, and the battle of the Dunes took place on Friday, June . There are two excellent accounts of the battle in these papers: one by Colonel Drummond, the other by Lieut.-Colonel Hughes. Lockhart’s regiment particularly distinguished itself. ‘Without vanitie,’ wrote Drummond, ‘that regiment has done what I have never seene done before, for they charged and beate a Spanish regiment off a hill more steepe than any ascent of a breach that I have seene’ (p. 154). Hughes describes this sandhill, on which the Spanish right was stationed, as ‘a great hill naturally fortified,’ and says, ‘our men on hands and knees krept up the hill, and gave the enemies foot two good volleys, and with our pikes forced them to retreate’ (p. 157). Both agreed that if the French horse had pursued with sufficient vigour, very few of the Spanish army would have escaped. As it was, the number of prisoners taken was nearly 3,000, and the Spanish infantry were mostly cut to pieces. Drummond received a mortal wound the day after the battle, while Hughes was killed about a month later, so that for the rest of the campaign there are only two brief letters from Morgan and Thurloe (pp. 160, 163).

Three months after the battle of the Dunes Cromwell died. The Protector had been ill in August 1655 and in January 1656 (pp. 51, 63). In August 1658, after the death of his daughter Mrs. Claypole, he was again ‘visited with a fit of sickness,’ described as ‘a great distemper’ too much like the illness he had in Scotland in the spring of 1651. ‘Three days agoe,’ says a letter dated August 14, ‘wee had some doubts of his recovery . . . but now hee is pretty well recovered, and uppon the consideration of his mortallity will speedily resolve of something of settlement.’ On the 28th the renewal of the Protector’s illness is mentioned; on September 2 it is said that there is good hope of his recovery (p. 161). On September 3, ‘about three o’clock in the afternoon,’ says a letter dated September 4, ‘Death overcame his Highnesse (who overcame thousands uppon that day of the month in the yeares 1650 and 1651).’ Four or five hours later Richard Cromwell was proclaimed Protector, the newswriter asserting that he had been nominated in writing by his father, which was no doubt the accredited report, though according to Thurloe the paper could not be found (p. 162). For a moment after the Protector’s death ‘things looked very cloudely,’ the Anabaptists ‘spake words very loud,’ especially Mr. Feake, and ‘a great many of the Longe Parliament men flocked to towne, which bred some jealousy.’ But the immediate proclamation of Richard prevented any disturbance, and the new ruler was quietly accepted (ibid.). ‘It is a mercy worth all good men’s observation to see all men thankfull in this change’ (p. 163).

The danger to Richard’s rule lay in the discontent of some of the officers and the ambition of others. The army presented a congratulatory address to Richard on September 18 (p. 164), but early in October a dangerous petition was in circulation asking that Fleetwood should be made commander-in-chief, though it was discountenanced by Fleetwood himself (p. 165). During October and November the officers in London met regularly every Friday to pray and expound places of Scripture. ‘A very eminent spirit of prayer appeared in the officers,’ says an account of one meeting, but they could not keep off politics, and in another ‘the language flew high, and tended as some said to division’ (pp. 166-168). Complaints were made of alterations in the army ‘as if good men were put out and worse put in’ (p. 169). On this the young Protector, who had made one speech to the officers about a month earlier, called them together again and made another, in which he complained of undeserved ‘jealousies,’ and protested his carefulness to protect ‘the godly of the nation.’ ‘As they had consented in the proclayming of him Protector, so he hoped they would assist him in the government, for he stood much in need of their advice, being young and not fitted for so great a work.’ The officers, ‘except some few of the inferiour sort,’ we are told, ‘seemed to be much affected with what my Lord said’ (p. 169). This stayed the agitation for a time, and when, in December, some troopers got up a petition for an increase of their pay, they were cashiered by a court-martial (p. 170). Richard, it is evident, did his best to ingratiate himself with the army. He gave all the foot soldiers about London ‘new red coats trimmed with black’ for the funeral of the late Protector, ‘which makes them not a little joyfull in his favour; and though the captains and other superior officers have no mourning given them, yet his Highness hath promised that which shall be of equall vallue thereunto’ (p. 168). Moreover, early in January 1659, ‘upon invitacion from his Highness all the officers of the army (not under the degree of a captain) received a royall treatment at Whitehall’ (p. 173).

In December elections took place for a new parliament, and the newsletters contain a few details about contested elections in different places (pp. 172-174). Several eminent republicans were elected, ‘yet they are conceived to be of no greater advantage than any other, because in all the debates for or against kingship, there was not one proselite or one disciple gained by what was argued by the wisest of men on both sides’ (p. 173). It was estimated that there would be two to one in favour of government by a Protector (p. 177). Parliament met on January 27, 1659, and the Protector’s speech at its opening gained him very great credit. He ‘spake to both Houses with such a grace and presence, and with such oratory and steadinesse, without the least interruption and so pertinently to the present occasion, as it was beyond all expectation’ (p. 176). So far as bearing and externals went it is perfectly evident from this and from other contemporary evidence that Richard made a very presentable sovereign, and that the rusticity and clownishness attributed to him are royalist fictions. There is a letter from William Hooke to John Winthrop in the publications of the Massachusetts Historical Society (Fourth Series, vii. 591), which gives a good sketch of his character, and confirms this view.

Speaking of Oliver’s death, Hooke writes:

‘His eldest sonne succeedeth him, being chosen by the Councill the day following his father’s death, whereof he had no expectacion. I have heard him say, he had thought to have lived as a country gentleman, and that his father had not imployed him in such a way, as to prepare him for such employment; which, he thought, he did designedly. I suppose his meaning was, lest it should have beene apprehended, he had prepared and appointed him for such a place; the burden whereof I have severall times heard him complayning under since his comming to the government, the weighty occacions whereof, with continuall oppressing cares, had drunk up his father’s spirits, in whose body very little blood was found when he was opened: the greatest defect visible was in his heart, which was flaccid and shrunk together; yet he was one that could beare much without complayning, as one of a strong constitucion of brayne (as appeared when he was dissected) and likewise of body. His son seemeth to be of another frame, more soft and tender, and penetrable with easyer cares by much, yet he is of a sweete countenance, vivacious, and candid, as is the whole frame of his spirit, onely, naturally, inclyned to choler. His reception of multitudes of addresses, from Townes, Cities and Countyes, doth declare, among severall other indiciums, more of ability in him, then could ordinarily, have beene expected from him. He spake also with generall acceptacion and applause, when he made his speech before the Parliament, even farr beyond the Lord Fynes.’

The problems before the young Protector’s government were many and serious. Abroad there was the question of the control of the Sound, for which Sweden and Denmark were contending. The Dutch supported the Danes. The English government, which favoured the Swedes, was attempting in conjunction with France to mediate a peace between the kings of Denmark and Sweden, and prepared to back its diplomacy by a fleet. To this and to the progress of the northern war the newsletters contain frequent references (pp. 166, 172, 183, 195). More valuable are the letters of George Downing from the Hague, describing the state of feeling in Holland, where a new war with England seemed imminent. The Dutch, according to Downing, thought that things would never be well ‘till they have a little brought downe the courage of the English’ (p. 170). They were fitting out ships and imposing fresh taxes, while the English Parliament was apathetic, or too impatient of taxation to make the necessary preparations. ‘I know not anything so much talked of at this time as the Parliament at London, and its judged twenty to one odds that the issue of it will be nothing but janglings about questions in the ayre’ (pp. 175, 177). Downing also condemned in the strongest terms the economic policy of England, and demanded sweeping reductions in the customs tariff, which he termed ‘an unpassable barr to trade’ (ibid.).

In domestic affairs the chief questions were the recognition of the new ruler (pp. 179, 181), the right of the Scottish and Irish representatives to sit in the House of Commons (pp. 176, 185, 186), and the authority of the House of Lords (pp. 179, 181, 183, 185, 188). A petition for the restoration of a parliamentary republic which was largely signed about London was presented to the House of Commons on February 15: it was identical with the petition whose presentation the late Protector had prevented by dissolving parliament so suddenly in February 1658, but it appears to have fallen rather flat (pp. 180, 182). More excitement was caused by the release of Major-General Overton and his triumphant entry into London, which reminded people of the similar re-entry of Prynne and his fellow-sufferers in 1640 (p. 184). In February the agitation in the army began again, and a committee of officers was appointed to draw up a petition to Parliament (p. 182). In April a general meeting of all officers in or near London took place, and the petition was agreed upon (pp. 187, 189). Parliament took alarm, and on April 18 Richard ordered the general council of officers to be dissolved, and all officers to repair to their commands (p. 191). A complete breach between the Protector and the army followed. On the night of Thursday, April 21, Richard ordered various regiments to march to Whitehall ‘for the preservation of his person,’ but they preferred to obey the orders of Fleetwood rather than those of the Protector (p. 193). Even his own regiment deserted him, and he was left with only his lifeguard and about three companies of foot and two troops of horse (p. 213). He could do nothing but submit, and the next day he dissolved Parliament as the army required. Fleetwood, in a very disingenuous letter to Monck, gives a brief account of this revolution, and repudiates the idea that the army was responsible for the dissolution. ‘I beleive some will very evilly represent us in this action, as if wee had forced the Parliament, though his Highnesse by his owne authority did dissolve them, in which the army did stand by his Highnesse’ (p. 194). A week after the dissolution Lambert and other officers whom the late Protector had cashiered were received back into the army, and the council of officers was considering whether to recall the Long Parliament or to set up a new government (pp. 195, 196).

In Appendix C there is a letter giving an account of the proceedings which led to the fall of Richard Cromwell as they appeared to a sympathiser with the army. Nehemiah Bourne, its author, lays claim to special knowledge of what went on in the councils of the army (pp. 212, 213). He affirms positively that the movement originated with ‘the generality of the officers of the army’ instigated by the republican party outside it, not with the superior officers (p. 211); and that after the dissolution of Parliament ‘all indeavours were made by the principal offisers in the armie to pece and mend up that crakt government,’ and maintain the Protectorate (p. 213). But ‘the meaner sorte of the offisers, together with the honest people that flocked in to them,’ insisted on the restoration of the Long Parliament (p. 214). Bourne’s narrative also shows that the army fully believed that many of the members of parliament who supported Richard were in reality royalists, and that Richard, ‘who they would have made soe much haste to dress and set on horsebacke, was but to warme the saddle for another whom they better loved and liked,’ i.e. Charles II. (p. 211). For this very curious and valuable letter the Society is indebted to the kindness of Mr. W. W. Dodge of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The caricature of Richard Cromwell, which forms a frontispiece to this volume, is in the possession of Worcester College, and is bound up with a number of folio pamphlets relating to the period collected by William Clarke. The original is coloured.

In this volume, as in the two earlier ones, the contractions of the original documents have been extended, and the punctuation altered where it seemed necessary. A fourth volume, containing newsletters written in 1659, and a number of papers relating to the movements of General Monck and his march into England, will complete the series. The index is reserved for volume IV.


[1 ]Specimens of similar newsletters sent to and from one of the Protector’s foreign agents are to be found in Robert Vaughan’s The Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell illustrated in a series of letters between Dr. John Pell, Sir Samuel Morland &c., 1838.

[1 ]Another account of Cromwell’s speech runs thus: ‘The General told them, that what was done was done, that the Kinge’s head was not taken off because he was Kinge, nor the Lords layd aside because Lords, neither was the Parliament dissolved because they were a Parliament, but because they did not performe there trust; he told them that if any disturbance should hereafter arise about what was done that should occasion the shedding of blood, he should suspect them to be abbettors and promoters thereof, and therefore warned them to looke to the peace Tanner MSS. lii. 13.

[1 ]For a full account of this rising see ‘Cromwell and the Insurrection of 1655’ in the English Historical Review, 1888, p. 323; 1889, p. 313.

[1 ]Clarendon MSS. xlvii. 268.

[1 ]The Journal of Joachim Hane: containing his Escapes and Sufferings during his Employment by Oliver Cromwell in France from November 1653 to February 1654. Edited by C. H. Firth. (B. H. Blackwell: Oxford 1896.)

[1 ]The MS. contains no indication of the authorship of the narrative, but internal evidence shows that the author was a captain in Fortescue’s regiment when Hispaniola was attacked. At first sight the narrative looks like a letter from Jamaica, but on closer examination it seems rather as if it were a statement made by some officer in England on his return from Jamaica. If so it may be conjectured that its author was Thomas White. White was originally a captain in the regiment, became its major May 15, 1655, after the landing in Jamaica, and had leave to return to England on June 16. See also his petition, Cal. State Papers Dom. 1655-6, p. 61.

[1 ]It was originally intended to print the narrative of General Venables himself and several other accounts of the Jamaica expedition in the Appendix to this volume. These are ‘the accounts printed in the Appendix’ referred to in the footnote to p. 60. Subsequently it was judged better to print all these narratives in a separate volume, as they proved much longer than had been expected.

Last modified April 10, 2014