Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

covered much political ability and were formed on a wide view of the public interest. The famous navigation act, which has contributed so essentially to our present naval pre-eminence, was the offspring of its wisdom; and in the field and the cabinet its talents for government were alike attested by success. By its prudent management of the revenues of the state, it possessed the means not only of paying its army and the servants of its civil establishment with punctuality, but of liberally rewarding their merits. If it were intitled, however, to the respect, it was either unable or not solicitous to conciliate the affection of the nation. Many of its measures had, in a high degree, been reprehensible and offensive. Besides the murder of the king, which its vote had ostensibly induced and of which it offered the pretended sanction, its frequent appointment of High Courts of Justice, and its consequent disuse of Juries, for the trial of statecriminals, could not fail to excite the popular odium, whoever were the victims of these irregular tribunals; while the shameless vivaciousness with which it refused to remit its grasp of political existence, without any reference to its just source of being in the people, laid its private ambition open to the most common observation, and exposed the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

cherished, and
had been dire
tolerance of t
the leading ob
to the sectari
the army; and

futility of its pretensions to public virtue. The execution of Mr. Love, a leading presbyterian clergyman, who, till the ascendancy of the Independents and the death of the king, had actively promoted and had suffered in the republican cause, largely contributed to the unpopularity of this exhausted and selfdependent parliament. The crime, of which he stood convicted, was that of corresponding with the exiled king and of conspiring against the comnionwealth: but so great had been his merits to the parliamentary party, and so strong was the interest now exerted to save him, that the unrelenting severity, which conducted him to the block, was the subject of general reprobation.

While it was thus declining in the favour of the nation, this usurping assembly beheld with increasing apprehension the power its army, and the ascendancy of its victorious general:

However open to censure may have been the measures of the parliament, those of the army were fully as culpable and far more extraordinary. Its conduct, indeed, seems to be without precedent or consequent, standing insulated and alone in the annals of the world. Well paid, highly disciplined, enthusiastic in the cause of liberty, under the strong controll of religious principle, it aban

brated spirits riewsof policy daning system si such enligt Selden and V Parliament or wines, the con tion would I those alarms duty and, c overtbrow of tually subser)

of

Aware o probably red Cromwell

1 a

the general

popularity

jalousies d

ale pred

e harrasse the means

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

against the

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

dons its principle, betrays its cause, revolts

power

for whom it had assumed arms, by whose able management it had been cherished, and by whose superior counsels it had been directed to victory. But the intolerance of the Presbyterians was become the leading object of resentment and of terror to the sectarists, who formed the body of the

army; and the religious phrenzy of these heated spirits was insusceptible of any long views of policy, or of any violentand self-abandoning system of patriotism. If the influence of such enlightened and liberal politicians as Selden and Whitelocke had prevailed in the Parliament over that of the Assembly of Divines, the concession of an unlimited toleration would have preserved the army from those alarms, which alone shook it from its duty and, converting it immediately to the overthrow of the government, made it eventually subservient to its own ruin.

Aware of the advantages, which would probably result from it to his own cause, Cromwell carefully watched and fomented the general agitation. In the diminished popularity of the Parliament, in the mutual jealousies of that assembly and the army, in the prevailing lassitude and discontent of the harrassed people he saw and welcomed the means of his own personal aggrandise

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

sciplinele

trunder pleit

aber

[blocks in formation]

ment. He had now reached a situation conliguous to that greatness which, only a short time before, had perhaps been removed from his most sanguine and visionary expectation: Unlike to the first Cæsar, who, aspiring to empire from the commencement of his political career, seems to have advanced by regular and measured steps to the possession of his object, Cromwell, floating loosely on the tide of events, was brought near 10 a throne, which he had the boldness to seize and the ability to retain. Enthusiasın, which, at first, was the great moving spring of his conduct, became, in the succeeding stages of his progress, the instrument with which he worked; and, from being the dupe of his own feelings, he grew to be the controller of those of other men. He never entirely, indeed, ceased to be the enthusiast; but, ambition, for a time, obtaining the ascendancy, in his bosom, over the religious passion, he united in himself, at last, with an inconsistency not uncommon in our poor nature, the opposite characters of the zealot and the impostor. When he performed his devotions with the common soldiers, and, thus conciliating their affections, essentially promoted his own purposes and influence, he was not, as I am satisfied, wholly insincere; but had nersuaded himself that he could thus allow:

By the res marching aga

land, he was the army, and Ireton from wanism of 1 le saw po ingh hand and they reburned fror

Dunbar and

was in fact il

[blocks in formation]

lieton died of ful. This seems

aced his death, oh waves

[ocr errors]

ably convert an act of religious duty into a Budrai mean of worldly interest. No man, per

haps, ever possessed in a higher degree that wife rapid and searching glance which can pene

trate, and that dexterity which can shape to

their proper uses human character and its udvanced

multiform varieties. For the attainment of so in the past ends far different from those proposed to himi aling baik self by the holy Apostle, Cromwell was “ all

things to all men;" and could act, with equal facility, on the demand of the immediate occasion, the commander or the buffoon.

By the resignation of Fairfax, averse from marching against the Presbyterians in Scotland, he was now advanced to the head of the army, and, being freed by the death of Ireton' from the stern and inflexible republicanism of that popular and potent leader, he saw no insuperable obstacle between his hand and the sceptre of England. When he returned from the scenes of his triumph at Dunbar and Worcester, the sovereign power was in fact in his possession; and the nation looked up to the Captain General, for with this high title he was now decorated, as to

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

in this case ili promet he was B&

!! Iršton died of the plague at Linerick, on the 27th of nov. 1651. This seems to be the accurate date:--but some writers have placed his death on the 26th of the preceding september. Bishop Burnet resembles Ircton, for his steady republicanism, to Cassius,

[ocr errors]

thus all

« PreviousContinue »