In this article we will discuss about the Commonwealth of England. After reading this article you will learn about: 1. Political and Constitutional History, 1649-60 2. Constitutional Experiments under Cromwell 3. Causes of the Failure of the Constitutional Experiments of Cromwell 4. Cromwell’s Foreign Policy 5. Estimate of Cromwell 6. End of the Republic.
- Political and Constitutional History, 1649-60
- Constitutional Experiments under Cromwell
- Causes of the Failure of the Constitutional Experiments of Cromwell
- Cromwell’s Foreign Policy
- Estimate of Cromwell
- End of the Republic
1. Political and Constitutional History, 1649-60:
From the point of time the Commonwealth in reality began on January 4, 1649 when the House of Commons regarded itself the supreme power in the nation and that laws passed by it would bind all people of the nation even without the consent of the House of Lords or the King.
Formally, however, the Commonwealth began with effect from the date of king’s execution, (January 30, 1649) when an Act was passed against proclamation of any successor to Charles I. A week later, the House of Lords was abolished. The supreme legislative and executive authority, therefore, resided in the Commons only and the Speaker of the House was first in dignity in the land.
The Rump that was left of the Long Parliament had only 56 members in it. The Presbyterians were expelled by Pride’s Purge, the royalist members did not sit. Membership was confined to those who approved of the proceedings against the king, and therefore represented a small section of the English nation. The leaders of the army intended dissolution of the Rump but it managed to exist until it was ejected in April 1653.
The government set up in 1649 consisted of a Council of State and a one-chambered Parliament. The Council of State contained 41 members of whom 30 were members of the Parliament. Since these thirty members were in a majority both in the Council of State and Parliament, they controlled the government.
Speaking generally, the members were incorrupt, extremely diligent and efficient. They remained in power for four years.
The victory of the Roundheads followed by the execution of the king caused a great revulsion of feeling against the Puritans, It had also a terrible repercussion on the whole of the infant British Empire and caused disruption in it. In Ireland, Earl of Ormonde proclaimed in favour of Charles II, Scotland did not recognise the republican regime and was prepared to welcome Charles II.
Prince Rupert, Charles I’s nephew, with a royalist fleet which was joined by some ships of the Navy that had revolted, held the English Channel and the Scilly Isles and threatened the English coasts. In America, Virginia declared for King Charles II and several West Indian islands followed suit. These were the problems that Cromwell and the new government were faced with.
One of the first tasks of Cromwell was the re-conquest of Ireland. In August 1649 Cromwell landed at Dublin and during his nine months’ stay there, he seized Drogheda and Wexford, and terrorised the entire Irish population. Ireland was re-conquered. Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland was perhaps the most complete and thorough of all previous conquests of that unfortunate country.
Cromwell’s brutal, inhuman treatment of the Irish Catholics as well as all those were in arms against him, caused another page of the Irish history to be written in blood. The slaughter at Drogheda and Wexford was revolting even to the most callous apathy to human lives.
On Cromwell’s own admission, “I forbade them to spare any that were in arms in the town, and I think that night they put to the sword about 2000 men. When they submitted, their officers were knocked on the head, and every tenth man of the soldiers killed, and the rest shipped for the Barbados”. Cromwell left his son-in-law, Ireton, to continue his work of complete conquest of Ireland.
The whole of Ireland was made to starve, its last defenders died in waste and silent places. The Puritans showed themselves not less ruthless towards the Irish than the Elizabethans. By the time Cromwell became the Protector, Ireton had finished his task. One-third of Irish population had perished either in war or famine.
Cromwell’s policy towards Ireland was to drive the entire native population beyond the Shannon and to this end he sent the ex-Ironsides to Ireland and gave them estates there. In this way two-thirds of the land in Ireland changed hands.
But the tragedy was that the English settlers took Irish wives, forgot their English descent and religion. Ireland thus remained Irish as also Catholic. “But the curse of Cromwell added one more bitter memory to the list of Irish wrongs.”
The commonwealth also encountered a stern opposition in Scotland. Cromwell had left Ireland in 1650 amid the curse of the whole Irish people. At the same time Charles II, then aged twenty, landed in Scotland where he was received with great cordiality. After all, Scotland was the land of his fathers. Charles swore to accept the National Covenant and was crowned at Scone.
In getting the support of the Covenanters, Charles II had to agree to overthrow Earl of Montrose and his Highlanders, who had fought for the cause of his father. Montrose was hanged by the Covenanters at Edinburgh.
Cromwell appealed to the Scots for a peaceful settlement of the differences between England and Scotland but it fell on deaf ears. His appeals to the Covenanters to abandon the cause of Charles II and to settle the disputes peacefully having failed, Cromwell determined to compel them by war. He led a fine army across the border, but was unable for a time to force his elusive enemy David Leslie, to fight in an open field.
Initially it appeared that the invasion of Scotland would end in complete failure. Hemmed in from two sides at Dunbar by the Scottish army on the hills there seemed no other course except to re-embark on board the fleet which followed him off-shore. Leslie foolishly descended from the hills to prevent Cromwell’s embarkation, but was routed in a surprise attack by Cromwell.
Four thousand Scots were casualties as against less than thirty lives on the English side. The effect of the victory at the battle of Dunbar, upon the Scots was overwhelming. They felt they could no longer withstand the dreadful enemy. Next day Edinburgh was occupied by Cromwell and his men.
More religious-minded Covenanters laid blame for the disaster of Dunbar on ungodliness in high places. Next year the Scots, however, raised another army and decided to invade England while the Ironsides were still in possession of Scotland. There was a race between the Scottish and Cromwell’s armies, the former to invade England and the latter to intercept them.
The two armies met in the streets of Worcester on the anniversary day of the victory of Dunbar (Sept. 3, 1651). Cromwell won a complete victory and few Scots escaped with life. Charles II who was with the Scottish army had a hair-breath escape and took refuge in France. Scotland was too exhausted to raise any more army and although there were a few more royalist risings in Scotland none was on a large scale.
Scotland was conquered and for the next nine years it was governed by General Monk. Cromwell’s triumph in Scotland would have been impossible without the work of the Navy. For Rupert with a royalist fleet was preying upon the English shipping. The French privateers also supported Rupert and attacked English sailors in the Channel.
The Republican government had no friends in Europe and it became very clear to the Puritan leaders that the very existence of the new government depended on a strong Navy. The affairs of the English Navy were placed under a committee with Sir Henry Vane as Chairman.
In a short span of two years this committee succeeded in doubling the number of the English ships, (from 40 to 80) and by the end of the republic (1660) the total number of the English ships reached 207. The command of the republican navy was placed at the hands of Robert Blake, only other leader whose genius was comparable to Cromwell’s.
By his stubborn defence extra-ordinary power of organisation was shown in uniting the Empire under the republican flag, which showed fissures after the execution of Charles I. Blake’s greatest exploit was his successful blockade of Rupert in his Irish base and his clearing of the English and the Irish Channels of the royalist ships. He chased Rupert up to Portugal and forced the Portuguese king to dismiss him.
Blake fell upon Rupert’s ships and drove many of them upon rocks. The remaining ships of Rupert which lingered in Spanish and Portuguese waters for another year were all lost except one in the hands of Blake. Blake also captured Scillies and the Channel Islands.
One of his captains Sir George Ayscue forced the submission of Virginia and the English. West Indies. In this way the republican navy earned victory on all seas, the Channels, Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
In 1648 the independence of the Dutch Republic from Spain was formally recognised and during the period from William the Silent’s revolt against Spain till 1648, Holland made amazing progress and both Holland and England wrested command over the seas from Spain. Holland had captured from the Portuguese trading stations in the East Indies, Spice Islands and established a settlement in the Cape of Good Hope.
The Dutch and the English traders came in collision first in the East and many English traders were massacred at Amboyna in 1623, as a result of which the English traders were driven from the East Indian islands. In the North Sea they fought the English sailors and drove them from the fisheries there.
The Commonwealth government wanted to put an end to all this and made somewhat insolent demand that the Dutch ships must salute the English flag in the English waters. The murder of the English ambassador at Hague added to English to Anti-Dutch feeling in England.
The fight between the English sailors and the French privateers at this period led to English search of all neutral ships lest these might carry goods to France.
The English sailors stopped and searched Dutch ships which added to the Dutch annoyance. When things stood thus, the Parliament passed a Navigation Act (1651). Such Acts were passed since the time of Richard II. The new Navigation Act made it obligatory to make imports from America, Asia and Africa into England, Ireland or English colonies in English ships or in ships of the countries from which goods were purchased.
This Act was a serious blow to the carrying trade of the Dutch who so long had been carrying merchandise for England from different countries. The Dutch naturally protested against this blow and negotiations between the two countries were opened.
But before any settlement could be reached, the sailors of the two countries began fighting. Blake met the Dutch fleet under the command of Tromp near the coast of Kent and as the two sides exchanged shots the First Anglo-Dutch War began.
In this war the Dutch stake was great, the English had little to lose. “The English are about to attack a mountain of gold; we a mountain of iron”—remarked one of the Dutch envoys. The Dutch merchant fleets under Tromp, de Witt, and de Ruyter were attacked by the English. Tromp defeated Blake in 1652 and convoyed a large Dutch fleet of 450 ships down the English channel.
Next summer there was an engagement off the coast of Suffolk in which Blake won a resounding victory. The Dutch withdrew to their ports but were blockaded by the English ships. In the naval battle that followed off Texel, Tromp was killed. The blockade resulted in terrible hardship on the Dutch, they were starving and were ready to surrender (1653).
Peace negotiations started and in 1654 the Dutch according to the terms of the Peace Treaty, conceded to English supremacy in narrow seas, and withdrew their objections to the Navigation Act of 1651. The First Dutch War cost the. republican government one million pounds a year which was raised by heavy taxation on the Cavaliers and sale of lands formerly belonging to the bishops.
The English of course captured 1506 prizes, which was double the number of the then existing merchant ships of England.
2. Constitutional Experiments under Cromwell:
The execution of Charles I left England free to make constitutional experiments and to adopt one that would best suit the temper, taste and the need of the people. But contrary to all expectations, all experiments that Cromwell made brought England back to kingship. After turning a full round, England found her again under a King.
(i) As a logical corollary to the execution of Charles I, England was declared a free Commonwealth. The House of Lords was abolished as being ‘dangerous and useless’ and the old organs of Government were swept out of existence. A Council of State comprising members of the Army and of the Parliament was formed.
The House of Commons, or rather the Rump after the purge of 143 members by Colonel Pride in 1648 was to be a unicameral legislature. So long as there was war with the Scotch and the Irish royalists, the Rump and the Army carried on well together. But soon after the liquidation of this menace, the army demanded the dissolution of the Rump and the latter the dissolution of the army.
These mutual demands made the first constitutional experiment without the King proved unsuccessful. Cromwell dissolved the Parliament forcibly. “You dogs, you have sat long enough, make room for better men”—was how Cromwell addressed the Rump at the time of dissolving it.
(ii) The second constitutional experiment was made with a newly nominated Parliament. The members were nominated by congregations, at the suggestion of the religious enthusiast Praise God Bare-bone.
It is known as Bare-bone Parliament, But it was as unpractical as idealistic. Soon it showed its incapacity to assist in the administration of the country and surrendered its powers to the Council of State.
(iii) The first constitutional experiment under the above two different phases having proved useless, a new constitution was drawn up by the officers of the army. This may be regarded the first experiment in England to draw up a written constitution.
According to this experiment, Cromwell was to be the Protector. He was to have the executive powers and a fixed sum of money for the purposes of the Government. He was to be assisted by a Council of 15.
The Legislature was to be composed of only one House which was to meet once every year and to be newly elected every three years. It was to have full legislative powers. The Protector had the right to use his suspensive veto and thereby delay legislation only by 20 days.
The Protector could also dissolve the Parliament after it had sat at least for five months. This new Constitution goes by the name of Instrument of Government.
As to the character of the constitution there is difference of opinion. Gardiner, and Cromwell himself regarded it as a rigid constitution. But Marriot, Dicey, etc., hold that it was liable to be changed by the Parliament and as such it was a flexible constitution.
The newly elected Parliament met in 1654. It had three special characteristics: it included, for the first time in the British history, the representatives of Scotland and Ireland; it was elected on the basis of a redistribution of the seats of the Parliament.
The petty boroughs were all disfranchised and large unrepresented boroughs were given representations; all the different sects of the Protestants were permitted to vote in Parliamentary elections.
Cromwell, however, had kept out 120 refractory members from the Parliament in the hope that there would be no difficulty in carrying out the Government. But as soon as the Parliament met, the other members also did not prove very docile. They began criticising the powers of the Protector as given by the Instrument of Government. Cromwell who was anxious to give quiet rule to the country, dissolved the Parliament.
(iv) Next two years were a period of rule of the Major-Generals. Cromwell divided the country into a number of military districts and placed one Major- General upon one. This military rule also was not popular and Cromwell was obliged to summon his Second Parliament under the Instrument of Government in 1657. From this Parliament also, he kept out 100 members.
This Parliament prepared the famous document which goes by the name of Humble Petition and Advice. Cromwell was offered the Crown which he refused to accept out of fear of the Army. He was then made the Protector for life with power to nominate his successor. This was nothing but a revival of monarchy, almost hereditary, in a different garb.
The House of Lords was revived, but its name was now to be the “Other House”. The members were to be nominated by the Protector. But when the Parliament under this new Constitution began to function, it could not allow any unanimity. In disgust Cromwell dissolved the Parliament, in February, 1658.
Not many months after the dissolution of the Parliament died Cromwell and a constitutional confusion ensued in the country under the incapable rule of his son Richard Cromwell.
The Army called the Rump into session but it tried to curtail the powers of the Army. So it was dissolved. When there was nothing but confusion, the nation became conscious that the only course to stop anarchy was to restore Kingship.
Charles II was invited to assume powers of the state. Early in 1660, the Long Parliament (not the Rump) met and voted its dissolution. A Convention was summoned to make the restoration settlement. Thus peacefully England came back to Kingship in 1660.
3. Causes of the Failure of the Constitutional Experiments of Cromwell:
The constitutional experiments of Cromwell failed one after another till at last the only course that remained open to English nation was the restoration of the old dynasty.
The causes of the failure of Cromwellian experiments are not far to seek:
First, the most important cause of the failure was that all the experiments made under Cromwell had no historical association. The Instrument of government was organised on such a basis that there could not be any escape from constitutional deadlocks.
The Humble Petition and Advice was nothing but the old constitutional set up with a different name. Thus in his attempt to keep the old arrangements without keeping the historical association which the English nation prized so much naturally could not satisfy the people.
Secondly, the Army having once tasted power and known its potency was unwilling to part with power and Cromwell could not get the better of his own army. His attempt was only to give a constitutional wig to the otherwise bare sword of the army, but the attempt failed.
Thirdly, Cromwellian constitutional experiments were undertaken at a time when there was too much of the individualistic spirit among the Puritans in England and as such the Parliament was trying to assert its power rather than co-operate in giving a good administration to the people.
Fourthly, the experiments also failed due to economic causes. The opposition of the merchants to heavy taxation at a time of depressed trade was no small reason behind the failure of the constitutional experiments.
The Independents of the country were impatient of the military rule and were eager to have settled government. For all this, Cromwell, in spite of best intentions could not give any permanent basis to the constitutional experiments that he had made.
4. Cromwell’s Foreign Policy:
In foreign affairs Cromwell had certain very pressing problems to solve. He had to prevent the disruption of the British Empire.
Scotland and Ireland and half of the colonies across the Atlantic had proclaimed another government; a fourth part of the warships had revolted and the mastery of the sea was challenged, and privateers were preying upon English commerce at the mouth of the English ports from their bases at Scilly, Channel Islands and the Isle of Men.
Secondly, the sovereigns of Europe refused to recognise a government whose principles they abhorred and .whose power they despised. Thirdly, to prevent a Cavalier re-conquest.
If the above two were the problems that needed solution for the very security and integrity of the British Empire, Cromwell had also certain other cherished objectives in his foreign policy, (i) It was dearest to his heart to organise a League of the Protestant Powers in Europe with England at the head, and (ii) to advance the commercial interests of Europe.
From the very outset Cromwell pursued a very bold line in foreign affairs. But it was also facilitated due to the want of unity among the enemies of the British Government. Ireland and Scotland were divided into Catholic and Protestant camps which meant their own weakness and undoing.
Cromwell lost no time in conquering Ireland and Scotland completely, for the English Republic. Meanwhile the revolted ships had been reorganised in the Dutch ports under the command of Prince Rupert. In 1650 Blake chased Rupert round the shores of the Iberian Peninsula impressing upon Portugal and Spain that the kings of Europe could not with impunity harbour the enemies of the British Government.
It was by the way of operating against the Cavalier fleet that the English Commonwealth was drawn to send her fleet into the sea and to impress upon the contemporary Europe the fact that she was a Mediterranean power.
Rupert failing to get any foothold in the Mediterranean escaped over to the Atlantic wherein he was chased by the English Navy and the ultimate consequence was the recovery of the colonies that had revolted.
This naval exploit of Blake naturally worked as a great incentive to the increase of the naval strength of the Republican England and her martial strength was switched on to the attempts at enhancement of colonial and commercial greatness of England. Cromwell at once revived the traditional Elizabethan policy of hostility to Spain which was an arch-enemy of Protestantism.
He demanded that the English traders must be immune from the Spanish Inquisition and that the West Indies trade must be thrown open to them. The Spanish Ambassador observed in reply ‘that will be asking for the two eyes of my master’. But Cromwell was not to be content with anything less and he, without any formality of the declaration of war sent an expedition to the West Indies.
The expedition did not succeed, all the same the English took Jamaica and it remained ever since a British possession. A blockade of the Spanish coast was the next step and the Spanish treasure-ships were destroyed at Santa Cruz. Spain knew to her ruin the strength of the English Republic. But Spain was not to be spared so easily.
An Anglo-French alliance was signed and a joint attack on Dunkirk in the Spanish Netherlands. Dunkirk was surrendered to Louis who handed it over to Cromwell The alliance with France and the good term that Cromwell had with Cardinal Mazarin while meant a recognition of the English Government by the Premier power in Europe, proved a boon to the Huguenots at Piedmont.
The Piedmontese were being massacred by the Duke of Savoy, but Cromwell’s intervention through France succeeded in saving the Huguenots from persecution. Cromwell also requisitioned the help of Milton in drafting defences in Latin, of the execution of the king by the English people.
These measures while gave England a decisive influence in the European politics, disabused the minds of the foreign sovereigns of their prejudice against a regicide regime.
In 1651 Cromwell passed the Navigation Act which was an additional incentive to the growth of the English Navy. It was provided that all English exports and imports must be carried by the English ships or the ships of the country directly in the deal. This was a great blow to the carrying trade of the Dutch.
Further, the English sailors demanded the right to search and salute from the Dutch ships in the English Channel. It ultimately led to war, which vindicated the British right and meant great loss to the Dutch government and Dutch Navy and commerce. It has been remarked that if one Act had made England great in commerce it was the Navigation Act of 1651.
Thus, to sum up, the foreign policy of Cromwell saved the British Empire from disintegration, prevented a royalist re-conquest, re-established the supremacy of England over the seas and enhanced the English commerce no less than it had arranged for the security of the Protestants. Cromwell, naturally goes down in history as one who had acquired undying greatness by a brilliant and fruitful foreign policy.
5. Estimate of Cromwell:
Few heads of states had probably to deal with problems so arduous and numerous as Cromwell had to do when he and his supporters assumed power in the name of the people. The active champions of democracy, nay the whole people had become bitterly hostile to the new rule.
Yet there was no choice, no chance to retire from that false position. The country was threatened by a state of anarchy which would have destroyed all political landmarks.
The circumstances necessitated a gaoler’s work on the part of Cromwell and his associates, and it was inconsistent with the ideals that had impelled them into the job. Cromwell’s achievements will be better and fully appreciated when we remember the above circumstance in which he found himself after the abolition of kingship on 17th March and of the House of Lords on the 19th March, 1649.
For twelve years to follow England had to be kept together by force till her factions and people were all agreed to accept one form of free government.
Cromwell’s task comprised:
(i) prevention of anarchy in England,
(ii) prevention of the disruption of the British Empire and its mastery over the seas,
(iii) prevention of the restoration of the Stuarts,
(iv) preservation of the British commerce, and
(v) protection of the Continental Protestants from persecution.
In his task to prevent anarchy in England, Cromwell had to somehow fit a legal wig to the otherwise rule of the sword that he had to carry on. It became increasingly manifest that the bulk of the nation was quite as little disposed to accept the rule of the sword as the rule of a truncated Parliament.
The soldiers also clamoured for the dissolution of the Rump, and in 1653 Cromwell dissolved the Rump. His appearance in the Parliament in the morning of April 20, 1653, with a band of soldiers behind him to evict the members of the Rump was the re-enactment of the scene when Charles I appeared in the Parliament to arrest the five members.
It was no less to the Parliament than what Charles I was thought to have been guilty of Cromwell was indeed Charles I writ large. Harrison and his followers’ idea about the Fifth Monarchy men ultimately gave the clue a solution and the result was the election of Barebones Parliament.
This Parliament sought to replace the laws of England by the laws of Moses and substitute the laws of men by laws of God. Cromwell gradually was disillusioned about the ability of this Parliament and abolished it. The abolition was carried out by a coup by Major Lambert.
This was followed by a new constitution called the Instrument of Government which devised a distribution of power between Protector, a Council and a Parliament.
The law relating to franchise was suitably altered. Cromwell was nominated as the Lord Protector, a Council of 15 was named and an elected Parliament with a specified period of life. But this experiment also proved a failure, since the Parliament while was agreeable to accept Cromwell and the head of the state was not willing to accept the constitution called the Instrument of Government.
Even the powers given to the Protector by the constitution were called in question. Cromwell dissolved the Parliament and the constitution. The next experiment was that of the Major-Generals which was nothing but a military rule all over the country. A wave of rebellions and royalist plots and murmurs against the arbitrary government doomed it failure.
The last experiment was put forward in the Humble Petition and Advice. Cromwell was made the Protector for a second time with more extensive powers and with the right to nominate his successor. Parliament of two Houses was restored.
All this was a near approach to kingship and after having turned the corner England was to find herself back to kingship in 1660. These experiments might not have been very spectacular in themselves, yet by keeping the forces of disruption down, Cromwell saved the liberties of the British people.
Scotland and Ireland were offering good asylum to the royalists who declared for Charles and a few warships which declared for Charles likewise had been reorganised by Prince Rupert. Cromwell deputed Ireton and Monk to deal with Scotland and Ireland and in the middle of May, 1652, both Scotland and Ireland were within the iron grip of the republican government.
Rupert was driven from his base at Kingate in south, and the English and the Irish were cleared of the royalist ships. British Empire was thus saved from being divided and at the same time prevented regaining of the throne by Charles II with the help of Ireland or Scotland.
Blake’s exploits in chasing Rupert off the shores of Portugal and Spain, and compelling the kings of those countries to agree that they would not harbour the royalists or any one supporting their cause with impunity, his success in reducing to submission the islands of Scilly and Channel islands, and bringing back Virginia and Barbados, made England victorious on all seas— the Channel, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
The Navigation Act of 1651 passed under Cromwell was one stroke which although had resulted in expensive war with Holland, had in effect made England great. Her merchant ships had become triple its original number. One Act that had ever made any country great was the Navigation Act of 1651.
There have been various estimates of Cromwell both by his contemporaries and writers of the posterity. According to Lingard Cromwell ‘by the splendour of his victories and the extent of his empire, cast all preceding adventures into the shade’. ‘Name of Cromwell stood without a parallel in the history of civilised Europe.’
Without the aid of birth, wealth or connections, he succeeded in seizing the government of three powerful kingdoms and “to impose the yoke of servitude on the necks of the very men who had fought in his company to emancipate themselves from the less arbitrary sway of their hereditary sovereign”.
One who could do this was certainly no ordinary personage all must admit, yet on close scrutiny “we shall discover little that was sublime or dazzling in his character”. Cool, calculating and cautious he stole his way to greatness persuading his spectators that he was reluctantly borne forward by a resistless force, by the march of events, necessities of the state and will of the army and the decree of the Almighty.
‘He seems to have looked upon dissimulation as the perfection of human wisdom and to have made it the keystone of the arch on which he built his fortunes.’ While ostensibly he pretended his attachment to the good old cause, he was secretly working for acquiring sovereignty for himself and his family.
He represented his endeavours as those for securing the blessings of civil and religious freedom—the two great objects which originally brought him and his comrades-in-arms into the field. Thus his whole conduct was made up of artifice and deceit.
Indeed, he had reformed the chancery, tried to abolish the abuses of law, placed learned and upright judges on the bench and in ordinary cases ensured justice between man and man.
But at the same time, by his orders men were arrested and committed without lawful cause, juries were packed, prisoners acquitted in trial were sent to prison, taxes were raised without the consent of the Parliament, established a most unconstitutional tribunal, the High Court of Justice, the Major-Generals were invested with most arbitrary and oppressive powers.
These acts of despotism put him on the defence and he pleaded reasons of state. He was more despotic than Charles Stuart whom he was instrumental in executing. He dissembled in religion as well as in politics.
Lord Clarendon remarked that Cromwell was one whom even his enemy could not condemn without commending him at the same time. Like Cinna he ‘attempted those things which no good man durst have ventured on and achieved those in which none but a valiant and great man would have succeeded’.
Yes, doubtlessly, no man with more wickedness ever attempted anything, yet wickedness as great as his could not have accomplished those designs without the assistance of a great spirit, an admirable circumspection and sagacity, and a most magnanimous resolution.
Von Ranke, a German, remarked that the next generation execrated Cromwell as a monster of villainy, but posterity declared him one of the greatest of the race of man. He coerced all the forces of the nation into obedience to his will. It was the means to establishment of those ideals of religious liberty as conceived by the Protestants, of civil order and national independence which filled his whole soul.
His contributions are not to be seen in any national or constitutional institutions. His constructive statesmanship is to be seen in his realisation of the dream of uniting three kingdoms that had floated before his three predecessors.
The Navigation Act passed by him made England supreme in all seas, the channels, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean seas. He saved Protestantism and it was through his efforts that Protestantism rose to independence among the world powers.
Yet like most extra-ordinary persons, Cromwell died little understood, and rather hated than loved. Cromwell’s constructive statesmanship is seen in abundance in his. saving the British Empire from partition, the civil liberties of the English men from conquest by the royalists and free Churches and free thinkers from destruction in the time that saw a general wreck of powers and parties.
Those deeds outlived him although all else for which he had fought perished with him.
Oliver Cromwell, according to Gardiner, possessed practical universality of mind and had all the incongruities of human nature. He belonged to the family of country gentleman and had little that was dazzling in his character. He was cool, calculating and cautious. He looked upon dissimulation as the perfection of human wisdom. He was ambitious, forceful and at times ruthless.
While serving the cause of liberty, justice, etc., he did not hesitate to deny the same to many. He was more despotic than Charles I. The Civil War made a great military general out of Cromwell, a country gentleman. He was God-fearing and was devoted to the liberty of Puritanism. He was a statesman of great foresight, and strove for the economic prosperity of England.
In the agony of war and in crisis of revolutionary statecraft he maintained his composure, poise and the noblest qualities of mind un-tired. His humour, tenderness, human relations made him a lovable personality. “He aspired to heaven, he had his roots deep in earth.”
His commanding personality gave him a power which could keep England well in grip at a time of revolutionary confusion. Both morally and physically audacious, and he was great in the world of thought and action and what was more, he was a typical Englishman.
6. End of the Republic:
According to the terms of the Humble Petition and Advice Cromwell was authorised to name his successor. He nominated Richard Cromwell, his eldest son to succeed him as Protector, but it was an unfortunate choice. For Richard Cromwell was fit for a quiet country life rather than for ruling a turbulent nation.
The new Protector summoned Parliament in January, 1659 which sought to choose General Fleetwood as the head of the army in preference to the Protector. Richard first stood by the Parliament but soon was forced by the army officers to dissolve the Parliament. Next month the Rump met to assume the powers of the government in its hands.
Richard who was no match for the Parliament gave up his authority. This ended the Republic.
For about a year to follow, the country was in a state of near anarchy. The Rump was prevented from entering the Westminster by General Lambert and it seemed that country would be plunged into a Civil War. But the situation was saved by General Monk, the Iron side Commander in Scotland.
He decided to force a settlement and without divulging his intentions marched his soldiers to London (February, 1660) and insisted on the restoration of the whole Long Parliament including the expelled Presbyterian members as also those dispossessed by Pride’s Purge.
But the general demand for the dissolution of the Long Parliament and election of a new one. As there was no authority for summoning a new Parliament, General Monk’s new Parliament which was elected in great enthusiasm and excitement was known as the Convention.
It at once voted for the restoration of the old constitution comprising King, House of Lords and the House of Commons, as well as of the old laws of the land.
Meanwhile General Monk was in communication with Charles II who signed the Declaration of Breda and agreed to assume the English Crown. Charles II landed at Dover on May 29, 1660 amid scene of great enthusiasm and rejoicing of the people. He rode through the crowded streets of London into Whitehall, with a universal chorus of God save the King.
Thus the Puritan Revolution had failed because the people were tired of Puritan discipline, rule of the soldiers and of revolutions and constitutional experiments. Yet, the arbitrary spirit of the old monarchy had perished with Charles I. England having turned a full circle came back to monarchy.