Page images








ROMWELL died on September 3, 1658,—"a day very

memorable,” says Lord Clarendon, “ for the greatest storm of wind that had ever been known, for some hours before and after his death, which overthrew trees, houses, and made great wrecks at sea ; and the tempest was so universal that the effects of it were terrible both in France and Flanders, where all people trembled at it.” 1 It was the anniversary of Dunbar and Worcester, “ a day he thought always very propitious to him," and on which he had been accustomed to commemorate, in the devout Puritan way, God's mercy to him and the Gospel in giving him his two famous victories. And now came what was really God's “ crowning mercy Cromwell himself, if not for his country. The great man, after a tumultuous life, entered into rest. The storm which raged when Oliver Cromwell was dying might have been regarded as an omen of the public troubles by which his death was likely to be followed. Yet, at first, it seemed as if he had succeeded in founding a dynasty, and as if his son Richard was about to be peaceably accepted by the whole country. For three months loyal addresses came pouring in from all parts of the country. The armies in England, Scotland, Ireland, and

i Clarendon, History, vi. 102-103.

Flanders, and the officers of the fleet, assured him of their fidelity. And he received the congratulations of foreign powers.

But there were elements of danger to which Richard could not be blind. There was a great deal of talk about a sealed paper, written a year before Oliver's death, in which it was commonly supposed that Fleetwood, who had married one of Oliver's daughters, was nominated his successor. When the great Protector died the document could not be found, and it was said that on his death-bed he had nominated Richard. Fleetwood was probably disappointed. This was not all. There was a general feeling among the officers that since the deliverance of England from the prelates and the King had been wrought by the army, its chiefs had a clear right to a considerable share in the government of the State. The men who had crushed the Cavaliers on so many battle-fields were not mere mercenary troops. They had left their farms and their homes under the inspiration of a profound religious enthusiasm. They believed that they were elect of God to redeem their country from vice and irreligion, from prelatical usurpation, Papal superstitions, and royal tyranny. The victories they had won they were in the habit of attributing to the divine hand. The ancient Psalms celebrating the triumphs of the chosen nation over the heathen were always on their lips. As yet, their work was incomplete ; and what they had actually achieved was in peril. They felt that they could not part with their power until the liberties of the godly among the English people were absolutely secure. Richard they regarded with suspicion. He had taken no part in the glorious and terrible conflict in which the enemies of God had been overthrown. Soon after his accession there was a demand that he should surrender to one of the generals the supreme command of the army. He refused the demand, taking his stand on the Petition and Advice—the instrument which had given form to the government of his father—and maintaining that he had no right to vary the terms on which the Protectorate had been settled. This was the earliest and most ominous sign of the danger which menaced him. If he could not rely on the army, the foundations of his authority were threatened.

2 Clarendon, ibid., vi. 112.
3 For details see Baker's Chronicle (continued by Phillips), 563-564.

There was another quarter from which he had reason to fear trouble. Through the personal ascendency of Cromwellan ascendency derived partly from his own genius, partly from the national disorders which made his supremacy necessary to the State—the Republicans had been defeated in their attempts to establish their ideal polity. Many able and daring men had bitterly resented the vesting of supreme executive power in “ a single person"; and now that Cromwell was dead they thought that their chance had come.

The first step taken by Richard and his advisers was to call a Parliament. The Exchequer was heavily in debt, and it was necessary to raise money; it was also thought desirable that a Parliament should recognise Richard's title. His father, with a true instinct for constitutional freedom, had omitted to send writs to many small boroughs ; had summoned Leeds and Manchester and some other great towns which had not been previously represented in the House of Commons, to elect members; and had also increased considerably the representatives of the counties. Richard returned to the old methods-perhaps because he was Conservative in his tendencies; perhaps because he thought that the smaller boroughs could be more easily managed.

The new Parliament met on January 27, 1658-9. A quarrel broke out at once with the army. A Council of Officers held daily meetings at Wallingford House, the residence of Fleetwood. They passed resolutions and printed them, complaining that the pay of the soldiers was in arrears, that among the men in power were some who treated the army and the good old cause with insolence and contempt, and some, even, who wanted to bring back the enemies of the Gospel and of the nation. The Commons voted that “during the Sitting of the Parliament, there shall be no General Council or Meeting of the Officers of the Army, without the direction, leave, and Authority of His Highness the Lord Protector, and both Houses of Parliament." 5 The officers met the vote with a demand that Parliament should be dissolved; Richard consented, and his fall was now inevitable.

It was not the army alone that regarded the dissolution as a triumph. It was clear that the House of Commons was,

• Whitelock (Ap. 14, 1659), 677. Clarendon, History, vi. 114-115. o C. J. (Ap. 18, 1659), vii. 641.

on the whole, resolved to stand by Richard, and by the constitution which placed supreme power in the hands of a single person. The triumph of Fleetwood and of the officers was, therefore, the triumph of the Republicans. The Congregationalists, and the larger party included under the general name of “Independents," also regarded the dissolution with satisfaction. In reply to a charge made against him some years later, Owen, the most powerful of the Congregationalist leaders, denied that he had any part either in setting Richard up or in pulling him down ; but there can be no doubt that he was in constant communication with Fleetwood and his allies during the months immediately succeeding Richard's accession ; 6 and it is certain that his sympathies were with the men who were opposed to government by “ a single person.” He was not on very friendly terms with the Cromwell family. It was known that he had drawn up the army address against Oliver's taking the crown, and from that time he appears to have had less of Oliver's favour.? When Richard was made Chancellor of the University of Oxford, a short time before Oliver's death, Owen was removed from the Vice-Chancellorship in favour of Dr. Conant, a Presbyterian.s

The Congregationalist Churches had joined in congratulating Richard on his accession ; and, indeed, Baxter says that in the county of Worcester they were the only people that meddled in the matter ; ' but they regarded with uneasiness the increased power which Richard was certain to give to the Presbyterians, and they were likely to believe that to check Richard, or even to depose him, would be favourable to religious freedom. The Congregationalists shared Milton's dread of Presbyterian ascendency.

On the demand of the Republicans and the officers, those members of the Long Parliament who had continued to sit till April 20, 1653, were called to resume their places at Westminster.10 The constitutional theory underlying this

Baxter, Life, i. (1), 145 [i. p. 101], says that Owen had a Church at Wallingford House." Orme shows that this is a mistake. Memoir of Owen (Works), i. 214-216.

? Orme, ibid., 125; Ludlow, Memoirs (1771), 248.
8 Wood, Ath. Ox., ii. 739.
, Baxter, Life, i. (1), 145, [i. 100).

10 Clarendon, History, vi. 118–119. Whitelock (May 6, 1659), 677-678.

extraordinary proceeding is very simple, but very pedantic. The Long Parliament-or rather the members of it who had survived the purging process to which the House had been subjected-had been dismissed by violence. No legal authority had dismissed the House which had done such memorable things for the nation ; an Act provided that it should not be dissolved without its own consent; the consent had never been given ; and therefore, though it had been elected in 1640, eighteen years before, it was still the lawful Parliament of England. Owen had obtained a list from Ludlow, and laid it before the officers at Wallingford House, of about a hundred and sixty persons who had been members of the House between 1648 and 1653, and who were believed to be still alive. 11 On Saturday, May 7, 1659, forty-two of them met, made a House, drew up a Declaration for the public, and appointed several Committees. On the next day, Sunday, May 8, they held special religious services, and Owen preached the sermon.

On May 21, just three weeks after it met, it voted for a free Commonwealth, without“ a single Person,” Kingship, or House of Peers.12 Four days later Richard signed his abdication.

That the Congregationalists were heartily favourable to the restoration of the Rump was shown by an offer made to the House early in August by the Congregational Churches to raise three regiments in support of its authority; the offer was accepted, but it does not appear that the regiments were actually raised.13

The House needed support. To secure its own power and to prevent the Council of Officers from directing the government of the kingdom, it claimed absolute control over the army. The officers resented the claim. The quarrel became fierce, and on October 12 the House cashiered Lambert, Desborough, Berry, and six others of the recalcitrant officers, and vested the government of the army in a commission of seven, which included Fleetwood, Ludlow, and Monk. The next day, Lambert posted several regiments round the House, and its meetings were suspended. The Rump was dismissed for a second time. A committee of twenty-three persons

11 Orme, Memoir of Owen (Works), i. 216; and Ludlow, Memoirs (1771), 272-273.

12 Whitelock, 679. 13 Idem (Aug. 9, 1659), 682.

« PreviousContinue »