For my beloved wife, Elizabeth Cromwell. These:
Edinburgh, 3d May, 1651
My Dearest: I could not satisfy myself to omit this post, although I
have not much to write; yet indeed I love to write to my dear who is
so very much in my heart. It joys me to hear thy soul prospereth:
the Lord increase His favors to thee more and more. The great good
thy soul can wish is, that the Lord lift upon thee the light of His
countenance, which is better than life. The Lord bless all thy good
counsel and example to all those about thee, and hear all thy
prayers and accept thee always.
I am glad to hear thy son and daughter are with thee. I hope thou
wilt have some opportunity of good advice to them. Present my duty
to my mother. My love to all the family. Still pray for Thine,
Oliver Cromwell was a Puritan, which word was first applied in bucolic
pleasantry by an unbeliever--may God rest his soul!--and was adopted
by this body of people who desired to live lives of purity, reflecting
the will of the Lord.
Oliver did in his life so typify all the Puritan qualities of sterling
honesty (as well as some simplicities springing out of his faults)
that the time spent in considering him shall not be lost. "Our Oliver
was the last glimpse of the godlike vanishing from England," wrote
Thomas Carlyle. Obscured in lurid twilight as the shadow of death,
hated by somnambulant pedants, doleful dilettanti, phantasmagoric
errors, bodeful inconceivabilities, trackless, behind pasteboard
griffins, wiverns, chimeras, Carlyle had to search through thirty
thousand pamphlets and forty thousand letters for the soul of
Oliver Cromwell was born in Huntingdon, England, April Twenty-fifth,
Fifteen Hundred Ninety-nine. His parents belonged to the landed
gentry, but who yet were poor enough so they ever felt the necessity
of work and economy. The mother of Cromwell was a widow when she
wedded Richard, the happy father of Oliver. The widow's husband had
accommodatingly died, and he now has a monument, placed they say by
Oliver Cromwell himself, in Ely Cathedral, which records him thus:
"Here sleepeth until the last Great Day, when the Trump shall sound,
William Lynne, Esq., who had the honor and felicity to be the first
husband of Elizabeth, Mother through the Grace of God to Oliver
Cromwell." At the bottom of the inscription a would-be wag wrote, "Had
he lived long enough he would have been the stepfather of Oliver."
Oliver was the fifth child of his parents, who it seems were happily
wedded, the gray mare being much the better horse. And this once
caused Oliver to say (and which the same is here recorded to disprove
the statement that he had no wit), "Men who are born to rule other men
are themselves ruled by women." This may be truth or not--I can not
Smelted out of the dross-heap of lying biographers, most of whose
stories should be given Christian burial, we get the truth that this
boy was brought up by pious, hard-working parents.
The splenetic capacity, the calumnious credulity, the pleasures of
prevarication and of rolling falsehoods like a sweet morsel under the
tongue, have made those thirty thousand Cromwell pamphlets possible.
It is stated by one writer, Heath, now pleasantly known as "Carrion
Heath," that Oliver's father was a brewer, and the son grew up a
tapster, but was compelled to resign his office on account of being
his own best customer.
Waiving all these precious libels, created to supply a demand, we find
that Oliver grew up, swart and strong, a sturdy country lad, who did the
things that all country boys do, both good and ill. He wrestled,
fought, swam, worked, studied a little. He was packed off to
Cambridge, where he entered Sidney Sussex College, April Twenty-
second, Sixteen Hundred Sixteen, which is the day that one William
Shakespeare died, but which worthy playwright was never even so much
as once mentioned by Cromwell in all of his voluminous writings. If
Cromwell ever heard of Shakespeare he carefully concealed the fact.
Before we proceed further it may be proper to say that the father of
our Oliver had a sister who married William Hampden of Bucks, and this
woman was the mother of John Hampden, who was deemed worthy of mention
in "Gray's Elegy" and also in several prose works, notably the court
records of England. The family of Oliver traced to that of Thomas
Cromwell, Earl of Essex; although such is the contempt for pedigree by
men who can themselves do things, that Oliver once disclaimed Thomas,
as much as to say. "There has been only one Cromwell, and I am the
one." It was about thus (I do not five the exact words, because I was
not present and the Pitt system was not then in use, great men at that
time not having stenographers at their elbows): Bishop Goodman, (known
as Badman) was reading to the Protector a long, slushy Billwalker-of-
Fargo address full of semi-popish jargon, when his Lordship's
relationship to Thomas, the Mauler of Monasteries, was mentioned. Here
broke in Oliver with, "Eliminate that--eliminate that--he was no
relative of mine--good morning!"
Bishop Badman was a queer old piece of theological confusion, who went
over to popery, body, boots and breeches, believing that Oliver was
a bounder and was soon to be ditched by destiny. Bishop Badman, having
made the prophecy of ill-luck, did all he could to bring it about,
when death ditched him; and whether he ever knew the rest about
Cromwell, we do not know, even yet, as our knowledge of another world
comes to us through persons who can not always be safely trusted to
tell the truth about this.
At Cambridge, our Oliver did not learn as much from books as from the
boys, eke girls, I am sorry to say--all great universities being co-ed
in fact, if not in name. His mother sent him things to eat and things
to wear, but among items to wear at that time, stockings were for
royalty alone. Queen Elizabeth was the first person of either the male
or the female persuasion in England to wear knit stockings, and also
to use a table-fork--this being for spearing purposes.
Oliver's mother sent him a baize or bombazine table-cloth. And this
tablecloth did he cut up, prompted by the devil, into stockings, for
he was justly proud of his calves, the same having been admired by the
co-eds of Cambridge. For all of these things, in after-years, Oliver
did pray forgiveness and beseech pardon for such pride of the eye and
lust of the flesh, manifest in pedal millinery.
A year at Cambridge proved the uselessness of the place, but it was
necessary to go there to find this out. The death of his father
brought matters to a climax, and Oliver must prepare for very hard
times. Then London and a lawyer's office welcomed him.
On Thursday, October Twenty-ninth, Sixteen Hundred Eighteen, Cromwell
saw a curious sight: it was the fall of the curtain in the fifth act
of the life of Sir Walter Raleigh, who introduced tobacco into
England, and did several other things, for which the monarchy was, as
usual, ungrateful. Raleigh had sought to find an Eldorado for England,
and alas! he only found that man must work wherever he is, if he would
succeed, and that fields of gold and springs of eternal youth exist
only in dreams, where they best belong. It was a cold, gray morning,
and Sir Walter was kept standing on the scaffold while the headsman
ground his ax, the delay being for the amusement and edification of
the Christian friends assembled.
"One thing I will never do," said Oliver Cromwell, law-clerk, swart
and lusty, in green stockings and other sartor-resartus trifles; "one
thing I will never do--and that is, take human life!" Oliver was both
tender-hearted and grim.
Sir Walter's frame shook in the cold, dank fog, and the sheriff
offered to bring a brazier of coals; but the great man proudly drew
around him the cloak, now somewhat threadbare, that he had once spread
for good Queen Bess to tread upon, and said, "It is the ague I
contracted in America--the crowd will think it fear--I will soon be
cured of it," and he laid his proud head, gray in the service of his
country, calmly on the block, as if to say, "There now, take that, it
is all I have left to give you!"
* * * * *
How much legal lore Cromwell acquired in London is a matter of dim and
dusty doubt. That his vocabulary was slightly extended there is quite
probable, for later he uses the word "law-wolf," thus supplying Alfred
Henry Lewis with a phrase that was to be sent clattering down the
corridors of time. That Alfred Henry may have been absolutely
innocent of the truth that he was using a classicism and not a Kansas
mouth-filler is quite probable. In London, Oliver took unto himself a
wife, he being twenty-one and three weeks over. The lady was the
daughter of a client of the firm for which Oliver Cromwell was a
process-server. That he successfully served papers on the young lady
is undeniable, for he led her captive to Saint Giles' Church,
Cripplegate, and they were there married August, Sixteen Hundred
Twenty, the clerk being so overcome (doubtless by the presence of
Oliver Cromwell, the coming Lord Protector of England, Scotland and
Ireland) that he neglected to put in the day of the month. In the same
church sleeps one John Milton, who was much respected and beloved by
our Oliver, and who proved that a Puritan could write poetry.
The father of Oliver having died, as before truthfully stated, first
prophesying that his son would grow up a ne'er-do-well, this son took
his new-found wife up to the Fen Country to live with his mother and
sister. That he would be Lord Protector of the Farm seems quite the
proper thing to say, but that he was dutiful, modest, teachable, is a
Here he lived, with babies coming along one a year, hard-working,
simple, earnest, for seven years escaping the censorious eye of Clio,
weaver of history. Happy lives make dull biographies. Also, we can
truthfully say that nothing tames a man like marriage. Take marriage,
business, responsibility, and a dash of poverty, mix, and we get an
ideal condition. These things make for a noble discontent and the
industry and unrest that unlimber progress.
Then comes that peculiar psychic experience which is often the lot of
men born to make epochs, who also have souls fit to assert themselves.
We find our Oliver consumed with a strange despair, biting world-
sorrow, Tophet pouring black smoke into the universe of his being--
temptations in the wilderness!
Men of neutral quality do not make good Christians-militant. Our
Oliver was not neutral. Out of the black night of unrest and through
the thick darkness, he gradually saw the eternal ways and got good
reckonings by aid of the celestial guiding stars.
So Oliver emerged at twenty-seven, alive with cosmic consciousness--a
God-intoxicated man. That Deity spoke through him, he never doubted.
Thereafter he was to be religious, not only on Sundays and Wednesday
evenings, but always and forever.
Suddenly and without warning appears in history, Oliver Cromwell,
taking his seat in the House of Commons on Monday, March Seventeenth,
Sixteen Hundred Twenty-seven, making then a speech of five minutes,
accusing one Reverend Doctor Alablaster of flat popery; and goes back
into the silence, pulling the silence in after him, to remain twelve
Then comes he forth again as member of Cambridge. He was a country
squire, bronze-faced, callous-handed, clothes plainly made by a woman,
dyed brown with walnut-juice. The man was much in earnest, although
seemingly having little to say. He was not especially conspicuous,
because it was largely a Parliament of Puritans. As members, there sat
in it John Hampden, Selden, Stratford, Prynne, and with these, the
rising tide had carried Oliver Cromwell. In a seat near him sat Sir
Edward Coke, known to posterity because he wrote a book on Lyttleton,
and Lyttleton is known to us for one sole reason only, and that is
because Coke used him for literary flux.
Religions are founded on antipathies.
Patriotism, which Doctor Johnson, beefeater-in-ordinary, said is the
last refuge of a rogue, is usually nothing but hatred of other
countries, very much as we are told that the shibboleth of Harvard is,
"To hell with Yale."
Puritanism is a reactionary move, a swinging out of the pendulum away
from idleness, gluttony, sham, pretense and hypocrisy.
Charles the First was king. He was a year younger than Oliver, but as
Fate would have it, he was to die first. So sat Oliver Cromwell, grim,
silent--thinking. And then back he lumbered by the stagecoach to his
His finances not prospering, he had moved to the little village of
Saint Ives, famous because of the fact that there was born the only
lawyer ever elected to a saintship. Once a year there is a village
festival at Saint Ives in honor of the attorney, when all the children
sing, "Advocatus et non latro, res miranda populo."
The land owned by Cromwell was boggy, willow-grown, marshy, fit only
for grazing. Oliver was a justice of the peace, now devoting his days
to improving his herds, draining the marsh-lands, praying,
occasionally fasting, exhorting at the village crossroads, and once
collaring the loafers at a country tavern and making them join in a
hymn. This exploit, together with that of quelling a small disturbance
among some student factions at the neighboring town of Cambridge, had
attracted a little attention to him, and Cambridge Puritans, not
knowing whom else to send to Parliament, chose Cromwell, the dark
With his big family he was very gentle, yet obedience was demanded,
and given, without question or dispute, and a glance at the portrait
of the man makes the matter plain. It was easier to agree with him
than successfully to oppose him.
So slipped the years away, broken only by an echo from cousin John
Hampden, who refused to pay "ship-money." This ship-money meant that
if you didn't pay so much--twenty shillings or ten pounds, according
to the needs of the exchequer--you could be drafted into His
Majesty's service and sent to sea. The money you paid was nominally to
hire a substitute, but no one but King Charles and Attorney-General
Noy, who fished out the precious precedent from the rag-bag of the
past, knew what became of the money.
Noy was a close-running mate of Archbishop Laud, who hunted heretics
and cropped the ears of a thousand Puritans. Noy is described for us
as a law-pedant, finding legal precedent for anything that royalty
wished to do. Noy devised the ship-money scheme, and then died before
his law went into effect: killed by the hand of Providence, the
Puritans said, who uttered prayers of thankfulness for his taking off,
all of which was quite absurd, since the law lives, no matter who
devised it. Rulers who wish to tax their subjects heavily should do it
by indirection--say by means of the tariff.
The affection in which Noy was held is shown in that he was known as
Monster to the King, the domdaniel of attorneys. When he died the
result of the autopsy was that "his brains were found to be two
handfuls of dry dust, his heart a bundle of sheepskin writs, and his
belly a barrel of soft soap." He wasn't a man at all.
John Hampden was tried for refusal to pay ship-money. The trial lasted
three weeks and three days.
The best legal talent in England had a hand in it, and one man made a
speech eleven hours long, without sipping water. The verdict went
against Hampden--he must pay the twenty shillings. I believe,
however, he did not; neither did John Milton, who wrote a pamphlet on
the subject; neither did Oliver Cromwell.
* * * * *
There is a tale in that good old classic, McGuffy's Third Reader, to
the effect that a man once punished one of his children, and a minute
after had his own ears violently boxed by his mother, with the
admonition, "You box the ears of your child, and I'll box the ears of
mine!" This story, which once much delighted the rosy children of
honest farmers, was told by Charles Dickens, with Oliver Cromwell in
the title role.
That Cromwell inherited his mother's leading traits of character, all
agree. She lived to be ninety, and to the day of her death took a deep
interest in political and theological history. She believed in her boy
even more than she believed in God, and took a deep delight in "that
heaven has used me as an instrument in bringing about His will." In
her nature she combined the attributes of Quaker, Dunkard and
Mennonite. She was a come-outer before her son was, and ever appealed
in spirit to the God of Battles for peace.
It was the year Sixteen Hundred Forty, and Oliver was again a member
of Parliament. The session lasted only three weeks, and then was
petulantly dissolved by King Charles, who, not being able to compel
the members to do his bidding, yet had the power to send them
scampering into space.
At the new election Cambridge again elected Oliver, not for anything
he had done, but as a rebuke to the haughty and frivolous Charles for
rejecting him. This was known as the Long Parliament: it lasted two
years, and during its sessions about all that Oliver did was to sit
In January, Sixteen Hundred Forty-two, there took place the
inevitable--Charles and Parliament clashed. The Royalists had been so
busy enjoying themselves, and cutting off the ears of people who
failed to bow at the right time, that they had not rightly interpreted
the spirit of the times. There was an attempt being made to oust
Presbyterianism from Scotland and supplant it with the Episcopacy.
These religious denominations were really political parties, and while
the Puritans belonged to neither, calling themselves Independents,
their hearts were with the persecuted Presbyterians, because they were
come-outers for conscience' sake, while the Episcopalians never were.
Old Noll called Episcopalians, "bastard Catholics," and it is no
wonder his ears burned. The Bishops wanted to use them in their
Come-outism is a peculiar and well-defined move on the part of
humanity towards self-preservation, righteousness, at the last, being
only a form of common-sense. That greed, selfishness, pomp and folly
in all the million forms which idleness can invent, investing itself
in the name of religion, will cause certain people to come out and
lead lives of truth, sobriety, method, industry and mutual service, is
as natural as that cattle should protect themselves from the coming
When the great Omnipotence that rules the world wishes to destroy a
nation or a party, He gives it its own way. When the governor of an
engine breaks and the machine begins to race, all ye who love life had
better look out and come out.
The dominant party had outdone the matter of taxations, star-
chamberings, hangings, whippings, and the maintaining of blood-
sprinkled pillories. The time was ripe: Charles and his rollicking,
reckless Royalists failed to see the handwriting on the wall. It was a
case of spontaneous combustion. Oliver was forty-three, with hair
getting thin in front, and three moles (which he ordered the portrait-
painter not to omit) were reinforced by wrinkles. He had a son
married, and was a grandfather.
So he went back to his farm on the order of Charles and took his moles
with him. He was a bit sobered by the thought that he had been one of
a body who had openly defied the king, and therefore he was an outlaw.
To submit quietly now meant branding and ear-cropping, if not the
stake. He called a prayer-meeting at his house--the neighbors came--
they sang and supplicated God, not Charles the First, and then Oliver
asked for volunteers to follow him to the government powder-magazine
near by, and capture it ere the Royalists used it for the undoing of
the Lord's people. "His salvation is nigh unto them that fear Him,
that His glory may dwell in the land!" And they went forth, and seized
the sleepy guards, who had not been informed that war had begun. The
plate belonging to the University was taken care of, so that it would
not fall into the hands of the enemy, and the classic old campus took
on the look of a siege.
Cromwell commissioned himself Captain of Horse. It was a farmers'
uprising, for freedom is ever a sort of farm-product. Adam Smith says,
"All wealth comes from the soil." What he meant to say was "health,"
not "wealth." Men who fight well, fight for farms--their homes, not
flats or hotels. Indians do not fight for reservations. The sturdy
come-outer is a man near the soil. Successful revolutions are always
fought by farmers, and the government which they create is destroyed
by city mobs.
Cromwell knew this and said to Cousin John Hampden: "Old, decayed
serving-men and tapsters can never encounter gentlemen. To match men
of honor you must have God-fearing, sober, serious men who fight for
conscience, freedom, and their wives, children, aged parents, and
their farms. Give me a few honest men and I will not demand numbers--
save for enemies." And he gathered around him a thousand picked
Puritans, men with moles, farmers and herdsmen, who were used to the
open. This regiment, which was called "Ironsides," was never beaten,
and in time came to be regarded as invincible. The men who composed it
compared closely with the valiant and religious Boers, who were
overpowered only by starvation and a force of six to one. The
Ironsides were like Caesar's Tenth Legion, only different. They went
into battle singing the Psalms of David, and never stopped so long as
an enemy was in sight, except for prayer.
John Forster, who wrote a life of Cromwell in seven volumes, says, "If
Oliver Cromwell had never done anything else but muster, teach and
discipline this one regiment, his name would have left a sufficient
warrant of his greatness."
The Winter of Sixteen Hundred Forty-two and Sixteen Hundred Forty-
three was devoted to preparations for the coming struggle, which
Cromwell knew would be renewed in the Spring. All his private fortune
went into the venture. He covered the country for a hundred miles
square, and broke up every Royalist rendezvous. The Spring did not
bring disappointment, for the Royalist army came forward, and were
successful until they reached Cromwell's country. Here the
Parliamentarians met them as one to three, and routed them.
"They were as stubble before our swords," wrote Cromwell to his wife.
Old Noll not only led the fighting, but the singing, and insisted on
being in every charge where the Ironsides took part. He had not been
trained in the art of war, but from the very first he showed
consummate genius as a general. He aimed to strike the advancing army
in the center, go straight through the lines, and then circle to
either the right or the left, milling the mass into a mob, destroying
it utterly. It was all the work of men born on horseback, who, if a
horse went down, clambered free and jumped up behind the nearest
trooper, or, clinging to the tail of a running horse, swung sword
right and left and all the time sang, "Unto Thee, O Lord, and not unto
us!" This two-men-to-a-horse performance was an exercise in which our
Oliver personally trained his Ironsides. He showed them how to sing,
pray, fight and ride horseback double. At Marston Moor, Fairfax led
the right wing of the Parliamentary army. Prince Rupert at the head of
twenty thousand men charged Fairfax and defeated him. Cromwell played
a waiting game and allowed the army of Rupert to tire itself, when he
met it with his Ironsides and sent it down the pages of history in
confusion and derision. At this battle the eldest son of Cromwell was
killed, and the way he breaks the news to a fellow-soldier, a young
man, as if he were consoling him, reveals the soul of this sturdy man:
_To my loving Brother, Colonel Valentine Walton. These:
Before York 5th July, 1644_
Dear Sir: It's our duty to sympathize in all mercies, and to praise
the Lord together in chastisement or trials, that so we may sorrow
Truly England and the Church of God hath had a great favor from the
Lord, in this great victory given unto us, such as the like never
was since this war began. It had all the evidences of an absolute
victory obtained by the Lord's blessing upon the godly party
principally. We never charged but we routed the enemy. The left
wing, which I commanded, being on our own horse, saving a few Scots
in our rear, beat all the Prince's horse. God made them as stubble
to our swords. We charged their foot regiments with our horse, and
routed all we charged. The particulars I can not relate now; but I
believe of the twenty thousand the Prince has not four thousand
left. Give glory, all the glory, to God.
Sir, God hath taken away our eldest son by a cannon-shot. It broke
his leg. We were necessitated to have it cut off, whereof he died.
Sir, you know my own trials this way; but the Lord supported me with
this: That the Lord took him into the happiness we all pant for and
live for. There is our precious child full of glory, never to know
sin and sorrow any more. He was a gallant young man, exceedingly
gracious. God give you His comfort. Before his death he was so full
of comfort that to Frank Russel and myself he could not express it,
"It is so great above my pain." This he said to us. Indeed it was
admirable. A little after, he said, "One thing lies upon my spirit."
I asked him what that was. He told me it was that God had not
suffered him to be any more the executioner of His enemies. At this
fall, his horse being killed with the bullet, and as I am informed
three horses more, I am told he bid them open to the right and left,
that he might see the rogues run. Truly he was exceedingly beloved
in the army of all who knew him. But few knew him; for he was a
precious young man fit for God. You have cause to bless the Lord. He
is a glorious saint in heaven; wherein you ought exceedingly to
rejoice. Let this drink up your sorrow; seeing these are not feigned
words to comfort you, but the thing is so real and undoubted a
truth. We may do all things by the strength of Christ. Seek that,
and you shall easily bear your trial. Let this public mercy to the
Church of God make you forget your private sorrow. The Lord be your
strength: so prays Your truly faithful and loving brother,
* * * * *
Great Britain was rent with civil war: plot and counterplot--intrigue,
feud, fear and vengeance--filled the air. Men alternately prayed and
cursed, then they shivered. Commerce stood still. Farmers feared to
plant, for they knew that probably the work would be worse than vain:
the product would go to feed their enemies and deepen their
oppression. Backward and forward surged the armies, consuming,
destroying and wasting. The pride and flower of England's manhood had
enlisted or been drafted into the fray.
The fight was Episcopalians against Dissenters: the Church versus the
People. Most of the Dissenters were Puritans, and they belonged to
various denominations; and many, like Oliver Cromwell, belonged to
none. The issue was freedom of conscience. Cromwell regarded religion
as life and life as religion, and to him and to all men he believed
that God spoke directly, if we would but listen.
If the Church won, many felt that freedom would flee, and England
would be as it was in the reign of Bloody Mary.
If the Puritans won, no one knew the result--would power be safe in
their hands? Men at the last were but men. In the hands of royalty,
money flowed free. There had been thousands of pensioners, parasites,
ladies of fashion and gentlemen of leisure, parties who worked an hour
every other Thursday, and whose duties were limited largely to signing
their vouchers--royalty and relatives of royalty, all feeding at the
public trough. These people "spent their money like kings"--which
means that they wasted their substance in riotous living. And the
average mind--jumping at conclusions--reasons that liberal spenders
benefit society. In the South our colored brothers are much happier
when getting ten cents at a time, ten times a day, than if receiving a
monthly stipend of fifty dollars. Even yet there be those who argue
that rich people who spend money freely on folly benefit the race,
forgetful that anything which calls for human energy is a waste to the
world of human life, unless it is a producer of wealth and happiness
as well as a distributor. Waste must always be paid for, and usually
it is paid for in blood and tears; but beggars who live on tips never
know it. A tramp who is given a quarter feels a deal more lucky than
if he gets a chance to earn a dollar.
All wealth comes through labor: the people earn the money, and the
parasites get a part of it; and in the Seventeenth Century, they got
most of it. Then when these parasites wasted the money the people had
earned, the many thought they were being blessed. The English people
in the Seventeenth Century were about where the colored brother is
now, and I apologize to all Afro-Americans when I say it. However, out
of the mass of ignorance, innocence, brutality, bestiality,
fanaticism, superstition, arose here and there at long intervals a man
equal to any we can now produce. But they were fugitive stars,
unsupported, and they had to supply their own atmosphere.
Cromwell was an accident, a providential accident, sent by Deity in
pleasantry, to give a glimpse of what a man might really be.
* * * * *
William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, was to Charles the First what
Richelieu was to Louis the Thirteenth of France. Laud came so near
being a Catholic that the Pope, perceiving his fitness, offered to
make him a cardinal. In fact, but a few years before, all of the
clergy in England were Catholics and when their monarch changed
religions they changed theirs. Laud was of the opinion that vows,
responses, intonings, genuflexions and ringing of bells constituted
Cromwell said that religion was the dwelling of the spirit of God in
the heart of man. Laud brought about much kneeling and candle-
snuffing. He was Pope of the English Church, and played the part
according to the traditions.
A Scotch Presbyterian clergyman by the name of Leighton declared in a
sermon that bishops derived their power from men, not God. Laud showed
him differently by placing him in the pillory, giving him a hundred
lashes on the bare back, branding him with the letter "I," meaning
infidel, cutting off one ear and slitting his nose.
William Prynne, a barrister, denounced Laud for his inhuman cruelty,
and declared that Laud's misuse of power proved Leighton was right.
Then it was Prynne's turn. He was fined two thousand pounds for
"treason, contumacy and contravention." Archbishop Laud was head of
the Church of England, and he who spoke ill of Laud spoke ill of the
Church; and he who slandered the Church was guilty of disloyalty to
God and his country. King Charles looked on and smiled approval while
Prynne had his ears cut off and his nose slit. Charles signed the
sentence that Prynne should wear a red letter "I" on his breast and
stand in the marketplace on a scaffold two hours a day for a month,
and then be imprisoned for life. Thus was Nathaniel Hawthorne supplied
a name and an incident. Also thus did Charles and his needlessly pious
Archbishop set an awful example to Puritans, for we teach forever by
example and not by precept. Rulers who kill their enemies are teaching
murder as a fine art, and fixing private individuals in the belief
that for them to kill their enemies is according to the "higher law,"
and also preparing them for the abuse of power when they get the
Doctor Bastwick, a physician in high repute, expressed sympathy for
Barrister Prynne as he stood in the sun on the scaffold, consoling him
with a word of friendship and a foolish tear. Laud had a clergyman in
disguise standing near the condemned Prynne, "to feel the pulse of the
people." He felt the pulse of Doctor Bastwick, and reported his action
to Laud, the religieux. Then Bastwick was a candidate. He was
arrested, fined a thousand pounds, had his ears cut off without the
use of cocaine, a month apart, both nostrils were slit, and he was
imprisoned for life. Cousin John Hampden took a petition to King
Charles, asking that mercy should be granted Doctor Bastwick, as he
was an old man, a good physician, and his action was merely a kindly
impulse, and not a deliberate insult to either the Archbishop or the
King. The petition was ignored and John Hampden cautioned.
Oliver Cromwell was then in London, having come to town with three
wagonloads of wool, but his wits were not woolgathering. Dissenters
were not safe. There is a report noted by both Carlyle and Charles
Dickens that Cromwell, having sold his wool and also his horses,
embarked on a ship with John Hampden, bound for Massachusetts Bay
Colony, leaving orders for his family to follow. The ship being
searched by spies of Laud, Oliver and John were put ashore and ordered
to make haste to their country houses and stay there and cultivate the
soil. The King and his Archbishop made a slight lapse in not allowing
Oliver and John to depart in peace.
When John Hampden refused to pay ship-money, Laud wanted him publicly
whipped. Charles, guessing the temper of the times, allowed the case
to go to trial.
Cromwell was a member of the Long parliament that ordered the arrest
and trial of Laud. Laud was placed in the Tower in Sixteen Hundred
Forty-one, but his trial did not take place until Sixteen Hundred
Forty-four. Cromwell argued that anybody who could speak well of Laud
must be heard. The trial consumed a year. Laud was found guilty of six
hundred counts of gross inhumanity and violation of his priestly oath,
and was beheaded with a single stroke of the ax that had severed the
head of Raleigh.
At this time Charles was in the field, moving from this point to that,
feeling to see if his head was in place, and trying to dodge the
Parliamentary armies. Also, at this time, fighting in the ranks of
Cromwell, was one John Bunyan, who was to outlive Cromwell, write a
book, glorify Bedford Jail and fall a victim to Royal vengeance.
Fate dug down and tapped in Cromwell's nature great reservoirs of
unguessed strength. As Ingersoll said of Lincoln, "He always rose to
the level of events." There is an unanalyzed bit of psychology here: a
man is tired, ready to drop out, and lo! circumstances call upon him,
and he makes the effort of his life. Beneath all humanity there is a
lake of power, as yet untapped.
Cromwell's greatest successes were snatched from the teeth of defeat.
He always had a few extra links to let out. He grew great by doing.
When others were ready to quit, he had just begun. Like Paul Jones,
when called upon to surrender he shouted back, "Why, sir, by the
living God, I have not yet commenced to fight!"
* * * * *
When conversation lags in Great Britain, or any of her Colonies, the
question of whether the execution of Charles the First was justifiable
is still debated.
That Charles the First was a saint compared with his son Charles
the Second can easily be shown. He was cool, courageous, diplomatic,
regular in church attendance, gentle in his family relations. He was
objectionable only in his official capacity. He was weak, vacillating
and full of duplicity. It is absolutely true that cutting off his head
did not increase the sum total of love, beauty, truth, kindness and
virtue in the breast of the beefeaters.
England still spends ten times as much for beer as for books, and the
religion in which Charles believed is yet the established one. The
religion of Cromwell, which represented simple industry, truth, and
mutual helpfulness, omitting ritual, is still considered strange,
erratic and peculiar.
For fifteen years the rule of Oliver Cromwell in England was supreme.
With the help of Admiral Blake he drove the pirates from the
Mediterranean, set English captives free, and made Great Britain both
respected and feared the round world over. Spain gave way and dipped
her colors; Italy paid a long-delayed indemnity of sixty thousand
pounds for injuries done to British subjects; Catholic France
religiously kept hands off.
The Episcopal faith was not suppressed, but was simply placed on the
same footing as Presbyterianism. Toleration for each and every faith
was manifest, and the pillory and whipping-post fell into disuse. The
prison-ships lying in the Thames, waiting for their living cargo to be
carried away and dumped on distant lands, were cleaned out, refitted,
holystoned, and sent out as merchant-ships. Roads were built,
waterways deepened, canals dug, and marsh-lands drained.
A general order was issued that any British soldier or sailor, in any
place or clime, who at any time was guilty of assault on women, or who
looted or damaged private property, or attacked a neutral, should be
at once tried, and, if found guilty, shot. If, in the exigency of war,
English soldiers were compelled to take private property, receipts
must be given, prices fixed, and drafts drawn for same on the home
office. All this to the end, "Thou shalt not steal." Pensions were cut
off, parasites set to work, vagabonds collared and given jobs, and all
State business managed on the same plan that a man would bring to bear
in his private affairs. For carrying dummy names on his payroll, the
governor of a shipyard was led forth and dropped into the sea, and a
man who gave a ball at the expense of the State was deprived of his
office and sent to the Barbados.
Cromwell liked to dress as a private soldier, mixing with his men, and
going to taverns or palaces looking for contraband of war. When he was
Chief Commander of the armies of England, he insisted on acting as
colonel and leading the Ironsides into battle at the head of a charge.
When Cromwell was presented with six coach-horses, all alike, and by
one sire, he insisted on personally driving them. The coach was loaded
with broad-brimmed Puritans, who had guiltily left their work, when
the horses ran away, frightened, they say, by an Episcopal bishop. All
Royalists laughed--but not very loud. A few ultra-Puritans said it was
a warning to Oliver not to try to set up a monarchy.
In Cromwell's time the Ananias Club had not been formed, although
eligible candidates were plentiful. Oliver refers to Archbishop Laud
as a "deep-dyed liar," and in the Cathedral, at Ely, he once
interrupted the services by calling the officiating clergyman, "a
Cromwell, like many another bluff and gruff man, was a deal more
tender-hearted than he was willing to admit. The death of his daughter
broke the heart of Old Noll--he could not live without her. So passed
away Oliver Cromwell in his sixtieth year. The very human side of his
nature was shown in his supposing that his son Richard could rule in
his place. A short year and the young man was compelled to give way.
Royalists came flocking home, with greedy mouths watering for
fleshpots, ecclesiastical and political.
And so we have Charles the Second and confusion.