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BORN A. D. 1599,-DIED A. D. 1658.
Oliver CROMWELL, Protector of the Commonwealth of England from the year 1653 to his death in 1658, was unquestionably one of the most distinguished individuals whose names figure in the page of British history. His biography, both personal and public, is full of interest and instruction. It is, however, necessary to premise, that the true delineation of his character is no easy task, owing to the unmerited obloquy or the extravagant praise which have been alternately attached to his name by friends and foes. Some parts of his life are involved in much obscurity. Malicious attempts to degrade his character were deemed so meritorious, and found so acceptable in the age succeeding his own, that many falsehoods have become current, and many facts have been misrepresented. We shall attempt, as far as our means and limits will allow, to sift the true from the false, and shall set down no. thing to his credit or disgrace that is of questionable authority.
He was born April 25, 1599, in the parish of St John, Huntingdon. Ilis father, Robert Cromwell, was the second son of Sir John Cromwell of Hinchinbrook, in the county of Huntingdon; and his mother was Elizabeth, sister of Sir Thomas Stewart of Ely, botlı ancient and honourable families. At the time of Oliver's birth his father was engaged in the trade of a brewer in the town of Huntingdon. Oliver was educated first in the grammar-school of his native town, and was then sent at the age of seventeen to Cambridge, where he entered as fellow-commoner in Sidney college. His youthful and boyish years have been scrutinized with an evil eye, and some charges of a morose, turbulent, and ill-starred disposition have been founded upon them, but we cannot find that there is any clear authority for indicting him upon any gross charge at that early period, at least not beyond the delinquencies of other robust and spirited young gentlemen. He was neither remarkably dull nor eminently clever,-neither essayed juvenile rebellions nor enacted in embryo the deposition of a tyrant, by leading his playmates to overturn the throne of their pedagogue,—but appears to have passed through the period of his education with average decorum and respectability. From all that has been alleged respecting his boyish days it appears that he was thoughtful and meditative above most of his companions, and that his natural courage prompted him to defend himself whenever he felt the hand of petty oppression. Probably his bodily strength was answerable to his courage, and made him thereby the terror of those who attempted to insult him, or play off the tyrant.
About one year after he took up his residence at college, his father died, and he is said to have been recalled to his mother's house.
But there is no certain evidence of his having forsaken his studies at this time. It has been stated, without any adequate foundation, that he was sent by his mother to Lincoln's inn, and entered as a student of law, and that during his residence there he lived a most dissolute life.
"Memoirs of Cromwell, by Noble, and by 0. Cromwell.
But this too is unsupported by evidence, and most probably is a mere tale invented by malignant enemies. If he ever fell into vicious habits in his youth, they were not of long continuance, for his marriage took place at the age of 21, and he was not deprived of his father's care and control till his 19th year. His wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir James Bourchier of Fitsted, Essex, descended from the earls of Essex of that name. He had not yet embraced the principles of the puritans, but continued a zealous episcopalian, and if he had been a licentious man, undoubtedly became reformed before he embraced puritanism, for his private life after marriage was one of exemplary virtue both as a husband and father. But we suspect the whole charge of having lived dissolutely in his youth was founded upon his use of that language of self-abasement, common to the puritans, in which he indul. ged when he embraced their principles, as may be seen in a letter he wrote to Mrs St John, preserved by Thurloe. All his biographers agree that from the period of his marriage he lived a very sober and harmless life. By the death of his uncle Sir Thomas Stewart, he came into the possession of an estate of £400 pèr annum, and in consequence took up his abode in the isle of Ely, between 1636 and 1638.
Cromwell first entered parliament in the year 1025, for the town of Huntingdon, and again in 1627, for the same place. His third election was for the borough of Cambridge, a fact which sufficiently speaks his respectability and influence at this period. This third election took place in 1640, but the parliament was of short duration. His popularity in his own district of the country seems in the first instance to have arisen from the spirited opposition he made to the drainage of the Lincolnshire fens. This has been set down to the score of his factious disposition, and has been construed into a want of public spirit. But it has been clearly proved that his opposition to the measure, attached not to the undertaking in the abstract, but to the job which its projectors intended to make of it.
In Charles's third parliament, which met in 1628, Cromwell took an active part in defence of the protestant cause, against Bishop Neile, and others, who seemed anxious to revive popery or at least to favour it. About this period the king seemed resolved on governing without a parliament, and the long intervals and frequent interruptions which now occurred, seem to have induced him, in company with Hampden and many others, to quit their native country for New England. This determination on the part of Cromwell, has been by most of the biographers attributed to the state of his private affairs, which they almost uniformly represent as ruined and desperate. But there does not appear any ground for such an insinuation. If there had been, the failure of his scheme, through the order of the king, would inevitably have brought it to light. Cromwell, with Hampden, continued in England—as we have stated at length in the introductory chapter to this part of our work—and without the slightest evidence of being crippled in his private fortune.
He was chosen for Cambridge in the parliament which first assenibled in November 3d, 1640, known as the long parliament, and in which he became so distinguished a member. He is represented as a constant attendant in his place, and a frequent speaker in this parliament. Indeed, the affairs of the nation were now assuming a character which called forth into vigorous action all the heroic and manly spirits of the age.
He is stated to have been slovenly in his appearance, coarse and rude in his oratory, and withal fiery in his temper. Speaking of grievances in no way soft or courtly terms, but, we suppose, as became a Briton and a member of parliament, his oratory may not have been of the first order, neither could it have been very inferior or so rude as his enemies state, otherwise it never could have produced such effects as it manifestly did. His ability both for speech and action rose with the exigencies of the time. To deny to him great genius for the management of public affairs, and great powers of persuasion and cominand, would be to contradict the testimony of history. To admit that he rose to a station of proud pre-eminence in an age distinguished by every kind of human greatness, and yet to represent him as a man of inferior talents, were to court a paradox and affect an absurdity. Yet such have been the base and blind and false asseverations of the courtly advocates that wrote in the following age.
About the year 1641, affairs began to wear a more threatening aspect. It was evident that a collision must take place. The king was resolved against concession, and every act did but betray more fully to the nation the fatuity which attended all his counsels. In 1642, the parliament resolved upon raising forces. Then first Cromwell commenced his military career. He went immediately to Cambridge and raised a troop of horse of which he was appointed commander. His services at Cambridge proved highly advantageous to the popular cause. But his first bold enterprize was made against Sir Thomas Coningsby, whom the king had recently appointed sheriff of Hertfordshire, commanding him to proclaim the earl of Essex and his army traitors. Coningsby had so done—but Cromwell came suddenly upon him at St Albans, and having made him prisoner, brought him to London. For this spirited action the parliament returned him their thanks, and soon after gave hin a colonel's commission with the command of a regiment of cavalry. From this period, his military career became conspicuous, and even splerfdid. În six associated counties, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, he established the power of the parliament, and then advanced against the royal garrison of Newark. After this he checked the king's troops under the earl of Newcastle, and performed many other important and distinguished services. Soon after this period the house of parliament passed the self-denying ordinance, which was directed to the exclusion of all mem bers of parliament from military command, with the exception of Cromwell. In consequence of this step, the earl of Manchester retired from the head of the army, and Sir Thomas Fairfax was appointed in his place. Cromwell was made lieutenant-general of cavalry, and speedily distinguished himself by the most brilliant actions. At the battle of Marston-moor, which took place July 3d, 1644, Cromwell's management of the cavalry is said to have turned the fortunes of the day in favour of the parliamentary army. In the autumn of the same year, at the second battle of Newbury, he charged the king's guards with such skill and courage that he had nearly taken him prisoner. From the command of the cavalry he now rose to be lieutenant-general of the army, and in almost every movement displayed consummate skill and courage. It may
· List of Essex's army.
readily be supposed that his extensive popularity and unrivalled military successes contributed to turn the eyes of the nation upon him as the great bulwark of its interests; and it is not improbable that ambitious thoughts were the offspring of those great military achievements which had thus made him the actual protector of the national rights and liberties. Many who affect unusual insight into human nature, profess to see at this early period the lurking design of seizing the crown for himself and his family. But we are disposed to think that this project had not yet sullied his patriotism, and that when it did, it arose less from the natural bias of his mind, always generous and liberal, than from the critical circumstances in which he found both himself and the nation placed. Patriotism first forced him into power, and then he was both impelled to keep what he had gained, to prevent the undoing of all the noble struggles of a great people to obtain liberty, and to grasp at more, in order to use what he already possessed with any efficiency for the permanent establishment of national freedom.
Under Fairfax and Cromwell, the army was new-modelled and a new system of warfare adopted. From this period success attended all their movements; and finally the royal cause was entirely ruined in the decisive battle of Naseby, fought June 14th, 1645, in which Cromwell commanded with his usual intrepidity and skill. This battle closed the military career of King Charles, and gave an undisputed triumph in all quarters to the popular cause. After some feeble attempts on the part of the king to rally his friends, he formed the design of throwing himself into the hands of the Scottish army, which had advanced as far as Newark. But by them he was soon after delivered up to the parliament and conveyed to Holnıby house. It has been usual to attribute to Cromwell the project of removing the king from this place to the head-quarters of the army without the permission of either the generalin-chief or the parliamentary leaders—then of inducing the king to escape to the isle of Wight, through pretended plots against his life, and so of inducing him to leave the kingilom. But the whole is, we believe, without any satisfactory foundation in fact, and had its origin in the malicious conjectures and imaginings of his enemies. Historians, one after another, have repeated what the first chose to assert—but none would trouble themselves to examine. But it has been recently shown that the removal of the king from the custody of the parliamentary commissioners, was wholly a plot of the republican agitators in the army, who had grown jealous of the intentions of Cromwell and of the parliament to restore the king.*
The king having been induced to take the rash step of escaping from Ilampton court to the isle of Wight, fell into the custody of Hammond, governor of the island. At this juncture a new attempt in favour of the royal cause arose with the Welch, which Cromwell speedily quelled. After this a formidable party appeared in the north, and they were joined by many who had formerly espoused the cause of the parliament. Against them also Cromwell took the field, and with astonishing skill and energy, annihilated, in a single battle, all the hopes of this ner party. Having placed the government of Scotland in the hands of
• Any one who wishes to see this whole question calmly and fully examined may con sult with satisfaction Mr Cromwell's Memoirs of the Protector, p. 319.
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trusty friends to the popular cause, he returned to London. Here he found every thing falling into confusion, and faction contending with faction. Every attempt at a reconciliation with the king had failed, either through the obstinacy, which refused all concession, or the ex. travagance which demanded too much. It is next to impossible to unravel the tangle of contradictory statements which are given of affairs and parties at this juncture. Cromwell himself hardly escaped an im peachment by one party,' while another seized the person of the king, and lodged him by force in Hurst castle.
After this a violent party in the parliament began to cry out against delinquents, and to demand that they should be brought to trial, and that the greatest of them ought not to escape. It is manifest, fronı Whitelock and others, that Cromwell, at this most alarming period, did all in his power to prevent the violent republicans from bringing the king to trial. On the other hand, Cromwell found the presbyterians uniformly zealous for the restoration of the monarchy; and these having a large majority in the house of commons, had conducted, and nearly concluded, a treaty with the king, which would have placed the more liberal parties, both in politics and religion, in a situation quite as insupportable as that in which they had first fled to arms. bable, therefore, that at this conjuncture Cromwell, with the other officers, first determined to unite with the stern republicans in resisting the united efforts of the presbyterians and royalists, to restore the monarchy, and with it all the former intolerance of the church. The Arnıy was brought into London, and General Fairfax, with the other inilitary men, set themselves in an attitude to overawe the parliament Proceeding with their plan, they purged the parliament by seizing and dismissing the presbyterian members. The council of officers was now the supreme power in the state ; and it is probable that Cromwell soon found himself the most influential member of that body. The design of bringing the king to trial does not appear to have originated with the officers, but with the republicans in parliament. They accordingly proceeded to declare it to be treason, by the fundamental laws of the kingdom, in the king, for the time being, to levy war against the parliament and kingdom of England ;---the people, under God, to be the original of all just power ;—that the commons of England in parliament being chosen by, and representing the people, had the supreme power of the nation ;—and that all things declared by them to be law, had the force of law, and all the people of the nation concluded thereby, without the consent of the king and house of peers. They then passed the ordinance for the trial of the king. It appears from all the acco'ınts which have been preserved of those “tumultuating times, that Cromwell was far from being the designer and mover of this questionable transaction. When it was broached in parliament, it is well known that he stood up and declared, “ that if any man moved this upon design, he should think him the greatest traitor in the world ; but since Providence and necessity had cast them upon it, he should pray God to bless their counsels, though he were not prepared on the sudden to give them counsel.” It appears, however, that afterwards he gave it his sanction, and was persuaded to believe that such a measure could