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He frequently repeated :
“ It is
that have forced me to this, for I have sought the Lord night and day, that He would rather slay me than put me upon the doing of this work.” Alderman Allen told him, “ That it was not yet gone so far, but all things might be restored again ; and that if the soldiers were commanded out of the House, and the mace returned, the public affairs might go on in their course." Cromwell rejected this advice, and called Allen to account for some hundred thousand pounds which, as Treasurer of the army, he had embezzled. Allen replied, “ That it was well known that it had not been his fault that his account was not made up long since ; that he had often tendered it to the House, and that he asked no favour from any man in that matter.” Cromwell ordered him to be arrested, and he was led off by the soldiers. The rooni was now empty; he seized all the papers, took the Dissolution-Bill from the Clerk, and put it under his cloak : after which he left the House, ordered the doors to be shut, and returned to Whitehall.
At Whitehall, he found several of his officers, who had remained there to wait the event. He related to them what he had done at the House. “When I went there,” he said, "I did not think to have done this. But, perceiving the Spirit of God so strong upon me, I would not consult flesh and blood.” A few hours later, in the afternoon, he was informed that the Council of State had just assembled in its ordinary place of meeting, in Whitehall itself, under the presidency of Bradshaw. He went to them immediately, followed only by Harrison and Lambert. "Gentlemen," he said, “if you are met here as private persons, you shall not be disturbed; but if as a Council of State, this is no place for you; and since you can't but know what was done at the House this morning, so take notice that the Parliament is dissolved." “Sir," answered Bradshaw, "we have
heard what you did at the House in the morning, and before many hours all England will hear it. But, Sir, you are mistaken to think that the Parliament is dissolved ; for no power under heaven can dissolve them but themselves. Therefore take you notice of that.” All then rose and left the room. On the following day, the 21st of April, this announcement appeared in the Mercurius Politicus, which had become Cromwell's journal: “The Lord-General delivered yesterday in Parliament divers reasons wherefore a present period should be put to the sitting of this Parliament, and it was accordingly done, the Speaker and the members all departing. The grounds of which proceedings will, it is probable, be shortly made public.” And, on the same day, a crowd collected at the door of the House to read a large placard which had probably been placed there during the night by somé Cavalier who was overjoyed at finding his cause avenged on the republicans by a regicide ;? it bore this inscription :
“This House to be let unfurnished.”
[After the expulsion of the Commons, England really lay in
the power of the army: and its general, Oliver Cromwell, became ruler of the country with the title of Lord Protector. Cromwell was a man of great genius; and he made the name of England feared abroad by great victories, both on land and sea. But at home he failed to reconcile the nation to what was after all but a military
6 One of the earliest English newspapers. 7 The judges on the King's trial were called by the royalists regicides.
rule ; and the Parliament he summoned demanded the restoration of the old liberties of England. It was to bring back the constitution and restore the rule of law that the Commons at last offered Cromwell the title of King. But he was forced by the army to refuse it; and soon after a fever brought him to the grave.]
It was no mere pedantry, still less was it vulgar flattery, which influenced the Parliament in their offer to Cromwell of the title of King. The experience of the last few years had taught the nation the value of the traditional forms under which its liberties had grown up. A king was limited by constitutional precedents. “The king's prerogative," it was well urged, " is under the courts of justice, and is bounded as well as any acre of land, or anything a man hath.” A Protector, on the other hand, was new in our history and there were no traditional means of limiting his power. “The one office being lawful in its nature,” said Glynne, “known to the nation, certain in itself, and confined and regulated by the law, and the other not so—that was the great ground why the Parliament did so much insist on this office and title." Under the name of monarchy indeed the question really at issue between the party headed by the officers and the party led by the lawyers in the Commons was that of the restoration of constitutional and legal rule. The proposal was carried by an overwhelming majority, but a month passed in endless consultations between the Parliament and the Protector. His good sense, his knowledge of the general feeling of the nation, his real desire to obtain a settlement which should secure the ends for which Puritanism had fought, political and religious liberty, broke, in conference after conference, through a mist of words. But his real concern throughout was with the temper of the army. To Cromwell his soldiers were no common swordsmen.
1 Glynne was one of the leaders in the Parliament.
They were "godly men, men that will not be beaten down by a worldly and carnal spirit while they keep their integrity,” men in whose general voice he recognized the voice of God. “ They are honest and faithful men,” he urged, “true to the great things of the Government. And though it is really no part of their goodness to be unwilling to submit to what a Parliament shall settle over them, yet it is my duty and conscience to beg of you that there may be no hard things put upon them which they cannot swallow. I cannot think God would bless an undertaking of anything which would justly and with cause grieve them.” The temper of the army was soon shown. Its leaders with Lambert, Fleetwood, and Desborough at their head, placed their commands in Cromwell's hands. A petition from the officers to Parliament demanded the withdrawal of the proposal to restore the monarchy, “in the name of the old cause for which they had bled.” Cromwell at once anticipated the coming debate on this petition, a debate which might have led to an open breach between the army and the Commons, by a refusal of the crown. “I cannot undertake this government,” he said, “with that title of king; and that is my answer to this great and weighty business.”
Disappointed as it was, the Parliament with singular selfrestraint turned to other modes of bringing about its purpose. The offer of the crown had been coupled with the condition of accepting a Constitution, which was a modification of the Instrument of Governments adopted by the Parliament of 1654, and this Constitution Cromwell emphatically approved. “The things provided by this Act of Government," he owned, “ do secure the liberties of the people of God as they never before have had them.” With a change of the title of king into that of Protector, the Act
? The leading generals in the army, after Cromwell. 3 A plan originally drawn up by the officers of the army for the new rule after the king's death.
of Government became law: and the solemn inauguration of the Protector by the Parliament was a practical acknowledgement on the part of Cromwell of the illegality of his former rule. In the name of the Commons the Speaker invested him with a niantle of state, placed the sceptre in his hand, and girt the sword of justice by his side. By the new Act of Government Cromwell was allowed to name his own successor, but in all after cases the office was to be an elective one.
respect the forms of the older Constitution were carefully restored. Parliament was again to consist of two Houses, the seventy members of the other House being named by the Protector. The Commons regained their old right of exclusively deciding on the qualification of their members. Parliamentary restrictions were imposed on the choice of members of the Council, and officers of the state or of the army. A fixed revenue was voted to the Protector, and it was provided that no moneys should be raised but by assent of Parliament. Liberty of worship was secured for all but Papists, Prelatists, 4 Socinians or those who denied the inspiration of the Scriptures, and liberty of conscience was secured to all.
The excluded members were again admitted when the Parliament reassembled after an adjournment of six months; and the hasty act of Cromwell in giving his nominees in “the other House” the title of Lords kindled a quarrel which was busily fanned by Haselrig.5 But while the Houses were busy with their squabble the hand of death was falling on the Protector. He had long been weary of his task. “God knows,” he burst out a little time before to the Parliament, “I would have been glad to have lived under my woodside, and to have kept a flock of sheep, rather than to have undertaken this government.” And now to the weariness of power was added the weakness
* Episcopalians of the Church of England, believed to be disfected to the new government. 5 A leading republican.