Many in fact who had rejected the authority of his father submitted peaceably to the new Protector.
Continuing Of Cromwell’s Rule In England and the Restoration
with a selection from On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History by Thomas Carlyle published in 1841. The selections are presented in a series of ten easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Of Cromwell’s Rule In England and the Restoration.
Place: Great Britain
Early in August, 1658, his sickness took a more serious form. He saw too clearly the chaos into which his death would plunge England to be willing to die. “Do not think I shall die,” he burst out with feverish energy to the physicians who gathered round him; “say not I have lost my reason! I tell you the truth. I know it from better authority than any you can have from Galen or Hippocrates. It is the answer of God himself to our prayers!”
Prayer indeed rose from every side for his recovery, but death grew steadily nearer, till even Cromwell felt that his hour was come. “I would be willing to live,” the dying man murmured, “to be further serviceable to God and his people, but my work is done! Yet God will be with his people!” A storm which tore roofs from houses, and levelled huge trees in every forest, seemed a fitting prelude to the passing away of his mighty spirit. Three days later, on September 3d, the day which had witnessed his victories of Worcester and Dunbar, Cromwell quietly breathed his last.
So absolute even in death was his sway over the minds of men, that, to the wonder of the excited Royalists, even a doubtful nomination on his death-bed was enough to secure the peaceful succession of his son, Richard Cromwell. Many in fact who had rejected the authority of his father submitted peaceably to the new Protector. Their motives were explained by Baxter, the most eminent among the Presbyterian ministers, in an address to Richard which announced his adhesion. “I observe,” he says, “that the nation generally rejoice in your peaceable entrance upon the government. Many are persuaded that you have been strangely kept from participating in any of our late bloody contentions, that God might make you the healer of our breaches, and employ you in that Temple work which David himself might not be honored with, though it was in his mind, because he shed blood abundantly and made great wars.”
The new Protector was a weak and worthless man; but the bulk of the nation were content to be ruled by one who was at any rate no soldier, no Puritan, and no innovator. Richard was known to be lax and worldly in his conduct, and he was believed to be conservative and even Royalist in heart. The tide of reaction was felt even in his council. Their first act was to throw aside one of the greatest of Cromwell’s reforms and to fall back in the summons which they issued for a new Parliament on the old system of election. It was felt far more keenly in the tone of the new House of Commons when it met in January, 1659. The republicans under Vane, backed adroitly by the members who were secretly Royalists, fell hotly on Cromwell’s system. The fiercest attack of all came from Sir Ashley Cooper, a Dorsetshire gentleman who had changed sides in the civil war, had fought for the King and then for the Parliament, had been a member of Cromwell’s council, and had of late ceased to be a member of it. His virulent invective on “his highness of deplorable memory, who with fraud and force deprived you of your liberty when living and entailed slavery on you at his death,” was followed by an equally virulent invective against the army. “They have not only subdued their enemies,” said Cooper, “but the masters who raised and maintained them! They have not only conquered Scotland and Ireland, but rebellious England too; and there suppressed a malignant party of magistrates and laws.”
The army was quick with its reply. Already in the preceding November it had shown its suspicion of the new government by demanding the appointment of a soldier as general in the place of the new Protector, who had assumed the command. The tone of the council of officers now became so menacing that the Commons ordered the dismissal of all officers who refused to engage “not to disturb or interrupt the free meetings of Parliament.” Richard ordered the council of officers to dissolve. Their reply was a demand for the dissolution of the Parliament; and with this demand, on April 22d, Richard was forced to comply. The purpose of the army, however, was still to secure a settled government; and setting aside the new Protector, whose weakness was now evident, they resolved to come to a reconciliation with the republican party, and to recall the fragment of the Commons whom they had expelled from St. Stephen’s in 1653.
The arrangement was quickly brought about; and in May, of the one hundred sixty members who had continued to sit after the King’s death, about ninety returned to their seats and resumed the administration of affairs. The continued exclusion of the members who had been “purged” from the House in 1648, proved that no real intention existed of restoring a legal rule; and the soldiers trusted that the “Rump” which they had restored to power would be bound to them by the growing danger both to republicanism and to religious liberty. But not even their passion for these “causes” could make men endure the rule of the sword. The House was soon at strife with the soldiers.
In spite of Vane’s counsels, it proposed a reform of the officers and though a Royalist rising in Cheshire during August threw the disputants for a moment together, the struggle revived as the danger passed away. A new hope indeed filled men’s minds. Not only was the nation sick of military rule, but the army, unconquerable so long as it held together, at last showed signs of division. In Ireland and Scotland the troops protested against the attitude of their English comrades; and Monk, the commander of the Scottish army, threatened to march on London and free the Parliament from their pressure. The knowledge of these divisions encouraged Haselrig and his coadjutors in the Commons to demand the dismissal of Fleetwood and Lambert from their commands. They answered in October by driving the Parliament again from Westminster, and by marching under Lambert to the north to meet the army under Monk.
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