Abbildungen der Seite

ever, by zeal and perseverance, what he wanted in natural powers; and being endowed with unshaken intrepidity, much dissimulation, and a thorough conviction of the rectitude of his cause, he rose, through the gradations of preferment, to the post of lieutenant-general under Fairfax; but, in reality, possessing the supreme command over the whole army. Soon after the retreat of the Scots, the presbyterian party, seeing every thing reduced to obedience, began to talk of dismissing a considerable part of the army, and sending the rest to Ireland. It may easily be supposed, that for every reason the troops were as unwilling to be disbanded as to be led over into a country as yet uncivilised, uncultivated, and barbarous. Cromwell took care to inspire them with a horror of either: they loved him for his bravery and religious zeal, and still more for his seeming affection to them. Instead, therefore, of submitting, they resolved to petition; and they began by desiring an indemnity, ratified by the king, for any illegal actions which they might have committed during the war. This the commons, in turn, treated with great severity; they voted, that this petition tended to introduce mutiny, to put conditions upon the parliament, to obstruct the relief of the kingdom of Ireland; and they threatened to proceed against the promoters of it as enemies to the state, and disturbers of the public peace. The army now began to consider themselves as a body distinct from the commonwealth; and complained, that they had secured the general tranquillity, while they were at the same time deprived of the privileges of Englishmen. In opposition, therefore, to the parliament at Westminster, a military parliament was formed, composed of the officers and common soldiers of each regiment. . The principal officers formed a council to WOL. II. S

represent the body of peers; the soldiers elected two men out of each company to represent the house of commons; and these were called the Agitators of the army. Cromwell took care to be one of the number, and thus contrived an easy method underhand of conducting and promoting the sedition of the army. This fierce assembly, having debated for a very short time, declared that they found many grievances to be redressed; and began by specifying such as they desired to be most speedily removed. The very same conduct which had formerly been used with success by the parliament against their sovereign, was now put in practice by the army against the parliament. As the commons granted every request, the agitators rose in their demands: the former accused the army of mutiny and sedition; the army retorted the charge, and alleged that the king had been deposed only to make way for their usurpations. The unhappy king, in the mean time, continued a prisoner at Holdenby Castle; and as his countenance might add some authority to that side which should obtain it, Cromwell, who secretly conducted all the measures of the army while he apparently exclaimed against their violence, resolved to seize the king's person. Accordingly a party of five hundred horse appeared at the castle, under the command of one Joyce, who had been originally a tailor, but who, in the present confusion of all ranks and orders, was advanced to the rank of cornet. Without any opposition, he entered the king's apartment, armed with pistols, and told him that he must prepare and go with him. “Whither?” said the king. “To the army,” replied Joyce. “By what warrant?” asked the king. Joyce pointed to his followers. “Your warrant,” replied Charles, “is written in fair characters.” And then, without farther delay, he went

into his coach, and was safely conducted to the army, who were hastening to their rendezvous at Triploeheath, near Royston. The next day Cromwell arrived among them, where he was received with acclamations of joy, and was instantly invested with the supreme command. It was now that the commons perceived a settled design in the army to prescribe laws to their employers; and they did not fail to spread the alarm through the city. But it was too late to resist; the army, with Cromwell at their head, advanced with precipitation, and arrived in a few days at St. Alban's ; so that the commons now began to think of temporising. The declaration by which they had voted the military petitioners enemies to the state, was recalled, and erased from their journal-book. But all submission was vain; the army still rose in their demands, in proportion as those demands were gratified, until at last they entirely threw off the mask, and claimed a right of modeling the whole government, and settling the nation. But as too precipitate an assumption of authority might appear invidious, Cromwell began by accusing eleven members of the house as guilty of high treason, and enemies to the army. The members accused were the leaders of the presbyterian party, the very men who had prescribed such rigorous measures to the king, and now, in their turn, were threatened with popular resentment. As they were the leading men in the house, the commons were willing to protect them ; but the army insisting on their dismission, they voluntarily left the house rather than be compelled to withdraw. At last the citizens of London, who had been ever foremost in sedition, began to open their eyes, and to perceive that the constitution was totally overturned. They saw an oppressive parliament now subjected to a more oppressive army; they found their religion abolished, their king a captive, and no hopes of redress but from another scene of slaughter. In this exigence, therefore, the common-council assembled the militia of the city; the works were manned, and a manifesto published, aggravating the hostile intentions of the army. Finding that the house of commons, in compliance with the request of the army, had voted that the city militia should be disbanded, the multitude rose, besieged the door of the house, and obliged them to reverse that vote which they had passed so lately. In this manner was this wretched house intimidated on either side; obliged at one time to obey the army, at another to comply with the clamours of the city rabble. This assembly was, in consequence, divided into parties, as usual; one part siding with the seditious citizens, while the minority, with the two speakers at their head, were for encouraging the army. In such an universal confusion, it is not to be excepted that any thing less than a separation of the parties could take place; and accordingly the two speakers, with sixtytwo members, secretly retired from the house, and threw themselves under the protection of the army, then encamped upon Hounslow-heath. They were received with shouts and acclamation; their integrity was extolled; and the whole body of the soldiery, a formidable force of twenty thousand men, now moved forward to reinstate them. In the mean time, the remaining members resolved to act with vigour, and resist the encroachments of the army. They chose new speakers; they gave orders for enlisting troops; they ordered the trained bands to man the lines; and the whole city boldly resolved to resist the invasion. But this resolution only held while the enemy was thought at a distance; for when the formi

dable force of Cromwell appeared, all was obedience and submission; the gates were opened to the general, who attended the two speakers, and the rest of the members, peaceably to their habitations. The eleven impeached members, being accused as causes of the tumult, were expelled, and most of them retired to the continent. The mayor, sheriff, and three aldermen, were sent to the Tower; several citizens, and officers of militia, were committed to prison, and the lines about the city were leveled to the ground. The command of the Tower was given to Fairfax, the general; and the parliament ordered him their hearty thanks for having disobeyed their commands. It now only remained to dispose of the king, who had been sent by the army a prisoner to Hampton Court. The independent army, at the head of whom was Cromwell, on one hand, and the presbyterians in the name of either house, on the other hand, treated separately with him in private. He had at one time even hopes, that in these struggles for power, he might have been chosen mediator in the dispute; and he expected that the kingdom, at last sensible of the miseries of anarchy, would, like a froward child, hushed with its own importunities, settle into its former tranquil constitution. However, in all his miseries and doubts, though at first led about with his army, and afterwards kept a prisoner by them at Hampton, such was his admirable equality of temper, that no difference was perceived in his countenance and behaviour. Though a captive in the hands of his most inveterate enemies, he still supported the dignity of a monarch; and he never one moment sunk from the consciousness of his own superiority. It is true, that at first he was treated with some flattering marks of distinction; he was permitted to converse with his old servants, his chaplains were admitted

« ZurückWeiter »