Subjugation of Ireland and Scotland
Expulsion of the Long Parliament
The Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell
Oliver succeeded by Richard
Fall of Richard and Revival of the Long Parliament
Second Expulsion of the Long Parliament
The Army of Scotland marches into England
Monk declares for a Free Parliament
General Election of 1660
Subjugation of Ireland and Scotland
England had already ceased to struggle. But the two other kingdoms which had been governed by the Stuarts were hostile to the new republic. The Independent party was equally odious to the Roman Catholics of Ireland and to the Presbyterians of Scotland. Both those countries, lately in rebellion against Charles the First, now acknowledged the authority of Charles the Second.
But everything yielded to the vigour and ability of Cromwell. In a few months he subjugated Ireland, as Ireland had never been subjugated during the five centuries of slaughter which had elapsed since the landing of the first Norman settlers. He resolved to put an end to that conflict of races and religions which had so long distracted the island, by making the English and Protestant population decidedly predominant. For this end he gave the rein to the fierce enthusiasm of his followers, waged war resembling that which Israel waged on the Canaanites, smote the idolaters with the edge of the sword, so that great cities were left without inhabitants, drove many thousands to the Continent, shipped off many thousands to the West Indies, and supplied the void thus made by pouring in numerous colonists, of Saxon blood, and of Calvinistic faith. Strange to say, under that iron rule, the conquered country began to wear an outward face of prosperity. Districts, which had recently been as wild as those where the first white settlers of Connecticut were contending with the red men, were in a few years transformed into the likeness of Kent and Norfolk. New buildings, roads, and plantations were everywhere seen. The rent of estates rose fast; and soon the English landowners began to complain that they were met in every market by the products of Ireland, and to clamour for protecting laws.
From Ireland the victorious chief, who was now in name, as he had long been in reality, Lord General of the armies of the Commonwealth, turned to Scotland. The Young King was there. He had consented to profess himself a Presbyterian, and to subscribe the Covenant; and, in return for these concessions, the austere Puritans who bore sway at Edinburgh had permitted him to assume the crown, and to hold, under their inspection and control, a solemn and melancholy court. This mock royalty was of short duration. In two great battles Cromwell annihilated the military force of Scotland. Charles fled for his life, and, with extreme difficulty, escaped the fate of his father. The ancient kingdom of the Stuarts was reduced, for the first time, to profound submission. Of that independence, so manfully defended against the mightiest and ablest of the Plantagenets, no vestige was left. The English Parliament made laws for Scotland. English judges held assizes in Scotland. Even that stubborn Church, which has held its own against so many governments, scarce dared to utter an audible murmur.
Thus far there had been at least the semblance of harmony between the warriors who had subjugated Ireland and Scotland and the politicians who sate at Westminster: but the alliance which had been cemented by danger was dissolved by victory. The Parliament forgot that it was but the creature of the army. The army was less disposed than ever to submit to the dictation of the Parliament. Indeed the few members who made up what was contemptuously called the Rump of the House of Commons had no more claim than the military chiefs to be esteemed the representatives of the nation. The dispute was soon brought to a decisive issue. Cromwell filled the House with armed men. The Speaker was pulled out of his chair, the mace taken from the table, the room cleared, and the door locked. The nation, which loved neither of the contending parties, but which was forced, in its own despite, to respect the capacity and resolution of the General, looked on with patience, if not with complacency.
King, Lords, and Commons, had now in turn been vanquished and destroyed; and Cromwell seemed to be left the sole heir of the powers of all three. Yet were certain limitations still imposed on him by the very army to which he owed his immense authority. That singular body of men was, for the most part, composed of zealous republicans. In the act of enslaving their country, they had deceived themselves into the belief that they were emancipating her. The book which they venerated furnished them with a precedent which was frequently in their mouths. It was true that the ignorant and ungrateful nation murmured against its deliverers. Even so had another chosen nation murmured against the leader who brought it, by painful and dreary paths, from the house of bondage to the land flowing with milk and honey. Yet had that leader rescued his brethren in spite of themselves; nor had he shrunk from making terrible examples of those who contemned the proffered freedom, and pined for the fleshpots, the taskmasters, and the idolatries of Egypt. The object of the warlike saints who surrounded Cromwell was the settlement of a free and pious commonwealth. For that end they were ready to employ, without scruple, any means, however violent and lawless. It was not impossible, therefore, to establish by their aid a dictatorship such as no King had ever exercised: but it was probable that their aid would be at once withdrawn from a ruler who, even under strict constitutional restraints, should venture to assume the kingly name and dignity.
The sentiments of Cromwell were widely different. He was not what he had been; nor would it be just to consider the change which his views had undergone as the effect merely of selfish ambition. He had, when he came up to the Long Parliament, brought with him from his rural retreat little knowledge of books, no experience of great affairs, and a temper galled by the long tyranny of the government and of the hierarchy. He had, during the thirteen years which followed, gone through a political education of no common kind. He had been a chief actor in a succession of revolutions. He had been long the soul, and at last the head, of a party. He had commanded armies, won battles, negotiated treaties, subdued, pacified, and regulated kingdoms. It would have been strange indeed if his notions had been still the same as in the days when his mind was principally occupied by his fields and his religion, and when the greatest events which diversified the course of his life were a cattle fair or a prayer meeting at Huntingdon. He saw that some schemes of innovation for which he had once been zealous, whether good or bad in themselves, were opposed to the general feeling of the country, and that, if he persevered in those schemes, he had nothing before him but constant troubles, which must he suppressed by the constant use of the sword. He therefore wished to restore, in all essentials, that ancient constitution which the majority of the people had always loved, and for which they now pined. The course afterwards taken by Monk was not open to Cromwell. The memory of one terrible day separated the great regicide for ever from the House of Stuart. What remained was that he should mount the ancient English throne, and reign according to the ancient English polity. If he could effect this, he might hope that the wounds of the lacerated State would heal fast. Great numbers of honest and quiet men would speedily rally round him. Those Royalists whose attachment was rather to institutions than to persons, to the kingly office than to King Charles the First or King Charles the Second, would soon kiss the hand of King Oliver. The peers, who now remained sullenly at their country houses, and refused to take any part in public affairs, would, when summoned to their House by the writ of a King in possession, gladly resume their ancient functions. Northumberland and Bedford, Manchester and Pembroke, would be proud to bear the crown and the spurs, the sceptre and the globe, before the restorer of aristocracy. A sentiment of loyalty would gradually bind the people to the new dynasty; and, on the decease of the founder of that dynasty, the royal dignity might descend with general acquiescence to his posterity.
The ablest Royalists were of opinion that these views were correct, and that, if Cromwell had been permitted to follow his own judgment, the exiled line would never have been restored. But his plan was directly opposed to the feelings of the only class which he dared not offend. The name of King was hateful to the soldiers. Some of them were indeed unwilling to see the administration in the hands of any single person. The great majority, however, were disposed to support their general, as elective first magistrate of a commonwealth, against all factions which might resist his authority: but they would not consent that he should assume the regal title, or that the dignity, which was the just reward of his personal merit, should be declared hereditary in his family. All that was left to him was to give to the new republic a constitution as like the constitution of the old monarchy as the army would bear. That his elevation to power might not seem to be merely his own act, he convoked a council, composed partly of persons on whose support he could depend, and partly of persons whose opposition he might safely defy. This assembly, which he called a Parliament, and which the populace nicknamed, from one of the most conspicuous members, Barebone's Parliament, after exposing itself during a short time to the public contempt, surrendered back to the General the powers which it had received from him, and left him at liberty to frame a plan of government.
The Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell
His plan bore, from the first, a considerable resemblance to the old English constitution: but, in a few years, he thought it safe to proceed further, and to restore almost every part of the ancient system under hew names and forms. The title of King was not revived; but the kingly prerogatives were intrusted to a Lord High Protector. The sovereign was called not His Majesty, but His Highness. He was not crowned and anointed in Westminster Abbey, but was solemnly enthroned, girt with a sword of state, clad in a robe of purple, and presented with a rich Bible, in Westminster Hall. His office was not declared hereditary: but he was permitted to name his successor; and none could doubt that he would name his son.
A House of Commons was a necessary part of the new polity. In constituting this body, the Protector showed a wisdom and a public spirit which were not duly appreciated by his contemporaries. The vices of the old representative system, though by no means so serious as they afterwards became, had already been remarked by farsighted men. Cromwell reformed that system on the same principles on which Mr. Pitt, a hundred and thirty years later, attempted to reform it, and on which it was at length reformed in our own times. Small boroughs were disfranchised even more unsparingly than in 1832; and the number of county members was greatly increased. Very few unrepresented towns had yet grown into importance. Of those towns the most considerable were Manchester, Leeds, and Halifax. Representatives were given to all three. An addition was made to the number of the members for the capital. The elective franchise was placed on such a footing that every man of substance, whether possessed of freehold estates in land or not, had a vote for the county in which he resided. A few Scotchmen and a few of the English colonists settled in Ireland were summoned to the assembly which was to legislate, at Westminster, for every part of the British isles.
To create a House of Lords was a less easy task. Democracy does not require the support of prescription. Monarchy has often stood without that support. But a patrician order is the work of time. Oliver found already existing a nobility, opulent, highly considered, and as popular with the commonalty as any nobility has ever been. Had he, as King of England, commanded the peers to meet him in Parliament according to the old usage of the realm, many of them would undoubtedly have obeyed the call. This he could not do; and it was to no purpose that he offered to the chiefs of illustrious families seats in his new senate. They conceived that they could not accept a nomination to an upstart assembly without renouncing their birthright and betraying their order. The Protector was, therefore, under the necessity of filling his Upper House with new men who, during the late stirring times, had made themselves conspicuous. This was the least happy of his contrivances, and displeased all parties. The Levellers were angry with him for instituting a privileged class. The multitude, which felt respect and fondness for the great historical names of the land, laughed without restraint at a House of Lords, in which lucky draymen and shoemakers were seated, to which few of the old nobles were invited, and from which almost all those old nobles who were invited turned disdainfully away.
How Oliver's Parliaments were constituted, however, was practically of little moment: for he possessed the means of conducting the administration without their support, and in defiance of their opposition. His wish seems to have been to govern constitutionally, and to substitute the empire of the laws for that of the sword. But he soon found that, hated as he was, both by Royalists and Presbyterians, he could be safe only by being absolute. The first House of Commons which the people elected by his command, questioned his authority, and was dissolved without having passed a single act. His second House of Commons, though it recognised him as Protector, and would gladly have made him King, obstinately refused to acknowledge his new Lords. He had no course left but to dissolve the Parliament. "God," he exclaimed, at parting, "be judge between you and me!"
Yet was the energy of the Protector's administration in nowise relaxed by these dissensions. Those soldiers who would not suffer him to assume the kingly title stood by him when he ventured on acts of power, as high as any English King has ever attempted. The government, therefore, though in form a republic, was in truth a despotism, moderated only by the wisdom, the sobriety, and the magnanimity of the despot. The country was divided into military districts. Those districts were placed under the command of Major Generals. Every insurrectionary movement was promptly put down and punished. The fear inspired by the power of the sword, in so strong, steady, and expert a hand, quelled the spirit both of Cavaliers and Levellers. The loyal gentry declared that they were still as ready as ever to risk their lives for the old government and the old dynasty, if there were the slightest hope of success: but to rush, at the head of their serving men and tenants, on the pikes of brigades victorious in a hundred battles and sieges, would be a frantic waste of innocent and honourable blood. Both Royalists and Republicans, having no hope in open resistance, began to revolve dark schemes of assassination: but the Protector's intelligence was good: his vigilance was unremitting; and, whenever he moved beyond the walls of his palace, the drawn swords and cuirasses of his trusty bodyguards encompassed him thick on every side.
Had he been a cruel, licentious, and rapacious prince, the nation might have found courage in despair, and might have made a convulsive effort to free itself from military domination. But the grievances which the country suffered, though such as excited serious discontent, were by no means such as impel great masses of men to stake their lives, their fortunes, and the welfare of their families against fearful odds. The taxation, though heavier than it had been under the Stuarts, was not heavy when compared with that of the neighbouring states and with the resources of England. Property was secure. Even the Cavalier, who refrained from giving disturbance to the new settlement, enjoyed in peace whatever the civil troubles had left hem. The laws were violated only in cases where the safety of the Protector's person and government was concerned. Justice was administered between man and man with an exactness and purity not before known. Under no English government since the Reformation, had there been so little religious persecution. The unfortunate Roman Catholics, indeed, were held to be scarcely within the pale of Christian charity. But the clergy of the fallen Anglican Church were suffered to celebrate their worship on condition that they would abstain from preaching about politics. Even the Jews, whose public worship had, ever since the thirteenth century, been interdicted, were, in spite of the strong opposition of jealous traders and fanatical theologians, permitted to build a synagogue in London.
The Protector's foreign policy at the same time extorted the ungracious approbation of those who most detested him. The Cavaliers could scarcely refrain from wishing that one who had done so much to raise the fame of the nation had been a legitimate King; and the Republicans were forced to own that the tyrant suffered none but himself to wrong his country, and that, if he had robbed her of liberty, he had at least given her glory in exchange. After half a century during which England had been of scarcely more weight in European politics than Venice or Saxony, she at once became the most formidable power in the world, dictated terms of peace to the United Provinces, avenged the common injuries of Christendom on the pirates of Barbary, vanquished the Spaniards by land and sea, seized one of the finest West Indian islands, and acquired on the Flemish coast a fortress which consoled the national pride for the loss of Calais. She was supreme on the ocean. She was the head of the Protestant interest. All the reformed Churches scattered over Roman Catholic kingdoms acknowledged Cromwell as their guardian. The Huguenots of Languedoc, the shepherds who, in the hamlets of the Alps. professed a Protestantism older than that of Augsburg, were secured from oppression by the mere terror of his great name The Pope himself was forced to preach humanity and moderation to Popish princes. For a voice which seldom threatened in vain had declared that, unless favour were shown to the people of God, the English guns should be heard in the Castle of Saint Angelo. In truth, there was nothing which Cromwell had, for his own sake and that of his family, so much reason to desire as a general religious war in Europe. In such a war he must have been the captain of the Protestant armies. The heart of England would have been with him. His victories would have been hailed with an unanimous enthusiasm unknown in the country since the rout of the Armada, and would have effaced the stain which one act, condemned by the general voice of the nation, has left on his splendid fame. Unhappily for him he had no opportunity of displaying his admirable military talents, except against the inhabitants of the British isles.
While he lived his power stood firm, an object of mingled aversion, admiration, and dread to his subjects. Few indeed loved his government; but those who hated it most hated it less than they feared it. Had it been a worse government, it might perhaps have been overthrown in spite of all its strength. Had it been a weaker government, it would certainly have been overthrown in spite of all its merits. But it had moderation enough to abstain from those oppressions which drive men mad; and it had a force and energy which none but men driven mad by oppression would venture to encounter.
Oliver succeeded by Richard
It has often been affirmed, but with little reason, that Oliver died at a time fortunate for his renown, and that, if his life had been prolonged, it would probably have closed amidst disgraces and disasters. It is certain that he was, to the last, honoured by his soldiers, obeyed by the whole population of the British islands, and dreaded by all foreign powers, that he was laid among the ancient sovereigns of England with funeral pomp such as London had never before seen, and that he was succeeded by his son Richard as quietly as any King had ever been succeeded by any Prince of Wales.
During five months, the administration of Richard Cromwell went on so tranquilly and regularly that all Europe believed him to be firmly established on the chair of state. In truth his situation was in some respects much more advantageous than that of his father. The young man had made no enemy. His hands were unstained by civil blood. The Cavaliers themselves allowed him to be an honest, good-natured gentleman. The Presbyterian party, powerful both in numbers and in wealth, had been at deadly feud with the late Protector, but was disposed to regard the present Protector with favour. That party had always been desirous to see the old civil polity of the realm restored with some clearer definitions and some stronger safeguards for public liberty, but had many reasons for dreading the restoration of the old family. Richard was the very man for politicians of this description. His humanity, ingenuousness, and modesty, the mediocrity of his abilities, and the docility with which he submitted to the guidance of persons wiser than himself, admirably qualified him to be the head of a limited monarchy.
For a time it seemed highly probable that he would, under the direction of able advisers, effect what his father had attempted in vain. A Parliament was called, and the writs were directed after the old fashion. The small boroughs which had recently been disfranchised regained their lost privilege: Manchester, Leeds, and Halifax ceased to return members; and the county of York was again limited to two knights. It may seem strange to a generation which has been excited almost to madness by the question of parliamentary reform that great shires and towns should have submitted with patience and even with complacency, to this change: but though speculative men might, even in that age, discern the vices of the old representative system, and predict that those vices would, sooner or later, produce serious practical evil, the practical evil had not yet been felt. Oliver's representative system, on the other hand, though constructed on sound principles, was not popular. Both the events in which it originated, and the effects which it had produced, prejudiced men against it. It had sprung from military violence. It had been fruitful of nothing but disputes. The whole nation was sick of government by the sword, and pined for government by the law. The restoration, therefore, even of anomalies and abuses, which were in strict conformity with the law, and which had been destroyed by the sword, gave general satisfaction.
Among the Commons there was a strong opposition, consisting partly of avowed Republicans, and partly of concealed Royalists: but a large and steady majority appeared to be favourable to the plan of reviving the old civil constitution under a new dynasty. Richard was solemnly recognised as first magistrate. The Commons not only consented to transact business with Oliver's Lords, but passed a vote acknowledging the right of those nobles who had, in the late troubles, taken the side of public liberty, to sit in the Upper House of Parliament without any new creation.
Thus far the statesmen by whose advice Richard acted had been successful. Almost all the parts of the government were now constituted as they had been constituted at the commencement of the civil war. Had the Protector and the Parliament been suffered to proceed undisturbed, there can be little doubt that an order of things similar to that which was afterwards established under the House of Hanover would have been established under the House of Cromwell. But there was in the state a power more than sufficient to deal with Protector and Parliament together. Over the soldiers Richard had no authority except that which he derived from the great name which he had inherited. He had never led them to victory. He had never even borne arms. All his tastes and habits were pacific. Nor were his opinions and feelings on religious subjects approved by the military saints. That he was a good man he evinced by proofs more satisfactory than deep groans or long sermons, by humility and suavity when he was at the height of human greatness, and by cheerful resignation under cruel wrongs and misfortunes: but the cant then common in every guardroom gave him a disgust which he had not always the prudence to conceal. The officers who had the principal influence among the troops stationed near London were not his friends. They were men distinguished by valour and conduct in the field, but destitute of the wisdom and civil courage which had been conspicuous in their deceased leader. Some of them were honest, but fanatical, Independents and Republicans. Of this class Fleetwood was the representative. Others were impatient to be what Oliver had been. His rapid elevation, his prosperity and glory, his inauguration in the Hall, and his gorgeous obsequies in the Abbey, had inflamed their imagination. They were as well born as he, and as well educated: they could not understand why they were not as worthy to wear the purple robe, and to wield the sword of state; and they pursued the objects of their wild ambition, not, like him, with patience, vigilance, sagacity, and determination, but with the restlessness and irresolution characteristic of aspiring mediocrity. Among these feeble copies of a great original the most conspicuous was Lambert.
Fall of Richard and Revival of the Long Parliament
On the very day of Richard's accession the officers began to conspire against their new master. The good understanding which existed between him and his Parliament hastened the crisis. Alarm and resentment spread through the camp. Both the religious and the professional feelings of the army were deeply wounded. It seemed that the Independents were to be subjected to the Presbyterians, and that the men of the sword were to be subjected to the men of the gown. A coalition was formed between the military malecontents and the republican minority of the House of Commons. It may well be doubted whether Richard could have triumphed over that coalition, even if he had inherited his father's clear judgment and iron courage. It is certain that simplicity and meekness like his were not the qualities which the conjuncture required. He fell ingloriously, and without a struggle. He was used by the army as an instrument for the purpose of dissolving the Parliament, and was then contemptuously thrown aside. The officers gratified their republican allies by declaring that the expulsion of the Rump had been illegal, and by inviting that assembly to resume its functions. The old Speaker and a quorum of the old members came together, and were proclaimed, amidst the scarcely stifled derision and execration of the whole nation, the supreme power in the commonwealth. It was at the same time expressly declared that there should be no first magistrate, and no House of Lords.
Second Expulsion of the Long Parliament
But this state of things could not last. On the day on which the long Parliament revived, revived also its old quarrel with the army. Again the Rump forgot that it owed its existence to the pleasure of the soldiers, and began to treat them as subjects. Again the doors of the House of Commons were closed by military violence; and a provisional government, named by the officers, assumed the direction of affairs.
Meanwhile the sense of great evils, and the strong apprehension of still greater evils close at hand, had at length produced an alliance between the Cavaliers and the Presbyterians. Some Presbyterians had, indeed, been disposed to such an alliance even before the death of Charles the First: but it was not till after the fall of Richard Cromwell that the whole party became eager for the restoration of the royal house. There was no longer any reasonable hope that the old constitution could be reestablished under a new dynasty. One choice only was left, the Stuarts or the army. The banished family had committed great faults; but it had dearly expiated those faults, and had undergone a long, and, it might be hoped, a salutary training in the school of adversity. It was probable that Charles the Second would take warning by the fate of Charles the First. But, be this as it might, the dangers which threatened the country were such that, in order to avert them, some opinions might well be compromised, and some risks might well be incurred. It seemed but too likely that England would fall under the most odious and degrading of all kinds of government, under a government uniting all the evils of despotism to all the evils of anarchy. Anything was preferable to the yoke of a succession of incapable and inglorious tyrants, raised to power, like the Deys of Barbary, by military revolutions recurring at short intervals. Lambert seemed likely to be the first of these rulers; but within a year Lambert might give place to Desborough, and Desborough to Harrison. As often as the truncheon was transferred from one feeble hand to another, the nation would be pillaged for the purpose of bestowing a fresh donative on the troops. If the Presbyterians obstinately stood aloof from the Royalists, the state was lost; and men might well doubt whether, by the combined exertions of Presbyterians and Royalists, it could be saved. For the dread of that invincible army was on all the inhabitants of the island; and the Cavaliers, taught by a hundred disastrous fields how little numbers can effect against discipline, were even more completely cowed than the Roundheads.
While the soldiers remained united, all the plots and risings of the malecontents were ineffectual. But a few days after the second expulsion of the Rump, came tidings which gladdened the hearts of all who were attached either to monarchy or to liberty: That mighty force which had, during many years, acted as one man, and which, while so acting, had been found irresistible, was at length divided against itself. The army of Scotland had done good service to the Commonwealth, and was in the highest state of efficiency. It had borne no part in the late revolutions, and had seen them with indignation resembling the indignation which the Roman legions posted on the Danube and the Euphrates felt, when they learned that the empire had been put up to sale by the Praetorian Guards. It was intolerable that certain regiments should, merely because they happened to be quartered near Westminster, take on themselves to make and unmake several governments in the course of half a year. If it were fit that the state should be regulated by the soldiers, those soldiers who upheld the English ascendency on the north of the Tweed were as well entitled to a voice as those who garrisoned the Tower of London. There appears to have been less fanaticism among the troops stationed in Scotland than in any other part of the army; and their general, George Monk, was himself the very opposite of a zealot. He had at the commencement of the civil war, borne arms for the King, had been made prisoner by the Roundheads, had then accepted a commission from the Parliament, and, with very slender pretensions to saintship, had raised himself to high commands by his courage and professional skill. He had been an useful servant to both the Protectors, and had quietly acquiesced when the officers at Westminster had pulled down Richard and restored the Long Parliament, and would perhaps have acquiesced as quietly in the second expulsion of the Long Parliament, if the provisional government had abstained from giving him cause of offence and apprehension. For his nature was cautious and somewhat sluggish; nor was he at all disposed to hazard sure and moderate advantages for the chalice of obtaining even the most splendid success. He seems to have been impelled to attack the new rulers of the Commonwealth less by the hope that, if he overthrew them, he should become great, than by the fear that, if he submitted to them, he should not even be secure. Whatever were his motives, he declared himself the champion of the oppressed civil power, refused to acknowledge the usurped authority of the provisional government, and, at the head of seven thousand veterans, marched into England.
This step was the signal for a general explosion. The people everywhere refused to pay taxes. The apprentices of the City assembled by thousands and clamoured for a free Parliament. The fleet sailed up the Thames, and declared against the tyranny of the soldiers. The soldiers, no longer under the control of one commanding mind, separated into factions. Every regiment, afraid lest it should be left alone a mark for the vengeance of the oppressed nation, hastened to make a separate peace. Lambert, who had hastened northward to encounter the army of Scotland, was abandoned by his troops, and became a prisoner. During thirteen years the civil power had, in every conflict, been compelled to yield to the military power. The military power now humbled itself before the civil power. The Rump, generally hated and despised, but still the only body in the country which had any show of legal authority, returned again to the house from which it had been twice ignominiously expelled.
In the mean time Monk was advancing towards London. Wherever he came, the gentry flocked round him, imploring him to use his power for the purpose of restoring peace and liberty to the distracted nation. The General, coldblooded, taciturn, zealous for no polity and for no religion, maintained an impenetrable reserve. What were at this time his plans, and whether he had any plan, may well be doubted. His great object, apparently, was to keep himself, as long as possible, free to choose between several lines of action. Such, indeed, is commonly the policy of men who are, like him, distinguished rather by wariness than by farsightedness. It was probably not till he had been some days in the capital that he had made up his mind. The cry of the whole people was for a free Parliament; and there could be no doubt that a Parliament really free would instantly restore the exiled family. The Rump and the soldiers were still hostile to the House of Stuart. But the Rump was universally detested and despised. The power of the soldiers was indeed still formidable, but had been greatly diminished by discord. They had no head. They had recently been, in many parts of the country, arrayed against each other. On the very day before Monk reached London, there was a fight in the Strand between the cavalry and the infantry. An united army had long kept down a divided nation; but the nation was now united, and the army was divided.
During a short time the dissimulation or irresolution of Monk kept all parties in a state of painful suspense. At length he broke silence, and declared for a free Parliament.
General Election of 1660
As soon as his declaration was known, the whole nation was wild with delight. Wherever he appeared thousands thronged round him, shouting and blessing his name. The bells of all England rang joyously: the gutters ran with ale; and, night after night, the sky five miles round London was reddened by innumerable bonfires. Those Presbyterian members of the House of Commons who had many years before been expelled by the army, returned to their seats, and were hailed with acclamations by great multitudes, which filled Westminster Hall and Palace Yard. The Independent leaders no longer dared to show their faces in the streets, and were scarcely safe within their own dwellings. Temporary provision was made for the government: writs were issued for a general election; and then that memorable Parliament, which had, in the course of twenty eventful years, experienced every variety of fortune, which had triumphed over its sovereign, which had been enslaved and degraded by its servants, which had been twice ejected and twice restored, solemnly decreed its own dissolution.
The result of the elections was such as might have been expected from the temper of the nation. The new House of Commons consisted, with few exceptions, of persons friendly to the royal family. The Presbyterians formed the majority.
That there would be a restoration now seemed almost certain; but whether there would be a peaceable restoration was matter of painful doubt. The soldiers were in a gloomy and savage mood. They hated the title of King. They hated the name of Stuart. They hated Presbyterianism much, and Prelacy more. They saw with bitter indignation that the close of their long domination was approaching, and that a life of inglorious toil and penury was before them. They attributed their ill fortune to the weakness of some generals, and to the treason of others. One hour of their beloved Oliver might even now restore the glory which had departed. Betrayed, disunited, and left without any chief in whom they could confide, they were yet to be dreaded. It was no light thing to encounter the rage and despair of fifty thousand fighting men, whose backs no enemy had ever seen. Monk, and those with whom he acted, were well aware that the crisis was most perilous. They employed every art to soothe and to divide the discontented warriors. At the same time vigorous preparation was made for a conflict. The army of Scotland, now quartered in London, was kept in good humour by bribes, praises, and promises. The wealthy citizens grudged nothing to a redcoat, and were indeed so liberal of their best wine, that warlike saints were sometimes seen in a condition not very honourable either to their religious or to their military character. Some refractory regiments Monk ventured to disband. In the mean time the greatest exertions were made by the provisional government, with the strenuous aid of the whole body of the gentry and magistracy, to organise the militia. In every county the trainbands were held ready to march; and this force cannot be estimated at less than a hundred and twenty thousand men. In Hyde Park twenty thousand citizens, well armed and accoutred, passed in review, and showed a spirit which justified the hope that, in case of need, they would fight manfully for their shops and firesides. The fleet was heartily with the nation. It was a stirring time, a time of anxiety, yet of hope. The prevailing opinion was that England would be delivered, but not without a desperate and bloody struggle, and that the class which had so long ruled by the sword would perish by the sword.
Happily the dangers of a conflict were averted. There was indeed one moment of extreme peril. Lambert escaped from his confinement, and called his comrades to arms. The flame of civil war was actually rekindled; but by prompt and vigorous exertion it was trodden out before it had time to spread. The luckless imitator of Cromwell was again a prisoner. The failure of his enterprise damped the spirit of the soldiers; and they sullenly resigned themselves to their fate.
The new Parliament, which, having been called without the royal writ, is more accurately described as a Convention, met at Westminster. The Lords repaired to the hall, from which they had, during more than eleven years, been excluded by force. Both Houses instantly invited the King to return to his country. He was proclaimed with pomp never before known. A gallant fleet convoyed him from Holland to the coast of Kent. When he landed, the cliffs of Dover were covered by thousands of gazers, among whom scarcely one could be found who was not weeping with delight. The journey to London was a continued triumph. The whole road from Rochester was bordered by booths and tents, and looked like an interminable fair. Everywhere flags were flying, bells and music sounding, wine and ale flowing in rivers to the health of him whose return was the return of peace, of law, and of freedom. But in the midst of the general joy, one spot presented a dark and threatening aspect. On Blackheath the army was drawn up to welcome the sovereign. He smiled, bowed, and extended his hand graciously to the lips of the colonels and majors. But all his courtesy was vain. The countenances of the soldiers were sad and lowering; and had they given way to their feelings, the festive pageant of which they reluctantly made a part would have had a mournful and bloody end. But there was no concert among them. Discord and defection had left them no confidence in their chiefs or in each other. The whole array of the City of London was under arms. Numerous companies of militia had assembled from various parts of the realm, under the command of loyal noblemen and gentlemen, to welcome the King. That great day closed in peace; and the restored wanderer reposed safe in the palace of his ancestors.