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172 ENGLISH HISTORY—THE COMMONWEALTI. [SECT. III.
nication of the royal army with the highlands was next cut off, and Charles formed the rash resolution to cross the border. With 14,000 men he advanced to Worcester, where he was met by the English force, which had closely pursued him. A severe conflict ensued; the Scotch were again vanquished, and Charles fled for his life; succeeding, after many strange adventures and perils, in escaping to France. Cromwell returned in triumph to London; his successes, and the devotion of his soldiers, rendering him the most powerful person in the kingdom. Dissensions soon grew between the parliament and the army, each jealous of the other. The parliament, unable to control the army, determined to reduce it, and several regiments had been disbanded, when Cromwell took a bold and extraordinary step. He proceeded with a body of musketeers to the House of Commons, dispersed the members, forcibly removed the speaker, and locked the doors. Thus fell the Long Parliament," after an existence of twelve eventful years.
A Council of State was now named, and a new parliament summoned. This assembly, which obtained the nickname of the “ Little," or “ Barebone's Parliament," from the name of one of its members, dissolved itself at the end of five months. A few days subsequently, Cromwell was installed supreme head of the State, with the title of “ Lord Protector of the Commonwealth." A plan of government had been prepared by him, nearly resembling in many respects the old constitution. The sovereign power was vested in himself, with the assistance of a council and parliament. The House of Commons was to include representatives from Scotland and Ireland, as well as England; thus recognising the legislative union of the British isles.
In this year, 1653, ended the foolish and unjustifiable contest with Holland, for the supremacy of the seas. In an engagement off the Texel, the Dutch admiral, Tromp, was killed, and his fleet almost entirely destroyed. A treaty was afterwards concluded, in which the precedence claimed by England was yielded to her.
The great powers of Europe hastened to acknowledge the title of the new ruler. The kings of France and Spain, and the emperor of Germany sent ambassadors to seek his alliance. Denmark and Sweden entered into commercial treaties with him ; and he soon found himself surrounded by a court, which, if not gay and brilliant, was stately and dignified, and whose morality and purity of manuers formed a striking contrast to the prevailing licentiousness of the times.
In 1654 parliament met, and began its debates by questioning the authority which convened it. Cromwell adopted his usual peremptory course. He summoned the members before him, forbade the discussion, and compelled them to sign an acceptance of the present order of things. A hundred and fifty refused, and were excluded; the remainder still proving refractory were dissolved. England was now in a state of general disorganisation. Royalist emissaries were scattered over the country; the Presbyterians were rising in the north; and a host of fanatics, agreeing only in batred of the government, sowed the seeds of rebellion among all classes.
Over these elements of discord and weakness, the strong arm of the Protector triumphed. By a firm and skilful but despotic policy, he kept all parties in subjection. He sent General Monk to Scotland, who effectually repressed insubordination there; he placed England under military law, which was dispensed with rigour; and he soon became more absolute than any of the monarchs who had preceded him.
Whilst Cromwell was thus enforcing obedience at home, his navies were spreading the terror of his name abroad. Admiral Blake was engaged in chastising the pirates of Barbary, whom he compelled to release their Christian captives, make restitution for injuries, and give security for future good behaviour. Hostilities were carried on against the Spanish possessions in the West Indies, and Jamaica added to the British crown. The duke of Savoy had engaged in a cruel persecution of the Vaudois, a poor but ancient Protestant people, inhabiting the valleys of Piedmont. Cromwell despatched an envoy to Turin to demand forbearance, and induced the French king to join him in negotiating on their behalf. The mediation was successful, persecution ceased, the remaining Vaudois were reinstated in their homes, permitted the free exercise of their religion, and their cause was committed by treaty to the protection of England. A fresh parliament was called in 1656, which empowered the Protector to appoint his successor, and sanctioned the creation of a House of Peers. This project was, however, a failure; all parties were displeased, the Commons became insubordinate, and were again dissolved.
The capture of the Peruvian and Mexican fleets, containing immense treasures, replenished the exchequer, and made the Protector independent of parliament. These successes were followed by the capture of Dunkirk, by the English and French combined armies, and its cession to England. The genius of Cromwell had triumphed over every obstacle, and bis power appeared at its height; but a change was at hand. Repeated plots for his assassination disturbed his tranquillity; the death of a beloved daughter overwhelmed him with sorrow; and, assailed at this time by disease, he rapidly sank, dying on the 3rd September, 1658.
Richard Cromwell, his eldest surviving son, succeeded him; but he possessed neither the ability nor the ambition of his father, and after a stormy reign of eight months he quietly abdicated his office, and retired into private life.
THE PURITANS. The Puritans were men whose minds had derived a peculiar character from the daily contemplation of superior beings and eternal interests. Not content with acknowledging, in general terms, an overruling Providence, they habituaily ascribed every event to the will of the Great Being, for whose power nothing was too vast, for whose inspection nothing was too minute. To know him, to serve him, to enjoy him, was with them the great end of existence. They rejected with contempt the ceremonious homage which other sects substituted for the pure worship of the soul. Instead of catching occasional glimpses of the Deity through an obscuring veil, they aspired to gaze full on his intolerable brightness, and to commune with him face to face. Hence originated their contempt for terrestrial distinctions. The difference between the greatest and the meanest of mankind seemed to vanish, when compared with the boundless interval which separated the whole race from him on whom their own eyes were constantly fixed. They recognised no title to superiority but his favour; and, confident of that favour, they despised all the accomplishments and all the dignities of the world. If they were unacquainted with the works of philosophers and poets they were deeply read in the oracles of God. If their names were not found in the registers of heralds, they were recorded in the Book of Life. If their steps were not accompanied by a splendid train of menials, legions of ministering angels had charge over them. Their palaces were houses not made with hands; their diadems, crowns of glory which should never fade away. On the rich and the eloquent, on nobles and priests, they looked down with contempt; for they esteemed themselves rich in a more precious treasure, and eloquent in a more sublime language-nobles by the right of an earlier creation, and priests by the imposition of a mightier hand. The very meanest of them was a being to whose fate a mysterious and terrible importance belonged, on whose slightest action the spirits of light and darkness looked with anxious interest; who had been destined, before heaven and earth were created, to enjoy a felicity which should continue when heaven and earth should have passed away. Events, which short-sighted politicians ascribed to earthly causes, had been ordained on his account. For his sake empires had risen, and flourished and decayed. For his sake the Almighty had proclaimed his will by the pen of the evangelist and the harp of the prophet. He had been wrested by no common deliverer from the grasp of no common foe. He had been ransomed by the sweat of no vulgar agony, by the blood of no earthly sacrifice. It was for him that the sun had been darkened, that the rocks had been rent, that the dead had risen, that all nature had shuddered at the sufferings of her expiring God.
Thus the Puritan was made up of two different men,- the one all self-abasement, penitence, gratitude, passion; the other, proud, calm, inflexible, sagacious. He prostrated himself in the dust before his Maker; but he set his foot on the neck of his king. In his devotional retirement he prayed with convulsions, and groans, and tears. He was half maddened by glorious or terrible illusions. He heard the lyres of angels, or the tempting whispers of fiends. He caught a gleam of the beatific vision, or woke screaming from dreams of everlasting fire. Like Vane, he thought himself entrusted with the sceptre of the millennial year. Like Fleetwood, he cried in the bitterness of his soul that God had hid his face from him. But when he took his seat in the council, or girt on his sword for war, these tempestuous workings of the soul had left no perceptible trace behind them. People who saw nothing of the godly but their upcouth visages, and heard nothing from them but their groans and their whining hymns, might laugh at them. But those had little reason to laugh who encountered them in the hall of debate or in the field of battle. These fanatics brought to civil and military affairs a coolness of judgment and an immutability of purpose which some writers have thought inconsistent with their religious zeal, but which were, in fact, the necessary effects of it. The intensity of their feelings on one subject made them tranquil on every other. One overpowering sentiment had subjected to itself pity and hatred, ambition and fear. Death had lost its terrors, and pleasure its charms. They had their smiles and their tears, their raptures and their sorrows, but not for the things of this world. Enthusiasm had made them stoics, had cleared their minds from every vulgar passion and prejudice, and raised them above the influence of danger and of corruption. It sometimes might lead them to pursue unwise ends, but never to choose unwise means. They went through the world, like Sir Artegal's iron man Talus with his flail, crushing and trampling down oppressors, mingling with human beings, but having neither part nor lot in human infirmities; insensible to fatigue, to pleasure, and to pain ; not to be pierced by any weapon, nor to be withstood by any barrier. Such we believe to have been the character of the Puritans. We perceive the absurdity of their manners; we dislike the sullen gloom of their domestic habits; we acknowledge that the tone of their minds was often injured by straining after things too high for mortal reach. Yet, when all circumstances are taken into consideration, we do not hesitate to pronounce them a brave, a wise, an honest, and a useful body.-Macaulay.