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After the death of Charles the First, there were four parties who were struggling for the sovereign power-the Royalists, the Presbyterians, the Republicans, and the Army. The storm had ceased, but the tumult of the waves had not subsided, and the genius of Cromwell broke out in strong relief on the darkness of the scene. In neither of these powers could the supreme government be safely lodged. Cromwell had to choose between them, and he contended that the safety of the country depended on preventing the complete success of either party. We do not say that he did right in seizing the supreme power himself, we only ask what man in his position would have done otherwise?
The manner in which he exercised his power has been the source of much controversy and animadversion. That many of his proceedings were arbitrary, and of such a kind as would not have been submitted to in the reign of Charles the First, we may not deny. Still, we believe that his intentions and his will were good, had he been permitted to govern as he wished; but the difficulties that surrounded him were such that he was forced to be a tyrant-or something like it-in self-defence. It may be that he should not have placed himself in such circumstances, but it would have required an almost superhuman virtue to have done otherwise ; and even his enemies admit, that the nature of his public rule was such, that England was never so much respected as when he swayed her sceptre.
He made several attempts to rule the kingdom according to the constitutional method by parliaments; but though the members were al selected by himself, such was the state of parties, and such the impracticable materials of which they were composed, that he found it impossible to carry on the government by such means.
His first parliament, commonly called Barebone's, has been the object of unceasing ridicule among writers of a certain class: it was not, however, the contemptible body which they represent it to have been. It was observed by one of them, that “If * all had not very bulky estates, yet they had free estates, and . were not of broken fortunes, or such as owed great sums of
money, and stood in need of privilege and protection, as for* merly. ** Of how many Houses of Commons since their time could as much as this be said ? They were bold and firm men too, and acted independently both of Cromwell himself and of his Council of State.
It is much to be regretted that Cromwell did not afford to others that perfect toleration which he contended for himself;
Whitelock, and 'Exact Relation,' &c.
to the Catholics he forbad the exercise of their worship, and deprived them of the elective franchise. He proscribed, also, prelacy and the liturgy; but the laws against them were never rigidly enforced; nor was it on account of his intolerance of their religion that the episcopalian body were treated thus, but because of their political disaffection. In fact, the protector was much before his age; and though not so tolerant as we perhaps might have wished, he was in truth much more so than the great majority of the wisest and best men of the times in which he lived.*
The strong sense and perspicacity of Cromwell led him to the adoption of many important reforms in the jurisprudence of this country; many were instituted in the laws of Ireland also. From the commencement of the civil wars the use of torture was abolished in England; which had formerly been inflicted not by law but by prerogative.
• If the victory obtained by the parliament over the king in the seventeenth century, had done nothing more than doom the rack, and the gyves, and the manacles to go to rest and rust, and torment no more for ever-converting those once terrible engines of cruelty into the curiosities of a museum-it would have well repaid all the blood and confusion it cost. Nor let us be sure that the practice of torture would have speedily fallen into disuse among us at any rate, in the ordinary undisturbed advance of political amelioration, or general civilization, humanity, and knowledge. Torture ceased in England in 1641 ; but, even with the aid of that example, it was not abolished in Scotland till 1708 ; nor in France till 1789; nor in Russia till 1801 ; nor in Bavaria and Wurtemburg till 1806 ; nor in the kingdom of Hanover till 1822 ; nor in the Grand Duchy of Baden till 1831 !-Ib. p. 520. Jardine’s Lectures, pp. 3, 4.
The law books also were ordered to be written, and law proceedings conducted, in the English language.
If Cromwell was unpopular it is scarcely to be wondered at; there were natural causes enough to make him so. With the royalists he was a usurper; and all the other influential factions must have hated him because by accepting that station to which they severally aspired, he kept them from it. To that section of the nation which belonged to none of these parties--if such there were—the arbitrary proceedings which the necessities of his position made inevitable, must have rendered him obnoxious. Of all this he was aware, and to these anxieties was added his not unreasonable dread of assassination. Yet though many of his unscrupulous opponents advised this course, and some pursued it, it is not a little re
* Vaughan ; Price's History of Nonconformity, &c. VOL. X.
markable that no attempt was ever actually made upon his life. The projected design of Colonel Sexby approached the most nearly to its execution; and there is little room for doubting that this plot was known to, and approved by, both Charles the Second and the immaculate Clarendon. The proof of this is to be found in the papers of Clarendon himself.*
It was fortunate, perhaps, for Cromwell that he left this world when he did. His popularity, from the causes before mentioned, appears to have been declining-his health was failing-his pecuniary resources were exhausted—the army was unpaid, and he feared them—the citizens of London had refused to lend him money-death had been busy in his family—and his assassination had been recommended even in print. He died a king, and greater than a king except in name; what he might have been
had his life been longer spared, it is impossible to say and useless to surmise.
We cannot now enter on an investigation of the charges which have been brought against the memory of this great man. It is sufficient to remark in reference to the alleged concealment which he practised, that it has never been the custom, as far as we are aware, for any statesman who had a great and difficult measure to carry, to placard his intention on his street door, or publish it by sound of trumpet. The Consul Marcellus—the great opponent of Hannibalcarried his notions on this point so far as to say, that if he thought the very shirt on his back was privy to his intentions, he would take it off and burn it. The vituperators of Cromwell and worshippers of the king and martyr,' would do well to recollect, that the dissimulation of the lord protector was as nothing compared with that of their royal idol, whose life was one long lie.
The reign of Charles the Second is one of great interest in the history of civil and religious liberty, especially of the latter. Not that the king himself was particularly attached to any form or kind of religion ; nor perhaps would he have persecuted any if Clarendon and the bishops had left him to himself. The amount of his religion appears to have been a mere opinion -that there could be but one true church; and that the church of Rome must be that one, for no other reason apparently than this—that she put forth the most decided claim to that distinc
* Lingard, vol. vii. 4to. p. 243. With regard to Clarendon we are happy. to have Dr. Lingard's authority in support of our own opinion. Clarendon,' sass Dr. Lingard, 'is so frequently inaccurate (he might have used a stronger term), that it is not safe to give credit to any charge on his authority alone.' -vol. vii. p. 259, note.
† In the pamphlet of Killing no Murder.'
tion. It probably suited him better than any other, from the easy terms which it requires from its votaries—its royal votaries at least—and the ease and expedition with which at any time it could pardon all his sins of which he certainly had his share.
Though the character of Charles has often been too favorably drawn, it appears to us that there was much in the sufferings and associations of his earlier life that may account for his vices and his follies, though it does not excuse them. Nature appears to have made him with a good head, but with that kind of heart which would have required great and constant care and watchfulness and that too under favorable circumstances to have made it what it should have been. Unfortunately for him and for the nation, that discipline was never exercised. An exile in a foreign land, yet the ostensible head of a party; claiming to be a rightful sovereign, and obliged to keep the world in mind of his pretensions by the formation of a little court around him, though without the means of supporting himself: involved in the petty intrigues of the men about him, who strove for the barren and nominal honors of his court; as poor as the poorest of his followers, and therefore but little above their level; satisfied if the wants of the day were provided for, and leaving to-morrow to shift for itself; immersed in profligacy, partly from inclination, partly from the example of the dissolute cavaliers around him, partly perhaps as a resource from thought; and a victim to that recklessness which a constant course of anxiety and disappointment entails upon the best of us : add to all this, the hereditary faithlessness of his nature, and we have a tolerably perfect preparation for such a character as Charles turned out to be. He would have dreamt out his life in a sort of Turkish paradise, except when roused by his necessities or crossed in his amours.
The course of persecutions which disgraced this reign is more to be attributed, as we have said before, to the persons about the king than to the king himself. The dreadful proceedings in Scotland consequent upon the resistance of the people to the introduction of episcopacy, and the sufferings and persecutions of the nonconformists in England, were alike the work of the high Church party. Sheldon, the primate, and Clarendon were the most active members of the council against the nonconformists; Lord Southampton, the most enlightened and upright man among them, was opposed to many of their measures, but not to all.
We need not attempt to inform our readers on the subject of the acts which were passed for abridging - we might say annihilating—the civil and religious liberty of the nonconformists; such as the Act of Uniformity, the Conventicle Act, the Five Mile, the Test Act. All persons holding any
office were required to take an oath of passive obedience and non-resistance; and to swear that they would endeavor to make no change whatever in Church or state. In addition to all this, the parliament while at Oxford with the king, attempted to pass a bill for imposing the oath of non-resistance on the nation at large.
It is supposed that the Act of Uniformity was the more rigidly enforced in order that the number of sufferers might be so great as at length to demand a toleration sufficiently general to include the Catholics. Charles himself appears to have been averse from
many of these extreme measures, and to have 'con‘plained that the intolerance of the prelates had been the ruin • of his father, and that in spite of all experience they were re
solved on pursuing the same courses.' He was right: priests never learn, and never forget. A scheme was proposed and agitated, for the comprehension of Dissenters in the Established Church; but owing to the opposition of the parliament it was abandoned. Pepys has a very quaint entry in his Diary, referring to the operation of the Conventiele Act : August, 1664. I saw several poor creatures carried by, by constables, for being at a conventicle. They go like lambs without any resistance. I would to God they would either conform, or be ' more wise, and not be catched.'
An Indulgence was at length granted to all nonconformists, but the object, as above alluded to, was supposed to be the relief of the Roman Catholics, and not that of the Dissenters. We think there is something like a corroboration of the opinion that the Dissenters would have had no relief for their own sakes, in the fact that the Test Act, which was professedly aimed at the papists, was so worded as to include the Protestant nonconformists also; and that when this was complained of the latter were promised redress; and what was called a relief bill was introduced into parliament on their behalf; the passing of which bill was by the management of the court put off till the house was prorogued, when it fell to the ground, and was never brought forward again ; and the Test Act in its full beauty continued in operation till the year 1828. The chancellor told the parliament' that King Charles,' whose time was'notoriously spent with mistresses and profligates in theatres and midnight revels, was, 'like another Constantine,' perpetually employing himself in conferences with learned men for the settlement of the languishing Church.'-- vol. üi. p. 678. Whatever the Church might think of him, the sufferings of the nonconformists continued to increase during the whole of his reign.
It appears to be perfectly plain that although Charles would not have gone to the lengths of persecution which the state clergy desired, he was nevertheless solicitous to establish a