A NEW LIFE OF CROIEWELL.#
Trris is not by any means the final Life of Cromwell, but for all that it is a sound and well-written piece of historical work, sympathetic without being merely laudatory, and moderate without that ostentation of fairness which sometimes distorts as grossly as partiality. The author, that is, does not every now and then gratuitously defame his hero merely for the sake of showing his extreme impartiality. On the whole, it is one of the safest and most reasonable views of the Great Protector ever put forward, and we know of no study of Cromwell's work and personality which we can more heartily recommend to those who want to see Cromwell as he really was. Carlyle's treatment of the man in the Letters and Speeches is no doubt a work of genius, but it too often gives the effect of an inspired caricature. In Mr. Church's work we get a far less brilliant picture, far less splendour of painting and power of technique, but a much more faithful portrait. It is a plain, straightforward, and honest narrative, with no attempt to run any special theory, and everywhere the nar- rative is supported by copious and apposite quotations from Cromwell's own sayings and writings and the documents of the period.
It is impossible to read the history of the days of the Civil War and the Commonwealth without being struck by the extraordinary political sagacity and statesmanship of Cromwell. It was owing to him, and to him alone, that the destruction of the Constitution, caused by the war and the dethronement of Charles, did not end in a period of anarchy and ohaos, such as took place in France during the period of the Fronde. It was not lightly that Cromwell called himself the constable set to keep order in the parish of England. At each step in his career his dominant motive was the desire to prevent the country from going to ruin. He may have sometimes misjudged the necessities of the time, but his object was always to keep the ship of State from going on the rocks. No doubt he had other and lesser motives also, for Cromwell was a human being, and was no more above the emotions of ambition, anger, and the desire to see the triumph of his cause and the abasement of its enemies, than his fellow-men. The ruling passion was, however, always that of patriotism. He may have wanted many things, some bad, some good, and some indifferent, but what he wanted most was the welfare of his country. He, in very truth, eared not to be great, except that he might "serve and save the State." Love of his country, and the desire to keep her from harm, was Cromwell's guiding-star. His chief personal charac- teristic was clearness and keenness of mental vision. No man ever saw more into the heart of a question, and fixed and
• Oliver Cromwell: a History. By Samuel Headeu Churoli. London: G. P. Patnam's Sans. 1894. fastened on the essential element, letting all the accidents,
ornaments, and unrealities go as they would. A hundred instances might be marshalled to prove how he seized always and at once the main issue. One that is quoted incidentally by Mr. Church will serve as an example. The Earl of Orrery tried to get Cromwell to lend a favourable ear to the proposal that his daughter " Frank " should be married to the King —i.e., Charles H.—and the Protector still remain the head of the Army and the real ruler of the Kingdom. Cromwell did not worry with the minor difficulties that forbade the proposal, but in refusing a scheme which superficially had so much to commend it, and which would have got him out of so many perplexities, stated the one insurmountable objection :—" He is so damnably debauched that he would undo us all." This was the plain truth. Cromwell knew
his man, and knew also that an arrangement which might have held with a man of honour, prudence, and discretion must have ended with a creature like Charles H. in ruin
and disgrace. Even with the Puritan element in abeyance or under his feet, Charles's dexterous and unscrupulous oppor- tunism could only just prevent the scandal of his life from producing a new revolution. Had he been yoked in an unnatural alliance with the party of the Saints, a moral earthquake must have destroyed the compact before six months were over. Cromwell had the statesman's capacity for seeing what was possible and what not. He carried this clearness of vision—this intellectual sincerity—into other regions than those of politics. That he was a deeply re- ligious man there can be no sort of doubt. The notion that he was a worldly, hypocritical politician will not hold for a moment when examined in the light of the facts. But in Cromwell's day depth of religious feeling almost always went hand in hand with a fierce intolerance. The notion that it was possible to believe strongly and clearly and yet allow other men to think differently, leaving the reconciliation of conflicting doctrines to the wisdom of God, was an idea that was as yet hardly born. Men somehow felt that not to perse- cute was to grow feeble in the faith. Cromwell, however, cat through these mists of paradox, or of mere logic, whichever we choose to call them, and saw that he who truly loved justice and truth, must also be tolerant. Nay, more, he
even saw the more difficult truth that toleration is per se a religions act, and not a mere convention based on convenience, —a course of action founded on the principle of reciprocity. He saw that you must tolerate the faith of others, not merely to obtain toleration for yourself, but as part and parcel of
your religions duty. Mr. Church has put together some of the things said by Cromwell in regard to toleration :—
"'Every sect saith: Oh, give me liberty. But give him it, and, to his power, he will not yield it to anybody else. Liberty of conscience is a natural right ; and he that would have it, ought to give it.' He in time broadened his own mental powers so as to look upon Catholicism with the eye of a statesman instead of with that of the fanatic. He wrote to Cardinal Mazarin, the French Prime Minister, in these remarkable words ; the style proving the letter his own and not Milton's The obligations, and many instances of affection, which I have received from your Eminency, do engage me to make returns suitable to your merits. But although I have this set home upon my spirit, I may not (shall I tell you, I cannot ?) at this juncture of time, and as the face of my affairs now stands, answer to your call for Toleration. I say, I cannot, as to a public Declaration of my sense in that point; although I believe that tinder my Government your Eminency, in the behalf of Catholics, has less reason for complaint as to rigour upon men's consciences than under the Parliament. For I have of some, and those very many, had compassion ; making a difference. Truly I have (and I may speak it with cheerfulness in the presence of God, who is a witness within me to the truth of what I affirm) made a difference ; and, as Jude speaks, "plucked many out of the fire,"—the raging fire of persecution, which did tyrannise over their consciences, and encroached by an arbitrari- ness of power upon their estates. And herein it is my purpose, as soon as I can remove impediments, and some weights that press me down, to make a farther progress, and discharge my promise to your Eminency in relation to that.' He writes again, yet more definitely : I desire from my heart—I have prayed for it —I have waited for the day to see union and right understanding between the godly people,—Scots, English, Jews, Gentiles, Pres- byterians, Independents, Anabaptists, and all.'"
It is not too much to say that not only was there no sincere Roman Catholic ruler of Cromwell's time who would have said so much, but that it took another hundred years for the notion to penetrate into the minds, not, of course, of the
sceptical politicians, but of those who were good Catholics. One cannot deal fairly with Cromwell's life without mentioning the subject of Ireland. Mr. Church makes no
attempt to deny that Cromwell did things there which, if not morally below the standard of his time, were below Cromwell's own standard. We confess to feeling a sense of mystery as regards Cromwell in Ireland. We do not desire to write as if all the harsh things said about Cromwell in Ireland were true, but we cannot make them fit in with the Protector's usual tenderness of heart and moderation of conduct. He passed through Ireland in the spirit of a de- stroying angel, but this was a spirit utterly foreign to Crom- well's character. One feels as one reads the accounts of Cromwell's doings in Ireland, as if the air had infected his brain, as if he had caught something of the headiness, ferocity, and lack of balance that seems native to the island. No doubt Cromwell's mind had been so inflamed by stories of the atrocities and massacres committed by the " mere " Irish during the rebellion, that he worked himself into the belief that the Irish soldiers and the priests who led them should be knocked on the head like wild beasts. But though this is an attitude for which, considering the circumstances, it is possible to find explanations and excuses, it is extraordinarily unlike the attitude of the true Cromwell. As we have said, the thing is something of a mystery, and we can only fall back on the somewhat fantastic idea we have expressed above,— that Cromwell lost his head under the exciting influences that obtained then as now on the other side of St. George's Channel. Before we leave Mr. Church's admirable book we must note the single mistake which he has fallen into from being an Englishman, not of this, but of the other side of the Atlantic. He says that Cromwell has no monument in England, and "can have none with the sanction of the Government, because a monument to Cromwell would be an official acknowledgment of successful rebellion." That is not what has kept Cromwell without a monument. If a national monument had been put up to Cromwell, it would have had to be voted by Parliament. But Cromwell was hardly the man to whom Parliament would enthusiastically vote a monument. Parliament still reveres, and in many ways rightly reveres, its "bauble," and its Speaker, and its rights of free babbling, —rights with which Cromwell was obliged to deal so uncere- moniously. Our Whigs have always been strong Parlia- mentarians, and, naturally enough, would not have been very anxious to vote statues to the overthrower of the House of Commons. The Tories, on the other hand, could hardly be expected to insist on a monument to the Protector. Now, too, though the old traditional animosity of the House of Commons has grown dim, and Cromwell has become one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of national heroes, another obstacle has arisen to a public monument. To give Cromwell a statue would be regarded as yet another wrong to Ireland. It is not now any regard for Royalist sentiment, but dread of -the Irish vote, which prevents the erection of a statue to Cromwell. Let us hope that some day an equestrian statue -of the Protector will be set up outside the Palace of West- minster, as a pendant to that of Edward I., and round its pedestal bas-reliefs showing Cromwell's dismissal of the Long Parliament. One statue will remind the Members how ancient and splendid is their inheritance. The other will bid them remember what happens to a representative body which usurps functions not its own, and tries to be the ruler, not the servant, of the nation. The lesson Cromwell taught is one that should be kept in remembrance in every free State. His figure is one that may be usefully employed to warn "elected persons" of the danger of indulging in schemes of tyrannical supremacy.