VIII. THE ROAD BACK: 1658–60

His son did not have the devil in him, nor the steel that might have held England in the chains that force and piety had forged. Richard Cromwell shared with his sister the tenderness of mind that had made them look with secret dread upon their father’s policy of blood and iron. Richard, on his knees, had begged Cromwell to spare the life of Charles I. During the Commonwealth and the Protectorate he had lived peaceably on the rural estate that his marriage had brought him. It was through no ambition of his own that on September 4, 1658, by his father’s will, he became Lord Protector of England. Lucy Hutchinson described him as “gentle and virtuous, but a peasant in his nature, and became not greatness.” 74

All the divisions that Oliver had kept in check now emerged, more boldly as they saw the weakness of Richard’s fiber. The army, resenting his civil background, and wishing to keep in its hands the authority that under his father had been frankly martial, petitioned him to yield all military direction to Fleetwood. He refused, but mollified his brother-in-law by making him lieutenant general. As the treasury was empty and burdened with debt, he summoned a Parliament, which met on January 27, 1659. A rumor spread that it was planning to reinstate the Stuart monarchy. The army officers, followed by bands of soldiers, came to Richard and asked him to dismiss the Parliament. He sent for his guards to protect him; they ignored his orders. Yielding to force, he signed an order dissolving the Parliament (April 22). He was now at the mercy of the army. The ardent republicans in the army, led by Major General John Lambert, invited the surviving members of the Long Parliament to reassemble, and to assume the authority which, as the Rump, they had held until Cromwell, aided by the ardent republicans in the army, dismissed them in 1653. The new Rump convened at Westminster May 7, 1659. Richard, weary of politics, sent it his resignation (May 25). He retired into private life, and in 1660 he disappeared into France, where he lived in seclusion under the pseudonym of John Clarke. He returned to England in 1680, and died there in 1712, aged eighty-six.

“Chaos,” wrote a royalist on June 3, 1659, “was a perfection compared to our present order and government.” 75 The contest for power between army and Parliament continued; but those parts of the army that were stationed in Scotland or Ireland favored Parliament, and in the predominantly republican Parliament there was a strong royalist faction. On October 13 Lambert stationed soldiers at the entrance to Westminster Palace, excluded the Parliament, and announced that the army would for the present take over the government. It seemed as if the whole sequence of events that had begun with Pride’s Purge was to be repeated, with Lambert a new Cromwell.

Milton called Lambert’s coup d’état “most illegal and scandalous, I fear me barbarous . . . that a paid army . . . should thus subdue the supreme power that set them up,” 76 but the poet was powerless. The only force in Britain that could oppose the military dictatorship was another army, the ten thousand soldiers that Parliament had assigned to General George Monck to maintain its authority in Scotland. We do not know whether any personal ambitions were concealed behind Monck’s resolve to challenge the London army’s usurpation of power. “I am engaged in conscience and honor,” he declared, “to free England from that intolerable slavery of a sword government.” 77 His statement roused to courage a variety of other elements opposed to martial rule. The people refused to pay taxes; the army in Ireland, the fleet in the Downs, the apprentices in the capital declared for the Parliament. The London financiers refused to the usurping leaders the loans that had been depended upon for the payment of the troops. The mercantile and manufacturing classes, which had approved the deposition of Charles I, now felt that the deepening and spreading disorder threatened the economic life of England, and began to wonder whether political or economic stability could be restored without a king whose legitimacy would comfort the people, bring in taxes, and quiet the storm. On December 5 Monck led his forces into England. The army leaders sent troops to oppose him; they refused to fight. The usurping officers admitted defeat, restored the Parliament, and submitted themselves to its mercy (December 24).

The triumphal Parliament, numbering thirty-six men, was still republican. One of its first acts required all present and future members to abjure the Stuart line. It refused admission to the Presbyterian survivors of the pre-Rump Parliament, on the ground that they favored the restoration of Charles II. The people scorned it as merely a revived Rump unrepresentative of England, and expressed its sentiments by the “Roasting of the Rump” in effigy in a multitude of bonfires—thirty-one in a single London street. Monck, whose army had reached London on February 3, 1660, notified the Parliament that unless it called for a new and wider election, and dissolved itself by May 6, he would no longer protect it. He advised the House to admit the excluded Presbyterians; it did. The enlarged Commons re-established the presbyterian organization of religion in England, issued a call for a new election, and declared itself dissolved. Now at last the Long Parliament came to its official and legal end (March 16, 1660).

On that same day a workman blotted out with paint the inscription Exit Tyrannus, Regum Ultimus (“Exit the Tyrant, Last of the Kings”) which the Commonwealth had set up in the Exchange; then he threw up his cap and cried, “God bless King Charles the Second!”; whereupon, we are told, “the whole Exchange joined with the greatest shout.” 78 The next day Monck gave a secret interview to Charles’s emissary, Sir John Greenville. Soon Greenville was on his way to Brussels with Monck’s message to the throneless King.

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