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ment of the Protector on the whole? part on a smaller stage; but be "beHe has left us in no sort of doubt. strode the narrow world” of Puritan Mr. Firth's Oliver is by no means the England “like a Colossus."
AS a divinely inspired hero who can do no
soldier he not only won great victories,
but created the instrument with which wrong, and whose commands mere
he won them. Out of the military men are bound to obey without reason.
chaos which existed when the war being or delay, as he appears to Carlyle
gan he organized the force which made And to some Puritan zealots in Eng.
Puritanism victorious. [P. 467.] land and America. Mr. Firth shows us the defects of the Protector's great Cromwell inspired his men not only qualities, his inevitable limitations, his with confidence in himself, but with slow enlargement of purpose, and his his own high enthusiasm. He created anxious hesitations and changes of
army, said Clarendon, “whose mind. On the other hand, he proves order and discipline, whose sobriety Oliver to have been a consummate and manners, whose courage and suc. soldier, a profoundly conscientious cess made it famous and terrible over spirit, and a born statesman above all the world." “What remains clear," statesmen of his age, if not in our Eng. says Mr. Firth (p. 473), “is that Cromlish history. Mr. Firth does not, like well could adapt his strategy with unCarlyle, exult in Cromwell's part in failing success to the conditions of the regicide, in the Irish massacres, in his theatre in which he waged war and to Scottish conquest, in his trampling on the character of the antagonists he had constitutional law and personal liber- to meet. His military genius was ties. He faces all these problems equal to every duty which fate im. squarely, not with Machiavelllan scorn, posed upon him. but with historical insight into the tem. Turning to the problem of his characper and moral standards of the time; ter, Mr. Firth shows us how uniformly and he shows us how to weigh the down to 1845 Cromwell was spoken of great Puritan in the light of his sur- a hypocrite and self-seeker. roundings and his ideals. On the other Carlyle, says Mr. Firth, "effectually hand, he does not, like Mr. Gardiner dispelled the theory of Cromwell's and Mr. Morley, over-emphasize Crom- hypocrisy. “Not a man of falsehoods, well's indecisions, illegalities, failures but a man of truths,' was Carlyle's and arbitrary violence.
conclusion, and subsequent historians In a well-reasoned epilogue Mr. Firth and biographers have accepted it as sums up his general estimate of Crom. sound." Though Cromwell was not a well. Though not myself accepting it “fanatic" in Hume's sense, “religious without sundry qualifications and rather than political principles guided “surrebutters," as lawyers say, I will his action, and his political ideals were endeavor to give the sense of this in. the direct outcome of his creed” (p. teresting chapter.
Cromwell's conception of his duty to Either as a soldier or as a statesman
his Maker and to his people was to do Cromwell was far greater than any
God's will-"to do that which is the Englishman of his time; and he was both soldier and statesman in one. We
will of God." The puzzle was to find must look to Cæsar or Napoleon to find
out what, in things political, this will a parallel for this union of high politi.
was, what it enjoined men to do. Some cal and military ability in one
of Cromwell's comrades professed to Cromwell was not as great a man as
have this revealed to them by their Cæsar or Napoleon, and he played his own personal convictions. “Cromwell
never did so. 'I cannot say,' he de- formulas, no doctrines. Forms of gov. clared in a prayer-meeting where such ernment were not good or bad per se; revelations had been alleged, 'that I all depended on the conditions of the have received anything that I can time, the temper of parties, and the speak as in the name of the Lord'” (p. ultimate success of the cause. Не 477). Cromwell believed in “dispensa- varied his means, but his ends retions" rather than "revelations." He mained the same. His end always was sought to extract the purpose of God to strengthen the religious spirit of the from the visible trend of events; that English nation. That was the Cause. is to say, he was a religious opportun- Hence to Cromwell "religious freeist. His habit of waiting upon Provi- dom was more important than political dence till the providential design was
freedom” (p. 483). He always held clear was in effect a statesmanlike sur- that spiritual interest must take the vey of all the conditions and surround. lead over civil liberty. And he clung ings. There never was so systematic to this, notwithstanding that the maan opportunist. This made him often jority of the English people did not beso very slow to make up his mind and lieve this view, and he knew that he so willing to change it, even if he had was leader of only a godly minority to make a complete volte-face. Along for the time being. He was no demowith this went his fiery passion to exe
crat-but neither was he a tyrant. cute his purpose when once he had finally resolved on action. This is the Cromwell wished to govern constitukey to Cromwell's nature and career,
tionally. No theory of the divine right his inconsistencies, his cautiousness
of an able man to govern the incapable
multitude blinded his eyes to the fact and his occasional furies.
that self-government was the inheriThis ingrained temper of watching
tance and right of the English people. the development of events explains the
He accepted the first principle of apparent want of sincere principle with
democracy, the doctrine of the soverwhich he was so unjustly charged, and
eignty of the people, or, as he phrased explains also the mistakes into which it, “that the foundation of supremacy his zeal in action sometimes led him. is in the people and to be by them set He never pretended to look very far down in their representatives." More ahead. “These issues and events, he than once he declared that the good of said in 1656, have not been forecast,
the governed was the supreme end of but were sudden providences in all governments, and he claimed that things” (p. 479). Cromwell himself
his own government acted "for the owned that he sometimes made too
good of the people, and for their inter
est, and without respect had to any much of "outward dispensations"-i.e.
other interest." But government for of the finger of God in passing events.
the people did not necessarily mean He sometimes mistook the ulterior
government by the people. “That's the meaning of facts, but he did not mis
question,” said Cromwell, “what's for understand the present importance of their good, not what pleases them," and facts. He judged facts as they were. the history of the Protectorate was s “If the fact be so, he said, why should commentary on this text. (Firth, p. we sport with it?” It was this made 484.) Cromwell more practical and less visionary than other statesmen-more This, however, is not, as Mr. Firth open-minded and better able to adapt seems to think, “the first principle of his policy to changing circumstances democracy.” It is the cardinal idea of and needs. He had no program, no Whiggism, or rather of the whole
which Mr. Gardiner and Mr. Morley seem too much inclined to lean. Mr. Firth does not make so much of the fact that Cromwell's institutions did not last. He points out that the fallures were more apparent than real. This is his final estimate:
scheme of our Parliamentary government, under Whigs, Tories, Conservatives, or Radicals, from the time of the Revolution of 1689 down to our generation. Our own generation, it seems, adopts the pure democratic ticket, understood Athens, Geneva, or Chicago-What do the electors wish? not What is good for the people? This latter principle was the principle of Cromwell, as it was of Walpole, Chatham, Pitt, Canning and Peel. Like theirs, Cromwell's rule was to lead the nation, not to follow it. In so understanding his duty to God and the People, he was not a tyrant, but a Conservative English statesman.
Cromwell felt confident that his own good and strong government would in the end convince the people that it was their true interest to accept his temporary dictatorship in the trust of his gradually instituting constitutional government. The present reviewer still holds that this might have been possible if Cromwell could have lived twenty years more, and had introduced in time the inevitable modifications and rearrangements that circumstances and the nation required. Mr. Firth thinks the hope fallacious, for the enthusiasm of Puritanism spent. But Cromwell, though entering on his career as a Puritan zealot, was also one of the most teachable, patient, and conciliatory of statesmen. And being a consummately practical man, who, almost alone in history, is the one statesman who succeeded in all his enterprises, it is permissible to think that he might have founded a stable constitution had he been twenty years younger, and lived to develop from a Puritan chief into a national hero of the type of Alfred, or perhaps a master such as William the Conqueror.
This is not the view of Mr. Firth. But in estimating the final result of Crom. well's career, he amply vindicates it from the charge of ultimate nullity to
So the Protector's institutions perished with him, and his work ended in apparent failure. Yet he had achieved great things. Thanks to his sword, absolute monarchy failed to take root in English soil. Thanks to his sword, Great Britain emerged from the chaos of the Civil Wars one strong state instead of three separate and hostile communities. Nor were the results of his action entirely negative. The ideas which inspired his policy exerted a lasting influence on the development of the English state. Thirty years after his death the religious liberty for which he fought was established by law. The union with Scotland and Ireland, which the statesmen of the Restoration undid, the statesmen of the eighteenth century effected. The mastery of the seas he had desired to gain, and the greater Britain he had sought to build up, became sober real. ities. Thus others perfected the work which he had designed and attempted. (P. 486.)
But this amounts to saying that Cromwell was the real founder of modern England in the two centuries and a half that have passed. It would be as true to say that Charlemagne or William the Silent left nothing behind them, as to say this of Oliver Cromwell.
Mr. Firth gives no support to the criticism that Cromwell was too often the creature of circumstances, not the founder of any policy but the waiter on events. Few statesmen recorded in history, unless it were William the Silent or Queen Elizabeth, were more anxious watchers of the present facts, more ready to tack and turn at each
change of breeze, than was the Protec. other to shape a Church that had tor. But, as Mr. Firth paints his grown half Calvinistic into conformity career, that is no sign of mental inde- with the Anglican ideal” (p. 27.) As cision or slowness of apprehension. It to Charles, whom Mr. Firth judges seis the mark of the pr cal genius, verely, “his policy was a series of inof indomitable vigilance and alertness trigues which failed, and a succession of mind. Nor is the failure of Crom- of bargains in which he asked much, well's institutions any proof that he offered little, and got nothing. As it was without constructive and original was purely dynastic in its aim, and at power. He never designed his stop- once unprincipled and unsuccessful, it gap institutions to be permanent. No left him with no ally in Europe" (p. permanent institutions could have 24). been founded in 1653. The Protector It is when Mr. Firth reaches the spoke of himself as the constable set Civil War that we find his immense there to keep order—to prevent the re- knowledge of the contemporary literturn to anarchy or the restoration of ature, printed and manuscript, come the Stuarts. The permanence of Crom- fully into action. Mr. Firth's camwell's work consisted in the revival paigns and battles are, perhaps, the and ultimate establishment of the most effective parts of his book. He great ideas for which he fought with has thoroughly exhausted the matesword and with voice. These ideas rials, added some new points, unknown liberty of conscience, suppression of even to Mr. Gardiner, and has given absolute monarchy and feudal aristoc- plans of the principal battles and cam. racy, union of the three kingdoms, paigns, differing as he tells us in the mastery of the seas-were all made the preface, from the received accounts in real and permanent bases of English some respects. It is an annoying slip policy within a few generations. Crom. that, in the plan of Naseby (p. 128), well, it is true, did not conceive any of the engraver has reversed the positions these ideas out of his own brain as of the Parliamentary and Royalist things new and original. But he saw forces, which are stated accurately in how to make them prevail as solid the text. By the way, should not the facts in the political sphere. The orig. cut on p. 101 be described as the Crom inality of the man of action consists well coat-of-arms and crest, and not in making the winning ideas dominant simply as the “Cromwell crest," seeing realities in the practical world.
that a shield with seven quarterings is Mr. Firth's account of Cromwell's displayed ? And, as the “Cromwell early life down to the Civil War is a coat-of-arms" on p. 325 entirely differs clear summary of the few certain both in tinctures and charges from the facts, to which he does not seem to Cromwell coat on p. 101, some explana. have added any new item. He makes tion of the various quarterings should no allusion to the story about the be given. The Cromwell coat proper brewery. His picture of the arbitrary (sable, a lion rampant, argent) is the rule of Charles in the time of Strafford same on both shields, but the remainand Laud is a telling indictment of dis- ing six are all different from the corordered and vacillating tyranny. "Ab. responding quarters. solutism," he says, “was with Strafford Mr. Firth traces, with great care and a political creed, with Laud an ecclesi. abundant learning, the process by astical necessity. Each needed the which Cromwell, civilian, farmer and same tool; one to realize his dream of Puritan as he was, made himself a
well-governed Commonwealth, the consummate soldier. It is thought that,
before war broke out, he was satu- equal brilliancy and detail. Here, rated with accounts of the campaigns again, Cromwell acted as the instru.' of Gustavus Adolphus, then very popu. ment of the army and its party, withlar in England, and was imbued with out a shadow of legal right. As be. clear ideas of the tactics and military tween the faction at St. Stephen's and principles of that great commander. the
equally Cromwell, who never saw a squadron shadowy; but, in Mr. Firth's opinion; till he was forty-three, learned how to the constitutional shadow in the remfight by constant fighting, and having nant of a Parliament was destined in a natural genius for command, and an the long run to baffle the Protectorate. intense interest in the art of war, he As to the Protectorate, Mr. Firth ripened fast by practice, and what abundantly justifies its claim as the Marvell calls his "industrious valor," most efficient, most liberal, most tolerinto the most consummate tactician ant government that England had who ever fought on British soil. Mr. known, hampered by its initial want of Firth's account of the battles of Mars- any legitimate authority, and by the ton Moor and of Dunbar differs in incurable irreconcilability of the Parsome particulars from the received liamentary notables, but able, honest, views, for reasons which he has himself patient and full of good purposes and explained in the "Royal Historical So- rational reforms. ciety's Transactions." His new
Mr. Firth's review of Cromwell's planation of the battle of Dunbar is foreign policy, in Chapter XVIII, particularly interesting and lucid. should be studied with special care,
Mr. Firth's account of the King's having regard to recent discussions trial and execution will be read with and criticisms. He sums it up thus:keen appreciation, though he does not seem to have added any new point, nor Three aims guided Cromwell's forto differ from the judgment of our best eign policy: the first was the desire to historians. He accepts it as the work
maintain and spread the Protestant reof the army and its partisans alone, by ligion; the second, the desire to pre
serve and extend English commerce; them regarded as a just expiation of
the third, the desire to prevent the crime with which God must be pleased.
restoration of the Stuarts by foreign Blood, they said, defiled the land,
The European mission of Engwhich could not be cleansed save by land, its material greatness, and its the blood of him that shed it. Crom
political independence were inseparwell, according to Mr. Firth, entirely
ably associated in his mind, and beadopted this view.
neath all apparent wavering and hesi
tation these three aims he consistently He had been one of the last men of
pursued. his party to believe the King's death a necessity, but having persuaded him
In spite of the tangle of foreign self that it was a just and necessary
complications left by Stuarts and the act, he saw no reason for remorse. It
Long Parliament, Oliver achieved each seemed to him that England had freed
of these ends in triumph. He made aditself from a tyrant "in a way which Christians in after times will mention
vantageous peace with the Dutch, with with honor, and all tyrants in the
Sweden, with Denmark, with Portuworld look at with fear." (P. 231.)
gal. These treaties not only broke up
any prospect of foreign coalition, but The famous scene of the dissolution effectually secured British commerce, of the Long Parliament is told with which now advanced "by leaps and