Ch 08 The English Revolution

Ch.08-The English Revolution

Hits: 1930

CHAPTER VIII: THE ENGLISH REVOLUTION

SECTION 3:  REGICIDE

 

POSSESSION OF THE KING WAS THE AIM. ALTHOUGH HE WAS DEFEATED, HOWEVER, REPUBLICAN INFLUENCE WAS LIMITED.

AN ATTEMPT WAS THEREFORE MADE TO RESTORE CHARLES TO THE THRONE, WITH CERTAIN CONDITIONS, BUT CHARLES HAD NO INTENTION OF SUBMITTING:

“I DO NOT DESPAIR OF INDUCING PRESBYTERIAN OR INDEPENDENTS TO JOIN ME IN EXTERMINATING THE OTHER; AND SO I SHALL BE KING AGAIN.”

FOR THREE YEARS, THE KING PLAYED THE ARMY AGAINST THE SCOTS AND THE COMMONS, UNTIL HE HAD LOST ALL CREDIBILITY AND MANY FRIENDS.

THE COMMONS WAS SUPREME AND HAD THE ARMY ON ITS SIDE.

THE PRESBYTERIANS CONSIDERED VICTORY AND THE SPOILS THEIRS.

ROYALISTS SUFFERED HEAVY TAXES AND LAND AND PROPERTY CONFISCATION.

STATE RELIGION AND SAVAGE LAWS REIGNED AND, WITH COMPLETE DISREGARD, THE PRESBYTERIAN COMMONS BEGAN DISMANTLING THE NEW MODEL ARMY WITHOUT PAY.

AT A STROKE, ITS CONVERSION OF THE ARMY TO THE INDEPENDENTS WAS COMPLETE.

THE SCOTS ARMY WAS ALSO DECEIVED. HAVING ASKED FOR £700,000 FOR WAR SERVICES, IT WAS OFFERED £200,000 WITH MORE LATER. FOR THIS, THE SCOTS HANDED OVER CHARLES, WHOM THEY FOUND INTRACTABLE, AND LEFT ENGLAND.

THE PRESBYTERIANS PLANNED TO USE THE AUTHORITY OF THE KING AGAINST THE NEW MODEL ARMY AND TO RAISE A FRESH ARMY FROM THE SOUTH WEST AND WALES TO DEFEAT THE INDEPENDENTS.


THE NEW MODEL ARMY WAS WELL ORGANISED AND AWARE OF THE PLOT.

REMEMBER THE AGITATORS? THEY ORGANISED THE RANKS, REPRESENTED THEM AND WERE QUALIFIED TO SPEAK ONLY ON THEIR BEHALF.

CROMWELL, DURING THIS TIME, HAD BEEN TRYING TO MEDIATE BETWEEN ARMY AND THE COMMONS BUT DECIDED TO BACK THE ARMY AGAINST THE PRESBYTERIAN COMMONS.

IN MAY 1647, A BODY OF HORSES WAS SENT TO CAPTURE ROYALIST ARTILLERY AND TAKE CHARLES FROM HOLMBY HOUSE, WHERE HE HAD BEEN LODGED, TO THE CAMP AT NEWMARKET.

NOW THE ARMY HAD THE UPPER HAND AND BEGAN TO MOVE SLOWLY ON LONDON, WHILE NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUED.

THE PRESBYTERIAN COMMONS PLAYED THEIR LAST CARD - THEIR INFLUENCE OVER THE LONDON MASSES. DEMONSTRATIONS AND INCITEMENT TO PASS LAWS AGAINST THE ARMY WERE ACCEPTED.

AT THIS, THE ARMY QUICKLY MARCHED ON LONDON WITH LITTLE OPPOSITION AND CAMPED ON HYDE PARK AND TOOK CONTROL.

THIS WAS THE SECOND REVOLUTION, WITH THE INDEPENDENTS - THE PARTY OF THE LOWER MIDDLE CLASSES - AND ARMY FIRMLY IN CONTROL.


THE STRENGTH OF THE ARMY WAS BASED ON THE FACT THAT THEY ACTED AS ONE.

HIGH OFFICERS WERE CALLED ‘GRANDEES’.


AGITATOR AND LEFT WING LEADER LILBOURNE WROTE TO CROMWELL IN MARCH:

“WE HAVE LOOKED UPON YOU AS AMONG THE POWERFUL ONES OF ENGLAND AND AS A MAN WITH HEART PERFECTLY PURE, PERFECTLY FREE FROM ALL PERSONAL VIEWS.

BUT, IN THE AUGUST AFTER THE CAPTURE OF LONDON, HE WRITES:


“IF YOU DESPISE, AS HITHERTO, MY WARNINGS, BE SURE I WILL USE ALL THE POWER AND INFLUENCE I HAVE SO AS TO PRODUCE IN YOUR FORTUNE CHANGES THAT SHALL LITTLE PLEASE YOU.”

THE ARMY THAT HAD ACTED AS THE LEFT WING OF THE REVOLUTION NOW DEVELOPED WITHIN ITSELF A LEFT WING THAT CAME INTO VIOLENT CONFLICT WITH THE VIEWS OF THE GRANDEES

CROMWELL’S POSITION IS OFTEN REGARDED AS TOO SIMPLIFIED, AS EITHER A MAN OF THE RIGHT OR LEFT.


BY BIRTH, HE WAS FROM THE CLASS OF LANDOWNERS BUT HAD TO SUPPRESS THE PRESBYTERIAN PARTY. ON THE OTHER HAND, HE BEGAN BY BEING THE CHOSEN LEADER OF THE INDEPENDENTS YET HAD TO RESIST THEIR RADICAL AND DEMOCRATIC DEMANDS.

IN SPITE OF THIS, CROMWELL RETAINED HIS ALLEGIANCE TO HIS ARMY AND, AFTER HE HAD ESTABLISHED A STABLE REGIME, REGAINED SOME SUPPORT FROM HIS FELLOW LANDOWNERS AND MERCHANTS.

POLITICAL REALISM WAS CALLED FOR AND CROMWELL HAD PLENTY.

THE MONARCHY WAS THE BIG QUESTION, AND HE SAW THE PRESBYTERIAN POSITION AS RESTORING THE MONARCHY BY ALIENATING THE LOWER MIDDLE CLASSES AND THE LEVELLERS, WHO DEMANDED A FREE PARLIAMENT AND WIDE ELECTORAL FRANCHISE AS A SMALL MINORITY.

CROMWELL WAS SCEPTICAL ABOUT THIS KIND OF DEMOCRACY. ABSTRACT PRINCIPLES WERE LESS IMPORTANT THAN THE PRACTICAL NECESSITY IN RETAINING POWER. THE LEVELLERS WERE GUIDED BY LITTLE OTHER THAN ABSTRACT PRINCIPLES.

AFTER THE OCCUPATION OF LONDON, THE POLITICAL PROGRAMME OF THE LEVELLERS WAS EMBODIED IN ‘THE AGREEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’,

WHICH WOULD ONLY TAKE PLACE AFTER THE EXECUTION OF CHARLES.

THE GRANDEES AND OTHERS NEGOTIATED WITH CHARLES AND THE TREATY ‘THE HEADS OF PROPOSALS’ WAS OFFERED. THE TERMS WERE BETTER THAN EVER FOR CHARLES: ENDING  ROYALIST CONFISCATIONS AND RETENTION OF BISHOPS.

CHARLES REFUSED, HOWEVER, AND ESCAPED TO THE ISLE OF WIGHT FROM HAMPDEN COURT.

CROMWELL WAS FACED WITH A DILEMMA: A MUTINY WITHIN THE RANKS AT WARE IN HERTFORDSHIRE. TWO REGIMENTS UNDER LILBURNE’S BROTHER, ROBERT, DEMONSTRATED WITH COPIES OF ‘THE AGREEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’ IN THEIR HATS.

THEY DEMANDED TO BE RID OF THE KING AND CALLED FOR RADICAL, SOCIAL AND POLITICAL REFORM.

IT FORCED CROMWELL TO CHANGE HIS POLICY COMPLETELY. HE BROKE WITH THE KING AND DECLARED HIMSELF IN FAVOUR OF ‘THE AGREEMENT’.

CHARLES WAS PREPARING TO LAUNCH A NEW WAR OF PRESBYTERIANS AND ROYALISTS AGAINST CROMWELLS ARMY. THIS CONSPIRACY BY CHARLES WAS AIDED BY A PROBLEM TO WHICH LITTLE ATTENTION IS GIVEN.

BETWEEN 1646 AND 1651, THERE WAS FAMINE IN ENGLAND. HIGH PRICES AND THE WITHDRAWAL OF LABOUR FOR WAR HAD LEFT HARVESTS UNGATHERED AND WET SUMMERS HAD LEFT BAD HARVESTS.

1648 WAS THE WORST YEAR, THE YEAR THE SECOND CIVIL WAR BROKE OUT, AND IT IS RELEVANT THAT HOSTILITIES BROKE OUT IN MAY, WHEN THE FAMINE WAS AT ITS WORST AND PRICES WERE HIGHEST.

DISCONTENT WAS AIMED MOSTLY AT THE GOVERNMENT. TWO GOVERNMENT STRONGHOLDS, ESSEX AND KENT, TURNED AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT. IN EFFECT, MOST OF LONDON.

THE ALLIANCE BETWEEN THE PRESBYTERIANS AND ROYALISTS WAS BACKED BY A SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN INVASION.

FAIFAX CRUSHED THE REBELLION IN LONDON.

CROMWELL, AFTER ATTACKING THE PRO PRESBYTERIAN WELSH AND SOUTH WEST FORCES, MARCHED NORTH TO MEET THE SCOTS.

TECHNICALLY THIS WAS CROMWELL’S MOST BRILLIANT CAMPAIGN.

HE DESTROYED AN ARMY TWICE THE SIZE OF HIS OWN. HE ADVANCED THROUGH YORKSHIRE, CROSSED THE PENNINES AND CAUGHT THE SCOTS IN STRAGGLED FORMATION BETWEEN WIGAN AND PRESTON. HE ROLLED THEM UP FROM THE REAR, EACH BLOW DRIVING THEM FURTHER FROM THEIR BASE IN SCOTLAND. THEY SURRENDERED AT ASHBOURNE IN AUGUST.

THE WAR HAD SHELVED ANY STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE LEFT AND CROMWELL, AND THE WHOLE TRIUMPHANT ARMY MARCHED ON LONDON TO SETTLE THE ACCOUNT WITH:

“THAT MAN OF BLOOD, CHARLES STUART.”

THE PRESBYTERIANS WERE STILL TRYING TO NEGOTIATE WITH CHARLES, BUT MATTERS HAD GONE TOO FAR FOR THIS NEW MODEL ARMY, AND 150 PRESYTERIAN MEMBERS OF THE COMMONS WERE EXCLUDED OR IMPRISONED.

THE REMAINDER WERE AN ECHO OF THE ARMY AND MUCH OF ITS WILL.

IN JANUARY 1649, THE ‘RUMP’, AS THE REMNANTS OF THE INDEPENDENTS WERE CALLED, PASSED A RESOLUTION IN PARLIAMENT:

“THAT THE PEOPLE ARE, UNDER GOD, THE ORIGINAL OF ALL JUST POWER: THAT THE COMMONS OF ENGLAND, IN PARLIAMENT ASSEMBLED, BEING CHOSEN BY AND REPRESENTING  THE PEOPLE, HAVE THE SUPREME POWER IN THIS NATION: THAT WHATSOEVER IS ENACTED OR DECLARED FOR LAW BY THE COMMONS IN PARLIAMENT ASSEMBLED, HATH THE FORCE OF THE LAW AND ALL THE PEOPLE OF THIS NATION ARE CONCLUDED THEREBY, ALTHOUGH  THE CONSENT OF THE KING OR HOUSE OF PEERS BE NOT HAD THEREUNTO.”

THE RESOLUTION, PAST BY A PARLIAMENT AT ITS LEAST ACTUAL POWER, WOULD HAVE BEEN MEANINGLESS HAD IT NOT INCLUDED BOTH THE TONE AND LANGUAGE OF ‘THE AGREEMENT OF THE PEOPLE’.

PARLIAMENT SPOKE THE WORDS OF THE LEVELLERS.

THE HOUSE OF LORDS WAS ABOLISHED AND A COMMISSION SET UP TO TRY THE KING.

KINGS HAD BEEN MURDERED BEFORE, BUT THIS TIME IT WAS THE CROWN THAT WAS CHALLENGED.

THE EXECUTION OF CHARLES WAS THE WORK OF THE INDEPENDENTS ALONE, ACTING IN OPPOSITION TO THE PRESBYTERIANS AND ROYALISTS.

SO, BOTH CROMWELL AND THE PRESBYTERIANS WERE RIGHT, IN A SENSE. THE FORMER IN THE KNOWLEDGE THAT TO ENSURE SUCCESS OF THE REVOLUTION AN ATTACK ON THE CROWN WAS NECESSARY, THE LATTER THAT THERE WAS NO INCOMPATABILITY BETWEEN THE MONARCH AND BOURGEOISIE DEMOCRACY.

FOR THE MEN OF THE LEFT, THE LEVELLERS, THE EXECUTION OF CHARLES WAS A SYMBOLIC ACT OF JUSTICE. FOR THEM, IT WAS THE PRELUDE TO SOCIAL REVOLUTION.

We use cookies to improve our website and your experience when using it. Cookies used for the essential operation of the site have already been set. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our Privacy Policy.

I accept cookies from this site