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GUIZOT'S RICHARD CROMWELL.*
says at the
M. Guizot continues with unabated diligence and success his historical studies of English politics, midway in the seventeenth century. His present contribution to the series begins with the Protectorate of Richard Cromwell
, and concludes with the Restoration of Charles the Second—a portion of our history brief in time, and singularly barren of great actors, but worthy of deep attention, and, in spite of its want of dramatic unity, or of one central interest, a peculiarly appropriate theme to a writer of M. Guizot's turn of mind and stand-point of observation. For, as he
very outset of his narrative, it is a melancholy but most instructive study, when revolutions are verging towards their decline, to watch the disappointment and anguish of those men who have long been powerful and triumphant, but have at length reached the period when, in just retribution of their faults, dominion escapes from their grasp, leaving them still subject to the sway of their unenlightened and invincible obstinacy. Not only, he remarks, are they divided among themselves, like all rivals who have once been accomplices, but they are detested as oppressors and decried as visionaries by the nation ; and, stricken at once with powerlessness and bitter surprise, they burn with indignation against their country, which they accuse of cowardice and ingratitude, and struggle vainly beneath the hand of God, whose chastisements they are unable to understand.
“Such, after the death of Cromwell, was the condition of all those parties which, since the execution of Charles I., had been contending for the government of England as established by the Revolution: Republicans and partisans of the Protector, Parliamentarians and soldiers, fanatics and political intriguers,-all, whether sincere or corrupt, were involved in the same fate.”
Richard Cromwell gives the name to this history, but nominal only is the prominence his Highness can claim : he is no more 66 the hero” of the action, than is Henry the Sixth in the Shakspearian trilogy to which that pious imbecile lends his name. Oliver's son and heir might have found many and many a fellow-countryman with less kindness to his possible virtues, and less blindness to his evident failings, than this courteous stranger and foreigner by whom his brief Protectorate is now reviewed. What a thing it had been for Richard, par exemple, if Mr. Carlyle had undertaken to deal with him-that stern Scottish doctrinaire of the one doctrine Might makes Right-whose principle and practice it is, given a man of might, say Oliver Cromwell, to magnify his dimensions by a multiple of the highest power ; but, given a “poor creature,” unobtrusive and moderate, meek and mild, none too strong in the upper story, and decidedly shaky in the lower extremities-given a specimen of the Dick Cromwell genus, to reduce him to his lowest terms, or, indeed, not to allow of terms at all with such a vulgar fraction, or a paltry decimal of manhood, such a sorry cypher in the sum total of humanity. Mr. Carlyle
* History of Richard Cromwell and the Restoration of Charles II. By M Guizot. Translated by Andrew R. Scoble. Two Vols. Bentley. 1856.
would treat old Noll's “heir apparent”* more cavalierly than the Cavaliers
Next him his son, and heir apparent
That rode him above horseman's weight.t M. Guizot describes Richard, in the crisis which led to his accession, as having been neither a source of strength, nor a cause of embarrassment, to his friends—without much desire to hold the supreme rank, but also without aversion from it when fairly offered for his acceptance. So long as Oliver had been sole
monarch of all he surveyed,
Whose right there was none to dispute, (or dispute only sotto roce, and sub rosa,)-80 long as the Head of the Family continued in his pride of place, and could manage the affairs of these nations better without Master Richard than with him,- the latter, young Hopeful, had taken his ease, eating, drinking, and making merry, on his estate at Hursley, “very fond of horses and hunting, on intimate terms with the gentlemen of the neighbourhood, nearly all of whom were Cavaliers, disposed to adopt their opinions as freely as he shared in their pleasures, and sometimes drinking with them to the health of their landlord,' as they termed the King, whom they did not venture to name openly.” Hence it came about that this Richard bonhomme, this "idle, jovial, and somewhat licentious country squire,” was regarded by the Royalist party as almost one of themselves ; so that they were not without hope that, if he at any time attained the chief power in the State, he would use it to restore the Crown to its legitimate owner. They looked to see this Good-natured Man some fine day put the “landlord” in possession. There was a story current, that, at the moment of the execution of Charles I., Richard Cromwell
, then a youth, filled with horror, had thrown himself at his father's feet, imploring him to prevent the commission of so heinous a crime. If the story was not vero, it was too ben trovato to be slighted at this juncture, and much was made of it accordingly, and large conclusions were drawn from so pregnant a premiss. Moreover, when Oliver had summoned Squire Richard to Whitehall, the transplanted provincial seems to have continued much in the same track, disregardful of politics, following his own fancies, and doing all in his power to serve his friends the Cavaliers, for whom indeed he strove to
What's worse, Old Noll is marching off,
And Dick, his heir apparent,
BUTLER's Remains. † "Hudibras,” part iii. canto ii,
secure favours beyond his power; it was not his fault if some of them had cause to quake at the name of Cromwell.
But these good offices were rather the result of personal kindliness, and the expression of boon fellowship, than any token of political prepossession. Richard was, in fact, as M. Guizot depicts him, a man of timid, vacillating, and undecided character, destitute of religious or political convictions or passions; and though he had never reckoned upon inheriting his father's good fortune, he complacently accepted it when the deed of inheritance was made out, and was as little disposed to part with, as he was individually capable of achieving it. “ It would even appear that, during his father's lifetime, and in the chambers of Whitehall, he had stated what the character of his Government should be, after the storms of the preceding Administration— a golden mediocrity between a topping head and a filthy tail.' When he was left alone, and required to become the arbiter of his own destiny, his conduct was the same as on all previous occasions ; he took things as they came, without either offering resistance or feeling confidence, and his father's advisers made Richard the Protector, just as Cromwell had made him a Privy Councillor.”
When Parliament assembled, civil things were said of Cromwell Secundus, or le Petit, by divers kinds of men. Thurloe, that good serviceable Cromwellian, began a speech by saying, “It pleased God to put an end to his Highness's days : sad things were expected by that stroke. God has given that blessing of a son in his stead, who has the hearts of his people, testifying his undoubted right of succession.” Haslerig, on the part of the Opposition-a man hot-headed, and like Sir Toby's ginger) hot i' the mouth too-owned the merit of Oliver's son and heir: “We have one that is our prince, Princeps, our chief. I never knew any guile or gall in him. I honour the person ; I will say no more.” The Republicans held out, indeed, for a republic, but offered no opposition to Richard personally. “I hear not one man against a single person,” said Mr. Reynolds; "against the single person there is not one exception. Not any other man in this nation would pass so clearly." “I confess, said Haslerig again, “I do love the person of the Lord Protector; I never saw nor heard either fraud or guile in him. I wish only continuance of wealth, health, and safety to his family. I wish the greatest of honour and wealth of any man in this nation to him and his posterity.” “I would not hazard a hair of his present Highness's head,” exclaimed Scott _“if
you think of a single person, I would have him sooner than any man alive.”
“I never saw the Lord Protector but twice," said Mr. Edgar; “I never had the least favour from him, and hope I shall never deserve his frown ; but the sweetness of his voice and language has won my heart, and I find the people well satisfied with his government." If a Lord Protector, or Princeps of some sort or other, must be put up with, naturally the Republican party would be glad to keep one so different from the last pattern. Richard might be a Rehoboam, in one sense, coming after so wise a prince as Oliver; but at any rate he was no Rehoboam in having, or boasting of, a little finger thicker than his father's loins. Better a very disparate Richard, than some equivalent Roland for an Oliver.
There was no disposition on the part of the new government to carry things with a high hand. Richard, says M. Guizot, was “naturally
moderate, patient, and just; and his advisers, like himself, were animated by no other ambition than to govern in concert with the Parliament, and in conformity with the laws." Hence it seems to the historian, that to all who had not heartily devoted themselves either to the old royal race or to pure republican principles, nothing could have been more natural and easy than to rest satisfied with the established form of government, and to live in harmony, tranquillity, and safety under the new Protector.
Trust not to seeming. Any such pre-established harmony was out of the question, as a practical measure. Parties were at loggerheads. Oliver had kept them in awe, putting a pretty effectual curb on their strife of tongues, for the time being. But when present tense, the time being, merged in past tense, the time gone; when Oliver was taken out of the way, and a new ruler arose that knew not Oliver's open secret of sway, then the voice of party was heard once more, in stentorian accents, and confusion worse and worse confounded.
The Republican party insisted on the sovereignty of the people-govereignty pure et simple, essential and exclusive, uncompromising and unconditional. No power was legitimate unless the people had created it, and still held it in check. “And the House of Commons, elected by the People, was their only representative, and was entitled to exercise, ia their name, the supreme government of the country, either directly, by means of its own inherent powers, or indirectly, by its declared supremacy over the depositaries of those powers, which it was obliged to delegate. Parliament was to them, implicitly if not explicitly, vox populi
, vox Dei. The Cromwellian party, however, accorded no such plenary inspiration to the voice of the people. From experience and political instinct, as M. Guizot suggests, rather than from any clearly understood and definite principle, the Cromwellians demurred to the doctrine that the people were capable of conducting the entire government of the country, and were rightfully entitled to destroy and reconstitute it at their pleasure. According to their view of the case, what government needed, for the maintenance of good order in society, was some self-subsistent bases, which should be recognised by the people, but should be anterior, and, in some measure, superior to their mutable will.”
Their model man, Cromwell, whose jus divinum they discovered in his de facto supremacy, had treated with a Parliament elected by the people, they said, and had established, no less for his successor than for himself, the Protectoral government and its constitution. Herein they recognised that anterior and independent power, sprung from the course of events and not from the will of the people, which the people could not destroy at their pleasure, any more than they had created it. It was the duty of the people, they maintained, to acknowledge this great fact, established on the ruins of the ancient monarchy, in the name of an invincible necessity, by the genius of a great and God-supported man; it was beyond their power to call it in question.
Besides these two parties, Republican and Cromwellian, there are the Royalists to be taken into account—a powerful party, and stubborn to
Whether it win or lose the game,
which had played a losing game, but was soon to shuffle the cards, get a
new hand, and by adroitly leading with the King, win the game, with honours- thanks to that knave of clubs, or wily man-at-arms, George Monk. To serve the cause which it had at heart, the Royalist party had stooped, our historian remarks, to the most unnatural and deceitful alliances ; but it stood firm to its political faith, and rejecting alike the republic erected by the Commons in the name of the sovereignty of the people, and the monarchy established by the regicides in the name of necessity, it recognised no legitimate authority but that of Charles Stuart, the lawful heir to the throne, governing in concert with the two Houses of Parliament, according to the traditional laws of the country. Now that the Cromwell was gone, it was time for Royalists to look up around them ; their voice might be raised now, amid conflicting voices so discordant and noisy, and had a growing chance to be heard.
Richard was not the man to effect a composition between these conflicting forces. “Between the antagonistic fermentation of the Republiean party, and the equally hostile tranquillity of the Royalists,” he was, as many a stronger man well might be, perplexed in the extreme. Here was anything but the right man in the right place. The square man had got into the round hole, and there was no adjusting the right angles of the one to the curves of the other ; there was no squaring the circle. “Sociable and easy in disposition, and detesting all effort and conflict, he desired to live on friendly terms, or at least at peace, with all with whom he was brought in contact, and he made it his endeavour to attract or retain them near his person, by sympathising with their views or listening to their counsels.” Many of his father's oldest friends (in particular St. John and Pierrepoint) had been won by his moderate views and benign character ; while his aristocratic tastes, his early associations, and his readiness to do them service, had involved him in intimacy with not a few Cavaliers, whose illusions on the subject of his intentions towards Charles Stuart he fostered, in the hope, perhaps, of securing friends in the coming struggle of parties, and, still more, after the struggle-when, as he began to see was the most probable result, the old monarchy should oust the new protectorate, and
The King should enjoy his own again. Richard's policy with the Cavaliers, then, was of the fast and loose kind; he would use them as well as he could, with a double view, and in a double sense. Nor was he more sincere or straightforward in his demeanour towards the Republicans, whom he really disliked, and from whom he had nothing to expect but cross-grained words and works. “ Between him and them there was constantly raging a secret rivalry, an unseen struggle for the sovereignty. Richard could command an almost certain majority against them in the House of Commons; but even when vanquished, they continued as intractable, arrogant, and captious as ever ; and he was forced to submit in silence to their pretensions and attacks, so long as their pretensions remained barren and their attacks were not mortal.” He relied, meanwhile, with some confidence on the attachment of the army to his cause and name, if not to his person. He took pains to stand well with the soldiers, and laid himself out to please them by such attentions, at review and on parade, as are supposed to win the hearts of rank and file.