Abbildungen der Seite

disaffection in his family either to the church or state ; they had indeed enjoyed in a peculiar manner, the bounty as well as the favor of the crown. But Cromwell was not likely to behold the measures of the government with indifference or complacency; a man so capable of governing well perceived the errors which were committed ; and the displeasure thus reasonably excited, was heightened by accidental and personal circumstances till it became a rooted disaffection. To this some of his family connexions must have contributed in no slight degree. Hampden was his first cousin; and St. John, who was connected with the Cromwells by his first marriage, married for his second wife one who stood in the same degree of near relationship to him. They were unquestionably two of the ablest men in that distinguished age ; and Hampden, who had sagacity enough to perceive the talents of his kinsman when they were not suspected by others, possessed a great influence over his mind; Cromwell “ followed his advice while living, and revered his

memory when dead." These eminent men were both deadly enemies at heart to the established church, and the puritanical bias which their conversation was likely to impart was increased by his own disposition, for in the early part of his life it is certain that he was of a fanatical constitution. He often supposed himself to be dying, and called up his physician at unseasonable hours in causeless alarm; and that physician's account of him is, that “he was quite a splenetic, and had fancies about the Cross in the town."*

Cromwell sat for the same borough in the parliament of 1628, and spoke severely and justly against the promotion of Dr. Manwaring ; but by complaining, at the same time of persons who “preached flat popery," which was a flat falsehood, he lessened the effect of his opinion upon unprejudiced and judicious minds. Three years afterward he sold some of his estates for 18001.; stocked a grazing farm at St. Ives, and removed thither from Huntingdon. The barn which he built here was still standing, and bore his name, when Mr. Noble published his Memoirs of the Protectoral House ;t and the farmer who then rented the estate marked his sheep with the identical marking irons which Oliver used, and which had 0. C. upon them. While he resided here he returned some money which he had formerly won by gaming, and which he considered it sinful to keep. The sums were not inconsiderable for that time and for his means, one of them being 301. and another 1201. The death of Sir Thomas Steward

[* Sir Philip Warwick's Memoirs, ed. 1702, p. 249.]

[t The first edition of Noble's memoirs was published in 1784.]

[[ Noble, i. 262.]

placed him in affluence, and, in 1635, he removed to the Glebe House in the city of Ely. He had now a large family, and took his full share in local business as an active country gentleman, not always as a useful one, for the scheme of draining the fens of Lincolnshire and the isle of Ely, which his father and many others of his relations had promoted, was defeated chiefly by his opposition. There was a popular cry against the measure, because the inhabitants enjoyed a customary right of commoning and fishing there; Cromwell therefore became so great a favorite with them for espousing their immediate interest, that he was called the Lord of the Fens. It is more likely that he was actuated by a desire of ingratiating himself with the people of the country on this occasion, than that so far-sighted and able a man should not have perceived the great and obvious utility of the measure which he resisted. Afterward, when the act passed under the commonwealth, he was appointed one of the commissioners; and the work proceeded with his favor when he was Protector.

The state of England, though the country was rapidly improving, and prosperous beyond all former example, was such as might well trouble every upright and thoughtful observer. The wisest man could not possibly foresee in what the conflict of opinions, which had begun, was likely to terminate : this only was certain, that there must

His un

inevitably be great evil in the process, and that whatever extreme prevailed, the end must needs be one which no good man, or true friend of his country, could contemplate without sorrow. In any other age, Charles I. would have been the best and the most popular of kings. ambitious and conscientious spirit would have preserved the kingdom in peace; his private life would have set an example of dignified virtue, such as had rarely been seen in courts ; and his love of arts and letters would have conferred permanent splendor upon his age, and secured for himself the grateful applause of after generations. But he succeeded to a crown whose prerogatives had been largely asserted and never defined ; to a scanty revenue, and to a popular but expensive war, nowise honorable to the nation either in its cause or conduct. The history of his reign thus far had been a series of errors and faults on all sides, so that an impartial observer would have found it difficult to satisfy himself whether the king and his ministers or the parliaments were the most reprehensible; or which party had given the greatest provocation, and thereby afforded most excuse for the conduct of the other. Unable to govern with a parliament, and impatient of being governed by one, Charles had tried the perilous experiment of governing without one. There can be no doubt that the liberties of Great Britain must have been destroyed if that experiment had been successful; and successful in all human probability it would have been, if a spirit of religious discord had not possessed the nation. For though the system of Charles's administration was arbitrary, and therefore tyrannical, the revenue which he raised by extraordinary means was not greater than what would cheerfully have been granted him in the ordinary and just course of government; it was frugally administered, and applied in a manner suitable to the interest and honor of the kingdom, which, for twelve years, in the words of Lord Clarendon, “enjoyed the greatest calm and the fullest measure of felicity that any people in any age, for so long time together, have been blessed with, to the wonder and envy of all the other parts of Christendom.” Foreign and domestic trade flourished and increased ; towns grew, not with a forced and unhealthy growth, occasioned by the unnatural activity of a manufacturing system, but in just proportion to the growing industry and wealth of the country. England was respected abroad and prosperous at home; it even seemed as if the physical condition of the island had undergone a beneficial change, for the visitations of pestilence were abating, which had been so frequent in the preceding reign. But a severer judgment was impending over a headstrong generation,

« ZurückWeiter »