Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

The genius of Cromwell took in at a glance the adpuntages of the enemy's position, and the means by which they were to be overcome. A bridge which crossed the Severn at Upton, some miles below Worcester, had been broken down, but by means of one of its parapet walls which still stood, Lambert sent across some of his men, and with their assistance reconstructed a passable bridge. By means of this he threw a body of men across the river, drove back the enemy's outposts, and made good his position; and here he was soon after joined by Fleetwood, with upwards of 10,000 men. The river Team, however, a tributary of the Severn, flowed still between this body of Cromwell's forces and the ground they must occupy ere they could attack the enemy's position. But Crom. well knew how to avail himself of his superior numbers. Careless of the seeming danger of thus being compelled to force a junction with the divisions of his own army across broad rivers, in the sight of a strongly intrenched foe, Fleetwood was commanded to prepare a bridge of boats at the mouth of the Team, while Cromwell had already collected a sufficient number of boats, and other implements, with which to bridge across the Severn itself. . On the evening of the 2d of September, 1651, Cromwell had completed the preparations for this arduous exploit. His spirits rose in anticipation of the struggle of the morrow that was to determine the fate of three kingdoms, as it had done in the grey mists of morning on the field of Dunbar. The morrow, indeed, was what he called his FORTUNATE DAY, the anniversary of that great victory.

At early dawn on the 3d of September, both Cromwell and Fleetwood were busily engaged in restoring the communications across the Severn and the Team; while Charles and some of the Scottish leaders watched their position and movements from one of the towers of the Cathedral. There, after long delay, the poor King saw

L

Fleetwood at length force his way across the Team, and attack the Scots at a great advantage, while Cromwell also, completing his bridge across the Severn, led the van in person, and joined against the foe in overwelming numbers. Reinforcements of horse and foot were despatched by Charles to the point of attack, but his able enemy was more than a match for him in numbers, as well as in skill and experience. The Scots fought with the most despe. rate bravery; resisting every inch of ground; intrenching themselves within hedges and other natural covers which the ground afforded, and doing all that dogged valour could achieve for purchasing success; but it was vain. The rivers once passed, Cromwell's superior numbers left the Scots no hope; yet they maintained the strife for five hours of as desperate fighting, Cromwell writes, as ever he had seen. The main body of the Scottish infantry held Cromwell in check for three hours on one spot, but his Ironsides broke through the wearied phalanx at last, and scattered them before their overwhelming assault. Colonel Drummond held out the King's fort, and refused to surrender to the victors; but they stormed it in the flush of victory, and put fifteen hundred of the enemy whom they found there to the sword. Charles fled, after a vain attempt to rally his troops, and found refuge at length in the Royal Oak: sword and sceptre had that day fallen from his grasp. It was indeed a memorable day for England, under whatever light we view it.

" The dimensions of this mercy," writes Cromwell to the parliament, “are above my thoughts: it is for ought I know a crowning mercy.” The covenanted King was no more, with all his solemn promises and oaths. When Charles returned again it was to add infamy to a royal name, which till then had kinged it proudly even in oppression.

Thenceforth Cromwell's battle-fields were at an end. The untarnished sword of the victorious General was sheathed for the last time on that proud battle-field. England's armed foes no longer existed, and her great General must now return to reap for England, if it might be, some harvest from all this sore travail and strife. Cromwell's battle-fields were at an end, but not his battles. It has been well said by Vaughan, * in his character of Cromwell, that a less amount of ability than was necessary to meet the exigencies of his position, would have sufficed to govern half the nations of Europe in that age.

CHAPTER XIV.

THE DISMISSAL OF THE LONG PARLIAMENT.

With the sheathing of Cromwell's sword after the battle of Worcester, an altogether new, and more difficult warfare falls to be investigated and described by his biographer. Most men can appreciate the skill and the bravery of the indomitable leader at Naseby and Dunbar, orthegenius of the victor at Worcester, even although their sympathies are with his opponents. But the bloodless warfare of political adversaries, and the strategy by which power is achieved, and cabal and plotting overreached, are more difficult to appreciate, and admit of a diversity of opinions, depending as much on the light in which we view the evidence, as on the facts it may disclose. With the defeat of the Scottish forces at Worcester, armed resistance to the republic was at an end. The reception of the King of Scots there, showed how utterly the royalist and Presbyterian parties were extinguished or laid prostrate. Order and voiceless submission in Ireland, proved with what terrible power Cromwell had quenched the spirit of rebellion, and grasped once more the reins of government in a mailed hand. In Scotland too, firmnese, tempered by a severe justice, secured submission, and at length contentment with the Commonwealth rule. The most prejudiced Scottish writers acknowledge that justice had never before been so impartially administered as under the judges of the Commonwealth. “There was good justice done,” says Burnet, "and vice was suppressed and punished, so that we always reckon those eight years of usurpation, a time of great peace and prosperity.” Nicoll, the old diarist, a contemporary authority, sufficiently prejudiced against “ that tyrannous usurper," as he styles Oliver Cromwell, to be received as an impartial witness on the same side, remarks :-"to speak truth, the Englishers were more indulgent and merciful to the Scots, than were the Scots to their own countrymen and neighbours, as was too evident; and their justice exceeded the Scots in many things, as was reported. They also filled up the rooms of justice courts with very honest clerks and members of that judica

* J'rotectorate of Cromwell, vol. i.

P. 118.

The General Assembly, indeed, was not suffered to sit, and restraints were put upon those who threatened to convert the pulpit, like the church courts, into a political engine. Nevertheless, the freest toleration, which was compatible with the existence of Commonwealth rule, was extended to the Scottish clergy; and they learned somewhat better to appreciate it, when the rejoicings for a “ blessed restoration” drew to a close, and their “most religious and gracious king," the old covenanted King of Scots, Charles II. gave them a Dalziel and a Claverhouse, in exchange for the discarded judges of the Commonwealth.

Meanwhile victory had declared for the banner of the Commonwealth no less in foreign, than domestic warfare. Admiral Blake had won for it the sovereignty of the ocean, and had subdued alike the despotic and haughty monarchs of Spain and Portugal, and the powerful Dutch republic. All things united to prove that a great nation

• Nicoll's Diary, (Bannatyne Club,) p. 104.

tory."*

had awoke to a sense of its own rights, and of its power to compel their concession. But with these rights won, a far more difficult task remained, which must ever test the sagacity and the genius of revolutionary leaders. When Charles, by his lawless oppression, and his faithlessness, had driven the people to rebellion, unity of purpose was secured by the necessity of the case. Little reasoning was needed to tell them that the object to be attained was the subjugation of Charles and of the maintainers of his absolute power, and, while that remained to be accomplished, all minor differences disappeared. Even so, when Irish massacres, or Scottish or Dutch invasion, were the dangers threatened, even the royalist of England could share with the republican in the triumph of victory. But when Cromwell returned to London after Worcester fight, this state of things was nearly at an end. The victory, indeed, was achieved, but its fruits remained to be secured. The government was merely provisional; avowedly but an expedient for the moment of danger; and the attempt at its settlement on a permanent footing, opened a field for all the minor shades of difference that had been before forgotten in the grand struggle between power and popular rights. In the steps that succeeded this, Cromwell took a leading part ; and here it is that biographers have discovered the culminating point of his history, the season of change, the arena of hypocrisy, wherein he tarnished all his laurels; and where, therefore, his honest biographers who have followed him thus far, hasten to abandon him as perjured, dishonoured, and false to every principle for which he had before contended. The ablest of all this class of biographers is Forster. After describing the great ends achieved by the vigour and the genius of the republican statesmen of England at this period, that writer thus describes their position as the leaders of England, and the fatal errors which he conceives they committed at so important a

« ZurückWeiter »