Abbildungen der Seite

with it so much real benefit to a barbarous people, that at the restoration, Lord Clarendon admits " it might well be a question, whether the generality of the nation was not better contented with it than to return into the old road of subjection.”

A more rigorous system had been pursued in Ireland, a system severer than even the mode of Roman civilization. The utter. extirpation of the Irish had been intended! but this was found " to be in itself very difficult, and to carry in it somewhat of horror, that made some impression upon the stone-hardness of their own hearts." The act of grace (so it was called!) for which this purpose was commuted, was the most desperate remedy that ever was applied to a desperate disease. All the Irish who had survived the ravages of fire, sword, famine, and pestilence, and who had not transported themselves, were compelled, by a certain day, to retire within a certain part of the province of Connaught, the most barren of the island, and at that time almost desolate ; after that time, if man, woman, or child, of that unhappy generation, were found beyond the limits, they were to be killed like wild beasts; the land within that circuit was to be divided among them, and the rest of the island was portioned out among the conquerors, who used the right of conquest with greater severity than Romans, Saxons, or Normans, had exercised in Britain. It is worthy of

remark, that not a voice was heard against this tremendous act of oppression, such horror had the Irish massacre excited, and so irreclaimable, in the judgment of all men, was the nature of the inhabitants : even when new settlers established themselves there, “though what virtue of the soil,” says Harrington, “ or vice of the air soever it be, they came still to degenerate :" and of the descendants of English colonists there, it was said in Elizabeth's time, that they were Hibernis ipsis Hiberniores. So little were their rights, or even their existence, taken into the account, that Harrington thought the best thing the commonwealth could do with Ireland was to farm it to the Jews for ever, for the

pay of an army to protect them during the first seven years, and two millions a year from that time forward !-What was to be done with the Irish, whether they were to be made hewers of wood and drawers of water, or to become Jews by compulsion, he has not explained. For the sufferings of the Irish, however, Cromwell is not responsible; and under the order which he established, if it had continued for another generation, the island would have been in a better state than


which its authentic history has yet recorded : for there, as in Scotland, a more equitable administration was introduced than that which had been destroyed.

While the protector was feared and respected by foreign powers, and obeyed submissively, if not willingly, in Ireland and the sister kingdom, his state at home was full of uneasiness and danger. Though orders were given, when he summoned his first parliament, that no persons should be chosen who had borne arms on the king's part, nor the sons of any such, and though care was taken to return such members as were believed to be the best 'affected to his government, yet in the first debate his authority was questioned; and one member declared that, “ for his own part, as God had made him instrumental in cutting down tyranny in one person, so now he could not endure to see the nation's liberties shackled by another, whose right to the government could not be measured otherwise than by the length of his sword, which alone had emboldened him to command his commanders.” He attempted to curb this spirit, by excluding all who would not subscribe an engagement to be true and faithful to the Lord protector; yet they whỏ took the engagement were found so impracticable for his purposes, that, taking advantage of the letter of his instrument, he dissolved them at the end of five lunar months.

Cromwell was now paying the bitter price of successful ambition. His good sense and his good nature would have led him to govern équit. ably and mercifully, to promote literature, to cher. ish the arts, and to pour wine and oil into the

sinister means,

wounds of the nation. But as, in the language of the schools, uno absurdo dato, sequuntur millia, so in politics and in morals, are error and guilt fearfully prolific: the disease of the root taints the remotest branches. Having attained to power by

Cromwell, in spite of himself, was compelled to govern tyrannically ; he was equally in danger from the royalists, the greater though inactive part of the nation, among whom indignant spirits were continually at work, and from the levellers, by whose instrumentality he had raised himself to his insecure and miserable elevation. He could not rely even upon the officers of that army by which alone he was supported ; and he had so little confidence in the soldiers, that he once intended to bring over a Swiss regiment as a guard for his own person, and had sent an agent to take measures for raising it; but having perceived how unpopular such a manifestation of his fears would be, and how dangerous, he was deterred from his purpose. His best security was in the irreconcileable difference between the royalists: and the fanatics, the latter willingly aiding him to oppress the former, of whom he stood most in fear. It was confidently affirmed, that the proposal for massacring the whole royal party was more than once brought forward in his council of officers, as the only expedient to secure the government ;

but Cromwell, who was neither devil enough to commit the crime, nor fool enough to destroy the balance by which he was preserved, never would consent. The royalists, in other respects, had little reason to praise his moderation. After all the plunder and exactions which they had suffered, and the compositions which they had paid for their own estates, Cromwell now, by his own authority and that of his council, issued an order for decimating their estates, that is, that they should pay a tenth, not of the income, but of the value of the property; and a declaration accompanied this order, that, because of their inherent malignity, they must not wonder if they were looked upon as a common enemy; and that they “must not expect to be prosecuted like other men, by the ordinary forms of justice, and to have the crimes proved by witnesses, before they should be concluded to be guilty.” If the loyal part of the people had at first lent the king the fifth part of what, after infinite losses, they were compelled to sacrifice to his enemies at last, Lord Clarendon says, that Charles would have been enabled to preserve them and himself. - The Lord deliver us," says Laud, " from covetous and fearful men! The covetous will betray us for money, the fearsul for security.” He did not live to see how the persons, who acted under the influence of these base passions, brought upon themselves worse evils than

« ZurückWeiter »