« PreviousContinue »
This clearly in the Bill : and not less clearly that the Lord General and Army Party would in no wise have a Bill with this in it, or indeed have any Bill that was to be the old story over again under a new name. So much, on good evidence, is very clear to me;—the rest, which is all obliterated, becomes not inconceivable. Cost what it may cost, this Rump Parliament, which has by its conduct abundantly defined what an incumbrance is,' shall go about its business. Terrible Voices, supernal and other, have said it, awfully enough, in the hearts of some men! Neither under its own shabby figure, nor under another more plausible, shall it guide the Divine Mercies and Miraculous Affairs of this Nation any farther.
The last of all the conferences was held at my Lord General's house in Whitehall, on Tuesday evening, 19th of April, 1653. Above twenty leading Members of Parliament present, and many Officers. Conference of which we shall have some passing glimpse, from a sure hand, by and by.Conference which came to nothing, as all the others had done. Your Bill, with these
, clauses and visible tendencies in it, cannot pass, says the one party : Your Scheme of Puritan Notables seems full of danger, says the other. What remedy? “No remedy except, -except that you
leave us to sit as we are, for a while yet !” suggest the Official persons.
-“ In no wise !” answer the Officers, with a vehemence of look and tone, which my Lord General, seemingly anxious to do it, cannot repress. You must not, and cannot sit longer, say the Officers ;- and their look says even, Shall not! Bulstrode went home to Chelsea, very late, with the tears in his big dull eyes, at thought of the courses men were getting into. Bulstrode and Widdrington were the most eager for sitting ; Chief-Justice St. John, strange thing in a Constitutional gentleman, declared that there could be no sitting for us any longer. We parted, able to settle on nothing, except the engagement to meet here again tomorrow morning, and to leave the Bill asleep till something were settled on. A leading person, Sir Harry Vane or another, undertook that nothing should be done in it till then.
Wednesday, 20th April, 1653. My Lord General accordingly is in his reception-room this morning, 'in plain black clothes
* Speech, postea ; see also Whitlocke, p. 529.
and grey worsted stockings;' he, with many Officers: but few Members have yet come, though punctual Bulstrode and certain others are there. Some waiting there is; some impatience that the Members would come. The Members do not come: instead of Members, comes a notice that they are busy getting on with their Bill in the House; hurrying it double-quick through all the stages. Possible ?
New message that it will be Law in a little while, if no interposition take place! Bulstrode hastens off to the House : Lord General, at first incredulous, does now also hasten off, —nay orders that a Company of Musketeers of his own regiment attend him. Hastens off, with a very high expression of countenance, I think ;-saying or feeling: Who would have believed it of them? “It is not honest; yea, it is contrary to common honesty !” — My Lord General, the big hour is come!
Young Colonel Sidney, the celebrated Algernon, sat in the House this morning; a House of some Fifty-three.' Algernon has left distinct note of the affair; less distinct we have from Bulstrode, who was also there, who seems in some points to be even wilfully wrong.
Solid Ludlow was far off in Ireland, but gathered many details in after-years; and faithfully wrote them down, in the unappeasable indignation of his heart. Combining these three originals, we have, after various perusals and collations and considerations, obtained the following authentic, moderately conceivable account:2
• The Parliament sitting as usual, and being in debate upon • the Bill with the amendments, which it was thought would have • been passed that day, the Lord General Cromwell came into the
House, clad in plain black clothes and grey worsted stockings, and sat down, as he used to do, in an ordinary place.' For some time he listens to this interesting debate on the Bill ; beckoning once to Harrison, who came over to him, and answered dubitatingly. Whereupon the Lord General sat still, for about a quarter of an hour longer. But now the question being to be put, That this Bill do now pass, he beckons again to Harrison,
| That is Cromwell's number; Ludlow, far distant, and not credible on this occasion, says ' Eighty or a Hundred.'
2 Blencowe's Sidney Papers (London, 1825), pp. 139-41 ; Whitlocke, p. 529; Ludlow, ii. 456;—the last two are reprinted in Parliamentary History, xx, 128.
« « This is the time; I must do it!” —and so 'rose up, put off his hat, and spake. At the first, and for a good while, ' he spake to the commendation of the Parliament for their pains and care of the public good ; but afterwards he changed his style, told them of their injustice, delays of justice, self-interest, and other faults,'-rising higher and higher, into a very aggravated style indeed. An honourable Member, Sir Peter Wentworth by name, not known to my readers, and by me better known than trusted, rises to order, as we phrase it; says, “ It is a strange language this ; unusual within the walls of Parliament this ! And from a trusted servant too; and one whom we have so highly honoured; and one”- Come, come ! exclaims my Lord General in a very high key, “we have had enough of this,”—and in fact my Lord General now blazing all up into clear conflagration, exclaims, “I will put an end to your prat
' ing,'” and steps forth into the floor of the House, and clapping on his hat,' and occasionally 'stamping the floor with his feet,' begins a discourse which no man can report! He says
- Heavens! he is heard saying: “It is not fit that you should sit here any longer ! You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing lately. “You shall now give place to better men !--Call them in !' ” adds he briefly, to Harrison, in word of command : and some twenty or thirty' grim musketeers enter,
: with bullets in their snaphances ; grimly prompt for orders; and stand in some attitude of Carry-arms there. Veteran men: men of might and men of war, their faces are as the faces of lions, and their feet are swift as the roes upon the mountains ;-not beautiful to honourable gentlemen at this moment!
“You call yourselves a Parliament," continues my Lord General in clear blaze of conflagration : "You are no Parliament; I say you are no Parliament! Some of you are drunkards, his eye flashes on poor Mr. Chaloner, an official man of some value, addicted to the bottle ; some of you are
and he glares into Harry Marten, and the poor Sir Peter who rose to order, lewd livers both; “living in open contempt of God's Commandments. Following your own greedy appetites, and the Devil's Commandments. Corrupt unjust persons,” and here I think he glanced ' at Sir Bulstrode Whitlocke, one of the Com• missioners of the Great Seal, giving him and others very sharp
* language, though he named them not :' “Corrupt unjust persons ;
scandalous to the profession of the Gospel : how can you be a Parliament for God's People ? Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, -go! ”
The House is of course all on its feet, -uncertain almost whether not on its head : such a scene as was never seen before in any House of Commons. History reports with a shudder that my Lord General, lifting the sacred Mace itself, said, “What shall we do with this bauble? Take it away!'”—and gave it to a musketeer. And now, .“ Fetch him down !” says he to Harrison, flashing on the Speaker. Speaker Lenthall, more an ancient Roman than anything else, declares, He will not come till forced. “Sir," said Harrison, “I will lend you a hand;" on which Speaker Lenthall came down, and gloomily vanished. They all vanished; flooding gloomily clamorously out, to their ulterior businesses, and respective places of abode : the Long Parliament is dissolved ! «•It's you that have forced me to this,'” exclaims my Lord General : “I have sought the Lord night and day, that • He would rather slay me than put me upon the doing of this
work.' • At their going out, some say the Lord General said ' to young Sir Harry Vane, calling him by his name, That he
might have prevented this; but that he was a juggler, and had ‘not common honesty. “0 Sir Harry Vane,' thou with thy subtle casuistries and abstruse hair-splittings, thou art other than a good one, I think! The Lord deliver me from thee, Sir Harry Vane! * All being gone out, the door of the House was locked, 6 and the Key with the Mace, as I heard, was carried away by • Colonel Otley ;'-and it is all over, and the unspeakable Catastrophe has come, and remains.
Such was the destructive wrath of my Lord General Cromwell against the Nominal Rump Parliament of England. Wrath which innumerable mortals since have accounted extremely diabolic ; which some now begin to account partly divine. Divine or diabolic, it is an indisputable fact ; left for the commentaries of men.
The Rump Parliament has gone its ways ;—and truly, except it be in their own, I know not in what eyes are tears at their departure. They went very softly, softly as a Dream, say all witnesses. “We did not hear a dog bark at their going !" asserts my Lord General elsewhere.
It is said, my Lord General did not, on his entrance into the House, contemplate quite as a certainty this strong measure; but it came upon him like an irresistible impulse, or inspiration, as he heard their Parliamentary eloquence proceed. “Perceiving the spirit of God so strong upon me, I would no longer consult flesh and blood.”'] He has done it, at all events; and is responsible for the results it may have. A responsibility which he, as well as most of us, knows to be awful : but he fancies it was in answer to the English Nation, and to the Maker of the English Nation and of him ; and he will do the best he may with it.
We have to add here an Official Letter, of small significance in itself, but curious for its date, the Saturday after this great Transaction, and for the other indications it gives. Except the Lord General, “Commander-in-Chief of all the Forces raised and to be raised,' there is for the moment no Authority very clearly on foot in England ;—though Judges, and all manner of Authorities whatsoever do, after some little preliminary parleying, consent to go on as before.
The Draining of the Fens had been resumed under better auspices when the War ended ;2 and a new Company of Adventurers, among whom Oliver himself is one, are vigorously proceeding with a New Bedford Level, -the same that yet continues. A ‘Petition of theirs, addressed "To the Lord General,' in these hasty hours, sets forth that upon the 20th of this instant April (exactly while Oliver was turning out the Parliament), “about a Hundred-and-fifty persons,' from the Towns of Swaffham and Botsham, —which Towns had petitioned about certain rights of theirs, and got clear promise of redress in fit time,-did tumultuously assemble,' to seek redress for themselves; did by force ' expel your Petitioners's workmen from their diking and work‘ing in the said Fens;' did tumble-in again the dikes by them
· Godwin, iii. 456 (who cites Echard ; not much of an authority in such matters).
? Act for that object (Scobell, ü. 33), 29 May, 1649.