Page images

well as by his own secretary, Milton, at home; and with these panegyrics he seems not to have been displeased. We have, indeed, various characters of him, as Granger has above observed, from persons of various sentiments. Lord Hollis, in his · Memoirs,' will hardly allow him any great or good qualities; and one principal design of Ludlow's 6 Memoirs' is, to represent him as the vilest of men. Cowley seems to have excelled all others, as well in respect to the matter as the manner of representing him in the different lights of praise and censure; so that his performance may justly be esteemed the most perfect of any, as it is beyond comparison the most beautiful. It is said, that Cardinal Mazarin stiled him a fortunate madman:' but Father Orleans, who gives us the information, dislikes that character, and would substitute in it's place that of a judicious villain.' Clarendon calls him a brave, wicked man:' and Burnet is of opinion, that his life and his arts were exhausted together; and that, if he had lived longer, he would scarcely, have been able to preserve his power. But this only proves, that the Bishop did not discern what resources he had. How blameworthy soever the Protector might have been in the acquisition of his high office, or how wickedly soever he acquired it, certain it is, he rivalled the greatest of the English Monarchs in glory, and made himself courted and dreaded by the nations around him. The peace he gave the Dutch was honourable to himself, and to the nation : and whether he acted prudently or not in breaking with Spain, and allying himself with France, the inequality between the two crowns was far from being visible then, as it has

since appeared, and Cromwell always had it in his power to throw himself into the opposite scale if necessary; and he distinguished himself by his interposition in behalf of the persecuted subjects of the French crown.

His own government was, however, far from being free from blame. His edict against the episcopal clergy was cruel, as it deprived them in a good measure of their maintenance, and liberty of worshipping God in a way that appeared best to their own understandings. The Cavaliers had hard measure from him, as they were almost without exception subjected to heavy taxes and other inconveniences, on account of the rashness and imprudence of some of their party. Nor must we forget his institution of Major Generals, who in a variety of instances lorded over an oppressed country; or his sometimes making use of packed Juries, and displacing Judges for refusing to follow his directions, establishing High-Commission courts, and frequently violating the privileges of parliament.

In his public way of living, adds Chalmers, there was a strange kind of splendor at Whitehall : for sometimes his court wore an air of stately severity, at other times he would unbend himself, and drink freely; never indeed to excess, but only so far as to have an opportunity of sounding men's thoughts in their unguarded moments. Sometimes in the midst of serious consultations, he started into buffoonery : sometimes feasts, prepared for persons of the first distinction, were by a signal of drums and trumpets made the prey of his guards. There was a kind of madness in his mirth, as well as of humour in his gravity, and much of design in all. Some have commended him for keeping up a great face of religion in his court, and through the nation : but it is not so easy to know what they


Certain it is, that religion never wore so many faces as in his time; nor was he pleased to discover, which face he liked best. The Presbyterians he hated; the Church of England he persecuted; against the Papists made laws : but the Sectaries he indulged. Yet some of the Presbyterian divines he courted, affected kindness to a few of the ministers of the Church of England, and entered into occasional intrigues with the Papists. This made Sir. Kenelm Digby's favourite, Father White, write in his defence; and the popish Primate of Ireland sent precepts through all his province under his seal, to pray for the health, establishment, and prosperity of his person and government. With regard to his religion, it would be difficult to find, or even to conceive, whatever might have been his youthful or constitutional susceptibility of religious impressions, an instance of more consummate hypocrisy, or a more unfeeling contempt for every thing that deserves the name of religion, when it interfered with the purposes of his ambition. As for the Judges in Westminster Hall, he differed with St. John, and was sometimes out of humour with Hale. He set up high courts of justice unknown to the law, and put Dr. Hewett to death for not pleading before one of them; though he offered to plead, if any one that sat there, and was a lawyer, would give it under his hand, that it was a legal jurisdiction ;' and Whitlocke himself owns that, though he was named in the commission, he would never take his seat, because he knew it was not lawful. His Majors General, while they acted, superseded all law; and the Protector himself derided

[ocr errors]

Magna Charta, so much respected by our Kings. He was, indeed, kind to some learned men. Milton and Marvel were his secretaries. He would have hired Meric Casaubon to have written his History, and have taken the famous Hobbes into his service for writing the • Leviathan:' probably because, in that celebrated work, power is made the source of right and the basis of religion; the foundation on which Cromwell's system, as well as that of Hobbes, was entirely built. He gave Archbishop Usher a public funeral in Westminster Abbey ; yet he paid but half the expense, and the other half proved a heavy burthen upon that Prelate's poor family. And when all this is allowed to so inflexible a tyrant, how much is deducted from the infamy that attaches to his character? The most execrable of mankind are never uniform in villainy.

Very little of Cromwell's private life is known; he being near forty years of age, when he first distinguished himself in opposing the project for draining the Fens. Yet there were some who knew and understood him thoroughly, before his extraordinary talents were disclosed to the world; and in particular his cousin Hampden, of which the following was a remarkable instance: When the debates ran high in the House of Commons, and Hampden and Lord Digby were going down the parliament-stairs, with Cromwell just before them, who was known to the latter only by sight : “ Pray,” said his Lordship to Hampden, “ who is that man, for I see that he is on our side, by his speaking so warmly to day ?” “ That sloven,” replied Hampden, “ whom you see before us, who has no ornament in his speech ; that sloven, I say, if we should ever come to a breach with VOL. III.


the King, which God forbid ! in such a case, I say, that sloven will be the greatest man in England.” This prophecy, which was so fully accomplished, rose chiefly from the sense Hampden had of Cromwell's indefatigable diligence in pursuing whatever he undertook. He had another quality, which was equally useful to him; that of discerning the temper of those with whom he had to deal, and dealing with them accordingly.

Before he became Commander in Chief, he kept up a very high intimacy with the private men: taking great pains to learn their names, by which he was sure to call them; shaking them by the hand, clapping them on the shoulder, or which was peculiar to him, giving them a slight box on the ear; which condescending familiarities, with the warm concern he expressed for their interests, gave him a power easier conceived than described. He tried to inveigle the Earl of Manchester; but finding that impracticable, he fell upon him in the House of Commons, and procured his removal. He carried himself with so much respect to Fairfax, that the latter knew not how to break with him, though he felt that he had betrayed him. He not only deceived Harrison, Bradshaw, and Ludlow, but outwitted also St. John, who had more parts than them all; and he foiled Sir Henry Vane with his own weapons. In short, he knew men perfectly, worked them to his purposes as if they had been cattle, and, what is still more wonderful, frequently did so, even when they conceived that they were making him their mere tool.

With such arts and qualities as these, joined to his military skill and reputation, we may account for

« PreviousContinue »