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Chap. TO OPINION IN THE COUNTRY 99
now in his twenty-third year. The boldness, energy, and military capacity of the young adventurer were destined to prove one of the most formidable of all the elements in the struggle of the next three years. Luckily the intrepid soldier had none of Cromwell's sagacity, caution, and patience, or else that " providence which men call the chance of war" might have turned out differently.
The Earl of Essex, son of Queen Elizabeth's favourite, was named general of the parliamentary forces, less for any military reputation than from his social influence. "He was the man," said the preacher of his funeral sermon (1646), "to break the ice and set his first footing in the Red Sea. No proclamation of treason could cry him down, nor threatening standard daunt him that in that misty morning, when men knew not each other, whether friend or foe, by his arising dispelled the fog, and by his very name commanded thousands into your service." Opinion in most of the country was pretty firm on one side or the other, but it was slow in mounting to the heat of war. The affair was grave, and men went about it with argument and conscience. In every manor-house and rectory and college, across the counters of shops in the towns, on the ale-bench in the villages and on the roads, men plied one another with precedents and analogies, with Bible texts, with endless points of justice and of expediency, thus illustrating in this high historic instance all the strength and all the weakness of human reasoning, all the grandeur and all the levity of civil and ecclesiastical passion. Many, no doubt, shared the mind of Hutchinson's father, who was staunch to the parliamentary cause but infinitely desirous that the quarrel should come to a compromise, and not to the catastrophe of war. Savile said: "I love religion so well, I would not have it put to the hazard of a battle. I love liberty so much, I would not trust it in the hands of a conqueror; for, much as I love the king, I should not be glad that he should beat the parliament, even though they were in the wrong. My desires are to have no conquests of either side." Savile was no edifying character; but the politician who would fain say both yes and no stands in every crisis for a numerous host. On the other hand, human nature being constant in its fundamental colours, we may be sure that in both camps were many who proclaimed that the dispute must be fought out, and the sooner the fight began, the sooner would it end. Enthusiasts for the rights and religion of their country could not believe, says one of them, that a work so good and necessary would be attended with so much difficulty, and they went into it in the faith that the true cause must quickly win. On the other side, deep-rooted interests and ancient sentiment gathered round the crown as their natural centre. Selfish men who depended upon the crown for honours or substance, and unselfish men who were by habit and connection unalterably attached to an idealised church, united according to their diverse kinds in twofold zeal for the king and the bishops, in the profound assurance that Providence would speedily lay their persecutors low. Families were divided, close kinsmen became violent foes, and brother even slew brother. Some counties were almost wholly for the king, while others went almost wholly for the parliament. In either case, the remnant of a minority, whether the godly or the ungodly, found it best to seek shelter outside. There were counties where the two sides paired and tried to play neutral. The line of social cleavage between the combatants was not definite, but what we are told of Notts was probably true of other districts, that most of the nobles and upper gentry were stout for the king, while most of the middle sort, the able substantial freeholders, and used by Sir William Waller to the brave Hopton. "God, who is the searcher of my heart," Waller wrote, " knows with what a sad sense I go upon this service, and with what a perfect hatred I detest this war without an enemy; but I look upon it as sent from God, and that is enough to silence all passion in me. . . . We are both upon the stage, and must act such parts as are assigned us in this tragedy. Let us do it in a way of honour and without personal animosities." On the whole, the contest in England was stained by few of the barbarities that usually mark a civil war, especially war with a religious colour upon it. But cruelty, brutality, and squalor are the essence of all war, and here too there was much rough work and some atrocity. Prisoners were sometimes badly used, and the parliamentary generals sent great batches of them like gangs of slaves to toil under the burning sun in the West Indies, or to compulsory service in Venice or an American colony. Men were killed in cold blood after quarter promised, and the shooting of Lucas and Lisle after the surrender of Colchester in 1648, though it is true that the royalist officers had surrendered to mercy, that is without promise of their lives, was still a piece of savagery for which Fairfax and Ireton must divide the blame between them. The ruffianism of war could not be avoided, but it was ruffianism without the diabolic ferocity of Spaniards in the sixteenth century, or Germans in the seventeenth, or French sansculottes in the eighteenth. The discipline of the royal forces was bad, for their organisation was loose; and even if it had been better, we have little difficulty in painting for ourselves the scenes that must have attended these roving bands of soldiery, ill-paid, ill-fed, and emancipated from all those restraints of opinion and the constable, which have so much more to do with our self-control than we love to admit. Nor are we to suppose that all the ugly stories were on one side. BOOK II
TEMPER OF THE STRUGGLE 101
commoners not dependent on the malignants above them, stood for the parliament.
Speaking broadly, the feeling for parliament was strongest in London and the east; the king was strongest in the west and north. Wherever the Celtic element prevailed, as in Wales and Cornwall, the king had most friends, and the same is true with qualifications in the two other kingdoms of Scotland and Ireland. Where the population was thickest, busiest in trade and manufacture, and wealthiest, they leaned with various degrees of ardour toward the parliament. Yorkshire was divided, the cloth towns south of the Aire being parliamentary. Lancashire, too, was divided, the east for the parliament, the west for the king. The historians draw a line from Flamborough Head to Plymouth, and with some undulations and indentations such a line separates royalist from parliamentary England. In East Anglia opinion was steadfast through the struggle, but elsewhere it fluctuated with the fortunes of the war, and the wavering inclinations of influential gentry. One of the most important circumstances of the times was that the fleet (in July 1642) declared for the parliament.
The temper of the time was hard, men were ready to settle truth by blows, and life, as in the Middle Ages, was still held cheap. The cavalier was hot, unruly, scornful, with all the feudal readiness for bloodshed. The roundhead was keen, stubborn, dogged, sustained by the thought of the heroes of the Old Testament who avenged upon Canaanite and Amalekite the cause of Jehovah. Men lived and fought in the spirit of the Old Testament and not of the New. To men of the mild and reflecting temper of Chillingworth the choice was no more cheerful than between publicans and sinners on one side, and scribes and Pharisees on the other. A fine instance of the high and manly temper in which the best men entered upon the struggle is to be found in the words
(1642-45) CHAPTER I CROMWELL IN THE FIELD
It is not within my scope to follow in detail the military operations of the civil war. For many months they were little more than a series of confused marches, random skirmishes, and casual leaguers of indecisive places. Of generalship, of strategic system, of ingenuity in scientific tactics, in the early stages there was little or none. Soldiers appeared on both sides who had served abroad, and as the armed struggle developed, the great changes in tactics made by Gustavus Adolphus quickly found their way into the operations of the English war. He suppressed all caracoling and parade manoeuvres. Cavalry that had formed itself in as many as five or even eight ranks deep, was henceforth never marshalled deeper than three ranks, while in the intervening spaces were platoons of foot and light field-pieces. All this, the soldiers tell us, gave prodigious mobility, and made the Swedish period the most remarkable in the Thirty Years' War. But for some time training on the continent of Europe seems to have been of little use in the conflicts of two great bands of military mainly rustic among the hills and downs, the lanes and hedges,