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after month brought the inhabitants of those counties to despair, “and necessity forced the distressed people in some parts to stand upon their defence against the taxings and doing of the soldiers.” In Northumberland and Durham the charges on the farmers were so heavy that the landlord had little or nothing, and was only too glad if his tenants could but keep a fire in the farmhouses and save them from ruin. The Yorkshire men complained that they were rated in many districts for the Scottish horse at more than double the value of their lands in the best times. On each side at this time the soldiers lived in the main upon plunder. They carried off cattle and cut down crops. They sequestered rents and assessed fines. They kept up a multitude of small forts and garrisons as a shelter to flying bands, who despoiled the country and fought off enemies who would fain have done the same, and could have done no worse.
Apart from the waste and brutality intrinsic in war, the general breakdown of economic order might well alarm the instincts of the statesman. “Honest industry,” cried one voice of woe, “is quite discouraged, being almost useless. Most men that have estates are betrayed by one side or another, plundered, sequestered. Trading—the life and substance of thousands—decaying, eaten up with taxes ; your poor quite ready to famish, or to rise to pull relief from rich men's hands by violence. Squeezed by taxes, racked by war, the anvil, indeed, of misery, upon which all the strokes of vengeance fall.” A covetous eye had long been cast upon the endowments of the church. “The stop of trade here,” Baillie wrote even so far back as 1641, “ has made this people much poorer than ordinary ; they will noways be able to bear their burden if the cathedrals fall not." From its first phases in all countries the reformation of faith went with designs upon the church lands. And so it was in England now.
THE ARMY REORGANISED
“ You will never get your service done,” said Waller, “ until you have an army entirely your own, and at your own command." This theme was the prime element in the New Model—the substitution of one army under a single commander-in-chief, supported by the parliament, instead of sectional armies locally levied and locally paid. The second feature was the weeding out of worthless men, a process stigmatised by presbyterians out of temper as a crafty means of filling the army with sectaries, a vile compound of Jew, Christian, and Turk, mere tools of usurping ambition. The third was the change in the command. The new army was entrusted to Sir Thomas Fairfax as commanderin-chief, with liberty to name his own officers subject to ratification by the two Houses. The honest Skippon, a valiant fighter and a faithful man, was made major-general, and the higher post of lieutenant - general was left significantly open. The army of which Essex was lord-general numbered on paper twenty-five thousand foot and five thousand horse. In 1644 it was fixed at seven thousand foot and three thousand five hundred horse. The army of the New Model was to consist of twenty-two thousand men in all, fourteen thousand four hundred being foot and the rest horse and dragoons. A trooper received about what he would have received for labour at the plough or with the waggon.
The average substantive wealth in the army was not high. · Royalists were fond of taunting them with their meagre means, and vowed that the whole pack of them from the lord-general to the horsefarrier could not muster one thousand pounds a year in land among them. Yet in Fairfax's new army, of the officers of the higher military rank no fewer than thirty out of thirty-seven were men of good family. Pride the drayman, and Hewson the cobbler, and Okey the ship-chandler, were among the minority who rose from the common ranks.
When Cromwell spoke to Hampden about an army of decayed serving-men and tapsters, his own men had never been of the tapster tribe. They were most of them freeholders and freeholders' sons, who upon matter of conscience engaged in the quarrel, and “thus being well armed within by the satisfaction of their own consciences, and without by good iron arms, they would as one man stand firmly and charge desperately."
That was the ideal of the New Model. We cannot, however, assume that it was easy or possible to procure twenty thousand men of militant conscience, willing for the cause to leave farm and shop, wife and home, to submit themselves to iron discipline, and to face all the peril of battle, murder, and sudden death. Even if Cromwell's ideal was the prevailing type, it has been justly pointed out that constant pay must have been a taking inducement to volunteers in a time when social disorder had made work scarce. If we remember, again, that a considerable portion of the new army were not even volunteers, but had been impressed against their will, the influence of puritan zeal can hardly have been universal, even if it were so much as general.
Baxter had good opportunity of knowing the army well, though he did not see with impartial eyes, and he found abundance of the common troopers to be honest, sober, and right-thinking men, many of them tractable, ready to hear the truth, and of upright intentions. But the highest places he found filled by proud, self-conceited, hot-headed sectaries, Cromwell's chief favourites. Then, in a sentence, he unwittingly discloses why Cromwell favoured them. “By their very heat and activity,” he says, “ they bore down the rest and carried them along; these were the soul of the army, though they did not number one to twenty in it." In other words, what Baxter says comes to CH. IV FIRST SELF-DENYING ORDINANCE 157 this, that they had the quality of fire and resolution ; and fire and resolution are what every leader in a revolutionary crisis values more than all else, even though his own enthusiasm in the common cause springs from other fountains of belief or runs in other channels. Anabaptists, Brownists, Familists, and the rest of the many curious swarms from the puritan hive, none of them repelled Oliver, because he knew that the fanatic and the zealot, for all their absurdities, had the root of the matter in them.
There were several steps in the process of military transformation. In December the Commons, acting upon Cromwell's argument from the suspicion with which people looked upon Lords and Commoners in places of high command, passed the famous ordinance by which no member of either House should have any office of civil or military command. In January the handful who now composed the House of Lords threw out this ordinance. A scheme for the New Model was sent up to them in February, and in the middle of that month (1645) the new military constitution was finally accepted. Six weeks later the Self-denying Ordinance was brought back and passed in a revised form (April 3), only enacting that within forty days members of either of the two Houses should resign any post that the parliament had entrusted to them. Essex, Manchester, Denbigh, Warwick, Waller, resigned without waiting for the forty days. It must have been an anxious moment, for Essex was still popular with the great body of the army, and if he had chosen to defy the ordinance he might possibly have found support both in public opinion and in military force. “But he was not for such enterprises,” says Clarendon, with caustic touch. Honourable and unselfish men have not been so common in the history of states and armies, that we need approve the sarcasm.
Cromwell followed a line that was peculiar, but
might easily have been foretold. The historian in our own day tells us that he finds it hard to avoid the conclusion that Cromwell was ready to sacrifice his own unique position in the army, and to retire from military service. This is surely not easy to believe, any more than it is easy to believe another story for which the evidence comes to extremely little, that at another time he meant to take service in Germany. It is true that in inspiring and supporting the first version of the Self-denying Ordinance, Oliver seemed to be closing the chapter of his own labours in the field. Yet nobody can deny that his proceedings were oblique. It is incredible that the post of lieutenant-general should have been left vacant, otherwise than by design. It is incredible that even those who were most anxious to pull Cromwell down, should not have foreseen that if the war was to go on, the most successful and popular of all their generals would inevitably be recalled. In Cromwell it would have been an incredibly foolish under-estimate of himself to suppose that his own influence, his fierce energy, his determination, and his natural gift of the military eye, could all be spared at an hour when the struggle was drawing to its most hazardous stage.
What actually happened was this. The second Self-denying Ordinance was passed on April 3, and Cromwell was bound to lay down all military command within forty days. Meanwhile he was despatched towards the west. The end of the forty days found him in the Oxford country. The parliament passed a special ordinance, not without misgivings in the Lords, extending his employment for forty days more until June 22. Before the
1 Mr. Gardiner dissents. Cromwell, he says, is not shown to have had any hand in shaping the details of the Ordinance ; and all that the omission to name a lieutenant-general proves, is that there were many influential members of the House who thought that Cromwell should be kept in his old post.