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CH. IV PARLIAMENTARY REMONSTRANCE 369
hundred, two hundred, or three hundred to depart, and to call the rest a parliament by way of countenancing his oppression. The present assembly at Westminster, they protested, sits under the daily awe and terror of the Lord Protector's armed men, not daring to consult or debate freely the great concernments of their country, nor daring to oppose his usurpation and oppression, and no such assembly can be the representative body of England. We may be sure that if such was the temper of nearly one - fourth of a parliament that was itself just chosen under close restrictions, this remonstrance gives a striking indication of how little way had even yet been made by Cromwell in converting popular opinion to his support.
CHANGE OF TACK
THE parliament speedily showed signs that, winnowed and sifted as it had been, and loyally as it always meant to stand to the person of the Protector, yet like the Long Parliament, like the Barebones Convention, and like the first parliament under the Instrument, all of them one after another banished in disgrace, it was resolved not to be a cypher in the constitution, but was full of that spirit of corporate self-esteem without which any parliament is a body void of soul. The elections had taught them that the rule of the swordmen and the decimators was odious even to the honest party in the country. Oliver anxiously watching the signs of public feeling had probably learned the same lesson, that his major-generals were a source of weakness and not of strength to his government. The hour had come when the long struggle between army and parliament which in various forms had covered nine troubled years, was to enter a fresh and closing phase. The nation whether royalist or puritan had shown itself as a whole bitterly averse to the transformation of the ancient realm of England into a military state, and with this aversion, even from the early days of barrack debates at Windsor and Putney, Oliver was in perfect sympathy. Neither the habitudes of the camp, nor the fact that his own power, which he rightly identified with public order, had always depended
and must still depend upon the army, dulled his instinct or weakened his desire that the three kingdoms should be welded, not into a soldier state, but into a civil constitution solidly reposing on its acceptance by the nation. We cannot confidently divine the workings of that capacious, slow, and subtle mind, but this quickened perception seems to be the key to the dramatic episode that was now approaching.
The opportunity for disclosing the resolve of the parliament to try a fall with the military power soon came. It was preceded by an incident that revealed one of the dangers, so well known to Oliver, and viewed by him with such sincere alarm, as attending any kind of free parliament whether this or another. The general objects of the new parliament of 1656, like the objects of its immediate predecessor of 1654, were to widen the powers of parliament, to limit those of the Protector, to curb the soldiers, and finally, although this was kept in discreet shade, to narrow the area of religious tolerance. A test of tolerance occurred almost at once. Excesses of religious emotion were always a sore point with protestant reformers, for all such excesses seemed a warrant for the bitter predictions of the catholics at the Reformation, that to break with the church was to open the floodgates of extravagance and blasphemy in the heart of unregenerate man. Hence nobody was so infuriated as the partisan of private judgment, with those who carried private judgment beyond a permitted point.
James Naylor was an extreme example of the mystics whom the hard children of this world dismiss as crazy fanatics. For several years he had fought with good repute in the parliamentary army, and he was present on the memorable day of Dunbar. Then he joined George Fox, by and by carried Quaker principles to a higher pitch, and in time gave to his faith a personal turn by allowing enthusiastic disciples to salute him as the Messiah. In October 1656 he rode into Bristol, attended by a crowd of frantic devotees, some of them casting branches on the road, all chanting loud hosannas, several even vowing that he had miraculously raised them from the dead. For his share in these transactions, Naylor was brought before a committee of parliament. No sworn evidence was taken. Nobody proved that he had spoken a word. The worst that could be alleged was that he had taken part in a hideous parody. The House found that he was guilty of blasphemy, that he was a grand impostor, and a seducer of the people. It was actually proposed to inflict the capital sentence, and the offender only escaped death by a majority of fourteen, in a division of a hundred and seventyeight members. The debate lasted over many days. The sentence finally imposed was this :-To stand in the pillory two hours at Westminster; to be whipped by the hangman from Westminster to the old Exchange, and there to undergo another two hours of pillory ; to have his tongue bored through with a hot iron; to be branded on the brow with the letter B; then to be sent to Bristol, carried on a horse barebacked with his face to the tail, and there again whipped in the market-place; thence to be brought back to London, to be put into solitary confinement with hard labour during the pleasure of parliament, without use of pen, ink, or paper. So hideous a thing could puritanism be, so little was there in many respects to choose between the spirit of Laud and the hard hearts of the people who cut off Laud's head.
Cromwell showed his noblest quality. The year before, he had interposed by executive act to remove John Biddle, charged with Socinian heresy, from the grasp of the courts. Cromwell denounced the blasphemy of denying the godhead of Jesus Christ, but he secluded Biddle from harm by send
CHAP. V DEFEAT OF MAJOR-GENERALS 373 ing him to Scilly with an allowance of ten shillings a week and a supply of books. So now in Naylor's case he hated the cruelty, and he saw the mischief of the assumption by parliament of the function of a court of law. The most ardent friends of parliament must still read with a lively thrill the words that Oliver now addressed to the Speaker : “ Having taken notice of a judgment lately given by yourselves against one James Naylor; although we detest and abhor the giving or occasioning the least countenance to persons of such opinions and practice. ... Yet we, being interested in the present government on behalf of the people of these nations ; and not knowing how far such proceeding, entered into wholly without us, may extend in the consequence of it-Do desire that the House will let us know the grounds and reasons whereupon they have proceeded” (Dec. 12, 1656). This rebuke notwithstanding, the execrable sentence was carried out to the letter. It galled Cromwell to find that under the Instrument he had no power to interfere with the parliamentary assumption of judicial attributes, and this became an additional reason for that grand constitutional revision which was now coming into sight.
A few days after the disposal of Naylor, a bill was brought in that raised the great question of the major-generals, their arbitrary power, and their unlawful decimations. By the new bill the system was to be continued. The lawyers argued strongly against it, and the members of the Council of State and the major-generals themselves were of course as strongly for it. The debate was long and heated, for both sides understood that the issue was grave. When the final division was taken, the bill was thrown out by a majority of 36 in a House of 212. One curious result of the legislative union of the three kingdoms of which the world has heard only too much in later days, was now first noted. “The