Page images

the loss of two men.” The military critic of our own day marks great improvement between Grantham and Gainsborough; he notes how in the second of the two days there is no delay in forming up; how the deployment is rapidly carried out over difficult ground, bespeaking well-drilled and flexible troops ; how the charge is prompt and decisive, with a reserve kept well in hand, and then launched triumphantly at the right moment; how skilfully the infantry in an unequal fight is protected in the eight or nine moves of its retreat.

At Winceby or Horncastle fight, things were still better (October 11, 1643). So soon as the men had knowledge of the enemy's coming, they were very full of joy and resolution, thinking it a great mercy that they should now fight with him, and on they went singing their psalms, Cromwell in the van. The royalist dragoons gave him a first volley, as he fell with brave resolution upon them, and then at half pistol-shot a second, and his horse was killed under him. But he took a soldier's horse and promptly mounting again rejoined the charge, which “ was so home-given, and performed with so much admirable courage and resolution, that the enemy stood not another, but were driven back on their own body."

It was clear that a new cavalry leader had arisen in England, as daring as the dreaded Rupert, but with a coolness in the red blaze of battle, a piercing eye for the shifts and changes in the fortunes of the day, above all with a power of wielding his phalanx with a combined steadiness and mobility such as the fiery prince never had. Whether Rupert or Oliver was first to change cavalry tactics is, among experts, matter of dispute. The older way had been to fire a volley before the charge. The front rank discharged its pistols, then opened right and left, and the second rank took its place, and so down to the fifth. Then came the CHAP. I



onset with swords and butt-ends of their firearms. The new plan was to substitute the tactics of the shock; for the horse to keep close together, knee to knee, to face the enemy front to front, and either to receive the hostile charge in steady strong cohesion, or else in the same cohesion to bear down on the foe sword in hand, and not to fire either pistol or carbine until they had broken through.

After the war had lasted a year and a half, things looked critical for the parliament. Lincoln stood firm, and the eastern counties stood firm, but the king had the best of it both in popular favour and military position in the north including York, and the west including Exeter, and the midlands including Bedford and Northampton. There seemed also to be a chance of forces being released in Ireland, and of relief coming to the king from France. The genius of Pym, who had discerned the vital importance of the Scots to the English struggle at its beginning, now turned to the same quarter at the second decisive hour of peril. He contrived an alliance with them, raised money for them, made all ready for their immediate advance across the border, and so opened what was for more reasons than one a new and critical chapter in the conflict.

There were many varying combinations between English and Scottish parties from 1639 down to Cromwell's crowning victory at Worcester in 1651. In none of them did the alliance rest upon broad and real community of aim, sentiment, or policy, and the result was that Scottish and English allies were always on the verge of open enmity. The two nations were not one in temperament, nor spiritual experience, nor political requirements; and even at the few moments when they approached a kind of cordiality, their relations were uneasy. In Cromwell this uneasiness was from the first very near to active resentment. Whether Pym was conscious how artificial was the combination, or foresaw any of the difficulties that would arise from divergent aims in the parties to it, we cannot tell. The military situation in any case left him no choice, and he was compelled to pay the price, just as Charles II. was when he made his bargain with the Scots seven years later. That price was the Solemn League and Covenant (September 1643). This famous engagement was forced upon the English. They desired a merely civil alliance. The Scots, on the other hand, convinced from their own experience that presbytery was the only sure barrier of defence against the return of the Pope and his legions, insisted that the alliance should be a religious compact, by which English, Scots, and Irish were to bind themselves to bring the churches in the three kingdoms to uniformity in doctrine, church government, and form of worship, so that the Lord and the name of the Lord should be one throughout the realm. For three years from Pym's bargain the Scots remained on English ground. The Scots fought for protestant uniformity, and the English leaders bowed to the demand with doubtful sincerity and with no enthusiasm. Puritanism and presbyterianism were not the same thing, and even Englishmen who doubted of episcopacy as it stood made no secret of their distaste for presbytery in France, Geneva, the Low Countries, or in Scotland. Many troubles followed, but statesmanship deals with troubles as they arise, and Pym's action was a master-stroke.



IN 1643 notable actors vanished from the scene. In the closing days of 1642, Richelieu the dictator of Europe had passed away. In a few months he was followed by his master, Louis XIII., brother of the English queen. Louis XIV., then a child five years old, began his famous reign of seventy-two many-coloured years, and Mazarin succeeded to the ascendancy and the policy of which Richelieu had given him the key. So on our own more dimly lighted stage conspicuous characters had gone.

Lord Brooke, author of one of the earliest and strongest attacks upon episcopacy, and standing almost as high as any in the confidence of the party, was shot from the central tower of the cathedral (March 2) by the soldiers besieged in Lichfield Close, On the other side the virtuous Falkland, harshly awakened from fair dreams of truth and peace by the rude clamour and savage blows of exasperated combatants, sought death in the front rank of the royal forces at the first battle of Newbury (September). His name remains when all arguments about him have been rehearsed and are at an end, -one of that rare band of the sons of time, soldiers in lost causes, who find this world too vexed and rough a scene for them, but to whom history will never grudge her tenderest memories.

Two figures more important than either of these had also disappeared. Hampden had been mortally

wounded in a skirmish at Chalgrove Field. Then in December the long strain of heavy anxieties burdening so many years had brought to an end the priceless life of Pym, the greatest leader of them all. With these two the giants of the first generation fell. The crisis had undergone once more a change of phase. The clouds hung heavier, the storm was darker, the ship laboured in the trough. A little group of men next stood in the front line, honourable in character and patriotic in intention, but mediocre in their capacity for war, and guided rather by amiable hopes than by a strong-handed grasp of shifting and dangerous positions. For them too the hour had struck. Essex, Manchester, Warwick, were slow in motion without being firm in conclusion ; just and candid, but with no faculty of clenching ; unwilling to see that Thorough must be met by Thorough; and of that Fabian type whom the quick call for action instead of inspiring irritates. Benevolent history may mourn that men so good were no longer able to serve their time. Their misfortune was that misgivings about future solutions dulled their sense of instant needs. Cromwell had truer impressions and better nerve. The one essential was that Charles should not come out master in the military struggle. Cromwell saw that at this stage nothing else mattered; he saw that the parliamentary liberties of the country could have no safety, until the king's weapon had been finally struck from his hand. At least one other actor in that scene was as keenly alive to this as Cromwell, and that was Charles himself.

It is a mistake to suppose that the patriots and their comrades had now at their back a nation at red heat. The flame kindled by the attempted arrest of the five members, and by the tyranny of the Star Chamber or of the bishops, had a little sunk. Divisions had arisen, and that fatal and familiar stage had come when men on the same side hate one

« PreviousContinue »