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the day, leaving other things to come after in their place. Upon the fall of Exeter, he was despatched by Fairfax to report their doings to the parliament. He received the formal thanks of the House of Commons, as well as a more solid recognition of his fidelity and service in the shape of estates of the value of two thousand five hundred pounds a year. Then Cromwell went back to Fairfax and the investment of Oxford.
ONE Sunday at midnight (April 26, 1646), the king at Oxford came secretly to an appointed room in one of the colleges, had his hair and beard cut short, was dressed in the disguise of a servant, and at three in the morning, with a couple of companions, crossed over Magdalen Bridge and passed out of the gate, leaving behind him for ever the grey walls and venerable towers, the churches and libraries, the cloisters and gardens, of the ever - faithful city. He had not even made up his mind whither to go, whether to London or to the Scots. Riding through Maidenhead and Slough, the party reached Uxbridge and Hillingdon, and there at last after long and perplexed debate he resolved to set his face northward, but with no clear or settled design. For eight days men wondered whether the fugitive king lay hidden in London or had gone to Ireland. Charles was afraid of London, and he hoped that the French envoy would assure him that the Scots were willing to grant him honourable conditions. Short of this, he was inclined rather to cast himself upon the English than to trust his countrymen. His choice was probably the wrong one. If he had gone to London he would have had a better chance than ever came to him again, of widening the party
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divisions in the House of Commons, and he would have shown the English that he had that confidence in their loyalty which at this, as almost at every other stage, the general body of them were little likely to disappoint or to betray. After all, it mattered less where Charles was than what he was. If, in the language of the time, God had hardened him, if he was bent on “ tinkling on bishops and delinquents and such foolish toys,” he might as well try his shallow arts in one place as another. Do what he would, grim men and grim facts had now fast hold upon him. He found his way to Harrow, thence to St. Albans, and thence to Downham. There the disguised king stayed at a tavern until word came from Montereul not very substantial, as it proved—that the Scots would give the assurances that he desired. Ten days after leaving Oxford Charles rode into the Scottish quarters at Southwell. He was never a free man again. Before the end of June, Oxford surrendered. The generals were blamed for the liberality of the terms of capitulation, but Cromwell insisted on their faithful observance, for he knew that the war was now at an end, and that in civil strife clemency must be the true policy.
With the close of the war and the surrender of the person of the king a new crisis began, not less decisive than that which ended in the raising of the royal standard four years before, but rapidly opening more extensive ground of conflict and awakening more formidable elements. Since then Europe has learned, or has not learned, the lesson that revolutions are apt to follow a regular order. It would be a complete mistake, however, to think that England in 1647 was at all like France after the return of Bonaparte from his victorious campaigns in Italy. They were unlike, because Cromwell was not a bandit, and the army of the New Model was not a standing force of many tens of thousands
THE NEW SITUATION
of men, essentially conscienceless and only existing for war and conquest. The task was different. No situations in history really reproduce themselves. In France the fabric of government had been violently dashed to pieces from foundation to crest. Those ideas in men's minds by which national institutions are moulded, and from which they mainly draw their life, had become faded and powerless. The nation had no reverence for the throne, and no affection either for the king while he was alive, or for his memory after they had killed him. Not a single institution stood sacred. In England, in 1647, no such terrible catastrophe had happened. A confused storm had swept over the waters, many a brave man had been carried overboard, but the ship of state seemed to have ridden out the hurricane. The king had been beaten, but the nation never dreamed of anything but monarchy. The bishops had gone down, but the nation desired a national church. The lords had dwindled to a dubious shadow, but the nation cherished its unalterable reverence for parliament.
The highest numbers in a division, even in the early days of the Long Parliament, do not seem to have gone above three hundred and eighty out of a total of near five hundred. After the war broke out they naturally sank to a far lower figure. At least a hundred members were absent in the discharge of local duties. A hundred more took the side of the king, and shook the dust of Westminster from off their feet. On the first Self-denying Ordinance one hundred and ninety members voted. The appointment of Fairfax to be commander-inchief was carried by one hundred and one against sixty-nine. The ordinary working strength was not above a hundred. The weakness of moral authority in a House in this condition was painfully evident, but so too were the difficulties in the way of any remedy. A general dissolution, as if the
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country were in deep tranquillity instead of being torn and wearied by civil convulsion, was out of the question. Apart from the technical objection of ziling a new parliament without the king and the king's great seal, the risk of throwing upon doubtful constituencies all the vital issues then open and unsettled was too formidable for any statesman in his senses to provoke.
The House proceeded gradually, and after Vaseby issued writs in small batches. Before the end of 1646 about two hundred and thirty-five new members had been returned, and of these the majority either professed independeney or leaned towards it, or at least were averse to presbyterian exclusiveness, and not a few were officers in the army. Thus in all revolutions, as they move forward, stratum is superimposed above stratum. Coke, Selden, Eliot, Hampden, Pym, the first generation of constitutional reformers, were now succeeded by a fresh generation of various revolutionary shades Ireton, Ludlow, Hutchinson, Algernon Sidney, Fleetwood, and Blake. Cromwell, from his success as commander, his proved experience, and his stern adherence to the great dividing doctrine of toleration, was the natural leader of this new and powerful group. Sidney's stoical death years after on Tower Hill, and Blake's destruction of the Spanish silver-galleons in the bay of Santa Cruz, the most splendid naval achievement of that age, have made a deeper mark on historic imagination, but for the purposes of the hour it was Ireton who had the more important part to play. Ireton, now five-and-thirty, was the son of a country gentleman in Nottinghamshire, had been bred at Oxford, and read law in the Temple. He had fought at Edgehill, had ridden by Cromwell's side at Gainsborough and Marston Moor, and, as we have seen, was in command of the horse on the left wing at Naseby, where his fortune