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- The Life of John Milton Vol. 3 1643-1649 - 100/128 -


question passed with the affirmative." On the following day, accordingly, we find "The question was propounded, That the House will once again make application to the King for those things which the Houses shall judge necessary for the welfare and safety of the kingdom; and, the question being put, Whether this question shall be now put, the House was divided: (Sir Arthur Haselrig, Sir John Evelyn of Wilts, tellers for the _Yea_) with the _Yea_ 70; (Sir Peter Wentworth, Colonel Marten, tellers for the _No_) with the _No_ 23: so that the question passed with the affirmative." As far as one can construe what lies under these entries, the state of the case was this:--By the King's new rejection of the Nineteen Propositions (the Army-chiefs aware of the rejection beforehand and much approving [Footnote: Berkley's Memoirs, Harl. Misc. IX. 478. "We [Berkley, Ashburnham, &c.] gave our friends in the Army a sight of this [the King's] Answer the day before it was sent, with which they seemed infinitely satisfied."]), the Presbyterians were checkmated. Unless they would vote the King dethroned, they had no move left. The power of moving then lay with the Independents. Now the more strenuously Republican of these, including Colonel Rainsborough and Henry Marten, were for not using the power, either because they desired to break with Charles entirely, or because they wanted to shut up him and Parliament together to the Army Proposals absolutely. Cromwell, however, though faithful to the Army Proposals as the plan ideally best, was not prepared to take the responsibility of bringing on the crash at once. Might there not be a temporizing method? Might not the two Houses be asked to cease thinking of the Nineteen Propositions as a perfected series to which they were bound in all its parts and items, and to go over the whole business afresh, selecting the most essential questions of the Nineteen Propositions and expressing present conclusions on these in new Propositions to be offered to the King? Haselrig, Evelyn of Wilts, and others of the Independent leaders, agreeing with this view, and a good few of the Presbyterians perhaps accepting it gladly in their dilemma, Cromwell divided the Commons upon it, and obtained his decisive majority of Sept. 22, confirmed by the as decisive majority of the next day. [Footnote: Commons Journals of days named.]

The Lords having concurred, Sept. 30, in this motion for a new application to the King, and the Scottish Commissioners having been duly informed, the two Houses went on busily, framing the new Propositions, and, where any differences arose, adjusting them at conferences with each other. By the 28th of October a good many important propositions had been agreed to; but, on the whole, one does not see that the terms for Charles were to be much easier by this route than they had been by the other. In one matter, however, the Commons _had_ proposed a change. On the 13th of October, a committee having reported on that one of the intended Propositions which concerned Church-government, and the resolution before the House being that the King be asked to give his consent to the Acts for settling the Presbyterian Government, Cromwell had forced the House to three divisions. First he tried to limit the term of such settlement to three years, and lost in a small House by a minority of 35 to 38; then he insisted that _some_ limit of time should be mentioned, and won by 44 to 30; then he proposed that seven years should be the term, and lost by 33 to 41, Finally it was agreed that the Presbyterian Settlement to which the King's consent should be asked should be till the end of the Parliament next after that then sitting. But on the same day and the following the question of Toleration also came up, and with these results: Toleration to be granted of separate worship for Nonconformists of tender consciences, but not for Roman Catholics, nor any toleration of the use of the Book of Common Prayer, nor of preaching contrary to the main principles of the Christian Religion, nor yet of absence on the Lord's day from worship and hearing of the word of God somewhere. This was all the amount of Toleration that Cromwell and the Independents even in October 1647, with an Army at Putney all aflame for Toleration, could extract from the reluctant Commons at Westminster. The Lords appear to have hesitated about even so much as this; for it was not till the 2nd of November that the two Houses came to an understanding on the subject, and even on the 9th of that month the Lords wanted some additional security in the form of a "Proposition for suppressing innovations in Religion." [Footnote: Lords and Commons Journals of dates named; and Rushworth, VII. 843-4 and 853-4.]

Here, to bring the history of the English Church-question to a period for the present, we may notice one or two contemporary incidents.----On Saturday, Oct. 2, the Commons had resumed their examination of the Westminster Assembly's _Confession of Faith_, at the point where they had left off that work in the preceding May, viz. at Chap. IV. "Of Creation," (_ant_, p. 545). They passed that chapter and also the first paragraph of Chap. V., "Of Providence," that day, and resolved to continue the business next Wednesday and punctually every following Wednesday till it should be despatched. But Wednesday after Wednesday came; other business was too pressing; and so the matter hung. This was the more inconvenient because on the 22nd of October the Assembly presented to the two Houses their _Larger Catechism_ completed. It was ordered that 600 copies should be printed for consideration, and that matter too lay over. In the midst of such delays in Parliament it was something on the credit side that the SECOND PROVINCIAL PRESBYTERIAN SYNOD OF LONDON duly met in Sion College on the 8th of November, with Dr. Seaman for Moderator. It was, indeed, time now for English Presbyterianism to be walking alone. Gillespie, one of the two Scottish Divines left last in the Westminster Assembly, had returned to Scotland in the preceding August; and on the 9th of November it was announced in the Lords that Mr. Rutherford too was going. In bidding farewell to his brethren of the Assembly he took care to have it duly recorded in their books that the Scottish Commissioners, all or some, had been present to that point and had constantly taken part in the proceedings. The Assembly was still to linger on, he meant to say, but its best days were over. [Footnote: Lords and Commons Journals of the dates given; and Neal, III. 354 and 358-9.]

There was no greater mystery all this while than the conduct of Cromwell and Ireton. Since the King had come to Hampton Court he had been in continual intercourse with them, either in direct conferences, or by messages through Mr. Ashburnham and others. The intercourse had been kept up even after Cromwell's motion of Sept. 22 for re-approaching the King on the whole question in a Parliamentary way, and while Cromwell was constantly attending the House and taking part in the proceedings consequent on his motion. [Footnote: "Sir, I pray excuse my not- attendance upon you. I feared to miss the House a day, where it's very necessary for me to be." So wrote Cromwell to Fairfax Oct. 13, the very day of his three divisions of the House on the duration of Presbytery, and of the compromise there on Toleration (Carlyle's Cromwell, f. 239).] What did it all mean? We have little difficulty now in seeing what it meant. Cromwell, even while urging on the re-application to the King in a Parliamentary way, had not given up hope that the King might be constrained into an extra-Parliamentary pact on some basis like that of the Army Proposals. Might not Charles be wise now in the extremity to which he saw himself reduced, and accept the prospect, which the Army scheme held out, of a restoration of his Royalty, under inevitable constitutional restrictions, but those less galling in many respects, and especially in the religious respect, than the restrictions demanded by Parliament? Such, we can see now, were the reasonings of Cromwell and Ireton, and to such an end were their labours directed. But the world at the time was suspicious and saw much more. What the English Presbyterians and the Scots saw was Cromwell wheedling his Majesty into the possession of himself and his Sectaries, so as to be able to overthrow Parliament and Presbytery immediately, and then reserve his Majesty for more leisurely ruin. What the Royalists round the King saw was more. A blue riband, the Earldom of Essex, the Captaincy-general of all the forces, the permanent premiership in England under the restored Royalty, and the Lieutenancy of Ireland for his son-in-law Ireton--how could the Brewer resist such temptations? Mean rumours of this kind ran about, or were mischievously circulated, till they affected the Army itself and roused suspicions of Cromwell's integrity even among his own Ironsides. It was not only that Colonel Rainsborough, who had opposed Cromwell's motion for re-opening negotiations with Charles, had since then stood out against his policy of conciliation, and had been joined by other officers, such as Colonel Ewer. Despite this opposition in the Council of the chief officers at Putney, Cromwell and Ireton still ruled in that body. But among the inferior officers and the Agitatorships a spirit had arisen outgoing the control of the chiefs, critical of their proceedings, and impatient for a swifter and rougher settlement of the whole political question than seemed agreeable to Cromwell. [Footnote: Berkley's Memoirs (Harl. Misc.) 476, 478; Holles, 184; Baxter, Book I. p.60; Clar. 620; Godwin, II. 400 _et seq._ See also Major Huntington's Paper of Accusations against Cromwell and Ireton in Aug. 1648 (Parl. Hist. III. 966-974). Duly interpreted, it is very instructive.]

At Putney the Army, having little to do, had resolved itself into a great daily debating-society, holding meetings of its own Agitatorships and receiving deputations from the similar but civilian Agitatorships that had sprung up in London. Hence a rapid increase among the common soldiers of the political school of THE LEVELLERS. Of this school John Lilburne, still in his prison in the Tower, but with the freedom of pen and ink there, was now conspicuously one of the chiefs. "That the House of Commons should think of that great Murderer of England (meaning the King), for by the impartial Law of God there is no exemption of Kings, Princes, Dukes, Earls, more than cobblers, tinkers, or chimney-sweepers;" "That the Lords are but painted puppets and Dagons, no natural issue of Laws, but the mushrooms of prerogative, the wens of just government, putting the body of the People to pain,"--such were opinions and phrases collected from Lilburne's and other pamphlets by the Scottish Government as early as Aug. 13, and then publicly presented in the name of Scotland for the rebuke of the English Parliament and the horror of the whole British world. In such phrases we have the essence of the doctrine of the Levellers, as distinct from the more tentative Democracy of many contemporary minds. The _Army Proposals_ of Aug. 1 were not for a total subversion of the English Constitution of King, Lords, and Commons, but only for a great limitation of the Royal Power, a reduction also of the power of the House of Lords, a corresponding increase of the power of the Commons or Representative House, and a broader basing of that House in a popular suffrage. But, now that the King had rejected the Proposals, the Levelling Doctrine burst up from its secret beds, and rushed more visibly through the whole Army. There began to be comments among the Agitators on the dilatoriness of Cromwell, and especially on his coquettings with the King. "I have honoured you, and my good thoughts of you are not yet wholly gone, though I confess they are much weakened," Lilburne had written to Cromwell Aug. 13, kindly offering him a chance of redeeming his character, but otherwise threatening to pull him down from all his "present conceived greatness" before he was three months older. Cromwell not having mended his ways, Lilburne had been endeavouring to fulfil his threat; and by the end of October there was a wide-spread mutiny through the regiments at Putney. The Army, having its own printers, had by that time made its designs known in two documents. One, entitled _The Case of the Army_, was signed by the agents of five regiments, Cromwell's and Ireton's own included (Oct. 18); the other, entitled _An Agreement of the People_ (Nov. 1), emanated from the same regiments and eleven others. Both documents pledged the regiments not to disband until the Army had secured its rights; and among these rights were the speedy dissolution of the existing Parliament, and the reconstitution of the Government of England in a single Representative House, elected by a reformed system of suffrage, and meeting biennially. This House was to be supreme in all matters, except five specified fundamentals which were to be regarded as settled _ab initio_ beyond disturbance or even reconsideration by any corporate authority whatever. One of them was absolute freedom to all "in the matter of Religion and the ways of God's worship"; but this was not to prevent the State from setting up any "public way of instructing the Nation, so it be not compulsive." In fact, here was the accurate essence of the _Army Proposals_ over again, only distilled to a higher strength and more fiercely flavoured. [Footnote: Rushworth, VII. 769, 770, 845-6, and 859, 860; Godwin, II. 423-428, and 436-450. One of the numerous incredible and


The Life of John Milton Vol. 3 1643-1649 - 100/128

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