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Charles Dickens
A Child's History of England 34 Part 2
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OLIVER CROMWELL - whom the people long called OLD NOLL - in
accepting the office of Protector, had bound himself by a certain
paper which was handed to him, called 'the Instrument,' to summon
a Parliament, consisting of between four and five hundred members,
in the election of which neither the Royalists nor the Catholics were
to have any share. He had also pledged himself that this
Parliament should not be dissolved without its own consent until it
had sat five months.

When this Parliament met, Oliver made a speech to them of three
hours long, very wisely advising them what to do for the credit and
happiness of the country. To keep down the more violent members,
he required them to sign a recognition of what they were forbidden
by 'the Instrument' to do; which was, chiefly, to take the power
from one single person at the head of the state or to command the
army. Then he dismissed them to go to work. With his usual vigour
and resolution he went to work himself with some frantic preachers
- who were rather overdoing their sermons in calling him a villain
and a tyrant - by shutting up their chapels, and sending a few of
them off to prison.

There was not at that time, in England or anywhere else, a man so
able to govern the country as Oliver Cromwell. Although he ruled
with a strong hand, and levied a very heavy tax on the Royalists
(but not until they had plotted against his life), he ruled wisely,
and as the times required. He caused England to be so respected
abroad, that I wish some lords and gentlemen who have governed it
under kings and queens in later days would have taken a leaf out of
Oliver Cromwell's book. He sent bold Admiral Blake to the
Mediterranean Sea, to make the Duke of Tuscany pay sixty thousand
pounds for injuries he had done to British subjects, and spoliation
he had committed on English merchants. He further despatched him
and his fleet to Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, to have every English
ship and every English man delivered up to him that had been taken
by pirates in those parts. All this was gloriously done; and it
began to be thoroughly well known, all over the world, that England
was governed by a man in earnest, who would not allow the English
name to be insulted or slighted anywhere.

These were not all his foreign triumphs. He sent a fleet to sea
against the Dutch; and the two powers, each with one hundred ships
upon its side, met in the English Channel off the North Foreland,
where the fight lasted all day long. Dean was killed in this
fight; but Monk, who commanded in the same ship with him, threw his
cloak over his body, that the sailors might not know of his death,
and be disheartened. Nor were they. The English broadsides so
exceedingly astonished the Dutch that they sheered off at last,
though the redoubtable Van Tromp fired upon them with his own guns
for deserting their flag. Soon afterwards, the two fleets engaged
again, off the coast of Holland. There, the valiant Van Tromp was
shot through the heart, and the Dutch gave in, and peace was made.

Further than this, Oliver resolved not to bear the domineering and
bigoted conduct of Spain, which country not only claimed a right to
all the gold and silver that could be found in South America, and
treated the ships of all other countries who visited those regions,
as pirates, but put English subjects into the horrible Spanish
prisons of the Inquisition. So, Oliver told the Spanish ambassador
that English ships must be free to go wherever they would, and that
English merchants must not be thrown into those same dungeons,
no, not for the pleasure of all the priests in Spain. To this, the
Spanish ambassador replied that the gold and silver country, and
the Holy Inquisition, were his King's two eyes, neither of which he
could submit to have put out. Very well, said Oliver, then he was
afraid he (Oliver) must damage those two eyes directly.

So, another fleet was despatched under two commanders, PENN and
VENABLES, for Hispaniola; where, however, the Spaniards got the
better of the fight. Consequently, the fleet came home again,
after taking Jamaica on the way. Oliver, indignant with the two
commanders who had not done what bold Admiral Blake would have
done, clapped them both into prison, declared war against Spain,
and made a treaty with France, in virtue of which it was to shelter
the King and his brother the Duke of York no longer. Then, he sent
a fleet abroad under bold Admiral Blake, which brought the King of
Portugal to his senses - just to keep its hand in - and then
engaged a Spanish fleet, sunk four great ships, and took two more,
laden with silver to the value of two millions of pounds: which
dazzling prize was brought from Portsmouth to London in waggons,
with the populace of all the towns and villages through which the
waggons passed, shouting with all their might. After this victory,
bold Admiral Blake sailed away to the port of Santa Cruz to cut off
the Spanish treasure-ships coming from Mexico. There, he found
them, ten in number, with seven others to take care of them, and a
big castle, and seven batteries, all roaring and blazing away at
him with great guns. Blake cared no more for great guns than for
pop-guns - no more for their hot iron balls than for snow-balls.
He dashed into the harbour, captured and burnt every one of the
ships, and came sailing out again triumphantly, with the victorious
English flag flying at his masthead. This was the last triumph of
this great commander, who had sailed and fought until he was quite
worn out. He died, as his successful ship was coming into Plymouth
Harbour amidst the joyful acclamations of the people, and was
buried in state in Westminster Abbey. Not to lie there, long.

Over and above all this, Oliver found that the VAUDOIS, or
Protestant people of the valleys of Lucerne, were insolently
treated by the Catholic powers, and were even put to death for
their religion, in an audacious and bloody manner. Instantly, he
informed those powers that this was a thing which Protestant
England would not allow; and he speedily carried his point, through
the might of his great name, and established their right to worship
God in peace after their own harmless manner.

Lastly, his English army won such admiration in fighting with the
French against the Spaniards, that, after they had assaulted the
town of Dunkirk together, the French King in person gave it up to
the English, that it might be a token to them of their might and

There were plots enough against Oliver among the frantic
religionists (who called themselves Fifth Monarchy Men), and among
the disappointed Republicans. He had a difficult game to play, for
the Royalists were always ready to side with either party against
him. The 'King over the water,' too, as Charles was called, had no
scruples about plotting with any one against his life; although
there is reason to suppose that he would willingly have married
one of his daughters, if Oliver would have had such a son-in-law.
There was a certain COLONEL SAXBY of the army, once a great
supporter of Oliver's but now turned against him, who was a
grievous trouble to him through all this part of his career; and
who came and went between the discontented in England and Spain,
and Charles who put himself in alliance with Spain on being thrown
off by France. This man died in prison at last; but not until
there had been very serious plots between the Royalists and
Republicans, and an actual rising of them in England, when they
burst into the city of Salisbury, on a Sunday night, seized the
judges who were going to hold the assizes there next day, and would
have hanged them but for the merciful objections of the more
temperate of their number. Oliver was so vigorous and shrewd that
he soon put this revolt down, as he did most other conspiracies;
and it was well for one of its chief managers - that same Lord
Wilmot who had assisted in Charles's flight, and was now EARL OF
ROCHESTER - that he made his escape. Oliver seemed to have eyes
and ears everywhere, and secured such sources of information as his
enemies little dreamed of. There was a chosen body of six persons,
called the Sealed Knot, who were in the closest and most secret
confidence of Charles. One of the foremost of these very men, a
SIR RICHARD WILLIS, reported to Oliver everything that passed
among them, and had two hundred a year for it.

MILES SYNDARCOMB, also of the old army, was another conspirator
against the Protector. He and a man named CECIL, bribed one of his
Life Guards to let them have good notice when he was going out -
intending to shoot him from a window. But, owing either to his
caution or his good fortune, they could never get an aim at him.
Disappointed in this design, they got into the chapel in Whitehall,
with a basketful of combustibles, which were to explode by means of
a slow match in six hours; then, in the noise and confusion of the
fire, they hoped to kill Oliver. But, the Life Guardsman himself
disclosed this plot; and they were seized, and Miles died (or
killed himself in prison) a little while before he was ordered for
execution. A few such plotters Oliver caused to be beheaded, a few
more to be hanged, and many more, including those who rose in arms
against him, to be sent as slaves to the West Indies. If he were
rigid, he was impartial too, in asserting the laws of England.
When a Portuguese nobleman, the brother of the Portuguese
ambassador, killed a London citizen in mistake for another man with
whom he had had a quarrel, Oliver caused him to be tried before a
jury of Englishmen and foreigners, and had him executed in spite of
the entreaties of all the ambassadors in London.

One of Oliver's own friends, the DUKE OF OLDENBURGH, in sending
him a present of six fine coach-horses, was very near doing more
to please the Royalists than all the plotters put together. One day,
Oliver went with his coach, drawn by these six horses, into Hyde
Park, to dine with his secretary and some of his other gentlemen
under the trees there. After dinner, being merry, he took it into
his head to put his friends inside and to drive them home: a
postillion riding one of the foremost horses, as the custom was.
On account of Oliver's being too free with the whip, the six fine
horses went off at a gallop, the postillion got thrown, and Oliver
fell upon the coach-pole and narrowly escaped being shot by his own
pistol, which got entangled with his clothes in the harness, and
went off. He was dragged some distance by the foot, until his foot
came out of the shoe, and then he came safely to the ground under
the broad body of the coach, and was very little the worse. The
gentlemen inside were only bruised, and the discontented people
of all parties were much disappointed.

The rest of the history of the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell is a
history of his Parliaments. His first one not pleasing him at all,
he waited until the five months were out, and then dissolved it.
The next was better suited to his views; and from that he desired
to get - if he could with safety to himself - the title of King.
He had had this in his mind some time: whether because he thought
that the English people, being more used to the title, were more
likely to obey it; or whether because he really wished to be a king
himself, and to leave the succession to that title in his family,
is far from clear. He was already as high, in England and in all
the world, as he would ever be, and I doubt if he cared for the
mere name. However, a paper, called the 'Humble Petition and
Advice,' was presented to him by the House of Commons, praying him
to take a high title and to appoint his successor. That he would
have taken the title of King there is no doubt, but for the strong
opposition of the army. This induced him to forbear, and to assent
only to the other points of the petition. Upon which occasion
there was another grand show in Westminster Hall, when the Speaker
of the House of Commons formally invested him with a purple robe
lined with ermine, and presented him with a splendidly bound Bible,
and put a golden sceptre in his hand. The next time the Parliament
met, he called a House of Lords of sixty members, as the petition
gave him power to do; but as that Parliament did not please him
either, and would not proceed to the business of the country, he
jumped into a coach one morning, took six Guards with him, and sent
them to the right-about. I wish this had been a warning to
Parliaments to avoid long speeches, and do more work.

It was the month of August, one thousand six hundred and fifty-
eight, when Oliver Cromwell's favourite daughter, ELIZABETH
CLAYPOLE (who had lately lost her youngest son), lay very ill, and
his mind was greatly troubled, because he loved her dearly.
Another of his daughters was married to LORD FALCONBERG, another
to the grandson of the Earl of Warwick, and he had made his son
RICHARD one of the Members of the Upper House. He was very kind
and loving to them all, being a good father and a good husband; but
he loved this daughter the best of the family, and went down to
Hampton Court to see her, and could hardly be induced to stir from
her sick room until she died. Although his religion had been of a
gloomy kind, his disposition had been always cheerful. He had been
fond of music in his home, and had kept open table once a week for
all officers of the army not below the rank of captain, and had
always preserved in his house a quiet, sensible dignity. He
encouraged men of genius and learning, and loved to have them about
him. MILTON was one of his great friends. He was good humoured
too, with the nobility, whose dresses and manners were very
different from his; and to show them what good information he had,
he would sometimes jokingly tell them when they were his guests,
where they had last drunk the health of the 'King over the water,'
and would recommend them to be more private (if they could) another
time. But he had lived in busy times, had borne the weight of
heavy State affairs, and had often gone in fear of his life. He
was ill of the gout and ague; and when the death of his beloved
child came upon him in addition, he sank, never to raise his head
again. He told his physicians on the twenty-fourth of August that
the Lord had assured him that he was not to die in that illness,
and that he would certainly get better. This was only his sick
fancy, for on the third of September, which was the anniversary of
the great battle of Worcester, and the day of the year which he
called his fortunate day, he died, in the sixtieth year of his age.
He had been delirious, and had lain insensible some hours, but he
had been overheard to murmur a very good prayer the day before.
The whole country lamented his death. If you want to know the real
worth of Oliver Cromwell, and his real services to his country, you
can hardly do better than compare England under him, with England

He had appointed his son Richard to succeed him, and after there
had been, at Somerset House in the Strand, a lying in state more
splendid than sensible - as all such vanities after death are, I
think - Richard became Lord Protector. He was an amiable country
gentleman, but had none of his father's great genius, and was quite
unfit for such a post in such a storm of parties. Richard's
Protectorate, which only lasted a year and a half, is a history of
quarrels between the officers of the army and the Parliament, and
between the officers among themselves; and of a growing discontent
among the people, who had far too many long sermons and far too few
amusements, and wanted a change. At last, General Monk got the
army well into his own hands, and then in pursuance of a secret
plan he seems to have entertained from the time of Oliver's death,
declared for the King's cause. He did not do this openly; but, in
his place in the House of Commons, as one of the members for
Devonshire, strongly advocated the proposals of one SIR JOHN
GREENVILLE, who came to the House with a letter from Charles,
dated from Breda, and with whom he had previously been in secret
communication. There had been plots and counterplots, and a recall
of the last members of the Long Parliament, and an end of the Long
Parliament, and risings of the Royalists that were made too soon;
and most men being tired out, and there being no one to head the
country now great Oliver was dead, it was readily agreed to welcome
Charles Stuart. Some of the wiser and better members said - what
was most true - that in the letter from Breda, he gave no real
promise to govern well, and that it would be best to make him
pledge himself beforehand as to what he should be bound to do for
the benefit of the kingdom. Monk said, however, it would be all
right when he came, and he could not come too soon.

So, everybody found out all in a moment that the country MUST be
prosperous and happy, having another Stuart to condescend to reign
over it; and there was a prodigious firing off of guns, lighting of
bonfires, ringing of bells, and throwing up of caps. The people
drank the King's health by thousands in the open streets, and
everybody rejoiced. Down came the Arms of the Commonwealth, up
went the Royal Arms instead, and out came the public money. Fifty
thousand pounds for the King, ten thousand pounds for his brother
the Duke of York, five thousand pounds for his brother the Duke of
Gloucester. Prayers for these gracious Stuarts were put up in all
the churches; commissioners were sent to Holland (which suddenly
found out that Charles was a great man, and that it loved him) to
invite the King home; Monk and the Kentish grandees went to Dover,
to kneel down before him as he landed. He kissed and embraced
Monk, made him ride in the coach with himself and his brothers,
came on to London amid wonderful shoutings, and passed through the
army at Blackheath on the twenty-ninth of May (his birthday), in
the year one thousand six hundred and sixty. Greeted by splendid
dinners under tents, by flags and tapestry streaming from all the
houses, by delighted crowds in all the streets, by troops of
noblemen and gentlemen in rich dresses, by City companies, train-
bands, drummers, trumpeters, the great Lord Mayor, and the majestic
Aldermen, the King went on to Whitehall. On entering it, he
commemorated his Restoration with the joke that it really would
seem to have been his own fault that he had not come long ago,
since everybody told him that he had always wished for him with all
his heart.


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