The “Rump Parliament” purged nine-tenths of the House of Commons in order to try King Charles I, who was beheaded on January 30, 1649. On the same day they declared that he would have no successor. The next day John Owen gave them his sermon Righteous Zeal Encouraged by Divine Protection. This Parliament was led by Oliver Cromwell and other “Grandees” of the Army. They decided to abolish the monarchy on February 6 and the House of Peers (Lords) the next day and enacted them into law on March 17 and 19.
On February 13 John Milton published The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates: proving that it is lawful, and hath been held so through the ages, for any, who have the Power, to call to account a Tyrant, or wicked King, and after due conviction, to depose, and put him to death; if the ordinary Magistrate have neglected, or deny’d to do it, a justification of the regicide. He argued that all men are naturally born free in the image of God and are privileged above all creatures to command and not obey. The king does not have the right to make his subjects into his slaves, and not to hold kings accountable is to overturn all law and government. A king or magistrate only has authority over people for their good, and the people may choose or reject him.
In mid-February the Parliament nominated and elected a Council of State for administration with 41 members of which 31 were in the Rump Parliament. They were to be elected each year. On March 6 The Council reported that England had an army of 32,000 plus 12,000 for Ireland that would cost £120,000 a month. Three days later three convicted royalists were beheaded.
On March 15 the Council appointed Cromwell commander in chief and John Milton the Secretary of Foreign Tongues, and he corresponded with other governments in Latin and knew Italian, French, and Spanish as well. Roger Williams taught him Dutch and in exchange learned other languages. On March 28 the Council asked Milton to respond to “Articles of Peace” made and concluded with the Irish rebels and papists in January by Earl James of Ormonde in behalf of the late King. Milton denounced the articles for making Ulster Presbyterians into “inhumane rebels and papists,” and he justified Cromwell’s impending invasion of Ireland. Milton also replied to the Eikon Basilike (King’s Image: The Portraiture of His Sacred Majesty in His Solitudes and Sufferings) that was later claimed to have been written by John Gauden, Bishop of Worcester. Milton wrote a reply twice as long which he published as Eikonoklastes in October. He criticized Presbyterians for turning from fighting the King to supporting him. He noted that kings usually have weak arguments because they usually use their will more than their reason. Milton easily showed the falseness of the King’s pious claims because most people knew the facts.
Also in March 1649 the Parliament began assessing a monthly tax of £90,000 and continued the excise tax. On March 17 the Commons abolished the House of Lords, and two days later the monarchy. On April 2 the Parliament deprived the Lord Mayor of London of his office, fined him £2,000, and imprisoned him for a month, and five aldermen were also replaced. Excessive rain had ruined crops, and limited food was sold at famine prices.
Some soldiers followed the Leveller “Freeborn” John Lilburne who in February published England’s New Chains. Milton refused to criticize it; but Parliament declared this book seditious on March 28, and the next day they detained Lilburne, William Walwyn, Richard Overton, and the Levellers’ Treasurer Thomas Prince in the Tower. Cromwell and others feared that a freely elected parliament by manhood suffrage would let the poor govern the rich and would destroy private property. Yet Lilburne and most Levellers wanted a democratic parliament with individual freedom, and they were concerned that Cromwell was moving toward military despotism. On April 16 Lilburne and the Levellers issued a new manifesto declaring that “every man” has a right to his own property. Robert Lockyer was executed on April 27, and thousands attended his funeral. On May 1 Lilburne issued a revised Agreement of the People showing that he distrusted the Parliamentary government as much as he had the monarchy. News arrived that three regiments were refusing to leave England to fight in Ireland. Cromwell spoke to two regiments in Hyde Park on May 9 and promised that soldiers owed pay would get former Crown land. Armed forces led by Cromwell and General Thomas Fairfax suppressed the Leveller mutinies by May 14, the day of the new Treason Act which added provoking mutiny in the ranks. William Thompson wrote England’s Standard Advanced, and his brother Cornet James Thompson was condemned to death by a court martial for inciting mutiny and was executed on the 17th with two corporals. On May 19 Parliament declared England a Free Commonwealth.
The True Levellers (called “Diggers” by their enemies) led by Gerrard Winstanley on April 16, 1649 organized a commune on St. George’s Hill at Weybridge in Surrey. They used public land to grow and share food; but General Fairfax’s troops dispersed them by the 19th. Winstanley and William Everard were summoned and refused to remove their hats. Everard published a manifesto on April 26 calling landlords “thieves and murderers,” and he was committed to the Bridewell prison for the insane. Wealthy neighbors forced Diggers to abandon their experiments by August. In 1650 Winstanley published his New-Years Gift for the Parliament and Army in which he emphasized the power of human community in the unity of the spirit of love which leads to truth and the community of the earth for livelihood in food and clothing without using force, and he called Jesus Christ the greatest and truest Leveller ever.
Lilburne managed to publish more pamphlets from prison including an impeachment of Cromwell and his son-in-law Henry Ireton for treason in August and his Outcry of the Young Men on September 1, which was such an incitement that he was prosecuted for treason. In October he was acquitted by twelve jurors, but by then the Leveller movement had been repressed. On September 20 Parliament required a license to print any book or pamphlet. On the 27th they repealed all statutes enforcing church attendance. Lilburne was voted a Common Councilor on December 21, but five days later Parliament quashed his election.
On January 2, 1650 Parliament passed the Act for Subscribing the Engagement which required all men 18 and older to declare and promise that they “will be true and faithful to the Commonwealth of England as it is now established, without a king or House of Lords.” They also ordered all law courts to use English and no Latin. On May 10 they imposed the death penalty for adultery, fornication, and incest to suppress the nonconformists. However, juries refused to convict, and the only person convicted of adultery was not executed. Marchamont Nedham had been arrested for editing a royalist newspaper in 1649, but on June 6, 1650 he started Mercurius Politicus as the government newspaper. On August 1 Cromwell formed an Economic Council.
Matthew Hale published Analysis of the Civil Law, proposing how the laws of England could be codified. The Puritan Richard Baxter published The Saints’ Everlasting Rest in 1650. That year England suffered from a typhus epidemic, and in 1659 physician Thomas Willis would be the first to describe typhoid fever. In 1650 London’s population reached 350,000, and the first coffee house opened in Oxford.
Also in 1650 Parliament also passed the Act for the Better Promotion of the Gospel in Wales which gave the Welsh more religious independence. In the next three years commissioners removed 278 clerics, and they hired many itinerant preachers and established schools in the urban areas of Wales. The independents and Baptists increased, and Presbyterians thrived in Flintshire. Morgan Llwyd’s Book of the Three Birds (Llyfr y Tri Aderyn) was published in 1653.
The Commonwealth attempted to supervise the colonies and passed the Navigation Acts of October 1650 and October 1651 to try to take carrying trade from the Dutch, provoking a naval war which caused a government deficit of £870,000 in 1652.
The economic crisis of 1649 stimulated much publishing of reform ideas. London bookseller George Thomason collected more than 18,000 publications between 1640 and 1655 and 3,000 more by 1660. Censorship began in 1649 with the seizing of an edition of the Koran in London.
John Milton was in charge of propaganda and censorship from December 1649 until January 1653 when he had to resign because of blindness. His vision had deteriorated over the previous eight years until glaucoma caused him to see only white (not black), but he continued to work as a translator for the government through 1659 with the aid of secretaries, one of whom was the poet Andrew Marvell. In November 1649 the French Claudius Salmasius had published Defensio Regia pro Carolo I at the behest of the exiled Charles II, and in response Milton published his Defensio pro Populo Anglicano (Defense of the English People), his first defense of the Commonwealth that was registered on December 31, 1650 and printed twice in England and eleven times abroad in the next two years. Milton railed against tyranny and superstition which he considered most fatal to virtue. He commended Cromwell for refusing to become king and wrote that whoever attacks the liberty of others will lose one’s own freedom and deserves that fate. Milton still acted as censor for the Mercurius Politicus newspaper edited by Marchamont Nedham, and he contributed his ideas on justice. He also wrote on theology and British history, translated psalms, wrote short poems, and began his Biblical epic.
General Thomas Harrison favored religious zealots. Fifth Monarchists believed that the books of Daniel and Revelations prophesied that the four great empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome would be followed by the reign of 0 and his saints. On October 15, 1651 they had published a Model of a New Representative urging the election of a parliament by the Churches of the Saints.
Jeremy Taylor (1613-67) had served as chaplain to Archbishop William Laud and King Charles I, and he was imprisoned several times during the Commonwealth. By 1648 he had written Of the Liberty of Prophesying as a plea for tolerance. He was a popular preacher and published his sermons. He wrote The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living in 1650 and The Rule and Exercises of Holy Dying in 1651.
Also in 1651 William Harvey published On the Generation of Animals, showing how animals and humans are generated from an egg and thus beginning the study of embryology. That year Francis Glisson published his Treatise on Rickets, though he did not understand the nutritional cause.
On July 16 Parliament authorized the sale of 70 estates confiscated from royalists. In January 1652 a Parliament’s committee ordered John Lilburne to pay £7,000 for criticizing Arthur Hesilrige and the committee and banished him, provoking protests by thousands of London citizens. Also in January judges were given salaries to replace fees and perquisites. After the Racovian Catechism was published in London with the doctrines of Poland’s Socinian (Unitarian) Churches, the Parliament on February 18 established the Committee for the Propagation of the Gospel. The next week the Oblivion Act granted a general pardon to royalists, but it was followed by two more acts for the sale of confiscated estates. Also in 1652 the Parliament set up a commission led by Judge Matthew Hale that adopted many ideas of the Levellers, but the lawyers who dominated the House did not implement any of the report’s proposals submitted on January 20, 1653.
Many new social experiments and new religious groups included Particular and General Baptists, Ranters, Grindletonians, Muggletonians, and Quakers. General Baptists preached that grace is available to all, but Particular Baptists held that only the “elect” were predestined for salvation. Ranters were noncomformists who were pantheistic in finding God in all creatures. They were considered antinomians because they did not obey the laws of Moses; but they had no leaders nor any organization. Grindletonians were Puritans in Lancashire who believed the Holy Spirit is most important and that a true Christian who has that Spirit within does not sin. Lodowicke Muggleton and his cousin John Reeve claimed they were commissioned by God as the last prophets, and they appealed to Ranters and opposed Quakers. Muggletonians did not participate in religious rituals, worship, or preaching, but they met for discussions; they were peaceful, believed in equality, and avoided politics. Since no state Church existed, most congregations elected their own ministers. Radicals opposed tithes that went to landowners as rent, and some advocated that women could participate in Church government and even preach.
After a naval victory off Dover on May 29, 1652 the Parliament declared war against the Dutch on June 30. English ships captured by the enemy meant losses for the owners, but Dutch vessels taken benefited the State. On November 24 Navy Commissioners reported mutinies on three ships, and in elections that day the peace party gained seats. On August 2 the Army had rejected the Perpetuation Bill and petitioned Parliament. On December 10 Parliament increased the monthly tax assessment from £90,000 to £120,000. The English navy led by Captain Robert Blake inflicted severe losses on the Dutch. Their Admiral Maarten van Tromp won a naval battle against the British at Dungeness on November 30 but lost at Portland on February 20, 1653. On June 3 off the Gabbard Sands the English Navy led by George Monck sank eleven Dutch ships and captured seven with 1,350 prisoners. On July 31 Monck’s naval forces at the battle of Scheveningen defeated the Dutch again and killed Van Tromp, though the Dutch broke the blockade. On September 5 the Assembly learned that the Navy had a deficit of £515,000. Unpaid sailors mutinied in October, and on the 27th a riot near Whitehall was put down by a cavalry charge; one leader was hanged.
After many months of debate Cromwell, having the support of the army and navy, on April 20, 1653 dismissed the Rump Parliament by occupying the chamber with about 25 soldiers. Then he ordered General Harrison to pull down the Speaker and remove his mace. Cromwell proposed that the House of Commons nominate a new constituent assembly. General Harrison had persuaded Cromwell to accept proved Puritans for an Assembly of Saints. Two days later an Army Declaration explained their reasons. The new government was to reduce taxes, make peace with the Dutch, pay the debts of the previous Parliament, and reform laws in order to give justice to the poor. On April 25 Cromwell pardoned several prisoners on their way to being executed for murder. Four days later seven military officers and three civilians were appointed to form a Council of State (called the “Decemvirate” by royalists), and Cromwell’s proclamation was issued on May 6. General Cromwell and the Council of the Army sent letters to congregational churches asking for nominations to Parliament. On May 28 the Army Council began selecting some nominations but substituting names for others. By June they had 129 representatives from England, five from Scotland, and six from Ireland, though all those from Scotland and Ireland were English or favored England. Cromwell was also on the Council which was increased to thirteen.
The Nominated members assembled on July 4, 1653 and the House named itself Parliament and appointed committees. Cromwell declared that 0 Christ would help them usher in what God had promised. They tried to replace the Common Law with the Law of Moses and repealed the hated excise tax. On the 9th Levellers published The Fundamental Laws and Liberties of England, arguing that only annually elected parliaments were lawful in England. On August 5 the Parliament abolished the complicated and delaying Court of Chancery which had 23,000 cases pending and had issued 500 orders. Fees and costs had been expensive, and many had been ruined and landed in debtors’ prison. Another Act declared that only marriages registered with a Justice of the Peace would be recognized by the State. The Assembly of Saints stopped the execution of thieves for their first offense and the burning of women while relieving creditors and poor prisoners. They promoted primary education and passed 26 acts in five months. Cromwell repealed the Engagement that had required a loyalty oath.
A petition presented by six youths, complaining the Parliament had not been legally elected but suggesting they could redeem themselves by being just to the oppressed, resulted in their imprisonment. John Lilburne on August 1 published The Upright Man’s Vindication asserting that the military had imposed this Parliament by conquest. He was tried for the capital crime of returning to England and was acquitted again on August 20, 1653, but Parliament kept him imprisoned until his death in 1657. Lilburne was allowed to visit his family occasionally and became a Quaker in 1656.
In early December 1653 moderates in the Assembly protected the legal ownership of tithes and did not want the issue discussed. On the 6th the House voted 83-81 to confirm the power of the Lord Protector. On the 12th young Charles Worsley, a supporter of Cromwell, condemned the abolishing of tithes as an attack on property and criticized the Assembly. Two days later the Council of the Army adopted General John Lambert’s draft of the Instrument of Government that made Cromwell the power in the Commonwealth with a new Parliament of 140 members. He declined to be king, and on the 16th Oliver Cromwell was inaugurated as Lord Protector and began signing his documents “Oliver.” He retained twelve judges and replaced two who had treated royalists unjustly. The Instrument guaranteed liberty of conscience for Christians who did not follow “popery or prelacy” and did not “practice licentiousness.” The Protector could suspend laws for twenty days. The new Parliament was to include 400 members from England and Wales and thirty each from Scotland and Ireland. Those with property worth at least £200 could vote. Those who had fought against Parliament were barred from voting or serving for four years, and all Roman Catholics were excluded.
After taking 1,700 prizes from the Dutch during three years of negotiations, on April 5, 1654 England made a peace treaty at Westminster. Cromwell insisted that the 3-year-old Prince William of Orange, grandson of Charles I, be excluded from high office in the United Netherlands. On the 11th England made a commercial treaty with Sweden, and the next day Parliament proclaimed English union with Scotland and Ireland with free trade and representation in Parliament. Oliver Cromwell and his family moved into Whitehall on April 14.
John Milton published his Second Defence of the English People on May 30, 1654 against the anonymous Cry of the King’s Blood that was published at The Hague in 1652 and had been written by the Anglican royalist Pierre du Moulin. Most of Milton’s book is biographical or a discussion of the current political situation in England. He defended Cromwell’s career and praised his leadership qualities. He argued that truth should be defended by reason which is most appropriate for humans. He warned that if elections and offices are dominated by those with the largest purses, then the fight for freedom will be in vain. To avoid slavery one must learn to obey right reason in order to master oneself. In 1655 Milton would publish a Defense of Himself using biting satire.
Portugal had agreed to a commercial treaty with the British in 1653, and in July 1654 the Portuguese transferred the Dutch monopoly on trade with the Portuguese empire to the British. By 1660 English merchants had sixty houses in Lisbon and only two in Spain. The Protectorate and Union with Scotland had been proclaimed at Edinburgh by Monck on May 4, 1654, and an attempted royalist invasion of Scotland was easily suppressed in August. England made a commercial treaty with Denmark on September 15.
In November the silk merchant George Cony refused to pay a duty on Spanish wine because it was ordered by the Protector, not Parliament. The Instrument of Government had given such power to the Protector, and Cromwell ordered Cony and his lawyers imprisoned until they dropped the case. Two judges had been dismissed for challenging the authority of the Instrument, and now a Chief Justice resigned because of Cony’s treatment. Local governments operated on their own enforcing poor laws by granting outdoor relief, educating and apprenticing poor children, and providing workhouses, hospitals, and almshouses for the ill and aged. The economy, road maintenance, and law enforcement functioned as usual. Ministers and schoolmasters were monitored by clerical Triers and lay Ejectors who could expel them for “scandalous living.”
More than 300 members of Parliament met on September 3, 1654 and Cromwell made a speech criticizing extremists. Arthur Haselrig and the judge Matthew Hale argued that Parliament should be free and have more power, and General Harrison said he had petitions signed by 20,000 people calling for Cromwell’s arrest. On September 12 Cromwell had London’s mayor surround the House with guards. On September 12 he forced 240 members to sign a “Recognition” that they would not alter the government. His principles included liberty of conscience, and neither the Protector nor the Parliament was to have complete control over the military. Two days later Lilburnians in London accused him of high treason. They demanded an election on October 16, and on that day the Fifth-Monarch preacher Edmund Chillenden was attacked by apprentices. On November 17 Parliament abolished lay patronage of church livings, and on December 10 they rejected a committee report to retain tithes.
Ireland’s Lord Lieutenant James FitzThomas Butler, Marquess of Ormonde, supported King Charles II and led the Anglo-Irish royalists and the native Irish with a few Scots in Ulster. On January 17, 1649 Ormonde and the Catholics agreed on a treaty at Kilkenny that protected freedom of religion, independence of the Irish Parliament, and other reforms. The Catholic confederates promised to supply Ormonde with 15,000 infantry and 500 cavalry. Prince Rupert, Count Palatine of the Rhine, brought eight ships to Kinsale on January 29. Parliamentary commander Col. George Monck made a secret armistice in May with Owen O’Neill of the Ulster Irish, but 5,000 Parliamentarians led by Col. Michael Jones defeated Ormonde’s force of 11,000 at Rathmines near Dublin on August 2, causing about a thousand casualties and taking 2,500 prisoners with few losses.
By June 20, 1649 Parliament had appointed Cromwell commander in chief and Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. He arrived on August 15 with 130 ships carrying 8,000 foot soldiers and 4,000 horsemen, and they joined 8,000 men commanded by Jones. The English army moved from Dublin to squelch the Irish royalists. On September 3 they besieged Drogheda in Leinster. The garrison refused to capitulate, and after the assault on the 11th Cromwell ordered those bearing arms killed, and most friars and priests died too. Cromwell’s army lost 150 men while killing about 3,000 and capturing 200. On October 11 a similar result occurred at Wexford. In Munster two garrisons fled, and on December 4 the siege of Waterford was abandoned to go into winter quarters. Kilkenny was besieged on March 22, 1650 and surrendered after six days. Clonmel, the largest town in Tipperary, was besieged and fell in May, but about 2,000 English were killed.
Cromwell left his son-in-law Henry Ireton in command as President of Munster and departed from Ireland on May 26. Parliament appointed four commissioners to govern Ireland on October 4, and they were instructed to promote Protestant religion. Ormonde turned his command of the royalists over to Ulick Clanricard and left Ireland on December 11, 1650. The English besieged Limerick in October until winter and then again in June 1651. Hugh Dubh O’Neill surrendered Limerick on October 27 after about 700 soldiers and 5,000 civilians had died. Some 2,000 English soldiers died, mostly from disease, and Ireton succumbed to the plague on November 26. The English fleet led by Robert Blake defeated Prince Rupert’s ships. The war went on during a 9-month siege until the Irish finally surrendered at Galway in May 1652.
Cromwell wanted to punish the Irish for their rebellion of 1641. In the Adventurers’ Act of 1642 the English Parliament had declared 2,500,000 acres of Irish land of the rebels forfeited. Ten years later on August 12 they would be given to the English to repay them for the £306,708 raised for the conquest which actually cost about £3,000,000. The Act for the Settlement of Ireland took over two-thirds of the land and ordered the Irish in the counties of Dublin, Cork, Kildare, Carlow, and ten other counties to move to Connaught. This land was given to officers, soldiers, and capitalists who had loaned money for the war as compensation, but most of the soldiers sold their land to their officers. Most of the Irish were pardoned, but Catholic priests were hunted down and killed; a law offered $5 for the head of a wolf or a Catholic bishop. In October a high court of justice was established to try those accused of murder. Those who fought for the Confederacy lost two-thirds of their estates, sympathetic landowners one-third, and lesser ones one-fifth. Of the 34,000 soldiers expelled many later fought in the war between France and Spain. Those who refused to leave were transported to Barbados. About 44,000 people were “transplanted” west of the Shannon River by March 1655; but the poor Irish had remained to work for the new owners.
In 1652 Samuel Hartlib published The Natural History of Ireland by Gerard Boate to help educate the new planters. Two-thirds of the investors had not claimed their land by 1653. On September 26 the Act of Satisfaction distributed forfeited Irish land to soldiers and adventurers. William Petty conducted the Down Survey in 1654. The county of Wexford lost 77% of its Catholic landowners. In 1654 James Ussher, Bishop of Armagh, using Biblical scholarship calculated that the creation of the world took place in 4004 BC. In 1656 Quakers were oppressed with 92 arrested and six banished, and that year Catholic priests began returning cautiously. Cromwell allowed Ireland free trade with England and foreign markets. Mixed marriages were prevented by prohibiting English soldiers from marrying Irish women unless they were Protestants. During the Commonwealth period as many as a hundred Catholic priests may have been killed in Ireland, and more than a thousand were exiled. Catholics held about 60% of the land in Ireland in 1641, but by 1660 they had only about 9%. During the 1650s these wars and oppression caused the population of Ireland to fall from 1.3 million to less than one million.
News of the execution of Charles I reached Edinburgh on February 4, 1649, and the next day the Parliament of Scotland proclaimed his son King Charles II; but led by Archibald Campbell, the 8th Earl of Argyll, they refused to let him in Scotland until he swore to uphold the Presbyterian Covenant. Charles named Marquis James Graham of Montrose Lieutenant Governor and Captain-General of Scotland. He tried to help the King but was defeated at Carbisdale on April 27, 1650. Montrose escaped but was captured and sentenced to death by the Scottish Parliament and hanged at Edinburgh on May 21. After negotiation Charles agreed to the Breda Treaty on May 1, and he arrived in Scotland on June 23.
General Fairfax opposed war with Scotland and resigned on June 26, 1650. That day Parliament replaced him as commander-in-chief with Cromwell who had just returned from Ireland. Cromwell met with Lilburne and led an army north to Scotland. At Berwick on July 19 he mustered an army of 16,000 men that included 5,500 horsemen, and they crossed the Scottish border three days later. On August 1 at Musselburgh he proclaimed “Jesus Christ as our King.” Lt. General David Leslie commanded the Scottish army of 27,000 foot soldiers and 5,000 horsemen and had to defend Edinburgh. Clergy feared an uprising in the army, and Commissioners for Purging dismissed 80 officers and over 3,000 soldiers. King Charles II signed the Covenanters’ Declaration on August 16.
Cromwell withdrew to Dunbar, where on September 3 his 11,000 veterans defeated Leslie’s army of 12,000 Scots; only 20 English were killed while the Scots lost about 2,000 men with about 8,000 taken prisoners. Cromwell besieged Edinburgh which surrendered in December as Scottish leaders retreated to Stirling. Argyll crownedCharles II king in a church at Scone on January 1, 1651. After his illness Cromwell’s army occupied Perth on August 2 as the Scottish army fled across the border and invaded England. Cromwell and his 31,000 men pursued them. Stirling capitulated to the Commonwealth forces on August 14, and on September 1 General Monck’s forces killed 2,000 of Dundee’s 12,000 inhabitants. Two days later Cromwell’s army at Worcester overwhelmed about 16,000 Scots by killing 3,000 and taking 10,000 prisoners and 15,000 weapons. One week later the English Parliament offered a reward of £1,000 for the capture of Charles II and the penalty of treason for anyone sheltering him. Cromwell’s army occupied Edinburgh and besieged the castle as Charles II fled across the channel to France in October. That month the English Parliament reduced the army to save £423,000 after having spent £1,410,000 on the military, and they appointed commissioners to administer Scotland. On November 19 they banned public meetings. On December 14 the Scottish Parliament acknowledged their sins, and ten days later the Edinburgh castle finally surrendered. Scotland and Ireland were each allowed thirty representatives in the British Parliament that now had more than 200 members.
In January 1652 the commissioners instructed the burghs and shires to elect deputies for the union, but 23 from shires and 37 from burghs learned they were only there to receive information. The English took over the Scottish legal system under seven commissioners with four English and three Scots.
In July 1654 General Monck’s army of occupation defeated a rebellion in Scotland instigated by Charles II and led by the 9th Earl of Glencairn and General John Middleton. More than 500 men were transported to Barbados. The English army occupying Scotland had been reduced from 36,000 to about 11,000 in 1653, but now they increased it to 18,000. A Council of State began operating in Scotland in September 1655, but only two of the nine members were Scots. That month the burgesses regained the right to hold elections, and in 1656 justices of the peace were appointed in every sheriffdom. In 1651 the barony courts and heritable jurisdictions had been suspended, and they were abolished in 1657. Between 1657 and 1659 Scotland had 102 witchcraft cases.
The first Protectorate Parliament met from September 3, 1654; but they failed to pass any of the 84 bills proposed, and after being in session for five lunar months Cromwell dissolved the Parliament on January 22, 1655. John Penruddock on March 12 led a royalist uprising at Salisbury in Wiltshire that opened the jail and arrested two judges and the high sheriff. Major General John Desborough had it suppressed. Of the 26 who pleaded guilty or were convicted at Exeter nine including Penruddock were executed, and five were transported to Barbados. Council Secretary John Thurloe was in charge of government spies who uncovered plots. On February 8 the monthly tax assessment in England was reduced from £90,000 to £60,000 with £10,000 each from Scotland and Ireland, and one week later the Protectorate proclaimed religious liberty. Yet Cromwell made censorship more effective in 1655. To save money the army was reduced and replaced by militia paid for by imposing a “decimation” tax of ten percent on the estates of known royalists worth more than £100 in land and £10 for every £1,500 in goods. When the Commonwealth began in 1649, few foreign ambassadors were in London; but by 1655 representatives of 32 nations resided there.
In late April the British Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables led an attack on Santo Domingo with 34 ships and more than 13,000 soldiers, but the expedition failed with the loss of 3,000 men. To try to redeem themselves on May 19 they invaded and occupied the undefended Spanish colony of Jamaica. The Council of State objected to their acting without orders and sent them to the Tower. The Spanish Ambassador Alonso de Cardenas registered a vehement protest, but Jamaica became a British colony. On May 24 a month after the Vaudois massacre of 1,700 Waldensians in Piedmont by the Duke of Savoy, Cromwell sent letters to European rulers that were translated by Milton. Cromwell also contributed £2,000 to relieve Waldensian survivors.
The Instrument of Government called for reduction of the army from 57,000 men to 30,000. On August 9, 1655 Cromwell nominated major generals to command what turned out to be eleven districts in England and Wales. They enforced the laws, public morality, and collected taxes. Royalists were taxed 10% on their rentals and could not have weapons. Horse races, cock fights, bear-baiting, plays, gambling, and brothels were banned. Major-General Charles Worsley closed 200 alehouses in Lancashire.
John Biddle had spent much time in prison for being a Unitarian, and on October 5 Cromwell sent him to the Scilly Isles beyond the reach of Parliament with an allowance of 100 crowns. On October 26 Cromwell formed a defensive alliance and made a commercial treaty with France before issuing a manifesto complaining about violent actions by Spaniards. That month use of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer was forbidden again. This continued to make it dangerous to use it for baptisms, weddings, and funerals. On November 24, 1655 Cromwell banned Anglican services and prohibited the employment of a sequestered minister as a chaplain or schoolmaster.
Menasseh ben Israel (1604-57) was a Portuguese rabbi who founded the first Hebrew printing press in Amsterdam in 1627. He wrote and printed Hope of Israel in Hebrew and Latin in Amsterdam, and in 1652 it was published in English in London. Menasseh came to London in September 1655 when a Jew in Amsterdam reported that a large convoy with 11,000 men had left Spain. On November 13 Menasseh petitioned England’s Council of State to admit Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal. On December 4 Cromwell made a speech to his Council praising Menasseh, and on June 25, 1656 they granted Jews the right to hold public services in London. Menasseh defended Jews in his Humble Addresses to the Protector. He also wrote On Human Frailty, the treatise Nishmat Hayim, in Hebrew on the reincarnation of souls, and In Defense of the Jews (1656). In 1657 Samuel Dormido became the first Jew to trade on the London Stock Exchange.
On April 22, 1656 Charles II in Brussels allied with Spain’s Felipe IV, who promised 4,000 infantry and 200 cavalry for the English Royalists to seize a port they could use. In July writs were issued for the second Protectorate Parliament for 375 English, 24 Welsh, 29 Scottish, and 31 Irish. The major generals tried to influence the August elections, but many were elected who opposed the military and Cromwell. He and the Council excluded more than a hundred members, and about sixty others withdrew before the second Protectorate session began on September 17. About 200 members remained, and on January 30, 1657 they voted £400,000 for the war against Spain.
On September 8, 1656 Captain Richard Stayner’s squadron had destroyed a Spanish treasure fleet capturing prizes worth £600,000. On April 27, 1657 the fleet of 23 warships led by Admiral Blake and Stayner by Tenerife of the Canary Islands destroyed another Spanish treasure convoy from the West Indies. That year the East India Company began selling tea in London with lower prices than the Dutch, and tea was served at Thomas Garraway’s coffee house. Another shop began selling chocolate drinks. Durham University was founded. Also in 1657 Brian Walton completed his 6-volume Polyglot Bible using Hebrew, Chaldee, Samaritan, Syriac, Arabic, Persian, Ethiopic, Greek, and Latin.
On February 23, 1657 the former London Mayor and successful member of the Merchant Adventurers, Christopher Packe, had presented the Humble Petition and Advice to the Second Protectorate Parliament suggesting the monarchy of Cromwell with Parliament controlling taxes and an independent council advising the King. On March 13 the Anglo-French alliance became offensive against Spain at Dunkirk, Mardyke, and Gravelines, and after a month-long siege the British gained control over Dunkirk in June 1658. On March 25, 1657 two-thirds of the Parliament voted to make Cromwell king, but on May 8 he declined. On May 25 a New Humble Petition created a new House of Lords and increased Cromwell’s power. He was invested again as Lord Protector on June 26 in Westminster Hall. The East India Company regained its charter with permanent joint stock in 1657. The annual revenue of the government was £1,300,000 but spent a total of £2,500,000 including £1,000,000 on the army and navy. The army was reduced from £60,000 a month to £35,000.
The Parliament based on the Humble Petition met on January 20, 1658. Cromwell appointed 42 men who accepted, including thirty who were elevated from the House of Commons, to join one of the old peers in the revived House of Lords which was called the “Other House.” The republican opposition had gained strength and criticized the Other House. Cromwell worried that they would join with discontent soldiers, and he went to Parliament, criticized both houses, and dissolved them. The government was deeply in debt. Cromwell suffered from malaria and kidney and urinary “stones” and died on September 3, 1658 after naming his son Richard Cromwell as his successor.
Although the Cromwell expert Maurice Ashley noted, “Oliver Cromwell died hated by all save a few intimate friends and admirers,”1 his achievements have been recognized by posterity. The interregnum 1649-60 allowed greater liberty of conscience especially for the Puritans who attempted to implement the development of religion by the free choice of each individual rather than by a state church. The Commonwealth tolerated radicals like the Quakers and Jews but not the Roman Catholic or Anglican churches. The greatest religious authority in England during this era was the Bible. Thurloe got the Post Office to serve private and public customers, and regular coach services began in this era, which began with a political and economic crisis and also ended with one. During these crises many pamphlets were published suggesting ways of relieving poverty. During the 1650s the British Navy added more than 200 ships. Coal production at Newcastle had increased from 32,951 tons in 1654 to 529,032 tons in 1658.
Roger Crab (1621-80) fought for the Parliamentary Army during the Civil War and was arrested for preaching in 1646, but General Fairfax came to his defense in Parliament. After the war Crab sold hats for three years. Then in 1652 he sold his hat business and property and gave the money to the poor. He became a hermit near Uxbridge and grew his own food. He lived as a vegetarian and believed that eating meat made people cruel. His knowledge of herbs and nutrition enabled him to give helpful health advice that included avoiding meat and alcohol. He claimed that he had 120 patients. Crab wrote several pamphlets, and in 1655 he published his autobiography, The English Hermit, or The Wonder of the Age. He recommended using the soul to master the body to avoid sin. He criticized private property because it causes murderers to kill and thieves to steal. He asked how a man can love his neighbor if he has more land and possessions, and he opposed the death penalty. Crab also criticized mandatory tithing and required church attendance as prostitution and idolatry. By 1657 he had been arrested four times for breaking the Sabbath, and he was put in the stocks in front of Ickenham church and was held in Clerkenwell Prison. Also in 1657 William Coles published Adam in Eden to promote the vegetarian diet as the way to health and longevity, and in 1650 Thomas Browne in his Pseudoxia Epidemica or Vulgar Errors had wondered if God used the great flood to punish mankind for eating the flesh of animals, and he suggested that a vegetable diet could prolong one’s life. By 1659 Crab’s group was called “Rationals” or “Rationalists.” Many people attended Crab’s funeral on September 14, 1680, and a large monument was erected that includes the following words:
So in kind Nature’s Law he stood,
A Temple undefil’d with Blood:
A Friend to ev’ry Thing that’s good.2
The late Protector’s son Henry Cromwell was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on October 6, 1658, but he was replaced by five commissioners in May 1659. A diversely divided Parliament met on January 27, 1659. John Milton in mid-February published A Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical causes: Showing That it is not lawful for any power on earth to compel in matters of Religion. He argued that no one should be punished or harassed for practicing one’s religious beliefs according to conscientious persuasion; but he made an exception for Catholics because their religion is also a Roman principality trying to maintain its universal dominion. Protestants generally agree that no one should be considered a heretic who maintains one’s opinions based on scripture, and Milton disagreed with Quakers who believe that the Light of the inner Spirit takes precedence over the Bible.
Outside Parliament on February 15, 1659 republicans presented The Humble Petition of Many Thousand Citizens to the Parliament, and the General Council of Army Officers presented their humble petition on April 6, asking Lord Protector Richard Cromwell to oppose the royalists. That week a Commons committee on public revenue reported that the government had a debt of nearly £2,500,000 with an annual deficit of £333,000, and they owed the soldiers nearly £890,000 in arrears. This Cromwell was a country gentleman who had never been in the army. His Parliament opposed military rule and on April 18 voted that the Army General Council should not meet without permission of the Protector and Parliament, but within five days the army forced the Parliament to dissolve. On April 16 the House of Commons had rejected a petition from Quakers asking for relief from persecution.
General Charles Fleetwood led the forces that occupied London on April 21. The next day Richard agreed to dissolve the Parliament, and Fleetwood recalled 42 members of the Rump Parliament on May 7. Six days later a Council of State met consisting of 15 army officers, including Lambert, Desborough, and Fleetwood, and 16 civilians that included Arthur Haselrig, Henry Vane, Thomas Scot, James Harrington, and Henry Neville. That day they suspended Nedham from editing the government’s most useful newspaper, Mercurius Politicus; but his replacement John Canne was so bad that Nedham was reinstated in August. On May 25 Richard resigned as the Parliament agreed to pay his debts. Baron George Booth, military commissioner in Cheshire, was excluded, and he issued a manifesto suggesting that people fight for Charles II on August 5. They gained control of Chester; but Thurloe had discovered the plot earlier, and Lambert’s army defeated them near Northwich, capturing Booth on August 23.
Milton in August published Considerations touching the likeliest means to remove Hirelings out of the church to discourage mandatory tithes, church fees, and other church revenues. At this time they began calling the members of the Purged Parliament, which had begun in 1649, the “Rump Parliament.”
General Lambert’s officers at Derby wrote a petition in September. On October 11, 1659 the Parliament declared it treason for anyone but Parliament to levy a tax, and the next day they resolved to remove nine senior officers including Lambert and Fleetwood; but on the 13th Lambert used troops to dissolve the remnants of the Rump Parliament. One week later General George Monck, who had fought for the royalists before he was captured in January 1644, sent a letter to Lambert, General Fleetwood, and William Lenthall supporting Parliament. The Council was replaced on October 27 when Fleetwood set up an interim government by army grandees. The next day the Committee of Safety sent Lambert with 12,000 soldiers to fight Monck, and they left on November 3. The Scottish assembly granted General Monck £50,000, and on the 24th the Republican Council of State appointed him commander in chief. General Fairfax and his army in Yorkshire also supported Parliament as did the Navy in Downs. Hesilrige raised an army and occupied Portsmouth. On December 5 troops killed two boys during a riot. That day London’s Common Council called for a free Parliament as did Monck on the 16th. On that day Vice-Admiral James Lawson led a fleet into the Thames. On December 24, Fleetwood resigned and two days later the Purged Parliament reconvened. The next day Lambert tried to restore order in London, but his army dispersed. By the end of the year taxpayers in London were on strike; most shops were closed, and law courts did not operate.
Monck and his army marched south, crossed the Tweed on January 2, 1660, reached York on the 11th, and entered London on February 3. On the 21st Monck’s forces enabled the Rump Parliament members to meet, and they recalled Presbyterian members excluded in 1648. Monck dismissed Secretary of State Thomas Scott and replaced him with Thurloe. On March 5 Parliament ordered a reprinting of the Solemn League and Covenant, and eight days later they annulled the Engagement of 1650 which required all men to promise loyalty to the Commonwealth without a king or House of Lords. The Parliament raised a tax to pay the soldiers’ arrears and then on March 16 dissolved itself, issuing writs for a new Parliament to meet on April 20. On April 4 Charles II, advised by Edward Hyde, issued his Declaration of Breda, promising liberty of conscience and Parliamentary government. The Convention Parliament met on April 25. A mission led by Fairfax went to Holland in May to invite his return, and Charles arrived in London on May 29.
In late February 1660 Milton published The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth, and the Excellence thereof Compar’d with the inconveniences and dangers of readmitting kingship in this nation. He argued that republican government provides better service and is more economical compared to wasteful and irrational monarchy, though he admitted that a majority of the nation believed in vain that only kingship could restore trade. He also explained how county assemblies and governments could counterbalance the State Council. He noted that Venice and the United Provinces of the Netherlands had successful republics. Milton also sent similar ideas in a letter to General Monck in early March. On March 25 Dr. Matthew Griffith had given a strong sermon favoring a royal government, and Milton wrote a reply suggesting that a temporary protectorate under General Monck urged by Thomas Scot and Arthur Haselrig might be needed for a time. On April 2 the Council of State issued a warrant to arrest Milton and burned his Defenso and Eikonoklastes. He managed to hide with friends until August when the Act of Oblivion provided a general amnesty. Then he was imprisoned in the fall. Andrew Marvell had defended Milton in the Commons, and William Davenant, whom Milton had helped free in 1650, secured his release from prison on December 15.
Thomas Hobbes was born on April 5, 1588 prematurely because his mother was frightened about the expected invasion by the Spanish armada. Thus he recognized fear as his twin. He went to a church school at the age of 4 and at 15 entered Oxford. After earning his bachelor’s degree in 1608 he tutored young William Cavendish and went with him to France and Italy in 1610. There Hobbes found Aristotelian philosophy declining because of scientific discoveries. In the first half of the 1620s he served Francis Bacon as a secretary and helped him translate some of his essays from Latin. Hobbes translated the history by Thucydides and published it in 1629 to show the problems of Athenian democracy. Traveling in Europe again he discovered Euclid’s Elements of Geometry and realized that the method of proofs could be applied to science and philosophy.
Hobbes was a materialist who believed that the body and other physical things are the basic reality along with their motion. He planned a comprehensive philosophy on the body, man, and the state; but because of the impending civil war in England he decided to begin with the latter and published in Latin De Cive (On Citizenship) in 1642. In this book he considered democracy the first commonwealth but that a social contract would create monarchy or aristocracy in order to provide security, which he believed is fundamental to human happiness. He was an agnostic, and his social contract theory alienated those believing in the divine right of kings while his advocating monarchy antagonized the Parliamentarians. So before the Civil War began in 1642, he was one of the first to flee to Paris, where he joined the circle of the Abbé Mersenne and wrote 16 objections to the Meditations of Descartes. In 1646 he tutored the exiled Charles II in mathematics until he became seriously ill. In 1651 Hobbes published in English his most popular work, Leviathan, or the Matter, Form, and Power of a Commonwealth, Ecclesiastical and Civil. He believed that a subject had the right to abandon a ruler who did not protect him, and Charles thought that he was trying to gain favor with Oliver Cromwell. By the end of the year Hobbes had returned to England and accepted the British Commonwealth, and many criticized his views.
Hobbes published in Latin De Corpore (On the Body) in 1655 and De Homine (On Man) in 1658. In 1666 the House of Commons was working on a bill regarding atheism, and their committee began investigating Leviathan. Hobbes then wrote dialogs on heresy and its punishment. Parliament did not pass a bill on atheism, but they would not let Hobbes publish anything related to human conduct. About 1668 Hobbes wrote Behemoth, The History of the Causes of the Civil Wars of England and of the Counsels and Artifices by which they were carried on from the year 1640 to the year 1662, which was first published as a pirated edition in 1679. At the age of 84 Hobbes wrote an autobiography in Latin verse, and by 1676 he had completed and published his verse translations of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Hobbes was believed to have had a natural daughter for whom he provided, and he died at the age of 91.
In the introduction to his Leviathan Hobbes used that term to describe a commonwealth or state which he compared to an “artificial man” of greater strength designed for protection and defense. Its sovereignty is like an “artificial soul” which gives “life and motion to the whole body.” Thus he ignored the real souls and spiritual consciousness of people and leaped to the despotic conclusion that the only way to keep the peace was by an authoritarian government. He did write that whoever would govern a whole nation should consider mankind even though that is difficult. As a materialist in the first part “Of Man” Hobbes based his understanding of humans on the body, its sense perceptions, and basic appetites and desires. From these he derived feelings, thoughts, speech, reason, and virtues. He based freedom on motion but refused to recognize will. From the laws of nature come contracts. Because he believed that humans have a natural tendency to compete against each other which can result in a “war of all against all,” he considered peace and security the most important goals. Thus those who mediate peace should be allowed safe conduct, and controversies should be submitted to the judgment of an arbitrator. Hobbes did recognize the golden rule as a law of nature: “Do not that to another which thou wouldest not have done to thyself.”
The second part of Leviathan is “Of Commonwealth” where Hobbes wrote,
For the laws of nature, as justice, equity, modesty, mercy,
and in sum, doing to others as we would be done to,
of themselves, without the terror of some power
to cause them to be observed,
are contrary to our natural passions
that carry us to partiality, pride, revenge, and the like.
And covenants, without the sword,
are but words and of no strength to secure a man at all.3
Thus he proposed that each person should say,
I authorize and give up my right of governing myself
to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition;
that thou give up thy right to him,
and authorize all his actions in like manner.4
This is his Leviathan, and thus he would give all political power to a monarch or one group of absolute rulers so that people could live peacefully and be protected against others. He even argued that the sovereign monarch or government could do anything without breaching this covenant nor should any of the subjects be free to disobey its absolute power. No subject should ever accuse the sovereign of injustice. Acquiring dominion by conquest is despotism, but Hobbes also argued that such a person is also sovereign over those subjected. He wrote that liberty is consistent with fear and necessity, but in his commonwealth only the sovereign is politically free. Like modern materialistic behaviorists, Hobbes hoped to control people’s behavior by using rewards and punishments. Although some behaviorists try to use only rewards, withholding the reward can become a punishment and is still manipulative. In my opinion much better ways can make sure that people obey laws rather than by inflicting pain or suffering, and individuals can be made to compensate victims of their crimes. Hobbes defined punishment as
an evil inflicted by public authority on him that hath done
or omitted that which is judged by the same authority
to be a transgression of the law,
to the end that the will of men
may thereby the better be disposed to obedience.5
In his “Conclusion” Hobbes wrote, “Every man is bound by nature, as much as in him lieth, to protect in war the authority by which he is himself protected in time of peace.” Thus the sovereign rulers may go to war and force men to kill and may punish them if they refuse. Reward may be a gift or a contract with a salary or wages. Hobbes considered sedition a poisonous disease of the Commonwealth, but he clearly stated that the sovereign is not subject to his own laws. He also objected to dividing or distributing the power of the government even though that is a way of safeguarding against tyranny.
Hobbes was certainly upset by the Civil War and the execution of King Charles I. Yet he quickly abandoned his former student Charles II to recognize the authority of the reigning Parliament and Cromwell. Solely because of fear of death and human conflict, Hobbes proposed absolute authority, which history has shown countless times is a recipe for rebellion and civil war. As we shall see, much better political ideas would be expressed by James Harrington and John Locke.
James Harrington was born January 3, 1611. He attended Trinity College at Oxford and the Middle Temple, but like many oldest sons he did not get a degree before traveling widely in Europe where he served as a soldier in English regiments in the Netherlands. He especially liked the republic of Venice. James did not believe in primogeniture and helped provide for his younger siblings. In late 1646 Parliament sent him to mediate with King Charles I who in May 1647 chose him as one of four men to accompany him until January 1649; but he would not let James talk about republics. According to Aubrey’s Brief Lives when Charles was executed, Harrington was on the scaffold. After that traumatic event Harrington withdrew and suffered from melancholy. In 1656 he published The Commonwealth of Oceana, his magnum opus, and this was followed by The Prerogative of Popular Government in 1658 and The Art of Lawgiving in 1659. After the restoration of Charles II, Harrington was arrested on December 28, 1661 and charged with conspiring against the King’s government. He was mistreated in the Tower and before a writ of habeus corpus arranged by his sisters could be enacted, he was transferred to St. Nicholas Island. His relatives got him released on a £5,000 bond. After that he suffered from poor health, and he was immobilized by a stroke one year before his death on September 11, 1677. His ideas on agrarian democracy influenced the American founding fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson, and his antitrust policies affected Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.
Harrington explained his political principles in the first part of The Commonwealth of Oceana. He admired the work on republican ideas in Machiavelli’s Discourses but criticized the authoritarian Leviathan of Hobbes. Harrington agreed with Aristotle that immoderate wealth by a few can destroy the equality of a commonwealth and that sedition may lead to a monarchy or a “dynastic oligarchy.” Harrington believed in spiritual dominion and wrote,
The soul of man is the mistress of two potent rivals,
the one reason, the other passion, that are in continual suit;
and according as she gives up her will to these
or either of them, is the felicity or misery
which man partakes in this mortal life.6
Passion put into action by the will can bring one down to “vice and the bondage of sin,” but reason enacted leads one to “virtue and the freedom of soul.” He also believed that economic equality is the basis for a democratic republic, and he wrote,
Equality of estates causeth equality of power,
and equality of power is the liberty
not only of the commonwealth, but of every man.7
Harrington suggested that a senate can be counselors of the people. The wisdom of a commonwealth comes from the virtuous, but the interest is in all the people. After debate the senate may propose, but the power of the people should enact a law. Harrington observed that an unequal commonwealth is divided into parties. One party will try to preserve the eminence of the wealthy while the other attempts to restore equality. He suggested that the best way to do the latter is by the “suffrage of the people given by the ballot.” He described how empires gave land to soldiers and established feudal systems. He wrote,
No prince that is hated by his people can be safe.
Arms planted upon dominion extirpate enemies
and make friends, but, maintained by a mere tax,
have enemies that have roots and friends that have none.8
Machiavelli noted that a corrupt people is not capable of a commonwealth. Harrington argued that if the people move from monarchy, they become capable of commonwealth; for moving to the popular diminishes the luxury of the nobility, and enriching the people changes government from a more private interest to a public one which is nearer to justice and right reason. When people are reduced to misery and despair, they become their own politicians just like some sick animals become their own physicians and by natural instinct eat herbs as their cure. Cicero observed that the people may not find out the truth themselves and often follow custom into error; but if they are shown the truth, they acknowledge it and embrace it quickly and become its constant and faithful guardians. In his time Harrington believed that education occurred in six ways: at school, in mechanics, at universities, at inns of court or chancery (by laws), in travels, and in military discipline. He questioned the conquests of Alexander and wrote,
The sword of war, if it be any otherwise used
than as the sword of magistracy,
for the fear and punishment of those that do evil,
is as guilty in the sight of God as the sword of a murderer;
nay more, for if the blood of Abel, of one innocent man,
cried in the ears of the Lord for vengeance,
what shall the blood of an innocent nation?
Of this kind of empire, the throne of ambition,
and the quarry of a mighty hunter,
it has been truly said that it is but a great robbery.9
Oceana is to be based on fair distribution of land in order to balance political power. Harrington noted that the republic of Rome distributed land fairly equally; but feudal Europe had a Gothic balance that gave kings and nobles most of the land, and they controlled the state. After the Civil War of the Roses King Henry VII tried to improve England’s constitution by taking much wealth from the nobility, but Henry VIII by dissolving the monasteries took land from the Church and gave it to the gentry. Harrington suggested a written constitution and hoped to share economic and political power. As an example even children can understand, he noted that in dividing cake one was to make the division, and the other got to choose which piece to eat. The Lord Archon paid most attention to making the agrarian estates about equal in order to plant the roots of the commonwealth. After one year the army could be disbanded, but taxes might continue for three and a half years. After ten years the excise tax could expire if the exchequer had enough funds to pay salaries. Elections of representatives were to be by secret ballot, and short terms were to allow the rotation of office holders. Differences in religious beliefs were to be tolerated. He suggested the building of two theatres with the profits going to the government.
Harrington wrote The Prerogative of Popular Government in 1658 to answer objections and further explain Oceana. He discussed prudence, commonwealth, balancing dominion in land, the balance of national and provincial power, public rights compared to private interests, the Roman Senate, the Ten Commandments, monarchy and the balance of France, whether the agrarian model can satisfy all interests, and whether the rotation of offices is necessary.
He wrote The Art of Lawgiving in 1659 to show the foundations and structure of government, to study the commonwealths of Israel and the Jews, and to propose another model for a popular government. That year Harrington also published 120 Aphorisms Political, and here are a few:
The People having felt the difference between
a Government by Laws, and a Government by Arms,
will always desire the Government by Laws,
and abhor that of Arms. (6)
Where the spirit of the people is impatient
of a Government by Arms,
and desirous of a Government by Laws,
there the spirit of the people is not unfit
to be trusted with their Liberty. (7)
Assemblies legitimately elected by the People,
are that only Party which can govern without an Army. (14)
The People are deceived by Names, but not by Things. (16)
Where Civil Liberty is entire,
it includes Liberty of Conscience. (23)
It is not below the Dignity of the greatest Assembly,
but according unto the practice of the best Commonwealths,
to admit of any man that is able to propose to them,
for the good of his Country. (117)
George Fox was born in a small hamlet in Leicestershire, England in July 1624. His father was a weaver and a pious warden of the church. George had little education other than learning to read and write and study the Bible. He was apprenticed to a shoemaker, for whom he also tended sheep. In an incident at the age of 19 George was disgusted by tavern companions, who tried to get him into a drinking match. That night he had a vision from God, and the next day, November 9, 1643, he left his family and trade to wander in search of true religion. Carrying his Bible, he slept in fields or stayed with hospitable families. He questioned priests and argued with them. George searched for people he called “tender,” who were loving and spiritually open. He discovered that most of the priests were not as open as those in the new sect of Seekers who tried any church but were satisfied with none of them. By 1647 he had realized his mission was “to turn people from darkness to the light.”
George Fox experienced “openings” or revelations, which told him that both Catholics and Protestants could be sincere Christians, that universities like Oxford and Cambridge bred vain and deceitful priests, and that God did not dwell in church buildings as much as in people’s hearts. Fox called the man-made temples “steeple houses” and considered the church to be the community of believers in its original sense. Although he considered the Bible a valuable reference point, he believed the inner Light takes precedence as the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit. Fox declared that revelation has not ended, but the insights from within must be checked to see that they are in harmony with the teachings of the Bible. There was the danger that some would be led astray by spirits of darkness or the devil; therefore someone attuned to the inner Light must discern the difference, and George Fox apparently felt that he could.
Fox had a powerful personality and an inner conviction, which he would not compromise. Confident that the word of God was speaking through him, he challenged priests and interrupted their sermons. He would speak for hours at a time, and sometimes he would just glare at people for as long as two or three hours. He could outshout just about anybody. He criticized social injustices, such as the hiring fair in 1648 at Mansfield, where local justices had fixed a maximum wage for farm labor. He believed in human equality and was firm in practicing it, even in seemingly trivial ways. He would refuse to remove his hat before a judge or a king. Following the admonition of Jesus in the sermon on the mount, he refused to take oaths. Because of these behaviors and his frank speech he was arrested many times. His first imprisonment at Nottingham in 1649 was because he argued that the Holy Spirit is more important than the scriptures.
As Jesus called his disciples friends, so Fox referred to those who followed the inner Light as Friends of Truth; but in 1650 he told Justice Bennet to “quake in the presence of the Lord,” and he gave them the name Quakers. Critical of professional priests, Fox believed that each person could relate to God directly and thus minister. He defended the rights of women to equal spirituality even against the views of other Friends. Fox and his followers were continually persecuted and often arrested for refusing to take oaths or for holding unauthorized religious meetings. In Derby two judges questioned him for eight hours and sentenced him to six months on October 30, 1650. All together in his life he spent seven years in jail, often in filthy conditions, which he sought to reform.
In 1651 Fox went north to Yorkshire. Following the teachings of the Christ closely, Fox was a pacifist, and the Society of Friends to this day has remained one of the most important pacifist religions. In 1651 when Fox was in jail, some commissioners and soldiers offered to make him a captain over the soldiers, who were eager to be led by such a courageous man. However, Fox told them that he “lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars,”10 and he explained that all wars come from lust, as James pointed out in the New Testament. When they realized that his refusal was serious, they threw him into a stinking dungeon for six months without any bed among thirty felons. Fox took to writing letters to judges against the death penalty for stealing and minor offenses. He also urged speedier trials because many were being corrupted by criminals in jails while waiting for their trials. After his six months Justice Bennet offered him press-money if he would be a soldier; but again Fox declined and spent nearly six more months in jail. The next year Fox was tried for blasphemy in Lancaster; but the witnesses did not agree, and he was cleared. Also in 1651 Fox converted Richard Farnsworth, William Dewsbury, and James Nayler. They had a great meeting at Synderhill in Yorkshire in early 1652, and they became outstanding ministers. After having a vision on Pendle Hill in May, Fox wrote a paper for distribution.
In 1653 Francis Higginson published A Brief Relation of the Irreligion of the Northern Quakers, describing their provocative ideas and behavior. That year Fox went into a “steeplehouse” in Carlisle and spoke after the priest, causing people to tremble.
In early 1654 the first meetings of the Society of Friends were held in London. Fox spoke to thousands of Friends on top of a hill. That year the Friends had the Valiant Sixty ministers who left northwest England to take their message to the south. While preaching Fox warned soldiers not to do violence to any man. In February 1655 he was arrested and sent to London. Oliver Cromwell interviewed him and admitted that he could not win these people with gifts, honors, offices, or places. Fox visited the midlands and wrote a letter to the Lord Protector Cromwell, explaining,
I was sent of God to stand a witness against all violence,
and against the works of darkness;
and to turn people from darkness to light;
and to bring them from the causes of war and fighting,
to the peaceable gospel.11
Fox was brought before the Protector, and he later described their conversation in his Journal. Cromwell asked why he quarreled with ministers. Fox said they quarreled with him and would not allow him to preach in the same way as the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles while they were greedy and covetous, preaching only for filthy lucre. Fox warned Cromwell not to harden his heart, and the Protector wished they could talk every day and set him free. Fox wrote to Cromwell several times complaining that he was persecuting God’s people. Many Friends were losing their lands because they refused to swear in court; Cromwell would not believe that they were suffering in jails. After they brought documents to him, Cromwell still refused to order them released. Then Thomas Aldam took off his cap and tore it in pieces, prophesying that his government would be torn from Cromwell, as it soon was. During the twelve years of the Commonwealth three thousand Quakers had been imprisoned, and 32 died in jail. In 1655 William Prynne published his epigraph The Quakers Unmasked. Women began meeting to raise money for the poor in a box, and these were called Box Meetings. Women also began the Two Weeks’ Meeting based on the Men’s Two Week Meeting.
In 1656 the Quaker James Naylor re-enacted the entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday by entering Bristol supported by Friends. For this he was convicted of blasphemy, whipped, pilloried, and had a hole burned through his tongue and the letter “B” branded on his forehead. Fox was also brought to trial in February 1656, and he and two others were put in a filthy dungeon with criminals without beds or straw for seven months. Soon after this Fox had another interview with Cromwell, and they discussed the Light of Christ. Friends also took their message to Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and the American colonies. Fox was well received in Wales in 1657. In 1658 a Yearly Meeting for all of England was held in Bedfordshire.
In 1659 Fox wrote a letter to the Parliament asking that they provide for the poor, blind, and lame in the nation rather than the Lords of Manors who have enough. Friends wanted mandatory tithes abolished, religion tolerated, and laws reformed. They did not attend churches and conducted their own weddings. Margaret Fell led the first Women’s Petition and protested the imprisonment of Fox in Lancaster. She wrote to Princess Mary of Orange and Elizabeth of Bohemia.
When the Civil War began in 1642, the Puritans closed the theatres. During the Commonwealth 1649-60 the public presentation of plays was prohibited. Actors who put on even short comical scenes could be arrested with spectators fined 5 shillings. Publishing was less restricted, and a few new plays were printed. The tragicomedies The Just General and The Loyal Lovers by Major Cosmo Manuche were published after the first was registered in November 1651. That year Edmund Prestwich published his translation of Seneca’s Phaedra as Hippolytus. In 1654 Richard Flecknoe dedicated his Love’s Dominion to Cromwell’s daughter Elizabeth Claypole, and that year he also published his Ariadne Deserted by Theseus and Found and Courted by Bacchus. The royalist William Lower printed translations of Corneille’s Polyeuctus in 1655 and Horatius in 1656. In 1659 Flecknoe published his opera The Marriage of Oceanus and Britannia.
In 1651 the anonymous Tragedy of that Famous Orator Marcus Tullius Cicero was published based on Plutarch’s lives of Marcus Antonius and Cicero, Roman History by Dio Cassius, Appian’s Roman History, books 3 and 4, and works by Cicero. The play is set in 43 BC, the year after the assassination of Julius Caesar. Cicero favored a republic and opposed the oncoming tyranny by Antony and Octavius Caesar. The play was published during the republican Commonwealth while Cromwell and his army were consolidating their power, depicting events not covered by Shakespeare in Julius Caesar or in Antony and Cleopatra. The republican poet George Wither in The Modern Statesman (1653) wrote that the history of Rome provided an example of a commonwealth that grew by virtue but decayed because of vice.
The Tragedy of Cicero has rhymed couplets only in the first scene in which the ghost of Julius Caesar says he must be revenged and that Roman pride will be scourged by bloody proscriptions. The rest of the play is in blank verse. Cicero is hopeful that the death of the dictator Caesar will bring back liberty and the republican government by the Senate. In 63 BC Cicero had helped squelch a conspiracy led by Catiline by speaking in the Senate. Cicero is supported by his brother Quintius Cicero. Marcus Cicero prefers the Stoic philosophy to the Epicurean. Quintius informs him that young Octavius Caesar has an army at the gates of Rome and that he will probably help Marcus Antony gain sovereignty and will thus revenge his uncle Julius Caesar who was slain by senators. Carnutius reports that Octavius has 10,000 soldiers; but Cicero believes he has come to challenge Antony, and thus the Senate should let him enter. Antony learns of this and sends his army to Ariminum to take the province from Decimus Brutus. The chorus is made up of senators who fear that Antony will inherit Caesar’s dictatorship. Cicero says they sent three armies to aid Brutus against Antony led by the consuls Hirtius and Pansa. Cicero fears a civil war. Their general Lepidus is pleading for peace, though the Senate’s armies were sent against Antony. A messenger reports that Hirtius was killed and that Pansa was badly wounded. Cicero goes to the Senate and favors fifty days of prayers for their three generals, and they will reward their victorious legions and the dead with pensions.
Antony and his army has crossed the Alps. He wants to make Lepidus an ally, and Octavius sends centurions to the Senate. Cicero is concerned that the ambitious Octavius wants to be consul, and Quintius warns that Octavius will oppose those who killed his uncle. Senators and the tribunes oppose Caesar’s proposal, and his agent Cornelius threatens them with his sword. Antony’s wife Fulvia learns that Octavius is marching toward Rome with eight legions, and Piso notes that Brutus and Cassius are far away in Macedonia. Cicero regrets his supporting Octavius, and Apuleius warns that Antony and Lepidus have strong armies in Italy. Cicero realizes they now are plagued by three tyrants. He informs the Senate that legions have arrived from Africa. Octavius sends Cornelius to tell the Senate he comes with terms of peace. Cicero reports that the African legions have also revolted, and he decides to seek an alliance with Octavius who tells the orator he is the last to welcome him. Cicero realizes that Octavius has become friends with Antony and Lepidus, and Quintius believes they must die. Soothsayers warn the Senate they will lose their freedom. Quintius tells his brother they must expect death from the three Roman furies. Cicero believes that piety forbids suicide as did Pythagoras, Plato, and Socrates. Cicero reads a letter from Antony that demands Cicero burn the Philippics he wrote against him, or Cicero will die. Quintius suggests that people must remember that Antony killed Cicero who decides to depart for Macedonia. Soldiers behead the tribune Salvius, the Praetor Minutius, and then Quintius and Cicero.
James Shirley wrote the masque Cupid and Death for a private performance, but it was presented for the Portuguese ambassador, the Count of Peneguiao, in March 1653 and printed that year. Portugal was one of the first nations to recognize the Commonwealth, and the treaty was ratified in July 1654. Shirley also published his play The Politician in 1655, and he argued that plays could be presented without “impudence and profanation.” Cupid and Death is based on two fables by Aesop. The masque was performed again in 1659 with music by Matthew Locke and Christopher Gibbons and has been called the first English comic opera.
Cupid and Death begins at an inn in a forest, and the Host tells the Chamberlain that Love can be called Folly and Madness. Cupid comes in with Folly and Madness, and they dance with the Host. They go out, and Death is welcomed by the Chamberlain who tells him that Cupid has been drinking. Despair enters with a noose and says he is looking for Death. Despair does not feel guilty and seeks Death because he cannot repent. The Chamberlain drinks wine with him and after partaking, Despair says he will live to see the Chamberlain hanged and gives him the halter. They go out, and Death comes back singing. While Cupid and Death are sleeping, the Chamberlain switches their arrows. In a pleasant garden a Lover dances with his mistress. Ladies lament their lovers have been slain by Cupid, and Nature arrives adorned with flowers. Cupid strikes the Lover, and Death enters. Two pairs of old men and women come in with crutches; but when Death’s darts hit them, they dance and court each other. Six men are fighting in a field, but Death’s arrows cause them to embrace and dance to Nature’s song. The Chamberlain leads in two apes, and Death’s dart makes him love them. A Satyr strikes him and dances with the apes. Mercury descends on a cloud and removes the mist from Cupid’s eyes. Death returns, and Mercury bans Cupid from palaces and princely courts and persuades Death not to strike down the honorable. Nature says the gods are just, and in Elysium the slain lovers dance.
William Davenant (1606-68) was the godson (and according to rumor the natural son) of William Shakespeare. In 1638 Charles I appointed him Poet Laureate. In the first civil war Davenant fought for the King as Lt. General of Ordnance under William Cavendish, the Earl of Newcastle; but after the royalist defeat at Naseby in 1645, Davenant retired to Paris, where he became a Catholic and worked on his heroic poem Gondibert which he never completed. While on his way to serve as Lt. Governor of Maryland, he was captured at sea and imprisoned but released with the help of Milton. He spent the year of 1651 detained in the Tower of London working on Gondibert.
Davenant created a theatre in his home at Rutland House for dramatic performances during the era when English theatres were closed. In 1653 he presented a copy of A Proposition for the Advancement of Morality by a New Way of Entertainment of the People to the Council of State in which he argued that the lower classes could be educated by reformed stage productions that could be censored. In May 1656 Davenant presented The First Day’s Entertainment at Rutland House by Declamations and Music after the Manner of the Ancients which was a debate between the Cynic philosopher Diogenes and the comical playwright Aristophanes, and it was approved for performance by the Council of State. Next Davenant got permission to put on his heroic opera The Siege of Rhodes in the same private residence. The music was by five composers, and it has been considered the first English opera. The play is in rhymed poetry, and it broke the sex barrier by casting Catherine Coleman as Ianthe. The musical drama is set during the historic siege of Rhodes by Sultan Sulayman and the Ottoman Turks in 1522 and is based on The General History of the Turks by Richard Knolles. Davenant published the libretto of The Siege of Rhodes before its debut. The Second Part of The Siege of Rhodes was performed by 1659 and was published in 1663. Davenant was imprisoned again for a while in 1659 and then fled to Paris, returning to England after Charles II was restored as king in 1660.
In The Siege of Rhodes the Knights of St. John at Rhodes are led by their Grand Master Philippe Villiers de l’Isle Adam and the Admiral. The knights were from France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and England with a large number from Auvergne in central France. The invading Turks are led by Sultan Sulayman (r. 1520-66). The Admiral warns Villerius to arm because a Turkish fleet is approaching Rhodes. Villerius laments that wealth is still being spent on Christian wars, and Rhodes may be lost. Duke Alphonso of Sicily has recently married Ianthe, and he wants to stay and fight Solyman. Villerius notes that Spain has left half its land untilled while trying to subdue the old world because they are not satisfied with the new world. Solyman asks Pirrhus why their advance has stopped, and he orders an assault on Rhodes. Mustapha arrives with the captured Ianthe, who is veiled. He says she courageously urged her men to fight, and she gave her dowry and jewels to relieve the Christian galleys. Solyman notes that Christians usually leave their ladies’ faces free. He graciously offers to let her and her husband safely return to Sicily.
In the third entry (act) Solyman orders Pirrhus to deploy their army against Rhodes, and he tells Mustapha to send a trumpet to urge Ianthe and her lord to go. The scene changes to the siege of the town. Ianthe tells Alphonso how she was taken to Solyman and was there for two days. Alphonso becomes jealous and refuses to leave because of honor; he wants revenge. Ianthe says they are in this war by fortune, but Alphonso considers it providence that they are besieged. The Admiral tells Villerius that a Turkish mine will soon explode. The Turks assault the town, and the Admiral tells Alphonso that Ianthe is wounded. She is brought in wearing a nightgown, and the Admiral says they withstood the assault. Finally starvation forces the Christians to urge Ianthe to ask for peace, and the magnanimous Solyman allows the Christians to leave Rhodes. The chorus of soldiers conclude that they will drink wine while the Turks drink coffee. This operatic drama initiated the English fashion for heroic plays in rhymed poetry that would be taken up by John Dryden.
After the English republic made peace with the Dutch in April 1654, Cromwell sent an expedition to attack the Spanish West Indies in December; but the attack on San Domingo failed, and the admirals Penn and Venables were imprisoned for invading Jamaica. In 1655 Cromwell’s Latin secretary Milton wrote a manifesto arguing that the Commonwealth should oppose the “depredations of the Spaniards,” and in December 1656 Cromwell accused Spain of violating the rights of the English and the native Indians to found their empire. Davenant presented the opera The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru at the Cockpit Theatre on Drury Lane with music by Matthew Locke in 1658 based on a translation by Milton’s nephew John Philips of A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies by Bartolomé de Las Casas. His version which had been published 1652 used the title The Tears of the Indians and accused Spaniards of slaughtering twenty million Indians. Davenant also used The Royal Commentaries of Peru by Garcilaso de la Vega which describes how the Spanish used torture to make the Indians bring them gold; if the natives fled, the Spaniards used dogs to hunt them down. In Davenant’s play the English soldiers are dressed in the red uniforms of Cromwell’s New Model Army.
The only named speaker in The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru is the Inca Priest of the Sun who refers to their happier and freer empire under the twelve Incas before the Incas became divided during the prophesied arrival of the bearded people on ships. Since then they have suffered from war and the exploitation by the Spaniards. The Christians were supposed to make their converts free, but that was deceit. Spaniards are shown carrying Indian baskets filled with gold ingots and silver wedges as the English soldiers make the natives submit.
In 1659 Davenant’s masque The History of Sir Francis Drake was also performed at the Cockpit Theatre and was based on Sir Francis Drake Revived by Philip Nichols which was published in 1628 and described Drake’s voyage to the West Indies in 1572-73. In fact on these raids Drake and his men captured the town Nombre de Dios and about twenty tons of gold and silver. They had to bury most of it because their ships could not bear the weight. However, Davenant’s romantic portrayal of the English saving the natives from the Spaniards was propaganda. The climactic scenes of the play are the English rescuing a beautiful native woman from the Spaniards before seizing ninety mules loaded with gold.
The Rump by John Tatham may have been performed as early as February 1660 while the Rump Parliament was breaking up, and it satirized the scramble for power and the Cromwellian officers. In these plays and from then on in England female roles were played by women instead of by boys. In France the heroic dramas by Pierre Corneille were popular and influenced the revived English theatre.
1. England in the Seventeenth Century by Maurice Ashley, p. 104.
2. Quoted in The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times by Tristram Stuart, p. 38.
3. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, chapter 17.
5. Ibid, chapter 28.
6. The Commonwealth of Oceana in The Political Works of James Harrington ed. J. G. A. Pocock, p. 169.
7. Ibid, p. 170.
8. Ibid, p. 201.
9. Ibid, p. 345.
10. The Journal by George Fox, p. 128.
11. Ibid., p. 212.