Imagini ale paginilor


[blocks in formation]

England-Execution of Charles I


At this time the country was in a critical condition. The Welsh were in revolt; a hostile Scotch army, made up of Presbyterians and Royalists, was bearing down from the north, and Rupert, to whom seventeen English ships had deserted, was preparing for a descent from Holland, while Ireland was rampant in its royalism. The promptest and most energetic measures were necessary to save the country, and Cromwell was the man to take them. The Welsh were forced to surrender, and Cromwell routed the Scots at Preston Moor.

The Presbyterian element dominated in Parliament, and the Independent in the army. They were jealous of each other's power, but Cromwell, with his usual sagacity, had the King removed from the commissioners' hands into those of the army, in June, 1647. Then some of the leading Presbyterians were turned out of Parliament by the army, and the Independents with Cromwel! gradually gained the ascendency.

Two years were spent in fruitless negotiations, when Charles, who was still a prisoner on the Isle of Wight, made a treaty with the Scots, in which he promised to establish the Presbyterian church in England if they would send an army to replace him on the throne. It seems strange that at that late day any one was foolish enough to place reliance upon the most solemn pledge of the King. The advance of the Scots into England and the flocking of the Royalists to their aid caused the civil war to break out again. On the return of the victorious Parliamentary army to London the Presbyterians were still temporizing with the king. In December, 1648, Colonel Pride drove more than one hundred of the Presbyterian members out of Parliament, the process being known in history as "Pride's Purge." Cromwell did not order this summary proceeding, but approved of it. Some sixty Independents were left, and the body was derisively called the Rump Parliament.

Cromwell saw that one step remained to be taken in order to bring peace to the distracted country. It was a fearful one, but he did not hesitate to take it.

The Rump Parliament voted that the King should be brought to trial on the charge of treason against the government. The Lords refused to agree, whereupon the Commons declared that the supreme authority rested in them, and closed the House of Lords. A High Court of Justice was organized for the trial of the King, Cromwell, of course, being a member of it. On the 20th of January, 1649, the King was brought before this court. He bore himself with a dignity that compelled the respect of his enemies, and there were not lacking many expressions of sympathy for him. A week later he was found guilty, and sentence of death was pronounced upon him as a "tyrant, traitor, murderer, and public enemy to the good people of the nation. He calmly accepted his fate, bade farewell to his children, and was beheaded on the scaffold before Whitehall, on January 30, 1649.

[ocr errors]
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]

HUS, in 1649, England ceased to be a kingdom and took the name of a "Commonwealth." Commonwealth." Before the multitude which stared with mingled awe, exultation, and pity upon the beheading of Charles I. had separated, the House of Commons declared that no person should be proclaimed King of England, or Ireland, or the dominions thereof. Within two months the House of Lords was abolished, not only as an incumbrance, but as a dangerous menace to the nation. England claimed to be a republic, governed by a Council of State, with John Bradshaw as president and the famous poet, John Milton, the foreign secretary. Fairfax and Cromwell commanded the army, but the centre, front, head, and heart of the Commonwealth was the grim, relentless, iron-willed Cromwell.

The young republic, like our own, was pestered by anarchists, who contended that all offices should be done away with and rank and property placed on an equality. These people called themselves "Levellers," and broke out in a vicious mutiny, which Cromwell crushed, as he would have stamped the life out of a venomous serpent coiling at his feet.

Fairfax soon resigned, and Cromwell became the head of the military forces of his country. The new government must have collapsed in a few weeks but for his amazing energy and ability. Even he found a herculean task on his hands. The Royalists were numerous and daring, and the Presbyterians detested the army and the Rump Parliament, from which they had been excluded.

[graphic][merged small]
« ÎnapoiContinuă »