The Lord Protector: Religion and Politics in the Life of Oliver Cromwell

By Robert S. Paul | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
THE CIVIL WAR: SPRING 1644 TO THE SELF-DENYING ORDINANCE

I

BY the spring of 1644 serious political differences were beginning to appear between the Presbyterians and Independents. Many Presbyterians hoped for a negotiated peace, which would not leave the King humiliated by total defeat, and they imagined this could best be achieved by a policy of continuous defence. They feared the radical and religious elements which were appearing within the parliamentary party as much as they feared the royal prerogative,1 and peers like Essex, Willoughby and Manchester had a strong landed interest which often allowed territorial considerations to outweigh military strategy. There was a tendency on the part of county forces to avoid action outside their own boundaries, and thus Parliament could never produce an effective field army strong enough to bring the King's army to a decisive battle: localized armies produced static warfare and military stalemate.

On the other hand the Independents argued that lasting peace would not be attained by a precarious balance of power: they sought a complete parliamentary victory which would leave the King powerless to make war.

This difference appears to be entirely secular, but, as Mr. Bruce points out, the division became more and more identified with the ecclesiastical distinction between Presbyterians and Independents.2 The Presbyterians looked for the reformation of the Church of England from the "popish" elements remaining in its organization and liturgy, but they did not desire to abolish the Establishment; indeed, the ordinance of February 5, 1644, requiring all Englishmen over the age of eighteen to sign the Covenant, implied uniformity as comprehensive as that of Eliza-

____________________
1
The Quarrel between the Earl of Manchester and Oliver Cromwell, edited by John Bruce and David Mason ( Camden Society), 1875, p. xxxii.
2
Ibid., pp. xxxi-xxxviii.

-71-

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