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

By Robert S. Paul | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
THE SCOTTISH CAMPAIGN: DUNBAR (May 1650-January 1651)

I
The Supreme Command

THE campaigns of Ireland and Scotland provide very different pictures of Cromwell, and yet together they form a single chapter in his rise to power, since the success of the former not only paved the way for the invasion of Scotland, but also led to his superseding Fairfax as Commander-in-Chief. When Cromwell resumed his seat in the Commons the Speaker, William Lenthall, expressed to him the hearty thanks of the House in an "eloquent Oration, setting forth the great Providence of God in those great and strange Works, which God had wrought by him, as the Instrument".1 Every system of government has recourse to a theory by which it substantiates its own authority. Monarchy based itself on the "Divine Right of Kings", and although the Levellers had put forward as an alternative the divine rights of the People, this could not yet stir the popular imagination; but in the conception of a divinely-inspired and invincible leader--God's "Instrument"--there was already to hand a new theory of authority to take the place of the Divine Right of Kings. The need for leadership was making Cromwell's personal rule inevitable.2

Meanwhile the Commonwealth's practical difficulties remained. On February 5, 1649, in Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales had been proclaimed King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, on condition that he signed the Covenant, and he had not scrupled

____________________
1
C.J., VI, 418.
2
"An ever-victorious commander with an aura of invincibility, compelling eloquence, profound conviction of the righteousness of his cause and the certainty of its success, and unconquerable resolution, was precisely what the Commonwealth most needed and what he now provided." W. C. Abbott, W.S., II, 260.

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