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

By Robert S. Paul | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIXTEEN
EXPERIMENTS AT HOME AND ABROAD (1653)

I

CROMWELL'S task was no different from that which he had set before Parliament in 1644--"to save a Nation out of a bleeding, nay almost dying condition, which the long continuance of this War hath already brought it into";1 but if the task was in principle the same, in extent and complexity it was infinitely greater. The campaigns in Ireland and Scotland, the war with Holland, the growing apprehension abroad, and nine additional years of civil strife all made his task in 1653 the more difficult and urgent.

He had lost the advice of Henry Ireton, and if he had risen in personal prestige he had also alienated many of those who had been his loyal colleagues. He was very conscious that his present authority was based not upon his national popularity, but upon the supremacy of the Army, and even within the Army he was kept in check by the nice balance of Lambert's and Harrison's interests. Even the policy of his staunchest friends in pressing for his recognition as Head of the State could only result in fixing the responsibility of government more firmly upon him. He was very much alone, and in the welter of political confusion at home and of diplomatic uncertainties abroad he had only the clear call of events on which to base the certainty of his mission.

Government had to be undertaken both at home and abroad. If Europe could no longer ignore the new military power that had arisen at her north-western corner, neither could England afford to be indifferent to the continental powers. The Dutch war must be settled, regular diplomatic relations must be established and strong alliances contracted: a consistent foreign policy must be formulated and adhered to. At home, taxation must be put on a more equitable basis and the economy of the country

____________________
1
Speech, December 9, 1644. W.S., I, 314 f; L-C, I, 186-7.

-275-

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