Imatges de pÓgina
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CHAP.
VIII.

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vernment

by the Army.

compared with the English nation. It could not ven-
ture to overlook many things which a strong national
government would have borne without wincing. Its
principle was a right one, that the only limit to liberty
of speech should be where it endangers the true interests
of the state. But they could not help confounding the
interests of the state in its natural organisation with the
interests of the highly artificial state which they had
called into existence. A theory which would be properly
applied to incendiaries who claimed the right of publicly
instigating men to a new gunpowder plot, in order to
terrorise unarmed populations into submission by mas-
sacre, was by no means properly applied to suppress
even private meetings for worship according to the forms
of the Book of Common Prayer. As in the days of Laud
the pressure upon men whose religious opinions were
weak was felt more widely than the pressure upon those
whose religious opinions were strong. Tolerant on the
score of belief, the Puritan government was intolerant on
the score of morality. In its attempt to suppress vice, it
waged warfare against many acts which were not in
themselves vicious, and against many more which, though
evil in themselves, were regarded with leniency by the
average opinion of the time. No wonder that the Book
of Common Prayer gained more adherents than it had
in the days when Laud sat in the High Commission
Court and the Star Chamber. Cromwell found himself
proscribing the religion of a people in the name of
religious liberty..

Nor was it only the fact that the government was
supported by a minority which roused opposition. The
fact that this minority was an armed one was still more
exasperating. Those who lead opinion will always be
the few, and not the many; but it is necessary that the
few should pay the many the compliment of employing

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persuasion. Such a compliment an army cannot pay. Its instrument of control lies in the text of pike and gun. From this necessity Cromwell tried hard to escape. He had no pleasure in ruling by force. But he could not help himself. When parliaments were recalcitrant he had no resource but in the buff-coated soldiers who were always ready to intervene at his bidding. Government appealing to armed force cannot be permanently strong. It was said to a ruler of our own day that he could do anything with bayonets except sit upon them. And even besides the popular repulsion to military power, there would have always remained a popular repulsion to the men of whom Cromwell's army was composed, even if they could have dropped their muskets and slipped off their uniform to appear in civilian garb. On their side were all the worst and most contemptible hypocrites of the day, who found it easy to imitate their forms of speech, and to chatter of saving grace and the interests of the soul, to cover the vilest iniquity. They themselves were for the most part honourable and highsouled Christian men, with the most exalted ideal of morality, and the most profound conviction that a special work of Almighty grace had been wrought in their own souls, and that they were the chosen saints of the Most High appointed to carry on God's work upon the earth. Their spiritual fervour regarded with disdain the ordinary mass of humanity, and, as always happens, the ordinary mass of humanity was irritated at being so regarded. Never yet was any effort successful to raise a people by compulsion above its average standard. It turns upon those who attempt it, as the Florentine people turned upon Savonarola, as the French people turned upon Saint Just. For a time Cromwell staved off the evil hour. When he died, anarchy was let loose, and after a brief interval the nation threw itself into the arms of Charles II.

CHAP.

VIII.

CHAP.
VIII.

§ 4. Government of the Restoration.

$ 5. The Divine Right of Kings.

The government of the Restoration, as it formed itself under the influence of Hyde, who shortly became Lord Chancellor Clarendon, was an attempt to resuscitate the political theories of the minority of 1641. King and parliament were to work for ever in harmony together. The king, being entirely dependent upon parliament for his revenue, would never be able to strike out a separate line of action, whilst the parliament, solemnly declaring that in no possible case was resistance to the king allowed by the laws of God or man, seemed to have placed it out of its own power to strike out a line of action independent of the king. In point of fact, this excellent system of mechanical balance would remain in working order just as long as king and parliament were united in feeling and policy, and not a moment longer. The men of the Restoration forgot what Elizabeth and Charles I. on the one side, and the Commons of post-Revolutionary times on the other side did not forget-that the power of giving a final and irrevocable decision must be placed somewhere. The great advocate of this system was Clarendon, and Clarendon was never able to understand that when two men are on the same horse, both of them cannot ride in front at the same time.

For a time at least king and parliament were agreed. They had one common enemy in Puritanism, and one common resolve, that a Puritan minority should not again impose its will upon the nation by the instrument of an armed force. This was the real meaning of those sweeping enunciations of principles about nonresistance and the divine right of kings which astonish a later age. The latter doctrine, startling as it appears now, was little more than the form special to the age, in which respect for established institutions had clothed itself. In the medieval empire and in the England of the Tudors, it had meant no more than that the emperor or

king was independent of the Pope. In the days of the first two Stuarts it had been little more than a clerical appendage to the ordinary constitutional arguments against the growing inclination to claim sovereign authority for the House of Commons. After the execution of Charles I. it had associated itself with a new idea, that of indefeasible hereditary right, which seemed to be a barrier against the irruption of tumultuary violence to sweep away the ascertained foundations of government.

Such a Restoration as this was sure to go deeper than $6. Character of to a mere replacement of the old external machinery the Res of government. The reaction against the attempt to toration. raise ordinary men to a standard of religion and morality above their reach made vice in its grossest forms welcome in the high places of the world. The court and high society wallowed in filth. Literature decked itself in foulness. It was not only in this direction that the reaction made itself visible. The ideas of Chillingworth and Hales in religion, of Bacon and the founders of the Royal Society in science, acquired an unexpected preponderance with thinking men. The intellectual side of man's nature was cultivated to the neglect of spiritual inspiration and individual enthusiasm. The word zeal, which had once been used as the highest praise, now became a term of reproach. Christian precepts were enforced because they were eminently reasonable and conducive to happiness, not because they exalted the believer to a high-strung enthusiasm for a divine.

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CHAP.
VIII.

Toleration.

Such a temper, though unfavourable at the time to § 7. Promorality and religion, would in the long run give to spects of them a higher place than ever before. Charles and Cromwell had alternately extended their patronage to different systems with the result of making the system

CHAP.
VIII.

which each patronised contemptible. At first it seemed as if the Parliament of the Restoration were about to persist in the evil courses of its predecessors. It brought back the Church system of Charles I. and it persecuted the Puritans with unrelenting severity. But between the persecutions of this Parliament and preceding persecutions there was a great difference. In all former cases persecution arose more from fear than from intolerance. But the fear of Charles and Cromwell was a permanent fear. It arose from the fact that a minority was attempting to coerce a majority without the slightest prospect that the minority would ever be converted into a majority. Under the Restoration a majority was persecuting a minority. It is true that that minority was especially formidable, partly from its activity and energy, but still more from the fact that it numbered in its ranks the dissolved Puritan army. As long as those soldiers were alive, it would be difficult to persuade ordinary citizens that it was safe to allow to the Dissenters an ecclesiastical organisation which might casily be converted into a military organisation. Such a danger however would of necessity grow less every year. The risk was diminished as each of Cromwell's soldiers passed into the grave. In twenty or thirty years the Dissenters would only be known as a small minority of the population, of whom a few old men had once borne arms in a now unpopular cause. All that would then stand in the way of the grant of the liberty of sectarian association apart from the national church would be the feeling of dislike which their ideas and principles aroused. Now however they would not be without allies within the national church itself. The men who measured Christianity by its reasonableness rather than by its traditionary authority were not without considerable influence there, and though these men would have pre

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