Oliver Cromwell

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Cromwell, Oliver

(krŏm`wĕl, krŭm`–, –wəl), 1599–1658, lord protector of England.

Parliamentary General

The son of a gentry family, he entered Cambridge in 1616 but probably left the next year. Cromwell entered Parliament in 1628, standing firmly with the opposition to Charles ICharles I,
1600–1649, king of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1625–49), second son of James I and Anne of Denmark. Early Life

He became heir to the throne on the death of his older brother Henry in 1612 and was made prince of Wales in 1616.
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, and was active in the Short and Long Parliaments (1640), although not a conspicuous leader. During the first civil war (see English civil warEnglish civil war,
1642–48, the conflict between King Charles I of England and a large body of his subjects, generally called the "parliamentarians," that culminated in the defeat and execution of the king and the establishment of a republican commonwealth.
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) he rose rapidly to leadership because of his military ability and his genius for organizing and inspiring the parliamentary armies. His own regiment, the Ironsides, distinguished itself at Marston Moor (1644) and in numerous minor engagements.

In 1644 he pressed for a thorough reorganization of the parliamentary forces and was appointed (1645) second in command to Sir Thomas Fairfax (later Baron Fairfax of CameronFairfax of Cameron, Thomas Fairfax, 3d Baron,
1612–71, English general. He was the son of Ferdinando Fairfax, 2d Baron Fairfax of Cameron (1584–1648), whose title he inherited and under whom he fought in the
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) in the resulting New Model Army, which defeated the king at Naseby in 1645. In the quarrel between the army and Parliament following the first civil war, Cromwell supported the sectarians in the army and approved the seizure (1647) of Charles from Parliament. However, he favored a moderate settlement with the king (as opposed to the radical proposals of the LevelersLevelers
or Levellers,
English Puritan sect active at the time of the English civil war. The name was apparently applied to them in 1647, in derision of their beliefs in equality. The leader of the movement and its most indefatigable propagandist was John Lilburne.
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) until Charles's flight to Carisbrooke (1647) and secret dealings with the Scots caused him to lose all hope of further negotiations with the king.

In the second civil war he repelled the Scottish royalist invasion at Preston (1648). His political power was enhanced by the removal of Presbyterian leaders from Parliament in Pride's Purge (see under Pride, ThomasPride, Thomas,
d. 1658, English parliamentary soldier in the English civil war. In Dec., 1648, acting on the orders of the army council, he carried out Pride's Purge,
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), and at the king's trial (1649) his was the leading voice demanding execution.

Lord Protector

In 1649, after the proclamation of the republican Commonwealth, Cromwell led a punitive expedition into Ireland, especially remembered for the massacre of the royalist garrison at Drogheda. He then initiated a policy of systematic dispossession of the Irish, transferring their lands to Protestant proprietors. In 1650 he invaded Scotland and routed the Scottish royalists at Dunbar; later he defeated the Scots and Charles II himself at Worcester (1651) and left the rest of the conquest of Scotland to Gen. George Monck.

Cromwell, now virtual dictator of the Commonwealth, dissolved the Rump Parliament in 1653 after it had failed to effect reforms demanded by the army and had sought to perpetuate its power. His attempt to replace it by the Nominated (Barebone's) Parliament (see Barebone, Praise-GodBarebone or Barbon, Praise-God
, 1596?–1679, English lay preacher and leather merchant. Soon after 1630 he became leader of half of a Baptist congregation that had split over the issue of infant baptism.
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), appointed by himself from nominations of the Independent congregations, resulted in a reckless, hopelessly divided body that was finally forced to dissolve itself. A group of army officers then drew up the constitutional document known as the Instrument of Government (1653), by which Cromwell became lord protector (see ProtectorateProtectorate,
in English history, name given to the English government from 1653 to 1659. Following the English civil war and the execution of Charles I, England was declared (1649) a commonwealth under the rule of the Rump Parliament.
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). The Parliament of 1654, which was elected under the terms of the same document, wanted to prepare a new constitution and was soon dissolved.

After that Cromwell resorted to open military government, dividing England into 11 districts, each administered by a major-general. Another, more amenable Parliament was summoned in 1656, and in 1657 it presented to Cromwell a new constitution known as the Humble Petition and Advice and offered him the crown. He declined the crown but accepted (with some modifications) the Humble Petition, which further increased his power and set up a second legislative chamber. The second session of this same Parliament, however, challenged the new constitution, and Cromwell dissolved it (1658) seven months before his death.

Cromwell's foreign policy was governed by the need to expand English trade and prevent the restoration of the Stuarts, and by the desire to build up a Protestant league and enhance the prestige of the English republic. He approved the Navigation Act of 1651, which led to the first (1652–54) of the Dutch WarsDutch Wars,
series of conflicts between the English and Dutch during the mid to late 17th cent. The wars had their roots in the Anglo-Dutch commercial rivalry, although the last of the three wars was a wider conflict in which French interests played a primary role.
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, and he pressed the war against Spain (1655–58) as a means of encroaching on Spanish rights of colonization in America. The Dutch war resulted in several important naval victories for the English under Admiral Robert BlakeBlake, Robert,
1599–1657, English admiral. A merchant, he sat in the Short Parliament (1640) and joined the parliamentary side in the civil war. He defended Bristol, Lyme, and Taunton against royalist attacks (1643–45).
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, but the Spanish war, apart from the sinking of a Spanish fleet (also by Blake), brought only Jamaica and imposed a great strain on English finances.

Character and Influence

Opinions of Cromwell have always varied widely. His military skill and force of character are universally recognized. He met the task of holding together the gains of the civil wars and the discordant groups in the Puritan party in what seemed the only practical way. This involved force and intolerance, which were evidently alien to him personally, for he professed love for both toleration and constitutional government. Only Jews and non-Anglican Protestants (excepting Quakers) were tolerated during his rule, however, and he found it impossible to cooperate with Parliament in governing. His government, dependent on his own strong character, costly in its foreign policy, and representing a break in English institutions and a minority religious viewpoint, could not survive him long, and he was succeeded briefly as protector by his son Richard.

Bibliography

See the writings and speeches of Oliver Cromwell (ed. by W. C. Abbott et al., 4 vol., 1937–47); biographies by M. P. Ashley (1969), J. E. C. Hill (1970), C. V. Wedgwood (rev. ed. 1973), and A. Fraser (1973); M. P. Ashley, The Greatness of Oliver Cromwell (1957, repr. 1966); writings on the period by S. R. Gardiner and Sir Charles Firth.

Cromwell, Oliver

 

Born Apr. 25, 1599, in Huntingdon; died Sept. 3, 1658, in London. Outstanding figure of the English Bourgeois Revolution of the 17th century; leader of the Independents, and lord protector of England (from 1653). According to F. Engels’ estimate, he was the “Robespierre and Napoleon rolled into one” of the English Revolution (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 1, p. 602).

Cromwell was born into a middle gentry family and began his political activity in 1628, when he was first elected to the House of Commons. Nevertheless, within the ranks of the Parliamentary opposition to Stuart absolutism Cromwell became well known only with the convocation in 1640 of the “Long Parliament,” in which he spoke out as an advocate of the interests of the bourgeoisie and the new gentry.

With the beginning of the first civil war against the king (1642–46), Cromwell with the rank of captain became head (in September 1642) of a volunteer cavalry detachment. Cromwell strongly advocated the democratization of the Parliamentary army, and he wanted to attract to it those who would fight against the king out of conviction rather than as mercenaries. In seeking out such “soldiers of God,” Cromwell turned to the yeomanry of eastern England, who were devout Puritans and hostile to outmoded feudal orders. Cromwell’s peasant cavalry (he commanded a cavalry regiment from the beginning of 1643) soon merited its nickname of “Ironsides” because of its tenacity and discipline. It became the nucleus of the Parliamentary army, which was reorganized upon Cromwell’s initiative at the beginning of 1645 (the “New Model Army”) and in which Cromwell was deputy commander in chief with the rank of lieutenant general. Cromwell’s skill as a general was most clearly manifested in the decisive battles of the first civil war—at Marston Moor (July 2, 1644) and at Naseby (June 14, 1645), where it was Cromwell’s cavalry that decided the success of these battles.

Although during the first civil war Cromwell reflected to a considerable degree the mood of the revolutionary democracy in the Parliamentary camp, after the victory over the king and the latter’s imprisonment, he retarded and restrained the movement of the popular masses. This led to a fierce struggle between Cromwell and the Levelers (1647). Caught between three political forces in 1647—the Presbyterian majority in Parliament, the army, and the imprisoned king—Cromwell showed himself to be a resourceful and evasive politician. Utilizing the army as his principal support, he carried on secret negotiations with the king at the same time, and he dealt harshly with disturbances among the soldiers.

When at the beginning of the second civil war (1648) Cromwell again needed the support of the masses, he made a temporary alliance with the Levelers. In 1648 he captured London, and with the aid of his soldiers he purged the House of Commons of the openly outspoken royalists (”Pride’s Purge” of Dec. 6, 1648). Under pressure from the lower classes, Cromwell was compelled to agree to the trial and execution of the king, the abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords, and the proclamation of England as a republic. However, the republic that was declared in May 1649 was in fact a dictatorship by the so-called Meek Independents, headed by Cromwell.

The smashing of the Levelers’ uprising and the Diggers’ movement in England itself, the extremely harsh military expedition against rebellious Ireland (1649–50), Cromwell’s Scottish campaign (1650–51), and the plundering of Irish lands all testified to Cromwell’s transformation into the Napoleon of the English Revolution. By his growing conservatism and his hostility to the democratic aspirations of the masses Cromwell merited the trust of the bourgeoisie and the new gentry.

Officially appointed by Parliament in May 1650 as lord general and commander in chief of all the republic’s armed forces, Cromwell proceeded to establish his own personal dictatorship. On Apr. 20, 1653, he dissolved “the Rump” of the Long Parliament; in December 1653 he was proclaimed lord protector of England, Ireland, and Scotland. This protectorate regime transformed Cromwell into the de facto sovereign ruler of the country, the military might of which, forged during the course of the Revolution, was now placed at the service of the bourgeoisie’s trade and colonial expansion.

Cromwell’s outward grandeur, which reached its apex during these years, could not, however, conceal the weakness of the protectorate system. The class allies who had come to power strove to erect a more tenable barrier against the claims of the popular masses. Famed for his reputation as a regicide, Cromwell was in their eyes an insufficient guarantee against the common people. Cromwell’s right-wing enemies prepared secretly for a restoration of the Stuarts. By his own open anti-democratism Cromwell himself facilitated and expedited this restoration, which was carried out in 1660, shortly after Cromwell’s death.

SOURCES

The Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, vols. 1–4. Edited by W. C. Abbott. Cambridge, 1937–47.

REFERENCES

Angliiskaia burzhuaznaia revoliutsiia XVII v., vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1954. (Contains a bibliography.)
Barg, M. A. Kromvel’ i ego vremia. Moscow, 1950.
Pavlova, T. A. “Oliver Kromvel’: chelovek i politik.” Novaia i noveishaia istoriia, 1971, nos. 1–2.
Gardiner, S. R. History of the Commonwealth and Protectorate (1649–1656). New edition, vols. 1–4. London, 1903.
Buchan, J. Oliver Cromwell. London, 1949.
Hill, C. God’s Englishman: Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution. London [1970].
Abbott, W. C. A Bibliography of Oliver Cromwell. Cambridge, 1929.

M. A. BARG