The Achievement of Oliver Cromwell
WHEN ALL IS SAID, and when all allowances have been made, it remains impossible to explain the achievement of Cromwell in any simple political terms, whether of the unification of the United Kingdom, or of colonial expansion and imperial policy, or of both. The unification and the expansion were both incidental: they were both by-products, naturally enough thrown out, of great motions of the human mind and the stirring of great events which had other intentions and purposes. Those motions, and that stirring, had produced two civil wars, which lasted from the summer of 1642 to the autumn of 1651. In the course of these civil wars two things, both unprojected and unforeseen, had happened. In the first place all the three countries—England, Scotland, and Ireland—had been involved. The end of the struggle necessarily entailed a new settlement of their relations; and that settlement, which was not originally in debate but had been afterward drawn into debate, was necessarily made by the victor in debate; and necessarily made on the basis of a unified system, congruous with his own ecclesiastical and political ideas. It was an inevitable result; but it was as unintended as it was inevitable, and it proved to be as temporary as it was unintended.
KeywordsCivil Liberty Political Society Political Liberty Military Rule Religious Liberty
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- 5.Quoted in C. H. Firth, Oliver Cromwell and the Role of the Puritans in England (London and New York, 1900), p. 205. The mention of the Jews deserves notice. Cromwell was personally favorable to the cause of the Jews, when they petitioned, in 1655, for freedom to reside for purposes of trade and to practice their religion. “The fierce multitude of the Jews” had been ordered to leave England by Edward I in 1290; and there had been no Jews in England, except by stealth, for three and a half centuries. In the time of the Commonwealth the Jews were beginning to settle again in London; the petition of 1655 was a petition for the legal recognition of such settlement. The petition was referred to a committee of the Council; the committee co-opted two judges; the two judges gave it as their opinion that there was no law forbidding the settlement of Jews. Nothing was done by the committee; but the opinion of the judges opened the way for the quiet and unmolested return of the Jews to England. (S. R. Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, II, 101; IV, 11–15.)Google Scholar