– Speedy Settlement? Essay, Research Paper
WHY WAS THE EXECUTION OF THE KING NOT FOLLOWED BY A SPEEDY SETTLEMENT?
How do you replace a King? Can you even attempt to do so at all? The same problems that had led Parliament to dither over removing him initially would still exist after his death. To replace the monarch would be difficult, nobody was sure what they wanted, let alone if they desired a new monarch, nor did they want to make more a martyr of Charles as they had done so already. A decision needed to please everyone unconditionally.
The problem lies in that it is incredibly difficult to please every party. In a balance of power, one nation’s accomplishments can only come at the demise of another, this case is no exception. With a need for settlement, factioned groups wanted to get their point across quickly, to establish a foothold so to speak. The main disagreement issue came from the large amount of religious diversity that branched to and from political diversity. The three principal challenges were the Levellers, the Rump Parliament and the army.
Parliament did not know what to do next, just that they had to do something. The execution of Charles was only a short-term solution and nobody really know what was supposed to happen next. The natural solution was to put Charles II at the throne, but the civil wars were fought to restrict to restrict the powers of the monarch, not of the individual. And there was certainly no way that a replacement King would be of the kind raised by his Catholic mother throughout the conflicts. To coronate Charles II would throw Parliament back to square one as they had been in the early 1640s.
Of the three primary parties fighting for power in the years of settlement, the Army would appear to be the most dominant. What remained of Parliament (the Rump) were those MP’s left after Pride’s purge of 1648, and so already signifcant allegiance with the army, evidented by their very existence in the House of Commons. They held the control of the nation, but should the General Council of the Army refute any decisions, the Rump would be hard-pushed to resist. However, the fact that merely 43 of the 211 who remained after the purge signed the death warrant for Charles I, indicates that the Rump was not merely a puppet of increasingly militarily-minded army leaders. It is important to realise that England was not under complete military rule. Considering its potentially enormous power, the army was largely restrained. They were practically invulnerable to radical assimilisation due to the such small numbers of the Levellers. The army was always kept in control by its council, governed by soldiers who were also MP’s themselves.
In April 1647 the army rank and file elected agitators who were largely influenced by Leveller ideas. The generals had to accept an army council that included these ordinary soldiers, as well as officers. At Putney, in October 1647, this representative body discussed the Agreement of the People, a document presented by the Levellers as a new social contract to re-found the state that had been dissolved by Parliament’s victory in the Civil War. The Putney debates on this document ended in deadlock, however, and the generals restored discipline in the army by force. In March 1649, John Lilburne and other Leveller leaders were imprisoned. A mutiny of Leveller troops in London was suppressed, and in May a more serious revolt was put down in Oxfordshire. That was the end of the Levellers as an organised political force.
The Levellers never won national support. Their sea-green colours held London’s streets, and the troops listened to them eagerly, but propaganda was difficult among a population used to taking its ideas from the church and the landed aristocracy. The Levellers failure to capture the support of the army was decisive. But had they been allowed time to educate a democratic electorate, their program was well calculated to appeal to peasant farmers and artisans-the overwhelming majority of the people. Their ideas were more likely to command widespread support than had those of the communistic Diggers, for they also sought to appeal to men of small property and independence. Their appeal to reason against arguments drawn from precedent or biblical authority marks a milestone in political thought, and the pamphlets of some of their leaders are important in the evolution of popular English prose.
A critical reason for such a slow process towards a settlement was the absence of Oliver Cromwell from proceedings. For the first few years after the removal of Charles he was held up in other affairs, leaving a gap where his leading voice had been before. Had he been around things may well have progressed earlier. After the British Isles were declared a republic and named the Commonwealth, Oliver Cromwell served as the first chairman of the Council of State, the executive body of a one-chamber Parliament. During the first three years following Charles I’s execution, however, he was chiefly absorbed in campaigns against the Royalists in Ireland and Scotland. Detesting the Irish as primitive, savage, and superstitious, he believed they had carried out a huge massacre of English settlers in 1641. As commander in chief and lord lieutenant, he waged a ruthless campaign against them, though when he refused quarter to most of the garrison at Drogheda near Dublin in September 1649, he wrote that it would:
“tend to prevent the effusion of blood for the future, . . . which otherwise cannot but work remorse and regret.”
On his return to London in May 1650 Cromwell was ordered to lead an army into Scotland, where Charles II had been acknowledged as its new king. Fairfax had refused the command; so on June 25 Cromwell was appointed captain general in his place. He felt more tender toward the Scots, most of whom were fellow Puritans, than toward the Catholic Irish. The campaign proved difficult, and during the winter of 1650 Cromwell was taken ill. But he defeated the Scots with an army inferior in numbers at Dunbar on September 3, 1650, and a year later, when Charles II advanced into England, Cromwell destroyed his army at Worcester.
Through its early stages, the Rump showed no signs of dissolving itself and clearly intended that political reform should not open the way to reconstruction of society. This would have bitterly disappointed the Levellers who desired such reform and were simply not strong enough to achieve it single-handedly. The Rump allowed localities to exist independently, and changed little social matters. They did not feel any urgence in what they were to do. They were left by the army for a reason, to restore the stability of the country after a revolutionary event had taken place. While everyone battled to get their own views across, no action took place physically. There was no speedy settlement because there was no obvious force to take command and get things done.