The End Of The Commonwealth Essay, Research Paper
The End of the Commonwealth
The Commonwealth was a very different period for England. It was a new form of government, which had never been tried before. Prior to this period England had only been ruled by monarchs, who were thought to be given power through divine right. The leader of the Commonwealth, Oliver Cromwell, didn t get his power through divine right, but more through military power. The Commonwealth lasted from 1649-1660, ending because of Oliver s death and the lack of his son Richard s ability to follow in the footsteps of his father. In order to understand why the Commonwealth ended after Cromwell s death, one must first understand its leader and how the Commonwealth started.
Oliver Cromwell was born into a common family of English country Puritans. He had no particular advantages that would prepare him for leading a country. Yet he had a God given ability to earn the loyalty and respect of the people around him. Cromwell’s early years were ordinary, but at the age of twenty-seven he had this sense of his divine destiny that God had in store for him. He was a quiet, simple, serious-minded man, who spoke very little. But when he did speak, people listened and did not question. As a justice of the peace, his exploits lead him to be noticed by Puritan locals who in turn sent him to Parliament as their representative. There he attracted attention with his blunt, forcible speech as a member of the Independent Party which was made up of Puritans (DAV 145).
The English people wanted the establishment of a democratic parliamentary system of civil government and the elimination of the divine right of kings. King Charles I, the tyrant who had long persecuted the English Puritans by having their ears cut off and their noses slit for going against his attempts to force their churches to episcopacy, finally collided with Parliament over a long ordeal with new and revolutionary ideas. The Puritans, or “Roundheads” as they were called, finally led a civil war against the King and his Cavaliers (DAV 147).
When Cromwell discovered the weakness of the Roundhead army, he made himself captain of the cavalry. Cromwell had never been trained in war, but even from the very beginning he showed his abilities as a skilled and knowledgeable general. Cromwell knew that revolutions were more successful when fought by farmers, so he gathered a thousand handpicked Puritan farmers who knew and could fight in open fields. His regiment was nicknamed “Ironsides” and was never beaten, even when they were outnumbered, sometimes three to one (DAV 148).
It was an army the likes of which hadn’t been seen since ancient Israel. They would recite the Westminster Confession and march into battle singing the Psalms of David. Cromwell’s tactic was to strike with the cavalry through the advancing army at the center, go straight through the lines and then circle to either the left or the right forming the mass into a mob, which created confusion and helped destroy the opposing army. Cromwell gained multiple troops and soon became commander-in-chief. His discipline created the only body of regular troops on either side who preached, prayed, paid fines for profanity and drunkenness, and charged the enemy singing hymns (DAV 149).
During this period Charles I invited an Irish Catholic army to his aid, an action for which he was tried for high treason and beheaded shortly after the war. After the execution the Parliament assumed power. The success of the new democracy in England was short. Cromwell found that a democratic parliamentary system run by lords oppressed the common people and was almost as corrupt as the monarchy of Charles I. As Commander of the army, he was able to seize power and served as Lord Protector. During the fifteen years in which Cromwell ruled, he drove pirates from the Mediterranean Sea, set English captives free, and subdued any threat from France, Spain and Italy. Cromwell made Great Britain a feared and respected power throughout the world (DAV 149).
However, Cromwell s government was in no way running smoothly. Cromwell constantly fought with parliament he had no more skills in running an assembly than the Stuarts did. At the same time Cromwell was involved with many wars making high taxation a necessity, leaving many people unhappy under his rule. He became more of a military dictator than a leader of a commonwealth. When he finally summoned Parliament again in 1656, he found that everyone wanted to return to the old constitutional rule of king, lords, and commons, but they were still not ready to accept another Stuart. Nevertheless, Cromwell refused to be the next king. Then on September 3, 1658, he died, leaving as successor his son (Rempel 1).
On the same day his father died, Richard Cromwell was proclaimed Lord Protector of the nation. His position angered the military officers of the council. In order to raise money and settle such some differences, Richard was forced to bring back the Parliament in January 1659. Anarchy followed along with arguments between the nobles and the military. This in turn resulted in an army council breaking away which took Richard into their power and forced him to get rid of the Rump Parliament. This army council then agreed with the Long Parliament that Richard should be dismissed. Richard then submitted to their decision on May 25, 1659. Many of the nobility, middle class tradesmen and army were disgusted with rule by force, while the generals didn t think it was possible to unite behind a single policy. General Monck then became the chief of the push to restore the monarchy. He marched his troops to London in support of the Rump, took over and reinstated Parliament for the third time. Monck entered London in February 1660 and opened the doors of Parliament in the following April to those members that were let go ten years earlier. The House of Commons set up the Council of State which authorized the invitation of Charles II to take the crown. A Stuart was once again on the throne with the English Commonwealth over (Britannia).
In my personal opinion the English Commonwealth could never survive without Cromwell. He was the base of the entire system, he helped start the whole thing and he was the only person that could truly run it properly. Because of his God given abilities and his Christian background people trusted him, especially his troops. He could lead and he was born to do it. His son however was not quite the leader his father was. So many people were against the Commonwealth with a weak leader like Richard at the helm it was bound to fall quickly.
The Commonwealth was a new era for England, an era ruled by Oliver Cromwell, a great man with an even greater ability to lead. He was not a perfect ruler though, and because of this the Commonwealth didn t last past his death, even though he passed on his position to his son. His son just did not have the abilities that his father possessed. He could not lead. Along with Cromwell s death went the death of the English Commonwealth.