After the country and its dependencies had been thoroughly settled under the new government, the republican leaders resolved upon commencing hostilities against Holland, which, during the civil war, had manifested a decided leaning towards the king, and had recently treated the triumphant party with marked disrespect. In the summer of 1652, the Dutch fleet, under its famous commanders Van Tromp, De Ruyter, and De Witt, had several encounters with the English ships, under Admirals Blake and Ayscue, without any decided success on either side. But in the ensuing spring, an action was fought between Blake and Van Tromp, in which the latter lost eleven ships. The Dutch then sued for peace, which the Rump Parliament, for various reasons, were little inclined to grant. Their principal motive for prosecuting the war, was a conviction that it tended to restrict the power of Cromwell, to whom they now paid by no means a willing obedience. Cromwell, perceiving their design, proceeded with 300 soldiers to the House (April 1653), and entering with marks of the most violent indignation, loaded the members with reproaches for their robbery and oppression of the public; then stamping with his foot, he gave signal for the soldiers to enter, and addressing himself to the members, 'For shame! ' said he; get you gone give place to honester men! I tell you you are no longer a Parliament: the Lord has done with you! He then commanded 'that bauble,' meaning the mace, to be taken away, turned out the members, and locking the door, returned to Whitehall with the key in his pocket.
Being still willing to keep up the appearance of a representative government, Cromwell summoned one hundred and forty-four persons in Eng land, Ireland, and Scotland, to assemble as a Parliament. These individuals, chiefly remarkable for fanaticism and ignorance, were denominated the Barebones Parliament, from the name of one of the members, a leather seller, whose assumed name, by a ridiculous usage of the age, was Praise-God Barebones. As the assembly obtained no public respect, Cromwell took an early opportunity of dismissing it. His officers then constituted him PROTECTOR of the Commonwealth of Great Britain and Ireland, with most of the prerogatives of the late king.
The war against Holland was still carried on with great spirit. In the summer of 1653, two naval actions, in which both parties fought with the utmost bravery, terminated in the triumph of the English, and the complete humiliation of the Dutch, who obtained peace on the condition of paying homage to the English flag, expelling the young king from their dominions, and paying a compensation for certain losses to the East India Company. In a war which he subsequently made against Spain, the fleets of the Protector performed some exploits of not less importance. The respect which he thus gained for the English name throughout Europe, is one of the brightest points in his singular history. But while generally successful abroad, he experienced unceasing difficulties in the management of affairs at home. Of the various Parliaments which he summoned, no one was found so carefully composed of his own creatures as to yield readily to his will: he was obliged to dissolve them all in succession, after a short trial. He also experienced great difficulty in raising money, and sometimes applied for loans in the city without success. His own officers could scarcely be kept in subordination, but were constantly plotting a reduction of his authority. The Royalists, on the other hand, never ceased to conspire for his destruction; one named Colonel Titus, went so far as to recommend his assassination in a pamphlet entitled 'Killing no Murder,' after reading which he was never seen again to smile.
The last Parliament called by Cromwell was in January 1656; when, besides the Commons, he summoned the few remaining peers, and endeavored, by ennobling some of his officers, to make up a kind of Upper House. This assembly proved as intractable as its predecessors, and he contracted such a disgust at the very nature of a representative legislature, as to resolve, like Charles I, never to call another. His health finally gave way, and he died on the 3d September 1658, a day which was thought to be propitious to him, as it was the anniversary of several of his victories. His eldest son, Richard, a weak young man, succeeded him as Protector, and was at first treated with all imaginable respect; but he could not long maintain a rule which even his father had ultimately failed in asserting. He quietly sunk out of public view, leaving the supreme authority in the hands of the Rump, which had taken the opportunity to reassemble.