The Commonwealth - Subjugation of Ireland and Scotland

Though the execution of the king produced a considerable reaction in favor of royalty, the small remaining of the House of Commons, which got the ridiculous name of the Rump, now established a republic, under the title of the Commonwealth, the executive being trusted, under great limitations, to a council of forty-one members, while in reality Cromwell possessed the chief influence. The House of Peers was voted a grievance, and abolished, and the people were declared to be the legitimate source of all power. Soon after the king's death, the Duke of Hamilton, and a few other of his chief adherents, were executed.

During the progress of the civil war, Ireland had been the scene of almost ceaseless contention among the various parties of the king, the English House of Commons, and the Catholics, none of which could effectually suppress the rest. The most remarkable event was a secret agreement which Charles made, in 1646, with the Earl of Glamorgan, to establish the Catholic religion in Ireland, on condition that its partisans should assist him in putting down his enemies in England and Scotland a transaction which ultimately injured his reputation, without leading to any solid advantage. At the time of his execution, the Royalists were in considerable strength under the Duke of Ormond, while Hugh O'Neill was at the head of a large party of Catholics, who were not indisposed to join the other party, provided they could be assured of the establishment of their religion. While the two parties in union could have easily rescued the country from the English connection, Cromwell landed (August 1649) with 12,000 horse and foot, and in a series of victories over the scattered forces of his various opponents, succeeded without any great difficulty in asserting the sway of the Commonwealth. One of his most important actions was the capture of Drogheda, where he put the garrison and a number of Catholic priests to the sword, in order to strike terror into the nation.

The people of Scotland, who had had scarcely any other object in the civil war than the establishment of their favorite form of worship, and were sincere friends to a limited monarchy, heard of the death of the king with the greatest indignation, and immediately proclaimed his eldest son Charles. Early in 1650, the young monarch, who had taken refuge in Holland, sent Montrose with a small force to attempt a Cavalier insurrection in Scotland; but this nobleman being taken and put to death, Charles found it necessary to accede to the views of the Scotch respecting the Presbyterian religion, and he was accordingly brought over and put at the head of a considerable army, though under great restrictions. Cromwell, who had now nearly completed the conquest of Ireland, lost no time in returning to London, and organizing an army for the suppression of this new attempt against the Commonwealth. On the 19th of July he crossed the Tweed, and advanced through a deserted country to Edinburgh, where the Scottish army lay in a fortified camp. Sickness in his army, and the want of provisions, soon after compelled him to retreat; and the Scottish army, following upon his rear, brought him into a straightened position near Dunbar, where he would soon have been under the necessity of surrendering. In the midst of his perplexities (September 3), he beheld the Scots advancing from the neighboring heights to give him battle, and, in a transport of joy, claimed, 'The Lord hath delivered them into our hands!' The movement was solely the result of interference on the part of the clergy who followed the Scottish camp: the better sense of Gen. Leslie would have waited for the voluntary surrender of his enemy. In the fight which ensued, the veteran troops of Cromwell soon proved victorious. The Scots fled in consternation and confusion, and were cut down in thousands by their pursuers. This gained for Cromwell the possession of the capital and of all the southeast provinces; but the Covenanters still made a strong appearance at Stirling.

Cromwell spent a whole year in the country, vainly endeavoring to bring on another action. During the interval (January 1, 1651), the Scots crowned the young king at Scone, part of the ceremony consisting in his acceptance of the Solemn League and Covenant. In the ensuing summer, Cromwell at length contrived to out-flank the position of the Scottish army; but the result was, that Charles led his troops into England without opposition, and made a very threatening advance upon the capital. Ere the Royalists had time to rally around him, Cromwell overtook the king at Worcester, where, after a stoutly-contested fight (September 3, 1651), he proved completely victorious. Charles, with great difficulty, escaped abroad, and Scotland, no longer possessed of a military force to defend itself, submitted to the conqueror. All the courts of the Scottish church were suppressed, and the ministers were left no privilege but that of preaching to their flocks. The country was kept in check by a small army under General Monk, and in a short time was declared by proclamation to be united with England.