Conclusion of the Civil War

THE ENGLISH campaign of 1645 ended in the complete overthrow of the king. Throughout the war, his enemies had been continually improving in discipline in conduct, and in that enthusiasm which animated them so largely; while the Royalists had become, out of a mere principle of opposition, so extremely licentious, as to be rather a terror to their friends than to their enemies. The new-modeling of the Parliamentary army, which took place early in 1645, had also added much to the effectiveness of the troops, who were now nominally commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax, but in reality by Oliver Cromwell, who bore the rank of lieutenant-general. The consequence was that, in a pitched battle at Naseby (June 14), the king was so completely beaten, that he and his party could no longer keep the field. He had no resource but to retire into Oxford, a town zealously affected to his cause, and well fortified.

He endeavored, from this forlorn position, to renew the negotiations for a peace; but every attempt of that kind was frustrated by the Independents, who, though a minority in the House of Commons, possessed great power through the army, and, as already mentioned, were desirous of effecting greater changes in church and state than those for which the war was originally undertaken. Dreading the influence of this body, Charles retired privately from Oxford (May 1646) on the approach of the Parliamentary forces, and put himself under the protection of the Scottish army at Newark.

As the views of the Scotch throughout the war had been steadily con fined to the security of the Presbyterian religion, along with the safety of the king's person and the establishment of a limited monarchy, they received him with great respect at their camp, and entered into negotiations for effecting their grand object. If Charles would have acceded to their views, he might have immediately resumed a great part of his former power; and the agitations of many subsequent years, as well as his own life, might have been spared. But this was forbidden, not only by his strong prepossession in favor of the Episcopal forms of worship, but also by his conviction, that the Episcopal form of church government was alone compatible with the existence of monarchy. He therefore disagreed with the Presbyterians on the very point which they considered the most vital and important.

From the time when Charles first threw himself into the Scottish camp, the English Parliament had made repeated and strenuous demands for the surrender of his person into their hands. The Scots, however, though acting partly as a mercenary army, asserted their right, as an independent nation under the authority of the king, to retain and protect him. At length, despairing of inducing him to sanction the Presbyterian forms, and tempted by the sum of £400,000, which was given to them as a compensation for their arrears of pay, they consented to deliver up their monarch, but certainly without any apprehension of his life being in danger, and, indeed, to a party quite different from that by which he afterwards suffered. The Scottish army then retired (January 1647) to their native country, and were there disbanded.

The king was now placed in Holdenby Castle, and negotiations were opened for restoring him to power, under certain restrictions. While these were pending, the Parliament deemed it unnecessary to keep up the army, more especially as its spirit was plainly observed to be of a dangerous character. On attempting, however, to dismiss this powerful force, the English Commons found that their late servants were become their masters. The troops began to hold something like a Parliament in their own camp; a party of them, under Cornet Joyce, seized the king's person, and brought him to Hampton Court. Cromwell, who was at the bottom of their machinations, received from them the chief command; and at his instigation they retorted upon the Parliament with a demand for the dismissal of the leaders of the Presbyterian party, and a general right of new-modeling the government and settling the nation. The House of Commons, sup ported by the city of London, made a bold opposition to these demands, but was ultimately obliged to yield to a force which it had no means of resisting. From that time military violence exercised an almost uncontrolled mastery over England.