Through Great Britain and Ireland With Cromwell - H. E. Marshall

Take Away that Bauble

When Oliver returned from Worcester, the Speaker and the whole Parliament, the Lord Mayor and aldermen of London, and a great throng of people came out to meet him. With much rejoicing and shouting, with firing of guns and beating of drums, the conqueror was led through the streets. Hampton Court was given to him to live in, and 4000 a year of public money was voted to him.

The war was now at last truly over. But all the country was in confusion. The prisons were full. Hundreds of law cases were waiting to be tried, but there was no justice anywhere. The land was one wide desert of misery and beggary.

Yet Parliament did little or nothing. Members made long-winded and learned speeches, but without a true leader they seemed unable to act. In this way a year and a half passed. Once more the army grew impatient of the Parliament. They declared that this Parliament had sat long enough, and that it was worn out and useless. They said it no longer spoke the mind of the people, and that the members must now resign, and allow a new Parliament to be chosen. "I told them," said Cromwell later, "that the nation loathed their sitting."

But the members had no wish to resign. They brought in a bill, indeed, by which some new members were to be elected, but the old members were to keep their seats. This made the army more angry still, and they resolved that this bill should not pass.

One day, as Cromwell and his officers were sitting in council, a breathless messenger arrived to tell them that even now the Parliament was passing the hated bill.

At first Cromwell would not believe the news. But a second and then a third messenger came. Then Oliver rose. "It is not honest. Yea, it is against common honesty," he cried out, and then he left the room. He told no one where he was going or what he meant to do.

He was no longer dressed like a soldier, in scarlet or buff coat and breastplate of steel. He wore black clothes and a tall black hat and grey woollen stockings, like some quiet citizen. Thus plainly dressed he called a company of his men and marched to the House.

Leaving the soldiers without, he entered and took his seat, with his hat on.

For some time he sat quietly listening to the talk. Then, just as the bill was about to be passed, he rose in his place, and, taking off his hat, began to speak. At first he spoke calmly, then, growing more and more angry, he told the members that they were bad and useless, thinking only of themselves, and that they had become tyrants and the supporters of tyrants. "Yea," he cried, "the Lord hath done with you and hath chosen other instruments for the carrying on of his work who are more worthy."

Then another member rose. "This is strange language," said he, "strange language, and utterly unbecoming in a trusted servant."

But Oliver had now risen to a white passion of wrath. Crushing his hat upon his head, he strode out into the floor of the House. "You are no Parliament," he cried, stamping his foot. "I say you are no Parliament. Come, come, I will put an end to your prating. Call them in! Call them in!" and again he stamped.

The door opened, and twenty or thirty grim soldiers marched in.

"This is not honest," cried one of the members, using the very words which Oliver himself had used a short time before. "Yea, it is against morality and common honesty." But Cromwell in a fury of passion replied with scoffing words.

"Begone," he cried, "you have sat here too long. It is time to give way to honester men." Then, as one by one, the members passed out, he flung all manner of taunts at them, calling some "drunkards," others "unjust persons, evil livers."

The House was nearly empty, but the Speaker would not go. That same Speaker who had defied Charles now defied Oliver.

"Fetch him down," cried he.

"Come, sir, I will lend you a hand," said one of Cromwell's friends.

So the Speaker left the chair.

Then catching sight of the mace as it lay upon the table, "What shall we do with this bauble?" cried Oliver. "Here, take it away."

So the mace was removed.

The House was now empty, and Oliver, seizing the hated bill, put it under his cloak. Then locking the door he marched away. Thus on 10th April 1653 was the Long Parliament ended. It had lasted twelve years.