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allay it.* He left the conspirators to pursue their own rashness; and the event soon showed how justly he had measured his own strength, and that of the Cavaliers, who, says Clarendon, were sure of success. For a few hours, Wagstaff held Salisbury, and arrested the sheriff and judges, who were then holding the assizes (March 11th); but no one joined him; as he marched through Devonshire, his hopes grew fainter every hour, and, at Southmolton, a single troop of Cromwell's horse, which happened to be in the neighbourhood, dispersed his followers, almost without a blow. He escaped to France; but three of his captains were taken and executed, and about fifty of his men sent to the West Indies. As for Rochester, he never succeeded in raising anything like an army, and he slunk back to the continent.†
22. The major-generals. If Cromwell had only had to overcome such insurrections as these, his task would have been an easy one. But he had to face two of the greatest difficulties that can beset any government-an inadequate public revenue, and an army on which he could not firmly rely. To meet these difficulties, but under the pretext of maintaining the public peace, and repressing Royalist plots, he resolved to The decimation establish in every county a local militia, composed of tax. men whom he determined to select himself, and to pay well. In order to pay them, he proposed to levy a property tax of one-tenth upon all Royalists who had any estates left; and for the effectual organisation of the militia, and the collection of the tax, he divided the country into twelve districts, each under the authority of a major-general, as a sort of military magistrate, who had authority to raise the militia in his district; to levy all public taxes; to suppress tumults and insurrections; to disarm all Papists and Cavaliers; to inquire into the conduct of ministers and schoolmasters; and to arrest, imprison, and bind over all dangerous and suspected persons. Cromwell instituted this despotic measure by a partial and almost imperceptible experiment. His brother-in-law, Desborough, was the first one appointed, in the south-west, soon after the western insurrection; and, in the course of a few weeks, Fleetwood, who had just returned from his government of Ireland, Lambert, Whalley, Skippon, Goffe, and others, were appointed in the rest of the kingdom. Some of these major-generals, doubtless, displayed great rapacity and oppression; but, for the most part, they were men carefully chosen for their moderation and wisdom, and the
* Knight, IV., 190. + Lingard, XI., 50-3; Carlyle, III., 97-100.
country generally submitted quietly to their rule.* The measure was unconstitutional and arbitrary; but then it was very necessary for the time, and, on the whole, beneficial. Among those who suffered under it may be mentioned Cleveland, the poet, and Jeremy Taylor, who was imprisoned in Chepstow Castle.
While Cromwell was thus repressing, with a stern hand, both Royalists and Republicans, his government was more than usually harsh towards the Catholics and the episcopal clergy. The former were generally mixed up with the plots against the Commonwealth, and the harshness towards them was the practical continuance of the spirit of the penal laws. The latter were persecuted at the instigation of the Presbythe advocate terians, in spite of the Protector's own ardent desire for toleration. toleration; one of the most odious measures against them being an ordinance which prohibited them to act as tutors in private families. Archbishop Usher, for whom Cromwell entertained deep respect, remonstrated against this ordinance, and it was not enforced. Prejudices, in fact, were too strong to allow the Protector to act upon his own principles of religious toleration; but he was determined, at all risks, to keep the animosities of the various sects under the control of equal justice, and when he opened parliament, in 1656, he distinctly declared this.t
23. Blake's exploits in the Mediterranean. Penn's capture of Jamaica. During these domestic occurrences, the two armaments which Cromwell had been fitting out at Portsmouth, and which had so long excited the apprehensions of France and Spain as to their destination, had sailed, one under Blake, the other under Penn and Venables (1654). The former made for Gibraltar, and thence proceeded up the Mediterranean, capturing French vessels, under pretence of reprisals, and seeking in vain for the fleet under the Duke of Guise. He appeared before Leghorn, and demanded and obtained, from the Grand Duke, redress for the owners of three merchant vessels, which Rupert had captured and sold in the Tuscan ports. He then compelled the Deys of Algiers and Tripoli to release their Christian captives; Blake in and when the Dey of Tunis refused, and pointed to his fortresses, Blake, nothing daunted, burst into the harbour, battered the fortresses to pieces, and burnt the piratical fleet in its moorings. These exploits spread the terror of the English navy throughout the south of Europe; and the Protector's favour and alliance as sought by the chief princes and states. The
*Carlyle III., 101; Hallam's opinion (I., 699-671), does not coincide with that here expressed. + See Carlyle, III., 181-182.
great object, however, of Blake's expedition, was the capture of the Spanish Plate fleet; but the Spaniards discovered his purpose, and detained the fleet in the harbour of Carthagena (August, 1654).
In the meantime, the other expedition, under Penn and Venables, had sailed, under secret orders, for the West Indies. They spent several weeks among the English settlements in those islands; and on the 14th of April, appeared before Hispaniola. The army, under General Venables, was composed of 10,000 men, of whom 7,000 were slaves in the plantations, and the rest troops from England. His attack upon St. Domingo lamentably failed; and the commanders, who had lost everything by their disputes and utter incompetency, then attacked Jamaica, which they subdued. The value of this conquest was then little estimated; and the fertility of the island was thought a small compensation for the loss of the supposed treasures of Hispaniola; and when Penn and Venables returned home, The capture the Protector sent them both to the Tower. But of Jamaica Cromwell's far-seeing sagacity soon perceived that Jamaica by Cromwell. gave England a solid footing in the West Indies, and was a most important acquisition; he sent careful instructions to Major General Fortescue, who had been left in charge of the island, to fortify himself, and be always prepared for the Spaniards, and he also sent supplies, and promised more. Under these circumstances, Penn and Venables were very soon released.
24. Cromwell and the Vaudois. But the power and influence of the Commonwealth were, at this period, more signally called forth, by an occurrence which was no special injury or affront to the nation, but which more deeply moved the heart of Puritan England than any event since the Irish massacre. For many centuries, there had dwelt in the three obscure valleys of Piedmont, viz., Lucerna, Perosa, and St. Martin, a race known as the Vaudois, or Valdenses-the people of the valleys, Opposition who, from the earliest times, had kept separate from the Vaudois to Church of Rome. Before the Reformation, Pope Innocent of Rome. VIII. had issued a bull for the extermination of these pious, inoffensive people; but when they declared that their ancient faith was similar to that of Luther and Calvin, and the Reformers, they were more bitterly persecuted, sometimes by France, and sometimes by Savoy. In 1654, the Duke of Savoy undertook to convert them, but the friars he sent to preach among them failed to convert anyone, and one of them was found assassinated. Thereupon, the duke sent other missionaries, in the shape of six
regiments of Catholic soldiers; with an order to the people of the The Duke valleys either to be converted straightway, or to quit the attempts to country at once. They could not be converted all at them. once, even if they had been inclined; neither could they quit the country well; for the month was December; and they were among the Alps, which had been their homes for immemorial years. On this, there ensued severe contests between them and the troops, in which fearful cruelties were committed by the Piedmontese soldiers, and by mercenary Irish and French in the service of the Duke of Savoy. People of all ages, sexes, and conditions, were massacred, hanged, burned, and violated, and all the prisoners were murdered who would not abjure their faith. The instant that Cromwell heard of this dreadful transaction, he was "roused into sacred fire,” and he proceeded to avenge the wrongs of the poor Vaudois in a manner which was worthy of the justice and sacredness of the cause. Milton, whose sublime sonnet has for ever rendered this massacre memorable, Sonnet, and conducted the negotiation. Cromwell sent an envoy despatch. extraordinary to Louis XIV. and the Duke of Savoy, with letters of remonstrance; he called upon all Protestant princes for assistance in demanding justice for the sufferers; he authorised a general collection over England for them, himself contributing £2,000; and he appointed a day. of humiliation. France was most anxious to conclude a treaty of peace and commerce with England, and it was to have been signed on the very day the news came (June 3rd, 1655), but the Protector declared that he would not sign it till the French court had procured from the Duke of Savoy the restoration of the Vaudois to their ancient liberties. In vain did Bordeaux, the French ambassador, remonstrate against this pretext, and maintain that it bore no relation to the matter of the treaty. In vain did the King of France say that he would never interfere with the internal administration of an independent state; and still more vainly did he hold that the Duke of Savoy had a right to do what he liked with his own subjects. Cromwell sternly demanded justice; and the French minister at Turin was compelled to insist upon the duke concluding an immediate pacifiare restored cation with the Vaudois, and restoring them to their protected ancient civil and religious liberties. The earnestness with which the Protector thus insisted upon recompense and justice being given to the poor Protestants of the Alps, raised his fame throughout Europe, and even those who hated the
Cromwell compels France to see that the Vaudois
Commonwealth acknowledged that England had never stood higher than she did now.*
25. War with Spain. The treaty with France, which was signed soon after these proceedings (October 24th), provided that France should indemnify English merchants for injuries Treaty to their commerce; that the conquest of Dunkirk should France. be made for England by their joint forces; and that Charles Stuart, his family, and his court, should be for ever excluded from the French territory. Of the Stuarts, the Duke of York alone was then in France; and Cromwell, at the request of Mazarin, consented to his remaining there, a concession which the duke repaid, by sending his brother, within a few days after, a deliberate proposal for the murder of the Lord Protector. The letter containing the proposition was intercepted by Thurloe's agents.†
This alliance with France necessarily caused a rupture with Spain, and it gave occasion to new movements of Royalists, and new combinations of Republicans. Charles, at this time, Prince was living in dissolute poverty at Cologne, caring more offers his for Lucy Walters, and his numerous mistresses, than for Spain. state concerns; and laying no burden on his conscience when he had to make some contrary pledge to Presbyterian or Papist, openly to the one, or in secret to the other. He was somewhat roused from his licentious idleness when the war between England and Spain broke out. He repaired to Brussels, and offered himself as a valuable ally to the Spanish monarch. At the same time, Colonel Sexby, prepared with schemes of conspiracy and assassination, joined the councils of Charles and the Spanish
This conspirator, who, with Colonel Wildman, was one of the most violent leaders of the Levellers, had risen from the ranks to the post of adjutant- Colonel general in the parliamentary army, and had sat in the councils and Sexby's been on the most intimate terms with Cromwell. Having distributed pamphlets against the Protector's government, and raised up enemies to it all over the kingdom, he was compelled to escape to the continent. He repaired to the court at Brussels, revealed to it the real object of the secret expedition, under Penn and Venables, and offered the aid of the English Levellers for the destruction of the Protector. Thence he proceeded to Madrid; obtained large supplies of money for his adherents; crossed over to England to make his arrangements, and then returned without having been discovered.
It now became the object of the Spanish ministers to effect a union between Charles and Sexby, that, by the co-operation of the Royalists and the Levellers, the common enemy might more * Carlyle, III., 103-104: Knight IV., 197-198; Lingard, XI., 61-64. + Forster's Lives, VII., 316-317.