The present instalment of the Calendar comprises the two years, 1655 and 1656. The material is of substantially the same character as that of the volume immediately preceding, and calls for no special comment. It consists mainly of the despatches of the three ministers who represented Venice in England during these years, the secretary Paulucci, the Ambassador Sagredo and the Resident Giavarina. The Public Record Office possesses transcripts in Italian of all the letters of Paulucci and Giavarina (fn. 1) and a copy of Sagredo's Relazione. (fn. 2) It also has what appears to be Sagredo's letter book for his embassy to England. (fn. 3) There are in addition scattered extracts in translation from the despatches of Sagredo and his successor Giustinian from Paris. Five letters printed here (Nos. 26, 89, 96, 104, 305) from these transcripts, (fn. 4) were not to be found in the Archives at Venice and were probably copied from papers in the collection of Count Sagredo, to which Mr. Rawdon Brown had access.
Of the three ministers mentioned Paulucci completed his service in September 1655, his last despatch being of the 17th of that month. The last months of his term were a time of increasing difficulty and embarrassment for him. In January he wrote that he owed five months' rent (No. 10). By April his creditors had become pressing and he was obliged to borrow to stave them off (No. 57), and later found a certain amount of retirement advisable, in order to avoid arrest for debt (No. 95). In September he was saved by a friendly loan from the Tuscan Resident Salvetti (No. 138). Besides these more private matters he disliked his anomalous position as a minister, declared that he could not go on without support from the state (No. 16), and begged that his petition for leave to return home might be granted (No. 52). Relief came to him by the appointment in June of his chief, Sagredo, to be ambassador extraordinary in England (No. 78). Sagredo did not reach London until three months later, when Paulucci had permission to depart. He does not seem to have set out before the end of the year, detained possibly by the claims of his creditors and also by a quarrel with one of his servants. Apparently Sagredo did not concern himself much about his late secretary, and supposed that he had gone to France and married a Frenchwoman (No. 225). Although Paulucci's mission without a character was resented in England, he had been personally acceptable and at his departure Cromwell wrote to the Signory expressing appreciation of his ability and prudence (No. 185).
Sagredo had been over three years in France before the call to London reached him. He by no means relished the honour done to him and wrote at once to point out that the mission must needs be very costly, protesting that the Senate must either pay his arrears or let him off (No. 102). A week later he declared that it was monstrous to expect him to pay his debts at Paris and assume this fresh burden without the necessary funds and said roundly that if these were not provided he would prefer to pay the penalty for refusing the appointment (No. 107). In August he asked definitely to be let off (No. 119); but the Senate was set on his going and ordered 4 months' salary to be paid him in advance (No. 116), as well as his arrears (No. 146). With a train of five Venetian nobles and other gentlemen he set out from Paris at the beginning of September, arriving in London about the 24th of that month. His behaviour at his coming gave rise to much comment as for three weeks he remained in hired apartments without making a sign and without sending any notification to the Court of his arrival; for such a thing had never been seen before. (fn. 5) He showed himself so niggardly and sparing that all the servants engaged in England left him. When at the end of this period he at length made his public entry, Sagredo in his despatch professed himself extremely satisfied with his entertainment and with his subsequent reception at Court; but the Genoese resident declares that he complained bitterly of his reception as inferior to that of France. (fn. 6) Bordeaux reports that an offer to Cromwell of the republic's mediation met with a decidedly chilly reception, but admitted later that Sagredo had denied the truth of this. (fn. 7)
Sagredo had come to England much against his will. He disliked both the country and his mission and soon made up his mind that he had come on a fruitless errand. Almost immediately after his first audience he wrote that he could do nothing, his health was affected by the damp climate, and he asked to be recalled (No. 196). The request was promptly granted and the Secretary Giavarina appointed to take on duty as resident (No. 223). Permission having reached him, Sagredo took leave of the Protector on 16 February, ill content with the country and the country with him. (fn. 8) Yet, strange to say, he did not start forthwith, but lingered on for more than a month, living incognito in the house taken by Giavarina and again causing remark. (fn. 9) Though he had been offered the use of an English man of war he eventually crossed to Holland in a Dutch warship. This seems to have been due to his fear of the Dunkirk privateers, as he waited to receive a passport from Flanders (No. 268). During his sojourn at the English Court Sagredo exchanged visits with the other foreign ministers there and seems to have been on friendly terms with them, with the possible exception of the Dutch ambassador Nieuport, to whom he refused the title of “Excellency” (No. 205).
Sagredo must be ranked among the least satisfactory of the ministers sent by his country to England. His state of mind and his manner of living must have interfered seriously with the proper discharge of his functions. He himself complained of the difficulty of obtaining authentic information. He thought no government on earth conducted its affairs with greater secrecy (No. 165). The most weighty affairs were decided by a very few persons, at most sixteen, who met in a room most carefully guarded against outside interference, and all their acts passed through the hands of a single secretary (No. 194). These circumstances would account for inaccuracies or vagueness in his reports of current events, but his Relazione shows that he had not taken the trouble to master thoroughly the recent history of the country to which he was accredited.
Giavarina seems a more normal and satisfactory minister, who was prepared to resume the traditions of the Venetian embassy in London, interrupted since 1645. Immediately upon his appointment he took a house and bought coaches, horses and liveries, in order to live in a becoming style. He fell short, however, in the matter of entertaining, as he did not keep a table or give dinners, of which, says Salvetti, the English think more than of anything else. (fn. 10) His official appearance was delayed owing to the late arrival of his credentials, but even when they had come he showed no alacrity in presenting them. (fn. 11) He could not expect to make any considerable appearance at Court. There had been a time when recognition by Venice would have been welcomed, but now the Protector's favour was courted by all the powers, great and small, and though Venice, like the rest, was anxious to be on good terms with Cromwell, he might consider the goodwill of the Signory hardly worth troubling about.
The commanding position of Cromwell in Europe was due to the possession of an overwhelming navy to which no people save the Dutch could offer any resistance; and they, having tried the experiment, were in no mood to repeat it. After the successful conclusion of the Dutch war some relaxation of the naval effort might have been expected, but this was far from being the case and the activities of the dockyards were rather accentuated (No. 2). In the spring of 1655 it was reckoned that thirty entirely new frigates would shortly be ready for sea (No. 48) not only so, but the size and power of the ships was constantly on the increase. The Great Oliver, later called the Naseby, the greatest ship of the time, was no sooner launched than orders were issued for another, even more powerful (No. 62). The size of the ships laid down depended largely upon the state of relations with France (No. 48).
With these constant additions the resources of the country were so large that even with two considerable fleets in commission, in the Mediterranean and the West Indies respectively, a good number of ships remained at home, all ready for sea (No. 24), and these were supplemented by arming a number of merchantmen bought from the Dutch since the conclusion of the war (No. 136).
Cromwell fully appreciated the advantages of sea power, which brought him friendship and repute in every part of the world (No. 62), but with no serious rival to fear, he seems to have gone far beyond what the circumstances of the case required. The maintenance of these great armaments proved very costly and it was also necessary to find them employment. This necessity had much to do with the despatch of Blake to the Mediterranean in the preceding year. That in itself was sufficiently startling the more so as it was no meteoric appearance. Thanks to a well organised system of reliefs and supplies, the fleet was kept on active service throughout the winter and well into the new year, despite the lack of any proper base. This unprecedented action fluttered all the neighbouring powers, including even Monaco and Genoa (No. 7), but Blake met with a friendly reception wherever he went, though his hosts were never sorry to see him go. He is represented as a sombre man of few words, who would not be drawn from his ship even by the attractions of Florence (No. 25), and who made no response to the civilities offered to him at Naples (No. 3). The Grand Duke of Tuscany thought him a very touchy and particular old man (No. 15). He was equally unapproachable with his own countrymen, treating his captains with extreme severity and taking none of them into his confidence (No. 38).
Blake's advent at Leghorn had been attended with some trepidation, but on his arrival he merely handed in a friendly letter for the Grand Duke and asked leave to take supplies. The Grand Duke responded by sending a present of choice wines for the Protector (No. 85). He declared the story that Blake had presented peremptory demands from Cromwell to be a malicious invention of the Genoese (No. 19). It pleased him that while Blake did not announce an open rupture with the French his acts implied the existence of entirely confidential relations with the Spaniards (No. 7).
Such confidential relations were not destined to endure. Although Penn's fleet had sailed amid much mystery, Paulucci could assert definitely, early in February, that it was going to the West Indies to capture some island or important passage (No. 24). The Spaniards felt uneasy about Cromwell's intentions in that direction and had already destined a force of 200 Spaniards to strengthen the garrison of San Domingo (No. 22), while warnings were sent to the commander of the treasure fleet (No. 47). Cardenas sent early information to Madrid of the destination of this fleet, causing great consternation, as the Spaniards felt that they had no means of resistance (Nos. 32, 40). As a sign of the coming storm men noticed that the English merchants at Naples were hurriedly winding up their affairs, and removing their effects, even at a loss (Nos. 38, 87). At Madrid itself the English seemed cautious about future commitments (No. 40). Misgivings increased with the sudden appearance of Blake in Spanish waters in June, when large numbers of the English from Malaga, Cadiz, Seville and San Lucar embarked by night to go on board his fleet, taking their money with them (No. 94). Appearances led the Spaniards to believe that Blake had come to those parts in order to intercept the treasure ships. It was stated that he was acting in concert with the Barbary corsairs, with whom he had concluded an impious bargain, promising them a share in the expected booty in return for their help with 30 sail (No. 112). Blake's hostile intentions were inferred from his refusal to have his ships careened at Cadiz, and because a patache sent out from the port to watch his movements, was turned back by his frigates (No. 105).
In spite of all the unfavourable appearances the Spaniards clung desperately to the hope of maintaining the peace. They told themselves that the English claim to trade in the Indies did not necessarily mean war (No. 40). Many thought that even if the English took the treasure fleet they would have to swallow the affront, as Spain was in no condition to face such a war (No. 105); if there was no attack on Spanish ports or fortresses they could pretend there was no formal breach (No. 84). Don Luis de Haro declined to believe that England meditated a rupture and protested that Cromwell was his good friend, while the dule of Penaranda in a memorandum to the King, defended the Protector's sincerity (No. 108).
The Spaniards built considerable hopes on the mission of the marquis of Lede, who was sent to London from Flanders. He was prepared, they said, to offer a large sum in order to buy off the English from the West Indies (No. 85). But Cromwell's demands greatly exceeded what he was able to give and he found the way barred against all his overtures (No. 95).
The news of the attack on San Domingo convinced the Spaniards that war was inevitable (No. 140). The spirit of the people rose with the crisis and at Madrid public opinion favoured war, though the wisest shook their heads (No. 147). The clergy and religious orders came forward with offers of ships (No. 162). The merchants of Seville and Cadiz asked for leave to provide ships and troops at their own cost (No. 99). At Cadiz, where the virtual blockade maintained by Blake was making itself felt (No. 117), a fleet was got ready under Contreras and ordered to sail out to the English, for the honour of the flag (No. 128). They were not strong enough to cause Blake any anxiety and he referred to them in very contemptuous terms. Yet in August Contreras actually put to sea (No. 134). The night before he sailed Blake abandoned his station, as if to avoid an encounter (No. 140). The Spaniards also had orders not to fight unless provoked. Under these strange conditions the two fleets arrived in sight of each other and so remained for a day and a night. The wind freshening, the ships of the two nations became mingled together. Blake had an enormous superiority of force, but he extricated his ships and put out for the open sea (No. 147). After this encounter Contreras cruised about for some weeks longer, without profit and without opposition, but suffering from a shortage of supplies (No. 167). Nevertheless the avoidance of an action was a serious blow to Spanish prestige, since a hostile fleet was allowed to cruise for so long in their home waters, unmolested (No. 149).
While refraining from an encounter at sea the Spaniards went so far on the road to hostilities as to order the sequestration of all English property hi the king's dominions, though even this decision was only taken after much deliberation (No. 149), their hesitation being in part due to a fear that reprisals might be made on Cardenas in London (No. 147). This sequestration was not intended to precipitate a rupture, but only to bring about negotiations for an adjustment, as orders were issued simultaneously to the Spanish naval commanders not to be the first to attack the English (No. 156). The decree was not rigorously enforced and by connivance English ships were allowed to sail with their entire cargoes (No. 195). Numbers of English merchants were permitted to carry away their capital to London (No. 241). Everything went to show the extreme reluctance of Spain to enter upon this war, for hi Flanders also the Archduke resisted the pressure brought to bear upon him to issue letters of marque against English shipping (No. 241).
From London Cardenas had written begging to be recalled, because of the attack on the West Indies and because everyone was reviling Spain (No. 112). He had lived rather in retirement, watching events and exclaiming against Cromwell's ungrateful and deceitful conduct (No. 138). But when it came to the point he seemed very reluctant to go. While making a great show of leaving he was believed to be trying hard to induce the merchants to protest against the war and in other ways to get himself detained, and so open a way to negotiations for peace (No. 176). The merchants in London were all opposed to a war as they carried on a very rich trade with the Spanish dominions. The sequestration threatened to hit them hard and they appealed to Cromwell for protection, who promised them strong and effective help (No. 161). In spite of his assurances the city refused to grant a loan for the purpose of the war (No. 171).
Sagredo asserts that Cromwell himself did not desire war but hoped that the operations might be carried out in the Indies without disturbing the peace nearer home (No. 171). But the failure in San Domingo made it impossible for him to draw back. Although the results achieved in America were far below his hopes, he determined to make the most of what had been won there and to support the enterprise with energy (No. 144). Although Jamaica had been neglected by the Spaniards and its tin mines left unworked (No. 130), it was of even greater importance to navigation than San Domingo from being nearer to the mainland (No. 149).
Owing to these various circumstances the two countries rather drifted into war than sought it. Each party issued a manifesto to justify its proceedings to the world. The Spaniards denounced the attack on the Indies as a wanton breach of the peace (No. 217) while Cromwell told his Council that the sequestration was too great an insult to be borne (No. 188).
The die being cast for war, the English government began to take steps to wage it with vigour. Fleets were to be put in commission for the Indies, for Spanish waters and for the protection of trade (No. 190). Sailors were obtained by taking men by force from the merchant ships and soldiers by a mixture of rewards and threats to their colonels (No. 225).
Without the co-operation of France the war would necessarily be confined to the sea and the colonies. With French help the Spanish hold on the Netherlands could be seriously threatened, but it seemed improbable that France would assist the English to get a footing there (No. 213). French purposes had already been well served since the menace from England had put a stop to the vigorous offensive which the Spaniards had planned in Flanders for the spring (No. 208). For defence they seemed to be making no preparations corresponding to the emergency (No. 200). A suggestion from Cromwell for a joint attack on the Spanish dominions in Italy found no favour in France, since Mazarin feared that it would force the pope into the arms of the Spaniards and rouse the whole of Italy in opposition (No. 237)
Thus the initial operations were necessarily chiefly naval, and the chief objective would be the Spanish treasure fleets, considered to be the life blood of the nation. To this end two fleets were prepared, one for the Indies, to watch the point of departure, and the other for the port of arrival in Spain. The latter fleet, consisting of picked ships and men, was considered the finest that had ever left England (No. 237). Particulars of its composition are supplied from Leghorn (No. 314). (fn. 12) It is said to have cost 3 million ducats (No. 246). As it lay in the river a few miles below London many went out from the city to see it, including the Swedish ambassador (No. 249). To prevent knowledge of its movements and intentions the ports were closed for 3 weeks (No. 260). In the absence of authentic information fancy had free rein. It seemed to be taken for granted that some port would be seized in or near the Mediterranean to serve as a base. Majorca, Minorca, Orbitello and Porto Longone were all mentioned (Nos. 249, 250, 271), and after the fleet had sailed it was reported in London that Blake had taken Gibraltar (No. 321). Venice was greatly concerned to learn that Genoa had granted the use of her ports to the English (Nos. 307, 310). She desired English help against her enemy, but felt that being much more powerful than the Turk at sea, she would be equally dangerous as a neighbour (No. 188). Land operations of some kind were fully expected and Giavarina assured the Senate that before the fleet left the Devon coast 5 to 6000 men had been secretly put on board, in addition to those required for working the ships (No. 321).
Spain was stirred to great commotion, especially in the Biscay ports and at Corunna (Nos. 254, 267). If the English made common cause with Portugal it was felt that Castile, nay Madrid itself, was not safe (No. 301). In England it was believed that the attack would fall upon Cadiz (No. 299); but there the Spaniards were well prepared (No. 302). The Duke of Medina Celi, the governor, professed to desire a landing rather than otherwise (No. 306). The surrounding gentry hurried with their retainers ready to repel any attack (No. 309).
It was to Cadiz that the fleet actually sailed, but there was no attempt at a landing. It took up its station off the port and there remained apparently quiescent. Relieved of their first fears the Spaniards began to mock at its inactivity and to speak of it as something old and of no consequence (No. 317). They even asserted that Blake had been bought and was no longer their enemy (No. 355). The effect of the slow process of blockade and the danger to the treasure fleets were not fully appreciated. They counted on the approach of winter forcing the enemy to retire. But that was far from the intention of the English government, especially now the recently concluded agreement with Portugal gave them the use of the ports of that country (No. 352). The fleet was kept steadily supplied from home and although one supply ship fell a prey to Ostend raiders, its loss was speedily avenged and does not seem to have caused any dislocation of plans (No. 351). But few incidents occurred. Two frigates looked into Alicante, but were driven off by gun fire (No. 329). A raid on Malaga was more successful (No. 359), although the place had only recently been fortified (No. 328). Meanwhile Cadiz felt the effects of blockade, though traffic on the land side remained free. By royal order goods for the place were put ashore at Alicante, while the Dutch discharged their cargoes at Cartagena, fearing to take them through the Strait (No. 334). Scarce any attempt was made to relieve the pressure. A squadron of ten galleys was preparing in Cadiz but the arming proceeded in most leisurely fashion (Nos. 360, 387), and such a force could not in any case hope to make the least impression on the enemy fleet.
The Spaniards seemed reduced to a state of helpless fatalism. It was clear that the main object of the English was the capture of the treasure fleets, which, Sagredo declared, had been a darling project with Cromwell for a long time (No. 241). The idea was actively encouraged by the French (No. 232), and Fleming referred with greedy anticipation to the inestimable wealth which they looked to get thereby (No. 296). Yet the Spanish government took no active steps to prevent such a disaster. They seemed to trust entirely to fortune to come to their aid. The safe arrival of some of these ships before the English fleet had started, filled them with as much joy as if they had gained a victory, and they thought that they could afford to laugh at Cromwell and all his projects in the Indies (No. 280). The capture in September of several rich galleys came as a most unpleasant shock and the government's lack of foresight was severely criticised in Spain (No. 369). The loss inflicted ther4eby was patent to all, but the extravagance and comparative futility of such successes to the victor was hardly realised. The economic unity of Europe was already such that merchants everywhere were interested in the fate of these fleets and would be severely hit by their loss (No. 232); the Dutch alone had some millions of cargo on their account (No. 258), and it is noteworthy that all the merchants of London rejoiced at the safe arrival of the galleys in March (No. 282).
Though the gains were problematical and elusive the debit balance steadily mounted. While there seemed any possibility of avoiding a conflict the governor of the Spanish Netherlands had put off the corsairs of Dunkirk and Ostend who came to him clamouring for letters of marque, but when war was seen to be inevitable the restraint was relaxed and orders issued throughout Flanders for reprisals on the English (No. 260). The situation resembled that at the beginning of the late Dutch war, with the parts reversed. The English offered a rich booty to their adversaries, who themselves had relatively little to lose. The enterprising Dunkirkers soon made such havoc among the English shipping that traffic was dislocated and prices began to soar. They raided right into the mouth of the Thames and audaciously appeared in force off Dover, where they captured a rich merchantman in full sight of the castle (Nos. 318, 339). Even the navy did not escape and the captain of a small gunboat engaged by them was forced to blow it up to avoid surrender (No. 339). A squadron of their ships raiding into Cornwall burned and captured the ships in a port there, including a frigate, occupied the house of a gentleman named Godolphin and spoiled the country round about (No. 337).
To the outcry occasioned by these losses Giavarina declared that the Protector was indifferent, because they did not directly affect the state and because the city had recently refused to lend him money (No. 330). But Cromwell was not a man of such petty spirit as this would imply, and indeed he lost no time in dealing with the menace. Convoy was promptly supplied for the colliers from the north, to protect the coal for London, and a squadron under Whitehorn established in the Downs to watch the Flanders coast (No. 276). These measures were only partially successful, as for the most part the light built corsairs were able to evade the heavy warships. But in July four of them were caught by Whitehorn's squadron. Three got away but the admiral was sunk after a desperate fight against very heavy odds (No. 335). To put a stop to the nuisance altogether it was decided to blockade Dunkirk and Ostend. The Venetian minister did not believe that this could be done against the light craft, and he quoted the example of the Dutch, who had tried to do it without any success (No. 321). He underrated Cromwell's capacity. The setting of the blockade was delayed a few weeks in order to provide some light swift ships to act with the larger units. (fn. 13) The blockading squadron of 15 ships eventually sailed on 1 August (No. 351) and it proved immediately effective. If the corsairs succeeded in evading the large ships they found that they could not get home with their booty without fighting another squadron of well armed feluccas (No. 356); and before the middle of the next month the sea was completely cleared of these raiders (No. 364).
Yet in spite of these successes the war was proving profitless and costly. It was much more expensive than the Dutch war had been because of the larger forces employed (No. 393). For the trading community it was a veritable calamity. The loss of the valuable Spanish trade was a most serious blow. At the very outset there were many failures in the city (No. 183). Merchantmen laden for the Canaries to bring back wine to London, were obliged to return to port and discharge their cargoes (No. 195). At Naples, the Flemings were profiting by the situation to capture the English silk trade with the Levant (No. 221). In the hope of peace a Spanish merchant, at the instance of the London traders, was sent to Malaga in February to sound their disposition over there and to start negotiations (No. 246). The Spaniards claimed to have offered the most generous terms (No. 239). Towards the end of the year there was some idea that parliament might take up the question of peace when it met, and it was believed that an adjustment might easily be reached (No. 345).
But the government showed no intention of relaxing its efforts; indeed they were rather intensified, manifesting a determination to wage a long and ruthless war (No. 352). In spite of the large number of ships in commission, it was decided in October to equip yet another fleet, larger than the one then at sea (No. 376). Reviews of the land forces were constantly being held and new levies enlisted (No. 351). These were being assembled with considerable secrecy (No. 337) and at the end of the year patents were being issued for raising a force of 16,000 men in the three kingdoms, which would be strong enough for any design (No. 386). There was also some talk of another squadron to operate against the Spanish main and molest the trade between Mexico and Peru (No. 393).
If Cromwell did not drive France also to war it was not because he treated her any less harshly than Spain. At sea a relentless persecution of all French commerce had been steadily pursued. When Blake made his first cruise into the Mediterranean it was the French squadrons at Toulon that seemed to be his principal objective, and by his mere presence their proposed expedition against Naples had been frustrated. In England men boasted openly that they would force France to make peace with the dagger at her throat (No. 10). When Bordeaux renewed his negotiations for a settlement he was confronted with demands of a sweeping character as the price of Cromwell's friendship. The French were asked to hand over Acadia, which had lately been occupied (No. 13); to pay a heavy indemnity for the losses they had inflicted on English shipping during the Civil War; to repay the money advanced by English merchants for the payment of the Ambassador Cesy's debts at Constantinople, and to expel the Stuart family from France.
That this domineering attitude did not lead on to war was due almost entirely to Mazarin. In England the people generally were naturally more hostile to France (No. 151) and a war with that country would have been as popular as the war with Spain was unpopular. On the French side the merchants raised a great outcry because of their daily losses and because the government abandoned them to their enemies without even permitting them the right of self defence (No. 12), as letters of marque, hesitatingly issued for reprisals, had been almost immediately suspended and Neussesses, whom Blake had promised to thrash, let go an English ship which he had seized, after drinking the health of the Protector and the Admiral (Nos. 7, 8).
Mazarin was determined if possible to avoid war, but the negotiations for a settlement seemed to drag on interminably, although in January Bordeaux had demanded a definite decision, one way or the other (No. 20). He had gone so far as to promise the payment of Cesy's debts (No. 29) but still nothing resulted. Then for a short time in the spring of 1655 it looked as if France had decided to take a more independent course. Negotiations were broken off, it seemed finally (No. 62); English ships were seized at Havre and St. Malo (No. 55); the designs against Naples were renewed and Toulon became busy with preparations for a new fleet (No. 56). From reports received Mazarin had come to the conclusion that another civil war was about to break out in England which would effectually distract Cromwell's attention from any hostile designs against France (No. 59). The complete failure of the royalist plots soon undeceived him and he lost no time in altering his course (No. 68); the English ships seized were released and the captains compensated (No. 59), while the interrupted negotiations were resumed with added fervour.
The Spaniards took alarm at this change and tried to counteract the mischief by the mission of the Marquis of Lede, while a special envoy came over from Condé to warn Cromwell against the ambitions of Mazarin and to represent the danger from the constantly increasing French armies (No. 71). These interested representations produced no effect, but the smooth progress of the negotiations was interrupted by the catastrophe of the Vaudois, upon which feeling ran very high in England (No. 90), more especially as the duke of Savoy's action was believed to have been influenced by a desire to please his aunt, Queen Henrietta Maria (No. 80). Mazarin was disposed to be cautious in the handling of the matter, as he did not wish to offend the duke, and he avoided conferring with Moreland, whom Cromwell had sent over, on the subject (No. 91). Ample assurances were given by the French Court but in England suspicion continued as to the good faith of France in the matter, and this served to delay the final conclusion of the treaty (Nos. 95, 125).
But during the summer of 1655 the settlement had practically been reached, for as the breach with Spain widened it became increasingly desirable that Cromwell should arrive at an agreement with France. According to Sagredo the attack on the Indies had been suggested by Mazarin, and when that was resolved an understanding with France had been reached, so that England should not be exposed simultaneously to the hostility of both crowns (No. 151). But when once England was definitely committed to war with Spain, France seemed to hang back, causing some apprehension to the English, knowing as they did that the new pope Alexander VII was bestirring himself to promote peace between the two great Catholic powers (No. 191). But the alarm was needless and ratification soon followed. It is said that the revolt of Hocquincourt contributed greatly to Mazarin's decision, inducing him to exchange the ratifications at once (No. 200).
It was given out that the treaty amounted to no more than a peace, but Mazarin at once began to talk of joint operations in Flanders (No. 193). For over three years he had been toiling to free his hands from the check which England imposed on his designs against the Spanish dominions (No. 200), and now he looked for English assistance to forward them. France was to pay handsomely for the favour. In addition to a payment of 200,000 crowns for Cesy's debts a secret article provided that she should also furnish 500,000 crowns a year until 14 millions had been paid off, claimed for ancient debts due to the English crown (No. 236). In return Cromwell undertook to keep a number of ships in the Mediterranean and to give naval support to a French attack on Dunkirk and Gravelines (No. 243).
The reports of this agreement excited much uneasiness among the Catholic powers. The Venetian Ambassador at Paris joined with the nuncio Bagni in making representations to the French ministers, pointing out the serious injury to all Christendom and to France herself from such an association, and especially the danger of allowing Cromwell to get a footing in Flanders (No. 198). The warning went unheeded and relations between the two Courts continued to grow more intimate. In May Lockhart crossed to France as Cromwell's envoy. His mere presence was an affront to the Stuart family and it was resented by the people at large, so that it was questioned whether the king would receive him in Paris (No. 308). But on learning that Lockhart was complaining about the delay over his reception, the king decided that he should enter the city at once, and thus the republican envoy proceeded in solemn state to the Louvre. He continued afterwards to show himself everywhere, and no untoward incident occurred though the coachman of the Savoyard ambassador was assaulted by lackeys, who mistook him for one of Cromwell's men (No. 315). When the Court left for Compiegne Lockhart followed it and was made perfectly welcome (No. 320). He continued his negotiations until the end of the year when he left for London, as was supposed with the final proposals for an alliance (No. 397). No hitch had occurred to mar the growing intimacy although some amount of suspicion and mistrust still lingered, fostered by reports of negotiations for a marriage alliance with Spain and by the dealings of Lionne at that Court, which certainly mystified Lockhart, although the French government did its best to satisfy Cromwell on the subject (No. 368).
The only navy capable of meeting that of England on anything like equal terms was the Dutch, and it was natural that the powers threatened by Cromwell's naval predominance should look to them for help. But the Dutch had learned by bitter experience what a naval war with England meant for them. More than two years later they were still experiencing its evil effects (No. 399) and in 1655 they had to raise a large loan to help to defray the cost (No. 55). They had no mind rashly to expose themselves to fresh disasters chiefly for the benefit of others; they were, in fact, more than anxious to be conciliatory and to live at peace with the English. In foreign affairs owing to similarity of religion they had many interests in common with the Protectorate government as appeared more particularly in the matter of the Vaudois, in which they took a lively interest and closely followed the action of the English throughout (No. 101). In matters of commerce, where divergence of interest was more likely to interfere with harmonious relations, they showed a willingness to oblige, granting, at Cromwell's request, a staple in their country where English merchants might trade (No. 159). (fn. 14) In England this spirit was scarcely reciprocated as Cromwell hit Dutch industry a heavy blow by a proclamation forbidding the exportation of English wool, which the Dutch had been accustomed to mix with that of Spain for making their cloth (No. 399).
The chief danger of a collision between the two republics lay in the claim to the right of search which the English were sure to make in the event of war with another power. Foreseeing trouble from this cause, the Ambassador Nieuport pressed strongly for definite rules to be drawn up for guidance in such cases, but he could only get vague generalities in reply (No. 211). There was also no lack of incitement from without. For Spain, already engaged in war with France and threatened with war by England, some friendly understanding with the Dutch seemed essential, if only to keep up communications with Flanders. Thus the old hostility was laid aside and Gamara, the new Spanish ambassador at the Hague, had orders to propose an alliance against England (No. 117). They worked particularly on the Dutch fear of an English expedition into Flanders, a possibility that caused them extreme apprehension (Nos. 198, 208, 251).
The situation was an anxious one for the States, as besides the danger from this side they felt their position in the Baltic to be threatened by the ambitious projects of the new king of Sweden, who might easily receive English support (No. 136). At the end of 1655 they decided to send out a number of embassies to various Courts, ostensibly in the interest of peace, but more truly in order to strengthen their position against the dangers that threatened (Nos. 210, 211). At the same time they prepared a powerful fleet for sea, to be ready for all emergencies (No. 229).
The proceedings of the Dutch were jealously watched in England, especially when the general situation rendered the question of relations with Spain one of peculiar importance. Early in 1656 Cromwell sent for the Dutch ambassador and remonstrated with him sharply because his countrymen were selling warships to the Spaniards. Nieuport replied that the government could not prevent this being done by individuals, an answer that by no means satisfied the Protector (No. 255). At the same time the Dutch were not disposed to build warships for Spain when the latter sent a person to the Hague to order fifteen (No. 276). Neither were they inclined for an English alliance. When Cromwell offered it, the House of Orange opposed vigorously and the matter dropped (No. 289). But the energy with which the Dutch continued to build ships of war caused some uneasiness in England. When Cromwell asked Nieuport the reason for this he was silenced by the retort that when the States had put a similar question about their own arming they were told it was none of their business. But though silenced he sent an express to Holland to demand a categorical answer to the question whether they meant to be with him or with Spain (No. 335). Opinions were divided as the Orange party strongly favoured the Stuart cause, but after much discussion the Dutch finally decided to remain neutral (No. 345).
It was not likely that their interpretation of neutrality would prevent them from profiting by the situation. They could help the Spaniards to keep open communications with Flanders, as England had done when the Dutch were at war with Spain; and the war at sea offered boundless opportunities to privateers, who might sail under the Spanish or Stuart flag and masquerade as Flemings, and quite early in 1655 numbers of Dutch ships were getting patents at Dunkirk (No. 284), while the Zeelanders were hunting ships leaving the Thames (No. 302.)
To prevent supplies being taken to Flanders the English navy kept strict watch in the Straits. In April, when Reuter was returning from the Mediterranean with convoy he was held up off Dover by Whitehorn's squadron. The situation looked threatening as the Dutch Admiral refused to submit to search, and the ships began to clear for action. Eventually Reuter's assurances were accepted that he carried nothing except for Dutch merchants, and the incident ended amicably (No. 302); but it came out soon after that he had with him a quantity of plate, to be sent from Holland to Flanders (No. 310). That this traffic was proceeding actively appeared from reports received from Blake. On Dutch ships which he had stopped and searched he found nearly half a million of plate belonging to the Spaniards (No. 348). By Cromwell's order the ships seized were sent under escort to London and the plate conveyed to the Tower, while the Ambassador Nieuport did not venture on a word of protest (No. 351). A fleet which the Dutch sent to the Mediterranean later in the year was suspected in England to be intended to help the Spanish treasure ships to get safely to port, or to convoy the treasure themselves (No. 399). To meet this Blake was reported to have orders to fight the Dutch admiral if he attempted to convoy Spanish ships or to afford them assistance of any kind (No. 401). In home waters two Spaniards rescued from a Dutch ship wrecked at the mouth of the Tyne admitted that the entire cargo consisted of munitions of war intended for the Spaniards (No. 310). Yet in spite of these various happenings the Dutch made formal remonstrance against the English claim to search their ships (No. 318).
The situation was certainly dangerous especially as there were other circumstances to cause irritation. On an appeal from certain shipmasters complaining of Dutch outrages in the East Indies, a committee was appointed to enquire into the matter and report to the Council, a step considered significant as such petitions had always been discountenanced in the past (No. 362). Ill-feeling was also aroused by the capture of a number of English ships sailing under Dutch convoy, which was believed to have happened by connivance, and a claim for compensation was lodged (No. 362).
An explosion might easily have resulted from these various points of friction if the Dutch had not been obliged to pay serious attention to the attitude of Sweden. Early in 1656 they received a serious shock by the news that King Charles X had decided to levy a heavy toll on all ships entering the Baltic (No. 241). They decided at once to send a strong fleet to those waters, an action which led to joint representations from the ministers of England and Sweden, who asked what the object of such a force could be seeing that the Dutch had none but friendly neighbours (No. 312). Despite these representations the fleet sailed but the detailing of this force weakened the general position of the Dutch and compelled them to submit where, under other circumstances, they might have shown resentment (No. 351). The English government did not hesitate to press its advantage, sending over an envoy to warn the Dutch to be careful in their dealings with Sweden, or they might have to deal with England as well (No. 364). They claimed for themselves the credit for the ensuing agreement between the Dutch and Sweden, in which Denmark and Danzig were included (No. 370), and Cromwell rejoiced in the conviction that he had obtained from the States all the satisfaction that he desired (No. 374). Although he had dealt with them somewhat harshly, it was not in his interest to have them for enemies and towards the end of the year it was proposed to send over Meadowe to act as resident and keep a watch on their proceedings and to see that the Spanish Ambassador Gamarra did not have everything his own way (Nos. 393, 399).
There had been friendly intercourse with Sweden even in the time of Queen Christina, but after her abdication her real and suspected relations with the Stuart family gave rise to a suspicion that some plot was being brewed in Flanders for the restoration of the exiled king with Swedish help. These misgivings were quickly dissipated by the news of the Swedish king's march into Poland and the arrival of an ambassador extraordinary from that country (No. 122). King Charles wished to appear as a champion of the Protestant faith and his envoy professed to desire some proper decision for the defence of the religion against violence and oppression (No. 125). An offensive and defensive alliance in the interests of the faith became a matter of common discussion (No. 136). The victories of Charles made a great impression; men recalled the exploits of Gustavus Adolphus, and hoped that this new champion, whose successes they regarded as their own would carry the attack right into the heart of Catholic Germany (No. 191). There seemed good reason for the Catholic powers to take alarm, for it was considered certain that when once he had finished with Poland the king would turn his attack against the Hapsburgs (Nos. 194, 198). Such ideas were really out of date for the interests of the different states were too complex and varied to admit of the renewal of wars of religion. The negotiations of the Swedish ambassador indeed, did not long remain at this high plane and speedily came down to what was more imminent and practical. His chief concern was to obtain levies, and in the first enthusiasm there was some talk of giving him 6000 English and 2000 Scots to show the world their unity and zeal in defence of the faith (No. 138). These numbers were reduced before long to something much more modest and even then the raising of the necessary men proved difficult and tedious (Nos. 144, 222).
The belief that Bond had also come for naval assistance showed how little substance there was in the bogey of a religious war, for such a conjunction would threaten not the Catholics, but the northern Protestant powers and, above all, Holland. It was stated that Cromwell had offered naval assistance to Sweden which would render them supreme in the Baltic (Nos. 234, 235), and he really seems to have promised Bond a squadron of ten ships, with apologies for not doing more owing to the present requirements of England (No. 268).
He probably wished to be better informed before committing himself more definitely, and soon after Bond's arrival he sent his kinsman, Major Rolt, to act as agent in Sweden, chiefly in order to obtain and forward information about the prospects and the naval and military forces of the country (No. 125). It was not until nearly a year later that any agreement was concluded, and immediately after the ambassador took leave, receiving the most distinguished honours.
Although Bond denied it, Giavarina believed that an alliance had been concluded, but he admitted that he could find out nothing about the terms (Nos. 330, 352). At Vienna they still believed in the danger of a religious war, declaring that letters from Cromwell had been intercepted urging the king of Sweden to make peace with Poland, pointing out the advantage of using his forces elsewhere, and the opportunity of humbling the papacy (No. 333).
The affair of the Vaudois presented the one obvious opportunity of vindicating the Protestant cause, and it moved profoundly the whole Protestant confession, whose unanimity in such a matter is contrasted with the indifference of the Catholics (No. 237). Cromwell was greatly concerned and took the matter up warmly. With Blake in the Mediterranean he had an opportunity to make the duke of Savoy feel the long arm of sea power (No. 80), and this possibility caused no little stir at Genoa and the neighbouring ports (No. 88). In England public feeling was marked by the proclamation of a fast day, when a collection was taken and the preachers moved their hearers by tales of the suffering and martyrdom of their co-religionists (No. 90). To deepen the impression some of the churches were painted a blood red (No. 95). A general collection for the victims was taken up with energy, Cromwell heading the list with 2000l. The collectors went from door to door, not even sparing the foreign ministers, as Paulucci ruefully observed (No. 100). In spite of these efforts the sum realised did not reach expectations, and accordingly Cromwell had a fresh appeal printed and circulated in the provinces, to induce the people to give all that they could afford (No. 118). The way in which this money was to be employed was not specified and the uncertainty and suspicion of the government may have affected the result (Nos. 100, 118).
The effort thus put forth had very little influence on the settlement of the affair, which was managed by diplomacy and even so indirectly, by French intervention, under pressure from Cromwell. Indeed the agreement reached through French intervention at the conference at Pinerolo, in which the Swiss Protestants participated, was disliked by the English and Dutch ministers, who arrived too late to take part in the proceedings (No. 158). They objected that the parties should have waited for their advice, that the Swiss envoys should have signed the agreement, and that for the Protestants to ask pardon of the duke amounted to a confession of guilt (No. 186).
Owing to these representations a diet of the Swiss Protestant Cantons was held subsequently at Payerne, where the two objecting ministers offered their suggestions for the establishment of peace on what they considered would be a firmer foundation (No. 163). The congress discussed the formation of an alliance between England, Holland and the Protestant Swiss for all emergencies (No. 168), but nothing definite resulted, the direction of affairs being mainly in the hands of the French ministers (No. 179).
Hardly had this question been settled than fresh trouble broke out in Switzerland proper, owing to the action of the Catholic canton of Schweitz. The Protestant Swiss took up arms in defence of their co-religionists and Giavarina was convinced that they would not have done so had they not felt sure that they could count on the support of the great Protestant powers (No. 237). It seems clear, however, that such support had not been promised in advance. On the other hand Spain interested herself in support of the Catholics, causing great uneasiness to the pope, who dreaded a religious war which might easily spread to Italy (No. 227). He naturally felt alarmed at the prospect of Cromwell taking a hand in the matter, especially as an English fleet was expected in the Mediterranean, and the states of the Church were defenceless against attack from the sea. He was bound to support the Catholic party in Switzerland, but in response to their appeals he sent no more than 30,000 crowns, lamenting that owing to the numerous calls upon him he could do no more (No. 252).
In London the Ambassador Bond insisted that Cromwell could not in honour leave the Evangelical Cantons without support or protection (No. 229). But the Protector seemed anxious to avoid any show of excessive zeal for the cause, from fear of alarming the crowns of France and Spain and forcing them to sink their quarrels to join in defence of their common faith (No. 246). Seeing, however, that things were not going so favourably with them as had been expected, he decided to send them money (No. 268). His help was fully expected. Berne and Zurich had written to the Elector Palatine that they were all to join with their good friends the English (No. 251). English money was circulating at Zurich (No. 263), the English Agent Pell was freely promising help and the French ambassador seemed to be losing ground (No. 264). The peace which ensued is said to have been made in spite of Pell's efforts (No. 284), but the news of it was received with delight in England, although the government did not seem too well pleased (No. 286). At Vienna it was believed that the trouble had been promoted by the French, for the purpose of closing the passes from Germany into Italy (No. 251).
Relations with Portugal were intimately bound up with those with Spain. The Portuguese hoped for English help against their enemy and could not afford to have a hostile England on their flank, while in a naval war with Spain, the use of Portuguese ports was almost essential to the English fleet. But in spite of this dependence Cromwell adopted a very high tone in his negotiations with the country when it made difficulties about granting his terms. A very heavy indemnity was demanded for the assistance given to Rupert, and the English merchants desired to have a place of worship of their own faith at Lisbon, a concession which would put further difficulties in the way of the recognition that King John hoped to obtain from Rome.
The king extended every courtesy to Blake when that officer was blockading Cadiz in 1655 and allowed him to careen his ships in Portuguese ports, though at the same time he sent to warn the Brazil fleet to avoid the English and to follow a more northerly route to Oporto (Nos. 108, 112); he also sent a present of refreshments to Blake with an offer to supply him with everything that his fleet might require (No. 125). Believing that under these circumstances he could afford to take an independent line he returned the articles of peace to London for revision. But so far from yielding, Cromwell sent for the Portuguese resident and told him sharply that he would have to leave the Court if his king would not agree to the terms demanded. Taken aback by a reception so different from his expectations the minister begged for permission to stay on in London, promising to send an express to try and induce the king to give the satisfaction required. To this Cromwell vouchsafed no reply, but he permitted the resident to write and to stay (No. 343).
It seems clear that Cromwell, with his usual incisiveness, wished to bring matters to a head. It was stated freely in London that for three months Portugal had been in treaty with Spain for an adjustment (No. 310). At Rome the pope was being urged, in the interest of the Catholic faith, to recognise the king of Portugal and bring about a reconciliation with Spain, to whose fleet the Portuguese could add a reinforcement of 50 ships (No. 239). To ensure a prompt decision Meadowe was sent off unexpectedly to Lisbon with an ultimatum, offering all friendship on the one hand, but threatening if the peace were not immediately ratified, that all Portuguese ships would be treated as enemies (No. 268). To make this good Blake simultaneously received orders to intercept the fleets from the Indies. As the Portuguese were expecting the arrival of two rich fleets, from Brazil and Goa, they made up their minds to bow to circumstances, and the treaty was duly ratified. By its terms the king bound himself to pay a considerable sum of money and a gentleman was sent over at once with 50,000l. as an instalment (No. 348). The settlement greatly pleased the London merchants, who only wished that a similar one could be made with Spain as well. In order to keep up correspondence with Portugal, three small frigates were built, with oars, to carry passengers and letters to and fro between England and Lisbon (No. 367).
A perusal of these papers leaves the impression that Cromwell's foreign policy was mainly opportunist, without any guiding principles. Starting with the assumption that the differences between France and Spain could not be reconciled, and relying upon an incomparable navy to defend the country against any conceivable combination of enemies, he used the same sharp weapon to wring concessions from one power after another. The government and country were indeed bitterly hostile to the Catholic faith (No. 106), and there was some boastful talk of extirpating popish inventions and idolatary (No. 130). Inspired by memories of Gustavus Adolphus some idea of combining with Sweden for this purpose may have flickered through Cromwell's mind, but it was never seriously taken up. (fn. 15) Even to protect down-trodden Protestants against the persecution of a petty prince it was necessary to appeal to the good offices of a Catholic power. On the other hand the idea that the new pope Alexander might employ his good offices to reconcile France and Spain in the interest of the faith did cause some apprehension (No. 191), and led Cromwell to take the remarkable step of sending a Jesuit priest to Rome as his emissary, to find out and report what was being done there (No. 194).
While France and Spain were at grips England could feel perfectly secure. To both of them England's neutrality was of the highest importance, while the weight of the English fleet could in a moment tip the scale decisively one way or the other. Both were ready to pay a high price for England's help or even for her neutrality, and Cromwell took full advantage of the situation, treating them both with equal harshness. His government could hardly subsist without foreign employment or war (No. 232), to occupy the great forces he considered it necessary to maintain; but no one desired to make war on him. That war resulted was due to his pushing a proud nation further than it could afford to go, and even so the Spanish government made frantic efforts to avoid a conflict and would have welcomed any honourable way of escape.
Cromwell's prestige abroad rested on the might of his navy and was such that his friendship was courted by the many princes affected directly or indirectly by its power, so that his Court became one of the most brilliant in Europe. To the numerous embassies that were sent to him Cromwell made scarce any response, preferring in general to employ inconspicuous persons who could go everywhere without observation and keep him fully informed of what was going on (No. 194). Foreign powers were obliged to swallow their pride and overlook this lack of reciprocity, as their own interests obliged them to put aside all formalities and punctilio.
In domestic affairs the harsh methods of a military autocracy did not achieve a like success. In a country possessed by an enormous respect for law with instinctive appeals to precedent to regulate all affairs of state, Cromwell's position was entirely anomalous. It had been expected that parliament would put an end to this confusion by conferring upon him the royal title, but all hopes on that score were dissipated by the firm action of the opposition. When the question was being debated they seem to have entered the house unexpectedly and by their arguments silenced the advocates of the change (No. 6). The matter was brought up again, but once more the opposition prevailed and succeeded in preventing a decision (No. 10). Cromwell did not himself press the point as by handling the parliament with tact and dissimulation he believed that he had obtained the necessary legitimation of his authority (No. 20). But he felt that they were getting out of hand, contemplating an extension of their term and some curtailment of his power. Anticipating their desire to confer with him he seized upon the earliest possible date to get rid of them and proceeded to Westminster Hall. There he delivered with great heat a long and domineering discourse, (fn. 16) ending by dissolving the parliament and ordering the mace to be taken away. That done, with a mien full of wrath and contempt, he returned to his palace, leaving the members abashed and amazed, no one having a word to say.
Cromwell had accused parliament of fomenting trouble and the situation was undoubtedly an anxious one for the government. Disaffection was known to exist in the army and there were vague suspicions of a serious plot (No. 10). Men's minds were so much on edge that a sentinel at Whitehall had been scared to death by a supposed apparition (No. 16). Repressive measures were considered necessary. Troops were constantly being drafted into London and public gatherings of all kinds were strictly prohibited; horse markets, stage plays and other occasions for public assembly came under the ban (Nos. 42, 188). For the same reason public festivals were looked at askance and on Shrove Tuesday and again at Easter London was patrolled by bodies of horse to prevent any possible rioting among the apprentices (Nos. 42, 67). A previous effort to spoil the Christmas celebrations by permitting any one who wished to open shop, had proved a failure and the whole week had been devoted to merrymaking (No. 6).
Incidentally these restrictions led to some very destructive fires, which spread rapidly because the people were not permitted to gather promptly to put them out (No. 34). Three of these occurred in London in less than two months (Nos. 52, 69). The pious ascribed these disasters to the judgment of Heaven on the ungodly, but the Protector's enemies believed that they happened by his will, in order to tame the Londoners into submission. But such things had to be uttered under the breath, for any one who spoke his opinions freely was apt to be arrested and punished (No. 69).
Arrests indeed were frequent and extensive. In January six persons of consequence were brought to London from Kent, where they had been trying to raise the county (No. 16). A few weeks later a number of leading men who had retired to live in the country, were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in a conspiracy to overthrow the government. Before the middle of the year the Tower had become so full of prisoners that some were sent away to the country, where it was believed that certain of them had been put to death (No. 80). Still the arrests went on, and some important persons were shipped to Barbados, while others were taken in the country and brought to London (No. 100). By July the number of persons of quality arrested amounted to 3000, it being the Protector's settled policy to ruin the nobility and to keep in perpetual confinement those who refused to take the oath of allegiance to his government (No. 106). With the dissipation of the suspicion caused by the levies for Sweden, which had been responsible for some of the arrests (No. 122), a few of the prisoners were liberated, but for every ten set free twenty remained in captivity (No. 144).
Yet with all these repressive measures the government could not still the voice of discontent. After the dissolution of parliament the opposition members posted placards all over London accusing Cromwell of having despotically dissolved several parliaments and of violating the rights and charters of the nation. An attempt to issue a manifesto vindicating their acts was nipped in the bud (No. 26). The dissolution had been taken very ill in the country and Cromwell thought it politic to issue a statement to the effect that his sole object was tranquillity and national prosperity, which he would increase notably by consolidating the government and increasing freedom of trade for the English all over the world (No. 29). As this made little impression he followed it up by a manifesto setting forth the just motives which induced him to take the step (No. 34).
Upon the dissolution Cromwell set to work to rule with the help of his Council, which he attended daily and to which he appointed twenty of his chief supporters, the ablest men of the government (No. 26); but here also signs of dissatisfaction manifested themselves and the Protector was chagrined to observe that even among those who owed their appointment to his favour, some had absented themselves since the dissolution, without giving a reason (No. 37). He endeavoured to win them by bestowing important charges on the most capable (No. 76).
More serious was the restiveness apparent in the army, where the Anabaptists, Levellers and other sectaries were strong and whose republican sentiments were outraged by Cromwell's autocratic behaviour. To check this Harrison and others were brought to London and after examination and refusing to take the oaths required of them, they were sent away under guard to distant parts of the realm (Nos. 6, 42). Lack of pay was making the troops unruly and Fairfax was believed to be ready to take up arms against his old lieutenant (No. 57).
Cromwell met these dangers with his usual resolution, The soldiers duly received their arrears of pay, but at the same time the rates were reduced and many companies disbanded, to relieve the burden on the people (No. 144). Large numbers of the men were paid off and the command of two regiments of horse taken from their ordinary colonels and given to one more trustworthy (No. 60). The opportunity of the Swedish levy was seized to get rid of old disaffected soldiers, especially Anabaptists, and to reduce the numbers of the companies (No. 138). The troops in Scotland having given cause for serious suspicion of their loyalty, 3000 English soldiers from Ireland, all men entirely devoted to Cromwell, were brought over to that country (No. 24). The militia which the city of London was encouraged to set up for its defence, may have been partly intended to relieve the cost of maintaining a large garrison there (No. 37), but it would also serve as a check on the regular troops.
A sound army would guarantee an outward respect for authority, but something more was needed to win the consent of the governed. Immediately after the dissolution Cromwell, by the advice of his Council, imposed an extraordinary tax of 60,000l. for six months, for the maintenance of the sea and land forces. To facilitate collection the amount payable by each district was apportioned and the terms of payment fixed. The tax had been discussed in parliament, but not voted (No. 34). With the great display of armed force always at hand the people grumbled but submitted and seemed rather disposed than reluctant to pay (No. 37). But in the country some leading members of past parliaments refused to pay any of the taxes and rather courted distraint in order that the matter might be publicly ventilated (No. 67). Similarly after the risings in the spring of 1655 the boldest and most intelligent of those arrested maintained that so long as the government was conducted under republican forms no one wished to upset it, but when charges were made contrary to promises given they had to consider their duty to parliament and its laws and those who stood up to defend liberty and the laws could not be held guilty of treason (No. 70). In the Supreme Court the point was raised of the difficulty of carrying out laws framed by king and parliament in the absence of both, and the chief justice had no answer ready, postponing a decision until the next session (No. 85).
By assuming the crown and the royal title Cromwell could do much to regularise the situation. This solution would have been welcomed by a large section of the people and by the leading ministers (No. 73). Representations were made to Cromwell of how necessary a monarch was for England, and the difficulty without one of making the lawn function (Nos. 73, 76). On the other hand the leading republicans, notably in the army, were strongly opposed. Cromwell was not himself eager for the title, as he exercised more authority than any king and he suspected that those who advocated the change wished to reduce his powers (No. 73). He did not so much desire the show of authority and had contemplated setting up an executive Council of sixty persons to conduct the administration and impose taxes, while he, in chief command of the army, would retain all the essence of power (No. 67). A naked recognition of this basic fact lay in the suggestion that he should be proclaimed emperor of the three kingdoms, chosen by the army, as the Roman emperors of old had been chosen by the legionaries (No. 182).
What Cromwell felt the lack of was not a royal title but the power to make laws. It was suggested that this might be conferred on him by a great council of the officers of the army, after which he would be able to re-fashion the laws at his pleasure and rule without a parliament (No. 85). The idea took hold of Cromwell and it became the most important question of the hour (No. 90). Before proceeding further he consulted the most eminent lawyers, although he had made up his own mind, for some thing had to be settled before the opening of the next law term. After many arguments on both sides the lawyers decided that such a thing could not be done without the authority of parliament, Seeing how things were going, some of the leading judges tendered their resignations at this stage, declaring that they could not administer justice satisfactorily or perform their duties (No. 95). This threatened to create a difficult situation, which Cromwell met arbitrarily by appointing new judges under a sealed patent, with authority to pass sentence after the briefest formalities. The people seemed content with this and ready to carry out his orders blindly, in the hope that they would have more prompt and expeditious justice in the future (No. 100).
Cromwell's action was clearly only a temporary expedient and early in July an assembly was convened to meet in London, consisting of the judges, commanders and lieutenants from all over the country; to assist in devising some secret measure about the legislative power. Cromwell entertained the members at a sumptuous banquet (No. 106), but the subsequent proceedings are not recorded. They were not conclusive, for in September a conference of the leading army officers utterly declined to grant the Protector such extensive powers, which might easily be turned against themselves (No. 148). This resolution seems to have checked the idea for some time; but early in the following year a general assembly was summoned to London of all the military officers and provincial governors, it was supposed in order to raise the Protector's position, giving him power to make the laws and absolute control of the affairs of the three kingdoms.
It was evident that something must be done, for the system of government was breaking down, and all the repression exercised could not silence adverse criticism and the growing discontent. On one occasion, at Hampton Court, to which the Protector was wont to retire on Sundays, for rest, the preacher, a son of the governor, denounced him to his face for his tyrannical rule, predicting that it would end in infamy (No. 148); a Colonel Dory was arrested for preaching a sermon at All Hallows with very biting criticism of the government, and about the same time three books appeared, one of which, entitled “The Protector Unmasked” exposed the cunning and fraud with which Cromwell had gradually usurped power and deprived the people of their privileges (No. 218).
Early in 1655 the financial situation was becoming alarming, chiefly owing to the heavy expenditure on the navy. To meet the immediate need excise duties on food were raised as well as the octroi on all foodstuffs brought into London. The people resented this tax as unreasonable and unjust, and troops were drafted into the city to prevent any disturbance (No. 276). But this expedient, besides its unpopularity, proved quite inadequate to meet the financial requirements of the government, and frequent meetings of the Council were held to consider ways and means. From the beginning of June the Council and Major Generals were in almost constant session discussing what should be done. The pay of the forces, naval and military, was getting into arrear, and if this continued trouble was certain. To meet the demand some fresh source of revenue was wanted, but to require further taxes from a people that questioned the right of imposing them was only to invite trouble of another kind. They might be levied by force, but Cromwell was averse from using such means as it would disturb the tranquillity he so much desired.
He was greatly harassed by the constant claims upon him (No. 337), and at one of the meetings of the Council he is said to have broken down completely (No. 318). Four suggestions were put forward in the Council: (1) to double the existing taxes; (2) to issue privy seals for a benevolence; (3) to levy a tenth on income and a fifteenth on moveables, and (4) to convene a parliament (No. 330). Cromwell favoured the third course and opposition in the Council only served to strengthen his determination; but in the end he gave way in deference to strong representations that it would be likely to lead to serious trouble (No. 335). As a temporary expedient the tax of 60,000l. a month was renewed for another six months, in spite of protests that the people would not pay a farthing beyond the ordinary taxes.
Meantime the discussions continued, meetings being held twice daily. But these fruitless debates only served to wear irritated tempers thinner and to stir up ill feeling, which rendered a decision more difficult. Finally, early in July, as a last expedient and with much reluctance it was decided to summon a parliament. They thought this would be the readiest and most expeditious way of getting money, and also most calculated to please the people, which desired one with all its heart (Nos. 339, 343). It might also legitimate by its action the authority which Cromwell considered necessary for the government of the country. It was generally expected that this time, at any rate he would be made a king (No. 345), in spite of the strong opposition to be expected (No. 370). That some change was contemplated is indicated by Cromwell's instruction to Fleming to make search in the records concerning ancient forms of government (No. 362).
As the meeting was expected to give rise to disturbances extraordinary precautions were taken. The Protector's guards were strengthened; guards posted at all the approaches to London to prevent any one without a pass from entering or leaving; the garrison of the Tower was strengthened and a council of war summoned, consisting of the major generals and leading army officers (No. 364). The whole army of Scotland was brought to London (No. 365) and throughout the country troops were kept daily on the move (No. 374). Vane, a man of character and birth, was sent to confinement at Carisbrooke castle from fear lest his eloquence should cause trouble in the parliament (No. 365). Other arrests, of royalist gentlemen, followed in the provinces, as the government was afraid to leave them at large in their country houses. In London all persons found without employment, whether English or foreign, were compelled to enlist as soldiers (No. 367).
Cromwell had developed as great a dislike of parliaments as ever the Stuarts entertained, but among the people, in spite of all that had happened, the prestige of the name stood high. The demand for one had become clamorous (No. 318) and the decision to convoke it was a device to keep the people quiet (No. 335). What they demanded was a free parliament, which Cromwell had no intention of giving, although the idea of a purely nominated body was abandoned, as the people could not be expected to submit to so palpable a wrong (No. 335). The government decided upon a parliament of 400 members duly elected from all three kingdoms, who must be approved by the Protector and his Council (No. 343). Writs were issued in July for a meeting in September. In some districts objections were raised on the ground that the proceedings were a mere pretence, for if the persons chosen were not acceptable to the Protector others more amenable would be substituted, and if the parliament acted contrary to his wishes it would certainly be dissolved. But these threats to ignore the writs had no result, and the elections proceeded (No. 351). Nevertheless a spirit of independence was manifesting itself. At Westminster when Cromwell sent for the chief men of the parish and told them what persons he wished them to choose they answered that they meant to exercise their privilege and to choose for themselves (No. 356). In London differences arose over the choice of the members for London and Middlesex respectively, and the two chosen for the city were said to be unfriendly to the government (No. 359). In London also a squib was published suggesting suitable persons as members, all of them bitter enemies of the government (No. 354). By the end of August the elections were completed, even in those places where objections had been raised, though after discussions and considerable difference among the electors (No. 362). The manner of an election as described here seems to have resembled the way of taking a division which has survived in the House of Commons to this day (No. 359).
It was made clear from the first that the Parliament would have no real independence. Even before it met members were asked to give an assurance to undertake nothing to the hurt of the existing state of affairs and old members were approached to promise to do nothing to pervert the new. Some consented, but others refused to fetter their judgment declaring that they would do what they thought best in the interest of the people (No. 354).
When the members gathered in London Cromwell tried to win the doubtful ones by blandishments and flattery and was lavish with entertainments and banquets (No. 364). Although those elected were considered friendly to the government in the main, yet at the first meeting 120 members were excluded merely for not possessing a ticket, issued by Cromwell to those only whom he felt he could trust, and the production of these tickets was demanded at every meeting (No. 367). The action was defended by appealing to the Instrument of Government which provided that members should be approved by the Protector and Council. The tamest body could hardly be expected to submit quietly to such a proceeding, and one member did get up and protest that it reduced the liberty of parliament to a mockery. As a protest he walked out, followed by some others (No. 370). But this outbreak proved a mere flash in the pan. Although some of the objectors had actually left the city they were all brought back by the threat of a fine of 1000l. if they neglected their duties. For the rest the business of the house proceeded quite smoothly and in harmony with the Protector's wishes (No. 376).
Some had hoped that when parliament met it would take steps towards making peace with Spain. In declaring war without parliamentary sanction Cromwell had exceeded his powers and he had misgivings as to how this would be taken. In his opening speech he had accordingly laid peculiar stress upon Spain as the national enemy. He was correspondingly relieved when parliament declared the war to be reasonable and national and promised to continue it with vigour (No. 374). This was the more agreeable as it committed them to finding the necessary supplies. Their patriotic resolution received great encouragement from the news of the captured treasure ships, but when the question rose of how the necessary money should be raised their energies flagged and they showed a disinclination to come to close quarters with the subject. Among the expedients considered was one for an extraordinary tax on all grades of society, expected to realise 2½ millions, but they shrank from the outcry which it would certainly cause. They continued to discuss the matter aimlessly without getting any nearer to a decision and in the end, when men were expecting to hear their resolution they adjourned the question until some better opportunity (No. 388). To meet the immediate needs of the fleet they proposed to raise 30,000l. by further confiscations of the goods of Catholics and royalists, using the money captured from the Spaniards to build fresh ships for the fleet (No. 386). A few weeks later they returned to the subject and passed a resolution to provide 120,000l. a month by taxes which should not impose an excessive burden upon the people. The amount was considered inadequate by those who had to spend it, and parliament did not say how they meant to set about the task (No. 393). Their nearest approach to a practical proposal was a vote of five subsidies, to be paid in five instalments (No. 379).
While dealing in this halting fashion with finance they took up the question of the succession, which they wished to make hereditary in Cromwell's house (No. 388). They intimated their desire by a special deputation to the Protector. But while thanking them he declined the honour, giving reasons, which were not considered genuine (No. 389). Consequently the discussion was resumed in parliament, but on two occasions when the question was set down for debate, Cromwell sent to ask them to drop it, giving such cogent reasons that they were obliged to listen to him. For the moment he was content with things as they were, as he exercised the functions of royalty and had a parliament perfectly deferential to his wishes. At the end of the year the house was still sitting, though it had no work of importance in hand (No. 402), except the financial problem, which it continued to shirk.
Cromwell's success in getting Charles expelled from France had not proved an unmixed advantage, as the king could not be so easily watched, and being near Flanders he could keep in touch with his friends in England. Early in 1655 he disappeared and was reported to be at sea with the intention of landing in England (No. 39). Hull was the point designated, as affording easy communication with Scotland (No. 43), and the garrison there had shown signs of insubordination (No. 29). A general revolt had been planned and the exiles in France felt sanguine of success; but in the event it proved a complete fiasco. They had shown themselves better at plotting than in acting (No. 60), for when the moment arrived their plans for concerted action broke down, the help which one district should have furnished to another was not forthcoming, the separate risings being easily crushed and merely served to provide the Protector with lists of his enemies (No. 48). To find out the sentiments of the people and their attitude to the government he sent agents throughout the country, and the risings seem scarcely to have ruffled the surface, for there was every appearance of settled tranquillity (No. 60). Two royalist leaders, who had been in England, probably Wilmot and Armourer, and who got back safely to Paris in disguise, reported that the king's cause was at its lowest ebb (No. 68). Charles himself is said to have gone to Telingen, a country house of his sister in Zeeland, to meditate sadly over the disaster, though the princess assured the Dutch deputies that she knew nothing of his whereabouts (Nos. 55, 59). By mid April Charles was back at Cologne and sent to inform his mother, who had been without news of him and was very anxious, and who was now much distressed at the frustration of all their hopes (No. 61).
At Cologne Charles was joined by his brother the Duke of Gloucester, whom he had left with their sister to be educated in a manner befitting his birth. He had been virtually turned out by the Dutch, who were fearful of giving offence to Cromwell and had sent to warn the princess that to harbour the duke was contrary to the treaty with England (No. 74).
The revolt afforded an excuse for the more rigorous treatment of the royalists. Many of those who had compounded suffered arrest and were so harassed by the government that they preferred to take to a vagabond life (No. 110). Taxes were laid on them to the amount of three-fourths of their goods and they were saddled with the maintenance of the entire armed forces of the country on the plea that it was their disaffection that forced the government to keep armed (No. 191). In July a proclamation was issued banishing all of the late king's party from London (No. 113). This caused a great outcry, but the order was generally obeyed, although some were suffered to remain by special permission, on finding surety for good behaviour (No. 118). Many must have drifted back again, for in the following February another proclamation was issued banishing them from London for three years, and requiring a promise to live in their country houses and not leave the neighbourhood (No. 241). As a further means of ridding the country of them they had permission to enlist for the king of Sweden, and this was joyfully embraced, so that their numbers were expected to reach 1000 (Nos. 260, 276).
Royalist sentiment continued to thrive despite so much discouragement. Although praise of the king's government or approving mention of the House of Stuart were forbidden under severe penalties, there were men who drank the king's health on their knees in private and who openly showed a preference for the king's rule (No. 154). The London merchants kept the king constantly supplied with money, from the love they bore him, though they professed the contrary to the Protector (No. 339).
The failure of the rising in England and the growing intimacy between Cromwell and Mazarin reduced Charles's international consequence almost to zero, but with the coming breach between England and Spain he became once more a figure of some importance. The Spaniards at once offered him an asylum in Flanders with a suitable assignment for himself and his Court (No. 208). But though ready to use him against their enemy they were careful not to commit themselves too far. The exiled king was a forlorn figure with scarce any influence left (No. 279). They would not make a definite alliance with him, as Charles desired, because that would make an accommodation with Cromwell more difficult (No. 289). In the negotiations which took place between Charles and the Spanish Court the Spaniards considered the king's demands impossible and met them with vague talk of co-operation and acting in concert. Charles wished for Dunkirk as his headquarters, but this was refused as being too important and he was offered Bruges instead (No. 208). The Archduke Leopold, Spanish governor in the Netherlands, refused to have anything to do with the negotiations between Charles and the Spanish government, or even to see the king, on the plea that he was nearing the term of his office (Nos. 286, 302).
Around Charles in Flanders the exiled royalists quickly gathered, and many would have joined him from England if they could have escaped the vigilance of their government (No. 286). Among those sent for was the king's brother the duke of York, who was obliged to leave France by the terms of the treaty with Cromwell (No. 297). King Louis was personally attached to the duke and would gladly have kept him, so that his dismissal was delayed in the hope of buying Cromwell's consent to his remaining (No. 304). There was another and powerful reason for wishing to keep him, as he commanded the 7000 Irish troops in the service of France, and these men were all devoted to the prince (No. 297). Mazarin feared that if the prince went he would be followed by all these troops, thus greatly weakening the king's army (No. 307). Representations were made to Cromwell on this score, but he proved obdurate and the prince had to go. Before joining his brother the duke went to Madrid, where he was received with much ceremony and every courtesy (No. 341). He did not reach Flanders till November and wrote thence to the leaders of the Irish troops urging them to leave the service of France and to enlist under the banner of their lawful king, an action which excited the lively indignation of the French monarch (No. 385).
The presence of Charles in Flanders excited no little apprehension in the English government and led to special precautions. All who crossed the sea into England were required to report themselves within 24 hours of landing, to state their business and where they were lodging (No. 337). All the ports were well guarded, special attention being paid to Hull, on which they thought the king had fixed his eyes (No. 365). In London a gentleman named Alcock was found dead in a room with the door locked on the inside. The incident is recorded elsewhere without comment, but Giavarina tells a circumstantial story that he had been hired to kill the king and took his own life from remorse (No. 297). This is not a likely tale, but it is possible that Alcock had been engaged by Cromwell to spy upon the king and take the place of Manning, who had been found out and pistoled in a German wood not long before (No. 232).
But for various reasons the activities of the king were not very formidable. He tried to raise an army and was even beating the drum for troops in the Rhine lands (No. 377). He issued patents for raising two regiments of Irish, one of Scots and one of English. The Spaniards granted facilities for housing the men and they hoped for the formation of a fleet made up of ships captured by the Biscay corsairs (No. 365). But these plans required money and the king's coffers were empty. Now that he was allied with the enemy of their country the merchants were no longer willing to send him supplies, which though not large were useful. They sent over a deputy to make their excuses, saying that they were exhausted by the exorbitant taxes and by the depredations of the pirates at sea, which completely disorganised their trade (Nos. 348, 389). The capture of the treasure ships made the payment of the promised pension from Spain very problematical, and worst of all Charles found that some of his servants were revealing his plans to Cromwell (No. 392).
An important member of the family, Prince Rupert, came to visit Charles at Cologne, where old differences were reconciled. The prince went on to his brother at Heidelberg (No. 121). He had undertaken to command a levy for the duke of Modena, the protégé of France. At Heidelberg the duke's agent kept urging him to complete this task, but the prince, disgusted at the way he had been treated and affected no doubt by the changed attitude of France towards his family, gave him a sharp answer, which finally settled the whole affair (No. 143). Shortly after Rupert entered the service of the emperor, who was strongly opposed to Modena's designs. He was offered a regiment and a pension of 6000 florins, with the further promise of a title and employment when need arose (No. 202). When Charles proceeded to Bruges Rupert promptly offered his services where he might be wanted (No. 284); but the emperor wished to retain him, and gave him one of his own regiments and an additional pension (No. 400). These various circumstances completed the breach with France. When Rupert wrote to Mazarin claiming payment of money adjudged to him for a prize, he was told that his behaviour to the duke of Modena and his taking service with the emperor made it impossible for the Cardinal to do anything for him (No. 251). While at Heidelberg Rupert quarrelled so seriously with his brother that the Elector had the palace door shut in his face. But some thought this tale was only a trick, as the prince was very deep (No. 394).
A brief reference must suffice for various scattered items not included under any of the foregoing heads. The Levant Company presented a virtual ultimatum to the Signory if their grievances were not attended to (No. 80); and as a consequence the extraordinary duty on currants was suspended (No. 115). In the victory at the Dardanelles in June 1655 an English ship, the Principe di Toscana was captured fighting for the Turks (No. 92). Its entire Englishry may well be doubted, but it was sufficient to justify a claim for restitution, which was conceded in order to please Cromwell (Nos. 222, 338). Sagredo declares that a fourth part of England was undoubtedly Catholic (No. 154); and Paulucci states that the progress of the faith in the country was so considerable that the Protector and his Council were determined to put a stop to it (No. 70); yet it is admitted later that the announcement by the government that Charles had become a Catholic was the surest way to rouse the indignation of the people against him (No. 365). Sagredo gives an interesting description of Cromwell's personal appearance (No. 170), and refers to his travels in Flanders at an earlier period of his life (No. 218). In matters of trade there is the suggestion of the Genoese ambassador to draw away English trade from Leghorn to his own city (No. 29); and the proposed establishment by the Levant Company of a mart in Barbary as a halfway house for the goods brought from Syria and Egypt (No. 72). From Naples Cromwell was importing horses for stud purposes (No. 87). Incidentally there is mention of the inordinate fondness of the English for sugar (No. 343).
In conclusion I would once again express my appreciation of the attention and courtesy extended to me by the officials at the Archives in Venice.
ALLEN B. HINDS.
London, January, 1930.