« AnteriorContinuar »
of affairs, does not permit us to suppose that, under the most favourable circumstances, the Scots could have been successful. A piece of grim folly it appears, to constitute a Committee of Estates, or a Committee of Court Commissioners into a council of war, to regulate and coerce the will of a commander or general of forces. But this was actually the case; and it was to this Committee Cromwell was indebted for that false move which Leslie made, and which the vigilant eye of the great English commander SO soon perceived and turned to fearful account. But it appears clearly the case that, if Leslie had not made this disadvantageous move, he could have had little chance against the inferior numbers of the English army. Cromwell's soldiers were no doubt in uncomfortable circumstances amidst the swamps and the bogs, but they were well appointed, well trained and disciplined, well fed, and well armed; in fact, they had come forth, as Mr.
1 Bisset pleases to call it, to invade Scotland ! but in reality to repel the Scotch invasion of England; and the English nation was behind them.
The Scottish country in those days was not charming; the contrast is strongly expressed by some of the invaders of their impressions of the Scottish as contrasted with the English villages. For the English village, even in those days, was perhaps not less romantic and picturesquely pleasant than now; nay, perhaps, in innumerable instances even more so. The pleasant village green, the old
stone church, even then of many generations, thecompared with our times—rough but yet well-to-do farm, perhaps generally of that style we call the watling plaster,” the straggling labourers' cottages, running along the village for a mile, with their gardens, if not trim and neat, yet, from what we know of the Culpeppers and other such writers of the time, redundant in their wealth of herbs and flowers; the old villages of the England of that day look quite as attractive, beneath their lines of rugged elms and their vast yew trees' shade, as now. Those belonging to the Protector's army who have recorded their impressions, contrast all this with that which greeted their eyes in Scottish villages as they passed along. They saw nothing to remind them of the beauty of the English village; for the most part these were assemblages of mere clay or mud hovels. Land, it seemed, was too valuable in Scotland to be wasted on cottage gardens and village greens. And from such homes as these the inhabitants were dragged forth by their lairds with no very good will of their own, and they appear, as they gathered into their ranks, to have been badly fed and badly accoutred. All this may partly apologise for the exceedingly irascible language historian Bisset indulges in when he says, “In the long black catalogue of disasters brought upon Scotland, during a period of five hundred years, by rulers whom God in His wrath had sent to be her curse, her scourge, and her shame, there is none greater or more shameful than this rout of Dunbar.” The good historian Bisset, it would seem, has some personal strong feelings which irritate him as he attempts to depreciate the merits of the victory of Cromwell at Dunbar. Our readers will perhaps think his notes of depreciation very slight when he alleges, that Cromwell had not gained the victory probably, only that in the first instance he availed himself of Leslie's bad move, and in the next instance in the conflict he "had the advantage of the initiative," which also seems very foolish reasoning on the part of historian Bisset. Whether in all the battles he fought, he took the initiative or not, it is not necessary here to discuss; but he watched the moment, whenever that moment might be, and then, striking sudden, swift, and sharp, with all the celerity of lightning, this was certainly a way, and for his enemies a very unpleasant way, Cromwell had.
But disposing of and dismissing Mr. Historian Bisset, it still remains true, that to see Cromwell in the full height of his greatness, we must follow him to Scotland, to Dunbar.
It is tolerably easy to understand the state of the question. We have seen the Scots aiding the Parliament and doing battle with the king,—nay, selling him. But they desired the victory of Presbyterianism; Cromwell was opposed to the elevation of any sect. This was one chief cause of the antipathy of the Scotch. Then they invited Charles, son of the late king, from Holland, and proclaimed him king of the Scots; they did not know when they invited him,
that, with the perfidy and villainy hereditary in his family, he had issued a commission empowering Montrose to raise troops and to subdue the country by force of arms. Our readers have not to learn, now, that Charles II. was perhaps in a deeper degree than any of his ancestors or descendants, false, treacherous, and licentious. He signed the Solemn League and Covenant of Scotland, supporting the Protestant religion, at the very moment he was in attempted negotiation with Rome for befriending the Papacy. He was, however, proclaimed king of the Scots, and the Scots had a perfect right to elect him to be their monarch ; but he aimed at the recovery of Scotland in order to recover the crowns of the three kingdoms. To win Scotland to help him in this, he would not only sign the Covenant, he proffered to sign a declaration by which he renounced all Papacy and Episcopacy. But pledged word or oath were of very little account with him.
It was surely a strange procedure, that in Scotland where Jenny Geddes had hurled her cutty stool against Popery, and where first the storm had raged forth against the despotism and tyranny of the Stuarts; it was surely strange, that there, of all places in the British Empire, Charles II. should be received. It is clearly obvious that the aim of the Scotch clergy was to impose Presbyterianism upon the whole of the empire. Scotland looks very bad in this business. However, Cromwell, now proclaimed Lord-General of the Parliamentary forces, has to march away with all speed to settle, as best he may, these new and final differences. He entered Scotland on the 23rd of July, 1650, with 11,000 horse and foot, commanded under him by Generals Fleetwood, Lambert, and Whally; and Colonels Pride, Overton, and Monk. He found before him, whithersoever he went, a desolation; the Scotch preachers had described the English soldiers as monsters, delighting in the murder or the mutilation of women and children. The peasantry having destroyed what they must have been compelled to leave, fled with whatever they could remove. How far they misunderstood the character of their great enemy, we shall by-and-by see; indeed, it appears that very soon the Scots came to know him better. There had come before him a report that the English army intended to put all the men to the sword, and to thrust hot irons through the women's breasts; but the general's proclamation soon eased them upon that score, and according to the documents of Whitelock, it appears that the women stayed behind their husbands, to provide bread and drink, by baking and brewing, for the English army.
For a vivid, accurate knowledge-nay, more, for a bright, gleaming canvas cartoon, or picture, of the great battle of Dunbar, let any one read the account as given us by Carlyle.? So vivid is the picture, that we can see the disposition of those armies, and the full array of all that magnificent scenery, upon Mon
i Cromwell's “ Letters and Speeches,” vol. iii. p. 38.