Do you think you would have handled the victory in the English Civil War better than Cromwell? Are you more sympathetic towards him or more critical?
Cromwell’s handling of the English Civil war, while seemingly outrageous, was in fact a more appropriate response than we like to give him credit for. In other words, I’m more sympathetic to Cromwell and his establishment of another military dictatorship because he had to choose between peace and democracy given that the chaos following the war made the two mutually exclusive. He retained complete and unquestioned authority because he knew that the power of running a nation could not be handed to a newly formed government that did not represent all of England’s interests but rather the interests of rich English Puritans. The creation of a new, people run government could not be made in one day, but in fact would have to take place over a long time and the people of England couldn’t stew in poverty and chaos waiting for the rich and powerful men of England to set up a government that they felt was democratic. Abraham Lincoln was guilty of much the same thing, declaring martial law in controlled territories so that he could help keep Americans together while they fought out an intense political and social grudge. Lincoln essentially had to bend the constitution in order to save it and likewise Cromwell has to put his aspirations of a true democracy on the backburner so that he can keep England as a united nation from falling back into horrifying war. Thus Cromwell’s handling of the English Civil War, while not the best, was appropriate and sufficient to keep England out of perpetual war and on the track towards true political and social progress.
I agree with Richmond in my sympathy for Cromwell, but I think Cromwell could have stuck to his original plea for representational government better. I believe in his sincere hate for monarchy and that he had reason to use force to achieve his goals during the English Civil war. However, I think he got a little too high off his want for a controlled and orderly government, which ultimately led to a forceful dictatorship rather than peaceful government. By “high” I mean he got too carried away with idealistic thoughts of representational government and equality and England or the world for that matter was not ready to put these ideas into actions. Therefore, Cromwell was best suited to be a man of ideas and when it came time for him to put these ideas into action, he did not know how to implement them in the correct manner. Thus, I am sympathetic towards Cromwell’s mind but not his actions.
Agreeing with Richmond, I can understand how Cromwell got trapped into hypocrisy. From the outside looking in, it is easy to criticize government. Taken out of context, measures taken by government often seem unnecessary, abusive, unreasonable or a myriad of other adjectives. We think we could do a better job, but the truth is the government is balancing a plethora of issues foreign and abroad that we fail to take into account. In my opinion, overthrowing the government is actually easier than trying to run a government. It takes less effort to convince a mob of disillusioned citizens that they are being unjustly treated, than to turn around and subdue the angry mob you just created while also living up to your promises. I think Cromwell did a bad job of planning long-term, concentrating solely on over throwing the monarchy. He was therefore overwhelmed upon obtaining office when faced with a country in chaos and list of over ambitious promises. In my opinion it was only at this point that he realized he must first stabilize the country and the government before living up to his promises. I am sympathetic towards him because I think he had good intentions, although I do think he should have done a better job planning ahead. (Laura)
I strongly agree with Mary’s argument that Cromwell had very good intentions, but got carried away with the idealistic government he had fought for. In theory, his hopes for a Representative government seemed to be the answer to the problems England had been facing in the English Civil War, but executing them was another problem. The means in which he took to achieve his goal of a peaceful Representative government ultimately reversed his original purpose of gaining power in the first place. I believe Cromwell saw it as a question of whether or not the ends justify the means, and in the end, he believed they did. The excessive taxation, numerous purges of Parliament, and the almost dictatorship position he held himself to were all for the betterment of the country, and to ultimately have the Representative government he hoped for. His argument was that the Republic during the time directly after the Civil War was too weak, and so during the period in which the Republic grew, he needed to command all power, in a hypocritical way, to get the country where he thought it needed to be in due time. I do not think he necessarily went about the situation in an ideal way, but I do have a great deal of sympathy towards him because of the situation he was placed in, and I believe he thought he was doing what was best for England in the long run at that time.
The position Cromwell was placed in after the English Civil War called for a strong sense of authority and leadership. Although Cromwell can be criticized for going too far with his power, he had to do what he thought was necessary in order to get his country back on track so that he could later build the representational government he originally wanted. At the time it was not appropriate nor practical for him to push for a representative government therefore he had to proceed with strict rules and guidelines to move on from the end of the war. However one aspect to his rule I think was unnecessary and demonstrated the qualities of a ruthless dictator was his invasion of Ireland. He authorized the brutal executions of so many Catholics and later went on the pass the Act of Settlement which took away their land to give away to English Protestants. Cromwell can be justified for some of the actions he took, but invading Ireland would not bring him closer to having the peaceful government he wanted. (Kavitha)
I find myself not feeling sorry for Oliver Cromwell very much at all and instead being disappointed by his failures as a leader and his fundamental hypocrisy as a person. Cromwell came to power as a dynamic military leader of the New Model Army fighting against forces loyal to the crown. While he was an outsider he was very critical of the power held by monarchy and fought against the despotic King Charles who time and time again disregarded the traditional roles and powers held by the English Parliament. However, once Cromwell assumed the mantle of power and established himself with the same level of authority enjoyed by a king, he acted as an autocrat. He used force to occupy parliament to only allow those loyal to him to be able to sit, even barring the House of Lords entirely from access. Furthermore, he acted far too comprehensively to impose his set of beliefs on those around him. He took Calvinism to an extreme many in England were not comfortable with. He also imposed blue laws that forbade citizens from doing fun things like drinking and dancing. In addition, his treatment of Ireland was absolutely atrocious. I have no pity for Cromwell because he abandoned his initial leanings once he gained power and went to extremes to punish people for simply not agreeing with him. (Shreddasaurus)
I am personally not at all sympathetic towards Cromwell. A good leader should not promise vehemently to do something and then turn around and break that promise. As a Roundhead, Cromwell believed in representative government and egalitarian principles such as equal opportunity and social advancement. When he came to power, however, he essentially became a military dictator. He brutally crushed the Irish rebellion against English rule and passed taxes numerous times without Parliament's approval. He banned newspapers, reimposed the blue laws, and hired government spies. Yes, I do realize that Cromwell strove to use his power to keep England unified and prevent another war. Yes, he had good intentions at the beginning. But that does not justify the hypocrisy of promising representative government and then instituting a military dictatorship. (Mackenzie)
I am fairly sympathetic towards Oliver Cromwell’s intentions but not necessarily the actions he took to be successful. While his hypocrisy is completely obvious, he went against everything he ever claimed while he led the New Model Army, creating a military dictatorship, passing taxes without the approval of Parliament, and establishing new blue laws. However he had good intentions that one day when the country is strong enough that the reins can be loosened and that a Parliament and Republic can lead the country. He believed that the chaotic state that England was currently in was not stable enough to have that much power and looseness in a time of anarchy and therefore forced a stricter state. When he attacked the Irish aggressively he was doing so in order to make England more powerful so that this process would hasten. So while his actions scream of hypocrisy he is using a slightly skewed strategy in order to create a stable country in which a republic can be successful. (Hannah)
Cromwell was a strong leader, if not hypocritical, and his decisions owed to his desire to form a national unity within a fractured England. He went about it in a radical way, similarly to the Spanish in the late 14th century, and his decision to crush the Irish as well as impose blue laws showed the lengths he was willing to go to in order to cement a new nationalistic unity. Had his successor been as strong-willed as he was, I believe Cromwell’s principles would have taken hold in England for a much longer period of time, and encountered little legitimate resistance. Regardless of his ethics and morals, I am sympathetic to his attempts to bring unity at any means to a country in chaos, and it seemed as though he would succeed (despite the wishes of the people), up until he suddenly died. Jordan
Cromwell, like most military dictators, followed the common four-stage process of power. He saw his country in turmoil and decided that he would act as their salvation. He then used military might to overthrown the government and take power as dictator. Now, not everyone was supportive of this new government, so before he could fulfill his promises of a representative government, he would need to keep the nation in line and advert chaos again. And with the new absolute power he became complacent and lost sight of his goals for a representative government. As far as having sympathy for him, a REAL man needs no sympathy, so he shall gain none from me. (Marco)
Though I understand the concern over Cromwell’s hypocrisy, I personally respect him for his adherence to pragmatism over idealism. It was easy for Cromwell to uphold his political ideals during the English Civil War itself because he was at that point still a government outsider in a sense; in other words, the stability of the English government was not his liability. If things didn’t go as planned, Cromwell would not have had angry mobs at his door seeking to hang him (like Charles I). When Cromwell actually became ruler during the Interregnum period, he suddenly had to assume full responsibility for the course of England, so he had to check his sweet ideals of true representative government with bitter pragmatism. This is an entropy concept (yes, I’m relating this to science); it’s easier to tear something down (for Cromwell to condemn the English monarchy and government) than it is to put it back together (for him to preside over a peaceful, stable England during the chaos of a post-civil war period). I do not doubt that Cromwell ever fully relinquished his love for representative government and his hate of abusive centralized power - those were too ingrained in his character. But in order to achieve those goals, he had to be able to trust Parliament, to give voice to his enemies without fear that they might seek to overthrow him, and in the chaos of the Interregnum, that simply was not possible. Cromwell nobly and unselfishly chose peace and order over his long-cherished ideals, and few rulers have maintained social order without flexing political and military muscle at times. For these reasons, Cromwell deserves our sympathy and not our reproach. As a great and talented young musician once said: “nobody’s perfect”. So why judge Cromwell so harshly? (Chumes)
By and large, I think that I would have handled the victory of the English Civil War much better than Cromwell did. Cromwell began his journey in English history as a leader of the New Model Army, fighting against the reign of Charles, who at the time, had been abusing his power and ignoring the will of Parliament. One would think that when he arrived as the “Lord Protector” that he would have made radical changes in this sort of reckless behavior. Think again. After arriving in office, one of the major events of his reign was when he began passing taxes without Parliament’s consent. Parliament had the reign over tax policy approval during the time period, so when Cromwell defied Parliament and merely ignored them, he paralleled the actions of King Charles, which baffles historians even to this day. In addition to this, he wasn’t afraid to exercise his rule as a military dictator. Why do I say this? Because during his reign as military dictator, he began by abolishing the monarchy, then the House of Lords, then the Anglican Church. These were well-established institutions at the time, so it is clear that he was not afraid to spread his wings a little bit. In addition to this, he enacted Blue Laws, forbidding dance, drinking, and other frivolities, as well as the Act of Settlement, which took away the land from 2/3 of Catholic landowners. And finally, I feel no sympathy for Cromwell because of his ruthless Invasion of Ireland. The atrocities he and his soldiers committed while in Ireland are a testament to the power he abused as military dictator.
I agree with Marco. Oliver Cromwell, in order to fulfill his original wish for the future of the English government, had to restore unity within England, and he knew that he couldn't do that by placing power within a weak government. Deciding to take the reigns himself, he imposed many harsh laws such as the blue laws and the Act of Settlement, but he did so in the best interest of the future well-being of his country. Once Oliver Cromwell took office, he also prohibited anyone with opposing views to his own, besides religious, to take place in Parliament. This being said, Cromwell was hypocritical and turned on his original vision for the future of England. I am not sympathetic of Oliver Cromwell because of his inability to fulfill the freedom of England that he fought for. Sarah Shea