Monday, January 16, 2017

Cromwell's First Recorded Speech/ The Storm of Basing House by Thomas Carlyle

“The first time I ever took notice of Mr. Cromwell,” wrote Sir Philip Warwick, “was in the very beginning of Parliament held in November 1640; when I, Member for Radnor, ‘vainly thought myself a courtly young gentleman, -for we courtiers valued ourselves much upon good clothes! I came into the House one morning well clad; and perceived a gentleman speaking, whom I knew not, very ordinarily appareled; for it was a plain cloth suit, which seemed to have been made by an ill country-tailor; his linen was plain, and not very clean; and I remember  a speck of blood or two upon his little band, which was not much larger than his collar. His hat was without a hatband. His stature was of good size; his sword stuck close to his side: his countenance swollen and reddish, his voice sharp and untuneable, and his eloquence full of fervor. For the subject matter would not bear much reason; it being on behalf of a servant of Mr. Prynne’s who had dispersed Libels; - yes, Libels, and had come to Palace yard for it, as we saw: I sincerely profess, it lessened much my reverence unto the Great Council, for the gentleman was much hearkened unto – which was strange, seeing that he had no gold lace to his coat, nor frills to his band; and otherwise, to me my poor featherheads, seemed an unhandy gentleman!”

Here is the other vague appearance, from Clarendon’s Life: “He, Mr. Hyde, afterwards Lord Clarendon, ‘was often heard to mention one private Committee, in which he was put accidentally into a chair; upon an Enclosure which had been made of a great wastes, belonging to the Queen’s Manors, without the consent of the tenants, the benefit thereof had been given by the Queen to a servant of near trust, who forthwith sold the lands enclosed to the Earl of Manchester, Lord Privy Seal; who together with his son Mandevil were now most concerned to maintain the Enclosure; against which the inhabitants of the other manors, who claimed Common in those wastes, as the Queen’s tenants of the same, made loud complaints, as a great oppression, carried upon them with a very high hand, and supported by power.

“The Committee sat in the Queen’s Court; and Oliver Cromwell being one of them, appeared much concerned to countenance the Petitioners, who were numerous with their Witnesses; the Lord Mandevil being likewise present as a party, and by the direction of the Committee sitting covered. Cromwell, who had never before been heard to speak in the House of Commons – at least not by me, though he had often spoken, and was very well known there, ordered the Witnesses and Petitioners in the method of proceeding; and seconded and enlarged upon what they said, with great passion; and the Witnesses and persons concerned, who were are very rude kind of people, interrupted the Counsel and Witnesses on the other side, with great clamor, when they said anything that did not please them; so Mr. Hyde (whose office it was to oblige persons of all sorts to keep order) was compelled to use some sharp reproof, and some threats, to reduce them to such a temper that the business might be quietly heard. Cromwell, in great fury, reproached the Chairman for being partial, and that he discountenanced the Witnesses by threatening them: the other appealed to the Committee, which justified him, and declared, that he behave himself as he ought to do, which more inflamed him, Cromwell, who was already too much angry. When upon any mention of matter-of-fact, or the proceeding before and at Enclosure, the Lord Mandevil desired to be heard, and relate with great  modesty related what had been done, or explained what had been said, Mr. Cromwell did answer, and reply upon him, with so much indecency and rudeness, and ibn language so contrary and offensive, that every man would have thought, that as their natures and their manners were  as opposite as it is possible, so their interests could never have been the same. In the end, his whole carriage was so tempestuous, and his behavior so insolent, that the Chairman found himself obliged to reprehend him; and to tell him, that if he, Mr. Cromwell, proceedeth in the same manner, he Mr. Hyde would presently adjourn the Committee, and the next morning complain to the House of him. Which he never forgave; and took all occasions afterwards to pursue him with the utmost malice and revenge, to his death.”  Not Mr. Hyde’s, happily, but Mr. Cromwell’s, who at lengthy did cease to cherish ‘malice and revenge’ against Mr. Hyde.

Tracking this matter, by faint indications, through various obscure sources, I conclude that it related to the “Soke of Somersham near St Ives; and that the scene at the Queen’s Court probably occurred  in the beginning of July, 1641 Cromwell knew this Soke of Somersham near St. Ives very well; knew these poor rustics, and what treatment they had got; and wished, not in the imperturbablest manner it would seem, to see justice done them. Here too, subtracting the due subtrahend from Mr. Hyde’s Narrative, we have a pleasant visuality of an old summer afternoon in the Queens Court [376] years ago.

Cromwell’s next Letters present him to us, not debating, or about to debate, concerning Parliamentary Propositions and Scotch “Eight Articles” but with his sword drawn to to enforce them; the whole Kingdom divided now into two armed conflicting masses, the argument to be by pike and bullet henceforth.

. . . . .

1645: Concluding Action of the first part of the English Civil War.

Basing  House, Pawlet Marquis of Winchester’s Mansion stood, as the ruined heaps still testify, at a small distance from Baingstoke in Hampshire. I had long infested the Parliament in those quarters; and been especially a great eyesorrow to the Trade of London with the Western Parts. With Dennington Castle at Newbury, and this Basing House at Basingstoke, there was no travelling the western roads except with escort or on sufferance. The two places had often beern attempted; but always in vain. Basing House especially had stood siege after siege, for four years; ruining poor Colonel This and then poor Colonel That: the jubilant Royalists had given it the name of Basting House; there was, n the Parliament side, a kind of passion to have Basing House taken. Lieutenant-General Cromwell, gathering all the artillery he an lay hold of, firing about 200 or 500 shot at a given point till he sees a hole made; and then storming like a fireflood- thought he might perhaps manage it.

On being requested ‘to make a relation to the House of Commons’ on this matter. A certain Mr. Peters related:

“That he came into Basing House some time after the storm, on Tuesday, 14th of October,  1645, and took a first view of the works; which were many, the circumvallation being above a mile in compass. The Old House had stood two or three hundred years, a nest of Idolatry; the New House surpassing that in beauty and stateliness; and either of them fit to make an Emperor’s court.

The rooms before the storm (it seems), in both Houses, were completely furnished; provisions for some years rather than months; 400 quarters of wheat; bacon divers rooms-full, containing hundreds of flitches; cheese proportionable; with oatmeal, beef, pork; beers divers cellars-full, and that very good.

A bed in one room, furnished, which cost 1,300l. Popish books many, with copes, and such utensils. In truth, the House stood in its full pride; and the enemy was persuaded that it would be the last piece of ground taken by the Parliament, because they had so often foiled our forces which had formerly appeared before it. In several rooms and about the House, there were slain 74, and only one woman, the daughter of Dr. Griffith, who by her railing, poor lady, provoked our soldiers (then in heat) into further passion. There lay dead upon the ground, Major Cuffle- a man of great account amongst them, and a notorious Papist, slain by the hands of Major Harrison, that godly and gallant gentleman –all men know him; and Robinson the Player, who a little before the storm was known to be mocking and scorning the Parliament, and our Army. Eight or nine gentlewomen of rank, running forth together, were entertained by the common soldiers somewhat coarsely; yet not uncivility, considering the action at hand.

The plunder of the soldiers continued till Tuesday night: one soldier had 120 pieces in gold for his share; others plate, others jewels; amongst the rest, one got three bags of silver, which (being not able to keep his own counsel) grew to be common pillage amongst the rest, and the fellow had but one half-crown left for himself at last. The soldiers sold the wheat to country people, which they held up a good rates a while, but afterwards the market fell, and there were some abatements for haste.  And after that, the sold the household stuff, whereof there was a good store, and the country loaded away many carts; and they continued a great while , fetching out all manner of household stuff, till they had fetched out all the stools, chairs and other lumber, all of which they sold to the country people by piecemeal.

In all these great buildings there was not one iron bar left in all the windows (save only what were on fire), before night. And the last work of all was the lead; and by Wednesday morning they had hardly left one gutter about the House. And what the soldiers left, the fire took hold on, which made more than ordinary haste; leaving nothing but bare walls and chimneys in less than twenty hours – being occasioned by the neglect of the enemy in quenching a fire-ball of ours at first.

WWE know not how to give a just account of the number of persons that were within. For were have not quite three hundred prisoners, and it may be, have found an hundred slain- whose bodies, some being covered with rubbish, came not at once to our view. Only, riding to the House on Tuesday night, we heard divers crying in vaults for quarters, but our men could neither come to them, nor they to us. Amongst those that we saw slain, one of their officers lying on the ground, seeming so exceeding tall, was measured, and from his great toe to his crown was nine feet in length (sic).

And thus the Lord was pleased in a few hours to show us what mortal seed all earthly power grows upon; and how just and righteous the ways of God are, who takes sinners in their own snares, and lifteth up the hands of his despised people.

This is now the Twentieth garrison that hath been taken in this summer by this Army – and, I believe most of them the answers of the prayers, and the trophies of faith, of some of God’s servants. The Commander of this brigade, Lieutenant-General Cromwell had spent much time with God in prayer the night before the storm; and seldom fights without some text of scripture to support him. This time he rested upon the blessed word of God, written in the Hundred-and-fifteenth Psalm, eighth verse:

Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name, give glory; for thy mercy and for thy truth’s sake. Wherefore should the heathen say Where is now their God? Our God is in the Heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased! Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but the speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; they have ears, but the hear not; noses have they, but they smell not; they have hands, but they handle not; feet have they but they walk not; neither speak they through their throat! They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.”

This letter was read in all the pulpits next Sunday, with thanks rendered to Heaven, by order of Parliament. Basing House is to be carted away; whoever will come for brick or stone shall freely have the same for his pains.”

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