General Monk and the Stuart Restoration
From 'A History of the British Nation' by AD Innes, 1912
For eight years past [before 1659], [General] Monk had been practically the ruler of Scotland. For the greater part of that time he had held supreme command of the Commonwealth Army of ten thousand men in that country. The administration had been in the hands of a small Council containing a majority of Englishmen, and in that Council Monk himself was the controlling force. Strong, clear headed, and imperturbable, he was moved by no extravagant dreams of personal ambition. He was perfectly loyal to any established government, simply because it was the government.
As Cromwell's lieutenant he ruled with a firm hand in the realm of which he was in charge; he would have continued to do so as Richard Cromwell's lieutenant if Richard had not chosen first to prove himself impossible, and then to abdicate. But when "Tumbledown Dick," as the great Protector's son was popularly called, vacated his office, and Lambert would neither grasp the reins himself nor set anybody else in the saddle, Monk began to think it was time for some one to take a hand and Ideal with the state of the nation in a business-like fashion.
Monk had been attending strictly to his own business in Scotland, and when he crossed the Border at the head of his troops he had not made up his mind to anything more definite than the attempt to set up a stable government in which, when it should be set up, he himself had no intention of playing the part of Cromwell. It was not till he was in England, and felt himself in touch with public sentiment, that he arrived at the definite conclusion that England must have either a Cromwell or a Stuart Restoration.
Fairfax issued from his retirement to join Monk at York, and his doing so was at once accepted by public opinion as a guarantee that Monk was himself to be trusted. For Monk was a dark horse, but no one had a doubt of Fairfax's single-minded integrity and public spirit.
Five weeks after crossing the Border, Monk was in London. He had arrived without any intention of effecting a revolution; with the object of maintaining Oliver's principles, which were incompatible with the ascendency of either Cavaliers or Presbyterians. But the fact immediately presented itself that neither the Rump nor the Army officers represented public opinion or the principles of Cromwell. He had hardly arrived when the city of London announced its refusal to pay taxes at the bidding of a so-called parliament in which it was unrepresented.
There and then, with the approval of his own officers, he sent to the Rump a demand that writs should be issued forthwith for filling the vacant seats - there were hardly over forty members sitting — and that arrangements should be made for a dissolution and a free parliament within three months. The Rump ignored the demand, whereupon Monk summoned the rest of the surviving members of the Long Parliament, who still had precisely the same title as the Rump to take their seats. The Rump was swamped by a majority which forthwith voted for a dissolution and the summoning of a new parliament.
Neither [General] Monk nor the nation had taken long to recognise that the time for experiments was past. A Military Dictatorship had been tolerable only because the Dictator was Oliver Cromwell. The sole possible form of settled government was a Stuart restoration under guarantees for the liberties of Parliament. Monk immediately entered on negotiations with Charles in Holland, with the result that the Declaration of Breda was issued.
Charles proclaimed his readiness to grant a free pardon to every one not specially excepted by parliament. There should be no disturbance of .the conditions of landownership established during the interregnum. There should be no penalties for religious opinions unless they were subversive of public order.
Immediately after the publication of the Declaration the new parliament met. The disabilities imposed on the Cavaliers under the Commonwealth were ignored, and there were present a substantial Cavalier element and a still pore substantial Presbyterian element, now readily converted to a royalism which seemed to have promised toleration, and at least guaranteed deliverance from the rule of sectaries and men of the sword.
The soldiery might have defied them if there had been any chief to whom they could rally as they had rallied in the past to Cromwell, but they were as sheep having no shepherd. A great reactionary wave of royalism swept over the country and parliament and people with a strange enthusiasm summoned the unknown king from over the water to come and enjoy his own again. On May 25 applauding crowds hailed Charles on his landing at Dover, and four days later he made his entry into London.
This article is excerpted from the book, 'A History of the British Nation', by AD Innes, published in 1912 by TC & EC Jack, London. I picked up this delightful tome at a second-hand bookstore in Calgary, Canada, some years ago. Since it is now more than 70 years since Mr Innes's death in 1938, we are able to share the complete text of this book with Britain Express readers. Some of the author's views may be controversial by modern standards, particularly his attitudes towards other cultures and races, but it is worth reading as a period piece of British attitudes at the time of writing.