From 'A History of the British Nation' by AD Innes, 1912
The constitution propounded under the Instrument of Government did not require the summoning of another parliament until after a considerable interval. During that interval the fact of the Military Dictatorship became more palpable than ever. A perfectly futile Cavalier rising at Salisbury, dignified by the name of Penruddock's Rebellion, was the occasion of the demonstration.
The government was not endangered by this foolish and abortive performance, but it was significant of the prevailing unrest, of the undercurrent of feeling that a government so unpopular must be easily destroyed. The government was unpopular, not so much because the things it did were wrong as because the authority by which they were done was a usurped authority, a military authority, a thing hitherto unheard of in England. Englishmen had a lively sense in themselves that they would rather be ill-governed by their own representatives than enjoy any amount of benefits thrust upon them by a power whose sanction was the sword.
Toleration was good in itself, but the number of people in the country who wanted toleration except for their own private "doxy"' was small. They did not want toleration for Quakers, whom they did not understand in the least. They did not want toleration for the Fifth-Monarchy men, who imagined that the world had been ruled successively by four great empires in the past — the Assyrian, the Persian, the Macedonian, and the Roman — and that now the "fifth empire" had begun, the rule of the Saints whose monarch was Christ. And they did not want to have toleration for any one forced upon them by gentlemen with a Bible in one hand and a sword in the other, and texts out of the Old Testament and the Apocalypse their mouths.
Penruddock's Rebellion was the symptom of this unrest, and the only answer to it was the uncompromising assertion of the authority of the government All semblance of popular liberty disappeared, when Cromwell mapped out the country into eleven military districts, and set over each district a major-general, who was the supreme administrative authority.
Like Strafford himself,, the major-generals ruled without fear or favour, dealing out justice with an even hand. But if Strafford's rule, resting on the authority of the king, was intolerable, the rule of major-generals, whose authority rested on the Army, was still more so. Moreover, the exigencies of the case compelled Cromwell to adopt expedients which he had quite rightly condemned when the Rump had employed them.
Money was needed, and the extra money was extracted from the estates of one class of the community, the Cavaliers; and under these conditions the oppression of the Cavaliers excited a new popular sympathy. And to all these causes of discontent must be added the austerity of a Puritanism which sternly repressed an unseemly indulgence in the carnal pleasures of the ungodly; including most innocent forms of amusement.
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.