Commentary Magazine


The Study of Man: The Revolution of the Righteous

O what fears and tears, cries and prayers, night and day, was there in many places, and in my dear mother’s house in particular. I was then about twelve or thirteen years of age, and though I was afraid to be killed, yet was I weary of so much fasting and praying.—A Reminiscence of the English Civil War.

I dreamed, and behold I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a Book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back. 1 looked, and saw him open the Book and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled; and not being able longer to contain, he broke out with a lamentable cry, saying “What shall I do?”—John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress.

To be a Seeker is to be of the best sect after a Finder, and such a one shall every faithful humble Seeker be in the end.—Oliver Cromwell.

Few episodes loom as large in the history of democracy as the English Revolution of 1638-1660. Freedom of conscience, independent courts, parliamentary supremacy, the two-party system, the “right” of revolution itself all stem from the Great Rebellion which overthrew King Charles I and made an East Anglian squire, Oliver Cromwell, sovereign of the British Isles. Yet our own time, so fascinated with revolutions, has difficulty grasping the spirit of the first of the great ones. Locked in the neat political categories of empiricism, we are puzzled by Cromwell and his men, who were simultaneously “democratic” and “totalitarian,” “libertarian” and “puritanical,” “nationalist” and “universal,” capable of massacring Irish Catholics and liberating the Jews. Because so many of our assumptions are secular and materialist, we cannot comprehend social revolutionaries whose politics started with religion; and therefore seek all kinds of latent motives beneath their manifest faith.

What was the Puritan Revolution, theorists ask: a medieval contest among monarch, barons, and squires—the last of the religious wars—the first bourgeois revolution — or the ambiguous climax of the mass revolt which underlay the entire Reformation? Marx admired the Puritans, exempting Cromwell’s republic from his rule of the growing impoverishment of England’s masses under capitalism; workers’ real wages, he noted, rose steadily during the Commonwealth and Protectorate. A later German Socialist, Eduard Bernstein, amplified Marx’s views in a respectful biography of Cromwell. Max Weber and R. H. Tawney, on the other hand, linked Puritanism with capitalism, and their notions of the “Protestant ethic” are fashionable today. The professional historians seem perplexed. One expert, Maurice Ashley, who published a book during the 1930’s called Oliver Cromwell: Conservative Dictator, wrote another last year, entitled The Greatness of Oliver Cromwell. (In between, he delivered a radio talk entitled “Oliver Cromwell: Spiritual Anarchist.”) BBC broadcasts on the Puritans in 1958 provoked fierce controversies, historians as well as laymen contesting the merits and significance of the Cavaliers and Roundheads, Covenanters and Independents, Levellers, Diggers, Millenarians, and Fifth Monarchy Men.

Evidently what our time understands least about the Puritans is what they themselves understood best. Theirs was the age of Donne, Marvell, and Milton, and—quite incomprehensibly to us—its medium of intellectual exchange was religion, for Cavaliers as well as Roundheads. When the Scots held King Charles captive at Newcastle, their preacher intoned the 52nd Psalm at him: “Why boastest thou thy self, thou tyrant: that thou canst do mischief? The tongue imagineth wickedness; and with lies thou cuttest like a sharp razor.” The King replied with the 56th Psalm: “Be merciful unto me, O God, for man goeth about to devour me.”

One may or may not choose to date our whole modern era of revolutions from the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures—the “Old Testament”—into the vernacular languages of Europe. Assuredly, however, the generation which made the Puritan Revolution was the first reared on the authorized English Bible, completed under King James I in 1611. Unlike the Russian revolutionaries, who aped the French Jacobins, and the French themselves, who imitated the Roman Republic, the Puritans sought their models among the Judges and Prophets of Israel. To simple people in most of England and southern Scotland, C. V. Wedgwood tells us, “the Old Testament was commonly better known than the New.” Foreign visitors were astonished by Puritans who “give their sons Hebrew names and call their daughters after the virtues.” These yeomen and squires, sailors and artisans, weavers and apprentices “unconsciously acquired the outlook, because they acquired the words, of the Chosen People. To the confident, self-reliant and assertive characteristics of the Anglo-Saxon were added tenacious Jewish fatalism and an unyielding confidence in a God who was theirs against the world.”

In the Old Testament the Puritans saw man writ large, dealing directly with his God: Abraham, a shepherd, had seen the Lord; Jacob wrestled with Him; Moses, waif, outlaw, and rebel against Pharaoh, argued with Him. In an age when the King’s right was called divine, the Puritans learned of Judges raised up by the people, of great decisions adopted by “the congregation of all Israel,” “the assembly of the people.” They pondered on such Kings as Rehoboam, son of Solomon, against whose exactions ten tribes rebelled, and whose tax collector, Adoram, was “stoned by all Israel.”

Englishmen intoxicated by the explicit detail of the Law of Moses were prepared not only to challenge monarchs and priests, but to refashion property, marriage, diet, dress, society itself. If in the first stages of their revolution, the Puritans recalled Nathan and Elijah shaming prideful kings (“Wherefore has thou despised the word of the Lord, to do that which is evil in My sight?”), later they emulated Joshua and Gideon, leading the people of the Law out of the wilderness (“Justice, justice shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live”).

The “enthusiasms” of the Puritans produced a proliferation of political ideas which have left their mark on almost every constitution in the world today. “Never,” says Lytton Strachey, “did the human mind attain such magnificent height of self-assertiveness as in England about the year 1650.”

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Two volumes of Miss Wedgwood’s definitive history of the Great Rebellion have already appeared; two more should complete the series. The King’s Peace, 1637-1641 (published by Macmillan in 1955) described how Charles I, in 1637 “the happiest King in Christendom,” attempted to bend Scotch Presbyterians and Irish Catholics to the Anglican way of life; and how, stalemated by the Scots and needing money to fight the Irish, he was compelled by Parliament to betray his chief agents, Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, and William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury. The King’s War, 1641-1647 (Macmillan, 702 pp., $7.50) now tells how the Long Parliament, led by adroit John Pym, joined with the Scots to defeat Charles in the First Civil War. In her concluding volumes, Miss Wedgwood will describe how the Parliamentary forces split into two warring parties—English and Scotch Presbyterians on one side, Cromwell’s Independents on the other (1647-1653); and how the Second Civil War culminated in the exhilarating, factious Commonwealth and Protectorate (1653-1658).

Miss Wedgwood’s bias, if one can be detected, is Anglican, liberal, and mildly royalist, but her aim is not to write a tract for our time. Rather, she hopes “to give full importance and value to the admitted motives and the illusions of the men of the seventeenth century . . . to restore their immediacy of experience.” Though comment on all the fashionable interpretations is implicit, her books are narrative history as it should be written. Her literary master is the Shakespeare of the chronicle plays. The leading actors of her drama are heightened by character and changing circumstance; the secondary personages contain the proper share of knaves, fools, and romantic heroes; and the talk of ordinary folk illuminates the nation these great men sought to rule. Faith is the meaning of the narrative, but its subject is life—various, many-textured, yet mysteriously consistent.

In her quest of “immediacy of experience,” Miss Wedgwood makes no more at any point of Cromwell, for example, than was evident to his contemporaries—a sharp contrast to historians of the Russian Revolution, say, who place Lenin at the center of Russian politics in 1905, or Stalin in 1917. In all of her first volume, in fact, Cromwell appears only three times. These references appear casual, but there is conscious craft behind them. The first (in an introductory survey of 17th-century life) tells us that Cromwell was one of those who read Sir Walter Raleigh’s exotic History of the World; this is a subliminal hint of the later Puritan fascination with overseas adventure. The second informs us that, in the first week of the Long Parliament, “the member for Cambridge City,” Cromwell, rose to defend the imprisoned John Lilburne—future leader of the democratic Levellers, the “left opposition” of Cromwell’s republic. And later, we learn that it was Cromwell, “a man of heavy, uninspiring presence but considerable eloquence,” who made the “quiet opening move in the campaign to have all military appointments placed under the control of Parliament” (November 6, 1641); here is a foretaste of future irony, for the ensuing civil strife ended with Parliament’s Army, under Cromwell, purging and at last dispersing Parliament.

We are two hundred pages into the second volume, seven hundred into the series—it is May 1643—before Miss Wedgwood undertakes to describe Cromwell at some length. Her spare account concludes with these words: “He strove after a rigid honesty, a pure and direct relationship with his Maker, and every letter he wrote, every troop he organized, every garrison he strengthened, every village he occupied or skirmish he won was for him part of a psalm in action, a ceaseless glorifying of God.”

We do not, however, sense the depths of this “rigid honesty” until Marston Moor, Cromwell’s first great military victory (July 2, 1644). Now we read the letter he wrote his sister’s husband after the battle:

Truly England and the Church of God hath a great favour from the Lord, in this great victory given to us, such as the like never was since this war began. . . . We never charged but we routed the enemy. The left wing, which I commanded, being our own horse, save a few Scots in the rear, beat all the Prince’s horse, God made them as stubble to our swords. . . . Sir, God hath taken away your eldest son by a cannon-shot. It brake his leg. We were necessitated to have it cut off, whereof he died. . . . There is your precious child full of glory, to know sin nor sorrow more. He was a gallant young man, exceedingly gracious. God give you his comfort.

Similarly, we get only random phrases from the King until his decisive defeat at Naseby (June 13, 1645); then Miss Wedgwood lets this second Rehoboam express his tragedy. Advised to negotiate with Parliament, Charles replied: “. . . speaking either as a mere soldier or statesman, I must say that there is no probability but of my ruin. Yet as a Christian I must tell you, that God will not suffer rebels to prosper, nor this cause to be overthrown. And whatever personal punishment it shall please him to inflict upon me must not make me repine, much less give over this quarrel. . . . [A] composition with them at this time is nothing else but a submission, which, by the grace of God, I am resolved against, whatever it cost me, for I know my obligation to be, both in conscience and in honor, neither to abandon God’s cause, injure my successors, nor foresake my friends. . . . He that will stay with me at this time must expect and resolve either to die for a good cause or (which is worse) to live as miserable in maintaining it as the violence of insulting rebels can make him.”

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The accounts in The King’s War of battles, campaigns, local uprisings, and clan feuds are in the manner of Tolstoy, depicting war as an infinite series of confused, unrelated decisions by men rarely sure of what they are doing. In the midst of war, there is time for such human sidelights as Cardinal Mazarin of France instructing his envoy to aid the cause of royalism—and to buy up Royalist art treasures cut-rate.

Miss Wedgwood uses women as a Greek chorus, to reveal the emotions of a people trapped in history. Thus, during the King’s attempt to disperse Parliament, the wife of one member, “Mrs. Venn . . . sat weeping and ringing her hands in a neighbor’s shop. She had it for sure that . . . her husband [was] in danger to be slain, but a valiant grocer, alternately brandishing a pistol and tapping his sword-hilt, consoled her with promises of vengeance.”

When the King’s plot had failed, and a fanatic tossed a paper into the Royal coach headed “To your tents, O Israel,” Miss Wedgwood describes how “apprentices built blockades of benches across the streets; women boiled cauldrons of water to pour from the windows. . . .” After the Commons rejected a compromise on August 7, 1643, “a crowd of poor women came clamoring to Westminster asking too late for peace . . . the guards dispersed them with blows and some reckless firing. There were casualties, among them a young girl who had no part in the demonstration but had slipped out to draw water.”

The tragedy of nameless women reaches a climax with the Puritan triumph at Naseby: “In the desperate flight of the King’s cavalry . . . no care had been taken for the wagons and coaches which accompanied the army. . . . In many coaches ladies and officers’ wives were taken, and some women, ‘full of money and rich apparel,’ who were neither ladies nor wives. Many of these wealthier camp followers bought mercy from their victors. . . . But mercy was denied to the common camp followers, the drabs and drudges, many of whom the soldiers killed. Afterwards, shamefaced at this massacre of women, they said they were ‘Irish women of cruel countenances,’ armed with long knives; it seems more likely that they were Welsh, crying out in a strange language, and defending themselves with the cutlery they carried to dress and cook meat for their menfolk.”

Ten lines later, we read Cromwell’s report to Parliament on the battle: “This is none other but the hand of God; and to him alone belongs the glory, wherein none are to share with him. . . . Honest men served you faithfully in this action, Sir, they are trusty. I beseech you in the name of God not to discourage them. . . . He that ventures his life for the liberty of his country, I wish he trust God for the liberty of his conscience, and you for the liberty he fights for.”

The last sentence was (deservedly) the political headline of the day, but Miss Wedgwood, juxtaposing the faith of the general with the murder of the Welsh bawds, has carried us back to the righteous warrior Jehu, agent of God’s prophet Elisha, exultant as dogs devour Jezebel.

By her choice of material, rather than deliberate suggestion, Miss Wedgwood is also constantly evoking parallels with later events. Some of these seem to be mere coincidence1; many are precedents which the Puritans set for future revolutions2; still others seem contemporaneous though they have no connection with revolutions. Her account of the King’s “prerogative courts,” headed by the Star Chamber, belongs in this last category. These courts, made up of government officials outside the common-law judicial system, at first curbed the abuses of wealthy nobles, but under the Stuarts they were used mainly against sedition. The sequel seems familiar:

The worst characteristic of the prerogative courts was that they encouraged informers and were by no means always competent to distinguish between false information and true; the innocent might be wrecked in the Star Chamber as well as the guilty. Certainly of late years high words at the village pump or a quarrel in an alehouse could, through the malice of an informer, bring a frightened victim before the Star Chamber. . . . A sensible justice . . . remarked that if informers continued at this rate every scold’s quarrel in the land would come up before the King’s council.

The principle which underlay this administrative justice, the balance between liberty and national security, was defined by Strafford at his trial: “The prerogative of the Crown and the propriety of the subject have [mutual relations] . . . the excess of a prerogative is oppression, of a pretended liberty in the subject disorder and anarchy. The prerogative must be used as God doth his omnipotency, at extra-ordinary occasions; the laws . . . must have place at all other time, and yet there must be a prerogative if there must be extra-ordinary occasions.”

The defeat of this principle, so far as the King was concerned, was one of the Puritans’ noblest achievements. The irony was that Parliament, unable to convict Strafford at a fair trial, did away with him by passing a bill of attainder.

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By such means—by showing us the many levels at which the revolution operated, the variety of its issues and emotions, the differences between areas, within factions, even within families—Miss Wedgwood fashions an intricate historical mosaic for which the concept of the “Puritan ethic” is a shoddy substitute. That concept, as developed by Weber and others, ties the moral protest of the Reformation to the rise of the capitalist class. To the reader of Miss Wedgwood’s books, it will seem—at least so far as the English Puritans are concerned—at best a playful sociological conceit.3

The evidence for interpreting the Puritan Revolution as bourgeois is twofold: geographical and biographical. The geographical evidence is the disposition of the rival armies in the First Civil War. Parliament held London, most of the wool-making towns of the East and South, and most ports engaged in trade with the continent; the King was stronger in most rural areas of northern and western England. Miss Wedgwood shows in some detail, however, that in each of these social divisions it was a matter of “most,” rather than of “all.” As for London, the metropolis inevitably was the winning side once it declared itself. A century before, it had welcomed Catholic Mary Tudor in preference to the Protestant Jane Grey; more than commercial interest or religion was involved. Finally, Parliament enlisted not only four-fifths of England’s wealth but six-sevenths of its population; in such circumstances, it seems rather difficult to establish “bourgeois domination.”

Even granting for argument’s sake that the City of London, the wool lobby, and the shipping interests dominated Parliament in England, the revolution would never have started without the Scots, in the confidence of whose support Parliament first defied Charles. In Scotland the feudal nobility led the opposition to the King; “the old medieval struggle, never fully resolved, between the Kings and barons, had taken on a new form shaped by the ideas of the 17th century. By making the cause of Kirk and conscience their own, the Scots lords had found the surest way of weakening the power of the Crown by attacking the Crown’s instruments, the bishops and the episcopal clergy.”

The more substantial evidence for a “bourgeois” interpretation of Puritanism comes from an analysis of the social background of the members of the Long Parliament. It is the sort of case Charles Beard made out about the makers of our Constitution. Miss Wedgwood does not slight it: she fully describes the Parliamentarians’ business interests, the tangled roots of their agitation against taxes and monopolies, and such dubious enterprises as the Providence Company, a West Indian speculation in which most of Pym’s camarilla was involved.

Nevertheless, the weight of her history serves to undermine the “bourgeois” interpretation. She shows, first, that at the beginning of the civil wars the landed and commercial classes were quite divided; and second, that the democratic, anti-clerical emotions of the common people, once politically organized in the New Model Army, radically transformed the nature of the war.

“Men of education and position,” Miss Wedgwood concludes, after a laborious poring over of local documents and archives, “were very evenly divided” at the outset. It is “a false impression” that the King “had the aristocracy of the kingdom largely on his side. It was not so. . . . Only a minority of the lords remained at Westminister, but of those who withdrew few actively joined the King. . . . The great lords who had built their position during the economic revolution of the last centuries, on crumbling monasteries and expanding trade, were by no means all to be found on the same side. . . . The leading citizens of the great cities were equally divided, not least in London. . . . The lines of division—if distinctions so various and confused could be called lines—were those of group and sectional loyalties.”

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Soon, however, something resembling class interests did begin to appear—but they were not bourgeois. In the Book of Leviticus, it was written: “Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor favor the person of the mighty; but in righteousness shall thou judge thy neighbor.” Increasingly as the revolution progressed, the Puritan cause drew on those whom the mighty had neglected: farmers, weavers, artisans, sailors, young apprentices, the sons of brewers and the like. Ship-money and other forms of royal taxation had hurt the poor as well as the middle classes, and the economic monopolies that the King granted had meant, for the common people, high “administered” prices for necessities of life. When Parliament, “the King’s Great Counsel,” fought defense spending, taxation, and monopolies, the streets responded with such ballads as:

Who did regard our poverty, our tears?
Our wants, our miseries, our many fears?. . .
Bless the Great Counsel of the King. . . .

When Charles dissolved the Short Parliament of 1640 and arrested its leaders, the “May Day riots” followed:

The rumbling discontent of London, the great, angry Protestant seaport, suddenly burst into a roar of rage. Apprentices, effervescent with May Day humour, joined the mariners and dock hands, a whole angry, young, vehement population. . . . They came together on the south bank, from Southwark and Blackfriars: someone beat a drum to attract more. In their hundreds they poured westward, making for Laud’s palace at Lambeth. Laud fled and his servants stood on their guard while the rabble surged round the walls and a young seaman tried to break in the door with a crowbar. The ringleaders were arrested but the apprentices smashed into the gaol and let them out. ‘God bless them all, God speed them all!’ cried an excited Londoner as he fought back the constables. . . .4

This and other early riots were suppressed, but by 1643 Captain Hotham, a moderate Roundhead, observed: “The necessitous people of the whole kingdom will presently rise in mighty numbers. If this unruly sort have once cast the rider, it will run like wildfire in the example through all the counties of England.” Parliament had armed these “necessitous people” to fight their betters—a decisive step. A Royalist described their state of mind: “The gentry (say they) have been our masters a long time, and now we chance to master them.” And he commented: “Now they know their strength, it shall go hard but they will use it.”

The Psalm-singing humble folk of the New Model Army—sustained by Puritan preachers, led by the brave, tortured, generous Cromwell—carried to its ultimate implications the revolution against arbitrary authority that had always inhered in the Puritan protest. “The power is in you, the people,” the preacher Dell told the troops besieging Oxford; “keep it, part not with it.” Soon afterward, Lieutenant Colonel John Lilburne was demanding universal manhood suffrage.

“The connection between authority in religion,” Miss Wedgwood writes, “and authority in secular society was, to the majority of educated men, self-evident. The Anglican and the Presbyterian systems, each in its own way, established and sustained a form of social order. But the Anabaptists, and therefore it was believed most other sectaries, since they broke out in Germany a century before, had preached equality, anarchy, and community of goods. The English [had not yet gone so far]. . . . But, it was argued, if every man was to be free to choose and practice his own religion, if all doctrine was to be tolerated, there would in the end be no means of sustaining property or hierarchy against the prophets and messiahs who would surely arise.”

The churches of the Independents were democratic; “the congregation came together of its own will, chose its own minister by free election, supported him by contributions freely given.” Their members sought the same freedom for other men; Roger Williams appeared briefly in England to advocate liberty of conscience for Jews, Papists, and Turks, while Cromwell urged “union and right understanding between the godly people—Scots, English, Jews, Gentiles, Presbyterians, Anabaptists, and all.” Freedom of conscience implies the equality of souls, and the free Independent churches, Miss Wedgwood reports, were soon “taken by some as the pattern for a reformed secular order, a society which came together by free consent of the governed, by agreement of the people.” Indeed, the Agreement of the People was the name of one constitution proposed for Cromwell’s republic—a century before Rousseau’s social contract.

It was the democracy at the heart of Puritanism which led the oligarchic Presbyterian leaders to parley hopefully with the King between 1646 and 1649, and to battle the Independents for several years thereafter. After Cromwell’s death, the Presbyterians (and the City of London) joined with the Anglicans to restore monarchy even at the price of episcopacy—and thus founded the Tory party.

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The story Miss Wedgwood will tell in her concluding volumes is one of the most significant in all history—how the armed minority of Independents, led by an inspired general of cavalry, nearly fastened on Britain in the mid-17th century much of the order that finally emerged, through other processes, in the 20th. The Puritans, indeed, saw the future, but they could not make it work. They were undermined not so much by the old monarcho-feudal order, nor even by “Merrie England,” as by their own dissensions and by the secularism, science, nationalism, and democracy their revolt had helped engender. Their attempt to secure political freedom and social justice within the single framework of righteousness may have been Christianity’s last effort at serious politics. Within a few generations, revealed religion itself was (as an Anglican bishop sadly noted in 1736) “discovered to be fictitious . . . among all people of discernment.”

Multiform intelligence replaced monolithic morality as man’s guide; religious man yielded, in the 18th century, to political man and, in the next, to economic man. In the sixtieth year of the 20th century, however, having experienced the pathology of Nazism and Bolshevism, and having reopened our eyes (like Raleigh) to the strange, great world outside Western experience, we begin to see once again that society is more than politics or economics. Three hundred years after Cromwell’s death, we are at last able to view with some sympathy the Puritans’ effort to regulate not merely the institutions of government but the conduct of life. Though their faith now seems naive, we are beginning to glimpse, as they thought they had, a relation between the inner lives of human beings and their social order. Neither the dogmatic Lenin nor the optimistic Rousseau could have, but a Puritan would have, sensed connections, for example, between the cultural chaos, economic hysteria, religious hatred, and sexual disarray of Weimar Germany and the political nihilism which followed.

The Puritans realized in their marrow, like Jews of old, that life is whole, society organic, the problem of justice universal. (Perhaps that is why Marx and Bernstein, both Jews, admired them, while Weber and Tawney felt the need to reduce them to economic men.) Today, we are again groping toward an appreciation of the subtle ties between work, love, art, belief, and community; that is the drift of such contemporary phenomena as neo-Freudianism, the reaction against aestheticism, the anguished debates over education, the concern with the symbolism of the mass media. If there is ever a new radical movement in our history, it will surely not be puritanical in Cotton Mather’s way; but it may well be Puritan in the sense that a fusion of all these now-disparate elements of life, rather than divisive fission, must be its object in a society already quite atomized. Thus, the period which C. V. Wedgwood is to describe in the final books of her history may be relevant to an understanding of our own future.

She gives us its character as she brings the curtain down on The King’s War in the spring of 1647. Charles Stuart is in the hands of Parliament, his country fatigued after six years of civil strife. Yet “the future of England, disordered and uncertain though it seemed, was bright with hope. Among the sectaries there was talk of a coming millennium and the Rule of the Saints. Sometimes it was conceived in terms practical enough; Hugh Peter held up before the eyes of his countryman the living example of New England. In seven years in that land of promise, he would boast, ‘I never saw beggar, nor heard an oath, nor looked upon a drunkard.’ If such things could be achieved across the Atlantic, why not at home? The moment was at hand for building the New Jerusalem.”

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Footnotes

1 Charles's over-confident Queen, Henrietta Maria, foreshadows Marie Antoinette and the Tsarina Alexandra. The Earl of Manchester, Cromwell's chief in the early days, ducked battle in the best manner of George McClellan and was dumped accordingly (Cromwell playing both Stanton and Grant in the maneuver). The Royalist partisan war waged by Montrose in Scotland and “the Red O'Neill” in Ireland suggests 1793 in the Vendée. The Windmill Tavern, headquarters of the Puritan radicals around Lilburne, is a preview of the Cordeliers and Jacobin Clubs.

2 The London county authorities set up a Committee of Public Safety (borrowing the name from the communistic Anabaptists of Munster a century earlier), and Parliament's executive body for several years was also called the Committee of Safety. The Puritans recruited Royalist prisoners, suborned local commanders, were quick to secure control of the fleet, proposed peace to all foreign powers, and soon put the financing of the war on a revolutionary basis by ordering the sequestration of Royalist estates. The revolutionaries were also more adept at propaganda throughout.

3 The broader theory associating Protestantism and capitalism (and ipse dixit with “bourgeois” democracy) always had a chicken-and-egg quality. If Protestantism caused capitalism, what about the Hanseatic League and such financier families as the Medici, some of whom became very un-reforming Popes? If, on the other hand, it was capitalism that caused Protestantism, why was Catholic France more developed economically than Lutheran Germany for three centuries after the Reformation? In any case, Weber's theory gave no hint of the strategic differences in “ethic” which developed between England and Germany, both capitalist and Protestant, after 1933.

It is time we recognized that, while Western democracy did begin with the Reformation, it was the Whig historians of the 19th century who gave the bourgeoisie credit for both. The later, anti-bourgeois writers who (unnecessarily) adopted Whig assumptions felt compelled to denigrate both the spirit of the Reformation and the democratic ideal by portraying them as class phenomena. On the other hand Lewis Mumford argues persuasively in The Condition of Man that the Reformation was a democratic reaction against the capitalism which had already emerged as early as the 13th century.

4 Miss Wedgwood provides other such vivid scenes—the London apprentices and weavers in 1641 shouting “No bishops! No bishops!”; and taunting the Royal party with derisive cries of “Privilege!”; the country folk of the West Riding, armed with scythes, rising to support a Parliamentary detachment at Bradford in 1643; etc.

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