REVOLUTION AND COUNTER REVOLUTION ENGLAND 1658-60

REVOLUTION AND COUNTER REVOLUTION IN ENGLAND IRELAND AND SCOTLAND 1658-1660

BY BRIAN MANNING : AN APPRECIATION LAURENCE HUMPHRIES.

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This book is about the tumultuous two years from Oliver Cromwell’s death in 1658 to the Restoration in 1660. It is a well written account by a Marxist Historian Brian Manning. no one could have foreseen what enormous changes would take place between 1658-1660. One of the main changes to take place would be the struggle for power between the Gentry represented by the Presbyterians and the more radical and proletarian elements in the army.

As Manning observes “It is necessary at the outset  to bear in mind that the struggle for power in the period 1658-60 which will be described in the following chapters took place in a society in which the mass of people battled daily for survival in the face of acute poverty”. [1].

It was the sectaries an d the religious radicals who represented the threat to Presbyterians and the landed gentry.  “Baptists , Fifth Monarchists and Quakers formed the Revolutionary thrust of 1659”.[2].

“These Radicals became the target for the counter revolutionary forces as they mobilised in 1659-60”.[3]

After Oliver Cromwell’s death in 1658 his son Richard became Lord Protector but he did not have the charisma , strength or political knowledge to hold onto the protectorate .

Richard Cromwell’s protectorate collapsed in 1659.with the fall of the Protectorate there would be competing struggles between radical elements in the arm and the right wing Presbyterian Gentry many of whom had been excluded from Parliament in 1648 by Colonel Pride , who had marched into Parliament and arrested Right wing Landed Gentry. This was referred to as ‘Pride’s Purge’.

Coinciding with the Removal of Richard Cromwell as Protector were movements amongst the poor and destitute , including riots against enclosures led by Journeyman and squatters. “In the summer of 1659 there were two outbreaks of rioting against Enclosures”. [4].

“In April -July 1659 however rioters broke down the enclosures set coppices on fire in 20 places”.[5].

This fencing of common land by the Landed Gentry , depriving many poor proletarians of obtaining a living meant that the riots represented a struggle by poor artisans to eke out a living. It had a class origin and showed that the revolt of the squatters and others confirmed that the English revolution was a bourgeois Revolution.  Manning using empirical research diligently puts forward a Marxist analysis of the period 1658-1660 which many Historians have paid little attention to.

On the 21st April 1659 a military coup took place and Richard Cromwell and the protectorate were overthrown. It was organised and led by army officers. “The leader of the Coup Desborough  , a religious radical and a son in law to Oliver Cromwell”.[6].

“The coup passed off peacefully. All this was done without seizing any man’s person or shedding a drop of blood”.[7].

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Other Leaders of the Coup were Colonels Ludlow and Lambert. Many of these officers had no idea what sort of government should take place now that the protectorate and the Rump were no more. “One of the most extradordinary  features of the coup was that the Senior officers who led it had not thought out how they would shape the Government in its aftermath.”[8].

“The April  coup by the Army in England and the downfall of protector Richard Cromwell , represented a special problem in Ireland because his Brother henry Cromwell was Lord deputy and head of the Government there”.[9].

The struggle for power in England was represented by Sir Arthur Hesilrigg for the Gentry and Colonel Lambert a devout radical.  “The crisis between the Parliament and the army was encapsulated in the power struggle and personal feud between Hesilrigg and Lambert. Hesilrigg was a wealthy Leicestershire squire , Baronet and had been a leading figure in the Rump between 169-1653 and a srong opponent of the levellers and of military intervention in Politics”.[10].

On the 13th October a 2nd coup de’tat took place led by Lambert, Desborough and others . “This Bloodless Military coup d’etat  caused little disturbance”.[11].

General George Monck a Presbyterian army Officer representing the Gentry and landed bourgeoise and the General who would usher in the Restoration and bring back Charles Stuart from France. “On 17th October George Monck the commander in chief of the Army in Scotland received the news of the expulsion of the rump parliament and the seizure of power in London”.[12].

Monck would declare for parliament , organise an Army in Scotland and march on London against the Army officers  and restablish  Parliament. “Monck stuck resolutely to the single aim of defending parliament and restoring it to power”.[13].  Monck represented the Counter revolution to re establish the Monarchy and overthrow Republican Government and establish the rights of the English bourgeoise.

Hesilrigg and the other Presbyterian gentry had support in Portsmouth from the Navy. Unton Croke a Presbyterian supporter controlled the Navy in Portsmouth. “Unton Croke son of a lawyer in Oxfordshire rendesvouzed two troops of his Regiment at Warminster where  they declared against the Junta” .[14].

Meanwhile   on the 13th December in Ireland the Putschists had overthrown Henry Cromwell in similar circumstances to his Brother Richard. They were not to prove as competent as their father Oliver. ” As in Scotland the putschists were driven by the ideology of hostility towards the radical religious sects -Congregationalists .Baptists and Quakers”.[15].

Under these conditions the Junta fell and the Counter revolutionaries gained the upper hand and Parliament was restored with the excluded members being allowed to sit in Parliament again.

“The campaign for the readmission of the excluded members and for a free Parliament acquired force”[16].

All the corrupt self seeking elements were allowed back into Parliament. These were the members that Oliver Cromwell had removed in Pride’s Purge,

Monck was determined to rid the army of its Radicals “One index of political change was wave after wave of dismissals and appointments of Officers in the Armed forces. After the Coup of 21st April supporters of Richard Cromwell were removed”.[17].

But the action to admit the secluded members did not go without a fight, but the action was doomed from the start.

With the Militia reorganised it was as if all the corrupt elements that Oliver Cromwell had banished from Parliament were now admitted. “The  new Commons included many who had supported parliament in the 1640’s(and wanted to parley with the King) but had opposed the Trial and Execution of the King and the abolition of the Monarchy and and House of Lords”.[18]

The Problem with the Radicals like Desborough , Lambert and Ludlow is that they had not thought out how the new Republic would be governed. They were the left wing of the Revolution but without Communism as their goal they would be unable to see a Solution.

The Monarchy would return but with reduced powers. the Cromwellian  Revolution ushered in a Capitalist form of rule.

Desborough , Ludlow and Lambert were trying to turn the clock back but without a proletarian base. the Diggers, Utopian Communists and the Levellers had been defeated in 1649, the sects remained divided and unorganised. It would be left to Artisans and Journeyman to develop Trade Unions  starting with Corresponding societies, and Political movements like the Chartists to fight for Socialism in the next period. Utopian Communists like Robert Owen would lead the way with his form of Utopian Communism , but it would be the Scientific Socialism of Marx and Engels that would show how the Working class could be liberated from oppression.

Manning’s prophetic words  at the end of his book “The fate of the English Revolution turned upon the Army. Lambert’s last stand demonstrated once again the dependence of the Radicals and revolutionaries on the Army. The Good old Cause was lost when the Army would no longer defend it”.[19].

Manning concludes “The Army did not bring about the Restoration, it acquiesced in it. It acquiesced because it was isolated from the social base by a sea of political Hostility”.[20].

The Presbyterians and Gentry were more terrified of the sects and Social Revolution than they were of the Royalists.

For the poor nothing had changed , it was the Army Radicals of the Lower Gentry who hoped to benefit from “The Good Old Cause” . “The continuation of poverty and indeed its aggravation in 1659-60 meant that the poor perceived that The Good Old Cause had done nothing for Them”.[21].

This is a very well written Marxisy analysis of revolution and counter Revolution between 1658-60. Manning had shown in the end that the Proletarians , Journeyman , artisans and poor Farmers , squatters neither benifitted materially from the Cromwellian Revolution. It was a bourgeois Revolution and the years 1658-60 reflected a struggle between two sections of the Gentry Upper and Lower, represented by Presbyterians and the Radicals in the Army.

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NOTES

1) REVOLUTION AND COUNTER REVOLUTION IN ENGLAND IRELAND AND SCOTLAND 1658-60. PG.15

2)  DITTO    PG.27

3)  DITTO PG.27

4)  DITTO PG. 36

5)   DITTO PG.36

6)   DITTO PG.57

7)   DITTO PG.57

8)   DITTO PG.59

9)   DITTO PG.65

10) DITTO  PG.88

11)  DITTO PG.92

12) DITTO PG. 98

13) DITTO PG.101

14) DITTO  PG.109

15) DITTO PG. 109

16) DITTO PG.126

17) DITTO PG.141

18) DITTO PG.159

19) DITTO PG.183

20) DITTO PG.189

21) DITTO  PG.207

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