408 The Newport Treaty

In July. Hamilton launched his army of Scots across the border, in confident expectation that his 14,000 would be swelled by enthusiastic English royalists. England would know it’s fate at Preston, when the opposimg  commanders, Hamilton and Cromwell, threw the dice. While parliament would receive two proposals for a lasting peace; the Remonstranbce of the Army, penned by Ireton, Radical MPs and Levellers; and the Newport Treaty from their commissioners and the king. Which way would the bones fall?

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I must start with a bit of wildly exciting personal news; which is that the University of Brimingham has been generous enough to award me the post of Honorary Research Associate in the School of History. I could not be more thrilled; I went up there to meet Adrian, and spend a heavenly day in the university and its library, and have since been able to access books at will. I cannot thank them enough. There are multiple reasons why I am thrilled to be part of Birmingham University. It’s a great centre of academic study of course, emotionally it satisfies my Midland heart, and it has a history that is a core part of the story of later Victorian England; as Birmingham became an industrial powerhouse, and the university was established by a momentous figure in local and national history, Joseph Chamberlain. So, my heartfelt thanks to Birmingham University, Adrian, and the School of History, I could not be more thrilled.

Anyway enough of the personal stuff! Last time we heard about the growing pain and distress of the English, plagued by death and taxes basically, and many wondering whether the cure had not been worse than the disease. It is an age old question, rather fighting and risking chaos, is it not better to just bow the head to tyranny. To take James I’s advice in Basilikon Doran; when faced with a bad monarch all you have the right to do is grin and bear it as best as you can, and wait for better times. Afterall, monarchs are accountable only to God, not to the people.

Bad news had come thick and fast. The king had Engaged and contracted with the Scots to turn their coats and restore him to the throne at the point of a sword or butt of a musket, to the delight of the Scottish royalists, and to the outrage of Argyl and the Kirk party. Meanwhile Parliament had been assailed by angry petitions from the English counties; and then, in April 1648, as Carlisle, Berwick and Pontefract fell to Langdale and English royalists, a rash of armed uprisings started to spread blood over the body politic – Kent, Essex Surrey, Sussex; and South Wales. The officers of the New Model angrily condemned Charles as the Man of Blood who had refused to accept the judgement of God with his defeat in 1646. But for Charles this was the vindication of his negotiating strategy – delay, obfuscate and distract until the fight against his own people could be renewed.

By July then, Cromwell was in South Wales, grimly besieging Pembroke Castle; Fairfax had crushed the Kentish rebels, but their commanders Norwich and Charles Lucas had fled to Essex and holed up in Colchester. Much to the fury of the locals, who now had to face a long and bitterly fought siege. The spirit of this siege was frankly nasty. The New Model deeply resented being called on again to risk their lives in a cause which God’s providence had already judged. I think it’s fair to say that they allowed their resentment show as they dug their way to the walls of Colchester.

From the North of England then, when he crossed the border on 8th July, Hamilton was desperate to move quickly, while Cromwell and Fairfax were stretched thin from east to west. But his army was nothing like the armies who had danced rings round the English in the Bishops Wars; nor was Hamilton a commander of the experience and quality of Leven or David Leslie. Worse, his second in command the Earl of Callendar had an ego the size of Ben Nevis, and would consistently feed him rubbish advice. Hamilton was supposed also to have the advice of the hardened veteran from Ireland Robert Munro; but Munro was so hacked off with Callendar that he refused to serve under him and so 2,000 of Hamilton’s best soldiers were therefore always disconnected from the main body.

Hamilton did have the services of Marmaduke Langdale, tough and talented, who had raised an English force; plus there were other positive straws in the wind; Scarborough castle declared for the king, and Henry Lilburne also declared for the king with Tynemouth Castle, to the horror of his brothers Robert and John, still more so because Henry died when the castle was retaken. But Hamilton’s army of 14,000 was so raw he was forced to waste a full month around Carlisle to train his men, and make sure they knew one end of the musket from the other.

The trouble for Hamilton was, that although Cromwell didn’t manage to capture Pembroke until 11th July and would take some time to reach the north, he had some talented commanders to hold the fort. Robert Lilburne cleaned up royalists in the north East, but the star of the show was John Lambert, the 29 year of Yorkshireman who had a genuine talent for military command and a passion for the cause of reform; he’d already been involved with Ireton in the crafting of the Heads of Proposals, and would one day be the architect of England’s only written constitution. With a force of 4,000, Lambert skipped and probed and fenced with Langdale and Hamilton and slowed any progress.

But Eventually Hamilton’s army was trained as well as could be, and finally set off down the east coast. This surprised Cromwell, at last coming north in August; he’d assumed Hamilton would take the quicker, more westerly route to link up with royalist Pontefract Castle. But Hamilton hugged the east coast, to give time for the surely inevitable mass uprising of English royalists that would restore the king to his own.

Such an uprising never happened. If any royalist had been planned to do any rising, the salty behaviour of the Scottish soldiers would have convinced them to wait for another day; they were a rabble, badly equipped and plundering without restraint. They were strung out over a 40 mile line of advance, and the cavalry and infantry quickly became disconnected. By 17th August 1648 Cromwell had them in his sights; he commanded significantly fewer men, maybe 9,000 to Hamilton’s 14,000, but he seems utterly confident.

Cromwell saw that he had a chance to split and destroy the Scots; with their foot north of the River Ribble and cavalry having crossed to its south, a swift,  daring attack at the infantry could destroy them before their Cavalry could return. Of course it was risky – if he miscalculated, he’d find himself caught between two of them and face annihilation. But Cromwell did not hesitate.

He reckoned without Langdale. His 3000 foot and cavalry stood across Cromwell’s approach and they fought heroically against the numbers. He might have expected Hamilton to bring his main infantry to support them, but instead, at a hurried council of war, Hamilton decided to leave Langdale to his fate and press on southwards under cover of darkness to join up with his returning Cavalry.

The weather was filthy, tipping it down, a relentless drench of fat gobbets of summer rain, and just as relentless was Cromwell, who once Langdale was dispatched, chased hard, his forward regiments snapping and biting at the Scottish heels. In the darkness Hamilton’s cavalry anyway missed them. At Winwick Hamilton desperately turned and made a last stand. For a few desperate hours they held out, but then broke. Hamilton rejoined his remaining cavalry and kept going, but was run down by Lambert at Stafford and surrendered.

The Scottish army was not just beaten at Preston, it was annihilated. Cromwell was always conscious of the influence of God in his daily life, but his pronouncements here showed a special appreciation of the gifts with which he had been presented; his letter to the Speaker spoke of the hand of God; he wrote to his cousin Oliver St John and his ally Harry Vane; ‘let everything that hath breath praise the Lord’ he wrote. Langdale was also captured, but would eventually end up on the continent. Hamilton’s chequered story had but a year still to run.

Cromwell then runed north to chase the fleeing remnants of the Scots under Munro, and ahead of him the south west of Scotland erupted as the news struck.

We’ll come back to that in a moment or two, but for now let us hurry eastwards to Colchester. The defeat at Preston made it crystal clear to Norwich and Lucas that their goose was cooked, and there was nothing for it but to issue forth from the Oven into the mercy of the normally forgiving General of the English army, Thomas Fairfax. They sued for terms.

Fairfax’s response shocked them. The siege had been bitter, with accusations of atrocities on both sides, things like poisoned bullets. More than that, the New Model to a man was convinced that none of them should have been here at all and that a worthless king had caused all of this by his refusal to come to terms.

So, Fairfax would offer the defenders no terms. They must submit ‘to his mercy’ – unconditionally, basically, throw themselves and their men on his mercy. Norwich and Lucas protested and complained. But Fairfax’s blood was up. He had originally offered terms – and been refused. By so doing, by the rules of war they had forfeited any right to a deal, since it forced blood to be split in a lost cause. There was a further twist though; in his view all these rebels were parole breakers and therefore subject to summary justice; but in particular Lucas had given his personal parole at Stow on the Wold promising on his honour not to pick up arms again. And just to thicken the sauce, Lucas despised the parliamentary army, since he had ordered the execution of over 20 prisoners in cold blood in Gloucestershire.

In the end, Fairfax relented to some degree. The rank and file were granted quarter. But still all the officers had to submit unconditionally. Of those most were then granted quarter, but 3 were sent to court martial, and one of those was Charles Lucas. Two days before, Fairfax had written

Justice must be done on such exemplary offenders who have embroiled the kingdom in a second bloody war

Even then, one of the three was set free. Not Lucas who despite his outrage and barrage of excuses was condemned to death. He faced his death with defiance and courage; as he stood in front of his firing squad he said

See I am ready for you; and now rebels, do your worst.

So they shot him. Which they probably thought for the best rather than the worst.

The execution of Charles Lucas led to all kinds of outrage, and complaint, and indeed it was most unusual; Royalists accused Fairfax of all sorts of infamy. After the Restoration there was an ostentatious funeral and a nasty memorial accusing Fairfax of murder. It didn’t mention the men Lucas had shot. After the war Fairfax wrote his own memoirs. In it he famously glossed most events of the revolution, whence the story of Fairfax the reluctant revolutionary. But over this incident however he had no doubts.

And in this distribution of justice I did nothing but according to my commission and the trust reposed in me

I hope I have managed to communicate the bitterness of all of this, which has a very different feel to it than most of the first Civil war. And spare your tears for Lucas, and save them for the ordinary royalist soldiers  Colchester, many of whom were sent to serve seven years indentured servitude in Barbados.

There was still work to do; Cromwell kept going north and as I say, Scotland ahead of him had erupted; the defeat had reignited the tensions between Argyll and the Kirk party on one hand, and the royalist Engagers on the other. As so enters the language a word which will become a defining feature of the political language to follow. In outrage at the Engagement, there was a mass rising in Galloway in the SW of Scotland, and Argyll and Leslie led thousands of citizens on a march across the country to Edinburgh, Radical preachers urging them on every step. Engagers looked contemptuously on this mass uprising of the Galloway peasantry and called it the Whiggmore Raid. Whigamores were the drovers that took horses to market. The name was give as an insult, and it stuck as an insult to radicals of all sorts, and duly transferred itself to a Political party and philosophy, the Whigs.

Once in Edinburgh, Argyll begged Cromwell not to cross the border; the situation between Engagers and Kirkmen was fraught enough without the English getting involved. But the Engagers in Scotland were far from beaten as a political and military, so Cromwell persisted. Argyl made the best of a bad job, and formally invited him to Edinburgh; and Cromwell seems to have been impressed there, writing to his boss, Fairfax that

There is a very good understanding between the honest part of Scotland and us here

He also had an interesting correspondence with his friend Harry Vane. Vane was in agonies, squirming against the moral requirements of the Solemn League and Covenant to conform to Presbyterianism, like a bee impaled by a Shrike on a thorn. Vane even suggested Cromwell go on to conquer Scotland. Cromwell considered that idea

Not unfeasible, but not Christian

He’s going to change his mind about that – just to spoil the plot. But he won’t change his mind about what he also wrote, that he waited and prayed

For the day to see the union and right understanding between the Godly people (Scots, English, Jews, Gentiles, Presbyterians, Independents, Anabaptists), and all

I believe there is a line of thought that Cromwell was not necessarily opposed to Catholics, more to papists as it were – as followers of the figure many of the English and Scots identified as anti Christ. There are whispers that it’s something John Morril will talk about in his new biography.

Anyway, back to the Scots; before long, the committee of estates banned the Engagers from public office, and therefore had Scottish politics firmly under their control. Cromwell was free to go. And so on he marched, in October 1648, to Pontefract in Yorkshire, to besiege the last royalist stronghold. For all intents and purposes, the Second Civil war was over, and the people of England could breathe again.

It meant, incidentally, that a few private armies would again have to be dealt with. As soon as the balloon had gone up, Henry Marten had headed straight out to his home county of Berkshire and started recruiting, raising a banner that read ‘For the Peoples’ Freedom against all tyrants whatsoever’. He was now no longer an obscure member of parliament, but a well known radical, republican and all round rouser of rabble. And so men flocked to his banner, drawn by that reputation. Nedham caught wind of it and let rip a mocking article that

‘Harry doth daily preach in the habit of a Leveller…with the novel doctrine that the supreme power and authority is inherently in the people

Harry wasn’t alone; Lord Grey of Groby was becoming equally radical and he raised a private troop too, and there were others. Fixing for a fight they were.

Charles meanwhile, stuck away there on the Isle of Wight had been desperate to be out of captivity to make the most of the Scottish invasion, and there was a series of slightly farcical escape attempts. He was not short of willing helpers, the most dedicated of whom must be Jane Whorwood. Jane was the estranged wife of Thomas Whorwood of Holton near Oxford, the house where Ireton and Bridget Cromwell married. From 1647 she and Charles have an extraordinarily close and affectionate relationship, constantly corresponding with great warmth and even passion; Charles addresses her as ‘Sweet Jane Whorwood’ or ‘your best platonic lover or servant’. Relationships such as this seem to have helped Charles’ frame of mind, isolated as he was – it’s now 4 years since he has had the emotional support of HM.

By July Jane Whorwood was on the isle of Wight, probably specifically to help her king escape. A plan was hatched with Jack Ashburnham to get Charles through the bars of his room. They debated back and forth about how – file, endless screw or, but in the end decided on some acid, which Jane sneaked in. Jane also hired a boat to carry him to freedom once he’d got through the bars. But of course Robert Hammond already knew about it; a report had it that

‘Mrs. Whorwood is aboard the ship, a tall, well-fashioned, and well-languaged gentlewoman, with a round visage and pockholes in her face’

The plan came to an end when Hammond unexpectedly changed his room. But not before it had struck a note of absurdity. Charles was convinced he could get through the bars, because he could get his head through. On the night of one attempt to flee, all was in readiness, but as Ashburnham relates there was a problem with the bars of the window

He stuck fast in it…did strain so much in the attempt, as he was in great extremity, though with long and painful struggling he got back again[1]

When writing his history, Clarendon decided that the story of Gods anointed Monarch with his head stuck between the bars squeezing his ears reflected poorly on the dignity of the monarchy. So he changed the story.

All these attempts came to nought. But from the ridiculous to the sublime, it is during this time that Charles collaborated in one of the most stunningly successful pieces of propaganda ever; the Eikon Basilike, Book of the king. The book was presented as being written by the martyr king in his captivity, though in fact it was written by a minister called John Gauden, and brought to him to revise and approve by the Marquis of Hertford. It was perfect for his needs, for the plan B, martyrdom.  It presented Charles as the constant Christian king who sought the guidance of God, and who foresaw that he might die

By the hands of my own subject, a violent sudden, Barbarous death…with them my greatest fault must be, that I would not either destroy myself with the church and state by my word[2]

It is genius and would be printed in December 1648 and literally fly off the shelves in a way that makes Harry Potter look like a candidate for remaindering. As we’ll hear, not even John Milton’s genius could compete.

Defeat in the Second civil war knocked the stuffing out of the royalists, of course, though Charles was hopeful that he could start a third civil war with a bit of luck; news of a naval agreement between the Dutch and the Irish Confederacy heartened him; that had to be worth a shout. And then HM wrote with news of the Treaty of Westphalia, peace in the Thirty yeas war, and assured him the French would send an army soon as. As one door shuts, another opens, eh.

The New model reacted with anger against the king. The Presbyterians reacted with panic, terrified that the conflict would bring together the Commonwealthsmen in parliament – the radicals like Marten, Ludlow, Wroth and Rainsborough, to make common cause with the Levellers and the army. And they were right to worry. Because for their part, the independents were yet again worried that the Presbyterians would stitch up a quick soft deal with the king, and another round of bloodshed would be for naught.

Let’s start with the Presbyterians first, because one of the vagaries of times of active warfare is that the balance of power in the Commons swing back to them – because army officers like the aforementioned radicals and Cromwell are away. So, we have a counter revolution again. First, the Vote of No Address is repealed. Secondly, the exclusion of the Eleven members is repealed. So, while the army were once more fighting the enemies of parliamentary rule, the buttocks of Denzil Holles, William Waller & Co snuggled back onto the benches of St Stephens Chapel. And it was agreed that, of course we should open negotiations with the king, this time it’ll all go swimmingly, just you wait and see. So 15 delegates took the ferry over the sea to Newport on the Isle of Wight, to the Grammar School there. Charles was finally released from Carisbroke to go to school once more, and went with his gaggle of advisors. He sat under a canopy of state as the delegates arrived.

Before things started, Holles and the delightfully named Harbottle Grimstone – who always makes me think of Miss Harbottle and James Heriot – went to see the king privately, prostrated themselves and begged him to agree quickly to their terms before the army imposed a dictatorship on them – a classic negotiating tactic; let your opponent know how important he is and how desperate you are to reach agreement. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is irony with a capital I.

40 days had been set aside for discussions – it would be extended. Progress was slow not just because Charles liked it that way, but because the 15 commissioners were themselves split. Saye and Sele and Vane were desperate to use the Heads of Proposals as a basis for agreement, and pushed for religious liberty and constitutional restraints; Holles & Co however, focussed on the Presbyterian religious settlement as the basis.

Well the negotiations were long and hard, but Charles began to give significant ground; by the time negotiations had reached the points which could not be ironed out, Charles had conceded 38 points and Parliament only four. Charles would concede appointment of ministers and control of the army to parliament for 20 years. He would not concede on Bishops or the alienation of their land, which comes as no surprise; but he would give Presbyterianism a walk round the park for three years. He insisted that no royalists be excluded from an Act of Oblivion. But, to be fair the concessions are more than a hill of beans.

So, how to explain this. It could well be argued that Charles was genuine at last; he seems to have been under a lot of stress, even bursting into floods of tears on one occasion at the sheer beastliness of it all. It is possible. Or it could be that as per earlier discussions, he remained comfortable that these are all just words, negotiations; he hadn’t actually conceded anything. He kept desperately trying to escape from the island; to wrote to worried supporters with reassuring words, to say don’t’ worry none of this means anything. As in this letter:
To deal freely with you, the great concessions I made this day – the church, militia, Ireland – was made merely to my escape, of which if I had not hope, I would not have done…for my only hope is that now they believe I dare deny them nothing as so be less careful of their guards

It could be that Charles really was compromising at last; I have nailed my colours to the mast, I think once more that he had no intention of sticking to it, but other opinions are available.

Charles rather laid about him through this and blamed his advisors for the concessions he had made, but fair dos some of them were themselves outraged at the concessions he’d made. As the Commissioners left on 27th November, Charles got  bit maudlin and said to them

I believe we shall surely never see each other again

What does that mean?  That he was sure to escape so nerks? Or that they were all going to sink in the Solent? Or that he had a full diary having his hair done? Answers on a postcard.

Right, back to the other side of the story then. The two leaders of the independents were AWOL from these negotiations. Fairfax was concentrating on getting better pay and conditions for his soldiers but would not act against parliament. His refusal to take the initiative hacked Ireton off so much that he resigned, but Fairfax refused to accept it. Is that a thing? I’m trying to imagine one of the several occasions at work where I have resigned and meekly accepting the response no you’ve got to stay. Well there you are, Ireton stayed.

The other AWOL chief was Cromwell. Now it’s a thing about Oliver; here is a decisive man of action who at multiple occasions in his career will brook no obstacles when others fear to tread. But he also has a few occasions of extreme dithering, high performance, elite levels of dithering, when the stakes are high. This is one of them. Cromwell does not get involved, but stays at Pontefract and directs operations there. Now I’m not saying this isn’t a tough and important job, don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing the importance of the military nitty gritty like, you know, taking Yorkshire castles, but Lambert is a clever young man he could have handled it. But Cromwell says up north. I mean he had a point, the beer’s better up there, but this is the political big time. And he will do this again; when highly unsure of the best course of action, he would wait for God to show him the right thing to do.

The man of the moment then, the master revolutionary, is his son in law, Henry Ireton. Ireton was done with the king. Salus populi suprema Lex and all that, Cicero, Paker, Locke – the safety of the people is supreme; and no one was safe with this king. Ireton was not alone. Fairfax received a steady procession of petitions from the army, 30 in all. I think is fair to say that the soldiers friendly attitude towards the king, which they’d retained through the years of the first civil war were shifting a little. Some of them sounded distinctively peeved. For example, here are a couple of naughty crosspatches in the petitions saying that Charles had

Polluted the land with blood[3]

Most soldiers agreed with Ireton – the king must be put on trial. For many also the sight of parliament yet again negotiating with the king was abominable. The army must stop the Newport negotiations and nix any idea of a treaty. Edmund Ludlow agreed – and pointed out they were never going to get a settlement with which the army agreed, because there was no way the king was going to let the bishops go. Ludlow returns to the point Conrad Russell has made; that Charles’ extreme view was not just that Bishops were important to royal rule – they were themselves divinely appointed

As to the bishops, he still retained his principle of their divine right

I’m aware of mentioning Edmund Ludlow more and more now. Part of the reason is that he is both an MP and an Army man; so he was influential, bridging the divide. I also confess to liking him – he was one of the very few regicides who escaped Charles II’s assassins; and he wrote a massive memoir, A Voice from the Watchtower, which I assume was an inspiration also for Jimi Hendrix.

Ireton and the army were not alone in their exasperation. Lilburne and the Levellers now changed tack; in the face of the danger posed by the Presbyterians and the Newport Treaty, they sought to empower and support the army at all levels, both rank and file and Grandees, they no longer sought to divide them and destroy the Grandees’ authority. Because they recognised the army was the only power that could stop a treaty that threatened to sell down the river all that the levellers and radicals had fought for. And meanwhile they campaigned on the streets, through the Moderate newsbook, pamphlets and petitions. On 11th September 1648, a huge petition called the Commons of England in Parliament Assembled, was presented to parliament. The Commons simply ignored it. 2 days later a crowd came to parliament’s doors with another – and the doors were shut against them.  Mobilising public opinion was important – but Lilburne knew that the road to real reform could now be travelled only with the support of army. And For their part, the army grew more convinced that they spoke for the people more clearly than did parliament.

Into this situation came a tragic opportunity to unite the radicals, the people passionate for change, when thousands of people would come together in solidarity for a man and a cause.

To explain, let me take you to Donnie, or Doncaster as it’s more formally known, in God’s own County, and to an inn on the night of 29th October. Colonel Thomas Rainsborough is staying there, sent to help the siege of Pontefract. Ready to retire for the night Rainsborough is shocked as his door crashed open. In burst a horde of men, swords in hand. Thomas shouts for help, but none comes, just one lieutenant. Rainsborough manages to grab an assailant’s sword, his lieutenant gets hold of a pistol and maybe they will win through. But there are too many – 22 of them, royalists ridden from Pontefract to seize the radical. Rainsborough would not be taken, he fought with every strength he had. He was tabbed in the throat but kept on fighting, though this companion now lay dead. He swung his sword, but was run through the heart and he fell, dead. The assassins fled.

Rainsborough became a hero overnight, and it galvanised the Leveller movement, should it have needed galvanising. Everyone saw it as the murder of one of the king’s most outspoken antagonists – and surely that was why he had been killed, they thought. Petitions began to include demands for vengeance on Rainsborough’s killers.

So the date, then, is 14th November 1648. We are in the churchyard of St Johns, Wapping, in the east end of London. And we are not alone – there are thousands of people, 3,000  of them by all accounts, and they had wound their way through the city in a display of public grief and fury, 50 coaches carrying their womenfolk, hundreds of horses lining the procession. Everywhere were Rainsborough’s colours of sea green. And sea Green would immediately become the colour of the levellers, be part of their identity, recognised by all.

Ireton decided that parliament must be made to see that there was an alternative to this grubby Newport Treaty, which he felt pretty sure the king would never sign anyway; the path of the Newport treaty, in his mind, led to the third civil war, and the fourth civil war. As Manchester had said – if he be beaten 99 times yet he will still be king. The revolutionaries had to lose but once, and they were toast. So he set pen to paper again, to create a manifesto and a constitution all commonwealthmen could get behind, and start a movement that would sweep aside the Newport compromise – and send this incorrigible, contemptuous and unscrupulous king to the dock for public trial.

His task was a tough one. The new manifesto – lets us call it the Remonstrance of the Army shall we? For that, in fact is its name. I accept you are quite within your rights to remonstrate with me that there is no one on earth can keep up with all these remonstrances, but I’m sorry, that is the way the 17th century rolls.

The Remonstrance of the Army had to be radical enough to be acceptable to the Army, the Commonwealthmen in parliament, and the Levellers, to keep the revolutionaries together. It also needed to be practical; I couldn’t simply be a grand statement of principle such as the Agreement of the People had been, it had to lay out the constitutional rules and the steps to be taken to get there – it must be a blueprint for pragmatic, revolutionary change.[4]

Ireton knew that producing this new Remonstrance was in itself an opportunity to bind the revolutionaries together. So he consulted widely – Hugh Peters, Officers of the army – and the Levellers. Because the Levellers and Henry Marten also had been at work. They’d met at the Nags Head tavern in London, and agreed that they would turn the first Agreement of the People into a fully worked constitution. I do love all this revolutionary meeting in pubs stuff. They planned to produce this new constitution by dissolving parliament as being unrepresentative of the people, and then set up a Constituent Assembly to form the new Agreement.

Both Levellers and Ireton now wanted to work together – so Ireton amended his Remonstrance to take on some of the leveller ideas and, then bound Lilburne imto the process by promising a conference of 16 to work on the full constitution – composed of 4 from the Army, 4 Levellers, 4 London independents and 4 MPs. Choosing 4 of course who were representative of the people. The right kind of people, obs.

Everything was in place – all that was required was to get Fairfax and the Army Council to agree, for Fairfax to then present the Remonstrance to parliament and get the Commons to sweep away the fruitless and inadequate Newport Treaty. The Army Council met in a series of meetings in St Albans, initially at the Bull-Head tavern. Pub popular politics.  Ireton based the Remonstrance on the principle of Salus Populi Suprema Lex, the well being of the people as the supreme law. It partly built a vision of a new nation – regular parliaments, more equally elected, with a supreme council of state to provide the executive – war, peace, all civil matters of governance. Once agreed The committee of 16 would produce the detailed constitution.

It was also a political document. The king had broken his covenant to protect the liberties of the people, it declared, and

We may justly say he is guilty of all the innocent blood split thereby.

Why, it asked, why are we negotiating with such a man who was incorrigible, unscrupulous, guilty and, what’s more – defeated? I ask you why?! The Newport treaty must be stopped immediately as worthless and irrelevant. One startling admission it has to be said was that the king must be kept away from London; because the

King comes in with the reputation among the people of having long graciously sought peace

I mean how wrong they were Ireton was saying. But that’s what the king has been telling them, and he must not be allowed to get away with such outrageous fibbing and dupe the people.[5]

And then a very interesting demand.

King Charles, as the Capitall Grand Author of the late troubles, may be speedily brought to Justice

And even closer to the bone – or neck, possibly:

capitall punishment and may be speedily executed upon a competent number of his chiefe Instruments[6]

Well, the debate on Army council was long and to begin with, did not go Ireton’s way. Fairfax and many of the senior officers were not yet ready to force parliament’s hand. Even though Holles & Co had control of the Commons and were not interested in the Radical view of the future. On 15th November they voted

That the king shall be settled in a condition of honour, freedom and safety, agreeable to the laws of the land[7]

When they heard this grovelling little gem, Heads in the army exploded, brains dribbled out of ears, jaws hit toe caps and chins wobbled furiously. This was precisely the wording of the royalist rebels in the second civil war. The ones we just fought. Those people. It was too much – the Army Council immediately dropped their objections, voted the Remonstrance through, and on 18th Fairfax had it presented to parliament; it is notable that despite later claims of not being a revolutionary, Fairfax absolutely supported this revolutionary remonstrance.

Now, the remonstrance is many things – but concise it was not. 25,000 words, it took four hours to read. The Radicals immediately stood en masse to propose a vote of thanks to the Army like standing ovation at the theatre; Holles & Co were not ovating anything, and were having none of that; they shelved the Remonstrance for later discussion, and instead debated the Newport treaty. The significance of this contemptuous turn of the head was not lost on the Army nor on the radicals.

At this point in Pontefract it seems that Cromwell may have come to a decision, revealed in letters to Robert Hammond of 26th November. He described the Newport Treaty as ‘this ruining hypocritical agreement’; he warned Hammond that no good could come from Charles, ‘against who, the Lord had witnessed’. And he again seems to have decided that if push and shove were in the same room together, it was army rather than Parliament he would shove with, and that the army was ‘A lawful power, called by God’.

As parliament continued to ignore the Remonstrance, and as the outcomes of the Newport Treaty negotiations were in, on 29th November Charles was woken up a banging at the door, followed by a troop of soldiers who roughly ordered him to get dressed; because they were moving him. Where to he protested. Hurst Castle came the reply. Charles was horrified

You could not have chosen a worse

He said. In fact, given the Army’s feelings about Charles at that moment, they could not have chosen better. I have been to Hurst castle and if you are interested, I suggest you don’t. It is ugly, thick grey, ugly walls designed to absorb cannon shot without flinching. It is isolated at the end of a spit of stones, it is cold and dank, and Charles’ room had no windows. Once you go into Hurst castle, you don’t get out unless someone helps you, and does more than butter your ears. Anyway, most of Charles’ friendly companions were dismissed now.

Parliament had again ordered Fairfax to stay away from London with that army of bully boys. Parliament could have saved it’s breath. As tension mounted, contingents were brought to sit in Hyde Park, in imitation of the preceding August, looking again balefully towards Westminster. At the same time Fairfax wrote to Cromwell ordering him to come to London now. And so, dithering deleted by the boss, Oliver set off.

On 1st December the Commons at last debated the Remonstrance. William Prynne, not noted for his talent for practical politics, for moderacy of viewpoint, thundered that they should cashier Fairfax and declare the army rebels and traitors. Westminster was crawling with red coated soldiers. But the Commons were defiant, they would not concede a step, the remonstrance was way too radical for their blood, religious toleration in particular was a dirty word. So they voted the Remonstrance down, and it wasn’t close – 125 nayes to 58 ayes.

On the 4th December, against the background of shouts and clatter from soldiers outside,  the debate turned to the Newport Treaty. Denzil Holles it was who stood on his hind legs and presented the Treaty, and recommended it be accepted as the basis for a peace. The debate was long, hard and late. The Candles were lit, MPs drifted away, 340 became 214. In Whitehall, Ireton, Ludlow, Harrison met with sympathetic MPs, but everyone was waiting for the result. And in the wee hours, the Commons voted on the proposition – was the Newport Treaty grounds for a peace agreement with the king? They voted yes, that yes, yes it was, course it was, who could possibly think otherwise? The king could be recalled to London and peace could be agreed. The meeting broke up and the MPs began to set off to their homes through the cold dark night, job done. Holles was confident that this time, unlike his terribly misunderstood Declaration of Dislike, this time it would be fine. Other views were available. Before they left the Speaker William Lenthall stood, stared at the MPs in the eyes and told them in a loud voice that they were voting for their own destruction.

Which seems a good place to leave affairs, so that we have something to look forward to; will the army accept defeat, the will of parliament – which was after all sovereign according to Ireton and the levellers so you know. Maybe they will, but then again maybe they won’t. We will all find out next time.

[1] Hunt, T: ‘The English Civil Ware: At First Hand’, p183

[2] Wedgewood, C.V: ‘The Trial of Charles I’, pp206-7

[3] Healey, J: The Blazing World’, p244

[4] Barber, S: ‘A Revolutionary Rogue’, p21

[5] Gentle, Ian: ‘The New Model Army’, pp 130-132

[6] Hopper, A: ‘Black Tom’, p95

[7] Woolrych, A: ‘Britain in Revolution’, p423




5 thoughts on “408 The Newport Treaty

  1. Congratulations on your new role! May you long enjoy it. Birmingham indeed has a great library.
    Charles, TMOB, doesn’t half use people up, does he? Happily accepting their loyalty, time, money, even lives as fuel for the great cause of himself. Very like his grandma: self-pitying tears and embrace of martyrdom and all.
    And I’ve figured out why he insists bishops are divinely appointed – because that makes their appointer, TMOB, even more divine.

    1. Yes I intend to! It’s a throughly lovely guesture!
      Yes I’d rather forgotten Mary was his grandmother;interesting, that they take very different approaches totheir trials though, if you can see Mary’s ‘investigation’ by committeeas a trial. Mary argues, Charles refuses to engage. And yes you could be right about the Bishops

  2. Congratulations on your new role of Honorary Research Associate in the School of History. It must be exciting!

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