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Oliver Cromwell Critical Essays

Maurice Ashley (essay date 1957)

❶His parents were wealthy and influential in Huntingdon until the early seventeenth century, when the family fortunes declined.. Some of the key actions that Oliver Cromwell took which affected the country were:


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Their militant belief in their calling to serve the Lord had little in common with the contemplative frame of mind cultivated in the monastic cell. Yet in fact the character of the Puritans as seen in their surviving letters and diaries was built out of a close concentration on the ethical life, upon a search after altruistic standards, and upon the avoidance of all suspicion of sins. The motive force for their self-denial was 'the desire to experience the immediate feeling of satisfaction which came from approaching an ideal state of mind.

They had not been forbidden the pleasures of food or drink or music or the married life by their master, John Calvin, or his disciple, Thomas Cartwright. But their very certainty of salvation drove them to undertake the sternest duties and the most minute self-examinations, and induced them to set a shining example to the reprobate.

Oliver Cromwell's parents, as we have seen, were quiet Protestant gentry who unquestionably acquiesced in the prevailing doctrine that all Christians are elected by grace to salvation, that men could not earn their passage to Heaven but only take it once it was booked.

Oliver attended the Free School in Huntingdon, of which the master was a friend of his father, the very strict predestinarian, Dr Thomas Beard. There was also an assistant master who may have done much of the actual teaching. At any rate, the curriculum consisted of spelling, reading, and arithmetic, and of a great deal of Scripture, including the study of the Psalms and Biblical history. The Authorized Version of the Bible had been completed in when Oliver was twelve, and was read by him both at school and at home.

How thoroughly he knew the Authorized Version and the Psalms is attested by all his later speeches. He seems to have read a book written by Dr Beard called The Theatre of God's Judgment Displayed , first published in and several times reprinted; and he was impressed by Sir Walter Ralegh's History of the World , which appeared in and was based upon almost the same argument as Dr Beard's book.

The argument, illustrated in each case with incredible ingenuity, was that the system of rewards and punishments administered by the Almighty in the hereafter also applied 'even in this life. Dr Beard is said to have sought 'to teach morality by fear. What moved him both in Beard's teaching and Ralegh's History were the numerous examples of eminent persons who neglected to search their consciences and ensure that they rightly understood God's will.

When he came to govern himself, he would make no such mistake. He met a splendid example of this Protestant hyperconscientiousness during the short year he was in residence at Cambridge.

In those days there were three kinds of students—scholars the poorest but the nursery of dons , pensioners, and a privileged and well-to-do minority, the Fellow Commoners. Only three other Fellow Commoners were admitted in the same year as Cromwell. They had to pay fees and other dues, to present the College with a piece of silver plate upon their arrival, they had the right to eat with the Fellows at the High Table, and undertook in return not to corrupt either the Fellows or the scholars.

In order that he might be instructed in religion and God's truths, Cromwell slept in the same room as his tutor, Dr Richard Howlett, who had been elected a Fellow in and later became a Dean in Ireland. The Master of the College, Dr Samuel Ward, was a distinctive figure in the world of theology and churchmanship. A learned Calvinist, he held fast by the virtues of restraint and was rigid about standards of behaviour.

On the other hand, he was a notorious 'pluralist,' so much so that his friends remonstrated with him about the number of offices he had collected and made little jokes about it behind his back.

Pluralism did not worry Dr Ward, but everything else did. When he was a stuttering young don he confided to a diary his perplexities over his carnal musings and dreams, his 'wicked and adulterous thoughts' when he went to the fair, his gluttony at the table, his laziness about getting up in the morning, his drinking late at night, his neglect of his prayers, and in general his 'overmuch delight' in the transitory pleasures of this world.

All that was natural enough in a Cambridge divine in his early twenties. But the habit of detailed self-examination continued throughout his life. When, after Cromwell had left Sidney, Dr Ward took it into his head to venture into the seas of matrimony in middle age, he carefully listed in his diary the pros and cons in regard to his prospective bride. To console himself lest his suit should fail, he noted that 'the party was worldly minded' and might 'not be forward in religion'; and he regretted that she had shown 'a want of discretion, or love, or both, in not signifying before our coming that she could not condescend to the Mayor'; while he found it 'a great private check not to be respected in my first love.

Dr Ward brooded as much over the 'sins of this land' as over his own love life, over its profaneness and irreligion, the excesses in apparel and drinking, the 'disobedience and contempt for authority among the younger sort' and 'the toleration of notorious offenders. At the Synod, Ward was careful to see that 'nothing should be defined which might gainsay the Confession of the Church of England.

But when King Charles I, who, unlike his father, had not been brought up in the Calvinist theology, came to the throne, Dr Ward was much afraid that 'popery would increase' through the influence of Charles' Roman Catholic Queen, and he resented the fact that after he himself had been Vice-Chancellor, that unpopular royal favourite, the first Duke of Buckingham, was foisted upon the university as its Chancellor by order of the King.

Ward picked out as an occasion for mourning that day when the Archbishop of Canterbury first urged that the surplice should be worn in his old College of Emmanuel: Alas, we little expected that King James would have been the first who permitted of it to be brought into our College…. He also protested against Laud's claim to exert his authority over the university at all. When another Cambridge divine John Nevile of Pembroke Hall had the boldness to preach justification by works instead of by faith and to argue that the outward act of baptism took away sin, Ward rebuked him for 'gross heresies.

To him mankind had plainly been divided by Christ into 'those The intervening period had shown that no settlement was possible until the Army was disbanded. Richard Cromwell lacked the prestige with the soldiers Portrait of a Soldier , Weidenfeld and Nicholson, , pp. On 29 August , just seven days after King Charles raised his standard at Nottingham, Cromwell mustered his troop of horse at Huntingdon. Even in these small beginnings Cromwell's speed and decisiveness of action is apparent.

A fortnight later he was ordered to join the main Parliamentary army under the Earl of Essex at Northampton. The Earl had some experience of war on the Though Oliver Cromwell seems essentially a man of action, even one dedicated to the sword, he was also very much a man of the word, whether written or spoken, informal or ceremonial. We are fortunate that so many of his utterances and communications, certainly since he began to assume some It seemed that the victorious sword of Cromwell had definitively consolidated the republic of the Independents.

The danger of a royalist intervention had been eliminated. The military art of the general had been convincingly demonstrated twice, at Dunbar and Worcester, and had There were, of course, a number of such roots, and not just one.

In the late s he was briefly involved in local politics, eventually serving in London as one of Huntingdon's Members of Parliament. In he represented Cambridge in the Long Parliament. This Parliament was so-called for the length of time that at least a remnant of it served intermittently from until —well after Charles I's execution in and also after Cromwell's death in Cromwell's speeches in Parliament display his contempt for what he regarded as the corruption of the Anglican bishops and for his growing criticism of King Charles.

After Charles I's execution, and backed by his loyal army, Cromwell became increasingly influential in Parliament—at one point dissolving it and ruling the country himself with the aid of advisors.

Asked repeatedly by his supporters to become king, Cromwell refused, accepting. As Protector, Cromwell's foreign policy reflected his devout Protestantism. He made peace with Protestant Holland and treaties with Sweden and Denmark.

He sided with a France that was at least partially Huguenot against Catholic Spain. When he died in , Cromwell was buried in Westminster Abbey. After the Restoration of the monarchy Cromwell's body was exhumed, hung, and decapitated in on command of King Charles II along with living leaders of the Revolution.

Cromwell's principal literary achievements are his letters, speeches, and transcripts of remembered conversations he had with supporters and adversaries. His speeches were first collected by the Scottish essaying Thomas Carlyle, in Carlyle edited them heavily but enthusiastically filled gaps in the transcripts with his own conjectures as to what Cromwell might have said or meant to say.

As critic Ivan Roots observes, Cromwell's letters are both "formal and informal," revealing "the private man" as Carlyle describes him , and "the war's and fortune's son," as depicted by Cromwell's supporter, the poet Andrew Marvell. Ironically, as Roots also observes, Cromwell did not leave behind written versions of his own speeches, as he composed many of them impromptu in Parliament with the aid of only a few notes.

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- Oliver Cromwell Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan fundamentalist and undefeated commander of the "Ironsides", forever changed the history of England with, perhaps, what he did .

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Cromwell has became seen as a devil incarnate, dueled fanatic, hero and man of God (, BBC News). For some historians such as Thomas Carlyle and Samuel Rawson Gardiner, Oliver Cromwell was a hero of liberty while to some others such as David Hume and Christopher Hill he was a regicidal dictator.

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Oliver Cromwell- Hero or Villian? Essay Words | 7 Pages. Oliver Cromwell: Hero or Villain? Oliver Cromwell was a Puritan MP from Cambridgeshire when Charles I raised his standards in Nottingham, This was the start of the civil war. Oliver Cromwell The first and only Lord Protector of England was Oliver Cromwell, a very controversial and unique figure in the history of England. He was credited with not only steering and protecting the protestant Church of England, but also in quelling many of the civil wars during that period, and contributing to the way England would be governed in .

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Oliver Cromwell as a Hero or Villain Essay examples - The aim of this essay, is to answer the long-awaited question 'Was Oliver Cromwell a hero or a villain. This question, is a hard one to answer. James Heath once said "His name and memory stink." In opposition, Samuel Pepys said "People look back and praise him." True. It would helpful to identify who is Oliver Cromwell before affirming whether he is a hero or villain. Citing some popular thoughts about Oliver Cromwell, Peter Gaunt cited, “ Contrary to the popular fancy, it becomes apparent that this Oliver was not a man of falsehood, but truths An earnest man, I apprehend, may gather from those words of Oliver.