Mortal failure; The ever-increasing unsuccess of Cromwell’s career is forcibly set forth by Ranke (xii. 8). He had ’crushed every enemy,—the Scottish and the Presbyterian system, the peers and the king, the Long Parliament and the Cavalier insurgents,—but to create . . . an organization consistent with the authority which had fallen to his own lot, was beyond his power. Even among his old’ Anabaptist and Independent ’friends, his comrades in the field, his colleagues in the establishment of the Commonwealth, he encountered the most obstinate resistance. . . . At no time were the prisons fuller; the number of political prisoners was estimated at 12,000 . . . The failure of his plans soured and distracted him.’ It was, in fact, wholly ’beyond his power to consolidate a tolerably durable political constitution.’—To the disquiet caused by constant attempts against Cromwell’s life, Ranke adds the death of his favourite daughter, Lady Claypole, whose last words of agony ’were of the right of the king, the blood that had been shed, the revenge to come.’
Unheirlike heir; Richard Cromwell has received double measure of that censure which the world’s judgment too readily gives to unsuccess, finding favour neither from Royalists nor Cromwellians. Macaulay, with more justice, remarks, ’That he was a good man he evinced by proofs more satisfactory than deep groans or long sermons, by humility and suavity when he was at the height of human greatness, and by cheerful resignation under cruel wrongs and misfortunes.’ . . . ’He did nothing amiss during his short administration.’
His fall may be traced to several causes: to the fact that the puritan party proper, who supported him, the ‘sober men’ mentioned by Baxter ‘that called his father no better than a traitorous hypocrite,’ had not power to resist the fanatic cabal of army chiefs: to the necessity he was under of protecting some justly-odious confederates of Oliver: his own want of ability or energy to govern,—a point fully recognized during Oliver’s supremacy; and to his own honourable decision not to ’have a drop of blood shed on his poor account.’ Yet there is ample evidence to show that Richard, had he chosen, might have made a struggle to retain the throne,—sufficient, at least, to have thus deluged the kingdom.
Richard’s life was passed in great quiet after 1660: Charles II, according to Clarendon, with a wise and humorous lenity, not thinking it ‘necessary to inquire after a man so long forgotten.’ His letters reveal a man of affectionate and honest disposition; he uses the Puritan phraseology of the day without leaving a sense of nausea in the reader’s mind. At Hursley he was buried at a good old age in 1712.