Preparations for an invasion of Ireland occupied Cromwell in the subsequent months. In the latter part of the s, Cromwell came across political dissidence in the " New Model Army ". The " Leveller " or " Agitator " movement was a political movement that emphasised popular sovereignty, extended suffrage, equality before the law, and religious tolerance. These sentiments were expressed in the manifesto " Agreement of the People " in Cromwell and the rest of the " Grandees " disagreed with these sentiments in that they gave too much freedom to the people; they believed that the vote should only extend to the landowners.
In the " Putney Debates " of , the two groups debated these topics in hopes of forming a new constitution for England. There were rebellions and mutinies following the debates, and in , the Bishopsgate mutiny resulted in the execution of Leveller Robert Lockyer by firing squad. The next month, the Banbury mutiny occurred with similar results. Cromwell led the charge in quelling these rebellions. Cromwell led a Parliamentary invasion of Ireland from — Parliament's key opposition was the military threat posed by the alliance of the Irish Confederate Catholics and English royalists signed in The Confederate-Royalist alliance was judged to be the biggest single threat facing the Commonwealth.
However, the political situation in Ireland in was extremely fractured: there were also separate forces of Irish Catholics who were opposed to the Royalist alliance, and Protestant Royalist forces that were gradually moving towards Parliament. Cromwell said in a speech to the army Council on 23 March that "I had rather be overthrown by a Cavalierish interest than a Scotch interest; I had rather be overthrown by a Scotch interest than an Irish interest and I think of all this is the most dangerous". Cromwell's hostility to the Irish was religious as well as political. He was passionately opposed to the Catholic Church, which he saw as denying the primacy of the Bible in favour of papal and clerical authority, and which he blamed for suspected tyranny and persecution of Protestants in continental Europe.
These settlers had settled on land seized from former, native Catholic owners to make way for the non-native Protestants. These factors contributed to the brutality of the Cromwell military campaign in Ireland. Parliament had planned to re-conquer Ireland since and had already sent an invasion force there in Cromwell's invasion of was much larger and, with the civil war in England over, could be regularly reinforced and re-supplied.
His nine-month military campaign was brief and effective, though it did not end the war in Ireland. Before his invasion, Parliamentarian forces held only outposts in Dublin and Derry. When he departed Ireland, they occupied most of the eastern and northern parts of the country. After his landing at Dublin on 15 August itself only recently defended from an Irish and English Royalist attack at the Battle of Rathmines , Cromwell took the fortified port towns of Drogheda and Wexford to secure logistical supply from England. At the Siege of Drogheda in September , Cromwell's troops killed nearly 3, people after the town's capture—comprising around 2, Royalist soldiers and all the men in the town carrying arms, including some civilians, prisoners and Roman Catholic priests.
I am persuaded that this is a righteous judgment of God upon these barbarous wretches, who have imbrued their hands in so much innocent blood and that it will tend to prevent the effusion of blood for the future, which are satisfactory grounds for such actions, which otherwise cannot but work remorse and regret .
At the Siege of Wexford in October, another massacre took place under confused circumstances. While Cromwell was apparently trying to negotiate surrender terms, some of his soldiers broke into the town, killed 2, Irish troops and up to 1, civilians, and burned much of the town. After the taking of Drogheda, Cromwell sent a column north to Ulster to secure the north of the country and went on to besiege Waterford , Kilkenny and Clonmel in Ireland's south-east.
Kilkenny surrendered on terms, as did many other towns like New Ross and Carlow , but Cromwell failed to take Waterford , and at the siege of Clonmel in May he lost up to 2, men in abortive assaults before the town surrendered.
One of his major victories in Ireland was diplomatic rather than military. Cromwell therefore returned to England from Youghal on 26 May to counter this threat. The Parliamentarian conquest of Ireland dragged on for almost three years after Cromwell's departure. The campaigns under Cromwell's successors Henry Ireton and Edmund Ludlow mostly consisted of long sieges of fortified cities and guerrilla warfare in the countryside. The last Catholic-held town, Galway , surrendered in April and the last Irish Catholic troops capitulated in April of the following year.
In the wake of the Commonwealth's conquest of the island of Ireland, the public practice of Roman Catholicism was banned and Catholic priests were killed when captured. The extent of Cromwell's brutality   in Ireland has been strongly debated. Some historians argue that Cromwell never accepted that he was responsible for the killing of civilians in Ireland, claiming that he had acted harshly but only against those "in arms".
On the other hand, the worst atrocities committed in Ireland, such as mass evictions, killings and deportation of over 50, men, women and children as prisoners of war and slaves  to Bermuda and Barbados , were carried out under the command of other generals after Cromwell had left for England.
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Cromwell demanded that no supplies were to be seized from the civilian inhabitants and that everything should be fairly purchased; "I do hereby warn The massacres at Drogheda and Wexford were in some ways typical of the day, especially in the context of the recently ended Thirty Years War ,   although there are few comparable incidents during the Civil Wars in England or Scotland, which were fought mainly between Protestant adversaries, albeit of differing denominations. One possible comparison is Cromwell's Siege of Basing House in —the seat of the prominent Catholic the Marquess of Winchester—which resulted in about of the garrison of being killed after being refused quarter.
Contemporaries also reported civilian casualties, six Catholic priests and a woman. I do not think thirty of the whole number escaped with their lives. The military protocol of the day was that a town or garrison that rejected the chance to surrender was not entitled to quarter. However, the captain of Wexford Castle surrendered during the middle of the negotiations and, in the confusion, some of Cromwell's troops began indiscriminate killing and looting.
Although Cromwell's time spent on campaign in Ireland was limited, and although he did not take on executive powers until , he is often the central focus of wider debates about whether, as historians such as Mark Levene and John Morrill suggest, the Commonwealth conducted a deliberate programme of ethnic cleansing in Ireland.
Then, once Cromwell had returned to England, the English Commissary, General Henry Ireton , adopted a deliberate policy of crop burning and starvation.
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Total excess deaths for the entire period of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in Ireland was estimated by Sir William Petty , the 17th Century economist, to be , out of a total Irish population of 1,, in The sieges of Drogheda and Wexford have been prominently mentioned in histories and literature up to the present day. James Joyce , for example, mentioned Drogheda in his novel Ulysses : "What about sanctimonious Cromwell and his ironsides that put the women and children of Drogheda to the sword with the bible text God is love pasted round the mouth of his cannon?
By an uncompleted process of terror, by an iniquitous land settlement, by the virtual proscription of the Catholic religion, by the bloody deeds already described, he cut new gulfs between the nations and the creeds. Upon all of us there still lies 'the curse of Cromwell'. A key surviving statement of Cromwell's own views on the conquest of Ireland is his Declaration of the lord lieutenant of Ireland for the undeceiving of deluded and seduced people of January In the Irish minister for lands stated that his policies were necessary to "undo the work of Cromwell"; circa , Taoiseach Bertie Ahern demanded that a portrait of Cromwell be removed from a room in the Foreign Office before he began a meeting with Robin Cook.
Cromwell was much less hostile to Scottish Presbyterians , some of whom had been his allies in the First English Civil War, than he was to Irish Catholics.
He described the Scots as a people "fearing His [God's] name, though deceived". His appeal rejected, Cromwell's veteran troops went on to invade Scotland. At first, the campaign went badly, as Cromwell's men were short of supplies and held up at fortifications manned by Scottish troops under David Leslie. Sickness began to spread in the ranks. Cromwell was on the brink of evacuating his army by sea from Dunbar. However, on 3 September , unexpectedly, Cromwell smashed the main Scottish army at the Battle of Dunbar , killing 4, Scottish soldiers, taking another 10, prisoner, and then capturing the Scottish capital of Edinburgh.
The following year, Charles II and his Scottish allies made a desperate attempt to invade England and capture London while Cromwell was engaged in Scotland. Cromwell followed them south and caught them at Worcester on 3 September , and his forces destroyed the last major Scottish Royalist army at the Battle of Worcester. Charles II barely escaped capture and fled to exile in France and the Netherlands, where he remained until To fight the battle, Cromwell organised an envelopment followed by a multi-pronged coordinated attack on Worcester, his forces attacking from three directions with two rivers partitioning them.
He switched his reserves from one side of the river Severn to the other and then back again. In the final stages of the Scottish campaign, Cromwell's men under George Monck sacked Dundee, killing up to 1, men and women and children. The northwest Highlands was the scene of another pro-Royalist uprising in —55, which was put down with deployment of 6, English troops there. Cromwell's conquest left no significant legacy of bitterness in Scotland. The rule of the Commonwealth and Protectorate was largely peaceful, apart from the Highlands.
Moreover, there were no wholesale confiscations of land or property. Three out of every four Justices of the Peace in Commonwealth Scotland were Scots and the country was governed jointly by the English military authorities and a Scottish Council of State. Cromwell was away on campaign from the middle of until , and the various factions in Parliament began to fight amongst themselves with the King gone as their "common cause".
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Cromwell tried to galvanise the Rump into setting dates for new elections, uniting the three kingdoms under one polity, and to put in place a broad-brush, tolerant national church. However, the Rump vacillated in setting election dates, although it put in place a basic liberty of conscience, but it failed to produce an alternative for tithes or to dismantle other aspects of the existing religious settlement.
In frustration, Cromwell demanded that the Rump establish a caretaker government in April of 40 members drawn from the Rump and the army, and then abdicate; but the Rump returned to debating its own bill for a new government. Several accounts exist of this incident; in one, Cromwell is supposed to have said "you are no Parliament, I say you are no Parliament; I will put an end to your sitting".
After the dissolution of the Rump, power passed temporarily to a council that debated what form the constitution should take.
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They took up the suggestion of Major-General Thomas Harrison for a " sanhedrin " of saints. Although Cromwell did not subscribe to Harrison's apocalyptic , Fifth Monarchist beliefs—which saw a sanhedrin as the starting point for Christ's rule on earth—he was attracted by the idea of an assembly made up of men chosen for their religious credentials.
In his speech at the opening of the assembly on 4 July , Cromwell thanked God's providence that he believed had brought England to this point and set out their divine mission: "truly God hath called you to this work by, I think, as wonderful providences as ever passed upon the sons of men in so short a time. The assembly was tasked with finding a permanent constitutional and religious settlement Cromwell was invited to be a member but declined. However, the revelation that a considerably larger segment of the membership than had been believed were the radical Fifth Monarchists led to its members voting to dissolve it on 12 December , out of fear of what the radicals might do if they took control of the Assembly.
After the dissolution of the Barebones Parliament, John Lambert put forward a new constitution known as the Instrument of Government , closely modelled on the Heads of Proposals. It made Cromwell Lord Protector for life to undertake "the chief magistracy and the administration of government".
Cromwell was sworn in as Lord Protector on 16 December , with a ceremony in which he wore plain black clothing, rather than any monarchical regalia. Nevertheless, Cromwell's power was buttressed by his continuing popularity among the army. Cromwell had two key objectives as Lord Protector. The first was "healing and settling" the nation after the chaos of the civil wars and the regicide, which meant establishing a stable form for the new government to take.
Such forms were, he said, "but Cromwell declared, "A nobleman, a gentleman, a yeoman; the distinction of these: that is a good interest of the nation, and a great one! Direct taxation was reduced slightly and peace was made with the Dutch, ending the First Anglo-Dutch War. Cromwell soon secured the submission of these and largely left them to their own affairs, intervening only to curb his fellow Puritans who were usurping control over the Maryland Colony at the Battle of the Severn , by his confirming the former Roman Catholic proprietorship and edict of tolerance there.
Of all the English dominions, Virginia was the most resentful of Cromwell's rule, and Cavalier emigration there mushroomed during the Protectorate. Cromwell famously stressed the quest to restore order in his speech to the first Protectorate parliament at its inaugural meeting on 3 September He declared that "healing and settling" were the "great end of your meeting".
After some initial gestures approving appointments previously made by Cromwell, the Parliament began to work on a radical programme of constitutional reform. Rather than opposing Parliament's bill, Cromwell dissolved them on 22 January The House of Commons representatives from the boroughs were elected by the burgesses or those borough residents who had the right to vote in municipal elections, and by the aldermen and councilors of the boroughs.
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