The English Civil Wars of the Seventeenth Century cast long shadows in the American colonies, and I will be exploring some of these in future posts. However, today I would like to pay homage to one of the most truthful speeches about many politicians which was delivered by Oliver Cromwell as he dissolved the Long Parliament on April 20, 1653. That “bold, bad man” of course was in the process of becoming a dictator, and therefore his example should be abhorrent to all who love liberty. However, that does not detract from the accuracy of his message to the Long Parliament.
It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.
Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter’d your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?
Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil’d this sacred place, and turn’d the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress’d, are yourselves gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.
In the name of God, go!
(The video at the beginning of this post is from the film Cromwell 1970, notable for a stunningly good portrayal of Charles I by Alec Guiness and an energetic performance by Richard Harris as Cromwell. It is also notable for having more historical errors crammed into it than any other movie I can recall. It also re-imagined Cromwell as some sort of Sixties radical man of the people which “Old Ironsides” most emphatically was not. However I include it in this post for sentimental reasons as it sparked my interest in the English Civil Wars.)