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Impearls: GWAC: The Cromwellian Sequel

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Earthdate 2009-12-15

The Cromwellian Sequel   by Hendrik Willem van Loon

Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's Washington Rallying the Troops at Monmouth

f9

Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's Washington Rallying the Troops at Monmouth


The rest is history.  It has been told so often and so well that I shall not waste your time repeating what all of us know.  In England no one connected with the government seemed to have grasped the fact that the crown was dealing with a people who were the spiritual descendants of those Englishmen who, a century and a half before, had already rid themselves of one head bearing a crown.  There is a story current in many parts of New England of how, during a threatened Indian massacre, there suddenly appeared an old, white-haired fellow, coming from nowhere in particular but wearing an outmoded Cromwellian uniform and wearily but efficiently swinging an old Cromwellian sword with which he promptly slew so many of the savages that the others fled in panic and were never again seen.  Having saved his fellow settlers by his unexpected arrival, the white-haired, white-bearded hero silently withdrew into the dark fringe of the near-by forest and never again showed himself to mortal eye.

There was more truth to this bit of folklore than most people suspected.  The number of regicide judges and other fugitives from Charles Stuart's revenge who had actually lost themselves in the American wilderness to find safety was probably very small.  But their spirit was everywhere, and it lay hidden in the souls of a great many people who were completely unconscious of being anything but good, loyal subjects of His Majesty the King.  Had a clever man ruled over England just before our Revolution, or even a merely mediocre one, capable at least of surrounding himself with wise counselors, all might have yet been saved, and the Revolution could probably have been avoided.  But by this time the real rulers of England had been petrified into an aristocracy — into a rigid caste — and the country squire had so completely lost touch with the realities of daily existence that the world for him did not really begin except at five hundred pounds a year.  How could those insular port drinkers and fox hunters, who only went abroad for the purpose of returning home infinitely more self-satisfied than they had left, ever had been made to understand that old Oliver Cromwell's ideas were still stirring among the spiritual descendants of those preposterous dissenters who had dared to lift their blasphemous hands against the sacred person of their anointed Majesty and who — serve them right! — had been taught a lesson when the body of their abominable leader had been dug out of its grave and had been thrown to the dogs.

That much was true.  The remains of the great Oliver no longer rested in the chapel of Henry VII in Westminster Abbey, but his soul had gone marching on.  It continued to march on for six long and desperate years, until that ever-fateful nineteenth of October of the year 1781, when General George Washington of Mount Vernon in Virginia, commander in chief of the armies of the United States of America, courteously bowed to Major General Charles Cornwallis, commander in chief of His Majesty's forces in South Carolina, and told that dejected gentleman to keep his sword, for he had been a brave foeman, and the code of honor of their common heritage demanded that one behave generously toward a conquered enemy who had fought the good fight squarely and decently and who had behaved as modestly and decorously in victory as in defeat.

Constantino Brumidi's Surrender at Yorktown

f10

Constantino Brumidi's Surrender at Yorktown





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