Pym, in fact, had hardly been borne to his grave in Westminster Abbey before England instinctively recognized a successor of yet greater genius in the victor of Marston Moor. Born in the closing years of Elizabeth's reign, the child of a cadet of the great house of the Cromwells of Hinchinbrook, and of kin through their mothers with Hampden and St John, Oliver had been recalled by his father's death from a short stay at Cambridge to the little family estate at Huntingdon, which he quitted for a farm at St. Ives. We have already seen his mood during the years of personal rule, as he dwelt in "prolonging" and "blackness" amidst fancies of coming death, the melancholy which formed the ground of his nature feeding itself on the inaction of the time. But his energy made itself felt the moment the tyranny was over. His father had sat, with three of his uncles, in the later Parliaments of Elizabeth. Oliver had himself been returned to that of 1628, and the town of Cambridge sent him as its representative to the Short Parliament as to the Long. It is in the latter that a courtier, Sir Philip Warwick, gives us our first glimpse of his actual appearance. " I came into the House one morning, well clad, and perceived a gentleman speaking whom I knew not, very ordinarily apparelled, for it was a plain cloth suit, which seemed to have been made by an ill country tailor.
His linen was plain, and not very clean; and I remember a speck or two of blood upon his little band, which was not much larger than his collar. His hat was without a hat-band. His stature was of a good size; his sword stuck close to his side; his countenance swoln and reddish; his voice sharp and untuneable, and his eloquence full of fervour." He was already "much hearkened unto," but his power was to assert itself in deeds rather than in words. Men of his own time marked him out from all others by the epithet of Ironside. He appeared at the head of a troop of his own raising at Edgehill; but with the eye of a born soldier he at once saw the blot in the army of Essex. " A set of poor tapsters and town apprentices," he warned Hampden, "would never fight against men of honour;" and he pointed to religious enthusiasm as the one weapon which could meet the chivalry of the Cavalier. Even to Hampden the plan seemed impracticable; but the regiment of a thousand men which Cromwell raised for the Association of the Eastern Counties was formed strictly of " men of religion." He spent his fortune freely on the task he set himself. " The business.... hath had of me in money between eleven and twelve hundred pounds, therefore my private estate can do little to help the public.... I have little money of my own (left) to help my soldiers." But they were " a lovely company," he tells his friends with soldierly pride.
No blasphemy, drinking, disorder. or impiety were suffered in their ranks. "Not a man swears but he pays his twelve pence." Nor was his choice of "men of religion" the only innovation Cromwell introduced into his new regiment. The social traditions which restricted command to men of birth were disregarded. "It may be," he wrote, in answer to complaints from the committee of the Association,"it provokes your spirit to see such plain men made captains of horse. It had been well that men of honour and birth had entered into their employments; but why do they not appear? But seeing it is necessary the work must go on, better plain men than none: but best to have men patient of wants, faithful and conscientious in their employment, and such, I hope, these will approve themselves." The words paint Cromwell's temper accurately enough: he is far more of the practical soldier than of the reformer; though his genius already breaks in upon his aristocratic and conservative sympathies, and catches glimpses of the social revolution to which the war was drifting. "I had rather," he once burst out impatiently, "have a plain russet-coated captain, that knows what he fights for and loves what he knows, than what you call a gentleman, and is nothing else.
I honour a gentleman that is so indeed!" he ends with a characteristic return to his more common mood of feeling. The same practical temper broke out in a more startling innovation. Bitter as had been his hatred of the bishops, and strenuously as he had worked to bring about a change in Church government, Cromwell, like most of the Parliamentary leaders, seems to have been content with the new Presbyterianism, and the Presbyterians were more than content with him. Lord Manchester " suffered him to guide the army at his pleasure." " The man, Cromwell," writes the Scotchman Baillie, "is a very wise and active head, universally well beloved as religious and stout." But against dissidents from the legal worship of the Church the Presbyterians were as bitter as Laud himself; and, as we shall see, Nonconformity was rising into proportions which made its claim of toleration, of the freedom of religious worship, one of the problems of the time. Cromwell met the problem in his unspeculative fashion. He wanted good soldiers and good men; and, if they were these, the Independent, the Baptist, the Leveller, found entry among his troops. " You would respect them, did you see them," he answered the panic-stricken Presbyterians who charged them with "Anabaptistry" and revolutionary aims: "they are no Anabaptists: they are honest, sober Christians; they expect to be used as men." He was soon to be driven - as in the social change we noticed before - to a far larger and grander point of view.
But as yet he was busier with his new regiment than with theories of Church and State; and his horsemen were no sooner in action than they proved themselves such soldiers as the war had never seen yet. " Truly they were never beaten at all," their leader said proudly at its close. At Winceby fight they charged "singing psalms," cleared Lincolnshire of the Cavahers, and freed the eastern counties from all danger from Newcastle's par-tizans. At Marston Moor they faced and routed Rupert's chivalry. At Newbury it was only Manchester's reluctance that hindered them from completing the ruin of Charles.