Cromwell entered London amidst the shouts of a great multitude; and a month after Charles had landed on the shores of Scotland the English army started for the north. It crossed the Tweed, fifteen thousand men strong; but the terror of his massacres in Ireland hung round its leader, the country was deserted as he advanced, and he was forced to cling for provisions to a fleet which sailed along the coast. David Leslie, with a larger force, refused battle and lay obstinately in his lines between Edinburgh and Leith. A march of the English army round his position to the slopes of the Pentlands only brought about a change of the Scottish front; and as Cromwell fell back baffled upon Dunbar, Leslie encamped upon the heights above the town, and cut off the English retreat along the coast by the seizure of Cockburns-path. His post was almost unassailable, while the soldiers of Cromwell were sick and starving; and their general had resolved on an embarca-tion of his forces, when he saw in the dusk of evening signs of movement in the Scottish camp. Leslie's caution had at last been overpowered by the zeal of the preachers, and his army moved down to the lower ground between the hillside on which it was encamped and a little brook which covered the English front.
His horse was far in advance of the main body, and it had hardly reached the level ground when Cromwell in the dim dawn flung his whole force upon it. "They run; I profess they run!" he cried as the Scotch horse broke after a desperate resistance, and threw into confusion the foot who were hurrying to its aid. Then, as the sun rose over the mist of the morning, he added in nobler words: "Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered! Like as the mist vanisheth, so shalt Thou drive them away! "In less than an hour the victory was complete. The defeat at once became a rout; ten thousand prisoners were taken, with all the baggage and guns; three thousand were slain, with scarce any loss on the part of the conquerors. Leslie reached Edinburgh, a general without an army. The effect of Dunbar was at once seen in the attitude of the Continental powers. Spain hastened to recognize the Republic, and Holland offered its alliance. But Cromwell was watching with anxiety the growing discontent at home. The general amnesty claimed by Ireton, and the bill for the Parliament's dissolution, still hung on hand; the reform of the courts of justice, which had been pressed by the army, failed before the obstacles thrown in its way by the lawyers in the Commons. "Relieve the oppressed," Cromwell wrote from Dunbar, " hear the groans of poor prisoners.
Be pleased to reform the abuses of all professions. If there be any one that makes many poor to make a few rich, that suits not a Commonwealth." But the House was seeking to turn the current of public opinion in favour of its own continuance by a great diplomatic triumph. It resolved secretly on the wild project of bringing about a union between England and Holland, and it took advantage of Cromwell's victory to despatch Oliver St. John with, a stately embassy to the Hague. His rejection of an alliance and Treaty of Commerce which the Dutch offered was followed by the disclosure of the English proposal of union, but the proposal was at once refused. The envoys, who returned angrily to the Parliament, attributed their failure to the posture of affairs in Scotland, where Charles was preparing for a new campaign. Humiliation after humiliation had been heaped on Charles since he landed in his northern realm. He had subscribed to the Covenant; he had listened to sermons and scoldings from the ministers; he had been called on to sign a declaration that acknowledged the tyranny of his father and the idolatry of his mother.
Hardened and shameless as he was, the young King for a moment recoiled. "I could never look my mother in the face again," he cried, "after signing such a paper;" but he signed. He was still, however, a King only in name, shut out from the Council and the army, with his friends excluded from all part in government or the war. But he was at once freed by the victory of Dunbar. "I believe the King will set up on his own score now," Cromwell wrote after his victory. With the overthrow of Leslie fell the power of Argyle and the narrow Presbyterians whom he led. Hamilton, the brother and successor of the Duke who had been captured at Preston, brought back the royalists to the camp, and Charles insisted on taking part in the Council and on being crowned at Scone. Master of Edinburgh, but foiled in an attack on Stirling, Cromwell waited through the winter and the long spring, while intestine feuds broke up the nation opposed to him, and while the stricter Covenanters retired sulkily from the royal army on the return of the "Malignants," the royalists of the earlier war, to its ranks. With summer the campaign recommenced, but Leslie again fell back on his system of positions, and Cromwell, finding the Scotch camp at Stirling unassailable, crossed into Fife and left the road open to the south.
The bait was taken. In spite of Leslie's counsels Charles resolved to invade England, and was soon in full march through Lancashire upon the Severn, with the English horse under Lambert hanging on his rear, and the English foot hastening by York and Coventry to close the road to London. "We have done to the best of our judgement," Cromwell replied to the angry alarm of the Parliament, "knowing that if some issue were not put to this business it would occasion another winter's war." At Coventry he learnt Charles's position, and swept round by Evesham upon Worcester, where the Scotch King was encamped. Throwing half his force across the river, Cromwell attacked the town on both sides on the anniversary of his victory at Dunbar. He led the van in person, and was "the first to set foot on the enemy's ground." When Charles descended from the cathedral tower to fling himself on the eastern division, Cromwell hurried back across the Severn, and was soon "riding in the midst of the fire." For four or five hours, he told the Parliament, " it was as stiff a contest as ever I have seen;" the Scots, outnumbered and beaten into the city, gave no answer but shot to offers of quarter, and it was not till nightfall that all was over. The loss of the victors was as usual inconsiderable.