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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Oliver Cromwell

  • [Born at Huntington, England, April 25, 1599; educated at Cambridge; entered Parliament, 1628: joined the Parliamentary army as captain of cavalry; commanded the left wing at Marston Moor, and the right at Naseby; member of the court which tried Charles I; lord-lieutenant of Ireland; defeated the royalists at Drogheda, at Dunbar in Scotland 1650, at Worcester 1651; Protector of the Commonwealth, 1654; died Sept. 3, 1658.]
  • Put your trust in God, but be sure to see that your powder is dry.

  • His advice to his troops when about to cross a river.
  • He declared to Falkland, in 1641, that, had the House of Commons not passed the remonstrance on the state of the kingdom, “I should have sold all I possess, and left the kingdom.” From this may have originated the story that Hampden and Cromwell had at one time determined to emigrate to America.
  • When some one spoke of Cromwell’s slovenly appearance, Hampden replied, “If ever we should come to a breach with the king (which God forbid!), in such a case, I say, that sloven will be the greatest man in England.” Sir Philip Warwick wrote in his diary, as quoted by Carlyle, that he came into the House one morning, “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.”—Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches, I. 1, 1641.
  • “Having the king in my hands,” Cromwell declared in 1647, “I have the Parliament in my pockets.” He may have said, as asserted, “If I met the king in battle, I would fire my pistol at the king as at another;” for when Algernon Sidney refused to be one of the king’s judges in 1648, Cromwell declared, “We will cut off his head with the crown on it.”
  • A crowning mercy.

  • In his despatch of Sept. 4, 1651, announcing the victory of Worcester the day before, he said, “The dimensions of this mercy are above my thoughts. It is, for aught I know, a crowning mercy.”
  • To some one who remarked upon the crowd which poured out to meet him on his return from the campaign in Ireland to London, May 31, 1650, Cromwell grimly replied, “Yes; but if it were to see me hanged, how many would there be!” A similar thought struck Henry IV. of France, when the people cheered him after the attempt of Châtel upon his life, in the early part of his reign; and William III. of England, predicting the reflux of the great wave of enthusiasm which bore him to the throne in 1688, said, “Here the cry is all ‘Hosanna’ to-day, and will, perhaps, be ‘Crucify him’ to-morrow.” Napoleon replied to some one who noticed the applause which greeted him in Switzerland, “The same unthinking crowd, under a slight change of circumstances, would follow me just as eagerly to the scaffold.”
  • Cromwell assured a judge who hesitated to serve under him when Protector, “If I cannot rule by red gowns, I will by red coats;” and he asserted, when the Independents demanded the abolition of titles, “There will never be a good time in England till we have done with lords.” He accordingly assured the Earl of Manchester, the Parliamentary general, that “he must in such case be content to be no more than plain Montague,” his family name.
  • I have sought the Lord night and day, that he would rather slay me than put me upon the doing of this work.

  • Of the dissolution of the Long Parliament, April 20, 1653. On that day Cromwell entered the House of Commons, containing about fifty members, and sat in an ordinary place. After taking part in the debate, he began telling the members of their injustice, delays of justice, self-interest, and other faults, until, stamping with his foot, he exclaimed, “You shall now give place to better men!” “You are no Parliament! I say you are no Parliament!” Having called in twenty or thirty musketeers, he turned out the members with, “In the name of God, go!” History recalls with a shudder, says Carlyle, “that my Lord General, lifting the sacred mace itself, said, ‘What shall we do with this bauble? Take it away!’” Calling Sir Harry Vane by name, Cromwell told him that he might have prevented this; but that he was a juggler, and had not common honesty. “The Lord deliver me from thee, Sir Harry Vane!” All being gone out, the door of the House was locked. The Rump Parliament had gone its ways. “They went,” says Carlyle, “very softly,—softly as a dream, say all witnesses. ‘We did not hear a dog bark at their going,’ asserts my Lord General, elsewhere.”—Cromwell, II. 7.
  • Cromwell’s language on this occasion finds its only parallel in the remarkably frank expressions of Prince Bismarck, in discussing the emperor’s rescript in the German Reichstag, Jan. 24, 1882. Replying to a charge of cowardice, which, he said, was implied in the accusation that he shielded himself behind the emperor’s name, he added, “It is only a feeling of loyalty that keeps me in my place: were the king mercifully to release me to-day, it would heartily delight me to bid you farewell, and see no more of you” (wenn ich im Dienste des Königs nicht wäre, und wenn mich der König heute in Gnaden entlassen würde, so würde ich von Ihnen, meine Herren, mit Vergnügen und auf Nimmerwiedersehen, Abschied nehmen).
  • And let God be judge between you and me.

  • Dissolving the Second Parliament of the Protectorate, Feb. 4, 1658. He replied to the offer of the title of king in that year, “Royalty is but a feather in a man’s cap: let children enjoy their rattle.”
  • He promoted the influence of England by a vigorous foreign policy, and protected her commerce in the Mediterranean. “By such means as these,” he said, “we shall make the name of Englishman as great as that of Roman was in Rome’s most palmy days.” He approved of the haughty behavior of an English admiral at Lisbon, and declared, “I would have the English republic as much respected as ever the Roman commonwealth was.” He also expressed the opinion concerning England’s commercial interests, that “a man-of-war is the best ambassador.”
  • “The mighty things done among us,” he once said, “are the revolutions of Christ himself: to deny this is to speak against God.”
  • No man ever climbs so high as when he knows not whither he is going.

    Paint me as I am.

  • The shortened form of Cromwell’s injunction to the young Peter Lely, who was painting his portrait: “I desire you will use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me, and not to flatter me at all; but remark all those roughnesses, pimples, warts, and every thing as you see me: otherwise I will never pay one farthing for it.”