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Oliver Cromwell's Achievement Of His Objectives From 1642 To 1658

2763 words - 11 pages

Oliver Cromwell's Achievement of His Objectives from 1642 to 1658

To look at Cromwell’s aims and whether he achieved them or not is to
enter “a minefield of` historical controversy and uncertainty,” as
modern day historian Barry Coward put it. Cromwell’s aims have always
been somewhat of a paradox so to answer whether he achieved them all
would be impossible. Many of his goals contradicted or obstructed some
of his other views. The views which he held closest to his heart were
‘Liberty of Conscience’ – Cromwell’s belief in religious toleration, a
united National Church, the ‘Reformations of Manners’- his goal of a
nation of Godly people, and social and legal reform. Although these
were his most favoured objectives, throughout his rule as Protector he
attempted to achieve what he described as ‘settlement and healing’-
keeping conservative support and repairing the wounds of the civil
war. This meant there were a number of other policies he strived to
achieve, often having to contradict the religious and social reforms
he desired, these were; establishing broad support- even including
royalists; keeping government as traditional as possible and
maintaining social order. The whole time he also wanted to keep the
army satisfied, as it was his main source of power. However the army
was associated with radicalism by the propertied and gentry, again
causing more compromises for Cromwell. Foreign Policy and the unity of
Great Britain were also important in Cromwell’s eyes. All these
objectives will be looked at and assessed as to whether they were a
failure or success in both Cromwell’s and others eyes.

Many have described Cromwell's idea of ‘Liberty of Conscience’, the
idea of religious tolerance, to be well ahead of its time. Cromwell
believed people should find their own route to God, and as humans the
government had no right to determine what route people should take, as
long as it was not disruptive to society, if “the most mistaken
Christian, shall desire to live peaceably and quietly under you…. Let
him be protected.” However the various sects of the Protestant church
grew further apart, all becoming more intolerant of each other,
creating the opposite of Cromwell’s goal, a splintered Protestant
Church. This hugely frustrated Cromwell, he claimed, “everyone desires
to have liberty, but no-one will give it.” Not only did ‘Liberty of
Conscience’ not succeed on a religious level, it also hindered
Cromwell's goal of Settlement and Healing. Many conservatives saw
toleration of other religious sects as an invitation for social
revolution. This were not helped by the actions of radicals like the
Quakers, notably James Naseby- who imitated Jesus’ entry into
Jerusalem in Bristol, thus putting more fear into the propertied and
gentry. However the church under Cromwell was the most liberal...

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