Oliver Cromwell: "Think it possible you may be mistaken." (1650)

Internet editing © 2008 by Hugo S. Cunningham
Original text by Carlyle and Cromwell is in public domain.
First posted 2008/0930
latest minor update 2008/0930

Transcribed 2008/0920Sat from pdf file at URL
pp. 629 ff. of 1438.

Thomas Carlyle, Oliver Cromwell's Letters and Speeches: with elucidations in five volumes, VOL. III.
New York, Scribner, Welford, and Company.
(According to a Wikipedia article on Thomas Carlyle, this book was originally published in 1845.)
The author is the same famous Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) who wrote Sartor Resartus (1831) and The French Revolution (1837).


War with Scotland 1650-51.




[Introductory, by Thomas Carlyle]

Cautious David Lesley lies thus within his Line 'flankered' from Leith shore to the Calton Hill, with guns to 'scour' it; with outposts or flying parties, as we see, stationed on the back slope of Salisbury crags or Arthur's Seat; with all Edinburgh safe behind him, and indeed all Scotland safe behind him, for supplies: and nothing can tempt him to come out. The factions and distractions of Scotland, and its Kirk Committees and State Committees, and poor Covenanted King and Courtiers, are many: but Lesley, standing steadily to his guns, persists here. His Army, it appears, is no great things of an Army; 'altogether governed by the Committee of Estates and Kirk,' snarls an angry Uncovenanted Courtier, whom the said Committee had just ordered to take himself away again; 'altogether governed by the Committee of Estates and Kirk,' snarls he, 'and they took especial care in their levies not to admit any 'Malignants or Engagers' (who had been in Hamilton's Engagement); 'placing in command, for most part, Ministers' Sons, Clerks and other sanctified creatures, who hardly ever saw or heard of any sword but that of the spirit!' The more reason for Lesley to lie steadily within his Line here. Lodged in 'Bruchton village,' which means Broughton, now a part of Edinburgh New Town; there in a cautious solid manner lies Lesley; and lets Cromwell attempt upon him. It is his history, the military history of these two, for a month to come.

Meanwhile the General Assembly have not been backward with their Answer to the Cromwell Manifesto, or 'Declaration of the English Army to all the Saints in Scotland,' spoken of above. Nay, already while he lay at Berwick, they had drawn up an eloquent Counter-Declaration, and sent it to him; which he, again, has got 'some godly Ministers' of his to declare against and reply to: the whole of which Declarations, replies and Re-replies shall, like the primary document itself, remain suppressed on the present occasion. But along with this 'Reply by some godly Ministers,' the Lord General sends a Letter of his own, which is here:

LETTER CXXXVI. (136) (Thomas Carlyle's numbering)


Footnotes (by Thomas Carlyle):

Internet Editor's notes:


[further comment, by Thomas Carlyle]

Here is the passage from Isaiah: I know not whether the General Assembly read it and laid it well to heart, or not, but it was worth their while, -- and is worth our while too:

[Isaiah 28:5-14]
'In that day shall the Lord of Hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of His People. And for a spirit of judgment to him that sitteth in judgment, and for strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.

'But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way! The Priest and the Prophet have erred through strong drink; they are swallowed up of wine; they are out of the way through strong drink. They err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filthiness; so that there is no place clean.

'Whom shall He teach knowledge? Whom shall He make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little and there a little. For with stammering lips and another tongue will He speak to this people. To whom He said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest, and this is the refreshment; -- yet they would not hear.'
No. 'The Word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little, That they might go, and fall backward, and be broken and snared and taken! -- Wherefore hear ye the Word of the Lord, ye scornful men that rule this people which is in Jerusalem!'

Yes, hear it, and not with the outward ear only, ye Kirk Committees, and Prophesying and Governing Persons everywhere: it may be important to you! If God have said it, if the Eternal Truth of things have said it, will it not need to be done, think you? Or will the doing some distracted shadow of it, some Covenanted Charles Stuart of it, suffice? -- The Kirk Committee seems in a bad way.

David Lesley, however, what as yet is in their favour, continues within his Line; stands steadily to his guns; -- and the weather is wet; Oliver's provision is failing.

[end of quoted text]

Return to
quotations page.