December 28, 2009

Review: Lord Broghill and the Cromwellian Union with Ireland and Scotland

Lord Broghill was one of the most important figures in Cromwellian Britain. He was one of its architects. Broghill served Cromwell in Ireland as a general, in Scotland as Lord President of the Council there and lastly in England as an MP. In Ireland, he was a key figure in the Cromwellian conquest, rallying Munster to the English cause and allying the Protestants of Ireland with the New Model Army rather than with Ormonde's royalists. He became a staunch patron of the Protestants of Ireland in the Cromwellian regime and an advocate for their interests, an ally of Henry Cromwell and an opponent of the radical courses designed by the New Model Army. In Scotland he devised a policy which he hoped would bring into being a constituency for the Cromwellian regime amongst religious moderates who had given up the hope of a Stuart restoration. In Parliament, Broghill was one of the principle agents behind moves to give Cromwell the crown and restore what might look like a traditional and legitimate regime to power. These three strands of Broghill's career might seem to be incompatible- they are actually related and part of the skill of Patrick Little's biography of Broghill is that he shows that the peer had a consistent strategy to acheive peace.

What Broghill seems to have desired was the protection of the Protestant interest in the three Kingdoms. The war in Ireland was a war with three sides: a royalist army commanded by the Marquess of Ormonde, a Catholic army commanded by Owen Roe O'Neill and Thomas Preston and a Parliamentary army commanded by Michael Jones and later Cromwell. Sides changed subtly through the war but the key point here is that Ormonde was willing to do a deal with the Catholics, but Jones and Cromwell were unwilling to do so. Broghill sided from the early 40s onwards with the Parliamentarians because he beleived that they would secure the future of Protestant Ireland and not, as the royalists might, make concessions to the Catholics. Broghill's politics were motivated like those of his father by the preservation of the English governing interest in Ireland and ultimately the King, by allying with the Confederation of Kilkenny (the Catholic party) might jeapordise that. If we read that purpose through Broghill's career, his politics seem straightforward rather than complicated: when the Parliamentarians were expelled in 1660, Broghill returned to the Stuarts on the grounds that they were the only remaining English party and only with an English party could the Irish Protestant Grandees remain in control of Ireland.

Such a policy makes sense as well, as Little argues, of Broghill's preoccupations in Irish politics during Cromwell's regime. Broghill believed in maintaining the Old Protestant interest. The English Parliament during the civil war had issued IOUs to its soldiers secured on Irish land- at the end of the war in Ireland in the 1650s, a competition arose between those like Broghill who wanted to reclaim their lands and acquire more for their service in Ireland and others who wanted to redeem their IOUs. Broghill stood with the planter aristocracy rather than backing the New Model's claims on Irish land and the controversy burst into public at various points- most notably in the pamphlet wars between Vincent Gookin (an ally of Broghill's) and Marshall General Richard Lawrence. Such a perspective though also makes sense of Broghill's policy in Scotland. In Scotland Broghill backed the moderate Resolutioners against the extremist Protestors, as Little explains this was part of Broghill's strategy for achieving moderate Protestant unity against Catholicism and against the extremist Quaker and Fifth Monarchist Rabble. In England this came through too in Broghill's attempts to get Cromwell to claim the crown- by claiming the crown Cromwell's regime would become a traditional and legal regime and would begin a process of unifying Protestant Englishmen across Britain.

What Little acheives in this biography is a kind of synthesis of Broghill's ideological outlook. It is a fascinating study because it shows how Broghill's motivation in the civil war was inherited from his father's generation- the 1st Earl of Cork wanted to maintain Protestant unity in supporting England in Ireland and Broghill's policies were all designed to support that achievement. Little reminds us that we should always look at politicians- especially dynastic ones- through the prism of the previous generation. Furthermore he shows how Broghill's network of relatives allowed him entrees into the other three kingdoms- through his wife's Howard relations and her ties to Scotland- that influenced his conduct there. The most interesting part of the book to me was a sophisticated analysis of Broghill's finances. Because his Irish estates were devastated by the wars, it was not until 1657 that Broghill actually acquired financial certainty. Before then he was reliant on loans, selling his English estates and most importantly salaries from the Commonwealth and later Protectorate. One of the consequences of the English civil war was to create a massive fiscal state machinery that could mean that someone like Broghill would survive on salaries alone for twenty years- the same was even more true of those who unlike Broghill had no inherited wealth and several like his ally Phillip Jones built up massive fortunes and estates through office holding.

This biography is about someone who is little known today- Broghill would never be mentioned in any of the history channel documentaries about Cromwell that are put on. But he was crucial to the period- it is often forgotten just how important the old Planter aristocracy were in Ireland to the Cromwellian settlement- often forgotten as well how much Cromwell in England bartered between men like Broghill and more radical individuals especially about the crown in 1657. Broghill's career ended in frustrated irritation when Cromwell turned down the crown and Richard Cromwell's career failed, he became a key figure briefly under Charles but only in Ireland and after the fall of Clarendon in 1667, his old enemy Ormonde dominated the King's counsels, and yet Broghill is an important figure when we come to consider the nature of the English Revolution. In Ireland, for men like him and Sir Charles Coote (his only Old Protestant rival), Protestant unity trumped an old association with the crown: vulnerable to the Catholic threat they subordinated everything to fight for Protestantism in Ireland and you cannot understand the Irish dimension to the English civil war without understanding the context Patrick Little so clearly sets out.