Oliver Cromwell: Tyrant or Patriot?


B.R. Merrick's picture

I like the posts on this blog a whole heck of a lot. However, this stuck out from the rest of the text:

"Yes, Cromwell did kill thousands of people in Ireland, but he was a man of his times and should not be judged by modern standards."

So in spite of the fact that Cromwell undoubtedly spent every Sunday at church, and in spite of the fact that a great many of those Sundays were spent studying passages like "[W]hatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matthew 7:12); "[L]ove one another, as I have loved you" (John 5:12); "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44); and so on, and so on, and so on, he should not be judged by what, exactly? Even the one example that the author brings up of Cromwell's "kindness" toward the Jews, according to the author himself, was not done "out of the kindness of his heart." So how are Cromwell's murders justified in that they occurred in the 17th century?

In theory, you could say the same thing about Truman. Someday, someone may very well say that about George W. Bush or Barack Obama. The sad truth is that all four men read from the same book, that has said the same thing, for almost two thousand years, and all four men chose to ignore the most powerful parts of the book. Neither modern nor ancient men have any excuse. What was Cromwell's excuse for massacring men who tried to surrender? Were they not his enemies, as Jesus said, and did Cromwell not confess Jesus every day of his "Christian" life?

trajanslovechild's picture

Hi B.R.,

I am the author of the Blog and thank you very much for reading. I would also like to thank you for your comments. Cromwell was not looking at Jesus for his inspiration, he was looking more to Joshua or David for for his motivation in the Old Testament. Cromwell saw himself as a Moses-type figure that was trying to free his people from pharaoh (a.k.a the king). Samuel Adams viewed the American Revolution in the same way. So, the violence was justified and viewed as vengeance from God. I agree with you, there was no '10 Commandments, and 100 footnotes.' That is why I did not get baptized until I got out of the army. I decided that it would be hypocritical of me to call myself a Christian, when my job was to kill people.

I would not say that Cromwell's treatment of prisoners is justified, but the Catholics and Royalists were doing the same thing. Before Cromwell went to Ireland, the Catholics had already murdered over 3,000 Protestants, including some women and children. But, because Cromwell won the campaign, only his name is remembered in the "atrocity" department. Towards the end of the Reformation, the battles were getting less chivalrous and there were atrocities on both sides. I just don't like modern historians calling him a "war criminal" when his opponents were doing the exact same thing. He just happened to win the war, so he gets all the blame. It is much like when people dismiss Jefferson or Washington because they were slave owners. But, if we were in their shoes, we would most likely do the same thing because those were the norms of the era. I would not like it if 200 years in the future people dismissed my ideas because I was not a vegetarian. I would be considered an "evil meat eater."

There were 2 main reasons why Cromwell let the Jews back into England:
1.) Puritans believed that Jesus would not come back until all Jews converted to Christianity, so why not come to England to become Puritans.
2.) Cromwell knew that the Jews he was conversing with were well connected merchants, and they could make England wealthy like they had done in the low countries. Cromwell was tired of making money solely off the backs of agrarian laborers. Not to mention the extra money would be nice.

So, he was not doing it out of kindness, put ultimately for political and religious reasons. Much like Lincoln; he did not free the slaves because he was a nice guy, he did it for political reasons.

Thank you for reading the Blog and for the comments!


B.R. Merrick's picture

Thank you, Steve! That was very informative. All sides in a war will resort to the initiation of coercion, and blame atrocities on the agression of the other side. Maybe someday, those who persist in believing in Jesus will finally get the point.

trajanslovechild's picture

Yes, it would be nice for those that profess to be Christian, to actually read scripture. Thank you for your response!