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By A. M. Arthurs

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He called them “little thieves” that stole his money. He became obsessed with collecting news. This was presented to the public in the form of cheap pamphlets that were very readable in eight to 16 pages, and costing a penny or two each. Fears of terrorism in London Throughout the winter of 1641, London was on red alert. Almost daily there were rumours of “gunpowder plotters” and fires set by Catholics. These stories were founded on the idea of terror rather than on any evidence, but they show how fearful people were of a Catholic take-over.

In fact, the rebels never controlled the town during the 1640s, and the garrison in 1649 contained significant numbers of English royalists and Irish Protestants, as well as Irish Catholics. The Westminster parliament, however, affirmed the invasion of Ireland on the need for vengeance, and Cromwell’s severity also set a marker for the campaign of conquest. He expressed the hope that the tactics adopted might discourage further resistance and “prevent the effusion of blood for the future”. Despite the self-congratulatory tone of the letter, Cromwell implicitly conceded that something terrible had happened at Drogheda and that without “the satisfactory grounds to such actions”, the scale of the slaughter could not “but work remorse and regret”.

To Cromwell, forms of government, whether royal or parliamentary, were means to ends of godliness and justice, to be used or cast aside as they served or failed those purposes. The ‘Rump’ of the parliament left behind by Pride’s Purge had antagonised the army. Cromwell looked to it to implement a programme to achieve religious reform, which would purge and Puritanise the clergy and provide for liberty of conscience and reform of the legal system. Henceforth he would seek those goals through other means.

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