Good Old Cause

Good Old Cause

The Good Old Cause was the name given by the soldiers of the New Model Army for the reasons they fought for the Parliament of England against King Charles I and the Royalists during the English Civil War and the support they gave to the English Commonwealth between 1649 and 1660. Cromwell spoke, in a letter to Sir William Spring in 1643, of the archetypal "…plain, russet-coated captain that knows what he fights for, and loves what he knows" as being the ideal of republican soldiery. Many of those who supported the Good Old Cause were also Independents who advocated local congregational control of religious and church matters.

In April 1660 General John Lambert tried to raise an army against the restoration of The Crown in favour of the English Commonwealth by issuing a proclamation calling on all supporters of the "Good Old Cause" to rally on the battlefield of Edgehill, but he was arrested before arriving at the old battlefield and gathering enough forces to threaten General George Monck the power behind the restoration movement. [David Plant. [ John Lambert, c.1619-1684] [] ] In October the same year Daniel Axtell, the officer who had commanded the guard during the Trial of Charles I went to his execution unrepentant declaring that "If I had a thousand lives I could lay them all down for the [good old] cause" [Alan Thomson. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Axtell, Daniel. Citing State trials, 5.1289] [David Plant. [ Daniel Axtell, Regicide, 1622-60] [] ]

Those who disagreed with expedient political compromises made during the Interregnum, went back to the Army's own declarations during the wars, to republican pamphlets like those produced by John Lilburne, Marchamont Needham and John Milton. In the disappointment of the moment, they imagined that there had been a moment of revolutionary purity when all these writers had agreed on something intrinsically republican and good — this entity, shifting as the sands depending upon the writer, was often labelled the good old cause and became, in the hands of radicals in the 18th and 19th centuries, one of the main supports to agitation within England by linking their cause to the cause of the English Civil War radicals. This memory was sustained by the publication of various tracts about the civil war across the 18th Century — Edmund Ludlow's "Memoirs" in 1701 by John Toland for instance that sought to radicalise the memory of the English Civil War. [Barbour, § "K. Edmund Ludlow (c. 1617–1692)", cites A. B. Worden's "A Voyce from the Watch Tower: Part Five: 1660–1662" (1978): "Worden elaborates on 'two claims made in 1978': 'that the reviser of the manuscript is likely to have been the deist and republican John Toland; and that the Memoirs were prepared, and need to be read, with an eye to the political circumstances of the later sixteen-nineties.'"]

Important work on the republican imagination includes Jonathan Scott on Algernon Sydney and seventeenth-century republicanism, Nigel Smith on the radical John Streater, and Blair Worden on the memory of the Civil Wars. [Barbour, § "H. Algernon Sidney (1622–1683)", cites Jonathan Scott’ "Algernon Sidney and the English Republic, 1623–1677 (1988)": "Scott shows that 'Sidney not only produced a powerful and influential revolution ideology, but did so with insights which mark a crucial development between the sixteenth-century skepticism of Machiavelli, and the eighteenth-century idea of progress.'"] [Barbour, § "T. John Streater (fl. 1642–1687)", cites Nigel Smith, "Literature and Revolution in England, 1640–1660 (1994)": "Smith… defines Streater's pamphleteering critique of Cromwellian autocracy as 'an example of an indigenous classical republicanism.'"] [Barbour, § "B. Critical Studies", mentions several works which Blair Worden contributed to. In other he notes that Wotton has written about Algernon Sidney (in "The Commonwealth Kidney of Algernon Sidney", JBS 24 (1985), 1–40) and about Edmund Ludlow (in "Whig History and Puritan Politics: The Memoirs of Edmund Ludlow Revisited", Historical Research 75 (2002), 209–37).]



*Barbour, Reid; " [ Recent Studies in Seventeenth-Century Literary Republicanism] ," "English Literary Renaissance", Volume 34 Issue 3, November 2004, pp. 387–417.

Further reading

* [ To the Parliament, the Army, and all the Well-affected in the Nation, who have been faithful to the Good Old Cause (1659)] .
*Woolrych, A. H.; " [ The Good Old Cause and the Fall of the Protectorate] " Cambridge Historical Journal, Vol. 13, No. 2 (1957), pp. 133–61.
* [ Ballad: The Downfall Of The Good Old Cause] anti-commonwealth song written between 1678 and 1694

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