Engagers and the Engagement 1648

There was first an oath, the “Solemn Engagement“ among the English Independent`s New Model Army which emphasised the views of Cromwell. Subsequently there were two agreements or treaties called the “Engagement “, one in Scotland and the other in Ireland.

The Solemn Engagement.

This was an agreement drawn up by the New Model Army shortly after King Charles I had been seized at Holdenby in 1647. The agreement sought to organise the army  to `secure the peace of the kingdom and the liberties of the subject.`  There was a change in the officers, with the quarter or so who were not supportive of Cromwell giving up their commissions - this included Presbyterians who could not accept the inherent religious  bias of the `Independents`. The New Model Army`s proposals for religious settlement  was in favour of a broad based tolerance which the Scots would not accept. The Covenant was no longer binding and no one could be forced to take it, or forced to use the Book of Common Prayer. Moreover, no church body whatsoever was allowed to force itself  or its views on anyone.

 These new rules were clearly unacceptable to the Scots and the Covenanters were disposed to offer King Charles their support on the terms of the 1643 agreement of a Covenanted Church. Thus in 1647-8 the alliance with the English Parliamentarians and the future of the Solemn League and Covenant were crumbling, with the English unable, or unwilling, to fulfil their end of bargain. Not least they were against the extension of Presbyterianism as the true religion in England and very cautious about action against the `Sectaries` which included the Independents or Congregationalists to which Cromwell belonged.

The Engagement.

Following the hand over of King Charles I to the Parliamentarian forces in February 1647 the Covenanters, led by the Marquis of Argyll, saw the risk of another war with England if they now supported the King. However, the majority of nobles in Scotland, led by the Duke of Hamilton, and the Earl of Lauderdale, were sympathetic towards Charles and determined to restore him to his constitutional position. Charles, meanwhile had been faced with new laws in England that took away his command of the forces of the Crown and his veto over Parliament. The options of the Scots were more palatable and on 26 December 1647 he had signed the ` Engagement ` under which the Scots would provide an army to invade England. The King undertook to present the Solemn League and Covenant and the National Covenant to Parliament for ratification. He also undertook to accept Presbyterian government for a three year trial. So secret was the agreement that it was wrapped in lead sheeting and buried in the garden of the King`s residence at Carisbrook Castle on the Isle of Wight.

In the Scottish Parliament there was much discussion, and objections were raised by the General Assembly who considered the `Engagement` sinful and perjury by breaking of Covenant vows. The Committee of Estates met in February 1648 and decided that war was inevitable while the ministers were opposed to such action. However, a new Parliament assembled with strong royalist support among the nobles (but excluding Archibald Johnston, Lord Warriston and the Marquis of Argyll) and a majority agreed on war. On 11 April 1648 an ultimatum was given the English demanding the freedom of King Charles; the army to disband, the establishment of Presbyterianism and discontinuance of the Book of Common Prayer.

With the nobility holding sway in the Estates, an act was passed requiring all subjects to sign a bond supporting the `Engagement`. Although condemned by the Covenanters the `Engagers` as they became known, raised an army under the Duke of Hamilton and a cess was imposed to pay for it.  Although unopposed  the Engagers dealt harshly with the Scots people at large  and provoked considerable resentment by their bullying and threatening. The ministers and the Presbyteries, especially from Clydesdale, Carrick and Cunningham joined with Fife Covenanters to oppose the war and the inevitable levies for men to fight it The encounter at Mauchline Muir was a consequence of this policy. Lord Eglinton wrote to his son, Colonel James Montgomery, on 21 July 1648, that 

 they have been most rigorous  in plundering this country …. The nobility, gentry and country people are so incensed at their proceedings, it will not fail but will draw to a mischief. 

  The Engagers with only about 10,000 men - who were mostly undisciplined, untrained, and with insufficient arms and support - headed south, The Duke of Hamilton entered Carlisle on 8 July 1648 and was joined by Langdale with some 3,600 better equipped Englishmen. Meanwhile Cromwell had travelled north  with 8,000 of the Model Army and came upon the Scots at Preston on 17 August. Poor strategy by Hamilton and division of his forces resulted in heavy losses and the Scots broke up while Cromwell`s forces harried them and finally crushed them at Uttoxeter on 25 August. Hamilton, Langdale and Middleton, as well as 10,000 prisoners fell into the Parliamentarians hands.  Pressed men were released subject to an undertaking not to take arms against England; volunteers were transported to the Colonies as slaves and to Venice as conscripts. Hamilton was executed in London 9 March 1649.

The adventure finished the royalist support and the “ Whiggamore Raid “ on Edinburgh saw the Covenanters take the city and power. Seizing the opportunity the strict Covenanters (or Whigs as they were called ) marched on Edinburgh and seized power from the Engagers in September 1648. On 4 October 1648 Cromwell entered Edinburgh and left again on 7 October having concluded his business with the Marquis of Argyll, who was again leader of the Covenanters.

 The Act of Classes in 1649 caused all of government to fall into the hands of the strict Covenanters. This Act weaned alleged malignants from public office and variously banned them until  they had purged themselves of the perceived sin. It was responsible for keeping many able men from public service and the Army. For two years there was true Presbyterian, civil, government before Scotland was exposed to the direct rule of Cromwell .

The Irish Engagement.

 Cromwell landed in Ireland 15 August 1649 and proceeded to bloodily subjugate the country. Drogheda was destroyed and the garrison slain on 11 September; followed by Wexford whose defenders were also put to the sword. Belfast fell on 30 September, Lisburn on 6 December. In June 1650 Sir Charles Coote and his forces slaughtered the Irish army at Letterkenny and placed the head of its leader, Heber McMahon Bishop of Clogher, above the gates at Londonderry.It was not until 1652 that  Ireland was totally subjugated with the Independents in full control. Parliament framed an Oath, called the `Engagement `  which bound  the swearer to renounce `the pretended title of Charles Stuart ` and to be faithful to the Commonwealth. 

An attempt was made to force the oath on Presbyterian ministers in Ireland but they declined since they still supported a limited monarchy. Some ministers were imprisoned including Rev. Drysdale of Portaferry, Baty of Ballywalter, Alexander of Grey Abbey, and Main of Island Magee, others went to Scotland. After King Charles was defeated at Worcester 3 September 1651, he fled and Cromwell was the absolute ruler. The `Enagement ` oath was forced on takers of public offices and heavy penalties imposed on those who would not swear. Slowly over the next ten years the Presbyterians were allowed to continue their ways while Catholics suffered the full rigour of the law.


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