Did they like Oliver Cromwell, who founded a republic after a dispute about taxes led to the overthrow of a king, or did they see him as a usurping Caesar who destroyed a republic and became a tyrant?

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    Not sure that the analogy to Cromwell is ... supportable. Cromwell didn't set out to found a Republic, Cromwell's dispute was over more than taxes. On the other hand, I don't recall any mention of Cromwell in the writings of the period.
    – MCW
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 18:59
  • Yes, I don't disagree with you, they're not the same. However, some groups have drawn a parallel: enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200402/200402_116_ironsides.cfm freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/1761464/posts Mostly the parallel is based around the not wholly accurate assertion that both were 'puritans', an imprecise term in any case.
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 19:11
  • Wow - that's stretching it. I can't imagine any way in which the Founding Fathers could be called "puritans"; I haven't ready any significant evidence that they were looking for religious reform. I think "not wholly accurate" is a masterful understatement. A lightning bug is not like the planet Jupiter either.
    – MCW
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 19:32
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    I seem to recall that the Founding Fathers used lessons from the English Civil War when founding the US, so they did not like him much. But I have an imprecise understanding of their exact feelings of Cromwell himself. Good question. As this is a bit complicated, you could just ask what the Founding fathers thought about him and not try to guess.
    – Razie Mah
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 19:43
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    @bof Whether they would recognize the term or not is irrelevant, though? Term is a label someone put on an existing concept or phenomenon, lack of term does not stop those from existing. Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 4:39

4 Answers 4



On the one side, we have Hamilton denouncing Cromwell in the Federalist Papers No. 21:

Without a guaranty the assistance to be derived from the Union in repelling those domestic dangers which may sometimes threaten the existence of the State constitutions, must be renounced. Usurpation may rear its crest in each State, and trample upon the liberties of the people, while the national government could legally do nothing more than behold its encroachments with indignation and regret. A successful faction may erect a tyranny on the ruins of order and law, while no succor could constitutionally be afforded by the Union to the friends and supporters of the government. The tempestuous situation from which Massachusetts has scarcely emerged, evinces that dangers of this kind are not merely speculative. Who can determine what might have been the issue of her late convulsions, if the malcontents had been headed by a Caesar or by a Cromwell? Who can predict what effect a despotism, established in Massachusetts, would have upon the liberties of New Hampshire or Rhode Island, of Connecticut or New York?

And from the other side, the anti-federalist Brutus papers:

I firmly believe, no country in the world had ever a more patriotic army, than the one which so ably served this country, in the late war.

But had the General who commanded them, been possessed of the spirit of a Julius Cesar or a Cromwell, the liberties of this country, had in all probability, terminated with the war; or had they been maintained, might have cost more blood and treasure, than was expended in the conflict with Great-Britain.

So "Cromwell" is a term of abuse equivalent to "Caesar" for both sides. The answer to your question may be different if you asked if early New England colonists saw Cromwell as a role model. But keep in mind that the southern gentry saw themselves as cavaliers--they would have detested Cromwell. And Americans in this period venerated Cincinnatus, who is effectively the anti-Cromwell.

  • +1 well researched answer. Did you look at Thomas Paine? I was thinking he might have been an early supporter.
    – Razie Mah
    Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 7:16
  • @RazieMah: Good idea. He had Cromwellian ancestors, but I think he was too radical to approve of Cromwell, both as "leveller" and as a free thinker. From what I see, John Adams was probably the least disapproving of Cromwell, but I still think there was no politically acceptable way to express that. I'd expand, but . . . Thanksgiving!
    – two sheds
    Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 13:15

Extemely short and simple answer: No, because for one thing, Cromwell eventually set himself up as dictator, the "Lord-Protector", which was simply a title for the person in charge. He first created a non-elected "representative" system before that, where the people in that system were simply nominated but not elected. In other words, he was very much like a Caesar, which started out with having a "Parliament" that he effectively controlled. The person(s) above goes into more detail, but that pretty much sums up why they wouldn't have a positive view of him. That said, ironically, one person who did have a positive view of him was Karl Marx, who viewed him as an early revolutionary.

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    If you're not going to explain how "Lord-Protector" factors into things then its not really an answer...
    – Semaphore
    Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 6:29
  • "wouldn't have" is hand-waving. I like the other answer better, sorry.
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 9:43
  • edited to elaborate on Lord-Protector
    – cluemein
    Commented Dec 2, 2014 at 19:38

Question: Did the 'founding fathers' of the United States see Oliver Cromwell as a role model?

Oliver Cromwell died 1658, more than a century before the Declaration of Independence. Cromwell was religious fanatic, a regicidal dictator who waged religious genocide. He was the founding fathers worst nightmare, their model of what not to do.

Can you imagine if George Washington after winning the Revolutionary War would have marched on Maryland (a colony settled by Catholics) and committed genocide against the colony's Catholics before establishing himself as dictator? No the founding fathers were made up of many different religions. protestant, Catholic, Unitarians and deists; religious fanaticism and religious prosecutions were something which concerned the founding fathers who side stepped that danger by forbidding the government from passing any laws "respecting the establishment of religion". The founding fathers intentionally created a form of government devoid of religious persecution.

As for dictatorships, again the founding fathers rejected dictatorship.

@JamesSqf On Religious genocide is a misuse of the term.

You site a dictionary definition of the term. The term is legally defined in Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.

Genocide is intentional action to destroy a people (usually defined as an ethnic, national, racial, or religious group) in whole or in part.

Just to confirm here is a paper from Case Western Journal of International Law: Exploring Critical Issues in Religious Genocide: Case Studies of Violence in Tibet, Iraq and Gujarat

And Oliver Cromwell’s systemic attack on the Irish food supply which resulted in mass starvation of Ireland’s population and 200,000 to 600,000 civilian casualties and a further 50,000 deported into indentured slavery is referred to as an example of religious genocide.

Parliamentary soldiers were not paid in coin but in confiscated Irish lands.

Estimates of Ireland’s population drop as a result of Cromwell’s invasion run as high as 85%.

Cromwellian conquest of Ireland

John Hewson systematically destroyed food stocks in counties Wicklow and Kildare, Hardress Waller did likewise in the Burren in County Clare, as did Colonel Cook in County Wexford. The result was famine throughout much of Ireland, aggravated by an outbreak of bubonic plague.[26] As the guerrilla war ground on, the Parliamentarians, as of April 1651, designated areas such as County Wicklow and much of the south of the country as what would now be called free-fire zones, where anyone found would be, "taken slain and destroyed as enemies and their cattle and good shall be taken or spoiled as the goods of enemies".[27] This tactic had succeeded in the Nine Years' War. This phase of the war was by far the most costly in terms of civilian loss of life. The combination of warfare, famine and plague caused a huge mortality among the Irish population.


@JamesSqf. Same point, Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland was a land conquest thus could not be genocide and besides Protestants can’t commit genocide against Catholics because Protestants and Catholics are sects of the same religion.

These are two different points aren’t they.

A. Saying the Cromwell didn’t commit genocide in Ireland because he confiscated Irish land is absurd. It’s like claiming Hitler didn’t commit genocide cause he confiscated Jewish land. Absurd.

B. As for it couldn’t be genocide because Protestants and Catholics are sects of the same Religion. Again your criteria and logic are not supported by the legal definition of genocide.


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    Funny you should mention an attack on Maryland for being settled by Catholics, because that actually happened during the English Civil War. Then, during the Protectorate, the Puritans performed a military takeover of the colony. The first thing Parliament did in 1689 after the Glorious Revolution, even before passing the English Bill of rights, was revoke the Charter of Maryland.
    – Spencer
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 21:59
  • "Religious genocide" is a misuse of language. Genocide is defined as the killing of a large group of people of a particular ethnic group or nation. In Cromwell's case, the people killed were all of the same nation & ethnic group(s).
    – jamesqf
    Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 16:45
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    @jamesqf re: "a territorial conquest" - one does not preclude the other: the Nazies in WW2 had a goal of territorial conquest, but it also was a genocidal war against, for example, Poland. re: "just sects of the same religion" - that's not a valid argument here, a lot of religious conflicts are between sects of same religion, and a lot of them state a complete elimination of the opponent as a goal (as an example, take French persecution of huguenots, or conflict between Shia and Sunni muslims). Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 4:31
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    @DanilaSmirnov fair point, a.better distinction might include the letter Washington wrote to a Jewish synagogue upon becoming president; contrasting that with how Cromwell treated other religions. I’ll write that up after work. Cromwell and Washington and the founding fathers were just from different eras. The later having learned the lessons of history which the former taught. The latter descending from a population which was largely the victim religious persecution.
    – user27618
    Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 12:54
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    @jamesqf No, that's you choosing an arbitrary subset of the word's meaning. As was pointed out to you already, the defining characteristic of genocide, as per international convention on the matter, is the fact of taking action with intent to destroy a group, not the motivations behind such actions. Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 5:02

I do think that the fact that Cromwell's sect of Puritans mostly emigrating to Massachusetts is part of the reason that the first shots of the revolution were fired there. There must have been, only a few generations later, a seething dislike of the crown. Think about supper table talk. No doubt that many were the grandchildren of people that fought in Cromwell's campaigns. Sympathy for Cromwell and his attitudes had to be present.

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    This would be improved with some evidence that these sentiments were passed down through the generations.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Oct 20, 2019 at 18:36

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