Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Axtel, Daniel

AXTEL, DANIEL (d. 1660), parliamentarian, of whose early life nothing is known, was of good family, and apprentice to a grocer in Watling Street—facts not then inconsistent with each other. At a fast-day sermon he was convinced of the righteousness of the parliament cause, and forthwith entered the army. He rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and was active in the 'Purge' associated with the name of Colonel Pride, and in the subsequent transactions leading to the king's trial. On that occasion he commanded the soldiers in Westminster Hall. He accompanied Cromwell in his Irish expedition, and was appointed governor of Kilkenny. When the Long parliament had been expelled and Henry Cromwell took charge of Ireland, Axtel was one of the malcontents who demurred to his authority and resigned their commissions, but resumed his position in 1659. After the Cromwell family had fallen from power, and Ludlow had taken the command of the soldiers in Ireland, Axtel was one of those sent back to England to maintain the republic against the imminent Restoration. But when Monk was marching on London, and Lambert advanced to oppose him, Lambert's troops, the Irish contingent of which was under Ludlow's officers, revolted to their former Cromwellian commanders, and so weakened Lambert's army that Monk marched on peaceably to London. Axtel retired into private life, only emerging to support Lambert in his futile attempt to revolt, April 1660. At the Restoration Axtel was excepted from the bill of indemnity in July, and from the general pardon in August. On 10 Oct. he was arraigned at the Old Bailey for compassing and imagining the death of the king. The chief overt acts adduced in support of the charge were his command of soldiers at the trial, his threat to shoot Lady Fairfax for her interruption of the proceedings, his beating the soldiers to make them cry 'justice' and 'execution,' and his personal insults to Charles. These last he positively denied; for the rest he pleaded justification, since what he had done was by the authority of parliament and the command of Fairfax. He made the absurd suggestion that he might have beaten the soldiers for crying out, and repeated their words, 'I'll justice you!' 'I'll execution you!' and added, 'But the word execution of justice is a high and glorious word.' The court disposed of his main plea by the reminder that the House of Commons had been reduced to its eighth part by the violence of the army, twenty-six only voting for the act in question, and that, even had the house retained its full numbers, it could still have possessed no coercive power over the sovereign. After protesting that he had had no hand in the king's death, Axtel was condemned. Then his self-confidence returned. He was murdered, he said, for the good old cause. He assumed the tone of a martyr, and even ventured a prophecy that the surplice and Common Prayer Book would not be long in England. He bewailed his general depravity, but justified everything he had done, and hinted a parallel between his own sufferings and those of the Redeemer. The sentence for treason was fully carried out, and his head was set up 'on the further end of Westminster Hall.'

[Ludlow's Memoirs; State Trials.]

R. C. B.