lands as a reward for his services (Commons' Journals, vii. 132). When Deane, Monck's successor, was recalled from Scotland, he appointed Overton to command all the English forces in the west of that country (30 Dec. 1652; Clarke MSS. xxiv. 86). It was to Overton, as governor of Aberdeen, that Sir Alexander Irvine appealed when he was excommunicated by the presbytery of Aberdeen (Spalding Club Miscellany, iii. 205).
In 1653 Overton, who had now succeeded to the family estate at Easington, returned to England, and again became governor of Hull. Deeply imbued with the views of the fifth monarchy men, and dissatisfied with the slow progress of the work of reformation under the rule of the parliament, he hailed with enthusiasm Cromwell's forcible dissolution of that body. He wrote at once to Cromwell approving the act, and promising his support and that of his garrison (More Hearts and Hands appearing for the work … being two Letters … from Colonel Robert Overton, Governor of Hull … and the Officers of the said Garrison, 1653, 4to). But the dissolution of the Little parliament and the assumption by Cromwell of the post of Protector filled him with doubts and suspicions. He declared his dissatisfaction to Cromwell, telling him that if he saw he did design to set up himself and not the good of the nation, he would not set one foot before another to serve him. ‘Thou wert a knave if thou wouldst,’ answered Cromwell; and, in the end, Overton retained his commission on the promise to deliver it up when he could not conscientiously serve the Protector any longer (Thurloe, iii. 110). In September 1654 he returned to his command in Scotland, but in December was arrested and sent prisoner to England on the charge of intending to head a military insurrection against the government. Overton's own indiscreet conduct in sanctioning meetings of the disaffected officers under his command certainly gave ground for suspicion. The enemies of the government regarded him as a probable leader, and used his name freely in their plots. Charles II wrote to him to promise forgiveness for past disloyalty, and rewards for service in effecting a restoration (Cal. Clarendon Papers, ii. 344). The levellers expected that he would seize Monck, take command of the army in Scotland, and march into England to restore the Commonwealth. An examination of the evidence leads to the conclusion that he was innocent, but it is not surprising that he was believed to be guilty. The Protector held him as deliberately faithless to his promise, and treated him with great severity (Carlyle, Cromwell, Speech v.; Clarke Papers, Camden Soc. ii. 241). His supposed accomplices in Scotland were court-martialled and cashiered; but Overton himself was never formally tried. After about two years' rigorous imprisonment in the Tower he was transported to Jersey, and confined in Elizabeth Castle there till March 1658 (The Sad Suffering Case of Major-general Robert Overton, by J. R., 1659, 4to; Thurloe, iii. 67, 147, 185, 217, 279; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1658–9, p. 259). On 3 Feb. 1659 Grizell Williamson, Overton's sister, presented a petition to Richard Cromwell's parliament on behalf of her brother, and that body ordered that he should be brought to London to have his case heard. On 16 March, after hearing Overton, it voted his immediate release, and pronounced his imprisonment at Jersey illegal (Burton, Parliamentary Diary, iii. 45; iv. 120, 150; Commons' Journals, vii. 614).
The fall of Richard Cromwell and the restoration of the Long parliament was followed by the redress of Overton's wrongs. On 16 June the committee for the nomination of officers voted that he should be restored to his regiment and his other commands, while parliament two days later appointed a committee to examine into his losses, and see how they could be compensated (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1658–9, p. 375; Commons' Journal, vii. 688, 738). Overton was one of the seven commissioners in whom parliament on 12 Oct. 1659 vested the government of the army (ib. vii. 796). His reputation with the republicans, the strength of Hull, and the importance of its magazine made his adherence of great value to either of the contending parties in the army. He and his officers refused to sign the address to parliament which Fleetwood and the English army circulated, nor would they return a definite answer to Monck's appeals to them to co-operate with the Scottish army. Overton sought to mediate, and published an exhortation to both parties to unite in maintaining the Lord's cause (A True Narrative of the Proceedings in Parliament, Council, &c., 1659, 4to, p. 10; The Humble and Healing Advice of Robert Overton, 1659, 4to). The ambiguity of his conduct, his preparations for a siege, and the incendiary letters which he circulated among the troops in Yorkshire, caused Monck great embarrassment. On 4 March 1660 the council of state peremptorily ordered him to observe whatever orders he received from Monck, and six days later to come to London at once (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1659–60, pp. 381, 388; Baker, Chronicle, ed. Phillips, 1670, pp. 700, 713). Overton had undoubtedly intended to make a