Page images
PDF
EPUB

write from garrison to garrison against their superiors, they might as easily reduce the king of France, or duke of Venice, and put the United Provinces in like disorder and confusion. Why do they not, being most of them held ignorant of true religion ? because the light of nature, the laws of human society, the reverence of their magistrates, covenants, engagements, loyalty, allegiance, keeps them in awe.

How grievous will it then be! how infamous to the true religion which we profess! how dishonourable to the name of God, that his fear and the power of his knowledge in an army professing to be his, should not work that obedience, that fidelity to their supreme magistrates, that levied them and paid them; when the light of nature, the laws of human society, covenants and contracts, yea common shame, works in other armies, amongst the worst of them! Which will undoubtedly pull down the heavy judgment of God among us, who cannot but avenge these hypocrisies, violations of truth and holiness ; if they be indeed so as they yet seem. For neither do I speak this in reproach to the army, but as jealous of their honour, inciting them to manifest and publish with all speed, some better cause of these their late actions, than hath hitherto appeared, and to find out the Achan amongst them, whose close ambition in all likelihood abuses their lionest natures against their meaning to these disorders ; their readiest way to bring in again the common enemy, and with him the destruction of true religion, and civil liberty.

But, because our evils are now grown more dangerous and extreme, than to be remedied by complaints, it concerns us now to find out what remedies may be likeliest to save us from approaching ruin. Being now in anarchy, without a counselling and governing power; and the army, I suppose, finding themselves insufficient to discharge at once both military and civil affairs, the first thing to be found out with all speed, without which no commonwealth can subsist, must be a senate, or general council of state, in whom must be the power, first to preserve the public peace; next, the commerce with foreign nations; and lastly, to raise monies for the management of these affairs : this must either be the parliament re-admitted to sit, or a council of state allowed of by the army, since they only now have the power. The terms to be stood on are, liberty of conscience to all professing Scripture to be the rule

of their faith and worship; and the abjuration of a single person.

If the parliament be again thought on, to salve honour on both sides, the well-affected party of the city, and the congregated churches, may be induced to mediate by public addresses, and brotherly beseechings; which, if there be that saintship among us which is talked of, ought to be of highest and undeniable persuasion to reconcilement. If the parliament be thought well dissolved, as not complying fully to grant liberty of conscience, and the necessary consequence thereof, the removal of a forced maintenance from ministers, then must the army forthwith choose a council of state, whereof as many to be of the parliament, as are undoubtedly affected to these two conditions proposed.

That which I conceive only able to cement, and unite for ever the army, either to the parliament recalled, or this chosen council, must be a mutual league and oath, private or public, not to desert one another till death: that is to say, that the army be kept up, and all these officers in their places during life, and so likewise the parliament or counsellors of state; which will be no way unjust, considering their known inerits on either side, in council or in field, unless any be found false to any of these two principles, or otherwise personally criminous in the judgment of both parties. If such a union as this be not accepted on the army's part, be confident there is a single person underneath.

That the army be upheld, the necessity of our affairs and factions will constrain long enough, perhaps, to content the longest liver in the army. And whether the civil government be an annual democracy, or a perpetual aristocracy, is not to me a consideration for the extremities wherein we are, and the hazard of our safety from our common enemy, gaping at present to devour us. That it be not an oligarchy, or the luction of a few, may be easily prevented by the numbers of their own choosing, who may be found infallibly constant to those two conditions fore-named, full liberty of conscience, and the abjuration of monarchy proposed : and the well-ordered committees of their faithfulest adherents in every county may give this government the resemblance and effects of a perfect democracy. As for the reformation of laws, and the places of judicature, whether to be here, as at present, or in every

county, as hath been long aimed at, and many such proposals, tending no doubt to public good, they may be considered in due time, when we are past these pernicious pangs, in a hopeful way of health and firm constitution.

But unless these things, which I have above proposed, one way or other, be once settled, in my fear, which God avert, we instantly ruin; or at best become the servants of one or other single person, the secret author and fomenter of these disturbances. You have the sum of my present thoughts, as much as I understand of these affairs, freely imparted, at your request, and the persuasion you wrought in me that I might chance hereby to be some way serviceable to the commonwealth, in a time when all ought to be endeavouring what good they can, whether much or but little. With this you may do what you please, put out, put in, communicate, or suppress : you offend not me, who only have obeyed your opinion, that in doing what I have done, I might happen to offer something which might be of some use in this great time of need. However, I have not been wanting to the opportunity which you presented before me, of showing the readiness which I have in the midst of my unfitness, to whatever may be required of me, as a public duty.

October 20, 1659.

THE PRESENT MEANS AND BRIEF DELINEATION

OP

A FREE COMMONWEALTH,
EASY TO BE PUT IN PRACTICE, AND WITHOUT DELAY.

IN A LETTER TO GENERAL MONK.

FIRST, All endeavours speedily to be used, that the ensuing election be of such as are already firm, or inclinable to constitute a free commonwealth, (according to the former qualifications decreed in parliament, and not yet repealed, as I hear,) without single person, or house of lords. If these be not such, but the contrary, who foresees not, that our liberties will be utterly lost in this next parliament, without some powerful course taken, of speediest prevention? The speediest way will be to

call up forthwith the chief gentlemen out of every county : to lay before them (as your excellency hath already, both in your published letters to the army, and your declaration recited to the members of parliament) the danger and confusion of readmitting kingship in this land; especially against the rules of all prudence and example, in a family once ejected, and thereby not to be trusted with the power of revenge. That you will not longer delay them with vain expectation, but will put into their hands forthwith the possession of a free commonwealth; if they will first return immediately and elect them, by such at least of the people as are rightly qualified, a standing council in every city and great town, which may then be dignified with the name of city, continually to consult the good and flourishing state of that place, with a competent territory adjoined ; to assume the judicial laws, either those that are, or such as they themselves shall new make severally, in each commonalty, and all judicatures, all magistracies, to the administration of all justice between man and man, and all the ornaments of public civility, academies, and such like, in their own hands. Matters appertaining to men of several counties or territories, may be determined as they are here at London, or in some more convenient place, under equal judges.

Next, That in every such capital place, they will choose them the usual number of ablest knights and burgesses, engaged for a commonwealth, to make up the parliament, or (as it will from henceforth be better called) the Grand or General Council of the Nation : whose office must be, with due caution, to dispose of forces both by sea and land, under the conduct of your excellency, for the preservation of peace, both at home and abroad; must raise and manage the public revenue, but with provident inspection of their accompts; must administer all foreign affairs, make all general laws, peace or war, but not without assent of the standing council in each city, or such other general assembly as may be called on such occasion, from the whole territory, where they may, without much trouble, deliberate on all things fully, and send up their suffrages within a set time, by deputies appointed.

Though this grand council be perpetual, (as in that book I proved would be best and most conformable to best examples,) yet they will then, thus limited, have so little matter in their hands, or power to endanger our liberty; and the people so much in theirs, to prevent them, having all judicial laws in their own choice, and free votes in all those which concern generally the whole commonwealth, that we shall have little cause to fear the perpetuity of our general senate; which will be then nothing else but a firm foundation and custody of our public liberty, peace and union, through he whole commonwealth, and the transactors of our affairs twith foreign nations. If this yet be not thought enough, the known expedient may at length be used, of a partial rotation.

Lastly, if these gentlemen convocated refuse these fair and noble offers of immediate liberty, and happy condition, no doubt there be enough in every county who will thankfully accept them; your excellency once more declaring publicly this to be your mind, and having a faithful veteran army, so ready and glad to assist you in the prosecution thereof. For the full and absolute administration of law in every county, which is the difficultest of these proposals, hath been of most long desired : and the not granting it held a general grievance. The rest, when they shall see the beginnings and proceedings of these constitutions proposed, and the orderly, the decent, the civil, the safe, the noble effects thereof, will be soon convinced, and by degrees come in of their own ac. cord, to be partakers of so happy a government.

THE READY AND EASY WAY

TO ESTABLISH
A FREE COMMONWEALTH, (*)

AND THE EXCELLENCE THEREOF,
COMPARED WITH THE INCONVENIENCES AND DANGERS OF
READMITTING KINGSHJP IN THIS NATION.
[FIRST PUBLISABD IN 1660.]

"Et nos
Consilium dedimus Syllæ, demus populo nunc.”

ALTHOUGH, since the writing of this treatise, the face of things hath had some change, writs for new elections have

* For the advocates of absolute monarchy Milton entertained a sovereign contempt, traces of which are everywhere visible in his works ; but

« PreviousContinue »