« PreviousContinue »
TENURE OF KINGS AND MAGISTRATES:
THAT IT IS LAWFUL, AND HATI BEEN HELD SO THROUGH ALL AGES, FOR ANY, WHO
HAVE TİB POWER, TO CALL TO ACCOUNT A TYRANT, OR WICKED KING, AND AFTER DUE CONTICTION, TO DEPOSE, AND PUT HIM TO DEATH, IP THE ORDINARY MAGISTRATI BATE NEGLECTED, OR DENIED TO DO IT. AND THAT THEY WHO OP LATE SO MUCH BLAME DEPOSING, ARE THE MEN THAT DID IT THEMSELVES.
EDITOR'S PRELIMINARY REMARKS. Soon after the march of Fairfax and Cromwell, with the whole army, through the city, in April, 1647, to suppress the insurrection of Brown and Massey, Milton removed to Holborn, where he continued until after the King's death ; when, the form of the government being changed to a republic, and the Presbyterians, then out of power, declaring their abhorrence of the Stuart's execution, Milton undertook, in the following treatise, to maintain the right of nations to put a tyrant to death. Wood rightly supposes it was written before the execution of Charles I., though it now contains many passages afterwards inserted ;* but Milton himself assures us it was not published until the transaction had taken place; and even then more with a design to compose the public mind, and reconcile to the existing government such as were disaffected, than to determine anything respecting the late king. From a MS. note found in a printed copy in his possession, Dr. Birch discovered that the work was published in the month of February, 1648-49. " It should be remen bered that even in his “ Defence of the People of England,” when there existed no reasons for suppressing or disguising his sentimenis, Milton never exhibited any hatred of just and lawful princes ; and here, in advocating tyrannicide, takes the greatest care to distinguish between the king and the tyrant. His opinions, in fact, were chose of Buchanan, (“De Jure Regni apud Scotos, ") from whom Dryden absurdly accuses him of stealing the whole “ Defence of the People of England ; ” I and upon the Revolution of 1688, Locke maintained, with the approbation of King William 111., precisely the same proposition. This the reader should constantly bear in mind, as well as that he wrote in a Commonwealth, at a time when the opinions of most learned men were unfavourable to monarchy.
In the second edition, in 1650 ; for his works had then a rapid sale. + Life of Milton, prefixed to the 4to. edition of the Prose Works,
Preface to the “Medal,” which he entitles “ An Epistle to the Whigs." VOL. II.
TENURE OF KINGS AND MAGISTRATES.
If men within themselves would be governed by reason, and not generally give up their understanding to a double tyranny, of custom from without, and blind affections within, they would discern better what it is to favour and uphold the tyrant of a nation. But, being slaves within doors, no wonder that they strive so much to have the public state conformably governed to the inward vicious rule by which they govern themselves. For, indeed, none can love freedom heartily but good men; the rest love not freedom but licence, which never hath more scope, or more indulgence than under tyrants. Hence is it that tyrants are not oft offended, nor stand much in doubt of bad men, as being all naturally servile; but in whom virtue and true worth most is eminent, them they fear in earnest, as by right their masters; against them lies all their hatred and suspicion. Consequently, neither do bad men hate tyrants, but have been always readiest, with the falsified names of loyalty and obedience, to colour over their base compliances.
And although sometimes for shame, and when it comes to their own grievances, of purse especially, they would seem good patriots, and side with the better cause, yet when others for the deliverance of their country endued with fortitude and heroic virtue to fear nothing but the curse written against those “ that do the work of the Lord negligently,” would go on to remove, not only the calamities and thraldoms of a people, but the roots and causes whence they spring; straight these men, and sure helpers at need, as if they hated only the miseries, but not the mischiefs, after they have juggled and paltered with the world, bandied and borne arms against
their king, divested him, disanointed him, nay, cursed him all over in their pulpits,* and their pamphlets, to the engaging of sincere and real men beyond what is possible or honest to retreat from, not only turn revolters from those principles, which only could at first move them, but lay the strain of disloyalty, and worse, on those proceedings which are the necessary consequences of their own former actions; nor disliked by themselves, were they managed to the entire advantages of their own faction; not considering the while that he toward whom they boasted their new fidelity, counted them accessory; and by those statutes and laws, which they so impotently brandish against others, would have doomed them to a traitor's death for what they have done already.
* Dr. Zachary Grey, the learned, but partial and prejudiced editor of Hudibras, has, with the diligence of one who performs a labour of love, scraped together in his notes everything the paltry literature of the Resto ration could supply against the preachers and soldiers of the Commonwealth. He, however, corroborates Milton's charge against the presbyterians, of
It is true, that most men are apt enough to civil wars and commotions as a novelty, and for a flash hot and active; but through sloth or inconstancy, and weakness of spirit, either fainting ere their own pretences, though never so just, be half attained, or through an inbred falsehood and wickedness, betray, ofttimes to destruction with themseives, men of noblest tem per joined with them for causes whereof they in their rash undertakings were not capable. If God and a good cause give them victory, the prosecution whereof for the most part inevitably draws after it the alteration of laws, change of government, downfall of princes with their families ; then comes the task to those worthies which are the soul of that enterprise, to be sweat and laboured out amidst the throng and noses of vulgar and irrational men. Some contesting for privileges, customs, forms, and that old entanglement of having at the outset preached a crusade against royalty; but is far from joining with the poet in reprehending their backwardness to “fight it out, mordicus, to death." “ The presbyterians (many of whom, before the war, had got, he observes, into parish churches) preached the people into rebel. lion ; incited them to take up arms and fight the Lord's battles, and destroy the Amalekites, root and branch, hip and thigh, and to root out the wicked from the earth ; that was, in their sense, all that loved the king, the bishops, and the common prayer.” “ It has been fully made out, that many of the regicides were drawn into the grand rebellion by the direful imprecations of seditious preachers from the pulpit.” Dr. South relates that “ he had it from the mouth of Axtell the regicide, that he, with many more, went into that execrable war, with such a controlling horror upon their spirits, from those public sermons, especially of Brooks and Calamy, that they verily believed they should have been accursed of God for ever, if they had not acted their part in the dismal tragedy, and heartily done the devil's work."-(Sermons, i. 513.) He adds, that it was the pulpit that supplied the field with swordsmen, and the parliament-house with incene diaries."-ED.
iniquity, their gibberish laws, * though the badge of their ancient slavery. Others, who have been fiercest against their prince, under the notion of a tyrant, and no mean incendiaries of the war against them, when God, out of his providence and high disposal hath delivered him into the hand of their brethren, on a sudden and in a new garb of allegiance, which their doings have long since cancelled, they plead for him, pity him, extol him, protest against those that talk of bringing
the trial t of perior to all mortal things, in whose hand soever by apparent signs his testified will is to put it.
But certainly, if we consider who and what they are, on a sudden grown so pitiful, we may conclude their pity can be no true and Christian commiseration, but either levity and
* To those who would see a thorough exposure of the absurdity of this “ gibberish,” we recommend Arthur Symonds's “ Mechanics of Lawmaking," a work of much merit, and little pretensions, which should be the vade mecum of members of Parliament, committee-men, and the readers of parliamentary debates.—ED.
+ From this passage it is clear that, though the work was not published until after the execution of Charles, it was written previously, to fortify the resolution, perhaps, of the more hesitating and faint-hearted among the tyrannicides, who, to keep them steady to their purpose, may have stood in need of being supported by texts of Scripture. Sir Egerton Brydges, an ardent and an enlightened admirer of Milton, is exceedingly scandalized at the doctrine maintained in this treatise : “the very title,” he says, “is surely, in the highest degree, objectionable, and does not, in these days, require any refutation. To say the truth, this is a part of Milton's character which puzzles memand no other. This bloodthirstyness does not agree with his sanctity, and other mental and moral qualities,” &c. (Life, p. 108.) From this it is evident, that in professing not to comprehend this point of the poet's character, he is guilty of no hypocrisy ; for most certainly, nothing could be further from Milton's soul than the brutal thirst of blood here attributed to him, which would have brought down his noble nature to a level with the Murats and Robespierres of the past age. On the contrary, it was his horror for blood, his humane impatience at beholding it shed like water, in civil wars, his dread of seeing re-established a tyranny by which the value of man's life was not properly recognised, that caused him to desire the interference of the “sword of God,” to restore peace and freedom to these distracted kingdoms. He was in all things an enthusiast. Had the firm establishment of liberty required the sacrifice, we are fully persuaded there were moments in his glorious career in which he who willingly encountered blindness for the Commonwealth would, with equal ardour, have encountered death. It was under the influence of these stern principles that he called for and justified the execution of Charles ; not from any fierce or malignant wish to destroy the man who for so many years had wielded the supreme authority in England.Ed.