« PreviousContinue »
liament and city of London. The parliament moreover had intelligence, and the people could not but discern, that there was a bitter and malignant party grown up now to such a boldness, as to give out insolent and threatening speeches against the parliament itself. Besides this, the rebellion in Ireland was now broke out; and a conspiracy in Scotland had been made, while the king was there, against some chief members of that parliament; great numbers here of unknown and suspicious persons resorted to the city.
The king, being returned from Scotland, presently dismisses that guard, which the parliament thought necessary in the midst of so many dangers to have about them, and puts another guard in their place, contrary to the privilege of that high court, and by such a one commanded as made them no less doubtful of the guard itself. Which they therefore, upon some ill effects thereof first found, discharge; deeming it more safe to sit free, though without guard, in open danger, than enclosed with a suspected safety. The people, therefore, lest their worthiest and most faithful patriots, who had exposed themselves for the public, and whom they saw now left naked, should want aid, or be deserted in the midst of these dangers, came in multitudes, though unarmed, to witness their fidelity and readiness in case of any violence offered to the parliament. The king, both envying to see the people's love thus devolved on another object, and doubting lest it might utterly disable him to do with parliaments as he was wont, sent a message into the city forbidding such resorts.
The parliament also, both by what was discovered to them, and what they saw in a malignant party, (some of which had already drawn blood in a fray or two at the court-gate, and even at their own gate in Westminster-hall,) conceiving themselves to be still in danger where they sate, sent a most reasonable and just petition to the king, that a guard might be allowed them out of the city, whereof the king's own chamberlain, the Earl of Essex, might have command; it being the right of inferior courts to make choice of their own guard. This the king refused to do; and why he refused the very next day made manifest: for on that day it was that he sallied out from Whitehall, with those trusty myrmidons, to block up or give assault to the house of com
He had, besides all this, begun to fortify his court,
and entertained armed men not a few; who, standing at his palace gate, reviled, and with drawn swords wounded many of the people, as they went by unarmed, and in a peaceable manner, whereof some died. * The passing by of a multitude, though neither to St. George's feast, nor to a tilting, certainly of itself was no tumult ; the expression of their loyalty and steadfastness to the parliament, whose lives and safeties by more than slight rumours they doubted to be in danger, was no tumult. If it grew to be so, the cause was in the king himself and his injurious retinue, who, both by hostile preparations in the court, and by actual assailing of the people, gave them just cause to defend themselves.
Surely those unarmed and petitioning people needed not have been so formidable to any, but to such whose consciences misgave them how ill they had deserved of the people; and first began to injure them, because they justly feared it from them; and then ascribe that to popular tumult, which was occasioned by their own provoking. And that the king was so emphatical and elaborate on this theme against tumults, and expressed with such a vehemence his hatred of them, will redound less perhaps than he was aware to the commendation of his government. For, besides that
* Upon the subject of these “ tumults” we find, in the “ Vindiciæ Carolinæ,” a very ludicrous passage, with which the reader will be amused. “And now from the whole let any indifferent man say for me, first, whether these disorderly proceedings were not tumults; and next, if they grew to be so, how the king can be said to be the cause of them himself. For though those hostile preparations, and actual assailing the people, which our answerer says, gave them just cause to defend themselves, might, perhaps, have been somewhat in the case if those people had not been the aggressors ; yet, when, as himself confesses, the king had sent a message into the city forbidding such resorts, what made they there? Nor can these hostile preparations, and actual assailing the people, bo other than what the Lord Mayor, &c., in their petition to the king, represent, viz. this fortifying Whitehall, and the wounding some citizens : which his majesty thus answers, that, as to the former, his person was in danger by such a disorderly conflux of people ; and withal urges their seditious language, even at his palace-gates : and for the other, that if any one were wounded, it was through their evil misdemeanors. And therefore, to make it no more than the case of a common person ; every man's house is his castle ; and if a confused club-rabble gather about it, cum kickis et friskis et horribili sonitu, the gentleman of the house commands his servants to beat them off, and in doing it some of the assailants are wounded ; nay, put it further, killed. And what can the law make of it ? ” (p. 48, 49.)–ED.
in good governments they happen seldomest,* and rise not without cause, if they prove extreme and pernicious, they were never counted so to monarchy,t but to monarchical tyranny; and extremes one with another are at most antipathy. If then the king so extremely stood in fear of tumults, the inference will endanger him to be the other extreme. Thus far the occasion of this discourse against tumults : now to the discourse itself, voluble enough, and full of sentence, but that, for the most part, either specious rather than solid, or to his cause nothing pertinent.
“He never thought anything more to presage the mischiefs that ensued, than those tumults.” Then was his foresight but short, and much mistaken. Those tumults were but the mild effects of an evil and injurious reign; not signs of mischiefs to come, but seeking relief for mischiefs past : those signs were to be read more apparent in his rage and purposed revenge of those free expostulations and clamours of the people against his lawless government. “Not anything," saith he,“ portends more God's displeasure against a nation, than when he suffers the clamours of the vulgar to pass all bounds of law and reverence to authority. tends rather his displeasure against a tyrannous king, whose proud throne he intends to overturn by that contemptible vulgar; the sad cries and oppressions of whom his loyalty regarded not. As for that supplicating people, they did no hurt either to law or authority, but stood for it rather in the parliament against whom they feared would violate it.
“That they invaded the honour and freedom of the two houses,” is his own officious accusation, not seconded by the parliament, who, had they seen cause, were themselves best able to complain. And if they “shook and menaced” any, they
Socrates used to say that a groom who, being intrusted with a stud of gentle manageable horses, should, by his ignorance and want of skill, render them vicious and unruly, would well deserve all the kicks he might happen to get from them. So among mankind, people seldom rebel against those who promote their happiness ; nor are there any persons so ignorant as not to know when they are well and happily governed. -Ed.
+ Here, as everywhere else, Milton distinguishes constitutional from absolute monarchy. Towards the former, though openly preferring a commonwealth, he expresses no hostility, regarding it as one of those forms of just and lawful government under which, if well administered, a nation may be flourishing and happy.-ED.
were such as had more relation to the court than to the commonwealth ; enemies, not patrons of the people. But if their petitioning unarmed were an invasion of both houses, what was his entrance into the house of commons, besetting it with armed men ? In what condition then was the honour and freedom of that house? “ They forebore not rude deportments, contemptuous words and actions, to himself and his court.” It was more wonder, having heard what treacherous hostility he had designed against the city and his whole kingdom, that they forbore to handle him as people in their rage have handled tyrants heretofore for less offences.
“They were not a short ague, but a fierce quotidian fever.” He indeed may best say it, who most felt it; for the shaking was within him, and it shook him, by his own description, “worse than a storm, worse than an earthquake;" Belshazzar's palsy. Had not worse fears, terrors, and envies made within him that commotion, how could a multitude of his subjects, armed with no other weapon than petitions, have shaken all his joints with such a terrible ague? Yet that the parliament should entertain the least fear of bad intentions from him or his party he endures not; but would persuade us, that “ men scare themselves and others without
for he thought fear would be to them a kind of armour, and his design was, if it were possible, to disarm all, especially of a wise fear and suspicion; for that he knew would find weapons.
He goes on therefore with vehemence, to repeat the mischiefs done by these tumults. “They first petitioned, then protested; dictate next, and lastly overawe the parliament. They removed obstructions, they purged the houses, cast out rotten members." If there were a man of iron, such as Talus, by our poet Spenser is feigned to be, the
of Justice, who with his iron flail could do all this, and expeditiously, without those deceitful forms and circumstances of law, worse than ceremonies in religion; I say, God send it done, whether by one Talus, or by a thousand.
“But they subdued the men of conscience in parliament, backed and abetted all seditious and schismatical proposals against government, ecclesiastical and civil.” Now we may perceive the root of his hatred, whence it springs. It was not the king's grace, or princely goodness, but this iron flail,
the people, that drove the bishops out of their baronies, out of their cathedrals, out of the lords' house, out of their copes and surplices, and all those papistical innovations, threw down the high-commission and star-chamber, gave us a triennial parliament, and what we most desired; in revenge whereof he now so bitterly inveighs against them; these are those seditious and schismatical proposals then by him condescended to as acts of grace, now of another name; which declares him, touching matters of church and state, to have been no other man in the deepest of his solitude, than he was before at the highest of his sovereignty.
But this was not the worst of these tumults: they played the hasty“ midwives, and would not stay the ripening, but went straight to ripping up, and forcibly cut out abortive votes.” They would not stay perhaps the Spanish demurring, and putting off such wholesome acts and counsels, as the politic cabinet at Whitehall had no mind to. But all this is complained here as done to the parliament, and yet we heard not the parliament at that time complain of any violence from the people, but from him. Wherefore intrudes he to plead the cause of parliament against the people, while the parliament was pleading their own cause against him; and against him were forced to seek refuge of the people? It is plain then, that those confluxes and resorts interrupted not the parliament, nor by them were thought tumultuous, but by him only and his court faction.
“But what good man had not rather want anything he most desired for the public good, than attain it by such
unlawful and irreligious means ?” As much as to say, had not rather sit still
, and let his country be tyrannized, than that the people, finding no other remedy, should stand up like
men, and demand their rights and liberties. This is the artificialist piece of finesse to persuade men into slavery that the wit of court could have invented. But hear how much better the moral of this lesson would befit the teacher. What good man had not rather want a boundless and arbitrary power, and those fine flowers of the crown, called prerogatives, than for them to use force and perpetual vexation to his faithful subjects, nay, to wade for them through blood and civil war? So that this and the whole bundle of those following sentences may be applied better to the convince