If Men within themselves would be govern’d by reason, and not generally give up their understanding to a double tyrannie, of Custome from without, and blind affections within, they would discerne better, what it is to favour and uphold the Tyrant of a Nation. But being slaves within doores, no wonder that they strive so much to have the public State conformably govern’d to the inward vitious rule, by which they govern themselves. For indeed none can love freedom heartilie, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but licence; which never hath more scope or more indulgence then 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 vertue and true worth most is eminent, them they feare in earnest, as by right their Masters, against them lies all thir hatred and suspicion. Consequentlie neither doe bad men hate Tirants, but have been alwaies readiest with the falsifi’d names of Loyalty and Obedience, to colour over their base compliances. And although sometimes for shame, and when it comes to their owne grievances, of purse especially, they would seeme good patriots, and side with the better cause, yet when others for the deliverance of their Countrie, endu’d with fortitude and Heroick vertue to feare nothing but the curse writt’n against those That doe the work of the Lord negligently, would goe on to remove, not onely the calamities and thraldomes of a people, but the roots and causes whence they spring, streight these men, and sure helpers at need, as if they hated onely the miseries but not the mischiefes, after they have juggl’d and palter’d with the World, bandied and borne armes against their King, devested him, disanointed him, nay, curs’d him all over in their pulpits and their pamphlets, to the ingaging of sincere and reall men, beyond what is possible or honest to retreat from, not onely turne revolters from those principles, which onely could at first move them, but lay the staine of disloyaltie, and worse, on those proceedings, which are the necessarie consequences of their owne former actions; nor dislik’d by themselves, were they manag’d to the intire advantages of their owne Faction; not considering the while that he toward whom they boasted new fidelitie, counted them accessory; and by those Statutes and Laws which they so impotently brandish against others, would have doom’d them to a traytors death, for what they have done alreadie. ‘Tis true, that most men are apt anough to civill Wars and commotions as a noveltie, and for a flash, hot and active; but through sloth or inconstancie, and weakness of spirit either fainting ere their owne pretences, though never so just, be halfe attain’d, or through an inbred falshood and wickednesse, betray oft times to destruction with themselves, men of noblest temper join’d with them for causes, which they in their rash undertakings were not capable of.1 If God and a good cause give them Victory, the prosecution whereof for the most part, inevitably drawes after it the alteration of Lawes, change of Goverment, downfall of princes with their Families; then comes the task to those Worthies which are the soule of that Enterprize, to bee swett and labour’d out amidst the throng and noises of vulgar and irrationall men. Some contesting for privileges, customes, formes, and old intanglement of iniquitie, their gibrish Lawes, though the badge of thir ancient slavery. Others who have beene fiercest against their Prince, under the notion of a Tyrant, and no meane incendiaries of the Warre against him, when God out of his Providence and high disposall hath deliver’d him into the hand of brethren, on a suddaine and in a new garbe of Allegiance, which their doings have long since cancell’d; they plead for him, pity him, extoll him, protest against those that talke of bringing him to the tryall of Justice, which is the Sword of God, superiour to all mortall things, in whose hand soever by apparent signes his testified wil is to put it. But certainely, if we consider who and what they are, on a suddaine grown so pitifull, wee may conclude, their pitty can be no true and Christian commiseration, but either levitie and shallownesse of minde, or else a carnall admiring of that worldly pompe and greatness, from whence they see him fall’n; or rather lastly a dissembl’d and seditious pity, fain’d of industry to beget new commotions.1 As for mercy, if it bee to a Tyrant, under which name they themselves have cited him so oft in the hearing of God, of Angels, and the holy Church assembl’d, and there charg’d him with the spilling of more innocent blood by farre, then ever Nero did, undoubtedly the mercy which they pretend, is the mercy of wicked men; and their mercies, wee read, are cruelties; hazarding the welfare of a whole Nation, to have sav’d one, whom so oft they have tearm’d Agag; and villifying the blood of many Jonathans, that have sav’d Israel; insisting with much nicenesse on the unnecessariest clause of their Covnant1; wherein the feare of change, and the absurd contradiction of a flattering hostilitie had hamperd them, but not scrupling to give away for complements, to an implacable revenge, the heads of many thousand Christians more.
Another sort there is, who comming in the course of these affairs, to have thir share in great actions, above the forme of Law or Custome, at least to give thir voice and approbation, begin to swerve, and almost shiver at the Majesty and grandeur of som noble deed, as if they were newly enter’d into a great sin; disputing presidents, formes and circumstances, when the Commonwealth nigh perishes for want of deeds in substance, don with just and faithfull expedition. To these I wish better instruction, and vertue equall to their calling; the former of which, that is to say, Instruction, I shall endeavour, as my dutie is, to bestow on them; and exhort them not to startle from the just and pious resolution of adhering with all their assistance2 to the present Parlament and Army, in the glorious way wherein Justice and Victorie hath set them; the onely warrants, through all ages, next under immediate Revelation, to exercise supreame power in those proceedings, which hitherto appeare equall to what hath been don in any age or Nation heretofore justly or magnanimouslie. Nor let them be discourag’d or deterr’d by any new Apostate Scar crowes, who under show of giving counsell, send out their barking monitories and memento’s, emptie of ought else but the spleene of a frustrated Faction . For how can that pretended counsell bee either sound or faithfull, when they that give it, see not for madnesse and vexation of their ends lost, that those Statutes and Scriptures which both falsly and scandalously, they wrest against their Friends and Associates, would by sentence of the common adversarie fall first and heaviest upon their owne heads. Neither let milde and tender dispositions be foolishly softn’d from their dutie and perseverance with the unmasculine Rhetorick of any puling Priest or Chaplain, sent as a friendly Letter of advice, for fashion-sake in private, and forthwith publish’t by the Sender himselfe, that wee may know how much of friend there was in it, to cast an odious envie upon them, to whom it was pretended to be sent in charitie. Nor let any man be deluded by either the ignorance or the notorious hypocrisie and self-repugnance of our dancing Divines, who have the conscience and the boldnesse to come with Scripture in their mouthes, gloss’d and fitted for thir turnes with a double contradictory sense, transforming the sacred veritie of God to an Idol with two faces, looking at once two several ways; and with the same quotations to charge others, which in the same case they made serve to justifie themselves For while the hope to bee made Classic and Provinciall Lords led them on, while pluralities greas’d them thick and deepe, to the shame and scandall of Religion, more then all the Sects and Heresies they exclaime against, then to fight against the Kings person, and no lesse a Party of his Lords and Commons, or to put force upon both the Houses, was good, was lawfull, was no resisting of Superiour powers; they onely were powers not to be resisted, who countenanc’d the good and punish’t the evill. But now that thir censorious domineering is not suffer’d to be universall, truth and conscience to be freed, Tithes andPluralities to be no more, though competent allowance provided, and the warme experience of large gifts, and they so good at taking them; yet now to exclude and seize on1 impeach’t Members, to bring Delinquents without exemption to a faire Tribunall by the common Nationall Law against murder, is now to be no lesse then Corah, Dathan and Abiram . He who but erewhile in the pulpits was a cursed Tyrant, an enemie to God and Saints, laden with all the innocent blood spilt in three Kingdomes, and so to bee fought against, is now, though nothing penitent or alter’d from his first principles, a lawfull Magistrate, a Sovrane Lord, the Lords Annointed, not to be touch’d, though by themselves imprison’d . As if this onely were obedience, to preserve the meere uselesse bulke of his person, and that onely in prison, not in the field, and to disobey his commands, denie him his dignitie and office, every where to resist his power but where they thinke it onely surviving in thir owne faction.
But who in particular is a Tyrant cannot be determind in a generall discourse, otherwise then by supposition; his particular charge, and the sufficient proofe of it must determine that: which I leave to Magistrates, at least to the uprighter sort of them, and of the people, though in number lesse by many, in whom faction least hath prevaild above the Law of nature and right reason, to judge as they finde cause. But this I dare owne as part of my faith, that if such a one there be, by whose Commission whole massachers have been committed on his faithfull subjects, his Provinces offered to pawne oralienation, as the hire of those whom he had sollicited to come in and destroy whole Cities and Countries; be hee King, or Tyrant, or Emperour, the Sword of Justice is above him; in whose hand soever is found sufficient power to avenge the effusion, and so great a deluge of innocent blood . For if all humane power to execute, not accidentally but intendedly, the wrath of God upon evill doers without exception, be of God; then that power, whether ordinary, or if that faile, extraordinary so executing that intent of God, is lawfull, and not to be resisted. But to unfold more at large this whole Question, though with all expedient brevity, I shall here set downe from first beginning, the originall of Kings; how and wherefore exalted to that dignitie above thir Brethren; and from thence shall prove, that turning to tyranny they may bee as lawfully deposd and punished, as they were at first elected: This I shall doe by autorities and reasons, not learnt in corners among Schismes and Heresies, as our doubling Divines are ready to calumniate, but fetch’d out of the midst of choicest and most authentic learning, and no prohibited Authors, nor many Heathen, but Mosaical, Christian, Orthodoxal, and which must needs be more convincing to our Adversaries, Presbyterial.
No man who knows ought, can be so stupid to deny that all men naturally were borne free, being the image and resemblance of God himselfe, and were by privilege above all the creatures, borne to command and not to obey: and that they livd so,1 till from the root of Adams transgression, falling among themselves to doe wrong and violence, and foreseeing that such courses must needs tend to the destruction of them all, they agreed by common league to bind each other from mutual injury, and joyntly to defend themselves against any that gave disturbance or opposition to such agreement. Hence came Citties, Townes and Common-wealths. And because no faith in all was found sufficiently binding, they saw it needfull to ordaine some authoritie, that might restraine by force and punishment what was violated against peace and common right. This autoritie and power of self-defence and preservation being originally and naturally in every one of them, and unitedly in them all, for ease, for order, and least each man should be his owne partial judge, they communicated and deriv’d either to one, whom for the eminence of his wisdom and integritie they chose above the rest, or to more then one whom they thought of equal deserving: the first was calld a King; the other Magistrates . Not to be thir Lords and Maisters (though afterward those names in som places were giv’n voluntarily to such as had bin authors of inestimable good to the people) but, to be thir Deputies and Commissioners, to execute, by vertue of thir intrusted power, that justice which else every man by the bond of nature and of Cov’nant must have executed for himselfe, and for one another. And to him that shall consider well why among free persons, one man by civill right should beare autority and jurisdiction over another, no other end or reason can be imaginable. These for a while governd well, and with much equitie decided all things at thir owne arbitrement: till the temptation of such a power left absolute in thir hands, perverted them at length to injustice and partialitie. Then did they, who now by tryall had found the danger and inconveniences of committing arbitrary power to any, invent Lawes either fram’d, or consented to by all, that should confine and limit the autority of whom they chose to govern them: that so man of whose failing they had proof, might no more rule over them, but law and reason abstracted as much as might be from personal errors and frailties.1 When this would not serve but that the Law was either not executed, or misapply’d they were constraind from that time, the onely remedy left them, to put conditions and take Oaths from all Kings and Magistrates at thir first instalment to doe impartial justice by Law: who upon those termes and no other, receav’d Allegeance from the people, that is to say, bond or Covnant to obey them in execution of those Lawes which they the people had themselves made, or assented to . And this oft times with express warning, that if the King or Magistrate prov’d unfaithfull to his trust, the people would be disingag’d. They added also Counselors and Parlaments, not to be onely at his beck, but with him or without him, at set times, or all times, when any danger threatn’d to have care of the public safety. Therefore saith Claudius Sesell2, a French Statesman, The Parlament was set as a bridle to the King; which I instance rather3, because that Monarchy is granted by all to be farre more absolute then ours. That this and the rest of what hath hitherto been spok’n is most true, might be copiously made appeare throughout all Stories, Heathen and Christian; eev’n of those Nations where Kings and Emperours have sought meanes to abolish all ancient memory of the peoples right by their encroachments and usurpations. But I spare long insertions4, appealing to the German, French, Italian, Arragonian, English, and not the least the Scottish histories: Not forgetting this onely by the way, that William the Norman, though a Conqueror, and not unsworne at his Coronation, was compelld a second time to take oath at S. Albanes, ere the people would be brought to yeild obedience.
1 Second edition omits of. A new paragraph is also indicated here.
1 Sec. ed. discord.
1 Sec. ed. adds wrested.
2 Sec. ed. strength and assistance.
1 Sec. ed. upon.
1 A new sentence begins here in sec. ed.
2 Sesel in sec. ed.
3 Sec. ed. reads: ‘which I instance rather, not because our English Lawyers have not said the same long before, but because that French Monarchy, is granted by all to be a farr more absolute then ours.
4 In the sec. ed. the sentence is thus expanded: ‘appealing to the known constitutions of both the latest Christian Empires in Europe, the Greek and German, besides the French, Italian, Arragonian, English, and not least, the Scottish Histories.’
3. 1. If men, etc.In this opening paragraph Milton has in mind all opponents of the Cromwellian party, and especially the Scotch and English Presbyterians.
3. 6. But being slaves within doores. Living under a domestic tyranny. Alfred Stern (Milton und seine Zeit 1. 438) says that these words will recall to every reader the conflict between Milton and the Presbyterians over his theory of divorce.
3. 9. None can love freedom heartilie, but good men. Milton based both political and artistic excellence on character. Cf. Apol. Smect. (Bohn 3. 118).
3. 13. Tyrants are not oft offended, etc.Cf. Aristotle, Politics, 5. 11. 12: ‘Tyrants are always fond of bad men, because they love to be flattered, but no man who has the spirit of a free man in him will demean himself by flattery.’
3. 15. Them they feare in earnest. Milton probably owes this thought to George Buchanan. Cf. De Jure Regni apud Scotos. Trans. R. Macfarlan, p. 199: ‘But why should we look for a surer witness of what tyrants deserve than their own conscience? Hence springs their perpetual fear of all, and particularly of good men.’ See also Raleigh, The Cabinet-Council (Works, ed. Birch 1. 96): They [tyrants] are also Protectors of impious Persons, and stand in daily doubt of noble and virtuous Men.
3. 24. Others. Cromwell and his supporters.
3. 26. The curse. See Jer. 48. 1.
4. 2. These men. The Presbyterians.
4. 4. Juggl’d and palter’d with the World. A picturesque phrase insinuating that the Presbyterians, especially their ministers, had played the part of patriots because it was to their material advantage to do so. Cf. Shak. Macbeth 5.8.20:
Those juggling fiends
That palter with us in a double sense.
4. 4. Bandied. The origin of this word is obscure, but it is probably derived from the game of tennis, or bandy, meaning to throw or strike a ball from side to side. The allusion here seems to be to the uncertainty of the Scots in their relation to Charles I. First they were against him, then for him, then they sold him to the English Parliament and finally they cried up loyalty and obedience. Cf. Observ. Art. Peace (Bohn. 2. 195): Conspiring and bandying against the common good.’
4. 8. And their pamphlets. A flood of pamphlets greeted Charles’ attempts to force ritualism upon Scotland. On March 30, 1640, the king issued a proclamation against ‘libellous and seditious Pamphlets and Discourses from Scotland.’ The authors are called ‘factious spirits, and such as do endeavour to cast most unjust and false aspersions and scandals upon His Majesty and His Government, and upon his proceedings with his subjects in Scotland, and to distemperate and alienate from His Majesty the hearts of his well-affected subjects, and such as are in no way inclined to such seditious and disloyal courses.’ For full text of this proclamation see John Rushworth, Hist. Collections 3. 1094. During the course of the war sermons continued to be preached against Charles and thousands of pamphlets by Presbyterian and Independent writers poured from the press.
4. 8. To the ingaging of. By these actions and utterances the Presbyterians had pledged themselves to an anti-royalist policy.
4. 14. To the entire advantages of thir owne Faction. Both the Scotch and English Presbyterians were very jealous of the growing power of the Independents.
4. 16. Counted them accessory. The King loved neither the Presbyterians nor the Independents. For three years (1646-1649) he tried to play off one party against the other. Before his flight from Oxford to the Scottish camp at Newcastle he expressed the hope that he should be able so to draw the Presbyterians or the Independents to side with him for extripating one the other, that he should really be king again. (See his letter to Lord Digby, dated March 26, 1646. Quoted by Masson, Life of Milton 3. 497). Charles hated the Covenant, steadfastly refused to sign it, and looked upon the Presbyterians as rebels who had broken statutes and laws pledging them to obedience to their king. Cf. a similar statement in First Def. (Bohn 1. 192).
4. 17. Those Statutes and Laws. At this time the Presbyterian preachers and writers were constantly accusing the Independents of breaking ‘the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, the Common Law, Stat. 25. Edw. 3. and all other Acts concerning Treason.’ (See Walker, Hist. of Independency, pt. 2, p. 69).
4. 22. For a flash, hot and active. Milton grants that the Presbyterians were active in the good cause for a time. He ascribes their defection to (1) sloth, (2) inconstancy, (3) cowardice, (4) falsehood, or (5) wickedness.
4. 23. Inconstancie, and weakness of spirit. Clarendon supports Milton in his indictment of the Scots and Presbyterian party for fickleness and failure to carry out their policy to its end. See his Hist. of the Rebellion. Ed. Machray, bk. 10. 168 ff.
4. 31. Alteration of Lawes, etc.All these steps ultimately proved necessary to the establishment of the Puritan Commonwealth.
5. 2. The throng and noises of vulgar and irrational men. Milton entertained little respect for the fickle and sweaty populace. See his celebrated passage in P. R. 3. 49-59, and his sonnet to Oliver Cromwell.
5. 4. Customes. Milton had no sympathy with irrational customs. Cf. his attack on prejudices and customs in Areop. (Bohn 2. 98): ‘Our eyes, bleared and dimmed with prejudice and custom.’
5. 5. Their gibrish Lawes. Alluding to the jargon in which statutes were written. A variant form of gibber is jabber, to talk nonsense. Gibberish is therefore unintelligible speech, inarticulate chatter.
Under the heading Leges in his Commonplace Book Milton says, ‘Alfred turn’d the old laws into English. I would he liv’d now to rid us of this Norman gibbrish.’ (See Publication of Camden Society for 1876, p. 22).
In 1650 Parliament ordered that all the books of the laws be put into English; and that all writs, processes, indictments, records, and all rules and proceedings in courts of justice be in the English tongue only, and not in Latin or French, or any other language but English. It is possible that Milton’s protest and personal influence may have contributed to this result.
5. 12. They plead for him, pity him, extoll him, etc.London and Lancashire ministers sent in protests against the policy of Parliament towards the king. Letters were addressed to Lord Fairfax and the army by Dr. Henry Hammond and Dr. Gauden. The indefatigable William Prynne, both in Parliament and out, was busy with tongue and pen in pleading the king’s cause. As a sample of these protests see the Declaration and Protestation of Will: Pryn, and Clem: Walker, issued Jan. 19, 1649, against the proposal of the House of Commons to bring the king to capital punishment. Prynne and Walker declare that such a course is ‘highly impious against the Law of God, Nations, and the Protestant Profession, Traitors against the State, of Treason, 25 Edw. 3., and against all Laws and our Statutes, perjurious and perfidious, against all Oaths of Allegiance, Supremacy, Nationall Covenant, and Protestation; all the Parliaments Declarations and Remonstrances held forth to the world; their Treaties and promises made to the Scots when they delivered the King’s Person into our hands; against our promises made to the Hollanders, and other Nations, and against all the Professions, Declarations, Remonstrances, and Proposals made by this Army; when they made their Addresses to the King at New-Market, Hampton Court, and other places.’ (Walker, Hist. of Independency, pt. 2, p. 83).
5. 13. Protest against those, etc.The Presbyterian minsters of London in their vindication set forth: ‘For when we did first engage with the Parliament, (which we did not till called thereunto) we did it with loyal hearts and affection towards the King, and his posterity. Not intending the least hurt to his Person, but to stop his party from doing further hurt to the Kingdome; not to bring his Majesty to justice (as some now speak) but to put him into a better capacity to doe justice.’ (A Vindication of the London Ministers from the unjust aspersions upon their former actings for the Parliament, p. 3).
5. 23. Of industry. On purpose, intentionally.
5. 25. They themselves have cited him. Milton refers to a treatise, Truths Manifest, said by him to have been written by a Scotchman, ‘in which it is affirmed that there hath been more Christian blood shed by the commission, approbation, and connivance of King Charles and his father, James, in the latter end of their reign, than in the ten Roman persecutions.’ See Eikon (Bohn 1. 383). For a comparison of Charles with Nero see ibid.
5. 29. Nero, Claudius ( 54-68). Milton relates that the Senate required that Nero should be stripped naked, and hung by the neck upon a forked stake, and whipped to death. Cf. First Def. (Bohn 1. 133): ‘Consider now, how much more mildly and moderately the English dealt with their tyrant, though many are of opinion, that he caused the spilling of more blood than even Nero himself did.’
5. 30. Their mercies. See Prov. 12. 10.
5. 33. Agag. Agag was a king of the Amalekites, conquered by Saul and, contrary to the divine command, saved alive, but put to death by Samuel. (1 Sam. 15). Milton is here comparing the compassion of the Presbyterian party with that of Saul who was disobedient to God’s command.
5. 33. Villifying. Making vile, of no account. Cf. P. L. 11. 516.
5. 34. Many Jonathans, that have sav’d Israel. A comparison of the Puritan generals with Jonathan, who led a forlorn hope against a great army of Philistines, and freed his country from invasion. The allusion is to one of the most stirring war stories of the Old Testament (1 Sam. 13).
6. 1. Nicenesse. Subtlety, a tendency to be over particular. Unnecessariest. An interesting use of an obsolete superlative. Cf. famousest (below 59. 3), Apol. Smec. (Bohn 3. 128), elegantest (ibid. 3. 140).
6. 1. Clause of their Covnant wrested. With the mention of the Covenant Milton touches upon one of the leading topics of this pamphlet. For a full discussion of the Covenant, and what was to Milton the unnecessariest and riddling clause, see Introd.
6. 4. But not scrupling, etc.It is difficult to arrive at the meaning of this ambiguous statement. In return for compliments from the king, for his good opinion of their loyalty, the Scots would not scruple to give over to his implacable revenge, if he should succeed in regaining the throne, the heads of many thousand Christians more, meaning the Republicans who were still opposing him. To save one man, the Presbyterians would sacrifice the lives of thousands. This seems to be the leading thought in this obscure sentence.
6. 7. Another sort there is. Milton now turns his attention to the weak-kneed conservatives of his own party. He is glancing at Gen. Fairfax, Ald. Pennington and others, who grew timid at the very last. The trial of the king was carried forward by such Independent army leaders as Cromwell, Harrison and Ireton, but the great bulk of the party shuddered at the task of bringing Charles to justice. On Dec. 23, 1648, the House passed a resolution appointing a committee to consider how to proceed in a way of justice against the king and other capital offenders. ‘Though the Resolution passed without a division, the reluctance of some who were present had appeared in the course of the debate. They argued that there was no precedent in History for the judicial trial of a King, and that if the Army were determined that Charles should be punished capitally, the business should be left to the Army itself as an exceptional and irregular power’ (Masson, Life of Milton 3. 699). Of the 135 Judicial Commissioners appointed by the House to try the King not half the number attended any of the meetings. Fairfax was present at the first sitting of the Commission but never went back. Many more withdrew before the trial was concluded. Milton is writing to encourage these half-hearted Independents, who swerve and shiver, to execute justice, even upon their King, ‘with just and faithful expedition.’
6. 13. Presidents. Precedents. Buchanan also expresses his impatience with those who call for precedents. He denies that whatever is not ordained by some law, or evidenced by some illustrious record, should be instantly reckoned wicked and nefarious (George Buchanan, De Jure Regni apud Scotos, p. 176).
6. 19. To startle from. An obsolete construction. The modern passive form would be not to be startled from.
6. 22. In the glorious way, etc.For a more extended eulogy of the work of the Long Parliament see Apol. Smec. (Bohn 3. 149). Milton’s praise of the campaigns of Cromwell was amplified afterwards in his First Def. (Bohn 1. 143); see also Eikon (Bohn 3. 498 ff.), and Sec. Def. (Bohn 6. 317).
6. 28. Any new Apostate Scar-crowes. A caustic reference to one of the most interesting figures of the age, the irrepressible pamphleteer, William Prynne (1600-1669). Milton calls him a scarecrow, for his ears had been mutilated twice because he had persisted in sending out pamphlets attacking prelacy. He was also branded on both cheeks with the letter S for schismatic. In later years, when he was a popular hero and sat in the House of Commons, he wore a cap to cover his disfigurement. Milton was not the first writer to charge Prynne with being an apostate. He was so called in a pamphlet entitled Prynne against Prynne, published as a reply to Prynne’s Brief Memento. Prynne replied to this charge on the very day of its publication Jan. 29, 1648, in a broadside: Prynne the Member, reconciled to Prynne, the Barrister. Hitherto the most outspoken critic of prelacy and royalty, Prynne had become the most active pamphleteer of the Presbyterian party. He declared that the General, and General Council of Officers of the Army, were ‘the greatest Apostates and Renegadoes from our publick trust and duties’ (See his Speech made in the House of Commons, Dec. 4, 1648, p. 6. London, 1649). In the same publication we have his apology for his later position. He recites the story of his sufferings and imprisonments and asserts that he has never received any reward from anyone for his services to the public, that he has never published any books to scandalise or defame the king, or to alienate the people’s affections from him. Yet he says, ‘I am clear of opinion that Kings are accountable for their Actions to their Parliaments and whole kingdoms.’ In case of absolute necessity he would even allow the deposition of a tyrant, ‘if there be no speciall oaths nor obligations to the contrary (which is our present case).’ Ibid. p. 29. He is here pleading for the observance of ‘the unnecessariest clause of the Covenant,’ the great argument of the Presbyterians, which Milton despises as a quibble.
6. 30. Their barking monitories and memento’s. The reference is to A Briefe Memento to the Present Unparliamentary Junto, by William Prynne (London, 1649).
For another attack of Milton upon Prynne, see To Rem. Hire (Bohn 3. 17).
6. 31. The spleene of a frustrated Faction. This biting phrase hits off the situation exactly. The Presbyterian pamphlets of Prynne, Walker, and the London divines are full of spleen. It was a bitter disappointment to the party, which had hoped to see the Presbyterian system of intolerant church government established in England, to be outmanœuvred and crushed by the Independents in the House with the army at their back.
7. 1. Those Statutes and Scriptures . . . they wrest, etc.This was a common practice among the controversialists of Milton’s day. All arguments were supported by appeals to law or to the Bible. But the freedom of private interpretation, established by the Protestant Reformation, gave rise to all kinds of differences over ambiguous texts. To ‘wrest’ a text against an opponent was a proof of literary skill. Milton himself was guilty of this art; he was an adept in citing Scripture for his purpose, as may be seen in this very pamphlet. See Introd.
In Ref. in Eng. (Bohn 2. 404) he uses an analogous phrase: Wrenching and spraining the text.
7. 3. Their Friends and Associates. The army and the Independents. For the moment Milton uses a milder tone. He reminds all critics of the parliament that the tyrant is after all the common foe. If the king is restored to power, he will revenge himself on both Presbyterians and Independants. Cf. 2. 19, 4. 17. He sounds this warning note repeatedly in this pamphlet, also in First Def. (Bohn 3. 194): ‘Wo be to you in the first place, if Charles’ posterity recover the crown of England; assure yourselves, you are like to be put in the black list.’
7. 7. The unmasculine Rhetorick of any puling Priest or Chaplain. The reference is to letters on the king’s behalf addressed to General Fairfax by Dr. Henry Hammond and Dr. John Gauden.
Henry Hammond, D. D. (1605-1660). Hammond was not only a great scholar and preacher, but a devoted royalist. He acted for some years as chaplain to Charles, and accompanied him from place to place during his imprisonment by parliament. He was much beloved by the king, who said he was the most natural orator he ever heard. He was a noted theologian and exegete. His most famous works were his Practical Catechism and his Paraphrase and Annotations on the New Testament. Owing to the fact that he was a personal friend of Fairfax, and of other officers of the army, he made a last effort to save his master by addressing to them a letter on behalf of Charles. Hammond was a man of great piety, learning, and benevolence, and was altogether undeserving of Milton’s sneer. Hammond’s letter was written Jan. 15, 1648, and its published title is as follows: To the Right Honourable, the Lord Fairfax, and his Councell of Warre, the Humble Addresse of Henry Hammond (London, 1649). The writer advises the army officers to test all motives by the true Spirit of God and the Scriptures, not by lying spirits; not to be too sure that God has borne testimony to the justice of their cause by the many victories He has given to them, for the Mahommedans were successful in war, and God often permits His people to suffer defeat. By shedding the king’s blood they will only fill up the measure of the nation’s iniquities and provoke the wrath of God. He concludes by saying that he will intercede daily at the throne of grace that God will mollify their hearts towards the king, or else interpose His hand to rescue his royal person out of their power.
Milton entertained a very poor opinion of chaplains. Cf. To Rem. Hire (Bohn 3. 35) and Rem. Def. (Bohn 3. 47). For his animus against chaplains in general, and a special diatribe against Dr. Hammond as king’s chaplain, see Eikon (Bohn 1. 458 ff.).
John Gauden, D. D., Bishop of Worcester (1605-1662), at first sympathized with the parliamentary cause, but began to have misgivings as the struggle progressed. Although he subscribed to the Covenant, he published in 1643, Certain Scruples and Doubts of Conscience about taking the Solemn League and Covenant. As time passed he grew still more reactionary, and finally at the Restoration was made chaplain to the king and appointed to the bishopric of Exeter, and later to that of Worcester. The celebrated book, which appeared the day after Charles’ execution, entitled Εἰϰὼν βασιλιϰὴ; the Pourtraiture of His Sacred Majestie in His Solitudes and Sufferings, has been attributed to Dr. Gauden on very strong grounds. This book, which went through forty-seven editions, called forth a reply from Milton, his Eikon. (1649).
The letter here criticised by Milton bore the following title: The Religious and Loyal Protestation of John Gauden, Dr. in Divinity against the Declared Purposes and Proceedings of the Army and others; about the trying and destroying our Sovereign Lord the King (London, Jan. 5, 1648). In this letter Gauden warns Fairfax and the army officers against the perils of success and prosperous power. He calls the king their ‘Mistaken Parent.’ He appeals to the officers not to forget the common Errours to which all men are subject. ‘O stain not the Renown of your valour by so mercilesse an Act, as the destroying your King.’ In his final exhortation he speaks of the day, ‘When the world shall see your power bounded with Loyalty, sanctified with Pitty, not foolish and feminine, which I would have below you, but masculine, Heroick, truly Christian and Divine,’ etc. This letter is highly rhetorical and in the last period the author, with his talk of feminine and masculine, gave Milton his idea for ‘the unmasculine Rhetorick of any puling Priest or Chaplain.’
7. 15. Self-repugnance of our dancing Divines. Repugnant to themselves, self-contradictory. In the contemptuous epithet Milton is probably insinuating that the Presbyterian ministers were under the influence of a nervous disease epidemic in the sixteenth century, known as the dancing malady. The meaning may be, however, that they danced to different kinds of music; yesterday they were against the king, today they support him.
7. 17. Gloss’d and fitted for thir turnes. He reverts to the thought that his opponents wrest Scripture to their turnes or purposes. A gloss is a comment or explanation upon a word or passage in the text. Cf. Sam. Agon. 1. 948: ‘Bearing my words and doings to the lords, To gloss upon, and censuring frown or smile.’
7. 23. Classic and Provinciall Lords. Under the Presbyterian form of church government in England there were instituted Classical, Provincial, and National Assemblies, corresponding to the three modern Presbyterian church courts, the Presbytery, the Synod, and the General Assembly. When the Westminster Assembly drew up a frame of Presbyterian church-government for England in May, 1645, they provided that the ecclesiastical provinces should be about sixty in number. The number of Classes or Presbyteries in London were to be fourteen. The meetings of the twelve London Presbyteries and the two Presbyteries of the Inns of Court were called Classical Meetings. In his stinging sonnet, On the Forcers of Conscience, Milton speaks of the Presbyterian divines as ‘a Classic Hierarchy.’ For a full description of the establishment of the Presbyterian system in England see W. A. Shaw, Hist. of the Eng. Church, 1640-1660, vol. 2, pp. 1-174. See also Masson, Life of Milton 3. 397, 424 and 469.
7. 24. While pluralities greas’d them thick and deepe. Milton repeats this charge in Sec. Def. (Bohn 1. 268) with more detail. See also First Def. (Bohn 1. 26): ‘As soon as the bishops, and those clergymen whom they daily inveighed against, and branded with the odious names of pluralists and non-residents, were taken out of their way, they presently jump, some into two, some into three, of their best benefices; being now warm themselves, they soon unworthily neglected their charge.’ Cf. To Rem. Hire (Bohn 3. 31). For further discussion of this subject see Introd. p. 26 ff.
7. 33. Censorious domineering. Not an untruthful description of the heat and dogmatism of divines on political measures. Matters before parliament were fully discussed in the pulpits.
When the Independents secured a majority in the House of Commons they dealt a blow at their Presbyterian opponents by ordering on March 26, 1649, that no ministers should teach in their pulpits anything relating to state affairs, but only to preach Christ in sincerity. On July 9 of the same year, parliament declared all ministers delinquents, if they preached or prayed against the government, publicly mentioned Charles or James Stuart, or refused to keep days of public humiliation, or to publish acts and orders of parliament. See Gardiner, Hist. of C. W. and Protectorate 1. 191.
7. 34. Truth and conscience to be freed. Presbyterianism was intolerant of other sects, but the Independents granted liberty of conscience to all except atheists and Papists. Even Richard Baxter, the saintliest of all Presbyterians of his time, would have enslaved truth and conscience. In his sketch of the ideal commonwealth he lays down the principle that none are to be electors, but those who have publicly owned the Baptismal Covenant, in other words those who are Presbyterian church members in good standing. Those who despise public worship are to be deprived of the right to vote, and ministers of the church are to be able to disfranchise members by excommunicating them (See Baxter, A Holy Commonwealth, or Political Aphorisms opening the True Principles of Government, p. 247). Toleration was denounced by the Presbyterian synod at Sion College in 1645 as ‘a root of gall and bitterness both in present and future ages.’ The same decision was reached by the ministers of Lancashire, a section where Presbyterianism was particularly strong. They declared that toleration was the taking away of all conscience, the appointing of a city of refuge in men’s consciences for the devil to fly to. Neale, Hist. of Puritans 2. 382.
The sprightly Edwards has no hesitation in affirming that ‘A toleration is the grand design of the devil.’ He declares that more books have been written and sermons preached on toleration during the last four years (1642-1646) than on any other subject (Gangræna, 1. 3. 121, 122).
For a previous utterance of Milton in behalf of liberty of conscience see Areop. (Bohn 2. 92): ‘Under these fantastic terrors of sect and schism, we wrong the earnest and zealous thirst after knowledge and understanding, which God hath stirred up in this city.’ See also his sonnet to Cromwell,
New foes arise
Threatening to bind our souls with secular chains
Help us to save free conscience from the paw
Of hireling wolves, whose gospel is their maw.
Cf. also his vigorous handling of the intolerants in the poem on The New Forcers of Conscience with its famous closing line,
New Presbyter is but Old Priest writ large.
7. 34. Tithes and Pluralities to be no more. In his anticipation of the Liberal legislative programme Milton prophesies that the tithing system will be abolished.
The actual origin of the payment of tithes is unknown. They were probably paid to the medieval monasteries as oblations. The first legislative action on the subject was taken in the reign of Edward I who ordered that a tenth of the value of the crops should be paid to support the church. Landowners alone were subject to this tax. The law could be enforced by distress and by sale, or by order of a Justice of the Peace. See F. A. Inderwick, The Interregnum, John Selden, Hist. of Tythes, pp. 47-53, also W. Bohun, The Law of Tithes, passim.
As Milton indicates, the Independent party in parliament had an idea of abolishing tithes and providing some competent maintenance for a preaching ministry. Several attempts were made in this direction, but the Commonwealth was really too poor to establish any satisfactory new method. The Presbyterian ministers were naturally averse to any prohibitory legislation regarding tithes, for they had followed their prelatical predecessors in upholding their right to this ancient source of revenue. ‘The Presbyterians preach for their god, viz. the tenth of every man’s estates, and for forms,’ says Whitelocke, Memorials 2. 488. Cf. W. A. Shaw, Hist. Eng. Church 2. 255 ff.
Milton denounces tithes in To Rem. Hire., passim.
7. 34. Pluralities. As early as 1642 the House of Commons recommended five bills to the king as the ground of a treaty. One of these was ‘An act against the enjoying pluralities of benefices by spiritual persons, and nonresidence.’ But the king refused to come to terms and the bill was therefore not passed. On Nov. 8, 1647, a proposition against pluralities was agreed to by both Houses of Parliament (Neale, Hist. of the Puritans 2. 53. Pluralities were never legislated out of existence, however.
7. 35. Competent Allowance. Cf. Sec. Def. (Bohn 1. 275).
[Warme Experience of large gifts.]When ministers preached before parliament, or sat on commissions, they were liberally paid. In March, 1650, an order was passed to send over six able ministers to preach in Dublin. They were to have £200 per annum apiece out of bishops’ and deans’ and chapters’ lands in Ireland.
8. 3. To exclude and seize on impeach’t Members. On June 14, 1647, the Army sent forth a remonstrance in which they impeached eleven Presbyterian leaders of the Commons, Holles, Stapleton, Waller, Glynn, Massey, etc. and demanded their exclusion from parliament. When the army marched against London nine fled to the continent. Glynn and Maynard, who remained behind, were impeached and sent to the Tower, Sept. 7, 1647.
8. 4. Delinquents. Milton has the king in mind as the chief delinquent. The preamble to an ordinance passed by parliament, April 1, 1643, sets forth ‘that it is most agreeable to common justice that the estates of such notorious delinquents as have been the causes or instruments of the public calamities, should be converted and applied towards the support of the Commonwealth.’ On August 19, 1643, this ordinance was further explained, as including in the number of delinquents such as absented from their usual places of abode or betook themselves to the king’s forces, and such as concealed effects, evaded taxes or disobeyed parliament’s orders in various ways. See Neale, Hist. of the Puritans 1. 453.
8. 6. Corah, Dathan and Abiram. Korah conspired with Dathan and Abiram against Moses and Aaron. See Num. 16. Milton refers to the language of the Sion tract (see below 53. 14): ‘You know the sad examples of Corah, Dathan and Abiram in their mutinuous Rebellion, and Levelling designe against Magistracy and Ministry, in the persons of Moses and Aaron’ (A Serious and Faithful Representation of the Judgment of the Ministers of the Gospel within the Province of London, signed by forty-seven ministers at Sion College, including Case, Gataker, Gower, Roborough, and Wallis, of the Westminster Assembly, and addressed to Fairfax and the Council of War, Jan. 18, 1649, p. 10).
8. 7. A cursed Tyrant, etc.On the preaching of seditious sermons by the ministers of the time, and by Stephen Marshall in particular, see Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion, 6. 39 ff., also Robt. Barclay, The Inner Life of the Religious Societies of the Commonwealth, p. 186. Stephen Marshall preached before Commons, Feb. 23, 1641: ‘He is a cursed man that withholds his hands from shedding of blood, or that shall do it fraudulently, i. e., kill some and save some. If he go not through with the work, he is a cursed man, when this is to be done on Moab, the enemy of God’s church.’ Another divine, named Case, preaching to the Commons on Jer. 48. 10, said: ‘Cursed be he that withholdeth his sword from blood, that spares when God saith strike, that suffers those to escape whom God hath appointed to destruction’; to the Commons on Nov. 5, 1644, he said: ‘Do justice to the greatest. Saul’s sons are not to be spared; no, nor may Agag, nor Benhadad, tho’ themselves kings: Timri and Cosbi, though princes of the people, must be pursued unto their tents. This is the way to consecrate yourselves to God.’ A Royalist writer says, ‘The pulpit sounded as much as the drum, and the preacher spit as much flame as the cannon. Curse ye Meroz, was the text, and blood and plunder, the comment and the use’ (A Loyal Tear, a Sermon on Sin, p. 30).
Price declares that the London ministers have changed front towards Charles, ‘whom your selves and the Church of Scotland have charged for the greatest Delinquent, guilty of the blood of hundreds of thousands of Protestants, the bloudiest man under heaven’ (Clerico-Classicum, p. 23).
Whitelocke tells the story of a Scotch minister, who preached boldly before the king at Newcastle, and after his sermon called for the 52nd Psalm, which begins, ‘Why dost thou, tyrant, boast thyself thy wicked works to praise?’ (Memor. 2. 94).
The king himself denounced the Presbyterian ministers as being ignorant in learning, turbulent and seditious in disposition, scandalous in life, unconformable to the laws of the land, libellers both of church and state, and preachers of sedition and treason itself. See Neale, Hist. of Puritans 2. 426.
8. 10. Though nothing penitent or alter’d. To the last Charles refused to subscribe to the Solemn League and Covenant. Through all his negotiations with the Scots and with the English House of Commons, he continually spoke of the royal prerogative and endeavored to make a proviso for the partial establishment of episcopacy. The king was too firm a believer in divine right to be penitent for his past conduct, and too stubborn to relinquish his first principles. Cf. Eikon (Bohn 1. 474): ‘His impenitence and obstinacy to the end.’
8. 11. A lawfull Magistrate, a Sovrane Lord, the LordsAnnointed. Milton is here scornfully repeating the epithets of the Sion tract. See A Serious and Faithful Rep., etc., pp. 12, 13.
8. 12. Not to be touch’d, though by themselves imprison’d. This argument is resumed later, and pushed to its logical conclusion. See pp. 32 ff.
8. 22. His particular charge. The charge which will be brought against Charles by parliament.
8. 25. The people, though in number lesse by many. An obscure statement. The majority of the representatives in parliament must be reckoned for the whole people. Robt. Filmer so understands this sentence. See his Observations concerning the Original of Government, p. 19.
8. 29. If such a one there be. For another arraignment of the king see First Def. (Bohn 1. 59). A committee of the House of Commons drew up a declaration against the king ‘wherein they objected many high crimes against him concerning his Father’s death, the loss of Rochel and the Massacre and Rebellion in Ireland.’ Walker, Hist. of Indep., p. 73. See also The Act for, Trial of the King, Walker, ib. p. 57.
8. 30. Whole massachers have been committed, etc. The Irish insurrection and massacres of Protestants took place in 1641. When the news reached England the nation was horrified. The wildest stories were soon retailed in pamphlet form regarding the awful sufferings of the Protestants. The lowest calculation of contemporary writers gives an estimate of 30,000 English and Scotch Protestants as victims. Gardiner is of opinion, however, that those slain in cold blood at the beginning of the rebellion could hardly have exceeded four or five thousand, whilst about twice that number may have perished from ill-treatment (Hist. of Engl. (1603-1642), 10. 69). In his Eikon. (Bohn 1. 407 ff.), where Milton devotes a whole chapter to the subject, he puts the number of slain at 154,000 in the province of Ulster alone, and estimates the total sum as four times as great. In Observ. Art. Peace (Bohn 2. 183) he places the figure at more that 200,000. In First Def. (Bohn 1. 201) he calls Charles a murderer, by whose order the Irish took arms, and put to death with most exquisite torments above a hundred thousand Englishmen. In his Observ. Art. Peace (Bohn 2. 180) his estimate is much more moderate. He blames the king for using with tenderness and moderation those bloody rebels after the merciless and barbarous massacre of so many thousand English.
However uncertain he may be as to the number of the slain, Milton is positive that the king was responsible for the Irish horror. Parliament was of the same opinion. In a declaration of parliament issued Feb. 15, 1647, the king was charged with complicity in the Irish massacre, and that he had an agent in Rome to attend to it, for it was to be managed by direction from the Pope.
Referring to the massacre Baxter says: ‘Because of it all England was filled with a fear both of the Irish and Papists at home, and when they saw the English Papists join with the King against the Parliament, it was the greatest thing that ever alienated them from the King’ (Life, Pt. 1, p. 29).
For an examination of the evidence incriminating the king, see Masson, Life 2. 303 ff.; Symmons, Life of Milton, pp. 256 ff.
8. 31. His Provinces offer’d to pawne or alienation. In First Def. (Bohn 1. 201) Milton says that Charles sent a private embassy to the King of Denmark to beg assistance from him of arms, horses, and men, expressly against the parliament. ‘To the English he promised the plunder of London; to the Scots, that the four northern counties should be added to Scotland, if they would but help him to get rid of the Parliament, by what means soever. This aid was coming, when Divine Providence, to divert them, sent a sudden torrent of Swedes into the bowels of Denmark.’ See Eikon. (Bohn 1. 390). Again we read that the king’s letters taken at the battle of Naseby ‘revealed his endeavours to bring in foreign forces, Irish, French, Dutch, Lorraines and our old invaders the Danes upon us’ (ib. 1. 453). So much for Milton’s testimony. Gardiner states that Charles appealed for aid from the Pope, from the Duke of Lorraine, begging him to lead an army into England, and from the German princes. In order to obtain the services of Count Waldemar and his army of mercenaries, he tried to obtain a loan of £50,000 from Amsterdam merchants, pledging the Scilly Islands as security for the repayment of the moncy (Hist. of the Civil War and Protectorate 1. 223). The King and Queen Henrietta Maria hoped to obtain aid from the King of Denmark. On April 11, 1642, the Queen wrote to Christian IV, and it was suspected by parliament that a bribe was offered. Agents of the king were also sent to Denmark, but what proposition was made is unknown. At any rate, it was unsuccessful. See Gardiner, Hist. of Eng. 10. 188.
8. 31. Alienation. Barclay, one of the extreme advocates of the doctrine of the divine right of kings, admits that if a king alienates the kingdom, or brings it into subjection to another, he forfeits it (De Regno et Regum Potestate adversus Monarchomachos 4. 16). In Observ. Art. Peace (Bohn 2. 182), Milton accuses Charles of alienating and acquitting the whole province of Ireland from all true fealty and obedience to the Commonwealth of England. Parliament declared that Charles was guilty in that he had given away more than five counties to the Irish rebels, ‘that Irish Popish army raised by Earl of Strafford to reduce the kingdomes.’ (Declaration of Parliament, in Civil War Tracts, Yale University Library, Vol. 21).
9. 34. The Sword of Justice is above him. Did Milton find a pattern for this phrase in Christopher Goodman’s book, How Imperial Powers ought to be Obeyd, etc. p. 184: ‘Be he Kinge, Quene or Emperour he must dye the death’? See below, 60. 21. Cf. the eloquent apostrophe to Justice in Eikon. (Bohn 1. 484): ‘She it is, who accepts no person, and exempts none from the severity of her stroke.’
9. 2. So great a deluge of innocent blood. Milton and his party blamed Charles Stuart ‘that man of blood,’ for all the effusion of blood in the Civil War. In Eikon. (Bohn 1. 388 ff.) Milton gives a stern reply to the question asked by the author of Eikon Basilike, ‘Whose innocent blood he hath shed, what widows’ or orphans’ tears can witness against him?’ See also 5. 28.
8. 12. For if all humane power to execute, etc. Is this a comment on Calvin’s teaching? He advises passive obedience in the presence of the most cruel tyranny, but holds out a hope that God will execute his wrath upon the offending king. ‘For sometimes he raises up some of his servants as public avengers, and arms them with his commission to punish unrighteous domination,’ etc. (Institutes 4. 20. 30). See also Rom. 13. 4.
9. 6. Or if that faile, extraordinary. Prynne and others were questioning the ordinary power of parliament to put the king to death. In this phrase Milton boldly declares that he would go outside the bounds of precedent or statutory law to punish a tyrant.
9. 8. But to unfold more at large this whole Question. The introduction is now complete. In this sentence he announces his theme.
9. 16. Not learnt in corners among Schismes and Herisies. An attempt to anticipate unfavorable criticism. By his divorce pamphlets Milton had earned the reputation of a heretic. The interjection of this clause shows his sensitiveness to the attacks made upon him. Although a freethinker, he scarcely enjoyed being called a schismatic or a heretic.
9. 19. Authentic. Gr. αὐϑεντιϰός, warranted. Cf. Eikon. (Bohn. 1. 485): ‘For it were extreme partiality and injustice, the flat denial and overthrow of herself, to put her own authentic sword into the hand of an unjust and wicked man,’ etc.
9. 19. No prohibited authors. An allusion to the Church Fathers, against whose authority Protestant theologians rebelled. Milton himself had little respect for the Fathers. In a former treatise, Prel. Epis., he had expresses his contempt in these words: ‘They cannot think any doubt resolved, and any Doctrine confirmed, unless they run to that indigested heap and fry of authors which they call antiquity. Whatsoever time, or the heedless hand of blind chance hath drawn down from of old to this present, in her huge drag-net, whether fish, or seaweed, shells or shrubs, unpicked, unchosen, those are the fathers’ (Bohn 2. 422). Cf. To Rem. Hire. (Bohn 3. 38): ‘The obscure and tangled word of antiquity, fathers and council fighting one against another.’
9. 20. Orthodoxal. This form is used in Eikon. (Bohn. 1. 385), and Prel. Epis. (Bohn 2. 428). Milton also used the word paradoxal in To Rem. Hire. (Bohn 3. 3).
9. 24. All men naturally were borne free. This favorite modern contention first found formal expression in the work of the Roman jurists who instituted the Justinian Code. Ulpian, the greatest of these lawyers, declared in treating of slavery that so far as pertains to natural rights, all men are equal (Digest 50. 17. 32); also by natural law all men are born free (Institutes of Justinian 1. 2. 2); the application of these principles to politics proper, however, dates back to the treatise of Nicholas of Cues, De Concordantia Catholica, the views of which he presented to the Council of Basel in 1565. Almost the exact phrases used by Milton are to be found in this influential and learned work. See Dunning, Pol. Theories Ancient and Mediæval, p. 273. This idea, thus stated by the jurists and by Nicholas of Cues, was given new life by the author of the famous treatise, Vindiciæ Contra Tyrannos. The author of this revolutionary tract says: ‘Men are by nature free, impatient of servitude, prone to rule rather than to obey. It can only be for some great benefit that they renounce the law of their own nature to bear that of another. The inducement was the necessity of security, when the distinction between meum and tuum was introduced, when fellow-citizens began to quarrel for property, and neighboring nations for territory; then the people had recourse to a ruler to protect the weaker from the stronger, the nation from its neighbors’ (Digest by H. Armstrong, Eng. Hist. Rev. 4. 31).
Even the earlier supporters of despotic principles, Barclay and Blackwood, for instance, accepted as a truism the theory that all men were naturally born free, so that Milton feels quite safe in saying that every educated man will agree with him on this point. This theory was to be contested, however, by Filmer in his Patriarcha in the very year this pamphlet was published, and later writers, such as Heylin, Mainwaring, and Hobbes, were to set it at naught. But the pleasing assumption could not be argued out of existence, and, a century afterwards it found its way into the Declaration of Independence, and later still provided a favorite text for the orators of the French Revolution.
In Eikon. (Bohn 1. 455) Milton roundly declares: ‘Men are by naiure free; born and created with a better title to their freedom than any king hath to his crown.’ See also Ready and Easy Way (Bohn 2. 138).
9. 25. The image and resemblance of God. See Gen. 1. 26.
9. 26. By privilege above all the creatures. See Gen. 1. 26, 28.
9. 28. The Root of Adam’s transgression. See the story of the fall and its consequences, Gen. 3 and 4. Milton has in mind theological refinements on the simple story of Genesis, especially the doctrine of imputed sin. See his elaboration of this theme in P. L., Book 10. Augustine, rather than Paul, emphasized the doctrine of imputed guilt, and paved the way for the endless disquisitions of Calvinists on original sin. Augustine and Gregory the Great were the first Christian teachers to advance the argument that human government was introduced among men on account of Adam’s transgression. This view was held by the church until the time of Wycliffe. Thomas Aquinas was probably the first teacher to depart from this belief.
In a pamphlet published anonymously in London in 1644 (Jus Populi, pp. 42, 43) we come upon a passage which seems almost a paraphrase of Milton’s thought: ‘The nature of Man being depraved by the fall of Adam, miseries of all sorts broke in upon us in throngs, together with sin; insomuch that no creature is now so uncivile and untame, or so unfit either to live with or without societie, as Man.’ Todd, in his Life of Milton, pp. 225, 226 (London, 1826), notes this pamphlet, and discusses whether Milton could have written it.
9. 12. They agreed by common league. This is the political theory made popular in later days by Rousseau and called by him the Contrat Social. For the source of this interesting idea we must go back to the writings of the stoics. Lord Acton, in his essay entitled History of Freedom, p. 18, says: ‘The notion that men lived originally in a state of nature, by violence and without laws, is due to Critias. Communism in its grossest form was recommended by Diogenes of Sinope. According to the Sophists there is no duty above expediency, and no virtue apart from pleasure. Epicurus said that all societies are founded on contract, for mutual protection.’
Among the French pamphleteers of the latter half of the sixteenth century, the social contract theory was very popular. It was such a stock idea that it is impossible to ascribe it to any one individual. It is deliberately made the foundation-principle upon which the Vindiciæ Contra Tyrannos rests.
Milton’s idea of contract is that power is only temporarily surrendered, and may be recalled when abused. Suarez and other French theorists held that subjects by compact surrendered their rights once for all, and can never legally recover them. Thus they justified absolutism. Hobbes also adopted this idea: ‘They that are subjects to a monarch, cannot without his leave cast off monarchy, and return to the confusion of a disunited multitude’ (Leviathan, ed Morley, p. 85). It can be seen, therefore, that the ingenuity of the upholders of divine right tried to make even this democratic doctrine serve their own purposes.
For an exposure of the unhistorical character of this theory, see J. Bluntschli, The Theory of the State, pp. 276 ff.
10. 9. His owne partial Judge. Unduly favoring his own side in the controversy.
[Communicated and deriv’d.]He embodies in this phrase the idea of give and take. He insists upon the notion of a voluntary league or contract, and the derivative power of kings and magistrates. Thus the doctrine of the original contract and that of jure divino are placed in opposition.
10. 10. For the eminence of his wisdom and integritie. Cf. Buchanan, De Jure, p. 99: ‘Now I imagine that the intention of the ancients in creating a king was, according to what we are told of bees in their hives, spontaneously to bestow the sovereignty on him who was most distinguished among his countrymen for singular merit, and who seemed to surpass all his fellows in wisdom and equity.’ Although Milton probably transcribed this view from Buchanan, he may have imbibed it from ancient writers, for Aristotle (Politics, Book 3) and others, following Herodotus, express the same thought. Among ancient writers Polybius (Book 6, Ch. 1) held that the earliest form of government was monarchy based on force. The early men submitted, like animals, to the guidance of the strongest and boldest. See Dunning, Pol. Theories, p. 115.
10. 13. Magistrates. Bodin lays down this definition: ‘A magistrate is a publick officer, which hath power to command in a Commonweale’ (De Republica, p. 293).
10. 13. Not to be thir Lords and Maisters. See Aristotle (Politics 3. 17. 2): ‘It is manifest that, where men are alike and equal, it is neither expedient nor just that one man should be lord of all, whether there are laws, or whether there are no laws, but he himself is in the place of law.’ Cf. First Def. (Bohn 1. 66).
10. 26. Arbitrement. The right or capicity to decide for oneself. Here, free choice. A word rarely used in Milton’s day. Used more frequently since 1830. See P. L. 8. 641:
To stand or fall
Free in thine own Arbitrament it lies.
10. 31. Invent Lawes. In this fanciful sketch Milton follows Buchanan in this argument: ‘For when kings observed no laws but their capricious passions, and finding their power uncircumscribed and immoderate, set no bounds to their lusts, and were swayed mueh by favor, much by hatred, and much by private interest; their domineering insolence excited an universal desire for laws. On this account statutes were enacted by the people, and kings were in their judicial decisions obliged to adopt not what their own licentious fancies dictated but what the laws sanctioned by the people ordained’ (De Jure p. 105).
Two theories were then prevalent as to the origin of law. Francis Hotman, in his Franco-Gallia, declares that law is the result of the gradual growth of custom. The author of Vindiciæ Contra Tyrannos adopted the theory, which Milton upholds. See also Hooker, Eccles. Polity 1. 10.
10 (note). While as the magistrate, etc.This sentence is quoted from Cicero, De Legibus 3. 1: ‘Ut enim magistratibus leges: ita populo praesunt magistratus: vereque dici potest, magistratum legem esse loquentem, legem autem, mutum magistratum.’
Aristotle was probably father of the saying. See Politics 4. 15. 4. In his turn Buchanan wrote: ‘You see, then, that the magistrate derives his authority from the law, and not the law from the magistrate’ (p. 193). A somewhat similar maxim is that of Étienne Pasquier in his reply to Macchiavelli’s Prince: ‘Les rois sont faits pour les peuples, et non les peuples pour les rois’ (Henry Baudrillart, J. Bodin et Son Temps, p. 77).
In the First Def. (Bohn 1. 70) Milton gives a whole page to the amplification of the thought which is here dismissed in a line. He quotes Pindar, Orpheus, Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero to support the contention that the laws ought to govern the magistrates, as they do the people. His conclusion is that the institution of magistracy is jure divino, and the end of it is, that mankind might live under certain laws and be governed by them. See also Observ. Art. Peace (Bohn 2. 183).
11. 7. Instalment. Installation.
11. 8. Upon these termes and no other. Milton has the ancient practices of the French nation in mind. In the First Def. (Bohn 1. 107 ff.) he says: ‘For not only Hottoman [Francis Hotman, author of Franco-Gallia], but Guiccard, a very eminent historian of that nation, informs us that the ancient records of the kingdom of France testify that the subjects of that nation, upon the first institution of kingship amongst them, reserved a power to themselves, both of choosing their princes and of deposing them again, if they thought fit; and that the oath of allegiance, which they took, was upon this express condition: to wit, that the king should likewise perform what at his coronation he swore to do. So that if kings, by misgoverning the people committed to their charge, first broke their own oath to their subjects, there needs no pope to dispense with the people’s oaths; the kings themselves by their own perfidiousness, having absolved their subjects.’
11. 9. Bond or Covnant. Covenant is the Biblical synonym for bond, or any solemn agreement. In ancient times a covenant was accompanied by a religious rite. Among the Hebrews the most important covenant was between the people and the Deity. The primitive form of the rite consisted in cutting sacrificial victims in pieces, between which the contracting parties passed. See Gen. 15. 17; Jer. 34. 18, 19. There are many instances of covenants in the Old Testament between God and man, and between man and man. The most celebrated instance of a covenant in modern history is that of the league of the Scots against the introduction of prelacy. See Introduction.
11. 9. Those Lawes which they the people had themselves made, or assented to. Cf. Buchanan: ‘Our kings at their public inauguration solemnly promise to the whole people to observe the statutes, customs, and institutions of our ancestors, and to adhere strictly to that system of jurisprudence handed down by antiquity. This fact is proved by the whole tenour of the ceremonies at their coronation, and by their first arrival in our cities. From all these circumstances it may be easily conceived what sort of power they received from our ancestors, and that it was clearly such as magistrates, elected by suffrage, are bound by oath not to exceed’ (De Jure, p. 158).
11. 13. Counselors and Parlaments. Hotman speaks of ‘the Common Councel of the chosen men in the whole nation’ (Franco-Gallia, p. 69).
11. 13. Not to be onely at his beck. The king calls parliament to meet. The Royalists contended that the later sessions of the Long Parliament were illegal, because it assembled without the king’s consent. Milton argues that, whether with the king or without him, the parliament can meet to devise ways and means to care for the public safety. He resents the imputation of monarchical writers that the parliament is the mere creature of the king.
11. 18. Claudius Sesell. Claude de Seyssel (1450 — 1520). For fifty years Seyssel was professor of law in the University of Turin. He was also bishop of Laon, later of Marseilles, and archbishop of Turin in 1517. He was also one of the most noted diplomats of his time, serving on various missions for Henry VII and Louis XII. Seyssel was a voluminous author. He translated classical authors and produced many theological works, but is remembered chiefly for his historical writings, the most important of which was La Grand’ Monarchie de France (1519, in Latin 1548). He glorifies the régime of Louis XII, absolute in principle but moderate in practice.
Milton studied Seyssel’s masterpiece very carefully. He was attracted to its pages because the Turin diplomatist laid great stress upon the power of the states-general, and emphasized the limitations of kingly prerogative. Milton stored up in the pages of his Commonplace Book choice passages from La Grand’ Monarchie de France. The entry in the Commonplace Book (p. 33) is as follows: ‘Rex Galliæ parlamenti sui perpetui decretis parare necesse habet, ut scribit Claudius Sesellius, quod ille frænum regis vocat; de repub. Gallor. l. 1: ad quaestores etiam publicos rationes expensarum regiarum referuntur: quas illi potestatem minuendi habent, si immoderatas vel inutiles esse cognoverint; ibid.’ Seyssel, however, copied this saying from Plato. Hotman quotes Plato’s words in Franco-Gallia, p. 69.
This comparison is repeated in First Def. (Bohn 1. 164), and in Notes on Dr. Griffith’s Sermon (Bohn 2. 361): ‘Parliaments, which by the law of this land are his bridle; in vain his bridle, if not also his rider.’ For the general thought, the supremacy of parliament to the king, see Eikon. (Bohn 1. 360, 364).
11. 28. German. Bodin, De Republica, pp. 221, 236, supports this appeal to the history of Germany. He states that the sovereignty of the German empire lay in the hands of ‘three or foure hundred men,’ electors, princes, and ambassadors deputed for the imperial cities.
11. 28. French. See the section entitled Rex Anglicae, etc. in the Commonplace Book, p. 32: ‘Scotland was at first an elective kingdom for a long time: vide Hist. Scot. France an elective kingdom either to choose or to depose. Bernard de Gerard, Hist. France: faut noter che (sic) jusques a Hues Capet, tous les rois de France ont este eleuz par le Francois qui se reserverent ceste puissance d’elire e bannir e chasser leur rois. — By parliament of three estates, first then found out, Charles Martel was chosen Prince of the French. Bern. de Gerard, l. 2, p. 109, and Pepin King, l. 3, p. 134. Afterward Charles the Simple, though of the race of Charles the Great, depos’d and Robert crown’d in his stead by the French.’
[Arragonian.]Aragon, one of the chief divisions of Spain, formerly an independent kingdom. See Commonplace Book, p. 27.: ‘I re Aragonesi non hanno assoluta l’autorita regia in tutte le cose. Guicciardin. l. 6, Hist. p. 347.’
The favorite formula of the pamphleteers was borrowed, not from England, but from Spain. In the words of the coronation oath administered to Aragonian kings, the people were guaranteed as many rights and more power than the monarch. It was as follows: ‘Nos que valemos tanto come vos, os hazemos nuestro rey y senor con tal que nos guardeis nuestros fueros y libertades: y sino, no.’ See Du Hamel, Hist. Constitutionelle de la Monarchie Espagnole 1. 215. Hotman also describes the election, and gives the coronation oath in full (Franco-Gallia, p. 71).
12. 3. William the Norman (1066-1087).In his Hist. of the Norman Conquest (4. 802 ff.), Freeman makes no mention of the second oath-taking at St. Albans. Either Milton’s memory or authority was at fault. The statement is repeated, however, in First Def. (Bohn 1. 163): ‘When he broke his word, and the English betook themselves again to their arms, being diffident of his strength, he renewed his oath upon the Holy Evangelists to observe the ancient laws of England.’
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:58