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were to drive us into despair of cure: In so great confusion, where to begin first, requires not much less care than what to apply.
Mr. Speaker, I know it is a plausible motion to begin with setting God's house in order first: Who presses that, moves with such advans tage, that he is sure no man will gain-say him. It is a well-becoming zeal, to prefer religion before our own affairs; and indeed it is a duty not to be omitted, where they are in equal danger: But, in cure of the body politick or natural, we must still prefer the most pressing exigents.
Physicians know that consumptions, dropsies, and such-like lingering diseases, are more mortal, more difficult to cure, than slight external wounds: Yet, if the least vein be cut, they must neglect their greater cures to stop that, which, if neglected, must needs exhaust the stock of nature, and produce a dissolution of the whole man.
A defection from the duties of our religion is a consumption to any state; no foundation is firm that is not laid in Christ.
The denial of justice, the abridgment of our liberties, is such an obstruction as renders the commonwealth leprous; but the wounds in our property let out the life-blood of the people.
The reformation of church-government must necessarily be a work of much time, and, God be thanked, the disease is not desperate: We serve one God, we believe in one Christ, and we all acknowledge and profess one Gospel.' The difference is only de modo, we vary but in ceremonies; to reduce which to the primitive practice, must be a work of great debate, is not a work for us alone to settle.
The stop of justice can yet injure but particulars. It is true, there may be many, too many instances of strange oppressions, great oppressors; but it will be hard to judge the conclusion. Et sic de cæteris.
But, take from us the property of our estates, our subsistence, we are no more a people; this is that vein, which hath been so deep cut, so far exhausted, that to preserve our being, we must, doubtless, first stop this current; then settle rules to live by, when we are sure to live.
Mr. Speaker, he, that well weighs this little word, property, or propriety in our estates, will find it of a large extent; the leeches, that have sucked this blood, have been excise, benevolences, loans, impositions, monopolies, military taxes, ship-money, cum multis aliis : all which spring from one root.
And is it not high time to grub up that root, that brings forth such fruit? shall we first stand to lop the branches one by one, when we may down with all at once? he, that, to correct an evil tree, that brings forth bad fruit, shall begin at the master-bough, and so lop downwards, is in danger to fall himself, before the tree falls. The safer and speedier way is to begin at the root; and there, with submission to better judgments, would I lay to the axe.
The root of most of our present mischiefs, and the ruin of all posterity, do I hold to be that extrajudicial (judgment I cannot say, but rather) doom, delivered by all the judges, under their hands out of court, yet recorded in all courts, to the subversion of all our fundamental laws and liberties, and annihilation, if not confiscation of our estates: that, in case of danger, the king may impose upon his subjects,
and that he is the sole judge of the danger, necessity, and proportion; which, in brief, is to take what, when, and where he will : Which, though delivered in the time of a gracious and merciful prince, who, we hope, will not wrest it beyond our abilities, yet, left to the interpretation of a succeeding tyrant, if ever this nation be so unfortunate to fall into the hands of such, it is a record, wherein every man may read himself a slave, that reads it, having nothing he can call his own, all prostitute to the will of another.
What to do in such a case we are not to seek for precedents; our honourable ancestors taught us, in the just and exemplary punishments of Chief Justice Tresilian and his accomplices (for giving their judge ments, out of parliament, against the established laws of parliament, how tender they were of us, how careful we ought to be to continue those laws, to preserve the liberty of our posterity.
I am far from maligning the person, nor in my heart wish I the exe cution of any man; but, certainly, it shall be a justice well becoming this house, to lay their heads at his majesty's mercy, who had laid us under his feet, who had made us but tenants at will of our liberties and estates.
And, though I cannot but approve of mercy, as a great virtue in any prince, yet I heartily pray it may prove a precedent as safe and useful to this oppressed state, as that of justice.
Mr. Speaker, blasted may that tongue be, that shall in the least degree derogate from the glory of those halcyon days, our fathers enjoyed, during the government of that ever-blessed, never-to-be-forgot royal Elisabeth! But certainly I may safely say, without detraction, it was much advantage to the peace and prosperity of her reign, that the great examples of Empson and Dudley were then fresh in memory. The civility of our laws tells us, That kings can dó no wrong, and then is the state secure, when judges, their ministers, dare do none. Since our times have found the want of such examples, it is fit we should leave some to posterity. God forbid, that all should be thought, or found guilty! There are, doubtless, some ring-leaders ; let us sift them out. In publick government, to pass by the nocent is equal injustice, as to punish the innocent. An omission of that duty, now, will be a guilt in us, render us shamed in history, cursed by posterity; our gracious and, in that act of voluntary justice, most glorious king hath given up, to the satisfaction of his afflicted people, the authors of their ruins; the
power of future preservation is now in us; et qui non servat patriam, cum potest, idem facit destruenti patriam.
What though we cannot restore the damage of the commonwealth, we may yet repair the breaches in the bounds of monarchy; though it be with our loss and charge, we shall so leave our children's children fenced, as with a wall of safety, by the restoration of our laws to their ancient vigour and lustre.
It is too true, that it is to be feared the revenues of the crown, sold out-right, would scarce remunerate the injuries, or repay the losses of this suffering nation since the pronouncing of that fatal sentence. What proportionable satisfaction, then, can this commonwealth receive in the punishment of a few inconsiderable delinquents ? But it is a rule valid
in law, approved in equity, that, Qui non habent in crumena, luant in corpore; and it is without all question, in policy, exemplary punishments conduce more to the state, than pecuniary reparations ; hope of impunity lulls every bad great officer into security, for his time; and, who would not venture to raise a fortune, when the allurements of honour and wealth are so prevalent, if the worst that can befall, be but restitution ?
We see the bad effects of this bold erroneous opinion; what was at first but corrupt law, by encouragement taken from their impunity, is since become false doctrine; the people taught in pulpits, they have no property; kings instructed in that destructive principle, that all is their's; and it is thence deduced into necessary state-policy, whispered in council, that he is no monarch who is bounded by any law.
By which bad consequences, the best of kings hath been, by the infusion of such poisonous positions, diverted from the sweet inclinations of his own natural equity and justice; the very essence of a king taken from him, which is the preservation of his people; and, whereas salus populi is, or should be suprema les, the power of undoing us is masqued under the stile of what should be sacred royal prerogative.
And is it not high time for us to make examples of the first authors of this subverted law, bad counsel, worse doctrine ?
Let no man think to divert us from the pursuit of justice, by poisoning the clear streams of our affections with jealous fears of his majesty's interruption, if we look too high. Shall we therefore doubt of justice, because we have need of great justice? We may be confident, the king well knows, That his justice is the band of our allegiance; that it is the staff, the proof of his sovereignty ?
It is an happy assurance of his intentions of grace to us, that our loyalty hath at last won him to tender the safety of his people ; and certainly (all our pressures well weighed, these twelve years last past) it will be found, the passive loyalty of this suffering nation hath outdone the active duty of all times and stories : As the poet hath it,
Fortiter ille facit, qui miser esse potest. I may as properly say, fideliter fecimus, we have done loyally to suffer so patiently.
Then, since our royal lord hath in mercy visited us, let us not doubt, but, in his justice, he will redeem his people. Qui timide rogat, docet negaré. But, when religion is innovated, our liberties violated, our fundamental laws abrogated, our modern laws already obsoleted, th property of our estates alienated, nothing left us, we can call our own, but our misery and our patience; if ever any nation might justifiably, this certainly may now, now most properly, most seasonably cry out, and cry loud, Vel sacra regnet justitia, vel ruat cælum.
Mr. Speaker, the sum of my humble motion is, That a special committee may be appointed to examine the whole carriage of that extrajudicial judgment; who were the counsellors, sollicitors, and subscribers to the same; the reasons of their subscription; whether according to their opinions, by importunity, or pressure of others, whether pro forma tantum ; and, upon report thereof, to draw up a charge against the guilty; and then, Currat lex, fiat justitia.
MR. JOHN MILTON'S
CHARACTER OF THE LONG PARLIAMENT
AND ASSEMBLY OF DIVINES,
Omitted in his other Works, and never before printed, and pery seasonable
for these Times.
London, printed for Henry Brome, at the Gun at the West end of St. Paul's,
1681. Quarto, containing sixteen Pages.
TO THE READER.
THE reader may take notice, that this character of Mr. Milton's was a
part of his History of Britain, and by him designed to be printed: but, out of tenderness to a party [whom neither this nor much more lenity has had the luck to oblige), it was struck out for some harshness, being only such a digression, as the history itself would not be discomposed by its omission; which I suppose will be easily discerned, by reading over the beginning of the third book of the said
history, very near which place this character is to come in. It is reported, and from the foregoing character it seems probable, that
Mr. Milton had lent most of his personal estate upon the publick faith; which, when he somewhat earnestly and warmly pressed to have restored [observing how all in offices had not only feathered their own nests, but had inriched many of their relations and creatures, before the publick debts were discharged], after a long and chargeable attendance, met with very sharp rebukes; upon whick, at last despairing of any success in this affair, he was forced to return from them poor and friendless, having spent all his money, and wearied all his friends. And he had not probably mended his worldly condition in those days, but by performing such service for them, as afterwards he did, for which scarce any thing would appear too great.
OF these, whoswayed most in the late troubles, few words, as to this
point, may suffice. They had arms, leaders, and successes to their wish; but to make use of so great an advantage was not their skill.
To other causes therefore, and not to the want of force, or warlike
manhood in the Britons, both those, and these lately, we must impute the ill-husbanding of those fair opportunities, which might seem to have put liberty, so long desired, like a bridle into their hands. Of which other causes equally belonging to ruler, priest, and people, above have been related; which, as they brought those ancient natives to misery and ruin, by liberty, which, rightly used, might have made them happy; so brought they these of late, after many labours, much bloodshed, and vast expence, to ridiculous frustration; in whom the like defects, the like miscarriages notoriously appeared, with vices not less hateful or inexcusable.
For, a parliament being called to redress many things, as it was thought, the people, with great courage, and expectation to be eased of what discontented them, chose to their behoof in parliament such as they thought beşt affected to the publick good, and some, indeed, men of wisdom and integrity; the rest, to be sure the greater part, whom wealth or ample possessions, or bold and active ambition, rather than merit, had commended to the same place.
But, when once the superficial zeal and popular fumes, that acted their new magistracy, were cooled, and spent in them, straight every one betook himself, setting the eommonwealth behind, his private ends before, to do as his own profit or ambition led him. Then was justice delayed, and soon after denied : spight and favour determined all: hence faction, thence treachery, both at home and in the field: every where wrong, and oppression : foul and horrid deeds committed daily, or maintained, in secret, or openly. Some who had been called from shops and warehouses, without other merit, to sit in supreme councils and committees, as their breeding was, fell to huckster the commonswealth. Others did thereafter as men could sooth and humour them best; so he who would give most, or, under covert of hypocritical zcal, insinuate basest, enjoyed unworthily the rewards of learning and fidelity; or escaped the punishment of his crimes and misdeeds. Their votes and ordinances, which men looked should have contained the repealing of bad laws, and the immediate constitution of better, resounded with nothing else, but new impositions, taxes, excises; yearly, monthly, weekly. Not to reckon the offices, gifts, and preferments bestowed and shared amongst themselves: they, in the meanwhile, who were ever faithfullest to this cause, and freely aided them in person, or with their substance, when they durst not compel either, slighted, and bereaved after of their just debts by greedy sequestrations, were tossed up and down after miserable attendance from one committee to another with petitions in their hands ; yet, either missed the obtaining of their suit, or, though it were at length granted (mere shame and reason oftentimes extorting from them at least a shew of justice) yet, by their sequestrators and sub-committees abroad, men for the most part of insatiable hands, and noted disloyalty, those orders were commonly disobeyed; which, for certain, durst not have been, without secret compliance, if not compact with some superiors able to bear them out. Thus were their friends confiscate in their enemies, while they forfeited their debtors to the state, as they called it, but indeed to the ravening seigure of innumerable thieves in office; yet