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Gadwin's Lites of the Nephews of Milta. 263 Uabappily the differences which had arisen in England he. tween the Crown and Parliament, upon questions of prerogative, and the yet more savage contenţiou between the Church and the disaffected Puritans were about to terminate in open war. The standard of 'rebellion was qufurled, and the army was seduced from its allegiance to a tack the altar and the throne. The mind of Milton had been already strongly imbued with those principles of liberty in the affairs of state, and of resistance to all ecclesia astical superiority which then became predominant. The harsh tones of civil discord reached him upon the shores of Italy, and he heard them without dismay. He hastened to hear a part in the struggle. He was content to abandon his project of visiting Greece, where, with congenial spirit he night have contemplated the antient philosophy, and have become familiar with the antient poetry in the places which were sanctified by the earliest masters of morality and the fathers of poetry. His muse became silent, and he prepared himself for hoarse and un. relenting disputation.
He immediately became a principal writer in the service of the Parliament, and encountered too successfully the learning of Usher, and the zeal, often misplaced, of those who defended the Constitution. In 1641, he produced three laborious tracts in behalf of the reformation, then rapidly progressive, against Prelatical Episcopacy, and on the Reason of Church Governmeụt urged against Prelacy. His style was often eloquent and always vigorous. His argument cogent and his learning profound. It could not be otherwise than that in any cause he should prove powerful and persuasive ; but bis doctrines are incompatible with every principle of the British Constitution, and can now be safely consulted only by those whose judgment and experience can refute his fallacious reasoning, and detect his pernicious errors. It is most afflicting to observe in him such want of charity, such violation of taste, and such a merciless spirit of persecution as might have been least expected from his highly cultivated mind. He execrates his opponents, the men of high dignuty and promotion, without remorse, and wishing them a shameful, end in this life, he dooms them
“ To be thrown down eternally into the darkest and the deepest gulph of hell ; where, under the despiteful controul, the trample and spurn of all the other damned, that in the anguish of their tortures shall have no other ease than to exercise a raving and bestial ty. ranny over them as their slaves and negroes, they shall remain in that plight for ever, the basest, the lowermost, the most dejected, most underfoot, and down-trodden vassals of perdition.” .
But private considerations sometimes outweighed the judgment of his political associates. He had married a lady of respectable family, who disliked his habits and his disloyalty, and he wished the union to be dissolved. He therefore set about his Treatises on Divorce, and on the Nullity of Marriage, which were very loudly censured by the Puritans, though they never pushed the prosecution to a criminal result. They found him too powerful an advocate to be dealt with as a meaner offender.
Though deeply immersed in such savage controversy, the spirit of his poetry, destined to illumine and delight succeeding ages, however obscure, was not extinct. He sighed after nobler occupation, and projected the undertaking of a work
“ Not to be raised from the heat of youth, or the vapours of wine, like that which flows at waste from the pen of some vulgar amorist, or the trencher fury of a rhyming parasite, nor to be ob. tained by the invocation of dame memory and her syren daughters, but by devout prayer to that eternal Spirit, who can inrich with all utterance and knowledge, and sends out his seraphim with the hallowed fire of his altar, to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases."
But forgetful of his high calling he still devoted himself to the service of the rebellious. Within a month after the execu. tion of the king, he published his defence of that atrocious deed in a tract entitled : . « The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, proving that it is lawful, and hath been held so through all ages for any who have the power to call to account a tyrant or wicked king, and after due conviction, to depose and put him to death, if the ordinary magistrate have neglected or denied to do it, and that they who of late have so much blamed deppsing are the men that did it themselves.!!
He was now honoured with public employment, and became the Latin secretary to the Council of State. He found time to write the Iconoclastes, a reply to the Eikon Basilike, wherein he traduced the character of the murdered sovereign, and aimed a deadlier blow at the royal cause than those who, by a mockery of justice, had doomed him to the scaffold. He also, soon after, published his Defensio pro Populo Anglicano, in answer to a learved vindication of the murdered king, published abroad, by Salmasius, in which he justified all the atrocities of the rebellion, from the first resistance made to the government, to jlg consummation in the establishment of the unprecedented
tyranny of a remnant of the House of Commons, to wliom he was an active agent.
Milton was not consistent in this, his walk of sedition, but found it necessary, for his advancement, to abandon his notionis of abstract liberty. He very willingly obeyed the necessity, and became the servant of masters, who, with no title of supremacy, ruled the kingdoni with more than kingly power. The course of events had led to a different result than that devised by the first movers of insurrection. The monarch was indeed subverted, and the persecuted Church destroyed. His wishes had been accomplished in this, that most of the persons of high dignity and promotion, whom he execrated, had shared in the calamity of their prince, and all of them were degraded from their rank and power, and deprived of their wealth. But his beatific vision of the promised Millennium had not been com. pletely realised. The Parliament which was to receive “ above the inferiors orders of the blessed, the regal addition of principalities, legions, and thrones," had been rudely displaced and trampled upon by their own soldiery, and the nation was soon to be delivered in inglorious bondage to the rule of an unrestrained master, who called himself the Protector of the commonwealth. '
Mr. Godwin has treated of these matters at large, both to vindicate the honour of Milton and to recommend the example of those fearful times. He says of the Defensio pro Populo Anglicano, ." It was necessary to the character of the government which then subsisted, that the proud and vaunting performance of Salmasiųs should not go without an answer. It was necessary to the vindication of that large and respectable part of the people of England, who had either been actively concerned in bringing Charles to the scaffold, or avowedly approved the deed, that the scurrilous and arrogant inyectives of this great literary champion should be repelled. Neyer did any book more completely fulfil the ends for which it was produced than this work of Milton. It was every where received on the Continent with astonishment and applause. The ambassadors of the different governments of Eu. rope at that time resident in London, paid visits of compliment to the author. It had the honour to be burned by the hands of the common hangman at Toulouse and at Paris. Lastly, having been perused by Christina Queen of Sweden, she was struck with the eloquence of the composition, the strength of the reasoning, and the vigour with which the author exposed the futility, the sophistry, and contradictions of his antagonist."
Now surely there is some sophistry and contradiction in this passage of Mr. Godwin. That part of the people of England
which was actively concerned in bringing the King to death, is well known to be a very inconsiderable proportion, not the gentry nor the commonalty, not the presbyterian interest, but a few independents, aided by the army, traiterous both to him and to the parliament, and unable to accomplish the deep tragedy till the House of Peers was abolished, and the far greater part of the House of Commons actually expelled. It is certain that a sort of public approbation was afterwards obtained by the perpetrators of that crime; but when a tyranny possesses the whole military force, what is the value of the addresses extorted from the people. If the work was received throughout Europe with applause, it is extraordinary that it should be burnt in France, nu inconsiderable country, by the hands of the common hangman. As to the compliments of the ambassadors, it was by them esteemed the manifesto of the new government to which they were accredited. As well might the servile adulation of the ambassadors to the bloody directors of France be construed an approval of the then recent regicide, as the visits of the am. bassadors to Milton, the Latin secretary to the new usurpation, be deemed a public commendation of his principles.
In that work Milton prostituted bis pen in distinct commen. dation of the leaders in the parliamentary government. A revolution took place two years afterwards, which proceeded on principles equally adverse to the friends of hereditary monarchy and to those of republican institutions. On the 20th of April, 1653, Cromwell expelled the parliament altogether, alike in. different to the pretensions of presbyterian and independent, and soon after he deemed it expedient to assume the uitle of Lord Protector, and to exercise the utmost violence towards the subjects of Milton's late eulogium.
* Harrison and Rich were sent prisoners to remote castles ; Overton was shut up, first in the Tower, and afterwards in the Isle of Jersey; Vane was imprisoned in Carisbrook Castle, the very plage which had been the scene of the longest severities exercised against Charles the First ; Okey was cashiered, and Ludlow was held to bail.
“ Still Milton adhered to the Protector. Cromwell had long and justly won for himself golden opinions from all sorts of those men who placed the welfare of their country in a republican government. Milton was strongly impressed with the opinion, that if the public cause was to be saved, there was no man more emi, nently fitted than Cromwell for the performance of the glorious task. Milton thought he saw the express hand of Providence in the events by which the monarchy had been overthrown, and the following governments established, and proceeding in such reasonings, he viewed in Cromwell the instrument of Providence for good to a favoured people."
He forgot that the whole of bis political life had hitherto been distinguished by his deprecating a governinent by a single person and his extolling a repubiican institution. He remained in office under Cromwell, and hastened to produce his Defensio Secunda pro Populo Anglicano, in which the utmost and most servile flattery is lavished on the Protector, whose most criminal assailments of public liberty are grossly applauded.
os Cromwell never called a parliament, but to commit violence upon it, to disgrace the name of parliament, or to disgrace himself. The whole of his ill-omened administration for a term of nearly five years was a series of despicable experiments on the nature of government, calculated to bring the very names of patriotism and republic into contempt.”
But Milton did not abdicate his post of Latin secretary. At length Cromwell died, and his system gave way to the re-esta. blishment of the 'republican form. Milton was now the most forward to asperse his memory. He compared him to Sylla the Roman tyrant.
His counsel to the people was to persevere in disloyalty, never to resume the antient constitution, or to restore the legitimate authority of their kings. All this ineets with the approbation of Mr. Godwin.
At this æra, " while the heart of Milton," as Mr. Godwin tells us, “ was anxiously attentive to the signs of the times, and meditating if by any means his country might be saved, his nephew's passed over to the enemy's standard." In 1815. an author dares to designate the adoption of that policy which led to the restoration of the royalty of England, after twenty years of public commotion and anarchy, as a desertion to the standar?. of an enemy.
Mr. Godwin proceeds to inform us of the state of parties at that time; but in doing this, he describes the puritans as they imight have been imagined before the rebellion, the assertors of constitutional liberty, standing up for a purer form of worship and a stricter course of moral discipline; certainly not as they had shewn themselves while exercising the parliamentary domi. nation, cruel, intolerant, rapacious, sullen, and vindictive. He charges upon the royalists of 1660, all the faults of the King's party which had .preceded the troubles, and all which the spirit of faction had at any time attributed to them. He is so bold as to tell us, that they were