« AnteriorContinuar »
to a royal sepulchre. A few days more, and his head is fixed to rot on the pinnacles of that very hall where he sat on a throne in his life, and lay in state after his death. When I think on all these things, to look round me makes me sad at heart. True it is that God hath restored to us our old laws, and the rightful line of our kings. Yet, how I know not, but it seems to me that something is wanting,-that our court hath not the old gravity, nor our people the old loyalty. These evil times, like the great deluge, have overwhelmed and confused all earthly things. And, even as those waters, though at last they abated, yet, as the learned write, destroyed all trace of the Garden of Eden, so that its place hath never yet been found, so hath this opening of all the floodgates of political evil effaced all marks of the ancient political paradise."
money? Had they not taken from the king his ancient and most lawful power touching the order of knighthood? Had they not provided that, after their dissolution, triennial parlia ments should be holden, and that their own power should continue till of their great condescension they should be pleased to resign it themselves? What more could they ask? Was it not enough that they had taken from their king all his oppressive powers, and many that were most salutary? Was it not enough that they had filled his council-board with his enemies, and his prisons with his adherents! Was it not enough that they had raised a furious multitude to shout and swagger daily under the very windows of his royal palace? Was it not enough that they had taken from him the most blessed prerogative of princely mercy; that, complaining of intolerance themselves, they had denied all toleration to others; that they had urged against forms scruples childish as those of any formalist; that they had persecuted the least remnant of the Popish rites with the fiercest bitterness of the Popish spirit? Must they besides all this have full power to command his armies and to massacre his friends?
"Sir, by your favour," said Mr. Milton, "though, from many circumstances both of body and fortune, I might plead fairer excuses for despondency than yourself, I yet look not so sadly either on the past or on the future. That a deluge hath passed over this our nation I deny not. But I hold it not to be such a deluge as that of which you speak, but rather a blessed flood, like those of the Nile, which in its overflow doth indeed wash away ancient landmarks, and confound boundaries, and sweep away dwellings, yea, doth give birth to many foul and dangerous reptiles. Yet hence is the fulness of the granary, the beauty of the garden, the nurture of all living things.
"I remember well, Mr. Cowley, what you have said concerning these things in your Discourse of the Government of Oliver Cromwell, which my friend Elwood read to me last year. Truly, for elegance and rhetoric, that essay is to be compared with the finest tractates of Isocrates and Cicero. But neither that nor any other book, nor events which with other men have, more than any book, weight and authority, have altered my opinion that, of all the assemblies that ever were in this world, the best and the most useful was our Long Parliament. I speak not this as wishing to provoke debate, which neither yet do I decline."
Mr. Cowley was, as I could see, a little nettled. Yet, as he was a man of a kind disposition and a most refined courtesy, he put a force to himself, and answered, with more vehemence and quickness, indeed, than was his wont, yet not uncivilly. "Surely, Mr. Milton, you speak not as you think. I am indeed one of those who believe that God hath reserved to himself the censure of kings, and that their crimes and oppressions are not to be resisted by the hands of their subjects. Yet can I easily find excuse for the violence of such as are stung to madness by grievous tyranny. But what shall we say for these men? Which of their just demands was not granted? Which even of their cruel and unreasonable requisitions, so as it were not inconsistent with all law and order, was refused? Had they not sent Strafford to the block and Laud to the Tower? Had they not destroyed the Courts of the High Commis-ly, "have indeed often deceived the ignoraną, sion and the Star-Chamber? Had they not re- but that Mr. Cowley should have been so beversed the proceedings confirmed by the voices guiled, I marvel. You ask what more the of the judges of England in the matter of ship-Parliament could desire? I will answer yas VOL. IL-53
"These questions," said Mr. Milton, austere
"For military command, it was never known in any monarchy, nay, in any well ordered republic, that it was committed to the debates of a large and unsettled assembly. For their other requisition, that he should give up to their vengeance all who had defended the rights of his crown, his honour must have been ruined if he had complied. Is it not therefore plain that they desired these things only in order that, by refusing, his majesty might give them a pretence for war?
"Men have often risen up against fraud, against cruelty, against rapine. But when be fore was it known that concessions were met with importunities, graciousness with insults, the open palm of bounty with the clenched fist of malice? Was it like trusty delegates of the Commons of England and faithful stewards of their liberty and their wealth, to engage them for such causes in civil war, which, both to liberty and to wealth, is of all things the most hostile. Evil indeed must be the disease which is not more tolerable than such a medicine. Those who, even to save a nation from tyrants, excite it to civil war, do in general but minister to it the same miserable kind of relief wherewith the wizards of Pharaoh mocked the Egyptian. We read that when Moses had turned their waters into blood, those impious magicians, intending not benefit to the thirsting people, but vain and emulous ostentation of their own art, did themselves also change into blood the water which the plague had spared. Such sad comfort do those who stir up war minister to the oppressed. But here where was the oppression? What was the favour which had not been granted? What was the evil which had not been removed What further could they desire?"
in one word, security. What are votes, and could not be defended. It was because he had statutes, and resolutions? They have no eyes never yielded the worst abuse without a iong to see, no hands to strike and avenge. They struggle, and seldom without a large bribe; it must have some safeguard from without. was because he had no sooner disentangled Many things, therefore, which in themselves himself from his troubles than he forgot his were peradventure hurtful, was this Parlia- promises; and, more like a villanous huckster ment constrained to ask, lest otherwise good than a great king, kept both the prerogative Jaws and precious rights should be without and the large price which had been paid to defence. Nor did they want a great and sig-him to forego it; it was because of these things nal example of this danger. I need not remind that it was necessary and just to bind with you that, many years before, the two houses forcible restraints one who could be bound had presented to the king the Petition of Right, neither by law nor honour. Nay, even while wherein were set down all the most valuable he was making those very concessions of privileges of the people of this realm. Did which you speak, he betrayed his deadly hot Charles accept it? Did he not declare it hatred against the people and their friends. to be law? Was it not as fully enacted as Not only did he, contrary to all that ever was ever were any of those bills of the Long Par- deemed lawful in England, order that members liament concerning which you spoke? And of the Commons House of Parliament should were those privileges therefore enjoyed more be impeached of high treason at the bar of the fully by the people? No: the king did from Lords; thereby violating both the trial by jury that time redouble his oppressions as if to and the privileges of the House; but, not con avenge himself for the shame of having been tent with breaking the law by his ministers, compelled to renounce them. Then were our he went himself armed to assail it. In the estates laid under shameful impositions, our birth-place and sanctuary of freedom, in the houses ransacked, our bodies imprisoned. House itself, nay, in the very chair of the Then was the steel of the hangman blunted Speaker, placed for the protection of free with mangling the ears of harmless men. speech and privilege, he sat, rolling his eyes Then our very minds were fettered, and the round the benches, searching for those whose iron entered into our souls. Then we were blood he desired, and singling out his opposers Then come compelled to hide our hatred, our sorrow, and to the slaughter. This most foul outrage fails. Then come courteous our scorn, to laugh with hidden faces at the Then again for the old arts. mummery of Laud, to curse under our breath gracious messages. the tyranny of Wentworth. Of old time it was speeches. Then is again mortgaged his own well and nobly said by one of our kings, that forfeited honour. He will never again violate an Englishman ought to be free as his thoughts. the laws. He will respect their rights as if Our prince reversed the maxim; he strove to they were his own. He pledges the dignity of make our thoughts as much slaves as our- his crown; that crown which had been comselves. To sneer at a Romish pageant, to mitted to him for the weal of his people, and miscall a lord's crest, were crimes for which which he never named, but that he might the there was no mercy. These were all the fruits more easily delude and oppress them. which we gathered from those excellent laws of the former Parliament, from these solemn promises of the king. Were we to be deceived again? Were we again to give subsidies, and receive nothing but promises? Were we again to make wholesome statutes, and then leave them to be broken daily and hourly, until the oppressor should have squandered another supply, and should be ready for another perjury? You ask what they could desire which he had not already granted. Let me ask of you another question. What pledge could be given which he had not already violated? From the first year of his reign, whenever he had need of the purses of his Commons to support the revels of Buckingham or the processions of Laud, he had assured them, that as he was a gentleman and a king, he would sacredly preserve their rights. He had pawned those solemn pledges, and pawned them again and again; but when had he redeemed them?
"For civil war, that it is an evil I dispute
Upon the honour of a prince,'-came so easi-
Upon my faith,'-Upon my sacred word,'-into the body politic he departs not but with
"The power of the sword, I grant you, was not one to be permanently possessed by parlia ment. Neither did that parliament demand it as a permanent possession. They asked it only for temporary security. Nor can I see on what conditions they could safely make peace with that false and wicked king, save such as would deprive him of all power to injure.
houses than to the king; nay not so much, since he by a little sincerity and moderation might have rendered that needless which their duty to God and man then enforced them to do."
"Pardon me, Mr. Milton,” said Mr. Cowley, "I grieve to hear you speak thus of that good king. Most unhappy indeed he was, in that he reigned at a time when the spirit of the then living generation was for freedom, and the precedents of former ages for prerogative. His case was like to that of Christopher Columbus, when he sailed forth on an unknown ocean, and found that the compass whereby he shaped his course had shifted from the north pole whereto before it had constantly pointed. So it was with Charles. His compass varied, and therefore he could not tack aright. If he had been an absolute king he would, doubtless, like Titus Vespasian, have been called the delight of the human race. If he had been a Doge of Venice, or a Stadtholder of Holland, he would never have outstepped the laws. But he lived when our government had neither clear definitions nor strong sanctions. Let, therefore, his faults be ascribed to the time. Of his virtues the praise is his own.
stain from those rigours! Had they, like him, for good and valuable considerations, aliened their hurtful prerogatives? Surely not: for whatever excuse you can plead for him, he had wholly excluded himself. The borders of countries, we know, are mostly the seats of perpetual wars and tumults. It was the same with the undefined frontiers, which of old separated privilege and prerogative. They were the debatable land of our polity. It was no marvel if, both on the one side and on the other, inroads were often made. But when treaties have been concluded, spaces measured, lines drawn, landmarks set up, that which before might pass for innocent error or just reprisal, becomes robbery, perjury, deadly sin. He knew not, you say, which of his powers were founded on ancient law, and which only on vicious example. But had he not read the Petition of Right? Had not proclamation been made from his throne; Soit fait comme il est desiré?
"For his private virtues they are beside the question. Remember you not," and Mr. Milton smiled, but somewhat sternly, "what Dr. Caius saith in the Merry Wives of Shakspeare! What shall the honest man do in my closet! "Never was there a more gracious prince, There is no honest man that shall come in my or a more proper gentleman. In every plea- closet.' Even so say I. There is no good sure he was temperate, in conversation mild man who shall make us his slaves. If he break and grave, in friendship constant, to his ser- his word to his people, is it a sufficient defence vants liberal, to his queen faithful and loving. that he keeps it to his companions? If he in battle brave, in sorrow and captivity re-oppress and extort all day, shall he be held solved, in death most Christian and forgiving. blameless because he prayeth at night and morning? If he be insatiable in plunder and revenge, shall we pass it by because in meat and drink he is temperate? If he have lived like a tyrant, shall he be forgotten because he hath died like a martyr?
"For his oppressions, let us look at the former history of this realm. James was never accounted a tyrant. Elizabeth is esteemed to have been the mother of her people. Were they less arbitrary? Did they never lay hands on the purses of their subjects but by Act of Parliament? Did they never confine insolent and disobedient men but in due course of law? Was the court of Star-Chamber less active? Were the ears of libellers more safe? I pray you, let not King Charles be thus dealt with. It was enough that in his life he was tried for an alleged breach of laws which none had ever heard named till they were discovered for his destruction. Let not his fame be treated as was his sacred and anointed body. Let not his memory be tried by principles found out ex post facto. Let us not judge by the spirit of Mr. Cowley answered somewhat sharply: one generation a man whose disposition had "I am sorry, sir, to hear you speak thus. I been formed by the temper and fashion of an-had hoped that the vehemence of spirit which other." was caused by these violent times had now abated. Yet, sure, Mr. Milton, whatever yea may think of the character of King Charles, you will not still justi his murder."
"He was a man, as I think, who had such a semblance of virtues as might make his vices most dangerous. He was not a tyrant after our wonted English model. The second Richard, and the second and fourth Edwards, and the eighth Harry, were men profuse, gay, boisterous; lovers of women and of wine, of no outward sanctity or gravity. Charles was a ruler after the Italian fashion; grave, demure, of a solemn carriage, and sober diet; as constant at prayers as a priest, as heedless of oaths as an atheist."
"Nav, but conceive me, Mr. Cowley," said Mr. Milton," inasmuch as, at the beginning of his reign, he imitated those who had governed before him, I blame him not. To expect that "Sir," said Mr. Milton, “I must have been kings will, of their own free choice, abridge of a hard and strange nature, if the vehemence their prerogative, were argument of but slender which was imputed to me in my younger days wisdom. Whatever, therefore, lawless, unjust, had not been diminished by the afflictions or cruel, he either did or permitted during the wherewith it has pleased Almighty God to first ears of his reign, I pass by. But for chasten mine age. I will not now defend all wha was done after that he had solemnly that I may heretofore have written. But this given his consent to the Petition of Right, I say, that I perceive not wherefore a king where shall we find defence? Let it be sup- should be exempted from all punishment. Is posed, which yet I concede not, that the tyranny it just that where most is given least should be of his father and of Queen Elizabeth had been required? or politic, that where there is the no less rigorous than was his. But had his greatest power to injure there should no dan father, had that queen sworn, like him, to ab-ger to restrain? But, you will say, there is no
work of evil to perform, they would turn their
such law. Such a law there is. There is the
"Neither do I well see wherefore you cava- they heightened it with spiritual pride,—they liers, and, indeed, many of us whom you mer- encouraged their soldiers to rave from the rily call Roundheads, distinguish between those tops of tubs against the men of Belial, tili who fought against King Charles, and special-every trooper thought himself a prophet. They ly after the second commission given to Sir taught them to abuse popery, till every drumThomas Fairfax, and those who condemned mer fancied that he was as infallible as a him to death. Sure, if his person were inviolable, it was as wicked to lift the sword against it at Naseby as the axe at Whitehall. If his life might justly be taken, why not in course of trial as well as by right of war?
Thus much in general as touching the right. But for the execution of King Charles in particular, I will not now undertake to defend it. Death is inflicted, not that the culprit may die, but that the state may be thereby ad-frowned at stage-plays, who smiled at massaThen men preached against painted vantaged. And, from all that I know, I think cres. that the death of King Charles hath more hin- faces, who felt no remorse for their own most dered than advanced the liberties of England.painted lives. Religion had been a pole-star "First, he left an heir. He was in captivity. to light and to guide. It was now more like to The heir was in freedom. He was odious to that ominous star in the book of the Apocalypse, the Scots. The heir was favoured by them. which fell from heaven upon the fountains and To kill the captive, therefore, whereby the rivers, and changed them into wormwood; for heir, in the apprehension of all royalists, be- even so did it descend from its high and cecame forthwith king; what was it in truth but lestial dwelling-place to plague this earth and to set their captive free, and to give him besides to turn into bitterness all that was sweet, and into poison all that was nourishing. other great advantages?
"Therefore it was not strange that such things should follow. They who had closed the barriers of London against the king could not defend them against their own creatures. They who had so stoutly cried for privilege, when that prince, most unadvisedly no doubt, came among them to demand their members, durst not wag their fingers when Oliver filled their hall with soldiers, gave their mace to a corporal, put their keys in his pocket, and drove them forth with base terms, borrowed half from the conventicle and half from the ale-house. Then were we, like the trees of the forest in holy writ, given over to the rule of the bramble; then from the basest of the shrubs came forth the fire which devoured the Cedars of Lebanon. We bowed down before a man of mean birth, of ungraceful demeanour, of stammering and most vulgar utterance, of scanda
"And who," said Mr. Cowley, "levied the Who commissioned those officers? army? Was not the fate of the Commons as justly deserved as was that of Diomedes, who was devoured by those horses whom he had him-lous and notorious hypocrisy. Our laws were seif taught to feed on the flesh and blood of made and unmade at his pleasure; the constimen? How could they hope that others would tution of our Parliaments changed by his writ respect laws which they themselves insulted; and proclamation; our persons imprisoned; that swords which had been drawn against the our property plundered; our lands and houses overrun with soldiers; and the great charter prerogatives of the king would be put up at an ordinance of the Commons? It was believed itself was but argument for a scurrilous jest; of old, that there were some devils easily and for all this we may thank that Parliament; raised, but never to be laid; insomuch, that if for never. unless they had so violently shaken a magician called them up, he should be forced the vessel, could such foul dregs have risen to "What you to find them always some employment; for, the top." Then answered Mr. Milton: though they would do all his bidding, yet, if he left them but for one moment without some have now said comprehends so great a number
"Then it was that religion changed her nature. She was no longer the parent of arts and letters, of wholesome knowledge, of innocent pleasures, of blessed household smiles. In their place came sour faces, whining voices, the chattering of fools, the yells of madmen. Then men fasted from meat and drink, who fasted not from bribes and blood. Then men
"Next, it was a deed most odious to the people, and not only to your party, but to many among ourselves; and as it is perilous for any government to outrage the public opinion, so most was it perilous for a government which had from that opinion alone its birth, its nurture, and its defence.
Yet, doth not this properly belong to our dispute; nor can these faults be justly charged upon that most renowned Parliament. For, as you know, the high court of justice was not established until the House had been purged of such members as were adverse to the army, and brought wholly under the control of the chief officers."
of subjects, that it would require, not an even- | troubled times, nave worked out the deliver.
ing's sail on the Thames, but rather a voyage to the Indies, accurately to treat of all; yet, in as few words as I may, I will explain my sense of these matters.
ance of nations and their own greatness, not by logic, not by rhetoric, but by wariness in suc cess, by calmness in danger, by fierce and stubborn resolution in all adversity. The hearts of men are their books; events are their tutors; great actions are their eloquence; and such a one, in my judgment, was his late Highness, who, if none were to treat his name scornfully now, who shook not at the sound of it while he lived, would, by very few, be men tioned otherwise than with reverence. His own deeds shall avouch him for a great statesman, a great soldier, a true lover of his country, a merciful and generous conqueror.
"For his faults, let us reflect that they who seem to lead are oftentimes most constrained to follow. They who will mix with men, and specially they who will govern them, must, in many things, obey them. They who will yield to no such conditions may be hermits, but cannot be generals and statesmen. If a man will walk straight forward without turning to the right or the left, he must walk in a desert, and not in Cheapside. Thus was he enforced to do many things which jumped not with his inclination nor made for his honour; because the army, on which alone he could depend for and life, might not otherwise be contented. And I, for mine own part, marvel less that he sometimes was fain to indulge their violence than that he could so often restrain it.
"In that he dissolved the parliament, I praise him. It then was so diminished in numbers, as well by the death as by the exclusion of members, that it was no longer the same assembly; and if at that time it had made itself perpetual, we should have been governed, not by an English House of Commons, but by a Venetian Council.
"If in his following rule he overstepped the laws, I pity rather than condemn him. He may be compared to that Mandius of Samos, of whom Herodotus saith, in his Thalia, that wishing to be of all men the most just, he was not able; for after the death of Polycrates he offered freedom to the people, and not till cer tain of them threatened to call him to a reckon ing for what he had formerly done, did he change his purpose, and make himself a tyrant, lest he should be treated as a criminal.
“First, as to the army. An army, as you have well set forth, is always a weapon dangerous to those who use it; yet he who falls among thieves spares not to fire his musquetoon because he may be slain if it burst in his hand. Nor must states refrain from defending themselves, lest their defenders should at last turn against them. Nevertheless, against this danger statesmen should carefully provide; and, that they may do so, they should take especial care that neither the officers nor the soldiers do forget that they are also citizens. I do believe that the English army would have continued to obey the Parliament with all duty, but for one act, which, as it was in intention, in seeming, and in immediate effect, worthy to be compared with the most famous in history, so was it, in its final consequence, most injurious. I speak of that ordinance called the self-denying, and of the new model of the army. By those measures the Commons gave up the command of their forces into the hands of men who were not of themselves. Hence, doubtless, derived no small honour to that noble assem-power bly, which sacrificed to the hope of public good the assurance of private advantage. And, as to the conduct of the war, the scheme prospered. Witness the battle of Naseby, and the memorable exploits of Fairfax in the west; but thereby the Parliament lost that hold on the soldiers and that power to control them, which they retained while every regiment was commanded by their own members. Politicians there be, who would wholly divide the legislative from the executive power. In the golden age this may have succeeded; in the millennium it may succeed again. But where great armies and great taxes are required, there the executive government must always hold a great authority, which authority, that it may not oppress and destroy the legislature, must be in some manner blended with it. The leaders of foreign mercenaries have always been most dangerous to a country. The officers of native armies, deprived of the civil privileges of other men, are as much to be feared. This was the great error of that parliament, and though an error it were, it was an error generous, virtuous, and more to be deplored than censured. "Hence came the power of the army and its leaders, and especially of that most famous leader, whom both in our conversation to-day, and in that discourse whereon I before touched, would scarcely have sufficed for his safety, and you have, in my poor opinion, far too roughly | it is a marvel that it could suffice for his ambihandled. Wherefore you speak contemptibly tion. When, after that, he found that the memof his parts I know not; but I suspect that you bers of his Parliament disputed his right even are not free from the error common to studious to that small authority which he had kept, and speculative men. Because Oliver was an when he might have kept all, then indeed I ungraceful orator, and never said, either in own that he began to govern by the sword public or private, any thing memorable, you those who would not suffer him to govern uy will have it that he was of a mean capacity. the law. Sure this is unjust. Many men have there been ignorant of letters, without wit, without eloquence, who yet had the wisdom to devise, and the courage to perform that which they lacked language to explain. Such inen often, in
"Such was the case of Oliver. He gave to his country a form of government so free and admirable, that, in near six thousand years, human wisdom hath never devised any more excellent contrivance for human happiness. To himself he reserved so little power that it
But for the rest, what sovereign was ever more princely in pardoning injuries, in con quering enemies, in extending the dominions and the renown of his people? What sea what shore did he not mark with imperisnable