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importuning prayers against the tyranny which we then groaned under; making vain and viler than dirt the blood of so many thousand faithful and valiant Englishmen, who left us in this liberty, bought with their lives; losing by a strange aftergame of folly all the battles we had won.......... A king must be adored like a demi-god, with a dissolute and haughty court about him, of vast expense and luxury, masks and revels, to the debauching of our prime gentry, both male and female...... to the multiplying of a servile crew, not of servants only, but of nobility and gentry, bred up then to the hopes, not of public, but of court offices, to be stewards, chamberlains, ushers, grooms. . . . . and the lower their minds debased with court opinions, contrary to all virtue and reformation, the haughtier will be their pride and profusion."
The penetrating mind of Milton gave him a glimpse of futurity: he foresaw the long contest which the people would have to maintain in order to re-conquer what they were about to lose: nay, it was not till these last days that England has recovered the ground which this great poet-politician defended inch by inch, And that king, "with a dissolute and haughty court about him,” whom the author of "Paradise Lost" so accurately delineated beforehand, was ready to land at Dover.
Some months before the appearance of this work he had published two treatises, the first "On Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Cases," and the second on the "Means of removing Hirelings out of the Church," in which he investigates the subject of the tithes, dues, and revenues of the Church; and expresses his doubts whether the ministers of the establishment can be maintained by the power of the law.
His opinion on parliamentary reform deserves to be quoted.
"If we give a right to all to elect any body, it will not be wisdom and authority, but turbulence and gluttony, that will soon raise the vilest miscreants of our taverns and sinks of debauchery, of our towns and villages, to the rank and dignity of senator. Who would entrust the affairs of the Commonwealth to persons whom no man would entrust with his own private affairs. Who would like to see the treasure of the State committed to the care of those who have squandered their own fortune in disgraceful prodigality? Ought they to have the charge of the people's purse who would soon convert it into their own purse? Are they qualified to be the legislators of a whole nation who know not what is law or reason, just or unjust, straight or crooked, lawful or unlawful; those who think that all power consists in outrage, all
dignity in insolence; who neglect no means to gratify the corruption of their friends, or the keenness of their resentments; who disperse their kindred and their creatures over the country to levy the taxes, and to confiscate property ?-men the most base and degraded, who buy themselves what they pretend to put up to sale, whence they amass exorbitant wealth diverted from the public coffers. They plunder the country, and emerge in a moment from poverty and rags into a state of affluence and splendour. Who could endure such scoundrels of servants, such vicegerents of their masters? Who could conceive that the leaders of robbers should be fitted to preserve liberty? Who could suppose that he had become a hair's breadth more free for such a race of functionaries-they might amount to five hundred, elected after this fashion by the shires and boroughs -- when, among those who ought to be the true guardians of liberty, there are so many who know neither how to use nor how to enjoy that liberty, and who comprehend neither the principles nor the merits of that right*."
Nothing stronger has ever been urged against par
* After a careful search through Milton's prose works, the Translator has been unable to discover this passage, and he has been, in consequence, obliged to give it diluted by a double translation, instead of quoting the nervous original language of the great author.-TRANSLATOR.
liamentary reform. Cromwell had tried this reform, and was soon obliged to dissolve the Parliament, which was the result of an extension of the right of election. But what was true in Milton's time is not equally true now-a-days. The disproportion between the landed proprietors and popular classes is not so great. The progress of education and civilisation has begun to render the electors of the middle class better qualified to judge of interests which, formerly, they did not comprehend. The England of the present age has been able, though not without peril, to confer rights on a class of citizens, who in the seventeenth century would have overturned the State if the House of Commons had been opened to them.
Thus all the questions, both general and particular, agitated at the present day among the nations of the continent and in the English Parliament, were discussed and resolved by Milton, in the same spirit in which the present age is resolving them; nay, he even created the modern constitutional language; the terms functionaries, decrees, motions, &c. are his. What then was that genius, capable of creating at once a new world and a new language in politics and poesy.
MILTON ARRESTED, AND SET AT LIBERTY- -THE POET'S
FIDELITY TO CROMWELL.
MILTON had the mortification of seeing the son of Charles I. restored to the throne; not that the poet's firm heart was dismayed, but his chimeras of Republican Liberty vanished ; every chimera thus dispelled gives pain, and leaves a void. Charles II., in his Declaration of Breda, announced a general pardon, leaving it for the Commons to except unworthy objects. The instances of sanguinary vengeance which occurred under the Stuarts and the House of Hanover cannot be imputed to the Crown; they were the work of the houses of Parliament. Bodies of men are more implacable than individuals, because they include more passions, and are less responsible.
At the return of Charles II., Milton retired from his situation as Latin Secretary, and left his home in Petty France, where, for eight years, he had received such homage. He withdrew to the