« EelmineJätka »
This scaffold at Whitehall was converted into a throne, when royal blood had dyed it crimson, and the Protector seated himself upon it. France, under the grandson of Henry IV., was about to rise as much as England was doomed to sink under Charles II. and his brother. Glory must always be somewhere: when she flew from the head of Cromwell, she settled on that of Louis XIV.
Louis XIV. wore mourning for a regicide, and it was the bard who sang the deeds of Satan, the republican apologist of the death of Charles I., the enemy of kings and of Catholics, who acquainted the absolute monarch, the author of the revocation of the edict of Nantes, with the death of Oliver, the Protector.
What here appears to be contrast is harmony; high reputations mingle, like children of the same family. Between all truly great characters there is an affinity: two persons of similar sentiments, but of unequal minds, have a stronger antipathy to one another, than two men of superior minds, though adverse in opinions and conduct.
MILTON'S OPINIONS CONCERNING THE COMMONWEALTH, TITHES, AND PARLIAMENTARY REFORM.
WHILE Milton was, in Richard's name, reminding the sovereigns and their ministers of the tender love and the profound admiration which they felt for the judge of a king, factions began to revive in England. Governments which depend on the existence of a single man fall with that man; the effect ceases with the cause. The old republican party in the army roused itself: the officers whom Cromwell had displaced united together. Lambert put himself at the head of the good old cause. Threatened by the officers, Richard had the weakness to dissolve the House of Commons; the House of Lords was a cipher.
Aristocratic assemblies reign gloriously, when they are invested, de jure or de facto, with the supreme power: they offer the strongest guarantees to liberty, order, and property; but, in mixed
governments, they lose a great part of their value, and are contemptible whenever a great political crisis arrives. Never have they averted such a crisis. Weak against the king, they prevent not despotism; weak against the people, they obviate not anarchy. Ever liable to be broken up in popular commotions, they purchase their existence only at the price of their perjuries and their slavery. Did the House of Lords save Charles I.? Did it save Richard Cromwell, to whom it took the oath of allegiance? Did it save James II.? Will it save in our days the Princes of Hanover? Will it save itself? These aristocratic counterpoises, as they are called, only serve to embarrass the balance, and will sooner or later be thrown out of the scale. An ancient and wealthy aristocracy, accustomed to public speaking and public business, has but one way of retaining power when it is slipping out of its grasp; that is, to pass over gradually to democracy, and to place itself insensibly at its head, unless it deems that it is strong enough to play at the game of civil war-a terrible game!
Soon after the dissolution of the House of Commons, Richard abdicated: he was crushed by the renown of Oliver. Detesting the military yoke, he had not strength to shake it off; without any conviction, he cared for nothing; he suffered
his guards to rob him of his dinner, and England to go all alone; he took away two large trunks full of those addresses and congratulations customary with all servile men in honour of all men in power. In these addresses he was told that God had given him the supreme authority for the happiness of the three kingdoms. "What have
you in those trunks?" said some one to him. "The happiness of the English nation," he replied, with a laugh.
The council of officers was called the Rump. The Rump immediately attacked the military authority which had restored it to life. Lambert, as usual, beset the Commons. The Parliament being dissolved, the people, in token of rejoicing, made bonfires in the public streets of heaps of the rumps of various animals. Monck appeared, and every thing indicated the Restoration.
What did Milton during this social decomposition? Seeing liberty compelled to fall back, still dreaming of the Commonwealth, forgetting that there are moments when the pen is of no avail, he published a pamphlet on "The Ready and Easy Way to establish a free Commonwealth." In rapid survey, he reviews what the English had done to abolish monarchy:
"For this extolled and magnified nation," he says, "regardless both of honour won and deliver
ances vouchsafed from Heaven, to fall back, or rather to creep back, so poorly, as it seems the multitude would, to their once abjured and detested thraldom of kingship ... ... to throw away and forsake, or rather to betray a just and noble cause...... and by thus relapsing to verify all the bitter predictions of our triumphing enemies, who will now think they wisely discerned and justly censured both us and all our actions as rash, rebellious, hypocritical, and impious; not only argues a strange degenerate contagion suddenly spread among us, fitted and prepared for new slavery, but will render us a scorn and derision to all our neighbours...... Besides this, if we return to kingship, and soon repent (as undoubtedly we shall, when we begin to find the old encroachments coming on by little and little upon our consciences), we may be forced perhaps to fight over again all that we have fought, and spend over again all that we have spent, but are never like to attain thus far as we are now advanced to the recovery of our freedom, never to have it in our possession as we now have it, never to be vouchsafed hereafter the like mercies and signal assistances from heaven in our cause, if by our ungrateful backsliding we make these fruitless; flying now to regal concessions from his divine condescensions and gracious answers to our once