Front Page Titles (by Subject) IV. The Negative Argument against the Present Order - Areopagitica (Jebb ed.)
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IV. The Negative Argument against the Present Order - John Milton, Areopagitica (Jebb ed.) 
Areopagitica, with a Commentary by Sir Richard C. Jebb and with Supplementary Material (Cambridge at the University Press, 1918).
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IV. The Negative Argument against the Present Order
Pp. 25-33. See the ingenuity of Truth...whereof it bears the intention.
It has been shown that there is no good precedent for licensing; and if it is said that it is a newly invented precaution, the answer is that it is so obvious an one that it can have been neglected only because it was disapproved. Plato, indeed, was for restricting reading in his ideal Commonwealth. But in practice he did not keep his own precept: he saw that this particular restriction would be useless without all the other restrictions of his imaginary City. It is vain to shut one gate while others stand open. If reading is regulated, then music, conversation, every incident of social life must be regulated too. The real art of government, elsewhere than in an Utopia or an Atlantis, is to discern where coercion and where persuasion should be used. Passions have been implanted in human nature because, rightly tempered, they are ingredients of virtue; and it is vain for human government to affect a rigour contrary to the manner of Providence and of Nature.
Everything we hear or do is our book. But, supposing that the restriction of printed books were enough in itself to keep out evil, the Order of Parliament cannot even do this. Writings which it aims at repressing are still circulated. If the Order is to be effectual, a complete list must be made of unlicensed books already in circulation, an index on the model of Trent and Seville. Yet even then the Order would be fruitless. It could not prevent sects or schisms; had not Christianity spread itself over Asia before a written Gospel or Epistle was seen? It cannot mend manners; for what are the manners of Italy and of Spain? Lastly, there is this practical difficulty:—No man, studious, learned, judicious enough to be a competent licenser will endure the drudgery. The present Licensers make no secret of their weariness. Future Licensers will be either ignorant, imperious and remiss, or venal.