Front Page Titles (by Subject) H.: Significance - The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth
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H.: Significance - John Milton, The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth 
The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth, edited with Introduction, Notes, and Glossary by Evert Mordecai Clark (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1915).
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As a practical solution of the problem of settlement, we have seen that The Ready and Easy Way possesses little significance. There is no record of its ever having received the slightest serious consideration from those in authority, or of its ever having enlisted a single private voice in its support. While it contains much sound political wisdom, it reveals Milton’s astounding ignorance of existing conditions in the proposal to perpetuate the very institution from which the whole nation was then crying aloud to be delivered.
Its interest as a literary achievement is much more considerable. Milton has not only made a constitution readable and interesting,—a feat sufficiently remarkable,—but he has so suffused its practical proposals with ideality and passionate humanity as to make this pamphlet one of the noblest that he ever wrote. Discarding ornate and elaborate style, in homely, telling words Milton here pours forth his most earnest thought and feeling upon the lofty theme of human freedom. He asserts the native worth and inherent capacity of the individual and of the nation. He glows with indignation at the presumption of kings. With eloquent appeal he seeks to recall the infatuated people from their servility. With the almost unerring insight of a prophet, he warns of penalties to come. And with all the terrific power at his command, he hurls defiance and anathema at the approaching king. Although the treatise is tinged with a sad consciousness of defeat, it by no means belongs to the literature of despair. Its gloom is pierced by a ray of hope—the eternal hope of the Christian idealist. God, to whom the writer appeals in his sublime peroration, is able to raise up ‘children of reviving libertie’ from the very stones.
The Ready and Easy Way may be considered from the dramatic point of view. It is, indeed, a tragedy; for, although designedly a political pamphlet, it vividly portrays the heroic struggle of an individual against forces which prove irresistible. One has only to look beneath its hurried, fervent lines, to see the forward sweep of the mob, the vain attempt of a few brave men to stay its fury. It is the tragedy, not only of an individual and of a group, but of the cause of freedom.
The treatise possesses peculiar interest as a prophecy. Although sightless eyes were unable to inform him of conditions and needs as they existed immediately around him, Milton seems to have beheld, with all the prevision of a seer, the consequences which were to ensue upon the return of the Stuarts. The dissolute court, the widespread moral degeneracy; dire revenges, oppressive taxes, and confiscation of estates; the standing army, the corruption of the judiciary, the repentance of the people, the appeal to arms—all this followed swiftly upon the Restoration, even as Milton had foretold.
The chief significance of The Ready and Easy Way, however, does not consist in its political, literary, or prophetic nature, but in its biographical revelations. After all, the personality of Milton is more interesting, and more important, than his doctrines; and here, in this slender pamphlet, we have a faithful record of the mind and heart and conduct of the greatest of the Puritans, at the supreme crisis of his political career.
It is pleasing to note that amidst almost universal defection Milton shows no sign of compromise, no abandonment of high ideals. He is still the advocate of Puritan simplicity, industry, frugality, stern morality, and true religion. He believes in the need and possibility of righteous public servants. He glows with indignation at the profligacy and insolence of courtiers and cavaliers. He still asserts the native liberty of men, and holds kings in less esteem than at any previous period of his life. He is even no longer a believer in protectors, as is shown by the motto prefixed to the second edition.
For twenty years Milton had given himself unreservedly to the service of the state. He had spread the fame of the ‘glorious rising Commonwealth’ all over Europe. With grief he now beheld the nation turning again, of its own accord, to servitude. Never did Milton’s patriotism burn more brightly than in his earnest endeavor even yet to save the people from their folly, his eloquent warnings and appeals, his eagerness to point out the way of escape. Never did he give a more superb exhibition of courage. He had freely sacrificed his sight in ‘liberty’s defense’; he now offered life itself, for he could not have doubted that death was likely to be the penalty attached to his Ready and Easy Way.