Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
This layout is optimized for screen readers and other assistive devices for the visually impaired.
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).
A defence of the Republic written on the eve of the restoration of the monarchy. Milton persisted in opposing rule by one man in favor of rule by those to whom power had been delegated by the people.
The text is in the public domain.
WEIMAR: PRINTED BY R. WAGNER SOHN.
The Ready and Easy Way marks the close of Milton’s long public career, and exhibits his political ideas crystallized into a definite republican proposal. It presents a remarkable opportunity for observing Milton the idealist and doctrinaire contending with Milton the practical man of affairs. It is in some degree drawn from the ancients, but it also proceeds from the modern democratic movement that had its origin in the Middle Ages. And it is peculiarly a reflection of events, feelings, and utterances during the last days of the Interregnum. Hence, in the following Introduction and Notes, I have attempted to point out the relation of the treatise to previous political theory, to the events of its day, and to contemporaneous publications.
But perhaps the most distinctive feature of the present edition is to be found in the treatment of the text itself. Owing to the rapid shifting of the situation in England during February, March, and April, 1660, and the resistless sweep of men and affairs in the direction of kingship, Milton subjected the first edition of The Ready and Easy Way to thoroughgoing revision, and, a few weeks after its first appearance, reissued the treatise in a practically reconstructed form. The changes introduced are so radical, and the deftness with which they were accomplished, notwithstanding Milton’s blindness, is so remarkable, that it has seemed to the present editor worth while to form a text which should present, in their proper connection, the author’s first thought and his afterthought, and at the same time exhibit the interesting process of revision. Accordingly, the first edition (which has been so neglected by editors and publishers for two hundred years) has been reproduced as the basis of the present text, and into this have been inserted all the variants and additions found in the revised edition. Omissions from the first edition have been indicated also. Hence the text as it appears in this volume affords a picture of the process of revision, and at the same time presents, in smallest compass, the entire thought of both original editions.
I desire to express my gratitude to Professor Albert S. Cook for invaluable criticism and advice, and to Professor Henry A. Beers and Professor William Lyon Phelps for encouragement and helpful suggestions. My thanks are due, also, to Professor Williston Walker, of the Yale Divinity School, for information on questions of church history; to Horace Hart, Esq., of Oxford, England, for certain information in regard to original editions of the treatise; to the officials of the British Museum; to my friend and predecessor in this field, Professor William T. Allison, of the University of Manitoba; to Mr. W. A. White, of New York City, for the use of his unique copy of the revised edition; to Mr. Andrew Keogh, for aid in matters of bibliography; and to Mr. Henry A. Gruener and other officials of the Yale University Library, for special privileges and assistance.
A portion of the expense of printing this book has been borne by the Modern Language Club of Yale University, from funds placed at its disposal by the generosity of Mr. George E. Dimock, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, a graduate of Yale in the class of 1874.
E. M. C.
May 1, 1911.
Milton dictated two editions of The Ready and Easy Way, and original copies of both have been preserved. The first edition is entitled the Readie & Easie Way to establish a Free Commonwealth, and The excellence therof Compar’d with The inconveniences and dangers of readmitting kingship in this nation. It is a small quarto of eighteen pages. Masson seems to be in error in stating that it was published by Livewell Chapman. The title-page shows that the book was printed by ‘T. N.,’ who doubtless was Milton’s old publisher, Thomas Newcome (see first note). However, the pamphlet was put on sale, about the end of February, 1660, at Chapman’s book-store in Pope’s-Head Alley.
The second edition is a duodecimo volume of 108 pages. It retains the original title, but its title-page shows quite a different make-up in other respects. No hint as to printer or stationer is given. It is simply: ‘The second edition revis’d and augmented,’ and ‘Printed for the Author’ at London in 1660. The book appeared toward the end of April. Chapman was then a fugitive (see second note), and doubtless by this time no printer was willing to risk even his initials on a title-page with Milton’s. Certainly Newcome was already trimming his sails to the breeze from Flanders. ‘I should have liked very much to know,’ says Masson, ‘whether Livewell Chapman was nominally publisher of the second edition, . . . or whether Milton was obliged to put forth the second edition without any publisher’s name.’ The title-page, as we have seen, furnishes answers to both these questions. It contains also the important addition of the following motto (see third note):
This is an adaptation from Juvenal 1. 15-7:
The treatise is the result of a thorough revision of the first edition. Many passages have been omitted; some have been altered; and much new matter has been incorporated, the additions swelling the volume to nearly twice its original size.
No record of the publication of the revised edition is to be found in the Stationers’ Registers, or in the Thomason Collection of pamphlets. It was long a matter of speculation whether the second edition actually got into print in 1660. Masson was never able to locate a copy. ‘In my perplexity,’ he says, ‘I began to ask myself whether this was to be explained by supposing that Milton, after he had prepared the second edition for the press, did not succeed in getting it published, and so that it was not until 1698 that it saw the light, and then by the accident that his enlarged press-copy had survived, and come (through Toland or otherwise) into the hands of the printers of the Amsterdam edition of the Prose Works. But, though several pieces in that edition are expressly noted as “never before published,” . . . there is no such editorial note respecting The Ready and Easy Way, but every appearance of mere reprinting from a previously published copy of 1660. On the whole, therefore, I conclude that Milton did publish his second and enlarged edition some time in April 1660; and I account for the rarity of original copies of this second edition by supposing that either the impression was seized before many copies had got about, or the Restoration itself came so rapidly after the publication as to make it all but abortive.’
Masson was reasoning well. A copy of this ‘all but abortive’ edition was once owned by the late Dr. Joseph F. Payne, of New Barnet, England, and is now to be found in the library of Mr. W. A. White, of New York City. Through the kindness of Mr. White, the writer has been privileged to examine this rare volume, and to make use of it in the present edition.
Masson was not quite correct, however, in the implied assumption that The Ready and Easy Way did not again see the light until 1698, as both first and second editions were reprinted before that date. The first edition appears in the folio ‘Prose Works’ of 1697. The second edition was reprinted (if we may trust the title-page of ‘Five Tracts’) for the first time in 1694. The sections entitled ‘Four Tracts,’ ‘Five Tracts,’ and ‘Four Miscellaneous Tracts’ all bear the date 1694, and are bound into a single volume, which is stamped with the same date. It is probably true, however, that these 1694 sections did not get into circulation before 1698; for we find them incorporated as an integral part of of Toland’s edition of 1698. The title-page of this so-called Amsterdam (really London) edition is, in part, as follows: ‘A Complete Collection of the Historical, Political, and Miscellaneous Works of John Milton, Both English and Latin. With som Papers never before Publish’d. In three Volumes. . . . Amsterdam. Finished in the year M.D.C.XC.VIII.’ This last statement may mean that the publication had been begun at a considerably earlier date, possibly as early as 1694.
The Ready and Easy Way has been frequently reprinted—in the editions of Milton’s prose published in 1697, 1698, 1738, 1753, 1806, 1833, 1853, and in numerous publications of selections. It is interesting to note that the treatise was revived during the revolutionary days of 1791, and neatly published in separate form as a refutation of the arguments of Edmund Burke.
It is the enlarged edition that has been used almost invariably. From 1697 to the present time the original edition has never been republished in any of the collected works; nor, so far as is known, in any of the volumes of selections.
The first line of The Ready and Easy Way makes it clear that the preface was added at some time subsequent to the writing of the main body of the treatise. In this interval ‘the members at first chosen’ had been ‘readmitted from exclusion, to sit again in Parlament.’ This readmission of the secluded members took place Feb. 21, 1660. It is certain, therefore, that the preface was written as late as Feb. 21. Moreover, ‘writs for new elections have bin recall’d.’ In the morning session of Feb. 21 the Rump passed the resolution ‘that all Votes of this House, touching new elections of Members to sit and serve in this Parliament, be, and are hereby, vacated.’ But the specific annulment, or recall, to which Milton undoubtedly refers passed the House the next day, and was as follows: ‘Ordered, That a Committee be appointed to bring in an Act for repealing the Act appointing the Form of a Writ for Members to sit and serve in Parliament.’ It is probable, therefore, that Milton added his preface on or after Feb. 22. This conclusion is strengthened by the further fact that Milton professes to be rejoicing over ‘the resolutions of all those who are now in power, jointly tending to the establishment of a free Commonwealth.’ Those ‘now in power’ were, of course, Monk, made commander-in-chief Feb. 21, and the restored Parliament. As for Monk, he had privately assured the secluded members, on the morning of Feb. 21, that he had nothing before his eyes ‘but God’s glory and the settlement of these nations upon commonwealth foundations’ (see p. xxxiii). But we learn that his public declaration (see p. xxvi) was drafted, signed, and sent forth ‘that night’ ; so the reassuring news undoubtedly did not reach Milton until Feb. 22. As for expressions from the Parliament, we find that ‘the secluded Members declared, as to Government they intended no Alteration in it, or to act further than in Preparation for a Parliament to succeed them’ ; and that, on Feb. 22, they voted ‘that a new Parliament be summoned to appear upon the 25th Day of April 1660.’ As these joint assurances of good affection toward the commonwealth-cause upon the part of Monk and the Parliament got abroad in London on Feb. 22, it is fairly certain that the preface was not written earlier than that date.
The Thomason copy of the pamphlet is dated March 3; but there is evidence that the treatise was in circulation before the end of February. Wood (Fasti 1. 485) records: ‘(21) Ready and easy Way to establish a free Commonwealth and the Excellencies thereof compared with, &c. Lond. 1659 in two sheets and an half in qu. This being published in Feb. the same year.’
The preface was therefore written in the interval Feb. 21 (probably Feb. 22)-Feb. 29.
From the evidence just considered, it is clear that the whole treatise was completed and published not later than March 3; and, if Wood’s information be correct, not later than Feb. 29. But it is apparent from the preface, and from the whole tenor of the treatise, that it was composed before the readmission of the secluded members on Feb. 21. There is no mention of any rupture between Monk and the Rump. Besides, the central argument of the pamphlet is one in support of the perpetuation of the Rump as a grand council—a project which of course became impossible the instant the Presbyterian majority, pledged to speedy dissolution, returned in overwhelming numbers on Feb. 21. But there is also interesting external proof that the main body of the treatise was written before Feb. 21. Roger L’Estrange, writing immediately after March 16, mocks at Milton’s predicament as follows: ‘I could only wish his Excellency [Monk] had been a little civiller to Mr. Milton; for, just as he had finished his Modell of a Common-wealth, directing in these very Terms the Choyce; . . . “men not addicted to a Single Person, or House of Lords, and the Work is done.” In come the Secluded members and spoyle his Project.’
Furthermore, internal evidence makes it extremely probable that the body of the work was completed before the middle of February. The people are ‘mad,’ ‘misguided,’ ‘strangely infatuated.’ The sentiment in favor of kingship has suddenly become ‘a torrent,’ ‘an epidemic madness,’ a ‘general defection.’ And—most significant of all—Milton himself is in imminent peril. These were precisely the conditions in London on and immediately after Feb. 11; for when, on that day, General Monk suddenly turned upon his masters and sent a peremptory command for the Rump to ‘fill up,’ the rabble instantly went mad with joy, and amused itself not only with bonfires, bell-ringing, and the roasting of rumps, but also by assaulting Rumpers and stoning their houses. Praise-God Barebone had his windows broken, and Speaker Lenthall himself was affronted on his way home that night. Milton complains that the small number in Parliament ‘is of late’ ‘made a by-word of reproach to them.’ And although the term ‘Rump’ had been used occasionally ever since 1648 (see note on 20. 25), it took on an immense accession of popularity upon this occasion, the odious assembly being ‘given this night the lasting Name of Rump Parliament,’ and this ‘Saturday Night February 11, . . . called the roasting of the Rump.’ These facts all seem to indicate that Milton is writing during this very reign of terror among republicans. Indeed, at the very close of the pamphlet, he declares that he is venturing ‘with all hazard’ to speak out. There can be little doubt, therefore, that the period of composition did not extend beyond Feb. 15.
As to the other limit, it is certain that the treatise was begun after Feb. 4. ‘The Parlament have voted to fill up their number.’ We know from the Commons Journals that, after promising and dallying about the matter during January, the Rump finally, on Feb. 4, voted ‘that this Parliament . . . be filled up to the Number of Four Hundred, for England and Wales.’ That it was begun about this date is rendered probable by the fact that General Monk entered London on Feb. 3, and aroused unparalleled interest in the great question of settlement. Would he declare for the king or for a commonwealth; for restoring the secluded members, for a free Parliament, or for perpetuating the Rump? Upon all hands it was agreed that the new-comer should not lack advice; and every one set to work upon his model. Undoubtedly, Milton at this time began The Ready and Easy Way—and very probably about Feb. 6; for on that day Monk delivered a brief speech (see p. xxiii) which, although ambiguous, republicans generally interpreted as favorable to a commonwealth. We may conclude, therefore, that the body of the work was certainly written during the interval Feb. 4 to Feb. 21, and probably in the ten days between Feb. 4 and Feb. 15.
‘It was but a little before the king’s Restoration,’ says Milton’s nephew, ‘that he wrote and published his book In Defense of a Commonwealth; so undaunted he was in declaring his true sentiments to the world.’ And a study of the additions, omissions, and other alterations made in the process of revision shows that the treatise must indeed have been almost the last pre-Restoration protest of the republicans.
There are many references to contemporary events. The restored Rump has already become the ‘last Parliament.’ This dissolution occurred on March 16. Those who are bent upon recalling the king are now engaged in ‘cheapning’ the ‘price’ of subjection. Monk held his first interview with the royal agent, Sir John Greenville, on March 17, and dispatched him to Brussels with proposals on March 20. It is not likely that Milton knew of this business immediately. Yet he seems to be writing with full knowledge of Monk’s and of the Presbyterians’ negotiations with the king. The Censure of the Rota appeared on March 30. It is evident that Milton is writing after that date, for the gibes and criticisms contained in the pamphlet are freshly and poignantly in mind (see Appendix A. 2). Furthermore, Milton thinks that what he has written ‘may now be of much more use and concernment to be freely publishd, in the midst of our Elections to a free Parlament, or their sitting to consider freely of the Government.’ The writs for this election had been agreed upon by Parliament on March 16, and Whitelock reports several members elected as early as March 26. But Milton’s sentence indicates that he is writing, not at the beginning, but in the full swing of the elections—very probably well along in April. As these elections proceeded, it became apparent that the Parliament about to meet would be almost solidly Royalist. The return of Charles was therefore a certainty. Milton concedes the fact, and drops, as no longer applicable, the allusion to Coniah in his terrific peroration. He laments the ‘absolute determination . . . to enthrall,’ and admits the hopelessness of staying the deluge. There is no longer a possibility of convincing opponents, but only of confirming those who yield not—probably Lambert and the Fanatics, then making a last appeal to arms. Lambert escaped from the Tower on April 9, and was captured on April 22. In view of the internal evidence just considered, we may be reasonably certain that to this interval, April 9-22, belongs the composition of the second edition.
We do not know the exact date of its publication; but there is evidence that the book appeared after April 20. Milton himself mentions the possibility of its coming out during the ‘sitting’ of the new Parliament—that is, after April 25. Roger L’Estrange, Milton’s tireless pamphleteering opponent and critic, writing on April 20 in reply to the Notes on Dr. Griffith’s Sermon, quotes several passages from The Ready and Easy Way, and invariably from the first edition. It seems incredible that L’Estrange, who pounced with such zest and fury upon every utterance of his renowned antagonist, should have been ignorant of the more daring edition, or have failed to quote from it, had it been at that time in print.
It would seem, at first thought, that the book must have appeared before April 24, when Lambert was brought captive to London, and all signs of armed resistance disappeared. But Phillips’ statement indicates that the pamphleteers were the last in the field: ‘The Defeat of Lambert did not make the Fanaticks leave the Pursuit of their Mischiefs, several seditious Pamphlets being published in Print, to deprave the Minds of the People.’ It is not unlikely that The Ready and Easy Way was one of them.
The conclusion, then, is that the second edition was written certainly between March 16 and April 25, and very likely during the interval April 9-22; and that it was published upon the eve of the Restoration, almost certainly after April 20, and probably in the last six days before the setting up of kingship on the 1st of May.
A study of the historical situation with which The Ready and Easy Way attempts to deal may well begin with a résumé of the more important events of 1659. Early in that year the Cromwellian protectorate had gone to pieces; and in May the army, by resurrecting the Rump Parliament, restored the republic as it had existed from 1649 to 1653. Eager to exert its authority, and especially to subordinate the military to the civil power, the Rump’s first business was the reorganization of the army. Week after week a steady procession of the ‘well affected’ filed in before that august assembly, received new commissions from the venerable speaker’s hands, and filed out again better ‘affected’ than ever. At last the weary process was completed—and just in time. A general rising of Royalists had been planned to occur on August 1; but only Sir George Booth, in Cheshire, made any considerable demonstration, and he was easily suppressed (Aug. 17-9) by the new-modeled army. From this achievement General Lambert returned with high notions of his own and of the army’s importance. In September the Parliament was suddenly dumbfounded by demands, couched in no uncertain terms, from Lambert and his clique of ambitious officers. Among other things demanded, Fleetwood was to be made commander-in-chief, and Lambert himself was to be placed next under him. The wary and insecure Rump instantly scented a conspiracy. It was convinced that Lambert ‘aspired to succeed Cromwell,’ and that ‘when he should have so gotten the Sword, he would not long want the Scepter.’ It refused these and other demands, reproved the petitioners, and being secretly assured of support from Scotland, finally cashiered Lambert and eight of his associates. The next morning (Oct. 13) Lambert threw his troops around Westminster, and put an end to the sitting. ‘Illegal and scandalous, I fear me barbarous,’ protested Milton, ‘that a paid army should, for no other cause, thus subdue the supreme power that set them up.’
But the army-officers boldly assumed control, set up a committee of safety, and fell to work upon a constitution. The sword was law. Citizens were ‘knock’d on the head,’ or killed outright. The soldiers, in turn, were hissed, jeered, and pelted until they grew ashamed and afraid to march. L’Estrange was inflaming Royalists with his pamphlets. ‘No quiet was enjoyed by any party,’ and on Dec. 20 poor Whitelock was wishing himself ‘out of these daily hazards.’ Meanwhile the army in Scotland was preparing to march against Lambert. Suddenly Ireland and the fleet declared for the Parliament. The army-régime collapsed. Fleetwood now admitted that ‘the Lord had blasted their Counsels, and spit in their Faces.’ On Dec. 24 even ‘the Soldiers declared to live and die with the Parliament’; and they ‘stood in Ranks, and made Acclamations,’ as the triumphant little Rump marched back to Westminster on Dec. 26.
The most potent factor in the overthrow of the Lambert tyranny had been the silent pressure of Cromwell’s old lieutenant-general, George Monk, military governor of Scotland, who now emerged as the dominant individual force in England. Monk was by no means the loftiest character on that remarkable stage; but he possessed a unique combination of qualities that fitted him to glide into the midst of turbulent factions, preserve order, and guide the overwhelming sentiment of the nation to its logical expression in restored kingship. He was a blunt, rough soldier, having had his ‘education in a commonwealth whose soldiers received and observed commands but gave none’ ; a man of decision and vigor, of much shrewdness and common sense. He stuck not at dissimulation, and knew how to think much and say little. Phillips calls him ‘the most reserved man then living.’ He was generally known in his army as ‘silent Old George.’ It was precisely this cunning and this incomparable impenetrability that fitted him so uniquely for the rôle he now proposed to assume.
The turn of the year found Monk crossing the Border. The movement was begun immediately upon his hearing of the downfall of the army-régime. This is all the more curious, as his announced intention had been merely to restore the Rump. The apparent aimlessness of the movement argued some deep design, which none could positively fathom, but which every faction chose to interpret as tending to promote its own cause. The very name ‘Old George’ had a pleasurable thrill of mystery about it, and during the month of January all eyes were riveted upon the column of veterans moving steadily southward across snow-covered England. Everywhere they were greeted with acclamations and the ringing of bells. Monk was welcomed as the deliverer, and was petitioned for a free Parliament, termination of the Rump, and readmission of the secluded members. The sphinx heard all and said nothing, except to reaffirm his championship of the existing Parliament.
Meanwhile, all factions in London were stimulated to fresh hopes and enormous diligence by the near approach of this tremendous and mysterious new force. There should be no dearth of good counsel if Milton and the host of pamphleteering politicians could help it; there should be no stone left unturned to enlist ‘the General’ in the ‘cause’ of this, that, or the other faction.
The political alignment at the beginning of February, 1660, should be understood. The two grand divisions were, of course, Royalists and Commonwealth-men; but each of these had several distinct subdivisions. Of the former there were, first, the Old Royalists, including cavaliers, clergymen of the Church of England, and a large part of the gentry and country-folk generally, whose loyalty to kingship had remained unshaken. These were for unconditional restoration. The second sub-group were the New Royalists, including the entire body of Presbyterians—‘new royalized Presbyterians,’ as Milton calls them; that part of the Cromwellians who, upon the downfall of Richard, had gone over to Sir George Booth and his Royalist forces; the City, or Municipal, party; and that vast mass of the common people and ‘rabble’ who, either from sheer fickleness and desire for change, or from motives of personal safety, were now indulging in extravagant demonstrations of loyalty. The Presbyterian element was for a constitutional monarchy, and restoration upon rigid Presbyterian conditions. But the whole group was unanimous in demanding an end of the Rump, admission of the secluded members, and the calling of a free Parliament.
Both Old and New Royalists rejoiced at Monk’s coming; for, in spite of his emphatic declarations to the contrary, they persistently believed that he was, at bottom, for the king, and would yet bring him in. That there was good foundation for this faith cannot be doubted. Overtures from the king had reached Monk the previous summer through the medium of his brother Nicholas, and he had made ready to coöperate with Booth in the Royalist rebellion. That he ‘demurred two days,’ until a fortunate arrival of mail warned him of Booth’s defeat, was all that saved him from committing himself at that time. ‘By the grace of God I will do it if ever I can find it in my power,’ he declared to his chaplain, Mr. Price, just before beginning his march. His own army would not be convinced but that he would restore the king. From these and other similar indications, it seems perfectly certain that such was his real intention; and all that he might say could not rob the Royalists of joy and hope in his coming.
The second political grand division—the Commonwealth-men—was still more heterogeneous. It included (1) that small remnant of Cromwellians who had not turned Royalist, but who favored a protectorate, or single-person government (not kingship), and still cherished a design to reinstate Richard. The movers of similar conspiracies among the superior officers may be classed with this faction. In this division were (2) those Cromwellians who returned with enthusiasm to the commonwealth of 1649-53 as a model settlement. To this group belonged Milton. Here, of course, were (3) the uncompromising republicans—those who had stood for the old republic, had not accepted the protectorate, and were now advocating a commonwealth ‘without single person or house of lords.’ Such were the Rumpers—or a sufficient number of them to characterize the body. To this group belonged also the rank and file of the army, and the Independent clergy. Finally, this division included (4) miscellaneous anti-Royalists—Anabaptists, Fifth-Monarchy-men, etc.
These various branches of Commonwealth-men looked upon Monk’s coming with some degree of misgiving. The Independent ministers had solemnly endeavored to dissuade him from marching against Lambert, inasmuch as the ‘Canaanites and Perizzites were in the land.’ The Rumpers, who knew how it felt to be pulled out by the ears, would have preferred the influence of this masterful man at a safe distance rather than his actual presence with a grim army of veterans at his back. But whatever they felt, they could hardly do less than extend a seemingly hearty welcome to their approaching savior and professed champion. So they made him Ranger of St. James’ Park, voted him £1000 a year for life, and sent Masters Scott and Robinson to escort him to London—and to ferret out all they could of his designs. If Monk would only fall in with their filling-up scheme of perpetuating themselves, and take the abjuration-oath, his coming might turn out to be a good thing after all! The Cromwellians saw a possibility of making Monk protector; while Milton, and Commonwealth-men in general, decided, upon the whole, to accept with good grace Monk’s vehement declaration in favor of a commonwealth.
Into the midst of this welter of faction and boundless curiosity, on February 3, came marching ‘Old George’ the mysterious, with 5800 weather-beaten troops. No less sumptuous an abode was tendered him than the Prince’s Lodgings at Whitehall. On Monday, Feb. 6, he was escorted to Westminster, and compelled to endure a panegyric from the speaker. When the ordeal was over, Monk delivered a brief reply, in which he recommended to the astonished Rumpers their early dissolution; ‘a free and full Parliament; . . . a Gospel Ministry; encouragement of Learning and Universities; and . . . admittance of the Members secluded before 1648, without previous oath or engagement.’ Sir Roger Gifford, writing on Feb. 8, expresses the general feeling of mystification: ‘Monck was at the House on Munday last who expresst himself so obscurely that most men know not what construction for to make of it.’
What did Monk mean? What would he do next? The curiosity of the anxious members was to be satisfied before the end of the week. But meanwhile Milton and the other pamphleteers labored amain to supply the blunt, apparently nonplussed general with abundance of ‘light.’
On Feb. 8 the City voted to pay no more taxes to the odious Rump, in which it had not a single representative. The Parliament decided to test Monk’s sincerity, and, as Burnet thought, to render him harmless by making him as unpopular as themselves. On Feb. 8 the citizens of London were astounded to find him and his soldiers at work demolishing their gates, posts, chains, portcullises, and other defenses. Parliament had commanded; Monk had obeyed. On the next day he finished the job, and retired from the scene with every shred of popularity gone—the most thoroughly hated man in London. The Rump had scored. ‘Now George, we have thee for ever,’ cried Haslerig, ‘body and soul!’ But Monk marched back again on the 11th, no longer the servant of the Rump, but its dictator! ‘By Friday next,’ ran his ultimatum, ‘they should issue out Writs to fill up their House; and when filled, should rise at their appointed time, to give Place to a full and free Parliament.’
The demonstrations of joy that greeted this sudden and complete change of front were unparalleled. Pepys’ vivid account is as follows: ‘I saw many people give the soldiers drink and money, and all along in the streets cried, “God bless them!” . . . In Cheapside there was a great many bonfires, and Bow bells and all the bells in all the churches as we went home were a-ringing, . . . it being about ten at night. But the common joy that was everywhere to be seen! . . . I could at one view tell thirty-one fires. In King-street seven or eight; and all along burning, and roasting, and drinking for rumps. There being rumps tied upon sticks and carried up and down. The butchers at the May Pole in the Strand rang a peal with their knives when they were going to sacrifice their rump. On Ludgate Hill there was one turning of the spit that had a rump tied upon it, and another basting of it. Indeed it was past imagination, both the greatness and the suddenness of it. At one end of the street you would think there was a whole lane of fire, and so hot that we were fain to keep on the further side.’
‘This blow was it,’ says Clement Walker, ‘made Independency stagger, for so highly were both City and Country pleased with this Declaration, that they did hardly know in what manner to express their joy, ringing their bells, making bonfires, the air resounding nothing but the name and prayses of Monck, and the Streets filled with gratefull hearts, who on bended knees prayed for blessings on the head of the hoped restorer, both of the Church and Commonwealth.’
But if the Royalists exulted in the assurance of a free Parliament, and, through this, of an early restoration, the Commonwealth-men were in despair. Milton especially must have felt the blow, as it shattered in an instant his favorite scheme of perpetuating the Rump, and paved the way for a return to kingship. Indeed, we find that his pamphlet, which was apparently nearing completion at the time of these mad tumults, was thrown aside, and, for the time being, left unpublished.
Encouraged by Monk’s stand, the secluded members pressed him more closely than ever to espouse their cause. As they were out-and-out Royalists, Monk feigned unwillingness; but he consented to hear them debate the matter with certain of the Rumpers—really only delaying until the army was in ‘temper’ for the move. And finally, pledging them to (1) army-settlement, (2) maintenance and arrears for army and navy, (3) a new Parliament, and (4) their own legal dissolution at an early date, he restored to their seats in Parliament, on Feb. 21, those members who had been excluded by Pride’s Purge in 1648. ‘This began to infuse a new spirit of life into the Kingdom,’ says Walker, ‘in whom at this springing season of the year, began a new to bud and peep out the bloomes of a too long frost-nipped loyalty, so that one now might have seen what twenty years before could never shew, countenances, that lately were dejected through the cruell tyranny of their Ægyptian task masters, now gather cheerfull looks, and like fresh blown roses yield a fragrant savour.’
But Monk as yet dared by no means to renounce his republican pretensions. A few days before the readmission of the secluded members, he declared to Ludlow that they ‘must live and die together for a Commonwealth,’ and to Haslerig, ‘I do protest I will oppose to the utmost the setting up of Charles Stuart, a Single Person or House of Peers’ ; and on the night of Feb. 21 he dispatched with all haste letters to the different regiments in England, Scotland, and Ireland to satisfy them ‘that nothing was intended for Alteration of Government, but that it should continue as a free State and Commonwealth.’ It was such assurances as these, together with the fact that the restored Parliament, although strongly Royalist, resolved to terminate soon, and leave the whole question of settlement to a free Parliament, that led Milton to take up again his neglected pamphlet, which he now prefaced with a brief reference to the altered situation, and published at the end of February.
After setting up a council of state, and making provisions for general elections, the famous Long Parliament dissolved on March 16; but only ‘after many sad pangs & groanes,’ for there was a growing inclination among its members to sit on, and bring in the king themselves, and on their own terms. Monk now began to play more boldly his game of negotiation. On the ‘next Evening after the Dissolution of Parliament’ he consented to a private audience with his cousin, Sir John Greenville, who put into his hands a message from Charles. Three days later, Sir John was posting back to the Continent with Monk’s advice to the royal exile (see note on 16. 31). Among other things, he recommended a proclamation of general pardon, confirmation of titles to real estate, and toleration as to matters of religion.
In the last days of March, amidst the greatest enthusiasm and keenest rivalry ever known, began the general elections. Every one was eager for a place in the ‘free’ Parliament, whereas no one but the excluded members had cared to sit with the Rump. As early as Feb. 23 Lady Anne Rochester writes: ‘Good Mr. Yates, next to my sonne Lee, let not Sr. Raphe Verney faile of being chosen.’ These two seats, she thinks, will be ‘as many’ as they ‘can compas.’ The elections continued through the greater part of April. From the first the Royalists, of course, carried all before them. Very soon it became obvious to every one that the king’s return was only a matter of weeks. On the 9th of April, Monk felt so confident of this that he sent Charles an absolute assurance of unconditional restoration.
Even Milton admitted as much. He had been revising his Ready and Easy Way with the design of influencing elections, or at least the Parliament. But as the returns began coming in, it became apparent that his efforts were to be as futile in the one case as in the other. Nevertheless, he was not quite alone. There was Lambert, just escaped from the Tower, and gathering together the desperate remnant of Fanatics, who were determined to oppose kingship to their last drop of blood. Milton owned them as kindred spirits, and resolved to make his forlorn fight at their side. Apparently in the very last days before the capture of Lambert on April 22 and the assembling of Parliament on the 25th, and probably after April 20, he finished, and soon after sent forth, the enlarged—and embittered—edition; ‘not so much to convince these,’ which he little hoped, ‘as to confirm them who yield not.’
The one question upon which there was universal agreement during the months immediately preceding the Restoration was the urgent necessity of settling the government upon permanent foundations. ‘This care of timely settling a new government,’ declared Milton, ‘too much neglected, hath been our mischief.’ The republic of 1649-53 had been merely tentative; the protectorate, in spite of its noble achievements, had utterly collapsed within a year after the death of the great ‘Single Person’; the resurrected Rump delayed the attempt until turned out by the army; the army-régime evolved elaborate proposals, only to fall to pieces again in favor of the Rump; and, finally, the Remnant, after its second restoration, seemed utterly incompetent, or strangely unwilling, to go about the great business. In a word, proposal, experiment, and failure had been the history of the past eleven years, and the half-year preceding the Restoration is well called the reign of ‘anarchy and confusion.’ ‘Like a drowning man,’ declared one of Monk’s gratuitous advisers, ‘this nation hath laid hold of every thing that came in its way; but all things have proved but straws and helpless twigs, that will not bear it above water.’ Monk himself told the Parliament on Feb. 6 that, as he marched from Scotland, he ‘observed the people in most counties in great and earnest expectations of Settlement.’
But if there was unanimity as to the need, there was the greatest possible diversity of opinions as to ways and means. Every faction had its ‘only cure’ or ‘easy prescription.’ And, as The Ready and Easy Way was one of these contributions of advice, it will be best understood in relation to the more important, at least, of these numerous proposals.
Of no statesman of his day had Milton a higher opinion than of Sir Henry Vane, whom Clarendon describes as a man ‘unlimited and unrestrained by any rules or bounds prescribed to other men, by reason of his perfection, . . . a perfect enthusiast’ who ‘did believe himself inspired.’ In the well-known sonnet, Milton addresses him as
Vane and Milton were both republicans, both champions of the Rump, and both believers in freedom of conscience, and separation of church and state. It is not surprising, therefore, that their solutions of the problem of settlement show a considerable similarity, particularly in the advocacy of a perpetual council. In A Healing Question propounded and resolved, . . . with a Desire to apply Balsome to the Wound before it become incurable, Vane inquired whether a ‘standing council of state setled for life in reference to the safety of the commonwealth, and for the maintaining intercourse and commerce with foreign states, under the inspection and oversight of the supream judicature, but of the same fundamental constitution with themselves, would . . . be disliked.’ By such recommendations, urged by such worthy members as Henry Vane, Milton was undoubtedly persuaded into championing the perpetuation of the Rump as a grand council. Vane’s council was to have been even more absolute than Milton’s: vacancies, ‘by death or otherwise, might be supplied by the vote of the major part of themselves.’ This idea may have suggested to Milton his modified form of rotation (see p. 23). Vane is clearly in advance of Milton in his recommendation of distinct legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the government. ‘Would there be any just exception to be taken,’ he asks, ‘if (besides both these) it should be agreed (as another part of the fundamental constitution of the government) to place that branch of soveraignty which chiefly respects the execution of laws in a distinct office from that of the legislative power, (and yet subordinate to them and to the laws) capable to be intrusted into the hands of one single person, if need require, or in a greater number, as the legislative power should think fit?’ Like Milton, Vane concludes his model with a rhapsodic expression of faith in its efficacy, exclaiming: ‘How suddenly might harmony, righteousness, love, peace, and safety unto the whole body follow hereupon, as the happy fruit of such a settlement, if the Lord have any delight to be amongst us!’
Vane’s influence did not cease with the downfall of the Rump in October, 1659, but is apparent in the constitution drafted by the general council of army-officers, the main provisions of which were as follows: that there be (1) no kingship, (2) no single person as chief magistrate, (3) no house of peers, (4) no imposition upon conscience; (5) that an army be continued; (6) that the legislative and executive powers be in distinct hands; and (7) that Parliaments be elected by the people. In this constitution, Vane’s idealism is tempered and restrained by the conservatism and legal acumen of Bulstrode Whitelock.
On the last day of October, 1659, William Prynne, the most voluminous of the pamphleteers, came forward with A short, legal, medicinal, useful, safe, easy Prescription, to recover our Kingdom, Church, Nation, from their present dangerous, distractive, destructive Confusion, in which he recommended, as ‘the only just, legal, probable means now left,’ the following: (1) ‘for all the antient nobility of the kingdom . . . to assemble themselves by common consent at Westminster’ and issue writs for a Parliament; (2) ‘for all freeholders in every county’ . . . to elect ‘the ablest, honestest, wisest, stoutest gentlemen for their sheriffs,’ and ‘the wisest, ablest, stoutest, discreetest persons . . . knights, citizens, and burgesses’; (3) for all to resolve not to obey ‘new, illegal, tyrannical, upstart powers, officers, conventicles, committees, or councils,’ and to punish all resisting these measures as traitors.
Denouncing Prynne as a ‘crop-eared pettifogger, a reviler of the saints, a constant opposer of powers, an unwearied scribbler, a demoniack possessed with a legion of hellish fiends, the spirit of contradiction,’ the author of Democritus turned Statesman wished to know ‘whether it be not the purest and safest kind of free state, to have a free parliament elected annually, or twice a year, as it was before the Conquest, and after many years, without restraint on the wills of the free people of the nation; which parliament may constitute and elect a senate, that shall act according, and subject to the law of the land in the interval of parliament, and so to be elected from year to year by each parliament.’ This was the notion of ‘successive Parlaments’ with which Milton regrets to find men’s minds ‘prepossessd.’
A most remarkable anticipation of the presidency and house of representatives, as constituted in modern republics, is found in Twenty-five Queries: modestly and humbly, and yet sadly and seriously propounded : ‘If it shall be thought fit to have a single person to govern these nations with the advice of his council in the intervals of parliament: first, Then will it not be the safest way for the people to have this single person and council invested only with power to execute the laws, and the whole legislative power to be settled in the people’s representatives? And again, considering the temper and constitution of the nation, will it not be most equal and just to have this single person elective, to continue for one or two years, and he and his council to be accountable to the parliament for mal-administration? . . . Will not this way be far less chargeable and burthensome to the nation than hereditary kingship?’
Among these numerous advisers there were few who agreed with Milton upon perpetuation, but the sentiment in favor of a commonwealth in some form was predominant in publications up to the decisive turn of affairs on Feb. 11. A typical plea for an ‘equal commonwealth’ is found in A Letter of Advice to his Excellency Lord-General Monk : ‘Thus hath this poor nation, within these few years, tried all sorts of government, but an equal commonwealth. We have experienced monarchy in the old line, and in the two protectors, a select senate, an oligarchy, the government of an army; what not? And have not as yet met with the ends of a good government. . . . And now, sir, can anything else save us, but an equal commonwealth? Which in truth is no more than a free and full parliament; but a free and full parliament more truly elected and better formed.’
Monk himself pretended to be strong for a commonwealth, as is evident from The Speech and Declaration of Feb. 21: ‘. . . I thought good to assure you, and that in the presence of God, that I have nothing before my eyes but God’s glory, and the settlement of these nations upon commonwealth foundations. . . . Only give me leave to mind you, that the old foundations are by God’s providence so broken, that, in the eye of reason, they cannot be restored but upon the ruins of the people of these nations; . . . for if the people find that, after so long and bloody a war against the king for breaking in upon their liberties, yet at last he must be taken in again, it will be out of question, as is most manifest, he may for the future govern by his will, dispose of parliaments and parliament men as he pleaseth, and yet the people will never more rise for their assistance.’
Harrington’s important proposals are considered in the section entitled The Rota Club.
On October 20, in A Letter to a Friend, Concerning the Ruptures of the Commonwealth, Milton himself sketched in outline a proposal which four months later he elaborated in The Ready and Easy Way. It ran: ‘Being now in anarchy, without a counselling and governing power; and the army, I suppose, finding themselves insufficient to discharge at once both military and civil affairs, the first thing to be found out with all speed, without which no commonwealth can subsist, must be a senate, or general council of state, in whom must be the power, first to preserve the public peace; next, the commerce with foreign nations; and lastly, to raise monies for the management of these affairs: this must be either the parliament readmitted to sit, or a council of state allowed of by the army, since they only now have the power. The terms to be stood on are, liberty of conscience to all professing Scripture to be the rule of their faith and worship; and the abjuration of a single person’—the former implying also ‘the removal of a forced maintenance from ministers. . . . That which I conceive only able to cement, and unite for ever the army, either to the parliament recalled, or this chosen council, must be a mutual league and oath, private or public, not to desert one another till death: that is to say, that the army be kept up, and all these officers in their places during life, and so likewise the parliament or counsellors of state. . . . And whether the civil government be an annual democracy or a perpetual aristocracy, is not to me a consideration for the extremities wherein we are, and the hazard of our safety from our common enemy, gaping at present to devour us.’ Finally, ‘well-order’d committees of their faithfulest adherents in every county may give this government the resemblance and effect of a perfect democracy.’
We may now turn from this embryonic constitution to its full development in The Ready and Easy Way.
The ground upon which Milton was to erect his commonwealth was first cleared of all traditional rubbish. There was to be no king or duke or protector—no single person of any kind. There were to be no bishops, no House of Lords; nor was there to be any ‘distinction of lords and commoners’ that might ‘any way divide or sever the public interest.’
In the way of positive proposal he began, as he did in the Letter to a Friend, with an aristocratic council. Supreme power should be vested in a ‘full and free Councel of ablest men,’ elected by the people from such as were ‘not addicted to a single person or house of lords.’ This council should have control of the naval and military forces, manage the public revenue, make laws, and attend to all affairs with other nations. The tenure of office in this body should be for life, or during good behavior; but if this would not be accepted, then the expedients of rotation, or of submitting to the people the question whether the several members should retire or remain in office, might be adopted.
To facilitate the handling of matters requiring much ‘secrecie and expedition,’ and to act as a kind of executive head, the grand council must choose from its own members a smaller council of state. ‘No single person, but reason only,’ was to rule in all its deliberations.
Every county in England was to be constituted a ‘little commonwealth,’ of which the chief town should be the capital. Here the chief gentry were to reside in befitting palaces, and participate in the local legislative, executive, and judicial organizations, which should be subordinate only in matters affecting the national government. But even the legislative enactments of the grand council were to be submitted, by a species of referendum, to ratification or rejection at the hands of the majority of these subordinate commonwealths. Thus there were to be, not ‘many sovranties united in one Commonwealth, but many Commonwealths under one united and entrusted sovrantie’—not a loose confederation, but the largest amount of local sovereignty consistent with a supreme and efficient national authority.
Offices were to be filled by popular election; but suffrage must be well hedged about with qualifications. By no means should all be left to ‘the noise and shouting of a rude multitude.’ These qualifications were designed to restrict suffrage and magistracy to those who were ‘well affected’ toward government without single person or House of Lords. Those ‘rightly qualifi’d’ might nominate as many as they would; from these nominees, ‘others of a better breeding’ were to ‘chuse a less number more judiciously, till after a third or fourth sifting and refining of exactest choice,’ those were left who were the ‘due number,’ and ‘by most voices’ thought ‘worthiest.’ Thus ‘worth and merit,’ rather than rank or wealth, were to govern in the choice of public servants. Moreover, these worthies were to be unsalaried; for magistracy should be undertaken, not from motives of personal ambition, but solely as an opportunity for unselfish service.
The good and the wise, however few, were to rule. But ‘due libertie’—not license—and equality proportioned to merit should be guaranteed to all. In every town there should be free schools and academies. Church and state should be absolutely distinct and independent; and liberty of conscience must be assured. Finally, there were to be the fewest possible laws, in order that there might be the largest possible degree of individual freedom; one universal, divine law should prevail—the law of nature, ‘the only law of laws truly and properly to all mankinde fundamental.’
When the government was once settled on this foundation, virtue would flourish and happiness abound. The people would soon be ‘satisfi’d and delighted with the decent order, ease, and benefit’ of such a government. And the republic itself should never know decay, but should ‘so continue . . . even to the coming of our true and right full and only to be expected King, . . . the Messiah, the Christ.’
Milton vigorously resented any suggestion that his model was ideal and impracticable. Again and again he insisted that his ‘way’ was ‘plain,’ ‘open,’ ‘easy,’ ‘without intricacies . . . or any considerable objection . . . that it is not practicable.’ He professed to follow Aristotle rather than Plato, whose ‘fancied republic . . . in this world could have no place.’ He desired ‘to ordain wisely, as in this world of evil’—not ‘to sequester out of the world into Atlantic and Utopian politics, which never can be drawn into use.’
In Milton’s claim there was some degree of force. His plan was extremely simple. It meant merely perpetuating a body of men already in power, and further elaborating systems of local sovereignty and popular education already in existence. Many of its recommendations have long since become a part of the actual workings of modern republics. Such are its combination of local and national authority, the referendum in legislation, and the merit-system of civil service. Besides, he announced no socialistic principles of absolute equality, equal division of lands, or community of goods. He attempted, at least, to lay the foundations of his commonwealth, not upon some undiscovered Oceana. Utopia, or New Atlantis, but in the England of February, 1660.
But while Milton, in modeling his republic, endeavored to play the rôle of a practical statesman, he nevertheless remained the great idealist and poet. Hence we find that, in spite of its air of practicality, his republic has much in common with those of Plato and other political idealists. With Augustine and the mystical mediævalists, Milton loves to think of the race as a great brotherhood, and of God’s ‘governing from heaven’ as the ‘universal Lord of all mankind.’ With Plato, he conceives of office-holding as public service. The right of the wise to rule, and the obligation of the ignorant to follow; aristocracy of merit; the exaltation of spiritual interests over every other in the state—these are all a part of Plato’s republic. Like Plato, Milton saw no reason why a state, so constituted, should not endure for ever.
The impracticability and real Utopian character of Milton’s republic, however, are to be found in its most fundamental proposal—government by a supreme and perpetual council of ablest men. To Milton, who looked upon magistracy as unselfish service, and believed that ‘nothing is more agreeable to the order of nature, or more for the interest of mankind, than that the less should yield to the greater, not in numbers, but in wisdom and in virtue,’ it seemed so easy, so desirable, so safe, to constitute the Parliament then sitting a perpetual council. As their literary champion, Milton had come to believe that these men were absolutely worthy and incorruptible—‘faithfull worthies, who at first freed us from tyrannie, and have continu’d ever since through all changes constant to thir trust.’ But by February, 1660, Milton stood practically alone in this belief. The Rump had become a national byword. No Utopian model ever dreamed could have been less acceptable to England at that time than was Milton’s proposal to perpetuate this obnoxious assembly. The Ready and Easy Way was greeted with a roar of derision. Instantly and mercilessly were its fundamental weaknesses laid bare. The Censure of the Rota is typical: ‘Though you brag much of the people’s managing their own affairs, you allow them no more share of that in your Utopia, as you have ordered it, than only to set up their throats and bawl, instead of every three years, which they might have done before, once in an age, or oftener, as an old member drops away, and a new one is to succeed,’ etc. (see Appendix B. 3).
So far as the adaptability of Milton’s model to then existing conditions was concerned, there can be no doubt that the critics were right. Had there been infallible means of finding out who were the best and wisest; had all men looked upon magistracy as unselfish service; had officers, once chosen for life, been absolutely incorruptible, then, and then only, could Milton’s scheme have been successful. But notwithstanding twenty years of participation in public affairs, Milton seems to have been unable to perceive the utter impracticability of his proposal, or to realize, as did Sir Thomas More, that ‘except all men were good, everything cannot be right.’
Milton entertained no very high opinion of scholasticism, and the present work shows no appeal whatever to mediæval authorities. Nevertheless, he belonged to a school of political thought that had had its origin in the heart of the Middle Ages; indeed, the radical doctrine of The Ready and Easy Way is in large measure an unacknowledged inheritance from the republicanism of the mediæval church. One should remember, of course, that Milton was debtor also to the Greeks, and to all the learning and political experience of antiquity—as were in some degree the mediævalists themselves. However, in this pamphlet not only did he base his opinions concerning covenant, resistance, and tyrannicide upon sixteenth-century revolutionary thought, which itself was derived from the Middle Ages; but his three fundamental conceptions—sovereignty of the people, government by supreme representative council, and federation—have, in the form in which they came down to Milton, distinctly mediæval beginnings.
The doctrine of popular sovereignty was a political expression of the belief in the intrinsic importance of the individual—a belief peculiar to Hebrew and Christian philosophy. Man had been created in the image of God, and endowed with immortality and the possibility of direct communion with his Creator. A tradition prevailed that in the far-off beginning, before the advent of sin, men had lived together in a state of nature, as free and equal sons of God, and under His direct guidance. This body of thought was augmented by the revelations of Christ, who clearly taught the fatherhood of God, and the immortality and infinite worth of even the humblest soul. From such teaching arose the Christian conceptions of universal brotherhood and equality; and from the practice of the apostolic church descended even a tradition of the community of goods. St. Augustine, in the De Civitate Dei, which, of all books, next after the Bible, most profoundly influenced mediæval thought, cordially embraced the new philosophy, and declared that God ‘did not intend that His rational creature should have dominion over anything but the irrational creation—not man over man, but man over the beasts,’ and that those who are in authority should really ‘serve those whom they seem to command; for they rule not from a love of power, but from a sense of duty they owe to others.’ And Milton further notes that ‘ad subditos suos scribens, Constantinus Magnus non alio nomine quam fratres appellat.’
It is not surprising, therefore, to find that the sovereignty of the aggregate of individuals, each of infinite worth, was recognized in the great world-empire which arose under the inspiration of the Christian philosophy. The earliest form of this doctrine, however, was very different from its radical development as found in Milton and the extremists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The mediæval conception of popular sovereignty was by no means incompatible with loyalty to kings and popes. These were upheld by the people as necessary heads of the temporal and spiritual orders of life in the great quasi-mystical empire over which God himself reigned supreme. But they were nevertheless regarded as servants. John of Salisbury (1120-80), that most interesting and modern of twelfth-century Englishmen, pupil of Abelard, and friend of Thomas à Becket, in his famous book, the Policraticus (4. 1-3, 5), speaks of a king as ‘minister populi,’ and ‘publicæ utilitatis minister.’ A century later, Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) is still more explicit: ‘Principes terrarum sunt a Deo instituti, non quidem ut propria lucra quærent, sed ut communem utilitatem procurent’ (De Regimine Judæorum 6). The pope himself, although nominally supreme, was also a chosen servant, and subject to the council of the church.
While there was pretty general agreement as to the fact of popular sovereignty, there were two opinions as to its transference to rulers. Some held that the transfer of supreme authority to king or pope, made voluntarily by the people or their representative, was irrevocable. But the more dominant idea was that the investiture of rulers was a delegation of sovereignty, to be valid only as long as the terms of the contract were observed. This mediæval doctrine of contract, which flows down the centuries in a strong and unbroken stream, carrying with it tremendous significance as a justification of popular revolts against tyrants, kings, and popes, found formal expression in the writings of the Abbot of Admont, Engelbert of Volkersdorf (1250-1311). In the De Ortu, Progressu, et Fine Romani Imperii Liber (c. 2) he shows the origin of all regna et principatus to have been in a pactum subjectionis. These idea of delegated sovereignty and contract are very prominent in Milton’s treatise. ‘Sovrantie,’ he affirms, must not be ‘transferrd, but delegated only.’
As kings and popes were public servants, instituted by the sovereign people for its own welfare, it followed that they were also subject to the will of the people. The law of God and the law of nature alone were absolute; and when regal or papal decrees ran counter to these higher mandates, they might, and must, be disobeyed. Even Thomas Aquinas, a powerful supporter of the papal power, clearly recognizes the supremacy of the higher law. God is to be obeyed before the pope (Summa Theologiæ 2. 1. 96. 4). William of Ockham expresses the same idea with reference to the emperor, who is only to be obeyed ‘in licitis’ (Dialog. 3. 2. 2. 20). The statement is made general by Philippus Decius (1454-1536) in the Consilia (72. 2): ‘Superiori non est obediendum quando egreditur fines sui officii.’
But popular sovereignty implied more than the possibility of passive disobedience. As early as the eleventh century the doctrines of active resistance and tyrannicide were being taught by Manegold. In the following century John of Salisbury boldly wrote On The End of Tyrants, and in the Policraticus he justifies every means of tyrannicide except poison. In the hands of the pope, during the papal supremacy, this became an effective instrument for reducing arrogant emperors to a proper subordination. In the sixteenth century we shall find the church, through the Jesuit writings, attempting to wield once more this ancient weapon against her imperial foes; while in the seventeenth century the whole Puritan revolution may be expressed in terms of these mediæval principles of popular sovereignty, resistance, and tyrannicide.
The mediæval idea of popular sovereignty did not extend so far as to grant participation to the people individually in the administration of the empire or church. In fact, they were pretty generally excluded. It was understood to mean the supremacy of the people collectively; hence it found its expression in a supreme representative council, popularly chosen, and, theoretically, exactly equivalent to the whole sovereign people for which it stood. Nothing exactly like this—a supreme assembly perfectly representative of the entire people—had ever been known, and its developments were destined to be of the utmost consequence. In the direct line of descent are the modern representative parliament, and Milton’s supreme ‘general Councel of ablest men, chosen by the people.’ The authority of this mediæval council was limited by nothing except the law of God and the law of nature. To it the senate of cardinals and the pope himself were subject.
But to realize the completeness of this mediæval conception, one must turn to the writings of Marsilius of Padua (d. after 1342), the famous rector of the University of Paris. In the Defensor Pacis (c. 1324), which has been called ‘the most original political treatise of the middle ages,’ he clearly sets forth the principle of a representative council. Chapters 20-1, pp. 256-63, are thus summarized by Poole: ‘The supreme power in the church is the church itself, that is, a general council, formed of the clergy and laity alike, and convoked not by any pretended spiritual authority but by the source of all legislation and jurisdiction, the civil state. Thus constituted a general council may not only decide ecclesiastical questions but even proceed to excommunicate the temporal ruler and place his land under an interdict, just because it represents the authority of the universal church and speaks the voice of the entire community, in both its spiritual and its temporal capacities. That it has power over the pope follows necessarily from the principles already laid down.’
But while there was recognition of the worth and rights of the individual, and of the sovereignty of the people as a whole; and although this found its highest expression in a representative council under the nominal leadership of the papal and regal authority, the most remarkable and unique achievement of mediæval policy was the building of these manifold elements of government into a unified whole. The genius of the mediæval mind, in fact, was chiefly its unparalleled capacity to achieve unity out of multiplicity. One God, one authority, one world-wide empire, one human brotherhood, one goal of life—such were the ideals that wrought themselves into unworldly monasticism, into the Holy Roman Empire; into cathedral and Divina Commedia; and into a system of federated government which articulated and fused into a whole the successive units of sovereignty from the individual to the papal throne. In order of magnitude, these units were the individual, the family, the village, the city, the province, the nation, the empire. Each part was an individual organism having its end in itself, reflecting in miniature the constitution of the whole, and yet at the same time forming a subordinate element in the successive higher unities. Dante well expresses this conception of world-wide and race-wide unity in discussing ‘what is the end of human society as a whole’: ‘In order to discern the point in question more clearly, observe that as Nature fashions the thumb for one purpose, the whole hand for another, then the arm for a purpose differing from both, and the entire man for one differing from all, so she creates for one end the individual, for another the family, for another the village, for still another end the city, for another the kingdom, and finally for an ultimate end by means of His art which is nature, the Eternal God brings into being the human race in its totality.’
Although this vast system of graduated sovereignties, united in one grand empire under the rulership of God, was soon to disintegrate, still the principle of federation—of preserving the identity and independence of the separate groups, yet binding all together into a unity—was to persist, and to exert a profound influence in modern times. The disintegration of the mediæval scheme of federated groups was largely due to the spread of Greek political ideas. Especially powerful was the influence of the Greek conception of a sovereign, nonuniversal state; indeed, this idea completely shattered the vast mediæval empire, and laid the foundations of modern European states. The state at one end of the mediæval chain, and the individual at the other, became the two antagonistic supremacies, and the intermediate links—village, city, and province—practically disappeared politically.
More and more the state came to mean the king; and, striving against regal absolutism, individualism developed into the rebellions and revolutions of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Throughout this long struggle for political rights, the church, true to mediæval traditions, consistently championed the sovereignty of the people, and wielded the doctrine as a weapon against the pretensions of the temporal power. On the other hand, the supporters of the Reformation movement (itself an expression of individualism on its spiritual side) generally asserted the divine right of kings, in return for royal protection against the power of the pope. This was the alignment during the sixteenth century. Luther and Calvin—although the latter betrays some signs of a democratic, or at least aristocratic, preference—were outspokenly royalist. But the doctrines of disobedience, resistance, and tyrannicide were accepted by the later Calvinists, and were boldly proclaimed by the writers of the Huguenot and Jesuit schools. The sovereignty of the people and government by a representative council were reasserted, and justified historically, by Francis Hotman in the Franco-Gallia (1574). A still more powerful Huguenot presentation of liberal mediæval ideas is to be found in the Vindiciæ contra Tyrannos (1578). In the Politica Methodice Digesta of Althusius, the German jurist who wrote in praise of the United Provinces, we find a most remarkable return to the mediæval idea of federated groups—families uniting to form communities (villages, parishes, towns, etc.), and these combining into provinces, which in turn unite to form the state.
But the most complete revival of mediæval political ideas is to be found in the writings of the Jesuits, a society which originated just before the middle of the sixteenth century. The Catholic principles of unity, of subordination of the temporal to the spiritual power, of popular sovereignty, and of government by a representative council are reaffirmed with admirable clearness and force. The Spanish Jesuits, Molina and Suarez, even revived the theocratic conception of a perfect state, over which should reign the law of God and the law of nature. The dominating tyranny of kings, while it made impossible the realization of this ideal, all the more stirred the zeal of the Jesuits in its behalf. Not only did they justify disobedience, resistance, and tyrannicide; but when the horror of St. Bartholomew’s came to be laid at the door of Henry III, they were ready to assert and justify the right of private individuals to assassinate tyrants and heretic kings. The De Rege et Regis Institutione of Mariana, another Spanish Jesuit, is perhaps the boldest and ablest exposition of the radical antimonarchical doctrine ever written. The book produced a tremendous impression, and passed through many editions. Not only did it bear immediate fruit in the assassination of Henry III, but it became the authority and chief support of regicides for two centuries. Jesuit emissaries and Jesuit books crossed over into England in the latter part of the sixteenth century, and exercised no small influence in preparing the way for the extreme measures taken against the Stuarts.
Milton’s writings give evidence of his intimate acquaintance with the Franco-Gallia, Vindiciæ, De Rege, and other revolutionary utterances of the preceding century. In a very true sense their championship of popular, as against monarchical, ideas—derived, as we have seen, from the Middle Ages and the heart of the Roman church—they handed across the Channel to Milton, the apologist of the Puritan revolution and republic. Especially is this apparent in the present treatise in regard to its fundamental ideas of popular sovereignty, government by a representative council, and unified confederacy. Milton, in his political ideas, had vastly more in common with Catholic republicans than with Reformation royalists. In fact, as we shall see in the study of sources, Milton surreptitiously incorporates as authority in The Ready and Easy Way a generous portion of the De Republica of Jean Bodin, whom he elsewhere expressly styles a ‘Papist.’
Among the various contemporary schools of commonwealth-proposers there was none so interesting, so brilliant, and so important in relation to Milton as the little group of enthusiasts who met regularly during the winter evenings of 1659-60 to discuss ‘aierie modells’ under the hospitable shelter of Miles’ Coffee-House, ‘at the Turk’s head, in the New Pallace-yard.’ The founder and animating spirit of this famous debating society was James Harrington, the author of Oceana, and, upon the whole, the ablest political philosopher of his time. Toland styles him the ‘greatest Commonwealthman in the World,’ and his Oceana ‘the most perfect Form of Popular Government that ever was.’ However that may be, it is certain that no contemporary republican possessed an equally intimate acquaintance with all previous political theory, together with constructive imagination and genius for detail, and unfailing enthusiasm in promoting his ideas. The Oceana appeared in 1656. It was instantly pounced upon by Cromwell’s courtiers, and carried to Whitehall; but, through Harrington’s intercession with Lady Claypole, the ‘child of his brain’ was rescued from Cromwell. Toland tells us that the treatise was ‘greedily bought up, and become the subject of all mens discourse.’ It proposed a most elaborate model of a commonwealth, based upon rotation in office, equal distribution of land, and the fundamental principle ‘that empire follows the balance of property, whether lodg’d in one, in a few, or in many hands’—a principle which, Toland affirms, Harrington ‘was the first that ever made out.’ Aubrey records that this ‘ingeniose tractat, together with his and H. Nevill’s smart discourses and inculcations, dayly at coffee-houses, made many proselytes.’ It provoked spirited controversy, and became the political creed and unifying principle of the Rota Club.
As the militant republicanism of the Harringtonians exercised so large an influence upon both editions of The Ready and Easy Way, it may be worth while to become acquainted with the Rota-men and their famous Coffee-Club. The Club began its sessions in September, 1659, at the time when the restored Rump was taking up the great question of settlement. The purpose of the Club, according to Burnet, was ‘to consider of a form of government that should secure liberty, and yet preserve the nation.’ It continued its animated discussions through the constitution-making army-régime and until the downfall of the Rump in February, or almost up to the appearance of The Ready and Easy Way. Perhaps the best contemporary mention is the following quaint account by Aubrey, a frequent visitor: ‘In so much [did Harrington ‘make proselytes’] that, anno 1659, the beginning of Michaelmasterme, he had every night a meeting at the (then) Turke’s head, in the New Pallace-yard, where they take water, the house next to the staires, at one Miles’, where was made purposely a large ovall-table, with a passage in the middle for Miles to deliver his Coffee. About it sate his disciples, and the virtuosi. The discourses were in this kind the most ingeniose, and smart, that ever I heard, or expect to heare, and band[i]ed with great eagernesse: the arguments in the Parliament howse were but flatt to it. . . . Here we had (very formally) a ballotting-box, and balloted how things should be caried, by way of tentamens. The room was every evening full as it could be cramm’d. I cannot now recount the whole number:—Mr. Cyriack Skinner, an ingeniose young gentleman, scholar to John Milton, was chaireman. . . . We many times adjourned to the Rhenish wine howse. One time Mr. Stafford and his gang came in, in drink, from the taverne, and affronted the Junto (Mr. Stafford tore their orders and minutes). The soldiers offerd to kick them downe stayres, but Mr. Harrington’s moderation and persuasion hindered it. The doctrine was very taking, and the more because, as to human foresight, there was no possibility of the king’s returne. But the greatest part of the Parliament-men perfectly hated this designe of rotation by ballotting; for they were cursed tyrants and in love with their power, and ’t was death to them, except 8 or 10, to admitt of this way. . . . Now this modell upon rotation was:—that the third part of the Senate should rote out by ballot every yeare, so that every ninth yeare the House would be wholly alterd; no magistrate to continue above 3 yeares, and all to be chosen by ballot, then which manner of choice, nothing can be invented more faire and impartiall. Well: this meeting continued Novemb., Dec., Jan., till Febr. 20 or 21; and then, upon the unexpected turne upon generall Monke’s comeing-in, all these aierie modells vanishd.’
Wood’s account follows Aubrey’s, but adds that the ballot-box with which the ‘gang’ amused themselves was an absolute novelty, ‘not being us’d or known in England before’; and that ‘on this account the room was every evening very full.’ This ballot-box, with its queer little pellets of divers colors, is one of the exotics at which Milton grumbles; but it was a source of infinite mirth among the Royalist wits. For a specimen of their satire see The Censure of the Rota (Appendix B. 3). Other amusing references to the Club may be found in the Harleian Miscellany (6. 192, 465; 7. 197).
A frequent and very much interested visitor at the Rota-Club debates was Samuel Pepys, who furnishes us comments under the dates of Jan. 10, Jan. 14, Jan. 17, and Feb. 20, the last of which is as follows: ‘In the evening Simons and I to the Coffee Club, where nothing to do only I heard Mr. Harrington, and my Lord of Dorset and another Lord, talking of getting another place as the Cockpit, and they did believe it would come to something. After a small debate upon the question whether learned or unlearned subjects are the best the Clubb broke up very poorly, and I do not think they will meet any more.’
They did not; at least, this is the last account we have of them.
We do not know that Milton ever visited the Rota Club, but it is certain that he was in constant and intimate touch with its proceedings. Cyriack Skinner, its occasional chairman, was one of Milton’s closest friends. Besides, this vigorous championship of a commonwealth must have been of very great interest to Milton, who differed from Harrington only as to the best means to this same general end. In the preface to Hirelings, he seems to show a keen interest in the Harrington petition recently laid before Parliament (see note on 23. 19). It is probable that his Rota-friend read to him from time to time Harrington’s various tracts in support of a commonwealth, such as The Art of Lawgiving, Political Aphorisms, 7 Models of a Commonwealth, and The Rota. And it would be singular indeed if there were no trace of them to be found in Milton’s contemporary model.
We find that the characteristic ideas of the Rota-men did exert an influence upon both editions of The Ready and Easy Way. The idea of rotation, so far from Milton’s doctrine of perpetuity in office, was still less radical and dangerous than the ‘conceit’ of successive Parliaments. It is therefore mentioned by Milton in the first edition, by way of compromise with the Harrington school, as the ‘best expedient, and with least danger’—but only to be tolerated as a last resort to satisfy such as were ‘ambitious to share in the government.’ It would seem, however, that Milton’s information as to Harrington’s proposal was somewhat inexact, or, as is more probable, that he was not willing to follow that design too closely. The rotation-scheme as stated in the first edition is Harrington’s, but with a difference; and the difference is characteristically Miltonic. Instead of one third of the senate’s rotating annually by suffrage of the people, ‘a hundred or some such number may go out by lot or suffrage of the rest’—a much less popular form of rotation than Harrington’s, and one less likely to impair the dignity and power of the senate. If possible, the managing of this business should be in the control of the council itself. It is in the second edition, however, that the subject receives earnest attention. Milton finds it expedient ‘to enlarge especially that part which argues for a perpetual Senat.’ Accordingly, we find that the brief mention of rotation in the first edition has been expanded into whole paragraphs and pages in the second.
But the Rota Club, notwithstanding the fact that Milton grudgingly and tentatively accepts one of its proposals, is not to be thought of as a source of The Ready and Easy Way, but rather as a formative influence without the pressure of which large sections of Milton’s treatise would not have been written. The ideas of the Rota-men are almost invariably mentioned to be criticized and combated. Such criticism must have seemed all the more imperative, as The Rota: Or a Modell of a Free State or equal Commonwealth, Harrington’s contribution of advice corresponding to Milton’s, was almost exactly contemporary with The Ready and Easy Way. Wood naturally associates the two rival models: ‘The Rota . . . published in the beginning of Feb. 1659. About which time John Milton published a pamphlet called, The ready and easy Way to establish a free commonwealth.’ That Milton considered Harrington a formidable competitor, we may infer from the dimensions of the counter-argument in this treatise, and from Harrington’s reputation as a political philosopher. Toland says by way of comparison: ‘In this book [Milton’s] he delivers the model of a commonwealth, well suted perhaps to the circumstances of that time, but inferior, in all respects, to Harrington’s Oceana, which for the practicableness, equality, and completeness of it, is the most perfect form of such a government that ever was delineated by any antient or modern pen.’
Finally, the principal proposals of Harrington that come in for criticism in the pamphlet, and Milton’s opinions of them, may be briefly stated. (1) Agrarian laws (see note on 28. 30) Milton believes to be dangerous; his own model involves ‘no perilous, no injurious alteration or circumscription of mens lands and proprieties.’ (2) There were to be a ‘Senate of three hundred Knights, and the popular assembly of one thousand and fifty Deputies, each being upon a triennial Rotation, or annual Change in one third part.’ But this ‘annual rotation of a Senat to consist of three hundred, as is lately propounded,’ replies Milton, and ‘another popular assembly upward of a thousand, with an answerable rotation, . . . cannot but be troublesom and chargeable, unweildie with thir own bulk, unable to mature thir consultation as they ought.’ He ‘could wish this wheel or partial wheel in State, if it be possible, might be avoided, as having too much affinitie with the wheel of fortune.’ He does not, however, reject it utterly. If not the ‘best,’ it is still the ‘known expedient,’ and much to be preferred to kingship. He will not ‘forejudge . . . any probable expedient.’ The tone of the argument reveals no sign of animosity toward Harrington himself. (3) The secret ballot receives no support from Milton; he speaks slightingly of this Venetian innovation, and of ‘exotic models’ in general. (4) Harrington’s whole elaborate scheme of division and subdivision of territory into shires or tribes, hundreds, and parishes, and of the freemen into youths and elders, horse and foot; their assembling at stated times at the summons of trumpet or drum, or the ringing of bells; the compulsory marching and countermarching, the prescribed robes of divers colors, the intricate process of voting—all seemed to Milton ‘new injunctions to manacle the native libertie of mankinde; turning all vertue into prescription, servitude, and necessitie, to the great impairing and frustrating of Christian libertie.’ His way, so different from Harrington’s, was ‘plain, easie and open; . . . without intricacies, without the introducement of . . . obsolete forms, or terms, or exotic models.’
The Ready and Easy Way is not distinctively learned, argumentative, or defensive, but was written rather hastily, as a practical suggestion in an emergency. The Biblical element, therefore, is much less prominent here than it is in such treatises as the Defensio and the Tenure. However, we find that not fewer than twelve direct appeals to the Bible are made in the present work—for illustration and proof; for vindication and ridicule; for warning and denunciation. Milton’s employment of Scripture is extremely bold and effective. Old-Testament blood-guiltiness is the warning held up before backsliders from the ‘good old cause’; moreover, those who clamor for kingship may be warned of God’s anger from the case of Samuel’s sons; and let the Stuarts themselves tremble at the terrible denunciation of Jeremiah against Coniah. Unfortunately, it was not without some grounds that the critics accused Milton of wresting the Scripture to his purpose (see notes on 15. 34 and 15. 35, and p. 177).
In his proposed curriculum, as also in his own extensive reading, Milton had given a prominent place to ‘those extolled remains of Grecian lawgivers, Lycurgus and Solon.’ And while we are not to imagine him now, in his anxious haste and infirmity of blindness, as painfully groping among Athenian and Spartan constitutions, it is nevertheless true that he incorporates in his model much of their spirit, and many of their practical expedients. Milton seems to have read of the curb, or ‘bridle’-device, of the Ephori, in the charming pages of Plutarch’s Life of Lycurgus. There is also an allusion to the peculiar Spartan form of election in his unwillingness to commit all ‘to the noise and shouting of a rude multitude.’ Throughout the treatise there runs an implied commendation of Spartan frugality, simplicity, discipline, and patriotic fervor.
But it was for the Athenian commonwealth, as founded by Solon and further democratized by his successors, that Milton reserved his profoundest admiration. Like Milton, Solon was a poet turned statesman, an unselfish reformer, and an unsuccessful opposer of tyrants. But, unlike Milton’s, his political ideas had the good fortune to become the basis of the constitution of the republic. Milton found these reflected in Plutarch’s Life of Solon—itself largely derived from Aristotle’s recently recovered Constitution of Athens. Here are set forth the ideas of a supreme and perpetual council of the Areopagus; proportionate eligibility to office; the right of appeal to living judges. Solon himself, as here described, furnishes a splendid example of unselfish public service, and of supreme contempt for royal ostentation. And Milton’s proposed combination of local and national authority—legislative, executive, and judicial—he finds ‘to have been practised in the old Athenian commonwealth.’ We may now turn to the strictly political writings of the Greeks to which our book is indebted. We have seen that Milton professed to hold in some derision the idealistic proposals of Plato—‘a man of high authority indeed, but least of all for his commonwealth.’ Nevertheless, almost a score of Plato’s social and political ideas reappear in The Ready and Easy Way. The nature of the state, the origin of law, the purpose of government, the relation of tyranny to moral progress, magistracy as service, due liberty—these are some of the subjects upon which Milton’s thought accords with Plato’s. Most of these ideas, it is true, Milton met again far down the stream and in other forms, for we are here at the fountainhead of modern commonwealth-theory; but it is also true that he received the initial impression of these conceptions from the pages of the Republic and the Laws. Finally, Aristotle, a much more practical philosopher, is acknowledged as ‘chief instructer,’ and especially cited as authority (31. 5).
Hardly less profoundly was Milton influenced by the history of the illustrious republic of Rome. The influence, however, was largely one of national character and political institutions, for in the province of original political philosophy the Roman contribution had been small. It was the history of that liberty-loving people, who, deposing their kings, flourished for five hundred years as a republic; the matchless spirit of the Romans, who were ‘in a manner all fit to be kings’; their august, perpetual senate, their check-device of the tribunes: it was these elements of Roman greatness that appealed most strongly to Milton at this time, as exemplifying the feasibility and superiority of an aristocratic republic.
But the Roman republic, although it imported its politics from Greece, was not quite without expounders. There were Cicero, with his Republic and Laws, and Polybius, and Justinian; from each of whom Milton seems to have gleaned ideas that were to reappear later in modified form in his own republic. Like Milton, Cicero had striven ‘at all hazard’ to uphold the tottering and already doomed structure of a republic, having voluntarily resigned the ‘diversified sweetness’ of his studies to oppose himself ‘almost alone to the tempests and torrents of sedition, for the sake of preserving the state’ —an utterance that seems to have colored Milton’s own declaration of motives. Like Milton again, Cicero professed to be a practical statesman; but he openly modeled his treatises upon Plato’s Republic and Laws. Naturally, therefore, most of his ideas are of no importance as sources. Yet there is a certain remainder, peculiarly his own, which did exercise a direct influence upon the shaping of The Ready and Easy Way. For example, Milton expressly acknowledges the power of Cicero’s beautiful and eloquent statement of the law of nature (see note on 10. 40).
It is probable that Milton’s idea of ‘balance’ was derived from, or confirmed by, the exposition of the Roman system of checks and balances, as found in Polybius. The Commonplace Book shows that he took notes from Justinian on natural and civil law. We know that Milton derived from Augustine the opinion that magistrates are really servants. The De Civitate Dei left other traces upon The Ready and Easy Way. It is certain that this was one source of the idea that kings should not presume to rule over men (see note on 19. 14).
It has been the purpose of a preceding section to show that the mediæval contribution to The Ready and Easy Way, while very large indeed, descended by way of sixteenth-century democratic thought, and was not recognized as mediæval at all. We may therefore pass from the fifth to the fifteenth century, and next inquire as to the modern sources of Milton’s treatise. It is not a little surprising to find the first of these in the writings of Machiavelli (1469-1527), the celebrated Florentine statesman, the first, and one of the greatest, of modern politicians. There are many reasons why Machiavelli particularly interested and influenced Milton. As an embodiment of the Renaissance spirit, he stood for intellectual and religious emancipation; he eagerly welcomed the experience and wisdom of Greece and Rome; he too acknowledged Aristotle as his chief instructor, and professed himself to be—what he really was—a practical statesman and impartial inquirer after truth; his favorite model of government was the republic of Rome; his volumes were rich in information about the minor republics of Italy, such as Venice and Florence; he started from the assumption that the state, of whatever form, is to be preserved and promoted at whatever cost, and discussed with inimitable clearness and penetration the policies best adapted to that end. The fact that his attitude is unmoral and indifferentist, or nearly so, did not deter Milton—as it had innumerable narrow minds that execrated the very name of Machiavelli—from diligently reading and excerpting the Discorsi and the Arte della Guerra, as the Commonplace Book and The Ready and Easy Way prove. In spite of their usual impersonal tone, Machiavelli’s volumes contained certain bold declarations and eulogies upon freedom which, to Commonwealth-men of the calibre of Milton and Harrington, seemed to betray a republican fervor in the author. Accordingly, Harrington holds him in high repute as the ‘learn’d Disciple’ of ‘the Antients,’ and ‘the only Politician of later Ages.’
A large part of Machiavelli’s work is, of course, a restatement of Aristotelian philosophy, and must be disregarded so far as sources are concerned, except where its connection with Milton’s thought is indisputable. Such is the case, as proved by Milton’s own citations, in those passages which amplify the thought that hereditary kings are seldom virtuous, and that good men are scarce in monarchies, but abound in commonwealths. Machiavelli also suggested to Milton, or at least confirmed him in the opinion, that God preferred to make commonwealths when given His own way about it (see note on 32. 5).
We have now arrived at the authority of whom Milton seems to have made most use during the composition of The Ready and Easy Way—Jean Bodin (1530-96), the illustrious author of the De la République. Like Machiavelli, Bodin was filled with the Renaissance enthusiasm for the wisdom of ancient Greece and Rome. He made eager explorations into various fields of learning, and distinguished himself by contributing to political, educational, and economic theory, and by practically originating the modern historical method of investigation. Moreover, he rendered valuable service as statesman and diplomat under Henry III. With admirable spirit he stood for liberty of conscience, mutual concessions, and peace, in the midst of the raging wars of religion. It is not surprising that his tolerance and poise brought upon him the zealots’ charges, at different times, of being a ‘Catholic, a Calvinist, a Jew, a Mohammedan, and an atheist.’ Milton himself declares that ‘Bodin, the famous French writer, though a Papist, yet affirms that the commonwealth which maintains this discipline [Presbyterianism] will certainly flourish in virtue and piety.’
But it was in the field of political philosophy that Bodin made his most admirable contribution to knowledge and progress. The De la République appeared in 1576, and at once linked its author’s name with that of Aristotle. The treatise was written in French, but was translated into Latin by the author in 1586. It was known and read all over Europe, and was promptly made a textbook in the English universities. It passed through numerous editions, the thick, almost cubical, Latin octavo of 1641 being the ‘Editio Septima.’
Milton probably became thoroughly familiar with Bodin’s Republica during his university days, and later, during the period of strenuous controversy, he did not forget this veritable mine of political wisdom. Page 112 of the Commonplace Book has the following note in Milton’s own hand: ‘Pro divortio vide Bodin. repub. l. 1, c. 3.’ This note-book also contains a large number of direct quotations from Bodin, but as they are in Lord Preston’s hand instead of Milton’s, no use will be made of them as sources. Fortunately, the Republica itself is sufficiently convincing as to Milton’s direct obligation. The most remarkable case of borrowing may be set forth here in some detail, as it possesses both historical and biographical significance.
On page 24 of this edition, Milton covertly refers to Bodin as ‘they who write of policie,’ and further distinguishes him above all other authorities by quoting a considerable passage in support of a perpetual senate. This conclusion, that Milton is here disingenuously helping himself to Bodin, is based primarily upon the evidence of the following parallels:
|Bodin, DeRepublica 3.1., ed. Francofurti, 1641.||Milton, Commonwealth, 1 ed., 1660.||Bodin, Commonweale, London, 1606, p. 277.|
|‘. . . mea tamen sententia commodius est, senatores perpetuos esse, . . . quin tanta varietate mutabiles efficiunt, . . . non modo senatus splendorem obscurant, ac Reip. dignitatem labefactant, verumetiam Remp. in apertum discrimen coniiciunt, dum arcana promulgantur ac novis Senatoribus rerum praeteritarum ignaris summa Reip. gubernacula committuntur.’||‘They who write of policie, give these reasons; “That to make the whole Senate successive, not only impairs the dignitie and lustre of the Senate, but weakens the whole Commonwealth, and brings it into manifest danger; while by this means the secrets of State are frequently divulgd, and matters of greatest consequence committed to inexpert and novice counselors, utterly to seek in the full and intimate knowledg of affairs past.” ’||‘Howbeit I am not of opinion so to have the councellours of estate changed and rechanged; but rather to have them perpetuall. . . . For the yearely chaunging . . . doth not onely greatly obscure the glorie of the Senat, which ought to shine as the sunne, but also draweth after it the inevitable daunger of disclosing and publishing or the secrets of the estate: joining hereunto also, That the Senat, all new, cannot bee enformed of affaires passed, neither yet well continue the entertainment of the affaires present.’|
It is apparent that the second and third of these parallel passages are largely equivalent in thought, and very similar in sequence and phraseology; and one might reasonably conclude that the English version was Milton’s source. But a careful comparison of the parallels in English and Latin, and especially of the italicized passages, proves that such was not the case. It is sufficient here to state the conclusions to which one must come after such an examination: (1) Bodin was ‘they who write of policie’; (2) Milton drew from the Latin, rather than from the English, version of the Republica; (3) indeed, Milton’s quotation is his own faithful and adequate, though not slavish, rendering of the Latin original; furthermore, (4) Milton’s translation is far more coherent, dignified, and faithful than the English version of 1606.
Two interesting queries are suggested by Milton’s use of Bodin. First, why did Milton, the staunchest of the republicans, appeal at all to Bodin, a royalist, a Frenchman, and a ‘Papist’? Questions of the intrinsic merit of the author aside, the answer seems to be found in the historical situation in England at the time, and in Bodin’s peculiar adaptability to Milton’s political proposals. At the time Milton was writing, the Rump Parliament was again sitting in authority, and the great question of settlement was uppermost in all minds. It was Milton’s central idea that a commonwealth should be established by perpetuating the existing Parliament as a grand council of the nation. He was sorely put to it to fortify with authority this generally odious principle of perpetuity in office. Plato was, upon the whole, for rotation; Aristotle had decided that life-tenure would never do among equals; Cicero had declared for succession; there was certainly nothing to hope for from Machiavelli. Fortunately, Bodin had spoken out loudly and unmistakably for a perpetual council, or senate. Here, then, was the prop for Milton’s doctrine; and not only a prop, but a tower of strength. It must have been with no little joy that Milton bethought him of this formidable ally in his time of need. One can almost hear him asking amanuensis or friend to read to him the well-remembered chapters, or at least choice extracts stored away in his note-books. Most certain it is that he swallowed for once his disinclination toward Frenchmen, royalists, and Papists, and set Bodin in the place of honor in his treatise.
The other question is: why did Milton withhold the name of his chief authority? Probably for two reasons: the educated among his readers would instantly recognize the familiar passage without such assistance; and, on the other hand, it would be awkward to have the ignorant multitude discover that John Milton, of all men, was citing a Frenchman, a Papist, and a royalist as an authority.
Several minor obligations remain to be mentioned briefly. We know from Milton’s own citations that he was familiar with Hotman’s Franco-Gallia (1574), and certain of its bold assertions seem to have left their mark upon The Ready and Easy Way (see note on 17. 23). Another and still more famous Huguenot book that Milton read, and made use of here, is the Vindiciæ contra Tyrannos (1580), which develops the theory of contract, or covenant, between people and king. Buchanan, whose remarkably bold and able treatise, De Jure Regni apud Scotos (1579), contributed so largely to Milton’s Tenure, exerted a general influence by declaring in vigorous language the sovereignty of the people and the justice of tyrannicide, and possibly suggested to Milton one or two specific ideas (see notes on 15. 6 and 16. 37). To Luther and Calvin are to be referred certain expressions of the treatise concerning liberty of conscience. There is a direct reference to Camden’s History of Elizabeth. The Commonplace Book shows that Milton made use of the following historians also: Holinshed, Stow, and Speed; De Thou, Girard, and Gilles; Sleidan; Costanzo. Many of the ideas here set forth may be found in the author’s earlier pamphlets, or in the Commonplace Book. There is some obligation to contemporary usage, particularly in the matter of Cromwellian and Puritan phraseology, or cant (see note on 14. 27). And, finally, even Milton’s bitter pamphleteering opponents contributed a slight element to The Ready and Easy Way.
It was the fashion with many pre-Restoration prose-writers of the seventeenth century to affect an impressive, ornate style; to lard their pages with Biblical and classical citations, and antiquarian lore; to make large use of Latin idiom and diction; to string together an interminable array of coördinate units—adjectives, substantives, phrases, or clauses; to elaborate enormous periods; and to suffuse their whole discourse with a tone of melancholy. In all these respects except the last, Milton’s prose style in general shows unmistakable kinship with the old-fashioned school. Moreover, his left-handed product lacks the quaintness and kindly humor of Walton and Fuller, the rhythmical melody and exquisite finish of Taylor and Sir Thomas Browne. But if Milton as a prose-writer shared in the defects, and fell short of the graces, of the contemporary school, he nevertheless excelled all the writers of his age in the more fundamental matters of dignity of thought, sincerity, and force.
Nothing that Milton ever wrote is more pronounced in these positive characteristics than The Ready and Easy Way. Its theme is the cause of human freedom—‘a subject . . . never surpassed in any age, in dignity, or in interest.’ It is an assertion of the ‘native libertie’ and essential worth of the individual, a denunciation of tyrants, and a heroic attempt to rescue the nation from imminent slavery. Disregarding its practical—or unpractical—proposals, we yet find that the treatise in its essential content possesses the dignity which belongs to an expression of almost the highest and most universal of human ideals—something fundamentally different from dilettante speculations about ‘what song the Syrens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women.’
In consequence of this loftiness of thought, and the supreme importance of the cause here advocated, not only to the writer but to ‘all ages,’ the style of the treatise is characterized by deep sincerity. Whether the writer is warmly defending actions of the past, riddling the pretensions of monarchs, pointing out the ‘way’ to a republic, exhorting the people, or repelling the assaults of his enemies, one feels the presence of a compelling moral earnestness throughout the pamphlet.
The thoughts and emotions of such a dynamic personality as Milton, occasioned by an imperiled cause of such vital importance to himself and to the world, could not fail to be uttered with tremendous force. Standing alone against a torrent, firm in the consciousness of the eternal rightness of his cause, Milton poured forth his bold denunciations, solemn warnings, and passionate appeals, with something of the authority of a prophet. Even his bitterest enemies felt the power of his earnest words, and conceded him a ‘formal eloquence,’ explaining that ‘this man Sollicites for his Head.’
But the forcefulness of The Ready and Easy Way is not entirely a matter of striking content—of noble thought and powerful feeling; it derives in no small measure from a more than ordinary simplicity and directness of expression. The occasion is urgent—the very lives of republicans and the life of the republic itself are at stake. It is no time for learned, gorgeous, or elaborate style. In the strongest, simplest native words Milton points out a way of escape, and appeals to the deepest instincts of the people. Three fourths of the treatise is pure Anglo-Saxon; more than half of its words are monosyllabic, and more than four fifths do not exceed two syllables in length. The line, ‘what was otherwise well done was by them who so thought,’ is solidly Anglo-Saxon, and practically monosyllabic. There is little that is fantastic or intricate between us and the author. In no other one of the prose works do we come into more intimate touch with the fervent, liberty-loving soul of Milton.
Another element of strength, in so far as strength depends upon effectiveness of expression, is to be found in the rather extensive use of short, clear sentences. This is especially manifest in those parts of the treatise which delineate or explain the model of government, where the author’s intellectual rather than his emotional faculties are at work. There we find such comparatively simple and modern sentences as these:
‘The whole freedom of man consists either in spiritual or civil libertie.’
‘The day of councel cannot be set as the day of a festival; but must be ready alwaies to prevent or answer all occasions.’
But the short sentence by no means predominates. Milton here still shows a preference for ‘well-sized periods’ instead of ‘thumb-ring posies.’ In fact, one sentence offends in this respect to the extent of containing three hundred and twenty-six words. The favorite length, however, is about ten lines. This would not be particularly objectionable if the structure were always faultless, and the meaning clear. But some of the sentences are rambling and obscure, and even defective in grammatical construction. The trouble arises from Milton’s impatient or careless omission of connectives, vague use of the relative, or habit of following the glow of poetic feeling from one suggestion to another, without much regard to sentence-structure or coherence (see 10. 35; 16. 29).
We have here abundant proof that Milton was a master of grim satire and bludgeon-like invective. His friendly rivals, the Rota-men, come in for a few mild strokes; the backsliding Presbyterians receive severer treatment; kings and courts and sycophants are characterized in varied, caustic phrase; but the satire, when turned against reviling foes, descends to the level of coarse invective and vituperation. Here Milton’s style, and Milton himself, suffer most, because of the utter absence of control.
Although Milton’s poetic genius is compelled to trudge along the dusty, noisy way of political controversy, yet we do not, even here, lose consciousness of the fact that it has wings ‘to soar above the Aonian Mount.’ This is evident in the wealth of apt and vigorous words at the writer’s easy command; in the tendency to invest word and phrase with a significance that lies below the superficial meaning; in the facility (here much restrained) of characterization dy striking metaphor—as, for example, the figures of the tower of Babel, Egyptian bondage, contagion, deluge. But most of all is the poet manifest in the idealizing tendency, in the loftiness of thought, and in the fiery glow of generous passion, which is never long concealed, and again and again bursts through all restraints.
The style of The Ready and Easy Way is didactic, argumentative, declamatory, satirical, denunciatory, hortative, etc., according to the varied exigencies of the discourse. And we have found that it is characterized throughout by nobility, sincerity, and power. It is everywhere, and above all else, strikingly individual: it effectively reveals the mind and heart of Milton.
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.
The text of the first edition has been reproduced from an original copy in the Public Library of the City of New York. Insertions from the revised edition follow the text of the copy owned by Mr. W. A. White, of New York City. Brackets () indicate that the passages enclosed were omitted in revision. Parallel passages in the two editions are included between double bars (∥ . . . | . . . ∥). The first edition may be read by following the large type; the second, by omitting the brackets and choosing the small-type variant.
Readie & Easie
The Excellence therof
The inconveniences and dangers of
readmitting kingship in this nation.
The author J. M.
Printed by and are to be sold by
at the Crown in Popes-Head Alley. 1660.
The readie and easie way
to establish a
and the excellence therof, compar’d
with the inconveniencies
and dangers of readmitting
The second edition revis’d and
The author J. M.
consilium dedimus Syllæ, demus populo nunc.
Printed for the Author, 1660.
Although of this treatise, hath had , , and the members at first chosen, , [to sit again in Parlament,] yet to hear declar’d, the resolution[s] , to the establishment of a free , and to remove if it be possible, this of to , , and nourished from bad principles and fals apprehensions , , ∥ hoping it may perhaps (the Parlament now ) : yet submitting what hath reference , to present constitutions; and so the be persu’d, not insisting on this or that means to obtain it. The treatise was thus written as follows. | hoping that it may now be of much more use and concernment publishd, in the midst of our Elections to , or their sitting to consider freely of the Government; to have all things represented to them that may direct thir judgment therin; and I never read of any State, scarce of any tyrant grown so incurable as to refuse counsel from any in a time of public deliberation; much less to be offended. If thir be to enthrall us, before so long a of Servitude, they may permitt us a little first, wherin , and take our leaves of Libertie. And because in the former edition , escap’d, and dispersd, ere the note to mend them could be sent, I took the opportunitie from this occasion the whole discourse, . The treitise thus revis’d and enlarg’d, is as follows. ∥
The Parlament of England assisted by a who appeard and stuck to them faithfullest in [the] defence of religion and thir civil liberties, judging kingship by long experience a government ∥ , | unnecessarie, burdensom and dangerous, ∥ justly and magnanimously ; turning regal-bondage into a , to the , [and the stirring up of France it self, especially in Paris and Bourdeaux, to our imitation.] They took themselves , to any former covnant, from which the King himself by of a latter date or discoverie, and our own longer consideration theron had more & more unbound us, both to himself and his posteritie; as hath bin ever the justice and the prudence of all wise nations that have ejected tyrannie. to preserve the Kings person and autoritie, in the preservation of the true religion and our liberties; not in his endeavoring , upon our liberties thraldom, upon our lives destruction, by , his fomenting and arming the rebellion, his covert leaguing with the rebels against us, most just and necessarie to the true religion and our liberties, tenderd him by the Parlament both of England and Scotland. They made not thir covnant concerning him , or promisd him as Job did to the Almightie, to trust in him, though he slay us: they understood that the , wherin we all forswore kingship, was no more a breach of the covant, then the covnant was of , but a faithful and prudent going on both in the words, well weighd, and in the true sense of the covnant, without respect of persons, when we could not , God and the king, or the king and , sworn in the first place to maintain, our safetie and our libertie. ; & although , & ( ) from tumults to Oxford, yet they were left to act in Parlament; therefor not bound by any statute of preceding Parlaments, but by the only, which is the only law of laws truly and properly to all mankinde fundamental; the beginning and the end of all Government; to which no Parlament or people that will throughly reforme, but may and must have recourse; as they had and must yet have in (if they throughly intend it) to ; not to , though never so ancient, so ratifi’d and establishd in the land by Statutes, which for the most part are meer , neither natural nor moral, & so by any Parlament for just and serious considerations, without scruple to be at any time repeal’d. , they were not, but under free conscience; if others were excluded by , of government in no hands, to discontinue thir care of the public peace and safetie, to desert the people in ; no more then when , as made up in outward formalitie a more legal Parlament of against them. also and best principl’d of the people, stood not numbring or computing on which side were most voices in Parlament, but on which side appeerd to them most reason, most safetie, : what was well motiond and advis’d, they examind not whether carried it in the vote; neither did they measure votes and counsels by the ; knowing that intentions either are but guessd at, or not soon anough known; and although good, can neither make the deed such, nor prevent the consequence from being bad: in things otherwise welldon; what was welldon, was by them who so thought, not the less obey’d or followd in the state; since in the church, who had not rather follow or , though to covetous ends, preaching, then Saul, though in the uprightness of his heart persecuting the gospell? Safer they therefor judgd what they thought , though carried on by some perhaps to , then , by others, though endevord with : that a greater number might be corrupt within the walls of a Parlament as well as of a citie; wherof in matters of neerest concernment all men will be judges; nor easily permitt, that in thir greatest councel, shall more endanger them by corrupt or credulous votes, then the odds of enemies by open assaults; judging that most voices ought not alwaies to prevail where main matters are in question; if , what is that to them who pretend not, but are in real danger; not they only so judging, but a great though not the greatest, number of thir chosen Patriots, who might be more in weight, then the others in number; there being in number little vertue, but by weight and measure wisdom working all things: and the dangers on either side they seriously thus waighd: from , short fruits of long labours and ; , if we can hold it; : then put to shift again with . His justice, his honour, his conscience declar’d quite contrarie to ours; which would have furnishd him with many such evasions, as in a book entitl’d , soon after were not conceald: , but left as it were in ambush, a reserve, with ordination in thir sole power; , not to be alienated, but rented, and the sale of them ; few of many brought to condigne punishment; ; , above pardon, though after utmost resistance, vanquish’d; ; yet , to be honourd, worshipd, glorifi’d. , with what righteousness in the sight of God, with what assurance that we ? If on the other side we preferr a free government, though for the present not obtaind, yet all those , as the event will prove, easily overcome, we remain finally secure from the exasperated regal power, and out of snares; shall retain the best part of our libertie, which is our religion, and the civil part will be from , much more easily recoverd, being as a King reinthron’d. Nor were then might become the hopes of a glorious rising Commonwealth; nor were the expressions both of [the] Army and [of the] People, whether in thir publick declarations or , other then such as testifi’d fitted to the liberty of a Comonwealth, then in the ancient Greeks or Romans. unsuccesfully against the tongue of ; nor the constancie and fortitude that so nobly vindicated our liberty, our victory at once against two the most prevailing usurpers over mankinde, unpraisd or uncelebrated in , as it hath hitherto , especially in parts abroad. After our liberty and Religion thus ∥ succesfully | prosperously ∥ fought for, gaind and , except in , which God hath remov’d, [and wonderfully brought together ,] now that nothing remains but in all reason the of a speedy and immediate settlement [to this nation] for ever in a firm and free Commonwealth, for this extolld and magnifi’d nation, regardless both of honour wonn or deliverances voutsaf’t from heaven, to fall back, or rather , to thir once abjur’d and detested thraldom of kingship, to be our selves the slanderers of our own just and religious deeds, , yet not therefor to be staind with their infamie, or they to asperse the integritie of others, and yet these now by revolting from the conscience of deeds welldon both in church and state, to throw away and forsake, or rather to betray a just and noble cause for the who have ill manag’d and abus’d it (which had our fathers don heretofore, and on the same pretence deserted true religion, what had long ere this become of our gospel and all protestant reformation so much intermixt with the avarice and ambition of som reformers?) and by thus relapsing, to verifie all the bitter predictions of our triumphing enemies, who will now think they wisely discernd and justly censur’d both us and all our actions as rash, rebellious, hypocritical and impious, not only argues | contagion ∥ suddenly spread among us, fitted and prepar’d for new slaverie, but will render us . And what will they at best say of us, and of the whole English name, but scoffingly as of that mentiond by our Saviour, who began to build a Tower, and was not able to finish it: where is this goodly tower of a Common-wealth which the English boasted they would build, to overshaddow kings and ? The foundation indeed they laid gallantly, but fell into a worse , then those at the tower of Babel; and have left no memorial of thir work behinde them remaining, but in the common laughter of Europ. Which must needs redound the more to our shame, if we but the United Provinces, to us inferiour in all outward advantages: who notwithstanding, in the midst of , couragiously, wisely, constantly went through with the same work, and are settl’d in all the happie injoiments of a Republick to this day.
, if we return to kingship, and , when we begin to finde the old incroachments coming on by little and little upon our consciences, which must necessarily inseparably in one interest, we may be all that we have fought, , but are never like to attain thus far as we are now advanc’d, to the recoverie of our freedom, never [likely] to have it in possession, as we now have it, never to be voutsaf’d heerafter the like mercies and in our cause, if by our ingratefull backsliding we make these fruitless [to our selves,] ∥ all his gratious condescensions and answers |; flying now to from his divine condescensions and gratious answers ∥ to our once importuning praiers against the tyrannie which we then groand under [to become now of no effect, by returning of our own foolish accord, nay running headlong again with full stream wilfully and obstinately into the same bondage:] making vain and viler then dirt the blood of so many thousand faithfull and valiant English men, who left us in this libertie, bought with thir lives; losing by a strange aftergame of folly, all the battels we have wonne, together with as to our conquest, hereby lost, , all the treasure we have spent, not that corruptible treasure only, but that far more precious of all ; treading back again with lost labour all our happie steps in the progress of reformation, and most pittifully depriving our selves the instant fruition of that free government which we have so dearly purchasd, a free Commonwealth, not only held by the noblest, the manliest, the equallest, the justest government, the most agreeable to all and , both humane, civil and Christian, , but also (I may say it with greatest probabilitie) himself, to all Christians, not without remarkable disallowance and the . God in much displeasure gave a king to the Israelites, and imputed it a sin to them that they sought one: but his disciples to admitt of any such heathenish government: the kings of the gentiles, saith he, exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise autoritie upon them, are call’d benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that serveth. The occasion of these his words, was the ambitious desire of Zebede’s two sons to be exalted above their brethren in his kingdom, which they thought was to be ere long upon earth. , is manifest by the former part of the comparison, which inferrs alwaies in the same kinde. And what government comes neerer to this precept of Christ, then a free Commonwealth; wherin they who are greatest, are the publick , neglect thir own affairs; yet are not elevated above thir brethren, live soberly in thir families, walk the streets as other men, may be spoken to freely, familiarly, friendly, without adoration. Whereas a king must be Demigod, with a about him, of and luxurie, , ; not in thir passetimes only, but in earnest, by the loos imploiments of court service, which will be then thought honorable. There will be ; besides ; together with both thir courts and numerous train: then , and ere long severally thir sumptuous courts; to the multiplying of a servile crew, not of servants only, but of nobility and gentry, bred up ; to be , ushers, grooms, even of the close-stool; and the lower thir mindes debas’d with court opinions, contrarie to all vertue and reformation, the haughtier will be thir pride and profuseness: we may well remember this not long since at home; or need but look at present into the , where enticements and preferments daily draw away and pervert the Protestant Nobilitie. ∥ nor at his own cost, but on the publick revenue; and all this to do nothing but bestow | As to , to our cost we shall soon know it; for any good to us, deserving to be termd no better then the vast and lavish price of our subjection and their debausherie; , and would so fain be paying most inconsideratly to a single person; who for any thing wherin the public really needs him, will have little els to do, but to bestow ∥ the eating and drinking of excessive dainties, to set a pompous face upon the superficial actings of State, to in progress among the perpetual bowings and cringings of an abject people, on either side deifying and adoring him ∥ who for the most part deserves none of this by any good done to the people | for nothing don that can deserve it. ∥ (for what can he more then another man?) ∥ but | who ∥ even in the expression of , sits only like a great cypher set to no purpose before a long row of other significant figures. Nay it is well and happy for the people if thir king be but a cypher, being oft times of the nation, and which is worse, , not to be contrould, much less accus’d or brought to punishment, without the danger of a common ruin, without the shaking and almost subversion of the whole land. Wheras in a free Commonwealth, offending, may be remov’d and punishd, without the least commotion. Certainly then that people , that ; who , if to be bad, hath in his hands to do more evil without check, then millions of other men. The happiness of a nation must needs be firmest and certainest in , . And what madness is it, for them who might manage nobly their own affairs themselves, sluggishly and weakly to devolve all on a single person; and more like boy[e]s under age then men, to committ all to his patronage and disposal, who neither can perform what he undertakes, and yet for undertaking it, though royally paid, will not be thir servant, but thir lord? how unmanly must it needs be, to count such a one the breath of our nostrils, to hang all our felicitie on him, all our safety, our well-being, for which if we were aught els but sluggards or babies, . , thou sluggard, saith Solomon, consider her waies, and be wise; which havingno prince, ruler, or lord, provides her meat in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. Which evidently shews us, that , though they ∥ swell and look haughtie, | look grave or haughtie, ∥ have not so much true spirit and understanding in them as a Pismire. neither are these diligent creatures hence concluded to live in lawless anarchie, or that commended, but are set the examples to imprudent and ungovernd men, of or Commonwealth; safer and more thriving in the joint providence and counsel of many industrious equals, then under the single domination of one imperious Lord. It may be well wonderd that any nation, styling themselves free, can suffer any man to ; whenas by acknowledging that right, they themselves his servants and his vassals, and so renounce thir own freedom. Which how a people can do, ∥ that hath | who have ∥ fought so gloriously for libertie, how they can change thir noble words and actions heretofore so becoming the majestie of a free people, into the base necessitie of court-flatteries and prostrations, is not only strange and , but lamentable to think on; that a nation should be so valorous and courageous to winne thir libertie in the field, and when they have wonn it, should be so heartless and , as not to know how to use it, value it, what to do with it, or with themselves; but after and contestation with tyrannie, basely and besottedly to run thir necks again into the yoke which they have broken, and prostrate all the fruits of thir victorie for ∥ nothing | naught ∥ at the feet of the vanquishd, besides our loss of glorie, and such an example as kings or tyrants never yet had the like to boast of, will be , if it befall us, that never yet befell any nation possessd of thir libertie: worthie indeed themselves, ∥ whosoever | whatsoever ∥ they be, to be for ever slaves; but that part , as I perswade me of a great number, then by their means to be brought into the same bondage, [and reservd, I trust, by Divine providence to a better end; since , and hath not yet quenchd the spirit of libertie among us.] Considering these things, , I cannot but yet further admire on the other side, how any man who hath the in him, can presume or take upon him to be a king and lord over his brethren, whom he cannot but know, whether as men or Christians, to be for the most part to himself: how he can display with such vanitie and ostentation his regal splendour so supereminently above other mortal men; or, being a Christian, can assume such extraordinarie honour and worship to himself, while the , and such Gentilish imitation forbid in express words by himself to all his disciples? All ∥ Protestanus | Protestants ∥ hold, that Christ in his Church of his [kingly power,] but himself without deputy, is the only head thereof, governing it from heaven: how then can any Christian man derive his kingship from Christ, but with worse usurpation then the Pope his headship over the Church, since Christ not only hath not left the least shadow of a command for any such vicegerence from him in the State, for his in the Church, but hath expressly declar’d that such regal dominion is from the gentiles, not from him, and hath strictly charg’d us, not to imitate them therein?
, that a free Commonwealth , is by far the best goverment, if it can be had; but , and cannot yet attain it. Tis true indeed, when monarchie was dissolvd, the form of a Commonwealth should have forthwith bin fram’d; and the practice therof immediatly begun; that with the decent order, ease, and benefit therof: we had bin then by this time firmly rooted past fear of commotions or mutations, & now flourishing: this care of timely setling a new government instead of ye old, too ∥ I answer, that | Yet ∥ the cause thereof may be ascrib’d with most reason to the which the Parlament hath had , partly from leaders in the armie; , , or in thir own power. [Neither ought the in Parlament, be made a to them, as it is of late by the rable, whenas rather they should be therefor honourd, as the remainder of those , who at first freed us from tyrannie, and have continu’d ever since through all changes ; which , as they may most justly and truly, that no other way they can discharge, no other way secure and confirme the peoples libertie, but by setling them in a free Commonwealth. And doubtless, no Parlament will be ever able under royaltie : and when they go about it, will finde it a laborious task; and when they have don all, they can, be forc’d to leave the , till only dooms-day end it: And] , now the very season wherein we may obtain a free Commonwealth, and establish it forever in the land, without difficulty or much delay. [The Parlament have :] Writs are sent out for elections, and which is worth observing in the name, not of any king, but of the , to : which then only will indeed be free, and deserve the true honor of that supreme title, if they preserve us a free people. Which never Parlament was more free to do; being now call’d, not as heretofore, by the summons of a king, but by the voice of libertie: and if the people, laying aside prejudice and impatience, will seriously and calmly now consider thir own good, both religious and civil, thir own libertie and the only means therof, as shall be heer laid before them, and will elect thir able men, and according to the (which for aught I hear, remain yet in force unrepeald, as they were formerly decreed in Parlament, men not addicted to a single person or house of lords, the work is don; at least the foundation [is] firmly laid of a free Commonwealth, and good part also erected of the main structure. For the ground and basis of every just and free government (since men have smarted so oft for committing all to one person) is a , chosen by the people to consult of publick affairs from time to time for the common good. ∥ This Grand Councel in thir power, | In this Grand Councel must the sovrantie, , and as it were deposited, reside; with this caution they must have the forces by sea and land committed to them for preservation of the common peace and libertie; ∥ must raise and mannage the Publick revenue, at least with for satisfaction of the people, how it is imploid; ∥ make lawes, as need requires, | must make , as more expressly shall be said anon, civil laws; ∥ treat of commerce, peace, or war with forein nations; and for the carrying on som particular affairs [of State] with more secrecie and expedition, must elect, as they have already out of thir own number and others, a . And although it may seem strange at first hearing, by reason that mens mindes are prepossessd with the , I affirm that the Grand or General Councel being well chosen, : for so their business is, or may be, and oft times urgent; the opportunitie of affairs gaind or lost in a moment. The day of counsel cannot be set as the day of a festival; but must be readie alwaies to all occasions. ∥ and they will become thereby | By this continuance they will become everie way ∥ skilfullest, best provided of intelligence from abroad, best acquainted with the people at home, and the people with them. is alwaies undersail; they sit at the stern; and if they stear well, what need is ther to change them; it being rather dangerous? Adde to this, that the Grand Councel is of the whole State; and to move pillars and foundations, ∥ unless they be faultie, | not faultie, ∥ cannot be safe for the building. I see not therefore how we can be advantag’d by successive and transitorie Parlaments; but that they are rather then to settle a free government, to breed commotions, changes, novelties and uncertainties; to bring neglect upon present affairs and opportunities, while with expectation of a new assemblie, and the assemblie for a good space taken up with the new setling of it self. After which, if they finde no great work to do, they will make it, by altering or repealing former acts, or making and multiplying new; that they may seem to see what thir predecessors saw not, and not to have assembld for nothing: till all law be lost in the multitude of clashing statutes. ∥ and serve only to satisfie the ambition of such men, as think themselves injur’d, and cannot stay till they be orderly chosen to have thir part in the government. If the ambition of such be at all to be regarded, | of such as think themselves injur’d that they also partake not of the government, and are impatient till they be chosen, cannot brook the perpetuitie of others chosen before them, or if it be feard that long continuance of power may corrupt sincerest men, ∥ the best expedient will be, and with least danger, | the known expedient is, and , ∥ that ∥ | , so much perhaps the better) ∥ a hundred or some such number may go out by lot or suffrage of the rest, | the third part of Senators may go out according to the precedence of thir election, ∥ and the like number be chosen in thir places; to , if it should be perpetual: and this they call partial rotation. [( , :)] ∥ but in my opinion better nothing mov’d, unless by death or just accusation: | But I could wish that or partial wheel in State, if it be possible, might be avoided; as having too much affinitie with the . For it appeers not how this can be don, without danger and mischance of putting out a great number of the best and ablest: in whose stead new elections may bring in as many and otherwise affected, to the weakning and much altering for the wors of public transactions. Neither do I think a perpetual Senat, especially chosen and entrusted by the people, much in this land to be feard, where the well-affected either in a standing armie, or in a setled . Safest therefor to me it seems, and of least hazard or interruption to affairs, that none of the Grànd Councel be mov’d, unless by death or : for what can be expected firm or stedfast from a floating foundation? however, any probable expedient, any temperament that can be found in things of this nature so disputable on either side. ∥ [and I shall make mention of to satisfie such as are reasonable, ere I end this discourse.] ∥ And | Yet ∥ least this which I affirme be thought my single opinion, I shall adde sufficient testimonie. Kingship it self is therefore , because the king and for the most part, his Councel, is not changd during life: but a Commonwealth is held immortal; and therein firmest, safest and most above fortune; the death of a king, causeth oft-times many dangerous alterations; but the death now and then of a Senatour is not felt; the main body of them still continuing ∥ unchang’d | permanent ∥ in greatest and noblest Commonwealths, and as it were eternal. Therefore among the Jews, the supream Councel of seventie, call’d the , founded by Moses, in Athens that of [the] , in ∥ | Sparta ∥ that of , , consisted of members chosen for term of life; and by that means remaind as it were still the same to generations. In Venice they change indeed ofter then everie year som particular councel[s] of State, , or such others; but , which upholds and sustains the government, ∥ sits immovable. | is the whole aristocracie immovable. ∥ So in the , , which are indeed but a Councel of State ∥ delegated | deputed ∥ by the whole union, are not usually the same persons for above three or six years; but the ∥ , | , ∥ in whom the ∥ true sovrantie is plac’d, | sovrantie hath bin plac’d time out of minde, ∥ are a standing Senate, without succession, and accounted chiefly in that regard the main prop of thir libertie. And why they should be so in everie well ordered Commonwealth, , give ; “That to make the [whole] Senate successive, not only impairs the dignitie and lustre of the Senate, but weakens the whole Commonwealth, and brings it into manifest danger; while by this means the secrets of State are frequently divulgd, and matters of greatest consequence committed to inexpert and novice counselors, utterly to seek in the full and intimate knowledg of affairs past.” I know not therefor what should be peculiar in England to make successive Parlaments thought safest, or convenient heer more then in [all] other nations, unlesse it be as we are Ilanders. But good education ought to correct the fluxible fault, if any such be, of our watrie situation. It will be objected, that in those places where they had perpetual Senats, they had also popular remedies against thir growing too imperious: as in Athens, besides Areopagus, another ; in Sparta, ; in Rome, of the people. But tels us, that these remedies either little availd the people, or brought them to such a licentious and unbridl’d democratie, as ruind themselves with thir own excessive power. So that the main reason urg’d why popular assemblies are to be trusted with the peoples libertie, rather then a Senat of principal men, because great men will be still endeavoring to inlarge thir power, but the common sort will be contented to maintain thir own libertie, is by experience found false; none being more immoderat and ambitious to amplifie thir power, then such popularities; which was seen in the people of Rome; who at first contented to have thir Tribunes, at length contended with the Senat that , then both; soon after, that the also should be created Plebeian, and the whole empire put into their hands; adoring lastly those, who most were advers to the Senat, till by fulfilling thir inordinat desires, quite lost them all the power for which they had so long bin striving, and left them under the tyrannie of : the ballance therefor must be exactly so set, as to preserve and keep up due autoritie on either side, as well in the Senat as in the people. And this annual rotation of a Senat to consist of three hunderd, , requires also another popular assembly upward of a thousand, with an answerable rotation. Which besides that it will be liable to all those inconveniencies found in the foresaid remedies, cannot but be troublesom and chargeable, both and thir session, to the whole land; unweildie with thir own bulk, to mature thir consultations as they ought, if any be allotted them, and that they meet not from so many parts remote to , only now and then to , or to convey each man his into the box, without reason shewn or common deliberation; incontinent of secrets, if any be imparted to them, emulous and always jarring with the other Senat. The much better way doubtless will be in this wavering condition of our affairs, to deferr the changing or circumscribing of our Senat, more then may be done with ease, till the Commonwealth be throughly setl’d in peace and safetie, and they themselves give us the occasion. Militarie men hold it dangerous to change the form of battel in view of an enemie: neither did the people of Rome bandie with thir Senat while any of the livd, the enemies of thir libertie, nor sought by creating Tribunes to defend themselves against the fear of thir , till sixteen years after the , and in full securitie of thir state, they had or thought they had just cause given them by the Senat. Another way will be, to : not committing all to , but permitting only those of them who are rightly qualifi’d, to nominat as many as they will; and out of that number others of a better breeding, to chuse a less number more judiciously, till after a and refining of exactest choice, they only be left chosen who are the due number, and seem by most voices the worthiest. To make the people fittest to chuse, and the chosen fittest to govern, will be to , to teach the people faith not without vertue, temperance, modestie, sobrietie, parsimonie, justice; not to admire wealth or honour; to hate turbulence and ambition; to place every one his privat welfare and happiness in the public peace, libertie and safetie. They shall not then need to be much mistrustfull of thir chosen Patriots in the Grand Councel; who will be then rightly call’d the true keepers of our libertie, though the most of thir business will be in forein affairs. But to prevent all mistrust, the people then will have (which will henceforth quite annihilate the ) in the chief towns of every countie, without the trouble, charge, or time lost of summoning and assembling from far in so great a number, and so long residing from thir own houses, or removing of thir families, to do as much at home in thir several shires, entire or subdivided, toward the securing of thir libertie, as a numerous assembly of them all formd and conven’d on purpose with the wariest rotation. Wherof I shall speak more ere the end of this discourse: for it may be referrd to time, so we be still . ∥ I suppose therefor that the people well weighing these things, would have no cause to fear or murmur, | The people well weighing and performing these things, I suppose would have no cause to fear, ∥ though the Parlament, , as originally signifying but the with thir Norman king when he pleasd to call them, should with certain limitations of thir power, ∥ perpetuate themselves, | sit perpetual ∥ if thir ends be faithfull and for a free Commonwealth, under the name of a Grand or General Councel: [nay] till this be done, I am in doubt whether our State will be ever certainlie and throughly setl’d: [and say again therefor, that if the Parlament do this, will have so or suspect them, that they will have cause rather to gratulate and thank them: nay more, if they understand thir own good rightly, will sollicit and not to throw off the great burden from thir shoulders which none are abler to bear, and to sit perpetual;] never likely till then to see an end of ∥ thir | our ∥ troubles and continual changes, or at least never the true settlement and assurance of ∥ their | our ∥ libertie. [And the government being now in , next under God, so able, especially filling up their number, as they intend, and abundantly sufficient so happily to govern us, why should the nation so little know thir own interest as to seek change, and deliver themselves up to meer titles and vanities, to , unknown, necessitous, implacable, and every way to be suspected: to whose power when we are once made subject, not all these our Patriots nor all the wisdom or force of the well affected joind with them can deliver us again from most certain miserie and thraldom. To return then to this of our distempers,] the Grand Councel being thus firmly constituted to perpetuitie, and still, upon the death or default of any member, suppli’d and kept in full number, ther can be no cause alleag’d why peace, justice, plentiful trade and all prosperitie should not therupon ensue throughout the whole land; with as much assurance as can be of human things, that they shall so continue (if God favour us, and our wilfull sins provoke him not) of our true and right full and only to be expected King, as he is our only Saviour, the Messiah, the Christ, the only heir of his eternal father, and ordaind, since the worke of our redemtion finishd, universal Lord of all mankind. The way propounded is plain, easie and open before us; without intricases, without the introducement of new or forms, or terms, or ; idea’s that would effect nothing, but with a number of new injunctions to manacle the of mankinde; turning all vertue into prescription, servitude, and necessitie, to the great impairing and frustrating of Christian libertie: , this way lies free and smooth before us; is not tangl’d with inconveniencies; invents no new incumbrances; requires of mens lands and proprieties; secure, that in this Commonwealth, , no man or number of men can attain to such wealth or vast possession, as will need the hedge of an (never succesful, but the , save ) to confine them from endangering our public libertie; ∥ without the mixture of inconveniencies, or any considerable objection to be made, , that it is not practicable: | to conclude, it can have no considerable objection made against it, that it is not practicable: least it be said hereafter, that we gave up our libertie for want of a readie way or distinct form propos’d of a free Commonwealth. ∥ and this facilitie we shall have above our next neighbouring Commonwealth, (if we can keep us from the fond conceit of , put lately into many mens heads, by som one or other suttly driving on under that [prettie] notion his own ambitious ends ) that our liberty shall not be hamperd or hoverd over by any , of whom to stand in perpetual doubt and suspicion, but we shall live the cleerest and absolutest free nation in the world. On the contrarie, if ther be a king, which the inconsiderate multitude are now so madd upon, marke how far short we are like to com of all those happinesses, which in a free State we shall immediately be possessd of. First, the Grand Councel, which, as I ∥ said | shewd ∥ before, [is both the basis and main pillar in everie government, and] should sit perpetually, (unless thir leisure give them now and then some intermissions or vacations easilie manageable by the ) shall be call’d, by the kings good will and utmost endeavour, ; [and then for his own ends: for it will soon return to that, let no man hope otherwise, whatever law or provision be made to the contrarie.] For it is only the kings right, he will say, to call a Parlament; and this he will do most commonly about his own affairs rather then the kingdom’s, as will appear planely so soon as they are call’d. For what will thir business then be and the chief expence of thir time, but an between ∥ right of subject | petition of right ∥ and royal prerogative, especially about the , demanded and oft-times extorted without reasonable cause appearing to the Commons, who are the ; and thir libertie, but will be then ; besides which, within thir own walls, the sincere part of them who stand faithful to the people, will again have ∥ do | to ∥ deal with two troublesome counter-working adversaries from without, meer creatures of the king, ∥ , | spiritual, and the greater part, as is likeliest, of temporal lords ∥ [made up into one house, and] nothing concernd with the peoples libertie. If these prevail not in what they please, though never so much against the peoples interest, the Parlament shall be ; not sufferd to remedie the least greevance, or enact aught advantageous to the people. Next, the , but by the king, still his own creatures, courtiers and favorites; who will be sure in all thir counsels to set thir maister’s grandure and absolute power, in what they are able, far above the peoples libertie. but that there may be such a king, who may regard the common good before his own, may have no vitious favorite, may hearken only to the wisest and incorruptest of his Parlament; but in a monarchie not elective; and it behoves not a wise nation to committ the summ of thir well-being, the whole state of thir safetie to fortune. What need they; and how absurd would it be, when as they themselves to whom his chief vertue will be but to hearken, may with much better management and dispatch, with much more commendation of thir own worth and magnanimitie govern without a maister. Can the folly be paralleld, to adore and be the slaves of a single person for doing that which it is ten thousand to one whether he can or will do, and we without him might do more easily, more effectually, more laudably our selves? Shall we never grow old anough to be wise to make seasonable use of gravest autorities, experiences, examples? Is it such an unspeakable , such felicitie to wear a yoke? to clink our shackles, lockt on by , more intolerable and hopeless to be ever shaken off, then those which are knockt on by illegal injurie and violence? in the Universities, least this doctrine be thought , as the royalist would have it thought, tels us in the , that certain men at first, for the matchless excellence of thir vertue above others, or som great public benifit, were created kings by the people; in small cities and territories, and in the scarcitie of others to be found like them: but when they abus’d thir power, and governments grew larger, and the number of prudent men increasd, that then the people soon deposing thir tyrants, betook them, in all civilest places, to the form of a free Commonwealth. And why should we thus disparage and prejudicate our own nation, as to fear a scarcitie of able and worthie men united in counsel to govern us, if we will but use diligence and impartiality to finde them out and chuse them, rather yoking our selves to a single person, the natural adversarie and oppressor of libertie, though good, yet far easier corruptible by the excess of his singular power and exaltation, or at best, to bear the weight of government, nor equally dispos’d to make us happie in the enjoyment of our libertie under him. ∥ And | But ∥ of it self may be convenient to som nations, yet to us who have thrown it out, received back again, it cannot . For [the] kings to com, never forgetting thir former ejection, and arme themselves sufficiently for the future against all such attempts heerafter from the people: who shall be then so , [as that besides the loss of all thir blood, and treasure spent to no purpose,] ∥ though they and at the same rate, | that though they would never so fain and at the same rate of thir blood and treasure, ∥ they never shall be able to regain what they now have purchasd and may enjoy, or to free themselves from any yoke impos’d upon them. nor will they dare to go about it; utterly disheartn’d for the future, if these thir highest attempts prove unsuccesfull; which will be the triumph of all tyrants heerafter over any people that shall resist oppression; and thir song will then be, to others, how sped the rebellious English? to our posteritie, how sped the rebells your fathers? This is not my conjecture, but drawn from against the Israelites; who though they were governd in a , he only thir king, they , yet affecting rather to resemble heathen, but pretending the , to dislike thir Commonwealth, then the violence of was imputable to that priesthood or religion, clamourd for a king. They had thir longing; but with this testim onie of God’s wrath; ye shall cry out in that day because of your king whom ye shall have chosen, and the Lord will not hear you in that day. Us if he shall hear now, how much less will he hear when we cry hereafter, who once deliverd by him from a king, and not without wondrous acts of his providence, insensible and unworthie of those high mercies, are returning precipitantly, if he withhold us not, back to the captivitie from whence he freed us. Yet neither shall we obtain or buy at an easie rate this which thus transports us: [Besides this,] a must be found; a new episcopal; : both which being wholly dissipated or bought by private persons, or assing’d for service don, and especially to the Armie, cannot be recovered without a estates, or a heavy imposition on all men’s purses. benefit to none, but to the sort of men, whose hope is to be either the , or the gainers by it: But not to speak more of losses and extraordinarie levies on our estates, what will then be the [Not to speak of] and offences [that will be] rememberd and returnd, not only by the chief person, but by all his adherents; accounts and reparations that will be requir’d, suites [and] inditements, inquiries, discoveries, complaints, informations, who knows against whom, or how many, , ; or molestation; [or] if not these, yet , discountnance, disregard and contempt on all but the known royalist, or whom he favours, will be plentious; nor let the perswade themselves that thir old doings, though now recanted, will be forgotten; whatever conditions be contriv’d or trusted on. Will they not beleeve this; nor remember , how it was kept to the Scots; how other solemn promises many a time to us? Let them but now read the , that now appeer foremost and briskest in all public places; as the harbingers of those that are in expectation to raign over us; let them but hear the insolencies, the menaces, the insultings of our newly animated common enemies crept lately out of thir holes, thir , I might say, by the language of thir , the spue of every drunkard, every ribald; nameless, yet , but for very shame of thir own vile persons, not daring to name themselves, while they ; and give us to foresee that they if ever they have power, with more wicked deeds. Let our zealous backsliders forethink now with themselves, how thir necks yok’d with these , these new of , inspir’d with nothing holier then the Venereal pox, can under monarchie to the establishing of church discipline with these new-disgorg’d atheismes: yet shall they not have the honor to yoke with these, but shall be yok’d under them; . And do they among them who are so forward to bring in the single person, think to be by him trusted or long regarded? So trusted they shall be and so regarded, as by kings are wont reconcil’d enemies; neglected and soon after discarded, if not prosecuted for old traytors; , beginners, and of all that followd; it will be found also, that there must be then as necessarily as now (for will be still feard) a ; which for certain shall not be , but of the , of no less expence, and perhaps again under : but let be sure they shall be soon disbanded, and likeliest without arrear or pay; and being disbanded, not be sure but they may as soon be questiond for being in arms against thir king: the same let them fear, who have contributed monie; which will amount to no small number that must then take thir turn to be made . They who past reason and recoverie are devoted to kingship, perhaps will answer, that a greater part by far of the Nation will have it so; the rest therefor must yield. Not so much to convince these, which I little hope, as to confirm them who yield not, I reply; that this greatest part have both in reason and the trial of just battel, lost the right of their election what the government shall be: of , whether they for kingship be the greater number, Suppose they be; yet of freedom they partake all alike, one main end of government: which if the greater part value not, but will degeneratly forgoe, is it just or reasonable, that most voices against the main end of government should enslave the less number that would be free? More just it is doubtless, if it com to force, that a less number compell a greater to retain, which can be no wrong to them, thir libertie, then that a greater number for the pleasure of thir baseness, compell a less most injuriously to be thir fellow slaves. They who seek nothing but thir own just libertie, have alwaies , when ever they have power, be the voices never so numerous that oppose it. And how much we above others are concernd to defend it from kingship, and from them who in pursuance therof so perniciously would betray us and themselves to most certain miserie and thraldom, will be needless to repeat.
Having thus far shewn with what ease we may now obtain a free Commonwealth, and by it with as much ease all the freedom, peace, justice, plentie that we can desire, on the otherside, the difficulties, troubles, uncertainties nay rather impossibilities to enjoy these things constantly under a monarch, I will now proceed to shew more particularly wherein our freedom and flourishing condition will be to us under a free Commonwealth then under kinship.
The whole freedom of man consists either in . As for spiritual, who can be at rest, who can enjoy any thing in this world with contentment, who hath not and to save his own soul, according to the best light which God hath planted in him to that purpose, by the reading of his reveal’d will and the guidance of his holy spirit? That this is best pleasing to God, and that the whole Protestant Church allows , and these to be interpreted by the scriptures themselves, which necessarily inferrs liberty of conscience, ∥ hath bin | I have ∥ heertofore prov’d at large in ∥ other treatises, | ; ∥ and might yet further by the , and admonitions of whole Churches and States, obvious in all historie, since . [He who cannot be content with this libertie to himself, but seeks violently to impose what he will have to be the only religion, upon other men’s consciences, , bears a minde not only unchristian and irreligious, but inhuman also and barbarous. And in my judgement civil States would do much better, and remove the cause of much hindrance and disturbance in publick affairs, much ambition, much hypocrisie and contention among the people, if they would not meddle at all with Ecclesiastical matters, which are both of a quite different nature from their cognisance, and have thir proper laws fully and compleatly with such coercive power as belongs to them, himself and his apostles. If ther were no medling with Church matters in State counsels, ther would not be members of Parlament, while every one strives to chuse him whom he takes to be of his religion; and everie faction hath the plea of Gods cause. Ambitious leaders of armies would then have no hypocritical pretences so ready at hand to contest with Parlaments, yea to dissolve them and make way to thir own : , I verily suppose ther would be then no more pretending to a : but much peace and tranquillitie would follow; have found by experience: who while they persecuted the , were in much disquiet among themselves, and in danger to have broke asunder into a civil war; since they have left off persecuting, they have livd in much more concord and prosperitie. And themselves, that they never enjoid more peace, then when religion was most at libertie among them; that then first began thir troubles, when began to force the in matters of religion.] This libertie of conscience, which above all other things ought to be to all men dearest and most precious, no government more inclinable not ∥ only to favour | to favor only ∥ but to protect, then a free Commonwealth; as being most magnanimous, most fearless and confident of its own fair proceedings. Wheras kingship, though looking big, yet indeed most pusillanimous, full of fears, full of jealousies, startl’d at everie umbrage, as it hath bin observd of old to have ever suspected most and mistrusted them who were in most esteem for vertue and generositie of minde, so it is now known to have most in doubt and suspicion them who are most reputed to be religious. , though her self accounted , so moderate, so , so much as to Presbyterian reformation in this land, though once and again besought, as relates, but imprisond and , alleaging it as her minde and maxim unalterable, that such reformation . What libertie of conscience can we then expect ∥ from | of ∥ , traind up and governd by , and on such depending hitherto for subsistence? Especially what can this last Parlament expect, who having , have reingag’d themselves, never to readmitt Episcopacie: which no son of Charls returning, but will most certainly bring back with him, if he regard of his father, to persevere in not the doctrin only,but government of the church of England; not to neglect the speedie and effectual suppressing of errors and schisms; among which he : or if notwithstanding that charge of his father, he submitt to the covnant, how will he keep faith to us with disobedience to him; or regard that faith given, which must be founded on the breach of that last and solemnest paternal charge, and the reluctance, I may say the antipathie which is in all kings against Presbyterian and Independent discipline? For they , a word which monarchie and her bishops both fear and hate; but a free Commonwealth both favours and promotes; and not the word only, but the thing it self. But in time, least thir hard measure to libertie of conscience be found , before them in the cours wherin God was directing thir stearage to a free Commonwealth, and the abandoning of all those whom they call sectaries, for the detected falshood and ambition of som, be of thir own chief strength and interest in the freedom of all Protestant religion, under what abusive name soever calumniated.
The other part of our freedom consists in the civil rights and to his merit: the enjoiment of those never more certain, and the access to these never more open, then in a free Commonwealth. ∥ And both | Both which ∥ in my opinion may be best and soonest obtaind, if , | kinde of subordinate Commonaltie or Commonwealth, ∥ and ∥ thir chief town , if it | one chief town or more, according as the shire is in circuit, made cities, if they ∥ be not so call’d alreadie; where the nobilitie and chief gentry from a proportionable compas of territorie annexd to each citie, may build, houses or palaces, befitting their qualitie, may bear part in the government, make their own , or use these that are, and execute them by their own elected judicatures, and judges without appeal, in all things of civil government between man and man. So they shall have justice in thir own hands, law executed fully and finally in thir own counties and precincts, long wishd, and spoken of, but never yet obtaind; ∥ and none | they shall have none then ∥ to blame but themselves, if it be not well administerd. and to expect or fear from the supreme autoritie; or to those that shall be made, of any great concernment to public libertie, they may without much trouble in these commonalties or in more general assemblies call’d to thir cities from the whole territorie on such occasion, declare and publish thir assent or dissent by : yet so as this thir judgment declar’d shal submitt to the greater number of other counties or commonalties, and not avail them to any exemption of themselves, or refusal of agreement with the rest, as it may in any of the United Provinces, being sovran within it self, oft times to the great disadvantage of that union. In these imployments they may much better then they do now exercise and fit themselves into the Grand Councel, according as their worth and merit shall be taken notice of by the people. As for controversies that shall happen between men of several counties, they may repair, as they do now, to the capital citie. or any other more . And this I finde to have bin practisd in the old Athenian Commonwealth, reputed the first and ancientest place of civilitie in all Greece; that in thir several cities, a peculiar; in Athens, a common government; and thir right, as it befell them, to the administration of both. They should have heer also schools and academies at thir own choice, wherin their children may be bred up in thir own sight to all learning and noble education, , but in all liberal arts and exercises. This would soon spread much more knowledge and civilitie, yea religion, through all parts of the land: the natural heat of government and culture more distributively to all extreme parts, which now lie numm and neglected, [this] would soon make the whole nation more industrious, more ingenuous at home, more potent, more honourable abroad. To this a free Commonwealth will easily assent; (nay the Parlament hath had alreadie som such thing in designe) for of all governments most to make the people flourishing, vertuous, noble and high spirited. Monarchs will never permitt: whose aim is to indeed perhaps and , and [for] the supply of regal prodigalitie; but otherwise softest, basest, vitiousest, servilest, easiest to be kept under; and not only in fleece, but in minde also sheepishest; and will have all the , as a gift of royal grace that we have justice don us; whenas nothing can be more essential to the freedom of a people, then to have the administration of justice and all in thir own election and within thir own bounds, without long traveling or depending on remote places to obtain thir right or any civil accomplishment; so it be not supream, but subordinate to the general power and union of the whole Republick. In which happie firmness as in the particular above mentioned, we shall also far , by having, not as they (to the retarding and distracting oft times of thir counsels or urgentest occasions), [so] united in one Commonwealth, but many Commonwealths under one united and entrusted sovrantie. our forces by sea and land, either of a faithful Armie or a setl’d Militia, in our own hands to the firm establishing of a free Commonwealth, , general laws and taxes with thir causes in our own domestic suffrages, judicial laws, offices and ornaments at home in our own ordering and administration, all distinction of lords and commoners, that may any way divide or sever the publick interest, remov’d, what can a perpetual senat have then wherin to grow corrupt, wherin to encroach upon us or usurp; or if they do, wherin to be formidable? Yet avail not to remove the fear or envie of a perpetual sitting, it may be easilie provided, to change a third part of them yearly, or every two or three years, as was above mentiond; or that it be at those times in the peoples choice, whether they will change them, or renew thir power, as they shall finde cause.
I have no more to say : few words will save us, well considerd; few and easie things, now seasonably don. But if the people be so affected, as to prostitute religion and libertie to the vain and groundless apprehension, that , not remembring the and pestilences that then wasted this cite, such as through God’s mercie, we never have ∥ left | felt ∥ since, and that trade flourishes no where more, then in the free Commonwealths of Italie, Germanie and the Low Countreys, before thir eyes at this day, yet if trade be grown so craving and importunate through the profuse living of tradsmen that nothing can support it, but the luxurious expences of a nation upon , so as if the people generally should betake themselves to frugalitie, , least tradesmen should mutinie for want of trading, and that therefor we must forgoe and , libertie, honour, safetie, all concernments divine or human to keep up trading, if lastly, among us, the same reason shall pass for current to put our necks again under kingship, as was to return back to Egypt and to the worship of thir , because they falsly imagind that they then livd in more plenty and prosperitie, our condition is not sound but rotten, both in religion and all civil prudence; and will bring us soon, the way we are marching, to those calamities which attend alwaies and unavoidably on luxurie, [that is to say] all under forein or domestic slaverie: so far we shall be from mending our condition by monarchizing our government; what ever new conceit now possesses us. However I have ventur’d what I thought my dutie, to speak in season, & to forewarn my country in time: wherin I doubt not but there be many wise men in all places and degrees, but am sorrie the effects of wisdom are so little seen among us. Many circumstances and particulars I could have added in those things whereof I have spoken; but a few main matters now put speedily ∥ into | in ∥ execution, will suffice to recover us, and set all right: and ther will are , but men who set thir minds on and sufficiently urge them, in these most difficult times I finde not many. What I have spoken, is the language of the good old cause: if it seem strange to any, it will not seem more strange, I hope, then . Thus much I should perhaps have said, though I were sure I should have , and had none to cry to, but with , O earth, earth, earth: to tell the verie soil it self ∥ what her perverse inhabitants are deaf to. Nay though what I have spoke, should happ’n (which ; nor Thou next, us from being servants of men!) to be the last words of our expiring libertie. | what God hath forever. ∥ But I trust, I shall have spoken perswasion to abundance of sensible and ingenuous men: to som perhaps, whom God may raise of these stones, to become children of reviving libertie; and ∥ may enable and unite in thir noble ; also of the people, not to be so impetuos, but to keep thir due channell; and at length recovering and uniting thir better resolutions, now that they see alreadie how open and unbounded the insolence and rage is of our common enemies ∥ to [give a] stay [to] these [our] ruinous proceedings justly and timely fearing to what a precipice of destruction the deluge of this epidemic madness would hurrie us ∥ through the | and to this ∥ general defection of ∥ the | a ∥ misguided and abus’d multitude.
This glossary is designed to include all obsolete, archaic, dialectical, and rare words that occur in the text. For the sake of clearness or convenience, a few current words have been admitted. The principal authorities that have been consulted are the New English Dictionary (NED.), the Century Dictionary, Skeat’s Etymological Dictionary, and Lockwood’s Lexicon.
A dagger (†) before a word or meaning indicates that the word or meaning is obsolete; an interrogation (?), that the interpretation is doubtful.
†Acquisite,a. [ad. L. acquīsīt-us pa. pple. of acquīrere.] Acquired; obtained for oneself. 25. 11.
Addicted,ppl. a. †Attached by one’s own act; given up, devoted, inclined (to a person or party). 21. 22.
Admirable,a. †To be wondered at; wonderful, surprising, marvelous. 18. 26.
Admiration,sb. Wonder, astonishment, surprise. Arch.10. 8.
Admire,v. †intr. To wonder, to marvel. 19. 13.
Affected,ppl. a. Disposed, inclined. 11. 17.
Aftergame,sb. ‘Prop. A second game played in order to reverse or improve the issues of the first; hence “The scheme which may be laid or the expedients which are practised after the original game has miscarried; methods taken after the first turn of affairs” Johnson.’ NED. 15. 4.
Anough.Obs. form of enough.11. 24.
Answerable,a. Corresponding; proportional. Absol. Arch.25. 38.
Apprehension,sb. Notion; opinion; fixed idea. 40. 1.
Assistances,sb. Assistance; succour. Arch. in pl.14. 27.
Bandy,v. intr. To contend, to strive. 26. 15.
Briskest,a. Most active; liveliest. 33. 7.
Censur’d,v. trans. †Judged to be. 13. 29.
Charges,sb. ‘Expenses: often with sense scarcely or not at all distinguishable from the sing.’ NED. Arch. in pl.16. 5.
Cheapning,v. trans. †Haggling terms about; ?endeavoring to lower the price of. 16. 32.
Circumstances,sb. ‘Subordinate matters or details: strictly, matters “appendant or relative to a fact” (Johnson), viewed as extraneous to its essence, but passing into the sense of “subordinate parts of the fact, details.’ ” NED. Obs. in pl.40. 35.
Civilest,a. †Having proper public or social order; well-ordered, orderly, well-governed. 31. 13.
Commodious,a. Convenient. Arch.38. 18.
Conceit,sb. Notion, idea. 29. 5.
Concernment,sb. †Interest. 9. 20.
Conclude,v. trans. †To prove. 18. 19.
Constantly,adv. With mental constancy or steadfastness; steadily, resolutely, faithfully. 14. 12.
Constituted,ppl. a. †Set up, established, ordained. 28. 5.
Constitutions,sb. Existing order or arrangements of government. 9. 17.
Corruption,sb. [Replaced by ‘contagion’ in 2d ed.] An infectious moral disease. 13. 31.
Cunning,a. In a bad sense: crafty; skilful at underhand methods. 9. 10.
Default,sb. †Failure in duty; misdeed. 28. 6.
Deferr,v. trans. †To delay, to put off (a person). 12. 27.
Delinquents,sb. ‘Those who assisted Charles I or Charles II, by arms, money, or personal service, in levying war, 1642-1660.’ NED. 12. 14.
†Democratie,sb. [L. democratia.] Democracy. 25. 19.
Disaffected,a. Unfriendly to the government. 20. 19.
Disallowance,sb. Disapproval. 15. 21.
Discoveries,sb. †Investigations. 32. 33.
Dooms-day,sb. [OE. dōmes dæg.] Judgment day. 21. 3.
Driving,v. intr. Moving energetically. 29. 7.
Effects,sb. †Outward signs; evidence. 40. 34.
Election,sb. †choice. 39. 10.
Endevord,v. trans. Attempted. Obs. exc. arch.11. 33.
Equal,a. †Impartial. 38. 19.
Estates,sb. Orders of society. 11. 16.
Event,sb. Final outcome. 25. 17.
Expecting,ppl. a. Awaiting. Arch.20. 7.
Face,sb. Aspect; visible condition. 9. 1.
Faces,sb. Outward shows. 33. 6.
Facilitie,sb. Freedom from difficulty. 29. 3.
Faction,sb. †Party-strife; intrigue. 35. 21.
Fain,adv. Gladly; willingly. 31. 34.
Fine,sb. End. Obsolete except in phrase in fine.25. 19.
Fond,a. Idiotic. 29. 5.
Force,sb. †Compulsion. 11. 10.
Forgoe,v. give up; renounce. 40. 14.
Frequent,a. †Of persons, an assembly, etc.: Assembled in great numbers, crowded, full. Often in full and frequent.9. 14.
Friendly,adv. In a friendly manner. 16. 8.
Fluxible,a. Inconstant; ready for change. 25. 12.
Gentilism,sb. †Heathenism. 15. 21.
Gestures,sv. Bodily movements (e. g., in drinking healths). 33. 7.
Gratulate,v. trans. To congratulate. Arch.27. 20.
Humour,sb. Groundless fancy, or inclination. Obs. with of.9. 9.
Imposition,sb. Tax. 32. 25.
Indifferent,a. †Neutral; ‘Not more advantageous to one party than to another.’ NED. 38. 19.
Inferrs,v. †Logically necessitates. 15. 35.
Ingenuous,a. †Noble in character; highminded. 38. 33; 41. 20.
Judicatures,sb. Courts of justice. 37. 34.
Judicial,adj. Secular, as opp. to moral or ceremonial. 37. 32.
Judgments,sb. Visitions of divine wrath. 40. 26.
Knockt,v. trans. Phrase knocked on = driven on by a blow. 31. 4.
Least,conj. Obs. form of lest.24. 1.
Lieger,a. Obs. form of ledger. Resident; stationary. 26. 5.
Light,sb. Instruction; advice. 40. 17.
Longing,sb. †Object of intense desire. 32. 10.
Low,a. Humble; dispirited. 31. 30.
Lurch,v. trans. †To get by stealth; to steal. 29. 8.
Magnanimously,adv. †Courageously; heroicly. 10. 6.
Magnifi’d,a. †Lauded. 13. 13.
Masks,sb. Originally the same word as masques. ‘A form of amateur histrionic entertainment, popular at Court and amongst the nobility in England during the latter part of the 16th c. and the first half of the 17th c.; originally consisting of dancing and acting in dumb show, the performers being masked and habited in character; afterwards including dialogue (usually poetical) and song.’ NED. 16. 11.
Maxim,sb. ‘A precept of morality or prudence expressed in sententious form.’ NED. 36. 24.
Minde,sb. Opinion. 36. 24.
Mischief,sb. †Misfortune, calamity. 20. 15.
Motion,sb. Moving; ? †transportation. 26. 1.
Motiond,v. trans. pp. of motion. †Proposed. 11. 20.
Neuters,sb. Those of neither side. 32. 35.
Novice,a. Inexperienced. 25. 4.
Noxious,a. Harmful. 9. 8.
Ofter,adv. comp. of oft. Archaic. Oftener. 24. 19.
Ordination,sb. Induction into the ministry. 12. 12.
Ornaments,sb. [L. ornamenta.] Distinctions; public honors. 39. 10.
Outlandish,a. Of foreign birth; un-English. Archaic.16. 15.
Pageant,v. To carry about as a show. 16. 37.
Parlie,sb. [From OF. parler, to speak.] Speech; conference. 27. 10.
Peculiar,a. †‘Belonging specially to.’ NED. 32, 6; †Individual. 38. 22.
Popularities,sb. Obs. Democracies. 25. 26.
Policie,sb. †Government; political science. 24. 33.
Precedence,sb. Order of occurrence. 23. 16.
†Prejudicate, v. Judge hastily; condemn in advance. 31. 15.
Prescription,sb. †Limitation; conformity to prescribed rules of conduct. 28. 23.
Prettie,a. Perhaps in OE. sense, †cunning; but possibly ironical. 29. 7.
Principld,ppl. a. Imbued with principles. Rare except in combination. 36. 27.
Progress,sb. †A state procession. 16. 37.
†Proprieties,sb. Properties. 28. 27.
Prostrations,sb. Attitudes expressive of servility or adoration. 18. 26.
Qualifie,v. trans. †Regulate. 26. 21.
Revels,sb. Dances given in connection with masques, but not a part of them. 16. 11.
Ribald,sb. A base person; a profligate. 33. 12.
Seek, to, †adj. phrase. Ignorant. 25. 4.
Shift, put to, Forced to devise new expedients. 12. 7.
Stay,vb. intr. Wait patiently. 23. 3.
Stay,sb. Check; halt. 41. 29.
Stearage,sb. The course steered; the path or way. 37. 14.
Suffrages,sb. Control by means of popular votes. 39. 25.
Summ, in,adv. phrase. In short. 35. 27.
†Suspence,a. Suspended; held in doubt. 22. 32.
Swell,v. intr. Strut; put on airs. 18. 8.
Temperament,sb. Compromise; adjustment of differences. Arch.23. 37.
Then.Obs. form of than.9. 15.
Thir,pron. pl. Their. Obs. or dial.15. 4.
Throughly,adv. By-form of thoroughly. Skeat, Etym. Dict.11. 3.
Timely,adv. [A. S. tīmlīce.] In good time. 41. 30.
Took,vb. Deemed; judged. 10. 11.
Umbrage,sb. Shadow; slight appearance. 36. 13.
Vassals,sb. Subjects; underlings. 18. 20.
Venereal pox.sb. Disease due to sexual profligacy. 33. 19.
Vicegerent,sb. One exercising delegated power. 19. 27.
Voice, negative,sb. Power of veto. 29. 34.
Voices,sb. Votes. 11. 18.
Weight,sb. Importance; effective influence. 12. 2.
Whenas,conj. When. Arch.20. 26.
Wonderd, be,v. †impers. Be a cause for astonishment. 18. 16.
Worthies,sb. Persons of superior eminence and worth. 20. 27.
There were other important reasons for Milton’s radical revision besides his expressed one that, ‘in the former edition through haste, many faults escap’d, and many books were suddenly dispersd, ere the note to mend them could be sent.’ The course of events during the two months since the writing of the first edition had rendered whole sections of the treatise null and void; these needed to be eliminated. There had been innumerable criticisms of the book; these were to be met and answered. Along with criticisms of the book, there had been the most bitter and scurrilous attacks upon the author; and these must be repelled in his characteristic manner. There had doubtless been some unfavorable comparisons and frivolous remarks by the Harrington-men—certainly a fresh pamphlet, The Rota, after Milton’s treatise was practically completed. All this called for further friendly but earnest argument against rotation, and in favor of a perpetual council. And, finally, as it was now apparent to every one that the Restoration was at hand, there should be at least an undaunted reassertion of republican principles, though there were none to cry to but ‘trees and stones.’ That these, rather than the correcting of minor errors, were the real motives of the reviser, will be apparent from the consideration of the changes in detail.
1.The Influence of Current Events. The first edition had been full of glowing tributes to the members of the Rump, and had urged that this body be perpetuated as a grand council. But the readmission of the secluded members, followed by the dissolution of the Long Parliament on the 16th of March, had put an end to all such ideas. Accordingly, large sections devoted to the ‘worthy Patriots’ and ‘first Assertours,’ and all allusions to their providential calling, present sitting, being made a byword of reproach, and pet design of ‘filling up,’ are omitted. General Monk is now virtually dictator; so ‘all those who are now in power,’ etc., is no longer applicable. The largest single omission is a passage of nearly three hundred words urging liberty of conscience, and no meddling of state in church-affairs. This, of course, is no surrender of principle, but is due to the fact that the Presbyterian Parliament, heedless of Milton’s advice, had revived the Covenant, and were zealously endeavoring to reëstablish national Presbyterianism. It was useless and impolitic to antagonize further the Presbyterians—especially to brand them as ‘unchristian, . . . irreligious, . . . inhuman, . . . and barbarous.’ The allusion to Lambert and his ‘hypocritical pretences . . . and . . . tyrannical designs’ is significantly omitted, as Lambert had since proved to be one of the few uncompromising republicans, having just escaped from the Tower, and rallied about him the last armed guard of the ‘good old cause.’ Milton even ceases to urge his scheme as ‘the most easie, most present, and only cure’ of public ‘distempers.’
The preface is expanded by the addition of references to the elections then in progress and the Parliament soon to assemble, and by an appeal to the people to be wise in their selection. The impending Restoration calls forth many new protests against the yoke and chains of the old bondage. The ‘hard measure’ likely to be dealt to liberty of conscience causes a fresh warning to present ‘governors’ to beware of ‘shipwrack.’ The real purpose of Monk, to bring in the king, was by this time apparent, and Milton’s phrase, ‘and thir leaders especially,’ was added in direct allusion to Monk’s apostasy. There are many new passages which acknowledge and deplore the mad enthusiasm for the king, which had now become a ‘torrent,’ a ‘deluge.’ Finally, the hopelessness of any human endeavor, in the face of their ‘absolute determination to enthral,’ and the universal eagerness for such thraldom, call forth from Milton the appeal to heaven with which the pamphlet closes.
2.The Influence of Royalist Criticism. The appearance of Milton’s model was the signal for a general outburst of Royalist criticism and vituperation. Among these anonymous pamphleteers none was more persistent and abusive than Roger L’Estrange. In his Seasonable Word, written when all were ‘in dayly expectation of Writs for another Session,’ that is, about the middle of March,—two weeks after the first appearance of The Ready and Easy Way,—there are direct mention of Milton’s pamphlet, and an assertion that the author is attempting to dictate. The old Rumpers, whom Milton defends, are denounced as ‘those Sons of Belial, the perjur’d remnant.’ They had regarded ‘Oaths and Covenants’ as ‘Jugglers knots.’ They had thrown out seven eighths of the Parliament. They had ‘murthered him [the king] that they might Rule themselves.’ The question of being ‘under a force’ is gone into at length. So Milton, at the very beginning of the revised edition, adds a long defense of the Independents’ attitude and actions in 1648-9.
L’Estrange loses no opportunity to abuse and revile his great antagonist. He refers to him as the ‘Little Agitatour,’ ‘Half-Tutor,’ ‘Regicidall Babler,’ etc. In his opinion, Needham and Milton are ‘a Couple of Currs of the same Pack.’ He suspects Plain English, ‘a Bold, Sharp Pamphlet’ that appeared April 4, ‘by the Design, the Subject, Malice, and the Stile, . . . for a Blot of the same Pen that wrote Iconoclastes.’ There are numerous glances at Milton’s ‘remedies,’ and much play upon such expressions as ‘and the work is done.’ Milton had affirmed that his scheme was ‘practicable.’ L’Estrange, in his Sober Answer of March 27, says: ‘How practicable, or how prudent, such a proposal may appear to others, I cannot say: To me it wears the Face of a Design, promoted by a Factious, guilty Party, to sacrifice the Nation, to their private interests.’ Again, he does not ‘presume to direct, as our Imperious Commonwealths-man does.’ The pamphleteer goes still further: he indulges in menaces, and actual recommendations of violence. As early as February 18 he urges people to ‘knock Foxes and Wolves on the head as they can be found.’ But by this time (April 4) there are ‘Ropes twisting’; ‘those that have designed Us for Slavery,’ says he, ‘it is but reason to mark them out for Justice’; and, ‘How does this scandall both of Providence, and Society, scape Thunder, or a Dagger!’
A similar sheet, The Character of the Rump, exults in the prospect of seeing ‘John Milton, . . . their goose-quill champion,’ hauled to Tyburn gallows in a cart: ‘Now John, you must stand close [upon the scaffold] and draw in your elbows, that Needham, the Commonwealth didapper, may have room to stand beside you.’
It was not in Milton to let such scurrilous attacks pass unnoticed or unresented. Whole paragraphs of bitter, stinging, coarse invective are added for the benefit of these ‘tigers of Bacchus,’ who, in ‘thir infernal pamphlets, . . . not daring to name themselves, . . . traduce others by name.’
Another and still more important influence of this nature was the Censure of the Rota upon Mr. Milton’s Book (see p. 173), an anonymous Royalist satire that appeared at the end of March, and probably helped to set Milton to work immediately upon his revised edition. It attempted to ridicule his arguments and proposals, and indulged in the customary abuse and accusation. But it was, upon the whole, rather happier in its design and execution than the common run of Royalist wit. There is evidence in the revision that some of its thrusts went home. Milton seems to have winced under its ridiculing him for a ‘cunning’ man himself—‘cunning deceivers’ appears in the second edition as ‘deceivers.’ He had boasted that the deeds of the English republic had amazed and startled the royalists in France. The Censure seizes upon the inconsistency of this statement with the later intimacy between Mazarin and the commonwealth. Milton gladly drops most of the passage. It relishes Milton’s reference to Fifth-Monarchy men, ‘who would have been admirable’ for Milton’s purpose, ‘if they had but dreamed of a fifth free state.’ The unfortunate Fifth Monarchy is quietly abolished. It makes merry with Milton’s ‘Patriots’ and ‘Assertours,’ and these worthies practically vanish in the revision. It twits Milton with being ‘styled “The Founder of a Sect,” ’ and this is resented in the new edition. Milton replies at length to the pamphlet’s attack on the Rump Parliament—its slight number, and the argument that it was no Parliament, but a tool of the army. The accusations of greed and sacrilege are made by the Censure, and answered in the revision. Perhaps the charge, ‘our actions at home . . . savoured much of Goth and Vandal barbarism, . . . pulling down of churches and demolishing the noblest monuments in the land,’ may have suggested to Milton his new assertion that these actions had not been ‘uncelebrated in a written monument, likely to outlive detraction.’
Other evidences of the influence of hostile contemporary criticism are mentioned in the Notes. The general significance of it all is that it had much to do in spurring Milton to the task of thorough revision, and in determining certain eliminations and additions.
3.The Desire ‘Somwhat to Enlarge.’ Apart from changes made imperative by the drift of events and the pressure of criticism, there was an intense desire to make a final appeal that should be bolder and more emphatic than the former, and somewhat analogous, in its way, to Lambert’s final, desperate appeal to arms. Indeed, the desire ‘to enlarge’ seems to have been the most powerful single motive back of the revision. The addition is so large that it can hardly be more than indicated in general. New arguments are brought forward against the Restoration; as, for example, the loss of all Scotland, the certainty of a Papist queen and queen-mother, and the inevitable retinues of dissolute courtiers. The projects of a perpetual council, local sovereignty, and general education are amplified, and buttressed with new arguments and the authority of Aristotle. A local judiciary and a higher general court of appeals are advocated, and defended by the aid of ancient precedent. The referendum in legislation, and the inspection or censorship of public service and accounts, are recommended as safeguards against corruption. The nation is solemnly bidden, upon the authority of 1 Sam. 8. 18, to beware of God’s displeasure at kingship. Powerful appeals are made to the sense of national pride—what will the world say of ‘the whole English name’!—and to the instinct of fear. The common people may look to be ground into the earth, and kept too ‘low’ ever to rise again. Let the country be terrified at the coming of Rupert and the fierce cavaliers. An attempt is made to reclaim the backsliding Presbyterians, who may look to be called to account for the past. Even the army may well fear, for they are sure to be disbanded, and without arrears—perhaps even punished for rebellion. And, finally, Milton ‘exhorts’ the mad ‘torrent’ of the people ‘not to be so impetuous, but to keep their due channel.’
The influence of the Harrington-ideas upon both the original edition and the revision is discussed in the section entitled The Rota Club.
4.Improvements in Expression. The minor alterations introduced prove that Milton gave considerable painstaking attention to improvement in matters of expression. Changes in diction make for greater precision and force:
|First Edition||Second Edition|
|corruption||>||contagion (13. 31)|
|unsound (humour)||>||noxious (humour) (9. 8)|
|succesfully (fought for)||>||prosperously (fought for) (13. 4)|
|conceit||>||notion (22. 10)|
|said||>||shewd (29. 18)|
|gracious (condescension)||>||divine (condescension) (14. 31)|
|‘prettie’ (29. 7), omitted as too trivial.|
Certain redundancies are eliminated; as:
|(readmitted) to sit again in Parlament||>||readmitted (9. 4).|
Brevity is aimed at in such changes as:
|When they were once undeceivd||>||once undeceivd (20. 22)|
|unless they be faultie||>||not faultie (22. 26)|
A few possible ambiguities as to meaning are removed, and other vague expressions made definite:
|Lacedæmon||>||Sparta (24. 15)|
|just accusation||>||just conviction (23. 34)|
|other treatises||>||another treatise (35. 2)|
|make (laws)||>||make or propose (laws) [22. 2]|
|hath been prov’d||>||I have prov’d (35. 1)|
Greater force is secured by slight omissions or additions; as:
|never likely to have||>||never to have (14. 25)|
|what will they say of us||>||what will they at best say (13. 34)|
Grammatical construction, or rather the lack of it, is remedied at a few points; as in the omission of the dangling phrase, ‘to become of no effect,’ etc. (14. 33). At some points the discourse is made less stiff and formal; as in the omission of such expressions as ‘I answer, that’ (20. 15), and in the turning of ‘I shall make mention of another way’ (23. 38) into the simpler, smoother introductory, ‘Another way will be’ (26. 20). Finally, a few partial inaccuracies are corrected; as:
|whole (senate)||>||Senate (24. 33)|
|Commons||>||Lords and Commons (27. 10).|
Thus the revised edition, while it preserves the main outlines of the former treatise, is nevertheless to a remarkable extent the product of contemporary events, of hostile criticism; of the ‘courage never to submit or yield,’ but rather to reassert more defiantly than ever the principles of a lost cause, even at the hazard of life itself; and, finally, of the dexterous craftsmanship of a literary artist. The changes introduced radically affect every page and paragraph. The omissions vary in length from a single letter to about three hundred words; the interpolations, from a single word to several pages. Yet all is done, not only without prejudice to the sequence of thought, but with the effect of strengthening the production, both in detail and as a whole. The work is enlarged to nearly twice its original volume, and is, indeed, practically a new composition. To realize how remarkable was this achievement, we have only to recall that Milton was at this time totally blind.
The Ready and Easy Way fell from the press into a multitude of eager hands. Royalists and Commonwealth-men alike were anxious to hear what Milton, still nominally Latin secretary, had to say about the question of settlement. Naturally, his unretracted championship of the dethroned Rump, his advocacy of a perpetual council, his decided stand against the Royalists, and particularly his terrific denunciation of the Stuarts, brought down instantly upon the author a tremendous storm of criticism, ridicule, and abuse. Royalist pamphlets appearing in March and April are full of allusions to Milton and The Ready and Easy Way.
1.A Seasonable Word, written by L’Estrange immediately before the dissolution of Parliament (March 16), contains, besides many indirect references to Milton, the following:
‘I could only wish his Excellency had been a little civiller to Mr. Milton; for, just as he had finished his Modell of a Common-wealth, directing in these very Terms, the Choyce, . . . “men not addicted to a Single Person, or House of Lords, and the Work is done.” In come the Secluded Members and spoyle his Project. To this admirable discovery, he subjoynes a sutable Proposition in favour of the late sitting Members, and This is it, having premised the Abilities and Honesty, desirable in Ministers of State, he recommends the Rumpers to us as so Qualified; advises us to quit that fond Opinion of successive Parliament; and suffer the Persons then in Power, to perpetuate themselves under the name of a Grand or GenerallCounsell, and to rule us, and our Heirs for ever. It were great pitty these Gentlemen should lose their longings.’
2. The following passage from The Character of the Rump (March 17) is especially vitriolic: ‘An ingenious person hath observed that Scott is the Rump’s man Thomas; and they might have said to him, when he was so busy with the General,
But John Milton is their goose-quill champion; who had need of a help-meet to establish anything, for he has a ram’s head and is good only at batteries,—an old heretic both in religion and manners, that by his will would shake off his governors as he doth his wives, four in a fortnight. The sunbeams of his scandalous papers against the late King’s Book is [sic] the parent that begot his late New Commonwealth; and, because he, like a parasite as he is, by flattering the then tyrannical power, hath run himself into the briars, the man will be angry if the rest of the nation will not bear him company, and suffer themselves to be decoyed into the same condition. He is so much an enemy to usual practices that I believe, when he is condemned to travel to Tyburn in a cart, he will petition for the favour to be the first man that ever was driven thither in a wheelbarrow. And now, John, you must stand close and draw in your elbows, that Needham, the Commonwealth didapper may have room to stand beside you. . . . He [Needham] was one of the spokes of Harrington’s Rota, till he was turned out for cracking. As for Harrington, he’s but a demi-semi in the Rump’s music, and should be good at the cymbal; for he is all for wheeling instruments, and, having a good invention, may in time find out the way to make a concert of grindstones.’
3. A clever Royalist satire which came from the press on March 28 has the following title-page:
‘The Censure of the Rota upon Mr. Milton’s Book, intitled, “The ready and easy Way to establish a free Commonwealth,” &c.
‘Die Lunæ, 26 Martii, 1660.
‘Ordered by the Rota, that Mr. Harrington be desired to draw up a Narrative of this Day’s Proceeding upon Mr. Milton’s Book, called, “The ready and easy Way,” &c. And to cause the same to be forthwith printed and published, and a Copy thereof to be sent to Mr. Milton.’
‘Trundle Wheeler, Clerk to the Rota.’
‘Printed at London by Paul Giddy, Printer to the Rota, at the Sign of the Windmill in Turn-again Lane, 1660.’
The pamphlet purports to be the record of proceedings at a session of the famous Rota Club, upon which occasion The Ready and Easy Way was the subject of debate. The design of spitting, as it were, both great commonwealth-champions at one thrust is a rather happy one; the wit is often far from bad; and the literary quality in general gives the Censure preëminence over other contemporary scurrilities. As we have already seen, Milton winced under its ridicule. It is, upon the whole, the most interesting and important criticism that appeared upon The Ready and Easy Way. And as it exercised so large an influence upon the second edition, it has seemed worth while to present in the following excerpts all that bears direct relation to Milton’s book:
‘I am commanded, by this ingenious convention of the Rota, to give you an account of some reflections that they have lately made upon a treatise of yours; . . . I must first bespeak your pardon for being forced to say something, not only against my own sense, but the interest, which both you and I carry on. . . .
‘It is our usual custom to dispute every thing, how plain or obscure soever, by knocking argument against argument, and tilting at one another with our heads, as rams fight, until we are out of breath, and then refer it to our wooden oracle, the box; and seldom anything, how slight soever, hath appeared, without some patron or other to defend it. I must confess, I never saw bowling-stones run so unluckily against any boy, when his hand has been out, as the ballots did against you, when anything was put to the question, from the beginning of your book to the end; for it was no sooner read over, but a gentleman of your acquaintance [Cyriack Skinner, or Needham?] said, he wished, for your own sake, as well as the cause you contend for, that you had given your book no name, like an Anabaptist’s child, until it had come to years of discretion, or else you had got some friend to be gossip, that has a luckier hand at giving titles to books than you have: for it is observed, you have always been very unfortunate that way, as if it were fatal to you, to prefix bulls and nonsense to the very fronts of your learned works. . . . But in this book, he said, you were more insufferable; for you . . . style your declamation, “The ready and easy Way,” as if it were the best or only way, to the disparagement of this most ingenious assembly, who are confident, they have proposed others much more considerable. . . .
‘To this another added, he wondered you did not give over writing, since you have always done it to little or no purpose. . . .
‘After this, a grave gentleman of the long robe said, . . . you had plaid false in the very first word of your treatise: for the parliament of England, as you call the Rump, never consisted of a packed party of one house, that, by fraud and covin, had disseised the major part of their fellows, and forfeited their own right. . . . But this, he said, you stole from patriot Whitlock, who began his declaration for a free state with the same words; and he wondered you would filch and pilfer nonsense and fallacies, that have such plentiful store of your own growth. Yet this was as true as that which follows, That a great number of the faithfullest of the people assisted them in throwing off kingship; for they were a very slight number, in respect of the whole, and none of the faithfullest. . . . This, being put to the ballot, was immediately carried on in the affirmative, without a dissenting pellet. . . .
‘Presently a gentleman, that hath been some years beyond-seas, said, he wondered you would say anything so false and ridiculous, as that this commonwealth was the terror and admiration of France itself; for, if that were true, the cardinal and council were very imprudent to become the chief promoters of it, and strive, by all means to uphold that, which they judged to be dangerous to themselves; . . . for, if this free state be so terrible to them, they have been very unwise in assisting it to keep out the King all this while. . . . As for our actions abroad, which you brag of, he said, he never heard of any where he was, until Oliver Cromwell reduced us to an absolute monarchy, under the name of a free state; and then we beat the potent and flourishing republick of the United Provinces. But, for our actions at home, he had heard abroad, that they savoured much of Goth and Vandal barbarism, if pulling down of churches and demolishing the noblest monuments in the land . . . amount to so much. . . .
‘After a little pause, a learned gentleman of this society stood up, and said, he could not but take notice of one absurdity in your discourse, and that is, where you speak of liberty gloriously fought for, and kingly thraldom abjured by the people, &c. . . . He wondered you could be so weak, or impudent, to play foul in matters of fact. . . . But he was of opinion, that you did not believe yourself, not those reasons you give, in defence of a commonwealth; but that you are swayed by something else, as either by a stork-like fate (as a modern Protector-poet calls it, because that fowl is observed to live nowhere but in commonwealths), or, because you have inadvisedly scribbled yourself obnoxious, or else you fear, such admirable eloquence, as yours, would be thrown away under a monarchy, as it would be, though of admirable use in a popular government, where orators carry all the rabble before them: for who knows to how cheap a rate this goodly eloquence of yours, if well managed, might bring the price of sprats; as no wiser orators than yourself have done heretofore, in the petty factions, Greek republicks, whom you chiefly imitate; for all your politicks are derived from the works of declaimers. . . .
‘You have done your feeble endeavours to rob the church, of the little which the rapine of the most sacrilegious persons hath left, in your learned work against Tithes; you have slandered the dead, worse than envy itself, and thrown your dirty outrage, on the memory of a murdered prince, as if the hangman were but your usher. These have been the attempts of your stiff, formal eloquence, which you arm accordingly, with anything that lies in your way, right or wrong, not only begging, but stealing questions, and taking every thing for granted, that will serve your turn; for you are not ashamed to rob Oliver Cromwell himself, and make use of his canting, with signal assistances from heaven, and answering condescensions. . . .
‘If you did not look very like a cunning man, nobody would believe you, nor trust your predictions of the future, that give so ill an account of things past. But he held you very unwise to blab any such thing; for that party you call we, have gained so abundantly much more than they have spent, that they desire nothing more, than to fight over the same fight again, at the same rate . . .: for how vile soever you make the blood of faithful Englishmen, they have made such good markets of it, that they would be glad at any time to broach the whole nation at the same price, and afford the treasure of miraculous deliverances, as you call it, into the bargain.
‘This he added was easier to be understood than your brand of Gentilism, upon Kingship, for which you wrest Scripture most unmercifully, to prove, that though Christ said, ‘His kingdom was not of this world’; yet his commonwealth is. For if the text which you quote, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship . . .” &c. be to be understood of civil government, (and to infer commonwealth, as you will have it right or wrong), and not to be meant of his spiritual reign, of which he was then speaking, and expressly calls so; you must prove that he erected a republick of his Apostles, and that, notwithstanding the Scripture everywhere calls his government, The Kingdom of Heaven, it ought to be corrected, and rendered, The Commonwealth of Heaven, or rather, The Commonwealth of this world; and yet the text does as well prove benefactors heathenish as kings; for if our Saviour had meant to brand Kingship with any evil character, he would never have styled himself ‘King of the Jews, King of Heaven, King of Righteousness,’ &c. as he frequently does; but no where a Stateholder or Keeper of the Liberties.
‘To this a young gentleman made answer, That your writings are best interpreted by themselves; and that he remembered in that book, wherein you fight with the King’s picture, you call Sir Philip Sidney’s princess Pamela (who was born and bred out of Christian parents in England) a Heathen woman; and, therefore, he thought that by Heathenish, you meant English; and that in calling kingship Heathenish, you inferred, it was the only proper and natural government of the English nation, as it hath been proved in all ages.
‘To which another objected, that such a sense was quite contrary to your purpose: to which he immediately replied, That it was no new thing with you to write that, which is as well against as for your purpose. After much debate they agreed to put it to the ballot, and the young gentleman carried it without any contradiction.
‘That done, a gentleman of good credit here, . . . said, you . . . had made as politic provision for spiritual, as civil liberty, in those pious and orthodox (though seemingly absurd and contradictory) grounds you have laid down . . .: That the church of Christ ought to have no head upon earth, but the monster of many heads, the multitude . . .: that all Christian laws and ordinances have a coercive power, to see themselves put in execution, and yet they ought to be subject to every man’s will and humour (which you call his best light), and no man to them but in his own sense. That the Scripture only ought to interpret itself (just as it can read itself) . . .: that every man may do what he pleases in matters of religion. . . . That no man can serve God, nor save his own soul, but in a commonwealth, in this certainty, you go after your own invention, for no man ever heard it before. . . . That any man may turn away his wife, and take another as often as he pleases, as you have most learnedly proved upon the fiddle, and practiced in your life and conversation, for which you have achieved the honour to be styled “The Founder of a Sect.” . . .
‘Certainly, the most ready and easy way to root out religion, is to render it contemptible and ridiculous; which cannot be sooner done, than by giving licence and encouragement to all manner of frenzies, that pretend to new discoveries in matters of faith. . . . And this is the way you go, which will never fail you, as long as there are fools and mad-men to carry on the work. . . . The Fifth-Monarchy men . . . would have been admirable for your purpose, if they had but dreamed of a fifth free state.
‘By this time, they began to grow weary of your perpetual falsehoods and mistakes, and a worthy knight of this assembly stood up and said, that if we meant to examine all the particular fallacies and flaws in your writing, we should never have done; he would therefore, with leave, deliver his judgment upon the whole, which, in brief, was thus: That it is all windy foppery, from the beginning to the end, written to the elevation of that rabble, and meant to cheat the ignorant. That you fight always with the flat of your hand, like a rhetorician, and never contract the logical fist. That you trade altogether in universals, the region of deceits and fallacy, but never come so near particulars, as to let us know which, among divers things of the same kind, you would be at. For you admire commonwealths in general, and cry down kingship as much at large, without any regard to the particular constitutions, which only make either the one or the other good or bad, vainly supposing all slavery to be in the government of a single person, and nothing but liberty in that of many. . . .
‘Besides this, as all your politicks reach but the outside and circumstances of things, and never touch at realities, so you are very solicitous about words, as if they were charms, or had more in them than what they signify. For no conjurer’s devil is more concerned in a spell, than you are in a mere word, but never regard the things which it serves to express. For you believe liberty is safer under an arbitrary unlimited power, by virtue of the name Commonwealth, than under any other government, how just or restrained soever, if it be but called Kingship.
‘And therefore, you would have the name Parliament abolished. . . . But in this you are too severe a Draco, to punish one word, for holding correspondence with another, when all the liberty, you talk so much of, consists in nothing else but mere words. For though you brag much of the people’s managing their own affairs, you allow them no more share of that in your Utopia, as you have ordered it, than only to set up their throats and bawl, instead of every three years, which they might have done before, once in an age, or oftener, as an old member drops away, and a new is to succeed, not for his merit or knowledge in state-affairs, but because he is able to bring the greatest and most deep-mouthed pack of the rabble into the field. . . .
‘After this said, he moved the assembly that I might be desired to deliver my judgment upon the book, as he and others had done, which being immediately passed, I knew not, though unwilling, how to avoid it; and therefore I told them as briefly as I could, that that which I disliked most in your treatise was, that there is not one word of the balance of propriety, nor the Agrarian, nor Rotation in it, from the beginning to the end; without which together with a Lord Archon, I thought I had sufficiently demonstrated, not only in my writings but public exercises in that coffee-house, that there is no possible foundation of a free commonwealth. To the first and second of these, that is, the Balance and the Agrarian, you made no objection, and therefore, I should not need to make any answer. But for the third, I mean Rotation, which you implicitly reject in your design to perpetuate the present members, I shall only add this to what I have already said and written on this subject, That a commonwealth is like a great top, that must be kept up by being whipped round, and held in perpetual circulation, for if you discontinue the Rotation, and suffer the senate to settle, and stand still, down it falls immediately. And if you had studied the point as carefully as I have done, you could not but know, there is no such way under heaven of disposing the vicissitudes of command and obedience, and of distributing equal right and liberty among all men, as this of wheeling.
‘But I wondered most of all, at what politic crack in any man’s skull, the imagination could enter of securing liberty under an oligarchy, seised of the government for term of life, which was never yet seen in the world. . . .
‘But I could not but laugh, as they all had done, at the pleasantness of your fancy, who suppose our noble patriots, when they are invested for term of life, will serve their country at their own charge: this, I said, was very improbable, unless you meant as they do, that all we have is their own, and that to prey and devour is to serve. . . . For though many may laugh at me for accounting 300,000 pounds in wooden ware, toward the erecting of a free-state, in my Oceana, but a trifle to the whole nation; because I am most certain that these little pills the ballots are the only physick that can keep the body-politick soluble, and not suffer the humour to settle, I will undertake, that if the present members had but a lease of the government during life, notwithstanding whatsoever impeachment of waste, they would raise more out of it to themselves in one year, than that amounts to; beside the charge we must be at in maintaining of guards to keep the boys off them. . . .
‘To conclude; I told them, you had made good your title in a contrary sense; for you have really proposed the most ready and easy way to establish downright slavery upon the nation that can possibly be contrived, which will clearly appear to any man that does but understand this plain truth, that wheresoever the power of proposing and debating, together with the power of ratifying and enacting laws, is entrusted in the hands of any one person, or any one council, as you would have it, that government is inevitably arbitrary and tyrannical, because they may make whatsoever they please lawful or unlawful. And that tyranny hath the advantage of all others that hath law and liberty among the instruments of servitude.
4. For the reference contained in Brief Notes upon a late Sermon, see note on 9. 9c.
5.No Blinde Guides appeared on April 20. It was from the pen of Milton’s relentless and now brutally exultant foe, L’Estrange. Although written in reply to the Brief Notes, it contains several references to The Ready and Easy Way. L’Estrange, now confident of Royalist victory, is in mocking mood:
‘What do you think of “Grand, Arbitrary, & Perpetual Counsel; and no more Parliaments?” (according to your Gratious Proposition, [Page 8] of your Free and easie way, &c.) And, in regard that in a free Commonwealth, “they who are greatest are Perpetual Servants. . . . [Page 4] What do you think of the Rump-Parliaments “Perpetuating itself” under the name of that grand Counsl? [Page 10.] the Government being in so many “Faithful” and “Experienced” hands, next under God, so Able; especially Filling up their number, as they intend, and abundantly sufficient so happily to govern us: [P. 11, &c.] . . .
‘Alas . . . for your ready, and easie way to Establish a Free Commonwealth, what will . . . become then of Your Standing Council?’
6.The Dignity of Kingship Asserted: in answer to Mr. Milton’s ‘Ready and Easie Way to establish a Free Commonwealth.’ . . . By G.S., a Lover of Loyalty, is the title of the most serious and voluminous reply provoked by Milton’s book. It appeared sometime in April or May. Its author, George Searle (?), acknowledges ‘the ability of Mr. Milton,’ and also the ‘fluent elegant style’ of the Defense. He affirms that Milton ‘then did, and doth now, want nothing on his side but truth.’ As for the Greek republics, they were so ancient that nothing could be certainly known about them. The Hollanders were a herd of swine. And, highest argument of all, Christ himself was born under an emperor.