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write any thing," as he declares at a period when the prosperity of his party made it unnecessary for him to suppress the truth, “ respecting the regal jurisdiction, till the King, proclaimed an enemy by the senate and overcome in arms, was brought captive to his trial and condemned to suffer death. When indeed some of the presbyterian leaders, lately the most inveterately hostile to Charles, but now irritated by the
prevalence of the Independents in the nation and the senate and stung with resentment not of the fact, but of their own want of power to commit it, exclaimed against the sentence of the Parliament upon the King, and raised what commotions they could by daring to assert that the doctrine of the protestant divines and of all the reformed churches was strong in reprobation of this facto irati, sed quod ipsorum factio non fecisset) reclamitarent, et, quantum in ipsis erat, tumultuarentur, ausi affirmare Protestantium doctrinam, omnesque ecclesias reformatas ab ejusmodi in reges atroci sententiâ abhorrere, ratus falsitati tam apertæ palàm eundum obviam esse, ne tum quidem de Carolo quicquam scripsi aut suasi, sed quid in genere contrà tyrannos liceret, adductis haud paucis summorum theologorum testimoniis, ostendi; et insignem hominum, meliora profitentium, sive ignorantiam sive impudentiam, propè concionabundus incessi. Liber iste non nisi post mortem Regis prodiit, ad componendos potiùs hominum animos factus, quam ad statuenduum de Carolo quicquam, quod non mei sed magistratuum intererat, et peractum jam tum erat. Def. secun. P. W. v. 234.
severity to kings, then at length I conceived it to be my duty publicly to oppose so much obvious and palpable falsehood. Neither did I then direct my argument or persuasion personally against Charles, but by the testimony of many of the most eminent divines I proved what course of conduct might lawfully be observed towards tyrants in general; and, with the zeal almost of a preacher, I attacked the strange ignorance or the wonderful impudence of these men who had lately amused us with the promises of better things. This work was not published till after the death of the King; and was written rather to tranquillize the minds of men than to discuss any part of the question respecting Charles, a question, the decision of which belonged to the magistrate and not to me, and which had now received its final determination.”
The work, of which Milton speaks in this passage, was published in February 1648-9 with the title of “ The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates; proving that it is lawful, and hath been held so through all ages,
for have the power, to call to account a tyrant or wicked king; and, after due conviction, to depose and put him to death, if the ordinary magistrate have neglected or denied to do it.”
Respecting the origin and object of the regal and magisterial function there cannot be a dissentient opinion among the enlightened and the reflecting. It would be idle to affirm that this monarch inherited his sceptre from his ancestors, or that another obtained his by conquest, or that in no instance now before our eyes has the voice of the people seated its favourite on the throne. No other conceivable source of political power can be pretended than the general will operating, by exertion or in acquiescence, for the general order and advantage.
When God made man weak and indigent, and gave him propensities to coalesce for the purpose of supplying his individual impotence by the force of combination, God was in fact the institutor of human society; and when he permitted man, whom he had created fallible, to lapse into error and thus rendered the controll of private interest and passion requisite for the common security, the same Almighty Being was in truth the founder of human government. Political institution therefore, as well as social union, must be referred to the Creator as to its first father; and the pure despotism of Persia or of imperial Rome may as unquestionably assert its claim to this heavenly pedi
gree as the pure democracy of Athens or the complex artifice of the constitution of Britain. “ The powers that be are ordained of God;" and the magistrate may justly be regarded as the minister of that Supreme Power to whose permission the necessity of his existence must ultimately be referred. But while God must thus be admitted as the first parent of government in the abstract, he has evidently submitted the adjustment of its particular modes to the reason and the will of man. By this intellectual and moral agent the requisite controll may be enlarged or restrained, may be confined to the hands of one, or distributed among those of many according to the determination of his wants, his habits, or his inclination ; and, on the principle that human guilt is punishable by human justice, the abuser of this confided controll must be amenable to the judgment of those from whose authority and for whose benefit he has received it.
To this point, then, we cannot well refuse our concurrence to Milton; but to the next step it will be hazardous to accom
him. If the right to punish these elevated delinquents be invariably annexed to
c Rom. xiii. 1.
the possession of the power, a fearful opening will be left for mischief; and the sword, directed by private passion or perhaps by individual caprice, may injure the interests of thousands while it strikes a criminal magistrate. There may indeed be extreme cases in which nature, rising against oppression, will vindicate the blow inflicted by one or by the few. But the occurrence of these cases must necessarily be so rare, and the evil of the proposed remedy is so incontrovertibly great, that a christian moralist cannot hesitate to prohibit the execution of the most' evident public justice by any less power than that of the public will. The wisdom of the English constitution is in this instance especially admirable. Making, under the influence of the most cogent reasons, the person of the first magistrate intangible and sacred and yet acknowledging the indissoluble union of responsibility with trust, it compels this inviolable officer to act with the agency of others, and to these indispensible instruments it attaches the responsibility of the great executive office.
With the conscious security of a patriarchal father at the head of his extended family, the Sovereign is thus invited to the indulgence of paternal benevolence, while