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Ton still proved himself alive to its best interests, and struggled till the last moment to prevent the destruction of the Commonwealth, and the return of the nation to Monarchy and Episcopacy. The successor to the Protectorate, Richard Cromwell, was not able to guide the helm at this stormy period, and soon resigned his troublesome office.
It is said, that after the loss of his second wife, in 1655, he had absented himself from court, except when absolutely called thither by his duties as Latin Secretary. He says of himself, in a letter, dated December 18th, 1657, to a young friend who had written to him to solicit the office of Secretary to our ambassador in Holland : “ I am grieved that it is not in my power to serve you in this point, inasmuch as I have very few familiarities with the gratiosi of the court, who keep myself almost wholly at home, and am willing to do
The year after the death of Cromwell, he thus speaks in a letter to Henry Oldenburgh, the tutor to Lord Ranelagh, who had formerly been the pupil of Milton. “ Far be it from me to think, as you seem to desire, of writing the history of our late convulsions; which indeed are more worthy to be forgotten than to be commemorated : nor does my country now stand in need of a person to record her intestine commo
tions, but of one qualified to bring them to an auspicious conclusion.”* Upon this extract some writers have concluded he spoke of the whole period of the Commonwealth, whereas, it is evident to me, he alludes only to the convulsions which ensued after the death of Cromwell.
Milton addressed the following letter to a friend, bearing date October 20, 1659, which relates “to the Ruptures of the Commonwealth,” from which may be learned what were the nature of his republican principles, and probably what were his suspicions of General Monk.
Upon the sad and serious discourse which we fell into last night, concerning these ruptures in the Commonwealth, scarce yet in her infancy, which cannot be without some inward flaw in her bowels; I began to consider more intensely thereon than I have ever bin wont, resigning myself to the wisdom and care of those who hold the government; and not finding that either God or the publick required more from me, than my prayers for them that govern. And since you have not only stirred up my thoughts, by acquainting me with the state of affairs, more inwardly than I knew before; but also have
* Lives of Edward and John Philips.
desired me to set down my opinion thereof, trusting to your injenuity, I will give you freely my apprehensions, both of our present evils, and what expedients, if God in mercy regard us, may remove them.
“I will begin by telling you how I was overjoyed, when I heard that the army, under the working of God's Holy Spirit, as I thought, and still hope will have been so far wrought to Christian humility and self-denial, as to confess in publick their backsliding from the good old cause, and to show the priests of their repentance, in the righteousness of restoring the old famous [Long] Parliament, which they had without just authority dissolved. I call it the famou Parliament, though not the harmless, since none well-affected but will confess they have deserved much more of this nation, than they have undeserved. And I persuade me that God was pleased with their restitution, signing it as he did, with such a signal victory, when so just a part of the nation were desperately inspired to call back again their Egyptian bondage.
- So much the more it now amazes me, that they, whose lips were yet scarce closed for giving thanks for that great deliverance, should be now relapsing, and so soon again backsliding into the same fault, which they confest so lately, and so solemnly to God and the world, and
more lately punished in those Cheshire rebels ; that they should now dissolve that Parliament which they themselves re-established and acknowledged for their supreme power in their other day's humble representation; and all this, for no other apparent cause of public concernment to the church and Commonwealth, but only for discommissioning nine great officers of the army; which had not bin don, as is reported, but upon notice of their intentions against the Parliament.
“I presume not to give my censure of this action, not knowing, as yet I do not, the bottom of it. I speak only what it appears to us without doors, till better cause be declared, and I am sure to all other nations, most illegal and scandalous, I fear me barbarous, or any scarce to be exampled among any barbarians, that a paid army should, for no other cause, thus subdue the supreme power which set them
This, I say, other nations will judge to the sad dishonour of that army, lately so renowned for the civilist and best ordered in the world, and by us here at home for the most conscientious. Certainly if the great officers and soldiers of the Holland, French, and Venetian forces, should thus sit in council, and write from garrison to garrison against their superiors, they might as easily reduce the king of France, or Duke of
Venice, and put the United Provinces in like disorder and confusion! Why do they not, being most of them held ignorant of the true religion ? Because the light of nature, the laws of human reverence of their magistrates, covenants, engagements, loyalty, allegiance, keep them in
How grievous will it then be! How infamous to the true religion which we profess! How dishonourable to the name of God, that his fear, and the power of his knowledge in an army professing to be his, should not work that obedience, that fidelity to their supreme magistrates, that levied them and paid them, when the light of nature, the laws of human society, covenants and contracts, yea, common shame, works in other armies amongst the worst of them, which will undoubtedly pull down the heavy judgment of God among us, who cannot but avenge their hypocricies, violations of truth and holiness, if they be indeed so as they yet
“For, neither do I speak this in reproach of the army, but as jealous of their honour, inciting them to manifest and publish with all speed, some better cause of these their late actions, than hath hitherto appeared, and to send out the Achan among them, whose close ambition in all probability abuses their honest natures against their meaning to these disorders : their readiest