Imágenes de páginas

purges, and refines, gives them heaviness for a day, that they may hereafter have an everlasting weight of glory. Slates he sometimes afflicts for their own sins, sometimes for those of their governors, but still out of his mercy considers those who are dear unto him, and searches out if there be ten good in Sodom, which if there be, he carries them out of their captivity into the land of promise.

“Out of these considerations, I, for my part, humbly submit to this mysterious and sudden action; and because I perceive you not so well satisfied with it, am content with what present reasons I can, and out of my little intelligence, and small understandings of things, to give you an account. And therefore we are to consider,

First, The means of government by the last Parliament; then the right of obedience to superior powers; and lastly, the effects, or events, that may come upon the late change."

He intimates that the Presbyterians were the most offended.

“Besides," says he, “the Presbyterian party, which is merely a Jesuit in a Genevah cloak, but somewhat more unsupportable."

After having shown the illegal practices of some members of the Long Parliament, and the impropriety that their existence should be perpetual, he says: :

“And therefore, since we are in a tempest, let us come to this rock, (to speak at the harshest,) rather than perish. For you cannot conceive but the worst government in the world is infinitely better than none at all, or to speak a little closelyer, an ill government well managed, people still judging of their safety, or liberty, or civill advantages, the effects not only of their government, but rulers.

“I know your objection beforehand, that the action of the Lord Generall in the Dissolution was somewhat rough and barbarous, and I shall not trouble you with a long answer. That, as to his person, as he hath in the field de

clared himself one of the noblest assertors of our liberty, and as great an enlarger of our territories as ever was, so as to any particular designs of his own in point of government, it must be a something greater than human, that can discover how he either intended to invade us, or to make us a prey to any ambition of his. And therefore, if, upon this grand Revolution, he might appear to his enemies passionate, yet considering the extremities that great minds fall into, and the great trust committed to him, it will appear to be nothing but the discharge of that duty that lay upon him. To have done such a thing as a single generall, wants neither example nor president, (but I would not injure an argument, by the by, which I could make good in a whole treatise.) For you may remember that of Cæsar to Metellus the Tribune: "Young man, (says he,) 'twas easier for me to

say this than to do it;' a speech, says Sir Francis Bacon, both the proudest and the mildest that ever came out of the mouth of man. For at that time he was breaking open the sacred treasury, which by the laws was not to be broken open. But it is otherwise here: this was not a rash and precipitate act of his, [Cromwell,] but a trust and result of those under him. 'Twas fit he that was most eminent should appear, and he as civilly, without noise and disturbance, did it. And therefore acting by their votes, and by their consents, it was their action as well as his; and it is no more his action, than it is the action of the head moved by tendons and muscles, which are parts of the body, and without which the head itself could not possibly at all


“So. that here it comes to a question, Whether it be better for us to be in slavery under the name of liberty, or in liberty under the effects of slavery? I have told my thoughts before, in what condition I thought our liberty was, and I repeat it once again, that I think this present is the better expedient.

“I am no member of their councills, and by a late infirmity, lesse able to attend them;* yet, if I can believe any thing, or understand men, when they make the clearest professions, they intend all noble things, both as to the glory of our good God, the making happy this poor nation, settling the liberties of it, and reducing of us into one mind, and one way. But these are not only wishes of mine, but hopes and certain expectancies, and I believe they will convince these men to be liars that speak against them. But now I think I have put you to all the trials of your patience, which if my infirmity had not been, which confined me to my chamber, I could not have done; but I rely so much on your candor, and I believe you think so well of my veracity, as I want not the impudence to affirm myself, (however you take it)

“ Your affectionate Servant,

“N. L. L.

London, May 3, 1653.”

Now let the candid reader say whether this is the language of flattery? whether there is any thing in it which contradicts any of his sentiments on former or later occasions? whether there is any proof of his having sold his services to a tyrant, because he “ tasted of the honey of publick employment, and would not return to hunger and philosophy?” Why, though Milton's office as Latin Secretary to the Council of State was most honourable, he did not receive more than two hundred a year it is said; not greatly superior to Dr. Johnson's pension, for which he rendered no services to the commonwealth. Whatever difficulties MilTON might have felt in reconciling this bold step of Cromwell and his Council of Officers, with the rights which the

* It will be seen from this, that he had just now lost his eye-sight.

Long Parliament had received by the consent of the late king not to be dissolved but by their own consent, it is evident he considered it a choice of difficulties, whether tyranny should be exercised under the title of Parliament or of Protector: he thought, whether justly or not, that the people would have more liberty, and less slavery, under the latter than the former; and that even the government of the army was to be preferred to an inefficient power, which could protect the interests of the whole community.

Speaking of Milton's Latin Defence of the People of England, published in 1652, Dr. Johnson says:

“ In his Second Defence, he shows that his eloquence is not merely satirical: the rudeness of his invective is equalled by the grossness of his flattery. Cæsar, when he assumed the perpetual dictatorship, had not more servile and elegant flattery. A translation may show its servility, but its elegance is less attainable. Having exposed the unskilfulness or selfishness of the former government, “We were left,' says Milton, 'to ourselves; the whole national interest fell into your hands, and subsists only in your abilities. To your virtue, overpowering and resistless, every man gives way, except some, who, without equal qualifications, aspire to equal honours, who envy

the distinctions of merit greater than their own, and who have yet to learn, that in the coalition of human society, nothing is more pleasing to God, or more agreeable to reason, than that the highest mind should have the sovereign power. Such, Sir, are you by general confession ; such are the things achieved by you, the greatest and most glorious of our countrymen, the director of our public councils, the leader of unconquered armies, the father of your country; for by that title does every good man hail you with sincere and voluntary praise.”—P. 113.

Now, I ask whether there is any appearance of servility or flattery in this eulogium of Cromwell? Is it not the truth? Could he have ventured to say so much of the Protector's qualities of mind, had it not been conceded by "every good man” in the country? Dr. J., in his dictionary,

в в

defines servility to be “meanness, dependence, baseness;" and flattery to be “false praise, artful obsequiousness:" I appeal to every candid mind, whether his malignant heart has enabled him to convict Milton of either of those mean vices? The noble-minded Paul said, " They laid many false and grievous things to my charge, which they could not PROVE!” What is there either mean, or base, or indicating dependence? What of false praise or artful obsequiousness? No, no, Dr. Johnson : you might have found eviderice, had you been sufficiently impartial to have made the honest scrutiny, of servility and flattery much nearer home!

But Dr. Johnson has not yet expended all his venom.

He says:

“ As secretary to the Protector, he is supposed to have written the Declarations of the Reasons of a War with Spain. His agency was considered of great importance; for, when a treaty with Sweden was artfully suspended, the delay was publicly imputed to Mr. Milton's indisposition; and the Swedish agent was provoked to express his wonder, that only one man in England could write Latin, and that man blind!"-P. 114.

And will the reader believe it, that this witty sentence of puerile dotardism all rests upon the following unimportant fact, stated in Whitelock's Memorials:

“May, 1656. The Swedish ambassador again complained of the delays in business, and that when he had desired to have the articles of his treaty put into Latin, accordiug to the custom in treaties, that it was fourteen days they made him stay for the translation, and sent it to one Mr. MilTon, a blind man, to put them into Latin, who he said must use an amanuensis to read it to him, and thst amanuensis might publish the matter of the articles as he pleased; and that it seemed strange to him, there should be none but a blind man capable of putting a few Articles into Latin. The employment of Mr. MILTON was excused to him, be

« AnteriorContinuar »