Page images
PDF
EPUB

times. But I was uncertain whether your relation to the court* (though I think a commonwealth was more friendly to you than a court) had not clouded your former light, but your last book resolved that doubt. You complain of the non-proficiency of the nation, and of its retrogade motion of late, in liberty and spiritual truths. It is much to be bewailed; but yet let us pity human frailty. When those who made deep protestations of their zeal for our liberty both spiritual and civil, and made the fairest offers to be assertors thereof, and whom we thereupon trusted; when those, being instated in power, shall betray the good thing committed to them, and lead us back to Egypt, and by that force which we gave them to win us liberty hold us fast in chains; what can poor people do? You know who they were, that watched our Saviour's sepulchre to keep him from rising.†

Besides, whilst people are not free, but straitened in accommodations for life, their spirits will be dejected and servile: and conducing to that end, there should be an improving of our native commodities, as our manufactures, our fishery, our fens, forests, and commons, and our trade at sea, &c., which would give the body of the nation a comfortable subsistence; and the breaking that cursed yoke of tithes would much help thereto.

Also another thing I cannot but mention, which is, that the Norman conquest and tyranny is continued upon the nation without any thought of removing it; I mean the tenure of lands by copyhold, and holding for life under a lord, or rather tyrant of a manor; whereby people care not to improve their land by cost upon it, not knowing how soon themselves or theirs may be outed it; nor what the house is in which they live, for the same reason: and they are far more enslaved to the lord of the manor, than the rest of the nation is to a king or supreme magistrate.

We have waited for liberty, but it must be God's work and not man's, who thinks it sweet to maintain his pride and worldly interest to the gratifying of the flesh, whatever becomes of the precious liberty of mankind.

But let us not despond, but do our duty; and God will carry on that blessed work in despite of all opposites, and to their ruin if they persist therein.

Sir, my humble request is, that you would proceed, and give us that other member of the distribution mentioned in your book; viz. that Hire doth greatly impede truth and liberty: it is like if you do, you shall find opposers: but remember that saying, Beatus est pati quam frui: or, in the apostle's words, James v. 11, We count them happy that endure.

I have sometimes thought (concurring with your assertion of that storied voice that should speak from heaven) when ecclesiastics were endowed with worldly preferments, hodie venenum infunditur in ecclesiam : for to use the speech of Genesis iv. ult. according to the sense which it hath in the Hebrew, then began men to corrupt the worship of God. I shall tell you a supposal of mine, which is this: Mr. Dury has bestowed about thirty years time in travel, conference, and writings, to reconcile Calvinists and Lutherans, and that with little or no success. But the shortest way were,—take away • ecclesiastical dignities, honours, and preferments, on both sides, and all would soon be hushed; the ecclesiastics would be quiet, and then the people would come forth into truth and liberty. But I will not engage in this quarrel; yet I shall lay this engagement upon myself to remain

Your faith friend and servant,

Causham, May 26, 1659.

Milton was Latin Secretary.

Soldiers; this is a severe insinuation against a standing army.

JOHN WALL.

From this letter the reader may see in what way wise and good men of that age employed themselves: in studying to remove every grievance, to break every yoke. And it is matter of astonishment, that this age, which boasts of greatest light and knowledge, should make no effort toward a reformation in things acknowledged to be wrong: but both in religion and in civil government be barbarian!

Below Blackheath, June 20, 1756.

RICHARD BARON.

'ΕΙΚΟΝΟΚΛΑΣΤΗΣ.

Prov. xxviii. 15. As a roaring lion, and a raging bear, so is a wicked ruler over the poor people.

16. The prince that wanteth understanding, is also a great oppressor; but he that hateth covetousness, shall prolong his days.

17. A man that doth violence to the blood of any person, shall fly to the pit, let no man stay him.

SALLUST. CONJURAT. CATILIN.

Regium imperium, quod initio, conservandæ libertatis, atque augendæ reipublicæ causa
fuerat, in superbiam, dominationemque se convertit.
Regibus boni, quam mali, suspectiores sunt, semperque his aliena virtus formidolosa est
Impune quælibet facere, id est regem esse.-IDEM, BELL. JUGurth.

PUBLISHED BY AUTHORITY.

THE PREFACE.

To descant on the misfortunes of a person fallen from so high a dignity, who hath also paid his final debt, both to nature and his faults, is neither of itself a thing commendable, nor the intention of this discourse. Neither was it fond ambition, nor the vanity to get a name, present or with posterity, by writing against a king. I never was so thirsty after fame, nor so destitute of other hopes and means, better and more certain to attain it; for kings have gained glorious titles from their favourers by writing against private men, as Henry VIIIth. did against Luther; but no man ever gained much honour by writing against a king, as not usually meeting with that force of argument in such courtly antagonists, which to convince might add to his reputation. Kings most commonly, though strong in legions, are but weak at arguments; as they who ever have accustomed from the cradle to use their will only as their right hand, their reason always as their left. Whence unexpectedly constrained to that kind of combat, they prove but weak and puny adversaries: nevertheless, for their sakes, who, through custom, simplicity, or want of better teaching, have no more seriously considered kings, than in the gaudy name of majesty, and admire them and their doings as if they breathed not the same breath with other mortal men, I shall make no scruple to take up (for it seems to be the challenge both of him and all his party) to take up this gauntlet, though a king's, in the behalf of liberty and the commonwealth.

And further, since it appears manifestly the cunning drift of a factious and defeated party, to make the same advantage of his book, which they did before of his regal name and authority, and intend it not so much the defence of his former actions, as the promoting of their own future designs, (making thereby the book their own rather than the king's, as the benefi 56

VOL. I.

now must be their own more than his ;) now the third time to corrupt and disorder the minds of weaker men, by new suggestions and narrations, either falsely or fallaciously representing the state of things to the dishonour of this present government, and the retarding of a general peace, so needful to this afflicted nation, and so nigh obtained; I suppose it no injury to the dead, but a good deed rather to the living, if by better information given them, or, which is enough, by only remembering them the truth of what they themselves know to be here misaffirmed, they may be kept from entering the third time unadvisedly into war and bloodshed: for as to any moment of solidity in the book itself, (save only that a king is said to be the author, a name, than which there needs no more among the blockish vulgar, to make it wise, and excellent, and admired, nay to set it next the Bible, though otherwise containing little else but the common grounds of tyranny and popery, dressed up the better to deceive, in a new protestant guise, trimly garnished over,) or as to any need of answering, in respect of staid and well-principled men, I take it on me as a work assigned rather, than by me chosen or affected: which was the cause both of beginning it so late, and finishing it so leisurely in the midst of other employments and diversions. And though well it might have seemed in vain to write at all, considering the envy and almost infinite prejudice likely to be stirred up among the common sort, against whatever can be written or gainsaid to the king's book, so advantageous to a book it is only to be a king's; and though it be an irksome labour, to write with industry and judicious pains, that which, neither weighed nor well read, shall be judged without industry or the pains of well-judging, by faction and the easy literature of custom and opinion; it shall be ventured yet, and the truth not smothered, but sent abroad in the native confidence of her single self, to earn, how she can, her entertainment in the world, and to find out her own readers: few perhaps, but those few, of such value and substantial worth, as truth and wisdom, not respecting numbers and big names, have been ever wont in all ages to be contented with. And if the late king had thought sufficient those answers and defences made for him in his lifetime, they who on the other side accused his evil government, judging that on their behalf enough also hath been replied, the heat of this controversy was in all likelihood drawing to an end; and the further mention of his deeds, not so much unfortunate as faulty, had in tenderness to his late sufferings been willingly foreborne ; and perhaps for the present age might have slept with him unrepeated, while his adversaries, calmed and assuaged with the success of their cause, had been the less unfavourable to his memory. But since he himself, making new appeal to truth and the world, hath left behind him this book, as the best advocate and interpreter of his own actions, and that his friends by publishing, dispersing, commending, and almost adoring it, seem to place therein the chief strength and nerves of their cause; it would argue doubtless in the other party great deficience and distrust of themselves, not to meet the force of his reason in any field whatsoever, the force and equipage of whose arms they have so often met victoriously: and he who at the bar stood excepting against the form and manner of his judicature, and complained that he was not heard; neither he nor his friends shall have that cause now to find fault, being met and debated with in this open and monumental court of his erecting; and not only heard uttering his whole mind at large, but answered: which to do effectually, if it be necessary, that to his book nothing the more respect be had for being his, they of his own party can have no just reason to exclaim. For it were too unreasonable that he, because dead, should have the liberty in his book to speak all evil

of the parliament; and they because living, should be expected to have less freedom, or any for them, to speak home the plain truth of a full and pertinent reply. As he, to acquit himself, hath not spared his adversaries to load them with all sorts of blame and accusation, so to him, as in his book alive, there will be used no more courtship than he uses; but what is properly his own guilt, not imputed any more to his evil counsellors, (a ceremony used longer by the parliament than he himself desired,) shall be laid here without circumlocutions at his own door. That they who from the first beginning, or but now of late, by what unhappiness I know not, are so much affatuated, not with his person only, but with his palpable faults, and doat upon his deformities, may have none to blame but their own folly, if they live and die in such a strooken blindness, as next to that of Sodom hath not happened to any sort of men more gross, or more misleading. Yet neither let his enemies expect to find recorded here all that hath been whispered in the court, or alleged openly, of the king's bad actions; it being the proper scope of this work in hand, not to rip up and relate the misdoings of his whole life, but to answer only and refute the missayings of his book.

First, then, that some men (whether this were by him intended, or by his friends) have by policy accomplished after death that revenge upon their enemies, which in life they were not able, hath been oft related. And among other examples we find, that the last will of Cæsar being read to the people, and what bounteous legacies he had bequeathed them, wrought more in that vulgar audience to the avenging of his death, than all the art he could ever use to win their favour in his lifetime. And how much their intent, who published these overlate apologies and meditations of the dead king, drives to the same end of stirring up the people to bring him that honour, that affection, and by consequence that revenge to his dead corpse, which he himself living could never gain to his person, it appears both by the conceited portraiture before his book, drawn out to the full measure of a masking scene, and set there to catch fools and silly gazers; and by those Latin words after the end, Vota dabunt quæ bella negarunt; intimating, that what he could not compass by war, he should achieve by his meditations: for in words which admit of various sense, the liberty is ours, to choose that interpretation, which may best mind us of what our restless enemies endeavour, and what we are timely to prevent. And here may be well observed the loose and negligent curiosity of those, who took upon them to adorn the setting out of this book; for though the picture set in front would martyr him and saint him to befool the people, yet the Latin motto in the end, which they understand not, leaves him, as it were, a politic contriver to bring about that interest, by fair and plausible words, which the force of arms denied him. But quaint emblems and devices, begged from the old pageantry of some twelfthnight's entertainment at Whitehall, will do but ill to make a saint or martyr: and if the people' resolve to take him sainted at the rate of such a canonizing, I shall suspect their calendar more than the Gregorian. In one thing I must commend his openness, who gave the title to this book, Ex Bastian, that is to say, Βασιλικὴ, The King's Image; and by the shrine he dresses out for him, certainly would have the people come and worship him. For which reason this answer also is entitled, Iconoclastes, the famous surname of many Greek emperors, who in their zeal to the command of God, after long tradition of idolatry in the church, took courage and broke all superstitious images to pieces. But the people, exorbitant and excessive in all their motions, are prone ofttimes not to a religious only, but to a civil kind of idolatry,

in idolizing their kings: though never more mistaken in the object of their worship; heretofore being wont to repute for saints those faithful and courageous barons, who lost their lives in the field, making glorious war against tyrants for the common liberty; as Simon de Momfort, earl of Leicester, against Henry the IIId; Thomas Plantagenet, earl of Lancaster, against Edward IId. But now, with a besotted and degenerate baseness of spirit, except some few who yet retain in them the old English fortitude and love of freedom, and have testified it by their matchless deeds, the rest, imbastardized from the ancient nobleness of their ancestors, are ready to fall flat and give adoration to the image and memory of this man, who hath offered at more cunning fetches to undermine our liberties, and put tyranny into an art, than any British king before him: which low dejection and debasement of mind in the people, I must confess, I cannot willingly ascribe to the natural disposition of an Englishman, but rather to two other causes; first, to the prelates and their fellow-teachers, though of another name and sect, whose pulpit-stuff, both first and last, hath been the doctrine and perpetual infusion of servility and wretchedness to all their hearers, and whose lives the type of worldliness and hypocrisy, without the least true pattern of virtue, righteousness, or self-denial in their whole practice. I attribute it next to the factious inclination of most men divided from the public by several ends and humours of their own. At first no man less beloved, no man more generally condemned, than was the king; from the time that it became his custom to break parliaments at home, and either wilfully or weakly to betray protestants abroad, to the beginning of these combustions. All men inveighed against him; all men, except court-vassals, opposed him and his tyrannical proceedings; the cry was universal; and this full parliament was at first unanimous in their dislike and protestation against his evil government. But when they, who sought themselves and not the public, began to doubt, that all of them could not by one and the same way attain to their ambitious purposes, then was the king, or his name at least, as a fit property first made use of, his doings made the best of, and by degrees justified; which begot him such a party, as, after many wiles and strugglings with his inward fears, emboldened him at length to set up his standard against the parliament: whenas before that time, all his adherents, consisting most of dissolute swordsmen and suburb-roysters, hardly amounted to the making up of one ragged regiment strong enough to assault the unarmed house of commons. After which attempt, seconded by a tedious and bloody war on his subjects, wherein he hath so far exceeded those his arbitrary violences in time of peace, they who before hated him for his high misgovernment, nay fought against him with displayed banners in the field, now applaud him and extol him for the wisest and most religious prince that lived. By so strange a method amongst the mad multitude is a sudden reputation won, of wisdom by wilfulness and subtle shifts, of goodness by multiplying evil, of piety by endeavouring to root out true religion.

But it is evident that the chief of his adherents never loved him, never honoured either him or his cause, but as they took him to set a face upon their own malignant designs, nor bemoan his loss at all, but the loss of their own aspiring hopes: like those captive women, whom the poet notes in his Iliad, to have bewailed the death of Patroclus in outward show, but indeed their own condition.

-Hom. Iliad. r.

Πάτροκλον προφασιν, σφῶν δ ̓ αὐτῶν κήδε ἑκάςη.

*The Presbyterians.

« PreviousContinue »