« PreviousContinue »
'thirty-eight members of the legislative assembly, and by them the political machine was conducted under the name of the Commonwealth of England. A republic, however constituted, and how liable soever to objection in its best forms and under the wisest modifications, is still informed with a strong principle of animation which actuates public spirit and summons into exertion all the talent and energy of a people. The Council of State, as the executive council was called, in which were men of large and comprehensive minds, approved itself to be eminently qualified for the task of empire; and the new Commonwealth
proceeded, under its direction, to command the respect and the terror of Europe.
England, at this juncture, like the snake,
* Qualis ubi in lucem coluber, mala gramina pastus,
Æne, ii, Y. 471.
As when a serpent from his winter bed,
described by the poet, on its issuing from its winter retreat, erected herself in the renoyated brilliancy of youth, and presented an aspect which every. where prevented, by intimating a defiance of assault. Resolved on adopting the old Roman language for that of the government in its intercourse with foreign nations, one of the first acts of the new council was the appointment of a latin secretary for the execution of its wise and spirited design. The learning, talents, and republicanism of Milton immediately pointed him out to the sagacity of the Council as the person fitted for its purpose; and, accordingly, without even a suspicion of the preferment which was intended for him, he was invited into the service of the state.
It has been asked, but, as I think, unnécessarily since his literary and political merits had long been known to the public, by whose interest he was selected for this honourable preference; and it has been suggested that he might be indebted for it either to the younger Vane or to Bradshaw, who were members of the Council, and who have been made the subjects, in verse and in prose, of his poetic and his eloquent panegyric. We have already noticed and we shall now trans
scribe the sonnet which he addressed to the former of these eminent characters; and we shall then produce, from his “ Second Defence,” the portrait which he has so admirably delineated of the latter. In Vane was exhibited the most extraordinary union of power with imbecillity, of comprehension with narrowness, of the cool and penetrating statesman with the heated and visionary enthusiast. Of Bradshaw, branded and blackened as he has been by the violence of party, it
may almost be imprudent to hazard a favourable opinion. After an interval, however, of a century and a half the truth may surely be spoken even of the judge whose office it was to pass sentence upon Charles Stuart: and another age, at some distance from those peculiar circumstances which have unhappily tainted the present with passion and prejudice, will do ample justice, as I doubt not, to a man who was mistaken indeed, and placed in an unfortunate situation, but whose radical and vital principle was public virtue; who would have been honoured in the purest times of Grecian and Roman patriotism, and whose high-souled and consistent independence refused, on more than one occasion, to sub
mit to the will of an imperious and irresistible usurper.'
1. In the afternoon the General went to the Council of State, attended by Major General Lambert and Harrison, and as he entered the room said, “Gentlemen, if you are met here as private persons, you shall not be disturbed; but if as a Council of State, this is no place for you; and since you cannot but know what was done in the morning, so take notice the Parliament is dissolved.” Serjeant Bradshaw replied, “Sir, we have heard what you did in the morning, but you are mistaken to think the Parliament is dissolved; for no power can dissolve them but themselves, therefore, take you notice of that.” But the General not being terrified with big words, the Council thought it the wisest way to rise up and go home.' Neal's History of the Puritans, vol. iv. p. 63.
Ludlow, who with Bradshaw, Col. Rich, and Sir H. Vane, was suinmoned before Cromwell in council, thus speaks of the conduct of Bradshaw, in opposition to the formidable usurper. ! Cromwell, as soon as he saw the Lord President, required him to take out a new commission for his office of Chief Jus. tice of Chester, which he refused, alledging that he held that place by a grant from the Parliament of England to continue, quamdiu se bene gesserit; and whether he had carried himself with that integrity which his commission exacted, he was ready to submit to a trial by twelve Englishmen to be chosen even by Cromwell himself." —He persevered, and with his first commission continued on the bench of Chester.
If Horace had been gifted with prophecy we should bave concluded that Bradshaw had been present to his vision when he wrote
Justum et tenacem propositi virum
But perhaps the second line in this stanza might not be considered as equally applicable, viz.
Non civium ardor prava jubentium.
TO SIR HENRY VANE THE YOUNGER,
VANE, young in years but in sage counsel old,
Than whom a better senator ne'er held
The helm of Rome, when gowns not arms repellid
The drift of hollow states, hard to be spellid,
Then to advise how war may, best upheld,
Both spiritual power and civil, what each means,
What severs each thou'st learn'd, which few have done:
Therefore on thy firm hand religion lears
« Est Joannes Bradscianus, (quod nomen libertas ipsa, quâcunque gentium colitur, memoriæ sempiternæ celebrandum commendavit,) nobili familiâ, ut satis notum est, ortus; unde patriis legibus addiscendis primam omnem ætatem seduld impendit: dein consultissimus causarum ac disertissimus
patronus, libertatis et populi vindex acerrimus, et magnis reipublicæ negotiis est adhibitus, et incorrupti judicis munere aliquoties perfunctus. Tandem uti Regis judicio præsidere vellet a Senatu rogatus, provinciam sane periculosissimam non recusavit. Attulerat enim ad legum scientiam ingenium li