« PreviousContinue »
Some extracts have been made from MILTON'S "Second Defence of the People of England," in the last chapter; and intimations given of the high estimation in which that most extraordi- › nary man, Oliver Cromwell, was held by him. The following is taken from the same noble work ; which, though an highly wrought eulogy on the Protector, and that too, let it be remembered, after all those actions had been committed, such as dissolving the parliament, usurping the supreme power, &c. which has exposed his name to so much obloquy.
He thus expresses his approbation of the general's conduct, in putting an end to the power of the parliament. "When you saw them studious only of delay, and perceived each one more attentive to private advantage than public welfare; when you found the nation lamenting over their deluded hopes, which were successively baffled and disappointed by the power of a few, you at length did that, which they had been frequently warned and instructed to do, and put an end to their sittings."
Speaking of Cromwell's religious character he says: Such was the temper and discipline of his mind, moulded not merely to military sub
from, but shall be protected in, the profession and exercise of their religion; and that all laws, statutes, and ordinances, against such liberty, shall be esteemed null and void."
ordination, but to the precepts of Christianity, sanctity, and sobriety, that all the good and valiant were irresistibly drawn to his camp, not only as to the best school of martial science, but also of piety and religion; and those who joined it were necessarily rendered such by his example."
Milton composed this work immediately after Cromwell's elevation to the office of Protector. It was published in May, 1654, and is entirely free from flattery or sycophancy. He enumerates the great events which had happened since the command of the army had been confided to Cromwell, as captain-general-as the recovery of Ireland, the subjugation of Scotland; the crowning victory at Worcester; the dismission of the Long Parliament; the meeting and subsequent abdication of "The Little, or Barebone's Parliament;" and, to crown the whole, the magnanimous rejection of the title of king. With this topic the following extract commences; and let any one from it convict the writer of any tergiversation, or accommodation of his principles.
Proceed then, Cromwell, and exhibit, under every circumstance, the same loftiness of mind; for it well becomes you, and is consistent with your greatness. The deliverer, as you are, of your country-the author, the guardian, and preserver of her liberty-you can assume no additional character more important or more august;
since not only the actions of our kings, but the fabled exploits of our heroes are overcome by your achievements. Reflect then frequently, (how dear alike the trust, and the parent from whom you received it,) that to your hands your country has commended and confided her freedom; that, what she lately expected from her choicest representations, she now hopes ex clusively from you. Oh, reverence this high confidence, this hope of your country, relying exclusively upon yourself: reverence the countenances and the wounds of those brave men, who have so nobly struggled for liberty under your auspices, as well as the manes of those who have fallen in the conflict. Reverence also the opinion and the discourse of foreign communities; their lofty anticipations with respect to our freedom, so valiantly obtained-to our republic, so gloriously established, of which the speedy extinction would involve us in the deepest and most unexampled infamy. Reverence, finally, yourself: and suffer not that liberty, for the attainment of which you have encountered so many perils, and endured so many hardships, to sustain any violation from your own hands, or any from those of others. Without our freedom, in fact, you cannot yourself be free: for it is justly ordained by nature, that he who invades the liberty of others shall, in the very outset, lose his
own, and be the first to feel that servitude which he has induced. But if the very patron, the tutelary deity, as it were, of freedom; if the man, most eminent for justice, and sanctity, and general excellence, should assail that liberty which he has asserted, the issue must necessarily be pernicious, if not fatal, not only to the aggressor, but to the entire system and interests of piety herself. Honour and virtue would indeed appear to be empty names; the credit and character of religion would decline and perish under a wound more deep than any which, since the first transgression, had been inflicted upon the race of man. You have engaged in a most arduous undertaking, which will search you to the quick; which will bring to the severest test your spirit, your energy, your stability; which will ascertain whether you are really actuated by that living piety, and honour, and equity, and moderation, which seem, with the favour of God, to have raised you to your present high dignity. To rule with your counsels three mighty realms, in the place of their erroneous institutions; to introduce a sounder system of doctrine and of discipline, to pervade their remotest provinces with unremitting attention and anxiety, vigilance and foresight; to decline no labours, to yield to no blandishments of pleasure, to spurn the pageantries of wealth and of power. These are difficulties, in comparison
of which those of war are the mere levities of play; these will sift and winnow you; these demand a man sustained by the Divine assistance, tutored and instructed almost by a personal communication with his God. These, and more than these, you often, as I doubt not, revolve in your mind, and make the subjects of your deepest meditations, greatly solicitous how most happily they may be achieved, and your country's freedom be strengthened and secured; and these objects you cannot, in my judgment, otherwise effect than by admitting, as you do, to an intimate share in your counsels, those men who have already participated your toils and your dangers; men of the utmost moderation, integrity, and valour; not rendered savage or austere by the sight of so much bloodshed, and of so many forms of death; but inclined to justice, to the reverence of the Deity, to a sympathy with human suffering, and animated for the preservation of liberty with a zeal strengthened by the hazards, which for its own sake they have encountered; men not raked together from the dregs of our own or of a foreign populace-not a band of mercenary adventurers; but men chiefly of a superior condition; in extraction noble or respectable; with respect to property, considerable or competent, or in some instances deriving a stronger claim to our regard, even from their poverty itself; men not concerned