« PreviousContinue »
cipal distinction suffer me to be bereaved of comfort, when they see me bereaved of sight amid the exertions which I made, the real which I showed, and the dangers which I run for the liberty which I love. They do not strip me of the badge of honor which I have once worn ; they do not deprive me of the places of publio trust to which I have been appointed, por do tbey abridge my salary or emoluments. Thus, while both God and man unite in solacing me under the height of my affliction, let no one lament my loss of sight in so honorable a cause !"
After paying an eloquent tribute of gratitude and praise to Cromwell, Bradshaw, Fleetwood, Lambert, Desborough, Overton, Whitlocke, Lawrence, and others who distinguished themselves and served their country by their exertions in the senate and in the field, Milton closes with advice worthy to be held in everlasting remembrance with the Farewell Address of George Washington.
"To these men, whose talents are so splendid, and whose worth has been so thoroughly tried, you would, without doubt, do right to trust the protection of our liberties ; nor would it be easy to say to whom they might more safely be entrusted. Then, if you leave the church to its own government, and relieve yourself and the other public functionaries from a charge so onerous, and so incompatible with your functions ; and will no longer suffer two powers, so different as the civil and the ecclesiastical, to commit fornication together, and by their mutual and delusive aids in appearance to strengthen, but in reality to weaken, and finally to subvert each other; if you shall remove all power of persecution out of the church, (but, persecution will never cease, so long as men are bribed to preach the gospel by a mercenary salary, which is forcibly extorted, rather than gratuitously bestowed, which serves only to poison religion and to strangle truth,) you will then effectually have cast those money-changers out of the temple, who do not merely truckle with doves but with the Dove itsell, with the Spirit of the Most High. Then, since there are often in a republic men who have the same itch for making a multiplicity of laws, as some poetasters have for making many verses, and, since laws are usually worse in proportion as they are more numerous, if you shall not enact so many new laws as you abolish old, which do not operate so much as warnings against evil, as impediments in the way of good; and, if you shall retain only those which are necessary, which do not confound the distinctions of good and evil, which, while they prevent the frauds of the wicked, do not prohibit the innocent freedoms of the good, which punish crimes, without interdicting those things which are lawful only on account of the abuses to which they may occasionally be exposed. For, the intention of laws is to check the commission of vice; but, liberty is the best school of virtue, and affords the strongest encouragements to the practice. Then, if you make a better provision for the education of our youth than has bitherto been made, if you prevent the promiscuous instruction of the docile and the indocile, of the idle and the diligent, at the public cost, but reserve the rewards of learning for the learned, and of merit for the meritorious. If you permit the free discussion of truth, without any hazard to the author, or any subjection to the caprice of an individual, which is the best way to make truth Aourish and knowledge abound, the censure of the half-learned, the envy, the pusillanimity, or the prejudice which measures the discoveries of others, and, in short, every degree of wisdom, by the measure of its own capacity, will be prevented from doling out information to us according to their own arbitrary choice. Lastly, if you shall not dread to hear any truth, or any falsehood, whatever it may be, but if you shall least of all listen to those who think that they can never be free till the liberties of others depend on their caprice, and who attempt nothing with so much zeal and vehemence as to fetter, not only the bodies but the minds of men, who labor to introduce into the state the worst of all tyrannies, the tyranny of their own depraved habits and pernicious opinions; you will always be dear to those who think not merely that their own sect or faction, but that all citizens, of all descriptions, should enjoy equal rights and equal laws. If there be any one who thinks that this is not liberty enough, he appears to me to be rather inflamed with the lust of ambition or of anarchy than with the love of a genuine and well-reguated liberty; and particularly, since the circumstances of
the country, which has been so convulsed by the storms of faction, which are yet hardly still, do not permit us to adopt a more perfect or desirable form of government.
For, it is of no little consequence, O citizens, by what principles you are governed, either in acquiring liberty, or in retaining it when acquired. And, unless that liberty, which is of such a kind as arms can neither procure nor take away, which alone is the fruit of piety, of justice, of temperance, and unadulterated virtue, shall have taken deep root in your minds and hearts, there will not long be wanting one who will snatch from you by treachery what you have acquired by arms. War has made many great whom peace makes small. If, after being released from the toils of war, you neglect the arts of peace, if your peace and your liberty be a state of warfare, if war be your only virtue, the summit of your praise, you will, believe me, soon find peace the most adverse to your interests. Your peace will be only a more distressing war; and, that which you imagined liberty, will prove the worst of slavery. Unless, by the means of piety, not frothy and loquacious, but operative, unadulterated, and sincere, you clear the horizon of the mind from those mists of superstition which arise from the ignorance of true religion, you will always have those who will bend your necks to the yoke, as if you were brutes, who, notwithstanding all your triumphs, will put you up to the highest bidder, as if you were mere booty made in war; and, will find an exuberant source of wealth in your ignorance and superstition. Unless you will subjugate the propensity to avarice, to ambition, and sensuality, and expel all luxury from yourselves and from your families, you will find that you have cher. ished a more stubborn and intractable despot at home than you ever encountered in the field; and, even your very bowels will be continually teeming with an intolerable progeny of tyrants. Let these be the first enemies whom you subdue; this constitutes the campaign of peace; these are triumphs, difficult, indeed, but bloodless ; and far more honorable than those trophies which are purchased only by slaughter and by rapine. Unless you are victors in this service, it is in vain that you have been victorious over the despotic enemy in the field. For, if you think that it is a more grand, a more beneficial, or a more wise policy, to invent subtle expedients for increasing the revenue, to multiply our naval and military force, to rival in craft the ambassadors of foreign states, to form skillful treaties and alliances, than to administer unpolluted justice to the people, to redress the injured, and to succor the distressed, and speedily to restore to every one his own, you are involved in a cloud of error; and, too late, will you perceive, when the illusion of those mighty benefits has vanished, that, in neglecting these, which you now think inferior considerations, you have only been precipitating your own ruin and despair. The fidelity of enemies and allies is frail and perishing, unless it be cemented by the principles of justice; that wealth and those honors, which most covet, readily change masters; they forsake the idle, and repair where virtue, where industry, where patience flourish most. Thus nation precipitates the downfall of nation ; thus, the more sound part of one people subverts the more corrupt, thus you obtained the ascendant over the royalists. If you plunge into the same depravity, if you imitate their excesses, and banker after the same vanities, you will become royalists as well as they, and liable to be subdued by the same enemies, or by others in your turn ; who, placing their reliance on the same religious principles, the same patience, the same integrity and discretion which made you strong, will deservedly triumph over you who are immersed in debauchery, in the luxury and the sloth of kings. Then, as if God was weary of protecting you, you will be seen to have passed through the fire, that you might perish in the smoke; the contempt which you will then experience will be great as the admiration which you now enjoy ; and, what may in future profit others, but can not benefit yourselves, you will leave a salutary proof what great things the solid reality of virtue and of piety might have effected, when the mere counterfeit and varnished resemblance could attempt such mighty achievements, and make such considerable advances towards the execution. For, if either, through your want of knowledge, your want of constancy, or your want of virtue, attempts so noble, and actions so glorious, have had an issue so unfortunate, it does not, therefore, follow, that better men should be either less daring in their projects or less sanguine in their hopes. But, from such an abyss of corruption into which you so readily fall, no one, not even Cromwell himself, nor a whole nation of Brutures, if they were alive, could deliver you if they would, or would deliver you if tl ey could. For, who would vindicate your right of unrestrained suffrage, or of choosing what representatives you liked best, merely that you might elect the creatures of your own faction, whoever they might be, or him, however small might be his worth, who would give you the most lavish feasts, and enable you to drink to the greatest excess? Thus, not wisdom and authority, but turbulence and gluttony, would soon exalt the vilest miscreants from our taverns and our brothels, from our towns and villages, to the rank and dignity of senators. For, should the management of the republic be entrusted to persons to whom no one would willingly entrust the management of his private concerns; and the treasury of the state be left to the care of those who had lavished their own fortunes in an infamous prodigality ? Should they have the charge of the public purse, which they would soon convert into a private, by their upprincipled peculations ? Are they fit to be the legislators of a whole people who themselves know not what law, what reason, what right and wrong, what crooked and straight, what licit and illicit means ? who think that all power consists in outrage, all dignity in the parade of insolence ? who neglect every other consideration for the corrupt gratification of their friendships, or the prosecution of their resentments? who disperse their own relations and creatures through the provinces, for the sake of levying taxes and confiscating goods; men, for the greater part, the most profligate and vile, who buy up for themselves what they pretend to expose to sale, who thence collect an exhorbitant mass of wealth, which they fraudulently divert from the public service ; who thus spread their pillage through the country, and, in a moment emerge from penury and rags to a state of splendor and of wealth? Who could endure such thievish servants, such vicegerents of their lords ? Who could believe that the masters and the patrons of a banditti could be the proper guardians of liberty ? or, who would suppose that he should ever be made one hair more free by such a set of public functionaries, (though they might amount to five hundred elected in this manner from the counties and boroughs,) when among them who are the very guardians of liberty, and to whose custody it is committed, there must be so many who know not either how to use or to enjoy liberty, who neither understand the principles nor merit the possession ? But, what is worthy of remark, those who are the most unworthy of liberty are wont to behave most ungratefully toward their deliverers. Among such persons, who would be willing either tu fight for liberty, or to encounter the least peril in its defence? It is not agreeable to the nature of things that such persons ever should be free. However much they may brawl about liberty, they are slaves, both at home and abroad, but without perceiving it; and, when they do perceive it, like unruly horses that are impatient of the bit, they will endeavor to throw off the yoke, vot from the love of genuine liberty, (which a good man only loves, and knows how to obtain,) but from the impulses of pride and little passions. But, though they often attempt it by arms, they will make no advances to the execution; they may change their niasters, but will never be able to get rid of their survitude. This often happened to the ancient Romans, wasted by excess, and enervated by luxury: and, it has still more so been the fate of the moderns; when, after a long interval of years, they aspired, under the auspices of Crescentius, Nomentanus, and, afterwards, of Nicolas Rentius, who had assumed the title of Tribune of the People, to restore the splendor and reëstablish the government of ancient Rome. For, instead of fretting with vexation, or thinking that you can lay the blame on any one but yourselves, know that to be free is the same thing as to be pious, to be wise, to be temperate and just, to be frugal and abstinent, and, lastly, to be magnanimous and brave; so, to be the opposite of all these is the same as to be a slave ; and, it usually happens, by the appointment and, as it were, retributive justice of the Deity, that that people which cannot govern themselves, and moderate their passions, but crouch under the slavery of their Justs, should be delivered up to the sway of those whom they abhor, and made to submit to an involuntary servitude. It is also sanctioned by the dictates of justice and by the constitution of nature, that he who, from the imbecility or derangement of his intellect, is incapable of governing himself, should, like a minor, be committed to the government of another ; and, least of all, should he be appointed to superintend the affairs of others or the interest of the state.
You, therefore, who wish to remain free, either instantly be wise, or, as soon as possible, cease to be fools; if you think slavery an intolerable evil, learn obedience to reason and the government of yourselves; and, finally, bid adieu to your
dissensions, your jealousies, your superstitions, your outrages, your rapine, and your lusts. Unless you will spare no pains to effect this, you must be judged unfit both by God and mankind, to be entrusted with the possession of liberty and tho administration of the government; but, will rather, like a nation in a state of pupilage, want some active and courageous guardian to undertake the management of your affairs. With respect to myself, whatever turn things may take, I thought that my exertions on the present occasion would be serviceable to my country; and, as they have been cheerfully bestowed, I hope that they have not been bestowed in vain. And, I have not circumscribed my defence of liberty within any petty circle around me, but have made it so general and comprehensive, that the justice and the reasonableness of such uncominon occurrences, explained and defended, both among my countrymen and among foreigners, and which all good men can not but approve, may serve to exalt the glory of my country, and to excite the imitation of posterity. If the conclusion do not answer to the beginning, that is their concern; I have delivered my testimony, I would almost say, have erected a monument that will not readily be destroyed, to the reality of those singular and mighty achievements which were above all praise. As the epic poet, who adheres at all to the rules of that species of composition, does not profess to describe the whole life of the hero whom he celebrates, but only some particular action of his life, as the resentment of Achilles at Troy, the return of Ulysses, or the coming of Æneas into Italy; so it will be sufficient, either for my justification or apology, that I have heroically celebrated at least one exploit of my countrymen; I pass by the rest, for who could recite the achievements of a whole people ? If, after such a display of courage and of vigor, you basely relinquish the path of virtue, if you do anything unworthy of yourselves, posterity will sit in judgment on your conduot. They will see that the foundations were well laid, that the beginning (nay, it was more than a beginning) was glorious; but, with deep emotions of concern, will they regret, that those were wanting who might have completed the structure. They will lament that perseverance was not conjoined with such exertions and such virtues. They will see that there was a rich harvest of glory, and an opportunity afforded for the greatest achievements, but that men only were wanting for the execution ; while they were not wanting, who could rightly counsel, exhort, inspire, and bind an unfading wreath of praise round the brows of the illustrious actors in so glorious a scene.
After reading these noble sentiments, we feel, with Wadsworth, that not only England, but our country, and the World hath need of just such men at this crisis of affairs.
We pass now to Milton's Tractate on Education, to which we have prepared brief Notes, referred to [1-72] in the text, which will be published in a subsequent article.
TRACTATE ON EDUCATION
A LETTER TO MASTER SAMUEL HARTLIB.
BY JOIN MILTON.
Master HARTLIB :-I am long since persuaded, that to say and do aught worth memory and imitation, no purpose or respect should sooner move us than simply the love of God and of mankind. Nevertheless, to write now the reforming of education, though it be one of the greatest and noblest designs that can be thought on, and for the want whereof this nation perishes, I had not yet at this time been induced but by your earnest entreaties and serious conjurements; as having my mind half diverted for the present in the pursuance of some other assertions, the knowledge and the use of which, can not but be a great furtherance both to the enlargement of truth and honest living with much more peace.
Nor should the laws of any private friendship have prevailed with me to divide thus, or transpose my former thoughts; but that I see those aims, those actions which have won you with me the esteem of a person sent hither by some good providence from a far country to be the occasion and incitement of great good to this island. And as I hear you have obtained the same repute with men of most approved wisdom and some of the highest authority among us, not to mention the learned correspondence which you hold in foreign parts, and the extraordinary pains and diligence which
have used in this matter both here and beyond the seas, either by the definite will of God so ruling, or the peculiar sway of nature, which also is God's working. Neither can I think, that so reputed and so valued as you are, you would, to the forfeit of your own discerning ability, impose upon me an unfit and over-ponderous argument; but that the satisfaction which you profess to have received from those incidental discourses which we have wandered into, hath pressed and almost constrained you into a persuasion, that what you require from me in this point, I neither ought nor can in conscience defer beyond this time both of so much need at once, and so much opportunity to try what God hath determined. I will not resist, therefore, whatever it is, either of divine or human obligement, that you lay upon me; but will forth with set down in writing, as you request me, that voluntary idea, which hath long in silence presented itself to me, of a better education, in extent and comprehension far more large, and yet of time far shorter and of attainment far