« PreviousContinue »
HIS POLITICAL BIAS.
Parliament and the Assembly of Divines, 'considering that the late civil broils had cast us into a condition not much unlike to what the Britons then were in when the imperial jurisdiction departing hence left them to the sway of their own councils.' It is omitted in all editions up to that of 1738 for political reasons. It is too long and dry to insert here, though some part of it is highly autobiographical, as he seems evidently to have had his own sufferings and treatment in view, and his own petition to the sequestrators with regard to the property of his father-in-law, Richard Powell.
On civil liberty I said nothing, because I saw that sufficient attention was paid to it by the magistrates; nor did I write anything on the prerogative of the Crown, till the king, voted an enemy by the Parliament, and vanquished in the field, was summoned before the tribunal which condemned him to lose his head. But when, at length, some Presbyterian ministers, who had formerly been the most bitter enemies to Charles, became jealous of the growth of the Independents and of their ascendency in the Parliament, most. tumultuously clamoured against the sentence, and
did all in their power to prevent the execution, though they were not angry, so much on account of the act itself, as because it was not the act of their party; and when they dared to affirm that the doctrine of the Protestants, and of all the reformed Churches, was abhorrent to such an atrocious proceeding against kings, I thought that it became me to oppose such a glaring falsehood; and accordingly, without any immediate or personal application to Charles, I showed, in an abstract consideration of the question, what might lawfully be done against tyrants; and in support of what I advanced, produced the opinions of the most celebrated divines; while I vehemently inveighed against the egregious ignorance or effrontery of men who professed better things, and from whom better things might have been expected. That book! did not make its appearance till after the death of Charles; and was written rather to reconcile the minds of the people to the event than to discuss the legitimacy of that particular sentence which concerned the magistrates, and which was already executed. Such were the 1 The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, 1648–49.
fruits of my private studies, which I gratuitously presented to the Church and to the State; and for which I was recompensed by nothing but impunity; though the actions themselves procured me peace of conscience, and the approbation of the good; while I exercised that freedom of discussion which I loved. Others, without labour or desert, got possession of honours and emoluments; but no one ever knew me either soliciting anything myself or through the medium of my friends. I usually kept myself secluded at home, where my own property, part of which had been withheld during the civil commotions, and part of which had been absorbed in the oppressive contributions which I had to sustain, afforded me a scanty subsistence. When I was released from these engagements, and thought that I was about to enjoy an interval of uninterrupted ease, I turned my thoughts to a continued history of my country, from the earliest times to the present period. I had already finished four books, when, after the subversion of the monarchy, and the establishment of a republic,
Á was surprised by an invitation from the Council
1 This applies to all he had hitherto written.
of State, who desired my services in the office for Foreign Affairs. A book1 appeared soon after, which was ascribed to the king, and contained the most invidious charges against the Parliament. I was ordered to answer it, and opposed the Iconoclast to his Icon. I did not insult over fallen majesty, as is pretended; I only preferred Queen Truth to King Charles. The charge of insult, which I saw that the malevolent would urge, I was at some pains to remove in the beginning of the work; and as often as possible in other places. Salmasius then appeared, to whom they were not long, as More says, in looking about for an opponent, but immediately appointed me, who happened at the time to be present in the Council. I have thus given some account of myself, in order to stop your mouth, O More, and to remove any prejudices which your falsehoods and misrepresentations might cause even good men to entertain against me.' 2
'Which enterprise' (the defence of the people of England in the matter of Charles's trial and
The Icon Basilikè, written by Charles I. or Dr. Gauden. 2 'The Second Defence,' Works, vol. i. p. 259.
QUEEN TRUTH AND KING CHARLES.
execution), though some of the most eminent persons in our commonwealth have prevailed upon me by their authority to undertake, and would have it be my business to vindicate with my pen against envy and calumny those glorious performances of theirs (whose opinion of me I take as a very great honour, that they should pitch upon me before others to be serviceable in this kind of those most valiant deliverers of my native country; and true it is, that from my very youth, I have been bent extremely upon such sort of studies as inclined me, if not to do great things myself, at least to celebrate those that did), yet as having no confidence in any such advantages, I have recourse to the Divine assistance; and invoke the great and holy God, the Giver of all good gifts, that I may as substantially and as truly discourse and refute the sauciness and lies of this foreign declaimer, as our noble generals piously and successfully by force of arms broke the king's pride, and his unruly domineering, and afterwards put an end to both by inflicting a memorable punishment upon himself, and as thoroughly as a single person' did
Milton himself in his Iconoclastes.