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Soon after the march of Fairfax and Cromwell, with the whole army through the city, in April, 1647, to suppress the insurrection of Brown and Massey, Milton removed to Holborn, where he continued until after the King's death; when, the form of the government being changed to a republic, and the Presbyterians, then out of power, declaring their abhorrence of the Stuart's execution, Milton undertook, in the following treatise, to maintain the right of nations to put a tyrant to death. Wood rightly supposes it was written before the execution of Charles I., though it now contains many passages afterwards inserted ;* but Milton himself assures us it was not published until the transaction had taken place; and even then more with a design to compose the public mind, and reconcile to the existing government such as were disaffected, than to determine any thing respecting the late king. From a MS. note found in a printed copy in his possession, Dr. Birch discovered that the work was published in the month of February, 1648-9.7 It should be remembered that even in his “ Defence of the People of England," when there existed no reasons for suppressing or disguising his sentiments, Milton never exhibited any hatred of just and lawful princes; and here, in advocating tyrannicide, takes the greatest care to distinguish between the king and the tyrant. His opinions, in fact, were those of Buchanan, (" De Jure Regni apud Scotos,") from whom Dryden absurdly accuses him of stealing the whole “ Defence of the People of England;"# and upon the Revolution of 1688, Locke maintained, with the approbation of King William III., precisely the same proposition. This the reader should constantly bear in mind, as well as that he wrote in a Commonwealth, at a time when the opinions of most learned men were unfavourable to monarchy.
* In the second edition, in 1650; for his works had then a rapid sale.