Imágenes de página

160. As to the act of hostility, though not much material in whom first it began, or by whose commissions dated first, after such counsels and preparations discovered, and so far advanced by the king, yet in that act also he will be found to have had precedency, if not at London by the assault of his armed court upon the naked people, and his attempt upon the House of Commons, yet certainly at Hull, first by his close practices on that town, next by his siege. Thus whether counsels, preparations, or acts of hostility be considered, it appears with evidence enough, though much more might be said, that the king is truly charged to be the first beginner of these civil wars. To which may be added as a close, that in the Isle of Wight he charged it upon himself at the public treaty, and acquitted the parliament.

161. But as for the securing of Hull and the public stores therein, and in other places, it was no “surprisal of his strength;” the custody whereof by authority of parliament was committed into hands most fit and most responsible for such a trust. It were a folly beyond ridiculous, to count ourselves a free nation, if the king, not in parliament, but in his own person, and against them, might appropriate to himself the strength of a whole nation as his proper goods. What the laws of the land are, a parliament should know best, having both the life and death of laws in their lawgiving power : and the law of England is, at best, but the reason of parliament. The parliament therefore, taking into their hands that whereof most

properly they ought to have the keeping, committed no surprisal. If they prevented him, that argued not at all either “his innocency or unpreparedness, but their timely foresight to use prevention.

162. But what needed that? “They knew his chiefest arms left him were those only which the ancient Christians were wont to use against their persecutors, prayers and tears.” (68) O sacred reverence of God! respect and shame of men! whither were ye fled when these hypocrisies were uttered ? Was the kingdom then at all that cost of blood to remove from him none but prayers and tears ? What were those thousands of blaspheming cavaliers about him, whose mouths let fly oaths and curses by the volley: were those the prayers; and those carouses drunk to the confusion of all things good or holy, did those minister the tears ? Were they prayers and tears that were listed at York, mustered on Heworth Moor, and laid seige to Hull for the guard of his person? Were prayers and tears at so high a rate in Holland, that nothing could purchase them but the crown jewels ? Yet they in Holland (such word was sent us) sold them for guns, carabines, mortar-pieces, cannons, and other deadly instruments of war; which, when they came to York, were all, no doubt by the merit of some great saint, suddenly transformed into prayers and tears: and, being divided into regiments and

(68) They who read the history of the civil wars will certainly be astonished at this declaration, and think Milton's rebuke richly deserved.

brigades, were the only arms that mischieved us in all those battles and encounters.

163. These were his chief arms, whatever we must call them, and yet such arms as they who fought for the commonwealth have, by the help of better prayers, vanquished and brought to nothing. He bewails his want of the militia, “not so much in reference to his own protection, as the people's, whose many and sore oppressions grieve him.” Never considering how ill for seventeen years together he had protected them, and that these miseries of the people are still his own handiwork, having smitten them, like a forked arrow, so sore into the kingdom's sides, as not to be drawn out and cured without the incision of more flesh.

164. He tells us, that “ what he wants in the hand of power,” he has in “ the wings of faith and prayer.” But they who made no reckoning of those wings, while they had that power in their hands, may easily mistake the wings of faith for the wings of presumption, and so fall headlong. We meet next with a comparison, how apt let them judge who have travelled to Mekka, “ that the parliament have hung the majesty of kingship in an airy imagination of regality, between the privileges of both houses, like the tomb of Mahomet.” He knew not that he was prophesying the death and burial of a Turkish tyranny, that spurned down those laws which gave it life and being, so long as it endured to be a regulated monarchy.

165. He counts it an injury “not to have the sole power in himself to help or hurt any;" and that the “ militia, which he holds to be his undoubted right, should be disposed as the parliament thinks fit:" and yet confesses, that, if he had it in his actual disposing, he would defend those whom he calls “ his good subjects, from those men's violence and fraud, who would persuade the world, that none but wolves are fit to be trusted with the custody of the shepherd and his flock.” Surely, if we may guess whom he means here, by knowing whom he hath ever most opposed in this controversy, we may then assure ourselves, that by violence and fraud he means that which the parliament bath done in settling the militia, and those the wolves into whose hands it was by them intrusted : which draws a clear confession from his own mouth, that if the parliament had left him sole power of the militia, he would have used it to the destruction of them and their friends.

166. As for sole power of the militia, which he claims as a right no less undoubted than the crown, it hath been oft enough told him, that he hath no more authority over the sword than over the law : over the law he hath none, either to establish or to . abrogate, to interpret or to execute, but only by his courts and in his courts, whereof the parliament is highest; no more therefore bath he power of the militia, which is the sword, either to use or to dispose, but with consent of parliament; give him but that, and as good give him in a lump all our laws and liberties. For if the power of the sword were anywhere separate and undepending from the power of the law, which is originally

seated in the highest court, then would that power of the sword be soon master of the law: and being at one man's disposal might, when he pleased, control the law; and in derision of our Magna Charta, which were but weak resistance against an armed tyrant, might absolutely enslave us. And not to have in ourselves, though vaunting to be freeborn, the power of our own freedom, and the public safety, is a degree lower than not to have the property of our own goods. For liberty of person, and the right of self-preservation, is much nearer, much more natural, and more worth to all men, than the property of their goods and wealth. Yet such power as all this did the king in open terms challenge to have over us, and brought thousands to help him win it; so much more good at fighting than at understanding, as to persuade themselves, that they fought then for the subject's liberty

167. He is contented, because he knows no other remedy, to resign this power “ for his own time, but not for his successors :” so diligent and careful he is, that we should be slaves, if not to him, yet to his posterity, and fain would leave us the legacy of another war about it. But the parliament have done well to remove that question : whom, as his manner is to dignify with some good name or other, he calls now a “ many-headed hydra of government, full of factious distractions, and not more eyes than mouths." Yet surely not more mouths, or not so wide, as the dissolute rabble of all his courtiers had, both hees and shees, if there were any males among them.

« AnteriorContinuar »