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Milton’s Second Defense of the English People

A response to The Cry of the Royal Blood published in August, 1552 by Pierre Du Moulin.

Summary of The Cry of the Royal Blood

  1. Du Moulin—"The majesty of kings has been sacred in all ages, since it is the image of the divine, the well-being of the people, and the life of the laws."
  2. Compared to the execution of Charles, the crime of the Jews against Christ was only the shadow of evil. The Jews were blinded to the glory of Christ; the regicides, however, understood full well the legal rights of their sovereign and their responsibility to him.
  3. The English struck down not only their king but their church as well. Such action was a mortal danger to all Protestant monarchies in Europe.
  4. Who was to defend such treason? Who was to answer Salmasius?
  5. Selden refused the task, and the universities had been purged of many learned men by the tyrannical republic.
  6. Only one republican was found who could write Latin—John Milton.
  7. "Who he was and where he came from was in doubt, whether a man, or a worm voided from the dung pit."
  8. Had he not
  1. been expelled from Cambridge?
  2. championed divorce initiated by either husband or wife?
  1. From the overthrow of marriages Milton had turned to the toppling of kingdoms, justifying the regicides in their unprecedented crime.
  2. In Eikonoklastes he "reviles the sacred spirit of King Charles."
  3. Finally, in his reply to Salmasius, Milton attempts to ennoble the horrible crime of the regicides by appealing to justice and religious piety.

Moulin writes for unlearned readers.

  1. They are exhorted to raise their cries to heaven against the parricides.
  2. Moulin matches Milton’s invective: "Do you, you dung-heap, you blockhead, do you dare to gnaw away at men of Salmasius’ calibre?"
  3. Milton does not deserve a reply directly from the great scholar. Salmasius’ dignity does not permit him to descend into the pit of Milton’s favored methods.
  4. Moulin uses the harshest epithets against Milton that any enemy had yet used: "Seize him! Quick! Quick!" "Bind him hands and feet! I owe him the sacred rites of the scourge. First, prod with a goad, this future disciple to a gallows, this great bulwark of the people, this prop of Parliament."

Moulin matches Milton's treatment of Salmasius insult for insult, calling Milton

  1. a great stinking pestilence,
  2. an impious tormentor,
  3. a gallows slave,
  4. a dark pettifogger.
  5. an ulcer to the church and a poison to religion.

In contesting with Salmasius, Milton is like

  1. a mouse scourging an elephant,
  2. a frog reviling a panther,
  3. an ape scoffing at a bear.

Milton teaching Salmasius how to write Latin is like

  1. a pig teaching Minerva,
  2. a Thersites teaching Nestor.

Milton is also

  1. "more savage than Busiris,"
  2. more fierce than a tigress seeking her whelps,"
  3. yet "less warlike than a scared rabbit . . . "
  4. "fouler than a toad, filthier than a prostitute."
  5. "shriller than a parricide feeding upon vipers . . ."
  6. viler than Cromwell,
  7. more damned than Ravaillac."

Moulin gives an account of the trial of Charles I.

He describes:

  1. the demeanor of Charles before the court;
  2. Charles’ courtesy to his enemies, even in the shadow of condemnation;

He then tells a story of the king’s trial and execution:

  1. Bradshaw repeatedly refuses to hear him speak in his own defense;
  2. Charles refuses to reply to the charges against him;
  3. Charles denies that any peers existed by whom legally his case might be judged: "He ordered them in turn to give a reason for having usurped power against their king; with him life was at a small price compared with reputation, conscience, laws, and the liberty of the people, all of which were being destroyed in their own defence in the presence of such judges."
  4. The insults that the king suffered. Soldiers spit on his clothes; one man spit on his face; soldiers blew smoke in his face, throwing broken pipes at his feet as he passed along; irreverent soldiers invaded his chambers night and day, laughing at his prayers, jeering and mocking his devotions, distracting him with questions.
  5. On the day of his execution, Charles "seemed rather to fly than to walk to his death, complaining to the spear-armed guards for their slowness."
  6. On the scaffold he denied the accusations against him once more, saying, "1 never conscripted an army before my enemies took up arms against me."
  7. Charles confesses guilt on the scaffold for his part in the fall of Strafford.
  8. The enemies of the king smeared their hands with his blood, dipped their staffs in his blood, carried away the bloody chips around the block. Even the bloody hairs of his head were carried away and sold.
Milton’s Response—The Second Defense of the English People
Introduction and Justification for Writing
  1. Milton opens his pamphlet by expressing gratitude that he "was born at such a time when the virtue of my fellow citizens . . . has succeeded in delivering the commonwealth from the most grievous tyranny, and religion from the most ignominious degradation."
  2. Milton took on the writing of this defense because "there suddenly arose many who (as is usual with the vulgar) basely calumniated the most illustrious achievements and, when one eminent above the rest [Salmasius], inflated with literary pride and the zealous applauses of his partisans, had in a scandalous publication [Defensio Regia pro Carolo I], which was particularly leveled against me, nefariously undertaken to plead the cause of despotism."
  3. Milton describes his victory over Salmasius: "I obtained such a victory over my opponent that notwithstanding his unparalleled assurance he was obliged to quit the field with his courage broken and his reputation lost."
  4. Milton identifies his own honor with that of England: "For who is there who does not identify the honor of his country with his own? And what can conduce more to the beauty or glory of one’s country than the recovery, not only of its civil, but its religious liberty?"
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  1. The example of the Greeks and Romans in overcoming tyranny is appealed to: "Those Greeks and Romans who are the objects of our admiration, employed hardly any other virtue in the extirpation of tyrants than that love of liberty which made them prompt in seizing the sword and gave them strength to use it."
  2. In that time, tyrants were not admired (as Milton implies that tyrants—specifically Charles I and his son, the future Charles II—are admired in 1654): "For as yet tyrants were not beheld with a superstitious reverence; as yet they were not regarded with tenderness and complacency as the vicegerents or deputies of Christ . . . as yet the vulgar, stupefied by the subtle casuistry of the priest, had not degenerated into a state of barbarism more gross than that which disgraces the most senseless natives of Hindostan. For these mischievous demons, whose malice they cannot resist, the objects of their religious adoration; while those elevate impotent tyrants, in order to shield them from destruction, into the rank of gods; consecrate the pests of the human race."
  3. But Britain has thrown off such tyranny, and is now the leading example of freedom in the world: "Britain, which was formerly styled the hotbed of tyranny, will hereafter deserve to be celebrated for endless ages as a soil most genial to the growth of liberty.’
  4. The British fighters against tyranny were virtuous, both in their cause and in their characters: "During the mighty struggle no anarchy, no licentiousness was seen . . . the rectitude of their lives and the sobriety of their habits taught them the only true and safe road to real liberty. And they took up arms only to defend the sanctity of the laws and the rights of conscience."
  5. Milton himself, though he did not take up physical arms, participated honorably in this struggle on the field of ideas: "For though I did not participate in the toils or dangers of the war, yet I was at the same time engaged in a service not less hazardous to myself and more beneficial to my fellow-citizens . . . For since from my youth I was devoted to the pursuits of literature, and my mind had always been stronger than my body, I did not court the labors of a camp, in which any common person would have been of more service than myself, but resorted to that employment in which my exertions were likely to be of most avail. Thus with the better part of my frame I contributed as much as possible to the good of my country and to the success of the glorious cause in which we were engaged; and I though that if God willed the success of such glorious achievements, it was equally agreeable to his will that there should be others by whom those achievements should be recorded with dignity and elegance, and that the truth, which had been defended by arms, should also be defended by reason; which is the best and only legitimate means of defending it."
  6. Milton again refers to his victory over Salmasius: "I am the same person who engaged in single combat that fierce advocate of despotism till then reputed invincible in the opinion of many . . . whom, while I repelled his virulence, I silenced with his own weapons; and over whom, if I may trust to the opinions of impartial judges, I gained a complete and glorious victory"
  7. God had enabled Milton to defend the cause of liberty against Salmasius; now Milton invokes God again: "The supreme wisdom and beneficence had invigorated and enlarged my faculties to defend the dearest interests, not merely of one people, but of the whole human race, against the enemies of human liberty . . . And I again invoke the same Almighty Being that I may still be able with the same integrity, the same diligence, and the same success, to defend those actions which have been so gloriously achieved; while I vindicate the authors as well as myself."
  8. Milton makes the move (familiar now from the Apology for Smectymnuus) of associating his own honor with that of the cause he is defending, claiming that when he is personally attacked, his cause is attacked. Therefore, he defends himself and his cause at the same time: "I vindicate the authors as well as myself, whose name has been associated with theirs, not so much for the sake of honor as disgrace, from unmerited ignominy and reproach. But if there are any who think that it would have been better to have passed over these in silent contempt, I should agree with them if they had been dispersed only among those who were thoroughly acquainted with our principles and our conduct. But how were strangers to discover the false assertions of our adversaries?"

Response to Du Moulin (Misidentified as Alexander More) and Definition of a Tyrant

  1. Milton is irritated by the fact that he does not know who his opponent is: "Well, I beseech, who are you? A man or nobody at all ? Certainly one of the dregs of men, for even slaves are not without a name. Shall I always have to contend with anonymous scribblers?" The irony of this statement is that Milton started his own pamphleteering career with anonymous publications.
  2. Milton goes on to accuse his anonymous opponent of "trembling with apprehension in the midst of security and seeking darkness in the midst of light, depreciat[ing] the power and majesty of sovereigns by a cowardice which must excite both hatred and distrust."
  3. Milton himself, however, argues openly: "What I am, I ingenuously profess to be."
  4. The distinction between tyrants and kings: "The prerogative which I deny to kings I would persist in denying in any legitimate monarchy; for no sovereign could injure me without first condemning himself by a confession of his despotism . . . As much as an honest man differs from a rogue, so much I contend that a king differs from a tyrant. Whence it is clear that a tyrant is so far from being a king that he is always in direct opposition to a king."
  5. The difference between tyrants and legitimate kings is the possession and use of arbitrary power: "that right which you concede to kings, the right of doing what they please, is not justice, but injustice, ruin, and despair . . . you quite obliterate the difference between a king and a tyrant if you invest both with the same arbitrary power."
  6. Tyrants are defined (much like the definition given in TKM) as vicious and necessarily dependent upon their subordinates to maintain control: "Others are vicious only for themselves, but tyrants are vicious, not only for themselves, but are even involuntarily obliged to participate in the crimes of their importunate menials and favorites and to entrust certain portions of their despotism to the vilest of their dependents. Tyrants are thus the most abject of slaves, for they are he servants of those who are themselves in servitude."

Autobiographical Section (Defense against charges made in The Cry of the Royal Blood)

Defense of His Appearance

  1. In response to Moulin’s charges that he has a "spare, shriveled, and bloodless form," Milton defends himself by writing: "It is of no moment to say anything of personal appearance, yet lest . . . anyone, from the representations of my enemies, should be led to imagine that I have either the head of a dog or the horn of a rhinoceros, I will say something on the subject."
  2. "I do not believe that I was ever once noted for deformity . . . My stature certainly is not tall, but it rather approaches the middle than the diminutive . . . Nor, though very thin, was I ever deficient in courage or in strength; and I was wont constantly to exercise myself in the use of the broadsword as long as it comported with my habit and my years . . . At this moment I have the same courage, the same strength, though not the same eyes; yet so little do they betray any external appearance of injury that they are as unclouded and bright as the eyes of those who most distinctly see . . . though I am more than forty years old, there is scarcely anyone to whom I do not appear ten years younger than I am; and the smoothness of my skin is not in the least affected by the wrinkles of age."
  3. Milton gets in a dig about his opponent’s appearance while claiming not to descend to that level: "Respecting yours, though I have been informed that it is most insignificant and contemptible, a perfect mirror of the worthlessness of your character and the malevolence of your heart, I say nothing, and no one will be anxious that anything should be said."

Defense of His Blindness

  1. Here Milton traces the age-old connection between blindness and virtue, between blindness and spiritual vision granted by the gods: "It is not so wretched to be blind as it is not to be capable of enduring blindness."
  2. "Shall I mention those wise and ancient bards whose misfortunes the gods are said to have compensated by superior endowments, and whom men so much revered that they chose rather to impute their want of sight to the injustice of heaven than to their own want of innocence or virtue?"
  3. Milton gives the example of the blindness of the Greek prophet Phineus, whom Apolonius describes as having lost his sight due to Zeus’ resentment of the unerring prophetic gift that enabled Phineus always to reveal the truth.
  4. Having raised the specter of an unjust heaven (one that haunts all three of his late poems), Milton quickly switches tactics (or dissembles): "But God himself is truth . . . We cannot suppose the deity envious of truth, or unwilling hat it should be freely communicated to mankind. The loss of sight, therefore . . . cannot be considered as a judicial punishment." "Judicial" punishment? The Latin will be important here, but the sense of "judicial" here walks a fine line between implying that blindness may not be from God (in the sense of a Judicial sentence of God as Judge) or that blindness may, in fact, be a punishment—specifically, an unjust punishment—for which Milton is careful not to assign a source, merely leaving the terms "God," "deity," and "punishment" twisting in the rhetorical wind.
  5. Milton defends himself, by invoking God, against the accusation that his blindness is indeed a punishment from God for his role in the regicide: "since my enemies boast that this affliction is only a retribution for the transgressions of my pen, I again invoke the Almighty to witness, that I never, at any time, wrote anything which I did not think agreeable to truth, to justice, and to piety."
  6. Milton argues that his blindness is a sign of God’s favor: "I am not depressed by any sense of the divine displeasure . . . in the most momentous periods, I have had full experience or the divine favor and protection . . . . indeed, in my blindness, I enjoy in no inconsiderable degree the favor of the Deity, who regards me with more tenderness and compassion in proportion as I am able to behold nothing but himself."
  7. Milton’s blindness is a mark of sacred distinction: "the divine law not only shields me from injury, but almost renders me too sacred to attack; not indeed so much from the privation of my sight, as from the overshadowing of those heavenly wings which seem to have occasioned this obscurity; and which, when occasioned, he is wont to illuminate with an interior light, more precious and more pure."
  8. Milton is not dishonored in his own country for his blindness: "Nor do the persons of principle distinction in the commonwealth suffer me to be bereaved of comfort, when they see me bereaved of sight . . . they show me favor and indulgence, as to a soldier who has served his time, and kindly concede to me an exemption from care and toil. They do not strip me of the badges of honor which I have once worn; they do not deprive me of the places of public trust to which I have been appointed; they do not abridge my salary or emoluments."
  9. "Thus, while both God and man unite in solacing me under the weight of my affliction, let no one lament my loss of sight in so honorable a cause."

Milton’s Comment on His Divorce Tracts

"I wrote nothing more than . . . Bucer on the Kingdom of Christ, Fagius on Deuteronomy, and Erasmus on the first Epistle to the Corinthians . . . . I regret that I published this work in English; for then it would not have been exposed to the view of those common readers, who are wont to be as ignorant of their own blessings as they are insensible to other’s sufferings."

Early Studies and the Cause of His Blindness

  1. "My father destined me from a child to the pursuits of literature; and my appetite for knowledge was so voracious that, from twelve years of age, I hardly ever left my studies, or went to be before midnight. This primarily led to my loss of sight. My eyes were naturally weak, and I was subject to frequent headaches; which, however, could not chill the ardor of my curiosity, or retard the progress of my improvement."
  2. "On my father’s estate, where he had determined to pass the remainder of his days, I enjoyed an interval of uninterrupted leisure, which I entirely devoted to the perusal of the Greek and Latin classics."

Account of His Travels In Europe

  1. "I then became anxious to visit foreign parts, and particularly Italy. My father gave me his permission, and I left home with one servant."
  2. "Henry Wotton, who had long been king James’s ambassador at Venice, gave me . . . an elegant letter . . . containing some maxims of conduct which I found very useful in my travels."
  3. "Thomas Scudamore, king Charles’s ambassador . . . received me most courteously at Paris. His lordship gave me a card of introduction to the learned Hugo Grotius."
  4. Milton then traveled to Florence: "No time will ever abolish the agreeable recollections which I cherish of Jacob Gaddi, Carolo Dati, Frescobaldo, Coltellino, Bonmathei, Clementillo, Francini, and others."
  5. "From Florence I went to Siena, thence to Rome, where, after I had spent about two months in viewing the antiquities of that renowned city . . . I continued my route to Naples."
  6. In Naples, Milton "was introduced . . . to a nobleman of distinguished rank and authority . . . On my departure he gravely apologized for not having shown me more civility, which he said he had been restrained from doing, because I had spoken with so little reserve on mattes of religion."
  7. Milton then recounts why he decided to end his trip: "the melancholy intelligence which I received of the civil commotions in England made me alter my purpose; for I thought it base to be travelling for amusement abroad, while my fellow-citizens were fighting for liberty at home." Milton, though, takes several months to eventually wind his way back to England.
  8. Milton claims to have been the target of a Jesuit plot: "While I was on my way back to Rome, some merchants informed me that the English Jesuits had formed a plot against me if I returned to Rome, because I had spoken too freely on religion."
  9. Milton’s rule for religious disputations: "never to be the first to begin any conversation on religion; but if any questions were put to me concerning my faith, to declare it without any reserve or fear."
  10. Milton went to Rome despite the plot: "I, nevertheless, returned to Rome. I took no steps to conceal either my person or my character; and for about the space of two months I again openly defended, as I had done before, the reformed religion in the very metropolis of popery." The self-conscious characterization of himself as a brave religious reformer should not be minimized here. Returning to Rome in the face of possible persecution is, of course, patterned at least partly after Paul; it is also reminiscent of the decision of Miguel Servetus to travel to Genva despite the death sentence from Calvin which awaited him there.
  11. Milton himself travels to Geneva to hold "daily conferences with John Deodati, the learned professor of theology."
  12. Milton swears that he held strictly to the path of virtue in his travels: "[I] again call the Deity to witness, that in all those places in which vice meets with so little discouragement, and is practiced with so little shame, I never once deviated from the paths of integrity and virtue, and perpetually reflected that, though my conduct might escape the notice of men, it could not elude the inspection of God."
  13. Milton finally returns to England "after an absence of one year and about three months."

Milton’s Description of His Career

At the time of Milton’s return to England, "Charles, having broken the peace, was renewing what is called the episcopal war with the Scots."

The Anti-Prelatical Tracts

  1. The period of the anti-prelatical tracts is described: "As long as the liberty of speech was no longer subject to control, all mouths began to be opened against the bishops; some complained of the vices of the individuals, others of those of the order. They said that it was unjust that they alone should differ from the model of other reformed churches; that the government of the church should be according to the pattern of other churches, and particularly the word of God."
  2. Milton saw this period as opening the way "for the establishment of real liberty." He saw the tumult over religious liberty as "the foundation . . . laying for the deliverance of man from the yoke of slavery and superstition; that the principles of religion . . . would exert a salutary influence on the manners and constitution of the republic."
  3. Milton had from his youth "studied the distinctions between religious and civil rights," and he hurled himself into the anti-prelatical controversy: "I accordingly wrote two books to a friend concerning the Reformation of the Church of England. Afterwards, when two bishops of superior distinction vindicated their privileges against some principle ministers [Hall and Ussher—the "principle ministers" are the group of Presbyterian divines who called themselves, collectively, Smectymnuus] . . . . I . . . answered the one in two books, of which the first is inscribed, Concerning Prelatical Episcopacy, and the other, Concerning the mode of Ecclesiastical Government; and I replied to the other in some Animadversions, and soon after in an Apology."
  4. Milton "brought a timely succor to the ministers, who were hardly a match for the eloquence of their opponents."

Milton’s Description of the Three Modes of Liberty

"I perceived that there were three species of liberty which are essential to the happiness of social life—religious, domestic, and civil."

Milton’s New Focus—Domestic Liberty

"As I had already written concerning the first [religious liberty], and the magistrates were strenuously active in obtaining the third [civil liberty], I determined to turn my attention to the second, or the domestic species. As this seemed to involve three material questions, the conditions of the conjugal tie, the education of the children, and the free publications of the thoughts, I made them objects of distinct consideration."

The Divorce Tracts

  1. "I explained my sentiments, not only concerning the solemnization of the marriage, but the dissolution, if circumstances rendered it necessary; and I drew my arguments from the divine law, which Christ did not abolish, or publish another more grievous than that of Moses."
  2. "He in vain makes a vaunt of liberty in the senate or in the forum, who languishes under the vilest servitude, to an inferior at home."
  3. "I published some books which were more particularly necessary at that time when man and wife were often the most inveterate foes, when the man often stayed to take care of his children at home, while the mother of the family was seen in the camp of he enemy, threatening death and destruction to her husband."

Of Education

"I then discussed the principles of education . . . than which nothing can be more necessary to principle the minds of men in virtue, the only genuine source of political and individual liberty."


"I wrote my Aeropagetica, in order to deliver the press from the restraints with which it was encumbered; that the power of determining what was true and what was false, what ought to be published and what to be suppressed, might no longer be entrusted to a few illiterate and illiberal individuals, who refused their sanction to any work which contained views or sentiments at all above the level of vulgar superstition."

Tenure of Kings and Magistrates

"On the last species of liberty I said nothing . . . nor did I write anything on the prerogative of the crown, till the king, voted and 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 . . . 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 . . . I showed, in an abstract consideration of the question, what might lawfully be done against tyrants."


"After the subversion of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic, I was surprised by an invitation from the council of state . . . A book appeared soon after, which was ascribed to the king [Eikon Basilike], 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 Panegyric to Cromwell

Here Milton begins to show symptoms of nervousness and doubt regarding the state of England. The long section devoted to Cromwell seems like exhortation more than description, like praise designed to force Cromwell to live up to the very public picture of him that Milton paints. Cromwell has already shown signs of slipping into the age-old "Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss" syndrome, dissolving parliament and taking on the all-but-king position of Lord Protector.

  1. "You have triumphed over that flame of ambition and that lust of glory which are wont to make the best and greatest of men their slaves. The purity of your virtues and the splendor of your actions consecrate those sweets of ease which you enjoy, and which constitute the wished-for haven of the toils of man."
  2. "While you, O Cromwell, are left among us, he hardly shows a proper confidence in the Supreme, who distrusts the security of England, when he sees that you are in so special a manner the favored object of the divine regard."
  3. "We all willingly yield the palm of sovereignty to your unrivalled ability and virtue . . . nothing in the world is more pleasing to God, more agreeable to reason, more politically just, or more generally useful than that the supreme power should be vested in the best and the wisest of men. Such, O Cromwell, all acknowledge you to be. Such are the services which you have rendered, as the leader of our councils, the general of our armies, and the father of your country."
  4. "Other names you neither have nor could endure, and you deservedly reject that pomp of title which attracts the gaze and admiration of the multitude . . . But since, though it be no fit, it may be expedient, that the highest pitch of virtue should be circumscribed within the bounds of some human appellation, you endured to receive, for the public good, a title most like that to the father of your country; not to exalt, but rather to bring you nearer to the level of ordinary men. The title of king was unworthy the transcendent majesty of your character."
  5. You cannot be truly free unless we are free too; for such is the nature of things that he who entrenches on the liberty of others is the first to lose his own and become a slave. But if you who have hitherto been the patron and tutelary genius of liberty, if you who are exceeded by no one in justice, in piety, in goodness, should hereafter invade that liberty which you have defended . . . your integrity and virtue will appear to have evaporated, your faith in religion to have been small. Your character with posterity will dwindle into insignificance, by which a most destructive blow will be leveled against the happiness of mankind."

Milton Outlines General Principles of Liberty

In what follows, Milton seems almost to be grieving before the fact the loss of liberty he fears the imminent restoration of Charles II will bring.  The people of England are on the verge of proving themselves unworthy of freedom unless they can live up to the heroically stringent picture of liberty Milton here paints.

  1. "It is of no little consequence, O citizens, by what principles you are governed, either in acquiring liberty or in retaining it when acquired . . . 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 rot 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."
  2. "War has made many great whom peace makes small . . . if war be your only virtue . . . 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."
  3. "You will always have those who will bend your necks to the yoke as if you were brutes."
  4. "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 cherished 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."
  5. "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 restore to every one his own, you are involved in a cloud of error."
  6. "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 hanker 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 . . . . the contempt which you will then experience will be as great as the admiration which you now enjoy."
  7. "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?"
  8. "Those who are most unworthy of liberty are wont to behave most ungratefully towards their deliverers . . . 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."
  9. "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."
  10. "It usually happens by the appointment and as it were by the retributive justice of the Deity that that people which cannot govern themselves and moderate their passions, but crouch under the slavery of their lusts, should be delivered up to the sway of those whom they abhor and made to submit to an involuntary servitude."
  11. "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."

The Atheist Milton

Michael Bryson
(Ashgate  Press, 2012)

Basing his contention on two different lines of argument, Michael Bryson posits that John Milton–possibly the most famous 'Christian' poet in English literary history–was, in fact, an atheist.

First, based on his association with Arian ideas (denial of the doctrine of the Trinity), his argument for the de Deo theory of creation (which puts him in line with the materialism of Spinoza and Hobbes), and his Mortalist argument that the human soul dies with the human body, Bryson argues that Milton was an atheist by the commonly used definitions of the period. And second, as the poet who takes a reader from the presence of an imperious, monarchical God in Paradise Lost, to the internal-almost Gnostic-conception of God in Paradise Regained, to the absence of any God whatsoever in Samson Agonistes, Milton moves from a theist (with God) to something much more recognizable as a modern atheist position (without God) in his poetry.

Among the author's goals in The Atheist Milton is to account for tensions over the idea of God which, in Bryson's view, go all the way back to Milton's earliest poetry. In this study, he argues such tensions are central to Milton's poetry–and to any attempt to understand that poetry on its own terms.


The Tyranny of Heaven
Milton's Rejection of God as King

Michael Bryson
(U. Delaware Press, 2004)

The Tyranny of Heaven argues for a new way of reading the figure of Milton's God, contending that Milton rejects kings on earth and in heaven. Though Milton portrays God as a king in Paradise Lost, he does this neither to endorse kingship nor to recommend a monarchical model of deity. Instead, he recommends the Son, who in Paradise Regained rejects external rule as the model of politics and theology for Milton's "fit audience though few." The portrait of God in Paradise Lost serves as a scathing critique of the English people and its slow but steady backsliding into the political habits of a nation long used to living under the yoke of kingship, a nation that maintained throughout its brief period of liberty the image of God as a heavenly king, and finally welcomed with open arms the return of a human king.

Review of Tyranny of Heaven