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to say the least, and that too without the cover of necessity or authority, as that of the Parliament. But prejudice knows no reason, and the people, discontented and harassed, did not stop to philosophize, but clamored ominously for a reform.
For the inauguration of the new régime they looked to Oliver Cromwell, then decorated with the almost imperial title of Captain-General, and the idol alike of the army and of the populace. The early and lamented death of the accomplished and high-minded Hampden, the resignation of Fairfax, the sudden death of that stern and inflexible republican, and popular and potent leader, Ireton, * had deprived the nation of many of those leaders upon whom it had been wont to rely, while at the same time these circumstances had served to render the popularity of the grandest chief of them all, Cromwell, all but limitless. To him therefore the nation appealed in this crisis.
Returning flushed with success from the splendid triumphs of Dunbar and Worcester,
* Ireton died at Limerick, Ireland, of the plague, in Nov. 1651.
where the royal cause, which the outlawed prince had sought to prop up by foreign invasion, had again and hopelessly fallen before the genius and the trenchant blade of the CaptainGeneral, his ears were instantly filled with the popular grievances. Wielding the army in his right hand and holding the people in his left, Cromwell now determined to remould the state.
Whether he was urged to what is called his usurpation by hypocritical and impious ambition, or by honest and patriotic zeal for the welfare of the Commonwealth, is matter of mere idle speculation. He is to be judged by his acts, not by his secret impulses. Only the great Searcher of all hearts is competent to let the plummet down into Cromwell's soul and to disclose his motives.
And this is what he did: the “Rump" Parliament was dismissed ; a new legislature was elected by Cromwell's own authority. After a brief and inefficient existence of but a few months, this puny Parliament, which was called, from one of its leading members, a leather-seller of Fleet-street, “Barebone's Par
liament,” was also rather roughly sent from the Council-chamber; and a board of officers assumed the authority, acting professedly for the nation, to appoint Cromwell to the supreme control, with the title of “Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England." At the same time provision was made for the triennial convocation of a Parliament in whose constitution the popular element was a decided feature.
Into this high office the Lord Protector was installed, amid much enthusiasm and with magnificent ceremonies, on the 16th of December, 1653.
History has of course branded this whole procedure as, in a technical sense, illegal; but remembering the distraction of the times, the foundations of the great political deep broken up, anarchy running mad and raving through the affrighted streets, all generous and libertyloving souls will find palliation for Cromwell's
usurpation,” which gave England a stable government, needed rest, and rational freedom, during the remainder of the great Protector's life.
With this new government Milton at once
fell in, because "he confidently hoped,” says Toland, “that Cromwell would employ his power and trust to extinguish the numerous factions in the state, and to settle a perfect form of free government, wherein no single person should enjoy any power above or beside the laws."
The Latin Secretaryship was continued under the Protectorate, with Milton still at its head, he being allowed to have, on account of his blindness, an assistant, one Andrew Marvell, a person of learning and real worth, besides being a devoted friend of the famous Secretary Milton's salary continued to be two
. hundred pounds a year, as before.
It is very certain that Milton warmly admired Cromwell's genius and character. The Protector was a sincere friend of complete religious toleration, not, as is too often the case, from carelessness or lukewarmness—for surely no man ever had more decided religious opinions than Oliver Cromwell—but from a firm belief in the justice of the principle. Here at the outset a chord of sympathy was established between these two celebrated men; and when, shortly after his assumption of sovereign power, Cromwell proclaimed religious toleration, Milton addressed to him this expressive and justly eulogistic sonnet:
“Cromwell, our chief of men, who through a cloud
Not of war only, but distractions rude,
Guided by faith and matchless fortitude,
And fought God's battles, and his work pursued,
And Dunbar's field resounds thy praises loud,
To conquer still ; peace has her victories
No less than those of war. New foes arise,
Help us to save free conscience from the paw
It was, as before stated, in the year 1654 that the “Second Defence of the English People” was published, and consequently but a few months after the commencement of Cromwell's Protectorate. It is in this work, written under the circumstances just described, that Milton's portrait and eulogy of the Lord Protector appear. This apostrophe, though highly laudatory, is singularly free from flattery or sycophancy, and betrays the erect and austerely independent spirit which made John Milton in many respects a model citizen.