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To these men, thus ardently praised by Milton, has been ascribed, as we have already intimated, his present appointment by the Council. But if the preference was in the first instance the suggestion of friendship, it was afterwards proved by the event to be the dictate of wisdom. The hand of the Latin Secretary most ably concurred with the spirit of the executive council; and during his continuance in office, which was prolonged to the Restoration, the state-papers in his department may be regarded as models in the class of diplomatic composition. They speak indeed the language of energy and wisdom; and entitled equally to the applause of the scholar and the stalesman, they must have
tyrant of England, to a public and exemplary death; thereby presenting to the amazed world, and transmitting down through applauding ages,
the most glorious example
of unshaken virtue,
love of freedom,
and impartial justice, ever exhibited on the blood-stained theatre
of human action.
Oh! Reader! pass not on till thou hast blessed his memory;
and never-never forget THAT REBELLION TO TYRANTS
IS OBEDIENCE TO GOD.
impressed foreign states with a high opinion of that government for which they were written, and in the service of which so much ability was engaged. It may be observed that the character of their immediate author is too great to be altogether lost in that of the ministerial organ; and that in many of them Milton may be traced in distinct, though not discordant existence from the power for whom he acts. "The letters which he wrote in the Protector's name to mediate for the oppressed protestants of Piedmont, whose sufferings had revived the horror of the catholic atrocities in Ireland, might be cited in testimony of what I affirm. These official
See Letters to the Duke of Savoy, to the Prince of Transylvania, to the King of Sweden, to the States of Holland, Switzerland, and Geneva, to the Kings of France and of Denmark. P. W. ii. 503.-509.
It may be proper to observe that this active and powerful interposition of the Protector's was productive of its intended effect. The catholic tyrant desisted from the slaughter of his innocent subjects, and these miserable people had a breathingtime from their calamities. I call them, as they are called in these official despatches, by the generally known name of Protestants: but the dissenters from the papal church who occupied the vallies of Piedmont had neither connexion nor a common origin with those who were properly called protestants from one of the first acts of their association in Germany. The Waldenses asserted a much more ancient pedigree; and assumed to be of the old Roman church before it was corrupted by the papal innovations.
instruments are faithful, no doubt, to the general purposes of him under whose authority they were produced: but they exhibit also much of the liberal and benevolent spirit of the secretary: their mirror cannot be convicted of falsehood or perversion: but, with unquestionable flattery, it reflects the harsh features of the English usurper so softened into positive beauty as to conciliate our affection equally with our respect.
But it was not merely in conducting the correspondence of the state with foreign powers, that Milton's ministerial agency was employed. It seems to have been used by the Council in all cases which related to foreigners, and to have been nearly of an equal extent with that of the modern Secretary of State for the Foreign Department. On this subject a fact is recorded by Philips which, as it attests the efficiency of the Council and of its Secretary, may properly be inserted in
in our page.
At a period not precisely ascertained by the narrator, but evidently soon after the establishment of the new republic, a person arrived from France with a very sumptuous train, in the assumed character of an agent from the Prince of Conde, then in arms against the French Government as it was conducted
by Cardinal Mazarin. The character however of the pretended agent of Conde incurring the suspicion of the English Council, its official instruments were employed with so much activity and effect that, in the short space of four or five days, the
question was discovered, by intelligence procured from Paris, to be an emissary of the exiled king's; and on the very next morning, the Secretary's kinsman, (Philips himself, as we may conclude,) was sent to him with an order from the Council to depart the kingdom within three days or to expect the punishment of a spy.
On another occasion also, as the circumstance is related by Philips, were the ability and official diligence of Milton and his masters very conspicuously displayed. When the Dutch, desirous of avoiding a rupture with England, had despatched three ambassadors to the English government with proposals for an accommodation, and, on the return of these delegates without the accomplishment of their purpose, had resolved on sending a plenipotentiary with lower terms and with a design of gaining time, the Council of State succeeded in procuring a copy of this minister's instructions even previously to his embarkation; and before he could make his public entry into London,
an answer to all his propositions was prepared and lay ready to be delivered to him at the Secretary's Office."
Scarcely was Milton seated in his new and honourable place, when he was summoned by the government to the discharge of a peculiar duty, adapted to his powers,
and of no inconsiderable importance.
Immediately on the death of the king, a book, with his name as its author, had been published under the title of Eικών Βασιλικη (Icon Basilike) or “ The Portraiture of his sacred Majesty in his solitudes and sufferings.” The stroke of violence, by which Charles had fallen, had excited very generally throughout England a sensation of sympathy and a strong sentiment of disapprobation. He appeared to have been the victim of an ambitious and a sanguinary faction; and, while his faults were generously buried in his grave, his virtues were seen in more than their proper size and were admitted to more than their just share of praise. The publication therefore of a work professedly by his own hand, in which he is represented in the constant intercourse of prayer with his Creator, asserting the integrity of his motives before the great Searcher of hearts and urging an awful appeal from
Philips's Life of Milton, xliii, xliv.