was the foremost among them. For two thou- | a venal and pedantic polyhistor. Milton's sand gold-pieces Charles II. purchased the ever- learning was not merely a sterile and useless ready pen of this great scholar to justify the accumulation of indigested material, however memory of his father and abuse the whole well calculated to tickle his own vanity, or to English nation. Such, however, was the influ- impose upon the blind multitude. His knowlence of the press already at that time, that the edge had passed into flesh and blood, and beParliament again took notice of the work come united with his whole character, and written by Salmasius, and instructed Milton with his peculiarities of thinking and feeling. to publish a reply to it. It is true, the author's It was, therefore, under the promptings of a name added greatly to the importance that more exalted spirit that he entered upon this was attached to this pamphlet. Salmasius new task and wrote his “Defensio Populi." was considered the most learned man of his In this defence, he developed already, with age; he spoke all living and dead languages, surprising boldness, the principles which Latin and Greek, even Persian, Syriac, and Rousseau afterwards only repeated in his “ ConArabic. At the university he taught at the trat Social,” and which were sufficient to shake same time all sciences, theology, medicine, the foundations of the whole civilized world. jurisprudence, and history. By means of his Milton rested bis argument likewise on popular innumerable treatises, commentaries, notes, sovereignty, and contended that the nation and learned prefaces, he had gained the great- had conferred power on the king solely for the est celebrity throughout Europe, and hitherto sake of its own security. The sensation which no one had ventured to dispute with him Lis his work produced was extraordinary. So supremacy in the learned world.

He was eagerly and universally was it perused by the courted by the most powerful monarchs; both nation and throughout Europe, that fifty thouRichelieu and Mazarin had taken the utmost sand copies were sold in the course of a few pains to win him for France, and the eccentric weeks. The foreign ambassadors congratuQueen of Sweden succeeded only by means lated Milton on this unexpected success; even of urgent prayers in prevailing on him to com- the former patrons of Salmasius turned their ply with her invitation and come to Stockholm. backs disdainfully upon the discomfited proWhen the celebrated professor was sick, or fessor, and lavished praise and flatteries on his would not leave his house, owing to the cold | victorious opponent. Queen Christina now declimate of the north, Christina herself came to rided her former favorite even more than she him, kindled the fire in the stove, cooked his had once admired and revered him. Salmasius breakfast, and often stayed for whole days at vainly made new efforts to wrest from his adhis bedside; so that the professor's wife be- versary his newly-gained laurels ; every such came jealous of the queen, and compelled attempt resulted in more profound humiliations her learned husband to leave Stockholm and for him. But Milton achieved his triumphs Sweden.

only at a heavy cost. Every word which he Such was the disputant with whom Milton wrote, and by which he crushed the venal pednow had to deal. All his friends were afraid ant, impaired his eyesight. A dreadful headlest this controversy should result in his signal ache, with which he had often been affected discomfiture, and sought to dissuade him from from his earliest youth, added to the pains of entering upon it. Milton, however, was con- his suffering eyes ; but he paid little or no atscious of his strength, and knew that his abil tention to the augmentation of his ills. Like ity was not only equal, but superior to that of a brave soldier, he continued the struggle with




bleeding wounds, and, though. fearfully in- as his friends asserted, Milton's severities bad jured, sternly refused to leave the field of broken his heart. battle.

Milton had conquered, but almost lost his The medieval tournaments had now given eyesight in the struggle. To his triumph soon place to the scientific controversies of the most succeeded the everlasting night of blindness. illustrious scholars, and the public took as much interest in them as in the knightly con. tests of former times. Princes and peoples were the spectators, and the power of the press

CHAPTER III. had vastly extended the bounds of the formerlyrestricted arena. A remnant of the knightly spirit of old lingered in these scientific combats, in wbich folio volumes took the place of MEANWHILE Cromwell, by his bravery, had cuirasses, and thick “Fathers of the Church " delivered the new republic in the course of a were used as lances and shields. The adver- few weeks from all its enemies. In the first saries entered the arena well armed with quo- place, he had subdued the rebellious Irish, and tations from classical authors, and with the crushed their resistance by means of the most ample stores of a learned arsenal; they fought merciless measures. Next, he turned against with words instead of swords, and with theses the Scots, who had young King Charles II. in and dogmas instead of battle-axes and spears. their midst. Worsted in two battles, the They fought not only for truth, but still more young prince wandered for some time about eagerly for honor and fame; hence, the war on the country, and escaped only in an almost both sides was oftentimes carried on with a miraculous manner to France. After these degree of virulent abuse and personality which victories Cromwell returned triumphantly to is calculated to strike a modern reader with London. Surrounded by his officers, and folamazement. The contest assumed mostly a lowed by numerous prisoners, he made his solpersonal character, and terminated only when emn entrance into the capital. The Parliaone party or the other had been utterly de- ment, which acknowledged his deserts only feated. The disputants did not shrink from with reluctance, and justly feared lest the vicinflicting the most painful wounds on each torious general should soon become a despotic other, and the venom of slander and misrepre- usurper, sent four commissioners to meet him sentation added to the pains of mortified van- at Aylesbury, and salute him in the name of ity. The whole educated world took more or the assembly. In London he was received by less interest in these intellectual tournaments, the Speaker and a large number of members in proportion to the names and reputations of of the House, the president of the Council of the disputants. Milton had entered upon such State, and the lord mayor and aldermen of a duel with the learned Salmasius, and all Eu- the city. Thousands of the most respectable rope applauded the victor with the most rap- citizens joined them and accompanie Cromturous acclamations. His reputation annihi- well to Whitehall, amid the booming of artillated the moral authority of his opponent and lery and the jubilant acclamations of the people. hurled him from the throne which he had ar- The general received all these honors with rogated. Salmasius was mortally wounded, devout modesty; he spoke very little of his not only figuratively, but really; he survived own merits, and ascribed bis triumphs almost his defeat but a short time, and died, because, I exclusively to the mercy of God and the valor

of his soldiers. However, expressions of ill. the exercise of power under similar circumconcealed exultation and secret ambition burst stances. Adversaries were not wanting to it; from time to time from under the mask of this among them, the quarrelsome John Lilburne assumed modesty. He rewarded the commis- was most prominent. Rarely has a politician sioners sent to him by Parliament with princely enjoyed so much popularity ;-he was worshipped munificence, presenting them not only with by the people, and especially by the lower horses which had been taken during the war, classes of London. Already, during the reign but also with wealthy and aristocratic prison of Charles I., he had gained the reputation of ers, who, it was to be expected, would pay a à martyr of liberty, and after the king's exheavy ransom for their release. Thus he en-ecution his restless spirit impelled him to opdeavored already to win for himself friends pose the Parliament with the same obstinacy. and devoted adherents. His bearing, his man- His contemporaries characterized his quarrelners, and his language seemed to have under- someness most aptly by saying that, if John gone a complete change, and plainly exhibited Lilburne were to remain all alone in the world, the consciousness of his undisputed power. John would enter upon a quarrel with LilAll these symptoms added to the apprehen- burne. However, it was not this innate pesions with which Parliament looked upon the culiarity of his character that dictated his influence and the schemes of the successful course, but he was guided far more by a strong general, who, at the head of a victorious army, sense of justice, and the conviction that the could' demand and dare every thing. This rights of every Englishmen must remain unimdistrust could not fail lead sooner or later paired, no matter what pretexts might be adto an open rupture, and the struggle between duced for a contrary course. In the city, the two sides seemed inevitable. Cromwell where he had passed his youth, and in the


and counted upon the army, where he had served with honor and imprudence with which his opponents daily laid distinction, he had a host of friends, citizens, themselves open to his attacks. He did not and apprentices, officers and privates, religious hasten to strike the decisive blow, but pre- and political enthusiasts, who, like him, were pared every thing in secret. Few great men ardently attached to democratic ideas and have possessed the instinctive prudence and principles, and who cared neither for the resharp-sightedness of this upstart. Seemingly quirements of social order nor the stability of inactive, he watched his enemies like a spider the government, but were always ready to, critin its web. Like the latter, he was gifted with icise and attack the latter when it did not the finest ecent for public opinion and for the come up to its demands and dreams, or pursued sentiments of the people. Representing the a course offensive to their pride or their conwishes and ideas of the latter, he acquired a victions. Now, Lilburne possessed not only gigantic strength, a demoniacal power. . Since the talent of exasperating the public by means the beginning of civil war, the whole authority of his writings, but the still more dangerous of government had centred in the Parlia- gift of raising this exasperation to the highest ment, which was held responsible for every pitch. He was indefatigable in getting up public measure.

It liad governed too long petitions, in holding seditious meetings, in inalready not to excite in the nation the longing fluencing the temper of the army—in short, in for a change. Like every assembly of the all the democratic measures calculated to keep: same description, it was not free from the fail-up a spirit of rebellion and to shake the power ings and weaknesses which always pertain to of the existing government. This remarkable

leaned upon

[ocr errors]

man had succeeded in the course of time in secret to secure their reëlection and the retendiscrediting the Parliament in the eyes of the tion of the government in their hands. Crommultitude, and in undermining its influence well was highly indignant at these intrigues, and authority. In so doing, he served unwit- and made up his mind to frustrate them at any tingly the ambition of Cromwell, against whom cost. The meetings of his friends at his rooms he inveighed afterward with the same rancor took place in a more rapid succession than and violence.

heretofore; he used means to add to the numCromwell profited by the unpopularity of ber of his partisans, until he at last felt strong the Parliament, to which he secretly sought to enough to throw down the gauntlet and disadd as much as possible. For this purpose, perse the Parliament by main force. What he frequently assembled the most influential no King of England had ever attempted, what party leaders and the generals of the army, Charles Stuart, despite his despotic tendencies partly to ascertain their sentiments with his had never dared, was now unhesitatingly unaccustomed caution, partly to make sure of dertaken by Cromwell. When all was ready, their assistance. Thus he gradually matured Colonel Ingoldsby informed Cromwell, one the plan wbich had long slumbered in his soul. day, that Parliament was sitting, and had come However, before resorting to violent means, to a resolution not to dissolve itself, but to fill he wished to enter a peaceful path for getting up the House by new elections. Cromwell in rid of his adversaries. The people concurred a rage immediately - hastened to the House, universally in expressions of weariness and and carried a body of three hundred soldiers dissatisfaction at the so-called Long Parlia- along with him. Some of them he placed at ment, which they said bad outlived itself. A the door, some in the lobby, some on the large number of pamphlets and scurrilous stairs. He entered the hall alone, without papers were levelled against it, and their tone creating a sensation in the assembly. He became daily more insulting and aggressive. wore a black coat and gray woollen stockings, Contempt combined with batred, and the as was his custom when not appearing in uniweapons used were often those of scathing form. Cromwell took his seat and seemed to irony and mortifying scorn. In vain were all listen attentively to the debate; only from prohibitions and prosecutions of the offending time to time a grin or sarcastic smile illumiauthors; neither the wrath of Parliament nor nated his stern features. Like an eagle, he the power of the Council of State was able to was silent and calm before pouncing on his restore its influence, or to silence the enemies, prey. Not a gesture betrayed his emotion, who were well aware that Cromwell shared and yet his heart throbbed perhaps more imtheir opinions, and was a secret ally of theirs. petuously to-day than it had done in many a The Parliament was already morally dead, and bloody battle. He had arrived at the Rubicon; yet it was intent on continuing its semblance in the next moment he would be either a proof life; it lacked alike moral and material scribed traitor or the sovereign ruler of three power; neither the people nor the army, who kingdoms.

His friend St. John spoke to him. It was tolerate it any further. Under these circum- not until now that Cromwell broke his silence, stances, the leaders of the republican party and told him that he had come with the purthemselves deemed it prudent to move the pose of doing what grieved him to the very dissolution of Parliament and the holding of soul, and what he had earnestly with tears begeneral elections; but they took measures in sought the Lord not to impose upon him.

agreed in their aversion to it

, were willing to a

« VorigeDoorgaan »