Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter ? Her confuting is the best “ and surest suppressing.” He then surely saw, that though Opinions may be pernicious, the Discussion of them can never be mischievous to the community; and therefore, that Actions alone ought to be under the direction and control of the Magistrate.

While he draws, as we have just seen, to his conclusion with a vindication of free Inquiry on every circumstance of reformation in the acts of the constituted authorities; because he knew well that to keep the body-politic in a healthful and vigorous state, there must be an unobstructed circulation of Thought ;--the life-blood to all social existence.

So much was requisite to set Milton above all suspicion, that he would have cramped the stretch of the human brain, or have had the exertions of Reason circumscribed. In truth, he rather deserves our praise and admiration for mental powers, which could perceive and develop principles highly liberal for those times, and so far before the prevailing temper of the age. A Writer of the same date with himself, certainly no timid Rea

soner, and living in a Republic, did not contend for a wider latitude*.

It was once my purpose to have carried on these observations to show, that for a Press to be free, it is not sufficient that it be open; as Blackstone and others after him have stated. My various notices on this Defence of unrestricted Publication having however, after all my expunctions, accumulated to a number that threatens it with the fate of the Vestal Virgin, whom the Gauls overlaid by the presents which they heaped on her, I shall now only add, that the surest criterion of the nature and cha. racter of a Government will always be found in the degree of Freedom in Discussion tolerated under it. They who claim obediencé by no other obligation than fear can never be favourable to the Press. well-constituted and therefore a well-admiministered Government invites a rigorous scrutiny into its conduct; a bad Govern

But a

* Spinoza; see his Tractatus Theologico-politicus; or Theological and Political Discourses, to prove that the Liberty of Philosophizing may be allowed without any prejudice to Piety, or to the Peace of the Commonwealth ; particularly ch. 20.

ment invariably represses or eludes investigation. It was not without a meaning, that the most judicious of Poets, after displaying with the illuminations of his Genius, the heroic deeds of this world, and the bliss and splendour of Heaven, before he unfolded the horrours of the infernal Shades, solicits an Imprimatur from the Powers of Darkness :

“ Di, quibus imperium est animarum, Umbræque silentes, “ Et Chaos, et Phlegethon, loca nocte tacentia late, “ Sit mihi fas audita loqui.”

ILLUSTRATIONS.

ILLUSTRATION, A.

(Refered to in p. 7.)

The magnanimity of a trienniall Parlament.] Triennial - not in the modern appropriation to a Parliament's duration ; but with a reference to the Act passed in 1641, to enforce the sitting of a Parliament at the least once in every three

years. The declaratory Statutes of Edward III. for holding Parliaments annually, or oftener, if need were, had fallen into desuetude, or rather had by CourtLawyers been explained away in early times from the palpable enactment, in order to leave their meeting wholly in the breast of the King. By these means, Charles did not for twelve years together suffer a Parliament to assemble, and when, through his illegal exactions, his arbitrary impressments and commitments by the Council, with other tyrannical practices, the general voice rose high against the Dissolution of the Parliament which met in the fourth year of his reign, he issued a Proclamation, denouncing it as criminal for any person so much as to speak of calling another.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »