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Freedom, in every department of life, vindicated this most important Privilege with a mind, fully sensible of its value; he poured all his heart into this vindication, and, to speak of his work in his own energetic language, we may justly call it, what he has defined a good Book to be, “the
precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed " and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond ¢ life.”
His late Biographer, instead of praising MILTON for a service so honourably rendered to Literature, seems rather desirous of annihilating its merit, by directing his sarcastic animosity against the Liberty of the Press. It seems not more reasoable, says Johnson, to leave the Right of Printing uore. strained, because Writers may be afterward censured, than it would be to sleep with doors unbolted, because by our Laws we can hang a thief.
This is servile sophistry; the Authour's illustra, tion of a thief may be turned against himself. To suffer no Book to be published without a License is tyranny as absurd as it would be to suffer no traveller to pass along the highway without producing a certificate that he is not a robber. Even
bad Books may have their use, as Milton observes. HAYLEY ; in his Life of Milton.
Milton, in his most eloquent address to the Parliament, puts the Liberty of the Press on its true and most honourable foundation, Lord ERSKINE ; in his Defence of Thomas Paine.
The Liberty of the Press was about this time (1738] thought to be in danger; and Milton's noble and nervous Discourse on this subject, entitled AREOPAGITICA,
was reprinted in Octavo Pamphlet, with a Preface written by Thomson, the Poet. Dr. WARTON; in his Edition of Pope's Works.
Against the apostate Patriots, who betrayed their Cause with the sanctity of prophaned Religion, Milton advanced as the Champion of free Dis. cussion; and the effect of his zeal, in this instance, for the interests of genuine Liberty, has received the unanimous acclamation of the world. A strong cause was never more powerfully defended, and Truth in the AREOPAGITICA is armed by Reason and by Fancy, with weapons which are effective
with their weight and edge, while they dazzle us with their brightness.
This masterly and eloquent composition is opened with the most conciliatory address; and its arguments, which are individually strong, derive so much force from their mutual support, in a close and advantageous array, as to be absolutely irresistible, and imperiously to compel our conviction. Charles SYMMONS, D.D.; in his Life of MILTON.
Among these the Reader will find the excellent Tract of the celebrated John MILTON, on the Liberty of the Press, entitled AREOPAGITICA. Cursitor Baron MASERES; in the Preface to a Volume of miscellaneous Essays and Tracts which he reedited.
AREOPAGITICA: A Tract the most weighty in matter, and the most flowing in style of all MILTon's prose compositions. John Pearson, Esqr.; in his Review of Lord Selkirk's Objections to a Reform in the Representation of the People.
The subject had been discussed with singular
energy and eloquence by Milton, in his AREOPAGITICA, written against the Presbyterians, who had contended for the Freedom of the Press, when it was under the control of the episcopal Church; but rising afterward into power, they turned apostates to their own priciples, and abusing their ascendency in Parliament, procured an order to be published, June 13, 1643, for restraining the Press, and placing
“ this formidable engine under the “ same control, of which they had lately indignantly
complained *.” But, notwithstanding the excellence and authority of Milton's work, the sub, sequent restraints on the Press, the great object of the Revolution, namely, the security and extension of Liberty, and the particular tenor of the Act of Toleration, rendered the publication of the other Tracts now reviewed seasonable and pointed. And though Licensers and Imprimaturs have been, since that period, confined to Oxford; yet repeated attempts made to restrain it, and frequent prosecutions of Authours and Publishers, in subsequent and recent times, evince the propriety
* Dr. Symmons's Life of MILTON, p. 213, edit. 1806.
and even necessity of often recalling the public attention to the equity, policy, and wisdom of watching the insidious designs, or resisting the more open attacks of Ministers of State against the Liberty of the Press. It should be also considered, whether the arguments which apply against preventing, do not hold good against punishing, the publications of Opinions, that, with or without reason, may be thought pernicious ?
Dr. Johnson, speaking of Milton's AREOPAGITICA, says, “ the danger of such unbounded
Liberty (of unlicensed Printing), and the danger “ of bounding it, have produced a problem in the « science of Government, which human under“ standing seems unable to solve." Let us then have recourse, replies a judicious Writer, to a divine understanding for the solution of it: “ Let “ both the tares and the wheat grow together till “ the harvest, lest while ye gather up the tares, “ ye root up also the wheat with them *.' Joshua TOULMIN, D.D. in an Historical View of
* Memoirs of Thomas Hollis, Esqr. vol. II. p. 551.