Milton in the Puritan Revolution

Milton in the Puritan Revolution

Milton in the Puritan Revolution

Milton in the Puritan Revolution

Excerpt

In the Puritan Revolution a rising middle class of business men, their cause sustained by widespread Calvinistic teachings, their program supported by large sections of the lower middle classes and by liberal members of the aristocracy, clashed with the adherents of a declining feudal order. In its early stages the Revolution sought a limitation of monarchical power, an assurance of Parliamentary control of all major policies, and a substitution of a Presbyterian state church for the Anglican. But the middle class leaders of the Revolution, the more prosperous members of the Puritan faction, soon realized that many of their followers were pushing toward more radical objectives than they had envisioned. The war brought release of fervent democratic agitation especially in the New Model army, agitation soon regarded with horror by most of the Puritans themselves, so that by 1649 they preferred a kingly dictatorship to the strange governmental notions of Cromwell's army. Abolition of the House of Lords, annihilation of kingship, establishment of a republic--no one had dreamed in 1642 that the Revolution carried this poison in its womb. While repressing still more drastic reform programs, the Independent army made these measures dire realities, bringing surprised stares and fearful hearts to most Englishmen of the middle classes and their spokesmen, the Presbyterian clergy. Distrusted by the orthodox Puritans and the aristocracy, hated by the Leveller radicals, the Independents ruled uneasily for eleven years, upheld largely by might of the army. The orthodox Puritans welcomed with the aristocracy the reactionary Restoration of 1660, preferring to risk loss of their original objectives to support of utopian republican projects. To command any widespread popular support the extremities of the Independents had occurred too soon in what Sir Charles Firth has called "the evolution of democracy." Furthermore the implications of these . . .

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