Defence of the People of England


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MILTON, John. A Defence of the People of England, by John Milton: In Answer to Salmasius's Defence of the King. [Amsterdam]: Printed in the Year 1692. Octavo, later half vellum and blue-gray paper boards. $3500.

First edition in English, first issue, of Milton's controversial argument for popular sovereignty, which he proudly considered "among his greatest works."

French scholar Salmasius "was invited by Charles II, who was at the Hague… to write the Defensio Regia pro Carolo I, first published in November 1649. Milton was ordered to reply by the council on 8 January 1650, and his Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio appeared in March 1650" (DNB). In this controversial work Milton argues "the King must be the People's Servant. Absolute Lordship and Christianity are inconsistent." Maintaining that "unconditional allegiance was tantamount to slavery… Milton considered it among his greatest works. He was convinced he had lost the remainder of his failing eyesight in completion of the book, but never regretted the sacrifice" (Dictionary of Literary and Dramatic Censorship, 284-85). Defence brought him both fame and infamy, especially "because it was an officially commissioned and effective 'defense of the English people' against an attack on the new Republic by one of Europe's greatest scholars… If it proved nothing else, it proved that the Puritans, widely considered uneducated, had some real scholars on their side. Milton believed it to be a reasoned defense of regicide, an eloquent defense of liberty, and his best work in prose" (Parker 28b). "The best apology, says Warton, that ever was offered for bringing kings to the block" (Lowndes, 1567). This first edition in English was translated from the Latin by Joseph Washington. With "An Advertisement to the Reader" at rear. With blank a8; without initial blank leaf A1, blank R4. Wing M2104. Pforzheimer 726. Parker 81.

Text fresh with trace of edge-wear to early leaves, soiling to boards. Rare and important.

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