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as devotedly as any Puritan could possibly do. It was now that Oliver committed the mistake—which thousands of others in like circumstances have committed—of confounding the symbol with the cause. The use of the Common Prayer Book was proscribed as thoroughly as the mass. Noblemen and gentlemen were prohibited from entertaining the ejected clergy of their own Church as chaplains or tutors of their children. Yet, after all, the persecution was sharp only for a time, and the inquisition into the religious practices of domestic life was soon abandoned.
It was not only in relation to religious toleration that Oliver was driven by his position to modify his earlier principles. At one time he had fully sympathised with the Independent party in its efforts to secure the liberty of the press. Of libels on his own character and person he had been widely tolerant. Step by step the Long Parliament had imposed restrictions on the press, and these restrictions were continued under the Protectorate. At last, in October, I655, the final blow fell. Only two weekly newspapers were permitted to appear, and both these newspapers were to be edited by an agent of the Government. Milton, now incapacitated by blindness from active employment in the service of the State, must have winced at hearing that his chosen hero, who had long ago turned his back on the voluntary system of Church-government, had now turned his back on the central doctrine of the Areopagitica. Oliver, we may be sure, took all these proceedings as a matter of course. He held himself to have been placed in the seat of authority not to advance the most beneficent theories, but to keep order after the fashion of a constable in a discordant world. Neither Milton nor himself believed in the political rights of majorities. If the nation chose to raise itself up against the cause of God, so much the worse for the nation. “I say,” he had announced to his first Parliament, “that the wilful throwing away of this government—so owned by God, so approved by men, so testified to in the fundamentals of it—and that in relation to the good of these nations and posterity; l can sooner be willing to be rolled into my grave and buried with infamy, than I can give my consent unto.” Oliver doubtless held that the partitioning of England into
eleven districts, each under a military chief, was consistent with at least a
It is possible that if the Major-Generals had confined themselves to keeping
As to the Major-Generals themselves, they were soon instructed to tighten the reins of discipline, co-operating with willing and spurring unwilling magistrates to suppress not merely treason and rebellion, but vice and immorality. Their orders were to put down horse-racing, cockfighting and other sports which brought together crowds of doubtful fidelity to the Government. They were told to promote godliness and virtue, and to see to the execution of the laws against drunkenness, blasphemy, swearing, play-acting, profanation of the Lord’s Day, and so forth; and also to put down gaming-houses in \Vestminster and ale-houses in the country, lest evil and factious men should congregate in them. They were to keep an