[Milton-L] Treason law

Robert Appelbaum r_appel at yahoo.com
Thu Jun 26 04:27:54 EDT 2008

Yes: but the key words are 'by words' and 'by craft.'  What is punishable is not the thought, but the advocacy.  And that led to many complications which I don't think Lemon's otherwise very careful book takes adequately into account.  A crucial test of all this was the trial of Henry Garnet for his complicity in the Gunpowder Plot.  And it seems to me that people who read about early modern treason law and tsk tsk it are ignoring the very real dangers that rulers of all parties and nations faced once the Reformation was under way.  Leaving aside Britain, which had its own problems both in Scotland and England, in France Henry IV was subjected to twenty different assassination attempts during his reign, the last one of which succeeded.
My question to the list would be, how do you think Milton responded to the connections between thought, advocacy, and treason that were a part of English and continental law?  How did he respond to it given that the 1649 regicides themselves could were accused for being traitors?

Robert Appelbaum 
Department of English and Creative Writing 
Lancaster University 
Lancaster, LA1 4YT 


--- On Wed, 25/6/08, Sabrina Baron <s.baron at starpower.net> wrote:

From: Sabrina Baron <s.baron at starpower.net>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Treason law
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Wednesday, 25 June, 2008, 8:00 PM

Here it is from G. R. Elton, <<The Tudor Constitution>>, Cambridge  
University Press, 1982:

p. 60
The treason law was updated under Henry VIII in 1534 for the first  
time since 1352.  Henry and Cromwell were concerned to condemn those  
who denied Henry's Supreme Headship of the Church in England.  [This  
was More's offense--he would not take the oath recognizing Henry as  

pp. 62-3  transcript of extract from the statute of 1534

<<those who do maliciously wish, will or desire by words or writing,  
or by craft imagine, invent, practise, or attempt any bodily harm to  
be done or committed to the King's most royal person, the Queen's or  
their heir's apparent>>

[The sentence of treason was generally carried out by attainder,  
which required no hard evidence or proof.  It required only assertion  
or accusation.]

Sabrina Baron
University of Maryland
Milton-L mailing list
Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
Manage your list membership and access list archives at
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.richmond.edu/pipermail/milton-l/attachments/20080626/a7156c63/attachment.html

More information about the Milton-L mailing list