[Milton-L] Merit and Regicide was Merit, birthright regicide was RE: Not Milton, but a Miltonist in the NYT . . .

Bryson, Michael E michael.bryson at csun.edu
Mon Jul 25 20:01:04 EDT 2016

Are those lines (...merit more than birthright...) by themselves a justification of regicide? No. But they do provide the beginnings of a sketch of a notion towards a theory of justified rule. The following lines finish more of the details of the sketch:

Found worthiest to be so by being good

Far more than great or high: because in thee

Love hath abounded more than glory abounds;

To the question of deprivation of rule: if a ruler rules by merit, is the failure of that merit sufficient reason to deprive him/her of rule? I think Milton's answer, derived from TKM, is clearly yes: "since the King or Magistrate holds his autoritie of the people, both originaly and naturally for their good in the first place, and not his own, then may the people as oft as they shall judge it for the best, either choose him or reject him, retaine him or depose him though no Tyrant, meerly by the liberty and right of free born Men, to be govern'd as seems to them best."

But deprivation of rule and deprivation of life are separate questions, though they must often be answered at the same time, as much out of practical necessity as out of principle, since a deposed ruler, left alive, may well strike back: "Stories can inform them how Christiern the Second, king of Denmark, not much above a hundred years past, driven out by his subjects, and received again upon new oaths and conditions, broke through them all to his most bloody revenge; slaying his chief opposers, when he saw his time, both them and their children, invited to a feast for that purpose."

So what justifies regicide seems to be as much (or more) a matter of safety as it is a failure of merit in the leader (which by itself justifies deposition--though according to Milton, deposition is always-already justified by the liberty of the ruled).

Back to the question of merit, however. Which of our rulers (in Milton's time or any other) has been found "worthiest" to be in power by "being good" more than "great or high"?  Such worthiness seems in short supply.

Michael Bryson

From: milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu <milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu> on behalf of Carrol Cox <cbcox at ilstu.edu>
Sent: Monday, July 25, 2016 4:17:12 PM
To: 'John Milton Discussion List'
Subject: [Milton-L] Merit and Regicide was Merit, birthright regicide was RE: Not Milton, but a Miltonist in the NYT . . .

Michael E Bryson: I would like to second James Rovira's hope that this list
is not about to descend into the "lower deep still threatening to devour"
that is a discussion of this election and either of these candidates.


I agree. We can escape to the political implications of Paradise Lost:

                        . . . .and hast been found
By merit more than birthright Son of God,-

Query: Is this not a justification of regicide? If the ruler rules by
_merit_, than when that merit fails, it is just to deprive him/her of rule?


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