"For any who have the Power": John Milton's the Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649) and the ideology of oligarchic republicanism in the English Revolution
Neufeld, Matthew G.
Neufeld, Matthew G. "For any who have the Power": John Milton's the Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649) and the ideology of oligarchic republicanism in the English Revolution. In partial fulfillment of the degree Master of Arts [University of Manitoba, Department of History]. Winnipeg, March 2002.
John Milton's political philosophy, and its relation to the events and ideologies of the English Revolution (1640-1660), is the subject of fierce debate among literary scholars and students of political thought. In 1977 the great English social historian Christopher Hill published a monumental work, Milton and the English Revolution, which portrayed the epic poet as a political radical. This thesis challenges Hill's analysis of Milton based on a new socioeconomic and political contextualization of Milton's regicide tract, The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, published in 1649. The thesis employs an Aristotelian theory of oligarchic government, an understanding of political ideology inspired by Marx, and Robert Brenner's study of the role of colonial interloping merchants in English politics during the Revolutionary period, to argue that The Tenure reflects the political consciousness of oligarchic republicanism. Milton wrote the tract to defend the execution of Charles I, an act carried out against the will of the political nation by an oligarchic revolutionary alliance. The Tenure evidences an ideology of aristocracy to justify the actions of this oligarchy, and makes its case in the political language of oligarchic republicanism. The thesis also outlines Milton's personal affiliation with key members of the revolutionary alliance. The political ideology of Milton's regicide tract, his connection to revolutionaries, and his service on behalf of the oligarchic Commonwealth regime, point toward the conclusion that John Milton was a political oligarch.