The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates

The Tenure Of Kings And Magistrates

The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates

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The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates is a book by John Milton, in which he defends the right of people to execute a guilty sovereign, whether tyrannical or not.

In the text, Milton conjectures about the formation of commonwealths. He comes up with a kind of constitutionalism but not an outright anti-monarchical argument. He gives a theory of how people come into commonwealths and come to elect kings. He explains what the role of a king should be, and conversely what a tyrant is, and why it is necessary to limit a ruler’s power through laws and oaths.

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The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates: proving that it is lawful, and hath been held so through the ages, for any, who have the Power, to call to account a Tyrant, or wicked King, and after due conviction, to depose, and put him to death; if the ordinary MAGISTRATE have neglected, or deny’d to do it. And that they, who of late so much blame Deposing, are the Men that did it themselves.


In February 1649, less than two weeks after Parliament executed Charles I, Milton published The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates in order to justify the action and to defend the government against the Presbyterians who initially voted for the regicide and later condemned it, and whose practices he believed were a “growing threat to freedom.”Dzelzainis 2003 p....
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