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Courts, Jurisdictions, and Law in John Milton and His Contemporaries$
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Alison A. Chapman

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226729152

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226729329.001.0001

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“Justice in Thir Own Hands”: Local Courts in the Late Prose

“Justice in Thir Own Hands”: Local Courts in the Late Prose

Chapter:
(p.151) Chapter 7 “Justice in Thir Own Hands”: Local Courts in the Late Prose
Source:
Courts, Jurisdictions, and Law in John Milton and His Contemporaries
Author(s):

Alison A. Chapman

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226729329.003.0007

Of the six pamphlets Milton wrote between 1659 and the Restoration in May 1660, five contain suggestions for law reform and a better arrangement of England’s courts: A Letter to a Friend, Proposalls of Certaine Expedients, the document known as A Letter to General Monck, and both editions of A Readie and Easie Way. In all of these, Milton advocates for a decentralized model of legal authority, one in which local communities assume more of the work of making and applying laws in response to local needs; his vision resists the centralizing, standardizing drift of the common law. This chapter also traces Milton’s changing ideas about the jury. Earlier, he saw the lay jury as an emblem of the English people’s powers of discernment and self-government. However, as the English turned toward monarchy, Milton’s views darkened, and in these treatises, he seems to incline toward a civilian model in which verdicts were given by judges. This chapter concludes by contrasting Milton’s ideal of a jury-less courtroom with the trial that his contemporary John Bunyan received.

Keywords:   A Letter to a Friend, Proposalls of Certaine Expedients, A Letter to General Monck, A Readie and Easie Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth, common law, law reform, courts, jury, John Bunyan

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