HORRID TYRANNY. BUTCHERY OF THE COUNTESS OF SALISBURY.
CELIBACY OF THE CLERGY.-- BISHOPS OF WINCHESTER.
HUME'S CHARGES AND BISHOP TANNER'S ANSWER.
Kensington, 28th February, 1825.
111. WE have seen, then, that the "Reformation" was engendered in beastly lust, brought forth in hypocrisy and perfidy, and we have had some specimens of the acts by which it caused innocent blood to be shed. We shall now, in this Letter and the next, see how it devastated and plundered the country, what poverty and misery it produced, and how it laid the sure foundation for that pauperism, that disgraceful immorality, that fearful prevalence of crimes of all sorts, which now so strongly mark the character of this nation, which was formerly the land of virtue and of plenty.
112. When, in paragraph 97 , we left the King and CRANMER at their bloody work, we had come to the year 1536, and to the 27th year of the King's reign. In the year 1528, an act had been passed to exempt the King from paying any sum of money that he might have borrowed; another act followed this for a similar purpose; and thus thousands of persons were ruined. His new Queen, JANE SEYMOUR brought him, in 1537, a son, who was afterwards King, under the title of EDWARD VI.; but the mother died in Child-birth, and according to Sir RICHARD BAKER, "had her body ripped up to preserve the child"! In this great "Reformation" man all was of a piece: all was consistent: he seemed never to have any compassion for the suffering of any human being; and this is a characteristic which WITAKER gives to his daughter ELIZABETH.
113. Having a son for a successor, he, with his Parliament, enacted, in 1537, that MARY and ELIZABETH, his two daughters, were bastards, and that, in case of a want of lawful issue, the King should be enabled, by letters patent, or by his last will, to give the crown to whomsoever he pleased! To cap the whole, to complete a series of acts of tyranny such as was never before heard of, it was enacted, in 1537, and in the 28th year of his reign, that, except in cases of mere private right; "the King's Proclamations should be of the same force as Acts of Parliament"! Thus, then, all law and justice were laid prostrate at the feet of a single man, and that man a man with whom law was a mockery, on whom the name of justice was a libel, and to whom mercy was wholly unknown.
114. It is easy to imagine that no man's property or life could have security with power like this in the hands of such a man. MAGNA CHARTA had been trampled under foot from the moment that the POPE's supremacy was assailed. The famous Act of EDWARD THE THIRD, for the security of the people against unfounded charges of high treason, was wholly set aside. Numerous things were made high treason, which were never before thought criminal at all. The trials were, for a long while, a mere mockery; and at last, they were altogether, in many cases, laid aside, and the accused were condemned to death, not only without being arraigned and heard in their defence; but, in numerous cases, without being apprised of the crimes, or pretended crimes, for which they were executed. We have read of Deys of Algiers and of Beys of Tunis; but, never have heard of their, even in the most exaggerated accounts, deeds to be, in point of injustice and cruelty, compared with those of this man, whom BURNET calls, "the first-born son of the English 'Reformation.'" The objects of his bloody cruelty generally were, as they naturally would be, chosen from amongst the most virtuous of his subjects; because from them such a man had the most to dread. Of these his axe hewed down whole families and circles of friends. He spared neither sex nor age, if the parties possessed, or were suspected of possessing, that integrity which made them disapprove of his deeds. To look awry excited his suspicion, and his suspicion was death. England, before his bloody reign, so happy, so free, knowing so little of crime as to present to the judges of assize scarcely three criminals in a county in a year, now saw upwards of sixty thousand persons shut up in her gaols at one and the same time. The purlieus of the court of this "first-born son of the Reformation" were a great human slaughter-house, his people, deserted by their natural leaders, who had been bribed by plunder, or the hope of plunder, were the terrified and trembling flock, while he, the master-butcher, fat and jocose, sat in his palace issuing orders for the slaughter, while his High Priest, CRANMER, stood ready to sanction and sanctify all his deeds.
115. A detail of these butcheries could only disgust and weary the reader. One instance, however, must not be omitted; namely, the slaughtering of the relations, and particularly the mother, of Cardinal POLE. The Cardinal, who had, when very young, and before the King's first divorce had been agitated, been a great favourite with the King, and had pursued his studies and travels on the Continent at the King's expense, disapproved of the divorce, and of all the acts that followed it; and though called home by the King, he refused to obey. He was a man of great learning, talent, and virtue, and his opinions had great weight in England. His mother, the Countess of SALISBURY, was descended from the PLANTAGENETS, and was the last living descendant of that long race of English Kings. So that the Cardinal, who had been by the POPE raised to that dignity, on account of his great learning and eminent virtues, was, thus, a relation of the King, as his mother was of course, and she was, too, the nearest of all his relations. But the Cardinal was opposed to the King's proceedings; and that was enough to excite and put in motion the deadly vengeance of the latter. Many were the arts that he made use of, and great in amount was the treasure of his people that he expended, in order to bring the Cardinal's person within his grasp; and, these having failed, he resolved to wreak his ruthless vengeance on his kindred and his aged mother. She was charged by the base THOMAS CROMWELL (of whom we shall soon see enough) with having persuaded her tenants not to read the new translations, of the Bible, and also with having received bulls from Rome, which the accuser said, were found at COURDRAY HOUSE, her seat in Sussex. CROMWELL also showed a banner, which had, he said, been used by certain rebels in the North, and which he said he found in her house. All this was, however, so very barefaced, that it was impossible to think of a trial. The judges were then asked, whether the parliament could not attaint her; that is to say, condemn her, without giving her a hearing? The judges said, that it was a dangerous matter; that they could not, in their courts, act in this manner, and that they thought the parliament never would. But, being asked, whether, if the parliament were to do it, it would remain good in law, they answered in the affirmative. That was enough. A bill was brought in, and thus was the Countess, together with the Marchioness of EXETER and two gentlemen, relations of the Cardinal, condemned to death. The two latter were executed, the Marchioness was pardoned, and the Countess shut up in prison as a sort of hostage for the conduct of her son. In a few months; however, an insurrection having broken out on account of his tyrannical acts, the King chose to suspect, that the rebels had been instigated by Cardinal POLE, and, forth he dragged his mother to the scaffold. She, who was upwards of seventy years of age, though worn down in body by her imprison ment, maintained to the last a true sense of her character and noble descent. When bidden to lay her head upon the block: "No," answered she, "my head shall never bow to tyranny: it never committed treason; and, if you will have it, you must get it as you can," The executioner struck at her neck with his axe, and, as she ran about the scaffold with her gray locks hanging down her shoulders and breast, he pursued, giving her repeated chops, till, at last, he brought her down!
116. Is it a scene in Turkey or in Tripoli that we are contemplating? No; but, in England, where MAGNA CHARTA had been so lately in force. where nothing could have been done contrary to law; but where all power, ecclesiastical as well as lay, being placed in the hands of one man, bloody butcheries like this, which would have roused even a Turkish populace to resistance, could be perpetrated without the smallest danger to the perpetrator. HUME, in his remarks upon the state of the people in this reign, pretends, that the people never hated the King, and "that he seems even, in some degree, to have possessed to the last, their love and affection." He adds, that it may be said with truth, that the "English, in that age, were so thoroughly subdued, that, like Eastern slaves, they were inclined to admire even those acts of violence and tyranny which were exercised over themselves, and at their own expense." This lying historian every where endeavours to gloss over the deeds of those who destroyed the Catholic Church, both in England and Scotland. Too cunning, however, to applaud the bloody Henry himself, he would have us believe, that, after all, there was something amiable in him, and this belief he would have us found on the fact of his having been to the last, seemingly, beloved by his people.
117. Nothing can be more false than this assertion, if repeated insurrections against him, accompanied with the most bitter complaints and reproaches, be not to be taken as marks of popular affection. And, as to the remark, that the English, "in that age were so thoroughly subdued," while it seems to refute the assertion as to their affection for the tyrant, it is a slander, which the envious Scotch writers all delight to put forth and repeat. One object, always uppermost with HUME, is to malign the Catholic religion; it, therefore, did not occur to him, that this sanguinary tyrant was not effectually resisted, as King John and other bad kings had been, because this tyrant had the means of bribing the natural leaders of the people to take part against them; or, at the least, to neutralize those leaders. It did not occur to him to tell us, that Henry VIII. found the English as gallant and just a people as his ancestors had found them; but that, having divided them, having by holding out to the great an enormous mass of plunder as a reward for abandoning the rights of the people, the people became, as every people without leaders must become, a mere flock, or herd, to be dealt with at pleasure. The malignity and envy of this Scotchman blinded him to this view of the matter, and induced him to ascribe to the people's admiration of tyranny that submission, which, after repeated struggles, they yielded merely from the want of those leaders, of whom they were now, for the first time, wholly deprived. What? have we never known any country, consisting of several millions of people, oppressed and insulted, even for ages, by a mere handful of men? And, are we to conclude, that such a country submits from admiration of the tyranny under which they groan? Did the English submit to CROMWELL from admiration; and, was it from admiration that the French submitted to ROBESPIERRE? The latter was punished, but CROMWELL was not: he, like HENRY, died in his bed; but, to what mind except to that of the most malignant and perverse, would it occur that CROMWELL'S impunity arose from the willing submission and the admiration of the people?
118. Of the means by which the natural leaders of the people were seduced from them; of the kind and the amount of the prize of plunder, we are now going to take a view. In paragraph 4 , I have said, that the "Reformation" was cherished and fed by plunder and devastation: In paragraph 37 , I have said, that it was not a Reformation, but a devastation of England; and that this devastation impoverished and degraded the main body of the people. These statements I am now about to prove to be true.
119. In paragraphs from 55 to 60 inclusive, we have seen how monasteries arose, and what sort of institutions they were. There were, in England, at the time we are speaking of, 645 of theee institutions; besides 90 Colleges, 110 Hospitals, and 2374 Chantries and Free-Chapels. The whole were seized on, first and last, taken into the hands of the King, and by him granted to those who aided and abetted him in the work of plunder.
120. I pray you, my friends, sensible and just English men, to observe here, that this was a great mass of landed property; that this property was not by any means used for the sole benefit of monks, friars, and nuns; that, for the far greater part, its rents flowed immediately back amongst the people at large; and, that, if it had never been an object of plunder, England never would, and never could, have heard the hideous sound of the words pauper and poor-rate. You have seen, in paragraph 52 , in what manner the tithes arose and how they were disposed of; and you are, by-and-by, to see how the rents of the monasteries were distributed.
121. You have, without doubt, fresh in your recollection all the censures, sarcasms, and ridicule, which we have, from our very infancy, heard against the monastic life. What drones the monks and friars and nuns were; how uselessly they lived; how much they consumed to no good purpose whatever; and particularly how ridiculous, and even how wicked it was to compel men and women to live unmarried, to lead a life of celibacy, and, thus, either to deprive them of a great natural pleasure, or to expose them to the double sin of breach of chastity and breach of oath.
122. Now, this is a very important matter. It is a great moral question; and, therefore, we ought to endeavour to settle this question; to make up our minds completely upon it, before we proceed any further. The monastic state necessarily was accompanied with vows of celibacy; and, therefore, it is, before we give an acccunt of the putting down of these institutions in England, necessary to speak of the tendency, and, indeed, of the natural and inevitable consequences of those vows.
123. It has been represented as "unnatural" to compel men and women to live in the unmarried state, and as tending to produce propensities, to which it is hardly proper even to allude. Now, in the first place, have we heard, of late days, of any propensities of this sort? Have they made their odious appearance amongst clergymen and bishops? And, if they have, have those clergymen and bishops been Catholics, or have they been Protestants? The answer, which every one now living in England and Ireland can instantly give to these questions, disposes of this objection to vows of celibacy. In the next place, the Catholic Church compels nobody to make such vow. It only says, that it will admit no one to be a priest, monk, friar, or nun, who rejects such vow. Saint PAUL strongly recommends to all Christian teachers an unmarried life. The Church has founded a rule on this recommendation; and that, too, for the same reason that the recommendation was given; namely, that those who have flocks to watch over, or, in the language of our own Protestant Church, who have the care of souls, should have as few as possible of other cares, and should, by all means, be free from those incessant, and, sometimes, racking cares, which are inseparable from a wife and family. What priest, who has a wife and family, will not think more about them than about his flock? Will he, when any part of that family is in distress, from illness or other cause, be wholly devoted, body and mind, to his flock? Will he be as ready to give alms, or aid of any sort, to the poor, as he would be if he had no family to provide for? Will he never be tempted to swerve from his duty, in order to provide patronage for sons, and for the husbands of daughters? Will he always as boldly stand up and reprove the Lord or the 'Squire for their oppressions and vices, as he would do if he had no son for whom to get a benefice, a commission, or a sinecure? Will his wife never have her partialities, her tattlings, her bickerings, amongst his flock, and never, on any account, induce him to act towards any part of that flock, contrary to the strict dictates of his sacred duty? And to omit hundreds, yes, hundreds of reasons that might, in addition, be suggested, will the married priest be as ready as the unmarried one to appear at the bed-side of sickness and contagion? Here it is that the calls on him are most imperative, and here it is that the married priest will, and with nature on his side, be deaf to those calls. From amongst many instances that I could cite, let me take one. During the war of 1776, the King's house at Winchester was used as a prison for French prisoners of war. A dreadfully contagious fever broke out amongst them. Many of them died. They were chiefly Catholics, and were attended in their last moments by two or three Catholic Priests residing in that city. But, amongst the sick prisoners, there were many Protestants; and these requested the attendance of Protestant Parsons. There were the parsons of all the parishes at Winchester. There were the Dean and all the Prebendaries, But, not a man of them went to console the dying Protestants, in consequence of which several of them desired the assistance of the priests, and, of course, died Catholics. Doctor MILNER, in his Letters to Doctor STURGES (page 56,) mentions this matter, and he says, "the answer" (of the Protestant Parsons) "I understand to have been this: We are not more afraid, as individuals, to face death than the priests are; but we must not carry poisonous contagion into the bosoms of our families." No, to be sure! But, then, not to call this the cassock's taking shelter behind the petticoat, in what a dilemma does this place the Dean and Chapter? Either they neglected their most sacred duty, and left Protestants to flee, in their last moments, into the arms of "popery;" or that clerical celibacy, against which they have declaimed all their lives and still declaim, and still hold up to us, their flocks, as something both contemptible and wicked, is, after all, necessary to that "care of souls," to which they profess themselves to have been called, and for which they receive such munificent reward.
124. But, conclusive, perfectly satisfactory, as these reasons are, we should not, if we were to stop here, do any thing like justice to our subject; for, as to the parochial clergy, do we not see, ay, and feel too, that they, if with families, or intending to have families, find little to spare to the poor of their flocks? In short, do we not know that a married priesthood and pauperism and poor-rates, all came upon this country at one and the same moment? And what was the effect of clerical celibacy with regard to the higher orders of the clergy? A bishop, for instance, having neither wife nor child, naturally expended his revenues amongst the people in his diocese. He expended a part of them on his Cathedral Church, or in some other way sent his revenues back to the people. If WILLIAM OF WYKHAM had been a married man, the parsons would not now have had a COLLEGE at Winchester; nor would there have been a College either at Eton, Westminster, Oxford, or Cambridge, if the bishops, in those days, had been married men. Besides, who is to expect of human nature, that a bishop with a wife and family will, in his distribution of the church preferment, consider nothing but the interest of religion? We are not to expect of man more than that, of which we, from experience, know that man is capable. It is for the lawgiver to interpose, and to take care that the community suffer not from the frailty of the nature of individuals, whose private virtues even may, in some cases, and those not a few, not have a tendency to produce public good. I do not say that married bishops ever do wrong, because I am not acquainted with them well enough to ascertain the fact; but, in speaking of the diocese in wnich I was born, and with which I am best acquainted, I may say that it is certain, that, if the late Bishop of Winchester had lived in Catholic times, he could not have had a wife, and that he could not have had a wife's sister, to marry Mr. EDMUND POULTER, in which case, I may be allowed to think it possible, that Mr. POULTER would not have quitted the bar for the pulpit, and that he would not have had the two livings of Meon-Stoke and Soberton, and a Prebend besides; that his son BROWNLOW POULTER would not have had the two livings of Buriton and Petersfield; that his son CHARLES POULTER would not have had the three livings of Alton, Binstead and Kingsley; that his son-in-law OGLE would not have had the living of Bishop's Waltham; and that his son-in-law HAYGARTH would not have had the two livings of Upham and Durley. If the Bishop had lived in Catholic times, he could not have had a son, CHARLES AUGUSTUS NORTH, to have the two livings of Alverstoke and Havant and to be a Prebend; that he could not have had another son, FRANCIS NORTH, to have the four livings of Old Alresford, Medstead, New Alresford, and St. Mary's, Southampton, and to be, moreover, a Prebend and Master of St. Cross; that he could not have had a daughter to marry Mr. WiLLIAM GARNIER, to have the two livings of Droxford and Brightwell Baldwin, and to be a Prebend and a Chancellor besides; that he could not have had Mr. William Gamier's brother, THOMAS GARNIER, for a relation, and this latter might not, then, have had the two livings of Aldingbourn and Bishop's Stoke; that he could not have another daughter to marry Mr. THOMAS DE GREY, to have the four livings of Calbourne, Fawley, Merton, and Rounton, and to be a Prebend and also an Archdeacon besides! In short, if the late Bishop had lived in Catholic times, it is a little too much to believe, that these twenty-four Livings, five Prebends, one Chancellorship, one Archdeaconship, and one Mastership, worth perhaps, all together. more than twenty thousand pounds a-year, would have fallen to the ten persons above named. And, may we not reasonably suppose, that the Bishop, instead of leaving behind him (as the newspapers told us he did) savings to nearly the amount of three hundred thousand pounds in money, would, if he had had no children nor grand-children, have expended a part of his money on that ancient and magnificent Cathedral, the roof of which has recently been in danger of falling in, or, would have been the founder of something for the public good and national honour, or would have been a most munificent friend and protector of the poor, and would never, at any rate, have suffered SMALL BEER TO BE SOLD OUT OF HIS EPISCOPAL PALACE AT FARNHAM? With an excise licence, mind you! I do not say, or insinuate, that there was any smuggling carried on at the palace. Nor do I pretend to censure the act. A man who has a large family to provide for must be allowed to be the best judge of his means; and, if he happen to have an overstock of small beer, it is natural enough for him to sell it, in order to get money to buy meat, bread, groceries, or other necessaries. What I say is, that I do not think that WILLIAM of WYKHAM ever sold small beer, either by wholesale or retail; and I most distinctly assert, that this was done during the late Bishop's life-time, from his Episcopal Palace at Farnham! WILLIAM OF WYKHAM (who took his surname from a little village in Hampshire) was not Bishop of Winchester half so long as the late Bishop: but, out of his revenues, he built and endowed one of the Colleges at Oxford, the College of Winchester, and did numerous other most munificent things, in some of which, however, he was ot without examples in his predecessors, nor without imitators in his successors as long as the Catholic Church remained; but, when a married clergy came, then ended all that was munificent in the Bishops of this once famous city.
125. It is impossible to talk of the small beer and of the Master of Saint Cross, without thinking of the melancholy change which the "Reformation" has produced in this ancient establishment. Saint Cross, or Holy Cross, situated in a meadow about half a mile from Winchester, is an hospital, or place for hospitality, founded and endowed by a Bishop of Winchester, about seven hundred years ago. Succeeding Bishops added to its endowments, till, at last, it provided a residence and suitable maintenance for forty-eight decayed gentlemen, with priests, nurses, and other servants and attendants; and, besides this, it made provision for a dinner every day for a hundred of the most indigent men in the city. These met daily in a hall, called "the hundred men's hall." Each had a loaf of bread, three quarts of small beer and "two messes," for his dinner; and they were allowed to carry home that which they did not consume upon the spot. What is seen at the hospital of Holy Cross now? Alas! TEN poor creatures creeping about in this noble building, and THREE out-pensioners; and to those an attorney from Winchester carries, or sends, weekly, the few pence, whatever they may be, that are allowed them! But the place of the "Master" is, as I have heard, worth a round sum annually. I do not know exactly what it is; but, the post being a thing given to a son of the Bishop, the reader will easily imagine that it is not a trifle. There exists, however, here, that which, as Dr. MILNER observes, is probably, the last remaining vestige of "old English hospitality;" for here, any traveller who goes and knocks at the gate, and asks for relief, receives gratis a pint of good beer and a hunch of good bread. The late Lord Henry Stuart told me that he once went and that he received both.
126. But (and I had really nearly forgotten it) there is a Bishop of Winchester now! And, what is he doing? I have not heard that he has founded, or is about to found, any colleges or hospitals. All that I have heard of him in. the EDUCATION way, is, that, in his first charge to his Clergy (which he published) he urged them to circulate amongst their flocks the pamphlets of a society in London, at the head of which is Mr. JOSHUA WATSON, wine and spirit merchant, of Mincing-lane; and, all I have heard of him in the Charity way, is, that he is VICE-PATRON of a self-created body, called the "Hampshire Friendly Society," the object of which is, to raise subscriptions amongst the poor, for "their mutual relief and maintenance;" or, in other words, to induce the poor labourers to save out of their earnings the means of supporting themselves, in sickness or in old age, without coming for relief to the poor-rates! Good God! Why WILLIAM OF WYKHAM, Bishop Fox, Bishop WYNEFLEET; Cardinal BEAUFORT, HENRY DE BLOIS, and, if you take in all the Bishops of Winchester, even back to Saint SWITHIN himself; never would they have thought of a scheme like this for relieving the poor! Their way of promoting learning was, to found and endow colleges and schools; their way of teaching religion was, to build and endow churches and chapels; their way of relieving the poor and the ailing was, to found and endow hospitals: and all these at their own expense; out of their own revenues. Never did one of them, in order to obtain an interpretation of "Evangelical truth" for their flocks, dream of referring his Clergy to a Society, having a wine and brandy merchant at its head. Never did there come into the head of any one of them a thought so bright as that of causing the necessitous to relieve themselves! Ah! but they, alas lived. in the "dark ages of monkish ignorance and superstition." No wonder that they could not see that the poor were the fittest persons in the world to relieve the poor! And, besides, they had no wives and children! No sweet babes to smile on, to soften their hearts. If they had, their conjugal and paternal feelings would have taught them, that true charity begins at home; and that it teaches men to sell small beer, and not give it away.
127. Enough now about the celibacy of the Clergy: but, it is impossible to quit the subject without one word to Parson MALTHUS. This man is not only a Protestant, but a parson of our Church. Now, he wants to compel the labouring classes to refrain, to a great extent, from marriage; and Mr. SCARLETT actually brought a bill into parliament, having, in one part of it, this object avowedly in view; the great end, proposed by both, being to cause a diminution of the poor-rates. Parson MALTHUS does not call this recommending celibacy; but "moral restraint." And, what is celibacy but moral restraint? So that, here are these people reviling the Catholic Church for insisting on vows of celibacy on the part of those who choose to be priests, or nuns; and, at the same time, proposing to compel the labouring classes to live in a state of celibacy, or to run the manifest risk of perishing (they and their children) from starvation! Is all this sheer impudence, or is it sheer folly? One or the other it is, greater than ever was before heard from the lips of mortal man. They affect to believe that the clerical vow of celibacy must be nugatory, because nature is constantly at work to overcome it. This is what Dr. STURGES asserts. Now, if this be the case with men of education; men on whom their religion imposes abstinence, fasting, almost constant prayer, and an endless number of austerities; if this be the case with regard to such men, bound by a most solemn vow, a known breach ot which exposes them to indelible infamy; if such be the case with such men, and if it be, therefore, contemptible and wicked, not to compel them, mind, to make such vows, but to permit them voluntarily to do it, what must it be to compel young men and women labourers to live in a state of celibacy, or be exposed to absolute starvation? Why, the answer is, that it is the grossest of inconsistency, or of premeditated wickedness; but that, like all the other wild schemes and cruel projects relative to the poor, we trace it at once back to the" Reformation," that great source of the poverty and misery and degradation of the main body of the people of this kingdom. The "Reformation" despoiled the working classes of their patrimony; it tore from them that which nature and reason had assigned them; it robbed them of that relief for the necessitous, which was theirs by right imprescriptable, and which had been confirmed to them by the law of God and the law of the land. It brought a compulsory, a grudging, an unnatural mode of relief, calculated to make the poor and rich hate each other, instead of binding them together, as the Catholic mode did, by the bonds of Christian charity. But of all its consequences that of introducing a married clergy has, perhaps, been the most prolific in mischief. This has absolutely created an order for the procreation of dependants on the state; for the procreation of thousands of persons annually, who have no fortunes of their own, and who must be, some how or other, maintained by burdens imposed upon the people. Places, commissions, sinecures, pensions; something or other must be found for them; some sort of living out of the fruit of the rents of the rich and the wages of labour. If no excuse can be found; no pretence of public service; no corner of the pension list open; then they must come as a direct burden upon the people; and, thus it is that we have, within the last twenty years, seen sixteen hundred thousand pounds voted by the parliament out of the taxes, for the "relief of the poor Clergy of the Church of England;" and at the very time that this prernium on the procreation of idlers was annually being granted, the parliament was pestered with projects for compelling the working part of the community to lead a life of celibacy! What that is evil, what that is monstrous, has not grown out of this Protestant "Reformation"!
128. Thus, then, my friends, we have, I think, settled this great question; and, after all that we have, during our whole lives, heard against that rule of the Catholic Church. which imposed a vow of celibacy on those who chose the clerical, or the monastic life, we find, whether we look at this rule in a religious, in a moral, in a civil, or in a political, point of view, that it was founded in wisdom, that it was a great blessing to the people at large, and that its abolition is a thing to be deeply deplored.
129. So much, then, for this topic of everlasting railing against the Catholic Church. We must, before we come to an account of the deeds of the ruffian, THOMAS CROMWELL, who conducted the work of plunder, say something in answer to the general charge which Protestant writers, and particularly the malignant Scotch historians, have preferred against the Monasteries; for, if what they say were true, we might be disposed to think (as, indeed, we have been taught to think), that there was not so much harm in the plunderings that we are about to witness. We will take this general charge from the pen of HUME, who (Vol. iv. p. 160), speaking of the reports made by THOMAS CROMWELL and his myrmidons, says, "it is safest to credit the existence of vices naturally connected with the very institution of the monastic life. The cruel and inveterate factions and quarrels, therefore, which the commissioners mentioned, are VERY CREDIBLE among men, who, being confined together within the same walls, can never forget their mutual animosities, and who, being cut off from all the most endearing connections of nature, are commonly cursed with hearts more selfish, and tempers more unrelenting, than fall to the share of other men. The pious frauds, practised to increase the devotion and liberality of the people, may be regarded AS CERTAIN, in an order "founded on illusion, lies and superstition. The SUPINE IDLENESS, also, and its attendant, PROFOUND IGNORANCE, with which the convents were reproached, ADMIT OF NO QUESTION. No manly or elegant knowledge could be expected among men, whose life, condemned to a tedious uniformity, and deprived of all emulation, afforded nothing to raise the mind or cultivate the genius."
130. I question whether monk ever wrote sentences con taining worse grammar than these contain: but, as to the facts; these "very credible," these "certain," these "unquestionable," facts, are, almost upon the face of them, a tissue of malignant lies. What should there be "factions" and "quarrels" about, amongst men living so "idle" and "unambitious" a life? How much harder are the hearts of unmarried, than those of married ecclesiastics we have seen above, in the contrast between the charities of Catholic, and those of Protestant, bishops. It is quite "credible," that men, lost in "supine idleness," should practise frauds to get money, which their very state prevented them from either keeping or bequeathing, and who were totally destitute of all "emulation." The malignity of this liar exceeded his cunning, and made him not perceive, that he was, in one sentence, furnishing strong presumptive proof against the truth of another sentence. Yet, as his history has been, and is, much read, and, as it has deceived me, along with so many thousands of others, I shall, upon this subject, appeal to several authorities, all Protestants, mind, in contradiction to these, his false and base assertions, just remarking, by the way, that he himself never had a family, or a wife, and that he was a great, fat fellow, fed, in considerable part, out of public money, without having merited it by any real public services.
131. In his History of England, he refers, not less than two hundred times, to Bishop TANNER, who was Bishop of St. Asaph in the reign of George the Second. Let us hear, then, what Bishop TANNER; let us hear what this Protestant Bishop says, of the character and effects of the Monasteries, which the savages under Henry VIII. destroyed; Let us see how this high authority of HUME agrees with him on this, one of the most interesting and important points in our history. We are about to witness a greater act of plunder, a more daring contempt of law and justice and humanity, than ever was, in any other case, witnessed in the whole world. We are going to see thousands upon thousands of persons stripped, in an instant, of all their property; torn from their dwellings, and turned out into the wide world to beg or starve; and all this, too, in violation, not only of natural justice, but of every law. of the country, written and unwritten. Let us, then, see what was the character of the persons thus treated, and what were the effects of the institutions to which they belonged. And, let us see this, not in the description given by an avowed enemy not only of the Catholic, but of the Cluttian religion; but, in that descrIption which has been given us uy a Protestant Bishop, and in a book written expressly to give "An account of all the abbeys, priories, and friaries, formerly existing in England and Wales;" bearing in mind, as we go along, that HUME has, in his History of England, referred to this very work, upwards of two hundred times, taking care, however, not to refer to a word of it, relating to the important question now before us.
132. Bishop TANNER, before entering on his laborious account of the several monastic institutions, gives us, in pages 19, 20 and 21 of his preface, the following general description of the character and pursuits of the Monasteries, and of the effects of their establishments. I beg you, my friends, to keep, as you read, Bishop TANNER's description, the description of HUME constantly in your minds. Remember, and look, now-and-then, back at his charges of "supine idleness," "profound ignorance," want of all "emulation and all manly and Segant knowledge;" and, above all things, remember his charge of selfishness, his charge of "frauds" to get money from the people. The Bishop speaks thus upon the subject.
133. "In every great abbey, there was a large room called the Scriptorium,
where several writers made it their whole business to transcribe books for the
use of the library. They sometimes, indeed, wrote the ledger books of the house,
and the missals, and other books, used in divine service, but they were
generally upon other works, viz.: the Fathers, Classics, Histories, &c.
&c. JOHN WHETHAMSTED, Abbot of St. Albans, caused above eighty books to be
thus transcribed (there was then no printing) during his abbacy. Fifty-eight
were transcribed by the care of one Abbot, at Glastonbury; and so zealous were
the Monks in general for this work, that they often got lands given, and
churches appropriated, for the carrying of it on. In all the greater abbeys,
there were also persons appointed to take notice of the principal occurrences of
the kingdom, and at the end of every year to digest them into annals. In these
records they particularly preserved the memoirs of their founders, and
benefactors, the years and days of their births and deaths; their marriages,
children, and successors; so that recourse was sometimes bad to them for proving
persons' ages, and genealogies though it is to be feared, that some of those
pedigrees were drawn up from tradition only: and that, in most of their
accounts, they were favourable to their friends, and severe upon their enemies.
The constitutions of the clergy in their national and provincial synods, and
(after the Conquest) even Acts of Parliament, were sent to the abbeys to be
recorded: Which leads me to mention the use and advantage of these religious
houses. For, FIRST, the choicest records and treasures in the kingdom were
preserved in them. An exemplification of the charter of liberties, granted by
King Henry I. (MAGNA CHARTA) was sent to some abbey in every county to be
preserved. Charters and Inquisitions relating to the county of Cornwall were
deposited in the Priory of Bodmin; a great many rolls were lodged in the Abbey
of Leicester, and Priory of Kenilworth, till taken from thence by King Henry
III. King Edward I. sent to the religious houses to search for his title to the
kingdom of Scotland, in their ledgers and chronicles, as the most authentic
records for proof of his right to that crown. When his sovereignty was
acknowledged in Scotland, he sent letters to have it inserted in the chronicles
of the Abbey of Winchomb, and the Priory of Norwich, and probably of many other
such like places. And when he decided the controversy relating to the crown of
Scotland, between Robert Brus and John Baliol, he wrote to the Dean and Chapter
of St. Paul's, London, requiring them to enter into their chronicles the
exemplification therewith sent of that decision. The learned Mr. SELDEN hath his
greatest evidences for the dominion of the narrow seas, belonging to the King of
Great Britain, from Monastic records. The evidences and money of private
families were oftentimes sent to these houses to be preserved. The seals of
noblemen were deposited there upon their deaths. And even the King's money was
sometimes lodged in them. -- SECONDLY, they were schools of learning and
education, for every convent had one person or more appointed for this purpose;
and all the neighbours, that desired it, might have their children taught
grammar and church music without any expense to them. In the Nunneries also
young women were taught to work) and to read English, and sometimes Latin also.
So that not only the lower rank of people who could not pay for their learning,
but most of the noblemen's and gentlemen's daughters were educated in those
places. -- THIRDLY, all the Monasteries were, in effect, great hospitals. And
were most of them obliged to relieve many poor people every day. There were
likewise houses of entertainment for almost all travellers. Evcn the nobility
and gentry, when they were upon the road, lodged at one religious house, and
dined at another, and seldom, or never, went to inns. In short, their
hospitality was such, that in the Priory of Norwich, one thousand five hundred
quarters of malt, and above eight hundred quarters of wheat, and all other
things in proportion, were generally spent every year. -- FOURTHLY, the nobility
and gentry provided not only for their old servants, in these houses by
corrodies, but for their younger children, and impoverished friends, by making
them, first, monks and nuns, and in time, priors and prioresscs, and abbots and
abbesses -- FIFTHLY, they were of considerable advantage to the Crown:
1. By the profits received from the death of one Abbot or Prior, to the election, or, rather, confirmation, of another.
2. By great fines paid for the confirmation of their liberties.
3. By many corrodies granted to old servants of the Crown, and pensions to the King's clerks and chaplains, till they get preferment. -- SIXTHLY, they were likewise of considerable advantage to the places where they had their sites and estates:--
1. By causing great resort to them, and getting grants of fairs and markets for them.
2 By freeing them from the forest laws.
3. By letting their lands at easy rates.
-- LASTLY, they were great ornaments to the country: many of them were really noble buildings; and though not actually so grand and neat, yet, perhaps, as much admired in their times, as Chelsea and Greenwich Hospitals are now. Many of the abbey churches were equal, if not superior, to our present Cathedrals; and they must have been as much an ornament to the country, and employed as many workmen in building, and keeping them in repair, as noblemen's and gentlemen's seats now do."
134. Now, then, malignant HUME, come up, and face this Protestant bishop, whose work you have quoted more than two hundred times, and who here gives the lie direct to all and every part of your description. Instead of your "supine idleness," we have industry the most patient and persevering; instead of your "profound ignorance," we have, in even convent, a school for teaching, gratis, all useful science; instead of your want of all "manly and elegant knowledge," we have the study, the teaching, the transcribing, the preserving, of the Classics; instead of your "selfishness" and your "pious frauds" to get the money from the people, we have hospitals for the sick, doctors and nurses to attend them, and the most disinterested, the most kind, the most noble hospitality; instead of that "slavery," which, in fifty parts of your history, you assert to have been taught by the monks, we have the freeing of people from the forest laws, and the preservation of the Great Charter of English liberty; and you know as well as I, that when this Charter was renewed by King JOHN, the renewal was, in fact, the work of Archbishop LANGTON, who roused the Barons to demand it, he having, as TANNER observes, found the Charter deposited in an abbey! Back, then; down, then, malignant liar, and tell the devil that the Protestant Bishop TANNER hast sent thee!
135. Want of room compels me to stop; but, here, in this one authority, we have ten thousand times more than enough to answer the malignant liar, HUME, and all the revilers of monastic life, which lies and revilings it was necessary to silence before proceeding, as I shall in the next Letter, to describe the base, the cruel, the bloody means by which these institutions were devastated and de stroyed.