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much, if not all, of the danger of intrigue and family feud. Thus he says of the early Saxons :
*The king was elected by the witan, but always out of the heroic house of Cerdic, and generally by the rule of male primogeniture, though the witan, as the exigencies of rough times required, could sometimes exclude, and sometimes depose, as the Parliament, its successor, deposed Edward II., Richard II., and virtually, though not in form, the second James.' Or, again, of John :
· Had the present rule of succession to the crown been then in force, young Arthur would have been Richard's successor on the throne. But the rule was not yet settled, and the man was still preferred to the boy. John, when he had gone through the form of election and been crowned by the Archbishop, was rightful king of England.' Curiously, he appears to lose sight of this principle in speaking of the accession of Henry VII., when he says :
On the field of Bosworth, Henry Tudor put on the circlet taken from the head of the slain Richard. This was his real coronation. His title was victory, though in deference to the principle of inheritance, by this time deeply rooted, he entwined with it that of succession from a legitimated bastard of Lancaster and that of marriage with the heiress of York.' But much of this is contrary to fact, and all of it to the theory of the Constitution. It was, indeed, said that Henry intended to claim the throne by right of conquest, but desisted on its being pointed out to him that to do so would set all the Yorkists against him. It is quite certain that the enemy whom he defeated at Bosworth was Richard, not the Yorkists; and that without a friendly agreement with the Yorkists he could not have attained the throne. It is possible, and indeed probable, that he believed the limiting clause introduced by Henry IV. into the Act legitimatising the Beauforts to be valid ; so that, while he spoke of coming to the crown by just right of inheritance,' he was careful not to particularise it; but the Parliament, called in his interest, put any claim of the sort on one side, and asserted simply that the inheritance of the crowns of • England and France be, rest, remain, and abide in the ' person of our now sovereign lord, King Harry the Seventh, and in the heirs of his body. He thus reigned by a title as purely parliamentary as that of Henry IV., or John, or Stephen—not to carry the instances still further back.
It may easily be said, What does Henry VII.'s title
matter now? So far as Henry himself is concerned, nothing; but to his descendants it is a matter of some interest, and to the right understanding of English history it is a matter of some importance. In 1536 Parliament modified the Act of 1485 by giving Henry VIII. power to regulate the succession by will, and it may well be that the reaction in favour of hereditary right, and the parliamentary approval of that reaction which brought James I. to the throne in despite of Henry VIII.'s will, had much to do with impressing on the Stuart sovereigns their theory of Divine Right. But of such a theory Parliament knew nothing. In strict accordance with old precedent, it elected William III. and Mary in 1689, and in 1700 passed the Act of Settlement, forming the title of the House of Hanover. We so frequently hear it said that the Queen's sovereignty is of the nature of a usurpation, and that our true legitimate sovereign is a nearer representative of the Stuart family, that we may be excused for pointing out that no prince of the House of Stuart can have a stronger title to the throne than that which was given to Henry VII.that is, an Act of Parliament. The title of the House of Hanover has thus exactly the same force as that of the House of Tudor or the House of Stuart before 1689 or 1700; and to talk of the better and absolute right to the crown of England of any descendant of Charles I. is not only political nonsense—as everybody not qualified for apartments in a lunatic asylum knows it is—but is also historical nonsense, as to which some reasonably sane people have professed doubts.
The popular idea of Archbishop Thomas-very commonly called Becket-is that he was the champion of liberty against an arbitrary king, and died in glorious martyrdom for the cause to which he had devoted his life. This is not the student's view, and twenty years ago Mr. Rawson Gardiner pointed out that the liberties which the Archbishop defended were those of his order; that he was little more than the champion of his profession. This is the view which, in more positive language, Mr. Smith now enunciates. After speaking of Becket's early career as secretary and chancellor, he says :
Character does not suddenly change in middle age, but aims sometimes do. ... We are told that he changed his life, practised asceticism, wore a hair shirt, &c. ... That he set himself to reform the Church his biographers assure us; but to two great abuses, pluralism and sinecurism, he was bound to be kind, since he had not only himself been one of the greatest of pluralists and sinecurists before his appointment to the archbishopric, but after his appointment had continued with his archbishopric to hold the rich archdeaconry of Canterbury.' And again :
Of Christ in Becket's character there is little trace, except the courage of martyrdom. Nor was he the champion of any cause but clerical privilege. In that cause he fought stoutly and died bravely. In passing judgement on his case we bave to determine how far privilege, in itself unreasonable and noxious, might in that stage of civilisation be useful as a bar against the despotism of kings. That sympathy is due to the Papacy or the Church as a moral power contending against a power not moral seems a fallacy. Superstition is no more moral than force. To effect its ends it has to become force.' And after enumerating some dozen of political crimes, countenanced by the Pope, from the Norman conquest of England to the expulsion of the Huguenots, he asks :
"What were these but acts of force commanded by superstition ? Were they any the more spiritual or the less criminal because superstition, instead of doing them herself, had to enlist in her service, at the same time depraying, an earthly power?' And on the subject of popular liberties and the welfare of the lower classes he has :
Fancy has pitched on the article in the Constitutions of Clarendon] forbidding the ordination of serfs without the consent of the lords, and Becket, for resisting that enactment, has been held up as the tribune of an oppressed people and a subject race. There is nothing of this in the biographies or in the voluminous correspondence of Becket and his friends. . . . That ordination did open a door to the serf is true; let the Church have full credit for it. But the Constitution was not intended to close that door ; it was intended simply to guard the property of the lay lord. The Church preached emancipation as a good deed; yet she held serfs herself, though probably in mild bondage, to the last. It seems also that she restrained her own serfs from ordination.'
Mr. Smith's bias against what may be called the political side of the Church of Rome is so strongly marked, that it is not surprising to find him taking the execution, by Henry IV., of Archbishop Scrope as quite the correct reward for getting up a rebellion in the North and issuing manifestoes which were worth about as much as the pronunciamiento of a rebel aspirant to the presidency of a South American Republic.' • The age of Becket,' he says, 'was past. The execution was a
strong measure for that day; to call it judicial murder seems too ecclesiastical. Scrope was taken in armed, unprovoked, and criminal rebellion. .. The coat of mail in which the Archbishop had been arrested was sent to the Pope, with the question, “ Is this thy son's coat ?" Nor was the moral force of that argument touched by the Pope's smart answer, “An evil beast hath devoured him.” Was the country to be devastated and dismembered with impunity by political intriguers etyling themselves apostles of the religion of Christ ?? We may thus feel very certain that Mr. Smith has no prejudices in favour of the Papacy, and that, when he comes to speak of the Reformation under Henry VIII., he is not influenced by any partisan sympathy in saying :
'More did no seditious act; he spoke no disloyal word; but he declined to swear against his conscience to the Act of Succession, framed to legitimise the marriage with Anne or to the Act of Supremacy making an earthly despot head of the Church. It was the special infamy of these statutes that they violated the sanctuary of conscience, and required not only submission, but an oath of assent.
More was attainted and murdered. With him for the same cause died Bishop Fisher, the best of the Catholic prelates. ... The sophisms by which these murders have been defended may be passed over with scorn.' His comment on the death of the monks of the Charterhouse is not less frank :
“Refusing, as not only every Catholic, but every Protestant worthy of the name, would now refuse, to take the tyrant's tests, they were iniquitously and cruelly butchered-partners with More and Fisher in martyrdom, not to the Catholic faith alone, but to spiritual liberty and truth.'
A man who can speak thus of the crucial instances of the king's tyranny may claim to be listened to when he speaks of the dissolution of the monasteries—a measure which he describes as suggested by Cromwell in order to provide the means of supplying the demands of his master's extravagance. He is fully aware that the commissioners were mere tools, sent to find reasons for a sweeping confiscation and finding them accordingly; that their report sometimes preceded inquiry; that charges of misconduct and treason were fashioned to order; and that the whole proceeding was as iniquitous and abominable as anything in our history. Nevertheless, he approves of the result. The monasteries, monastic life, monasticism in England were an anachronism :
Asceticism, a false aspiration, though useful in its day as a protest against barbarian sensuality, had by this time decisively failed. It had
degenerated into torpor, or something worse than torpor, with a prayermill. Rules had been relaxed. In the lesser monasteries especially corruption bad frequently set in. Monastic life having become a life of drones, the lazy were sure to take to it, and laziness was pretty sure to breed vice. Monasteries in parts of the country where there were no inns were still useful as hospices. They fed the poor at their gates, fostering mendicancy, however, by their almsgiving. As havens of learning and places of education they had been largely superseded by universities, grammar schools, and libraries. Printing had put an end to the use of their writing-rooms for copying books. Instead of being in a narrow way pioneers of intellectual progress, they had become a bar to it. of all that was reactionary and obscurantist in the Church they were the strongholds, and some of them subsisted by the grossest impostures of superstition. To parochial religion they were noxious as appropriators of parish tithes. Easy landlords they probably were, but not, as in the early Cistercian days, agricultural improvers. . • . They had, in short, generally become an incubus on the community.' No fairer or clearer summary of this much-controverted question has perhaps ever been penned ; and its writer is necessarily led to the conclusion that the time had come for the end of monasticism in England. But he thinks that dissolution might have been gradual. It might have respected local circumstance and feeling. In the wild and ill-peopled North monasteries were still useful as hospices, as almshouses, as dispensaries, as record offices, as schools, perhaps in a rough way as centres of civilisation. Their faith was still that of the people; their prayers and masses for the dead were still prized. Their destruction and the religious innovations of the government brought on a dangerous insurrection in the North, called the Pilgrimage of Grace.'
Mr. Smith has, however, omitted one consideration which must have seemed all-important in Cromwell's eyes, and rendered immediate action necessary. The monasteries were extra-diocesan, and under the immediate authority of the Pope ; they were thus strongholds of the papal power, garrisons of the enemy to the king's supremacy. To maintain this, some radical change in the government of the monasteries was imperative, and the more so according as the individual houses were purer, better administered, doing better work. It was simpler, as well as more profitable, to overthrow them altogether and divide the spoil. The infamy of the means adopted to bring about the dissolution is Cromwell's; the infamy of the spoliation is Henry's. The money ought to have been devoted, if not entirely to purposes of religion and education, at least to the service of the State. As it was, a small part was spent in found