Who can say, then, that Gregory XIII. was guilty of injustice and of abetting rebellion when, in 1578, he furnished James Fitzmaurice, the great Geraldine, with a fleet and army to fight against Elizabeth? The authority greatest in Catholic eyes, and most worthy of respect in the eyes of all impartial men—the Pope— thus endorsed the patent fact that Ireland was an independent nation, and could wage war against her oppressors. Here we have a stand-point from which to argue the question for future times.
The rash or, perhaps, treacherous share taken by a few Irish chieftains, in the schismatical and heretical as well as unpatriotic decrees of the Parliament of 1541, and in the subsequent ones of 1549, could compromise the Irish nation in nowise, inasmuch as the people, being still even in legal enjoyment of their own government, their chieftains possessed no authority to decide on such questions without the full concurrence of their clans, and these had already pronounced, clearly enough and unmistakably, on the return of their lords from their title-hunting expedition in England.
All the chroniclers of the time agree that "the people" was invariably sound in faith, siding with the chieftains wherever they rose in opposition to oppressive decrees, abandoning them when they showed signs of wavering, even; but, above all, when they ranged themselves with the oppressors of the Church. The English Protestant writers of the period confirm this honorable testimony of the Irish bards, by constantly accusing the natives of a "rebellious" spirit.
The history of the Geraldine struggle is known to all readers of Irish history, and does not enter into the scope of these pages. We have, however, to consider the foreign aid which the chieftains received, from Spain chiefly, and the causes of these failures, which at first would seem to argue a lack of firmness on the part of the Irish themselves. During the Geraldine wars, and later on in what is called the rebellion of Hugh O'Neill and Hugh O'Donnell, the King of Spain sent vessels and troops to the assistance of the Irish. All these expeditions failed, and the destruction of the natives was far greater than it might otherwise have been, in consequence of the greater number of English troops sent to Ireland to face the expected Spanish invasion.
The same ill success attended the French fleet and army dispatched to Limerick by Louis XIV. to assist James II., and, later still, the large fleet and well-appointed troops sent by the French Convention to the aid of the "United Irishmen," in 1798.
In like manner, the Vendeans, on the other side, those French "rebels" against the Convention itself, received their death- blow in consequence of the English who were sent to their succor at Quiberon.
It seems, indeed, a universal historic law that, when a nation or a party in a nation struggles against another, the almost invariable consequence of foreign aid is failure; but no conclusion can be deduced from that fact of lack of bravery, steadfastness, even ultimate success, on the part of those who rise in arms against oppression. Of the many causes which may be assigned to that apparently strange law of history, the chief are:
1. The difficulty of effecting a joint and simultaneous effort between the insurgent forces and the distant friendly power. Help comes either too soon or too late, or lands on a point of the coast where aid is worse than useless, and where it only throws confusion into the ranks of the struggling native forces, whose plans are thus all disarranged, disconcerted, and thrown into confusion. Add to this the dangers of the sea, the possibly insufficient knowledge of the soundings and of the nature of the coast, the differences of spirit, customs, and language, of the two coalescing forces, and it may be easily concluded that the chances of success, as opposed to those of failure, are but scanty.
2. The forces against which the coalition is made are always immeasurably increased for the very purpose of meeting it, its purport being always known beforehand. In the case under consideration, it were easy to show that Elizabeth was prompted by the fear of Spain to be speedy in crushing the attempted "rebellions" in the south and north. Historians have made a computation of the troops dispatched from England by the queen, and of the treasure spent in these expeditions during her reign, and the result is astonishing for the times. In fact, the whole strength of England was brought into requisition for the purpose of overpowering Ireland.
In our own days, the successful insurrection of Greece against Turkey seems at variance with these considerations. But the independence of the Greeks was brought about rather by the unanimous voice of Europe coercing Turkey than by the few troops sent from France, or by the few English or Poles who volunteered their aid to the insurgents.
The remarks we have made may be further corroborated by the reflection that the successful risings of oppressed nationalities, recorded in modern history, were wholly effected by the unaided forces of the insurgents. Thus, the seven cantons of Switzerland succeeded against Austria, the Venetian Republic against the barbarians of the North, the Portuguese in the Braganza revolution against Spain, and the United Provinces of the Low Countries against Spain and Germany.
The only historical instance which may contravene this general rule is found in the Revolution of the United States of America, where the French cooperation was timely and of real use, chiefly because the foreign aid was placed entirely under the control and at the command of the supreme head of the colonists, General Washington.
These few words suffice for our purpose.
The policy of Elizabeth toward the Irish nobility is well known to our readers. The fate of the house of Desmond was, in her mind, sealed from the beginning. It is now an ascertained fact that she drove the great earl into rebellion, who, for a long time, refused openly to avow his approbation of the confederates' schemes, and even seemed at first to cooperate with the queen's forces, in opposition to them. It was only after his cousin Fitzmaurice and his brother John had been almost ruined that, convinced of the determination of the English Government to seize and occupy Munster with his five or six millions of acres, he boldly stood up for his faith and his country, and perished in the attempt.
It was then that "Protestant plantations" began in Ireland. The confiscated estates of Desmond—which, in reality, did not belong to him but to his tribe—were handed over to companies of "planters out of Devonshire, Dorsetshire, and Somersetshire, out of Lancashire and Cheshire, organized for defence and to be supported by standing forces."—(Prendergast.)
Then the work set on foot by Henry II. in favor of Strongbow, De Lacy, De Courcy, and others, was resumed, after an interval of four hundred years, to be carried through to the end; that is to say, to the complete pauperizing of the native race.
Among the "undertakers" and "planters" introduced into Munster by Elizabeth, a word may not be out of place on Edmund Spenser and Walter Raleigh, the first a great poet, the second a great warrior and courtier. They both united in advocating the extermination of the native race, a policy which Henry VIII. was too high-minded to accept, and Elizabeth too great a despiser of "the people" to notice. To Henry and Elizabeth Tudor the people was nothing; the nobility every thing. Spenser, Raleigh, and other Englishmen of note, who came into daily contact with the nation, saw very well that account should be taken of it, and thought, as Sir John Davies had thought before them, that it ought to be "rooted out." That great question of the Irish people was assuming vaster proportions every day; the people was soon to show itself in all its strength and reality, to be crushed out apparently by Cromwell, but really to be preserved by Providence for a future age, now at hand to-day.
Spenser and Raleigh, being gifted with keener foresight than most of their countrymen, were for the entire destruction of the people, thinking, as did many French revolutionists of our own days, that "only the dead never come back."
The author of the "Faerie Queene," who had taken an active part in the horrible butcheries of the Geraldine war, when all the Irish of Munster were indiscriminately slaughtered, insisted that a similar policy should be adopted for the whole island. In his work "On the State of Ireland," he asks for "large masses of troops to tread down all that standeth before them on foot, and lay on the ground all the stiff-necked people of that land." He urges that the war be carried on not only in the summer but in the winter; "for then, the trees are bare and naked, which use both to hold and house the kerne; the ground is cold and wet, which useth to be his bedding; the air is sharp and bitter, to blow through his naked sides and legs; the kine are barren and without milk, which useth to be his food, besides being all with calf (for the most part), they will through much chasing and driving cast all their calf, and lose all their milk, which should relieve him in the next summer."
Spenser here employs his splendid imagination to present gloatingly such details as the most effective means for the destruction of the hated race. All he demands is, that "the end should be very short," and he gives us an example of the effectiveness and beauty of his system "in the late wars in Munster." For, "notwithstanding that the same" (Munster) "was a most rich and plentiful country, full of corne and cattle, . . . yet ere one yeare and a half they" (the Irish) "were brought to such wretchednesse as that any stony heart would have rued the same. Out of every corner of woods and glynnes, they came creeping forthe upon their hands, for their legges could not beare them; they looked like anatomies of death; they spoke like ghosts crying out of their graves . . . . that in short space there were none almost left, and a most populous and plentiful country suddenly left void of man and beast."
Such is a picture, horribly graphic, of the state to which Munster had been reduced by the policy of England as carried out by a Gilbert, a Peter Carew, and a Cosby; and to this pass the "gentle" Spenser would have wished to see the whole country come.
Even Mr. Froude is compelled to denounce in scathing terms the monsters employed by the queen, and his facts are all derived, he tells us, from existing "state papers."
Writing of the end of the Geraldine war, he says: "The English nation was at that time shuddering over the atrocities of the Duke of Alva. The children in the nurseries were being inflamed to patriotic rage and madness by the tales of Spanish tyranny. Yet, Alva's bloody sword never touched the young, defenceless, or those whose sex even dogs can recognize and respect.
"Sir Peter Carew has been seen murdering women and children, and babies that had scarcely left the breast; but Sir Peter Carew was not called on to answer for his conduct, and remained in favor with the deputy. Gilbert, who was left in command at Kilnallock, was illustrating yet more signally the same tendency. " Nor "was Gilbert a bad man. As time went on, he passed for a brave and chivalrous gentleman, not the least distinguished in that high band of adventurers who carried the English flag into the western hemisphere . . . . above all, a man of 'special piety.' He regarded himself as dealing rather with savage beasts than with human beings (in Ireland), and, when he tracked them to their dens, he strangled the cubs, and rooted out the entire brood.
"The Gilbert method of treatment has this disadvantage, that it must be carried out to the last extremity, or it ought not to be tried at all. The dead do not come back; and if the mothers and babies are slaughtered with the men, the race gives no further trouble; but the work must be done thoroughly; partial and fitful cruelty lays up only a long debt of deserved and ever- deepening hate.
"In justice to the English soldiers, however, it must be said that it was no fault of theirs if any Irish child of that generation was allowed to live to manhood."—(Hist. of Engl., vol. x., p. 507.)
These Munster horrors occurred directly after the defeat of the Irish at Kinsale. Cromwell, therefore, in the atrocities which will come under our notice, only followed out the policy of the "Virgin Queen." And it is but too evident that the English of 1598 were the fathers or grandfathers of those of 1650. Both were inaugurating a system of warfare which had never been adopted before, even among pagans, unless by the Tartar troops under Genghis Khan; a system which in future ages should shape the policy, which was followed, for a short time, by the French Convention in la Vendee.
Raleigh, as well as Spenser, seems to have been a vigorous advocate of this system. It is true that his sole appearance on the scene was on the occasion of the surrender of Smerwick by the Spanish garrison; but the Saxon spirit of the man was displayed in his execution of Lord Grey's orders, who, after, according to all the Irish accounts, promising their lives to the Spaniards, had them executed; and Raleigh appears to have directed that execution, whereby eight hundred prisoners of war were cruelly butchered and flung over the rocks in the sea. From that time out the phrase "Grey's faith" (Graia fides) became a proverb with the Irish.
After having succeeded in crushing Desmond and "planting " Munster, the attention of Elizabeth was directed to the 0'Neills and O'Donnells of Ulster. That thrilling history is well known. It is enough to say that O'Donnell from his youth was designedly exasperated by ill-treatment and imprisonment; and that as soon as O'Neill, who had been treated with the greatest apparent kindness by the queen, that he might become a queen's man, showed that he was still an Irishman and a lover of his country, he was marked out as a victim, and all the troops and treasures of England were poured out lavishly to crush him and destroy the royal races of the north.
In that gigantic struggle one feature is remarkable—that, whenever the English Government felt obliged to come to terms with the last asserters of Irish independence, the first condition invariably laid down by O'Neill and O'Donnell was the free exercise of the Catholic religion. For we must not lose sight of the well-ascertained fact that the English queen, who at the very commencement of her reign had had her spiritual supremacy acknowledged by the Irish Parliament under pain of forfeiture, praemunire, and high-treason, insisted all along on the binding obligation of this title; and though at first she had secretly promised that this law should not be enforced against the laity, she showed by all her measures that its observance was of paramount importance in her eyes.
Had the Irish followed the English as a nation, and accepted Protestantism, Elizabeth would scarcely have made war upon them, nor introduced her "plantations." All along the Irish were "traitors" and "rebels" simply because they chose to remain Catholics, and McGeoghegan has well remarked that, "not- withstanding the severe laws enacted by Henry VIII., Edward VI., and Elizabeth, down to James I., it is a well-established truth that, during that period, the number of Irishmen who embraced the 'reformed religion' did not amount to sixty in a country which at the time contained two millions of souls." And McGeoghegan might have added that, of these sixty, not one belonged to the people; they were all native chieftains who sold their religion in order to hold their estates or receive favors from the queen.
Sir James Ware is bold enough to say that, in all her dealings with the Irish nobility, Elizabeth never mentioned religion, and their right of practising it as they wished never came into the question. She certainly never subjected them to any oath, as was the case in England. Technically speaking, this statement seems correct. Yet it is undeniable that Elizabeth allowed no Catholic bishops or priests to remain in the island; permitted the Irish to have none but Protestant school-teachers for their children; bestowed all their churches on heretical ministers; closed, one by one, all the buildings which Catholics used for their worship, as soon as their existence became known to the police; in fact obliged them to practise Protestantism or no religion at all.
In the eyes of Elizabeth a Catholic was a "rebel." Whoever was executed for religion during her reign was executed for "rebellion." The Roman emperors who persecuted the Church during the first three centuries, might have advanced the same pretences And indeed the early Christians were said to be tortured and executed for their "violation of the laws of the empire."
This point will come more clearly before us in considering the second phase of the policy of Elizabeth, her direct interference with the Church.
II. If the policy of England's queen had been one of treachery and deceit toward the nobility, toward the Church it was avowedly one of blood and destruction.
Well-intentioned and otherwise well-informed writers, among them Mr. Prendergast, seem to consider that the main object of the atrocious proceedings we now proceed to glance at was "greed," and that the English Government merely connived at the covetous desires of adventurers and undertakers, who wished to destroy the Irish and occupy their lands; for, as Spenser says "Sure it was a most beautiful and sweete country as any under heaven, being stored throughout with many goodly rivers, replenished with all sorts of fish most abundantly; sprinkled with many very sweete islands, and goodly lakes like little inland seas; adorned with goodly woods; also full of very good ports and havens opening upon England as inviting us to come into them."
Such, according to those writers, was the policy of England from the first landing of Strongbow on the shores of Erin, and even during the preceding four centuries, when both races were Catholic, and the conversion of the natives to Protestantism could not enter the thoughts of the invaders.
This, to a certain extent, is true. Still, it seems very doubtful to us that Elizabeth should have undertaken so many wars in Ireland, which lasted through her whole reign, and on which she employed all the strength and resources of England, merely to please a certain number of nobles who wished to find foreign estates whereon to settle their numerous offspring.
The chief importance, in her eyes, of the conquest was clearly to establish her spiritual superiority in that part of her dominions. She would have left the native nobles at peace, and even conferred on them her choicest favors, had they only consented, as English subjects, to break with Rome. Rome had excommunicated her; Pius V. had released her subjects from their allegiance because of her heresy, and Ireland did not reject the bull of the Pope. This in her eyes constituted the great and unpardonable offence of the Irish. And that, for her, the whole question bore a religious character, will appear more clearly from her conduct toward the Catholic Church throughout her reign. Into this part of our subject the examination of the step taken by Pius V. naturally enters, and, in examining it, we shall see whether, and how far, the Irish can be called rebels and "traitors."
In his history of the Reformation, Dr. Heylin says of Elizae's supremacy could not stand together, and she could not possibly maintain the one without discarding the other." This is perfectly true, and furnishes us with the key to all her church measures.
She pretended to be a Catholic during Mary's reign; but it was merely pretence. To persevere in Catholicity required of her the sacrifice of her political aspirations; for the Church could not admit of her legitimacy, and consequently her title to the crown of England. Hence, upon the death of Mary Tudor, the Queen of Scots immediately assumed the title of Queen of England; and although the Pope, then Pius IV., did not immediately declare himself in favor of Mary Stuart, but reserved his decision for a future period, nevertheless, the view of the case adopted by the Pontiff could not be mistaken. Elizabeth's legitimacy, or, as Heylin has it, "legitimation and the Pope's supremacy could not stand together." No course was left open to her, then, than to reject the pontifical authority, and establish her own in her dominions, as she did not possess faith enough to set her soul above a crown; and the success of her father, Henry VIII., and of her half-brother, Edward VI., encouraged her in this step. This fully explains her policy. It became a principle with her that, to accept the Pope's supremacy in spirituals, was to deny her legitimacy, and consequently to be guilty of treason against her. This made the position of Catholics in England and Ireland a most trying one. But their moral duty was clear enough, and every other obligation had to give way before that. In the persecution which followed they were certainly martyrs to their duty and their religion.
That the question of the succession in England was an open one, must be admitted by every candid man. Who was the legitimate Queen of England at the death of Mary Tudor? The Queen of Scots assumed the title, and, as the legitimate offspring of the sister of Henry VIII., she had the right to it as the nearest direct descendant in the event of Elizabeth's pretensions not being admitted by the nation. The nation at the time was in fact, though not in right, the nobles, who enriched themselves at the expense of the Church, and were therefore deeply interested in the exclusion of Catholic principles. A Parliament composed of the nobles had already acknowledged Elizabeth to the exclusion of the Queen of Scots, and the former decision was reaffirmed as against a "female pretender" supported by a foreign power, namely, France.
England, that is to say, the corrupt nobility of the kingdom, by taking upon itself that decision, refused to submit the question to the arbitration of the Pope; and thus, for the first time, the principles which had guided Christendom for eight hundred years, were discarded. Yet, under Mary, the Catholic Church had been declared the Church of the state; at her death, no change took place; the mass of the people was still Catholic. It took Elizabeth her whole reign to make the English a thoroughly Protestant people. The great mass of the nation came consequently then, even legally, under the law of mediaeval times, which surrendered the decision of such cases into the hands of the Roman Pontiff.
Again, when we reflect that our preset object is the consideration of who was the legitimate Queen of Ireland, the question becomes clearer and simpler still. The supremacy of Henry VIII. had never been acknowledged in the island, even by those who had subscribed to the decrees of the Parliament of 1541 and 1569. The Irish chieftains had not only never assented, but had always preserved their independence in all, save the suzerainty of the English monarchs, and they were at the time, without exception, Catholics. For them, therefore, the Pope was the expounder of the law of succession to the throne, as, up to that time, he had been generally recognized in Europe. Elizabeth, consequently, as an acknowledged illegitimate child, could not become a legitimate queen without a positive declaration and election by the true representatives of the people, approved by the Pope. Her assumption, then, of the supreme government was a mere usurpation. The theory of governments de facto being obeyed as quasi-legitimate had not yet been mooted among lawyers and theologians. With respect to the whole question, there can be no doubt as to the conclusion at which any able constitutional jurist of our days would arrive.
Could usurped rights such as these invest Elizabeth with authority to declare herself paramount not only in political but also in religious matters? And, because she was called queen, can it be considered treason for an Irishman to believe in the spiritual supremacy of the Pope? Yet, unless we look upon as martyrs those who died on the rack and the gibbet in Ireland during her reign, because they refused to admit in a woman the title of Vicar of Christ, to such decision must we come.
The policy of the English queen toward Catholic bishops, priests, and monks, presents the question in a still stronger light. Its chief feature will now come before us, and will show how all of these suffered for Christ. We say all, because not only those are included in the category who held aloof from politics and confined themselves to the exercise of their spiritual functions, but those also who, at the bidding of the Pope, or following the natural promptings of their own inclinations, favored the so- called rebellion of the Geraldine and of the Ulster chieftains. The lives and death of both are now well known, and to both we award the title of heroes and Christian martyrs.
As it would be too long to present here a complete picture of those events, and trace the biography of many of those who suffered persecution at that time, we content ourselves with two faithful representatives of the classes above mentioned—Richard Creagh, Archbishop of Armagh, and Dr. Hurley, Archbishop of Cashel. The case of the great Oliver Plunkett, who suffered under Charles II., and who was the victim of the entire English nation, is beyond our present discussion.
The biography of the first of these has been written by several authors, who, agreeing as to the main facts of his history, differ only in their chronology. Dr. Roothe's account is the longest of all and is intricate, and subject to some confusion with regard to dates; but a sketch of that life, which appeared in the Rambler of April, 1853, is the most consistent and easily reconciled with the well-known facts of the general history of the period, and therefore we follow it:
Richard Creagh, proposed for the See of Armagh by the nuncio, David Wolfe, arrived at Limerick in the August of 1560, at the very beginning of the reign of Elizabeth. Pius IV., who was then Pontiff, had not come to any conclusion respecting the sovereignty of England, and did not openly declare himself in favor of the right of Mary Stuart to the crown. The Pope, not having given any positive injunctions to Archbishop Creagh, with regard to his political conduct, the latter was left free to follow the dictates of his conscience. He came only with a letter, to Shane O'Neill, who, at the time, was almost independent in Ulster.
Not only did the archbishop not take any part in the political measures of the Ulster chieftain, who was often at war with Elizabeth, but he soon came to a disagreement with him on purely conscientious grounds, and finally excommunicated him. In the midst of the many difficulties which surrounded him, he resolved to inculcate peace and loyalty to Elizabeth throughout Ulster, asking of Shane only one favor, that of founding colleges and schools, and thinking that, by remaining loyal to the queen, he might obtain her assistance in founding a university. The good prelate little knew the character of the woman with whom he had to deal, imagining probably that the decree of her spiritual supremacy would remain a dead letter for the priesthood, as had been falsely promised to the laity.
But he was not left long to indulge in these delusions; for, in the act of celebrating mass in a monastery of his diocese, he was betrayed by some informer, and was arrested by a troop of soldiers, who conducted him before the government authorities, by whom he was sent to London and confined in the Tower on January 18,1565. He was there several times interrogated by Cecil and the Recorder of London, who could easily ascertain that the prelate was altogether guiltless of political intrigue.
He escaped miraculously, passed through Louvain, went to Spain, at the time at peace with England, and, wishing to return to Ireland, wrote, through the Spanish ambassador, to Leicester, then all-powerful with the queen, to protest beforehand that, if the Pope should order him to return to his diocese, he intended only to render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. Even then, after his prison experience of several months, he thought that, if he could persuade Elizabeth that he was truly loyal to her, she would forgive him his Catholicity.
Receiving no answer, he set sail for his country, where he landed in August, 1566, and shortly after wrote to Sir Henry Sidney, then lord-deputy, in the very terms he had used with Leicester, and proposing in addition to use his efforts in inducing Shane O'Neill to conclude peace.
What Sidney and his masters in London, Cecil and Leicester, must have thought of the simplicity of this good man, it is impossible to say. They condescended to return no answer to his more than straightforward communication, save the short verbal reply concerning O'Neill: "We have given forth speach of his extermination by war."
The good prelate, after having so clearly defined his position, thought he might safely follow the dictates of his conscience, and govern his flock in peace; but he was soon taken prisoner, in April, 1567, by O'Shaughnessy, who received a special letter of thanks from Elizabeth for his services on this occasion.
Bv order of the queen, he was tried in Dublin; but, so clear was the case before them, that even a Protestant jury could not convict him. The honest Dublin jurors were therefore cast into prison and heavily fined, while the prelate was once again transferred to London, whence he a second time escaped by the connivance of his jailor.
Retaken in 1567, he was handed over to the queen's officers, under a pledge that his life would be spared. And, in consequence of this pledge alone, was he never brought to trial, but kept a close prisoner in the Tower for eighteen years, until in 1585 he was, according to all reliable accounts, deliberately poisoned.
This simple narrative certainly proves that in Elizabeth's eyes, the mere sustaining the Pope's spiritual supremacy was treason, and every Catholic consequently, because Catholic, a traitor deserving death. True, the Irish prelates, monks, and people, might have imitated the majority of the English nobles and people in accepting the new dogma. In that case, they would have become truly loyal and dutiful subjects, and been admitted to all the rights of citizenship; the nobles would have retained possession of their estates, the gentry obtained seats in the Irish Parliament; while the common people, renouncing clanship, absurd old traditions, the memory of their ancestors, together with their obedience to the See of Rome, would not have been excluded from the benefits of education; would have been allowed to engage in trades and manufactures; would have been permitted to keep their land, or hold it by long leases; would have enjoyed the privilege of dwelling in walled towns and cities, if they felt no inclination for agriculture. They would have become no doubt "a highly-prosperous" nation, as the English and Scotch of our days have become, partakers of all the advantages of the glorious British Constitution, cultivating the fields of their ancestors, and converting their beautiful island into a paradise more enchanting than the rich meadows and wheat-fields of England itself.
On the other hand, they would have obtained all those temporal advantages at the expense of their faith, which no one had a right to take from them; in their opinion, and in that of millions of their fellow-Catholics, they would have forfeited their right to heaven, and the Irish have always been unreasonable enough to prefer heaven to earth. They have preferred, as the holy men of old of whom St. Paul speaks, "to be stoned, cut asunder, tempted, put to death by the sword, to wander about in sheep-skins, in oat-skins; being in want, distressed, afflicted, of whom the word was not worthy; wandering in deserts, in mountains, in dens, and in the caves of the earth, being approved by the testimony of faith:" that is to say, having the testimony of their conscience and the approval of God, and considering this better than worldly prosperity and earthly happiness.
Turning now to those prelates, monks, and priests, who during Elizabeth's reign took part in Irish politics against the queen, can we on that account deny them the title of martyrs to their faith?
Dr. Hurley, Archbishop of Cashel, whose memoirs were published by Miles O'Reilly, may be taken as a type of this class. Suppose, as well grounded, although never proved, the suspicion of the English Government with regard to his political mission. Prelates and priests, generally speaking, were put to death under Elizabeth, or confined to dungeons on mere suspicion, and, as we have seen in the case of the Archbishop of Armagh, even clear proofs of their innocence would not save them.
On his father's side, Dr. Hurley was naturally in the interest of James Geraldine, Earl of Desmond; and, on his mother's, he belonged to the royal family of O' Briens of Munster. Consecrated Archbishop of Cashel at Rome in 1550, under Gregory XIII., during the Geraldine rebellion, he was compelled to use the utmost precaution in entering Ireland. The police of Elizabeth was particularly active at that time in hunting up priests and monks throughout the whole island, but particularly in the south.
The archbishop escaped all these dangers, and he avoided the certain denunciation of Walter Baal, the Mayor of Dublin probably, who was then actually persecuting his mother, Dame Eleanor Birmingham; he fled to the castle of Thomas Fleming, who concealed him in a secret chamber in his house and treated him as a friend. But when everybody thought the danger past, and that it was no longer imprudent for him to mix in the society of the castle, he was suspected by an Anglo-Irishman of the name of Dillon, denounced by him, and finally surrendered by Thomas Fleming, and conveyed to Dublin, where proceedings were set on foot against him by the Irish Council and the queen's ministers in England.
His imprisonment was coincident with the suppression of the rising in Munster, and the Earl of Desmond was beginning that frightful outlaw-life which only ended with his miserable death.
The object of the archbishop's accusers was to connect him with the designs of Rome and the Munster insurrection; and the state papers preserved in London have disclosed to us the correspondence between Adam Loftus, the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin, on the one side, and Walsingham and Cecil on the other.
The only proofs of the Archbishop's having joined the southern confederacy were: 1. Suspicions, as he was consecrated in Rome about the time of the sailing of the expedition under James Fitzmaurice; 2. The information of a certain Christopher Barnwell, then in jail, who was promised his life if he could furnish proofs enough to convict the prelate. The value of the testimony of an "informer" under such circumstances is proverbial; yet all Barnwell could allege was, that "he was present at a conversation in Rome between Dr. Hurley and Cardinal Comensis, the Pope's secretary, and, the result of the whole conversation was, "that the doctor did not know nor believe that the Earl of Kildare had joined the rebellion of Fitzmaurice and Desmond, and he was rebuked by the cardinal for not believing it."
This was considered overwhelming proof against him, in spite of his positive denial. Torture was applied, but the most awful sufferings could not wring from him the acknowledgment of having taken part in the conspiracy. Yet Loftus and Wallop were of opinion that he was a "rebel" and ought to be put to death. The only difficulty which presented itself to the "Lords Justices" of Ireland was, that there was no statute in Ireland against "traitors" who had plotted beyond the seas, and they asked that the archbishop should either be sent to be tried in England, or tried in Ireland by martial law, which would screen them from responsibility.
This last favor was granted them; and the holy archbishop was taken from prison at early dawn, on a Friday, either in May or June, 1584. He was barbarously hanged in a withey (withe) calling on God, and forgiving his torturers with all his heart.
Our purpose is not to inveigh against this judicial murder, and, by further details, increase the horror which every honest man must feel at the narrative of such atrocious proceedings. We will suppose, on the contrary, that the cooperation of the Archbishop of Cashel with Fitzmaurice and Desmond, and even with the Pope and King of Spain, had been clearly proved—as it is certain that, if not in this case, at least in some others, during the reign of Elizabeth, the bishops or priests accused had really taken part in the attempt of the Irish to free themselves from such tyranny—and insist that, even then, the murdered Catholic ecclesiastics really died for their religion, and could be called "rebels" in no sense whatever.
First, the question might arise as to how far the Irish were subject to the English crown. We have seen how, a few years before, Gillapatrick, of Ossory, asserted his right of making war on England, when he felt sufficient provocation. Under Elizabeth the case was still clearer, at least for Catholics, after the excommunication of the queen by Pius V. As we have seen, the chief title of England to Ireland rested on two pretended papal bulls: another Pope could and did recall the grant, which had been founded on misrepresentation. Up to that time, there had been no real subjection by conquest, outside of the Pale, which formed but an insignificant part of the island.
Under such circumstances, it must at least be admitted that a radically and clearly unjust law, imposed by a foreign though perhaps suzerain power, could be justly resisted by force of arms. And such was the case in Ireland. The Queen of England— the Irish Parliament of 1539 had no other authority than that of the queen, and represented no part of the people—had made it rebellion for the Irish to remain faithful to their religion. What could prevent the Irish from resisting such pretension, even at the cost of effusion of blood? The early Christians, under the Roman Empire, it is true, never rose in arms against the bloody edicts of the Caesars or the Antonines; but the cases are not parallel.
Suppose that Greece or Asia Minor had never succumbed to the Roman power, and had become entirely Christian: no one would refuse to admit their right to offer armed resistance to the extension of the edicts of persecution into their territory. On the contrary, it would have been their duty to do so: and every one of their inhabitants, who was taken and executed as a rebel, would have been crowned with the martyr's crown.
At this point, indeed, comes in the consideration of the special motive which animated each belligerent, even when fighting on the right side. We are far from saying that all the Irishmen, particularly the leaders and chieftains who at that time ranged themselves under the banners of the Desmonds or the O'Neills, fought purely for Christ and religion. Many of them, no doubt, engaged in the contest from mere worldly motives, perhaps even for purposes unworthy of Christians; and in this case, those who fell in the struggle were in no sense soldiers of Christ.
But how many such are to be found among the bishops, priests, or monks, who perished under Elizabeth? May it not be said of them that, to a man, they fell for the sake of religion? We may even be bold enough to say that the majority of the common Irish people who lost their lives in those wars may be placed in the same category as their spiritual rulers, being in reality the upholders of right and the champions of Catholicity.
Let it be remembered that, at the period of which we speak, the only real question involved in the contest was gradually assuming more and more a religious character. Henry VIII. and his deputy, St. Leger, had struck a fatal blow at clanship and Irish institutions in general, by bestowing on and compelling the chieftains to accept English titles, and by investing them with new deeds of their lands under feudal tenure. By Elizabeth, the same policy was steadily and successfully pursued, her court being always graced by the presence of young Irish lords, educated under her own eyes, and loaded with all her royal favors. All she asked of them in return was that they should become Queen's men. The repugnance once felt by Irishmen for that gilded slavery was each day becoming less marked. But, while every thing was seemingly working so well for the attainment of Elizabeth's object at the commencement of her reign, a new feature suddenly shows itself, and grows rapidly into prominence —the attachment of the Irish to their religion, and the violent opposition to the change always kept foremost in view by the queen, namely the substitution of her spiritual supremacy for that of the Pope.
Thus we find the Irish leaders, when proclaiming their grievances, either on the eve of war, or the signing of a treaty of peace, always giving their religious convictions the first place on the list. The religious question, then, was becoming more and more the question, and, notwithstanding all her fine assurances that she would not infringe upon the religious predilections of the laity, Elizabeth's great purpose, in Ireland and in England, was to destroy Catholicity, by destroying the priesthood, root and-branch.
The nobles showed how fully convinced they were of this, when they carne to adopt a system of concealment, even of duplicity, to which Irishmen ought never to have been weak enough to submit. Not only were the practices of their religion confined to places where no Englishman or Protestant could penetrate, but gradually they allowed their houses—those sanctuaries of freedom—to be invaded by the pursuivants of the queen, searching for priests or monks "lately arrived from Rome."
Secret apartments were constructed by skilful architects in noblemen's manors; recesses were artfully contrived under the roofs, in roomy staircases, or even in basements and cellars. There the unfortunate minister of religion was confined for weeks and months, creeping forth only at night, to breathe the fresh air at the top of the house or in the thick shrubbery of the adjoining park. All the means of evading the law used by the Christians of the first centuries were reproduced and resorted to in Catholic Ireland by chieftains who possessed the "secret promise" of the queen that their religion should not be interfered with, and that her supremacy should not be enforced against them.
Not thus did the people act: their keen sense of injustice took in at once all the circumstances of the case. It was a religious persecution, nothing else; and this the nobles also felt in their inmost souls. The people saw the ministers of religion hunted down, seized, dragged to prison, tried, convicted, barbarously executed; they recognized it in its reality as a sheer attempt to destroy Catholicity, and as such they opposed it by every means in their power. They beheld the monks and friars treated as though they had been wild beasts; the soldiers falling on them wherever they met them, and putting them to death with every circumstance of cruelty and insult, without trial, without even the identification required for outlaws. Mr. Miles O'Reilly's book, "Irish Martyrs," is full of cases of this kind. Hence the people frequently offered open resistance to the execution of the law; the soldiers had to disperse the mob; but the real mob was the very troop commanded by English officers.
When at length the Irish lords no longer dared offer asylum to the outlawed priesthood in their manors and castles, the hut of the peasant lay open to them still. The greater the quantity of blood poured out by the executors of the barbarous laws, the greater the determination of the people to protect the oppressed and save the Lord's anointed.
Then opened a scene which had never been witnessed, even under the most cruel persecutions of the tyrants of old Rome. The whole strength of the English kingdom had been called into play to crush the Irish nobility during the wars of Ulster and Munster; the whole police of the same kingdom was now put in requisition for the apprehension and destruction of church-men. Nay, from this very occupation, the great police system which since that time has flourished in most European states, arose, being invented or at least perfected for the purpose.
Then, for the first time in modern history, numbers of "spies" and "informers" were paid for the service of English ministers of state. Not only did the cities of England and Ireland, harbor cities chiefly, swarm with them, but they covered the whole country; they were to be found everywhere: around the humble dwelling of the peasant and the artisan, in the streets and on the highways, inspecting every stranger who might be a friar or monk in disguise. They spread through the whole European Continent—along the coast and in the interior of France and Belgium, Italy and Spain, in the churches, convents, and colleges, even in the courts of princes, and, as we have seen in the case of Dr. Hurley, in the very halls of the Vatican. The English state papers have disclosed their secret, and the whole history is now before us.
To support this army of spies and informers, the soldiers of that other army of England, who were employed either in keeping England under the yoke or in crushing freedom and religion out of Ireland, did not disdain to execute the orders which converted them into policemen and sbirri. And it may be said, to their credit, that they executed those orders with a ferocious alacrity unequalled in the annals of military life in other countries. If, during the most fearful commotions in France, the army has been employed for a similar purpose, it must be acknowledged that, as far as the troops were concerned, they performed their unwelcome task with reluctance, and softened down, at least, their execution, by considerate manners and respectful demeanor. But these soldiers of Elizabeth showed themselves, from first to last, full of ferocity. They generally went far beyond the letter of their orders; they took an inhuman delight in adding insult to injury, uniting in their persons the double character of preservers of public order and ruffianly executioners of innocent victims. Many and many a record of their barbarity is kept to this day. We add a few, only to justify our necessarily severe language:
"The Rev. Thaddeus Donald and John Hanly received their martyr's crown on the 10th of August, 1580. They had long labored among the suffering faithful along the southwestern coast of Ireland. When the convent of Bantry was seized by the English troops, these holy men received their wished-for crown of martyrdom. Being conducted to a high rock impending over the sea, they were tied back to back, and precipitated into the waves beneath."
"In the convent of Enniscorthy, Thaddeus O'Meran, father- guardian of the convent, Felix O'Hara, and Henry Layhode, under the government of Henry Wallop, Viceroy of Ireland, were taken prisoners by the soldiers, for five days tortured in various ways, and then slain."
"Rev. Donatus O'Riedy, of Connaught, and parish priest of Coolrah, when the soldiers of Elizabeth rushed into the village, sought refuge in the church; but in vain, for he was there hanged near the high altar, and afterward pierced with swords, 12th of June, 1582."
"While Drury was lord-deputy, about 1577, Fergal Ward, a Franciscan, . . . fell into the hands of the soldiery, and, being scourged with great barbarity, was hanged from the branches of a tree with the cincture of his own religious habit."
In order to find a parallel to atrocities such as these, we must go back to the record of some of the sufferings of the early martyrs—St. Ignatius of Antioch, for instance, who wrote of the guards appointed to conduct him to Italy: "From Syria as far as Rome, I had to fight with wild beasts, on sea and on land, tied night and day to a pack of ten leopards, that is to say, ten soldiers who kept me, and were the more ferocious the more I tried to be kind to them."
Instances of such extreme cruelty are rare, even in the Acts of the early martyrs, but they meet us every moment in the memoirs of the days of Elizabeth. Both the police-spies and the soldier- police were animated with the rage and fury which must have possessed the soul of the queen herself; for, after all, the cruelty practised in her reign, and mostly under her orders, was not necessary in order to secure her throne to her, during life; and, as she could hope for no posterity of her own, it was not the desire of retaining the crown to her children which could excuse so much bloodshed and suffering. She evidently followed the promptings of a cruel heart in those atrocious measures which constitute the feature of the home policy of her reign. The persecution which raged incessantly throughout her long career, in Ireland and England, is surely one of the most bloody in the annals of the Catholic Church.
ENGLAND PREPARED FOR THE RECEPTION OF PROTESTANTISM—IRELAND NOT.
It cost Elizabeth the greater part of her reign in time, and all the growing resources of a united England in material, to establish her spiritual supremacy in Ireland; and yet, when, at her death, Mountjoy received orders to conclude peace on honorable terms with the Ulster chieftains, her darling policy was abandoned; and failure, in fact, confessed.
On the 30th of March, 1603, Hugh O'Neill and Mountjoy met by appointment at Mellifont Abbey, where the terms of peace were exchanged. O'Neill, having declared his submission, was granted amnesty for the past, restored to his rank, notwithstanding his attainder and outlawry, and reinstated in his dignity of Earl of Tyrone. Himself and his people were to enjoy the "full and free exercise of their religion;" new letters-patent were issued restoring to him and other northern chieftains almost the whole of the lands occupied by their respective clans.
O'Neill, on his part, was to renounce forever his title of "O'Neill," and allow English law to prevail in his territory.
How this last condition could agree with the full and free exercise of the Catholic religion, the treaty did not explain; but it is evident that the new acts of Parliament respecting religion were not to be included in the English law admitted by the Ulster chiefs.
Meanwhile, the descendants of Strongbow's companions had been completely subdued in the south, Munster having been devastated, and the Geraldines utterly destroyed. Yet, even there, Protestantism was not acknowledged by such of the inhabitants as were left.
It may be well to compare here the different results which attended the declaration of the queen's supremacy in England and Ireland:
At the commencement of Elizabeth's reign, England was still, outwardly at least, as Catholic as Ireland. Henry VIII. had only aimed at starting a schism; the Protestantism established under Edward had been completely swept away during Mary's short reign. Could Elizabeth only have hoped to be acknowledged queen by the Pope, there can be little doubt that, even for political motives, she would have refrained from disturbing the peace of the country for the sake of introducing heresy. Religion was nothing to her—the crown every thing.
It was not so easy a matter for her to establish heresy as for Henry to introduce schism. All the bishops of Henry's reign, with the exception of Fisher, had renounced their allegiance to Rome, in order to please the sovereign; all the bishops of Mary's nomination remained faithful to Rome; and so difficult was it to find somebody who should consecrate the new prelates created by Elizabeth, that Catholic writers have, we believe, shown beyond question that no one of the intruding prelates was really consecrated.
Nevertheless, at the end of Elizabeth's reign, there is no doubt that the English people, with a few individual exceptions, were Protestant; and Protestants they have ever since remained.
In Dr. Madden's "History of the Penal Laws," we read "Father Campian was betrayed by one of Walsingham's spies, George Eliot, and found secreted in the house of Mr. Yates, of Lyford, in Berkshire, along with two other priests, Messrs. Ford and Collington. Eliot and his officers made a show of their prisoners to the multitude, and the sight of the priests in the hands of the constables was a matter of mockery to the unwise multitude. This was a frequent occurrence in conveying captured priests from one jail to another, or from London to Oxford, or vice versa, and it would seem, instead of finding sympathy from the populace, they met with contumely, insult, and sometimes even brutal violence. This is singular, and not easily accounted for; of the fact, there can be no doubt."
Dr. Madden probably considered that, within a few years after the change of religion, the English people ought to have shown themselves as firm Catholics as did the Irish. But the explanation of the contumely and violence is easy: it was an English and not an Irish populace. The first had altogether forgotten the faith of their childhood, the second could not be brought to forsake it. The difficulty, in accounting for the difference between them, is in getting at its true cause; and to us it seems that one of the chief causes was the difference of race.
The English upper classes, as a whole, were utterly indifferent to religion; the one thing which affected them, soul and body, was their temporal interests, and, to judge by their ready acquiescence in all the changes set forth at the commencement of the last chapter, they would as soon have turned Mussulmen as Calvinists. The lower classes, at first merely passive, became afterward possessed by a genuine fanaticism for the new creed established by the Thirty-nine Articles; so that, from that period until quite recently—and the spirit still lives—an English mob was always ready to demolish Catholic chapels, and establishments of any kind, wherever the piety of a few had succeeded in erecting such, however quietly.
It is evident from the facts mentioned that, prior even to that extraordinary religious revolution called the Reformation, the Catholic faith did not possess a firm hold upon the English mind and heart, whatever may have been the case in previous ages. It is clear that even "the people" in England were not ready to submit to any sacrifice for the sake of their religion.
There is small doubt that Elizabeth foresaw this, and expected but little opposition on the part of the English nobility and people to the changes she purposed effecting. Had she imagined that the nation would have been ready to submit to any sacrifice rather than surrender their religion, she would at least have been more cautious in the promulgation of her measures, even though she had determined to sever her kingdom from Rome. She might have rested content with the schism introduced by her father, and this indeed would have sufficed for the carrying out of her political schemes.
But she knew her countrymen too well to accredit them with a religious devotion which, if they ever possessed, had long ago died out. She saw that England was ripe for heresy, and the result confirmed her worldly sagacity. How came it, then, that the change which was absolutely impossible in Ireland, was so easily effected in the other country? Or, to generalize the question: How is it that, to speak generally, the nations of Northern Europe embraced Protestantism so readily, while those of Southern Europe refused to receive it, or were only slightly affected by it? Ranke has remarked that, when, after the first outbreak in the North, the movement had reached a certain point in time and space, it stopped, and, instead of advancing further, appeared to recede, or at least stood still.
Many Protestant writers have attempted a weak and flippant solution of the question, and we are continually told of the superior enlightenment of the northern races, of their attachment to liberty, of their higher civilization, and other very fine and very easily-quoted things of the same kind, which, at the present moment, are admitted as truths by many, and esteemed as unanswerable explanations of the phenomenon. According to this opinion, therefore, the southern races were more ignorant, less civilized, more readily duped by priestcraft and kingcraft; above all, readier to bow to despotism, and indifferent to freedom.
Catholic writers, Balmez principally, have often given a satisfactory answer to the question; yet, the replies which they have made to the various sophisms touched upon, have seemingly produced no effect on the modern masses, who continue steadfast in their belief of what has been so often refuted. It would be presumptuous and probably quite useless, on our part, to enter into a lengthened discussion of the question. But, when confined to England, it is a kind of test to be applied to all those subjects of civilization and liberty, and is so clear and true that it cannot leave the least room for doubt or hesitation: moreover, as it necessarily enters into the inquiry which forms the heading of this chapter, it cannot be entirely laid aside.
All that we purpose doing is, discovering why the northern nations fell a prey more readily to the disorganizing doctrines of Protestantism than the southern. The general fickleness of the human mind, which is so well brought out by the great Spanish writer, does not strike us as a sufficient cause; for the mind of southern peoples is certainly not less fickle, on many points at least, than that of other races.
In our comparison between the North and the South, we class the Irish with the latter, although, geographically, they belong to the former, and, indeed, constitute the only northern nation which remained faithful to the Church.
First, let us state the broad facts for which we wish to assign some satisfactory reasons.
After the social convulsions which attended the change of religion had subsided somewhat, it was found that Protestantism had invaded the three Scandinavian kingdoms, to the almost total exclusion of Catholicism, to such an extent, indeed, that, until quite recently, it was death or transportation for any person therein to return to the bosom of the mother Church.
The same statement is true, to almost the same extent, of Northern Germany, where open persecution, or rather war, raged until the establishment of "religious peace" toward 1608. Saxony, whence the heresy sprang, was its centre and stronghold in Germany; and the Saxons were Scandinavians, having crossed over from the southern-borders of the Baltic, where, for a long time, they dwelt in constant intercourse with the Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes.
Saxon and Norman England was found to be, at the end of the sixteenth century, almost entirely Protestant, and the persecution of the comparatively few Catholics who survived flourished therein full vigor.
A singular phenomenon presented itself in the Low Countries. That portion of them subsequently known as Holland, which was first invaded and peopled by the Northmen of Walcheren, became almost entirely Protestant, while Belgium, which was originally Celtic, remained Catholic.
Bavaria, Austria, and Switzerland, were divided between Protestantism and Catholicity, and the division exists to this day.
In France a section only of the nobility, which was originally Norman as well as Frank, and under feudalism had become thoroughly permeated by the northern spirit, was found to have embraced the new doctrines, which were repudiated by the people of Celtic origin. It is true that, later on, the Cevennes mountaineers received Protestantism from the old Waldenses; but we are presenting a broad sketch, and do not deny that several minor lineaments may not fall in with the general picture.
In Italy only literary men, in Spain a few rigorist prelates and monks, showed any inclination toward the "reform" party.
On the whole, then, it is safe to conclude that the Scandinavian mind was congenial to Protestantism.
We say the Scandinavian mind, because the Scandinavian race extended, not only through Scandinavia proper, but also through Northern Germany, along the Baltic Sea and German Ocean; through Holland by Walcheren; through a portion of Central and Southern Germany, as far down as Switzerland, which was invaded by Saxons at the time of Charlemagne, and after him, until Otto the Great gave them their final check, and subdued them more thoroughly than the great Charles had succeeded in doing.
Common opinion traces the Scandinavians and Germans back to the same race. In the generic sense, this is true; and all the Indo- Germanic nations may have originally belonged to the same parent stock; but, specifically, differences of so striking a nature present themselves in that immense branch of the human family, that the existence of sub-races of a definite character, presupposing different and sometimes opposite tendencies, must be admitted.
Who can imagine that the Germans proper are identical with the Hindoos, although by language they, in common with the greater part of European nations, may belong to the same parent stock? In like manner, the Germanic tribes, although possessing many things in common with the Scandinavian race, differ from it in various respects.
The best ethnographic writers admit that the Scandinavian race, which they, in our opinion improperly, name Gothic, differed greatly in its language from the Teutonic. The language of the first, retained in its purity in Iceland to this day, soon became mixed up with German proper in Denmark, Sweden, and even in Norway to a great extent. The languages differed therefore originally, as did, consequently, the races. Even at this very moment an effort is being made by Scandinavians to establish the difference between themselves and the Teutons with respect to language and nationality.
How far the religion of both was identical is a difficult question. We believe it very probable that the worship of Thor, Odin, and Frigga, was purely Scandinavian, and penetrated Germany, as far as Switzerland, with the Saxons. Hertha, according to Tacitus, was the supreme goddess of the Germans. She had no place in Scandinavian mythology. Ipsambul, so renowned among the Teutons, was quite unknown in Scandinavia. The Germans, in common with the Celts, considered the building of temples unworthy the Deity; whereas, the Scandinavian temples, chiefly the monstrous one of Upsala, are well known. Many other such facts might be brought out to show the difference of their religions.
The Germans showed themselves from the beginning attached to a country life; and we know how the Frankish Merovingian kings loved to dwell in the country. The Scandinavians only cared for the sea, and manifested by their skill in navigation how they differed from the Germans, who were less inclined even than the Celts for large naval expeditions.
All this is merely given as strong conjecture, not as proof positive amounting to demonstration, of the real difference between the two races—the Germanic and Scandinavian.
But how was Protestantism congenial to the Scandinavian mind? This second question is of still greater importance than the first.
In the earlier portion of the book, we passed in review the character of the tribes, once clustered around the Baltic, with the exception of the Finns, who dwelt along the eastern coast; and, grounding our opinion on unquestionable authorities, we found that character to consist mainly of cruelty, boldness, rapacity, system, and a spirit of enterprise in trade and navigation.
When they embraced Christianity, it undoubtedly modified their character to a great extent, and many holy people lived among them, some of whom the Church has numbered among the saints. But the conquest of these ferocious pirates was undoubtedly the greatest triumph ever achieved by the holy Spouse of Christ.
Yet, even after becoming Christian, they preserved for a Iong time—we speak not now of the present day—deep features of their former character, among others the old spirit of rapacity, and that systematic boldness which, when occasion demands, is ever ready to intrench upon the rights of others. They soon displayed, also, a general tendency to subject spiritual matters to individual reason, and the great among them to interfere and meddle with religious affairs. The Dukes of Normandy, the Kings of England, and the Saxon Emperors of Germany, seldom ceased disputing the rights of spiritual authority; and the learned among them were forward to question the supremacy of Rome in many things, and to argue against what other people, more religiously inclined, would have admitted without controversy. That spirit of speculation, to which the Irish Four Masters partly ascribed the introduction of Protestantism into England, was rampant in the schools of these northern nations, when a superior civilization gave rise to the erection of universities and colleges in their midst.
But over and above that systematic philosophical spirit, their character was deeply imbued with a material rapacity which, after all, has always constituted the great vice of those northern tribes. It is unnecessary to remind the reader that, in England chiefly, Protestantism was particularly grateful to the avaricious longings of the courtiers of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth. The confiscation of ecclesiastical property and its distribution among the great of the nation was the chief incentive which moved them to adopt the convenient doctrines of the new order, and subvert the old religion of the country. This rapacious spirit showed itself also in Germany, though not so conspicuously as in England; and certainly, in both countries, the universal confiscation of the estates of religious houses, and the robbery of the plate and jewels of the churches, are prominent features in the history of the great Reformation.
William Cobbett has written eloquently on this subject, and marshalled an immense array of facts so difficult of denial that the defenders of Protestantism were compelled to resort to the petty subterfuge of retorting that the great English radical was a mere partisan, who never spoke sincerely, but always supported the theory he happened to take up by exaggerated and distorted facts, which no one was bound to admit on his responsibility. Such was their reply; but the awkward facts remained and remain still unchallenged.
But, since Cobbett, men who could not be accused of partisanship and exaggeration have published authentic accounts of the unbounded rapacity of the Reformers of the sixteenth century, in England particularly, which all impartial men are bound to respect, and not attribute to any unworthy motive, since they are supported even by Protestant authorities. We quote a few, taken from the "History of the Penal Laws" by Dr. R. R. Madden:
"The Earl of Warwick, afterward Duke of Northumberland, was the first of the aristocracy in England who inveighed publicly against the superfluity of episcopal habits, the expense of vestments and surplices, and ended in denouncing altars and the 'mummery' of crucifixes, pictures and images in churches.
"The earl had an eye to the Church plate, and the precious jewels that ornamented the tabernacles and ciboriums. Many courtiers soon were moved by a similar zeal for religion—a lust for the gold, silver, and jewels of the churches. In a short time, not only the property of churches, but the possession of rich bishopries and sees, were shared among the favorites of Cranmer and the protector (Somerset): as were those of the See of Lincoln, 'with all its manors, save one;' the Bishoprie of Durham, which was allotted to Dudley, Duke of Northumberland; of Bath and Wells, eighteen or twenty of whose manors in Somerset, were made a present of to the protector, with a view of protecting the remainder."
A number of similar details are to be found in the pages of the same author.
Dr. Heylin, a Protestant, says: "That the consideration of profit did advance this work—of the Reformation—as much as any other, if perchance not more, may be collected from an inquiry made two years after, in which (inquiry) it was to be interrogated: 'What jewels of gold, or silver crosses, candlesticks, censers, chalices, copes, and other vestments, were then remaining in any of the cathedral or parochial churches, or, otherwise, had been embezzled or taken away? '. . . The leaving," adds Dr. Heylin, "of one chalice to every church, with a cloth or covering for the communion-table, being thought sufficient. The taking down of altars by command, was followed by the substitution of a board, called the Lord's Board, and subsequently of a table, by the determination of Bishop Ridley.
"Many private persons' parlors were hung with altar-cloths, their tables and beds covered with copes, instead of carpets and coverlets, and many made carousing cups of the sacred chalices, as once Belshazzar celebrated his drunken feasts in the sanctified vessels of the Temple. It was a sorry house, not worth the naming, which had not something of this furniture in it, though it were only a fair large cushion made of a cope or altar-cloth, to adorn their windows, and to make their chairs appear to have somewhat in them of a chair of state."
Could such scenes as these have been surpassed by what took place during the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries, in the rude towns of Norway and Denmark, at the return of a powerful seakong, with his large fleet, from a piratical excursion into Southern Europe, when the spoils of many a Christian church and wealthy house went to adorn the savage dwellings or those barbarians? Adam of Bremen relates how he saw, with his own eyes, the rich products of European art and industry accumulated in the palace of the King of Denmark, and in the loathsome dwellings of the nobility, or exposed for sale in the public markets of the city.
But rapacity formed only one characteristic of the Scandinavians; the mind of the people, moreover, showed itself, notwithstanding the intricate and monstrous mythology which it had created when pagan, of a rationalistic and anti-supernatural tendency. Their mind was naturally systematic and reasoning; it discussed spiritual matters in all their material aspects, and thus gave rise to those speculations which soon became the source of heresy. Hence, in England and the north of Germany, the power of Rome was always called in question; and as the English mind was altogether Scandinavian, while that of the Germans was mixed with more of a southern disposition, the chief trouble in Germany, between the empire and the Roman Church, lay in the question of investitures, which combined a material and spiritual aspect, whereas, in England, the quarrel was almost invariably of a pecuniary nature, as, for instance, Peter's pence.
Even in the most Catholic times, the English made a bitter grievance of the levying of Peter's pence among them, and of the giving of English benefices to prelates of other nations, which also resolved itself into a question of revenue or money. And so characteristic was the grievance of the whole nation that it was restricted to no class, churchmen and monks being as loud in their denunciations of Rome as the king and the nobles; and thus the theological questions of the papal supremacy and of ecclesiastical authority generally took with them quite a material form. The diatribes of the Benedictine monk Matthew Paris are well known, and their worldly spirit can only excite in us pity that they should have been the chief cause of the destruction of his own order in England and Ireland, and of the total spoliation of the religious houses in whose behalf he imagined that he wrote.
If the harms done by those contemptible wranglings about Peter's pence and benefices had been confined to depriving the pontifical exchequer of a revenue which was cheerfully granted by other nations to aid the Father of the Faithful, the result was to be regretted; but, after all, Christendom would not have suffered in a much more sensible quarter. But in England the question passed immediately to the election of bishops and abbots, and thus the opposition to Rome gradually assumed much vaster proportions.
The nation, also, in the main, sided with the kings against the popes. Every burgher of London, York, or Canterbury, got it into his head that Rome had formed deep designs of spoliation against his private property, and purposed diving deep into his private purse. In such a state of public opinion, respect for spiritual authority could not fail to diminish and finally die out altogether; and, when the voice of the Pontiff was heard on important subjects in which the best interests of the nation were involved, even the clearest proof that Rome was right, and desired only the good of the people, could not entirely dispel the suspicious fears and distrusts which must ever lurk in the mind of the miser against those he imagines wish to rob him.
It is not possible to enter here into further details, but, if the reader wish for stronger proofs of the "questioning spirit," "reasoning mistrust," and "systematic doggedness," natural to the Scandinavian mind, he has only to reflect on what took place in England at the time of the Reformation. Every question respecting the soul, every supernatural aspiration of the Christian, every emotion of a living conscience, appears to be altogether absent from all those English nobles, prelates, theologians, learned university men, even simple priests and monks often, save a very few who, with the noble Thomas More, thought that "twenty years of an easy life could not without folly be compared with an eternity of bliss." The reasoning faculty of the mind, nourished on "speculations," had replaced faith, and, every thing of the supernatural order being obliterated, nothing was left but worldly wisdom and material aspirations for temporal well-being.
By reviewing other characteristics of the Scandinavian race, we might arrive at the same conclusion; but our space forbids us to go into them. After what has been said, however, it is easy to see how well prepared was the English nation for accepting the change of religion almost without a murmur.
There was, indeed, some expression of indignation on the part of the people at the beginning of the reign of Edward VI., when the desecration of the churches began. "Various commotions," says Dr. Madden, "took place in consequence of the reviling of the sacrament, the casting it out of the churches in some places, the tearing down of altars and images; in one of which tumults, one of the authorities was stabbed, in the act of demolishing some objects of veneration in a church.
"The whole kingdom, in short, was in commotion, but particularly Devonshire and Norfolk. In the former county, the insurgents besieged Devon; a noble lord was sent against them, and, being, reenforced by the Walloons—a set of German mercenaries brought over to enable the government to carry out their plans—his lordship defeated these insurgents, and many were executed by martial law."
But this remnant of affection for the religion of their fathers seems to have soon died out, since at the death of Edward the people appeared to have become thoroughly converted to the new doctrines. At the very coronation of Mary, a Catholic clergyman having prayed for the dead and denounced the persecutions of the previous reign, a tumult took place; the preacher was insulted, and compelled to leave the pulpit. What wonder, then, that, at the death of Elizabeth, England was thoroughly Protestant?
We are very far from ignoring the noble examples of attachment to their religion displayed by Christian heroes of every class in England during those disastrous days. The touching biographies of the English martyrs, told in the simple pages of Bishop Challoner, cannot be read without admiration. The feeling produced on the Catholic reader is precisely that arising from a perusal of the Acts of the Christian martyrs under the Roman emperors, which have so often strengthened our faith and drawn tears of sorrow from our eyes. At this moment, particularly when so many details, hitherto hidden, of the lives of Catholics, religious, secular priests, laymen, women, during those times, are coming to light in manuscripts religiously preserved by private families, and at last being published for the edification of all, the story is moving as well as inspiring of the heroism displayed by them, not only on the public scaffold, but in obscure and loathsome jails, in retreats and painful seclusion, continuing during long years of an obscure life, and ending only in a more obscure death, when the victim of persecution was fortunate enough to escape capture. There is no doubt that, when the whole story of the hunted Catholics in England shall be known, as moving a narrative of their virtues will be written as can be furnished by the ecclesiastical annals of any people.
Nevertheless, what has been said of the nation, as a nation, remains a sad fact which cannot be doubted. Those noble exceptions only prove that the promptings of race are not supreme, and that God's grace can exalt human nature from whatever level.
How different were the nations of the Latin and Celtic stock! With them the attachment to the religion of their fathers was not the exception, but the rule, and it is only necessary to bear in mind what the Abbe McGeoghegan has said—that, at the death of Elizabeth, scarcely sixty Irishmen, take them all in all, had professed the new doctrines—in order at once to comprehend the steady tendency toward the path of duty imparted by true nobility of blood. Nor did the Irish stand alone in this steadfastness; it is needless to call to mind how the people generally throughout France, and particularly in Paris, acted at the time when the Huguenot noblemen would have rooted in the soil the errors planted there before, and already bearing fruit in Germany, Switzerland, and England.
It looks as though we had lost sight of the interesting question proposed at the outset, and of which so far not a word has been said—whether Protestantism spread so readily in the North, because it found that region peopled with races better disposed for civilization, if not taking the lead already in that respect, and men ardent for freedom and impatient of servitude of any kind. We stated that the solution of this question, particularly in the case of England, is clear, and consequently not to be discarded on account of previous solutions of the same question, which have scarcely met with any attention from the adverse side.
One thing certainly undeniable is, that neither in its origin, nor even in its consequences, can Protestantism be esteemed as in any sense the promoter of freedom and civilization in the British islands.
It has always struck us as strange that sensible men, acquainted with history, could maintain that an aspiration after freedom and a higher civilization gave to Germany and England a leaning toward Protestantism. We can understand how the state of Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries may give a coloring to the statement of a partisan writer, desirous of explaining in these modern times the greater amount of freedom really enjoyed in England, and the advanced material prosperity visible generally among Protestant Northern nations. So much we can understand. But, to make Protestantism the origin of freedom and civilization, and ascribe to it what happened subsequent to its spread indeed, but what really resulted from very different causes, passes our comprehension.
As far as freedom goes, the most superficial reader must know that there was not a particle of it left in England when Protestantism commenced; and it were easy to show that there was less of it in Germany than in Italy, Spain, and even France.
Who can mention English freedom in the same breath with Henry and Elizabeth Tudor? How could the actions of those two members of the family advance it in the least degree, and was it not precisely the slavish disposition of the English people at the time which prepared them so admirably for the reception of German heresy? The people were treated like a set of slaves, and stood for nothing in the designs of those great political rulers. In the very highest of the aristocracy, there lingered not a spark of the old brave spirit which wrung Magna Charta from the heart of a weak sovereign. The king or queen could fearlessly trample on every privilege of the nobility, send the proudest lords of the nation to the block, almost without trial, and confiscate to the swelling of the royal purse the immense estates of the first English families. There is no need of proofs for this. The proofs are the records, the headings, as it were, of the history of the times which one may read as he runs; it constitutes the very essence of their history; and events of the sixteenth century in England scarcely present us with any thing else. This state of things was the natural result of the general anarchy which prevailed during the "Wars of the Roses."
A more interesting and intricate question still might be raised here: how to explain the appearance of such a phenomenon in so proud a nation? Had the Catholic religion, which, up to that time, had been the only religion of the country, anything to do with the matter? These questions might furnish material for a very animated discussion. But, with regard to the fact itself— the slavish disposition of Englishmen at that time under kingly and queenly rule—no doubt can possibly exist.
To show that Catholicity had nothing to do with the introduction of such a despotism, would give rise to a dissertation too long for us to enter upon. We merely offer a few suggestions, which, we think, will prove sufficient and satisfactory for our purpose to every candid reader:
I. Catholic theology had certainly never brought about such a state of affairs. In all Catholic schools of the day, in England as on the Continent, St. Thomas was the great authority, and his work, "De Regimine Principum," was in the hands of all Catholic students. Luther was the first to reject St. Thomas.
In this book, all were taught that, if, among the various kinds of government, "that of a king is best," in the opinion of the author, "that of a tyrant is the worst." And a tyrant he defines as "any ruler who despises the common good, and seeks his private advantage."
In that book of the great doctor, all may read: "The farther the government recedes from the common weal, the more unjust is it. It recedes farther from the common weal in an oligarchy, in which the welfare of a few is sought, than in a democracy, whose object is the good of the many. . . . But farther still does it recede from the common weal in a tyrannous government, by which the good of one alone is sought."
The general consequence which St. Thomas draws from this doctrine is, that, "if a ruler governs a multitude of freemen for the common good of the multitude, the government will be good and just as becomes freemen."
Such was the political doctrine taught in the Catholic universities of Europe until the sixteenth century; but, in all probability, this golden work, "De Regimine Principum," was no longer the text-book in the English schools of the time of Henry Tudor.
But, when, entering into details, the holy and learned author goes on to contrast the contrary effects produced by freedom and despotism on a nation, how could Henry willingly permit the circulation of such words as the following?
"It is natural that men brought under terror" (a tyrannical government) "should degenerate into beings of a slavish disposition, and become timid and incapable of any manly and daring enterprise—an assertion which is proved by the conduct of countries which have been long subjected to a despotic government. Solomon says: 'When the imperious are in power, men hide away' in order to escape the cruelty of tyrants, nor is it astonishing; for a man governing without law, and according to his own caprice, differs in nothing from a beast of prey. Hence, Solomon designates an impious ruler as a roaring lion and a ravenous bear.'
"Because, therefore, the government of one is to be preferred — which is the best—and because this government is liable to degenerate into tyranny—which has been proved to be the worst — hence, the most diligent care is to be taken so to regulate the establishment of a king over the people, that he may not fall into tyranny."
Finally, St. Thomas epitomizes the doctrines of this whole book in his "Summa," as follows: "A tyrannical government is unjust, being administered, not for the common good, but for the private good of the ruler; therefore, its overthrow is not sedition, unless when the subversion of tyranny is so inordinately pursued that the multitude suffers more from its overthrow than from the existence of the government."
The subject might be illustrated by any quantity of extracts from the writings of other great theologians of the middle ages; but what we have said is enough for our purpose. It is manifest that Catholic doctrine cannot have brought about the state of England under the Tudors.
II. Another, and a very important suggestion, is the following: it certainly was not the Catholic hierarchy, least of all the pontifical power, which produced it.
Whatever may have been written derogatory to the institutions existing in Europe during the mediaeval period, several great facts, most favorable to the Catholic religion, have been commonly admitted by Protestant writers, from which we select two. The first of these was originally stated by M. Guizot, in his "Civilization in Europe," namely, that the kingdom of France was created by Christian bishops. Since that first admission, other non-Catholic writers have gone further, and have felt compelled to admit that, as a general rule, the modern European nations have all been created, nurtured, fostered, by Catholic bishops, and that the first free Parliaments of those nations were, in fact, "councils of the Church," either of a purely clerical character and altogether free from the intermixture of lay elements, such as the Councils of Toledo, in Spain, or acting in concert with the representatives of the various classes in the nations.
The clergy, as all readers know, the clerks, were the first to take the lead in civil affairs, being more enlightened than the other classes, and holding in their body all the education of the earlier times. It is unnecessary to add to this fact that, among really Christian people, the voice of religion is listened to before all others. And is it not to-day a well-ascertained fact that, in the main, the influence exerted by the clergy on the formation of modern European kingdoms was in favor of a well- regulated freedom based on the first law—the law of God—that primal source of true liberty and civilization? To the clergy, certainly, and to the monks, is chiefly due the abolition of slavery; and the bishops took a very active and prominent part in the movements of the communes, to which the Third Estate owes its birth.
A malignant ingenuity has been displayed by many writers, in ransacking the pages of history, in order to fasten on certain prelates of the Church charges of despotism and oppression. But, apart from the fact that the narratives so carefully compiled have, in many cases, turned out to be perversions of the truth, and granting even that all these allegations are impartial and true, the general tenor and tendency of the history of those times is now admitted to be ample refutation of such accusations, and impartial writers confess that the ecclesiastical influence, during those ages, was clearly set against the oppression of the people, and finally resulted in the formation of those representative and moderate governments which are the boast of the present age; and that the principles enunciated by the great schoolmen, led by Thomas Aquinas, founded the order of society on justice, religion, and right. The more history is studied honestly, investigated closely, and viewed impartially, the more plainly does the great fact shine forth that the Catholic hierarchy, in the various European nations, constituted the vanguard of true freedom and order.
With regard to the papal power, it is a curious instance of the reversal of human judgment, and a very significant fact, that those very Popes who, a hundred years ago, were looked upon, even by Catholic writers, as the embodiment of supercilious arrogance and sacrilegious presumption, namely, Gregory VII., Innocent III., and Boniface VIII., are now acknowledged to have been the greatest benefactors to Europe in their time, and true models of supreme Christian bishops.
But, if these two facts be admitted, the question recurs, How is it that the governments of several kingdoms, and that of England in particular, had, during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, merged into complete and unalloyed despotism? As our present interest in the question is restricted to England, we confine ourselves to that country, and proceed to treat of it in a few words.
Under the Tudors, the government grew to be altogether irresponsible, personal, and despotic, chiefly because under previous reigns, and constantly since the establishment of the Norman line of kings, the authority of Rome, which formed the only great counterpoise to kingly power at the time, had been gradually undermined, while the bishops, being deprived of the aid of the supreme Pontiff, had become mere tools in the hands of the monarchs.
The particular shape which the opposition to Rome took in England, compared with a similar opposition in Germany, has been already touched upon; it was found to be involved chiefly in the question of tribute-money and benefices, the latter being also reduced to a money difficulty. It was seen that the monks and the people sided generally with the kings, and gradually took a dislike and mistrust to every thing coming from Rome; the authority of the monarch, though not precisely strengthened thereby, was left without the control of a superior tribunal to direct him, and consequently the kings, if they chose, were left to follow the impulse of their own caprice, which, according to St. Thomas, forms the characteristic of tyranny.
Other causes, doubtless, contributed to pave the way for and consolidate the despotism of the Kings of England. Among such causes may be mentioned the extraordinary successes which attended the English arms, led by their warrior kings in France, and the frightful convulsions subsequently arising from the Wars of the Roses; but we doubt not the one mentioned above was the chief, and, of itself, would in the long-run have brought about the same result.
Protestantism, therefore, was neither the growth of freedom in England, nor did it plant freedom there at its introduction, inasmuch as the royal power became more absolute than ever by its predominance, and by the first principle which it laid down, that the king was supreme in Church as well as in state. Can its origin in England, then, be accounted for by the existence of a higher civilization, anterior to it in point of time, out of which it grew, or, at least, by a true aspiration toward such.
This question is as easy of solution as the first: There can be no doubt that the nations which remained either entirely or in the main faithful to the Church, in point of learning and civilization, ranked far beyond the Northern nations, where heresy so early found a permanent footing, and that in the South also the tendencies toward a higher civilization were at that time of a most marked and extraordinary character, so much so that the reign of Leo X. has become a household phrase to express the perfection of culture.
England, as a nation, was at that period only just beginning to emerge from barbarism, and in fact was the last of the European nations to adopt civilized customs and manners in the political, civil, and social relations of life.
In politics she was, until that epoch, plunged in frightful dynastic revolutions, and as yet had not learned the first principles of good government. In civil affairs, her code was the most barbarous, her feudal customs the most revolting, her whole history the most appalling of all Christendom. In social habits, she had scarcely been able to retain a few precious fragments of good old Catholic times; and the fearful scenes through which the nation had passed, which, according to J. J. Rousseau, for once expressing the truth, render the reading of that period of her history almost impossible to a humane man, had sunk her almost completely in degradation. The reader will understand that the England here spoken of is the England of three centuries ago, and not of to-day.
If by civilization is understood learning and the fine arts, what, in general phrase, is expressed by culture and refinement, how could England compare at the time with Italy, Flanders, Spain, France, all Latin or Celtic nations? How can it be pretended that she was better fitted for the reception of a more spiritual and elevating religion than any of the countries mentioned?
Two great names may be brought forward as proving that the expressions used are harsh and ill-founded—Shakespeare and Milton; a third, Bacon, we omit for reasons which our space forbids us to give.
Shakespeare, whose name may rank with those of Homer and Dante, was not a product of those times. He was a gift of Heaven. At any other epoch he would have been as great, perhaps greater. What he received from his surroundings and from the "civilization" with which he was blessed, he has handed down to us in the uncouth form, the intricacy of plot and adventures, which would have rendered barbarous a poet less naturally gifted. And, although the question has never been definitely settled, it is probable that he was born and lived a Catholic; and it is strange how Elizabeth, who, tradition tells us, was present at some of his plays, could endure his faithful portrayal of friars and nuns, while she was persecuting their originals so barbarously at the time; strangest of all, how she could bear to look upon the true and noble image of Katherine of Aragon, whom Henry in his good moment pronounces "the queen of earthly queens, " contrasted with her own mother, to whom the shrewd old court lady tells the story: