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:
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.
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:
"There was a lady once ('tis an old story), That would not be a queen, that would she not, For all the mud in Egypt :--Have you heard it?"
Thus did Shakespeare contrast Elizabeth's wanton mother with the noble woman whom Henry discarded for a toy. And some critics can only find a reason for the composition of the "Merry Wives of Windsor" and the "Sonnets" as an offering to the lewd queen. Nothing more did he owe to his time.
And Milton, who, though his father was a Catholic, was himself a rank Puritan, something of what we have said of Shakespeare may be said of him. At all events, all his cultivation and taste came from Italy. The poets of that really civilized country had polished his uncouth nature, as it were in spite of itself, and added to the depth of his wonderful genius the beauty and soft harmony of verse that ever flowed freely, and the strength of a nervous and sonorous prose.
Now comes the question: If the origin of Protestantism in England cannot be attributed to freedom and civilization, may it not, at least, be maintained that the natural result of Protestantism was the acquisition of true freedom and of a higher civilization? Is it not true that to-day Protestant nations are in advance of others in both these respects? And to what other cause can such advancement be ascribed than to the "reformed religion?" Is it not the freedom which has come to the human mind, after the rejection of the yoke of spiritual authority, and the proclamation of the rights of individual reason, that has brought about the present advanced state of affairs
We know all these fine-sounding phrases which are so continuously dinned into our ears, and republished day after day in a thousand forms. The question, we admit, is not so easy of solution as the first, and might, indeed, without suspicion of evasion, be discarded as not coming under the head of this chapter, which spoke of origin and not of consequences. Nevertheless, a few words may be devoted to the subject, to prove that the answer must still be in the negative.
The first result of Protestantism was undoubtedly to extinguish as completely as possible the remaining sparks of truly liberal thought promulgated in Europe by the Catholic doctors of the middle ages. Wherever the new doctrines spread, secular rulers were not only freed from pontifical control, but were themselves invested with supreme ecclesiastical power. The effective check which the paternal and bold voice issuing from the Vatican had exercised on kings and princes was in a moment taken away. In Germany, England, and Scandinavia, the kings and petty princes, and dukes even, became each so many popes in their own dominions. And this took place with the consent and frequently at the earnest request of the Reformers.
Even the European states which did not fall away from the old faith of Christendom took advantage, it might almost be said, of the difficult position in which the Holy Father found himself, to countenance new doctrines with respect to the limits of the authority of the Supreme Pontiff; and the new errors which so suddenly appeared in France and elsewhere, during the prevalence and at the extinction of the great schism, limiting the power of the Popes in many matters where it had been considered binding, broke out again, in France principally, under the lead of Protestant or Erastian parliamentarians and legists, under the name of Gallican liberties--pretended liberties, which would really make the Church a subordinate adjunct of the State, instead of what it is, a spiritual living body ruled exclusively by a spiritual head.
How could the cause of true liberty in Europe be promoted by such altered circumstances as these?--to say nothing of the disastrous imprudence with which those blind rulers and so- called theologians took away the key-stone of the European social edifice, which grew weaker from that day forth, until now we see it tottering to its fall.
The introduction of Protestantism, then, was one of the chief causes of the change by which a much greater personal power was transferred to the hands of the sovereign than he had ever before held, and it is no surprise to see the absolutism of emperors and kings, in Christian Europe, date from its coming.
As time passed on, the cause acting on a larger scale, embracing a wider circumference, and drawing within its circle vaster territories, the world saw absolute rule established in England, France, Spain, and Germany. Previous to the sixteenth century, the word 'absolutism' was unknown in Christendom, as was the doctrine of the "divine right of kings" understood and preached as it has since been in England.
But, to furnish details which should render these reflections more striking, would require an unravelling of the whole tangled skein of history during those times.
Nevertheless, we must come to consider the last refuge of Protestant liberalism. Did not the Reformation really emancipate modern nations, and gradually bring about the whole system of representative governments, which, starting from England, have now, in fact, become, more or less, general throughout Europe?
Our answer is, Yes and No. It may be granted that Protestantism did give rise to a certain kind of liberalism very prevalent in our days; but such liberalism is very far from bestowing on nations true liberty and stability; hence their constant agitation, and the perils of society which threaten all, even the specially favored Protestant nations themselves as much as any.
It was indeed the new doctrines which brought about the "Commonwealth" in England, and the subsequent Revolution of 1688; between which two events, however, great differences exist.
The destruction of monarchy under and in the person of Charles I. was the just retribution dealt by Providence to the English kings, who had been the first openly to shake off from a great nation the wise and beneficent yoke of Rome. At all events, one thing is certain, that under the "Protector," the child of the Revolution, as little as under the Protestant Tudors, could the English scarcely be regarded as freemen.
Cromwell banished from their hall the representatives of the people. He could scarcely find epithets opprobrious enough for Magna Charta, which the people considered, and rightly, as the palladium of English liberty. In his scornful order to "take away that bawble," though the "bawble" immediately referred to was the Speaker's mace, the word meant the freedom of the nation. He was as absolute a monarch as ever ruled England. The liberty enjoyed under his regime was as meaningless for every class as for the Catholics, whom he more immediately oppressed, and was ill compensated for by the material prosperity which his genius knew so well how to secure.
It was his despotic rule, in fact, and the fear of anarchy which affrighted the minds of the people at his death--the dread of a government of rival soldiers--which rendered so easy the triumphant restoration of the worthless Stuarts, in the person of the most worthless of them all, Charles II.
The true constitutional liberty of which England may fairly boast was the work of a long series of years subsequent to the Revolution of 1688. It was the work of the whole eighteenth century, in fact, and was grounded on the fragments of old Catholic doctrines and customs. In no sense can it be called the result of Protestantism, save as coming after it in point of time.
Whoever is acquainted with the state of religion and society in England, during the latter part of the seventeenth and the whole of the eighteenth century, needs not to be told that, among the ruling classes, faith in a revealed religion had ceased to exist. The yoke of Rome once shaken off, the human mind was quick to draw all the consequences of the principle of entire independence in religious matters. Tindal, Collins, Hobbes, Shaftesbury, and other philosophers, had openly denounced revelation, and that portion of the nation which esteemed itself enlightened embraced their new doctrines. It would be false to imagine that, in 1700 and afterward, the English were as firm believers in the Church of England's Thirty-nine Articles as they seemed to be at the beginning of this century. The whole of the last century was for all Europe, with the exception of the two peninsulas of Italy and Spain, a period of avowed disbelief.
Even Presbyterian Scotland did not escape the contagion, and some theologians and preachers of the Kirk at that time are now praised for their liberal views of religion, that is, for their want of real faith. The influence of Wesley and his fellow- workers on the English mind, and the dread of the spread of French infidelity and jacobinism, were more extensive and effectual than people are apt to imagine; and there is no doubt that, seventy years ago England was far more of a believing country than she had been for a hundred years before.
But, if even Scotch Presbyterian ministers and Church of England men, such as Laurence Sterne, were unworthy of the name of Christian, what are we to think of those who had to profess no outward faith in Christianity, because of ministerial offices? There is no doubt that, in the mass, they were almost completely void of any faith in revealed religion.
To such men as these is England indebted for the development of her constitution. If Protestantism had any share in it at all, it did not go beyond preparing the way for the destruction of Christianity in the mind and heart of the people; or, rather, constitutional liberty in England has no connection whatever with religion. The English, left to their own ingenuity and skill, displayed a vast amount of statesmanlike qualities in devising for themselves a system of check and counter-check, which protected the subject and defined the rights of the ruler; and this gave the nation an undoubted superiority over their neighbors on the Continent. But it cannot be attributed, except in a very remote manner, to the Protestant doctrine of the independence of the human mind.
Were we to examine the effect which the example of England produced on other nations, we should find that, instead of spreading liberty, it was the cause of the diffusion of an unbridled license under the name of liberalism.
In England itself; the lower orders of society having been kept in ignorance, and consequently in subjection to the ruling classes, and the latter finding it to their interest to preserve order and stability in the state, no frightful commotions could ensue to threaten the destruction of society.
In Continental countries, the middle and even the lowest classes were more readily caught by doctrines which, when kept within due bounds, may be promotive of exterior prosperity, but which, pushed to their extremes and logical consequences, may embroil the whole nation in revolution and calamities.
Such has been the case in our own days, and in days immediately preceding our own; and England is now experiencing the recoil of those convulsions, and seems on the eve of being convulsed herself more terribly, perhaps, than any other nation has yet been.
These few reflections must suffice, as to extend them would go beyond our present scope. But now comes the question, Why was Ireland unprepared for the reception of Protestantism? Why did she reject it absolutely and permanently?
According to the theorists who attribute the success of Protestantism in the North of Europe to a higher civilization and a more ardent love of freedom, the contrary characteristics should distinguish those nations which remained faithful to the Church, and particularly the Irish. Was the lack of a higher civilization and more ardent love for freedom really the cause, then, for Ireland's undergoing so many fearful sacrifices merely for the sake of her religion?
We should not dread entering upon a comparison of the Scandinavian and Celtic races in these two articular points, as they existed at the time of the Tudors. We are confident that a detailed survey of both would result in a glorious vindication of the Irish character, although, owing to six hundred years of cruel wars with Dane and Anglo-Norman, the actual prosperity of the country was far inferior to that of England. But the outline of so vast a subject must content us here.
In judging of the elevation of a nation's sentiments, the first thing that strikes us is the motive assigned by the Irish representatives for refusing to pass the bill of supremacy. "Five or six changes of religion in twelve years were too much for conscientious people." Such was the answer sent back to Elizabeth, and spoken as though easy of comprehension. Had they deemed that their language could have been misunderstood, they would undoubtedly have expressed themselves in stronger terms.
Strange that such an obvious and common-sense remark had never occurred to the intelligent and highly-civilized members of the English Parliament--those ardent lovers of freedom--when applied to by a new English monarch to acknowledge and confirm, as law, the religious system he had determined to establish!
Apparently, then, at this time, Ireland possessed a conscience which England either laid no claim on, or made no pretensions to; and it might not be too much to lay this down as the first reason why Ireland remained faithful to her religion. In fact, the whole history of the period bears out this general observation. The subserviency of the proud English aristocracy, of those pretended statesmen and legislators, in matters so intimately connected with the soul, its convictions and its morality, shows conclusively that the word "conscience" had no meaning for them, or that, if they were aware of the existence of such a thing, they made so little account of it that they were ready at all times to barter it for position, what they considered honor, and wealth.
On the other hand, the constant, unshaken, and emphatic refusal of the Irish to renounce their religion for the novel "speculations" of pretended theologians-- in reality, heretical teachers --at the beck of king or queen; their willingness to submit to all the rigor of extreme penal laws rather than disobey their sense of right, proves too well that they possessed a conscience, knew what it meant, and resolved to follow it. There is not a single fact of their, history, general or particular, taking them collectively as a nation, when, by their actions, they spoke as one people or individually, when priest and friar, great man or mean man, chose to lose position, property, name--life itself--rather than be false to their religion and God--which does not prove that they owned a conscience and obeyed its voice.
Can a nation, deprived of this, be esteemed really free and truly civilized? and can a nation which possesses it be considered barbarous? The answer cannot be doubtful, and is of itself a sufficient solution of the question under examination.
But, to come to more special details. The Irish idea of civilization was certainly of a very different character from that of the English; but was it the less true? From the landing of the first invasion, the Norman nobles and prelates looked down on the invaded people as barbarous and uncouth, as they previously looked down upon the Anglo-Saxons. Later on, they spoke of the Irish customs as "lewd;" and, later still, the majority of them adopted those "lewd customs."
If the question be merely one of refinement of outward manners, and aquaintance with the artificial code established by a society with which the Irish, up to that time, had never come in contact, the Normans may be granted whatever benefit may accrue to them from such, though, even here, the Irish chieftains might later on compare favorably with their foes. For instance, if is doubtful whether Hugh O'Donnell and O'Sullivan Beare, one of whom went to Spain, and the other to Portugal--and the second, Philip II. commanded to be treated as a Spanish grandee --were not as courteous and dignified as Cecil or Walsingham, or Essex or Raleigh, at the court of Elizabeth. And, if we take the case of the descendants of Strongbow's warriors, who became "more Irish than the Irish," there is no reason why we should not prefer the manners and bearing of young Gerald Desmond, when, after leaving Rome, he appeared at the court of Tuscany, to those of the young lords who danced at Windsor, under the eyes of Henry, with Anne Boleyn. But, treating the subject seriously, and examining it more closely, we may find a necessity for reversing the opinion which is too commonly entertained.
Civilization does not consist only, or chiefly, in refinement of manners, but in all things which exalt a nation; and, after the "conscience" of which we have spoken, nothing is so important in making a nation civilized as the institutions under which it lives.
The laws are the great index of a people's civilization, chiefly as regards their execution. Nothing can be more indicative of it than the criminal code of a people.
The law of England at that time compares poorly with the Irish compilation known as the "Senchus Mor," which scholars have only recently been able to study, and which is being printed as we write, and to be illustrated with learned notes. From all accounts given by competent reviewers, it is clear that wisdom, sound judgment, equity, and Christian feeling, constitute the essence of those laws which Edmund Campian found the young Irishmen of his day studying under such strange circumstances and with such ardor and application as to spend sixteen or eighteen years at it.
And in what manner were those very Christian enactments which lay at the foundation of the English legislation executed at the same period? What, for instance, were the features of its criminal code? It is unnecessary to depict what all the world knows.
In extenuation of the barbarous blood-thirstiness which characterized it, it may be said that torture, cruel punishments, and fearful chastisement for slight offences, formed the general features of the criminal code of most Christian nations. They had been handed down by barbarous ancestors, the relics of Scandinavian cruelty for the most part, added to the Roman slave penalties, which were the remnants of pagan inhumanity. This answer would be insufficient when comparing the English with the Brehon law, but it does not hold good even with reference to other Continental nations. In no country at that time was punishment so pitiless as in England. The details, now well known, can only be published for exceptional readers; to find a comparison for them Dr. Madden says:
"We must come down to the reign of terror in France, to the massacres of September, to the wholesale executions of conventional times; to find the mob insulting the victims, and the executioner himself adding personal affront to the disgusting fulfilment of his horrible office."
Passing from the laws to the usages of warfare, and chiefy to domestic strife, here the most vulnerable point in the Irish character shows itself. The constant feuds resulting from the clan system furnish a never-failing theme to those who accuse the Irish of barbarism. Yet is there no parallel to them in the horrors of those dynastic revolutions which preceded the Tudors in England, and which the Tudors only put an end to by the completest despotism, and by shedding the best blood of the country in torrents? The Irish feuds never depopulated the country. It is even admitted by most reliable historians that, while those dissensions were rifest, the land was really teeming with a happy people, and rich in every thing which an agricultural country can enjoy. The great battles of the various clans resulted often in the killing of a few dozen warriors. Such, in fact, was the manner in which chroniclers estimated the gains or losses of each of those victories or defeats.
But, in the Wars of the Roses, England lost a great part of her adult population; so much so, that she was altogether incapacitated from waging war with any external nation. She could not even afford to send any reenforcements to the English Pale in Ireland--not even a few hundred which at times would have proved so serviceable. It was in fact high time and almost a happy thing for England that the crushing despotism of the Tudors came in to save the nation from total ruin.
Finally, can it be said that the Irish were inferior in civilization to the English by reason of their social habits, when Danes, Anglo-Saxons and Normans, in turn, invariably adopted Irish manners in preference to their own, after living a sufficient time in the country to be able to appreciate the difference between the one and the other?
The writers of whom we speak ascribe the spread of Protestantism not only to a higher civilization, or at least a special aptness and fitness for it, but also say that it was due to the greater love for freedom which possessed those who accepted it; whereas the Irish, as they allege, have been forever priest-ridden and cowered under the lash.
The connection between English Protestantism and freedom has been sufficiently touched upon. But in Ireland the whole resistance of the Irish people to the change of religion is the most conspicuous proof which could be advanced of their inherent love for freedom.
What is the meaning of this word "priest-ridden?" If, as attached to the Irish, it means that they have remained faithfully devoted to their spiritual guides, and protected them at cost of life and limb against the execution of barbarous laws, this epithet which is flung at them as a reproach is a glory to them, and a true one.
Are they to be accused of cowardice because they were never bold enough to demolish a single Catholic chapel--a favorite amusement of the English mobs from Elizabeth's reign to Victoria's--or because they could not find the courage in their hearts to mock a martyr at the stake, or imbrue their hands in his blood, as did the nation of a higher civilization and a more ardent love for freedom?
The Irish cower under the lash! It could never be applied, until calculating treachery had first rendered them naked and defenceless, and removed from their reach every weapon of defence. And the man who in such a case receives the lash is a coward, while he who safely applies it is a hero!
Our observations so far have cleared the ground for the right solution and understanding of the present question. It may now be said that the Irish were not prepared for the reception of Protestantism, and remained firm in their faith because--
For those, then, who in the sixteenth century set in motion the chaos which threatens to overwhelm us to-day, the religious abuses existing at the time can offer no excuse for their destruction of Religion, because stains happened to sully the purity of her outward garment.
But in Ireland no such abuses existed; and consequently there was there not even a pretext for the introduction of Protestantism, and by the very reason of their sense of good and right the Irish were unprepared for heresy.
their fathers, was quite enough to justify them in their resistance to such a substitute.
But, above all, when they beheld how the inmates of those holy- houses were treated, when they saw them cast out into the world, penniless, reduced to penury and want, persecuted, declared outcasts, hunted down, insulted by the soldiery, arrested, cruelly beaten, bound hand and foot, and hung up either before the door of their burning monastery, or even in the church itself before the altar--what wonder that they were unprepared to receive the new religion?
The barbarity displayed throughout England and Ireland toward Catholicism was specially fiendish when directed against religious of both sexes; and, as in Ireland no class of persons was more justly and dearly loved, what wonder that the Irish literally hated the religion that came to them from beyond the sea?
Without going over the other aspects of the religious question of the time, and comparing article with article of the new and old beliefs, this single feature of the case alone is sufficient. The process might be carried out with advantage, but is not necessary.
But we repeat advisedly--the Irish nature is opposed to rapacity and wanton shedding of blood, and this formed another strong reason for their opposition to the religious revolution which immersed them in so bloody a baptism.
And all the points well considered, which, after all, is the better, the simply traditional or strictly rationalistic nature? What has been the result of those philosophical speculations from which Protestantism sprang? Whither are men tending to-day in consequence of it? Would it not have been better for mankind to have stood by the time-honored traditions of former ages, independently of the strong and convincing claims which Catholicity offers to all? This is said without in the least attributing the fault to sound philosophy, without casting the slightest slur on those truly great and illustrious men who have widened the limits of the human intellect, and deserved well of mankind by the solid truths they have opened up in their works for the benefit and instruction of minds less gifted than their own.