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with one eye fixed on Rome. The offspring of revolu-
tion, trained amid intrigue and conspiracy, they had
learned to read men and to walk with a sure foot in
slippery paths. They had seen and accepted too many
changes of religion to be enthusiasts on either side, or
allow bigotry to cross their policy. To them protestant-
ism was the religion of England, Catholicism was the
religion of her foes. Burghley was at the head of the
government, and perhaps he was not the less qualified
for that post if he was rather sagacious, firm, and wary
than a man of commanding genius. But the pilot who
weathered the storm was Walsingham, a man supremely
able, absolutely devoted to the public service, and ready
to sacrifice to it not only all interests and lives that stood
in its way, but almost his own soul. He was, in fact, an
austere and puritan Machiavel. He did not scruple
to adopt the enemy's weapons, and he was the artificer and
operator of the espionage which penetrated and baffled the
counsels of the Jesuits and the Guises.

VOL. I вАФ 24


The labour of these men must have been great. We
hear of them as sitting in council from eight in the morn-
ing till the dinner hour, and then till supper time. Their
correspondence was very heavy. On the other hand,
they had no demands of the platform to meet, and com-
paratively little trouble with parliament or the press.
Their councils were deliberative in a different sense from
those of a parliamentary debating club speaking to re-
porters. Such of them as were not favourites were ill
paid. Walsingham left not enough to pay for his burial.
Burghley had private wealth.

First came another counter-revolution, which proved a
final settlement, at least for two generations, in religion.
Had Elizabeth been born a catholic, a catholic she would
have remained. A ritualist she was. In her chapel, to
the scandal of hearty protestants, stood the crucifix
with the lighted tapers before it. She disliked married
clergy, and treated their wives with the insolence which
always lay beneath her gracious airs. She announced
her accession to the pope, and although this might be
a politic compliment paid by her advisers to catholic
opinion, it was probably in full accordance with her own
leanings. Apart from her ritualistic tastes, the natural
sympathies of a sovereign, and a sovereign full of her
sacred right, could not fail to be, like those of sovereigns
generally, with the religion most congenial to authority.
But the daughter of Anne Boleyn had been born un-
der the ban of the papacy. Bastard as she was in the
eyes of Rome, her only title to the crown was anti-papal,
while there was a claimant at once papal and legitimate
in the person of Mary queen of Scots. Elizabeth's part
was decisively cast for her when the Vatican not onlj


repelled her overtures, but in course of time deposed her 1570
and absolved her subjects from their allegiance. Whether
she would or not, the queen of England became the head
of the protestant cause in Europe.

Once more the authority of the pope was renounced
and his power was retransf erred to the crown, though
the queen did not, like Henry VIII., assume the title of
the head of the church, but was content with the declara- 1559
tion that she was over all persons and in all causes, as
well ecclesiastical as civil, supreme. Once more the Mass
was abolished and prohibited. Once more the whole
sacerdotal system, of which the Mass was the centre, with
monasticism, purgatory, saint-worship, was swept away.
Once more the protestant pastorate took the place of
the Roman priesthood. The protestant Articles of Ed- 1563
ward VI. were repromulgated, with slight variation, as
the standard of faith. The J^nglish Prayer Book of
Edward VI. again supplanted the Roman ritual, with 1559
the wise omission of anti-papal " passages specially offen-
sive to the catholic ear. Clergymen were again prac-
tically licensed to marry. Auricular confession, if it was
not abolished, was discontinued. To Rome and her
liegemen, at all events, it was made clear that England
was once more protestant.

Of the protestant character of the Articles there can
be no doubt, and it is to them surely, as an original mani-
festo, not to the liturgy, where the object of the compiler
was to retain as much as possible of the customary and
familiar, that we must look for the doctrine of the church.
In the liturgy, however, there remained enough, if not
of Catholicism, of ritualism, to give it the air of a
compromise at the time and make it a store of argu-


ments, or pretexts, for the revival of Catholicism in the
Anglican establishment at a later day. The name
" priest " was retained, and its former associations lingered
with it. The catholic vestiary was not wholly discarded.
While the confessional was swept away, something like
the practice of auricular confession, in which the catholic
soul had found comfort, was retained, at least in a per-
missive shape. But it is in the form of administering
the eucharist that the spirit of compromise most plainly
appears. There we have two pairs of sentences, the
first sentence in each of which embodies, not indeed the
doctrine of transubstantiation, yet the sacrificial view,
while the merely commemorative view is embodied in the
second. Kneeling at the eucharist was retained.

To the shrewd and worldly statesmen of Elizabeth such
a compromise, no doubt, seemed profoundly wise. They
thought, not without apparent reason, that, something
being left of the old forms of worship, some quarter even
being given, in the liturgy, if not in the Articles, to the
old creed, the parish church, with its chimes, font, and
graveyard, the immemorial centre of social as well as
religious life, would retain its charm for the mass of the
people, and the upshot would be general acquiescence in
the national religion. But the sequel showed that the
domain of compromise is interest, not belief. Neither
catholic nor thoroughly protestant, the establishment was
cut off from both sources of religious zeal. When in
after times sap returned to the tree, it was either from
the catholic source, as in the era of Laud and afterwards
of the Oxford movement, or from a protestant source, as
in the case of the Puritans or of the evangelical party,
Methodists within the pale ; and with the disturbance


consequent on irruption from without. The attractions
of a religious kind which the establishment had were
antiquity, dignity, gentility, tradition, a degree of cere-
monial suited to Anglo-Saxon taste, and the social in-
fluences of the parish church. Great Anglican writers
were coming to give these attractions their full force.

The policy of religious compromise, however, might
have been more successful had not catholic non-conform-
ity been sustained, hallowed, and inflamed by Rome
and the emissaries of Rome. For Catholicism, on the
verge of destruction, had rallied round its centre, had
in some measure reformed itself, had renewed its force,
and entered on the second, the Ultramontane, era of its
existence. Jesuitism had come to its aid, and the Jesuit,
gliding over Europe, was warring against protestantism
with intrigue and sometimes with worse weapons. Royal
despotism, especially in Spain, felt that its cause was
bound up with that of the despotism of the priest, and
lent itself with all its power to the ecclesiastical reaction.

Instead of the direct appointment of bishops by the
crown and during its pleasure, which was the extreme
policy of the revolution, the form of election by the
chapter was restored, though with the conge d'elire which
practically vested the appointment in the sovereign, for
whose nominee the electors were forced to vote under
penalty of the dread Praemunire, while the crown's power
of dismissal at will was allowed to fall. This made room,
as at a later day appeared, for the revival of apostolical
succession and of all that hangs thereby.

" The full power, authority, jurisdiction, and supremacy
in church causes, which heretofore the popes usurped and
took to themselves, is united and annexed to the imperial


crown of this realm." This transfer of ecclesiastical su-
premacy from the pope to the king was and remained
the distinguishing feature of the Anglican Reformation.
Its symbol in the churches was the substitution of the
royal arms for the rood. Severance from the centre of
the catholic faith drew after it doctrinal innovation.

The papal jurisdiction thus transferred to her Eliza-
beth took power to exercise through a high commis-
sion for the regulation of the church, the censorship of
public morals, and the correction of the clergy. Thus

1583 the Court of High Commission enters on its ill-starred

Communion with the protestant churches of the con-
tinent was ostensibly maintained and their orders were
now and long after this accepted as valid. But the inti-
macy of the connection ceased ; the opinion of the pro-
testant divines of Germany and Geneva was no longer
sought, nor were they welcomed to England. Episcopacy
combined with royal supremacy proved to be practically
a dividing line.

This revolution was made by the government with a
parliament which did the government's bidding. Con-
vocation feebly protested ; but its protest was disre-
garded and served only to show that the conscience of

1559 the clergy was coerced. By the Act of Supremacy, vest-
ing supreme power in the crown, combined with the Act

1659 of Uniformity regulating the national religion by author-
ity of parliament, the church of England was finally
stamped as a state establishment, with the head of the
nation as its head, and for its real legislature the na-
tional assembly. To use again a phrase of later coinage,
the settlement was Erastian, presenting a contrast alike


to the papal theocracy and to the ministerial or demo-
cratic theocracy of Geneva or Scotland. Nor was the
clerical convocation destined ever to recover its power.
Episcopacy was the form of church government congenial
to monarchy, and was retained where the Reformation
was monarchical, as in England and Sweden, while it
disappeared where the Reformation was democratic or
aristocratic, as in Germany, Scotland, or Holland. In
its retention, and in the claim of the bishops to apostoli-
cal succession with the sole power of ordination lurked
the only remnant of ecclesiastical independence.

While the Anglican church was thus made a function
of the state, the commonwealth was narrowed to the pale
of the Anglican church, those who refused to take the
oath of supremacy and conform to the established mode
of worship, whether catholics or non-conforming protes-
tants, being excluded from the House of Commons and
from all political power. It was of little moment that the
fe^ catholic peers were retained, in deference to the aris-
tocracy, in the House of Lords. Here we have the origin
of the long struggle for catholic emancipation and the
abolition of religious tests which has ended in the entire,
or almost entire, secularization of the commonwealth, while
the church still remains in bondage to the state.

Of the inferior clergy almost all conformed. Of the
bishops who had been deeply committed by the perse-
cution under Mary, and could not for shame turn their
coats, fifteen resigned, while only one, Kitchin, Bishop 1559
of Llandaff, conformed. Most of the deans and heads
of colleges also resigned. It was necessary in effect to
create a new episcopate, and the number of bishops held
requisite for consecration was barely made up out of the


survivors of the ejected episcopate of Edward, itself not
so indisputably consecrated as to escape the malicious
criticisms of an enemy naturally tempted to assail this
weak link in the Anglican succession. The story of the
consecration at the Nag's Head without the requisite
forms is an exploded fiction. Yet it must be owned^ if
apostolical succession is essential to spiritual life, that
the spiritual life of the English church and nation here
hung by a slender thread. Parker, the primate, was a
fair type of compromise, being a student of the Fathers,
and having about him so much of the high churchman
that a society dedicated to the diffusion of high church
learning has been enrolled under his name.

There was at the time little resistance to the change.
The protestant martyrs had not suffered in vain. The
testimony of their blood had sunk deeper than argument
into the hearts of the people, while the church by which
they were murdered had made herself hated in propor-
tion. The impression was the stronger because most
of the sufferers came from lowly homes. Spanish con-
nection had wounded patriotism. The character of Bon-
ner had tainted" his cause. But the rude north was
still mainly catholic. So were the leaders of the old
nobility ; not only the northern lords, the Earls of
Northumberland and Westmoreland, but the chief of
all, the Duke of Norfolk, who could say that on his
bowling-green at Norwich he felt himself the peer of any
prince in Christendom. In these quarters conspiracy, and
in the north formidable rebellion, arose. Religious dis-
affection, opening the doors to catholic intrigue from
abroad, was a danger with which statesmen had always to
contend. In the districts of the south and east, which


were best peopled, and where wealth mainly lay, pro-
testantism, or at least conformity, prevailed.

It is not unlikely that some active and inquiring
minds, stirred not satisfied by the controversy, had shot
beyond the bounds of protestantism, even the most thor-
oughgoing, and anticipated the speculations of later times.
Giordano Bruno found congenial company in England.
Freethinking probably had its seat among Bohemians
like the dramatists Marlowe and Greene. Something
like it subtly pervades Shakespeare. But as yet it had
no force.

Severe, nay cruel, laws were at once passed against 1559
the recognition of papal supremacy and for the enforce-
ment of conformity to the state religion. But during
the first twelve years of Elizabeth's reign there were no
catholic martyrs, though the heresy law Avas still put in
force against Anabaptists, the Anarchists of that day.
When the mortal conflict between Catholicism and pro-
testantism was raging, when Alva and Parma were at
their work of extermination in the Netherlands, when the 1576
Guises and the League were at the same work in France,
when the massacre of St. Bartholomew had been perpe- 1572
trated and had been glorified by the pope, when the
pope, after long hoping and being somewhat encouraged
to hope, that Elizabeth would repent and bring her
kingdom back to the church, had at length, despairing
of her conversion, deposed her and absolved her sub- 1570
jects from allegiance, when af last, responding to his
call, a great catholic power took arms against her, when
the Armada was being fitted out in the ports of Spain,
when the Jesuit was creeping about England on his
dark mission, when among his disciples plots were being


formed against the queen's life, when conspiracy was
1569 rife among the catholic nobility and the catholic north
1581 was in rebellion, the laws against the Mass were put in
execution, and Catholicism had its martyrs. It was now
a question, not of religious orthodoxy or conformity, but
of the life of the nation. There were no burnings of
the catholics for heresy, there was no Inquisition, no
racking of the religious conscience. Mass-priests suf-
fered, not merely as dissenters, but as enemies of the
state. The pope had done his best to stamp upon
them as his liegemen that character when he deposed
the queen. Nor was their case altered when he an-
nounced that his Bull might be taken to be suspended
until execution of it could be had.

This policy nevertheless was wrong. Men convicted of
treason, whether in the interest of the pope or in any
other interest, deserved to pay the penalty, and when
the nation was in mortal peril could hardly look for
mercy. The Jesuit, as a member of an order of con-
spiracy, and an apostle not only of rebellion but of as-
sassination, might, whenever he was caught within the
protestant lines, have been lawfully treated as a public
enemy. Even against him the use of the rack was de-
testable, little as it might beseem a familiar of the Inqui-
sition to protest. Walsingham said that knowledge could
not be bought too dear; it was bought too dear when
it was bought at the expense of humanity. But for the
catholics in general, so 16ng as they did nothing disloyal,
took part in no plots, published no Bulls of deposition,
harboured no Jesuits, entered into no correspondence
with the enemy, and answered the call to arms in de-
fence of the nation, the treatment prescribed by wisdom


as well as justice was that of toleration. That policy
succeeded in Holland, though perhaps it was easier in a
rebel republic than it would have been under royal su-
premacy. The best defence of the nation was unity,
which in this case only toleration could produce. For
the conduct of the government nothing can be pleaded
but the agony of peril and the fallacy of the age. It
received a noble rebuke when catholics obeyed the call
to arms in defence of the country against the Armada.

Not less urgent in their way than the religious ques-
tion were the financial and economical difficulties with
which the statesmen of Elizabeth had to deal. They
found the government bankrupt, public faith impaired,
the currency in a deplorable state of debasement, trade
in consequence demoralized, the problems of pauperism
and vagrancy unsolved. They restored the finances. By
a daring measure they effected a reform of the cur- 1560
rency, which was justly accounted one of the glories
of the reign, and which came seasonably to meet the
great influx of silver from Spanish America. By thus
giving assurance of a return to honest government
they breathed new life into commerce, which they con-
tinued to foster by such means as with the lights of those
times they could. The question of pauperism they settled,
after one more fruitless trial of severity, by a Poor 1593
Law, which remained in force far into the present cen-
tury, establishing in place of voluntary contribution a
legal right to parochial relief. The country gentleman
or squire, landlord and justice of the peace, whose figure
we now discern, his tenant farmers on their home-
steads, and the farm labourer in his cottage with right
to parochial relief, together form the new manorial sys-


tem which replaces the feudal manor. Not only the
castle but the castellated mansion has departed, and its
place is taken by the peaceful beauty of the Elizabethan
manor house or hall. It is true, perfect tranquillity and
order did not come at once. There was still a good deal
of marauding, at least there was a good deal of hanging.
Strype speaks of forty executions in one county in a year.
Yet the state of the country social and economical during
the reign was progressively good. Insurrection was
religious and political, not social as under Edward VI.
Manufactures received an impulse from the influx of
Flemish weavers whom Spanish tyranny and persecution
had driven from the great hives of textile industry in the
Netherlands. Compared with continental states ravaged
by the religious war, the island kingdom was a haven of
industrial prosperity as well as of peace.

A great part of Elizabeth's reign is a glorious gap in
political history. Politics are almost lost in the struggle
for national existence, and the history is military or
diplomatic. The page is filled by the efforts of statesmen,
to support the protestant and English interest in Scotland
against that of the Guises, in France to protect the same
interests against the same dark power ; by the deeds and
sufferings of the English auxiliaries in the Netherlands
and in France ; by the war with Spain upon the sea
and the defeat of the Armada. Patriotism takes the
form of loyalty to the head of the nation, and a practical
dictatorship for the public salvation is accorded to the
government, as it was accorded to the American govern-
ment during the war of Secession. Shakespeare is full of
patriotic fire. But in the mirror which he holds up to his
age no political forms are seen. He is himself monarch-


ical, dislikes the mob, laughs a little at the sectaries,
girds at the pope, though he makes no allusion to the
struggle with papal Spain or to the Armada. But there
is not a trace in him of party feeling or of interest
in constitutional questions. To him king John is the
king of England defending the realm against the French
invader. Of the Great -Charter he says not a word. By
Raleigh in his " Prerogative of Parliament " the Great
Charter is flouted. Raleigh himself is a type of the
Elizabethan character, and of its relation to political
history. He is extravagantly loyal, an almost slavish
courtier, to rise in the queen's favour being the sum of
his ambition, and at the same time intensely patriotic.
He is a hero, an intriguer, and a corsair. The exuberant
life-blood of a nation renewing its youth shows itself in
his versatile energy as politician, man of letters, soldier,
sailor, colonizer, and inventor ; of religion he has so little
as to be suspected of atheism, but he is a protestant at>
least for the purpose of fighting the Armada and raiding
on the Spanish main. There was again danger of a lapse
into arbitrary government. But the antidote in the
form of a religious party and of the economical changes
which produced an independent gentry was at hand.

By the conflict itself, indeed, moral forces and energies
were called forth which could hardly have sunk into
servitude. A school of protestant chivalry was formed,
broader, more human, and nobler than the chivalry of
the middle age. Its star was Sir Philip Sidney, who,
wounded on the field of Zutphen, passed the cup of water 1586
from his own fevered lips to those of a suffering comrade,
and whose death was deplored by a nation penetrated
with his spirit as a great public calamity. Its poet was


Spenser, the English Tasso, whose crusaders are the
champions of protestant truth going forth, not against
the Paynira, but against the giants and enchanters of the
papal Duessa. That with this chivalry some ferocity
should mingle was inevitable in those times. At its
worst it never equalled the ferocity of the Spaniards or
the League. Above all, there was a glorious develop-
ment of maritime prowess and adventure. If in Drake,
Hawkins, Frobisher, Cavendish, and Walter Raleigh there
was far too much of the buccaneer, the sea in those days
was almost beyond the pale of international law, and the
pretension of Spain to bar the gate of the west against
mankind greatly provoked mankind to burst the bar. The
Spanish Inquisition too was at work and had English mari-
ners in its dens. In the great struggle, while Catholicism
with its terrible Spanish legions dominated by land, pro-
testantism with its daring mariners, English and Dutch,
was supreme at sea. The intrepidity of these mariilers,
when we consider the smallness of their barques, their lack
of charts, of any instrument of observation better than the
astrolabe, even of a perfect knowledge of the use of the
compass, fills us with wonder, and we feel that however
much the world in our day may have surpassed them
in science, it can hardly have hearts so strong. Sea-
men can take no part in politics, and Great Britain
owes her liberty largely to her good fortune in having,
as an island, a navy, not a standing army, for her de-
fence. But the character of the seaman has worked
into that of the nation at large and impregnated it
with the freedom of the sea. One very dark blot there
is on the page. Hawkins began the English slave trade,
and the queen shared his gains.


Of the intellectual quickening, proofs enough are
Shakespeare and Bacon. In Shakespeare, with his little
Globe Theatre, his want of scenic apparatus, of general
culture, and of models, for he eviden\tly knew nothing
of the classical drama, we are struck, as in the case of
the maritime adventurers, by the achievements of sheer
power. If Bacon did not advance science by discover-
ies, he opened the gates of morning, and never had

Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 27 of 84)