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cipal republics now extinct, the voices of Savonarola and
Giordano Bruno silenced by the papal executioner, is
sinking beneath papal, Medicean, or Spanish rule into a
long sleep of voluptuous slavery with dreams of art.
Holland, freed by a struggle unsurpassed in history for
heroism from Spanish rule, is protestant and tiie foremost

XX JAMES 1 425

of thoroughly protestant powers ; while, thanks to the
fatal strategy of Parma, the Teutons of Flanders as well
as the Walloons have fallen back under the Spanish and
papal yoke. Protestant are the Scandinavian kingdoms ;
the Teutons of Germany, where they are not controlled
by catholic princes ; Berne and other Teutonic Cantons
of Switzerland, the land of Zwingli. Intensely protes-
tant are the people of Teutonic Scotland. In Slavonic
Bohemia, the land of Huss and Ziska, the great cup of
Utraquism still surmounts the churches ; protestantism
still reigns in the hearts of the people and animates a
fierce nobility in the struggle for its privileges against the
Imperial house of which the kingdom of Bohemia has
become an appanage ; but the Jesuit is at work. This is
the crater from which will presently burst the last great
eruption of the fires of religious revolution. Destruction
of the false religion, with its idols and its scandals, which
was thh easiest part of the work, protestantism has done ;
the reconstruction of true religion is harder ; the zeal of
iconoclasm is becoming spent ; the catholic church offers
certainty and unity, powerful attractions then as now to
all but the strongest minds.

The council of Trent has stereotyped Roman catholi- 1545-
cism in its modern form, the Roman Catholicism of Loyola,
Suarez, and the tinsel Jesuit fane, not of Anselm or
Thomas Aquinas, and the Gothic cathedral. It has drawn
between the Tridentine faith and protestantism an impas-
sable line. Rome has repudiated the cardinal doctrine
of protestantism, justification by faith. All attempts
at reunion or compromise, such as the gentle spirits of
Contarini, Pole, and Erasmus made, are at an end. The re-
hgious confederation of Christendom is broken up for ever.


Spain is still in the eyes of protestants the great catholic
power and the arch enemy of light and truth. But her
strength has been sapped by despotism, the Inquisition,
the diversion of energy from industry to empire, the drain
of widely extended empire itself, monarchism with men-
dicity in its train, the absorption of wealth by the church,
social pride which despised labour, and a false commercial
system. She is an enfeebled colossus fast sinking into
decrepitude. Little remains of her once towering might
but her highly trained infantry, which will hold the field
1643 till it is destroyed at Rocroy. She is propped, however,
for the present, by her connection with the Empire, held
by the other branch of her royal house. France is the
rising power. She will soon come into the hands of
Richelieu, who will quell her anarchical aristocracy, put
an end by a policy of toleration to her domestic wars of
religion, make her a centralized monarchy, and in her
turn the terror and tyrant of the world. To Spain she
is now a rival and hostile power. Thus the house of
Catholicism is divided against itself. But the house of
protestantism is also divided against itself by dissensions
between hostile sects, the Lutheran and the Calvinist, to
which the exercise of private judgment, untempered by
tolerance, has inevitably given birth ; while the national
church of England, wavering in its character, stands apart
from the rest of the Christian world.

Religious zeal begins to cool; policy among the masters
of the world is gaining ascendancy as a motive power
over religion; the era is one of transition from religious
to political and territorial war. Henry IV. of France is
above all things a politician, and his victory is for the
time that of national interest over that of faction. Riche-


lieu's test will be loyalty, not orthodoxy; cardinal though
he is, he will let you go to Mass or to preaching as you
please, provided you obey him and the king. He sees in
Spain not the bulwark of the true faith, but the power
which stands in the way of French aggrandizement. He
will not scruple to support protestants against the catholic
house of Austria. Heresy is beginning to be persecuted
less as theological error than as political disturbance.
The settlement of Germany on the principle that the
religion of each state is to be determined by its own
government betrays a subsidence of the uncompromising
struggle for truth.

As a rule, Catholicism and despotism, protestantism and
political freedom go together. Holland and Switzerland
are republics, though Holland has in the Stadtholderate
vested in the House of Orange a popular monarchy in
reserve which she calls to the front when public danger
demands a chief. Scotland is almost an aristocratic
republic. In the protestant countries generally the ten-
dency appears, and will in the end, though perhaps after
the lapse of centuries, prevail.

England had been confirmed in protestantism by her
conflict with Spain and the Jesuits. The most vigorous
and progressive element in her above all is protestant to
the core. The catholics are still numerous, and count
among them some of the nobility ; but they are prostrate,
and here, where they are weak, they are suffering under
the persecution which they inflict wherever they are
strong. In the constitution and liturgy of the Anglican
church, however, a germ of reaction is left. The epis-
copate remains and is hierarchical, though for some time
in doctrine Calvinist. The religion of compromise which


Elizabeth's government had framed for the nation might
have worked well and proved a triumph of statesmanship
if in religious belief, as well as in politics, compromise
had place. It might hold in a time of suspended thought,
while the soul of the nation was in the struggle with foes
abroad. But when in each of the two sections life awoke,
the Puritan parted company with the Anglo-Catholic, and
a fight between them for the national church began. By

^?^* the primates Whitgift and Bancroft, especially by Ban-
croft, to whom modern high churchmanship looks back as
its historic leader, the crozier was uplifted once more.
Sacerdotalism, sacramentalism, and ritualism began to
creep back under the cover of ambiguous formularies and
names. Calvinism, which makes the relation between
God and each man direct, began to give way to Arminian-
ism or the doctrine of free-will, which lets in the media-

JJq^~ tion of the church. Hooker, in his famous treatise, gave
Anglicanism a body, and a body highly attractive to
liberal and cultivated minds. If in the "Ecclesiastical
Polity" high churchmanship is not directly preached, it is
with all the more subtle potency instilled, as in our day

1863 Keble felt when, as an apostle of Neo-Catholicism, he
re-edited Hooker. The forms of the churches them-
selves made and have continued in our own day to make
for the high church party. They were built for sacra-
mental worship ; while the charm of their medieval
beauty lures to the ancient faith. On the other hand,
the Puritan, offended and alarmed by the revival of hie-
rarchy and ritual, recoiled further than ever from Cath-
olicism and insisted that the church should be cleansed
of its last traces. Identifying Arminianism with Cathol-
icism he became more intensely Calvinist than ever, and


more than ever insisted on the directness of the relation
between God and the individual man. The catholics had
on their side tradition, order and reverence. The Puritan
had his open Bible and, within biblical limits, his alle-
giance to the sovereignty of truth.

Political party, if it was not identical with religious
party, followed largely the same lines. Severed from the
Roman centre of ecclesiastical authority, the Anglican
priesthood had no support but the throne, to which it
clung with a loyalty often servile, giving to the king, as
its head, in fact, more than a catholic in the middle ages
would have given to the pope. Jesuitism, with a centre
of support above monarchies, had preached tyrannicide ;
Anglicanism, having no centre of support but the mon-
archy, preached passive obedience and divine right.
Loyalty, more than anything taught in the Gospel, became
its special mark. The king on his part was not less
strongly drawn towards a church which upheld his abso-
lute sovereignty and almost his divinity, of which he was
the head, the bishops of which were his creatures, and
whose pulpits, organs of opinion before the existence of
a press, he could tune to any air that he pleased. The
Puritan, independent in spirit and a rebel against ecclesi-
astical authority, was inclined to republicanism veiled in
constitutional drapery, sometimes even to republicanism

Monarchy in England was parliamentary and protes-
tant. Yet it failed not to feel its natural bias towards
the absolutism of surrounding royalties, and, though less
consciously, towards the religion of kings. Pride made
it scorn to be less than the mate of the monarchies of
France and Spain. But its official protestantism severed


it from the catholic group, deprived it of the sympathy
and support of its fellows, and, conflicting with its latent
tendencies to Catholicism, made its foreign policy fatally
incongruous, variable, and weak.

The hour has come of a decisive struggle between the
crown and the House of Commons for the sovereign power,
which must rest somewhere, and, however it may be self-
regulated and self-controlled in its action, cannot really
be divided. In theory the crown is sovereign. This, the
Commons, in language always fervently loyal, admit, and
the kings, when they insist on their sovereignty, are en-
titled to the benefit of the admission. It was the leader
of the opposition who said that parliament was the body,
the king the spirit, the breath of their nostrils, and the
bond by which they were tied together. But practically
the House of Commons is laying its hands upon supreme
power. Its engine is command of the supplies, without
which, the domains of the crown and its sources of reve-
nue other than parliamentary taxation having been re-
duced, while the expenditure has been greatly increased,
government cannot be carried on.

The House of Commons has by this time thoroughly
awakened from its Tudor trance. It represents a landed
proprietary, reinforced by purchasers of the dispersed
church estates, and including a large number of freehold
yeomen, together with the chief burghers of the towns,
in whose hands the borough elections mainly are. The
labouring masses are unrepresented, but the House
roughly represents the enfranchised and political na-
tion. If local magnates exert a commanding influence in
elections, even for boroughs, they must in some measure


consult the wishes of constituencies so sturdy and strong.
The House has studied its own archives and learned what
its powers and privileges had been under Lancastrian
kings. Among its members are lawyers not a few, repre-
sentatives of a powerful profession, experts in constitu-
tional as well as in general law. Already in Elizabeth's
reign it had asserted, and partly made good, in spite of
the queen's jealousy and rebukes, its right of dealing with
the highest questions both of state and church. The queen,
who would gladly have ruled without it, and strove by
parsimony to keep herself independent of its grants, was
compelled by her perils to lean upon it, and to fence with
its growing pretensions rather than to put them down.
It has acquired a certain degree of corporate consciousness
and persistency of aim. It is finding regular leaders de-
voted to parliamentary life and qualified to wrestle with
the ministers of the crown, to whom hitherto statesman-
ship has been confined. Influence in the elections to it
has become a paramount object of the crown, some of
whose ministers. Bacon among the number, take seats in
the Commons as managers for the court. The ' petty i584
boroughs which are created as seats for court nominees,
and of which in Cornwall there is a large group, become
the parliamentary nuisance and scandal of after times.

We must be just to the monarchists. The government
of an enlightened and patriotic king might even to a lib-
eral mind seem better than that of a popular assembly
convened at irregular intervals, containing much igno-
rance and prejudice, sometimes largely composed of new
and inexperienced members, uninstructed as yet by a
political press, ill-informed about foreign affairs, apt to
be carried away by sudden impulse or clamour, and decid-


ing all questions by a majority apt to be factious, with-
out the safeguard of personal responsibility. The ideal
of Bacon, the great political philosopher, as well as the
great natural philosopher of the day, was a patriotic
monarchy informed and advised by a loyal parliament,
with judges who were not to be the parliament's inter-
preters, but as lions supporting the throne. For this
plan there might have been something to say if Bacon
could have named the king, though to the body of the
nation autocracy, however ideal, denies political life.

Neither party, it must be borne in mind, was free from
the fallacy of church establishment. Both alike believed
in the necessity of a national church, in the duty of the
subject to conform, and in that of the ruler to enforce
conformity. Political government in the hands of both
alike was entangled with the alien work of regulating
religious belief and worship. Both parties in turn perse-
cuted, though in a proportion inverse to their Christian-
ity, and with a growing tendency on the part of the more
Christian of the two to toleration and ultimately to lib-
erty. Only on the minds of a few lonely thinkers or
hunted sectaries had the idea of religious liberty as yet
dawned. The Presbyterian, with his Old Testament
notions of national orthodoxy and with his hatred of
idolatry, which he imputed to the Roman catholics, was
a persecutor second in fanaticism only to the Roman cath-
olics themselves. Cartwright, the leading Presbyterian
of Elizabeth's reign, was ready to burn heretics.

James I. of England and VI. of Scotland, set by the
chance of hereditary succession to play the part of king
at this crisis, is the butt of history as a learned fool fancy-


ing himself the Solomon of kingcraft. His learning,
which was real, and which he owed to the tuition of Bu-
chanan, did him no harm, though he made absurd displays
of it, and was not saved by it from abject belief in witch-
craft. It enabled him to enter into the ideas of Bacon.
Perhaps its influence in raising him above vulgar pas-
sions had something to do with the policy of peace, which
was his best point as a ruler. Nor was he by any means
devoid of Scotch shrewdness or of native humour. He
often said wise things, if he seldom did them. He was
kind-hearted, good-tempered, and, as a private man,
would have most likely shambled through life an amiable
though laughable pedant. But he was thoroughly weak,
and destiny brought him to show his weakness on a
throne, where it led him into public acts of folly, some-
times into public crimes. He was in his mother's womb
when Rizzio was torn by murderers from her arms. His
figure was unkingly, his gait unsteady, his tongue too
large for his mouth. His Scotch accent, which now
would be not unpleasing, then grated on English ears,
reminding a proud and prejudiced race that he was a
stranger. To his natural grotesqueness he added that of
a dress ridiculously stuffed and padded. He was awk-
ward and ungainly in all that he did. Devoted to hunt-
ing, he had a loose seat on horseback, and we behold him
tilted out of his saddle into the New River, with nothing
to be seen of him but his boots. James meant no evil.
He meant some good, and he has had hard measure com-
pared with the strong and brilliant enemies of mankind.
Vanity was his ruling passion ; to display the kingcraft
on which he comically prided himself was his great de-
light ; he was far from being by nature a tyrant ; he had
VOL. 1 вАФ 28


formed no deliberate schemes of usurpation ; probably he
doted on the forms and names fully as much as on the
substance and the exercise of power.

For the government of a constitutional kingdom and of
a race generally law-abiding, James's training had been
bad. In Scotland he had feebly wrestled with the law-
less violence of the Scotch nobles on one hand, and
with the theocratic pretensions of the ministry on the
other. He had been told when rude treatment had drawn
tears from his eyes that it was better that children
should weep than bearded men. He was not likely to

1600 forget the day of the Gowrie conspiracy, on which, lured
by a feigned tale of treasure trove into a lonely chamber
of a Scotch nobleman's castle, he found himself suddenly
collared by his host, and if his cries had not just in time
been heard, would probably have been abducted if not
murdered. His ideas of justice were such as prevailed on
the Scotch border. On the threshold of his new king-
dom he shocked English legality by ordering a cutpurse
to be hanged without trial.

A fatal part of James's weakness was his addiction to
favourites, whom he chose for their good looks and for
the lively spirits which accompany robustness and in
which he was himself wanting. In Scotland he had
fallen into the arms of a handsome and engaging sconn-

1580 drel named Stewart, whom he made Earl of Arran, and
who disgraced him by rapacity and outrage. In England
he fell into the arms of Carr, a young Scotch adventurer,

1615 whom he made Earl of Somerset, and afterwards of
Villiers, a young English adventurer, who was created
Earl and then Duke of Buckingham. These youths he
made not only his companions, but his ministers, putting


his patronage, himself, and the state into their hands.
But during the early part of his reign the king had an
able, experienced, and most industrious prime minister
in Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, the second son of jg^^"
Burghley, and a legacy from the council of Elizabeth,
whose unremitting toil, both in diplomacy and finance,
partly countervailed the folly and wastefulness of the
court. A strange light is thrown on the public morality
of the age when we find that this conscientious servant
of the crown, for such he must certainly be held to have
been, was a secret pensioner of Spain. When, worn out
by toil and anxiety, Cecil died, the favourite reigned 1612
supreme. It was a period at which royalty, no longer,
as in the middle ages, leading armies, toiling in council,
or administering justice in person, was inclined to with-
draw behind the curtain of its harem and cast the burden
of government on a vizier. But Richelieu and Mazarin
were statesmen, and even the Spanish Lerma, Olivares,
and Lewis de Haro were statesmen of a lower kind, not
favourites like Somerset or the youthful Buckingham.

There was another man at James's side, one whose large
mind had formed plans for the establishment of a mon-
archy on a throne of light, for the union of Scotland with
England, for the civilization of Ireland, for the liberal
reform of the law, for the pacification of the church by
a policy of comprehension, for the extension of Eng-
land by colonization. He had a king not incapable of
understanding him. What was it that prevented Bacon
from grasping power, that caused him to be, as plainly
he was, somewhat lightly esteemed by the masters of
the state, and at last abandoned by them to impeach-
ment and disgrace ? To men of business like Cecil, he


probably seemed too much of a philosopher. But the
assiduous scheming and craving for court favour which
led him to such compliances as prosecuting his benefactor
Essex, taking part in the illegal torture of Peach am, offer-
ing the incense of adulation to Somerset and his vile wife,
and acting as the king's tool in the case of the Overbury
trial, could hardly fail to lower him even in the eyes of
those to whom he cringed. He rose to the highest place
in the law, but instead of realizing his political ideal, and
being the prime minister of a Solomon, he was condemned
to be a flatterer of James Stuart and the courtier of Somer-
set and Buckingham. Yet his political philosophy lives.
It has in it an element which is valuable for all times.

James had been bred in Scotland a strict Calvinist and
had written a treatise to prove that the pope was Anti-
Christ. But he had been crossed, browbeaten, and bored
by the theocratic preachers of his native land. They had
set their spiritual power against his royalty. When he
questioned their authority at a conference, Melville, their
leader, seized him by the sleeve and, calling him " God's
silly vassal," told him that there were two kings and two
kingdoms in Scotland, that Christ Jesus was a King, and
king James was his subject, that Christ's kingdom was
the church, of which king James was not a king, nor a
lord, nor a head, but a member, and that they whom
Christ had called and commanded to watch over the
church and govern that spiritual kingdom had of him
authority and power which no Christian king or prince
could control, but which it was their duty to fortify and
assist. Such was the style of tliese heroic but too high-
aspiring men, who demanded that the church, of which
they were the leaders and the soul, should be above


secular law and rule in all things which they thought
fit to regard as pertaining not to Caesar but to God. It
was papal theocracy recurring in another form, though
tempered by the democratic character of the Scotch
church. James had striven to put the preachers down,
and had been helped by the jealousy of the lay nobles.
The great fact that the bishop was the only true friend of
the king had dawned on his philosophic mind. " No bishop
no king," was thenceforward his motto. As king of Eng-
land he threw himself at once into the arms of the hier-
archy. A deputation of the puritan clergy came to him
at Hampton Court with a petition called, from the reputed
number of signatures, the Millenary Petition, praying for
the abolition of forms and customs such as the sign of the
cross in baptism, the use of the ring in marriage, the pri-
vate baptism of infants in danger of death, the compulsory
use of the cap and surplice, and the communion without
sermon or previous examination, things w^hich, though
trivial in themselves, they not without reason regarded
as symbols of Roman Catholicism and warrants for reac-
tion. They demanded also the discontinuance of lessons
from the Apocrypha, which had no sanction but that of
the church. They demanded liberty of work on church
holidays, and at the same time the strict observance of
what they regarded as the Sabbath. They demanded the
erasure from the liturgy of equivocal terms, such as that
of "priest," the use of which instead of the Gospel word
" presbyter " has, in fact, produced momentous effects.
The king, to whom the very name of presbyter was a
bugbear, refused their prayer in terms grossly insulting,
and was told by the bishops that he had spoken by the
inspiration of God. The primate fell on his knees and.


with good reason, thanked God for having sent them such
a king. James enforced strict conformity, and many
puritan clergymen gave up their livings. Ten of those
who had signed the Millenary Petition were imprisoned.
In justice let it be remembered that the framers of the
petition also insisted upon conformity, and on the sup-
pression of opinions deemed heresies by them. Neither
side was for liberty, though it was from Puritanism that
liberty had most to hope. James afterwards went to
Scotland, and, with the help of an aristocracy always

1617 jealous of the ministers, restored episcopacy, though
weak and unmitred, there. Ritual he would fain have
restored, but the resistance was too strong. One fruit
the Hampton conference bore. It led to the preparation,

1611 under the king's auspices, of that revised version of the
Bible, which, like the dramas of Shakespeare, and more
than Shakespeare's dramas, has united all who speak
the English tongue, and by its influence on character,
public as well as private, claims a leading place, not only

Online LibraryGoldwin SmithThe United kingdom; a political history → online text (page 31 of 84)