HAIL & FIRE - a resource for Reformed and Gospel Theology in the works, exhortations, prayers, and apologetics of those who have maintained the Gospel and expounded upon the Scripture as the Eternal Word of God and the sole authority in Christian doctrine.
HOME > Library > Books > "Footprints of the Jesuits" (1894) by R. W. Thompson
R. W. Thompson
Ex-secretary of the Navy
The Jesuits in England
When Henry VIII quarreled with the pope, it was only about his divorce. Religion was not involved. He maintained the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church until his death. But in order to give license to his passions, he caused himself to be recognized by a submissive Parliament as taking the place of the pope in the religious affairs of England - not, however, as the head of the National Church, which did not distinctively exist as such until the subsequent reign of Edward VI. As between him and the pope, the dispute was about authority, not doctrine. It excited intense anger in the minds of both, and this was soon imparted to their respective adherents. Each was familiar with the methods of persecution and the implements of coercion, long in use to produce uniformity of faith, and they were equally ready to employ them. There were, however, differences between them worthy of being noted. The highest aspiration of Henry was to govern England; the pope reached out after the spiritual government of the world. The pope, without the sanction and authority of the Church, claimed personal infallibility; Henry did not. They were consequently formidable antagonists. Trained within the same circle of events, with minds disciplined by the same doctrinal teachings, and entirely agreed about the employment of compulsion in matters of faith, each dealt with the other as a mere competitor for power.
The pope - Paul III - endeavored to bring his royal antagonist to terms by excommunication; but Henry defied it and its accompanying anathemas. In proportion as the passions of the pope became intensified by resistance to his spiritual authority, the measures designed to reduce England to obedience became more violent. Henry was denounced as a traitor to heaven and the Church, and threatened with all the consequences implied by that denunciation. The pope endeavored to induce the Emperor Charles V and Francis I of France to invade England, make conquest of the country, and bring it again into obedience to him; but these monarchs feared the consequences, and prudently declined the undertaking. Disappointed in this, the pope hastened to solicit the aid of Loyola, who without delay provided Jesuits to be sent to England as spies, and to plot secretly against Henry. These emissaries were privately instructed by Loyola himself; and inasmuch as these instructions have been made known, and are admitted by the Jesuits, they serve to show the uses to which Loyola intended to put his society. The philosophy of history is often left unperceived by omitting to observe the force of such evidence as this.
After counseling them to practice great prudence and circumspection in conversing with others, so as to unveil "the depth of their sentiments" - that is, to draw out their secret thoughts - Loyola proceeded to instruct them that, "in order to conciliate to yourselves the good-will of men in the desire of extending the kingdom of God, you will make yourselves all things to all men, after the example of the apostle in order to gain them to Jesus Christ." And he tells them further that "when the devil attacks a just man, he does not let him see his snares" - therefore they must imitate him, in order to entice men into Jesuit snares! Taken as a whole, these instructions were manifestly designed so to train all Jesuits as to make them, according to Nicolini, "crafty, insinuating, deceitful." Cretineau, a Jesuit, attempts to argue, continues Nicolini, that they had reference to religious and not to political matters, and this is the only defense he offers for them. But this is itself Jesuitical, inasmuch as these emissaries were sent to England upon a mission involving politico-religious affairs - that is, the policy established by the Government of England in regard to the relations between it and the pope. Whether right or wrong, the English people established these relations for themselves, as they had the undoubted right to do, and no alien or foreign power, whether employed by the pope or any other monarch, could rightfully interfere with them.
These emissaries of Loyola and the pope visited Ireland and Scotland; but with the exception of intriguing with James V of Scotland, their mission was ineffectual, and they returned to Rome. Henry was not seriously disturbed by them. Nor was there any other attempt to introduce the Jesuits into England until after the death of Queen Mary, whose persecution of the Protestants was sufficiently satisfactory to the papacy without their aid. Their introduction during her reign had been opposed and defeated by Cardinal Pole, an Englishman; but whether he was hostile to them, or considered the existing system of persecution perfect enough without them, is not clearly shown.
We are thus brought to a portion of English history specially interesting and instructive to all who hold in admiration the civil institutions of the United States; for they have read history to but little purpose who do not know how the events of that period gave stability to principles which now constitute fundamental parts of our national polity. In tracing our pedigree back to its English source, it is as easy to see our intimate relations with the Elizabethan era as it is to follow the little rivulets in the valleys or upon the mountains in their courses to the sea. On this account some particularity of detail is rendered necessary, or else some matters of historic interest, not generally observed, may be omitted.
During the reign of Elizabeth the papal authorities renewed their exertions to put a stop to Protestantism in England, and sent more Jesuits there for that purpose. "These satellites of the pope," says the historian, "entered the country under fictitious names, and as stealthily as nocturnal robbers, mendacious in every word they uttered, and exciting the people to rebellion against the ' impious' queen." The vigilance of Elizabeth, however, was of such a character that she was not easily taken by surprise, and their plottings against her became less effective than they and the pope had anticipated. Accordingly other Jesuits were sent to Scotland to encourage Queen Mary, and hold her steadfast in the faith; but they were unsuccessful in the attempt to stir up rebellion there, and being fearful of detection and arrest, escaped out of the country as fugitives from justice. Nevertheless they accomplished one thing, which was to carry away with them several young English noblemen, to be educated by the Jesuits in Flanders, so as to fit them for treason against their own country - repeating in this the experiment Loyola had made in Germany. All these movements, although not immediately followed by any direct consequences, tend to show how ready the Jesuits were to make secret and incendiary war upon anything or any country upon which the pontifical curse was resting. And they show, moreover, their subtle methods of procedure - how they were trained and educated in adroitness and cunning, the more easily to mislead others; how they raised hypocrisy and deceit up to the side of virtue; how they endeavored to attach to falsehood the merit which belongs alone to truth; and how, in order to be "all things to all men," they were required to be what they were not, or not to be what they were, in order by deception to accomplish the subjugation of England to the authority of the pope.
The Jesuits endeavored to become the educators of English, youths as they had those of Germany. They understood, and have not yet forgotten, the value of this. The pope therefore established an English college at Rome, to educate young Englishmen for the traitorous purpose of destroying English institutions.
The young Englishmen, educated at this college in Rome to hate their country and its sovereign, reached the highest round in the ladder of collegiate culture when they were brought to realize this as the central feature of religious faith. It takes a peculiar training to pluck out entirely from the mind all the tender and holy memories of home and country, of family and friends; and no others in the world except the Jesuits have ever undertaken it. They boast of this as one of the prominent principles of their system, and the distinguishing merit of their society. By means of it they succeeded well at Rome, and sent back to England a swarm of conspirators, charged with the special duty of winning a conquest over the Government, plucking Protestantism up by the roots, and re-establishing the papal scepter, which Henry VIII, in the pursuit of his illicit amours, had broken.
Elizabeth, as queen, was the great obstacle to papal success. Her position was a peculiar one. At the beginning of her reign she had been tolerant towards her Roman Catholic subjects, and they were permitted to enjoy their religion and mode of worship without interference, notwithstanding the severities practiced towards the Protestants during the preceding reign of Mary. All historians agree, and the Roman Catholic Lingard is candid enough to admit, that she retained in her royal council eleven of those who had served under Mary, and appointed only eight of her own selection - an extraordinary instance of impartiality and conservatism. She preferred the reformed religion, but ' contrived,' says Lingard, 'to balance the hopes and fears of the two parties,' which she must have done from an honest purpose to see that justice should be shown to both, and that religious strife and discord should cease. Her want of success in this most desirable object can be attributed to no other cause than the machinations of the Jesuits; for, whatsoever may be thought of the fierce and angry controversy which followed, the evidence is conclusive that they were the main reliance of the pope in the subsequent inauguration and prosecution of civil war in England. If it had not been their special avocation to enter into plots and conspiracies against all governments and peoples who rejected the absolute rule of the pope in doctrine and morals, and if they had not actively engaged in that work during the reign of Elizabeth, the memory of Mary's bloody and persecuting reign might, in a large degree, have been blotted out, and this impartial policy of Elizabeth might have induced the Christians of different religious faiths to live in peace and mutual toleration, as they did in Germany before that country was blighted by the curse of Jesuitism. But taught by the Jesuits not to submit to equality merely, but to demand absolute and unqualified superiority and dominion by the entire suppression of Protestantism, the English Roman Catholics were encouraged to form leagues and combinations and conspiracies against the queen, Protestantism, and the Government.
Under these circumstances, Elizabeth could not have remained unresisting if she had desired. To have done so would have been a treasonable abandoment of the country of which she was the legitimate sovereign. Not only was she assailed in all her rights as queen, but the pope, adopting the views and opinions of the Jesuits, impudently attempted to justify resistance to her authority upon the ground that she was an illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII by Anne Boleyn, and therefore had no just right to exact obedience to her authority. He went further than, this, and claimed jurisdiction over her conscience by commanding her to accept 'the communion of the Roman Church,' which, with queenly dignity, she refused. He required her to send ambassadors to the Council of Trent, and this she also declined to do. When she imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots, he usurped jurisdiction over the case, although Mary was an English subject, and undertook to procure her release, for the reason only that she preferred Romanism to Protestantism. He sought the aid of the kings of France and Spain to make war upon England in the name of religion, to release Mary, dethrone Elizabeth, and seize upon her crown. Failing in all these things, and being baffled by Elizabeth, he caused a prosecution to be instituted at Rome to try 'in the papal court' her title to the crown - a sham and farce as ineffective as it was ridiculous and discreditable. It is difficult to imagine a more presumptuous and impotent proceeding; but it is instructive as showing the pretensions of the popes of that period.
In the papal indictment Elizabeth was accused, among other things, of rejecting the ancient and supporting the new worship; of having 'received the sacrament after the manner of heretics;' of having 'chosen known heretics for the lords of her council;' and of having 'imposed an oath derogating from the rights of the Holy See.' The queen, of course, did not appear; but, nevertheless, she was held to be in default, and the trial was conducted in the papal form. Twelve English Roman Catholics, who are represented as 'exiles for their religion,' were examined as witnesses, and, after their evidence was heard and considered, 'the judges pronounced their opinion that she had incurred the canonical penalties of heresy.' The major one of these, which included all the minors, was the forfeiture of her crown; that is, her actual dethronement. It is to be supposed that, in the decree of the Roman Curia, all this was recorded in solemn form. But this decree, like those of other courts, did not execute itself. Therefore, the pope provided for its execution by issuing his pontifical bull, with all necessary gravity and composure, whereby he pronounced Elizabeth guilty of heresy, deprived of her 'pretended' right to the crown of England, and absolved her subjects from all allegiance to her.
Notwithstanding the long period intervening between those and the present times, we are not relieved from the obligation and necessity of understanding fully upon what pretense of authority Pius V assumed the prerogative right to pluck from the head of the English queen a crown placed there with practical, if not absolute, unanimity by the English people. It is not enough to say that these things occurred in another age and under circumstances peculiar to that age. This may sufficiently explain the conduct of individuals, and the character and structure of governments, all of which have ever been, and will continue to be, liable to change. But the laws of God, founded in divine wisdom, are not subject to these changes. The creative power of the Deity alone can change them. It is the special boast of the papists and the Jesuits that the system of laws which governs the papacy has the stamp of Divine approval upon it, and that, therefore, it has always been, and still remains, the same - 'Semper eadem,' is their motto. Hence it is important to us to know the nature and extent of the spiritual powers asserted by Pius V over the English Government and people, in order to ascertain whether, if a parallel case existed today, or may exist hereafter, the same papal powers may not be again invoked. The question which most concerns us is not whether they may or may not be asserted, but whether or no they have been embodied in the Canon law of the Roman Church, and have been thereby stamped with the character of perpetuity. No special pleading, however adroit, can make the issue otherwise.
The question tried and decided at Rome by the Papal Curia, in so far as it involved the right to the English crown, was exclusively political, and the pope could not rightfully change its character by assuming that it was brought within his spiritual jurisdiction by virtue of the universality of his spiritual powers. It was an English and not a Roman question. By the existing laws of England, Elizabeth was the rightful and hereditary heir to the throne, and had possession of the crown, it had been so decided by the Parliament, and ratified by the people with a unanimity almost unknown in those times. She was queen, not only de facto, but de jure. By what mode of reasoning or by what perversion of language could the pope take to himself jurisdiction over such a question? England was governed by laws, and whether they appear to us now to have been right or wrong, they were her own laws, enacted by her rightful authorities. They were exclusively political laws, provided for her own Government and people. The pope was the spiritual head of the Church at Rome, with a recognized jurisdiction over the spiritual welfare of those who regarded themselves as within that jurisdiction. By the methods of reasoning then adopted by the English nation, and now familiar to all intelligent American minds, all who chose to remain within that spiritual jurisdiction had the perfect right to do so; all who did not, had an equal right to withdraw from it. Rights of this character concern individuals, not nations, except as their populations shall decide, in which case they may submit or not to this jurisdiction at their pleasure. The English nation, by its domestic laws, had established a system of government suitable for itself, and had placed its crown upon Elizabeth's head. To say that the pope had the divine right, as the spiritual head of the Church at Rome, to set this National Government aside, and substitute for it another dictated by himself, and after the papal model, means this, and only this: that his spiritual power includes political and temporal power over all nations, to the extent of requiring them to adopt whatsoever form of religious faith the popes shall prescribe, to the absolute exclusion of all other forms. And it allows him, moreover, to employ for that purpose, against every domestic law to the contrary, all the papal machinery of coercion. The decree pronounced at Rome against Elizabeth affirms, in effect, that such is the Canon law; that is, the law of the Church. Have the provisions of that law been authoritatively changed or abrogated since the time of Pius V and Elizabeth? It may be necessary to find an answer to this question when we come to see, as we shall, that, at Jesuit dictation, it has been authoritatively announced that the time has come, or is rapidly approaching, when the Canon law of the Roman Church shall be introduced into the United States, to supersede such of our laws, National and State, as are in conflict with it. For the present, we must not pass by too rapidly the conflict between the pope and Elizabeth - to the principles involved in which enough consideration is not generally given - in order that we may comprehend fully what it meant, and how, in the end, it turned the nations upon their progressive courses, and brought them where they now are. In all history there are few more instructive lessons.
In carrying on the war against Elizabeth, the Jesuits did not forget the work of educating young Englishmen so as to make them believe that treason was one of the highest virtues when dictated by what they chose to consider the interests of religion; that is, of the papacy or of their society, just as we have seen they did in Germany. Among other seminaries of learning, they had one at Rheims, in France, established by the Cardinal of Lorraine, one of the most vindictive persecutors of the Huguenots. They had another at Douay, also in France. From these, colonies of Jesuits were sent to England every year, instructed and trained to subvert the English Government, and particularly to vilify and calumniate Elizabeth by accusing her of leading a "licentious and voluptuous private life." It is not easy to understand what force was intended to be given to this accusation, as an argument against her right to the crown, in view of the fact that a life tenfold more licentious and voluptuous than that falsely charged against Elizabeth did not invalidate the right of Pope Alexander VI to the papal crown and the headship of the Church at Rome. Nevertheless, the Jesuits availed themselves of it, without regard either to its truthfulness or their own consistency. They were educated to this peculiar kind of work, and it was considered their duty to educate others in the same way, leaving the consequences to take care of themselves. Hume gives this account of these Jesuit emissaries to England: 'They infused into all their votaries an extreme hatred against the queen, whom they treated as a usurper, a schismatic, a heretic, a persecutor of the orthodox, and one solemnly and publicly anathematized by the holy father. Sedition, rebellion, sometimes assassination, were the expedients by which they intended to effect their purposes against her,' pretending to find in the existing state of things in England justification for all this, even for the assassination of the queen.
Two Jesuit leaders - Campion and Parson - were sent from Rome to give direction to the movements of the conspirators already there. In order more effectually to encourage treason and sedition, they 'pretended to be Protestants,' not being ashamed of this false profession, because the obligation to practice deception when necessary was instilled into their minds by Jesuit training, and, on that account, created no compunctions of conscience. When Parson reached Dover, the better to practice his disguise, he wore the uniform of an English army officer, and pretended to be such. In this way he deceived the inspecting officer, and arranged with him for the safe passage of Campion, whom he represented as a fellow officer, who would follow in a few days. It may thus be seen how easy it is to be "all things to all men," when those who desire to become so have quieted their consciences with the belief that falsehood and deception may be rightfully employed in promoting 'the greater glory of God.' Howsoever incomprehensible may be the casuistry by which the mind can be brought to this belief, it is perfectly plain to a Jesuit, and is doubtless explained in their schools.
It is exceedingly difficult to separate the true from the false in the history of the times here referred to. The passions of the rival parties became so intense as seemingly to render agreement between them impossible, either with regard to facts or conclusions. It may not even be safe to assume that the truth lies midway between the extremes. But there is always, in the influences and effects produced by any given period of time, that which explains the motives and purposes of the chief actors. By careful investigation of these, we acquire a knowledge of the philosophy of history. Conducting our investigations in this spirit, we can not fail to conclude that the interference with the domestic and internal affairs of England by an alien and foreign power, was a flagrant act of usurpation, unless the spiritual authority of the pope gave him rightful jurisdiction over temporal and political questions in that country. And if he did rightfully possess this jurisdiction in 1570, when Pius V fulminated his pontifical bull against Elizabeth, and derived it from the, divine law, we, of the present age, and especially in the United States, can not refrain from inquiring whether, from the Jesuit standpoint, Leo XIII does not possess the same jurisdiction derived from the same law? Without pressing this inquiry here, however, it is deemed more essential to ascertain still more minutely how far the Jesuits were responsible for sowing the seeds of discord and civil war in England, when otherwise Protestants and Roman Catholics might, at the Elizabethan period, have lived and associated harmoniously together, as they did in Germany before the Jesuits appeared there. Many intelligent readers of history fail to give due consideration to the events of this important period.
We have seen - upon the authority of Lingard, a papal historian - that Elizabeth was, at the beginning of her reign, desirous of holding an equal balance between the rival bodies of Christians. Her mind was not fully made up with regard to her own faith, although it is probable she was inclined to Protestantism. There were reasons for this, some of which may have been controlling with a masculine mind like hers. The relations between her father, Henry VIII, and the papacy must have created impressions not favorable to the pope as a sharer in her governing power over the English people. And the reign of her sister Mary must have tended to strengthen, rather than remove, these impressions. She could not have failed to know that Mary's marriage to Philip II of Spain had brought with it to England a series of calamities, the remembrance of which must have made her not only sorrowful, but indignant. If Mary's natural inclination had been kindly and her heart benevolent, it must have been apparent to Elizabeth that these good qualities had been exchanged for others of the very opposite character, which had incited her to prosecute her Protestant subjects in the spirit of intense religious bigotry, and as if God were acceptably served by shedding blood. And when, upon coming to the throne as the immediate successor of Mary, she found herself confronted by the terrible condition into which England had been thrown - with every evil passion aroused, and little ground for hope of the future - nothing was more natural than the belief that this state of things had been produced, mainly if not entirely, by the unfortunate marriage of Mary with Philip II, who possessed such a combination of bad qualities as left room for scarcely a single good one. Sullen, morose, and selfish, Philip separated himself from everything in life calculated to encourage good or benevolent emotions, and gave free play to that bad ambition which led him to desolate the Netherlands by cruelties as unparalleled as they were atrocious. He had no affection for Mary, being incapable of any such emotion. His marriage with her was a matter of policy alone - one of those political unions which, in the course of time, have produced evils to all the Governments of Europe. He had inherited religious fanaticism from his father, Charles V, but without any of the better qualities of the latter; and gave such excessive indulgence to his hatred of Protestants that nothing rejoiced him so much as to know that the dungeons of the Inquisition were crowded with them, and that none of them escaped the rack, the thumb-screw, and the flames. The best people in England - Roman Catholics as well as Protestants - had feared, when this ill-fated marriage was proposed, that the bloody scenes so often witnessed on the Continent would be repeated there, and for that reason opposed it. But State policy prevailed, and the popular will was of no avail. England, thus united with Spain, became subject to the influence of Philip, who employed it over Mary, to make her, like himself, the obedient instrument of papal outrages. English persecution hitherto had one distinguishing characteristic, in this, that Henry VIII had visited his vengeance upon both Protestants and Roman Catholics, who were bound alike to the stake and burned to death because of resistance to his royal power and assumed right, in imitation of the pope, to hold the consciences of individuals in subjugation. Elizabeth knew all this. Her strong and sagacious mind was penetrating enough to foresee that, unless this disheartening course of events could be in some way changed, England would remain where Mary had left her - a mere appendage to the papacy - and thereby reduced to a condition of inferiority among the nations from which she might never recover.
When Philip proposed to marry Elizabeth—for whom he had no more affection than he had for her sister—she was brought to realize, if she had not already done so, that the future destiny of England was mainly in her hands. From motives of policy she took time to deliberate before accepting or rejecting this proposition of marriage by Philip. Whilst holding it under advisement, she suggested that it would violate the law of the Church, inasmuch as their relationship brought them within the prohibited degrees. But when Philip proposed that he would obtain a dispensation from the pope, she saw at once that it was a well-matured scheme to bring her to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the pope over English affairs of State, and consequently declined Philip's proposal. And thus was broken the alliance between the two crowns of England and Spain, and Elizabeth was left to protect herself against foreign interference in taking care of the internal affairs of her own country. The occasion demanded that she should assert herself by taking the afikirs of the nation in her own hands, and the result has long since proved how well and conspicuously she did so.
Elizabeth was wise. Her bitterest enemies concede this. Whilst she may have inclined to Protestantism, she had not, at the beginning of her reign, acquired any positive dislike to the Roman Catholic religion. On the contrary, the Roman Catholic bishops and lords were disposed to regard her exhibition of tolerance as indicating that she would, at least, act with justice and impartiality towards them. Camden, the historian, says that, during Mary's reign, Elizabeth had intimated to Cardinal Pole that she had a disposition to prefer Roman Catholicism. Howsoever this may have been, she not only sometimes attended confession, but assisted at divine service after the manner of the Roman Church. Lingard says: "She continued to assist, and occasionally to communicate, at mass; she buried her sister with all the solemnities of the Catholic ritual; and she ordered a solemn dirge and a mass of requiem for the soul of the Emperor Charles V."' Influenced by these considerations, and probably by others of the same character, the House of Lords— composed entirely of Roman Catholics—declared in her favor, and the Commons having readily and unanimously approved their decision, she was proclaimed queen "with the acclamations of the people." Thus her right to the crown was settled by the highest authority in the kingdom. There was not a murmur of discontent. Some regretted the death of Mary, but there was a general desire that the barbarities practiced during her reign should cease. In that desire Elizabeth manifestly shared, as is well established by the fact, already stated, that she retained thirteen of Mary's counselors, and appointed only eight Protestants. She could have meant nothing else by this than to express the desire that religious persecution should cease, and that the two religious parties should in the future live in peace with each other, and thus enable the country to develop into greatness.
The first attack upon her right to the crown was made by Henry II of France, and not by her Roman Catholic subjects. Henry was thoroughly indoctrinated with the persecuting spirit which prevailed in France among the defenders of the papacy, and was dominated over by the Guises, one of whom was the Cardinal of Lorraine, and patron of the Jesuits. His persecution of the Reformers has been previously mentioned. In assailing the title of Elizabeth, Henry II had undoubtedly several objects in view, the chief of which were to humiliate England and probably establish French sovereignty over it, to continue the policy of Mary in persecuting the Protestants, and to place the crown of Elizabeth upon the head of Mary Queen of Scots. Whether one or all these motives influenced him, he solicited the aid of the pope, and made himself a party to the conspiracy against the peace of England by endeavoring to obtain a papal decree that Elizabeth was a bastard, and therefore not lawfully queen. Consequently, when, after her rejection of Philip's proposal of marriage, she saw the Roman Catholic powers, with the pope at their head, conspiring against her, she resolved that her own safety and that of England required her to dismiss the Roman Catholic members of her council, declare her purpose to protect and encourage the Reformed religion, and submit the matter to the people by means of a Parliament to be assembled for that purpose. This precautionary measure was most commendable, inasmuch as it proposed to submit to Parliament the question whether or no the two religions were equally entitled to legal protection. In order that her purposes might be fully understood, she issued a proclamation allowing divine service to be performed in the English tongue, and the Scriptures to be read by the laity—a privilege hitherto denied them. In order to allay all undue excitement, she expressly prohibited religious "controversy by preaching," until the meeting of Parliament. When the new Parliament did assemble, it was addressed in her behalf by the Keeper of the Great Seal, who announced to the representatives of the people that the queen had commanded him to exhort them "to take a mean between the two extremes of superstition and irreligion, which might reunite ike partisans of both the one and the other religion in the same public worship."
The conciliatory course of Elizabeth, as indicated by her proclamation and this address to Parliament, exhibited a degree of liberality to which the English people had been unaccustomed during the reign of Mary. It is a reasonable supposition that, if her suggestions had been accepted in the spirit in which they were offered, England would have bounded forward far more rapidly than she did to the condition she subsequently reached through severe and protracted trials. The times were suited to the introduction of compromising measures of peaceful policy. The people were tired of commotion, persecution, and bloodshed on account of religious differences, and would readily have acquiesced in any amicable plan of adjustment. But, unfortunately for England, and the world as well, neither the interests nor the wishes of the people were of sufficient avail to bring quiet to the country. The course of subsequent events may be easily traced. The papal machinery of Church government had been so constructed at Rome that, in order to keep the people in subjection, it had deposited unlimited powers in the hands of the prelates. The Roman Catholic bishops of England, as well as elsewhere, had been accustomed to rule with a rod of iron, and the time had not arrived when they could be reconciled to any diminution of their ecclesiastical authority. They became "alarmed," says Lingard, at the position taken by Elizabeth. They undoubtedly viewed it only in its relation to themselves and the interests of the Church at Rome—or, rather, of the papacy—without bestowing a moment's thought upon the general welfare of England. Thev regarded conciliation as a form of heresy not to be tolerated. What they desired was the extirpation of Protestantism and the unity of the Roman Church, assured by the establishment of its religion to the exclusion of any dissenting faith. Accordingly, they assembled themselves together to consult "whether they could in conscience officiate at the coronation" of a queen who proposed so to adjust religious differences as to put an end to all interference with the right of individuals to freedom of conscience. Upon various pretexts they decided not to attend, or to take part in, the ceremony of coronation. Consequently, the ceremony was performed with the attendance of only a single bishop, and was made " to conform to all the rites of the Catholic pontifical." This decision and con- duct of the bishops "created considerable embarrassment," and might have produced serious consequences but for the withdrawal of this single bishop from his associates.8 The non-attendance of the Roman Catholic bishops upon the coronation of Elizabeth was a signal for opening the old strife. It was unquestionably intended upon their part to array their followers in opposition to the conciliatory measures of the queen; and it did not take long, in those days, to be so understood upon both sides. The consequence was that the public excitement was imparted to Parliament, and led to the repeal of several of the statutes of Mary, and the substitution for them of others whereby the Reformed religion was made national, and penalties prescribed for refusing so to recognize it. This, of course, led to severe measures and to persecution, in imitation of the example set during the reign of Mary, and produced the unfortunate condition of affairs with which all readers of English history are familiar. Upon which side, during the long controversy that followed, the responsibility rested most heavily, is not easily decided. Wrongs were undoubtedly inflicted by both sides. But whatsoever these were, they grew out of the spirit of that age, and had their origin, as we have seen, in the influences created by the papacy, aided by Jesuit intrigues. The fact, however, which most nearly concerns our present inquiries is what has just been stated, that the first step taken in the direction towards the renewal of religious agitation was the organized opposition of the bishops to Elizabeth, formed for the purpose of defeating the measures of pacification she had proposed to Parliament. It is impossible not to have known that the defeat of those measures by the combined opposition of the bishops would lead to a revival of the hatreds which had been encouraged under Mary, and, therefore, to oppose them was to invite that revival for which, consequently, these bishops were responsible.
Whether the Protestants would have accepted or rejected the proposition of Elizabeth can not now be decided with positive certainty; all the probabilities indicate that they would have accepted them. One thing, however, is certain, they were rejected by the Roman Catholics under the lead of their bishops. This, of course, revived the old animosities, but with increased violence. Throughout all the departments of society passion became greatly intensified. Nevertheless, the questions involved were English questions alone. They were primarily and chiefly political, although having politico-religious aspects. But they involved only the internal and domestic condition of England. No alien or foreign power had the right, by international or other law, or consistently with what is now universal usage among civilized nations, to interfere with them. But we have seen that they were interfered with, not only by a direct attempt to make the policy of the country conform to that dictated by a foreign power, but in the threatening form of a conspiracy between the king of France and the pope, to impeach the title of Elizabeth upon the ground that she was a bastard, to which she could not have submitted without disgrace. We have also seen how this conspiracy moved stealthily forward, step by step, until she was tried at Rome by an alien tribunal, pronounced a usurper by a decree which declared her crown to have been forfeited and her subjects released from their natural and lawful allegiance. And in order that her escape from the wrath and vengeance of the pope should become impossible, swarms of incendiary Jesuits were turned loose upon the country, to fan the flames of discord, stir up rebellion and civil war, and carry into execution the judgment and sentence of the papal court at Rome. If Elizabeth erred in defending herself and her kingdom against this formidable and dangerous combination, her error was upon the side of patriotism; and she is scarcely censurable for it, inasmuch as the life of the nation, and probably her own life, were the stake for which her enemies were playing. And whether it be true or not, that the Jesuits attempted her assassination—as some his- torians allege—it must be accepted in her praise that, although a woman, she taught her assailants that she was "every inch a queen," and that England under her reign became enabled to convince all these rival powers that she was competent to conduct her own affairs and take care of herself—facts sufficiently demonstrated by her advanced position among the modern progressive nations.
Every American mind should be duly impressed by this portion of English history, showing, as it does, how fierce and protracted was the struggle which led, in the end, to popular government, and the civil and religious freedom which it alone has guaranteed. Elizabeth was undoubtedly a great queen—great in the qualities of her intellect, in the steadfastness of her purposes, in that manly courage which " mounteth with occasion." When she became queen, the people of England, both Protestants and Roman Catholics, were tired of religious persecution, and anxious to put an end to it. She favored and recommended to Parliament measures of pacification, in the spirit of liberality and toleration. If, obeying the dictates of her own conscience, she preferred Protestantism to Roman Catholicism, she had such respect for the conscientious convictions of others as to desire that all her subjects should be secured in the right to accept either the one or the other at their own discretion. By the avowal of these and other kindred purposes, she incurred the opposition of the Roman Catholic bishops, who, in concert with foreign powers, and backed by the pope and his Jesuit militia, brought on a civil war which afflicted England with a long train of evils and calamities. Under the influence of her liberalism, the bulk of the population became tolerant of each other, and, by the great unanimity with which they accepted her as queen, indicated the desire that the protection of the Government should be given to both forms of worship. And it may be accepted as a fair inference from what then transpired, that she was defeated in her plan of conciliation only by the animosities engendered by the English bishops, the pope, and the Jesuits. Pier defeat, however, was not final; and having survived the machinations of all her enemies, even the excommunication and anathemas of the pope, together with the stealthy plottings of the Jesuits, the pages which record the events of her reign constitute some of the brightest in English history. They teach a philosophy that will not be forgotten so long as free popular institutions shall continue to exist.
"Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."
Mat 24:9-13 KJV
Copyright © HAIL and FIRE