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A Collection of Several Treatises Concerning The Reasons and Occasions of the Penal Laws.


I. The Execution of Justice in England, not for Religion, but for Treason: 17 Dec. 1583. Written by Sr William Cecil (Lord Burleigh), Protestant Counselor to Queen Elizabeth I of England.

II. Important Considerations, by the Secular Priests: Printed A.D. 1601. Written by the Roman Catholic Priest William Watson (1559-1603ad, trained at Rheims) and others.

III. The Jesuits Reasons Unreasonable: 1662. Written by a Catholic.

London, 1675 Edition

A Collection of Several Treatises Concerning The Reasons and Occasions of the Penal Laws by William Cecil, William Watson, etc (1675 Edition)


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A Collection of Several Treatises Concerning The Reasons and Occasions of the Penal Laws by William Cecil, William Watson, etc. (1675 Reprint Edition)


The design of publishing these Treatises, is to vindicate the Honour and Justice of our Laws from the rude aspersions, which have been lately cast upon them, by such who are better versed in Hollinshead and Stow, than in the true Reasons and Occasions of those Laws. This is the present method of dealing with our Church and Laws, when our Adversaries have been quite tired with scolding, they betake themselves to throw dirt in the face of them; and I am sorry the weakness or imprudence of any late Historians among us should furnish them with dunghils for this purpose. But since we have to deal with such who have no advantage, but what the weakness and mistakes of their Adversaries give them, it were heartily to be wished, that some effectual course were taken, that the History of our Church since the Reformation, might be delivered to Posterity with greater care and sincerity than hath yet been used about it.

It hath been thought the wisdom of some of the best governed Nations in the World, to take a great care of their Histories, by whom and in what manner they were written. Josephus saith, That none but the High-Priests and the Prophets were allowed to write the Histories of the Jewish Nation; the like others say of the Chaldeans, Egyptians, and Persians, who all looked upon the History of their Country as a Sacred thing, and which none ought to presume to meddle with, but such as were appointed for it, and whose imployment was supposed to free them from the suspicion of flattery or falshood. But above all Nations, the Chineses, as they were most remarkable for Political Wisdom, were the most punctual in this matter; no man durst attempt any thing of History among them besides him whose publick Office it was, which he was bound to perform with all fidelity, for his own time; but not to call in question, or correct any thing before him; by which means, the History of that mighty Empire, though written by multitudes of Authors, is one continued and entire Story without any variety or contradiction. It is very well known, that the old Romans suffered none but the Pontifex Maximus to make up the Annals of every Year; which himself was only intrusted with the keeping of, that the People might, upon resort to his house, have full satiffaction in all their doubts; and these were called the Annales Maximi; and although some make this custom as old as the foundation of that Government, yet Vopiscus more probably makes it to be one of the wise Constitutions of Numa. Dion saith, That while the Roman Senate continued its Authory, the Actions of every year were solemnly read out of the Publick Commentaries to the Senate and People; and although particular persons would write Histories according to their own inclinations, yet the Truth might be discerned out of the Publick Records: and although he very much laments the uncertainty of their Histories afterwards, when the Emperours would not endure the Truth to be written; yet there were persons who would write, though they died for it, which was the case of Cremutius Cordus and Titus Labienus; which made Seneca say, Res nova & insueta, supplicia de studiis sumi: but it seems by what follows in him, the World may bear the loss of such Writings; for, rejoycing that this Persecution of Wits began after Cicero's time, he saith, Dii melius, quòd eo seculo ista ingeniorum supplicia coepêrunt, quo ingenia defiêrunt. And it appears by Tacitus, that the custom of Publick Annals was preserved to his time for the greater Affairs, and the Diurna Acta Urbis for lesser occurrences: and Tertullian frequently appeals to the Archives and Publick Commentaries. Which custom of preserving publick Records of History, did likewise obtain in most well-governed Cities; as Plutarch often quotes the Delphick and Laconick Commentaries. These things I only mention, that it may not be thought below the wisdom of a Nation to take care of the History of it; and not to suffer it to be profaned or corrupted, by every mean, peevish, or indiscreet Writer, that hath so little wit and judgment, as to think himself fit to write the History, either of his own or former times. None are fit for such a work, but persons of great judgment and capacity, and such who have had the best portunities of understanding Affairs, and have the greatest reputation for integrity to report them. And we want not some such as these who are so well known, that I need not name them, but they are but few in comparison with others. It was complained of among the Romans, that L. Octacilius being but a Libertine, though he were Pompey's Master, should presume to write a History, that being a Work proper for the wisest senators; and Learned men have long wished for a perpetual Edict against scribbling Historians, as great debauchers of Truth, and corrupters of the Faith of History. I wish it were as easie to remedy as to complain of these things, but those of us who are concerned for the Honour of our Church and Nation, find the continual and growing inconveniences of this mischief; when we see all the false or indiscreet passages of the worst Historians picked up, and upon all occasions made use of as the best Weapons against our Church. But thanks be to God, things are not yet so bad with us, but we have sufficient evidence left to clear our selves of these reproaches, without being put to defend the weaknesses of every trifling Historian. What if Hollinshead, or Stow, or Speed, or any later men have let fall some passages, which the Enemies of our Church make use of to its disadvantage. Must things presently be concluded to be just as such men have said, without searching farther? Must we be judged by them, rather than by such who were in the top of business, and knew all the first grounds and Reasons of things? rather than by those, who were as much concerned to have found out all reproaches against our Penal Laws; and yet acknowledge them to have had such Reasons for them, that no Government in the World, but upon the same provocations, would have done the same things? This is that particular part of our History, which I have endeavoured to clear by these following Treatises, which have these advantages to recommend them to the Readers Consideration,

1. That the first of them was penned by the direction of one of the Greatest Statesmen of his Age, and one of the Wisest Persons this Nation hath ever bred, viz. the Lord Treasurer Burleigh. For when the Jesuits and their Party had filled the Courts of the Princes in Christendom with their noise and clamours of the dreadful Persecutions in England, that Great man thought it not below him to write this Apology for the Execution of Justice here, and to shew how reasonable, just, and moderate the Proceedings of the State were, considering the height and insolence of the provocations; and this was published in several Languages, and dispersed in the Courts of Princes to undeceive them as to all the false reports of the Romish Emissaries, who have taken upon them that publick Character of the Popes Ambassadors to lye abroad for his and their own advantage.

2. But after that by the means of Cardinal Allen and others, they had endeavoured to blast the reputation of that Apology; and after the death of that great Minister of State, the Secular Priests did publish their Important Considerations, wherein they assert the Truth of what was said in the Apologie, and vindicate the Honour and Justice of the Penal Laws: which is the second Treatise here published and printed according to their oven Copy; and which hath been so much concealed, or bought up by those of that Religion, that it hath been heard of by few, and seen by fewer Protestants.

3. And lest any should say, that all those dangerous Principles to Government are since his Majesties happy Restauration utterly disowned by them, I have added a third Treatise, printed by one of their own Religion 1662 which charges the Jesuitical Party so deep with those Principles and Practices as to make them uncapable of any Favour.

If other persons will pursue the same method in retrieving such considerable Treatises as these are, they may do more, service to our Church and Nation than by writing Histories themselves; and I shall desire the late Apologist to set these Authors of his own Church, against the petty Historians he so punctually quotes on all occasions: And we have so much the more reason to consider these things, since in a very late Treatise called the Bleeding Iphigenia, the Irish Rebellion is defended by one of the Titular Bishops to be a just and holy War; and seeing they still think it lawful, what can we imagine then that they want, but another occasion to do the same things?

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are Godís ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour." Romans 13:4-7 KJV
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