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men.” But ten years afterwards the Surplice controversy still occupies the anxious deliberations of the greatest of our reformers. It is still the theme of their private correspondence; it seems to haunt their leisure, while it engrosses all their hours of business—it is still this never-ending vestiarian controversy. And well might they dwell on the chord, jarring and painful as it was, which even then rang out sounds of discord to church and state; which summoned England into fields of blood in the next century, and of wbich the echoes even now have not died away. It is of such a controversy that Mr. Froude writes in the following strain :“Here at last” (in bis prison) "he recovered his senses.
The king excused him the oath. He himself agreed to wear the Nessus garment during the few hours of consecration, if he might tear it off before it had poisoned him, and in his own diocese might wear it or not wear it as he pleased.
“ So closed this child's battle, leaving us at no loss to understand how before long England might weary of such men, and such men's teaching." (p. 326.)
There is no reign in English history which presents a more tempting field to the historian than that of Edward the Sixth. The incidents are in the highest degree picturesque and real; not too remote to have lost their hold upon our sympathies, not so recent as to disturb our judgment, or violently excite our passions. Seven years have seldom witnessed such a succession of great events, or brought on the stage the conflict of so many great principles, or presented so many astonishing contrasts, or introduced us to so many great minds, great and powerful whether for evil or for good. And the field is yet almost untrodden : no competent historian has grappled with it
. Inferior men have not seen its importance, and their histories have left the great questions of the reign in the state in which they found them. They have cleared up a few facts perhaps; but the moral grandeur of the piece has baffled their conception. And great ones have shrunk from its difficulties. The historian has yet to appear who shall give us the real character of the Protector Somerset, great in his ambition, great in his patriotism, great even in his infirmities; greatest of all in his fidelity to the cause of Protestantism, in his undeserved reverses and his cruel death. We know little at present of his brother the admiral, who likewise perished on the scaffold. The condition of England, taken by itself, is an admirable study. Mr. Froude throws much light upon it; his descriptions are graphic; he groups events, and connects them with the scenes of past histories, with the skill of an artist. But something more is wanted. It was a great moral epoch ; it was the birth of a new career to a whole nation. These were the seven years of England's apprenticeship; irksome enough at the time, and the more so because she was impatient of the present without being able to foresee the benefits of her rude discipline. Mr. Froude seizes with avidity upon every indication of impatience, and would have us to believe that she had passed all at once from a state of wonderful prosperity into anarchy and want. He does not see that a great people passing through a great revolution must, as one of the conditions of success, submit to an interim of suspense which at the time may wear all the appearance of a backward movement. He tells us, in effect, that England longed for a return to the old times of popery, and that all her sorrows were the consequence of the reformation. And what if this were true? What if Israel in the desert set up a slavish howl, and in their hearts turned back again to Egypt, longing for its melons and its flesh pots, and willing for the sake of these to endure its bondage and to share its curse? Does this prove the incapacity of Moses; or the folly of the enterprise which led them into the desert; or the barrenness of that promised land which was said to flow with milk and honey? Had Mr. Froude been the historian of the desert, it is thus he must have written the history of the Exodus; for precisely thus has he written the story of our English Exodus from that prison-house of bondage, the church of Rome.
But, in fact, England, at the very time which Mr. Froude selects as a period of national decay, had taken a fresh lease of national life, and was plunging onwards with a firm and even a rapid step, though in a slough of mire. The complaints he echoes were some of them loud enough at the time; it was for a wise historian to investigate their truth or to expose their folly. We will give him the full advantage of the concession, and admit at once that when he describes England as in a state of decay he has some high authorities in his favour. But the highest authorities were wrong. Their own statements shew that the nation was at that very time advancing in prosperity with a rapidity never known before. The young king kept a journal, which displays a wisdoni far above his years,—a wisdom often equal, at least, to that of his parliament or privy council. He bemoans the sad state of his realm, and gives, in proof of it, what are now known to be the signs of national prosperity. “Merchants,” he says, "have enhaunced their ware ; farmers have enhaunced their corn and cattel ; labourers their wages, artificers the price of their workmanship, and mariners and boatmen their hire for service, whereby they recompense the loss of things they buy; but the most part of true gentlemen (I mean not these farming gentlemen nor clarking knights) have little or nothing increased their rents; yet their housekeeping is dearer, their meat is dearer, their liveries dearer, their wages greater ; which thing at length, if speedy remedy be not had, will bring the state into utter ruin, quod absit.”
It will be observed that the complaint extends to all classes.
Noblemen and gentlemen, farmers and labourers, artificers and mariners, all want higher wages, or all spend too much. The king goes on to lament the prevalence of fraud. “ The artificers work falsely, the clothiers use deceit in cloth, the masons in building, the clockmakers in their clocks, the joiner in his working of timber, and so forth of almost all other." Now, morally, this is a dark picture ; but it confirms our statement. Why all this knavery? Simply because competition was high ; in other words, money was abundant. “ It was done,” the king says truly,“ to the intent they would oftener have men come to them for the mending of their things, and so have more gain.” But then there must have been many customers,-customers, too, who, though once cheated, could again indulge in the luxury of a new coat or a clock of the latest fashion. Capital, then, was accumulating in new hands; luxuries were becoming the necessaries of life; and the wail was loud among those who thought, perhaps, that the condition of England was perfect, in the time of the king's own grandfather, Henry VII., when Bosworth was still a field of blood, and when four thousand rogues and vagabonds were hanged in a single year. Instead of dismay, the good young king, had he known a little of political economy, would have seen, amidst all the wickedness and selfishness of his nobles, the brightest prospects already dawning on the people of his realm. Nay, the full tide of prosperity had already set in, the king himself bearing witness. Mercantile traffic, on a scale before unknown, and of course with a capital not before possessed, was prosecuted widely. The king laments that his “merchants no longer adventured in their own persons to bring in strange commodities,” but “loiter at home, sending forth small hoyes, with two or three mariners.” So, too, the husbandmen and farmers "underlet their ground to poor men ; the gentleman becometh a farmer, a grazier, or a sheep master; while the grazier, the farmer, and the merchant,” (alas ! for the wickedness of the times, and the degeneracy of men)" become landed men, and call themselves gentlemen, though they be churls!” Even " the artificer will leave the town,”-not, we pre
" sume, till he had well filled his purse,—"and for his mere pastime will live in the country; yea, and more than that, will be a justice of peace, and will think scorn to have it denied him, so lordly be they now a-days.” The youthful sovereign goes on to lament that these upstarts from the town "are not content with 2000 sheep, but they must have 20,000, and twenty square miles of land. Such hell-hounds be they !” O son of King Harry!
And this is the picture of a country where trade was in decay, and the pretended reformation had ruined everything. But the king saw the state of the country through other men's eyes; and we do not blame a boy of fifteen for being no wiser than the wisest men about him. Mr. Froude accepts for facts the idle and ignorant
Vol. 59,-No. 272.
lamentations of the age, and endeavours to account for them. We deny the truth of the representations. The reign of Edward VI. was a prosperous reign. We again admit much partial suffering ; but the body politic was sound. Omit the boyish declamation, and king Edward's memorandum, literally construed, is a description of a prosperous state of things; such as probably no European kingdom, certainly no papal one, could rival at the time.
At the beginning of the reign, the privy council, in order to meet the expenses of the Scotch war, bad resorted to the vile expedient of debasing the coinage. It was an old experiment; it had been often tried, and always, of course, with the same result. A Plantagenet, with the dungeon and the gallows at bis beck, could always compel the Jews and Lombards to send their money to his mint to be re-coined; he could always compel them to take back again precisely the same number of adulterated coins that they had parted with in sterling gold. But here his power ceased abruptly. A difficulty now confronted him, which neither jail, nor halter, nor act of parliament could help him to subdue. The debased coinage would only pass for what it was really worth. Even a Plantagenet could never make the butcher sell an ox worth twenty shillings for a piece of gold which pretended to be worth a pound, but was, in fact, worth only fifteen shillings. The clothier shared the butcher's obstinacy; so did the carpenter, and the shoemaker, and, in short, every dealer in the realm. So prices rose in consequence. The cloth worth forty good shillings now sold for fifty bad ones; just as the ox worth twenty sold for twentyfive. And the only result of this stroke of policy would be, that the poor Jew or Lonibard banker was fleeced, that prices were raised, that public confidence was shaken, and that no one good end was answered. Mr. Froude attributes much of the distress under which he says England laboured to this mischievous measure; and no doubt, so far as the distress existed, this explanation is correct. But, in fact, the debasement of the coinage at this crisis proves the buoyancy of England and the soundness of her con. stitution. For in spite of this disastrous measure she prospered still. In spite of disturbing forces, the ball rolled in a straight course. In spite of the sudden squall, the ship took in no sail, and altered her course not a single point of the compass. She bounded onward, with no other damage than a ripped sail or a creaking mast. King Edward tells us of the rise of prices; for this let the damaged coinage be held to some extent responsible. But how does it explain the fact, that he who was the owner of two thousand sheep a few years ago was now the proprietor of twenty thousand ? How does it explain the sudden rise of the city trader,—the very man on whom the debasement of the coinage fell most heavily, since, in those days, all his property, when he wound up his affairs in London, must have been hoarded up in gold? How did he become a country squire and a county magistrate, with his ten miles of land and his retinue of tenants ? And how, again, did it happen, under the operation of a measure so really disastrous, that hinds and artizans were now, for the first time since the conquest, clamouring for vacant farms, and, we may suppose, competing with each other in bidding high for the rental? Whence this sudden rage for luxury, at a crisis when the serving-woman and the meanest tradesman found themselves plundered of a third or a fourth of their little savings by one outrageous act? The answer is, that the wealth of England was increasing still more rapidly, and they were sharing in the general gains. If anything were wanting to satisfy us that the doleful picture drawn by the royal hand is that of a new, surprising, and as yet unintelligible burst of national prosperity, we have it in the fact that all these symptoms were making their appearance at a time when stagnation, decay of trade, and general misery,—the necessary concomitants of high prices combined with poverty,– might with the greatest reason have been looked for.
The atrocities of the next reign form the subject of Mr. Froude's sixth volume. Of this we shall speak another time. We shall walk with him through the dungeons of the martyrs, and stand with him by the fires of Smithfield. For the present we suspend our task. We respect a well meaning opponent. When Dr. Lingard, a Roman Catholic priest, writes a history of the reformation, we expect him to write on Roman Catholic principles; we expose his errors; and yet, even for his suppressions and perversions of the truth, we can make some allowance; for “the mind and conscience” of a Romish priest are, we know, “defiled.” Truth is not the object which the writer proposes to himself. He must make a case. He is merely the counsel in court on behalf of the church of Rome. When Mr. Froude appears with no disguise we have with him no greater quarrel. But we protest against a history which professes to be impartial, when the writer, by vulgar artifice, by jeers, suppressions of the truth, and extracts dexterously made from their own letters, presents the reformers in the light of men ashamed of the very principles in which they triumphed, and for the sake of which not a few of them so gloriously died.