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unable to

stand, self-reformed, as he hoped to see it; but he waited Wolsey for the "convenient season," which was never to be; he resist the put off the meeting of parliament, knowing that if tion. parliament were once assembled, he would be unable to resist the pressure which would be brought against him. In the impatient minds of the people, he thus became identified with the evils which he alone had hindered from falling; and therefore, when he fell himself, the people rejoiced, and celebrated his disgrace as the inauguration of the new era. When parliament met (Nov. 3rd, 1529), the Commons at once presented a petition, in which · they complained of

(1) The growth of heresy, caused by seditious books, and by the uncharitable behaviour of the bishops in their treatment of heretics.

(2) The irregular legislation of the Houses of Convocation, by which the laity were compelled to observe laws and canons often at variance with the laws of the land.

(3) The appointment and conduct of the officials of the Consistory Courts.

(4) The summoning of persons, especially those of the poorest sort, before the spiritual ordinaries, for the sole purpose of obtaining information, by the administering of an oath ex-officio,- -an institution similar to the Inquisition.

(5) The exorbitant fees taken in the courts.

(6) The refusal of the sacrament to those who refused to pay a stated fee. (7) The extravagant probate duties.

(8) The fees on induction into benefices.

The presentation of "young folks" called bishops' nephews (generally the illegitimate children of the prelates) to benefices.

(10) The excessive number of holy days.

(11) Illegal imprisonment by the bishops.

(12) Persons unjustly accused being unable to recover costs.

(13) The artful way in which persons were examined so as to entrap them into heresy. In consequence of all which things, said the Commons, much disorder had ensued, and they therefore implored a remedy.

The bishops drew up an answer, in which they denied the existence of these grievances; but the astonished churchmen saw bill after bill hurried up before the Lords, by which, successively, their incomes would be curtailed, and their jurisdiction restricted. Probate and legacy duties, and mortuaries, were lowered; the clergy were prohibited from engaging in secular employments; residence was enforced, and pluralities were limited; and dispensation from these last enactments, whether obtained from the bishops or from the court of Rome, was made penal in a high degree. The spiritual peers made considerable opposition to these bills, and openly accused the Commons of schism and heresy, On which the latter resented by complaining to the King, and Fisher, the old Bishop of Rochester, was forced to apologise for some hard words he had used against them. The more clamorous of the clergy out of doors were punished with


the stocks. On the 17th of December the parliament was prorogued, and the bishops returned to their homes with sad hearts, to mourn over the perils of the church, and the impending end of all things.*

12. Subjection of the Church to the State. After this rather sharp lesson, the authorities of the church were allowed a respite of two years, during which they might reconsider the complaints of the people, and consult among themselves upon the conduct which they would pursue with respect to them. But instead of reforming, they spent their time in persecution; and they wreaked the bitterness of their resentment upon the unfortunate heretics, who paid with their blood at the stake for the diminished revenues and blighted dignities of their spiritual lords and superiors.† But when Wolsey was gone, the ecclesiastics who had shared his greatness, were compelled to participate also in his disgrace, and there followed first their prosecution under the Statute of Præmunire, then the abolition of the legislative authority of the convocation; and after that, all those sweeping enactments which overthrew papal supremacy, and subjected the English church, finally and for ever, to the state. But that which more than all others deprived the clergy of the paramount influence which they had so long enjoyed, was the dissolution of the monasteries; a measure which was necessary to the maintenance of Henry's newly-established supremacy. Of all the Roman clergy, the monks and friars, especially the latter, were the most zealous advocates of the papal authority. The friars owned allegiance to none but the Pope; they were independent of all other ecclesiastical rulers, while their activity in preaching and confessing, gave them a very considerable influence over the poorer classes. The education of youth being almost entirely in their hands, extended their influence over the wealthy; and the riches, hospitality, and dignity, which they and the monks had long possessed, made their influence formidable. As they were the most deadly enemies of the Reformation, it was essential to Henry's security, as head of the church, that they should be put down; and there seemed no other alternative at the time, than to suppress them altogether, and deprive them of those lands and estates which, had they retained, would have rendered them irresistible.

The dissolution of the monasteries es

sential to the royal supremacy.

Was the


The lawfulness of the suppression of the monasteries has of the mo- been an oft-disputed question, upon which various opinions have been held. Before entering it, however, * Froude, I., 189-234. † Ibid, I., 271.




it will be convenient that we consider the condition of those establishments immediately preceding their dissolution, and the attempts which had before been made for their reformation. During the two hundred years which preceded the Reformation, many visitations had been made, and Wolsey, armed with legatine authority, had commenced a resolute investigation. But all had failed of success. There were, however, numerous precedents of suppression; for the dark scandals by which the monasteries were dishonoured, and the political and administrative abuses of which they were guilty, had frequently roused the state into measures for the suppression of the most notorious. The state regarded them as existing for the benefit of the poor, the occupants for the time being, being themselves under vows of poverty. The monks might appropriate to their personal use no portion of the revenues of their estate; they were to labour with their own hands, and administer their property for the public advantage. The surplus proceeds of the lands, when their own modest requirements had been supplied, were to be devoted to the maintenance of learning, to the exercise of a liberal hospitality, and to the relief of the aged, the impotent, and the helpless. These duties were fraudulently neglected; the monks lived in idleness, and kept vast retinues of servants to do the work which they ought to have done themselves; they shared dividends of the profits of their lands, and allowed their number to decrease that they might increase the dividends; they neglected to feed the poor, or to exercise hospitality; fraud and simony prevailed among them from the highest to the lowest; they wandered about the country disguised as laymen, in the pursuit of forbidden indulgences, and the vast majority of them were ignorant, self-indulgent, profligate, worthless, and dissolute. Such were the changes, in addition to the heavier accusations which the popular voice had for more than a century brought against the monasteries, which had led Wycliffe to denounce their existence as intolerable, the House of Commons to petition Henry IV. for the secularisation of their property, and Henry V. to appease the outcry by the suppression of more than a hundred, as a warning to the rest. The partial inquiry set on foot by Wolsey had more than confirmed the popular suspicions; and if all were not equally guilty, yet all were confounded alike in the common censure, and were regarded with a common hatred.*

The right of visiting every ecclesiastical corporation within the realm was conferred upon the crown by the Act of Supremacy. Those who have censured Henry's policy in exercising this right,

* Froude II., 406-412.


and following it up by suppression, have done so on these grounds: Grounds of (1) The love of antiquity. (2) The violence with which the objection. suppression was accomplished. (3) The alienation of the lands from the church. (4) The purposes to which the revenues were applied. In considering these objections, and the justice of the The answer. policy condemned, it may be observed, that, although property has in every country been regarded as inviolable and sacred, and that the punishment of all who violate it is the first duty of just rulers, yet there is a great difference between private property and corporate property, as regards this inviolability. The law of hereditary succession, as ancient and universal as that of property itself; and the law of testamentary disposition, so long established in most countries as to seem a natural right, have invested the owner of private property with a perpetual ownership which cannot be limited to the term of his own life, but can be transferred by him to his heirs. If, therefore, his ownership were to terminate with his life; if his children or his heirs were to be deprived of their expectancies, which are possessions equally as real as property; he would justly feel that he was, in reality, deprived of his property. Yet, by the laws of forfeiture, he is so deprived; and justly. If, therefore, private property can be justifiably infringed, on motives of public expediency, much more can corporate property be regulated and new moulded by the legislature, provided that existing interests are not disturbed. For in corporate property, or estates held in mortmain, each present possessor has only an estate for life: there is no intercommunity, or natural privity of interest between him and his successor; and as he cannot reasonably complain if the legislature should alter the course of transmission after his death, so neither can his successor sustain any hardship, unless he has been already designated to the succession. So that, as regarded the actual suppression of the monasteries, that is to say, the abolition of religious corporations, the law had full authority. Had, therefore, this abolition been conducted in a manner consonant to justice as well as policy; had Henry been content with prohibiting the profession of religious persons for the future; and had he gradually diverted the revenues of the monasteries, instead of violently confiscating them, his policy would have been censured by none but Romanists.† It so happened, however, that the profuse alienation of the abbey lands to Henry's courtiers, proved, upon the whole, more beneficial to England than any other disposition of them would have turned out. It gave * Mackintosh, II., 219. + Ibid, II., 218-227; Hallam's Const. Hist., I., 75.

Henry's disposal of the abbey

lands beneficial.


stability to the new religion, because the nobles and gentry gave a readier reception to truths which secured them in the possession of their newly acquired estates. Hence the parliament, in Mary's reign, while it was obsequious in all matters of doctrine, refused to establish the papal supremacy until the possession of the abbey lands by the laity was sanctioned by the Queen. It was advantageous to the constitution, because it strengthened and infused new blood into the territorial aristocracy, and thus enabled them to withstand the enormous prerogatives of the crown.*


13. Henry was not a reformer. The two great political measures, viz., the separation from Rome, and the suppression of the monasteries, had so broken the power of the English clergy, and humbled their spirit, that they became the most abject of Henry's vassals. The mitred abbots and priors who had at various times sat in the English parliament, when joined to the twentyone bishops, had always preponderated over the temporal peers; but now, the prelacy were altogether powerless to oppose the Reformation they abhorred, and were compelled to play a very secondary part in the councils of the nation. Hence Henry had little difficulty in proceeding to his next act as supreme head of the church—the framing of a creed for that peculiar kind of religion which he established, which was about equally removed from Popish and Protestant orthodoxy. For Henry, it must be remembered, was not a reformer; he was not a "heretic," like the Lutheran princes of Germany, but a schismatic or separatist. He denied no doctrine of the Romish church, nor had he yet affirmed any new doctrine; he only separated himself from the communion of Rome, and threw off the papal jurisdiction.


14. The Articles of 1536. The clergy were now divided into two opposite parties. (1) The Reformers, under Cranmer; The two Latimer, of Worcester; Shaxton, of Sarum; and Fox, of parties. Hereford. They were secretly patronised by Cromwell and Lord Chancellor Audley. (2) The Romanists, under Gardiner, of Winchester; Lee, of York: Stokesley, of London; Tonstall, of Durham; and Clarke, of Bath and Wells. They were patronised by the Duke of Norfolk, and secretary Wriothesley, afterwards chancellor. To set aside all differences, the King published a book of articles in 1536, which declared

(1) That belief in the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed was necessary to salvation.

*Hallam's Const. Hist., I., 78-79.

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