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SIR THOMAS MORE.
Their power of palliating it was not great, for the expenditure of those establishments kept a just pace with their revenues. They accumulated no treasures, and never were any incomes more beneficially* employed. The great abbies vied with each other in architectural magnificence, in this more especially, but likewise in every branch of liberal expenditure, giving employment to great numbers, which was better than giving unearned food. They provided, as it became them, for the old and helpless also. That they prevented the necessity of raising rates for the poor, by the copious alms which they distributed, and by indiscriminately feeding the indigent, has been inferred, because those rates became necessary immediately after the suppression of the religious houses. But this is one of those hasty inferences which have no other foundation than a mere coincidence of time in the supposed cause and effect.
* Assi como el estomago lo que digiere, no lo quiere para solo el, sino para repartilo por todos los miembros, desta suerte los Monasterios ricos de Ingalaterra, y Alemania, y otras Provincias, eran estomagos de la republica; que de tal manera fueron poderosissimos, que hazian bien a infinitas personas.--Yepes, Cor. Gen de S. Benito, t. iii. p. 41.
MONTESINOS. .... For which you have furnished a proverbial illustration in your excellent
of Tenterden Steeple, and Goodwin Sands.
SIR THOMAS MORE. That illustration would have been buried in the dust, if it had not been repeated by Hugh Latimer at St. Paul's Cross. It was the only thing in my writings by which he profited. If he had learnt more from them, he might have died in his bed, with less satisfaction to himself, and less honour from posterity. We went different ways, but we came to the same end, and met where we had little expectation of meeting. I must do bim the justice to say, that when he forwarded the work of destruction, it was with the hope and intention of employing the materials in a better edifice; and that no man opposed the sacrilegious temper of the age more bravely. The monasteries, in the dissolution of which he rejoiced as much as he regretted the infamous disposal of their spoils, delayed the growth of pauperism, by the corrodies with which they were charged; the effect of these reservations on the part of the founders and benefactors being, that a comfortable and respectable support was provided for those who grew old in the service of their respective families; and
there existed no great family, and perhaps no wealthy one, which had not entitled itself thus to dispose of some of its aged dependents. And the extent of the depopulating system was limited while those houses endured ; because, though some of the great abbots were not less rapacious than the lay lords, and more criminal, the heads in general could not be led, like the nobles, into a prodigal expenditure, the burthen of which fell always upon the tenants; and rents in kind were to them more convenient than in money, their whole economy being founded upon that system, and adapted to it.
Both facts and arguments were indeed strongly on your side when you wrote against the Supplication of Beggars : but the form in which you embodied them gave the adversary an advantage, for it was connected with one of the greatest abuses and absurdities of the Romish Church.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
Montesinos, I allow you to call it an abuse; but if you think any of the abuses of that church were in their origin so unreasonable as to deserve the appellation of absurdities, you must have studied its history with less consideration and a less equitable spirit than I have given you credit for. Both Master Fish and I had each our prejudices and errors. We were both sincere: Master Fish would undoubtedly have gone to the stake in defence of his opinions, as cheerfully as I laid down my neck upon the block; like his namesake in the tale which
you have quoted, he too when in Nix's frying-pan, would have said that he was in his duty, and content. But withal he cannot be called an honest man, unless in that sort of liberal signification by which, in these days, good words are so detorted from their original and genuine meaning as to express precisely the reverse of what was formerly intended by them. More gross exaggerations, and more rascally mis-statements could hardly be made by one of your own thoroughpaced revolutionists, than those upon which the whole argument of his Supplication is built.
If he had fallen into your hands, you would have made a stock-fish of him.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
Perhaps so. I had not then learnt, that laying men by the heels is not the best way of curing them of an error in the head. But the King protected him. Henry had too much sagacity not to perceive the consequences which such a book was likely to produce, and he said
after perusing it, “ If a man should pull down an old stone wall, and begin at the bottom, the upper part thereof might chance to fall upon his head.” But he saw also that it tended to serve his immediate purpose.
I marvel that good old John Fox, upright, downright man as he was, should have inserted in his Acts and Monuments a libel like this, which contains no arguments except such as were adapted to ignorance, cupidity, and malice.
SIR THOMAS MORE. Old John Fox ought to have known that, however advantageous the dissolution of the monastic houses might be to the views of the Reformers, it was every way injurious to the labouring classes. As far as they were concerned, the transfer of property was always to worse hands. The tenantry were deprived of their best *landlords, artificers of their best employers,
* The raising of rents is thus complained of by the excellent old Bishop Latimer in his homely and lively manner. “I doubt most rich men have too much, for without too much we can get nothing. As, for example, the physician,--if the poor man be diseased, he can have no help without too much ; and of the lawyer the poor man can get no counsel, expedition, nor help in his matter, except he give bim too much. At merchants'