Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

of the noblest assertors of our freedom. He was not only at the head of the barons at Runnimede, but the very project of demanding a charter of liberty was originally his own. It was. Langton that convened the previous assembly in London, and it was he' who afterwards negociated the terms at Oxford. When the king his master had summoned the nobility and prelates to witness the ceremony, at St. Paul's, of his doing homage to the see of Rome for his kindom, that venerable man, well aware, in common with the rest, that this affair was but a concerted arrangement between John and the Pope-a bargain of feudal supremacy on one hand, as the price of protection in tyranny on the other, and that both would then unite in opposing any arrangement for giving a more free constitution to England, boldly stept forward to express his indignation at the scheme; and when the record was presented for his signature, instead of affixing to such a document his name, he placed his protest against it on the altar and withdrew.

“With this spirit thus actuating both the clergy and barons, how might not John, even in those days, had he been disposed to promote the liberty and happiness of his kingdom, have bid a proud defiance to the extravagance of Papal pretensions, and laughed at the thunders of the Vatican. If the Londoners rang their bells in triumph and derision, when the bull of suspension arrived: for Langton, and excommunication for the barons, what would not both barons, and bishops, and people, have done in any cause which a patriot king had been wise enough to make their own?

“We have now gone through the gloomiest period ofíour bistory as it regards the spiritual condition of our country; for though the lengthened reign of John's successor furnished many marks of political tyranny and clerical usurpation, yet the eyes of mankiod were open to the combination against their rights, and the spirited resistance made to Henry's attempted infrac-tions of the great charter, and the abolition of the trial by or-deal, shewed very clearly that both civil liberty was beginning to gain ground and superstition to decline. The Edwards found no difficulty in enacting the statutes of Mortmain and Præmu“ nire, in establishing bounds to ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and in reducing Papal authority to much-narrower limits.

“They did not cease to be as orthodox Catholics as their predecessors, but they wisely, instead of looking for other instruments of power, threw themselves on the councils and affection of their subjects; they roused the House of Commons to an effective share in the legislation, and the third Edward acquired, as he deserved, the honourable distinction of being the Justinian of England. Sis Matthew Hale did not scruple to affirm, “that more' was done in the first thirteen years of his reign, to settle and establish the distributive justice of the kingdom, than in all the ages since that time put together.” The later authority of Blackstone not only fully subscribes to this assertion, but tells us that “all the essentials of our jurisprudence, and even its forins likewise, were then settled, and that the legal treatises written at this period by Britton, Fleta, Hengham, and the rest, arė, for the most part, law at the present day.” If then the learned prelate alluded to has a breast fired as he said, with zeal and admiration for the free constitution of his country, surely he will, upon more mature reflection and inquiry, be disposed to think less unfavourably of those to'whom he owes it; to whom he owes not only the broad and deep foundation upon which are rested its general principles, but also the majestic form of its edifice, the style of its architecture, and the very ordaments which give to the interior its grace and beauty.

“ Even if the learned prelate should choose to consider the birth of that spirit of freedom which animates our constitution, as rather to be referred only to the æra of the reformation in our religion, or of our revolution in the state, still lie will find it equally impossible to connect it with any growth of feeling engendered by Protestantism, in contradiction to that which had prevailed in times more purely Catholic. For the plaio fact cannot be disguised, that from the reformation down to the revolution, the pulpits of our Protestant churches rung with the doctrines of divine right and the duties of passive obedience; that our prelates were, almost without exception, the adhereuts of these principles, and that our great seminaries of religion and learning inculcated their propriety and truth. In 1662 the university of Oxford condemned, as false, dangerous, and wicked, the proposition that it was lawful to resist a tyrant as you would a private individual, in the commission even of a robbery or a robbery or a rape, tanquam latro sen strupator;” nor even when, in 1710, this celebrated document was burnt in London, together with the sermons of Sacheverell, had these principles ceased to be cherished by that august body. When Sacheve. rell, on his release from his imprisonment, passed through the university, they received him with ceremony and distinction, and treated him as a martyr to their cause. The whole series of monarchs, moreover, under whose rule the reformation had been begun and was matured, were the most arbitrary princes that ever sat on the throne of England; and if the last of them had aimed only at the arbitrary power, without interfering with the established faith and threatening its total subversion, there is no limit, short of complete despotism, in which, if we may judge by the language of addresses tendered to him, he would not have been supported by the church. He found no difficul. ty in procuring to this high commission the sanction of the archbishop of Canterbury and the other prelates, though they could not be ignorant of its tyrannical, and perfectly unconstitutional, nature. Luckily for his subjects, James began his attack in this very quarter, and thus, as it were, by accident, connected the cause of the national faith with the cause of national freedom. His contest with Magdalen college threw a fresh light upon the doctrines of nonresistance amongst the Oxonians; and his cause with Dr. Sharpe and the bishop of London, upon si. lencing the clergy, made the bishops reflect whether the rights of kings really were divine. This long chain of evidence then seems to point to very different conclusions from those urged by the learned prelate, that the religion of the church of Rome is either incompatible with the growth and maintenance of civil liberty, or that we are peculiarly indebted for its blessings to the exertions of the church of England in its favour. But it suggests another feeling, namely, of deep regret, that religion should have so often been made the stalking horse

which ambition and avarice have pursued their object, and that its sanction should so often have been lent to measures at variance with its precepts. The bishops of 1680, with the exception of but three, voted that the duke of York's being a Catholic was no just cause of exclusion, even from the throne. The bishops of 1822 have decided, with as few exceptions, that about half

upon

[ocr errors]

a dozen Catholic peers cannot safely be restored to the ancient hereditary privilege of a share in framing those laws to which their persons, their property, and their lives, are amenable.”

(To be continued.)

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Sir, Allow me to ask, through the medium of your useful Miscellany,—What is the meaning of the term, “ Festum in pop," as marked in the Ordo Recitandi, for March 25th, 1823. I am, Sir, your's respectfully,

D. >>>>>>>>>totototeeGeeeeee

+++ MONTHLY INTELLIGENCE

: THE CATHOLIC QUESTION:

On the 17th instant, the debate in the House of Commons on the Catho* lic claims came on, but terminated in a way quite unexpected by the supporters of that measure as well as the Catholics themselves. For several days petitions against the claims had been pouring in from the clergy of different districts in England, and the orange towns of the north of Ireland. On the above evening sir. T. Lethbridge presented one from the rev. sir Harcourt Lees, which, among other things, prayed the house might order an account to be taken of the number of Papists, and repnted Papists, their character, conduct, property, estates, chapels, nunneries, and territorial establishments.-A prayer, said the hon. baronet, which I consider most reasonable.

Mr. Coke presented a petition from several of the clergy of the established church, of the diocess of Norwich, in favour of the Catholic claims. . He was happy to say that the petition was signed by a greater number of clergy. men than a similar one which he had presented last year. The petition of

last year was signed by 48, the present by 55. The petition was so beautifully worded, that he should move that it be read; which being done,

Sir F. Burdett said he rose to give utterance to his feelings on this subject, and to express his dissatisfaction at the annual farce carried on year after year, for a great length of time, and conducive to no purpose whatever but that of sowing the seeds of well grounded dissatisfaction in the minds of a large portion of the community.He then entered into the anomalous formation of the cabi. net respecting this question, and stated his determination to take no part in that farce concerning the Catholics which the house was this night called upon to perform.

Lord Nugent expressed his heartý concurrence in all the general reasoning of Sir Francis, but considered the course he was going to pursue injurious to the cause of the Catholics.

Mr. Canning spoke in support of his own conduct; he thought, from what had fallen, the question would be greatly prejudiced by bringing it forward that night, and therefore ad

[ocr errors]

never

vised his right hon, friend not to bring the motion as being the only measure it on:

which could give permanent peace Mr. Tierney, Mr. Wynn, Mr. G. and security to Ireland. Bennett, Mr. Peel, and Mr. Brough- Mr. Lambton, in rising, was for å ham made some observations. The

short time interrupted by cries of latter gentleman in the course of his

" question, question !¢ adjourn, ade speech, was making some very point. journ !He observed, that if those ed and sarcastic remarks on Mr. Can

gentlemen who were so clamorous bening's political conduct, when Mr. C.

low the bar, had but been silent for started up and said, “I rise to say one minute, he should have delivered that that is false."--A profound si. all he meant to say upon this queslence pervaded the house ; Mr. tion. His only object in rising was to Brougham appeared to be retiring prevent his constituents and the count from the house, when the Speaker try generally from mistaking the mocalled to order. A long debate en- tives which actuated him in giving his sued on the conduct of Mr. Canning, vote. All he intended to say at prewhich was ended by mutual explana

sent was, that he voted against the tions between the parties. The peti

present motion not in consequence of tion was then ordered to lie on the

any change of opinion upon this point, table and to be printed,

but because he conceived, from the At the moment when the Speaker

manner in which the question was called on Mr. Plunkett to bring on his brought forward by the right honour motion, several of the leading mem

able the attorney-general for Ireland, bers of the opposition rose from their

i vas a gross deception upon the Rot seats and left the house, among whom ma. Catholics, and one to which he were, Sir F. Burdett, the earl of Sef

vould accede. (Hear hear, ton, lord Folkstone, Edward Ellice, mixed wiri. loud and repeated cries of esq. sir R. Wilson, J. C. Hobhouse,

"Question, question.”-“ Adjourn, adesq. Mr. Hume, hon. H. G. Bennett, joum."-" Clear the Gallery, fc.”) sir R. Fergusson, Peter Moore, esq.

The House then divided that this lord F. Osborne, T. Creevy, esq. and

question be adjourned till to-morrow. Mr. Coke.

When there appeared, for the adjourn. Mr. Plunkett then rose, and after a

ment of the question, 134, against it, speech of some length and little in

292, majority 158. terest, moved,“ That this House do resolve into a Committee of the whole

The adjournnient of the House was

then moved, when the numbers were: House, to consider of the state of the laws by which oaths and declarations

for the adjournment, 313, against it;

111, majority, 202. are required to be taken as a qualification for the enjoyment of office, or the

And at half-past one the House adexercise of civil functions, so far as

journed. regards his majesty's Roman Catholic By this decision the question has subjects, and whether it is expedient

been got rid of, but may be brought and in what manner, to alter and mo- forward again this session. dify the same, and subject to what On the succeeding night, general provisions and regulations."

Gascoyne asked Mr. Plunkett if he On the question being put from the intended to renew the question this chair, Mr. Bankes, the new member session, and was answered in the ne for Cambridge, opposed the motion in

gative. a tone of voice so low as to be scarcely

Lord Nugent has subsequently audible in the gallery.

given notice that on the 2nd of May,

he should bring forward a motion to Mr. Becher rose, amidst loud cries

put the English Catholics on an equal of adjourn, adjourn. He supported footing with those of Ireland.

« НазадПродовжити »