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have preferred his own peculiar scheme), thirteen priests did sign and present to Bancroft, on January 31, 1602-3, a new oath of submission. They recognised that the Queen had as much authority as her predecessors had possessed, and declared themselves ready to obey her as far as any Catholic priests were bound to obey their temporal prince in any country of Europe, defining their obligations, however, as extending merely to civil obedience to the laws and magistrates in civil causes. That all attempts to change the religion of England by force were detestable, they thought no one would deny, and they were lavish in their protestations of support in case of foreign invasion, and in their promises to reveal and resist all conspiracies of which they might learn. They even went so far as to agree that, if the Pope excommunicated all Englishmen who refused to aid an invading army, they would not consider themselves bound to obey his mandate. Despite the somewhat doubtful wording of certain clauses, these were very great concessions, but their final reservation made the whole oath unacceptable. Inasmuch as they had made so full a recognition of the Queen's claims upon them, they hoped she would allow them to express in the same public manner, their undiminished loyalty to the Pope, their spiritual father, and their determination to lose their lives rather than "infringe the authority of Christe's catholicke church.” Practically this form of January 31 contained the sense of the earlier one just referred to, rephrased in rambling, equivocal sentences, with the addition of a full recognition of the papal authority. Naturally, if such papal claims were recognised, and, if the Queen possessed no more authority than her predecessors, whatever the priests might understand that to be, the subscriber swore obedience to two contradictory things, if he could be considered as having recognised the Queen's supremacy at all. Indeed, this oath was not a modification of the oath of supremacy: it practically annulled it, and also failed to substitute for it any clear and uncompromising agreement of temporal loyalty.
Then, with the death of the Queen, the Catholic hopes soared high. Under the new King, there were no more whispers of an attempt by a foreign prince to change the religion of the kingdom by force, no more talk of excommunicating all who did not join the invaders. The deputations of Catholic laity and clergy prof
fered humble congratulations on the King's most auspicious accession, made hearty protestations of loyalty, and reiterated their explicit offers to take some “corporal” oath of allegiance. Instead of the old complaints, we find, in their petitions, dignified and temperate requests to "license the practice of our religion in private houses without molestation to priest or lay person for the
Thus the old forms were cast aside and the negotiations then going on resulted in a definite form of submission of a totally different stamp. A great deal has been written by both Catholics and Protestants on the enforcement of the penal laws, and of the terrorising of priests and the like in 1604, yet we find a party of priests in prison in July, 1604, complaining that they should have been released, because they had signed, in the April preceding, a form in which they, speaking as members of the civil body politic, recognised James as supreme head of that civil body, without dependence on any foreign prince, and offered him the same allegiance as their predecessors gave to former Kings of England.? Not a word was said about the Pope, not a word testified to their standing as ecclesiastics condemned to death by the laws of the realm. In fact, the seculars were by no means cowed or abused, and expected shortly to carry things with a high hand. Practically all they offered was the first section of the oath submitted by the thirteen priests, in January, 1602-03.
If this was what the priests offered, what was it the Government expected ? In a paper drawn up by Bancroft himself for the examination of priests in the summer of 1604, we find the ideas at which the Government was now aiming. Here, too, we see a recognition of the influence of circumstances. In a long and involved style, full of repetitions and circumlocutions to prevent evasion, the priest was asked to declare that people erred who thought that no one could be King of England without the Pope's consent; that a Catholic ought not to obey a King whom the Pope adjudged a heretic; that, because of the King's heresy, the Pope could dis
1 Supplication to the King's most evidence of this is, however, of the excellent Majesty, . 1604. The slightest. Foley, Records, I, 61. substance of the tract has been re 2 The first few words of the oath printed in Tierney, IV, lxxxii. Rivers mean that regular as well as secular wrote at the time to Parsons that it clergy offered it. Were these Jesuits was written by Colleton, and it very or Benedictines? likely was issued with the general 3 Petyt MSS. 538. 38, f. 186. Hithapproval of the secular leaders. The erto unpublished.
charge subjects from their allegiance, or order them to commit violence. The new note lies in the abjuration of certain powers which the Pope claimed in the case of heretic princes. The removal of the fear of armed invasion had caused the Government to substitute in the oath for the old promise to oppose a foreign army, the denial of a right claimed by the popes of deposing heretic Kings, discharging subjects from their allegiance and licensing revolt against them. For years, James had been particularly afraid that the Pope would exercise these prerogatives against him when he came to the English throne, and that the Catholics would then be strong enough to hold the balance of power. To this end, he had begun his bungling negotiations in 1599, while still King of Scotland. For this, he had played with the papal nuncio at Brussels, during the summer and fall of 1603, and spasmodically during the following year; the Pope was willing enough to correspond, though he had no intention of granting such requests, and James soon gave up the idea of negotiating directly with Rome. Therefore, he lent a willing ear to Bancroft's information that the priests had already been offering for some time to renounce those very powers of the Pope.
We have, therefore, these two threads, the explicit offers of the priests, and the demands of the Government: the former ready to swear allegiance to the King but unwilling to avow their disbelief in any of the papal powers; the latter insisting upon the unqualified renunciation of the papal prerogatives, as far as they might openly affect the relation of the English Catholics to the King, but not prepared to urge strongly that general disavowal of the Pope's spiritual powers, which the oath of supremacy required. In truth, so long as the Government maintained the legal position taken in 1559, that the King was supreme governor, and that the papal headship had been rightfully abrogated, it could do no less
i This is a point which has been tion ether to come, or favour the much debated. It is set as nearly at Catholick religioun, for the contrair rest as it is likely it ever will be, by was conteyned expreslie in the Leta letter of the Jesuit Wm. Creighton, teris ... saying that albeit he reto Sir Andrew Murray.
maned constant in that religioun in that the object of James's negotia the which he was nurisched from his tions with the Pope was “that they cradle, yet he wold not be enimye and suld not excommunicat his Maieste or persecutour of the Catholikes, so long absolue his subiectes from his obedi. as thay suld remaine faithfull and ence." “It was not gevin to obedient subiectes to him." Botfield nnderstand to the Pope that the
Original Letters, I, 181; Kingis Maiestie was in any disposi
January 17. 1608.
than insist that the Pope had no power whatever to influence the relations between the King and his subjects.
In pursuance of this theory, Bancroft drew up, in 1605, a form on which to examine priests and recusants, which would demonstrate how far they were really willing to make such concessions as the King desired. First came a clear recognition that James was the lawful and rightful sovereign, and that those before whom they took the oath were lawful magistrates. Then followed, in brief but precise phrases an acknowledgement that the Pope could not depose the King, nor discharge his subjects from their allegiance, nor authorise foreign invasion, nor license any tumult or revolt or any attempt against the King's person or estate. In conclusion, the Catholic declared that he made the statement on the true faith of a Christian Catholic, without mental evasion or equivocation of any description. This, however, was far more extreme than anything which the Catholics themselves had up to that time offered and, although some priests may have taken it in 1605, it was not espoused by any Catholic faction as a whole.
Then came the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, and in Blackwell's letter, issued two days later, we find the first public tender to the Government by the official head of the secular organisation of those points which the priests had so often offered in private submissions. It expressed great horror of the plot, denounced the theory of conversion by force, and discountenanced any violence against the King's person or estate. But, far from rejecting the Pope's authority, Blackwell openly declared that the Pope and the Catholic theologians, with one accord, believed in those conclusions, and he issued his later order against violence, with the express statement that the Pope would undoubtedly approve of it. Although the Archpriest's letter spelt defiance of the Jesuits, and although its consequences were highly important, its detailed statements were more conservative than any which the seculars had offered to the Government. Nevertheless, the bare fact that the letter had been published at such a crisis, was the greatest concession the priests had as yet made. It was done, however, at the expense of the Jesuits, not of the Pope.
The discovery of Garnet's complicity in the treason, and the consequent increase of the popular feeling against the Catholics,
Petyt MSS. 538. 38, f. 212. Hitherto unpublished.
changed the minds of the priests once more. There can be little doubt that the final form of the oath of allegiance was prepared by Bancroft, after consultation with the secular leaders, and that they accepted it themselves, and gave assurances of the readiness of Catholics in general to take it, before the oath was ever adopted by Parliament.
The Oath, as finally enacted, was a verbatim repetition of Bancroft's form of 1605, with the addition of the substance of the priests' own submissions. It had, therefore, two well-defined parts, the one theoretical and the other practical: first, a declaration that the Pope did not possess certain powers, which he claimed to exercise against heretic sovereigns; and secondly, an agreement that, if the Pope did exercise those prerogatives, his commands ought to be disobeyed. To these was added, first, an acknowledgement that no power whatsoever could dispense with the oath, or discharge a man from his obligations; and second, a long declaration from the form of 1605, that the Catholics took the oath without mental reservation of any sort. But it therefore required no affirmation of James's spiritual headship, and no general adjuration of the Pope's spiritual power; and was as purely a temporal oath as could be devised. With this idea the King himself was in full accord, for in his “Apologie" for the oath, he said that the oath, “only medling with the ciuill obedience of Subiectes to their Soueraigne, in meere temporall causes,” does not concerne in any case the Pope's Supremacie in Spirituall Causes.” “Can there be one word found in all that Oath, tending or sounding to matter of religion? Doeth he that taketh it, promise there to beleeue, or not to beleeue any article of Religion? Or doeth hee so much as name a trew or false Church there? And as for Saint Peter's Primacie, I know of no Apostles name that is therein named.” “As the Oath of supremacie was deuised for putting a difference between Papists and them of our profession, so was this Oath, which hee would seeme to impugne, ordained
1 Mr. Taunton, in his Jesuits in dealing in important matters: PerEngland, 351, says, without quoting kins
of the secular his authority, that Bancroft drew up leaders; and it contradicts the fact the oath at the suggestion, or with that our best evidence shows that the the advice, of a renegade Jesuit, oath of allegiance was a growth, and Christopher Perkins. On the face of was not made at any one time by any it, this seems unlikely; it contradicts one man. Moreover, the substance of all we know of Bancroft's methods of it was Bancroft's form of 1605.