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CHAPTER VII

THE OATH OF ALLEGIANCE ACCEPTED

Years before the oath of allegiance had been thought of, while the Jesuits were at the climax of their power, Father Creighton had written to Father Parsons, anent the latter's supporting the succession of the Spanish Infanta to the English throne, "there is a French proverbe, you cannot catch a hare by beating a drum." Parsons had been industriously sounding the call to arms for years; and now, at the great crisis of the Jesuit fortunes, began to realise that the English Catholics had taken fright and left his camp. The war was on; the seculars had come to terms with the English Government; and it now remained to be seen whether Parsons could, after all, marshall the rank and file of the English lay Catholics at the beat of the drum. If the majority of the laity took the oath of allegiance, the Jesuits were defeated and the actual control of the Catholic Church in England would pass into the hands of the seculars. In reality, the organisation of that time was so loose as to be democratic: the men who received the popular support would rule, and would, in the end, be accepted at Rome, where conversions and tangible results were most favourably regarded. As soon as it became definitely certain that the Government would favour essential toleration, and that the laity would accept it, an episcopal organisation of the regular model would very likely be instituted.

Parliament had been prorogued on May 27, 1606; and, in accordance with Bancroft's ideas, no immediate steps to enforce the new laws were taken, in order to give the priests time to consult with one another and arrive at some definite decision as to their attitude. They were fully alive to the situation; and, when Mush arrived in London early in June, he found a number of his comrades already assembled and much perplexed about the oath." Some

1 Tierney, IV, cxxxvi. Mush's own tion we could have. her Blount's account, July 11, 1606, on which these account substantially agrees with it. paragraphs have been based. It Foley, Records, I, 64. seems as trustworthy as any informa

thought it altogether inadmissible: others went so far as to declare, on the authority of Azorus, that the taking of it and occasional attendance at church were legal. Heborne had visited the priests in the Newgate prison to urge them to accept the oath; and, according to Jesuit accounts, was not successful. Wright and others were openly dealing with Salisbury. Blackwell, the Archpriest, who, shortly before the oath was passed by Parliament, had inveighed against it, now had veered around and brought all his authority to bear in its favour. Many conferences and a great deal of argument only produced "multas limitationes et subterfugia."

Mush, with the Jesuits, Holtby and Preston, stood out against the Archpriest and besought him either to send two envoys to Rome to obtain a decision from the Pope; or at least to delegate two priests to confer with two Jesuits and two Benedictines, in order to agree upon some prudent and uniform course to which, once chosen, they should all adhere firmly. (qua aliquid prudenter et uniformi consensu concludi posset.) Blackwell plead his own danger as an excuse for taking no action, to which they retorted that he was in no greater peril than the rest of them, who were at that moment equally liable to arrest, with a probable exile or death to follow. No doubt, this reticence of the Archpriest in regard to an appeal to Rome or to the Jesuits arose from his knowledge or belief, that Bancroft was anxious to know what the Catholics would do without papal sanction, or in the face of possible disapprobation. Further, however servile the Archpriest had been to the Jesuits, he was not without a very real notion of the power Parsons held at Rome, and of the difficulty of reaching the Pope except with his consent; and he knew it was distinctly improbable that either Parsons, or the Jesuits in England, would in any way countenance such an oath. Until their victory was won, the seculars had little to hope from Rome; and none knew it better than Blackwell. The Archpriest, therefore, returned to the original proposition and declared (tenuit quòd absolutè) that the oath of i Stonyhurst MSS. Anglia, A, VI, f.

the man who had housed Garnet. 293. Blount to Parsons, August 1, Rumours of all sorts were current. A (July ?) 1606. Nothing had been proclamation issued April 12, done at this time to enforce the law, 1606, to contradict a story that an for Blount says:

“The state of accident had befallen the King and us here is as it was, no residence lost all the people had been called to save Mr. Abbingtons, whoe yett re

Rymer, Foedera, XVI, 645. mayneth prisoner.” Abbington was

was

arms.

as

allegiance could safely be taken.) The opposition was far from being convinced; and finally, after much difficulty, Blackwell met in conference, Holtby, Garnet's successor head of the Jesuits then in England, his colleague, Preston, Mush of the Northern Catholics, Colleton of the Southern clergy, Bishop, who had been in such close touch with Bancroft during the appeal of 1602, and Broughton. Blackwell said that he did not believe that his Holiness could, in the present state of affairs, actually depose the King, but could only declare him deposed; and therefore to swear that the Pope possessed no power to do what he manifestly could not accomplish, was not unlawful] Bishop and Broughton agreed with him; and, on the other side, Mush' and the two Jesuits ranged themselves, insisting that it was a very dangerous doctrine

the Pope possessed only such authority as he could effectively execute. What was to become of the papal supremacy, if tangible evidence of the conclusiveness of papal decisions were to be demanded ?

The deliberations at the conference came to precisely the same end as had the earlier discussions among the priests: nothing was decided at all and a dangerous split seemed to be opening in the secular ranks, which in fact was precisely what the Jesuits were hoping to enlarge. Blackwell and his adherents wished to inform the people and lower clergy that the Archpriest had decided in favour of the new oath. Mush and the Jesuits, on the other hand, said deprecatingly, that they wished to create no schism and would refer the whole question to the Pope; and, with a graciousness not wholly devoid of humour, inasmuch as they could not possibly hinder the Catholies from following the Archpriest if they chose, gave them permission to espouse whichever side they preferred. But every attempt to keep Blackwell's decision from the clergy until some definite word could be obtained from Rome was fruitless; and the gentry and laity who had been in London, attending the Trinity session of the law courts, went home bursting with the great news that the new oath could be properly taken by Catholics. In a short time, therefore, the decision had been spread far and wide as quickly as was possible in those days of bad communication.

1 Mush insisted afterward, in 1611, “I ever condemned the whole oath."

Tierney, IV, clxxviii.

Doubtless, Bancroft was regularly informed by Bishop, as well as by his spies, of the progress of these discussions and soon saw that the leaven was working. The right of the King under the law to confiscate property and collect fines, would, the Archbishop well knew, be so powerful an incentive to the laity in favour of taking the oath, that the only practical obstacle would be the decision of their spiritual advisers against it as a thing perilous to their salvation. To maintain the show of enforcing the laws against the Catholics as a whole, and to be ready to deal sharply with the refractory, a proclamation appeared on July 10, the last day of Trinity term and just before the long summer assizes, ordering all Jesuits and seminary priests to leave England before August first; and offering every facility of departure both to those in prison and to those at large. The proclamation, with a mildness too often overlooked, declared that although the Gunpowder Treason had amply justified the new laws and their rigid execution, “the supreme dispensation of clemency and moderation of the severity of our laws is likewise proper to us to use, when we shall find it reasonable." It promulgated the royal intention of “renewing some course of lenity against some particulars, so far forth as may be, without the peril of our religious and loyal people,” and protested that “this is done for no other purpose but to avoid the effusion of blood," and, by banishing the seducers of his people, to "remove all cause of such severity.” “We confess that we desire still to make it appear, in the whole course of our government, we are far from accounting all those subjects disloyal that are that way (i. e. Catholicly) affected. ... Therefore as aftertimes must give us trial of all men's behaviours, so must all men expect that their own deserts must be the only measure of their own fortunes at our hands, either one way or other."

Here was the new policy, as clearly set forth as was advisable in a state document; and the tone of the paper is little less than remarkable, if we remember that the Gunpowder Treason was scarcely nine months past; and if we consider the character of the laws just passed and the sentiments openly expressed in the House of Commons. Those who would not be loyal and accept the oath of allegiance should suffer under the new laws; but no others should

1 Proclamation Book at the Record Office. Reprinted in Strype, Annals,

IV, 557; and Tierney, IV, cxxxii.

2

be molested. In the proclamation of June, 1611, occurred these striking words: “We had never any intention, in the form of the oath, to press any point of conscience for matter of religion, but only to make some discovery of disloyal affection."

Time was needed to allow the seculars to convince the Catholics at large of the lawfulness and expediency of accepting the new situation; the recalcitrant had been allowed till August first to leave the realm; and it was therefore not until August that the commissions issued for the discovery of seminary priests' and the administering of the new oath to all who intended to “pass over the seas. In the fall arrived a papal brief dated September 223 which condemned the oath as containing things opposed to faith and salvation. Eight English priests, who were still in doubt, found small comfort in the vague and general phrases of disapproval; and wrote to the Pope begging him to specify his reasons for refusing them the desired permission. The Government was not surprised at the papal attitude, and was very likely pleased. It made the situation perfectly clear cut. “Uppon that point of disadvowing the oths by the Pope he (the King) used large discourse that it wold be an occasion to him to make an evident tryall of the allegiance of his subjects of that sort whether they wold adhere to him by persisting in their oths or to the Pope in forbearing it hereafter." 5 Had Pius V consented to the oath, the immediate consequences would have been favourable; but the permission might be at any time revoked, and James would still be dependent on the Pope's fiat for the loyalty of his subjects. This was precisely what Bancroft wished to avoid. Some form of oath was sought which the English Catholics would accept, but which the Pope and the Jesuits would be certain to disapprove; for, as he pointed out to James, until the Catholics would act independently of Rome, no lasting settlement could be secured. Chance had thrown in their way an excellent opportunity and it was eminently desirable that the Pope should not spoil it by weakening at the moment when his inflexibility had been built upon as a distinct asset.

1 Patent Roll, 4 Jac. I, part 12. that the letter never reached the Pope, 2 Patent Roll, 4 Jac. I, part 12. History of the Jesuits in England, 3 Printed in Tierney, IV, cxl.

356. 4 In Tierney, IV, ccv. Mr. Taun 5 Lake to Salisbury, October 19, ton suggests that Parsons saw to it 1606. Hatfield MSS. 118, f. 15.

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