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be “worthie of that great and undeserved favoure which they so plentifully receyve at your Maiesties hands.” 1
The overt action of Blackwell in favour of the oath called forth a second papal breve against the oath” and a letter from Cardinal Bellarmine, the great champion of the Church and a scholar worthy of admiration in any age. He set forth at some length a variety of reasons against the legality of the oath which he sustained by citations from the Church Fathers; and to this, Blackwell replied with an even longer epistle and even more citations.“ As usual, Bancroft proceeded to turn the incident to account by printing and distributing both letters, in February 1607-8, together with all of Blackwell's examinations of the previous July, his letter to the English Catholics, and some other timely material. Blackwell was once more summoned, and signed before a large and dignified body of the High Commission, a copy of his examination with an attest acknowledging it to be his action. All this had been so timed that, when the gentry and others in attendance at the law courts during Hilary term, were ready to leave for their homes, this pamphlet was one of the things they were able to take with them.
At last all was ready. Bancroft believed that the overwhelming majority of Catholics were eager to take the oath, but were timorous of disobeying the directions of their spiritual advisers. Now, Blackwell's letter of July had been well distributed and should have
i Botfield, Original Letters, I, 111 English editions. 113. September 24, 1607.
One in French was published in 2 August 23, 1607. Printed in Tier Amsterdam in 1609. The book was ney, IV, cxlvi.
also published in Latin. There are 3 September 28, 1607. Tierney, IV, manuscript copies in Additional MSS. cxlviii.
30662, f. 72 ff. in French. It was 4 November 13, 1607. Tierney, IV, certainly widely circulated. Perhaps clii.
the most remarkable point about the 5 The full title is as follows: tract is that, issued by the King's large eramination taken at Lambeth, printer, it nevertheless calls Clement according to his Majesty's direction “Pope' instead of “Bishop of point by point of Mr. George Black. Rome” and gives Bellarmine his well, made Archpriest of England by title. Such quasi-official recognition Pope Clement 8 upon occasion of a of the Pope's authority was certain answere of his, without the than had been given in England for priuitie of the State, to a Letter three-quarters of a century. lately sent unto him from Cardinal 6 One examination took place in Bellarmine, blaming him for taking December and perhaps another in the oath of allegiance .. Printed January. See a copy of the proceedby Robt. Parker, Printer to the ings with the King's own marginal King's most excellent Majestie, 1607. notes in Harleian MSS. 6807, f. 190. There seem to have been at least three
produced all the effect that could reasonably be expected of it; a certain number of influential gentry had been offered the oath, as a matter of example to others, and had taken it; the new book just issued would furnish all concerned with reasons for action on both sides of the controversy. The moment had arrived when the Archbishop saw that a little temporal pressure circumspectly applied would, very likely, as in Blackwell's case, suffice to turn the scale.
On February 15, 1607-8, the King addressed the judges who were about to set forth on their circuits; and gave them what were, so far as we know, the first explicit general orders for the enforcing of the penal laws of 1606. He directed, according to Francis Bacon's notes of his speech, that "the oth of allegeance (was) to be generally ministred, but shewd a mild inclinacion towards (such)
were not Apostatans since his tyme, nor practicers; and comended to favor such Preests as would take ye oath of Allegeance." When James had finished, the Privy Council summoned the judges into another room, and gave them more explicit orders. “No preest to be executed yt would take the oth of allegance," or was willing to argue or confer about it; and “even of them, sparingly. The K(ing) 's woord was No torrent of blowd: poena ad paucos." On inquiry, it developed that scarcely a half dozen priests were at that moment in jail, showing that there had been as yet “no watch or search.” In regard to lay recusants, the new oath was only to be offered to those who were active “practizers,'' to recusants already indicted, and to noncommunicants. It was not even to be offered to quiet and well-behaved Catholics who had created no open scandal of recusancy. “Noncommunicants” were to mean only the obstinate and seditious; and, inasmuch as a person might take the oath and yet neglect to appear at communion, "it was probably inferred that yf some of the Indited by ye K(ing)s speach were to be spared, a fortiore those which are no recusants." Salisbury stated that, in his opinion, by condemnation of the oath of allegiance, the Pope wished to urge the King to a rigorous enforcement of the laws, which in its turn would arouse in the Catholics despair and hatred of the Government, encourage plots, and promote quarrels of all sorts, “ye better to expose this realm to a pray.' And for that very reason, added Bancroft, the more 1 Taken in the room at the time. Printed most faithfully by Spedding
in Life and Letters of Bacon, IV, 90.
extreme the papal measures were, the more lenient should be our own. In June, 1608, a Commission issued for letting and disposing of recusants' goods and of the two parts of their land forfeited by law.
In July appeared Letters Patent, directed to Bancroft, the Lord Chancellor, and most of the bishops and law officers, against Jesuits and seminaries and to “reform errors, heresies and schisms whatsoeuer within the Realme of England.''
Thus, the Catholics, as a whole, were by no means threatened by the Government, though most of them were, no doubt, in terror for fear they should hear a pursuivant's knock upon the door. It is this anticipatory fright of which we read so often. Constant advantage was taken of the liberal offer of time to confer with the bishops and justices over the legality of the oath; and, indeed, some men were still undecided after a year or eighteen months, while others were suddenly taken too ill to travel to the Quarter Sessions, where the oath was administered, professing, however, their readiness to appear as soon as they were convalescent.* There were some astonishingly long illnesses thus recorded. Sometimes, when the justices came in person to the residence of the recusants, they found them away on a visit. “From thence, he went to Mr. Symonds, a man of great estate, whose wieffe being a recusant convicted, hee answeared us, that his wieffe was gone before our comming, for that shee would not take the othe of allegeance." 5. Many Catholics were willing to take the oath, with a protestation, said Mush, speaking of the spring of 1610.8 Some priests approved a device by which they first protested “I will take this oath so far 1 Both in Patent Roll, 6 Jac. I,
Venetian CalPart 30, dated June 1 and July 1. For their drafting see Lansdowne
endar, XI, no. 215.) MSS. 153, f. 232, 234; holograph let
3 See some excellent cases in Taunters by Lake and Cæsar.
ton's Jesuits, 360 and 364, for the 2 This is confirmed by the Venetian
years 1611 and 1616. The Jesuit acAmbassador, which shows that it was
counts are also full of what they current news. “In England, too, for
expect will happen to them, but it will some time past they have shut their prove to be true in nine cases out of eyes to much (of Catholic doings) and
ten, where the law was really exeit is growing ever clearer that the
cuted, that the sufferer was an obstiKing is averse from punishment and
nate and well-known Jesuit sympapersecution, provided that he is not
thiser. provoked by recollection of past ter
4 Tierney, IV, clxx, May 20, 1611, ror, which God prevent.
relating to these earlier years. priest has been deposed, "the bull
5 Egerton Papers, 1612, 454. has not yet come to the King's no
6 Tierney, IV, clxxviii, August 19, Great wrath is expected.
1611, describing events of these ear“Many ecclesiastics here are aware
forth as it concerneth my temporal duty or obedience to the King, after which they thought they might kneel down and take the oath verbatim.” Other laymen proposed to say to the judge:“This oath containeth many difficult points which we do not understand, (as in truth, there be as many divers expositions of every part thereof as there be heads among us,) but to so much of it only, as doth truly concern our temporal allegiance to the King, we will and do swear sincerely and willingly—and without more ado, kneel down and lay our hand upon the book.”i Any one who appeared before the bishops or justices and denied the oath, was perforce committed at once, "wherefore, in policy, both justices, bishops and others, have thought it best not to appear.
The Bishop of Chester seems to have interpreted some letter sent him from London as an order to cease all proceedings against recusants in his diocese. He was soon informed by the Privy Council, that the letter was not intended “to stay the ecclesiasticall course, but to wishe a moderate use of it.” “His Majestys meaning is not, nor was then, that you should be in any wayes restrayned from usinge your authoritie, whenesoeuer you shall see cause in your discretion. Only we wish that if the proceedinge ecclesiasticall be only for the poynts of the communion, that such discretion and temper be used, by your officers therein to be sparing in it, savinge when notorious occasion of publicke scandall or audacitie of some obstinate persons shall require it." :
A year later, in a letter from London to the Earl of Rutland, we learn that Salisbury, the Lord Treasurer, “comending the quiet behaviour of recusants and acquiting them frome being culpable of that monstrous gunpowther treason, thought it was expedient that they should be more mildly delt withall then in former times; whereas some pursuivants have violently behaved themselves in Oxfordshire this sommer, his Lordship hath commanded that upon their returne they shalbe apprehended, comitted to Newgate and punished according to the qualitie of their offence." The next month, (November, 1609) no less a person than the Lord President of the Council in the Marches of Wales, in a confidential letter to Salisbury himself, detailed some interesting information about a
i Tierney, IV, clxxviii.
October 24, 1608. 2 Tierney, IV, clxxxii, October 6. 4 Report on the Rutland Papers, I, 1611.
420, November 28, 1609. 3S. P. Dom. Jac. I, 37, no. 28,
quarter of England far removed from Chester and the Midlands, showing that in Herefordshire the clauses of the oath of allegiance referring to the power of the Pope were left out altogether. “Mr. Justice Williams, in the Publique Assembly of the Country, yeelded such favour unto them in ministeringe the oath in some points concerning the Pope (as hath giuen an example to others of that kinde to refuse to take the same) as by the Law it is penned, and sett forth. In Example whereof, one Charnocke ... absolutely refused to take the sayd oath (there) being distinctly read unto him, especially in these pointes, viz: the Pope's power to excommunicate the King; to discharge the subiectes of there new allegiance to his Majestie, alleadging that at Hereford Assizes the Judges did not so stricktly exact the oath of the Recusants presented to them.'
Sir Edward Phelips, who had been travelling extensively in the North upon the execution of the law, reported to Salisbury that recusancy had greatly decreased in Lancashire and Northumberland, and “would much more, if a hand of moderate discipline were usually carried out amongst them." All but a few had conformed to the laws, and the country was quiet. “But I cannot soe much comend neither the peace nor conformity of the people of Yorkshire and the Busshoprick for in both those we founde many felons and doe not finde the Recusants much to decrease in respecte they are countenanced by some gentlemen of noate." 2
These rather extended illustrations, of the general spirit of leniency and consideration in which the laws of 1606 were administered, have been grouped together not only for convenience, but to show, by these citations, each of which is in itself unimpeachable evidence, which concern all parts of Catholic England, and which were written at different times by different men, that this policy was not one assumed for the month of February, 1607-8, but was carried out consistently over a considerable period of years. The attitude of the Bishop of Chester, the punishment of the too zealous pursuivants in Oxfordshire, the action of Justice Williams in
1 S. P. Dom. Jac. I, 49, no. 26. from the Council to judge dexterous. November 13, 1609. Ralph Eure to ly with the Catholics who as far as Salisbury.
I see, would not be viewed unfavour2 S. P. Dom. Jac. I. 48,
ably in this Kingdom were it not for 25. September 10, 1609.
the fear of the instigations of the 3 These are amply confirmed by the Pope, their Chief.” (Venetian Calother less trustworthy material.
endar, XI, no. 457. “Judges going circuit have orders
March 12 1609.