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Title: Froude's History of England
Author: Kingsley, Charles
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from “Plays and Puritans and Other Historical Essays” 1890
Macmillan and Co. edition by David Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org

                    FROUDE’S HISTORY OF ENGLAND {219}

THERE appeared a few years since a ‘Comic History of England,’ duly
caricaturing and falsifying all our great national events, and
representing the English people, for many centuries back, as a mob of
fools and knaves, led by the nose in each generation by a few arch-fools
and arch-knaves.  Some thoughtful persons regarded the book with utter
contempt and indignation; it seemed to them a crime to have written it; a
proof of ‘banausia,’ as Aristotle would have called it, only to be
outdone by the writing a ‘Comic Bible.’  After a while, however, their
indignation began to subside; their second thoughts, as usual, were more
charitable than their first; they were not surprised to hear that the
author was an honest, just, and able magistrate; they saw that the
publication of such a book involved no moral turpitude; that it was
merely meant as a jest on a subject on which jesting was permissible, and
as a money speculation in a field of which men had a right to make money;
while all which seemed offensive in it was merely the outcome, and as it
were apotheosis, of that method of writing English history which has been
popular for nearly a hundred years.  ‘Which of our modern historians,’
they asked themselves, ‘has had any real feeling of the importance, the
sacredness, of his subject?—any real trust in, or respect for, the
characters with whom he dealt?  Has not the belief of each and all of
them been the same—that on the whole, the many always have been fools and
knaves; foolish and knavish enough, at least, to become the puppets of a
few fools and knaves who held the reins of power?  Have they not held
that, on the whole, the problems of human nature and human history have
been sufficiently solved by Gibbon and Voltaire, Gil Blas and Figaro;
that our forefathers were silly barbarians; that this glorious nineteenth
century is the one region of light, and that all before was outer
darkness, peopled by ‘foreign devils,’ Englishmen, no doubt, according to
the flesh, but in spirit, in knowledge, in creed, in customs, so utterly
different from ourselves that we shall merely show our sentimentalism by
doing aught but laughing at them?

On what other principle have our English histories as yet been
constructed, even down to the children’s books, which taught us in
childhood that the history of this country was nothing but a string of
foolish wars, carried on by wicked kings, for reasons hitherto
unexplained, save on that great historic law of Goldsmith’s by which Sir
Archibald Alison would still explain the French Revolution—

    ‘The dog, to serve his private ends,
    Went mad, and bit the man?’

It will be answered by some, and perhaps rather angrily, that these
strictures are too sweeping; that there is arising, in a certain quarter,
a school of history books for young people of a far more reverent tone,
which tries to do full honour to the Church and her work in the world.
Those books of this school which we have seen, we must reply, seem just
as much wanting in real reverence for the past as the school of Gibbon
and Voltaire.  It is not the past which they reverence, but a few
characters or facts eclectically picked out of the past, and, for the
most part, made to look beautiful by ignoring all the features which will
not suit their preconceived pseudo-ideal.  There is in these books a
scarcely concealed dissatisfaction with the whole course of the British
mind since the Reformation, and (though they are not inclined to confess
the fact) with its whole course before the Reformation, because that
course was one of steady struggle against the Papacy and its
anti-national pretensions.  They are the outcome of an utterly un-English
tone of thought; and the so-called ‘ages of faith’ are pleasant and
useful to them, principally because they are distant and unknown enough
to enable them to conceal from their readers that in the ages on which
they look back as ideally perfect a Bernard and a Francis of Assisi were
crying all day long—‘O that my head were a fountain of tears, that I
might weep for the sins of my people!’  Dante was cursing popes and
prelates in the name of the God of Righteousness; Boccaccio and Chaucer
were lifting the veil from priestly abominations of which we now are
ashamed even to read; and Wolsey, seeing the rottenness of the whole
system, spent his mighty talents, and at last poured out his soul unto
death, in one long useless effort to make the crooked straight, and
number that which had been weighed in the balances of God, and found for
ever wanting.  To ignore wilfully facts like these, which were patent all
along to the British nation, facts on which the British laity acted, till
they finally conquered at the Reformation, and on which they are acting
still, and will, probably, act for ever, is not to have any real
reverence for the opinions or virtues of our forefathers; and we are not
astonished to find repeated, in such books, the old stock calumnies
against our lay and Protestant worthies, taken at second-hand from the
pages of Lingard.  In copying from Lingard, however, this party has done
no more than those writers have who would repudiate any party—almost any
Christian—purpose.  Lingard is known to have been a learned man, and to
have examined many manuscripts which few else had taken the trouble to
look at; so his word is to be taken, no one thinking it worth while to
ask whether he has either honestly read or honestly quoted the documents.
It suited the sentimental and lazy liberality of the last generation to
make a show of fairness by letting the Popish historian tell his side of
the story, and to sneer at the illiberal old notion that gentlemen of his
class were given to be rather careless about historic truth when they had
a purpose to serve thereby; and Lingard is now actually recommended as a
standard authority for the young by educated Protestants, who seem
utterly unable to see that, whether the man be honest or not, his whole
view of the course of British events since Becket first quarrelled with
his king must be antipodal to their own; and that his account of all
which has passed for three hundred years since the fall of Wolsey is most
likely to be (and, indeed, may be proved to be) one huge libel on the
whole nation, and the destiny which God has marked out for it.

There is, indeed, no intrinsic cause why the ecclesiastical, or
pseudo-Catholic, view of history should, in any wise, conduce to a just
appreciation of our forefathers.  For not only did our forefathers rebel
against that conception again and again, till they finally trampled it
under their feet, and so appear, _primâ facie_, as offenders to be judged
at its bar; but the conception itself is one which takes the very same
view of nature as that cynic conception of which we spoke above.  Man,
with the Romish divines, is, _ipso facto_, the same being as the man of
Voltaire, Le Sage, or Beaumarchais; he is an insane and degraded being,
who is to be kept in order, and, as far as may be, cured and set to work
by an ecclesiastical system; and the only threads of light in the dark
web of his history are clerical and theurgic, not lay and human.
Voltaire is the very _experimentum crucis_ of this ugly fact.  European
history looks to him what it would have looked to his Jesuit preceptors,
had the sacerdotal element in it been wanting; what heathen history
actually did look to them.  He eliminates the sacerdotal element, and
nothing remains but the chaos of apes and wolves which the Jesuits had
taught him to believe was the original substratum of society.  The
humanity of his history—even of his ‘Pucelle d’Orléans’,—is simply the
humanity of Sanchez and the rest of those _vingtquatre Pères_ who hang
gibbeted for ever in the pages of Pascal.  He is superior to his
teachers, certainly, in this, that he has hope for humanity on earth;
dreams of a new and nobler life for society, by means of a true and
scientific knowledge of the laws of the moral and material universe; in a
word, he has, in the midst of all his filth and his atheism, a faith in a
righteous and truth-revealing God, which the priests who brought him up
had not.  Let the truth be spoken, even though in favour of such a
destroying Azrael as Voltaire.  And what if his primary conception of
humanity be utterly base?  Is that of our modern historians so much
higher?  Do Christian men seem to them, on the whole, in all ages, to
have had the spirit of God with them, leading them into truth, however
imperfectly and confusedly they may have learnt his lessons?  Have they
ever heard with their ears, or listened when their fathers have declared
unto them, the noble works which God did in their days, and in the old
time before them?  Do they believe that the path of Christendom has been,
on the whole, the path of life and the right way, and that the living God
is leading her therein?  Are they proud of the old British worthies?  Are
they jealous and tender of the reputation of their ancestors?  Do they
believe that there were any worthies at all in England before the
steam-engine and political economy were discovered?  Do their conceptions
of past society and the past generations retain anything of that great
thought which is common to all the Aryan races—that is, to all races who
have left aught behind them better than mere mounds of earth—to Hindoo
and Persian, Greek and Roman, Teuton and Scandinavian, that men are the
sons of the heroes, who were the sons of God?  Or do they believe that
for civilised people of the nineteenth century it is as well to say as
little as possible about ancestors who possessed our vices without our
amenities, our ignorance without our science; who were bred, no matter
how, like flies by summer heat, out of that everlasting midden which men
call the world, to buzz and sting their foolish day, and leave behind
them a fresh race which knows them not, and could win no honour by owning
them, and which owes them no more than if it had been produced, as
midden-flies were said to be of old, by some spontaneous generation?

It is not probable that this writer will be likely to undervalue
political economy, or the steam-engine, or any other solid and practical
good which God has unveiled to this generation.  All that he does demand
(for he has a right to demand it) is that rational men should believe
that our forefathers were at least as good as we are; that whatsoever
their measure of light was, they acted up to what they knew as faithfully
as we do; and that, on the whole, it was not their fault if they did not
know more.  Even now the real discoveries of the age are made, as of old,
by a very few men; and, when made, have to struggle, as of old, against
all manner of superstitions, lazinesses, scepticisms.  Is the history of
the Minié rifle one so very complimentary to our age’s quickness of
perception that we can afford to throw many stones at the prejudices of
our ancestors?  The truth is that, as of old, ‘many men talk of Robin
Hood who never shot in his bow’; and many talk of Bacon who never
discovered a law by induction since they were born.  As far as our
experience goes, those who are loudest in their jubilations over the
wonderful progress of the age are those who have never helped that
progress forward one inch, but find it a great deal easier and more
profitable to use the results which humbler men have painfully worked out
as second-hand capital for hustings-speeches and railway books, and
flatter a mechanics’ institute of self-satisfied youths by telling them
that the least instructed of them is wiser than Erigena or Roger Bacon.
Let them be.  They have their reward.  And so also has the patient and
humble man of science, who, the more he knows, confesses the more how
little he knows, and looks back with affectionate reverence on the great
men of old time—on Archimedes and Ptolemy, Aristotle and Pliny, and many
another honourable man who, walking in great darkness, sought a ray of
light, and did not seek in vain,—as integral parts of that golden chain
of which he is but one link more; as scientific forefathers, without
whose aid his science could not have had a being.

Meanwhile, this general tone of irreverence for our forefathers is no
hopeful sign.  It is unwise to ‘inquire why the former times were better
than these’; to hang lazily and weakly over some eclectic dream of a past
golden age; for to do so is to deny that God is working in this age, as
well as in past ages; that His light is as near us now as it was to the
worthies of old time.

But it is more than unwise to boast and rejoice that the former times
were worse than these; and to teach young people to say in their hearts,
‘What clever fellows we are, compared with our stupid old fogies of
fathers!’  More than unwise; for possibly it may be false in fact.  To
look at the political and moral state of Europe at this moment,
Christendom can hardly afford to look down on any preceding century, and
seems to be in want of something which neither science nor constitutional
government seems able to supply.  Whether our forefathers also lacked
that something we will not inquire just now; but if they did, their want
of scientific and political knowledge was evidently not the cause of the
defect; or why is not Spain now infinitely better, instead of being
infinitely worse off, than she was three hundred years ago?

At home, too—But on the question whether we are so very much better off
than our forefathers Mr. Froude, not we, must speak: for he has
deliberately, in his new history, set himself to the solution of this
question, and we will not anticipate what he has to say; what we would
rather insist on now are the moral effects produced on our young people
by books which teach them to look with contempt on all generations but
their own, and with suspicion on all public characters save a few
contemporaries of their own especial party.

There is an ancient Hebrew book, which contains a singular story
concerning a grandson who was cursed because his father laughed at the
frailty of the grandfather.  Whether the reader shall regard that story
(as we do) as a literal fact recorded by inspired wisdom, as an instance
of one of the great root-laws of family life, and therefore of that
national life which (as the Hebrew book so cunningly shows) is the
organic development of the family life; or whether he shall treat it (as
we do not) as a mere apologue or myth, he must confess that it is equally
grand in its simplicity and singular in its unexpected result.  The words
of the story, taken literally and simply, no more justify the notion that
Canaan’s slavery was any magical consequence of the old patriarch’s anger
than they do the well-known theory that it was the cause of the Negro’s
blackness.  Ham shows a low, foul, irreverent, unnatural temper towards
his father.  The old man’s shame is not a cause of shame to his son, but
only of laughter.  Noah prophesies (in the fullest and deepest meaning of
that word) that a curse will come upon that son’s son; that he will be a
slave of slaves; and reason and experience show that he spoke truth.  Let
the young but see that their fathers have no reverence for the generation
before them, then will they in turn have no reverence for their fathers.
Let them be taught that the sins of their ancestors involve their own
honour so little that they need not take any trouble to clear the blot
off the scutcheon, but may safely sit down and laugh over it, saying,
‘Very likely it is true.  If so, it is very amusing; and if not—what
matter?’—Then those young people are being bred up in a habit of mind
which contains in itself all the capabilities of degradation and slavery,
in self-conceit, hasty assertion, disbelief in nobleness, and all the
other ‘credulities of scepticism’: parted from that past from which they
take their common origin, they are parted also from each other, and
become selfish, self-seeking, divided, and therefore weak: disbelieving
in the nobleness of those who have gone before them, they learn more and
more to disbelieve in the nobleness of those around them; and, by denying
God’s works of old, come, by a just and dreadful Nemesis, to be unable to
see his works in the men of their own day; to suspect and impugn valour,
righteousness, disinterestedness in their contemporaries; to attribute
low motives; to pride themselves on looking at men and things as ‘men who
know the world,’ so the young puppies style it; to be less and less
chivalrous to women, less and less respectful to old men, less and less
ashamed of boasting about their sensual appetites; in a word, to show all
those symptoms which, when fully developed, leave a generation without
fixed principles, without strong faith, without self-restraint, without
moral cohesion, the sensual and divided prey of any race, however
inferior in scientific knowledge, which has a clear and fixed notion of
its work and destiny.  That many of these signs are themselves more and
more ominously showing in our young men, from the fine gentleman who
rides in Rotten Row to the boy-mechanic who listens enraptured to Mr.
Holyoake’s exposures of the absurdity of all human things save Mr.
Holyoake’s self, is a fact which presses itself most on those who have
watched this age most carefully, and who (rightly or wrongly) attribute
much of this miserable temper to the way in which history has been
written among us for the last hundred years.

Whether or not Mr. Froude would agree with these notions, he is more or
less responsible for them; for they have been suggested by his ‘History
of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Death of Elizabeth.’  It was
impossible to read the book without feeling the contrast between its tone
and that of every other account of the times which one had ever seen.
Mr. Froude seems to have set to work upon the principle, too much ignored
in judging of the past, that the historian’s success must depend on his
dramatic faculty; and not merely on that constructive element of the
faculty in which Mr. Macaulay shows such astonishing power, but on that
higher and deeper critical element which ought to precede the
constructive process, and without which the constructive element will
merely enable a writer, as was once bitterly but truly said, ‘to produce
the greatest possible misrepresentation with the least possible
distortion of fact.’  That deeper dramatic faculty, the critical, is not
logical merely, but moral, and depends on the moral health, the wideness
and heartiness of his moral sympathies, by which he can put himself—as
Mr. Froude has attempted to do, and as we think successfully—into the
place of each and every character, and not merely feel for them, but feel
with them.  He does not merely describe their actions from the outside,
attributing them arbitrarily to motives which are pretty sure to be the
lowest possible, because it is easier to conceive a low motive than a
lofty one, and to call a man a villain than to unravel patiently the
tangled web of good and evil of which his thoughts are composed.  He has
attempted to conceive of his characters as he would if they had been his
own contemporaries and equals, acting, speaking in his company; and he
has therefore thought himself bound to act toward them by those rules of
charity and courtesy, common alike to Christian morals, English law, and
decent society; namely, to hold every man innocent till he is proved
guilty; where a doubt exists, to give the prisoner at the bar the benefit
of it; not to excite the minds of the public against him by those
insinuative or vituperative epithets, which are but adders and scorpions;
and, on the whole, to believe that a man’s death and burial is not the
least reason for ceasing to behave to him like a gentleman and a
Christian.  We are not inclined to play with solemn things, or to copy
Lucian and Quevedo in writing dialogues of the dead; but what dialogues
might some bold pen dash off between the old sons of Anak, at whose
coming Hades has long ago been moved, and to receive whom all the kings
of the nation have risen up, and the little scribblers who have fancied
themselves able to fathom and describe characters to whom they were but
pigmies!  Conceive a half-hour’s interview between Queen Elizabeth and
some popular lady-scribbler, who has been deluding herself into the fancy
that gossiping inventories of millinery are history . . . ‘You pretend to
judge me, whose labours, whose cares, whose fiery trials were, beside
yours, as the heaving volcano beside a boy’s firework?  You condemn my
weaknesses?  Know that they were stronger than your strength!  You impute
motives for my sins?  Know that till you are as great as I have been, for
evil and for good, you will be as little able to comprehend my sins as my
righteousness!  Poor marsh-croaker, who wishest not merely to swell up to
the bulk of the ox, but to embrace it in thy little paws, know thine own
size, and leave me to be judged by Him who made me!’ . . . How the poor
soul would shrink back into nothing before that lion eye which saw and
guided the destinies of the world, and all the flunkey-nature (if such a
vice exist beyond the grave) come out in utter abjectness, as if the ass
in the fable, on making his kick at the dead lion, had discovered to his
horror that the lion was alive and well—Spirit of Quevedo! finish for us
the picture which we cannot finish for ourselves.

In a very different spirit from such has Mr. Froude approached these
times.  Great and good deeds were done in them; and it has therefore
seemed probable to him that there were great and good men there to do
them.  Thoroughly awake to the fact that the Reformation was the new
birth of the British nation, it has seemed to him a puzzling theory which
attributes its success to the lust of a tyrant and the cupidity of his
courtiers.  It has evidently seemed to him paradoxical that a king who
was reputed to have been a satyr, instead of keeping as many concubines
as seemed good to him, should have chosen to gratify his passions by
entering six times into the strict bonds of matrimony, religiously
observing those bonds.  It has seemed to him even more paradoxical that
one reputed to have been the most sanguinary tyrant who ever disgraced
the English throne should have been not only endured, but loved and
regretted by a fierce and free-spoken people; and he, we suppose, could
comprehend as little as we can the reasoning of such a passage as the
following, especially when it proceeds from the pen of so wise and
venerable a writer as Mr. Hallam.

‘A government administered with so frequent violations, not only of the
chartered privileges of Englishmen, but of those still more sacred rights
which natural law has established, must have been regarded, one would
imagine, with just abhorrence and earnest longings for a change.  Yet
contemporary authorities by no means answer this expectation.  Some
mention Henry after his death in language of eulogy;’ (not only
Elizabeth, be it remembered, but Cromwell also, always spoke of him with
deepest respect; and their language always found an echo in the English
heart;) ‘and if we except those whom attachment to the ancient religion
had inspired with hatred to his memory, few seem to have been aware that
his name would descend to posterity among those of the many tyrants and
oppressors of innocence whom the wrath of Heaven has raised up, and the
servility of man endured.’

The names of even those few we should be glad to have; for it seems to us
that, with the exception of a few ultra-Protestants, who could not
forgive that persecution of the Reformers which he certainly permitted,
if not encouraged, during one period of his reign, no one adopted the
modern view of his character till more than a hundred years after his
death, when belief in all nobleness and faith had died out among an
ignoble and faithless generation, and the scandalous gossip of such a
light rogue as Osborne was taken into the place of honest and respectful

To clear up such seeming paradoxes as these by carefully examining the
facts of the sixteenth century has been Mr. Froude’s work; and we have
the results of his labour in two volumes, embracing only a period of
eleven years; but giving promise that the mysteries of the succeeding
time will be well cleared up for us in future volumes, and that we shall
find our forefathers to have been, if no better, at least no worse men
than ourselves.  He has brought to the task known talents and learning, a
mastery over English prose almost unequalled in this generation, a spirit
of most patient and good-tempered research, and that intimate knowledge
of human motives and passions which his former books have shown, and
which we have a right to expect from any scholar who has really profited
by Aristotle’s unrivalled Ethics.  He has fairly examined every
contemporary document within his reach, and, as he informs us in the
preface, he has been enabled, through the kindness of Sir Francis
Palgrave, to consult a great number of MSS. relating to the Reformation,
hitherto all but unknown to the public, and referred to in his work as
MSS. in the Rolls’ House, where the originals are easily accessible.
These, he states, he intends to publish, with additions from his own
reading, as soon as he has brought his history down to the end of Henry
the Eighth’s reign.

But Mr. Froude’s chief text-book seems to have been State Papers and Acts
of Parliament.  He has begun his work in the only temper in which a man
can write accurately and well; in a temper of trust toward the generation
whom he describes.  The only temper; for if a man has no affection for
the characters of whom he reads, he will never understand them; if he has
no respect for his subject, he will never take the trouble to exhaust it.
To such an author the Statutes at large, as the deliberate expression of
the nation’s will and conscience, will appear the most important of all
sources of information; the first to be consulted, the last to be
contradicted; the Canon which is not to be checked and corrected by
private letters and flying pamphlets, but which is to check and correct
them.  This seems Mr. Froude’s theory; and we are at no pains to confess
that if he be wrong we see no hope of arriving at truth.  If these public
documents are not to be admitted in evidence before all others, we see no
hope for the faithful and earnest historian; he must give himself up to
swim as he may on the frothy stream of private letters, anecdotes, and
pamphlets, the puppet of the ignorance, credulity, peevishness, spite, of
any and every gossip and scribbler.

Beginning his history with the fall of Wolsey, Mr. Froude enters, of
course, at his first step into the vexed question of Henry’s divorce: an
introductory chapter, on the general state of England, we shall notice

A very short inspection of the method in which he handles the divorce
question gives us at once confidence in his temper and judgment, and hope
that we may at last come to some clearer understanding of it than the old
law gives us, which we have already quoted, concerning the dog who went
mad to serve his private ends.  In a few masterly pages he sketches for
us the rotting and dying Church, which had recovered her power after the
Wars of the Roses over an exhausted nation; but in form only, not in
life.  Wolsey, with whom he has fair and understanding sympathy, he
sketches as the transition minister, ‘loving England well, but loving
Rome better,’ who intends a reform of the Church, but who, as the Pope’s
commissioner for that very purpose, is liable to a _præmunire_, and
therefore dare not appeal to Parliament to carry out his designs, even if
he could have counted on the Parliament’s assistance in any measures
designed to invigorate the Church.  At last arises in the divorce
question the accident which brings to an issue on its most vital point
the question of Papal power in England, and which finally draws down ruin
upon Wolsey himself.

This appears to have begun in the winter of 1526–27.  It was proposed to
marry the Princess Mary to a son of the French king.  The Bishop of
Tarbés, who conducted the negotiations, advised himself, apparently by
special instigation of the evil spirit, to raise a question as to her

No more ingenious plan for convulsing England could have been devised.
The marriage from which Mary sprang only stood on a reluctant and
doubtful dispensation of the Pope’s.  Henry had entered into it at the
entreaty of his ministers, contrary to a solemn promise given to his
father, and in spite of the remonstrances of the Archbishop of
Canterbury.  No blessing seemed to have rested on it.  All his children
had died young, save this one sickly girl: a sure note of divine
displeasure in the eyes of that coarse-minded Church which has always
declared the chief, if not the only, purpose of marriage to be the
procreation of children.

But more: to question Mary’s legitimacy was to throw open the question of
succession to half a dozen ambitious competitors.  It was, too probably,
to involve England at Henry’s death in another civil war of the Roses,
and in all the internecine horrors which were still rankling in the
memories of men; and probably, also, to bring down a French or Scotch
invasion.  There was then too good reason, as Mr. Froude shows at length,
for Wolsey’s assertion to John Cassalis—‘If his Holiness, which God
forbid, shall show himself unwilling to listen to the King’s demands, to
me assuredly it will be but grief to live longer, for the innumerable
evils which I foresee will follow . . . Nothing before us but universal
and inevitable ruin.’  Too good reason there was for the confession of
the Pope himself to Gardner, ‘What danger it was to the realm to have
this thing hang in suspense . . . That without an heir-male, etc., the
realm was like to come to dissolution.’  Too good reason for the bold
assertion of the Cardinal-Governor of Bologna, that ‘he knew the guise of
England as few men did, and that if the King should die without
heirs-male, he was sure that it would cost two hundred thousand men’s
lives; and that to avoid this mischief by a second marriage, he thought,
would deserve heaven.’  Too good reason for the assertion of Hall, that
‘all indifferent and discreet persons judged it necessary for the Pope to
grant Henry a divorce, and, by enabling him to marry again, give him the
hope of an undisputed heir-male.’  The Pope had full power to do this; in
fact, such cases had been for centuries integral parts of his
jurisdiction as head of Christendom.  But he was at once too timid and
too time-serving to exercise his acknowledged authority; and thus, just
at the very moment when his spiritual power was being tried in the
balance, he chose himself to expose his political power to the same test.
Both were equally found wanting.  He had, it appeared, as little heart to
do justice among kings and princes as he had to seek and to save the
souls of men; and the Reformation followed as a matter of course.

Through the tangled brakes of this divorce question Mr. Froude leads us
with ease and grace, throwing light, and even beauty, into dark nooks
where before all was mist, not merely by his intimate acquaintance with
the facts, but still more by his deep knowledge of human character, and
of woman’s even more than of man’s.  For the first time the actors in
this long tragedy appear to us as no mere bodiless and soulless names,
but as beings of like passions with ourselves, comprehensible, coherent,
organic, even in their inconsistencies.  Catherine of Arragon is still
the Catherine of Shakspeare; but Mr. Froude has given us the key to many
parts of her story which Shakspeare left unexplained, and delicately
enough has made us understand how Henry’s affections, if he ever had any
for her—faithfully as he had kept (with one exception) to that loveless
_mariage de convenance_—may have been gradually replaced by indifference
and even dislike, long before the divorce was forced on him as a question
not only of duty to the nation, but of duty to Heaven.  And that he did
see it in this latter light, Mr. Froude brings proof from his own words,
from which we can escape only by believing that the confessedly honest
‘Bluff King Hal’ had suddenly become a consummate liar and a canting

Delicately, too, as if speaking of a lady whom he had met in modern
society (as a gentleman is bound to do), does Mr. Froude touch on the
sins of that hapless woman, who played for Henry’s crown, and paid for it
with her life.  With all mercy and courtesy he gives us proof (for he
thinks it his duty to do so) of the French mis-education, the petty
cunning, the tendency to sensuality, the wilful indelicacy of her
position in Henry’s household as the rival of his queen, which made her
last catastrophe at least possible.  Of the justice of her sentence he
has no doubt, any more than of her pre-engagement to some one, as proved
by a letter existing among Cromwell’s papers.  Poor thing!  If she did
that which was laid to her charge, and more, she did nothing, after all,
but what she had been in the habit of seeing the queens and princesses of
the French court do notoriously, and laugh over shamelessly; while, as
Mr. Froude well says, ‘If we are to hold her entirely free from guilt, we
place not only the King, but the Privy Council, the Judges, the Lords and
Commons, and the two Houses of Convocation, in a position fatal to their
honour and degrading to ordinary humanity’ (Mr. Froude should have added
Anne Boleyn’s own uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, and her father, who were on
the commission appointed to try her lovers, and her cousin, Anthony St.
Leger, a man of the very highest character and ability, who was on the
jury which found a true bill against her).  ‘We can not,’ continues Mr.
Froude, ‘acquiesce without inquiry in so painful a conclusion.  The
English nation also, as well as she, deserves justice at our hands; and
it cannot be thought uncharitable if we look with some scrutiny at the
career of a person who, but for the catastrophe with which it closed,
would not have so readily obtained forgiveness for having admitted the
addresses of the King, or for having received the homage of the court as
its future sovereign, while the King’s wife, her mistress, as yet resided
under the same roof.’  Mr. Froude’s conclusion is, after examining the
facts, the same with the whole nation of England in Henry’s reign: but no
one can accuse him of want of sympathy with the unhappy woman, who reads
the eloquent and affecting account of her trial and death, which ends his
second volume.  Our only fear is, that by having thus told the truth he
has, instead of justifying our ancestors, only added one more to the list
of people who are to be ‘given up’ with a cynical shrug and smile.  We
have heard already, and among young ladies too, who can be as cynical as
other people in these times, such speeches as, ‘Well, I suppose he has
proved Anne Boleyn to be a bad creature; but that does not make that
horrid Henry any more right in cutting off her head.’  Thus two people
will be despised where only one was before, and the fact still ignored,
that it is just as senseless to say that Henry cut off Anne Boleyn’s head
as that Queen Victoria hanged Palmer.  Death, and death of a far more
horrible kind than that which Anne Boleyn suffered, was the established
penalty of the offences of which she was convicted: and which had in her
case this fearful aggravation, that they were offences not against Henry
merely, but against the whole English nation.  She had been married in
order that there might be an undisputed heir to the throne, and a fearful
war avoided.  To throw into dispute, by any conduct of hers, the
legitimacy of her own offspring, argued a levity or a hard-heartedness
which of itself deserved the severest punishment.

We will pass from this disagreeable topic to Mr. Froude’s lifelike sketch
of Pope Clement, and the endless tracasseries into which his mingled
weakness and cunning led him, and which, like most crooked dealings,
ended by defeating their own object.  Pages 125 _et sqq._ of Vol. I.
contain sketches of him, his thoughts and ways, as amusing as they are
historically important; but we have no space to quote from them.  It will
be well for those to whom the Reformation is still a matter of
astonishment to read those pages, and consider what manner of man he was,
in spite of all pretended divine authority, under whose rule the Romish
system received its irrecoverable wound.

But of all these figures, not excepting Henry’s own, Wolsey stands out as
the most grand and tragical; and Mr. Froude has done good service to
history, if only in making us understand at last the wondrous ‘butcher’s
son.’  Shakspeare seems to have felt (though he could explain the reason
neither to his auditors nor, perhaps, to himself) that Wolsey was, on the
whole, an heroical man.  Mr. Froude shows at once his strength and his
weakness; his deep sense of the rottenness of the Church; his purpose to
purge her from those abominations which were as well known, it seems, to
him as they were afterwards to the whole people of England; his vast
schemes for education; his still vaster schemes for breaking the alliance
with Spain, and uniting France and England as fellow-servants of the
Pope, and twin-pillars of the sacred fabric of the Church, which helped
so much toward his interest in Catherine’s divorce, as a ‘means’ (these
are his own words) ‘to bind my most excellent sovereign and this glorious
realm to the holy Roman See in faith and obedience for ever’; his hopes
of deposing the Emperor, putting down the German heresies, and driving
back the Turks beyond the pale of Christendom; his pathetic confession to
the Bishop of Bayonne that ‘if he could only see the divorce arranged,
the King re-married, the succession settled, and the laws and the Church
reformed, he would retire from the world, and would serve God the
remainder of his days.’

Peace be with him!  He was surely a noble soul; misled, it may be—as who
is not when his turn comes?—by the pride of conscious power; and ‘though
he loved England well, yet loving Rome better’: but still it is a comfort
to see, either in past or in present, one more brother whom we need not
despise, even though he may have wasted his energies on a dream.

And on a dream he did waste them, in spite of all his cunning.  As Mr.
Froude, in a noble passage, says:—

    ‘Extravagant as his hopes seem, the prospect of realising them was,
    humanly speaking, neither chimerical nor even improbable.  He had but
    made the common mistake of men of the world, who are the
    representatives of an old order of things, when that order is doomed
    and dying.  He could not read the signs of the times; and confounding
    the barrenness of death with the barrenness of winter, which might be
    followed by a new spring and summer, he believed that the old
    life-tree of Catholicism, which in fact was but cumbering the ground,
    might bloom again in its old beauty.  The thing which he called
    heresy was the fire of Almighty God, which no politic congregation of
    princes, no state machinery, though it were never so active, could
    trample out; and as, in the early years of Christianity, the meanest
    slave who was thrown to the wild beasts for his presence at the
    forbidden mysteries of the Gospel saw deeper, in the divine power of
    his faith, into the future even of this earthly world, than the
    sagest of his imperial persecutors,—so a truer political prophet than
    Wolsey would have been found in the most ignorant of those poor men
    for whom his police were searching in the purlieus of London, who
    were risking death and torture in disseminating the pernicious
    volumes of the English Testament.’

It will be seen from this magnificent passage that Mr. Froude is
distinctly a Protestant.  He is one, to judge from his book; and all the
better one, because he can sympathise with whatsoever nobleness, even
with whatsoever mere conservatism, existed in the Catholic party.  And
therefore, because he has sympathies which are not merely party ones, but
human ones, he has given the world, in these two volumes, a history of
the early Reformation altogether unequalled.  This human sympathy, while
it has enabled him to embalm in most affecting prose the sad story of the
noble though mistaken Carthusians, and to make even the Nun of Kent
interesting, because truly womanly, in her very folly and deceit, has
enabled him likewise to show us the hearts of the early martyrs as they
never have been shown before.  His sketch of the Christian Brothers, and
his little true romance of Anthony Dalaber, the Oxford student, are gems
of writing; while his conception of Latimer, on whom he looks as the hero
of the movement, and all but an English Luther, is as worthy of Latimer
as it is of himself.  It is written as history should be,
discriminatingly, patiently, and yet lovingly and genially; rejoicing not
in evil, but in the truth; and rejoicing still more in goodness, where
goodness can honestly be found.

To the ecclesiastical and political elements in the English Reformation
Mr. Froude devotes a large portion of his book.  We shall not enter into
the questions which he discusses therein.  That aspect of the movement is
a foreign and a delicate subject, from discussing which a Scotch
periodical may be excused. {246}  North Britain had a somewhat different
problem to solve from her southern sister, and solved it in an altogether
different way: but this we must say, that the facts and, still more, the
State Papers (especially the petition of the Commons, as contrasted with
the utterly benighted answer of the Bishops) which Mr. Froude gives are
such as to raise our opinion of the method on which the English part of
the Reformation was conducted, and make us believe that in this, as in
other matters, both Henry and his Parliament, though still doctrinal
Romanists, were sound-headed practical Englishmen.

This result is of the same kind as most of those at which Mr. Froude
arrives.  They form altogether a general justification of our ancestors
in Henry the Eighth’s time, if not of Henry the Eighth himself, which
frees Mr. Froude from that charge of irreverence to the past generations
against which we protested in the beginning of the article.  We hope
honestly that he may be as successful in his next volumes as he has been
in these, in vindicating the worthies of the sixteenth century.  Whether
he shall fail or not, and whether or not he has altogether succeeded, in
the volumes before us, his book marks a new epoch, and, we trust, a
healthier and loftier one, in English history.  We trust that they
inaugurate a time in which the deeds of our forefathers shall be looked
on as sacred heirlooms; their sins as our shame, their victories as
bequests to us; when men shall have sufficient confidence in those to
whom they owe their existence to scrutinise faithfully and patiently
every fact concerning them, with a proud trust that, search as they may,
they will not find much of which to be ashamed.

Lastly, Mr. Froude takes a view of Henry’s character, not, indeed, new
(for it is the original one), but obsolete for now two hundred years.
Let it be well understood that he makes no attempt (he has been accused
thereof) to whitewash Henry: all that he does is to remove as far as he
can the modern layers of ‘black-wash,’ and to let the man himself, fair
or foul, be seen.  For the result he is not responsible: it depends on
facts; and unless Mr. Froude has knowingly concealed facts to an amount
of which even a Lingard might be ashamed, the result is that Henry the
Eighth was actually very much the man which he appeared to be to the
English nation in his own generation, and for two or three generations
after his death—a result which need not astonish us, if we will only give
our ancestors credit for having at least as much common sense as
ourselves, and believe (why should we not?) that, on the whole, they
understood their own business better than we are likely to do.

‘The bloated tyrant,’ it is confessed, contrived somehow or other to be
popular enough.  Mr. Froude tells us the reasons.  He was not born a
bloated tyrant, any more than Queen Elizabeth (though the fact is not
generally known) was born a wizened old woman.  He was from youth, till
he was long past his grand climacteric, a very handsome, powerful, and
active man, temperate in his habits, good-humoured, frank and honest in
his speech (as even his enemies are forced to confess).  He seems to have
been (as his portraits prove sufficiently), for good and for evil, a
thorough John Bull; a thorough Englishman: but one of the very highest

    ‘Had he died (says Mr. Froude) previous to the first agitation of the
    divorce, his loss would have been deplored as one of the heaviest
    misfortunes which had ever befallen this country, and he would have
    left a name which would have taken its place in history by the side
    of the Black Prince or the Conqueror of Agincourt.  Left at the most
    trying age, with his character unformed, with the means of gratifying
    every inclination, and married by his ministers, when a boy, to an
    unattractive woman far his senior, he had lived for thirty-six years
    almost without blame, and bore through England the reputation of an
    upright and virtuous king.  Nature had been prodigal to him of her
    rarest gifts . . . Of his intellectual ability we are not left to
    judge from the suspicious panegyrics of his contemporaries.  His
    State Papers and letters may be placed by the side of those of Wolsey
    or of Cromwell, and they lose nothing by the comparison.  Though they
    are broadly different, the perception is equally clear, the
    expression equally powerful; and they breathe throughout an
    irresistible vigour of purpose.  In addition to this, he had a fine
    musical taste, carefully cultivated; he spoke and wrote in four
    languages; and his knowledge of a multitude of subjects, with which
    his versatile ability made him conversant, would have formed the
    reputation of any ordinary man.  He was among the best physicians of
    his age.  He was his own engineer, inventing improvements in
    artillery and new constructions in shipbuilding; and this not with
    the condescending incapacity of a royal amateur, but with thorough
    workmanlike understanding.  His reading was vast, especially in
    theology.  He was ‘attentive,’ as it is called, ‘to his religious
    duties,’ being present at the services in chapel two or three times a
    day with unfailing regularity, and showing, to outward appearance, a
    real sense of religious obligation in the energy and purity of his
    life.  In private he was good-humoured and good-natured.  His letters
    to his secretaries, though never undignified, are simple, easy, and
    unrestrained, and the letters written by them to him are similarly
    plain and business-like, as if the writers knew that the person whom
    they were addressing disliked compliments, and chose to be treated as
    a man.  He seems to have been always kind, always considerate;
    inquiring into their private concerns with genuine interest, and
    winning, as a consequence, their sincere and unaffected attachment.
    As a ruler he had been eminently popular.  All his wars had been
    successful.  He had the splendid tastes in which the English people
    most delighted; . . . he had more than once been tried with
    insurrection, which he had soothed down without bloodshed, and
    extinguished in forgiveness . . . And it is certain that if he had
    died before the divorce was mooted, Henry VIII., like the Roman
    emperor said by Tacitus to have been _censensu omnium dignus imperii
    nisi imperasset_, would have been considered by posterity as formed
    by Providence for the conduct of the Reformation, and his loss would
    have been deplored as a perpetual calamity.’

Mr. Froude has, of course, not written these words without having facts
whereby to prove them.  One he gives in an important note containing an
extract from a letter of the Venetian Ambassador in 1515.  At least, if
his conclusions be correct, we must think twice ere we deny his assertion
that ‘the man best able of all living Englishmen to govern England had
been set to do it by the conditions of his birth.’

‘We are bound,’ as Mr. Froude says, ‘to allow him the benefit of his past
career, and be careful to remember it in interpreting his later actions.’
‘The true defect in his moral constitution, that “intense and imperious
will” common to all princes of the Plantagenet blood, had not yet been
tested.’  That he did, in his later years, act in many ways neither
wisely nor well, no one denies; that his conduct did not alienate the
hearts of his subjects is what needs explanation; and Mr. Froude’s
opinions on this matter, novel as they are, and utterly opposed to that
of the standard modern historians, require careful examination.  Now I am
not inclined to debate Henry the Eighth’s character, or any other
subject, as between Mr. Froude and an author of the obscurantist or
pseudo-conservative school.  Mr. Froude is Liberal; and so am I.  I wish
to look at the question as between Mr. Froude and other Liberals; and
therefore, of course, first, as between Mr. Froude and Mr. Hallam.

Mr. Hallam’s name is so venerable and his work so Important, that to set
ourselves up as judges in this or in any matter between him and Mr.
Froude would be mere impertinence: but speaking merely as learners, we
have surely a right to inquire why Mr. Hallam has entered on the whole
question of Henry’s relations to his Parliament with a _præjudicium_
against them; for which Mr. Froude finds no ground whatsoever in fact.
Why are all acts both of Henry and his Parliament to be taken _in malam
partem_?  They were not Whigs, certainly: neither were Socrates and
Plato, nor even St. Paul and St. John.  They may have been honest men as
men go, or they may not: but why is there to be a feeling against them
rather than for them?  Why is Henry always called a tyrant, and his
Parliament servile?  The epithets have become so common and unquestioned
that our interrogation may seem startling.  Still we make it.  Why was
Henry a tyrant?  That may be true, but must be proved by facts.  Where
are they?  Is the mere fact of a monarch’s asking for money a crime in
him and his ministers?  The question would rather seem to be, Were the
moneys for which Henry asked needed or no; and, when granted, were they
rightly or wrongly applied?  And on these subjects we want much more
information than we obtain from any epithets.  The author of a
constitutional history should rise above epithets: or, if he uses them,
should corroborate them by facts.  Why should not historians be as fair
and as cautious in accusing Henry and Wolsey as they would be in accusing
Queen Victoria and Lord Palmerston?  What right, allow us to ask, has a
grave constitutional historian to say that ‘We cannot, indeed, doubt that
the unshackled and despotic condition of his friend, Francis I., afforded
a mortifying contrast to Henry?  What document exists in which Henry is
represented as regretting that he is the king of a free people?—for such
Mr. Hallam confesses, just above, England was held to be, and was
actually in comparison with France.  If the document does not exist, Mr.
Hallam has surely stepped out of the field of the historian into that of
the novelist, _à la_ Scott or Dumas.  The Parliament sometimes grants
Henry’s demands: sometimes it refuses them, and he has to help himself by
other means.  Why are both cases to be interpreted _in malam partem_?
Why is the Parliament’s granting to be always a proof of its
servility?—its refusing always a proof of Henry’s tyranny and rapacity?
Both views are mere _præjudicia_, reasonable perhaps, and possible: but
why is not a _præjudicium_ of the opposite kind as rational and as
possible?  Why has not a historian a right to start, as Mr. Froude does,
by taking for granted that both parties may have been on the whole right;
that the Parliament granted certain sums because Henry was right in
asking for them; refused others because Henry was wrong; even that, in
some cases, Henry may have been right in asking, the Parliament wrong in
refusing; and that in such a case, under the pressure of critical times,
Henry was forced to get as he could the money which he saw that the
national cause required?  Let it be as folks will.  Let Henry be
sometimes right, and the Parliament sometimes likewise; or the Parliament
always right, or Henry always right; or anything else, save this strange
diseased theory that both must have been always wrong, and that, evidence
to that effect failing, motives must be insinuated, or openly asserted,
from the writer’s mere imagination.  This may be a dream: but it is as
easy to imagine as the other, and more pleasant also.  It will probably
be answered (though not by Mr. Hallam himself) by a sneer: ‘You do not
seem to know much of the world, sir.’  But so would Figaro and Gil Blas
have said, and on exactly the same grounds.

Let us examine a stock instance of Henry’s ‘rapacity’ and his
Parliament’s servility, namely, the exactions in 1524 and 1525, and the
subsequent ‘release of the King’s debts.’  What are the facts of the
case?  France and Scotland had attacked England in 1514.  The Scotch were
beaten at Flodden.  The French lost Tournay and Thérouenne, and, when
peace was made, agreed to pay the expenses of the war.  Times changed,
and the expenses were not paid.

A similar war arose in 1524, and cost England immense sums.  A large army
was maintained on the Scotch Border, another army invaded France; and
Wolsey, not venturing to call a Parliament,—because he was, as Pope’s
legate, liable to a _præmunire_,—raised money by contributions and
benevolences, which were levied, it seems on the whole, uniformly and
equally (save that they weighed more heavily on the rich than on the
poor, if that be a fault), and differed from taxes only in not having
received the consent of Parliament.  Doubtless, this was not the best way
of raising money: but what if, under the circumstances, it were the only
one?  What if, too, on the whole, the money so raised was really given
willingly by the nation?  The sequel alone could decide that.

The first contribution for which Wolsey asked was paid.  The second was
resisted, and was not paid; proving thereby that the nation need not pay
unless it chose.  The court gave way; and the war became defensive only
till 1525.

Then the tide turned.  The danger, then, was not from Francis, but from
the Emperor.  Francis was taken prisoner at Pavia; and shortly after Rome
was sacked by Bourbon.

The effect of all this in England is told at large in Mr. Froude’s second
chapter.  Henry became bond for Francis’s ransom, to be paid to the
Emperor.  He spent 500,000 crowns more in paying the French army; and in
the terms of peace made with France, a sum-total was agreed on for the
whole debt, old and new, to be paid as soon as possible; and an annual
pension of 500,000 crowns besides.  The French exchequer, however, still
remained bankrupt, and again the money was not paid.

Parliament, when it met in 1529, reviewed the circumstances of the
expenditure, and finding it all such as the nation on the whole approved,
legalised the taxation by benevolences retrospectively: and this is the
whole mare’s nest of the first payment of Henry’s debts; if, at least,
any faith is to be put in the preamble of the Act for the release of the
King’s Debts, 21 Hen. VIII. c. 24.  ‘The King’s loving subjects, the
Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament
assembled, calling to remembrance the inestimable costs, charges, and
expenses which the King’s Highness hath necessarily been compelled to
support and sustain since his assumption to his crown, estate, and
dignity royal, as well for the extinction of a right dangerous and
damnable schism, sprung in the Church, as for the modifying the
insatiable and inordinate ambition of them who, while aspiring to the
monarchy of Christendom, did put universal troubles and divisions in the
same, intending, if they might, not only to have subdued this realm, but
also all the rest, unto their power and subjection—for resistance whereof
the King’s Highness was compelled to marvellous charges—both for the
supportation of sundry armies by sea and land, and also for divers and
manifold contribution on hand, to save and keep his own subjects at home
in rest and repose—which hath been so politically handled that, when the
most part of all Christian lands have been infested with cruel wars, the
great Head and Prince of the world (the Pope) brought into captivity,
cities and towns taken, spoiled, burnt, and sacked—the King’s said
subjects in all this time, by the high providence and politic means of
his Grace, have been nevertheless preserved, defended, and maintained
from all these inconvenients, etc.

‘Considering, furthermore, that his Highness, in and about the premises,
hath been fain to employ not only all such sums of money as hath risen or
grown by contributions made unto his Grace by his loving subjects—but
also, over and above the same, sundry other notable and excellent sums of
his own treasure and yearly revenues, among which manifold great sums so
employed, his Highness also, as is notoriously known, and as doth
evidently appear by the ACCOUNTS OF THE SAME, hath to that use, and none
other, converted all such money as by any of his subjects hath been
advanced to his Grace by way of prest or loan, either particularly, or by
any taxation made of the same—being things so well collocate and
bestowed, seeing the said high and great fruits and effects thereof
insured to the surety and commodity and tranquillity of this realm—of our
mind and consent, do freely, absolutely, give and grant to the King’s
Highness all and every sum or sums of money,’ etc.

The second release of the King’s debts, in 1544, is very similar.  The
King’s debts and necessities were really, when we come to examine them,
those of the nation: in 1538–40 England was put into a thorough state of
defence from end to end.  Fortresses were built along the Scottish
Border, and all along the coast opposite France and Flanders.  The people
were drilled and armed, the fleet equipped; and the nation, for the time,
became one great army.  And nothing but this, as may be proved by an
overwhelming mass of evidence, saved the country from invasion.  Here
were enormous necessary expenses which must be met.

In 1543 a million crowns were to have been paid by Francis the First as
part of his old debt.  It was not paid: but, on the contrary, Henry had
to go to war for it.  The nation again relinquished their claim, and
allowed Henry to raise another benevolence in 1545, concerning which Mr.
Hallam tells us a great deal, but not one word of the political
circumstances which led to it or to the release, keeping his sympathies
and his paper for the sorrows of refractory Alderman Reed, who, refusing
(alone of all the citizens) to contribute to the support of troops on the
Scotch Border or elsewhere, was sent down, by a sort of rough justice, to
serve on the Scotch Border himself, and judge of the ‘perils of the
nation’ with his own eyes; and being—one is pleased to hear—taken
prisoner by the Scots, had to pay a great deal more as ransom than he
would have paid as benevolence.

But to return.  What proof is there, in all this, of that servility which
most historians, and Mr. Hallam among the rest, are wont to attribute to
Henry’s Parliaments?  What feeling appears on the face of this document,
which we have given and quoted, but one honourable to the nation?
Through the falsehood of a foreign nation the King is unable to perform
his engagements to the people.  Is not the just and generous course in
such a case to release him from those engagements?  Does this preamble,
does a single fact of the case, justify historians in talking of these
‘king’s debts’ in just the same tone as that in which they would have
spoken if the King had squandered the money on private pleasures?
Perhaps most people who write small histories believe that this really
was the case.  They certainly would gather no other impression from the
pages of Mr. Hallam.  No doubt the act must have been burdensome on some
people.  Many, we are told, had bequeathed their promissory notes to
their children, used their reversionary interest in the loan in many
ways; and these, of course, felt the change very heavily.  No doubt: but
why have we not a right to suppose that the Parliament were aware of that
fact; but chose it as the less of the two evils?  The King had spent the
money; he was unable to recover it from Francis; could only refund it by
raising some fresh tax or benevolence: and why may not the Parliament
have considered the release of old taxes likely to offend fewer people
than the imposition of new ones?  It is certainly an ugly thing to break
public faith; but to prove that public faith was broken, we must prove
that Henry compelled the Parliament to release him; if the act was of
their own free will, no public faith was broken, for they were the
representatives of the nation, and through them the nation forgave its
own debt.  And what evidence have we that they did not represent the
nation, and that, on the whole, we must suppose, as we should in the case
of any other men, that they best knew their own business?  May we not
apply to this case, and to others, _mutatis mutandis_, the argument which
Mr. Froude uses so boldly and well in the case of Anne Boleyn’s
trial—‘The English nation also, as well as . . . deserves justice at our

Certainly it does: but it is a disagreeable token of the method on which
we have been accustomed to write the history of our own forefathers, that
Mr. Froude should find it necessary to state formally so very simple a

What proof, we ask again, is there that this old Parliament was
‘servile’?  Had that been so, Wolsey would not have been afraid to summon
it.  The specific reason for not summoning a Parliament for six years
after that of 1524 was that they were not servile; that when (here we are
quoting Mr. Hallam, and not Mr. Froude) Wolsey entered the House of
Commons with a great train, seemingly for the purpose of intimidation,
they ‘made no other answer to his harangues than that it was their usage
to debate only among themselves.’  The debates on this occasion lasted
fifteen or sixteen days, during which, says an eye-witness, ‘there has
been the greatest and sorest hold in the Lower House,’ ‘the matter
debated and beaten’; ‘such hold that the House was like to have been
dissevered’; in a word, hard fighting—and why not honest
fighting?—between the court party and the Opposition, ‘which ended,’ says
Mr. Hallam, ‘in the court party obtaining, with the utmost difficulty, a
grant much inferior to the Cardinal’s original requisition.’  What token
of servility is here?

And is it reasonable to suppose that after Wolsey was conquered, and a
comparatively popular ministry had succeeded, and that memorable
Parliament of 1529 (which Mr. Froude, not unjustly, thinks more memorable
than the Long Parliament itself) began its great work with a high hand,
backed not merely by the King, but by the public opinion of the majority
of England, their decisions are likely to have been more servile than
before?  If they resisted the King when they disagreed with him, are they
to be accused of servility because they worked with him when they agreed
with him?  Is an Opposition always in the right; a ministerial party
always in the wrong?  Is it an offence against the people to agree with
the monarch, even when he agrees with the people himself?  Simple as
these questions are, one must really stop to ask them.

No doubt pains were often taken to secure elections favourable to the
Government.  Are none taken now?  Are not more taken now?  Will any
historian show us the documents which prove the existence, in the
sixteenth century, of Reform Club, Carlton Club, whippers-in and
nominees, governmental and opposition, and all the rest of the beautiful
machinery which protects our Reformed Parliament from the evil influences
of bribery and corruption?  Pah!—We have somewhat too much glass in our
modern House to afford to throw stones at our forefathers’ old St.
Stephen’s.  At the worst, what was done then but that without which it is
said to be impossible to carry on a Government now?  Take an instance
from the Parliament of 1539, one in which there is no doubt Government
influence was used in order to prevent as much as possible the return of
members favourable to the clergy—for the good reason that the clergy were
no doubt, on their own side, intimidating voters by all those terrors of
the unseen world which had so long been to them a source of boundless
profit and power.

Cromwell writes to the King to say that he has secured a seat for a
certain Sir Richard Morrison; but for what purpose?  As one who no doubt
‘should be ready to answer and take up such as should crack or face with
literature of learning, if any such should be.’  There was, then, free
discussion; they expected clever and learned speakers in the Opposition,
and on subjects of the deepest import, not merely political, but
spiritual; and the Government needed men to answer such.  What more
natural than that so close on the ‘Pilgrimage of Grace,’ and in the midst
of so great dangers at home and abroad, the Government should have done
their best to secure a well-disposed House (one would like to know when
they would not)?  But surely the very effort (confessedly exceptional)
and the acknowledged difficulty prove that Parliament were no mere
‘registrars of edicts.’

But the strongest argument against the tyranny of the Tudors, and
especially of Henry VIII. in his ‘benevolences,’ is derived from the
state of the people themselves.  If these benevolences had been really
unpopular, they would not have been paid.  In one case we have seen, a
benevolence was not paid for that very reason.  For the method of the
Tudor sovereigns, like that of their predecessors, was the very opposite
to that of tyrants in every age and country.  The first act of a tyrant
has always been to disarm the people, and to surround himself with a
standing army.  The Tudor method was, as Mr. Froude shows us by many
interesting facts, to keep the people armed and drilled, even to compel
them to learn the use of weapons.  Throughout England spread one vast
military organisation, which made every adult a soldier, and enabled him
to find, at a day’s notice, his commanding officer, whether landlord,
sheriff, or lieutenant of the county; so that, as a foreign ambassador of
the time remarks with astonishment (we quote from memory), ‘England is
the strongest nation on earth, for though the King has not a single
mercenary soldier, he can raise in three days an army of two hundred
thousand men.’

And of what temper those men were it is well known enough.  Mr. Froude
calls them—and we beg leave to endorse, without exception, Mr. Froude’s
opinion—‘A sturdy high-hearted race, sound in body and fierce in spirit,
and furnished with thews and sinews which, under the stimulus of those
“great shins of beef,” their common diet, were the wonder of the age.’
‘What comyn folke in all this world,’ says a State Paper in 1515, ‘may
compare with the comyns of England in riches, freedom, liberty, welfare,
and all prosperity?  What comyn folk is so mighty, so strong in the
felde, as the comyns of England?’  In authentic stories of actions under
Henry VIII.—and, we will add, under Elizabeth likewise—where the accuracy
of the account is undeniable, no disparity of force made Englishmen
shrink from enemies whenever they could meet them.  Again and again a few
thousands of them carried dismay into the heart of France.  Four hundred
adventurers, vagabond apprentices of London, who formed a volunteer corps
in the Calais garrison, were for years, Hall says, the terror of
Normandy.  In the very frolic of conscious power they fought and
plundered without pay, without reward, save what they could win for
themselves; and when they fell at last, they fell only when surrounded by
six times their number, and were cut to pieces in careless desperation.
Invariably, by friend and foe alike, the English are described as the
fiercest people in all Europe—English wild beasts Benvenuto Cellini calls
them; and this great physical power they owed to the profuse abundance in
which they lived, to the soldier’s training in which every one of them
was bred from childhood.

Mr. Froude’s novel assertion about profuse abundance must be weighed by
those who have read his invaluable introductory chapter.  But we must ask
at once how it was possible to levy on such an armed populace a tax which
they were determined not to pay, and felt that they were not bound to
pay, either in law or justice?  Conceive Lord Palmerston’s sending down
to demand a ‘benevolence’ from the army at Aldershot, beginning with the
general in command and descending to the privates . . . What would be the
consequences?  Ugly enough: but gentle in comparison with those of any
attempt to exact a really unpopular tax from a nation of well-armed
Englishmen, unless they, on the whole, thought the tax fit to be paid.
They would grumble, of course, whether they intended to pay or not,—for
were they not Englishmen, our own flesh and blood?—and grumble all the
more in person, because they had no Press to grumble for them: but what
is there then in the M.P.’s letter to Lord Surrey, quoted by Mr. Hallam,
p. 25, or in the more pointed letter of Warham’s, two pages on, which we
do not see lying on our breakfast tables in half the newspapers every
week?  Poor, pedantic, obstructive old Warham, himself very angry at so
much being asked of his brother clergymen, and at their being sworn as to
the value of their goods (so like are old times to new ones); and being,
on the whole, of opinion that the world (the Church included) is going to
the devil, says that as he has been ‘showed in a secret manner of his
friends, the people sore grudgeth and murmureth, and speaketh cursedly
among themselves, as far as they dare, saying they shall never have rest
of payments as long as some liveth, and that they had better die than
thus be continually handed, reckoning themselves, their wives and
children, as despoulit, and not greatly caring what they do, or what
becomes of them.’

Very dreadful—if true: which last point depends very much upon who Warham
was.  Now, on reading Mr. Froude’s or any other good history, we shall
find that Warham was one of the leaders of that despondent party which
will always have its antitype in England.  Have we, too, not heard within
the last seven years similar prophecies of desolation, mourning, and
woe—of the Church tottering on the verge of ruin, the peasantry starving
under the horrors of free trade, noble families reduced to the verge of
beggary by double income-tax?  Even such a prophet seems Warham to have
been—of all people in that day, one of the last whom one would have asked
for an opinion.

Poor old Warham, however, was not so far wrong in this particular case;
for the ‘despoulit’ slaves of Suffolk, not content with grumbling, rose
up with sword and bow, and vowed that they would not pay.  Whereon the
bloated tyrant sent his prætorians, and enforced payment by scourge and
thumbscrew?  Not in the least.  They would not pay; and therefore, being
free men, nobody could make them pay; and although in the neighbouring
county of Norfolk, from twenty pounds (_i.e._ £200 of our money)
upward—for the tax was not levied on men of less substance—there were not
twenty but what had consented; and though there was ‘great likelihood
that this grant should be much more than the loan was’ (the ‘salt tears’
shed by the gentlemen of Norfolk proceeding, says expressly the Duke of
Norfolk, ‘only from doubt how to find money to content the King’s
Highness’); yet the King and Wolsey gave way frankly and at once, and the
contribution was remitted, although the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk,
writing to Wolsey, treat the insurrection lightly, and seem to object to
the remission as needless.

From all which facts—they are Mr. Hallam’s, not Mr. Froude’s—we can
deduce not tyranny, but lenity, good sense, and the frank withdrawal from
a wrong position as soon as the unwillingness of the people proved it to
be a wrong one.

This instance is well brought forward (though only in a line or two, by
Mr. Froude) as one among many proofs that the working classes in Henry
the Eighth’s time ‘enjoyed an abundance far beyond that which in general
falls to the lot of that order in long-settled countries, incomparably
beyond what the same class were enjoying at that very time in Germany or
France.  The laws secured them; and that the laws were put in force, we
have the direct evidence of successive acts of the Legislature,
justifying the general policy by its success: and we have also the
indirect evidence of the contented loyalty of the great body of the
people, at a time when, if they had been discontented, they held in their
own hands the means of asserting what the law acknowledged to be their
right.  ‘The Government,’ as we have just shown at length, ‘had no power
to compel injustice . . . If the peasantry had been suffering under any
real grievances we should have heard of them when the religious
rebellions furnished so fair an opportunity to press them forward.
Complaint was loud enough, when complaint was just, under the Somerset

Such broad facts as these—for facts they are—ought to make us pause ere
we boast of the greater liberty enjoyed by Englishmen of the present day,
as compared with the tyranny of Tudor times.  Thank God, there is no lack
of that blessing now: but was there any real lack of it then?  Certainly
the outward notes of a tyranny exist now in far greater completeness than
then.  A standing army, a Government police, ministries who bear no love
to a militia, and would consider the compulsory arming and drilling of
the people as a dangerous insanity, do not look at first sight as much
like ‘free institutions’ as a Government which, though again and again in
danger not merely of rebellion, but of internecine wars of succession, so
trusted the people as to force weapons into their hands from boyhood.
Let us not be mistaken: we are no hankerers after retrogression: the
present system works very well; let it be; all that we say is that the
imputation of despotic institutions lies, _primâ facie_, rather against
the reign of Queen Victoria than against that of King Henry the Eighth.
Of course it is not so in fact.  Many modern methods, which are despotic
in appearance, are not so in practice.  Let us believe that the same was
the case in the sixteenth century.  Our governors now understand their
own business best, and make a very fair compromise between discipline and
freedom.  Let us believe that the men of the sixteenth century did so
likewise.  All we ask is that our forefathers should be judged as we wish
to be judged ourselves, ‘not according to outward appearance, but with
righteous judgment.’

Mr. Froude finds the cause of this general contentment and loyalty of the
masses in the extreme care which the Government took of their well-being.
The introductory chapter, in which he proves to his own satisfaction the
correctness of his opinion, is well worth the study of our political
economists.  The facts which he brings seem certainly overwhelming; of
course, they can only be met by counter-facts; and our knowledge does not
enable us either to corroborate or refute his statements.  The chief
argument used against them seems to us, at least, to show that for some
cause or other the working classes were prosperous enough.  It is said
the Acts of Parliament regulating wages do not fix the minimum of wages,
but the maximum.  They are not intended to defend the employed against
the employer, but the employer against the employed, in a defective state
of the labour market, when the workmen, by the fewness of their numbers,
were enabled to make extravagant demands.  Let this be the case—we do not
say that it is so—what is it but a token of prosperity among the working
classes?  A labour market so thin that workmen can demand their own price
for their labour, till Parliament is compelled to bring them to reason,
is surely a time of prosperity to the employed—a time of full work and
high wages; of full stomachs, inclined from very prosperity to ‘wax fat
and kick.’  If, however, any learned statistician should be able to
advance, on the opposite side of the question, enough to weaken some of
Mr. Froude’s conclusions, he must still, if he be a just man, do honour
to the noble morality of this most striking chapter, couched as it is in
as perfect English as we have ever had the delight of reading.  We shall
leave, then, the battle of facts to be fought out by statisticians,
always asking Mr. Froude’s readers to bear in mind that, though other
facts may be true, yet his facts are no less true likewise; and we shall
quote at length, both as a specimen of his manner and of his matter, the
last three pages of this introductory chapter, in which, after speaking
of the severity of the laws against vagrancy, and showing how they were
excused by the organisation which found employment for every able-bodied
man, he goes on to say:—

    ‘It was therefore the expressed conviction of the English nation that
    it was better for a man not to live at all than to live a profitless
    and worthless life.  The vagabond was a sore spot upon the
    commonwealth, to be healed by wholesale discipline if the gangrene
    was not incurable; to be cut away with the knife if the milder
    treatment of the cart-whip failed to be of profit.

    ‘A measure so extreme in its severity was partly dictated by policy.
    The state of the country was critical; and the danger from
    questionable persons traversing it, unexamined and uncontrolled, was
    greater than at ordinary times.  But in point of justice as well as
    of prudence it harmonised with the iron temper of the age, and it
    answered well for the government of a fierce and powerful people, in
    whose hearts lay an intense hatred of rascality, and among whom no
    one could have lapsed into evil courses except by deliberate
    preference for them.  The moral sinew of the English must have been
    strong indeed when it admitted of such stringent bracing; but, on the
    whole, they were ruled as they preferred to be ruled; and if wisdom
    can be tested by success, the manner in which they passed the great
    crisis of the Reformation is the best justification of their princes.
    The era was great throughout Europe.  The Italians of the age of
    Michael Angelo, the Spaniards who were the contemporaries of Cortez,
    the Germans who shook off the Pope at the call of Luther, and the
    splendid chivalry of Francis I. of France, were no common men.  But
    they were all brought face to face with the same trials, and none met
    them as the English met them.  The English alone never lost their
    self-possession, and if they owed something to fortune in their
    escape from anarchy, they owed more to the strong hand and steady
    purpose of their rulers.

    ‘To conclude this chapter, then.

    ‘In the brief review of the system under which England was governed,
    we have seen a state of things in which the principles of political
    economy were, consciously or unconsciously, contradicted; where an
    attempt, more or less successful, was made to bring the production
    and distribution of wealth under the moral rule of right or wrong;
    and where those laws of supply and demand, which we are now taught to
    regard as immutable ordinances of nature, were absorbed or superseded
    by a higher code.  It is necessary for me to repeat that I am not
    holding up the sixteenth century as a model which the nineteenth
    might safely follow.  The population has become too large, and
    employment too complicated and fluctuating, to admit of such control;
    while, in default of control, the relapse upon self-interest as the
    one motive principle is certain to ensue, and, when it ensues, is
    absolute in its operations.  But as, even with us, these so-called
    ordinances of nature in time of war consent to be suspended, and duty
    to his country becomes with every good citizen a higher motive of
    action than the advantages which he may gain in an enemy’s market; so
    it is not uncheering to look back upon a time when the nation was in
    a normal condition of militancy against social injustice—when the
    Government was enabled, by happy circumstances, to pursue into detail
    a single and serious aim at the well-being—well-being in its widest
    sense—of all members of the commonwealth.  There were difficulties
    and drawbacks at that time as well as this.  Of Liberty, in the
    modern sense of the word—of the supposed right of every man “to do
    what he will with his own,” or with himself—there was no idea.  To
    the question, if ever it was asked, “May I not do what I will with my
    own?” there was the brief answer, “No man may do what is wrong,
    either with what is his own or with what is another’s.”  Producers,
    too, who were not permitted to drive down their workmen’s wages by
    competition, could not sell their goods as cheaply as they might have
    done, and the consumer paid for the law in an advance of price; but
    the burden, though it fell heavily on the rich, lightly touched the
    poor and the rich consented cheerfully to a tax which ensured the
    loyalty of the people.  The working man of modern times has bought
    the extension of his liberty at the price of his material comfort.
    The higher classes have gained in wealth what they have lost in
    power.  It is not for the historian to balance advantages.  His duty
    is with the facts.’

Our forefathers, then, were not free, if we attach to that word the
meaning which our Transatlantic brothers seem inclined to give to it.
They had not learnt to deify self-will, and to claim for each member of
the human race a right to the indulgence of every eccentricity.  They
called themselves free, and boasted of their freedom; but their
conception of liberty was that of all old nations, a freedom which not
only allowed of discipline, but which grew out of it.  No people had less
wish to exalt the kingly power into that specious tyranny, a paternal
Government; the king was with them, and always had been, both formally
and really, subject to their choice; bound by many oaths to many duties;
the minister, not the master of the people.  But their whole conception
of political life was, nevertheless, shaped by their conception of family
life.  Strict obedience, stern discipline, compulsory education in
practical duties, was the law of the latter; without such training they
thought their sons could never become in any true sense men.  And when
they grew up, their civic life was to be conducted on the same
principles, for the very purpose of enabling them to live as members of a
free nation.  If the self-will of the individual was curbed, now and
then, needlessly—as it is the nature of all human methods to caricature
themselves at times—the purpose was, not to weaken the man, but to
strengthen him by strengthening the body to which he belonged.  The
nation was to be free, self-helping, self-containing, unconquerable; to
that great purpose the will, the fancy—even, if need be, the mortal life
of the individual, must give way.  Men must be trained at all costs in
self-restraint, because only so could they become heroes in the day of
danger; in self-sacrifice for the common good, because only so would they
remain united, while foreign nations and evil home influences were trying
to tear them asunder.  In a word, their conception of life was as a
warfare; their organisation that of a regiment.  It is a question whether
the conception of corporate life embodied in a regiment or army be not,
after all, the best working one for this world.  At least the problem of
a perfect society, howsoever beautiful on paper, will always issue in a
compromise, more or less perfect—let us hope more and more perfect as the
centuries roll on—between the strictness of military discipline and the
Irishman’s _laissez-faire_ ideal, wherein ‘every man should do that which
was right in the sight of his own eyes, and wrong too, if he liked.’  At
least, such had England been for centuries; under such a system had she
thriven; a fact which, duly considered, should silence somewhat those
gentlemen who, not being of a military turn themselves, inform Europe so
patriotically and so prudently that ‘England is not a military nation.’

From this dogma we beg leave to differ utterly.  Britain is at this
moment, in our eyes, the only military nation in Europe.  All other
nations seem to us to have military governments, but not to be military
themselves.  As proof of the assertion, we appeal merely to the existence
of our militia.  While other nations are employing conscription, we have
raised in twelve months a noble army, every soul of which has volunteered
as a free man; and yet, forsooth, we are not a military nation!  We are
not ashamed to tell how, but the other day, standing in the rear of those
militia regiments, no matter where, a flush of pride came over us at the
sight of those lads, but a few months since helpless and awkward country
boors, now full of sturdy intelligence, cheerful obedience, and the
manhood which can afford to be respectful to others, because it respects
itself, and knows that it is respected in turn.  True, they had not the
lightness, the order, the practical ease, the cunning self-helpfulness of
the splendid German legionaries who stood beside them, the breast of
every other private decorated with clasps and medals for service in the
wars of seven years since.  As an invading body, perhaps, one would have
preferred the Germans; but only because experience had taught them
already what it would teach in twelve months to the Berkshire or
Cambridge ‘clod.’  There, to us, was the true test of England’s military
qualities; her young men had come by tens of thousands, of their own free
will, to be made soldiers of by her country gentlemen, and treated by
them the while as men to be educated, not as things to be compelled; not
driven like sheep to the slaughter, to be disciplined by men with whom
they had no bond but the mere official one of military obedience; and
‘What,’ we ask ourselves, ‘does England lack to make her a second Rome?’
Her people have physical strength, animal courage, that self-dependence
of freemen which enabled at Inkerman the privates to fight on literally
without officers, every man for his own hand.  She has inventive genius,
enormous wealth; and if, as is said, her soldiers lack at present the
self-helpfulness of the Zouave, it is ridiculous to suppose that that
quality could long be wanting in the men of a nation which is at this
moment the foremost in the work of emigration and colonisation.  If
organising power and military system be, as is said, lacking in high
quarters, surely there must be organising power enough somewhere in the
greatest industrial nation upon earth, ready to come forward when there
is a real demand for it; and whatever be the defects of our system, we
are surely not as far behind Prussia or France as Rome was behind the
Carthaginians and the Greeks whom she crushed.  A few years sufficed for
them to learn all they needed from their enemies; fewer still would
suffice us to learn from our friends.  Our working classes are not, like
those of America, in a state of physical comfort too great to make it
worth while for them to leave their home occupations; and whether that be
a good or an evil, it at least ensures us, as our militia proves, an
almost inexhaustible supply of volunteers.  What a new and awful scene
for the world’s drama, did such a nation as this once set before itself,
steadily and ruthlessly, as Rome did of old, the idea of conquest.  Even
now, waging war as she has done, as it were, ἐν παρεργᾷ, thinking war too
unimportant a part of her work to employ on it her highest intellects,
her flag has advanced in the last fifty years over more vast and richer
tracts than that of any European nation upon earth.  What keeps her from
the dream which lured to their destruction Babylon, Macedonia, Rome?

This: that, thank God, she has a conscience still; that, feeling
intensely the sacredness of her own national life, she has learned to
look on that of other people’s as sacred also; and since, in the
fifteenth century, she finally repented of that wild and unrighteous
dream of conquering France, she has discovered more and more that true
military greatness lies in the power of defence, and not of attack; not
in waging war, but being able to wage it; and has gone on her true
mission of replenishing the earth more peacefully, on the whole, and more
humanely, than did ever nation before her; conquering only when it was
necessary to put down the lawlessness of the savage few for the
well-being of the civilised many.  This has been her idea; she may have
confused it and herself in Caffre or in Chinese wars; for who can always
be true to the light within him?  But this has been her idea; and
therefore she stands and grows and thrives, a virgin land for now eight
hundred years.

But a fancy has come over us during the last blessed forty years of
unexampled peace, from which our ancestors of the sixteenth century were
kept by stern and yet most wholesome lessons; the fancy that peace, and
not war, is the normal condition of the world.  The fancy is so fair that
we blame none who cherish it; after all they do good by cherishing it;
they point us to an ideal which we should otherwise forget, as Babylon,
Rome, France in the seventeenth century, forgot utterly.  Only they are
in haste (and pardonable haste too) to realise that ideal, forgetting
that to do so would be really to stop short of it, and to rest contented
in some form of human society far lower than that which God has actually
prepared for those who love Him.  Better to believe that all our
conceptions of the height to which the human race might attain are poor
and paltry compared with that toward which God is guiding it, and for
which he is disciplining it by awful lessons: and to fight on, if need
be, ruthless, and yet full of pity—and many a noble soul has learnt
within the last two years how easy it is to reconcile in practice that
seeming paradox of words—smiting down stoutly evil wheresoever we shall
find it, and saying, ‘What ought to be, we know not; God alone can know:
but that this ought not to be, we do know, and here, in God’s name, it
shall not stay.’

We repeat it: war, in some shape or other, is the normal condition of the
world.  It is a fearful fact: but we shall not abolish it by ignoring it,
and ignoring by the same method the teaching of our Bibles.  Not in mere
metaphor does the gospel of Love describe the life of the individual good
man as a perpetual warfare.  Not in mere metaphor does the apostle of
Love see in his visions of the world’s future no Arcadian shepherd
paradises, not even a perfect civilisation, but an eternal war in heaven,
wrath and woe, plague and earthquake; and amid the everlasting storm, the
voices of the saints beneath the altar crying, ‘Lord, how long?’  Shall
we pretend to have more tender hearts than the old man of Ephesus, whose
dying sermon, so old legends say, was nought but—‘Little children, love
one another’; and who yet could denounce the liar and the hater and the
covetous man, and proclaim the vengeance of God against all evildoers,
with all the fierceness of an Isaiah?  It was enough for him—let it be
enough for us—that he should see, above the thunder-cloud, and the rain
of blood, and the scorpion swarm, and the great angel calling all the
fowl of heaven to the supper of the great God, that they might eat the
flesh of kings and valiant men, a city of God eternal in the heavens, and
yet eternally descending among men; a perfect order, justice, love, and
peace, becoming actual more and more in every age, through all the
fearful training needful for a fallen race.

Let that be enough for us: but do not let us fancy that what is true of
the two extremes must not needs be true of the mean also; that while the
life of the individual and of the universe is one of perpetual
self-defence, the life of the nation can be aught else: or that any
appliances of scientific comforts, any intellectual cultivation, even any
of the most direct and common-sense arguments of self-interest, can avail
to quiet in man those outbursts of wrath, ambition, cupidity, wounded
pride, which have periodically convulsed, and will convulse to the end,
the human race.  The philosopher in his study may prove their absurdity,
their suicidal folly, till, deluded by the strange lull of a forty years’
peace, he may look on wars as in the same category with flagellantisms,
witch-manias, and other ‘popular delusions,’ as insanities of the past,
impossible henceforth; and may prophesy, as really wise political
economists were doing in 1847, that mankind had grown too sensible to go
to war any more.  And behold, the peace proves only to be the lull before
the thunderstorm; and one electric shock sets free forces unsuspected,
transcendental, supernatural in the deepest sense; forces which we can no
more stop, by shrieks at their absurdity, from incarnating themselves in
actual blood, and misery, and horror, than we can control the madman in
his paroxysm by telling him that he is a madman.  And so the fair vision
of the student is buried once more in rack and hail and driving storm;
and, like Daniel of old when rejoicing over the coming restoration of his
people, he sees beyond the victory some darker struggle still, and lets
his notes of triumph die away into a wail,—‘And the end thereof shall be
with a flood; and to the end of the war desolations are determined.’

It is as impossible as it would be unwise to conceal from ourselves the
fact that all the Continental nations look upon our present peace as but
transitory, momentary; and on the Crimean war as but the prologue to a
fearful drama—all the more fearful because none knows its purpose, its
plot, which character will be assumed by any given actor, and, least of
all, the _dénouement_ of the whole.  All that they feel and know is that
everything which has happened since 1848 has exasperated, not calmed, the
electric tension of the European atmosphere; that a rottenness, rapidly
growing intolerable alike ‘to God and the enemies of God,’ has eaten into
the vitals of Continental life; that their rulers know neither where they
are nor whither they are going, and only pray that things may last out
their time: all notes which one would interpret as proving the Continent
to be already ripe for subjection to some one devouring race of
conquerors, were there not a ray of hope in an expectation, even more
painful to our human pity, which is held by some of the wisest among the
Germans; namely, that the coming war will fast resolve into no struggle
between bankrupt monarchs and their respective armies, but a war between
nations themselves, an internecine war of opinions and of creeds.  There
are wise Germans now who prophesy, with sacred tears, a second ‘Thirty
Years’ War,’ with all its frantic horrors, for their hapless country,
which has found two centuries too short a time wherein to recover from
the exhaustion of that first fearful scourge.  Let us trust, if that war
shall beget its new Tillys and Wallensteins, it shall also beget its new
Gustavus Adolphus, and many another child of Light: but let us not hope
that we can stand by in idle comfort, and that when the overflowing
scourge passes by it shall not reach to us.  Shame to us, were that our
destiny!  Shame to us, were we to refuse our share in the struggles of
the human race, and to stand by in idle comfort while the Lord’s battles
are being fought.  Honour to us, if in that day we have chosen for our
leaders, as our forefathers of the sixteenth century did, men who see the
work which God would have them do, and have hearts and heads to do it.
Honour to us, if we spend this transient lull, as our forefathers of the
sixteenth century did, in setting our house in order, in redressing every
grievance, reforming every abuse, knitting the hearts of the British
nation together by practical care and help between class and class, man
and man, governor and governed, that we may bequeath to our children, as
Henry the Eighth’s men did to theirs, a British national life, so united
and whole-hearted, so clear in purpose and sturdy in execution, so
trained to know the right side at the first glance and take it, that they
shall look back with love and honour upon us, their fathers, determined
to carry out, even to the death, the method which we have bequeathed to
them.  Then, if God will that the powers of evil, physical and spiritual,
should combine against this land, as they did in the days of good Queen
Bess, we shall not have lived in vain; for those who, as in Queen Bess’s
days, thought to yoke for their own use a labouring ox, will find, as
then, that they have roused a lion from his den.


{219}  North British Review, No.  LI., November 1856.—‘A History of
England, from the Fall of Wolsey to the Death of Elizabeth.’  By J. A.
Froude, M.A., late Fellow of Exeter college, Oxford.  London: J. W.
Parker and Son, West Strand.  2 vols.  1856.

{246}  This article appeared in the _North British Review_.

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