Page images

ments which were committed to the Cardinal's charge: we have already intimated that they were attended with no successful confequences; and it is happy that they were not, for the end propofed by them all was to establish or increase the Popish dominion, and to pour his vengeance on Henry for fhaking off the Papal Supremacy.

It is curious to observe with what inveteracy our Author attacks the memory of Henry for the suppression of the religious houses. They not only, he observes, promoted a general literary improvement, as far as it was understood or attainable in their times, but were industrious, at different periods of our national calainities, to restore learning, and rescue their country from the ignorance into which thote disasters had caufed it to fall.' He then takes occasion to ridicule the quaint conceits, as he calls them, which prevailed under Elizabeth, and which are now, he tells us, the laughter of every Westminster school-boy. We do not wonder that Mr. Philips should dislike any thing which prevailed under the reign of good Queen Bess: but let us ask him, whether a sensible Westminster school-boy would not equally laugh at the monkish rhymes, and chuckle at

Mingere cum bumbis

Res of faluberrima lumbis? Yet Mr. Philips proceeds, damning the ignorance and bad taste of the times at every step. Indeed he does vouchsafe to except Bacon and Raleigh, and to acknowledge that all the madness of the civil wars could not suppress the genius of Milton. < But, he adds, the tranquillity of this Prince (meaning Charles the first) was of short date; and the fanaticism of the commonwealth despised human knowledge, and was as declared a foe to taste and science, as to order and law.' Surely Mr. Philips must imagine the English to be totally unacquainted with the literary history of their own country, or he would never have presumed to speak thus of a period, which produced some of the most excellent treatises that ever were penned on the fcience of government, the most important of all sciences: à period too which was diftinguished in other branches of literaHure for taste and genius. Does he think we have forgotten the incomparable Harrington, who explained and illustrated the principles of liberty; and his excellent friend Nevil, and others, who laboured in the faine vilevard ? or that we have lost all recollection of the great philofopher of Malmíbury, who opened "the way to the penetrating Locke? Does he imagine that the facetious Butler is no longer remembered ? nor the immortal Pryden, who was bred, and firit fhone forth under the commonwealth? But there is nothing like a round affertion in verbo 3

Jacirdatis, facerdotis, and accordingly Mr. Philips does not besitate to cons clude, that it was not till Charles the Second's days that the general sense of the nation awakened to a discernment in the va, rious productions of genius, and returned to the tatte and elegance of Sir Thomas More and the cotemporaries of his era.' Amazing ! that Mr. Philips should fix this as the era of tatte and elegance, which was mostly difinguished by productions of low ribaldry, buffoonry, and obscenity! But who does not see that he measures all excellence by the crooked line of papistical prejudice? To what other principle can any rational and candid Reader attribute the following reflections ?

• Besides the advantages of literature, which the nation received from the monastic profession, there were others still more diffused, and more universally felt. The reserved rents of these Jandlords were low, and their fines easy. A part of the produce of the farm, without money, often discharged the tenant. A boundless hospitality was kept up to all sorts of persons; and public entertainment given to our nobility and gentry, when they travelled. An estimate may be made of their alms from the following instance. While the religious houses subsisted, there were no provisions made by parliament to relieve the poor, no assessment on the parish for that purpose : but, at present, this charge on the kingdom, amounts, by a low computation, to above 800,000 l. a year. Now if we compare the annual income of 135,522 pounds, 18 shillings, and 10 pence, which was the appraisement of the monastic lands, with the Poors tax, we shall see what the nation has gained by the dissolution. Nor does the different valuation of money in those and the present times make any difference in the nature of the burden, as the possessors of the abbey-lands would find, if this rent-charge, which is drawn on the whole nation, was levied on them only. To these general benefits we must add those which particular parts of the community found in these institutions. The abbeys which held by knights service furnished a certain number of foldiers, proportioned to their eftates, and equipped them for the field, at their own charge. They paid a sum of money to defray the expence of knighthood, when that distinction was conferred on their founder's heir ; and contributed to a fortune for the marriage of their Lord's eldest daughter. The founders likewise had the privilege of corrody, or of quartering a certain number of poor servants on the abbeys; and thus the aged and worn out with labour, who were no longer in a condition to fu port themselves, were not thrown up to itarving, or parilh collections; but had a comfortable retreat, where they were maintained dure ing life, without the hardships or marks of indigence. On these considerations one of our historians has made no difficulty


to affert, that it would be but an act of common justice, to give the generality of protestants a more favourable opinion of monar. teries : and the complicated and national guilt which was incurred by diffolving them, has induced others to look on the calamities which trod on the heels of this iniquity, as so many indications of a provoked and avenging God. Of a hundred families of note and fortune, which were in the county of Norfolk before the dissolution, all that had enriched

themselves by these spoils of sacrilege, were either extinct, or much impaired, in Sir Henry Spelman's time, among which that great and excellent man acknowledges his own. The day which gave commencement to this crime was thought ominous ; for on the meeting of the long Parliament, from which the church of EngJand dates her misfortunes, several persons entreated archbishop Laud to move the King to have it adjourned for a short time, it being the same day on which the legislature, in Henry the Eighth's reign, began the dissolution of religious houses. The anger of Heaven exercised on the nobility a ftill feverer vengeance than in permitting their possessions to moulder away, and their families to fall; more of that class having been attainted and died by the hand of the executioner within twenty years after the dissolution, than during the preceding five hundred; which was the space between the Conquest and that period; and the Commons, doubtless, in their turn, have drank deep of this cup of deadly wine. England fate weeping, says Camden, to see her wealth exhausted, her coin embased, and her abbeys demolished, which were the monuments of ancient piety.'

Here, it must be confessed, our Author has made a moft fpecious display of all the arguments which have been over and over repeated on the same occasion. With regard to the hospitality which he extols, admitting it to have been as boundless as he contends, is it not better for the induftrious husbandmen, &c. to be able to boil pots of their own, than to assemble, like so many cattle, in the spacious hall of a lordly ecclesiastic, and to be fed on his offals? As to his comparison between the annual income of the monastic lands and the present poor's tax, tho' he boldly affirms, without any proof, that the different valuation of money makes no difference, yet when that and the vaft increase of poor, owing to the general increase of the kingdom, is taken into consideration, we shall find the public to be no losers by the dissolution. Besides, will any man who has the least idea of public policy maintain, that it is not more safe and eligible, for the burden of the poor to be borne by the nation at large, than to have any one lazy and luxurious order of men possessed of such a disproportionate and dangerous revenue, as to take the whole charge upon themselves ? Again, let us alk


Mr. Philips, whether in those countries where his applauded monastic hospitality prevails, the poor do not swarm about the streets, &c. in the same proportion as with us. We cannot but smile to see Mr. Philips, like a true Churchman, so forward to hook the Almighty into his quarrel, and to consider the national calamities which trod on the heels of what he calls the iniquity of diffolving the monasteries, as so many indications of a provoked and avenging God. We should be glad to know to what source we muft impute the national calamities of famine, peftilence, and civil wars, &c. &c. &c. which 'visited the kingdom, while the Monks, rioted in all the sweets of recluse luxury? But, indeed, we do not recollect that any national calamities trod on the heels of the dissolution' here spoken of. It is true, that the religious contest proved immediately fatal to particulars, but the nation were gainers-by it: and we alt know, that the reign of Queen Elizabeth, which trod on the heels of this iniquity, was great, glorious, and beneficial ; we know that she triumphed over the bigotted Monarch of Spain, and defeated his invincible Armada. Though a legion of Monks, &c. were praying and plotting for the success of his arms, yet, as glorious Bess observed, Aflavit Deus, and they were all scattered. If the national calamities which succeeded, are to be imputed to the vengeance of the Almighty, this vengeance did not thew itself till one of his Vicegerents attempted to tread on the necks of the people, whom he was sent to protect against injuries.

We are ready, however, to concur with our Author in one particular; and we heartily lament with him, that the rage of the times demolished many noble edifices, which were an ornament to the kingdom, and destroyed many ancient records and public libraries, which were repositories of valuable knowledge.

Mr. Philips having wreaked his vengeance on Henry, proceeds to expatiate on the errors and disorders which gave occasion to the Council of Trent, at which the Cardinal presided, though we do not find any thing interesting concerning him in that capacity: in truth this Council was, with Mr. Philips's leave, what Bolingbroke properly calls it, a folemn Banter. It affords him an opportunity, however, of resuming his favourite topic, and falling foul of the Reformation. • The liberty, he obseryes, which Luther, and all other Reformers, after his example, allowed themselves of interpreting the Scripture by their own private judgment, gave birth to a variety of fects,' &c. What does our Author mean? Would he take our Bible from us? If he allows us to read, surely he will allow us to judge. Nothing in nature can be more absurd than to put a book into our hands, and then say, that we shall not expound it according to our own judgment: and this hews the folly and abfurdity of all persecutions and prosecutions on account of religious opinions. As to the variety of fects the Writer complains of, he very well knows, that there were various fects before the Reformation ; and the Reformation only introduced a contrariety less absurd. • But Poland, says he, was so giddy with a continual rotation of doctrine, that the fynod of Scrinia came to this wild resolution of allowing every one to believe as he thought proper; and at the last day it would appear who had been in the right. What Mr. Philips, here calls a wild, we esteem the wiselt resolution that ever was formed since the first meeting of fynods. In truth, every man that thinks at all, will believe as he thinks proper ; and the law which forbids him to declare his belief, only tends to enforce disimulation and hypocrisy, the most abominable of all vices,,,,

In the conclusion, our Author follows the Cardinal from the death of Henry the eighth, to the accession of Queen Mary. During this interval Pole was elected to the Papacys vacated by the death of Paul the third, which, according to Mr. Philips, he declined. In our judgment, however, he cannot be faid to have declined, any more than a Bishop can be said to decline, by his Nolo episcopari : it is 'true, having been elected late' at night, he declined 'receiving the homage of the Cardinals that night, and, from an affceted delicacy, put it off till the next morning. But the next morning, the Members of the Con. clave changed their minds, and elected another in his stead. Upon the whole, though this work is penned with no small degree of spirit and elegance, yet it is interspersed with so much furfeiting priestly cant, it advances so many superstitious, bigotted, papistical tenets; (tenets which have been most clearly refuted by the abilities of our Protestant Clergy) and lastly, it is written with so little regard to truth, that, to men of knowledge and reflection, it carries its own antidote : but, for the sake of uninformed or inconsiderate Readers, we thought it our duty, as Protestants and free subjects, to take off the mask from this Agent of popery, and Advocate of slavery.

A Defence of the Minority in the House of Commons, on the 2!10

tion relating to General IVarrants. 8vo. IS. Almon.


T is usual with controversial Writers, especially those of the

and falle colouring. The rectimination is in general well found


« PreviousContinue »