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commencement of this celebrated contest the immunities of the clergy had been established, and become part of the law of England. Does not this decide the question ? Must we not conclude, on the principles of Montesquieu, that the monarch's attack upon them was altogether wrong? That Becket, in defending them, was altogether right.?
You notice the observations which Becket, when he was solicited to accept the see of Canterbury, is related to have made, both to the monarch and to his confidential friends,--that " he foresaw that, if he “should be raised to the see of Canterbury, he must “either lose the favour of the king, or sacrifice to “ it the service of his God. But this,” you inform us,
“ was said to the monarch with a smile, so that, “ whether intentionally or not, it conveyed a mean“ing which invalidated the words." May I ask, from what author you took this account of Beckets smile? or the inference you draw from it? Was not Becket's expression a fair and honourable notice to the monarch, that he was not to depend on the connivance of the archbishop in the illaudable practices in which he had already too much indulged ?
You also notice the change in Becket's manners, which immediately followed his consecration; and you ridicule his penitential austerities. Are you not sensible that, in every part of the globe, in which christianity has been received, similar austerities have been practised by the wisest, the noblest, and the best of men! The examples of these men you may think of no consequence : but what do you say to the high commendations of penitential fastings, with which the most eminent lights of your own church, -your own Patricks, your own Beveridges, your own Gunnings, your own book of Common Prayer, and your own homilies, abound? They are so strongly expressed, that, if we should strike a balance between the fasts which they recommend, and those which the archbishop practised, the preponderance, if any, in favour of the archbishop, would not be very considerable. Where is the difference between fasts and other austerities?
You do not admire his voluntary resignation of the office of chancellor ; but was it not an act of duty ? You blame him for instituting proceedings for the recovery of the lands belonging to his see; was not this, too, an act of duty? Whose memory should the present prelacy of the established church of England most respect,--the memory of Becket, who preserved the possessions of his see ; or the memory of those prelates, so eloquently praised by you in a further part of your work, who, in the reigns of Edward VI. and Elizabeth, so liberally complimented away large portions of them to their sovereign?
But the character of the archbishop is little affected by these incidental inquiries. It rests on his conduct at the convention at Clarendon ; and on the events, which produced his murder. The former we may consider as the first, the latter as the last stage of the controversy between him and his royal master.
The monarch contended that the clergy should, in future, be tried for felonies in his courts of justice. To obtain a recognition of this claim, he summoned all the prelates of England to Westminster; and required them to acknowledge the right of his courts to try the clergy. They hesitated. He then asked, whether they would promise to abide by the antient law of the realm ? The archbishop, speaking for himself, and for the other prelates present, replied, that “ they were “ willing to be bound by the antient law of the
realm, as far as the honour of God, and the church, and the privileges of their order, per“ mitted.” The king required the omission of the saving words: the archbishop insisted on the rea tention of them. At first, the other prelates adhered to him ; but the king brought them over : and, after much solicitation, the archbishop acquiesced. The monarch, to render the assent of the prelates to his claims the more solemn, summoned the convention of the spiritual and temporal lords of his kingdom to Clarendon, near Salisbury. When they met, the archbishop expressed a wish that the saving words should be retained. He consented, however, afterwards to the omission of them ; requiring, at the same time, that the customs should be defined. This was both prudent and honourable ; for, while the customs should remain undefined, the dispute would invariably continue. Thus there could be no reasonable objection to the request of the prelate. It was acceded to by the king; and a specification of the customs was accordingly drawn up by a committee, appointed
by the convention. It was exhibited in sixteen articles, called by the historians of the times “ The “ Constitutions of Clarendon."
This brings us to the point :-Did the constitutions exhibit the antient customs of the realm? If they did, the archbishop and the other prelates were bound, by their promise, to recognize and observe them. If they did not, the archbishop and the other prelates were bound to neither
; nor could they acknowledge that the constitutions expressed the antient customs of the realm, or bind themselves to the observance of them, as such, without incurring the guilt, both of a solemn untruth, and of treason to the constitution.
On this point, therefore, the whole question on the conduct of the archbishop, at the convention at Clarendon, rests altogether. Does it require much investigation to arrive at a proper conclusion upon it?
By one of the articles, the custody and revenues of the temporalities of every archbishopric, bishopric, abbey, or priory of royal foùndation, was declared to belong, during its vacancy, to the king: this was an absolute innovation.
By another, it was provided, that civil and criminal suits, though each or either party to them were a clergyman, should commence in the royal courts; that the justices should decide, whether they ought to be determined there, or in the ecclesiastical courts; that, in the latter case, a civil officer should attend the trial, and report the proceedings; and that, if the person accused should be convicted, he should forfeit the privileges of his
character, and receive judgment accordingly. All this was, perhaps, very proper; but all was contrary to the existing law.
Another article declared, that tenants in chief should not be excommunicated without the leave of the king ; or, in his absence, of his justiciary. This was in opposition to the law of Christ; and to the law of every christian country. It is even contrary to the present law of England, and to the practice of its courts.
Another article forbade appeals to Rome. At this period of our history appeals were allowed in England, and in every other part of the christian world. It is observable, that the monarch himself, during the contest, appealed more than once to the roman see.
Such being the state of the contest, in this stage of it, permit me to say, that it is, with something more than surprise, that I read in your work the following lines : “ If these constitutions were in “ direct opposition to the system of Hildebrand “ and his successors, and at once removed all those “ encroachments which the hierarchy had made in “ this kingdom during Stephen's contested reign, “ it should be remembered that they were not new “ edicts, enacted in a spirit of hostility to the
church, but a declaration and recognition of the “ existing law."
By this, I understand you to affirm, that, as the law of England existed in the reign of Henry II. it allowed the monarch to retain the profits of vacant sees for his own benefit; it allowed the