66 In

clergy to be tried for petit treason, and less crimes, in temporal courts; it exempted tenants in chief from being excommunicated; and it inhibited appeals to Rome. Can any of these positions be supported ?- In my humble upinion they cannot.

Doctor Lingard * thinks with me; and so does our common friend, Mr. Sharon Turner.

justice to Becket," says that learned and discriminating writer," it must be admitted that these “ famous articles completely changed the legal and “ civil state of the clergy; and were an actual “ subversion, as far as they went, of the papal

policy, so boldly introduced by Gregory Viit;" --and then completely received into the civil and ecclesiastical polity and jurisdiction of every European state.

We now reach the second stage of this important controversy. A detail of the incidents is foreign to the subject of this letter. It is sufficient to mention succinctly, that, after many fruitless endeavours, a reconciliation between the archbishop and the sovereign took place at Freitville, in Normandy; that the archbishop returned to England; that, upon a complaint by him against the prelates, who had assisted at the coronation of prince Henry, the celebration of which ceremony belonged of right to the see of Canterbury, the pope excommunicated the bishops of London, Rochester and Salisbury; conferring, at the same time, a power on the archbishop to absolve them; that, on his refusal, they attended in person on the king, who was then in Normandy, to make their complaints against the archbishop; that, irritated by their representations, the king exclaimed, “ Of the cowards who “ eat my bread, is there not one who will free “me from this turbulent priest ?” That four knights, who heard this exclamation, bound themselves by oath to avenge the king; that they sailed for England, and proceeded to Canterbury, entered the cathedral, and, advancing to the archbishop, required him instantly to absolve the bishops ; that he refused to absolve them till they made satisfaction; that, on his refusal, the four knights murdered him ; that, as soon as the king was informied of it, he solemnly denied all participation in the guilt; but admitted the unguarded exclamation upon

* History of England, vol. 2, p. 64, 65, 66. + Ibid. vol. 1, p. 213.

which the knights proceeded to the perpetration of the crime; and, on this account, submitted to a public and humiliating penance; and was absolved by the pope. Previously to it, he solemnly abrogated all the unlawful customs, which had been introduced into his states, and forbade their being observed in future.

Thus Becket perished for a faithful adherence to ecclesiastical duty. The pope himself had excommunicated the three prelates : now, the canons of the church require, that, when excommunication has been issued, it shall not be taken off until the party proves his innocence, or makes his submission : even now this is English law. As the case then stood, the fact, for which the prelates had been excommunicated, was undeniable, and the preiates had made no submission. Becket, therefore, had no authority to remove the excommunication; he would have incurred irregularity by doing it, and thus have, himself, become liable to the censures of the church: hence, he refused, and braved, by his refusal, a cruel death. His conduct was admired and applauded by the whole world. You must be . aware, that the liberties, confirmed to the church by Magna Charta, included equally those rights for which Becket contended at Clarendon, and those for which he was murdered at Canterbury.

Some candid protestants have done justice to his memory : Collier's account of the controversy between him and his sovereign * deserves a serious perusal

With one further observation I must trouble you. No roman-catholic imagines, at this time, that the ecclesiastics were entitled, by divine right, to the immunity, for which Becket contended, in the first stage of the controversy. All agree, that the only real title to it is by grant from the state, or by immemorial usage, in which a grant is always pre-supposed. Now, such a grant might have been made on grounds, both of wisdom and sound policy. The rules of the gospel are equally calculated to produce obedience to the laws, as to form individuals to virtue and holiness; it is, therefore, the duty of the state to promote whatever has a tendency to make the gospel respected. Experience shows, that respect for the gospel exists seldom, without respect for its ministers; there might, therefore, be good sense to keep their occasional scandals from the public eye, and, for this purpose, to confine the investigation of them to the ecclesiastical tribunals of the realm : some individuals might, by this arrangement, escape punishment; but the legislature might have been wise in considering, that although this would be mischievous, exposure would be a greater mischief.

* Ecclesiastical History, vol. 2, p. 343–347.





SIR, I HAVE now reached your ninth chapter; it turns chiefly on the pope's exercise of temporal power. In the present state of the controversy between the protestants and roman-catholics of this realm, it is the most important chapter of your work. I shall premise my discussion of it, by some observations on your account of the transactions between the pope and king John.

IX. 1.

Cession by King John of the Sovereignty of England to

Pope Innocent III. It is usually supposed, that John absolutely divested himself of the sovereignty of the kingdom, and transferred it to Innocent. This was not the fact : the monarch retained his sovereignty, but agreed, that he and his successors should hold it from the pope and his successors in fee simple, by homage and fealty, and by the annual render of 10,000 marks. The consequence was, that, in respect to his subjects, and their rights, John continued in the possession of the same regalities, and subject to the same obligations, as before ; for, in all cases of lord, vassal, and sub-vassal, the lord had no direct

« VorigeDoorgaan »