Papal Political Machinery—Papal Political Intrigues in England, under the Reigns of Henry II—of King John—of
Henry VII—of Charles I—of Charles II—of James II—of William and Mary.
The design of ruling nations was clearly indicated by the principles upon which the monastic orders were founded. Regarding supremacy to the pope as the main substance of Christianity, and obedience to his will as necessary to salvation, their doctrines harmonized with his claim to supreme temporal and spiritual power; and their organization, based strictly on monarchial principles, skilfully adapted to secure unity and concentration of action, formed, together with the military knights, a political machinery in the advancement of the papal interests, which was capable of intimidating the boldest antagonist, and of shaking the power of the strongest government. With the knowledge of this fact we may perceive the origin of some of those mysterious seditions and rebellions which have arisen apparently from trifling causes, and which, from insignificant beginnings have gained such strength and dimensions as to dismay the valor of disciplined arms, and distract every section of the land, and every department of the government. We may also perceive from the same fact, why the struggle of civil and religious liberty has been such a long, bloody, and interminable conflict. That rational beings should trample upon their rights, surrender up their personal sovereignty, kneel in adoration at the feet of a despot, deliberately rivet on their own limbs the irons of slavery, crucify their champions, and deify their enemies, is certainly strange; and without the supposition of the intervention of some secret power by which reason was unseated in such instances, it is not conceivable. But that the pope, by means of his political machinery, is capable of producing identical extraordinary effects, is ft fact supported by the irrefragable testimony of history; and that he has never scrupled to exercise his terrible power whenever his ambitious projects required it, un-awed by the magnitude of the public calamity which it threatened to entail, is a fact written with the blood and tears of nations. The secrecy, extent, and irresistible energy of his power, have sometimes led his unsuspecting subjects to regard him as a magician; and sometimes they have been the cause of his arraignment before councils on the charge of practising magic, and of having dealings with the devil. But although the effects which he produced were as malignant and surprising as those which have been ascribed to the supernatural power of the arch-fiend, yet the only magic he ever had the necessity of using was his political machinery; through which he could charm like the poisonous adder; mislead like the fabled sirens; pervert the public judgment; calm or distract a nation; excite it to rebel against its best governor, or to enthrone in power its bitterest foe.
From the hour when first the Catholic church planted her foot on the soil of England until the present moment, her emissaries have labored as far as practicable, by every available means, under every garb, in all departments of the government, and at all periods of its history, to subject the nation to the despotism of Rome. For a long period the priests were the instructors of her princes, the advisers of her kings, and under the semblance of spiritual guides, the spies on their thoughts and actions.
Passing by the numerous instances of papal political intrigue in the history of England, we will glance at a few of those which have taken place since the coronation of Henry II., in 1154. The most accomplished prince of his time, and celebrated for the acuteness of his judgment and the equitableness of his decisions, he received at the hands of his regal cotemporaries the distinguished honor of being chosen by them as their arbiter, to settle their matters of dispute. He received also, from the policy or generosity of Pope Adrian IV., a gift of the kingdom of Ireland. The following extract from Adrian’s bull on that occasion will explain the nature and object of the donation: “No one doubts, and you know the fact yourself, that Ireland, and all the isles that have received the Christian faith belong to the church of Rome. And you have signified to us that you wish to enter this island, in order to subject the people to the laws, and extirpate their vices; to make them pay to St. Peter a penny a year for each house, and preserve in all things the rights of the church; which we grant to you with pleasure for the increase of the Christian religion.”—(Labb. 13, 14, 15). At the dictation of the pope, the Irish clergy met at Waterford and took the oath of allegiance to Henry and his successors. Thus by a pretended prerogative of popery, “Ireland was blotted from the map, and consigned to the loss of freedom, without a tribunal and without a crime.”—(McGeoghegan, 1: 440). But notwithstanding the munificent bounty of the pope, yet the growing weight of the ecclesiastical establishments—so oppressive to the industry and enterprise of the people—and the continual and insidious encroachments of the clergy on the prerogatives of the crown, determined Henry, under the administration of Pope Alexander III., to summon a council of nobles and clergy at Clarendon, to frame such a constitution as would be adequate for the protection of the prerogatives of the crown and the rights of the subjects. The principles of this constitution, like seeds sown among thorns and brambles, were in danger of being oppressed in their early growth by a heavy encumbrance of Catholic ignorance and superstition; and not until intelligence and public spirit had removed the obstruction did they show their native benificent vigor. Under the stormy reign of Henry II. they were checked, thwarted, and at times almost extirpated; but under that of King John they produced the “Magna Charta,” under that of Charles II. the “Habeas Corpus,” and under those of succeeding princes the various liberal acts which constitute English liberty.
Although this liberal and judicious constitution had received the sanction of the Council of Clarendon, yet it was violently opposed by Thomas-a-Becket, the oracle of the pope, and the chief engineer of his political machinery in England. Denouncing it as a profane infraction of the privileges and immunities of the church, he proceeded to excommunicate all persons who had acquired, or should acquire ecclesiastical property under the authority of its provisions. In savage zeal in behalf of the pope, he had violated his oath of allegiance to the king; and thus imprudently furnished his antagonists with legal authority to retaliate the mischief of revenge by the confiscation of all his property. Chagrined at the triumph of his foes, and exasperated at the loss of his temporal possessions, he sought to solace his wounded pride, and vent the ebullitions of his despair and rage in excommunicating the principal officers of the crown, and all who should presume to violate the church prerogatives. But duly impressed with the intrinsic impotence of his own curses, and that neither their sanctity nor potency could protect his insolent tongue from punishment even while uttering them, he fled to France, that he might exercise with impunity his sacred functions in cursing his foes. By the mandates of his anathema the papal machinery was, of course, set in violent operation to destroy the king for the benefit of the church, and to invoke in its cause the insidious but formidable aid of scandal, vituperation and defamation. The brilliant qualities of Henry were unfortunately overshaded with the dark vice of un-chastity. As greater rakes are often horrified at the peccadillos of lesser ones, so in this case, the more profligate clergy became exceedingly exasperated upon discovering in the conduct of Henry the practice of their own irregularities, modified by less grossness and more refinement. Not possessing that charity which covereth a multitude of sins, but that religion which magnifies, distorts and publishes them, they soon managed to startle the sobriety of every hamlet with whispers of the king’s incredible depravity. To secure the visitation of divine justice on the head of Henry, they profaned the sanctity of his domestic circle by the dissemination of treacherous and extravagant inventions, until the queen was frenzied with jealousy, and Geoffry and Richard, two sons of Henry, were incited to rebellion. The prudence and martial abilities of the king enabled him, however, soon to suppress these afflictive and unnatural seditions. But the papal machinery, more tremendous and pestiferious than the fabled monsters of antiquity, with their poisonous breath, their hundred heads and thousand hands, was still in action in every part of the empire. Hence Henry’s son Louis, whom he had crowned as his successor, was induced to demand of him the surrender of the diadem. In anticipation of this demand papal intrigue had secured the support of France and Scotland in its favor; and consequently England was suddenly involved in the horrors of a civil and a foreign war. But the coolness and extraordinary military genius of Henry was adequate to the terrible emergency. After a desperate contest he repelled the invaders, and restored order to his kingdom. But the moral effluvia which was produced by the action of the papal political machinery, continued still to generate those noxious vapors which had so frequently overclouded the atmosphere of England, and broke in storms of pestilence, blood and death. The peace of his kingdom was consequently again disturbed by the discovery of a conspiracy, at the head of which was Richard, Henry’s third son, and complicated with which was John, his favorite and youngest son. Upon the disclosure of this mortifying fact, the king pronounced a curse upon his rebellious children, which was more properly merited by the pope and the father confessors of the princes, to whom the first conception of their treason was known; and if they did not originate, might have blasted it in its bud. But Henry was unconsciously dealing with an invisible monster, that in the garb of a holy father was commanding his homage and reverence, while it was profaning his domestic hearth, exciting his subjects to sedition, his children to rebellion, and at the same time inducing him to attribute to his family and subjects the dreadful calamities that had been conjured by the machinations of the monster himself. Had Henry had the sagacity to penetrate the secrets of the Holy See, and had he been able, in defiance of a papal alliance with the united crowned heads of Christendom, to have annulled the authority of the pope in his realm, and broken up the machinery of his treasonable machinations, how effectually might he have suppressed the rebellion of his sons, and the disorders of his kingdom; and what a blessing he would have been to England and to mankind. Freedom will, however, ever be grateful to the king, who laid the foundation of England’s liberty. The cost at which he purchased this invaluable legacy for posterity was as tremendous as are the obligations of gratitude which it imposes. His family converted into a nest of venomous reptiles; his sons, around whom his fondest hopes had clustered, transformed into treacherous foes; his laborious efforts to elevate the importance and improve the condition of his subjects, converted into sources of the deepest of misfortunes; these were the papal demands, outweighing the wealth of worlds, which were imposed on him for having served the cause of justice, of humanity, and of his country; and under the rigorous exactions of these demands, three days after the disclosure of the last conspiracy of his sons, he sunk into an unconsecrated grave, ruined and broken hearted.
The Papal See governed by an unscrupulous ambition to realize the success of its projects for acquiring unbounded territorial aggrandizement, has, with equal craft and baseness, endeavored to make the vices as well as the power of princes administer to its interests. This policy is illustrated in the schemes of papal policy and intrigue concocted under the reign of King John, youngest son of Henry II., who on the decease of his father in 1199 ascended the English throne. This prince had conspired against the most indulgent of fathers, had warred against his brother Richard, had murdered his brother Arthur, had repudiated his wives, and had exercised regal authority with insolence and tyranny, without provoking the maledictions or interference of the Holy See. But as these enormities deprived him of the affections of his subjects, a ruler’s chief support; exhausted his coffers, the sinews of war and opposition; made him more dependent on the favor of Rome, more entangled in the network of its policy, and admirably prepared the way for the accomplishment of its ulterior designs, its indulgence, and perhaps connivance may be reasonably accounted for. But after a war with France exhausted the resources of John, rendered him less popular, and more irascible and impatient, Pope Innocent III. improved the flattering opportunity which crime and misfortune had presented, to provoke a collision with him favorable to the success of the papal designs. John claimed the right of investiture; and in making this claim seems to have been supported by the cooperation of the papal political machinery. The See of Canterbury having become vacant, the pope appointed Cardinal Langston to fill the vacancy. This act John resisted as an unjustifiable encroachment on the prerogatives of the crown. But the arts of the pope had involved the king in a snare; and now having fairly entangled him, proceeded to prepare the way for realizing his temporal project by exercising his spiritual functions. Accordingly he suspended the performance of religious worship in the king’s dominions, excommunicated him, and absolved his subjects from their allegiance to him. The papal political machinery acting in harmony with the maledictions of the pope, the wildest disorders were excited among the people; anarchy suspended all law; the army refused to obey the king’s orders; his friends deserted him; and he found himself without domestics, without alliances, and without the means of resistance. It is an invariable practice of the holy fathers, who claim a right to all the world by virtue of their office, to endeavor to supersede the necessity of this title by acquiring a legal one. Hence, Innocent III., seeing the helpless condition to which he had reduced John, and touched at the cruel misfortunes in which he had involved him, now graciously proposed to mitigate the rigors of his adversities, and to restore him to his former authority, if he would cede his kingdom to the Pope of Rome, and consent to rule it as a vassal of the pope, Divested of adherents, arms or alliances, the king submitted unconditionally to the terms dictated by the sacerdotal despot. The design of the papal See of reducing England to a state of vassalage, conceived in ambition, pursued by craft and cruelty, was thus consummated by the most execrable tyranny. This empty title to England and Ireland, so full of trick and fraud, is nevertheless still mentioned by the Holy See as valid and indisputable.
But the benefits of the statesmanship, and of the divinely inspired council of the holy father, by which John was bound in future to be governed in the administration of his kingdom, did not prevent him from exciting the indignation of his subjects, by encroachments on their rights; nor restrain him from the perpetration of such unwarrantable acts as created a popular hatred of him, which finally culminated in open resistance to his authority. So violent were the conflicts that arose between him and his subjects, that in order to save his crown he had to yield to their demand the act of the “Magna Charta.” The pope, however, the natural foe of all constitutional guarantees of popular right and liberty, benevolently interposed in behalf of the imbecile and overawed prince, and absolved him from all obligations to comply with any of the unpleasant concessions which he had made; declaring the Magna Charta antagonistical to the Catholic religion; forbidding the king to observe any of its provisions; and pronouncing sentence of excommunication on all who should obey, or attempt to enforce the heretical act. Again the papal machinery was set in violent operation. Spies watched, confessors reported, abbots schemed, bishops predicted, priests thundered, monks prowled and assassins murdered, until every city, village and house, was distracted with alarm. In the midst of the consternation which stupefied the public mind the king, through the instrumentality of the papal machinery, suddenly appeared at the head of a formidable army; and as if he were a foreign enemy, commenced butchering his subjects, firing their dwellings and carrying terror and devastation through his own kingdom. So profoundly secret were the papal machinations carried on, and so suddenly and unexpectedly had John appeared with an army fully equipped for war that—no suspicion of such a design having been excited in the minds of the military barons—no preparations were made to meet the emergency. As suddenly, mysteriously, and adroitly as King John’s army had sprung into existence, so did the barons resolve, in order to defeat its object, to tender the crown of the realm to France; which proffer being accepted, the intrigues of the pope were thwarted, and Philip of France became sovereign of England.
The popes claim the divine attribute of infallibility, yet in changing their policy and practice to suit the variations of time, place and circumstance, they seem generally to have descended to the common level of humanity. In order, however, to reconcile the irreconcilable, while they profess to have had communicated to them the incommunicable, they claim to have been endowed with power to change the unchangeable. Should a prince resolve to do that which the pope’s infallible holiness has declared to be criminal, and should that prince happen to be too powerful to be intimidated, and too dangerous to be provoked into rebellion, in such, delicate cases the pope, with his facilities to accommodate all difficulties, grants a dispensation, whereby the applicant is empowered to violate all the infallible laws of the church without incurring any of their penalties.
In the reign of Henry VII., who became king of England in 1485, we find an illustration of this policy. That sovereign had married Arthur, his eldest son, to Catherine, daughter of Ferdinand, king of Arragon. On the decease of Arthur, the king, with the view of retaining the opulent Spanish dowery in his family, desired to marry the widow of Arthur to his next son. The young prince Henry, but fifteen years old, protested against marrying a lady for whom he had no affection, and who was so much his senior. Besides this difficulty the contemplated alliance was in violation of the laws of consanguinity, so solemnly established by the authority of the infallible church, and so terrifically armed with all the terrors of anathemas and excommunication. To silence the objection of his son, and the thunders of the Vatican, Henry applied to the pope for permission to execute his purposes, in violation of the established laws of the church; and the pope, not deeming it prudent to offend so powerful a potentate, granted his request But vain are the pope’s pretensions to be able to change the moral law of heaven unless: he can also change the natural course of events. In this attempt to accommodate principle to interest, and the infallible laws of the church to the changing whim of an avaricious monarch, he laid the foundation for the final separation of the kingdom of England from the See of Rome.
After the death of Henry VII. his son, under the title of Henry VIII., succeeded to the British throne. Frank and vain, he became at an early period of his life an object of the subtle policy of Rome. Naturally generous, his indomitable love of power and dominion often led him to violate the obligations of humanity; and impetuous in passion, and impatient of restraint, he was tempted to annihilate the constitutional restraints which conflicted with his designs, and to make the forms of justice subservient to the gratification of his ambition and interest.
Happening to become enamored of Anne Bolyne, he began to suspect the legality of his marriage with Catherine; and though he had recognized its obligations by a union of twenty years, yet the oftener he saw his mistress the stronger became his convictions of the heterodoxy and unlawfulness of his matrimonial relations, and the more scrupulous he became about his chastity. The want of male issue, and the disparity of years between him and his wife mingled reflections with these legal and religious scruples, and made them so pungent that Henry, in order to get rid of the torment thus inflicted, finally applied to the pope for a divorce. The pope promised to grant his request; but the fear of offending Charles V., Catherine’s nephew, produced strange vacillation in the mind of the infallible holy father. Two powerful and crafty princes dictated to him opposite courses; to offend either would be disastrous; he therefore pretended to favor the wishes of both. Aware of papal artifice, however, Henry became imperious in his demands. The pope appeared to yield, and to soothe the impatient prince with a semblance of compliance, but a means of procrastination, he commissioned Cardinals Wolsey and Campaggio to adjust the difficulty. They cited the queen to appear before them; she appealed to the pope; they declared her contumacious. By these proceedings the controversy becoming more embarrassed than before, and less capable of a speedy solution, Henry peremptorily decided the matter by consummating his marriage with Anne Bolyne. This act astonished the pope, and enraged Charles V. To gratify Charles, and to punish Henry, the holy father proceeded to excommunicate the latter. The despotic character of Henry, however, had too much overawed his subjects to allow the papal machinery to give much efficacy to the manifestos of its prime engineer; and placing himself at the head of the Catholic church in England, he released his subjects from allegiance to the See of Rome, effected a separation from it, and nullified its temporal authority over his dominions.
Discarding the dogma of the pope’s temporal power, Henry still strictly adhered to the standard of Catholic theology in all other respects; and the pope, at the same time, through the medium of Cardinal Wolsey, continued to exert considerable indirect influence on his mind. This prelate who, while he was a preacher at Limington was put into the stocks for disorderly conduct in a drunken frolic; who afterwards was made domestic chaplain by Dean, Archbishop of Canterbury, and who was finally created cardinal by the pope, obtained such unlimited power over the mind of Henry that the pope pensioned him to keep him in his interest. It is not a matter of much surprise that Henry’s aversion to the reformers, inflamed by the arts of such a vicious counsellor, should have brought so many of them to the stake; nor that the bigotry and intolerance of Catholicism should have survived the destruction of its political engine. Henry VIII. condemned to death Lambert, a school teacher, for denying the real presence At intervals during his reign he rigorously persecuted the Protestants. Catherine Parr, his last wife, barely escaped execution for having encouraged the reformers. A warrant had been wrung from the king by the Bishop of Winchester, for her committal to the Tower on the charge of heretical opinions; but having become secretly apprised of the fact in time she sought the king, and satisfied him that when she had objected to his opinions it was from a desire to become enlightened by his superior knowledge and intelligence. While he employed violent means to enforce conformity to the Catholic theology, he visited equal vengeance on those who advocated the pope’s temporal authority. When he discovered that the monks and friars were guilty of defending the obnoxious heresy of the pope’s temporal power, he suppressed their houses; but not wishing to destroy the monastic orders, he applied the sequestered funds to the establishment of other similar institutions; but on perceiving these also to be secretly engaged in machinations to restore the pope’s temporal authority, he abolished the religious orders altogether. Even Cardinal Wolsey fell under his suspicion, and was executed for treason by his order. After he had beheaded his wife, Catherine Howard for unchastity, his severity against those who advocated the pope’s temporal sovereignty, and against those who denied the Romish theology, was cruel in the highest degree.
What papal rapaciousness cannot boldly grasp, it will secretly plot to obtain. Kings who control nations, women who may perhaps control kings, and children who are presumptive heirs of empires, are powerful instruments in the accomplishment of political designs, and especial objects of papal intrigue.
The inveterate opposition to Catholics in England rendered it almost impossible for a Catholic to ascend the throne, and eventually interdicted it by positive enactments. To counteract the consequences of this spirit, a scheme was projected by papal craft to have the heirs of the throne educated by Catholic mothers, so that future kings might rule as Protestants with Catholic proclivities, and in course of time, through the demoralization, dissatisfaction, discord and blood effected by the cooperation of its adherents, the supremacy of the pope might be reestablished in England, James I., who on the death of Elizabeth succeeded to the crown of England and Scotland, a ruler devoid of statesmen-like abilities, without firmness or stability, and bloated up with fanciful notions of royal prerogatives, was the pliant instrument of this subtle policy. An amorous flame having been kindled in him and in Henrietta Maria, daughter of Henry IV., of France, it was stipulated that the union should be consummated, on condition that the heirs which should issue should be subject to the exclusive control of their mother until they were thirteen years of age. This contract secured a Catholic education to the heirs of the British throne, and laid the foundations for the dreadful calamities which afflicted the nation during the reigns of Charles II. and James II.
The abolition of papal despotism over the English mind giving freedom to thought and inquiry, could not but enlarge its conceptions of civil and religious liberty. The old system of prerogatives sunk into contempt, and the new system of representative government became more popular as the mind became more comprehensive in its grasp, and more profound in its investigation. Hence the Puritans, who originally were Catholics, and merely advocated a simpler form of worship; the Presbyterians and the Independents, who at first questioned only the temporal power of the pope, yet driven from those whom they had venerated by the hate which persecution engenders, and disenthralled from the shackles with which custom and superstition enslaves the mind, began fearlessly and candidly to investigate the fundamental principles of faith and practice, and to elaborate theological creeds totally different from those of Catholicism, and vastly superior to them. While the people were rapidly advancing in liberal views of religion and government, the heir of the throne was too much absorbed in magnifying his visionary prerogatives to share in the progress of the age, or to study the character of the people over whom he was destined to reign. When in 1625 he ascended the English throne, under the title of Charles I., the new order of popular sentiment had become an impetuous torrent. Common sagacity might have perceived the inevitable destruction that would await him if he should attempt to stem the popular tide of thought; and prudence would have dictated a practicable compromise of differences rather than the certain alternative of civil war. But Archbishop Laud, a Catholic under the disguise of Protestantism, and who was the medium of the pope’s influence, exercised a despotism over the king’s mind too absolute to allow his reason to instruct, or his conscience to admonish him. The religious views and secret designs of this professed Protestant bishop cannot be misunderstood. He maintained that the papal authority had always been visible in the realm. He furnished the king with a significant list of the names of all his Catholic and Protestant subjects. He was also the principal actor in the Star Chamber, and Court of High Commission. So well was the pope satisfied with the orthodoxy of this sacerdotal miscreant that he sent him a cardinal’s hat, which he declined for the ambiguous reason that the “Church of Rome was no other than it was!” The king, controlled and ill-advised by such a counsellor, blinded by his own bigotry, and elated with self-conceit, was led to scorn the rising spirit of the nation, and to adopt measures for its suppression. But parliament with prudent foresight, and patriotic boldness, taught him that the Commons were the constitutional dispensers and guardians of the public treasury. He next resolved to oblige Scotland to conform to the ritual prescribed by the Church of England; and as parliament had refused to allow him the use of the public funds for that and other purposes, he attempted to raise means for their accomplishment by unconstitutional methods. By this impolitic course he aroused a lion from its den, with whose strength and fury he could not well cope. The Scotch formed a league of Covenanters, composed of all classes and factions, for the defence of their religious liberty; and as the king viewed their enthusiastic and formidable array, and compared it with the suspicious material of his own army, he prudently concluded terms of pacification.
Having frequently called the Commons together in parliament, and finding them more disposed to dictate than to obey, and inflexible in their refusal to furnish him with the pecuniary aid necessary to the accomplishment of his design, he finally determined to rule without a parliament, and by a liberal construction of his prerogatives to arrogate monarchial power. An object so consistent with the dogmas of Catholicism, and so flattering to the vanity of the Episcopal royalists, equally betrayed them into acquiescence. To aid the king in his despotic design the royalists extolled his prerogatives, asserted their divine origin, declared it impious to prescribe any limits to them, and inculcated passive obedience as a Christian virtue and imperative duty. The terror of the Star Chamber, and of the Court of High Commission, was also called into requisition. But neither the eloquent encomiums lavished on the king’s prerogative, nor the atrocities of the Star Chamber, nor the severity of the Court of High Commission, nor a rebellion excited in Ireland against parliament, nor the arms of the royal troops, produced anything for the king’s prerogatives but disgrace and ridicule. Dreading the liberalism and inflexibility of the Commons, and the uncompromising hostility against his person and measures which his persecution of non-conformists had excited in the majority of them, yet he was obliged, by the critical state of public affairs, to call them together. This parliament proved the memorable “long parliament.” As might have been expected, its embittered and exasperated members opened the session with torrents of scorn and contempt poured on the king and his prerogatives. They also adopted every expedient to inflame the public mind, and to make it accessory to their design of reducing the king to unresisting helplessness. They denounced the Episcopalians, and other advocates of the king’s prerogatives, in whom Catholicism and monarchy had disguised themselves under the semblance of Protestantism. They attempted to exclude the bishops from the House of Lords. They so intimidated the royalists of the House that many of them absented themselves from their seats. They restricted the king’s prerogatives, abolished the Star Chamber, and the Court of High Commission, passed acts against superstitious practices, executed Laud and Stafford, and as the king had set the dangerous precedent of liberal construction of law and prerogatives, they availed themselves of the same means to justify their measures. The impetuous tornado of their zeal and wrath swept away all the king’s elaborate schemes for the acquisition of monarchial power, and poured upon his unprotected head a pitiless storm of wrath. Condemned to be the helpless spectator of the destruction of his hopes of absolute power, which art, tyranny, and usurpation had enabled him to build, he became wild with despair and rage, and, in a desperate attempt to retrieve his fortune by asserting in his extremity his empty prerogatives, he brought his precarious condition to an unfortunate close. Entering the House of Commons, he personally attempted to arrest some of its members. The House, consequently, broke up in disorder; the king saw his error, but too late; he fled from his capitol in terror; two armies arose; the one under the king, the other under parliament: after several bloody battles, the king lost his crown, and finally his life.
Parliament now resolved to rule without a king as the king had resolved to rule without a parliament. The spirit of despotism under the form of freedom, still, however, predominated in the national councils. Cromwell, a professed republican, but a secret monarchist; as intolerant as he was religious, and crafty as he was ambitious; who, as interest instigated, favored or persecuted Catholics, Protestants, Puritans, and Republicans, was this despotic spirit which desecrated the form of Freedom, and which induced him while he governed England as a protector, to seek to govern her as a king, and to plot in secret to reestablish her throne. After the termination of his eventful career, and the resignation of his appointed successor, Charles II., son of James I., in 1660 was crowned King of England.
Illiberal in mind, intolerant in disposition, defective in sensibility, and destitute of honor and generosity, he was base as a man, dishonorable as a prince, and a pliable instrument of the papal intrigues. A hypocrite from his birth, he was capable of assuming any guise; and supremely selfish, he tolerated vice and corruption whenever it administered to his interests. By the licentiousness of his court he degraded the moral standing of the British nation in the eyes of the world and of history, and with a despotic and unprincipled set of measures, arrogated power in defiance of constitutional obstructions, and reduced the people to slavery in contempt of their hereditary valor and independence, and the safeguards with which they had protected their liberty.
The pathway to his elevation to the throne having been prepared by General Monk, he was received with frantic acclamations by conflicting civil and religious sects, and without a struggle succeeded to those danger-our prerogatives which had cost the nation so much blood and treasure. The admonition of past occurrences had induced him to disguise under the cloak of a pacific and accommodating policy, his secret and ulterior designs. But the specious mask fell from his brow when he passed the intolerent act of non-conformity, by which the Presbyterians were peremptorily driven from their livings.
Profligacy, which enfeebles the intellectual powers, and destroys the foundation of public respect, has ever been encouraged in princes or people by the artifice of those whose ambition has plotted to make them subservient to their interest, or dependent on their power. The disgracefulness of this policy has never been too abhorrent to the Roman See to cause it to forego the advantages of its adoption. The profligate character of Charles II., and the dissolute manners which he introduced into his court, ably aided the papal machinery in alienating from him the respect and affection of his subjects, and in making him more dependent on the favor of the pope. His extravagance involved him eventually in such pecuniary embarrassments that he became a pensioner on Louis, king of France; and in consequence became doubly ironed with the papal shackles—the king of France forming one set of manacles, the priests of England another—and both were equally bound to the interests of the papal monarchy. That every thought and action might be discovered in its incipiency, he was furnished with a French lady to amuse him in his retirement This accomplished but abandoned female obtained such ascendency over his mind, that she induced him to make her a duchess. Thus watched, debased and controlled, he became the unconscious tool of the designs of others, and was led to alarm the public mind by forming a disgraceful cabal, by which to concert measures for making himself independent of parliament.
To add to the public dissatisfaction the Duke of York, the heir presumptive to the throne, openly espoused the cause of Catholicism. Strong measures were consequently adopted to remove him from his post, as admiral of the navy, and eventually to exclude him from the throne. The violent factions, and fierce criminations and recriminations to which these measures gave rise kept the people in a state of feverish excitement. In the midst of these wild alarms a pretended popish plot was reported to have been discovered, which received universal credence. The design of this plot was said to be to destroy parliament and assassinate the king. A secret Catholic faction was supposed to exist in the nation, the object of which was to restore the authority of the pope; and circumstances lending credibility to the supposition, the most intense excitement seized the public mind. Parliament was terrific in its denunciations, and the people clamorous for vengeance. Lords were arrested, priests hung, the Duke of York fled from the country in terror, the Earl of Stafford was beheaded, and the king, filled with consternation, yielded to the popular demand the Habeas Corpus act, to avert the storm that was muttering destruction over his head. Fortified with this new safeguard to public freedom, the people became tranquil once more; but the king perceiving the formidable obstacle which parliament obtruded in the way of his acquisition of despotic power, resolved to get rid of it by making it the instrument of its own destruction. After having assembled it several times for this purpose, and finding it inflexibly opposed to his measures, he determined to dispense with it altogether, and to substitute his prerogatives in the place of its authority. In order to reduce the corporations to an absolute dependence on his will, he employed with as much baseness as tyranny, intimidations to induce them to surrender their charters, so that they might be remodelled in accordance with the claims of the absolute power of his prerogatives. In order to deplete the ranks of non-Catholics, he had recourse to gross and unfounded charges of plots and conspiracies. Lord Shaftsbury, the author of the Habeas Corpus act, was arrested, imprisoned in the Tower and tried for high treason; but acquitted. Dungeons were overcrowded with subjects against whom no allegation laid, except that of love of liberty and opposition to tyranny. But while he was wading through the innocent blood of his subjects to a crown of unlimited monarchy, some desperate spirits were secretly concocting a plot to arrest his atrocious career by the deplorable means of the assassin’s dagger. This unsuccessful conspiracy, known as the Rhyhouse plot, which could not escape the omniscient eye of the Catholic machinery, was, of course, discovered before it had matured its plans, and only gave the king a plausible pretence for gratifying his malignancy against the ablest advocates of constitutional liberty. William Russell, who had with undaunted firmness maintained the fundamental principle of free government, was the first victim through this unfortunate affair, to the eagerness of the king’s bloodthirsty revenge. Foredoomed, he was tried by a packed jury, and condemned against conclusive proof of his innocence. Alerngon Sidney, another apostle of liberty, was unjustly charged with high treason. The law requiring two witnesses to substantiate allegations of this nature, and but one having appeared, and he as unreliable as he was promptly received, the infamous Jeffrey summoned into court a manuscript which had been found in the closet of the defendant. In this manuscript the author expressed a preference for a free to an arbitrary government. The judge deciding that the document was a competent witness in his court, (although he did not swear it), and that it supplied the want of the other witness required by the law of treason, proceeded to pass sentence of death on the accused.
By means of similar unwarrantable proceedings, and the co-operation of the papal machinery, the king succeeded in dragooning Scotland into conformity, in suppressing the bold Covenanters, and in amassing almost sufficient power for the accomplishment of any purpose. After he had, in defiance of parliament and the laws, and by means of tyrannical measures and execrable usurpations, rendered himself as absolute in power as any despot in Europe, death interposed in the midst of his success, and removed him from a throne which he had disgraced, and a people whom he had oppressed. Had his conduct during his life left a doubt of his genuine Catholicism, and hypocritical profession of Protestantism, the last moments of his existence were sufficient to dispel them. Just before his death he received the sacrament according to the rites of the Catholic church, and having no further need of deception, openly professed himself a Catholic.
James II., brother of Charles II., in 1685 succeeded to the throne of England and Scotland. Educated like his brother, he had imbibed similar religious and political sentiments. While Duke of York he at first secretly, but afterwards openly, professed the Catholic faith. When, in the course of intrigue and conflict, the royal party had gained the ascendency in Scotland, he retired thither; and manifested his barbarous ferocity by personally assisting at the torturing of the Covenanters. The rapid strides which his brother had made towards the acquisition of absolute power, and the paralyzing dread which cruelty and tyranny had cast over the public mind, enabled James II. to succeed to the British throne without opposition. From the hour he became invested with the royal dignity, he adopted every expedient that craft could devise to convert his royal prerogatives into monarchial authority, and to secure the restoration of Catholicism as the religion of the kingdom. As virtue scorns to be the tool of vice, and as sycophants are the most pliable instruments of despotism, he adopted the policy of investing the most unscrupulous with official authority. Supreme among his base and cringing creatures stood Judge Jeffrey. The chief engineer of the papal machinery—the controlling spirit of the king and his councils; insolent, imperious, arbitrary and oppressive, this man was ready for any work that furnished sufficient blood and plunder. By barbarous and inhuman acts, and by the arbitrary execution of innocent subjects, this monster in human form succeeded in casting a deep gloom over the public mind, and in annihilating all apparent opposition to the tyrannical proceedure of the king. Amid the death-like silence which hung on the lips of the people the king threw off his disguise, entered into negotiation with the pope for the reception of England into the papal church, celebrated mass invested with the royal paraphernalia, assumed the power of parliament, nullified all test oaths, filled the councils and army with Catholics, governed Scotland and Ireland by his creatures, organized ecclesiastical tribunals to try such clergy as were suspected of holding liberal sentiments, committed bishops to the Tower for having remonstrated against the propriety of reading a document concerning a popish indulgence which he had commanded to be read in all the churches, and adopted every possible method to subvert civil and religious liberty, and to bind on his subjects the shackles of papal despotism. Towards the final consummation of his calamitous design he appeared to be making rapid strides; but, though the papal machinery was formidable, yet there was another power more formidable still; as wily and as secret: which was quietly maturing its strength for the hour of retribution. The oppressive measures of the king and the failure of every attempt at compromise and conciliation, had created a stern opposition in the mind of the people, of the gentry, and of some lords. Silent but powerful, though this opposition seemed to slumber, yet it was but calmly waiting the destined hour, when it would arise and annihilate dynasties find prerogatives. While the king, deceived by the treacherous calm, was trampling in insolent contempt on the people’s rights; while sycophantic priests were chaunting his song of triumph; and while the pope was congratulating him on his success, and stretching forth his hand to receive the kingdom, William of Orange suddenly appeared on the coast of England with a formidable navy and army, and, as with the stroke of an enchanter’s wand, changed the calm and brilliant prospects of the king into storms and sights of horror, and the peans of his sycophants into howling and lamentations. Terrified at the sight, the king repealed his unpopular acts, and proffered to his subjects all the rights which they had in vain plead for before. Conscious of their strength, and irreconcilable in the memory of their wrongs, they rejected with scorn and indignation all his generous overtures. As he had ruled as a tyrant, he now absconded as a coward. The throne was declared abdicated, and William and Mary proclaimed sovereigns of England and Scotland. After some fruitless attempts to regain his kingdom, James II. turned Jesuist, and passed the remainder of his life in doing penance, Edward, the Pretender, grandson of James I., educated at Rome, was another instrument which the pope adopted to establish his authority over the crown of England. This treasonable plot was unanimously supported by the tory party. This faction had ever been a prominent branch of the papal machinery. Under the disguise of Protestantism, in 1680, the tories made vigorous efforts for the subjugation of England to the papal dominion. They were the most strenuous supporters of Charles II. In every scheme of oppression and violence—in the persecution of dissenters, in the banishment of patriots, in the murder of the advocates of popular freedom—in every project of the king to grasp monarchial power, in the abrogation of the free charters, in the assumption of despotic prerogatives, in the efforts to abolish parliament, they were the bold and unequivocal supporters. It was, therefore, consistent with their historic tradition that they should welcome as allies of the pope the invasion of Edward, and be ready to repeat their former atrocities in his cause. England’s vigilance, however, defeated Edward’s first attempt, in 1742, but he made another in 1745 which was more successful. Landing secretly in Scotland with but seven trusty officers, yet such was the efficiency of the papal machinery, that it soon enabled him to command an army which made England tremble. But the contest was short and decisive. Although he gained some important advantages, yet the signal victory over his forces at Culloden, in 1746, effectually checked his career. Despairing of success, he fled to France, where, through the intercession of the king’s mistress, he received a pension. He finally returned to Rome, where he died of diseases engendered by habits of intemperance.
We have now alluded, in this chapter to some of those popish intermeddlings in the political concerns of England, so grossly in violation of international law, and which have been so prolific of treason, of popular insurrection, of civil war, and of all that can empoverish a nation and impede its progress; but we have mentioned but few of them. The limits we have prescribed to this work will not allow us to trace the wily and deadly serpent of papal intrigue in all its secret windings, nor dwell upon the important admonitory lessons its history furnishes to patriots, to rulers, and to mankind: these we must leave to the reflection of the reader.
SOURCE: MONKS, POPES, AND THEIR POLITICAL INTRIGUES-By John Alberger- Baltimore 1871