Eviction of the yeomen

The Eviction of the Yeomen

Like primitive Rome, England, during the Middle Ages, had an unusually homogeneous population of farmers, who made a remarkable infantry. Not that the cavalry was defective; on the contrary, from top to bottom of society, every man was a soldier, and the aristocracy had excellent fighting qualities. Many of the kings, like Cœur-de-Lion, Edward III., and Henry V., ranked among the ablest commanders of their day; the Black Prince has always been a hero of chivalry; and earls and barons could be named by the score who were famous in the Hundred Years' War.

Yet, although the English knights were a martial body, there is nothing to show that, on the whole, they surpassed the French. The English infantry won Crécy and Poitiers, and this infantry, which was long the terror of Europe, was recruited from among the small farmers who flourished in Great Britain until they were exterminated by the advance of civilization.

As long as the individual could at all withstand the attack of the centralized mass of society, England remained a hot-bed for breeding this species of man. A mediæval king had no means of collecting a regular revenue by taxation; he was only the chief of the free-men, and his estates were supposed to suffice for his expenditure. The revenue the land yielded consisted of men, not money, and to obtain men, the sovereign granted his domains to his nearest friends, who, in their turn, cut their manors into as many farms as possible, and each farmer paid his rent with his body.

A baron's strength lay in the band of spears which followed his banner, and therefore he subdivided his acres as much as possible, having no great need of money. Himself a farmer, he cultivated enough of his fief to supply his wants, to provide his table, and to furnish his castle, but, beyond this, all he kept to himself was loss. Under such a system money contracts played a small part, and economic competition was unknown.

The tenants were free-men, whose estates passed from father to son by a fixed tenure; no one could underbid them with their landlord, and no capitalist could ruin them by depressing wages, for the serfs formed the basis of society, and these serfs were likewise land-owners. In theory, the villains may have held at will; but in fact they were probably the descendants, or at least the representatives, of the coloni  of the Empire, and a base tenure could be proved by the roll of the manorial court. Thus even the weakest were protected by custom, and there was no competition in the labour market.

The manor was the social unit, and, as the country was sparsely settled, waste spaces divided the manors from each other, and these wastes came to be considered as commons appurtenant to the domain in which the tenants of the manor had vested rights. The extent of these rights varied from generation to generation, but substantially they amounted to a privilege of pasture, fuel, or the like; aids which, though unimportant to large property owners, were vital when the margin of income was narrow.

During the old imaginative age, before centralization gathered headway, little inducement existed to pilfer these domains, since there was room in plenty, and the population increased slowly, if at all. The moment the form of competition changed, these conditions were reversed. Precisely when a money rent became a more potent force than armed men, may be hard to determine, but certainly that time had come when Henry VIII. mounted the throne, for then capitalistic farming was on the increase, and speculation in real estate already caused sharp distress. At that time the establishment of a police had destroyed the value of the retainer, and competitive rents had generally supplanted military tenures. Instead of tending to subdivide, as in an age of decentralization, land consolidated in the hands of the economically strong, and capitalists systematically enlarged their estates by enclosing the commons, and depriving the yeomen of their immemorial rights.

The sixteenth-century landlords were a type quite distinct from the ancient feudal gentry. As a class they were gifted with the economic, and not with the martial instinct, and they throve on competition. Their strength lay in their power of absorbing the property of their weaker neighbours under the protection of an overpowering police.

Everything tended to accelerate consolidation, especially the rise in the value of money. While, even with the debasement of the coin, the price of cereals did not advance, the growth of manufactures had caused wool to double in value. “We need not therefore be surprised at finding that the temptation to sheep-farming was almost irresistible, and that statute after statute failed to arrest the tendency.”[265] The conversion of arable land into pasture led, of course, to wholesale eviction, and by 1515 the suffering had become so acute that details were given in acts of Parliament. Places where two hundred persons had lived, by growing corn and grain, were left desolate, the houses had decayed, and the churches fallen into ruin.[266] The language of these statutes proves that the descriptions of contemporaries were not exaggerated.

“For I myselfe know many townes and villages sore decayed, for yt where as in times past there wer in some town an hundred householdes there remain not now thirty; in some fifty, ther are not now ten; yea (which is more to be lamented) I knowe townes so wholly decayed, that there is neyther sticke nor stone standyng as they use to say.

“Where many men had good lyuinges, and maynteined hospitality, able at times to helpe the kyng in his warres, and to susteyne other charges, able also to helpe their pore neighboures, and vertuously to bring up theyr children in Godly letters and good scyences, nowe sheepe and conies deuoure altogether, no man inhabiting the aforesayed places. Those beastes which were created of God for the nouryshment of man doe nowe deuoure man.... And the cause of all thys wretchednesse and beggery in the common weale are the gredy Gentylmen, whyche are shepemongers and grasyars. Whyle they study for their owne priuate commoditie, the common weale is lyke to decay. Since they began to be shepe maysters and feders of cattell, we neyther had vyttayle nor cloth of any reasonable pryce. No meruayle, for these forstallars of the market, as they use to saye, haue gotten all thynges so into theyr handes, that the poore man muste eyther bye it at their pryce, or else miserably starue for hongar, and wretchedly dye for colde.”[267]

The reduction of the acreage in tillage must have lessened the crop of the cereals, and accounts for their slight rise in value during the second quarter of the sixteenth century. Nevertheless this rise gave the farmer no relief, as, under competition, rents advanced faster than prices, and in the generation which reformed the Church, the misery of yeomen had become extreme. In 1549 Latimer preached a sermon, which contains a passage often quoted, but always interesting:—

“Furthermore, if the king's honour, as some men say, standeth in the great multitude of people; then these graziers, inclosers, and rent-rearers, are hinderers of the king's honour. For where as have been a great many householders and inhabitants, there is now but a shepherd and his dog....

“My father was yeoman, and had no lands of his own, only he had a farm of three or four pound by year at the uttermost, and hereupon he tilled so much as kept half a dozen men. He had walk for a hundred sheep; and my mother milked thirty kine. He was able, and did find the king a harness, with himself and his horse, while he came to the place that he should receive the king's wages. I can remember that I buckled his harness when he went unto Blackheath field. He kept me to school, or else I had not been able to have preached before the king's majesty now.

“He married my sisters with five pound, or twenty nobles apiece; so that he brought them up in godliness and fear of God. He kept hospitality for his poor neighbours, and some alms he gave to the poor. And all this he did of the said farm, where he that now hath it payeth sixteen pound by year, or more, and is not able to do anything for his prince, for himself, nor for his children, or give a cup of drink to the poor.”[268]

The small proprietor suffered doubly: he had to meet the competition of large estates, and to endure the curtailment of his resources through the enclosure of the commons. The effect was to pauperize the yeomanry and lesser gentry, and before the Reformation the homeless poor had so multiplied that, in 1530, Parliament passed the first of a series of vagrant acts.[269] At the outset the remedy applied was comparatively mild, for able-bodied mendicants were only to be whipped until they were bloody, returned to their domicile, and there whipped until they put themselves to labour. As no labour was supplied, the legislation failed, and in 1537 the emptying of the convents brought matters to a climax. Meanwhile Parliament tried the experiment of killing off the unemployed; by the second act vagrants were first mutilated and then hanged as felons.[270]

In 1547, when Edward VI. was crowned, the great crisis had reached its height. The silver of Potosi had not yet brought relief, the currency was in chaos, labour was disorganized, and the nation seethed with the discontent which broke out two years later in rebellion. The land-owners held absolute power, and before they yielded to the burden of feeding the starving, they seriously addressed themselves to the task of extermination. The preamble of the third act stated that, in spite of the “great travel” and “godly statutes” of Parliament, pauperism had not diminished, therefore any vagrant brought before two justices was to be adjudged the slave of his captor for two years. He might be compelled to work by beating, chaining, or otherwise, be fed on bread and water, or refuse meat, and confined by a ring of iron about his neck, arms or legs. For his first attempt at escape, his slavery became perpetual, for his second, he was hanged.[271]

Even as late as 1591, in the midst of the great expansion which brought prosperity to all Europe, and when the monks and nuns, cast adrift by the suppression of the convents, must have mostly died, beggars so swarmed that at the funeral of the Earl of Shrewsbury “there were by the report of such as served the dole unto them, the number of 8000. And they thought that there were almost as many more that could not be served, through their unruliness. Yea, the press was so great that divers were slain and many hurt. And further it is reported of credible persons, that well estimated the number of all the said beggars, that they thought there were about 20,000.” It was conjectured “that all the said poor people were abiding and dwelling within thirty miles' compass of Sheffield.”[272]

In 1549, just as the tide turned, insurrection blazed out all over England. In the west a pitched battle was fought between the peasantry and foreign mercenaries, and Exeter was relieved only after a long siege. In Norfolk the yeomen, led by one Kett, controlled a large district for a considerable time. They arrested the unpopular landlords, threw open the commons they had appropriated, and ransacked the manor houses to pay indemnities to evicted farmers. When attacked, they fought stubbornly, and stormed Norwich twice.

Strype described “these mutineers” as “certain poor men that sought to have their commons again, by force and power taken from them; and that a regulation be made according to law of arable lands turned into pasture.”[273]

Cranmer understood the situation perfectly, and though a consummate courtier, and himself a creation of the capitalistic revolution, spoke in this way of his patrons:—

“And they complain much of rich men and gentlemen, saying, that they take the commons from the poor, that they raise the prices of all manner of things, that they rule the poverty, and oppress them at their pleasure....

“And although here I seem only to speak against these unlawful assemblers, yet I cannot allow those, but I must needs threaten everlasting damnation unto them, whether they be gentlemen or whatsoever they be, which never cease to purchase and join house to house, and land to land, as though they alone ought to possess and inhabit the earth.”[274]

Revolt against the pressure of this unrestricted economic competition took the form of Puritanism, of resistance to the religious organization controlled by capital, and even in Cranmer's time, the attitude of the descendants of the men who formed the line at Poitiers and Crécy was so ominous that Anglican bishops took alarm.

“It is reported that there be many among these unlawful assemblies that pretend knowledge of the gospel, and will needs be called gospellers.... But now I will go further to speak somewhat of the great hatred which divers of these seditious persons do bear against the gentlemen; which hatred in many is so outrageous, that they desire nothing more than the spoil, ruin, and destruction of them that be rich and wealthy.”[275]

Somerset, who owed his elevation to the accident of being the brother of Jane Seymour, proved unequal to the crisis of 1449, and was supplanted by John Dudley, now better remembered as Duke of Northumberland. Dudley was the strongest member of the new aristocracy. His father, Edmund Dudley, had been the celebrated lawyer who rose to eminence as the extortioner of Henry VII., and whom Henry VIII. executed, as an act of popularity, on his accession. John, beside inheriting his father's financial ability, had a certain aptitude for war, and undoubted courage; accordingly he rose rapidly. He and Cromwell understood each other; he flattered Cromwell, and Cromwell lent him money.[276] Strype has intimated that Dudley had strong motives for resisting the restoration of the commons.[277]

In 1547 he was created Earl of Warwick, and in 1549 suppressed Kett's rebellion. This military success brought him to the head of the State; he thrust Somerset aside, and took the title of Duke of Northumberland. His son was equally distinguished. He became the favourite of Queen Elizabeth, who created him Earl of Leicester; but, though an expert courtier, he was one of the most incompetent generals whom even the Tudor landed aristocracy ever put in the field.

The disturbances of the reign of Edward VI. did not ripen into revolution, probably because of the relief given by rising prices after 1550; but, though they fell short of actual civil war, they were sufficiently formidable to terrify the aristocracy into abandoning their policy of killing off the surplus population. In 1552 the first statute was passed [278] looking toward the systematic relief of paupers. Small farmers prospered greatly after 1660, for prices rose strongly, very much more strongly than rents; nor was it until after the beginning of the seventeenth century, when rents again began to advance, that the yeomanry once more grew restive. Cromwell raised his Ironsides from among the great-grandchildren of the men who stormed Norwich with Kett.

“I had a very worthy friend then; and he was a very noble person, and I know his memory is very grateful to all,—Mr. John Hampden. At my first going out into this engagement, I saw our men were beaten at every hand. I did indeed; and desired him that he would make some additions to my Lord Essex's army, of some new regiments; and I told him I would be serviceable to him in bringing such men in as I thought had a spirit that would do something in the work. This is very true that I tell you; God knows I lie not. ‘Your troops,' said I, ‘are most of them old decayed serving-men, and tapsters, and such kind of fellows; and,' said I, ‘their troops are gentlemen's sons, younger sons and persons of quality: do you think that the spirits of such base and mean fellows will ever be able to encounter gentlemen, that have honour and courage and resolution in them?'... Truly I did tell him; ‘You must get men of a spirit: ... a spirit that is likely to go on as far as gentlemen will go;—or else you will be beaten still....'

“He was a wise and worthy person; and he did think that I talked a good notion, but an impracticable one. Truly I told him I could do somewhat in it, ... and truly I must needs say this to you, ... I raised such men as had the fear of God before them, as made some conscience of what they did; and from that day forward, I must say to you, they were never beaten, and wherever they were engaged against the enemy, they beat continually.”[279]

Thus, by degrees, the pressure of intensifying centralization split the old homogeneous population of England into classes, graduated according to their economic capacity. Those without the necessary instinct sank into agricultural day labourers, whose lot, on the whole, has probably been somewhat worse than that of ordinary slaves. The gifted, like the Howards, the Dudleys, the Cecils, and the Boleyns, rose to be rich nobles and masters of the State. Between the two accumulated a mass of bold and needy adventurers, who were destined finally not only to dominate England, but to shape the destinies of the world.

One section of these, the shrewder and less venturesome, gravitated to the towns, and grew rich as merchants, like the founder of the Osborn family, whose descendant became Duke of Leeds; or like the celebrated Josiah Child, who, in the reign of William III., controlled the whole eastern trade of the kingdom. The less astute and the more martial took to the sea, and as slavers, pirates, and conquerors, built up England's colonial empire, and established her maritime supremacy. Of this class were Drake and Blake, Hawkins, Raleigh, and Clive.

For several hundred years after the Norman conquest, Englishmen showed little taste for the ocean, probably because sufficient outlet for their energies existed on land. In the Middle Ages the commerce of the island was mostly engrossed by the Merchants of the Steelyard, an offshoot of the Hanseatic league; while the great explorers of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries were usually Italians or Portuguese; men like Columbus, Vespucius, Vasco-da-Gama, or Magellan. This state of things lasted, however, only until economic competition began to ruin the small farmers, and then the hardiest and boldest race of Europe were cast adrift, and forced to seek their fortunes in strange lands.

For the soldier or the adventurer, there was no opening in England after the battle of Flodden. A peaceful and inert bourgeoisie more and more supplanted the ancient martial baronage; their representatives shrank from campaigns like those of Richard I., the Edwards, and Henry V., and therefore, for the evicted farmer, there was nothing but the far-off continents of America and Asia, and to these he directed his steps.

The lives of the admirals tell the tale on every page. Drake's history is now known. His family belonged to the lesser Devon gentry, but fallen so low that his father gladly apprenticed him as ship's boy on a channel coaster, a life of almost intolerable hardship. From this humble beginning he fought his way, by dint of courage and genius, to be one of England's three greatest seamen; and Blake and Nelson, the other two, were of the same blood.

Sir Humphrey Gilbert was of the same west country stock as Drake; Frobisher was a poor Yorkshire man, and Sir Walter Raleigh came from a ruined house. No less than five knightly branches of Raleigh's family once throve together in the western counties; but disaster came with the Tudors, and Walter's father fell into trouble through his Puritanism. Walter himself early had to face the world, and carved out his fortune with his sword. He served in France in the religious wars; afterward, perhaps, in Flanders; then, through Gilbert, he obtained a commission in Ireland, but finally drifted to Elizabeth's court, where he took to buccaneering, and conceived the idea of colonizing America.

A profound gulf separated these adventurers from the landed capitalists, for they were of an extreme martial type; a type hated and feared by the nobility. With the exception of the years of the Commonwealth, the landlords controlled England from the Reformation to the revolution of 1688, a period of one hundred and fifty years, and, during that long interval, there is little risk in asserting that the aristocracy did not produce a single soldier or sailor of more than average capacity. The difference between the royal and the parliamentary armies was as great as though they had been recruited from different races. Charles had not a single officer of merit, while it is doubtful if any force has ever been better led than the troops organized by Cromwell.

Men like Drake, Blake, and Cromwell were among the most terrible warriors of the world, and they were distrusted and feared by an oligarchy which felt instinctively its inferiority in arms. Therefore, in Elizabeth's reign, politicians like the Cecils took care that the great seamen should have no voice in public affairs. And though these men defeated the Armada, and though England owed more to them than to all the rest of her population put together, not one reached the peerage, or was treated with confidence and esteem. Drake's fate shows what awaited them. Like all his class, Drake was hot for war with Spain, and from time to time he was unchained, when fighting could not be averted; but his policy was rejected, his operations more nearly resembled those of a pirate than of an admiral, and when he died, he died in something like disgrace.

The aristocracy even made the false position in which they placed their sailors a source of profit, for they forced them to buy pardon for their victories by surrendering the treasure they had won with their blood. Fortescue actually had to interfere to defend Raleigh and Hawkins from Elizabeth's rapacity. In 1592 Borough sailed in command of a squadron fitted out by the two latter, with some contribution from the queen and the city of London. Borough captured the carack, the Madre-de-Dios, whose pepper alone Burleigh estimated at £102,000. The cargo proved worth £141,000, and of this Elizabeth's share, according to the rule of distribution in use, amounted to one-tenth, or £14,000. She demanded £80,000, and allowed Raleigh and Hawkins, who had spent £34,000, only £36,000. Raleigh bitterly contrasted the difference made between himself a soldier, and a peer, or a London speculator. “I was the cause that all this came to the Queen, and that the King of Spaine spent 300,000 li  the last yere.... I that adventured all my estate, lose of my principall.... I tooke all the care and paines; ... they only sate still ... for which double is given to them, and less then mine own to me.”[280]

Raleigh was so brave he could not comprehend that his talent was his peril. He fancied his capacity for war would bring him fame and fortune, and it led him to the block. While Elizabeth lived, the admiration of the woman for the hero probably saved him, but he never even entered the Privy Council, and of real power he had none. The sovereign the oligarchy chose was James, and James imprisoned and then slew him. Nor was Raleigh's fate peculiar, for, through timidity, the Cavaliers conceived an almost equal hate of many soldiers. They dug up the bones of Cromwell, they tried to murder William III., and they dragged down Marlborough in the midst of victory. Such were the new classes into which economic competition divided the people of England during the sixteenth century, and the Reformation was only one among many of the effects of this profound social revolution.

In the first fifty-three years of the sixteenth century, England passed through two distinct phases of ecclesiastical reform; the earlier, under Henry, when the conventual property was appropriated by the rising aristocracy; the later, under Edward, when portions of the secular endowments were also seized. Each period of spoliation was accompanied by innovations in doctrine, and each was followed by a reaction, the final one, under Mary, taking the form of reconciliation with Rome. Viewed in connection with the insurrections, the whole movement can hardly be distinguished from an armed conquest of the imaginative by the economic section of society; a conquest which produced a most curious and interesting development of a new clerical type.

During the Middle Ages, the hierarchy had been a body of miracle-workers, independent of, and at first superior to, the State. This great corporation had subsisted upon its own resources, and had generally been controlled by men of the ecstatic temperament, of whom Saint Anselm is, perhaps, the most perfect example. After the conquest at the Reformation, these conditions changed. Having lost its independence, the priesthood lapsed into an adjunct of the civil power; it then became reorganized upon an economic basis, and gradually turned into a salaried class, paid to inculcate obedience to the representative of an oligarchy which controlled the national revenue. Perhaps, in all modern history, there is no more striking example of the rapid and complete manner in which, under favourable circumstances, one type can supersede another, than the thoroughness with which the economic displaced the emotional temperament, in the Anglican Church, during the Tudor dynasty. The mental processes of the new pastors did not differ so much in degree as in kind from those of the old.

Although the spoliations of Edward are less well remembered than those of his father, they were hardly less drastic. They began with the estates of the chantries and guilds, and rapidly extended to all sorts of property. In the Middle Ages, one of the chief sources of revenue of the sacred class had been their prayers for souls in purgatory, and all large churches contained chapels, many of them richly endowed, for the perpetual celebration of masses for the dead; in England and Wales more than a thousand such chapels existed, whose revenues were often very valuable. These were the chantries, which vanished with the imaginative age which created them, and the guilds shared the same fate.

Before economic competition had divided men into classes according to their financial capacity, all craftsmen possessed capital, as all agriculturists held land. The guild established the craftsman's social status; as a member of a trade corporation he was governed by regulations fixing the number of hands he might employ, the amount of goods he might produce, and the quality of his workmanship; on the other hand, the guild regulated the market, and ensured a demand. Tradesmen, perhaps, did not easily grow rich, but they as seldom became poor.

With centralization life changed. Competition sifted the strong from the weak; the former waxed wealthy, and hired hands at wages, the latter lost all but the ability to labour; and, when the corporate body of producers had thus disintegrated, nothing stood between the common property and the men who controlled the engine of the law. By the 1 Edward VI., c. 14, all the possessions of the schools, colleges, and guilds of England, except the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge and the guilds of London, were conveyed to the king, and the distribution thus begun extended far and wide, and has been forcibly described by Mr. Blunt:—

“They tore off the lead from the roofs, and wrenched out the brasses from the floors. The books they despoiled of their costly covers, and then sold them for waste paper. The gold and silver plate they melted down with copper and lead, to make a coinage so shamefully debased as was never known before or since in England. The vestments of altars and priests they turned into table-covers, carpets, and hangings, when not very costly; and when worth more money than usual, they sold them to foreigners, not caring who used them for ‘superstitious' purposes, but caring to make the best ‘bargains' they could of their spoil. Even the very surplices and altar linen would fetch something, and that too was seized by their covetous hands.”[281]

These “covetous hands” were the privy councillors. Henry had not intended that any member of the board should have precedence, but the king's body was not cold before Edward Seymour began an intrigue to make himself protector. To consolidate a party behind him, he opened his administration by distributing all the spoil he could lay hands on; and Mr. Froude estimated that “on a computation most favourable to the council, estates worth ... in modern currency about five millions” of pounds, were “appropriated—I suppose I must not say stolen—and divided among themselves.”[282] At the head of this council stood Cranmer, who took his share without scruple. Probably Froude's estimate is far too low; for though Seymour, as Duke of Somerset, had, like Henry, to meet imperative claims which drained his purse, he yet built Somerset House, the most sumptuous palace of London.

Seymour was put to death by Dudley when he rose to power by his military success in Norfolk. Dudley as well as Cromwell was fitted for the emergency in which he lived; bold, able, unscrupulous and energetic, his party hated but followed him, because without him they saw no way to seize the property they coveted. He too, like Cromwell, allied himself with the evangelical clergy, and under Edward the orthodoxy of the “Six Articles” gave way to the doctrine of Geneva. Even in 1548 Calvin had been able to write to Somerset, thanking God that, through his wisdom, the “pure truth” was preached;[283] but when Dudley administered the government as Duke of Northumberland, bishops did not hesitate to teach that the dogma of the “carnal presence” in the sacrament “maintaineth that beastly kind of cruelty of the ‘Anthropophagi,' that is, the devourers of man's flesh: for it is a more cruel thing to devour a quick man, than to slay him.”[284]

Dudley resembled Henry and Norfolk in being naturally conservative, for he died a Catholic; but with them all, money was the supreme object, and as they lacked the physical force to plunder alone, they were obliged to conciliate the Radicals. These were represented by Knox, and to Knox the duke paid assiduous court. The Scotchman began preaching in Berwick in 1549, but the government soon brought him to London, and in 1551 made him a royal chaplain, and, as chaplain, he was called upon to approve the Forty-two Articles of 1552. This he could do conscientiously, as they contained the dogmas of election and predestination, original sin, and justification by faith, beside a denial of “the reall and bodilie presence ... of Christes fleshe, and bloude, in the Sacramente of the Lordes Supper.”

Dudley tried hard to buy Knox, and offered him the See of Rochester; but the duke excited the deepest distrust and dislike in the preacher, who called him “that wretched and miserable Northumberland.” He rejected the preferment, and indeed, from the beginning, bad blood seems to have lain between the Calvinists and the court. Writing at the beginning of 1554, Knox expressed his opinion of the reforming aristocracy in emphatic language, beginning with Somerset, “who became so cold in hearing Godis Word, that the year befoir his last apprehensioun, he wald ga visit his masonis, and wald not dainyie himself to ga frome his gallerie to his hall for heiring of a sermone.”[285] Afterward matters grew worse, for “the haill Counsaile had said, Thay wald heir no mo of thair sermonis: thay wer but indifferent fellowis; (yea, and sum of thame eschameit not to call thame pratting knaves.)”[286]

Finally, just before Edward's death the open rupture came. Knox had a supreme contempt and antipathy for the Lord Treasurer, Paulet, Marquis of Winchester, whom he called a “crafty fox.” During Edward's life, jeered Knox, “who was moste bolde to crye, Bastarde, bastarde, incestuous bastarde, Mary shall never rule over us,” and now that Mary is on the throne it is to her Paulet “crouches and kneeleth.”[287] In the last sermon he preached before the king he let loose his tongue, and probably he would have quitted the court, even had the reign continued. In this sermon Dudley was Ahithophel, Paulet, Shebna:—

“I made this affirmacion, That commonlye it was sene, that the most godly princes hadde officers and chief counseilours moste ungodlye, conjured enemies to Goddes true religion, and traitours to their princes.... Was David, sayd I, and Ezechias, princes of great and godly giftes and experience, abused by crafty counsailers and dissemblyng hypocrites? What wonder is it then, that a yonge and innocent Kinge be deceived by craftye, covetouse, wycked, and ungodly counselours? I am greatly afrayd, that Achitophel be counsailer, that Judas beare the purse, and that Sobna be scribe, comptroller, and treasurer. This, and somwhat more I spake that daye, not in a corner (as many yet can wytnesse) but even before those whome my conscience judged worthy of accusation.”[288]

Knox understood the relation which men of his stamp bore to Anglicanism. In 1549 much land yet remained to be divided, therefore he and his like were flattered and cajoled until Paulet and his friends should be strong enough to discard them. Faith, in the hands of the monied oligarchy, became an instrument of police, and, from the Reformation downward, revelation has been expounded in England by statute. Hence men of the imaginative type, who could not accept their creed with their stipend, were at any moment in danger of being adjudged heretics, and suffering the extreme penalty of insubordination.

Docility to lay dictation has always been the test by which the Anglican clergy have been sifted from Catholics and Puritans. To the imaginative mind a faith must spring from a revelation, and a revelation must be infallible and unchangeable. Truth must be single. Catholics believed their revelation to be continuous, delivered through the mouth of an illuminated priesthood, speaking in its corporate capacity. Puritans held that theirs had been made once for all, and was contained in a book. But both Catholics and Puritans were clear that divine truth was immutable, and that the universal Church could not err. To minds of this type, statutes regulating the appearance of God's body in the elements were not only impious but absurd, and men of the priestly temperament, whether Catholic or Puritan, have faced death in its most appalling forms, rather than bow down before them.

Here Fisher and Knox, Bellarmine and Calvin, agreed. Rather than accept the royal supremacy, the flower of the English priesthood sought poverty and exile, the scaffold and the stake. For this, the aged Fisher hastened to the block on Tower Hill; for this, Forest dangled over the embers of the smouldering rood; for this, the Carthusians rotted in their noisome dens. Nor were Puritans a whit behind Catholics in asserting the sacerdotal dignity; “Erant enim blasphemi qui vocarent eum [Henricum VIII.] summum caput ecclesiæ sub Christo,” wrote Calvin, and on this ground the Nonconformists fought the established Church, from Elizabeth's accession downward.

The writings of Martin Marprelate only restated an issue which had been raised by Hildebrand five hundred years before; for the advance of centralization had reproduced in England something of the same conditions which prevailed at Constantinople when it became a centre of exchanges. Wherever civilization has reached the point at which energy expresses itself through money, faith must be subordinate to the representative of wealth. Stephen Gardiner understood the conditions under which he lived, and accepted his servitude in consideration of the great See of Winchester. With striking acuteness he cited Justinian as a precedent for Henry:—

“Then, Sir, who did ever disallow Justinian's fact, that made laws concerning the glorious Trinity, and the Catholic faith, of bishops, of men, of the clergy, of heretics, and others, such like?”[289]

From the day of the breach with Rome, the British priesthood sank into wage-earners, and those of the ancient clergy who remained in the Anglican hierarchy after the Reformation, acquiesced in their position, as appeared in all their writings, but in none, perhaps, more strikingly than in the Formularies of Faith of Henry VIII., where the episcopal bench submitted their views of orthodoxy to the revision of the secular power:—

“And albeit, most dread and benign sovereign lord, we do affirm by our learnings with one assent, that the said treatise is in all points so concordant and agreeable to holy scripture, as we trust your majesty shall receive the same as a thing most sincerely and purely handled, to the glory of God, your grace's honour, the unity of your people, the which things your highness, we may well see and perceive, doth chiefly in the same desire: yet we do most humbly submit it to the most excellent wisdom and exact judgment of your majesty, to be recognised, overseen, and corrected, if your grace shall find any word or sentence in it meet to be changed, qualified, or further expounded, for the plain setting forth of your highness's most virtuous desire and purpose in that behalf. Whereunto we shall in that case conform ourselves, as to our most bounden duties to God and to your highness appertaineth.”

Signed by “your highness' most humble subjects and daily beadsmen, Thomas Cantuarien” and all the bishops.[290]

A Church thus lying at the mercy of the temporal power, became a chattel in the hands of the class which controlled the revenue, and, from the Reformation to the revolution of 1688, this class consisted of a comparatively few great landed families, forming a narrow oligarchy which guided the Crown. In the Middle Ages, a king had drawn his army from his own domain. Cœur-de-Lion had his own means of attack and defence like any other baron, only on a larger scale. Henry VIII., on the contrary, stood alone and helpless. As centralization advanced, the cost of administration grew, until regular taxation had become necessary, and yet taxes could only be levied by Parliament. The king could hardly pay a body-guard, and such military force as existed within the realm obeyed the landlords. Had it not been for a few opulent nobles, like Norfolk and Shrewsbury, the Pilgrims of Grace might have marched to London and plucked Henry from his throne, as easily as William afterward plucked James. These landlords, together with the London tradesmen, carried Henry through the crisis of 1536, and thereafter he lay in their hands. His impotence appeared in every act of his reign. He ran the risk and paid the price, while others fattened on the plunder. The Howards, the Cecils, the Russells, the Dudleys, divided the Church spoil among themselves, and wrung from the Crown its last penny, so that Henry lived in debt, and Edward faced insolvency.

Deeply as Mary abhorred sacrilege, she dared not ask for restitution to the abbeys. Such a step would probably have caused her overthrow, while Elizabeth never attempted opposition, but obeyed Cecil, the incarnation of the spirit of the oligarchy. The men who formed this oligarchy were of totally different type from anything which flourished in England in the imaginative age. Unwarlike, for their insular position made it possible for them to survive without the martial quality, they always shrank from arms. Nor were they numerous enough, or strong enough, to overawe the nation even in quiet times. Accordingly they generally lay inert, and only from necessity allied themselves with some more turbulent faction.

The Tudor aristocracy were rich, phlegmatic, and unimaginative men, in whom the other faculties were subordinated to acquisition, and they treated their religion as a financial investment. Strictly speaking, the Church of England never had a faith, but vibrated between the orthodoxy of the “Six Articles,” and the Calvinism of the “Lambeth Articles,” according to the exigencies of real estate. Within a single generation, the relation Christ's flesh and blood bore to the bread and wine was changed five times by royal proclamation or act of Parliament.

But if creeds were alike to the new economic aristocracy, it well understood the value of the pulpit as a branch of the police of the kingdom, and from the outset it used the clergy as part of the secular administration. On this point Cranmer was explicit.[291] Elizabeth probably represented the landed gentry more perfectly than any other sovereign, and she told her bishops plainly that she cared little for doctrine, but wanted clerks to keep order. She remarked that she had seen it said:—

“that hir Protestants themselves misliked hir, and in deede so they doe (quoth she) for I have heard that some of them of late have said, that I was of no religion, neither hot nor cold, but such a one, as one day would give God the vomit.... After this she wished the bishops to look unto private Conventicles, and now (quoth she) I miss my Lord of London who looketh no better unto the Citty where every merchant must have his schoolemaster and nightly conventicles.” [292]

Elizabeth ruled her clergy with a rod of iron. No priest was allowed to marry without the approbation of two justices of the peace, beside the bishop, nor the head of a college without the leave of the visitor. When the Dean of St. Paul's offended the queen in his sermon, she told him “to retire from that ungodly digression and return to his text,” and Grindall was suspended for disobedience to her orders.

In Grindall's primacy, monthly prayer meetings, called “prophesyings,” came into fashion among the clergy. For some reason these meetings gave the government offence, and Grindall was directed to put a stop to them. Attacked thus, in the priests' dearest rights, the archbishop refused. Without more ado the old prelate was suspended, nor was he pardoned until he made submission five years later.

The correspondence of the Elizabethan bishops is filled with accounts of their thraldom. Pilkington, among others, complained that “We are under authority, and cannot make any innovation without the sanction of the queen ... and the only alternative now allowed us is, whether we will bear with these things or disturb the peace of the Church.”[293]

Even ecclesiastical property continued to be seized, where it could be taken safely; and the story of Ely House, although it has been denied, is authentic in spirit. From the beginning of the Reformation the London palaces of the bishops had been a tempting prize. Henry took York House for himself, Raleigh had a lease of Durham House, and, about 1565, Sir Christopher Hatton, whose relations with the queen were hardly equivocal, undertook to force Bishop Cox to convey him Ely House. The bishop resisted. Hatton applied to the queen, and she is said to have cut the matter short thus:—

“Proud prelate: I understand you are backward in complying with your agreement, but I would have you know that I who made you what you are can unmake you, and if you do not forthwith fulfil your engagement, by God, I will immediately unfrock you. Elizabeth.

Had the great landlords been either stronger, so as to have controlled the blouse of Commons, or more military, so as to have suppressed it, English ecclesiastical development would have been different. As it was, a knot of ruling families, gorged with plunder, lay between the Catholics and the more fortunate of the evicted yeomen, who had made money by trade, and who hated and competed with them. Puritans as well as Catholics sought to unsettle titles to Church lands:—

“It is wonderfull to see how dispitefully they write of this matter. They call us church robbers, devourers of holly things, cormorantes, etc. affirminge that by the lawe of god, things once consecrated to god for the service of this churche, belong unto him for ever.... ffor my owne pte I have some imppriations, etc. & I thanke god I keepe them w th  a good conscience, and many wold be ondone. The law appveth us.”[294]

Thus beset, the landed capitalists struggled hard to maintain themselves, and, as their best defence, they organized a body of priests to preach and teach the divine right of primogeniture, which became the distinctive dogma of this national church. Such at least was the opinion of the non-jurors, who have always ranked among the most orthodox of the Anglican clergy, and who certainly were all who had the constancy to suffer for their faith. John Lake, Bishop of Chichester, suspended in 1689 for not swearing allegiance to William and Mary, on his death-bed made the following statement:—

“That whereas I was baptized into the religion of the Church of England, and sucked it in with my milk, I have constantly adhered to it through the whole course of my life, and now, if so be the will of God, shall dye in it; and I had resolved through God's grace assisting me to have dyed so, though at a stake.

“And whereas that religion of the Church of England taught me the doctrine of non-resistance and passive obedience, which I have accordingly inculcated upon others, and which I took to be the distinguishing character of the Church of England, I adhere no less firmly and steadfastly to that, and in consequence of it, have incurred a suspension from the exercise of my office and expected a deprivation.”[295]

In the twelfth century, the sovereign drew his supernatural quality from his consecration by the priesthood; in the seventeenth century, money had already come to represent a force so predominant that the process had become reversed, and the priesthood attributed its prerogative to speak in the name of the Deity, to the interposition of the king. This was the substance of the Reformation in England. Cranmer taught that God committed to Christian princes “the whole cure of all their subjects, as well concerning the administration of God's word ... as ... of things political”; therefore bishops, parsons, and vicars were ministers of the temporal ruler, to whom he confided the ecclesiastical office, as he confided the enforcement of order to a chief of police.[296] As a part of the secular administration, the main function of the Reformed priesthood was to preach obedience to their patrons; and the doctrine they evolved has been thus summed up by Macaulay:—

“It was gravely maintained that the Supreme Being regarded hereditary monarchy, as opposed to other forms of government, with peculiar favour; that the rule of succession in order of primogeniture was a divine institution, anterior to the Christian, and even to the Mosaic dispensation; that no human power ... could deprive a legitimate prince of his rights; that the authority of such a prince was necessarily always despotic....”[297]

In no other department of public affairs did the landed gentry show particular energy or ability. Their army was ineffective, their navy unequal to its work, their finances indifferently handled, but down to the time of their overthrow, in 1688, they were eminently successful in ecclesiastical organization. They chose their instruments with precision, and an oligarchy has seldom been more adroitly served. Macaulay was a practical politician, and Macaulay rated the clergy as the chief political power under Charles II:—

“At every important conjuncture, invectives against the Whigs and exhortations to obey the Lord's anointed resounded at once from many thousands of pulpits; and the effect was formidable indeed. Of all the causes which, after the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament, produced the violent reaction against the exclusionists, the most potent seems to have been the oratory of the country clergy.”[298]

For country squires a wage-earning clergy was safe, and although Macaulay's famous passage describing their fear of an army has met with contradiction, it probably is true:—

“In their minds a standing army was inseparably associated with the Rump, with the Protector, with the spoliation of the Church, with the purgation of the Universities, with the abolition of the peerage, with the murder of the King, with the sullen reign of the Saints, with cant and asceticism, with fines and sequestrations, with the insults which Major Generals, sprung from the dregs of the people, had offered to the oldest and most honourable families of the kingdom. There was, moreover, scarcely a baronet or a squire in the parliament who did not owe part of his importance in his own county to his rank in the militia. If that national force were set aside, the gentry of England must lose much of their dignity and influence.”[299]

The work to be done by the Tudor hierarchy was mercenary, not imaginative; therefore pastors had to be chosen who could be trusted to labour faithfully for wages. Perhaps no equally large and intelligent body of men has ever been more skilfully selected. The Anglican priests, as a body, have uniformly been true to the hand which fed them, without regard to the principles they were required to preach. A remarkable instance of their docility, where loss of income was the penalty for disobedience, was furnished at the accession of William and Mary. Divine right was, of course, the most sacred of Anglican dogmas, and yet, when the clergy were commanded to take the oath of allegiance to him whom they held to be an usurper, as Macaulay has observed, “some of the strongest motives which can influence the human mind, had prevailed. Above twenty-nine thirtieths of the profession submitted to the law.”[300] Moreover, the landlords had the economic instinct, bargaining accordingly, and Elizabeth bluntly told her bishops that they must get her sober, respectable preachers, but men who should be cheap.

“Then spake my Lord Treasurer.... Her Maty hath declared unto you a marvellous great fault, in that you make in this time of light so many lewd and unlearned ministers.... It is the Bishop of Litchfield ... that I mean, who made LXX. ministers in one day for money, some taylors, some shoemakers, and other craftsmen, I am sure the greatest part of them not worthy to keep horses. Then said the Bp. of Rochester, that may be so, for I know one that made 7 in one day, I would every man might beare his own burthen, some of us have the greatest wrong that can be offred.... But my Lord, if you would have none but learned preachers to be admitted into the ministery, you must provide better livings for them....

“To have learned ministers in every parish is in my judgm t  impossible (quoth my Ld. of Canterbury) being 13,000 parishes in Ingland, I know not how this realm should yield so many learned preachers.

“Jesus (quoth the Queen) 13,000 it is not to be looked for, I thinke the time hath been, there hath not been 4. preachers in a diocesse, my meaning is not you should make choice of learned ministers only for they are not to be found, but of honest, sober, and wise men, and such as can reade the scriptures and homilies well unto the people.”[301]

The Anglican clergy under the Tudors and the Stuarts were not so much priests, in the sense of the twelfth century, as hired political retainers. Macaulay's celebrated description is too well known to need full quotation: “for one who made the figure of a gentleman, ten were mere menial servants.... The coarse and ignorant squire” could hire a “young Levite” for his board, a small garret, and ten pounds a year. This clergyman “might not only be the most patient of butts and of listeners, might not only be always ready in fine weather for bowls, and in rainy weather for shovelboard, but might also save the expense of a gardener, or of a groom. Sometimes the reverend man nailed up the apricots; and sometimes he curried the coach horses.”[302]

Yet, as Macaulay has also pointed out, the hierarchy was divided into two sections, the ordinary labourers and the managers. The latter were indispensable to the aristocracy, since without them their machine could hardly have been kept in motion, and these were men of talent who demanded and received good wages. Probably for this reason a large revenue was reserved for the higher secular clergy, and from the outset the policy proved successful. Many of the ablest organizers and astutest politicians of England, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, sat on the episcopal bench, and two of the most typical, as well as the ablest Anglicans who ever lived, were the two eminent bishops who led the opposing wings of the Church when it was reformed by Henry VIII.: Stephen Gardiner and Thomas Cranmer.

Gardiner was the son of a clothworker of Bury Saint Edmunds, and was born about 1483. At Cambridge he made himself the best civil lawyer of the kingdom, and on meeting Wolsey, so strongly impressed him with his talent that the cardinal advanced him rapidly, and in January 1529 sent him to negotiate for the divorce at Rome. Nobody doubts that to the end of his life Gardiner remained a sincere Catholic, but above all else he was a great Anglican. Becoming secretary to the king in June, 1529, as Wolsey was tottering to his fall, he laboured to bring the University of Cambridge to the royal side, and he also devoted himself to Anne until he obtained the See of Winchester, when his efforts for the divorce slackened. He even went so far as to assure Clement that he had repented, and meant to quit the court, but notwithstanding he “bore up the laps” of Anne's robe at her coronation.

In 1535 the ways parted, a decision could not be deferred, he renounced Rome and preached his sermon “de vera Obedientia,” in which he recognized in Henry the supremacy of a Byzantine emperor. The pang this act cost him lasted till he died, and he told the papal nuncio “he made this book under compulsion, not having the strength to suffer death patiently, which was ready for him.”[303] Indeed, when dying, his apostacy seems to have been his last thought, for in his closing hours, as the story of the passion was read to him he exclaimed, “Negavi cum Petro, exivi cum Petro, sed nondum flevi cum Petro.” All his life long his enemies accused him of dissimulation and hypocrisy for acts like these, but it was precisely this quality which raised him to eminence. Had he not been purchasable, he could hardly have survived as an Anglican bishop; an enthusiast like Fisher would have ended on Tower Hill.

Perhaps more fully than any other prelate of his time, Gardiner represented the faction of Henry and Norfolk; he was as orthodox as he could be and yet prosper. He hated Cromwell and all “gospellers,” and he loved power and splendour and office. Fisher, with the temperament of Saint Anselm, shivering in his squalid house, clad in his shirt of hair, and sleeping on his pallet of straw, might indeed “humbly thank the king's majesty” who rid him of “all this worldly business,” but men who rose to eminence in the reformed church were made of different stuff, and Gardiner's ruling passion never burned more fiercely than as he neared his death. Though in excruciating torments from disease, he clung to office to the last. Noailles, the French ambassador, at a last interview, found him “livid with jaundice and bursting with dropsy: but for two hours he held discourse with me calmly and graciously, without a sign of discomposure; and at parting he must needs take my arm and walk through three saloons, on purpose to show himself to the people, because they said that he was dead.”[304]

Gardiner was a man born to be a great prelate under a monied oligarchy, but, gifted as he surely was, he must yield in glory to that wonderful archbishop who stamped the impress of his mind so deeply on the sect he loved, and whom most Anglicans would probably call, with Canon Dixon, the first clergyman of his age. Cranmer was so supremely fitted to meet the requirements of the economic revolution in which he lived, that he rose at a bound from insignificance to what was, for an Englishman, the summit of greatness. In 1529, when the breach came, Gardiner already held the place of chief secretary, while Cranmer remained a poor Fellow of Jesus. Within four years he had been consecrated primate, and he had bought his preferment by swearing allegiance to the pope, though he knew himself promoted for the express purpose of violating his oath, by decreeing the divorce which should sever England from Rome. His qualities were all recognized by his contemporaries; his adroitness, his trustworthiness, and his flexibility. “Such an archbishop so nominated, and ... so and in such wise consecrated, was a meet instrument for the king to work by ... a meet cover for such a cup; neither was there ever bear-ward that might more command his bears than the king might command him.”[305] This judgment has always been held by Churchmen to be no small claim to fame; Burnet, for example, himself a bishop and an admirer of his eminent predecessor, was clear that Cranmer's strength lay in that mixture of intelligence and servility which made him useful to those who paid him:—

“Cranmer's great interest with the king was chiefly grounded on some opinions he had of the ecclesiastical officers being as much subject to the king's power as all other civil officers were.... But there was this difference: that Cranmer was once of that opinion ... but Bonner against his conscience (if he had any) complied with it.”[306]

The genius of the archbishop as a courtier may be measured by the fate which overtook his contemporaries. He was the fourth of Henry's great ministers, of whom Cromwell, Norfolk, and Wolsey were the other three. Wolsey was disgraced, plundered, and hounded to death; Cromwell was beheaded, and Norfolk was on his way to the scaffold, when saved by the death of the man who condemned him. The priest alone, as Lutheran, or as worshipper of the miracle which he afterward denied, always kept the sunshine of favour. Burnet has described how readily he violated his oath by participating in the attempt to change the succession under Edward, “He stood firm, and said, that he could not subscribe it without perjury; having sworn to the observance of King Henry's will.... The king himself required him to set his hand to the will.... It grieved him much; but such was the love that he bore to the king, that in conclusion he yielded, and signed it.”[307] Like the chameleon, he changed his colour to match the force which upheld him. Under Edward, he became radical as easily as he had sung the mass under the “Six Articles,” or as, under Mary, he pleaded to be allowed to return to Rome. Nor did he act thus from cowardice, for when he went to the fire, not a martyr of the Reformation showed more constancy than he. With hardly an exception, Cranmer's contemporaries suffered because they could not entirely divest themselves of their scruples. Even Gardiner had convictions strong enough to lodge him in the Tower, and Bonner ended his days in the Marshalsea, rather than abjure again under Elizabeth, but no such weakness hampered Cranmer. At Oxford, before his execution, he recanted, in various forms, very many times, and would doubtless have gone on recanting could he have saved himself by so doing.

Unlike Gardiner, his convictions were evangelical, and he probably imbibed reformed principles quite early, for he married Ossiander's niece when in Germany, before he became archbishop. Characteristically enough, he voted for the “Six Articles” in deference to Henry,[308] although the third section of the act provided death and forfeiture of goods for any priest who might marry. Afterward, he had to conceal his wife and carry “her from place to place hidden from sight in a chest.”[309] Cranmer alleged at his trial that he had stayed orthodox regarding the sacrament until Ridley had converted him, after Henry's death. But, leaving out of consideration the improbability of a man of Cranmer's remarkable acuteness being influenced by Ridley, the judgment of such a man as Foxe should have weight. Certainly, Foxe thought him a “gospeller” at the time of Lambert's trial, and nothing can give so vivid an idea of the lengths to which men of the Anglican type were ready to go, as the account given by Foxe of the martyrdom of this sectary:—

“Lambert: ‘I answer, with Saint Augustine, that it is the body of Christ, after a certain manner.'

“The King: ‘Answer me neither out of Saint Augustine, nor by the authority of any other; but tell me plainly, whether thou sayest it is the body of Christ, or no.'...

“Lambert: ‘Then I deny it to be the body of Christ.'

“The King: ‘Mark well! for now thou shalt be condemned even by Christ's own words, “Hoc est corpus meum.”'

“Then he commanded Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, to refute his assertion; who, first making a short preface unto the hearers, began his disputation with Lambert very modestly.... Then again the king and the bishops raged against Lambert, insomuch that he was not only forced to silence, but also might have been driven into a rage, if his ears had not been acquainted with such taunts before.... And here it is much to be marvelled at, to see how unfortunately it came to pass in this matter, that ... Satan (who oftentimes doth raise up one brother to the destruction of another) did here perform the condemnation of this Lambert by no other ministers than gospellers themselves, Taylor, Barnes, Cranmer, and Cromwell; who, afterwards, in a manner, all suffered the like for the gospel's sake; of whom (God willing) we will speak more hereafter.... Upon the day that was appointed for this holy martyr of God to suffer, he was brought out of the prison at eight o'clock in the morning unto the house of the lord Cromwell, and so carried into his inward chamber, where, it is reported of many, that Cromwell desired of him forgiveness for what he had done.... As touching the terrible manner and fashion of the burning of this blessed martyr, here is to be noted, that of all others who have been burned and offered up at Smithfield, there was yet none so cruelly and piteously handled as he. For, after that his legs were consumed and burned up to the stumps, and that the wretched tormentors and enemies of God had withdrawn the fire from him, so that but a small fire and coals were left under him, then two that stood on each side of him, with their halberts pitched him upon their pikes, as far as the chain would reach.... Then he, lifting up such hands as he had, and his finger's ends flaming with fire, cried unto the people in these words, ‘None but Christ, none but Christ;' and so, being let down again from their halberts, fell into the fire, and there ended his life.”[310]

In a hierarchy like the Anglican, whose function was to preach passive obedience to the representative of an opulent, but somewhat sluggish oligarchy, there could be no permanent place for idealists. With a Spanish invasion threatening them, an unwarlike ruling class might tolerate sailors like Drake, or priests like Latimer; but, in the long run, their interest lay in purging England of so dangerous an element. The aristocracy sought men who could be bought; but such were of a different type from Latimer, who, when they brought to him the fire, as he stood chained to the stake, “spake in this manner: ‘Be of good comfort, master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.'” And so, “after he had stroked his face with his hands, and as it were bathed them a little in the fire, he soon died.”

Ecclesiastics like Latimer were apt to be of the mind of Knox, who held “that sick as may and do brydill the inordinatt appetyteis of Princes, cannot be accusit of resistance to the aucthoratie, quhilk is Godis gud ordinance.” And as the interests of landed capital were bound up with the maintenance of the royal prerogative, such men had to be eliminated. After the death of Mary, the danger apprehended by the landed gentry was a Spanish invasion, coupled with a Catholic insurrection, and therefore the policy of statesmen like Cecil was to foster hostility to Rome. Until after the Armada, Anglicans were permitted to go all lengths towards Geneva; even as late as 1595 the “Lambeth Articles” breathed pure Calvinism. But with the opening of a new century, a change set in; as the power of Spain dwindled, rents rose, and the farmers grew restive at the precise moment when men of the heroic temperament could be discarded. Raleigh was sent to the Tower in 1603.

According to Thorold Rogers, “good arable land [which] let at less than a shilling an acre in the last quarter of the sixteenth century, was let at 5 s. to 6 s. at the end of the first quarter of the seventeenth,” while rent for pasture doubled.[311] Rising rents, and prices tending to become stationary, caused suffering among the rural population, and with suffering came discontent. This discontent in the country was fomented by restlessness in the towns, for commerce had been strongly stimulated during the reign of Elizabeth by the Spanish wars, and the mercantile element began to rebel against legislation passed in the interest of the favoured class. Suddenly the dissatisfaction found vent; for more than forty years the queen's ministers had met with no serious opposition in Parliament; in 1601, without warning, their system of monopolies was struck down, and from that day to the revolution of 1688, the House of Commons proved to be unmanageable by the Crown. Even as early as the accession of James, the competition between the aristocracy and their victims had begun to glow with the heat which presages civil war.

Had the Tudor aristocracy been a martial caste, they would doubtless have organized an army, and governed by the sword; but they instinctively felt that, upon the field of battle, they might be at a disadvantage, and therefore they attempted to control the popular imagination through the priesthood. Thus the divine right of primogeniture came to be the distinguishing tenet of the Church of England. James felt the full force of the current which was carrying him onward, and expressed the situation pithily in his famous apothegm, “No bishop, no king.” “I will have,” said he, “one doctrine, one discipline, one religion in substance and ceremony;” and the policy of the interest he represented was laid down as early as 1604, at the conference at Hampton Court.

Passive obedience was to be preached, and the church filled with men who could be relied on by the oligarchy. Six weeks after the conference at Hampton Court, Whitgift died, and Bancroft, Bishop of London, was translated to Canterbury. Within a week he was at work. He had already prepared a Book of Canons with which to test the clergy, and this he had ratified by the convocation which preceded his consecration. In these canons the divine origin of episcopacy was asserted; a strange departure from the doctrine of Cranmer. In 1605 there are supposed to have been about fifteen hundred Puritan clergymen in England and Wales, and at Bancroft's first winnowing three hundred were ejected.

Among these Puritans was a certain John Robinson, the teacher of a small congregation of yeomen, in the village of Scrooby, in Nottinghamshire. The man's birth is unknown, his early history is obscure, but in him, and in the farmers who heard him preach, the long and bitter struggle against the pressure of the class which was destroying them, had bred that stern and sombre enthusiasm which afterward marked the sect. By 1607 England had grown intolerable to this congregation, and they resolved to emigrate. They had heard that in Holland liberty of conscience was allowed, and they fondly hoped that with liberty of conscience they might be content to earn their daily bread in peace. Probably with them, however, religion was not the cause, but the effect of their uneasiness, as the result proved.

After many trials and sorrows, these poor people finally assembled in Amsterdam, and thence journeyed to Leyden, where they dwelt some eleven years. But they found the struggle for life to be full as severe in the Low Countries as it had been at home, and presently the exiles began to long for some distant land where “they might more glorify God, do more good to their country, better provide for their posterity, and live to be more refreshed by their labours, than ever they could do in Holland.” Accordingly, obtaining a grant from the Virginia Company, they sailed in the Mayflower in 1620, to settle in New England; and thus, by the eviction of the yeomen, England laid the foundation of one great province of her colonial empire.


[265] Agriculture and Prices, iv. 64.
[266] 6 Henry VIII., c. 5; 7 Henry VIII., c. 1.
[267] Jewel of Joy, Becon. Also England in the Reign of Henry VIII., Early Eng. Text Soc., Extra Ser., No. xxxii. p. 75.
[268] First Sermon before Edward VI. Sermons of Bishop Latimer, ed. of Parker Soc., 100, 101.
[269] 22 Henry VIII., c. 12.
[270] 27 Henry VIII., c. 25.
[271] 1 Edward VI., c. 3.
[272] Brit. Mus., Cole MS. xii. 41. Cited in Henry VIII. and the English Monasteries, Gasquet, ii. 514, note.
[273] Eccl. Mem., ii. pt. 1, 260.
[274] Sermon on Rebellion, Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings and Letters, 194–6.
[275] Sermon on Rebellion, Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings and Letters, 195, 196.
[276] Cal. ix. No. 193.
[277] Eccl. Mem., ii. pt. 1, 152.
[278] 5 and 6 Edw. VI., c. 2.
[279] Cromwell's Letters and Speeches, Carlyle, Speech XI.
[280] Raleigh to Burleigh, Life of Sir Walter Raleigh, Edwards, ii. 76, letter xxxiv.
[281] The Reformation of the Church of England, ii. 68.
[282] History of England, v. 432.
[283] Gorham's Reformation Gleanings, 61.
[284] Ridley's disputation at Oxford in 1554, Acts and Monuments, vi. 474.
[285] A Godly Letter to the Faithful, Works, iii. 176.
[286] Ibid., 177.
[287] A Faithful Admonition, Works, iii. 283.
[288] Ibid., iii. 281, 282.
[289] On True Obedience, Heywood's ed., 73.
[290] The Institution of a Christian Man, Preface, Formularies of Faith of Henry VIII., Lloyd, 26.
[291] See Burnet's History of the Reformation, Records, part I. book iii. quest. 9.
[292] S. P. Dom. Eliz. vol. 176, No. 69.
[293] Zurich Letters, 1st Series, 287.
[294] Towchinge the bill and the booke exhibited in the Parliament 1586 for a further reformation of the Churche, S. P. Dom. Eliz. 199, No. 1.
[295] History of the Non-jurors, Lathbury, 50.
[296] See History of the Reformation, Burnet, Pocock's ed. Records, part I. book iii. quest 9.
[297] History of England, ch. 1.
[298] History of England, ch. iii.
[299] Ibid., ch. vi.
[300] History of England, ch. xiv.
[301] Queen's conference upon Graunt of a Subsedy, etc., 1584. State Papers, Dom. Eliz., 176, No. 69.
[302] History of England, ch. iii.
[303] Cal. x., No. 570.
[304] Ambassades, v. 150. Quotation from History of the Church of England, Dixon, iv. 450.
[305] Pretended Divorce of Henry VIII., Harpsfield, Camden Society, 291.
[306] Burnet's History of the Reformation, Pocock's ed., i. 428.
[307] Ibid., iii. 376.
[308] Blunt's Reformation, i. 475.
[309] Anglican Schism, Sander, Lewis' trans., 181. Also Pretended Divorce of Henry VIII., Harpsfield, 290.
[310] Acts and Monuments, v. 230.
[311] Agriculture and Prices, Rogers, v. 804.