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LETTERS VII. & VIII.
Savon lisaster eech.
faithful pilitv di excep od upon rt, ani
I. INVESTITURES AND IMMUNITIES :
II. ST. THOMAS À BECKET:
IN the beginning of your first letter, You give the monks some praise: As to your charge against them of “erasing manuscripts,” I do not think it unlikely, that sometimes they were guilty, as You say they were, of “erasing a Greek
tragedy, to write on the parchment an inferior composition;” but that “ they erased from
parchment any portion of the Scripture for “ such a purpose," appears to me so highly improbable, that proof of it must be produced before I believe it.
rmis. 2, and
my letters to Doctor Southey, is an abridgement of the account given of them in my “ History of " the Germanic Empire.” * Both were written with care ; and nothing in the letters, which You have done me the honour to address to me, leads me to suspect any error in them. I do not think
the Part III. Emperors of the House of Suabia I. II. III.
that sovereigns are entitled by divine right, to appoint to the sees of bishops : You seem to ascribe this right to them : You know that it is rejected by all the Presbyterian churches ; and with what bitter words of indignation, Calvin expressed himself of Elizabeth's assumption of the spiritual supremacy.
Of Immunities, I shall only confidently repeat, that no Roman Catholic imagines that ecclesiastics are, or even were, entitled by divine right, to the immunities for which Becket contended, in the first stage, as I have termed it, of his controversy with his sovereign.
it in my
Saint Thomas à Becket. The account given of this controversy in my letters to Doctor Southey, was abridged from the account which I had several years before given of
“ Historical Memoirs of the English, Irish, and Scottish Catholics." *
This was written after an attentive and dispassionate perusal both of the ancient and modern historians of this period of our history, I beg leave to insert as succinctly as possible, the conclusions to which I then arrived, after much reading and much meditating upon the subject.
1.-That the point in dispute respected the punishment of clerks for felony: the king con
The Vol. II, chap. IV.
tending, that they should be first degraded by the ordinary, and then put into the hands of the magistrate, to be tried in the king's courts : the archbishop insisting, that for the first crime, the clerk should be tried in the bishop's court, and that, if he were convicted, he should be degraded and punished by spiritual inflictions, either with or without fine, imprisonment or flagellation, at the will of the court; but the prelate admitted, that a degraded clerk forfeited the protection of the ecclesiastical law; so that, if after his degradation he was guilty of felony, he might be prosecuted in the king's courts.
2.—That the point at issue between the king and the prelate was,-not what the law was before the Norman conquest, but, what it was at the actual time of the dispute : to this I beg leave to call your particular attention.
3.-That the Constitutions of Clarendon professed not to reform, or make an alteration in the law, but to describe its actual state ; asserting, at the same time, that such as it then described it, such it had been from the first.
4.-That some of these Constitutions propounded what never had been, what never afterwards was,—and what is not now the law of England.
5:--And therefore, that, on the merits, to use a legal term, the archbishop was completely in the right, and the monarch completely in the wrong.
To prove against Doctor Southey, that several of the Constitutions of Clarendon were innovations
upon the actual state of the law in the reign of Henry II, I quoted a passage from Mr. Sharon Turner's History of England. In a note to your eighth letter, you say, (p. 75),
66 Mr. Butler (p. 84) has quoted one half only of this passage, " to prove a point which was confuted by the “ remainder.” To disprove this charge, I shall now transcribe the whole passage, * and leave it, without note or comment, to the sentence of the the reader. The part quoted in my letter to Doctor Southey, is printed within the brackets.
“ [In justice to Becket, it must be admitted, “ that these famous articles completely changed “ the legal and civil state of the clergy, and were
an actual subversion, as far as they went, of “the papal policy and system of hierarchy, so
boldly introduced by Gregory VI..] These new “ Constitutions abolished that independence on the
legal tribunals of the country, which William “ had unwarily permitted, and they again sub
jected the clergy, as in the time of the Anglo- Saxons, to the common law of the land. The
eighth article vested the ultimate judgment in “ ecclesiastical causes in the king ; by the fourth, " no clergyman was to depart from the kingdom “ without the royal licence ; and, if required, was " to give security, that he would do nothing " abroad to the prejudice of the king or the king“ dom; by the twelfth, the revenues of all pre
* Turner's History of England, Vol. I. p. 213.
lacies, abbeys, and priories, were to be paid into “ the exchequer during their vacancy, and, when “ the successor should be appointed, he was to do homage to his king, at his liege lord, before his
consecration. These, and other points in these “ celebrated Constitutions, though wise and just, “ and now substantially the law of the land, were
yet so hostile to the great papal system of making the church independent of the secular power, if not superior to it, that an ecclesiastic of that day, according to the prevailing feeling
of his order, might have resisted them. The “ fault of Becket lay in taking the prelacy with
a knowledge of the king's intention to have these NEW LAWS established, and in provoking the contest and pursuing his opposition with all the
pride and vehemence of fierce ambition, and “ vindictive hostility,”
Temporal Power of the Pope. * 1.-The Roman Catholics believe, that the Popes do not profess, directly or indirectly, by divine right, any title whatever to temporal power, either in secular or spiritual concerns.
“ History of the Revolutions of the
* I beg leave to refer to the account which I have given “ of the authority of the Pope, in the tenth Letter in “ The “ Book of the Roman-Catholic Church.”—This work has been translated iato French, and I have the satisfaction to find it is approved.