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justice, and causes as well ecclesiastical as civil were, as occasion required, carried thither by appeals, and finally determined there. The kings of England had founded and endowed the bishoprics, and for the most part the cathedrals and greater monasteries, and from the foundation of the English church had not only nominated their bishops, but as supreme ordinaries they had ever put them in possession of their bishoprics, by the ceremony well known by the name of investiture, the delivery of a staff and a ring, and in return had ever received their fealty and homage.
And as they endowed the church, they did also with the advice of their great council lay impositions on the revenues thereof, when the necessities of the state called for help. In short, the kings of England were free, independent, sovereign princes, and next under God supreme governors in all their dominions, and in all causes, and over all persons, as well ecclesiastical as civil. Such was the state of the monarchy at the time of the Norman conquest.
From this prospect of the English monarchy, I must turn and lead the reader to a more melancholy reflection, and offer to his view the mighty changes which a little time produced.
William the first being seated on the throne of England, pope Gregory the seventh, about the twelfth year of that prince's reign, advanced a pretence that England was a fee of the papacy: but as this pretence was all vapour and imagination, groundless and impudent beyond example, so it signified nothing but to lay open the designs which that haughty prelate had lately formed, and to give the king a just occasion to treat him with contempt, and not to suffer the court of Rome to intermeddle either in the affairs of church or state. And thus things continued during the reign of his successor, king William the second.
But the attempt which miscarried in these two reigns proved more successful in that of Henry the first; for the surrender which he made of his right to investitures did at once take away the patronage of the kings of England, together with one of the greatest branches of the supremacy, and by subjecting the bishops and the revenues of the church to a foreign power, gave such a shock to the monarchy of England, that it is very hard to determine whether the church or the nation suffered most by it.
The legatine power was no less fatal to the kings of England than to the authority of our metropolitans and to the national church: and this too was one of the blemishes of the same prince's
reign for this prince, who despised and rejected, and for more than twenty years kept this usurpation at a distance, did at last give way to it; and the confusions of the succeeding reign, that of king Stephen, so strengthened and improved it, that it was challenged as a right of the papacy, and finally owned as such by king Henry the second in the unhappy agreement betwixt that prince and the court of Rome, which ensued upon the death of archbishop Becket. Thus a power of convening national synods, which had ever been esteemed the sole right of the kings of England, was divided betwixt them and the bishops of Rome; and a way was thereby opened to a sort of legislature, or a power of making canons, which in time put a restraint upon our kings and their great councils, and in many instances rendered useless, and even insulted and affronted their legislative power.
The gaining a power to receive ecclesiastical causes by appeals was still more fatal to the authority of the crown; for by carrying to Rome the last resort in causes ecclesiastical, a great branch of the supremacy, which all the by-past ages had thought sacred and inalienable, was torn from the kings of England; and yet these errors in politics, which threatened the very being of the monarchy, grew up together, and were the blemishes of the same reigns. H. Huntingdon, who lived at that time, as well as Gervasius, says, the use of appeals was begun by Henry bishop of Winchester, and brother to king Stephen: and the instances of that kind are too many under the government of that prince. But as these were then esteemed no otherwise than as encroachments on the rights of the crown, so in the recognition of the ecclesiastical laws in the council of Clarendon, the last resort in causes ecclesiastical was declared the sole right of the crown: and thus it continued till the year 1172, when the same prince who had declared and asserted the rights of the crown in the council of Clarendon, did very unworthily give them away, and in his agreement with pope Alexander consented that appeals should freely be made to the bishops of Rome.
Nor was this the only blemish of that prince's reign, but he stands accountable to posterity for a breach of trust of much greater importance to the monarchy; and this was, the exemption of the clergy and religious from the secular power. This pretence was first set on foot in the preceding reign, that of king Stephen, and some steps were made towards it. However, his successor king Henry the second put a stop to it, and resumed the rights
of the crown, and by his judges punished a great many of the clergy, who but too well deserved it. And when that court, which was restless and impatient to advance themselves to the head of the English clergy, had flattered and deceived some of them into their interest, and this pretence was revived again; the king, with the nobility and the whole body of the bishops, Becket only excepted, opposed it with such a resolution and unanimity and weight of reason, as were every way answerable to the consequence of that affair. Yet, after all, the same thing which was thought of the last importance, and asserted accordingly in the beginning of king Henry the second's reign, was yielded up and given away by that prince before his reign was done; for in the agreement between the king and the legate of the bishop of Rome in the year 1176, it was agreed', that the clergy and religious should not be carried before any secular judge for any crime whatsoever, unless for abuses of the king's forests, or for such services as they were obliged to by their particular tenure.
The kings of England were thus stripped of their supremacy over ecclesiastical persons, as they were about the same time of the last resort in causes ecclesiastical; and the sovereignty of the English monarchs, which before extended to all persons and to all causes, was by these concessions limited and restrained to secular persons and affairs. Thus the bishops of Rome were placed at the head of the church and the clergy of England, and the numbers and the wealth of the clergy and religious, together with the influence which they had upon the nation, being considered, it will not be easy to determine, whether the kings of England or the bishops of Rome had the greater share in the government, when king John came to the crown.
To render these mischiefs incurable, the same men and the very same methods which raised the bishops of Rome to a power over ecclesiastical persons and causes, raised them also to a sort of sovereignty over the wealth and revenues of the English church, and put them in a condition to support the authority which they had first usurped, and to perpetuate their tyranny over the church at the charge of the nation. For the revenues of the church, instead of contributing to the necessities of the government, were made a fund, which in time served all the purposes of those who had first ravished and despoiled the monarchy; and the charity and munificence of the preceding kings of England were made use
It was agreed.] See above, p. 59.
of to break the measures and to control the power of their successors; to weaken their hands; to intimidate their people; to put it out of their power to protect their good subjects from rapine and oppression; or to force the disobedient to their duty: in short, to insult their authority, to render them little and contemptible, and to frustrate all the ends of government. And the mischievous effects of these changes, owing to the two preceding reigns, appeared so soon, that king Richard, the immediate successor to Henry the second, exceedingly lamented the state of the monarchy, and with the utmost mortification pronounced himself the shadow of a kinga. And he had but too much ground for that melancholy reflection; for the patronage of the crown was lost with the right of investitures; the power to convene national synods swallowed up by that of the papal legates; the supremacy in causes ecclesiastical was carried to Rome, by the concession which yielded up the right to appeals; the authority over the persons and the estates of the clergy and religious was given away, by that grant which discharged the clergy from the secular power; and the clergy was thereby rendered a body separate and independent upon the state, their interests distinguished and set at such a distance from one another, that the privileges and liberties of the church were numbered from the spoils of the civil government, and then only thought bright and shining, when they cast a shade upon the monarchy.
The crown of England was thus robbed of a great part of its wealth, its subjects, and its power, when it fell into the hands of king John; so that in truth there remained nothing more to consummate the dishonour of the kings of England, but to shift names, and give up their title in exchange for that of vassals. And there could be nothing more to engage the wishes, or to deserve the ambition of those prelates who had already possessed themselves of the wealth and power of the clergy and religious, and of the supremacy in causes ecclesiastical, but to assume the title and the name of kings of England, and to take to themselves the remains of the royal power, which they had fettered and chained, and in many cases rendered incapable of serving the great ends of government. And the issue was such as might be expected the court of Rome finished the usurpation which they had been labouring for in the preceding reigns, by forcing king John to resign his kingdoms, and to receive them again as a fee
Gervas. Chron. ann. 1196. [Decem Script. col. 1595.]
of the papacy, and of a free sovereign prince to take upon himself the title of a feudatory or a vassal to the bishop of Rome: and he did his homage accordingly, and consented to pay a yearly tribute for his own kingdoms. And lest the world should ever be induced to believe, that all this was owing to the personal failings of king John, his innocent son king Henry the third was forced to tread in the steps of his father, and to take his kingdoms, as he had done before him, as a fee of the papacy; and he swore fealty and did homage accordingly to the bishop of Rome.
Such mighty changes did the compass of about one hundred and fifty years produce in these nations; and although some brave efforts were made by our succeeding kings to regain the rights and liberties of the church and of the crown; and the statutes of Mortmain', Provisors, and Præmunire, the remonstrances of our parliaments and synods, the struggles of some of our bishops and clergy, and the outcries of the whole nation against the tyranny and oppressions of the court of Rome, show us what sense our ancestors had of the papal usurpation, and put it beyond a doubt, that the use which was made thereof was every way answerable to the wicked practices by which it at first had been gained, and that our forefathers groaned under the yoke, and passionately desired to be delivered from it. Yet all was in vain, and without the prospect of a remedy; for God, who in His just displeasure had given up these nations to that infatuation and blindness which had brought all those mischiefs upon them, suffered our ancestors to languish under the miseries which they had drawn down upon themselves, and never entirely delivered them from the yoke of bondage, till in His great mercy he had opened their eyes, and by
The statutes of Mortmain, &c.] See Kennett on Impropriations, p. 25 (Mortmain, Remonstrances, &c.); Twisden's Vindication, 62—4 (Provisors, &c.); 1 Fox's Acts, 548. edit. 1641 (Præmunire). See also Blackstone's Commentaries, bk. i. c. 18 (Mortmain), and bk. ii. c. 18. § 2 (ditto); also bk. iv. c. 8 (Præmunire).
In the statutes of Provisors (25 Edw. III. c. vi., 27 Edw. III. c. i. § 1. and 38 Edw. III. c. i. § 4, and c. ii. § -4) it is enacted that the bishop of Rome shall not present or collate to any bishopric or ecclesiastical benefice in England; and that whoever disturbs any patron in the presentation to a living, by virtue of a papal provision, such provisor shall pay fine and ransom to the king at his will; and be imprisoned till he renounces such provision. And the same punishment is enacted against such as cite the king, or any of his subjects, to answer in the court of Rome.-Blackstone's Commentaries, book iv. c. 8.