Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

on, for many years, a system of complicated and that never was servant to his master so villanous*, elaborate imposture. It would not be inconsistent nor subject to his prince so traitorous as he.” with this acquittal, to allow that, in the course of They even reproached him for having either writher self-delusion, she should have been induced, ten in the name of his master, or betrayed his by some ecclesiastics of the tottering church, to sovereign into writing, the book against Luther, take an active part in these pious frauds, which which had so deeply pledged Henry to the supthere is too much reason to believe that persons of port of the papal pretensions. To these upbraidunfeigned religion have been often so far mis- ings he calmly answered, “ The terrors are arguguided by enthusiastic zeal, as to prepetrate or to ments for children, and not for me. As to the fact, patronise.

the king knoweth, that after the book was finished But whatever were the motives or the extent of by his highness's appointment,or the consent of the the holy maid's confession, it availed her nothing; maker, I was only a sorter out and placer of the for in the session of parliament which met in Ja- principal matters therein contained.” He added, nuary, 1534, she and her ecclesiastical prompters that he warned the king of the prudence of “ touchwere attainted of high treason, and adjudged to ing the pope's authority more slenderly, and that suffer death as traitors : Fisher bishop of Roches

he had reminded Henry of the statutes of premuter, with others, were all attainted of misprision or nire,” whereby “a good part of the pope's pastoconcealment of treason, for which they were ad. ral care was pared away;" to which the impetujudged to forfeiture and imprisonment during the ous monarch answered, “We are so much boundking's pleasure.* The holy maid, with her spirit- en unto the see of Rome, that we cannot do too ual guides, suffered death at Tyburn on the 21st much honour unto it." On More's return to of April; she confirming her former confession, Chelsea from his interview with these lords, Robut laying her crime to the charge of her compa- per said to him—“I hope all is well, since you are nions, if we may implicitly believe historians of the so merry ?"_“It is so, indeed,” said More, “I victorious party.t

thank God.”—“Are you, then, out of the parliaFisher and his supposed accomplices in mispri

ment bill ?” said Roper.—“By my truth, In ever sion remained in prison according to their attainder. remembered it; but,” said More, “I will tell thee Of More the statute makes no mention; but it con- why I was so merry; because I had given the tains a provision, which, when it is combined with devil a foul fall, and that with those lords I had other circumstances to be presently related, appear gone so far, as without great shame I never go to have been added to the bill for the purpose of pro- back again.” A frank avowal of the power of viding for his safety. By this provision, the king's temptation, and a simple joy at having at the hamajesty, at the humble suit of his well beloved zard of life escaped from the farther seductions of the wife queen Anne, pardons all persons not express- court, bestowing a greatness on these few and faly by name attainted by the statute, for all mis

miliar words which scarcely belongs to any other prision and concealments relating to the false and of the sayings of man. feigncd miracles and prophecies of Elizabeth Bar- Henry, incensed at the failure of wheedling and ton, on or before the 20th day of October, 1533. threatening messages, broke out into violent deNow we are told by Ropers, “that sir Thomas clarations of his resolution to include More in the Mbre's name was originally inserted in the bill,” attainder, and said that he should be personally the king supposing that this bill would to sir present to ensure the passing of the bill. Lord Thomas More be so troublous and terrible, that it Audley and his colleagues on their knees besought would force him to relent and condescend to his their master to forbear, lest by an overthrow in his request; wherein his grace was much deceived. own presence, he might be contemned by his own Sir Thomas was personally to be received in his subjects, and dishonoured throughout Christenown defence to make answer. But the king, not dom for ever; adding, that they doubted not that liking that, sent the archbishop of Canterbury, the they should find a more meet occasion “to serve chancellor, the duke of Norfolk, and Cromwell, to his turn;" for that in this case of the run he was attempt the conversion of More. Audley remind- so clearly innocent, that men deem him far wored More of the king's special favour and many

thier of praise than of reproof. Henry was combenefits. More admitted them; but modestly pelled to yield.f Such was the power of the deadded, that his highness had most graciously declared that on this matter More should be molest

* Like a slave or a villain. The word in the mouth ed no more. When in the end they saw that no

of these gentlemen appears to have been in a state of

transition, about the middle point between the origi. persuasion could move him, they then said, “that nal sense of “ like a slave," and its modern acceptathe king's highness had given them in command- tion of mean or malignant offenders. What proof is ment, if they could by no gentleness win him, in

not supplied by this single fact in the history of the the king's name with ingratitude to charge him,

language of the masters, of their conviction, that the slavery maintained by them doomed the slaves to de

pravity. * 25 H. 8. c. 12. Stat. of the Realm, iil. p. 446.

† The house of lords addressed the king, praying

him to declare whether it would be agreeable to his | Such as Hall and Holinshed.

pleasure that sir T. More and others should not be P. 62.

heard in their own defence before the lords in the 158

fenceless virtue over the slender remains of inde- but pulled the wicket afer him, and shut them all pendence among slavish peers, and over the lin- from him, and with Roper and four servants took gering remnants of common humanity which boat towards Lambeth. He sat for a while; but might still be mingled with a cooler policy in the at last, his mind being lightened and relieved by bosoms of subservient politicians. One of the those high principles to which with him every low worst of that race, Thomas Cromwell, on meeting consideration yielded, whispered—“Son Roper ! Roper in the parliament house next day after the I thank our Lord, the field is won.”—" As I conking assented to the prayer of his ministers, told jectured,” says Roper, “it was for that his love to him to tell More that he was put out of the bill. God conquered his carnal affections.” An acRoper sent a messenger to Margaret Roper, who count of his conduct during the examination at hastened to her beloved father with the tidings. Lambeth was sent by him to his darling child, More answered her, with his usual gaiety and Margaret Roper.* After having read the statute fondness, “In faith, Megg, what is put off is not and the form of the oath, he declared his readiness given up."* Soon after, the duke of Norfolk said

to swear that he would maintain and defend the to him, —"By the mass! master More, it is peril- order of succession to the crown as established by ous striving with princes; the anger of a prince

parliament. He disclaimed all censure of those brings death."-"Is that all, my lord ? then the

who had imposed, or on those who had taken, the difference between you and me is but this--that I oath, but declared it to be impossible that he should shall die to-day, and you to-morrow.” No life in

swear to the whole contents of it, without oftending Plutarch is more full of happy sayings and striking against his own conscience; adding, that if they retorts than that of More. But the terseness and

doubted whether his refusal proceeded from pure liveliness of his are justly overlooked in the con

scruple of conscience or from his own phantasies, templation of that union of perfect simplicity with

he was willing to satisfy their doubts by oath. The moral grandeur, which, perhaps, no other human

commissioners urged that he was the first who rebeing has so uniformly reached.

fused it: they showed him the subscriptions of all By a tyrannical edict, miscalled a law, in the

the lords and commons who had sworn; they same session of 1533–4, it was made high treason, held out the king's sure displeasure at the single after the 1st of May, 1534, by writing, print, deed,

recusant. When he was called on a second time, or act, to do or to procure, or cause to be done or

they charged him with obstinacy for not mentionprocured, any thing to the prejudice, slander, dis

ing any special part of the oath which wounded turbance, or derogation of the king's lawful matri

his conscience. mony with queen Anne. If the same offences

He answered, that if he were to open

his were committed by words, they were only mispri

sons for refusal farther, he should exasperate the sion. The same act enjoined all persons to take

king still more. He offered, however, to assign an oath to maintain the whole contents of the

his reasons if the lords would procure his highstatute, and an obstinate refusal to make such

ness's gracious assurance that the avowal of the oath was subjected to the penalties of misprision.

grounds of his defence should not be considered as This statute prescribed no form for the oath. On

offensive to the king, nor prove dangerous to himthe 30th of March, however, which was the day

self. The commissioners answered that such assuof closing the session, the chancellor Audley, when

rances would be no defence against a legal charge. the commons were at the bar, but when they

He offered, however, to trust himself to the king's could neither deliberate nor assent, read the

honour. Cranmer took some advantage of More's king's letters patent, containing the form of

candour, urging that, as he had disclaimed all an oath, and ointing the archbishop of Can

blame of those who had sworn, it was evident that terbury, the chancellor, the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, to be commissioners for administer

he thought it only doubtful whether the oath was

unlawful; and desired him to consider whether ing it.

the obligation to obey the king was not absolutely Sir T. More was summoned to appcar before

certain. He was struck with the subtilty of this these commissioners at Lambeth, on Monday the

reasoning, which took him by surprise, but not con13th of April, 1534. “On other occasions he

vinced of its solidity. Notwithstanding his surevermore used, at his departure from his wife and

prise, he seems to have almost touched the true children, whom he tenderly loved, to have them

answer, that as the oath contained a profession of brought to his boat, and there to kiss them, and

opinion, such, for example, as the lawfulness of the bid them all farewell. At that time he would suf

king's marriage, on which men might differ, it fer none of them to follow him forth of the gate,

might be declined by some and taken by others royal senate called the Stere Chamber." Nothing

with equal honesty. Cromwell, whom More believmore appears on the journals relating to this matter.

ed to favour him, loudly swore that he would rather Lords' Journ. 6th March, 1533. The journals prove

see his only son had lost his head than that More the narrative of Roper, from which the text is com- had thus refused the oath. Cromwell bore the anposed, to be as accurate as it is beautiful. * He spoke to her in his conversational Latin,

swer to the king, and chancellor Audley distinctly Quod differtur non aufertur." f Lords' Journ. p. 82.

* English Works, 1428_1430.


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

enjoined him to state very clearly More's willing- the company of his wife and children.” He bore ness to swear to the succession. “Surely,” said with kindness in its most unpleasing form, and More, “as to swearing to the succession, I see no answered her cheerfully after his manner, which peril.” Cromwell was not a good man, but the was to blend religious feelings with quaintness gentle virtue of More subdued even the bad. He and liveliness. “Is not this house as nigh heaven never more returned to his house, being committed as mine own?” She answered him in a homely to the custody of the abbot of Westminster, exclamation of contempt *, of which the origin or in which he continued four days; and at the end meaning cannot now be ascertained, “ Tilly valle, of that time he was conveyed to the Tower * on tilly valle.” † He treated her harsh language as Friday the 17th of April, 1534.

a wholesome exercise for his patience, and replied Before the end of the session, 1534, two sta- with equal mildness, though with more gravity, tutes † were passed to attaint More and Fisher of “Why should I joy in my gay house, when if I misprision of treason, specifying the punishment to should rise from the grave in seven years, I should be imprisonment of body and loss of goods. By not fail to find some one there who would bid me to that which relates to More, the king's grants of go out of doors, for it was none of mine ?” It was land to him in 1523 and 1525 are resumed; it is not thus that his Margaret Roper conversed or alleged that he refused the oath since the 1st of

corresponded with him during his confinement. May of 1534, with an intent to sow sedition ; and

A short note written to her a little while after his he is reproached for having demeaned himself in commitment, with a coal (his only pen and ink) other respects ungratefully and unkindly to the begins, “Mine own good daughter,” and is closed king, his benefactor.

in the following fond and pious words :-“Written In the session which began on the 3d of No- with a coal, by your tender loving father, who in vember, 1534 1, an act was passed which ratifies

his poor prayers forgetteth none of you, nor your and professes to recite the form of oath promulgat- babes, nor your good husbands, nor your father's ed on the day of the prorogation; and enacts that shrewd wife neither.” Shortly after, mistaking the oath above recited shall be reputed to be the the sense of a letter from her, which he thought very oath intended by the former act of succes- advised him to compliance, he wrote a letter to sions, though there were, in fact, some substantial her which rebukes her supposed purpose with the and important interpolations in the latter act; such utmost vehemence of affection, and the deepest as the words “most dear and entirely beloved, law. regard to her judgment. “I hear many terrible ful wife, rueen Anne, which tended to render that things towards me ; but they all never touched form still less acceptable than before, to the scru- me, never so near, nor were they so grievous unpulous consciences of More and Fisher.

to me as to see you, my well beloved child, in That this statement of the legislative measures such a piteous and vehement manner, labour to which affected them is necessary to a consideration persuade me to a thing whereof I have of pure of the legality of More's trial, which must be necessity, for respect unto myne own soul, so owned to be a part of its justice, will appear in its often given you so precise an answer before. The proper place. In the mean time, the few pre- matters that move my conscience I have sundry paratory incidents which occurred during thirteen times shown you, that I will disclose them to no months' imprisonment, must be briefly related. one. Margaret's reply was worthy of herself. His wife Alice, though an excellent housewife, She acquiesces in his “ faithful and delectable yet in her visits to the Tower handled his misfor- letter, the faithful messenger of his virtuous mind," tunes and his scruples too roughly. “Like an and almost rejoices in his victory over all earthignorant, and somewhat worldly, woman, she born cares.

She concludes thus :-" Your own bluntly said to him, “How can a man taken for most loving obedient daughter and bedeswoman ş, wise, like you, play the fool in this close filthy Margaret Roper, who desireth above all worldly prison, when you might be abroad at your liberty, things to be in John Wood's stede to do you some if you would but do as the bishops have done ?'service.” This John Wood was the servant perShe enlarged on his fair house at Chelsea, “ his mitted to attend sir Thomas More in the Tower. library, gallery, garden, and orchard, together with After another interval, however, pity prevailed so

far as to obtain the king's licence for Margaret * Roper tells us that the king, who had intended to Roper to resort to him in the Tower. It would be desist from his importunities, was exasperated by blamable to seek for bad motives in the case of so queen Anne's clamour to tender the oath at Lambeth. But he detested that unhappy lady, whose marriage

merciful an alleviation of punishment. was the occasion of More's ruin; and though Roper

On her first visit, after gratefully performing was an unimpeachable witness relating to sir Tho- their accustomed devotions, his first care was to mas's conversation, he is of less weight as to what

passed in the interior of the palace. The ministers might

soothe ber afflicted heart by the assurance that he have told such a story to excuse themselves to Roper. Anne could have had no opportunity of contradiction. * Roper, 78. † 26 H. VIII. c. 22, 23.

† Nares's Glossary, London, 1822. * Id. c. 2.

English Works, 1430. $25 H. VIII. c. 22. $9. Compare 1 Lords' Journ. Id.° 1431. Bedesman-one who prays for anon 82,


saw no cause to reckon himself in worse caso letter of Margaret Roper, apparently written in there than in his own house. On another occasion the winter of 1534-5, that his persecutors now he asked her how queen Anne did. “In faith, tried another expedient for vanquishing his confather,” said she, “never better.”—“Never better, stancy, by restraining him from church, and she Megg!" quoth he; « alas ! Megg, it pitieth me adds, “ from the company of my good mother and to remember into what misery, poor soul, she shall his poor children."* More, in his answer, expressshortly come.” * Various attempts continued es his wonted affection in very familiar, but in still to be made to cajole him ; partly, perhaps, most significant, language:—“If I were to declare with the hope that his intercourse with the beloved in writing how much pleasure your daughterly Margaret might have softened him. Cromwell loving letters gave me, a peck of coals would not told him that the king was still his good master, suffice to make the pens.” So confident was he and did not wish to press his conscience. The of his innocence, and so safe did he deem himself lords commissioners went twice to the Tower to on the side of law, that "he believed some new tender the oath to him. But neither he nor Fisher causeless suspicion, founded upon some secret would advance farther than their original declara- sinister information,” had risen up against him. tion of perfect willingness to maintain the settle- On the 2d or 3d of May, 1535, sir Thomas More ment of the crown, which, being a matter purely informed his dear daughter of a visit from Crompolitical, was within the undisputed competence well, attended by the attorney and solicitor geneof parliament. They refused to include in their ral, and certain civilians, at which Cromwell urged oath any other matter on account of scruples of to More the statute which made the king head of conscience, which they forbore to particularise, the church, and required an answer on that sublest they might thereby furnish their enemies with ject. More replied; “I am the king's true faitha pretext for representing their defence as a new ful subject, and daily bedesman : I say no harm, crime. As their real ground, which was, that it and do no harm ; and if this be not enough to would be insincere in them to declare upon oath, keep a man alive, in good faith I long not to live.” that they believed the king's marriage with Anne This ineffectual attempt was followed by another to be lawful, they might, by the statement of that visit from Cranmer, the chancellor, the duke of ground in defending themselves against a charge Suffolk, the earl of Wiltshire, and Cromwell, who, of misprision of treason, have incurred the penal- after much argument, tendered an oath, by which ties of high treason.

he was to promise to make answers to questions Two difficulties occurred in reconciling the de- which they might puts; and on his decisive refustruction of sir Thomas More with any form or sal, Cromwell gave him to understand that, agreecolour of law. The first of them consisted in the ably to the language at the former conference, circumstance that the naked act of refusing the

“his grace would follow the course of his lans oath was, even hy the late statute, punishable towards such as he should find obstinate.” Cranonly as a misprision ; and though concealment of mer, who too generally complied with evil countreason was never expressly declared to be only a sels, but nearly always laboured to prevent their misprison till the statute to that effect was passed execution, wrote a persuasive letter to Cromwell, under Philip and Maryt, chiefly perhaps occasion- earnestly praying the king to be content with More ed by the case of More, yet it seemed strange thus and Fisher's proffered engagement to maintain the to prosecute him for the refusal, as an act of trea- succession, which would render the whole nation son, after it had been positively made punishable unanimous on the practical part of that great subject. as a misprision by a general statute, and after a On the 6th of May, 1535, almost immediately special act of attainder for misprision had been pass

after the defeat of every attempt to practise on his ed against him. Both these enactments were, on

firmness, More was brought to trial at Westminthe supposition of the refusal being indictable for ster, and it will scarcely be doubted, that no such treason, absolutely useless, and such as tended to culprit stood at any European bar for a thousand make More believe that he was safe as long as he years. It is rather from caution than from necesremained silent. The second has been already sity that the ages of Roman domination are excluintimated, that he had yet said nothing which could ded from the comparison. It does not seem that be tortured into a semblance of those acts deroga


moral respect Socrates himself could claim tory from the king's marriage, which had been a superiority. It is lamentable that the records of made treason. To conquer this last difficulty, sir the proceedings against such a man should be Robert Rich the solicitor-general undertook the scanty. We do not certainly know the specific infamous task of betraying More into some decla

offence of which he was convicted. There does ration, which might be pretended to be treason- not seem, however, to be much doubt that the able, in a confidential conversation, and under pre

prosecution was under the act " for the establishtext of familiar friendship. What the success of

ment of the king's succession,” passed in the sesthis flagitious attempt was, the reader will see in

sion 1533-49. which made it high treason “to do the account of More's trial. It appears from a

any thing to the prejudice, slander, disturbance, or * Engl. Works, 1446.

| Id. 1447. * Roper, 72.

| More to Margaret Roper. Engl. Works, 1452. +1 & 2 Phil, and Mar, c. 10. s. 8.

§ 25 H. VIII. c. 22. VOL. II.-6


derogation of the lawful marriage” between Henry and Anne. Almost any act, done or declined, might be forced within the undefined limits of such vague terms. In this case the prosecutors probably represented his refusal to answer certain questions which, according to them, must have related to the marriage, his observations at his last examination, and especially his conversation with Rich, as overt acts of that treason, inasmuch as it must have been known by him that his conduct on these occasions tended to create a general doubt of the legitimacy of the marriage.

To the first alleged instance of his resistance to the king, which consisted in his original judg. ment against the marriage, he answered in a manner which rendered reply impossible, " that it could never be treason or one of the king's advisers to give him honest advice.” On the like refusal respecting the king's headship of the church, he answered that “no man could be punished for silence." The attorney general said, that the prisoner's silence was “malicious.” More justly answered, that "he had a right to be silent where his language was likely to be injuriously misconstrued.” Respecting his letters to bishop Fisher, they were burnt, and no evidence was offered of their contents, which he solemnly declared to have no relation to the charges. And as to the last charge, that he had called the act of settlement“ a two-edged sword, which would destroy his soul if he complied with it, and his body if he refused," it was answered by hiin, that "he supposed the reason of his refusal to be equally good, whether the question led to an offence against his conscience, or to the necessity of criminating himself."

Cromwell had before told him, that though he was suffering perpetual imprisonment for the misprision, the punishment did not release him from his allegiance, and he was amenable to the law for treason. Cromwell overlooked the essential circumstances, that the facts laid as treason were the same on which the attainder for misprision was founded. Even if that were not a strictly maintainable objection in technical law, it certainly showed the flagrant injustice of the whole proceeding.

The evidence, however, of any such strong circumstances attendant on the refusal as could raise it into an act of treason must have seemed defective; for the prosecutors were reduced to the necessity of examining Rich, one of their own number, to prove circumstances of which he could have had no knowledge, without the foulest treachery on his part. Rich said, that he had gone to More as a friend, and asked him, if an act of parliament had made Rich king, More would not acknowledge him.

Sir Thomas said, “Yes, sir, that I would.”_-"If they declared me pope, would you acknowledge me ?”—“In the first case, I have no doubt about iemporal governments; but suppose the parliament should make a law that God should not be God, would you then, Mr.Rich, say that God

should not be God?"-"No," says Rich, “no parliament could make such a law." Rich went on to swear, that sir Thos. More added, “No more could the parliament make the king supreme head of the church.” More denied the latter part of Rich's evidence altogether; which is, indeed, inconsistent with the whole tenour of his language. More was then compelled to expose the profligacy of Rich's character. “I am,” he said, “ more sorry for your perjury, than for mine own peril. Neither 1, nor any man, ever took you to be a person of such credit as I could communicate with on such matters. We dwelt near in one parish, and you were always esteemed very light of your tongue, and not of any commendable fame. Can it be likely to your lordships that I should so unadvisedly overshoot myself, as to trust Mr. Rich with what I have concealed from the king, or any of his noble and grave counsellors ?

The credit of Rich was so deeply wounded, that he was compelled to call sir Richard Southwell, and Mr. Palmer, who where present at the conversation, to prop his tottering evidence. They made a paltry excuse, by alleging that they were so occupied in removing More's books, that they did not listen to the words of this extraordinary conversation. The jury*, in spite of these circumstances, convicted sir Thomas More. Chancellor Audley, who was at the head of the commission, of which Spelman and Fitzherbert, eminent lawyers, were members, was about to pronounce judgment, when he was interrupted by sir Thomas More, who claimed the usual privilege of being heard to show that judgment should not be passed.

More urged, that he had so much ground for his scruples as at least to exempt his refusal from the imputation of disaffection, or of what the law deems to be malice. The chancellor asked him once more how his scruples could balance the weight of the parliament, people, and church of England ? a topic which had been used against him at every interview and conference since he was brought prisoner to Lambeth. The appeal to weight of authority influencing conscience was, however, singularly unfortunate. More answered, as he had always done, “Nine out of ten of Christians now in the world think with me. Nearly all the learned doctors and holy fathers who are already dead, agree with me: and therefore I think myself not bound to conform my conscience to the council of one realm, against the general consent of all Christendom.” Chief Justice Fitzjames concurred in the sufficiency of the indictment; which, after the verdict of the jury, was the only matter before the court.

The chancellor then pronounced the savage sen

* Sir T. Palmer, sir T. Bent, G. Lovell, esquire, Thomas Burbage, esquire, G. Chamber, gentleman, Edward Stockmore, William Brown, Jasper Leake, Thomas Bellington, John Parnell, Richard Bellamy, and G. Stoakes, gentlemen, were the jury.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »