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BO O K for re-establishing the authority of the Prince; so that it XII.
was long before France could turn her whole attention towards foreign transactions, or act with her proper force in foreign wars. It was long before she rose to that ascendant in Europe which she has maintained since the administration of Cardinal Richlieu, and which the situation as well as extent of the kingdom, the nature of her government, together with the character of her people, entitle her to maintain.
Progress While the kingdoms on the continent grew into power of England with res- and consequence, England likewise made considerable propect to its
gress towards regular government and interior strength. interior
Henry VIII. probably without intention, and certainly without any consistent plan, of which his nature was incapable, pursued the scheme of depressing the nobility, which the policy of his father Henry VII. had begun. The pride and caprice of his temper led him to employ chiefly new men in the administration of affairs, because he found them most obsequious, or least scrupulous; and he not only conferred on them such plenitude of power, but exalted them to such preeminence in dignity, as mortified and degraded the ancient nobility. By the alienation or sale of the church lands, which were dissipated with a profusion not inferior to the rapaciousness with which they had been seized, as well as by the privilege granted to the ancient landholders of selling their estates, or disposing of them by will, an immense property, formerly locked up, was brought into circulation. This put the spirit of industry and commerce in motion, and gave it some considerable degree of vigour. The road to power and to opulence became open to persons of every condition. A sudden and excessive flow of wealth from the West-Indies proved fatal to industry in Spain; a moderate accession in England to the sum in circulation gave life to commerce, awakened the ingenuity of the nation, and excited it to useful enterprise. In France, what the nobles lost the crown gained. In England, the commons were gainers as well as the king. Power and influence accompanied of course the property which they acquired. They rose to consideration among their fellow-subjects; they began to feel their own importance; and extending their influence in the legislative
body gradually, and often when neither they themselves nor B O O K
XII. others foresaw all the effects of their claims and pretensions, they at last attained that high authority to which the British constitution is indebted for the existence, and must owe the preservation of its liberty. At the same time that the English constitution advanced towards perfection, several circumstances brought on a change in the ancient system with respect to foreign powers, and introduced another more beneficial to the nation. As soon as Henry disclaimed the supremacy of the Papal See, and broke off all connexion with the Papal court, considerable sums were saved to the nation, of which it had been annually drained by remittances to Rome for dispensations and indulgences, by the expense of pilgrimages into foreign countries *, or by payment of annates, first fruits, and a thousand other taxes which that artful and rapacious court levied on the credulity of mankind. The exercise of a jurisdiction different from that of the civil power, and claiming not only to be independent of it, but superior to it, a wild solecism in government, apt not only to perplex and disquiet weak minds, but tending directly to disturb society, was finally abolished. Government became more simple as well as more respectable, when no rank or character exempted any person from being amenable to the same courts as other subjects, from being tried by the same judges, and from being acquitted or condemned by the same laws.
spect to the
By the loss of Calais the English were excluded from the With recontinent. All schemes for invading France became of affairs of course as chimerical as they had formerly been pernicious.
the contis The views of the English were confined, first by necessity, and afterwards from choice, within their own island. That rage for conquest which had possessed the nation, during
* The loss which the nation sustained by most of these articles is obvious, and must have been great. Even that by pilgrimages was not in. considerable. In the year 14:28, licence was obtained by no fewer than 916 persons to visit the shrine of St. James of Compostello in Spain. Rymer, v. X. p.
In 1434, the number of pilgrims to the same place was 2460. Ibid. p.
In 1445, they were 2100, vol. xi. p.
BO O K many centuries, and wasted its strength in perpetual and XII,
fruitless wars, ceased at length. Those active spirits which had known and followed no profession but war, sought for occupation in the arts of peace, and their country was benefited as much by the one as it had suffered by the other. The nation, which had been exhausted by frequent expeditions to the continent, recruited its numbers, and acquired new strength; and when roused by any extraordinary exigency to take part in foreign operations, the vigour of its efforts was proportionably great, because they were only occasional and of a short continuance.
With respect to Scotland.
The same principle which had led England to adopt this new system with regard to the powers on the continent, occasioned a change in its plan of conduct with respect to Scotland, the only foreign state, with which, on account of its situation in the same island, the English had such a close connexion as demanded their perpetual attention. Instead of prosecuting the ancient scheme of conquering that kingdom, which the nature of the country, defended by a brave and hardy people, rendered dangerous, if not impracticable ; it appeared more eligible to endeavour at obtaining such influence in Scotland as might exempt England from any danger or disquiet from that quarter. The national poverty of the Scots, together with the violence and animosity of their factions, rendered the execution of this plan easy to a people far superior to them in wealth. The leading men of greatest power and popularity were gained ; the ministers and favourites of the crown were corrupted; and such absolute direction of the Scottish councils was acquired, as rendered the operations of the one kingdom dependent, in a great measure, on the sovereign of the other. Such perfect external security, added to the interior advantages which England now possessed, must soon have raised it to new consideration and importance; the long reign of Elizabeth, equally conspicuous for wisdom, for steadiness, and for vigour, accelerated its progress, and carried it with greater rapidity towards that elevated station which it hath since held among the powers of Europe.
DURING the period in which the political state of the great BOOK
XII. kingdoms underwent such changes, revolutions of considerable importance happened in that of the secondary or infe
Changes in rior powers. Those in the Papal court are most obvious, the politiand of most extensive consequence.
cal state of the secon
dary powIn the Preliminary Book, I have mentioned the rise of ers in Eu
rope. that spiritual jurisdiction, which the Popes claim as Vicars The most
considerof Jesus Christ, and have traced the progress of that au
able revothority which they possess as temporal Princes *. Previous lution of to the reign of Charles V. there was nothing that tended to the sixcircumscribe or to moderate their authority, but science and tury in the philosophy, which began to revive and to be cultivated. Court of
Rome. The progress of these, however, was still inconsiderable ; they always operate slowly; and it is long before their influence reaches the people, or can produce any sensible effect upon them. They may perhaps gradually, and in a long course of years, undermine and shake an established system of false religion, but there is no instance of their having overturned one. The battery is too feeble to de molish those fabrics which superstition raises on deep foundations, and can strengthen with the most consummate art.
The human mind, tof the
LUTHER had attacked the Papal supremacy with other The geneweapons, and with an impetuosity more formidable. The ral revolt
against the time and manner of his attack concurred with a multitude doctrines of circumstances, which have been explained, in giving him of the immediate success.
The charm which had bound mankind Rome, and
BOOK Sweden, England, and Scotland, and almost one half of XII.
Germany, threw off their allegiance to the Pope, abolished his jurisdiction within their territories, and gave the sanction of law to modes of discipline and systems of doctrine which were not only independent of his power, but hostile to it. Nor was this spirit of innovation confined to those countries which openly revolted from the Pope ; it spread through all Europe, and broke out in every part of it with various degrees of violence. It penetrated early into France, and made a quick progress there. In that kingdom, the number of converts to the opinions of the reformers was so great, their zeal so enterprising, and the abilities of their leaders so distinguished, that they soon ventured to contend for superiority with the established church, and were sometimes on the point of obtaining it. In all the provinces of Germany which continued to acknowledge the Papal supremacy, as well as in the Low-Countries, the Protestant doctrines were secretly taught, and had gained so many proselytes, that they were ripe for revolt, and were restrained merely by the dread of their rulers from imitating the example of their neighbours, and asserting their independence. Even in Spain and in Italy, symptoms of the same disposition to shake off the yoke appeared. The pretensions of the Pope to infallible knowledge and supreme power were treated by many persons of eminent learning and abilities with such scorn, or attacked with such vehemence, that the most vigilant attention of the civil magistrate, the highest strains of pontifical authority, and all the rigour of inquisitorial jurisdiction, were requisite to check and extinguish it.
The defection of so many opulent and powerful kingbridged the extent doms from the Papal See, was a fatal blow to its grandeur of the and power. It abridged the dominions of the Popes in expope's do. minions,
tent, it diminished their revenues, and left them fewer rewards to bestow on the ecclesiastics of various denominations, attached to them by vows of obedience as well as by ties of interest, and whom they employed as instruments to establish or support their usurpations in every part of Eu, rope. The countries too which now disclaimed their authority, were those which formerly had been most devoted