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to release subjects from their obedience, and of excit ing and preparing men's minds with expectation of a change. About the same time an attempt was made upon Ireland with open arms, the name and government of Elizabeth was assailed with a variety of wicked libels, and there was a strange ferment and swelling in the world, forerunner of some greater disturbance. And though I do not say that all the priests were acquainted with the design, or knew what was doing; for they may have been only the tools of other men's malice; yet it is true, and proved by the confessions of many witnesses, that from the year I have mentioned to the thirtieth of Elizabeth (when the design of Spain and the Pope was put in execution by that memorable armada of land and sea forces) almost all the priests who were sent over to this country were charged among the other offices belonging to their function, to insinuate that matters could not long stay as they were, that a new aspect and turn of things would be seen shortly, and that the state of England was cared for both by the Pope and the Catholic princes, if the English would but be true to themselves. Besides which, some of the priests had plainly engaged themselves in practices tending directly to the shaking and subversion of the state ; and above all, letters were intercepted from various quarters by which the plan upon which they were to proceed was discovered ; in which letters it was written, that the vigilance of the Queen and her council in the matter of the Catholics would be eluded ; for that she was only intent upon preventing the Catholic party from getting a head in the person of any nobleman or great personage, whereas the plan now was to dispose and prepare everything by the agency of private persons and men of small mark; and that too without their having any communication or acquaintance one with another;, but all to be done under the seal of confession. Such were the arts then resorted to arts with which these men (as we have seen lately in a case not much unlike) are practised and familiar. This so great tempest of dangers made it a kind of necessity for Elizabeth to put some severer constraint upon that party of her subjects which was estranged from her and by these means poisoned beyond recovery, and was at the same time growing rich by reason of their immunity from public offices and burdens. And as the mischief increased, the origin of it being traced to the seminary priests, who were bred in foreign parts, and supported by the purses and charities of foreign princes, professed enemies of this kingdom, and whose time had been passed in places where the very name of Elizabeth was never heard except as that of a heretic excommunicated and accursed, and who (if not themselves stained with treason) were the acknowledged intimates of those that were directly engaged in such crimes, and had by their own arts and poisons depraved and soured with a new leaven of malignity the whole lump of Catholics, which had before been more sweet and harmless; there was no remedy for it but that men of this class should be prohibited upon pain of death from coming into the kingdom at all; which at last, in the twenty-seventh year of her reign, was done. Nor did the event itself which followed not long after, when so great a tempest assailed and fell with all its fury upon the kingdom, tend in any degree to mitigate the envy and hatred of these men ; but rather increased it, as if they had utterly
cast off all feeling for their country, which they were ready to betray to a foreign servitude. And though it is true that the fear of danger from Spain, which was the spur that goaded her to this severity, did afterwards subside or abate ; yet because the memory of the time past remained deeply printed in men's minds and feelings, and the laws once made could not be abrogated without the appearance of inconstancy, or neglected without the appearance of weakness and disorder, the very force of circumstances made it impossible for Elizabeth to return to the former state of things as it was before the twenty-seventh year of her reign. To which must be added the industry of some of her officers to improve the exchequer, and the solicitude of her ministers of justice who saw no hope of salvation for the country but in the laws; all which demanded and pressed the execution of them. And yet what her own natural disposition was appears plainly in this, that she so blunted the law's edge that but a small proportion of the priests were capitally punished. All which I say not by way of apology ; for these proceedings need no apology ; since the safety of the kingdom turned upon them, and all this severity both in the manner and the measure of it came far short of the bloody examples set by the priesthood, - examples scarcely to be named among Christians, and proceeding moreover some of them rather out of arrogance and malice than out of necessity. But I conceive that I have made good my assertion, and shown that in the cause of religion she was indeed moderate, and that what variation there was was not in her nature but in the times.
Of her constancy in religion and worship the best proof is her dealing with Popery : which though in her sister's reign it had been established by public authority and fostered with great care and labour, and had taken deep root in the land, and was strengthened by the consent and zeal of all who were in authority and power ; yet because it was not agreeable either to the word of God or to primitive purity or to her own conscience, she at once with the greatest courage and the fewest helps proceeded to uproot and abolish. And yet she did it not precipitately or upon eager impulse, but prudently and all in due season ; as may be gathered from many circumstances, and among the rest from a reply made by her on the following occasion. Not many days after she came to the throne, when prisoners were released (as the custom is to inaugurate and welcome a new reign by the release of prisoners), a certain courtier, who from nature and habit had taken to himself the license of a jester, came to her as she went to chapel, and either of his own motion or set on by wiser men, presented her a petition; adding with a loud voice before all the company, that there were yet four or five prisoners more who deserved liberty, for whom he besought that they might be released likewise; namely, the four Evangelists and the Apostle Paul; who had been long shut up in an unknown tongue, as it were in prison, so that they could not converse with the people. To whom she answered very wisely, that it were good first to inquire further of themselves, whether they would be released or no: thus meeting a sudden question with a doubtful answer, as meaning to keep all clear and whole for her own decision. And yet she did not introduce these changes timidly neither, nor by starts ; but proceeding
in due order, gravely and maturely, after conference had been first had between the parties, and a Parliament held, she then at last, and yet all within a single year, so ordered and established everything relating to the Church, that to the last day of her life she never allowed a single point to be departed from. Nay, at almost every meeting of Parliament she gave a public warning against innovation in the discipline and rites of the Church. And so much for the point of religion.
As for those lighter points of character, — as that she allowed herself to be wooed and courted, and even to have love made to her; and liked it; and continued it beyond the natural age for such vanities ; — if any of the sadder sort of persons be disposed to make a great matter of this, it may be observed that there is soniething to admire in these very things, which ever way you take them. For if viewed indulgently, they are much like the accounts we find in romances, of the Queen in the blessed islands, and her court and institutions, who allows of amorous admiration but prohibits desire. But if you take them seriously, they challenge admiration of another kind and of a very high order; for certain it is that these dalliances detracted but little from her fame and nothing at all from her majesty, and neither weakened her power nor sensibly hindered her business : — whereas such things are not unfrequently allowed to interfere with the public fortune.
But to conclude, she was no doubt a good and moral Queen; and such too she wished to appear. Vices she hated, and it was by honest arts that she desired to shine. And speaking of her morality, I remember a circumstance in point. Having ordered
1 I have not been able to learn what romance Bacon alludes to here.