« PreviousContinue »
demnation ; a decision equally contrary to justice and to ecclesiastical rules. • It is one of the most grievous attributes of persecution, that where it fails to kill, it yet leaves a stigma which ages will not remove. When once the character has been assailed, however malicious, however groundless may be the charges preferred, there will never be wanting men who will give credence to the accusations.--To some indeed, (the vultures of the moral world,) the vices and enormities of our nature afford a feast on which they delight to batten, and to the vitiated palates of such, the proceedings against the Templars must present a rich feast. Others, unwilling to admit the existence of such deep depravity, considerately make an allowance for the injustice of many of the accusations, and compromise the case by deciding that the Templars were probably guilty of many crimes, though not to the extent of the charges brought against them. It is this last opinion more particularly, as it carries with it a considerable semblance of reason, that we would oppose, convinced as we are of its injustice.
That the proceedings against the Templars were conducted in a manner contrary to the first principles of justice, and that, therefore, no legal decision could be grounded on them, what we have already said is, we think, fully sufficient to prove. The next question therefore, which naturally arises, is, what then was the probable truth of the charges against them, and how is it to be ascertained ? To this we would answer, that, in the first place, the whole body of proceedings against them, the accusations, the evidence, and the decrees, must be entirely put out of the question, and that we must endeavour to form a judgment on the subject as if no such proceedings had ever taken place. This we affirm to be necessary, because the whole mass is tainted with the grossest perjury, extorted by the most abominable means. We would not, therefore, admit the truth of one single fact contained in the loathsome collection; we would not allow one solitary deduction from such facts.* We do not mean to . assert that portions of the evidence may not be true'; but we say, that, from their admixture with falsehood, it is impossible to distinguish such portions, and that, therefore, we cannot be as
* We object, on this account, to the following passage : “ combining all these circumstances, it seems impossible not to acquit the Templars from the general guilt imputed to their body. If some members were chargeable with irreligion, their number was not great; if some irreligious associations were formed, they must have been extremely few. They seem to have been merely meetings of sensuality.” -Butler's Memoirs of the Catholics, i, 93.
sured that we are not erring whenever we give credit to any part of the evidence. The only mode then which remains of forming a judgment on this complicated question, is to examine the authentic sources of contemporary history, the spirit and nature of the religious institutions of the time, and the character and feelings of the age. Let us judge these gallant and unfortunate soldiers by this fair and impartial measure, and not repeat the slanderous sentence of guilt and ignominy which avarice and malignity have pronounced. Let us raise our voices against this enormous perversion of justice, and whilst we honour the devoted constancy and fortitude of the victims, let us hold up to the detestation of all posterity the abandoned cruelty of their persecutors. To perish unjustly may be a common lot, but the consciousness of innocence, and the knowledge that after-times will confess the iniquity of the sentence, is a consolation even in that hour of trial; but when the hand of power, in the fulness of its wrath, has accumulated on the memory of its victims a load of unimaginable guilt, which is almost certain, even from the very depravity of its nature, to escape examination, the fate of high and honourable-minded men who perish under an infliction like this, surely claims no common sympathy. To inflict death for gain or in anger may be within the conception of human feelings, but maliciously to destroy the honour of the brave and the reputation of the virtuous, is an act in which demons alone can be supposed to rejoice.
It cannot be imagined, that so large a body of men as the Knights-Templars were free from all vices, but they were those of their age and profession. There is no proof, nor is it probable, that they were more vicious than any other of the military orders.* That military adventurers should occasionally be too grasping or too ambitious, is by no means wonderful ; that a rich and powerful body of men, of noble blood, should assume a haughty demeanour, cannot surprise us, and it is by no means improbable, in spite of their vow of continence, that the young and fiery spirits of the order might not unfrequently transgress the precepts of their fraternity and the boundaries of morality. But where are we to seek for perfect virtue ? Certainly not in the annals of the fourteenth century, and in the cloisters of religious houses.
*“ Perchance if the same 'candle had been lighted to search, as much dust and dirt would have been found in other orders.”-Fuller's Holy Wars: 233.
Art. VI. St. Peter's Complaint and Saint Mary Magdalen's Fic
neral Teares, with sundry other selected and devout Poems, by R. S. [Robert Southwell], of the Society of Jesus. . . Is any among you sad? let him pray. Is he of a chearful heart? let him sing. Jac. 5.
Permissu Superiorum. 12mo. 1616. Mæonia, or certain excellent Poems and Spiritual Hymns omitted · in the last impression of Peter's Complaint ; being needful
thereunto to be annexed, as being both divine and witty: all · composed by R. S. [Robert Southwell.] 4to. Lond. 1595. The Triumphs over Death, or a consolatory Epistle. for afflicted
Minds, on the affects of dying friends. First written for the consolation of one, but now published for the general good of all, by R. S. [Robert Southwell.]. Lond. 1596.
The pious author of the above works was one of the many victims, sacrificed to the intolerant spirit which characterised the early stages of the Reformation. Robert Southwell was a Catholic, and, what was still more criminal in the eyes of the English government, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, he was a Jesuit. He was born about the year 1562, of a respectable Çatholic family, at St. Faiths, in Norfolk, and was, at an early age, sent to the English college, at Douay, for education. From Douay he went to Rome, and, at the age of sixteen, was received into the Order of the Society of Jesus. Having finished his novitiate, and gone through his course of philosophy and divinity with great credit, he was made Prefect of the Studies of the English College at Rome. In 1584, he was sent as a Missionary Priest into his native country, having, as he says, travelled far and brought home a freight of spiritual substance to enrich his friends, and medicinable receipts against their ghostly maladies. He did not take up his abode with his relations, but, through anxiety for their safety, “ lived like a foreigner, finding among strangers, that, which, in his nearest blood, he presumed not to seek.”. Urged, however, by solicitude for the spiritual state of his father, he addressed to him a most eloquent and energetic letter of exhortation and advice. “ Despise not, good sire,” says he, by way of apology for advising his elders, “ the youth of your son, neither deem your God measureth his endowments by number of years. Hoary senses are often couched under youthful locks, and some are riper in the Spring than others in the Autumn of their age. God chose not Esau himself, nor his eldest son, but young David, to conquer Goliah and to rule his people : not the most aged person, but Daniel, the most innocent youth, delivered Susannah from the iniquity of the judges. Christ, at twelve years of age, was found in the temple questioning with the greatest doctors. A true Elias can conceive, that a little cloud may cast a large and abundant shower; and the scripture teacheth us, that God unveileth to little ones that which he . concealeth from the wisest sages. His truth is not abashed by the minority of the speaker: for out of the mouths of infants and sucklings he can perfect his praises.". The whole of this Epistle is written in such a strain of fervid eloquence, with such vigour of thought and strength of language, that we should have been inclined to extract largely from it, had not a considerable portion of it already appeared in a former Article on Sir Walter Raleigh's Remains, among which it has been frequently printed with a few slight verbal alterations, and, with the exception of about a third part at the beginning of it, which shews that it must have been written by a religious man. The propriety of attributing this letter to Sir Walter Raleigh has generally been questioned, but there does not appear to be any reason to doubt that it was written by Father Southwell. It is mentioned by Dodd, in his Church History, and has lately been reprinted in the first volume of The Select Beauties of early Catholic Literature, from a MS. in the Bodleian library.
But to proceed with the life of the author. Father Southwell continued in England, labouring diligently in his function, until the year 1592, when he was apprehended in a gentleman's house at Uxenden, in Middlesex, and committed to a dungeon in the Tower, so noisome and filthy, that when he was brought out for examination his clothes were covered with vermin. Upon this his father presented a petition to Queen Elizabeth, begging, that if his son had committed any thing for which, by the laws, he had deserved death, he might suffer death; if not, as he was a gentleman, he hoped her Majesty would be pleased to order that he should be treated as a gentleman. The Queen was graciously pleased to listen to this prayer, and ordered that Southwell should have a better lodging, and that his father should have permission to supply him with clothes and other necessaries, together with the books he asked for, which were only the Bible and the works of Saint Bernard. For three years was he kept in prison, and what was worse for himself and more disgraceful to the government, it is said, he was put to the rack ten several times. Wearied out with torture and solitary imprisonment; he at length applied to the Lord Treasurer Cecil, that he 'might either be brought to trial to answer for himself, or, at least, that his friends might have leave to come and see him. To
this application, if we are to believe the account in the Latin manuscript, which was formerly deposited in the Archives of the English college at St. Omers, and of which a translation is given in Challoner's Memoirs of Missionary Priests, the Lord Treasurer answered, “ that if he was in so much haste to be hanged, he should quickly have his desire.” Shortly after this he was removed from the Tower to Newgate, where he was put down into the dungeon called Limbo, and there kept for three days. On the 20th February, he was carried to Westminster to take his trial before Lord Chief Justice Popham and others. The indictment was under the Statute 27 Eliz. c. 2.; which enacted, “That any Popish priest, born in the dominions of the crown of England, who should come over thither from beyond sea, (unless driven by stress of weather, and tarrying only a reasonable time,) or should be in England three days without conforming and taking the oaths, should be guilty of high treason.” A true bill being found against him, Father Southwell was ordered to the bar, and held up his hand according to custom. On being asked whether he was guilty or not guilty, he answered, “I confess that I was born in England, a subject to the Queen's Majesty; and that, by authority derived from God, I have been promoted to the sacred order of Priesthood in the Roman church," but he denied that he ever entertained any designs against the Queen or kingdom; alleging, that he had no other intention, in returning to his native country, than to administer the sacraments, according to the Catholic church, to such as desired them. · Whereupon he was told, that he must leave such matters and plead directly guilty or not guilty. Then he said he was not guilty of any treason whatever, and being asked by whom he would be tried, he answered by God and you. The judge told him he must answer by God and his country, which he at first refused, saying, that the laws of his country were disagreeable to the laws of God, and that he was unwilling those poor harmless men, whom they obliged to represent the country, should have any share in their guilt or any hand in his death. “ But,” said he, “ if, through your iniquity, it must be so and I cannot help it, be it as you will. I am ready to be judged by God and my country.” The jury were accordingly sworn without a single challenge, the prisoner observing, that they were all equally strangers to him, and, therefore, charity did not allow him to except against one more than another. He was found guilty on his own confession, and being asked if he had any thing more to say why sentence should not be pronounced against him, he replied, “ Nothing, but, from my heart, I forgive all who have been any way ac'cessory to my death.” The judge having pronounced sentence