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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

And to exclude all Catholics from a share in it


Queen took up arms not to make conquests, but to secure her very existence against a daily growing power that openly threatened her, before it had become completely an overmatch for her: she provoked an open war: but she had not done enough when she now, as is necessary in such cases, took into consideration the training of soldiers, securing the harbours, fortifying strong places, improving the navy: the most pressing anxiety arose from the general Catholic agitation in the country.

Elizabeth's statesmen were well aware that the sharp prosecution of the seminarist priests was not enough to put an end to it. With reference to the laity, the Lord Treasurer, however strict in other respects, recommends to his sovereign quite a different mode of proceeding. We should never proceed to capital punishment of such men: we should rather mitigate the oath imposed on them: in particular we should never force the nobles to a final decision between their religious inclinations and their political duties, never drive them to despair. But at the same time he gives a warning against awakening any hope in them that their demands could ever be satisfied, for this would only make them more obstinate. And on no consideration should arms be put into their hands. 'We do not wish to kill them, we cannot coerce them, but we dare not trust them.' Nothing would be more dangerous than to assume a confidence which was not really felt.


before this the Privy Council had recommended the Queen to employ Protestants only in the government of her State, and to exclude all Catholics from a share in it.[250] The before-mentioned 'Advice' of Lord Burleigh is remarkable for extending the Protestant interest and adding a popular one to it. He thinks it intolerable that the copyholders and tenants of the Catholic lords, even when they fulfil their obligations in all other respects, experience bad treatment from them on account of religion: it is impossible to let many thousand true subjects be dependent on such as have hostile intentions. The plan Henry VIII had once entertained, of diminishing the authority of the Lords, is now brought by the High Treasurer at this crisis once more into vivid recollection. The Queen is to bind the Commons to herself, to win over their hearts. And Burleigh advises allowing the followers of dissenting Protestant Churches, especially the Puritans, to worship as they please: in preaching and catechising they are more zealous than the Episcopalians, very far more successful in converting the people, and indispensable for weakening the popish party. We see how the necessity of the war acts on home affairs. The chief minister favoured the elements which were forcing their way out through the existing forms of the state.

In this general strain on men's minds their eyes once more turned to the Queen of Scots in her captivity. What would there have been at all to fear at other times from a princess under strong custody and cut off from all the world? But in the excitement of that age she could even so be still an object of apprehension. Her personal friends had from the first not seen a great mischance in her enforced residence in England. For by blameless conduct she refuted the evil report which had followed her thither from Scotland; and her right as heiress of the crown came to the knowledge of the whole nation.[251] In the days at which we have arrived we know with certainty that her presence in the country formed a great lever for Catholic agitation. A report found in the papal archives has been published, by which it is clear how much support men promised themselves from her for every resolute undertaking.[252] This document says that since she has numberless partisans, and although in prison has uninterrupted communication with them, she will always find means, when the time comes, of giving them notice of the approaching opportunity: she is resolved to encounter every hardship, nay even death itself, for the great cause.[253]

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