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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

After the example of the archpriest


how deeply must the Court of Rome have felt itself injured by the imposition of the Oath of Supremacy. A Pope of the Borghese family had just been elected, Paul V, who was as deeply convinced of the truth of the Papal principles, and as firmly resolved to enforce them, as any of his predecessors; and who was surrounded by learned men and statesmen who looked upon the maintenance of these principles as the salvation of the world. Their religious pride was galled to the quick by the imposition of such an oath as that exacted in England, by which principles at that time zealously taught in Catholic schools were described not only as objectionable but as heretical. They thought it possible that the temporal power might prevail on the English Catholics to accept this oath, as in fact the archpriest Blackwell who had been appointed by Clement VIII took it, and advised others to do the same. But by this act the supremacy of the King would be practically acknowledged, and the connexion of the English Catholics with the Papacy dissolved. Moved by these considerations, Paul V, in a brief of September 1, 1606, declared that the oath contained much that was contrary to the faith, and could not be taken by any one without damage to his salvation. He expressed his anticipation that the English Catholics, whose constancy had been tested like gold in the fire of the persecutions, would show their firmness on this occasion also, and that they would rather undergo all tortures, even death itself,
than insult the Divine Majesty. At first the archpriest and the moderate Catholics, who did not consider that the political claims referred to in the oath were the true principles of the Papacy, declared that the brief was spurious; but after some time it was confirmed in all due form, and an address appeared from the pen of the most eminent apologist of the See of Rome, Cardinal Bellarmin, in which he reminded the archpriest that the general apostolical authority of the Pope could not be impugned even in a single iota of the subtleties of dogma: how much less then in this instance, where the question was simply whether men should look for the head of the Church in the successor of Henry VIII, or in the successor of S. Peter.

These statements however greatly irritated the King, both as a man of learning and as a temporal potentate. He took pen in hand himself in order to defend the oath, in the wording of which he had a large share. He expressed his astonishment that so distinguished a scholar as Bellarmin should confound the Oath of Supremacy with the Oath of Allegiance, in which no word occurred affecting any article of faith, and which was only intended to distinguish the champions of an attempt like the Gunpowder Plot from his quiet subjects of the Catholic religion. He said that nothing more disastrous to these could have happened than that the Pope should condemn the oath, and thereby the original relation of obedience which bound them to their sovereign; for he was requiring them to repudiate this obedience and to abjure again the oath which had already been taken by many, after the example of the archpriest. James I took much trouble to justify the form of oath by the decrees of the old councils.[342]

Criminal attempts, even when they fail, have at times the most extensive political consequences. James I had started with the idea of linking his subjects of every persuasion to himself in the bonds of a free and uniform obedience, and of creating harmonious relations between the rival powers of the world and his own realm of Great Britain. Then intervened this murderous attempt; and the measures to which he had recourse in order to secure his person and his country against the repetition of criminal attacks like this last, rekindled the national and religious animosities which he desired to lull, and fanned them into a bright flame.

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