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Thomas Cromwell

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CROMWELL, THOMAS, an eminent English statesman and ecclesiastical reformer, of the reign of Henry VIII., was b. near London in very humble circumstances, his father being a blacksmith, about 1490. After receiving but a very meagre education, he went to the continent, and became clerk in a factory at Antwerp, where he devoted his spare time to the acquisition of languages, in which lie became very proficient. In 1510, ho went to Italy, where he appears to have resided until about 1517, when he returned to England; and, after some time, was received into the household of Wolsey. That prelate, speedily recognizing his abilities, made him his solicitor and chief agent in all import ant business. As a' member of the house of commons, C. warmly and successfully defended the fallen minister, his master, against the bill of impeachment—proof enough that he was not the heartlessly ambitious man that his enemies have represented him. henry, admiring his chivalry, and appreciating his talent, made him his own secretary; knighted him in 1531, and made him a privy-councillor. Honors rapidly flowed in upon him; partly in consequence, it is said, of his having suggested to Henry the desira bleness of throwing off the papal yoke altogether—an idea which suited well with the king's impetuous nature—but chiefly, no doubt, on account of his great abilities. In 1534, he had become chief secretary of state, and master of the rolls; in the following year, he was made visitor-general of English monasteries—which he afterwards sup pressed in such fashion as to obtain for himself the designation of malleus nzonachorum —and keeper of the privy seal in 1336. In 1539—to pass over a variety of minor tokens of royal approbation—he had risen to be earl of Essex—having had some thirty monas tic manors and estates given to him to keep up the dignity of his title—and lord cham berlain of England. C. took the leading part in establishing the doctrines of the reformation, though he seems to have done so less on religious than on political grounds. The destruction of the pope's authority, and the establishment of the supremacy of the king in England, were what he labored to effect; and with this view he promulgated the articles of the new faith, had English bibles placed in the churches. and the youth of the nation taught the creed, the ten commandments, and the Lord's prayer; and ordered the removal of all images from the altar. In this matter of ecclesiastical polity,

he has, says Mr. Fronde, in the third volume of his History of England, " left the print of his individual genius stamped indelibly, while the metal was at white heat, into the constitution of the country. Wave after wave has rolled over his work. Romanism flowed back over it under Mary; Puritanism, under another even grander, Cromwell, overwhelmed it. But Romanism ebbed again, and Puritanism is dead, and the polity of the church of England remains as it was left by its creator." In all that concerned the state, in its vastest and most complicated foreign relations, as well as in the smallest matters of sanitary reform at home, C. took an active personal interest. But the stern, almost savage manner in which, in the carrying out of his policy, he disposed of all who opposed him, led to many and loud complaints, which damaged somewhat his popularity with the king. In order to retrieve his lost ground, he was zealous in pro 'noting the marriage of Henry with Anne of Cleves, from whom, ou account of her known Lutheran tendencies, he expected strong support. The success of his efforts in this matter proved the utter ruin of C., for the king, early conceiving a strong aversion to his unlovely queen, extended that dislike to the minister who bad so strenuously promoted the marriage. Complaints against C. poured in thicker and faster, and the royal ear was not unwilling to listen now. Charges of malversation and treason were made, and he was arrested and thrown into prison (10th June, 1540); a bill of attainder was quickly drawn up, and passed the two houses of parliament with little difficulty; and on the 28th July following, C. laid his head on the blbek on Tower hill. A states man of undoubted genius, he saw what was best for his country, and did it—not cer tainly in a way commending itself to the judgment of the present time—but, perhaps, among the best and only sure modes that could be devised in his age. He was undoubt edly unscrupulous, and very haughty towards the high; but the poor and weak found him easily accessible, and, when wronged, a warm defender; and though he was rapa cious, the hungry had, nevertheless, to thank his generosity for many a meal.