Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 13 >> 1 British Guiana to 40 English Judaism >> 4 the Reformation in_P1

4 the Reformation in Eng Land

classes, control, benevolences, tudors, unity, church and national

Page: 1 2 3 4

4. THE REFORMATION IN ENG LAND. There are three main factors in the Reformation. It represents, first, the conflict of the growing spirit of nationality, symbolized by the State, with the mediaeval idea of the unity of the civilized world, expressed especially in the Catholicism of the visible Church. Sec ondly, it embodies the revolt of a laity increas ing in wealth, education and intelligence, against the control and privileges of a priesthood de clining in enthusiasm, conviction and moral fer vor; and, as such, it may also be described as the religious aspect of the political advent of the middle classes. Thirdly, it is an assertion of individuality against a collectivist control over thought, opinion and curiosity. These three ingredients are found in varying propor tions in different countries. The second ele ment was obvious everywhere, though it was weak in such countries as Spain and Poland, where a commercial class was almost non existent. In Germany, where national unity had been shattered in the struggle for empire, and where particularism ran riot in the ab sence of national control, national feeling, after a momentary explosion in the Hundred Gra vamina and a transient enthusiasm for Luther at the Diet of Worms, failed to concentrate in practical channels, and individual Protestantism held sway until it too became the state religion of territorial princes. In England all three ele ments were present, though individuality, or Protestantism, fought an unequal fight with the New Monarchy and toleration was beaten by an Established Church.

The spirit of nationality, of which the New Monarchy and the Established Church were the outward manifestations, had been stimu lated by reaction against foreign influences in the 13th century, misdirected in the 14th toward the conquest of France, and dissipated in the 15th by civil broils. At length it found unity and direction under the Tudors, who frankly and firmly based their power upon new social forces. Feudalism, as represented by the great noble houses, was discredited and trampled under foot; political authority was taken from it and entrusted to lay or ecclesi astical ministers, who, like Wolsey, Cromwell, Cecil, Walsingham, were sprung from the up per or lower middle classes. Order at home and peace abroad were dictated by the interests of these commercial classes. Peace with money

was Henry VII's ideal. Even Henry VIII com pressed the wars of a reign of 38 years into a few months, and insisted that they should not disturb trade relations with the Netherlands; and Elizabeth's wars were waged for piracy or self-defense. The age of chivalry was gone; wars, if waged at all, were waged with ledgers, not with lances. Men were made esquires and knights in the countinghouse and not on the field of battle.

For these struggles new kinds of brains were wanted, different from those which had designed medieval castles or coats of arms. The day of the knight had passed away, and to him succeeded the merchant, the manufac turer, the financial expert. These men were as yet unused to political responsibility; they needed training under the Tudors —and they got it. Under that dictatorship Parliament was molded and developed as the instrument of government, and Parliament is the work of the Tudors to an extent which an age nurtured on Parliamentary legends is unwilling to admit. Parliamentary privileges first became real in the 16th century; freedom of speech, freedom from arrest, and control of taxation are con ceded, not because monarchy is weak, but be cause it recognizes that the people are its source of strength. Parliament is the founda tion, not the rival, of Tudor power. It is true that in the interests of expediency and effi ciency many a time-honored maxim is strained or broken; benevolences are levied, though benevolences had been declared illegal; but that is because benevolences, in the words of a Tudor statesman, ado not grieve the common people.° Morton's Fork and Dudley's Mills were instruments of extortion, but the opera tion was not painful to the poor. Dukes and cardinals passed suddenly and swiftly from the palace to the prison, but the man in the street did not pass his time in palaces and generally escaped the prison. The success of a dynasty, whose tyranny has been so loudly denounced, is, in the absence of the usual supports of despotism -- a standing army or a vast bureau cracy — only to be explained. on the supposi tion that, while the vocal classes were offended, the dumb masses were content.

Page: 1 2 3 4