The Reign of Henry the Eighth, Volume 1 (of 3) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 715 pages of information about The Reign of Henry the Eighth, Volume 1 (of 3).
particularly pleasant.  Of liberty, in the modern sense of the word, of the supposed right of every man “to do what he will with his own” or with himself, there was no idea.  To the question, if ever it was asked, May I not do what I will with my own? there was the brief answer, No man may do what is wrong, either with that which is his own or with that which is another’s.  Workmen were not allowed to take advantage of the scantiness of the labour market to exact extravagant wages.  Capitalists were not allowed to drive the labourers from their holdings, and destroy their healthy independence.  The antagonism of interests was absorbed into a relation of which equity was something more than the theoretic principle, and employers and employed were alike amenable to a law which both were compelled to obey.  The working man of modern times has bought the extension of his liberty at the price of his material comfort.  The higher classes have gained in luxury what they have lost in power.  It is not for the historian to balance advantages.  His duty is with the facts.



Times were changed in England since the second Henry walked barefoot through the streets of Canterbury, and knelt while the monks flogged him on the pavement in the Chapter-house, doing penance for Becket’s murder.  The clergy had won the battle in the twelfth century because they deserved to win it.  They were not free from fault and weakness, but they felt the meaning of their profession.  Their hearts were in their vows, their authority was exercised more justly, more nobly, than the authority of the crown; and therefore, with inevitable justice, the crown was compelled to stoop before them.  The victory was great; but, like many victories, it was fatal to the conquerors.  It filled them full with the vanity of power; they forgot their duties in their privileges; and when, a century later, the conflict recommenced, the altering issue proved the altering nature of the conditions under which it was fought.  The laity were sustained in vigour by the practical obligations of life; the clergy sunk under the influence of a waning religion, the administration of the forms of which had become their sole occupation; and as character forsook them, the Mortmain Act,[82] the Acts of Premunire, and the repeatedly recurring Statutes of Provisors mark the successive defeats that drove them back from the high post of command which character alone had earned for them.  If the Black Prince had lived, or if Richard II. had inherited the temper of the Plantagenets, the ecclesiastical system would have been spared the misfortune of a longer reprieve.  Its worst abuses would have then terminated, and the reformation of doctrine in the sixteenth century would have been left to fight its independent way unsupported by the moral corruption of the church from which it received its most powerful impetus.  The

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The Reign of Henry the Eighth, Volume 1 (of 3) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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