Nevertheless, when with passionate conviction a great man, taking the reactionary course, thinks the problem through again from his own point of view, then we have a real phenomenon in the history of contemporary thought. When such an one wrestles before God to give reason to himself and to his fellows for the faith that is in him, then the reactionary’s reasoning is as imposing and suggestive as is any other. He leaves in his work an intellectual deposit which must be considered. He makes a contribution which must be reckoned with, even more seriously, perhaps, by those who dissent from it than by those who may agree with it. Such deposit Newman and the Tractarian movement certainly did make. They offered a rationale of the reaction. They gave to the Catholic revival a standing in the world of ideas, not merely in the world of action. Whether their reasoning has weight to-day, is a question upon which opinion is divided. Yet Newman and his compeers, by their character and standing, by their distinctively English qualities and by the road of reason which they took in the defence of Catholic principles, made Catholicism English again, in a sense in which it had not been English for three hundred years. Yet though Newman brought to the Roman Church in England, on his conversion to it, a prestige and qualities which in that communion were unequalled, he was never persona grata in that Church. Outwardly the Roman Catholic revival in England was not in large measure due to Newman and his arguments. It was due far more to men like Wiseman and Manning, who were not men of argument but of deeds.
John Henry Newman was born in 1801, the son of a London banker. His mother was of Huguenot descent. He came under Calvinistic influence. Through study especially, of Romaine On Faith he became the subject of an inward conversion, of which in 1864 he wrote: ’I am still more certain of it than that I have hands and feet.’ Thomas Scott, the evangelical, moved him. Before he was sixteen he made a collection of Scripture texts in proof of the doctrine of the trinity. From Newton On the Prophecies he learned to identify the Pope with anti-Christ—a doctrine by which, he adds, his imagination was stained up to the year 1843. In his Apologia, 1865, he declares: ’From the age of fifteen, dogma has been a fundamental principle of my religion. I cannot enter into the idea of any other sort of religion.’ At the age of twenty-one, two years after he had taken his degree, he came under very different influences. He passed from Trinity College to a fellowship in Oriel. To use his own phrase, he drifted in the direction of liberalism. He was touched by Whately. He was too logical, and also too dogmatic, to be satisfied with Whately’s position. Of the years from 1823 to 1827 Mozley says: ’Probably no one who then knew Newman could have told which way he would go. It is not certain that he himself knew.’ Francis W. Newman, Newman’s brother, who later became a Unitarian, remembering his own years of stress, speaks with embitterment of his elder brother, who was profoundly uncongenial to him.