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on, for many years, a system of complicated and elaborate imposture. It would not be inconsistent with this acquittal, to allow that, in the course of her self-delusion, she should have been induced, by some ecclesiastics of the tottering church, to take an active part in these pious frauds, which there is too much reason to believe that persons of unfeigned religion have been often so far misguided by enthusiastic zeal, as to prepetrate or to patronise.

But whatever were the motives or the extent of the holy maid's confession, it availed her nothing; for in the session of parliament which met in January, 1534, she and her ecclesiastical prompters were attainted of high treason, and adjudged to suffer death as traitors: Fisher bishop of Rochester, with others, were all attainted of misprision or concealment of treason, for which they were adjudged to forfeiture and imprisonment during the king's pleasure.* The holy maid, with her spiritual guides, suffered death at Tyburn on the 21st of April; she confirming her former confession, but laying her crime to the charge of her companions, if we may implicitly believe historians of the victorious party.†

Fisher and his supposed accomplices in misprision remained in prison according to their attainder. Of More the statute makes no mention ; but it contains a provision, which, when it is combined with other circumstances to be presently related, appear to have been added to the bill for the purpose of providing for his safety. By this provision, the king's majesty, at the humble suit of his well beloved wife queen Anne, pardons all persons not expressly by name attainted by the statute, for all misprision and concealments relating to the false and feigned miracles and prophecies of Elizabeth Barton, on or before the 20th day of October, 1533. Now we are told by Ropert, "that sir Thomas More's name was originally inserted in the bill," the king supposing that this bill would to sir Thomas More be so troublous and terrible, that it "would force him to relent and condescend to his request; wherein his grace was much deceived. Sir Thomas was personally to be received in his own defence to make answer. But the king, not liking that, sent the archbishop of Canterbury, the chancellor, the duke of Norfolk, and Cromwell, to attempt the conversion of More. Audley reminded More of the king's special favour and many benefits. More admitted them; but modestly added, that his highness had most graciously declared that on this matter More should be molested no more. When in the end they saw that no persuasion could move him, they then said, "that the king's highness had given them in commandment, if they could by no gentleness win him, in the king's name with ingratitude to charge him,

* 25 H. 8. c. 12. Stat. of the Realm, iii. p. 446. Such as Hall and Holinshed. P. 62.

that never was servant to his master so villanous*, nor subject to his prince so traitorous as he." They even reproached him for having either written in the name of his master, or betrayed his sovereign into writing, the book against Luther, which had so deeply pledged Henry to the support of the papal pretensions. To these upbraidings he calmly answered, "The terrors are arguments for children, and not for me. As to the fact, the king knoweth, that after the book was finished by his highness's appointment, or the consent of the maker, I was only a sorter out and placer of the principal matters therein contained." He added, that he warned the king of the prudence of "touching the pope's authority more slenderly, and that he had reminded Henry of the statutes of premunire," whereby "a good part of the pope's pastoral care was pared away;" to which the impetuous monarch answered, "We are so much bounden unto the see of Rome, that we cannot do too much honour unto it." On More's return to Chelsea from his interview with these lords, Roper said to him-"I hope all is well, since you are so merry?"—"It is so, indeed," said More, "I thank God."-" Are you, then, out of the parliament bill?" said Roper.-"By my truth, In ever remembered it; but," said More, "I will tell thee why I was so merry; because I had given the devil a foul fall, and that with those lords I had gone so far, as without great shame I never go back again." A frank avowal of the power of temptation, and a simple joy at having at the hazard of life escaped from the farther seductions of the court, bestowing a greatness on these few and familiar words which scarcely belongs to any other of the sayings of man.

Henry, incensed at the failure of wheedling and threatening messages, broke out into violent declarations of his resolution to include More in the attainder, and said that he should be personally present to ensure the passing of the bill. Lord Audley and his colleagues on their knees besought their master to forbear, lest by an overthrow in his own presence, he might be contemned by his own subjects, and dishonoured throughout Christendom for ever; adding, that they doubted not that they should find a more meet occasion "to serve his turn;" for that in this case of the nun he was so clearly innocent, that men deem him far worthier of praise than of reproof. Henry was compelled to yield. Such was the power of the de

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fenceless virtue over the slender remains of independence among slavish peers, and over the lingering remnants of common humanity which might still be mingled with a cooler policy in the bosoms of subservient politicians. One of the worst of that race, Thomas Cromwell, on meeting Roper in the parliament house next day after the king assented to the prayer of his ministers, told him to tell More that he was put out of the bill. Roper sent a messenger to Margaret Roper, who hastened to her beloved father with the tidings. More answered her, with his usual gaiety and fondness, "In faith, Megg, what is put off is not given up."* Soon after, the duke of Norfolk said to him,-"By the mass! master More, it is perilous striving with princes; the anger of a prince brings death."-"Is that all, my lord? then the difference between you and me is but this that I shall die to-day, and you to-morrow." No life in Plutarch is more full of happy sayings and striking retorts than that of More. But the terseness and liveliness of his are justly overlooked in the contemplation of that union of perfect simplicity with moral grandeur, which, perhaps, no other human being has so uniformly reached.

By a tyrannical edict, miscalled a law, in the same session of 1533-4, it was made high treason, after the 1st of May, 1534, by writing, print, deed, or act, to do or to procure, or cause to be done or procured, any thing to the prejudice, slander, disturbance, or derogation of the king's lawful matrimony with queen Anne. If the same offences were committed by words, they were only misprision. The same act enjoined all persons to take an oath to maintain the whole contents of the statute, and an obstinate refusal to make such oath was subjected to the penalties of misprision. This statute prescribed no form for the oath. On the 30th of March,† however, which was the day of closing the session, the chancellor Audley, when the commons were at the bar, but when they could neither deliberate nor assent, read the king's letters patent, containing the form of an oath, and appointing the archbishop of Canterbury, the chancellor, the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, to be commissioners for administering it.

Sir T. More was summoned to appear before these commissioners at Lambeth, on Monday the 13th of April, 1534. "On other occasions he evermore used, at his departure from his wife and children, whom he tenderly loved, to have them brought to his boat, and there to kiss them, and bid them all farewell. At that time he would suffer none of them to follow him forth of the gate,

but pulled the wicket afer him, and shut them all from him, and with Roper and four servants took boat towards Lambeth. He sat for a while; but at last, his mind being lightened and relieved by those high principles to which with him every low consideration yielded, whispered—“Son Roper! I thank our Lord, the field is won."-" As I conjectured," says Roper, "it was for that his love to God conquered his carnal affections." An account of his conduct during the examination at Lambeth was sent by him to his darling child, Margaret Roper.* After having read the statute and the form of the oath, he declared his readiness to swear that he would maintain and defend the order of succession to the crown as established by parliament. He disclaimed all censure of those who had imposed, or on those who had taken, the oath, but declared it to be impossible that he should swear to the whole contents of it, without offending against his own conscience; adding, that if they doubted whether his refusal proceeded from pure scruple of conscience or from his own phantasies, he was willing to satisfy their doubts by oath. The commissioners urged that he was the first who refused it they showed him the subscriptions of all the lords and commons who had sworn; they held out the king's sure displeasure at the single recusant. When he was called on a second time, they charged him with obstinacy for not mentioning any special part of the oath which wounded his conscience.

royal senate called the Stere Chamber." Nothing more appears on the journals relating to this matter. Lords' Journ. 6th March, 1533. The journals prove the narrative of Roper, from which the text is composed, to be as accurate as it is beautiful.

He spoke to her in his conversational Latin,"Quod differtur non aufertur.”

Lords' Journ. p. 82.

He answered, that if he were to open his reasons for refusal farther, he should exasperate the king still more. He offered, however, to assign his reasons if the lords would procure his highness's gracious assurance that the avowal of the grounds of his defence should not be considered as offensive to the king, nor prove dangerous to himself. The commissioners answered that such assurances would be no defence against a legal charge. He offered, however, to trust himself to the king's honour. Cranmer took some advantage of More's candour, urging that, as he had disclaimed all blame of those who had sworn, it was evident that he thought it only doubtful whether the oath was unlawful; and desired him to consider whether the obligation to obey the king was not absolutely certain. He was struck with the subtilty of this reasoning, which took him by surprise, but not convinced of its solidity. Notwithstanding his surprise, he seems to have almost touched the true answer, that as the oath contained a profession of opinion, such, for example, as the lawfulness of the king's marriage, on which men might differ, it might be declined by some and taken by others with equal honesty. Cromwell, whom More believed to favour him, loudly swore that he would rather see his only son had lost his head than that More had thus refused the oath. Cromwell bore the answer to the king, and chancellor Audley distinctly

* English Works, 1428-1430.

enjoined him to state very clearly More's willingness to swear to the succession. "Surely," said More, "as to swearing to the succession, I see no peril." Cromwell was not a good man, but the gentle virtue of More subdued even the bad. He never more returned to his house, being committed to the custody of the abbot of Westminster, in which he continued four days; and at the end of that time he was conveyed to the Tower on Friday the 17th of April, 1534.

Before the end of the session, 1534, two statutes were passed to attaint More and Fisher of misprision of treason, specifying the punishment to be imprisonment of body and loss of goods. By that which relates to More, the king's grants of land to him in 1523 and 1525 are resumed; it is alleged that he refused the oath since the 1st of May of 1534, with an intent to sow sedition; and he is reproached for having demeaned himself in other respects ungratefully and unkindly to the king, his benefactor.

In the session which began on the 3d of November, 1534, an act was passed which ratifies and professes to recite the form of oath promulgated on the day of the prorogation; and enacts that the oath above recited shall be reputed to be the very oath intended by the former act of succession §, though there were, in fact, some substantial and important interpolations in the latter act; such as the words "most dear and entirely beloved, lawful wife, ueen Anne, which tended to render that form still less acceptable than before, to the scrupulous consciences of More and Fisher.

That this statement of the legislative measures which affected them is necessary to a consideration of the legality of More's trial, which must be owned to be a part of its justice, will appear in its proper place. In the mean time, the few preparatory incidents which occurred during thirteen months' imprisonment, must be briefly related. His wife Alice, though an excellent housewife, yet in her visits to the Tower handled his misfortunes and his scruples too roughly. "Like an ignorant, and somewhat worldly, woman, she bluntly said to him, 'How can a man taken for wise, like you, play the fool in this close filthy prison, when you might be abroad at your liberty, if you would but do as the bishops have done?"" She enlarged on his fair house at Chelsea, "his library, gallery, garden, and orchard, together with

* Roper tells us that the king, who had intended to desist from his importunities, was exasperated by queen Anne's clamour to tender the oath at Lambeth. But he detested that unhappy lady, whose marriage was the occasion of More's ruin; and though Roper was an unimpeachable witness relating to sir Thomas's conversation, he is of less weight as to what passed in the interior of the palace. The ministers might have told such a story to excuse themselves to Roper. Anne could have had no opportunity of contradiction. †26 H. VIII. c. 22, 23.

I Id. c. 2.

§25 H. VIII. c. 22. § 9. Compare 1 Lords' Journ.


the company of his wife and children." He bore with kindness in its most unpleasing form, and answered her cheerfully after his manner, which was to blend religious feelings with quaintness and liveliness. "Is not this house as nigh heaven as mine own?" She answered him in a homely exclamation of contempt *, of which the origin or meaning cannot now be ascertained, “ Tilly valle, tilly valle." He treated her harsh language as a wholesome exercise for his patience, and replied with equal mildness, though with more gravity, "Why should I joy in my gay house, when if I should rise from the grave in seven years, I should not fail to find some one there who would bid me to go out of doors, for it was none of mine?" It was not thus that his Margaret Roper conversed or corresponded with him during his confinement. A short note written to her a little while after his commitment, with a coal (his only pen and ink) begins, "Mine own good daughter," and is closed in the following fond and pious words :-" Written with a coal, by your tender loving father, who in his poor prayers forgetteth none of you, nor your babes, nor your good husbands, nor your father's shrewd wife neither." Shortly after, mistaking the sense of a letter from her, which he thought advised him to compliance, he wrote a letter to her which rebukes her supposed purpose with the utmost vehemence of affection, and the deepest regard to her judgment. "I hear many terrible things towards me; but they all never touched me, never so near, nor were they so grievous unto me as to see you, my well beloved child, in such a piteous and vehement manner, labour to persuade me to a thing whereof I have of pure necessity, for respect unto myne own soul, so often given you so precise an answer before. The matters that move my conscience I have sundry times shown you, that I will disclose them to no one. Margaret's reply was worthy of herself. She acquiesces in his "faithful and delectable letter, the faithful messenger of his virtuous mind," and almost rejoices in his victory over all earthborn cares. She concludes thus:-"Your own most loving obedient daughter and bedeswoman §, Margaret Roper, who desireth above all worldly things to be in John Wood's stede to do you some service." This John Wood was the servant permitted to attend sir Thomas More in the Tower. After another interval, however, pity prevailed so far as to obtain the king's licence for Margaret Roper to resort to him in the Tower. It would be blamable to seek for bad motives in the case of so merciful an alleviation of punishment.

On her first visit, after gratefully performing their accustomed devotions, his first care was to soothe her afflicted heart by the assurance that he

* Roper, 78.

Nares's Glossary, London, 1822.

English Works, 1430.

Id. 1431. Bedesman-one who prays for another.

saw no cause to reckon himself in worse case there than in his own house. On another occasion he asked her how queen Anne did. "In faith, father," said she, "never better."—"Never better, Megg!" quoth he; "alas! Megg, it pitieth me to remember into what misery, poor soul, she shall shortly come.” * Various attempts continued still to be made to cajole him; partly, perhaps, with the hope that his intercourse with the beloved Margaret might have softened him. Cromwell told him that the king was still his good master, and did not wish to press his conscience. The lords commissioners went twice to the Tower to tender the oath to him. But neither he nor Fisher would advance farther than their original declaration of perfect willingness to maintain the settlement of the crown, which, being a matter purely political, was within the undisputed competence of parliament. They refused to include in their oath any other matter on account of scruples of conscience, which they forbore to particularise, lest they might thereby furnish their enemies with a pretext for representing their defence as a new crime. As their real ground, which was, that it would be insincere in them to declare upon oath, that they believed the king's marriage with Anne to be lawful, they might, by the statement of that ground in defending themselves against a charge of misprision of treason, have incurred the penalties of high treason.

Two difficulties occurred in reconciling the destruction of sir Thomas More with any form or colour of law. The first of them consisted in the circumstance that the naked act of refusing the oath was, even by the late statute, punishable only as a misprision; and though concealment of treason was never expressly declared to be only a misprison till the statute to that effect was passed under Philip and Mary†, chiefly perhaps occasioned by the case of More, yet it seemed strange thus to prosecute him for the refusal, as an act of treason, after it had been positively made punishable as a misprision by a general statute, and after a special act of attainder for misprision had been passed against him. Both these enactments were, on the supposition of the refusal being indictable for treason, absolutely useless, and such as tended to make More believe that he was safe as long as he remained silent. The second has been already intimated, that he had yet said nothing which could be tortured into a semblance of those acts derogatory from the king's marriage, which had been made treason. To conquer this last difficulty, sir Robert Rich the solicitor-general undertook the infamous task of betraying More into some declaration, which might be pretended to be treasonable, in a confidential conversation, and under pretext of familiar friendship. What the success of this flagitious attempt was, the reader will see in the account of More's trial. It appears from a

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* Roper, 72. † 1 & 2 Phil. and Mar. c. 10. s. 8. VOL. III.-6

letter of Margaret Roper, apparently written in the winter of 1584-5, that his persecutors now tried another expedient for vanquishing his constancy, by restraining him from church, and she adds, "from the company of my good mother and his poor children."* More, in his answer, expresses his wonted affection in very familiar, but in most significant, language:-"If I were to declare in writing how much pleasure your daughterly loving letters gave me, a peck of coals would not suffice to make the pens." So confident was he of his innocence, and so safe did he deem himself on the side of law, that "he believed some new causeless suspicion, founded upon some secret sinister information,” had risen up against him.†

On the 2d or 3d of May, 1535, sir Thomas More informed his dear daughter of a visit from Cromwell, attended by the attorney and solicitor general, and certain civilians, at which Cromwell urged to More the statute which made the king head of the church, and required an answer on that subject. More replied; "I am the king's true faithful subject, and daily bedesman: I say no harm, and do no harm; and if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith I long not to live." This ineffectual attempt was followed by another visit from Cranmer, the chancellor, the duke of Suffolk, the earl of Wiltshire, and Cromwell, who, after much argument, tendered an oath, by which he was to promise to make answers to questions which they might putt; and on his decisive refusal, Cromwell gave him to understand that, agreeably to the language at the former conference, "his grace would follow the course of his laws towards such as he should find obstinate." Cranmer, who too generally complied with evil counsels, but nearly always laboured to prevent their execution, wrote a persuasive letter to Cromwell, earnestly praying the king to be content with More and Fisher's proffered engagement to maintain the succession, which would render the whole nation unanimous on the practical part of that great subject.

On the 6th of May, 1535, almost immediately after the defeat of every attempt to practise on his firmness, More was brought to trial at Westminster, and it will scarcely be doubted, that no such culprit stood at any European bar for a thousand years. It is rather from caution than from necessity that the ages of Roman domination are excluded from the comparison. It does not seem that in any moral respect Socrates himself could claim a superiority. It is lamentable that the records of the proceedings against such a man should be scanty. We do not certainly know the specific offence of which he was convicted. There does not seem, however, to be much doubt that the prosecution was under the act "for the establishment of the king's succession," passed in the session 1533-4§, which made it high treason "to do any thing to the prejudice, slander, disturbance, or * Engl. Works, 1446. † Id. 1447.

More to Margaret Roper. Engl. Works, 1452. § 25 H. VIII. c. 22.


derogation of the lawful marriage" between Henry and Anne. Almost any act, done or declined, might be forced within the undefined limits of such vague terms. In this case the prosecutors probably represented his refusal to answer certain questions which, according to them, must have related to the marriage, his observations at his last examination, and especially his conversation with Rich, as overt acts of that treason, inasmuch as it must have been known by him that his conduct on these occasions tended to create a general doubt of the legitimacy of the marriage.

To the first alleged instance of his resistance to the king, which consisted in his original judgment against the marriage, he answered in a manner which rendered reply impossible, "that it could never be treason or one of the king's advisers to give him honest advice." On the like refusal respecting the king's headship of the church, he answered that "no man could be punished for silence." The attorney general said, that the prisoner's silence was "malicious." More justly answered, that "he had a right to be silent where his language was likely to be injuriously misconstrued." Respecting his letters to bishop Fisher, they were burnt, and no evidence was offered of their contents, which he solemnly declared to have no relation to the charges. And as to the last charge, that he had called the act of settlement" a two-edged sword, which would destroy his soul if he complied with it, and his body if he refused," it was answered by hin, that "he supposed the reason of his refusal to be equally good, whether the question led to an offence against his conscience, or to the necessity of criminating himself.”

Cromwell had before told him, that though he was suffering perpetual imprisonment for the misprision, the punishment did not release him from his allegiance, and he was amenable to the law for treason. Cromwell overlooked the essential circumstances, that the facts laid as treason were the same on which the attainder for misprision was founded. Even if that were not a strictly maintainable objection in technical law, it certainly showed the flagrant injustice of the whole proceeding.

The evidence, however, of any such strong circumstances attendant on the refusal as could raise it into an act of treason must have seemed defective; for the prosecutors were reduced to the necessity of examining Rich, one of their own number, to prove circumstances of which he could have had no knowledge, without the foulest treachery on his part. Rich said, that he had gone to More as a friend, and asked him, if an act of parliament had made Rich king, More would not acknowledge him. Sir Thomas said, "Yes, sir, that I would.""If they declared me pope, would you acknowledge me ?"-" In the first case, I have no doubt about temporal governments; but suppose the parliament should make a law that God should not be God, would you then, Mr.Rich, say that God


should not be God?"-"No," says Rich, "no parliament could make such a law." Rich went on to swear, that sir Thos. More added, "No more could the parliament make the king supreme head of the church." More denied the latter part of Rich's evidence altogether; which is, indeed, inconsistent with the whole tenour of his language. More was then compelled to expose the profligacy of Rich's character. "I am," he said, more sorry for your perjury, than for mine own peril. Neither 1, nor any man, ever took you to be a person of such credit as I could communicate with on such matters. We dwelt near in one parish, and you were always esteemed very light of your tongue, and not of any commendable fame. Can it be likely to your lordships that I should so unadvisedly overshoot myself, as to trust Mr. Rich with what I have concealed from the king, or any of his noble and grave counsellors ?"

The credit of Rich was so deeply wounded, that he was compelled to call sir Richard Southwell, and Mr. Palmer, who where present at the conversation, to prop his tottering evidence. They made a paltry excuse, by alleging that they were so occupied in removing More's books, that they did not listen to the words of this extraordinary conversation. The jury*, in spite of these circumstances, convicted sir Thomas More. Chancellor Audley, who was at the head of the commission, of which Spelman and Fitzherbert, eminent lawyers, were members, was about to pronounce judgment, when he was interrupted by sir Thomas More, who claimed the usual privilege of being heard to show that judgment should not be passed.

More urged, that he had so much ground for his scruples as at least to exempt his refusal from the imputation of disaffection, or of what the law deems to be malice. The chancellor asked him once more how his scruples could balance the weight of the parliament, people, and church of England? a topic which had been used against him at every interview and conference since he was brought prisoner to Lambeth. The appeal to weight of authority influencing conscience was, however, singularly unfortunate. More answered, as he had always done, "Nine out of ten of Christians now in the world think with me. Nearly all the learned doctors and holy fathers who are already dead, agree with me: and therefore I think myself not bound to conform my conscience to the council of one realm, against the general consent of all Christendom." Chief Justice Fitzjames concurred in the sufficiency of the indictment; which, after the verdict of the jury, was the only matter before the court.

The chancellor then pronounced the savage sen

* Sir T. Palmer, sir T. Bent, G. Lovell, esquire, Thomas Burbage, esquire, G. Chamber, gentleman, Edward Stockmore, William Brown, Jasper Leake, Thomas Bellington, John Parnell, Richard Bellamy, and G. Stoakes, gentlemen, were the jury.

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