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Napoleon. The true relations of Catholicism to civil and political as well as religious liberty, though for three centuries as patent as the sun at noonday, have been strangely blinked or misrepresented by Protestant writers, for the last quarter of a century. The discovery, that the Reformers were mistaken in their judgment upon the secular influence of Romanism, that the prevalent opinions upon its intolerance, its hostility to light and progress, its worldly selfishness, and the corruption of its clergy, are mere Protestant prejudices, is one of the weakest and most mischievous of the many “flunkeyisms” which seem especially to mark an age when manhood and moral courage are among the rarest of the virtues. Even those who admit that Popery in the sixteenth century was what Luther knew and felt it to be, very often inform us, that the spirit of Romanism is softened in accordance with the spirit of the age”; that it no longer persecutes, no longer corrupts, no longer seeks for temporal power or worldly wealth ; that its mission is of charity and healing; that it favors the advancement and diffusion of knowledge, and is everywhere the patron and the advocate of the suffering and the oppressed; that a morally depraved Pope is now impossible; and that, though the civil administration of his government may be faulty, it has renounced its claims to the political sovereignty of Christendom, and as a spiritual authority it works only by fair argument and moral suasion. Assertions like these, in the face of the facts, that not one of the impudent claims of the Papacy to secular power, and the right of absolute spiritual control, has even been surrendered by the Vatican, not one of its minatory bulls against heretics revoked, not one of its means of corruption discarded ; that, though Catholicism numbers but one seventh of the human family, the property of that Church many times exceeds the wealth of all the other religious communities upon earth ; that new concordats have been negotiated with Catholic princes, reinvesting the Pope with all the powers ever claimed by him in the darkest period of the Middle Ages; that Catholic supremacy is notoriously the mainspring in all the policy of the Austrian Empire; and that, in every Catholic state in Europe, persecution and intolerance are rapidly reviving ; — in the face of such facts, we say, the
assertion that Catholicism is no longer a dangerous influence, betrays an ignorance of the relations between cause and effect, or a perversion of the moral faculties, very discreditable to the intelligence and the candor of those who make it.
Although the history of the Papacy shows many pontiffs more dissolute in private life than Pius IX., — not one more aggressive in his aspirations, more relentless in his vengeances, or more obstinately wedded to all the traditional abuses of the Vatican, - it does not record one pontifical act of more detestable wickedness, not one fraught with greater danger to the most sacred of human rights, than the forcible kidnapping of young MORTARA, a crime that scarcely finds its parallel in all the barbarities of Nicholas in Poland or Franz Joseph in Italy. And yet this enormous wrong has scarcely called forth a breath of reprobation in Protestant Europe or Protestant America. Napoleon, to his honor be it said, and Napoleon alone, warmly but ineffectually remonstrated against this flagrant outrage, and it still remains unredressed, — the foulest stain which a single outrage has placed on the history of the nineteenth century. If the power to repeat such crimes remains with the Bishop of Rome, the responsibility will rest less on Catholic, usurping Napoleon, than on Protestant, legitimate Prussia and England.
Art. VIII. — REVIEW OF CURRENT LITERATURE.
( (( lievler THEOLOGY. MR. PARKER's recent Letter to his Congregation * stands among those striking autobiographies, in which our generation is so fortunate in having its marked phases of religious thought set forth. No exposition of a man's belief is at once so interesting and true, as that contained in an honest record of his life; and even when that record is colored by his own feeling, or prejudice, or wayward experience, it is all the more serviceable witness. The current of personal feeling that runs through the “Phases of Faith,” Brownson's “ Convert," and Blanco White's Memoirs, makes a distinct part of their value as illustrations of the religious tendencies they represent. As strongly individualized as Luther's “ Table-Talk," and a good deal more deliberate and full, each in its way furnishes precisely the material which the historian or critic, one of these days, will be most in search of.
* Theodore Parker's Experience as a Minister, with some Account of his Early Life and Education for the Ministry. Boston: Rufus Leighton, Jr.
Of recent works of this kind, this little volume, or large pamphlet, is the most interesting to us, and the most likely to provoke sharp criticism. It is a very transparent and plainly told story of a pretty obstinate controversy, still fresh, from the pen of the most conspicuous actor therein ; and of course, it both reflects and provokes the slumbering passions of the debate. It is also a revelation of personal feeling and experience, - a private, and indeed confidential record, made to near friends, reckoning on their sympathy, and not shrinking to say what few men would care to say. to a larger circle. It is as if a certain curiosity or fatality had broken the seal of privacy, and let us into the secrets of an intercourse which, primarily, we had no right to share. In form, it is a private matter between the writer and his correspondents. He wishes “it might be read only to them, or printed solely for their affection, not also published for the eye of the world; but that were impossible, .... so what I write private to you becomes public also for mankind, whether I will or not.”
This statement, to a certain degree, disarms criticism. And could we imagine this to have been strictly a private communication, brought to light only by accident, or posthumously, it would scarce be amenable to any judgment or comment of ours. We should pause at the words, so appealing to our human sympathy: “ Consumption, having long since slain almost all my near kinsfolk, horsed on the North-wind, rode at me also, seeking my life. Swiftly I fled hither, hoping in this little island of the Holy Cross to hide me from his monstrous sight, to pull his arrows from my flesh, and heal my wounded side. .... I know that I am no longer young, and that I stand up to my shoulders in my grave, whose uncertain sides at any moment may cave in and bury me with their resistless weight. .... Yet still the will to live, though reverent and submissive, is exceeding strong, more vehement than ever before, as I have still much to do, — some things to begin upon, and many more lying now half done, that I alone can finish, and I should not like to suffer the little I have done to perish now for lack of a few years' work.” With these words before us, breathing the suppressed pain of a strong man bowed, we should read anything that might follow without censure or deprecation, glad simply to see things as they seemed to the writer's heart.
But a public document, which this comes to be in fact, - containing the story of events in which a great many have borne a part, and reflecting honor or dishonor on a great many names among the living, is another matter. This “ Letter" is not only an account, it is also an epitome of the writer's ministry,— a recapitulation, in brief, of the long war of pamphlets and discourses, in which no one else has borne a part at all comparable to Mr. Parker in boldness or general ability. With the warmth of the debate, the passion of the hour reappears. So true, indeed, is Mr. Parker to his character, as a man “ severely in earnest,” that, even in this narrative review, he assumes the agonistic attitude, and runs perpetually into the tone of argument, appeal, or objurgation. The reader is likely to be disappointed, vexed perhaps, to find so little of the calmness he might look for in the forced repose of a sick man's retrospect. At this distance of time, he will say, — five or fifteen years from the battle he relates, — at that distance in space, where the exile may be thought to see everything softened by the intervening leagues of sea and sky, — followed too from his native land by so warm an expression of sympathy, even from many who had been strangers or opposed, — we might have expected to find the view of men and things tempered and assuaged. Some softening in the perspective, some mellow haze hiding the sharpness of light and shadow, we might have looked for in a picture drawn in that far-off retreat, — possibly softer strokes from a hand weakened by sickness. But the remarkable character of the Letter — aside from the glimpse it gives of the real tenderness, devoutness, and affectionateness of a character which the great public has seen mostly on another side — is precisely as a reproduction, or epitome, of the controversy as it was. The narrative is, indeed, in some parts, almost sternly given, and not a hard line suppressed. And for the immediate effect (though not the ultimate value) of this review, we regret a frequent tone that savors of ten years ago.
The best justification, or at least explanation, of this tone, is found in the narrative — which another generation, so far as it looks at all into this matter, must find very striking and curious — of the quality of opposition and reproach met in this eighteen years' iconoclastic crusade. That anything was done to provoke so virulent a hostility as is here spoken of, — that as hard blows were given as taken in the fight, — we find no hint in a narrative certainly meant to be candid and full. When Mr. Parker says, (p. 174,) “I have no delight in controversy ; when assailed, I have never returned the assault,” — the statement may be literally correct, but the public will find it hard to understand. A man who, in his thirty-fifth year, “had thoroughly broken with the ecclesiastical authority of Christendom," and who felt then that he had enlisted for “a thirty years' war, if life should hold out so long,” can hardly seem, to average people, “not much of a fighter,” however sincerely he may say it; and one only wonders at the astonishment he seems to have felt at the hostility he called forth. It is not time yet to analyze all the motives of that hostility. Suflice it to say, that in some points it would have been disarmed, if the sense of personal justice and the decorum of debate had always weighed as much with him as zeal for public justice and the stress of controversy. Even the friendliest judge will ask if all the fault is on one side, when a strong and heroic worker is obliged to “do his work by stealth”; and when an enterprise of simple charity " would have been ruined at once, if his face or name had appeared in connection with it.” In the main, in its estimate of the respective rights of the disputants in these discussions, it is likely that posterity will side with Mr. Parker. But — naturally enough, perhaps — we think this narrative does great injustice to
the opposition, forgets many elements of provocation, and makes the sincere feeling, or belief, or good fame of others of quite too small account, in comparison with the fiery force of conviction which it declares.
In reply to these suggestions, we know that Mr. Parker's most ardent admirers would remind us that, just as we cannot get all the minor virtues for four and sixpence a day, we cannot, in wider matters, ask all traits of force and of loveliness in the same finite life; — that the great reformer cannot be expected to be the great pacificator, harmonizer, tolerator, and mediator. This is, we suppose, the simplest key to the tone of the book; the author does not know what is meant by “ Toleration,” and yet does not know that he does not know it. His firm and unhesitating belief in himself, therefore, almost inevitably expresses itself in a tone, — which is, we believe, to the seniors who had to do with this controversy very provoking, — while to the juniors just now coming on the stage it is simply amusing, - which, it we may borrow a phrase from Sir Walter Scott, may be called the “big bowwow” strain. A charming letter-writer, a companion in travel of Mr. Parker, has just now styled him, very happily, “ the Great Dog,” “ Can Grande," — in memory of Dante's hopes for the achievements of Can Grande della Scala, a prince of his own time. After personifying the treachery of Florence, the rapine of France, and the hungry meanness of Rome, under the figures of panther, lion, and wolf, which had terrified and threatened him, Dante makes Virgil say of Rome and of Can Grande:
“For yonder brute 'gainst whom thou criest, alarmed,
Nay, every trespasser with death prevents,
Her greedy appetite she ne'er contents,
With many a beast already she has lain,
Till comes the GREYHOUND, slaying her with pain [Can Grande].
But wisdom, love, and virtue. ,
Envy's rank spawn, — He shall have dragged her down.” * Poor Dante's prophecy did not prove fortunate ; - it has been, indeed, the only passport to immortality of the Great Dog in behalf of whom it was made. As in lesser cases, his bark proved worse than his bite. We hope more for the war against falsehood, force, appetite, and craft of the new Can Grande; but while we express the hope, we have to confess that we seldom listen to his baying of the wolf, without detecting something of a more conscious and less dignified “bow-wow."
We cannot attempt to examine in detail statements of fact so numerous as are here given, and many of them made in the most general and sweeping terms, — made too on the sole authority of a memory, singu
* We quote Mr. Parsons's translation.