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a proof how he perceived the strength which the Commons had gained by the power of the purse, which was daily and silently growing, and which could be disturbed only by such an unseasonable show of an immature authority as might too soon have roused the crown to resistance. It is one among many instances of the progress of the influence of parliaments in the midst of their apparently indiscriminate submission, and it affords a pregnant proof that we must not estimate the spirit of our forefathers by the humility of their demeanour.
The reader will observe how nearly this example was followed by a succeeding speaker, comparatively of no distinction, but in circumstances far more memorable, in the answer of Lenthall to Charles I., when that unfortunate prince came to the House of Commons to arrest five leading members of that assembly, who had incurred his displeasure.
When the short session of parliament was closed, Wolsey, in his gallery of Whitehall, said to More, “ I wish to God you had been at Rome, Mr. More, when I made you speaker.”—“ Your grace not offended, so would I too, my lord,” replied Sir Thomas; " for then should I have seen the place I long have desired to visit.” More turned the conversation, by saying that he liked this gallery better than the cardinal's at Hampton Court.
This, perhaps, broke off a quarrel for the time, but the fact was, as Erasmus remarks in one of his letters, that the cardinal was jealous of the knight's abilities, and feared him more than he loved him.
Of this he shortly after gave a proof by his endeavour to persuade the king to send Sir Thomas as ambassador to Spain. He tried to effect his purpose by magnifying the learning and wisdom of his rival, and his peculiar fitness for a conciliatory adjustment of the difficult matters then at issue between the king and his kinsman the emperor. Henry approved of the cardinal's suggestion, and made the proposal
to More, who, considering the unsuitableness of the Spanish climate to his constitution, and, perhaps, suspecting Wolsey of sinister purposes, earnestly besought Henry not to send his faithful servant to his grave. The king, who also suspected Wolsey of being actuated by jealousy, answered, “ It is not our meaning, Mr. More, to do you any hurt; but to do you good we should be glad: we shall, therefore, employ you otherwise.” Sir Thomas More could boast that he had never asked the king the value of a penny for himself; and without any solicitation on his part, on the 25th of December, 1525,t the king appointed him chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, as successor of Sir Anthony Wingfield; an office of dignity and profit which More continued to hold for nearly three
years. That there was an unfriendly feeling on the part of Wolsey towards More, is apparent from several little anecdotes, and among the rest from the following, as related by Roper.
On a time the cardinal had drawn a draft of certain conditions of peace between England and France, and he asked Sir Thomas's advice therein, beseeching him earnestly that he would tell him, if there were any thing therein to be misliked; and “he spoke this so heartily,” said Sir Thomas, that he verily believed the cardinal in earnest in wishing to hear his advice therein. But when More gave his honest opinion, and showed that the draft might have been amended, he suddenly rose in a rage, and said, “By the Mass! thou art the veriest fool of all the council.” Sir Thomas smiled, and drily rejoined, “ God be thanked! that the king, our master, hath but one fool in all his council.”
* More, p. 53, with a slight variation.
+ “Such is the information which I have received from the Records in the Tower. The accurate writer of the article on More in the Biographia Britannica, is perplexed by finding Sir Thomas More, chancellor of the duchy, as one of the negociators of a treaty in August 1526, which seems to the writer in the Biographia to bring down the death of Wingfield to near that time; he being on all sides acknowledged to be More's immediate predecessor. But there is no difficulty, unless we needlessly assume that the negociation with which Wingfield was concerned related to the same treaty which More concluded. On the contrary, the first appears to have been a treaty with Spain; the last a treaty with France."--Sir J. Muckintosh.
This incident, perhaps, led to an allusion in More's book “On Comfort in Tribulation,” where he relates a very amusing story of a certain prelate, who, when he had made an oration before a large ass
assembly, would bluntly ask those who sat at table with him, “how they all liked it? and as he sat upon thorns for a commendation of his eloquence, the man who did not speak of it as favourably as he could wish, got, you may be sure, but little thanks for his labour.”
More had the courage, on more than one occasion, to oppose the haughty cardinal at the Council board, as he had formerly done in Parliament: To one of these occasions we may no doubt refer the story which Sir Thomas tells in one of his letters, relative to the cardinal's project that England should sup: port the Emperor in his war with France. “ Some,” he writes, “ thought it wise, that we should sit still and leave them alone. But, evermore, my lord used the fable of the wise men; who, because they would not sit out and get drenched in the rain that was to make every one a fool, hid themselves in
But when the rain had washed away the others' wisdom, and those came out of their caves, and would make a display of theirs, the fools agreeing together against them, proved too strong for them, and forced them to come into their terms. And so, said his grace, if we were to be so wise as to sit in peace, while the fools fought it out, they would afterwards make common cause and subdue
This fable, adds More, helped the king and the realm to spend many a fair penny.”+
* This story is told in full in More's works, p. 1221, and as a fair spe. cimen of his humour, will be given entire in the volume of Selections.
+ These intrigues did not redound to the glory of the country: Our merry neighbours even then had begun to make our diplomatic inferiority the subject of their sport and ridicule. A contemporary writer
And yet, in spite of this occasional “ sparring,” it is satisfactory to be able to produce evidence that there existed neither that rancour on the part of More, nor that “ secret brooding over his revenge,” which Sir J. Mackintosh thought he discovered in the conduct of those great men. (Brit. States. p. 39.) This testimony is afforded us by that invaluable publication, “ The State Papers,” which we shall often have occasion to quote.
Wolsey to King Henry VIII. SIRE:- After my most humble recommendations, it may like your Ġrace to understand, that I have shown unto the bearer of this, Sir Thomas More, diverse matters to be by him, on my behalf, declared unto your Highness, beseeching the same that, at convenient time, it may be your pleasure to hear him make report thereof accordingly. And, Sire, whereas it hath been customed that the Speakers of the Parliament, in consideration of their diligence and pains taken, have bad, though the Parliament hath been right soon finished, above the £100 ordinary, a reward of £100, for the better maintenance of their household, and other charges sustained in the same; I suppose, Sire, that the faithful diligence of the said Sir Thomas More, in all your causes treated in this your late Parliament, as well for your subsidy, right honourably passed, as otherwise, considered, no man could better deserve the same than he hath done. Wherefore, your pleasure known therein, I shall cause the same to be advanced to him accordingly; ascertaining your Grace, that I was the rather moved to put your Highness in remembrance thereof, be
referring to these events, observes, " The Frenchmen of late days made a play, or a disguising in Paris, in which the Emperor was made to dance with the Pope and the French king, while the King of England sat on a high bench and looked on. And when it was asked, why he danced not? it was answered, that he sat there but to pay the minstrels' wages only: as if they should say, we paid the piper for all men's dancing."
cause he is not the most ready to speak and solicit his own cause. At your manor of Hampton Court, the 24th day of August, by your most humble chaplain (Superscribed)
T. CARIS EBOR. To the King's most noble Grace, Defender of the
In a reply from More to the cardinal, of the 26th, we have the following pleasing, acknowledgment of the same.
“ Furthermore, it may like your good Grace to understand, that, at the contemplation of your Grace's letters, the king's Highness is graciously content, that, besides the hundred pounds for my fee for the office of Speaker of his Parliament, to be taken at the receipt of bis Exchequer, I shall have one other hundred pounds out of his coffers, by the hands of the treasurer of his chamber. Wherefore, in most humble wise, I beseech your good Grace, that, as your gracious favour bath obtained it for me, so it may like the same to write to Mr. Wyatt, that he may deliver it to such as I shall send for it: whereby, I and all men, as the manifold goodness of your Grace hath already bound us, shall be daily more and more bounden to pray for your Grace, whom our Lord long preserve in honour and health. At Easthamstead, the 26th day of August." (State Papers, vol. i. 127.)
As our subject has now brought More in contact with one of the most remarkable men of his age, the reader will naturally look for some particulars respecting him. The portrait of Cardinal Wolsey, as sketched by the rapid and graphic pencil of Lloyd, is so true to the life, that we cannot better terminate the present chapter than by presenting it to the reader :
“ Wolsey made the first essay of his powers in commanding over noblemen, in the Earl of Dorset's