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Draft of Reply to Cardinal Manning. - John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton, Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, Vol. I (Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone) 
Selections from the Correspondence of the First Lord Acton, edited with and Introduction by John Neville Figgis and Renald Vere Laurence. Vol. I Correspondence with Cardinal Newman, Lady Blennerhassett, W.E. Gladstone and Others (London: Longmans, Gree and Co., 1917).
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Draft of Reply to Cardinal Manning.
My dear Lord,—
I gave no answer to the question, which did not seem to me to arise out of the terms or the spirit of my letter to Mr. Gladstone.
But I must decline the inference which a passage in my letter of this last Sunday has suggested to you. I have no private gloss or special interpretation for the decrees of the Vatican Council. (Trent)
The acts of the Council are the law which I obey. I am not concernedbound to follow the comments of divines or to supply their place fromwith private judgments of my own. I am content to adhere implicitly with an absolute reliance on God’s Government of his Church to the construction she herself shall adopt in her own time.
Command. Submit to accept.
His Grace the Archbishop of Westminster.
Athenæum Club,Pall Mall,
My dear Lord,—
I could not answer your question without seeming to admit that which I was writing expressly to deny, namely, that it could be founded on anything but a misconception of the terms or the spirit of my letter to Mr. Gladstone.
In reply to the question which you put with reference to a passage in my letter of Sunday, I can only say that I have no private gloss or favourite interpretation for the Vatican Decrees. The acts of the Council alone constitute the law which I recognise. I have not felt it my duty as a layman to pursue the comments of divines, still less to attempt to supersede them by private judgments of my own. I am content to rest in absolute reliance on God’s providence in His government of the Church.—I remain, my dear Lord, yours faithfully,
The objectionable word is not in the original. Instead, the word Church. But I can get quite round the difficulty.
I cannot thank you sufficiently for the patient help you have given me.
Dear Lady Blennerhassett,—
. . . Le mieux ne s’est pas soutenu chez Newman. Voici mon évêque qui perd patience à ma politesse, et fait la même demande que son métropolitain. Vous voyez que ça chauffe.—Revenez bien vite et bien sûr, votre tout dévoué,
11 Hesketh Crescent,Torquay,
Dear Lady Blennerhassett,—
. . . From my bishop1 I have had notice of renewed contention, and at the same time the persistency with which some of my statements continue to be disputed, after three months, will oblige me sooner or later to write more. So that I have filled Torquay with old books, and am at work again. . . .—Believe me, faithfully yours,
Torquay,April 2 .
Dear Lady Blennerhassett,—
. . . I did my bishop wrong, at least for the moment. It is clear that there has been some hesitation lately as to pushing things to extremity, and it has delayed any critical and decisive proceedings. The German bishops have repudiated the Vatican doctrine that the Pope absorbs the authority of bishops in every diocese; and they have not only been approved by the Pope, but he has declared that there is nothing new or changed in the Church. Stated in this connection his words are a virtual acknowledgment of the rule of faith, and preclude all interpretations that are inconsistent with tradition. Newman’s declaration on the authority of conscience necessarily implies that one may not build up one’s system on forgeries, or omissions, or forced constructions, and the results that can be obtained subject to this rule are such as none can quarrel about. So that Gladstone’s attack certainly has helped to produce a momentary reaction. It may not be voluntary or sincere, or lasting, and it is certainly ambiguous, and capable of being explained away, like other things. But it is a sign of what I have always said—to your husband, amongst others—that the way out of the scrape will yet be found in insisting on the authority of tradition as the only lawful rule of interpretation. There will be many variations and oscillations before that way is definitely adopted. Yet there is a faint glimmer of hope.—Believe me, dear Lady Blennerhassett, yours most faithfully,
Dover,April 13, 1875.1
Dear Lady Blennerhassett,—
. . . Nothing can be more just than your estimate of the religious situation. It is simply at the choice of the authorities, Pope, Cardinal, bishop, or priest, when I am excommunicated. I cannot prevent, or even seriously postpone it, although Newman’s conditions would make it possible, technically, to accept the whole of the decrees. But if they take further steps, it can only be with the object of pushing things to a crisis, and then they would take care so to prepare their tests that there would be no possible protection. It can only be a question of time. . . .—Believe me, yours faithfully,
My dear Madam,—
As to the present troubles among Catholics of these parts, to which you refer, Mr. Gladstone’s Pamphlet has thrown Catholics together in a most unexpected manner—and, though there will be always differences in a large body of men belonging to so many distinct classes and of so many distinct interests, about foreign Catholic politics, yet the present promise and prospect of things is much more cheering than it was some time ago. I do not think you should say what you say about Lord Acton. He has ever been a religious, well-conducted, conscientious Catholic from a boy. In saying this, I do not at all imply that I can approve those letters to which you refer. I heartily wish they had never been written.—I am, yours truly in Christ,
John H. Newman.
My dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I shall certainly take advantage of your authorisation and ask, as I hereby do, to be allowed to see the proofs of your rejoinder. I only hope it will be in type before the middle of next week, when I must leave town for Torquay.
Cartwright is at work on an article on the Controversy, which he has paid great attention to.—I remain, yours very truly,
Athenæum,Tuesday,Jan. 28, 1896.
Dear Mr. Gladstone,—
I am sorry that, by my own fault, I am made to figure so preposterously in the Life of Manning. The Author applied to me for help, but I could give him none; for I had refused Hutton, not having been on such terms of intimacy with the Cardinal as would justify my intervention.
I certainly wrote to you once from Rome in the days of the Council, probably in April or May 1870, and at the request of one of the bishops. Once, also, on a personal matter connected with the Council, to Lord Granville. The fact may have come to be known to Odo Russell,1 who would say: I know that he writes, etc., and so the actual would become habitual, and the single, plural. Somebody once said to my wife: “Est-il vrai qu’il écrit toujours à la Reine?” Some such story may have got about.
Hohenlohe’s Circular was dated April 9, 1869. Odo Russell was on the best of terms with Manning, and treated the whole thing with cynical persiflage. Cartwright, who took a more serious interest in what was doing, came home and complained of Odo’s “short-sighted and tortuous policy,” attributing the sentiment, if not the words, to me. Clarendon wrote a disagreeable letter to Odo, asking for explanation. As I had used no such expression, and did not gravely suspect Odo, I easily came to an understanding with him, and even with Lady William, who thereupon called Cartwright Cartwrong. Although Odo was under Manning’s influence, he was a channel of information to the Press. Daru, just then Minister of Foreign Affairs, wrote two very strong letters, which I left in Odo’s hands. Through him they came to be published in the Times. For he showed them to Tom Mozley, who told me the story a few weeks before he died.
I very much hope that now the holders of Newman’s papers will be stimulated to make them public.
Cambridge is really a haven of delight, and I am grateful to them all round for the way they tolerate and even accept me. My tendency to read everything I can get that relates to my subject, proves a drawback and a vice when I have to lecture, and I am always a little late and hurried.
My little Captatio meant that, late in ’49 or early in ’50,1 I attempted, through John Lefevre, to obtain admission as an undergraduate. But Magdalene, and two other Colleges, refused to have me. There is nobody there who remembers the circumstance, but they conjecture that Papal aggression had to do with it. I have not verified dates.
Hoping, in spite of delay, that this will find you at Biarritz.—I remain, ever truly yours,
[1 ] Dr. Brown, the Bishop of Shrewsbury.
[1 ]Odo Russell, first Baron Ampthill (1829-84), together with his brother Arthur, was intimate with Acton from childhood. He was a diplomat, and from 1860 to 1870 he was unofficial British representative at the Vatican. Manning took him into his confidence, and thus endeavoured to undo the influence of Acton with Mr. Gladstone. While Acton was writing home one set of views to the Prime Minister, Odo Russell, inspired by Manning, was writing in the opposite sense to Lord Clarendon, his chief. Acton’s memory was at fault as to the extent of the correspondence, as will be seen from the preceding pages.
[1 ] This refers to a passage at the beginning of Acton’s Inaugural Lecture.