Front Page Titles (by Subject) 292.: PUSEYISM  MORNING CHRONICLE, 13 JAN., 1842, P. 3 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III
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292.: PUSEYISM  MORNING CHRONICLE, 13 JAN., 1842, P. 3 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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For the background and the entry in Mill’s bibliography, see No. 291. This letter is headed “Puseyism.—Letter II,” with the subhead, “To the Editor of the Morning Chronicle.”
Let me begin by thanking you for your prompt insertion of my former communication, and not less sincerely for the comments in a subsequent editorial article, which in temper and candour were all that could be desired, and in substantials quite as favourable as I had reason to expect.1 I never did so much injustice to the writer of the denunciations of Puseyism which have so often appeared in your paper, as to imagine that he would have thus written with opinions of the subject so weak as to be shaken by the first breath of controversy. You have said what there is to be said for your view of the question, and it is satisfactory to find that there is so little. I cannot say that I perceive in it anything new, or which, as you seem to surmise, I had previously overlooked. The topics are such as no one could overlook, who attempted to anticipate what you would say. How, for example, after charging with hypocrisy, for not seceding from the church, men who hold that to secede from her would be to renounce their baptism, could you possibly defend yourself without drawing the distinction, and making as much of it as you could, between remaining in the communion of the church and partaking of its emoluments? The point could not be missed: a nisi prius advocate of the lowest grade could not have failed to take advantage of it.
I with, sir, that it were as easy to exculpate the Puseyites, or Newmanites (as I admit that they may be more properly called) from every other of the accusations brought against them, as it is from this, of dishonestly retaining a state fee of which they violate the conditions. You would scarcely continue to bring this charge if you had sufficiently considered what it implies, or how widely the theory of the relation between spiritual teachers and temporal governors, which you seem to hold, differs both from that of the Newmanites themselves, and from the doctrines of the most enlightened friends of liberty in the present and in past ages.
It would be a sufficient vindication of this party against the imputation of dishonesty, to show that their conduct is strictly consistent with their own principles; especially when those principles are not theirs peculiarly, but common to them with the great body of churchmen, or at least with the principal defenders of the Church of England as a political establishment. By what right do you require the Newmanites to make themselves martyrs for opinions which are not theirs; to acknowledge as a truth, by recognizing as obligatory upon them in practice, the doctrine that the endowments of the Church of England are a state fee given as a consideration for teaching certain religious tenets? Do they hold this doctrine? Is there any party in the church worth mentioning which holds it? Will they not answer, and will not the whole Conservative body answer with them, that the endowments, the far greater part of them at least, did not come from the state, never belonged to the state at all, but to private individuals who voluntarily gave them to the church, for purposes and under expectations, which it is the very crime charged against the Puseyites, that they far more nearly fulfil than the party of the Protestants par excellence think it right to do? Some kings did, it is true, give lands from their hereditary domain, and the state, as a state, did render compulsory the payment of tithe,2 not however until the majority of landed proprietors throughout Christian Europe had, from religious motives, consented to take the payment upon themselves; and, at all events, when once given, it was, according to the doctrine of all Conservative, and of many liberal writers, given irrevocably; it became as the land itself became in the hands of its feudal holders, not a salary, but a property.
The Puseyites do not, and, consistently with their religious doctrines, cannot acknowledge that the state made the Church of England, or gave it the property it holds, or did or could annex to that property any new conditions imposed by itself. Its power, in their view, like that of any judicial tribunal, extends only to enforcing the conditions on which the property is really held, which, according to them, are simply and solely those of being in communion with the Church Catholic, and having received ordination from a bishop to whom the power of conferring it has descended by uninterrupted succession from the Apostles. They do not, indeed, deny that the state, in the person of the tyrant Henry VIII, did assert another sort of power over these endowments, and did nefariously abuse that power by seizing a full half of the church property for the use of the monarch himself and of his favourites.3 But is any one bound to resign what is his own, because somebody who is stronger chooses to assert a claim to it which he does not and cannot substantiate, and to pretend that it is only held on sufferance from him? If the Church of England has ever admitted that it is a national church by virtue of the King’s appointment, that the Crown made it, or had anything to do with the matter but to recognize it as the portion of the church of Christ existing in this nation, there would be something to be said against the Newmanites. But this they deny. The mere acknowledgment of the King as head of the church, that is, as what the Pope, according to the best Catholic tradition, was before, the mere executive (the supreme authority being in the body itself), does not, in their view, nor in the view of many persons besides them, constitute such an admission.
I am not stating these as my own arguments. I do not concur in them. They are deduced from the principles of a religious and political creed which is not mine. But it is the creed of the Puseyites. They stand upon their right to the endowments. On their own premises they are justified in making this stand. And when men are accused of insincerity, it is by their own premises that they are entitled to be tried. I confess, however, that I should not feel the same interest in their cause if there were nothing concerned in it but their own honesty and consistency; if it did not appear to me to involve a great principle, which it is not necessary to be a Newmanite, or even a churchman to acknowledge, and which it more especially becomes those who call themselves Liberals to take every occasion of asserting and vindicating.
The endowments, which the Puseyites say are not derived from the state, I say are derived from it.4 I deny the inviolability of foundations, and not only claim it as a right, but affirm it as a duty, of the Legislature to alter the appropriation of all such as, after due deliberation, with due precaution against its own fallibility, it deems to be no longer beneficially employed. I therefore hold that the state can rightfully take away the endowments of the Church of England, as many good and wise men have held that it ought to do; that it has a right to determine whether it will endow with this property, any body of religious teachers whatever, and if it does, has a right to select the body which it judges best qualified for that high function. Its power, therefore, of giving the endowments for the purpose of spiritual teaching, is absolute; but that it has a right to give them conditionally, the condition being that of teaching certain doctrines, and those only, I deny. It must bestow them for teaching what the teachers believe, not what itself believes. It is not to chuse doctrines, but instructors. If there is to be an endowed church at all, there must be a power in the legislature to judge what is the body which shall be recognised in that character. But this is the same thing with determining the doctrines that shall be taught. Is that work for a King’s ministers and two Houses of Parliament? Are they the theologians from whom those who listen to the publicly accredited religious instructors are to take their religion? Have we rejected popes and councils to receive our doctrines from a pope in St. James’s, or a council in St. Stephen’s?5 The state has a different duty to perform. It is to judge, not what is taught, but the title to teach. The Newmanites say that they, or rather the church to which they adhere, are the teachers, divinely commissioned, and have credentials from the Almighty, pointing them out as such: if so, let the state look to the credentials, and judge of them. If nobody can make out a title by appointment from above, those are entitled who can give best proof of having qualified themselves by the fitting studies and the fitting moral discipline. It is for the state to decide this. It is for the state to determine what communion or what body of persons is most fitted, in point of general competency, to put a right interpretation upon Christianity, and to bring its practical principles home to the national mind. But when we are told that the state has ordained certain religious tenets to be taught, and a certain interpretation to be put upon Christianity, under the penalty of not teaching under state authority at all, I can only answer that whether by the state are to be understood a dead Henry VIII, or a living Peel or Melbourne, they have no credentials for this trust, can show no qualifications for it. Their duty is to find who are, or ought to be, the national church; it is the church’s duty to determine what the church ought to teach.
I am tempted, sir, as one who has for many years considered himself a Liberal, to ask what is become of several doctrines which were once considered the distinguishing principles of the extreme Liberal party. Among the rest we used, I remember, in former days, to profess much disapprobation of what was called a connection between church and state. Perhaps some of those who reproach the Puseyites for objecting to state interference with the church, could refresh my memory as to what we meant by this. I wonder if it was merely the acres, or the pounds sterling, which we wanted to rescue from the church, and convert to our own uses; or whether we thought that there was nothing so certain to corrupt religious teaching, as the interference with it of temporal governors; that such persons when they meddle with prescribing religious doctrines, seldom do it for any good, and that the sole effect of making the church dependent on the state, is to make religion an instrument for upholding temporal despotism, and an ally of every abuse which the indolence of rulers suffers, or by which their cupidity profits. And has not such been, in fact, the history of every church which has held its commission from the state, or been dependent upon it? Of the Greek church, both at Constantinople and at Petersburgh? Of the Church of England, and most Protestant churches, from their very commencement? And even the Church of Rome, to which, corrupt and effete as it now is, humanity owes a debt never to be sufficiently appreciated, is not it chargeable with the same sin, from the time when that glorious struggle for which a Hildebrand lived and a Becket died—heroes who will eternally survive by the side of Martin Luther and John Knox—was shamefully wound up by the memorable blow inflicted upon Boniface VIII at Anagni, by the emissary of Philippe le Bel—which established for all the centuries which have since elapsed the supremacy of the sceptre over the crosier, and of which it was but a natural consequence that a few years after, the pontiff of the Christian world sat at Avignon, for the first time in history, as the degraded tool of a temporal oppressor, sanctioning the butchery of the Templars and every other enormity of that rapacious despot?6
Against this idea of a church establishment, the Newmanites protest, and I protest with them. If an established church is not to be independent of state control, no established church ought to exist. A church bound to teach only what the state commands! Why, it is the business of a church to be a schoolmaster to the state, and a bridle or a spur to it—the one or the other, or both, according as it needs them. It is the business of a church to fill the minds of the people with ideas and feelings of duty by which the temporal rulers shall be restrained, and of which they shall stand in awe. If these rulers, to be a check upon whom is one of the chief uses of an organised body of religious teachers, are to prescribe to that body what it shall teach, can we expect anything but what has generally existed in the Church of England, a tacit understanding that the peace is to be kept on all points which would really stir up people’s minds, and on all matters of religion or morality which concern the higher classes of society in their duties as governors; that so much of Christianity shall alone be insisted upon as is good for the lower orders, and that the church shall exist, in the words of a clever and eloquent writer, only for the purpose of
Most heartily is it to be rejoiced at, that a party has arisen which asserts a higher position than this for the religious teachers of a nation, and with whose convictions it is consistent, while claiming this higher character for the church, to remain in the church—to assert these as her principles, not those of her enemies; and to revive the remembrance of the claims which the Christian church once made to a more exalted destination, and of the services which she rendered in the fulfilment of it. I care not in what manner they reconcile this to their consciences, so that they do reconcile it. The principles by which they do so are those which they profess in common with almost every defender of the establishment; but were it otherwise—were it true that they silence their scruples by the most flimsy sophistry—it is not for us, who hold the same conclusions on firmer grounds, to meet them with reproach or discouragement.
The remaining part, sir, of your reply to my letter is chiefly employed in contending that the motives of these men are not so pure from mere worldly ambition, as, taking a rational view of their situation and prospects, I had concluded them to be. Your proofs of this are, that they are eager to propagate their opinions, to get newspapers, and reviews, and the younger clergy on their side, which you seem to think a very unpardonable stretch of priestly assumption; and that they have been, as you represent, very successful in these objects, although judging from present appearances their success even in their stronghold, Oxford, does not amount to any very substantial ascendancy. If the clergy and even the monkery of their own university will not consent, and it seems far from likely that they will, to raise one of this body to the dignity of a Poetry Professor and a salary of £100 a year,7 one would not give much for their chance of deaneries or mitres from the practical statesmen of the Conservative party, for whom, in fact, and for whose principles of action, instead of practising any sycophancy, they scarcely disguise their contempt. But suppose them to have been ten times more successful, what argument is this against them, any more than against Luther, or Wesley, or any other leader of a great religious movement? Grant them any degree of possible success, and they gain only a dim and distant prospect of what they would have been sure of by very ordinary exertion in the common road of preferment. You talk of the movement as having originated in a meeting held at the house of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s chaplain, to consult about what should be done to protect the church against the encroachments of the Whig ministry. I am surprised that you should attach any importance to such an old nurse’s tale.8 Is a profound and connected system of thought, embracing not only a complete body of theology and philosophy, but a consistent theory of universal history, a thing which can be got up suddenly in a year, or two years, for a momentary political exigency? That there may be persons in high places, both in and out of the clerical body, who have joined or countenanced this movement from such motives as you allege, is likely enough; every cause has its share of this sort of proselytes; and there very probably was such a meeting as you state: but that the set of doctrines called Puseyism originated from thence, it would take no ordinary portion of credulity to make any person believe. The circumstances of the times may have awakened serious thoughts in minds which otherwise would have slumbered; the dangers which menaced the institutions they most valued may have helped to lead even such men as Mr. Newman and Dr. Pusey to reflect more deeply than they otherwise would have done upon the spirit and original purposes of those institutions. But this dependence of our deepest and most conscientious thoughts upon the suggestions of our outward circumstances, is incident to the infirmity of our speculative faculties, and is no imputation upon the sincerity of any one, nor, to any great extent, even upon the strength of his judgment. If it be a reproach, it is one to which all mankind are liable.
But I must not encroach farther, and really I do not know what I could add, or in what way the vindication of any set of men could be more complete. On their doctrines, as distinguished from the characters of the men themselves, and on the position which they seem to me to hold in English speculation, I could say much on a future occasion, if you continue to do me the honour of inserting my letters.9
[1 ]Leading article, Morning Chronicle, 5 Jan., 1842, p. 2.
[2 ]By 27 Henry VIII, c. 20 (1535), and 32 Henry VIII, c. 7 (1540).
[3 ]Following the Act of Supremacy in 1534, Henry VIII (1491-1547, ruler from 1509) dissolved the monasteries and confiscated their properties.
[4 ]For Mill’s already expressed views on the issue, see his “Corporation and Church Property” (1833), CW, Vol. IV, pp. 193-222.
[5 ]I.e., as in a theocratic state, with the head of the church in the royal palace (St. James’s), and his council in the legislature (St. Stephen’s).
[6 ]This tightly compressed history of the struggle for dominance between Church and State runs from the establishment of ecclesiastical authority by Hildebrand (ca. 1020-85), Pope Gregory VII, who triumphed over the Emperor Henry IV, through Thomas à Becket (ca. 1118-70), Chancellor of England and then Archbishop of Canterbury, who quarreled with Henry II over the church’s authority and was murdered, with a glancing reference to the Protestant reformers Luther and John Knox (ca. 1513-72), on to Philippe IV (le Bel) of France (1268-1314), whose envoy, Guillaume de Nogaret (d. 1303), seized and imprisoned Pope Boniface VIII (ca. 1235-1303) at Anagni in 1303, just before Boniface could excommunicate Philippe who set up Clement V as the first Pope in Avignon in 1309, and instigated, with Clement’s compliance, the inquisition against the Knights Templar in 1310-11.
[* ]The Election, a poem recently published. [Sterling’s poem, these lines of which appear on p. 68, is reviewed in No. 290.]
[7 ]Mill’s prediction was fulfilled when the Oxford Professorship of Poetry later in 1842 went to James Garbett (1802-79), who held the chair for ten years. The defeated Puseyite candidate was Isaac Williams (1802-65), poet and theologian, author of Tract 80.
[8 ]The account in the Morning Chronicle of 5 Jan. was not “such an old nurse’s tale” as Mill says, though the Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury was not involved. A conference was held at Hadleigh, Surrey, on 25-29 July, 1833, where Hugh James Rose was Vicar, at the instigation of Rose, Arthur Philip Perceval (a Royal Chaplain), and William Palmer. Other participants were R.C. Trench (then Rose’s curate) and Hurrell Froude. The conference was in response to the encroachment on the Church begun by the repeal in 1828 of the Test and Corporation Acts (9 George IV, c. 17), continued by the Catholic emancipation of 1829 (10 George IV, c. 7), and culminating, for the group, in the suppression of the Irish bishoprics by 3 & 4 William IV, c. 37 (1833).
[9 ]No more letters by Mill on this subject appeared, though the Morning Chronicle replied to this letter in a leader on 13 Jan., p. 2, and made further attacks on the Puseyites in second-page leaders on 18 and 29 Jan.