« AnteriorContinuar »
and were entirely supported at the table of the Friars. By this Hospitality, as much as by their own Inactivity, did the Convents prove nurseries of Idleness, but the King, not to give offence by too sudden an innovation, bound the new proprietors of Abbey lands to support the ancient Hospitality,-a measure having no reciprocal interest, and this engagement was fulfilled in very few places, and for a very short time.1
The Visitations which preceded the suppression of the Monasteries discovered, if credit be due to the Inspectors, crimes the most degrading to human nature. It is difficult to conceive that they would venture, unsupported by evidence, to accuse a community of atrocities so monstrous,and their veracity seems to be vindicated, by their extreme solicitude to preserve some Convents whose conduct was exemplary. These crimes were apparently notorious,-nor is their existence doubtful, or the licentious lives of the Regulars. disputable, when their debaucheries had already attracted the Papal indignation, and their crimes incurred the censures and menaces of MORTON, the Primate.2
1 Humes Hist. of England, vol. iv. pp. 182, et seq.
8yo. edit. 1823.
The Monks, however, had a merit in their liberal Hospitality and Charity. Their tables were open to strangers, and, as the cheer was excellent, they were much frequented by the neighbouring Gentlemen. At St. Albans, and probably at other Abbeys, every traveller found an hospitable reception for three days,—and was then permitted, if his conduct was satisfactory, or his business important, to protract his stay. The fragments of their luxury furnished an extensive Charity,—and their indulgence to their tenants, whose rents were always moderate, endeared them to the Peasants. 3
But to finish this great affair of the Suppression of the Monasteries, a Parliament was called, which met at Westmin
2 Henry's Hist. of Great Britain, vol. vi. p. 652. 3 Ibid. p. 653.
ster on the 28th of April, 1540. On the 13th of May a bill was brought into the House of Peers for granting to the King, and his heirs and successors, all the houses, lands, and goods of all the Abbeys, Priories, Nunneries, Chantries, Hospitals, and Religious Houses, that had already been surrendered or suppressed, or that should thereafter be so.
The Journals take no notice of any opposition to this Bill in the House of Peers,
but it certainly met with opposition. There were no fewer than twenty Abbots in that house, who could not all be silent on that occasion. Besides, we are informed that CRANMER, Archbishop of Canterbury, LATIMER, Bishop of Worcester, and several other Prelates who favoured the new Learning, (as THE REFORMATION was then called,) pleaded earnestly for the preservation of three or four Houses in
every County, to be converted into Schools for the education of Youth, and Hospitals for the relief of the Poor,—and that, by their opposition to his favourite Bill, they in
curred the King's displeasure, which he soon afterwards made them feel.
Great art was used to persuade the Temporal Peers and the Members of the House of Commons to pass this Bill, against which they had many objections. But, independent of the great military force which the Monastic revenues would maintain, they were assured, that no more Loans or Subsidies should ever be demanded.
The Bill accordingly passed both Houses of Parliament with much less opposition than might have been expected,-and, in consequence of it, all the Possessions of Six hundred and forty-five Convents, ninety Colleges, two thousand three hundred and seventy-four Chantries and Free Chapels, and an hundred and ten Hospitals, were annexed to the Crown.4
Thus it is evident, that the Poor of England, until the time of King HENRY the Eighth, subsisted entirely upon private
* Henry's Hist. of Great Britain, vol. vi. p. 443. 4to. edit. 1793.
benevolence, and the charity of well disposed Christians. For, although it ap
“ The Mirrour,” that by the Common law the Poor were to be “ sus“ tained by Parsons, Rectors of the church, " and the Parishioners,—so that none of 66 them die for default of sustenance," and although by the Statutes of the 12th of RICHARD the Second, and of the 19th of HENRY the Seventh, the Poor were directed to abide in the cities or towns wherein they were born, or such wherein they had dwelt for three years, (which seem to be the first rudiments of Parish settlements),-yet, until the Statute of the 27th of HENRY the Eighth, no compulsory method appears to be chalked out for this purpose,—but the Poor seem to have been left to such relief, as the humanity of their neighbours would afford them.
The Monasteries were, in particular, their principal resource,—and, among other þad effects which attended the Monastic institutions, it was not, perhaps, one