HE year 1861 saw the final division of the English Catholics into irreconcilable factions. The last occasion when all groups came together in apparent harmony was the founding of the "Academy of the Catholic Religion" in June 1861. This was a project of Cardinal Wiseman, who conceived of the Academy as an intellectual centre for the English Catholics which would enable them to keep abreast of current science and literature. Manning and Ward, however, did not share Wiseman's large views of the Academy. To Ward, it represented a forum in which he could advance his favourite ideas, the danger of intellectualism and the necessity of submission to ecclesiastical authority. Manning sought to transform it into an organ for propagating his views on the Temporal Power. Acton and Newman viewed these tendencies with alarm. Acton considered it "disgraceful" that Manning and Ward should "turn the academy into a field for disporting themselves on their peculiar hobbies, stripping it of its scientific, honest, disinterested character, corrupting men's minds with views instead of method" (A to S, 20 Nov. 1861, Downside MSS). Acton and Simpson were members of the Academy; Acton was made one of the "censors," a post of some distinction and no importance. Newman went further, and wrote to Manning that, if Wiseman should make his inaugural address an occasion for a speech in favour of the Temporal Power, he would withdraw his name from the Academy. "From that day," Manning later wrote, "a'divergence began between us" (Quoted in Leslie, p. 272. See also Ward, II 525).Manning henceforth sought to counteract the influence of Newman, whom he regarded as the leader of the English intellectual opposition to Rome. [152/153]
Wiseman's inaugural address did not, after all, deal with the Temporal Power. It was a sketch of his ideal of the Church guiding the energies of modern civilization. Catholics might accept the facts ascertained by science, Wiseman said, but they must be cautious about scientific deductions and theories. The Church must be vigilant to ward off the danger of superficial applications of scientific knowledge which may mislead the weak.
Acton politely complimented Wiseman on his speech; in private, however, he revealed his low opinion of the Cardinal's views. "He seems to think that Catholic science has only a great,victory to gain, not great problems to solve" (A to N, 8 July 186 1, Newman MSS). Acton's conception of the dignity and obligations of science was more exalted. His review of Wiseman's address in the Rambler was an exposition of these views and a lecture to the Academy on the conditions necessary for the progress of science. The Cardinal himself was treated with somewhat exaggerated respect; his statement that the Church encourages all that is good in the secular movements of the age was interpreted in a Liberal Catholic sense. Acton argued in "The Catholic Academy" that conflicts between religion and science, or between Church and State, arose because the proponents of one cause failed to respect the independent authority of the other: "In the domain of learning, as well as in civil society, there is an authority distinct from that of the Church, and not derived from it, and we are bound in each sphere to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's" (Essays, p. 282). 4 Political wrong and scientific error are to be met by the advancement of sound politics and valid science, not by retreat from secular to purely ecclesiastical ground. Acton urged that the regulations of the. Academy, which had been devised to ensure strict ecclesiastical control, be modified in the direction of greater freedom. This hopewas vain, for the Academy came to be dominated by the spirit -of Manning and Ward.
Ward's anti-intellectualism was subjected to a severe critique by Simpson's "Dr. Ward's Philosophy" in the May Rambler. With the general [153/154] thesis of Ward's Nature and Grace, a refutation of J. S. Mill's philosophy, Simpson was in agreement; but he deplored Ward's methods of argument, "the unfairness and violence with which he treats his opponents." (75. See Ward to S, 22 May 1861, cited in Gasquet, p. 171n). If Simpson had little sympathy for Mill's doctrines, he had even less for Ward's refutation, and he objected to Ward's distrust of intellect and his subjection of science to theology.
The intellectual battlefield between Liberal Catholicism and Ultramontanism, was, however, neither philosophy nor science, but history. The Rambler had had a foretaste of this in 1860. Its Belgian adviser, Father de Buck, in the course of his work on the Acta Sanctorum, had come to the conclusion that the accepted method of identifying the bodies of martyrs in the Roman catacombs was in error. The bodies were identified by the presence above their graves of glass vials containing a red substance supposed to be blood; de Buck believed that the substance was not blood, but the sediment of consecrated wine. His arguments were used by the Edinburgh Review to demonstrate that the Roman authorities were guilty of fraud. A controversy raged on the subject, several letters appearing in the Rambler. E.g.See, for example, J. S. Northcote, "On the Signs of Martyrdom in the Catacombs," III (July 1860), 203-222. An editorial note (pp. 222-3) supported de Buck's views and suggested that the controversial substance be examined microscopically. Because he had brought forth facts which had been turned to the disadvantage of the Church, de Buck was severely criticized by many Catholics and even accused of heresy.
This tendency to sacrifice the integrity of history to the immediate interests of the Church was what Acton most deplored about Ultramontanism. Acton sang the praises of scientific history in a review of Döllinger's Christenthum und Kirche in January 1861. Acton's Acton, "Döllinger's History of Christianity," contrasted the German love of knowledge for its own sake with the more partisan and literary spirit of English historical writing, and expressed his preference for the Germans, who acknowledged "the dignity, the freedom and the authority of learning." The Church had nothing to fear from the advancement of learning, "for to her, who is the depositary and the protector of truth, truth alone is natural and congenial" (Essays, pp. 377-78.) Acton added that scientific history would ultimately work to the advantage of Catholicism, as it would expose Protestant misrepresentations.
Acton's practice in these years was not up to the standard he had set. His historical articles in the Rambler were frequently written with the intention of vindicating Catholicism and correcting the historical misrepresentations of which its opponents had been guilty. In this apologetic spirit Acton wrote the most distinguished historical work of his early years, his article on "The Protestant Theory of Persecution." Acton explained away Catholic persecution as a necessary (if unfortunate) historical development, while he condemned Protestant intolerance as the product of abstract theory. The Reformers had adopted intolerance as an integral portion of their doctrines, while Catholic persecution was no essential part of the Catholic faith.8 The article was a brilliant tour deforce, a valid statement of half the case; but it was not objective history.
Simpson was also an historian. He had written numerous articles in the Rambler on the Catholic martyrs of the Elizabethan period. Acton, who desired to organize an English Catholic historical society, thought that Simpson would be the proper man to manage it. He urged Simpson to make a reputation for himself, independently of his connection with the Rambler, by writing a biography of the martyr Edmund Campion (A to S, 7 Oct. 1859 and 6 Dec. 1860, Gasquet, pp. 90-91, 155-56). Simpson's Campion was published as a book in 1867. The first eight chapters of the book were published serially in the Rambler, beginning in January 1861. Simpson, however, was as little capable as Acton of perfect detachment in his historical writings; many passages in his work contain allusions to the problems of his day. Acton cautioned Simpson about this failing: "I beseech you not to [155/156] fill Campion with contemporary allusions. . . . It will look too like a pamphlet" (A to S, 15 Jan. 1861, Downside MSS). Acton urged that "in history the historian has to disappear and leave the facts and ideas objectively to produce their own effect" (A to S, Jan. 1861, Gasquet, p. 164).
One passage in Simpson's Campion aroused considerable criticism. In a discussion of the problems of the English Catholics under Elizabeth, Simpson asserted that the popes of those times had encroached on the political rights of England and thereby exposed the Catholic faith to the hostility of patriotic Englishmen. Although his observations were relevant to his subject, the exercise of the deposing power by St. Pius V, Simpson's language might be interpreted as a veiled allusion to the conduct of Pius IX in his defence of the Temporal Power: "in endeavouring to preserve a temporal prerogative that had always been disputed . . . those Popes lost England to the faith" ("Edmund Campion," V (May 1861), 91). Many Catholics were scandalized by Simpson's criticism of a pope and saint. It was rumoured that Faber had spoken against Simpson in a sermon, and that the Rambler was to be denounced to Rome (A to N, 4 June 1861, Newman MSS.) Acton, however, regarded Simpson's comments as both relevant and just, and was prepared to make his Campion a test case of the independence of Catholic history.
The intellectual battles of Liberal Catholicism went on side by side with an equal concern with political affairs. Acton and Simpson regarded politics as being, like history, governed by principles which were scientifically determined and independent of religious authority:
Political principles are as definite and as certain as those of ethics, of jurisprudence, or of any other science. It is no more lawful to forget them than to forget the principles of morality; and it is a contradiction to suppose that religious interests can supersede or set aside either one or the other. . . . What is politically right, not what seems advantageous to religion, must be our guide in public life. ["Home. Affairs-Catholic Policy," Rambler, n.s., II (Jan. 1860), 249]
[156/157] Acton's political principles inclined him to the Liberals, but he preserved a certain independence of action. There were many issues on which a Catholic member of Parliament could not support the government of Lord Palmerston. In foreign affairs Acton opposed the principle of nationalism and democracy which the Liberal government encouraged abroad, and he disapproved of the support which Palmerston gave to the Italian enemies of the Temporal Power. Nonetheless Acton believed that, although the Liberals might be unfaithful to their principles, those principles were fundamentally sound and appropriate for Catholics. They were the principles of Emancipation: civil and religious liberty and equality, and fair treatment for Ireland. The Tories, on . the other hand, were bound to the maintenance of Protestant ascendancy, and Catholics could not be justified in supporting them. "The policy, therefore, which recommends itself," wrote William Monsell in the Rambler,
involves no abandonment of liberal principles, and no defection from the liberal party. They may turn out the government over which Lord Palmerston and Lord John [Russell] preside, but they will not become Tories. It would be madness to establish Orange ascendancy because, for a moment, under the influence of politico-religious excitement, the party with which we have been identified has been untrue to its principles. ["Catholic Policy," Rambler, n.s., V (May 1861), 10]
This policy of independent support for the Liberal party was not in favour among the English Catholics, who were primarily concerned with the issue of the Temporal Power. It was more popular among some of the Irish, whose special interests were bound up with the Liberal cause. The Liberal Catholics thus came to be closely associated with a group of Irish Whigs, two of whom, Monsell and John O'Hagan, were frequent contributors to the Rambler. The Irish Whigs drew Acton closer to the Liberal party.
Acton's rapprochement with the Liberals was made easier by his growing friendship for Gladstone. He had originally been suspicious of Gladstone's opportune conversion to Liberalism and had questioned his intellectual honesty. [157/158] Gladstone had greater resptct for Acton, and consulted him on his scholarly hobby, the history of mythology and primitive religion. Acton came to know Gladstone better in the course of his Parliamentary activity. In May 1861, they breakfasted together, and Acton described the article he had written on the American Civil War. Acton's sympathies were entirely with the South: he regarded the issue of state sovereignty as of greater significance than that of slavery and the Southern states as the defenders of liberty against revolution and centralization."16 This coincided with Gladstone's views: "I have read your valuable and remarkable paper. Its principles of politics I embrace: its research and wealth of knowledge I admire: and its whole atmosphere, if I may so speak, is that which I desire to breathe. It is a truly English paper" (Gladstone to A, 8 May 1861, Selections, p. 158). From this time Gladstone's admiration for Acton was unbounded.
Acton was beginning to develop a similar admiration for Gladstone. He learned to appreciate Gladstone's religious approach to politics and his ability to maintain the old Whig principles of Burke while making terms with the new electorate. The budget of 1861, notable for the repeal of the paper duties, confirmed Acton's newly-acquired respect for Gladstone: "he is not inclined to democracy or to class legislation, but tries to carry out true principles of economy" (A to S, 15 April 1861, Gasquet, p. 187. See also A to Döllinger, 4 May 1861, Woodruff MSS).
Acton's political affiliations in mid-1861 were still tentative:
You must not consider me a regular supporter of the Government. I should vote against their foreign policy, and I probably would not vote for them on a motion of confidence. But it seems to me equivalent to a falsehood to vote against the merits of a question, only from general sympathy or resentment towards a party. [19 A to N, 29 June 1861, Newman MSS]
[158/159] Except for the Temporal Power, there was no major question on the merits of which Acton was in disagreement with the Liberal party as represented by Gladstone; and he had too little faith in the Temporal Power to make it a reason for voting against the Liberals. In the crucial vote on the repeal of the paper duties, Acton voted for the Government.
This issue separated Acton from most of the English Catholics. Up to this time, he had managed to work together with the other Catholic political leaders, who met informally at the Stafford Club. Acton had been assigned to represent in Parliament the case for equal treatment of Catholic chaplains in prisons. Articles in the Rambler supported this and other Catholic claims. But Acton, because of his connections with Gladstone and Granville, relied on private negotiations with the Government to secure redress of grievances and refused to start a debate on the prison question in Parliament. He sought to avoid unnecessary provocation of the Protestant majority. This ran counter to the policy favoured by Wiseman and his spokesman Sir George Bowyer, who were prepared to sacrifice English Catholic matters for the sake of the Temporal Power. They sought to embarrass the Liberal Government at every opportunity. Manning worked actively in support of this policy, which was also urged by John Wallis, the Tory editor of The Tablet.
In the spring of 1861 attempts were made to force Acton to start a debate on the prison question, in which he would have to take a stand against the Government. On 7 May, an Irish member, MacEvoy, asked Acton in the House when he proposed to bring on his motion on the prison question. Acton evaded the difficulty by stating that he desired to wait until a similar question, relating to the treatment of of Catholic inmates in workhouses, had been disposed of (Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, 2nd ser., CLXII (1861), 1652). At the beginning of June another attempt was made to force Acton's hand. At a meeting of the Stafford Club, Manning and Bowyer proposed "a very peremptory resolution" (21 A to N, 4 June 1861, Newman MSS) requiring Acton to bring on his motion at once. Acton declined to do so: he saw the larger issue of the Temporal [159/160] Power in the background (Acton to Döllinger, 17 June 1861, Woodruff MSS.). He countered by offering to resign his responsibility for the prison question. This proved effective: a second meeting of the Club "knocked under" to Acton's letter, and Manning offered him "a sort of apologetic explanation" (A to N, 9 June 1861, Newman MSS). for the part he had taken in the affair. Acton's position had not been shaken, but he had been made to feel very uncomfortable.
A similar pressure had been applied more successfully to Henry Wilberforce, whose Weekly Register was an avowedly Liberal paper, in which Simpson had been able to write critical articles on the Temporal Power. The Rambler seemed now to be quite alone among Catholic periodicals in its independent policy. Acton found himself isolated politically. He had already lost the support of his constituency. "Nothing would induce me to stand for Carlow again after certain proceedings which came to my knowledge long after my election. Moreover they are in other ways a constituency I cannot well represent." He was unhappy with his political role: "I am resolved," he said, "to cling to my obscurity."24
It was difficult for a Liberal Catholic to cling to obscurity under the conditions of the 1860s; it was only possible at the price of keeping silent on the issue of the Temporal Power. The French Liberal Catholics were divided on that issue. Montalembert and Dupanloup upheld the Papal cause, joining in this with Veuillot. Their support of the Temporal Power was connected with their opposition to Napoleon III, who was charged with betraying the Pope to the Italians. Other Liberal Catholics, like Lacordaire, refused to sacrifice their principles to the cause of the Temporal Power; but Lacordaire protested only by his silence. In Italy, Passaglia, a Jesuit, left the Society, fled to Turin and published a [160/161] pamphlet which was placed on the Index; but few followed his example. Acton believed that nine cardinals were in favour of giving up the Temporal Power (A to Döllinger, 4 May 1861, Woodruff MSS). It seemed that the field would be left to the Ultramontanes. Then, in April, Döllinger gave public utterance to his views.
Döllinger had already come to the conclusion that the Temporal Power was destined to fall, and he was distressed by the Ultramontane attempt to commit Catholicism to the defence of a doomed institution. In March 1861, he read in the Weekly Register a report (later denied) that the Pope had said that he had "no illusions; the Temporal Power must fall" (Friedrich, III, 236, 691n2). 26 This led Dbllinger to deliver a series of lectures at the Odeon in Munich, to prepare the public for the impending blow. He argued that the Temporal Power, though legitimate and useful,. was not essential to the Church. Catholics should not despair, nor Protestants rejoice, at its temporary collapse, for the Church would continue to function without it. The disaster which was overtaking the Papal States was the consequence of abuses in the Papal government; but the fall of the Temporal Power might be the means of purifying and regenerating the Church.
The Papacy, with or without territory, has its own function and its appointed mission. . . . Let no one lose faith in the Church if the secular principality of the Pope should disappear for a season, or for ever. It is not essence, but accident; not end, but means; it began late; it was formerly something quite different from what it is now. It justly appears to us indispensable, and as long as the existing order lasts in Europe, it must be maintained at any price; or if it is violently interrupted, it must be restored. But a political settlement of Europe is conceivable in which it would be superfluous, and then it would be an oppressive burden.27
Döllinger had thought that, with the combined authority of a theologian and an historian, he could reconcile Catholics [161/162] to the loss of the Temporal Power. Instead, his lectures provoked a hostile reaction. The Papal Nuncio walked out of the lecture hall as a sign of protest. The newspaper reports stressed the more sensational aspect of the lectures, the criticism of the Roman government and the prediction of its overthrow; this made it appear that Döllinger had simply come out in opposition to the Temporal Power. No authentic text of the lectures was published,and the public was left to form its conclusions from these misleading reports.
A very severe criticism of Döllinger's lectures was made by the Dublin Review. E. S. Purcell, Manning's protéhé and future biographer, charged in Döllinger and the Temporal Power of the Popes" that Döllinger had given aid and comfort to the enemies of the Church by a half-hearted defence of the Temporal Power which was worse than outright opposition. Döllinger was criticized for being "hard, dry, and critical," for a "supreme and sovereign disregard" of the utterances of ecclesiastical authorities and for an "intellectual Protestantism which shrinks from or evades the supernatural character of the Papacy." Purcell concluded that Döllinger "had no business to give out an uncertain sound, or even to cast doubts upon the wisdom of the course which the Papacy is pursuing" (XCIX May 1861, 200, 215, 231). The Tablet was also severely critical.
The views which so offended the Dublin Review were welcome to Acton. Acton's dislike of the Temporal Power was perhaps greater than Döllinger's. Acton's letters in the spring of 1861 show how dissatisfied he was with the policies of the Papacy:
Dante is condemned for saying in his time what I would say in ours. He did not stop at the consideration of what would suit the popes, but went on to think of the good of religion and of certain morals, rights and duties, beyond certain religious or rather ecclesiastical interests. The papacy had forfeited the leadership, and the life of the Church beat more warmly in other places than at the head. Have we not lived. to see the same thing? The revival of faith in this century has left the papacy behind. [A to S, 20 March 1861, Gasquet, p. 180]
[162/163]The outspokenness of Döllinger's lectures, as reported in the press, was a relief to Acton. He hastily prepared a summary of the lectures for the May Rambler. It was made clear that the Rambler was in agreement with Döllinger's views (V May 1861, 139-140). The summary was based on the newspaper reports but was not an inaccurate representation of Döllinger's views. See A to Döllinger, 4 May 1861, Woodruff MSS., for Acton's excitement over Döllinger's speaking "for the Church against the States of the Church."
The policy of the Rambler was regarded with suspicion and distaste by the authorities in Rome. This was largely due to the influence of Monsignor Talbot. As the Pope's chamberlain and favourite, consultor of Propaganda, and Wiseman's agent in Rome, Talbot exercised a great influence on English affairs. A convert who had adopted the most extreme Ultramontane views, Talbot was strongly opposed to any sign of an English national spirit within the Church and to any activity of the laity in ecclesiastical affairs: "What is the province of the laity? To hunt, to shoot, to entertain" (Talbot to Manning, 25 April 1867, quoted by Ward, Life of Newman, II, 147). Talbot had long been suspicious of the Rambler; in 1859 he had arranged for copies to be sent to him regularly so that he could report on its conduct to the Roman authorities (Talbot to Canon Patterson, 22 Oct. 1859, Westminster Archives).
In May 1861, Talbot learned of the Rambler's favourable review of Döllinger's lectures. He wrote to Manning, proposing that the bishops should censure the Rambler and stating that he would probably be obliged to delate the article to the proper ecclesiastical authority (Talbot to Manning, 10 May 1861, cited in Purcell, II, 165.). Manning replied on 4 June that he hoped "before long to be able to report the cessation of the Rambler (Manning to Talbot, 4 June 1861, ibid., p. 384). On 10 June Talbot wrote directly to Wiseman, denouncing the "detestable" tone of the Rambler, and singling out for criticism two articles in the last number, Simpson's criticism of St. Pius V and Acton's report of Döllinger's lectures. He concluded by expressing the hope that the Rambler would be suppressed (Talbot to Wiseman, 10 June 1861, Westminster Archives).
Meanwhile Talbot had brought the Rambler to the attention [163/164] of the Roman authorities. Cardinal Antonelli, the Secretary of State, had been unhappy about the failure of the Irish Catholic members of Parliament to vote against a government which was hostile to the Temporal Power; he now concluded that their behaviour was due to the influence of the Rambler. The May Rambler had contained "Catholic Policy," an article urging continued support of the Liberals (pp. 1-17) and a criticism of Bowyer's conduct in the debate on the Temporal Power (pp. 126-9). The "significant silence" of most of the Catholic members during that debate was noticed by Oxenham, reviewing Döllinger's lectures in the Edinburgh Review (CXVI July 1862, 264). In June Antonelli wrote a formal letter to Wiseman, "connecting the support given to government by Catholic members with things that have appeared in the Rambler" (A to N, 19 June 1861, cited in Ward, I, 522). Under pain of censure from Rome, the Rambler was required to come out unequivocally for the Temporal Power and to repudiate its support of the Liberal Government.
This was the first time that the Rambler, accustomed to conflicts with the English hierarchy, had been dealt with by the authorities in Rome. "It is worth observing," said Newman, "that the R[ambler] has been untouched, till politics came in" (N to A, 20 June 1861, Woodruff MSS). It was the politics of the Rambler, and not its theology or philosophy, which first brought it into conflict with Rome.
On 18 June, Manning, acting as Wiseman's agent, informed Acton of Antonelli's letter. Manning warned Acton that a censure was impending from Rome and urged him to escape it by giving up the Rambler.
Then he said that the Rambler had appeared to him of late less Catholic in spirit and tendency, and was doing harm, and that it was highly desirable to put an end to it altogether. The points of difference were numerous enough, both as to history and metaphysics, but from his own statements as to my articles on the Roman question not being up to the mark, and Anglican in tone, and from the connexion I perceive in the minds of people in Rome between the Rambler and the support given to ministers in parliament, it is obvious that the present political question is the decisive cause [A to N, 19 June 186 1, portion cited in Woodruff, p. 26]. [164/165]
Acton declined to give up the Rambler, and explained his position to Manning. He thought that Manning's "personal kindness was extreme" (A to N, 19 June 1861, in Ward, I, 523). Up to this time Acton's relations with Manning had been friendly. But Manning had no personal sympathies where the will of the Pope was concerned; and Acton's refusal to submit made him an enemy for life.
Engaged in controversy over history, philosophy and politics, under attack both in England and in Rome, Acton was now made to feel the isolation of his position. Outside the small group of writers for the Rambler, there was only one English Catholic to whom he might turn for sympathyNewman. Although Newman had dissociated himself from the Rambler after the X.Y.Z. affair, he still maintained a friendly correspondence with Acton. He had never fully explained to Acton and Simpson the extent to which he differed from them; he did not wish to inflict pain or to add to their troubles. On the question of the Temporal Power Newman was in full agreement withthe Liberal Catholics. Acton was impatient at his silence: "He ought to be ashamed not to pronounce himself" (A to S, 2 May 1861, Gasquet, p. 188). Acton told Döllinger that he found Newman tired and unhappy, and hoped that Döllinger would encourage Newman to undertake some scholarly project that would banish his Lebensabendstimmung (A to Döllinger, 4 May 1861, Woodruff MSS).
On 4 June, Acton wrote a plaintive letter to Newman, reciting the troubles with which he was beset: criticism of Simpson's Campion, denunciations in Faber's sermons, rumours of delation to Rome and of Antonelli's letter to Wiseman, attempts to embarrass him politically, and his isolation in Parliament. There were many who agreed with him, Acton said, but they were intimidated and would not speak out. Acton called upon Newman to take the leadership of the Liberal Catholic cause: "I feel very painfully that I am altogether unworthy to be regarded as the champion in this country of the cause which is yours. . . . We are still listening in vain for the voice we most reverence and most love to hear" (A to N, 4 June 1861, Selected , p. 31). This was before Manning had formally notified Acton of the Antonelli letter.[165/166]
Newman was now forced to make his position clear, and he emphatically repudiated the role in which Acton had cast him. He explained the reasons why he would not speak out on the Temporal Power. There was no call on him to speak, and he refused to speak without a call. He had to consider the welfare of the Birmingham Oratory, and he was bound in gratitude to the Pope. "Acordingly I think I fulfill my duty in keeping silence. You may,be sure that people wish me to speak on the other side, and to maintain the Temporal Power. That I have not done, and the omission itself is going a great way" (N to A, 7 June 1861, ibid., pp. 32-3). There are two letters of this date, which together explain Newman's position. Newman agreed with Acton's remarks on the Temporal Power in the May Rambler; but Acton's association with the Rambler, he said, was an impediment to his parliamentary career, embarrassing his position as a representative of English Catholicism. This was due to Simpson's writings, and especially to his life of Campion. Newman thought that Simpson's comments on St. Pius V were unjustified, as "a wanton digression from Campion," an "underhand hit at Antonelli," and "an abrupt, unmeasured attack upon a Saint." Simpson's articles were doing a great disservice to a good cause. "I don't wonder at a saying which I hear reported of a Dominican, that he would like to have the burning of the author" (N to A, 7 June 186 1, quoted by Ward, I, 518-9).
This letter deeply troubled Acton. He could appreciate Newman's reasons for keeping silent on the Temporal Power; but Newman's attitude to Simpson, and his views on history, surprised and dismayed Acton. He defended Simpson's comments on Pius V, saying that not his sanctity but his judgment was impugned and that in matters not of faith saints and popes were subject to criticism like other men. What distressed Acton most was Newman's apparent approval of the Dominican's wish to burn Simpson: "In the saying of your Dominican friend I discern nothing but a dread of that which is one of the foundations of religion and holiness, and a spirit which seems to me more pernicious and more important to oppose than anything which is outside [166/167] the Church.... I really cannot discover a bridge by which I can hope to get over the very wide chasm that seems to me to separate me from you on this point" (A to N, 9 June 1861, Selected, pp. 33-34). Thirty years later, Acton was still troubled by Newman's approval of the Dominican: there are three references to it in CUL Add. MS. 4988.
The chasm was soon widened. On 19 June, Acton informed Newman of the Antonelli letter, of which Manning had just notified him. Acton was determined to carry on the Rambler and suggested that the magazine might evade censure by changing itself into a quarterly review. Newman replied that this would be a difficult task. He was as indignant as Acton at Antonelli's message: "If I were you, nothing would bully me into giving up the Government, if I felt I ought to go with them" (N to A, 20 June 1861, Selected, p. 36). But Newman confessed that he would not be sorry if Acton put an end to the Rambler; and he suggested to Acton that he should retire to Aldenham. to produce a great historical work. In a later letter Newman explained:
It seems to me that a man who opposes legitimate authority is in a false position.... If they do not allow the Rambler to speak against the temporal power, they seem to me tyrannical -- but they have the right to disallow it -- and a Magazine, with a censure upon it from authority, continues at an enormous disadvantage. [N to A, 30 June 1861, quoted by Ward, I, 524.]
Acton was surprised by Newman's attitude. "There is something in your view of the importance belonging to the decrees of authority for which I was not at all prepared.... In political life we should not be deterred, I suppose, by the threat or fear even of excommunication from doing what we should have deemed our duty if no such consideration had presented itself." Acton maintained that having excluded theology from the Rambler, there was nothing left in it over which the ecclesiastical power possessed jurisdiction. He thought the Rambler had a good effect, especially among Protestants, by the spectacle of its independence. This effect would be ruined "if it should appear that the only organ among English Catholics of opinions with which it is possible [167/168] for reasonable Protestants to sympathize was silenced by authority" (A to N, 2 July 1861, cited in Woodruff, "Introduction," p. 24).
Newman replied that the Rambler was in fact in the habit of touching on theological questions; it therefore came under the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical power, which ought to be deferred to. He spoke out most sharply against Simpson. His comments on St. Pius V had been unnecessary and unjustified:
a Saint surely is not to be approached as a common man." It was hopeless to expect Simpson to reform. "He will always be flicking his whip at Bishops, cutting them in tender places, throwing stones at sacred Congregations, and, as he rides along the road, discharging pea-shooters at Cardinals who happen by bad luck to look out of the window. I fear I must say I despair of any periodical in which he has a part.
If the Rambler were silenced, it would not be for its independence, but because it had gone out of its way to assail what was authoritative and venerable.
The Rambler now is in a false position, if authority speaks against it. It has been sufficiently theological and ecclesiastical, to impress the world with the idea that it comes under an ecclesiastical censor, and if it caught it for tilting against Inquisition, Ecumenical Councils, and Saints, the world would be apt to say "Serve him right." This is how it appears to me" (N to A, 5 July 186 1, cited in Ward, I, 528-29).
This letter indicated a cleavage between Newman and the Rambler: "I am very much afraid," Acton wrote to Simpson, "that he will not stand by us if we are censured (A to S, 19 July 186 1, Gasquet, p. 191). Acton insisted to Newman that their difference was a matter of principle: "Has the Church a right to censure me because I say of a canonized Saint that on some occasion he committed an error in judgment, or even a mortal sin?" According to Newman's reasoning, "the fact might be as stated in the article, and yet the statement of the fact would give Rome a right to condemn us. If that were so it would justify the very attacks against which we are most anxious to defend the Church." Acton did not believe that a censure on [168/169] these grounds would require his submission. He conceded that the public might support the authorities who condemned the Rambler, for the public did not admit "the authority of science, or the sanctity of truth for its own sake." But it was the mission of the Rambler to educate this public, to correct its errors by walking in the face of them.
I cannot bear that Protestants should say that the Church cannot be reconciled with the truths or precepts of science, or that Catholics should fear the legitimate and natural progress of the scientific spirit. These two errors seem to me almost identical, and if one is more dangerous than the other, I think it is the last. So that it comes more naturally to me to be zealous against the Catholic mistake than against the Protestant. But the best weapon against both is the same, the encouragement of the true scientific spirit, and the disinterested love of truth (A to N, 8 July 186 1, quoted by Ward, I, 530-31.).
These principles, and not Simpson's pugnacity, explained the Rambler's conflicts with authority. "I always feel," Acton said, "that I am deliberately and systematically farther away from the prevailing sentiments of good and serious Catholics than Simpson with all his imprudence" (p. 332).
After this letter, the correspondence between Acton and Newman tapered off. Newman had shown the limitations of his Liberal Catholicism. He differed from Acton and Simpson on two fundamental points: the theoretical independence of history and the practical duty of submission to authority. Newman's theory of development had opened up for historical exploration the entire field of theology; but Newman himself was inclined to be cautious in applying his theory. He was fearful of the consequences to religion of an entirely disinterested history, of the search for "truth for its own sake" without reference to the effect it might have on the weak and ignorant. He had a distrust of mere scholarship, of unmixed intellectualism; he felt that a certain narrowness was necessary to avoid being overwhelmed by facts which the human mind was unprepared to digest. It was better, he thought, to defer even to uneducated public opinion: [169/170] securus judicat orbis terrarum. It was necessary, in any case, to submit to authority. "Authority, the certain legitimacy and rectitude of its acts, became his centrepiece and refuge. This was what development pointed to" (Acton, CUL Add. MS. 5644, cited in Tonsor, 329 n4; see also Bokenkotter, p. 70). Newman stated his view in the Apologia: "In reading ecclesiastical history . . . it used to be forcibly brought home to me, how the initial error of what afterwards became heresy was the urging forward some truth against the prohibition of authority at an unseasonable time" (pp. 349-50). It should be noted that Newman wrote the Apologia to defend the Catholic clergy against a charge of indifference to "truth for its own sake." Ecclesiastical authority possessed a legitimate power of restraint over the intellect; even when its action appeared to be founded on ignorance and prejudice, there was a presumption that it was right, that its restrictions were ultimately salutary for the progress both of religion and of learning. At the worst, Newman thought, the decisions of authority were entitled to be received with respectful silence.
This revelation of Newman's attitude came as a shock to Acton. Newman's profound submissiveness to authority eventually led Acton to conclude that he was an Ultramontane at heart, whose apparent liberalism was due to mere personal animosity towards the representatives of Ultramontanism in England, an incompatibility of temperament rather than of principles: "he was heart and soul, far more than he ever suffered to appear, an advocate of Rome" (CUL Add. MS. 4989). These were Acton's notes for a projected article on Newman in 1892, intended for the English Historical Review. See Maisie Ward, p. 249). His apparent approval of the Dominican who wished to burn Simpson, and his readiness to justify the intolerant St. Pius V, identified Newman in Acton's mind with the persecutors and Inquisitors. Newman's willingness to subordinate historical truth to ecclesiastical expediency and popular prejudice led Acton to believe that he had no principle of truth independent of religion. Acton spoke in [170/171] later years of his "deep aversion" for Newman, "the most cautious and artful of apologists" (cited in Himmelfarb, pp. 156-7). See also my review of Bokenkotter in Victorian Studies, IV (March 1961), 278-79.
This intellectual divergence from Newman was, however, slow in maturing. For some years, Acton held hopes of reconciling Newman to the Liberal Catholics; his youthful sanguineness delayed his realization of the extent of their disagreement. Nonetheless, 1861 marks a stage in Acton's mental development. He had learned that his views were too advanced for the English Catholics and were opposed by the hierarchy not only in England but in Rome. His youthful dreams of a revived Catholicism, liberal, scientific and ethical, were reduced to the level of a factional programme. Even the one eminent Catholic on whom he had relied for understanding and support-Newman-had failed him. Acton had a glimpse of the isolation of ' his position, foreshadowing the more complete isolation he was to face in later decades. From this time there may be found a certain bitterness in his attitude.
Last modified 8 September 2001