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The Anti-Papal Movement
by [?]

The sincerity of an author sometimes borrows an advantageous illustration from the repulsiveness of his theme. That a subject is dull, however unfortunately it may operate for the impression which he seeks to produce, must at least acquit him of seeking any aid to that impression from alien and meretricious attractions. Is a subject hatefully associated with recollections of bigotry, of ignorance, of ferocious stupidity, of rancour, and of all uncharitableness? In that case, the reader ought to be persuaded that nothing less than absolute consciousness–in that case he ought to know that nothing short of TRUTH (not necessarily as it is, but at least as it appears to the writer) can have availed to draw within an arena of violence and tiger-like acharnement one who, by temperament and by pressure of bodily disease, seeks only for repose. Most unwillingly I enter the ring. Mere disgust at the wicked injustice, which I have witnessed silently through the last three months, forces me into the ranks of the combatants. Mere sympathy with the ill-used gives me any motive for stirring. People have turned Christian from witnessing the torments suffered with divine heroism by Christian martyrs. And I think it not impossible that many hearts may be turned favourably towards Popery by the mere recoil of disgust from the savage insolence with which for three weeks back it has in this country been tied to a stake, and baited. The actors, or at least the leaders, in such scenes seem to forget that Popery has peculiar fascinations of her own; her errors, supposing even all to be errors which Protestantism denounces for such, lie in doctrinal points; but her merit, and her prodigious advantage over Protestantism, lies in the devotional spirit which she is able to kindle and to sustain amongst simple, docile, and confiding hearts. In mere prudence it ought to be remembered, that to love, to trust, to adore, is a far more contagious tendency amongst the poor, the wretched, and the despised, than to question, investigate, and reflect.

How, then, did this movement begin? By that, perhaps, we may learn something of its quality. Who was it that first roused this movement? The greater half of the nation, viz., all the lower classes, cannot be said to have shared in the passions of the occasion; but the educated classes, either upon a sincere impulse, or in a spirit of excessive imitation, have come forward with a perseverance, which (in a case of perils confessedly so vague) is more like a moonstruck infatuation than any other recorded in history. Until Parliament met on the 4th of February, when a Roman Catholic member of the House of Commons first attempted to give some specific account of the legal effects incident to a substitution of bishops for vicars apostolic, no man has made the very cloudiest sketch of the evils that were apprehended, or that could be apprehended, or that were in the remotest way possible. Sir Edward Sugden, indeed, came forward with a most unsatisfactory effort to show how Cardinal Wiseman might be punished, or might be restrained, supposing that he had done wrong; but not at all to show that the Cardinal had done wrong, and far less to show that, if wrong could be alleged, any evils would follow from it. Sir Edward most undoubtedly did not satisfy himself, and so little did he satisfy anybody else, that already his letter is forgotten; nor was it urged or relied upon by any one of the great meetings which succeeded it. Too painful it would be to think that Sir Edward had in this instance stepped forward sycophantically, as so many prominent people undoubtedly did, to meet and to aid a hue and cry of fanaticism simply because it had emanated from a high quarter. But what quarter? Again I ask, who was it that originated this fierce outbreak of bigotry? Much depends upon that. It was Lord John Russell, it was the First Minister of the Crown, that abused the power of his place for a purpose of desperate fanaticism; yes, and for a purpose which his whole life had been dedicated to opposing, to stigmatizing, to overthrowing. Right or wrong, he has to begin life anew. Bigotry may not be bigotry, change of position may show it under a new aspect. But still upon that, which once was called bigotry, Lord John must now take his stand. Neither will ratting a second time avail to set him right. These things do not stand under algebraical laws, as though ratting to the right hand could balance a ratting to the left, and leave the guilt = 0. On the contrary, five rattings, of which each is valued at ten, amount to fifty degrees of crime; or, perhaps, if moral computations were better understood, amount to a crime that swells by some secret geometrical progression unintelligible to man.