Jesuits In Conflict: Or Historic Facts Illustrative of the labours of the English Mission and Province Of The Society Of Jesus. In the times of Queen Elizabeth and her successors. By a member Of The Society Of Jesus.
THOMAS POUNDE, OF BELMONT, S.J. Part IX.
Nor was Pounde at any time alone in these persecutions and troubles. The Catholics generally underwent equal vexation. For although his zeal in professing his faith made him appear more prominent in expressing his opinions and in defence of the Catholic cause than others (as an instance, it once happened that, observing a Priest hesitating before the judges at the question whether the Pope or the Queen should possess supreme power in England in matters ecclesiastical, and in danger of implicating himself by an evasive answer, Pounde openly called out to him, "Say the Pope, for to whom else does the right better belong ?" although to profess this was a capital offence), nevertheless the interests of all classes of men were banded together for the ruin of the Catholics; so that each one, in siw foro, urged on by every effort and diligence the extirpation (if by any means it were possible) of the orthodox faith.
Father Parsons, in a letter dated 17 th November, 1580, to the Rector of the English College, Rome, thus mentions these miserable times 1—"The heat of the persecution is most violent, and such as hath not been since the very constitution of England. The noble, ignoble, men, women, and even children, are dragged off to the prisons; bound in iron fetters, deprived of the light of day, plundered of their property, and as well by public edicts as by speeches and sermons, defamed before the common people as traitors and rebels ! In these past months many men of rank, respectabilty, and wealth, and whoever possesses influence in his own neighbourhood, have been confined in the prisons; and to such an extent that not only are the old prisons of England, but even many new ones that have been built, insufficient to receive the Catholics; and yet pursuivants are despatched in quest of others, indeed the number of them, per Dei gratiam, so daily increases, that the persecutors themselves are well nigh tired out; and indeed all this is pretended to the common people as done for the good of the commonwealth; but in reality religion is attacked."
Nor did Pounde experience at the hands of the judges more justice than he had received from the veritable masters of the truth amongst the Protestants. Norton, 2 one of the assessors or advisers of Hopton, the superintendent of the Tower, and of the slaughter of Priests and Catholics incarcerated there, tried to persuade him, as a means of getting rid of Pounde, and thus saving the honour of their sect, which he both by living and speaking overturned, to declare him mad, and as a madman, to consign him to the infamy and beatings of Bedlam, the London asylum of the violent and insane. There is no record that this wicked advice was acted on; but it is related of the wife of this brutal assessor, that a little while after, she herself became mad, and was confined in the same Bedlam; as a just punishment of God receiving the very same treatment that her husband had, in the face of all justice, designed for Pounde!
Out of a large number of cases of oppression of this sort, Father Bartoli selects the following, which occurred in the last year of Pounde's imprisonment.
Two innocent Catholics, in the county of Lancaster, had been condemned to death by the judges, and had been executed accordingly. To go into particulars of their case would be both a long history and irrelevant to our present narrative. One of these men (it is hardly credible) was cut down before he was half dead, and quartered alive; the other was hung till dead
The judicial process, the guilt of the accused being presumed, but not proved, was so flagrantly contrary to all law, both natural and statute, that the lives of Catholics seemed to have arrived at the lowest estimate, even as that of brute animals, which their owners slaughter at their will, how and when they please.
James of Scotland had a few months before arrived in England, having succeeded to the crown, to which he was heir, on the death of Elizabeth, which happened 24th March, i6of, and to judge of him according to all appearances up to that time, no one could have imagined that he would be so evilly disposed towards Catholics, but that such a wilful slaughter would have displeased him, and that by punishing the iniquity of these judges he would have made an example to deter others, and thus diminish the persecution of the Catholics, which was caused in great part by the hatred of the Protestant ministers. Impressed with this pious, just, and prudent idea, our Pounde drew up, at his own instance, a solemn charge against the iniquitous judgment passed upon the two Catholics at Lancaster, and sent it for presentation to the King. Whether it ever came to hand or not, Pounde was summoned for trial in the court called the Star Chamber, at Westminster, in which court criminals of great note, slanderers, cheats, and similar grave offences are tried.
Here, therefore, he was summoned to be convicted and condemned as a calumniator of the judges of Lancaster before the King. So this court supported the summons of the judges, and proved the fact, that to ruin the Catholics, there was no difference between one tribunal and another.
This trial lasted for eight hours. It occurred 29th November, 1603/4, and more than one 'entire hour was consumed by the Attorney General in a severe invective against slanders, and slanderers, and finally against Thomas himself; in whose case, above all the other Catholics, he made a digression from the cause, to call to the remembrance of the court how it was their fault that Pius V. had fulminated his Bull against Elizabeth, to strip her of her crown; and other similar reminiscences rendering Catholics there most odious. He confronted Pounde, now transformed from an accuser into a criminal, and
constrained him to reveal whence he came to know the nature of the Lancaster judgment, so far distant as it was from Southampton and from London ?
Perhaps he had, throughout, accomplices and confederates by whose means he obtained his information; he must reveal, or they would compel him by torture; and as regarded the condemnation of the two Catholics at Lancaster, the skilful Attorney General affirmed that they were guilty, and that the sentence of the judges was most just; nor to prove it did it cost him more than his mere simple assertion, which passed for truth, equally as though it was the very fact. There were contained in that court three judges for passing sentence, viz., the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Treasurer, and the Lord Chief Justice, to which trio, as the highest in that dignity, was given the surname or style of " Great." Besides these there were Earls, Viscounts, Barons, and other minor officials, the usual number that assembled to form this the highest tribunal. Each one of these spoke in condemnation of Pounde. Whatever he said in his own defence was scornfully listened to; and in fine the Lord Chancellor, taking from the Lord Chief Justice the sentence, pronounced Thomas Pounde condemned in a fine of ;£1,ooo. Besides this, as a slanderer, his ears were to be cut off (his being a Catholic was sufficient to prevent his rank as a cavalier being any protection against his being punished as the vilest of rogues are). But, because (continued the Lord Chancellor) a man of that age (sixty-five years old) perhaps would not be able to survive the pain, instead of it let him be nailed by one of his ears to the public pillar of justice at Westminster; after so many hours let him be unfastened, and taken to Lancaster (a journey of several days) and there let him be nailed by the other ear to the public pillar of justice. This punishment corresponds (says Father Bartoli) with the pillory in Italy, except that there a collar of iron is used to fasten the criminals to that public place of shame, but in England it is done by a nail that pierces the ear, and by that means most effectually fastens the man to the pillar. There was added to the sentence that in both places an infamous mitre should be placed on his head, upon which should be inscribed his offence, which he could never be induced to confess himself. 3
1 More, Hist., I. ii., n. xxi., p. 52.
2 He was the rack-master of the Tower.
3 The punishments awarded by the criminal code, in former times (and these not so far off from our own days), were verily both most excessive and barbarous, and ill-proportioned to the offences, forming a strange contrast with modern times. What would be thought now-a-days of the following— Dom. Jac. Vol. 159, No. 70, 1624, February 22. Letter of Mr. Chamberlain to Dudley Carleton (inter alia). "Moore, an attorney, for speaking ill of Queen Elizabeth and Henry VIII., was sentenced to lose both his ears, and to imprisonment during pleasure. He laughed whilst the sentence was performing in Cheapside."