by D. C. Lathbury
The English Churchman's Library
London: A. R. Mowbray & Co. , 1905
Transcribed by Dr Elizabeth G. Melillo, AD 2001
"Nobis Procuratoribus Non Placet"
With the publication of Tract 90, the Movement entered upon a period of excited conflict. It began with a protest addressed to the editor of the Tracts and signed by four senior tutors of Oxford Colleges. This was followed by a meeting of the Heads of Houses, at which, though they knew that Newman was preparing an explanation, they thought it wiser, instead of waiting for it, to declare that No. 90 "evaded rather than explained the Articles and that to sign them in the sense the writer suggested was 'inconsistent with the observance of the statutes. '" The Bishop of Oxford, Dr Bagot, felt obliged to say something and anxious to say as little as possible. Accordingly, after a long correspondence, the two came to what Newman describes as "a very fair bargain." He was to write a letter making public the Bishop's wish that the Tracts should be discontinued, and his opinion that Tract 90 is "objectionable and may tend to disturb the peace and tranquillity of the Church." As this censure exactly expressed Newman's object in writing the Tract, he could not and did not find any fault with it. None of the Tracts had been intended to preach peace where there was no peace, and their purpose of creating discontent with the state of the Church of England had been answered. The Bishop had in no way confirmed the censure of the Heads of Houses, and the attempt to make Newman's position in the University untenable had failed. Even now, if the bishops could have kept silent on matters on which from their position and training they were wholly unqualified to speak, and, even more perhaps, if Newman could have kept Ward silent, all might have gone well. The division within the Movement had for the time been healed. In presence of the enemy, the Tractarians had come into line. "William Palmer(1) (Worcester), " says Church, in one of the few letters he had occasion to write about Oxford matters, "as soon as the row began, wrote a very kind letter, speaking of No. 90 as the most valuable that has appeared, as likely to break down traditionary interpretations and lead to greater agreement in essentials and toleration of Catholic opinions." Even Dr Hook expressed "approval and concurrence." Pusey seems not to have liked the Tract at first, but before long came to see that, though it would be abused, its main principles would be adopted. Newman's letter to Dr Jelf, containing the explanation for which the Heads had refused to wait, had proved that much support could be found for the "objectionable" Tract in recognised Anglican authorities, and had also shown how far the writer still was from Rome.
The Bishop of Oxford had expressed his entire satisfaction and gratification with Newman's letter to himself, and had assured him that he would "never regret having written it." As a result of all this, Newman found himself at Littlemore in the summer of 1841 without any anxiety on his mind. "I had determined," he says, "to put aside all controversy, and I set myself down to my translation of Saint Athanasius. But between July and November I received three blows which broke me." The first was that he found in the Arian controversy the very same phenomenon, in a far bolder shape, that he had found in the Monophysite. "I saw clearly that in the history of Arianism, the pure Arians were the Protestants, the semi-Arians were the Anglicans, and that Rome was what it now is." In different circumstances this blow might have been got over as the earlier one had been. It was just when he was in "the misery of this new unsettlement, " that the bishops began to charge against the Tracts. The understanding on which the publication had been discontinued was disregarded, and for three years the enormity of what Newman had written was the theme of every Episcopal utterance. Nor were the bishops content with Charges. The Bishop of Winchester refused priest's Orders to Keble's curate because he wished to leave any Presence in the Eucharist, except to the faithful receiver, an open question. The Bishop of London rejected a man "for holding (1) any sacrifice in the Eucharist; (2) the Real Presence; (3) that there is a grace in Ordination." Well might one of their number confess that "when he was appointed Bishop he had not read a word of theology, but since that he had been studying Scott's Bible."(2) Unhappily, ignorance is a great provocative of speech, and the Bishops went on for three whole years delivering Charges which showed that they knew nothing of the great Anglican Divines and very little of the Anglican Prayer Book. "I recognised it," says Newman, "as a condemnation; it was the only one in their power."
But the Episcopate had not exhausted their weapons of offence. In the autumn of 1841, under the provisions of a special Act of Parliament, the Archbishop of Canterbury consecrated a Bishop of Jerusalem and conferred on him "spiritual jurisdiction over the ministers of British congregations of the United Church of England and Ireland and over such other Protestant congregations as may be desirous of placing themselves under his authority." "Now here," writes Newman in the Apologia, "at the very time that the Anglican bishops were directing their censure upon me for avowing an approach to the Catholic Church not closer than I believed the Anglican formularies would allow, they were on the other hand fraternising, by their act or by their sufferance, with Protestant bodies, and allowing them to put themselves under an Anglican bishop, without any renunciation of their errors or regard to the due reception of Baptism or Confirmation; while there was very great reason to suppose that the said Bishop was intended to make converts from the Orthodox Greeks, and the schismatical Oriental bodies, by means of the influence of England. This was the third blow which finally shattered my faith in the Anglican Church." And yet even this blow might not have had the effect which Cardinal Newman here attributes to it, if the Oxford authorities had not shown themselves as hostile to the Anglican as to the Romanizing side of the Movement. Their attack upon Pusey, in 1843, was quite as bitter as their attack upon Ward in 1845.
On the 24th of May in the former year Pusey preached a sermon on the Eucharist, in which, says Church, "he spoke of it as a disciple of Andrewes and Bramhall would speak of it; it was a High Anglican sermon, full, after the example of the Homilies, Jeremy Taylor, and devotional writers like George Herbert and Bishop Ken, of the fervent language of the Fathers; and that was all. Beyond this it did not go; its phraseology was strictly within Anglican limits." But, though it did not go beyond High Anglicanism, it went a great deal beyond the Heads. Probably, indeed, few of them had read it; the collocation of the subject and the preacher was enough for the rest. Pusey preaching on the Lord's Supper must be a Papist in intention; if he did not appear to be one in fact that only made him more dangerous. Dr Faussett, the Margaret Professor of Divinity, "delated" the sermon to the Vice-Chancellor. The Vice-Chancellor appointed six Doctors of Divinity to examine it, one of them being Dr Faussett, the accuser. Dr Pusey asked for a hearing but received no answer. The six Doctors met, and, it is to be supposed, deliberated. But no offending passages were cited, no accusation of heresy was ever formulated, no reasons for the action of the Doctors were ever given. Without explanation, without even a notification to the University, Dr Pusey was suspended from preaching before the University for two years.
It is difficult, at this distance of time, and after the complete change that has passed over Oxford, to call up the feelings which censures by the University authorities then excited. We have to remind ourselves that, though the Movement had already spread far beyond Oxford, it still, in a very special sense, belonged to Oxford. There was its author and leader, there were all his lieutenants, there its early triumphs had been won. The regeneration of Oxford had been from the first one of its chief objects. Before Pusey, in particular, had risen "the vision of a revived great Christian University, roused and quickened to a sense of its powers and responsibilities." Roused and quickened Oxford had been, but with what result? The condemnation of Mr Newman and the suspension of Dr Pusey. And, if the eye turned from the authorities of the University to the authorities of the Church, the prospect was no more encouraging. "I do so despair of the Church of England," wrote Newman in this very year, "and am so evidently cast off by her." This we can hardly doubt was precisely the feeling which the authorities wished to create in his mind and there were no means too base for adoption provided that they answered the purpose.
Another consequence of this step, which Newman foresaw as possible, had in the end a still more disturbing effect on him. It might, he thought, "tend to alienate still more from the Church persons of whose attachment to it there is already cause to be suspicious.." To be "suspicious" of Mr W.G. Ward's attachment to the English Church was already to stop far short of the conclusion which facts justified. His quarrel with the Articles went far deeper than Newman's. It "was not about the sacraments, nor about their language on alleged Roman errors, but about the doctrine of grace, the relation of the soul of man to the law, the forgiveness, the holiness of God - the doctrine, that is, in all its bearings, of justification." In the statements of the Articles on these points Newman "found nothing but was perfectly capable of a sound and true meaning." Ward, on the contrary, read the Lutheran theory in or into all of them, and in its "abstract nature and necessary tendency" that theory sank, he thought, "below atheism itself." It is difficult to understand how, with these views, Ward remained so long in the Church of England. Probably he would have been hard put to it if he had tried to explain his own position. Devotion to Newman goes a long way, no doubt, to account for it, and the rest must be set down to his theory that, though no longer believing the Church of England to be a part of the Catholic body, he might remain on the wreck in the hope of getting more of the passengers to join him in the secession to which, as we must suppose, he all along looked forward at some future time.
The method of his secession, when it came, puts this state of mind in a very clear light. Mrs Ward was copying an article in which the Church of Rome was recognised by him, at it had been for the last two or three years, as the true Church. She broke down when she had copied half of it. "I cannot stand it," she said, "I shall go and be received into the Catholic Church." His wife's resolution led Mr Ward to look for a moment at his own condition. "A little sooner or later makes no difference," he said, "I will go with you."
It is easy to conceive the disturbing influence which such a disciple must have had upon Newman's mind. He had retired from leadership, and allowed his followers to go each his own way. But Ward refused to go his own way, or rather he insisted on dragging Newman with him along the path he had chosen. Church has left us a vivid description of a process which he must have closely and sorrowfully watched. During all this time he was in constant communication with Newman, and constantly, we may be sure, consulted by him. But one disciple cannot hinder another from seeking guidance from their common master, and in form it was guidance that Ward asked for, though in fact it was something quite different. "He was in the habit of appealing to Mr Newman to pronounce on the soundness of his principles and inferences, with the view of getting Mr Newman's sanction for them against more timid or more dissatisfied friends; and he would come down with great glee on objectors to some new and startling position, with the reply, 'Newman says so.' " But the appeals which enabled Ward to give this reply were disastrous in their results upon Newman in the state of "perplexity, distress, anxiety" in which he then was. His conviction of the greatness of the problem presented to him, his sense of the "tremendous responsibilities" alike to himself and to others which pressed on him from every side, disposed him above all things to reserve and silence. These only could give him time for looking at his position all round, for weighing and balancing against one another the many considerations which pressed upon him, for taking each separate step when, and only when, he was thoroughly satisfied it was the right one.
It was in this state of mind, writes Church, that, "he had, besides bearing his own difficulties to return off-hand and at the moment, some response to questions which he had not framed, which he did not care for, on which he felt no call to pronounce, which he was not perhaps yet ready to face, and to answer which he must commit himself irrevocably and publicly to more than he was prepared for…. He had continually to accept conclusions which he would rather have kept in abeyance, to make admissions which were used without their qualifications, to push on and sanction extreme ideas which he himself shrank from because they were extreme. But it was all over with his command of time, his liberty to make up his mind slowly on the great decision. He had to go at Mr Ward's pace, and not his own." Whether Ward's influence did more than hurry Newman forwards - whether, had more time been left in which to frame his decision, the decision itself might have been different, whether longer delay might have made the horoscope of the English Church seem less hopeless, - it is impossible to say. It is just conceivable, if no more, that he had been left alone during this interval the course taken by his own mind might have been different, and that the events which in the end determined it might not have happened. For these events were themselves the result of Ward's own action. His speculations took shape in 1844 in a volume of 600 paged - The Ideal of a Christian Church Considered in Comparison with Existing Practice - and it was the publication of this book that, for the time, brought the Movement about the ears of all who took part in it.
At the beginning of the October Term the Heads of Houses appointed a committee to examine the Ideal, and as a result of their labours notice was given that the Convocation would be asked (1) to condemn Mr Ward's book; (2) to deprive the author of his University degrees; and (3) to make every one who subscribed the Articles declare that he accepted them in the sense in which they were first put forth, and were now imposed by the University. The third proposal was at once denounced, and not by Tractarians only, as a new test; and so violent was the opposition it excited that three weeks before the day of voting the vice-chancellor announced its withdrawal. The Heads then tried to gain the same end in a way more likely, as they thought, to succeed, and one which would have the additional recommendation of disgracing "a greater name than Mr Ward's." In place of the withdrawn test they decided to submit to Convocation a decree embodying their own censure to Tract 90. Convocation met on the 13th of February, 1845. The condemnation of the Ideal was carried by 777 votes to 386; the degradation of its author by 569 to 511; the incongruous effect of the penalty - which only sentenced Ward to wear and undergraduate's gown - and its doubtful legality accounting for the largeness of the minority. With these victories, however, the Heads had to be content. The Proctors had by the University Statutes the right of vetoing a decree in Convocation, and the Proctors for the year, Guillemard of Trinity, and Church of Oriel, had already announced to the Hebdomadal Board their intention to veto the condemnation of Tract 90. The effect of this could only be suspensive, for the Proctors' year of office was nearly at an end, and their successors would not be chosen from the same colleges. For the moment, however, it was decisive, and, as it turned out, the Proctors had rightly interpreted the feeling of the University. The decree was not again brought forward. The scene in the Theatre has been well described by James Mozley. When the resolution was proposed "a shout of 'Non' was raised, and resounded through the whole building, and 'Placets' from the other side, over which Guillemard's Nobis procuratoribus non placet was heard like a trumpet, and cheered enormously…. Without any formal dissolution, indeed without a word more being spoken, as if such an interposition stopped all business, the vice-chancellor tucked up his gown and hurried out of the Theatre, and in five minutes the whole scene of action was cleared."
A letter from Church to his mother says of the proceedings: "The University has committed itself to measures which, whatever Ward has said, are flagrantly disproportionate to his offence, and to the punishment which has been inflicted on much greater offenders, if they have been visited at all. The only thing to relieve the day has been the extreme satisfaction I had in helping to veto the third iniquitous measure against Newman. It was worthwhile being Proctor to have had the unmixed pleasure of doing this." "Helping to veto" is a good example of Church's customary manner of describing his own acts. That he was really the author of the step which he and his colleague decided to take is, alike from his character and from his friendship with Newman, the more natural and probable account. "It was the Dean's way," writes Canon Buckle, who, in 1845, was a Junior Fellow of Oriel, "then, as always, to be an invisible force, not conspicuously acting or speaking himself, but influencing others who did speak and act." At all events, the joint nobis procuratoribus non placet stands out as one of the most dramatic incidents in the story of the Movement.
2. Letters and Correspondence
of John Henry Newman, vol. II, page 340. Ed. 1898.