Acton-Creighton Correspondence (1887) | Online Library of Liberty (2024)

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Acton-Creighton Correspondence

Letter 1

Cannes, April 5, 1887

Dear Mr. Creighton,

I thank you very sincerely for your letter,which, though dated April 1, is asfrank as my review was artful and reserved. The postponement gives me time tocorrect several errors besides those you point out, if youwill let me have my manuscript out here. The other will also be thebetter for leisurely revision. Forgive me if I answer you with a diffusenessdegenerating into garrulity.

The criticism of those who complained thatI attacked the Germans without suggesting a better method seems to meundeserved. I was trying to indicate the progress and—partial—improvement oftheir historical writing; and when I disagreed I seldom said so, but rathertried to make out a possible case in favour of views I don’t share. Nobody canbe more remote than I am from the Berlin and the Tübingen schools; but I triedto mark my disagreement by the lightest touch. From the Heidelberg school Ithink there is nothing to learn, and I said so. Perhaps I have been ambiguoussometimes, for you say that appreciation such as yours for the essentials ofthe Roman system is no recommendation in my eyes. If that conclusion is drawnfrom my own words I am much in fault. But that has nothing of importance to dowith a critique in the H. R. [English Historical Review].

And when you say that I am desirous to showhow the disruption might have been avoided, I only half recognise myself. Thedisruption took place over one particular, well-defined point of controversy;and when they went asunder upon that, the logic of things followed. But theyneeded not to part company on that particular. It was a new view that Lutherattacked. Theological authority in its favour there was very little. It was not approved byHadrian VI, or by many Tridentine divines, or by many later divines, even amongthe Jesuits. Supposing, therefore, there had been men of influence at Rome suchas certain fathers of Constance formerly, or such as Erasmus or Gropper, itmight well have been that they would have preferred the opinion of Luther tothe opinion of Tetzel, and would have effected straightway the desired reformof the indulgences for the Dead.

But that is what set the stone rolling, andthe consequences were derived from that one special doctrine or practice. Cessantecausa cessat effectus. Introduce, in 1517, the reforms desired six yearslater, by the next Pope, demanded by many later divines, adopt, a century and ahalf before it was written, the Exposition de la Foi, and then the particularseries of events which ensued would have been cut off.

For the Reformation is not like theRenaissance or the Revolution, a spontaneous movement springing up in manyplaces, produced by similar though not identical causes. It all derives, moreor less directly, from Luther, from the consequences he gradually drew from theresistance of Rome on that one disputed point.

I must, therefore, cast the responsibilityon those who refused to say, in 1517,what everybody had said two centuries before, andmany said a century later. And the motive of these people was not a religiousidea, one system of salvation setup against another; but an ecclesiastical one.They said, Prierias says quite distinctly, that the whole fabric of authoritywould crumble if a thing permitted, indirectly or implicitly sanctioned by thesupreme authority responsible for souls should be given up.

(The English disruption proceeded alongother lines, but nearly parallel. Nearly the same argument applies to it, andit is not just now the question.)

Of course, an adversary, a philosophicalhistorian, a Dogmenge­schichtslehrer,may say that, even admitting that things arose and went on as I say,yet there was so much gunpowder about that any spark would have produced muchthe same explosion. I cannot disprove it. I do not wish to disprove it. But Iknow nothing about it. We must take things as they really occurred. What occurredis that Luther raised a just objection, that the authority of tradition and thespiritual interest of man were on his side, and that the Catholic divinesrefused to yield to him for a reason not founded on tradition or on charity.

Therefore I lay the burden of separation onthe shoulders of two sets of men—those who, during the Vicechancellorship and the pontificate of Borgia, promoted the theory of thePrivileged Altars (and indirectly the theory of the Dispensing Power); andthose who, from 1517 to 1520, sacrificed the tradition of theChurch to the credit of the Papacy.

Whether the many reforming rills, partlyspringing in different regions—Wyclif, the Bohemians before Hus, Hus, theBohemians after him, the Fratres Communis Vitae, the divines described byUllmann, and more than twenty other symptoms of somewhat like kind, would havegathered into one vast torrent, even if Luther had been silenced by knife orpen, is a speculative question not to be confounded with the one herediscussed. Perhaps America would have gone, without the help of Grenville orNorth.

My object is not to show how disruptionmight have been avoided, but how it was brought on. It was brought on, secundome, by the higher view of the papal monarchy inspirituals that grew with the papal monarchy in temporals (and with much othermonarchy). The root, I think, is there, while the Italian prince is the branch.To the growth of those ideas after the fall of the Councils I attribute whatfollowed, and into that workshop or nursery I want to pry. If Rovere or Borgiahad never sought or won territorial sovereignty, the breach must have come justthe same, with the Saxons if not with the English.

I was disappointed at not learning from youwhat I never could find out, how that peculiar discipline established itself atRome between the days of Kempis and of Erasmus. It would not have appearedmysterious or esoteric to your readers if I had said a little more about it.Nor is this a point of serious difference. When you come to talk of the crisisI do not doubt you will say how it came about. Probably you will not give quitethe same reasons that occur to me, because you are more sure than I am that thebreach was inevitable. But I did think myself justified in saying that thesetwo volumes do not contain an account of some of the principal thingspertaining to the Papacy during the Reformation, and in indicating the sort ofexplanation I desiderate in Vol. V.

What is not at all a question ofopportunity or degree is our difference about the Inquisition. Here again I donot admit that there is anything esoteric in my objection. The point is notwhether you like the Inqui­sition—I mean that is a point which the H.R. maymark, but ought not to discuss—but whether you can, without reproach to historical accuracy, speak of the later mediaevalpapacy as having been tolerant and enlightened. What you say on that pointstruck me exactly as it would strike me to read that the French Terrorists weretolerant and enlightened, and avoided the guilt of blood. Bear with me whilst Itry to make my meaning quite clear.

We are not speaking of the Papacy towardsthe end of the fifteenth or early sixteenth century, when, for a couple ofgenerations, and down to 1542,there was a decided lull in the persecuting spirit. Nor are wespeaking of the Spanish Inquisition, which is as distinct from the Roman as thePortuguese, the Maltese, or the Venetian. I mean the Popes of the thirteenthand fourteenth centuries, from Innocent III down to the time of Hus. These meninstituted a system of Persecution, with a special tribunal, specialfunctionaries, special laws. They carefully elaborated, and developed, andapplied it. They protected it with every sanction, spiritual and temporal. Theyinflicted, as far as they could, the penalties of death and damnation oneverybody who resisted it. They constructed quite a new system of procedure,with unheard of cruelties, for its maintenance. They devoted to it a whole codeof legislation, pursued for several generations, and not to be found in [ ].

But although not to be found there it is tobe found in books just as common; it is perfectly familiar to every RomanCatholic student initiated in canon law and papal affairs; it has been wornthreadbare in a thousand controversies; it has been constantly attacked,constantly defended, and never disputed or denied, by any Catholic authority.There are some dozens of books, some of them official, containing theparticulars.

Indeed it is the most conspicuous fact inthe history of the mediaeval papacy, just as the later Inquisition, with whatfollowed, is the most conspicuous and characteristic fact in the history andrecord of the modern papacy. A man is hanged not because he can or cannot provehis claim to virtues, but because it can be proved that he has committed aparticular crime. That one action overshadows the rest of his career. It isuseless to argue that he is a good husband or a good poet. The one crime swellsout of proportion to the rest. We all agree that Calvin was one of the greatestwriters, many think him the best religious teacher, in the world. But that oneaffair of Servetus outweighs the nine folios, and settles, by itself, thereputation he deserves. So with the mediaeval Inquisition and the Popes thatfounded it and worked it. That is the breaking point, the articleof their system by which they stand or fall.

Therefore it is better known than any otherpart of their government, and not only determines the judgment but fills theimagination, and rouses the passions of mankind. I do not complain that it doesnot influence your judgment. Indeed I see clearly how a mild and conciliatoryview of Persecution will enable you to speak pleasantly and inoffensively ofalmost all the performers in your list, except More and Socinius; whilst a manwith a good word for More and Socinius would have to treat the other actors inthe drama of the Reformation as we treat the successive figures on the inclinedplane of the French Revolution, from Dumouriez to Barras. But what amazes anddisables me is that you speak of the Papacy not as exercising a just severity,but as not exercising any severity. You do not say, these misbelievers deservedto fall into the hands of these torturers and Fire-the-fa*ggots; but you ignore,you even deny, at least implicitly, the existence of the torture-chamber andthe stake.

I cannot imagine a more inexplicable error,and I thought I had contrived the gentlest formula of disagreement in couplingyou with Cardinal Newman.

The same thing is the case with Sixtus IVand the Spanish Inquisition. What you say has been said by Hefele and Gams andothers. They, at least, were in a sort, avowed defenders of the SpanishInquisition. Hefele speaks of Ximenes as one might speak of Andrewes or Tayloror Leighton. But in what sense is the Pope not responsible for the constitutionby which he established the new tribunal? If we passed a law giving Dufferinpowers of that sort, when asked for, we should surely be responsible. No doubt,the responsibility in such a case is shared by those who ask for a thing. Butif the thing is criminal, if, for instance, it is a license to commit adultery,the person who authorises the act shares the guilt of the person who commitsit. Now the Liberals think Persecution a crime of a worse order than adultery,and the acts done by Ximenes considerably worse than the entertainment of Romancourtesans by Alexander VI. The responsibility exists whether the thingpermitted be good or bad. If the thing be criminal, then the authoritypermitting it bears the guilt. Whether Sixtus is infamous or not depends on ourview of persecution and absolutism. Whether he is responsible or not dependssimply on the ordinary evidence of history.

Here, again, what I said is not in any waymysterious or esoteric. It appeals to no hidden code. It aims at no secretmoral. It supposes nothing and implies nothing but what is universally currentand familiar. It is the common, even the vulgar, code I appeal to.

Upon these two points we differ widely;still more widely with regard to the principle by which you undertake to judgemen. You say that people in authority are not [to] be snubbed or sneezed atfrom our pinnacle of conscious rectitude. I really don’t know whether youexempt them because of their rank, or of their success and power, or of theirdate. The chronological plea may have some little value in a limited sphere ofinstances. It does not allow of our saying that such a man did not know rightfrom wrong, unless we are able to say that he lived before Columbus, beforeCopernicus, and could not know right from wrong. It can scarcely apply to thecentre of Christendom, 1500 afterthe birth of our Lord. That would imply that Christianity is a mere system ofmetaphysics, which borrowed some ethics from elsewhere. It is rather a systemof ethics which borrowed its metaphysics elsewhere. Progress in ethics means aconstant turning of white into black and burning what one has adored. There islittle of that between St. John and the Victorian era.

But if we might discuss this point until wefound that we nearly agreed, and if we do argue thoroughly about theimpropriety of Carlylese denunciations, and Pharisaism in history, I cannotaccept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with afavourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption itis the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases.Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility.Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men arealmost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority:still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption byauthority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holderof it. That is the point at which the negation of Catholicism and the negationof Liberalism meet and keep high festival, and the end learns to justify themeans. You would hang a man of no position, like Ravaillac; but if what one hearsis true, then Elizabeth asked the gaoler to murder Mary, and William IIIordered his Scots minister to extirpate a clan. Here are the greater namescoupled with the greater crimes. You would spare these criminals, for somemysterious reason. I would hang them, higher than Haman, for reasons ofquite obvious justice; still more, still higher, for the sake of historicalscience.

The standard having been lowered inconsideration of date, is to be still further lowered out of deference tostation. Whilst the heroes of history become examples of morality, thehistorians who praise them, Froude, Macaulay, Carlyle, become teachers ofmorality and honest men. Quite frankly, I think there is no greater error. Theinflexible integrity of the moral code is, to me, the secret of the authority,the dignity, the utility of history. If we may debase the currency for the sakeof genius, or success, or rank, or reputation, we may debase it for the sake ofa man’s influence, of his religion, of his party, of the good cause whichprospers by his credit and suffers by his disgrace. Then history ceases to be ascience, an arbiter of controversy, a guide of the wanderer, the upholder ofthat moral standard which the powers of earth, and religion itself, tendconstantly to depress. It serves where it ought to reign; and it serves theworst better than the purest.

Let me propose a crux whereby to partapologetic history from what I should like to call conscientious history: anItalian government was induced by the Pope to set a good round price on theheads of certain of its subjects, presumably Protestants, who had got away.Nobody came to claim the reward. A papal minister wrote to the government inquestion to say that the Holy Father was getting impatient, and hoped to hearsoon of some brave deed of authentic and remunerated homicide. The writer ofthat letter lies in the most splendid mausoleum that exists on earth; he hasbeen canonized by the lawful, the grateful, the congenial authority of Rome;his statue, in the attitude of blessing, looks down from the Alps upon theplain of Lombardy; his likeness is in our churches; his name is upon ouraltars; his works are in our schools. His editor specially commends the letterI have quoted; and Newman celebrates him as a glorious Saint.

Here is all you want, and more. He livedmany a year ago; he occupied the highest stations, with success and honour; heis held in high, in enthusiastic reverence by the most intelligent Catholics,by converts, by men who, in their time, have drunk in the convictions, haplythe prejudices, of Protestant England; the Church that holds him up as a mirrorof sanctity stands and falls with his good name; thousands of devout men andwomen would be wounded and pained if you call him an infamous assassin.

What shall we call him? In foroconscientiae,what do you think of the man or of his admirers? What should youthink of Charlotte Corday if, instead of Marat, she had stabbed Borromeo? Atwhat stage of Dante’s pilgrimage should you expect to meet him?

And whereas you say that it is norecommendation in my eyes to have sympathy with the Roman system in itsessentials, though you did not choose those terms quite seriously, one mightwonder what these essentials are. Is it essential—for salvation within the communionof Rome—that we should accept what the canonization of such a saint implies, orthat we should reject it? Does Newman or Manning, when he invokes St. Charles[Borromeo], act in the essential spirit of the Roman system, or in directcontradiction with it? To put it in a walnutshell: could a man be saved whoallowed himself to be persuaded by such a chain of argument, by such a cloud ofwitnesses, by such a concourse of authorities, to live up to the example of St.Charles?

Of course I know that you do sometimescensure great men severely. But the doctrine I am contesting appears in yourpreface, and in such places as where you can hardly think that a pope can be apoisoner. This is a far larger question of method in history than what you meanwhen you say that I think you are afraid to be impartial; as if you werewriting with purposes of conciliation and in oppostion to somebody who thinksthat the old man of the Seven Mountains is worse than the old man of one. I donot mean that, because your language about the Inquisition really baffles andbewilders me. Moreover, you are far more severe on Sixtus about the Pazzi thanothers; more, for instance, than Capponi or Reumont. And my dogma is not thespecial wickedness of my own spiritual superiors, but the general wickedness ofmen in authority—of Luther and Zwingli and Calvin and Cranmer and Knox, of MaryStuart and Henry VIII, of Philip II and Elizabeth, of Cromwell and Louis XIV,James and Charles and William, Bossuet and Ken. Before this, it is a mere detailthat imperfect sincerity is a greater reproach in divines than in laymen, andthat, in our Church, priests are generally sacrilegious; and sacrilege is aserious thing. Let me add one word to explain my objection to your use ofmaterials. Here is Pastor, boasting that he knows much that you do not. He doesnot stand on a very high level, and even his religion seems to be chieflyecclesiastical. But I do apprehend that his massive information will give himan advantage over you when he gets farther. In that light I regret whateverdoes not tend to increase the authority of a work written on such Culturstufe as yours. I did not mean to overlook what may be urged per contra. When you began there was no rival more jealous than Gregorovius.That is not the case now. I should have wished your fortification to bestrengthened against a new danger.

I am sure you will take this long andcontentious letter more as a testimony of heart confidence and respect than ofhostility—although as far as I grasp your method I don’t agree with it. Mineseems to me plainer and safer; but it has never been enough to make me try towrite a history, from mere want of knowledge. I will put it into canons,leaving their explanation and development to you.

Iremain, yours most sincerely

Acton

Letter 2

Advice to persons about to write History:Don’t. Visit the Monte Purgatorio, as Austin called the Magnesian rock thatyields Epsom Salts; or: Get rid of Hole and Corner Buffery.

In the Moral Sciences Prejudice isDishonesty.

A Historian has to fight againsttemptations special to his mode of life, temptations from Country, Class,Church, College, Party, authority of talents, solicitation of friends.

The most respectable of these influencesare the most dangerous.

The historian who neglects to root them outis exactly like a juror who votes according to his personal likes or dislikes.

In judging men and things, Ethics go beforeDogma, Politics or Nationality.

The Ethics of History cannot bedenominational.

Judge not according to the orthodox standardof a system, religious, philosophical, political, but according as thingspromote or fail to promote the delicacy, integrity and authority of Conscience.

Put Conscience above both System andSuccess.

History provides neither compensation forsuffering nor penalties for wrong.

The moral code, in its main lines, is notnew; it has long been known; it is not universally accepted in Europe, evennow. The difference in moral insight between past and present is not verylarge.

But the notion and analysis of Conscienceis scarely older than 1700; and the notion and analysis of veracity is scarcelyolder than our time—barring Sacred Writings of East and West.

In Christendom, time and place do notexcuse—if the Apostle’s Code sufficed for Salvation.

Strong minds think things out, complete thecircle of their thinking, and must not be interpreted by types.

Good men and great men are ex vitermini, aloof from the action of surroundings.

But goodness generally appeared in unisonwith authority, sustained by environment, and rarely manifested the force andsufficiency of the isolated will and conscience.

The Reign of Sin is more universal, theinfluence of unconscious error is less, than historians tell us. Good and evillie close together. Seek no artistic unity in character.

History teaches a Psychology which is notthat of private experience and domestic biography.

The principles of public morality are asdefinite as those of the morality of private life; but they are not identical.

A good cause proves less in a man’s favourthan a bad cause against him.

The final judgment depends on the worstaction.

Character is tested by true sentiments morethan by conduct. A man is seldom better than his word.

History is better written from letters thanfrom histories: let a man criminate himself.

No public character has ever stood therevelation of private utterance and correspondence.

Be prepared to find that the best reputegives way under closer scrutiny.

In public life, the domain of History, viceis less than crime.

Active, transitive sins count for more thanothers.

The greatest crime is Homicide.

The accomplice is no better than theassassin; the theorist is worse.

Of killing from private motives or frompublic, from political or from religious, eadem est ratio. Morally, the worst is the last. The source of crime is parsmelior nostri. What ought to save, destroys. Thesinner is hardened and proof against Repentance.

Faith must be sincere. When defended by sinit is not sincere; theologically, it is not Faith. God’s grace does not operateby sin.

Transpose the nominative and the accusativeand see how things look then.

History deals with Life; Religion withDeath. Much of its work and spirit escapes our ken.

The systems of Barrow, Baxter, Bossuethigher, spiritually, constructively, scientifically, than Penn’s. In our scaleshis high morality outweighs them.

Crimes by constituted authorities worsethan crimes by Madame Tussand’s private malefactors. Murder may be done bylegal means, by plausible and profitable war, by calumny, as well as by dose ordagger.

Letter 3

TheCollege, Worcester [April 9, 1887]

My dear Lord Acton,

Your letter is an act of true friendliness,and I am very grateful to you for it, more grateful than I can say. It is arare encouragement to have such a standard set up as you have put before me.Judged by it I have nothing to say except to submit: efficaci do manusscientiae. Before such an ideal I can only confessthat I am shallow and frivolous, limited alike in my views and in my knowledge.You conceive of History as an Architectonic, for the writing of which a manneeds the severest and largest training. And it is impossible not to agree withyou: so it ought to be.

I can only admit that I fall far short ofthe equipment necessary for the task that I have undertaken. I was engaged inreading quietly for the purpose, and the beginning of writing lay in the remotedistance in my mind, when I received a letter asking me to look through thepapers of an old gentleman whom I slightly knew, who on his deathbed had mademe his literary executor. I came across him at Oxford in the Bodleian, where hecame to read for a history of the rise of Universities. He died at the age ofseventy-four, possessor of a vast number of notes, out of which all that I couldpiece together was an article on Wyclifs Oxford life. This filled me with ahorror of notebooks and urged me to begin definitely to write. I thought that Ihad best frankly do what I could; anything would serve as a step for mysuccessors. So I wrote.

I entirely agree with your principles ofhistorical judgments: but apparently I admit casuistry to a larger extent thanyou approve. I remember that in 1880I met John Bright at dinner: he was very cross, apparently a cabinet meetinghad disagreed with him. Amongst other things he said: “If the people knew whatsort of men statesmen were, they would rise and hang the whole lot ofthem.” Next day I met a young man who had been talking to Gladstone, who urgedhim to parliamentary life, saying: “Statesmanship is the noblest way to servemankind.”

I am sufficient of a Hegelian to be able tocombine both judgments; but the results of my combination cannot be expressedin the terms of the logic of Aristotle. In studying history the question of thesalvability of an archdeacon becomes indefinitely extended to all officials,kings and popes included. What I meant in my offending sentence in my prefacewas that anyone engaged in great affairs occupied a repre­sentativeposition, which required special consideration. Selfishness, even wrongdoing,for an idea, an institution, the maintenance of an accepted view of the basisof society, does not cease to be wrongdoing: but it is not quite the same aspersonal wrongdoing. It is more difficult to prove, and it does not equallyshock the moral sense of others or disturb the moral sense of the doer. Theacts of men in power are determined by the effective force behind them of whichthey are the exponents: their morality is almost always lower than the moralityof the mass of men: but there is generally a point fixed below which theycannot sink with impunity. Homicide is always homicide: but there is adifference between that of a murderer for his own gain, and that of a carelessdoctor called in to see a patient who would probably have died anyhow; and thecarelessness of the doctor is a difficult thing to prove.

What is tolerance nowadays? Is it a moralvirtue in the possessor, or is it a recognition of a necessity arising from anequilibrium of parties? It often seems to me that we speak as if it was thefirst, when actually it is the second. My liberalism admits to everyone theright to his own opinion and imposes on me the duty of teaching him what isbest; but I am by no means sure that that is the genuine conviction of all myliberal friends. French liberalism does not convince me that it is universal. Iam not quite sure how Frederick Harrison or Cotter Morrison would deal with meif they were in a majority. The possession of a clear and definite ideal ofsociety seems to me dangerous to its possessors. The Mediaeval Church had suchan ideal: the result was the Inquisition, which was generally approved by thecommon con­sciousness. In the period of the end of the fifteenth centurythe Papacy seemed to me to have wearied of the Inquisition which was not muchsupported. The Popes were comparatively tolerant to Jews, Marrani, Turks; theydid not attack the humanists; they did not furbish up the old weapons and apply them to newcases—except in the recognition of the Spanish Inquisition by Sixtus IV, aboutwhom I have probably expressed myself loosely, but I have not my volumes hereand I do not exactly [recall] what I said. What I meant was that to Sixtus IVthis recognition was a matter of official routine. To have refused it he wouldhave had to enunciate a new principle and make a new departure inecclesiastical jurisdiction. I should have honoured him if he had done so; butI do not think him exceptionally persecuting because he did not do so. Heaccepted what he found. My purpose was not to justify him, but to put him inrank with the rest. I think, however, that I was wrong, and that you are right:his responsibility was graver than I have admitted. I think he knew better.

You judge the whole question of persecutionmore rigorously than I do. Society is an organism and its laws are anexpression of the conditions which it considers necessary for its ownpreservation. When men were hanged in England for sheep stealing it was becausepeople thought that sheep stealing was a crime and ought to be severely putdown. We still think it a crime, but we think it can be checked moreeffectively by less stringent punishments. Nowadays people are not agreed aboutwhat heresy is; they do not think it a menace to society; hence they do not askfor its punishment. But the men who consci­entiously thought heresy a crimemay be accused of an intellectual mistake, not necessarily of a moral crime.The immediate results of the Reformation were not to favour free thought, andthe error of Calvin, who knew that ecclesiastical unity was abolished, was afar greater one than that of Innocent III who struggled to maintain it. I amhopelessly tempted to admit degrees of criminality, otherwise history becomes adreary record of wickedness.

I go so far with you that it supplies mewith few heroes, and records few good actions; but the actors were men likemyself, sorely tempted by the possession of power, trammeled by holding arepresentative position (none were more trammeled than popes), and in the sixteenthcentury especially looking at things in a very abstract way. I supposestatesmen rarely regard questions in the concrete. I cannot follow the actionsof contemporary statesmen with much moral satisfaction. In the past I findmyself regarding them with pity—who am I that I should condemn them? Surelythey knew not what they did.

This is no reason for not saying what theydid; but what they did was not always what they tried to do or thought thatthey were doing.

Moral progress has indeed been slow; it stillis powerless to affect international relations. If Bright’s remedy were adoptedand every statesman in Europe were hanged, would that mend matters?

In return for your wisdom I have writtenenough to show my foolishness. Your letter will give me much food formeditation, and may in time lead to an amendment of my ways. That you shouldhave written shows that you think me capable of doing better. I will onlypromise that if I can I will; but the labours of practical life multiply, and Ihave less time for work at my subject now than I had in the country. For aperiod coming on I ought to spend years in Archives: which is impossible. . . .

My jottings bear traces of the incoherenceof one who has preached five sermons this week, and has two more to preach tomorrow.I have not had time to think over your letter: but I wanted to thank you.Perhaps the effort to rid myself of prejudice has left me cold and abstract inmy mode of expression and thinking. If so it is an error to be amended andcorrected.

Will you not someday write an article inthe Historical Review on the Ethics of History?I have no objection to find my place among the shocking examples. Believe methat I am genuinely grateful to you.

Yoursmost sincerely

M.Creighton

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