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WILLIAM STUBBS Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects

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WILLIAM STUBBS
Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects
page 312



the king ; that that alone seems to give purpose and consistency to the eventful policy of the period ; that Henry VIII is neither the puppet of parties, nor the victim of circumstances, nor the shifty politician, nor the capricious tyrant, but a man of light and leading, of power, force and foresight, a man of opportunities, stratagems, and surprises, but not the less of iron will and determined purpose; purpose not at once realised or systematised, but widening, deepening, and strengthening as the way opens before it ; a man accordingly who might have been very great, and could under no circumstances be accounted less than great, but who would have been infinitely greater, and better, and more fortunate, if he would have lived for his people, and not for himself. But the subject of the present lecture is the parliamentary history of the reign; and I will keep back any general or personal remarks until that has been treated as it can be treated in a public lecture. It helps to answer the question and problem which I have stated, for it is through the Parliament that Henry inquires of the goodwill and support of the nation, as it is through the Convocation he inquires of the goodwill and support of the clergy. If we believe the Acts of Parliament, we shall find the nation not merely acquiescing in but petitioning for measures, some of which had no importance except as fulfilling the wishes of the king, others of which were in strong opposition to all that is known of national feeling both in and out of parliament ; if we look at the early ecclesiastical measures we find the same acquiescence in great constitutional changes, abdications of power which could not be spontaneous, and acknowledgments of the truth of statements and principles which, if true at all, were far too novel to have been accepted without discussion. We may, if we please, admit the conclusion that the nation accepted the king's action as that


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