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Sunday, July 18, 2010

John Henry Newman and John Bull; The Importance of Mission

Site of the Brompton Oratory, South Kensington, London - 1857 - construction phase (Source: Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

In 1852 the Fathers of the Oratory settled on a site at Brompton, although its comparative remoteness rather went against the tradition of urban evangelism of the Congregations of St. Philip Neri. Newman, who had advocated a grand and central metropolitan position, was not impressed by Faber's apologia for Brompton as ‘the Madeira of London’, and thought the site ‘essentially in a suburb… a neighbourhood of second-rate gentry and second-rate shops’. The designer of the Oratory House, as of the temporary church, was J. J. Scoles


Exterior view, principal facade Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace Park, Sydenham, London 1850

Picture of the Metropolis of the British Empire 1843
Letterpress and wood engraving
Supplement to the 'Illustrated London News'. January 1843
The British Museum, London

Removal of King's Cross 1842
Etching
The British Museum, London

Inscription Language:

Two paragraphs of letterpress below under the heading "Removal of King's Cross", and continuing: "What strange mutations does the hand of 'public improvement' work in our metropolis. Less than a score of years have rolled away since a very anomalous pile was reared at the point where meet the New-road, Maidenlane, Pentonville-hill, the Gray's Inn-Road &c.; the spot receiving the somewhat grandiloquent name of 'King's Cross'. The building boasted, however, of correspondent pretension; the lower story was classically embellished, as the portion in our engraving shows; the upper stories were less ornate; but, if the expression be allowable, the structure was crowned with a composition statue of the Fourth George - and a very sorry representative of one who was every inch a king. The pennyworths of artistical information, doled out from week to week, soon taught the people that the above was a very uncomplimentary effigy of majesty; even the very cabmen grew critical; the watermen (aquarii) jeered; and the omnibus drivers ridiculed royalty in so parious a state, at length the statue was removed in toto, or rather by piecemeal. / We cannot tax our memory with the uses to which the building itself has been appropriated; now a placeof exhibition, then a police-station, and last of all (to come to the dregs of the subject) a beer shop. Happily, our artist seized upton the modern antique just in time for rescue from oblivion; and his sketch is far more picturesque than would be'a proper house and home'. The 'time to pull down' at length arrived; the strange pile has been cleared away; and lest a future generation should ask' where the fabric stood we have consigned its whereabout to our columns. The dome-topped house in the distance will serve to identify the spot with our own times: it is the Regent street-cum-Gray's-Inn road style".

The interior of the old Billingsgate Market, London 1850
Print
The British Museum, London

View of the cattle market on the south side of Smithfield, London
Print
The British Museum, London

In 1850-1, militant anti-Catholicism had compelled John Henry Newman to prepare a series of Lectures entitled Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England which were delivered in 1851


First he analysed the situation. Next he proposed remedies, In the following extract he sets out how to deal with antagonism and antipathy

For Protestantism, we should now read "Secularism" or "anti-Catholicism"

What is particularly interesting is his description of "the Metropolis" and its power.

"I grant the whole power of the Metropolis is against us, and I grant it is quite out of the question to attempt to gain it over on our side. It is true, there are various individual members of Parliament who are our co-religionists or our friends, but they are few among many; there are newspapers which act generously towards us, but they form a small minority; there are a few Protestant clergy who would be not quite carried away by the stream, if left to themselves. Granted: but still, I am forced to allow that the great metropolitan intellect cannot be reached by us, and for this simple reason, because you cannot confront it, you cannot make it know you. I said your victory was to be in forcing upon others a personal knowledge of you, by your standing before your enemies face to face. But what face has a metropolitan journal? How are you to get at it? how are you to look into it? whom are you to look at? who is to look at you? No one is known in London; it is the realm of the incognito and the anonymous; it {381} is not a place, it is a region or a state. There is no such thing as local opinion in the metropolis; mutual personal knowledge, there is none; neighbourhood, good fame, bad repute, there is none; no house knows the next door. You cannot make an impression on such an ocean of units; it has no disposition, no connexion of parts."


Is Newman`s description of "the Metropolis" not equally applicable to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Paris, Madrid, Tokyo, Peking, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Athens, Moscow, Shanghai and the many other megapolises which have grown up since 1851 ?

Newman`s description of the "Metropolis" is of a "beast" with a life of its own. It is a metaphysical place. It has peoples but no communities. The environment is in a state of flux. Constant change is a fact of life. There is an "establishment" and there are the ruled. The opinions expressed to be metropolitan and disseminated as such are as words in the wind, changing and variable, solely dependent on the whim and caprice of the individual writer, those who commission and print them, and ultimately a fantasy divorced from reality. There is a dream like quality about the Metropolis as described by Newman which is almost nightmarish in its substance.

And life in the Metropolis at the time certainly was not easy. The Metropolis seemed to consume people like some ogre. Cholera was rife. Mortality was high due to the increasing numbers coming in from the outside countryside due to unemployment, lack of proper housing and sanitation, and the Dickensian working conditions in the urban factories. Here is an extract from a speech by Earl of Shaftesbury in the House of Lords on 29 April 1852 about "The Sanitary State of the Metropolis"
"Undoubtedly there was; and it was to be found in the fact that the people were pressing by thousands and by tens of thousands upon arrangements which were calculated only for tens and for hundreds. As soon as they came into the towns they crowded together in the overpopulated lanes and alleys, living in miserable domiciles, where they found no pure air to breathe, no clean water to drink, and no drainage to carry off the filth. They were surrounded by every cause of disease and death; and when they came to die, there were no means for interring them with propriety and safety. ..."

The speech should really be read in its entirety for a proper evaluation of the conditions in the Metropolis in the 1850s. Standing the horrible picture which they paint, one wonders why the Establishment took up so much time dealing with Ecclesiastical Titles legislation rather than Public Health legislation. Of course it was a useful distraction. Of course the franchise was restricted and very few people had the vote. The Reforms of 1867 and 1884-5 were still very much in the future.

In the 19th Century, London was special. Here are its population statistics for the nineteenth century:
1.35 million (1825); 2.32 million (1850); 4.241 million (1875); 6.480 million (1900).

It was the world`s biggest city by population in 1850 and 1900. It was the first city to reach a population of 5 million.

More people now live in cities than in the countryside for the first time in the history of the human race. The world's urban population is about 3.17bn out of a total of 6.45bn. Current trends suggest the number of urban dwellers will rise to almost 5bn by 2030, out of a world total of 8.1bn

But in view of Newman`s sidelining of "the Metropolis" in his analysis, and the present urbanisation of the world`s population, can we really accept his prescriptions without qualification ? But the general principles he enunciates are still pertinent.

However in reading Newman one is struck by its similarity to what Pope Benedict XVI has said recently about the importance of
"[T]he commitment to, and task of, Gospel proclamation is a duty of the whole Church, "by her very nature missionary" (Ad gentes, n. 2), and invites us to become champions of the newness of life made up of authentic relationships in communities founded on the Gospel. In a multiethnic society that is experiencing increasingly disturbing forms of loneliness and indifference, Christians must learn to offer signs of hope and to become universal brethren, cultivating the great ideals that transform history and, without false illusions or useless fears, must strive to make the planet a home for all peoples.

...[T]he people of our time too, even perhaps unbeknown to them, ask believers not only to "speak" of Jesus, but to "make Jesus seen", to make the face of the Redeemer shine out in every corner of the earth before the generations of the new millennium and especially before the young people of every continent, the privileged ones to whom the Gospel proclamation is intended. They must perceive that Christians bring Christ's word because he is the truth, because they have found in him the meaning and the truth for their own lives.

These considerations refer to the missionary mandate that all the baptized and the entire Church have received but that cannot be fulfilled without a profound personal, community and pastoral conversion. In fact, awareness of the call to proclaim the Gospel not only encourages every individual member of the faithful but also all diocesan and parish communities to integral renewal and ever greater openness to missionary cooperation among the Churches, to promote the proclamation of the Gospel in the heart of every person, of every people, culture, race and nationality in every place. This awareness is nourished through the work of Fidei Donum priests, consecrated people, catechists and lay missionaries in the constant endeavour to encourage ecclesial communion so that even the phenomenon of "interculturality" may be integrated in a model of unity in which the Gospel is a leaven of freedom and progress, a source of brotherhood, humility and peace (cf. Ad gentes, n. 8). The Church in fact "is in the nature of sacrament a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men" (Lumen gentium, n. 1)."


Newman`s call is "Do not fear !" The same call as that of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. The critics can do their worst. You have nothing to lose. It is the opinion of those who know you that counts: the opinion of the neighbour in your locality whom you are commanded to love. To dream of converting "public opinion" is a wasteful dream. It is an ephemeral and changing entity dependent on settled interests out of touch with what is going on in the real world, the here and the now. Now of course these settled interests are no longer static but always changing, leading to constant vagaries in the climate of public opinion.

Unfortunately Newman`s remedies may have worked before the advent of the mass press, the control by the Press of Television and Radio and other media by the State and large private conglomerates, the rise of Big Government and the Welfare State where the State is present at all levels of society and when politicians and civil servants make decisions on the basis of "public opinion". It is questionable whether the remedies of Newman can today stand unqualified. But the general principles still stand.


Here is what Newman prescribed over one hundred and fifty years ago:
"And now, what are our duties at this moment towards this enemy of ours? How are we to bear ourselves towards it? what are we to do with it? what is to come of the survey we have taken of it? with what practical remark and seasonable advice am I to conclude this attempt to determine our relation to it? The lesson we gain is obvious and simple, but as difficult, you will say, as it is simple; for the means {372} and the end are almost identical, and in executing the one we have already reached the other. Protestantism is fierce, because it does not know you; ignorance is its strength; error is its life. Therefore bring yourselves before it, press yourselves upon it, force yourselves into notice against its will. Oblige men to know you; persuade them, importune them, shame them into knowing you. Make it so clear what you are, that they cannot affect not to see you, nor refuse to justify you. Do not even let them off with silence, but give them no escape from confessing that you are not what they have thought you were. They will look down, they will look aside, they will look in the air, they will shut their eyes, they will keep them shut. They will do all in their power not to see you; the nearer you come, they will close their eyelids all the tighter; they will be very angry and frightened, and give the alarm as if you were going to murder them. They will do anything but look at you. They are, many of them, half conscious they have been wrong, but fear the consequences of becoming sure of it; they will think it best to let things alone, and to persist in injustice for good and all, since they have been for so long a time committed to it; they will be too proud to confess themselves mistaken; they prefer a safe cruelty to an inconvenient candour. I know it is a most grave problem how to touch so intense an obstinacy, but, observe, if you once touch it, you have done your work. There is but one step between you and success. It is a steep step, but it is one. It is a great thing to know your aim, to be saved from wasting your energies in wrong quarters, to be able to concentrate them on a point. You have but to aim at making men look steadily at you; {373} when they do this, I do not say they will become Catholics, but they will cease to have the means of making you a by-word and a reproach, of inflicting on you the cross of unpopularity. Wherever Catholicism is known, it is respected, or at least endured, by the people. Politicians and philosophers, and the established clergy, would be against you, but not the people, if it knew you. A religion which comes from God approves itself to the conscience of the people, wherever it is really known.


I am not advocating, as you will see presently, anything rude in your bearing, or turbulent, or offensive; but first I would impress upon you the end you have to aim at. Your one and almost sole object, I say, must be, to make yourselves known. This is what will do everything for you: it is what your enemies will try by might and main to hinder. They begin to have a suspicion that Catholicism, known to be what it really is, will be their overthrow. They have hitherto cherished a most monstrous idea about you. They have thought, not only that you were the vilest and basest of men, but that you were fully conscious of it yourselves, and conscious, too, that they knew it. They have fancied that you, or at least your priests, indulged in the lowest sensuality, and practised the most impudent hypocrisy, and were parties to the most stupid and brutish of frauds; and that they dared not look a Protestant in the face. Accordingly, they have considered, and have thought us quite aware ourselves, that we were in the country only on sufferance; that we were like reputed thieves and other bad characters, who, for one reason or another, are not molested in their dens of wickedness, and enjoy a contemptuous toleration, {374} if they keep within bounds. And so, in like manner, they have thought that there was evidence enough at any moment to convict us, if they were provoked to it. What would be their astonishment, if one of the infamous persons I have supposed stood upon his rights, or obtruded himself into the haunts of fashion and good breeding? Fancy, then, how great has been their indignation, that we Catholics should pretend to be Britons; should affect to be their equals; should dare to preach, nay, to controvert; should actually make converts, nay, worse and worse, not only should point out their mistakes, but, prodigious insolence! should absolutely laugh at the absurdity of their assertions, and the imbecility of their arguments. They are at first unable to believe their ears, when they are made sensible that we, who know so well our own worthlessness, and know that they know it, who deserve at the least the hulks or transportation, talk as loudly as we do, refuse to be still, and say that the more we are known, the more we shall be esteemed. We, who ought to go sneaking about, to crouch at their feet, and to keep our eyes on the ground, from the consciousness of their hold upon us,—is it madness, is it plot, what is it, which inspires us with such unutterable presumption? They have the might and the right on their side. They could confiscate our property, they could pack us all out of the kingdom, they could bombard Rome, they could fire St. Peter's, they could batter down the Coliseum, they could abolish the Papacy, if they pleased. Passion succeeds, and then a sort of fear, such as a brutal master might feel, who breaks into fury at the first signs of spirit in the apprentice he has long ill-treated, and then quails before him as he gets older. {375} And then how white becomes their wrath, when men of their own rank, men of intelligence, men of good connexions, their relations or their friends, leave them to join the despised and dishonoured company! And when, as time goes on, more and more such instances occur, and others are unsettled, and the old landmarks are removed, and all is in confusion, and new questions and parties appear in the distance, and a new world is coming in,—when what they in their ignorance thought to be nothing turns out to be something, they know not what, and the theodolite of Laputa has utterly failed, they quake with apprehension at so mysterious a visitation, and they are mad with themselves for having ever qualified their habitual contempt with some haughty generosity towards us. A proud jealousy, a wild hate, and a perplexed dismay, almost choke them with emotion.

All this because they have not taken the trouble to know us as we are in fact:—however, you would think that they had at last gained an opening for information, when those whom they have known become the witnesses of what we are. Never so little; the friends who have left them are an embarrassment to them, not an illumination; an embarrassment, because they do but interfere with their received rule and practice of dealing with us. It is an easy thing to slander those who come of the old Catholic stock, because such persons are unknown to the world. They have lived all their days in tranquil fidelity to the creed of their forefathers, in their secluded estate, or their obscure mission, or their happy convent; they have cultivated no relations with the affairs or the interests of the day, and have never entered into the public throng of men {376} to gain a character. They are known, in their simplicity and innocence and purity of heart, and in their conscientiousness of life, to their God, to their neighbour and to themselves, not to the world at large. If any one would defame them, he may do it with impunity; their name is not known till it is slandered, and they have no antecedents to serve as a matter for an appeal. Here, then, is the fit work for those prudent slanderers, who would secure themselves from exposure, while they deal a blow in defence of the old Protestant Tradition. Were a recent convert, whose name is before the world, accused of some definite act of tyranny or baseness, he knows how to write and act in his defence, and he has a known reputation to protect him; therefore, ye Protestant champions, if there be an urgent need at the moment for some instance of Catholic duplicity or meanness, be sure to shoot your game sitting; keep yourselves under cover, choose some one who can be struck without striking, whom it is easy to overbear, with whom it is safe to play the bully. Let it be a prelate of advanced age and of retired habits, or some gentle nun, whose profession and habits are pledges that she cannot retaliate. Triumph over the old man and the woman. Open your wide mouth, and collect your rumbling epithets, and round your pretentious sentences, and discharge your concentrated malignity, on the defenceless. Let it come down heavily on them to their confusion; and a host of writers, in print and by the post, will follow up the outrage you have commenced. But beware of the converts, for they are known; and to them you will not be safe in imputing more than the ordinary infirmities of humanity. With them you must deal in the contrary way. Men of {377} rank, men of station, men of ability, in short, men of name, what are we to do with them! Cover them up, bury them; never mention them in print, unless a chance hint can be dropped to their disadvantage. Shake your heads, whisper about in society, and detail in private letters the great change which has come over them. They are not the same persons; they have lost their fine sense of honour, and so suddenly, too; they are under the dominion of new and bad masters. Drop their acquaintance; meet them and pass them by, and tell your friends you were so pained you could not speak to them; be sure you do nothing whatever to learn from them anything about the Catholic faith; know nothing at all about their movements, their objects, or their life. Read none of their books; let no one read them who is under your influence; however, you may usefully insert in your newspapers half sentences from their writings, or any passing report, which can be improved to their disadvantage. Not a word more; let not even their works be advertised. Ignore those who never can be ignored, never can be forgotten; and all for this,—that by the violation of every natural feeling, and every sacred tie, you may keep up that profound ignorance of the Catholic Religion which the ascendency of Protestantism requires.

These are but snatches and glimpses, my Brothers of the Oratory, of the actual state of the case; of the intense determination of Protestants to have nothing to do with us, and nothing true to say of us; and of the extreme arduousness of that task to which I think {378} we should all direct our exertions. The post must be carried; in it lies the fortune of the day. Our opponents are secretly conscious of it too; else why should they so strenuously contest it? They must be made to know us as we are; they must be made to know our religion as it is, not as they fancy it; they must be made to look at us, and they are overcome. This is the work which lies before you in your place and in your measure, and I would advise you about it thus:—

Bear in mind, then, that, as far as defamation and railing go, your enemies have done their worst. There is nothing which they have not said, which they do not daily say, against your religion, your priests, and yourselves. They have exhausted all their weapons and you have nothing to fear, for you have nothing to lose. They call your priests distinctly liars: they can but cry the old fables over and over again, though they are sadly worse for wear. They have put you beyond the pale of civilized society; they have made you the outlaws of public opinion; they treat you, in the way of reproach and slander, worse than they treat the convict or the savage. You cannot in any way move them by smiles, or by tears, or by remonstrance. You can show them no attention; you can give them no scandal. Court them, they are not milder; be rude to them, they cannot be more violent. You cannot make them think better of you, or worse. They hold no terms with you; you have not even the temptation to concede to them. You have not the temptation to give and take; you have not the temptation to disguise or to palter. You have the strength of desperation, and desperation does great things. They have {379} made you turn to bay. Whatever occurs, if there be a change at all, it must be a change for the better: you cannot be disadvantaged by the most atrocious charges, for you are sure to be the objects of such, whatever you do. You are set loose from the fear of man: it is of no use to say to yourselves, "What will people say?" No, the Supreme Being must be your only Fear, as He is your only Reward.


Next, look at the matter more closely; it is not so bad as it seems. Who are these who obstinately refuse to know you? When I say, "They have done their worst," what is their "worst," and who are "they?" This is an all-important question; perhaps I shall have some difficulty in bringing out what I mean, but when you once get into my idea, there will be no degrees in your understanding it. Consider, then, that "they" means, in the main, certain centres of influence in the metropolis; first, a great proportion of members of both Houses of Parliament; next, the press; thirdly, the Societies whose haunt or home is Exeter Hall; fourthly, the pulpits of the Establishment, and of a good part of the Dissenters. These are our accusers; these spread abroad their calumnies; these are meant by "they." Next, what is their "worst?" whom do they influence? They influence the population of the whole of Great Britain, and the British Empire, so far as it is British and not Catholic; and they influence it so as to make it believe that Catholicism and all Catholics are professed and habitual violators of the moral law, of the precepts of truth, honesty, purity and humanity. If this be so, you may ask me what I can mean by saying that the "worst" is not so bad as it looks? but after all, things might be much worse. {380}

Think a moment: what is it to me what people think of me a hundred miles off, compared with what they think of me at home? It is nothing to me what the four ends of the world think of me; I care nought for the British Empire more than for the Celestial in this matter, provided I can be sure what Birmingham thinks of me. The question, I say, is, What does Birmingham think of me? and if I have a satisfactory answer to that, I can bear to be without a satisfactory answer about any other town or district in England. This is a great principle to keep in view.


And now I am coming to a second. I grant the whole power of the Metropolis is against us, and I grant it is quite out of the question to attempt to gain it over on our side. It is true, there are various individual members of Parliament who are our co-religionists or our friends, but they are few among many; there are newspapers which act generously towards us, but they form a small minority; there are a few Protestant clergy who would be not quite carried away by the stream, if left to themselves. Granted: but still, I am forced to allow that the great metropolitan intellect cannot be reached by us, and for this simple reason, because you cannot confront it, you cannot make it know you. I said your victory was to be in forcing upon others a personal knowledge of you, by your standing before your enemies face to face. But what face has a metropolitan journal? How are you to get at it? how are you to look into it? whom are you to look at? who is to look at you? No one is known in London; it is the realm of the incognito and the anonymous; it {381} is not a place, it is a region or a state. There is no such thing as local opinion in the metropolis; mutual personal knowledge, there is none; neighbourhood, good fame, bad repute, there is none; no house knows the next door. You cannot make an impression on such an ocean of units; it has no disposition, no connexion of parts. The great instrument of propagating moral truth is personal knowledge. A man finds himself in a definite place; he grows up in it and into it; he draws persons around him; they know him, he knows them; thus it is that ideas are born which are to live, that works begin which are to last [Note 2]. It is this personal knowledge of each other which is true public opinion; local opinion is real public opinion; but there is not, there cannot be, such in London. How is a man to show what he is, when he is but a grain of sand out of a mass, without relations to others, without a place, without antecedents, without individuality? Crowds pour along the streets, and though each has his own character written on high, they are one and all the same to men below. And this impersonality, as it may be called, pervades the whole metropolitan system. A man, not known, writes a leading article against what?—things? no; but ideas. He writes against Catholicism: what is Catholicism? can you touch it? point at it? no; it is an idea before his mind. He clothes it with certain attributes, and forthwith it goes all over the country that a certain idea or vision, called Catholicism, has certain other ideas, bad ones, connected with it. You see, it is all a matter of ideas, and abstractions, and {382} conceptions. Well, this leading article goes on to speak of certain individual Catholic priests; still, does it see them? point at them? no, it does but give their names; it is a matter, not of persons, but of names; and those names, sure enough, go over the whole country and empire as the names of rogues, or of liars, or of tyrants, as the case may be; while they themselves, the owners of them, in their own persons are not at all the worse for it, but eat, sleep, pray, and do their work, as freely and as easily as before. London cannot touch them, for words hurt no one; words cannot hurt us till—till when? till they are taken up, believed, in the very place where we individually dwell. Ah! this is a very different kind of public opinion; it is local opinion; I spoke of it just now, and it concerns us very nearly.

I say, it is quite another thing when the statements which a metropolitan paper makes about me, and the empire believes, are actually taken up in the place where I live. It is a very different thing, and a very serious matter; but, observe the great principle we have arrived at; it is this:—that popular opinion only acts through local opinion. The opinion of London can only act on an individual through the opinion of his own place; metropolitan opinion can only act on me through Birmingham opinion. London abuses Catholics. "Catholic" is a word; where is the thing? in Liverpool, in Manchester, in Birmingham, in Leeds, in Sheffield, in Nottingham. Did all the London papers prove that all Catholics were traitors, where must this opinion be carried out? Not in the air, not in leading articles, not in an editor's room; but in Liverpool, in Manchester, in Birmingham, in Leeds, in Sheffield, in Nottingham. So, in order to carry out your London {383} manifesto, you must get the people of Birmingham, Manchester, and the rest, to write their names after it; else, nothing comes of its being a metropolitan opinion, or an imperial opinion, or its being any other great idea whatever:—you must get Birmingham to believe it of Birmingham Catholics, and Manchester to believe it of Manchester Catholics. So, you see, these great London leading articles have only done half their work, or rather, have not begun it, by proving to the world that all Catholics are traitors, till they come out of their abstractions and generalities, and for the "world," are able to substitute Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool; and for "all Catholics," to substitute Catholics of Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool; and to get each place in particular to accept what the great Metropolis says, and the Empire believes, in the general.

And now comes another important consideration: it is not at all easy to get a particular place, at the word of London, to accept about its own neighbourhood in particular what London says of all places in the general. Did London profess to tell us about the price of iron generally, if it gained its information from Birmingham, and other iron markets in particular, well and good; but if it came forward with great general views of its own, I suspect that Birmingham would think it had a prior voice in the question, and would not give up its views at the bidding of any metropolitan journal. And the case is the same as regards Catholicism; London may declaim about Catholics in general, but Birmingham will put in a claim to judge of them in particular; and when Birmingham becomes the judge, London falls into the mere office of accuser, and the accused may be heard {384} in his defence. Thus, a Catholic of Birmingham can act on Birmingham, though he cannot act on London, and this is the important practical point to which I have been coming all along. I wish you to turn your eyes upon that local opinion, which is so much more healthy, English, and Christian than popular or metropolitan opinion; for it is an opinion, not of ideas, but of things; not of words, but of facts; not of names, but of persons; it is perspicuous, real and sure. It is little to me, as far as my personal well-being is concerned, what is thought of Catholicism through the empire, or what is thought of me by the metropolis, if I know what is thought of me in Birmingham. London cannot act on me except through Birmingham, and Birmingham indeed can act on me, but I can act on Birmingham. Birmingham can look on me, and I can look on Birmingham. This is a place of persons, and a place of facts; there is far more fairness in a place like this than in a metropolis, or at least fairness is uppermost. Newspapers are from the nature of the case, and almost in spite of themselves, conducted here on a system more open and fairer than the metropolitan system. A Member of Parliament in London might say that I had two heads, and refuse to retract it, though I solemnly denied it; it would not be believed in Birmingham. All the world might believe it; it might be the theme of country meetings; the Prime Minister might introduce it into the Queen's speech; it might be the subject of most eloquent debates, and most exciting divisions; it might be formally communicated to all the European courts; the stocks might fall, a stream of visitors set in from Russia, Egypt, and the United {385} States, at the news; it would not be believed in Birmingham; local opinion would carry it hollow against popular opinion.

You see, then, Brothers of the Oratory, where your success lies, and how you are to secure it. Never mind the London press; never mind Exeter Hall; never mind perambulating orators or solemn meetings: let them alone, they do not affect local opinion. They are a blaze amid the stubble; they glare, and they expire. Do not dream of converting the public opinion of London; you cannot, and you need not. Look at home, there lies your work; what you have to do, and what you can do, are one and the same. Prove to the people of Birmingham, as you can prove to them, that your priests and yourselves are not without conscience, or honour, or morality; prove it to them, and it matters not though every man, woman, and child, within the London bills of mortality were of a different opinion. That metropolitan opinion would in that case be powerless, when it attempted to bear upon Birmingham; it would not work; there would be a hitch and a block; you would be a match where you were seen, for a whole world where you were not seen. I do not undervalue the influence of London; many things its press can do; some things it cannot do; it is imprudent when it impinges on facts. If, then, a battle is coming on, stand on your own ground, not on that of others; take care of yourselves; be found where you are known; make yourselves and your religion known more and more, for in that knowledge is your victory. Truth will out; truth is mighty and will prevail. We have an instance of it before our eyes; why is it that some persons {386} here have the hardihood to be maintaining Maria Monk's calumnies? because those calumnies bear upon a place over the ocean; why did they give up Jeffreys? because he spoke of a place close at hand. You cannot go to Montreal; you can go to Whitwick; therefore, as regards Whitwick, the father of lies eats his words and gives up Jeffreys, to get some credit for candour, when he can get nothing else. Who can doubt, that, if that same personage went over to Canada, he would give up Maria Monk as false and take up Jeffreys as true? Yes, depend on it, when he next ships off to New York, he will take the veritable account of the persecuted Jeffreys in his pocket, with an interesting engraving of his face as a frontispiece. So certain, so necessary is all this, my Brothers, that I do not mind giving you this advice in public. An enemy might say in his heart, "Here is a priest fool enough to show his game!" I have no game; I have nothing to conceal; I do not mind who knows what I mark out for you, for nothing can frustrate it. I have an intense feeling in me as to the power and victoriousness of truth. It has a blessing from God upon it. Satan himself can but retard its ascendancy, he cannot prevent it. "