Philosophy against Misosophy



Essays by Me

Essays by Others

From Cambridge Historical Journal, Vol. 8, No. 3 (1946), 186-204.  Examples of Acton’s “thinking out loud,” albeit privately, over the course of a few months, annotated by one successor to his Regius Chair at Cambridge.


Journal of Lord Acton:

Rome 1857


Herbert Butterfield


It would appear that Acton in the 1850’s had the habit of beginning a note-book with extracts from his reading or with lists of references, and then turning it into something like a journal.  He would record walks, interviews and journeys, and diagnose the state of the world or discuss his plans; and he would add his own comments on religion and politics or write out interesting exercises in historical interpretation.  These note-books, in spite of their rough condition and their miscellaneous character—some of the most interesting things, like the notes on Pius IX, being written in pencil—throw light on Acton’s mind and on the development of his ideas in the significant period when his Munich career was over and he was preparing to embark on public life in England on his own account.

For the first of these books which has left any trace only the index appears to remain and this makes it clear that the volume belonged to the period 1852-3 and had something of the character of a journal.1  Of the latest concerning which there is any evidence we possess only four pages, obviously torn away and kept for special reasons, while the rest would seem to have been discarded.  These four pages, however, contain one of the most moving things he ever wrote—a detailed account of what he had every reason to think had been his last conversation with his mother, who towards the end of October 1859 was expected to die at any moment, though in fact she rallied and survived for another six months.2  Three numbers of the Fortnightly Review, November 1921-January 1922, print part of a diary for 1853, describing Acton’s journey to America with Lord Ellesmere—including descriptions of interesting interviews with such men as Longfellow and the historian Prescott—but in this case it is not clear where the original copy was found.  For the years 1858-9 four scrap-books of a miscellaneous character are left and they contain much of the young Acton himself—accounts of what he thinks are the shortcomings of the Roman Catholic world at that date, statements of what he means to do for the Roman Catholic body in England, discussions of Rambler policy, and notes for projected articles and lectures.  There are reports of conversations with such men as Count Buol and the historian Höfler whom he interviewed when he went to examine the condition of Austria after the war of 1859.3  Here also we may read Acton’s reflections on things in general—notes like the following:

Dulness is a greater enemy to the progress of truth than even error.   For error serves truth against her will—dulness injures her whether it will or no.

Start from this to describe the true philosophy of history.

Compare the theological, scientific and historical enemies of the church with each other [read for this].

Dread of war one of the worst symptoms of the present age. . . . Now aggressive wars have been commenced by Napoleon III . . . . Danger of prolonged peace. . . . War is as necessary an element of life as commerce, and awakens and nourishes far higher virtues of devotion and charity than peace.  That war is regarded as an evil is the cause of the stagnation of modern Europe.

One other of these books survives.It begins with notes on Gregory VII and contains much evidence of Acton’s reading and meditation on the subject of the Thirty Years’ War.  Much of it, however, is the journal of a visit (along with Döllinger) to Rome in 1857, the only visit Döllinger ever made to that city—and the first that Acton had made since childhood—though there had been talk of such a journey in 1852.5  The considerable collection of materials which Acton put together for his projected life of Döllinger shows the importance which he attached to this visit, especially as it affected the development of Döllinger’s views on ecclesiastical authority and on the temporal power.  In the essay on “Döllinger’s Historical Work” he writes:   “Döllinger used to commemorate his visit to Rome in 1857 as an epoch of emancipation”;6 and in his manuscript notes it would almost appear that he magnified the significance of the journey as his mind revolved upon it and he brooded over the matter in retrospect.7  Döllinger himself wrote in 1870:  “When I was there [at Rome] in 1857 I had still not the remotest presentiment of the things that were to happen in 1869, and I gave myself up to historical pursuits and artistic enjoyment with an untroubled mind.”8  The journey was in quest of manuscripts, and Acton often refers to it as a stage in Döllinger’s development as an historian; though he admits that not until the 1860’s did the transition to manuscript study have its decisive effect on the Professor’s work.9 

Acton himself was now twenty-three and it is clear from the journal that he was interested to learn from eyewitnesses about the events of 1848-9, to study the condition of the papal states, to discover the workings of the administrative machine in Rome, to acquire backstairs knowledge of some recent cases of “heresy-hunting”—especially such as affected more or less directly some of his Munich acquaintances—and collect first-hand information concerning Pius IX himself.  The note-book also contains some of his meditations on life, some of his plans of action and some essays in historical interpretation, a section of these being specifically described as “Notes of my own.”  Apart from all these are ideas, comments, injunctions and interpretations which we might be tempted to think belonged to Acton himself and which it would appear he made his own to a considerable degree.  But it is remarkable how often they turn out to be records of Döllinger’s sayings.  In later years Acton transcribed many of them from the journal into his notes, and in one case after another stated that Döllinger had put them forward in 1857.10 

The following selection presents the passages most interesting to the biographer and the historian, and at the same time gives an impression of the general composition of the journal.


pp. 123-4.  Lasaulx.11  Maunday Thursday.  [9 April 1857.]

Montesquieu completely disappointed him.  He did not find a single new idea in him.  There is 6 times as much in Ar[istotle’s] Pol[itics] and his division of governments is the same that Plato tried at first.  A book that deserves nothing of its great fame.

So the Reflexions of Burke—gesunde, kräftige politisch Gesinnung, aber keine tiefe Gedanken.

Rousseau’s Confessions interesting as proving how corrupt society was, and how a revol. was required.  Constitutional govt. the best just now, but it will not last—except in countries where it has grown, and has not been made.  Despotism is supportable only when there are really absolute characters to wield it, not in the hands of weak men.

Aristotle is an insufferable pedant—schulmeisterisch.  He was a man of learning, but no originality.  There are very few ideas in Aristotle.  He borrowed a great number from Plato which now go under his name.  They can be traced back to him—tho’ he treated him with contempt.  The influence of Ar. has been to stagnate, not to advance—Plato was at the head of all the great movements of the human mind.  The last effort of paganism ag[ainstJ Christianity, the first fathers, the Revival, all was Platonic.  There is more of genius and encouragement in Plato than in Ar.  He promotes progress of every kind—anregend und befeuchtend.  Even the natural sciences gained nothing from A.  Whewell abuses him as having stopped science for 1000 years, but in the M[iddle] A[ges] no great progress of that kind could be made for govt. and society had to be established.  Es war eine Zeit des Handelns.  Es kostet mir immer Ueberwindung wenn ich den Ar. lesen muss. Stahl12 told him he had looked into the Politik, but did not find much.  He is sure Stahl never read it.


pp. 128-30. Good Friday. [10 April 1857.]13

The Anglican theology was quite Calvinistic until Laud’s time.  Abbot was still a regular Calvinist.  The Galatian commentary was popular in England as containing the pure doctrine of justification, which is not peculiar to Lutheranism, but is equally Calvinistic.  The Calvinistic character of the church appears in the Zurich letters.  These were the antinomians.  Newman’s Justification is the best theological work that has appeared in England for 100 years. . . .

The people who seek out heresy are generally very small intellects and very ignorant.  But the duty and practise of the church is a different thing.  Sometimes the church is very tender, as some constitutions lead to inflammation at a mere scratch. . . .”


Easter Sunday.

. . . When once adultery is admitted as a ground for divorce there is no stopping.  It is an inclined plane.  The gospel certainly did not intend to permit remarrying. . . .

There was a Committee of Maximilian knights to award the prize of history which was given, at Sybel’s instigation, to Mommsen.  Hermann voted for Ranke’s French history, and Ranke advised that it should be given not to Mommsen, but to Stälin, as his was the best recent work on history.  Mommsen’s book will be forgotten before long, as there is little solid research, which is the only thing that lives.14


pp. 131-5. Rome: Monday. [27?] April [1857].15

Theiner present on Saturday at the audience of the pope.  They spoke French but the pope speaks it ill.  He said he had expected the professor for some time.  He made a confusion about my mother, thinking she was my sister.  Spoke of the importance of unity in the church, for strength, and the professor told him no clergy was more thoroughly devoted to the Holy See than the German—which pleased him.  T[heinerJ said M[ohler?J & he had done most for ecclesiastical literature in Germany, and the pope said there were many new French books on eccles. history &c. in which the good will was apparent, but not comparable to the Germans.  He thought King Max[imilian of BavariaJ had been injured by his prot[estantJ mother.  Spoke with great consolation of Wirtemberg [Concordat, 1857].  He said that the Holy See is the head and chief of all authority and all other authority attacked in it, who many princes do not see.  The p[opeJ gave the impression of great kindness and suavity, well acquainted with religious questions, but not so with the state of other countries.  He is of a liberal family, so that Gregory XVI was unwilling to make him cardinal, and his election was a concession to the liberal spirit.  So what followed was natural and to be expected.  He knew like all Italians nothing of other countries, and there was no sufficient example in Italy of the failure of a constitution.  When he thinks he is in the right way he is energetic and decided.  So when the Cardinals voted with black and white balls on the constitution, [of the Papal States, 1848J and the great majority were against it, he gathered the black balls together, and covering them with his white cap said, “ecco! so no tutti bianchi.”  His system at that time failed so completely that he has in reality abdicated all political power and authority, and leaves all that completely in Antonelli’s hands.  In religious questions he has an opinion and a will of his own, and is not so much influenced, but there also he is less free, as he must remain attached to so many traditions of his predecessors. Here he can only show his opinion by preferring one order or another, &c. and personally, but not in questions of things.  He does not much like the Jesuits, and complains of their artfulness and intrigue.  Their influence comes only from their German brethren, Kleutgen, Bieling &c. who are consultors of the Index, and as the Dominicans have no German divines, settle everything regarding German books.  Hohenlohe has little influence. The pope calls him a ragazzo matto ma un angelo, and keeps him from mere kindness.  Mérode is too excitable, and Talbot is the most judicious of the Camerieri.  There are no learned men at all among the secular clergy—all that is not attached to the Jesuits is with the Dominicans.  The Dominican cardinal passes for about their best divine, and is now a very powerful personage.  Theiner is more in the Pope’s confidence than anybody.  He has obtained permission to publish the acts of the Council of Trent.16  The pope resisted at first saying that none of his predecessors had done it.  But Theiner answered that none of them had defined the Imm[aculate] Conception.  A commission was appointed, led by the Domin. Cardinal and reported favourably.  It was chiefly led by the Dominican divines—so that it is much to their glory.  The Jesuits have vigorously opposed it, partly out of opposition to Theiner.  His quarrel with them is of ancient date.  He had joined them at one time, and was obliged to leave them in order to avoid expulsion.  Roothaan [then General of the Order] signified to him that perfect obedience was requisite.  He says that he urged the General to pursue a new path, saying that their old system was no longer effectual.  But Roothaan answered that it was to their system they owed all their success, and could not abandon it for an uncertain experiment.  T[heiner]’s book [Life of Clement XIV] is very unjust.  His authorities do not prove his case at all—and he is utterly wrong in saying that the Jesuits had any hand in their own fall.  The book is only a lesson to popes not to be influenced by diplomatic agents, and fully proves the case against the pope17  The documents of the Council of Trent prove that Pallavicini was perfectly honest but exceedingly feeble, and did not often understand the importance of the questions.  Hitherto it was impossible to refute Sarpi as there was no control of Pallavicini’s work.18  The Dominican cardinal passes for one of the ablest of the Cardinals, together with Brunelli, Marini, Barnabo, and Viale.  Antonelli gets rid of the better heads among them.  He and the rest in general seem to have no idea of the very critical state in which they are.  The Dominican cardinal is like all the rest, exceedingly narrow in his views.  This is the case with all the Italians. The ablest of them all is Gino Capponi.19

[added in pencil] observe: ! ! !

The pontifical states can never be well governed according to modern ideas because it (sic) has not gone through that which has influenced other states.  Many things are not done by the government because it has not acquired the power of doing it.  The people besides have no great Trieb like the English for municipal self government.  No great ends have caused all the powers of the state to be united for any common purpose.   Besides men can do only one thing well—not both spiritual and temporal power.  It can never be governed like the modern states—and one or the other must suffer.   The spiritual government has never been injured by the temporal power.  If it came ever to be considered as an impediment then the last hour of the papal state would have sounded.  The Church was 700 years without a territory, and might be so again for 7000 years.  As things now are it cannot be, but such a state of things might be possible.   Sixtus V only governed Rome by terror.  The insolence of the nobles &c. which rendered govt. so difficult had to be tolerated, for it could have been suppressed only by unjust measures.  The weakness of the Govt. is in its want of extended power.


p. 140. Sunday, 3 May 1857.

The Dominicans have no great men, and no other order but the Jesuits has-all good things belong to the orders, so the secular clergy has no chance, and no encouragement and no competition exists. The Benedictines are never spoken of.


p. 141.

Modena, secretary of the Inquisition, desired by the pope to speak to the P[rofessor] about the condemnation of Frohschammer.20  It had been urged by Kleutgen, who examined his book.  F[rohschammer] refused to submit, and the P[rofessor] advised that it should not be pursued, as the King would certainly protect him, and his theory had been already held by Klee [1800-40, Professor of dogmatic theology and exegesis in Munich 1839-40].  Yet Modena says great kindness was shown him, as only eminent men are informed beforehand as he has been.  The P[rofessor] persuaded Modena to advise it should not go farther.  He says that they always go into every denunciation, and the P[rofessor] condemned the [? practise] as encouraging enmities in disputes.  Carriere is also about to be condemned, and he dissuaded it.  Modena knows nothing in general of foreign countries, like most of them.  The Pope unfortunately has no knowledge whatever of theological matters, and this is very inconvenient in a personal point of view.  Gregory XVI was a good theologian.  Now nobody feels that the pope will think less of him because he knows nothing at all.  Generally however it does little harm, as all things are so fixed and regulated, by congregations &c.


pp. 143-4.

Saw the Pope with Nonna, the Throckmortons21 and Mlle Dal[berg] . . . .  We waited under the tapestries.  Hohenlohe very polite and pleasant.  Ct Medici came and spoke.   My hat, sword and gloves allowed to pass—only our party present.  Nonna introduced us as we knelt down successively—una molto buona amica delle figlie [Dal.].  He leaned forward and gave us his hand rather to shake than merely to kiss, very gracefully and raised us by it—without allowing us to kiss his red shoed foot.  He made us all sit down.  I stood.  Nonna alone spoke, until she turned to appeal to me, and the pope attended to me for a little while.  He saw my uniform and asked what it was.  She said I had been in Russia—with the embassy—and that my mother, whom he seemed to think N’s daughter, was ambassadress.22  This he remembered, but asked the amb’s name.  Had heard so much of our brilliancy, and of my mother’s religiousness from [Flavio] Chigi [1810-85, later Cardinal]—asked me if the story was true of his coming to the sick servant, and said every priest must do the same—was the servant a Catholic?  He said even the pope must have done the very same.  Chigi he said was till [18]49 garde noble, and was obliged to leave, even if he had not become priest, because of his bad eyes.  Gave us his blessing, and his hand again, calling each up successively, with a wave of the hand, and stood by the side of the table till we were all out of the room, which I left the last.  Asked which was which among the girls—all greatly struck with his obesity and almost torpidity, and found him old and weak.  He took a deal of snuff, and spoke very quietly distinctly and slovenly, with no affectation whatever of impressiveness.  My impression is not of any ability and he seems less banally goodnatured, than his smiling pictures represent him to be.


p. 145.  Monday morning May 4, 1857.

Peter Beckx [1795-1887] the general of the Jesuits [from 1853 to 1887] called this morning.  Very quiet, amiable, almost timid man, handsome pleasing countenance, light spirits—slow, low conversation.  He said he could not hope to travel, because a general had always to be in Rome, and [J.P.] Roothaan [1785-1853, his predecessor] had travelled only because he was obliged, by the Revolution.  Dissatisfied with Goyon, for they have no room for their novices, of whom they have many.  Rather more than 6000 Jesuits altogether, 300 in England, 150 in Ireland.  In Tuscany they have many, enemies, as it is particularly attempted by English emissaries.  They have houses in Maryland, New Orleans, Canada &c. The house in Fredericton is not flourishing.  Yesterday he received a lithographic letter of the sect in Tuscany, against the order.


p. 148.

Santarelli affirms that many priests and even prelates went about during the republic in their dress and were not molested.23  No harm was done till the first repulse of the French.  If the Austrians had come they would have opened the gates, but they were irritated at the conduct of the French republic from which they had expected sympathy.  He said as much as that the govt. of the Triumvirs was better than the papal, which he thinks now worse than before.

Theiner says the Pope is very excitable, and often speaks with great vigor for some time, when it is impossible to suggest anything, but when he has done then he is ready to listen.

He thinks Antonelli very ignorant, but uncommonly able and far sighted. Berardi he says has most knowledge of foreign countries of anybody here. .


pp. 172-3.

[In German.]  Desperate situation of Austrian power in Italy.  The French more liked.  Austrian officialdom fatal.  They are not forthcoming but cold, unfriendly and have their own hatred against the Italians.  These in any case don’t like them and the consequences are the worst possible.  There is nothing more disagreeable than the Austrian bureaucracy.  Then there has always been hatred and antipathy between German and Italian—with France it is quite different.

[In English.]  The Vatican Archives not rich in old things.  It begins to be very rich only in the 16th century.  Pius VI when the French occupied Rome caused certain documents to be destroyed, of which he feared that a bad use might be made.


Tuesday May 12th, 1857.

We have been here three weeks, and to-day the Professor said he had never been asked a single sensible question about Germany since he came.

[In German.] The best Florentines, Capponi, Caffei, etc., always show a predilection in favour of Piedmont in their conversation—this out of hatred against Austria and out of an affection for a settled constitution chiefly.

Great difference between Italians. The Romans are the least obliging—the Lombards quite different.


p. 174.

To-day the P[rofessor] said he would have come to Rome long ago if he had foreseen that he would be received with so much kindness and liberality.  That it had greatly surpassed his hopes, and had surprised him very much.


p. 175.

It occurs to me that though the church can manage to get on with all forms of govt., democracy and despotism are pagan forms and are dangerous to her always.  Other forms and modifications of these arise in Xn ages and are more conformable.


pp. 177-8. [Tuesday 12 May 1857.]

Macch. Prince does not carry out a theory of govt. but of getting and extending power; the administrative despotism began with the Ref. and servitude of the Church, quite distinct from the tyranny of the 15th cent.  The pagan ideas dominated in modern Europe, with the forgetfulness of the M. Ages, from which therefore political ideas and examples of freedom could not be derived.  It was so with everything else.  Bodinus &c—quite pagan in ideas and examples.

Gallicanism began with 1516.  The pragmatic sanction had aimed at autonomy of the Church—not more—Gerson and his friends sought not even autonomy.

The existence of so powerful and important a body as the church incompatible with absolute power of the State as it removes so large a field from its reach.  Christian conscience demands the utmost personal freedom, and the least interference of the state.  Hence all liberty began with the Church, and the ancients knew no liberty.  Those who thought themselves most free were the least free.  Thus it is absurd in us to admire ancient freedom.

Aristotle knew nothing of true monarchy, wh is a creation of the M[iddle] A[ges]of Xty acting on the Germanic race and institutions.  It is not of itself necessary or proceeding from the church.  Thus we can no longer accept the ancient division of states, who do not include ours.  The 3 forms are all incompatible with the Ch. in their excess, that is in their ancient Auffassung.  All 3 must be modified, that is, a new division must be made for us.


pp. 181-2.

Everything is done here by word of mouth—as all things are settled by the pope, he dismisses them summarily, verbally. In this way he often gives audiences till past midnight.

The consultors of the Index are many and various, so that the mixture of orders secures fairness.  Modena the secretary conducts everything, and several people sometimes have to report on a book.  If there is any difficulty they all successively defend their opinion before the Cardinals who are sometimes 13 together, and each gives the reason of his opinions.  Immense liberty of the existing corporations, though there are not many.  They often do everything without giving accts or being under any control.


pp. 191-2.

C’est avec une joie extrême que j’apprends que les actes et délibérations du concile de Trente vont enfin être publiés.  Cette publication avoit été désirée ardemment par tous les théologiens éminents au dela des Alpes.  Jusqu’ici on était réduit à se servir de l’histoire de Pallavicini, ouvrage dont le mérite est incontestable, mais qui bien loin de satisfaire aux exigences de la science ecclésiastique, ne sert tres souvent qu’à exciter le dé et à faire sentir la nécessité de pouvoir puiser à la source, c’est a dire dans les actes originaux.  Trop souvent P[allavicini] est plutôt Rhetoricien qu’historien; l’idée succincte qu’il donne des votes des évêques et des mémoires des théologiens peut suffire au lecteur général, mais l’homme de science, et tous ceux qui veulent s’instruire à fond d’une question agitée et résolue dans Ie Concile, ne peuvent pas s’en contenter; ils voudraient connaitre les raisons dont les péres du concile ont appuyé leurs votes; enfin le vote d’un théologien dans une question grave est toujours le résultat d’un certain individualisme, d’une maniere de penser particuliere à l’auteur, qu’on ne peut apprécier que quand on connait la piece entiere.  L’ouvrage de Sarpi le grand arsenal pour tous les ennemis de l’église continue d’exercer toujours une grande influence, on en réimprime les traductions, on s’en sert constamment comme d’un témoin qui seul excepté Pallavicini avait a sa disposition les actes du condle.  Cet art exquis avec lequel il sait infiltrer le vénin de sa haine contre l’église jusque dans les détails d’une discussion dogmatique ne peut être mis a découvert que par la publication des actes entiers.   Pallavicini ne suffit pas.  Aux yeux des adversaires c’est un auteur dépourvu de toute autorité, qu’on ne peut controler parceque les pieces dont il se sert ne sont connues de personne; de sorte que chacun est libre de préférer le récit de Sarpi à celui de Pallavicini.  D’ailleurs Pallavicini se jette souvent sur des vétilles, et en fait grand bruit pour décrier Sarpi comme un auteur de mauvaise foi.  C’est ce qui a donné bien au reproche si souvent formulé qu’il ne suscite querelle a Sarpi dans ces petites choses que parcequ’il ne pouvait pas attaquer sa véracité dans les choses graves.  Tout ceci sert à montrer combien la publication des actes sera opportune, et combien les fruits que l’église en tirera seront précieux.


p. 218.  26 June 1857.

Ranke’s Reformation not good.  He has never understood or explained the importance of the religious movement.  He did not know, and he did not wish to do so.  Richelieu’s policy the best thing he has ever done, but he has not perceived the importance of the religious movement in France at that time which played a great part ag[ainst] Richelieu, in connexion with S. Francis, S. Vincent, Berulle, Olier and the first Jansenists, S. Cyran, etc.24


p. 193. Tuesday. May the 19th, 1857.

This morning I returned to S. Maria della Vittoria, and was taken over it by a monk I met at the door, who took great interest in the affair, and spoke of Menzel.  The church belonged to them before, and they received the image and standards because of Dominic.  It was restored at the time, and thenceforward captured standards used to be sent there, as in 1683 and under Maria Theresa.  In 1833 the church was set fire to and burnt by an incendiary.  The high altar being of wood was destroyed utterly, together with the original image.  A copy stands now in its place.  In a room near the church are four large pictures of the battle, sent there immediately after, with explanations and portraits of the Emperor and Empress, Max—and Dominic with the image round his neck.  The dress of the BV is red.  The pictures all very dirty and badly kept, but give a good idea.  The first shows the army crossing the bridge and coming under fire before half was across.  In the third Dominic stands before the generals, near the moment of the last attack, exhorting them, with his back to the enemy.


p. 195.

On ne saurait méconnaitre qu’un grand travail s’opère au sein du Protestantisme.  En allemagne le Rationalisme théologique est en decadence, on sent le besoin de reconstruire au lieu de démolir, et par conséquent la théologie protestante commence à se rapprocher de l’église et de son enseignement.  Les signes de ce rapprochement se multiplient tous les jours.  Mais c’est toujours le Concile de Trente que leurs préjugés, sucés pour ainsi dire avec le lait matemel, leur apprennent à regarder comme le grand obstacle à toute réunion, et comme la pierre d’achoppement.  Ce ne sont pas tout [?tant] les décrets du Concile en eux-même[s], c’est plutôt l’idée qu’ils se sont formés de la manière dont les affaires y ont été traitées, des prétendues intrigues qui y dominaient, du despotisme exercé par les légats.


pp. 150-1. [20 May 1857.]

Eve of the ascension: at Cardinal Reisach’s.25  A modification of the Index will become necessary, particularly in consequence of the private denunciations of works.  Hence a great abuse will arise and force them to change their system.

Immense piles of papers written on Gunther’s affair.26  Particular doctrines and passages ready for condemnation, but as they all submitted no more was done than the general censure.  Yet detailed answers were given to the Bp. of Breslau and others, as in the case of Hermes.  It is a very long affair.  Girdil took 10 years to prepare the bull auctorem fidei—not only papers are printed, but the whole books written in defence of G. were printed for the Cardinals—a Dominican Gigli wrote an immense deal about it.  The most important passages were extracted and translated into Latin and the Güintherians who came to Rome approved the translation as just, so that it could be submitted to the Roman divines.  Knoodt, Baltzer and Gaugauf were the principal advocates of G. at Rome.  Gaugauf defended him only on the Trinity, but did not fairly translate him.  Knoodt was the ablest defender, but no theologian.  Baltzer defended his view of Duality, instead of Trinity by the Council of Ephesus, and quoted a passage of the Nestorian creed which the Council condemned as [i.e. under the impression that it was] the symbol of the Council. 

A general decree is preparing condemning the chief errors now prevalent, having no authors.

Such a step may be good and useful.  The 4 propositions gave general satisfaction.

The Cardinal says he wishes to see all the Archives published.  They were packed and sent to France and are in great disorder—and Pius VI had some acts destroyed when the French came to Rome.


p. 152.  Ascension day.  [21 May 1857.]

College system best for universities, but their unity of religion is indispensable.  They ought in Ireland to have founded separate colleges, for at Oxford and Cambridge they feel how necessary unity is, and are quite right in rejecting dissenters.  They ought to extend the same justice to the Catholics—but a minister is not to blame who goes by public opinion, and we cannot expect them to be martyrs for Catholics.27  The Irish like the Italians have great national talents, but few men individually great.  It is because they are deficient in that perseverance and energy of mind which is required to make a great man and which the Teutonic race is peculiarly endowed with.


p. 154.

They are afraid here of foreign scholars applying through the ministers to get at the Archives, and on that account are shy of showing them even to Romans.  Guillermett applied for his history of the pontifical navy, but Theiner was desired to give him only just what he required on that account.


pp. 155-6. Saturday 23rd May.

. . . The Spaniards in the 16th century were still proud of their liberties while they were being deprived of them, and were afraid to write in such a way as to be suspected by the Inquisition which was even more severe in political than in religious matters.  Afterwards their whole literature sank, when the monarchy was at its height.  It never produced in the Spanish people a theory of its action.

Very many men, especially men of small abilities, have just one brilliant period in their lives which determines and overshadows all the rest.  They never get beyond it, and remain fixed to the impressions it has left them.  So with many converts whose period of conversion was a very active and productive one.  Thue gut, und wirf’s ins Meer, Sieht’s der Fisch nicht so sieht’s der Herr.  It is not necessary to force others to share your opinion, nor even desirable. I have often been myself zu lebhaft und hitzig when trying to convince people.  It is enough to say decidedly what we are persuaded is true—and in time it will bear fruit of itself.  The absence of any prejudice or object in view must remove the chief objection to the opinions of such a person.  In historical matters it is hard, because 99/100 of mankind know history only by party statements—wait to influence them till you have the authority which learning gives.  To hear a view calmly but decidedly stated must make some impression and shake prejudice.  As to discussing German works it must not be done so as to show the intention of accusing people of neglect and ignorance.28  That indisposes them at once.  The N? Review &c. must contribute like the Germans zum Zersetzungs—und Reconstructionsprozess.  Alles was in diese Richtung in Deutschland vor 100 Jahren zu sehen war dem Engländern nachgemacht. . . . Catholic differences appear important because there are so many things we agree upon.  Protestant differences so slight because they agree on so few points.


p. 207. 

Theiner has many letters of Cardinal Pole and of James II.

Theiner refused Saturday 23d May, to let me see the Acts of Galilei’s trial.  He principally prepared the work which bears Marini’s name, and declares that there is no question of torture.  He would let the Prof. see and tell me about it.29


p. 289.  Sunday 24th May 1857  Notes of my own.

After the Reformation the principles of liberty and authority uniformly, and exclusively maintained by the Catholic writers, whilst the protestants promulgated either tyrannical or anarchical doctrines.  When the Catholic writers uttered principles recalling these two extremes, they imitated some of the protestant writers before them.


p. 290. [? Sunday 24 May, 1857] Notes of my own.

In England the Catholics could not be an element of stability and constitutional security so long as they were in so unfortunate a position that they must set relief above every other consideration.30  Now I think we are in a position to exhibit the true political effects of Catholic principles, and can render to the constitution the benefits we receive from it.  We must maintain the high parts of the constitution and its christian character in spite of their abandoning it themselves.  We cannot do evil that good may come.  We are the only permanently conservative element in the state, and in this, and in the religious character, the heirs of the establishment.


p. 142.  Friday.  June 12th 1857.

Saw the Pope at 9 o’clock this evening.  Introduced by Talbot31 and Pacca.  He spoke very loud immediately on seeing me—that he was glad to see me, that he had been much pleased to see the mother of the Cardinal at Rome, and remembered that I was with her.  He asked if I was now returning to England, and what the Cath. expected from the new Parl.  I said we had very little—da sperare, he interrupted.  I said yes, but little also to fear.  He said oh yes, Palmerston had made himself quite necessary in the present crisis, and appeared useful.  I said he was less dangerous at home than abroad.  Yes, he said, because he is quite an infidel, and cares not about Catholics, but seems restless to disturb Catholic countries abroad.  I observed that that [sic] he disliked Catholics too, and that was part of his reasons for interference, especially in the [papal] states.  I added that the husband of my mother was a minister.  Oh yes, you are the son of the Lady Gr[anville] who was in Moscow—well we have less to fear from Lord G[ranville] but Gladstone I believe was better, and as a Puseyite near Cath[olicism]; I said that ambition made him useless, as it was a very bad thing.  Oh he said, secondo me ei passioni inubbriacono li uomini come il vino and when it masters them, makes them incapable of good.  Then I said G[ladstone] was also unsafe in foreign affairs, and he said yes, he had been carried away and deceived in Nap[les).32


p. 139. [c. 12 June 1857.]

Monsignor Talbot on the day of my audience with the pope, spoke with me for nearly an hour—sensibly but not remarkably—nothing like disaffection has been shown since they started, tho’ this is the worst part of the states.  The people is everywhere well disposed.  The nobles are worthless, have no courage or determination, and do no good, here or in Rome.  Marescalchis very good people.  He complained that not one of them will receive Austrians.  He thinks the Roman troops cannot be trusted, but that the Swiss would suffice.  The French in Rome are a very unsatisfactory set.  The officers are all infidels, and only give less scandal because they have very little money.  There is no trusting them, as any change at Paris wd. make them very dangerous.  Goyon well meaning.  Montreal the best they have had: the Austrians every way better—subordinate, respectful.  They have greatly pleased the Pope.  At Ancona many who were going home stayed another year to see the pope.  All behaved perfectly and can well be trusted; the pope conspicuously prefers them to the other—wish we had them in Rome.  Archduke Max himself said that it was not gracious to put a prot[estant] Dvenfeld at the head, tho’ he behaves publicly like a Catholic. . . .


p. 244. Saturday 20th  June.

Begin with the ausarbeitung of a particular, easy part, for which all the materials are at hand.  At other hours go on reading for what will require much study.  It is only by practise that one gets the right tone.  It is no use thinking about it beforehand.  Write away, and go on even if what is written does not satisfy you.33


pp. 49-50. Corpus Christi [20 June] 1857.

Bevilacqua on the papal states.  The three years he passed in Rome made him think the state of things hopeless in the papal states.  There are many interests there against any change.  The legations are in great risk of being lost some day.  The people think much more of politics since the French occupation.  In the Southern provinces, excepting Perugia, this is not at all the case.  They are very much more heavily taxed than the others.  When B. was in Rome he began a memoir on that subject but found so much difficulty that he could not manage it.  His colleagues of the Consulta gave him all the information they could—only the Romans themselves refused.  Because Rome is so much better of[f] than the legations.  Some day the Austrians will get hold of these provinces.  This Pope has better will than almost any other, but can do nothing.  The administration of Justice is the worst.  The judges of 1st instance have only 40 sc. a month—juges d’appel, 60 or 70.  All the higher places are given to prelates, but they do not stay, but become nuncios &c. so that there is no good body of judges, and the laity is not applied to that as much as might be the case.  Grassellini wrote that it was impossible to govern these provinces because the people mistrust the govt and the govt the people—both with good cause.  The finances are not the worst.  They have been badly managed, but the resources are enormous, and might be greatly developed.  There are many more of the middle class disaffected, than there were formerly, and they are more so as material interests increase.  Much might be reformed in the details of administration.

Today too Fernand had an audience and avoided politics—so did the pope.  But Mérode [1820-74, cameriere segreto, director of prisons] talked very vigorously and inquisitively—and he feels convinced of the impossibility of truth reaching the Pope with such an entourage.


p. 230. No date.

. . . In France. . . extreme opinions spring from the general absence of firm principle and from their feeling the want of it.  In France everything has been levelled and reduced to a tabula rasa; that is the right field for absolutism of all kinds, also in theory.  Where as in England, things are of historical growth, and men are surrounded with various existing barriers and institutions, they avoid such absolutism, and see things in a more open way.  So those who are used to affairs are accustomed to meet with barriers and obstacles and yield and accommodate themselves to them.  A newspaper writer sees nothing before him but his pen, ink and paper. . . .


p. 245.

A Christian must seek to extend as much as possible the field where he is responsible only to his conscience, and free from Governmental authority.34  This sets a bar for ever to the view that Christianity is connected with absolutism.  But this condemns also the whole modern progress of states, and growth of monarchical power.  It is a false Richtung, and the evils of our time are its necessary consequence.


pp. 248-9. Sunday June 21. 1857.

. . . The Church influenced the political forms by her example, and by the analogy of her forms, as she was the only one they had.  So the Reichstage followed the example of her councils for carrying on business, for they had no order whatever before.  She cherished republics at times just as much as monarchy.  A Christian rep[ublic] differs from a pagan just as much as a Xn monarchy from a pagan.  The sanctity of the King is later and is not of consequence in this point.  For large states, and in the medieval state of affairs monarchy was essential.  In small states, and in towns republican Government does quite as well, and was encouraged by the church in Italy.  She always opposed petty despots.  The notion that monarchy is in itself most perfect is protestant.  The absolute authority of the state in any shape is detestable, but the absolutism of an individual (hereditary) is decidedly the best form of it.  In democracies it is always terrorism.  The essential notion of monarchy is hereditary.  This is not a Christian idea.  Christianity modifies equally all the forms of govt of antiquity.  Aristocracy is essential to a democracy—an absolute monarchy may exist without it, tho’ that is abominable.  Aristocracy is a very vague notion as it may be founded on many things.  Representative govt where there is not a standische Verfassung destroys itself and cannot last. . . . There is no other reason for the opinion of the scholastic divines on the popular origin of authority than the influence of Aristotle and the ancient opinions. . . .


p.246. Monday 22 [June 1857].

St Peter’s leaves one cold—can pray better in Gothic churches.  Gallicanism dead and buried.  What is so called now was never known as such formerly.  The matter of the breviary for instance.  In Germany several dioceses, as Cologne and Munster, have breviaries differing from the Roman, and have never been complained of as Germanicans.  The Roman breviary ought to be improved first of all.

More good might be said of Aristotle’s ethics, a really wonderful work.  Plato’s state most brilliant, but founded on heathen ideas of liberty, and therefore unpractical.  Aristotle’s politics merely critical. He sets up nothing in the place of what he describes.

Tacitus not quite an atheist.  He did not know what to do with the mythology—but believed in some kind of gods, and in some immortality—see the Agricola.


pp. 269-73. Wednesday night June the 24th 1857.35

Project of printing a letter to Newman. . . . on the foundation of a Catholic university in England.

The Catholic body wants two things: to be internally united-and to be externally strong and able.

We require first to see, feel, and know our own strength.  Then only we can prove it, and tell as a power in England.  This can be done only by an institution which shall combine together our intellectual resources.  They are lost and useless by dispersion, and gradually fade.  Union alone could foster, nourish and promote learning among our scholars, and introduce it among our youth.  It would be the Bewusstseyn of the English Catholics.  It would first unite and amalgamate our native and converted catholics, and destroy the incipient disagreement.

Our young men have no higher studies, except in divinity.  But this is of no use to our laity, and to them we must most address our efforts.

Some go to Cambridge, or to London, or abroad, or to private tutors, most do nothing.

The real love of learning inspired only by the union of studies at an university.

It would be the beginning of learning among us.

We have every other internal advantage: an excellent priesthood and a faithful flock, and also political liberty.

But withal we have not the weight we deserve because we have so little literature, or at least so few contributors to the national literature.

We do little to prevent its tone from being entirely protestant.  Yet this is a duty to ourselves, to our religion, and to our country.

It would be a bond of union separate from political agitation, and would be a greater title to respect than our political proceedings.

It would combine with the plan of a general seminary, for a university is nothing without a faculty of theology, and ecclesiastical studies are lame without connexion with the universality of studies.

In this way it would be a bond between our clergy and laity.

No moment so favourable as the present when we have so many converts, whose strength will die with them if not used for the good of the church during their prime.

Religion is not a sufficient link, because it does not give conformity enough in many things.

That can only be by a common education, which shall also unite in ideas, and therefore more perfectly than has been the case in action, the clergy and the laity.  Students coming from many places have various and discordant opinions.  We have many examples of that.  Thereby the experience of the converts will become the common property of the Catholic body.

It will do no harm to Dublin because no English will go to Dublin, as is pretty clear.

If they went not in Newman’s time still less will they go later.  Dublin takes a more and more Irish character, and will stand when it has beaten the Colleges.

The English University will be supported by all the Catholic laity of England, and by all the bishops who greatly want a seminary with higher studies.

It will not meet with the difficulties that beset Dublin, as there will be no opposition.

It will relieve the colleges, and make their proper course better by removing the necessity of attempting higher studies.

It will give no umbrage to government, but will rather be encouraged by it.

Total inactivity of the Catholic laity with regard to Dublin.  So many Irish continue to come to England that perhaps some of them too would go to it, and it might save some from the godless colleges as it would not be in opposition to anything.

It would raise the studies at our colleges by giving them a higher aim and object.

It might very well be without medicine.

Necessity of Catholic conservatism in England.


p. 287.

We must consider the present crisis of the world, what it is and how it affects England.  It is the revolutionary crisis to which the whole political progress of modern Europe has come.  It will pass away in time, when great changes have occurred in all nations.  Can England pass through uninjured, if it does not anticipate some of those changes to which other countries are brought by the necessities of danger?  We must see what changes are required and called for to still the storm abroad, and must modify our own institutions in time to keep up with the tempestuous progress of other nations.


p. 262.

The love of peace inevitable in a society where the 3[rdJ estate predominates.  The desire of gain and love of possessions destroys the great duties of the defence of the oppressed &c.  Nevertheless prosperity does not remain safe, and the war which we sought to avoid on the battle field we meet with in the streets of our own home.

Wars and rumors of wars precede the end of the world, so that we cannot expect wars to diminish in frequency.

War renews and encourages manly virtues, accustoms men to obey, defines and strengthens authority.

Wars increase as the obedience to the spiritual power declines.

Diminish the chances and causes of war, then you can diminish your armies—not begin by the latter.36


p. 297.

Superfluity of moral standard in history. We are no wiser when we know that one is good or bad, but what are the causes and effects of his life. It is the business only of Him to judge who can carry his judgments into effect.37

Moral indifference of the two points of view:  Frederic representing independence and election, Ferdinand the principle of hereditary right.  It was but fair that they should fight it out, and that the result of the contest should determine the future.

Double influence of Greek and of Roman antiquity on the political ideas of modern times.  The Greeks vermittelt chiefly by Aristotle, as early as the 12th or 13th century, the Roman by the Roman law.  Both promoted the despotism if not of the individual, at least of the state, which was then represented by an individual, and at the same time inculcated a theoretical republicanism and insubordination.  This shows the oscillation between extremes.

p. 137. Munich. November 1st  [1857].

Völkerwanderung needed both for the destruction of Rome and for the conversion of the Germans.  They were Christians at once when Xty came to them away from their own homes.  The difficulty of converting them at home shows how greatly their emigration was needed to overcome great obstacles.  Ein Zug in their religion facilitated, but others opposed—one set of features helped their conversion, which another set made very necessary.

Germany was required to be kept elective, because of the imperial crown & interest of the church, but this was the fault of the German princes who did not deserve to be hereditary—tho’ it wd really have been best for all parties.  Leo II 417 Decisive for the Empire & for the character of the 30 Yrs War. Leo II 510.


pp. 335-6.  November 1, 1857.

Protestantism was pagan because it gave religion a political character, and revived the national principle of religion.  It mixed temporal affairs with religious and gave the preference to political over religious considerations.

The desire to return to the Church was general at first:  but as Prot. settled down, it sank into the hearts of men, and they gradually became sincere Protestants.  In the 17th cent. this was generally the case, from long habit.  In Silesia for instance the counterreformation could not succeed.  In Styria on the contrary it had not had time to command men’s minds, and was extirpated.  The later generations were much better Prot. than the first, & the dirty reasons for accepting the Ref. had disappeared and influenced them no more. . . .


p. 337.  November 1, 1857.

Historians have not to point out everywhere the hand of Providence, but to find out all the natural causes of things. Enough will always remain that cannot be so explained, but we have only to indicate that such is the case, not to show it on every occasion.38



1 Cambridge University Library Manuscripts, Add. 5752, 358-60.  In this index item I is “Mohler’s Patrologia, Extracts from”; no. 2 is “German literature”; no. 3 is “Error, Doubt and Truth,” and we pass in no. 6 to “Newman on Education” and no. 7 to “Papal Infallibility.”  Some of the items clearly have reference to conversations with the Munich Professor Lasaulx, and then we have: no. 21, “Audita on the journey”; no. 22, “July II-July 24, 1852”; no. 23, “Lasaulx. March 28 1852”; no. 24, “Walk about the same time”; no. 25, “Nov. 11 1852-Jan. 25, 1853”; no. 26: “state of the Pagan World”, etc., etc.

2 Add. 4862, much of which seems to consist of pages torn out of notebooks.  The document in question is entitled, “My mother’s wishes. Thursday morning, 27 October 1859”; cf. Fitzmaurice, Life of Lord Granville, for the corresponding account of the situation by Acton’s stepfather.  One of the most human features of Acton’s narrative is the account of the way in which he pleased his mother by responding to her obvious desire that he should make his second cousin, Marie, his wife.

3 Add. 5527-9 and 5752.

4 Add. 5751.

5 Acton wrote to Döllinger in later years: “It was only when we got into the train that I realized that we were not going to Rome.” [Johann] Friedrich, [Ignaz von Döllinger] (Munich, 1899), III, 111.  Descriptions of the visits made to North Italy (and Switzerland) in 1850, 1852 and 1854 are to be found ibid. III, 76, 111-14, 141.

6 Essays on Liberty, p. 375.

7 At one time Acton seems not to know what influence the journey had.  He writes:  “He [Döllinger] says distinctly that he formed his later opinions about 1857—after his return.”  Then he adds: “How did that set him thinking?” [Add. 4905].  On other occasions he seems to be turning the matter over in his mind: “1857 [Döllinger] not struck.  But deeply interested—pondered over it all—and somewhat taken aback by what he found.  The most central and universal scene” [Ibid.].  “1857 destroyed the halo—abolished confidence, admiration, respect—But did not produce any strong sense of condemnation.” [Ibid.]  “1857 only made it [Rome] contemptible, not odious.” [Add. 4903.]  We do not know the chronological order of these notes and perhaps it is wrong to see a crescendo; but on one of the slips Acton is enumerating the stages in the development of Döllinger, and at no. 6, after the Frankfurt Assembly, he surprises us with the thesis: “Experience of Rome.  Luther not so very wrong after all.”  Cf. Add. 5001:  “Once as we walked down from the Capitol to the Coliseum, in answer to my question:  How long will all this last?   He said:   As long as it is felt to be beneficial to religion and no longer.”   On the other hand, Acton himself says in Add. 4903:   “His journey to Rome had not exposed to him the weakness of the Church.”   In Add. 4905 he writes: “Change in Rome—not perceived in 1857.”  In the essay on “Döllinger’s Historical Work”, Essays on Liberty, p. 375, we read:  “He did not come away charged with visions of scandal in the spiritual order, of suffering in the temporal or of tyranny in either.”  In Add. 4912 he says: Döllinger “not a good traveller.  Too thoughtful to be observant.”  See also nn. 8, 9, below.

8 “D. to C.B. 22 January 1870”; transcribed by Acton in Add. 4911.  Cf. Döllinger to Jörg, 22 May 1857, in Friedrich, III, 178:  “I have on the whole been well received here and in respect of the use of manuscripts I have been afforded great facilities, beyond my expectations.  So it was in my mind to strike while the iron was hot, and I have devoted the best of my time to the libraries, especially to the Vatican Library.  That has certainly had the effect of making me neglect men and things more than I ought to have done.”  Friedrich also quotes Jörg as having said:  “the Eternal City interested him [Döllinger] above all in his capacity as a scholar.”

9 Döllinger was seeking materials on the subject of medieval heresies [Friedrich, III, 178]; and Acton repeatedly notes the importance of the journey for the development of Döllinger’s manuscript studies, though in Add. 4905 and Add. 4912 he makes it clear that now in Rome, as earlier in Paris, Florence and Prague he only went to manuscripts “for particular things,” and not until 1864 (the visits to Vienna and Venice) did the habit of manuscript study have a decisive effect on the character of his work; cf. n. 18 below.  Döllinger seems to have left Italy with no high opinion of Italian scholarship in general.  In Add. 4809 Acton writes:  “this journey to Rome 1857 confirmed his impression.  The work done at Rome in his time disappointed him.   He ceased, after his journey there to follow it up. . .”; cf. Add. 5644, p. 71 :  “1857 made him indifferent to Roman literature.” 

The effect of the Roman journey on another side of Döllinger’s development as a scholar is discussed in Add. 4905:  “the visit to Rome opened another channel to his thoughts.  It shows little of the magic but it is full of modern memories in all its monuments as well as in its collections.   Reminded him of the scenes in the lives of the popes and prelates since the Renaissance.   He began to study this for the first time. . . .”

10 These are chiefly in Add. 4911; see for example nn. 13, 16 and 17; cf. however nn. 14, 16, 19 and 38 below.

11 It is clear that Acton is here summarizing the view of Peter Ernst Lasaulx (1805-61, and Professor of Philology in Munich since 1844), after a conversation that preceded the stay in Rome.  If there were any doubt this would be set at rest by a note in Add. 5643, which is a characterization of Lasaulx and is partly based on this entry in the journal: “. . . Opinion of Plato and Aristotle. . . history to him only dealt with ideas. . . . Paganism helped him to understand Christianity. . . avoided the drudgery that attends the pursuit of history. . . thought little of Montesquieu and Burke—scooping the cream of history. . . .”

In the Letters . . . to Mary Gladstone (1913), p. 57, Acton says that Lasaulx “was one of the best friends I ever had.  For two years I followed his lectures on ancient literature, philosophy, etc., and he left his library to me when he died”; cf. Lord Acton’s Correspondence, I, 13 and n.   In The Rambler (July 1858), p. 33 I, Acton, writing on Buckle, describes Lasaulx as “the most eloquent and accomplished philosopher in Germany.”  Here, as in so many other cases, Acton’s later views were more critical; see for example Essays on Liberty, p. 405.

12 Concerning Stahl (1802-61) Acton seemed to be gathering hostile reports in this period.   In a note in Add. 5609 he writes: “Stahl Romantik in politics.   Gneist assured me in 1855, at the height of his success, that he knew no branch of legal science.”  His later opinion (1881) was enthusiastic; see Letters. . . to Mary Gladstone, p. 72: “Stahl, a man without birth or fortune, became the leader of the Prussian conservative and reactionary party.  He led them from about 1850 to 1860, when he died; and he was intellectually far superior to Disraeli—I should say, the greatest reasoner that has ever served the conservative cause.  But he never obtained power or determined any important political event.”

13 This is a summary of views put forward by Döllinger; and the fact is recorded in the case of the remark about Newman, which Acton transcribed in Add. 4911.  Also Döllinger states something similar on the subject of Newman in a letter to the latter of 5 November 1857; Wilfrid Ward, The Life . . . of Newman (1927), I, 444.  The work by Newman, to which Döllinger refers, must be the Lectures on Justification, 1838.

14 Acton was fond of transcribing this story.  In Add. 4908 he further tells us that the work by Stalin was on Württemberg and that Hermann was one of the Bavarian judges.  He also gives a different reason for Döllinger’s opposition to Mommsen.  “He was repelled—he distrusted the terrible definiteness and certitude—confidence—of the great philol.”

15 Since on Tuesday 12 May Acton reports that Döllinger and he have been in Rome for three weeks, it seems likely that this entry belongs to 27 rather than 20 April.

Concerning Theiner (1804-74) Acton writes [Add. 4903]:  “Father Augustin Theiner of the Oratory was the keeper of the Secret Archives of the Papacy”; cf. Add. 4908: “Theiner could not be set aside, because, although his mind was not exceedingly true nor his judgment sound, he possessed the final material

both as to recent Roman History

but especially respecting the Council of Trent.”

Cf. nn. 16, 18 below.

16 When Acton relates this in Add. 491 I he quotes Döllinger as his authority. In Add. 4908 he writes: “Theiner undertook to publish the Correspondence of the Legates [at the Council of Trent] with Rome.  But he died without accomplishing it.”  Cf. n. 18 and p. 195 below.  He was forbidden to show a printed copy of it to any bishop in 1870.  It appeared in 1874.

17 Once again Acton merely makes Döllinger’s views his own and he ascribes this judgement to the latter when he writes our this passage in Add. 4911.  His own views developed, however, and when he wrote the essay on “Döllinger’s Bistorical Work” [Essays on Liberty, p. 375], he shows that by 1890 he regards this judgement as a sign of weakness in his teacher:  “He was never in contact with the sinister side of things.  Theiner’s Life of Clement the Fourteenth failed to convince him and he listened incredulously to his indictment of the Jesuits.  Eight years later Theiner wrote to him that he hoped they would now agree better on that subject than when they discussed it in Rome.”

18 In regard to this topic, also, Acton was ready at a later time to criticize the attitude of his teacher.  In Add. 5609, p. 40, he writes: “How late he [Döllinger] understood about MSS.  At Rome in 1857 he spoke as if the Council of Trent was known by Sarpi and Pallavicini rather than by Le Plat and Baluze, Mansi, Lagomarsini Morandi.”  Cf. p. 195 below.

Acton in the meantime had been particularly interested in the problem of the relative merits of Sarpi and Pallavicini, as historians of the Council of Trent.  It represents one of the significant areas of concentration in his notes, and in Add. 4915 there is the remark:  “N.B. In four or five notebooks I have important matter touching Sarpi and Pallavicini.  Also unpublished letters of Pallavicini . . . .”; see, for example, Add. 4864, 5016, 5568, 5599, 5613.  In 1867 he published an article on Sarpi in the first issue of The Chronicle.

19 Again this is Döllinger’s judgement, as Acton notes when he transcribes it in Add. 4912.  Döllinger and Acton had seen much of the Marquis Gino Capponi (1792-1876) in Florence during their stay there in 1852, and according to Döllinger’s account (Friedrich, III, I I 1-12) had found “around him” the flower of the learned world of Florence,” and had learned for the first time of that Italian national feeling” the depth and universality of which I had hitherto refused to credit.”  Döllinger’s views about Capponi are to be found at greater length in Friedrich, III, 112-14, in his obituary notice (Akademische Vorträge, II, 241-53), and in a letter which he wrote to Acton 19 February 1876, after Capponi’s death (partly transcribed by Acton in Add. 49II). Capponi became completely blind in 1844 but played an important part in the movements which led to the freeing of Italy.  Acton, Essays on Liberty, p. 414, mentions his claim to have remained” the last Italian federalist.”  In 1875 he produced a classic history of the Florentine republic.

20 Jakob Frohschammer (1823-93) was teaching at Munich University from 1850 and was appointed to a chair of philosophy there in 1855 after the publication of his Ueber den Ursprung der menschlichen Seelen.  He was a critic of the Thomist system and his book was placed on the Index.  According to Friedrich, III, 181, Döllinger in this conversation said “Do you then understand German?” “No,” said Modena.  “There are only a few who understand that tongue.  However, it is sufficient if a person high in the opinion of the Vatican denounces the book, and translates the offensive passages (or gets them translated into Italian), and the book comes on to the Index on the proposal of the Referent.” “The Referent who does not know German?” asked Döllinger.  “Passages torn out and taken away from their context often have a different meaning put into them and in this way a very wrong judgement may be made of this learned treatise.”  “Sone le nostre regole,” replied Modena.

21 The family of Sir Robert Throckmorton, Acton’s uncle. See Mathew, Acton, pp. 43-5.

22 The reference is to the special mission of Lord Granville to Russia for the coronation of Alexander II, August-September 1856.  Acton made a preliminary journey, evidently to prepare the way, and then went out with his step-father, as private secretary.  See the detailed account of the mission by the ambassador in Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, Lord Granville, I, 181-218.

23 The Roman Republic, February to July, 1849.  On pp. 179-80 of this diary are further notes on this period of Roman history.

24 The Munich circle was somewhat hostile to Ranke.  See, for example, Add. 4907 (quoting Döllinger’s views):  “Ranke on the Popes avoids real difficulties.  The research is neither consecutive nor profound.  In the Reformation there is more solidity, but not so much that is new”; “Döllinger’s Historical Work” [Essays on Liberty, p. 396]:  “Döllinger had pronounced the theology of the Deutsche Reformation slack and trivial”; cf. the later note, Add. 4908:  “Döllinger long afraid of reading Ranke.”  Of Döllinger’s friend and amanuensis, Jorg, we read [Add. 5527, p. 72 (c. 1858)]:  “Jorg considers Ranke not honest in his Reformation . . . abundance of facts rather than ideas . . . . Dislike of deep philosophy.”  Acton often returned to the subject of Ranke in these early days, as on p. 223 of the 1857 journal and f. 69b and f. 70 of Add. 5528; d. Gasquet [Lord Acton and his Circle], p. 109: Ranke, he said, “has never shown a knowledge of antiquity.”  “There is . . . a want of comprehensiveness in his intelligence of history.”  He “thoroughly fails in the higher, simpler religious characters.”  His very deficiencies make him most suitable for a character such as Richelieu.  His own personality makes the period of about 1500 most fitting for him.  His “peculiar knowledge and views of modern history” are derived from the fact that he sees things through the eyes of Venetian ambassadors whose” cold-blooded acuteness . . . suits and attracts and often misleads him.”

25 Carl von Reisach (1800-69) had been Archbishop of Munich from 1847 until September 1855, when he was created a cardinal.  He had once been a friend of Döllinger, who had lately come to be distrusted by ecclesiastical authority, though he was evidently regarded by some of his friends as a possible successor to the Archbishopric [Friedrich, III, 172].  The painter Cornelius relates [ibid. III, 178] that when Reisach saw Döllinger in the street in Rome in 1857 he said:  “Here comes Döllinger with his long nose so that he can poke it into our affairs.”  Already Döllinger and Acton had half expected persecution, but they were compelled to admit that they had been well received on the whole in Rome.  Reisach in fact appears to have been hospitable to them in 1857; and in Add. 4903 Acton writes:  “Reisach took him [Döllinger] round.”  In his essay on the Vatican Council [Essays on Liberty, p. 501], Acton describes how Reisach was to have been President of the Council.  He proceeds:  “During his long residence in Rome he rose to high estimation, because he was reputed to possess the secret, and to have discovered the vanity, of German science . . . . The Gennan bishops complained that he betrayed their interests. . . and the [papal] Court knew that there was no Cardinal on whom it was so safe to rely.” Cf. Friedrich, III, 169-71.

26 Anton von Günther (1783-1863) was a Catholic philosopher who resided as a private ecclesiastic in Vienna, having been connected with the Jesuits, 1822-4.  He rejected professorships offered by Munich, etc., apparently in the hope of securing a Chair in his own city.  In attacking some of the tendencies of modem German secular philosophy and attempting to find a philosophical basis for nineteenth-century Christianity, he founded an important school and secured some distinguished disciples, and Munich had much sympathy with his work, giving him an honorary degree in 1833.  Döllinger was one of his admirers, but from 1852 the Congregation of the Index were investigating Günther’s work, and Döllinger’s name occurred in the documents concerning the cases [Friedrich, III, 180-1]. At the beginning of 1857 Günther’s works were placed on the Index, and after that date he published nothing more. This episode, combined with that of Frohschammer [see n. 20 above], at a time when it was being apprehended that “henceforward the Index will become busier every day,” represented a victory for those who were reasserting the claims of scholasticism, and showed what the adherents of modern German scientific thought had to expect.  On 15 June 1857, in fact, the Pope in a Brief from Bologna specified Günther’s errors and reasserted Aristotelian views adopted by scholastic writers.  The case touched Döllinger and Acton closely, and the former realized that by this time he himself was somewhat suspect.

27 It is probable that this is a record of Döllinger’s opinion, though there is no reason to suppose that Acton disagreed with it at this date, in spite of the fact that at a date which he placed not long before the beginning of his stay in Munich—i.e., not long before 1850—he had tried in vain to gain admission to a Cambridge college.  For his views on the subject of a Catholic University see pp. 201-2 and n. 35 below.

28 It would not be safe to assume that the young Acton kept this good resolution and avoided arrogance or prevented the irritation that would be caused by repeated accusations and gibes concerning the neglect of German scholarship.  See, for example, his short notices of O’Hagan on Joan of Arc and Arnold on Alcibiades [The Rambler, August 1858, pp. 136-7]; his determination to “show Buckle up” [ibid. pp. 88-104; d. Gasquet, p. 14]; and his remarks about Gladstone, n. 32 below.  Cf. Gasquet, p. 56; Wilfrid Ward, The Life of . . . Newman, I, 510; and the device of bringing in a German scholar, as a trump card, so to speak [Gasquet, pp. 34, 37], to rescue The Rambler in December 1858, after a double attempt [May-June, p. 388, and then August 1858, p. 135, in a short notice of Chéruel’s Marie Stuart et Cathérine de Médicis] to create a stir by provocative statements relative to the point that “St Augustine was the father of Jansenism.”

29 Cf. Add. 4903:  “Theiner showed the MS. of Galileo’s trial to L’Espinois 1866, also to D. Berti in Febr. 1870.  It had been restored by France only in 1846 [see p. 197].  Marina’s book, 1850, really prepared by Theiner.”  Marino-Marini made public part of the documents, and Henri de l’Epinois made more complete revelations in 1867 in the Revue des Questions historiques.  In 1876 Berti published Il Processo originale di Galileo Galilei and in 1877 L’Epinois replied to critics in Les Pieces du Proces de Galilee.

30 Cf. Acton’s outline of a political message for English Roman Catholics in his letter to Simpson, 16 February 1858, Gasquet, p. 4: “ . . . We need no longer humiliate ourselves and eat dirt to obtain the support of the Liberal or Radical party.  We have got about as much as we shall get from them, and it would be well to see whether this alliance is a safe one . . . . Whom do we thank for emancipation? Neither the Irish Catholics nor the Whigs.”

31 Monsignor [George] Talbot, cameriere and “intimate friend” of Pius IX.

32 Acton’s early views on the subject of Gladstone give little promise of the close association that was to exist between the two men at a later date.  Reviewing Gladstone’s Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age in The Rambler for June 1858 (Gasquet, p. 19), Acton said:  “Mr Gladstone has failed to get up his subject as well as he might have done. . . . It appears to us that his basis is arbitrary, his method bad, and his conclusions fanciful and uncertain.”  In The Rambler for the following August, p. 137 (cf. Gasquet, p. 28), he wrote: “The reputation of English critical scholarship has lately been dragged through the mire by such writers as Sir George Lewis, Colonel Mure and Mr Gladstone.”  In Add. 5528, which is partly a journal, Acton writes, f. 203 a (in the autumn of 1859):  “Gladstone was always very able, disputatious but humble, never giving up his own point.  He has not the instincts of a gentleman, nothing handsome or chivalrous.”  In August 1859, he wrote to Simpson (Gasquet, p. 82, cf. pp. 68, 70):  “I have not lost all hope in Gladstone, but all faith and most of my charity.  I have softened one expression.”  This refers to the notes on “Contemporary Events” which he was preparing for The Rambler of the following month.

33 Cf. the letter of Acton’s step-father, Lord Granville, 28 October 1857, in Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, Life of Lord Granville, I, 262:  “Johnny Acton is busy about an historical work, which from what I hear will be remarkable.”  In Gasquet, pp. 149-52, there is a letter which the editor dates 28 November 1859, where Acton writes:  “I have got together materials on the modern history of the Popes and would give anything for a quiet half year among my books at Aldenham.”

34 This remained one of the permanent bases of Acton’s liberalism; cf. Add. 4870 f. 1; “Liberty enables us to do our duty unhindered by the state”; f. 2; “Duty not taught by the state”; f: 9: “ Liberty of conscience is the first of liberties, because it is the liberty to avoid sin”; f. 10: “ We don’t learn our duty from the state. The ancients did.”  Add. 5009:  “Conscience requires as its condition liberty.  Liberals alone thoroughly conscientious.  Theory of conscience leads up to liberty.”  Add. 5013: “the ethical element in Liberalism.  Identity of Liberalism and morality.  The object of Liberalism is not political or national or ecclesiastical but moral.”

35 In Add. 4987, amongst Acton’s collection of notes on Newman, is the pencil note:  “In 1851 N. was invited over to Ireland to found a Catholic University and he devoted most of his time to this enterprise until 1858.”  A further slip, dated 1872, says; “the hope of the University being English as well as Irish was quite at an end.  This was a reason for resigning.”  In another note Acton transcribes part of a letter from Newman to Grant, dated 7 March 1856:  “I am personally alarmed at the notion of the bishops of England allowing, (should they allow,) young Catholics to go to the English Protestant Universities.”  He adds the note:  “Oxford had just been opened to C[atholics).”  Further notes, to the same effect, may be found, for example:  “He had hoped that failing the Irish, English students would come to Dublin.”  See similar notes in Add. 4989, where Acton also deals with Newman’s later attempt to establish Roman Catholics in Oxford. Cf. Wilfrid Ward, The Life of. . . Newman (1927), II, 47-78.

36 Cf. p. 187 above.

37 This would seem to be Döllinger’s view, but it would appear that Acton held it at this time.  In Add. 5009 there is a slip which reads: “Therefore history liberalises.  It teaches not to interfere, to do justice to the other side, to leave men to their own judgments.”  Possibly Acton is merely making a debating-point when in the draft of a letter to Lord Clifford in Add. 4863 he writes:  “One of the things people learn from history is to abstain from unnecessary judgment, and it was not relevant to my purpose to determine the guilt of Fenelon.”  Cf. Add. 5010: “The morality of Historians consists of those things which affect veracity.”  On the issue of moral judgements in history, however, he came later into a conflict with Döllinger which was evidently much more momentous for him—more distressing to him personally—than his famous controversy with Creighton.  In Add. 4863 there are some “Notes of an important Conversation”, dated 16 July 1882, in which Acton says:  “The disagreement. . . has been growing since the day when the Professor gave his sanction to a paper describing a defender of the Syllabus as a venerable Christian prelate”; and it is clear from other notes that Acton’s intransigeance on the question of moral judgements was connected with his insistence on the condemnation of ecclesiastical authorities.  The notes continue:  “Our disagreement, which revealed itself unexpectedly, but at last almost continuously on a variety of subjects, seemed reducible to one principal cause.  We almost always differed in our estimate of character, and my judgments were generally severe.  I wished to judge by manifest canons and not by sympathy. . . . Murder being in the view of society the worst of crimes, seemed the most decisive test of character.”  It is clear that this difference with Döllinger cut deeply into Acton, who in Add. 5402 on slip no. 7 wrote in pencil:  “My point is to know definitely and apart from the perplexities of controversy, whether in the one decisive point of history and ethics I am with the Professor or against him.”  Next to other notes on this subject, we read in Add. 4904, “In questions of life and death there must be a decision.  Both cannot be right.”  In Add. 5403, nos. 19-35 and 67, are pencil notes of what appears to be the draft of a letter written in the late 1880’s on the subject of the difference with Döllinger:  “I am absolutely alone in my essential ethical position and therefore useless. . . . So far as I can see I have thoroughly misunderstood the Professor and have had to spend 5 years in merely trying to find out his real sentiments. . . . In a great number of men . . . he sees virtue where I see vice—Gerson, Arnauld, Luther, Bossuet, Pius VII, St Bernard, Lacordaire. . . . argument of time, surroundings, education, authority, ignorance. . . . The Professor put me off with imperfect statements. . . and at last in 1883 he made it clear that it was time for our conversations to cease, for this world.  Every summer since I have spent all my time and energy trying to discover whether we really differ so widely.. . . He thinks an Ultr[amontane] may be saved. . . . The difference is fundamental and as wide as the firmament. . . .”

38 This passage is transcribed into Acton’s notes in Add. 4907, and is there recorded as the opinion of Döllinger.  Elsewhere in Add. 4907 Acton writes:  “Providence not shown by success—Examples—But by continual extraction of good from evil.”  Acton later modified these ideas and his earlier view of the whole past as outlined in The Rambler of July 1858, pp. 63-5, in his lively review of K. K. Philp, A History of Progress in Great Britain.  In Add. 4906 we find the note:  “Providence has a large part in the things that have lasted.”  Add. 5626, f. 11b:  “God overrules man in the long run.  What lasts expresses God’s will.  Permanence is divine.”  In Add. 5011, under the date 24 January 1893, we read:  “Providence means Progress.  Liberty supposes progress.”  In Add. 5641, p. 43, Acton writes:  “My theory is that divine government is not justified without progress.  There is no raison d’etre for the world”; and in Add. 4987:  “ Not to believe in Progress is to question the divine government.”  In, for example, Add. 4987, Acton repeatedly illustrates the contrast between his own views and those of Newman, who “discovered no progress,” and saw “no evidence of divine government in the course of things.” “Not that N. denies the government of the world.  Providence does not manifest itself in history.”  “History, apart from biography, is [therefore, for Newman,] a world without God.”

Posted May 23, 2007

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