which all the movements and operations could 
now be directed by one head, and conducted upon 
one uniform plan. The clergy of each particular 
country might be considered as a particular 
detachment of that army, of which the 
operations could easily be supported and seconded 
by all the other detachments quartered 
in the different countries round about. Each 
detachment was not only independent of the 
sovereign of the country in which it was quartered
and by which it was maintained, but 
dependent upon a foreign sovereign, who 
could at any time turn its arms against the 
sovereign of that particular country, and support 
them by the arms of all the other detachments
Those arms were the most formidable that 
can well be imagined. In the ancient state 
of Europe, before the establishment of arts 
and manufactures, the wealth of the clergy 
gave them the same sort of influence over the 
common people which that of the great barons 
gave them over their respective vassals
tenants, and retainers. In the great landed 
estates, which the mistaken piety both of 
princes and private persons had bestowed upon 
the church, jurisdictions were established, of 
the same kind with those of the great barons
and for the same reason. In those great landed 
estates, the clergy, or their bailiffs, could easily 
keep the peace, without the support or 
assistance either of the king or of any other 
person; and neither the king nor any other 
person could keep the peace there without the 
support and assistance of the clergy. The jurisdictions 
of the clergy, therefore, in their 
particular baronies or manors, were equally 
independent, and equally exclusive of the authority 
of the king's courts, as those of the 
great temporal lords. The tenants of the 
clergy were, like those of the great barons
almost all tenants at will, entirely dependent 
upon their immediate lords, and, therefore, 
liable to be called out at pleasure, in order to 
fight in any quarrel in which the clergy might 
think proper to engage them. Over and 
above the rents of those estates, the clergy possessed 
in the tithes a very large portion of the 
rents of all the other estates in every kingdom 
of Europe. The revenues arising from both 
those species of rents were, the greater part of 
them, paid in kind, in corn, wine, cattle, poultry, 
&c. The quantity exceeded greatly what 
the clergy could themselves consume; and 
there were neither arts nor manufactures, for 
the produce of which they could exchange 
the surplus. The clergy could derive advantage 
from this immense surplus in no other 
way than by employing it, as the great barons 
employed the like surplus of their revenues
in the most profuse hospitality, and in 
the most extensive charity. Both the hospitality 
and the charity of the ancient clergy
accordingly, are said to have been very great. 
They not only maintained almost the whole 
poor of every kingdom, but many knights and 
gentlemen had frequently no other means of 
subsistence than by travelling about from monastery 
to monastery, under pretence of devotion
but in reality to enjoy the hospitality of 
the clergy. The retainers of some particular 
prelates were often as numerous as those of 
the greatest lay-lords; and the retainers of all 
the clergy taken together were, perhaps, more 
numerous than those of all the lay-lords
There was always much more union among 
the clergy than among the lay-lords. The 
former were under a regular discipline and 
subordination to the papal authority. The latter 
were under no regular discipline or subordination
but almost always equally jealous of 
one another, and of the king. Though the 
tenants and retainers of the clergy, therefore, 
had both together been less numerous than 
those of the great lay-lords, and their tenants 
were probably much less numerous, yet their 
union would have rendered them more formidable
The hospitality and charity of the 
clergy, too, not only gave them the command of 
a great temporal force, but increased very much 
the weight of their spiritual weapons. Those 
virtues procured them the highest respect and 
veneration among all the inferior ranks of 
people, of whom many were constantly, and 
almost all occasionally, fed by them. Every 
thing belonging or related to so popular an 
order, its possessions, its privileges, its doctrines
necessarily appeared sacred in the eyes 
of the common people; and every violation 
of them, whether real or pretended, the highest 
act of sacrilegious wickedness and profaneness
In this state of things, if the sovereign 
frequently found it difficult to resist the 
confederacy of a few of the great nobility, we 
cannot wonder that he should find it still 
more so to resist the united force of the clergy 
of his own dominions, supported by that of the 
clergy of all the neighbouring dominions. In 
such circumstances, the wonder is, not that 
he was sometimes obliged to yield, but that he 
ever was able to resist
The privileges of the clergy in those ancient 
times (which to us, who live in the present 
times, appear the most absurd), their total 
exemption from the secular jurisdiction
for example, or what in England was called 
the benefit of clergy, were the natural, or rather 
the necessary, consequences of this state 
of things. How dangerous must it have been 
for the sovereign to attempt to punish a clergyman 
for any crime whatever, if his order were 
disposed to protect him, and to represent either 
the proof as insufficient for convicting so holy 
a man, or the punishment as too severe to be 
inflicted upon one whose person had been 
rendered sacred by religion? The sovereign 
could, in such circumstances, do no better 
than leave him to be tried by the ecclesiastical 
courts, who, for the honour of their own 
order, were interested to restrain, as much as