Some decent pretext had to be found for presenting the proposed measure of suppression and confiscation to the nation, and it can hardly now be doubted that the device of blackening the characters of the monks and nuns was deliberately resorted to.The visitation opened apparently in the summer of 1535, although the visitatorial powers of the bishops were not suspended until the eighteenth of the following September.Gairdner, the editor of the State papers of this period, "is not borne out by the 'Comperta'." Yet the preamble of the very Act, which suppressed the smaller monasteries because of their vicious living, declares positively that "in the great and solemn Monasteries of the realm" religion was well observed and God well served.Can it be imagined for a moment that this assertion could have found its way into the Act of Parliament, had the reports, or "Comperta", of the visitors been laid upon the table of the House of Commons for the inspection of the members?The heads of such houses were to receive pensions, and the religious, despite the alleged depravity of some, were to be admitted to the larger and more observant monasteries, or to be licensed to act as secular priests.The measure of turpitude fixed by the Act was thus a pecuniary one.It is of course impossible to enter into the details of the visitation.
It is easy, of course, to dismiss inconvenient witnesses as being unworthy of credit, but in this case a mere study of these letters and documents is quite sufficient to cast considerable doubt upon their testimony as wholly unworthy of belief.
We know for certain that the king's proposal to suppress the smaller religious houses gave rise to a long debate in the Lower House, and that Parliament passed the measure with great reluctance.
It is more than remarkable, moreover, that in the preamble of the Act itself Parliament is careful to throw the entire responsibility for the measure upon the king, and to declare, if words mean anything at all, that they took the truth of the charges against the good name of the religious, solely upon the king's "declaration" that he knew the charges to be true.
Preachers were moreover commissioned to go over the country in the early autumn, in order, by their invectives, to educate public opinion against the monks.
These pulpit orators were of three sorts: This last was a favourite argument of Cranmer, in his sermons at St. The men employed by Cromwell the agents entrusted with the task of getting up the required evidence were chiefly four, Layton, Leigh, Aprice, and London.
From time to time, whilst on their work of inspection, the visitors, and principally London and Leigh, sent brief reports to their employers.