Milton House archives
Georgetown University Manuscripts
The George Birkhead Papers consists chiefly of letters from Robert Persons (or Parsons), S.J. to George Birkhead, Archpriest of England, but also includes correspondence from Persons to other prominent Catholics both in England and on the Continent. This section also contains letters from Thomas Fitzherbert, agent for the English clergy in Rome, to Birkhead and to Thomas Worthington, President of Douai College. Finally this part of the collection includes two letters from Cardinal William Allen. The documents in this section are dated from 1579 to 1610 and deal for the most part with the lobbying efforts for the appointment of English Roman Catholic Bishops to replace the ad- hoc institution of Archpriest, and with the strife among the English Catholics at Colleges on the Continent. Also, a significant number of the letters discuss the Oath of Allegiance, and the state of Catholicism in England in general. The Belson Family Papers include letters between John Belson and other Catholic thinkers: Richard Jonson, G. Conyers, and especially John Serjeant and Thomas White; other correspondence from Serjeant and White and other works of both writers are also included here. This section also includes other significant documents relating to Thomas White, especially the signed warrant from Richard Smith, Bishop of Chalcedon, appointing White Vicar-general, copies of documents discussing the censure of some of White's works, and two copies of White's will, witnessed by John Belson. There is also an interesting exchange of letters between John Belson and Sir George Mackenzie, the King's Advocate. These letters and documents have dates from 1635 to 1705. A wide variety of subjects are covered in the items, including philosophical discussions of understanding and intelligibility, and the controversies around the works of Thomas White and their censure by the Papacy. John Serjeant's problems with the ecclesiastical hierarchy also find prominent discussion in this section, as well as his personal financial affairs. In addition, Government policies toward Catholics during the Restoration are covered in the Belson-Mackenzie correspondence and other documents in this section. There are also some personal letters on a variety of topics including questions of personal faith and the death of John Belson. The last three sections of the collection consist predominantly of manuscript texts of various sorts and copies of letters, though there are several printed works and autograph letters also. Section III contains the material in the collection covering general topics on the Roman Catholic Church in Great Britain and Ireland, and English Catholics Abroad, and so overlaps the Birkhead Papers in subject matter and time span, though some items date as late as 1760. The topics in this section include the relations between the regular and secular clergy, the appointment of William Bishop as Bishop of Chalcedon, missionary efforts from colleges on the Continent to England, the conversion and political influence of the Duke and Duchess of York, Catholic influence at the Royal Court, and the part taken by Catholics in the Rebellion of the Old Pretender. Section IV, The Roman Catholic Church in Europe, contains widely varied texts covering philosophy, theology, doctrine, and ecclesiastical politics on the Continent between about 1575 and 1775. There are also documents concerning attempts to restore James II, and relations between the English Catholic secular and regular clergy. The last part of the collection, Section V: Religious Toleration in Great Britain and Ireland, covers the legal and ecclesiastical aspects of English attempts to find a way to tolerate the Catholic laity in England, while at the same time eliminating the perceived threat from the clergy, especially the Jesuits. There also are a significant number of documents dealing specifically with the Oaths of Allegiance, Supremacy, and Fidelity, including broadside representations and contemporary manuscript copies of the various Oaths, and the reactions of Catholic academics and of the Holy See to subscription of the Oath of Allegiance by Catholics in England. Other Test oaths and the Sacramental Test are also covered in this section.
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