Walter Scott The Pope's Circular (1844)

The Protestant Unionist



      The boasted patriotism of Ancient Rome was, after all that has been said in its praise, a pseudo patriotism. It never sprang from the sacred source of love to universal man, to Rome herself. To be the mother and mistress of the world was ever her ambition; and her liberty cry on the battle field and amidst warring nations was heard high and clear, not that the kingdoms might be free but that she might rule.

      "Tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento" was ever her imperious motto; till drunk with blood she was seen, like Cæsar fallen prostrate beneath the gleaming swords of her fierce and relentless invaders from the populous north--Genserie, Atilla, Alaric.

      Amidst the ashes of her former greatness she arose again, phœnix like, in the beginning of the sixth century--the spectre and image of what she formerly had been, to fight "all her battles o'er again," and by legions of priests, as formerly by her legions of pagans, to contend for the government of the world a second time. Again she triumphed. And having seated herself upon many mighty nations, as upon many waters, she came sweeping down the stream of time to the very verge of this age, when she struck upon the rock of the French Revolution. That shock is past, but not unfelt by the queen of waters--the mistress of nations. The days of Avignon and Berthier are gone past however, and the would inflicted upon her and her royal paramours at that time is almost healed. The kings of the earth are crept back again to their ancient thrones. The infallible, but not unfallen, redoubtable Pontiff is again in his Apostolic chair, and the Jesuit is abroad.

      She now goes for the government of the world a third time; and it is ours to bear in mind that her motto is semper eadem, Rome is eternal--that is, whether the bird of Jove, or the symbol of Christianity--the eagle or the cross emblazon her standard; whether she be pagan or papal, whether the sceptre of her destiny be swayed by her Romulus or her Leo, her Pompey or her Pius, her Cæsar or her Gregory, her ambition is still the same--to cancel the natural characteristics of nations, to stamp with the impress of imperialism all the kingdoms of the world, and to fill them even to drunkenness with her own intoxicating superstitions. She would give to the states and nations of the earth Roman Science, Roman Literature, Roman Arts, Roman Language, Roman Customs, Roman Religion, the Roman Bible. And this is the general nature of the warfare which she wages with mankind.

      The barriers which our fathers opposed to her enormous aggressions--to her fasts and feasts, her idols, and worship of saints, angels and the virgin, her masses, her purgatory and penances, her auricular confessions, lents, crossings and lustrations, her bachelory and virginity, monachism and infallibility, and all her beads and bawbles, and the endless trumpery and dust and sweepings of the ancient heathen world, which she has brought down with her from the days of her Cæsrs--the barrier I say, which our fathers successfully opposed to her enormous encroachments, was the Bible.

      By the Bible they were enabled at once to escape the rock of imperialism, and the whirlpool of her base superstitions, and by the grace of God and their own valor to sit down in quiet possession of the scriptures under the shadow of these "grand old woods" and this majestic republican government. Liberty is a glorious feast. Our fathers affirmed it; our poets sang it; and amid the songs of the one and the swords of the other, there has been reclaimed to us by their poetry and heroism, from the wild man and the wild beasts of the forest, the noble inheritance committed to our trust in the domain, and morals and religion of these states. By their valor they gained it; with our lives we will defend it.

      God has greatly exalted the Protestant powers of the earth. And in the same proportion he has weakened and debased, not humbled, those of all other religions. China, Turkey, and Rome feel it and are chafed. They champ the bit; and the latter, ever full of promise, still cherishes the hope of effecting by words what she has failed to make good by the sword. Protestants will meet her here; they will meet her with the Bible. She may trample upon our blood and our flag, at once and together, now and forever, but we will meet her not with swords but words--God's word, the Bible--the talisman of civil and religious liberty; and we will, by all long suffering, teach her that the Bible, which she has impiously dared before earth and heaven to denounce as dangerous to the public morals, is an Ægis of defense even to her polluted, debased, dangerous to the kingdoms, and denounced by the Eternal.

      May Protestants, while they yet have strength to do so, fling from them to a definable distance upon the open field, the Boa Constrictor which is hastily preying upon the vitals of the republic. Let them organise, let public opinion be formed, let this hideous monster be seen under a proper eagle and alone, and then if the dragon, red with the blood of saints, can commend itself to the union, let it be espoused and married to the nation, and so forever sweep unheeded and unsuspected along the surface of our ample domain, until it has gathered within the folds of its boundless soils all the states of this great empire.

      In conclusion, we observe that if the Bible, which is God speaking to men in words; or history, which is God speaking to us by facts, is to be accredited, then we have the induction of historic and inspired proof, that for the nation or kingdom in whose bosom is fostered and defended false and idolatrous forms of worship, there is no lasting peace; but civil earthquakes, revolutions, spoils, incendiarism and deaths. Let then public opinion be framed, and if the dragon can live under its fiery eye, let him live, quiet, peaceful; but a universal demonstration made in behalf of the Bible must frown down all sentiments hostile to the one book of the one only living and true God; from will then take place; Catholics will relinquish all foreign lordship; "Protestant" will become unnecessary; both will embrace each other in the ancient and all subduing name of Christ, and be called "Christians."

      The Pope's circular is an important document. It speaks volumes to the Protestant world, and to all true christians. Read it solemnly. That the Pope hates the Protestant Bible is the pretext of his letter; but the true reason for it, is his hatred of the Bible itself in any shape.

ED. SEN.      


["The Pope's Circular." The Protestant Unionist, 1 (September 25, 1844): 2.]


      Walter Scott's "The Pope's Circular" was first published in The Protestant Unionist, Vol. 1, No. 1, September 25, 1844. The electronic version of the essay has been produced from microfilm of the newspaper.

      Inconsistencies in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and typography have been retained.

      Addenda and corrigenda are earnestly solicited.

Ernie Stefanik
373 Wilson Street
Derry, PA 15627-9770

Created 28 January 2002.

Walter Scott The Pope's Circular (1844)

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