Now, if I must give the main and proximate cause of this remarkable state of mind, I must simply say that Englishmen go by that very mode of information in its worst shape, which they are so fond of imputing against Catholics; they go by tradition, immemorial, unauthenticated tradition. I have no wish to make a rhetorical point, or to dress up a polemical argument. I wish you to investigate the matter philosophically, and to come to results which, not you only, Brothers of the Oratory, who are Catholics, but all sensible men, will perceive to be just and true. I say, then, Englishmen entertain their present monstrous notions of us, mainly because those notions are received on information not authenticated, but immemorial. This it is that makes them entertain those notions; they talk much of free inquiry; but towards us they do not dream of practising it; they have been taught what they hold in the nursery, in the school-room, in the lecture-class, from the pulpit, from the newspaper, in society. Each man teaches the other: "How do you know it?" "Because he told me." "And how does he know it?" "Because I told him;" or, at very best advantage, "We both know it, because it was so said when we were young; because no one ever said the contrary; because I recollect what a noise, when I was young, the Catholic Relief Bill made; because my father and the old clergyman said so, and Lord Eldon, and George the Third; and there was Mr. Pitt obliged to give up office, and Lord George Gordon, long before that, made a riot, and the Catholic Chapels were burnt down all over the country." Well, these are your grounds for knowing it; and how did these energetic Protestants whom you have mentioned know it themselves? Why, they were told by others before them, and those others by others again a great time back; and there the telling and teaching is lost in fog; and this is mainly what has to be said for the anti-Catholic notions in question. Now this is to believe ontradition.
Take notice, my Brothers, I am not reprobating the proper use of tradition; it has its legitimate place and its true service. By tradition is meant, what has ever been held, as far as we know, though we do not know how it came to be held, and for that very reason think it true, because else it would not be held. Now, tradition is of great and legitimate use as an initial means of gaining notions about historical and other facts; it is the way in which things first come to us; it is natural and necessary to trust it; it is an informant we make use of daily. Life is not long enough for proving everything; we are obliged to take a great many things upon the credit of others. Moreover, tradition is really a ground in reason, an argument for believing, to a certain point; but then observe, we do not commonly think it right and safe, on the score of mere vague testimony, to keep our eyes and ears so very closely shut against every other evidence, every other means of proof, and to be so furiously certain and so energetically positive that we know all about the matter in question. No; we open our senses wide to what may be said on the other side. We make use of tradition, but we are not content with it; it is enough to begin with, not enough to finish upon.