He was now called upon, in advanced life, to undo not a little of the work in which he had been instrumental in his earlier years - to vindicate the legitimacy of the queen's birth and the lawfulness of her mother's marriage, to restore the old religion, and to recant what he himself had written touching the royal supremacy.
He was one of the first of his countrymen to recognize and come under the influence of German thought and speculation, and, amidst an exaggerated alarm of German heresy, did much to vindicate the authority of the sounder German critics.
It was the great work of Descartes to exclude rigorously from science all explanations which were not scientifically verifiable; and the prevalence of materialism at certain epochs, as in the enlightenment of the 18th century and in the German philosophy of the middle, 9th, were occasioned by special need to vindicate the scientific position, in the former case against the Church, in the latter case against the pseudo-science of the Hegelian dialectic. The chief definite periods of materialism are the pre-Socratic and the post-Aristotelian in Greece, the 18th century in France, and in Germany the, 9th century from about 1850 to 1880.
My friends never had occasion to vindicate any one circumstance of my character and conduct; not but that the zealots, we may well suppose, would have been glad to invent and propagate any story to my disadvantage, but they could never find any which they thought would wear the face of probability.
To say that it displaced the centre of gravity in politics and commerce, substituting the ocean for the Mediterranean, dethroning Italy from her seat of central importance in traffic, depressing the eastern and elevating the western powers of Europe, opening a path for Anglo-Saxon expansiveness, forcing philosophers and statesmen to regard the Occidental nations as a single group in counterpoise to other groups of nations, the European community as one unit correlated to other units of humanity upon this planet, is truth enough to vindicate the vast significance of these discoveries.
But if these three correlative facts are immediately given, it seems to be thought possible by Cousin to vindicate them in reflective consciousness.
To one who had been a man of war from his youth up, who had won and lost many fights, the rout of a detachment and the forcible seizure of some debateable frontier lands was an untoward incident; but it was no sufficient reason for calling upon the British, although they had guaranteed his territory's integrity, to vindicate his rights by hostilities which would certainly bring upon him a Russian invasion from the north, and would compel his British allies to throw an army into Afghanistan from the south-east.
Much more important were the papers entitled Rettungen, in which he undertook to vindicate the character of various writers - Horace and writers of the Reformation period, such as Cochlaeus and Cardanus - who had been misunderstood or falsely judged by preceding generations.
But all this time (since 1841) Newman had been under a cloud, so far as concerned the great mass of cultivated Englishmen, and he was now awaiting an opportunity to vindicate his career; and in 1862 he began to prepare autobiographical and other memoranda for the purpose.
For a complete bibliography of his works, see Lehmann, Hugonis Grotii manes vindicate (Delft, 1727), which also contains a full biography.