Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

had been principally in communication with that person, fearing the consequences, passed over under a feigned name to the Isle of Wight, intending from thence to make his way to the Continent; but he was discovered, seized, and brought back to London. Some time afterwards Lord Orrery was sent to the Tower; at a later period still, the Duke of Norfolk. But the evidence against these noblemen being insufficient, or the Government less eager to press it, they were, after some confinement, released. The Bishop of Rochester was less fortunate. The proofs against him might also have been thought too scanty, had it not been for a very trifling and ridiculous but most convincing incident. The case was as follows:

- There was no doubt that the letters to and from Jones and Illington were of a treasonable nature; the point was to prove that these names were designed for the Bishop. Now it so happened that Mrs. Atterbury, who died early this year, had a little before received a present from Lord Mar in France of a small spotted dog called Harlequin ; and this animal having broken its leg, and being left with one Mrs. Barnes to be cured, was more than once mentioned in the correspondence of Jones and Illington. Mrs. Barnes and some other persons were examined before the Council on this subject, and they, supposing that at all events there could be no treason in a lap-dog, readily owned that Harlequin was intended for the Bishop of Rochester. There were many other collateral proofs ; but it was the throwing up of this little straw which decisively showed from what quarter blew the wind.

Had the proofs against Atterbury been less strong, or his abilities less dangerous, the Ministers would probably have shrunk from the unpopularity of touching him. As it was, they hesitated during three months ; but at length, on the 24th of August, a warrant being issued, the Bishop was arrested at the Deanery, and brought before the Council. Though taken by surprise, his answers to their questions showed his usual coolness and self-possession; and he is said to have concluded with the words of the Saviour : “If I tell you, ye will not believe; and if I "also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go.”* After three quarters of an hour's examination he was sent to the Tower privately in his own coach, without any public notice or disturbance.

* St. Luke, xxii. 67, 68,

The arrest of a Bishop, for the first time since the illomened precedent of James the Second, was, however, no sooner known than it produced a general clamour. The High Churchmen had always inveighed against the Government as neglecting the Establishment and favouring the Dissenters, and this new incident was of course urged in confirmation of the charge. They called it an outrage upon the Church and the Episcopal Order; and they boldly affirmed that the plot had no real existence, and was a mere Ministerial device for the ruin of a political opponent. Atterbury had also great influence among the parochial clergy, not only from the weight of his abilities, but from his having so long stood at the head of their party in Convocation. Under the pretence of his being afflicted with the gout, he was publicly prayed for in most of the churches of London and Westminster; and there was spread among the people a pathetic print of the Bishop looking through the bars of a prison, and holding in his hand a portrait of Archbishop Laud. The public ferment was still further increased by rumours (I fear too truly founded) of the great harshness with which Atterbury was treated in the Tower. “Such usage, such

hardships, such insults as I have undergone,” said the Bishop himself on his trial, "might have broke a

more resolute spirit, and a much stronger constitution " than fall to my share. I have been treated with such

severity, and so great indignity, as I believe no prisoner " in the Tower of my age, infirmities, function, and rank “ever underwent.”* He was encouraged, or permitted, to write private letters which were afterwards pried into, and made use of to support the accusation against him. He was restricted in his only consolation the visits of his beloved daughter t; nor was he at first allowed to prepare freely for his defence with his son-in-law, Mr.

* Speech, May 11. 1723.

# He writes to Lord Townshend, April 10. 1723,— “I am thank"ful for the favour of seeing my daughter any way ; but was in

hopes the restraint of an officer's presence in respect to her might “ have been judged needless."

Morice.* Every thing sent to him was narrowly searched; even some pigeon-pies were opened : “it is the first time,” says Pope, “dead pigeons have been suspected of carry“ing intelligence !”

It was amidst great and general excitement that the new Parliament met on the 9th of October. The King's Speech gave a short account of the conspiracy :-“I « should less wonder at it,” he said, “had I, in any one “ instance since my accession to the throne, invaded the “ liberty or property of my subjects.” With equal justice he observed on the infatuation of some Jacobites and the malice of others, -"By forming plots they depre“ ciate all property that is vested in the Public Funds, " and then complain of the low state of credit; they “ make an increase of the national expenses necessary, “ and then clamour at the burthen of taxes, and endea

vour to impute to my government, as grievances, the “ mischiefs and calamities which they alone create and “ occasion.” The first business of the Commons, after again placing Mr. Compton in the Chair, was to hurry through a Bill suspending the Habeas Corpus Act for one year. Mr. Spencer Cowper, and Sir Joseph Jekyll, observed that the Act had never yet been suspended for so long a period, and proposed six months, declaring, that at the end of that period they would, if necessary, readily agree to a further suspension. Yet notwithstanding the popularity and plausibility of this amendment, it was rejected by 246 votes against 193.

The next subject with both Houses was the Pretender's Declaration. It appears that James had been so far deluded by the sanguine hopes of his agents, or by his own, as to believe that the British people were groaning under a state of bondage and oppression, and that the King himself was ready to cast off an uneasy and precarious Crown. Under these impressions, he issued from Lucca, on the 22d of September, a strange manifesto, proposing, that if George will quietly deliver to him the throne of his fathers, he will, in return, bestow upon George the

* Preface to his Correspondence, p. vi. Mr. Morice used to stand in an open area, and the Bishop to look out of a two-pair of stairs window, and thus only were they allowed to converse !

† Pope to Gay, Sept. 11, 1722.

title of King in his native dominions, and invite all other States to confirm it; with a promise to leave his succession to the British dominions secure, if ever, in due course, his natural right should take place. This declaration was printed and distributed in England. Both Houses expressed their astonishment at its “surprising “insolence:" it was ordered to be burnt by the common hangman; and a joint Address was presented to His Majesty, assuring him that the designs of the public enemy shall be found "impracticable against a Prince relying

on and supported by the vigour and duty of a British “ Parliament, and the affections of his people.”

Walpole, availing himself of the general resentment, next proposed to raise 100,0001. by a tax upon the estates of Roman Catholics. The project of Stanhope to relieve them from the Penal Laws, which was still on foot at the beginning of the South Sea Scheme*, had been arrested, first by the crash, and then by his death. Moderation to the Roman Catholics had always been one of his leading principles of government. Other maxims now prevailed; a system of general and indiscriminate punishment, which was, at least, nearly allied to persecution, and which, if it did not find every Roman Catholic a Jacobite, was quite sure to make him só. Many, said Walpole, had been guilty -- an excellent reason for punishing all! With a better feeling did Onslow (afterwards Speaker) declare his abhorrence of persecuting any others on account of their opinions in religion. Sir Joseph Jekyll, after praising the moderation and wisdom of the King, wished he could say the same of those who had the honour to serve him. But the proposal of Walpole was quite in accordance with the temper of the times; it was not only carried by 217 against 168, but, on a subsequent motion, was even extended to all nonjurors.f The House, however, favourably entertained a singular petition from the family of the Pendrills, praying to be exempted from

* Mr. Brodrick to Lord Midleton, January 24. 1720. Refer to my first vol. p. 326.

f I am sorry to find Coxe assert, in a blind panegyrical spirit, that though scarcely conformable to justice, the policy of this measure was unquestionable." How far more correct and enlightened were the views (published by himself) of Speaker Onslow ! See Coxe's Walpole, vol. i. p. 175., and vol. ii. p. 555.

66

the tax on account of the services of their ancestors in preserving Charles the Second after the battle of Worcester. *

Amongst the foremost evils (and they were many) of this persecuting spirit, was the frightful degree of perjury which it produced. For as the estates of nonjurors were to be taxed, it became necessary to determine precisely who were nonjurors or not; in other words, almost the whole nation was to be summoned to swear allegiance to the Government. Nor was it explicitly stated what would be the consequence of this refusal, but a sort of vague threat was hung over them; and it seemed a trap in which, when once caught, men might hereafter be subjected not only to the largest fines, but even to forfeiture and confiscation. “I saw a great deal of it,” says Speaker Onslow, “and it was a strange, as well as ridiculous, sight “ to see people crowding at the Quarter Sessions to give

a testimony of their allegiance to a Government, and

cursing it at the same time for giving them the trouble “ of so doing, and for the fright they were put into by it; “ and I am satisfied more real disaffection to the King and “ his family arose from it than from any thing which “ happened in that time.” Some of the Jacobites consulted their Prince as to the course which they should pursue in this emergency, but he prudently avoided any positive answer. It was thought very desirable that they should act together as a body, in one course or the other, but no such general arrangement could be compassed. The greater number were inclined to swear, and did so, saying that they had rather venture themselves in the hand of God than of such men as they had to do with. Yet they still retained all their first principles; and the oath, however it might torture their consciences, did not influence their conduct. Such is, I fear, the inevitable result of any oath imposed by any government for its security. Examples of that kind are too common in all countries. Swearing allegiance to King George did not

* Commons' Journals, vol. xx. p. 210.

† Mr. Lockhart to James, Sept. 10. 1723. James's answer, Nov. 24. 1723.

| Lockhart's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 108.

« EdellinenJatka »