Sivut kuvina

of the victim had moved the conquerors to unwonted compassion. He himself remarked that at first they had been very harsh to him, but that they soon began to treat him with respect and kindness. God, he said, had melted their hearts. It is certain that he did not, to save himself from the utmost cruelty of his enemies, betray any of his friends. On the last morning of his life he wrote these words: “I have named none to their disadvantage. I thank God he hath supported me wonderfully.” . He composed his own epitaph, a short poem, full of meaning and spirit, simple and forcible in style, and not contemptible in versification. In this little piece he complained that, though his enemies had repeatedly decreed his death, his

friends had been still more cruel. A comment on these ex

pressions is to be found in a letter which he addressed to a lady residing in Holland. She had furnished him with a large sum of money for his expedition, and he thought her entitled to a full explanation of the causes which had led to his failure. He acquitted his coadjutors of treachery, but described their folly, their ignorance, and their factious perverseness, in terms which their own testimony has since proved to have been richly deserved. He afterwards doubted whether he had not used language too severe to become a dying Christian, and in a separate paper, begged his friends to suppress what he had said of these men. “Only this I must acknowledge,” he mildly added, “they were not governable.” Most of his few remaining hours were passed in devotion, and in affectionate intercourse with some members of his family. He professed no repentance on account of his last enterprise, but bewailed, with great emotion, his former compliance in spiritual things with the pleasure of the government. He had, he said, been justly punished. One who had so long been guilty of cowardice o dissimulation was not worthy to be the instrument of salvation to the state and church. Yet the cause, he frequently repeated, was the cause of God, and would assuredly triumph. “I do not,” he said, “take on myself to be a prophet. But I have a strong impression on my spirit, that deliverance will come very suddenly.” It is not strange that some zealous Presbyterians should have laid up his saying in their hearts, and should, at a later period, have attributed it to divine inspiration. So effectually had religious faith and hope, coöperating with natural courage and equanimity, composed his spirits that, on the very day on which he was to die, he dined with appetite, conversed with gayety at table, and, after his last meal, lay down, as he was wont, to take a short slumber, in order that his body and mind might be in full vigor when he should mount the scaffold. At this time one of the lords of the council, who had probably been bred a Presbyterian, and had been seduced by interest to join in oppressing the church of which he had once been a member, came to the castle with a message from his brethren, and demanded admittance to the earl. It was answered that the earl was asleep. The privy councillor thought that this was a subterfuge, and insisted on entering. The door of the cell was softly opened, and there lay Argyle on the bed, sleeping, in his irons, the placid sleep of infancy. The conscience of the renegade smote him. He turned away sick at heart, ran out of the castle, and took refuge in the dwelling of a lady of his family who lived hard by. There he flung himself on a couch, and gave himself up to an agony of remorse and shame. His kinswoman, alarmed by his looks and groans, thought that he had been taken with sudden illness, and begged him to drink a cup of sack. “No, no,” he said, “that will do me no good.” She prayed him to tell her what had disturbed him. “I have been,” he said, “in Argyle's prison. I have seen him within an hour of eternity, sleeping as sweetly as ever man did. But as for me -.” And now the earl had risen from his bed, and had prepared himself for what was yet to be endured. He was first brought down the High Street to the Council House, where he was to remain during the short interval which was still to elapse before the execution. During that interval he asked for pen and ink, and wrote to his wife. “Dear heart, God is unchangeable. He hath always been good and gracious to me, and no place alters it. Forgive me all my faults; and now comfort thyself in him, in whomobnly true comfort is to be found. The Lord be with thee, bless and comfort thee, my dearest. Adieu.” It was now time to leave the Council House. The divines: who attended the prisoner were not of his own persuasion; but he listened to them with civility, and exhorted them to caution their flocks against those doctrines which all Protestant churches unite in condemning. He mounted the scaffold, where the rude old guillotine of Scotland, called the Maiden, awaited him, and addressed the people in a speech, tinctured witn the peculiar phraseology of his sect, but breathing the spirit of serene piety. His enemies, he said, he forgave as he hoped to be forgiven. Only a single acrimonious expression escaped him. One of the episcopal clergymen who attended him went to the edge of the scaffold, and called out in a loud voice, “My lord dies a Protestant.” “Yes,” said the earl, stepping forward, “and not only a Protestant, but with a heart-hatred of Popery, of prelacy, and of all superstition.” He then embraced his friends, put into their hands some tokens of remembrance for his wife and children, kneeled down, laid his head on the block, prayed for a little space, and gave the signal to the executioner. His head was fixed on the top of the Tolbooth, where the head of Montrose had formerly decayed.* The head of the brave and sincere, though not blameless Rumbold, was already on the West Port of Edinburgh. Surrounded by factious and cowardly associates, he had, through the whole campaign, behaved himself like a soldier trained in the school of the great Protector, had in council strenuously supported the authority of Argyle, and had in the field been distinguished by tranquil intrepidity. After the dispersion of the army he was set upon by a party of militia. He defended himself desperately, and would have cut his way through them had they not hamstringed his horse. He was brought to Edinburgh mortally wounded. The wish of the government was that he should be executed in England. But he was so near death that if he was not hanged in Scotland, he could not be hanged at all; and the pleasure of hanging him was one which the conquerors could not bear to forego. It was, indeed, not to be expected that they would show much lenity to one who was regarded as the chief of the Rye House Plot, and who was the owner of the building from


* The authors from whom I have taken the history of Argyle's expedition are, Sir Patrick Hume, who was an eye-witness of what he related, and Wodrow, who had access to materials of the greatest value, among which were the earl's own papers. Wherever there is a question of veracity between Argyle and Hume, I have no doubt that Argyle's narrative ought to be followed.

See also Burnet, i. 631, and the Life of Bresson, published by Dr. Mac Crie. The account of the Scotch rebellion in Clarke's Life of James the Second, is a ridiculous romance, composed by a Jacobite who did not even take the trouble to look at a map of the seat of war.

WOL. I. 38 -


which that plot took its name; but the insolence with which
they treated the dying man seems to our more humane age
almost incredible. One of the Scotch privy councillors told
him that he was a confounded villain. “I am at peace with
God,” answered Rumbold, calmly; “how then can I be con-
founded ?”
He was hastily tried, convicted, and sentenced to be hanged
and quartered within a few hours, near the city cross in the
High Street. Though unable to stand without the support of
two men, he maintained his fortitude to the last, and under
the gibbet raised his feeble voice against Popery and tyranny
with such vehemence that the officers ordered the drums to
strike up lest the people should hear him. He was a friend,
he said, to limited monarchy. But he never would believe
that Providence had sent a few men into the world ready
booted and spurred to ride, and millions ready saddled and
bridled to be ridden. “I desire,” he cried, “to bless and
magnify God's holy name for this, that I stand here, not for
any wrong that I have done, but for adhering to his cause in
an evil day. If every hair of my head were a man, in this
quarrel I would venture them all.”
Both at his trial and at his execution he spoke of assassina-
tion with the abhorrence which became a good Christian and
a brave soldier. He had never, he protested, on the faith of
a dying man, harbored the thought of committing such villany. -
But he frankly owned that in conversation with his fellow-
conspirators he had mentioned his own house as a place where
the king and the duke might with advantage be attacked, and
that much had been said on the subject, though nothing had
been determined. It may at first sight seem that this acknowl-
edgment is inconsistent with his declaration that he had always
regarded assassination with horror. But the truth appears to be,
that he was imposed upon by a distinction which deluded many
of his contemporaries. Nothing would have induced him to
put poison into the food of the two princes, or to poniard them
in their sleep. But to make an unexpected onset on the troop
of life guards which surrounded the royal coach, to exchange
sword cuts and pistol shots, and to take the chance of slaying
or of being slain, was, in his view, a lawful military operation.
Ambuscades and surprises were among the ordinary incidents
of war. Every old soldier, Cavalier or Roundhead, had been
engaged in such enterprises. If in the skirmish the king should
fall, he would fall by fair fighting, and not by murder. Pre

[ocr errors][merged small][graphic]

cisely the same reasoning was employed, after the revolution, by James himself and by his most gallant and devoted followers, to justify a wicked attempt on the life of William the Third. A band of Jacobites was commissioned to attack the Prince of Orange in his winter quarters. The meaning latent under this specious phrase was, that the prince's throat was to be cut as he went in his coach from Richmond to Kensington. It may seem strange that such fallacies, the dregs of the Jesuitical casuistry, should have had power to seduce men of heroic spirit, both Whigs and Tories, into a crime on which divine and human laws have justly set a peculiar note of infamy. But no sophism is too gross to delude minds distempered by party spirit.* Argyle, who survived Rumbold a few hours, left a dying testimony to the virtues of the gallant Englishman. “Poor Rumbold was a great support to me, and a brave man, and died christianly.” f Ayloffe showed as much contempt of death as either Argyle or Rumbold; but his end did not, like theirs, edify pious minds. Though political sympathy had drawn him towards the Puritans, he had no religious sympathy with them, and was indeed regarded by them as little better than an atheist. He belonged to that section of the Whigs which sought for models rather among the patriots of Greece and Rome than among the prophets and judges of Israel. He was taken prisoner, and carried to Glasgow. There he attempted to destroy himself with a small penknife ; but, though he gave himself several wounds, none of them proved mortal, and he had strength enough left to bear a journey to London. He

* Wodrow, I’I. ix. 10; Western Martyrology; Burnet, i. 633; Fox's History, Appendix, iv. I can find no way except that indicated in the text of reconciling Rumbold's denial that he had ever admitted into his mind the thought of assassination with his confession that he had himself mentioned his own house as a convenient place for an attack on the royal brothers. The distinction which I suppose him to have taken was taken by another Rye House conspirator, who was, like him, an old soldier of the Commonwealth, Captain Walcot. On Walcot's trial West, the witness for the crown, said, “Captain, you did agree to be one of those that were to fight the guards.” “What, then, was the reason,” asked Chief Justice Pemberton, “that he would not kill the kong ** “He said,” answered West, “that it was a base thing to kill a naked man, and he would not do it.”

Wodrow, III. ix. 9.

« EdellinenJatka »