« EdellinenJatka »
he could prove himself to have been born in lawful wedlock, and to be, by right of blood, king of England, but that, for the present, he waived his claims, that he would leave them to the judgment of a free parliament, and that, in the mean time, he desired to be considered only as the captain-general of the English Protestants in arms against tyranny and Popery. Disgraceful as this manifesto was to those who put it forth, it was not unskilfully framed for the purpose of stimulating the passions of the vulgar. In the west the effect was great. The gentry and clergy of that part of England were indeed, with few exceptions, Tories. But the yeomen, the traders of the towns, the peasants, and the artisans, were generally animated by the old Roundhead spirit. Many of them were dissenters, and had been goaded by petty persecution into a temper fit for desperate enterprise. The great mass of the population abhorred Popery and adored Monmouth. He was no stranger to them. His progress through Somersetshire and Devonshire, in the summer of 1680, was still fresh in the memory of all men. He was on that occasion sumptuously entertained by Thomas Thynne at Longleat Hall, then, and perhaps still, the most magnificent country house in England. From Longleat to Exeter the hedges were lined with shouting spectators. The roads were strewn with boughs and flowers. The multitude, in their eagerness to see and touch their favorite, broke down the palings of parks, and besieged the mansions where he was feasted. When he reached Chard, his escort consisted of five thousand horsemen. At Exeter all Devonshire had been gathered together to welcome him. One striking part of the show was a company of nine hundred young men who, clad in a white uniform, marched before him into the city.” The turn of fortune which had alienated the gentry from his cause had produced no effect on the common people. To them he was still the good duke, the Protestant duke, the rightful heir, whom a vile conspiracy kept out of his own. They came to his standard in crowds. All the clerks whom he could employ were too few to take down the names of the recruits. Before he had been twenty-four hours on English ground he was at the head of fifteen hundred men. Dare arrived from Taunton with forty horsemen of no very martial appearance, and brought encouraging intelligence as to the state of public feeling in Somersetshire. As yet all seemed to promise well.”
* Historical Account of the Life and magnanimous Actions of the most illustrious Protestant Prince James, Duke of Monmouth, 1683.
But a force was collecting at Bridport to oppose the insurgents. On the thirteenth of June the red regiment of Dorsetshire militia came pouring into that town. The Somersetshire, or yellow regiment, of which Sir William Portman, a Tory gentleman of great note, was colonel, was expected to arrive on the following day.f The duke determined to strike an immediate blow. A detachment of his troops was preparing to march to Bridport, when a disastrous event threw the whole camp into confusion.
Fletcher of Saltoun had been appointed to command the cavalry under Grey. Fletcher was ill mounted; and, indeed, there were few chargers in the camp which had not been taken from the plough. When he was ordered to Bridport, he thought that the exigency of the case warranted him in borrowing, without asking permission, a fine horse belonging to Dare. Dare resented this liberty, and assailed Fletcher with gross abuse. Fletcher kept his temper better than any who knew him expected. At last Dare, presuming on the patience with which his insolence was endured, ventured to shake a switch at the high-born and high-spirited Scot. Fletcher's blood boiled. He drew a pistol and shot Dare dead. Such sudden and violent revenge would not have been thought strange in Scotland, where the law had always been weak, where he who did not right himself by the strong hand was not likely to be righted at all, and where, consequently, human life was held almost as cheap as in the worst-governed provinces of Italy. But the people of the southern part of the island were not accustomed to see deadly weapons used and blood spilled on account of a rude word or gesture, except in duel between gentlemen with equal arms. There was a general cry for vengeance on the foreigner who had murdered an Englishman. Monmouth could not resist the clamor. Fletcher, who, when his first burst of rage had spent itself, was overwhelmed with remorse and sorrow, took refuge on board of the Helderenbergh, escaped to the Continent, and repaired to Hungary, where he fought bravely against the common enemy of Christendom.f
* Wade's Confession, Hardwicke Papers; Axe Papers; Harl. MS. J845.
+ Harl. MS. 6845.
f Buyse's evidence in the Collection of State Trials; Burnet, i. 642; Ferguson's MS, quoted by Eachard.
Situated as the insurgents were, the loss of a man of parts and energy, who knew something of war, was not easily to be repaired. Early on the morning of the following day, the fourteenth of June, Grey, accompanied by Wade, marched with about five hundred men to attack Bridport. A confused and indecisive action took place, such as was to be expected when two bands of ploughmen, officered by country gentlemen and barristers, were opposed to each other. For a time Monmouth’s men drove the militia before them. Then the militia made a stand, and Monmouth's men retreated in some confusion. Grey and his cavalry never stopped till they were safe at Lyme again. But Wade rallied the infantry, and brought them off in good order.”
There was a violent outcry against Grey; and some of the adventurers pressed Monmouth to take a severe course. Monmouth, however, would not listen to this advice. His lenity has been attributed by some writers to his good nature, which undoubtedly often amounted to weakness. Others have supposed that he was unwilling to deal harshly with the only peer who served in his army. It is probable, however, that the duke, who, though not a general of the highest order, understood war very much better than the preachers and lawyers who were always obtruding their advice on him, made allow ances which people altogether inexpert in military affairs never thought of making. In justice to a man who has had few defenders, it must be observed that the task which, throughout this campaign, was assigned to Grey, was one which, if he had been the boldest and most skilful of soldiers, he could scarcely have performed in such a manner as to gain credit. He was at the head of the cavalry. It is notorious that a horse soldier requires a longer training than a foot soldier, and that the war horse requires a longer training than his rider. Something may be done with a raw infantry which has enthusiasm and animal courage; but nothing can be more helpless than a raw cavalry, consisting of yeomen and tradesmen mounted on cart horses and post horses; and such was the cavalry which Grey commanded. The wonder is, not that his men did not stand fire with resolution, not that they did not use their weapons with vigor, but that they were able to keep their seats.
Still recruits came in by hundreds. Arming and drilling
* London Gazette, June * 1685; Wade's Confession, Hardwicke Papers,
went on all day. Meantime the news of the insurrection had spread fast and wide. On the evening on which the duke landed, Gregory Alford, Mayor of Lyme, a zealous Tory, and a most bitter persecutor of Nonconformists, sent off his servants to give the alarm to the gentry of Somersetshire and Dorsetshire, and himself took horse for the west. Late at night he stopped at Honiton, and thence despatched a few hurried lines to London with the ill tidings.” He then pushed on to Exeter, where he found Christopher Monk, Duke of Albemarle. This nobleman, the son and heir of George Monk, the restorer of the Stuarts, was lord lieutenant of Devonshire, and was then holding a muster of militia. Four thousand men of the trainbands were actually assembled under his command. He seems to have thought that, with this force, he should be able at once to crush the rebellion. He therefore marched towards Lyme. But when, on the afternoon of Monday the fifteenth of June, he reached Axminster, he found the insurgents drawn up there to encounter him. They presented a resolute front. Four field pieces were pointed against the royal troops. The thick hedges which on each side overhung the narrow lanes, were lined with musketeers. Albemarle, however, was less alarmed by the preparations of the enemy that by the spirit which appeared in his own ranks. Such was Monmouth's popularity among the common people of Devonshire that, if once the trainbands had caught sight of his well-known face and figure, they would probably have gone over to him in a body. Albemarle, therefore, though he had a great superiority of force, thought it advisable to retreat. The retreat soon became a rout. The whole country was strewn with the arms and uniforms which the fugitives had thrown away; and, had Monmouth urged the pursuit with vigor, he would probably have taken Exeter without a blow. But he was satisfied with the advantage which he had gained, and thought it desirable that his recruits should be better trained before they were employed in any hazardous service. He therefore marched towards Taunton, where he arrived on the eighteenth of June, exactly a week after his landing.f
* Lords' Journals, June 13, 1685. s
t Wade's Confession; Ferguson MS.; Axe Papers, Harl. MS. 6845; Oldmixon, 701, 702. Oldmixon, who was then a boy, lived very near the scene of these events.
The court and the parliament had been greatly moved by the news from the west. At five in the morning of Saturday the thirteenth of June, the king had received the letter which the mayor of Lyme had despatched from Honiton. The privy council was instantly called together. Orders were given that the strength of every company of infantry and of every troop of cavalry should be increased. Commissions were issued for the levying of new regiments. Alford's communication was laid before the Lords; and its substance was communicated to the Commons by a message. The Commons examined the couriers who had arrived from the west, and instantly ordered a bill to be brought in for attainting Monmouth of high treason. Addresses were voted assuring the king that both his peers and his people were determined to stand by him with life and fortune against all his enemies. At the next meeting of the houses they ordered the declaration of the rebels to be burned by the hangman, and passed the bill of attainder through all its stages. That bill received the royal assent on the same day; and a reward of five thousand-pounds was promised for the apprehension of Monmouth.*
The fact that Monmouth was in arms against the government was so notorious that the bill of attainder became a law with only a faint show of opposition from one or two peers, and has seldom been severely censured even by Whig historians. Yet, when we consider how important it is that legislative and judicial functions should be kept distinct, how important it is that common fame, however strong and general, should not be received as a legal proof of guilt, how important it is to maintain the rule that no man shall be condemned to death without an opportunity of defending himself, and how easily and speedily breaches in great principles, when once made, are widened, we shall probably be disposed to think that the course taken by the parliament was open to some objection. Neither house had before it any thing which even so corrupt a judge as Jeffreys could have directed a jury to consider as proof of Monmouth's crime. The messengers examined by the Commons were not on oath, and might therefore have related mere fictions without incurring the penalties of perjury. The Lords, who migh
... * London Gazette, June 18, 1685; Lords' and Commons' Journals,