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inactive till the continental war, having brought five thousand men into the Peace of
lasted near seven years, was field was a more important member of Nime terminated by the treaty of the commonwealth of nations. guen. Nimeguen. The United Pro- With the sense of national humiliavinces, which in 1672 had seemed to tion was mingled anxiety for civil be on the verge of utter ruin, obtained liberty. Rumours, indistinct indeed, honourable and advantageous terms. but perhaps the more alarming by This narrow escape was generally reason of their indistinctness, imputed ascribed to the ability and courage of to the court a deliberate design against the young Stadtholder. His fame was all the constitutional rights of Englishgreat throughout Europe, and espe- men. It had even been whispered that cially among the English, who regarded this design was to be carried into effect him as one of their own princes, and by the intervention of foreign arms. rejoiced to see him the husband of their The thought of such intervention made
future Queen France retained many the blood, even of the Cavaliers, boil in · important towns in the Low Countries, their veins. Some who had always
and the great province of Franche professed the doctrine of nonresistance Comté. Almost the whole loss was borne in its full extent were now heard to by the decaying monarchy of Spain. mutter that there was one limitation
A few months after the termination to that doctrine. If a foreign force were Violent of hostilities on the Continent brought over to coerce the nation, they discon came a great crisis in English would not answer for their own patience. England. politics. Towards such a crisis But neither national pride nor anxiety things had been tending during eigh- for public liberty had so great an influteen years. The whole stock of popu- ence on the popular mind as hatred of larity, great as it was, with which the the Roman Catholic religion. That King had commenced his administra- hatred had become one of the ruling tion, had long been expended. To loyal passions of the community, and was as enthusiasm had succeeded profound strong in the ignorant and profane as disaffection. The public mind had in those who were Protestants from now measured back again the space conviction. The cruelties of Mary's over which it had passed between 1640 reign, cruelties which even in the most and 1660, and was once more in the accurate and sober narrative excite state in which it had been when the just detestation, and which were neither Long Parliament met.
accurately nor soberly related in the The prevailing discontent was com- popular martyrologies, the conspirapourded of many feelings. One of cies against Elizabeth, and above all these was wounded national pride. the Gunpowder Plot, had left in the That generation had seen England, minds of the vulgar a deep and bitter during a few years, allied on equal feeling which was kept up by annual terms with France, victorious over commemorations, prayers, bonfires, and Holland and Spain, the mistress of the processions. It should be added that sea, the terror of Rome, the head of the those classes which were peculiarly disProtestant interest. Her resources had tinguished by attachment to the throne, not diminished; and it might have the clergy and the landed gentry, had been expected that she would have peculiar reasons for regarding the been at least as highly considered in Church of Rome with aversion. The Europe under a legitimate King, strong clergy trembled for their benefices; the in the affection and willing obedience landed gentry for their abbeys and of his subjects, as she had been under great tithes. While the memory of the an usurper whose utmost vigilance and reign of the Saints was still recent, energy were required to keep down a hatred of Popery had in some degree mutinous people. Yet she had, in con- given place to hatred of Puritanism: sequence of the imbecility and mean- but, during the eighteen years which ness of her rulers, sunk so low that any had elapsed since the Restoration, the German or Italian principality which hatred of Puritanism had abated, and
the hatred of Popery had increased. | account of his merits; not because he The stipulations of the treaty of Dover had been an accomplice in a criminal were accurately known to very few: transaction, but because he had been a but some hints had got abroad. The most unwilling and unserviceable acgeneral impression was that a great complice. But of the circumstances, blow was about to be aimed at the which have, in the judgment of posProtestant religion. The king was sus- terity, greatly extenuated his fault, his pected by many of a leaning towards contemporaries were ignorant. In their Rome. Šis brother and heir presump- view he was the broker who had sold tive was known to be a bigoted Roman England to France. It seemed clear Catholic. The first Duchess of York that his greatness was at an end, and had died a Roman Catholic. James doubtful whether his head could be had then, in defiance of the remon- saved. strances of the House of Commons, Yet was the ferment excited by this taken to wife the Princess Mary of discovery slight, when com- the po Modena, another Roman Catholic. If pared with the commotion pish plot. there should be sons by this marriage, which arose when it was noised abroad there was reason to fear that they might that a great Popish plot had been debe bred Roman Catholics, and that a tected. One Titus Oates, a clergyman long succession of princes, hostile to of the Church of England, had, by his the established faith, might sit on the disorderly life and heterodox doctrine, English throne. The constitution had drawn on himself the censure of his recently been violated for the purpose spiritual superiors, had been compelled of protecting the Roman Catholics from to quit his benefice, and had ever since the penal laws. The ally by whom the led an infamous and vagrant life. He policy of England had, during many had once professed himself a Roman years, been chiefly governed was not Catholic, and had passed some time on only a Roman Catholic, but a perse- the Continent in English colleges of cutor of the reformed Churches. Under the order of Jesus. In those seminaries such circumstances it is not strange he had heard much wild talk about the that the common people should have best means of bringing England back been inclined to apprehend a return of to the true Church. From hints thus the times of her whom they called furnished he constructed a hideous roBloody Mary.
mance, resembling rather the dream of Thus the nation was in such a temper a sick man than any transaction which that the smallest spark might raise a ever took place in the real world. The flame. At this conjuncture fire was Pope, he said, had entrusted the goset in two places at once to the vast vernment of England to the Jesuits. mass of combustible matter; and in a The Jesuits had, by commissions under moment the whole was in a blaze. the seal of their society, appointed
The French court, which knew Danby Roman Catholic clergymen, noblemen, Fall of to be its mortal enemy, art- and gentlemen, to all the highest offices Danby. fully contrived to ruin him by in Church and State. The Papists had making him pass for its friend. Lewis, burned down London once. They had by the instrumentality of Ralph Mon- tried to burn it down again. They were tague, a faithless and shameless man at that moment planning a scheme for who had resided in France as minister setting fire to all the shipping in the from England, laid before the House of Thames. They were to rise at a signal Commons Proofs that the Treasurer had and massacre all their Protestant neighbeen concerned in an application made bours. A French army was at the same by the Court of Whitehall to the Court time to land in Ireland. All the leadof Versailles for a sum of money. This ing statesmen and divines of England discovery produced its natural effect. were to be murdered. Three or four The Treasurer was, in truth, exposed schemes had been formed for assassito the vengeance of Parliament, not on nating the King. He was to be stabaccount of his delinquencies, but on bed. He was to be poisoned in his medicine. He was to be shot with silver some hot-headed Roman Catholic, driven bullets. The public mind was so sore to frenzy by the lies of Oates and by and excitable that these lies readily the insults of the multitude, and not found credit with the vulgar; and two nicely distinguishing between the perevents which speedily took place led jured accuser and the innocent magiseven some reflecting men to suspect that trate, had taken a revenge of which the the tale, though evidently distorted and history of persecuted sects furnishes but exaggerated, might have some founda- too many examples. If this were so, tion.
the assassin must have afterwards bitEdward Coleman, a very busy, and terly execrated his own wickedness and not very honest, Roman Catholic in- folly. The capital and the whole nation triguer, had been among the persons went mad with hatred and fear. The accused. Search was made for his pa- penal laws, which had begun to lose pers. It was found that he had just something of their edge, were sharpened destroyed the greater part of them. anew. Everywhere justices were busied But a few which had escaped contained in searching houses and seizing papers. some passages such as, to minds strongly All the gaols were filled with Papists. prepossessed, might seem to confirm the London had the aspect of a city in a evidence of Oates. Those passages in- state of siege. The trainbands were deed, when candidly construed, appear under arms all night. Preparations to express little more than the hopes were made for barricading the great which the posture of affairs, the predi- thoroughfares. Patrols marched up lections of Charles, the still stronger and down the streets. Cannon were predilections of James, and the rela- | planted round Whitehall. No citizen tions existing between the French and thought himself safe unless he carried English courts, might. naturally excite under his coat a small flail loaded with in the mind of a Roman Catholic lead to brain the Popish assassins. The strongly attached to the interests of his corpse of the murdered magistrate was Church. But the country was not then exhibited during several days to the inclined to construe the letters of Pa- gaze of great multitudes, and was then pists candidly; and it was urged, with committed to the grave with strange some show of reason, that, if papers and terrible ceremonies, which indicated which had been passed over as unim- rather fear and the thirst of vengeance portant were filled with matter so sus- than sorrow or religious hope. The picious, some great mystery of iniquity Houses insisted that a guard should be must have been contained in those do- placed in the vaults over which they cuments which had been carefully com- sate, in order to secure them against a mitted to the flames.
second Gunpowder Plot. All their proA few days later it was known that ceedings were of a piece with this deSir Edmondsbury Godfrey, an eminent mand. Ever since the reign of Elizabeth justice of the peace who had taken the the oath of supremacy had been exacted depositions of Oates against Coleman, from members of the House of Comhad disappeared. Search was made ; mons. Some Roman Catholics, howand Godfrey's corpse was found in a ever, had contrived so to interpret this field near London. It was clear that oath that they could take it without he had died by violence. It was equally scruple. A more stringent test was clear that he had not been set upon by now added : every member of Parliarobbers. His fate is to this day a se- ment was required to make the Declacret. Some think that he perished by ration against Transubstantiation; and his own hand; some, that he was slain thus the Roman Catholic Lords were by a private enemy. The most impro- for the first time excluded from their bable supposition is that he was mur- seats. Strong resolutions were adopted dered by the party hostile to the court, against the Queen. The Commons in order to give colour to the story of threw one of the Secretaries of State the plot. The most probable supposi- into prison for having countersigned tion seems, on the whole, to be that commissions directed to gentlemen who
were not good Protestants. They im., Meanwhile the courts of justice, peached the Lord Treasurer of high which ought to be, in the midst of treason. Nay, they so far forgot the political commotions, sure places of doctrine which, while the memory of refuge for the innocent of every party, the civil war was still recent, they had were disgraced by wilder passions and loudly professed, that they even at- fouler corruptions than were to be tempted to wrest the command of the found even on the hustings. The tale militia out of the King's hands. To of Oates, though it had sufficed to such a temper had eighteen years of convulse the whole realm, would not, misgovernment brought the most loyal unless confirmed by other evidence, Parliament that had ever met in Eng- suffice to destroy the humblest of those land.
whom he had accused. For, by the Yet it may seem strange that, even old law of England, two witnesses are in that extremity, the King should necessary to establish a charge of treahave ventured to appeal to the people; son. But the success of the first imfor the people were more excited than postor produced its natural consetheir representatives. The Lower quences. In a few weeks he had been House, discontented as it was, con- raised from penury and obscurity to tained a larger number of Cavaliers opulence, to power which made him than were likely to find seats again. the dread of princes and nobles, and But it was thought that a dissolution to notoriety such as has for low and bad would put a stop to the prosecution of minds all the attractions of glory. He was the Lord Treasurer, a prosecution which not long without coadjutors and rivals. might probably bring to light all the A wretch named Carstairs, who had guilty mysteries of the French alliance, earned a livelihood in Scotland by and might thus cause extreme perso- going disguised to conventicles and nal annoyance and embarrassment to then informing against the preachers, Charles. Accordingly, in January | led the way. Bedloe, a noted swindler, 1679, the Parliament, which had been followed ; and soon, from all the in existence ever since the beginning brothels, gambling-houses, and spungof the year 1661, was dissolved; and ing houses of London, false witnesses writs were issued for a general election. I poured forth to swear away the lives of
During some weeks the contention Roman Catholics. One came with a First over the whole country was story about an army of thirty thousand e nch of fierce and obstinate beyond ex- men who were to muster in the dis1079. ample. Unprecedented sums guise of pilgrims at Corunna, and to were expended. New tactics were sail thence to Wales. Another had employed. It was remarked by the been promised canonisation and five pamphleteers of that time as something hundred pounds to 'murder the King. extraordinary that horses were hired A third had stepped into an eating at a great charge for the conveyance of house in Covent Garden, and had there electors. The practice of splitting heard a great Roman Catholic banker freeholds for the purpose of multiply- vow, in the hearing of all the guests ing rotes dates from this memorable and drawers, to kill the heretical struggle. Dissenting preachers, who tyrant. Oates, that he might not be had long hidden themselves in quiet eclipsed by his imitators, soon added a nooks from persecution, now emerged large supplement to his original narrafrom their retreats, and rode from tive. He had the portentous impudence village to village, for the purpose of to affirm, among other things, that he rekindling the zeal of the scattered had once stood behind a door which people of God. The tide ran strong was ajar, and had there overheard the against the government. Most of the Queen declare that she had resolved to new members came up to Westminster give her consent to the assassination of in a mood little differing from that her husband. The vulgar believed, of their predecessors who had sent and the highest magistrates pretended Strafford and Laud to the Tower. to believe, even such fictions as these.
The chief judges of the realm were and religion of the nation was to excorrupt, cruel, and timid. The leaders clude the Duke of York from the throne. of the Country Party encouraged the The King was in great perplexity. prevailing delusion. The most respect. He had insisted that his brother, the able among them, indeed, were them- sight of whom inflamed the populace selves so far deluded as to believe the to madness, should retire for a time to greater part of the evidence of the plot Brussels: but this concession did not to be true. Such men as Shaftesbury seem to have produced any favourable and Buckingham doubtless perceived effect. The Roundhead party was now that the whole was a romance. But it decidedly preponderant. Towards that was a romance which served their turn;) party leaned millions who had, at the and to their seared consciences the time of the Restoration, leaned towards death of an innocent man gave no the side of prerogative. Of the old more uneasiness than the death of a Cavaliers many participated in the partridge. The juries partook of the prevailing fear of Popery, and many, feelings then common throughout the bitterly resenting the ingratitude of nation, and were encouraged by the the prince for whom they had sacrificed bench to indulge those feelings without so much, looked on his distress as carerestraint. The multitude applauded lessly as he had looked on theirs. Oates and his confederates, hooted and Even the Anglican clergy, mortified pelted the witnesses who appeared on and alarmed by the apostasy of the behalf of the accused, and shouted Duke of York, so far countenanced the with joy when the verdict of Guilty opposition as to join cordially in the was pronounced. It was in vain that outcry against the Roman Catholics. the sufferers appealed to the respect- The King in this extremity had reability of their past lives: for the course to Sir William Temple. public mind was possessed with a be- Of all the official men of that plan of gosief that the more conscientious a age Temple had preserved the
vernment. Papist was, the more likely he must be fairest character. The Triple Alliance to plot against a Protestant government. had been his work. He had refused to It was in vain that, just before the cart take any part in the politics of the passed from under their feet, they re- Cabal, and had, while that administrasolutely affirmed their innocence: for tion directed affairs, lived in strict the general opinion was that a good privacy. He had quitted his retreat Papist considered all lies which were at the call of Danby, had made peace serviceable to his Church as not only between England and Holland, and had excusable but meritorious.
borne a chief part in bringing about While innocent blood was shedding the marriage of the Lady Mary to her Violence under the forms of justice, the cousin the Prince of Orange. Thus he of the new new Parliament met; and such had the credit of every one of the few Commons. was the violence of the predo- good things which had been done by the minant party that even men whose government since the Restoration. Of youth had been passed amidst revo- the numerous crimes and blunders of Žutions, men who remembered the the last eighteen years none could be attainder of Strafford, the attempt on imputed to him. His private life, the five members, the abolition of the though not austere, was decorous: his House of Lords, the execution of the manners were popular; and he was King, stood aghast at the aspect of not to be corrupted either by titles or public affairs. The impeachment of by money. Something, however, was Danby was resumed. He pleaded the wanting to the character of this royal pardon. But the Commons treated respectable statesman. The temperathe plea with contempt, and insisted ture of his patriotism was lukewarm. that the trial should proceed. Danby, He prized his ease and his personal however, was not their chief object. dignity too much, and shrank from They were convinced that the only responsibility with a pusillanimous fear. effectual way of securing the liberties Nor indeed had his habits fitted him