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" cuted. Prosecutors, whether attornies-general, “ and solicitors-general, or managers of impeach
ment, acted with the fury, which, in such cir“ cumstances, might be expected. Juries partook “ naturally of the national ferment; and judges *, “ whose duty it was to guard them against such "impressions, were scandalously active in con“ firming them in their prejudices, and inflaming “ their passions. The king, who is supposed to “ have disbelieved the whole of the plot, never once “ exercised his glorious prerogative of mercy.
In this dreadful scene of wickedness, it is difficult not to assign the pre-eminence of guilt to Anthony Ashley Cooper, earl of Shaftesbury. If he did not first contrive the fictions of Oates, he certainly availed himself of them, to work up
the nation to the fury, which produced the subsequent horrors. The only objection to this supposition, is, the absurdity of the circumstances, with which Oates's narrative of the plot was stuffed ; and which, it is said, no man of sense could have imagined. To this, his lordship’s reply, in a conversation, related in North's Examen t, is a complete answer :-"A certain lord,” says Mr. North, “ onee asked lord Shaftesbury; what he intended
“Lord Chief Justice Scroggs took in with the tide and s ranted for the plot, hewing down popery as Scanderbeg "hewed down the Turks. The attorney-general used to say " in the trials for murder, . If the man be a papist, then he is “ guilty, because it is the interest of papists to murder us all.'" North, Examen. p. 130.—Dr. Milner's Seventh Letter to Dr. Sturges, p. 304, 6th edition. int Page 95.
“ to do with the plot, which was so full of non“ sense, as would scarce go down with tantum
non idiot.—What, then, could he promise, by “ pressing the belief of it upon men of common
sense, and especially on parliament? It is no “ matter," says the earl," the more nonsensical, “ the better. If we cannot bring them to swallow
worse nonsense than that, we shall never do any “good with them."
In extenuation of the delusion of the populace, something may be offered. The defamation of a century and a half had made the catholics the objects of protestant odium and distrust: and these had been increased by the accusation, artfully and assiduously fomented, -of their having been the authors of the fire of the city of London. The publication, too, of Coleman's letters, substantially harmless, but most imprudently expressed, certainly announced a considerable activity in them to promote the catholic religion; and contained expressions, easily distorted to the sense, in which the favourers of the belief of the plot wished them to be understood. Danby's correspondence, likewise, which had long been generally known, and was about this time made public, had discovered, that Charles was in the pay of France. These, with several other circumstances, had inflamed the imaginations of the public to the very highest pitch. A dreadful something,—(and not the less dreadful because its precise nature was altogether unknown), was generally apprehended. Omne
notum pro magnifico, is equally true, when the
imagination is shaken by terror, as when it is elevated by admiration.
While the minds of men were in this state of suspense and agitation, another event happened, which wound them up to fury. Sir Edmondbury Godfrey, a magistrate, who had taken Oates's informations, was suddenly missed. After a search of several days, his body was found in a ditch, at Primrosehill, near Hampstead. Who were the authors of his murder, is even yet a secret; neither has any rational conjecture, respecting the manner of his death, yet been suggested. Hume, however, unequivocally declares, “ that his assassination by the “ catholics is utterly improbable.” To increase the frenzy of the populace, the dead body was carried into the city, attended by vast multitudes ;-publicly exposed ; and then buried, with great parade. A funeral sermon was preached. Two able-bodied divines ascended the pulpit; and stood on each side of the preacher, “lest,” as it was said, “ in
paying the last duties to the unhappy magistrate, " he should, before the whole people, be murdered
by the papists.”—The delusion was general : the city prepared for its defence, as if the enemy were at the gates. “Were it not,” said sir Thomas Player, the chamberlain, “ for these precautions, “ all the citizens of London would rise with their “ heads off.”
In this state of the public mind, the trials of several persons, accused by Oates, came on. Coleman was first brought to trial. He was condemned
and executed, -persisting, to the last, in asserting his absolute ignorance of the plot. The trial of father Ireland immediately followed. “He proved,” says Hume,
by good evidence, that he was in “ Staffordshire, at the time, when Oates's evidence “ made him in London; and would have proved it
by undoubted, had he not, most iniquitously, “ been debarred, when in prison, from all use of
pen, ink, and paper; and denied the liberty of “ sending for witnesses.” Several others were executed, for their pretended share in the conspiracy. They all died with great resignation ; declaring, with their latest breath, in terms equally modest and explicit, their innocence, and their absolute ignorance of the plot.
The solemn declarations of these unhappy men, the piety and meekness which they showed in their last moments, made, at length, some impression upon the public. It was increased by the acquittal of sir George Wakeman, the queen's physician; and by the outrageous conduct and gross prevarications of Oates and his associates, on that trial.
Some, however, still persisted in urging the reality of the plot. Five catholic peers were imprisoned in the Tower.
the Tower. “ The viscount Stafford," says Hume, “ from his age, infirmities, and nar
row capacity, was deemed the least capable of
defending himself, and it was therefore deter“ mined that he should be the first victim. The “ clamour and outrage of the populace, during “ his trial, were extreme. Great abilities and “ eloquence, were exerted against him by the ma“ nagers*,-sir William Jones, sir Francis Win
* Bishop Burnet, in the History of his own Time, (fol. edition, vol. i. p. 489,) records the following extraordinary circumstance, which took place during this trial. “ Turber“ ville," who was the principal evidence against lord Stafford, “ upon discourse with some in St. Martin's parish, seemed “ inclined to change his religion: they brought him to Dr. “ Lloyd,”—-(who was bishop of St. Asaph, when the fact related by Burnet took place,)-—" then their minister: and he “ convinced him so fully, that he changed upon it: and afte " that, he came often to him, and was chiefly supported by “ him: for some months he was constantly at his table : “ Lloyd had pressed him to recollect all he had heard among " the papists, relating to plots and designs against the king or “ the nation. He said that, which all the converts at that “ time often said, that they had it among them, that, within a “ very little while, their religion would be set up in England, " and that some of them said, a great deal of blood would be "shed before it could be brought about: but he protested “ that he knew no particulars. After some months depend“ ance on Lloyd, he withdrew entirely from him; and he saw “ him no more till he appeared now, as evidence against lord “ Stafford : Lloyd was in great difficulties upon that occasion. “ It had been often declared, that the most solemn denials of “ witnesses, before they make discoveries, did not at all invali. “ date their evidence, and that it imported no more, but that " they had been so long firm to their promise of revealing “ nothing, so that this negative evidence against Turberville “ could have done lord Stafford no service f. On the other “ hand, considering the load that already lay on Lloyd, on ac“ count of Berry's business, and that his being, a little before “ this time, promoted to be bishop of St. Asaph, was imputed “ to that, it was visible that his discovering this against Tur
+ Surely this conclusion was contrary to common sense, and the estab. lished rules of evidence of every civilized nation.