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Sept and Tonge, under the pretence of concealment and se2. curity, repaired to the lodgings of Kirkby at Vauxhall.
That dupe repeatedly attended at court, and presented himself before the king; but Charles, who had already formed his opinion of the plot, invariably passed him by without notice. It was not, however, the intention of
the projectors to suffer the discovery to be buried in 6, silence. Distrusting the intention of the council, Oates
made affidavit to the truth, first of the original narrative 27. of forty-three, and then to the improved edition, of
eighty-one articles, in the presence of sir Edmondbury Godfrey. That magistrate, surprised to discover in the list of conspirators the name of his friend Coleman, revealed the secret to him, and Coleman immediately communicated it to the duke of York*.
James had already persuaded himself that this pretended plot, if not originally devised, would subsequently be employed, for the purpose of excluding him from the succession ; and on that account had repeatedly conjured his brother to bring the informer before the council, and to institute a strict inquiry into the truth or falsehood of his testimony. Hitherto Charles, through his love of ease, and apprehension of the consequences, had refused his consent; and (which seemed more surprising) Danby himself concurred in praising the resolution of the sovereign. But the duke entertained no doubt that the real object of the treasurer was to suppress all knowledge of the plot till the meeting of parliament, and then to call for an inquiry into its existence, that he might divert the attention of the two houses from the impeachment which was still hanging over his head. The affidavits of Oates confirmed his suspicions: he renewed his arguments and entreaties, and Charles with much reluctance ordered Tonge to produce the former before the privy council.
At the appointed hour Oates appeared in a clerical
Kirkby's " Compleat and True Narrative," Sept. 2. 5. 7, 8, 9. 27.
THE NARRATIVE OF OATES.
gown and a new suit of clothes procured for the occasion. The assurance with which he delivered his narra- 28. tive imposed on many of his hearers. He stated 1. that the order of the jesuits had undertaken to re-establish the catholic religion in the British dominions by rebellion and bloodshed: 2. that their plan of operation comprised Ireland, where some of them were employed in organizing an insurrection and massacre; Scotland, where others, under the disguise of Cameronian ministers, opposed the establishment of episcopacy; Holland, where a third party sought to raise the adherents of France against the prince of Orange; and England, where a fourth was plotting the assassination of the king, and not of the king only, but also of his brother, if the duke should prove unwilling to join in the attempt : 3. that they were in no want of pecuniary resources; for they had 100,0001, in bank, were in the yearly receipt of 60,0001. in rents, and had obtained from Leshee (La Chaise), the confessor to the French king, a donation of 10,0001., and from de Corduba, the provincial of New Castile, the promise of an equal sum towards the accomplishment of this holy undertaking: 4. that in March last a man named honest William, and Pickering, a lay brother, were repeatedly commissioned to shoot the king at Windsor; and that, the failure being attributed to negligence, the first had received a severe reprimand, the second twenty lashes on the bare back: 5. that on the 24th of April a grand consult of jesuits from all parts met at the White Horse tavern in the Strand, to determine on the most eligible method of taking the king's life; that three sets of assassins were provided, the two persons already mentioned, two Benedictine monks, Coniers and Anderton, and four Irishmen of unknown names, procured and instructed by Fogarty; and that in addition the reward of 10,0001., and subsequently of 15,0001., had been offered to Wakeman, the queen's physician, if he would poison the king. Of Wakeman's answer he was indeed ignorant; but had
heard that he gave his assent, and had frequently seen him since that period in the company of jesuits : 6. that he had arrived at the knowledge of the conspiracy by the following contrivance. His feigned conversion had so far won for him the confidence of the superiors of the order, that they sent him in the first place with letters to the jesuits at Valladolid, which letters he had the curiosity to open and peruse at Burgos. From Valladolid he proceeded on a similar mission to Madrid, returned thence through Valladolid to England, was sent back to St. Omer, accompanied the fathers from St. Omer to the grand consult, went with them again to St. Omer, and returned with new instructions to England: on all which occasions, so great was the trust reposed in his faith and honesty, that the contents of the papers which he carried were communicated to him by his employers: 7. that since his return he had learned, that the jesuits were the projectors of the fire of London in 1666, and had spent seven hundred fire-balls in nourishing the conflagration; but, to indemnify themselves, had carried off one thousand carats of diamonds, and made a clear profit of 14,0001.; that this success had encouraged them to set fire to Southwark in 1676, by which they had gained 2,0001. above their expenses, and that they had now under consideration a plan for the burning of Westminster, Wapping, and the ships in the river: 8. that the pope by a very recent bull had already appointed certain individuals, whom he named, to all the bishoprics and dignities in the church of England, under the persuasion that by the murder of the king the catholic religion would rise to its former ascendency: and lastly that he had already made oath to the truth of this information“ in the whole and every particular “ thereof"? before sir Edmondbury Godfrey *.
While Oates was reading this long and alarming narrative, the members of the council gazed in astonish
True Narrative of the Horrid Plot and Conspiracy, &c. London,
2679. L. Journ, xiii. 313, State Trials, vi. 1434.
A.D. 1678.] HIS SUBSEQUENT EXAMINATION. 137 ment on each other. The facts, which it detailed, appeared so incredible, the means by which they had come to the knowledge of the informer were so devoid of probability, and the character which he gave of himself exhibited such traits of baseness and dishonesty, that his hearers were bewildered and amazed. The duke of York hesitated not to pronounce it a most impudent imposture: but others contended that no man in his senses would come forward with a tale so startling and portentous, unless he could support it by proof; that, although it were embellished with fiction, it might have a foundation in reality; and that it was the duty of the royal advisers, in a matter of such concernment, to sift out the truth from the falsehood, with which it had been mixed and confounded. Oates was asked to produce documentary evidence in confirmation of his testimony. He had been trusted with a multitude of treasonable letters at different times: his only object was to detect and defeat the conspiracy : undoubtedly then he must have secured some of these papers as evidence against the traitors. He confessed, however, that he stood there without a single document; but promised to produce evidence in abundance if he might be furnished with warrants and officers to arrest the persons, and seize the papers of the individuals whom he had accused. To this proposal the council gave its assent.
The next morning the inqui was resumed in pre- Sept. sence of the king. To the objections urged against the 29. authenticity of the Windsor letters, Oates ingeniously replied, that such was the practice of the jesuits; they wrote in feigned hands, and with orthographical errors. Their accomplices were acquainted with the artifice, av i it supplied the writers with a pretence of forgery, if the letters were intercepted or discovered. Charles desired that he might be told to describe Don Juan, to whom, according to his narrative, he had been introduced at Madrid ; and Oates without hesitation replied, that he was a tall, spare, and swarthy man. The king
turned to his brother, and smiled; for both knew from personal acquaintance that Don Juan was low of stature, and fair of complexion. “ And where,” said Charles, “ did you see La Chaise pay down the 10,0001. ?" He replied with equal readiness, in the house of the jesuits close to the Louvre. “Man,” exclaimed the monarch, provoked at his effrontery, “ the jesuits have no house “ within a mile of the Louvre * !”
The credit of the informer was now gone, unless he could support it by the discoveries to be made from the papers which he had seized. Much was expected from those of Harcourt, the provincial of the jesuits. They consisted of a cipher, of an immense collection of letters, of books of account, and of the acts of the very congregation which Oates had denounced: but among them no trace of the plot could be discovered; not so much as a passage to which the ingenuity of the lawyers could give the semblance of an allusion to the treason in ques. tion t. Fortunately for the informer, it was otherwise with the papers of Coleman, the son of a clergyman in Şuffolk, who had embraced the catholic faith, and was appointed secretary to the duchess of York. The man was vain of his abilities, expensive in his habits, and solicitous to acquire the reputation of a person of consequence. To extricate himself from his pecuniary embarrassments, be sought to procure money from Louis XIV., in 1675, by offering his services in favour of the catholic religion to father la Chaise, the confessor of that monarch, and in 1667, by another offer to father St.
James (Memoirs), i. 520. Macpher. i. 87. “ The king told me, that * he took it to be some artifice, and that he did not believe one word of " the whole story." Reresby, 67. Where the compiler of the Memoirs of James refers to the writings of that monarch, I shall, as I have done above, add the word (Memoirs), because such passages are of higher authority than the other parts of that work.
| Florus Anglo-Bavaricus, p. 100. Two of the letters were, however, selected, and are to be found in the journals of the house of commons (Nov. 2). In une occurs the word “ design,” in the other“ patents." It was explained, (and the explanation is confirmed by the context,) that the first referred to ihe design of holding the congregation, the other to the patents of app ment to offices in the order.