Page images
PDF
EPUB

had procured for Spain more favourable conditions, but had entailed at the same time an enormous expense on the English government. The supply so lately roted was exhausted ; the ordinary revenue of the next year had been already anticipated; and it was become equally impracticable without additional pecuniary aid to disband the army or to keep it on foot. This was the chief subject which the king in his speech sought to impress on the attention of the two houses. To the plot he made only an incidental allusion, stating it to be his intention to leave the guilt or innocence of the accused to the in-' vestigation of the ordinary courts of law. Such, however, was not the plan either of the popular leaders, or of his own minister. Under their guidance both houses, forgetting the king's recommendation, listened with astonishment to the narratives of Oates and Tonge ; and, as if their own existence, that of the sovereign, and of the nation were at stake, they placed guards in the cellars under the house of parliament, extorted from Charles a proclamation that all catholics, not householders, should quit London, prevailed on him to remove a Scottish regiment to the distance of forty miles from the capital, petitioned for the dismissal of every papist from his domestic service, conjured him to be careful that his meals were prepared by none but orthodox cooks, and appointed committees to pursue the pretended conspiracy through all its secret and numerous ramifications *. By these proceedings the inquiry was taken out of the hands of the government, and in a great measure transferred to those of Shaftesbury, and a committee appointed by the lords. Shaftesbury was always at his post, receiving informations, granting warrants for searches and arrests, examining and committing prisoners, and issuing instructions to the officers, informers, and jailors. But his zeal proved too industrious to escape suspicion. By many he was said to be actuated by a very questionable

* I. Journ. 297. 301. 303, 304, 305, 306, 307, 308, 309. 312.331. 335. 354. C. Jouro. Oct. 23, 24, 25, 26. 28. 30; Nov. 1, 2.

A.D. 1678.] ADDITIONAL DISCLOSURES OF OATES.

145

motive, the desire, not of discovering the truth, but of establishing the credit, of the plot. The popular delirium had given to his party an ascendency in the two houses, which they could not otherwise have acquired ; and, that he might keep this alive, and direct it in accordance with his own views, he cared little to what perjuries he might give occasion, or what blood he might cause to be shed.

Oates, at his examination before the commons, made Oct. a most important addition to his previous testimony. He 23. informed the house that Oliva, general of the jesuits, had, by authority from the pope, already appointed to all the great offices of state, and to the chief commands in the army, both in England and Ireland; that many of the patents of appointment had been seen by him, or passed through his hands; that the office lord chancellor had been conferred on lord Arundell, of lord treasurer on the earl of Powis, of commander-in-chief on lord Belasyse, of lieutenant general on lord Petre, of lord privy seal on sir William Godolphin, of secretary of state on Coleman, of major-general on sir Francis Radcliffe, and of adjutant-general on Lambert, who had formerly distinguished himself in the service of the commonwealth. These constituted the new government for England. In Ireland the chancellorship was given to Peter Talbot, the chief command of the forces to Richard Talbot, the rank of lieutenant-general to the viscount Mountgarret, and the inferior offices were parcelled out among their friends and dependents. In this selection there was much to shake the confidence of those who possessed any knowledge of the parties, because sereral of the latter, from age, or infirmity, or character, were incapable of executing the different employments to which they had been appointed. But such objections weighed not with the commons. they sent for the lord chief justice, and instructed him to issue warrants for the apprehension of all the individuals named in the information. In other circumstances the lords would have interfered in defence of their privileges :

VOL. XII.

L

now every minor consideration was sacrificed to the safety of the state; and the earl of Powis, the viscount Stafford, the lords Petre, Arundell, and Belasyse were

committed to the Tower *. Oct.

The first bill introduced in the house of commons was 23. the favourite measure of the popular party, the test for

the exclusion of all catholics, and consequently of the duke of York, both from parliament and from the presence of the sovereign. It proposed to enact, 1. that no person should presume to sit or vote in either house of parliament, or name a proxy to vote for him in the house of lords, unless he had previously, in presence of the house, taken the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and subscribed the declaration that the worship of the church of Rome is idolatrous, under the penalty of a fine of 5001., and of disability to sue in any court of law or equity, to receive any legacy or deed of gift, or to act in any manner as guardian, executor, or administrator; 2. that every unqualified peer and commoner and popish recusant, coming into the house or presence of the king, should be liable to the same penalty, unless in the next term he should take the same oaths, and subscribe the same declaration in the court of chancery. In former sessions this bill had repeatedly miscarried : but now, under the auspices of Titus Oates, it could not fail of success. Day after day that informer was called in to inflame the passions of the members by new disclosures ; every speaker sought to give proof of his loyalty and or

thodoxy by the display of hostility to the papists; and 28. the bill passed through the house without opposition,

when opposition could lead only to the forfeiture of character, perhaps of liberty and life.F.

* L. Journ 299. 208, 309. 311, 327. C. Jouru. Oct. 23. 24, 25. 28. The next day Oales accused the earl of Castlemaine, that having obtained a divorce from his wife on account of adultery with the king, he was now a jesuit in priest's orders, and had, in the hearing of Oates, wished success to the plot that he might gratify his revenge. Castlemaine was sent to the Tower, but acquitted on his trial. See his Manifesto, 7. 10. 46.

+ C. Journ. Oct. 23. 24, 25, 26, 28. It is remarkable that this bill omitted the obligation of receiving the sacrament in the established church,

A.D. 1678.]

VOTE OF BOTH HOUSES.

147

The moment the test was transmitted to the lords, care was taken to add new fuel to the flame by the communication to the house of Coleman's letters. The offensive expressions and the objectionable aims of that busy intriguer were taken for those of the whole body to which he had joined himself; and his constant use of the duke's name provoked a general belief, that he had acted by the instructions, or at least with the connivance, of that prince. James, indeed, positively denied, and commissioned his friends to deny by his authority, all connection between him and Coleman; and Coleman himself at his examination faintly acquitted the duke: but the conduct of each was attributed to the necessity of his situation, and both houses voted a resolution that “there Oct. * had been and still was a damnable and hellish plot 31. “ contrived and carried on by the popish recusants for " the assassinating and murdering the king, and for

subverting the government, and rooting out and destroying the protestant religion *.”

To add to the impression made by the publication of this vote, it was accompanied with the funeral of the first supposed victim of the conspiracy. Godfrey perished the 12th of October: on the 31st his corpse was borne in procession to the grave. As it passed from Bridewell to St. Martin's-in-the-fields, it was preceded by seventytwo clergymen in their gowns, and followed by more than a thousand gentlemen in mourning, many of them members of parliament. In the pulpit appeared Dr. Lloyd, the rector of the parish, between two men of powerful limbs and determined aspect, habited as clergymen, and stationed for his protection against the designs of the papists. He took for his text the passage, “ As a “ man falleth before the wicked, so fellest thou;”-and undertook to prove that Godfrey had been the victim of which was required as a qualification for taking office. The reason is evident. It would have removed the dissenters from parliament, and without the aid of the dissenters the cuuntry party had no prospect of acconplishing their purpose. • C. Journ. Oct. 23. 30, 31. L. Journ. xiii. 333. Reresby, 67.

his attachment to protestantism, and must have been murdered on that account by its enemies. From this mournful but exciting spectacle the crowd returned to their homes, breathing vengeance against the assassins, and extolling Oates as “the saviour of his country;" his fictions, absurd and incredible as they must appear to the thinking reader, were received without hesitation; and men of every class suffered themselves to be agitated with the apprehension of dangers, the more alarming to the imagination, because they were wrapt in mystery, and expected from unknown and invisible foes *.

Neither was the panic thus created local or momentary. The measures adopted by the government, in consequence of the addresses of parliament, served to give to it both diffusion and duration. In a short time the prisons in the metropolis contained two thousand suspected traitors; the houses of the catholics (even that of the earl marshal could not obtain exemption) had been searched for arms; and all papists who refused the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, amounting almost to thirty thousand individuals, were compelled to withdraw ten miles from Whitehall. For the security of the capital, posts were fixed in the streets, that chains might be thrown across on the first alarm ; the military, the trained bands, the volunteers, to the rumber of forty or fifty thousand, were occasionally kept all night under arms; strong detachments occupied the most eligible posts ; numerous patroles paraded the streets; the guards were doubled at the palace ; batteries of fieldpieces were planted for its protection; and the great gates were kept constantly closed, so that admission could be obtained only through the wicket. From the metropolis the alarm spread into the remotest parts of the country: the order for disarming the catholics was universally, enforced; lists, containing their names, ages, and occupations, were delivered by the officers of each

* Echard, 950. North, 204. Rereshy, 6., 63.

« PreviousContinue »