Page images
PDF
EPUB

A.D. 1678.] ADDRESS AGAINST THE DUKE OF YORK. 149 parish to the magistrates, and all were compelled either to take the oaths, or to give security for their good behaviour. Precautions so general and extraordinary were sufficient to conjure up terror in every breast: Charles alone preserved his tranquillity in the midst of excitement: he hesitated not to declare in every company his disbelief of the plot, and to lament that his subjects should suffer themselves to be made the dupes of a bold and brazened impostor *.

Encouraged by the state of the public mind, the popular leaders determined to throw off the mask, and to commence a direct attack on the duke of York. An Nov, address to exclude him from the presence and the coun- 2. cils of the sovereign was moved by lord Shaftesbury in the house of lords, by lord Russell in the house of commons. It was not that they charged him with any par- 4. ticipation in the plot: from that ground they had already been driven by Oates, who had declared at the bar of the house of lords that he believed the duke to be entirely ignorant of the design; and, when he was ordered to denounce every individual cognizant of the conspiracy, whatever the rank or station of that individual might be, had replied upon oath “ That he could name

no other person than those whom he had named “ already •f." The charge of treason was therefore abandoned; but they relied on the prejudice excited against him by the publication of the letters of n, and contended that his presence at court encouraged the papists to persevere, and proved an obstacle to the adoption of those measures which were requisite for the security of the protestant worship. Charles openly expressed his indignation at this motion, and ordered his friends to oppose it with all their influence. In the house of lords their efforts were successful; in the com

• See “ Les Conspirations d'Angleterre, à Cologne, 1680,” p. 338, et seq. The account in that work is written by a foreigner, who resided in London, and appears to have kept a diary. Also Florus Anglo-Bucaricus, 115. 118; and Reresby, 67.72.

* L. Journ. 309. 311. 389.

mons the debate was adjourned, resumed, and again adjourned. But the pertinacity of the party subdued the resolution of the monarch; he sought to escape from the contest; he advised his brother to submit to a compromise, and to withdraw from the council while he remained at court: such a concession would mollify his enemies, and aid his friends in the support of his undoubted rights. It cost James a violent struggle before he would yield ; but he deemed it a duty to obey the will of the sovereign, and announced from his seat in

the house of lords that he was no longer a member of Nov. the council. Charles then called the two houses before 9. him, and assured them that he was as ready as their

hearts could desire to establish the security of the protestant religion, and to assent to any reasonable laws for that purpose, provided that they did not trench on the rightful descent of the crown, nor on his own authority, nor on the just rights of his protestant successors. This speech was received with expressions of gratitude ; and lord Russell immediately withdrew his motion. One part of it, the removal of the duke from the council, had been obtained; the other part, his removal from the court, was included in the bill against popish recusants now pending in the house of lords *

That bill, however, made but little progress. The lords in general looked with jealousy on a measure which invaded the constitutional rights of the peeraget,

and would create a precedent which, on subsequent occa7. sions, might be employed against other than catholic 11.

peers. To stimulate their indolence the commons, by repeated messages, reminded them that on the adoption of the bill depended the safety of the king and kingdom, and of the protestant religion; and Charles, weary of contending with clamour and intimidation, consented to sacrifice the rights of the other lords, provided those of

* C. Journ. Nov. 9. James (Memoirs), i. 524. Reresby, 70. Burnet, ii. 157. Parl, Hist. iv. 1026.

# See the standing order in the Lords' Journals, xii. 673.

CATHOLIC PEERS EXCLUDED.

151

A.D. 1678.] his brother were maintained. To the surprise of all Nov. men, on the third reading, when the rejection of the bill 20. was generally anticipated, it passed without opposition, but with a proviso that its operation should not extend to his royal highness the duke of York. James, however, immediately entered his protest against it; and was followed by the earls of Berkshire and Cardigan, and the lords Audley, Stourton, Hunsdon, and Teynham *.

To the popular leaders the exclusion of the catholic peers was a matter of minor interest: their paramount object, the exclusion of the duke of York, had been defeated by the proviso. They resolved, as a last resource, to throw it out in the house of commons, and to mark their sense of the conduct of the lords by the manner of the rejection. Sixteen members rose in succes- 21. sion to speak in support of the amendment, before they could provoke an answer from the benches of their opponents. Waller was the first to move its rejection : he was followed on the same side by Meres and Capel, and answered by sir Robert Howard. The debate grew warm : high words, and even blows, were exchanged by Ashe and Trelawney; and when sir William Coventry, deserting his party, contended that the duke was entitled to the indulgence, for his eminent services to the nation, he was put down with cries of “ Coleman's let"ters: remember Coleman's letters !” Lord Cavendish closed the discussion. What were the reasons which recommended the proviso to the adoption of the lords, he knew not; but till he both knew them and approved of them, he would never be a party to an enactment which should declare by authority of parliament that the king's brother was a papist. The question was then

• L. Journ. xiii. 365. C. Journ. Nov. 11. 16. Reresby, 71. Monmouth, to escape the necessity of voting in favour of his uncle, left the house before the division, which gave James a fair opportunity of complaining to the king of his son's conduct, and of observing that he was not only intimately connected with the leaders of the opposition, but suffered his flatterers to drink to him by the title of prince of Wales. James (Memoirs),

1. 526.

put, and, to the deep and bitter disappointment of the

party, the proviso was carried by a majority of two Noy.

voices. Charles gave his assent to the bill, but at the 30. same time remarked that he did it with reluctance, and

merely through deference to those who were alarmed at the extraordinary excitement of the people *.

By this statute, which owed its enactment to the perjuries of an impostor, and the delusion of the nation, the catholic peers found themselves, without any fault of theirs, deprived of the most valuable privilege of the peerage, the right which they derived from their birth, of sitting and voting in the higher house of parliament. Nor were they the only victims: the unjust proscription attached to their descendants during a long lapse of one hundred and fifty years. It was reserved for a prince of the House of Brunswick, the fourth who swayed the sceptre of these realms, and an enlightened and liberal parliament, to erase the foul blot from the statute-book, and by an act of tardy but praiseworthy justice to restore the sufferers to the exercise of their ancient and hereditary rights t.

There was one circumstance, which greatly embar rassed the patrons of the plot. Its credit still depended on the sole unsupported testimony of Oates. Though the prisoners had been successively interrogated at the

C. Journ. Nov. 21. L. Journ. xiii. 394. Parl. Hist. iv. 1039, 1045, Soun afterwards the lords made an order that John Hudleston, Charles Giffard, Francis Yates and his wife, the five brothers of the name of Pep. derell, Mr. Whitgrave of Moseley, colonel Carlos, and Francis Reynold of Carleton, in Bedfordshire, who had been instrumental in the preservation of the king after the battle of Worcester, should live as freely as any of his majesty's protestant subjects without being liable to the penalties against popish recusants, and that a bill be prepared for that purpose. L. Journ. 408.

+ The peers, whom this act deprived of their seats in the house, were the duke of Norfolk, the earls of Shrewsbury, Berkshire, Portland, Cardigan, and Powis, the viscounts Montague and Stafford, the lords Mowbray, Audi-y, Stourtun, Petre, Arundell, Hunsdon, Belasyse, Langdale, Teynham, Carrington, Widdrington, Gerard of Bromley, and Clifford. We are told that three preferred their seats to their religion (Reresby, 73). Of these the marquess of Worcester was one: the other two, as far as I can ascertain, did not take the oaths till the next session, in 1679, viz., the lord Mowbray, son to the duke of Norfolk, and the earl of Berkshire, ou his coming to the title after the death of his brother.

A.D. 1678.]

DEPOSITION OF BEDLOE.

153

bar, or before the committee of the house of lords, all had uniformly protested their innocence: the offer of pardon and reward had been made in vain; each persisted in declaring his ignorance not only of the facts and designs charged on himself, but also of those charged upon the others. Thus eleven weeks passed away, and no prosecution was instituted, because, to establish the guilt of the accused, the law required the con current testimony of two witnesses. At last the diffi. culty was surmounted. The king by proclamation had promised to the discoverer of the assassins of sir Edmondbury Godfrey reward, protection, and a full pardon, Nov

1. even if he were an accomplice; and in a few days the secretary of state received an enigmatical letter, dated from the town of Newbury, containing the singular request that the writer, William Bedloe, might be taken into custody in the city of Bristol, and be brought back 2. a prisoner to the metropolis. By order of the council a warrant for his apprehension was sent to Bedloe himself, with directions to deliver it to the mayor of Bristol, 5. when and in what manner he might think fit: the arrest accordingly took place in the open street, and in the presence of a numerous crowd; and a report was circulated both there and in London that the prisoner had it in his power to develope the whole mystery in which the death of Godfrey was still involved *.

The character of Bedloe was not less open to objection than that of Oates. He had originally been employed in the stables, and afterwards in the household of lord Belasyse. Subsequently he travelled on the continent as a courier in the service of different gentlemen; in which capacity he became acquainted with the names and residences of many persons of distinction, and availed himself of that knowledge to raise money by artifice and fraud. His swindling transaetions had repeatedly been visited with imprisonment and various

• See the official papers in Brief History, üi. 67.

« PreviousContinue »