« PreviousContinue »
THE CHARGE ABANDONED.
159 this important evidence? To the question he replied, that it had escaped his memory. If he recollected it now, it was owing to the impudent denial of Coleman, that he had ever been in the company of Bedloe*.
But, whatever might be the conviction of the king, it was not the intention of the party to lose the benefit of this additional testimony. Bedloe, having previously obtained a pardon for all offences committed up to that Nov. hour, delivered his deposition in writing to the house of
28. commons; and then Oates, appearing at the bar, raised his voice and exclaimed, “I, Titus Oates, accuse Ca
therine, queen of England, of high treason." The members, not in the secret, were struck dumb with astonishment; an address was hastily voted for the removal of the queen and her household from White
and a message was sent to the house of lords to solicit their immediate concurrence. They, however, previously required to be put in possession of the depositions made before the council; then severely examined the two witnesses in person, and, dissatisfied with their answers, resolved to refuse their concurrence, and ap- 29. pointed a committee to state the reasons of their refusal. Shaftesbury with two others protested against this vote: but the majority of the party deemed it prudent to acquiesce; a dissension between the houses might break all their measures, and, by bringing into question the credit of the witnesses, overturn the whole fabric of the plot. The charge against the queen was therefore buried in silence: but an address for the apprehension of all papists within the realm was voted, and impeachments of high treason against the five catholic peers in the Tower were carried to the house of lords t.
I shall not detain the reader with a narrative of the
* L Journ. 331, 392. + C. Journ. Nov. 28, 29, Dec. 5. L. Journ. 392. 403. The commons also addressed the king to restore Oates to his former freedom. He gave orders that any member or clerk of either house might have unrestrained access to him, but not all persons without exception. They remonstrated, and he yielded. C. Journ. Dec, 6, 7.
partial trials, and judicial murders of the unfortunate men, whose names had been inserted by Oates in his pretended discoveries. So violent was the excitement, 80 general the delusion created by the perjuries of the informer, that the voice of reason and the claims of justice were equally disregarded : both judge and jury seemed to have no other object than to inflict vengeance on the supposed traitors: to speak in support of their innocence, or to question the veracity of the accusers, or to hint the improbability of the informations, required a strength of mind, a recklessness of consequences, which falls to the lot of few individuals; even the king himself, convinced as he was of the imposture, and contemptuously as he spoke of it in private, dared not exercise his prerogative of mercy to save the lives of the innocent. These unfortunate men were put on their trials under every disadvantage. 1. They possessed not the means of rebutting the charges against them. Kept in solitary confinement, debarred from all communication with their friends, without legal advisers, and with no other knowledge than what they could collect from their previous examination, they received notice of trial on the evening, and were placed at the bar the next morning. 2. The point on which the imposture hinged was the traitorous consult supposed to have been held at the White Horse tavern on the 25th of April, at .which Oates deposed that he was present. Now, to prove that no such consult was held, they could not appeal to the testimony of the landlord, who was dead, nor of his widow or former servants still living ; for, though the house of lords ordered the inquiry to be made, not one of these individuals could then be found *; neither dared they show that the real consult took place on that day at St. James's, because that would have been to exposė the duke of York to the capital punishment enacted against the harbourers of priests and jesuits. 3. They were condemned before their trial by the prepossessions
# L. Journ. xiii, 335.
TRIAL OF STAYLEY.
of the court, the jury, and the spectators. The chief justice, Scroggs, a lawyer of profligate habits and inferior acquirements, acted the part of prosecutor rather than of judge. To the informers he behaved with kindness, even with deference, suggesting to them explanations, excusing their contradictions, and repelling the imputations on their characters; but the prisoners were repeatedly interrupted and insulted; their witnesses were brow-beaten from the bench, and ill. treated by the spectators ; and their condemnation was generally hailed with acclamations which the court rather encouraged than repressed *.
These trials were introduced with the prosecution of Stayley, the catholic banker, at the instance of Carstairs, a Scottish adventurer. Stayley was sitting in a tavern, Nov and conversing in French on the topics of the day with 14. Firmin, a native of Marseilles, when Carstairs entered with a companion, and pretended to listen to their discourse. The next morning he waited on Stayley, and accused him of treason, but offered to suppress the charge in consideration of the sum of 2001. The banker * laughed at the insolence of the man: but in a few minutes he was arrested, and at the end of five days tried for his life. Burnet, when he heard the name of the informer, hastened to assure the lord chancellor that Carstairs was a man of infamous character and unworthy of credit even on his oath: but Jones, the attorney-general, being present, asked Burnet who had authorized him to defame the king's witness, and the timid divine shrunk from the frown of the barrister, and left the unfortunate man to his fate. The conversation in the tavern turned on the catholics, who had been charged with the design of murdering the king, and the 20. question in dispute at the trial between the informer and the accused was, whether Stayley had said that he was ready to kill him or them, whether he used the French article le or les. It is plain that Firmin might have
• See in particular the evidence of Fallas, State Trials, s. 1275.
decided the controversy; but care had been taken to
confine him in close custody, from which he was not Nov. discharged till four months after the trial. The jury 26. believed the informer, and Stayley suffered death at
Tyburn *. 2. The first victim sacrificed to the perjury of Oates and
his coadjutor Bedloe was Coleman. In consequence of an address from the house of commons Charles had promised that, if Coleman would make a satisfactory
consession, he should have a full pardon; if he did not, 4. the law should have its course. With this information 7. the committee visited him in Newgate. He gave them
the cipher to his correspondence, and explained to them
his pecuniary transactions, but strongly denied that he 27. possessed any knowledge of the alleged plot“. At his
trial he maintained that his object in his letters (that they were imprudent and unwarrantable he did not deny) was to procure money and the toleration of the catholic worship; that he had never seen either of his accusers before his apprehension; and that both had perjured themselves in their testimony, Bedloe by swearing that he had taken a letter from Coleman to La Chaise in April, 1675, whereas it was plain from the documents on the table that there had been no correspondence between them before September in that year; and Oates by deposing to numerous transactions with
State Trials, vi. 1501. Burnet, ii. 160. Conspirations d'Angleterre, 378.
+ C. Journ. Nov. 2. 4.7. According to the report of the committee, Coleman said that he had received 2,5001. from Barillon, “to distribute “to members of the house of commons, to prevent a rupture between “ the two crowns,” but “had applied the money to his own use, “ because he thought he was as much out of purse upon the French ac. “count in his way of living: though he told Barillon that he had given " to some members according to his promise." Journ. p. 534. I suspect some inaccuracy in this statement. "After Coleman's death his willow presented through Barillon a petition to Louis, stating that 65,000 livres, or 5,0001. had been promised to her husband for his services in preventing the declaration of war, that only one half, 2,5001., had been paid to him, and that Barillon objected to pay to her the remaining half without an ex press order from the king. Dalrymple, 201. On what ground could she claim the money, if her husband were only an agent to distribute it to others?
INFORMATION OF PRANCE.
163 him, though in presence of the council the informer was unacquainted with his person, and appeared to be ignorant of these very transactions. Bedloe probably made no answer; Oates replied with some embarrassment, that his eyes were at the time so dazzled by the lights on the table that he could not see distinctly, and his mind so overpowered by fatigue, that he was incapable of recollection. Coleman was found guilty, and perished Dec. on the scaffold, protesting his innocence with his last 3. breath *.
Whitbread, Fenwick, Ireland, Grove, and Pickering, 17. were soon afterwards brought to the bar. The evidence of Dates was positive against the whole five; that of Bedloe, by some unaccountable mischance, affected only the three last. In these circumstances Whitbread and Fenwick were by law entitled to an acquittal; but the chief justice ordered them to be removed, and called on Ireland, Grove, and Pickering to proceed with their defence. The jury returned a verdict of guilty, and the
1679. three unfortunate men died like Coleman, asserting on Jan. the scaffold, as they had asserted at the bar, that before 24. their apprehension they had never heard, never so much as thought, of the treason for which they suffered . In these prosecutions Bedloe acted only a secondary
1678. part as the auxiliary of Oatęs: with respect to the death of Godfrey he claimed the merit and reward of an orig informer, but was compelled to spend two months in search of a second witness to confirm his sole and unsupported testimony. The deficiency was sup- Dec. plied by the apprehension on some trifling charge of 21. Prance, a silversmith, who had occasionally been employed by the queen. Bedloe, the moment he saw Pranoe, exclaimed “ that man is one of the murderers ;" and the unfortunate silversmith was hurried to Newgate, where, under the influence of threats and promises, 23. he was induced to confess himself guilty, and to accuse 24. * State Trials, vii. 1. 78. Florus Anglo-Bavaricus, 135. State Trials, viii. 79. 143.