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A.D. 1679.] THE COMMONS OBJECT TO THE PARDON. 179 as a wrong and an insult. Having searched in vain for a copy of the instrument in the different public offices, they interrogated the lord chancellor; and learned from Mar
24. him that Danby offered the pardon ready drawn to the king, who immediately signed it, and ordered the person, who carried the bag, to affix the great seal in his pre
In the debate which followed, Powle (the reader will recollect that he was at the very time the secret pensionary of Barillon) called in bold and indignant language for the punishment of a perfidious minister. Danby, it was said, had brought the nation to the very brink of ruin : it was to his mercenary policy that Louis owed the victories which made him master of Flanders, and to his arbitrary maxims that the last house of commons was indebted for the sharp and vituperatory answers which had been returned to its addresses. He had raised a standing army with the intention of defraying the charge for three years with French money; he had drained the treasury to enrich himself, and to bribe others; and he had first concealed the plot, then tampered with Bedloe to prevail on him to abscond, and afterwards had spoken of Oates in terms of obloquy and contempt. The king possessed, it was true, the power of pardoning, when he was the prosecutor : but, had he the same power when the prosecution proceeded from the house of commons ? He could not deprive an injured individual of his remedy at law; and by parity of reasoning he could not take from the representatives of the nation their remedy against the national enemy. By the courtiers it was replied, that the right of pardoning was vested in the crown ; that up to that day the exercise of such right had never been called in question; that, if any inconvenience were experienced, limitations might be imposed by a prospective law, but such limitations could not operate to the prejudice of pardons already
. Hence the chancellor argued that the seal was not in his possession, but in the possession of the king, and that of course he was not responsible. C. Journ. March 24.
passed. After a stormy debate the house resolved to represent to the king the irregularity and illegality of the pardon, with the dangerous consequences of pardons in cases of impeachment by the commons of England; and at the same time to send a message to the lords, demanding that the accused might be sequestered from parliament, and committed to safe custody. The representation was not made ; but the votes of the house served to alarm both the king, who saw that by supporting the minister he had involved himself in a new contest respecting his prerogative, and the lords, who, that they might not seem to act from intimidation, ordered in great haste the' usher of the black rod to take the earl of Danby into custody, and then in answer to the message, replied that they had already of their own
motion anticipated the wishes of the commons *. Mar. 26.
To prevent the trial, now became the chief object of
the court. Danby, with the king's connivance, had 27. secretly taken refuge at Whitehall, while the lords passed
a bill disabling him from holding office, or sitting in par
liament, to which was afterwards added a clause banishApril ing him from the kingdom. By the commons this bill 1. was rejected on the first reading, and one of attainder
substituted, unless he should surrender himself for trial against a certain day. This, however, in its progress through the upper house, was by successive amendments
converted into a bill of banishment, similar in its pro4.
visions to the former. The commons rejected the amend7.
ments ; conferences followed between the houses, and 8. private meetings between the leaders of the parties; the
king's friends, among whom, for reasons to be presently related, Shaftesbury now took a prominent part, offered
to consent to additional severities, to the loss of the 10.
peerage, to the confiscation of property, to any thing except a trial on the charge of high treason; but their A.D. 1679.] PROSECUTION OF THE PLOT.
* C. Journ. March 24. L. Journ. xiii. 475. Parl, Hist. iv. 1115. Bur. net, ii. 196. On the 10th of April the lords resolved that the previous refusal to commit Danby should not be drawn into precedent. L. Journ. 510.
adversaries were as eager to acquire, as the king was to April conceal, the knowledge of the secret negotiations with 12. France; the lords found themselves compelled to ac
14. quiesce, and, as soon as the bill had passed both houses, 15. Danby surrendered himself to the black rod, and was 16. committed to the Tower. A few days later he put in his answer, in which, having complained of the generality 25. and uncertainty of the articles, he successively denied them all; and then, reciting at large the pardon granted to him by the king, pleaded it in bar of the impeachment, and in discharge of all the offences of which he was accused *. The
eagerness with which the popular leaders hunted down this unfortunate minister did not cause them to relax in their pursuit of the supposed conspiracy. The two houses appeared to contend against each other in the race of orthodoxy and loyalty. Informers and arrests were multiplied ; every prison in the metropolis was filled with the victims of perjury and suspicion ; throughout the kingdom all catholics, not merely those of rank and influence, but artisans, servants, and labourers, were summoned to take the oaths, or give security for their behaviour; every priest whom the officers could discover was committed to take his trial on the charge of high treason; and the king was harassed with addresses for rewards to informers t, for the ejection of papists from the inns of court, and for the removal
• L. Journ. 476. 479. 481. 496, 497.505. 509, 510. 513, 514. 516. 520,521. 537. C. Journ. March 27, App. 1.7, 8. 12. 14. Burnet, ii. 197. Reresby, 84-86.
+ In consequence of repeated addresses, Oates and Bedloe were not only lodged and boarded at the public charge, they also received large sums of money; Bedloe, in particular, the reward of 5001. promised for the discovery of the murderers of Godfrey. In the Appendix I shall give the bills of expenses delivered in by these men ; by Oates on the Ilth, by Bedloe on the 15th of February. That by Oates amounted to 6781. 12s.6d., that by Bedloe to 2131. When the reader has perused them, he will be at a lose which to admire the most, the impudence of these impostors, or the credulity of the men who condescended to be their dupes. Oates charged the nation 501. for a pretended manuscript of the Alexandrine copy of the Septuagint, which he alleged that he had given to the jesuits in order to win their confidence! See note (A).
from employment of all protestants who suffered any of their children to be educated in the catholic faith. Both houses again declared that there had existed, and did exist, a horrid and treasonable conspiracy, contrived by those of the popish religion, for the murdering of the king, the subverting of protestantism, and the ruin of the ancient government of the kingdom ; and, the more to inflame the passions of the people, it was ordered that this vote should be prefixed to the public form of prayer appointed to be read on the day of the national fast. So general, indeed, was the infatuation, so violent were the antipathies of those who partook of it, that even the few who doubted or disbelieved the existence of the plot, concluded “ that it must of necessity be pursued as if it were true, whether it were so or not; and that, without the king's uniting with his people on this point, he would never grow into ease at home, or consideration abroad *.
The articles of impeachment against the catholic peers in the Tower were at length forwarded by the hands of
lord Russell to the house of lords. This instrument April charged them, that
, in union with cardinal Howard, the provincial of the jesuits, and a number of persons, whose names were mentioned, they had conspired to imprison, depose, and murder the king, and to reduce the kingdom under the tyranny of the pope ; and that for this purpose they had employed persons to take his majesty's life, had provided men and arms, had corresponded with other conspirators beyond the sea, had accepted commissions from the pope, had caused their priests to adıninister
oaths of secrecy, and had incited their adherents to 15. assassinate sir Edmondbury Godfrey. The lord Petre
pleaded at once that he was not guilty; the others that they could not be expected to answer a charge so general and uncertain, which specified neither the times when, nor the places where, the offences were supposed to be committed, and which consequently, by keeping them in ignorance, disabled them from providing witnesses, or
Temple, ii. 491.
CONVICTION OF READING.
preparing their defence. That there was much reason in this objection, can hardly be denied : but the commons pronounced it an evasion, and resolved to demand judgment against the four lords unless they put in a different answer. They deemed it prudent to yield, and,
25. saving to themselves the benefit of exception to the generality, uncertainty, and insufficiency of the articles, severally pleaded not guilty *.
On the preceding day had been tried, under a special 24. commission, and at the request of the house of commons, Nathaniel Reading, a protestant barrister, once secretary to Massaniello in the celebrated insurrection at Naples, but now practising the law in London. He was acquainted with Bedloe, had often given him the benefit of his advice, and occasionally supplied him with money. In Trinity term he had been employed in procuring the discharge on bail of several among the prisoners on account of the plot, and after the dissolution had been consulted on the same subject by some of the lords in the Tower. In a private conversation between Reading and Bedloe it was suggested (but from which of the two the suggestion originated is uncertain) that, in consideration of an adequate reward, the informer might pare down the evidence which he had already given, so as to render it insufficient to convict the accused of treason. For this purpose, Reading, with the concurrence of Bedloe, wrote out an amended form of testimony to be produced on the trial, took it with them to the Tower, and on his return delivered it to his associate. But that associate had previously betrayed him to the committee of inquiry : witnesses had been concealed to overhear their discourse, and the paper in his writing was instantly, but secretly, transferred to the custody of a third person . The fact could not be denied · Reading sought
• C. Journ. App. 3. 23. L. Journ. 500.517. 521. 535.542. + This account is taken from the evidence at the trial ; but Reading, after he had stood in the pillory, presented a petition to the king, stating that he had been employed by Bedloe to draw up his pardons, that by free conversation with him he discovered not only his practices against inpo