Page images

to extenuate the offence by protesting that the first proposal came from his accuser, and that he joined in it for no other purpose than to prevent the shedding of innocent blood. He was sentenced to stand in the pillory, to pay a fine of 10001., and to suffer a year's imprisonment. Much appeared on the trial to expose the protligate character of Bedloe, but the punishment of the pillory disabled Reading from being afterwards produced as a witness to depose to his frauds and perjuries. Fortunately for the three lords, Powis, Stafford, and Petre, they had refused to send money, or to give any written promise to the informer : yet in the public mind the conviction of Reading created a strong presumption against them, accompanied with a persuasion that the attempt must have proceeded from their consciousness of guilt. It must be confessed that in ordinary times, when justice is fairly administered, such an inference is obvious ; but it is not warranted in cases where innocence can afford ro protection against the perjuries of witnesses and the prejudices of the court and jury. The accused foresaw that, if Bedloe were permitted to give his evidence, their lives would be sacrificed : it is no wonder, then, if they were willing to purchase his silence with money, the only object which he sought by becoming an informer *.

Ever since the short prorogation the king had been

cent men, but his desigu of accusing the queen, and that he had intended to disclose it to the king, when, to prevent him, Bedloe and his accomplices charged him falsely of the crime for which he had been condemned and punished; which punishnient he might have escaped if he would have turned informer against the innocent: wherefore he prayed that he might be admitted to prove the said practice of Bedloe and his cunfederates. June 4, 1679. To this petition no answer was returned. From a copy of the petition in the hand-writing of lord viscount Stafford, now in possession of lord Stafford.

* State Trials, vii. 259–310. In answer to the questions put by Reading, Bedloe was compelled to acknowledge that he had intended, and even made preparations, to burn the city of Westminster; but that offence, he maintained, was covered by the king's pardon. He confessed also that he had been guilty of perjury on the trial of Whitbread, in swearing that he knew nothing of consequence against that jesuit; but this he attributed to the persuasion of Reading. The fact was, he meant now to appear as a witness at the second trial of Whitbread, and invented this answer as an excuse for the contradiction which would then appear in his cestimony. Ibid. 271, 291, 294. 296.

A.D. 1679.]

185 occupied in devising and arranging a most important change in the administration of the government. The exile of his brother and the disgrace of Danby had left him without an adviser to whom he dared unbosom himself with freedom and confidence. He had sent for Temple from the Hague to succeed Coventry as secretary of state. But Temple feared the responsibility of such an office in the excited state of the public mind, and suggested to the king to govern for the future without a prime minister, or cabinet council, or committee for foreign affairs; to dissolve the present council of state, consisting of fifty members, as being too numerous for secrecy or despatch; to establish in its place a new council of thirty individuals, to whom all public affairs should be referred, and by whose opinion the proceedings of government should be regulated; to give a place in this council to fifteen officers of state in virtue of their respective employments; to select the other fifteen from the popular leaders in the two houses; and to take care that the annual income of the thirty counsellors should amount to 300,0001., that it might bear some proportion 'to that of the house of commons, which was estimated at 400,000l. It was expected that the following benefits would be derived from this institution : 1. the determined hostility of the popular party would in all probability be neutralized by the infusion of their leaders into the new council; 2. in the event of a rupture between the house of commons and the court, the authority of the first would be balanced by the contrary authority of a body almost equal in point of property: for it was assumed as a political axiom that influence always accompanies property ; 3. and the king would be still secure of the ascendency in the council, because he might at all times command the votes of the fifteen officers of state, who depended on his pleasure for the possession of their respective employments *. When this had been determined with Temple, Charles


* Temple, ii. 493. 495. 554.

called in the lord chancellor, the earl of Sunderland, who had succeeded Williamson as second secretary of state, and the earl of Essex, who by the interest of Monmouth had been placed at the head of the treasury. The first difficulty in the nomination of the new counsellors arose from the mention of lord Halifax. To him the king expressed the strongest dislike; nor was his consent extorted without repeated and most earnest entreaties. Immediately, to their surprise, he himself proposed the lord Shaftesbury, alleging, as the reason, that Shaftesbury had it in his power to be still more mischievous than Halifax; and, when they objected that he would never be content to sit down as one among thirty, replied that he should be president of the council * Temple was silenced by the authority of the king and

the approbation of his three colleagues, and the new April council was instituted, containing, besides the officers of 20.

state, two lords from each rank in the peerage, the dukes of Albemarle and Newcastle, the marquesses of Winchester and Worcester, the earls of Salisbury and Bridgewater, the viscounts Falconberg and Halifax, and the lords Robartes and Holles; and in addition to Temple himself the lords Russell and Cavendish,

with Seymour, the late speaker, and Powle, from the 21. house of commons f. Charles deemed the event of

sufficient importance to announce it in a set speech to both houses of parliament. In the city and the country the intelligence excited the most tumultuous joy, which was testified by bonfires, and the usual manifestations of national triumph; and in Holland and

* Temple does not attempt to account for this choice on the part of the king; perhaps it may be explained by the remark of James, that "he " thought to keep Shaftesbury from doing him hurt by keeping him in “ his service." James (Memoirs), i. 558.

+ See their names and offices in Courtenay's Mem. of Temple, ii. 38. Of the officers of state, Shaftesbury president of the council, Monmouth master of the horse, Essex first lord of the treasury, and his brother Capel first lord of the admiralty, belonged to the opposition; and of the ten peers, if we may judge from the signatures to the protests in the journals, Winchester, Salisbury, Falconberg, Halifax aud Holles.

A.D. 1679.]



Flanders it was hajled as the harbinger of a reconciliation between the king and his people, which would enable England to oppose an effectual barrier to the ambitious projects still attributed to the king of France. There were, however, many who looked on it with very different feelings. The catholics anticipated the aggravation of their present miseries; the most loyal of the old cavaliers believed that the king had delivered himself bound and gagged into the hands of his enemies, and the duke of York from Brussels foretold the downfall of the monarchy, or the horrors of a second civil war. But, what created universal surprise, was the air of sullen indifference with which the announcement was received by the house of commons. The other leaders thought themselves entitled to a seat in the new council as much as their colleagues. They declared that they did not understand the measure: it was probably an artifice of the court to lull them into a fatal security; it would be advisable to suspend their judgment till time had shown in what manner the new system would work. It soon appeared that Capel, Cavendish, and Powle, by their greater moderation, had forfeited the confidence of the house : lord Russell, who continued to speak with bis usual warmth, alone retained his former influence *.

The alteration had certainly been wrung from the king by the necessity of his situation. But though he was prepared to make the most painful sacrifices for the purpose of appeasing the jealousies of the nation, he had resolved to be, and to show that he would be, the master. One of the first measures recommended by the new counsellors, was to weed out of office, and in particular out of the courts of law, and the commission of lieutenancy and the peace, all persons suspected of a secret leaning to popery. A new board of admiralty was already appointed, four of the twelve judges were displaced, when Charles persuaded himself that the real object was to remove from power all the real friends of the crown. He took his seat at the board, called for the rolls, and, wherever he found the name of a “bad mari to be removed,” assigned in his favour some reason so very ludicrous and inappropriate, as to convince the council that he came there not to argue the question, but to be obeyed. This policy succeeded; and after a few meetings the attempt was abandoned *.

* Temple, ii. 497.556. C. Journ. App. 21. L. Journ. 530. Dalrymple, 216, 217. “Tho' great patriots before in the esteem of both houses, most " of them began to loose their credit with both; so true it is, there is no “wearing the court and country livery together.” Reresby, 89. Sydney's Letters, 16. 50.

The unexpected elevation of Shaftesbury had increased his power without mitigating his hostility. It was supposed by his adherents that he owed his good fortune to the favour of Monmouth, and that the counsels of Monmouth had now that weight with the sovereign which report had formerly attributed to those of the duke of York. Hence the agitator had little difficulty in persuading the popular party that Charles was not unwilling to concede the exclusion of his brother, but that he would rather have it appear to be extorted from

him by the importunity of the house, than to be offered April Spontaneously by himself+. The plan of proceeding was 26. arranged with Shaftesbury's usual ingenuity. A report

from one of the committees informed the house of a recent attempt of the papists to burn the capital by setting fire to a press in one of the houses in Fetter-lane I. It was immediately contended that these eternal enemies

* Temple, 557. North, 77. “He found some jocular reason to let him “ stand; as that he was a good cocker, understood hunting, kept a good “ house, had good chines of beef, or kept good fox hounds, or some "such indifferent matter that it was ridiculous to contradict or dispate "upon.” 78.

+ Temple, ii. 498.

1 A servant maid confessed that she had been induced to set fire to the press by one Stubbs, who had endeavoured to pervert her, and had promised her a reward of 51. Stubbs confessed that he had been hired by Gifford, his confessor, who said that it was no sin, and promised him 1001. reward out of the monies belonging to the church; he added that two Irishmen were to feed the conflagration with fire balls, that the English, Irish, and French papists in London would form a large army, and that the king of France had sixty thousand men ready to land to their assist.

Č. Journ. App. 26. This absurd tale served its purpose for the moment, and was then suffered to be forgotten.


« PreviousContinue »