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one of which was 5007.
The reader will then judge what must have been the case of the interest in general*.
But in the midst of this oppression and violence, the court found that the spirit of English liberty was not easily to be subdued: there were a set of patriots who stood in their way, and were determined to hazard their lives and fortunes for the constitution; these were therefore to be removed or cut off, by bringing them within the compass of some pretended plot against the government. Some, who were more zealous than prudent, met together in clubs at the taverns and other places, to talk over the common danger, and what might be done to secure their religion and liberties in case of the king's death; but there was no formed design in any of them against the king or the present government. The court however laid hold of this occasion, and, as Mr. Coke says, set on foot three plots, one to assassinate the king and duke as they came from Newmarket; another to seize the guards: and a third was called the Blackheath plot; in all which, for aught I can find, says he, the fox was the finder. Dr. Welwood adds +, that the shattered remains of English liberty were attacked on every side, and some of the noblest blood in the nation offered up a sacrifice to the manes of Popish martyrs. Swearing came into fashion, and an evidence office was set up at Whitehall; the witnesses were highly encouraged, and, instead of judges and juries that might boggle at half evidence, care was taken to pick out such as should stick at nothing to serve a turn. The plot which the court made use of was called the Ryehouse plot +, from the name of the house where the two royal brothers were to be shot; it was within two miles of Hodsdon in Hertfordshire, and was first discovered by one Keeling an Anabaptist; after him Goodenough, Rumsey, and West, made themselves witnesses, and framed a story out of their own heads, of lopping off the two brothers as they came from Newmarket; and having heard of conferences between the duke of Monmouth, lord Russel, and others, concerning securing the Protestant religion upon the king's decease, they impeached them to the council, upon which lord Russel, Algernon Sidney, the earl of Essex, and Mr. Houblon, were apprehended and sent to the Tower. Warrants were issued out for several others, who, knowing that innocence was no protection,
The temper of the court and church at this time inclined Mr. John Shower to attend the nephew of sir Samuel Barnardiston on his travels, in compliance with the earnest request of his uncle, in company with several other gentlemen, which we mention here to introduce the following passage. When they were at Geneva, where they continued for some time, they contracted an acquaintance with Turretin the younger. On their first conversation they found this learned divine and the rest of the city possessed with very unfavourable sentiments concerning the English Nonconformists. But when Mr. Shower and his companions had stated their case, and the terms required of them, Turretin and the others declared themselves well satisfied with the grounds of their dissent, and treated them, during the remainder of their residence in the city, with a very particular respect. Tong's Life of Shower, p. 48.- ED.
+ Memoirs, p. 132.
Burnet, vol. 2. p. 368–373.
absconded, and went out of the way; but several were tried, and executed upon the court-evidence; as Mr. Rumbold, the master of the house where the plot was to take place, who declared at his execution in king James's reign, that he never knew of any design against the king; as did captain Walcot and Sir Thomas Armstrong, Rouse, and the rest. Lord Russel was condemned, and beheaded, for being within the hearing of some treasonable words at Mr. Shepherd's, a wine-cooper in Abchurch-lane*. The earl of Essex's throat was cut in the Tower+ during lord Russel's trial; and Algernon Sidney was executed for having a seditious libel in his study §; of the injustice of which the parliament at the Revolution was so sensible, that they reversed the judgments. A proclamation was issued out against the duke of Monmouth, though the king knew where he was; and after the ferment brought him to court. Mr. Echard observes, that some have called this the Fanatic, the Protestant, the Whiggish, or Presbyterian plot; others have called it, with more justice, a piece of state policy, and no better than an imposture, for it had no other foundation than the rash and imprudent discourse of some warm whigs, which, in so critical a conjuncture, was very hazardous; but no scheme of a plot had been agreed upon, no preparations made, no arms nor horses purchased, nor persons appointed to execute any design against the king or government||.
+ Dr. Grey censures Mr. Neal's account of the Ryehouse plot as very faulty, if not false; "as appears (he says) from the very best of our historians, and the confession of several that suffered for it." The historians to whom the doctor refers are Echard, Kennet, &c. and principally bishop Sprat's History of the Ryehouse Plot. As to this work, the most partial to it must own it detracts greatly from its credit; that it was drawn up to please the court, by one that was wholly in that interest, and the author, it seems, acknowledges, "that king James II. called for his papers, and having read them, altered divers passages, and caused them to be printed by his own authority." Calamy's Letter to Archdeacon Echard, p. 55. Dr. Grey ironically calls Mr. Neal's account of the earl of Essex's death, a candid remark; and then refers to, and quotes largely, Carte's and Echard's representations of that event, to shew that the earl was felo de se. This is not the place to discuss the question concerning his lordship's death, whether he committed an act of suicide, or was murdered by others. Dr. Harris has fully and impartially stated the arguments on both sides. History of Charles II. vol. 2. p. 371-376. The same judicious writer has also investigated the evidence concerning the Ryehouse plot, p. 355-370.-ED.
Welwood's Memoirs, p. 161.
§ This was an answer to Filmer's book, written to prove the absolute and unlimited power of kings. The leading principle of this MS. was, "that power is delegated from the people to the prince, and that he is accountable to them for the abuse of it." It was urged, that he was not proved to have written the piece; that if he were the author, it contained only his private speculations; that it could not be admitted as a proof of the plot, for it was written years before; and that, as it was not a finished piece, it could not be known how it would end; and no general conclusion ought to be drawn from any particular chapter of a work. The book was, however, considered by Jefferies as an overt-act, on this principle, Scribere est agere. It is remarkable, that within a few years, the energy and truth of the above principle removed James II. from the throne, and placed on it the prince of Orange. So vain is it to fight against just principles !-ED.
"Mr. Neal must think his readers (says Dr. Grey) very easy of belief to swallow down such gross untruths as these, which the smallest dabbler in the history of
However, the court had their ends in striking terror into the whole party.
Great industry was used by the court to bring the body of Nonconformists into this plot; it was given out that Dr. Owen, Mr. Mead, and Mr. Griffith, were acquainted with it *; Mr. Mead was summoned before the council, and gave such satisfactory answers to all questions, that the king himself ordered him to be discharged. The reverend Mr. Carstairs, a Scots divine, was put to the torture of the thummikins in Scotland, to extort a confession; both his thumbs being bruised between two irons till the marrow was almost forced out of the bones: this he bore for an hour and a half without making any confession. Next day they brought him to undergo the torture of the boot, but his arms being swelled with the late torture, and he already in a fever, made a declaration of all that he knew, which amounted to no more than some loose discourse of what might be fit to be done, to preserve their liberties and the Protestant religion, if there should be a crisist; but he vindicated himself and his brethern in England from all assassinating designs, which, he said, they abhorred. Dr. South was desired to write the history of this plot; but Dr. Sprat, afterward bishop of Rochester, performed it,
those times can easily confute." The reader, who is not a dabbler in the history those times, is referred to Dr. Harris, as before quoted, for materials on which to form his judgment of the truth of this remark. In the mean time he may not be displeased with the following plain lines on the death of Sidney.
"Algernon Sidney fills this tomb,
An Atheist for disclaiming Rome;
To keep the laws above the will:
Crimes damn'd by church and government,
Alas! where must his ghost be sent ?
Of heav'n it cannot but despair,
If holy pope be turnkey there;
For there is all tyrannic reign.
Where goes it then? Where 't ought to go,
Bennet's Memorial, p. 359.-ED.
* Dr. Grey refers to "copies of informations," in the appendix to Sprat's account for a deposition signed by Mr. Carstaires, saying, "The deponent did communicate the design on foot to Dr. Owen, Mr. Griffith, and Mr. Mead, at Stepney, who all concurred in promoting of it, and desired it might take effect."-Dr. Grey, by this quotation, means to implicate those gentlemen in the most atrocious part of this plot. But the question returns, what was the design on foot? what were the nature and extent of it?-Mr. Neal immediately informs us, in his report of the amount of Carstaire's confession, that it did not go to any assassination, but only to preserving their liberties and the Protestant religion. As to Mr. Mead, in particular, he went into Holland on this occasion: and after his return to England, he was summoned to appear before king Charles at the privy-council, where he fully vindicated his innocence, and was perfectly discharged. Pierce's Vindication of the Dissenters, part 1. p. 258. Mr. Mead carried with him into Holland the son (the eleventh of thirteen children), whom he placed under an excellent master, who afterward rose to the first eminence as a scholar and physician. Granger's History, vol. 3. p. 333.-ED.
+ Burnet, vol. 2. p. 426-430.
though at the Revolution he disowned it so far as to declare, that king James had altered several passages in it before it was published. Bishop Burnet adds, that when the congratulatory addresses for the discovery of this plot had gone all round England, the grand juries made high presentments against all who were accounted whigs and Nonconformists. Great pains were taken to find out more witnesses; pardons and rewards were offered very freely to the guilty, but none came in, which made it evident, says his lordship, that nothing was so well laid, or brought so near execution, as the witnesses had deposed, otherwise the people would have crowded in for pardons. Bishop Kennet says*, that the dissenters bore all the odium, and were not only branded for express rebels and villains, in multitudes of congratulatory and tory addresses from all parts of the kingdom, but were severally arraigned by the king himself, in a declaration to all his loving subjects, read in all the churches on Sunday September 9, which was appointed as a day of thanksgiving, and solemnized, after an extraordinary manner, with mighty pomp and magnificence. There was hardly a parish in England that was not at a considerable expense to testify their joy and satisfaction: nay, the Papists celebrated in all their chapels in London an extraordinary service on that account; so that these had their places of public worship, though the Protestant dissenters were denied
The Quakers avowed their innocence of the plot in an address to the king at Windsort, presented by G. Whitehead, Parker, and two more, wherein they appeal to the Searcher of all hearts, that "their principles do not allow them to take up defensive arms, much less to avenge themselves for the injuries they receive from others. That they continually pray for the king's safety and preservation, and therefore take this occasion humbly to beseech his majesty, to compassionate their suffering friends, with whom the jails are so filled, that they want air, to the apparent hazard of their lives, and to the endangering an infection in divers places. Besides, many houses, shops, barns, and fields, are ransacked, and the goods, corn, and cattle, swept away, to the discouraging of trade and husbandry, and impoverishing great numbers of quiet and industrious people; and this for no other cause but for the exercise of a tender conscience, in the worship of Almighty God, who is sovereign Lord and King in men's consciences
But this address made no impressioni: all things proceeding
The king was touched, for the moment, with the exhibition it gave of the unreasonable and unmerited sufferings of the Quakers, and said to one of his courtiers standing by, "What shall we do for this people? the prisons are full of them." The party to whom this query was put, to divert his attention, drew him into conversation upon some other topic, so that little or no relaxation of the oppressive measures resulted from this address, nor during the remainder of the king's reign. Gough's History of the Quakers, vol. 3. p. 8, 9.- ED.
triumphantly on the side of the prerogative; the court did what they pleased; the king assumed the government of the city of London into his own hands, and appointed a mayor, sheriffs, and aldermen, without the election of the people; sermons were filled with the principles of absolute obedience and non-resistance, which were carried higher than ever their forefathers had thought of or practised. The university of Oxford passed a decree+ in full convocation, July 21, 1683, against certain pernicious books and damnable doctrines, destructive to the sacred persons of princes, their state and government, and all human society. It consists of twenty-seven propositions, extracted from the writings of Buchanan, Baxter, Owen, Milton, J. Goodwin, Hobbs, Cartwright, Travers, and others, who had maintained that there was an original contract between king and people; and that when kings subvert the constitution of their country, and become absolute tyrants, they forfeit their right to the government, and may be resisted these and other propositions of a like nature, they declare to be impious, seditious, scandalous, damnable, heretical, blasphemous, and infamous to the Christian religion. They forbid their students to read those writers, and ordered their books to be burnt. But how well they practised their own doctrines at the Revolution, will be seen in its proper place; and one of queen Anne's parliaments ordered the decree itself to be burnt by the hands of the common hangman §.
Kennet, p. 410.
This decree was drawn up by Dr. Jane, dean of Gloucester, and the king's professor of divinity, and subscribed by the whole convocation. It was presented to the king with great solemnity on the 24th of July following, and very graciously received. It was ordered, in perpetual memory of it, to be entered in the registry of the convocation, and to be stuck up in the different colleges and halls. Farther to counteract the spread and influence of the propositions against which it was levelled, all readers, tutors, catechists, and others, to whom the instruction and care of youth were committed, were commanded, to instruct and ground their scholars in "that most.necessary doctrine, which in a manner is the badge and character of the church of England, of submitting to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether it be to the king as supreme, or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him, for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well; teaching that this submission is to be clear, absolute, and without any exception of any state or order of men.' High-church Politics, p. 89.
Another proof of the intolerant spirit which dictated the decrees of the university at this time, offers in its treatment of Dr. Whitby, precentor of the church of Sarum. This learned writer published in this year, 1683, without his name, his "Protestant Reconciler," humbly pleading for condescension to dissenting brethren, in things indifferent and unnecessary, for the sake of peace; and shewing how unreasonable it is to make such things the necessary conditions of communion. This book gave such high offence, that it was condemned by the university on the above-mentioned day, and burnt by the hands of the marshal in the schools' quadrangle. The author was also obliged by Dr. Seth Ward, to whom he was chaplain, to make a public retractation of it on the 9th of the ensuing October. And in the same year, to remove the clamour his piece had raised, he published a second part, earnestly persuading the dissenting laity to join in full communion with the church of England, and answering all the objections of the Nonconformists against the lawfulness of the submission to the rites and constitutions of that church," Birch's Life of Archbishop Tillotson, p. 103-105.-Ed.
§ Collyer, 902.