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other ministers, had their goods distrained for latent convictions; that is, upon the oaths of persons they never saw, nor received summons to answer for themseves before a justice of peace. This was stabbing men in the dark. Some were imprisoned on the corporation act.
The reverend Mr. Vincent was tried and convicted at the Surry assizes on the 35th of Queen Elizabeth, already mentioned: he lay in prison many mouths, but was at last released by the intercession of some great men. The dissenting laity were harrassed every where in the spiritual courts, warrants were signed for distresses in the village of Hackney alone, to the sum of fourteen hundred pounds; one of which was five hundred. 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 ought I can find, (says he) the fox was the finder. Dr. Welwood adds,t
* 'Tbe temper of the court and church at this time inclined Mr. John Shower, to attend the nephew of Sir Samuel Barnardiston on hi 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 er. On their first conversation they found this learned divine and the rest of the city possessed with very unfavorable sentiments concerning the English Non-conformists. But when Mr. Shower and his companjops hail stated their case, and the terms required of them, Turretiu and
+ Memoirs, p. 132. Vol. V.
that the shattered remains of English liberty were attacked on every side, and some of the noblest blood in the nation offered op 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 Rjehouse plot,t from the name of the house were 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 in these times no sufficient protection, absconded, and went out of the way; but several were tried, and executed upon the court-eridence ; 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 bearing of some treasonable words at Mr. Sbepherd's, a wine-cooper in Abchurch-lane. I The earl of Essex's throat was cut in the Towers during lord Russel's trial ;* the others deelared 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. † Burnet, vol. ii. p. 368-73.
P. 382. $ Dr. Grey censures Mr. Neal's account of the Rye-house plot as very failiy, 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 Eachard, Kennet, &c. and prir
* Welwood's Memoirs, p. 161.
and Algernon Sidney was executed for baving a seditious libel in his study ;t 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. Eachard observes, that some have called this the fanatic, the protestant, the whigish, 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, whicb,in so critical a conjuncture, was very hazardous; but no schewe 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. I However, the court had their ends in striking terror into the whole party. cipally bishop Sprat's “ History of the Rye-house Plot.” As to this work, the most partial to it inust 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 “ baving read them, altered divers passages, and caused them to be printed by his own authority.” Calamy's Letter to arehdeacon Eachard, 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 Eachard'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. Har. ris has fully and impartially stated the arguments on both sides. History of Charles II. vol. ii. p. 371-376. The same judicious writer has also investigated the evidence concerning the Rye-house plot, p. 355-370. Ed.
+ This was an auswer 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 uot 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 M. from the throne, and placed on it the prince of Orange. foo vain is it to fight against just principles ! Ed.
" Mr. Neal must think his readers," says Dr. Grey, “ very easy of
Great industry was used by the court to bring the body of non-conformists into tbis 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 aswers to all questions, that the king himself ordered him to be discharged. The reverend Mr. Castaires, 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 belief to swallow down. B'ch gross untruths as these, which the smallest dabbler in the history of those times can easily confute." The reader who is not a dabbler in the history of those times, is referred to Dr. Harris, as before quoted, for materials on which to form his judgment of the truih of this remark. In the mean time he may not be displeased with the following plain lines on the death of Sidney.
6 ALGERNON SIDNEY fills this tomb,
Bennet's Memorial, p. 359. Note. 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. Grif. fith, 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 was the Dature and extent of it? Mr. Neal immediately informs us in his report of the amount of Castaires'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 very fully vindicated his innocense, and was perfectly discharged. Pierce's Vindieation of the Dissenters, part i. p. 258. Mr. Mead carried with him into Holland the son, (the elevenih of thirteen children) whom he placed under an excellent master, who afterwards rose to the first eminence as a scholar and a physician. Granger's History, vol.ii. p. 333. Ed.
hoor 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 crisis ;* but he vipdicated himself and his brethren in England from all assassinating designs, which, be said, they abhorred. Dr. South was desired to write the history of this plot; but Dr. Sprat, afterwards bishop of Rochester, performed it though at tbe 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 crouded in for pardons. Bishop Kennet says,t that the dissenters bore all the odium, and were not only branded for express rebels and villians, in multitudes of congratulatory and tory addresses from all parts of the kingdom, but were severely 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. Tbere was hardly a parish in England that was not at a considerable expence to testify their joy and satisfaction : day, 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 them.
The quakers avowed their innocence of the plot in an address to the king at Windsor,f presented by G. Wbitehead, Parker and two more, wherein they appeal to the
• Burnet, vol. ii. p. 425_-430. + P. 492. Sewel, p. 585.