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Royalty Restored or London under Charles II
Chapter XVII
by Molloy, J. Fitzgerald

The threatened storm bursts.--History of Titus Oates and Dr. Tonge.--A dark scheme concocted.--The king is warned of danger. --The narrative of a horrid plot laid before the treasurer.-- Forged letters.--Titus Oates before the council.--His blunders.-- A mysterious murder.--Terror of the citizens.--Lord Shaftesbury's schemes.--Papists are banished from the capital.--Catholic peers committed to the Tower.--Oates is encouraged.

The marriage of the Lady Mary, though agreeable to the public mind, by no means served to distract it from the turmoil by which it was beset. Hatred of catholicism, fear of the Duke of York, and distrust of the king, disturbed the nation to its core. Rumours were now noised abroad, which were not without foundation, that the monarch and his brother had renewed the treaty with France, by which Louis engaged to send troops into England to support Charles, when the latter saw fit to lay aside duplicity, and proclaim himself a catholic. And, notwithstanding the rigorous Test Acts, it was believed many high positions at court were held by those who were papists at heart. Occasion was therefore ripe for the invention of a monstrous fraud, the history of which has been transmitted under the title of the Popish Plot.

The chief contrivers of this imposture were Titus Oates and Dr. Tonge. The first of these was son of a ribbon-weaver, who, catching the fanatical spirit of the Cromwellian period, had ranted as an Anabaptist preacher. Dissent, however, losing favour under the restoration, Oates, floating with the current of the times, resolved to become a clergyman of the Church of England, He therefore took orders at Cambridge, officiated as curate in various parishes, and served as chaplain on board a man-of-war. The time he laboured as spiritual shepherd to his respective flocks was necessarily brief; for his grossly immoral practices becoming notable, he was in every case ousted from his charge. The odium attached to his name was moreover increased by the fact, that his evidence in two cases of malicious prosecution had been proved false; for which he had been tried as a perjurer. Deprived of his chaplaincy for a revolting act of profligacy, driven from congregations he had scandalized, homeless and destitute, he in an evil hour betook himself to Dr. Ezrael Tonge, to whom he had long been known, and besought compassion and relief.

The Rev, Dr. Tonge, rector of St. Michael's, Wood Street, was a confirmed fanatic and political alarmist. For some years previous to this time, he had published quarterly treatises dealing with such wicked designs of the Jesuits as his heated brain devised. These he had printed and freely circulated, in order, as he acknowledged, "to arouse and awaken his majesty and the parliament" to a sense of danger. He had begun life as a gardener, but left that honest occupation that he might cultivate flowers of rhetoric for the benefit of Cromwell's soldiers. Like Titus Oates, he had become suddenly converted to orthodox principles on return of the king, and had, through interest, obtained the rectorship of St. Michael's. Bishop Burnet considered him "a very mean divine, (who) seemed credulous and simple, and was full of projects and notions."

Another historian who lived in those days, the Rev. Laurence Eachard, Archdeacon of Stowe, states Dr. Tonge was "a man of letters, and had a prolific head filled with all the Romish plots and conspiracies since the reformation." According to this author, Tonge took Oates into his house, provided him with lodging, diet, and clothes; and when the latter complained he knew not where to get bread, the rector told him "he would put him in a way." After this, finding Oates a man of great ingenuity and cunning, "he persuaded him," says Archdeacon Eachard, "to insinuate himself among the papists, and get particular acquaintance with them; which being effected, he let him understand that there had been several plots in England to bring in popery, and that if he would go beyond sea among the Jesuits, and strictly observe their ways, it was possible there might be one at present; and if he could make that out, it would be his preferment for ever; but, however, if he could get their names, and some information from the papists, it would be very easy to rouse people with the fears of popery."

Hungering for gold, and thirsting for notoriety, Oates quickly agreed to the scheme laid before him. Accordingly he became acquainted with, and was received into the Catholic Church by, Father Berry, a Jesuit, and in May, 1677, was sent by the Jesuits to study in one of their seminaries, situated in Valladolid, in Spain. Oates, however, though he had proved himself an excellent actor, could not overcome his evil propensities, and before seven months had passed, he was expelled from the monastery.

Returning to England, he sought out Dr. Tonge, to whom he was unable to recount the secret of a single plot. Confident, however, that wicked schemes against the lives and properties of innocent protestants were being concocted by wily Jesuits, the fanatical divine urged Oates to present himself once more before them, bewail his misconduct, promise amendment, and seek readmission to their midst. Following his advice, Oates was again received by the Jesuits, and sent to their famous seminary at St. Omer's; where, though he had reached the age of thirty years, he was entered among the junior students. For six months he remained here, until his vices becoming noted, he was turned away in disgrace. Again he presented himself before the rector of St. Michael's, knowing as little of popish plots as he did on his previous return. But Tonge, though disappointed, was not disheartened; if no scheme existed, he would invent one which should startle the public, and save the nation. Such proposals as he made towards the accomplishment of this end were readily assented to by Oates, in whose breast wounded pride and bitter hate rankled deep. Therefore, after many consultations they resolved to draw up a "Narrative of a Horrid Plot." This was repeatedly changed and enlarged, until eventually it assumed the definite shape of a deposition, consisting of forty-three distinct articles, written with great formality and care, and embodying many shocking and criminal charges.

The narrative declared that in April, 1677, the deponent was employed to carry letters from the Jesuits in London to members of their order in Spain; these he broke open on the journey, and discovered that certain Jesuits had been sent into Scotland to encourage the presbyterians to rebel. Arrived in Valladolid, he heard one Armstrong, in a sermon delivered to students, charge his majesty with most foul and black-mouthed scandals, and use such irreverent, base expressions as no good subjects could repeat without horror. He then returned to England, and was soon after sent to St. Omer with fresh letters, in which was mentioned a design to stab or poison his majesty--Pere la Chaise, the French king's confessor, having placed ten thousand pounds at the disposal of the Jesuits that they might, by laying out such a sum, the more successfully accomplish this deed. While abroad the deponent had read many letters, relating to the execution of Charles II., the subverting of the present government, and the establishment of the Romish religion. Returning again to England, he became privy to a treaty with Sir George Wakeham, the queen's physician, to poison the king; and likewise with an agreement to shoot him, made between the Jesuits and two men, named Honest William and Pickering. He had heard a Jesuit preach a sermon to twelve persons of quality in disguise, in which he asserted "that protestants and other heretical princes were IPSO FACTO deposed because such; and that it was as lawful to destroy them as Oliver Cromwell or any other usurper." He also became aware that the dreadful fire had been managed by Strange, the provincial of the Jesuits, who employed eighty-six men in distributing seven hundred fire-balls to destroy the city; and that notwithstanding his vast expenses, he gained fourteen thousand pounds by plunder carried on during the general confusion, a box of jewels, consisting of a thousand carat weight of diamonds, being included in the robbery.

The document containing these remarkable statements was finished in August, 1678. It now remained to have it brought before the king or the council. Tonge was resolved this should he done in a manner best calculated to heighten the effect of their narrative; at the same time he was careful to guard the fact that he and Oates had an intimate knowledge of each other. Not knowing any one of interest at court, he sought out Christopher Kirby, a man employed in the king's laboratory, of whom he had some slight knowledge, and, pledging him to the strictest secrecy, showed him the "Narrative of the Horrid Plot," and besought his help in bringing it under the notice of his majesty in as private a manner as possible.

This aid was freely promised; and next day, the date being the 13th of August, when the monarch was about to take his usual airing in the park, Kirby drew near, and in a mysterious tone bade his majesty take care, for his enemies had a design against his life, which might be put into execution at any moment. Startled by such words, the king asked him in what manner was it intended his life should be taken; to which he replied, "It might be by pistol; but that to give a more particular account of the matter, required greater privacy." The monarch, who quickly recovered his first surprise, resolved to take his usual exercise; and, subduing his curiosity, he bade Kirby attend him on his return from the park, and tell him what he knew of the subject.

When the time arrived, Kirby saw his majesty alone, and related to him in brief that two men waited but an opportunity to shoot him; and Sir George Wakeham had been hired to poison him; which news, he concluded, had been imparted to him by a worthy man living close at hand, who would attend his majesty's pleasure when that was manifested.

Bewildered by such intelligence, yet suspicious of its veracity, the king ordered Kirby to summon his informant that evening by eight o'clock. When that hour came his majesty repaired to the Red Room, and there met Dr. Tonge, who delivered his narrative into his hands. The rector was convinced the great moment he had so long awaited, in which he would behold the monarch aroused to a sense of his danger, had arrived. He was doomed to bitter disappointment. His majesty coolly took the narrative, and without opening it, said it should be examined into. On this Tonge begged it might be kept safe and secret, "lest the full discovery should otherwise be prevented and his life endangered." The monarch replied that, before starting with the court to- morrow for Windsor, he would place it in the hands of one he could trust, and who would answer for its safety. He then bade him attend on the Lord Treasurer Danby next morning.

In obedience to this command, Tonge waited on his lordship at the appointed time, and by the character of his replies helped to develop his story of the plot. When asked if the document he had given his majesty was the original of the deponent, Tonge admitted it was in his own handwriting. On this, Lord Danby expressed a desire to see the original, and likewise become acquainted with its author. Nothing abashed, the rector replied the manuscript was in his house, and accounted for its possession by stating that, singularly enough, it had been thrust under his door--he did not know by whom, but fancied it must be by one who, some time before, had discussed with him on the subject of this conspiracy. Whereon his lordship asked him if he knew the man, and was answered he did not, but he had seen him lately two or three times in the streets, and it was likely he should see him soon again.

Being next questioned as to whether he had any knowledge of Honest William, or Pickering, the villains who sought the king's life, he answered he had not. Immediately, however, he remembered it was their habit to walk in St. James's Park, and said, if any man was appointed to keep him company, he was almost certain he would have opportunities of letting that person see these abominable wretches. Finally, Lord Danby asked him if he knew where they dwelt, for it was his duty to have them arrested at once; but of their abode Tonge was completely ignorant, though he was hopeful he should speedily be able to obtain the required information.

He was therefore dismissed, somewhat to his satisfaction, being unprepared for such particular examination; but in a couple of days he returned to the charge, determined his tale should not be discredited for lack of effrontery, On this occasion he said he had met the man he suspected of being author of the document, who owned himself as such, and stated that his name was Titus Oates, but requested Tonge would keep it a strict secret, "because the papists would murder him if they knew what he was doing." Moreover, Oates had given him a second paper full of fresh horrors concerning this most foul plot. Taking this with him, the lord treasurer hastened to Windsor, that he might consult the king, having first left a servant with Tonge, in hopes the latter might catch sight of Honest William and Pickering in their daily walk through the park, and have them arrested. On Danby recounting Tonge's statements to the king, his majesty was more convinced than before the narrative was wholly without foundation, and refused to make it known to his council or the Duke of York. Therefore the lord-treasurer, on conclusion of a brief visit, left Windsor for his country residence, situated at Wimbledon.

For some days no fresh disclosure was made concerning this horrid plot, until late one night, when Dr. Tonge arrived in great haste at Lord Danby's house, and informed him some of the intended regicides had resolved on journeying to Windsor next morning, determined to assassinate the king. He added, it was in his power to arrange that the earl's servant should ride with them in their coach, or at least accompany them on horseback, and so give due notice of their arrival, in order that they might be timely arrested. Alarmed by this intelligence, Danby at once hastened to Windsor, and informed the king of what had come to his knowledge. Both endured great suspense that night, and next day their excitement was raised to an inordinate pitch by seeing the earl's servant ride towards the castle with all possible speed. When, however, the man was brought into his majesty's presence, he merely delivered a message from Dr. Tonge, stating the villains "had been prevented from taking their intended journey that day, but they proposed riding to Windsor next day, or within two days at farthest." Before that time had arrived, another message came to say, "one of their horses being slipped in the shoulder, their trip to Windsor was postponed."

Taking these foolish excuses, as well as Dr. Tonge's prevaricating answers and mysterious statements, into consideration, the king was now convinced the "Narrative of a Horrid Plot" was an invention of a fanatic or a rogue. He was, therefore; desirous of letting the subject drop into obscurity; but Lord Danby, foreseeing in the sensation which its avowal would create, a welcome cloud to screen the defects of his policy, which parliament intended to denounce, urged his majesty to lay the matter before his privy council. This advice the king refused to accept, saying, "he should alarm all England, and put thoughts of killing him into people's heads, who had no such ideas before." Somewhat disappointed, the lord treasurer returned once more to Wimbledon, the king remaining at Windsor, and no further news of the plot disturbed the even tenour of their lives for three days.

At the end of that time Dr. Tonge, now conscious of the false steps he had taken, conceived a fresh scheme by which his story might obtain credence, and he gain wealth and fame. Accordingly he wrote to Danby, informing him a packet of letters, written by the Jesuits and concerning the plot, would, on a certain date, be sent to Mr. Bedingfield, chaplain to the Duchess of York. Such information was most acceptable to Danby at the moment; he at once started for Windsor, and laid this fresh information before the king. To his lordship's intense surprise, his majesty handed him the letters. These, five in number, containing treasonable expressions and references to the plot, had been some hours before handed by Mr. Bedingfield to the Duke of York, saying, he "feared some ill was intended him by the same packet, because the letters therein seemed to be of a dangerous nature, and that he was sure they were not the handwriting of the persons whose names were subscribed to the letters." On examination, they were proved to be most flagrant forgeries. Written in a feigned hand, and signed by different names, they were evidently the production of one man; the same want of punctuation, style of expression, and peculiarities of spelling being notable in all. The Duke of York, foreseeing malice was meant by them, forcibly persuaded the king to place the epistles before the privy council. Accordingly, they were handed to Sir William Jones, attorney general, and Sir Robert Southwell, who stated, upon comparing them with Dr. Tonge's narrative, they were convinced both were written by the same hand.

Meanwhile, Tonge and Oates, aware of the coldness and doubt with which his majesty had received the "Narrative of the Horrid Plot," and ignorant of the fact he had placed the letters before his privy council, resolved to make their story public to the world. It therefore happened on the 6th of September they presented themselves before Sir Edmondbury Godfrey, a justice of the peace, in the parish of St. Martin's, who, not without considerable persuasion, consented to receive a sworn testimony from Titus Oates regarding the truth of his narrative, which had now grown from forty-three to eighty-one articles. This action prevented further secrecy concerning the so-called plot.

A few days later the court returned to town for the winter, when the Duke of York besought the privy council to investigate the strange charges made in the declaration. Accordingly, on the 28th of the month, Tonge and Oates were summoned before it, when the latter, making many additions to his narrative, solemnly affirmed its truth. Aghast at so horrible a relation, the council knew not what to credit. The evil reputation Oates had borne, the baseness of character he revealed in detailing his actions as a spy, the mysterious manner in which the fanatical Tonge accounted for his possession of the document, tended to make many doubt; whilst others, believing no man would have the hardihood to bring forward such charges without being able to sustain them by proof, contended it was their duty to sift them to the end. Believing if he had been entrusted with secret letters and documents of importance, he would naturally retain some of them in order to prove his intended charges, the council asked Oates to produce them; but of these he had not one to show. Nor, he confessed, could he then furnish proof of his words, but promised if he were provided with a guard, and given officers and warrants, he would arrest certain persons concerned in the plot, and seize secret documents such as none could dispute. These being granted him, he immediately caused eight Jesuits to be apprehended and imprisoned. Then he commenced a search for treasonable letters, not only in their houses, but in the homes of such catholics as were noted for their zeal. His investigations were awaited with impatience; nor were they without furnishing some pretext for his accusations.

One of the first dwellings which Titus Oates investigated was that of Edward Coleman. This gentleman, the son of an English divine, had early in life embraced catholicity, for the propagation of which he thenceforth became most zealous. Coming under notice of the court, he became the confidant of the Duke of York, and by him was made secretary to the duchess. A man of great mental activity, religious fervour, and considerable ambition, he had, about four years previous to this time, entered into a correspondence with the confessor of the French king and other Jesuits, regarding the hopes he entertained of Charles II. professing catholicity. Knowing him to be bold in his designs and incautious in his actions, the duke had discharged him from his post as secretary to the duchess, but had retained him in his dependence. This latter circumstance, together with a suspicion of the confidence which had existed between him and his royal highness, prompted Oates to have him arrested, and his house searched. Coleman, having received notice of this design, fled from his home, incautiously leaving behind him some old letters and copies of communications which had passed between him and the Jesuits. These were at once seized, and though not containing one expression which could be construed as treasonable, were, from expectations they set forth of seeing catholicity re- established in England, considered by undiscerning judges, proofs of the statements made by Oates.

On the strength of his discovery, Oates hastened to Sir Edmondbury Godfrey, and swore false informations; becoming aware of which, Coleman, conscious of his innocence, delivered himself up, in hopes of meeting a justice never vouchsafed him.

The Privy council now sat morning and evening, in order to examine Oates, whose evidence proved untrustworthy and contradictory to a bewildering degree. When it was pointed out to him the five letters, supposed to come from men of education, contained ill-spelling, bad grammar, and other faults, he, with much effrontery, declared it was a common artifice among the Jesuits to write in that manner, in order to avoid recognition; but inasmuch as real names were attached to the epistles, that argument was not considered just. The subject was not mentioned again. When an agent for these wicked men in Spain, he related, he had been admitted into the presence of Don John, and had seen him counting out large sums of money, with which he intended to reward Sir George Wakeham when he had poisoned the king. Hearing this, his majesty inquired what kind of person Don John was. Oates said he was tall, lean, and black; whereas the monarch knew him to be small, stout, and fair. And on another occasion, when asked where he had heard the French king's confessor hire an assassin to shoot Charles, he replied, "At the Jesuits' monastery close by the Louvre;" at which the king, losing patience with the impostor, cried out, "Tush, man! the Jesuits have no house within a mile of the Louvre!" Presently Oates named two catholic peers, Lord Arundel of Wardour and Lord Bellasis, as being concerned in the plot, when the king again spoke to him, saying these lords had served his father faithfully, and fought his wars bravely, and unless proof were clear against them, he would not credit they sought him ill. Then Oates, seeing he had gone too far, said they did not know of the conspiracy, but it had been intended to acquaint them with it in good time. Later on he swore falsely against them.

Meanwhile the wildest sensation was caused by the revelations of this "hellish plot and attempt to murder the king." The public mind, long filled with hatred of papacy, was now inflamed to a degree of fury which could only be quenched by the blood of many victims. To the general sensation which obtained, a new terror was promptly added by the occurrence of a supposed horrible and mysterious murder.

On the evening of Saturday, the 12th of October, Sir Edmondbury Godfrey was missing from his home in the parish of St. Martin's. The worthy magistrate was an easy going bachelor of portly appearance, much given to quote legal opinions in his discourse, and to assert the majesty of the law as represented in his person. He was alike respected for his zeal by the protestants, and esteemed for his lenity by the catholics. Bishop Burnet records the worthy knight "was not apt to search for priests or mass-houses;" and Archdeacon Eachard affirms "he was well known to be a favourer rather than a prosecutor of the papists." Accordingly, his disappearance at first begot no evil suspicions; but as he did not return on Monday, his servants became alarmed at the absence of a master whose regularity was proverbial. His brothers were of opinion he was in debt, and sought escape from his creditors; whilst his friends, after their kind, were ready to name certain houses of doubtful repute in which they were certain he had taken temporary lodgings. On his papers being examined, it was found he had set his affairs in order, paid all his debts, and destroyed a quantity of his letters and documents. It was then remembered he had been occasionally susceptible to melancholia--a disease he inherited from his father, who had perished by his own hand. It was noted some days before that on which he was missed, he had appeared listless and depressed. It was known the imprisonment of his friend Coleman had weighed heavily on his spirits. A terrible fear now taking possession of his relatives and friends, thorough search was made for him, which proved vain until the Thursday following his disappearance, when he was accidentally discovered lying in a ditch, a cloth knotted round his neck, and a sword passed through his body, "at or near a place called Primrose Hill, in the midway between London and Hampstead."

If he had been murdered, no motive appeared to account for the deed; neither robbery nor revenge could have prompted it. His rings and money, gloves and cane, were found on and near his body; and it was known he had lived in peace with all men. Nor did an inquest lasting two days throw any light upon the mystery. If it were proved he had died by his own hand, the law of that day would not permit his brothers to inherit his property, which was found to be considerable. It was therefore their interest to ignore the fact that strangulation pointed to FELO DE SE, and to assume he had been murdered. Accordingly they prohibited the surgeons from opening the body, lest examination should falsify conclusions at which they desired to arrive. A verdict was ultimately returned "that he was murdered by certain persons unknown to the jurors, and that his death proceeded from suffocation and strangling by a certain piece of linen cloth of no value."

Occurring at such a moment, his death was at once attributed to the papists, who, it was said, being incensed that the magistrate had received the sworn testimonies of Oates, had sought this bloody revenge. Fear now succeeded bewilderment; desires of vengeance sprang from depths of horror. For two days the mangled remains of the poor knight were exposed to public view, "and all that saw them went away inflamed." They were then interred with all the pomp and state befitting one who had fallen a victim to catholicism, a martyr to protestantism. The funeral procession, which took its sad way through the principal thoroughfares from Bridewell to St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, numbered seventy-two divines, and over twelve hundred persons of quality and consideration. Arriving at the church, Dr. Lloyd, a clergyman remarkable for his fine abhorrence of papists, ascended the pulpit, where, protected by two men of great height and strength, he delivered a, discourse, pointing to the conclusion that Sir Edmondbury Godfrey had been sacrificed to the catholic conspiracy, and instigating his hearers to seek revenge. Sir Roger North tells us the crowd in and about the church was prodigious, "and so heated, that anything called papist, were it cat or dog, had probably gone to pieces in a moment. The catholics all kept close in their houses and lodgings, thinking it a good composition to be safe there."

The whole city was terror-stricken. "Men's spirits were so sharpened," says Burnet, "that it was looked on as a very great happiness that the people did not vent their fury upon the papists about the town." Tonge and Oates went abroad protected by body guards, arresting hundreds of catholics; cannon were mounted around Whitehall and St. James's; patrols paraded the streets by day and night; the trained bands were ready to fall in at a moment's notice; preparations were made for barricading the principal thoroughfares; the city gates were kept closed so that admission could be only had through the wickets; and the Houses of Parliament demanded a guard should keep watch on the vaults over which they sat, lest imitators of Guy Fawkes might blow them to pieces. Moreover, it was not alone the safety of the multitude, but the protection of the individual which was sought to be secured. In the dark confusion which general terror produced, each man felt he might be singled out as the next victim of this diabolical plot, and therefore devised means to guard his life from the hands of murderous papists. North, in his "Examen," speaking of this period, tells us: "There was much recommendation of silk armour, and the prudence of being provided with it against the time the Protestants were to be massacred. And, accordingly, there were abundance of those silken back, breast, and headpots made and sold, that were pretended to be pistol proof; in which any man dressed up was as safe as in a house, for it was impossible anyone could go to strike him for laughing; so ridiculous was the figure, as they say, of hogs in armour. This was the armour of defence; but our sparks were not altogether so tame as to carry their provision no further, for truly they intended to be assailants upon fair occasion, and had for that end recommended also to them a certain pocket weapon, which for its design and efficacy had the honour to be called a protestant flail. It was for street and crowd work; and the engine lurking perdue in a coat pocket, might readily sally out to execution, and so, by clearing a great hall, or piazza or so, carry an election by a choice of polling called knocking down. The handle resembled a farrier's blood stick, and the fall was joined to the end by a strong nervous ligature, that in its swing fell just short of the hand, and was made of LIGNUM VITAE, or rather, as the poet termed it, MORTIS."

One day, whilst the town was in this state of consternation, Tonge sent for Dr. Burnet, who hastened to visit him in the apartments allotted him and Oates at Whitehall. The historian says he found Tonge "so lifted up that he seemed to have lost the little sense he had. Oates came in," he continues, "and made me a compliment that I was one that was marked out to be killed. He had before said the same to Stillingfleet of him. But he had made that honour which he did us too cheap, when he said Tonge was to be served in the same manner, because he had translated 'The Jesuits' Morals' into English. He broke out into great fury against the Jesuits, and said he would have their blood. But I, to divert him from that strain, asked him what were the arguments that prevailed on him to change his religion and to go over to the Church of Rome? He upon that stood up, and laid his hands on his breast, and said, 'God and His holy angels knew that he had never changed, but that he had gone among them on purpose to betray them.' This gave me such a character of him, that I could have no regard to anything he said or swore after that."

The agitation now besetting the public mind had been adroitly fanned into flame by the evil genius of Lord Shaftesbury. Eachard states that if he was not the original contriver of this disturbance, "he was at least the grand refiner and improver of all the materials. And so much he seemed to acknowledge to a nobleman of his acquaintance, when he said, 'I will not say who started the game, but I am sure I had the full hunting of it.'" In the general consternation which spread over the land he beheld a means that might help the fulfilment of his strong desires. Chief among these were the exclusion of the Duke of York from the throne, and the realization of his own inordinate ambition. A deist in belief, he abhorred catholicism; a worshipper of self, he longed for power. He had boasted Cromwell had wanted to crown him king, and he narrated to Burnet that a Dutch astrologer had predicted he would yet fill a lofty position. He had long schemed and dreamed, and now it seemed the result of the one and fulfilment of the other were at hand. The pretended discovery of this plot threatened to upheave the established form of government, for the king was one at heart with those about to be brought to trial and death. A quarter of a century had not passed since a bold and determined man had risen up and governed Great Britain. Why should not history repeat itself in this respect? the prospect was alluring. Possessing strong influence, great vanity, and an unscrupulous character, Shaftesbury resolved to stir the nation to its centre, at the expense of peace, honour, and bloodshed.

On the 21st of October, Parliament assembled, when Lord Danby, much against his majesty's inclination, brought the subject of the plot before the Commons. This was a movement much appreciated by the House, which, fired by the general indignation, resolved to deal out vengeance with a strong hand. As befitted such intention, they began by requesting his majesty would order a day of general fasting and prayer, to implore the mercy of Almighty God. The king complying with this desire, they next, "in consideration of the bloody and traitorous designs," besought him to issue a proclamation "commanding all persons being popish recusants, or so reputed," to depart ten miles from the city. Accordingly, upwards of thirty thousand citizens left London before the 7th of the following month, "with great lamentations leaving their trades and habitations." Many of them in a little while secretly returned again. A few days before this latest petition was presented to the monarch, Oates had been examined before the House for over six hours; and so delighted was he by the unprejudiced manner in which his statements were received, that he added several items to them. These were not only interesting in themselves, but implicated peers and persons of quality to the number of twenty-six. The former, including Lords Stafford, Powis, Petre, Bellasis, and Arundel of Wardour, were committed to the Tower, the latter to Newgate prison.

At the end of his examination he was several times asked if he knew more of the plot, or of those concerned with it, to which he emphatically replied he did not. Three days later he remembered a further incident which involved many persons not previously mentioned by him.

Both Houses now sat in the forenoon and afternoon of each day; excitement was not allowed to flag. Oates seldom appeared before the Commons without having fresh revelations to make; but the fertility of his imagination by no means weakened the strength of his evidence in the opinions of his hearers. "Oates was encouraged," writes John Evelyn, "and everything he affirmed taken for gospel." Indignation against the papists daily increasing in height, the decrees issued regarding them became more rigorous in severity.

On the 2nd of November the king, in obedience to his Parliament, offered a reward of twenty pounds for the discovery of any officer or soldier who, since the passing of the Test Act, "hath been perverted to the Romish religion, or hears mass." Two days later a bill was framed "for more effectually preserving the king's person and government, by disabling papists from sitting in either House of Parliament." As it was feared a clause would be inserted in this, excluding the Duke of York, the enemies of his royal highness more plainly avowed their object by moving that an address be presented to the king, praying his brother should "withdraw himself from his majesty's person and counsels." This was the first step towards the Bill of Exclusion from Succession which they hoped subsequently to obtain. The monarch, however, determined to check such designs whilst there was yet time; and accordingly made a speech to the peers, in which he said to them, "Whatever reasonable bills you shall present to be passed into laws, to make you safe in the reign of my successor, so they tend not to impeach the right of succession, nor the descent of the crown in the true line, shall find from me a ready concurrence."

The intended address was therefore abandoned for the present; but the bill for disabling catholics from sitting in either House of Parliament, having a clause which excepted the Duke of York from that indignity, passed on the 30th of November.


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