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loved country :--but what I have just described was the prevailing characteristic of the age. We cannot wonder that the Plague and the Fire had been sent upon such a nation as this; but we may well wonder that those visitations had produced so little effect upon the minds of the people at large.
In the early part of his reign, Charles had an excellent minister to assist him in the government, Lord Clarendon,-one who had at heart the real good and benefit of his country. But after a time, he lost the king's favour, and was dismissed ; and the ministry who succeeded him were of a very different character. There were five individuals who were usually known by the appellation of the Cabal, because the first letters of their respective names, when united, formed that word; and it was a word well suited to express the designing nature of their government. These were Clifford, Ashley, Buckingham, Arlington, and Lauderdale. The whole affairs of the country were entrusted to their management; for the king preferred pleasure and amusement to the business of the state, and gladly gave that up into the hands of his unworthy advisers.
You will not be surprised to hear of several plots and conspiracies appearing in the country under such a government as this. One was formed by the Roman Catholics, with the design, as it was supposed, of taking the life of the king, and establishing Popery once more in England; but as the affair was always involved in mystery, and cannot now be very satisfactorily explained, we will not enter into the particulars of the plot. Another conspiracy, of a different kind, and commenced by persons of opposite sentiments, was discovered some time after, and of this I will now give you an account.
James, Duke of York, the king's brother, and the next heir to the crown, had declared himself a papist. This gave great alarm to the Protestant party, and to all those in the country who wished well to the cause of true religion. And besides this, there were other causes of discontent. Charles, like his father, was fond of power; and there seemed to be a danger of the government becoming, under him and his ministers, as arbitrary and as unconstitutional as it had been in the times preceding the civil wars. The dread of this led to a conspiracy being formed by several per. sons who all professed themselves to be lovers of liberty, but who differed one from another a good deal in their ideas of what is meant by liberty, and what would be the best means of promoting it. The chief of these persons were the Duke of Monmouth, a near connection of the king, Lord Russell, and Algernon
Sidney. Monmouth's great desire was to obtain the crown for himself. Sidney was a zealous republican. He was a man of warm and generous temperament, but of mistaken views and feelings. He would gladly have had no king at all; but universal equality, which was what he erroneously considered to be liberty and freedom. Russell only wished to remedy the evil of the present government, in order that the country might be ruled constitutionally, and according to law.
Besides these great men, there were several others, less distinguished for rank or influence, who formed another conspiracy independently, and of a more violent nature. They were accustomed to hold their meetings at a farm, not many miles from London, called the Rye House, and from this circumstance, the conspiracy. is usually called in history the Rye House Plot. Their place for assembling was on the road to Newmarket, where the king went every year to amuse himself at the races. On one of these occasions, the conspirators planned to stop his carriage as he returned, by oversetting a cart, and then to take the opportunity of firing at him from behind a hedge. Happily for Charles, the house in which he resided during his stay at Newmarket, accidentally took fire; and this circumstance obliged him to return to London some days
before he had intended. The conspirators, not being aware of this change in the king's movements, were unprepared for the accomplishment of their design, and thus the scheme was frustrated. The plot was soon after discovered, and those of the conspirators who had not previously escaped, were arrested, and brought to trial and execution. And Russell and his party, though not concerned in the design for murdering the king, were in danger; for it was believed that they too were engaged in a conspiracy of some kind. A few of them effected their escape, and amongst them was Monmouth; but Lord Russell and Algernon Sidney were taken. They were tried, and condemned to suffer the same punishment as the others, though their offence was of a very different nature. They had indeed been guilty of plotting an insurrection. Russel was too truthful a man to deny that he had done so ;--and Sidney even gloried in declaring his sentiments, and was ready to sacrifice his life for them. But neither be, nor Lord Russell, was concerned at this time in forming any design against the king's life, and therefore it was cruel and unjust to condemn and execute them as traitors.
Russell was a man much beloved on account of his amiable disposition, and general character, and a strong effort was made to save his life. A petition was sent to the king; but Charles was inexorable. Lady Russell, the wife of this unfortunate nobleman, a most excellent woman, and tenderly attached to her husband, used her influence to procure a remission of his sentence, but all in vain. She threw herself at the feet of the king, and besought him, with tears, to remember the former merit and loyalty of the prisoner, and to forgive the errors into which his honest, though perhaps mistaken principles had betrayed him. But her tears and supplications were unavailing; Charles was not to be moved by them to change his purpose. And then this noble-minded lady, instead of giving way to grief, which would have only added to her husband's distress, and prevented her from rendering him any comfort, firmly determined to suppress her own feelings; and summoning all her fortitude, she spent the few remaining days they were permitted to pass together, in endeavouring to prepare his mind for the awful event which was approaching.
She well knew how to administer consolation at such a time; for she had learnt herself to find in religion that hope which can alone give support in the prospect of death and eternity. Days passed on, the time of separation came, and the morning of execution arrived. But still Lady Russell's fortitude did not desert her,