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of Sedgemore. She proved that she was ignorant of their crime when she had given them protection, and the jury seemed inclined to compassion: they twice brought in a favourable verdict; but they were as often sent back by Jefferies, with menaces and reproaches, and at last were constrained to give a verdict against the prisoner.
But the fate of Mrs. Gaunt was still more terrible. Airs. Gaunt was an Anabaptist, noted for her beneficence, which she had extended to persons of all professions and persuasions One of the rebels knowing her humane character, had recourse to her in his distress, and was concealed by her. The abandoned villain hearing that a reward and indemnity was offered to such as informed against criminals, came in, and betrayed his protectress. His evidence was incontestible; the proofs were strong against her; he was pardoned for his treachery, and she burnt alive for her benevolence.
The work of slaughter went forward. One Cornish, a sheriff who had been long obnoxious to the court, was accused by Goodenough, now turned a common informer, and in the space of a week was tried, condemned and executed. After his death, the perjury of the witnesses appeared so flagrant, that the king himself expressed some regret, granted his estate to the family, and condemned the witnesses to perpetual imprisonment. Jefferies, on his return, was immediately created a peer, and was soon after vested with the dignity of chancellor. This shewed the people that all the former cruelties were pleasing to the king, and that he was resolved to fix his throne upon severity.
It was not to be supposed that these slaughters could acquire the king the love or the confidence of his people; yet he thought this a very favourable juncture for carrying on his schemes of religion
and arbitrary pow. Such attempts in Charles, however unjust, were in some measure politic, as he had a republican faction to contend with; and it might have been prudent then to overstep justice, in order to obtain security. But the same designs in James, were as imprudent as they were impracticable; the republicans were then diminished to an inconsiderable number, and the people were sensible of the advantages of a limited inonarchy. However, James began to throw off the mask; and in the house of commons, by his speech, he semed to think himself exempted from all rules of prudence or necessity of dissimulation. He told the House, that the militia were found by experience to be of no use; that it was necessary to augment the standing army; and that he had employed a great many catholic officers, in whose favour he had thought proper to dispense with the test, required to be taken by all entrusted by the crown: he found them useful, he said, and he was determined to keep them employed. These stretches of power naturally led the lords and commons into some degree of opposition; but they soon acquiesced in the king's measures, and then the parliament was dissolved for their tardy compliance. This was happy for the nation, for it was perhaps impossible to pick out another house of commons, that could be more ready to acquiesce in the measures of the crown. The parliament being dismissed, the Á. D. next step was to secure a catholic interest
1686. in the privy council. Accordingly four
catholic lords were admitted; Powis, Arundel, Belasis, and Dover. The king made no secret of his desires to have his courtiers converted to his own religion; Sunderland, who saw that the only way to preferment was by popery, scrupled not to gain favour at that price. Rochester, the treasurer, was
turned out of his office, because he refused to conform. In these schemes, James was entirely governed by the counsels of the queen and of his confessor, father Peters, a Jesuit, whom he soon after created a privy-counsellor. Even in Ireland,where the duke of Ormond had long supported the royal cause, this nobleman was displaced as being a protestant; and th: lord Tyrconnel, a furious Roman
; catholic, was placed in his stead. The king one day, in his attempts to convert his subjects, stooped so low as colonel Kirke; but this daring soldier told him that he was pre-engaged, for he had promised the king of Morocco, when he was quartered at Tangiers, that if he ever changed his religion, he would turn Mahometan.
But it could not be expected that the favour shewn by James to the catholics, would be tamely borne by the members of the English church. They had hitherto, indeed, supported the king against his republican enemies, and to their assistance he chiefly owed his crown. But finding his partiality to the catholics, the clergy of the church of England began to take the alarm, and commenced an opposition to court measures. The pulpits now thundered out against popery, and it was urged, that it was more formidable from the support granted it by the king. It was in vain that James attempted to impose silence on these topics; instead of avoiding the controversy, the protestant preachers pursued it with still greater warmth.
Among those who distinguished themselves on this occasion, was one doctor Sharpe, a clergyman of London, who declaimed with just severity against those who had changed their religion, by such arguments as the popish missionaries were able to produce. This being supposed to reflect upon the king, gave great offence at court ; and positive orders were given to the bishop of Lon
don to suspend Sharpe till his majesty's pleasure should be farther known. The bishop refused to comply; and the king resolved to punish the bishop himself for disobedience.
To effect his designs, he determined to revive the high commission court, which had given the nation so much disgust in the tunes of his father; and which had been for ever al ished by act of parliament. But the laws were no obstacle to James, when they combated his inclinations. An ecclesiastical commission was issued out anew, by. which seven commissioners were invested with a full and unlimited authority over the whole church of England. This was a blow to the church which alarmed the kingdom; and could the authority of this conrt take place, the king's: intentions of converting the nation would naturally follow. Before this tribunal the bishop was summoned, and not only he, but Sharpe the preacher, were suspended
The next step was to allow a liberty of conscience to all sectaries; and he was taught to believe that the truth of the catholic religion, would then, upon a fair trial, gain the victory. In such a case, the same power that granted liberty of conscience might restrain it; and the catholic religion alone be then permitted to predorninate. He therefore issued a declaration of general indulgence, and asserted that non-conformity to the established religion was no longer penal. In order to procure a favourable reception to this. edict, he began.by paying court to the dissenters, as if it had been principally intended for their benefit. But that sect was too cunning and suspicious to be so deceived. They knew that the king only meant to establish his own religion at the expence of theirs; and
of theirs; and that both his own temper, and the genius of popery, had nothing of the true spirit of toleration in them. They
dissembled, however, their distrust for a while; and the king went on silently applauding himself on the success of his schemes.
But his measures were caution itself in England compared with those which were carried on in Scotland and Ireland. In Scotland he ordered his parliament to grant a toleration to the catholics only, without ever attempting to intercede for the dissenters, who were much more numerous. In Ireland, the protestants were totally expelled from all offices of trust and profit, and the catholics were put in their places. Tyrconnel, who was vested with full authority there, carried over as chancellor one Fitton, a man who had been taken from a goal; and who had been convicted of forgery and other crimes. This man, a zealous catholic, was heard to say from the bench, that all protestants were rogues; and that there was not one among forty thousand, that was not a traitor, a rebel, and a villain.
These measures had sufficiently disgusted every part of the British empire; but to complete his work, for James did nothing by halves, he publicly sent the earl of Castlemaine, ambassador extraordinary to Rome, in order to express his obedience to the pope,and to reconcile his kingdoms to to the catholic communion. Never was there so much contempt thrown upon an embassy that was so boldly undertaken. The court of Rome expected but little success from measures so blindly conducted. They were sensible that the king was openly striking at those laws and opinions, which it was his business to undermine in silence and security. The cardinals were even heard facetiously to declare that the king should be excommunica ted for thus endeavouring to overturn the small remains of popery that yet subsisted in England. The only proof of complaisance which the king received