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THE LETTER TO LORD MOUNTEAGLE.
To the right honorable The Lord monteagle
my lord out of the coue i be are
i haue acaer of youer preservacion therforere frend adnyse yowe as yathe Tender vower Lyf to derroso some Offense to shift of voner aftendance at This par leament for god and man hathe concurred to punish the wickednes of his Tyme and Thinke not slightly of this advertisment but rethere youre self into votive contri wyeare vome.. maye expect the Evient in fafti for how the theare be noe apparance of anni Fir vet i faye they shall recev ne aterrible blower his parle ament and yet they shat nat feie who Girls Them This cowNcEL is not to be a contented becauss It neve do your good and can da powe woharme for the dangere is passed as soon as vorde Gave burnt the Lefler and i hope god wifegive yowe The grace to mak good use of it to those hole profeccion iconend youve
Fac-simile of the Letter to Lord Mounteagle.
SALISBURY IS INFORMED OF THE LETTER.
Mounteagle, or at least the gentleman who was employed to read the letter at table. They were convinced that Tresham had no sooner given his consent than he repented of it, and sought to break up the plot without betraying his associates."* The circumstances indicate that there was a got-up scene enacted in the house of lord Mounteagle at Hoxton. The unexpected return. of the lord of the house; the page met in the street by a man of tall person; the reading aloud of the letter, which the page had received as one of great importance to be delivered to his master's own hand; these are all suspicious incidents. Whether the visit of Mounteagle to Salisbury, "notwithstanding the lateness and darkness of the night in that season of the year," was a part of the same well arranged mystery, may be reasonably doubted. Mr. Jardine says, "Many considerations tend to confirm the truth of Father Greenway's suggestion, that the whole story of the letter was merely a device of the government to cover Tresham's treachery, or, for some other state reason, to conceal the true source from which their information had been derived." ‡ According to Dr. Lingard's account of Greenway's relation, he makes no such suggestion as that "the letter was merely a device of the government." It could have been no object of the government that the conspirators should escape. Thomas Winter, one of those actively concerned in the plot, had been a confidential attendant upon Mounteagle; and Thomas Ward, the man who read the letter aloud at Mounteagle's supper, went the next morning to Winter and urged him to fly. We can understand how Mounteagle might have sought to cover his previous knowledge of the plot by having a letter openly delivered which would convey to him the intimation of some dangerous design; and we can also understand how the very unusual course of causing a letter to be read aloud would have been adopted, that his old friends should have a hint to look after their own safety. But it appears unlikely that Salisbury should have been concerned in a device so calculated to defeat the discovery of some impending danger. It would be unsafe to affirm that the letter sent to Mounteagle gave the first intimation to the government of some imminent peril. A man of the name of Thomas Coe appears to have made a communication to Salisbury which conveyed "the primary intelligence of these late dangerous treasons." He claims this merit in a letter to Salisbury of the 20th December, in which he says, "My good lord, my writing so obscurely, and entitling my narration by the name of a dream or vision, was occasioned by the reason aforesaid "-[a doubt whether his letters might be opened"]. "Not that it was a dream or idle fantasy, but such an approved truth as was wrested from a notorious Papist, unto whom I did so far insinuate by private conference that he confessed unto me the whole circumference of this treason, as it is since fallen out." § The administrative ability of Salisbury is shown by the wariness with which he conducted his operations, from the moment that Mounteagle came to him from Hoxton on that dark October night. Whether his suspicion was first raised, or whether he had a previous
* Dr. Lingard's "History," vol. ix. p. 69, 8vo ed. Dr. Lingard brought Greenway's MS. from Rome, and first made it known in his "History."
"Narrative of the Gunpowder Plot," 1857. This admirable narrative is an expanded and corrected re-publication of Mr. Jardine's Introduction to "Criminal Trials," vol. ii.
§ Lodge, Illustrations," vol. iii. p. 301.
INTERPRETATION OF THE LETTER.
knowledge, his course was unaltered. He made no fuss; he quietly communicated the letter to others of the Council; he suffered James to go on with his hunting exercise; and when the king came to London, the Secretary, having had the ominous letter six days in his possession, presented it to the king, no other person being present. The official" Discourse "claims for the king the right interpretation of the riddle, "For the danger is passed as soon as you have burnt the letter." If the danger was past so soon as the letter was burnt, argued Salisbury, what was the use of the warning. But the king read the mysterious sentence thus :-the danger is to be sudden and quickthe terrible hurts, of which the authors should be unseen, "should be as quickly performed and at an end, as that paper should be a blazing up in the fire." Thence, held the king, according to the " Discourse," it should be "by a blowing up of powder." It was "a divine illumination of the royal mind," said Coke on the trial of the conspirators. Salisbury, according to his own statement, had suggested the same interpretation to several of the Council, before the king knew anything of the matter. But Salisbury was too politic not to let the vanity of his master expatiate to his parliament upon his claim to the discovery. It was set forth in the "Discourse" how all inquiry had
been postponed by the Council," for the expectation and experience they had of his majesty's fortunate judgment, in clearing and solving obscure riddles and doubtful mysteries." The Secretary completely threw the conspirators off their guard, even when they knew that the letter to Mounteagle was in the hands of the vigilant minister. They had conferred upon their danger; but the absence of every indication of alarm or suspicion on the part of the
SEARCH UNDER THE PARLIAMENT HOUSE.
government made them despise the advice which Winter had received from his friend in Mounteagle's household.
On Monday the 4th of November, the Lord Chamberlain, whose duty it was to make arrangements for the meeting of parliament, went to the House of Lords; and afterwards entered the vaults under the parliament-chamber. Lord Mounteagle was of the party. They observed a large store of coals and wood in a cellar; and standing carelessly there they saw "a very tall and desperate fellow." The Lord Chamberlain asked who the fuel belonged to: and the man answered that they belonged to his master, Mr. Percy, who had rented the cellar for a year and a half. There were no more questions. But there was a general examination, by the direction of a Westminster magistrate, of neighbouring houses and cellars, under a pretence of looking for some missing property belonging to the royal wardrobe. The "tall and desperate fellow," was not yet frightened from his purpose. A little before midnight on the eve of the 5th of November, the same magistrate, with a strong body of attendants, repaired to the cellar under the parliament house. A man just stepping out of the door was seized and searched. Slow matches and touchwood were found upon him; and a lantern, with a light within its dark covering, was in the cellar. The heaps of billets were quickly removed, and beneath them were thirty-six barrels of gunpowder.
It is one o'clock in the morning. The prisoner is led to Whitehall. A Council is hastily assembled in the king's bed-chamber. The resolute man is beset with hurried interrogatories by king and peers. His name, he says, is John Johnson; he is a servant of Thomas Percy; if he had not been apprehended that night, he had blown up the parliament house, when the king, peers, bishops, and others had been assembled. "Why would you have killed me?" asks the king. "Because you are excommunicated by the pope," is the reply. "How so?" said James. "Every Maundy Thursday the pope doth excommunicate all heretics, who are not of the church of Rome," is the explanation. He is asked who were privy to the conspiracy, and answers," he could not resolve to accuse any." The night was passed in the examination of the prisoner; but nothing could be obtained from him that could commit his accomplices. In the morning he was taken to the Tower.
That morning of the 5th of November was a time of deep anxiety in London. The news of a conspiracy so daring in its objects, so mysterious in its origin, so terrible in its remorseless fanaticism, filled all classes with alarm. It was scarcely possible to exaggerate the consequences of a plot which threatened to involve the whole machinery of government in one indiscriminate destruction. Two of the conspirators had left London on the 4th. Two others fled the instant they knew that the pretended servant of Percy was seized. Two more lingered till the morning. Five of these joined company on their road to Ashby St. Legers, in Northamptonshire, all riding with extraordinary speed, having relays of horses. It had been arranged that a general rendezvous should take place at Dunchurch, on the 5th of November, after the great act of vengeance should have been accomplished in London. Towards that place various bodies of Roman Catholics were moving on the appointed day; some being cognisant of a design against the government, but few having been intrusted with the secrets of the leaders. A party was col
SEIZURE OF FAWKES-THE OTHER CONSPIRATORS.
lected on the 5th at the house of lady Catesby, at Ashby St. Legers. They were at supper when the five who had fled from London rushed in, covered with the mire of the wintry roads, exhausted, hopeless. They had little to think of now but self-defence. Taking with them all the arms they could collect, they rode off to Dunchurch. Here they found a large assembly, with sir Everard Digby at their head, carousing, and anxiously expecting some joyful intelligence of the triumphs of their party, which they had been led to anticipate by vague hints of a coming time when heresy should no longer sit in high places. The ill-concealed fears, the pale looks, the secret whisperings of the friends who had ridden so hard to join them, told another tale. The instinct with which those who, with a half-confidence, are to be made the instruments of conspiracy fly from their leaders at the first approach of detection, was now in full operation. Those who came with numerous retainers to the great chase on Dunmore heath, which was to be a gathering for more important objects than the hunting of the deer, gradually slunk away. On that night the chief conspirators were left alone. Let us now see who were the principal actors in this perilous enterprise; and how they had been occupied for many months before the fatal fifth of November.
Robert Catesby, the only son of sir William Catesby, who in the time of Elizabeth passed from the Protestant faith to the Roman Catholic, and whose mother was a sister of Thomas Throckmorton, also a most determined recusant, was imbued with a more than common hatred to the established religion. He was concerned in the insurrection of Essex, but was pardoned upon paying a fine of £3000; and he was prominent in other seditions during the two latter years of the queen's reign. Thomas Winter was of a Roman Catholic family, who were connected by marriage with the family of Catesby; and he also had been occupied with plots, and had been in Spain to negotiate for the invasion of England by a Spanish force, in 1601. John Wright was a pervert from Protestantism, and he had also been engaged in the treason of Essex. These men were old and intimate friends; and these "three first devised the plot, and were the chief directors of all the particularities of it," as their principal associate declared in one of his examinations. He who stated this, on the 19th of November, was the "tall and desperate fellow" who called himself John Johnson, and refused when brought to Whitehall on the 5th, to declare any who were privy to the design which he so boldly avowed. He had been compelled to disclose his real name by a hateful process; for on the 6th of November the king proposed a number of interrogatories to be put to the prisoner, concluding thus: "The gentler tortures are to be first used unto him, et sic per gradus ad ima tenditur:" [and so proceed by steps to the extremest.] This recommendation produced its effect; as we may learn from the signature of Guido Fawkes to his examination before the torture, and his signature to an examination after the torture. He was the son of a notary of York, who was Registrar of the Consistory Court of the Cathedral; and he was brought up as a Protestant, at the free school
The autographs of Guido Fawkes before and