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REIGN OF JAMES I.
THE GUNPOWDER PLOT.
Mild as James I. was in toleration, there was a project contrived at the very beginning of his reign for the re-establishment of Popery, which, were it not a fact known to all the world, could scarcely be credited by posterity. This was the gunpowder plot, than which a more horrid or terrible scheme never entered into the human heart to conceive. The Roman Catholics had expected great favour and indulgence on the accession of James, both as a descendant of Mary, a rigid Catholic, and also as having shown some partiality to that religion in his youth; but they soon discovered their mistake, and were at once surprised and enraged to find James on all occasions express his resolution of strictly executing the laws against them, and of persevering in the conduct of his predecessor. This declaration determined them upon more desperate measures ; and they at length formed a resolution of destroying the king and both houses of parliament at a blow. The scheme was first broached by Robert Catesby, a gentleman of good parts and ancient family, who conceived that a train of gunpowder might be so placed under the parliament-house as to blow up the king and all the members at once. How horrid soever the contrivance may appear, yet every member seemed faithful and secret in the league, and about two months before the sitting of parliament they hired a house in the name of Percy, adjoining to that in which the parliament was to assemble. Their first intention was to bore a way under the parliament-house from that which they occupied, and they set themselves laboriously to the task ; . but when they had pierced the wall, which was three yards in thickness, on approaching the other side they were surprised to find that the house was vaulted underneath, and that a magazine of coals was usually deposited there. From their disappointment on this account they were soon relieved by the information that the coals were then selling off, and that the vaults would then be let to the highest bidder. They therefore seized the opportunity of hiring the place, and bought the remaining quantity of coals with which it was then stored, as if for their own use. The next thing done was to convey thither thirty-six barrels of gunpowder, which had been purchased in Holland, and the whole was covered with coals and with faggots, brought for that purpose. Then the doors of the cellar were boldly thrown open, and everybody adinitted, as if it contained nothing dangerous. Confident of success, they now began to plan the remaining part of their project. The king, queen, and prince Henry, the king's eldest son, were all expected to be present at the opening of the parliament. The king's second son, by reason of his tender age, would be absent, and it was resolved that Percy should seize or assassinate him. The Princess Elizabeth, a child likewise, was kept at Lord Harrington's house, in Warwickshire; and Sir Everard Digby was to seize her, and immediately proclaim her queen.
The day for the sitting of parliament now approached. Never was treason more secret, or ruin more apparently inevitable; the hour was expected with impatience, and the conspirators gloried in their meditated guilt. The dreadful secret, though commu. nicated to above twenty persons, had been religiously kept during the space of near a year and a half; when all the motives of pity, justice, and safety were too weak, a remorse of private friendship saved the kingdom. Sir Henry Percy, one of the conspirators, conceived a design of saving the life of Lord Mounteagle, his intimate friend and companion, who also was of the same persuasion with himself. About ten days before the meeting of parliament, this nobleman, upon his return to town, received a letter from a person unknown, and delivered by one who fled as soon as he had discharged his message. The letter was to this effect: “My lord, stay away from this parliament ; for God and man have concurred to punish the wickedness of the times, and think not slightly of this advertisement, but retire yourself into your country, were you may expect the event in safety. For though there be appearance of any stir, yet I say they will receive a terrible blow this pariiament; and yet they will not see who hurts them. This counsel is not to be contemned, because it may you good, and can do you no harm. For the danger is past as soon as you have burned this letter, "* The contents of this mysterious letter surprised and puzzled the nobleman to whom it was addressed ; and though inclined to think it a foolish attempt to affright and ridicule him, yet he judged it safest to carry it to Lord Salisbury, secretary of state. Lord Salisbury, too, was inclined to give little attention to it, yet thought proper to lay it before the king in council, who came to town a few days after. None of the council were able to make anything of it, although it appeared serious and alarming. In the universal agitation between doubt and apprehension, the king was the first who penetrated the meaning of this dark epistle. He concluded that some sudden danger was preparing by gunpow. der, and it was thought advisable to inspect all the vaults below the houses of parliament. This care belonged to the Earl of Suffolk, lord chamberlain, who purposely delayed the search till the day before the meeting of parliament, November 5, 1605. He remarked those great piles of faggots which lay in the vault under the house of peers, and seized a man preparing for the terrible enterprise, dressed in a cloak and boots, and a dark lanthorn in his
* This letter is said to have been sent by Mary, eldest daughter of Lord Morley, sister to Lord Monteagle, the wife of Thomas Abington, of Henslip, Worcester. Affection for her brother prompted the warning, while love for her husband, who was privy to the conspiracy, suggested such means as were best calculated to prevent his detection ; others tribute it to Tresham, another confederate, who had no sooner given his consent to the plot than he repented it, and sought to break it up without betraying his associates.
hand. This was no other than Guy Fawkes, who had just disposed every part of the train for its taking fire the next morning, the matches and other combustibles being found in his pockets. The whole of the design was now discovered; but the atrociousness of his guilt, and the despair of pardon, inspiring him with resolution, he told the officers of justice, with an undaunted air, that had he blown them and himself up together he had been happy. Before the council he displayed the same intrepid firmness, mixed even with scorn and disdain, refusing to discover his associates, and showing no concern but for the failure of his enterprise. But his bold spirit was at length subdued ; being confined to the Tower for two or three days, and the rack just shown him, * his courage, fatigued with so long an effort, at last failed him, and he made a full discovery of his accomplices. Catesby, Percy, and the conspirators who were in London, hearing that Fawkes was arrested, fled with all speed to Warwickshire, where Sir Everard Digby, relying on the success of the plot, was already in arms.
But the county soon began to take the alarm, and wherever they turned they found a superior force ready to oppose them. In this exigence, beset on all sides, they resolved, to about the number of eighty persons, to fly no farther, but make a stand at Holbeach House, in Warwickshire,
to defend it to the last, and sell their lives as dearly as possible. But even this miserable consolation was denied them; a spark of fire happening to fall upon some gunpowder that was laid to dry, it blew up, and so maimed the principal conspirators, that the survivors resolved to open the gate, and sally out against the multitude that surrounded the house. Some were instantly cut to pieces; Catesby, Percy, and Winter, standing back to back, fought long and desperately, till in the end the two first fell covered with wounds, and Winter was taken alive. Those that survived the slaughter were tried and convicted; several fell by the hands of the executioner, and others experienced the king's mercy. The Jesuits, Garnet and Oldcom, who were privy to the plot, suffered with the rest, and notwithstanding the atrociousness of their treason, Garnet was considered by his party as a martyr, and miracles have been said to be wrought by his blood.
Goldsmith, p. 171.
* Instead of the rack being “just shown him," it is probable that he was racked to extremity, as will be seen by the following note from Lingard, vol. ix., p. 58:The gentler tortures are to be first used unto him, et sic per gradus "ad ima tendatur," and thus by degrees we may proceed to extremities. James's instructions November 6, in state paper office. See in Mr. Jardine's Criminal Tria's, p. 17-18, two fac-similes of his signature, the first in a good bold hand before torture, the second, after torture, exhibiting the word “Guido, almost illegible scrawl, and two ill-formed strokes in place of his sirname. He appears to have been unable to hold the pen any longer. Fawkes was hanged in old Palace-yard, at Westminster, with Winter, Rokewood, and Keyes; they were all cut down before they were dead, and their bowels burnt before their eyes; they were then beheaded and quartered; their heads were placed on London-bridge, and their quarters over the gates of the city.
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FATE OF SIR WALTER RALEIGH. The great Sir Walter Raleigh, one of the favourites of Elizabeth, and one of the most distinguished men whom England has produced, had been sentenced to death on a false charge of treason, in the beginning of James's reign. He had lain for several years (fifteen) in the Tower, when the king, induced by the hopes which he held forth to him of the great wealth that might be obtained from the gold mines of Guiana, in South America, to which he had made a voyage in the late reign, consented to allow him to proceed thither, with an expedition fitted out at the expense of himself and his friends. But he refused to grant him a pardon, and straightly charged him not to make any attempt on any of the Spanish settlements ; for as James had set his heart on a marriage between the Prince of Wales and one of the infantas, or daughters of the King of Spain, he was extremely anxious not to give offence to the Spaniards. Raleigh sailed from Plymouth on the 13th August, 1617, with fourteen vessels; and after losing a great number of his men by disease, he at length reached the mouth of the great river Orinoco. He sent five of his vessels up the river in search of the mines, giving their commander, Captain Kemys, strict orders not to molest the Spaniards, who, since Raleigh had been last there, had built up a sort of town, named St. Thomas, some way up the Orinoco. As the English were passing by that place the Spaniards attacked them in the night, but they were repulsed, and the English pursued them to their town, which they took and plundered. In the action Raleigh's eldest son, and the Spanish governor, a kinsman of Gondomars, the ambassador at the court of London, were both slain. Kemys having sought in vain for the mine, returned to Raleigh, who reproached him so bitterly for what had occurred, that he went into his cabin, and blew out his brains. Raleigh was arrested, and committed to the Tower the moment he landed in England. Gondomar ceased not to call for vengeance, and James offered to give him up to the King of Spain ; but that monarch said he would rather that Raleigh should be executed in England. The judges of the Court of Queen's Bench were therefore directed to proceed to execution against him on his former sentence. Raleigh in vain submitted to the court that the commission given him as commander, the power of life and death over others, amounted to a pardon; execution was granted, and the scholar, the writer, the warrior, and the statesman (for Raleigh was all these) was led to a scaffold, in the 66th year of his age, in order to cement by his blood a marriage with a daughter of Spain. He mounted the scaffold with that courage which never deserted him. When he had taken off his gown and doublet, he asked the executioner to let him see the axe. He poised it, and running his thumb along the edge, said with a smile, “This is a sharp medicine, but it will cure all diseases." The executioner was going to blindfold him, but he refused to let him, saying, “Think you I fear the shadow
of the axe, when I fear not the axe itself?" He gave the signal by stretching out his hands, and his head was struck off at two blows. *
Keightley's History of England, p. 189.
DEATH OF JAMES I. He was seized in the spring of 1625 with a tertian ague; and when encouraged by his courtiers with the common proverb that such a distemper during that season was health for a king, he replied that the proverb was meant for a young king. After some fits he found himself extremely weak, and sent for the prince,
In his “History of the World,” as well as in the great
variety of political, scientific, and commercial tracts which proceeded from Sir Walter's pen, we find a vast extent of learning and research, a style equal to the best models of history, and a penetrating and sound judgment. Nor as a poet does he rank in a lower sphere; his vein for ditty and amorous ode has been pronounced most lofty, insolent, and passionate. (Puttenham's Art of English Poetry.) The specimens which have been preserved show that he wrote with great ease, and they display with a lively wit sometimes a glowing, and sometimes a wild and romantic imagination." He was a great promoter of the arts and sciences, and not less distinguished for the success with which he studied them himself. For his improvements in naval architecture he was entitled to the gratitude of his country. To his ardent spirit of enterprise may be attributed many important results; and while his firmness was ever conspicuous in difficulty and danger, his bravery and zeal in the service of his prince have seldom had an equal; indeed he was enduwed with every qualification to defend his country in time of war, and to adorn it in that of peace.
Bayley's History of the Tower, p. 526. He is said to have first attracted Queen Elizabeth's notice by an act of gallantry. When the queen, in one of her walks, hesitated on passing a miry spot, he then, but an adventurer, threw his cloak on the ground before her as a carpet; he was thereupon invited to court. On one occasion he wrote with a diamond on a window
“Fain would I climb, but that I fear to fall;" which Elizabeth having noticed, said
“If thy heart fail thee do not climb at all." In the “ History of the World” Raleigh intended to have traced the progress of mankiud from the Creation up to his own time, but the work ceased with the first Part, which extended to about a century and a half before the Christian era, its illfated author being “sent to his great account," by the axe of the executioner. The concluding lines, written when his sentence was pronounced, and all his hopes of life had departed, are considered to be the finest and grandest example of prose in the English language :
“ It is therefore Death alone that can suddenly make man know himself; he tells the proud and insolent that they are but abjects, and humbles them at the instant, makes them cry, complain, and repent; yea, even to hate their forepassed happiness. He takes the account of the rich, and proves him a beggar, a naked beggar, which hath interest in nothing but in the gravel that fills his mouth. He holds a glass before the eyes of the most beautiful, and makes them see their deformity and rottenness, and they ackuowledge it. O eloquent, just, and mighty Death! whom none could advise, thou hast persuaded; what none hath dared thou hast done ; and whom all the world hath flattered thou alone hast cast out of the world, and despised. Thou hast drawn together all the far-stretched greatness, all the pride, cruelty, and ambition of man, and covered it all over with these two narrow words-Hic jacet." On the fly leaf of his bible, the night before his execution, he wrote these lines
“Even such is Time, that takes on trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
Who in the dark and silent grave,