« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Bancroft at once began to enforce them. But the Nonconformists did not tamely submit; they held meetings; they petitioned; they called upon their friends in the council for aid. But all was in vain. The petitioners were punished, while the dissenting ministers were ejected from their livings, and imprisoned.
But these persecutions were light compared with those under which the Roman Catholics suffered. There were few Catholics. Roman Catholic families who had not suffered more or less by the persecuting laws enacted against them. Sir Thomas Tresham, father of Sir Francis Tresham, one of the conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot, had been converted to Rome by Campion and Persons in 1580, and from that time became a most uncompromising adherent of the Romish church. He was, therefore, a constant subject of persecution. He was imprisoned in the Fleet for several years, and heavily fined, because he would not betray Campion; he was repeatedly imprisoned after this in many other places; and, for more than twenty years, he constantly paid into the treasury £260 per annum, the penalty of £20 a month for recusancy. Edward Rookwood, cousin of Ambrose Rookwood, another of the conspirators, only a few days after he had splendidly entertained Queen Elizabeth at his mansion of Euston Hall, in Suffolk, was committed to prison for "obstinate papistry;" and, after being reduced to beggary, he died in gaol. This was the miserable condition of the laity: that of the priests was far worse. They were literally hunted down; they lived in a state of perpetual concealment and terror; they went about disguised, wandering by lonely roads from house to house, secreting themselves in woods and caverns, or in the subterranean vaults or intramural chambers with which the chief Catholic houses were furnished; and private families were often disturbed in the dead of the night by armed bands clamorously demanding admittance, that they might search for Jesuits and priests. This dreadful state of insecurity and alarm in which the English Catholics were placed by the penal laws of Elizabeth, was not altered on the accession of James. For many obvious reasons, the Catholics looked forward with hope to his accession; indeed, they had received from him, before he came to the throne, express assurances of toleration; and even after his accession, one of the first acts of the privy council, was to send for the chief Roman Catholics, from various parts of the country, and assure them of his majesty's grace and favour. In confirmation of which, the fines for recusancy were actually remitted for the next two years. But in 1604, when King James found himself firmly seated on the throne,
the persecuting laws were revived, and actively enforced; the fines which had been neglected were suddenly demanded, so that numerous families were reduced to utter ruin. But this was not all. James had brought with him from Scotland many needy adventurers, on whom he unscrupulously bestowed the lands and goods of recusants, authorising each of them to proceed against some particular recusant named, and levy the penalties as best he could. This insult and injustice was followed up by an act of parliament, disabling any one who had been educated in a Catholic seminary abroad, from holding any lands or goods in the King's dominions, and entirely depriving the Catholics of all means of educating their children, except in the Protestant faith. Such were the provocations which led to
8. The Gunpowder Plot. The original contriver and promoter of the Gunpowder Treason was Robert Catesby, the lineal descendant of William Catesby, the favourite of Richard III. His family had for several generations been settled originators. at Ashby St. Legers, Northamptonshire, and was also possessed of considerable property at Lapworth, in Warwickshire. His father had been converted to Rome by Campion and Persons, and had several times been imprisoned for his recusancy; but he himself had abandoned the ancient worship on his father's death, and had given himself up to folly and extravagance. He afterwards returned to the faith in which he had been educated, and became a religious fanatic, devoting himself from that time to the task of making proselytes, and rescuing his brethren from the iron yoke under which they groaned. The first person to whom he disclosed his scheme of blowing up the parliament house with gunpowder, was Thomas Winter, of Huddington, in Worcestershire, who had served abroad as the agent of the Spanish party in England (March, 1603-4). Winter was struck with horror at the proposal; but Catesby's reasoning prevailed, and it was agreed that before the project was carried out, a last attempt should be made to obtain the repeal of the penal laws, by soliciting the mediation of Spain. For this purpose, Winter went over to Bergen, near Dunkirk, and there had a private conference with Velasco, the constable of Castile, then on his way to England for the purpose of concluding a peace. The ambassador gave him general assurances of goodwill, but nothing more; and Winter then went to Ostend, where he met with Guido Faukes, a gentleman of good family in the city of York, at that time a soldier of fortune in the Spanish army. These two returned to England in April. In the meantime, Catesby had laid the plan before two
others, Percy and Wright. Percy was a distant relation and steward to the Earl of Northumberland, and had been employed as one of the agents in Scotland, whom the English Catholics sent to conciliate James, and obtain from him promises of toleration. Wright was his brother-in-law; both of them had engaged in Essex's rebellion, and both of them had been converted to Rome, and had therefore been subjected to harassing persecutions. These five conspirators all swore to be true to each other; and they received the sacrament in confirmation of their oath from the hand of the Jesuit missionary, Father Gerard (May 1st, 1604). They still entertained the hope of obtaining a relaxation of the penal laws, especially as the negotiations for a peace between England and Spain were advancing to a friendly conclusion. But Velasco did not evince any great anxiety on their behalf, and instead of granting toleration, James ordered that the penal laws should be more rigidly enforced (August, 1604). This drove the Their first conspirators to desperation. An empty house, which lay operations. contiguous to the old Palace of Westminster, had already been taken by Percy, and given into the custody of Faukes, who assumed the name of Johnson, Percy's servant. For three months they were kept out of possession by the commissioners for a projected union between England and Scotland. About the middle of December, they began operations; Faukes keeping watch while three of his companions worked, and the fourth slept. A fortnight thus passed, when parliament, which had been prorogued to the 7th of February, was further prorogued to the 3rd of October. On this they gave up further mining operations, and went to their respective homes. In the meanwhile, Catesby had begun to suspect the faith of his colleagues in the lawfulness of their enterprise. Was it lawful to punish the innocent with the guilty? they asked themselves; and to quiet their consciences, he had recourse to Garnet, the Jesuit. But whether the latter was acquainted with the plot, or whether he was questioned upon the abstract principle alone, is uncertain. However, Catesby soon afterwards admitted a brother of Wright's, and a brother of Winter's, to the conspiracy, and towards the end of January the seven resumed their labours. There was a thick stone wall which for some time impeded their operations, and they were afraid to go below it, lest they should be inundated by the river. The workings of conscience on their minds also obstructed their progress, and unearthly sounds of the tolling of a bell, which ceased only when they sprinkled the walls with holy water, greatly Lingard, IX., 36; Jardine's Criminal Trials, II., 34. + See Lingard, IX., 39,
terrified them; one day, a rushing noise above them excited their alarm; but the present discovery that it came from a cellar overhead turned their alarm into joy: they abandoned their mine; Faukes hired the cellar at once; and, under the cover of night, they conveyed into it several barrels of gunpowder, which had been secreted for some time in a house at Lambeth. They concealed the barrels under stones, billets of wood, and household furniture; and having now completed their preparations (May, 1605), again separated, intending to re-assemble in September. As the time approached, Catesby added to the number of his accomplices; Baynham, a gentleman of Gloucestershire, a profligate man, who had been the leader of an infamous club, called The Damned Crew," was sent to the Pope; while Grant, New conof Norbrook, in Warwickshire, Ambrose Rookwood, of spirators. Coldham Hall, Suffolk, Sir Everard Digby, of Gotehurst, in Bucks, and Francis Tresham, of Rushton, in Northamptonshire, were received into the confederacy, for the purpose of supporting a military rising (September). About the same time, Faukes went over to Flanders to obtain Spanish aid. The plan of operations was now finally arranged. A list of peers and commoners The plot. to be served by a timely warning was made out; Faukes was to fire the train, and immediately escape to Flanders, Tresham undertaking to hire a vessel for his use; Percy, who had access to the palace as a gentleman pensioner, was to obtain possession of Prince Charles, and convey him to the general rendezvous at Dunchurch; while Digby and his associates there assembled, under the pretence of hunting on Dunsmoor Heath, were to seize the Princess Elizabeth, at Lord Harrington's, near Coventry. Catesby undertook to proclaim the heir apparent at Charing Cross; a declaration abolishing monopolies, wardship, and purveyance was to be issued, and a protector appointed. At this juncture, Garnet the Jesuit, and Greenway, another Jesuit, were informed of the whole scheme, in the confessional. In the meantime, parliament had been prorogued from the 3rd of October to the 5th of November. Tresham had begun to repent of his share in the plot, if he had not, as has been surmised, already revealed it to the government.
The circumstances under which Lord Mounteagle received the celebrated letter, which has been usually considered as the first intimation of the conspiracy which the government received, seem to confirm this suspicion. That nobleman, to The letter the surprise of his family, suddenly ordered supper to be prepared for him to Lord at his house at Haxton, where he very seldom resided (October 26th). Mounteagle. While he sat at table, the letter was brought to him by one of his pages, and read aloud by Thomas Ward, a gentleman in his service. Ward, who was probably one of
the conspirators, next day informed them of their danger, and advised them to fly, while Tresham had not only offered this advice already, but two days afterwards came up to London from Northamptonshire, expressly to urge Catesby and Winter to escape, and even offered to support them abroad. So that the common story, which says that the letter was not understood, till the sagacity of King James discovered its meaning, is a simple fiction, and the whole proceeding seems to have been a device for the purpose of screening the actual informer.* That Lord Mounteagle also knew of this conspiracy, before the receipt of this letter, seems equally clear; in fact, Winter, in his subsequent examination before the council, plainly charged him with being privy to the conspiracy. The government, however, was extremely careful of that nobleman's reputation, and in a state paper still extant, containing an account of the examination of Tresham, Lord Mounteagle's name has been carefully blotted out, and a small slip of paper curiously pasted over the place.†
On the 31st of October, the King returned from Royston to London, and next day the letter was laid before him and the council. Ward, apprised of all the government proceedings by Lord Mounteagle, warned the conspirators, but they disbelieved all the revelations made to them, and resolved to await their fate. Faukes alone, with that extraordinary courage which he had displayed throughout the transaction, took up his solitary station at the cellar, on Sunday the 3rd of November. Next day, the lord chamberlain and Lord Moun eagle visited the place, as if by accident, and seeing Faukes, carelessly remarked that there was an abundant provision of fuel. This warning was lost on the determined mind of the conspirator; he was resolved to stay till the last moment, and on the first appearance of danger, to fire the mine, and perish in the company of his enemies. A little after midnight, Faukes, booted and spurred, ready for instant flight, having finished his last preparations in the vault, was stepping out of the door, when he was instantly seized by Sir Thomas Knevet, a magistrate, and a party of soldiers. Slow matches and touchwood were found upon his person, a dark lantern was discovered behind the door, and the cellar was found to contain thirty-six barrels of powder, concealed beneath billets of wood. At four o'clock that morning, Faukes was examined by the King and council, but he refused to disclose anything, and The meet- was then sent to the Tower. In the meantime, the Dunchurch. conspirators had repaired to the rendezvous at Dunchurch; here they found themselves deserted by all their friends, and they escaped in haste towards Holbeach, near Stourbridge, the residence of Stephen Littleton, one of their new associates, where they resolved to await the arrival of their pursuers. But Digby and Littleton fled in the night, and were captured, the first at Dudley, the other at Hagley. Many others also escaped during the