TOWARDS the close of the reign of Charles the Second, some Whigs who had been deeply implicated in the plot so fatal to their party, and who knew themselves to be marked out for destruction, had sought an asylum in the Low Countries.
These refugees were in general men of fiery temper and weak judgment. They were also under the influence of that peculiar illusion which seems to belong to their situation. A politician driven into banishment by a hostile faction generally sees the society which he has quitted through a false medium. Every object is distorted and discoloured by his regrets, his longings, and his resentments. Every little discontent appears to him to portend a revolution. Every riot is a rebellion. He cannot be convinced that his country does not pine for him as much as he pines for his country. He imagines that all his old associates, who still dwell at their homes and enjoy their estates, are tormented by the same feelings which make life a burden to himself. The longer his expatriation, the greater does this hallucination become. The lapse of time, which cools the ardour of the friends whom he has left behind, inflames his. Every month his impatience to revisit his native land increases; and every month his native land remembers and misses him less. This delusion becomes almost a madness when many exiles who suffer in the same cause herd together in a foreign country. Their chief employment is to talk of what they once were, and of what they may yet be, to goad each other into animosity against the common enemy, to feed each other with extravagant hopes of victory and revenge. Thus they become ripe for enterprises which would at once be pronounced hopeless by any man whose passions had not deprived him of the power of calculating chances.
In this mood were many of the outlaws who had assembled on the Continent. The correspondence which they kept up with England was, for the most part, such as tended to excite their feelings and to mislead their judgment. Their information concerning the temper of the public mind was chiefly derived from the worst members of the Whig party, from men who were plotters and libellers by profession, who were pursued by the officers of justice, who were forced to skulk in disguise through back streets, and who sometimes lay hid for weeks together in cocklofts and cellars. The statesmen who had formerly been the ornaments of the Country Party, the statesmen who afterwards guided the councils of the Convention, would have given advice very different from that which was given by such men as John Wildman and Henry Danvers.
Wildman had served forty years before in the parliamentary army, but had been more distinguished there as an agitator than as a soldier, and had early quitted the profession of arms for pursuits better suited to his temper. His hatred of monarchy had induced him to engage in a long series of conspiracies, first against the Protector, and then against the Stuarts. But with Wildman's fanaticism was joined a tender care for his own safety. He had a wonderful skill in grazing the edge of treason. No man understood better how to instigate others to desperate enterprises by words which, when repeated to a jury, might seem innocent, or, at worst, ambiguous. Such was his cunning that, though always plotting, though always known to be plotting, and though long malignantly watched by a vindictive government, he eluded every danger, and died in his bed, after having seen two generations of his accomplices die on the gallows. Danvers was a man of the same class, hotheaded, but fainthearted, constantly urged to the brink of danger by enthusiasm, and constantly stopped on that brink by cowardice. He had considerable influence among a portion of the Baptists, had written largely in defence of their peculiar opinions, and had drawn down on himself the severe censure of the most respectable Puritans by attempting to palliate the crimes of Matthias and John of Leyden. It is probable that, had he possessed a little courage, he would have trodden in the footsteps of the wretches whom he defended. He was, at this time, concealing himself from the officers of justice; for warrants were out against him on account of a grossly calumnious paper of which the government had discovered him to be the author.
It is easy to imagine what kind of intelligence and counsel men, such as have been described, were likely to send to the outlaws in the Netherlands. Of the general character of those outlaws an estimate may be formed from a few samples.
One of the most conspicuous among them was John Ayloffe, a lawyer connected by affinity with the Hydes, and through the Hydes, with James. Ayloffe had early made himself remarkable by offering a whimsical insult to the government. At a time when the ascendancy of the court of Versailles had excited general uneasiness, he had contrived to put a wooden shoe, the established type, among the English, of French tyranny, into the chair of the House of Commons. He had subsequently been concerned in the Whig plot; but there is no reason to believe that he was a party to the design of assassinating the royal brothers. He was a man of parts and courage; but his moral character did not stand high. The Puritan divines whispered that he was a careless Gallio or something worse, and that, whatever zeal he might profess for civil liberty, the Saints would do well to avoid all connection with him.
Nathaniel Wade was, like Ayloffe, a lawyer. He had long resided at Bristol, and had been celebrated in his own neighbourhood as a vehement republican. At one time he had formed a project of emigrating to New Jersey, where he expected to find institutions better suited to his taste than those of England. His activity in electioneering had introduced him to the notice of some Whig nobles. They had employed him professionally, and had, at length, admitted him to their most secret counsels. He had been deeply concerned in the scheme of insurrection, and had undertaken to head a rising in his own city. He had also been privy to the more odious plot against the lives of Charles and James. But he always declared that, though privy to it, he had abhorred it, and had attempted to dissuade his associates from carrying their design into effect. For a man bred to civil pursuits, Wade seems to have had, in an unusual degree, that sort of ability and that sort of nerve which make a good soldier. Unhappily his principles and his courage proved to be not of sufficient force to support him when the fight was over, and when in a prison, he had to choose between death and infamy.
Another fugitive was Richard Goodenough, who had formerly been Under Sheriff of London. On this man his party had long relied for services of no honourable kind, and especially for the selection of jurymen not likely to be troubled with scruples in political cases. He had been deeply concerned in those dark and atrocious parts of the Whig plot which had been carefully concealed from the most respectable Whigs. Nor is it possible to plead, in extenuation of his guilt, that he was misled by inordinate zeal for the public good. For it will be seen that after having disgraced a noble cause by his crimes, he betrayed it in order to escape from his well merited punishment.
Very different was the character of Richard Rumbold. He had held a commission in Cromwell's own regiment, had guarded the scaffold before the Banqueting House on the day of the great execution, had fought at Dunbar and Worcester, and had always shown in the highest degree the qualities which distinguished the invincible army in which he served, courage of the truest temper, fiery enthusiasm, both political and religious, and with that enthusiasm, all the power of selfgovernment which is characteristic of men trained in well disciplined camps to command and to obey. When the Republican troops were disbanded, Rumbold became a maltster, and carried on his trade near Hoddesdon, in that building from which the Rye House plot derives its name. It had been suggested, though not absolutely determined, in the conferences of the most violent and unscrupulous of the malecontents, that armed men should be stationed in the Rye House to attack the Guards who were to escort Charles and James from Newmarket to London. In these conferences Rumbold had borne a part from which he would have shrunk with horror, if his clear understanding had not been overclouded, and his manly heart corrupted, by party spirit.
A more important exile was Ford Grey, Lord Grey of Wark. He had been a zealous Exclusionist, had concurred in the design of insurrection, and had been committed to the Tower, but had succeeded in making his keepers drunk, and in effecting his escape to the Continent. His parliamentary abilities were great, and his manners pleasing: but his life had been sullied by a great domestic crime. His wife was a daughter of the noble house of Berkeley. Her sister, the Lady Henrietta Berkeley, was allowed to associate and correspond with him as with a brother by blood. A fatal attachment sprang up. The high spirit and strong passions of Lady Henrietta broke through all restraints of virtue and decorum. A scandalous elopement disclosed to the whole kingdom the shame of two illustrious families. Grey and some of the agents who had served him in his amour were brought to trial on a charge of conspiracy. A scene unparalleled in our legal history was exhibited in the Court of King's Bench. The seducer appeared with dauntless front, accompanied by his paramour. Nor did the great Whig lords flinch from their friend's side even in that extremity. Those whom he had wronged stood over against him, and were moved to transports of rage by the sight of him. The old Earl of Berkeley poured forth reproaches and curses on the wretched Henrietta. The Countess gave evidence broken by many sobs, and at length fell down in a swoon. The jury found a verdict of Guilty. When the court rose Lord Berkeley called on all his friends to help him to seize his daughter. The partisans of Grey rallied round her. Swords were drawn on both sides; a skirmish took place in Westminster Hall; and it was with difficulty that the Judges and tipstaves parted the combatants. In our time such a trial would be fatal to the character of a public man; but in that age the standard of morality among the great was so low, and party spirit was so violent, that Grey still continued to have considerable influence, though the Puritans, who formed a strong section of the Whig party, looked somewhat coldly on him.
One part of the character, or rather, it may be, of the fortune, of Grey deserves notice. It was admitted that everywhere, except on the field of battle, he showed a high degree of courage. More than once, in embarrassing circumstances, when his life and liberty were at stake, the dignity of his deportment and his perfect command of all his faculties extorted praise from those who neither loved nor esteemed him. But as a soldier he incurred, less perhaps by his fault than by mischance, the degrading imputation of personal cowardice.
In this respect he differed widely from his friend the Duke of Monmouth. Ardent and intrepid on the field of battle, Monmouth was everywhere else effeminate and irresolute. The accident of his birth, his personal courage, and his superficial graces, had placed him in a post for which he was altogether unfitted. After witnessing the ruin of the party of which he had been the nominal head, he had retired to Holland. The Prince and Princess of Orange had now ceased to regard him as a rival. They received him most hospitably; for they hoped that, by treating, him with kindness, they should establish a claim to the gratitude of his father. They knew that paternal affection was not yet wearied out, that letters and supplies of money still came secretly from Whitehall to Monmouth's retreat, and that Charles frowned on those who sought to pay their court to him by speaking ill of his banished son. The Duke had been encouraged to expect that, in a very short time, if he gave no new cause of displeasure, he would be recalled to his native land, and restored to all his high honours and commands. Animated by such expectations he had been the life of the Hague during the late winter. He had been the most conspicuous figure at a succession of balls in that splendid Orange Hall, which blazes on every side with the most ostentatious colouring of Jordæns and Hondthorst. He had taught the English country dance to the Dutch ladies, and had in his turn learned from them to skate on the canals. The Princess had accompanied him in his expeditions on the ice; and the figure which she made there, poised on one leg, and clad in petticoats shorter than are generally worn by ladies so strictly decorous, had caused some wonder and mirth to the foreign ministers. The sullen gravity which had been characteristic of the Stadtholder's court seemed to have vanished before the influence of the fascinating Englishman. Even the stern and pensive William relaxed into good humour when his brilliant guest appeared.
Monmouth meanwhile carefully avoided all that could give offence in the quarter to which he looked for protection. He saw little of any Whigs, and nothing of those violent men who had been concerned in the worst part of the Whig plot. He was therefore loudly accused, by his old associates, of fickleness and ingratitude.
By none of the exiles was this accusation urged with more vehemence and bitterness than by Robert Ferguson, the Judas of Dryden's great satire. Ferguson was by birth a Scot; but England had long been his residence. At the time of the Restoration, indeed, he had held a living in Kent. He had been bred a Presbyterian; but the Presbyterians had cast him out, and he had become an Independent. He had been master of an academy which the Dissenters had set up at Islington as a rival to Westminster School and the Charter House; and he had preached to large congregations at a meeting house in Moorfields. He had also published some theological treatises which may still be found in the dusty recesses of a few old libraries; but, though texts of Scripture were always on his lips, those who had pecuniary transactions with him soon found him to be a mere swindler.
At length he turned his attention almost entirely from theology to the worst part of politics. He belonged to the class whose office it is to render in troubled times to exasperated parties those services from which honest men shrink in disgust and prudent men in fear, the class of fanatical knaves. Violent, malignant, regardless of truth, insensible to shame, insatiable of notoriety, delighting in intrigue, in tumult, in mischief for its own sake, he toiled during many years in the darkest mines of faction. He lived among libellers and false witnesses. He was the keeper of a secret purse from which agents too vile to be acknowledged received hire, and the director of a secret press whence pamphlets, bearing no name, were daily issued. He boasted that he had contrived to scatter lampoons about the terrace of Windsor, and even to lay them under the royal pillow. In this way of life he was put to many shifts, was forced to assume many names, and at one time had four different lodgings in different corners of London. He was deeply engaged in the Rye House plot. There is, indeed, reason to believe that he was the original author of those sanguinary schemes which brought so much discredit on the whole Whig party. When the conspiracy was detected and his associates were in dismay, he bade them farewell with a laugh, and told them that they were novices, that he had been used to flight, concealment and disguise, and that he should never leave off plotting while he lived. He escaped to the Continent. But it seemed that even on the Continent he was not secure. The English envoys at foreign courts were directed to be on the watch for him. The French government offered a reward of five hundred pistoles to any who would seize him. Nor was it easy for him to escape notice; for his broad Scotch accent, his tall and lean figure, his lantern jaws, the gleam of his sharp eyes which were always overhung by his wig, his cheeks inflamed by an eruption, his shoulders deformed by a stoop, and his gait distinguished from that of other men by a peculiar shuffle, made him remarkable wherever he appeared. But, though he was, as it seemed, pursued with peculiar animosity, it was whispered that this animosity was feigned, and that the officers of justice had secret orders not to see him. That he was really a bitter malecontent can scarcely be doubted. But there is strong reason to believe that he provided for his own safety by pretending at Whitehall to be a spy on the Whigs, and by furnishing the government with just so much information as sufficed to keep up his credit. This hypothesis furnishes a simple explanation of what seemed to his associates to be his unnatural recklessness and audacity. Being himself out of danger, he always gave his vote for the most violent and perilous course, and sneered very complacently at the pusillanimity of men who, not having taken the infamous precautions on which he relied, were disposed to think twice before they placed life, and objects dearer than life, on a single hazard. 
As soon as he was in the Low Countries he began to form new projects against the English government, and found among his fellow emigrants men ready to listen to his evil counsels. Monmouth, however, stood obstinately aloof; and, without the help of Monmouth's immense popularity, it was impossible to effect anything. Yet such was the impatience and rashness of the exiles that they tried to find another leader. They sent an embassy to that solitary retreat on the shores of Lake Leman where Edmund Ludlow, once conspicuous among the chiefs of the parliamentary army and among the members of the High Court of Justice, had, during many years, hidden himself from the vengeance of the restored Stuarts. The stern old regicide, however, refused to quit his hermitage. His work, he said, was done. If England was still to be saved, she must be saved by younger men.
The unexpected demise of the crown changed the whole aspect of affairs. Any hope which the proscribed Whigs might have cherished of returning peaceably to their native land was extinguished by the death of a careless and goodnatured prince, and by the accession of a prince obstinate in all things, and especially obstinate in revenge. Ferguson was in his element. Destitute of the talents both of a writer and of a statesman, he had in a high degree the unenviable qualifications of a tempter; and now, with the malevolent activity and dexterity of an evil spirit, he ran from outlaw to outlaw, chattered in every ear, and stirred up in every bosom savage animosities and wild desires.
He no longer despaired of being able to seduce Monmouth. The situation of that unhappy young man was completely changed. While he was dancing and skating at the Hague, and expecting every day a summons to London, he was overwhelmed with misery by the tidings of his father's death and of his uncle's accession. During the night which followed the arrival of the news, those who lodged near him could distinctly hear his sobs and his piercing cries. He quitted the Hague the next day, having solemnly pledged his word both to the Prince and to the Princess of Orange not to attempt anything against the government of England, and having been supplied by them with money to meet immediate demands.
The prospect which lay before Monmouth was not a bright one. There was now no probability that he would be recalled from banishment. On the Continent his life could no longer be passed amidst the splendour and festivity of a court. His cousins at the Hague seem to have really regarded him with kindness; but they could no longer countenance him openly without serious risk of producing a rupture between England and Holland. William offered a kind and judicious suggestion. The war which was then raging in Hungary, between the Emperor and the Turks, was watched by all Europe with interest almost as great as that which the Crusades had excited five hundred years earlier. Many gallant gentlemen, both Protestant and Catholic, were fighting as volunteers in the common cause of Christendom. The Prince advised Monmouth to repair to the Imperial camp, and assured him that, if he would do so, he should not want the means of making an appearance befitting an English nobleman. This counsel was excellent: but the Duke could not make up his mind. He retired to Brussels accompanied by Henrietta Wentworth, Baroness Wentworth of Nettlestede, a damsel of high rank and ample fortune, who loved him passionately, who had sacrificed for his sake her maiden honour and the hope of a splendid alliance, who had followed him into exile, and whom he believed to be his wife in the sight of heaven. Under the soothing influence of female friendship, his lacerated mind healed fast. He seemed to have found happiness in obscurity and repose, and to have forgotten that he had been the ornament of a splendid court and the head of a great party, that he had commanded armies, and that he had aspired to a throne.
But he was not suffered to remain quiet. Ferguson employed all his powers of temptation. Grey, who knew not where to turn for a pistole, and was ready for any undertaking, however desperate, lent his aid. No art was spared which could draw Monmouth from retreat. To the first invitations which he received from his old associates he returned unfavourable answers. He pronounced the difficulties of a descent on England insuperable, protested that he was sick of public life, and begged to be left in the enjoyment of his newly found happiness. But he was little in the habit of resisting skilful and urgent importunity. It is said, too, that he was induced to quit his retirement by the same powerful influence which had made that retirement delightful. Lady Wentworth wished to see him a King. Her rents, her diamonds, her credit were put at his disposal. Monmouth's judgment was not convinced; but he had not the firmness to resist such solicitations.
By the English exiles he was joyfully welcomed, and unanimously acknowledged as their head. But there was another class of emigrants who were not disposed to recognise his supremacy. Misgovernment, such as had never been known in the southern part of our island, had driven from Scotland to the Continent many fugitives, the intemperance of whose political and religious zeal was proportioned to the oppression which they had undergone. These men were not willing to follow an English leader. Even in destitution and exile they retained their punctilious national pride, and would not consent that their country should be, in their persons, degraded into a province. They had a captain of their own, Archibald, ninth Earl of Argyle, who, as chief of the great tribe of Campbell, was known among the population of the Highlands by the proud name of Mac Callum More. His father, the Marquess of Argyle, had been the head of the Scotch Covenanters, had greatly contributed to the ruin of Charles the First, and was not thought by the Royalists to have atoned for this offence by consenting to bestow the empty title of King, and a state prison in a palace, on Charles the Second. After the return of the royal family the Marquess was put to death. His marquisate became extinct; but his son was permitted to inherit the ancient earldom, and was still among the greatest if not the greatest, of the nobles of Scotland. The Earl's conduct during the twenty years which followed the Restoration had been, as he afterwards thought, criminally moderate. He had, on some occasions, opposed the administration which afflicted his country: but his opposition had been languid and cautious. His compliances in ecclesiastical matters had given scandal to rigid Presbyterians: and so far had he been from showing any inclination to resistance that, when the Covenanters had been persecuted into insurrection, he had brought into the field a large body of his dependents to support the government.
Such had been his political course until the Duke of York came down to Edinburgh armed with the whole regal authority. The despotic viceroy soon found that he could not expect entire support from Argyle. Since the most powerful chief in the kingdom could not be gained, it was thought necessary that he should be destroyed. On grounds so frivolous that even the spirit of party and the spirit of chicane were ashamed of them, he was brought to trial for treason, convicted, and sentenced to death. The partisans of the Stuarts afterwards asserted that it was never meant to carry this sentence into effect, and that the only object of the prosecution was to frighten him into ceding his extensive jurisdiction in the Highlands. Whether James designed, as his enemies suspected, to commit murder, or only, as his friends affirmed, to commit extortion by threatening to commit murder, cannot now be ascertained. "I know nothing of the Scotch law," said Halifax to King Charles; "but this I know, that we should not hang a dog here on the grounds on which my Lord Argyle has been sentenced."
Argyle escaped in disguise to England, and thence passed over to Friesland. In that secluded province his father had bought a small estate, as a place of refuge for the family in civil troubles. It was said, among the Scots that this purchase had been made in consequence of the predictions of a Celtic seer, to whom it had been revealed that Mac Callum More would one day be driven forth from the ancient mansion of his race at Inverary. But it is probable that the politic Marquess had been warned rather by the signs of the times than by the visions of any prophet. In Friesland Earl Archibald resided during some time so quietly that it was not generally known whither he had fled. From his retreat he carried on a correspondence with his friends in Great Britain, was a party to the Whig conspiracy, and concerted with the chiefs of that conspiracy a plan for invading Scotland. This plan had been dropped upon the detection of the Rye House plot, but became again the subject of his thoughts after the demise of the crown.
He had, during his residence on the Continent, reflected much more deeply on religious questions than in the preceding years of his life. In one respect the effect of these reflections on his mind had been pernicious. His partiality for the synodical form of church government now amounted to bigotry. When he remembered how long he had conformed to the established worship, he was overwhelmed with shame and remorse, and showed too many signs of a disposition to atone for his defection by violence and intolerance. He had however, in no long time, an opportunity of proving that the fear and love of a higher Power had nerved him for the most formidable conflicts by which human nature can be tried.
To his companions in adversity his assistance was of the highest moment. Though proscribed and a fugitive. he was still, in some sense, the most powerful subject in the British dominions. In wealth, even before his attainder, he was probably inferior, not only to the great English nobles, but to some of the opulent esquires of Kent and Norfolk. But his patriarchal authority, an authority which no wealth could give and which no attainder could take away, made him, as a leader of an insurrection, truly formidable. No southern lord could feel any confidence that, if he ventured to resist the government, even his own gamekeepers and huntsmen would stand by him. An Earl of Bedford, an Earl of Devonshire, could not engage to bring ten men into the field. Mac Callum More, penniless and deprived of his earldom, might at any moment, raise a serious civil war. He bad only to show himself on the coast of Lorn; and an army would, in a few days, gather round him. The force which, in favourable circumstances, he could bring into the field, amounted to five thousand fighting men, devoted to his service, accustomed to the use of target and broadsword, not afraid to encounter regular troops even in the open plain, and perhaps superior to regular troops in the qualifications requisite for the defence of wild mountain passes, hidden in mist, and torn by headlong torrents. What such a force, well directed, could effect, even against veteran regiments and skilful commanders, was proved, a few years later, at Killiecrankie.
But, strong as was the claim of Argyle to the confidence of the exiled Scots, there was a faction among them which regarded him with no friendly feeling, and which wished to make use of his name and influence, without entrusting to him any real power. The chief of this faction was a lowland gentleman, who had been implicated in the Whig plot, and had with difficulty eluded the vengeance of the court, Sir Patrick Hume, of Polwarth, in Berwickshire. Great doubt has been thrown on his integrity, but without sufficient reason. It must, however, be admitted that he injured his cause by perverseness as much as he could have done by treachery. He was a man incapable alike of leading and of following, conceited, captious, and wrongheaded, an endless talker, a sluggard in action against the enemy and active only against his own allies. With Hume was closely connected another Scottish exile of great note, who had many of the same faults, Sir John Cochrane, second son of the Earl of Dundonald.
A far higher character belonged to Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, a man distinguished by learning and eloquence, distinguished also by courage, disinterestedness, and public spirit but of an irritable and impracticable temper. Like many of his most illustrious contemporaries, Milton for example, Harrington, Marvel, and Sidney, Fletcher had, from the misgovernment of several successive princes, conceived a strong aversion to hereditary monarchy. Yet he was no democrat. He was the head of an ancient Norman house, and was proud of his descent. He was a fine speaker and a fine writer, and was proud of his intellectual superiority. Both in his character of gentleman, and in his character of scholar, he looked down with disdain on the common people, and was so little disposed to entrust them with political power that he thought them unfit even to enjoy personal freedom. It is a curious circumstance that this man, the most honest, fearless, and uncompromising republican of his time, should have been the author of a plan for reducing a large part of the working classes of Scotland to slavery. He bore, in truth, a lively resemblance to those Roman Senators who, while they hated the name of King, guarded the privileges of their order with inflexible pride against the encroachments of the multitude, and governed their bondmen and bondwomen by means of the stocks and the scourge.
Amsterdam was the place where the leading emigrants, Scotch and English, assembled. Argyle repaired thither from Friesland, Monmouth from Brabant. It soon appeared that the fugitives had scarcely anything in common except hatred of James and impatience to return from banishment. The Scots were jealous of the English, the English of the Scots. Monmouth's high pretensions were offensive to Argyle, who, proud of ancient nobility and of a legitimate descent from kings, was by no means inclined to do homage to the offspring of a vagrant and ignoble love. But of all the dissensions by which the little band of outlaws was distracted the most serious was that which arose between Argyle and a portion of his own followers. Some of the Scottish exiles had, in a long course of opposition to tyranny, been excited into a morbid state of understanding and temper, which made the most just and necessary restraint insupportable to them. They knew that without Argyle they could do nothing. They ought to have known that, unless they wished to run headlong to ruin, they must either repose full confidence in their leader, or relinquish all thoughts of military enterprise. Experience has fully proved that in war every operation, from the greatest to the smallest, ought to be under the absolute direction of one mind, and that every subordinate agent, in his degree, ought to obey implicitly, strenuously, and with the show of cheerfulness, orders which he disapproves, or of which the reasons are kept secret from him. Representative assemblies, public discussions, and all the other checks by which, in civil affairs, rulers are restrained from abusing power, are out of place in a camp. Machiavel justly imputed many of the disasters of Venice and Florence to the jealousy which led those republics to interfere with every one of their generals. The Dutch practice of sending to an army deputies, without whose consent no great blow could be struck, was almost equally pernicious. It is undoubtedly by no means certain that a captain, who has been entrusted with dictatorial power in the hour of peril, will quietly surrender that power in the hour of triumph; and this is one of the many considerations which ought to make men hesitate long before they resolve to vindicate public liberty by the sword. But, if they determine to try the chance of war, they will, if they are wise, entrust to their chief that plenary authority without which war cannot be well conducted. It is possible that, if they give him that authority, he may turn out a Cromwell or a Napoleon. But it is almost certain that, if they withhold from him that authority, their enterprises will end like the enterprise of Argyle.
Some of the Scottish emigrants, heated with republican enthusiasm, and utterly destitute of the skill necessary to the conduct of great affairs, employed all their industry and ingenuity, not in collecting means for the attack which they were about to make on a formidable enemy, but in devising restraints on their leader's power and securities against his ambition. The selfcomplacent stupidity with which they insisted on organising an army as if they had been organising a commonwealth would be incredible if it had not been frankly and even boastfully recorded by one of themselves.
At length all differences were compromised. It was determined that an attempt should be forthwith made on the western coast of Scotland, and that it should be promptly followed by a descent on England.
Argyle was to hold the nominal command in Scotland: but be was placed under the control of a Committee which reserved to itself all the most important parts of the military administration. This committee was empowered to determine where the expedition should land, to appoint officers, to superintend the levying of troops, to dole out provisions and ammunition. All that was left to the general was to direct the evolutions of the army in the field, and he was forced to promise that even in the field, except in the case of a surprise, he would do nothing without the assent of a council of war.
Monmouth was to command in England. His soft mind had as usual, taken an impress from the society which surrounded him. Ambitious hopes, which had seemed to be extinguished, revived in his bosom. He remembered the affection with which he had been constantly greeted by the common people in town and country, and expected that they would now rise by hundreds of thousands to welcome him. He remembered the good will which the soldiers had always borne him, and flattered himself that they would come over to him by regiments. Encouraging messages reached him in quick succession from London. He was assured that the violence and injustice with which the elections had been carried on had driven the nation mad, that the prudence of the leading Whigs had with difficulty prevented a sanguinary outbreak on the day of the coronation, and that all the great Lords who had supported the Exclusion Bill were impatient to rally round him. Wildman, who loved to talk treason in parables, sent to say that the Earl of Richmond, just two hundred years before, had landed in England with a handful of men, and had a few days later been crowned, on the field of Bosworth, with the diadem taken from the head of Richard. Danvers undertook to raise the City. The Duke was deceived into the belief that, as soon as he set up his standard, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Cheshire would rise in arms. He consequently became eager for the enterprise from which a few weeks before he had shrunk. His countrymen did not impose on him restrictions so elaborately absurd as those which the Scotch emigrants had devised. All that was required of him was to promise that he would not assume the regal title till his pretensions has been submitted to the judgment of a free Parliament.
It was determined that two Englishmen, Ayloffe and Rumbold, should accompany Argyle to Scotland, and that Fletcher should go with Monmouth to England. Fletcher, from the beginning, had augured ill of the enterprise: but his chivalrous spirit would not suffer him to decline a risk which his friends seemed eager to encounter. When Grey repeated with approbation what Wildman had said about Richmond and Richard, the well read and thoughtful Scot justly remarked that there was a great difference between the fifteenth century and the seventeenth. Richmond was assured of the support of barons, each of whom could bring an army of feudal retainers into the field; and Richard had not one regiment of regular soldiers.
The exiles were able to raise, partly from their own resources and partly from the contributions of well wishers in Holland, a sum sufficient for the two expeditions. Very little was obtained from London. Six thousand pounds had been expected thence. But instead of the money came excuses from Wildman, which ought to have opened the eyes of all who were not wilfully blind. The Duke made up the deficiency by pawning his own jewels and those of Lady Wentworth. Arms, ammunition, and provisions were bought, and several ships which lay at Amsterdam were freighted.
It is remarkable that the most illustrious and the most grossly injured man among the British exiles stood far aloof from these rash counsels. John Locke hated tyranny and persecution as a philosopher; but his intellect and his temper preserved him from the violence of a partisan. He had lived on confidential terms with Shaftesbury, and had thus incurred the displeasure of the court. Locke's prudence had, however, been such that it would have been to little purpose to bring him even before the corrupt and partial tribunals of that age. In one point, however, he was vulnerable. He was a student of Christ Church in the University of Oxford. It was determined to drive from that celebrated college the greatest man of whom it could ever boast. But this was not easy. Locke had, at Oxford, abstained from expressing any opinion on the politics of the day. Spies had been set about him. Doctors of Divinity and Masters of Arts had not been ashamed to perform the vilest of all offices, that of watching the lips of a companion in order to report his words to his ruin. The conversation in the hall had been purposely turned to irritating topics, to the Exclusion Bill, and to the character of the Earl of Shaftesbury, but in vain. Locke neither broke out nor dissembled, but maintained such steady silence and composure as forced the tools of power to own with vexation that never man was so complete a master of his tongue and of his passions. When it was found that treachery could do nothing, arbitrary power was used. After vainly trying to inveigle Locke into a fault, the government resolved to punish him without one. Orders came from Whitehall that he should be ejected; and those orders the Dean and Canons made haste to obey.
Locke was travelling on the Continent for his health when he learned that he had been deprived of his home and of his bread without a trial or even a notice. The injustice with which he had been treated would have excused him if he had resorted to violent methods of redress. But he was not to be blinded by personal resentment: he augured no good from the schemes of those who had assembled at Amsterdam; and he quietly repaired to Utrecht, where, while his partners in misfortune were planning their own destruction, he employed himself in writing his celebrated letter on Toleration.
The English government was early apprised that something was in agitation among the outlaws. An invasion of England seems not to have been at first expected; but it was apprehended that Argyle would shortly appear in arms among his clansmen. A proclamation was accordingly issued directing that Scotland should be put into a state of defence. The militia was ordered to be in readiness. All the clans hostile to the name of Campbell were set in motion. John Murray, Marquess of Athol, was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Argyleshire, and, at the head of a great body of his followers, occupied the castle of Inverary. Some suspected persons were arrested. Others were compelled to give hostages. Ships of war were sent to cruise near the isle of Bute; and part of the army of Ireland was moved to the coast of Ulster.
While these preparations were making in Scotland, James called into his closet Arnold Van Citters, who had long resided in England as Ambassador from the United Provinces, and Everard Van Dykvelt, who, after the death of Charles, had been sent by the State General on a special mission of condolence and congratulation. The King said that he had received from unquestionable sources intelligence of designs which were forming against the throne by his banished subjects in Holland. Some of the exiles were cutthroats, whom nothing but the special providence of God had prevented from committing a foul murder; and among them was the owner of the spot which had been fixed for the butchery. "Of all men living," said the King, "Argyle has the greatest means of annoying me; and of all places Holland is that whence a blow may be best aimed against me." The Dutch envoys assured his Majesty that what he had said should instantly be communicated to the government which they represented, and expressed their full confidence that every exertion would be made to satisfy him.
They were justified in expressing this confidence. Both the Prince of Orange and the States General, were, at this time, most desirous that the hospitality of their country should not be abused for purposes of which the English government could justly complain. James had lately held language which encouraged the hope that he would not patiently submit to the ascendancy of France. It seemed probable that he would consent to form a close alliance with the United Provinces and the House of Austria. There was, therefore, at the Hague, an extreme anxiety to avoid all that could give him offence. The personal interest of William was also on this occasion identical with the interest of his father in law.
But the case was one which required rapid and vigorous action; and the nature of the Batavian institutions made such action almost impossible. The Union of Utrecht, rudely formed, amidst the agonies of a revolution, for the purpose of meeting immediate exigencies, had never been deliberately revised and perfected in a time of tranquillity. Every one of the seven commonwealths which that Union had bound together retained almost all the rights of sovereignty, and asserted those rights punctiliously against the central government. As the federal authorities had not the means of exacting prompt obedience from the provincial authorities, so the provincial authorities had not the means of exacting prompt obedience from the municipal authorities. Holland alone contained eighteen cities, each of which was, for many purposes, an independent state, jealous of all interference from without. If the rulers of such a city received from the Hague an order which was unpleasing to them, they either neglected it altogether, or executed it languidly and tardily. In some town councils, indeed, the influence of the Prince of Orange was all powerful. But unfortunately the place where the British exiles had congregated, and where their ships had been fitted out, was the rich and populous Amsterdam; and the magistrates of Amsterdam were the heads of the faction hostile to the federal government and to the House of Nassau. The naval administration of the United Provinces was conducted by five distinct boards of Admiralty. One of those boards sate at Amsterdam, was partly nominated by the authorities of that city, and seems to have been entirely animated by their spirit.
All the endeavours of the federal government to effect what James desired were frustrated by the evasions of the functionaries of Amsterdam, and by the blunders of Colonel Bevil Skelton, who had just arrived at the Hague as envoy from England. Skelton had been born in Holland during the English troubles, and was therefore supposed to be peculiarly qualified for his post; but he was, in truth, unfit for that and for every other diplomatic situation. Excellent judges of character pronounced him to be the most shallow, fickle, passionate, presumptuous, and garrulous of men. He took no serious notice of the proceedings of the refugees till three vessels which had been equipped for the expedition to Scotland were safe out of the Zuyder Zee, till the arms, ammunition, and provisions were on board, and till the passengers had embarked. Then, instead of applying, as he should have done, to the States General, who sate close to his own door, he sent a messenger to the magistrates of Amsterdam, with a request that the suspected ships might be detained. The magistrates of Amsterdam answered that the entrance of the Zuyder Zee was out of their jurisdiction, and referred him to the federal government. It was notorious that this was a mere excuse, and that, if there had been any real wish at the Stadthouse of Amsterdam to prevent Argyle from sailing, no difficulties would have been made. Skelton now addressed himself to the States General. They showed every disposition to comply with his demand, and, as the case was urgent, departed from the course which they ordinarily observed in the transaction of business. On the same day on which he made his application to them, an order, drawn in exact conformity with his request, was despatched to the Admiralty of Amsterdam. But this order, in consequence of some misinformation, did not correctly describe the situation of the ships. They were said to be in the Texel. They were in the Vlie. The Admiralty of Amsterdam made this error a plea for doing nothing; and, before the error could be rectified, the three ships had sailed.
The last hours which Argyle passed on the coast of Holland were hours of great anxiety. Near him lay a Dutch man of war whose broadside would in a moment have put an end to his expedition. Round his little fleet a boat was rowing, in which were some persons with telescopes whom he suspected to be spies. But no effectual step was taken for the purpose of detaining him; and on the afternoon of the second of May he stood out to sea before a favourable breeze.
The voyage was prosperous. On the sixth the Orkneys were in sight. Argyle very unwisely anchored off Kirkwall, and allowed two of his followers to go on shore there. The Bishop ordered them to be arrested. The refugees proceeded to hold a long and animated debate on this misadventure: for, from the beginning to the end of their expedition, however languid and irresolute their conduct might be, they never in debate wanted spirit or perseverance. Some were for an attack on Kirkwall. Some were for proceeding without delay to Argyleshire. At last the Earl seized some gentlemen who lived near the coast of the island, and proposed to the Bishop an exchange of prisoners. The Bishop returned no answer; and the fleet, after losing three days, sailed away.
This delay was full of danger. It was speedily known at Edinburgh that the rebel squadron had touched at the Orkneys. Troops were instantly put in motion. When the Earl reached his own province, he found that preparations had been made to repel him. At Dunstaffnage he sent his second son Charles on shore to call the Campbells to arms. But Charles returned with gloomy tidings. The herdsmen and fishermen were indeed ready to rally round Mac Callum More; but, of the heads of the clan, some were in confinement, and others had fled. Those gentlemen who remained at their homes were either well affected to the government or afraid of moving, and refused even to see the son of their chief. From Dunstaffnage the small armament proceeded to Campbelltown, near the southern extremity of the peninsula of Kintyre. Here the Earl published a manifesto, drawn up in Holland, under the direction of the Committee, by James Stewart, a Scotch advocate, whose pen was, a few months later, employed in a very different way. In this paper were set forth, with a strength of language sometimes approaching to scurrility, many real and some imaginary grievances. It was hinted that the late King had died by poison. A chief object of the expedition was declared to be the entire suppression, not only of Popery, but of Prelacy, which was termed the most bitter root and offspring of Popery; and all good Scotchmen were exhorted to do valiantly for the cause of their country and of their God.
Zealous as Argyle was for what he considered as pure religion, he did not scruple to practice one rite half Popish and half Pagan. The mysterious cross of yew, first set on fire, and then quenched in the blood of a goat, was sent forth to summon all the Campbells, from sixteen to sixty. The isthmus of Tarbet was appointed for the place of gathering. The muster, though small indeed when compared with what it would have been if the spirit and strength of the clan had been unbroken, was still formidable. The whole force assembled amounted to about eighteen hundred men. Argyle divided his mountaineers into three regiments, and proceeded to appoint officers.
The bickerings which had begun in Holland had never been intermitted during the whole course of the expedition; but at Tarbet they became more violent than ever. The Committee wished to interfere even with the patriarchal dominion of the Earl over the Campbells, and would not allow him to settle the military rank of his kinsmen by his own authority. While these disputatious meddlers tried to wrest from him his power over the Highlands, they carried on their own correspondence with the Lowlands, and received and sent letters which were never communicated to the nominal General. Hume and his confederates had reserved to themselves the superintendence of the stores, and conducted this important part of the administration of war with a laxity hardly to be distinguished from dishonesty, suffered the arms to be spoiled, wasted the provisions, and lived riotously at a time when they ought to have set to all beneath them an example of abstemiousness.
The great question was whether the Highlands or the Lowlands should be the seat of war. The Earl's first object was to establish his authority over his own domains, to drive out the invading clans which had been poured from Perthshire into Argyleshire, and to take possession of the ancient seat of his family at Inverary. He might then hope to have four or five thousand claymores at his command. With such a force he would be able to defend that wild country against the whole power of the kingdom of Scotland. and would also have secured an excellent base for offensive operations. This seems to have been the wisest course open to him. Rumbold, who had been trained in an excellent military school, and who, as an Englishman, might be supposed to be an impartial umpire between the Scottish factions, did all in his power to strengthen the Earl's hands. But Hume and Cochrane were utterly impracticable. Their jealousy of Argyle was, in truth, stronger than their wish for the success of the expedition. They saw that, among his own mountains and lakes, and at the head of an army chiefly composed of his own tribe, he would be able to bear down their opposition, and to exercise the full authority of a General. They muttered that the only men who had the good cause at heart were the Lowlanders, and that the Campbells took up arms neither for liberty nor for the Church of God, but for Mac Callum More alone.
Cochrane declared that he would go to Ayrshire if he went by himself, and with nothing but a pitchfork in his hand. Argyle, after long resistance, consented, against his better judgment, to divide his little army. He remained with Rumbold in the Highlands. Cochrane and Hume were at the head of the force which sailed to invade the Lowlands.
Ayrshire was Cochrane's object: but the coast of Ayrshire was guarded by English frigates; and the adventurers were under the necessity of running up the estuary of the Clyde to Greenock, then a small fishing village consisting of a single row of thatched hovels, now a great and flourishing port, of which the customs amount to more than five times the whole revenue which the Stuarts derived from the kingdom of Scotland. A party of militia lay at Greenock: but Cochrane, who wanted provisions, was determined to land. Hume objected. Cochrane was peremptory, and ordered an officer, named Elphinstone, to take twenty men in a boat to the shore. But the wrangling spirit of the leaders had infected all ranks. Elphinstone answered that he was bound to obey only reasonable commands, that he considered this command as unreasonable, and, in short, that he would not go. Major Fullarton, a brave man, esteemed by all parties, but peculiarly attached to Argyle, undertook to land with only twelve men, and did so in spite of a fire from the coast. A slight skirmish followed. The militia fell back. Cochrane entered Greenock and procured a supply of meal, but found no disposition to insurrection among the people.
In fact, the state of public feeling in Scotland was not such as the exiles, misled by the infatuation common in all ages to exiles, had supposed it to be. The government was, indeed, hateful and hated. But the malecontents were divided into parties which were almost as hostile to one another as to their rulers; nor was any of those parties eager to join the invaders. Many thought that the insurrection had no chance of success. The spirit of many had been effectually broken by long and cruel oppression. There was, indeed, a class of enthusiasts who were little in the habit of calculating chances, and whom oppression had not tamed but maddened. But these men saw little difference between Argyle and James. Their wrath had been heated to such a temperature that what everybody else would have called boiling zeal seemed to them Laodicean lukewarmness. The Earl's past life had been stained by what they regarded as the vilest apostasy. The very Highlanders whom he now summoned to extirpate Prelacy he had a few years before summoned to defend it. And were slaves who knew nothing and cared nothing about religion, who were ready to fight for synodical government, for Episcopacy, for Popery, just as Mac Callum More might be pleased to command, fit allies for the people of God? The manifesto, indecent and intolerant as was its tone, was, in the view of these fanatics, a cowardly and worldly performance. A settlement such as Argyle would have made, such as was afterwards made by a mightier and happier deliverer, seemed to them not worth a struggle. They wanted not only freedom of conscience for themselves, but absolute dominion over the consciences of others; not only the Presbyterian doctrine, polity, and worship, but the Covenant in its utmost rigour. Nothing would content them but that every end for which civil society exists should be sacrificed to the ascendency of a theological system. One who believed no form of church government to be worth a breach of Christian charity, and who recommended comprehension and toleration, was in their phrase, halting between Jehovah and Baal. One who condemned such acts as the murder of Cardinal Beatoun and Archbishop Sharpe fell into the same sin for which Saul had been rejected from being King over Israel. All the rules, by which, among civilised and Christian men, the horrors of war are mitigated, were abominations in the sight of the Lord. Quarter was to be neither taken nor given. A Malay running a muck, a mad dog pursued by a crowd, were the models to be imitated by warriors fighting in just self-defence. To reasons such as guide the conduct of statesmen and generals the minds of these zealots were absolutely impervious. That a man should venture to urge such reasons was sufficient evidence that he was not one of the faithful. If the divine blessing were withheld, little would be effected by crafty politicians, by veteran captains, by cases of arms from Holland, or by regiments of unregenerate Celts from the mountains of Lorn. If, on the other hand, the Lord's time were indeed come, he could still, as of old, cause the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and could save alike by many and by few. The broadswords of Athol and the bayonets of Claverhouse would be put to rout by weapons as insignificant as the sling of David or the pitcher of Gideon.
Cochrane, having found it impossible to raise the population on the south of the Clyde, rejoined Argyle, who was in the island of Bute. The Earl now again proposed to make an attempt upon Inverary. Again he encountered a pertinacious opposition. The seamen sided with Hume and Cochrane. The Highlanders were absolutely at the command of their chieftain. There was reason to fear that the two parties would come to blows; and the dread of such a disaster induced the Committee to make some concession. The castle of Ealan Ghierig, situated at the mouth of Loch Riddan, was selected to be the chief place of arms. The military stores were disembarked there. The squadron was moored close to the walls in a place where it was protected by rocks and shallows such as, it was thought, no frigate could pass. Outworks were thrown up. A battery was planted with some small guns taken from the ships. The command of the fort was most unwisely given to Elphinstone, who had already proved himself much more disposed to argue with his commanders than to fight the enemy.
And now, during a few hours, there was some show of vigour. Rumbold took the castle of Ardkinglass. The Earl skirmished successfully with Athol's troops, and was about to advance on Inverary, when alarming news from the ships and factions in the Committee forced him to turn back. The King's frigates had come nearer to Ealan Ghierig than had been thought possible. The Lowland gentlemen positively refused to advance further into the Highlands. Argyle hastened back to Ealan Ghierig. There he proposed to make an attack on the frigates. His ships, indeed, were ill fitted for such an encounter. But they would have been supported by a flotilla of thirty large fishing boats, each well manned with armed Highlanders. The Committee, however, refused to listen to this plan, and effectually counteracted it by raising a mutiny among the sailors.
All was now confusion and despondency. The provisions had been so ill managed by the Committee that there was no longer food for the troops. The Highlanders consequently deserted by hundreds; and the Earl, brokenhearted by his misfortunes, yielded to the urgency of those who still pertinaciously insisted that he should march into the Lowlands.
The little army therefore hastened to the shore of Loch Long, passed that inlet by night in boats, and landed in Dumbartonshire. Hither, on the following morning, came news that the frigates had forced a passage, that all the Earl's ships had been taken, and that Elphinstone had fled from Ealan Ghierig without a blow, leaving the castle and stores to the enemy.
All that remained was to invade the Lowlands under every disadvantage. Argyle resolved to make a bold push for Glasgow. But, as soon as this resolution was announced, the very men, who had, up to that moment, been urging him to hasten into the low country, took fright, argued, remonstrated, and when argument and remonstrance proved vain, laid a scheme for seizing the boats, making their own escape, and leaving their General and his clansmen to conquer or perish unaided. This scheme failed; and the poltroons who had formed it were compelled to share with braver men the risks of the last venture.
During the march through the country which lies between Loch Long and Loch Lomond, the insurgents were constantly infested by parties of militia. Some skirmishes took place, in which the Earl had the advantage; but the bands which he repelled, falling back before him, spread the tidings of his approach, and, soon after he had crossed the river Leven, he found a strong body of regular and irregular troops prepared to encounter him.
He was for giving battle. Ayloffe was of the same opinion. Hume, on the other hand, declared that to fight would be madness. He saw one regiment in scarlet. More might be behind. To attack such a force was to rush on certain death. The best course was to remain quiet till night, and then to give the enemy the slip.
A sharp altercation followed, which was with difficulty quieted by the mediation of Rumbold. It was now evening. The hostile armies encamped at no great distance from each other. The Earl ventured to propose a night attack, and was again overruled.
Since it was determined not to fight, nothing was left but to take the step which Hume had recommended. There was a chance that, by decamping secretly, and hastening all night across heaths and morasses, the Earl might gain many miles on the enemy, and might reach Glasgow without further obstruction. The watch fires were left burning; and the march began. And now disaster followed disaster fast. The guides mistook the track across the moors, and led the army into boggy ground. Military order could not be preserved by undisciplined and disheartened soldiers under a dark sky, and on a treacherous and uneven soil. Panic after panic spread through the broken ranks. Every sight and sound was thought to indicate the approach of pursuers. Some of the officers contributed to spread the terror which it was their duty to calm. The army had become a mob; and the mob melted fast away. Great numbers fled under cover of the night. Rumbold and a few other brave men whom no danger could have scared lost their way, and were unable to rejoin the main body. When the day broke, only five hundred fugitives, wearied and dispirited, assembled at Kilpatrick.
All thought of prosecuting the war was at an end: and it was plain that the chiefs of the expedition would have sufficient difficulty in escaping with their lives. They fled in different directions. Hume reached the Continent in safety. Cochrane was taken and sent up to London. Argyle hoped to find a secure asylum under the roof of one of his old servants who lived near Kilpatrick. But this hope was disappointed; and he was forced to cross the Clyde. He assumed the dress of a peasant and pretended to be the guide of Major Fullarton, whose courageous fidelity was proof to all danger. The friends journeyed together through Renfrewshire as far as Inchinnan. At that place the Black Cart and the White Cart, two streams which now flow through prosperous towns, and turn the wheels of many factories, but which then held their quiet course through moors and sheepwalks, mingle before they join the Clyde. The only ford by which the travellers could cross was guarded by a party of militia. Some questions were asked. Fullarton tried to draw suspicion on himself, in order that his companion might escape unnoticed. But the minds of the questioners misgave them that the guide was not the rude clown that he seemed. They laid hands on him. He broke loose and sprang into the water, but was instantly chased. He stood at bay for a short time against five assailants. But he had no arms except his pocket pistols, and they were so wet, in consequence of his plunge, that they would not go off. He was struck to the ground with a broadsword, and secured.
He owned himself to be the Earl of Argyle, probably in the hope that his great name would excite the awe and pity of those who had seized him. And indeed they were much moved. For they were plain Scotchmen of humble rank, and, though in arms for the crown, probably cherished a preference for the Calvinistic church government and worship, and had been accustomed to reverence their captive as the head of an illustrious house and as a champion of the Protestant religion. But, though they were evidently touched, and though some of them even wept, they were not disposed to relinquish a large reward and to incur the vengeance of an implacable government. They therefore conveyed their prisoner to Renfrew. The man who bore the chief part in the arrest was named Riddell. On this account the whole race of Riddells was, during more than a century, held in abhorrence by the great tribe of Campbell. Within living memory, when a Riddell visited a fair in Argyleshire, he found it necessary to assume a false name.
And now commenced the brightest part of Argyle's career. His enterprise had hitherto brought on him nothing but reproach and derision. His great error was that he did not resolutely refuse to accept the name without the power of a general. Had he remained quietly at his retreat in Friesland, he would in a few years have been recalled with honour to his country, and would have been conspicuous among the ornaments and the props of constitutional monarchy. Had he conducted his expedition according to his own views, and carried with him no followers but such as were prepared implicitly to obey all his orders, he might possibly have effected something great. For what he wanted as a captain seems to have been, not courage, nor activity, nor skill, but simply authority. He should have known that of all wants this is the most fatal. Armies have triumphed under leaders who possessed no very eminent qualifications. But what army commanded by a debating club ever escaped discomfiture and disgrace?
The great calamity which had fallen on Argyle had this advantage, that it enabled him to show, by proofs not to be mistaken, what manner of man he was. From the day when he quitted. Friesland to the day when his followers separated at Kilpatrick, he had never been a free agent. He had borne the responsibility of a long series of measures which his judgment disapproved. Now at length he stood alone. Captivity had restored to him the noblest kind of liberty, the liberty of governing himself in all his words and actions according to his own sense of the right and of the becoming. From that moment he became as one inspired with new wisdom and virtue. His intellect seemed to be strengthened and concentrated, his moral character to be at once elevated and softened. The insolence of the conquerors spared nothing that could try the temper of a man proud of ancient nobility and of patriarchal dominion. The prisoner was dragged through Edinburgh in triumph. He walked on foot, bareheaded, up the whole length of that stately street which, overshadowed by dark and gigantic piles of stone, leads from Holyrood House to the Castle. Before him marched the hangman, bearing the ghastly instrument which was to be used at the quartering block. The victorious party had not forgotten that, thirty-five years before this time, the father of Argyle had been at the head of the faction which put Montrose to death. Before that event the houses of Graham and Campbell had borne no love to each other; and they had ever since been at deadly feud. Care was taken that the prisoner should pass through the same gate and the same streets through which Montrose had been led to the same doom. When the Earl reached the Castle his legs were put in irons, and he was informed that he had but a few days to live. It had been determined not to bring him to trial for his recent offence, but to put him to death under the sentence pronounced against him several years before, a sentence so flagitiously unjust that the most servile and obdurate lawyers of that bad age could not speak of it without shame.
But neither the ignominious procession up the High Street, nor the near view of death, had power to disturb the gentle and majestic patience of Argyle. His fortitude was tried by a still more severe test. A paper of interrogatories was laid before him by order of the Privy Council. He replied to those questions to which he could reply without danger to any of his friends, and refused to say more. He was told that unless he returned fuller answers he should be put to the torture. James, who was doubtless sorry that he could not feast his own eyes with the sight of Argyle in the boots, sent down to Edinburgh positive orders that nothing should be omitted which could wring out of the traitor information against all who had been concerned in the treason. But menaces were vain. With torments and death in immediate prospect Mac Callum More thought far less of himself than of his poor clansmen. "I was busy this day," he wrote from his cell, "treating for them, and in some hopes. But this evening orders came that I must die upon Monday or Tuesday; and I am to be put to the torture if I answer not all questions upon oath. Yet I hope God shall support me."
The torture was not inflicted. Perhaps the magnanimity of the victim had moved the conquerors to unwonted compassion. He himself remarked that at first they had been very harsh to him, but that they soon began to treat him with respect and kindness. God, he said, had melted their hearts. It is certain that he did not, to save himself from the utmost cruelty of his enemies, betray any of his friends. On the last morning of his life he wrote these words: "I have named none to their disadvantage. I thank God he hath supported me wonderfully!"
He composed his own epitaph, a short poem, full of meaning and spirit, simple and forcible in style, and not contemptible in versification. In this little piece he complained that, though his enemies had repeatedly decreed his death, his friends had been still more cruel. A comment on these expressions is to be found in a letter which he addressed to a lady residing in Holland. She had furnished him with a large sum of money for his expedition, and he thought her entitled to a full explanation of the causes which had led to his failure. He acquitted his coadjutors of treachery, but described their folly, their ignorance, and their factious perverseness, in terms which their own testimony has since proved to have been richly deserved. He afterwards doubted whether he had not used language too severe to become a dying Christian, and, in a separate paper, begged his friend to suppress what he had said of these men "Only this I must acknowledge," he mildly added; "they were not governable."
Most of his few remaining hours were passed in devotion, and in affectionate intercourse with some members of his family. He professed no repentance on account of his last enterprise, but bewailed, with great emotion, his former compliance in spiritual things with the pleasure of the government. He had, he said, been justly punished. One who had so long been guilty of cowardice and dissimulation was not worthy to be the instrument of salvation to the State and Church. Yet the cause, he frequently repeated, was the cause of God, and would assuredly triumph. "I do not," he said, "take on myself to be a prophet. But I have a strong impression on my spirit, that deliverance will come very suddenly." It is not strange that some zealous Presbyterians should have laid up his saying in their hearts, and should, at a later period, have attributed it to divine inspiration.
So effectually had religious faith and hope, co-operating with natural courage and equanimity, composed his spirits, that, on the very day on which he was to die, he dined with appetite, conversed with gaiety at table, and, after his last meal, lay down, as he was wont, to take a short slumber, in order that his body and mind might be in full vigour when he should mount the scaffold. At this time one of the Lords of the Council, who had probably been bred a Presbyterian, and had been seduced by interest to join in oppressing the Church of which he had once been a member, came to the Castle with a message from his brethren, and demanded admittance to the Earl. It was answered that the Earl was asleep. The Privy Councillor thought that this was a subterfuge, and insisted on entering. The door of the cell was softly opened; and there lay Argyle, on the bed, sleeping, in his irons, the placid sleep of infancy. The conscience of the renegade smote him. He turned away sick at heart, ran out of the Castle, and took refuge in the dwelling of a lady of his family who lived hard by. There he flung himself on a couch, and gave himself up to an agony of remorse and shame. His kinswoman, alarmed by his looks and groans, thought that he had been taken with sudden illness, and begged him to drink a cup of sack. "No, no," he said; "that will do me no good." She prayed him to tell her what had disturbed him. "I have been," he said, "in Argyle's prison. I have seen him within an hour of eternity, sleeping as sweetly as ever man did. But as for me -------"
And now the Earl had risen from his bed, and had prepared himself for what was yet to be endured. He was first brought down the High Street to the Council House, where he was to remain during the short interval which was still to elapse before the execution. During that interval he asked for pen and ink, and wrote to his wife: "Dear heart, God is unchangeable: He hath always been good and gracious to me: and no place alters it. Forgive me all my faults; and now comfort thyself in Him, in whom only true comfort is to be found. The Lord be with thee, bless and comfort thee, my dearest. Adieu."
It was now time to leave the Council House. The divines who attended the prisoner were not of his own persuasion; but he listened to them with civility, and exhorted them to caution their flocks against those doctrines which all Protestant churches unite in condemning. He mounted the scaffold, where the rude old guillotine of Scotland, called the Maiden, awaited him, and addressed the people in a speech, tinctured with the peculiar phraseology of his sect, but breathing the spirit of serene piety. His enemies, he said, he forgave, as he hoped to be forgiven. Only a single acrimonious expression escaped him. One of the episcopal clergymen who attended him went to the edge of the scaffold, and called out in a loud voice, "My Lord dies a Protestant." "Yes," said the Earl, stepping forward, "and not only a Protestant, but with a heart hatred of Popery, of Prelacy, and of all superstition." He then embraced his friends, put into their hands some tokens of remembrance for his wife and children, kneeled down, laid his head on the block, prayed during a few minutes, and gave the signal to the executioner. His head was fixed on the top of the Tolbooth, where the head of Montrose had formerly decayed.
The head of the brave and sincere, though not blameless Rumbold, was already on the West Port of Edinburgh. Surrounded by factious and cowardly associates, he had, through the whole campaign, behaved himself like a soldier trained in the school of the great Protector, had in council strenuously supported the authority of Argyle, and had in the field been distinguished by tranquil intrepidity. After the dispersion of the army he was set upon by a party of militia. He defended himself desperately, and would have cut his way through them, had they not hamstringed his horse. He was brought to Edinburgh mortally wounded. The wish of the government was that he should be executed in England. But he was so near death, that, if he was not hanged in Scotland, he could not be hanged at all; and the pleasure of hanging him was one which the conquerors could not bear to forego. It was indeed not to be expected that they would show much lenity to one who was regarded as the chief of the Rye House plot, and who was the owner of the building from which that plot took its name: but the insolence with which they treated the dying man seems to our more humane age almost incredible. One of the Scotch Privy Councillors told him that he was a confounded villain. "I am at peace with God," answered Rumbold, calmly; "how then can I be confounded?"
He was hastily tried, convicted, and sentenced to be hanged and quartered within a few hours, near the City Cross in the High Street. Though unable to stand without the support of two men, he maintained his fortitude to the last, and under the gibbet raised his feeble voice against Popery and tyranny with such vehemence that the officers ordered the drums to strike up, lest the people should hear him. He was a friend, he said, to limited monarchy. But he never would believe that Providence had sent a few men into the world ready booted and spurred to ride, and millions ready saddled and bridled to be ridden. "I desire," he cried, "to bless and magnify God's holy name for this, that I stand here, not for any wrong that I have done, but for adhering to his cause in an evil day. If every hair of my head were a man, in this quarrel I would venture them all."
Both at his trial and at his execution he spoke of assassination with the abhorrence which became a good Christian and a brave soldier. He had never, he protested, on the faith of a dying man, harboured the thought of committing such villany. But he frankly owned that, in conversation with his fellow conspirators, he had mentioned his own house as a place where Charles and James might with advantage be attacked, and that much had been said on the subject, though nothing had been determined. It may at first sight seem that this acknowledgment is inconsistent with his declaration that he had always regarded assassination with horror. But the truth appears to be that he was imposed upon by a distinction which deluded many of his contemporaries. Nothing would have induced him to put poison into the food of the two princes, or to poinard them in their sleep. But to make an unexpected onset on the troop of Life Guards which surrounded the royal coach, to exchange sword cuts and pistol shots, and to take the chance of slaying or of being slain, was, in his view, a lawful military operation. Ambuscades and surprises were among the ordinary incidents of war. Every old soldier, Cavalier or Roundhead, had been engaged in such enterprises. If in the skirmish the King should fall, he would fall by fair fighting and not by murder. Precisely the same reasoning was employed, after the Revolution, by James himself and by some of his most devoted followers, to justify a wicked attempt on the life of William the Third. A band of Jacobites was commissioned to attack the Prince of Orange in his winter quarters. The meaning latent under this specious phrase was that the Prince's throat was to be cut as he went in his coach from Richmond to Kensington. It may seem strange that such fallacies, the dregs of the Jesuitical casuistry, should have had power to seduce men of heroic spirit, both Whigs and Tories, into a crime on which divine and human laws have justly set a peculiar note of infamy. But no sophism is too gross to delude minds distempered by party spirit.
Argyle, who survived Rumbold a few hours, left a dying testimony to the virtues of the gallant Englishman. "Poor Rumbold was a great support to me, and a brave man, and died Christianly."
Ayloffe showed as much contempt of death as either Argyle or Rumbold: but his end did not, like theirs, edify pious minds. Though political sympathy had drawn him towards the Puritans, he had no religious sympathy with them, and was indeed regarded by them as little better than an atheist. He belonged to that section of the Whigs which sought for models rather among the patriots of Greece and Rome than among the prophets and judges of Israel. He was taken prisoner, and carried to Glasgow. There he attempted to destroy himself with a small penknife: but though he gave himself several wounds, none of them proved mortal, and he had strength enough left to bear a journey to London. He was brought before the Privy Council, and interrogated by the King, but had too much elevation of mind to save himself by informing against others. A story was current among the Whigs that the King said, "You had better be frank with me, Mr. Ayloffe. You know that it is in my power to pardon you." Then, it was rumoured, the captive broke his sullen silence, and answered, "It may be in your power; but it is not in your nature." He was executed under his old outlawry before the gate of the Temple, and died with stoical composure. 
In the meantime the vengeance of the conquerors was mercilessly wreaked on the people of Argyleshire. Many of the Campbells were hanged by Athol without a trial; and he was with difficulty restrained by the Privy Council from taking more lives. The country to the extent of thirty miles round Inverary was wasted. Houses were burned: the stones of mills were broken to pieces: fruit trees were cut down, and the very roots seared with fire. The nets and fishing boats, the sole means by which many inhabitants of the coast subsisted, were destroyed. More than three hundred rebels and malecontents were transported to the colonies. Many of them were also sentenced to mutilation. On a single day the hangman of Edinburgh cut off the ears of thirty-five prisoners. Several women were sent across the Atlantic after being first branded in the cheek with a hot iron. It was even in contemplation to obtain an act of Parliament proscribing the name of Campbell, as the name of Macgregor had been proscribed eighty years before.
Argyle's expedition appears to have produced little sensation in the south of the island. The tidings of his landing reached London just before the English Parliament met. The King mentioned the news from the throne; and the Houses assured him that they would stand by him against every enemy. Nothing more was required of them. Over Scotland they had no authority; and a war of which the theatre was so distant, and of which the event might, almost from the first, be easily foreseen, excited only a languid interest in London.
But, a week before the final dispersion of Argyle's army England was agitated by the news that a more formidable invader had landed on her own shores. It had been agreed among the refugees that Monmouth should sail from Holland six days after the departure of the Scots. He had deferred his expedition a short time, probably in the hope that most of the troops in the south of the island would be moved to the north as soon as war broke out in the Highlands, and that he should find no force ready to oppose him. When at length he was desirous to proceed, the wind had become adverse and violent.
While his small fleet lay tossing in the Texel, a contest was going on among the Dutch authorities. The States General and the Prince of Orange were on one side, the Town Council and Admiralty of Amsterdam on the other.
Skelton had delivered to the States General a list of the refugees whose residence in the United Provinces caused uneasiness to his master. The States General, anxious to grant every reasonable request which James could make, sent copies of the list to the provincial authorities. The provincial authorities sent copies to the municipal authorities. The magistrates of all the towns were directed to take such measures as might prevent the proscribed Whigs from molesting the English government. In general those directions were obeyed. At Rotterdam in particular, where the influence of William was all powerful, such activity was shown as called forth warm acknowledgments from James. But Amsterdam was the chief seat of the emigrants; and the governing body of Amsterdam would see nothing, hear nothing, know of nothing. The High Bailiff of the city, who was himself in daily communication with Ferguson, reported to the Hague that he did not know where to find a single one of the refugees; and with this excuse the federal government was forced to be content. The truth was that the English exiles were as well known at Amsterdam, and as much stared at in the streets, as if they had been Chinese.
A few days later, Skelton received orders from his Court to request that, in consequence of the dangers which threatened his master's throne, the three Scotch regiments in the service of the United Provinces might be sent to Great Britain without delay. He applied to the Prince of Orange; and the prince undertook to manage the matter, but predicted that Amsterdam would raise some difficulty. The prediction proved correct. The deputies of Amsterdam refused to consent, and succeeded in causing some delay. But the question was not one of those on which, by the constitution of the republic, a single city could prevent the wish of the majority from being carried into effect. The influence of William prevailed; and the troops were embarked with great expedition.
Skelton was at the same time exerting himself, not indeed very judiciously or temperately, to stop the ships which the English refugees had fitted out. He expostulated in warm terms with the Admiralty of Amsterdam. The negligence of that board, he said, had already enabled one band of rebels to invade Britain. For a second error of the same kind there could be no excuse. He peremptorily demanded that a large vessel, named the Helderenbergh, might be detained. It was pretended that this vessel was bound for the Canaries. But in truth, she had been freighted by Monmouth, carried twenty-six guns, and was loaded with arms and ammunition. The Admiralty of Amsterdam replied that the liberty of trade and navigation was not to be restrained for light reasons, and that the Helderenbergh could not be stopped without an order from the States General. Skelton, whose uniform practice seems to have been to begin at the wrong end, now had recourse to the States General. The States General gave the necessary orders. Then the Admiralty of Amsterdam pretended that there was not a sufficient naval force in the Texel to seize so large a ship as the Helderenbergh, and suffered Monmouth to sail unmolested.
The weather was bad: the voyage was long; and several English men-of-war were cruising in the channel. But Monmouth escaped both the sea and the enemy. As he passed by the cliffs of Dorsetshire, it was thought desirable to send a boat to the beach with one of the refugees named Thomas Dare. This man, though of low mind and manners, had great influence at Taunton. He was directed to hasten thither across the country, and to apprise his friends that Monmouth would soon be on English ground.
On the morning of the eleventh of June the Helderenbergh, accompanied by two smaller vessels, appeared off the port of Lyme. That town is a small knot of steep and narrow alleys, lying on a coast wild, rocky, and beaten by a stormy sea. The place was then chiefly remarkable for a pier which, in the days of the Plantagenets, had been constructed of stones, unhewn and uncemented. This ancient work, known by the name of the Cob, enclosed the only haven where, in a space of many miles, the fishermen could take refuge from the tempests of the Channel.
The appearance of the three ships, foreign built and without colours, perplexed the inhabitants of Lyme; and the uneasiness increased when it was found that the Customhouse officers, who had gone on board according to usage, did not return. The town's people repaired to the cliffs, and gazed long and anxiously, but could find no solution of the mystery. At length seven boats put off from the largest of the strange vessels, and rowed to the shore. From these boats landed about eighty men, well armed and appointed. Among them were Monmouth, Grey, Fletcher, Ferguson, Wade, and Anthony Buyse, an officer who had been in the service of the Elector of Brandenburg.
Monmouth commanded silence, kneeled down on the shore, thanked God for having preserved the friends of liberty and pure religion from the perils of the sea, and implored the divine blessing on what was yet to be done by land. He then drew his sword, and led his men over the cliffs into the town.
As soon as it was known under what leader and for what purpose the expedition came, the enthusiasm of the populace burst through all restraints. The little town was in an uproar with men running to and fro, and shouting "A Monmouth! a Monmouth! the Protestant religion!" Meanwhile the ensign of the adventurers, a blue flag, was set up in the marketplace. The military stores were deposited in the town hall; and a Declaration setting forth the objects of the expedition was read from the Cross.
This Declaration, the masterpiece of Ferguson's genius, was not a grave manifesto such as ought to be put forth by a leader drawing the sword for a great public cause, but a libel of the lowest class, both in sentiment and language. It contained undoubtedly many just charges against the government. But these charges were set forth in the prolix and inflated style of a bad pamphlet; and the paper contained other charges of which the whole disgrace falls on those who made them. The Duke of York, it was positively affirmed, had burned down London, had strangled Godfrey, had cut the throat of Essex, and had poisoned the late King. On account of those villanous and unnatural crimes, but chiefly of that execrable fact, the late horrible and barbarous parricide,--such was the copiousness and such the felicity of Ferguson's diction,--James was declared a mortal and bloody enemy, a tyrant, a murderer, and an usurper. No treaty should be made with him. The sword should not be sheathed till he had been brought to condign punishment as a traitor. The government should be settled on principles favourable to liberty. All Protestant sects should be tolerated. The forfeited charters should be restored. Parliament should be held annually, and should no longer be prorogued or dissolved by royal caprice. The only standing force should be the militia: the militia should be commanded by the Sheriffs; and the Sheriffs should be chosen by the freeholders. Finally Monmouth declared that he could prove himself to have been born in lawful wedlock, and to be, by right of blood, King of England, but that, for the present, he waived his claims, that he would leave them to the judgment of a free Parliament, and that, in the meantime, he desired to be considered only as the Captain General of the English Protestants, who were in arms against tyranny and Popery.
Disgraceful as this manifesto was to those who put it forth, it was not unskilfully framed for the purpose of stimulating the passions of the vulgar. In the West the effect was great. The gentry and clergy of that part of England were indeed, with few exceptions, Tories. But the yeomen, the traders of the towns, the peasants, and the artisans were generally animated by the old Roundhead spirit. Many of them were Dissenters, and had been goaded by petty persecution into a temper fit for desperate enterprise. The great mass of the population abhorred Popery and adored Monmouth. He was no stranger to them. His progress through Somersetshire and Devonshire in the. summer of 1680 was still fresh in the memory of all men.
He was on that occasion sumptuously entertained by Thomas Thynne at Longleat Hall, then, and perhaps still, the most magnificent country house in England. From Longleat to Exeter the hedges were lined with shouting spectators. The roads were strewn with boughs and flowers. The multitude, in their eagerness to see and touch their favourite, broke down the palings of parks, and besieged the mansions where he was feasted. When he reached Chard his escort consisted of five thousand horsemen. At Exeter all Devonshire had been gathered together to welcome him. One striking part of the show was a company of nine hundred young men who, clad in a white uniform, marched before him into the city. The turn of fortune which had alienated the gentry from his cause had produced no effect on the common people. To them he was still the good Duke, the Protestant Duke, the rightful heir whom a vile conspiracy kept out of his own. They came to his standard in crowds. All the clerks whom he could employ were too few to take down the names of the recruits. Before he had been twenty-four hours on English ground he was at the head of fifteen hundred men. Dare arrived from Taunton with forty horsemen of no very martial appearance, and brought encouraging intelligence as to the state of public feeling in Somersetshire. As yet all seemed to promise well.
But a force was collecting at Bridport to oppose the insurgents. On the thirteenth of June the red regiment of Dorsetshire militia came pouring into that town. The Somersetshire, or yellow regiment, of which Sir William Portman, a Tory gentleman of great note, was Colonel, was expected to arrive on the following day. The Duke determined to strike an immediate blow. A detachment of his troops was preparing to march to Bridport when a disastrous event threw the whole camp into confusion.
Fletcher of Saltoun had been appointed to command the cavalry under Grey. Fletcher was ill mounted; and indeed there were few chargers in the camp which had not been taken from the plough. When he was ordered to Bridport, he thought that the exigency of the case warranted him in borrowing, without asking permission, a fine horse belonging to Dare. Dare resented this liberty, and assailed Fletcher with gross abuse. Fletcher kept his temper better than any one who knew him expected. At last Dare, presuming on the patience with which his insolence had been endured, ventured to shake a switch at the high born and high spirited Scot. Fletcher's blood boiled. He drew a pistol and shot Dare dead. Such sudden and violent revenge would not have been thought strange in Scotland, where the law had always been weak, where he who did not right himself by the strong hand was not likely to be righted at all, and where, consequently, human life was held almost as cheap as in the worst governed provinces of Italy. But the people of the southern part of the island were not accustomed to see deadly weapons used and blood spilled on account of a rude word or gesture, except in duel between gentlemen with equal arms. There was a general cry for vengeance on the foreigner who had murdered an Englishman. Monmouth could not resist the clamour. Fletcher, who, when his first burst of rage had spent itself, was overwhelmed with remorse and sorrow, took refuge on board of the Helderenbergh, escaped to the Continent, and repaired to Hungary, where he fought bravely against the common enemy of Christendom.
Situated as the insurgents were, the loss of a man of parts and energy was not easily to be repaired. Early on the morning of the following day, the fourteenth of June, Grey, accompanied by Wade, marched with about five hundred men to attack Bridport. A confused and indecisive action took place, such as was to be expected when two bands of ploughmen, officered by country gentlemen and barristers, were opposed to each other. For a time Monmouth's men drove the militia before them. Then the militia made a stand, and Monmouth's men retreated in some confusion. Grey and his cavalry never stopped till they were safe at Lyme again: but Wade rallied the infantry and brought them off in good order.
There was a violent outcry against Grey; and some of the adventurers pressed Monmouth to take a severe course. Monmouth, however, would not listen to this advice. His lenity has been attributed by some writers to his good nature, which undoubtedly often amounted to weakness. Others have supposed that he was unwilling to deal harshly with the only peer who served in his army. It is probable, however, that the Duke, who, though not a general of the highest order, understood war very much better than the preachers and lawyers who were always obtruding their advice on him, made allowances which people altogether inexpert in military affairs never thought of making. In justice to a man who has had few defenders, it must be observed that the task, which, throughout this campaign, was assigned to Grey, was one which, if he had been the boldest and most skilful of soldiers, he would scarcely have performed in such a manner as to gain credit. He was at the head of the cavalry. It is notorious that a horse soldier requires a longer training than a foot soldier, and that the war horse requires a longer training than his rider. Something may be done with a raw infantry which has enthusiasm and animal courage: but nothing can be more helpless than a raw cavalry, consisting of yeomen and tradesmen mounted on cart horses and post horses; and such was the cavalry which Grey commanded. The wonder is, not that his men did not stand fire with resolution, not that they did not use their weapons with vigour, but that they were able to keep their seats.
Still recruits came in by hundreds. Arming and drilling went on all day. Meantime the news of the insurrection had spread fast and wide. On the evening on which the Duke landed, Gregory Alford, Mayor of Lyme, a zealous Tory, and a bitter persecutor of Nonconformists, sent off his servants to give the alarm to the gentry of Somersetshire and Dorsetshire, and himself took horse for the West. Late at night he stopped at Honiton, and thence despatched a few hurried lines to London with the ill tidings. He then pushed on to Exeter, where he found Christopher Monk, Duke of Albemarle. This nobleman, the son and heir of George Monk, the restorer of the Stuarts, was Lord Lieutenant of Devonshire, and was then holding a muster of militia. Four thousand men of the trainbands were actually assembled under his command. He seems to have thought that, with this force, he should be able at once to crush the rebellion. He therefore marched towards Lyme.
But when, on the afternoon of Monday the fifteenth of June, he reached Axminster, he found the insurgents drawn up there to encounter him. They presented a resolute front. Four field pieces were pointed against the royal troops. The thick hedges, which on each side overhung the narrow lanes, were lined with musketeers. Albemarle, however, was less alarmed by the preparations of the enemy than by the spirit which appeared in his own ranks. Such was Monmouth's popularity among the common people of Devonshire that, if once the trainbands had caught sight of his well known face and figure, they would have probably gone over to him in a body.
Albemarle, therefore, though he had a great superiority of force, thought it advisable to retreat. The retreat soon became a rout. The whole country was strewn with the arms and uniforms which the fugitives had thrown away; and, had Monmouth urged the pursuit with vigour, he would probably have taken Exeter without a blow. But he was satisfied with the advantage which he had gained, and thought it desirable that his recruits should be better trained before they were employed in any hazardous service. He therefore marched towards Taunton, where he arrived on the eighteenth of June, exactly a week after his landing.
The Court and the Parliament had been greatly moved by the news from the West. At five in the morning of Saturday the thirteenth of June, the King had received the letter which the Mayor of Lyme had despatched from Honiton. The Privy Council was instantly called together. Orders were given that the strength of every company of infantry and of every troop of cavalry should be increased. Commissions were issued for the levying of new regiments. Alford's communication was laid before the Lords; and its substance was communicated to the Commons by a message. The Commons examined the couriers who had arrived from the West, and instantly ordered a bill to be brought in for attainting Monmouth of high treason. Addresses were voted assuring the King that both his peers and his people were determined to stand by him with life and fortune against all his enemies. At the next meeting of the Houses they ordered the Declaration of the rebels to be burned by the hangman, and passed the bill of attainder through all its stages. That bill received the royal assent on the same day; and a reward of five thousand pounds was promised for the apprehension of Monmouth.
The fact that Monmouth was in arms against the government was so notorious that the bill of attainder became a law with only a faint show of opposition from one or two peers, and has seldom been severely censured even by Whig historians. Yet, when we consider how important it is that legislative and judicial functions should be kept distinct, how important it is that common fame, however strong and general, should not be received as a legal proof of guilt, how important it is to maintain the rule that no man shall be condemned to death without an opportunity of defending himself, and how easily and speedily breaches in great principles, when once made, are widened, we shall probably be disposed to think that the course taken by the Parliament was open to some objection. Neither House had before it anything which even so corrupt a judge as Jeffreys could have directed a jury to consider as proof of Monmouth's crime. The messengers examined by the Commons were not on oath, and might therefore have related mere fictions without incurring the penalties of perjury. The Lords, who might have administered an oath, appeared not to have examined any witness, and to have had no evidence before them except the letter of the Mayor of Lyme, which, in the eye of the law, was no evidence at all. Extreme danger, it is true, justifies extreme remedies. But the Act of Attainder was a remedy which could not operate till all danger was over, and which would become superfluous at the very moment at which it ceased to be null. While Monmouth was in arms it was impossible to execute him. If he should be vanquished and taken, there would be no hazard and no difficulty in trying him. It was afterwards remembered as a curious circumstance that, among zealous Tories who went up with the bill from the House of Commons to the bar of the Lords, was Sir John Fenwick, member for Northumberland. This gentleman, a few years later, had occasion to reconsider the whole subject, and then came to the conclusion that acts of attainder are altogether unjustifiable.
The Parliament gave other proofs of loyalty in this hour of peril. The Commons authorised the King to raise an extraordinary sum of four hundred thousand pounds for his present necessities, and that he might have no difficulty in finding the money, proceeded to devise new imposts. The scheme of taxing houses lately built in the capital was revived and strenuously supported by the country gentlemen. It was resolved not only that such houses should be taxed, but that a bill should be brought in prohibiting the laying of any new foundations within the bills of mortality. The resolution, however, was not carried into effect. Powerful men who had land in the suburbs and who hoped to see new streets and squares rise on their estates, exerted all their influence against the project. It was found that to adjust the details would be a work of time; and the King's wants were so pressing that he thought it necessary to quicken the movements of the House by a gentle exhortation to speed. The plan of taxing buildings was therefore relinquished; and new duties were imposed for a term of five years on foreign silks, linens, and spirits.
The Tories of the Lower House proceeded to introduce what they called a bill for the preservation of the King's person and government. They proposed that it should be high treason to say that Monmouth was legitimate, to utter any words tending to bring the person or government of the sovereign into hatred or contempt, or to make any motion in Parliament for changing the order of succession. Some of these provisions excited general disgust and alarm. The Whigs, few and weak as they were, attempted to rally, and found themselves reinforced by a considerable number of moderate and sensible Cavaliers. Words, it was said, may easily be misunderstood by a dull man. They may be easily misconstrued by a knave. What was spoken metaphorically may be apprehended literally. What was spoken ludicrously may be apprehended seriously. A particle, a tense, a mood, an emphasis, may make the whole difference between guilt and innocence. The Saviour of mankind himself, in whose blameless life malice could find no acts to impeach, had been called in question for words spoken. False witnesses had suppressed a syllable which would have made it clear that those words were figurative, and had thus furnished the Sanhedrim with a pretext under which the foulest of all judicial murders had been perpetrated. With such an example on record, who could affirm that, if mere talk were made a substantive treason, the most loyal subject would be safe? These arguments produced so great an effect that in the committee amendments were introduced which greatly mitigated the severity of the bill. But the clause which made it high treason in a member of Parliament to propose the exclusion of a prince of the blood seems to have raised no debate, and was retained. That clause was indeed altogether unimportant, except as a proof of the ignorance and inexperience of the hotheaded Royalists who thronged the House of Commons. Had they learned the first rudiments of legislation, they would have known that the enactment to which they attached so much value would be superfluous while the Parliament was disposed to maintain the order of succession, and would be repealed as soon as there was a Parliament bent on changing the order of succession.
The bill, as amended, was passed and carried up to the Lords, but did not become law. The King had obtained from the Parliament all the pecuniary assistance that he could expect; and he conceived that, while rebellion was actually raging, the loyal nobility and gentry would be of more use in their counties than at Westminster. He therefore hurried their deliberations to a close, and, on the second of July, dismissed them. On the same day the royal assent was given to a law reviving that censorship of the press which had terminated in 1679. This object was affected by a few words at the end of a miscellaneous statute which continued several expiring acts. The courtiers did not think that they had gained a triumph. The Whigs did not utter a murmur. Neither in the Lords nor in the Commons was there any division, or even, as far as can now be learned, any debate on a question which would, in our age, convulse the whole frame of society. In truth, the change was slight and almost imperceptible; for, since the detection of the Rye House plot, the liberty of unlicensed printing had existed only in name. During many months scarcely one Whig pamphlet had been published except by stealth; and by stealth such pamphlets might be published still.
The Houses then rose. They were not prorogued, but only adjourned, in order that, when they should reassemble, they might take up their business in the exact state in which they had left it.
While the Parliament was devising sharp laws against Monmouth and his partisans, he found at Taunton a reception which might well encourage him to hope that his enterprise would have a prosperous issue. Taunton, like most other towns in the south of England, was, in that age, more important than at present. Those towns have not indeed declined. On the contrary, they are, with very few exceptions, larger and richer, better built and better peopled, than in the seventeenth century. But, though they have positively advanced, they have relatively gone back. They have been far outstripped in wealth and population by the great manufacturing and commercial cities of the north, cities which, in the time of the Stuarts, were but beginning to be known as seats of industry. When Monmouth marched into Taunton it was an eminently prosperous place. Its markets were plentifully supplied. It was a celebrated seat of the woollen manufacture. The people boasted that they lived in a land flowing with milk and honey. Nor was this language held only by partial natives; for every stranger who climbed the graceful tower of St. Mary Magdalene owned that he saw beneath him the most fertile of English valleys. It was a country rich with orchards and green pastures, among which were scattered, in gay abundance, manor houses, cottages, and village spires. The townsmen had long leaned towards Presbyterian divinity and Whig politics. In the great civil war Taunton had, through all vicissitudes, adhered to the Parliament, had been twice closely besieged by Goring, and had been twice defended with heroic valour by Robert Blake, afterwards the renowned Admiral of the Commonwealth. Whole streets had been burned down by the mortars and grenades of the Cavaliers. Food had been so scarce that the resolute governor had announced his intention of putting the garrison on rations of horse flesh. But the spirit of the town had never been subdued either by fire or by hunger.
The Restoration had produced no effect on the temper of the Taunton men. They had still continued to celebrate the anniversary of the happy day on which the siege laid to their town by the royal army had been raised; and their stubborn attachment to the old cause had excited so much fear and resentment at Whitehall that, by a royal order, their moat had been filled up, and their wall demolished to the foundation. The puritanical spirit had been kept up to the height among them by the precepts and example of one of the most celebrated of the dissenting clergy, Joseph Alleine. Alleine was the author of a tract, entitled, An Alarm to the Unconverted, which is still popular both in England and in America. From the gaol to which he was consigned by the victorious Cavaliers, he addressed to his loving friends at Taunton many epistles breathing the spirit of a truly heroic piety. His frame soon sank under the effects of study, toil, and persecution: but his memory was long cherished with exceeding love and reverence by those whom he had exhorted and catechised.
The children of the men who, forty years before, had manned the ramparts of Taunton against the Royalists, now welcomed Monmouth with transports of joy and affection. Every door and window was adorned with wreaths of flowers. No man appeared in the streets without wearing in his hat a green bough, the badge of the popular cause. Damsels of the best families in the town wove colours for the insurgents. One flag in particular was embroidered gorgeously with emblems of royal dignity, and was offered to Monmouth by a train of young girls. He received the gift with the winning courtesy which distinguished him. The lady who headed the procession presented him also with a small Bible of great price. He took it with a show of reverence. "I come," he said, "to defend the truths contained in this book, and to seal them, if it must be so, with my blood."
But while Monmouth enjoyed the applause of the multitude, he could not but perceive, with concern and apprehension, that the higher classes were. with scarcely an exception, hostile to his undertaking, and that no rising had taken place except in the counties where he had himself appeared. He had been assured by agents, who professed to have derived their information from Wildman, that the whole Whig aristocracy was eager to take arms. Nevertheless more than a week had now elapsed since the blue standard had been set up at Lyme. Day labourers, small farmers, shopkeepers, apprentices, dissenting preachers, had flocked to the rebel camp: but not a single peer, baronet, or knight, not a single member of the House of Commons, and scarcely any esquire of sufficient note to have ever been in the commission of the peace, had joined the invaders. Ferguson, who, ever since the death of Charles, had been Monmouth's evil angel, had a suggestion ready. The Duke had put himself into a false position by declining the royal title. Had he declared himself sovereign of England, his cause would have worn a show of legality. At present it was impossible to reconcile his Declaration with the principles of the constitution. It was clear that either Monmouth or his uncle was rightful King. Monmouth did not venture to pronounce himself the rightful King, and yet denied that his uncle was so. Those who fought for James fought for the only person who ventured to claim the throne, and were therefore clearly in their duty, according to the laws of the realm. Those who fought for Monmouth fought for some unknown polity, which was to be set up by a convention not yet in existence. None could wonder that men of high rank and ample fortune stood aloof from an enterprise which threatened with destruction that system in the permanence of which they were deeply interested. If the Duke would assert his legitimacy and assume the crown, he would at once remove this objection. The question would cease to be a question between the old constitution and a new constitution. It would be merely a question of hereditary right between two princes.
On such grounds as these Ferguson, almost immediately after the landing, had earnestly pressed the Duke to proclaim himself King; and Grey had seconded Ferguson. Monmouth had been very willing to take this advice; but Wade and other republicans had been refractory; and their chief, with his usual pliability, had yielded to their arguments. At Taunton the subject was revived. Monmouth talked in private with the dissentients, assured them that he saw no other way of obtaining the support of any portion of the aristocracy, and succeeded in extorting their reluctant consent. On the morning of the twentieth of June he was proclaimed in the market place of Taunton. His followers repeated his new title with affectionate delight. But, as some confusion might have arisen if he had been called King James the Second, they commonly used the strange appellation of King Monmouth: and by this name their unhappy favourite was often mentioned in the western counties, within the memory of persons still living.
Within twenty-four hours after he had assumed the regal title, he put forth several proclamations headed with his sign manual. By one of these he set a price on the head of his rival. Another declared the Parliament then sitting at Westminster an unlawful assembly, and commanded the members to disperse. A third forbade the people to pay taxes to the usurper. A fourth pronounced Albemarle a traitor.
Albemarle transmitted these proclamations to London merely as specimens of folly and impertinence. They produced no effect, except wonder and contempt; nor had Monmouth any reason to think that the assumption of royalty had improved his position. Only a week had elapsed since he had solemnly bound himself not to take the crown till a free Parliament should have acknowledged his rights. By breaking that engagement he had incurred the imputation of levity, if not of perfidy. The class which he had hoped to conciliate still stood aloof. The reasons which prevented the great Whig lords and gentlemen from recognising him as their King were at least as strong as those which had prevented them from rallying round him as their Captain General. They disliked indeed the person, the religion, and the politics of James. But James was no longer young. His eldest daughter was justly popular. She was attached to the reformed faith. She was married to a prince who was the hereditary chief of the Protestants of the Continent, to a prince who had been bred in a republic, and whose sentiments were supposed to be such as became a constitutional King. Was it wise to incur the horrors of civil war, for the mere chance of being able to effect immediately what nature would, without bloodshed, without any violation of law, effect, in all probability, before many years should have expired? Perhaps there might be reasons for pulling down James. But what reason could be given for setting up Monmouth? To exclude a prince from the throne on account of unfitness was a course agreeable to Whig principles. But on no principle could it be proper to exclude rightful heirs, who were admitted to be, not only blameless, but eminently qualified for the highest public trust. That Monmouth was legitimate, nay, that he thought himself legitimate, intelligent men could not believe. He was therefore not merely an usurper, but an usurper of the worst sort, an impostor. If he made out any semblance of a case, he could do so only by means of forgery and perjury. All honest and sensible persons were unwilling to see a fraud which, if practiced to obtain an estate, would have been punished with the scourge and the pillory, rewarded with the English crown. To the old nobility of the realm it seemed insupportable that the bastard of Lucy Walters should be set up high above the lawful descendants of the Fitzalans and De Veres. Those who were capable of looking forward must have seen that, if Monmouth should succeed in overpowering the existing government, there would still remain a war between him and the House of Orange, a war which might last longer and produce more misery than the war of the Roses, a war which might probably break up the Protestants of Europe into hostile parties, might arm England and Holland against each other, and might make both those countries an easy prey to France. The opinion, therefore, of almost all the leading Whigs seems to have been that Monmouth's enterprise could not fail to end in some great disaster to the nation, but that, on the whole, his defeat would be a less disaster than his victory.
It was not only by the inaction of the Whig aristocracy that the invaders were disappointed. The wealth and power of London had sufficed in the preceding generation, and might again suffice, to turn the scale in a civil conflict. The Londoners had formerly given many proofs of their hatred of Popery and of their affection for the Protestant Duke. He had too readily believed that, as soon as he landed, there would be a rising in the capital. But, though advices came down to him that many thousands of the citizens had been enrolled as volunteers for the good cause, nothing was done. The plain truth was that the agitators who had urged him to invade England, who had promised to rise on the first signal, and who had perhaps imagined, while the danger was remote, that they should have the courage to keep their promise, lost heart when the critical time drew near. Wildman's fright was such that he seemed to have lost his understanding. The craven Danvers at first excused his inaction by saying that he would not take up arms till Monmouth was proclaimed King, and. when Monmouth had been proclaimed King, turned round and declared that good republicans were absolved from all engagements to a leader who had so shamefully broken faith. In every age the vilest specimens of human nature are to be found among demagogues.
On the day following that on which Monmouth had assumed the regal title he marched from Taunton to Bridgewater. His own spirits, it was remarked, were not high. The acclamations of the devoted thousands who surrounded him wherever he turned could not dispel the gloom which sate on his brow. Those who had seen him during his progress through Somersetshire five years before could not now observe without pity the traces of distress and anxiety on those soft and pleasing features which had won so many hearts.
Ferguson was in a very different temper. With this man's knavery was strangely mingled an eccentric vanity which resembled madness. The thought that he had raised a rebellion and bestowed a crown had turned his head. He swaggered about, brandishing his naked sword, and crying to the crowd of spectators who had assembled to see the army march out of Taunton, "Look at me! You have heard of me. I am Ferguson, the famous Ferguson, the Ferguson for whose head so many hundred pounds have been offered." And this man, at once unprincipled and brainsick, had in his keeping the understanding and the conscience of the unhappy Monmouth.
Bridgewater was one of the few towns which still had some Whig magistrates. The Mayor and Aldermen came in their robes to welcome the Duke, walked before him in procession to the high cross, and there proclaimed him King. His troops found excellent quarters, and were furnished with necessaries at little or no cost by the people of the town and neighbourhood. He took up his residence in the Castle, a building which had been honoured by several royal visits. In the Castle Field his army was encamped. It now consisted of about six thousand men, and might easily have been increased to double the number, but for the want of arms. The Duke had brought with him from the Continent but a scanty supply of pikes and muskets. Many of his followers had, therefore, no other weapons than such as could be fashioned out of the tools which they had used in husbandry or mining. Of these rude implements of war the most formidable was made by fastening the blade of a scythe erect on a strong pole. The tithing men of the country round Taunton and Bridgewater received orders to search everywhere for scythes and to bring all that could be found to the camp. It was impossible, however, even with the help of these contrivances, to supply the demand; and great numbers who were desirous to enlist were sent away.
The foot were divided into six regiments. Many of the men had been in the militia, and still wore their uniforms, red and yellow. The cavalry were about a thousand in number; but most of them had only large colts, such as were then bred in great herds on the marshes of Somersetshire for the purpose of supplying London with coach horses and cart horses. These animals were so far from being fit for any military purpose that they had not yet learned to obey the bridle, and became ungovernable as soon as they heard a gun fired or a drum beaten. A small body guard of forty young men, well armed, and mounted at their own charge, attended Monmouth. The people of Bridgewater, who were enriched by a thriving coast trade, furnished him with a small sum of money.
All this time the forces of the government were fast assembling. On the west of the rebel army, Albemarle still kept together a large body of Devonshire militia. On the east, the trainbands of Wiltshire had mustered under the command of Thomas Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. On the north east, Henry Somerset, Duke of Beaufort, was in arms. The power of Beaufort bore some faint resemblance to that of the great barons of the fifteenth century. He was President of Wales and Lord Lieutenant of four English counties. His official tours through the extensive region in which he represented the majesty of the throne were scarcely inferior in pomp to royal progresses. His household at Badminton was regulated after the fashion of an earlier generation. The land to a great extent round his pleasure grounds was in his own hands; and the labourers who cultivated it formed part of his family. Nine tables were every day spread under his roof for two hundred persons. A crowd of gentlemen and pages were under the orders of the steward. A whole troop of cavalry obeyed the master of the horse. The fame of the kitchen, the cellar, the kennel, and the stables was spread over all England. The gentry, many miles round, were proud of the magnificence of their great neighbour, and were at the same time charmed by his affability and good nature. He was a zealous Cavalier of the old school. At this crisis, therefore, he used his whole influence and authority in support of the crown, and occupied Bristol with the trainbands of Gloucestershire, who seem to have been better disciplined than most other troops of that description.
In the counties more remote from Somersetshire the supporters of the throne were on the alert. The militia of Sussex began to march westward, under the command of Richard, Lord Lumley, who, though he had lately been converted from the Roman Catholic religion, was still firm in his allegiance to a Roman Catholic King. James Bertie, Earl of Abingdon, called out the array of Oxfordshire. John Fell, Bishop of Oxford, who was also Dean of Christchurch, summoned the undergraduates of his University to take arms for the crown. The gownsmen crowded to give in their names. Christchurch alone furnished near a hundred pikemen and musketeers. Young noblemen and gentlemen commoners acted as officers; and the eldest son of the Lord Lieutenant was Colonel.
But it was chiefly on the regular troops that the King relied. Churchill had been sent westward with the Blues; and Feversham was following with all the forces that could be spared from the neighbourhood of London. A courier had started for Holland with a letter directing Skelton instantly to request that the three English regiments in the Dutch service might be sent to the Thames. When the request was made, the party hostile to the House of Orange, headed by the deputies of Amsterdam, again tried to cause delay. But the energy of William, who had almost as much at stake as James, and who saw Monmouth's progress with serious uneasiness, bore down opposition, and in a few days the troops sailed. The three Scotch regiments were already in England. They had arrived at Gravesend in excellent condition, and James had reviewed them on Blackheath. He repeatedly declared to the Dutch Ambassador that he had never in his life seen finer or better disciplined soldiers, and expressed the warmest gratitude to the Prince of Orange and the States for so valuable and seasonable a reinforcement. This satisfaction, however, was not unmixed. Excellently as the men went through their drill, they were not untainted with Dutch politics and Dutch divinity. One of them was shot and another flogged for drinking the Duke of Monmouth's health. It was therefore not thought advisable to place them in the post of danger. They were kept in the neighbourhood of London till the end of the campaign. But their arrival enabled the King to send to the West some infantry which would otherwise have been wanted in the capital.
While the government was thus preparing for a conflict with the rebels in the field, precautions of a different kind were not neglected. In London alone two hundred of those persons who were thought most likely to be at the head of a Whig movement were arrested. Among the prisoners were some merchants of great note. Every man who was obnoxious to the Court went in fear. A general gloom overhung the capital. Business languished on the Exchange; and the theatres were so generally deserted that a new opera, written by Dryden, and set off by decorations of unprecedented magnificence, was withdrawn, because the receipts would not cover the expenses of the performance. The magistrates and clergy were everywhere active. the Dissenters were everywhere closely observed. In Cheshire and Shropshire a fierce persecution raged; in Northamptonshire arrests were numerous; and the gaol of Oxford was crowded with prisoners. No Puritan divine, however moderate his opinions, however guarded his conduct, could feel any confidence that he should not be torn from his family and flung into a dungeon.
Meanwhile Monmouth advanced from Bridgewater harassed through the whole march by Churchill, who appears to have done all that, with a handful of men, it was possible for a brave and skilful officer to effect. The rebel army, much annoyed, both by the enemy and by a heavy fall of rain, halted in the evening of the twenty-second of June at Glastonbury. The houses of the little town did not afford shelter for so large a force. Some of the troops were therefore quartered in the churches, and others lighted their fires among the venerable ruins of the Abbey, once the wealthiest religious house in our island. From Glastonbury the Duke marched to Wells, and from Wells to Shepton Mallet.
Hitherto he seems to have wandered from place to place with no other object than that of collecting troops. It was now necessary for him to form some plan of military operations. His first scheme was to seize Bristol. Many of the chief inhabitants of that important place were Whigs. One of the ramifications of the Whig plot had extended thither. The garrison consisted only of the Gloucestershire trainbands. If Beaufort and his rustic followers could be overpowered before the regular troops arrived, the rebels would at once find themselves possessed of ample pecuniary resources; the credit of Monmouth's arms would be raised; and his friends throughout the kingdom would be encouraged to declare themselves. Bristol had fortifications which, on the north of the Avon towards Gloucestershire, were weak, but on the south towards Somersetshire were much stronger. It was therefore determined that the attack should be made on the Gloucestershire side. But for this purpose it was necessary to take a circuitous route, and to cross the Avon at Keynsham. The bridge at Keynsham had been partly demolished by the militia, and was at present impassable. A detachment was therefore sent forward to make the necessary repairs. The other troops followed more slowly, and on the evening of the twenty-fourth of June halted for repose at Pensford. At Pensford they were only five miles from the Somersetshire side of Bristol; but the Gloucestershire side, which could be reached only by going round through Keynsham, was distant a long day's march.
That night was one of great tumult and expectation in Bristol. The partisans of Monmouth knew that he was almost within sight of their city, and imagined that he would be among them before daybreak. About an hour after sunset a merchantman lying at the quay took fire. Such an occurrence, in a port crowded with shipping, could not but excite great alarm. The whole river was in commotion. The streets were crowded. Seditious cries were heard amidst the darkness and confusion. It was afterwards asserted, both by Whigs and by Tories, that the fire had been kindled by the friends of Monmouth, in the hope that the trainbands would be busied in preventing the conflagration from spreading, and that in the meantime the rebel army would make a bold push, and would enter the city on the Somersetshire side. If such was the design of the incendiaries, it completely failed. Beaufort, instead of sending his men to the quay, kept them all night drawn up under arms round the beautiful church of Saint Mary Redcliff, on the south of the Avon. He would see Bristol burnt down, he said, nay, he would burn it down himself, rather than that it should be occupied by traitors. He was able, with the help of some regular cavalry which had joined him from Chippenham a few hours before, to prevent an insurrection. It might perhaps have been beyond his power at once to overawe the malecontents within the walls and to repel an attack from without: but no such attack was made. The fire, which caused so much commotion at Bristol, was distinctly seen at Pensford. Monmouth, however, did not think it expedient to change his plan. He remained quiet till sunrise, and then marched to Keynsham. There he found the bridge repaired. He determined to let his army rest during the afternoon, and, as soon as night came, to proceed to Bristol.
But it was too late. The King's forces were now near at hand. Colonel Oglethorpe, at the head of about a hundred men of the Life Guards, dashed into Keynsham, scattered two troops of rebel horse which ventured to oppose him, and retired after inflicting much injury and suffering little. In these circumstances it was thought necessary to relinquish the design on Bristol.
But what was to be done? Several schemes were proposed and discussed. It was suggested that Monmouth might hasten to Gloucester, might cross the Severn there, might break down the bridge behind him, and, with his right flank protected by the river, might march through Worcestershire into Shropshire and Cheshire. He had formerly made a progress through those counties, and had been received there with as much enthusiasm as in Somersetshire and Devonshire. His presence might revive the zeal of his old friends; and his army might in a few days be swollen to double its present numbers.
On full consideration, however, it appeared that this plan, though specious, was impracticable. The rebels were ill shod for such work as they had lately undergone, and were exhausted by toiling, day after day, through deep mud under heavy rain. Harassed and impeded as they would be at every stage by the enemy's cavalry, they could not hope to reach Gloucester without being overtaken by the main body of the royal troops, and forced to a general action under every disadvantage.
Then it was proposed to enter Wiltshire. Persons who professed to know that county well assured the Duke that he would be joined there by such strong reinforcements as would make it safe for him to give battle.
He took this advice, and turned towards Wiltshire. He first summoned Bath. But Bath was strongly garrisoned for the King; and Feversham was fast approaching. The rebels, therefore made no attempt on the walls, but hastened to Philip's Norton, where they halted on the evening of the twenty-sixth of June.
Feversham followed them thither. Early on the morning of the twenty-seventh they were alarmed by tidings that he was close at hand. They got into order, and lined the hedges leading to the town.
The advanced guard of the royal army soon appeared. It consisted of about five hundred men, commanded by the Duke of Grafton, a youth of bold spirit and rough manners, who was probably eager to show that he had no share in the disloyal schemes of his half brother. Grafton soon found himself in a deep lane with fences on both sides of him, from which a galling fire of musketry was kept up. Still he pushed boldly on till he came to the entrance of Philip's Norton. There his way was crossed by a barricade, from which a third fire met him full in front. His men now lost heart, and made the best of their way back. Before they got out of the lane more than a hundred of them had been killed or wounded. Grafton's retreat was intercepted by some of the rebel cavalry: but he cut his way gallantly through them, and came off safe.
The advanced guard, thus repulsed, fell back on the main body of the royal forces. The two armies were now face to face; and a few shots were exchanged that did little or no execution. Neither side was impatient to come to action. Feversham did not wish to fight till his artillery came up, and fell back to Bradford. Monmouth, as soon as the night closed in, quitted his position, marched southward, and by daybreak arrived at Frome, where he hoped to find reinforcements.
Frome was as zealous in his cause as either Taunton or Bridgewater, but could do nothing to serve him. There had been a rising a few days before; and Monmouth's declaration had been posted up in the market place. But the news of this movement had been carried to the Earl of Pembroke, who lay at no great distance with the Wiltshire militia. He had instantly marched to Frome, had routed a mob of rustics who, with scythes and pitchforks, attempted to oppose him, had entered the town and had disarmed the inhabitants. No weapons, therefore, were left there; nor was Monmouth able to furnish any.
The rebel army was in evil case. The march of the preceding night had been wearisome. The rain had fallen in torrents; and the roads had become mere quagmires. Nothing was heard of the promised succours from Wiltshire. One messenger brought news that Argyle's forces had been dispersed in Scotland. Another reported that Feversham, having been joined by his artillery, was about to advance. Monmouth understood war too well not to know that his followers, with all their courage and all their zeal, were no match for regular soldiers. He had till lately flattered himself with the hope that some of those regiments which he had formerly commanded would pass over to his standard: but that hope he was now compelled to relinquish. His heart failed him. He could scarcely muster firmness enough to give orders. In his misery he complained bitterly of the evil counsellors who had induced him to quit his happy retreat in Brabant. Against Wildman in particular he broke forth into violent imprecations. And now an ignominious thought rose in his weak and agitated mind. He would leave to the mercy of the government the thousands who had, at his call and for his sake, abandoned their quiet fields and dwellings. He would steal away with his chief officers, would gain some seaport before his flight was suspected, would escape to the Continent, and would forget his ambition and his shame in the arms of Lady Wentworth. He seriously discussed this scheme with his leading advisers. Some of them, trembling for their necks, listened to it with approbation; but Grey, who, by the admission of his detractors, was intrepid everywhere except where swords were clashing and guns going off around him, opposed the dastardly proposition with great ardour, and implored the Duke to face every danger rather than requite with ingratitude and treachery the devoted attachment of the Western peasantry.
The scheme of flight was abandoned: but it was not now easy to form any plan for a campaign. To advance towards London would have been madness; for the road lay right across Salisbury Plain; and on that vast open space regular troops, and above all regular cavalry, would have acted with every advantage against undisciplined men. At this juncture a report reached the camp that the rustics of the marshes near Axbridge had risen in defence of the Protestant religion, had armed themselves with flails, bludgeons, and pitchforks, and were assembling by thousands at Bridgewater. Monmouth determined to return thither, and to strengthen himself with these new allies.
The rebels accordingly proceeded to Wells, and arrived there in no amiable temper. They were, with few exceptions, hostile to Prelacy; and they showed their hostility in a way very little to their honour. They not only tore the lead from the roof of the magnificent Cathedral to make bullets, an act for which they might fairly plead the necessities of war, but wantonly defaced the ornaments of the building. Grey with difficulty preserved the altar from the insults of some ruffians who wished to carouse round it, by taking his stand before it with his sword drawn.
On Thursday, the second of July, Monmouth again entered Bridgewater, In circumstances far less cheering than those in which he had marched thence ten days before. The reinforcement which he found there was inconsiderable. The royal army was close upon him. At one moment he thought of fortifying the town; and hundreds of labourers were summoned to dig trenches and throw up mounds. Then his mind recurred to the plan of marching into Cheshire, a plan which he had rejected as impracticable when he was at Keynsham, and which assuredly was not more practicable now that he was at Bridgewater.
While he was thus wavering between projects equally hopeless, the King's forces came in sight. They consisted of about two thousand five hundred regular troops, and of about fifteen hundred of the Wiltshire militia. Early on the morning of Sunday, the fifth of July, they left Somerton, and pitched their tents that day about three miles from Bridgewater, on the plain of Sedgemoor.
Dr. Peter Mew, Bishop of Winchester, accompanied them. This prelate had in his youth borne arms for Charles the First against the Parliament. Neither his years nor his profession had wholly extinguished his martial ardour; and he probably thought that the appearance of a father of the Protestant Church in the King's camp might confirm the loyalty of some honest men who were wavering between their horror of Popery and their horror of rebellion.
The steeple of the parish church of Bridgewater is said to be the loftiest of Somersetshire, and commands a wide view over the surrounding country. Monmouth, accompanied by some of his officers, went up to the top of the square tower from which the spire ascends, and observed through a telescope the position of the enemy. Beneath him lay a flat expanse, now rich with cornfields and apple trees, but then, as its name imports, for the most part a dreary morass. When the rains were heavy, and the Parret and its tributary streams rose above their banks, this tract was often flooded. It was indeed anciently part of that great swamp which is renowned in our early chronicles as having arrested the progress of two successive races of invaders, which long protected the Celts against the aggressions of the kings of Wessex, and which sheltered Alfred from the pursuit of the Danes. In those remote times this region could be traversed only in boats. It was a vast pool, wherein were scattered many islets of shifting and treacherous soil, overhung with rank jungle, and swarming with deer and wild swine. Even in the days of the Tudors, the traveller whose journey lay from Ilchester to Bridgewater was forced to make a circuit of several miles in order to avoid the waters. When Monmouth looked upon Sedgemoor, it had been partially reclaimed by art, and was intersected by many deep and wide trenches which, in that country, are called rhines. In the midst of the moor rose, clustering round the towers of churches, a few villages of which the names seem to indicate that they once were surrounded by waves. In one of these villages, called Weston Zoyland, the royal cavalry lay; and Feversham had fixed his headquarters there. Many persons still living have seen the daughter of the servant girl who waited on him that day at table; and a large dish of Persian ware, which was set before him, is still carefully preserved in the neighbourhood. It is to be observed that the population of Somersetshire does not, like that of the manufacturing districts, consist of emigrants from distant places. It is by no means unusual to find farmers who cultivate the same land which their ancestors cultivated when the Plantagenets reigned in England. The Somersetshire traditions are therefore, of no small value to a historian.
At a greater distance from Bridgewater lies the village of Middlezoy. In that village and its neighbourhood, the Wiltshire militia were quartered, under the command of Pembroke. On the open moor, not far from Chedzoy, were encamped several battalions of regular infantry. Monmouth looked gloomily on them. He could not but remember how, a few years before, he had, at the head of a column composed of some of those very men, driven before him in confusion the fierce enthusiasts who defended Bothwell Bridge. He could distinguish among the hostile ranks that gallant band which was then called from the name of its Colonel, Dumbarton's regiment, but which has long been known as the first of the line, and which, in all the four quarters of the world, has nobly supported its early reputation. "I know those men," said Monmouth; "they will fight. If I had but them, all would go well."
Yet the aspect of the enemy was not altogether discouraging. The three divisions of the royal army lay far apart from one another. There was all appearance of negligence and of relaxed discipline in all their movements. It was reported that they were drinking themselves drunk with the Zoyland cider. The incapacity of Feversham, who commanded in chief, was notorious. Even at this momentous crisis he thought only of eating and sleeping. Churchill was indeed a captain equal to tasks far more arduous than that of scattering a crowd of ill armed and ill trained peasants. But the genius, which, at a later period, humbled six Marshals of France, was not now in its proper place. Feversham told Churchill little, and gave him no encouragement to offer any suggestion. The lieutenant, conscious of superior abilities and science, impatient of the control of a chief whom he despised, and trembling for the fate of the army, nevertheless preserved his characteristic self-command, and dissembled his feelings so well that Feversham praised his submissive alacrity, and promised to report it to the King.
Monmouth, having observed the disposition of the royal forces, and having been apprised of the state in which they were, conceived that a night attack might be attended with success. He resolved to run the hazard; and preparations were instantly made.
It was Sunday; and his followers, who had, for the most part, been brought up after the Puritan fashion, passed a great part of the day in religious exercises. The Castle Field, in which the army was encamped, presented a spectacle such as, since the disbanding of Cromwell's soldiers, England had never seen. The dissenting preachers who had taken arms against Popery, and some of whom had probably fought in the great civil war, prayed and preached in red coats and huge jackboots, with swords by their sides. Ferguson was one of those who harangued. He took for his text the awful imprecation by which the Israelites who dwelt beyond Jordan cleared themselves from the charge ignorantly brought against them by their brethren on the other side of the river. "The Lord God of Gods, the Lord God of Gods, he knoweth; and Israel he shall know. If it be in rebellion, or if in transgression against the Lord, save us not this day."
That an attack was to be made under cover of the night was no secret in Bridgewater. The town was full of women, who had repaired thither by hundreds from the surrounding region, to see their husbands, sons, lovers, and brothers once more. There were many sad partings that day; and many parted never to meet again. The report of the intended attack came to the ears of a young girl who was zealous for the King. Though of modest character, she had the courage to resolve that she would herself bear the intelligence to Feversham. She stole out of Bridgewater, and made her way to the royal camp. But that camp was not a place where female innocence could be safe. Even the officers, despising alike the irregular force to which they were opposed, and the negligent general who commanded them, had indulged largely in wine, and were ready for any excess of licentiousness and cruelty. One of them seized the unhappy maiden, refused to listen to her errand, and brutally outraged her. She fled in agonies of rage and shame, leaving the wicked army to its doom.
And now the time for the great hazard drew near. The night was not ill suited for such an enterprise. The moon was indeed at the full, and the northern streamers were shining brilliantly. But the marsh fog lay so thick on Sedgemoor that no object could be discerned there at the distance of fifty paces.
The clock struck eleven; and the Duke with his body guard rode out of the Castle. He was not in the frame of mind which befits one who is about to strike a decisive blow. The very children who pressed to see him pass observed, and long remembered, that his look was sad and full of evil augury. His army marched by a circuitous path, near six miles in length, towards the royal encampment on Sedgemoor. Part of the route is to this day called War Lane. The foot were led by Monmouth himself. The horse were confided to Grey, in spite of the remonstrances of some who remembered the mishap at Bridport. Orders were given that strict silence should be preserved, that no drum should be beaten, and no shot fired. The word by which the insurgents were to recognise one another in the darkness was Soho. It had doubtless been selected in allusion to Soho Fields in London, where their leader's palace stood.
At about one in the morning of Monday the sixth of July, the rebels were on the open moor. But between them and the enemy lay three broad rhines filled with water and soft mud. Two of these, called the Black Ditch and the Langmoor Rhine, Monmouth knew that he must pass. But, strange to say, the existence of a trench, called the Bussex Rhine, which immediately covered the royal encampment, had not been mentioned to him by any of his scouts.
The wains which carried the ammunition remained at the entrance of the moor. The horse and foot, in a long narrow column, passed the Black Ditch by a causeway. There was a similar causeway across the Langmoor Rhine: but the guide, in the fog, missed his way. There was some delay and some tumult before the error could be rectified. At length the passage was effected: but, in the confusion, a pistol went off. Some men of the Horse Guards, who were on watch, heard the report, and perceived that a great multitude was advancing through the mist. They fired their carbines, and galloped off in different directions to give the alarm. Some hastened to Weston Zoyland, where the cavalry lay. One trooper spurred to the encampment of the infantry, and cried out vehemently that the enemy was at hand. The drums of Dumbarton's regiment beat to arms; and the men got fast into their ranks. It was time; for Monmouth was already drawing up his army for action. He ordered Grey to lead the way with the cavalry, and followed himself at the head of the infantry. Grey pushed on till his progress was unexpectedly arrested by the Bussex Rhine. On the opposite side of the ditch the King's foot were hastily forming in order of battle.
"For whom are you?" called out an officer of the Foot Guards. "For the King," replied a voice from the ranks of the rebel cavalry. "For which King?" was then demanded. The answer was a shout of "King Monmouth," mingled with the war cry, which forty years before had been inscribed on the colours of the parliamentary regiments, "God with us." The royal troops instantly fired such a volley of musketry as sent the rebel horse flying in all directions. The world agreed to ascribe this ignominious rout to Grey's pusillanimity. Yet it is by no means clear that Churchill would have succeeded better at the head of men who had never before handled arms on horseback, and whose horses were unused, not only to stand fire, but to obey the rein.
A few minutes after the Duke's horse had dispersed themselves over the moor, his infantry came up running fast, and guided through the gloom by the lighted matches of Dumbarton's regiment.
Monmouth was startled by finding that a broad and profound trench lay between him and the camp which he had hoped to surprise. The insurgents halted on the edge of the rhine, and fired. Part of the royal infantry on the opposite bank returned the fire. During three quarters of an hour the roar of the musketry was incessant. The Somersetshire peasants behaved themselves as if they had been veteran soldiers, save only that they levelled their pieces too high.
But now the other divisions of the royal army were in motion. The Life Guards and Blues came pricking fast from Weston Zoyland, and scattered in an instant some of Grey's horse, who had attempted to rally. The fugitives spread a panic among their comrades in the rear, who had charge of the ammunition. The waggoners drove off at full speed, and never stopped till they were many miles from the field of battle. Monmouth had hitherto done his part like a stout and able warrior. He had been seen on foot, pike in hand, encouraging his infantry by voice and by example. But he was too well acquainted with military affairs not to know that all was over. His men had lost the advantage which surprise and darkness had given them. They were deserted by the horse and by the ammunition waggons. The King's forces were now united and in good order. Feversham had been awakened by the firing, had got out of bed, had adjusted his cravat, had looked at himself well in the glass, and had come to see what his men were doing. Meanwhile, what was of much more importance, Churchill had rapidly made an entirely new disposition of the royal infantry. The day was about to break. The event of a conflict on an open plain, by broad sunlight, could not be doubtful. Yet Monmouth should have felt that it was not for him to fly, while thousands whom affection for him had hurried to destruction were still fighting manfully in his cause. But vain hopes and the intense love of life prevailed. He saw that if he tarried the royal cavalry would soon intercept his retreat. He mounted and rode from the field.
Yet his foot, though deserted, made a gallant stand. The Life Guards attacked them on the right, the Blues on the left; but the Somersetshire clowns, with their scythes and the butt ends of their muskets, faced the royal horse like old soldiers. Oglethorpe made a vigorous attempt to break them and was manfully repulsed. Sarsfield, a brave Irish officer, whose name afterwards obtained a melancholy celebrity, charged on the other flank. His men were beaten back. He was himself struck to the ground, and lay for a time as one dead. But the struggle of the hardy rustics could not last. Their powder and ball were spent. Cries were heard of "Ammunition! For God's sake ammunition!" But no ammunition was at hand. And now the King's artillery came up. It had been posted half a mile off, on the high road from Weston Zoyland to Bridgewater. So defective were then the appointments of an English army that there would have been much difficulty in dragging the great guns to the place where the battle was raging, had not the Bishop of Winchester offered his coach horses and traces for the purpose. This interference of a Christian prelate in a matter of blood has, with strange inconsistency, been condemned by some Whig writers who can see nothing criminal in the conduct of the numerous Puritan ministers then in arms against the government. Even when the guns had arrived, there was such a want of gunners that a serjeant of Dumbarton's regiment was forced to take on himself the management of several pieces. The cannon, however, though ill served, brought the engagement to a speedy close. The pikes of the rebel battalions began to shake: the ranks broke; the King's cavalry charged again, and bore down everything before them; the King's infantry came pouring across the ditch. Even in that extremity the Mendip miners stood bravely to their arms, and sold their lives dearly. But the rout was in a few minutes complete. Three hundred of the soldiers had been killed or wounded. Of the rebels more than a thousand lay dead on the moor.
So ended the last fight deserving the name of battle, that has been fought on English ground. The impression left on the simple inhabitants of the neighbourhood was deep and lasting. That impression, indeed, has been frequently renewed. For even in our own time the plough and the spade have not seldom turned up ghastly memorials of the slaughter, skulls, and thigh bones, and strange weapons made out of implements of husbandry. Old peasants related very recently that, in their childhood, they were accustomed to play on the moor at the fight between King James's men and King Monmouth's men, and that King Monmouth's men always raised the cry of Soho.
What seems most extraordinary in the battle of Sedgemoor is that the event should have been for a moment doubtful, and that the rebels should have resisted so long. That five or six thousand colliers and ploughmen should contend during an hour with half that number of regular cavalry and infantry would now be thought a miracle. Our wonder will, perhaps, be diminished when we remember that, in the time of James the Second, the discipline of the regular army was extremely lax, and that, on the other hand, the peasantry were accustomed to serve in the militia. The difference, therefore, between a regiment of the Foot Guards and a regiment of clowns just enrolled, though doubtless considerable, was by no means what it now is. Monmouth did not lead a mere mob to attack good soldiers. For his followers were not altogether without a tincture of soldiership; and Feversham's troops, when compared with English troops of our time, might almost be called a mob.
It was four o'clock: the sun was rising; and the routed army came pouring into the streets of Bridgewater. The uproar, the blood, the gashes, the ghastly figures which sank down and never rose again, spread horror and dismay through the town. The pursuers, too, were close behind. Those inhabitants who had favoured the insurrection expected sack and massacre, and implored the protection of their neighbours who professed the Roman Catholic religion, or had made themselves conspicuous by Tory politics; and it is acknowledged by the bitterest of Whig historians that this protection was kindly and generously given.
During that day the conquerors continued to chase the fugitives. The neighbouring villagers long remembered with what a clatter of horsehoofs and what a storm of curses the whirlwind of cavalry swept by. Before evening five hundred prisoners had been crowded into the parish church of Weston Zoyland. Eighty of them were wounded; and five expired within the consecrated walls. Great numbers of labourers were impressed for the purpose of burying the slain. A few, who were notoriously partial to the vanquished side, were set apart for the hideous office of quartering the captives. The tithing men of the neighbouring parishes were busied in setting up gibbets and providing chains. All this while the bells of Weston Zoyland and Chedzoy rang joyously; and the soldiers sang and rioted on the moor amidst the corpses. For the farmers of the neighbourhood had made haste, as soon as the event of the fight was known, to send hogsheads of their best cider as peace offerings to the victors.
Feversham passed for a goodnatured man: but he was a foreigner, ignorant of the laws and careless of the feelings of the English. He was accustomed to the military license of France, and had learned from his great kinsman, the conqueror and devastator of the Palatinate, not indeed how to conquer, but how to devastate. A considerable number of prisoners were immediately selected for execution. Among them was a youth famous for his speed. Hopes were held out to him that his life would be spared if he could run a race with one of the colts of the marsh. The space through which the man kept up with the horse is still marked by well known bounds on the moor, and is about three quarters of a mile. Feversham was not ashamed, after seeing the performance, to send the wretched performer to the gallows. The next day a long line of gibbets appeared on the road leading from Bridgewater to Weston Zoyland. On each gibbet a prisoner was suspended. Four of the sufferers were left to rot in irons.
Meanwhile Monmouth, accompanied by Grey, by Buyse, and by a few other friends, was flying from the field of battle. At Chedzoy he stopped a moment to mount a fresh horse and to hide his blue riband and his George. He then hastened towards the Bristol Channel. From the rising ground on the north of the field of battle he saw the flash and the smoke of the last volley fired by his deserted followers. Before six o'clock he was twenty miles from Sedgemoor. Some of his companions advised him to cross the water, and seek refuge in Wales; and this would undoubtedly have been his wisest course. He would have been in Wales many hours before the news of his defeat was known there; and in a country so wild and so remote from the seat of government, he might have remained long undiscovered. He determined, however, to push for Hampshire, in the hope that he might lurk in the cabins of deerstealers among the oaks of the New Forest, till means of conveyance to the Continent could be procured. He therefore, with Grey and the German, turned to the southeast. But the way was beset with dangers. The three fugitives had to traverse a country in which every one already knew the event of the battle, and in which no traveller of suspicious appearance could escape a close scrutiny. They rode on all day, shunning towns and villages. Nor was this so difficult as it may now appear. For men then living could remember the time when the wild deer ranged freely through a succession of forests from the banks of the Avon in Wiltshire to the southern coast of Hampshire. At length, on Cranbourne Chase, the strength of the horses failed. They were therefore turned loose. The bridles and saddles were concealed. Monmouth and his friends procured rustic attire, disguised themselves, and proceeded on foot towards the New Forest. They passed the night in the open air: but before morning they were surrounded on every side by toils. Lord Lumley, who lay at Ringwood with a strong body of the Sussex militia, had sent forth parties in every direction. Sir William Portman, with the Somerset militia, had formed a chain of posts from the sea to the northern extremity of Dorset. At five in the morning of the seventh, Grey, who had wandered from his friends, was seized by two of the Sussex scouts. He submitted to his fate with the calmness of one to whom suspense was more intolerable than despair. "Since we landed," he said, "I have not had one comfortable meal or one quiet night." It could hardly be doubted that the chief rebel was not far off. The pursuers redoubled their vigilance and activity. The cottages scattered over the heathy country on the boundaries of Dorsetshire and Hampshire were strictly examined by Lumley; and the clown with whom Monmouth had changed clothes was discovered. Portman came with a strong body of horse and foot to assist in the search. Attention was soon drawn to a place well fitted to shelter fugitives. It was an extensive tract of land separated by an enclosure from the open country, and divided by numerous hedges into small fields. In some of these fields the rye, the pease, and the oats were high enough to conceal a man. Others were overgrown with fern and brambles. A poor woman reported that she had seen two strangers lurking in this covert. The near prospect of reward animated the zeal of the troops. It was agreed that every man who did his duty in the search should have a share of the promised five thousand pounds. The outer fence was strictly guarded: the space within was examined with indefatigable diligence; and several dogs of quick scent were turned out among the bushes. The day closed before the work could be completed: but careful watch was kept all night. Thirty times the fugitives ventured to look through the outer hedge: but everywhere they found a sentinel on the alert: once they were seen and fired at; they then separated and concealed themselves in different hiding places.
At sunrise the next morning the search recommenced, and Buyse was found. He owned that he had parted from the Duke only a few hours before. The corn and copsewood were now beaten with more care than ever. At length a gaunt figure was discovered hidden in a ditch. The pursuers sprang on their prey. Some of them were about to fire: but Portman forbade all violence. The prisoner's dress was that of a shepherd; his beard, prematurely grey, was of several days' growth. He trembled greatly, and was unable to speak. Even those who had often seen him were at first in doubt whether this were truly the brilliant and graceful Monmouth. His pockets were searched by Portman, and in them were found, among some raw pease gathered in the rage of hunger, a watch, a purse of gold, a small treatise on fortification, an album filled with songs, receipts, prayers, and charms, and the George with which, many years before, King Charles the Second had decorated his favourite son. Messengers were instantly despatched to Whitehall with the good news, and with the George as a token that the news was true. The prisoner was conveyed under a strong guard to Ringwood.
And all was lost; and nothing remained but that he should prepare to meet death as became one who had thought himself not unworthy to wear the crown of William the Conqueror and of Richard the Lionhearted, of the hero of Cressy and of the hero of Agincourt. The captive might easily have called to mind other domestic examples, still better suited to his condition. Within a hundred years, two sovereigns whose blood ran in his veins, one of them a delicate woman, had been placed in the same situation in which he now stood. They had shown, in the prison and on the scaffold, virtue of which, in the season of prosperity, they had seemed incapable, and had half redeemed great crimes and errors by enduring with Christian meekness and princely dignity all that victorious enemies could inflict. Of cowardice Monmouth had never been accused; and, even had he been wanting in constitutional courage, it might have been expected that the defect would be supplied by pride and by despair. The eyes of the whole world were upon him. The latest generations would know how, in that extremity, he had borne himself. To the brave peasants of the West he owed it to show that they had not poured forth their blood for a leader unworthy of their attachment. To her who had sacrificed everything for his sake he owed it so to bear himself that, though she might weep for him, she should not blush for him. It was not for him to lament and supplicate. His reason, too, should have told him that lamentation and supplication would be unavailing. He had done that which could never be forgiven. He was in the grasp of one who never forgave.
But the fortitude of Monmouth was not that highest sort of fortitude which is derived from reflection and from selfrespect; nor had nature given him one of those stout hearts from which neither adversity nor peril can extort any sign of weakness. His courage rose and fell with his animal spirits. It was sustained on the field of battle by the excitement of action, by the hope of victory, by the strange influence of sympathy. All such aids were now taken away. The spoiled darling of the court and of the populace, accustomed to be loved and worshipped wherever he appeared, was now surrounded by stern gaolers in whose eyes he read his doom. Yet a few hours of gloomy seclusion, and he must die a violent and shameful death. His heart sank within him. Life seemed worth purchasing by any humiliation; nor could his mind, always feeble, and now distracted by terror, perceive that humiliation must degrade, but could not save him.
As soon as he reached Ringwood he wrote to the King. The letter was that of a man whom a craven fear had made insensible to shame. He professed in vehement terms his remorse for his treason. He affirmed that, when be promised his cousins at the Hague not to raise troubles in England, he had fully meant to keep his word. Unhappily he had afterwards been seduced from his allegiance by some horrid people who had heated his mind by calumnies and misled him by sophistry; but now he abhorred them: he abhorred himself. He begged in piteous terms that he might be admitted to the royal presence. There was a secret which he could not trust to paper, a secret which lay in a single word, and which, if he spoke that word, would secure the throne against all danger. On the following day he despatched letters, imploring the Queen Dowager and the Lord Treasurer to intercede in his behalf.
When it was known in London how he had abased himself the general surprise was great; and no man was more amazed than Barillon, who had resided in England during two bloody proscriptions, and had seen numerous victims, both of the Opposition and of the Court, submit to their fate without womanish entreaties and lamentations.
Monmouth and Grey remained at Ringwood two days. They were then carried up to London, under the guard of a large body of regular troops and militia. In the coach with the Duke was an officer whose orders were to stab the prisoner if a rescue were attempted. At every town along the road the trainbands of the neighbourhood had been mustered under the command of the principal gentry. The march lasted three days, and terminated at Vauxhall, where a regiment, commanded by George Legge, Lord Dartmouth, was in readiness to receive the prisoners. They were put on board of a state barge, and carried down the river to Whitehall Stairs. Lumley and Portman had alternately watched the Duke day and night till they had brought him within the walls of the palace.
Both the demeanour of Monmouth and that of Grey, during the journey, filled all observers with surprise. Monmouth was altogether unnerved. Grey was not only calm but cheerful, talked pleasantly of horses, dogs, and field sports, and even made jocose allusions to the perilous situation in which he stood.
The King cannot be blamed for determining that Monmouth should suffer death. Every man who heads a rebellion against an established government stakes his life on the event; and rebellion was the smallest part of Monmouth's crime. He had declared against his uncle a war without quarter. In the manifesto put forth at Lyme, James had been held up to execration as an incendiary, as an assassin who had strangled one innocent man and cut the throat of another, and, lastly, as the poisoner of his own brother. To spare an enemy who had not scrupled to resort to such extremities would have been an act of rare, perhaps of blamable generosity. But to see him and not to spare him was an outrage on humanity and decency. This outrage the King resolved to commit. The arms of the prisoner were bound behind him with a silken cord; and, thus secured, he was ushered into the presence of the implacable kinsman whom he had wronged.
Then Monmouth threw himself on the ground, and crawled to the King's feet. He wept. He tried to embrace his uncle's knees with his pinioned arms. He begged for life, only life, life at any price. He owned that he had been guilty of a great crime, but tried to throw the blame on others, particularly on Argyle, who would rather have put his legs into the boots than have saved his own life by such baseness. By the ties of kindred, by the memory of the late King, who had been the best and truest of brothers, the unhappy man adjured James to show some mercy. James gravely replied that this repentance was of the latest, that he was sorry for the misery which the prisoner had brought on himself, but that the case was not one for lenity. A Declaration, filled with atrocious calumnies, had been put forth. The regal title had been assumed. For treasons so aggravated there could be no pardon on this side of the grave. The poor terrified Duke vowed that he had never wished to take the crown, but had been led into that fatal error by others. As to the Declaration, he had not written it: he had not read it: he had signed it without looking at it: it was all the work of Ferguson, that bloody villain Ferguson. "Do you expect me to believe," said James, with contempt but too well merited, "that you set your hand to a paper of such moment without knowing what it contained?" One depth of infamy only remained; and even to that the prisoner descended. He was preeminently the champion of the Protestant religion. The interest of that religion had been his plea for conspiring against the government of his father, and for bringing on his country the miseries of civil war; yet he was not ashamed to hint that he was inclined to be reconciled to the Church of Rome. The King eagerly offered him spiritual assistance, but said nothing of pardon or respite. "Is there then no hope?" asked Monmouth. James turned away in silence. Then Monmouth strove to rally his courage, rose from his knees, and retired with a firmness which he had not shown since his overthrow.
Grey was introduced next. He behaved with a propriety and fortitude which moved even the stern and resentful King, frankly owned himself guilty, made no excuses, and did not once stoop to ask his life. Both the prisoners were sent to the Tower by water. There was no tumult; but many thousands of people, with anxiety and sorrow in their faces, tried to catch a glimpse of the captives. The Duke's resolution failed as soon as he had left the royal presence. On his way to his prison he bemoaned himself, accused his followers, and abjectly implored the intercession of Dartmouth. "I know, my Lord, that you loved my father. For his sake, for God's sake, try if there be any room for mercy." Dartmouth replied that the King had spoken the truth, and that a subject who assumed the regal title excluded himself from all hope of pardon.
Soon after Monmouth had been lodged in the Tower, he was informed that his wife had, by the royal command, been sent to see him. She was accompanied by the Earl of Clarendon, Keeper of the Privy Seal. Her husband received her very coldly, and addressed almost all his discourse to Clarendon whose intercession he earnestly implored. Clarendon held out no hopes; and that same evening two prelates, Turner, Bishop of Ely, and Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells, arrived at the Tower with a solemn message from the King. It was Monday night. On Wednesday morning Monmouth was to die.
He was greatly agitated. The blood left his cheeks; and it was some time before he could speak. Most of the short time which remained to him he wasted in vain attempts to obtain, if not a pardon, at least a respite. He wrote piteous letters to the King and to several courtiers, but in vain. Some Roman Catholic divines were sent to him from Whitehall. But they soon discovered that, though he would gladly have purchased his life by renouncing the religion of which he had professed himself in an especial manner the defender, yet, if he was to die, he would as soon die without their absolution as with it.
Nor were Ken and Turner much better pleased with his frame of mind. The doctrine of nonresistance was, in their view, as in the view of most of their brethren, the distinguishing badge of the Anglican Church. The two Bishops insisted on Monmouth's owning that, in drawing the sword against the government, he had committed a great sin; and, on this point, they found him obstinately heterodox. Nor was this his only heresy. He maintained that his connection with Lady Wentworth was blameless in the sight of God. He had been married, he said, when a child. He had never cared for his Duchess. The happiness which he had not found at home he had sought in a round of loose amours, condemned by religion and morality. Henrietta had reclaimed him from a life of vice. To her he had been strictly constant. They had, by common consent, offered up fervent prayers for the divine guidance. After those prayers they had found their affection for each other strengthened; and they could then no longer doubt that, in the sight of God, they were a wedded pair. The Bishops were so much scandalised by this view of the conjugal relation that they refused to administer the sacrament to the prisoner. All that they could obtain from him was a promise that, during the single night which still remained to him, he would pray to be enlightened if he were in error.
On the Wednesday morning, at his particular request, Doctor Thomas Tenison, who then held the vicarage of Saint Martin's, and, in that important cure, had obtained the high esteem of the public, came to the Tower. From Tenison, whose opinions were known to be moderate, the Duke expected more indulgence than Ken and Turner were disposed to show. But Tenison, whatever might be his sentiments concerning nonresistance in the abstract, thought the late rebellion rash and wicked, and considered Monmouth's notion respecting marriage as a most dangerous delusion. Monmouth was obstinate. He had prayed, he said, for the divine direction. His sentiments remained unchanged; and he could not doubt that they were correct. Tenison's exhortations were in milder tone than those of the Bishops. But he, like them, thought that he should not be justified in administering the Eucharist to one whose penitence was of so unsatisfactory a nature.
The hour drew near: all hope was over; and Monmouth had passed from pusillanimous fear to the apathy of despair. His children were brought to his room that he might take leave of them, and were followed by his wife. He spoke to her kindly, but without emotion. Though she was a woman of great strength of mind, and had little cause to love him, her misery was such that none of the bystanders could refrain from weeping. He alone was unmoved.
It was ten o'clock. The coach of the Lieutenant of the Tower was ready. Monmouth requested his spiritual advisers to accompany him to the place of execution; and they consented: but they told him that, in their judgment, he was about to die in a perilous state of mind, and that, if they attended him it would be their duty to exhort him to the last. As he passed along the ranks of the guards he saluted them with a smile; and he mounted the scaffold with a firm tread. Tower Hill was covered up to the chimney tops with an innumerable multitude of gazers, who, in awful silence, broken only by sighs and the noise of weeping, listened for the last accents of the darling of the people. "I shall say little," he began. "I come here, not to speak, but to die. I die a Protestant of the Church of England." The Bishops interrupted him, and told him that, unless he acknowledged resistance to be sinful, he was no member of their church. He went on to speak of his Henrietta. She was, he said, a young lady of virtue and honour. He loved her to the last, and he could not die without giving utterance to his feelings. The Bishops again interfered, and begged him not to use such language. Some altercation followed. The divines have been accused of dealing harshly with the dying man. But they appear to have only discharged what, in their view, was a sacred duty. Monmouth knew their principles, and, if he wished to avoid their importunity, should have dispensed with their attendance. Their general arguments against resistance had no effect on him. But when they reminded him of the ruin which he had brought on his brave and loving followers, of the blood which had been shed, of the souls which had been sent unprepared to the great account, he was touched, and said, in a softened voice, "I do own that. I am sorry that it ever happened." They prayed with him long and fervently; and he joined in their petitions till they invoked a blessing on the King. He remained silent. "Sir," said one of the Bishops, "do you not pray for the King with us?" Monmouth paused some time, and, after an internal struggle, exclaimed "Amen." But it was in vain that the prelates implored him to address to the soldiers and to the people a few words on the duty of obedience to the government. "I will make no speeches," he exclaimed. "Only ten words, my Lord." He turned away, called his servant, and put into the man's hand a toothpick case, the last token of ill starred love. "Give it," he said, "to that person." He then accosted John Ketch the executioner, a wretch who had butchered many brave and noble victims, and whose name has, during a century and a half, been vulgarly given to all who have succeeded him in his odious office. "Here," said the Duke, "are six guineas for you. Do not hack me as you did my Lord Russell. I have heard that you struck him three or four times. My servant will give you some more gold if you do the work well." He then undressed, felt the edge of the axe, expressed some fear that it was not sharp enough, and laid his head on the block. The divines in the meantime continued to ejaculate with great energy: "God accept your repentance! God accept your imperfect repentance!"
The hangman addressed himself to his office. But he had been disconcerted by what the Duke had said. The first blow inflicted only a slight wound. The Duke struggled, rose from the block, and looked reproachfully at the executioner. The head sunk down once more. The stroke was repeated again and again; but still the neck was not severed, and the body continued to move. Yells of rage and horror rose from the crowd. Ketch flung down the axe with a curse. "I cannot do it," he said; "my heart fails me." "Take up the axe, man," cried the sheriff. "Fling him over the rails," roared the mob. At length the axe was taken up. Two more blows extinguished the last remains of life; but a knife was used to separate the head from the shoulders. The crowd was wrought up to such an ecstasy of rage that the executioner was in danger of being torn in pieces, and was conveyed away under a strong guard.
In the meantime many handkerchiefs were dipped in the Duke's blood; for by a large part of the multitude he was regarded as a martyr who had died for the Protestant religion. The head and body were placed in a coffin covered with black velvet, and were laid privately under the communion table of Saint Peter's Chapel in the Tower. Within four years the pavement of the chancel was again disturbed, and hard by the remains of Monmouth were laid the remains of Jeffreys. In truth there is no sadder spot on the earth than that little cemetery. Death is there associated, not, as in Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's, with genius and virtue, with public veneration and imperishable renown; not, as in our humblest churches and churchyards, with everything that is most endearing in social and domestic charities; but with whatever is darkest in human nature and in human destiny, with the savage triumph of implacable enemies, with the inconstancy, the ingratitude, the cowardice of friends, with all the miseries of fallen greatness and of blighted fame. Thither have been carried, through successive ages, by the rude hands of gaolers, without one mourner following, the bleeding relics of men who had been the captains of armies, the leaders of parties, the oracles of senates, and the ornaments of courts. Thither was borne, before the window where Jane Grey was praying, the mangled corpse of Guilford Dudley. Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, and Protector of the realm, reposes there by the brother whom he murdered. There has mouldered away the headless trunk of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester and Cardinal of Saint Vitalis, a man worthy to have lived in a better age and to have died in a better cause. There are laid John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, Lord High Admiral, and Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, Lord High Treasurer. There, too, is another Essex, on whom nature and fortune had lavished all their bounties in vain, and whom valour, grace, genius, royal favour, popular applause, conducted to an early and ignominious doom. Not far off sleep two chiefs of the great house of Howard, Thomas, fourth Duke of Norfolk, and Philip, eleventh Earl of Arundel. Here and there, among the thick graves of unquiet and aspiring statesmen, lie more delicate sufferers; Margaret of Salisbury, the last of the proud name of Plantagenet; and those two fair Queens who perished by the jealous rage of Henry. Such was the dust with which the dust of Monmouth mingled.
Yet a few months, and the quiet village of Toddington, in Bedfordshire, witnessed a still sadder funeral. Near that village stood an ancient and stately hall, the seat of the Wentworths. The transept of the parish church had long been their burial place. To that burial place, in the spring which followed the death of Monmouth, was borne the coffin of the young Baroness Wentworth of Nettlestede. Her family reared a sumptuous mausoleum over her remains: but a less costly memorial of her was long contemplated with far deeper interest. Her name, carved by the hand of him whom she loved too well, was, a few years ago, still discernible on a tree in the adjoining park.
It was not by Lady Wentworth alone that the memory of Monmouth was cherished with idolatrous fondness. His hold on the hearts of the people lasted till the generation which had seen him had passed away. Ribands, buckles, and other trifling articles of apparel which he had worn, were treasured up as precious relics by those who had fought under him at Sedgemoor. Old men who long survived him desired, when they were dying, that these trinkets might be buried with them. One button of gold thread which narrowly escaped this fate may still be seen at a house which overlooks the field of battle. Nay, such was the devotion of the people to their unhappy favourite that, in the face of the strongest evidence by which the fact of a death was ever verified, many continued to cherish a hope that he was still living, and that he would again appear in arms. A person, it was said, who was remarkably like Monmouth, had sacrificed himself to save the Protestant hero. The vulgar long continued, at every important crisis, to whisper that the time was at hand, and that King Monmouth would soon show himself. In 1686, a knave who had pretended to be the Duke, and had levied contributions in several villages of Wiltshire, was apprehended, and whipped from Newgate to Tyburn. In 1698, when England had long enjoyed constitutional freedom under a new dynasty, the son of an innkeeper passed himself on the yeomanry of Sussex as their beloved Monmouth, and defrauded many who were by no means of the lowest class. Five hundred pounds were collected for him. The farmers provided him with a horse. Their wives sent him baskets of chickens and ducks, and were lavish, it was said, of favours of a more tender kind; for in gallantry at least, the counterfeit was a not unworthy representative of the original. When this impostor was thrown into prison for his fraud, his followers maintained him in luxury. Several of them appeared at the bar to countenance him when he was tried at the Horsham assizes. So long did this delusion last that, when George the Third had been some years on the English throne, Voltaire thought it necessary gravely to confute the hypothesis that the man in the iron mask was the Duke of Monmouth.
It is, perhaps, a fact scarcely less remarkable that, to this day, the inhabitants of some parts of the West of England, when any bill affecting their interest is before the House of Lords, think themselves entitled to claim the help of the Duke of Buccleuch, the descendant of the unfortunate leader for whom their ancestors bled.
The history of Monmouth would alone suffice to refute the imputation of inconstancy which is so frequently thrown on the common people. The common people are sometimes inconstant; for they are human beings. But that they are inconstant as compared with the educated classes, with aristocracies, or with princes, may be confidently denied. It would be easy to name demagogues whose popularity has remained undiminished while sovereigns and parliaments have withdrawn their confidence from a long succession of statesmen. When Swift had survived his faculties many years, the Irish populace still continued to light bonfires on his birthday, in commemoration of the services which they fancied that he had rendered to his country when his mind was in full vigour. While seven administrations were raised to power and hurled from it in consequence of court intrigues or of changes in the sentiments of the higher classes of society, the profligate Wilkes retained his hold on the selections of a rabble whom he pillaged and ridiculed. Politicians, who, in 1807, had sought to curry favour with George the Third by defending Caroline of Brunswick, were not ashamed, in 1820, to curry favour with George the Fourth by persecuting her. But in 1820, as in 1807, the whole body of working men was fanatically devoted to her cause. So it was with Monmouth. In 1680, he had been adored alike by the gentry and by the peasantry of the West. In 1685 he came again. To the gentry he had become an object of aversion: but by the peasantry he was still loved with a love strong as death, with a love not to be extinguished by misfortunes or faults, by the flight from Sedgemoor, by the letter from Ringwood, or by the tears and abject supplications at Whitehall. The charge which may with justice be brought against the common people is, not that they are inconstant, but that they almost invariably choose their favourite so ill that their constancy is a vice and not a virtue.
While the execution of Monmouth occupied the thoughts of the Londoners, the counties which had risen against the government were enduring all that a ferocious soldiery could inflict. Feversham had been summoned to the court, where honours and rewards which he little deserved awaited him. He was made a Knight of the Garter and Captain of the first and most lucrative troop of Life Guards: but Court and City laughed at his military exploits; and the wit of Buckingham gave forth its last feeble flash at the expense of the general who had won a battle in bed. Feversham left in command at Bridgewater Colonel Percy Kirke, a military adventurer whose vices had been developed by the worst of all schools, Tangier. Kirke had during some years commanded the garrison of that town, and had been constantly employed in hostilities against tribes of foreign barbarians, ignorant of the laws which regulate the warfare of civilized and Christian nations. Within the ramparts of his fortress he was a despotic prince. The only check on his tyranny was the fear of being called to account by a distant and a careless government. He might therefore safely proceed to the most audacious excesses of rapacity, licentiousness, and cruelty. He lived with boundless dissoluteness, and procured by extortion the means of indulgence. No goods could be sold till Kirke had had the refusal of them. No question of right could be decided till Kirke had been bribed. Once, merely from a malignant whim, he staved all the wine in a vintner's cellar. On another occasion he drove all the Jews from Tangier. Two of them he sent to the Spanish Inquisition, which forthwith burned them. Under this iron domination scarce a complaint was heard; for hatred was effectually kept down by terror. Two persons who had been refractory were found murdered; and it was universally believed that they had been slain by Kirke's order. When his soldiers displeased him he flogged them with merciless severity: but he indemnified them by permitting them to sleep on watch, to reel drunk about the streets, to rob, beat, and insult the merchants and the labourers.
When Tangier was abandoned, Kirke returned to England. He still continued to command his old soldiers, who were designated sometimes as the First Tangier Regiment, and sometimes as Queen Catharine's Regiment. As they had been levied for the purpose of waging war on an infidel nation, they bore on their flag a Christian emblem, the Paschal Lamb. In allusion to this device, and with a bitterly ironical meaning, these men, the rudest and most ferocious in the English army, were called Kirke's Lambs. The regiment, now the second of the line, still retains this ancient badge, which is however thrown into the shade by decorations honourably earned in Egypt, in Spain, and in the heart of Asia.
Such was the captain and such the soldiers who were now let loose on the people of Somersetshire. From Bridgewater Kirke marched to Taunton. He was accompanied by two carts filled with wounded rebels whose gashes had not been dressed, and by a long drove of prisoners on foot, who were chained two and two. Several of these he hanged as soon as he reached Taunton, without the form of a trial. They were not suffered even to take leave of their nearest relations. The signpost of the White Hart Inn served for a gallows. It is said that the work of death went on in sight of the windows where the officers of the Tangier regiment were carousing, and that at every health a wretch was turned off. When the legs of the dying man quivered in the last agony, the colonel ordered the drums to strike up. He would give the rebels, he said music to their dancing. The tradition runs that one of the captives was not even allowed the indulgence of a speedy death. Twice he was suspended from the signpost, and twice cut down. Twice he was asked if he repented of his treason, and twice he replied that, if the thing were to do again, he would do it. Then he was tied up for the last time. So many dead bodies were quartered that the executioner stood ankle deep in blood. He was assisted by a poor man whose loyalty was suspected, and who was compelled to ransom his own life by seething the remains of his friends in pitch. The peasant who had consented to perform this hideous office afterwards returned to his plough. But a mark like that of Cain was upon him. He was known through his village by the horrible name of Tom Boilman. The rustics long continued to relate that, though he had, by his sinful and shameful deed, saved himself from the vengeance of the Lambs, he had not escaped the vengeance of a higher power. In a great storm he fled for shelter under an oak, and was there struck dead by lightning.
The number of those who were thus butchered cannot now be ascertained. Nine were entered in the parish registers of Taunton: but those registers contained the names of such only as had Christian burial. Those who were hanged in chains, and those whose heads and limbs were sent to the neighbouring villages, must have been much more numerous. It was believed in London, at the time, that Kirke put a hundred captives to death during the week which followed the battle.
Cruelty, however, was not this man's only passion. He loved money; and was no novice in the arts of extortion. A safe conduct might be bought of him for thirty or forty pounds; and such a safe conduct, though of no value in law, enabled the purchaser to pass the post of the Lambs without molestation, to reach a seaport, and to fly to a foreign country. The ships which were bound for New England were crowded at this juncture with so many fugitives from Sedgemoor that there was great danger lest the water and provisions should fail.
Kirke was also, in his own coarse and ferocious way, a man of pleasure; and nothing is more probable than that he employed his power for the purpose of gratifying his licentious appetites. It was reported that he conquered the virtue of a beautiful woman by promising to spare the life of one to whom she was strongly attached, and that, after she had yielded, he showed her suspended on the gallows the lifeless remains of him for whose sake she had sacrificed her honour. This tale an impartial judge must reject. It is unsupported by proof. The earliest authority for it is a poem written by Pomfret. The respectable historians of that age, while they speak with just severity of the crimes of Kirke, either omit all mention of this most atrocious crime, or mention it as a thing rumoured but not proved. Those who tell the story tell it with such variations as deprive it of all title to credit. Some lay the scene at Taunton, some at Exeter. Some make the heroine of the tale a maiden, some a married woman. The relation for whom the shameful ransom was paid is described by some as her father, by some as her brother, and by some as her husband. Lastly the story is one which, long before Kirke was born, had been told of many other oppressors, and had become a favourite theme of novelists and dramatists. Two politicians of the fifteenth century, Rhynsault, the favourite of Charles the Bold of Burgundy, and Oliver le Dain, the favourite of Lewis the Eleventh of France, had been accused of the same crime. Cintio had taken it for the subject of a romance. Whetstone had made out of Cintio's narrative the rude play of Promos and Cassandra; and Shakspeare had borrowed from Whetstone the plot of the noble tragicomedy of Measure for Measure. As Kirke was not the first so he was not the last, to whom this excess of wickedness was popularly imputed. During the reaction which followed the Jacobin tyranny in France, a very similar charge was brought against Joseph Lebon, one of the most odious agents of the Committee of Public Safety, and, after enquiry, was admitted even by his prosecutors to be unfounded.
The government was dissatisfied with Kirke, not on account of the barbarity with which he had treated his needy prisoners, but on account of the interested lenity which he had shown to rich delinquents. He was soon recalled from the West. A less irregular and more cruel massacre was about to be perpetrated. The vengeance was deferred during some weeks. It was thought desirable that the Western Circuit should not begin till the other circuits had terminated. In the meantime the gaols of Somersetshire and Dorsetshire were filled with thousands of captives. The chief friend and protector of these unhappy men in their extremity was one who abhorred their religious and political opinions, one whose order they hated, and to whom they had done unprovoked wrong, Bishop Ken. That good prelate used all his influence to soften the gaolers, and retrenched from his own episcopal state that he might be able to make some addition to the coarse and scanty fare of those who had defaced his beloved Cathedral. His conduct on this occasion was of a piece with his whole life. His intellect was indeed darkened by many superstitions and prejudices: but his moral character, when impartially reviewed, sustains a comparison with any in ecclesiastical history, and seems to approach, as near as human infirmity permits, to the ideal perfection of Christian virtue.
His labour of love was of no long duration. A rapid and effectual gaol delivery was at hand. Early in September, Jeffreys, accompanied by four other judges, set out on that circuit of which the memory will last as long as our race and language. The officers who commanded the troops in the districts through which his course lay had orders to furnish him with whatever military aid he might require. His ferocious temper needed no spur; yet a spur was applied. The health and spirits of the Lord Keeper had given way. He had been deeply mortified by the coldness of the King and by the insolence of the Chief Justice, and could find little consolation in looking back on a life, not indeed blackened by any atrocious crime, but sullied by cowardice, selfishness, and servility. So deeply was the unhappy man humbled that, when he appeared for the last time in Westminster Hall. he took with him a nosegay to hide his face, because, as he afterwards owned, he could not bear the eyes of the bar and of the audience. The prospect of his approaching end seems to have inspired him with unwonted courage. He determined to discharge his conscience, requested an audience of the King, spoke earnestly of the dangers inseparable from violent and arbitrary counsels, and condemned the lawless cruelties which the soldiers had committed in Somersetshire. He soon after retired from London to die. He breathed his last a few days after the Judges set out for the West. It was immediately notified to Jeffreys that he might expect the Great Seal as the reward of faithful and vigorous service.
At Winchester the Chief Justice first opened his commission. Hampshire had not been the theatre of war; but many of the vanquished rebels had, like their leader, fled thither. Two of them, John Hickes, a Nonconformist divine, and Richard Nelthorpe, a lawyer who had been outlawed for taking part in the Rye House plot, had sought refuge at the house of Alice, widow of John Lisle. John Lisle had sate in the Long Parliament and in the High Court of Justice, had been a commissioner of the Great Seal in the days of the Commonwealth and had been created a Lord by Cromwell. The titles given by the Protector had not been recognised by any government which had ruled England since the downfall of his house; but they appear to have been often used in conversation even by Royalists. John Lisle's widow was therefore commonly known as the Lady Alice. She was related to many respectable, and to some noble, families; and she was generally esteemed even by the Tory gentlemen of her country. For it was well known to them that she had deeply regretted some violent acts in which her husband had borne a part, that she had shed bitter tears for Charles the First, and that she had protected and relieved many Cavaliers in their distress. The same womanly kindness, which had led her to befriend the Royalists in their time of trouble, would not suffer her to refuse a meal and a hiding place to the wretched men who now entreated her to protect them. She took them into her house, set meat and drink before them, and showed them where they might take rest. The next morning her dwelling was surrounded by soldiers. Strict search was made. Hickes was found concealed in the malthouse, and Nelthorpe in the chimney. If Lady Alice knew her guests to have been concerned in the insurrection, she was undoubtedly guilty of what in strictness was a capital crime. For the law of principal and accessory, as respects high treason, then was, and is to this day, in a state disgraceful to English jurisprudence. In cases of felony, a distinction founded on justice and reason, is made between the principal and the accessory after the fact. He who conceals from justice one whom he knows to be a murderer is liable to punishment, but not to the punishment of murder. He, on the other hand, who shelters one whom he knows to be a traitor is, according to all our jurists, guilty of high treason. It is unnecessary to point out the absurdity and cruelty of a law which includes under the same definition, and visits with the same penalty, offences lying at the opposite extremes of the scale of guilt. The feeling which makes the most loyal subject shrink from the thought of giving up to a shameful death the rebel who, vanquished, hunted down, and in mortal agony, begs for a morsel of bread and a cup of water, may be a weakness; but it is surely a weakness very nearly allied to virtue, a weakness which, constituted as human beings are, we can hardly eradicate from the mind without eradicating many noble and benevolent sentiments. A wise and good ruler may not think it right to sanction this weakness; but he will generally connive at it, or punish it very tenderly. In no case will he treat it as a crime of the blackest dye. Whether Flora Macdonald was justified in concealing the attainted heir of the Stuarts, whether a brave soldier of our own time was justified in assisting the escape of Lavalette, are questions on which casuists may differ: but to class such actions with the crimes of Guy Faux and Fieschi is an outrage to humanity and common sense. Such, however, is the classification of our law. It is evident that nothing but a lenient administration could make such a state of the law endurable. And it is just to say that, during many generations, no English government, save one, has treated with rigour persons guilty merely of harbouring defeated and flying insurgents. To women especially has been granted, by a kind of tacit prescription, the right of indulging in the midst of havoc and vengeance, that compassion which is the most endearing of all their charms. Since the beginning of the great civil war, numerous rebels, some of them far more important than Hickes or Nelthorpe, have been protected from the severity of victorious governments by female adroitness and generosity. But no English ruler who has been thus baffled, the savage and implacable James alone excepted, has had the barbarity even to think of putting a lady to a cruel and shameful death for so venial and amiable a transgression.
Odious as the law was, it was strained for the purpose of destroying Alice Lisle. She could not, according to the doctrine laid down by the highest authority, be convicted till after the conviction of the rebels whom she had harboured. She was, however, set to the bar before either Hickes or Nelthorpe had been tried. It was no easy matter in such a case to obtain a verdict for the crown. The witnesses prevaricated. The jury, consisting of the principal gentlemen of Hampshire, shrank from the thought of sending a fellow creature to the stake for conduct which seemed deserving rather of praise than of blame. Jeffreys was beside himself with fury. This was the first case of treason on the circuit; and there seemed to be a strong probability that his prey would escape him. He stormed, cursed, and swore in language which no wellbred man would have used at a race or a cockfight. One witness named Dunne, partly from concern for Lady Alice, and partly from fright at the threats and maledictions of the Chief Justice, entirely lost his head, and at last stood silent. "Oh how hard the truth is," said Jeffreys, "to come out of a lying Presbyterian knave." The witness, after a pause of some minutes, stammered a few unmeaning words. "Was there ever," exclaimed the judge, with an oath, "was there ever such a villain on the face of the earth? Dost thou believe that there is a God? Dost thou believe in hell fire. Of all the witnesses that I ever met with I never saw thy fellow." Still the poor man, scared out of his senses, remained mute; and again Jeffreys burst forth. "I hope, gentlemen of the jury, that you take notice of the horrible carriage of this fellow. How can one help abhorring both these men and their religion? A Turk is a saint to such a fellow as this. A Pagan would be ashamed of such villany. Oh blessed Jesus! What a generation of vipers do we live among!" "I cannot tell what to say, my Lord," faltered Dunne. The judge again broke forth into a volley of oaths. "Was there ever," he cried, "such an impudent rascal? Hold the candle to him that we may see his brazen face. You, gentlemen, that are of counsel for the crown, see that an information for perjury be preferred against this fellow." After the witnesses had been thus handled, the Lady Alice was called on for her defence. She began by saying, what may possibly have been true, that though she knew Hickes to be in trouble when she took him in, she did not know or suspect that he had been concerned in the rebellion. He was a divine, a man of peace. It had, therefore, never occurred to her that he could have borne arms against the government; and she had supposed that he wished to conceal himself because warrants were out against him for field preaching. The Chief Justice began to storm. "But I will tell you. There is not one of those lying, snivelling, canting Presbyterians but, one way or another, had a hand in the rebellion. Presbytery has all manner of villany in it. Nothing but Presbytery could have made Dunne such a rogue. Show me a Presbyterian; and I'll show thee a lying knave." He summed up in the same style, declaimed during an hour against Whigs and Dissenters, and reminded the jury that the prisoner's husband had borne a part in the death of Charles the First, a fact which had not been proved by any testimony, and which, if it had been proved, would have been utterly irrelevant to the issue. The jury retired, and remained long in consultation. The judge grew impatient. He could not conceive, he said, how, in so plain a case, they should even have left the box. He sent a messenger to tell them that, if they did not instantly return, he would adjourn the court and lock them up all night. Thus put to the torture, they came, but came to say that they doubted whether the charge had been made out. Jeffreys expostulated with them vehemently, and, after another consultation, they gave a reluctant verdict of Guilty.
On the following morning sentence was pronounced. Jeffreys gave directions that Alice Lisle should be burned alive that very afternoon. This excess of barbarity moved the pity and indignation even of the class which was most devoted to the crown. The clergy of Winchester Cathedral remonstrated with the Chief Justice, who, brutal as he was, was not mad enough to risk a quarrel on such a subject with a body so much respected by the Tory party. He consented to put off the execution five days. During that time the friends of the prisoner besought James to be merciful. Ladies of high rank interceded for her. Feversham, whose recent victory had increased his influence at court, and who, it is said, had been bribed to take the compassionate side, spoke in her favour. Clarendon, the King's brother in law, pleaded her cause. But all was vain. The utmost that could be obtained was that her sentence should be commuted from burning to beheading. She was put to death on a scaffold in the marketplace of Winchester, and underwent her fate with serene courage.
In Hampshire Alice Lisle was the only victim: but, on the day following her execution, Jeffreys reached Dorchester, the principal town of the county in which Monmouth had landed; and the judicial massacre began. The court was hung, by order of the Chief Justice, with scarlet; and this innovation seemed to the multitude to indicate a bloody purpose. It was also rumoured that, when the clergyman who preached the assize sermon enforced the duty of mercy, the ferocious mouth of the Judge was distorted by an ominous grin. These things made men augur ill of what was to follow.
More than three hundred prisoners were to be tried. The work seemed heavy; but Jeffreys had a contrivance for making it light. He let it be understood that the only chance of obtaining pardon or respite was to plead guilty. Twenty-nine persons, who put themselves on their country and were convicted, were ordered to be tied up without delay. The remaining prisoners pleaded guilty by scores. Two hundred and ninety-two received sentence of death. The whole number hanged in Dorsetshire amounted to seventy-four.
From Dorchester Jeffreys proceeded to Exeter. The civil war had barely grazed the frontier of Devonshire. Here, therefore, comparatively few persons were capitally punished. Somersetshire, the chief seat of the rebellion, had been reserved for the last and most fearful vengeance. In this county two hundred and thirty-three prisoners were in a few days hanged, drawn, and quartered. At every spot where two roads met, on every marketplace, on the green of every large village which had furnished Monmouth with soldiers, ironed corpses clattering in the wind, or heads and quarters stuck on poles, poisoned the air, and made the traveller sick with horror. In many parishes the peasantry could not assemble in the house of God without seeing the ghastly face of a neighbour grinning at them over the porch. The Chief Justice was all himself. His spirits rose higher and higher as the work went on. He laughed, shouted, joked, and swore in such a way that many thought him drunk from morning to night. But in him it was not easy to distinguish the madness produced by evil passions from the madness produced by brandy. A prisoner affirmed that the witnesses who appeared against him were not entitled to credit. One of them, he said, was a Papist, and another a prostitute. "Thou impudent rebel," exclaimed the Judge, "to reflect on the King's evidence! I see thee, villain, I see thee already with the halter round thy neck." Another produced testimony that he was a good Protestant. "Protestant! " said Jeffreys; "you mean Presbyterian. I'll hold you a wager of it. I can smell a Presbyterian forty miles." One wretched man moved the pity even of bitter Tories. "My Lord," they said, "this poor creature is on the parish." "Do not trouble yourselves," said the Judge, "I will ease the parish of the burden." It was not only against the prisoners that his fury broke forth. Gentlemen and noblemen of high consideration and stainless loyalty, who ventured to bring to his notice any extenuating circumstance, were almost sure to receive what he called, in the coarse dialect which he had learned in the pothouses of Whitechapel, a lick with the rough side of his tongue. Lord Stawell, a Tory peer, who could not conceal his horror at the remorseless manner in which his poor neighbours were butchered, was punished by having a corpse suspended in chains at his park gate. In such spectacles originated many tales of terror, which were long told over the cider by the Christmas fires of the farmers of Somersetshire. Within the last forty years, peasants, in some districts, well knew the accursed spots, and passed them unwillingly after sunset.
Jeffreys boasted that he had hanged more traitors than all his predecessors together since the Conquest. It is certain that the number of persons whom he put to death in one month, and in one shire, very much exceeded the number of all the political offenders who have been put to death in our island since the Revolution. The rebellions of 1715 and 1745 were of longer duration, of wider extent, and of more formidable aspect than that which was put down at Sedgemoor. It has not been generally thought that, either after the rebellion of 1715, or after the rebellion of 1745, the House of Hanover erred on the side of clemency. Yet all the executions of 1715 and 1745 added together will appear to have been few indeed when compared with those which disgraced the Bloody Assizes. The number of the rebels whom Jeffreys hanged on this circuit was three hundred and twenty.
Such havoc must have excited disgust even if the sufferers had been generally odious. But they were, for the most part, men of blameless life, and of high religious profession. They were regarded by themselves, and by a large proportion of their neighbours, not as wrongdoers, but as martyrs who sealed with blood the truth of the Protestant religion. Very few of the convicts professed any repentance for what they had done. Many, animated by the old Puritan spirit, met death, not merely with fortitude, but with exultation. It was in vain that the ministers of the Established Church lectured them on the guilt of rebellion and on the importance of priestly absolution. The claim of the King to unbounded authority in things temporal, and the claim of the clergy to the spiritual power of binding and loosing, moved the bitter scorn of the intrepid sectaries. Some of them composed hymns in the dungeon, and chaunted them on the fatal sledge. Christ, they sang while they were undressing for the butchery, would soon come to rescue Zion and to make war on Babylon, would set up his standard, would blow his trumpet, and would requite his foes tenfold for all the evil which had been inflicted on his servants. The dying words of these men were noted down: their farewell letters were kept as treasures; and, in this way, with the help of some invention and exaggeration, was formed a copious supplement to the Marian martyrology.
A few eases deserve special mention. Abraham Holmes, a retired officer of the parliamentary army, and one of those zealots who would own no king but King Jesus, had been taken at Sedgemoor. His arm had been frightfully mangled and shattered in the battle; and, as no surgeon was at hand, the stout old soldier amputated it himself. He was carried up to London, and examined by the King in Council, but would make no submission. "I am an aged man," he said, "and what remains to me of life is not worth a falsehood or a baseness. I have always been a republican; and I am so still." He was sent back to the West and hanged. The people remarked with awe and wonder that the beasts which were to drag him to the gallows became restive and went back. Holmes himself doubted not that the Angel of the Lord, as in the old time, stood in the way sword in hand, invisible to human eyes, but visible to the inferior animals. "Stop, gentlemen," he cried: "let me go on foot. There is more in this than you think. Remember how the ass saw him whom the prophet could not see." He walked manfully to the gallows, harangued the people with a smile, prayed fervently that God would hasten the downfall of Antichrist and the deliverance of England, and went up the ladder with an apology for mounting so awkwardly. "You see," he said, "I have but one arm."
Not less courageously died Christopher Balttiscombe, a young Templar of good family and fortune, who, at Dorchester, an agreeable provincial town proud of its taste and refinement, was regarded by all as the model of a fine gentleman. Great interest was made to save him. It was believed through the West of England that he was engaged to a young lady of gentle blood, the sister of the Sheriff, that she threw herself at the feet of Jeffreys to beg for mercy, and that Jeffreys drove her from him with a jest so hideous that to repeat it would be an offence against decency and humanity. Her lover suffered at Lyme piously and courageously.
A still deeper interest was excited by the fate of two gallant brothers, William and Benjamin Hewling. They were young, handsome, accomplished, and well connected. Their maternal grandfather was named Kiffin. He was one of the first merchants in London, and was generally considered as the head of the Baptists. The Chief Justice behaved to William Hewling on the trial with characteristic brutality. "You have a grandfather," he said, "who deserves to be hanged as richly as you." The poor lad, who was only nineteen, suffered death with so much meekness and fortitude, that an officer of the army who attended the execution, and who had made himself remarkable by rudeness and severity, was strangely melted, and said, "I do not believe that my Lord Chief Justice himself could be proof against this." Hopes were entertained that Benjamin would be pardoned. One victim of tender years was surely enough for one house to furnish. Even Jeffreys was, or pretended to be, inclined to lenity. The truth was that one of his kinsmen, from whom he had large expectations, and whom, therefore, he could not treat as he generally treated intercessors, pleaded strongly for the afflicted family. Time was allowed for a reference to London. The sister of the prisoner went to Whitehall with a petition. Many courtiers wished her success; and Churchill, among whose numerous faults cruelty had no place, obtained admittance for her. "I wish well to your suit with all my heart," he said, as they stood together in the antechamber; "but do not flatter yourself with hopes. This marble,"- and he laid his hand on the chimneypiece,--"is not harder than the King." The prediction proved true. James was inexorable. Benjamin Hewling died with dauntless courage, amidst lamentations in which the soldiers who kept guard round the gallows could not refrain from joining.
Yet those rebels who were doomed to death were less to be pitied than some of the survivors. Several prisoners to whom Jeffreys was unable to bring home the charge of high treason were convicted of misdemeanours, and were sentenced to scourging not less terrible than that which Oates had undergone. A woman for some idle words, such as had been uttered by half the women in the districts where the war had raged, was condemned to be whipped through all the market towns in the county of Dorset. She suffered part of her punishment before Jeffreys returned to London; but, when he was no longer in the West, the gaolers, with the humane connivance of the magistrates, took on themselves the responsibility of sparing her any further torture. A still more frightful sentence was passed on a lad named Tutchin, who was tried for seditious words. He was, as usual, interrupted in his defence by ribaldry and scurrility from the judgment seat. "You are a rebel; and all your family have been rebels since Adam. They tell me that you are a poet. I'll cap verses with you." The sentence was that the boy should be imprisoned seven years, and should, during that period, be flogged through every market town in Dorsetshire every year. The women in the galleries burst into tears. The clerk of the arraigns stood up in great disorder. "My Lord," said he, "the prisoner is very young. There are many market towns in our county. The sentence amounts to whipping once a fortnight for seven years." "If he is a young man," said Jeffreys, "he is an old rogue. Ladies, you do not know the villain as well as I do. The punishment is not half bad enough for him. All the interest in England shall not alter it." Tutchin in his despair petitioned, and probably with sincerity, that he might be hanged. Fortunately for him he was, just at this conjuncture, taken ill of the smallpox and given over. As it seemed highly improbable that the sentence would ever be executed, the Chief Justice consented to remit it, in return for a bribe which reduced the prisoner to poverty. The temper of Tutchin, not originally very mild, was exasperated to madness by what he had undergone. He lived to be known as one of the most acrimonious and pertinacious enemies of the House of Stuart and of the Tory party.
The number of prisoners whom Jeffreys transported was eight hundred and forty-one. These men, more wretched than their associates who suffered death, were distributed into gangs, and bestowed on persons who enjoyed favour at court. The conditions of the gift were that the convicts should be carried beyond sea as slaves, that they should not be emancipated for ten years, and that the place of their banishment should be some West Indian island. This last article was studiously framed for the purpose of aggravating the misery of the exiles. In New England or New Jersey they would have found a population kindly disposed to them and a climate not unfavourable to their health and vigour. It was therefore determined that they should be sent to colonies where a Puritan could hope to inspire little sympathy, and where a labourer born in the temperate zone could hope to enjoy little health. Such was the state of the slave market that these bondmen, long as was the passage, and sickly as they were likely to prove, were still very valuable. It was estimated by Jeffreys that, on an average, each of them, after all charges were paid, would be worth from ten to fifteen pounds. There was therefore much angry competition for grants. Some Tories in the West conceived that they had, by their exertions and sufferings during the insurrection, earned a right to share in the profits which had been eagerly snatched up by the sycophants of Whitehall. The courtiers, however, were victorious.
The misery of the exiles fully equalled that of the negroes who are now carried from Congo to Brazil. It appears from the best information which is at present accessible that more than one fifth of those who were shipped were flung to the sharks before the end of the voyage. The human cargoes were stowed close in the holds of small vessels. So little space was allowed that the wretches, many of whom were still tormented by unhealed wounds, could not all lie down at once without lying on one another. They were never suffered to go on deck. The hatchway was constantly watched by sentinels armed with hangers and blunderbusses. In the dungeon below all was darkness, stench, lamentation, disease and death. Of ninety-nine convicts who were carried out in one vessel, twenty-two died before they reached Jamaica, although the voyage was performed with unusual speed. The survivors when they arrived at their house of bondage were mere skeletons. During some weeks coarse biscuit and fetid water had been doled out to them in such scanty measure that any one of them could easily have consumed the ration which was assigned to five. They were, therefore, in such a state that the merchant to whom they had been consigned found it expedient to fatten them before selling them.
Meanwhile the property both of the rebels who had suffered death, and of those more unfortunate men who were withering under the tropical sun, was fought for and torn in pieces by a crowd of greedy informers. By law a subject attainted of treason forfeits all his substance; and this law was enforced after the Bloody Assizes with a rigour at once cruel and ludicrous. The brokenhearted widows and destitute orphans of the labouring men whose corpses hung at the cross roads were called upon by the agents of the Treasury to explain what had become of a basket, of a goose, of a flitch of bacon, of a keg of cider, of a sack of beans, of a truss of hay. While the humbler retainers of the government were pillaging the families of the slaughtered peasants, the Chief Justice was fast accumulating a fortune out of the plunder of a higher class of Whigs. He traded largely in pardons. His most lucrative transaction of this kind was with a gentleman named Edmund Prideaux. It is certain that Prideaux had not been in arms against the government; and it is probable that his only crime was the wealth which he had inherited from his father, an eminent lawyer who had been high in office under the Protector. No exertions were spared to make out a case for the crown. Mercy was offered to some prisoners on condition that they would bear evidence against Prideaux. The unfortunate man lay long in gaol and at length, overcome by fear of the gallows, consented to pay fifteen thousand pounds for his liberation. This great sum was received by Jeffreys. He bought with it an estate, to which the people gave the name of Aceldama, from that accursed field which was purchased with the price of innocent blood.
He was ably assisted in the work of extortion by the crew of parasites who were in the habit of drinking and laughing with him. The office of these men was to drive hard bargains with convicts under the strong terrors of death, and with parents trembling for the lives of children. A portion of the spoil was abandoned by Jeffreys to his agents. To one of his boon companions, it is said. he tossed a pardon for a rich traitor across the table during a revel. It was not safe to have recourse to any intercession except that of his creatures, for he guarded his profitable monopoly of mercy with jealous care. It was even suspected that he sent some persons to the gibbet solely because they had applied for the royal clemency through channels independent of him.
Some courtiers nevertheless contrived to obtain a small share of this traffic. The ladies of the Queen's household distinguished themselves preeminently by rapacity and hardheartedness. Part of the disgrace which they incurred falls on their mistress: for it was solely on account of the relation in which they stood to her that they were able to enrich themselves by so odious a trade; and there can be no question that she might with a word or a look have restrained them. But in truth she encouraged them by her evil example, if not by her express approbation. She seems to have been one of that large class of persons who bear adversity better than prosperity. While her husband was a subject and an exile, shut out from public employment, and in imminent danger of being deprived of his birthright, the suavity and humility of her manners conciliated the kindness even of those who most abhorred her religion. But when her good fortune came her good nature disappeared. The meek and affable Duchess turned out an ungracious and haughty Queen. The misfortunes which she subsequently endured have made her an object of some interest; but that interest would be not a little heightened if it could be shown that, in the season of her greatness, she saved, or even tried to save, one single victim from the most frightful proscription that England has ever seen. Unhappily the only request that she is known to have preferred touching the rebels was that a hundred of those who were sentenced to transportation might be given to her. The profit which she cleared on the cargo, after making large allowance for those who died of hunger and fever during the passage, cannot be estimated at less than a thousand guineas. We cannot wonder that her attendants should have imitated her unprincely greediness and her unwomanly cruelty. They exacted a thousand pounds from Roger Hoare, a merchant of Bridgewater; who had contributed to the military chest of the rebel army. But the prey on which they pounced most eagerly was one which it might have been thought that even the most ungentle natures would have spared. Already some of the girls who had presented the standard to Monmouth at Taunton had cruelly expiated their offence. One of them had been thrown into prison where an infectious malady was raging. She had sickened and died there. Another had presented herself at the bar before Jeffreys to beg for mercy. "Take her, gaoler," vociferated the Judge, with one of those frowns which had often struck terror into stouter hearts than hers. She burst into tears, drew her hood over her face, followed the gaoler out of the court, fell ill of fright, and in a few hours was a corpse. Most of the young ladies, however, who had walked in the procession were still alive. Some of them were under ten years of age. All had acted under the orders of their schoolmistress, without knowing that they were committing a crime. The Queen's maids of honour asked the royal permission to wring money out of the parents of the poor children; and the permission was granted. An order was sent down to Taunton that all these little girls should be seized and imprisoned. Sir Francis Warre of Hestercombe, the Tory member for Bridgewater, was requested to undertake the office of exacting the ransom. He was charged to declare in strong language that the maids of honour would not endure delay, that they were determined to prosecute to outlawry, unless a reasonable sum were forthcoming, and that by a reasonable sum was meant seven thousand pounds. Warre excused himself from taking any part in a transaction so scandalous. The maids of honour then requested William Penn to act for them; and Penn accepted the commission. Yet it should seem that a little of the pertinacious scrupulosity which he had often shown about taking off his hat would not have been altogether out of place on this occasion. He probably silenced the remonstrances of his conscience by repeating to himself that none of the money which he extorted would go into his own pocket; that if he refused to be the agent of the ladies they would find agents less humane; that by complying he should increase his influence at the court, and that his influence at the court had already enabled him, and still might enable him, to render great services to his oppressed brethren. The maids of honour were at last forced to content themselves with less than a third part of what they had demanded.
No English sovereign has ever given stronger proof of a cruel nature than James the Second. Yet his cruelty was not more odious than his mercy. Or perhaps it may be more correct to say that his mercy and his cruelty were such that each reflects infamy on the other. Our horror at the fate of the simple clowns, the young lads, the delicate women, to whom he was inexorably severe, is increased when we find to whom and for what considerations he granted his pardon.
The rule by which a prince ought, after a rebellion, to be guided in selecting rebels for punishment is perfectly obvious. The ringleaders, the men of rank, fortune, and education, whose power and whose artifices have led the multitude into error, are the proper objects of severity. The deluded populace, when once the slaughter on the field of battle is over, can scarcely be treated too leniently. This rule, so evidently agreeable to justice and humanity, was not only not observed: it was inverted. While those who ought to have been spared were slaughtered by hundreds, the few who might with propriety have been left to the utmost rigour of the law were spared. This eccentric clemency has perplexed some writers, and has drawn forth ludicrous eulogies from others. It was neither at all mysterious nor at all praiseworthy. It may be distinctly traced in every case either to a sordid or to a malignant motive, either to thirst for money or to thirst for blood.
In the case of Grey there was no mitigating circumstance. His parts and knowledge, the rank which he had inherited in the state, and the high command which he had borne in the rebel army, would have pointed him out to a just government as a much fitter object of punishment than Alice Lisle, than William Hewling, than any of the hundreds of ignorant peasants whose skulls and quarters were exposed in Somersetshire. But Grey's estate was large and was strictly entailed. He had only a life interest in his property; and he could forfeit no more interest than he had. If he died, his lands at once devolved on the next heir. If he were pardoned, he would be able to pay a large ransom. He was therefore suffered to redeem himself by giving a bond for forty thousand pounds to the Lord Treasurer, and smaller sums to other courtiers.
Sir John Cochrane had held among the Scotch rebels the same rank which had been held by Grey in the West of England. That Cochrane should be forgiven by a prince vindictive beyond all example, seemed incredible. But Cochrane was the younger son of a rich family; it was therefore only by sparing him that money could be made out of him. His father, Lord Dundonald, offered a bribe of five thousand pounds to the priests of the royal household; and a pardon was granted.
Samuel Storey, a noted sower of sedition, who had been Commissary to the rebel army, and who had inflamed the ignorant populace of Somersetshire by vehement harangues in which James had been described as an incendiary and a poisoner, was admitted to mercy. For Storey was able to give important assistance to Jeffreys in wringing fifteen thousand pounds out of Prideaux.
None of the traitors had less right to expect favour than Wade, Goodenough, and Ferguson. These three chiefs of the rebellion had fled together from the field of Sedgemoor, and had reached the coast in safety. But they had found a frigate cruising near the spot where they had hoped to embark. They had then separated. Wade and Goodenough were soon discovered and brought up to London. Deeply as they had been implicated in the Rye House plot, conspicuous as they had been among the chiefs of the Western insurrection, they were suffered to live, because they had it in their power to give information which enabled the King to slaughter and plunder some persons whom he hated, but to whom he had never yet been able to bring home any crime.
How Ferguson escaped was, and still is, a mystery. Of all the enemies of the government he was, without doubt, the most deeply criminal. He was the original author of the plot for assassinating the royal brothers. He had written that Declaration which, for insolence, malignity, and mendacity, stands unrivalled even among the libels of those stormy times. He had instigated Monmouth first to invade the kingdom, and then to usurp the crown. It was reasonable to expect that a strict search would be made for the archtraitor, as he was often called; and such a search a man of so singular an aspect and dialect could scarcely have eluded. It was confidently reported in the coffee houses of London that Ferguson was taken, and this report found credit with men who had excellent opportunities of knowing the truth. The next thing that was heard of him was that he was safe on the Continent. It was strongly suspected that he had been in constant communication with the government against which he was constantly plotting, that he had, while urging his associates to every excess of rashness, sent to Whitehall just so much information about their proceedings as might suffice to save his own neck, and that therefore orders had been given to let him escape.
And now Jeffreys had done his work, and returned to claim his reward. He arrived at Windsor from the West, leaving carnage, mourning, and terror behind him. The hatred with which he was regarded by the people of Somersetshire has no parallel in our history. It was not to be quenched by time or by political changes, was long transmitted from generation to generation, and raged fiercely against his innocent progeny. When he had been many years dead, when his name and title were extinct, his granddaughter, the Countess of Pomfret, travelling along the western road, was insulted by the populace, and found that she could not safely venture herself among the descendants of those who had witnessed the Bloody Assizes.
But at the Court Jeffreys was cordially welcomed. He was a judge after his master's own heart. James had watched the circuit with interest and delight. In his drawingroom and at his table he had frequently talked of the havoc which was making among his disaffected subjects with a glee at which the foreign ministers stood aghast. With his own hand he had penned accounts of what he facetiously called his Lord Chief Justice's campaign in the West. Some hundreds of rebels, His Majesty wrote to the Hague, had been condemned. Some of them had been hanged: more should be hanged: and the rest should be sent to the plantations. It was to no purpose that Ken wrote to implore mercy for the misguided people, and described with pathetic eloquence the frightful state of his diocese. He complained that it was impossible to walk along the highways without seeing some terrible spectacle, and that the whole air of Somersetshire was tainted with death. The King read, and remained, according to the saying of Churchill, hard as the marble chimneypieces of Whitehall. At Windsor the great seal of England was put into the hands of Jeffreys, and in the next London Gazette it was solemnly notified that this honour was the reward of the many eminent and faithful services which he had rendered to the crown.
At a later period, when all men of all parties spoke with horror of the Bloody Assizes, the wicked Judge and the wicked King attempted to vindicate themselves by throwing the blame on each other. Jeffreys, in the Tower, protested that, in his utmost cruelty, he had not gone beyond his master's express orders, nay, that he had fallen short of them. James, at Saint Germain's, would willingly have had it believed that his own inclinations had been on the side of clemency, and that unmerited obloquy had been brought on him by the violence of his minister. But neither of these hardhearted men must be absolved at the expense of the other. The plea set up for James can be proved under his own hand to be false in fact. The plea of Jeffreys, even if it be true in fact, is utterly worthless.
The slaughter in the West was over. The slaughter in London was about to begin. The government was peculiarly desirous to find victims among the great Whig merchants of the City. They had, in the last reign, been a formidable part of the strength of the opposition. They were wealthy; and their wealth was not, like that of many noblemen and country gentlemen, protected by entail against forfeiture. In the case of Grey and of men situated like him, it was impossible to gratify cruelty and rapacity at once; but a rich trader might be both hanged and plundered. The commercial grandees, however, though in general hostile to Popery and to arbitrary power, had yet been too scrupulous or too timid to incur the guilt of high treason. One of the most considerable among them was Henry Cornish. He had been an Alderman under the old charter of the City, and had filled the office of Sheriff when the question of the Exclusion Bill occupied the public mind. In politics he was a Whig: his religious opinions leaned towards Presbyterianism: but his temper was cautious and moderate. It is not proved by trustworthy evidence that he ever approached the verge of treason. He had, indeed, when Sheriff, been very unwilling to employ as his deputy a man so violent and unprincipled as Goodenough. When the Rye House plot was discovered, great hopes were entertained at Whitehall that Cornish would appear to have been concerned: but these hopes were disappointed. One of the conspirators, indeed, John Rumsey, was ready to swear anything: but a single witness was not sufficient; and no second witness could be found. More than two years had since elapsed. Cornish thought himself safe; but the eye of the tyrant was upon him. Goodenough, terrified by the near prospect of death, and still harbouring malice on account of the unfavourable opinion which had always been entertained of him by his old master, consented to supply the testimony which had hitherto been wanting. Cornish was arrested while transacting business on the Exchange, was hurried to gaol, was kept there some days in solitary confinement, and was brought altogether unprepared to the bar of the Old Bailey. The case against him rested wholly on the evidence of Rumsey and Goodenough. Both were, by their own confession accomplices in the plot with which they charged the prisoner. Both were impelled by the strongest pressure of hope end fear to criminate him. Evidence was produced which proved that Goodenough was also under the influence of personal enmity. Rumsey's story was inconsistent with the story which he had told when he appeared as a witness against Lord Russell. But these things were urged in vain. On the bench sate three judges who had been with Jeffreys in the West; and it was remarked by those who watched their deportment that they had come back from the carnage of Taunton in a fierce and excited state. It is indeed but too true that the taste for blood is a taste which even men not naturally cruel may, by habit, speedily acquire. The bar and the bench united to browbeat the unfortunate Whig. The jury, named by a courtly Sheriff, readily found a verdict of Guilty; and, in spite of the indignant murmurs of the public, Cornish suffered death within ten days after he had been arrested. That no circumstance of degradation might be wanting, the gibbet was set up where King Street meets Cheapside, in sight of the house where he had long lived in general respect, of the Exchange where his credit had always stood high, and of the Guildhall where he had distinguished himself as a popular leader. He died with courage and with many pious expressions, but showed, by look and gesture, such strong resentment at the barbarity and injustice with which he had been treated, that his enemies spread a calumnious report concerning him. He was drunk, they said, or out of his mind, when he was turned off. William Penn, however, who stood near the gallows, and whose prejudice were all on the side of the government, afterwards said that he could see in Cornish's deportment nothing but the natural indignation of an innocent man slain under the forms of law. The head of the murdered magistrate was placed over the Guildhall.
Black as this case was, it was not the blackest which disgraced the sessions of that autumn at the Old Bailey. Among the persons concerned in the Rye House plot was a man named James Burton. By his own confession he had been present when the design of assassination was discussed by his accomplices. When the conspiracy was detected, a reward was offered for his apprehension. He was saved from death by an ancient matron of the Baptist persuasion, named Elizabeth Gaunt. This woman, with the peculiar manners and phraseology which then distinguished her sect, had a large charity. Her life was passed in relieving the unhappy of all religious denominations, and she was well known as a constant visitor of the gaols. Her political and theological opinions, as well as her compassionate disposition, led her to do everything in her power for Burton. She procured a boat which took him to Gravesend, where he got on board of a ship bound for Amsterdam. At the moment of parting she put into his hand a sum of money which, for her means, was very large. Burton, after living some time in exile, returned to England with Monmouth, fought at Sedgemoor, fled to London, and took refuge in the house of John Fernley, a barber in Whitechapel. Fernley was very poor. He was besieged by creditors. He knew that a reward of a hundred pounds had been offered by the government for the apprehension of Burton. But the honest man was incapable of betraying one who, in extreme peril, had come under the shadow of his roof. Unhappily it was soon noised abroad that the anger of James was more strongly excited against those who harboured rebels than against the rebels themselves. He had publicly declared that of all forms of treason the hiding of traitors from his vengeance was the most unpardonable. Burton knew this. He delivered himself up to the government; and he gave information against Fernley and Elizabeth Gaunt. They were brought to trial. The villain whose life they had preserved had the heart and the forehead to appear as the principal witness against them. They were convicted. Fernley was sentenced to the gallows, Elizabeth Gaunt to the stake. Even after all the horrors of that year, many thought it impossible that these judgments should be carried into execution. But the King was without pity. Fernley was hanged. Elizabeth Gaunt was burned alive at Tyburn on the same day on which Cornish suffered death in Cheapside. She left a paper written, indeed, in no graceful style, yet such as was read by many thousands with compassion and horror. "My fault," she said, "was one which a prince might well have forgiven. I did but relieve a poor family; and lo! I must die for it." She complained of the insolence of the judges, of the ferocity of the gaoler, and of the tyranny of him, the great one of all, to whose pleasure she and so many other victims had been sacrificed. In so far as they had injured herself, she forgave them: but, in that they were implacable enemies of that good cause which would yet revive and flourish, she left them to the judgment of the King of Kings. To the last she preserved a tranquil courage, which reminded the spectators of the most heroic deaths of which they had read in Fox. William Penn, for whom exhibitions which humane men generally avoid seem to have had a strong attraction, hastened from Cheapside, where he had seen Cornish hanged, to Tyburn, in order to see Elizabeth Gaunt burned. He afterwards related that, when she calmly disposed the straw about her in such a manner as to shorten her sufferings, all the bystanders burst into tears. It was much noticed that, while the foulest judicial murder which had disgraced even those times was perpetrating, a tempest burst forth, such as had not been known since that great hurricane which had raged round the deathbed of Oliver. The oppressed Puritans reckoned up, not without a gloomy satisfaction the houses which had been blown down, and the ships which had been cast away, and derived some consolation from thinking that heaven was bearing awful testimony against the iniquity which afflicted the earth. Since that terrible day no woman has suffered death in England for any political offence.
It was not thought that Goodenough had yet earned his pardon. The government was bent on destroying a victim of no high rank, a surgeon in the City, named Bateman. He had attended Shaftesbury professionally, and had been a zealous Exclusionist. He may possibly have been privy to the Whig plot; but it is certain that he had not been one of the leading conspirators; for, in the great mass of depositions published by the government, his name occurs only once, and then not in connection with any crime bordering on high treason. From his indictment, and from the scanty account which remains of his trial, it seems clear that he was not even accused of participating in the design of murdering the royal brothers. The malignity with which so obscure a man, guilty of so slight an offence, was hunted down, while traitors far more criminal and far more eminent were allowed to ransom themselves by giving evidence against him, seemed to require explanation; and a disgraceful explanation was found. When Oates, after his scourging, was carried into Newgate insensible, and, as all thought, in the last agony, he had been bled and his wounds had been dressed by Bateman. This was an offence not to be forgiven. Bateman was arrested and indicted. The witnesses against him were men of infamous character, men, too, who were swearing for their own lives. None of them had yet got his pardon; and it was a popular saying, that they fished for prey, like tame cormorants, with ropes round their necks. The prisoner, stupefied by illness, was unable to articulate, or to understand what passed. His son and daughter stood by him at the bar. They read as well as they could some notes which he had set down, and examined his witnesses. It was to little purpose. He was convicted, hanged, and quartered.
Never, not even under the tyranny of Laud, had the condition of the Puritans been so deplorable as at that time. Never had spies been so actively employed in detecting congregations. Never had magistrates, grand jurors, rectors and churchwardens been so much on the alert. Many Dissenters were cited before the ecclesiastical courts. Others found it necessary to purchase the connivance of the agents of the government by presents of hogsheads of wine, and of gloves stuffed with guineas. It was impossible for the separatists to pray together without precautions such as are employed by coiners and receivers of stolen goods. The places of meeting were frequently changed. Worship was performed sometimes just before break of day and sometimes at dead of night. Round the building where the little flock was gathered sentinels were posted to give the alarm if a stranger drew near. The minister in disguise was introduced through the garden and the back yard. In some houses there were trap doors through which, in case of danger, he might descend. Where Nonconformists lived next door to each other, the walls were often broken open, and secret passages were made from dwelling to dwelling. No psalm was sung; and many contrivances were used to prevent the voice of the preacher, in his moments of fervour, from being heard beyond the walls. Yet, with all this care, it was often found impossible to elude the vigilance of informers. In the suburbs of London, especially, the law was enforced with the utmost rigour. Several opulent gentlemen were accused of holding conventicles. Their houses were strictly searched, and distresses were levied to the amount of many thousands of pounds. The fiercer and bolder sectaries, thus driven from the shelter of roofs, met in the open air, and determined to repel force by force. A Middlesex justice who had learned that a nightly prayer meeting was held in a gravel pit about two miles from London, took with him a strong body of constables, broke in upon the assembly, and seized the preacher. But the congregation, which consisted of about two hundred men, soon rescued their pastor. and put the magistrate and his officers to flight. This, however, was no ordinary occurrence. In general the Puritan spirit seemed to be more effectually cowed at this conjuncture than at any moment before or since. The Tory pamphleteers boasted that not one fanatic dared to move tongue or pen in defence of his religious opinions. Dissenting ministers, however blameless in life, however eminent for learning and abilities, could not venture to walk the streets for fear of outrages, which were not only not repressed, but encouraged, by those whose duty it was to preserve the peace. Some divines of great fame were in prison. Among these was Richard Baxter. Others, who had, during a quarter of a century, borne up against oppression, now lost heart, and quitted the kingdom. Among these was John Howe. Great numbers of persons who had been accustomed to frequent conventicles repaired to the parish churches. It was remarked that the schismatics who had been terrified into this show of conformity might easily be distinguished by the difficulty which they had in finding out the collect, and by the awkward manner in which they bowed at the name of Jesus.
Through many years the autumn of 1685 was remembered by the Nonconformists as a time of misery and terror. Yet in that autumn might be discerned the first faint indications of a great turn of fortune; and before eighteen months had elapsed, the intolerant King and the intolerant Church were eagerly bidding against each other for the support of the party which both had so deeply injured.
END OF VOL. I.