Page images

at the period, when Roger North stepped forward to vindicate the memory of King Charles from aspersions, which he thought unjustly thrown upon it—a stranger had “filled the Stuart's throne," and their favourite principles of government were equally proscribed with their persons. In a world of interested selfseekers, where departed greatness is the only description of power that lacks supporters, we reverence the man, whatever his principles, or however mistaken his views, who, under such circumstances, stands manfully forth to undertake their defence.

As a book of political and historical information, it is too decidedly a party work to be of much value, and as our knowledge has far outgrown the author's, and we are in possession of the undisputed truth of most of the facts about which he reasons, it were a loss of time and labour to examine minutely the grounds, or weigh the value, of his argument. But the course of the reader's progress through the volume (if he have the patience, which we confess we had not, to pursue it diligently) will be strewn with many just observations, many incidental truths, many pieces of correct information, relating to private persons and minor transactions, and many specimens of ingenious reasoning, worthy of a better cause.

The author too has occasionally described persons and things with great truth and effect; and we every now and then, through the complicated web of the argument, gain a near view of some celebrated character, which goes far to repay the reader for much weary and unprofitable travel. For instance, if he have any curiosity to know how the Lord Chancellor Shaftesbury ordered his procession to Westminster-hall, on the first day of term, he will find the adventares that befel that grave cavalcade told with a good deal of harmless mirth.

“ His lordship had an early fancy, or rather freak, the first day of the term, (when all the officers of the law, king's counsel and judges, used to wait upon the great seal to Westminster-hall,) to make this procession on horseback, as in old time the way was, when coaches were not so rife. And accordingly the judges, &c. were spoken to, to get horses, as they and all the rest did, by borrowing and hiring, and so equipped themselves with black foot-cloths, in the best manner they could : and divers of the nobility, as usual, in compliance and honour to a new lord chancellor, attended also in their equipments. Upon notice in town of this cavalcade, all the show company took their places at windows and balconies, with the foot-guard in the streets, to partake of the fine sight, and, being once well settled for the march, it moved, as the design was, statelily along. But when they came to straights and interruptions, for want of gravity in the beasts, and too much in the riders, there happened some curvetting, which made no little disorder. Judge Twisden, to his great affright, and the consternation of his grave brethren, was laid along in the dirt: but all, at length, arrived safe, without loss of

life or limb in the service. This accident was enough to divert the like frolic for the future, and the very next term they fell to their coaches as before."

If he would know in what dress the chancellor sat to administer equity, he will here find a full description of it, together with some few particulars which concerned that nobleman's inner man. His lordship, he tells us, was of a free air, ready apprehension, witty in his conceits and turns of speech;

And regarded censure so little, that he did not concern himself to use a decent habit, as became a judge of his station. For he sat upon the bench in an ash-coloured gown, silver-laced, and fullribboned pantaloons displayed, without any black at all in his gait, unless it were his hat, which, now, I cannot say positively, though I saw him, was so. He was a little man, and appeared more like an university nobleman than an high chancellor of England. And whether out of inclination, custom, or policy, I will not determine, it is certain he was not behind-hand with the court, in the modish pleasures of the tine, and to what excess of libertinism they were commonly grown, is no secret."

I am.

His Majesty King Charles, who must be allowed to have been an able judge of the matter, placed Shaftesbury in no inferior rank among the profligates of the day. “I believe,” said he,“ Shaftesbury, thou art the wickedest dog in England.”. “ May it please your Majesty,” replied the statesman, dutifully yielding up the post of honour, “ of a subject, I believe

The author, who has taken the very worst view of his character, and recorded every thing bad of him that he had heard, seen, or could rake up, says, that if Shaftesbury was a friend to any human being besides himself, he believes it was to King Charles, whose gaiety, breeding, wit, good humour, familiarity, and disposition to enjoy the pleasures of society and greatness, engaged him very much, that had a great share of wit, agreeableness, and gallantry himself

. But the superiority he claimed spoiled all; his Majesty would not always be influenced by him, but would take short turns on his toe, and so frustrate his projects; and finding by that he could not work under him, he strove, if possible, to reduce his authority, and get above him. It seems, by what was given out, that he would not have hurt the king personally, but kept him tame in a cage, with his ordinary pleasures about him.

We do not wonder that Shaftesbury should have regarded Charles with some sort of personal affection, if the account we have read of the mode of his removal from office have any truth in it. A number of his political enemies were assembled in the

anti-chamber to witness his going to surrender the seals, and anticipating the triumph of seeing him return deprived of the badges of his office. Shaftesbury, who observed this, resolved to deprive them of this expected enjoyment, and give them, like the flying Parthian, a panic even in his retreat. He begged of the king that he might be allowed to carry the seals before him to chapel, and send them to him afterwards from his house, in order that he might not appear to be dismissed with contempt. “ Codsfish," replied Charles, “ I will not do it with any circumstance that looks like an affront.” Having conversed, for a length of time, upon such gay topics as usually amused the king, his adversaries, who had been all the while on the rack of expectation, were at length greeted with the sight the king and his chancellor, issuing forth together, smiling, and apparently upon the best possible terms. His expected successor and enemies were inconsolable; they concluded nothing less, than that Shaftesbury's peace was made. After enjoying this triumph, the ex-chancellor returned the seals to the king.

A great portion of the work is taken up with unravelling the manifold falsehoods and impostures of the popish plot; and in the course of this, we meet with several characteristic notices of its notorious father and begetter, Titus Oates. He is described a low man, of an ill-cut, very short neck; and his visage and features most particular. His mouth was the centre of his face; and a compass there would sweep his nose, forehead, and chin, within the diameter. Cave quos ipse Deus notavit.


“ Sunk were his eyes, his voice was harsh and loud ;

Sure signs he neither choleric was, nor proud :
His long chin proved his wit; his saint-like grace
A church vermillion, and a More's face."

To make the description complete, we give the following specimen of his singular mode of enunciation :-Bedloe, his brother witness, being taken ill at Bristol, had been examined by the Lord Chief Justice North, then on the circuit. It turned out, however, to be merely a repetition of the old story, that the world which had been led to expect great things, and even Dr. Oates himself was disappointed. "For soon after, on a council day, (he diligently attended at all those times) as the lord chief justice passed through the court, he was heard to say aloud, Maay Laird Chaife Jaistaice, whay this baisiness of Baidlau caims to naithing.” But his lordship walked on, not attending to his discourse.

[ocr errors][merged small]

During the time of his exaltation, when his plot was in full force, efficacy, and virtue, he walked about with his guards, assigned for fear of the papists 'murdering him. He had lodgings in Whitehall, and one thousand two hundred pounds per annum pension ; and no wonder, after he had the impudence to say to the House of Lords, in plain terms, that if they would not help him to more money, he must be forced to help himself. He put on an episcopal garb, except the lawn sleeves, silk gown and cassock, great hat, sattin hat-band and rose, long scarf,* and was called, or most blasphemously called himself, the saviour of the nation. Whoever he pointed at was taken up and committed; so that many people got out of his way, as from a blast, and glad they could prove their two last year's conversation.

On his examination before the council,he committed palpable blunders. One of Oates's scenes lay in Spain, where, upon his conversion he had been sent to be trained up a jesuit, and for his absolute incapacity was soon sent back again. He spoke of Don Juan doing some great thing towards killing the king; as I remember (says North) it was said to have been paying ten thousand pounds to the jesuits, which they were to furnish for that end, and this done in his (Oates's) presence, who was then amongst them. The king asked him quick, What manner of man Don Juan was? Oates, knowing the Spaniards are commonly reputed tall and black, answered, He was a tall black man ; at which the king fell into a laugh, for he had known Don Juan personally in Flanders, and he happened to be a low, reddish-haired man. By this it was manifest he had never seen Don Juan; and farther, when Oates spoke of the jesuits' college at Paris, the king asked him where it stood, and he answered as much out of the way, as if he had said, Gresham college stood in Westminster.

Oates never would say all he knew, for that was not consistent with the uncertainty of events. For he could not foresee what sort of evidence there might be occasion for, nor whom it might be thought fit to accuse: all which matters were kept in reserve, to be launched or not as occasion, like fair weather, invited, or storms discouraged. When Oates was examined in the House of Commons, and was asked if he knew of any farther design against his majesty, &c., instead of answering that question, he told a tale of a fox and a goose ; that the fox, to see if the ice would bear him and his goose, first

* After the king had expelled him from Whitehall, and withdrawn his guards, Oates altered his dress, assumed a sword, and associated with Colledge, Ferguson, and those men.

year, till,

carried over a stone as heavy as the goose. And neither then, nor ever after, during his whole life, would he be brought to say he had told all he knew. Every new witness that came in made us start--now we shall come to the bottom. And so it continued from one witness to another, year, after at length, it had no bottom, but in the bottomless pit.” Yet in defiance of all this tergiversation, partial disclosures, and gross and palpable falsehoods, “ 'Twas worse than plotting to suspect his plot:"--one might have denied his Redeemer, says our author, with less contest than attainted the veracity of Oates. “ What! don't you believe the plot ?" was the reply to every man who attempted to reason or talk sense on the subject. “ The city,” says the author of the Eramen, for fear of papists, put up their posts and chains; and the chamberlain, Sir Thomas Player, in the court of aldermen, gave his reason for the city's using that caution, which was, that he did not know but the next morning they might rise all with their throats cut!” The king early perceived it to be a mere fiction; and when first revealed by Dr. Tong, positively forbad the making any other persons privy to it, although Lord Danby pressed very much for it. The king said he would alarm all England, and put thoughts of killing him into their heads, who had no such thoughts before. And afterwards, that nobleman had ample occasion to regret, in the leisure of the Tower, his having introduced it into parliament, contrary to the king's advice, observing, that the event had proved his majesty the best prophet of them all. This incredulity, however, was productive of some inconvenience; for notwithstanding the absurdity of making him an accessory before the fact, to an attempt upon his own life, it

gave rise to a general idea, that he knew more of the matter than he would be thought to know, and Oates did not afterwards hesitate to drag him in for a share in the conspiracy. The suspicions vulgarly entertained of his religion, too, furnished a handle against him,-as the following dialogue, which was given in deposition, on the trial of Colledge by one Smith, will show. He deposed, that while one day they were going to dinner at the house of an alderman Wilcox, Colledge told him, He (the alderman) was as true as steel, and a man that would endeavour to root out popery.” Says I, “That may be easily done, if you can but prevail with the king to pass the bill against the Duke of York.”—“No, no,” said he, "now you are mistaken, for Rowley is as great a papist as the Duke of York is, (now he called the king Rowley), and every way as dangerous to the protestant interest.” (State Trials.) Thus was good King Charles himself brought in a notorious encourager of stifling and ridiculing the plot. This charge our author treats thus :

« PreviousContinue »