A COMPLETE HISTORY
THE GUNPOWDER TREASON, A.D. 1605;
A DEVELOPEMENT OF THE PRINCIPLES OF THE CONSPIRATORS,
SOME NOTICES OF THE REVOLUTION OF 1688.
REV. THOMAS LATHBURY, M.A.,
AUTHOR OF "A HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH EPISCOPACY, FROM 1640 TO 1662," AND "THE STATE OF POPERY AND JESUITISM IN ENGLAND FROM THE REFORMATION, TILL 1829."
LONDON: JOHN W. PARKER, WEST STRAND.
Though the particulars connected with the Gunpowder Treason may be perused in the general histories of the period, yet I am not aware, that any modern narrative of that dark design is to be found in a separate form. Many brief sketches have, indeed, been published in various modern works: but no full and complete history of the Treason has ever been set forth. In compiling the present volume, I have collected, from various quarters, all the information which I could discover on the subject. It will be found to be the most complete narrative of the Treason ever published in a detached form: at the same time it is sufficiently concise not to weary the patience of the reader.
As to the seasonableness of such a publication, there can be but one opinion among Churchmen. The aspect of the times, the rapid advances of Romanism, the appointment of certain Roman Catholics to high and important offices in the State, and the countenance given to Popery in high places, are circumstances which naturally direct the attention of all reflecting persons to the principles of that Church, which has recently appeared to gain fresh strength in this country. The question must force itself upon the notice of every true Protestant. The Church of England is assailed on every side, simply because she is the strongest bulwark ever erected against the encroachments of Popery: and history proves that, from the period of the Reformation, our own Church has been unceasingly attacked, in some way or other, by the advocates of Romanism. It is, therefore, very desirable that we should consult the past history of our country, in order that we may discover how the active emissaries of Rome have always acted. The Gunpowder Treason is one of the darkest tragedies in our domestic history: and the present work contains a faithful narrative of that detestable conspiracy. I have endeavoured also to exhibit the principles on which the conspirators acted: and I have proved that these principles are still retained by the Church of Rome.
In order to furnish the reader with a full view of the working of Popish principles, I have given a sketch of all the Papal attempts against Queen Elizabeth.
In the last chapter I have inserted the Act of Parliament for the Observance of the Fifth of November. I have printed the Act, because there are many clergymen who have never seen it, and who are not acquainted with the few works in which it is to be found. The clergy are commanded to read this Act every year, on the Fifth of November: and as it is not easily to be procured, or, at all events, is not attainable in a separate form, I cannot but conceive that I am performing an acceptable service, in thus placing it before the public. It is my earnest hope that the publication of this little volume may be the means of bringing some of my clerical brethren to a better observance of the day.
I have also noticed the variations which the Service for the Fifth of November has undergone, since its first publication in 1606, to its final revision in 1689.
It is true that every one knows something of the history of the Gunpowder Treason: but it is also true, that very few are acquainted with those principles which gave it birth. We see, in this treason, to what lengths the principles of the Church of Rome have led their votaries: and who can assert that she is, in any respect, changed? The Romanist denies that the principles of his Church are changed: nay, he must do so, or renounce the doctrine of infallibility, which is incompatible with change: why, then, should Protestants volunteer assertions, respecting the altered character of Popery, when the Papists themselves deny the fact altogether? I may venture to assert that the individual who advances such a statement, is ignorant of the real principles of the Church of Rome.
BATH, October, 1839.
CHAPTER I. Page
A Sketch of Papal Attempts in England and Ireland, during the Reign of Elizabeth. The State of Religion and the Country on James's accession 1
Sketches of the Conspirators 17
Proceedings of the Conspirators, to the latter end of October, 1605 26
The Jesuits privy to the Plot. The Narrative continued down to the Period of the Discovery of the Treason 40
The Proceedings of the Conspirators on the Discovery of the Plot—their Capture at Holbeach—the Meeting of Parliament 57
Trial of the Conspirators 67
Trial and Execution of Garnet, the Jesuit. The alleged Miracles of the Straw. Is declared a Martyr 78
The Principles on which the Conspirators acted 96
The Act for the Observance of the Day.—A Service prepared for the Occasion.—Alterations in the Service to suit the Landing of King William. Reflections 117
A SKETCH OF PAPAL ATTEMPTS IN ENGLAND AND IRELAND DURING THE REIGN OF ELIZABETH. THE STATE OF RELIGION AND THE COUNTRY ON JAMES'S ACCESSION.
As an introduction to the subject, of which this volume professes more especially to treat, I purpose to give a sketch of the proceedings of the emissaries of Rome in this country, during the long reign of Queen Elizabeth. Queen Mary died A.D. 1558, when her sister Elizabeth succeeded her on the throne. Paul IV. at this time occupied the papal chair: but in less than a year after her accession he was removed by death, and was succeeded by Pius IV. Both these pontiffs were quiet and moderate men, compared with several of those who came after them. At all events, they did not proceed to those extremities to which their successors resorted. There were, indeed, parties in the court of Rome, who laboured to induce these pontiffs to excommunicate the queen, as a heretic and a usurper; but recollecting the fatal consequences which had issued from the hasty proceedings of Clement against Henry VIII., or, probably imagining that greater benefits would result from gentle than from violent measures, they pursued a moderate course, exhorting the queen to return to her allegiance to the see of Rome, and even making promises of concessions respecting the reformation. In 1566, Pius V. was promoted to the papal chair. In a very brief space he gave indications of a departure from the moderate councils of his two immediate predecessors. The efforts of Philip II. of Spain were also, during the early years of this reign, directed to the same object with those of Paul IV. and Pius IV. The king was anxious to marry Elizabeth, in order that he might exercise his influence in England; and as long as he could entertain a hope that his wishes would be realized, he seconded the moderate measures of the Roman pontiff. His expectations on this subject were destined to disappointment; when perceiving that a marriage with the queen was out of the question, he directed his attention towards the accomplishment of his designs on this country by other means than those of treaty and diplomacy.
As soon as Pius V. was fixed in the papal chair a different line of policy, therefore, was pursued towards England. Some few years, indeed, elapsed before the queen was actually excommunicated; but conspiracies and treasons were contrived at Rome, with a view to their execution, as soon as suitable persons could be found for the purpose.
Pius V. was the pontiff by whom the bull of excommunication against Elizabeth was issued. The document was dated March, 1569, or 1570, according to the present mode of computation. Hitherto the court of Rome had abstained from any direct attempt against the queen and the country: but from this time plots were contrived and treasons planned in rapid succession; for when one scheme was frustrated, by the vigilance of the government, another was adopted; so that the whole reign of Elizabeth, with the exception of the early portion of it, was constantly developing some machination or other, devised by the emissaries of Rome. At the head of the confederacy against the queen were the pope and the king of Spain, who hated her with the most deadly hatred,—the former, because she was the chief stay of the reformation, the latter, because she was an obstacle to the prosecution of his designs on this country.
[Footnote 1: I subjoin a few extracts from the bull issued against Elizabeth. It was entitled The Damnation and Excommunication of Queen Elizabeth. It commenced thus: "He that reigneth on high committed one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church (out of which there is no salvation) to one alone upon earth, namely, to Peter, and to Peter's successor, the bishop of Rome. Him alone he made prince over all people, and all kingdoms, to pluck up, destroy, scatter, consume, plant, and build, that he may contain the faithful that are knit together with the band of charity, in the unity of the Spirit." Then, after an enumeration of Elizabeth's alleged crimes against the holy see, his holiness proceeds: "We do, out of the fulness of our apostolic power, declare the aforesaid Elizabeth, being a heretic, and a favourer of heretics, to have incurred the sentence of anathema, and to be cut off from the unity of the body of Christ. And, moreover, we do declare her to be deprived of her pretended title to the kingdom aforesaid, and of all dominion, dignity, and privilege. And also the nobility, subjects, and people of the said kingdom, and all others, who have in any sort sworn unto her, to be for ever absolved from any such oath. And we do command and interdict all and every the noblemen, subjects, and people, that they presume not to obey her, or her monitions, mandates, and laws."
It is necessary to give these extracts in the outset, in order that it may be seen that the gunpowder treason, and almost all other treasons in the reigns of Elizabeth and James, flowed from the doctrines thus promulgated by the papal see.]
The first act of rebellion was the attempt of the earls of Westmoreland and Northumberland. This was soon after the bull was issued. In all the treasons and rebellions of this reign some of the priests of Rome were more or less concerned; and these two earls were instigated to the attempt by Morton, an Englishman and a priest, who was sent into England by the pope himself, for the express purpose of stirring up rebellion. This design, however, was strangled in its birth, and its promoters paid the penalty of their lives.
In 1576 Pius V. paid the debt of nature, and was succeeded by Gregory XIII., who did not depart from the practices of his predecessor. Stukely, another subject of the queen's, was authorised to go into Ireland by his holiness and the king of Spain; and the pope had the presumption to pretend to confer the title of marquis and earl of several places in that country. He was commissioned to stir up rebellion, the pope engaging to supply men, and the king of Spain promising supplies of money. The purpose was, however, defeated: but the next year several individuals were actually sent into Ireland, accompanied, as usual, by Sanders, a priest, who was possessed with legantine authority from his holiness. To encourage the Irish, a banner, consecrated by the pope, was sent over, and every other means was resorted to, which the most inveterate enmity could devise. The pontiff also sent them his apostolical benediction, granting to all who should fall in the attempt against the heretics, a plenary indulgence for all their sins, and the same privileges as were conferred on those who fell in battle against the Turks. Sanders, however, died miserably, and the attempt completely failed.
It was about the year 1580 that the seminary priests, who were so designated from the circumstance of being trained in certain seminaries on the Continent, instituted especially for English priests, began to come over into England for the express purpose of enforcing the bull of excommunication against the queen. These men were natives of England, though educated on the Continent. They assumed various disguises on their arrival, travelling from place to place to promote the grand design, which had been projected at Rome. They endeavoured to execute the bull by making various attempts upon the queen's life, from which, however, she was mercifully delivered. Two points were constantly kept in view: the one to stir up dissensions at home, among the queen's subjects; the other to induce the papal sovereigns to promise men and arms, whenever it should be deemed desirable to make a descent on the country. Many of these men were executed as traitors, though the Romanists pretend that they were martyrs for their religion. It is true that their religious views led them into treason and rebellion; yet they were no more martyrs for their faith than the murderer who was executed at Tyburn. Parsons and Campion were the leaders of this body: the former escaped to the Continent, the latter was taken and executed for his treasonable practices.
[Footnote 2: For a full discussion of the question, whether the priests and others who suffered death at this period and subsequently, were punished for religion or for treason, the author's work, The State of Popery and Jesuitism in England, may be consulted. In that work I have entered fully into the subject, and have proved that all the parties who suffered were executed for treason.]
It is constantly asserted by Roman Catholic writers, that the priests who suffered during this reign were martyrs to the faith: and the inference is attempted to be drawn, that the church of England is as much exposed to the charge of persecution as the church of Rome. One thing is certain, however, that, whether the advisers of Elizabeth were justified in their course or otherwise, they did not consider that they were putting men to death for religion: but, on the other hand, the martyrs under Queen Mary were committed to the flames as heretics, not as traitors or offenders against the laws of the land. When, therefore, Romanist writers attempt to draw a parallel between the martyrs of the Anglican church under Queen Mary, and the priests who suffered in the reign of Elizabeth, it is a sufficient answer to their cavils to allege the fact, that the former were put to death according to the mode prescribed in cases of heresy, which was an offence against religion; the latter were tried and executed for treason, which is an offence against the state. It is the remark of Archbishop Tillotson that, "We have found by experience that ever since the reformation they have continually been pecking at the foundations of our peace and religion; when God knows we have been so far from thirsting after their blood, that we did not so much as desire their disquiet, but in order to our own necessary safety, and indeed to theirs."
In 1583 Somerville attempted to kill the queen. The plot was discovered, and its author only escaped a public execution by strangling himself in prison.
In 1585 another plot was revealed. Parry, who had been employed on the Continent, came into England with a fixed determination to take the life of the queen. To this act he was instigated by the pope, who sent him his benediction, with a plenary indulgence for his sins. He was discovered and condemned. On his trial he produced the pope's letter, which had been penned by one of the cardinals.
At this time, when it was found that all the plots were secretly contrived or supported by the seminary priests, certain severe statutes were enacted. The priests, whose only occupation in England was to stir up rebellion, were commanded to quit the country, or be subjected to the charge of treason. These enactments were absolutely necessary, for every priest was a traitor: nor was it possible that it should have been otherwise, where the pope himself encouraged them in their designs.
During this year Sixtus V. was elected pope in the room of Gregory XIII. This pontiff walked in the steps of his immediate predecessors. It should be stated, that at that time the doctrine was inculcated, that it was meritorious to kill heretics, and those who were excommunicated. To die, therefore, in any such attempts, as those to which I have alluded, was deemed the readiest way to the crown of martyrdom, which was coveted by many members of the church of Rome. When such doctrines were believed, we cannot be surprised that so many treasons and rebellions were contrived.
In 1586 the life of the queen was attempted by Babington. The plot was discovered, and he and several of his accomplices were executed.
Thus it became necessary to frame new laws to prevent the plots of the seminary priests, who flocked into England for the sole purpose of exciting rebellion. A statute was, therefore, passed, by which it was made treason for any one, who had been ordained a priest by authority of the see of Rome, since Elizabeth's accession, to come into her dominions. This act was charged with cruelty at the time, and the charge is still repeated, not only by Romanist, but by many other writers: yet the act was absolutely necessary in self-defence. It was intended to keep the priests out of the country, since their coming always issued in treason and the consequent loss of their lives. Let it be remembered that the laws against recusants were not enacted until the treasons of Campion, Parry, and others, had rendered such a step on the part of the government unavoidable. The course adopted to prevent the coming of the priests was a merciful one, for it was supposed that they would not venture into England at the peril of their lives: it was also a reasonable one, since no sovereign was ever known to permit men to reside in his dominions, who denied that he was the lawful prince, and who endeavoured to withdraw his subjects from their allegiance, or stir them up to rebellion. As early even as the reign of Edward I., to bring in a bull from Rome was adjudged to be treason.
[Footnote 3: By the 27th Elizabeth, c. 2, it was enacted, "Because Jesuits, seminary priests, or other priests came over into this realm of England, of purpose, as it hath appeared by sundry of their own examinations and confessions,—not only to withdraw her highness's subjects from their due obedience, but also to stir up and move sedition, rebellion and open hostility—to the utter ruin, desolation, and overthrow of the whole realm, if the same be not the sooner by some good means foreseen and prevented, that it shall not be lawful for any Jesuit, seminary priest, or other such priest—being born within this realm—ordained by any authority derived from the see of Rome, to come into, be, or remain in, any part of this realm: and if he do, that then every such offence shall be taken and adjudged to be high treason, and every person so offending shall for his offence be adjudged a traitor." This statute was rendered necessary by the treasonable practices of the priests. Had they not been engaged in such practices, the statute never would have been devised. The only way, in which it can be said, that such priests suffered for religion is this, namely, that their religion led them into treason; but this would be to charge all their sufferings upon the church of Rome herself, which is indeed the fact, though Romanists will not admit it.]
The next year a similar plot, which was devised by an Englishman of the name of Moody, was brought to light. All these attempts were directed against Elizabeth herself; and though Englishmen were the traitors, who engaged to carry the plots into execution, yet they were encouraged in their work, and supported both by the pope and the king of Spain. The intention of the papal party was to dethrone Elizabeth, and seat Mary, queen of Scots, on the throne. No one will justify Elizabeth in taking the life of Mary: but it may be observed that if no attempts had been made against the queen's life, and if the court of Rome had acted justly and honourably, the ministers of Elizabeth would never have recommended the execution of that unfortunate queen. Her death must be attributed to Romish principles, and to the papal attacks on the Protestant religion.
[Footnote 4: At this time Cardinal Allen, an Englishman, published a defence of Stanley's treason, maintaining that in consequence of the queen's excommunication and heresy, it was not only lawful, but a duty to deprive her of the kingdom.]
The year 1588 is memorable in English history for the defeat of the Spanish Armada, impiously called the Invincible Armada. Several years were occupied in its preparation; and the enemies of England expected to overwhelm the country by one stroke. At this time the pope issued another bull against the queen, in which it was pretended that she was deprived of her royal dignity and kingdom, while her subjects were absolved from their allegiance. The same document commands all Englishmen to unite with the Spaniards on their landing, and to submit themselves to the Spanish general. Ample rewards also are promised to any who shall deliver the proscribed woman, as she is termed, into the hands of the papal party; while a full pardon was granted to all who should engage in the enterprise. It was determined that King Philip should hold the kingdom in fee from the pope. To accomplish their purpose, the Armada was fitted out.
Though King Philip was the individual, by whom the Armada was fitted out, yet he was encouraged in the designed invasion by the pope as well as by the English fugitives on the Continent, headed by Sir William Stanley. The war with Portugal had, for some years, prevented Philip from bending all his energies towards the conquest of England. Being successful in his attempts on his neighbours, and also in the East Indies, it was argued by his flatterers that equal success would attend his efforts against England. Nor was another argument forgotten as a spur to his diligence, namely, that the conquest of England, with the consequent re-establishment of popery, would be an acceptable service to God, who had given him his great success against his enemies, and that no action could be more meritorious. It is stated that a hundred Monks and Jesuits accompanied the expedition; while Cardinal Allen, an Englishman, was appointed superintendent of ecclesiastical affairs throughout England. After having suffered much from the fire of the English fleet, as well as from the violence of the tempests, many of their ships being disabled, it was determined to attempt to return home through the Northern Ocean. At this time the powder of the English fleet was almost exhausted; so that the departure of the Spanish vessels, at this juncture, must be regarded as an interposition of divine providence in favour of our country. Many of the vessels which thus escaped from the English fleet, never reached the coast of Spain, being wrecked in different places. Elizabeth displayed a most magnanimous spirit during the time that the Armada was hovering around our coasts. She addressed the army in terms calculated to inspire them with confidence, and to endear them to her person. A solemn fast had been observed when the danger threatened; and when the deliverance of the country was manifest, a solemn thanksgiving was offered up in St. Paul's Cathedral on the 8th of September, when some of the Spanish ensigns lately taken were hung about the church. On Sunday, September 24th, the queen herself proceeded to St. Paul's, and on arriving at the west door, she knelt down within the church, and in an audible voice praised God as her only defender against her enemies. It was further ordered that the 19th of November should be observed as a day of thanksgiving throughout the country; which day was annually commemorated during the reign of Elizabeth.
[Footnote 5: Several medals were stamped in commemoration of the defeat. One bore this inscription, under a fleet flying with full sails, Venit, vidit, fugit: another the following, Dux Foemina facti. Several medal were also stamped in the Low Countries.]
In 1590, Urban VII. became pope. He was succeeded in a very brief space by Gregory XIV., who also was speedily succeeded by Innocent IX. Nor did Innocent occupy the papal chair for any lengthened period. In consequence of the defeat of the Armada, and also of the rapid changes in the holy see, three popes having died within the space of eighteen months, there was a slight cessation from the attempts against Elizabeth. In 1592, Clement VIII. was elevated to the popedom: and under his auspices there was a revival of the previous practices, which had not been given up, but merely relinquished for a season. During the years 1592, 1593, and 1594, several persons were commissioned by the court of Rome to raise rebellions in England, and to poison or assassinate the queen. The watchful eye of providence, however, was extended over the country and the queen. Every plot was discovered; every hostile design failed; and the only sufferers were the traitors themselves.
Patrick Cullen received absolution and the sacrament, A.D. 1592, from the Jesuit Holt, by whom it was determined to be a meritorious deed to kill the queen; and in 1594, Williams and York came over to England for the same purpose, having first received the sacrament in the Jesuits' college. In the year 1597, Squire came over from Spain with the same object in view, namely, the assassination of the queen; he also was instigated by Walpole, a Jesuit, from whom he received the sacrament under a promise to put the project in execution, and then conceal the deed. It was observed by Sir Edward Coke, that since the Jesuits set foot in England, there never passed four years without a pernicious treason.
About this time the English fleet obtained a most decisive victory over the Spanish. In 1598, Philip of Spain, the great enemy of England, was removed by death from that scene, in which he had, for so many years, acted so conspicuous, yet inglorious a part.
In 1599 and 1600, a rebellion was headed in Ireland by Tir Owen. This rebel chief was, as usual, encouraged by the pope, who sent him a plume of feathers as a token of his favour.
In 1603, the queen died in peace. From the preceding abstract it will appear, that from the year 1570 to 1600, Queen Elizabeth and the Protestant religion were constantly exposed to the machinations of the active partisans of the Roman see, who were encouraged by the pope himself. Every pontiff pursued the same course. There was a settled purpose at Rome, and, indeed, throughout the whole Romish confederacy, to dethrone Elizabeth and overturn the Anglican church; nor is it a libel on the church of Rome to say, that in all these proceedings, she acted on recognised principles—principles which had received the solemn sanction of her councils. To root out heresy, by any means within their reach, was deemed, or at all events was asserted to be a sacred duty incumbent on all the members of the church of Rome. The doctrine may be denied in the present day, when times and circumstances do not permit of its being carried into practice; but, unquestionably, it was not merely believed as an article of faith in the days of Elizabeth, for we have seen that the attempt was made to enforce the bull which was issued against the queen.
James I. succeeded to the throne at a period when the eyes of Romanists were fastened on England as their prey. During the latter years of Elizabeth, the emissaries of Rome were comparatively quiet, in the hope that James, from a feeling of filial reverence towards the memory of his unfortunate mother, would not be unfavourably disposed towards their church. It is certain, however, that a plot was in agitation before the death of Elizabeth, being managed by some of those individuals who were impatient of waiting the course of events on the queen's death. The confessions and examinations of the conspirators show that the powder plot was partly contrived before James's accession. Several of their number went into Spain to stir up the Spanish court against the queen, and to request a foreign army for the subjugation of England. The death of Elizabeth took place while those proceedings were going forward on the Continent, and was the means of suspending the operations of the conspirators for a season. As soon as James's accession was known, the king of Spain endeavoured to enter into a negociation for peace, so that the conspirators were not at this time openly favoured by that monarch. It was supposed that some concessions might be obtained from James in favour of his Roman Catholic subjects: but in a very short space the leaders of the conspiracy discovered, that they were not likely to gain much by negociation. Unquestionably the Romanist party in England endeavoured to induce the King of Spain to attempt an invasion of the country: and it is equally certain, that their solicitations would have been taken into serious consideration if Queen Elizabeth had not died. Had the project of invasion been realised, the conspirators would not have proceeded to execute the Gunpowder Plot.
On the accession of James, therefore, there was a calm: but it was deceptive: it was only the calm before the storm; and to the eye of the careful observer, it indicated any thing but prosperity and tranquillity. It was evident to most men of reflection, that the storm was gathering: nay, there were indications of its approach, though no one knew how or where it would burst forth. The rolling of the thunder was, as it were, heard in the distance, though whether it would approach nearer or pass away altogether, was a question which no one could determine.
I have glanced at the various treasons with which the whole reign of Elizabeth was so pregnant: and the principles from which they flowed have also been slightly alluded to, namely, the principles of the church of Rome respecting the punishment of heresy, and the keeping faith with heretics. The doctrine of the church of Rome on this subject, as expounded by the Jesuits, and especially by Parsons, who at this period was one of the prime movers of every conspiracy against the English sovereign, was this, namely, that if any prince should turn aside from the church of Rome, he would forfeit his royal power; and that this result would follow from the law itself, both human and divine, even before any sentence was passed upon him by the supreme pastor or judge. This doctrine was a consequence of the papal supremacy. The doctrine of the supremacy is this—that the bishops of Rome, as successors of St. Peter, have authority, derived to them from Christ himself, over all churches, and kingdoms, and princes; that, in consequence of this power, they may depose kings and absolve their subjects from their allegiance, bestowing the kingdom of the offender on another; that excommunicated princes are not to be obeyed; and that, to rise in arms against them, or to put them to death, is not only lawful, but meritorious. Acting on these principles, Clement VIII. issued certain bulls, in which he called upon all members of the church of Rome to use their exertions for the purpose of preventing the accession of James, whenever Queen Elizabeth should depart this life.
Under such circumstances was James I. called to the throne. The papal party were resolved on the execution of their designs: and the pope and the king of Spain were so far implicated, that they were fully aware, if not of the particular nature of the intended plot, yet that certain schemes would be resorted to for the accomplishment of the grand object, which was the subjugation of England to the papal yoke. Had the conspirators been successful, they would have been furnished with all necessary supplies for their purpose by the court of Rome, and those states which were in alliance with the holy see. Such a combination could not have been defeated by human means, especially as the plot was carried on with the utmost secresy: but the watchful eye of divine providence was fixed on the country, and the designs of its enemies, as will be shown in this narrative, were mercifully frustrated. The bulls above alluded to were to be kept secret as long as the queen survived. They were addressed to the clergy, the nobility, and the commons, who were exhorted not to receive any sovereign whose accession would not be agreeable to the pope. The reasons assigned by his holiness for recommending such a course, were the honour of God, the restoration of the true religion, and the salvation of immortal souls. The Cardinal D'Ossat, to whom they were at first entrusted, wrote to King James on the subject, expressing a hope that he would openly profess the religion of his mother. It will be seen, in a subsequent chapter, that these bulls were committed to Garnet, who confessed that they had been in his possession, and by whom they were destroyed when it was found to be impossible to prevent James from succeeding to the English throne.
Never, perhaps, in the history of the world was a sovereign delivered from more conspiracies than Queen Elizabeth. The efforts of her enemies were unceasingly directed to one object, and that object was the queen's death. Not only were private individuals instigated to attempt her destruction, but the most extensive confederacies were entered into by almost all the papal sovereigns of Europe.
A remarkable circumstance is related of the hopes and intentions of the Spaniards, in the event of success in the Armada. A Spanish officer, who was taken prisoner, was examined before the privy council. He confessed that their object in coming was to subjugate the nation to the yoke of Spain, and the church to that of the pope. He was asked by some of the lords what they intended to do with the Catholics, as some must necessarily have fallen: to which question he promptly replied, that they meant to send them directly to heaven, even as they should have sent the heretics to hell. This statement rests on the authority of the chaplain to the army. It was revealed to him in order that he might publish it the next day, in his sermon, to the troops. He states, that by commandment of the council he did publish it to the army. In those days, there were no newspapers: nor was it then so easy to communicate intelligence by placards or bills. We find, therefore, that the pulpit was often made a vehicle for publishing the common news of the day. At a subsequent period, during the commotions between Charles I. and his Parliament, when the latter obtained possession of most of the pulpits, they were the only channels through which many of the people were made acquainted with the progress of the war. Whatever had occurred during the week was published to the people, from the pulpit, on the Sunday.
[Footnote 6: For a description of the proceedings of the Parliamentary divines in publishing the news of the day from the pulpits during the civil war, the reader is referred to my former work, A History of the English Episcopacy from 1640 to 1660.]
King James, therefore, succeeded to the English crown at a period when the pope and the papal sovereigns entertained the most sanguine hopes of re-establishing popery in this country, and when numbers of Jesuits and their disciples were ready to execute any treason which might be concocted.
SKETCHES OF THE CONSPIRATORS.
The persons actually engaged in this atrocious deed were few in number: at the outset, indeed, very few: but the design was gradually revealed to others, though even when the discovery actually took place, the number was comparatively small. That there was a general belief among the Romanist body, that some great and effective blow would be struck, is a fact which I need not attempt to prove, since it is so well known, that no doubt can be entertained on the subject: but how the design was to be carried into effect was a secret to the great body of the Roman Catholics. The conspirators were thirteen in number. Their names were as follows:—
Robert Catesby, Robert Winter, Thomas Percy, Thomas Winter, John Wright, Christopher Wright, Everard Digby, Knt., Ambrose Rookwood, Francis Tresham, John Grant, Robert Keys, Guy Fawkes, And Bates, the servant of Catesby.
Of this number, five only were engaged in the plot at its commencement, the rest being associated with them during its progress. Several of them took no active part in the mine; they were, however, in the secret, and furnished the money necessary to carry on the work. Three Jesuits, as will appear in the narrative, were also privy to the design, and counselled and encouraged the conspirators. They were Garnet, Gerrard, and Tesmond, alias Greenway. I shall endeavour to place before the reader such particulars as I have been able to collect respecting all these individuals, before I enter upon the narrative of the plot.
Catesby was the contriver of the conspiracy. He was a native of Leicestershire: a man of family and property, and of such persuasive eloquence, that he induced several of the conspirators to comply, who otherwise, in all probability, would not have been implicated in the treason. Some of them admitted, that it was not so much their conviction of the justice of the cause that led them to engage in the business, as the wily eloquence of Catesby. He was descended from the celebrated minister of Richard III. Little, however, is known of him beyond the part which he acted in the Gunpowder Treason. It is evident that he was a man of considerable abilities; but being a bigot to the principles of the church of Rome, he was a fit instrument for the execution of any plot, however horrible. Whether he was influenced by the Jesuits, or whether prompted to undertake the deed by his own feelings on the subject of popery, is a question of no easy solution, since, in consequence of his death, when the rest of his companions were taken, no confession was given to the world, which would probably have been the case, if he had been brought to trial with the other conspirators. He was the only layman with whom the Jesuit Garnet would confer on the subject of the plot.
[Footnote 7: In his youth he was entirely devoted to dissipation; but in 1598, his zeal for the church of Rome was suddenly revived.]
This gentleman was nearly allied to the earl of Northumberland, by whom he was elevated to the post of captain of the gentlemen pensioners. He appears to have been a man of great violence of temper; and his conduct proves him to have been a staunch bigot to popery. Catesby on some occasions found it necessary to restrain his violence, lest his indiscretion should mar the whole contrivance. On one occasion, he offered to rush into the presence-chamber, and kill the king. He was killed with Catesby, at Holbeach, shortly after the discovery of the treason.
It appears that Winter had contemplated a departure from England altogether, when Catesby, who had entered upon the plot, requested him to quit the country, whither he had retired, till an opportunity should offer of going to the Continent, and to come with all speed to London. The scheme was proposed to Winter, who evinced no indisposition to enter into the plot: on the contrary, he appears to have complied, with the utmost readiness, with all Catesby's plans. Soon after this interview he went over to the Continent, to reveal the design to some influential papists, with a view to ascertaining their opinions on the subject. Winter appeared at his execution to be penitent; but no hesitation was manifested by him at the first; nor does he appear to have entertained any scruples during the progress of the conspiracy. In many respects, he appears to have been an amiable man: but such principles as are inculcated by the church of Rome, are calculated to quench all those feelings of kindliness, which naturally exist in the human heart. The breast of Thomas Winter was steeled by his principles against the kindlier emotions of our common nature. It is related of him, that he dreamt, not long before the discovery of the treason, "that he saw steeples and churches stand awry, and within those churches strange and unknown faces." When he was taken in Staffordshire, an explosion of gunpowder took place, and some of the conspirators were scorched, and otherwise injured; at this time, his dream was recalled to his remembrance, and he fancied that there was a resemblance between the faces of the persons he had seen in his dream, and those of his companions. The recollection of the dream appears to have made a strong impression on him at the period when he was taken into custody.
This gentleman was the brother of the preceding, by whom he was drawn into the conspiracy. Robert Winter was added to their number some time after the mine had been commenced. The circumstance caused some distress to Thomas Winter, who petitioned the court at his trial, that, as he had been the cause of his brother's ruin, his death might be considered as a sufficient atonement to the law for both. Winter was taken in Staffordshire, where he retreated after the discovery of the plot. For some time, he was concealed in a house, whose occupant was a Roman Catholic. The circumstance that led to his discovery was somewhat singular. The cook was surprised at the number of dishes, which were daily taken to his master's room; he therefore, to satisfy his curiosity, peeped through the keyhole, when he saw a person sitting with his master. He was alarmed, both on their account, and on his own; but his fears for his own safety being greater than his apprehensions for Winter and his master, he determined to make a discovery to one of his relations. This step was followed by their apprehension.
GUIDO, OR GUY FAWKES.
Fawkes was a soldier of fortune, who for some years was engaged in the Spanish service. Little is known of his early life, except that he was a native of the county of York, and received his education in the city of York. The writer of the Life of Bishop Morton informs us that the bishop and Fawkes were schoolfellows together in that city. His subsequent history to the period of the treason, is but imperfectly known. He appears to have been a bold and daring adventurer, as well as a gloomy bigot to the worst principles of popery; and was, in consequence, deemed by Catesby to be a suitable instrument for his purpose. His proceedings in the mine, as well as on the Continent, will be noticed in the prosecution of the narrative.
John Wright was early engaged in the plot with Catesby. It was agreed between these two individuals, Catesby and Wright, that an oath should be administered to all who should engage in the conspiracy. The oath will be given in the narrative. John Wright was killed in the struggle with the sheriff, in Staffordshire, where most of the conspirators were taken subsequent to the discovery of the plot.
This person was the brother of the preceding, by whom he was induced to enter into the conspiracy. He appears, however, to have entered into the business with as much zeal as any of the rest. He was the first to discover the apprehension of Fawkes, on the morning of the Fifth of November. His advice was, that each conspirator should betake himself to flight in a different direction from any of his companions. Had this advice been followed, several of them would probably have succeeded in making their escape to the Continent. The conspirators, however, adopted another course, which issued in their discomfiture in Staffordshire, where Christopher Wright was also killed.
Bates was a servant, and the only one of the conspirators who did not move in the rank of a gentleman. When the plot was concocting, he was servant to Catesby, the leader in the treason. Catesby observed that his actions were particularly noticed by his servant. The circumstance led him to suspect, that Bates was in some measure acquainted with their designs, or at all events, that he suspected that they had some grand scheme in agitation. In the presence, therefore, of Thomas Winter, Catesby asked him what he thought the business was, which was then in contemplation. Bates replied, that he thought they were contriving some dangerous matter, though he knew not what the particulars were. He was again asked what he thought the business might be. He answered, that he thought they intended some dangerous matter near the Parliament House, because he had been sent to take a lodging near that place. Bates was then induced to take an oath of secresy; when the particulars were made known to him. It was then stated that he must receive the sacrament, as a pledge that he would not reveal the matter. With this view, he went to confession to Tesmond the Jesuit, telling him that he was to conceal a dangerous matter, which had been revealed to him by his master, and Thomas Winter, and which he feared was unlawful. He then disclosed the whole plot to the Jesuit, desiring his counsel in the business. Tesmond charged him to keep the matter strictly secret, adding, that he was engaged in a good cause, and that it was not sinful to conceal the plot. Bates then received absolution and the sacrament, in company with Catesby and Winter. Such were the means used to draw Bates into the conspiracy.
Tresham was also engaged in the plot at an early period. He was not one of those with whom it originated; but it was revealed to him when the parties were in want of money, to enable them to carry on their scheme. He offered to contribute 2000l. towards the grand object. He died in the Tower before the trial of his companions.
Rookwood was a man of fortune, and, until he became implicated in this plot, of reputation. He was not one of the original contrivers of the treason, but was drawn into it by a strong affection for Catesby, who appears to have exercised over him a most extraordinary influence.
Grant was a resident at Coventry, and, like Tresham and Rookwood, did not labour in the mine, but was made acquainted with the scheme after it had been concocted. Grant seized upon several horses on the morning of the 6th of November, supposing that the explosion had taken place, with a view to the seizure of the Princess Elizabeth, then on a visit in the neighbourhood. He was taken with the other conspirators in Staffordshire.
Little is known of this individual: but according to his own account at his trial, his circumstances had always been desperate, as well as his character. Such a man was, therefore, ready for any enterprise, however criminal. Fuller relates the following circumstance, which I give in his own quaint language. "A few days before the fatal blow should be given, Keies being in Tickmarsh, in Northamptonshire, at his brother-in-law's house, Mr. Gilbert Pickering, a Protestant, he suddenly whipped out his sword, and in merriment made many offers therewith at the heads, necks, and sides, of several gentlemen and ladies then in his company: it was then taken for a mere frolic, and so passed accordingly: but afterward, when the treason was discovered, such as remembered his gestures, thought he practised what he intended to do when the plot should take effect: that is, to hack and hew, kill and destroy, all eminent persons of a different religion from himself."
SIR EVERARD DIGBY.
This gentleman was descended from an ancient family, resident in Rutlandshire. His education was entirely directed by priests of the church of Rome, his father dying when he was only eleven years of age. He was introduced to the court of Elizabeth at an early period of his life; and soon after the accession of King James was knighted by his majesty. Sir Everard was made acquainted with the plot during its progress, when the early and original conspirators found themselves in want of money. He promised to furnish 1500l. He was taken after the discovery and was executed in London.
Three Jesuits, Garnet, Gerard, and Tesmond, were implicated in this conspiracy: the two latter escaped to Rome, Garnet alone was taken and executed. It is remarked by Fuller, "A treason without a Jesuit, or one of Jesuited principles, therein, is like a drie wall, without either lime or mortar; Gerard must be the cement, with the sacrament of secrecie to join them together: Garnet and Tesmond, (whelps of the same litter,) commended and encouraged the designe." Garnet received his early education in Winchester school, when Bishop Bilson was warden. It is said that he was engaged in a conspiracy among the boys, whose design was to cut off the right hand of their master. At this time Garnet was at the head of the school. His conduct in other respects seems to have been so immoral, that he was advised not to offer himself as a candidate for a scholarship at New College. He quitted Winchester for Rome, where he enrolled himself in the society of the Jesuits. At length he was made the superior of his English brethren, in which character he returned into England, to promote a rebellion against Queen Elizabeth. Other particulars respecting his subsequent career will appear in the narrative.
[Footnote 8: Book x. 34.]
Thus have I endeavoured to give a brief sketch of the actors in this dark transaction. In reading the pages of history, we feel a natural desire to know something of the persons, whose exploits are recorded. The particulars, which I have given in this chapter, are such as could not so well have been stated in the narrative. All other matters, however, relative to any of the preceding individuals will be woven with the history, on which I am now about to enter.
Other individuals were taken and executed for treason, in consequence of their joining in the conspiracy; but the parties mentioned in the preceding sketch were the only persons, who were actually implicated in the plot by any decided acts. It is pretty evident, too, that very few persons, besides those actually engaged, were fully acquainted with the particulars of the plot. It was the policy of the conspirators to reveal the precise nature of the design to as few as possible, feeling assured that the smaller the number of actual traitors the less was the risk of discovery. They were also aware, that all, or, at all events, most of the Roman Catholics would join them, when the design was carried into execution. The Jesuits, who were privy to the plot, intimated to the great body of the Romanists, that some great design was in agitation, without specifying particulars. The actual plot, therefore, was confined to a very few persons; but that a plot of some kind was going forward was believed by the great body of the Roman Catholic population throughout the country.
PROCEEDINGS OF THE CONSPIRATORS, TO THE LATTER END OF OCTOBER, 1605.
Enough has been detailed in the first chapter to show, that it was the aim of the Romanists, throughout the reign of Elizabeth, to overturn the church, and to assassinate the queen. On James's accession the same measures were resorted to by the papal party, while the plots for the destruction of Protestantism were as frequent as ever. In tracing the origin of the powder plot it is necessary to look back to the close of the reign of Elizabeth. In December, 1601, Garnet, Catesby, and Tresham sent Thomas Winter into Spain, with a view to obtaining assistance from the Spanish monarch against England. It was always found in the projected invasions of England, that one of the chief difficulties was the transportation of horses. To obviate this difficulty, therefore, the Roman Catholics of England, or Winter in their name, engaged to provide 1500 or 2000 horses for the use of the Spanish troops on their landing on our shores. At this time one of the English Jesuits was resident in Madrid; and by this man Winter was introduced to one of the secretaries of state, by whom he was assured that the king was anxious to undertake any enterprise against England. The king of Spain further promised the sum of one hundred thousand crowns, to be devoted to this special service, and that he would effect a landing on the shores of England during the next spring. Winter returned home at the end of the year, and communicated his intelligence to Garnet, Catesby, and Tresham. The death of the queen took place soon after, when Christopher Wright was sent over into Spain by Garnet, for the purpose of conveying intelligence of the queen's death, and also for the furtherance of the negotiation, which had been already entered into during the previous year. Fawkes also arrived in Spain soon after Wright. He had been sent from Brussels by Sir William Stanley and Hugh Owen, two Englishmen, who had been concerned in most of the treasons against Elizabeth.
Some of the Jesuits were concerned in all the treasons to which I have already alluded; and the gunpowder treason was managed by the same party, the actors being either Jesuits, or the disciples of Jesuits. Jesuits were their directors, their confessors, and their governors. "I never yet knew a treason without a Romish priest," said Sir Edward Coke, at the trial of the conspirators; and on Garnet's trial he declares, "Since the Jesuits set foot in this land, there never passed four years without a most pestilent and pernicious treason, tending to the subversion of the whole state." Shortly before the death of Elizabeth, and while the negotiations just mentioned were going forward in Spain, the pope, Clement VIII., addressed to the English Romanists the bulls to which I have already referred in a former chapter; by which they were instructed to oppose any one who should claim the crown after Elizabeth's death, unless he would promise not merely to tolerate the Roman Catholic faith, but to promote it by all means in his power. These bulls were to be executed, "Quandocunque contingeret miseram illam foeminam ex hac vita excedere,"—whenever it should happen that that miserable woman should depart this life. On James's accession, therefore, many of the Romanists were tampered with by the Jesuits, and persuaded not to render obedience to his majesty, as being a heretic. They were told by the Jesuits that they ought even to submit to death rather than obey a heretic. King James was, however, quietly seated on the throne, notwithstanding the secret practices of the Jesuits, backed as they were by the king of Spain and the pope. As it was dangerous to keep the two bulls in his possession, Garnet committed them to the flames after James's accession. Now it is altogether manifest, that the treason originated in these bulls of Pope Clement VIII.; for the conspirators argued, when the lawfulness of the undertaking was discussed, that if it was lawful to prevent James from possessing the throne, it was equally so to remove him though he had taken possession. I see not how this argument can be overturned by the Romanists; or how they can clear the rulers of their church of that day of the guilt of that dark transaction.
The circumstances of the country, therefore, at the time of James's accession were very peculiar. The pope had issued his bulls to prevent any but a papist from succeeding Queen Elizabeth; the king of Spain had promised assistance to the English Romanists; and Garnet, with some other Jesuits, and Catesby and his companions, were resolved to execute the designs of his holiness. It was under such circumstances that the plot was contrived. The king of Spain, however, refused to contribute money or to send troops when he heard of James's accession, with whom he wished to enter into a peace, and to whom he sent commissioners for that purpose. The disappointment of their hopes in obtaining assistance from Spain, led the conspirators, Catesby, and his brethren, to devise some other means, by which their object might be obtained. Frequent meetings took place; and various plans were considered and then relinquished. At length it was determined to undermine the parliament house, and destroy the king by means of gunpowder. It appears that Thomas Winter had some misgivings, lest the church of Rome should suffer in the estimation of the public if the plot should be defeated. Catesby replied, that the nature of the disease required a very sharp remedy. Winter's scruples were removed, and he entered into the project with all his energies. Still Winter started difficulties, which Catesby was most expert at removing. He objected the difficulty of procuring a place, from which they might commence their labours for the mine; but Catesby encouraged him by proposing to make the attempt, and that, if it failed, they might desist from any thing of the kind afterwards.
It seems that Catesby conceived the plan during the spring, A.D. 1603. Thomas Winter states that he was requested to meet him in town; where, after receiving a second letter, he found him with John Wright. At this meeting they conversed on the necessity incumbent on them of doing something for the cause of their religion and country; for these men, forsooth, professed to be patriots. Winter expressed his readiness to hazard his life in the cause; and Catesby made known his project. Thomas Winter then went to the Continent to meet Fawkes, to whom he was to make known the fact, that a plot was in agitation. They met and returned to England the following spring, when they were joined by Catesby, Percy, and Wright. At one of these meetings Percy came into the room and said, "Shall we always, gentlemen, talk, and never do any thing?" Catesby took Percy aside for a few minutes. Percy proposed to kill the king; but Catesby said, "No, Tom, thou shalt not adventure thy life to so small a purpose." At this time the plan was partially concocted by Catesby, but was revealed only to Winter. Catesby and Winter agreed that an oath of secresy should be administered before the plot was fully disclosed to their companions; who, though they were all anxious to enter upon any project, however desperate, were not yet acquainted with the plan which had been devised by Catesby.
Though Winter and Fawkes had met on the Continent, and had travelled together to England, yet it does not appear that the latter was made at that time acquainted with the treason. He came to England with Winter, with a view to the contrivance of a plot, but with the particular scheme projected by Catesby he was not acquainted, until after his return from the Continent. He was a reckless character, and ready to join in any desperate enterprise. Fawkes, in his own confession, declares, that the matter was at first broken to him in a general way by Winter. The parties were now five in number, namely, Catesby, Fawkes, Percy, Thomas Winter, and John Wright. According to agreement they all met together in a room near St. Clement's church, in the Strand. Here they administered an oath of secresy to each other on a Primer. When the oath had been taken, they all went into the next room, in which was the Jesuit Gerard, from whom, after they had heard mass, they received the sacrament. Gerard was probably acquainted with all the particulars of the plot. He was aware of the designs and intentions of the conspirators; for he waited in the room for the express purpose of uniting them together into a common bond for treasonable purposes. As soon as these ceremonies had been passed through, Catesby and Winter unfolded to the rest the plan which had been devised; and observed that the oath had been taken, in order that the plot might be concealed. Fawkes and the rest fully approved of all that had been done, entering into the plot with the utmost alacrity. In the spring of 1604, therefore, the plot was concocted. The oath was couched in the following terms:—
"You shall swear by the blessed Trinity, and by the sacrament you now purpose to receive, never to disclose, directly nor indirectly, by word or circumstance, the matter that shall be proposed to you to keep secret, nor desist from the execution thereof until the rest shall give you leave."
The next point was to secure a house near the House of Lords, in which the mine might be commenced. Fortune, in this respect, appeared to favour them, for during Winter's absence on the Continent, Catesby had heard that a particular house adjoining the House of Lords might probably be secured. Inquiries were made on the subject, when it was discovered to be in the occupation of a person named Ferris, who rented it of one of the officers of the House of Lords, by whom some of the rooms were occasionally used for parliamentary business. Percy was despatched by Catesby on the business, and, after some difficulty, he succeeded in becoming tenant to Winyard, the officer, as Ferris had previously been. Fawkes assumed the character of Percy's servant, the keys of the house being committed to his keeping. The name under which he now went was Johnson. They also hired another house, in Lambeth, for the purpose of stowing away the gunpowder and the wood, previous to its being deposited in the mine. The house was one in which Catesby often lodged. Their object, in depositing their materials on that side of the river, was to avoid detection, for they were fearful lest, by constantly entering the house in Westminster, the suspicion of some of the inhabitants might be awakened. It was at this period that Keys was admitted into the secret, and to him was committed the charge of the house in Lambeth. During these proceedings the parliament was adjourned to the ensuing February, an event which afforded abundance of time for their project; and therefore they agreed to quit London for a season, intending to return sufficiently early for the completion of the work before the opening of the session. The conspirators departed in different directions, in order to avoid suspicion. It was about a month before the commencement of Michaelmas term that the parties quitted London. About the beginning of the term, Fawkes and Winter met Catesby. They all agreed that it was time to commence their operations. When the parties arrived in London, they were rather staggered by the discovery, that the Scottish lords were appointed to assemble in Percy's house, to discuss the question of the union of the two kingdoms. In consequence of this occupancy, they were not able to begin the mine until the 11th of December, 1604. Late at night they entered upon the work of darkness! The powder had already been procured from Flanders, and deposited in the house at Lambeth. Not only did they provide themselves with the necessary tools for excavation, but they took in with them a stock of provisions, consisting of biscuits and baked meats, so that they might not be under the necessity of sending out to the adjoining shops for provisions, and thereby excite suspicion.
Now it must be remembered, that these conspirators were quite unaccustomed to laborious employments: yet their mistaken zeal in the cause of popery, which they seem to have regarded as the truth, induced them to apply themselves to the task with unceasing energy. They continued at their labour from the 11th of December until Christmas eve, without any intermission. Nor did they appear in the streets until that day. At this time they had conducted the mine under an entry close to the wall of the parliament house, under-propping the earth, as they proceeded, with wood. Fawkes, as being the least known of the party, acted as sentinel to give the alarm in the event of danger. In his own confession, Fawkes acknowledges, "I stood as sentinel, to descrie any man that came near, whereof I gave them warning, and so they ceased until I gave notice again to proceed." The object in placing Fawkes as sentinel was this, namely, that they might cease from their labour as any one approached, lest the noise should be heard and a discovery ensue.
Winter, whose confession was very full and minute, informs us that, during the progress of the work, they held many conversations relative to the steps to be taken after the execution of the deed. They hoped that the king and the assembled lords would fall a sacrifice in the explosion: but then there were the prince of Wales and the duke of York, and how were they to be despatched? It was supposed that the prince might attend the king, and share in the same fate: and Percy, who all along had evinced great boldness, undertook to secure the duke. Percy held an office near the court, and was acquainted with several of those who were employed in the royal household. He, therefore, undertook to enter the chamber, after the blow was struck, and, having placed others at the doors, to secure the young prince. It was also determined that the king's daughter Elizabeth, who subsequently became queen of Bohemia, and from whom the house of Hanover is descended, she being the mother of the Princess Sophia, and grandmother of George I., should be secured by some of their party in the country. The princess was, at this time, with Lord Harrington, in the county of Warwick, not very distant from Catesby's house. It was arranged, therefore, that the Roman Catholics of that neighbourhood should assemble, under the pretence of a hunting-match upon Dunsmore Heath, and that the princess should be seized during the confusion that would be consequent on the discovery of the plot.
Money and horses were also necessary: and the conspirators, at this stage of their proceedings, did not neglect to make provision respecting both. These and other subjects were discussed in the intervals of relaxation from their laborious employment in the mine.
Another very important topic was also introduced during these secret conversations: it related to the lords whom they should endeavour to save from the general destruction. It was determined that they should prevent as many of the Roman Catholic lords as possible from attending the house on that occasion; but that the rest must necessarily perish with the great body of the peers.
It was also debated whether they should reveal the project to any foreign princes. A difficulty here stared them in the face, namely, that they could not enjoin secresy by a solemn oath, as they had done among themselves: nor were they certain that the continental princes would approve of their design. They had little hope from Spain, because the king was too slow in his preparations, and was ready to enter into negotiations with James: France was too near, and could not safely be trusted. Such were their views of France and Spain.
These discussions took place while they were engaged in the mine. At this period parliament was again adjourned until the Fifth of October; on which account the conspirators ceased from their operations, intending to commence their labours sufficiently early to enable them to bring the matter to a completion, previous to the period fixed for the opening of the session. Early in the ensuing spring, they removed the powder which had been stowed in the house at Lambeth, into Percy's residence. Their labours were now resumed with redoubled energy. The foundation wall of the House of Lords was nine feet thick, so that their progress was necessarily very slow. They were obliged to chisel out the stones and the mortar; the wall being exceedingly hard, they advanced only about a foot in a week. These labours were continued during a fortnight, when they deemed it necessary to admit some others into their secret, to share with them in their toils. It was at this period that Christopher Wright and Robert Winter were admitted into their party. The same process was adopted in the admission of these men as had been resorted to in the first instance: they were sworn to secresy, and the oath was confirmed by receiving the sacrament. With this accession to their strength, they continued in the mine until Easter, at which time they had advanced about half way through the stone wall. While occupied in their work, they were one day suddenly alarmed by a noise, which seemed to proceed from no distant spot. The conspirators had provided themselves with weapons, intending, if they were discovered, to sell their lives as dearly as possible. These weapons were now grasped by the whole party; and Fawkes was sent out in order to discover the cause of the noise. He soon returned to his companions, whose fears were banished by his report. Fawkes discovered that the sound proceeded from a cellar, which had been used for coals, and which was under the House of Lords. The coals were now selling off, the person who had rented the cellar being about to quit; and the noise, which had alarmed them, was occasioned by the falling down and the removal of these coals. This cellar was most convenient for their purpose: for it was exactly under the throne. The grand object, therefore, was now to secure it. Fawkes soon ascertained that it was to be let. Percy immediately hired it, pretending that he wished to use it as a coal cellar for his adjoining house.
Thus far they appeared to prosper in their dark enterprise. The mine was now relinquished; and it was resolved to deposit the powder in the cellar. Their labours were discontinued; and all their energies were exerted in making arrangements to secure the success of their design.
[Footnote 9: "In piercing through the wall nine foot thick," says Fuller, "they erroneously conceived that they thereby hewed forth their own way to heaven. But they digged more with their silver in an hour, than with their iron in many daies; namely, when discovering a cellar hard by, they hired the same, and the pioneers saved much of their pains by the advantage thereof."—b. x. p. 35. They were led to believe, from this circumstance, that God was evidently favourable to their design.]
Hitherto Catesby had himself borne the expenses of the treasonable undertaking; but his resources were insufficient for the charge of maintaining the party, for the rent of several houses, and for the purchase of the materials with which the scheme was to be carried into effect. It was deemed necessary, therefore, that some monied person or persons should be made acquainted with the design, in order that pecuniary aid might be procured: and Catesby proposed that he and Percy, and another of the conspirators, should be permitted to disclose their secret to such persons as they, in their discretion, might deem desirable. The proposition was agreed to by the whole party, who now amounted to seven in number. This plan was adopted, because the parties thought, that several of the wealthy Romanists would be willing to contribute pecuniary aid, though they might be unwilling to disclose their names to the whole number of the conspirators. Having made this arrangement, Fawkes was employed in depositing a large quantity of powder and wood in the cellar which had recently been taken. The house was cleared of all those things which might have awakened suspicion, while everything was placed in the cellar,—a place which no one visited.
They began now to contemplate making another trial of their friends on the Continent. Catesby proposed that Fawkes should go over, assigning two reasons for his absence; first, that he might not be seen in England for a time; and secondly, that he might acquaint Sir William Stanley and Mr. Owen with their proceedings. It was, however, determined that the same oath of secresy should be administered to these two gentlemen.
Fawkes quitted England about Easter. Stanley was absent from Brussels, to which place Fawkes had repaired; but he made the matter known to Owen, who cordially entered into the project. In the month of August, Fawkes again returned to England.
About the same time, Catesby and Percy met in the city of Bath, for the purpose of calling in others to render pecuniary assistance agreeably to their previous determination. It was at this stage of the plot, that Sir Everard Digby and Francis Tresham were made acquainted with the design. Neither of these gentlemen scrupled to enter into the plot. It was a most extraordinary thing, that gentlemen, otherwise of strict integrity, should have been so influenced by their religious views, as to concur in such a design without hesitation, which seems to have been the case. Sir Everard Digby engaged to furnish 1500l., and Mr. Tresham 2000l., towards the accomplishment of the object. Percy also promised to obtain as large a sum as possible from the rents of the earl of Northumberland. Rookwood and Grant were made acquainted with the plot about the same time; so that the number of the conspirators was now completed. These gentlemen, however, never entered the mine: they were merely privy to the treason, and promoted it by rendering pecuniary assistance.
When these matters were arranged between Catesby, Percy, and Tresham, Fawkes and Thomas Winter procured some fresh powder, and placed it in the cellar, as they intended it should stand for the explosion. All things being thus arranged by the conspirators, the parliament was again prorogued until the Fifth of November; an event which dispersed the party for a time. This third prorogation alarmed the conspirators, who imagined that their plot was discovered. To ascertain whether their suspicions were well founded, they mingled with the crowd on the day of prorogation, in order that they might watch the proceedings of the commissioners. They were satisfied that their suspicions were groundless; so that they went into the country in high spirits. About ten days previous to the Fifth of November, Catesby and Fawkes returned to the neighbourhood of London. Several of the traitors met together at White Webbs, on Enfield Chase. At this time, they were informed, that the prince of Wales would not be present at the opening of parliament. Whereupon, they determined on seizing him after the explosion. The duke of York, afterwards Charles I., was so safely guarded, that they entertained but slight hopes of getting him into their power. Down to the end of October, therefore, all things seemed to favour the designs of the conspirators, while the intended victims were unconscious of the danger to which they were exposed. Still the watchful eye of Divine providence was fixed upon the king and the peers; and the schemes of the traitors, secretly as they were carried on, were revealed, by one of those remarkable events, which no human understanding can fathom. The remark of Fuller on the frequent prorogation of parliament deserves attention: "As if Divine providence had given warning to these traitors (by the slow proceedings, and oft adjourning of the parliament), mean time seriously to consider, what they went about, and seasonably to desist from so damnable a design, as suspicious at last it would be ruined, which so long had been retarded. But, no taking off their wheels will stay those chariots from drowning, which God hath decreed shall be swallowed in the Red Sea."
[Footnote 10: Book x. 35.]
I have now brought the narrative down to the latter end of October, 1605. The conspirators were in and near London, Fawkes alone, as the individual who was to fire the train, taking his post in the cellar, or the adjoining house, as Catesby's servant. The parties were very cautious in all their proceedings, so that they met together secretly, whenever a meeting was necessary. As the powder and the wood were deposited in the cellar, and nothing remained to be done in London, the conspirators hovered near, leaving Fawkes to manage the firing of the train. They were full of sanguine expectations respecting the event, and busied themselves at this period, in forming plans for securing the young princes, and for carrying their ulterior designs into execution. Their attempt was, however, frustrated by an overruling providence!
THE JESUITS PRIVY TO THE PLOT. THE NARRATIVE CONTINUED DOWN TO THE PERIOD OF THE DISCOVERY OF THE TREASON.
Before the narrative is carried further, it will be desirable to allude to those clerical individuals who were privy to this conspiracy. The actors were, as has been seen, laymen; but there were some priests of the church of Rome, and members of the order of Jesuits, who were no less implicated in the design than those who actually worked in the mine. Garnet, Gerard, and Tesmond, were Englishmen by birth; and yet, for the sake of advancing the interests of the church of Rome, they hesitated not to enter into the plot. Garnet was evidently a man of considerable attainments; nor is there any reason to believe that he was not, in many respects, an amiable man. His principles however, were such, that he could without scruple enter into a conspiracy against his sovereign and his country. There is reason to believe that he was privy to the design from the commencement, if he did not even suggest it to Catesby. At all events these Jesuits were made acquainted with all the proceedings of the conspirators, whom they aided and encouraged in their work, by such counsel as the church of Rome is accustomed to impart to her deluded votaries.
Even Catesby at one time had his scruples. He was not satisfied that it was right to sacrifice several Roman Catholic peers, who would be present at the opening of the session. His scruples were submitted to Garnet. It is, however, more than probable, that Catesby applied to Garnet, in order that he might be able to remove the scruples of others, should any arise. A case, therefore, was proposed, and to the following effect: "Whether, for the good of the church against heretics, it would be lawful, amongst many nocents, to destroy some innocents?" Garnet replied, that, if the advantage to the church would be greater, by taking away some of the Roman Catholic lords, together with many of their enemies, it would be lawful to destroy them all. "Indeed," says Fuller, "the good husbandman in the Gospel, permitted the tares to grow for the corne's sake; whereas here, by the contrary counsel of the Jesuit, the corn (so they reputed it,) was to be rooted up for the tares' sake." He gave also an illustration from the case of a besieged town, which must be subjected to the horrors of war, even though some friends of the besiegers are dwelling within its walls. It was this determination of Garnet's, that quieted the doubts of the whole party throughout the proceedings. Rookwood was staggered, when the matter was first proposed to him; but he was satisfied when Catesby mentioned Garnet's decision.
[Footnote 11: Book x. 36.]
The Jesuit wished to obtain the formal consent of the pope; but Catesby argued that it had been already granted, in the two bulls, the object of which was to prevent James from succeeding to the throne. Keys was induced to enter into the plot by these arguments; while Bates, Catesby's servant, was assured by another Jesuit, not only that he might lawfully conceal, but actually participate in the treason.
It has been already stated, that Bates confessed to Tesmond. In the church of Rome, confession precedes the sacrament; and in confession, Bates revealed all the particulars of the plot; still he was encouraged in the treason by his ghostly counsellor. In short, the evidence of the participation of the Jesuits in the plot is of such a description, that it cannot be disputed by any one who examines it.
The narrative has already been brought down to the autumn of 1605, when the parliament was prorogued from October to November the 5th. On Saturday evening, October 26, ten days previous to the day fixed for the opening of parliament, a letter, addressed to Lord Monteagle, was delivered, by a person unknown, to his lordship's footman, in the street, with a strict injunction to deliver it into his master's own hands. This circumstance took place at seven o'clock, just as the nobleman was about to sit down to supper. The letter was put into his lordship's hand by the servant. On opening it, he found it written in a very illegible hand, and without date or subscription. Monteagle summoned one of his attendants, to assist him in deciphering the epistle, which was couched in the following terms:—
"Out of the love I bear to some of your friends, I have a care of your preservation; therefore, I would advise you, as you tender your life, to devise some excuse to shift off your attendance at this parliament; for God and man have concurred to punish the wickedness of this time. And think not slightly of this advertisement, but retire yourself into your country, where you may expect the event in safety. For though there be no appearance of any stir, yet I say they shall receive a terrible blow this parliament, and yet they shall not see who hurts them. This council is not to be contemned, because it may do you good, and can do you no harm; for the danger is past, as soon as you have burnt the letter: and I hope God will give you the grace to make a good use of it, to whose holy protection I commend you."
[Footnote 12: "A strange letter, from a strange hand, by a strange messenger: without date to it, name at it, and (I had almost said) sense in it. A letter which, even when it was opened, was still sealed, such the affected obscurity therein."—FULLER. Book x. 26.]
Dark, indeed, were the words. In the first instance, Monteagle viewed the matter as a hoax, intended to prevent him from attending the opening of the session. Still he deemed it the safest course not to conceal its contents. Accordingly he hastened off to Whitehall at that late hour, when, too, the streets of London were not lighted as they are in our day, and submitted the letter to the earl of Salisbury, Cecil, one of the secretaries of state. It does not appear that Cecil laid much stress upon the letter; at the same time he expressed an opinion, that it might refer to some design of the papists, respecting which he had received some information from various quarters. His information, however, did not relate to any plot; but merely to an attempt, on the part of the Romanists, at the commencement of the session, to obtain a toleration for their worship, and the relaxation of some of the penal laws.
Various attempts have been made to shift the odium of the conspiracy from the church of Rome, and also from any members of that church. Some Roman Catholic writers have not scrupled to say, that the whole was a trick of Cecil's, and that King James was privy to the design, which was entered upon by the court, for the purpose of rendering the Romanists odious, and to pave the way for more stringent laws against recusants.
The assertion that the whole plot was a trick of Cecil's, intended to render the Romanists odious to their countrymen, was not advanced till sixty years after the event. No one at the time questioned the reality of the conspiracy. The confessions of the parties, and the secret letters of Sir Everard Digby, preclude the possibility of even entertaining such an absurd notion. Not one of the conspirators complained of being deceived into the plot, either at his trial or execution; nor did any of their apologists deny the fact of the treason. The assertion was worthy of that church from whom it proceeded. Mr. Hallam, a most unexceptionable witness, thus argues on this point: "But to deny that there was such a plot, or, which is the same thing, to throw the whole on the contrivance and management of Cecil, as has sometimes been done, argues great effrontery in those who lead, and great stupidity in those who follow. The letter to Monteagle, the discovery of the powder, the simultaneous rising in arms in Warwickshire,—are as indisputable as any facts in history. What, then, had Cecil to do with the plot, except that he hit upon the clue to the dark allusions in the letter to Monteagle, of which he was courtier enough to let the king take the credit? James's admirers have always reckoned this, as he did himself, a vast proof of sagacity: yet there seems no great acuteness in the discovery, even if it had been his own. He might have recollected the circumstances of his father's catastrophe, which would naturally put him on the scent of gunpowder."
[Footnote 13: HALLAM'S Const. Hist., i. 555.]
In recent times, however, it has been the policy of Roman Catholic writers to represent the conspiracy as the act of a few desperate characters. Desperate, indeed, they were; yet they were not men of desperate fortunes; nor had they suffered under the execution of the laws; but the sole principle that influenced them was one of religion. They were willing to risk all for the sake of promoting the interests of the church of Rome. It will also be seen hereafter that the pope, and some papal sovereigns, approved of the deed.
As to the report that the court were aware of the design long before the search, which was made in consequence of the letter, it is as destitute of foundation as the other. The court knew that some design was on foot: nor were they surprised, since such had been the case throughout the reign of Elizabeth; and the court was still composed of the same great statesmen. As to any knowledge of this particular plot, the court were not in possession of it. The king of France had informed the ministers that some secret plot was going on; but beyond this information the court had no knowledge on the subject. The secular priests, also, who were protected by Bancroft, intimated that some dark plot was concocting; but they were as ignorant of the particulars as the ministers. All the information, which James and his ministers received from the Continent, amounted merely to an assurance that a treason was hatching; but respecting the traitors and their proceedings they could learn nothing. These intimations undoubtedly rendered Cecil and James suspicious of the letter to Monteagle; but the letter conveyed the first certain intelligence that the danger was so near and so imminent.
When Cecil had read the letter, he laid it before the lord chamberlain and the earls of Worcester and Northampton. Monteagle was anxious that it should receive every consideration. They immediately connected the letter with the intelligence respecting the designs of the papists, of which they had been previously warned. It was determined, therefore, to submit the letter to the king, and not to take any steps in the business until they had obtained his majesty's orders.
On Thursday, October 31st, the king returned from Royston; and the next day Cecil submitted the letter to his inspection. It appears that Cecil offered no opinion concerning the letter; he merely placed it in his majesty's hands. After a little pause, the king expressed an opinion that it ought not to be despised. Cecil, perceiving that the king viewed the matter more seriously than he had anticipated, referred him to one sentence, "for the danger is past as soon as you have burnt the letter," which he conceived must have been written by a fool or a madman, since if the danger was past as soon as the letter was destroyed, as if burning the letter could ward off the danger, the warning was of small consequence. The king connected the expression with the former sentence, "That they should receive a terrible blow at this parliament, and yet should not see who hurt them." Taking the two sentences together, the king immediately fancied that there was an allusion to some attempt by gunpowder. An insurrection, or any other attempt, during the sitting of parliament, could not be unseen; could not be momentarily executed. The king interpreted the clause thus, that the danger would be sudden and as quickly over as the burning of the paper in the fire, taking the words as soon in the sense of as quickly. He suggested, therefore, that the letter must refer to an explosion of gunpowder, and that the spot chosen for it must be under or near the House of Lords.