« ForrigeFortsæt »
condemn them, even in that case they would merit rejection; as we have established, in the historians who narrate them, a total disregard of truth, and the strongest and most palpable facts, in every instance which admitted of producing evidence. This act of “ gracious, general, and free pardon,” would, if it stood alone, be sufficient to decide the question. It is recorded in the Statute-Book; open to the inspection of all the writers who have treated on it; and detection, like the well-known “sword of Damocles,” hung over the head of imposture or sophistication. Yet, notwithstanding all these strong circumstances, we see that its real character is as diametrically opposite to the views given of it, as the pitchy darkness of the lowest regions of Erebus to the starry canopy of heaven. And will not every man of mind ask, what dependence, in points involved in doubt, obscurity, or mystery, such as plots and conspiracies, can be placed on writers who poison the pure streams of history, in such plain cases as this, and so many others which we have exhibited to the reader?
The age of forgery, plots, and perjury.
IN every age of the world, some peculiar folly or wickedness has prevailed, which distinguished it from those which preceded, as well as from those which followed, with nearly as much accuracy as the varied features of the face distinguish one man from another.
Were we called upon to fix the peculiar feature of the seventeenth century, in the wide range of the British dominions, we should, without hesitation, pronounce it to have been the age of forgery, perjury, and fabricated plots, contrived for the purpose of overwhelming the innocent in ruin, and enriching malefactors with their spoils.
It is hardly credible, at the present day, when those dire passions that actuated so large a portion of the community in England and Ireland, during that period, have wholly subsided, and are now almost inconceivable, what a number of these contrivances were employed; how regularly they succeeded each other; what mischievous consequences they produced ; and yet how excessively stupid the most of them were. Many of them, which were devoured with greedy ears by the great and little vulgar, are so ridiculous, so absurd, and so utterly improbable, that, at the present day, they would not impose on a gang of swine-herds.
Previous to entering into the examination and detection of the miserable pretended conspiracy of 1641, which led to scenes of horror, desolation, and massacre of the Irish, that chill the blood in the veins, we shall present the reader with a few facts, to satisfy him that the fabrication of pretended plots was a regular trade, pursued upon a most extensive scale; was one of the levers by which the movements of the political machine were regulated; and that consistency, coherence, probability, or even possibility, were not necessary to ensure its success.
We have already established the efficacy of this infamous system, in producing confiscation in Ireland ; and how thousands were involved in ruin, and their posterity for ages consigned to poverty, by the dropping of a wretched catchpenny letter. We have shown, that after Tyrone, a nobleman of high grade and princely possessions among the Irish, had rendered important services to the state, and received a wound, fighting in its defence against his own countrymen, he' was almost immediately charged with a conspiracy, on grounds the most frivolous and contemptible, merely from the lust of spoliating his immense estate; and that the same vile course was pursued with Shane O'Neal, whose estate
was finally confiscated, after he was basely assassinated, at the instigation of the lord deputy, who publicly paid the assassin the price of his infamy, and thus stamped a brand of eternal infamy on his name, which all the cataracts of the Niagara could never efface.*
The low herd of hardened wretches, who perjured themselves by swearing to those plots, as well as those of the higher orders, equally hardened, who suborned them for this execrable purpose,t felt no 6 compunctious visitings” of remorse, that torrents of blood were occasionally shed, through the means of their perjuries.
suffered no nausea at the immolation of hosts of innocent victims on the bloody altars of their ambition, their avarice, and their vengeance.
Many of the instruments used on those occasions, were the basest and most wicked of man
*“ On a signal given, the soldiers rushed in; butchered the wretched guests; and buried their weapons in O'Neal. The intelligence of his death was conveyed to the lord deputy by Piers, who sent his head to Dublin, and RECEIVED ONE THOUSAND MARKS AS HIS REWARD."9296
+ " Leaders so little scrupulous, as to endeavour, by encouraging perjury, subornation, lies, imposture, and even by shedding innocent blood, to gratify their own furious ambi
296 Leland, II. 286, 287.
kind,* _wretches elaborated, in prisons, in stews, and other hot-beds and nurseries of villany, to the last degree of turpitude of which man is capable. Their stories were so contradictory, that the falsehood and perjury were manifest to the most cursory observer : but such was the general depravity and delusion of the times, and such the devouring thirst for the blood of the victims, that no profligacy in the witnesses, no contradiction, no improbability, no impossibility in the evidence, no degree of immaculate innocence in the objects of their rage and malice, could save them from destruction. Accusation and condemnation were, in almost every instance, synonimous terms.
*“ Oates, the informer of this dreadful plot, was himself THE MOST INFAMOUS OF MANKIND. He was the son of an Anabaptist preacher, chaplain to colonel Pride ; but having taken orders in the church, he had been settled in a small living by the duke of Norfolk. He had been indicted for perjury, and by some means had escaped. He was afterwards a chaplain on board the fleet, whence he had been dismissed, on complaint of some unnatural practices, not fit to be
“Such bountiful encouragement brought forth new witnesses. William Bedlow, a man, if possible, more infamous than Oates, appeared next upon the stage. He was of very low birth; had been noticed for several cheats, and even thefts; had travelled over many parts of Europe, under borrowed names; and frequently passed himself for a man of quality, and had endeavoured, by a variety of lies and contrivances, to prey upon the ignorant and unwary."299 298 Hume, IV. 315.
299 Idem, 322.