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In those days, conspirators were accustomed, if we believe the depositions of some of the plotcontrivers, to stand in the open streets and highways, and converse about their conspiracies and treasons, as publicly and unreservedly as at present we convey to each other the intelligence of the price of stocks, the state of the weather, or any of those important nothings which form so large a portion of what is called conversation. This free and easy system was quite convenient to the informers, as it saved them much trouble in searching for evidence.
On one occasion, the English House of Lords was alarmed by the important information given by an Italian, that he heard an Irishman, in the street, inform a certain Francisco, IN ITALIAN, that a plot was laid to kill some members of that House, particularly the earls of Northumberland, Essex, Holland, &c.* The House of Lords attach
*“ Jan. 11, 1641–2. This day, one Francis Moor, an Italian, gave
in an information to the House of Lords, That yesterday he stood talking with an Irishman, who lives with the lord viscount Loftus, in the street, and overheard One BRIAN KELLY, AN IRISHMAN, servant to the earl of Arundel, SPEAK IN ITALIAN [!] to one Signior Francisco, an Italian, and say, That there was a plot laid to kill some lords of the Parliament; and in particular named the earl of Northumberland, the earl of Essex, the earl of Holland, the earl of Pembroke, and the earl of Leicester.
“ Hereupon, it is ordered, That the said Brian Kelly and Signior Francisco shall be forth with apprehended, and attached by the gentleman usher attending this house, and brought as delinquents to the bar, and charged with the words ; Kelly
ed great importance to the affair, and summoned the parties to the bar : but it ended in smoke, after the purposes for which it had been fabricated were answered.
The Irishman being so polite as to speak to his brother conspirator in Italian, it is highly probable that the latter, not to be outdone in politeness, replied in Gælic or Irish. But, as the historian is silent on the subject, I would not be understood as committing myself, by any thing more than suggesting it as plausible, leaving it to the better judgment of the reader to decide.
But, of all the informers of those days, a certain "Thomas Beal, a taylor, merited the palm. None of the confraternity could stand a comparison with him. He gave minute details of a plot, in which one hundred and eight persons had engaged to murder as many members of Parliament. The wages they were to receive for this pleasant and amusing business, were very moderate, particularly for the commons, who were not valued at more than twenty per cent. of the lords. The latter were to be paid for at the rate of ten pounds per man : but the poor
members of the Lower House were valued at only forty shillings. The feats were to be performed as the members were coming down stairs from the
denied that he ever spake any such words. Thereupon Moor was called in to confront him, and upon oath averred what he had formerly informed.""300
300 Nalson, II. 843.
Parliament House, or taking their coaches, or going into their lodgings.*
*"House of Lords, Nov. 15, 1641. Thomas Beal, a taylor, dwelling in White-Cross street, was called in, and made a relation of the whole plot, with all the circumstances, which were as follows:
That this day, at twelve of the clock, he went into the fields, near the Pot-house: and walking over a private bank, he heard some talking, but did not see them at first ; but finding them by the voice, he coming within hearing of them, understood they talked of state affairs : and going nearer them, he heard one of them say, that it was a wicked thing, that the last plot did not take ; but if this goes on, as is in hand and intended, they shall all be made. Heard them say, that there were an hundred and eight men appointed, to kill an hundred and eight members of the Parliament, every one his man ; some were lords, and others were to be members of the House of Commons, all Puritans; and the sacrament was to be administered to the hundred and eight men, for performing of this; and those that killed the lords were to have ten pounds, and those that killed the members of the House of Commons, forty shillings. That Gorges, being the thirty-serenth man, had taken the sacrament on Saturday, to kill one of the House of Commons, and had received forty shillings. That one Phillips coming to London on Sunday night late, was charged to be at my lord's chamber, where was only my lord, father Jones, and father Andrews : he also had his charge, and five more with him, he being the hundred and eighth man, and the last, as he thought.
“That Phillips had been in Warwickshire and Buckinghamshire, with letters; and that he delivered letters to Mr. Sheldon, who gave him his dinner, and a piece for his pains, charging him to make haste to London again, and giving him letters to deliver to my lord.
“ That Dick Jones was appointed to kill that rascally Puritan Pym; and that four tradesmen were to kill the Puritan citizens which were Parliament men,
This plot, which highly alarmed both lords and commons, is one of those which, as we have
“That on the same day, being the 18th of this month, when the city shall be in a tumult, there shall be risings in six several parts of this land, by the Papists; viz. in Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Buckinghamshire, Lancashire, and two other places which he remembers not.
That those that were to kill the lords were brave gallants in their scarlet coats, and had received every man ten pounds a-piece; and when that was gone, they might come and fetch
“That this was to be done either coming down stairs, or taking their coaches, or entering into their lodgings, or any other way, as they should see opportunity.
“ That although all were not killed, yet the tumult would be so great, that it would prevent sending to Ireland, and that was father Andrews his wit, to prevent sending thither ; because if they prevailed there, they should not have cause to fear here."301
“Nov. 16, 1641. The lords and commons assembled in Parliament, having received informations of dangerous designs and practices, by priests and Jesuits, and ill-affected persons, to disturb the peace of this state, and the proceedings of Parliament, and to attempt upon the persons of many of the members of both Houses; and well know that there is no way to prevent the mischief which the malice of such men may suddenly bring upon the realm, to the utter subversion of our religion, laws, and liberties, but by putting the kingdom into a posture of defence, and so to be ready, upon all occasions, to oppose force to force.9302
“ The commons acquainted their lordships, that they have discovered some things further concerning the plot which was related by Beal; for, upon examination, they are informed, that there are two such priests as father Jones and father Andrews; Jones, they understand, is here in town, at the earl
301 Nalson, II. 646.
302 Idem, 649.
stated, would now hardly impose upon a gang of swine-herds. The idea of a large body of “ brave gallants," not, as Sir John Falstaff says, 66 in Kendal green,” but “ in scarlet coats," for the purpose of rendering themselves conspicuous, engaged to poignard an equal number of members of Parliament coming out of the house, or going into their carriages, the major part for only forty shillings a head, would form an admirable episode in Baron Munchausen. But, absurd and ridiculous as it was, the “ greedy maw” of public delusion and prejudice cheerfully swallowed it, as suitable refection for its devouring appetite.
A plot for which Sir Henry Beddingfield was apprehended, is more absurd and nonsensical than Beal's, though not so much detailed. It is difficult to conjecture what it means, from the deposition* of the informer who communicated
of Worcester's house; and Andrews is described to be near fifty years
and uses to come much to Sir Basil Brook's house.
" The House of Commons further thinks fit, that a declaration be made, that whosoever of the hundred and eight men, designed to do this mischief, shall come in and discover the same, both Houses will be humble suitors to the king that they may be pardoned, and they shall be well rewarded. "9303
*“ William Shales, sergeant of the foot company under the command of Sir Arthur Loftus, knight, saith, That about the latter end of April last, he being then in Norfolk, in Oxborough Hall, in the house of Sir Henry Beddingfield, the said Sir Henry, hearing that this examinant was lately come out of Ireland, sent for him into his garden, whither when he came,
303 Nalson, II. 649.