Billeder på siden

to require an answer; if Garnett declined to answer it, he had reason to be fearful of the rack; or that his silence would be construed to be proof of his guilt. From this dreadful position, equivocation, or mental reservation, would, under the circumstances, save him; it might serve many, and could prejudice no one. In this extreme case, he thought it justifiable. He may have been wrong; -but, if we blame him, surely we should pity him*.

XLVI. 4.

Cecil's Privity to the Conspiracy.

No circumstance, which has come to the knowledge of the writer, in the course of his investigation of this interesting part of his subject, has led him to the discovery of a single fact, which can render Cecil justly suspected of having been privy to the plot, previously to a short time preceding its discovery. That, in his disposition he was extremely unfavourable to the catholics, and that he would rejoice in any event, that was likely to render them objects of public odium, may be conceded; but, while this affords ground for suspicion, it extends

is understood, as much by every other person as himself, not to deny the reality, but to put his accusers on the proof of his guilt.

* "What hindered you," said the earl of Salisbury to Garnett, in one of his private examinations in the Tower, from "discovering the plot ?" "Even you yourself," answered Garnett; "for I knew full well, should I have revealed the plot, " and not the plotters, you would have racked this poor body ❝ of mine to confess." Fuller's Church History, b. x. p. 29.

[ocr errors]

no higher; and thus, so far as it stands single, proves nothing

It is said, that some protestant writers, as Osborn, Higgins, and the authors of “The Protestants Plea," and “ The Politicians Catechism,” accuse Cecil of fomenting the plot, and reaping its fruits : but not one of these writers mentions a single fact, which supports the accusation : now, where there is not evidence, there cannot be proof.

It is observable, that the expression of Osborn is misquoted : he is cited for having called the plot " a neat device of the secretary ;” now, he applies this expression not to the plot, but to the letter, which was sent to lord Monteagle ; " which let“ ter, he terms a neat device of the secretary, to « fetch him in, to whose nature and person, if not

to both, he had a quarrel *:"-aloose intimation, and entitled to no regard. Higgins wrote at the distance of more than a century after the event took place ; what he says, is altogether assertion, and is therefore of no weight. The writers of “The Protestants Plea" and "The Politicians Catechism," wrote nearer to the time; but, as they support their insinuations neither by fact nor argument, the testimony of neither is entitled to a voice t.

* See his Secret Memoirs in Ballantyne's Collection, vol. i.

p. 180.

+ The last of these writers mentions that one of Cecil's servants, two months before the event happened, advised a catholic friend of his, of the name of Buck, to be upon his guard, as some great mischief was on the forge against those of his religion :--but this circumstance, unaccompanied by others, is of no weight.


It has also been said, that king James used to call the 5th of November, the day on which the plot was discovered, “ Cecil's holy-day:” now, as Cecil's favour both with his master and the public was considerably increased by the discovery of the plot, it may be supposed that the expression of James referred to this circumstance: and this is a more probable construction of his words than to suppose them used to denote that Cecil was the contriver of the plot. His contrivance of it is intimated by lord Castlemain, in the excellent Apology which we shall transcribe in a future part of this work *. This is the more important, as his lordship lived near the time of the plot, possessed more than ordinary talents and discernment, and was extremely well informed on all subjects connected with this period of the catholic history.--It must be added, that the circumstance appears to have been generally believed by the catholics of those times, and their immediate descendants.

It has been generally thought, that the letter sent to lord Monteagle, which led to the public discovery of the plot, was written by Mr. Francis Tresham, one of the conspirators. The author of “ The Politicians Catechism t,” says, that “one

. “ master Tresham and another catholic, who were

thought to have been Cecil's instruments in all “ this business, having access to him even at mid“night, were sent to the Tower and never seen “ been taken alive, when they were killed; but that « Cecil knew full well, that these two unfortunate

afterwards, lest they should tell tales ;-and it's very certain that Percy and Catesby might have * Ch. Ixv. s. 4. vol. iii. pp. 47 et seq.

+ Page 94.

gentlemen would have related the story less to “ his own advantage, than himself caused it to be “ published: therefore, they were dispatched when “ they might have been made prisoners, having no “other weapons offensive and defensive than their « swords."-If these intimations had been accompanied by any circumstances, which tended to corroborate them, they might be entitled to attention : but, in the total absence of every thing of this kind, they deserve little regard. Because Tresham had access at all hours to Cecil, it does not follow that Tresham was Cecil's instrument in a conspiracy ;because Tresham died suddenly in prison, it does not follow that he was poisoned by Cecil's order ;because Catesby and Percy and their followers, rushed on the troops sent to take them, with their swords in their hands, and “ a determination to sell “their lives as dearly as possible,” it does not follow, that, if they fell in the conflict, it was because express directions had been given that they should not be taken alive. It may be added, that the concurrent testimony of all the conspirators declared that Catesby was the author of the conspiracy, and that Percy was his first associate ; that, from all we know of the characters of the conspirators, Catesby and Percy were the most unlikely to have any communications with Cecil; and that, when the first news of the conspiracy was divulged, they fled into the country, which, if they had any


[ocr errors]

upon Cecil for previous communications, it is most unlikely they would have done.

Besides,- from some documents published by the late Dr. Nash, in his History of Worcestershire *, it appears probable, that the communication to lord Monteagle was made, not by Tresham, as some, or by Percy, as others, have suspected, but by Mary the wife of Mr. Thomas Abingdon, of Henlip in Worcestershire; she was a sister of lord Monteagle; and Mr. Abingdon her husband, who had taken an active part in the conspiracy, and in whose house, at Henlip, Garnett and Oldcorn were concealed, was pardoned at her intercession.

It has also been observed, in confirmation of the suspicions suggested respecting Cecil's early privity to the conspiracy, that he appears from his own admission to have known of it before the letter was sent to lord Monteagle. This is certainly true;

. but surely wisdom and sound policy required, that, before he made the plot public, particularly as no mischief could arise from his keeping it a secret, he should discover all the actors in it, and every person who might be reasonably suspected, from the circumstances to which the event might lead, of evil designs against the state. Had the late Cato-street conspiracy come sooner to the knowledge of his majesty's ministers, would they or ought they not to have kept it secret until they had discovered, as far as possible, all the conspirators, and all their accomplices and connections ?

They are inserted in the Appendix, Note II.

« ForrigeFortsæt »