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The Reign of James I page 11

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The Jesuits and their servants there underwent the strictest examinations, but as nothing was drawn from them, Oldcorne, Owen, and Chambers were placed upon the rack. Garnet was not racked, but was threatened with it, to which he replied, "Minare ista pueris" threats are only for boys. As it was probably thought that nothing was to be hoped from Garnet through torture, a stratagem worthy of the inquisition was resolved on. It had been already practised on Fawkes and Winter with but moderate success: here it answered more completely. Garnet was well known to be a man of extraordinary learning, of consummate ability and address, and endowed with all the subtle ingenuity of the order to which he belonged. Even the rude and scurrilous Coke, in his speech on Garnet's trial, confessed that he was a man "having many excellent gifts and endowments by nature; by birth a gentleman, by education a scholar, by art learned, and a good linguist." Yet artful and circumspect as the order of Jesuits is popularly reputed to be, this masterly adept fell into the snare laid by Cecil, who would have made a first-rate general of the order of Loyola.

The warder in whose custody the Jesuits lay, received an order from the lieutenant of the Tower to assume a friendly demeanour towards them; to express his sympathy for their sufferings, and his respect for their undaunted maintenance of their religious faith. Having satisfied himself that he had made a favourable impression, he proceeded to offer them all the indulgence in his power, consistent with their safe custody. The Jesuits fell into the snare. The warder offered to take charge of any letters that they wished to convey to their friends. The sincerity of the man appeared so genuine that the offer was gladly accepted; a correspondence with several Catholics was commenced, and the letters each way were regularly carried to the commissioners, opened, and copied before delivery. Many of the letters being found to have secret notes appended in lemon juice, which only became visible when heated, were retained, and exact copies sent. Some of these letters still remain in the State Paper Office. But this correspondence, notwithstanding the sympathetic ink, was so guarded, that it furnished no new facts, and another plan was adopted. The warder, as if growing more willing to serve them by longer acquaintance, showed them that by leaving an intermediate door unlocked betwixt their cells, the two Jesuits could meet and converse at freedom. Still confiding entirely in their apparent friend the warder, who recommended extreme caution, Garnet and Oldcorne gladly embraced this opportunity of intercourse. But in secret recesses in the passage were placed Lockerson, the private secretary of Cecil, and Forsett, a magistrate of the Tower, who heard and noted down the conversations of the prisoners. Five times were these treacherous interviews permitted, and the reported conversations of four of them are still preserved.

As might be expected, the conversations chiefly turned on the best mode of conducting their defence. In these conversations Garnet admitted that though he had denied it, he had still been at White Webbs, in Enfield Chace, with the conspirators, and would still maintain that he had not been there since Bartholomew-tide. On another occasion he let fall things which still further betrayed his knowledge of the plot; and he asserted his intention when again examined to demand that the witnesses which the commissioners boasted of having should be produced.

These admissions were deemed sufficient; the prisoners were again separately subjected to examination; and on still denying all knowledge of the conspiracy, their conversations were shown them. They now saw how shamefully they had been betrayed, yet they both protested that they had never said such things. Oldcorne, however, when racked, confessed to them, and this confession was then shown to Garnet. But Garnet still denied the truth of these conversations, saying that Oldcorne might admit them in his agony, but he would not accuse himself. He was then - according to the catholic account - led to the rack himself, and in its presence was brought to admit that he had received no 'knowledge of the plot except under the seal of confession, which to a catholic priest was inviolable. But according to the government account - which, after the perfidious means used to obtain, the knowledge, is deserving of very little credence - he confessed that he had received a general knowledge of it from Greenway; but both in that case and when it was recounted in confession by Catesby, had done all in his power to discourage and put an end to it. It was charged upon him that he had given Catesby an assurance that it was lawful in certain cases to destroy the innocent with the guilty: but he explained that this had in his mind no reference to the gunpowder plot, but had been in answer to a question put by Catesby in reference to his serving in the Netherlands.

At this stage of the proceedings Oldcorne, a priest of the name of Strange, and Mr. Abingdon were sent down to Ilendlip to be tried, where both the priests and some other of the minor conspirators were condemned and executed; but Abingdon received a pardon through the intercession of his brother-in-law, lord Mounteagle.

Garnet was put upon his trial before a special commission in Guildhall on the 28th of March. The interest attached to this trial was evidenced by the numerous crowd which, flocked to it. All the members of parliament were present, with the king himself placed in one retired corner, and Arabella Stuart in another. Coke, the attorney-general, exerted himself to the utmost to damage the catholics as well as the prisoner in public opinion. For this purpose he had raked together all the conspiracies which had been attributed to that body since the commencement of the reign of Elizabeth. He drew an alarming picture of the pretensions of the papal court; of the subtle policy and habitual equivocation of the Jesuits, and described them and the missionaries as the agents of a grand scheme for the destruction of the king and all the heads of the protestant party. He made great boasts that he would prove the prisoner at the bar to be the original author of the plot and the confidential adviser of the conspirators; but when he came to his proofs, there he miserably failed. There was no evidence but such as had been drawn from the forced depositions of the conspirators themselves, and the incautious admissions of Garnet and Oldcorne in the hearing of the spies in the Tower. So far as the depositions went, they were in direct contradiction to these assertions; and the conversations of the two Jesuits, if faithfully reported, only proved Garnet to have been aware of the plot, and in no case to have originated or encouraged it.

Garnet defended himself with a suavity and ability which charmed even so prejudiced and reluctant an audience. He admitted precisely what he had admitted on his last examinations, and nothing more. Nothing could exceed the temper which he displayed under the most provoking and continual interruptions from the attorney-general and the commissioners on the bench. So harassing and unfair were these, that James himself declared that Garnet had a great right to complain. A verdict of guilty was pronounced against him, with the sentence of hanging, drawing, and quartering.

But though Garnet was condemned, from some cause or other he was not led to execution for more than six weeks after his trial. Either it was deemed that the evidence against him was not sufficient to justify his death, or, possibly, that more proofs of the real extent and ramifications of the plot might be drawn from him, Some such reasons created the delay, for though under sentence of death he was still subjected to harassing examinations, and fresh stratagems and falsehoods were employed to surprise him into disclosures, lie was now told that Greenway was a prisoner in the Tower, though he really was safe on the Continent, and that five hundred catholics, shocked at his guilt in the plot, had turned protestants. Under the agony of mind which these statements produced, he was permitted to write to the supposed prisoner Greenway, and to Mrs. Vaux, a real prisoner, in explanation; but out of these letters they obtained nothing further. Garnet at the same time wrote also to the king, declaring his ignorance of any plot of gunpowder. They then pretended that Greenway had asserted that what he told Garnet of the plot was not under seal of confession. These tricks, though they tortured the prisoner, did not advance the objects of his persecutors, for he protested that by the laws of England no man was bound to criminate himself, and that if unduly pressed, a prisoner was less blamable for equivocating than were his powerful oppressors who violated the law in order to condemn him. And truly, however much the Jesuit might prevaricate under these inquisitorial and un-English proceedings, he had far more excuse than the government, which sought its ends by spies, the most despicable falsehoods, and by stripping his admissions, in charging the jury, of all qualifying circumstances, which, says Jardine, truly "was a forgery of evidence. For when a qualified statement is made, the suppression of the qualification is no less a forgery than if the whole statement had been falsicated." Garnet was executed on the 3rd of May, and Cecil was honoured with the garter for his diligence in tracing out the plot, and bringing the traitors to justice.

Though the catholics had shown such a decided aversion to the plot, they were not allowed to escape without further punishment. The lords Montague, Stourton, and Mordaunt, being persons mentioned in the depositions of the conspirators as persons who were to be warned, they were arrested, along with the earl of Northumberland, who was suspected, on account of his relationship to Percy. They were brought into the star-chamber, and though nothing could be proved against them they were condemned to be fined - Stourton six thousand pounds, Mordaunt ten thousand pounds, and Montague considerably more. Against Northumberland the proceedings were especially severe. He had long been a decided antagonist of Cecil's, and the opportunity was too tempting to that cold-blooded statesman to be omitted; besides, it was suspected by the government that it was to him that the conspirators proposed to offer the protectorship if they had succeeded. His conduct in the Tower displayed so much spirit and independence, that it greatly alarmed the timid soul of James. He demanded to be brought to a public and legal trial, and dared them to prove him guilty of any treasonable act. After a seven months' delay, they preferred arraigning him in the star-chamber, on the charges that he sought to make himself the head of the papists, and to procure toleration, the latter an honour to him to all posterity, could they have proved it; that he had admitted Percy to be a gentleman-pensioner without tendering him the oath of supremacy, to which were added the frivolous accusations,, that after his arrest he had written to the north to his servants to tell them to take care that Percy did not carry off his money; thus, it was argued, showing more regard for his money than his king. On such miserable grounds, totally unsupported by fact, he was sentenced to pay a fine of thirty thousand pounds, to be deprived of all his offices, held incapable of ever holding them again, and to be detained in the Tower during life. The public was greatly astonished at the severity of this punishment, which nothing but private motives could explain.

The earl passed his time in his captivity in literary and scientific pursuits, and in the society of the most distinguished men of the age. His liberality to men of genius and learning was extraordinary. The number of mathematicians who were his associates and entertained at his table, gave him the title of Henry the Wizard. Hill, Allen, Hariot. Dee, Torperly, and Warner, "the Atlantes of the mathematical world," were nearly all in receipt of annuities from him. Yet the spiteful Cecil could not leave him unmolested in this pleasant and honourable society. In 1611 he employed the spleen of a dismissed servant against him, but again failed in his charge. In 1617 the king's favourite. Hay, afterwards earl of Carlisle, married his daughter Lucy, much against his will, and obtained an order for his liberation after thirteen years' imprisonment.

Besides these noblemen, an attempt was made by every effort to secure the persons of Owen and Baldwin, two Jesuits, who had been confederates of Fawkes in Flanders; but the king of Spain and the archduke refused to surrender them.

No further prosecutions appearing feasible, a parliament was summoned for the double purpose of raising money and of extending additional punishment over the catholics generally. The whole country was in that state of alarm and hostility to them, that James found it necessary to restrain rather than encourage the mania. Such was the public excitement, that even he was not exempt from blame on account of this lenity. He had chosen this inauspicious moment to make overtures to Spain for the Infanta as a wife for prince Henry, and the puritans at once ascribed his moderation to this cause, and declared that he was little better than a secret papist himself. James was alarmed and obliged to give way. It was in vain that Henry IV. of France remonstrated against a bigotry which had already driven some of the catholics to such desperate lengths. Broderic, his ambassador, represented that the king his master had learned from experience that persecution only stimulated zealots to a temper in which they gloried in suffering, and that far more could be effected by kindness than by severity; that James should, if he loved peace, make himself their protector instead of their persecutor. But parliament soon showed how useless at the moment was such advice. Both houses appeared to be carried beyond all reason by their fears and their resentment. On the 3rd of February every member of the commons was ordered to stand up in his place and propound such measures as appeared to him most desirable. The most extravagant propositions appeared the most acceptable, and after impetuous debates upon them, they were communicated by conferences to the other house, and in both lords and commons motions of the severest description were made and carried by triumphant majorities. Catholic recusants were now forbidden to appear at court, to dwell within its boundaries, or within ten miles of the boundaries of London; or to remove on any occasion more than five miles from their homes, under particular penalties, unless in the latter case they had a license from four neighbouring magistrates. They were rendered incapable of practising in surgery, physic, or common or civil law; of acting as judges, clerks, officers, in any court or corporation, of presenting to church livings, schools, or hospitals in their gift; or of exercising the functions of executors or guardians; where persons were married by catholic priests, the husband, if a catholic, could not claim the property of the wife, nor the wife, if a catholic, that of the husband; and if a child born was not baptised by a protestant minister within a month, the penalty was one hundred and fifty pounds; and for every corpse not buried in a protestant cemetery, the penalty was twenty pounds. All the existing penalties for absence from church were retained, with the addition that who* ever received catholic visitors, or kept catholic servants, must pay for each such individual ten pounds per lunar month. Every recusant was declared to be excommunicated; his house might be broken open and searched at any time, his books and any articles belonging to "his idolatrous worship" might be burnt, and his arms and horses seized by the order of a single magistrate.

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