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The Reign of James I page 3

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But Watson had already proceeded to a length which led to the revelation of the plot to Cecil. He had endeavoured to engage in it the society of the Jesuits, and had communicated his plans to a Jesuit of the name of Gerard. The society not only refused to sanction the conspiracy, but the arch-priest went at once and revealed it to Cecil. The crafty minister kept his information close, and resolved to Jet the conspirators go on till the very day for the execution of their design, so that he might the more summarily convict them; but the failure of their plan left him no further reason for delay, and Anthony Copley, one of the uBye," was arrested, as a man well known to be of a timid character, and likely in his terror to betray his associates. Cecil had probably plenty of intelligence of both the plan and its agitators, from others as well as from Gerard, and most probably from Brooke. But he neglected no means of making the conspirators furnish evidence against each other, and thus keeping his own sources of knowledge secret. On the heels of Copley's arrest, followed, as a natural consequence, the arrest of Griffin, Markham, the priests Watson and Clarke, and the rest of Copley's associates. Cecil said that the mere foot of Brooke being in the conspiracy made him feel certain that Cobham, Raleigh, and Northumberland were in it.

Northumberland was already in custody on another charge, but he was called before the council, and nothing appearing against him, he was soon after discharged. Cecil met Raleigh on the terrace at Windsor, and begged him to accompany him to the council then sitting. Raleigh followed him, and was immediately questioned as to certain private intercourse of Ms friend Cobham with the ambassador Aremberg. Raleigh denied any knowledge of such intercourse or overtures on the part of Cobham, but he advised the apprehension of La Rensie, the agent of Aremberg, as the more likely person to give evidence, if such dealings existed. Sir Walter was dismissed; and he asserts that Cecil himself appeared to discourage any summons of La Rensie, alleging that such an act would give offence to Aremberg, and that the king did not wish that this should be the case. But Raleigh, uneasy in his mind after his return from the council, wrote to Cecil - evidently to give an air of innocence to himself - that if La Rensie was not secured, he would fly, and the truth would not be discovered; at the same time suggesting this difficulty, that if La Rensie were then arrested, it would excite suspicion in lord Cobham. This was as much as to say that Cobham had such dealings, or why should the summons of La Rensie to the council affect him? At the same time Raleigh wrote to Cobham to apprise him of his danger, and his letter was intercepted by Cecil. Cecil, both at the trial and in his letter to Winwood, protests that no question was asked of Raleigh before the council respecting Cobham, till he had voluntarily introduced his name; and that in his intercepted letter to Cobham, he had said, that having exculpated Cobham, let Cobham pursue the same course towards him, and then no harm could happen; for whatever La Rensie might confess would be only the evidence of a single witness, and would be inadequate to a legal conviction.

Cobham was then summoned before the council on the 16th of July, and then and on the 19th underwent a strict examination; but he stoutly denied every charge advanced against him. On the 20th he was called upon to answer interrogatories prepared in writing, but he gave the same answers. On this Raleigh's letter to Cecil was put into his hands, on which Cobhain indignantly exclaimed - "That wretch! that traitor, Raleigh! hath he used me thus! Nay, then, I will tell you all." He then confessed that he had been led by the persuasions of Raleigh, and on his assurances that the present state of things would soon be broken up, to open this communication with Aremberg, and that it had been arranged that he, Cobham, should proceed to Spain, and on his return visit Raleigh in his government in Jersey, where they should decide on ultimate proceedings, with aid of money from Spain.

Thus Cecil had induced these two friends to accuse each other, and had them both sent to the Tower to abide their trial. Cecil was unable to conceal his joy on thus having the gifted and popular Raleigh in his power, for from the earliest moment of his public life, he had betrayed the most intense jealousy of Sir Walters abilities, and had used every art, and effectually, to prejudice James against him. Raleigh in the Tower stabbed himself under the right breast, but not mortally, declaring that he knew the inexorable malice of his enemies and the cruelty of the law in England, and therefore despaired of escaping with his life. Whilst he thus endeavoured to turn the odium on Cecil, Cecil and his emissaries out of doors actively disseminated the opinion that Raleigh had betrayed by this suicidal act a consciousness of guilt. It is remarkable that Cecil instructed Coke on the trial to avoid all mention of this attempt at suicide, probably to prevent Raleigh asserting in his defence that he was driven to the act by the conviction of the minister's intention to destroy him.

The coronation of the king, which took place on the 25th of July, being his saint s day, the festival of St. James, and the violence of the plague, which caused the king to flee into the country, postponed the trials of the conspirators. The court, followed by the judges and their suitors, fled from place to place for several months, pursued by the plague; and it was not till November that the trials took place, in the castle at Winchester. Another cause had, perhaps still more than the plague, deferred them, - the presence of Aremberg, who was deeply implicated, and whose intrigues could not be opened up whilst he was in the country, at the same time that issuing an order for his quitting it, would have embarrassed the affairs of Spain. In October he left, and on the 15th of November the trials of the conspirators commenced. The accomplices of the " Bye," Brooke, Brookesby, Markham, Copley, Watson, and Clarke, with others. They were all condemned on their own confessions; for they had been so managed that they not only accused each other, but made the most ample confessions of their own guilt, as if each thought he should obtain pardon by discovering most. These confessions, which had been carefully compiled, were put in as evidence against them. Sir Edward Parham only was acquitted, who pleaded that he joined solely to rescue the king from the hands of those who held him in captivity; and yet Cecil threw in his word in his favour, suggesting that the king's dignity consisted as much in freeing the innocent as condemning the guilty. This conduct gave an air of impartiality to the proceedings, of which no one could estimate the effect more fully than the astute Cecil.

Sir Walter Raleigh was next put upon his trial. His extraordinary ability, and his knowledge of court secrets, made it too dangerous an attempt to connect him with the " Bye," and arraign him along with the unhappy and weak members of that part of the conspiracy. He was not placed at the bar even along with Cobham, for the only evidence against him which the court dared to bring forward, was that of Cobham; and they knew too well that in Raleigh's presence, the, wavering Cobham would be worse than useless. Already repenting of his accusation of Raleigh in the surprise of his resentment, he had retracted his accusations; and when pressed and cross-questioned by the council, had so contradicted himself, that to bring him into public, would be to render his evidence worthless. True, the council was in possession of intercepted letters, which had passed betwixt Aremberg and the archduke of Austria, which were sufficiently criminatory of Raleigh and Cobham; but these could not be produced without an exposure of the fact that the correspondence of ambassadors and their principals was not safe in England. In fact, Coke, who was of course duly instructed in the particulars of this correspondence, having made some too intelligible reference to Aremberg, Cecil compelled him to apologise to the ambassador, and hastened to assure the other ambassadors of foreign courts that Aremberg had no notion of the purpose for which Cobham and Raleigh had solicited money from Spain.

Coke's accusation of Raleigh being thus hemmed in with difficulties, he was obliged to have recourse to his first-rate faculty for abuse and blackguardism. Raleigh, on his part, conducted himself with a degree of calmness, dignity, and sagacity, which excited in the public the utmost admiration. His trial lasted from eight in the morning to nine at night. The indictment charged him with having, with sundry other persons, conspired to kill the king, to raise a rebellion, in order to change the religion, subvert the government, and cause the invasion of the realm by its enemies. That on the 9th of June, Sir Walter had conspired with lord Cobham to depose the sovereign and raise Arabella Stuart to the throne. That for this purpose Cobham had agreed, at the instigation of Raleigh, to make a journey to Spain to solicit the advance of six hundred thousand crowns, for the payment of the necessary forces and partisans. That Arabella Stuart should herself write letters to the king of Spain, the archduke, and the duke of Savoy, urging them to support her claim, and promising, in return for their aid, to make an advantageous peace with Spain, tolerate popery, and on her own part, accept a marriage with such person as should be most agreeable to his catholic majesty. Cobham, as already stated, was then declared to have it in charge to pass over from the Continent to Jersey to Sir Walter, there to settle the plan of the plot, and to decide on the men who were to be bribed with Spanish money to carry it out. That on the very day that Sir Walter had communicated his views to lord Cobham, Cobham had imparted them to his brother, George Brooke, who had assented to it; and that the two had declared "that there would never be a good world in England till the king and his cubs were taken away." Moreover, that Raleigh had given Cobham a book written against the king's title; and that in pursuance of Raleigh's advice, both Arabella Stuart and Cobham had applied, through La Rensie, to Aremberg, the king of Spain, and the other princes mentioned. That the money had been promised, and that Cobham had agreed to hand over to Raleigh eight thousand crowns of it, and to his brother Brooke one thousand crowns.

Sir Walter pleaded not guilty, and Heale, the king's sergeant, opened the case against him, recapitulating the points of the indictment; and when he came to the clause implicating Arabella Stuart, he foolishly exclaimed - "As for Arabella Stuart, she hath no more title to the crown than I have, and I utterly renounce any." Raleigh, even in his critical situation, could not restrain a smile at this absurdity. Coke then went into the case at length, and what he lacked in proof he endeavoured to supply by the most virulent abuse. He described in inflated language the intentions of the agitators of the "Bye," and amongst other things that they meant to make proclamation against monopolies, as if that were absolute treason. Raleigh calmly reminded him that he was not charged with the "Bye." "You are not," replied Coke; "but it will be seen that all these treasons, though they consisted of several parts, closed in together like Samson's foxes, which were joined in their tails, though their heads were separated." Raleigh still insisted that the "Bye" was the treason of the priests, and said, "What is the treason of the priests to me?" "I will then come close to you," said Coke. ".I will prove you to be the most notorious traitor that ever came to the bar; you are, indeed, upon the 'Main,' but you have followed them upon the 'Bye' in imitation." And Raleigh's pertinent checks so enraged the scurrilous lawyer that he went on furiously denouncing Raleigh as a damnable atheist, a spider of hell, the most vile and execrable of traitors. "You speak indiscreetly, barbarously, and uncivilly," interposed Raleigh. "I want words," shouted Coke, "I want words to express thy viperous treasons." "True," replied Raleigh; "for you have spoken the same things half a dozen times over already."

In his defence Sir Walter displayed not only consummate ability, but a range of reading which astonished every one. lie illustrated the points of his speech by quotations from history, the civil and canon law, and treating the conspiracy as a chimera, and which none but fools or madmen would have engaged in, took leave to protest that he did not range himself in either of those classes. "I was not," he declared, "so base of sense but I saw that if ever this state was strong and able to defend itself, it was now. The kingdom of Scotland united, whence we wore wont to fear all our troubles; Ireland quieted, where our forces were wont to be divided; Denmark assured, whom before we were wont to have in jealousy; the Low Countries, our nearest neighbours, at peace with us; and, instead of a lady whom time had surprised, we had now an active king, a lawful successor to the crown, who was able to attend to his own business. I was not such a madman as to make myself in this time a Robin Hood, a Wat Tyler, or a Jack Cade. I knew also the state of Spain well; his weakness, and poorness, and humbleness at this time; I knew that he was discouraged and dishonoured. I knew that six times we had repulsed his forces - thrice in Ireland, thrice at sea; wherein, for my country's sake, I had expended of my own property four thousand pounds. I knew that where before time he was wont to have forty great sails at the least in his ports, now he hath not past six or seven; and, for sending to his Indies, he was driven to hire strange vessels, a thing contrary to the institutions of his proud ancestors, who forbad straitly, in case of any necessity, that the kings of Spain should make their case known to strangers. I knew that of five-and-twenty millions he had from his Indies, he had scarce any left; nay, I knew his poorness at this time to be such, that the Jesuits, his imps, were to beg at the church doors; his pride so abated, as, notwithstanding his former high terms, he was glad to congratulate the king, my master, on his accession, and now cometh creeping unto him for peace. Then, was it ever read or heard of that any prince should disburse so much money without any pawn? And whoso knows what great assurances the king of Spain stood upon with other states for smaller sums, will not think that he would so freely disburse to my lord Cobham six hundred thousand crowns. And if I had minded to set the lord Cobham to work in such a case, I surely should have given him some instructions how to persuade the king of Spain and answer his objections; for I know Cobham to be no such a minion as could persuade a king who was in want, to disburse so great a sum without great reason, and some assurance for his money. I know the queen of England lent not her money to the States, but had Flushing, Brill, and other towns in assurance for it. She lent not money to France but had Havre for it. Nay, her subjects, the merchants of London, did not lend her money without having her lands in pawn. What pawn did we give to the king of Spain? What did we offer him?"

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