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Reign of Charles II. (Continued) page 3

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But whilst Charles was thus publicly pursuing a policy much to the satisfaction of the nation, both on account of the improved prospects for trade, and because the triple alliance was an essentially protestant one, he was secretly agitating the question whether he should not openly avow popery, and was bargaining with Louis to become his pensioner, so as to relieve himself from any need to apply to parliament, and by this means to assume absolute power. Parliament, which met on the 10th of February, made a rigid inquiry into the proceedings of the late administration. They impeached commissioner Pett for his neglect when the Dutch fleet entered the river, admiral Penn of the embezzlement of one hundred and fifteen thousand pounds worth of prize goods, and Brounker, who had absconded, of giving orders to shorten sail after the victory of the 3rd of June. They then voted three hundred and ten thousand pounds, much less than Buckingham had demanded; and Charles, having in his opening speech recommended some plan to be adopted the better to satisfy the minds of his protestant subjects, it immediately awoke a jealousy of indulgence to the papists and dissenters^ It was found that Bridgman, the lord-keeper, Sir Matthew Hale, the chief baron, bishop Wilkins, and Buckingham and Ashley had been engaged in a scheme to tolerate the presbyterians and other sects. All the old bigotry of the house burst forth; there were violent denunciations of any liberty to nonconformists, and they again voted the continuance of the conventicle act. They then adjourned from the 8th of May to the 11th of August.

Buckingham, who, during the session of parliament, had not found himself very popular, now the object of driving out Clarendon was accomplished, in seeking to strengthen his party by removing such as were not favourable to him, drove his plans almost too far. He had a dread of Clarendon returning through the influence of his daughter, the duchess of York, and he endeavoured to undermine the duke with the king. He blamed the conduct of the admiralty, at the head of which James was; he displaced James's friends, and put his own dependents into offices in James's own department, in spite of his remonstrances; he spread rumours that the duke had lost the royal favour, and was about to be dismissed from the office of lord admiral. He e' en affected to go about with armed followers, on the plea of being in danger from the duke. But Charles soon convinced the minister that these attempts were vain, and then Buckingham began to pay court to the duke, which were repelled with contempt. The only mode of maintaining favour with Charles was to find plenty of money, and as Buckingham had failed in that, he recommended retrenchment and economy, which suited Charles still less. For the rest, both court and minister went on their way of open profligacy, and it would have been difficult to say which was the most void of shame or principle, the king or his chief servant. Charles was surrounded by Sedley, Buckhurst, and other libertines, who treated all the decencies of life with contempt, and, the monarch laughed and encouraged them. Though Miss Stewart had become duchess of Richmond, he continued his attentions to her. He had elevated actresses to places in his harem, who bore the familiar names of Moll Davies and Nell Gwynne. Moll Davies was a dancer, Nelly was an actress of much popularity, and was a gay, merry, and witty girl, who extremely amused the king by her wild sallies. By Mary Davies he had a daughter, who afterwards married into the noble family of Radclyffe. Nell was the mother of tie first duke of St. Albans; and Castlemaine, who had now' a whole troop of little Fitzroys, was during the next year made duchess of Cleveland. Another lady was already on the way from France, sent by the cunning Louis XIV. for his own purposes. As for Buckingham, he very successfully imitated his royal master. In January of this year he fought a duel with lord Shrewsbury, whose wife he had seduced; and Pepys says that it was reported that lady Shrewsbury, in the dress of a page, held the duke's horse whilst he killed her husband. He then took her to his own house, and on his wife remarking that it was not fit for herself and his mistress to live together, he replied, "Why, so I have been thinking madame, and therefore I have ordered your coach to carry you to your father's."

In this precious court the subject of religion was just now an interesting topic. The duke of York told Charles secretly that he could no longer remain even ostensibly a protestant, and meant to avow his popery. Charles replied that he was thinking of the very same thing, and they would consult with the lords Arundel and Arlington, and Sir Thomas Clifford. They had a private meeting in the duke's closet; but. though their three counsellors were catholics open or concealed, they advised Charles to consult with Louis XIV. before taking so important a step. The French king was apprehensive that his avowal of popery would occasion disturbances amongst his subjects, but these might be put down by the assistance of French money and French troops. That was the object at which Louis knew that this abandoned king was really driving, and the price of this assistance was to be England's co-operation in Louis's schemes of boundless ambition. Instead of Charles inducing Louis to maintain peace with Holland, it was the object of Louis to drive Charles to break again the triple alliance, and plunge once more into the horrors of a wicked and mischievous war with that country. Charles hated the. Dutch for the treatment he had received in Holland whilst an exile, and for the humiliations he had received from them in the last war« Louis wanted not only to swallow up the bulk of that country in his vast plans of aggrandisement, but also make himself master of Spain in case of the death of the young Spanish king. The pretended desire of Charles to adopt open popery was merely a feint to secure the French king's money, and the next question which he raised was, whether he should avow himself before the rupture with Holland or afterwards. The duke of York was in earnest, Charles was only playing with the catholic scheme as a bait; and he afterwards told his sister, the duchess of Orleans, at. Dover, that "he was not so well satisfied with the cathoüc religion, or his own condition, as to make it his faith." Lord Arundel and Sir Richard Billings were sent to Paris to secure the promised cash, and to keep up the farce of his conversion.

Whilst these infamous negotiations were going on, Buckingham was exerting himself to ruin the duke of York's prospects of the succession. He observed the king's fondness for his natural son by Lucy Walters, who had borne the name of Crofts, and he caught at the idea of Charles legitimating him. Charles had created him duke of Monmouth, and married him to the wealthy heiress of Buccleuch. Buckingham asked the king why not acknowledge a private marriage with his mother, and suggested that plenty of- witnesses might be found to swear to it; but the answer of Charles destroyed this vision, who declared that he would see the lad hanged sooner than own him as his legitimate son. Buckingham, still not disconcerted, proposed an absurd scheme of carrying the queen privately to the plantations, where she would never more be heard of; and next a divorce from her on account of her barrenness, and a second marriage. Bishop Burnet, afterwards of Sarum, had decided that such cause was sufficient for divorce, and that it önly wanted an act of parliament authorising the divorced parties to marry again. Charles listened sufficiently to cause them to attempt such an act. It was sought for in the case of lord Roos, whose wife was living in open adultery; but it was soon rumoured what was the ultimate object of it. The duke of York, therefore, opposed the bill with all his might, and Charles supported it with equal ardour, even taking his seat on the throne of the lords whilst it was discussed, to encourage his party. The bill was carried, and the right to marry again has always since then been recognised in bills of divorce; but Charles again disappointed Buckingham, for he showed no desire to make use of it in his own case. In fact, the temptation was gone by; the fair Stewart, that he wished to marry, was become the wife of Richmond.

Charles obtained from parliament considerable supplies in the spring session of 1670, for his consent to the renewal of the conventicle act, and the fury of persecution was let loose against the nonconformists. Spies and informers were everywhere, and many of the dissenters, to save their property, and their persons from prison, were fain to forego their usual assembling for worship in their chapels. The Society of Friends, however, scorned to concede even in appearance to this religious intolerance. They persisted in meeting as usual. They were dragged thence before magistrates, and on refusing to pay the fines were thrust into prison. No sooner were they liberated, however, than they returned, as usual, to their meetings, and when the doors were locked against them, assembled in the street, and. held their meetings there. On one of these occasions, William Penn, son of admiral Penn, and afterwards the celebrated founder of Pennsylvania, was taken with William Mead, another minister of the society, at an open air meeting in Gracechurch Street. They were thrust into Newgate, and brought to trial before the recorder of London, one John Howell, and the lord mayor, Samuel Starling. This trial forms one of the most brilliant facts in the history of the independence of trial by jury, and has, in consequence, often been reprinted. Both Penn and Mead made noble defences, and terribly puzzled the recorder as to the law of the case. They demanded to know on what law the indictment was based. The recorder replied the "common law." They begged to be shown it. On this he flew into a passion, and asked them if they thought he carried the common law on his back. That it was founded on hundreds of adjudged cases, and that some of the ablest lawyers could scarcely tell what it was. Penn replied that if it was so difficult to produce, it could not be common law. He still pressed for this law, and the recorder replied, "It is lex non scripta, that which many have studied thirty or forty years to know, and would you have me tell you in a moment?", "Certainly," replied Penn, "if the common law be so hard to be understood, it is far from being common." And he proceeded to tell them what the law was, and how the rights of prisoners were secured by the acts of Henry III. and Edwards I. and III. On this the court became furious, and the lord mayor said, "My lord, if you take not some course with this pestilent fellow, to stop his mouth, we shall not be able to do anything to-night."

This was the style of treatment throughout the trial, but the prisoners stood firm, and were therefore taken away and thrust into the bail-dock whilst the recorder charged the jury. But as the prisoners could catch what he was saying, which was most grossly false, Penn shouted out that it was contrary to all law to charge the jury in the absence of the prisoners. He then told the jury that they were his judges, and that they could not return a verdict till they were fully heard. The recorder shouted, "Pull that fellow down, pull him down." Under such circumstances of violence, violence only too common in those days, the jury proceeded to bring in their verdict, which was, "Guilty of speaking in Gracechurch Street." "And is that all?" exclaimed the lord mayor. "You mean guilty of speaking to a tumultuous assembly". The foreman replied, "My lord, that is all that I have in commission." In a fury, and with much browbeating, the jury were sent back to amend their verdict, but when again called into court, they brought it in writing, with all their signatures, only strengthening it by adding, "or preaching to an assembly." As that was no crime, the court }n a rage ordered the jury to be shut up all night without meat, drink, fire, candle, tobacco, or any of the most necessary accommodations. Penn enjoined them to stand firm, and not give away their right, and one of them, named Edward Bushell, declared they never would. When brought up the next day, the jury declared they had no other verdict. This infuriated the mayor and recorder beyond their patience, and they vowed they would have a verdict out of them, or they should starve for it. Bushell replied they had acted according to their conscience, whereupon the mayor said, "That conscience of yours would cut my throat, but I will cut yours as soon as I can." The recorder added, addressing Bushell, "You are a factious fellow; I will set a mark upon you, and whilst I have anything to do in the city, I will have an eye upon you." The lord mayor, addressing the jury, "Have you no more wit than to be led by such a pitiful fellow? I will cut his nose."

Penn protested against their jury being thus insulted and abused. "Unhappy," he exclaimed, "are these juries, who are threatened to be starved, fined, and ruined, if they give not in their verdict contrary to their consciences," "My lord," cried the recorder, "you must take a course with this fellow; " and the mayor shouted, " Stop his mouth! Gaoler, bring fetters and stake him to the ground!" To which Penn replied, "Do your pleasure: I matter not your fetters! " On this the recorder exclaimed, "Till now I never understood the reason of the policy and prudence of the Spaniards in suffering the inquisition among them; and certainly it will never be well with us till something like the Spanish inquisition be in England." The jury was again shut up all night under the same cönditjon of starvation, darkness, and destitution of common conveniences; but like brave men, after being thus imprisoned and starved for two days and two nights, they shortened their verdict into "Not guilty!"

Defeated by the noble endurance of this truly English jury, the court fined every member of it forty marks, for not doing as the bench required, and committed them to prison till it was paid. They also fined Penn and Mead for contempt of court, and sent them to prison, too, till paid. The parties thus shamefully treated, however, had shown they were Englishmen, and were not likely to sit down with this tyranny quietly. They brought the case before the lord chief justice Vaughan, who pronounced the whole proceeding illegal, and from the bench delivered a noble defence of the rights of juries.

This trial is a fair specimen of the spirit and practice of those times. The greater part of the magistrates and judges took their cue from the spirit of the government; and the scenes of violence and injustice, of persecution for religion, and of robbery by officials of the outraged people, were of a kind not easily conceivable at this day.

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