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The Reign of James I (Continued) page 10


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Being unable to proceed immediately, he sent Captain Keymis up the river in boats to discover the mine, whilst he lay at its mouth to ward off the Spanish squadron. Keymis was said to have been at the mine they were in search of in the expedition of 1595. He began the ascent of the river on the 10th of December, under orders to make straight for the mine, and if he found it rich to fix himself there; if but poor, to bring away a basket of the ore to convince the king that they had gone out after a reality. The exploring force landed near St. Thomas, but found the Spaniards prepared for them: a battle ensued, in which the governor, the brother of Gondomar, was killed, but at the same time also fell the eldest son of Sir Walter, Captain Walter Raleigh. This enraged the soldiers, who carried the town of St. Thomas by storm, and set fire to it. They expected to find in it great wealth, but all that they discovered were two ingots of gold and four refining houses, whence any ore that there might have been was carried off. The Spaniards entrenched themselves in formidable positions amongst the hills - as the invaders supposed, betwixt them and the mines; but Keymis was so much discouraged by the death of young Raleigh, and the violent discontent of the men on discovering the emptiness of the place, and the preparations of the enemy, who again fired upon and killed several of them, that he gave up the enterprise, and dropped down the river again.

When Keymis reached the ships with the news of their ill-success, and of the death of Raleigh's son, Sir Walter was beside himself. Though Keymis had been a faithful officer and friend of his for many years, sharing the dangers and hardships of his former adventures, he upbraided him bitterly with his ruin. Keymis replied that when the young captain was dead, the men set him at defiance, and that to have attempted to reach the mines with them would have been an act of madness; had it succeeded even, it would only have enriched these murderous villains; had it failed, both himself, and probably Sir Walter, would have fallen their victims. Recollecting the feeble condition of his commander-in-chief, he deemed it his duty to return to him.

All was lost on Raleigh, who, feeling the acutest grief for the death of his son, and seeing nothing but destruction await him at home from the wrath of the Spaniards and the disappointed cupidity of the king, raved against Keymis like a madman. The unfortunate officer drew up a statement of the real facts of the case, addressed to the earl of Arundel, and asked Raleigh to sign it in justice to him: he peremptorily refused. Some days passed on, but instead of moderating his bitterness, when Keymis again urged him to sign the statement, he refused, heaping upon him reproaches of imbecility or cowardice. Stung by this ungenerous conduct, the unhappy officer retired to his cabin, and shot himself with a pocket-pistol, and as that had not killed him, finished the bloody deed by a stab with a long knife.

Horror took possession of the fleet at the news of Keymis's suicide, and discord and mutiny broke out on all sides. The officers and men alike expressed their indignation. Captain Whitney, in whom Raleigh reposed the most confidence, and who was under great obligations, sailed away for England. Others followed his example, and Raleigh soon found himself with only five ships. Yet still he had a larger fleet, and manned with a stronger force of daring fellows than had done amazing things under Drake, Hawkins, and others, had Raleigh been in a mood to lead them. Death and disgrace awaited his return home; death or the acquisition of wealth capable of appeasing the royal resentment, were the alternatives which lay in the direction of bold onslaught on the Spanish shores. But Raleigh's spirit was crushed. He declared himself in a letter to his wife that "his brains were broken;" and he sailed away to Newfoundland, where he refitted his ships.

He now contemplated the chance of intercepting one of the Spanish treasure-ships, which he felt assured would set all right with James; but fresh mutinies arose, and he took his course homewards. In the month of June, after much hesitation, he entered the harbour of Plymouth, and the first news that met him was that a royal warrant was out for his apprehension. Gondomar, furious at the fate of his brother, demanded condign punishment for his outrages on the subjects of his most catholic majesty in Guiana. There were many reasons why the Spanish court should long for the destruction of Raleigh. He was by far the ablest naval commander that James possessed. He had been one of those who led the English fleet to the triumph over the Armada. He had committed terrible depredations in the Azores and Canary Isles

when he sailed with Essex, besides his seizure of the governor of Trinidad,

He was advised by his friends to fly instantly, and escape to France, a vessel lying ready to carry him over. But he seemed to have lost all power of self-direction, or it might be that, as his younger son Carew relates, the earls of Arundel and Pembroke were bound for his return, and it was a point of honour with him to keep faith with them. He landed, and was arrested by his near kinsman, Sir Lewis Stukeley, vice-admiral of Devon, wrho conducted him to the house of Sir Christopher Harris, near the port, where he detained him for nearly a week, till he received the royal order for his disposal. No sooner was it announced at court that Raleigh was secured, than Buckingham wrote, by direction of the king, to inform the Spanish ambassador of the fact, and to assure him that he would give him up to him to be sent to Spain, and dealt with as his royal master should see fit, unless his most catholic majesty preferred that he should suffer the penalty of his crimes here. Gondomar sent off a special messenger to learn the decision of the king of Spain, and meantime Stukeley was ordered to proceed to London with his prisoner.

Struck now with awe at the prospect of once more being immured in the Tower, and with only the most gloomy prospect of his exit thence, Sir Walter procured some drugs from Maiiourie, a Frenchman, with which he produced violent sickness, and aquafortis, with which he produced blisters and excoriations on his face, arms, breast, and legs. He was found in his shirt on all fours, gnawing the rushes on the floor, and affecting madness; the physicians pronounced him to be in considerable danger, and James, who was then at Salisbury, ordered him to be conveyed for a short time to his own house in London, lest he should convey some infection into the Tower.

This was Raleigh's object, and he now employed the time afforded him to effect -his escape in earnest. He despatched his faithful friend, captain King, to provide a ship for his purpose. This was arranged, but Raleigh, not aware that Manourie wras a spy upon him, confided the secret to him, and it was immediately communicated to Stukeley. Raleigh, observing the strict watch which Stukeley kept over him, and deeming him worthy of his confidence, gave him a valuable jewel, and a bond for one thousand pounds, on condition that he allowed him to escape. Stukeley took the bribe, but whilst pretending to be now his sworn friend, only the more effectually played the traitor. He was commissioned to procure all possible evidence of Raleigh's connection with Francİ, and circumstances favoured him. At Brentford Raleigh received a visit from De Chesne, the secretary of the French envoy in London, offering him, from Le Clerk, his master, the use of a French barque and a safe-conduct to the governor of Calais. On arriving in London, Le Clerk himself waited on him and renewed the offer. Raleigh expressed his gratitude, but concluded to take the vessel engaged by captain King, and lying near Tilbury Fort. All this Stukeley communicated daily to the council.

At the time fixed, Raleigh in disguise, and accompanied by King and Stukeley, who expressed much interest in seeing his relative safely off, took a boat and dropped down the river to reach the vessel at Gravesend. But from the moment that they were on the water, the quick eye of Raleigh noticed a wherry which kept steadily in their wake; and the tide failing, it was judged useless to proceed to Gravesend. They went, therefore, into Greenwich; the wherry also lay to there, and Sir Walter found himself immediately arrested by the traitor Stukeley, whose men were in the wherry. King also was arrested, and Sir Walter was, the next morning, conveyed to the Tower. The French envoy was forbidden the court, and soon after ordered to quit the country.

The answer from the king of Spain did not arrive for five weeks, which was, that in his opinion the punishment of Raleigh's offences should take place where his commission - which he had violated - was issued. It was, therefore, necessary to bring him to trial in London. Meantime, he had been subjected to close and repeated interrogations before a commission appointed for the purpose, composed of lord chancellor Bacon, the archbishop of Canterbury, Sir Edward Coke, and several other members of council. He was charged with having imposed upon the king, by representing that his object was to discover a gold mine, when he only wanted to get out of prison and commence pirate; that he had endeavoured to provoke a war with Spain; that he had barbarously deserted his ships' companies, and pushed them into unnecessary danger; that he had ridiculed and maligned the king; had feigned madness to deceive his majesty; and attempted to escape in defiance of his authority.

Raleigh denied the charge of treating the name of the king disrespectfully; asserted that nothing proved his sincerity in expecting to reach mines so completely, as his having expending two thousand pounds in the necessary apparatus for refining the ore; and he had never exposed his men to any danger that he did not share himself, except when illness incapacitated him; and that as to feigning madness and trying to escape, the charges were true, but they were, under the circumstances, perfectly natural and pardonable.

The commissioners, finding that they could establish no real charge against him of sufficient gravity to implicate his life, resorted to the usual stratagem of government in those times, as well as in times long after - to set a spy upon him under the colour of a friend. The individual who accepted this dirty office - such villains are always plentifully at hand - was one Sir Thomas Wilson, keeper of the State Paper Office. He appeared to be hit upon because he had as much learning and ingenuity as he had little principle, and could therefore easily draw out Raleigh to talk by assuming a kindly interest in him. Sir Walter appeared to talk freely, and related his adventures, and also what daily took place before the commission; yet this government pump could bring up nothing very criminating. Raleigh declared that had he fallen in with one of the Spanish galleons, he would have seized it with the same freedom that Drake had done: but his mere intention to do what had won so much fame and favour for other commanders, was not a charge likely to go down with the public. Raleigh remarked that when he made that avowal before the commission. Bacon said, "Why, you would have been a pirate!'' And that lie had replied, "Oh, my lord,

did you ever know of any that were pirates for millions? They that work for small things are pirates."

Finding that there was nothing in Raleigh's proceedings on this occasion, which had not been done, and far more than done, with high public approbation, by the greatest commanders of the British navy, they dared not attempt to condemn him on that score, and therefore James demanded of his council what other mode they could suggest to take his life. Coke and Bacon proposed that they should fall back simply on the plea of his old sentence, and the king sent an order for his execution to the Tower. The judges, therefore, received an order to issue a warrant for his immediate beheading, but they wisely shrunk back from such a responsibility, declaring that after such a lapse of time neither a writ of privy seal, nor a warrant under the great seal, would be legal without calling on the party to show cause against it. They accordingly summoned him before them by habeas corpus, and Raleigh, who was suffering from fever and ague, real enough this time, was the next day brought before them at the King's Bench, Westminster. Yelverton, the attorney-general, reminded the court that Sir Walter had been sentenced to death for high treason, fifteen years before. That the king, in his clemency, had deferred the execution of the prisoner, but now deemed it necessary to call for it. He observed that Sir Walter had been a statesman, and a man who, in respect to his talents, was to be pitied. That he had been as a star at which the world had gazed; but "stars," he continued, "may fall; nay, they must fall when they trouble the spheres wherein they abide." He called, therefore, at the command of his majesty, for their order for his execution. On being asked what he had to say against it, Raleigh replied that the judgment given against him so many years ago could not with any reason be brought against him then, for he had since borne his majesty's commission, which was equivalent to a pardon; and that no other charge was made against him. The chief-justice told him that this pleading would not avail him; that in cases of treason nothing but a pardon in express words was sufficient. Raleigh then said, if that were the case, he could only throw himself on the king's mercy; but that he was certain that, had the king not been afresh exasperated against him, he might have lived a thousand years, if nature enabled him, without hearing anything more of the old sentence.

Montague, the chief-justice, admitted this by saying that "new offences had stirred up his majesty's justice to revive what the law had formerly decreed;" and he ended with the fatal words - "Execution is granted."

Thus Raleigh was in reality put to death to oblige the king of Spain, with whom James was anxious to form an alliance by his son's marriage to the Infanta. The old sentence was but the stalking-horse for the occasion, the court not daring to allege as the real charge that he died for having invaded the territories of the king of Spain; the public having a strong repugnance to both Spain and any matrimonial alliance with it, which must introduce a popish queen, and would have gloried in any real chastisement of that nation, and the capture of its treasure ships.

Sir Walter then prayed for a short time to settle some matters of worldly trust, assuring the court that he desired not to prolong his life one minute; "for now," he said, "being old, sickly, disgraced, and certain to go to death, life is wearisome to me." The time was refused, but pen, ink, and paper were allowed him.

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