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Reign of William III page 6


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The fact was, that Porter had sent for Pendergrast up from the country to take part in the assassination; but, though he was under great obligations to Porter, he refused. He would have been ready to unite in an invasion, but not in a murder.

The king was with difficulty prevented by Portland from going, but he did stay; and when it was announced to the conspirators that the king had given up hunting for that day, they were a good deal startled; but, as the weather was assigned as the cause, they imagined they were still unbetrayed, and waited for the next Saturday, one of them, Chambers, a great ruffian, who had been severely wounded at the battle of the Boyne, and had a savage malice against William, vowing to have his life yet or lose his own.

Betwixt this day and the next Saturday, however, De la Rue had grown afraid, and went and gave a warning similar to Pendergrast's. On the Friday Pendergrast was sent for to the king's closet, where William was alone with Portland and lord Cutts, who had fought so bravely at Namur.. William was very courteous to Pendergrast, and thanked him for his information; complimented him as a man of honour, but desired him to name the conspirators. Pendergrast persisted in his refusal, except he had the king's assurance that his information should not operate the destruction of these men, but only be used to prevent the commission of the crime. This assurance being solemnly given, he named them. It does not, however, appear that this solemn assurance was kept, for undoubtedly Pendergrast's information was used for the arrest of the conspirators, and though he himself was not brought openly forward in court against them, they were condemned and executed through that means, so that not using his evidence openly was a mere quibble; and even this was laid aside as soon as, at Pendergrast's demand, they had engaged to use Porter's evidence on condition of his safety.

Ignorant of the mine ready charged under their feet, the conspirators anxiously awaited Saturday the 22nd. This time all outwardly bade fair for success; all the usual preparations were made at the palace for the hunting. There had been during the week no sign of any agitation or bustle, or word slipped out which could give the slightest suspicion that their design was known. The guards were sent off to go round by Kingston Bridge to Richmond, as there was then no bridge nearer. The king's coach came out to take him away, and the conspirators were breakfasting at Porter's lodgings in high glee, when Keyes came hurrying in to say that the coach had been sent back to the stables, and the guards had come galloping back, saying that a discovery of something terrible had been made. If the men had not been infatuated by their zeal for the assassination, as is very general in such cases, they would now have made the best of their way into some place of security. The return of the guards in such hurry, and with such rash words, was not very skilful in the government if they meant to take the conspirators; and, as the arrests were delayed till night, there was ample time for them to have all got off. But they still flattered themselves that, though some whisper of the design had reached the palace, the actual conspirators were unknown, and they were only the more bent on seizing some instant mode of accomplishing their object. One earlier scheme had been to attack the royal coach as it crossed Piccadilly from Hyde Park to the Green Park, close to where Apsley House now stands. This was again proposed, and the conspirators drank healths to king James, the queen, the prince of Wales, and Louis of France, and destruction to the usurper. Porter squeezed out an orange, and they drank "the squeezing of the rotten Orange."

That night the king's officers were upon them, and Charnock, Rookwood, and Bernardi were taken in their beds. The next day seventeen more were arrested, and three of the Blues also. Barclay had had more cunning than the rest; he had absconded and got safe to France. The lord mayor was sent for to Whitehall, and desired to put the city into a perfect state of readiness for action. A council was held; it was agreed to send for some regiments from Flanders in consequence of' the preparations at Calais; the earl of Dorset was sent down to his lieutenancy of Sussex; Sidney, lord Romney, warden of the Cinque Ports, was also dispatched for the guard of the coast of Kent; and Russell hastened to assume the command of the fleet. On Monday, the 24th, the king went to the house of lords, sent for the commons, and announced to the assembled parliament the discovery of the plot and the arrest of a number of the traitors. The sensation was intense. The two houses united in an address of congratulation for the king's safety, with which they went in a body to Kensington, and the same day the commons passed two bills, one suspending the habeas corpus, and the other declaring that parliament should not be dissolved by the king's death in case any such conspiracy should succeed. Sir Rowland Gwyn moved that the house should enroll itself as an association for the defence of the king and country. The idea was instantly seized by Montague, who saw how immensely it would strengthen the whigs, and the deed was immediately drawn, and ordered to be ready for signature the next morning. In this the house bound itself to defend the king with their own lives against James and his adherents, and to avenge him on his murderers in case of such an assassination, and to maintain the order of succession as fixed by the bill of rights.

The next morning the members hurried in to sign the form of association; and, as some were not present, it was ordered that all who had not signed it within sixteen days, should be called upon to do so or formally to refuse. They resolved that any one who declared the association illegal should be held to be a promoter of the wicked designs of the late king James, and an enemy to the laws and liberties of the country. They prayed the king to banish by proclamation all papists to a distance of ten miles from the cities of London and Westminster, and to order the judges to put the laws in force throughout the country against Roman catholics and non-jurors.

The form of the association and the address of the two houses were immediately printed and published, along with a proclamation offering one thousand pounds reward for the discovery and apprehension of each and every of the conspirators, and one thousand pounds, with a free pardon, to each of the accomplices who should deliver himself up and reveal what he knew. The names of conspirators inserted in the proclamation were - the duke of Berwick, Sir George Barclay, major Lowick, captain Porter, captain Stowe, captain Walbank, captain Courtney, lieutenant Sherburne, Price, Blair, Denant, Chambers, Boise, George Higgins and his two brothers, Davis, Cardell, Goodman, Cranburn, Keyes, Pendergrast, Burley, Trevor, Sir George Maxwell, Durance, Knightley, Holmes, Sir William Parkyns, and Rookwood.

The effect of these documents was instantaneous and universal. All causes of complaint of William or his beloved Dutchmen, of the enormous expense of the war and consequent heavy taxation, were at once forgotten in the resentment against the dastardly crime of assassination and the idea of a French invasion. William was raised by one impulse to the height of popularity; James was sunk to the lowest depths of execration. The militia was called out over the whole country, and seamen came out in troops to man the navy. The rewards, too, for the apprehension of the murderous villains operated most effectually. The gates of London and of other towns to which it was suspected that they might have fled, were closed, and a diligent search was instituted; nor was there much ceremony or much resistance to the entrance of houses, and exploration of rooms, and cellars, and closets. Every means was taken for preventing the conspirators escaping by post-horses or by any public conveyance in disguise. One after another the miscreants were dragged from their hiding-places, or gave themselves up as king's evidence for the thousand pounds and free pardon. Harris, one of those who had been sent from Paris to support Barclay, was the first to surrender and make full confession, and several others followed his example. Amongst these was Porter, who had fled with Keyes in the direction of Epsom, was stopped by the country people at Leatherhead, and declared himself king's evidence. This privilege was not claimed or not allowed to Keyes. Knightley was discovered in the disguise of a fine lady, properly painted and patched; Sir John Friend, Ferguson - the old Monmouth rebel - Roger Lestrange, and others, were soon captured Sir William Parkyns was sought at his house at Warwickshire, but instead of him a large depot of arms and accoutrements for cavalry were found, and the people, in their rage and disappointment at missing him, pulled down the house stick and stone, and destroyed out-buildings and gardens. He was afterwards taken in a garret in the Temple. Two hackney-coachmen who had conveyed each a conspirator to his hiding-place, secured them, and obtained each his thousand pounds.

The confession and depositions of Porter before the council give a very vivid idea of the whole prosecution of the plot, and agrees remarkably with the narrative afterwards published by Barclay. He said that Charnock told him that Barclay held a commission from king James, which Sir William Parkyns had read, and it was entirely in James's own hand; that it was for levying war upon the person of the king; that twenty-two persons were come from France who had been officers, and were to be concerned in the design; that consultations were repeatedly held at his, Porter's, lodgings in Norfolk Street, others at the Globe tavern, in Hatton Garden, at the Sun tavern, in the Strand, and at the Nag's Head, in Covent Garden; that he and others had surveyed different spots for carrying out the attack on the king, at Richmond, near the lodge, by ambuscade; at Turnham Green, Brentford, and Kew Ferry, near where Kew Bridge now stands; that Durant - or Durance - had taken a list of the stables and inns near those places; that two of the party were constantly on duty at Kensington, watching all the king's movements. He gave the same account of the arrangements for surrounding the king's carriage at the crossing at Turnham Green which we have already given, and said that it was contended that to kill the king in this manner was just as fair war as attacking him in his camp in Flanders, or surprising him as he passed from one town to another during the campaign.

Porter said that, before going to survey the ground at Turnham Green, he dined with Barclay, Parkyns, Friend, Holmes, and Ferguson; that Friend, observing Barclay, Parkyns, and himself speaking together privately, remarked he was as zealous for the return of king James as any one, but that he saw that there was something behind the curtain by their whispering, and did not think they dealt fairly by him. Porter said that Parkyns and Charnock told him that Friend had a commission from James, and declared that he would be in readiness; but we know that Friend refused to become an assassin. He added that Friend had advanced one hundred pounds to assist colonel Parker's escape out of the Tower, and that Parkyns assured him that Mr. Lewis, gentleman of the horse to lord Feversham, would' furnish three horses if wanted. He deposed that Mr. Tempest, of Durham, had a commission to raise a regiment of horse for king James; that he himself was to command the first troop of James's own regiment, of which Parker was the colonel; that Goodman, too, had a commission, and was already provided with arms and accoutrements.

Bertram, Blair, Harris, Hunt, and others made similar confessions. Blair declared that he had been engaged by father Harrington expressly from king James, this Harrington having been the ex-king's secret agent in this country ever since the defeat at La Hogue; and Harris deposed that James himself had sent for him and one Hare into the queen's bed-chamber, and engaged and advanced them money to come over and put themselves under Barclay's command, and promised that they should never want after they had done him this service. Goodman deposed that Sir John Fenwick, lord Montgomery, lord Aylesbury, colonel Fountain, and others, were engaged in a scheme to seize the king and carry him off to France.

On the 11th of March, Charnock, King, and Keyes were placed at the bar of the Old Bailey before lord chief justice Holt and the other chief judges. The prisoners demanded that their trials should be postponed till after the 25th of the month, when the new act for trials for treason came into force, and which allowed counsel to the accused; but the counsel for the crown would not consent to it - a circumstance which certainly does no honour to William and his ministers, for from them the order to proceed must now have been given. Nothing was gained by it, for the guilt of all the parties was sufficiently obvious. They would have been condemned in spite of what the most ingenious counsel could say, and to refuse the prisoners this indulgence only showed an unworthy animus against them in the royal mind. All the accused denied that king James knew of or had done anything to sanction the attempt to assassinate William; but this assertion neither agrees with the depositions made by the other conspirators admitted as evidence, nor with the facts of the case; and, in fact, Charnock left a paper, still in the Bodleian Library of Oxford, in which he declares that the attempt would not have been justifiable had it not been sanctioned by James; that his majesty's commission did fully justify it, and that it was just as proper to attempt to kill the prince of Orange at the head of his guards, serving as they did the king whose throne he had usurped, and who was at war with him, as if he had been at the head of twenty thousand men. They had their king's commission for it, and their king being at declared war, it was quite legitimate to attack and kill William wherever they could meet with him. Spite of this high assumption, Charnock, after conviction, offered, if they would pardon him, to reveal the whole particulars of the plot and the names of every one concerned in it; but there was evidence enough; his offer was not accepted, and the three were executed at Tyburn on the 18th.

Sir John Friend and Sir John Parkyns were tried next. Friend asked also for counsel, but it was denied him, and yet no man had more need of it. He was a weak and very ignorant man, and utterly unable to make a fair defence in a public court. He declared that to him it was quite a new and unintelligible doctrine that the king's subjects could depose or dethrone him for any cause whatever; that he had nothing whatever to do with schemes of assassination, but abhorred them; that he was a protestant, and that the witnesses against him were papists, who had received dispensations from their priests for perjury - as if any papists would assist in destroying the servants of the papist king. But poor Sir John, by some curious process of reasoning, persuaded himself that he was about to die because he was a good protestant - an honest, non-juring protestant. "For this," said he, "I suffer and for this I die." Surely it would have been much more to the credit of William to have allowed such a poor, tangle-headed man an advocate.

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Pictures for Reign of William III page 6

The bombardment of Brussels
The bombardment of Brussels >>>>
Presentation of an Address to William III. at Oxford
Presentation of an Address to William III. at Oxford >>>>
The hotel De Ville
The hotel De Ville >>>>
Examination of Pendergrast
Examination of Pendergrast >>>>
Arrest of Sir John Fenwick
Arrest of Sir John Fenwick >>>>
Destruction of Givet
Destruction of Givet >>>>
Peter the Great
Peter the Great >>>>

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