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England-The Rye-House Plot

1077 The name Tory was now given to those who supported the claim of the Duke of York as the successor of the King. This Duke, as you remember, was James, the brother of Charles, and he was of the Roman Catholic faith. The Whigs were those radical Protestants who endeavored to shut him out from the accession. The excitement ran so high that the country touched on the verge of civil war. Charles vented his exasperation against the Whigs by revoking the charters of London and some other cities and granting them again on terms pleasing only to the Tories.

What undoubtedly prevented an outbreak was the discovery of the "RyeHouse Plot." This was formed by a number of desperate Whigs, and its object was the assassination of the King and his brother at a place called the Rye House, not far from London. The purpose was to place the highly popular Duke of Monmouth on the throne. He was the illegitimate son of the King, who had no legitimate descendants. The plot was betrayed and thus brought to naught. The leading advocates of the bill for excluding James from the succession had been Algernon Sidney, Lord Russell, and the Earl of Essex. Probably none of them had any real connection with the Rye-House Plot; but the opportunity seemed too good to lose, and they with others were arrested for the conspiracy: Sidney and Russell, who were clearly innocent, were tried, condemned, and executed. Russell's trial attracted special attention because of his high rank and character and the devotion of his wife, who acted as his secretary throughout the trial, comforted him in prison, took the last sacrament in his company, and escorted him to the block. The Earl of Essex, to avoid the fate of his comrades, committed suicide while imprisoned in the Tower. The Duke of Monmouth was banished to Holland.

Soon after the exposure of the Rye-House Plot the Duke of York resumed his office of High Admiral. While considering his future policy, Charles was seized with a fit, and, after lingering several days, died February 6, 1685. He refused the urgency of the bishops to take the sacrament, and, his brother having quietly brought a monk into the chamber, he received the last rites and died a Catholic.

The Duke of York now came to the throne as James II. While his accession was dreaded because of his religious faith, yet general confidence was felt in him because of his courage and honesty, and when he declared he would respect the laws and defend the Church of England, few doubted him. Still, one of the dearest wishes of his heart was to restore the Roman Catholic religion in England. The Protestants were indignant when, on the Easter Sunday preceding his coronation, he went to mass in royal state, and many viewed with deep misgiving the change in affairs.

A commendable act of James was that of bringing the execrable wretch,

Titus Oates, to punishment for his incredible perjuries concerning the "Popish Plot." He was publicly whipped through the streets of London to the point of exhaustion and within a hair's breadth of his life.

You remember that the Duke of Monmouth went to Holland upon the collapse of the Rye-House Plot. Four months after the accession of James he was led to believe by a number of refugees that if he would return to England and claim the throne as a Protestant he would be welcomed with open arms. Landing at Lyme on the coast of Dorsetshire, he issued a proclamation denouncing James as a usurper, tyrant, and murderer, because, like Nero, he had applied the torch to London, cut the throat of Essex, and poisoned his brother, Charles II. ! It was so preposterous a charge that it caused ridicule even among the friends of the Duke. Many of the Whig nobles, whose help was necessary, refused to have anything to do with him or his cause.

On the 6th of July, 1685, at Sedgemoor, "King Monmouth" was routed, and two days later, half starved and terrified out of his wits, he was captured while crouching in a ditch. He prayed his captors to take him into the presence of the King. They did so, and he flung himself on the ground at his royal uncle's feet, weeping and begging for life, no matter how hard the terms. Never was a more abject coward seen. He denied having issued the abominable proclamation against James; declared he had been forced into the rebellion against his will, and expressed himself ready to become a Catholic if only his life were given to him. When his pleadings were received with contempt, he regained a spark of manhood, and walked with some dignity to the Tower, from which he was shortly taken to the scaffold.

This ended all insurrections against the royal authority of James; yet the defeat of the insurgents was followed by a horrible series of trials and executions, known as the "Bloody Assizes." Chief Justice Jeffreys, the presiding judge, before whom the accused were brought, displayed a delight absolutely infernal in inflicting the most fearful punishments conceivable. All who were suspected of having had the slightest connection with the uprising were hunted down. No one was allowed to defend himself; but that mattered not, since no defence would have been accepted by this monster. The first victim was Alice Lisle, the aged widow of one of Cromwell's soldiers. She had allowed two panting fugitives to take shelter in her house. Intercession for her life was made to the King, but he would not listen, and she was beheaded.

When a tottering old man was called up for sentence, a gentleman present was so touched with pity that he ventured to say a word for him. "My Lord," said he, "this poor creature is so helpless that he is dependent on the parish for food and lodging." "Have no fear," chuckled the judge, “I will soon relieve the parish of the burden," and he ordered the officers to allow no

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England-Monmouth's Rebellion

1079 delay in executing the prisoner. The penalty of death was merciful compared with some of the punishments. Thus Jeffreys ordered one man to be imprisoned for seven years and to be whipped once each year through every market town in the county. The victim begged the King to allow him to be hanged, but the penalty was not mitigated until a large bribe had been paid to Jeffreys. Fiendish as was his brutality, he was always open to bribery, and acquired an enormous fortune by this means. He chatted, joked, and revelled in the slaughter he imposed. The guide posts along the highways were turned into gibbets, and the air was "tainted with corruption." The wretch boasted that he had hanged more traitors than all his predecessors since the Conquest. King James rewarded him by making him Lord Chancellor of the realm, smilingly remarking as he did so that it would have been well for the judge had he been more severe !

You will recall that Henry IV. of France had issued the Edict of Nantes, granting liberty of worship to Protestants in his kingdom, but in 1685 the Edict was revoked by Louis XIV., who thereby drove thousands of Huguenots to England and America. This encouraged James II. to take steps in the same direction. While he did not dare go so far, he began violating the English law by placing Catholics in the most important offices of church and state. At the same time he stationed an army of 13,000 men near London, that they might be ready to quell any rebellion. Then he superseded the Protestant Duke of Ormond, as Governor of Ireland, with Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnel, a notorious Catholic, with orders to recruit an Irish Roman Catholic army to sustain the King. In following this policy, it should be stated that the King went contrary to the wishes of Pope Innocent XI., who desired and even entreated him to rule according to law. Many of the more prudent English Catholics also remonstrated, but James would not listen.

Another of his measures aimed to bring the principal college of Oxford under Catholic control. While the Fellows were considering the choice of a successor to the dead President of Magdalen College, James ordered them to elect a Catholic of evil reputation. The Fellows replied by choosing a Protestant. James ejected him and the Fellows, and then issued a second Declaration of Indulgence, whose object was to place Catholics in still higher places of power and trust.

James could not see that he had gone too far. He ordered the clergy throughout the kingdom to read his Declaration of Indulgence on a certain Sunday from their pulpits. The Archbishop of Canterbury, at the head of six bishops, begged the King to excuse them from this command. He refused; but when the appointed Sunday came, only a very few ministers obeyed the order, and they saw their congregations get up and leave during the reading.

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