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that Parliament for a twelvemonth; and that he would hear no reasons on the subject. But Sir William Temple stood up and said, with great freedom, "That as to the resolution he had taken, he would say nothing, because he was resolved to hear no reasoning upon it; therefore he would only presume to offer him his humble advice, as to the course of his future proceedings, which was, that His Majesty, in his affairs, would please to make use of some council or other, and allow freedom to their debates and advices; after hearing which, His Majesty might resolve as he pleased; that if he did not think the persons or number of this present council suited to his affairs, it was in his power to dissolve them, and constitute another of twenty, or ten, or of five, or any number he pleased, and to alter them again when he would ; but to make counsellors that should not counsel, he doubted whether it were in His Majesty's power, or no, because it implied a contradiction."
This wise and constitutional speech seems to have had no effect in altering the intention of the King; who had, however, previously left room for a change of counsel, by ordering the immediate prorogation to extend only to the 28th January.
A new plot broke out about this time, which was nick-named the Meal-tub plot. An in
VOL. I. N
famous character, of the name of Willoughby, or Dangerfield, a friend of Bedloe, was released from prison by Mrs. Cellier, a Popish midwife, who obtained the money for that purpose from Lady Powis, a very eminent person of the Catholic religion. . He contrived to cajole these two ladies, by pretending a knowledge of a plot carrying on by the Presbyterians. To support his pretentions, he made acquaintance as well as he could with the lower emissaries of the Opposition. He hid a treasonable paper in the bed-chamber of Colonal Mansel; and, by the advice of Mrs. Cellier, took the Custom-house officers there to search for prohibited goods. He then found the paper he had himself concealed, and immediately called out "Here's Treason 1" Some days afterwards, another paper, containing a treasonable association, was found by Sir W. Waller in Mrs. Cellier's house, concealed in a meal-tub. Upon enquiry, it appeared that Dangerfield had seen the Duke and the . King, under pretence of discovering a Presbyterian plot, and had received from the Duke twenty guineas. Both parties endeavoured to represent him as an agent of their opponents. But whilst his connection with Mrs. Cellier and Lady Powis was proved and avowed, his intimacy with Lord Shaftesbury was only inferred from two unimportant letters directed to that Lord,
which Dangerfield had somehow got into his possession, and had shown to the King. It is probable, that he meant to betray either, or both, as it suited him. We may judge of his character from the following facts. When his pardon was made out for treason, misprision, &c. he complained that forgery had not been inserted! Upon pleading this pardon, however, that he might be entitled to appear as a witness against Mrs. Cellier, she proved a conviction for felony, and an outlawry against him, which had been omitted!
It was not longr before two of the per
sons who had greatly contributed to the Duke's fortune, retired from the King's council in disgust. Essex left the Treasury, saying, that the Duke had broken his promise of doing nothing without his advice; and that he suspected designs at bottom against religion. Halifax, also, finding himself neglected, retired to his seat in the North, where, as he wrote to Sir W. Temple, though he could not plant melons, he would plant carrots and cucumbers, rather than trouble himself any more about public affairs. The King said that both hung after something he was in hopes they had forgotten. This something probably meant religion and the laws. Yet,though both retired, their conduct at this time was as different as their characters. Essex was a nobleman of the strictest honour, and the most unblemished integrity. The execution of his father, Lord Capel, by the Republicans, during the civil wars, recommended him to the court as a person likely to feel their resentments and pursue their views, with the zeal of an associate joined to the fidelity of a servant. He was for some time Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, where his administration was remarkable for impartiality and honesty. Upon the dismissal of Danby, he had been appointed to the Treasury, and distinguished his official career, by introducing an exact economy into every department. Useless pensions were retrenched, superfluous tables abolished, and envoys in foreign courts, whose services at home had recommended them to sinecures abroad, were recalled. This economy, indeed, was by no means premature, for upon the entrance of the new commissioners, only 27s. and 3d. (besides appropriated money) were found in the Treasury. * It may be mentioned, as a proof of his constitutional opinions, that when a body of guards was formed, he wrote a strong letter to the King against the project, as likely to raise a suspicion, that an army was to be raised. t
"Lord Essex, when he left office, withdrew from she council and joined the Opposition.*
Lord Halifax was a man of more wit and fancy than judgment and decision. The colouring of his mind was better than the drawing. He admired justice and liberty in theory.: he gave them up for placeqpnd titles in practice. He had too keen a perception of errors and faults to act well with others, and too great a share of . them himself to gain credit by standing alone. In fine, he was one of the most honest ministers in the reign of Charles the Second, and would have been one of the most corrupt at any other period. He was reckoned the head of the party called Trimmers.
Lord Halifax, though he commended the conduct of Lord Essex, soon afterwards returned to the council, and entered, as we shall see, into the King's views.
Lord Radnor had succeeded to the office, but . not to the power of Lord Shaftesbury. The management of affairs was vested in Lord Hyde, now first commissioner of the Treasury, Lord Sunderland, and Mr. Godolphin. This was a
* "As for my Lord," (Essex,) says Mr. Evelyn, " he is a sober, wise, judicious, and pondering person, not illiterate, beyond the rate of most nobleman in this age, very well versed in English history and affairs, industrious, frugal, methodical, and every way accomplished." Vol. i. 487