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TRIALS OF OTHER PERSONS FOR THE PLOT. - ENQUIRY INTO THE REALITY OF THE RYE-HOUSE PLOT.
Before concluding this work, it will be proper to give some account of those who were involved with Lord Russell in the accusation of conspiring against the King, and to offer some observations on the reality of the Rye-House plot. In November, Algernon Sydney was brought to trial. He was much more hardly used than Lord Russell had been ; and the trial exhibits a strange and unnatural contrast between the violence, the injustice, and the brutality of the judge; and the calmness, the pointed reasoning, and the heroic fortitude of the prisoner. He was tried by a jury, many of whom were not freeholders. Jeffries, then Chief Justice, said the point had been decided on Lord Russell’s trial, although, in that case, the trial had been in the city of London, and this was at the King's Bench. Rumsey and West were the first witnesses against him; and they swore that they knew nothing of the prisoner since the
conspiracy began. They had heard that he was one of the council of six; and, what is most curious, West had heard this from Rumsey, and Rumsey had heard it from West. Lord Howard followed, adding many particulars to his former tale; but as he was the only direct wit. ness, the evidence required by law was filled up with a manuscript-book, in Sydney’s hand-writing, written some years before. Quotations proving that he approved of the conspiracies against Nero, and against Caligula, were read as proofs of his having compassed the King's death. The Lord Chief Justice, in summing up the evidence, laid it down as law, that if one witness deposed that a man had said he would kill the King with a knife, and another witness deposed that he had bought a knife, these two would form the two witnesses required by law. It is needless to enter farther into this well-known case; but I cannot help expressing my own sentiment, that there is no murder which history has recorded of Caesar Borgia, which exceeds in violence, or in fraud, that by which Charles took away the life of the gallant and patriotic Sydney. The Duke of Monmouth was persuaded, by Lord Halifax, to make his confession. He did this in a letter, in very general terms; but being told that he might hurt Mr. Hampden, and others of his friends, he went to the King, and desired to have it back. The King gave him his letter, but accompanied it with some severe expressions, and forbad him the court. He retired to Holland, where he was treated by the Prince of Orange with particular respect. Not even a scrap of old writing could be found to corroborate the evidence of Lord Howard against Hampden ; but the crownlawyers thought proper to try him for a misdemeanor, for which one witness is sufficient. To convert the acts for which Russell and Sydney had been beheaded into a misdemeanor, seems strikingly absurd ; but a fine of 40,000l., which was equivalent to imprisonment for life, shows the intention of the Royal brothers. After this sentence, he was confined in different prisons, and all his real and personal property sequestered, till Monmouth’s unsuccessful attempt. At that time Lord Grey consented to become a second witness against him; but some of his friends having raised six thousand pounds, which they offered to Jeffries and Mr. Petre, obtained his pardon, on condition that he should plead guilty." Dalrymple who was perfectly aware of these facts, mixes them up, as usual, with romance. He attributes it to the unpopularity
which Sydney’s trial had brought on the government, that Hampden was not at first tried for his life; and he suppresses the fact of 6000l. having been given for his pardon, in order to insert the following passage, which is a mixture of odious misrepresentation and affected sentiment: – “In despair he pleaded guilty. It was a sad spectacle to the generous of all parties, to see the grandson of the great Hampden entreating the meanest of mankind to interpose with the King for his life. Satisfied with the humiliation, because it was worse than death, Jeffries obtained his pardon from James.” In 1684, Holloway, who had been sent home, confessed all he knew, refused a trial, and was executed. He hinted, at his death, that had he chosen to discover more than was true, he might have saved his life. His discoveries produced an impression unfavourable to the belief of the plot.” This impression was strengthened by the last words of Armstrong, who was taken in Holland, and condemned on a sentence of outlawry. He asked in vain for a trial, on the ground that the year allowed for him to come in was not expired, so that he might have surrendered himself voluntarily some months afterwards. When he asked for the benefit of the law, and said he demanded no more, Jeffries answered, with a savage repartee, “That you shall have, by the grace of God. See that execution be done on Friday next, according to law. You shall have the full benefit of the law.” “ We come now to the trials in Scotland. By an order in council of October 22. 1683, the King ordered the laird of Cesnock, and his son, the lairds of Rowallan, elder and younger, Crawford of Crawfordland, Fairly of Brunsfield, Alexander Monro of Beaucrofts, Baillie of Jerviswood, Mr. William Carstairs, Hepburn, son to Major Hepburn, and Spence, servant to the Earl of Argyle, to be sent prisoners to Edinburgh, to be tried according to the law of Scotland. This was done, as Wodrow says, because the Scotch law was far more arbitrary than the English. Sir Hugh Campbell, of Cesnock, was indicted in February, 1684, not for the Rye-House plot, but for harbouring rebels in the rising of Bothwell-Bridge. For the purpose of convicting him, two witnesses were brought, Ingrham and Crawford. When Ingrham was brought in, and was holding up his hand to swear, Cesnock, addressing him, said, “Take heed now what you are about to do, and damn not your own soul by perjury; for, as I shall answer to God, and upon