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A History of the Early Part of the Reign of James the Second by Charles James Fox

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into those seas; and when it did land near Greenock, no other
advantage was derived from it than the procuring from the town a
very small supply of provisions.

When Cochrane, with his detachment, returned to Cowal, all hopes of
success in the Lowlands seemed, for the present at least, to be at
an end, and Argyle's original plan was now necessarily adopted,
though under circumstances greatly disadvantageous. Among these,
the most important was the approach of the frigates, which obliged
the earl to place his ships under the protection of the castle of
Ellengreg, which he fortified and garrisoned as well as his
contracted means would permit. Yet even in this situation, deprived
of the co-operation of his little fleet, as well as of that part of
his force which he left to defend it, being well seconded by the
spirit and activity of Rumbold, who had seized the castle of
Ardkinglass, near the head of Loch Fin, he was not without hopes of
success in his main enterprise against Inverary, when he was called
back to Ellengreg, by intelligence of fresh discontents having
broken out there, upon the nearer approach of the frigates. Some of
the most dissatisfied had even threatened to leave both castle and
ships to their fate; nor did the appearance of the earl himself by
any means bring with it that degree of authority which was requisite
in such a juncture. His first motion was to disregard the superior
force of the men of war, and to engage them with his small fleet;
but he soon discovered that he was far indeed from being furnished
with the materials necessary to put in execution so bold, or, as it
may possibly be thought, so romantic a resolution. His associates
remonstrated, and a mutiny in his ships was predicted as a certain
consequence of the attempt. Leaving, therefore, once more,
Ellengreg with a garrison under the command of the laird of
Lochness, and strict orders to destroy both ships and fortification,
rather than suffer them to fall into the hands of the enemy, he
marched towards Gareloch. But whether from the inadequacy of the
provisions with which he was to supply it, or from cowardice,
misconduct, or treachery, it does not appear, the castle was soon
evacuated without any proper measures being taken to execute the
earl's orders, and the military stores in it to a considerable
amount, as well as the ships which had no other defence, were
abandoned to the king's forces.

This was a severe blow; and all hopes of acting according to the
earl's plan of establishing himself strongly in Argyleshire were now
extinguished. He therefore consented to pass the Leven, a little
above Dumbarton, and to march eastwards. In this march he was
overtaken, at a place called Killerne, by Lord Dumbarton, at the
head of a large body of the king's troops; but he posted himself
with so much skill and judgment, that Dumbarton thought it prudent
to wait, at least, till the ensuing morning, before he made his
attack. Here, again Argyle was for risking an engagement, and in
his nearly desperate situation, it was probably his best chance, but
his advice (for his repeated misfortunes had scarcely left him the
shadow of command) was rejected. On the other hand, a proposal was
made to him, the most absurd, as it should seem, that was ever
suggested in similar circumstances, to pass the enemy in the night,
and thus exposing his rear, to subject himself to the danger of
being surrounded, for the sake of advancing he knew not whither, or
for what purpose. To this he could not consent; and it was at last
agreed to deceive the enemies by lighting fires, and to decamp in
the night towards Glasgow. The first part of this plan was executed
with success, and the army went off unperceived by the enemy; but in
their night march they were misled by the ignorance or the treachery
of their guides and fell into difficulties which would have caused
some disorder among the most regular and best-disciplined troops.
In this case such disorder was fatal, and produced, as among men
circumstanced as Argyle's were, it necessarily must, an almost
general dispersion. Wandering among bogs and morasses, disheartened
by fatigue, terrified by rumours of an approaching enemy, the
darkness of the night aggravating at once every real distress, and
adding terror to every vain alarm; in this situation, when even the
bravest and the best (for according to one account Rumbold himself
was missing for a time) were not able to find their leaders, nor the
corps to which they respectively belonged; it is no wonder that many
took this opportunity to abandon a cause now become desperate, and
to effect individually that escape which, as a body, they had no
longer any hopes to accomplish.

When the small remains of this ill-fated army got together, in the
morning, at Kilpatrick, a place far distant from their destination,
its number was reduced to less than five hundred. Argyle had lost
all authority; nor, indeed, had he retained any, does it appear that
he could now have used it to any salutary purpose. The same bias
which had influenced the two parties in the time of better hopes,
and with regard to their early operations, still prevailed now that
they were driven to their last extremity. Sir Patrick Hume and Sir
John Cochrane would not stay even to reason the matter with him
whom, at the onset of their expedition, they had engaged to obey,
but crossed the Clyde, with such as would follow them to the number
of about two hundred, into Renfrewshire.

Argyle, thus deserted, and almost alone, still looked to his own
country as the sole remaining hope, and sent off Sir Duncan
Campbell, with the two Duncansons, father and son--persons, all
three, by whom he seemed to have been served with the most exemplary
zeal and fidelity--to attempt new levies there. Having done this,
and settled such means of correspondence as the state of affairs
would permit, he repaired to the house of an old servant, upon whose
attachment he had relied for an asylum, but was peremptorily denied
entrance. Concealment in this part of the country seemed now
impracticable, and he was forced at last to pass the Clyde,
accompanied by the brave and faithful Fullarton. Upon coming to a
ford of the Inchanon they were stopped by some militia-men.
Fullarton used in vain all the best means which his presence of mind
suggested to him to save his general. He attempted one while by
gentle, and then by harsher language, to detain the commander of the
party till the earl, who was habited as a common countryman, and
whom he passed for his guide, should have made his escape. At last,
when he saw them determined to go after his pretended guide, he
offered to surrender himself without a blow, upon condition of their
desisting from their pursuit. This agreement was accepted, but not
adhered to, and two horsemen were detached to seize Argyle. The
earl, who was also on horseback, grappled with them till one of them
and himself came to the ground. He then presented his pocket
pistols, on which the two retired, but soon after five more came up,
who fired without effect, and he thought himself like to get rid of
them, but they knocked him down with their swords and seized him.
When they knew whom they had taken they seemed much troubled, but
dared not let him go. Fullarton, perceiving that the stipulation on
which he had surrendered himself was violated, and determined to
defend himself to the last, or at least to wreak, before he fell,
his just vengeance upon his perfidious opponents, grasped at the
sword of one of them, but in vain; he was overpowered, and made

Argyle was immediately carried to Renfrew, thence to Glasgow, and on
the 20th of June was led in triumph into Edinburgh. The order of
the council was particular: that he should be led bareheaded in the
midst of Graham's guards, with their matches cocked, his hands tied
behind his back, and preceded by the common hangman, in which
situation, that he might be more exposed to the insults and taunts
of the vulgar, it was directed that he should be carried to the
castle by a circuitous route. To the equanimity with which he bore
these indignities, as indeed to the manly spirit exhibited by him
throughout, in these last scenes of his life, ample testimony is
borne by all the historians who have treated of them, even those who
are the least partial to him. He had frequent opportunities of
conversing, and some of writing, during his imprisonment, and it is
from such parts of these conversations and writings as have been
preserved to us, that we can best form to ourselves a just notion of
his deportment during that trying period; at the same time a true
representation of the temper of his mind in such circumstances will
serve, in no small degree, to illustrate his general character and

We have already seen how he expresses himself with regard to the men
who, by taking him, became the immediate cause of his calamity. He
seems to feel a sort of gratitude to them for the sorrow he saw, or
fancied he saw in them, when they knew who he was, and immediately
suggests an excuse for them, by saying that they did not dare to
follow the impulse of their hearts. Speaking of the supineness of
his countrymen, and of the little assistance he had received from
them, he declares with his accustomed piety his resignation to the
will of God, which was that Scotland should not be delivered at this
time, nor especially by his hand; and then exclaims, with the regret
of a patriot, but with no bitterness of disappointment, "But alas!
who is there to be delivered! There may," says he, "be hidden ones,
but there appears no great party in the country who desire to be
relieved." Justice, in some degree, but still more that warm
affection for his own kindred and vassals, which seems to have
formed a marked feature in this nobleman's character, then induces
him to make an exception in favour of his poor friends in
Argyleshire, in treating for whom, though in what particular way
does not appear, he was employing, and with some hope of success,
the few remaining hours of his life. In recounting the failure of
his expedition it is impossible for him not to touch upon what he
deemed the misconduct of his friends; and this is the subject upon
which of all others, his temper must have been most irritable. A
certain description of friends (the words describing them are
omitted) were all of them without exception, his greatest enemies,
both to betray and destroy him; and . . . and . . . (the names again
omitted) were the greatest cause of his rout, and his being taken,
though not designedly, he acknowledges, but by ignorance, cowardice,
and faction. This sentence had scarce escaped him when,
notwithstanding the qualifying words with which his candour had
acquitted the last-mentioned persons of intentional treachery, it
appeared too harsh to his gentle nature, and declaring himself
displeased with the hard epithets he had used, he desires they may
be put out of any account that is to be given of these transactions.
The manner in which this request is worded shows that the paper he
was writing was intended for a letter, and as it is supposed, to a
Mrs. Smith, who seems to have assisted him with money; but whether
or not this lady was the rich widow of Amsterdam, before alluded to,
I have not been able to learn.

When he is told that he is to be put to the torture, he neither
breaks out into any high-sounding bravado, any premature vaunts of
the resolution with which he will endure it, nor, on the other hand,
into passionate exclamations on the cruelty of his enemies, or
unmanly lamentations of his fate. After stating that orders were
arrived that he must be tortured, unless he answers all questions
upon oath, he simply adds that he hopes God will support him; and
then leaves off writing, not from any want of spirits to proceed,
but to enjoy the consolation which was yet left him, in the society
of his wife, the countess being just then admitted.

Of his interview with Queensbury, who examined him in private,
little is known, except that he denied his design having been
concerted with any persons in Scotland; that he gave no information
with respect to his associates in England; and that he boldly and
frankly averred his hopes to have been founded on the cruelty of the
administration, and such a disposition in the people to revolt as he
conceived to be the natural consequence of oppression. He owned, at
the same time, that he had trusted too much to this principle. The
precise date of this conversation, whether it took place before the
threat of the torture, whilst that threat was impending, or when
there was no longer any intention of putting it into execution, I
have not been able to ascertain; but the probability seems to be
that it was during the first or second of these periods.

Notwithstanding the ill success that had attended his enterprise, he
never expresses, or even hints, the smallest degree of contrition
for having undertaken it: on the contrary, when Mr. Charteris, an
eminent divine, is permitted to wait on him, his first caution to
that minister is, not to try to convince him of the unlawfulness of
his attempt, concerning which his opinion was settled, and his mind
made up. Of some parts of his past conduct he does indeed confess
that he repents, but these are the compliances of which he had been
guilty in support of the king, or his predecessors. Possibly in
this he may allude to his having in his youth borne arms against the
covenant, but with more likelihood to his concurrence, in the late
reign, with some of the measures of Lauderdale's administration, for
whom it is certain that he entertained a great regard, and to whom
he conceived himself to be principally indebted for his escape from
his first sentence. Friendship and gratitude might have carried him
to lengths which patriotism and justice must condemn.

Religious concerns, in which he seems to have been very serious and
sincere, engaged much of his thoughts; but his religion was of that
genuine kind which, by representing the performance of our duties to
our neighbour as the most acceptable service to God, strengthens all
the charities of social life. While he anticipates, with a hope
approaching to certainty, a happy futurity, he does not forget those
who have been justly dear to him in this world. He writes, on the
day of his execution, to his wife, and to some other relations, for
whom he seems to have entertained a sort of parental tenderness,
short, but the most affectionate letters, wherein he gives them the
greatest satisfaction then in his power, by assuring them of his
composure and tranquillity of mind, and refers them for further
consolation to those sources from which he derived his own. In his
letter to Mrs. Smith, written on the same day, he says, "While
anything was a burden to me, your concern was; which is a cross
greater than I can express" (alluding probably to the pecuniary loss
she had incurred); "but I have, I thank God, overcome all." Her
name, he adds, could not be concealed, and that he knows not what
may have been discovered from any paper which may have been taken;
otherwise he has named none to their disadvantage. He states that
those in whose hands he is, had at first used him hardly, but that
God had melted their hearts, and that he was now treated with
civility. As an instance of this, he mentions the liberty he had
obtained of sending this letter to her; a liberty which he takes as
a kindness on their part, and which he had sought that she might not
think he had forgotten her.

Never, perhaps, did a few sentences present so striking a picture of
a mind truly virtuous and honourable. Heroic courage is the least
part of his praise, and vanishes as it were from our sight, when we
contemplate the sensibility with which he acknowledges the kindness,
such as it is, of the very men who are leading him to the scaffold;
the generous satisfaction which he feels on reflecting that no
confession of his has endangered his associates; and above all, his
anxiety, in such moments, to perform all the duties of friendship
and gratitude, not only with the most scrupulous exactness, but with
the most considerate attention to the feelings as well as to the
interests of the person who was the object of them. Indeed, it
seems throughout to have been the peculiar felicity of this man's
mind, that everything was present to it that ought to be so; nothing
that ought not. Of his country he could not be unmindful; and it
was one among other consequences of his happy temper, that on this
subject he did not entertain those gloomy ideas which the then state
of Scotland was but too well fitted to inspire. In a conversation
with an intimate friend, he says that, though he does not take upon
him to be a prophet, he doubts not but that deliverance will come,
and suddenly, of which his failings had rendered him unworthy to be
the instrument. In some verses which he composed on the night
preceding his execution, and which he intended for his epitaph, he
thus expresses this hope still more distinctly

"On my attempt though Providence did frown,
His oppressed people God at length shall own;
Another hand, by more successful speed,
Shall raise the remnant, bruise the serpent's head."

With respect to the epitaph itself, of which these lines form a
part, it is probable that he composed it chiefly with a view to
amuse and relieve his mind, fatigued with exertion, and partly,
perhaps, in imitation of the famous Marquis of Montrose, who, in
similar circumstances, had written some verses which have been much
celebrated. The poetical merit of the pieces appears to be nearly
equal, and is not in either instance considerable, and they are only
in so far valuable as they may serve to convey to us some image of
the minds by which they were produced. He who reads them with this
view will, perhaps, be of opinion that the spirit manifested in the
two compositions is rather equal in degree than like in character;
that the courage of Montrose was more turbulent, that of Argyle more
calm and sedate. If, on the one hand, it is to be regretted that we
have not more memorials left of passages so interesting, and that
even of those which we do possess, a great part is obscured by time,
it must be confessed, on the other, that we have quite enough to
enable us to pronounce that for constancy and equanimity under the
severest trials, few men have equalled, none ever surpassed, the
Earl of Argyle. The most powerful of all tempters, hope, was not
held out to him, so that he had not, it is true, in addition to his
other hard tasks, that of resisting her seductive influence; but the
passions of a different class had the fullest scope for their
attacks. These, however, could make no impression on his well-
disciplined mind. Anger could not exasperate, fear could not appal
him; and if disappointment and indignation at the misbehaviour of
his followers, and the supineness of the country, did occasionally,
as surely they must, cause uneasy sensations, they had not the power
to extort from him one unbecoming or even querulous expression. Let
him be weighed never so scrupulously, and in the nicest scales, he
will not be found, in a single instance, wanting in the charity of a
Christian, the firmness and benevolence of a patriot, the integrity
and fidelity of a man of honour.

The Scotch parliament had, on the 11th of June, sent an address to
the king wherein, after praising his majesty, as usual, for his
extraordinary prudence, courage, and conduct, and loading Argyle,
whom they styled an hereditary traitor, with every reproach they can
devise--among others, that of ingratitude for the favours which he
had received, as well from his majesty as from his predecessor--they
implore his majesty that the earl may find no favour and that the
earl's family, the heritors, ringleaders, and preachers who joined
him, should be for ever declared incapable of mercy, or bearing any
honour or estate in the kingdom, and all subjects discharged under
the highest pains to intercede for them in any manner of way. Never
was address more graciously received, or more readily complied with;
and, accordingly, the following letter, with the royal signature,
and countersigned by Lord Melford, Secretary of State for Scotland,
was despatched to the council at Edinburgh, and by them entered and
registered on the 29th of June.

"Whereas, the late Earl of Argyle is, by the providence of God,
fallen into our power, it is our will and pleasure that you take all
ways to know from him those things which concern our government
most, as his assisters with men, arms, and money, his associates and
correspondents, his designs, etc. But this must be done so as no
time may be lost in bringing him to condign punishment, by causing
him to be demeaned as a traitor, within the space of three days
after this shall come to your hands, an account of which, with what
he shall confess, you shall send immediately to us or our
secretaries, for doing which this shall be your warrant."

When it is recollected that torture had been in common use in
Scotland, and that the persons to whom the letter was addressed had
often caused it to be inflicted, the words, "it is our will and
pleasure that you take all ways," seem to convey a positive command
for applying of it in this instance; yet it is certain that Argyle
was not tortured. What was the cause of this seeming disregard of
the royal injunctions does not appear. One would hope, for the
honour of human nature, that James, struck with some compunction for
the injuries he had already heaped upon the head of this unfortunate
nobleman, sent some private orders contradictory to this public
letter; but there is no trace to be discovered of such a
circumstance. The managers themselves might feel a sympathy for a
man of their own rank, which had no influence in the cases where
only persons of an inferior station were to be the sufferers; and in
those words of the king's letter which enjoin a speedy punishment as
the primary object to which all others must give way, they might
find a pretext for overlooking the most odious part of the order,
and of indulging their humanity, such as it was, by appointing the
earliest day possible for the execution. In order that the triumph
of injustice might be complete, it was determined that, without any
new trial, the earl should suffer upon the iniquitous sentence of
1682. Accordingly, the very next day ensuing was appointed, and on
the 13th of June he was brought from the castle, first to the Laigh
Council-house, and thence to the place of execution.

Before he left the castle, he had his dinner at the usual hour, at
which he discoursed, not only calmly, but even cheerfully, with Mr.
Charteris and others. After dinner he retired, as was his custom,
to his bed-chamber, where it is recorded that he slept quietly for
about a quarter of an hour. While he was in his bed, one of the
members of the council came and intimated to the attendants a desire
to speak with him: upon being told that the earl was asleep, and
had left orders not to be disturbed, the manager disbelieved the
account, which he considered as a device to avoid further
questionings. To satisfy him, the door of the bed-chamber was half
opened, and he then beheld, enjoying a sweet and tranquil slumber,
the man who, by the doom of him and his fellows, was to die within
the space of two short hours! Struck with this sight, he hurried
out of the room, quitted the castle with the utmost precipitation,
and hid himself in the lodgings of an acquaintance who lived near,
where he flung himself upon the first bed that presented itself, and
had every appearance of a man suffering the most excruciating
torture. His friend, who had been apprised by the servant of the
state he was in, and who naturally concluded that he was ill,
offered him some wine. He refused, saying, "No, no, that will not
help me: I have been in at Argyle, and saw him sleeping as
pleasantly as ever man did, within an hour of eternity. But as for
me--." The name of the person to whom this anecdote relates is not
mentioned, and the truth of it may therefore be fairly considered as
liable to that degree of doubt with which men of judgment receive
every species of traditional history. Woodrow, however, whose
veracity is above suspicion, says he had it from the most
unquestionable authority. It is not in itself unlikely; and who is
there that would not wish it true? What a satisfactory spectacle to
a philosophical mind, to see the oppressor, in the zenith of his
power, envying his victim! What an acknowledgment of the
superiority of virtue! What an affecting and forcible testimony to
the value of that peace of mind which innocence alone can confer!
We know not who this man was; but when we reflect that the guilt
which agonised him was probably incurred for the sake of some vain
title, or, at least, of some increase of wealth, which he did not
want, and possibly knew not how to enjoy, our disgust is turned into
something like compassion for that very foolish class of men whom
the world calls wise in their generation.

Soon after his short repose Argyle was brought, according to order,
to the Laigh Council-house, from which place is dated the letter to
his wife, and thence to the place of execution. On the scaffold he
had some discourse, as well with Mr. Annand, a minister appointed by
government to attend him, as with Mr. Charteris. He desired both of
them to pray for him, and prayed himself with much fervency and
devotion. The speech which he made to the people was such as might
be expected from the passages already related. The same mixture of
firmness and mildness is conspicuous in every part of it. "We ought
not," says he, "to despise our afflictions, nor to faint under them.
We must not suffer ourselves to be exasperated against the
instruments of our troubles, nor by fraudulent, nor pusillanimous
compliances, bring guilt upon ourselves; faint hearts are ordinarily
false hearts, choosing sin rather than suffering." He offers his
prayers to God for the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and
Ireland, and that an end may be put to their present trials. Having
then asked pardon for his own failings, both of God and man, he
would have concluded; but being reminded that he had said nothing of
the royal family, he adds that he refers, in this matter, to what he
had said at his trial concerning the test; that he prayed there
never might be wanting one of the royal family to support the
Protestant religion; and if any of them had swerved from the true
faith, he prayed God to turn their hearts, but, at any rate, to save
His people from their machinations. When he had ended, he turned to
the south side of the scaffold, and said, "Gentlemen, I pray you do
not misconstruct my behaviour this day; I freely forgive all men
their wrongs and injuries done against me, as I desire to be
forgiven of God." Mr. Annand repeated these words louder to the
people. The earl then went to the north side of the scaffold, and
used the same or the like expressions. Mr. Annand repeated them
again, and said, "This nobleman dies a Protestant." The earl
stepped forward again, and said, "I die not only a Protestant, but
with a heart-hatred of popery, prelacy, and all superstition
whatsoever." It would perhaps have been better if these last
expressions had never been uttered, as there appears certainly
something of violence in them unsuitable to the general tenor of his
language; but it must be remembered, first, that the opinion that
the pope is Antichrist was at that time general among almost all the
zealous Protestants in these kingdoms; secondly, that Annand being
employed by government, and probably an Episcopalian, the earl might
apprehend that the declaration of such a minister might not convey
the precise idea which he, Argyle, affixed to the word Protestant.

He then embraced his friends, gave some tokens of remembrance to his
son-in-law, Lord Maitland, for his daughter and grandchildren,
stripped himself of part of his apparel, of which he likewise made
presents, and laid his head upon the block. Having uttered a short
prayer, he gave the signal to the executioner, which was instantly
obeyed, and his head severed from his body. Such were the last
hours, and such the final close, of this great man's life. May the
like happy serenity in such dreadful circumstances, and a death
equally glorious, be the lot of all whom tyranny, of whatever
denomination or description, shall in any age, or in any country,
call to expiate their virtues on the scaffold!

Of the followers of Argyle, in the disastrous expedition above
recounted, the fortunes were various. Among those who either
surrendered or were taken, some suffered the same fate with their
commander, others were pardoned; while, on the other hand, of those
who escaped to foreign parts, many after a short exile returned
triumphantly to their country at the period of the revolution, and
under a system congenial to their principles, some even attained the
highest honours of the State. It is to be recollected that when,
after the disastrous night-march from Killerne, a separation took
place at Kilpatrick between Argyle and his confederates, Sir John
Cochrane, Sir Patrick Hume, and others, crossed the Clyde into
Renfrewshire, with about, it is supposed, two hundred men. Upon
their landing they met with some opposition from a troop of militia
horse, which was, however, feeble and ineffectual; but fresh parties
of militia as well as regular troops drawing together, a sort of
scuffle ensued, near a place called Muirdyke; an offer of quarter
was made by the king's troops, but (probably on account of the
conditions annexed to it) was refused; and Cochrane and the rest,
now reduced to the number of seventy took shelter in a fold-dyke,
where they were able to resist and repel, though not without loss on
each side, the attack of the enemy. Their situation was
nevertheless still desperate, and in the night they determined to
make their escape. The king's troops having retired, this was
effected without difficulty; and this remnant of an army being
dispersed by common consent, every man sought his own safety in the
best manner he could. Sir John Cochrane took refuge in the house of
an uncle, by whom, or by whose wife, it is said, he was betrayed.
He was, however, pardoned; and from this circumstance, coupled with
the constant and seemingly peevish opposition which he gave to
almost all Argyle's plans, a suspicion has arisen that he had been
treacherous throughout. But the account given of his pardon by
Burnet, who says his father, Lord Dundonald, who was an opulent
nobleman, purchased it with a considerable sum of money, is more
credible, as well as more candid; and it must be remembered that in
Sir John's disputes with his general, he was almost always acting in
conjunction with Sir Patrick Hume, who is proved, by the subsequent
events, and indeed by the whole tenor of his life and conduct, to
have been uniformly sincere and zealous in the cause of his country.
Cochrane was sent to England, where he had an interview with the
king, and gave such answers to the questions put to him as were
deemed satisfactory by his majesty; and the information thus
obtained whatever might be the real and secret causes, furnished a
plausible pretence at least for the exercise of royal mercy. Sir
Patrick Hume, after having concealed himself some time in the house,
and under the protection of Lady Eleanor Dunbar, sister to the Earl
of Eglington, found means to escape to Holland, whence he returned
in better times, and was created first Lord Hume of Polwarth, and
afterwards Earl of Marchmont. Fullarton, and Campbell of
Auchinbreak, appear to have escaped, but by what means is not known.
Two sons of Argyle, John and Charles, and Archibald Campbell, his
nephew, were sentenced to death and forfeiture, but the capital part
of the sentence was remitted. Thomas Archer, a clergyman, who had
been wounded at Muirdyke, was executed, notwithstanding many
applications in his favour, among which was one from Lord
Drumlanrig, Queensbury's eldest son. Woodrow, who was himself a
Presbyterian minister, and though a most valuable and correct
historian, was not without a tincture of the prejudices belonging to
his order, attributes the unrelenting spirit of the government in
this instance to their malice against the clergy of his sect. Some
of the holy ministry, he observes, as Guthrie at the restoration,
Kidd and Mackail after the insurrections at Pentland and Bothwell
Bridge, and now Archer, were upon every occasion to be sacrificed to
the fury of the persecutors. But to him who is well acquainted with
the history of this period, the habitual cruelty of the government
will fully account for any particular act of severity; and it is
only in cases of lenity, such as that of Cochrane, for instance,
that he will look for some hidden or special motive.

Ayloff, having in vain attempted to kill himself, was, like
Cochrane, sent to London to be examined. His relationship to the
king's first wife might perhaps be one inducement to this measure,
or it might be thought more expedient that he should be executed for
the Rye House Plot, the credit of which it was a favourite object of
the court to uphold, than for his recent acts of rebellion in
Scotland. Upon his examination he refused to give any information,
and suffered death upon a sentence of outlawry, which had passed in
the former reign. It is recorded that James interrogated him
personally, and finding him sullen, and unwilling to speak, said:
"Mr. Ayloff, you know it is in my power to pardon you, therefore say
that which may deserve it:" to which Ayloff replied: "Though it is
in your power, it is not in your nature to pardon." This, however,
is one of those anecdotes which are believed rather on account of
the air of nature that belongs to them, than upon any very good
traditional authority, and which ought, therefore when any very
material inference with respect either to fact or character, is to
be drawn from them, to be received with great caution.

Rumbold, covered with wounds, and defending himself with uncommon
exertions of strength and courage, was at last taken. However
desirable it might have been thought to execute in England a man so
deeply implicated in the Rye House Plot, the state of Rumbold's
health made such a project impracticable. Had it been attempted he
would probably, by a natural death, have disappointed the views of a
government who were eager to see brought to the block a man whom
they thought, or pretended to think, guilty of having projected the
assassination of the late and present king. Weakened as he was in
body, his mind was firm, his constancy unshaken; and notwithstanding
some endeavours that were made by drums and other instruments, to
drown his voice when he was addressing the people from the scaffold,
enough has been preserved of what he then uttered to satisfy us that
his personal courage, the praise of which has not been denied him,
was not of the vulgar or constitutional kind, but was accompanied
with a proportionable vigour of mind. Upon hearing his sentence,
whether in imitation of Montrose, or from that congeniality of
character which causes men in similar circumstances to conceive
similar sentiments, he expressed the same wish which that gallant
nobleman had done; he wished he had a limb for every town in
Christendom. With respect to the intended assassination imputed to
him, he protested his innocence, and desired to be believed upon the
faith of a dying man; adding, in terms as natural as they are
forcibly descriptive of a conscious dignity of character, that he
was too well known for any to have had the imprudence to make such a
proposition to him. He concluded with plain, and apparently
sincere, declarations of his undiminished attachment to the
principles of liberty, civil and religious; denied that he was an
enemy to monarchy, affirming, on the contrary, that he considered
it, when properly limited, as the most eligible form of government;
but that he never could believe that any man was born marked by God
above another, "for none comes into the world with a saddle on his
back, neither any booted and spurred to ride him."

Except by Ralph, who, with a warmth that does honour to his
feelings, expatiates at some length upon the subject, the
circumstances attending the death of this extraordinary man have
been little noticed. Rapin, Echard, Kennet, Hume, make no mention
of them whatever; and yet, exclusively of the interest always
excited by any great display of spirit and magnanimity, his solemn
denial of the project of assassination imputed to him in the affair
of the Rye House Plot is in itself a fact of great importance, and
one which might have been expected to attract, in no small degree,
the attention of the historian. That Hume, who has taken some pains
in canvassing the degree of credit due to the different parts of the
Rye House Plot, should pass it over in silence, is the more
extraordinary because, in the case of the popish plot, he lays, and
justly lays, the greatest stress upon the dying declarations of the
sufferers. Burnet adverts as well to the peculiar language used by
Rumbold as to his denial of the assassination; but having before
given us to understand that he believed that no such crime had been
projected, it is the less to be wondered at that he does not much
dwell upon this further evidence in favour of his former opinion.
Sir John Dalrymple, upon the authority of a paper which he does not
produce, but from which he quotes enough to show that if produced it
would not answer his purpose, takes Rumbold's guilt for a decided
fact, and then states his dying protestations of his innocence, as
an instance of aggravated wickedness. It is to be remarked, too,
that although Sir John is pleased roundly to assert that Rumbold
denied the share he had had in the Rye House Plot, yet the
particular words which he cites neither contain nor express, nor
imply any such denial. He has not even selected those by which the
design of assassination was denied (the only denial that was
uttered), but refers to a general declaration made by Rumbold, that
he had done injustice to no man--a declaration which was by no means
inconsistent with his having been a party to a plot, which he, no
doubt, considered as justifiable, and even meritorious. This is not
all: the paper referred to is addressed to Walcot, by whom Rumbold
states himself to have been led on; and Walcot, with his last
breath, denied his own participation in any design to murder either
Charles or James. Thus, therefore, whether the declaration of the
sufferer be interpreted in a general or in a particular sense, there
is no contradiction whatever between it and the paper adduced; but
thus it is that the character of a brave and, as far as appears, a
virtuous man, is most unjustly and cruelly traduced. An incredible
confusion of head, and an uncommon want of reasoning powers, which
distinguish the author to whom I refer, are, I should charitably
hope, the true sources of his misrepresentation; while others may
probably impute it to his desire of blackening, upon any pretence, a
person whose name is more or less connected with those of Sidney and
Russell. It ought not, perhaps, to pass without observation, that
this attack upon Rumbold is introduced only in an oblique manner:
the rigour of government destroyed, says the historian, the morals
it intended to correct, and made the unhappy sufferer add to his
former crimes the atrocity of declaring a falsehood in his last
moments. Now, what particular instances of rigour are here alluded
to, it is difficult to guess: for surely the execution of a man
whom he sets down as guilty of a design to murder the two royal
brothers, could not, even in the judgment of persons much less
accustomed than Sir John to palliate the crimes of princes, be
looked upon as an act of blameable severity; but it was thought,
perhaps, that for the purpose of conveying a calumny upon the
persons concerned, or accused of being concerned, in the Rye House
Plot, an affected censure upon the government would be the fittest

The fact itself, that Rumbold did, in his last hours, solemnly deny
the having been concerned in any project for assassinating the king
or duke, has not, I believe, been questioned. It is not invalidated
by the silence of some historians: it is confirmed by the
misrepresentation of others. The first question that naturally
presents itself must be, was this declaration true? The
asseverations of dying men have always had, and will always have,
great influence upon the minds of those who do not push their ill
opinion of mankind to the most outrageous and unwarrantable length;
but though the weight of such asseverations be in all cases great,
it will not be in all equal. It is material therefore to consider,
first, what are the circumstances which may tend in particular cases
to diminish their credit; and next, how far such circumstances
appear to have existed in the case before us. The case where this
species of evidence would be the least convincing, would be where
hope of pardon is entertained; for then the man is not a dying man
in the sense of the proposition, for he has not that certainty that
his falsehood will not avail him, which is the principal foundation
of the credit due to his assertions. For the same reason, though in
a less degree, he who hopes for favour to his children, or to other
surviving connections, is to be listened to with some caution; for
the existence of one virtue does not necessarily prove that of
another, and he who loves his children and friends may yet be
profligate and unprincipled; or, deceiving himself, may think that
while his ends are laudable, he ought not to hesitate concerning the
means. Besides these more obvious temptations to prevarication,
there is another which, though it may lie somewhat deeper, yet
experience teaches us to be rooted in human nature: I mean that
sort of obstinacy, or false shame, which makes men so unwilling to
retract what they have once advanced, whether in matter of opinion
or of fact. The general character of the man is also in this, as in
all other human testimony, a circumstance of the greatest moment.
Where none of the above-mentioned objections occur, and where
therefore the weight of evidence in question is confessedly
considerable, yet is it still liable to be balanced or outweighed by
evidence in the opposite scale.

Let Rumbold's declaration, then, be examined upon these principles,
and we shall find that it has every character of truth, without a
single circumstance to discredit it. He was so far from
entertaining any hope of pardon, that he did not seem even to wish
it; and indeed if he had had any such chimerical object in view, he
must have known that to have supplied the government with a proof of
the Rye House assassination plot, would be a more likely road at
least, than a steady denial, to obtain it. He left none behind him
for whom to entreat favour, or whose welfare or honour was at all
affected by any confession or declaration he might make. If, in a
prospective view, he was without temptation, so neither, if he
looked back, was he fettered by any former declaration; so that he
could not be influenced by that erroneous notion of consistency to
which it may be feared that truth, even in the most awful moments,
has in some cases been sacrificed. His timely escape in 1683 had
saved him from the necessity of making any protestation upon the
subject of his innocence at that time; and the words of the letter
to Walcot are so far from containing such a protestation, that they
are quoted (very absurdly, it is true) by Sir John Dalrymple as an
avowal of guilt. If his testimony is free from these particular
objections, much less is it impeached by his general character,
which was that of a bold and daring man, who was very unlikely to
feel shame in avowing what he had not been ashamed to commit, and
who seems to have taken a delight in speaking bold truths, or at
least what appeared to him to be such, without regarding the manner
in which his hearers were likely to receive them. With respect to
the last consideration, that of the opposite evidence, it all
depends upon the veracity of men who, according to their own
account, betrayed their comrades, and were actuated by the hope
either of pardon or reward.

It appears to be of the more consequence to clear up this matter,
because if we should be of opinion, as I think we all must be, that
the story of the intended assassination of the king, in his way from
Newmarket, is as fabulous as that of the silver bullets by which he
was to have been shot at Windsor, a most singular train of
reflections will force itself upon our minds, as well in regard to
the character of the times, as to the means by which the two causes
gained successively the advantage over each other. The Royalists
had found it impossible to discredit the fiction, gross as it was,
of the popish plot; nor could they prevent it from being a powerful
engine in the hands of the Whigs, who, during the alarm raised by
it, gained an irresistible superiority in the House of Commons, in
the City of London, and in most parts of the kingdom. But they who
could not quiet a false alarm raised by their adversaries, found
little or no difficulty in raising one equally false in their own
favour, by the supposed detection of the intended assassination.
With regard to the advantages derived to the respective parties from
those detestable fictions, if it be urged, on one hand, that the
panic spread by the Whigs was more universal and more violent in its
effects, it must be allowed, on the other, that the advantages
gained by the Tories were, on account of their alliance with the
crown, more durable and decisive. There is a superior solidity ever
belonging to the power of the crown, as compared with that of any
body of men or party, or even with either of the other branches of
the legislature. A party has influence, but, properly speaking, no
power. The Houses of Parliament have abundance of power, but, as
bodies, little or no influence. The crown has both power and
influence, which, when exerted with wisdom and steadiness, will
always be found too strong for any opposition whatever, till the
zeal and fidelity of party attachments shall be found to increase in
proportion to the increased influence of the executive power.

While these matters were transacting in Scotland, Monmouth,
conformably to his promise to Argyle, set sail from Holland, and
landed at Lyme in Dorsetshire, on the 11th of June. He was attended
by Lord Grey of Wark, Fletcher of Saltoun, Colonel Matthews,
Ferguson, and a few other gentlemen. His reception was, among the
lower ranks, cordial, and for some days at least, if not weeks,
there seemed to have been more foundation for the sanguine hopes of
Lord Grey and others, his followers, than the duke had supposed.
The first step taken by the invader was to issue a proclamation,
which he caused to be read in the market-place. In this instrument
he touched upon what were, no doubt, thought to be the most popular
topics, and loaded James and his Catholic friends with every
imputation which had at any time been thrown against them. This
declaration appears to have been well received, and the numbers that
came in to him were very considerable; but his means of arming them
were limited, nor had he much confidence, for the purpose of any
important military operation, in men unused to discipline, and
wholly unacquainted with the art of war. Without examining the
question whether or not Monmouth, from his professional prejudices,
carried, as some have alleged he did, his diffidence of unpractised
soldiers and new levies too far, it seems clear that, in his
situation, the best, or rather the only chance of success, was to be
looked for in counsels of the boldest kind. If he could not
immediately strike some important stroke, it was not likely that he
ever should; nor indeed was he in a condition to wait. He could not
flatter himself, as Argyle had done, that he had a strong country,
full of relations and dependants, where he might secure himself till
the co-operation of his confederate or some other favourable
circumstance might put it in his power to act more efficaciously.
Of any brilliant success in Scotland he could not, at this time,
entertain any hope, nor, if he had, could he rationally expect that
any events in that quarter would make the sort of impression here
which, on the other hand, his success would produce in Scotland.
With money he was wholly unprovided; nor does it appear, whatever
may have been the inclination of some considerable men, such as
Lords Macclesfield, Brandon, Delamere, and others, that any persons
of that description were engaged to join in his enterprise. His
reception had been above his hopes, and his recruits more numerous
than could be expected, or than he was able to furnish with arms;
while, on the other hand, the forces in arms against him consisted
chiefly in a militia, formidable neither from numbers nor
discipline, and moreover suspected of disaffection. The present
moment, therefore, seemed to offer the most favourable opportunity
for enterprise of any that was likely to occur; but the unfortunate
Monmouth judged otherwise, and, as if he were to defend rather than
to attack, directed his chief policy to the avoiding of a general

It being, however, absolutely necessary to dislodge some troops
which the Earl of Feversham had thrown into Bridport, a detachment
of three hundred men was made for that purpose, which had the most
complete success, notwithstanding the cowardice of Lord Grey, who
commanded them. This nobleman, who had been so instrumental in
persuading his friend to the invasion, upon the first appearance of
danger is said to have left the troops whom he commanded, and to
have sought his own personal safety in flight. The troops carried
Bridport, to the shame of the commander who had deserted them, and
returned to Lyme.

It is related by Ferguson that Monmouth said to Matthews, "What
shall I do with Lord Grey?" To which the other answered, "That he
was the only general in Europe who would ask such a question;"
intending, no doubt, to reproach the duke with the excess to which
he pushed his characteristic virtues of mildness and forbearance.
That these virtues formed a part of his character is most true, and
the personal friendship in which he had lived with Grey would
incline him still more to the exercise of them upon this occasion;
but it is to be remembered also that the delinquent was, in respect
of rank, property, and perhaps too of talent, by far the most
considerable man he had with him; and, therefore, that prudential
motives might concur to deter a general from proceeding to violent
measures with such a person, especially in a civil war, where the
discipline of an armed party cannot be conducted upon the same
system as that of a regular army serving in a foreign war.
Monmouth's disappointment in Lord Grey was aggravated by the loss of
Fletcher of Saltoun, who, in a sort of scuffle that ensued upon his
being reproached for having seized a horse belonging to a man of the
country, had the misfortune to kill the owner. Monmouth, however
unwilling, thought himself obliged to dismiss him; and thus, while a
fatal concurrence of circumstances forced him to part with the man
he esteemed, and to retain him whom he despised, he found himself at
once disappointed of the support of the two persons upon whom he had
most relied.

On the 15th of June, his army being now increased to near three
thousand men, the duke marched from Lyme. He does not appear to
have taken this step with a view to any enterprise of importance,
but rather to avoid the danger which he apprehended from the motions
of the Devonshire and Somerset militias, whose object it seemed to
be to shut him up in Lyme. In his first day's march he had
opportunities of engaging, or rather of pursuing, each of those
bodies, who severally retreated from his forces; but conceiving it
to be his business, as he said, not to fight, but to march on, he
went through Axminster, and encamped in a strong piece of ground
between that town and Chard in Somersetshire, to which place he
proceeded on the ensuing day. According to Wade's narrative, which
appears to afford by far the most authentic account of these
transactions, here it was that the first proposition was made for
proclaiming Monmouth king. Ferguson made the proposal, and was
supported by Lord Grey, but it was easily run down, as Wade
expresses it, by those who were against it, and whom, therefore, we
must suppose to have formed a very considerable majority of the
persons deemed of sufficient importance to be consulted on such an
occasion. These circumstances are material, because if that credit
be given to them which they appear to deserve, Ferguson's want of
veracity becomes so notorious, that it is hardly worth while to
attend to any part of his narrative. Where it only corroborates
accounts given by others, it is of little use; and where it differs
from them, it deserves no credit. I have, therefore, wholly
disregarded it.

From Chard, Monmouth and his party proceeded to Taunton, a town
where, as well from the tenor of former occurrences as from the zeal
and number of the Protestant dissenters, who formed a great portion
of its inhabitants, he had every reason to expect the most
favourable reception. His expectations were not disappointed.

The inhabitants of the upper, as well as the lower classes, vied
with each other in testifying their affection for his person, and
their zeal for his cause. While the latter rent the air with
applauses and acclamations, the former opened their houses to him
and to his followers, and furnished his army with necessaries and
supplies of every kind. His way was strewed with flowers; the
windows were thronged with spectators, all anxious to participate in
what the warm feelings of the moment made them deem a triumph.
Husbands pointed out to their wives, mothers to their children, the
brave and lovely hero who was destined to be the deliverer of his
country. The beautiful lines which Dryden makes Achitophel, in his
highest strain of flattery, apply to this unfortunate nobleman, were
in this instance literally verified:

"Thee, saviour, thee, the nation's vows confess,
And, never satisfied with seeing, bless.
Swift unbespoken pomps thy steps proclaim,
And stammering babes are taught to lisp thy name."

In the midst of these joyous scenes twenty-six young maids, of the
best families in the town, presented him in the name of their
townsmen with colours wrought by them for the purpose, and with a
Bible; upon receiving which he said that he had taken the field with
a design to defend the truth contained in that Book, and to seal it
with his blood if there was occasion.

In such circumstances it is no wonder that his army increased; and,
indeed, exclusive of individual recruits, he was here strengthened
by the arrival of Colonel Bassett with a considerable corps. But in
the midst of these prosperous circumstances, some of them of such
apparent importance to the success of his enterprise, all of them
highly flattering to his feelings, he did not fail to observe that
one favourable symptom (and that too of the most decisive nature)
was still wanting. None of the considerable families, not a single
nobleman, and scarcely any gentleman of rank and consequence in the
counties through which he had passed, had declared in his favour.
Popular applause is undoubtedly sweet; and not only so, it often
furnishes most powerful means to the genius that knows how to make
use of them. But Monmouth well knew that without the countenance
and assistance of a proportion, at least, of the higher ranks in the
country, there was, for an undertaking like his, little prospect of
success. He could not but have remarked that the habits and
prejudices of the English people are, in a great degree,
aristocratical; nor had he before him, nor indeed have we since his
time, had one single example of an insurrection that was successful,
unaided by the ancient families and great landed proprietors. He
must have felt this the more, because in former parts of his
political life he had been accustomed to act with such coadjutors;
and it is highly probable that if Lord Russell had been alive, and
could have appeared at the head of one hundred only of his western
tenantry, such a reinforcement would have inspired him with more
real confidence than the thousands who individually flocked to his

But though Russell was no more, there were not wanting, either in
the provinces through which the duke passed, or in other parts of
the kingdom, many noble and wealthy families who were attached to
the principles of the Whigs. To account for their neutrality, and,
if possible, to persuade them to a different conduct, was naturally
among his principal concerns. Their present coldness might be
imputed to the indistinctness of his declarations with respect to
what was intended to be the future government. Men zealous for
monarchy might not choose to embark without some certain pledge that
their favourite form should be preserved. They would also expect to
be satisfied with respect to the person whom their arms, if
successful, were to place upon the throne. To promise, therefore,
the continuance of a monarchical establishment, and to designate the
future monarch, seemed to be necessary for the purpose of acquiring
aristocratical support. Whatever might be the intrinsic weight of
this argument, it easily made its way with Monmouth in his present
situation. The aspiring temper of mind which is the natural
consequence of popular favour and success, produced in him a
disposition to listen to any suggestion which tended to his
elevation and aggrandisement; and when he could persuade himself,
upon reasons specious at least, that the measures which would most
gratify his aspiring desires would be, at the same time, a stroke of
the soundest policy, it is not to be wondered at that it was
immediately and impatiently adopted. Urged, therefore, by these
mixed motives, he declared himself king, and issued divers
proclamations in the royal style; assigning to those whose
approbation he doubted the reasons above adverted to, and
proscribing and threatening with the punishment due to rebellion
such as should resist his mandates, and adhere to the usurping Duke
of York.

If this measure was in reality taken with views of policy, those
views were miserably disappointed; for it does not appear that one
proselyte was gained. The threats in the proclamation were received
with derision by the king's army, and no other sentiments were
excited by the assumption of the royal title than those of contempt
and indignation. The commonwealthsmen were dissatisfied, of course,
with the principle of the measure: the favourers of hereditary
right held it in abhorrence, and considered it as a kind of
sacrilegious profanation; nor even among those who considered
monarchy in a more rational light, and as a magistracy instituted
for the good of the people, could it be at all agreeable that such a
magistrate should be elected by the army that had thronged to his
standard, or by the particular partiality of a provincial town.
Monmouth's strength, therefore, was by no means increased by his new
title, and seemed to be still limited to two descriptions of
persons; first, those who, from thoughtlessness or desperation, were
willing to join in any attempt at innovation; secondly, such as,
directing their views to a single point, considered the destruction
of James's tyranny as the object which, at all hazards, and without
regard to consequences, they were bound to pursue. On the other
hand, his reputation both for moderation and good faith was
considerably impaired, inasmuch as his present conduct was in direct
contradiction to that part of his declaration wherein he had
promised to leave the future adjustment of government, and
especially the consideration of his own claims, to a free and
independent parliament.

The notion of improving his new levies by discipline seems to have
taken such possession of Monmouth's mind that he overlooked the
probable, or rather the certain, consequences of a delay, by which
the enemy would be enabled to bring into the field forces far better
disciplined and appointed than any which, even with the most
strenuous and successful exertions, he could hope to oppose to them.
Upon this principle, and especially as he had not yet fixed upon any
definite object of enterprise, he did not think a stay of a few days
at Taunton would be materially, if at all, prejudicial to his
affairs; and it was not till the 21st of June that he proceeded to
Bridgewater, where he was received in the most cordial manner. In
his march, the following day, from that town to Glastonbury, he was
alarmed by a party of the Earl of Oxford's horse; but all
apprehensions of any material interruptions were removed by an
account of the militia having left Wells, and retreated to Bath and
Bristol. From Glastonbury he went to Shipton-Mallet, where the
project of an attack upon Bristol was communicated by the duke to
his officers. After some discussion, it was agreed that the attack
should be made on the Gloucestershire side of the city, and with
that view to pass the Avon at Keynsham Bridge, a few miles from
Bath. In their march from Shipton-Mallet, the troops were again
harassed in their rear by a party of horse and dragoons, but lodged
quietly at night at a village called Pensford. A detachment was
sent early the next morning to possess itself of Keynsham, and to
repair the bridge, which might probably be broken down to prevent a
passage. Upon their approach, a troop of the Gloucestershire horse-
militia immediately abandoned the town in great precipitation,
leaving behind them two horses and one man. By break of day, the
bridge, which had not been much injured, was repaired, and before
noon, Monmouth, having passed it with his whole army, was in full
march to Bristol, which he determined to attack the ensuing night.
But the weather proving rainy and bad, it was deemed expedient to
return to Keynsham, a measure from which he expected to reap a
double advantage; to procure dry and commodious quarters for the
soldiery, and to lull the enemy, by a movement, which bore the
semblance of a retreat, into a false and delusive security. The
event, however, did not answer his expectation, for the troops had
scarcely taken up their quarters, when they were disturbed by two
parties of horse, who entered the town at two several places. An
engagement ensued, in which Monmouth lost fourteen men, and a
captain of horse, though in the end the Royalists were obliged to
retire, leaving three prisoners. From these the duke had
information that the king's army was near at hand, and, as they
said, about four thousand strong.

This new state of affairs seemed to demand new councils. The
projected enterprise upon Bristol was laid aside, and the question
was, whether to make by forced marches for Gloucester, in order to
pass the Severn at that city, and so to gain the counties of Salop
and Chester, where he expected to be met by many friends, or to
march directly into Wiltshire, where, according to some intelligence
received ["from one Adlam"] the day before, there was a considerable
body of horse (under whose command does not appear) ready, by their
junction, to afford him a most important and seasonable support. To
the first of these plans a decisive objection was stated. The
distance by Gloucester was so great, that, considering the slow
marches to which he would be limited, by the daily attacks with
which the different small bodies of the enemy's cavalry would not
fail to harass his rear, he was in great danger of being overtaken
by the king's forces, and might thus be driven to risk all in an
engagement upon terms the most disadvantageous. On the contrary, if
joined in Wiltshire by the expected aids, he might confidently offer
battle to the royal army; and, provided he could bring them to an
action before they were strengthened by new reinforcements, there
was no unreasonable prospect of success. The latter plan was
therefore adopted, and no sooner adopted than put in execution. The
army was in motion without delay, and being before Bath on the
morning of the 26th of June, summoned the place, rather (as it
should seem) in sport than in earnest, as there was no hope of its
surrender. After this bravado they marched on southward to Philip's
Norton, where they rested; the horse in the town, and the foot in
the field.

While Monmouth was making these marches, there were not wanting, in
many parts of the adjacent country, strong symptoms of the
attachment of the lower orders of people to his cause, and more
especially in those manufacturing towns where the Protestant
dissenters were numerous. In Froome there had been a considerable
rising, headed by the constable, who posted up the duke's
declaration in the market-place. Many of the inhabitants of the
neighbouring towns of Westbury and Warminster came in throngs to the
town to join the insurgents; some armed with fire-arms, but more
with such rustic weapons as opportunity could supply. Such a force,
if it had joined the main army, or could have been otherwise
directed by any leader of judgment and authority, might have proved
very serviceable; but in its present state it was a mere rabble, and
upon the first appearance of the Earl of Pembroke, who entered the
town with a hundred and sixty horse and forty musketeers, fell, as
might be expected, into total confusion. The rout was complete; all
the arms of the insurgents were seized; and the constable, after
having been compelled to abjure his principles, and confess the
enormity of his offence, was committed to prison.

This transaction took place the 25th, the day before Monmouth's
arrival at Philip's Norton, and may have, in a considerable degree,
contributed to the disappointment, of which we learn from Wade, that
he at this time began bitterly to complain. He was now upon the
confines of Wiltshire, and near enough for the bodies of horse, upon
whose favourable intentions so much reliance had been placed, to
have effected a junction, if they had been so disposed; but whether
that Adlam's intelligence had been originally bad, or that
Pembroke's proceedings at Froome had intimidated them, no symptom of
such an intention could be discovered. A desertion took place in
his army, which the exaggerated accounts in the Gazette made to
amount to near two thousand men. These dispiriting circumstances,
added to the complete disappointment of the hopes entertained from
the assumption of the royal title, produced in him a state of mind
but little short of despondency. He complained that all people had
deserted him, and is said to have been so dejected, as hardly to
have the spirit requisite for giving the necessary orders.

From this state of torpor, however, he appears to have been
effectually roused by a brisk attack that was made upon him on the
27th, in the morning, by the Royalists, under the command of his
half-brother, the Duke of Grafton. That spirited young nobleman
(whose intrepid courage, conspicuous upon every occasion, led him in
this, and many other instances, to risk a life, which he finally
lost in a better cause), heading an advanced detachment of Lord
Feversham's army, who had marched from Bath, with a view to fall on
the enemy's rear, marched boldly up a narrow lane leading to the
town, and attacked a barricade, which Monmouth had caused to be made
across the way, at the entrance of the town. Monmouth was no sooner
apprised of this brisk attack, than he ordered a party to go out of
the town by a by-way, who coming on the rear of the Grenadiers while
others of his men were engaged with their front, had nearly
surrounded them, and taken their commander prisoner, but Grafton
forced his way through the enemy. An engagement ensued between the
insurgents and the remainder of Feversham's detachment, who had
lined the hedges which flanked them. The former were victorious,
and after driving the enemy from hedge to hedge, forced them at last
into the open field, where they joined the rest of the king's
forces, newly come up. The killed and wounded in these encounters
amounted to about forty on Feversham's side, twenty on Monmouth's;
but among the latter there were several officers, and some of note,
while the loss of the former, with the exception of two volunteers,
Seymour and May, consisted entirely of common soldiers.

The Royalists now drew up on an eminence, about five hundred paces
from the hedges, while Monmouth, having placed, of his four field-
pieces, two at the mouth of the lane, and two upon a rising ground
near it on the right, formed his army along the hedge. From these
stations a firing of artillery was begun on each side, and continued
near six hours, but with little or no effect. Monmouth, according
to Wade, losing but one, and the Royalists, according to the
Gazette, not one man, by the whole cannonade. In these
circumstances, notwithstanding the recent and convincing experience
he now had of the ability of his raw troops to face, in certain
situations at least, the more regular forces of his enemy, Monmouth
was advised by some to retreat; but upon a more general
consultation, this advice was over-ruled, and it was determined to
cut passages through the hedges and to offer battle. But before
this could be effected the royal army, not willing again to engage
among the enclosures, annoyed in the open field by the rain which
continued to fall very heavily, and disappointed, no doubt, at the
little effect of their artillery, began their retreat. The little
confidence which Monmouth had in his horse--perhaps the ill opinion
he now entertained of their leader--forbade him to think of pursuit,
and having stayed till a late hour in the field, and leaving large
fires burning, he set out on his march in the night, and on the
28th, in the morning, reached Froome, where he put his troops in
quarter and rested two days.

It was here he first heard certain news of Argyle's discomfiture.
It was in vain to seek for any circumstance in his affairs that
might mitigate the effect of the severe blow inflicted by this
intelligence, and he relapsed into the same low spirits as at
Philip's Norton. No diversion, at least no successful diversion,
had been made in his favour: there was no appearance of the horse,
which had been the principal motive to allure him into that part of
the country; and what was worst of all, no desertion from the king's
army. It was manifest, said the duke's more timid advisers, that
the affair must terminate ill, and the only measure now to be taken
was, that the general with his officers should leave the army to
shift for itself, and make severally for the most convenient sea-
ports, whence they might possibly get a safe passage to the
Continent. To account for Monmouth's entertaining, even for a
moment, a thought so unworthy of him, and so inconsistent with the
character for spirit he had ever maintained--a character unimpeached
even by his enemies--we must recollect the unwillingness with which
he undertook this fatal expedition; that his engagement to Argyle,
who was now past help, was perhaps his principal motive for
embarking at the time; that it was with great reluctance he had torn
himself from the arms of Lady Harriet Wentworth, with whom he had so
firmly persuaded himself that he could be happy in the most obscure
retirement, that he believed himself weaned from ambition, which had
hitherto been the only passion of his mind. It is true, that when
he had once yielded to the solicitations of his friends so far as to
undertake a business of such magnitude, it was his duty (but a duty
that required a stronger mind than his to execute) to discard from
his thoughts all the arguments that had rendered his compliance
reluctant. But it is one of the great distinctions between an
ordinary mind and a superior one, to be able to carry on without
relenting a plan we have not originally approved, and especially
when it appears to have turned out ill. This proposal of disbanding
was a step so pusillanimous and dishonourable that it could not be
approved by any council, however composed. It was condemned by all
except Colonel Venner, and was particularly inveighed against by
Lord Grey, who was perhaps desirous of retrieving, by bold words at
least, the reputation he had lost at Bridport. It is possible, too,
that he might be really unconscious of his deficiency in point of
personal courage till the moment of danger arrived, and even
forgetful of it when it was passed. Monmouth was easily persuaded
to give up a plan so uncongenial to his nature, resolved, though
with little hope of success, to remain with his army to take the
chance of events, and at the worst to stand or fall with men whose
attachment to him had laid him under indelible obligations.

This resolution being taken, the first plan was to proceed to
Warminster, but on the morning of his departure hearing, on the one
hand, that the king's troops were likely to cross his march, and on
the other, being informed by a quaker, before known to the duke,
that there was a great club army, amounting to ten thousand men,
ready to join his standard in the marshes to the westward, he
altered his intention, and returned to Shipton-Mallet, where he
rested that night, his army being in good quarters. From Shipton-
Mallet he proceeded, on the 1st of July, to Wells, upon information
that there were in that city some carriages belonging to the king's
army, and ill-guarded. These he found and took, and stayed that
night in the town. The following day he marched towards Bridgewater
in search of the great succour he had been taught to expect; but
found, of the promised ten thousand men, only a hundred and sixty.
The army lay that night in the field, and once again entered
Bridgewater on the 3rd of July. That the duke's men were not yet
completely dispirited or out of heart appears from the circumstance
of great numbers of them going from Bridgewater to see their friends
at Taunton, and other places in the neighbourhood, and almost all
returning the next day according to their promise. On the 5th an
account was received of the king's army being considerably advanced,
and Monmouth's first thought was to retreat from it immediately, and
marching by Axbridge and Keynsham to Gloucester, to pursue the plan
formerly rejected, of penetrating into the counties of Chester and

His preparations for this march were all made, when, on the
afternoon of the 5th, he learnt, more accurately than he had before
done, the true situation of the royal army, and from the information
now received, he thought it expedient to consult his principal
officers, whether it might not be advisable to attempt to surprise
the enemy by a night attack upon their quarters. The prevailing
opinion was, that if the infantry were not entrenched the plan was
worth the trial; otherwise not. Scouts were despatched to ascertain
this point, and their report being that there was no entrenchment,
an attack was resolved on. In pursuance of this resolution, at
about eleven at night, the whole army was in march, Lord Grey
commanding the horse, and Colonel Wade the vanguard of the foot.
The duke's orders were, that the horse should first advance, and
pushing into the enemy's camp, endeavour to prevent their infantry
from coming together; that the cannon should follow the horse, and
the foot the cannon, and draw all up in one line, and so finish what
the cavalry should have begun, before the king's horse and artillery
could be got in order. But it was now discovered that though there
were no entrenchments, there was a ditch which served as a drain to
the great moor adjacent, of which no mention had been made by the
scouts. To this ditch the horse under Lord Grey advanced, and no
farther; and whether immediately, as according to some accounts, or
after having been considerably harassed by the enemy in their
attempts to find a place to pass, according to others, quitted the
field. The cavalry being gone, and the principle upon which the
attack had been undertaken being that of a surprise, the duke judged
it necessary that the infantry should advance as speedily as
possible. Wade, therefore, when he came within forty paces of the
ditch, was obliged to halt to put his battalion into that order,
which the extreme rapidity of the march had for the time
disconcerted. His plan was to pass the ditch, reserving his fire;
but while he was arranging his men for that purpose, another
battalion, newly come up, began to fire, though at a considerable
distance; a bad example, which it was impossible to prevent the
vanguard from following, and it was now no longer in the power of
their commander to persuade them to advance. The king's forces, as
well horse and artillery as foot, had now full time to assemble.
The duke had no longer cavalry in the field, and though his
artillery, which consisted only of three or four iron guns, was well
served under the directions of a Dutch gunner, it was by no means
equal to that of the royal army, which, as soon as it was light,
began to do great execution. In these circumstances the unfortunate
Monmouth, fearful of being encompassed and made prisoner by the
king's cavalry, who were approaching upon his flank, and urged, as
it is reported, to flight by the same person who had stimulated him
to his fatal enterprise, quitted the field accompanied by Lord Grey
and some others. The left wing, under the command of Colonel Holmes
and Matthews, next gave way; and Wade's men, after having continued
for an hour and a half a distant and ineffectual fire, seeing their
left discomfited, began a retreat, which soon afterwards became a
complete rout.

Thus ended the decisive battle of Sedgmoor; an attack which seems to
have been judiciously conceived, and in many parts spiritedly
executed. The general was deficient neither in courage nor conduct;
and the troops, while they displayed the native bravery of
Englishmen, were under as good discipline as could be expected from
bodies newly raised. Two circumstances seem to have principally
contributed to the loss of the day; first, the unforeseen difficulty
occasioned by the ditch, of which the assailants had had no
intelligence; and secondly, the cowardice of the commander of the
horse. The discovery of the ditch was the more alarming, because it
threw a general doubt upon the information of the spies, and the
night being dark they could not ascertain that this was the only
impediment of the kind which they were to expect. The dispersion of
the horse was still more fatal, inasmuch as it deranged the whole
order of the plan, by which it had been concerted that their
operations were to facilitate the attack to be made by the foot. If
Lord Grey had possessed a spirit more suitable to his birth and
name, to the illustrious friendship with which he had been honoured,
and to the command with which he was entrusted, he would doubtless
have persevered till he found a passage into the enemy's camp, which
could have been effected at a ford not far distant: the loss of
time occasioned by the ditch might not have been very material, and
the most important consequences might have ensued; but it would
surely be rashness to assert, as Hume does, that the army would
after all have gained the victory had not the misconduct of Monmouth
and the cowardice of Grey prevented it. This rash judgment is the
more to be admired, as the historian has not pointed out the
instance of misconduct to which he refers. The number of Monmouth's
men killed is computed by some at two thousand, by others at three
hundred--a disparity, however, which may be easily reconciled, by
supposing that the one account takes in those who were killed in
battle, while the other comprehends the wretched fugitives who were
massacred in ditches, corn-fields, and other hiding-places, the
following day.

In general, I have thought it right to follow Wade's narrative,
which appears to me by far the most authentic, if not the only
authentic account of this important transaction. It is imperfect,
but its imperfection arises from the narrator's omitting all those
circumstances of which he was not an eye-witness, and the greater
credit is on that very account due to him for those which he
relates. With respect to Monmouth's quitting the field, it is not
mentioned by him, nor is it possible to ascertain the precise point
of time at which it happened. That he fled while his troops were
still fighting, and therefore too soon for his glory, can scarcely
be doubted; and the account given by Ferguson, whose veracity,
however, is always to be suspected, that Lord Grey urged him to the
measure, as well by persuasion as by example, seems not improbable.
This misbehaviour of the last-mentioned nobleman is more certain;
but as, according to Ferguson, who has been followed by others, he
actually conversed with Monmouth in the field, and as all accounts
make him the companion of his flight, it is not to be understood
that when he first gave way with his cavalry, he ran away in the
literal sense of the words, or if he did, he must have returned.
The exact truth, with regard to this and many other interesting
particulars, is difficult to be discovered; owing, not more to the
darkness of the night in which they were transacted, than to the
personal partialities and enmities by which they have been
disfigured, in the relations of the different contemporary writers.

Monmouth with his suite first directed his course towards the
Bristol Channel, and as is related by Oldmixon, was once inclined,
at the suggestion of Dr. Oliver, a faithful and honest adviser, to
embark for the coast of Wales, with a view of concealing himself
some time in that principality. Lord Grey, who appears to have
been, in all instances, his evil genius, dissuaded him from this
plan, and the small party having separated, took each several ways.
Monmouth, Grey, and a gentleman of Brandenburg, went southward, with
a view to gain the New Forest in Hampshire, where, by means of
Grey's connections in that district, and thorough knowledge of the
country, it was hoped they might be in safety, till a vessel could
be procured to transport them to the Continent. They left their
horses, and disguised themselves as peasants; but the pursuit,
stimulated as well by party zeal as by the great pecuniary rewards
offered for the capture of Monmouth and Grey, was too vigilant to be
eluded. Grey was taken on the 7th in the evening; and the German,
who shared the same fate early on the next morning, confessed that
he had parted from Monmouth but a few hours since. The neighbouring
country was immediately and thoroughly searched, and James had ere
night the satisfaction of learning that his nephew was in his power.
The unfortunate duke was discovered in a ditch, half concealed by
fern and nettles. His stock of provision, which consisted of some
peas gathered in the fields through which he had fled, was nearly
exhausted, and there is reason to think that he had little, if any
other sustenance, since he left Bridgewater on the evening of the
5th. To repose he had been equally a stranger; how his mind must
have been harassed, it is needless to discuss. Yet that in such
circumstances he appeared dispirited and crestfallen, is, by the
unrelenting malignity of party writers, imputed to him as cowardice
and meanness of spirit. That the failure of his enterprise,
together with the bitter reflection that he had suffered himself to
be engaged in it against his own better judgment, joined to the
other calamitous circumstances of his situation, had reduced him to
a state of despondency, is evident; and in this frame of mind, he
wrote, on the very day of his capture, the following letter to the

"Sir,--Your majesty may think it the misfortune I now lie under
makes me make this application to you; but I do assure your majesty,
it is the remorse I now have in me of the wrong I have done you in
several things, and now in taking up arms against you. For my
taking up arms, it was never in my thought since the king died: the
Prince and Princess of Orange will be witness for me of the
assurance I gave them, that I would never stir against you. But my
misfortune was such as to meet with some horrid people, that made me
believe things of your majesty, and gave me so many false arguments,
that I was fully led away to believe that it was a shame and a sin
before God not to do it. But, sir, I will not trouble your majesty
at present with many things I could say for myself, that I am sure
would move your compassion; the chief end of this letter being only
to beg of you, that I may have that happiness as to speak to your
majesty; for I have that to say to you, sir, that I hope may give
you a long and happy reign.

"I am sure, sir, when you hear me, you will be convinced of the zeal
I have of your preservation, and how heartily I repent of what I
have done. I can say no more to your majesty now, being this letter
must be seen by those that keep me. Therefore, sir, I shall make an
end in begging of your majesty to believe so well of me, that I
would rather die a thousand deaths than excuse anything I have done,
if I did not really think myself the most in the wrong that ever a
man was, and had not from the bottom of my heart an abhorrence for
those that put me upon it, and for the action itself. I hope, sir,
God Almighty will strike your heart with mercy and compassion for
me, as he has done mine with the abhorrence of what I have done:
wherefore, sir, I hope I may live to show you how zealous I shall
ever be for your service; and could I but say one word in this
letter, you would be convinced of it; but it is of that consequence,
that I dare not do it. Therefore, sir, I do beg of you once more to
let me speak to you; for then you will be convinced how much I shall
ever be, your majesty's most humble and dutiful


The only certain conclusion to be drawn from this letter, which Mr.
Echard, in a manner perhaps not so seemly for a Churchman, terms
submissive, is, that Monmouth still wished anxiously for life, and
was willing to save it, even at the cruel price of begging and
receiving it as a boon from his enemy. Ralph conjectures with great
probability that this unhappy man's feelings were all governed by
his excessive affection for his mistress and that a vain hope of
enjoying, with Lady Harriet Wentworth, that retirement which he had
so unwillingly abandoned, induced him to adopt a conduct, which he
might otherwise have considered as indecent. At any rate it must be
admitted that to cling to life is a strong instinct in human nature,
and Monmouth might reasonably enough satisfy himself, that when his
death could not by any possibility benefit either the public or his
friends, to follow such instinct, even in a manner that might
tarnish the splendour of heroism, was no impeachment of the moral
virtue of a man.

With respect to the mysterious part of the letter, where he speaks
of one word which would be of such infinite importance, it is
difficult, if not rather utterly impossible, to explain it by any
rational conjecture. Mr. Macpherson's favourite hypothesis, that
the Prince of Orange had been a party to the late attempt, and that
Monmouth's intention, when he wrote the letter, was to disclose this
important fact to the king, is totally destroyed by those
expressions, in which the unfortunate prisoner tells his majesty he
had assured the Prince and Princess of Orange that he would never
stir against him. Did he assure the Prince of Orange that he would
never do that which he was engaged to the Prince of Orange to do?
Can it be said that this was a false fact, and that no such
assurances were in truth given? To what purpose was the falsehood?
In order to conceal from motives, whether honourable or otherwise,
his connection with the prince? What! a fiction in one paragraph of
the letter in order to conceal a fact, which in the next he declares
his intention of revealing? The thing is impossible.

The intriguing character of the Secretary of State, the Earl of
Sunderland, whose duplicity in many instances cannot be doubted, and
the mystery in which almost everything relating to him is involved,
might lead us to suspect that the expressions point at some
discovery in which that nobleman was concerned, and that Monmouth
had it in his power to be of important service to James, by
revealing to him the treachery of his minister. Such a conjecture
might be strengthened by an anecdote that has had some currency, and
to the truth of which, in part, King James's "Memoirs," if the
extracts from them can be relied on, bear testimony. It is said
that the Duke of Monmouth told Mr. Ralph Sheldon, one of the king's
chamber, who came to meet him on his way to London, that he had had
reason to expect Sunderland's co-operation, and authorised Sheldon
to mention this to the king: that while Sheldon was relating this
to his majesty, Sunderland entered; Sheldon hesitated, but was
ordered to go on. "Sunderland seemed, at first, struck" (as well he
might, whether innocent or guilty), "but after a short time said,
with a laugh, 'If that be all he (Monmouth) can discover to save his
life, it will do him little good.'" It is to be remarked, that in
Sheldon's conversation, as alluded to by King James, the Prince of
Orange's name is not even mentioned, either as connected with
Monmouth or with Sunderland. But, on the other hand, the
difficulties that stand in the way of our interpreting Monmouth's
letter as alluding to Sunderland, or of supposing that the writer of
it had any well-founded accusation against that minister, are
insurmountable. If he had such an accusation to make, why did he
not make it? The king says expressly, both in a letter to the
Prince of Orange, and in the extract, from his "Memoirs," above
cited, that Monmouth made no discovery of consequence, and the
explanation suggested, that his silence was owing to Sunderland the
secretary's having assured him of his pardon, seems wholly
inadmissible. Such assurances could have their influence no longer
than while the hope of pardon remained. Why, then, did he continue
silent, when he found James inexorable? If he was willing to accuse
the earl before he had received these assurances, it is
inconceivable that he should have any scruple about doing it when
they turned out to have been delusive, and when his mind must have
been exasperated by the reflection that Sunderland's perfidious
promises and self-interested suggestions had deterred him from the
only probable means of saving his life.

A third, and perhaps the most plausible, interpretation of the words
in question is, that they point to a discovery of Monmouth's friends
in England, when, in the dejected state of his mind at the time of
writing, unmanned as he was by misfortune, he might sincerely
promise what the return of better thoughts forbade him to perform.
This account, however, though free from the great absurdities
belonging to the two others, is by no means satisfactory. The
phrase, "one word," seems to relate rather to some single person, or
some single fact, and can hardly apply to any list of associates
that might be intended to be sacrificed. On the other hand, the
single denunciation of Lord Delamere, of Lord Brandon, or even of
the Earl of Devonshire, or of any other private individual, could
not be considered as of that extreme consequence which Monmouth
attaches to his promised disclosure. I have mentioned Lord
Devonshire, who was certainly not implicated in the enterprise, and
who was not even suspected, because it appears, from Grey's
narrative, that one of Monmouth's agents had once given hopes of his
support; and therefore there is a bare possibility that Monmouth may
have reckoned upon his assistance. Perhaps, after all, the letter
has been canvassed with too much nicety, and the words of it weighed
more scrupulously than, proper allowance being made for the
situation and state of mind of the writer, they ought to have been.
They may have been thrown out at hazard, merely as means to obtain
an interview, of which the unhappy prisoner thought he might, in
some way or other, make his advantage. If any more precise meaning
existed in his mind, we must be content to pass it over as one of
those obscure points of history, upon which neither the sagacity of
historians, nor the many documents since made public, nor the great
discoverer, Time, has yet thrown any distinct light.

Monmouth and Grey were now to be conveyed to London, for which
purpose they set out on the 11th, and arrived in the vicinity of the
metropolis on the 13th of July. In the meanwhile, the queen
dowager, who seems to have behaved with a uniformity of kindness
towards her husband's son that does her great honour, urgently
pressed the king to admit his nephew to an audience. Importuned,
therefore, by entreaties, and instigated by the curiosity which
Monmouth's mysterious expressions, and Sheldon's story, had excited,
he consented, though with a fixed determination to show no mercy.
James was not of the number of those, in whom the want of an
extensive understanding is compensated by a delicacy of sentiment,
or by those right feelings, which are often found to be better
guides for the conduct than the most accurate reasoning. His nature
did not revolt, his blood did not run cold, at the thoughts of
beholding the son of a brother whom he had loved embracing his
knees, petitioning, and petitioning in vain, for life; of
interchanging words and looks with a nephew, on whom he was
inexorably determined, within forty-eight short hours, to inflict an
ignominious death.

In Macpherson's extract from King James's "Memoirs," it is confessed
that the king ought not to have seen, if he was not disposed to
pardon the culprit; but whether the observation is made by the
exiled prince himself, or by him who gives the extract, is in this,
as in many other passages of those "Memoirs," difficult to
determine. Surely if the king had made this reflection before
Monmouth's execution, it must have occurred to that monarch, that if
he had inadvertently done that which he ought not to have done,
without an intention to pardon, the only remedy was to correct that
part of his conduct which was still in his power, and since he could
not recall the interview, to grant the pardon.

Pursuant to this hard-hearted arrangement, Monmouth and Grey, on the
very day of their arrival, were brought to Whitehall, where they had
severally interviews with his majesty. James, in a letter to the
Prince of Orange, dated the following day, gives a short account of
both these interviews. Monmouth, he says, betrayed a weakness which
did not become one who had claimed the title of king; but made no
discovery of consequence.

Grey was more ingenuous (it is not certain in what sense his majesty
uses the term, since he does not refer to any discovery made by that
lord), and never once begged his life. Short as this account is, it
seems the only authentic one of those interviews. Bishop Kennet,
who has been followed by most of the modern historians, relates,
that "This unhappy captive, by the intercession of the queen
dowager, was brought to the king's presence, and fell presently at
his feet, and confessed he deserved to die; but conjured him, with
tears in his eyes, not to use him with the severity of justice, and
to grant him a life, which he would be ever ready to sacrifice for
his service. He mentioned to him the example of several great
princes, who had yielded to the impressions of clemency on the like
occasions, and who had never afterwards repented of those acts of
generosity and mercy; concluding, in a most pathetical manner,
'Remember, sir, I am your brother's son, and if you take my life, it
is your own blood that you will shed.' The king asked him several
questions, and made him sign a declaration that his father told him
he was never married to his mother: and then said, he was sorry
indeed for his misfortunes; but his crime was of too great a
consequence to be left unpunished, and he must of necessity suffer
for it. The queen is said to have insulted him in a very arrogant
and unmerciful manner. So that when the duke saw there was nothing
designed by this interview but to satisfy the queen's revenge, he
rose up from his majesty's feet with a new air of bravery, and was
carried back to the Tower."

The topics used by Monmouth are such as he might naturally have
employed, and the demeanour attributed to him, upon finding the king
inexorable, is consistent enough with general probability, and his
particular character; but that the king took care to extract from
him a confession of Charles's declaration with respect to his
illegitimacy, before he announced his final refusal of mercy, and
that the queen was present for the purpose of reviling and insulting
him, are circumstances too atrocious to merit belief, without some
more certain evidence. It must be remarked also, that Burnet, whose
general prejudices would not lead him to doubt any imputations
against the queen, does not mention her majesty's being present.
Monmouth's offer of changing religion is mentioned by him, but no
authority quoted; and no hint of the kind appears either in James's
Letters, or in the extract from his "Memoirs."

From Whitehall Monmouth was at night carried to the Tower, where, no
longer uncertain as to his fate, he seems to have collected his
mind, and to have resumed his wonted fortitude. The bill of
attainder that had lately passed having superseded the necessity of
a legal trial, his execution was fixed for the next day but one
after his commitment. This interval appeared too short even for the
worldly business which he wished to transact, and he wrote again to
the king on the 14th, desiring some short respite, which was
peremptorily refused. The difficulty of obtaining any certainty
concerning facts, even in instances where there has not been any
apparent motive for disguising them, is nowhere more striking than
in the few remaining hours of this unfortunate man's life.
According to King James's statement in his "Memoirs," he refused to
see his wife, while other accounts assert positively that she
refused to see him, unless in presence of witnesses. Burnet, who
was not likely to be mistaken in a fact of this kind, says they did
meet, and parted very coldly, a circumstance which, if true, gives
us no very favourable idea of the lady's character. There is also
mention of a third letter written by him to the king, which being
entrusted to a perfidious officer of the name of Scott, never
reached its destination; but for this there is no foundation. What
seems most certain is, that in the Tower, and not in the closet, he
signed a paper, renouncing his pretensions to the crown, the same
which he afterwards delivered on the scaffold; and that he was
inclined to make this declaration, not by any vain hope of life, but
by his affection for his children, whose situation he rightly judged
would be safer and better under the reigning monarch and his
successors, when it should be evident that they could no longer be
competitors for the throne.

Monmouth was very sincere in his religious professions, and it is
probable that a great portion of this sad day was passed in devotion
and religious discourse with the two prelates who had been sent by
his majesty to assist him in his spiritual concerns. Turner, bishop
of Ely, had been with him early in the morning, and Kenn, bishop of
Bath and Wells, was sent, upon the refusal of a respite, to prepare
him for the stroke, which it was now irrevocably fixed he should
suffer the ensuing day. They stayed with him all night, and in the
morning of the 15th were joined by Dr. Hooper, afterwards, in the
reign of Anne, made bishop of Bath and Wells, and by Dr. Tennison,
who succeeded Tillotson in the see of Canterbury. This last divine
is stated by Burnet to have been most acceptable to the duke, and,
though he joined the others in some harsh expostulations, to have
done what the right reverend historian conceives to have been his
duty, in a softer and less peremptory manner. Certain it is, that
none of these holy men seem to have erred on the side of compassion
or complaisance to their illustrious penitent. Besides endeavouring
to convince him of the guilt of his connection with his beloved lady
Harriet, of which he could never be brought to a due sense, they
seem to have repeatedly teased him with controversy, and to have
been far more solicitous to make him profess what they deemed the
true creed of the Church of England, than to soften or console his
sorrows, or to help him to that composure of mind so necessary for
his situation. He declared himself to be a member of their Church,
but, they denied that he could be so, unless he thoroughly believed
the doctrine of passive obedience and non-resistance. He repented
generally of his sins, and especially of his late enterprise, but
they insisted that he must repent of it in the way they prescribed
to him, that he must own it to have been a wicked resistance to his
lawful king, and a detestable act of rebellion. Some historians
have imputed this seemingly cruel conduct to the king's particular
instructions, who might be desirous of extracting, or rather
extorting, from the lips of his dying nephew such a confession as
would be matter of triumph to the royal cause. But the character of
the two prelates principally concerned, both for general uprightness
and sincerity as Church of England men, makes it more candid to
suppose that they did not act from motives of servile compliance,
but rather from an intemperate party zeal for the honour of their
Church, which they judged would be signally promoted if such a man
as Monmouth, after having throughout his life acted in defiance of
their favourite doctrine, could be brought in his last moments to
acknowledge it as a divine truth. It must never be forgotten, if we
would understand the history of this period, that the truly orthodox
members of our Church regarded monarchy not as a human, but as a
divine institution, and passive obedience and non-resistance, not as
political maxims, but as articles of religion.

At ten o'clock on the 15th Monmouth proceeded in a carriage of the
lieutenant of the Tower to Tower Hill, the place destined for his
execution. The two bishops were in the carriage with him, and one
of them took that opportunity of informing him that their
controversial altercations were not yet at an end, and that upon the
scaffold he would again be pressed for more explicit and
satisfactory declarations of repentance. When arrived at the bar
which had been put up for the purpose of keeping out the multitude,
Monmouth descended from the carriage, and mounted the scaffold, with
a firm step, attended by his spiritual assistants. The sheriffs and
executioners were already there. The concourse of spectators was
innumerable; and if we are to credit traditional accounts, never was
the general compassion more affectingly expressed. The tears,
sighs, and groans, which the first sight of this heartrending
spectacle produced, were soon succeeded by a universal and awful
silence; a respectful attention and affectionate anxiety to hear
every syllable that should pass the lips of the sufferer. The duke
began by saying he should speak little; he came to die, and he
should die a Protestant of the Church of England. Here he was
interrupted by the assistants, and told, that if he was of the
Church of England, he must acknowledge the doctrine of non-
resistance to be true. In vain did he reply that if he acknowledged
the doctrine of the Church in general it included all: they
insisted he should own that doctrine, particularly with respect to
his case, and urged much more concerning their favourite point, upon
which, however, they obtained nothing but a repetition in substance
of former answers. He was then proceeding to speak of Lady Harriet
Wentworth, of his high esteem for her, and of his confirmed opinion
that their connection was innocent in the sight of God, when Goslin,
the sheriff, asked him, with all the unfeeling bluntness of a vulgar
mind, whether he was ever married to her. The duke refusing to
answer, the same magistrate, in the like strain, though changing his
subject, said he hoped to have heard of his repentance for the
treason and bloodshed which had been committed; to which the
prisoner replied, with great mildness, that he died very penitent.
Here the Churchmen again interposed, and renewing their demand of
particular penitence and public acknowledgment upon public affairs,
Monmouth referred them to the following paper, which he had signed
that morning:

"I declare that the title of king was forced upon me, and that it
was very much contrary to my opinion when I was proclaimed. For the
satisfaction of the world, I do declare that the late king told me
he was never married to my mother. Having declared this, I hope the
king who is now will not let my children suffer on this account.
And to this I put my hand this fifteenth day of July, 1685.


There was nothing, they said, in that paper about resistance; nor,
though Monmouth, quite worn-out with their importunities, said to
one of them, in the most affecting manner, "I am to die--pray my
lord--I refer to my paper," would those men think it consistent with
their duty to desist. There were only a few words they desired on
one point. The substance of these applications on the one hand, and
answers on the other, was repeated over and over again, in a manner
that could not be believed, if the facts were not attested by the
signatures of the persons principally concerned. If the duke, in
declaring his sorrow for what had passed, used the word invasion,
"Give it the true name," said they, "and call it rebellion." "What
name you please," replied the mild-tempered Monmouth. He was sure
he was going to everlasting happiness, and considered the serenity
of his mind in his present circumstances as a certain earnest of the
favour of his Creator. His repentance, he said, must be true, for
he had no fear of dying; he should die like a lamb. "Much may come
from natural courage," was the unfeeling and stupid reply of one of
the assistants. Monmouth, with that modesty inseparable from true
bravery, denied that he was in general less fearful than other men,
maintaining that his present courage was owing to his consciousness
that God had forgiven him his past transgressions, of all which
generally he repented with all his soul.

At last the reverend assistants consented to join with him in
prayer, but no sooner were they risen from their kneeling posture
than they returned to their charge. Not satisfied with what had
passed, they exhorted him to a true and thorough repentance. Would
he not pray for the king, and send a dutiful message to his majesty
to recommend the duchess and his children? "As you please," was the
reply; "I pray for him and for all men." He now spoke to the
executioner, desiring that he might have no cap over his eyes, and
began undressing. One would have thought that in this last sad
ceremony, the poor prisoner might have been unmolested, and that the
divines would have been satisfied that prayer was the only part of
their function for which their duty now called upon them. They
judged differently, and one of them had the fortitude to request the
duke, even in this stage of the business, that he would address
himself to the soldiers then present, to tell them he stood a sad
example of rebellion, and entreat the people to be loyal and
obedient to the king. "I have said I will make no speeches,"
repeated Monmouth, in a tone more peremptory than he had before been
provoked to; "I will make no speeches. I come to die." "My lord,
ten words will be enough," said the persevering divine; to which the
duke made no answer, but turning to the executioner, expressed a
hope that he would do his work better now than in the case of Lord
Russell. He then felt the axe, which he apprehended was not sharp
enough, but being assured that it was of proper sharpness and
weight, he laid down his head. In the meantime many fervent
ejaculations were used by the reverend assistants, who, it must be
observed, even in these moments of horror, showed themselves not
unmindful of the points upon which they had been disputing, praying
God to accept his imperfect and general repentance.

The executioner now struck the blow, but so feebly or unskilfully,
that Monmouth, being but slightly wounded, lifted up his head, and
looked him in the face as if to upbraid him, but said nothing. The
two following strokes were as ineffectual as the first, and the
headsman, in a fit of horror, declared he could not finish his work.
The sheriffs threatened him; he was forced again to make a further
trial, and in two more strokes separated the head from the body.

Thus fell, in the thirty-sixth year of his age, James, Duke of
Monmouth, a man against whom all that has been said by the most
inveterate enemies both to him and his party amounts to little more
than this, that he had not a mind equal to the situations in which
his ambition, at different times, engaged him to place himself. But
to judge him with candour, we must make great allowances, not only
for the temptations into which he was led by the splendid prosperity
of the earlier parts of his life, but also for the adverse
prejudices with which he was regarded by almost all the contemporary
writers, from whom his actions and character are described. The
Tories, of course, are unfavourable to him; and even among the
Whigs, there seems, in many, a strong inclination to disparage him;
some to excuse themselves for not having joined him, others to make
a display of their exclusive attachment to their more successful
leader, King William. Burnet says of Monmouth, that he was gentle,
brave, and sincere: to these praises, from the united testimony of
all who knew him, we may add that of generosity; and surely those
qualities go a great way in making up the catalogue of all that is
amiable and estimable in human nature. One of the most conspicuous
features in his character seems to have been a remarkable, and, as
some think, a culpable degree of flexibility. That such a
disposition is preferable to its opposite extreme, will be admitted
by all who think that modesty, even in excess, is more nearly allied
to wisdom than conceit and self-sufficiency. He who has attentively
considered the political, or, indeed, the general concerns of life,
may possibly go still further, and rank a willingness to be
convinced, or in some cases even without conviction, to concede our
own opinion to that of other men, among the principal ingredients in
the composition of practical wisdom. Monmouth had suffered this
flexibility, so laudable in many cases, to degenerate into a habit
which made him often follow the advice, or yield to the entreaties,
of persons whose characters by no means entitled them to such
deference. The sagacity of Shaftesbury, the honour of Russell, the
genius of Sydney, might, in the opinion of a modest man, be safe and
eligible guides. The partiality of friendship, and the conviction
of his firm attachment, might be some excuse for his listening so
much to Grey; but he never could, at any period of his life, have
mistaken Ferguson for an honest man. There is reason to believe
that the advice of the two last-mentioned persons had great weight
in persuading him to the unjustifiable step of declaring himself
king. But far the most guilty act of this unfortunate man's life
was his lending his name to the declaration which was published at
Lyme, and in this instance Ferguson, who penned the paper, was both
the adviser and the instrument. To accuse the king of having burnt
London, murdered Essex in the Tower, and, finally, poisoned his
brother, unsupported by evidence to substantiate such dreadful
charges, was calumny of the most atrocious kind; but the guilt is
still heightened, when we observe, that from no conversation of
Monmouth, nor, indeed, from any other circumstance whatever, do we
collect that he himself believed the horrid accusations to be true.
With regard to Essex's death in particular, the only one of the
three charges which was believed by any man of common sense, the
late king was as much implicated in the suspicion as James. That
the latter should have dared to be concerned in such an act, without
the privacy of his brother, was too absurd an imputation to be
attempted, even in the days of the popish plot. On the other hand,
it was certainly not the intention of the son to brand his father as
an assassin. It is too plain that, in the instance of this
declaration, Monmouth, with a facility highly criminal, consented to
set his name to whatever Ferguson recommended as advantageous to the
cause. Among the many dreadful circumstances attending civil wars,
perhaps there are few more revolting to a good mind than the wicked
calumnies with which, in the heat of contention, men, otherwise men
of honour, have in all ages and countries permitted themselves to
load their adversaries. It is remarkable that there is no trace of
the divines who attended this unfortunate man having exhorted him to
a particular repentance of his manifesto, or having called for a
retraction or disavowal of the accusations contained in it. They
were so intent upon points more immediately connected with orthodoxy
of faith, that they omitted pressing their penitent to the only
declaration by which he could make any satisfactory atonement to
those whom he had injured.


The following detached paragraphs were probably intended for the
fourth chapter. They are here printed in the incomplete and
unfinished state in which they were found.

While the Whigs considered all religious opinions with a view to
politics, the Tories, on the other hand, referred all political
maxims to religion. Thus the former, even in their hatred to
popery, did not so much regard the superstition, or imputed idolatry
of that unpopular sect, as its tendency to establish arbitrary power
in the State, while the latter revered absolute monarchy as a divine
institution, and cherished the doctrines of passive obedience and
non-resistance as articles of religious faith.

* * *

To mark the importance of the late events, his majesty caused two
medals to be struck; one of himself, with the usual inscription, and
the motto, Aras et sceptra tuemur; the other of Monmouth, without
any inscription. On the reverse of the former were represented the
two headless trunks of his lately vanquished enemies, with other
circumstances in the same taste and spirit, the motto, Ambitio
malesuada ruit; on that of the latter appeared a young man falling
in the attempt to climb a rock with three crowns on it, under which
was the insulting motto, Superi risere.

* * *

With the lives of Monmouth and Argyle ended, or at least seemed to
end, all prospect of resistance to James's absolute power; and that
class of patriots who feel the pride of submission, and the dignity
of obedience, might be completely satisfied that the crown was in
its full lustre.

James was sufficiently conscious of the increased strength of his
situation, and it is probable that the security he now felt in his
power inspired him with the design of taking more decided steps in
favour of the popish religion and its professors than his connection
with the Church of England party had before allowed him to
entertain. That he from this time attached less importance to the
support and affection of the Tories is evident from Lord Rochester's
observations, communicated afterwards to Burnet. This nobleman's
abilities and experience in business, his hereditary merit, as son
of Lord Chancellor Clarendon, and his uniform opposition to the
Exclusion Bill, had raised him high in the esteem of the Church
party. This circumstance, perhaps, as much, or more than the king's
personal kindness to a brother-in-law, had contributed to his
advancement to the first office in the State. As long, therefore,
as James stood in need of the support of the party, as long as he
meant to make them the instruments of his power, and the channels of
his favour, Rochester was, in every respect, the fittest person in
whom to confide; and accordingly, as that nobleman related to
Burnet, his majesty honoured him with daily confidential
communications upon all his most secret schemes and projects. But
upon the defeat of the rebellion, an immediate change took place,
and from the day of Monmouth's execution, the king confined his
conversations with the treasurer to the mere business of his office.

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