Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

character by giving a public challenge to the presbyterians, independents, anabaptists, and quakers, and appointed three days for the disputation; on the first of which his lordship went into the pulpit in the church, where was a considerable congregation, and charged the former with sedition and rebellion out of their books, but would hear no reply.* When the day came to a dispute with the quakers, they summoned their friends, and when the bishop railed. they paid him in his own coin; and followed him to his very house with repeated shouts, the hireling flieth. The non-conformist ministers did what they could to keep themselves within the compass of the law; they preached frequently twice a day in large families, with only four strangers, and as many under the age of sixteen as would come ; and at other times, in places where people might hear in several adjoining houses; but after all, infinite mischiefs ensued, families were impoverished and divided; friendship between neighbors was interrupted; there was a general distrust and jealousy of each other; and sometimes upon little quarrels, servants would betray their masters, and throw their affairs into distraction. Among others that suffered at this time was Dr. JManton, who was apprehended on a Lord’s day in the afternoon, just as he had done sermon. the door being opened to let a gentleman out, the justice and his attendants rushed in and went up stairs; they stayed till the doctor had ended his prayer, and then wrote down the names of the principal persons present, and took the doctor’s promise to come to them at an house in the piazza's of Covent-garden, where they tendered him the Oxford oath, upon his refusal of which, he was committed prisoner to the Gate-house; where he continued till he was released by the indulgence. At another time his meeting-house in White-Hart Yard was broken up ; the place was fined forty pounds, and the minister twenty, which was paid by lord Wharton, who was then present: They also took down the names of the hearers for the benefit of the justices of peace and spiritual courts. The behavior of the quakers was very extraordinary, and had something in it that looked like the spirit of martyrdom.f They met at the same place and hour as in times

* Calamy’s Abridg. vol. ii. p. 834. t Burnet, p. 398.

of liberty, and when the officers came to seize them, none of them would stir; they went all together to prison; they stayed there till they were dismissed, for they would not petition to be set at liberty, nor pay the fines set upon them, nor so much as the prison fees. When they were discharged, they went to their meeting-house again, as before; and when the doors were shut up by order, they assembled in great numbers in the street before the doors, saying, they would not be ashamed, nor afraid to disown their meeting together in a peaceable manner to worship God; but in imitation of the prophet Daniel, they would do it more publicly, because they were forbid. Some called this obstimacy, others firmness; but by it they carried their point, the government being weary of contending against so much perverseness.t On the first of September, 1670, two of their principal speakers, Wm. Penn and Wm. Mead, were tried at the Old-Baily, for an unlawful and tumultuous assembly in the open street, wherein they spake or preached to the people, who were assembled in Grace-church-street, to the number of three or four hundred, in contempt of the king's laws, and to the disturbance of the peace. The prisoners pleaded not guilty, but met with some of the severest usage that has been known in an English court of justice. They were fined forty marks a-piece for coming into court with their hats on, though it was not done out of contempt, but from a principle of their religion. It appeared by the witmesses, that there was an assembly in Grace-church-street, but there was neither riot, nor tumult, nor force of arms. Mr. Penn confessed they were so far from recanting, or declining to vindicate the assembling themselves to preach,

+ A respectable member of the society of quakers has remarked, with propriety and force, on this language of bishop Burnet ; “that had he concluded with the word perseverance instead of perverseness, his description had been less objectionable, as being nearer the truth. . The prejudice discovered by that dignified prelate against this people tarnished his reputation as a faithful historian, and as a man; as a true son of the church, it is not much to be wondered at, when it is considered that they rejecting its honors and its revenues, struck at the root of the hierarchy: whilst other dissenters, in general, contending chiefly about rites and ceremonies, manifested little or no objection to that grand support pecuniary emolument: as their practice in common particularly dur: ing the interregnum, incontestibly proved. A Letter to the Editor. Ed. pray, or worship the eternal, holy, just God, that they de. clared to all the world. they believed it to be their duty, and that all the powers on earth should not be able to divert them from it. When it was said, they were not arraigned for worshipping God, but for breaking the law, William Penn affirmed he had broken no law, and challenged the recorder to tell him upon what law he was prosecuted. The recorder answered, upon the common laic, but could not tell where that common law was to be found. Penn insisted upon his producing the law, but the court overruled him, and called him a troublesome fellow. Penn replied, “I design no affront to the court, but if you deny to acquaint me with the law you say I have broken, you deny me the right that is due to every Englishman, and evidence to the whole world that your designs are arbitrary.” Upon which he was haled from the bar into the baildock. As he was going out, he said to the jury, “If these fundamental laws which relate to liberty and property must not be indispensably maintained, who can say he has a right to the coat upon his back? Certainly then our liberties are openly to be invaded, our wives to be ravished, our children enslaved, and our estates led away in triumph, by every, sturdy beggar and malicious informer, as their trophies.” William J1ead. being left alone at the bar, said, “You men of the jury, I am accused of meeting by force of arms, in a tumultuous manner.—Time was when I had freedom to use a carnal weapon, and then I feared no man; but now I fear the living God, and dare not make use thereof, nor hurt any man. I am a peaceable man, and therefore demand to know upon what law my indictment is founded; if the recorder will not tell what makes a riot, Coke will tell him, that it is when three or more are met together to beat a man, or to enter forcibly into another man’s lands, to cut his grass or wood, or break down his pales.” Upon this the recorder, having lost all patience, pulled off his hat, and said, I thank you, sir, for telling me what the law is. •Mead replied, thou mayest put on thy hat, I have no fee for thee now. The mayor Starling told him he deser. ved to have his tongue cut out, and ordered him likewise to be carried to the bail-dock.

When the prisoners were gone, the recorder gave the jury their charge, upon which William Penn stood up, and with a loud voice said, “I appeal to the jury, and this great assembly, whether it be not contrary to the undoubted right of every Englishman, to give the jury their charge in the absence of the prisoners ?” The recorder answered with a sucer, Ye are present, ye do hear, do ye not ? Penn answered, No thanks to the court; I have ten or twelve material points to offer in order to invalidate the indictment, but am not heard. The recorder said, Pull him down ; Pull the fellow down. J1ead replied, these were barbarous and unjust proceedings; and then they were both thrust into the hole.

After the jury had withdrawn an hour and a half, the prisoners were brought to the bar to hear their virdict; eight of them came down agreed, but four remained above, to whom they used many unworthy threats, and in particular to Mr. Bushel, whom they charged with being the cause of the disagreement. At length, after withdrawing a second time, they agreed to bring them in guilty of speaking in Grace-Church-street ; which the court would not accept for a verdict, but after many menaces told them, they should be locked up without meat, drink, fire, or tobacco; nay, they should starve, unless they brought in a proper verdict. William Penn being at the bar, said, “My jury ought not to be thus threatened. We were by force of arms kept out of our meeting-house, and met as near it as the soldiers would give us leave. We are a peaceable people, and cannot offer violence to any man. And looking upon the jury, he said, Kou are Englishmen, mind your privilege, give not away your right.” To which some of them answered, .Wor will we ever do it. Upon this they were shut up all night without victuals or fire, or so much as a chamber-pot, though desired. Next morning they brought in the same verdict; upon which they were threatened with the utmost resentments. The mayor said, he would cut Bushel’s throat as soon as he could. The recorder said. he never knew the benefit of an inquisition till now ; and that the meat sessions of parliament a law would be made wherein those that would not conform should not have the benefit of the law. The court having obliged the jury to withdraw again, they were kept without meat and drink till next morning, when they brought in the prisoners not guilty ; for which they were fined forty marks a man, and to be imprisoned till paid. The prisoners were also remanded to Newgate for their fines in not pulling off their hats.” The jury, after some time, were discharged by habeas corpus returnable in the common pleas, where their commitment was judged illegal. This was a noble stand for the liberty of the subject in very dangerous times, when neither law nor equity availed anything. The conventicle act was made to encourage prosecutions; and a narrative was published next year, of the oppressions of many honest people in Devonshire, and other parts, by the informers and justices; but the courts of justice outran the law itself.

Hitherto the king and parliament had agreed pretty well, by means of the large supplies of money the parliament had given to support his majesty’s pleasures; but now having

f The speech of the recorder, it appears by a quotation from the “State Trials” in a late publication, was fuller and stronger than Mr. Neal’s abridged form represents it. “Till now,” said this advocate for arbitrary power, “I never understood the reason of the policy and prudence of the Spaniards in suffering the inquisition among them, and certainly it will never be well with us till something like the Spanish inquisition be in England.” Stuart's Peace and Reform against War and Corruption, p. 63. note; and Gough's History of the Quakers, vol. ii. p. 336. Ed.

* The prisoners excepted to this fine, as being arbitrarily imposed. in violation of the great charter of England, which saith; “ No man ought to be amerced, but by the oath of good and lawful men of the vicinage.” The name of the judge, before whom the case of the jury was solemnly argued in the court of common pleas, and by whom it was judged illegal, was Sir John Vaughan, then chief justice: a name which deserves to be mentioned in this connection, with peculiar respect, and to be perpetuated by Englishmen with gratitude. For this adjudication confirmed in the strongest manner the rights of juries, and seeured them from the attack of arbitrary and unprincipled judges. Sir John Waughan was a man of excellent parts, and not only versed in all the knowledge requisite to make a figure in his profession, but he was also a very considerable master of the politer oil. of learning. He was the intimate friend of the great Seldon, and was buried in the Temple chureh, as near as possible to his remains. He died in 1674. His son published his Reports, in which is the above case. Gough, vol. ii. p. 336. British Biography, vol. vii. p. 130-31; and Granger's History, vol. iii. p. 369. Ed.

« ZurückWeiter »