In 1685, the Duke of Monmouth launched an uprising against James II, which history would label the Monmouth Rebellion. Fears of James’ Catholicism and absolutist designs had sparked concerns for years among Whig politicians like Shaftesbury, and commentators like Algernon Sidney, James Tyrell, and John Locke. The Popish Plots of the 1670s built upon and stoked fears of Catholic plots to overthrow the protestant English monarchy. The exclusion crisis—a series of bills proposed in Parliament to exclude James, then Duke of York, from the thrown—ultimately landed Shaftesbury arrested and tried for high treason (though the charged ended up dropped). In the midst of this, opponents to James being next in line to take the thrown upon his brother’s passing began to support the Duke of Monmouth’s claim. Monmouth, the illegitimate son of Charles II, was protestant and could ensure protestant succession through his many offspring if he was recognized as the legitimate heir.
Monmouth’s rebellion was short-lived, as James’ regular army squashed the haphazard force that Monmouth put together. Monmouth was captured and beheaded. James II and his judges executed swift, severe, and arbitrary justice against those captured—whether they were Monmouth supporters or bystanders. Lord Jefferyes, James’ chief justice, gained a particular reputation for his brutal, ruthless punishment. In the excerpts here from The Bloody Assizes, note what the power exercised by Jefferyes looks like. What are Jeffreys’ punishments for those convicted? What role does evidence play in their conviction? How can unregulated power corrupt justice? Why are those convicted portrayed as martyrs?
Tyrrell and Bibliotheca Politica:
- ODNB’s Biography of Tyrrell: http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-27953?rskey=rLFVKj&result=7
- Rudolph, Julia. Revolution by Degrees : James Tyrell and Whig Political Thought in Late Seventeenth Century. Studies in Modern History. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave, 2002.
- Rudolph, Julia. Resistance in Tyrrell’s Bibliotheca Politica:the People and the Convention. 2002. 124-47. doi:10.1057/9781403990273_5.
- Full Length Edition of Bibliotheca Politica: https://archive.org/details/bibliothecapolit00tyrr
Also by Tyrrell:
- Patriarcha non monarcha. The patriarch unmonarch’d: being observations on a late treatise and divers other miscellanies, published under the name of Sir Robert Filmer baronet. In which the falseness of those opinions that would make monarchy jure divino are laid open: and the true principles of government and property (especially in our kingdom) asserted. By a lover of truth and of his country, 1681
- A brief disquisition of the law of nature, according to the principles laid down in the reverend Dr. Cumberland’s (now Lord Bishop of Peterborough’s) Latin treatise on that subject. As also his considerations of Mr. Hobbs’s principles put into another method, 1692
- The General History of England, both Eccesiastical and Civil (5 volumes, published between 1700 and 1704)
Cite this page
The Bloody Assizes: Or, A Compleat HISTORY of the LIFE of George Lord Jefferies, FROM His Birth to this Present Time.
Among other things, is given a true Account of his unheard of Cruelties, and Barbarous Proceedings, in his whole Western Circuit.
The whole Proceedings; Arraignment, Tryals, and Condemnation of all those who Suffer’d in the West of England, in the Year 1685. With their undaunted Courage at the Barr, their Behaviour in Prison, and their Cruel Whippings afterwards, and the remarkable Circumstances that attended their Executions.
To which is added Major HOLMES’s Excellent Speech, with the Dying Speeches and Prayers of many other Eminent Protestants.
None of which were every before Publish’d.
Faithfully Collected by several West-Countrey Gentlemen, who were both Eye and Ear Witness to all the Matter of Fact.
London, Printed for J. Dunton at the Black Raven in the Poultrey, over against the Compter, and sold by R. Janeway in Queens-Head-Alley in Paster-noster-row, 1689.
GEORGE Lord JEFFERIES
Lord CHANCELLOUR of England.
I Know not to whom I could more properly Dedicate a Treatise of this Nautre, than to your Lordship, who lately was Lord Chief Justice of England, and have set such remarkable copies to inferior Magistrates. What is here offered may serve as a Mirrour, in which future Administrators of publick Justice would do well to look; for you may remember, my Lord, (if your Lordships present Afflictions have not made you forget as much Law as you ever learnt) Common Law runs much upon Presidents. And if a Man happen to have none of the best Physiognomies, there is no reason why he should streight grow angry, and fling stones, to break all the Looking glasses he meets with, only because they represent the true Figure of the Object.
My Lord, The following Treatise is a true Account of your Lordships Life and Actions, (most of which are ready to be attested upon Oath) of your unheard of Cruelties and barbarous Proceedings on your whole Western Circuit: In which all may see at what dear rates our Western Martyrs purchased this Religion, and how that it cost those glorious Sufferers hat so lately went off the stage (under your Lordships sentence) both Whippings and cruel Imprisonments, and the most exquisite Tortures which none could invent or inflict but your Lordship, (who is Suppos’d by all to have an Heart of marble, and Entrails of brass) nor any endure but they whose gallant and noble Souls were born up with heavenly Cordials, and a Power from on high. But my Lord, rest assured, that their Blood still cryes for Vengeance, and will be a lasting monument of your Lordships Cruelties, whilst History can speak or transmit to incredulous Posterity the remarkables of elapsed Ages; for Hang, Draw and Quarter, and Try Men afterwards, (Witness Sir Thomas Armstrong’s Death, &c.) has been your peculiar Talent. But your Lordship will now at last do well to remember that King Alfred caused forty four Judges in one year to be Hang’d as Murderers, for their false Judgments.
I hope your Lordship will pardon this present Address, seeing ‘tis a Priviledge we modern Authors hold by prescription, to put any great Body’s Name in the front of our Book: Princes have not been able to exempt themselves or their Families from the Persecution of Dedications; nor ever was there (I humbly conceive) any Rule made in your Lordships Court to forbid them.
Suffer then, I beseech your Lordship, this Address to remain a Monument to Posterity, of the sentiments this Age has of your Lordhips Conduct and Merits; and Witness to all the World how much its Author is.
Most Humble Servant,
GEORGE Lord JEFFERIES.
And won’t it be a pretty sight to see’t,
The Hang-man, Rope, and bloody Jefferies meet?
Jefferys who cherisht spite, as all can tell;
Jefferys who was the darling Brat of Hell.
Oft with success this mighty Blast did bawl,
Where loudest Lungs, and biggest words win all;
And still his clenched Arguments did end
With that home-thrust, He is not Caesar’s Friend.
Sometimes that jaded Ears he might release,
Good Man! he has been fee’d to hold his Peace.
Hear him, but never see him, and you’d swear
He was the Cryer, not the Counseller.
He roars, as if he only chanc’d to find
Justice was now grown deaf as well as blind.
This Demy-fiend, this Hurricane of Man
Was sent to butcher all i’ th’ West he can:
‘Twas him the Popish Party wisely chose
To splutter Law, and the dinn’d Rabble pose:
They have a thousand Tongues, yet he can roar
Far louder, thô they had a thousand more
Unto long-winded Cook he scorns to
But Please, his Majesty will have it so.
THE Bloody Assizes: OR, A COMPLEAT HISTORY OF THE LIFE OF GEORGE Lord JEFFERYS.
But by the way, for the sake of the West-Country Reader, I shall here add a true and impartial Narrative of the late Duke of Monmouth‘s whole Expedition whilst in the West; seeing that was the Prologue to that bloody Scene that you’l hear by and by, was acted by George Lord Jefferies (the Subject of our present Discourse.)
To begin then, May 24. Old Stile, We left Amsterdam about two of the Clock, being Sunday Morning, and in a Lighter Sail’d for the Texel, our Vessels being sent before us thither; but meeting with extream cross Winds all the way, we Arrived not till Saturday Night, and then went all on Bord. Here our Man of War with about 32 Guns (where the Dukes Person was) was under an Arrest by order of the States of Amsterdam, on the Complaint of our Envoy, they presuming we had been clear, but we broke through our Arrest, and Sunday Morning at break of Day, set Sayl for England. We had in all three Ships, that of 32 Guns carried most of our Men, the other two were for our Ammunition. We met with exceeding cross Winds, most part of the time we spent on the Seas, and Arrived not at Lime till Thursday, June 11. so that from Amsterdam to Lime, we wanted but two days of three Weeks.
We Landed without any the least Opposition, and were received with all Expressions of Joy imaginable; the Duke, as soon as he Jumpt out of his Boat on Land, call’d for silence, and then desired we would joyn with him in returning God Thanks for that wonderful Preservation we had met with at Sea, and accordingly fell on his Knees on the Sand, and was the Mouth of us all in a short Ejaculation, and then immediately well Armed, as many as we were, entred the Town.
Friday, the whole day was spent in Listing of Men, which flock’d to us so fast, that we could scarce tend them with Arms.
The like, Saturday also; and then about ten of the Clock at Night, 300 of our Men were sent to Bridport, about six English Miles off, to Storm that Town betimes in the Morning, which we did accordingly, taking many Prisoners out of their Lodgings, and had not our Soldiers been a little too eager of Plunder, we had made a good days work on’t; but there lying about a Wood some of the Kings Forces, we were forced to Retreat, losing three or four Men, and killing several of theirs, and taking Eight Prisoners; this was the first Action which he had.
Sunday also was spent in Listing, and Monday Morning; but in the Afternoon we Marched out of Lime for Axminster, a little Town four Mile off, our Party was near 2000 Foot, and 300 Horse, though we Landed not full a hundred Men, and all these in the space of four days: About two Miles from Lime we espied the Duke of Albermarle, with about 4000 Men, designing that Night to Quarter in the same Town, which we had News of on the Way; yet we March’d on in good Order, and came into the Town, lined all Hedges, Planted our Field-Pieces, and expected nothing more than that we should give them Battle, they being not an English Mile from the Town; they made towards us as soon as they heard that we were there; but the Duke of Albemarle finding his Men to be all MILITIA-Men of the County of Devonshire, and that they had no Stomach to fight against MONMOƲTH, Retreated, when he came within a quarter of an English Mile of the Town. He came from Exon with these Forces, intending to lay a Siege against Lime, presuming we could not be ready in so short a time; but finding us so well prepared to receive him, he wisely Retired his Men, being in great Disorder and Confusion, supposing we had pursued them, which was Debated; but the Duke said, It was not his business to fight yet, till his Men had been a little Disciplin’d, but rather to make up into the Country as fast as possible, to meet his Friends, not questioning, but there would have been in several Parts of the Kingdom some Action, on the News of his Success; but this in the end prov’d fatal to us, for had we but followed them, we had had all their Arms, several more Men, and might have March’d in two days with little or no Opposition, to the very Gates of Exon, the County-Troops resolving not to fight us; and several came to us that Night with their Arms. But missing this Opportunity, we March’d on for Taunton, Lodging at several small Towns by the way, which still received us as kindly as possible, and all the way met with the loud Acclamations of the Country, Praying God to succeed our Arms:
Thursday we came to Taunton, about Twenty Mile from Lime. To give a particular Account of our Reception here, would be too tedious; the Streets throng’d with People we could scarce enter, all endeavouring to manifest their Joy at his coming, and their Houses, Doors, and Streets garnished with Green Boughs, Herbs and Flowers, all the Emblems of Prosperity.
The next day, Twenty-six young Gentlewomen, Virgins with Colours ready made at the charge of the Towns-men, presented them to his Grace; the Captain of them went before with a Naked-Sword in one Hand, and a small curious Bible in the other, which she presented also, making a short Speech, at which the Duke was extreamly satisfied, and he assured her, He came now in the Field, with a Design to Defend the Truths contained therein, and to Seal it with his Blood, if there should be any Occasion for it. Nothing now could content the Countrey, but he must be Proclaimed KING, which he seemed exceeding averse to; and really I am of Opinion, from his very Heart.
They said, The Reason why the Gentry of England moved not, was because he came on a Common-Wealth Principle; This being the Cry of all the Army, he was forced to yield to it, and accordingly, Saturday Morning he was Proclaimed; In the Afternoon came out Three PROCLAMATIONS, one setting a Sum of Money on the Kings Head, as he had done before by the other. The Second, Declaring the Parliament of England, A Seditious Assembly; and if they did not separate before the End of June, to give Power and Authority to any that would attempt to lay hold of them as Rebels and Traytors. The Third, To Declare the Duke of Albemarle a Traytor, (who now lay within six Miles of us, having had time to Rally his Men) if he laid not down his Arms; forthwith a Message also was sent to command him, but he sent Word, That he was a Subject to JAMES the Second, the late King’s Brother, and that he knew no other Lord.
We tarried here till Sunday Morning, and then March’d for Bridge-Water, seven Miles from thence: We were now between four and five thousand Men, and had we not wanted Arms, could have made above ten thousand. We were receiv’d here as in other Places, but did little more than Read our Declaration, which we did also in all other Towns, the Magistrates standing by in their Gowns; and likewise our Proclamations, and so March’d forward for Glassenbury, from Glassenbury design’d for Bristel, three days March from that place, designing to Attacque it: Accordingly we Arrived at Canshum Bridge, a little Town three Miles English from Bristol, intending to enter next Morning, the Duke of Beaufort being there with a Garrison of about Four Thousand Men, being here lodg’d in the Town, we were on a sudden Alarm’d with the Noise of the Approach of the Enemy, being in no small Confusion on this unsuspected News: The Duke sent one up the Tower to see whether he could discover them Marching, as soon as he came up, he saw them at the very Entrance into the Town fighting with our Men. Here we had a small Skirmish, our Men being in the Fields Adjoyning to the Town refreshing themselves; but it lasted not long, for before he could bring Word, they were fled, being not above sixty Horse-Men; they did us Mischief, Killed and Wounded above Twenty Men, whereas we killed none of theirs, only took four Prisoners and their Horses, and Wounded my Lord Newburg, that it was thought Mortal; they came thither, thinking it had been their own Forces, and had not our Undisciplin’d Fel∣lows been a little too eager, and suffer’d them to come a little farther on, they would have entred the Town, and we must have had every Man of them; their Infantry was following, but on their Return came not forward. These Forces being so near, and Bristol being so well Mann’d also, the Duke was loth to pass the Bridge for Bristol, though some Gentlemen that came over with us, and were Prescribed upon the Account of the former Plot, being Bristol-Men, and knew the Hearts of the Towns-Men, begg’d him heartily to proceed towards it, offering themselves to go in the Head of them into the Town, by some private Ways which they knew, assuring him, They would make no Resistance, but could not perswade him; which had we been Possessors of, we could not have wanted Money nor Arms, the only things needful for us in that Juncture; for had we but had Arms, I am perswaded we had by this time, had in the least Twenty Thousand Men; and it would not then have been difficult for us to have March’d to London, with the Recruit of Bristol, the King not being able to make 7000 Men for the gaining of so many Kingdoms. But God saw it not fit for us, and over-ruled our Consultations to our own Ruine, for this was in the top of our Prosperity; and yet all the while, not a Gentleman more than went over with us came to our Assistance.
So we Marcht on to Bath, we lay before it in the Afternoon, and sent in our Trumpeter to demand the Town, but they refused to give us enterance having a strong Garrison, it being a stout People and a strong place. Having no mind to spend time in laying Sieges, we marcht on that day to a little Town called Phillips-Norton, and there lay that night, being now Sunday the 26th of June, Old-Style, Saturday Morning preparing for
Frome, we were drawing out our baggage for our march, and on a suddain were alarmed with the appearance of the Enemy, who had entered the Town and had lined all the Hedges and began to Fire on us; here began the briskest Rencounter we yet had, and for an hour or more we had a brisk Skirmish, but at last we beat them back, killing about thirty which lay in the place, and we lost about ten in all, and a few Wounded; they retreating with their whole Army, Pitched within a mile of the Town; and we went out also and pitched near them, but out of Musket Shot, playing Cannon on one another for some hours; they killed us but one Man all the while, but with ours we did great Execution, having the advantage of the ground, so at last they Retreated, and I have been told lost some hundreds of Men in the Battle, both killed and wounded: So we march’d on for Frome, a Town where we was as well beloved as at Taunton, where we wanted for nothing but Arms, which were by a stratagem taken from them a few days before our Entrance. Here came the unexpected News of Argyle‘s being Defeated, and likewise of the advance of the King’s Force from London with considerable Bagage, and thirty Field-Pieces. This News, together with our want of Money and Arms, not seeing which way to avoid these Forces, we were at a stand, and not a little non-plus’d. ‘Twas at last agreed on, that we that came with the Duke should get good Horses that Night, and so for Pool, a little Sea-Port Town not far off, where we were to seize a Ship, and set forth for Holland again, leaving our Infantry to the Mercy of the Country.
This was much like that Resolution of the Hollanders in the time of the Civil War with Spain, being as we then were, in dispair of making better Terms, and not daring to enter Salisbury Plain, because their Horse being so much better then ours, their Men being all Disciplin’d, ours not, we could not Face them in so plain and open a Country, so that we retreated backward, in the mean time resolving to see what London would do, having a good an opportunity offered them: The Soldiers being called forth, and not two thousand Men to be had for their defence if they had but attempted any thing; this disheartned our Men, and several of them coming home to their own Country, having felt by experience the hardships of War, withdrew from us.
We came well back again to Bridgwater, and were received with wonted Love; we arrived here on Friday the 3d. of July, and resolved here to Fortifie so as to hold our ground till we heard from London. Saturday in the Afternoon News was brought of the Approach of the Kings Forces within a Mile and a half of the Town where they had Encamped, the Duke went up into the Tower and there took a view of them, and seeing them so care∣less, and their Horse at some distance from the Army, in a little Town, the Infantry being in Sedge Moore. He called a Councel on it, and it was concluded on, that we should fall on them in the dead of the Night, accordingly having a Guide to conduct us on in a private way, we Marcht out about Eleven of the Clock in the Night, and about one fell on them in their Tents. There was a Ditch between us, and the Guide promised to conduct them over an easie formable Place, but our Men seeing the Enemy just before them, ran furiously on and lost the Guide, so that while they endeavored to recover over that place the Enemy got on their Legs, and put themselves in Order, and now began as fierce a Battle as perhaps ever was fought in England in so short a time, our Foot fought as well as ever Foot fought, but not a Horse came up; had our Horse but assisted, we must have beaten them out of the Field. But our Horses would not stand at the noise of Drums and Guns, so that we soon lost two of our Pieces of Ordinance, and we had but four in all, and then but one more in the Field, our Foot flung most of their shot over, so that the Men for the most part was killed in the Rear, and that run, but the Front stood still, and had we done but as much Execution in the Front as we did in the Rear, the day had been our own, but God would not have it, their time was not then come: By this time their Horses came up, and having six or eight hundred good disciplined Men, well Mounted and well Arm’d, ours neither; our Foot having shot away all their Ammunition, and our Baggage being not then in the Field, they were forced to Retreat, being all in Confusion.
Having no Mony left, and our Party thus unexpectedly repulsed, the Duke seeing he could not hold it any longer, Fled with my Lord Gray.
The Dukes Party was said to be about three thousand Foot, and a thousand Horse; we had more, at least five thousand Men and Horse, but not well Arm’d, yet in the Field. ‘Tis said we lost not above three hundred, and they Foot; but after when we were routed in our retreat lost a vast many more; tho they pursued not in some hours after.
The most remarkable Persons that were taken in this total Rout, were Collonel Holmes, Major Perrot, the Constable of Crookhorn, and Mr. Williams, Servant to the late Duke of Monmouth.
After the Field was clear of the Dukes Men, the Earl of Feversham Marched with five hundred Foot and a Party of Horse and Dragoons to Bridgwater, where he found the Dukes Forces that were left there, fled and dispersed into several Places: When his Lordship having left these Men in the Town, under the Command of Collonel Kirk, and hearing the late Duke of Monmouth was fled with about fifty Horse, the greatest number of the Dukes Men that were left together, he sent out divers Parties in pursuit of him and others that fled the Field. When on the 7th of July, about five in the Morning, some of the Lord Lumly‘s Men seized the Lord Gray and another Person near Holt-Lodge in Dorsetshire, four miles from the West of Ringwood; and the said Lord Lumly making further inquiry among the Cotts, was informed by one Anna Ferrant that two Men went over a Hedge, proving to be the out bounds of many Inclosures, some of which were over grown with Fern, others with Pease and Oats; but Guards being set upon the Avenues, after divers attempts to escape, the Brandenburgh, one of the Parties observed to enter the Ground, was taken on the 8th day of July, about five in the Morning, who confessing he departed from the late Duke of Monmouth about one of the Clock that morning in the out-bounds, diligent search was made; when about Eleven of the Clock the same morning he was found, by one Henry Parking, hid in a Ditch, covered with Fern, who calling others to assist him, the said late Duke was in the end Taken, and together with the Lord Gray, and the Brandenburgh, with a strong Guard brought by easie Journeys to White-Hall, where they arrived on the 13th of July, and after some Examination were committed to the Tower, when on Wednesday the 15th of July, the late Duke of Monmouth, pursuant to a Warrant Signed for his Execution, upon his Attaindure of High-Treason, was delivered to the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex, about Ten in the morning, and conducted to a Scaffold erected on Tower-Hill, where after about half an hours continuance, he laying down his Head, had it striken off by the Executioner, the which, together with his Body, being put into a Coffin covered with Velvet, were carried away in a Velvet-covered Hearse, in order to his Interment.
After the Duke was Beheaded, many Prisoners taken, and those that fled by Parcels, taken up and down, were secured in divers Goals, in order to their Prosecution, as was said according to Law; which was the Occasion of this great Man’s shewing his parts at that Degree as he did, no one else fit to be made a Tool for such a Bloody Tragedy as he acted.
The Tryals were deferred (for some time after the fatal Blow given to the Duke of Monmouth on Tower-Hill, which was the 15th of July following) because of my Lords being at Tunbridge; but the latter end of August, he with a special Commission of Oyer and Terminer, assisted with four other Judges, set forward with a Party of Horse, and made by special Commission their General. The first place he came at was Winchester, where were divers Prisoners on Suspition; but here began the Tragedy, for the Lady Lisle was there Arraigned for High-Treason, in Harboring Mr. Hicks and Mr. Nelphrope, that had been concerned with the Duke; the Lady being on Tryal, the Jury were dissatisfied once and again; but my Lords Threats and other Managery, so disposed the Jury, that at last they brought the Lady in Guilty; on which he pronounced the Sentence of Death on her, as usual in such Cases; but she had the favour of being Beheaded; their other Prisoners were carried to Salisbury; and this was the most remarkable thing at that Assizes.
From thence they set forward for Salisbury, where were many Prisoners that had been pick’d up and down the Countrey, then in the Goal, the which, with those that were brought from Winton, were ordered to be carried to Dorchester, there not being Evidence enough to accomplish what was then designed by my Lord; so that little of moment passed there, but to pursue the Matter proceeds from thence to Dorchster, where he with his Assistants, Gown-Men and Sword-Men, Arrived on the 3d. of September, on which day being Thursday, the Commission was Read. Friday Morning was an Excellent Sermon Preached before their Lordships, by a worthy Divine, Chaplain to a worthy Person of that County, much tending to Mercy: It was observed, that while my Lord Chief-Justice was at Church in Prayers, as well as at Sermon, he was seen to laugh, which was so unbecoming a Person in his Character, that ought in so weighty an Affair as he was then entring upon, to have been more serious, and have craved the Help and Assistance of God Almighty.
The Sermon being over, their Lordships repaired to the Court, which by Order of the Lord Chief-Justice was hung with Red Cloath, a Colour suitable to such a succeeding bloody Tragedy, being accompanied by a Numerous Company of the Gentry of that County, as well as the Flower of the Neighbouring Counties of Somerset and Devonshire, and then proceeded to give his Charge; in which Charge, by reason of the Severity of his Sentiments, and Positions laid down to make Discoveries of all such as were Abettors, Aidors or Assisters to the late Duke of Monmouth, on Pain of High-Treason, which was a great Surprize to all the Auditors, and so vehemently Urged, and so passionately Expressed, as seemed rather the Language of a Romish Inquifitor, than a Protestant Judge; and then Adjourned until eight of the Clock next Morning, when was a Bill found against Thirty Persons, charged for High-Treason, for Aiding and Assisting the late Duke of Monmouth; who put themselves on their Tryals, notwithstanding my Lord’s threatning, That in Case any did put themselves on Tryal, and the Country found them Guilty, they should have but a little Time to live; and at the same time Insinuated, That it were better to Plead Guilty, if they expected any Favour.
These Thirty being on Tryal, the Evidences being Sworn and Examined before the JƲRY: Upon the whole, by the violent Deportment of the Lord Chief-Justice, and sharpness of the JƲRY, they found Twenty-nine GUILTY, though some of them were very hardly dealt with, and not so Criminal as my Lord and their Countrey imagined. Particularly amongst the Twenty-nine, were Mr. Matthew Brag of Thorncomb, and Joseph Speed of Culliton, in the County of Devonshire, and Mr. Smith, Constable of Chardstock, in the said County; and George Seward, of Culliton aforesaid: The Circumstances of each of these, and the severity of their being found Guilty, &c. shall be shewed in its proper place, before we take leave of this Town, and proceed on in this Western Expedition.
The said Twenty-nine being found (as before) Guilty, my Lord immediately pronounced Sentence of Death on them all, an usual in Cases of High-Treason, and did the same Night give a Warrant to the Sheriff, for the Execution of thirteen of the twenty-nine on Monday following; which accordingly was done, notwithstanding great Application was made to the Lord Chif-Justice by Gentlemen of the best Quality, in this and the Neighbouring Countries, for a Reprieve of Mr. Bragg, to all which he was Deaf, and not to be prevailed upon; though he was assured of his Honesty, and true Conformity to the Church of England, yet it availed nothing. At last, it was only requested for ten days Respite, yet that had no better Effect; but on Monday, he with twelve more of that number, were accordingly Executed at Dorchester. The Christian like Deportment, and other things, relating to the said Mr. Bragg and others, shall be made out before we leave this Discourse.
In the mean time, this Proceeding was designed to shorten Business, and to wheedle the rest that were to follow, to a Confession, which without it, the tenth part of them could not be proved Guilty; a Method was also taken without President, to entrap many poor Ignorant People, by a couple of Officers that were sent into the Goal, to call over, and take the Names of the Prisoners; on Promise, if they confest, they might expect Mercy, otherwise not; which many did. And this was Written so, that had they pleaded not Guilty, these two were designed to have been Evidences against them from their own Confessions, which so disposed the remaining great Numbers, that all, except a very few, Pleaded Guilty, which put an end to any further Tryal.
The only thing remaining, was the pronouncing of Sentence on them, which were in Number 292. who received Sentence of Death all at once. One Mr. Laurence put himself in Tryal, but by the Jury found Guilty, whose Case was so hard, his Circumstances being so small to be condemned to die; and had actually suffered, had not Application been made to my Lords Favourites, and with the payment and securing of 400 l. preserved him from Execution; his Case being so remarkable, his Defence so honest, that we cannot pass it by in Silence: the particulars of which, you shall have in its proper Place, with others that are most remarkable.
This Matter being Adjusted, and Execution Awarded to about Eighty, which were Executed, and their Quarters sent up and down the Countrey to the dread of their Spectators, as well as the Anoyance of the Travellers; his extraordinary Whippings, though unmerciful, are not to be taken notice of; so we leave this place, and proceed towards the City of Exon: In their way thither, lying at an Honourable Gentlemans House, divers of the Neighbouring Parishes made their Petitous to the Lord-Chief Justice in behalf of some Relations concerned; it hapned that through some Disorder amongst his Servants, some Pistols were fired in the Night, which gave him a Suspicion, or at least he took it, of some design upon him; on which at parting, said, Not a Man of all those Parishes that were of that Vicinitude, if found Guilty, should escape. And so we proceed and arrive at Exon, where to the number of 243 Prisoners being in Custody for assisting the said Duke of Monmouth, one amongst the rest, Mr. Fower Acers Pleading not Guilty, he being found by the Jury, the said Lord Chief Justice immediately pronounced the Sentence upon him, and immediate Execution, which was done to terrifie the rest, who all Pleaded Guilty; so that these unfortunate People had not time to have the fairness of Tryals allowed them, which is a right due by the Laws of God and Man. The remaining number he all condemned, and here was a little sparing; not so many order’d Execution as was in the other County, but those that were Executed, were hung up and down in most Towns of the County, and then Quarters and Heads scattered up and down their High-ways and publick places. An extraordinary Sentence of severe Whipping was pronounced against Mr. Samuel Staple of Thorncomb in the said County, which in its proper place, you shall have an account of the Crime; but these are Trifles, and we shall endeavour to pursue our Design and make as quick Dispatch as we can, that time may not be lost, the King served, and this Miscreants thirst quenched with Protestant Blood, which is always well pleasing to Inquisitors, and so proceed to the Town of Taunton. At which place being Arrived, it was thought fit by the Lord Chief-Justice to be as expeditious as might be; so that late in the Afternoon the Court sat, where the Commission being Read, he proceeded to give the Charge, which was so very keen and full of sharp Invectives, as if the Countrey it-self had not been able to make Expiation to his Lordship, to quench his Thirst in the Blood of those that ventur’d their all in Defence of the Protestant Religion; and here we enter upon the bloodiest part of the Tragedy, In this Town, and at Wells in the said County, were more than 500 Prisoners.
To begin at Taunton; the next Morning after the Charge given, the Assizes began, where some few put themselves on Trial, who were found Guilty, and immediately ordered to be Executed; of which number, one Mr. Simon Hamlin was one, who was a zealous worthy good Man, and his Case no way dangerous; but on the contrary, had he had to do with a Judge of another Stamp; his particular Case you shall have before we conclude. To proceed to the rest, this first Cruelty caused the rest to Plead Guilty in hopes of Favour, which was only a few days to live, which those that Pleaded had not. Amongst these at Taunton were divers eminent Persons that had been taken in the West, and carried to London, and brought down there to compleat the Bloody Tragedy in those parts: Mr. Parrot, Mr. Hewling the Elder, Mr. Lisle, Mr. Jenkins, Mr. Hucker, and divers others were very Eminent. To take notice of every particular in this Matter, will alter our Design, and swell the Book to too great a Bulk, being only designed for a Pocket Companion, and useful it may be, to see the Cruelty of men when in their Power, and how the Devil stirreth up his Instruments, to pursue those that adventure for the Cause of God and Religion. Here were in this County Executed 239. the rest that were Condemned, were Transported, except such as were able to furnish Coin, and that not a little, for an account was taken of mens Abilities, according to which, the purchase for Life must be managed by two of his Favourites, who had a small share, the rest went into his Lordships Pocket; according to the Actions of Rome, where Sins of any kind may be pardoned for money. This indeed was a glorious design in the Eye of Mother Church, to Root out Heresie by Executions and Transportations, to make room for a pack; here Expedition must be made to conclude at Wells for that a great man being fallen, our great Judge designing his Chair, which in short, he had as the Reward of so Eminent and extraordinary a piece of Service as he did for Advancement of the Roman Catholicks Intrest, which is cruel always where it prevails.
Thus we leave the Town of Taunton, after awarding Execution to many there, and their Quarters to be scattered up and down the County; and so we proceed to Wells, where divers Prisoners that had been carried from Goal to Goal, in Expectation of Evidence against them, were in Carts removed to Wells; in which place, to finish this Expedition, the same Method as was at the former Assizes, was also taken here by a severe Charge, affronting the Gentlemen of this County, as he had done in all the Counties before, terrifying the Juries (when any Pleaded to make them to bring in the Persons Guilty; some of which being over-awed, and it is doubted, contrary to their Judgments, which if so, the Lord forgive them.
Here were many Eminent and Worthy Persons that received the Sentence of Death, but the Executions of the County being put together, as you have before seen, we make no particular Division of the Number here, and the number at Taunton, the whole being Recited before: We shall therefore endeavour to be as brief as we can, to give you what we think Material, and truly matter of Fact; my Lord now being come to conclude this extraordinary Commission, & in haste to be Elevated, maketh all manner of Dispatch to repair to the King then at Windsor, to give an Account of his Transactions, and to receive the Reward of his merritorious Service in this Butchering of Protestants, which is so acceptable to his Holiness, and his Bigotted Disciples, as nothing can be more; and indeed if you will believe them, a Work that merits Heaven at last, besides what temporal Preferments are thought fit in this World. If this cruel Judge were a true Protestant, his Case is much the more worse, being made use of as a Tool to destroy, and carry on Popish Designs? Thus the Affairs being ended, the Country filled with Heads and Quarters of those that were Executed, the rest that had not wherewith to purchase their Lives, left in Custody in order to Transportation; my Lord being come to the King to give an account of his Affairs in the West, the great Seal being to be disposed of by the Death of the late Keeper, he kiss’d the King’s Hand for it, and was made Lord Chancellor, which was only an earnest of his Desert for so eminent and extraordinary a piece of Service, so now that which remains, is to give an Account of divers that had fled, and hid themselves up and down in Holes and Privacies, whose Friends make all Application to some great Men or other to procure their Pardons; some to this, and others to such as they thought Favourites of the King; but the Rewards must be Assertained before any Application could be made: Divers Lists being sent up, and the Rewards Assertained, which amongst many of them put together, did amount to considerable, so that it was now, who could find a Friend to Relieve his Distressed Relations, which were forced to wander up and down in Caves and Desarts, for fear of being taken; but this Misfortune attended the Agents, that unless my Lord Chancellour were used, by his Creatures, that were allowed by him so to do; other Applications commonly met with Disappointments, which caused an Emulation amongst the great men; one supposing to have deserved the Kings Ear as well as the other, which caused other measures to be taken, though some were whedled out of their Money: At last came out a general Pardon, with Exceptions, very few, if any of those that were solicited for, not being Excepted, were of course Pardoned; but however, divers Sums of Money having been paid, no Restitution to be had, for from Hell is no Redemption: A Worthy Western Gentleman, his purchase came to 15 or 16000 Guineas, which my Lord Chancellour had. Amongst the Exceptions, were a parcel of Taunton Girls, some of which were Children of eight or ten years old, however something was to be made of them, if these Ladies were Judged Guilty of Treason for presenting the Duke of Monmouth with Colours, &c. and for to preserve these from Trials, they were given to the Maids of Honour to make up their Christmas Box; so that an Agent of theirs was sent down into the Country, to compound with their Parents, to preserve them from what might after follow, if taken, so, that some according to Ability, gave 100l. others 50l. all which, however did not answer the Ladies first Expectations; yet it did satisfie, and they were accordingly Pardoned: Thus we have given you an Account of what hath happened on this occasion, being in every point Truth: We might have farther Enlarged, but that would have spoiled the Design, and swoln our Pocket Companion to a Volumn too big.
We shall only according to our promise, give the particular Cases of some of those that were Condemned and Executed; as also of some others that were most eminent, of their Dying Words, and of their Christian-like behaviour at the place of Execution; which may serve as an encouragement to all true Protestants to go on in their Christian Profession, and not to waver, God Almighty being able to sweeten the Bitterest Sufferings, and will make good his Promise, Never to leave nor forsake those that are his.
EARLY ACCESS: Transcription is under editorial review and may contain errors.
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