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This book is an attempt, however imperfectly executed, 
to fill a gap in the biographical literature of the seven- 
teenth century, and to reproduce the general features of a 
period during which the proceedings in the courts of law 
were intimately associated with the history of the nation. 

After consulting all accessible authorities, both printed 
and manuscript, some of which have not been hitherto 
made use of, I have formed a rather different estimate of 
Jeffreys' life and character from that generally accepted. 
I venture to hope that my reasons for arriving at such 
an estimate may not appear unjustifiable. 

Among many to whom I owe my thanks for help 
kindly given in the preparation of this book, I would 
select a few for special acknowledgment. To the officials 
at the Record Office, to Mr. Fortescue and Mr. Anderson 
of the British Museum Library, to Mr. Walkes of the 
Privy Council Office, to the late Mr. Alfred Morrison, 
and lastly to Mr. M. R. Jeffreys, who, with the greatest 
courtesy and kindness, placed at my disposal the few 
family papers in his possession relating to the career of 
Lord Jeffreys, to these I would express my especial 


February \ 1898. 



I. The Boyhood of Jeffreys. 1648 — 1663 1 

II. Student Life and Early Years at the Bar. 1663 — 

1671 7 

III. The Rise of the Common Serjeant, i 67 1 — 1678 . 18 

IV. The Recorder of London. 1678 34. 

V. The Popish Plot. 1678, 1679 48 

VI. The Trial of Sir George Wakeman. July, 1679 . 84 
VII. The First Abhorrer — The Parliamentary Reckoning. 

1679, 1680 101 

VIII. The Judicial War. 1681 — 1683 130 

IX. The Rye-house Plot — Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys. 

1683 i5 8 

X. In the Court of King's Bench. 1684 186 

XL Chief Justice and Lord Keeper — The Trials of 

Armstrong and Rosewell. 1684 204 

XII. The Death of the King — The Trial of Titus Oates. 

1685 229 

XIII. The Fall of North, and the Trial of Baxter. 1685 248 

XIV. The "Bloody Assizes." Aug.-Sept., 1685 258 

XV. The " Bloody Assizes " — continued 286 

XVI. The Lord High Chancellor. 1685, 1686 .... 309 

XVII. The Beginning of the End. 1687 331 

XVIII. The Downfall of Jeffreys. 1688 345 

XIX. The Tower of London. Dec, 1688 — April, 1689 . 357 



To face 

Chief Justice of England Frontispiece 

Recorder of London 30 

Lord Chancellor of England 310 

Fac-simile of a Letter from Lord Jeffreys to the Earl of 
Sunderland, September 5, 1685 Appendix III. 

1648 — 1663 

At Acton Park, in a beautiful green corner of the 
county of Denbighshire, near the town of Wrexham, 
George Jeffreys was born in the year 1648. Acton Park 
had been the family seat for a considerable period. De- 
scended from a long line of distinguished ancestors, the 
house of Jeffreys could claim to be one of the oldest 
families among the gentry of Wales. But its historical 
importance had passed away with Tudor Trevor, Earl of 
Hereford, and other heroes of the national history ; and 
the Jeffreys had settled down as quiet country gentlemen, 
living in dignified ease, and sharing those responsibilities 
that usually fall to people in their station of life. The 
name of Jeffreys had attained local prominence in the 
persons of High Sheriffs and Welsh Judges, but its fame 
had not yet passed beyond the limits of its county. 

The father whose son was destined to dissipate so 
rudely the unpretentious merit of the family achievement 
was Mr. John Jeffreys. He had proved no alien to the 
honourable traditions of his house ; and, at the age of 
eighty-four, when " Judge Jeffreys " had ceased to be 
anything but a hated name, this sturdy old gentleman 
felt justified in blessing God " that he had always studied 
the welfare and happiness of his children, and had never 
been guilty of an unkind or unjust act to any of 



them." 1 He had chosen a fitting wife in Margaret 
Ireland. This lady was the daughter of Sir Thomas 
Ireland, a Lancashire gentleman, erstwhile a Serjeant-at- 
law and learned editor of Coke's Reports. Mrs. Jeffreys was 
a pious good woman, if we are to believe the testimony of 
her friend Philip Henry, the eminent Dissenter, and one 
who did her best to bring up her children in a godly 
fashion. There is some reason for believing that Jeffreys' 
parents were themselves Dissenters, and it may well be 
that George's bringing up was unpleasantly austere to a 
child of his temperament. At any rate, it is admissible 
to suggest that in his early training and the religious tone 
of his father's household, Jeffreys found a primary cause 
for the lively hatred he evinced in later years towards the 
Nonconformists. It must not also be forgotten that 
Jeffreys' earliest years, 1648 — 1660, were passed during 
the period of Puritan ascendency, a period no doubt trying 
in many respects to vivacious children. 

Of such estimable parents came "Judge Jeffreys." 
George was the fourth son. Three of his brothers grew 
to manhood, and, as far as we know, perpetuated the 
modest virtues of their parents, leading honourable if 
uneventful lives, and dying under circumstances that left 
nothing to be desired. John, the eldest, was a respectable 
High Sheriff", Thomas an amiable Consul, and James, the 
youngest, a very sufficient Prebendary. There is no 
reflection of either the abilities or the energy of the Judge 
in any of his immediate relatives. If his qualities are a 
reproduction of some remote ancestor, they cannot be 
traced at this distance of time. From his maternal 
grandfather he may have inherited some of his legal 
talents, and his paternal grandfather was a Welsh Judge. 
An unconvincing attempt has been made to establish the 
existence of a maternal grandmother with ambitious 
designs, but it remains unconvincing. It must not be 

1 Letter of Mr. John Jeffreys to the widow of his son, Dr. James 
Jeffreys, Prebendary of Canterbury, Jan. 18, 1690, in the possession 
of M. P. Jeffreys, Esq. 


forgotten that "Judge Jeffreys" was a Welshman. Matthew 
Arnold has described wit, vivacity, an audacious love of 
excitement, a want of measure and steadfastness and 
sanity, as prevailing characteristics of the Celtic nature. 
Lord Justice Vaughan Williams has added disregard of 
personal liberty. These qualities have been for some time 
associated in the public mind with " Judge Jeffreys." 
Amidst the Teutonic moderation of his immediate relatives, 
it may not be unreasonable to regard George as a wilful 
protest on the part of the Celtic element in the family 
character against threatened extinction. 

The memory of the Judge has not escaped that mis- 
representation which is the everlasting portion of 
unpopular characters. There is a prevalent impression 
that he was a man of obscure and ignoble origin, an 
uneducated declaimer, violent and ignorant, whose short- 
comings may be comfortably attributed to the mysterious 
consequences of want of breeding. Insinuations of this 
kind are very fatal to character, and, if there is any hope 
of mercy for Jeffreys, should be immediately corrected. 
It is impossible to calculate the enormous damage which 
the reputation of Scroggs (Jeffreys' only peer in judicial 
infamy) has suffered from the assertion of his enemies 
that he was a butcher's son, and the unfortunate support 
that questionable statement has derived from his caco- 
phonous name. All that can be said with certainty of 
Jeffreys' boyhood amounts to this — he was considered by 
those who knew him a lad of exceptional talents, and, 
for that reason, received at the hands of his parents 
the best education possible to a gentleman of that period. 
Philip Henry examined the boy's learning at his 
mother's request, and found him remarkably proficient. 
He was first sent to Shrewsbury School, then the prepar- 
atory school for the gentry of the neighbourhood. Lord 
Campbell unmercifully accuses Jeffreys, even at this 
tender age, of cheating his schoolfellows at marbles and 
leapfrog ; but adds that, in spite of these failings, he 
contrived to get himself elected Master of the Revels by 

B 2 


his long-suffering companions, whatever that may mean ! 
In his eleventh year Jeffreys was removed to St. Paul's 
School in London, with the view, Lord Campbell has it, 
of ultimately entering life as a shop apprentice. Here 
he became the pupil of Dr. Cromleholme, Pepys' " con- 
ceited, dogmatic pedagogue Crumlum," who was at any 
rate sufficiently in earnest to die of the loss of his library 
in the Great Fire. Jeffreys remained at St. Paul's two 
years. In 1661 he was removed to Westminster, at that 
time under the Mastership of the awful Busby. As 
Jeffreys only remained in the school a year, he had not 
time to benefit fully by the training which mellowed 
Locke, Dryden, and many a divine, to the comfort of 
succeeding generations. Locke complains that at West- 
minster greater efforts were shown in directing tongues 
to learned languages than minds to virtue. Some may be 
inclined to cite Jeffreys in confirmation of this charge. 
They can, if they will, call Lord Campbell in evidence, 
for he says that Jeffreys was occasionally flogged for 
idleness and impudence. This is another supposition 
on Lord Campbell's part ; but the reputation of Busby 
and the healthy failings of any well-constituted school- 
boy lend it greater probability than falls to the lot of the 
majority of the noble author's biographical inspirations. 
Whilst at Westminster, Jeffreys is said to have had a 
dream in which his rise and fall were graphically revealed 
to him. He is also said to have often narrated his vision 
to his friends in the days of his success. This may or 
may not be true. Dreams and prophecies in the case 
of famous or infamous people are often invoked after the 
event to lend a supernatural importance to their earthly 
careers. If Jeffreys was really in possession of this super- 
natural information it is surprising that he did not 
manage his future more skilfully. Lord Campbell has 
introduced a gipsy into the story, for reasons not imme- 
diately obvious. 

For reasons equally mysterious, Lord Campbell con- 
ducts an unauthenticated correspondence between Jeffreys 


and his father relative to the former's desire to adopt the 
profession of the Law. It is said in the contemporary 
accounts of the Judge's life that this desire on the part of 
George was very alarming to Mr. Jeffreys, and drove the 
unfortunate gentleman to prophecy. " George, George, I 
fear thou wilt die with thy shoes and stockings on," he is 
is reported to have said at the close of the arguments as to 
the lad's future. Seeing that not a few of George's ancestors 
had been engaged in the legal profession, and George him- 
self educated on a liberal scale, Mr. Jeffreys' alarm is 
eccentric. But there were further difficulties in the way 
of fulfilling his son's wishes. An University training was 
then, as now, a frequent preliminary to entering on a 
legal career, and George would have liked to enjoy the 
experience. But, alas ! Mr. Jeffreys could not possibly 
afford to send his son to the University ; that was quite 
beyond his means. Lord Campbell treats us to quite a 
moving picture of the internal economy of Acton Park, 
in which he describes the anxious family seated in solemn 
conclave, striving as best they may, poor souls ! to gratify 
the ambitious cravings of a sinister youth. The University 
is quite out of the question ; ten pounds is all Mr. Jeffreys 
can possibly afford his son as an income during his years 
of studentship in the Temple. That sum being quite 
insufficient, the whole of the glorious project is about to 
be abandoned, when the maternal grandmother afore- 
mentioned, " pleased to see the blood of the Irelands 
break out," advances to the rescue, and out of a " small 
jointure " agrees to allow ^40 a year to her delightful 
grandson. Rejoicing in her munificence and wrapt in 
dreams of future glory and Sir Richard Whittington, the 
poor and struggling Mr. Jeffreys advances upon London. 

Having aspersed the son and impoverished the father, 
the historians of Jeffreys' boyhood may well rest content. 
They have had the first say ; and, if it is necessary 
to dispel their mists, there is very little to offer in 

In the first place Jeffreys was sent to the University, to 




Trinity College, Cambridge, in the March of 1662 ; and 
not only that, but soon after poor impecunious Mr. 
Jeffreys sent his youngest son, James, to Jesus College, 
Oxford, to prepare him for the Church. George Jeffreys 
remained at Cambridge a year, and in May, 1663, was en- 
tered as a student at the Inner Temple. How far the help 
of the grandmother was necessary seems doubtful. If not 
rich, Mr. Jeffreys seems to have been well enough off to 
educate his sons very liberally. His eldest son could 
afford to be High Sheriff, and there are other signs that 
his means were not so straitened as to be unable to 
afford ^40 for George's maintenance at the Temple. In 
any case it is not very important to determine whether he 
could or could not ; but it is important to point out the 
way in which the scanty details of Jeffreys' boyhood 
have been filled out by a great deal that is either unreliable 
anecdote or pure invention. 

It would no doubt be consoling to many who regard a 
traditional belief with uncompromising reverence, if it 
could be shown that the boyhood of " Judge Jeffreys " was 
one long record of petty misdeeds, in which the far-seeing 
might have detected the germs of greater crimes. Some 
such consideration may have impelled Lord Campbell and 
others to rely on their imaginations to supply the gaps in 
Jeffreys' early history, though they can hardly be congratu- 
lated on the ingenuity of their efforts. 

The boyhood of Jeffreys, like the boyhoods of many 
greater men, remains, and will ever remain, a closed book 
to us. Perhaps if we had the book it would not be 
worth opening ; though the fact could not fail to surpass 
in value the rather pinchbeck fiction which has apologised 
for its absence. However, on the few scattered facts that 
have been left to us, it may fairly be assumed that some 
instruction, if not amusement, is to be derived from the 
career of a well-born, well-educated and gifted young man, 
who, in spite of his birth, his breeding and his gifts, has 
become one of the most vehemently detested memories in 
the history of his country. 


1663 — 1671 

For five years, from 1663 to 1668, Jeffreys was a 
student of the Inner Temple. In those days the students 
resided actually within the precincts of their Inn, and led 
a life similar to that of an undergraduate in a University 
College. The Benchers took the place of Dons, and had 
a very bad time of it : if they resented the imper- 
tinences of the students, they got pumped on for their 
pains ; and if they complained to the Judges, who seemed 
to have exercised a kind of supervision over the discipline 
of the Inns, they were not infrequently snubbed, and on 
some occasions soundly rated. The students considered 
themselves quite competent to look after their own rights 
and privileges, as my Lord Mayor learnt to his cost. His 
coming into the Temple one night with his sword of state 
borne before him caused such an outburst of indignation 
that he had to run off to the King and send for the train- 
bands. In 1678, on the occasion of the fire in the Temple, 
the then Lord Mayor repeated the offence, and again had 
his sword beaten down before him. But this time he 
took a more effective revenge : he sent back the engine 
that was coming from the City to extinguish the flames, 
and made himself comfortably drunk in a neighbouring 

A student's life in the seventeenth century seems to 
have been as long and merry as it is now short and colour- 


less. How Jeffreys spent these five years can only be a 
matter for surmise. If we are to believe the few writers 
who have alluded to this period, we should be inclined to 
suggest that it was spent in getting drunk. Roger North, 
his elegant contemporary, says that " his beginnings at the 
Inns of Court were low." But from the outset it is 
necessary to receive anything North writes about Jeffreys 
with great caution. North was a prim, proper little 
person, with no sense of humour, timorous and diffident, 
but decided in his views and strong in his prejudices, as 
only people of narrow views and large affections can be. 
It was in this last respect that, apart from differences of 
temperament, Jeffreys offended him beyond all hope of 
pardon. Roger North loved his brother Francis dearly, 
with a great and impervious affection, and regarded him 
as all that a great lawyer and an upright man should be. 
How far Francis North deserved this adoration, — how far, 
if Roger North had possessed any sense of humour, he 
could have continued to adore, — we may have better oppor- 
tunities of judging later on. At any rate Roger did adore 
his brother unspeakably, and Francis' enemies were his 
enemies. Of these Jeffreys was the foremost. The 
opposite natures of the two men made disagreement in- 
evitable as soon as they were placed in a position where 
disagreement was possible. The occasion offered later in 
Jeffreys' career, and from that moment a mutual dislike 
sprang up between them. " All the men of law in Eng- 
land," says Roger North, " in place and out of place, 
mustered together," did not so much affect his brother's 
quiet as Jeffreys. In this sentence Roger North gives 
us the best test of the reliance to be placed on his views 
of Jeffreys. Even the great and good Sir Matthew Hale 
suffered at his hands for not sufficiently appreciating the 
virtues of Francis. What then would be the sufferings 
of Jeffreys, who not only failed to appreciate the virtues of 
Francis, but laughed at and made merry over them, and 
whose character, his most ardent apologist will admit, is 
not quite so proof against detraction as Hales's ? Any 


writer concerned with the legal history of this period owes 
an invaluable debt to North for his quaint and attractive 
work ; but the very fact that in a life of Jeffreys that work 
must be constantly referred to makes it at the outset 
imperatively necessary to explain the circumstances under 
which it was written and their natural effect on Roger 
North's estimate of Jeffreys' career and character. 

" His beginnings were low." By this Roger North 
must be taken to mean that his days were passed in drink- 
ing and keeping low company. It would be idle to 
pretend that Jeffreys was not a hard drinker ; and a hard 
drinker in those days meant a good deal. Even the 
virtuous Francis North took more than was good for him ; 
but then he could feel it coming on, and used to sit smiling 
and say nothing, " so harmless a thing of a petit good 
fellow was he." Judging by his portraits he must have 
looked rather idiotic at these times. Jeffreys was never 
of the " sitting smiling " order. He drank his fill, often 
more than his fill, with the frankness and freedom 
characteristic of his age. We know that he did so later 
in life ; it is therefore presumable that he did so with if 
anything greater freedom in youth. The Temple must 
have offered the same facilities to the indulgence of such 
habits of revelry in the young as the Universities offer 
to-day in a lesser degree in their wines and common 
rooms ; and Jeffreys no doubt availed himself fully of such 
opportunities. In London the company he would meet 
in the course of such revels would be mixed, though the 
tavern then was a higher place of entertainment than it is 
now. We may conclude that Jeffreys, in the matter of 
his amusements, offered no resistance to the lax habits of 
the age, and that perhaps the greater part of his time was 
given over to amusement. All this would be naturally 
very shocking to men like the Norths who were assiduous 
students and had been brought up in a manner that made 
the laxity of manners prevalent in their day distressing to 
them. But Jeffreys was very different to the Norths. 
He was no assiduous plodder, his brain was quick to 


apprehend, and he possessed, in the opinion of those best 
capable of judging, that instinctive penetration into the 
real merits of a question which seems to be the most 
essential characteristic of a great lawyer. He was never 
the ignorant man he has been represented ; he must have 
acquired some knowledge of law to merit the praise that 
has been bestowed on him ; but he probably acquired 
quickly, and without much effort — a facility always dan- 
gerous in a man of sociable habits. He was in all probability 
only too ready to fling away his books and betake himself 
to the dancing and fencing schools, those " rendezvous so 
dangerous and expensive to young gentlemen of the 
Temple." He may have believed that time spent in 
learning the arts of society was profitably employed, 
especially if he did not intend to rely too severely on 
book learning for his future success. However Jeffreys 
employed his spare time, in drinking or dancing or fencing 
or gaming, the voice of calumny, loudly as it has cried 
against him, has never been able to accuse him of that 
grosser immorality which disgraced the society of his day ; 
and it is very certain that had there been the opportunity 
of doing so, posterity would not have been long kept in 
ignorance. But these insinuations of North, whatever 
degree of faith may be placed in them, can only refer to 
one side of Jeffreys' life. Drink and low company cannot, 
even in Charles the Second's reign, explain the extraordinary 
rapidity of Jeffreys' rise. Three years only after his call 
to the Bar he was elected Common Serjeant of the City of 
London. To accomplish this he must have acquired a 
considerable interest in the City and a certain standing in 
his profession. To gain these in three years from his call 
to the Bar would be hardly possible unless he had by his 
abilities and personal advantages already made a reputation 
that preceded him and secured for him immediate employ- 
ment. A young man in Jeffreys' station could not have 
come up to London friendless. The social position of his 
parents, his own education at public school and university 
must have launched him into some sort of society in which 


he might win favour and influence if he had the power to 
do so. 

Until Jeffreys' portrait had been exhibited in the 
National Portrait Gallery it would have been difficult 
to induce well-instructed people to believe that " Judge 
Jeffreys " as a young man was possessed of a fair counten- 
ance, well formed in feature, and attractive in expression. 
His picture is the likeness of a refined and delicately 
made young man, the head small, and covered by thick 
brown hair, the eyes large and dark, the nose rather long 
and straight, the upper lip short, the mouth finely curved. 
His hands are peculiarly small and delicate in shape. If 
only a sufficient number of people visit the National 
Portrait Gallery there is likely to be a revulsion in 
favour of the Judge, such as no apologising or white- 
washing can achieve. That specious thing known as the 
" verdict of history " has never received such a decisive 
and simple rejoinder as in this portrait of Jeffreys. 
Whether it will be effective depends on the popularity 
of the National Portrait Gallery. 

Good looks, engaging manners and conspicuous talents 
are not such a frequent combination in the young men of 
any day as to fail to attract the attention of society, 
always on the look out for the promising sprigs of the 
rising generation. If we add to these gifts good birth 
and good breeding, the effect produced by the happy 
possessor of these advantages on the Aldermen of the 
City of London must have been peculiarly fascinating ; 
if his festive capacities were equally well developed, very 
complete. Jeffreys rejoiced in all these means to favour. 
It was in the City of London that he first found influen- 
tial friends, and from the City of London came his first 
preferment. The City must have been the field in which 
during these five years he had chosen to push his fortunes. 
He did so to such good purpose that when on his call to 
the Bar he began by practising in the City Courts he 
reaped an immediate reward. One of his more influential 
friends was a certain Alderman Jeffreys, nicknamed the 


" Great Smoker," because so much of his merchandise was 
burnt in the Great Fire. He was not, as far as we know, 
related to Mr. George Jeffreys, but perhaps the similarity 
of name and the personal attractions of the young man 
drew them together. The Alderman warmly espoused 
Mr. Jeffreys' fortunes, and placed his purse and his 
interest at his disposal. An equally important friend 
of Jeffreys was Sir Robert Clayton, that prince of citizens, 
who from scrivener's boy had risen, by usury under royal 
and distinguished patronage, to a position of prodigious 
magnificence. This was a friendship which, in spite of 
the gravest political differences, lasted till the end. As 
Sir Robert Clayton was a highly respectable person, 
Jeffreys deserves some credit for having enj'oyed the 
regard of that estimable man during the whole of his 
unpopular career. 

We may assume then that during the five years of his 
novitiate Jeffreys was not wholly drunken and idle, his 
beginnings not altogether low. He certainly did not 
lead a life that would commend itself to a sober student 
or an anxious father, but his pleasures were not so wholly 
engrossing as to prevent him from giving his charms and 
his talents every opportunity of showing themselves off to 
some advantage. He never forgot he had a career to 
make. If he had forgotten this as completely as some 
writers would have us believe, he would never have been 
heard of at all. But we know that he was heard of, and 
that very quickly. At twenty he was called to the Bar, 
and found plenty of work awaiting him. Fortune 
smiled on the young man. He had talents, he had 
friends. He started full of promise which he fulfilled 
with precocious rapidity ; at twenty-three he was a Judge, 
— an object of wonder and envy to many, of admiration to 
a few. But good fortune so signal and rapid as this is 
fraught with danger to a youth of a passionate and ambi- 
tious nature. Premature success may spoil the best of us, 
and serve to bring out very wilful qualities in the head- 
strong and the confident. Mr. Jeffreys had plenty of 


assurance, overwhelming ambition and very little self- 
control. If he has things too much his own way, it is to 
be feared that his assurance may swell to bursting, his self- 
control decline to vanishing point, and his ambition swallow 
up any good qualities remaining. 

At the time of Jeffreys' call to the Bar (1668), the 
profession of the Law had recovered all the profits and 
emoluments which the disturbances of the Civil War 
had considerably diminished, and was regarded as the 
most promising field in which a young man who had 
little to help him save his own abilities might hope to 
win his way to distinction and prosperity. The class of 
men practising at the Bar numbered many of eminent 
and respectable attainment ; and the Bench was filled 
by some good lawyers and one of the greatest men who 
has ever adorned a seat of justice. 

Sir Matthew Hale was at this time Lord Chief Baron 
of the Exchequer. The three attributes bestowed on 
him by Matthew Arnold no one will deny him : truthful- 
ness of disposition, vigour of intelligence, and penetrating 
judgment. He was a man whose errors we can the more 
readily forgive in that they prove the humanity of his 
greatness. In 1671 he was to leave the Exchequer for 
the Chief Justiceship of the King's Bench, and to pass 
away in the fulness of his dignity from the honours he 
adorned, the giant before the flood ! Hale is remarkable 
as one of the very few men of his time who understood 
the function of a Judge as we understand it to-day. 
With him impartiality was fanatical in its scrupulousness ; 
and Roger North's list of prejudices to which he was 
subject only enhances the distinction of a mind that on 
the seat of justice emancipated itself from every unjust or 
unworthy influence. But North did not like Hale ; for 
Hale, whilst he recognised the abilities, did not relish the 
personality of brother Francis. Extraordinary as it may 
sound at the first announcement, the man who most 
gained upon him and won his ear and his friendship was 
Mr. George Jeffreys. Of course Roger North cites this 


partiality as a strange failing on the part of so great a 
man, and ascribes its origin to little accommodations admin- 
istered to the Lord Chief Baron at Mr. Jeffreys' house in 
the shape of a partridge or two on a plate, and a pipe 
after, served up with the pleasing diversion of satirical 
tales and reflections on well-known men of the town. 
North, rather puzzled, can only explain such an intimacy 
as an example of Hale's extravagant love for " bizarre and 
irregular wits." True, Hale as a young man had once 
betrayed a sinful love for stage plays and merry-making, 
and Jeffreys may have served to kindle some smothered 
remnant of these wicked proclivities in the heart of the 
old Puritan. But Mr. North's elaborate explanation of 
the incident is just a little laboured ; and Lord Campbell's 
suggestion that Jeffreys won over Hale by an affectation 
of religion, a wanton supposition. Mr. Jeffreys was a 
bright, handsome and intelligent lawyer, winning a rapid 
success in his profession, sufficiently opposed in tempera- 
ment to Hale to attract his regard and sufficiently clever 
to display his best qualities to so good a man. There is 
no reason to look with shame, surprise or suspicion on 
an intimacy which is as creditable to Jeffreys as it is in 
no way discreditable or " bizarre " on the part of Hale. 

Among those to whom Mr. Jeffreys would look up as 
the leaders of his profession were certain men who in 
later years were to be called upon to play some part in 
his future career. Roger's estimable brother, Sir. 
Francis North, had just been appointed Solicitor-General. 
This amiable, worldly and accomplished man, of much 
negative virtue, has invariably succeeded in irritating any 
writer who has been obliged to notice his existence. He 
never did anything peculiarly bad, and he certainly never 
did anything peculiarly noble. The unfortunate man 
meant well in a timorous sort of way, and would have 
been glad to escape with a decent modicum of approval ; 
but his brother Roger, by exaggerating his eminently 
domestic virtues and exalting the respectability of a 
vestryman into the attributes of a Daniel, has rendered 


him eternally ridiculous. A splay-faced man with wily 
eyes. In 1673 North was promoted from Solicitor to 
Attorney-General, and two years later his talents and his 
assiduity were fitly rewarded by his being raised to the 
Bench as Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. It 
would have been well had he ended his days in a position 
in every way suited to his legal ability and his moral 
worth, but in an evil hour he accepted the custody of 
the Great Seal, and never had a happy moment afterwards. 
Of a very different stamp were the Serjeants Scroggs 
and Pemberton, two very considerable men of law 
at this period, who likewise played important parts in the 
story of Jeffreys' life. Serjeant Pemberton has claims 
to respectful consideration, if only for the fact that 
the worthy Evelyn describes him as " honest." He 
was one of those energetic beings who, after devoting 
their powers of earnest application to the reckless indul- 
gence of their physical appetites, at a critical moment 
transfer them to more lasting pursuits, and achieve 
honour and renown in their new departure. In the sordid 
retirement of a debtors' prison, whither his extravagance 
had led him, Francis Pemberton came to his senses and, 
under sympathetic surroundings, commenced the study of 
the Law. It is not surprising that he emerged from this 
novel seat of learning a very sharper in his trade, and by 
the aid of his sobered talents acquired an extensive 
practice. Pepys' evidence leaves no doubt as to his 
remarkable success. Not only does he tell us how pretty 
it was to see the heaps of gold on the lawyer's table, but 
adds that the eminent counsel had never read the case on 
which he consulted him, and gave him perfectly incorrect 
advice. There can be no surer signs that he was indeed 
a famous leader and had risen from the ashes of a 
dissolute past a thriving and respected lawyer. In 1679 
the Serjeant was appointed a Judge of the King's Bench. 

In the character of Pemberton excess was an incident, 
a temporary ailment that departed as quickly as it came, 
without leaving any traces of its occupation. But it was 


quite otherwise with Mr. Serjeant Scroggs. In his 
disposition excess was constitutional, physically and intel- 
lectually inherent. He was a debauchee in thought as 
well as action, and indulged as recklessly in his principles 
as his pleasures. Whatever he undertook he performed 
with a violence to which the excellence or infamy of the 
actions mattered little. But, as in the case of Jeffreys, 
his only serious rival in the field of judicial villainy, he 
impudently refuses to consider the fitness of inaccurate 
romance and submit to be sketched as the conventional 
monster whose brutality is only equalled by his ignorance. 
We can dismiss the story of his butcher descent. He was 
educated at Oxford, where he took a Master's degree. 
After a probationary course of military adventure as an 
officer in King Charles's army during the Civil War, he 
was called to the Bar, and by his abilities soon achieved 
professional success. He became one of the City Counsel, 
distinguished for the wit and elegance of his speech. 
Pepys heard him plead in the House of Lords and 
declared him to be " an excellent man." His speech on 
his appointment as a Judge was so much admired that he 
published it, and the copies were speedily sold out. Loose 
principles and useful talents commended him to Lord 
Danby, a nimble wit and comely presence to the Duchess 
of Portsmouth. By the side of such sponsors wounds 
received for King Charles I in the Civil War were super- 
fluous recommendations to King Charles II ; and his 
future was assured. 

This shining example of rapid advancement was to be 
closely followed a few years later by young Mr. Jeffreys, to 
whom in all but one respect the progress of Serjeant Scroggs 
might have served as a model. But the machinations of 
his detractors have failed to convict Jeffreys of a dissolute 
or immoral youth. Beyond shadowy indications of 
intemperance, he seems as a young man to have been 
almost unnaturally free from the prevailing tendencies of 
his period. It is a significant fact that Hale, the friend of 
Jeffreys, detested Scroggs. On one occasion, when the latter, 


arrested on a King's Bench warrant for assault and battery, 
pleaded to the Court his privilege as a Serjeant, the Chief 
Justice left him to his fate. But it must always be 
remembered, in dealing with the men of Scroggs' 
generation, that those who had fought and buffeted in the 
Civil War, who had endured the pains and perils of 
defeat and exile, and to whom wine and women had been 
the only occupations left under the stern regime of a 
suspicious Government, were very slow to settle down 
again into decent habits. The shameless immorality of 
Charles the Second's reign, the obvious desire to shock 
the ugly virtue that had so long oppressed them, the 
careless indulgence of the upper classes on the return of 
their Sovereign were the necessary outcome of a state 
of civil discord and a natural reaction against a 
preceding period of gloomy repression. The Puritan 
ascendency had oppressed but not extinguished the 
loose disposition of the Cavalier ; he carried with him 
into the summer of his prosperity the evil habits of his 
winter of discontent. 


167 1 — 1678 

In 1667 Jeffreys had been guilty of an early marriage. 
The circumstances of it, if correctly given, are very much 
to his credit. 

In the course of the formation of that large clientele 
which the young student was winning to himself in the 
City of London, he chanced to visit the house of a certain 
wealthy merchant, who rejoiced in the possession of a 
daughter. The personality of the daughter is unimportant 
when we learn that she ha*d thirty thousand pounds. 
Adopting this view of the situation, the handsome young 
lawyer laid siege to the maiden's heart ; and, to better 
further the gentle war that he was waging, pressed into his 
service one Sarah Neesham, the daughter of a clergyman, 
apparently acting as confidante or companion to the City 
maiden. In the latter capacity she was employed by the 
besieger to carry notes and messages of devotion to the 
besieged, a task she would seem to have performed so 
efficaciously that the fair garrison began to show signs of 
a speedy surrender. Alas ! on the eve of triumph the 
merchant father discovered all. The besieged was removed 
out of harm's way, the besieger routed from his entrench- 
ments, and Miss Neesham cast upon the world with £300. 
In her distress she hurried to Mr. Jeffreys, and poured out 
the tale of her sorrow, thereby so powerfully affecting the 
heart and imagination of the impulsive youth that, with- 


out more ado, he offered her his hand and problematical 
fortunes as compensation for her misadventure. The offer 
having been accepted, on May 22nd, 1667, George Jeffreys 
and Sarah Neesham were married in the church of All Hal- 
lows, Barking. How the news was received at Acton, how 
the young couple contrived to provide for the early years 
of their married life, history does not relate ; but a home to 
support and a rapidly increasing family must have been 
powerful incentives to Mr. Jeffreys to apply himself with 
all the vigour he possessed to the task of furthering his 
professional ambitions. 

For eleven years Mr. and Mrs. Jeffreys led, we may 
hope, a happy and what should have been a prosperous 
existence. Sarah was a good wife, and repaid her husband's 
generous act by constant affection and six children. 

In the case of Jeffreys this story is almost too favour- 
able to his character to be an invention, and displays 
generosity and good humour on the part of the Judge. 
There is no reason to doubt that in private life he possessed 
these qualities, if in a rather excessive degree ; the 
Merry Monarch took pleasure in his society, and, in spite 
of the large sums that must have passed through his 
hands, he died with considerable debts and few friends. 

In 1668 Jeffreys had been called to the Bar ; in 1671, 
at the age of twenty-four, he was elected Common Serjeant 
of the City of London. Even in those days of precocious 
success the rise was phenomenally rapid. Mr. Jeffreys was 
reaping with a vengeance the reward of his assiduous culti- 
vation of a City interest. In the City Courts the favour of 
such magnates as Clayton or the Alderman namesake gave 
him the best start possible ; whilst the " bold presence, 
fluent tongue, audible voice and good utterance " bestowed 
on him by his anonymous biographer, show that he pos- 
sessed attributes far more potent than interest to advance 
his fortunes. The fame of his advocacy spread with 
such rapidity that he was " courted to take fees, 
breviates were thrust into his hands in the middle of 
a case by parties who perceived that things were going ill 

c 2 


with them." Roger North would have us believe that at 
this period Jeffreys resorted to a certain theatrical expedient 
for the purpose of increasing his reputation. His custom 
was to go to a coffee house and sit among his friends, when 
the following little drama would be enacted for their 
edification. To Jeffreys enters his clerk, who informs him 
that company attend him at his chamber. Jeffreys huffing 
replies, " Let them stay a little ; I will come presently ; " 
and the clerk takes his departure, amidst the respectful 
admiration of the uninitiated. The story is an old one, 
the device conventional, and, one would have thought, 
superfluous on the part of an exceptionally gifted youth, 
with the purse and interest of a rich Alderman at his 
disposal, and the good wishes of many of the citizens in 
whose Courts he practised. There can be little doubt 
that it was by the agency of these latter resources, rather 
than the vulgar expedients suggested by North, that Mr. 
George Jeffreys attained so early in his career to the office 
of Common Serjeant. 

Lord Keeper North, in the few notes he has left on the 
subject of Jeffreys, describes him as commencing with a 
turbulent spirit against the Mayor and Aldermen, and 
taking the part of the burgesses against them. No evidence 
is adducible in favour of this version ; and Roger North 
admits it was the very opposite of his subsequent practice 
when he had become a highflier for the Mayor's authority. 
It is at the same time conceivable that Mr. Jeffreys, 
by giving the Court of Aldermen a wholesome taste of 
his turbulent ability in opposition, may have obliged that 
body to hasten as quickly as possible the closing of his 
mouth by the conferment of the Common Serjeancy. 

Until within comparatively recent times, the acceptance 
of the offices of Common Serjeant or Recorder of London 
was not the termination of a legal career, as it usually is 
to-day. The recipient was not expected to give up his 
practice at the Bar, and whilst sitting as a Judge in the City 
Courts could as an advocate in the King's Courts at West- 
minster continue his search after still higher honours. 


Had it been otherwise, Mr. Jeffreys would never have 
consented to confine his tireless ambition within the 
narrow limits of the Mayor's Court or the Old Bailey. 
Once Recorder — an office to which in due course of time 
he might reasonably aspire — he was well aware that he 
must look elsewhere for further promotion ; that, having 
given him the best legal prize in their possession, the 
City could minister little more to his desires, and that 
circumstances might arise in which the patronage and 
favour of the Corporation would operate as a serious bar 
to his bolder aspirations. At the time of his appointment 
to the Common Serjeancy, Jeffreys may well have ob- 
served the first signs of the preponderance among the 
citizens of London of that popular party which viewed 
with jealousy and suspicion the designs of the Crown and 
Court, and which less than ten years later was to break 
out into the most undisguised hostility to their measures. 
Symptoms of ultimate divergence between Crown and 
City made one fact clear to the mind of the Common 
Serjeant, — the occasion might arise when he would be 
obliged to choose between devotion to his present em- 
ployers and adherence to his Sovereign. If he were 
to solve this problem by considerations of self-interest 
his choice could be easily determined. The Crown 
was the supreme fountain of honour and emolument ; 
the Recordership was the limit of City preferment. 
Not to miss the latter he must continue to cultivate 
the good graces of the citizens ; but to be Lord Chief 
Justice or Lord High Chancellor he must attach himself 
to the fortunes of him from whom alone such prizes 
might be obtained, and, if possible, so ingratiate himself 
with his Majesty as to be able, in the event of an open 
rupture between Court and City, to pass with profit and 
advantage into the service of the former. At this period 
a double policy of the kind adopted by Mr. Jeffreys was 
far easier of execution than it would have been a few years 
later. The anger and distrust which culminated in the 
Popish Plot pandemonium had not yet openly ranked 


the City on the popular side, and though a large section 
among its leaders regarded with dislike the mysterious 
policy of the King and his high-minded advisers, a certain 
measure of cordiality subsisted between the parties, and 
there were those in their councils who, from various 
motives, enjoyed the favour of the Court. 

At the same time, setting aside motives of self-in- 
terest, Jeffreys' temper and character would incline him 
to enlist in the service of the Court rather than the 
popular party. His was an arbitrary habit of mind ; 
he hated factious sentiment and religious fanaticism, both 
of which were present in large quantities among the 
extreme malcontent section of the popular party. If 
he had ever indulged in republican sentiments, as some 
writers would imply, he had come to loathe them as men 
will their youthful excesses. 

When anybody of no particular dignity, but filled with 
an overmastering desire to employ his hand and heart in 
the service of his Sovereign, wished to bring such a desire 
under the notice of his august master, the one unfailing 
conduit pipe down which the aspirant might slide into 
the presence of the Monarch was Mr. William Chiffinch, 
page, Secretary and Keeper of the King's Closet. This 
gentleman, " who had carried the abuse of backstairs 
influence to scientific perfection," is represented by Roger 
North (whose version we are now adopting) as the means 
by which Jeffreys proceeded to carry out his schemes for 
the future. One common failing rendered a union be- 
tween these two great men almost inevitable. Mr. 
Chiffinch was an impetuous drinker, who never let any 
one depart from him sober, and whose business as a spy 
depended for its success on the secrets he drew by means 
of " saltiferous drops " from his stupefied victims. Mr. 
Jeffreys, as far as drinking capacity went, was one of his 
few rivals. It merely required the tiresome formality of 
an introduction to inaugurate that close friendship which is 
apt to grow up between " immane drinkers ; " and, in the 
intervals of pleasure, Mr. Jeffreys, who pretended to main 


feats with the citizens, could furnish much useful informa- 
tion about the intentions of the City malcontents, among 
whom he was in the habit of ranting about with great 
vehemence and posing as a highflier for the authority of 
Mayor and Aldermen. Little did the simple giants 
dream what a viper they were nourishing in their capa- 
cious bosoms ! or that in these backstair revels were 
being sown the seeds of that immoral union between 
King and Common Serjeant, out of which was to spring, 
in the fulness of time, the terrible and immortal night- 
mare known to the vulgar as " Judge Jeffreys " ! that 
now for the first time, with copious libations, the suppli- 
cant implored the prize of treachery, and in the wild 
passion of the devotee strove to forget the pains of 
worship ! 

Some such heightened impression is left on the mind 
after reading North's narrative of the rise of Jeffreys. 
Fierce and unquiet, the Common Serjeant is represented 
as drinking himself into the notice of the Court ; the 
scanty jottings of the Lord Keeper on his enemy's career 
are copiously illuminated by Roger's luxurious imagination. 

But, whilst cheerfully admitting that at no period of 
his short life was abstinence in any way a natural or ac- 
quired element in Mr. Jeffreys' disposition, it will be 
edifying to indicate a few subtler methods than intoxica- 
tion by which the Common Serjeant strove to advance his 
fortunes in the direction of the Court. 

It is very possible that Jeffreys may have used Chiffinch 
as a means of introduction to Whitehall, or at least, in 
company with many better men than himself, have found 
it expedient to accept the hospitalities of the Clerk of the 
Closet. But if Jeffreys was desirous of a closer acquaint- 
ance with the Court party, his official position in the City 
must have afforded him many opportunities of carrying 
out his wishes. The City during the reign of Charles II. 
was a factor of considerable importance in domestic politics. 
Its extent was still practically conterminous with London 
itself, it represented with tolerable accuracy the general 


political feeling of the capital, and exercised control over 
the order and well-being of the citizens. Nothing is more 
conclusive of the consideration attached by the Court to 
its political attitude than the frequent attempts of the 
King to obtain supremacy in its councils, and the deliberate 
attack that was made upon its independence during the 
three years of despotism which closed the reign of 
Charles II. 

When Jeffreys entered on his new office the Recorder 
Howel was a lawyer whose share in public affairs was 
strictly limited to the duties of his place. If, then, the 
Common Serjeant displayed to those of the Court party 
with whom he must have come in contact at the various 
City festivals a broader sense of the possibilities of his 
situation than was compatible with the mere discharge of 
his official functions, so much the better. At the houses 
of his friends Clayton and the " Great Smoker " he must 
have found ample occasion to bring himself under the 
notice of those for whom he could offer to perform the 
most useful services ; nor was the Court likely to let slip 
the chance of acquiring so able an intelligencer within the 
territories of a suspected and suspicious power. 

Jeffreys was not slow to make the most of these facilities. 
A letter preserved in the British Museum proves that as 
early as 1672 the Common Serjeant was employed by the 
Government in business of a very secret and mysterious 
nature. The letter is addressed to Sir Richard Browne, 
the old and faithful Clerk of the Council, at his lodgings 
at Whitehall, and is dated from the Inner Temple, April 5th. 

" Sir, — I have caused diligent search to be made from 
the beginning of 1668 till this time, and you may be 
assured there is none ; fear not ; keep all things close, 
excuse haste and the rudeness of this address, made by 
" Your most faithful servant, 

"George Jeffreys." 

For what purpose this " diligent search " was made, 
what this peculiarly secret errand, why Browne is exhorted 


to have no fear and keep all things close, it is impossible 
to determine ; and, as Jeffreys' duties were eminently 
confidential and unofficial, it is not likely that light will 
ever be shed on the nature of the transaction. From the 
very beginning of this year the Cabal Ministry had been 
engaged in cynically outraging the most cherished feelings 
of the nation. In January, the closing of the Exchequer 
had violated public credit ; in March, the Declaration of 
Indulgence, following closely on the public reception of 
the Duke of York into the Catholic Church, had confirmed 
the worst suspicions of earnest Churchmen ; later in the 
same month the national hatred of France was provoked 
by the combined attack of Louis and Charles on Pro- 
testant Holland. There was no doubt plenty of work 
to be done on which it was quite inexpedient that the 
fierce light of publicity should be allowed to shed its 
inconvenient rays. Charles was at home in schemes 
hidden from the world, and always retreating deeper into 
secrecy. Under the respectable conduct of Browne, 
Jeffreys was invited to follow the King into the innermost 
recesses of his clandestine politics. 

Having placed the Common Serjeant at so early a date 
as 1672 on an intimate footing among the confidential 
agents of the Crown, it is easy to account for his subse- 
quent connections with certain distinguished members of 
the Court. Very possibly through the medium of 
Browne, who had known her honest Breton parents in 
France, Jeffreys first became acquainted with Louise de 
Querouaille. This lady was proclaimed mistress of the 
King by the title of Duchess of Portsmouth in 1673 ; and 
from that date until his death maintained, in spite of 
extensive competition and vicious unpopularity, a lasting 
influence over the mind of Charles. A pretty baby face, 
a decent carriage towards the desolate Queen, and a happy 
knack of summoning immediate tears in moments of 
emergency, were the principal resources of her power. 
She seems to have betrayed a penchant for handsome and 
witty lawyers. Scroggs was a personal friend ; but he 


was close on fifty when she came into office. Jeffreys, 
who added the charm of youth to his physical and mental 
advantages, must be reckoned her prime favourite. Her 
interest in his fortunes was a matter of public knowledge, 
to which a lampoon of the period describing the Duchess 
thus courteously refers : — 

" Monmouth's tamer, Jeff's advance, 
Foe to England, spy of France, 
False and foolish, proud and bold, 
Ugly, as you see, and old." 

It was a matter of course that his intimacy with the 
Duchess, purely platonic as far as we can judge, should 
have brought Jeffreys into contact with the Minister who 
in 1673 na -d succeeded to the power of the Cabal, for 
Lord Danby was commonly believed to have enjoyed the 
utmost favours of the new mistress. Danby is a typical 
politician of the Restoration period. His projected revival 
of the old Cavalier principles of Church and State was a 
high-minded and reasonable intention ; but his conscien- 
tious fidelity to a King whose only purpose, if he ever 
possessed one for any length of time, was to dispense, as 
far as possible, with that integral feature of our Con- 
stitution known as parliamentary control, foredoomed it 
to failure. In close association with these statesmanlike 
ideals Danby combined the most unblushing indifference 
as to his choice of means, an unworthy jealousy of in- 
tellectual equals and the conventional laxity in private 
morals. The success of his policy was to a great extent 
dependent on a system of bribery and espionage by which 
he sought to maintain a subservient majority in Parliament, 
and it was no doubt as part of this system that he ac- 
cepted at the hands of the Duchess the services of her 
handsome young lawyer. From his point of vantage in 
the City the Common Serjeant was able to give useful 
information as to the intentions of the popular leaders, 
who vented against Danby all the discontent stirred in 
their minds by the shifty conduct of the King, and to 


warn his patron of contemplated attacks in the Lower 

On February 15th, 1677, Parliament had met, after 
a fourteen months' prorogation, in no very gentle mood. 
On February 28 th, Mr. Jeffreys is thus moved to address 
the Lord Treasurer. : — 

"My Most Honoured Lord, — I did design an earlier 
trouble to your Lordship rather than to be thought un- 
mindful of returning my dutiful acknowledgment of the 
many favours you were pleased to confer upon me : but 
there fell nothing within the narrow compass of my intelli- 
gence worthy your consideration, or wherein I could imagine 
you were much concerned. Nor do I at present find any 
such momentous design against your Lordship as should 
need affect the meanest of your thoughts. I only beg the 
favour to acquaint you with, what I doubt not but you 
have already been advertised of, that to-morrow there are 
some few (for I cannot understand, though I have been 
inquisitive, that there are many concerned in it) that 
design to try some reflections on your management of the 
Excise, and have been inquisitive in that affair in order 
thereunto ; it is not hoped the success will be great, but 

desire to know how it will relish in the House 

Did I conceive it worthy your trouble I should be more 
large in the intimation, but I cannot perceive that you are 
materially aimed at. My Lord, I humbly beg your 
pardon for this great (?) and confidence, being emboldened 
thereto by your great consideration and favour towards 
me ; and I beg leave to assure your Lordship that I will 
with all zeal and industry embrace all opportunities wherein 
I may manifest myself to be a loyal subject to my King. 

" My Lord, 

" Your Lordship's most grateful, faithful, 
" and obedient servant, 

"George Jeffreys." 1 

1 The original of this letter was in the possession of the late Mr. 
Alfred Morrison. 


This letter calls for little comment. It is couched in 
the fulsome and elaborate style usually adopted at that 
time by a client in addressing his patron. It explains as 
clearly as possible the relations between Jeffreys and 
Danby. That a young man with a career to make 
should adopt the profession of a political informer was in 
no way shocking to the unscrupulous spirit of the age. It 
would be idle, taking into account the strange admixture 
of honesty and dishonesty, principle and interest so fre- 
quently observed in the actions of these seventeenth 
century politicians, to refuse to admit that principle as well 
as interest had some share in the alliance between these two 
men, that Jeffreys' lifelong attachment to the cause of 
personal government and the Church of England sprang 
from something more than a vulgar desire for self- 
aggrandisement. Though Jeffreys ultimately went to 
lengths which Danby could not approve, we find him as 
late as the reign of James II. in close communication with 
that statesman. In the absence of any definite testimony 
it may not be unfair to assume that from Danby Jeffreys 
received his first schooling in practical politics, or at least 
formed a youthful admiration for the Treasurer's abilities. 
The old Cavalier spirit, that loved the Church and loathed 
the Dissenters, was well-calculated to attract the young 
Common Serjeant, and the importance of a strong union 
of King and Church was always present to the mind 
of Jeffreys as the surest foundation of arbitrary power. 

By means of the subtle management of Danby the 
Session of 1677 passed off quietly. Shaftesbury and other 
peers of the country party were sent to the Tower, and 
the inevitable subsidy voted ; though, as Reresby phrases 
it, " it was much feared that some votes were gained more 
by purchase than affection " — the calm before the storm. 

In the meantime Jeffreys might reasonably expect some 
reward for his pains and dangers. Whether the country 
interest in the City had grown suspicious of the Common 
Serjeant, or the influence of the Lord Treasurer had 
proved insufficient, Jeffreys did not receive the Recorder- 


ship which fell vacant on Howel's resignation in 1676. 
It was in all probability his age — he was not yet thirty — 
that determined the electors more than anything else ; and 
the post was given to William Dolben, a sound independent 
lawyer and a son of the Archbishop of York. 

But in the following year the Common Serjeant was to 
experience the first of the many honours ultimately con- 
ferred upon him by a grateful Sovereign. In September, 
1677, Mr. Jeffreys was appointed Solicitor-General to 
James, Duke of York, and received the honour of Knight- 
hood at Whitehall. At this period the Duke of York, 
much to the annoyance of Danby, had obstinately espoused 
the cause of the French alliance, — a proceeding which must 
have brought him into some sort of union with the 
Duchess of Portsmouth, who was always regarded by the 
public as the evil genius of the national degradation 
involved in such a policy. The Duchess was not slow to 
present to the Duke the young and intelligent lawyer, 
whose sprightly talents seem to have immediately impressed 
the heavy James. From this appointment dates Jeffreys' 
period of service to the future King James, which only 
terminated with the fall of the dynasty and his own 
destruction, and to which the former, whatever his motives, 
adhered with fatal fidelity. 

Lord Campbell, with his singular penetration into the 
psychology of the defunct — a penetration which trium- 
phantly o'erleaps those bounds of evidence and authority 
that hamper the proceedings of more timorous historians — 
tells us Jeffreys was silly enough to be much tickled by 
these marks of royal favour ; and describes how he 
apologised to his friends in the City for the honours done 
him by the Court. There is of course no authority given 
for these revelations. Nor was there any need for apology. 
The time had not yet arrived when Court favours were 
displeasing to the citizens ; on the contrary, they would 
only enhance the consequence of the Common Serjeant 
with a great number of the Aldermen. 

Another year was to pass by, to our knowledge unevent- 


ful, in the life of Jeffreys, and Sir George received a mark 
of personal favour from the King so unmistakable that it 
soon became the talk of the town, and the popularity of 
the Common Serjeant in Court circles was impressed as an 
undoubted fact on the public mind. So well had things 
thriven with Sir George, professionally and otherwise, that 
he had been enabled to purchase a house in Buckingham- 
shire, at Bulstrode, where he subsequently acquired the 
manor. There, in August, 1678, King Charles, accompanied 
by the Duchess of Portsmouth, did Sir George the honour 
of dining with him. 1 The proceedings during the meal 
were marked by the utmost cordiality. The King caused 
his host to sit down, and drank to him full seven times. 
We may be sure the host was not behindhand in similar 
demonstrations of devotion towards his distinguished 
guest, and displayed qualities and capacities which must 
have outshone in the eyes of the genial monarch all the 
sober achievements of the past. After an evening such as 
this, Sir George might fairly cherish the hope that hence- 
forth there would be no service too intimate or too 
questionable to be entrusted to the hands of one whose 
disposition was so happily coincident with all that was best 
and truest in that amiable good humour which served with 
the second Charles in place of heart. This Bulstorde revel 
with its seven toasts hardly confirms Macaulay's statement 
that Charles II. always regarded Jeffreys with scorn and 
disgust, in opposition to the revengeful and obdurate 
James, who was pleased to become his patron. Next 
morning London was full of the honour done to the 
Common Serjeant, and the rumour spread that Jeffreys 
was to be Recorder or Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Need- 
less to say that, if he was offered the choice, he preferred 
remaining in London to an honourable exile in Dublin ; 
and accordingly the necessary steps were taken to gratify 
his wishes at the expense of others. In October the 
venerable Mr. Justice Twisden, of the King's Bench, 
received a complimentary quietus and a pension of £500, 
1 Vcmey Papers, Hist. MSS. Comm. 


ejjreus ay ^\ecordor ofJ.ondou.cphd 30, 
i ifter th e pa in tirugby fKnAler. 
in the relational ZTortrail Qcdlery. 


and the Recorder Dolben was set in his place. In the 
same month, " freely, unanimously and by scrutiny," the 
Common Serjeant was elected over the heads of three other 
candidates to the vacant Recordership. Whatever their 
political differences, the faithful City was in all probability 
only too pleased to have as their Recorder a courtier who 
so obviously basked in the sunshine of royal esteem. 

Shortly after his appointment as Recorder Jeffreys made 
another appearance before the King, which, if anything 
else were necessary, must have completed the fascinating 
impression he had already made on his royal master. 
Certain persons had printed a Psalter called the " King's 
Psalter," in violation of the rights of the Stationers' 
Company. The Company haled them before the Privy 
Council, retaining Jeffreys as their advocate. The King 
presided at the Board, and, in the presence of Charles, 
Jeffreys thus described the conduct of his opponents. 
"They" (the printers of the piratical Psalter) "have 
teemed with a spurious brat, which being clandestinely 
midwived into the world, the better to cover the im- 
posture they lay it at your Majesty's door." This 
cheeky allusion to the promiscuous paternity of his 
Sovereign pleased the King, for to him the subject was 
always a source of pride. He turned to the Lords on his 
side and said, "This is a bold fellow, I'll warrant him." 
Bold certainly, but not indiscreetly so. Pleasant even- 
ings at Bulstrode had placed the Recorder on a familiar 
footing with his King ; and, though the jest was of sur- 
passing impudence, Charles II. enjoyed impudence if it was 

In February of the same year Sir George had lost his 
first wife. But with rather suspicious haste the void 
created in his heart was promptly refilled. In May 
following he married Lady Jones, the " brisk young 
widow " of a Welsh knight, and daughter of Alderman 
Sir Thomas Bludworth, M.P., who had been Lord Mayor 
of London in the Plague year. Occurring as it does 
some few months before his election as Recorder, this 


alliance must have considerably strengthened his chances 
and augmented his interest in that direction. Unfortu- 
nately, the common gossip of the day saw fit to blacken 
this incident in the private life of the Recorder. It 
asserted that the brisk young widow had so far forgotten 
her moral and artistic feelings as to allow herself to be 
consoled during coverture by one Sir John Trevor, 
familiarly known as " Squinting Jack," "than whom no 
man ever had a worse squint." This Trevor was a 
barrister and a cousin of Jeffreys, to whom he owed such 
success as he had hitherto obtained. He was a sordid, 
avaricious fellow, but not lacking in boldness and cun- 
ning. How far the second Lady Jeffreys had yielded to 
the wiles of this plain man there is nothing but scandalous 
rumour to inform us. But things were not allowed to 
rest tamely at this point. The story goes that, on the 
premature birth of a child as the fruit of her union with 
Jeffreys, it became evident to the most casual student of 
the almanac that there had been a mistake somewhere. 
When a year or two later Jeffreys had made himself 
thoroughly unpopular with the city malcontents the dis- 
covery was made a theme for popular doggerel in the 
shape of a ballad called The Westminster Wedding, or 
the Town Mouth} alias the Recorder of London and 
his Lady, in which Jeffreys is loaded with the customary 
abuse, and he and Chief Justice Scroggs are represented 
as quarrelling in their cups on the subject of Lady 
Jeffreys' accident. 

" They railed and bawled and kept a pother, 
And like two curs did bite each other," 

and are eventually consigned by the author to the gallows. 

The exact truth of this scandalous story, like that of the 

many tales and anecdotes that form almost the only material 

for the history of Jeffreys' early years, cannot be ascer- 

1 At the trial of Francis Smith for libel, Feb. 1680, Jeffreys had de- 
scribed himself in his capacity of Recorder of London as the " Mouth of 
the City of London." 


tained ; nor is it important that it should be. These 
stories must be taken together, without placing any too 
great reliance on their value in fact, and out of their 
general tenor some conception may be formed of 
the character of the man whose life they profess to 
illustrate, and whose personality must to a certain degree 
be reflected in tales of which he is the hero. After his 
appointment as Recorder, Jeffreys is brought actually 
before us ; we can read his own words, and the words of 
others about him whose authority is unimpeachable ; his 
history moves on surer ground. The reader will then be 
in a better position to appreciate how far these early 
stories have truly described or are the legitimate outcome 
of Jeffreys' personal character. 




As Recorder of London Jeffreys falls for the first time 
under the notice of Lord Macaulay. It is with re uctance 
that any writer of history finds himself obliged to differ 
from a great historian ; but in justice to the memory of 
Jeffreys it is impossible to allow Macaulay s sketch of the 
Tudge to pass unchallenged. 

J Macaulay gives a long description of the career and 
demeanour of Jeffreys, and justifies the violence of h 
language by quoting two instances in which the innate 
brutality of the man is strongly brought out. In the 
first place Macaulay's description of Jeffreys pe-onality 
is taken entirely from two authorities provedly hostile to 
he man they are describing. The first is the « Life and 
Death of George Lord Jeffreys," prefixed to a book called 
the Bloody Assizes, the work of a scurrilous enemy and a 
low-class' publication without any claim to authority 
The second is the sketch of Jeffreys given by Roger 
North in the life of his brother Francis, the Lord Keeper 
of the Great Seal. At the outset of this work the reader 
has been cautioned against the untrustworthiness of North 
and sufficient reason has been shown why his treatment of 
Jeffreys was bound to be unfriendly, to say the least of it. 
Macaulay, by melting these two exaggerated narratives 
together in the crucible of his own sensational rhetoric, 
has produced a picture of Jeffreys which may be not im- 


properly styled a caricature. Of the two examples of 
Jeffreys' judicial conduct quoted by Macaulay to justify 
his indignation, the one he treats without any attempt at 
a historical appreciation of the real circumstances of the 
case, the other he garbles in a manner that is indefensible 
from the point of view of an impartial treatment of 
authorities. If Macaulay's history was not so greatly 
admired and so widely read, if his picture of Jeffreys was 
not the one that is in the minds of most Englishmen, 
there would be no need to undertake the thankless task 
of correcting it. 

Macaulay's first instance is the trial of Lodowick Mug- 
gleton, the founder of the religious sect of the same name, 
which took place at the Old Bailey in 1677, whilst Jeffreys 
was still Common Serjeant. This Muggieton is a perfect 
example of the ludicrously malignant fanatic, the outcome 
of the extravagant religious tendencies of the Puritan 
ascendency. His high cheekbones, narrow eyes and 
long, straight, murky hair speak the fierce inanity of the 
uncompromising devotee, who rejoices in religious excess 
for the opportunities it affords him to get on familiar 
terms with his Maker and hurry large consignments of 
his enemies to hell-fire and everlasting damnation. Mug- 
gieton and a man called Reeve styled themselves respec- 
tively the cursing and blessing prophets designated by St. 
John in the Apocalypse. On Reeve's death his duties as 
bestower of blessings reverted to Muggieton, who pro- 
ceeded to distribute blessings and curses with an unsparing 
hand and on the least provocation, though his capacity 
would seem to have lain most effectively in the latter direc- 
tion. The unlovely profanity of his proceedings at length 
attracted the notice of the authorities ; his house was 
entered and searched on a warrant of the Chief Justice 
Rainsford, "a deadly enemy," and Muggieton delivered 
into the hands of Satan. So blasphemous were the books 
found in his possession that it was thought fit to put him 
on his trial, which commenced at the Old Bailey on 
January 17th, 1677. Of this trial Muggieton has left 

D 2 


an account in his Acts of the Witnesses of the Spirit., from 
which we shall freely quote. 

" Following the example of Christ," Lodowick disap- 
pointed the expectations of thousands by remaining 
perfectly silent throughout the proceedings. His counsel, 
" a deceitful knave and fearful fool," declared himself 
ashamed to plead on behalf of so blasphemous a cause ; 
whereupon Muggleton complains with some reason that a 
counsel who has taken forty shillings to plead and then 
says he is ashamed of his client's cause, " hath no truth in 
him." But it may well be that the zealous advocate con- 
sidered forty shillings an insufficient wage for imperilling 
his salvation by defending such shocking profanities. He 
accordingly satisfied his professional conscience by urging a 
technical point with regard to the date of the publication 
of the books found at the prisoner's house. This plea Chief 
Justice Rainsford, who presided, overruled ; whereupon 
Muggleton expresses a pious wish " that God would have 
executed visible and immediate judgment on him ; " but 
bears up against the disappointment caused by the passive 
attitude of Heaven in the face of his calls for intervention 
by the pleasing reflection that God purposely waited until 
a time when " the worm of conscience and hell-fire " should 
bring the Chief Justice to a rude sense of his shortcomings. 
In the meantime, unmoved by the supernatural dangers 
gathering over his head, Rainsford charged the jury, and 
described the prisoner to them as pernicious, blasphemous, 
seditious and heretical. Not to be outdone in his art of 
denunciation, Muggleton briefly dismisses the subject by 
stigmatising the Chief Justice as a "cursed devil." 

The jury retired to consider their verdict, and Muggle- 
ton was taken into a small room. On returning into court 
he found that " bawling devil " Jeffreys on the bench, who 
called him an " impertinent rogue " because he did not 
grow pale or ask favour of the Court. A verdict of Guilty 
having been delivered, the Common Serjeant proceeded 
to sentence. He said that the Court were sorry the laws 
were so unprovided with fitting punishment for Muggleton's 


crimes, and that therefore the Court had decided to give 
him what he was pleased to term an " easy, easy, easy 
punishment." This easy punishment consisted in three 
days in the pillory in three places from eleven till one, a 
^500 fine with the alternative of Newgate until payment, 
and the burning of his books in the prisoner's presence. 
Macaulay forgets to add that Jeffreys was not passing his 
own sentence on Muggleton ; it was the sentence of the 
Chief Justice and the other Judges who had tried the case. 
As Common Serjeant of the City of London, Jeffreys 
merely acted as the mouthpiece of the Court in passing 
sentence on those prisoners who had been convicted before 
the King's Judges. 

In his capacity as prophet Muggleton concludes his 
narrative by a general denunciation of his enemies and a 
particular declaration with regard to their respective 
futures. A large proportion of them appear to have died 
shortly after the trial. In one case his wife Mary, who 
on occasions seems to have acted as his understudy, 
delivered the sentence of damnation, and the unfortunate 
recipient died six weeks after. Rainsford, a very estimable 
person in private life, happening to die in 1679, is de- 
spatched " to join King Saul in hell, rejected of God and 
of Muggleton the last true prophet of God, where the 
hottest fire will be his portion." Thither he was followed 
a few months later by the Lord Mayor, whom Muggleton 
had "for some time known to be a devil." 

But it was on Jeffreys that the fiercest torrent of the 
fanatic's wrath was to descend. Jeffreys was the only one 
of those upon whom Muggleton had desired God to 
execute visible judgment who had had the temerity to 
survive any length of time the prophet's maledictions. 
The prophet describes the Common Serjeant as " one of 
the worst devils in nature, although his voice was very 
loud" — the antithesis is mysterious. After paying him 
an unconscious compliment as an advocate by complaining 
that, be a cause never so just, he would be sure to baffle 
it and make squabbles, and wrangle it out, he goes on to 


express satisfaction that the laws of Heaven have thought- 
fully provided him with eternal torments. Before the 
trial Muggleton knew him to be a reprobate and appointed 
of God to be damned ; but the trial has proved him an 
absolute devil in the flesh. " And he is accordingly 
recorded in the tables of Heaven for a reprobate devil, 
and here on earth and to the end of the world a Damned 

Having thus irrevocably disposed of all his enemies 
Muggleton terminates his relation, and cheers the hearts 
of the faithful by the sublime prospect of himself and the 
deceased Reeve sitting upon thrones and judging all true 
believers and wicked despisers. 

To any modern reader such a creature as Muggleton is 
merely ludicrous. It seems absurd to punish him or to 
take any serious notice of his proceedings. Nowadays he 
would be allowed a square of grass in Hyde Park, where 
he might rave his fill to the amusement of the casual 
bystander. But in the days of the Second Charles a 
spectacle of this kind was no laughing matter. Fanatics 
were taken seriously indeed ; for to the loyal mind fanati- 
cism was associated with nothing but treason, rebellion 
and civil war. Nor were the Crown-appointed Judges 
likely to be behindhand in their detestation of such 
excesses. The words of Chief Justice Kelyng in Mes- 
senger's case fittingly describe the point of view from 
which the Bench regarded religious extravagance. " We 
are but newly delivered from rebellion first begun under 
the pretence of religion and the law, for the devil has 
always this vizard upon it ; that rebellion began thus, 
therefore we have great reason to be very wary that we 
fall not into the same error ; but it should be carried with 
a watchful eye." His predecessor Hyde, in sentencing 
Twyn to death for high treason, expressed the same feel- 
ing when he said : " There is nothing that pretends to 
religion that will avow or justify the killing of Kings but 
the Jesuit on the one side and the Sectary on the other." 
Horror of the late King's murder, a haunting fear of the 


recrudescence of rebellion among the more violent of the 
Sectarian remnant, and an intemperance of thought com- 
mon to all men in a period when the fierceness of political 
passion swayed even the impartiality of legal proceedings, 
impelled Judges to indulge in violent language and violent 
punishments against all kinds of religious or political 
fanaticism. This state of feeling among a certain class 
must be constantly borne in mind in order to a right 
understanding of Jeffreys' career. 

When these prejudices are properly considered, the 
Common Serjeant's rebuke of Muggleton as " an im- 
pudent rogue " and his " easy, easy, easy punishment " are 
no extraordinary examples of judicial heartlessness and 
brutality, but, by comparison with some of his contem- 
poraries, would seem to err rather on the side of leniency. 
When Muggleton's own hand has furnished us with a vivid 
portrait of the murderous fury of his hatred and the blas- 
phemy of his familiar assumption of Divine co-operation 
it is senseless to wonder or revolt at the severity of his 
treatment. The horror and alarm which the diatribes of 
the prophet must have inspired in the judicial mind of the 
seventeenth century are fearful to contemplate. That he 
was nearly killed with brickbats when he did eventually 
stand in the pillory, instead of being a cause of reproach 
against Jeffreys (who was only delivering the judgment of 
the whole Court), as Macaulay by the juxtaposition of his 
sentences would imply, is rather a proof of the indignation 
and dislike which the malevolent disposition of the prophet 
had excited among the populace of London. The tailor- 
prophet has left to posterity in his own bloodthirsty 
narration of his acts a complete answer to any charges of 
exceptional persecution on the part of his opponents. 

Two months after Jeffreys' appointment to the 
Recordership his manner of performing his judicial 
functions is illustrated by another contemporary docu- 
ment. In Jeffreys' time it was part of the duty of the 
Recorder to pass sentence at the end of the Old Bailey 
Sessions upon all the convicted prisoners, who appeared in 


batches before him to receive their punishments and such 
admonition as the Recorder might think fit to address to 
them. There exists in the British Museum a printed 
report of Jeffreys' speech in performing this duty at the 
close of the Christmas Sessions of 1678. This is the 
second authority used by Macaulay to justify his portrait 

of Jeffreys. 

On the prisoners being put to the bar, the Recorder com- 
menced with a general declaration, in the course of which he 
regretted to see youth "arrived at such a height of 
debauchery notwithstanding the frequent examples found 
in this place ; " but when he saw among them so many 
who, in spite of mercy shown, "persisted in so vile a 
habit of wickedness, it seemed to him absolutely neces- 
sary that judgment be speedily executed upon them. 
After recommending them to seek Christ, and to make 
the utmost use of the very little time left for the advan- 
tage of their immortal souls, Sir George addressed himself 
specially to one Russell, a bailiff, who had stabbed to death 
the brother of a woman he was trying to arrest for debt, 
because he had stood in his way. " You stand convicted 
of that most horrid crime murder, blood which cries out 
to Almighty God for vengeance, .... not only an 
offence against the law of God but even against Nature. 
... For if there were no such thing as a God in Heaven 
or justice upon earth, Nature itself teacheth a man not to 
be barbarous to his own likeness. Therefore it will 
become thee to use all the tears thou canst shed to wash 
away the blood thou hast spilt, and that will not be 
enough to take off thy guilt; for nothing but the precious 
blood of our dear and blessed Lord and Saviour, the Lord 
Jesus Christ, can save a man that is guilty of so great and 
horrible a wickedness as shedding innocent blood." 

From Russell he turned to a young man of the name 
of Bradshaw, who had been convicted of treason in clipping 
coin. The youth and modesty of the lad had evidently 
made some impression on the Recorder's heart, for he 
begins: " I am sorry, heartily sorry, and very much lament 


to see a youth, in whom there seems to be so much 
modesty, far from persuading any one to believe that any 
manner of villainy should lurk under so promising and so 
good a face, come under the guilt of so great an offence." 
But the truth of it is that the apprentices of London have 
got into a trick of clipping coins and abusing their 
masters in other ways, and it is time an example were 
made. " It is a disease that will run through the whole 
flock. And I am sorry to see you the first sad, lament- 
able instance of that justice, which must pass against 
offenders of this kind, whose modesty should have pre- 
vailed on you not only to look like a virtuous boy but 
so to have acted." And the Recorder goes on with the 
evident hope that the modest lad may avail himself of the 
opportunity he is about to offer him. " But inasmuch as 
thou hast offended the law, it will become thee, if thou 
hast offended thy master or anybody else, to make them 
what reparation thou canst by making confession of thy 
offence, and discovering the parties that were concerned 
with thee, whoever they are. For there can be no better 
means of salvation in the next world or hopes of mercy 
in this world, than by confessing thy crimes, and telling 
thy accomplices ; and 'tis my advice, tell all thou 
knowest." With which reasonable counsel the Recorder 
passed sentence of death upon him. 

Three men and seven women convicted of petty lar- 
ceny were the next to claim the Recorder's attention. 
His speech to this batch must be given in full, as it is the 
instance chosen by Macaulay to display the hideous 
brutality of the Judge. " You, the prisoners at the bar, 
I have observed in the time that I have attended here, 
that you, pickpockets and shoplifters, and you other 
artists which I am not so well acquainted with, which 
fill up this place, throng it most with women ; and gene- 
rally such as she there, Mary Hipkins, with whom no 
admonitions will prevail. They are such whose happiness 
is placed in being thought able to teach others to be 
cunning in their wickedness, and their pride is to be 


thought more sly than the rest ; a parcel of sluts who 
make it their continual study to know how far they may 
steal and yet save their necks from the halter, and are so 
perfect in that as if they had never been doing anything 
else. But take notice, you that will take no warning, I 
pass my word for it, if ever I catch you here again I will 
take care you shall not easily escape. And the rest of 
these women that have the impudence to smoke tobacco 
and guzzle in alehouses, pretend to buy hoods and scarves 
only to have an opportunity to steal them, turning 
thieves to maintain your luxury and pride ; so far shall 
you be from any hope of mercy if we find you here in 
the future that you shall be sure to have the very rigour 
of the law inflicted on you. And I charge him that puts 
the sentence into execution to do it effectually, and 
particularly to take care of Mrs. Hipkins, scourge her 
roundly ; and the other woman that used to steal gold 
rings in a country dress ; and, since they have a mind to 
it this cold weather, let them be well heated. Your 
sentence is that you be taken to the place from whence 
you came, and from thence be dragged tied to a cart's tail 
through the streets, your bodies being stripped from the 
girdle upwards, and be whipt till your bodies bleed." 

Contrast with this Macaulay's version taken from 
the very paper in the British Museum of which the above 
is an exact reproduction : " When he has an opportunity of 
ordering an unlucky adventuress " (the woman Hipkins 
was a confirmed thief and trainer of thieves, " with whom 
no admonitions would prevail ") " to be whipped at the 
cart's tail, * Hangman,' he would exclaim, * I charge you 
to pay particular attention to this lady ! Scourge her 
roundly, man. Scourge her till the blood runs down ! 
It is Christmas, a cold time for madam to strip in ! See 
that you warm her shoulders thoroughly ! ' 

It would have been unfair enough to have quoted 
isolated passages from a speech of which the whole must 
be considered in order to do adequate justice to the 
parties concerned. But it will be seen that Macaulay, 


not content with this, gives an entirely imaginary version 
of the address, puts words into Jeffreys' mouth which he 
never uttered, construes the formal language of the 
sentence into a violent exhortation to the hangman to 
draw blood, and euphemistically describes an habitual 
offender of an incorrigible type as an unlucky adventuress. 
Whatever Jeffreys' character he is entitled to fair treat- 
ment, and in this particular instance he can hardly be said 
to have experienced it. 

What are the facts of the case ? Jeffreys had before him 
a gang of hardened thieves, who, not content with stealing 
themselves, taught the inexperienced to do the same. He 
had already sat as a judge at the Old Bailey some seven 
years, when London and consequently its criminal classes 
were a much smaller community, and had known these 
prisoners of old as incorrigible rogues. The sentence he 
passed upon them bears no trace of peculiar severity to any 
one who realises the difference in the treatment of criminals 
that divides the seventeenth from the nineteenth 
century. The only portion of the address which can at 
all claim to arouse any feeling of surprise is the Recorder's 
recommendation that Hipkins and the stealer of gold rings 
be heated in the cold weather by the congenial method of the 
scourge, a rather unnecessary aggravation of their plight. 
It is only fair in this connection to quote the words of 
Mr. Pike in his valuable History of Crime. " It would 
be as great an error to suppose that impartiality and 
independence were the chief characteristics of juries, as that 
consideration for prisoners was commonly shown on the 
Bench at any time before the Revolution." In those days 
the idea of flogging a woman did not present by any 
means the same repugnance as it would to the modern 
mind. Macaulay himself describes how gentlemen used to 
make up parties to go to Bridewell and see the women 

It would have been better for Jeffreys throughout his 
career if, when he condemned deserving criminals, he 
could have subdued an unfortunate sense of humour that 


too frequently betrayed him into expressions of undue 
satisfaction at the opportunity afforded him of giving 
them their deserts. But that is very far from the " fiendish 
exultation," the " voluptuous titillation," the " luxurious 
amplification " of harrowing details which Macaulay tells us 
the sight of human tears and human misery invariably 
excited in his brutal nature, a description he justifies by 
garbling his authority. 

The gang of petty thieves was followed by a soldier 
of the name of Momford. This man in a fit of 
intoxication had boasted that he was a Papist, that he 
hoped to see all Protestants drowned and to be at the 
burning of them. Such folly might at any other time have 
passed unnoticed, but at the end of 1678 when the fury of 
the Popish Plot agitation was at its height, the silly 
bravado of an inebriate was quite sufficient to hurry its 
utterer into the dock. " You, prisoner at the Bar," 
said the Recorder, " see now the great inconvenience 
that comes upon the debauchery of some people ; you 
that seem to have no religion in the world but when 
you are drunk. But you must not think drunk or 
sober to revile the Protestant religion and go un- 
punished for it. Let the times be thought never so 
dangerous, yet I hope it will always be seen that the 
magistrates of this City and Kingdom dare tell all mankind 
they do and will own the Protestant religion and dare 
curb the proudest He who shall presume to transgress our 
Laws or offer to reproach our religion. And all the priests 
and Jesuits they shall never blow up any man to that 
height of impudence, as to dare to do anything in contempt 
of the government .... And so you shall find out who 
when you were drunk could brag you were a Papist and 
hoped to see Protestants burnt. You are an excellent 
man no doubt at a faggot. Your contempt is very great, 
and the Court is very sensible of it ; and that all the 
world may take notice how sensible they are and that you 
may see it shall not be sufficient excuse to say you were drunk 
when you did it," he fined him £100, committed him to 


Newgate till payment, and ordered him on release to find 
sureties for good behaviour for seven years. Momford's 
revel cost him dear, but his case has a touch of comedy by 
the side of the dark events that were passing around him. 

The last to claim the attention of Sir George were the 
brothers Johnson, who had signalised their enterprise and 
fraternal affection by proceeding in company to steal lead 
off the top of Stepney Church. In this instance the 
Recorder's sense of humour is pleasingly exploited for the 
benefit of these aspiring thieves. " You are brethren 
in Iniquity, Simeon and. Levi. I find you are not 
Churchmen the right way. But you are mightily be- 
holden to the Constable ; if he had given you but half an 
hour time longer, you had been in a fair way to be 
hanged. Your zeal for Religion is so great as to carry 
you to the top of the Church. If this be your way of 
going to Church, it is fit you should be taken notice of. 
It is but a trespass, it is true, but I assure you one of the 
rankest that ever I heard of, it is Cozen-German to Felony. 
Are you not ashamed to have offered at the commission of 
such an offence in a Place whereto, if you were men that 
had any regard to a future state, you would pay a great 
reverence, because good men meet there to pray against 
such offences, not to commit them as you did." They 
were accordingly fined £20 each with commitment and 
sureties to follow. 

This case concluded the business of the session. I have 
quoted the report of these proceedings at some length 
because they afford an excellent illustration of the manner 
in which Jeffreys performed the ordinary functions of his 
position, when his mind was undisturbed by any political or 
religious prepossession. By considering the report in its 
entirety, Jeffreys appears in a distinctly favourable light. It 
is not too much to say that, excepting in the one instance 
we have mentioned which is more offensive to our modern 
taste than to our reason, the Recorder's speech is unexcep- 
tionable. Its tone is moderate ; it is not, in one case at 
least, without a certain sympathy ; it is marked by much 


good sense and a powerful and original eloquence. The 
vehemence of expression, exaggerated in later years, is free 
from any violence or intemperance. It must be remem- 
bered that we are considering a century when the whole 
style of judicial language must appear unnecessarily fervid 
to a less passionate generation. The sedate and moderate 
Hale thought nothing of calling a man whose perjuries 
had excited his indignation, a "devil." The different 
tone adopted by Jeffreys towards the different prisoners as 
they came before him displays an insight into character, 
which he undoubtedly possessed ; and on one or two 
occasions he uses his sense of humour with wholesome and 
decent effect. 

Henceforth, in following the fortunes of Sir George 
Jeffreys, it becomes necessary to follow the history of his 
time with which his success or failure is inextricably 
involved. Hitherto we have traced him by a faint and 
overgrown path of unreliable anecdote through the secrets 
of his advancement, which have been in a great part 
sufficiently clandestine to elude detection. It has been 
easier to correct misapprehension and falsehood than to 
establish new facts of great consequence. Excepting its 
rapidity his career, judged by the standard and the morality 
of his day, is neither remarkably noble nor strangely base. 
A man of his parts and temperament would have made his 
way quickly in any age, decently and respectably as things 
go in the nineteenth century, recklessly and questionably 
as things went in the seventeenth century. That Jeffreys 
should have joined the Court party was inevitable in a man 
of his disposition of mind ; that he should have acted in the 
secret service of the Crown was consistent with the air of 
mystery that clouds the proceedings of Court and country 
alike. That he chose the wrong side in the light of sub- 
sequent events accounts for much of the obloquy with 
which every portion of his career has been loaded. It 
is at the hands of Whig historians that Jeffreys has 
suffered most unmercifully. His victims, mostly Whigs, 
have been extravagantly canonised, whilst he, their judge, 


has been as extravagantly damned as a violent Tory who 
used the judgment seat to vindicate his political principles. 
Jeffreys may be deserving of censure, even allowing for the 
period in which he lived, and that censure may well come 
most vigorously from the pens of Whigs. But no man 
deserves misrepresentation, whatever his offences against 
public feeling. During the agitations of 1678 and the 
three following years the Whigs afforded Jeffreys an ex- 
ample of unscrupulous injustice in the cause of party 
politics which unfits Whig writers, unless they are capable 
of entirely emancipating themselves from an undue 
attachment to their political party, to sit in judgment 
even on Jeffreys. 


1678, 1679 

With the commencement of the Popish Plot agitation in 
the August of 1678, the courts of law entered on a period 
of political activity which, if it has degraded them in the 
eyes of posterity, has given them an historical interest 
such as they have never enjoyed at any other time. Whilst 
party politics were still in a state of nature, whilst plot 
and counter-plot were the ordinary weapons of respect- 
able statesmen, and political failure only too frequently 
implied exile or death, the courts of Jaw were the 
convenient instruments by which the successful party 
procured the punishment of its opponents. The Crown, 
from its position of vantage, naturally had the best right 
to profit by the exertions of its chosen judges. But the 
sword was two-edged, and, when grasped by the hands of 
popular passion, could be wielded with irresistible effect 
even against its master. That the courts should have 
laid down their independence before influences of this kind 
was, from the nature of the case, inevitable. The inde- 
pendence and impartiality of the bench, even at the best 
of times, can only be secured by certain material guaran- 
tees, which were denied to the judges of the seventeenth 
century. No substantial wage, no impregnable independ- 
ence subsidised their probity and braced their impartiality. 
Appointed by the King, at his will and pleasure they held 
their places : and on the convenience of their decisions 


depended their earthly salvation. But it would be a serious 
error to suppose that upon this account the proceedings 
of the judges derived no consistency or sincerity from an 
honest indulgence in principles of some kind. Principles 
they had in abundance ; but they were principles diametri- 
cally opposed to our modern conceptions of judicial con- 
duct. King's men, chosen from among the faithful, looking 
to the Crown as the fountain of all honour and authority, 
they regarded the maintenance of the royal supremacy 
against the dangers and perils of faction as a sacred duty, 
which the law imperatively called on them to fulfil. The 
tone of the bench was almost invariably the tone of the 
Court, and the country-party were regarded as the sworn 
foes of law and order. Thus His Majesty's judges were 
enabled to achieve that happy combination of principle 
and expediency which must be the harmless ambition 
of every conscientious man. If it is kept in mind that 
the judicial ideal of Hale, to-day the rule, was in the 
seventeenth century the exception, the difficulty of a 
complacent understanding of the period about to be 
described is considerably diminished. 

In the September of 1678 Titus Oates laid his first 
batch of revelations before the Privy Council, and told 
how the Papists were plotting the murder of the King, 
the burning of London, and the subjection of the realm to 
Papal authority. Danby at first mistrusted the narrative, 
Charles treated it with the contempt of a man who knew 
the real truth. Prompt action might have stifled the 
horrid development of the fabrication. But the minister 
paused to consider the possibilities of the incident as poli- 
tical capital ; and two days after Oates's appearance the 
King went off gaily to Newmarket. In the meantime 
Coleman, the Duke of York's Jesuit confessor, had been 
arrested on the strength of Oates's denunciation, and the 
discovery of certain incriminating letters, which he had 
neglected to destroy, roused the already apprehensive mul- 
titude to a pitch of terror and excitement that tore from 
the uncertain hands of Charles and his minister the further 


control or conduct of the agitation. It was " as if the 
very cabinet of hell had been laid open ; one might have 
denied Christ with less content than the Plot." The 
murder of Godfrey, the Justice who had taken Oates's 
depositions in October, stirred the populace to the last 
degree of fury. All the flimsy safeguards that two hun- 
dred years ago protected the reason and humanity of 
mankind against the fierce invasion of passion and pre- 
judice were swept from men's minds, and the nation 
clamoured for vengeance against its imaginary foes. 

To check the outbreak was impossible ; to neglect it, 
fantastic. Charles, on whose secret negotiations with 
Louis XIV. and the vague mistrust his duplicity had in- 
spired lay half the blame of the popular frenzy, bowed 
before the storm and generously left to others more 
worthy than himself the honour of martyrdom for a faith 
which he seemingly preferred to any other form of wor- 
ship. But there were those to whom an attitude of inert 
acquiescence was for different reasons inexpedient. Shaftes- 
bury welcomed the fury of the outbreak as a powerful 
weapon of offence against the perfidious Court. Danby 
had at length made up his mind to combat his growing 
unpopularity and check the French intrigues of the King 
by joining the cry against the Papists. With all the arts 
of skilled intriguers, these two statesmen leant their 
countenance to the " Oatesian " disclosures, whose precise 
degree of truth or falsity they were probably unable or 
did not trouble to determine. 

Towards the end of November, when the general excite- 
ment had laid hold of every class in the community, the 
trials of the prisoners arrested on the information of Oates 
and his disciples commenced in the Court of King's Bench. 
To the presidency of that court, as Lord Chief Justice of 
England, had succeeded Sir William Scroggs. His dissolute 
past and his professional ability have already been described. 
On the recommendation of his patron Danby, he had been 
appointed in 1676 a puisne judge of the Common Pleas. 
In the customary speech he delivered on taking his seat in 


court for the first time, he had enunciated with such force 
and eloquence the principles of loyalty, according to which 
he conceived it to be the duty of a judge to act, that Lord 
Northampton, present on the occasion, hurried from West- 
minster to Whitehall to assure the King that not one of 
the many hundred sermons he had caused to be printed 
since his restoration taught the people half so much loyalty 
as Sir William Scroggs' speech. Such a notable confession 
of faith and the continued favour of the Treasurer raised 
Scroggs to the Chief Justiceship of the King's Bench on 
the discharge of Rainsford in 1678. The character of this 
judge has generally received at the hands of posterity 
treatment only equalled, hardly surpassed, by that ac- 
corded to Jeffreys. The same violent maledictions, the 
same heedlessly inaccurate assertions have been his everlast- 
ing portion. Some of these inaccuracies, his vulgar birth, 
his lack of ability or education, have been already exposed. 
It only remains to inquire how far he has really deserved 
the indignation excited by his proceedings at the Popish 
Plot trials. 

To the temperament of Scroggs the excitement of the 
Plot was a severe temptation to indulge his worst and 
exploit his choicest gifts. He possessed none of the 
qualities of a judge, but in an extreme form all the more 
passionate attributes of the advocate or the demagogue. 
The influence of judicial office, in a day when all judges 
were more or less political partisans, could exercise no 
control over his impetuosity. In his large build, his 
broad and comely visage, his wit and sagacity, in the 
wealth and boldness of his eloquence, Scroggs irresistibly 
suggests a seventeenth century " Stryver." His careless and 
dissolute habits, his "true libertine principles" were all 
encouraged with the same intense energy with which he 
had flung himself into the service of the King in the 
Civil War. Every day in his house was a holiday ; he 
was the equal in dissipation of the highest Court rakes. 
His love of wine amounted to a passion. He cannot live 
without claret, he can write of nothing else to his friend 

E 2 


Hatton, he rails against his women-kind because they 
drank up so passionately whatever wine is sent to him. 1 
" He could not avoid extremities," says Roger North. 
" If he did ill, it was extremely so, and, if well, extremely 
also." This last admission of North argues that he 
cannot have been wholly bad ; very few men are, fewer 
than are vulgarly imagined by those who judge character 
from the sheer examples furnished in novelette or 
melodrama. Scroggs was a sturdy supporter of the royal 
cause from his earliest years, and had been ready to lay 
down his life for his sovereign. If he adhered on the 
bench to the same conception of duty, he can at least 
claim the merit of consistency, by no means too common 
a failing among his brethren. But, though his obtrusive 
loyalty has not enhanced his popularity with the good 
Whigs who have rent him so distressfully in their stately 
pages, it is not in this respect that he has to face the most 
serious charges. The real substance of the accusation 
against him is that he deliberately hastened to death with 
brutal and frequently illegal violence certain persons upon 
the strength of evidence which he must have known to be 
false ; and that he did so in order to secure himself in the 
office he was holding or to obtain yet further advance- 
ment. That Scroggs seized on the Plot agitation with 
indecent fervour is undeniably true ; but it was a passionate 
fervour ludicrous in a man who was acting a part from 
motives of self-interest or to win popular applause. He 
could have effected both these objects with half the rant 
and display which were as injudicious as they were 
superfluous. If he was consciously playing a part, then it 
was a most senseless piece of over-acting, and Scroggs, 
whatever his shortcomings, was no fool. To our ideas 
his treatment of the prisoners is shocking, his tirades 
cruel and indecent in a judge or advocate, but that 
Scroggs sincerely believed from the outset in the existence 
of the Plot, and that with all the strange vehemence of his 
ill-balanced judgment, it is impossible to doubt. At the 
1 Hatton Correspondence, Camden Soc. 


beginning of the agitation a belief in a widespread and 
malignant Popish conspiracy was universal and, under 
the circumstances, by no means unreasonable. There 
was hardly a judge on the bench who did not share 
that belief. With Scroggs such a belief speedily de- 
generated into a passionate and ruthless creed. If with 
this faith there mingled certain elements of vanity and 
self-interest, it must not be forgotten that such alloy has 
infected natures of a far purer and finer metal than that 
of the Chief Justice. 

From the outset Scroggs threw himself with feverish 
energy into the detection of the reputed conspiracy. 
When in October Oates detailed his narrative to the eager 
and ready ears of the House of Commons, the Chief 
Justice was sent for to further examine the witness and 
take such depositions as might be offered. He at 
once fell in with the temper of the Commons and assured 
the House that he would use his best endeavours in the 
prosecution of the Jesuits, for he feared the face of no 
man, where King and country were concerned. The 
doors of the House were locked, and no one was suffered 
to go out. The Speaker's Chamber was placed at the 
disposal of Scroggs, whither he proceeded and took 
informations and issued warrants with becoming vigour. 
There is a smack of the martial ardour of the ex-cavalier 
captain in the militant activity of the Chief Justice. 

The first of the Plot trials is that of Edward Coleman, 
the Duke of York's confessor, which took place in the 
Court of King's Bench at Westminster on the twenty- 
seventh of November, 1678. But, before entering upon the 
details of the proceedings, the reader should be furnished 
with some notion of the salient differences of criminal 
justice and procedure which separate the seventeenth from 
the nineteenth century. Without some notion of this 
kind the conduct of the actors cannot be rightly judged. 

Sir James Stephen in his History of the Criminal 
Law, in criticising these trials, admirably sums up the 
conditions under which they took place. " The prisoner 


was looked upon from first to last in a totally different 
light from that in which we regard an accused person. 
.... In nearly every one of the trials for the Popish 
Plot, and, indeed, in all the trials of that time, the 
sentiment continually displays itself, that the prisoner is 
half, or more than half, proved to be an enemy to the 
King, and that, in the struggle between the King and the 
suspected man, all advantages are to be secured to the 
King, whose safety is far more important to the public 
than the life of such a questionable person as the prisoner. 
A criminal trial in those days was not unlike a race 
between the King and the prisoner, in which the King had 

a long start, and the prisoner was heavily weighted 

The prisoner as soon as he was committed for trial might 
be, and generally was, kept in close confinement till the 
day of his trial. He had no means of knowing what 
evidence had been given against him. He was not allowed 
as a matter of right, but only as an occasional favour, to 
have either counsel or solicitor to advise him as to his 
defence, or to see his witnesses and put their evidence in 
order. When he came into court he was set to fight for 
his life with absolutely no knowledge of the evidence to be 

produced against him That the prisoner's witnesses 

were not permitted to be sworn was even in those days 
considered as a hardship, and the jury were told in all or 
most of the trials to guard against attaching too much 
weight to it." There was in the seventeenth century an 
entire absence of any sort of conception of the true nature 
of judicial evidence. There seems to have been a prevail- 
ing impression among lawyers that, if a man came and 
swore anything whatever, he ought to be believed, unless 
directly contradicted. The principle that the uncorro- 
borated evidence of an accomplice should not be acted on 
was practically unknown. Judges considered them as bad 
men, but necessary to the discovery of crime ; juries 
attached a mechanical value to their oaths. " The in- 
ference suggested by studying the trials," adds Sir James, 
" for the Popish Plot is not so much that they show that 


in the seventeenth century judges were corrupt and timid, 
or that juries were liable to party spirit in political cases, 
as that they give great reason to fear that the principles of 
evidence were then so ill understood, and the whole 
method of criminal procedure was so imperfect and super- 
ficial, that an amount of injustice frightful to think of 
must have been inflicted at the assizes and sessions on 
obscure persons of whom no one ever has heard or will 
hear. A perjurer in those days was in the position of a 
person armed with a deadly poison, which he could adminis- 
ter with no considerable chance of detection." 

Under these circumstances, so little conducive to the 
administration of perfect justice, and in an atmosphere 
charged with the popular terror and exasperation, the 
unfortunate Papists were haled to the bar to take their 

Scroggs had already given a foretaste of the spirit in 
which he proposed to direct the due course of law. Six 
days before Coleman's trial he had disposed of one Stayley, 
a Catholic goldsmith convicted upon bare but uncontra- 
dicted evidence of threatening to kill the King. In his 
charge to the jury, after dealing with the facts of the case, 
the Chief Justice violently and irrelevantly assailed the 
Jesuit doctrines, and laid particular stress on the fact that, 
" when a Papist once hath made a man a heretic, there is 
no scruple to murder him," a conception of Romish 
doctrine much relied upon at the time to explain the 
murderous schemes attributed to apparently inoffensive 
Roman Catholics. Scroggs dearly flattered himself on his 
insight into the subtleties of Jesuit casuistry and never lost 
an opportunity of expatiating on the mischievous fallacies of 
the Romish faith. He goes on to ask to be excused if he 
is a little warm, " when perils are so many and murders so 
secret," but reflects with some show of sense that " it is 
better to be warm here than in Smithfield." Papists, who 
murder heretics, think they become saints in heaven. " I 
hope I shall never go to that heaven, where men are made 
saints for killing kings." The extraordinary thing is that 


in another part of his summing up the Chief Justice had 
told the jury to pay no attention to the rumours or disorders 
of the time, but to let their verdict depend on the evidence 
alone. On that evidence alone he could have easily 
obtained a conviction, so that his theological discourse 
served no purpose whatever. But Scroggs was one of 
those men cursed with what is vulgarly known as " the 
gift of the gab," and no sense of justice or propriety could 
prevent him, once started, from plunging headlong into 
the excitement of an oratorical parade. 

Coleman's trial was to derive additional interest from the 
fact that on this occasion Titus Oates was to make his first 
public appearance as a witness. Oates is perhaps the most 
entirely hideous nightmare that the distraught credulity 
of man has ever evoked from the depths. His fantastic 
turpitude provokes at times a suspicion of insanity. In 
his distorted nature sexual and moral perversion joined in 
friendly rivalry. From earliest youth his passion for 
notoriety found expression in the invention of startling 
falsehoods ; in various ways he rendered himself impossible 
to all who came in contact with him. It was in revenge 
for his expulsion from the Jesuit College at St. Omer's, 
which had taken him in out of pity and charity, that he 
invented the Popish Plot ; for his hatred knew no bounds. 
He invariably covered with lewd and blasphemous abuse 
any who happened to offend him ; the English, the 
Romish Church, all alike suffered at different seasons. 
But perhaps the most remarkable circumstance about 
Oates, was the mirthful confirmation which his moral 
ugliness derived from his physical aspect. " He was a 
low man, of an ill cut, very short neck ; and his visage 
and features were most particular. His mouth was the 
centre of his face ; and a compass there would sweep his 
nose, forehead and chin within the perimeter." North's 
mathematical process admirably defines his long flabby 

At the present juncture Oates had every reason to be 
content. His passion for notoriety and his arrogant vanity 


were simultaneously gratified. Hailed as a saviour by 
nation and Parliament, he lodged at Whitehall, surrounded 
by guards, at an annual pension of £1,200. He had 
assumed the robes and title of a doctor, preached to 
enthusiastic congregations, got a blazon from the Heralds' 
College, and gave sumptuous entertainments on his 
blazoned plate. At his elbow stood his robed counsel 
learned in the law ; Dr. Jones was honoured with the care 
of his health. His indiscretion knew no bounds ; in his 
usual discourse he abused the Duke of York and the 
King's wife and mother to whomever he met. No one 
dared to contradict him ; for at such a season the power 
of the wanton perjurer was limitless. 

So inspiring a prospect as that of Oates's glorious 
regeneration was bound to induce others to follow his 
example. But none of the disciples approached the 
master's original personality. Bedloe, a man of magnificent 
appearance, was indeed the merrier, though not the greater 
rogue of the two. He was a vulgar sharper, whose whole 
life had been spent in cheats of different kinds. " His 
life," says L'Estrange, " had been that of a wild Arab 
upon the prey and the ramble. It was a congruous pre- 
paratory to the consummated state of a flagitious miscreant." 
The plot perjuries were but the climax to a career of 
progressive crime. He also was lodged and guarded in 
Whitehall, gave out that his father was a major-general of 
good Irish family, and lent his name to a dramatised 
version of his lies, entitled The Excommunicated Prince, or 
the False Relique. 

The evidence of these two rascals was to form a portion 
of the case against Coleman. But the unfortunate man 
had himself furnished the Crown with far stronger evi- 
dence of his guilt. The intellectual power of Coleman was 
by no means commensurate with his lofty ambitions. 
Filled with misplaced confidence in the prospects of a 
Catholic restoration in England and his own ability to 
assist in effecting the same, he entered into a lengthy 
correspondence with Pere La Chaise, the French King's 


confessor, on the subject, and, as a prospective Secretary 
of State, drew up elaborate documents by which Parlia- 
ment was to be dissolved and other necessary measures 
carried out, when the supreme moment arrived. Some of 
these letters and drafts, which he had omitted to destroy 
at the time of his arrest, were mainly instrumental in 
causing his conviction. Worn out by the excesses of his 
religious observances, his sad sunken eyes and lean 
withered countenance set off with ghastly pallor by his 
black peruke, Coleman would have filled impartial minds 
with nothing but pity for a weak misguided zealot. But 
the excited Court that professed to judge him, saw in 
his wasted features nothing but the bloodless ferocity of 
the unscrupulous Jesuit. 

The conduct of the prosecution was entrusted to Sir 
William Jones, the Attorney-General. " Bull-faced 
Jonas " was a profound lawyer, with a great opinion of his 
own learning and a supreme contempt for the ignorance of 
others, " so that in speaking as counsel one might mistake 
him for the Judge." His disposition was rough, sour and 
suspicious, though at bottom he was a good and faithful 
friend. A steady opponent of the Court, he threw him- 
self with apprehensive zeal into the prosecution of the 
Plotters, and ordered all the billets of wood in his cellar to 
be removed into the yard, lest they should serve as fuel 
for the fireballs which he fondly believed the Papists 
intended to fling into his house. 

The Solicitor-General, Sir Francis Winnington, Serjeants 
Maynard and Pemberton, and Mr. Recorder Jeffreys, 
also took part in the prosecution. High in the favour 
of the Court, Sir George was briefed for the Crown in the 
greater number of the Plot trials, excepting those which 
took place at the Old Bailey. There in his capacity as 
Recorder of London he sat on the bench with the Lord 
Mayor and the other Judges. 

The trial commenced at nine o'clock in the morning. 
The Recorder having opened the indictment, and Maynard 
recapitulated the facts of the case, the Attorney-General 


addressed the jury. By way of exciting them to an 
impartial hearing of the case, he suggested that ever since 
the Reformation the Jesuits had been plotting against the 
peace of the realm ; but that now they had definitely 
directed their efforts against the life of the King. " No 
doubt they would have been glad that the people of 
England had had but one neck ; they knew the people of 
England had but one head, and therefore they resolved to 
strike at that." Pie remarked with considerable truth on 
the foolish vanity of Coleman who, he said, had saved 
them much labour ; " he hath left such diligent and 
copious narratives of the whole design under his own hand, 
that reading them will be better than any new one I can 

At the conclusion of the speech Coleman asked the Court 
to allow him counsel, but according to the custom of the 
time was refused. He then called attention to the violence 
of the prejudice raging against all Papists, and the con- 
sequent difficulty that justice had " to stand upright and 
lie upon a level." Scroggs answered that he should have 
a " fair, just and legal trial," the fairness and justice of 
which he proceeded to ensure by boasting that they were 
not going to do to Coleman as he would do to them, 
" blow up at a venture " and kill people because they are of 
a different persuasion. " We seek no man's blood, but 
our own safety." 

After some vain attempts of the Chief Justice to draw 
certain admissions from the prisoner, Oates was called. 
Jeffreys rose and desired that the witness should not be 
interrupted in his evidence, to which the Court consented. 
But, before Oates commenced, Scroggs with great earnest- 
ness exhorted him to speak the truth. " You are to speak 
the truth and the whole truth ; for there is no reason in the 
world that you should add any one thing that is false. I would 
not have a tittle added for any advantage or consequences that 
may fall, when a man's blood and life lieth at stake ; let him 
be condemned by truth ; you have taken an oath, and you 
being a minister, know the great regard you ought to have 


of the sacredness of an oath, and that to take a man's life 
away by a false oath is murder, I need not teach you that." 
Grateful no doubt for the admonition and the excellent 
intentions that prompted it, Oates did not see his way to 
alter his previous determination, and entered confidently on 
his narrative. 

His first acquaintance with the prisoner had begun in the 
November of 1675. At ^ at ^ me ^ e had carried a letter 
from Coleman to Pere La Chaise acknowledging certain 
instructions from La Chaise relative to the employment of 
the sum of £10,000 in a design for cutting ofF the King 
of England. Three years passed and Oates saw nothing 
more of Coleman until the April of 1678, when he found 
his friend in a condition of the most bloodthirsty activity. 
On the 24th of April the London Jesuits held a consult at 
the Whitehorse Tavern in the Strand. There it was decided 
that two men of the name of Pickering and Grove should 
be hired to shoot the King. Grove was to have £1,500 
for the job ; but Pickering " being a religious man " pre- 
ferred thirty thousand masses at twelve pence a head. 
Coleman was not present at the consult, but a few days later 
received the news of their spirited resolution with great 
satisfaction. In sundry letters on the subject he suggested 
that it would be an excellent thing to trepan the Duke of 
York into the plot for murdering his own brother. In the 
same month Oates again met Coleman in the chambers of 
a Mr. Langhorne, a barrister in the Temple. Langhorne 
was an honest and learned lawyer and a very bigoted Cath- 
olic. In his room Oates' saw a number of commissions 
from Paulus d'Oliva, the General of the Society of Jesus. 
These commissions were addressed to all the chief Catholics 
in England and appointed them to the various offices they 
were to hold when the plot should have been successful. 
Lord Powis, who was perpetually ill of the gout, was to be 
Lord Treasurer ; Lord Bellasis, who was so infirm that he 
could hardly keep his feet, Lord General. The army was 
entrusted to the most efficient hands. Mr. Howard, a 
brother of Lord Carlisle, was appointed a Colonel ; at the 


time of his appointment he was playing cards every 
day and dying of gout at Bath. " Major-General " Sir 
Thomas Ratcliffe, in spite of the honour done him and the 
apparent responsibilities of his position, had never left his 
home in the North all the summer. In Oates's presence 
Langhorne handed Coleman his commission as Secretary 
of State, the latter remarking it was a good exchange. 
Coleman considered that he must show some return 
for the " good exchange," and accordingly in July he 
is found once more plotting the removal of the King. 
This was at the house of Mr. Ashby, an ex-rector of 
St. Omer's. Mr. Ashby was on the point of removing 
to Bath to join " Colonel " Howard in the gout cure. On 
the eve of departure he sent for Coleman and told him 
that if Pickering and Grove missed fire, Sir George 
Wakeman, the Queen's physician, was to be offered £ 10,000 
to put poison in the royal physic. However, for some unex- 
plained reason July passed and nothing happened. Coleman 
grew restless at this inaction. In August he was present at 
a consult of Jesuits and Benedictine monks at the Savoy. 
It was then resolved that four Jesuits should go over to 
Dublin and murder the Duke of Ormond, the Lord Lieu- 
tenant. But this was not enough for the eager Coleman. 
He wished to make assurance doubly sure, and proposed 
that a desperate Irishman of the name of Fogarthy should 
be sent over to poison the Duke, in case the four Jesuits 
miscarried. Fogarthy's services were ultimately declined, 
and Coleman was compelled to seek other means of carrying 
out his murderous intentions. Fogarthy agreed to hire four 
ruffians, his fellow-countrymen, who should go down to 
Windsor and kill the King. Arrived there the hired assassins 
would seem to have been for the momentin a position of finan- 
cial embarrassment. With a liberality that would have done 
credit to any melodrama, Coleman sent them ^80 by special 
messenger. But in spite of this liberal aid the attempt 
broke down and, by the end of August, Oates had divulged 
the conspiracy. 

Oates concluded his interesting testimony by im- 


pudently remarking that he could give other evidence, 
but would not, because of other things not yet fit to be 
known. The Court allowed the statement to pass 
unchallenged. Scroggs certainly subjected Oates to a 
searching cross-examination, and seems at times to have 
seriously doubted his credibility. But as he had little to go 
upon save the uncontradicted inventions of the witness 
himself on a subject the real truth of which could only 
be known to a few incriminated persons, it is not sur- 
prising that he was unsuccessful in seriously shaking the 
informer's evidence. His attempt only serves to demon- 
strate the unfortunate circumstances that in those days 
hampered the detection of the simplest perjury. 

Coleman fared better in his essay at cross-examination, 
for though he had shown little ability in the conduct 
of his defence, he knew something of the facts Oates 
professed to reveal. The chief point he established was 
that when on the 30th of September he was confronted 
with Oates before the Privy Council, the latter swore he 
did not know him, and had not then volunteered any of the 
evidence he now gave against him. Oates retorted that 
his sight was bad by candle light, that he was very tired 
at the time, and that he was not going to give Coleman a 
chance of supplanting his evidence by letting him know 
it beforehand, a most convincing reason ! Sir Robert 
Southwell, a member of the Council, came to Oates's 
rescue and said that in Coleman's presence Oates had 
mentioned before the Council the offer of money to 
Wakeman to poison Charles. But it is strange that when 
put to it, Oates should not have recollected the circum- 
stance for himself. Scroggs however seemed to consider 
Southwell's evidence as a striking proof of the informer's 

Bedloe, following Oates, swore to having carried letters 
between Coleman and La Chaise in 1675. Further, he 
said that in May 1677 he was at Coleman's house behind 
Westminster Abbey. Coleman was standing at the foot 
of the staircase talking to Harcourt, the Jesuit Rector of 


London, and Bedloe heard him say that, if there were a 
hundred heretical Kings to be deposed he would see them 
all destroyed. 

Coleman in answer contented himself with solemnly 
protesting that he had never seen Oates or Bedloe before 
they had been produced as witnesses against him. Bedloe 
insolently replied : — " You may ask that question, but in 
the Stone Gallery in Somerset House, when you came from 
a consult, where were great persons, which I am not to 
name here, who would make the bottom of your plot 
tremble ; you saw me then." Somerset House being the 
residence of the Queen, herself a Papist, this veiled 
declaration was dangerously impudent. To such a pitch 
had the unwonted elevation of the informers excited 
their presumption that, when crossed or contradicted, 
they did not hesitate to vent their spleen upon those 
whose proximity to the throne might have been expected 
to screen them from their accusations. 

This evidence was followed by the reading of Coleman's 
letters and papers. It is unnecessary to reproduce them 
in full ; for they are long and tedious. They consist of 
certain letters to Pere La Chaise, imaginary declarations 
with regard to the dissolution of Parliament drawn up by 
Coleman in his capacity as a prospective Secretary of State. 
One quotation will be sufficient to show to what extent 
they justified his conviction. " We have here a mighty 
work upon our hands, no less than the conversion of three 
Kingdoms, and by that, perhaps, the utter subduing of a 
pestilent heresy which has domineered over a great part of 
this Northern world a long time. There never were such 
hopes of success since the death of our Queen Mary as 
now in our days, when God has given us a Prince who 
has become (may I say a miracle ? ) zealous of being 
the author and instrument of such a work. That which 
we rely upon most, next to Almighty God's providence 
and the favour of my master the Duke, is the mighty 
mind of his most Christian Majesty." When this letter 
is considered, the bigotry of its tone and the hopefulness of 


its assertions, the confirmation it must have given to the 
worst suspicions of the nation and the revelation it con- 
tained that there were traitors even in the highest places, 
much of the cruelty and violence that followed its publi- 
cation is rendered not only intelligible, but, in the temper 
of the times, excusable. Coleman had dealt with his own 
hand the most fatal blow at the security and liberty of his 
co-religionists, and lent the most convincing support to the 
lies of Oates and Bedloe. After the reading of the letters, 
Coleman tried feebly to prove an alibi, which only made 
his case worse. He followed up this failure by joining in 
a weak and irritating argument with the Chief Justice. 
Scroggs, evidently considering that after the letters there 
was little more to be said, impatiently exclaimed, " What 
kind of way and talking is this ? You who have such a 
swimming way of melting words, that it is a troublesome 
thing for a man to collect matter out of them, you give 
yourself up to be a great negotiator in the altering of 
Kingdoms, you would be great with mighty men for that 
purpose, and your long discourses and great abilities might 
have been spared." Coleman still stuck to the alibi and 
asked the Chief Justice to send for a certain entry book. 
Scroggs, unwilling to uselessly prolong the case, replied : 
" If the cause turned upon that matter, I would be well 
content to sit until the book was brought, but I doubt 
the cause will not stand on that foot, but if that were the 
case it would do you little good." 

Scroggs turned to the jury. He commenced his charge 
by dealing with the letters, and told them that only one 
construction could be put upon them, and that fatal to 
the prisoner. Having disposed of all relevant topics, he 
invited the jury to follow him in a short theological 
discourse on his favourite subject, the folly and villainy 
of the Romish Church. He said that nowadays any 
cobbler could baffle in argument any Romish priest, and 
that only two things could make a man give up the 
Protestant for the Catholic faith, interest or gross 
ignorance. As Coleman was an educated man, the former 


motive had prevailed with him. " Your pension was your 
conscience and your Secretary's place your bait." Then 
followed an eulogy of King Charles the First, who, he 
said, could have defended the Protestant religion against 
any of the Cardinals at Rome. " And when he knew 
it so thoroughly and died so eminently for it, I will 
leave this characteristic note. Whosoever after that 
departs from his (King Charles's) judgment, had need have 
a very good one of his own to bear it out." After stat- 
ing the faggot and the dagger to be the Papist methods 
of conversion, and treating the jury to two Latin quota- 
tions he concluded : " Our execution shall be as quick as 
their gunpowder, but more effectual. For the other part 
of the evidence which is by the testimony of the present 
witnesses, you have heard them. I will not detain you 
longer now, the day is out.'' 

Mr. Justice Jones filled up the Chief Justice's omission 
by adding, " You must find the prisoner guilty or bring 
in two persons perjured." Scroggs offered to wait for 
the verdict of the jury, if they would not be long. It 
was now five o'clock, and the trial had lasted eight hours, 
without an interval of any kind. The jury answered : 
" We shall be short," and withdrew from the bar. After 
a brief space they returned with a verdict of " Guilty," 
and Coleman was put back, to come up for judgment the 
following morning. 

On his re-appearance before the Court next day the 
Chief Justice addressed the prisoner in a speech remark- 
able for the dignity and consideration of its feeling. 
The earlier portion of it contained comments on the 
grievous sins of Popish doctrine but no personal reflec- 
tions on the prisoner himself, only an exhortation to 
further confession. The latter part of the address ex- 
torted from Coleman a sincere expression of gratitude 
for its charitable and Christian spirit ; but the unfortun- 
ate man, whilst humbly confessing himself guilty of many 
crimes and some failings and defects, swore as a dying 
man that he had no more to confess. This, Scroggs said, 



he could not believe, but that in any case his own papers 
had convicted him. On Coleman asking permission to 
see his wife and friends in prison, Scroggs answered him 
in words which perfectly illustrate the condition of the 
Chief Justice's mind, and no doubt the minds of all those 
concerned with him in the trial. " You say well, and it 
is a hard case to deny it ; but I will tell you what hardens 
my heart, the insolencies of your party (the Roman Catho- 
lics, I mean) that they every day offer, which is indeed a 
proof of their plot, that they are so bold and impudent, 
and such secret murders committed by them as would 
harden any man's heart to do the common favours of 
justice and charity, that to mankind are usually done. 
They are so bold and insolent, that I think it is not to 
be endured in a Protestant kingdom, but for my own 
particular, I think it is a very hard thing for to deny a 
man the company of his wife and friends, so it be done 
with caution and prudence. Remember that the Plot is on 
foot, and I do not know what arts the priests have, and 
what tricks they use ; and therefore have a care that no 
papers nor any such thing, be sent from him. But for 
the company of his wife and friends, or anything in that 
kind that may be for his eternal good, and as much for 
his present satisfaction, let him have it, but do it with 
care and caution — Mr. Richardson (addressing the keeper 
of Newgate), use him as reasonably as may be, considering 
the condition he is in." 

On the third of December, firm in his faith, and, it is 
said, grievously disappointed that his great friends had 
not found it in their hearts to obtain his pardon, Coleman 
was hanged, drawn, quartered and disembowelled according 
to law. 

If all the Popish trials had been conducted in the spirit 
of Coleman's, if all the convictions had been as justifiable 
as his, there would be little ground for surprise or indig- 
nation. Under his own hand the foolish vanity of the 
prisoner had written his own condemnation. In the 
absence of all cross-examination and in the then defenceless 


condition of an accused person, deprived of all legal 
assistance and ignorant of the evidence to be given 
against him, the weak points in Oates's testimony could 
only be laid open as his story was made more public, 
and his narrative exposed to more searching criticism. 
It has been suggested that Scroggs, in omitting to notice 
Oates's and Bedloe's evidence to the jury in the course of 
his charge, implied thereby a disbelief in their veracity. 
But it must be remembered that it was late when the 
Chief Justice commenced his summing up, that the Court 
had been sitting without intermission for eight hours, and 
that Scroggs had frequently remarked that he considered 
the prisoner's letters as quite sufficient evidence to ensure 
conviction. In sentencing Coleman, he went so far as to 
cite Oates as establishing certain facts against the prisoner. 
He had moreover subjected the witness to a severe cross- 
examination without appreciably shaking his testimony, 
and regarded Coleman's successful exposure of Oates's in- 
consistency as in a great measure discounted by Southwell's 

If to the Chief Justice or any man further confirmation 
was needed for the wildest fabrications of the impostor, 
was it not found in the dangerous menaces, the sanguine 
treason of Coleman's fatal correspondence ? Was it any 
longer possible to doubt the extent and extravagance of a 
plot that presumed to look for its accomplishment to him 
in whose name its conspirators were being hurried to the 
scaffold ? Could the Chief Justice have lighted upon a 
more righteous or legitimate theme for the exercise of his 
oratorical energy ? Little wonder that in the presence of 
his own and the public indignation he hewed the Catholics 
" as Scanderberg the Turk." 

The conviction and execution of Coleman only served 
to feed the public passion which cried with a loud voice 
for unremitting vengeance on the murderous Papists. 
" The populace," says Roger L'Estrange, " mellow as 
tinder to take fire on the least spark, ran amuck at 
Christianity itself and bore down everything that stood in 

f 2 


their way betwixt this and hell. There never was such a 
competition betwixt Divine Providence on the one hand 
and the World, the Flesh and the Devil on the other for the 
preserving or destroying of a nation." The Commons in 
a burst of sweeping apprehension ordered all Papists to be 
secured, and Oates with a force of constables at his heels 
laid hold of as many as the capacity of his inventive 
powers would allow. As a fruit of his zeal at the 
December sessions at the Old Bailey, a batch of five 
Jesuits charged with attempting to murder the King and 
introduce Popery into the realm presented themselves for 
a fair trial. Jeffreys attended on the bench in his capacity 
of Recorder, but Chief Justice Scroggs with the Chief 
Baron Montagu and his brothers Bertie and Atkyns came 
down from Westminster to conduct the business. The 
agitation was thriving merrily. It was a veritable season 
of believing. Oates was declared the 4 ' Saviour of the 
Nation," people fled from him as from a blast, " for whom 
he pointed at was straightway taken up." Robed in silken 
cassock, he sat at the tables of bishops and prated of all 
persons, high and low, with insufferable insolence. His 
coarse virulence was hailed as the candour of a plain blunt 
man, his saucy impudence as the pardonable eccentricity 
of a hero. 

Of the five prisoners, one of them, Ireland, was a Jesuit 
priest and a member of an old Yorkshire family. He was 
related to the Penderells of Boscobel who had sheltered 
Charles II. after the battle of Worcester, and one of his 
uncles had been killed in the Civil War fighting for King 
Charles I. But such antecedents availed him little against 
the violence of the times. Oates laid hands on him and 
with Whitebread, the Jesuit provincial, two other priests 
of the names of Fenwick and Pickering, and a Catholic 
gentleman of the name of Grove, he was flung into New- 
gate. There the unfortunate men were entrusted to the 
loving care of the keeper, Captain Richardson, who, in 
his anxiety for their safety, loaded them with bolts and 
chains to such an alarming extent that Fenwick was very 


nearly obliged to have his leg amputated. In vain Ire- 
land's sister used every exertion of which a woman was 
capable to prepare her brother's defence. Seeing that the 
prisoners were not permitted to see anybody or send for 
any witness, her efforts were not unnaturally attended with 
little success. Oppressed by every disadvantage that could 
beset an accused man, unassisted by knowledge or experi- 
ence, these five prisoners were expected to combat all the 
manifold resources which await the service of passion and 
injustice when they select the due process of law for the 
destruction of their victims. 

Oates's story at this trial was similar to that he had told 
at Coleman's, but was embellished by certain lively details 
which had happily occurred to his mind during the inter- 
val. Pickering and Grove were the men who at the now 
famous consult of April 24th, at the tavern in the Strand, 
had been told off to murder the King. After all the 
prisoners had, in Oates's presence, signed the resolution 
which had been passed to effect that object, Pickering and 
Grove had hallowed their bloody emprise by taking the 
sacrament. Not that these two gentlemen were seriously 
disturbed in mind by the hazard of their attempt. For 
years they had followed the monarch with fell intent, but 
ill success. At last in the March previous to the consult, 
a favourable opportunity had presented itself, but alas ! at 
the supreme moment of realisation, which was to crown 
with achievement these years of lurking ambush and fruit- 
less search, Pickering discovered something wrong with 
the flint of his pistol and durst not fire. When he got 
home, his excuse was considered quite insufficient, and 
Whitebread prescribed for him thirty strokes of discipline. 
During May and June, Oates said he had often seen the 
assassins skulking about in St. James' Park with their huge 
screwed pistols, cumbrous weapons of a size between an 
ordinary pistol and a carbine. Out of compliment to 
the victim these pistols were loaded with silver bullets, 
which Grove, in merciless mood, had wished to have 
champed, that they might inflict incurable wounds. In 


June, Oates was in the full confidence of the plotters, 
and Ashby, the gouty rector, had done him the honour 
to consult him as to the relative merit of pistol, dagger or 
poison as means of removing Charles. Oates, whose lean- 
ings were always rather towards the subtle than the artless, 
recommended poison. July passed by uneventfully ; but 
in August the good faith of Oates began to be questioned 
in the Jesuit camp, and one evening in that month the 
informer had the imprudence to call on Whitebread at his 
lodgings. He found the Provincial at supper, but the 
latter rose immediately from his meal, welcomed him with 
reviling and affront and gave him a sound thrashing. A 
subsequent attempt to assault and murder the false disciple 
unfortunately miscarried. 

These were the most important details with which Oates 
now clothed the skeleton of his original narrative. Scroggs, 
who was full of his usual assurances of a fair trial, invited 
the prisoners to answer the witness. Grove protested that 
he had only met Oates two or three times in his life, and 
that his chief recollection of their meeting was confined to 
a temporary advance of eight shillings which he had made 
to Titus, and which Titus had apparently omitted to 
refund. Fenwick, however, reimbursed Grove for his 
loss ; the rest of the transaction may be quoted from the 
report of the trial. 

Lord Chief Justice. — Were you of his (Oates's) ac- 
quaintance, Mr. Fenwick ? Speak home, and don't mince 
the matter. 

Fenwick. — I have seen him. 

Lord Chief Justice. — I wonder what you are made of ; 
ask an English Protestant a plain question and he will 
scorn to come dallying with an evasive answer. 

Fenwick. — I have been several times in his company. 

Lord Chief Justice. — Did you pay eight shillings for 
him ? 

Fenwick. — Yes, I believe I did. 

Lord Chief Justice. — How came you to do it ? 

Fenwick. — He was going to St. Omers. 


Lord Chief Justice. — Why, were you treasurer for the 
society ? 

Fenwick. — No, my Lord, I was not. 

Lord Chief Justice. — You never had your eight shillings 
again, had you ? 

Fenwick. — It is upon my book, my Lord, if I ever had 

Lord Chief Justice. — Did Mr. Oates ever pay it again ? 

Fenwick. — No, sure ; he was never so honest. 

Lord Chief Justice. — Who had you it of then ? 

Fenwick. — I am certain I had it not from him ; he did 
not pay it. 

Lord Chief Justice. — How can you tell you had it, 
then ? 

Fenwick. — I suppose I had it again, but not of Mr. 

Lord Chief Justice. — Had you it of Ireland ? 

Fenwick. — I do not know who I had it of, nor certainly 
whether I had it. 

Lord Chief Justice. — Why did you not ask Mr. Oates 
for it ? 

Fenwick. — He was not able to pay it. 

Lord Chief Justice. — Why did you lay it down for 
him ? 

Fenwick. — Because I was a fool. 

Lord Chief Justice. — That must be the conclusion 
always : when you cannot evade being proved knaves by 
answering directly, you will rather suffer yourselves to be 
called fools. 

Fenwick. — My Lord, I have done more for him than 
that comes to ; for he came to me in a miserable poor 
condition, and said, " I must turn again and betake myself 
to the ministry to get bread, I have eaten nothing these 
two days ; " I gave him five shillings to relieve his present 

Mr. Oates. — I will answer that ; I was never in any 
such straits. I was ordered by the provincial to be 
taken care of by the procurator. 


Fenwick. — You brought no such order to me. 

Mr. Oates. — Yes, Mr. Fenwick, you know there was 
such an order, and I never received so little in my life 
as five shillings from you ; I have received twenty, and 
thirty, and forty shillings, at a time, but never so little as 

Lord Chief Justice.— -You are more charitable than you 
thought for. 

Fenwick. — He told me he had not eaten a bit for two 

Mr. Oates. — I have indeed gone a whole day without 
eating, when I have been hurried about your trash ; but I 
assure you, my Lord, I never wanted for anything among 

Lord Chief Justice. — Perhaps it was fasting day. 

Lord Chief Baron. — Their fasting days are none of the 

Mr. Oates. — No ; we commonly eat best on those 

Popish villainy was an established fact. Chief Justice 
and Chief Baron girded and jested at the distresses of the 
prisoners. On the Bench, in the Parliament, as well as 
in the streets and coffee houses, there was no place left 
for moderation or sobriety ; truth, justice, humanity, 
honour and good nature were all Popishly affected. Oates, 
retiring to partake of some refreshments kindly ordered 
for him by the Chief Justice, was succeeded by Bedloe. 
His evidence was uninteresting. As it only incriminated 
Ireland, Pickering and Grove, Whitebread and Fenwick 
for want of a second witness against them were put back, 
to be tried at some future time on a different charge. 
Poor Ireland then tried to prove an alibi. For want of 
sufficient preparation the attempt was unsuccessful, and 
did him more harm than good. In vain he begged for 
further time to bring together his evidence. His prayer 
was refused. " Then," he cried, " we must confess there 
is no justice for innocence." He was right ; there was 
not in the seventeenth century. But it was the law rather 


than the judges that was at fault. Scroggs turned to 
Pickering and asked him what he had to say. " I will 
take my oath I was never in Bedloe's company in all 
my life," answered the prisoner. " I make no question 
you will," retorted Scroggs, " and have a dispensation for 
it when you have done." It was not altogether the fault 
of Scroggs and his brethren that such a view of Romish 
theology could be flung with annihilating force against 
any attempts of these wretched victims to speak the 
truth. Useful and necessary as the doctrine of dispensa- 
tion may be under certain circumstances, the English 
Protestant of the seventeenth century saw in it only 
the glaring abuses of that doctrine that had contributed 
among other causes to bring about the Reformation. 

At this point, Ireland's indefatigable sister called as a 
witness on his behalf Sir Denny Ashburnham, Member 
for Hastings. She asked him to produce an indictment 
for perjury which had been drawn up against Oates in 
that town. He did so, but, as though to apologise for 
his effrontery in reviving a youthful indiscretion of that 
excellent man, irrelevantly remarked : " I think truly that 
nothing can be said against Mr. Oates to take off his 
credibility." It was certainly unlikely that at that moment 
anything would be said to impeach the signal veracity of 
the Doctor, and Ireland gained little by the attempt to 
blacken the credit of the national saviour. 

" Have you any more witnesses, or anything more to 
say for yourselves?" asked Scroggs. 

Ireland. — If I may produce on my own behalf pledges 
of my own loyalty, and that of my family. 

Lord Chief Justice. — Produce whom you will. 

Ireland. — My sister and my mother can tell you 
how our relations were plundered for siding with the 

Lord Chief Justice. — No ; I will tell you why it was : it 
was for being Papist, and you went to the King for 

Ireland. — I had an uncle that was killed in the King's 


service : the Pendrels and the Giffards that were instru- 
mental in saving the King after the fight at Worcester 
are my near relations. 

Lord Chief Justice. — Why, all those are Papists. 

Pickering. — My father, my Lord, was killed in the 
King's party. 

Lord Chief Justice. — Why then do you fall off from 
your father's virtue ? 

Pickering. — I have not time to produce witnesses on 
my own behalf. 

Ireland. — I desire time to bring more witnesses. 

Grove. — As I have a soul to save, I know nothing of 
this matter charged upon me. 

Lord Chief Justice. — Well, have you anything more to 
say ? 

Ireland. — No, my Lord. 

Scroggs recapitulated the evidence to the jury, and 
concluded his review by saying : " But when the matter is 
accomplished with so many circumstances which are 
material, and cannot be evaded or denied, it is almost 
impossible for any man either to make such a story or we 
to believe it when told. I know not whether they {the 
Papists) can frame such a one ; I am sure no Protestant 
ever did, I believe, never would invent such a one to take 
away their lives." The Chief Justice rises to heights of 
tragic irony, hardly surpassed in the gloomiest flights of 
Attic drama. 

Leaving the relevant issues of the case, Scroggs swept 
on to his wonted homily on Romish doctrine, determined 
to make the best of the great opportunity afforded him of 
gratifying his rhetorical and theatrical leanings. The noisy 
mob that beset the court stimulated his boisterous nature, 
and fired his vigorous eloquence. With unbounded 
generosity he launched at his excited listeners the 
richest periods of passionate prejudice that his turbulent 
intellect could summon up from a teeming vocabulary 
and an unstable mind, and, sword in hand, " hewed down " 
his defenceless victims. He began by saying that the 


Plot and Popish villainy were self-evident, and then, 
with a warmth considerably augmented since Coleman's 
trial, proceeded : " We know their doctrines and practices 
too well to believe they will stick at anything that may 
effect those ends. They must excuse me if I be plain ; I 
would not asperse a profession of men as the priests are 
with hard words if they were not true, and if at this time 
it were not necessary. If they had not murdered Kings 
I would not say they would have murdered ours. 
But when it has been their practice so to do ; when they 
have debauched men's understandings, overturned morals, 
and destroyed divinity, what shall I say ? When their 
humility is such that they tread upon the necks of 
emperors, their charity such as to kill princes, their vow 
of poverty such as to covet kingdoms, what shall I judge 
of them? When they have licenses to lie and indul- 
gences for falsehoods, nay, when they can make him a 
saint that dies in one, and then pray to him as the 
carpenter makes an image, and worships it, and can think 
to bring in that wooden religion of theirs amongst us in 
this nation, what shall I think of them ? What shall I 
say to them ? What shall I do with them ? If there can 
be a dispensation for the taking of any oath (and diverse 
instances may be given of it, that their Church licenses 
them to do so) it is a cheat upon men's souls, it perverts 
and breaks off all conversation amongst mankind; for how 
can we deal or converse in the world when there is no sin 
but can be indulged, no offence so big, but they can pardon 
it, and some of the blackest be accounted meritorious ? 
What is there left for mankind to lean upon if a 
Sacrament will not bind them (unless to conceal their 
wickedness) ? If they take tests and Sacraments, and all 
this under colour of religion be avoided, and signify 
nothing, what is become of all converse ? How can we 
think obligations and promises between man and man 
should hold, if a covenant between God and man will 

" We have no such principles nor doctrines in our 


Church, we thank God. To use any prevarication in 
declaring the truth is abominable to natural reason, much 
more to true religion ; and it is a strange Church that 
allows a man to be a knave. It is possible some of that 
communion may be saved, but they can never hope to be 
so in such a course as this. I know they will say that 
these are not their principles nor their practices, that they 
preach otherwise, they print otherwise, and their Councils 
determine otherwise. Some hold that the Pope in Council 
is infallible ; and ask any Popish Jesuit of them all, and he 
will say the Pope is infallible himself in Cathedra, or he is 
no right Jesuit. If so, whatever they command is to be 
justified by their authority ; if they give a dispensation to 
kill a king, that king is well killed. This is a religion 
that quite unhinges all piety, all morality, all conversa- 
tion, and is to be abominated by all mankind. They 
have some parts of the foundation, it is true ; but they 
are adulterated, and mixed with horrid principles, and 
impious practices. They eat their God, they kill their 
King, and saint the murderer. They indulge all sorts of 
sins, and no human bonds can hold them." Real or feigned 
the indecency of this tirade would be singular at any other 
time and from any other man than Scroggs. Proceeding 
out of his mouth and addressed to the sympathetic and 
bloodthirsty audience it is merely the response of the sensa- 
tional advocate to the enthusiasm of the crowd, the 
indignation of the ex- Cavalier roused to the defence of 
Church and State against the machinations of foreigners 
and heretics. Its eloquence is enviable and worthy of a 
saner cause. 

But this speech has a more than personal significance. 
It is only by the prevalence of such a conception of the 
doctrine of the Romish Church that the alarm and in- 
humanity of the Plot agitation can become intelligible, 
and it was the misfortune of the Romish Church to have 
given only too good cause in the past for such a disastrous 
view of its perverted dogma. Excited as is its tone, the Chief 
Justice's harangue accurately describes the Popish terror 


which possessed the minds of men of far more sober 
intellect than Scroggs, which had beguiled the nation to 
receive into her bosom its unholy brood of informers and 
perjurers, and imposed on the judicial intelligence or 
smothered the judicial conscience by its horrid suggestions. 

Fired by the heat of Scroggs' address the jury promptly 
returned a verdict of" Guilty" against the three prisoners. 
"You have done, gentlemen," cries the Chief Justice, 
" like very good subjects, and very good Christians, that 
is to say, like very good Protestants ; " then turning to 
the prisoners, he flings at them a parting taunt, " And 
now much good may their thirty thousand masses do 
them ! " Little enough in this world ! The Court ad- 
journed till four o'clock. 

Jeffreys, though sitting upon the bench, had taken 
little part in the trial. But now that the prisoners had 
been convicted, it became his duty as Recorder to 
pass upon them the sentence of death. At five o'clock 
Jeffreys, accompanied by some of the City Justices, 
re-entered the Court, and the prisoners were set be- 
fore him. Ireland pleaded once more that he might 
have further time to call his witnesses, a request the 
Recorder was bound to refuse. He urged his loyalty, 
his relations' fidelity to the King. " I believe, Mr. 
Ireland, it will be a shame to all your relations that you 
should be privy to the murder of that good King whom 
your relations served so well," was the Recorder's answer. 
The executioner was called to tie up the prisoners. After 
some delay and a reproof from Jeffreys this functionary 
appeared and proceeded to perform his duty. Pickering 
submitted in silence, Grove with the exclamation, " I am as 
innocent as a child unborn." 

Captain Richardson having pointed out the three 
prisoners from among the others awaiting the Recorder's sen- 
tence, Jeffreys addressed himself to them. He dwelt, in 
more temperate language than Scroggs, on the immorality of 
a religion that encouraged the murder of Kings that violated 
not only the law of the land but the law of God Almighty 


Himself. " But," he hastened to add, " this I speak to you 
not vauntingly ; 'tis against my nature to insult upon per- 
sons in your sad condition. God forgive you for what you 
have done ! and I do heartily beg it, though you don't desire 
I should. Poor men, you may believe that your interest in 
the world to come is secured to you by your masses, but do 
not well consider that vast eternity you must ere long enter 
into, and that great Tribunal you must appear before, where 
his masses " (speaking to Pickering) " will not signify so 
many groats to him, no not one farthing. And I must say 
it, for the sake of those silly people whom you have imposed 
upon with such fallacies, that the masses can no more 
save thee from a future damnation than they do from a 
present condemnation." After protesting that there were 
many Catholics in England worthy men abhorring such 
crimes, the Recorder reminded the prisoners that the very 
fact that they were Roman Catholic priests residing in 
England was punishable with death. He was sorry with 
all his soul that men educated in England, surrounded by 
the good examples of others, could hold such mischievous 
principles and debauch others to do the same ; and then, 
turning to Grove, " I am sorry also to hear a layman 
should with so much malice declare that a bullet if round 
and smooth was not safe enough for him to execute his 
villanies by ; but he must be sure not only to set his 
poisonous invention to work about it, but he must add there- 
to his poisonous teeth ; for fear if the bullet were smooth 
it might light in some part where the wound might be 
cured. But such is the height of some men's malice, that 
they will put all the venom and malice they can into their 
actions. I am sure this was so horrid a design that nothing 
but a conclave of devils in hell, or a college of such Jesuits 
as yours on earth, could have thought upon." 

Once more as a Christian, in the name of the great God 
of Heaven, the Recorder begged them, for their own souls' 
sake, not to be over persuaded by the doctrines of their 
religion. " I know not, but as I said, you may think I 
speak this to insult, I take the great God of Heaven to 


witness, that I speak it with charity to your souls, and 
with great sorrow and grief in my own heart, to see men 
that might have made themselves happy draw upon them- 
selves so great a ruin." He assured them that they had 
been fairly tried and convicted. Ireland had complained 
he had not been given sufficient time to call his witnesses. 
" But," answered Jeffreys, " he had a kind sister, who took 
care to bring his witnesses, an indulgence rarely allowed 
to men in his situation. Not that I blame her for it, I 
commend her ; it was the effect of her good nature, and 

deserves commendation "I once more assure you, 

all I have said is in perfect charity. I pray God forgive 
you for what you have done." 

" And then came from his delighted lips," writes Lord 
Campbell, " the hurdle, the hanging, the cutting down alive, 
and other particulars too shocking to be repeated." In 
other words he passed upon the prisoners the customary 
sentence of death in cases of treason in precisely the same 
words in which Lord Campbell, had he been Chief Justice 
in 1848 instead of 1850, would have been obliged to con- 
demn any traitor convicted before him. There is not one 
expression in Jeffreys' address that shows the least delight 
in the performance of his painful duty. 

The year 1678 was drawing to its close. It had wit- 
nessed the discovery, the development and the complete 
establishment of the Plot. It left the nation in a con- 
dition of fearful and credulous excitement. Rumours, 
portents, suspicion and apprehension combined to brutalise 
and infuriate the public mind. A reverend divine wrote 
exhorting the citizens of London not to slumber like 
snails until the Papists had burnt or demolished their 
houses. " Let them banish this fatal stupidity. For his 
part he would not lie in the same bed with his own 
brother if he thought him a Papist. It was easier to 
chain up the damned spirits of hell than such blood- 
thirsty monsters." Citizens slept with watch-lights at 
their beds' heads, fearful at any moment of being roused 
by the cry of fire, and finding London once more a prey 


to Papist incendiaries. From the provinces came rumours 
that Spanish galleons filled with soldiers were bound for 
Milford Haven ; from Purbeck it was reported that great 
numbers of armed men had landed, whereupon the whole 
county of Dorset flew to arms only to find themselves de- 
ceived. In London, people were searching for reputed 
treasure hid by the Jesuits in the Savoy. Servant maids were 
committed in all directions on suspicion of setting fire to 
their masters' houses; and one, more ingenious than the rest, 
was only too pleased, when accused, to lay the blame upon 
the Papists. But on the 12th of January in the new year 
a portent transpired which put all others to shame. The 
1 2th was a Sunday, and about eleven o'clock on that day 
during Divine service a prodigious darkness overspread the 
sky for half an hour, so that the church services could no 
longer be conducted without candle-light. The ghost of 
Sir Edmundbury Godfrey availed itself of the prevalent 
gloom to appear during mass at the Queen's Chapel in 
Somerset House. Roger North unkindly attributes the 
miraculous darkness to a combination of mist and common 
smoke, which, he says, must frequently occur in towns and 
is very rare out of town. Whatever the explanation of 
the phenomenon, it has in later times become so frequent 
that its terrors have materially decreased. In 1679 ^ 
was a prodigy to the Plot believers, an accident to the 
sceptical. As the former were the most numerous, its 
effect must have been very encouraging to Dr. Oates. 

But even among the more intelligent of the community, 
though by methods less prodigious, judgment was dis- 
mayed and reason blinded. " I cannot without horror 
and trembling reflect upon the many mischiefs and incon- 
veniences we have been run into," said Jeffreys seven years 
later, when called upon to sit in judgment on the arch- 
deceiver. Meanwhile, the arch-deceiver, by the will and 
grant of the High Court of Parliament and the contri- 
butions of the godly, dwelt in plenty and luxury at 
Whitehall. He preached to thronged congregations, and 
though to Evelyn he seemed bold and furiously indiscreet, 


everybody believed what he said. Among the wise and 
learned Oates could count well nigh as many and as ardent 
supporters as among the thoughtless and the ignorant. 
All was imputed to a special providence of God. The 
evidence was so bold and positive, the fact so horrid, there 
were so many conspirators of quality to countenance the 
tale and formalities of law in favour of the witnesses, that 
it is easy to believe how many were the Lords and Com- 
mons, the Judges and Bishops drawn into the net of the 

To Jeffreys' ambitions the year 1678 had been most 
gratifying. His Inn at the Temple had recognised his 
successes at the Bar by electing him a Bencher. The City 
had unanimously promoted him from the Common 
Serjeancy to the Recordership. The Crown had shown 
its goodwill by briefing him in all the Plot prosecutions ; 
he had been talked of as Attorney-General or Lord Chan- 
cellor of Ireland. At home, though he had lost his first 
wife, the befriended confidante, in the early part of the 
year, he had repaired the loss in a manner very con- 
ducive to the furtherance of his interests in the City of 
London. Fortune continued to smile on the young 
Recorder : he was only thirty-one ; a favourite apparently 
with all parties, he might hope to win in course of time 
the highest offices in his profession. But troublous days 
were ahead of him, as the astute young gentleman cannot 
fail to have observed. Court and Parliament were drifting 
farther apart, and the majority of the citizens was more 
likely to side with the latter than the former. All the 
wariness in the world could not avert the moment when 
Sir George would be obliged to choose between his two 
masters, and build his hopes of further preferment on the 
ardour of his attachment to one of the great political 

Lord Campbell professes to fathom the unscrupulous 
wiles by which Sir George was endeavouring to better 
himself in the midst of the confusions of the time. He 
tells us how in the first place the King called for Sir 



George at the outbreak of the agitation and took counsel 
of him as to what course he should adopt. Thereupon, 
Jeffreys recommended that Charles should for awhile 
profess a belief in Oates and his confederates, allow the 
popular fury to exhaust itself and then, when the people 
were weary of blood, fall upon Shaftesbury and his crew 
and smite them hip and thigh. It would have been 
difficult for any man to give Charles advice more con- 
genial to his easy, heartless disposition ; indeed, the course 
of conduct suggested is so peculiarly characteristic of the 
King, so creditable to his head and so discreditable to his 
heart, that one is loth to deprive him of the credit 
of having originally conceived it. Jeffreys, intimate with 
the King's favourite mistress and certainly a persona 
grata at Court, may well have been consulted by Charles 
as to the state of public feeling, the intentions of the 
City and such matters of which he would have special 
cognizance ; but that at so critical a moment the King 
would have framed his policy on the advice of the Re- 
corder of London is possible — Charles was not particular 
as to the dignity of his advisers — but not very probable. 

However, Lord Campbell, undeterred by the absence of 
authority, goes further. Not only was Jeffreys guiding 
the King with immoral counsels, but on the Bench he was 
playing the tempter to the gullible Scroggs. He was 
beguiling that worthy with tales of the King's complete 
faith in the existence of the Plot, and thereby whetting his 
fury against the luckless Papists. What Jeffreys would 
have been likely to have gained by this manoeuvre Lord 
Campbell does not condescend to explain ; the evidence on 
which he bases the assertion is paltry and garbled. An 
inflammable being like Scroggs cannot have wanted much 
coaxing to break out into a flaming fire of denunciation ; 
and it must be remembered that even had Jeffreys wished, 
for some mysterious reason or in wanton malice, to excite 
the Chief Justice, he was not in a position of such promin- 
ence as to seriously sway the mind of Scroggs. Jeffreys 
played a very unimportant part in most of these trials, and 


at many of them was not on the Bench at all, or, if he 
was, would not have sat at the elbow of the Chief Justice. 
It is, of course, striking from the point of view of the 
popular historian to represent Jeffreys as a youthful 
Mephistopheles urging poor mortals to damnation by 
insidious counsels and lying hopes. But so much has been 
done in this way with Jeffreys that it may be equally 
interesting to reduce him to his natural proportions again. 
And these, physically and morally, are more comely than 
has been popularly supposed. The quotations so far given 
from his public utterances are quite undeserving of the 
heated language that has been bestowed indiscriminately 
on all portions of his career, and hardly justify the historical 
misrepresentations it has been his privilege to enjoy from 
the lavish hands of a successor, whose historical injustice 
has not even that sense of humour which lightens the 
darkest passages of his predecessor's misdoing. 

g 2 


July, 1679 

It would be an improper tax on the patience of the 
reader to expect him to follow at length all the Plot trials 
in which Jeffreys took part. In many of them the 
Recorder's share was insignificant, and the accounts already 
given of the trials of Coleman and Ireland will suffice to 
place the reader in possession of the outlines of Oates's 
story and the evidence supporting it. 

In February, Jeffreys was made a Serjeant-at-Law, an 
honour which his position as an advocate thoroughly 
justified. But the young Recorder was about to lose a 
valued friend and patron. Parliament met in March. The 
country party, backed by French gold, were well in the 
ascendant ; and whatever hopes Charles and Danby may 
have built on the improved temper of a new House of 
Commons were immediately shattered. Not only did the 
House attack the Papists with renewed vigour, but it 
straightway fell upon Danby with impeachment and 
attainder, and he was committed to the Tower in April. 
Though his connection with Jeffreys was by no means 
severed by his imprisonment, the fallen Minister ceased to 
be any longer effective in forwarding the Recorder's 

It was to Danby that Jeffreys owed his first employment 
in the mysterious services of the Court, and his close alliance 
with the Duchess of Portsmouth. On Danby's fall the 


Duchess had transferred her political affections to Robert 
Spencer, Earl of Sunderland ; and Jeffreys, as part of the 
stock in trade, was included in the transfer. A man of 
infinite subtlety, an accommodating disposition and an 
irresistible address, Sunderland had much in common with 
the Recorder. They were both young men, Sunderland 
not yet forty, Jeffreys thirty-two, both in the enjoyment 
of good spirits and easy principles ; all the elements of a 
lasting political alliance combined to draw them closer 
together. The changes and chances of King Charles's 
reign were to be many ; but, secure in the support of the 
favourite mistress, it would have been difficult for men 
far less adroit than these two to miss power and prefer- 
ment. In replacing Danby by Sunderland, Jeffreys had 
made the best exchange possible under the circumstances. 

In June of the same year the Recorder was called upon 
to pass sentence on another batch of convicted Jesuits. 
They had been tried in the now customary fashion, sneered 
at by the Judges, stormed at by Scroggs, their witnesses 
beaten by the mob. Among them was a barrister, one 
Richard Langhorne, a very extraordinary man in all 
respects, learned and honest in his profession, but bigoted 
and of a dismal countenance prophetic of a violent death. 
He had some acquaintance with Jeffreys, and in fitting 
terms the latter expressed sorrow at finding his friend in 
such sad condition. He spoke charitably to the prisoners 
of the justice of their trials and the irreproachable character 
of the evidence on which they had been convicted. 
" There is not the least room for the most scrupulous man 
to doubt of the credibility of the witnesses that have been 
examined against you." Jeffreys subsequently admitted 
that he was at this time one of those who had been sur- 
prised into a belief in the truth of Oates's story, a surprise 
which he never forgave that unscrupulous impostor. 
" Gentlemen," he concluded, " with great charity to your 
immortal souls, I desire you, for the love of God, and in 
the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, consider these things ; 
for it will not be long before you are summoned before 


another tribunal about them. And great and dreadful 
is the Day of Judgment at which you and all men must 

As Jeffreys closed his address with the customary sen- 
tence of drawing and quartering, a great acclamation in 
the Court testified to the lively satisfaction which these 
convictions afforded to the public mind. 

But at Whitehall it was otherwise. The day White- 
bread and his fellows were condemned, the King was not 
well pleased, and only by the advice of others persuaded 
to keep his feelings to himself. Even in the Council 
differences broke out. Halifax was so irritated by some 
adverse comments which Sir William Temple made upon 
the convictions, that he threatened to tell the public that 
Temple was a Papist, and so far lost his head as to exclaim 
that the Plot must be handled as though it were true, 
whether it was so or not. This must have been pleasant 
hearing for even the complacent Charles. It is with some 
justice that James in his " Memoirs " speaks of his brother 
at this time as that " unfortunate Prince, for so he may well 
be termed in this conjuncture ; " though Charles' sufferings 
were by no means so acute as might have been expected 
in a man who was allowing others to be put to death in 
the name of a conspiracy of which he was the most guilty 
member. But to an ordinary onlooker, like Henry Sidney, 
these trials were the clearest things that ever were seen ; 
and it would have required a person of far stronger pur- 
pose and nobler heart than Charles II. to have saved these 
unfortunate prisoners, whom even calm and rational men 
looked upon as the most flagrant criminals. 

However, at a subsequent Council, Charles took great 
pains to obtain a reprieve for Langhorne, which distressed 
h s friends exceedingly. Lord Anglesey, the Privy Seal, 
warmly seconded his efforts, but Shaftesbury violently and 
successfully withstood them. 

Langhorne and his companions suffered ; and the public 
interest turned to the approaching trial of Sir George 
Wakeman, at which it was rumoured Oates was to involve 


in his accusations not only the Queen's physician but 
Queen Catherine herself. 

In November of 1678 Oates had appeared at the bar of 
the House of Commons, and exclaimed, in his ugly voice, 
" Aye, Taitus Oates, accause Catherine, Quean of England, 
of Haigh Traison." The treason consisted in a plot 
formed by the Queen and her physician to murder the 
King. Charles had refused to have anything to do with 
this monstrous accusation, except to disappoint by his 
indignation those who had reckoned on his infidelities as 
likely to tempt him to lend a willing ear to such a charge. 
But it was otherwise with Parliament. Sir George 
Wakeman, the Queen's physician, was clapped into the 
Gatehouse, there to await his trial, virtually the trial of 
the Queen and the crowning achievement of the supporters 
of the Plot. So great was the success that had hitherto 
attended Oates's efforts in the courts of law, so complete 
appeared to be the faith of Judge and jury in whatever he 
might please to allege, that the informer may well have 
felt the moment had arrived when he ought to play his 
trump card. In any case the public undoubtedly regarded 
the approaching indictment of Wakeman as the most 
important event that had occurred since Oates first made 
his revelations. July had been fixed for the trial. It was 
to take place before Scroggs, than whom Oates may well 
have thought he boasted no more ardent advocate. There 
was no reason to believe that the public craving for Popish 
blood was in any degree diminished. The astonishing 
boldness and impudence of the charge, the high position of 
the lady implicated, these may have provoked some mis- 
giving among the more respectable ; but to the partizans 
of the good Doctor, flushed with a succession of bloody 
victories, misgiving appeared almost fantastic. 

On July 1 8th, Wakeman, a Catholic gentleman called 
Rumley, and two priests, Marshal and Corker, were 
charged at the Old Bailey before Scroggs and a full Bench, 
including Mr. Recorder Jeffreys, with conspiring to murder 
the King. Evelyn, the diarist, was in Court. He had 


determined to come and see for himself what these trials 
were like. He found the Bench crowded with innumer- 
able spectators. The air was full of strange rumours. 
The trial was to be postponed, the Judges had been down 
to the Council at Windsor on the subject of the trial. When 
the new Attorney-General, Sir Robert Sawyer, after a little 
preliminary evidence, turned to the prisoners, and said : 
" Now, gentlemen, it behoves you to take notes. We 
shall come home to you ! Dr. Oates ! " every one felt that 
the good Doctor had reached the most supreme and 
critical moment of his great career. 

In June, 1678, said Oates, Ashby, an octogenarian, 
chronically incapacitated by gout, but, according to the 
Doctor, one of the most energetic and vigorous of the 
Catholic conspirators, wrote to consult Sir G. Wakeman 
about his malady. Wakeman, in replying, recommended 
the patient a milk diet and the Bath pumps, and, by way 
of further invigorating the old gentleman, added that the 
Queen had kindly consented to assist him in poisoning 
the King. Full of the glad tidings Ashby left for his 
gout cure. A few days after, Oates, as a promising 
disciple, and one in whom great trust was reposed, was 
invited by Fenwick and Harcourt to accompany them to 
Somerset House to see the Queen. Oates went with them 
and waited in an antechamber while his companions entered 
the Queen's apartment. The door being open, Oates 
listened to their conversation. The Queen was complaining 
of her husband's infidelities. The recollection of them 
apparently so preyed on her mind that she at length 
agreed to help Wakeman to murder the King. Well 
satisfied, Fenwick and Harcourt rejoined Oates in the 
antechamber. Oates asked them if they would be so 
kind as to present him to the Queen. They did so, and 
after Her Majesty had bestowed a gracious smile on the 
young novice they all three took their departure. Wake- 
man was again approached and offered £ 1 0,000 to do the 
job. He asked for fifteen, and got it. Oates saw the 
receipt for that sum in his handwriting. 


This was all Oates said that he could recollect at 
present. Wakeman immediately taxed him with having 
failed altogether to recognise him when he and the Doctor 
were confronted before the Privy Council, and with 
having said on that occasion that he had never seen him 
before in his whole life. Oates had the old excuse of 
Coleman's trial ready at hand. He was so ill and tired 
and indisposed, in respect both of his " intellectuals " and 
anything else, that he could not charge him home ; and the 
light was so bad. " This is just Coleman's case," said 
Wakeman ; " the light was in your eyes." Oates im- 
mediately claimed the protection of the Court against such 
a daring reflection. Wakeman also remarked with some 
force that all Oates's reputed interviews with him took 
place in the presence of Ireland and Fenwick and others 
whose silence had been ensured by their previous 
executions. Scroggs, to the astonishment of all, took up 
Wakeman's point, and himself asked Oates why he had 
not given all this evidence against the prisoner before. 
" I can by and by give an answer to it, when it is proved by 
him what I said," was the imperfect reply. After some 
further cross-examination, Oates suddenly recollected 
some fresh evidence with regard to the prisoner Marshal, 
whom he had hitherto failed to implicate in his narration. 
Marshal, a very strenuous and rhetorical person, had ac- 
cording to Oates, in company with three of his co-religion- 
ists, indulged in speculation as to the probabilities of King 
Charles II. ever again partaking of Christmas pies. The 
speculation had become so intense that Marshal and another 
went halves in a significant wager that Charles had enjoyed 
these pies for the last time. Marshal asked Oates to be 
more specific about the date of this occurrence. " It is a 
great privilege. I tell you the month," answered Oates, 
with transcendent impertinence. " It was the beginning or 
middle of August." After a few more questions Oates 
unbent further, and condescended to fix the Feast of the 
Assumption as about the date of the unholy wager. 
But he did not deign to bestow many more privileges of 


this kind. To his intense surprise Scroggs had been 
questioning him with pertinacity for some time, and the 
Doctor was growing weary of the sudden interest that the 
Chief Justice had developed in the details of his story. 
" My Lord, I desire I may leave to retire, because I 
am not well," asked Oates. Scroggs told him he must 
stay till after the prisoners' defence. Jeffreys offered 
the Doctor some refreshment by way of consolation. 

Bedloe swore that he had met Wakeman at Harcourt's. 
— it is curious that he had not given the following 
evidence at Harcourt's trial in the previous June, — where 
the priest and the physician were discussing the usual 
subject, the removal of the King. Wakeman was some- 
what unwilling, but Harcourt cheered his fainting heart 
by giving him a bill for .£2,000 from the Queen. It was 
then agreed that, if the Windsor Plot failed, Wakeman 
was to try poison ; and, if that failed, the deed was to be 
done at Newmarket. 

Wakeman in reply called God to witness that he had 
never seen Bedloe before. " If I had been acquainted 
with Mr. Bedloe I should have known him to be a great 
rogue, which is but what he has said of himself ; and I 
should not have thought fit to have trusted such an one 
with such a great secret as this." " It may be," retorted 
Scroggs, " he calls himself a great rogue for that which 
you would have applauded him for, and canonised him 
too. It may be he thinks he was a rogue for going as 
far as he did ; but perhaps you are of another opinion." 

But Scroggs, in spite of some licks with the rough side 
of his tongue which he had occasionally bestowed upon 
the prisoners, was not receiving the evidence of the 
informers with that warm confidence which his previous 
bearing had led them to expect ; and at the conclusion of 
Bedloe's evidence, the Chief Justice suddenly called Sir 
Robert Sawyer's attention to the fact that Bedloe had 
sworn nothing against Wakeman except the receipt of 
^2,000 from the Queen for no particular object. Sawyer 
reminded the Chief Justice that Harcourt and Wakeman 


had spoken of the design in Bedloe's presence, and men- 
tioned Windsor and Newmarket ; upon which Scroggs 
broke out : " What is all this ? We are now in the case 
of men's lives, and pray have a care that you say no more 
than what is true upon any man whatever. I would be 
loth to keep out Popery by that way ; they would bring 
it in by blood or violence ; I would have all things go very 
fair." Bedloe was recalled, and repeated his evidence. 
" He says now quite another thing than before," cried 
Scroggs. " No, no, " echoed North, Jeffreys and 
Sawyer. Scroggs had been a little too previous. He had 
probably taken no notes of the evidence, and his tactless 
impetuosity was quick to betray him into the premature 
exposure of his intentions. 

Wakeman then called the attention of the Court to the 
prescription Oates said he had given to Mr. Thimbleby, 
alias Ashby, when he sent him to Bath. Sir George 
pointed out that it was ludicrous to order a man milk and 
the Bath waters at the same time, as the waters made the 
milk curdle. Oates, with practised ingenuity, got out of the 
difficulty by saying that the milk was only to be taken 
while he remained in town. On this point a long 
argument arose. Mr. Justice Pemberton and Mr. Justice 
Atkyns showed themselves strongly in favour of Oates, 
and thoroughly accepted his explanation. Whatever change 
was to take place in the opinion of their Chief, the two 
" puisnes " had lost none of their faith in the Plot and 
its exponents. 

But a more serious blow was struck at the Doctor's 
reputation when the Court proceeded to hear evidence of 
what took place in the Privy Council when Oates first 
accused Wakeman. It was very clearly proved that on 
that occasion he had not laid to Wakeman's charge the 
greater part of the evidence which he now gave against 
him. He had merely alluded to a letter which he had 
seen in Fenwick's hands proving Wakeman's complicity 
in the attempted poisoning of the King. But of the 
prescription to Ashby, of the interviews with the Oueen 


and the other facts with which he now adorned his 
narrative, he had said nothing. It further transpired that 
as soon as he had heard Oates's story the King had sent 
for Wakeman, and the Lord Chancellor had informed 
the physician of Oates's accusation. With an indiscretion 
only too frequent among the innocent, Wakeman, instead 
of categorically denying his guilt, had entered into a long 
recital of the various services he had rendered the Crown. 
Thereupon Oates was recalled. Asked if he had anything 
more against Sir George, he had replied : " No, God 
forbid that I should say anything against Sir George 
Wakeman, for I know nothing sure against him." 

The Doctor could not have given a more positive reply. 
And yet here he was at the trial bristling with new found 
proofs of the physician's guilt ! When Sir P. Lloyd was 
called and bore testimony to the scene just described, Oates 
coolly exclaimed, " I remember not one word of all this." 
" But this is a Protestant witness," was Wakeman's pointed 
retort. Oates then declared that his failure to charge 
Wakeman fully had been due to weakness and fatigue, 
he had been so hurried up and down that he was hardly 
" compos mentis." But Scroggs would have none of the 
Doctor's customary excuses. " What ! " he cried, " must 
we be abused with we know not what ? It did not require 
such a deal of strength to say, ' I saw a letter under Sir 
George's own hand.' " Oates, nettled by this unwonted 
opposition, sneered at the Privy Council : " To speak the 
truth, they were such a Council as would commit nobody." 
" That was not well said," exclaimed Jeffreys. " He reflects 
on the King and all the Council," cried Wakeman. And 
the Doctor's discomfiture was completed when Scroggs 
turned to him with the sharp rebuke : " You have taken a 
great confidence, I know not by what authority, to say any- 
thing of anybody." The injured Doctor gave no further 
sign of animation during the rest of the trial. Scroggs's 
sudden and pronounced want of consideration for the 
" Nation's Saviour " had produced painful surprise among 
his audience. His brother Judges, ready enough to fall 


upon any impertinence or presumption on the part of 
the prisoners, refused to second the efforts of their Chief 
when they were directed against the Doctor. In attempt- 
ing to disparage the credit of Oates, Scroggs was on a fair 
way to upsetting his own. 

However, the indiscreet flourishes of Marshal's rhetorical 
defence gave Scroggs an opportunity to recover some 
measure of his popularity. Marshal, who seems to have 
modelled his style on that of the Chief Justice, indulged in 
a telling denunciation of the Plot witnesses. They were 
" villains in print, preferment tickles them, rewards march 
before them, and ambition, which greedily follows, beckons 
them, to lie, though God and conscience tell them they are 
unjust." .... " England is become a mournful theatre, 
upon which such a tragedy is acted as turns the eyes of all 
Europe towards it ; the blood which has been already spilt 
has found a channel to convey it even to the remotest parts 
of the world. Though it inspires different breasts with 
different resentments, yet it may speak a language that none 
who are friends of England will be willing to understand. 
Our transactions here are the discourse and entertainment 
of foreign nations ; without all doubt will be chronicled and 
subjected to the censure of ensuing ages. I have great 
reason to believe that not any one of those honourable 
persons that sit Judges over us would be willing to have 
their names written in any characters but those of just 
moderation, of profound integrity, of impartial justice, and 
of gracious clemency. Though we would not be all 
thought to be well-wishers to the Roman Catholic religion, 
yet we would be all thought friends to religion ; though 
we exclaim against idolatry and new principles of faith, yet 
we all stand up for old Christianity ; whereas if the testi- 
mony of living impiety be applauded and admitted, the 
cries of dying honesty scoffed and rejected, what will be- 
come of old Christianity ? If any voice, cry, or protesta- 
tion of dying men pass for truth and obtain belief, where 
is our new conspiracy ? The question comes to this, the 
belief of Christianity in Roman Catholics and the appear- 


ance of their innocency are so fast linked together by those 
solemn vows and protestations of their innocency, made by 
the late executed persons, that no man can take up arms 
against the latter, but must proclaim war against the former. 
Nor can our innocency bleed but our Christianity must 
needs by the same dart be wounded. Nor can any tutelar 
hand stretch itself forth " 

Lord Chief Justice North : " You speak ' ad faciendum 
populum,' and should not be interrupted, but I think you 
lash out a little too much." 

North's mild attempt to check this torrent of eloquence 
proving ineffectual, Scroggs intervened. " Your defence 
has been very mean, I tell you beforehand, your cause 
looked much better before you spoke a word in your 
defence, so wisely have you managed it." " But really for 
your particular part, Mr. Marshal," remonstrated Jeffreys, 
" you abound too much in flowers of rhetoric, which are all 
to no purpose." " I hoped it would be no offence to 
insist," pleaded the harassed orator — but he could get no 
further. Rhetoric is contagious, Scroggs scented battle and 
plunged wildly into the fray. " Papists," he cried, " were 
all that is lying, cruel and bloody. Therefore never brag of 
your religion, for it is a foul one, and so contrary to Christ 
that it is easier to believe anything than to believe an 
understanding man to be a Papist. If we look into the 
Gunpowder Treason, we know how honest you are in your 
oaths, and what truth there is in your words ; to blow up 
King, Lords and Commons, is with you a merciful act, a sign 
of a candid religion : but that is all a story with you ; it is 
easier for you to believe that a saint, after her head is cut 
off went three miles with her head in her hand, to the place 
where she would be buried, than that there was a Gun- 
powder Treason." It apparently never occurred to Scroggs 
that he was now dealing in the same popular rhetoric which 
he and his brethren had so censured in poor Marshal. 

The audience received the Chief Justice's harangue with 
a loud shout. But Marshal was undaunted, and continued 
the struggle. Scroggs threatened him with another har- 


angue if he did not take care. Even this menace left him 
undismayed. At length, Pemberton, coming to the rescue 
of his Chief, told the prisoner not to teach the jury and 
repeat things again and again. Realising the futility of 
further effort, Marshal subsided into a reluctant silence. 

Scroggs's summing up is a peculiar piece of work. It 
is very much in favour of the prisoners, and free from 
any of his habitual tirades against Popery. For that 
reason it lacks all the tempestuous vigour of his previous 
performances, and seems rather the unwilling utterance 
of one who is performing an uncongenial task. He 
remarks, in the middle of his charge, that he cannot 
undertake to repeat every word of the evidence, but only 
so much as he can remember to be material, and hopes 
his brothers will help him out. But the brethren sat 
mum ; they had by this time discovered the change in 
their Chief's sentiments, and firmly declined to follow 
him in his apostasy. They regarded with ill-concealed 
dislike the sudden doubts he was launching against the 
credit of the Saviour of the Nation, and were not unnatur- 
ally surprised that these doubts should come from the 
mouth of one who had in the immediate past so rampantly 
denounced Catholic villainy. If they were to be convinced 
that they had hitherto been wrong in attaching such credit 
to Oates, the conviction would hardly be borne upon them 
by the abrupt recantation that now fell from the lips of 
the Lord Chief Justice. 

Scroggs must have felt this unsympathetic attitude of 
his brethren. But, by summoning up a few of those 
strong eloquent sentences of which, whatever its faults, 
his oratory seldom stood in want, he contrived to bring 
off his unpopular performance with some show of dignity. 
He is speaking of Oates's failure to recognise Wakeman 
in the Council Chamber. "Sir Thomas Doleman did 
indeed say, Mr. Oates was very weak, so that he was in 
great confusion, and scarce able to stand ; weigh it with 
you how it will, but to me it is no answer. I tell you 
plainly, I think a man could not be so weak but he could 


have said he saw a letter under his hand. It was as short 
as he could make an answer, and it is strange that he 
should go and make protestation that he knew nothing. 
And so I pray you weigh it well. Let us not be so amazed 
and frighted with the noise of plots as to take away any 
man's life without reasonable evidence. These men's 
blood is at stake, and your souls and mine, and our oaths 
and consciences are at stake ; therefore never care what the 
world says, follow your consciences : if you are satisfied 
what these men swear is true, you will do well to find 
them guilty, and they deserve to die for it ; if you are un- 
satisfied, upon these things put together, and they do 
weigh with you that they have not said true, you will do 
well to acquit them." 

The Chief Justice had no sooner finished than Bedloe 
rose and complained that his evidence had not been 
rightly summed up. Whatever the inconveniences of 
his position, Scroggs was not going to suffer such im- 
pudence as this. " I know not by what authority this 
man speaks," was the stern, almost biblical, answer of the 
Chief Justice. " Make way for the jury there ; who 
keeps the jury ? " called the usher of the Court. Scroggs 
and his brethren left the Bench to sup, but the Recorder 
remained to take the verdict. In an hour the jury re- 
turned, and asked Jeffreys if they could convict the prison- 
ers of concealment of treason only. Jeffreys told them it 
must be high treason or nothing. " Then take a ver- 
dict," answered the foreman, and a verdict of " Not 
Guilty " was returned for all the prisoners. " Down 
on your knees," said Captain Richardson, the keeper of 
Newgate, to Wakeman ; and, in all sincerity, the fortunate 
man knelt down and prayed the blessing of God on the 
King and honourable Bench. Wakeman and Rumley 
were immediately released ; but Corker and the flowery 
Marshal were detained in custody, to take their trial as 
being Romish priests exercising their functions in England 
contrary to the Statute of Queen Elizabeth. 

The acquittal of Wakeman was as " a thunderstroke to 


the ' Plotters.' " It was Oates's first public check, and it 
was a check from which that good man may be said to 
have never recovered. More Papists were to be done 
to death on foul testimony, Oates was to be heard again 
in the courts of justice, and Dangerfield was to foist yet 
another elaborate perjury on the confiding nation ; but 
Oates never enjoyed after Wakeman's trial the con- 
sideration or repute he had enjoyed before it. The 
verdict was not only a victory for the Court, but it was 
a sign that, with the letting of blood, the anti-Papist 
fever of the country was gradually abating. Though 
everything was done by its adherents to keep the belief 
in the Plot fresh by sensational discoveries and occasional 
executions of innocent Catholics, from the acquittal of 
Wakeman dates the gradual decline of the imposition, and 
the victory of Charles's policy of sufferance and inaction. 
In the courts of law the unexpected result of the 
trial was productive of much confusion and distrust. The 
sudden revolution in the attitude of Scroggs caused dis- 
may and indignation among the public and ill-concealed 
disgust among some of his colleagues on the Bench. It 
was openly said that the " ungodly " jury had been tam- 
pered with, that the briefs of the Crown counsel were 
imperfect, and that Scroggs had had good store of gold 
for his share in the business. Two facts certainly tended 
to justify the indignation of the public. Wakeman, after 
going down to Windsor and kissing the King's hand, left 
the country ; and the Portuguese ambassador committed 
the inconceivable indiscretion of calling on Scroggs after 
the trial, to thank him for so loyally preserving the fame 
and honour of Catherine of Braganza. When, in August, 
Scroggs went the Oxford circuit, the public expressed 
their opinion of his conduct by throwing half dead cats 
into his carriage window, and crying in a loud voice, " A 
Wakeman ! A Wakeman ! " In London he was made 
the subject of libel and lampoon under the name of 
" Clodpate." So gross had these attacks become that on 
the first day of the Michaelmas term of 1679, the Lord 


Chief Justice publicly answered his traducers. His speech 
was fearless, solemn and dignified. The " hireling scrib- 
blers " he did not deign to notice, except to warn them of 
impending punishment ; but, lest any sober and good man 
should be misled by their lies, he solemnly declared from his 
seat of justice, " where I would no more lie or equivocate 
than I would to God at the Holy Altar," that he had 
followed his conscience according to the best of his under- 
standing in Wakeman's trial, without fear, favour or 
reward. Even Lord Campbell, in a footnote, finds him- 
self sufficiently impressed by this eloquent and powerful 
rejoinder to acquit the Chief Justice of pecuniary corrup- 
tion ; but, he goes on to say, " I believe that he was swayed 
in this instance by a disinterested love of rascality." This 
is not a very convincing criticism. There is no real ground 
for believing that up to the time of Wakeman's trial 
Scroggs was otherwise than sincere in his denunciation of 
the Papists. Violent and over-heated he certainly was ; 
but that all his vehemence was assumed to prop up a story 
he believed to be false is a conclusion for which there is 
no warrant. His sincerity first comes in question at 
Wakeman's trial, when he begins to harass a witness he 
had previously courted and approved. The motives that 
urged him to this course can only be conjectured from 
a few of the attendant circumstances that have come down 
to us. 

In the first place Scroggs went to Windsor just before 
the trial. The King, determined to save the Queen's 
honour, may have enlightened the Chief Justice on points 
in Oates's evidence of which he alone could expose the false- 
hood. Scroggs may also have learnt, what he did not know 
before, that these Papist prosecutions and executions were 
not so gratifying to Charles as he had imagined. Scroggs 
was always a loyal follower of his King ; and a hint from 
Charles that he might abate his excessive ardour would be 
quite enough for the Chief Justice. Roger North gives 
an anecdote of his brother, which is intended to further 
enlighten posterity on Scroggs's sudden conversion. Scroggs 


was driving back from Windsor with Sir Francis North, 
his brother Chief Justice, when he suddenly asked 
North whether Lord Shaftesbury, the leader of the Plot 
supporters, really had great power with the King. " No, 
my lord," replied North ; " no more than your footman 
hath with you ; " at which Scroggs hung his head and 
sat silent and thoughtful for some time. From this inci- 
dent Roger North dates Scroggs's disparagement of Oates. 
He also represents the Judge as a friend of Shaftesbury. 
That statesman, always ready to win over any adherent of 
the Court, may well have cultivated the society of the 
Chief Justice, who could be very useful to him in fostering 
the belief in the Popish Plot. They certainly used to dine 
at each other's houses, and one night Scroggs mightily 
offended the Tory, Francis North, by inviting him to 
meet the great Whig leader. Scroggs's vehemence at the 
outset of the agitation was no doubt prompted and excited 
by the wily statesman, who found excellent material for 
his cunning in the inflammable disposition of the Chief 
Justice. The latter, thoroughly excited, ranted on until 
he discovered, either from the King or some other source, 
that Shaftesbury's agitation was by no means single-minded, 
and that he was being made use of as a tool to serve 
the personal ends of that statesman. From that moment 
his ardour cooled ; and though he did not one whit abate 
his conviction of the existence of a dangerous Plot and 
the villainy of the Roman Catholics, he began to regard 
the evidence on which they were prosecuted and the 
characters of Oates and his colleagues with a calmer and 
more judicial eye. He even went so far as to admit that 
he was troubled about the justice of Langhorne's con- 
viction, an admission which, if not sincere, could have no 
purpose at all. A more lenient view of his conduct is 
supported by Anthony Wood in his Athenae Oxonienses. 
He is the only author who has spoken of Scroggs in any- 
thing approaching to favourable terms, and would seem to 
have been personally acquainted with him. He tells us 
that the Chief Justice mitigated his zeal in the Plot when 

h 2 


he saw that he was to be made a " shoeing-horn to draw 
on others." At any rate, Scroggs's speech against his 
libellers is a powerful and impressive utterance ; and it 
suggests that, having come to his senses and realised the 
use to which he had been put by an unscrupulous party 
leader, he determined to resume the true functions of a 
Judge, which he had in his passion abdicated, and do his 
best in the future to check the insolent witnesses and giddy- 
headed rabble. But it is easy enough to excite the giddy- 
headed ; it is quite another thing to control them. This 
Scroggs learnt to his cost when he attempted to do so. 



1679 — x68o 

The acquittal of Wakeman was a turning point in the 
career of Jeffreys. Hitherto few had doubted the exist- 
ence of a Plot and the relative truth of Oates's depositions. 
Jeffreys, when Chief Justice, admitted at Oates's trial that 
all had at first been "surprised into a belief." But, after 
Wakeman's trial, that belief was, in the minds of many, 
at an end. Henceforth, the Plot became a party matter ; 
two camps were formed of believers and non-believers, not 
only among politicians but among the Judges also. 
Scroggs, and those of his brethren imbued with Court 
principles, suddenly recognised the villainy of Oates and 
the deception he had practised upon them. Pemberton, 
Atkyns and such of the Judges as leant to the popular 
side, ignored Wakeman's acquittal, censured his jury and 
continued to warmly support the Doctor whenever he 
appeared to give evidence before them. North alone, if 
we are to believe his brother, had from the first recognised 
the absurdity of the whole story. But in this instance 
Roger's anxiety to vindicate the Chief Justice's intelligence 
can only be successful at the expense of his integrity. 
North in the course of one of the trials remarked that the 
Plot was " as clear as the sun." Roger explains this as an 
example of his brother's "shining irony." If this is a 
correct explanation and not a rather fantastic apology, it 


is monstrous that a Chief Justice should have made use of 
such " shining irony," when he must have been well aware 
of the sense in which his irony would be received by the 
excited multitude. Roger's zeal for his good brother's 
infallibility is fatally indiscreet at times. 

But it was not in his judicial capacity that Wakeman's 
acquittal affected Jeffreys. He had taken little part in 
the trials, and, though no doubt at first " surprised into 
belief," he had come, by his familiarity with Court affairs 
and his own perspicacity in detecting a scoundrel, to 
regard Oates with suspicion. It was in respect of his 
position in the City, his office as Recorder, that the result 
of the trial touched him most nearly. To trim between 
his master at Court and his masters in the Court of 
Aldermen was no longer possible. The acquittal had 
fired with indignation those malcontents who regarded the 
policy of Charles with hatred and misgiving ; and Shaftes- 
bury's supporters did their best to feed the discontent. 
Pamphlets virulently attacking the King, the Duke and 
Scroggs were secretly printed and sold by the City book- 
sellers. In the Council the majority of the Aldermen 
unhesitatingly declared in favour of the exclusion of the 
Duke of York from the succession to the throne. To 
Jeffreys, as Recorder of London and the Duke's Attorney- 
General, such a decision was very pertinent and called for 
immediate action on his part. He did not hesitate in his 
determination. In spite of the powerful opposition he 
would have to encounter and the peril in which his 
Recordership was placed, he declared straightway for the 
cause of the King — to him the cause of law, order and 
good government — and publicly denounced the seditious 
proceedings of the popular agitators. Jeffreys has been 
reproached with treachery on this occasion, but it is difficult 
to establish the charge. It is not treacherous to try and 
stand well with all parties as long as some sort of agreement 
is possible, neither is it treacherous when discord becomes 
inevitable to choose the unpopular side. Without claiming 
for Jeffreys any very high measure of sincerity or principle, 


he may well have honestly preferred the government of 
the King to the factious clamour of the populace, the 
arts of the Court to the arts of Lord Shaftesbury. If 
the duel was to be fought out in the courts of law it would 
be more congenial to his character and conscience to assist 
in the punishment of the King's seditious enemies than in 
the convictions of unoffending Papists on the testimony of 
Dr. Oates. Now, for the first time, men began to realise 
with what recklessness Shaftesbury was prepared to use 
the Doctor and his unlovely gang for the destruction of 
his enemies. It is less surprising that Jeffreys should have 
opposed himself to such devices than that Judges such as 
Atkyns and Pemberton should have continued to support 
them. A mortal struggle had been entered upon between 
the King and Shaftesbury. It had commenced by the 
shedding of blood, and in the shedding of blood it was to 
terminate. Shaftesbury killed Papists ; the King, when 
his time came, killed Whigs. Jeffreys, if he was obliged as 
a lawyer to take part in such proceedings, preferred Whig- 
killing. The latter could be cleanly, legally and conscien- 
tiously removed; treason was an elastic term, and Whiggism 
full of dangerous possibilities. But to put people out of 
the way on the evidence of such a rascal as Oates and the 
clamour of an unscrupulous faction, was in every way 
distasteful to his character. 

The Exclusion Bill had to a great extent taken the 
place of the Plot as the avowed cause of the public excite- 
ment ; the indignation of all true Protestants now vented 
itself against the Duke of York. As James's Attorney- 
General Jeffreys was prepared to stand by his master. In 
the August of 1679 tne King had fallen seriously ill, and, 
on his recovery a few weeks later, the Mayor and 
Aldermen went down to Windsor to offer an address of 
congratulation. The Recorder, who accompanied them 
in his official capacity, proposed that, after waiting on 
his Majesty, the deputation should also wait on the 
Duke of York. This the deputation declined to do, and 
though the Duke was present at his brother's side when 


the King received them, the Aldermen ignored his presence 
altogether. Jeffreys, unabashed, remained behind after 
the deputation had withdrawn, and, with his father-in-law, 
Sir Thomas Bludworth, who seems to have been one of 
the small party in the Council that still followed the 
Court, had an audience of James. Such conduct cannot 
have been pleasing to the Aldermen, but it was very 
pleasing to the King. When Sir William Jones resigned 
the Attorney-Generalship Jeffreys was spoken of as a 
possible successor ; but the post fell to Creswell Levinz, 
an efficient and respected lawyer. 

In the meantime Parliament, still bent on the Exclusion, 
was prorogued by Charles in October, and a not unreason- 
able supposition got abroad that the King intended for 
the future to govern without one. Fears of this kind lent 
fresh strength to the public agitation and, being well 
manipulated by Shaftesbury and his creatures, threw 
London into a ferment of apprehension. " Agitants and 
sub-agitants " went about among the people inciting them 
to draw up petitions to the King, praying him to call a 
Parliament. The public responded with alacrity to the 
invitation and overwhelmed Charles with petitions, some 
genuine, others covered with unmeaning hieroglyphics like 
" vermin in the bed of Nile." To crown all, the Mayor 
and Aldermen presented a petition, copies of which they 
had ordered to be printed and posted about the City. 
For this they were summoned before the Privy Council 
and charged to put an immediate stop to this craze for 
seditious and tumultuous petitioning. Clayton, the Lord 
Mayor and a member of the country faction, tried to 
evade obedience to the command by saying he did not 
know how he could legally put a stop to it. The 
Recorder, with mischievous readiness, suggested a very 
easy method of helping my Lord Mayor out of his 
difficulty. " Let the King," he said, " issue a proclama- 
tion forbidding the framing and printing of such petitions." 
But this advice was a little too bold even for the Council. 
Luckily, Chief Justice North was at the board, ready with 


a more cautious and subtle method which should be quite 
as effective and less startling to the legal mind. So 
Jeffreys' bolder counsels were not adopted ; but neither the 
King nor the Aldermen, from their respective points of 
view, were likely to forget Mr. Recorder's kind suggestion. 
The next year was to be a critical one for that aspiring 
lawyer. His future now depended on the success of the 
King's policy or that of his opponents. As long as the 
former could manage his own affairs without parliamentary 
assistance, Sir George Jeffreys, now his declared adherent, 
might hope to keep his place, for the Aldermen would not 
dare get rid of their Recorder in the face of an independent 
King. But let Charles fail in his attempt and be obliged 
to summon a Parliament, and Mr. Recorder might look 
for very short shrift from his aggrieved employers. 

Whether Mr. Recorder was aware of these circumstances 
or not, he made no concealment of his intentions, and with 
increasing zeal threw himself heart and soul into the 
service of the King. He gave up all attempts at com- 
promise, and risked everything in his opposition to the 
factions of the City. 

These were in a state of great activity, printing and 
publishing under seemly titles attacks upon the King and 
his Government. One Benjamin Harris, a bookseller, 
published, under the specious title of An Appeal from the 
Country to the City for the Preservation of His Majesty's 
Person, a book in which the King was accused of neglect- 
ing to prosecute the Plot and the Duke of Monmouth 
recommended as his successor in the place of the Duke of 
York, on the ground that having the worst title he would 
make the best King and " humour the people for want of 
a title." 

For publishing this pamphlet, Harris was brought 
before Scroggs at the Guildhall in the February of 1680. 
Harris had boasted before his trial that in what he did 
he had " thousands who would stand by him." Some 
portion of these thousands thronged the court, and by 
clamour testified to their enthusiasm for the prisoner. 


Jeffreys, who appeared to prosecute for the King, un- 
daunted by this show of popular favour, expressed a 
hope that the crowd had come to blush for Harris not 
to encourage him, and deplored the rebellious spirit of the 
age. As to the book " it was as base a piece as ever was 
contrived in hell, either by Papists or the blackest rebel 
that ever was." If it had been written about a tradesman, 
he went on, the writer would long ago have had to hide 
his head, but nowadays one could do anything " under the 
dissemblance of a pretence for the Protestant religion." 

The evidence against Harris was very clear. All his 
counsel could do was to call " a neighbour," who said 
Harris was very quiet and peaceable. " A bookseller 
that causes a factious book to be printed, or reprinted 
if it was printed before, is a factious fellow," was Jeffreys' 
trite and unimpeachable retort. " You say right," added 

But the jury were reluctant to convict. They tried to 
find the prisoner guilty only of selling the book, an 
attempt greeted by a clamorous shout from the adherents. 
Scroggs said they must find aplain "Guilty "or "Not guilty." 
Still they hesitated, until Jeffrevs suggested they should 
give their verdict one by one, by the poll : at which the 
good men and true all " cried out together," and returned 
a hurried " Guilty." Harris escaped with a fine and the 
pillory. Scroggs, smarting under similar attacks, would 
have whipped him, but Pemberton interceded. 

Harris had been tried on February 5th. Two days 
later Jeffreys undertook the prosecution of another libellous 
bookseller. This time Scroggs had been the object of 
attack. The Lord Chief Justice had been having a very bad 
time since Wakeman's acquittal. Not only had dead cats 
been flung at his head, but in his own Court his " puisnes," 
Pemberton and Atkyns, sneered covertly at his treatment 
of Oates and lauded the Doctor's veracity in his presence. 
At a banquet at the Guildhall Shaftesbury and his con- 
federate Lords openly taunted him with his change of front ; 
and in January of 1680 Oates exhibited articles against 


him before the Privy Council, in which, besides his legal 
misdemeanours, the Chief Justice was charged with swearing 
and drinking to excess at the house of a nameless gentleman 
of quality. Scroggs, in reply, called for the name of the 
unknown, and in short made such sport of the Doctor's 
high misdemeanours that the Council would hear no more 
of them. The Chief Justice's only consolation came from 
the King, who sent for him to his bedside and told him not 
to mind. " They have used me worse," he said, " and I 
am resolved we will stand or fall together." 

As a result of this happy union, Francis Smith, book- 
seller, was charged on February 7th with a libel on the 
Chief Justice. Mr. Justice Jones presided. Sir Thomas 
Jones was a fellow countryman of Jeffreys, of a red coun- 
tenance and a heated disposition, but " grave, reverend and 
impartial " according to Roger North, and a stern up- 
holder of the royal prerogative. Smith's libel con- 
sisted in a book called Observations upon the Late Trial 
of Sir George Wakeman, &c. by a certain Tom Tickle- 
foot, the Tabourer, late Clerk to Justice Clodpate. 
" Justice Clodpate " was no other than the old Scroggs of 
Coleman's and Ireland's trials ; and in the pamphlet the 
doings of the new Scroggs of Wakeman's trial were 
facetiously compared with the former conduct of u old 
Clodpate." The most daring passage was that in which 
the author hinted at the report that Scroggs had been 
" approached " before the trial of Wakeman. " But by 
all that is good it was my old master Clodpate's desire, 
peace be with him ! always to sham up an evidence when 
anybody had been with him the morning before." 

Smith was defended by a Mr. William Williams, a barrister 
and member of Parliament. He was a prominent member 
of the country party, and appeared in most of the cases in 
which the fortunes of that party were however indirectly 
concerned. He was a Welshman by birth, and consequently 
a mutual dislike and rivalry soon sprang up between Jef- 
freys and himself. Jeffreys contrived to quarrel with all his 
fellow countrymen. His cousin, Trevor, Williams and Mr. 


Justice Jones, — they all seemed mightily jealous one of 
another, but were naturally united in feelings of greater 
animosity towards Sir George, as by far the most successful 
Welshman in the legal profession. Williams continued to 
be a thorn in the side of Sir George during the greater 
part of his career ; but, in spite of an act of gigantic 
apostasy perpetrated in the following reign, his achieve- 
ments against the peace of his fellow countrymen met with 
little success. 

Jeffreys, in opening the prosecution, attacked the license 
of the time with no less bitterness than in Harris' case, 
and vigorously denounced the seditious uses to which the 
agitation against Popery was being turned. " I know," he 
said, " that every word I utter is taken in short-hand to 
be commented on as persons' humours shall steer them ; 
but I do think, as being the mouth of the City of London, 
it is my duty to speak thus much, that I hope, nay, I may 
dare confidently affirm, that the generality of the City of 
London, all good men and men of abilities, are for the 
King and the Government as it is now established by law " 
— at which there was a general " hum " through the Court, 
testifying to the unpopularity of the Recorder's loyal 

However, Mr. Williams, who appeared for Smith, 
admitted that his client's libel was " sufficiently infamous," 
but was proceeding to demur to the information when 
Jeffreys interrupted him, " Sir, do you admit the record ? " 
" Sir, if you will give me leave you shall hear what we will 
admit," answered Williams. " Come, come, sir, if you do 
not admit the record, we will have none of your anticipa- 
tion," says Mr. Recorder. " What do you call your 
speech but anticipation ?" retorted Williams ; and he went 
on to urge the languishing, sick and dying condition of 
his client (who lived, however, till 1688, and was only at 
the beginning of his troubles). He was about to admit 
Smith's guilt when up jumped a Mr. Fettiplace, counsel on 
h e same side, and said he had no order from his client to 
admit anything. But nobody heeded Fettiplace, and the 



Judge urged submission. " I am for a sinner's repentance 
with all my heart," echoed Jeffreys invitingly. The Judge 
spoke soothingly of Scroggs's pity and compassion. At 
last Mrs. Smith appeared, and agreed on her husband's 
behalf to a verdict of " Guilty " being taken. " You have 
done well," said Mr. Justice Jones, and he promised to 
intercede with Scroggs, " a person that loves no man's 
ruin, but delights rather in the universal welfare of all 
people." Jeffreys promised to do the same, but never did, 
according to Smith. The latter was let off with a small 
fine, but, being an incorrigible Anabaptist, will be heard of 
again shortly. 

Not only in the courts of law did Jeffreys give public 
expression to his political sentiments. In every possible 
way he advertised his devotion to the Court. On the 
return of the Duke of York from abroad he waited on him 
with congratulations. In April he took part in a proceeding 
by which the methods of the Petitioners — as the agitators 
for the summoning of Parliament were now known — were 
called into the service of their opponents, and a nickname 
found for the Court party for which they must have 
been very grateful at such a season. On April 17th Mr. 
Francis Wythens, member for Westminster, and Sir George 
Jeffreys brought addresses to the King, one from his con- 
stituents, the other from the loyal citizens of London 
wherein they declared the method of petitioning then 
abroad to be the method of 1641, and intended to bring 
Charles II. to the block as his father before him, all which 
doings they " abhorred." " The train took," says Roger 
North, " and the frolic went all over England," so that 
from every town addresses of Abhorrence poured in, and 
"Abhorrer" became the answering nickname to Petitioner. 

The next day Mr. Wythens was rewarded for his 
loyalty by the honour of Knighthood. Sir George Jeffreys 
in the course of a few days received a long-coveted prize 
for his share in the business. Denbighshire, the county in 
which Jeffreys was born and his family had long been estab- 
lished, was part of the Palatine Earldom of Chester. Among 


other privileges the Palatinate had its own courts of law- 
presided over by a Chief Justice and " puisnes " whose 
jurisdiction extended over North Wales. It would be 
very pleasant to a successful young man like Jeffreys to 
hold such an office as that of Chief Justice of Chester for 
many and obvious reasons. As a stepping stone to higher 
things, as a means of receiving honour in his own country, 
and as a well paid, easy and comfortable employment Jef- 
freys looked on the place with longing eyes. And now he 
had arrived at a point in his career when he might not un- 
reasonably aspire to such an honour. Young as he was, 
about thirty-two, his success and present position gave him 
a sufficient claim. But there was an obstacle in his path, 
and that an awkward one — the place was already occupied. 
Sir Job Charleton, a loyal old Cavalier, and a very reverend, 
deserving gentleman of sixty-five, had been Chief Justice 
now eighteen years. And the worst of it was, the old 
gentleman was very comfortable in his office. He belonged 
to an old Shropshire family, and was anxious to stop at 
home and die in his own country. But Jeffreys meant to 
have the place, and now seemed a fitting opportunity to 
seize it. Through the Duke of York and the Duchess of 
Portsmouth, brother and mistress, it was suggested to the 
King that Jeffreys' devotion should be acknowledged, that 
the Chief Justiceship of Chester would be to him the most 
pleasing form of acknowledgment and that, if it were 
conferred upon him, Sir Job could easily be consoled by a 
puisne Judgeship in the Court of Common Pleas. The 
King yielded, and an intimation was forwarded to poor old 
Sir Job to that effect. The latter, in great distress at this 
abrupt disturbance of his repose — for " it was like taking 
out the eyes of the good old gentleman," says Roger 
North — hurried up to London to see the King himself 
and ask the reason of his dismissal. In vain he sought an 
audience of Charles. At last one day he sat him down in 
St. James's Park, like " hermit poor," and waited at a spot 
where the King returning from his walk must pass him by. 
But Charles espied him from afar and fled his reproaches ; 


whereupon some say Sir Job pitied his poor master and 
gave up hope and buckled to his business in the Common 
Pleas ; others, that he did at length succeed in seeing his 
master, who promised he should keep his place, and in true 
Stuart fashion kept his promise by giving it to Jeffreys. 
In any case on April 30th Jeffreys was gazetted Chief 
Justice of Chester, and Charleton sat in the Common Pleas. 
In the following month Sir George was promoted to be 
one of the King's Serjeants. 

Honours were falling thick upon him ; he was gathering 
a worthy reward for his devotion to the King's employ- 
ment. But such marked success was fraught with danger 
to a man of Jeffreys' temperament. He possessed one of 
those extreme dispositions that charm us in the artist but 
depress us in the Judge, — a temperament passing in a 
moment from the height of self-satisfaction to the utmost 
depths of gloom and depression, over-confident in success, 
unduly prostrate in failure, intemperate, emotional. In 
the artist, emotion of this kind is translated into his work 
and lends it passion and intensity. But Jeffreys was a 
lawyer, not an artist, and, had he confined himself strictly 
to the exercise of his profession, might have learnt to sub- 
due his dangerous tendencies towards an emotional expres- 
sion of life. Unfortunately, he belonged to that class of 
lawyers who were politicians first and men of law after- 
wards, ambitious of power and preferment, using their legal 
career as a stepping stone to the great places in the State. 
The furious excitement of politics in Charles the 
Second's reign had much in common with the artistic 
temperament, or the Celtic nature, or the want of moral 
sense, or whatever we like to call the absence of the more 
stolid virtues. For that reason its effect on Jeffreys 
would be exciting in the extreme, and serve to kindle a 
zeal and intemperance of action, highly improper and 
disastrous in a lawyer and of very questionable value in a 
politician at any other period than at the end of the 
seventeenth century. Jeffreys too was a young man, 
prematurely successful, ardent, attractive, a great favourite 


in high quarters, arbitrary in character and principles ; 
the consequence of which was that, at this point of his 
career, he gave way to an undue elation of spirits which took 
unpleasant forms, made him very unpopular, drew on him 
public rebuke and lost him his Recordership. Certainly 
Jeffreys had by now so far committed himself on the 
King's side that he could not have expected much mercy 
at the hands of a refractory Parliament ; but we find 
evidence that about this time the undue elation of spirits, 
consequent on his rapid advancement in the esteem and 
confidence of his party, developed an arrogance which 
may have been temporarily effective with the seditious 
but was unwelcome to his seniors and very much resented 
by his opponents. Jeffreys always wanted keeping in 
order ; he could behave very well if he chose, and had an 
unexpected habit of rising worthily to great occasions, 
but, towards the end of 1680, he rather lost his head and 
conceived himself to be a little more powerful and secure 
than he really was. 

The government was still bent on suppressing the 
seditious temper of their opponents in the City. At the 
beginning of July another bookseller, one Henry Carr, 
was arraigned before Scroggs at the Guildhall on the 
charge of publishing a Weekly Packet of Advice from 
Rome. The libellous passage was one reporting the 
discovery of a " wonder-working plaister truly catholic 
in operation," which " made justice deaf and. blind, took 
spots out of the deepest treasons, helped poisons and those 
who used them, and stifled a plot as certainly as the itch 
is destroyed by butter and brimstone." The drift of these 
insinuations is obvious ; the pamphlet was a thinly veiled 
attack on the dubious attitude of the Government towards 
the Plot. Jeffreys and Wythens, the original Abhorrers, 
appeared for the King. The former in opening his case 
touched very appropriately on the methods of Carr and 
his party. " He thinks," he said, " he can scratch the itch 
of the age, and that he may libel any man concerned in 
the Government if he can but call him a Papist or popishly 


affected." Such unpalatable truth as this was very 
unwelcome to the audience ; they had come to hear quite 
another story. When Sir Francis Winnington, who 
defended Carr, spoke of the methods of the prosecution as 
those by which an angry Papist might hope to convict an 
innocent Protestant, a loud " Hem ! " from the people 
testified their approval of the insinuation. "You see 
what a case we are in," cried Scroggs ; " you see what a 
sort of people we are got among." The witnesses against 
Carr were evidently affected by the popular feeling, and 
it was only with great difficulty and no little ingenuity 
that Scroggs and Jeffreys could get the truth out of them. 
The latter neatly turned the tables on these unwilling 
Protestants. Formerly, he said, they had complained of 
the difficulty of getting the truth from Popish witnesses. 
" Now," he went on, alluding to the printer of Carr's 
book, a very obstinate witness, " I must say, if ever any- 
thing were an instance of Popery, then that man is one of 
the Jesuitest fellows that ever was ; for he does cant so 
like them that a man can't tell how to govern himself." 
He concluded with a dig at the " Hems " of his audience. 
" Whoever it is that after this evidence shall acquit this 
man, he must be a man of humming conscience indeed ! " 
The Chief Justice followed the Recorder's lead. In his 
charge he taunted the rabble with humming and making 
a great noise during the trial but after a conviction doing 
nothing for the unfortunate men they had cheered to their 
punishment. Poor Benjamin Harris, he said, had written 
to him from his prison that all his party had forsaken 
him and no man would give him anything to help him 
to pay his fine. " And therefore these fellows, these 
hummers, let them all know, whenever they come to 
espouse a cause of public concern against the Government, 
they spoil it ; and when they are taken, they ruin one 
another." The jury, after an hour's consultation, found 
Carr guilty. " You have done like honest men," auoth 
my Lord Chief Justice. " They have done like honest 
men," echoed Mr. Recorder. 


Confident as Jeffreys was becoming with the apparent 
success of his efforts, he showed how well, on occasions, 
he could " become the seat of justice." The trial of 
Giles, a Papist, charged with the attempted murder of 
a Protestant magistrate, at which Jeffreys presided as 
Recorder, has been commended by the late Sir James 
Stephen as one of the only two Plot trials that were 
conducted with " conspicuous fairness and decency." 
Like most impartial proceedings in courts of law the 
trial is tame and uneventful. Jeffreys, with an open 
mind, cannot help becoming conventional. His gifts were 
essentially militant in character, and required the stimu- 
lant of indignation or prejudice to show them off in their 
most fanciful and characteristic fashion. 

Too fanciful and characteristic for Mr. Baron Weston ! 
This learned and resolute Judge, a stern prerogative 
lawyer, fearing neither man nor Parliament, presided at 
Kingston Assizes in the July of 1680. If treated 
reasonably, Roger North says, there was no gentleman 
" more obliging, condescensive and communicative ; " but, 
being insupportably tormented by gout, his temper 
became so touchy that any unreasonable opposition made 
him appear as if he was mad. He was evidently in no 
very amiable mood this month at Kingston, for he opened 
the Assizes by a fierce attack on Zwinglius and Calvin 
a propos of the conduct of petitioners. Before him in this 
mood appeared Jeffreys, on his side unduly elated and 
inclining to the masterful. A spirit of this kind in a 
powerful advocate usually leads to an improper inter- 
ference with his opponent's case. Jeffreys at once took 
the whole matter in hand, and examined and cross-exa- 
mined all the witnesses, and interrupted his learned 
friend's questions with the usual exclamations and side 
comments. This was too much for the gouty Judge, who 
told the Serjeant to hold his tongue. Some words passed 
between them ; Jeffreys complained that Weston did not 
use him like a counsellor, curbing him in the managing 
of his brief. " Ha ! " exclaimed the angry Baron, " since 


IJ 5 

the King has thrown his favours upon you, in making you 
Chief Justice of Chester, you think to run down every- 
body ; if you think you are aggrieved, make your 
complaint. Here's nobody cares for it." Jeffreys again 
protested, and was again told to hold his tongue, where- 
upon he sat down and wept with anger. Some have made 
these passionate tears at Kingston a cause of reproach and 
disgrace to Jeffreys. But be it remembered, Jeffreys was 
at this time the spoilt child of legal fortune ; he had had 
everything his own way, he had only to ask and receive, 
he had a Welsh temper and probably kept late hours. No 
wonder he exhibited a momentary weakness at the pointed 
violence of the Baron's repartee. Jeffreys always had a 
nice sense of affliction, though he was sufficiently unselfish 
to control it when it conflicted with the just deserts of 
other people. 

The report of this proceeding at Kingston soon reached 
London, and served with another matter to give the 
Recorder an unenviable notoriety. In the Verney Corre- 
spondence one writing from London in August says 
" Jeffreys is extremely cried out against, about Justice 
Doughty's being covicted of murder. Some say he and 
Mrs. Wall, the Duchess of Portsmouth's woman, lay their 
heads together to have it so ; others he and Strode, Bailiff of 
Westminster, agreed to it. Either was very bad if true." 

The mystery contained in this paragraph can never be 
solved, and there is no entirely trustworthy evidence to 
show how or from what motives Jeffreys acted in this affair. 

The facts are these. Philip Doughty, Esq., of Chesham, 
is included in a recusancy list of Papists drawn up for 
the House of Lords in the December of 1680, but is 
stated to be still in Newgate at the time. In July or 
August of that year Doughty had been convicted 
at the Old Bailey of the murder of a hackney 
coachman by the name of Capps. On September 9th 
Doughty addressed a petition to the King in Council 
asking for a reconsideration of his conviction on the 
following grounds : — 

1 2 


That the wounds were proved to be accidental, and not 

That the wounds were cured, and Capps went about his 
business again. 

That he died of malignant fever, in the course of which 
ignorant people had mistaken his vomiting for blood. 

That being assaulted by Capps the petitioner had been 
obliged to draw. 

That the jury gave a rash and hard verdict, consider- 
ing no malice was proved. 

The King referred Doughty's petition to the Lord 
Mayor (Clayton) and the Recorder (Jeffreys), to report 
upon ; and in a few days they reported, recommending the 
petitioner to the King's mercy, owing to the differences of 
the witnesses as to the cause of Capps's death. 

But in December of the same year we find Doughty 
presenting another petition to the Council. He complains 
that, though pardoned, he has never received a warrant 
to that effect, that he is still in prison and has been told 
that he will have to give money for a pardon if he wants 
it. The King in answer ordered the warrant to issue, and 
declared that in passing a pardon no one was to demand 
more than the usual fees. 

Doughty was presumably released after this, and the 
matter ended. 

What share Jeffreys had in these transactions it is 
impossible to say. His name only appears in them 
officially as recommending Doughty's pardon. Whether 
he had in the first instance pressed unduly for a conviction 
from interested motives or to please Mrs. Wall, the 
confidante of his protectress, the Duchess of Portsmouth ; 
or whether he had acted in collusion with Strode, a man 
of some violence in his office, who was about the same 
time tried for breaking into an Ambassador's house ; or 
whether he had had any share in the delay in the exe- 
cution of Doughty's pardon ; — these questions cannot be 

Jeffreys was undoubtedly very intimate with the 


Portsmouth faction at this time, and his familiarity with 
Mrs. Wall had already been made a theme of popular 
verse. It is alluded to in some lines dealing with his 
desertion of the popular party : — 

"But though they fret and bite their nails and brawl, 
He'll slight them and go kiss dear Nelly Wall." 

Doughty's case is also alluded to in an indecent poem 
on " the Duchess of Portsmouth's Looking Glass," 
ascribed to Lord Rochester, in which occur the lines: — 

" Learn'd Scroggs and honest Jeffreys 
A faithful friend to you who e'er is ; 
He made the jury come in booty, 
And for your service would hang Doughty." 

Had Jeffreys betrayed his judicial functions to gratify 
some spite of this lady against Doughty, or is the story 
merely an outcome of Jeffreys' growing unpopularity in 
the City and his known alliance with the Court ? Doughty 
certainly seems to have been unfairly treated in more ways 
than one, and rumour has credited Jeffreys with some share 
in his ill-treatment. 

In any case both these incidents — Weston's rebuke and 
Doughty's conviction — went to swell the discontent against 
the Recorder that was daily rising in the City. It found 
vent in personal attacks on Jeffreys circulated in broad- 
sheets about the town ; and the usual anonymous letter 
was not wanting. This took the form of a letter from 
" A Liveryman of London," in which he told Sir George 
how he had been defending his reputation against the 
attacks of an imaginary detractor. The old scandal about 
the second Lady Jeffreys was repeated ; Jeffreys was ac- 
cused of having bragged that, as long as Mrs. Wall was 
mistress and the Duchess of Portsmouth was her mistress 
and her master's mistress, he could have what he would at 
Court ; and was warned by the author that, if he put his 
head in the pillory as Harris had, he would never get it 
out again. 


Jeffreys however seems to have been singularly unaffected 
by these attacks. If we are to believe Francis Smith, he 
had in September of 1680 lost none of his vigour. The 
incorrigible Anabaptist had been at it again. This time 
he had not attacked the King's Government ; he had 
turned his attention to more domestic matters, and pub- 
lished a telling indictment of the gross expenditure of the 
Mayor and Sheriffs in the way of eating and drinking. 
He complained, with some show of reason, that the office 
of Sheriff had now become such an expensive one that no 
poor man could hold it ; and he cited an Act of Philip and 
Mary for retrenching the expenses of the Mayor and 
Sheriffs, which, he said, those whose duty it was to check 
such expenditure refused to put into action. For these 
modest incitements to civic economy, Smith was charged 
at the Guildhall with "maliciously, scandalously, seditiously, 
wickedly printing a malicious, etc., etc., book, to the great 
scandal and contempt of our lord the King, to the dis- 
turbance of his peace and against his crown and dignity." 
The indignation of the lavish aldermen had apparently 
quite mastered their sense of humour ; but the grand 
jury at the Guildhall, failing to appreciate how Smith's 
publication could rationally be construed into an intent to 
disturb the King's peace, threw out the bill. This did 
not suit Jeffreys at all. He seems to have considered that 
anything bearing the name of Francis Smith must be 
wicked, malicious and calculated to disturb the royal 
peace ; indeed, if we are to believe Smith, so firmly was 
this general conviction rooted in his mind that he had not 
troubled to read the particular work specified in the indict- 
ment. " Francis Smith ! " that was enough for Jeffreys, 
and ought to be enough for the grand jury. Accordingly 
he sent them back three times to reconsider their decision ; 
but they could not see their way to gratify his wishes. 
Then they should see his face. The terror of Jeffreys' 
countenance when moved to indignation has become a 
household story ; he was himself quite aware of the power 
he enjoyed in this respect, and frequently resorted to it in 


extreme cases. " God bless me from such jurymen," he 
exclaimed ; " I will see the face of every one of them and 
let others see them also. I will hear them repeat every 
man of them their own sense of this bill, thus exposing 
them to all possible contempt." The Bar was cleared, 
and one by one the seventeen reluctant gentlemen passed 
before the Recorder. But even the fierce glance of that 
great man failed to shake their conviction. " Ignoramus," 
they answered one after another, until, transported with 
rage, Jeffreys dismissed them with the assurance that God 
Himself would find it impossible to pardon their perjury. 

He then called for Smith. " Mr. Smith," he said in 
bland tones, " you have the countenance of an ingenious 
person. Here are two persons that this jury have brought in 
* Ignoramus' besides yourself, and yet they are so ingenious 
as to confess the indictment against them, and for their 
ingenuity in confessing they shall be fined but twopence 
apiece. Well, come, Mr. Smith, follow their examples. 
Show yourself as you seem to be an ingenious person and 
confess and try the grace and favour of this Court, and 
shame the jury that hath brought in a verdict contrary to 
plain evidence." To this gentle invitation Smith made 
the following reply : " Sir, my ingenuity hath sufficiently 
experienced the reward of your severity already formerly ; 
and besides, I know no law commands me to accuse 
myself, neither shall I ; and the jury have done like true 
Englishmen, and worthy citizens ; and blessed be God for 
such a just jury ; " to which Mr. Recorder, without more 
ado, politely retorted by recommitting Mr. Francis Smith 
to Newgate. 

In three hours, however, Mr. Smith was released on 
bail, and ultimately the matter was allowed to drop ; but 
not before Smith had had a good deal more trouble with 
the Recorder in his attempts to get a copy of his indict- 
ment from the Judge's clerk. The Anabaptist concludes 
his narrative of these episodes with the following devout 
prayer : " From such a Judge (Scroggs) and such a Re- 
corder of London and such judgment, good Lord deliver 


me, and may every true citizen and right Englishman 
say Amen." 

So I am sure they will if they read Smith's narrative, 
which is, unfortunately, the only extant account of these 
proceedings. There is no official report of the trial. 
According to Smith's account, Jeffreys certainly treated 
the prisoner with scant justice, but, he probably considered, 
with not undue severity. In the Recorder's opinion, 
severity was perhaps more important than strict justice 
in dealing with such as Smith. The latter was a very 
determined foe of the Government, who spent most of the 
next six years in prison for various literary offences. It 
was Smith rather than Smith's particular crime that 
Jeffreys resented. That he had trouble with the grand 
jury is not at all surprising. About this time the juries 
of the City packed by the Whig Sheriffs were showing 
themselves very reluctant to proceed against members of 
the popular party, and Jeffreys had probably already 
experienced this on more than one occasion in his capacity 
as Recorder. The political battle was raging with ever- 
increasing vehemence as the time for the meeting of 
Parliament drew nearer. Which party would find itself 
uppermost when that time arrived was as yet uncertain. 
Meanwhile, the Government, who were above all anxious 
for a Parliament that should not concern themselves with 
the old agitations of the Plot and the Exclusion, was not 
likely to spare men like Smith, whose business was to keep 
these very questions alive by means of book and pamphlet. 
Jeffreys may also have thought to please his friends in the 
Court of Aldermen, Clayton, a very munificent man, and 
others, by resenting Smith's criticisms on their extrava- 
gance. In justice to Jeffreys, it must not be forgotten 
that he promised to forgive Smith for a crime for which a 
grand jury refused to " present " him, at the small cost 
of twopence ; and that Smith in reply took up a most 
provoking stand on his undoubted legal rights. We only 
need add to this the evidence of his own writings to show 
that Smith was a very irritating person. Jeffreys' conduct 


to Smith was made one of the charges against him before 
the Committee of Parliament appointed two months later 
to enquire into his behaviour as Recorder, but the circum- 
stances do not seem to have evoked much resentment. 
Perhaps Smith was too well known to them. 

Smith's jury, however, was not unnaturally indignant 
with the Recorder. Rightly or wrongly, he had called them 
perjurers, a criticism for which they sought to be revenged. 
Under the leadership of Mr. Elias Best, they waited upon 
Scroggs and asked permission to indict Jeffreys. The Chief 
Justice told them that they had better defer their charge 
until the next Old Bailey Sessions, as it could not be tried 
till then, and he did not like to leave so high a man as 
the Recorder so long a time under an imputation of that 
kind. The jury agreed to this ; but when the next 
Sessions came round, their prey had escaped them ; 
Jeffreys had ceased to be Recorder. But that thoughtful 
man did not forget Mr. Elias Best and his kindly zeal 
on his behalf. The latter, being convicted some time 
later of drinking a treasonable health, absconded to avoid 
his punishment. In 1684 Jeffreys, then Chief Justice, 
happened to go the Northern circuit. Best, who had 
retired to these parts, heard of this, and, filled with a 
romantic idea that great men forget injuries done to them 
in their early days, waited upon Jeffreys and desired his 
service to his lordship. The Chief Justice, unaware of 
his identity, suffered him to depart. Unfortunately, some 
kind friend enlightened the Judge as to the identity of 
his respectful visitor ; and, to his intense surprise, the 
well-satisfied Best found himself, in a very short space of 
time, lodged in York gaol. A little later he was re- 
moved to London, and in the Court of King's Bench 
had an early opportunity of once again desiring his ser- 
vice to his lordship, of which condescension his lordship 
marked his gracious appreciation by fining Mr. Elias Best 
£1,000, and affording him in the pillory a public oppor- 
tunity of testifying to the thoughtful gratitude of Sir 
George Jeffreys towards old friends. 


The proceedings against Smith were the last of Jeffreys' 
many notable appearances as Recorder of London. Retri- 
bution, or, more properly, vengeance, was at hand. At 
the end of October the long prorogued Parliament met, 
and, evil omen for Mr. Recorder, proceeded to elect as 
their Speaker his fellow-countryman and constant antago- 
nist in the law courts, Mr. William Williams. Charles, 
who, had quarrelled with Louis XIV and was accordingly 
in want of money, hoped, by supporting an anti-French 
policy abroad, to divert the attention of the country party 
from home affairs ; but the latter, now in receipt of French 
gold themselves, firmly declined to follow his Majesty's 
invitation, and returned to Popery and the Exclusion with 
a fierceness aggravated by a long silence and all manner of 
affronts. From its very first sitting Parliament showed 
its determination to revive all the distasteful questions 
which had disgusted the King before, and to punish with 
all possible severity those who in the interval had, as they 
thought, unduly or unlawfully violated the rights of the 
subject or improperly extended the prerogative of the 

Of the Judges, Scroggs, Jones and Weston were imme- 
diately attacked, and articles of impeachment presented 
against them. Sir Francis Wythens, who shared with 
Jeffreys the honour of being the first Abhorrer, was ex- 
pelled the House of Commons, and received his sentence 
kneeling at the bar of the House. 

It was not likely so notorious an offender as Jeffreys 
would be excepted at such a time. His enemies in the 
City seized the opportunity to present a petition to the 
House of Commons at the very opening of Parliament, 
praying for his removal from the Recordership. At the same 
time the Common Hall of London petitioned the Lord 
Mayor and Court of Aldermen to similar effect. In the 
latter petition Jeffreys was spoken of as " of infamous 
memory" ; he was charged with falsely accusing the Council 
and misrepresenting them to the King, of menacing and 
threatening juries, affrighting and confounding witnesses, 


and being, in short, " most obnoxious and insupportably 
burdensome " in his office, " a person dangerous and 
destructive to public peace, unity and prosperity." 

On October 27th, the House of Commons appointed a 
Committee to enquire into the charges against Sir George 
Jeffreys. On November 13th the Committee presented 
their report, upon which a debate ensued. The prevailing 
temper of the House was encouraged by Lord William 
Russell, who opened the proceedings by calling Jeffreys a 
great criminal, accusing him of countenancing the Plot 
and asking for an exemplary punishment. The debate is 
most remarkable for Mr. Booth's (afterwards Lord Dela- 
mere's) speech describing Jeffreys' conduct as Chief Justice 
of Chester. These were his words : — 

" The county for which I serve is Cheshire, which is a 
County Palatine, and we have two Judges peculiarly 
assigned us by his Majesty : our puisne Judge I have 
nothing to say against him, for he is a very honest man 
for ought I know ; but I cannot be silent as to our chief 
Judge, and I will name him, because what I have to say will 
appear more probable : his name is Sir George Jeffreys, 
who I must say behaved himself more like a jack pudding 
than with that gravity which beseems a Judge ; he was 
mighty witty upon the prisoners at the bar ; he was very 
full of his jokes upon people that came to give evidence, 
not suffering them to declare what they had to say in 
their own way and method, but would interrupt them, 
because they behaved themselves with more gravity than 
he ; and, in truth, the people were strangely perplexed 
when they were to give in their evidence ; but I do not 
insist upon this, nor upon the late hours he kept up and 
down our city ; it's said he was every night drinking till 
two o'clock, or beyond that time, and that he went to his 
chamber drunk ; but this I have only by common fame, 
for I was not in his company ; I bless God I am not a 
man of his principles or behaviour ; but in the mornings 
he appeared with the symptoms of a man that over night 
had taken a large cup. But that which I have to say is 


the complaint of every man, especially of them who had 
any lawsuits. Our Chief Justice has a very arbitrary 
power in appointing the assize when he pleases ; and this 
man has strained it to the highest point ; for whereas we 
were accustomed to have two assizes, the first about April 
or May, the latter about September, it was this year the 
middle (as I remember) of August before we had any 
assize, and then he despatched business so well that he 
left half the causes untried, and, to help the matter, has 
resolved that we shall have no more assizes this year." 

Booth's description of Jeffreys, even Lord Campbell 
admits, must be rather highly coloured. Sir William 
Jones, the ex-Attorney-General, who spoke later in the 
debate and against Jeffreys, opposed Booth's suggestion to 
remove him from his office at Chester, not considering the 
speech of the latter a sufficient proof on which the House 
could fitly act in the matter. Booth is known as a very 
violent party politician, extreme in his language and of 
an inflammable temper. " A little thing puts him in a 
passion," says Clarendon in his diary. That Jeffreys as 
Chief Justice of Chester may have been dissipated in his 
habits and occasionally jocular in the exercise of his func- 
tions, his conduct on certain occasions as Chief Justice of 
England might well incline us to believe ; but it may 
also be safely inferred from the subsequent conduct of 
Mr. Booth that where he was dealing with a political 
enemy we must not look for impartial consideration or 
temperate language at his hands. His smug blessing of 
God that he is not a man of Jeffreys' principles gives a 
Pecksniffian tone to his denunciation ; and it is evident 
from Jones's comment that his self-advertising tirade had 
not been altogether convincing to the House. It will be 
seen later on that the excellent Bishop of St. Asaph, Dr. 
Lloyd, was very far from sharing Mr. Booth's opinion of 
the conduct of the Chief Justice of Chester. 

The real weight of the charges against Jeffreys seems to 
have lain in his conduct before the Privy Council in the 
matter of petitioning, when, in the presence of the Mayor 


and Aldermen, he advised the King how to direct them 
to suppress all petitions. No other charge of any conse- 
quence was mentioned in the debate, though many others 
had been made before the Committee. One man spoke 
in his defence — his cousin, John Trevor, who owed to 
Jeffreys his present prosperity. 

" A man that is accused of many great crimes and can 
wipe off some of them is happy. He (Jeffreys) stands 
fair as to his carriage relating to the libel and the rape. 
There is no evidence against him that he ever packed a 
jury, or has gone about to clear a person nocent. He 
has been counsel for the King in the Plot and behaved 
himself worthily, and, if I may say, he was too forward 
in prosecuting ; if so, that may make some atonement 
for his forwardness in other matters. His carriage in the 
matter of petitioning was an error of judgment. He is a 
gentleman that hath raised himself in his profession. 
There is nothing said that he hath done wrong to any 
person in estate or life. He said, * He would submit his 
case to the House,' and I hope in some measure you will 
take pity on him." 

But they would not, for all that " Squinting Jack " 
might urge. " What sticks with me," reiterated Jeffreys' 
constant friend, Sir Robert Clayton, " is his officiousness 
at the Council Table." Jeffreys had on that occasion 
made Clayton, then Lord Mayor, and his colleagues look 
very foolish, and such impertinence from their own Re- 
corder not unnaturally rankled in the hearts of Mayor and 
Aldermen. The House of Commons readily took up 
their grievance, and saw in Jeffreys a most pernicious and 
irregular servant of the prerogative. In spite of Trevor 
the House resolved on an address to his Majesty to 
remove Sir George Jeffreys out of all public offices. On 
November 20th Charles sent back a message that he 
would consider of it. On November 23rd, the Court of 
Aldermen received the resolution of the Commons, and 
ordered Sir Henry Tyler and Sir James Smith to acquaint 
Mr. Recorder with it. On December 2nd, Mr. Recorder 
saved any further trouble by resigning his office ; but the 


King declined to remove him from the Chief Justiceship 
of Chester. 

Jeffreys' detractors have sought to make his fall unduly 
ignominious. Strict inquiry shows that, on the contrary, 
his removal was purely political, and that he received 
milder treatment at the hands of his enemies than was 
accorded to others of equal guilt with himself. Roger 
North has said that, in addition to the resolution passed 
against him in the Commons, Jeffreys was reprimanded 
on his knees by Mr. Speaker Williams before the whole 
House. There is no record of any such proceeding in 
the official journals of the House. 1 Had any such pro- 
ceeding taken place, it would certainly have been recorded, 
as it is in the case of Sir Francis Wythens, Peyton and 
others. Why the House did not proceed to this extremity 
may be variously explained. Jeffreys probably had many 
friends among the members, men like Clayton, who would 
be anxious to spare him any great indignity. Many 
charges had been brought against him, but the greater 
number had not been established. Jeffreys had shown a 
desire to submit himself to the House, and the marked 
favour with which he was regarded in the highest quarters 
may have disinclined the Commons to offend the King by 
showing excessive severity towards one of his chosen 
servants. Unpopular as Jeffreys had made himself in the 
City by his political attitude, he was not allowed to 
resign the Recordership without receiving from the 
Aldermen substantial testimony to their appreciation of 
the services he had rendered in his exercise of that office. 
On the day that he announced his resignation the City 
Chamberlain was ordered to pay him £200, the residue 
of a sum voted to him in acknowledgment of his good 
services to the City, and a Committee was appointed 
to consider what compensation should be allowed him for 
the great sums he had disbursed in fitting up his official 

1 A witness at Colledge's trial certainly taunted Jeffreys with 
having been " on his knees " before Parliament, but there is no 
evidence to show that his words are to be taken as conveying the 
literal truth. 


residence in Aldermanbury. With these tokens of mutual 
good-will, Jeffreys parted with his old employers. 
Political differences had come between them and made a 
longer union impossible ; but it was not without some 
regret that they lost an entertaining companion and an 
efficient Judge. Save in one or two instances, Mr. 
Recorder Jeffreys had shown himself to be a worthy 
occupant of an office in which eloquence, severity 
and a sense of humour will always be appropriate and 

" Upon troubles in Parliament he would not stand his 
ground, but quitted his Recordership in fear and great 
entreaty." Such is Sir Francis North's note upon Jeffreys' 
retirement, and upon this note Roger has dutifully 
founded his incorrect history of the incident. His story 
about the reprimand is sufficiently contradicted by the 
silence of the Commons' Journals on the subject. He 
goes on to tell us — probably from his brother's information 
— how Jeffreys, alarmed by the action of the Parliament, 
begged and entreated the King to allow him to resign 
his place, and so put an end to the proceedings ; how 
Charles, loth to lose so valuable and influential a supporter 
among the citizens, for some time refused his permission ; 
and how at length yielding to his entreaties the King 
laughingly exclaimed that Sir George was not Parliament- 
proof and never had any real value for him afterwards. 
Charles II. never had any real value for anybody. His 
own character was too dubious, his perception too acute, 
his insincerity too constitutional to allow him to value any 
man save for his immediate utility. But that Charles can 
have seriously expected Jeffreys to hold on to his Recorder- 
ship after the meeting of Parliament is very unlikely. If 
Sir George had been a decorous trimmer like North, he 
might have been expected to do so ; but a man who had 
as openly avowed his sentiments as he, could not have 
retained his post ; it had become untenable to a person of 
his political sympathies. The City, by the choice of 
Jeffreys' successor, showed how absolutely foreign to their 
requirements had been the late Recorder. Sir John Treby, 


who took Jeffreys' place, was, according to a Tory writer, a 
fanatical Whig, the trusty confidant of faction, a free- 
thinker who made the Scriptures and religion a jest 
and shared with his predecessor but one qualification 
for the office, that of hard drinking. Jeffreys was a 
fanatic but not a Whig fanatic, he was the trusty confidant 
of a faction but not the Whig faction, and he had strong 
religious principles. He resigned the office quietly and 
submissively, because it would have been silly, if he had 
to go, to have been kicked out with ignominy ; he bowed 
to the storm because it would have been futile to have 
withstood it ; and if Charles thought the worse of him 
for doing so, he must have possessed less good sense than 
has been generally attributed to him. 

Burnet, in opposition to North, says that Jeffreys was 
rather " raised " than depressed in the eyes of his master 
by the proceedings of Parliament against him. This is 
the more likely story. Charles's subsequent employment 
of Jeffreys in his most important legal concerns is directly 
contradictory of North's account. 

Jeffreys fell at the end of 1680, because it was an hour 
of Whig victory. The victory was short-lived. When 
the tide turned once more, Jeffreys resumed his former 
influence, and enjoyed in a full measure the confidence of 
his own party. As a lawyer, circumstances were about to 
give him a greater share in the political history of his 
times than has ever before or since fallen to a person in . 
his situation ; but it was an influence he had better have 
exercised in any other capacity than that of a lawyer, an 
influence that has been disastrous to his reputation if 
salutary to his country, an influence too severely felt 
even at this distance of time to be candidly or impartially 
considered. Jeffreys is now (1680) in his thirty-third 
year — he has eight more years to live. In these 
coming eight years he is to establish his reputation, his 
claim to historical notice. He has already plunged deeply 
into the politics of his day ; he has seen a political party 
put to death innocent Papists on the evidence of villains ; 
he has seen the courts of law used as the instruments of 


faction, the Judges swayed by passion and prejudice on 
the one side and the other ; he has felt the pains of defeat 
and the merciless accompaniments of political victory ; 
he has witnessed the unscrupulousness of statesmen, the 
brutality of the mob. One day he hopes to grasp power 
and authority in his own person. Trained in a reckless 
school, the servant of heartless masters, he will be predis- 
posed by his character to fall in too readily with the violent 
passions of his times. His gifts, which at another period 
might have charmed and rejoiced all but the ever jealous 
and depressed, will now only serve to sharpen the sting of 
his resentment, tempt him to aggravate the distresses of 
his enemies, and draw down upon him that rich measure of 
exasperation only enjoyed by those whose misdeeds are 
enlivened by a striking personality and an unamiable 
attitude towards religious dissent. 



1681 — 1683 

King Charles endured his acrimonious Parliament 
until the March of 168 1, when, having once more arranged 
to become a pensioner of Louis XIV., he was enabled to 
dissolve it, and never summoned another as long as 
he was King. The Whigs, by the unscrupulous violence 
of their methods, had to a great extent alienated public 
opinion ; so that when Charles took them by surprise at 
Oxford and sent his Commons about their business, public 
feeling was neither shocked nor alarmed. Deprived of 
Parliament as an arena, the courts of justice and the City 
Council became the new fields of battle where the contest 
between Whig and Tory was continued. But in the former 
field the Whigs were soon worsted. For a time they 
contrived, by means of friendly Sheriffs, to pack the 
Middlesex juries ; but as soon as the Court had taken 
over the appointment of the Sheriffs for itself, resistance 
was hopeless. Judge and jury in the King's hands, there 
was little chance of salvation for any Whigs who might 
fall into the clutches of the Crown lawyers. 

Immediately after the dissolution in March the "judicial 
war" began. In such a war Serjeant Jeffreys would natur- 
ally be one of the foremost warriors. If the King had 
lost confidence in him, he had not lost the necessity of 
his services. He was briefed for the Crown in almost 
every State trial, until his elevation to the Bench in 


1683. In spite of his fall he remained one of the King's 
chief adherents in the City, and was put into positions 
in which his influence, always considerable, could be best 
exerted. The King, as leader of the City Militia, was 
pleased to turn out certain of his officers, Whigs such 
as Sir Robert Clayton, and to replace them by Tories 
such as Sir George Jeffreys and his Alderman namesake 
Sir Robert Jeffreys. In the Lieutenancy of the City also 
Patience Ward, the late Lord Mayor, and Clayton, 
made way for Sir George Jeffreys and Sir John Chap- 
man, a future Lord Mayor, who played a tragi-comic 
part in the drama of Jeffreys' downfall. Jeffreys was 
beginning to enjoy a very satisfactory revenge on his 
old masters. When he and his father-in-law Bludworth 
waited on the King with petitions, they were com- 
mended for their seasonable loyalty ; whilst the Mayor 
and Aldermen who followed them were reprimanded for 
meddling, and told to go home about their business. The 
King after dissolving Parliament had put forth a declara- 
tion, giving his reasons for the step. From all parts of 
the country addresses poured in — some sincere, some 
affected — thanking him for his conduct. One came from 
the apprentices of London, whose joy was so great that 
they gave a dinner at Sadlers' Hall to celebrate their 
loyalty, on which occasion Sir George Jeffreys was an 
honoured guest. 

These were the pleasures of victory ; but there was the 
business of victory also, which had to be attended to in the 
courts of law. Besides his services as King's Serjeant, 
Jeffreys was appointed Chairman of the Middlesex 
Sessions held at Hicks's Hall, where he was able to gratify 
his undying dislike of religious dissent. But his services 
in the cause are best recorded in the reports of the State 
Trials in which he took part as counsel for the Crown. 
In some of them he took the leading part, in spite of the 
presence of the Attorney and Solicitor-General. It is in 
this respect that he is most closely associated with the 
history of the period ; for from the dissolution of Parlia- 

k 2 


ment in 1 68 1 to the death of Charles in 1685, the history 
of the commencement of the Whig and Tory struggle is 
to be read, almost entirely, in the volumes of the State 
Trials. In their pages we may read how the methods 
of the Whigs in 1678, the violent convictions of un- 
offending Papists on infamous testimony, the coercion of 
judge and jury by popular frenzy, and the unscrupulous 
use which Shaftesbury and his party made of the weapons 
of the law, were turned against their authors ; and how, 
on better evidence and with more justice, the Whig 
leaders paid with death the penalty of their past excesses. 
Whig writers have deliberately blinded us to the retri- 
butive element in the so-called martyrdom of their heroes 
in the cause of English liberty, and have attacked the 
conduct of those whose duty it was to work out this 
retribution with an intemperance that less biassed judges 
have been unable to approve or justify. 

In order to give an appearance of impartiality to his 
intentions, Charles, in the April of 1681, removed Scroggs 
from the Chief Justiceship of the King's Bench. He was 
consoled by a pension of ^1,500 a year and a knighthood 
for his son ; but he was surprised nevertheless at his dis- 
missal. Posterity cannot share his feeling of astonishment. 
Scroggs had made himself ridiculous ; his ill-judged 
vehemence, his extravagant eloquence, his preposterous, 
even if sincere, revulsion of feeling, all combined to 
arouse contempt ; and, as he never seems to have inspired 
fear, he had become useless and dangerous. Scroggs was 
a man who can never have " become the seat of justice " 
as Jeffreys did, on the admission of his warmest enemy. 
Jeffreys, if heated .in temper, had a well-balanced and a 
legal mind, and a sense of humour which in his hottest 
moments always saved him from making a fool of himself ; 
moreover he inspired genuine feelings of terror in the 
hearts of men. All these advantages in a strong judge 
were denied to Scroggs : his mind was intrepid but blatant; 
he had none of the true instinct of a lawyer ; he had 


wit, perhaps, but little humour ; and he never seems to 
have terrified any man, in spite of the violence of his 
tongue. But he was not a butcher's son, and has probably 
incurred the wrath of posterity more by his folly than 
his villainy. Charles appointed Sir Francis Pemberton 
to succeed Scroggs. Pemberton had already been a puisne 
Judge of the King's Bench, but had been dismissed soon 
after Wakeman's trial for showing too much zeal against 
the Papists and too great faith in Oates. In both these 
respects he had certainly proved himself in no way superior 
to the popular prejudice, and his conduct towards the 
Papists in whose trials he took part was as harsh as that 
of Scroggs, though less violently expressed. When the 
latter veered in his opinions, Pemberton openly sneered at 
him on the Bench, and was accordingly dismissed. But he 
carried away with him the reputation of being a sound 
and honest lawyer, and, in spite of his conduct towards 
the Papists, a man comparatively free from political pre- 
judice. If he had any leanings, they would seem to have 
been towards an interpretation of law more compatible with 
royal prerogative than popular government. In recalling 
him to the bench, Charles regarded him as a man respected 
by both parties, whose decisions in his favour would be 
more acceptable as coming from a reputedly impartial Judge. 

Soon after his appointment as Chief Justice, Pemberton 
was able to satisfy both Whigs and Tories. He secured 
the conviction of Dr. Oliver Plunket, the Romish Arch- 
bishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, on evidence of 
the usual dubious kind, for plotting a Popish rising in 
that country ; and he also condemned to death FitzHarris, 
a dangerous libeller of the Court, whom it was for many 
reasons expedient to punish. In both of these trials, Serjeant 
Jeffreys was among the prosecuting counsel, but his share 
in the proceedings was of a very secondary nature. 

He took a much more prominent part in the trial of 
Stephen Colledge, which was held at Oxford on August 
17th. This man was known as the " Protestant joiner." 
By trade a joiner, his superior abilities and fanatical enthu- 


siasm in the Protestant cause had attracted the notice of 
Lord William Russell and other Whig politicians. He 
was the author of most of the squibs and pamphlets which 
appeared at the time of Wakeman's acquittal, attacking the 
King, the Duke and Chief Justice Scroggs. The meeting 
of Parliament in 1680 encouraged his intemperate violence, 
and he openly threatened the Court if they attempted to 
defeat the ends of the country party. When Charles 
alarmed the Whigs by removing the meeting place of 
Parliament to Oxford, apprehension only stimulated the 
joiner's energies to more violent resistance. He arrived at 
Oxford armed and accoutred with pistol, carbine, coat-of- 
mail and headpiece. When an angry politician of the 
opposite party hit him on the nose and made it bleed, he 
exclaimed : " I have lost the first blood in the cause, but it 
will not be long before more is lost." He also brought 
with him a large stock of green ribbons, with "No Popery," 
" No Slavery " woven on them, which he presented to 
those willing to become members of the " Green Ribbon 
Club " ; and distributed caricatures, in one of which the 
King was represented as carrying Parliament on his back 
in the shape of a raree-show box, with a view to drowning 
it in a ditch ; in another, the Duke of York, half bush- 
man and half devil, was depicted, booted and spurred, 
riding the Church of England to Rome. 

Such flagrant proceedings were bound to attract the 
unfavourable regard of the Government. In the hour 
of victory, when the King had decided to revenge himself 
on those who had been hounding him to the executions 
of innocent men and furnish an example to the turbulent 
and seditious, Colledge found himself clapt into the Tower 
on a charge of treason. On the 8 th of July, he was 
arraigned at the Old Bailey, but a Whig grand jury threw 
out the bill. " If anything of Whig or Tory comes in 
question," says Luttrell writing at this time, " it is ruled 
according to the interest of the party," and the Tories 
had not yet secured Tory Sheriffs who would have made 
such a mischance impossible. But the Government was 


not to be defeated. It was decided that as at present a 
conviction in London seemed impossible, Colledge should 
be indicted at Oxford, where he could be proved to have 
made use of many treasonable expressions. To Oxford 
accordingly he was removed. 

The approaching trial caused the most intense ex- 
citement. As the first real step taken by the Crown 
to suppress the pseudo-Protestant agitation which had 
now developed into an unconcealed attack upon the 
authority of the King, it was fraught with significance 
and painful foreboding to the outmanoeuvred Whigs. 
There was another circumstance that gave it addi- 
tional interest. With an almost pardonable cynicism, 
the chief witnesses on whom the Crown relied to prove 
their case against the prisoner were Dugdale, Turberville 
and " Narrative " Smith — three of the Plot witnesses who 
had recently served the Whigs by their evidence against 
Lord Stafford and other of their Popish victims. These 
were critical days for the Plot witnesses ; their profession 
was threatened with extinction, they must either look 
forward to neglect and destitution, if not worse, or secure 
the mercy of the King by the betrayal of their former 
associates. The lesser rascals such as Dugdale and 
Turberville did not hesitate to avail themselves of 
the latter alternative. But Oates from an obstinate 
fortitude or the consciousness of the irredeemable char- 
acter of his perjuries, held firm to his principles. The 
Court had already shown an unpleasant disposition to- 
wards the Doctor by reducing his pension of £1,200 per 
annum to 40.?. a week. Curtailed in his emoluments, 
deserted by his co-mates, the Doctor still, however, hoped 
for the best, believing the triumph of the Court to be but 
temporary, and another hour of parliamentary reckoning 
close at hand. Accordingly, he determined to confront his 
faithless confederates and, on behalf of Colledge, pit 
his testimony against theirs. Booted and spurred the 
Doctor came down to Oxford, followed by a train of his 
adherents, and the public looked forward to the choice 


spectacle of the once united witnesses swearing as hard as 
they could against each other. 

To try Colledge a Special Commission had been 
issued, at the head of which was Lord Norreys. But 
the real business of the trial was to be in the hands 
of Chief Justice North and three others of his brethren, 
the ruddy Welshman Jones, Creswell Levinz and Ray- 
mond. North had no doubt been selected to preside 
as a trusty adherent of the King, one who had never 
had great faith in the Plot, and so could, with less in- 
decency, accept the evidence of Dugdale and Turberville 
when they told another story. Pemberton would never 
have done the business, for he was reported honest and had 
supported Oates in the past with all the decision of honest 
conviction. It was a very difficult situation for any judge, 
and could only be supported by courage and boldness. 
Unfortunately, North lacked both these qualities, with 
the result that he was unable to conceal his uneasiness, 
performed his duty in a half-hearted and insufficient spirit, 
and has been heartily censured for his behaviour ever since. 

The Attorney-General Sawyer, the Solicitor-General 
Finch, a son of Lord Chancellor Nottingham, Serjeant 
Jeffreys and Serjeant Holloway led for the King. With 
them was Mr. Roger North, who through his brother's 
influence was getting some employment at the Bar. 

Chief Justice North and Mr. Justice Jones, who had 
been sent for from the Western Circuit, arrived in Oxford 
on the 1 6th. As North stepped from his coach a paper 
was thrust into his hand on which was written : " You are 
the rogue the Court relies on for drawing the first inno- 
cent blood." The Judges also learnt that one Aaron 
Smith, a Whig solicitor, had, in an interview with the 
prisoner, smuggled certain papers into his hands, intended 
to serve him in his defence. These were taken from him. 

The Court sat next morning at ten o'clock. The 
heavy-faced joiner at once demanded the return of his 
papers, and for a long time refused to plead until satisfied. 
This, however, he was at length prevailed on to do. He 


then renewed his demand for the papers. Upon this, the 
Court sent for Aaron Smith, the solicitor who had put 
them into Colledge's hands. Roger North, in his Tory 
indignation, says this man was a " monster," and that his 
friends were accustomed to excuse his conduct by saying 
he was mad. At any rate, he was a bold Whig ; for on 
coming into Court he cried out : " It is high time to have 
a care when our lives and estates and all are beset here." 
The Judges were much shocked at his presumption, and 
took recognizances of him to attend the Court during the 
session. Jeffreys exclaimed : " It is time indeed for Mr. 
Smith to have a care." 

Smith disposed of, the Judges next considered Colledge's 
papers. Some they at once refused to return to him as 
being libellous speeches, " spitting venom upon the Govern- 
ment in the face of the country." The others, which were 
instructions for his better defence, furnished to him by 
Smith, were objected to by the Crown as being an indirect 
method of assigning counsel to the prisoner contrary to 
law. " To allow you those papers is to allow you counsel 
by a side wind," said Jeffreys. North took this view, but 
consented to a compromise suggested by Mr. Justice 
Jones: "These papers Col ledge shall not be debarred of 
for his defence, nor you, Mr. Attorney, from prosecuting 
upon them ; " and that Mr. Attorney might have more 
time to avail himself of the privilege of anticipating 
Colledge's case by a careful study of the joiner's docu- 
ments, the Court adjourned until two o'clock. 

On the re-assembling of the Court, the jury was sworn, 
and the trial proceeded. Dugdale, " Narrative " Smith 
(no connection of Aaron's, but one of the Plot witnesses 
so nicknamed from a pamphlet he had published), and 
Turberville swore that Colledge had often spoken of 
arming against the King and seizing his person. The 
prisoner attacked them with much spirit. Smith he de- 
scribed as the " falsest man that ever spoke with a 
tongue." Haynes, an Irish witness for the Crown, roused in 
him that contempt which Englishmen are too apt to 


cherish towards the individuals of that hapless nation. 
" Is it probable," he asked, " I should talk to an Irishman 
that does not understand sense ? " to which the Irishman 
retorted, with rather damaging effect : " It is better to be 
an honest Irishman than an English rogue." Jeffreys 
calmed the indignant witness. " He does it but to put 
you in a heat, do not be passionate with him." 

The prosecution put into the box two witnesses who 
were not informers. One was a Mr. Masters, an old 
acquaintance of Colledge, who swore that the joiner had 
spoken approvingly of the Parliament of 1 640 and recom- 
mended their example to that of 1680 ; and that when he 
one day called the prisoner jestingly " Colonel Colledge," 
" Marry, mock not," answered the latter ; " I may be one 
in a little time." Colledge did not ask this witness any 
questions. Jeffreys invited him to do so : " Have you 
anything to ask Mr. Masters ? you know he is your old 
acquaintance, you know him well." But the joiner did 
not respond to the Serjeant's invitation. The other wit- 
ness was Sir William Jennings, who swore to the bloody 
nose incident at Oxford. He spoke with every appear- 
ance of truth and some reluctance ; Colledge vainly 
attempted to reduce the pointed character of his threat ; 
Jennings was sure of his own accuracy. 

This closed the case for the Crown. Colledge pro- 
ceeded to call his witnesses : they were of two kinds, 
— those who deposed to Colledge's character, and those who 
deposed against the truth of the Crown witnesses. The 
former were for the most part immaterial, the latter very 
decided in their tone. As the law forbade a prisoner's 
witnesses to be sworn, they seem to have consoled them- 
selves for not being allowed to take an oath themselves 
by putting some good strong ones into the mouths of 
others. A fellow-lodger deposed that Haynes, the Irish- 
man, was overheard saying to his landlady : " God damn 
me, I care not what I swear, nor who I swear against ; for 
it is my trade to get money by swearing." The reckless 
candour of Haynes was modest compared with that of 


Smith and Turberville, if Oates was to be believed. 
" God damn " would seem to have been a kind of trade 
mark for the Crown witnesses, a watchword, the invaria- 
ble preface to the bursts of ill-judged confidence drawn 
from them by the persuasive integrity of the good Doctor. 
Oates deposed that he had met Turberville as he was 
riding in his coach, and expostulated with him for giving 
evidence against Colledge ; to which Turberville politely 
replied : " God damn me, I will not starve ! " " Narra- 
tive " Smith, who was about to become a minister of the 
Gospel, had caused the good Doctor even greater pain. 
Smith had, according to Oates, been angered by Colledge 
in the course of an argument, and, on leaving the coffee- 
house where it took place, exclaimed : " God damn me, I 
will have his blood ! " The Doctor heard of this and 
remonstrated with the wayward man ; such words, he said, 
did not become a minister of the Gospel. " God damn 
the Gospel ! " replied his reverend friend. The Doctor's 
answer to Dugdale resolved itself into an argument as to 
whether the latter had ever suffered from a disease, the 
consequence of his profligacy ; and the result was fatal 
to Dugdale's veracity in that respect. 

This encounter of the rival witnesses had been as digni- 
fied and admirable as their best friends could have desired. 
Where the truth lay it is not easy to determine, but we 
would incline to the opinion that on the whole probability 
is in favour of the Crown witnesses. Independent evi- 
dence shows Colledge to have been a man violent in speech 
and action. As a fanatic in the Protestant cause he must 
have been well acquainted with Dugdale and the others 
during the time they were swearing against the Papists, 
and may well in their presence have uttered the threats of 
violence against his opponents that they now reported. 
The evidence Colledge brought against them, if true, shows 
them to have been bigger fools than knaves. " Is it 
likely," asked North, in his summing up, " that after 
witnesses had sworn a thing, they should voluntarily 
acknowledge themselves to be forsworn, and that without 


any provocation they should at several times come to this 
one man (Oates) and declare themselves rogues and vil- 
lains ? " They certainly swore nothing against Colledge 
that is not consistent with the instances of his temper 
given by Masters and Jennings. Liars as they most 
undoubtedly were, there are circumstances about Col- 
ledge's case that make it more than likely that on this 
occasion they were able to square their interest with the 
demands of truth and justice. At any rate Oates' attempt 
to gainsay them was as far fetched and improbable as most 
of the productions of his imaginative mind. 

Oates's appearance at this trial is memorable as being the 
first of his personal encounters with Jeffreys. Twice the 
two men faced each other in public, but the occasions were 
so divergent in their character, so unequal in the relative 
situations of the two antagonists and the latter so bloody in 
its termination, that they must always be reckoned among 
the most exciting personalities of English history. Jeffreys 
first made use at Colledge's trial of his fanciful custom of 
addressing Oates as " Doctor." " If there be any subordin- 
ation relating to Mr. Turberville or any other of the 
witnesses against Colledge, make it out, Doctor," was the 
Serjeant's mocking encouragement, that irresistibly reminds 
us of the familiar intercourse of Mephistopheles and Faust. 
In the course of Oates's evidence the Attorney-General 
remarked : " Mr. Oates is a thorough-paced witness against 
all the King's evidence." " And yet, Dr. Oates had been 
alone in some matters, had it not been for some of these 
witnesses," sneered Jeffreys. Oates always rose to the 
occasion when impudence could avail. " I had been alone, 
perhaps, and perhaps not," was the reply ; " but yet, Mr. 
Serjeant, I had always a better reputation than to need 
theirs to strengthen it." " Does any man speak of your 
reputation ? " answered the Serjeant. " I know nobody 
does meddle with it, but you are so tender." 

The next passage was more pointed in its character. 
Oates had been alluding to a certain Mr. Savage, with 
whom he was in the habit of discussing the immortality 


of the soul and other subjects of divinity and philosophy. 
In the course of his statement he mentioned an Alderman 
Wilcox as being able to confirm his story, and was mis- 
guided enough to call in Jeffreys to his assistance. " I 
think Sir George Jeffreys knows Alderman Wilcox." 
" Sir George Jeffreys does not intend to be an evidence, 
I assure you," sharply retorted the Serjeant. Oates was 
nettled : " I do not desire Sir George Jeffreys to be an 
evidence for me. I had credit in Parliaments, and Sir 
George had disgrace in one of them." It was a home 
thrust, but Jeffreys was equal to it. With ironical sub- 
mission he bowed before Oates, " Your servant, Doctor ; 
you are a witty man and a philosopher." 

Yet one other — Jeffreys had angered Oates by repeating 
in disparagement of his evidence the rule of law that refused 
to allow a prisoner's witnesses to be sworn. Whilst Oates 
and Dugdale were wrangling heatedly over the latter 's state 
of health, Jeffreys exclaimed : " Here is Dugdale's oath 
against Dr. Oates's saying." " Mr. Serjeant, you shall hear 
of this in another place," was Oates's menacing reply. The 
Doctor was no doubt thinking of a coming Parliament, 
where Jeffreys should hear of his presumption towards the 
"Saviour of the Nation." But fate decreed otherwise. 
In the Court of King's Bench, three years hence, Dr. Oates 
was to attend on my Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys and hear 
of something to his advantage, which that good man could 
hardly be expected to have foreseen in the days of his power 
and glory. It is interesting to note Jeffreys' early antipathy 
to Oates, forming as it does one of the most pleasing and 
commendable traits in the character of the future Chancellor. 

Space forbids us to give further instances of Jeffreys' 
share in the cross-examination of the witnesses ; suffice it to 
say that it was considerable and in some cases very successful. 
He had one or two passages with the prisoner, who com- 
plained of his affronts and flourishes, and of his whisper- 
ing with his fellow-counsel. If Jeffreys was severe with 
the prisoner, the Crown witnesses did not escape his 
censure. An irrelevant person called Stevens, who had 


searched Colledge's house, he frequently rebuked for his 

At the close of the case the Solicitor-General addressed 
the jury. His address was dull, and probably for that 
reason Jeffreys was put up after him, to impart concluding 
vigour to the case against Colledge. He opened by attacking 
the pseudo-Protestant agitation fomented by the prisoner, 
interspersing his remarks with some thrusts at the latter's 
trade as a joiner. " This gentleman, whose proper busi- 
ness it had been to manage his employment at London 
for a joiner, is best seen in his proper place, using the 
proper tools of his trade. I think it had been much more 
proper for him, and I believe you will think so too, than 
to come with pistols, and those accoutrements about him, 
to be regulating the Government ; what have such people 
to do to interfere with the business of the Government ? 
God be thanked, we have a wise Prince, and God be 
thanked he hath wise counsellors about him, and he and 
they know well enough how to do their own business, 
and not to need the advice of a joiner, though he calls 
himself ' the Protestant joiner.' " 

His arguments he lightened by many pleasing reflections. 
He paid an ironical deference to the evidence of Oates. 
" Mr. Oates, I confess, has said in verbo sacerdotis strange 
things against Dugdale, Smith and Turberville : I have only 
the affirmation of Mr. Oates, and as ill men may become 
good men, so may good men become ill men ; or other- 
wise I know not what would become of some part of Mr. 
Oates's testimony." Are we to believe, he asked, that these 
men are " such great coxcombs " as to have confessed to 
Oates their intention to forswear themselves ? He vindi- 
cated the Irishman Haynes against the indignation of 
Colledge. " God forbid it should be affirmed that the 
country is an objection to any man's testimony, for truth is 
not confined to places nor to persons either, but applies to 
honest men, be they Irishmen or others." Of two wit- 
nesses whom he had in cross-examination a good deal shaken 
by some discrepancies in date, he said : " You may bring 


the north and south together as soon as their two testi- 
monies, they are so far apart. I will conclude to you, 
gentlemen, and appeal to your consciences ; for, according 
to the oath that has been given you, you are bound in your 
consciences to go according to your evidence, and are 
neither to be inveigled by us beyond our proof, nor to be 
guided by your commiseration to the prisoner at the bar 
against the proof; for as God will call you to an account 
if you do an injury to him, so will the same God call you 
to account if you do it to your King, your religion and 
your own souls." The insinuation of the souls' salvation 
of the jury being involved in their giving a verdict for the 
King is adroit, and gives just the touch of the advocate 
to the almost judicial exhortation that preceded it. 

It was two o'clock in the morning when North com- 
menced his summing up. The lateness of the hour and 
the protracted character of the trial, seemed to justify in 
North's mind the most casual and incomplete charge, 
perhaps ever delivered by a Judge in a case of such 
moment. He did not conceal the faultiness of his re- 
collection of the evidence given, and the absence on his 
part of any notes. He cursorily reviewed the evidence, 
and expressed his confidence in Dugdale and Turberville. 
Colledge at its conclusion begged the Chief Justice to look 
at his notes and remind the jury of certain points in his 
favour which he had passed over. " If there be any, I refer 
them to the memory of the jury ; I can remember no 
more," was North's answer. The jury were given two 
bottles of sack, which they drank in court, and sent to 
consider their verdict. At three in the morning they 
returned a verdict of " Guilty." This was greeted by a 
shout of remonstrance, and one of the more vehement 
remonstrants was immediately committed to prison, after 
which the Court adjourned till ten o'clock. At that hour 
next morning Colledge was sentenced to death. The 
execution was delayed until August 31st, as the Govern- 
ment were uncertain how his condemnation might be 
received by the pubiic, and how far it might be expedient 


for the King to exercise his prerogative of mercy. But the 
fate of the fanatical joiner did not inspire that outburst of 
popular indignation which his friends had hoped for, and 
he was left to pay the penalty of his indiscretion. He 
suffered with becoming fortitude, or obstinacy, according 
as Whig or Tory judged him. 

The execution of Col ledge, and the indifference with 
which it was received by the public, mark two important 
changes in the feeling of the nation at large — disgust at 
the Popish Plot and its odious accompaniments, and alarm 
at the intemperate conduct of the Whigs. There can be 
no doubt that, on the sudden dissolution of the Parliament, 
the Whig party, confounded and indignant, began to 
meditate schemes of regaining by force the power which 
they perceived they could never regain by peaceful 
methods, as long as the King persevered in his intention 
of ruling without the assistance of a Parliament. They 
numbered among their party a certain section of desperate 
adherents of whom Colledge was a type, reckless partisans 
prepared, if only they could obtain the sympathy and 
encouragement of their leaders, to resort to arms as a 
means of recovering from their political defeat. These 
men proved the temporary ruin of their party ; it was 
their violence that was to a great extent answerable for 
the ultimate catastrophe of the Rye House Plot. They 
forgot that the one thing dreaded by the nation at large 
was another outbreak of civil war ; and that, as long as 
the King could turn to them for support against those 
who threatened him with rebellion, the nation would 
acquiesce in any measures, however severe, that he might 
take against those who sought to disturb the general peace. 

Col ledge's conviction was the death-knell of the Plot 
witnesses. The cynical use made of them by the Crown 
set the seal upon their complete disgrace. Turberville, 
Dugdale,and "Narrative" Smith, were thrown aside and left 
to whatever fate might befall them ; Turberville, to die 
within the same year a Papist ; Dugdale, to die of drink, a 
victim to the visions and torments of inebriate remorse, in 


the year 1682 ; and Smith, to achieve the distinction of 
narrowly escaping a conviction for murder in 1687. 
Dugdale, whose wretched end we have briefly noticed, was 
a singular figure among the rascals of the Plot. His 
remorse alone entitles him to peculiar distinction. At the 
time of the plot he had just left his employment as bailiff 
to Lord Aston, a Catholic peer, living on his estates 
in Staffordshire. Profiting by his situation and the 
reception accorded by the public to any one in the shape of 
an informer against the Papists, he hurried up to London 
with a pack of sensational stories about the machinations 
of the Staffordshire Catholics. Though the wickedest 
man on the face of the earth in the opinion of those who 
knew him — he had cheated Lord Aston's workmen of their 
wages, and been discharged for various embezzlements — 
there was an air of good sense and decency in the man's 
deportment that disposed people to give him credit. He 
told his story with such modesty and good taste that even 
the King, who from the first expressed to his particular 
friends his entire disbelief in the Plot, was for a moment 
shaken in his opinion. Dugdale is quite the gentleman of 
the " Oatesian " crew. He had none of the vulgarity of 
Oates and Bedloe, and executed his villainy with a refined 
and amiable subtlety that disarmed criticism. But, lacking 
the coarser fibre of his associates, he had not the good 
fortune to enjoy that brutal insensibility which guarded 
them so effectually against all the assaults of conscience. 
Dugdale died a pitiable victim to remorse. A man devoid 
of Oates's sturdy faith in his own villainy cannot carry per- 
jury beyond certain limits without feeling the ill effects. 

Not that Oates was to escape all sense of disappointment 
and disgust. For the present his dwindled allowance was 
wholly withdrawn, he was turned out of his lodgings at 
Whitehall, and forbidden to approach the Court. The 
Doctor retired into the City, where he continued to 
flourish in the regard of many, until four years later an 
ever-mindful and arbitrary Government pressed him, in a 
manner that would brook no refusal, to come out from 


his retirement, and reappear once more on the scenes of 
his former triumphs. 

The "judicial war" which, in the words of Lord 
Anglesey, had happily taken the place of the old civil 
war, promised to be an exciting struggle. So far victory 
had been with the Crown. Now, however, the Whigs 
advanced their most formidable engine, the " Ignoramus," 
which they discharged with tremendous effect in the faces 
of their opponents. In vain the Government set about 
the prosecution of Shaftesbury and others of his faction. 
The grand juries, packed by Whig Sheriffs, returned 
" Ignoramus " to the bills. Shaftesbury, emboldened by 
these successes, brought actions for conspiracy against 
certain of his enemies. The defendants met these attacks 
by getting the venue of trial changed from Middlesex, 
where they complained that they could not find an impar- 
tial jury. Serjeant Jeffreys was busy in making applications 
to the King's Bench to this effect. As Chairman of the 
Middlesex Sessions — an office he had obliged the Govern- 
ment by accepting shortly after his surrender of the 
Recordership — Sir George led a spirited attack on the 
Dissenters, whom the Government now associated with 
the faction as the declared foes of Church and State. 
Constables were despatched from Hicks's Hall, where the 
Middlesex justices sat, to find them out and break up 
their meetings. At the same time Jeffreys was not per- 
haps sorry to indulge in a passage of arms with the Whig 
Sheriffs. To meet the difficulty in regard to the grand 
juries, the Attorney-General Sawyer had discovered a 
Statute of Henry VIII., by which judges and justices had 
a right to reform the grand jury panels, and compel the 
Sheriffs to return the panels so reformed under pain of a 
heavy fine. Jeffreys caught at the weapon offered to him 
by Mr. Attorney, and at Hicks's Hall commenced the work 
of reformation. He took exception to many returned in 
the Under-Sheriff's panel, and ordered Pilkington and 
Shute, the two Sheriffs of London, to attend before him. 
They declined. Thereupon Jeffreys fined them ^ioo. 


The Mayor and Aldermen retorted by voting the Sheriffs' 
fine to be paid out of the City stock. The dispute 
was to have been carried before the Court of Exchequer, 
but it soon became merged in the greater contest. In the 
meantime Jeffreys was rewarded for his zeal by a baronetcy 
conferred on him in the November of 1681. 

In 1682 the Government, weary of a struggle that was 
bound to be unsuccessful on their side as long as the 
Whigs could baulk them by their unfailing " Ignoramus," 
that " monster engendered in the filth of faction " which 
even the Attorney's device was powerless to crush, resolved 
upon two measures which should strike at the very root of 
the Whig resistance, and, if successful, would make the 
King, as Jeffreys expressed it, not only King of England 
but King of London also. In the first place, the Court 
determined that at all costs the next Sheriffs of London 
should be Tory Sheriffs who would, of course, as in duty 
bound, return Tory juries. In the second place, a writ of 
" Quo Warranto " was delivered in the name of His 
Majesty's Attorney-General to the Sheriffs of London, call- 
ing upon them to give an account of the liberties of the City 
and the validity of the Royal Charter by which they en- 
joyed them. This was merely the legal preparation to the 
compulsory surrender of the Charter into the King's hands, 
and its return to the citizens on the King's conditions. 

The election of the new Sheriffs began in the Mid- 
summer of 1682, and was not finally concluded till the 
end of September. It was a fierce contest. Dudley 
North, a brother of the Chief Justice, and one Box, who 
retired after a time in favour of a Mr. Rich, were the 
Court nominees, Papillon and Dubois the Whig. It is 
unnecessary to enter into the details of the election. That 
it was warm work Roger North's description leaves no 
doubt : " Midsummer work indeed, extremely hot and 
dusty, and the partisans strangely disordered every way 
with crowding, bawling, sweating and dust ; all full of 
anger, zeal, and filth on their faces, they ran about up 
and down stairs, so that any one not better informed would 

L 2 


have thought the place rather a huge Bedlam than a meet- 
ing for civil business. And yet, under such an awk- 
ward face of affairs as this was, the fate of the English 
Government and Monarchy depended but too much on the 
event of so decent an assembly." The last sentence gives 
no exaggerated idea of the importance which both parties 
attached to the issue : it was a life and death struggle in a 
very literal sense. Jeffreys, still a person of great influence 
with his own party in the City, lent all the help he could 
to the Tory candidates. He placed his house, situated 
near the Guildhall, at their service, and himself appeared 
on the hustings at critical junctures. But it was to the 
Lord Mayor that the Court chiefly owed their ultimate 
victory. Sir John Moor was one of those cautious, faint, 
secretive creatures who offend no one, and for their suspected 
weakness and amiability are thrust into positions where 
both parties hope to find in them a pliant tool. To the 
defeat and mortification of the Whigs, Moor, after his 
accession to office, showed himself a firm and ingenious 
servant of the Court, and by boldness and cunning won 
the day. With the election of North and Rich the 
" Ignoramus " perished ; and Shaftesbury robbed of his 
u monster," after vainly struggling to raise up another yet 
more hideous, fled the country in the month of November. 
In the midst of the Sheriffs' election Jeffreys had been 
called away to hold his circuits as Chief Justice of Chester, 
but not before he had fired a parting shot at the City by 
committing to prison Mr. Goodenough, the Under-Sheriff 
and a violent Whig, for failing to provide him and his 
brother justices with their dinner at Hicks's Hall. His 
visit to Chester was timely. He followed closely on the 
Duke of Monmouth, who had been making one of his 
progresses — " opportunities" as Shaftesbury called them — 
through this part of England. The King had viewed this 
progress with considerable alarm, for it was to be made the 
opportunity of gatherings of Whig gentlemen who were 
rallying round the handsome, brainless youth with desperate 
intent. Luckily Absalom made no use of his " oppor- 


tunity," much to the disgust of Achitophel ; and at the end 
of his progress was greeted by a warrant officer from 
David, charged to bring back his disobedient son at once 
to London. But Jeffreys found Chester and its neigh- 
bourhood very much disturbed by the recent visit. From 
Wrexham, whither he had probably gone on a visit to his 
father before commencing his judicial work, he writes 
to Leoline Jenkins, the Secretary of State, an account of 
the Duke's proceedings (September 18) : — "The excuse 
of his honouring these parts was, you know, a race ; 
and the loyal gentry, to divert company which that 
design aimed at, ordered another meeting, and published 
enclosed paper, which had this good effect, that there 
were ten to one of our side ; but his Grace won the 
plate, to the great joy of all true Protestants, for which 
bonfires have been made in Chester, and most of the honest 
men's windows broke, and the plate bestowed on the 
Mayor's child which his Grace hath christened by the name 
of Henrietta." Fearing further clamour, and that " the 
honesty of the town may not be dispirited," Jeffreys makes 
a suggestion with regard to the punishment of the rioters. 
Chester, he says, has not power to try treasons, but he is 
ready with an " useful accident " to help his Majesty's ser- 
vice. There are at present " three fellows in the city gaol " 
for clipping the coinage, a crime in those days classed among 
treasons. If Mr. Secretary will send him a Commission of 
Oyer and Terminer to try these fellows, that can cover any 
other cases of treason that may arise. He also gives the names 
of those who should be joined with him in the Commission. 
Jenkins evidently jumped at the happy accident ; for on 
September the 15 th Jeffreys writes from Chester, where he 
has arrived to hold his Assize, thanking him for the 
Commission, which has reached him " truly in the nick of 
time." Jeffreys adds that he has been well received by most 
of the loyal gentlemen ; but he expects some trouble with 
the Mayor and Recorder (evidently Whigs) about the Com- 
mission, and wishes Jenkins had not included Alderman 
Streete in it, a " pestilently troublesome fellow." The 


parsons, he says, have done their parts, and the Mayor is 
angry with him for having thanked them. He concludes 
with an allusion to the Sheriffs' election in London, then 
raging at its height : " Sir, I wish all good success on 
Friday ; my house is yours." l 

As he reared, Jeffreys had some trouble with the 
Recorder when the Assize began. The latter first objected 
to the Commission, and then tried to go to the grand jury 
in person and prevent them from returning true bills. 
But, in spite of these factious manoeuvres, Jeffreys, armed 
with his Commission, was able to perform the King's 
service ; and we will hope that when he left Chester the 
" honesty of the town " had recovered from its temporary 

Jeffreys did not leave these parts without giving some 
proofs of amiability, particularly in his dealings with the 
Dissenters, who were now at the beginning of their suffer- 
ings under the new Government. At Flint Assizes he 
rebuked some officious persons who in distraining for a 
conventicle had been guilty of an illegal act ; and he showed 
his gratitude to an old friend and his respect to his mother's 
memory by discountenancing any attempt to proceed 
against her friend Philip Henry, who at this time enjoyed 
the unenviable distinction of being the only Dissenter in all 

In October he had returned to London for the begin- 
ning of the Michaelmas sittings, during which he was to 
appear as counsel in one sensational case. As Chairman of 
the Middlesex Sessions and the enemy of the Dissenters, he 
may have been instrumental in the arrest of the excellent 
Richard Baxter, which took place on the 21st under the 
Five Mile Act. 

It was on the 23rd of November that Serjeant Jeffreys 
appeared with the Attorney-General Sawyer and Mr. 
Solicitor Finch to prosecute on the King's behalf Ford 
Lord Grey of Wark for " debauching " Lady Henrietta 

1 The originals of these letters are to be found in the Record 
Office among the Domestic State Papers. 


Berkeley, daughter of the Earl of Berkeley. The chief 
culprit — for Grey was charged along with the creatures 
who had assisted him in his outrageous proceedings — was 
remarkable to the public not only for his social position 
but as one of the boldest and most reckless of the Whig 
leaders. A close friend of the Duke of Monmouth, he 
was active in inciting that luckless youth to those schemes 
of violence that ultimately brought him to the block, if he 
was not guilty of actually betraying him ; he was also a 
leading member of the Green Ribbon Club, one of the 
most determined associations of the Whig politicians, and 
along with his fellow members had taken a foremost part 
in the tumults attending the late election of the Sheriffs. 
The boldness of his schemes and the violence of his counsels 
were only equalled by the baseness of his principles and 
the cowardice of his character. In any other times the 
infamy of his public conduct would have doomed him to 
perpetual disgrace ; but along with Titus Oates the Whig 
regeneration of 1688 washed him of his sins : he became 
Earl of Tankerville under William III., and by an excel- 
lent Whig oration delivered in the House of Lords during 
that reign so far touched the hearts of the Whig historians 
that his seduction of his sister-in-law has never been exposed 
in all its baseness and perfidy, which in some respects 
transcend the poor morality of his day. 

Lady Henrietta was Grey's sister-in-law, the latter having 
married a daughter of Lord Berkeley. In spite of their 
relationship, these two had carried on a passionate intrigue 
for four years. According to Grey, he had vainly endea- 
voured to stay his guilty love by courting, in a less restricted 
sense than is usually applied to that term, two other ladies 
of his acquaintance ; but even their utmost favours were 
fruitless to quiet his passion. So he had reconciled himself 
to four years of clandestine intrigue, and to being by the 
necessities of his situation frequently locked up for two 
days in the young lady's chamber on a diet of sweetmeats. 
At length Lady Berkeley discovered all, and passionately 
upbraided Grey with his conduct. The noble lord wept 


copiously, avowed his guilt, begged her not to tell her hus- 
band and swore repentance. A few days later Lady Berke- 
ley allowed the penitent lover to spend a night at Durdans, 
her husband's place near Epsom, en route for his own seat 
in Sussex, but on a strict promise that he would not inter- 
fere with Lady Henrietta. Grey stayed from Friday night 
to Saturday afternoon. On the Saturday night Henrietta 
fled from her father's house and was taken by Grey's man, 
Charnock, to lodgings in London, where Grey visited her 
as his mistress and kept her concealed from the eager 
search of her parents. As the last means of discovering 
her whereabouts, Lord Berkeley determined to brave 
exposure and bring Grey to trial. The Crown, no doubt, 
was only too glad to lend a helping hand to the disgrace 
and punishment of so turbulent an opponent. On 
November 23rd, 1682, Grey and his confederates were 
indicted in the King's Bench before Chief Justice Pember- 
ton, Mr. Justice Dolben and Mr. Justice Jones. Grey 
was represented by Mr. Williams, the ex-Speaker, Mr. 
Thompson and Mr. Wallop, three well-known Whig 
advocates who were generally briefed for any members 
of that party, whatever the nature of their offences. 
Williams and Thompson were old opponents of Jeffreys 
in the Smith, Harris and Carr trials. Mr. Wallop, who 
now appears for the first time on the stage of history, has 
been rendered eternally famous by Jeffreys' treatment of 
him at Baxter's trial in 1685. 

The case against Grey was proved up to the hilt, and 
all the principal defendant could do was to stand in Court 
with his friends and endeavour to frighten the witnesses 
against him by steadfastly gazing on their countenances, 
an impertinence for which Pemberton and Jeffreys were 
obliged to rebuke him. Lady Berkeley swooned more 
than once in giving her evidence, and her husband 
standing by constantly broke out into fierce reproaches 
against the seducer. The Judges had very early made 
up their minds as to the prisoner's guilt, and treated 
the defence — poor enough from the nature of the case 


— with scant endurance. Mr. Williams must have raised 
a smile when he remarked at the opening of his speech 
for Lord Grey that he " could not justify in strictness 
everything that my Lord Grey had done." Mr. Wallop 
cut a very sorry figure. With an indiscretion which 
strongly reminds a modern reader of the immortal Mr. 
Phunky, at the very end of the case he addressed the Lord 
Chief Justice as follows : — " We do hope in your lordship's 
observations upon the evidence to the jury, you will please 
to take notice that there is no colour of evidence of any 
actual force upon the lady which is laid in the information, 
that my lord did ' vi et armis abducere,' &c." Pemberton, 
one of the foremost lawyers of his day, made short work 
of this lengthy interruption. " Oh, Mr. Wallop, fear not 
I shall observe right to the jury ; but you have read the 
book that is written concerning juries lately, I perceive." 
Jeffreys rejoiced at this sudden exposure of the fount of 
Wallop's learning. " He has studied such books, no 
doubt, and has learned very good counsel of Whitaker," 
was the Serjeant's derisive comment. 

But the sensation of the case was the appearance of the 
Lady Henrietta herself. She came into Court just as 
Jeffreys had finished his opening speech for the Crown. 
By the time that Mr. Williams rose and proposed to put 
her in the box, the Court had formed the most unfavour- 
able opinion of the young lady's character. It was evident 
that she fully shared Grey's passion, and had not hesitated 
to gratify it to the agony of her parents and the dis- 
honour of her house. For some time the Crown lawyers 
endeavoured to resist Williams' application that she 
should be heard in evidence, but the Judges could not 
see their way to refuse it ; whereupon Jeffreys sat down, 
with the apologetic augury, " Truly, my lord, we 
would prevent perjury if we could." His forecast was 
justified, for Lady Henrietta went into the box and 
perjured herself to the dismay of all. In vain did Mr. 
Justice Dolben exhort her : " Madam, for God's sake 
consider you are upon your oath, and do not add wilful 


perjury to your other faults." She persisted in her 
intention, until the Lord Chief Justice rebuked her. 
" You have injured your own reputation," he said, " and 
prostituted both your own body and your honour, and 
are not to be believed." 1 With that he turned to the 
jury, and charged them to convict the prisoners. 

No sooner had the jury withdrawn to consider their 
verdict than Lord Berkeley, who had with difficulty 
suppressed his rage during the trial, rose and asked the 
Court that his daughter should be delivered to him. 
Lady Henrietta met her father's request by stating, to 
the general surprise, that she was married ; and a 
Mr. Turner was produced, who claimed the unenviable 
distinction of being her husband. " What are you ? " 
asked the Chief Justice of the apparition. " I am a 
gentleman," was the extravagant reply. " Where do you 
live ? " " Sometimes in town, sometimes in the country." 
" Where do you live when you are in the country ? " 
"Sometimes in Somersetshire," was the still indefinite 
reply. " He is, I believe," said Mr. Justice Dolben, 
" son of Sir William Turner that was the advocate ; 
he is a little like him." Jeffreys offered the Court some 
further information. " Ay, we all know Mr. Turner 
well enough ; we shall prove that he was married to 
another person before that is now alive and has children 
by him." "Ay, do, Sir George," says Mr. Turner, 
" if you can ; for there never was any such thing." 
" Pray, sir," pursued the Serjeant, " did you not live 
at Bromley with a woman as man and wife, and had 
divers children ; and, living so intimately, were you not 
questioned for it, and you and she owned yourself to be 
man and wife ? " But Turner was firm, Lady Henrietta 
was his wife and no other, and he could produce witnesses. 
" I will go with my husband," said the lady. " Hussey ! 
you shall go with me home," cried the angry Earl. " I will 

1 It will perhaps hardly be credited that Campbell, in his anxiety 
to blacken Jeffreys' character, speaks of Lady Henrietta as a lady of 
" undoubted veracity " ! 


go with my husband." " Hussey, you shall go with me, 
I say ! " and so on till Lord Berkeley cried to his friends 
to seize his obstinate daughter ; but the Chief Justice 
sternly forbade them. The Court broke up, but in the 
hall without swords were drawn by the rival parties and 
a scuffle ensued, until Pemberton, coming by, sent Lady 
Henrietta Turner to the King's Bench prison. 

Next day the jury gave in a verdict of " guilty," but 
the matter was settled during the next vacation, and a 
" nolle prosequi " entered by the Attorney-General. On 
her release from the King's Bench prison Lady Henrietta 
Turner disappeared ; but in the following year when Lord 
Grey fled the country on the discovery of the Rye House 
Plot, Lady Henrietta accompanied him to Holland as his 
mistress, much to the scandal and distress of the Scotch 
section of the exiles. 

The day after the Berkeley case Jeffreys was busy in the 
same Court, this time on behalf of the Duke of York. 
The latter, who had returned from his unwilling exile in 
Scotland now that the political horizon was more favour- 
able to his interests, was anxious to take vengeance on 
some of those who had most virulently traduced him in 
his days of unpopularity. He proceeded first against 
Pilkington, the late Whig Sheriff, an " indiscreet man 
that gave himself great liberties in discourse." His 
particular liberty on this occasion had consisted in his 
accusing the Duke of York to two of his fellow Aldermen 
as the man who had burnt the City and was now come to 
cut the throats of the citizens. In face of an accusation 
of this kind it is not surprising that the Duke should 
have taken an early opportunity to bring an action for 
slander against Pilkington. The latter, conscious by 
experience of the now Tory character of Middlesex juries, 
asked that his jury should be drawn from another county. 
The Court allowed him his choice, and he selected 
Hertfordshire. But, alas for the uncertainty of human 
anticipation ! not even twelve Hertfordshire gentlemen 
could overlook the poverty of Mr. Pilkington's defence 


and the evasiveness of his witnesses ; and as things were 
being done on rather a broad scale just then, these same 
twelve gentlemen gave the royal plaintiff a verdict, and 
assessed the royal damage at £ 1 00,000. Burnet says that 
these were the most excessive damages ever given. Maybe 
they were, but it is not often that an individual is accused 
of having burnt the City of London and of an intention 
of cutting the throats of all the citizens in the immediate 
future ! 

This verdict with its swinging damages was Jeffreys' 
last achievement in the courts of law for the year 1682. 
The close of the year saw a great improvement in his 
position and influence at Court. As the King's power 
increased in security, the Duke of York obtained more 
and more weight in his counsels. James had always been 
a supporter of Jeffreys ; the dull, vindictive nature of the 
Duke, his grave and obstinate determination, inclined him 
to those whose bold and reckless principles would best 
serve his unscrupulous designs, while his devotion to his 
religion and the heaviness of his disposition blinded him 
to the extravagances or excesses of those who served him. 
Jeffreys was all he could desire. The Serjeant belonged to 
the extreme section of the Tory party, and it was in these 
men that James now placed his confidence. At the same 
time Jeffreys' friend Sunderland had been restored to 
office, and the two now worked together in close union, 
By the extreme character of their political principles they 
recommended themselves to the Duke of York, whose 
ultimate accession to the throne seemed now to be assured. 
At the close of the year Jeffreys, by the extent of his 
services, the force of his character and his opinions, and 
his interest with the brother and mistress of the King, 
stood an excellent chance of profiting by any changes 
that the Crown might see fit to make in the high places 
of the law. Circumstances brought him his reward sooner 
than he expected. 

One important legal change had already taken place in 
the month of December, though it did not directly affect 


Jeffreys. This was the death of the Lord Chancellor 
Nottingham. Finch had been ailing some time, and had 
left to Chief Justice North a great deal of the business of 
his office. During the Chancellor's illness the King had 
told North that he was to have the reversion of the place, 
and two days after Finch's death the promise was fulfilled. 
North left the soft cushion of the Common Pleas, for 
which his respectable character, his learning and intelligence 
pre-eminently fitted him, and, as Lord Keeper of the Great 
Seal, took upon him an office which was to prove the burden 
and distress of his declining days. At this period in the 
history of his country North was the wrong man to be 
Lord Keeper. The politics of the Court had passed 
beyond those limits which a cautious constitutional mind 
such as North's would have imposed upon them ; the 
manners and temper of the Court were such as to make 
the plain face, the smug manners, the timorous worth and 
desperate want of humour of the Lord Keeper the object 
of mockery and contempt to his associates at the Council 
board. In the hour of triumph when, as Ranke says, 
" from the fear of civil disorder the doctrine of passive 
obedience had achieved a momentary supremacy in social 
life," and the adherents of despotism were about to 
celebrate their Saturnalia, North was soon left behind in 
the march of excited progress, to die by the wayside 
despised and disregarded. " Here, my Lord, take it," 
said the King as he handed him the Seal ; " you will find 
it heavy." The words were prophetic, but the prophecy 
depended a good deal for its fulfilment on the fortunes of 
Mr, Serjeant Jeffreys. 




At the beginning of 1683 the Government was busy 
with its preparations for the attack on the City Charter. 
The case was to come before the Court of King's Bench 
for argument, and both parties were getting ready a for- 
midable array of counsel, precedents, pleas and all the 
other arms employed in great legal battles. Not that the 
Government intended to leave anything to chance or the 
equally precarious fortunes of law. The parties might 
argue reams-full, as much as ever they liked, the more the 
better — it would lend greater gravity to the farce ; but 
there was to be no mistake as to the victor in this in- 
structive contest ; and, as the decision would be in the 
hands of the Court of King's Bench, that Court would 
have to be doctored somewhat to prevent the possibility 
of an adverse judgment. Pemberton, the Chief Justice, 
and Dolben, one of the "puisnes," were considered insecure 
in a matter of this kind. The former had shown himself 
a Judge of some independence of character, but, it was 
feared, of insufficient loyalty. North, the Tory, attri- 
butes his removal on this occasion to his boldness, cun- 
ning and conceit, as a man who paid less regard to the 
law than to his own will ; Burnet, the Whig, says that 
he was not wholly for the Court ; and Evelyn, Whig- 
gish, lauds his honesty. In any case, the Government did 


J 59 

not feel comfortable about him, and, as the Chief Justice- 
ship of the Common Pleas was then vacant by North's 
acceptance of the Seal, they took the opportunity of 
sending Pemberton to preside over that Court. Dolben, 
an " arrant, peevish old snarler," with a small body and 
a large voice, was dismissed altogether, and retired to 
terrorise over his servants and dependents until he was 
reinstated in his judgeship at the Revolution. The 
successors of these two Judges were Edmund Saunders in 
the place of Pemberton, and Francis Wythens in the 
place of Dolben. Wythens is already familiar to us 
as sharing [with Jeffreys the honour of being the first 
Abhorrer. " He was one of moderate capacity in the 
law, but a voluptuary ; and such are commonly very 
timid, and, in great difficulties, abject ; otherwise he 
was a very gentile person, what was called a very honest 
fellow, and no debtor to the bottle." This curious de- 
scription North sustains by his account of Wythens's 
snivelling behaviour, " his whimpering and wiping," when 
the Parliament of 1680 called him to account for his 
Abhorrences. The Crown, however, had continued to 
employ him in its business after the dissolution, and the 
hour of the "Quo Warranto" seemed a fitting and con- 
venient one in which to reward his zeal. 

Edmund Saunders was the very man to preside as Chief 
Justice of the King's Bench over the trial of this important 
issue ; for it was he who had been chiefly instrumental in 
preparing the case of the Crown against the City, and would 
therefore have a peculiarly just appreciation of its merits. 
The sweet disposition and fetid body of this singular man 
have been admirably described by Roger North. Sodden 
with ale, corpulent with want of exercise, his diseased body 
stinking in the nostrils of the bystanders, there was yet in 
the charm and amiability of his humour, his pleasant con- 
sciousness of his own defects, his readiness to help and 
enlighten those younger than himself out of his copious 
store of legal learning, and his genial good-fellowship, 
something that won the affection and regard of those 


about him, and made him, as North puts it, " a very 
Silenus to the boys." "Born but not bred a gentleman," 
Saunders had raised himself from obscurity by sheer talent 
and application. His days were strictly divided between 
his work at the Temple and the ale, pipe and garden with 
which he solaced his leisure hours at his house at Parson's 
Green. As a lawyer, Saunders stands high indeed, not 
only for the simplicity and precision of the Reports that 
bear his name, but for the dramatic interest he con- 
trived to infuse into these generally dull epitomes, which 
won him the appreciative praise of Lord Mansfield as 
the " Terence of Reporters." The King, hearing of his 
fame as a lawyer, had long employed Saunders in his legal 
concerns. Now that those concerns were deeply involved 
in the success of this great issue of the "Quo Warranto," an 
assiduous lawyer, popular in the Courts, respected for his 
learning and friendly to the prerogative, would make a 
very much better Chief Justice of the King's Bench than 
Sir Francis Pemberton. The spirit was willing, but the 
flesh was weak ; Saunders accepted the office, but it was 
fatal to his poor carcase. The change of habits and the 
anxieties of his new position proved too much for his 
ruined constitution. However, he struggled manfully to 
do his duty. The hearing of the " Quo Warranto " began 
in February, but Jeffreys did not appear for the Crown ; 
Sawyer and Finch delivered the arguments, and the case 
was adjourned. 

In May, Jeffreys took part in the prosecution of 
Pilkington, Lord Grey and a number of other eager 
Whigs, before the new Chief Justice, for rioting at the 
Sheriffs' election. Williams and Wallop appeared for the 
defendants, the latter making use of his " I humbly con- 
ceive," which Jeffreys rendered famous two years later at 
Baxter's trial. The proceedings are not very lively, 
though the case excited great public interest owing to its 
political character. Jeffreys complained of the horrid 
noise made by the audience, and Saunders was compelled 
to rebuke them for interrupting his charge to the jury by 


their humming. The Serjeant had one passage with his 
constant opponent, Mr. Williams. A Crown witness 
swore to his back having been so wrenched in saving the 
Lord Mayor from the rioters, that he spat blood for six 
or seven days after. " He took a surfeit," says Williams, 
facetiously, by way of explanation. " He took a surfeit 
of ill company, I am sure," retorted Jeffreys. The trial 
ended in a conviction ; but sentence was postponed, and it 
was not till June that the prisoners were sentenced to 
various fines. 

On the 19th of the same month, the Government 
proceeded against another of the City Whigs. This was 
Sir Patience Ward, an ex-Lord Mayor. He was charged 
with committing perjury in the Duke of York's action for 
slander against Pilkington. There can be little doubt 
that he had done so. Jeffreys was one of the counsel 
against him. Ward was convicted, and sentence postponed ; 
but hearing in the interval that there was an intention of 
putting him in the pillory, he discreetly withdrew. 

It will be gathered from the foregoing circumstances 
that these were sufficiently distressing times for the Whigs. 
Harassed in the law courts, cheated of their last resources 
against the legal manoeuvres of the enemy, it only wanted 
the inevitable judgment in the "Quo Warranto" to complete 
their destruction. Evelyn gives a gloomy picture of the 
condition of the City after the surrender of their Charter : 
" Eight of the richest and chief Aldermen were removed, 
and all the rest made only justices of the peace, and no 
more wearing of gowns or chains of gold. The Lord 
Mayor and two Sheriffs holding their places by new grants 
as Custodes at the King's pleasure. The pomp and grandeur 
of the most august city in the world thus changed face in 
a moment, which gave great occasion of discourse and 
thoughts of heart, what all this would end in." That in 
this all but hopeless state of affairs the Whigs were 
rendered desperate is not a matter for astonishment ; and 
that, in the then barbarous condition of political warfare 
they were driven to desperate resolves and murderous 



plots, as the only weapons of offence left to them, 
is likewise not to be wondered at. Nor should it evoke 
painful and indignant surprise that the Government, on 
the discovery of these resolves and plots, proceeded to 
deal with the conspirators as they in their time had dealt 
with the so-called Popish plotters — but with this differ- 
ence, that, in 1683, the Government gave the Whig 
prisoners a fairer trial and convicted them on much better 
evidence than ever fell to the lot of the luckless Papists of 
1678. But in this very difference of treatment — galling 
as it is to the moral rectitude of the choicest Whigs — lies 
the secret of the extravagant canonisation of those who 
suffered for the Rye House Plot, and the violent abuse 
which many Whig historians have poured on those who 
executed judgment upon Russell and Sidney. The retri- 
butive element in the punishment of their heroes, the 
comparative decency with which they were tried and 
condemned, have been deliberately overlooked or misrepre 
sented by Whig lawyers and Whig historians ; and, as the 
political principles of Russell and Sidney have now been 
generally accepted as wholesome by all political parties, 
no one has taken the trouble to do justice to those who in 
Charles II. 's day still preferred the despotism of a King 
to the despotism of faction, and whose eyes were fixed 
not upon the ultimate necessity of the Whig principles of 
Government, but rather upon the violence and injustice 
with which those principles had been contaminated by 
Shaftesbury and his followers. Dr. Johnson certainly had 
the courage to describe Russell and Sidney as " arrant 
rascals," a description which would have been considered 
horrible from the mouth of Jeffreys. Like most of John- 
son's historical outbursts it is unjust and archaic ; but it is 
natural in an extreme Tory such as he was, to whom 
rebellion was the highest of political crimes. How much 
more natural in the minds of extreme Tories in a day 
when extreme Toryism was a possible and useful creed, 
and the murder of a King not forty years past ? 

Can it be fairly said that in point of political morality 


the Whigs of 1683 stood higher than their opponents? 
The constitutional rhetoric of subsequent historians would 
incline us to believe so ; but it is not the case. Socially, 
domestically, Lord William Russell will always command 
the respect that should be the portion of good husbands 
and worthy gentlemen ; but his political career shows the 
same fierceness of prejudice, the same violence towards 
opponents, the same insensibility to justice and temperance, 
that are the marks of these seventeenth-century politicians. 
And Russell is the best of the lot, the rest very indifferent 
as far as honesty, nobility, and their other imputed virtues 
are concerned. Morally, there is no reason why the 
political conduct of Russell and Sidney should be judged 
more leniently or by a different standard than that of their 
opponents, unless it be by the test of subsequent utility. 
Legally, their much-vaunted wrongs are easily resolved. 
We do not propose to discuss points of law which, as Sir 
James Stephen remarks, have long ceased to have any 
interest or importance. Whilst it is impossible to do 
strict justice between the prisoners and their Judges, it is 
now generally agreed that the law in these cases, if at times 
harshly interpreted, was never violently strained, and 
that the legal decisions of the Judges given in Russell's 
and Sidney's cases can be legally supported, according to 
the then existing state of the criminal law. 

If these proceedings are to be judged — as it seems to us 
necessary for the purpose of our work they should be — 
from the point of view of conduct, the conduct and beha- 
viour of" Judge Jeffreys," it is better to clear the ground at 
once of those conventional causes of reproach which Whig 
historians have levelled against the whole of these occur- 
rences, against the disgraceful principles which could make 
men regard Russell and Sidney as dangerous rebels and 
punish them accordingly, and against the gross illegality by 
which those punishments were inflicted. 

Judgment had been given in the " Quo Warranto " on 
June 1 2th, but in the absence of the Chief Justice through 
indisposition. Five months of the ermine were sufficient 


to destroy the poor remains of Saunders' constitution, and 
on June 17th he died. As early as March the question of 
his successor had been discussed. Sunderland had pro- 
posed Jeffreys, but he found the King unresolved and full 
of objections — the Judges would not like it, and Jeffreys 
had not law enough. That Charles's objections at this 
time were quite sincere, his friendship for Jeffreys, and the 
favour he subsequently showed him, suggest a doubt ; 
he was probably inspired in his reluctance by the Lord 
Keeper. To North the very mention of Jeffreys' name 
would be distressing, and he would use every endeavour to 
thwart the schemes of Sunderland. At this period there 
were two parties in the Council of the King, — the extreme 
Tories headed by the Duke of York, Sunderland and 
Rochester, and the more moderate counsellors such as 
Halifax and North, who sought to prevent the King from 
making too violent a use of his opportunities. If Jeffreys 
was to be admitted into the Council, he would be ranked 
in the van of the extreme section. North was well aware 
of the treatment his cautious timorous measures would 
meet with at the hands of Sir George, to say nothing of 
the natural repugnance a heavy man always experiences 
towards one whose sense of humour was so insufficiently 
controlled as Jeffreys'. North used every endeavour to 
recommend Sawyer to the King. He was a connection of 
North's, and, as Attorney-General, had done much 
valuable work for the Government ; but in power, eloquence 
and all those qualities beyond mere legal accomplishments 
that are always expected in a Lord Chief Justice, he was 
in every way Jeffreys' inferior. Certainly in March, when 
Sunderland first pressed Jeffreys' claims, which no one can 
deny to have been considerable, the "Quo Warranto" had 
yet to be tried, and Charles may well have looked at that 
time for a Chief Justice with such a reputation for legal 
profundity as would give the premeditated judgment an 
air of spontaneous sincerity. According to one story, 
Charles considered Jeffreys to have " neither learning, law, 
nor good manners, but more impudence than ten carted 


whores." If this be true, he may well have hesitated to 
entrust the " Quo Warranto " to such a man, however in 
private life he may have esteemed him for these delightful 
traits. As Oates, however, is the only authority for this 
reputed saying of the King, it must be received with the 
same scrupulous care that should be extended to all the 
Doctor's reminiscences. 

So the months wore on in suspense till Saunders died 
in June, Jeffreys no doubt burning with anxiety to receive 
the great prize within his grasp. But in the same month 
all considerations of this kind were forgotten in the dis- 
covery of the Rye House Plot. On June 23rd, Serjeant 
Jeffreys took the information of Mr. Robert West, bar- 
rister-at-law, and despatched him to Hampton Court, 
there to tell the story of the dangerous conspiracy that 
threatened the life of the King. It soon became evident 
that this time the Government was in presence of no 
pretended or bogus plot, and that the King had really 
by a happy accident escaped the danger of assassina- 
tion. " The public," writes Evelyn, " was now in great 
consternation, his Majesty very melancholy and not stirring 
without double guards, all the avenues and private doors 
about Whitehall and the Park shut up, few admitted to 
walk in it. The Papists in the meanwhile very jocund and 
indeed with reason seeing their own turned to ridicule, and 
now a conspiracy of Protestants, as they called them." 

This conspiracy resolved itself into two parts : there was 
the section of the desperadoes, headed by West and Fer- 
guson, who had planned the actual assassination of the King 
and his brother at the Rye House, near Hoddesdon, on their 
return from Newmarket, and were only frustrated in their 
purpose by a change of date ; and there was the Council 
of Six, a body of Whig statesmen, Essex, Russell, Hamp- 
den, Sidney, Grey and Lord Howard, who had met and 
discussed plans of a projected insurrection, as the only 
means left to the baffled Whigs of checking the King's 
continued violation of the people's rights. No one who 
reads the evidence can doubt that these conspiracies were 


really existent, though independently of one another. If 
the second was less bloody and more dignified in its 
authors and its purposes than the first, the Government 
could hardly be expected to see any great difference 
between an attempt to provoke rebellion in the country, 
and an attack upon the person of the King. Accordingly, 
along with Walcot, Hone and Rumsey, arrested on the 
Rye House charge, Russell and Algernon Sidney were 
sent to the Tower ; proclamations were issued against 
Grey, Sir Thomas Armstrong and the Duke of Mon- 
mouth, who was deeply implicated in the more general 
conspiracy ; and on July 8th the King's messengers 
pulled Lord Howard of Escrick down from his chimney, 
whither he had fled for concealment. This last capture 
proved fatal to the hopes of those already imprisoned. 
Howard, who had wit and cynicism but no courage, made 
a full avowal ; and the Government, furnished with his 
revelations in return for a pardon, felt their case strong 
enough to bring the prisoners to the bar. 

Four days after Howard's arrest the trials of the con- 
spirators commenced at the Sessions House at the Old 
Bailey. As the Chief Justiceship of the King's Bench was 
still vacant, Pemberton came from the Common Pleas to 
preside. Walcot and Hone, two of the Rye House 
plotters, were condemned on the 12th and the 13th of 
July ; and, on the last named day at nine o'clock in the 
morning, began the trial of Lord William Russell. At 
five o'clock in the afternoon he was convicted of high 
treason ; and on the following day the Recorder, Treby, a 
leading member of his own party, condemned him to death. 
Sawyer and Jeffreys conducted the prosecutions in all these 
cases, and, on the whole, justified North's boast that " if 
ever trials in England were fair both in the private and 
public conduct of them, these were." As we have already 
observed, in the credibility of the evidence, the dignity of 
the proceeding and the justice of the verdicts, these 
trials are models of legal propriety compared with those 
of Oates's victims. Jeffreys could fairly boast that, in this 


instance, the Crown had not raked the gaols for their 
witnesses, or brought to the bar profligate persons that 
wanted faith or credit before this time. His behaviour 
towards Russell was uniformly considerate, however deter- 
mined his advocacy ; and compares favourably with that of 
Sawyer, who seems at times to have rather lost his temper 
with the prisoner. 

The trial of Lord William Russell was the occasion of 
Jeffreys' last important appearance as an advocate. His 
speech closed the case for the Crown. Burnet calls it " an 
insolent declamation, such as all his were, full of fury and 
indecent invectives." This description is untrue. As the 
duty of a prosecuting counsel was in those days understood 
the speech is in no way unusual in its tone, and is free 
from any of the mockery in which Jeffreys was sometimes 
too ready to indulge towards people in Russell's situation. 
The reason of Burnet's constant abuse of Jeffreys, unbe- 
coming in a Churchman, is to be found in a later trial 
arising out of the Rye House proceedings, in which Jeffreys 
as Chief Justice had occasion to wound the Doctor's 
peculiar self-esteem. Jeffreys, like Charles Surface, had a 
happy knack of offending a good many worthy men ; but 
in the case of Burnet he has found a good friend in Dean 
Swift, whose spirited notes on Burnet's History enlighten us 
very satisfactorily on the self-sufHcient character of the 
author and the doubtful reliability in many respects of the 
author's work. 

Jeffreys' peroration delivered at the close of the case 
against Lord W. Russell may be taken as a fair specimen 
of his eloquence as an advocate and his principles as a 
politician. He is speaking of certain witnesses Russell had 
called to his general character. 

" Gentlemen, I must confess this noble lord hath given 
an account of several honourable persons of his conver- 
sation, which is a very easy matter. Do you think, if any 
man had a design to raise a rebellion against the Crown, 
that he would talk of it to the reverend divines and the 
noble lords that are known to be of integrity to the 


Crown ? Do you think the gentleman at the bar would 
have so little concern for his own life to make this dis- 
course his ordinary conversation ? No, it must be a 
particular consult of six, that must be entrusted with this. 
I tell you, 'tis not the divines of the Church of England, 
but an independent divine, that is to be concerned in this ; 
they must be persons of their own complexion and humour ; 
for men will apply themselves to proper instruments. 

" Gentlemen, I would not labour in this case, for far be it 
from any man to endeavour to take away the life of the 
innocent. And whereas that noble lord says he hath a 
virtuous good lady, he hath many children, he hath virtue 
and honour he puts into the scale ; gentlemen, I must tell 
you, on the other side, you have consciences, religion ; you 
have a Prince, and a merciful one too ; consider the life of 
your Prince, the life of his posterity, the consequences that 
would have attended if this villainy had taken effect. 
What would have become of your lives and religion ? 
What would have become of that religion we have been so 
fond of preserving ? Gentlemen, I must put these things 
home upon your consciences. I know you will remember 
the horrid murder of the most pious Prince, the Martyr 
King Charles the First. How far the practices of those 
persons have influenced the several punishments since is too 
great a secret for me to examine. But now I say, you have 
the life of a merciful King, you have a religion that every 
honest man ought to stand by, and I am sure every loyal 
man will venture his life and fortune for. You have your 
wives and children. Let not the greatness of any man 
corrupt you, but discharge your consciences both to God and 
the King, and to your posterity." 

" Incorrect, disagreeable, viciously copious," are the 
adjectives Burnet applies to Jeffreys' eloquence ; Swift 
applies them without hesitation to Burnet's. 1 Whether in 
the latter case they are deserved or not it is bootless to 
inquire ; in the former they cannot be considered appro- 
priate. Jeffreys' eloquence was passionate, too strong and 

1 Ferguson. 


excitable for these genteel times ; but it always preserves a 
certain dignity, and he has a power of language and a direct 
majesty of phrase which in his most heated moments always 
preserved him from vulgarity. " For men will apply 
themselves to proper instruments." " Let not the greatness 
of any man corrupt you." How well he contrives to give 
a biblical solemnity to a performance which in some of the 
greatest advocates has too often bordered on the meaning- 
less inflation of a leading article ! If ever Jeffreys strays 
into the too copious, he invariably pulls himself together 
by some master-stroke of forcible expression. 

As a cross-examiner Jeffreys would have held a high 
place had he been born in the nineteenth century. A 
knowledge of human nature, a strong personality and a 
nice sense of humour are the best passports to excellence in 
that art. But in the seventeenth century cross-examination 
had not yet become an art at all. Witnesses were examined 
in a confused, irregular fashion ; everybody concerned asked 
questions in no sort of order, and the truth was extracted 
in a very hap-hazard manner ; indeed, the only skill an 
advocate could show was in insisting, in the midst of all that 
was irrelevant or chaotic, on the facts of real moment that 
the witness had been called to substantiate. This Jeffreys 
invariably did with no little significance. 

When the Courts rose for the Long Vacation no Chief 
Justice had been appointed, but events were hurrying a 
decision in the matter, and that favourable to the claims of 
Jeffreys. Whatever hesitations may have been instilled into 
the mind of Charles, the discovery of the Rye House 
conspiracy and the dangerous schemes of the Whigs con- 
vinced the King that the administration of justice must be 
placed in strong and reliable hands. The conduct of 
Pemberton at Lord W. Russell's trial showed how little he 
could be depended on for such a purpose. His summing 
up was short, unwilling and in very direct contrast to the 
decided tone he adopted in the other cases he tried arising 
out of the Plot. Neither a strong Tory nor a sufficiently 
determined Whig, his conduct was too hesitating for the 


Government and too questionable for Dr. Burnet. Some 
may please to regard him as a martyr to impartiality at a 
time when impartiality was out of the question ; at any 
rate, in September he was removed from the Bench 
altogether ; and Mr. Justice Jones, a stern loyalist, succeeded 
him in the Common Pleas. The same month Sir George 
Jeffreys, knight and baronet, was appointed Lord Chief 
Justice of England. 

The necessities of the situation called him to the office. 
As dangers increased from the desperation of the Whigs and 
Charles realised that his victory could only be secured by the 
rigorous punishment of his now openly declared enemies, 
the influence of his more moderate counsellors proportion- 
ately decreased. He lent a readier ear to the voice of his 
brother and those friends who advised him to severe 
measures. Above all, a strong judge was necessary who 
could instil awe from the Bench and impose a powerful 
will upon the reluctant. Jeffreys as Recorder of London 
had already given proof of the strength of his personality. 
If some said he had no learning, there were others who 
denied it and held him to be a man of great parts ; and, 
as things turned out, the latter were nearer the truth. If 
Jeffreys was impudent, a degree of impudence has never 
been held amiss in a successful advocate ; and, if he had 
no manners, it need only be said that good manners have 
never at any time been considered as essential in a judge. 
Charles was far too intelligent a man to have allowed 
Jeffreys' social faults, whatever they were, to have blinded 
him to the real abilities of his Serjeant and the many 
qualities he possessed that fitted him to hold judicial 
offices, qualities he shared with some of the most eminent 
of lawyers who have preceded or followed him. At the 
beginning of the Michaelmas Term, Jeffreys took his seat 
in the King's Bench as Lord Chief Justice ; and, on 
October 4th, he was sworn a member of the Privy 
Council, to the great sorrow and misgiving of the Lord 
Keeper North. The latter had been consoled by a peer- 
age as Lord Guilford, but it must have been an empty 


consolation at such an hour. Ten days before Jeffreys 
took his seat, the fallen and forgotten Scroggs died at his 
house in London, before he could witness the coming 
eclipse of his own melancholy fame. 

Among the Whigs, Jeffreys' appointment spread dis- 
may, as well it might. " All people," says Burnet, 
" were apprehensive of very black designs " at the thought 
of this vicious drunkard raised to the ermine ; " most 
ignorant but most daring," is the reputation of Jeffreys, 
according to Evelyn, " of an assured undaunted spirit, 
cruel, and a slave of the Court ; " chosen, according to 
Lord Campbell, to be the " remorseless murderer of 
Algernon Sidney now awaiting trial." Three Judges, 
says Burnet, were placed in the King's Bench worthy to 
sit alongside of him. One of these was Wythens, whom 
we already know ; another, Holloway, a very honest 
lawyer ; the third, Walcot, who enjoys the precious 
reputation of having made no published remark during 
his two years on the Bench " indicative of his character or 
talents." Before this, according to Burnet, awful tri- 
bunal, Sidney appeared, on the 21st of November. 

The conviction of Sidney was important to the Govern- 
ment, who regarded him as, what he assuredly was, the 
most daring, most unscrupulous and most revolutionary 
of their enemies. An avowed republican, he was prepared 
to go to any lengths in resisting the encroachments of the 
royal authority. As one of the Judges of Charles I. he 
owed his return to his native land after the Restoration 
to Charles II.'s pardon. But Sidney was far too theoret- 
ical a revolutionist to suffer anything so irrelevant as 
gratitude to deter him from the furtherance of his political 
principles. As this was Jeffreys' first experience in the 
conduct of a great State Trial, men must have looked 
anxiously to the deportment of the new Chief Justice ; 
the character of the prisoner added to the public curiosity 
and whetted their excitement. When two men of violent 
character and extreme political opinions, diametrically 
opposed to one another in all but a marked acerbity of 


temper, are confronted in a matter of life and death, the 
one fighting with a weapon of which he hardly knows the 
use and which he can only wield in a clumsy fashion, 
irritating to the superior knowledge of his opponent ; 
the other, seeing in the prisoner before him a determined 
revolutionary, prepared to achieve by murder and rebel- 
lion the triumph of " tragical principles," deeply shock- 
ing to every loyal supporter of Church and State — in the 
stress of such a conflict men might well be afraid lest the 
dignity of the martyr and the gravity of the judge should 
tumble into hopeless ruin. That such a catastrophe did 
not ensue must be a matter for congratulation to the 
admirers of both parties. 

The trial commenced at ten o'clock in the Court of 
King's Bench. Before the Crown opened their case, 
Sidney renewed an application he had already made a 
fortnight earlier for a copy of his indictment. Jeffreys, 
at some length, recapitulated his reasons for declining 
Sidney's request which could not be granted, according to 
the practice of the times, and concluded : " Therefore 
arraign him upon the indictment ; we must not spend 
our time in discourses to captivate the people." He then 
cautioned the jury against certain gentlemen of the Bar, 
who, he had been informed, were in the habit of whisper- 
ing to them. " Let us have no remarks, but a fair trial, in 
Gods name." 

After Sawyer had opened his case, he proposed to call 
general evidence to establish the existence of a Plot, before 
proving it directly against the prisoner. To this Sidney 
objected ; was it right any evidence should be given un- 
less it directly concerned him or his indictment ? Jeffreys 
met the objection in a very convincing manner : " Mr. 
Sidney,- you remember in all the trials about the late 
Popish Plot, how there was first a general account given 
of the Plot in Coleman's trial, and so in Plunket's trial, 
and others : I do not doubt but you remember. And 
Sir William Jones, against whose judgment, I believe, 
you won't object," (he was Attorney-General and a 


leading member of Sidney's party in 1 678,) " was Attorney 
at this time." Sidney was silent. But at the end of the 
evidence he renewed his objection. Jeffreys comforted 
him : " I tell you all this evidence does not affect you, 
and I tell the jury so." " But it prepossesses the jury," 
answered the prisoner. That was true enough. But 
Whigs had the least right to grumble at such preposses- 
sion ; for the precedent was derived from the days of 
Whig supremacy. 

Lord Howard was the first direct evidence against the 
prisoner. He swore to Sidney's attending meetings of the 
Council of Six, where risings were planned, and to his 
sending Aaron Smith into Scotland to concert with the 
Duke of Argyll in bringing about a general insurrection. 
It is significant that Sidney asked Howard no questions 
in cross-examination ; but contented himself with calling 
three or four witnesses, who deposed to Howard having, 
before his arrest, denied that there was any Plot at all. 
Jeffreys in his summing up, dealt very reasonably with this 
defence. " Do you believe, because my Lord Howard did 
not tell them, 'I am in a conspiracy to kill the King,' there- 
fore he knew nothing of it ? He knew these persons were 
men of honour, and would not be concerned in any such 
thing. But do you think because a man goes about and 
denies his being in a plot, therefore he was not in it ? 
Nay, it seems so far from being an evidence of his 
innocence that it is an evidence of his guilt. What 
should provoke a man to discourse after this manner, 
if he had not apprehensions of guilt within himself? 
This is the testimony offered against my Lord Howard 
in disparagement of his evidence. Ay, but farther 'tis 
objected, he is in expectation of a pardon ; and he did say 
he thought he should not have the King's pardon till such 
time as the drudgery of swearing was over. I must tell 
you, though it is the duty of every man to discover all 
treasons, yet I tell you for a man to come and swear 
himself over and over again guilty in the face of a Court 
of Justice may seem irksome and provoke a man to give 


it such an epithet. 'Tis therefore for his credit that he 
is an unwilling witness ; but, gentlemen, consider, if these 
things should have been allowed to take away the credi- 
bility of a witness, what would have become of the testi- 
monies that have been given of late days ? What would 
become of the evidence of all those that have been so 
profligate in their lives ? Would you have the King's 
counsel to call none but men that were not concerned in 
this Plot, to prove that they were plotting ? " Jeffreys 
was determined that Sidney and his party should not 
escape the consequences of their reckless support of Oates 
and his fellow perjurers. 

Howard was a base person enough ; but his evidence 
is undoubtedly reliable, and was corroborated in this 
case by the flight of certain Scotchmen whom he had 
described as negotiating with Sidney in his rebellious 

Two witnesses being by law necessary to convict a man 
of high treason, the Crown made their second evidence 
against Sidney a manuscript found on his study table at 
the time of his arrest. It was an answer to a book of Sir 
Robert Filmer's, the famous upholder of royal preroga- 
tive, and was written to justify, under circumstances very 
much akin to those of 1683, rebellion against royal 
authority and the deposition of the King himself. The 
arguments were supported by a wealth of historical and 
biblical parallels, such as Tarquin, Nebuchadnezzar, Nero 
and Mary Queen of Scots. The manuscript was proved 
by three witnesses to be in Sidney's handwriting, and 
Jeffreys and his brother Judges held it to constitute a 
second evidence against him. Their decision on this 
point is questionable and, in any case, hard upon the 
prisoner, but not clearly illegal. 1 Jeffreys had no hesita- 

1 Sir J. Stephen {History of Critninal Law, Vol. I., p. 41 1), remarks : 
"I do not think that the illegality of permitting the jury to treat the 
possession of the pamphlet as an overt act of treason was as clear as it 
would be at present," and cites a statute of 13 Charles I., in 
confirmation of his opinion. 


tion in stretching the law as much as possible, if by so 
doing he could prevent the acquittal of so notorious 
a traitor as Sidney. And in such a course he would have 
had the approval and sympathy of all good Tories of his 
day, even of one of the Seven Bishops, as we shall see 
later on. 

Sidney fought the point with his accustomed spirit. 
He began by discussing over again his own arguments 
against Filmer's doctrine ; but Jeffreys soon stopped 
that. " I don't know what the book was in answer to. 
We are not to speak of any book that Sir Robert Filmer 
wrote ; but you are to make your defence touching a 
book that was found in your study, and spend not your 
time and the Court's time in that which serves to no other 
purpose than to gratify a luxuriant way of talking that 
you have. We have nothing to do with his book ; you 
had as good tell me again that there was a parcel of 
people rambling about, pretending to be my Lord Russell's 
ghost, and so we may answer all the comedies in England. 
Answer to the matter you are indicted for. Do you own 
that paper ? " 

Col. Sidney. — No, my lord. 

L. C. J. — Go on, then ; it does not become us to be 
impatient to hear you ; but we ought to advertise you 
that you spend your time to no purpose, and do yourself 
an injury. 

Sidney then embarked on certain points of law, with 
which he was not very successful, finishing up with a 
logic-chopping argument that only aroused Jeffreys' 

Col. Sidney. — Truly, my lord, I do as little intend to 
misspend my own spirit and your time as ever any man 
that came before you. Now, my lord, if you will make 
a concatenation of one thing, a supposition upon sup- 
position, I would take all this asunder, and show, if none 
of these things are anything in themselves, they can be 
nothing joined together. 

L. C. J. — Take your own method, Mr. Sidney ; but I 


say, if you are a man of low spirits and weak body, 'tis a 
duty incumbent upon the Court to exhort you not to 
spend your time upon things that are not material. 

Sidney's next point was more satisfactory : " Then, my 
lord, I think 'tis a right of mankind, and 'tis exercised by 
all studious men, that they write in their own closets what 
they please for their own memory, and no man can be 
answerable for it, unless they publish it." 

L. C. J. — Pray don't go away with that right of man- 
kind, that it is lawful for me to write what I will in my 
own closet unless I publish it ; I have been told, " Curse 
not the King, not in thy thoughts, not in thy bed- 
chamber, the birds of the air will carry it." I took it 
to be the duty of mankind to observe that. 

Col. Sidney. — I have lived under the Inquisition 

L. C. J. — God be thanked we are governed by law. 

Col. Sidney. — I have lived under the Inquisition, and 
there is no man in Spain can be tried for heresy 

Mr. Justice Wythens. — Draw no precedents from the 
Inquisition here, I beseech you, sir. 

L. C. J. — We must not endure men to talk that by 
the right of nature every man may contrive mischief in 
his own chamber, and he is not to be punished till he 
thinks fit to be called to it. 

Sidney protested against isolated passages being taken 
out of his manuscript and used against him. " My lord, 
if you will take Scripture by pieces you will make all the 
penmen of the Scripture blasphemous ; you may accuse 
David of saying there is no God, and accuse the Evan- 
gelists of saying Christ was a blasphemer and a seducer, 
and the Apostles that they were drunk. 

L. C. y. — Look you, Mr. Sidney, if there be any part 
of it that explains the sense of it, you shall have it read ; 
indeed we are trifled with a little. 'Tis true, in Scripture, 
'tis said there is no God ; and you must not take that 
alone, but you must say, " the fool hath said in his heart 
there is no God." Now, here is a thing imputed to you 
in the libel ; if you can say there is any part that is in 


excuse of it, call for it. As for the purpose, whosoever 
does publish that the King may be put in chains or 
deposed is a traitor ; but whosoever says that none but 
traitors would put the King in chains or depose him, is 
an honest man, therefore apply ad idem, but don't let us 
make excursions. 

Col. Sidney. — If they will produce the whole, my lord, 
then I can see whether one part contradicts another. 

L. C. J. — Well, if you have any witnesses, call them. 

Col. Sidney. — The Earl of Anglesey. 

L. C. J. — Ay, in God's name, stay till to-morrow in 
things that are pertinent. 

Sidney called those witnesses against Lord Howard's 
testimony already referred to, and a Mr. Wharton on 
the question of his handwriting. This ready gentleman 
deposed that if his lordship would show him any of 
Sidney's papers he would in a little time so imitate them 
that " you sha'n't know which is which." Jeffreys took 
no notice of this singular evidence until his summing up, 
when he remarked : " He (Mr. Wharton) says he could 
counterfeit any hand in half an hour. It is an ugly 
temptation, but I hope he hath more honour than to 
make use of that art he so much glories in." 

Jeffreys' charge to the jury was temperate in language, 
if unfavourable to the prisoner ; in the latter 
respect it only showed that degree of bias which is 
usually found in the summings up of strong Judges. He 
could not, however, avoid expressing a general dislike of 
anything approaching religious pretence or assumption, 
and the dangers of such devices : "He (Sidney) colours it (his 
work on Government) with religion, and quotes Scripture 
for it too ; and you know how far that went in the late 
times ; how we were for binding our King in chains and 
our nobles in fetters of iron !"..." So that as on one 
side God forbid but we should be careful of men's lives, 
so on the other side God forbid that flourishes and varnish 
should come to endanger the life of the King and the 
destruction of the Government." 


At six o'clock in the evening, after a withdrawal of 
half an hour, the jury returned a verdict of " Guilty," and 
the prisoner was taken back to the Tower. 

Five days later Sidney was brought to the bar of the 
King's Bench to receive sentence of death. Asked if 
he had anything to say why judgment should not be 
given against him, he repeated certain objections he had 
made to the jury and the indictment which the Court had 
already overruled. Jeffreys pointed out to him the duty 
of the Judges. " Mr. Sidney, we very well understand 
our duty ; we don't need to be told by you what our 
duty is ; we tell you nothing but what is law ; and if 
you make objections that are immaterial we must overrule 
them. Don't think that we overrule in your case that 
we would not overrule in all men's cases in your condition. 
The treason is sufficiently laid." 

Sidney protested that there was no treason in the paper 
found in his study. Jeffreys answered : " There is not a line 
in the book scarce but what is treason." 

Mr. Justice Wythens. — I believe you don't believe it 

L. C. J. — That is the worst part of your case. When 
men are riveted in opinion that Kings may be deposed, 
that they are accountable to their people, that a general 
insurrection is no rebellion, and justify it, 'tis high time, 
upon my word, to call them to account. 

Sidney then asked that the Duke of Monmouth might 
be called. Jeffreys replied that the case was over, and the 
Duke could not now be sent for. Sidney insisted. 

Col. Sidney. — I humbly think I ought, and desire to be 
heard upon it. 

L. C. J.,— Upon what ? 

Col. Sidney. — If you will call it a trial. 

L. C. J. — I do. The law calls it so. 

Mr. Justice Wythens. — We must not hear such 
discourses after you have been tried here, and the jury 
have given their verdict ; as if you had not justice done 
to you. 


Mr. Justice Holloway. — I think it was a very fair trial. 

Col. Sidney. — My lord, I desire that you would hear 
my reasons why I should be brought to a new trial. 

L. C. J. — That can't be. 

Col. Sidney. — Be the trial what it will ? 

CI. of Cr. — Crier, make an O yes. 

Col. Sidney. — Can't I be heard, my lord ? 

L. C. J. — Yes, if you will speak that which is proper ; 
'tis a strange thing, you seem to appeal as if you had 
some great hardship upon you. I am sure I can as well 
appeal to you. I am sure you had all the favour showed 
you that ever any prisoner had. The Court heard you 
with patience when you spake what was proper ; but if 
you begin to arraign the justice of the nation it concerns 
the justice of the nation to prevent you. We are bound by 
our consciences and our oaths to see right done to you ; 
and though we are Judges upon earth we are accountable 
to the Judge of heaven and earth, and we act according 
to our consciences, though we don't act according to your 

Jeffreys, however, suffered him to go on with his 
objections. Sidney went over again the ground that had 
already been covered, reiterating those points on which 
the Court had already decided against him. The Chief 
Justice heard him with patience and, at the conclusion of 
his arguments, addressed him : " Mr. Sidney, if you arraign 
the justice of the nation so as though we had denied you 
the methods of justice, I must tell you you do what does 
not become you, for we denied you nothing that ought to 
have been granted. If we had granted you less I think 
we had done more than our duty." 

Silence was proclaimed, and the Chief Justice proceeded 
to pass sentence of death. " Mr. Sidney, there remains 
nothing for the Court but to discharge their duty in pro- 
nouncing that judgment the law required to be pronounced 
against all persons convicted of high treason ; and I must 
tell you, that though you seem to arraign the justice of 
the Court and the proceeding 

N 2 


Col. Sidney. — I must appeal to God and the world. I 
am not heard. 

L. C. J. — Appeal to whom you will. I could wish 
with all my heart, instead of appealing to the world, as 
though you had received something extreme hard in your 
case, that you would appeal to the great God of Heaven, 
and consider the guilt you have contracted by the great 
offence you have committed. I wish with all my heart 
you would consider your condition ; but if your own 
ingenuity will not provoke you, nothing J can say will 
prevail with you to do it. If the King's general pardon, 
in which you had so great a share of the King's mercy, 
will not, I could wish that, as a gentleman and as a 
Christian, you would consider under what particular 
obligations you lie to that gracious King that hath done 
so much for you. I should have thought it would have 
wrought in you such a temper of mind as to have turned 
the rest of your life into a generous acknowledgment of 
his bounty and mercy, and not into a state of constant 
combining and writing, not only to destroy him, but to 
subvert the Government ; and I am sorry to see you so 
earnest in the justification of the book, in which there is 
scarce a line but what contains the rankest treason, such as 
deposing the King. It not only encourages but justifies 
all rebellion. Mr. Sidney, you are a gentleman of quality, 
and need no counsel from me. If I could give you any, my 
charity to your immortal soul would provoke me to it. I 
pray God season this affliction to you. There remains 
nothing with the Court but to pronounce that judgment 
that is expected and the law requires, and therefore the 
judgment of the Court is : — 

" 'That you be carried hence to the place from whence you 
came, and from thence you shall be drawn upon an hurdle to 
the place of execution, where you shall be hanged by the neck, 
your head severed from your body, and your body divided 
into four quarters, and they to be disposed at the pleasure of 
the King. And the God of infinite mercy have mercy upon 
your soul." 


No sooner had the Chief Justice concluded than Sidney- 
broke into the following prayer : — 

" Then, O God ! O God ! I beseech Thee to sanctify 
these sufferings unto me, and impute not my blood to the 
country, nor the city through which I am to be drawn. 
Let no inquisition be made for it ; but if any, and the 
shedding of blood that is innocent must be revenged, let 
the weight of it fall only upon those that maliciously 
persecute me for righteousness' sake." 

Jeffreys was indignant, and we think rightly indignant 
from his point of view, at the sanctimonious vanity of this 
appeal, assuming as it does the entire concurrence of 
Heaven in the late proceedings of Colonel Algernon 
Sidney, and betraying a smug hesitation between the 
proper charity of the Christian martyr and a lurking 
desire for revenge on his enemies. " I pray God," ex- 
claimed the Chief Justice, " work in you a temper fit to 
go unto the other world, for I see you are not fit for this." 
Sidney held out his hand : " My lord, feel my pulse and 
see if I am disordered ; I bless God I never was in a better 
temper than I am now." If Sidney's pulse had been less 
regular his prayer might have been forgiven as the indis- 
cretion of excitement ; as it is, it wears an unpleasant 
aspect of premeditation. But Sidney was, we are told, 
perfectly calm throughout the whole trial ; " he smiled 
several times," says Luttrell, " and was not in the least 
concerned even after his conviction." 

A study of Sidney's trial justifies on the whole Lingard's 
criticism : " On the one hand," he writes, " the cool judg- 
ment, the undaunted spirit and the eloquent defence of 
Sidney " — to which for want of space we have not been 
able to do justice — " excited admiration ; on the other, 
Jeffreys showed that he was able to control the impetuosity 
of his temper, adopting a courtesy of language and a tone 
of impartiality which no man would have anticipated from 
his previous character." Harsh at times the treatment of 
Sidney must certainly appear, but so was the treatment of 
every prisoner as the law served him in those days ; and 


Judges in those days were less patient with prisoners than 
they are now. Sidney fought with great spirit, and 
laboured with tenacity the points in his defence which he 
had been instructed to make ; and Jeffreys cannot be 
accused of curtailing his opportunities in that respect,, 
though he was obliged to use some determination to pre- 
vent his unduly protracting the proceedings. Of Sidney's 
guilt it is impossible to doubt ; and that Jeffreys did not 
mean to let him get off if he could help it is equally 
certain. Jeffreys succeeded in his object ; but it cannot be 
said that his success was as disreputable as succeeding 
writers have asked us to believe. 

Lord Campbell treats Jeffreys with his customary in- 
justice. He accuses him of taking over from his puisne 
the duty of passing sentence on Sidney for the mere satis- 
faction of pronouncing it with his own lips. Lord Camp- 
bell should have known better than to have made such an 
accusation ; both before and after the time of Jeffreys, in 
cases of high treason tried in the King's Bench, the Chief 
Justice did not leave to his puisne as in other cases, the 
delivery of the sentence. 

On December 3rd, Jeffreys sent to Mr. Secretary 
Jenkins a draft of a warrant for Sidney's execution ; on 
December 7th, a fortnight from the date of his condemn- 
ation — not three weeks, as Burnet would have it — Sidney 
was beheaded, the King remitting the other odious accom- 
paniments of the sentence. Sidney had petitioned Charles 
for an interview on the ground of the unfairness of his 
trial and the violence of the Chief Justice ; but the King, 
apparently satisfied with the proceedings, declined the 
opportunity. Though Charles is said to have considered 
Sidney " un homme de coeur et d'esprit," he may well have 
felt, that whatever their merits as men of intelligence, the 
hearts and heads of Sidney and his followers were turned 
to his own destruction ; and that, in spite of their many 
excellent qualities, he could hardly be expected to spare 
those who would not have spared him had he fallen into 
their hands. Neither could Charles easily forget the inno- 


cent blood these same men had driven him to shed in the 
cause of their anti-Popish fury. If ever deeds of political 
violence recoiled on the heads of their authors, surely 
the fate of these Whig statesmen offers a most signal 

Jeffreys' conscience would seem to have been little 
troubled by his work on Sidney. On December 5th, two 
days before the latter's execution, Evelyn met the Chief 
Justice and his brother Wythens at a City wedding. The 
great men danced with the bride, and were exceedingly 
merry ; dancing over, they stayed till eleven at night, 
drinking healths, taking tobacco, and, says Evelyn, " talk- 
ing much beneath the gravity of Judges who had but a day 
or two before" — it was ten days past — "condemned 
Algernon Sidney." It is a little difficult to share Evelyn's 
surprise. Whatever the character of their lordships' cus- 
tomary recreations, they can hardly be expected to have 
suspended them because, in the ordinary course of their 
duty, they had condemned to death a traitor who, they 
believed, had thoroughly merited his punishment. 

Besides, if Jeffreys felt a momentary depression, had he 
not the glowing panegyric of the poet Settle, published at 
the close of 1683, to comfort and rejoice his heart? though 
his sense of humour must have been sorely tried by 
Elkanah's gushing rhapsodies. 

" Free from all meaning, whether good or bad, 
And, in one word, heroically mad " 

is Dryden's description of Doeg-Settle in his Absalom 
and Achitophel. The poor poet had certainly gone quite 
heroically mad over the "loyal and honourable," the 
"brave and bold" Sir George Jeffreys, called by kind 
Providence to save the kingdom from falling. Noise and 
lunacy, he writes, raged so high 

" That all men feared they knew not What nor Why. 
Jeffreys alone waked their lethargic souls, 
And from their lips withdrew the Enchanting Bowls." 


Jeffreys had stopped the poison of the Popish Plot as it 
spread, " and looked the impudent delusion dead " ; he is 
" monarchies' great Solon," the " wise Ulysses of our 
Albion land," a "wondrous cloud by day and leading fire 
by night " to a lost people. But his work is only half 
over, he has plenty to do yet ; he has got, among 
other things, to " set the course of staggering Nature 

" To bind our world to Charles and Charles his laws, 
He the First Mover, Thou, the Second Cause." 

If all this was not quite convincing to Jeffreys' mighty 
soul, if the encomiums of the shady poet cannot be taken 
as a very accurate measure of the esteem in which the 
Lord Chief Justice was held by those of his own way of 
thinking, a letter he received at the commencement of the 
following year from Dr. William Lloyd, the Bishop of St. 
Asaph, gives a more correct idea of the appreciation his 
services had met with. Dr. Lloyd was afterwards one of 
the Seven Bishops, a Churchman universally respected for 
the honesty, piety and simplicity of his character, and one 
who must have had exceptional opportunities in the past 
of judging the conduct of Jeffreys, for his diocese of St. 
Asaph had been included in Jeffreys' circuit as Chief 
Justice of Chester. He thus writes to the Lord Chief 
Justice of England on his recent appointment and his trial 
of Sidney : — 

" When I heard of your promotion, though I could not 
but rejoice at it for the public good, I regretted it for your 
private concerns. I do truly rejoice at your prosperity, 
and I heartily pray for your long life and better health 
than you have had of late years. I pray God you may 
live to have many such legacies as Algernon Sidney has 
left you in his printed will ; for I doubt not so long as 
you live you will deserve them in the same manner of 
such men as have the impudence to call themselves the 
best Protestants, though they do not own themselves 
Christians, or, if they do, are a scandal to the name. You 


cannot be like to yourself in performing these great trusts 
you have received from God and his Majesty otherwise 
than in exposing yourself to the virulent hate of their 
enemies." 1 

The good Bishop then goes on to regret that Jeffreys is 
not still with them in Flintshire to exercise his " talent for 
converting fanatics ;" and begs his lordship to put "life in 
the secular arm " against a certain Edward Jones, a 
troublesome Dissenter in those parts, who had promised 
Jeffreys on his last visit to mend his ways, but had failed 
to keep his word. 

Jeffreys could not well look for warmer commendation 
and encouragement in his new sphere of employment than 
that given by the Bishop of St. Asaph. If in time to 
come he was to disappoint the expectations and forfeit the 
regard of Lloyd and his brethren, at any rate for the 
present, his rigorous punishment of such enemies of 
Church and State as Algernon Sidney gave unmixed 
satisfaction and evoked spontaneous approval in the most 
respected quarters. 

1 The original of Dr. Lloyd's letter is in the possession of Mr. M. 
R. Jeffreys. 




The year 1684 was to be a busy one for the Lord 
Chief Justice of England. Strengthened in the public 
estimation by the discovery of the Whig schemes for pro- 
voking a civil war, the Government set vigorously to the 
task of punishing all who, however indirectly, had been 
instrumental by word or deed in feeding popular discon- 
tent. Dissenting preachers, tract writers of the Whig 
faction, the remnant of the Plot witnesses, gentlemen who 
had so far as four years back slandered the Duke of York 
in the days of his unpopularity, all alike found their sins 
visited upon them ; and the Court of King's Bench, pre- 
sided over by Sir George Jeffreys, was in most cases the 
scene of the visitation. The City of London was in a 
most depressed condition. The surrender of its Charter 
left it at the King's mercy, which would in this instance 
seem to have been Jeffreys'. The Chief Justice, in spite of 
his surrender of the Recordership, had remained a person 
of very great influence in the City. As soon as the 
Charter fell into the King's hands, Charles had apparently 
turned over to Jeffreys the administration of his new 
powers. Many are the complaints at this time of the 
violent authority which the Chief Justice exercised over 
the helpless Mayor and Aldermen, so that the high office 
of the former had become little more than a name. At the 
beginning of 1684 Commissioners were appointed by the 


King to supervise all things concerning the City, and to 
turn out of all public offices those Whiggishly inclined. 
Besides Jeffreys, Halifax, Rochester and other Tories were 
of the Commission ; but they seem to have left to the Chief 
Justice the greater part of the administration. It must 
have been an especial delight to the ex-Recorder to humble 
the proud spirits of some who but a short time ago had been 
pleased to do the same for him, — a delight only possible 
in the days when a charitable spirit towards depressed 
opponents was unknown in political life. 

Certain scores still remained to be cleared off in con- 
nection with the Rye business. Mr. John Hampden, 
grandson of him of the ship-money, and one of the Council 
of Six, had fallen into the hands of the Government. He 
would have been tried for high treason, but the Crown 
could not find the requisite two witnesses against him. He 
did not, unfortunately, emulate Sidney by writing injudi- 
cious works on royal authority, though Burnet says he was 
the most learned gentleman he had ever known, but heated 
and over-zealous in temper. Accordingly, the Crown had 
to be content with putting him on his trial for misdemeanour 
in seditiously, &c, intending to disturb the King's peace. 
On such a charge one witness, if believed, would be suffi- 
cient to convict. In a case of misdemeanour the prisoner 
was allowed counsel. Hampden selected Mr. Williams 
and Mr. Wallop, thereby imparting to the proceedings 
that spice of political animus which increases the difficulty 
and excitement of a trial of this kind. Jeffreys disliked 
Williams and contemned Wallop who, considering that 
he had been nearly forty years at the Bar, certainly seems 
from his passage with Pemberton during Lord Grey's 
trial to have been tactless and unskilful in his profession. 
The Court of King's Bench promised lively work 
on the 6th of February to those interested in such 

The one witness on whom the Crown relied to prove 
their case against Hampden was the unfailing Lord Howard 
of Escrick. He gave the same evidence as in Russell's and 


Sidney's cases, proving Hampden's active participation in 
the schemes for an insurrection and the consultations of 
the Council of Six. The defence consisted in an attempt 
to disparage Howard's veracity, similar to that made by 
Sidney. Williams, in opening the defence, suggested that 
what Howard had sworn was sworn only for his own sake, 
that by exposing Hampden and the blood of others he 
might procure a pardon for himself. " What do you mean 
by that ? " asked Jeffreys. " By being a witness against 
the defendant and others, he has procured his own pardon," 
replied Williams. " That is a little harsh expression," 
says the Chief Justice, 

Mr. Williams. — My lord, I explain myself thus 

L. C. J. — It is an harsh word, and too roundly 
expressed ; you had need to explain yourself : it is a little 
too rank, as though the King's pardon were to be procured 
by blood. 

When Williams had finished, Mr. Wallop desired to 
make a speech also, but Jeffreys rightly considered that 
unnecessary. " Pray," he said, " do not take up our time 
altogether in speeches, but go on to your evidence." " I 
desire to observe one thing, my lord," urged Wallop. 
" Make your observations at last," replied the Chief 
Justice, " but spend not our time in speeches. I know 
you will expect to be heard at last ; and so you shall, 
whatever you will say." 

Among those called to invalidate Howard's testimony 
was Dr. Burnet, the eminent historian. He said Howard 
had told him there was no Plot at all. " Did you believe 
there was a Plot yourself?" asked one of the Crown 
counsel. " Yes," replied Burnet ; " and he laboured to 
dispossess me of that belief." " Pray, do you believe it 
now ? " " I make no doubt of it, sir, as to the assassina- 
tion." But the Doctor carefully refrained from expressing 
any belief in the scheme for insurrection for which Sidney 
and his friend Russell had been sent to the scaffold. Jeffreys 
in his summing up took sharp notice of Dr. Burnet's 
reservation. " But now he (Burnet) is sufficiently satisfied 


there was a Plot ; and I am glad he is, for I think it 
scarce does remain a doubt with any men that have any 
value for the religion and Government we live under." 
Burnet, who prided himself so particularly on his just 
estimation of men and things, cannot have listened to 
this with pleasure ; but in his History of his own Time has 
taken ample revenge for any slight he may have felt by 
employing his not inconsiderable powers of partial criticism 
on the character of the Lord Chief Justice. 

Williams wanted to call as a witness for the defendant 
a gentleman who was one of the defendant's bail. " Mr, 
Williams," said the Chief Justice, " I wonder you will 
insist on it ; in every ordinary case it is every day's practice 
to deny the bail to be witnesses." " My lord, I tell you 
what we will do," replied Williams. " Tell me what you 
will do ! " exclaimed Jeffreys ; " answer my question ! 
Will you render him in custody ? " " We will change the 
bail, my lord, and find some other person to stand in his 
place, rather than lose our witness." Jeffreys was satisfied. 
" With all my heart," he said. The Attorney-General 
graciously agreed : " I am so fair, I'll consent to it. Let 
us hear what he will say." " We thank you, Mr. 
Attorney," retorted Williams; " I am afraid you won't live 
long, you are so good-natured." The Chief Justice closed 
the incident with a pleasing sneer at Williams. " But you 
are like to live for your good nature, Mr. Williams." 

Williams soon drew down a more distinct rebuke from 
the Bench. He proposed to call a witness who should 
give evidence of the late Lord Essex's opinion of Lord 
Howard. " It is not a proper evidence in this case," said 
Jeffreys. " It is a sort of evidence," replied Williams ; 
but the Chief Justice was not to be trifled with. 

L. C. J. — Ay, 'tis a sort of evidence, but 'tis not to be 
allowed. If you will prove Mr. Hampden's opinion, you 
may ; but you must not for him bring proof of what my 
Lord of Essex, a third person, thought of my Lord 

Mr. Williams. — I only offer it thus 


L. C. J. — Offer what is evidence, man ! You are a 
practiser, and know what is evidence ; but you have offered 
two or three things to-day that I know you do at the 
same time know is not evidence ; and I speak it that it may 
not be thought we deny you, or your client, anything that 
is according to the course of law. You that know the 
law, know 'tis so as we say. Mr. Attorney has gratified 
you in waiving three or four things already, but nothing 
will satisfy unless we break the course of other trials. 

Mr. Williams. — My lord, what I take not to be evid- 
ence I do not offer, and where the Court overrules me I 
have not insisted upon it. 

L. C. J.— No ? 

Mr. Williams. — No, my lord. 

L. C. J. — But you would have insisted upon it, if Mr. 
Attorney would not have been so easy as to consent, and 
the Court would have let you. Pray, keep to the business 
and the methods of law ; you know the law very well. 

Williams then proposed to call evidence as to Lord 
Howard's belief with regard to rewards and punishments 
in the world to come. Jeffreys very properly refused to 
hear it, and comforted Lord Howard who was much 
troubled by the insinuation of want of faith. " My lord," 
said the Chief Justice, " do you think that everything that 
a man speaks at the Bar for his client and his fee is there- 
fore to be believed because he said it ? No ; the jury are 
to take nothing here for evidence to guide them of what 
the counsel say but what is approved," — an expression of 
opinion that will commend itself warmly to the litigants of 
all ages. 

Williams and the Attorney-General at the close of the 
evidence for the defence agreed not to address the jury ; 
but not so Mr. Wallop : he had his one observation to 
make ; he was up and desired to make it. " Ay, in God's 
name, Mr. Wallop," answered Jeffreys, " make what 
observations you will. Mr. Wallop, I hindered you from 
making your observations at first, because I knew it would 
be desired after the evidence was over." "Then, my 


lord, I shall expect to be heard too," threatened the 
Attorney-General. But Mr. Wallop persisted in spite of 
Williams' endeavours to quiet him. " Go on then, Mr. 
Wallop, and say what you will," says Jeffreys, with 
suspicious affability. At last Williams prevailed with his 
indiscreet colleague. 

Mr. Williams. — My lord, we will leave it here, I think. 

L. C. J. — Take your own course ; do not say we hinder 
you of saying what you will for your client. . . . I'll sit 
still ; make speeches every one of you, as long as you will. 

But in spite of Jeffreys' amiable forbearance, poor Mr. 
Wallop's " one observation " has not come down to 

The summing up of the Chief Justice is very long, 
careful and elaborate. As the counsel had not made 
speeches, he felt it his duty to review the evidence with 
especial care. His defence of Lord Howard's reliability 
as a witness against his previous accomplices is just and 
convincing, and was apparently satisfactory to the jury. In 
half an hour they found Hampden " Guilty" ; and on the 
1 2th of February he was fined £40,000, to be committed 
to prison till payment, and find sureties during life for 
his good behaviour. 

The day following Hampden's trial Jeffreys tried a 
cause which was not carried through with quite the same 
forbearance, and in which Mr. Wallop made rapid advance 
in the Chief Justice's displeasure. The case turned on the 
suicide of the Earl of Essex. That constitutionally melan- 
choly nobleman had been one of the Council of Six and 
had been arrested, along with Russell and Sidney, on the 
discovery of the Rye Plot. Whilst imprisoned in the 
Tower awaiting trial, he had grown so depressed and 
miserable by the distress of his situation that, on the very 
morning when Lord William Russell appeared at the Old 
Bailey, he committed suicide in his closet by cutting his 
throat with a razor. There is practically no doubt that 
this was the manner of his death, and his own family 
believed it to be so. But in the excitement of the time a 


rumour spread that the unfortunate Earl had not died by 
his own hand, but had been murdered by the orders of the 
King and his brother who were that very morning seen in 
the Tower. Two children were found who told a story of a 
hand that was seen to throw a razor from Essex's window, 
and of a hooded lady who ran out and picked it up. Mr. 
Braddon, a barrister and an enthusiast of the Whig party, 
hearing of these tales, found out the children and with 
unbecoming officiousness did his best by all manner of 
persuasions to put the two stories together and formulate 
a distinct charge against the King and the Duke. In his 
efforts he was seconded by Mr. Speke, a West country 
gentleman of an untruthful and intriguing disposition, and 
a member of one of the leading Whig families in that part 
of the world. The Crown very properly determined to 
sift the matter ; and accordingly Braddon and Speke were 
put on their trial in the King's Bench for misdemeanour. 
Whatever may be thought of the motives of the defendants, 
the charge they endeavoured to lay against the King and 
the Duke was one that should never have been made ex- 
cept upon very much better evidence than they were able 
to bring in support of it ; nor, from what we know of the 
characters of Charles and James, is it likely that they 
would ever have instigated so atrocious a crime. They 
had many faults, the pair of them ; but these stopped a 
good way short of murder of this kind. And even sup- 
posing them to have had the mettle for such a deed, no 
adequate motive for the crime can be established. 

The Crown rather took the wind out of the sails of the 
defence by calling as their first witness one of the children 
who had told the story of the razor thrown from a 
window. This was a boy of thirteen, named Edwards. 
The Crown called him to confess that he had told a lie, but 
called his father first to prove that he was a liar by habit. 
The failing must have been inherited ; for the father 
seemed to find a similar difficulty in telling the truth, 
much to Jeffreys' disgust. When the boy was put in the 
box and exhorted by his father to be sure and say nothing 


but the truth, it was too much for the Judge. " And, 
child," he added, " turn about and say, ' Father, be sure 
you say nothing but the truth '." When the boy had 
told his story, Jeffreys could not refrain from an ex- 
pression of surprise at the character of such evidence 
on which to found a charge of contriving murder. 
" What a dust," he cried, " has such a trivial report made 
in the world ! Admit the boy had said any such thing, 
what an age do we live in that the report of every child 
shall blow us up after this rate ! It would make a body 
tremble to think what sort of people we live among ; to 
what an heat does zeal transport some people beyond all 
reason and sobriety ! If such a little boy had said so, 'tis 
not an half-penny matter ; but presently all the Govern- 
ment is to be libelled for a boy, which, whether he speaks 
true or false, is of no great weight ; and he swears 'tis all 

The nature of the proof adduced by their counsel to 
justify the defendants' conduct fully merits the indigna- 
tion with which the Chief Justice received it, if that 
indignation is at times too warmly expressed. The conduct 
of Wallop and Braddon was not calculated to soothe the 
Judge's anger. The latter, by flourishing his hands and 
indulging in other demonstrations of excessive zeal, 
incurred sundry rebukes. Wallop was surpassingly in- 
discreet. He asked the boy Edwards' sister whether she 
had not told her brother that if he did not deny his story 
about the razor the King would hang their father. 
" Why have you a mind to have it believed that it was 
true then, Mr. Wallop ? " asked the Judge. 

Mr. Wallop. — My lord, the boy best knows that. 

L. C. J. — But do you believe that, if it had been true, 
the King would hang his father, or turn him out of his 
place, if he did not deny it, as though the King would 
force people to deny the truth ? 

Mr. Wallop. — My lord, I do not say nor believe any 
such thing. 

L. C. J. — But your question seems to carry it so. 



Mr. Wallop. — My lord, I ask the question of her, 
whether she did not say so to him. I ask questions 
according to my instructions. 

L. C. J. — Nay, Mr. Wallop, be as angry as you will, 
you sha'n't hector the Court out of their understandings. 
We see plainly enough whither that question tends. You 
that are gentlemen of the robe, should carry yourselves 
with greater respect to the Government, and while you do 
so the Court will carry themselves as becomes them to 

Mr. Wallop.- — I refer myself to all that hear me if I 
attempted any such thing as to hector the Court. 

L. C. J. — Refer yourself to all that hear you ! Refer 
yourself to the Court. 'Tis a reflection upon the Govern- 
ment, I tell you your question is ; and you sha'n't do any 
such thing while I sit here, by the grace of God, if I can 
help it. 

Mr. Wallop. — I am sorry for that ; I never intended any 
such thing, my lord. 

L. C. J. — Pray behave yourself as you ought, Mr. 
Wallop ; you must not think to huff and swagger here. 

After a few more passages of a similar kind, Jeffreys gave 
plain expression to his opinion of the whole business. 
" We have got such strange kinds of notions nowadays 
that forsooth men think they may say anything because 
they are counsel. I tell you, Mr. Wallop, your questions 
did reflect upon the Government as though the King had 
a mind to turn a man out of his employment if he did 
not swear a falsity. What can be a greater reflection than 
that ? But all the matter is, what has been done must be 
avouched and justified, though it be never so ill. But we 
plainly see through all. This was the design from the 
beginning ; the King and the Duke of York were in the 
Tower at that time, and it must be thought and believed 
that they had designed this matter, and so then all people 
must be ruined in case they would not say the Earl 
murdered himself, though indeed others had done it. . . . 
No ; let us hear the truth, but not in the face of a Court 


permit men to asperse the Government as they please by 
asking such questions. 

Mr. Justice IVythens. — Truly, I do not see where there 
is any countenance for asking such a question. 

L. C. J. — No ; but some people are so wonderful 

Mr. Wallop. — My lord, zeal for the truth is a good 

L. C. J. — It is so ; but zeal for faction and sedition I 
am sure is a bad zeal. I see nothing in all this cause but 
villainy and baseness. And I believe no man that has 
heard it but will readily acknowledge that it appears to 
be an untoward malicious ugly thing, as bad as ever I 
heard since I was born, on purpose to cast an indignity 
upon the King and Government, and set us all in a 

Jeffreys seems to have rather used Wallop as a peg on 
which to hang his remarks. The advocate by his indis- 
cretion had offered every convenience for this purpose, 
though he does not appear from his language to have been 
so heated and hectoring as the Judge chose to represent 
him. But great men in their wrath are careless of their 

The defence called the other child who had told the 
razor story, a girl of thirteen, of the name of Lodeman. 
It is probable that playing in the Tower grounds, which 
seem to have been a regular playground for truant children 
of the neighbourhood at the same time as the boy Edwards, 
and hearing the report of Essex's death, the one had told 
the razor story to the other. Both had reputations for 
lying, their stories are inconsistent with each other and 
certain of their facts provedly impossible. The girl herself 
said that there was a large crowd of people standing round 
when she saw the razor thrown and the woman in the 
white hood pick it up. If this be true, it is astonishing 
that out of all this crowd only two children of thirteen 
could be found to substantiate the story. The Crown 
replied by calling Essex's servant, the warder, the sentinel 

o 2 


whom the children had spoken of as standing by when the 
razor was thrown from the window, and Captain Hawley, 
an officer in the Tower. The latter swore that it was 
impossible to have thrown anything from the window of 
Essex's closet so as to be seen from where the children 
were standing. 

The defendants did not improve their case by some 
flimsy evidence they called to prove that before Essex's 
death there were rumours of his suicide in Hampshire 
and Wiltshire, rumours which, they insinuated, had been 
spread by the Government to prepare men's minds for the 
approaching catastrophe. 

The determination of Braddon and his party to credit 
the Government with murderous designs was a fair subject 
for Jeffreys' ridicule. In a letter of the defendant Speke 
recommending Braddon to a friend in Bristol, he wrote : 
" More here do fear that he (Braddon) will be either 
stabbed or knocked on the head." The Chief Justice 
made very merry over these apprehensions for Braddon's 
security. "Ay," he said, "we live in such a stabbing age 
that such an extraordinary gentleman as Mr. Braddon, 
that is such an extraordinary good Protestant, can't walk 
the streets for fear of being murdered. . . . Being such a 
virtuous man as Mr. Braddon, there was great need of all 
circumspection and care to preserve him ; why did not he 
get his life guard (alluding to the Whig conspiracies) to 
keep him from the danger that was thought so near 
him ? " 

Mr. Speke, who certainly seems to have been rather 
unwise than guilty in the matter, protested his inno- 
cence. " Would to God you were innocent ! " answered 
Jeffreys. "You are a man of quality, Mr. Speke, I know ; 
I should be glad you were innocent with all my heart. 
But when men forget their studies and their own business, 
and take upon them the politics without being called to 
it, that puts them into frenzies, and then they take all 
opportunities of showing themselves men of zeal." 

The Chief Justice had quite recovered in his manner 


towards Mr. Wallop at the close of the case, and invited 
him to make a speech ; but Mr. Wallop declined the offer, 
he would leave it to his lordship and the jury. 

His lordship in his charge reflected severely on the 
conduct of Braddon and his party and the factious spirit of 
the age. " We live in an age wherein men are apt to 
believe only on one side ; they can believe the greatest lie 
if it makes for the advantage of their party, but not the 
greatest truth if it thwarts their interests ; " as good an 
account as was ever given of the politics of Jeffreys' time. 
Of Braddon himself he spoke in terms that might still be 
addressed with some propriety to many would-be social 
reformers. " He is a busy man, you see, a great reformer, 
that does mightily concern himself in the reformation of 
the Government. I never knew that Mr. Braddon had 
any great share in it : he has not such a prodigious estate, 
I suppose, that for fear of losing his great estate he should 
be so wondrous busy and active in reforming the Govern- 
ment ; but I have always observed it for a rule that your 
beggarly inconsiderable fellows are the warmest people in 
the business of reformation, and for defending liberty and 
property, as they call it ; and then they put it under the 
disguise of religion, when, alas, those that have no religion 
are generally the greatest pretenders of taking care of it ; 
and those that have no estates nor properties are usually 
the fullest of noise about liberty and property. But the 
meaning of it is plain : if they can but exasperate the 
people into a rebellion, that is the way to get a property ; 
and if they can but have liberty to do what they please that 
is all the liberty they contend for." 

And of Braddon's business in gathering up the evidence 
against the King and his brother, his frequent examination 
of the boy Edwards and his desperate attempts to keep 
him to his story : " How came Mr. Braddon, what au- 
thority had he to take this examination ? He is no justice 
of peace, no magistrate that had any authority to take 
examinations. What concern had he in it more than 
other people ? The boy could tell him there were 


abundance of people there besides himself. Why did 
not he stay to have it confirmed by some of those people ? 
Why did not he carry these children before some magis- 
trate or justice of peace, somebody that had authority to 
take examinations ? There was a spirit that prevailed 
with Mr. Braddon to engage and make a stir in this 
business ; and you may easily guess what a kind of spirit 
it was which gave him this authority that he had not 

The evidence he dealt with in the only possible manner, 
and the jury gave the only possible verdict, " Guilty " ; 
but Speke they very properly acquitted on that part of the 
charge relating to the procuring false witnesses. 

Though sentence was not passed on Braddon and Speke 
until April 21st, on Jeffreys' return from the Western 
circuit, it will be as well to finish with their case at this 
point. The interval of two months does not seem to 
have softened Jeffreys' sense of their guilt. Williams 
and Wallop moved in arrest of judgment : but the Chief 
Justice would not hear them ; judgment had already been 
entered. " But," urged Williams, " it was put off by 
consent." " I know nothing of your consent, nor what 
you consented to," replied Jeffreys ; " if you consent 
among yourselves at the Bar, that is nothing to the 
Court." " My lord, we conceive," says Wallop, " we 
have very good matter upon the verdict to move in arrest 
of judgment." " Yes, no doubt," answered the Judge, 
" what you have to say is extraordinary material ; but you 
come too late, we cannot hear you." The unrepentant 
confidence of Braddon had not abated in the interval, and 
stirred the Judge's indignation. " Here he smiles," he 
exclaimed, " and seems as if he had done no harm." " My 
lord, I know my own innocency, and therefore have no 
reason to be troubled." "Your innocence! your impu- 
dence, you mean. I tell you, had you been in any 
country but this, the innocence you brag of would have 
sent you to the galleys," which is more than likely. 

The court was full of Braddon's friends among the 


Whig party, lurking in corners to escape the eye of the 
Chief Justice. " I see a great many of the party about 
you," said Jeffreys. " I can spy them out, though they 
think they are not seen ; but they shall know we will not 
suffer such monsters as these to go without due punish- 
ment." In a tone of irony the Chief Justice once more 
lauded the high repute of Mr. Braddon, and the care 
with which Speke had recommended him to his friend. 
" But, oh ! what a happiness it was for this sort of 
people that they had got Mr. Braddon, an honest man, 
and a man of courage, says Mr. Speke, a man a propos ; 
and pray, says he to his friend, give him the best advice 
you can, for he is a man very fit for the purpose ; and 
pray secure him under a sham name, for I'll undertake 
there are such designs upon pious Mr. Braddon, such 
contrivances to do him a mischief, that if he had not had 
his Protestant flail x about him, somebody or other would 
have knocked him on the head ; and he is such a wonderful 
man, that all the King's courts of justice must needs 
conspire to do Mr. Braddon a mischief ; a pretty sort of a 
man, upon my word, and he must be used accordingly ; 
men that arrogate and assume to themselves a liberty to 
do such kind of things must expect to fare accordingly." 

In guilt Jeffreys could only compare him to Aaron 
Smith, the Whig solicitor, a deep plotter, who, according 
to Roger North, should share with Braddon the epithet 
of " monster." " And indeed I look upon Braddon to be 
the daringest fellow of the party, he and his brother 
Smith. If there were any reluctancy, or any sense of any 
guilt they had contracted, and would show it by acknow- 
ledging their being surprised into it, and testified repent- 
ance by a submissive and dutiful behaviour, that were 
something to incline the Court to commiseration ; but 
when we see, instead of that, they are more obdurate and 
steeled in their opposition to the Government, they must 
be reclaimed by correction, and kept within due bounds 

1 An allusion to the weapon invented by Colledge, the " Protestant 
joiner," during the agitation of the Popish Plot. 


by condign punishment, otherwise it will be thought by 
the ignorant sort of people that all courts of justice are 
afraid of them." 

That the public might draw no such unworthy infer- 
ence, the Court fined Braddon £2,000 and Speke £1,000, 
both to find sureties for good behaviour for life, and to be 
committed to prison until these things had been performed, 

Jeffreys had one other important case to try before he 
went on circuit. This was the trial of Sir Samuel Bar- 
nardiston, a noted Whig, for high misdemeanour in 
writing certain letters, in which he "scandalised and 
vilified " the proceedings and evidence in the Rye Plot. 
He speaks of it in his letters as the "Sham Protestant Plot"; 
he writes that it is lost and confounded, that Papists and 
High Tories are quite down in the mouth, that Monmouth 
is to come back into favour and that Sir George Jeffreys 
is " grown very humble." Unfortunately, Barnardiston's 
confident hopes were premature, and he found himself 
summoned to the King's Bench bar to answer for his in- 
correct anticipations. The trial was short ; the proof of 
the letters conclusive ; the mind of the Judge very clear. 
Seeing that Jeffreys was personally alluded to in the cor- 
respondence, it would have been better had he declined to 
try Sir Samuel ; but, in the case of such " caterpillars " as 
these factious makers of " uproars, tumults and hubbubs," 
he did not apparently think it worth while to bother 
about the ordinary appearances of impartiality. 

In charging the jury he descanted in a loyal spirit on 
the crimes of Russell and Sidney. His language may 
appear startling, even insulting, to those accustomed to 
regard the lately executed traitors as outraged statesmen. 
But to Jeffreys and a host of well-informed and upright 
persons they were nothing of the kind, and any attempt to 
canonize them was in their minds profane and ridiculous. 
" Then here is," exclaimed the Chief Justice, " the 
sainting of two horrid conspirators ; here is the Lord 
Russell sainted, that blessed martyr ; my Lord Russell, 
that good man, that excellent Protestant ; he is lamented, 


and what an extraordinary man he was, who was fairly 
tried and justly convicted and attainted for having a hand 
in this horrid conspiracy against the life of the king, and 
his dearest brother, his royal highness, and for the 
subversion of the government. And here is Mr. Sidney 
sainted ! What an extraordinary man he was ! Yes, 
surely, he was a very good man, because you may some of 
you remember to have read the history of those times, and 
know what share Mr. Sidney had in that black and horrid 
villany, that cursed treason and murder — the murder I 
mean of King Charles I, of blessed memory ; a shame to 
religion itself. A perpetual reproach to the island we live 
in, to think that a prince should be brought by pretended 
methods of law and justice to such an end at his own 
palace. And it is a shame to think that such bloody 
miscreants should be sainted and lamented, who had any 
hand in that horrid murder and treason, and who to their 
dying moment, when they were on the brink of eternity, 
and just stepping into another world, could confidently 
bless God for their being engaged in that good cause, as 
they call it, which was the rebellion which brought that 
blessed martyr to his death. It is high time for all 
mankind that have any Christianity, or sense of heaven or 
hell, to bestir themselves to rid the nation of such cater- 
pillars, such monsters of villany as these are." 

He then alluded to Barnardiston's account of his own 
condition : " As for anything that he has said of me 
Sir Samuel Barnardiston shall write and speak of me 
as long as he pleases. But though he says I am 
down in the mouth, it is true I have a little lost my 
tongue by my cold ; yet I hope I shall never lose my 
heart nor spirit to serve the Government, nor forbear to 
use my utmost diligence to see that such offenders as 
these persons, that entertain principles so destructive to 
the Government, be brought to condign punishment. 
And be they who they will, were they my own brothers, 
I should be of the same mind ; and so in that mind I hope 
in God I shall live and die." 


Jeffreys refers elsewhere to his cold and a " little hoarse- 
ness he had contracted." This had been a hard term with 
him ; and as he never spared himself in either the length 
or vigour of his addresses to the juries, the cold had 
evidently attacked his voice. But the change of air 
derived from going the Western circuit set him up again ; 
and when on his return Barnardiston came up to receive 
sentence, the Lord Chief Justice was able to inform him 
that " Sir George is not yet so down in the mouth but he 
can tell Sir Samuel Barnardiston his mind." Through 
the mouth of Mr. Justice Wythens, his ever-ready assist- 
ant and chorus, the mind of the Chief Justice declared 
itself in a fine of _£ 1 0,000, with the accompanying sureties 
and committal. 

In the conduct of these three trials Jeffreys shows an 
increased and more violently expressed indignation since 
the time when he had tried Sidney. The approval of 
such as the Bishop of St. Asaph, the impudence of the 
popular party in questioning the truth of what all Tories 
believed to be a well-established conspiracy, the boldness 
of attacks which did not hesitate to accuse the King and 
his brother of murdering one of their prisoners, and, 
lastly, the early symptoms of a disease which was soon to 
torture him with suffering, and hurry him in four years 
to an early grave, — all these causes concurred to aggravate 
the natural heat of his disposition and the severities which 
he conceived it to be his duty to practise against the 
enemies of his royal Master. The fact that Jeffreys 
found the greatest alleviation of his sufferings in 
drinking punch, if it soothed his pain, would tend to in- 
flame his already inflammable temper. 

But it cannot be said that so far there is much to 
complain of in the Judge's conduct. In these latter 
trials he shows himself guilty of no actual injustice ; the 
convictions were, on the whole, properly obtained, and 
the punishments, according to the spirit of the loyal 
party, well deserved. The unscrupulousness of the Whig 
methods and the recklessness with which they were pre- 


pared to clutch at any accusation against the Government, 
however groundless or ill-supported, showed that they 
had profited by the training in thoughtless credulity which 
they had received at the time of the anti-Popish agitation. 
The plots of Russell and Sidney, established on evidence 
that is conclusive to any impartial mind, were declared 
to be sham plots, forsooth ! to be scouted and ridiculed ; 
but the plot of Charles and James to murder the martyred 
Essex, — that was real enough to be nursed and en- 
couraged ! Thus argued the Whigs. But the facts point 
to the opposite conclusion : they are on the side of 
Jeffreys, and justify from the Tory standpoint the warmth 
of his indignation and the severity of his sentences. His 
mode of expressing his sentiments stands in no need of 
commendation. His humour, his eloquence, his good 
sense, his knowledge of human nature and the powerful 
originality of his character find their most pleasing and 
temperate exemplification in the trial of Braddon and 

Jeffreys' treatment of the Bar was always firm, and im- 
partially so ; he was not above telling the Attorney- 
General to have done with " descants." His own conduct 
and experience had perhaps acquainted him with the pre- 
sumption of the successful advocate ; he knew by experi- 
ence how a strong judge like Baron Weston was needed 
to effectually curb it. Williams and Wallop might 
well have tried the temper of a more patient judge than 
Jeffreys. His peculiarly animated treatment of the latter 
seems to spring from one of those personal antipathies 
which, as we cannot see and hear the two men, it is im- 
possible to describe. Wallop we know to have been 
tactless and promiscuous in the sources of his legal 
authorities ; but Jeffreys imputes to him a hectoring and 
swaggering manner, of which there is hardly sufficient 
proof. Judges are human after all, and not infrequently 
form antipathies to those practising before them, which, 
if put to it, they might find a difficulty in satisfactorily 




Jeffreys started on the Western circuit at the end of 
February, 1684. His first visit to these parts is of 
interest, if only for the fact that this circuit was the scene 
in the following year of the ever notorious " Bloody 
Assizes." Moreover, in travelling this circuit, Jeffreys 
was to pass through the wealthiest, busiest and most 
populated part of England ; the West was the seat of the 
chief manufactures, wool and serge, of the mining indus- 
tries in Cornwall, and of a greater variety of employments 
than any other district in the land, whilst its port of 
Bristol was the second city in the kingdom. His present 
visit had more than a purely judicial object in view. The 
Chief Justice was to examine the condition of political 
feeling in the West of England and ascertain the dis- 
position of the gentry towards the present Government. 
The trial of Braddon and Speke had revealed the presence 
of a good deal of ferment in these parts and a readiness to 
sympathise with those hostile to the King. Jeffreys found 
that the gentry was for the most part loyal and zealously 
inclined to the King's service ; but that Dissent was 
powerful among the middle and lower classes, and called 
for repressive measures. The West of England was at 
this time the principal stronghold of the Dissenters ; for 
which reason, among others, Monmouth and his advisers 


selected it in 1685 as the scene of their invasion. Jeffreys 
wrote to Secretary Jenkins from the various towns through 
which he passed, keeping him well informed as to the 
results of his observations. 

Besides gauging the political feelings of the Western 
counties, the Chief Justice was instructed, by arts of 
persuasion and fair promise, to induce those towns that 
had not already done so to make a surrender of their old 
Charters to the King and receive new ones in their places. 
Like the magician Abanazar, the wily Judge persuaded 
the Corporations of the West to give up their old lamps, 
and in return promised them beautiful new ones, fresh 
from Whitehall. At Plymouth he encountered some 
difficulty in accomplishing the transfer, owing to the arts 
of the Recorder of that town, Mr. Serjeant Maynard. 
This astute old gentleman, over eighty years of age, of 
vast legal learning and political principles so elastic as to 
have carried him safely through the changes and chances of 
the last forty years, did his best to dissuade the Aldermen 
of Plymouth from acceding to Jeffreys' proposals. But the 
Chief Justice successfully combated his evil intentions, and 
returned to London with copies of Maynard's factious 
letters to lay before the Secretary of State. 

There is an interesting sequel to this incident related 
in the Verney Correspondence; " May 4th, 1684. In private 
cause between Nosworthy and another for £1,000 per 
annum, Maynard was very sharp on my Lord Chief Justice 
Jeffreys ; the manner is variously reported." The skull- 
faced Serjeant was a difficult one to tackle on a point of 
law. The story is told that in a discussion of this kind 
Jeffreys lost his temper, and told Maynard he was so old 
that he had forgotten all his law ; to which the Serjeant 
retorted, " Yes, my lord, I have forgotten more law than 
you ever knew." This may have been on the occasion 
referred to by Verney. If so, it must have afforded 
Maynard a pleasing opportunity to clear off the old score 
at Plymouth. 

By the middle of April Jeffreys was back again in 


Westminster Hall. There he found two more of the 
Rye conspirators awaiting judgment. These were James 
Holloway, a Bristol merchant, and Sir Thomas Armstrong, 
the friend and counsellor of the Duke of Monmouth. 
The two men had fled the country on the discovery of 
the Plot. Failing to plead to their indictments, they had 
been outlawed, and agents of the Government abroad were 
instructed to use every effort to secure them. In a few 
months' time both were taken : Holloway in the West 
Indies, and Armstrong by a spy at Leyden in Holland. 
On their arrival in London, nothing remained but that 
the Court of King's Bench should award execution against 
them ; for trial, conviction and execution were already 
implied in the sentence of outlawry, which in cases of high 
treason was equivalent to a conviction. But Armstrong, 
when brought before the Court, pleaded that by a statute 
of Edward VI. he could claim a full trial ; the statute said 
that if the party outlawed yielded himself to the Chief 
Justice of England within one year after the judgment of 
outlawry, he could be tried, and, if found not guilty, 
his sentence of outlawry reversed. Jeffreys would not 
admit this plea in Armstrong's case, because he did not 
consider that Armstrong had yielded himself according to 
the statute, but had been brought as an unwilling prisoner 
before him. Though Jeffreys has been heartily abused 
for this construction of the Act, surely there is much to 
be said in favour of his view. True, it has not been 
upheld since, but that is no argument against its claim to 
decent consideration. Jeffreys took the view that the 
term yielding implied a voluntary surrender of the outlaw, 
and did not apply to a man who had been captured against 
his will and brought a prisoner before the Court ; and 
according to the wording of the Act this interpretation is 
as likely and reasonable as any other. 

But it is further alleged against Jeffreys and the Govern- 
ment that a trial refused to Armstrong was offered under 
precisely similar circumstances to Holloway. Certainly a 
trial was offered to Holloway ; but both Jeffreys and the 


Attorney-General who made the offer, were careful to in- 
sist over and over again that such an offer was an act of 
pure grace and mercy on the part of the King, and arose 
from no claim or right of the prisoners. The King, they 
said, could if he chose give the prisoner liberty to be tried 
by a gracious exercise of his authority ; but that was the 
King's concern, the Judges had no such power. That the 
King chose to show mercy in Holloway's case and not in 
Armstrong's was no business of Jeffreys or his brethren ; 
it was a matter solely for the King, who had himself the 
best of reasons for not showing favour to Sir Thomas 
Armstrong. If Jeffreys' conduct towards the latter is 
deserving of censure, it is not upon these grounds, although 
many historians have warmly abused him for the gross 
illegality of his decision on this part of the case. 

The King was determined not to spare Armstrong, 
whom he regarded as the guiltiest of the conspirators. 
Apart from his share in the Plot, Armstrong had little in 
his character to command sympathy or indulgence. A 
"debauched, atheistical bravo" according to unfriendly 
testimony, " a lewd bully and gamester " according to 
Lord Ailesbury, he was at least a man of vicious life and 
turbulent passions, and had been driven from the Court 
for the murder of a gentleman in the play-house. But it 
was not for these reasons that he was peculiarly obnoxious 
to Charles, to whom violence of character or irregularity of 
life were always pardonable if accompanied by useful or 
congenial qualities. The King hated him as the would-be 
assassin of his brother and himself, and the principal 
seducer of his unfortunate son. Armstrong had offered 
his fellow conspirators to get admission to the Duke of 
York and kill him with his own hand ; and, after the failure 
of the Rye House scheme, he had been still prepared 
to assassinate the royal brothers. But in Charles's eyes 
even this murderous energy was pardonable compared 
with his fatal influence over the Duke of Monmouth. If 
Charles ever really cared for anybody, he looked with real 
affection on the firstborn of his irregular family. To find 


Monmouth deep in the designs of those who plotted 
against his throne and life was the bitterest shock that 
ever fell upon the callous Prince. Armstrong's influence 
over the weak youth was known to the King ; and upon 
Armstrong, therefore, descended the full weight of his 
indignation. Charles, with all his lightness of character, was 
not incapable of cherishing sincere resentments ; he never 
forgave Lord William Russell for his implacable violence 
against the Papists, much less could he forgive Armstrong's 
horrid temptation of his son. 

Jeffreys was no doubt acquainted with all these facts 
when Armstrong appeared before him for judgment on 
June 14th. The prisoner was accompanied by his 
daughter, a Mrs. Matthews, whom Lord Campbell in 
his gushing sympathy describes as a most interesting and 
beautiful young lady. Jeffreys pointed out to Armstrong 
the hopelessness of his case ; and was proceeding to ask the 
keeper of Newgate what were the usual days for executions 
when Mrs. Matthews, in her eagerness to assist her father, 
exclaimed : " Here is a statute, my lord ! " meaning the 
Act of Edward VI. already alluded to. " What is the 
matter with that gentlewoman ? " asked Jeffreys. Arm- 
strong told her abruptly to hold her tongue, and went on 
to press the statute she had cited on the attention of the 
Chief Justice. Once more Mrs. Matthews' zeal over- 
came her discretion : " Here is a copy of it," she said. 
" Why, how now ? " exclaimed Jeffreys at this second 
interruption. " We do not use to have women plead 
in the Court of King's Bench : pray be at quiet, mis- 
tress." " Pray hold your tongue," urged her father, 
and resumed his argument. But the Judge explained 
to him that he had not yielded himself to the Court 
according to the terms of the statute he cited. Arm- 
strong then begged that he might have counsel to argue 
to the point. Jeffreys answered : " For what reason ? 
We are of opinion it is not a matter of any doubt. For 
you must not go under the apprehension that we deny 
you anything that is right ; there is no doubt nor 


difficulty at all in the thing." " Methinks, my lord, the 
statute is very plain," urged the prisoner. " So it is very 
plain that you can have no advantage by it," retorted the 
Chief Justice. " Captain Richardson," — to the keeper 
of Newgate, — " you shall have a rule for execution on 
Friday next." Armstrong desired to speak ; Jeffreys 
assented readily. " Very freely, what you please." 
Armstrong referred to Holloway's case and the offer of 
a trial which had been made to him ; but Jeffreys explained 
that such an offer had been made solely by the King's 
mercy, that the same mercy might have been extended to 
him if the King had pleased, but that it was not the 
Judge's business to interfere with the King's prerogative. 
At this Mrs. Matthews's indignation could restrain itself 
no longer. " My lord," she cried, " I hope you will not 
murder my father ; this is murdering a man." " Who is 
this woman ? " asked the Chief Justice. " Marshal, take 
her into custody. Why, how now ? Because your relation 
is attainted for high treason, must you take upon you to 
tax the courts of justice for murder, when we grant the 
execution according to Jaw ? Take her away." " God 
Almighty's judgments light upon you ! " from the lips of 
Mrs. Matthews. " God Almighty's judgments will light 
upon those that are guilty of high treason," from the lips 
of Jeffreys. "Amen, I pray God ! " exclaimed the lady. 
" So say I," answered the Judge ; " but," he went on, 
" clamours never prevail on me at all ; I thank God I am 
clamour proof, and will never fear to do my duty." Mrs. 
Matthews was removed in custody. Once more Jeffreys 
explained to Sir Thomas his view of the law and the 
reasons of the indulgence shown to Holloway. " We 
are not," he repeated, " disposers of the King's grace 
and favour, but the ministers of his justice." Then there 
ensued the following dialogue, which, in fairness to the 
two men, must be given in full. 

Sir Thomas Armstrong. — My lord, I am within the 
statute. I was outlawed while I was beyond sea, and I 
come now here within the twelvemonth. That is all I 
know or have to say in this matter. 



L. C. J. — We think quite the contrary, Sir Thomas. 

Sir Thomas Armstrong. — When I was before the Council, 
my lord, they ordered that I should have counsel allotted 
me, but I could have no benefit by that order ; for when 
I was taken I was robbed of all the money I had, and 
have not had one penny restored to me, nor any money 
since. I know not whether the law allows persons in my 
condition to be robbed and stripped. 

L. C. J. — I know nothing at all of that matter, Sir 

Sir Thomas Armstrong. — My lord, I know lawyers will 
not plead without money, and, being robbed, I could not 
have wherewithal to fee them. 

L. C. J. — Sir Thomas Armstrong, you take the liberty 
of saying what you please ; you talk of being robbed ; 
nobody has robbed you that I know of. 

Sir Thomas Armstrong. — Nobody says you do know of 
it ; but so it is. 

L. C. J. — Nay, be as angry as you will, Sir Thomas ; 
we are not concerned at your anger. We will undoubtedly 
do our duty. 

Sir Thomas Armstrong. — I ought to have the benefit 
of the law, and I demand no more. 

L. C. J. — That you shall have, by the grace of God. 
See that execution be done on Friday next, according to 
law. You shall have the full benefit of the law. 

By giving partial extracts from the report of this trial 
writers have usually succeeded in making Jeffreys appear 
brutal and violent in his treatment of Armstrong and his 
daughter, and the two latter appear in the light of 
oppressed and amiable martyrs. Public opinion was not 
at the time so sure on this point ; for in the Verney Cor- 
respondence l Jeffreys is commended for his honourable 
conduct in releasing Mrs. Matthews from custody the 
same afternoon, after the very " savoury curse " which 
the writer says she had given them all round. Jeffreys 
certainly kept his temper and his dignity in the encounter 
with the heated lady, and showed proper judicial charity 
1 Hist. MSS. Comm. 


in so soon pardoning her affront. On the other hand, he 
was undoubtedly guilty of harshness, if not illegality, in 
not allowing Armstrong to have counsel to plead his case 
on the Act of Edward VI. Jeffreys may have looked 
on such pleading as a waste of time — it would certainly 
have had no effect on his mind — and considered the 
guilty Armstrong unworthy of indulgence ; but as a 
Judge he should have allowed him the full benefit which 
the law accorded to people in his situation. Both he and 
Armstrong lost their tempers at the conclusion of the 
hearing ; but it will be admitted that Jeffreys as well as 
Armstrong had received some provocation. In spite of 
Burnet's extravagant account of Armstrong's wrongs and 
his beautiful endurance under their infliction, it can only 
be political prejudice or a nauseous sentimentalism that 
denies the guilty violence of his methods and character, 
and casts up its eyes to Heaven at the inhumanity of the 
Lord Chief Justice. 

During May and June the Courts had been very active 
in enforcing the authority of the King, and Jeffreys had en- 
joyed some pleasing opportunities of paying off old scores 
against some of his former opponents. His friend Francis 
Smith was fined, pilloried and imprisoned for printing 
libels against the Government ; an information was ex- 
hibited against the ex-Speaker, Mr. Williams, for printing, 
by order of the House of Commons, the narrative of 
Dangerfield, one of the Popish Plot witnesses ; and Dr. 
Titus Oates was committed to the King's Bench prison, 
pending an action for slander brought against him by the 
Duke of York. It is impossible not to admire the 
Doctor's fortitude in the hour of adversity. His impu- 
dence and confidence were unabated. When the Duke's 
attorney called on the Doctor and asked him what he 
intended to do in the approaching action, Oates coolly 
replied, " I do not value the Duke nor his attorney 
neither ; I neither love the Duke nor fear him. It may 
be I am in for one hundred thousand pounds here ; but, if 
ever Parliament sits, I do not question but to have some- 

p 2 


body else in my place." The attorney asked him to 
explain this mysterious forecast ; but Oates was not to be 
drawn out. "Do you come to trepan me?" asked the 
wily Doctor ; and away he went. He disdained to defend 
himself against the Duke's claim, so that the Court of 
King's Bench had nothing to do but to impanel a jury to 
assess the plaintiff's damages. Jeffreys presided over the 
enquiry, but the Doctor did not appear ; his presence was 
hardly necessary on this occasion ; these proceedings were 
but the prologue to the great day of reckoning. The 
Doctor's slanders against the Duke were fully proved. 
In the days of his supremacy, when, as the Bishop of Ely 
said, none dared talk with him, Oates had publicly loaded 
James with the coarsest abuse : he was " a traitor, the son 
of a whore, a man who ate with the devil, a scavenger 
and an incendiary." All the jury could do was to justify 
Oates's premonition that the affair would cost him^ 1 00,000, 
by a verdict for the plaintiff to that amount. Jeffreys 
gave a foretaste of the spirit in which he was likely to 
deal with Oates, if he ever got the opportunity, by deny- 
ing him his title of Doctor, referring ironically to his 
claims as a Gospel preacher and man of eminence, and 
exclaiming in the course of his summing-up on the height 
of corruption to which . an age must have reached that 
would have suffered such a fellow's insolence. As it was 
quite beyond the Doctor's means to pay the plaintiff's 
damages, he remained in the King's Bench prison after 
the conclusion of the trial, emerging a year later to meet 
fresh charges, which only his personal appearance could 
render useful or effective for the public good. 

Before Jeffreys started again on circuit, — this time he 
had chosen the Northern, and was due at York in July — he 
tried a civil cause in the Court of King's Bench, remark- 
able alike for the magnitude of the claim involved and 
the impudence of the forgery by which it was attempted to 
substantiate the claim. A certain Lady Ivy, true to the 
encroaching propensities of the plant which bears her 
name, declared herself to be legally possessed of the greater 


part of Shad well. She founded her title upon certain 
deeds dating back to Tudor times. These deeds on 
examination turned out to be nothing more nor less than 
elaborate forgeries, contrived and executed by the I ady 
Ivy with the help of certain rascally attorneys. Jeffreys 
saw through the imposture from the first, much to the dis- 
gust of the Attorney and Solicitor-General who appeared 
for the plaintiff. He told them plainly that one of 
their principal witnesses was an " arrant notorious knave," 
and, calling the immortal Shakspere to his aid, declared 
that he would never believe him if he swore as long as 
Sir John Falstaff fought. It is interesting to note Jeffreys' 
familiarity with the great poet. From his acquaintance 
with Shakspere's stupendous vocabulary, and his natural 
sympathy with such a character as Falstaff, the Chief 
Justice may well have derived in part that extraordinary 
wealth of language and quaint originality of expression 
which in his more awful moments of transported rage 
make him appear rather the creation of a powerful 
dramatist than a creature of flesh and blood. 

A great array of counsel had been mustered on both 
sides, and their many dialogues and little heats sorely 
tried the temper of the Chief Justice. Mr. Bradbury, an 
intelligent junior, having been commended by Jeffreys for 
an ingenious discovery of the falsity of one of the reputed 
title deeds, was so elated that he could not refrain from 
enlarging on his observations. " Lord, sir," cried Jeffreys, 
" vou must be cackling too ; we told you your objection 
was very ingenious, but that must not make you trouble- 
some ; you cannot lay an egg but you must be cackling 
over it." Finally the Solicitor-General, angered and 
mortified by the breakdown of his case and the observa- 
tions of Jeffreys, could not conceal his irritation from the 
Chief Justice. " Nay, be not angry, Mr. Solicitor," said 
Jeffreys ; " for, if you be, we cannot help that neither. 
The law is the law for you as well as me." " My lord, I 
must take the rule from you now," answers Finch. 
Jeffreys discovered some impertinence in the answer. 


" And so you shall, sir, from the Court, as long as I sit 
here," he retorted ; " and so shall everybody else, by the 
grace of God. I assure you, I care not whether it please 
or displease ; we must not have our time taken up with 
impertinent things ; for I must say there have been so 
many offered in this cause to-day as ever were in any cause 
that ever I heard ; and if all be not as some would have 
it, then they must be in passion presently. The Court 
gives all due respects and expects them." Jeffreys showed 
himself no respecter of persons or parties in upholding his 
authority : it was not only on Wallops and Williamses 
that his wrath descended. It is almost needless to add 
that the Lady Ivy did not recover the greater part of 
Shadwell. 1 

Jeffreys' position at Court had been considerably en- 
hanced since his accession to the Chief Justiceship, and the 
worst fears of the Norths seemed only too likely to be 
accomplished. With increasing mortification the Lord 
Keeper viewed the growing power of his rival. Apart 
from his conduct of judicial proceedings, Jeffreys gained 
credit and influence by the adroitness with which he 

1 Lady Ivy, nee Theodosia Stepkin, was a niece of Sir John 
Bramston, Chief Justice of the King's Bench, 1635 — 1642. Her 
story, says her cousin Bramston, the autobiographer, would take up a 
volume. She had three husbands. The second, Ivy, was a " trade 
fellow," knighted at the Restoration, but "merited whipping rather." 
Her father was a German by extraction, who made a fortune by drain- 
ing Wapping marsh. The history of her lawsuits is curious, and 
illustrates the imperfect way in which cases were prepared and cross- 
examinations carried out in the seventeenth century. She had already 
had a trial as to her title previous to the present one before Jeffreys, 
when everyone had been perfectly satisfied that her title was "as good 
as could be." At the second trial the contrary is as clearly proved as 
possible. Yet in 1687, on the validity of another lease, against which 
evidence of forgery was given similar to that in 1684, she recovered 
two verdicts, one in the King's Bench, the other in the Common 
Pleas. Bramston, who is of course friendly to' her, suggests that in 
1684 her Judges were prepossessed, but he gives no reason for their 
being so, and certainly the case against her seems from the report to 
be proved up to the hilt. Lord Campbell describes Jeffreys'charge 
on that occasion as "most masterly, lucid, and impartial." 


had procured the surrender of Charters in the West of 
England and the peculiar authority he exercised over 
the City of London. With the fall of the Whigs his 
influence in the City seems to have become despotic in 
its character, the Mayor and Aldermen his fearful tools. 
They might murmur against his pride, but no attention 
would be paid to their complaints. And now, in a 
marked and public fashion, the King was to set the seal of 
his personal encouragement and approbation on the efforts 
of his Chief Justice ; he was to go forth to new conquests 
with the prestige of one whom the King delighted to 
honour. On a Sunday morning early in July, when 
Whitehall was thronged with courtiers, Charles took from 
his own finger a diamond ring, and, in the sight ot^ all, 
presented it to the Lord Chief Justice as a mark of his 
signal favour and his gracious acceptance of Sir George 
Jeffreys' services. Roger North complains bitterly that no 
wonder Jeffreys, thus stamped as a favoured legate of the 
King, made all the Charters of the North fall before him 
like the walls of Jericho, and insinuates that any one could 
have done the same with a ring off the King's hands. 
There are not wanting at this time signs of great uneasi- 
ness among the North family ; " thus bad begins, but 
worse remains behind." 

Durham and York were the principal cities visited by 
Jeffreys on this Northern circuit. At the former he 
arranged for the surrender of the city Charter into the hands 
of the Bishop ; at the latter he made himself very pleasant 
and bestowed upon the civic authorities amiable promises 
of the royal grace which he did not subsequently fulfil, 
at least to the satisfaction of Sir John Reresby. That 
careful courtier did his best to make Jeffreys' visit 
to York a pleasant one, partly from respect for his 
mission, partly as a mark of gratitude for the kind- 
ness with which Jeffreys had treated him in former 
days. He received the Judge with military honours, 
waited on him at his lodgings and invited him to dinner. 
Jeffreys, in return for these civilities, called on Reresby one 
evening incognito, and " being a jolly, merry companion 


when business was over," stayed with him over a bottle 
till one in the morning. 

Jeffreys returned to London laden with surrendered 
Charters, " the spoils of towns," as Roger North calls them. 
On September 12th he attended the King, and gave him 
an account of his proceedings, at which Charles expressed 
his satisfaction — a satisfaction not shared by at least one 
of his Majesty's advisers. 

With the return of Jeffreys from the Northern circuit 
opened that chapter of misery which closed the respect- 
able career of the Lord Keeper North. The distresses 
of that worthy man as narrated by the ever-faithful and 
solicitous Roger, the mental suffering induced by the 
conduct of Jeffreys, to which his timorous desire to please 
all men rendered him painfully subject, his physical col- 
lapse before the ridicule and neglect of a Court that could 
see nothing to respect or pity in the forsaken Minister, 
tell a story to which a devoted brother has lent a glow of 
martyrdom, but in which posterity can only recognise the 
disastrous effects of a want of moral courage on even the 
most pronounced and self-conscious integrity. 

As the reign of Charles drew to its close, the influence 
of the moderate section of his advisers, Halifax and North, 
declined, and that of the Duke of York, Sunderland and 
Jeffreys increased. To the dismay of those who, like 
North, considered the supremacy of the Church of England 
as part and parcel of the supremacy of the King, James 
was beginning to insinuate the claims of the Papists, and 
procure for them some measure of indulgence. These 
matters were discussed at the meetings of the Cabinet, a 
kind of inner committee of the Privy Council, consisting 
of the King's most trusted Ministers. The full Council 
met on Thursdays, the Cabinet meetings took place usually 
on a Sunday evening. Jeffreys, who had been sworn of 
the Privy Council on his appointment as Chief Justice, 
was admitted into the Cabinet after his return from the 
North, — a circumstance very unpropitious to the Lord 
Keeper. When one Sunday morning shortly after this 
undesirable event, the Duke of York requested North to 


assist him that evening in a business to be moved to his 
Majesty, that excellent man could not avoid a presentiment 
of something unpleasant, which the gravity of the other 
Ministers' faces did nothing to allay. 

The same evening the King had no sooner taken his 
seat at the Council Board than Jeffreys rose to his feet, 
holding in his hand certain rolls and papers. These con- 
tained lists of various persons in the North of England 
then lying in prison or under commitment for refusing to 
take the customary oaths to observe the Protestant religion 
as by law established. They consisted of Papists and 
Nonconformists ; but the real design of the Duke of York 
was, through the mouth of Jeffreys, to obtain discharge or 
release for his co-religionists, and to further that object he 
was prepared to include the other classes of Dissenters if 
necessary. According to North's account, Jeffreys de- 
livered a vehement speech, " letting fly his tropes and 
figures " on behalf of these unfortunate men " rotting and 
stinking in prisons." When he sat down, a painful silence 
ensued, North waiting to see if any one else would answer 
the Chief Justice. As nobody volunteered, North felt it 
his duty to intervene. In characteristic fashion he made 
no objection to the real cause of uneasiness, the proposed 
indulgence to the Papists, but blamed the proceeding as 
involving the release of a number of Protestant Dissenters, 
who would only go about turbulently stirring up sedition. 
His remarks were received in silence, and the matter was 
not further discussed. But the Lord Keeper returned 
home that night full of melancholy. " What can be the 
meaning ? Are they all stark mad ? " he frequently 
exclaimed. Then, taking out his pocket almanack, he 
soothed his troubled mind by entering against that day : 
" Motion which I alone opposed." Roger says that he ac- 
counted his action on this occasion as the most memorable 
in his life. It certainly furnishes an accurate notion of the 
extent of his virtue. North had intuition and conscience ; 
he saw the drift of Jeffreys' motion, and he knew it to be 
his duty to oppose it ; but he had not that courageous 
determination which should have prompted him to boldly 


declare the real danger of such a measure ; he rather 
grounds his opposition on an objection which can have 
deceived no one as to his real feelings, and can only have 
tempted his enemies to fresh attacks on his peace of 

This incident shows Jeffreys as the declared follower of 
James in his policy of indulgence for his fellow-Papists. 
If Sunderland or Jeffreys had ever realised how far and 
with what hopeless obstinacy James would ultimately 
endeavour to secure the triumph of his religion, they 
would, even with all their thirst for power, have hesitated 
to enter into his present designs. Had they done so, 
Sunderland would have saved himself from an unpleasant 
suspicion of treachery, Jeffreys from irretrievable ruin. But 
in all probability they did not foresee- — who could ? — the 
depths of James's infatuation ; they only saw in him the 
personification of absolute government of which they were 
ready to be obedient ministers. Jeffreys in particular 
looked upon the Duke as the engine by which he might 
hope to wrest the Seal from the apprehensive Lord Keeper. 
For Jeffreys did not intend the Chief Justiceship to be the 
ultimate goal of his ambition ; he must reach the highest 
summit of legal fame, and that summit seemed the more 
easily attainable for the dizziness that was overcoming its 
present occupant. If North's account is correct, Jeffreys 
was prepared to achieve his purpose by rendering the 
Lord Keeper's position so intolerable that he should be 
compelled to resign. But in choosing that course of action 
Jeffreys had not truly gauged the character of his oppo- 
nent. Death alone released the Seal from a hand that 
clung to its empty trophy long after dignity and self- 
respect had perished in the attempt. 

North soon underwent such experiences of the growing 
influence of the Lord Chief Justice as would have 
induced most men in his situation to reconsider their 
position and the possibility of continuing in an office the 
rights and privileges of which they had ceased to enjoy. 
One of the highest functions of the Lord Chancellor or 
Keeper, as the case might be, was to recommend to the 


King new Judges whenever any vacancy occurred on the 
Bench ; but even in this important duty North was 
obliged to bend to the will of the Chief Justice. In the 
October of 1684 Mr. Justice Wyndham had died on 
circuit. North designed to fill his place by the appoint- 
ment of Serjeant Bedingfield, a grave, heavy lawyer, of 
loyal principles and a good Churchman. Bedingfield, 
overwhelmed with joy and gratitude, communicated the 
good news to his brother, a woollen draper in the City. 
The woollen draper, who happened, unfortunately, to be 
the friend and creature of Jeffreys, carried the intelligence 
to his patron. Jeffreys, desirous of some opportunity of 
wounding the power of the Lord Keeper, sent for the 
Serjeant, and told him plainly that as long as he relied on 
North's influence he should never be raised to the Bench ; 
and that, if he really wanted to be a Judge, he must look 
to the Lord Chief Justice and not to the Lord Keeper 
for his promotion. Bedingfield, who, Roger North says, 
was not " formed for the heroics," yielded to the inevit- 
able, and was content to wait for promotion until after 
North's death. 

If the case of Bedingfield was a sufficiently painful slight 
to the Lord Keeper, the case of Serjeant Wright was a 
hundred times worse. Baron Street, from the Exchequer, 
had been sent into the Common Pleas to fill Wyndham's 
place ; it therefore remained to fill up the vacant Barony. 
North went to the King to consult him as to a fit person 
to take the office, and was horrified when Charles suddenly 
asked : " My lord, what think you of Serjeant Wright ? 
Why may not he be the man ? " North replied that he 
knew Wright only too well, and that he was the most 
unfit person in England to be made a Judge. " Then it 
must not be," answered the King ; and the matter was 
dropped. But it left food for much unpleasant reflection 
in the mind of the Lord Keeper. He knew Wright well 
indeed, knew him as a comely, airy, flourishing gentleman 
of a good Suffolk family, altogether attractive in 
person, but in habit an unprincipled voluptuary, on the 
brink of financial ruin. North had done his work for him 


when they were at the Bar together, and lent him money 
on many occasions, — services Wright had returned by 
dealing fraudulently with his benefactor over a mortgage 
on his estates. And this was the man the King suggested 
to the Lord Keeper as his new Judge ! How could such a 
man have entered into the King's mind for such a purpose ? 
That question the Lord Keeper soon learnt to answer by 
the hated name of Jeffreys ; it was not long before he 
detected the malign influence of the Chief Justice in the 
proposed advancement of Wright. The latter had gone to 
Jeffreys, who was his friend, and with tears begged his in- 
fluence in obtaining the vacant Judgeship as a means of 
saving himself from utter ruin. Jeffreys, seeing in Wright 
a pliant tool for himself and his party and a further means 
of humbling the Lord Keeper, had urged his claims to 
the King. Charles had accordingly mentioned his name 
to North, with the result we have seen. But the King's 
" Then it must not be " was as final an utterance as might 
be expected from the lips of the speaker. In a very few 
days he returned to the subject : " Why may not Wright 
be a Judge ? " he asked of the Lord Keeper ; " is it 
impossible ? " North saw the King's pangs as he asked 
the question, and pitied him as the unwilling tool of 
unscrupulous men. 

Such is Roger North's account. The idea of Charles II. 
suffering pangs over the appointment of Wright, and his 
acting as the unwilling tool of anybody, one would have 
thought too absurd for even the devoted Roger to 
stomach ; but apology makes a man acquainted with the 
strangest notions. According to Roger, his brother was 
so touched by the agony of the King, that after once 
more fully recapitulating the unworthiness of Serjeant 
Wright, he ended by saying : " And now I have done 
my duty to your Majesty, and am ready to obey your 
Majesty's commands in case it be your pleasure that this 
man shall be a Judge." " My lord," replied the King — 
and there seems a touch of irony in the brief reply — " I 
thank you." Soon after came the King's warrant that 
Wright was to be a Baron of the Exchequer. 


But the cup of the Lord Keeper's humiliation was not 
yet full. One morning shortly after Wright's appoint- 
ment had been decided upon, North was sitting in 
Westminster Hall in his Court of Chancery. In these 
days the Courts were actually inside the Hall, and in 
sight of one another. Opposite the Chancery was a 
small bar within which the Judges of the King's Bench 
robed before going up to Court. Here on this same 
morning, Jeffreys was standing robing with his other 
brethren, when Serjeant Wright came walking up the 
Hall. Jeffreys saw him, and beckoned him to come to the 
bar. The Serjeant approached, full of crouching and 
humility ; on his reaching the bar the Chief Justice took him 
by the shoulders, whispered something in his ear, and then, 
flinging him off from him, kept his arms extended towards 
him for some short time. This, says North, was a public 
declaration on Jeffreys' part that in spite of " that man 
above there," i.e. the Lord Keeper, his excellent friend 
Wright was to be a Judge. 

On another occasion we find the Lord Keeper complain- 
ing that in the matter of a dispute among the Wapping 
justices, Jeffreys came flaming drunk to the Council Board, 
and, staring like a madman, attacked North fiercely, under 
cover of a general denunciation of the " Trimmers." 

Unfortunately, in his reduced circumstances the luckless 
North derived no comfort from the sympathy of his fellow 
courtiers. " The rising sun," writes his brother, " hath 
a charming effect, but not upon courtiers as upon larks ; 
for it makes these sing, and the others silent." As the sun 
of Jeffreys rose in its glory, an indifferent silence, to say 
nothing of openly expressed derision, was all the sympathy 
North received from the larks of Whitehall. Only at home, 
in the society of his devoted brother and his relatives and 
personal friends, could North find any consolation for his 
sorrowing spirit. But even the influences of home were 
not strong enough to prevent the broken Minister from 
sinking into a state of morbid depression, which ultimately 
developed into a fatal melancholy. 


For these details of the rivalry between the Lord 
Keeper and the Chief Justice we are entirely dependent on 
the narrative of Roger North, which, from the very nature 
of the circumstances, must be received with great caution. 
But by this time we should have been able to form some 
estimate of Jeffreys' character, and of that of North we 
have the amplest material for judging. On the one side 
we can discern an arbitrary disposition, reckless in its 
methods and principles, full of unsatisfied ambition, moved 
to contempt and mockery in the presence of unattractive 
moral worth ; on the other side, genuine integrity of 
character diseased and disfigured by moral cowardice, and 
an ignominious greed of office. If, instead of yielding 
unwillingly at every point, and going home to lament over 
the hardness of his lot, North had fought openly and 
courageously against the schemes of Jeffreys and his 
party, he would not have been so completely deserted and 
despised by those around him, and the pity of posterity 
would have been mingled with some measure of admiration. 

During the Michaelmas sittings of 1684 the activity of 
the Court of King's Bench in prosecuting the enemies of 
the Government was unabated. On November 6th 
Jeffreys sat at the Guildhall to try an action for false 
arrest brought by the ex-Lord Mayor, Sir William 
Pritchard, against Mr. Papillon. The case arose out of 
the old troubles in the Sheriffs' election of 1682. There 
can be no doubt that Pritchard's arrest, which had been 
effected at the suit of Papillon, had been a party move, 
designed, the Crown alleged, to throw the City into a 
state of tumult, and further thereby the rebellious designs 
of the Whigs. It is more than probable from the names 
of those concerned in it that some such object was in 
view. At any rate, the trial of the action resolved itself 
into a party conflict, and stirred the wrath of the Chief 
Justice to unexampled indignation. A prime actor in the 
events with which the trial was concerned, conscious of his 
authority in the City of London, and in former days one 
of the principal objects of the hatred of the faction, the 


Chief Justice could not overcome, in spite of some praise- 
worthy attempts at impartiality, the temptation to give the 
City Whigs and their adherents some " licks with the rough 
side of his tongue." He first fell foul of Mr. Ward, one 
of the defendant's counsel, a respectable lawyer, afterwards 
a Lord Chief Baron under William III. Ward was 
pressing, with every respect, a point which Jeffreys con- 
sidered unproved and irrelevant. The Chief Justice 
charged him with speaking "ad captandum populum," 
denounced his " flourishes, enamel, garniture and ocean of 
discourse," and ended by accusing Ward of being angry 
and not understanding his business. The audience added 
to the excitement by beginning a little hiss. " Who is 
that ? " cried Jeffreys, remembering some former trials in 
which he had taken part as Recorder. " What, in the name 
of God ! I hope we are now past that time of day that 
humming and hissing shall be used in courts of justice ; 
but I would fain know that fellow that dare to hum or 
hiss while I sit here : I'll assure him, be he who he will, 
I'll lay him by the heels, and make an example of him. 
Indeed, I knew the time when causes were to be carried 
according as the mobile hissed or hummed ; and I do not 
question but they have as good a will to it now. Come, 
Mr. Ward, pray let us have none of your fragrancies, and 
fine rhetorical flowers, to take the people with." At 
length old Serjeant Maynard intervened and succeeded in 
calming the Judge. 

When, however, the defence called as witnesses Alder- 
man Cornish and other of the City Whigs, the sight of 
them was too much for Jeffreys. He ironically compared 
them to sucking children in innocence, and said it was 
his duty to let the world know what sort of men these 
were who pretended to saintship, whining fellows that 
snivelled at the Government ; the City, he said, had been 
quiet and happy until Bethell and Cornish, a couple of 
busy fellows, got into public offices. " Let the whole 
party go away with that in their teeth, and chew upon it 
if they will," he concluded. His summing up opened 


with a statement of the legal aspect of the case as fair and 
well expressed as possible, but he was soon aflame again 
when he came to the facts. In alluding to the Whig 
corruption of juries, he remarked how the Sheriffs got 
" this factious fellow out of one corner, and that prag- 
matical, prick-eared, snivelling, whining rascal out of 
another corner, to prop up the cause, which was tried 
not according to justice but demureness of look ! " As 
to the arrest of the Lord Mayor, he remarked, with truly 
Hohenzollern confidence, that if God had not put it into 
some one's heart to send for the City Militia, London 
would have been in ashes, the King's subjects wallowing 
in their own and one another's blood ; and all this damned 
hellish conspiracy the work of a lot of " notorious Dis- 
senters or profligate atheistical villains that herd together." 
. . . . " This, gentlemen, is plain English, and necessary 
to be used upon all these occasions." A little of this 
plain English he conceived necessary for the good of 
Mr. Papillon. His conduct he described as canting and 
hypocritical, setting himself "cock-a-hoop" as the only true 
patriot in the City. "You had much better keep in your 
counting-house, I tell you, and mind your merchandise." 
This advice was timely ; for the jury, after half an hour's 
consideration, decided that Mr. Papillon was to pay the 
plaintiff ^10,000 damages. " Gentlemen," said the Chief 
Justice, " you seem to be persons that have some sense 
upon you and consideration for the Government, and I 
think have given a good verdict and are to be greatly 
commended for it." 

On November 18th Jeffreys sat in Westminster Hall 
to try Mr. Thomas Rosewell, an eminent Dissenting 
minister. With his accession to power the Judge's hatred 
of Dissent had increased in proportion to his opportunities 
for giving it greater play ; and though we must accept 
with caution such descriptions of his conduct as come from 
Dissenters themselves, there are collateral circumstances 
which go to prove the excess of his zeal in this direction. 
At any rate, over the case of Mr. Rosewell he experienced 


a check, deserved or undeserved, according as the Bishop 
of St. Asaph or Dr. Burnet might judge him. Jeffreys' 
initial error was in misjudging the character of the 
man with whom he had to deal. When Rosewell was 
pulled out of bed one early morning in the September 
previous to his trial and haled before the Chief Justice 
at his house in Aldermanbury, Jeffreys received him like 
a " roaring lion, or raging bear," in the language of 
Dissent, and was only rendered more furious when Rose- 
well answered him in Latin and Greek. The Judge was 
probably unaware that the prisoner before him had been 
a scholar of Westminster School under his old headmaster 
Dr. Busby, and that he was not now dealing with the type 
of ignorant and factious ranter which constituted his idea 
of the Dissenting preacher. However, certain marks of 
royal favour extended to Mr. Rosewell soon corrected any 
false impression on the part of the Chief Justice, and 
though not inclining him to mercy, made Jeffreys' 
reception of the prisoner at his trial in Westminster Hall 
facetious rather than terrible. 

The Judge first displayed the humorous bent of his 
disposition by asking Mr. Wallop, whom he saw in court, 
what he was doing there. Wallop answered that he had 
come to hear the trial, and moved a little away from the 
bar. Jeffreys fancifully replied that the case could not 
proceed as long as Mr. Wallop remained in court, before 
which alternative Mr. Wallop was obliged to withdraw. 
Jeffreys then felt himself at liberty to go on with the 

The case against Rosewell was based on the evidence of 
three women who swore to having heard him preach a 
discourse at a house in Rotherhithe, in which he spoke of 
Charles II. and his father as two wicked Kings bent on 
bringing in Popery, compared them to Jeroboam, and 
exhorted his hearers to resistance with broken p latters, 
rams' horns, and other biblical weapons. Rosewell in his 
defence denied the words quoted by the three women, and 
called evidence to show them to be mercenary informers 


of vile character and unworthy of credence. When the 
first of them was called, Rosewell was anxious to exhort 
her as a divine to speak the truth ; but Jeffreys would have 
none of his " preachments." " My lord," replied the 
prisoner, " I meant only to endeavour to convince her by 
putting some questions like a divine to her. For I pity 
them though they envy me, and I bless my God have 
prayed for them many times since my imprisonment." 
" Well, well, do not stand to commend yourself now," 
answered Jeffreys ; and turning to the witness bade her 
speak the truth, in quite as impressive terms as even the 
excellent Rosewell could have used on such an occasion. 
Jeffreys could not resist the pleasure of telling the prisoner 
what " frightful stuff" he thought his discourse to be, 
and praised his long-windedness in being able to preach 
from seven till two. He also delighted in the discomfiture 
of the Recorder Jenner, one of the Crown counsel, and, 
according to Rosewell, the " bloody contriver " of all his 
misfortunes. Jenner really was a despised and feeble sort of 
person, only raised from obscurity by the desperate neces- 
sities of the latter part of the reign of James II. Mrs. Farrar, 
one of the Crown witnesses, swore that Rosewell had 
said in his sermon that it was a fine sight to see fools in 
scarlet gowns, " for he had heard the Recorder was to be 
made a Judge." " He hears strange stories, it seems," 
Jeffreys slily remarked, " What do you make of this, 
brother Jenner ? " " God forbid, my lord, this should be 
true," ejaculated Rosewell. "You see, she swears it," urged 
Jeffreys ; but brother Jenner remained discreetly silent. 

Rosewell in his defence called evidence to show that he 
had ever prayed loyally and heartily for the King. Jef- 
freys remarked significantly : " So there was praying in this 
Hall, I remember, for his late Majesty, for the doing of 
him justice. We all know what that meant, and where it 
ended." Some of the witnesses against the characters of 
the Crown informers excited the anger or irony of the 
Chief Justice. To one who prevaricated somewhat he 
remarked : " We know well enough you snivelling saints 


can lie ; " to another who had described one of the women 
as rash and ready to swear anything, he exclaimed : " Oh, 
dear sir ! and you seem to be a grave, prudential sort of 
man." In spite of Jeffreys' taunts, Rosewell did certainly 
succeed in destroying the credit of two of the women who 
reported his words. Against the third, Mrs. Farrar, he 
could bring no evidence. He explains in his Life that he 
did not know that she was to be called. He did not, how- 
ever, mention this fact at the trial ; and Jeffreys in his sum- 
ming up pointed out that the prisoner had not in any way 
impugned Mrs. Farrar's testimony. The Chief Justice's 
charge was unfavourable to the prisoner. He meant to 
get a conviction, and set about it as decently as possible. 
He reviewed the evidence, to all appearances impartially, 
and then dwelt at length on the dangers of rebellion, 
which, he said, were excited by the beating of the pulpit 
cushion quite as easily as by the beating of the drum ; 
and contrasted the prosperity which England then enjoyed 
with the troublous state of the Continent, where their 
neighbours were wallowing in blood and were reduced by 
the grievous necessities of war to eating base and filthy 
animals, — a prosperity which preachers like Rosewell were 
seeking to destroy. 

Jeffreys was successful ; the jury convicted Rosewell of 
high treason, and he was put back to come up for judg- 
ment of death. Burnet says that the verdict caused 
shameful rejoicing. Shameful to Whigs certainly, but not 
to the Tories and extreme Churchmen ; they rejoiced at 
the victory, and, let us hope, Jeffreys received some 
more letters from grateful Bishops. 

But these rejoicings were premature. When Jeffreys 
waited on the King with tidings of his success, he 
found his news coldly received. Sir John Talbot, one of 
Rosewell 's witnesses, had gone straight to Whitehall on 
hearing the verdict, and told the King that a gentleman 
and a scholar had been convicted on evidence that would 
not hang a dog. " Sir," he said, " if your Majesty suffers 
this man to die, we are none of us safe in our houses." 

Q 2 


The Church zealots had gone too far this time ; the King 
told Jeffreys he must undo his work as best he could. 
But even from this mortifying performance the Chief 
Justice managed to extract some amusement. When 
Rosewell came up for judgment and moved certain objec- 
tions to his indictment, the amazement of the Crown 
lawyers as the Chief Justice received the prisoner's objec- 
tions with sympathy and encouragement afforded his 
lordship food for a great deal of malicious enjoyment. 
Before Jeffreys was called on to pronounce judgment on 
the points raised, Rosewell had received a pardon. 

One other case of importance engaged the attention of 
Jeffreys in the year 1684. This was the case of Mr. Joseph 
Hayes, a City merchant, indicted in the King's Bench for 
high treason in assisting Sir Thomas Armstrong by sending 
him money during his outlawry in Holland. The money 
had been sent in the form of a bill of exchange, and was 
proved by comparison with other writings to be in the 
handwriting of the prisoner. Hayes objected to such a 
method of proof. Jeffreys told him his objection was the 
"idle whim of an enthusiastic counsel," and that such proof 
had been allowed in Sidney's case. Hayes also insinuated 
that he could have obtained a pardon if he would have 
betrayed certain things to the Government. Jeffreys 
rebuked him sternly for making such aspersions on the 
King, and warned him that if he was not silent, he might 
have some very unpleasant things to say about a certain 
4,000 guineas which some indiscreet friends of Hayes had 
offered to the King in return for a pardon. The opening 
of Jeffreys' charge — the only portion reported — is un- 
favourable to Hayes, of whose guilt it is impossible to 
doubt ; but a jury of merchants, impervious alike to the 
powers of the Judge and the weight of evidence, acquitted 
the prisoner. The Attorney-General showed his opinion 
of the finding of the jury by asking that, as the evidence 
had been so strong, the Court should bind over Hayes to 
good behaviour for life ; but Jeffreys declined : " Mr. 
Attorney, that is not a proper motion at this time." 




During the latter part of the year 1684 and the begin- 
ning of 1685 the Government showed no abatement of 
zeal in harassing notable Whigs. Dr. Burnet was silenced 
from preaching ; and Gabriel Barnes, Esquire, of the 
Middle Temple, was clapped into the King's Bench Prison 
for speaking seditious words. The toils were drawing 
closer round Dr. Oates. In the December of 1684, two 
of his creatures were convicted of uttering scandal against 
the Government; by January of 1685 it had been re- 
solved to bring the Doctor himself to his trial for perjury ; 
and on the 23rd of the same month in the Court of King's 
Bench he pleaded "not guilty" to the charge. Hot words, 
says Luttrell, passed between the prisoner and the Chief 
Justice. Perhaps Oates would have borne himself more 
seemly if he could have foreseen an event that in two 
weeks time made his situation more desperate than ever. 

" The 6th of February, being Friday, his Majesty, 
King Charles the Second died at Whitehall, about three 
quarters after 1 1 at noon." 

However from private motives Jeffreys may have 
mourned the loss of the only English Sovereign who has 
succeeded in being disreputable and delightful at the same 
time, the Chief Justice must have felt that in exchanging 
the gay for the grave, King Charles for King James, his 


own position in the Government would be considerably 
strengthened, and his hopes of further advancement practi- 
cally assured. As long as Charles II. was on the throne 
none of the parties, or sections of parties, that shared his 
counsels could lay claim to his entire confidence. Charles 
was far too astute and accommodating in his principles to 
allow himself to be made the slave of a consistent policy, 
or to throw himself obstinately into schemes which he 
knew to be futile and impossible under existing circum- 
stances. He had to keep his throne, and was well aware 
that the best way to lose it would be to run into extremi- 
ties. He must have seen from the first the dangers of 
going to those lengths which his brother would have 
urged upon him, and in which Sunderland and Jeffreys 
were prepared to follow him ; and therefore, whilst their 
influence was at the time of his death considerable, Charles 
had not cut himself entirely adrift from Halifax, North 
and his less arbitrary advisers. Some men are said to be 
open-minded, but Charles II. was far more than that. 
His mind kept open house ; to all comers it offered a 
genial reception and bright entertainment ; but there were 
secret chambers into which the most constant guests had 
never been invited. 

Jeffreys was well aware that he was on no surer footing 
than any of the other guests, and quite as liable to be 
shown the door at any moment. But with the heavy 
brother his position was very different. Charles had 
resorted to the arbitrary measures which Jeffreys approved 
and encouraged, because for the moment it was only by 
such measures he could cope with the violence of his 
opponents, a violence he had suffered in silence until 
popular feeling had grown weary of it and turned to him 
for help. It was quite possible that as soon as his enemies 
had been awed and weakened by the rigorous punishments 
of their leaders, Charles would relax the severity of his 
Government, and strengthen his position by seeking to 
unite all parties under an amiable and indulgent Sovereign. 
Already at the time of his death there had been rumours 


of a return of the Duke of Monmouth, which would have 
meant a return to a more liberal policy. Jeffreys would 
have been one of the first to fall if such a change had 
occurred. The determined and passionate character of his 
principles and proceedings would have made his removal 
one of the most welcome signs of a merciful reaction. 
Charles would not have hesitated to drop him as he had 
dropped Scroggs before him, and Jeffreys would have 
passed into the same obscure disgrace which has been the 
portion of the former. 

But James the Second King, Jeffreys could banish 
all fears of a declining fortune. James supported and 
sympathised with the arbitrary notions of the Chief Jus- 
tice, his hatred of faction and Dissent, not because he felt 
such a policy to be at the moment necessary, but because 
he loved the arbitrary for its own sake as the embodiment 
of his idea of Kingship and the form of Government 
prescribed by the authority of his Church. He had no 
open mind. His was firmly closed to all but the privi- 
leged few who would share in the dull enjoyments of that 
solemn mansion ; there was no fear that its doors would 
ever be thrown open to enlightened strangers. 

To such a man Jeffreys' services would be more than 
acceptable. James loved severity, and no view of the 
extent of his own prerogative could be too exaggerated to 
satisfy his principles of government. The dangers in- 
volved in allowing a free expression to such a tempera- 
ment as that of the Chief Justice would not present 
themselves to a mind destitute of political sanity and a 
sense of humour. Charles, whilst delighting in the force 
and originality of Jeffreys, exercised during his lifetime a 
restraining influence on the heat of the Welshman's dis- 
position, and, as in Rosewell's case, was prepared to check 
the Judge when his prejudices had led him into injustice. 
With the death of Charles that restraining power was lost. 
Jeffreys found himself encouraged rather than checked. 
(The first year of the reign of James II. may be considered 
the crowning point of Jeffreys' career, the zenith of his 


fame, the climax of his infamy. In that year he enjoyed 
in the security of royal favour a degree of power that has 
seldom fallen to the lot of a man of thirty-seven born out- 
side the purple ; in that year he first fell a victim to the 
tortures of a disease, fortunately as rare as a Chief Justice- 
ship in men of immature age ; and in the same year he 
was commanded by his royal master to perform a judicial 
duty fortunately never before or since imposed on a Lord 
Chief Justice of England. By the force of these singular . 
circumstances and by a certain genius for the terrible 
which Jeffreys possessed in an almost fascinating degree, 
the year 1685 is to witness the stormy descent of the 
Lord Chief Justice into the dark realms of the historically 
accursed, where that familiarity which is the annoying and 
inaccurate accompaniment of historical disrepute, places 
" Judge Jeffreys " in the same circle with " Richard 
Crookback," " Bloody Mary," and other fanciful exag- 
gerations of popular resentment. 

The enthusiasm with which the accession of James II. 
was greeted by the nation at large is a commonplace of 
history. Addresses of loyal congratulation poured in 
upon him ; no reign could have commenced more aus- 
piciously. The very day after Charles's death, Jeffreys 
and his brother Judges took their seats in Westminster 
Hall with fresh commissions from the new King con- 
tinuing them in their offices. 

So promising was the aspect of affairs that Jeffreys was 
able to leave London in March to go the Norfolk circuit 
with Mr. Justice Wythens, who was ever ready to act as 
his faithful creature and chorus when occasion offered. 
The exciting influences of the new regime on the temper 
of the Chief Justice were displayed at Bedford. The 
Sheriff's chaplain chose as the text for his Assize sermon, 
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego that would not bow 
their knees. Jeffreys, seeing in this a covert sympathy 
with resistance to royal authority, rose up in a passion 
from his seat in the church and would have plucked the 
preacher out of the pulpit, if brother Wythens had not 


calmed his fury and the pliant preacher changed his 

As soon as the Chief Justice returned to town he was 
busily occupied with certain extra-judicial work. A 
Parliament was to be summoned, and every effort used to 
make it as thoroughly Tory as possible. The elections 
began in April. Buckinghamshire was to be the sphere 
of Jeffreys' influence. His country seat of Bulstrode was 
in that county, and thither he departed to work in the 
Tory cause. He found his presence very necessary 
indeed ; things were not promising at all well. He wrote 
to Lord Sunderland that Wharton and Hampden, the 
Whig candidates, had been very mischievous, spreading 
all sorts of false reports ; and that a certain Sir Roger 
Hill, a " horrid Whig," son of one of Charles the First's 
Judges and a fierce exclusionist, had been doing a great deal 
of mischief ; but the Chief Justice pledged himself to use 
every endeavour to " serve his master's interests " on the 
day of election. 1 A man called Hackett, described as a 
violent partisan, was put up in the Tory interest, and the 
fact that his cause was hopeless only made the struggle the 
6-- more desperate. Jeffreys proved himself to be an election 
agent of more than ordinary skiil. The polling was to 
take place at Aylesbury ; but on the very day fixed for it, 
without a minute's warning, Jeffreys suddenly appeared, 
and on his own authority adjourned the poll to Newport 
Pagnell. Here the Tories had previously engaged all the 
inns, so that when the Whig candidates arrived they could 
find no accommodation. However, in spite of the cun- 
ning and influence of the Lord Chief Justice, the Whigs 
won the day, and Jeffreys returned to London, where he 
furnished another public proof of his political sentiments 
by attending the funeral of Mr. Cradock, a Tory mercer 
of the City who had died of erysipelas. Luttrell, whose 
sympathies are unfeignedly Whig, describes Cradock as a 
" highflown spark," and Jeffreys' attendance at his funeral 

1 The original of Jeffreys' letter to Lord Sunderland on this occasion 
is among the Domestic State Papers in the Record Office. 


as a " pretty employment " for a Privy Councillor. But 
Mr. Narcissus Luttrell need not be so shocked as all that ; 
there are possible bonds of union between mercers and Privy 
Councillors which the Councillor would be only polite 
in acknowledging by lending a hand with the mercer's pall. 

In the general rejoicing and confidence evoked by the 
succession of King James, Dr. Oates was not forgotten. 
It was not likely that he would be ; for no amount of 
public acclamation could deter James from the methodical 
pursuit of his pre-arranged measures, one of the most 
cherished of which would be a prompt revenge on his 
scurrilous enemy. It is impossible not to sympathise 
with James in this desire. Oates, who really had a 
curious sense of the fitness of things, would probably have 
admitted that there was a certain element of propriety in 
some hostile notice being taken of him at this time. A 
prospect of possible martyrdom in the cause of religious 
perjury may have held out strange attractions to his 
perverted intellect. At any rate, whatever his motives, it 
was with a strange mixture of fatalism and pugnacity that 
the Doctor made his appearance before Jeffreys in the 
Court of King's Bench on May 8th. The Court was 
crowded with Papists, not unnaturally anxious to see 
judgment passed on the murderer of their co-religionists. 

The trial of Oates may be accounted one of the most 
satisfactory and characteristic examples of Jeffreys at his 
best. Even those who knew his dangerous temper were 
surprised at the fairness and dignity with which he con- 
ducted the proceedings ; and though there are outbursts of 
indignation to be read in the report, one eye-witness, at 
least, did not seem to consider that they detracted from the 
admirable bearing of the Lord Chief Justice. Thomas 
Earl of Ailesbury happened to be in the Court of King's 
Bench on the day of trial, and was invited by Jeffreys to 
sit beside him. He has left in his Memoirs strong testi- 
mony to the Judge's good behavour. " Knowing well," 
he writes, "the Chief Justice's unlimited passion, I ex- 
pected he would show himself in his true colours ; but I 


was greatly surprised at his good temper, and the more 
because such impudent and reviling expressions never 
came from the mouth of a man as Oates uttered." 
Jeffreys was bound to be effective in dealing with such a 
man as Oates ; he was always a rare hand at smelling 
out a knave, and knew what to do with them when he 
had secured them in his clutches. 

The first charge of perjury against Oates consisted in 
his having sworn at Ireland's trial in 1679 tnat ne nac ^ 
been present at a Jesuit consult at the White Horse Tavern 
in the Strand, held on April 24th, 1678. The Crown, 
to prove their case, called a number of Catholic gentlemen, 
fellow students of Oates at the Jesuit College at St. Omer's, 
who swore that Oates had never left the College between 
the December of 1677 and the June of 1678, so that it 
was impossible he could have been in London at the time 
he had sworn to. These witnesses described Oates as an 
absurd and ridiculous person, notorious among them for 
his silly and quarrelsome disposition, so silly that the men 
made sport of him, and " a little boy beat him up and 
down with a fox's tail." His very foolishness made it 
impossible that he could have gone away at any time 
without being missed. Oates's cross-examination consisted 
in making each witness confess himself a Papist, whereby 
he laid himself open to great penalties, and in asking them 
what reward they had for coming to swear against him. 
Jeffreys allowed him every latitude, but Oates would not 
be contented. " My lord," he said, " I do find my defence 
is under very great prejudice." " Why so ?" asked the 
Chief Justice ; " because we won't let you ask impertinent 
questions, or such as may render the witnesses obnoxious 
to a penalty ?" " No, my lord," replied the Doctor ; " it 
is not fit they should, for there is a turn to be served." 
This was a little too impudent for Jeffreys. " What do you 
mean by that ? Ay, and a good turn too if the witnesses 
swear true ; it is to bring truth to light and perjured 
villains to condign punishment." Oates saw that he had 
gone too far, and tried to mollify the Judge. " Behave 


yourself as you ought," said Jeffreys, " and you shall 
be heard with all fairness that can be desired." Oates 
complained that the Judges made themselves pleasant with 
his questions. " I did not make myself pleasant with 
your questions," answered Jeffreys ; " but when you ask 
impertinent ones, you must be corrected. You see, we 
do the same thing with them (pointing to the King's 
Counsel) ; I find fault with nothing but what is to the 

Oates in his defence endeavoured to show with what 
credit he had been received by the House of Lords and 
courts of justice at the time of his discovery of the Plot, 
and to prove by certain witnesses that he had been in 
London in the April and May of 1678. Jeffreys strongly 
advised him to rely on the latter defence. As to the 
support he had received from the Judges, the Chief 
Justice told him that what Chief Justice Scroggs said at 
any of the Plot trials or what he (Jeffreys) or any other 
person, counsel or Judge, said, was merely to be considered 
as their opinions on the fact as it then occurred to their 
present apprehensions, but was no evidence binding on 
the jury. " Alack-a-day ! " he exclaimed, " how many 
times in Westminster Hall have we causes wherein we 
have verdict against verdict ! " And he went on to cite 
Lady Ivy's case, in which at the first trial every one 
believed her title to the greater part of Shadwell good ; 
and at the second, the very witnesses who had proved her 
title at the previous trial were found to be notorious 
perjurers. " We give our opinions always according to 
the present testimony that is before us," he concluded. 
Such a conclusion cannot have been encouraging to the 
general body of suitors who relied on the courts of law 
for the bringing to light of truth and justice ; but the 
examination and cross-examination of witnesses was at 
that time in so confused and inept a condition that 
injustice was only too frequent and unavoidable. 

Jeffreys advised Oates : " if you did call two or three 
witnesses to prove that you were in town the 22nd, 23rd 


or 24th of April, it would be the best defence you could 
make." Oates agreed to this ; but the two or three he did 
call were very faulty, and directly contradicted each other. 
One, a Mrs. Mayo, sought to strengthen her deposition by 
declaring that what she spoke she spoke as in the presence 
of the Lord. The touch of Gospel was not lost on the 
Chief Justice. " Prithee, woman," he inquired with irony, 
" dost thou think we ask thee anything that we think thou 
dost not speak in the presence of the Lord . ? We are all 
of us in the presence of the Lord always." Mrs. Mayo 
was not to be outfaced by any one — " And shall answer 
before Him," she exclaimed, " for all that we have done 
and said, all of us, the proudest and the greatest here — " 
" But I would not have so much to answer for as thou 
hast in this business, for all the world," retorted Jeffreys. 
Mrs. Mayo somewhat excused her presumption by re- 
marking that she knew his lordship, though he did not 
know her, for she had been in Wales. " I am very glad 
of it, good woman," answered the Judge. 

Oates persisted in calling certain Judges and Peers, and 
Mr. Williams, Speaker of the Commons in 1678, to depose 
to his credit at that time. He had better have taken Jeffreys' 
advice and let such evidence alone. He came sadly to 
grief over one of his witnesses, Lord Huntingdon, who, 
after describing the faith with which the House of Lords 
had at first received his story, added, " And I do believe 
most of the House of Peers have altered their opinion as 
to this man's credit, and look upon his evidence as I do to 
be very false." "Do you hear him, Mr. Oates?" asked 
Jeffreys. " No, my lord, I do not very well." " Then, my 
Lord Huntingdon, turn your face to the jury ; and say 
what you said to us over again." Huntingdon complied 
with the Judge's request. Oates was disappointed, but 
not abashed. " Very well, my lord," he said to Hunt- 
ingdon. " I called you in to answer my question, as 
to somewhat that is past, and not to give your judg- 
ment how you are inclined to believe now." Jeffreys 
intervened, " Nay, but with your favour, it was to 


declare what opinion the House of Lords had of you ; 
and he says very well, and that is in truth the same 
answer that must be given for the Judges and the juries 
that tried the people on your evidence." " Well, my 
lord, I have done with my Lord of Huntingdon." " And 
he has done with you, as I perceive," put in Mr. Justice 
Wythens. Jeffreys closed the incident quite jauntily : 
"Yes, truly, methinks ye shake hands and part very 

Lord Chief Baron Montagu cut a rather sorry figure in 
the witness box. As a Judge who had sat on most of the 
Plot trials Oates called him to depose to the convictions 
that had been obtained on his evidence and the support he 
had received from many of the Judges at that time. 
Montagu admitted these circumstances, but remarked that 
he himself had never had any great faith in Oates's 
testimony. Then why, Oates might have asked, had the 
Chief Baron suffered so many innocent men to be con- 
victed on evidence he disbelieved, without uttering one 
word of protest from the Bench ? 

Oates's case was concluded with Montagu's evidence. 
The Crown then called certain additional evidence by 
which they proposed to answer the prisoner's defence. 
First of all the Earl of Castlemaine and Sir George 
Wakeman were heard, both of whom had been tried on 
Oates's evidence but acquitted by the juries at the time 
when the Plot fury had begun to wane. Oates in cross- 
examining Lord Castlemaine went on his usual tack of 
trying to make the witness confess his religion, and so lay 
himself open to the severe laws against Papists. Jeffreys 
endeavoured to stop him. Oates declared the witness was 
malicious. The patience of the Chief Justice was ex- 
hausted : "Hold your tongue!" he cried; "you are a 
shame to mankind ! " Oates was not to be dismayed. He 
offered to stand to his evidence and seal it with his blood. 
" It were pity," ominously replied the Judge, " but that it 
were to be done by thy blood." " Ah ! ah ! my lord, I 
know why all this is, and so may the world very easily 


too," replied Oates. " Such impudence and impiety was 
never known in any Christian's nature," exclaimed Jeffreys. 
The scene ended by Oates excusing himself on the ground 
that ill words provoke any man's passion. " Keep your- 
self within bounds and you shall be heard ; but we will 
suffer none of your extravagances," answered Jeffreys. 

At certain of the Plot trials Oates had called witnesses 
to prove that he was in London at the time of the consult 
at the White Horse Tavern at the end of April, 1678. 
The Attorney-General now offered evidence to show in 
what fashion two at least of these witnesses had been 
procured by the prisoner. One, he said, a man called 
Smith, a schoolmaster at Islington, had been arrested by 
Oates on the first discovery of the Plot, but had been 
promised a free pardon by the Doctor on condition that 
he would swear that Oates had dined with him on 
the first Monday in May, 1678. Smith had consented 
to commit the perjury, for, as he said, he must have 
died if he had not done it. The Attorney-General now 
called Smith, who was prepared to forswear his previous 
forswearing, and was about to examine him when Jeffreys 
stopped him : " That is very nauseous and fulsome, Mr. 
Attorney, methinks, in a court of justice." Sawyer went 
on with his examination, but Jeffreys stopped him again. 
" I tell you truly, Mr. Attorney, it looks rank and ful- 
some ; if he did forswear himself, why should he ever be 
a witness again ? " Sawyer urged precedents. " I hate such 
precedents in all times," answered Jeffreys. The Solicitor- 
General came to the rescue, but the Chief Justice was firm : 
"for example sake, it ought not by any means to be 
admitted." Attorney and Solicitor being unable to move 
the Judge, Mr. Roger North, who was holding a junior brief 
for the Crown, thought he might succeed where his leaders 
had failed. " My lord," he began, " if a man come and 
swear " — but he was not allowed to finish. " Look ye, 
sir," came from the Bench, " you have our opinion ; it was 
always the practice heretofore that when the Court have 
delivered their opinion the counsel should sit down and 


not dispute it further." Poor Roger ! he soon realised 
the fact that his timid sensitive nature was not fitted for 
the rough atmosphere of Westminster Hall, and desisted 
from legal pursuits ; but in writing his brother's life he 
was able to give the Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys a much 
better answer than any he could have made him in the 
Court of King's Bench. 

If the Crown had failed with Smith, they could produce 
a more satisfactory witness than he against the prisoner in 
one Davenport, who had been an inmate of the Gate House 
prison at Westminster at the time of the trial of Lang- 
horne and the five Jesuits. He swore that shortly before 
the trials Oates had come to the prison with Sir William 
Waller and threatened to hang an old man of the name of 
Clay, imprisoned there as a Popish priest, if he would 
not swear in court that Oates had dined at his house in 
May, 1678. Clay, to save his life, had consented to 
commit the necessary perjury. With this dismal evidence 
the Attorney-General closed his case. 

Oates could only reply by renewing his objection to 
Papists being received as witnesses against him. But 
Jeffreys would not hear of it : " a Papist, except you'll 
prove any legal objection against him, is as good a witness 
in a court of record, as any other person." Oates desired 
he might have leave to argue the question as a point of 
law. " No, sir, it is no point of law at all," replied 
Jeffreys. " Then," cried Oates, " I appeal to all the 
hearers whether I have justice done me ! " This was a 
piece of impertinence Jeffreys, or any other Judge, could 
not have suffered to pass unnoticed : " What's that ? 
Why, you impudent fellow, do you know where you are ? 
You are in a court of justice, and must appeal to none but 
the Court and jury." " I do appeal to all my hearers," 
repeated Oates. Jeffreys ordered him to be removed, but 
relented on condition that he behaved with decency. 
Oates then cited Bulstrode s Reports to show that it was 
Lord Coke's practice not to admit Papists as witnesses. 
Jeffreys referred to the book, and answered: "That book 


says it was Lord Coke's practice ; and we think if that was 
his practice, his practice was against law." 

The argument continued for some time until Oates 
began to reflect on the peers whom he had called as 
witnesses, and who had so bitterly disappointed his expecta- 
tions. Jeffreys thought fit to defend the noble lords 
against his aspersions, though, he added, " a slander from 
your mouth is very little scandal." Oates, quite undaunted 
by his misfortunes, pertly replied, " Nor from somebody 
else's neither." " But, sir, you must be taught better 
manners," answered the Chief Justice. Even Mr. Justice 
Walcot, a silent Judge at ordinary times, felt bound to 
expostulate with Oates on his behaviour. " Good Mr. 
Justice Walcot," pleaded the Doctor, "was there ever 
man dealt with as I am ? " And then for the last time he 
declared the truth of his narrative and the injuries he was 
now suffering, concluding with the following prophetic 
utterance : " For my own part I care not what becomes of 
me, the truth will one time or another appear." " I hope 
in God it will," echoed the Chief Justice. " I do not 
question it, my lord," answered Oates. " And I hope we 
are finding it out to-day," added my Lord Chief Justice. 

Finch, the Solicitor-General, had hardly commenced to 
sum up the case for the Crown when Oates asked leave 
to retire. He was very weak and ill, he said, suffering 
from the stone and gout. In all probability the Doctor, 
whose infirmities had not prevented him from carrying on 
his desperate case with wonderful spirit and audacity, felt 
that the affair was at an end as far as he was concerned, 
and did not anticipate with any degree of pleasure having 
to sit and listen to the terrible summing up of the Chief 
Justice. Jeffreys suffered him to depart. 

When, after a careful review of the evidence by Finch, 
Jeffreys' turn came to address the jury, the Chief Justice 
began by deploring the manner in which the nation had 
been at first surprised into a belief in Oates and his crew, 
" a thing for which the justice of the nation lies under great 
reproach abroad." And now, when such conclusive evidence 



had been given of the perjury of the man, his " blood was 
curdled and his spirits raised to see him brazening it out in 
a court of justice." "The pretended infirmity of his body 
made him remove out of court ; but the infirmity of his 
depraved mind, the blackness of his soul, the baseness of 
his actions ought to be looked upon with such horror and 
detestation as to think him unworthy any longer to tread 
upon the face of God's earth. You will pardon my warmth, 
I hope ; for it is impossible such things should come before 
any honest man, and not have some extraordinary influence 
upon him." Jeffreys might well speak, as many others be- 
sides himself, with warmth and bitterness of Oates's decep- 
tion ; for on the strength of that deception he had, as 
Recorder of London, passed sentence of death on Ireland, 
Langhorne and the five Jesuits ; " and I am sorry to say 
it," he added when he came to speak of his own share in 
the Popish trials. Well he might exclaim against the 
hurry Oates had thrown men into at that time, so that all 
of the Romish persuasion were looked on with an evil eye, 
and Oates treated with greater respect than the branches of 
the royal family. " Nay, it was come to that degree of 
folly, to give it no worse name, that, in public societies, 
to the reproach and infamy of them be it spoken, 
this profligate villain was caressed, was drunk to and 
saluted by the name of the * Saviour of the Nation.' 
O prodigious madness ! that such a title as that was 
should ever be given to such a prostitute monster of 
impiety as this is ! The prisoner has said he will 
venture his blood in confirmation of his impious false- 
hoods ; but to speak the truth he makes no great venture 
in it ; for when he had pawned his immortal soul by so per- 
jured a testimony, he may very easily proffer the venturing 
of his vile carcase to maintain it." In spite of the fore- 
gone conclusion to which the trial pointed, Jeffreys reviewed 
the evidence at length. He terminated his review : " And 
sure I am, if you think these witnesses swear true — as I 
cannot see any colour of objection — there does not remain 
the least doubt but that Oates is the blackest and most 


perjured villain that ever appeared upon the face of the 

As the jury retired from the bar, Jeffreys offered them 
some drink before they went They did not, however, 
think refreshment necessary, and in a quarter of an hour 
returned with a verdict of " Guilty " against the prisoner. 
Jeffreys expressed his entire concurrence and that of his 
brethren in what they had done, and his satisfaction that 
the days were now past when verdicts were received with 
hummings and hissings by the auditors. 

On the following day Oates appeared to answer the 
second charge of perjury. He had sworn in the course of 
the Plot trials that one of the prisoners, Ireland, had been 
in London between the 8th and 12th of August and on 
the 1st and 2nd of September, 1678. The Crown now 
put into the box a number of witnesses who proved 
conclusively that Ireland was in Hertfordshire and Staf- 
fordshire at the dates sworn to by Oates. Oates made 
practically no defence ; he was weary of playing a losing 
game two days running. He complained once to Jeffreys 
that a barrister behind him was meddling with his papers. 
Jeffreys replied that the gentleman " had better do some- 
what else if he found him out." Oates asked that he 
might have seven days after the present trial in which to 
instruct counsel in certain points of law with reference to 
errors in the indictment. Jeffreys allowed him such time, 
though, as he afterwards remarked, it was allowing him 
longer than usual, four days being the customary period. 
As on the previous day, Oates asked leave to withdraw 
before the Solicitor-General's speech, which Jeffreys 
accorded him. 

The summing up of the Chief Justice, if shorter than 
at the first trial, was more heated. Since the adjourn- 
ment of the Court circumstances had occurred to swell his 
disgust. Over the " Saviour of the Nation " he again 
waxed indignant. " Oh, horrid blasphemy, that no less an 
epithet should be given to such a profligate wretch as 
Oates, than that which is only proper to our blessed 

r 2 


Lord ! As though Oates had merited more than all man- 
kind, and so indeed he has if we take it in a true sense. 
He has deserved much more punishment than the laws of 
this land can inflict." From this he passed to a long 
attack on the Whigs and their methods, which he held, 
not without reason, to be responsible for much of the past 
injustice. It was their Sheriffs' trickery and packing of 
juries that caused verdicts to be given by passion and 
prejudice, and not by merits of a case. If a man was 
blasted by the name of Tory he was sure to lose his case ; 
but if a whining rascal was sanctified by the name of 
Whig he was sure to have it on his side ; witness the 
famous cause of Mr. Loades about his lemons." l He said 
that Charles II. had remembered with concern to his 
dying day the fact that he had consented to Ireland's 
execution, as his royal father before him had deplored the 
signing of Strafford's death-warrant. The cause of the 
additional warmth of the Chief Justice's indignation was 
not long in appearing. After insisting once again on the 
admissibility of Papists as witnesses in a court of law, " Let 
the sober party," he exclaimed, " as they call themselves, 
make what reflections they please upon it ; I value them 
not, nor their opinion ; let them send as many penny-post 
libels as they have a mind to, two of which I received last 
night, about yesterday's trial." " Gentlemen," he con- 
cluded, " I have taken up much of your time, and detained 
you longer in this matter, because, I cannot but say with 
grief of heart, our nation was too long besotted ; and of 
innocent blood there has been too much spilt ; it is high 
time we ought to have some account of it. It is a mercy 
we ought to bless Almighty God for that we are pre- 
vented from spilling more of innocent blood ! God be 
blessed, our eyes are opened ; and let us have a care for 
the future, that we be not so suddenly imposed upon by 
such prejudices and jealousies, as we have reason to fear 
such villains have too much filled our heads with of late." 

1 Loades, a Dissenter, afterwards made City Chamberlain when 
James II. admitted the Dissenters to municipal offices. 


In half an hour the jury had found Oates " Guilty " on 
the second charge, and was congratulated by each of the 
four Judges individually on the justice of its verdict. 

A week later Oates was brought up for judgment. 
His exceptions to the previous, proceedings, prepared by 
the indefatigable Wallop, were read and shortly disposed 
of from the Bench. Jeffreys then declared the sense of 
all the Judges of England as to Oates's punishment. They 
had, he said, all consulted together, and decided that in 
cases of perjury the law left the punishment to the dis- 
cretion of the Court, provided that their judgment " did 
not extend to life or member." To his brother Wythens he 
left the duty of pronouncing that judgment, which was to 
be exemplary enough to punish this villainous wretch and 
terrify all others. In terms which strike the reader as 
insipid after some pages of Jeffreys, Wythens delivered 
the sentence : a fine of 1,000 marks on each indictment, 
a great deal of pillorying at different times, and, most 
urgent of all, next Wednesday a whipping at the hands 
of the common hangman, from Aldgate to Newgate, and 
on the Friday following from Newgate to Tyburn. 
" This," concluded Wythens, " I pronounce to be the 
judgment of the Court upon you for your offences. And 
I must tell you plainly, if it had been in my power to 
have carried it further, I should not have been unwilling 
to have given judgment of death upon you ; for I am 
sure you deserve it." 

One would have thought that it was unnecessary for 
Mr. Justice Wythens to exercise his mind concerning the in- 
adequacy of the sentence he passed on Oates ; it must have 
seemed to many who were not familiar with the Doctor's 
powers of endurance quite equivalent to a judgment of 
death. It was a delightful freak of legal subtlety that con- 
sidered a sentence of whipping such as that inflicted on 
Oates as one that " did not extend to life or member ! " 
And so, to use Jeffreys' expression, the Chief Justice 
and the Doctor " shook hands and parted " in this life, 
whether " very fairly," to continue the Judge's words, 


may be a matter of opinion. It is singular that Oates 
survived the full measure of his deserts, and that on his 
release from prison at the Revolution his Judge lay 
dying in the Tower. Of the justice of his sentence it is 
impossible to doubt ; one cannot help concurring in the 
closing words of Wythens. Even the temperate Evelyn 
writes that some thought the punishment extraordinarily 
severe ; " but," he continues, " if he was guilty of the 
perjuries, and so of the death of many innocents, as I fear 
he was, his punishment was but what he deserved." 

Little can be said against the way in which Jeffreys 
presided at his trial. To say, as Macaulay does, that the 
Judges browbeat and reviled the prisoner is to say what 
is untrue. Considering the exceptional atrocity of Oates's 
guilt, the stubborn impudence of his bearing, the reckless 
support which was still accorded him by the scurrilous 
fanatics of the Whig party, the judicial temper of the 
times, and the fact that the Chief Justice himself had 
been made a victim to his crimes by the sentences he had 
passed on innocent men, Jeffreys' treatment of him was 
none too severe. 

His language may appear excessive to modern readers, 
but it impressed Lord Ailesbury as most dignified and 
judicial in its tone. It is to be observed that it was not 
until his guilt had appeared in very glaring colours that 
Jeffreys first addressed Oates in terms of reprobation ; he 
allowed him certain privileges and the full exercise of his 
rights, and stopped the Crown when they wished to bring 
improper evidence against him. If he did at times break 
out into stronger denunciation than seems to us now be- 
fitting in a judge, it must be remembered that at no time 
has it ever fallen to the lot of any judge before or since 
to try so monstrous and horrible a perjurer. Oates, 
singularly enough, did not bear that resentment to Jeffreys 
which might have been expected under the circumstances. 
In the Western Martyrology — a book written by Oates's 
most enthusiastic supporters, as may be judged from the 
fact that he is therein styled " the worst made man 


for a dissembler, an hypocrite or a secret villain of 
any man in the world," — it is said that at Jeffreys' fall 
Oates was almost the only man who pitied him. It is 
more than likely that in Oates's peculiar nature there 
resided a certain respect for the man who had so thoroughly 
appreciated what a scoundrel he was, though there is little 
trace of any such respect in Oates's allusions to Jeffreys in 
the Eikon Basilike, his foul-mouthed life of James II. 
Perhaps in print the Doctor felt it his duty to be stirring 
and hide his feelings. 




Between the conviction and sentence of Oates, Jeffreys 
had been the recipient of an honour peculiar at that time, 
though it has since become almost customary. His grateful 
master created him a peer. It was the first occasion on 
which a Lord Chief Justice had been so rewarded during his 
tenure of office. Jeffreys selected as his title Baron Jeffreys 
of Wem, in the county of Shropshire. The same Gazette 
that contained the announcement of Jeffreys' peerage also 
announced the conferment of similar honours on two of 
the King's most intimate friends, Henry Jermyn and John 
Churchill, afterwards Duke of Marlborough. 

On the heels of these new honours followed the rumour 
that the Lord Keeper North was to be dismissed and the 
new judicial peer to have his place. The shades of night 
were gathering around that unfortunate Minister. The 
death of Charles II. and the accession of his brother had 
proved indeed, as Roger puts it, a " funest alteration " in 
his affairs; "all his lordship's joys and hopes perished; and 
the rest of his life, which lasted not long after, was but a 
slow dying." He found himself neglected and supplanted, 
his advice rejected. The elaborate speech he had prepared 
to deliver at the opening of Parliament on the King's 
behalf he was never allowed to speak, and in the pre- 
paration of the speech which the King delivered in person 
he was not so much as consulted. His nominee for the 


Speakership of the House of Commons was set aside in 
favour of Jeffreys' cousin, Sir John Trevor, his advice as 
to the collection of taxes before the meeting of Parliament 
disregarded. His enemies, chief among them Sunderland 
and Jeffreys, with that want of feeling common to the age, 
openly derided him and made him a butt for their jests. 
His morality, perhaps a little pretentious, was annoying to 
the courtiers ; so they sent one of their number to him to 
seriously advise him to keep a mistress as a sure way to re- 
cover his waning credit. He went one day with his brother, 
Sir Dudley, to see an enormous rhinoceros which had 
been brought to London. Sunderland and Jeffreys heard 
of this, and immediately spread a report that the Lord 
Keeper had taken to riding a rhinoceros. The joke is 
not a great one, but its authors were probably well aware 
of the anger it would cause to a man so smug in his 
propriety and so destitute of humour as North. And 
they were right in their conjecture. On hearing it, the 
Lord Keeper flew into a violent rage and quarrelled with 
his brother Dudley, because the latter laughed and would 
have taken the jest in good part. It is typical of North's 
character that no real slight, none of the greater injustices 
that were put upon him stirred him to any show of 
passion or resentment ; but the folly of the rhinoceros 
threw him into a transport of indignation. The real 
ignominy of his situation preyed on him in quite another 
fashion : he fell into a fatal depression of health and 
spirits, all that was good in his humour left him ; " sunk 
and spiritless" he went about " as a ghost with the visage 
of death ; " " all was chip," to use the fantastic ex- 
pression of his biographer. He had hardly strength 
enough to get through the ceremonies of the Coronation. 
Conscious of his disgrace, he fancied that his face betrayed 
his sense of shame ; so that in the Summer Term, as he sat 
in Westminster Hall, he covered his face with the nosegay 
of flowers he used to take with him into court, that men 
might not see the dejection of his countenance. At length 
his state of health became so serious that he withdrew, in 
the company of the faithful Roger and a few friends and 


dependents, to his country seat at Wroxton, in Oxford- 
shire. But he carried the Great Seal of England with him. 

North should have resigned the Seal as soon as he 
found that under the new reign his services were not 
required. There can be no question about that ; and it 
is his unsightly clinging to office which has made his fall 
pitiful and contemptible. Roger says that his pride and 
his consideration for his friends prevented his resignation. 
His pride ? but where was the pride that could stoop to 
such humiliation in its own defence ? His consideration 
for his friends ? But what friend would claim his con- 
sideration at the price of his honour ? He did not wish 
to see the Seal placed in unworthy hands, the hands of 
Jeffreys ? But did he imagine that when a suitable occa- 
sion offered James would hesitate to take the Seal from 
one whom he had openly slighted in every conceivable 
manner, and give it to another who, whatever his faults 
or his crimes, was likely to prove a lively instrument of 
the King's designs ? The Lord Keeper's conscious shame 
that made him hide his face from the people in West- 
minster Hall, is surely the most convincing answer to 
Roger's praiseworthy efforts in the cause of his brother's 

When North departed for Wroxton, Jeffreys must have 
felt that the coveted Seal was nearer his grasp. On May 
19th Parliament met, and Baron Jeffreys ofWem took his 
seat in the House of Lords. At the same time the general 
security was disturbed by the arrival ot news that the 
Duke of Argyle had landed with a rebel force in Scot- 
land ; and rumours soon reached London that the Duke 
of Monmouth was purchasing war ships in Holland. 
Many arrests were made of suspicious characters ; and 
addresses of loyalty poured in upon the King. 

In the midst of these commotions Thomas Dangerfield 
and Richard Baxter stood their trials before the Lord Chief 
Justice on May 30th. That of Dangerfield began at eight 
in the morning in the Court of King's Bench. Though 
one of Oates's confederates and author of the Meal Tub 
Plot, Dangerfield was riot tried for perjury, but for libels 


on the late and present King, contained in a narrative he 
had published in the days of his credit. The man was a 
thorough rascal. He had, when a boy, stolen his father's 
horses and afterwards taken to coining. But the Popish 
plot had set him on his legs, and a handsome presence in- 
creased his reputation. The only report of his trial is a 
contemporary sheet, wherein we are told that the prisoner 
began to reflect on several honest men, but was sharply 
reproved by Jeffreys, " which was observed to put him a 
little out of his Newgate rhetoric." He received the same 
sentence as Oates, but he did not survive it. In the 
midst of his sufferings an indignant Tory gentleman 
named Francis struck him in the eye with his cane ; and, 
as he died soon after, popular resentment ascribed his 
death to the Tory gentleman's rash act. The Govern- 
ment, confronted with Monmouth's rebellion and anxious 
to allay disturbance, had Francis tried and executed for 

The Court adjourned after the trial of Dangerfield. 
The same afternoon Jeffreys took his seat at the Guild- 
hall, where, among the list of cases to be disposed of was 
that of the King against the eminent divine Richard 
Baxter, one of the most worthy and respectable of the 
Dissenting ministers of the day. Baxter had already 
arrived at the Guildhall with his friend, Sir Richard 
Ashurst, and Dr. Bates, a well-known Dissenting minister ; 
others of his friends filled the court. The charge was one 
of seditious libel, it being alleged that in his Paraphrase 
of the New Testament, published a little before, Baxter 
had reflected on the prelates of the Church of England in 
a scandalous and seditious manner. Baxter was furnished 
with a large array of counsel : Mr. Pollexfen, a leading 
Whig lawyer, afterwards Chief Justice of the Common 
Pleas under William III. ; the inevitable Mr. Wallop and 
Mr. Williams ; Mr. Rotheram, afterwards appointed a 
Baron of the Exchequer by Jeffreys ; Mr. Atwood ; and 
Mr. Constantine Phipps, afterwards Lord Chancellor of 
Ireland under Queen Anne. After waiting some time, the 


Chief Justice came into court with a countenance full of 
indignation. A short cause was tried and the clerk was 
about to call another, when Jeffreys told him he was a 
blockhead, " the next cause is between Richard Baxter and 
the King." 

There is no report of the case for the Crown. 
Baxter's friends — to whom we owe any account of the 
proceedings — did not apparently trouble themselves about 
reporting their opponents' case. At any rate, whatever 
its worth, it had convinced Jeffreys ; for no sooner had 
Pollexfen opened the defence than the Chief Justice 
hailed him as a " patron of the faction." His client 
was " an old rogue, who encouraged all the women and 
maids to bring their bodkins and thimbles to carry on 
the war against the King and Government." The more 
Pollexfen endeavoured to mitigate his client's guilt, the 
greater the fury into which Jeffreys was fast working 
himself. From denunciation he passed to mimicry and 
mocked the reverend defendant by throwing up his hands, 
and singing through his nose, in true nonconformist 
style, " Lord, we are Thy people, Thy peculiar people, Thy 
dear people." Pollexfen urged that the King had once 
thought Baxter deserving of a bishopric. " What ailed 
the old blockhead then that he did not take it ? " retorted 
the Chief Justice ; Baxter deserved a good whipping ; 
" This one old fellow hath cast more reproach upon the 
constitution and discipline of our Church than will be 
wiped off these hundred years." 

Wallop then rose to argue that Baxter did not intend 
to allude to the prelates of the Church of England in 
the passages quoted in the indictment. Jeffreys soon 
silenced him. He told him he was in all these dirty 
causes, and he and his brethren should have more wit and 
honesty than to hold up factious knaves by the chin. 
Wallop " humbly conceived " — Jeffreys echoed his words : 
" Sometimes you humbly conceive and sometimes you 
are very positive . . . but in short I must tell you that 
if you do not understand your duty better, I shall 


teach it you." Wallop sat down. Then Rotheram tried 
his hand. He and Baxter endeavoured to assure the 
Judge that the latter was no enemy to Bishops. Jeffreys 
only laughed. "Baxter for Bishops ! That's a merry con- 
ceit indeed ! Turn to it, turn to it ! " Baxter tried to 
intervene, but received an exhortation from Jeffreys for 
his pains : "Richard, Richard, dost thou think we will 
hear thee poison the Court ? Richard, thou art an old 
fellow, an old knave ; thou hast written books enough to 
load a cart ; every one is as full of sedition (I might say 
treason) as an egg is full of meat ; hadst thou been 
whipped out of thy writing trade forty years ago, it had 
been happy. Thou pretendest to be a preacher of the 
gospel of peace, and thou hast one foot in the grave ; it 
is time for thee to begin to think what account thou m- 
tendest to give ; but I leave thee to thyself, and I see thou 
wilt go on as thou hast begun ; but, by the grace of God, 
I'll look after thee. I know thou hast a mighty party, and 
I see a great many of the brotherhood in corners waiting 
to see what will become of their mighty Don ; and a 
Doctor of the party (looking at Dr. Bates) at your elbow \ 
but, by the grace of Almighty God, I will crush you all." 
Mr. Rotheram sat down after this, and Mr. Atwood l 
rose to his feet. He proposed to read some texts ; but 
Jeffreys exclaimed : " You shan't draw me into a con- 
venticle with your annotations, nor your snivelling parson 
neither." Atwood referred the Chief Justice to some 
words he had used in Rosewell's case. "No, you shan't !" 
cried the Judge ; and then added, rather irrelevantly : "You 
need not speak, for you are an author already, though you 
speak and write impertinently." Mr. Atwood "having 
had his say," as Jeffreys fantastically termed it, sat down 
also. Williams and Phipps, seeing the case was hopeless, 

1 William Atwood, a staunch Whig controversialist, afterwards 
Chief Justice of New York, where he contrived to make himself un- 
bearable. He may be relied on as another instance of the reason- 
ableness of many of Jeffreys' antipathies towards people who 
have been usually regarded as glorious martyrs to Jeffreys reckless 


did not trouble the Judge with any further remarks. 
Baxter offered to speak in his defence and call some 
witnesses, but Jeffreys would not hear him. In his 
summing up, the Chief Justice said that there was a 
design abroad to ruin the King and nation ; the old game 
of Charles I.'s time was being renewed ; " Gentlemen, for 
God's sake don't let us be gulled twice in an age by the 
cant of those who preach rebellion by texts." He charged 
the jury to find Baxter guilty. " Does your lordship 
think any jury will pretend to pass a verdict upon 
me on such a trial?" indignantly exclaimed the defendant. 
" I'll warrant you, Mr. Baxter," answered the Judge ; 
" don't you trouble yourself about that." 

Baxter was convicted and fined 500 marks, to be 
imprisoned till they were paid, and to be bound to his 
good behaviour for seven years ; but in November, by 
intercession to the King, he was discharged. James found 
it advisable, a little later in his reign, to conciliate the 

As Baxter left the court he administered a parting rebuke 
to the Chief Justice. " My lord," he said, alluding to his 
friend Sir Matthew Hale, " there was a Chief Justice once 
who would have treated me very differently." Was he 
aware that Jeffreys also had been the friend of Hale ? If 
so, his allusion was lost upon Hale's furious successor. 
" There is not an honest man in England but looks on 
thee as a knave," was Jeffreys' curt reply. 

Jeffreys' treatment of Baxter exceeds in its furious 
resentment any previous instance of his judicial conduct. 
For that reason the reliability of the testimony on which 
that account is founded should be carefully considered. 
There is no full or official report of Baxter's trial ; the 
only descriptions of it are those written by the defendant 
or his friends. Now, with all respect for the integrity of 
these excellent people, the atmosphere of religious pre- 
judice is so fatal to strict veracity that it is impossible to 
accept implicitly the one-sided narrative of even the most 
well-intentioned Dissenters. It would be only fair to 


Jeffreys that we should have the entire proceedings 
verbatim, and thus be enabled to judge how far the words 
of Baxter or his counsel were calculated to irritate his 
feelings. Jeffreys hated all Dissenters ; he believed them 
to be hypocrites who made religion a cloak for treason 
and sedition, the descendants of the psalm-singing fanatics 
who had put their King to death. And certainly in many 
respects the Dissenters of his period justified his dislike. 
There was a great deal of God and Jesus and the Pro- 
testant religion in their mouths ; but they had as little 
mercy and Christianity in their hearts as their enemies in 
Church and State, whom they reviled with such godless 
fervour. It was among the Dissenters who formed the 
backbone of the extreme Whig party that Oates was 
regarded as a noble martyr, and Dangerfield as a great and 
bright soul. Even among the better class of Dissenters 
there was a suspicious familiarity with the designs of the 
factious. There was not, Monmouth declared to the 
King in 1683, any considerable Nonconformist minister 
who did not know of the existence of the Rye House 
Plot. Jeffreys, the Bishops, and all those who joined in 
the stern suppression of Dissent, did not do so from 
motives of religious persecution, but of revenge for the 
past, and dread of their resorting once more to civil war 
for the assertion of their rights. It may have been 
incorrect to take such a sweeping view of the conduct and 
responsibility of the Nonconformists, but it was a sincere 
view, and one which, by their recent conduct, the Dissenters 
had gone far to justify. 

When a man takes a rooted antipathy to a whole class, 
when it has been his experience to see the worst side of 
a movement, he cannot help including in his condemnation 
a certain number of worthy men. In the cases of 
Rosewell and Baxter, Jeffreys allowed his hatred of a class 
to prejudice him against two very respectable persons. 
He was probably the fiercer against Baxter because 
Baxter's trial occurred at a time when a rebellion was 
imminent which found its strongest support among the 


Dissenters. Monmouth's rebellion was a rising encouraged 
by the extreme section of the Protestants, who were 
shocked at seeing a Papist on the throne, and had not the 
good sense or the moderation to wait and see how the 
Catholic King would behave himself. They selected the 
West as their scene of operations because it was the 
stronghold of Nonconformists. In such a rebellion, the 
rumours of which were spreading at the end of May, 
Jeffreys saw a confirmation of his worst fears — the " snivel- 
ling saints" were at the old game of 1640. He was 
accordingly only too ready to regard Baxter as one of the 
fomenters of the coming disturbance, and to pour out on 
his venerable head the vials of his wrath. Baxter too 
sympathised with the " Trimmers," and Jeffreys hated 
"Trimmers" as cordially as he hated Dissenters. Though 
Baxter might plead that he did not allude to the English 
Bishops in his Paraphrase^ it looks very much as if he 
did. Macaulay admits that his book was a bitter com- 
plaint against the then treatment of Dissenters. It is 
therefore permissible to infer that his allusion to the 
Bishops had a more than purely historical interest. 

If Jeffreys' indignation can be excused, his manner of 
expressing it, if correctly reported, cannot ; though it re- 
quires a little hypocrisy to deny that it is amusing, and it 
must have delighted the heart of the Chief Justice to watch 
its effect on a Court full of the brethren. Even Bishop 
Lloyd, who so admired Jeffreys as a converter of the 
stubborn Nonconformists, must have considered that 
Richard Baxter did not stand in need of quite such 
extreme arts of persuasion as those made use of at the 
Guildhall, and that the Chief Justice was on this occasion 
somewhat exceeding the limits of the Bishop's well meant 
encouragement. Perhaps Dr. Lloyd was aware that 
the Judge's health, for which he had once expressed such 
tender solicitude, was about this time beginning to be 
fatally affected and his temper inflamed by repeated 
attacks of the stone. 

On June nth the Duke of Monmouth landed at 


Lyme, in Dorsetshire. On the 15th the King issued a 
proclamation against any who should be guilty ot 
spreading the Duke's Declaration. On the 25 th Jeffreys, 
under a Special Commission of Oyer and Terminer for the 
county of Surrey, condemned to death at the Marshalsea 
in Southwark, one William Disney, Esquire, for printing 
and publishing the said Declaration. The Battle of 
Sedgmoor was fought on the 6th of July, and nine days 
later Monmouth was beheaded on Tower Hill. The 
rebellion was soon at an end. It only remained to punish 
the rebels. 

The method of punishment had not been decided on by 
the nth of July ; for on that day Jeffreys was gazetted to 
go the Home Circuit with Mr. Justice Street, to hold the 
ensuing Summer Assizes from August 31st to September 
1 5th. But in the meantime the Western Assizes for this 
summer had been prevented by the rebellion ; and it was 
therefore decided that a Special Commission should be issued 
to five Judges to hold these Assizes and at the same time try 
the captured rebels. At the head of the Commission was 
the Lord Chief Justice Jeffreys. With him were the 
Chief Baron Montagu and Mr. Justice Levinz of the 
Common Pleas, both respectable Judges ; and Mr. Justice 
Wythens and Mr. Baron Wright, who can only be 
regarded as followers or creatures of the Chief Justice. 
Wythens had been the obsequious echo of "the Chief" ever 
since he had sat under him in the King's Bench ; Wright 
was the questionable gentleman for whom Jeffreys had 
secured a Judgeship to mortify Lord Keeper North. A 
second Commission invested Jeffreys with the rank of 
Lieutenant-General, and gave him the command of th„ 
body guard that accompanied the Judges as a protection 
from the fury of the populace. 

The Commission was late in setting forth, as the Chief 
Justice had been detained at Tunbridge Wells. He was 
suffering from the stone, and had left the Wells before the 
completion of his cure. Afflicted by this painful malady, 
he started on the Western Circuit. 


Aug.-Sept., 1685 

If a man of passionate temper, suffering the agonies of 
a peculiarly cruel disorder, is appointed in his capacity as 
Judge to try, by the comparatively slow process of law, 
more than a thousand rebels against the Government of 
which he is himself an ardent member, at a time when 
mercy to rebels and mercy in the administration of the law 
were no part of the ethics of political strife, it is more than 
likely that from a combination of such circumstances 
results will ensue very shocking to modern notions, and all 
the more appalling if treated by writers whose political 
prejudices tempt them to forget the differences of thought 
and spirit that divide one century from another. 

On landing in England the Duke of Monmouth issued 
a Declaration, the work of Ferguson, a Dissenting minister 
of more than doubtful character. This Declaration must 
have been pleasant reading to the King and Jeffreys, and 
must have furnished them with a nice opinion of those 
who fought in its justification. In it James " Duke of 
York " was openly declared a fratricide and an assassin, 
the murderer of his brother King Charles II. and the 
unfortunate Earl of Essex ; he was to be pursued as a 
" mortal and bloody enemy," and was to be mercilessly 
prosecuted and punished for these execrable facts. To 
James's grave disposition the humorous side of these 
slanders would not present itself. Jeffreys and his 
brother Judges were " suborned, forsworn, men that 


were the scandal of the Bar, ignorant and mercenary" 
—true or false, statements not calculated to soothe the 
irritated feelings of the Lord Chief Justice. No mercy 
was to be shown to such as Jeffreys and other members of 
the Government by these God-fearing men, going forth to 
battle in the name of the Lord of Hosts. "And we 
would have none that appear under his (James, Duke of 
York's) banner to flatter themselves with expectation of 
forgiveness ; it being our firm resolution to prosecute him 
and his adherents, without giving way to treaties and 
accommodations, until we have brought him and them to 
undergo what the rules of the Constitution and the Statutes 
of the realm, as well as the laws of nature, Scripture and 
nations, judge to be a punishment due to the enemies of 
God, mankind and their country, and all things that are 
honourable, virtuous and good." 

In spite of the "meekness and purity of their principles 
and the moderation and righteousness of their ends," 
mercy towards their enemies was evidently not part of the 
creed of these champions of the reformed Protestant re- 
ligion ; nor was their language calculated to inspire mercy 
in the bosoms of the victorious Government. If the 
servants of the Lord of Hosts were prepared in the hour 
of /victory to inflict stern retribution on the idolatrous 
tyrant, what treatment could they look for at the hands 
of the said idolatrous tyrant should things turn out 
contrary to their expectations ? 

The suppression of a revolt in the age of Jeffreys was 
accompanied by severities very shocking to modern notions, 
but which were the commonplace of victory at that period] 
and had been so for centuries past. Extermination for 
the sake of example, in a more or less complete form, was 
the principle adopted by a successful Government within 
the area of an unsuccessful rebellion. It was usual, as in 
the case of the Northern rebellion in Elizabeth's reign, to 
leave it to the victorious general to hang up a few hundred 
of the common sort, besides those actually taken in the 
field, to serve as a warning to others. These were selected 

s 2 


so that each hamlet in the district which had to be impressed 
with a sense of its guilt furnished its quota of examples. 
Thus, by a plentiful scattering of well-filled gibbets, the 
rebellious neighbourhood was cautioned not to do it 

Under the auspices of Feversham and Kirke the punish- 
ment of the Western rebels made a spirited commencement 
after this fashion. But just as the gibbeting had got 
thoroughly under way, orders from London interrupted 
this method of proceeding, and stayed the energies of the 
Colonel. With the advance of civilisation it had been 
perceived that there was a commercial side to the joys of 
victory as well as a didactic, that profit could be drawn 
from extermination as well as example. Kirke had realised 
this by beginning a small trade in selling pardons, and it 
was for this reason that he was suddenly stopped in his 
exemplary functions and rated by Jeffreys on his return to 
London. The Court,' from the King downwards, had 
determined that it was no use embarking on a system of 
wholesale correction without some prospect of remunera- 
tion. Enemies had to be punished, but friends had to be 
rewarded ; and it would never do if Colonel Kirke anti- 
cipated all the benefits. It was accordingly with a view to 
regulating the traffic, as well as the performance of their 
punitive functions, that the Commission headed by Jeffreys 
was despatched to the West. 

But in their desire to deal generously by themselves and 
friends — laudable enough as far as it goes — the Govern- 
ment in sending Jeffreys to the West did a clumsy thing. 
It would have been much wiser to have allowed Feversham 
and Kirke a free hand in the hanging. They would have 
expeditiously strung up a few hundreds of rebels or those 
notoriously sympathetic to the rebellion ; there would 
have been little or no attempt at a trial ; the affair would 
have been carried out on martial lines, and, coming directly 
after the Battle of Sedgmoor, would have formed part of 
the immediate consequences of defeat ; and whatever 
cruelty had accompanied the proceedings would have been 


attributed to the habitually ruthless character of victorious 
soldiery. But instead of such prompt and decided action, 
the Government preferred, more than a month after the 
battle, when the prisons were crammed with unpunished 
rebels, to send down a Commission of Assize to try by 
ordinary legal process some two thousand prisoners. 
Within the limited space of time allotted to the Assize it 
would be impossible for the Judges to have given these 
men such a trial as the law allowed them ; the thing was 
physically impossible ; and, unless the Judges were prepared 
to relax considerably the provisions of the law or use some 
method of force or cajolery to shorten the proceedings, 
they would be engaged on the Western Circuit all 
through the winter. But however it might have been 
justifiable under the circumstances for the Judges to curtail 
the trials, Judges are not the proper people to do that sort 
of thing ; it comes badly from them ; and whatever excuse 
may be offered for their conduct, they are guilty of a 
violation of their duty in acting in such a manner. 
Accordingly the King and his Judge must bear the blame 
attaching to the mistaken system which they" adopted 
in order to terrify their enemies, and secure to themselves 
the bountiful harvest that was to be reaped from a shady 
administration of the law. To Kirke should have been 
left the work of hanging the bulk of the prisoners, and 
only a few of the more important have been reserved to 
take their trials at the Assizes, when there would have 
been sufficient time to have given them the full benefit of 
law allowed to persons in their condition. But a King 
who calls his Assize a " campaign," and a Lord Chief 
Justice who is at the same time a Lieutenant-General, — 
these are anomalies in something more than name. 

In calling this Western Circuit a " campaign " James 
was not merely perpetrating a heavy and improper jest. 
It is its militant character in other respects than the 
Judge-General and the body guard of soldiers, that makes 
the term Assize deceptive and ridiculous. Besides the 
punishment of those actually implicated in the rebellion, 


the Commission was intended to teach a lesson to certain 
Whig gentlemen in the West of England, who, though 
too wise or cautious to join Monmouth, were known to 
be friendly in spirit to any designs against the Govern- 
ment, and whose influence would have been immediately 
exerted in Monmouth's favour if he had met with any 
degree of success. The Prideaux, the Spekes, the 
Trenchards, — these were the men whose names smelt in the 
nostrils of the Government, and who, by fair means or 
foul, were to be made to suffer for the reckless conduct of 
such of their baser adherents as Rumbold and Ferguson. 
Some, as Mr. Charles Speke, had gone so far as to shake 
hands with the Duke of Monmouth ; that was sufficient to 
hang them. Others less effusive, as Edmund Prideaux, had 
done nothing that could be construed into an overt act of 
sympathy ; these were to be arrested on suspicion, and, if no 
evidence could be offered against them, to pay so heavily 
for the privilege of release as might impoverish them and 
enrich some staunch adherent of the King. By these 
means the Government intended to take advantage of the 
rebellion to inflict lasting discomfiture on the more wealthy 
and influential of their opponents, as well as on the 
ignorant and misguided peasants who had flocked to the 
Duke's standard. The Whigs and the Nonconformists 
of the West were the enemies to be struck down and 
terrified by a signal punishment. A wide net was to 
be cast that should draw in the wary and unsuspecting, 
and Jeffreys was the great fisher. He, unfortunately, 
happened at the same time to be Lord Chief Justice of 

So much for the singular functions the Chief Justice 
was expected to perform. These will in some measure 
account for the odium that has fallen on the Western 
transactions ; but not entirely. Above all these considera- 
tions there looms the spectre of the hideous and drunken 
Judge bawling his victims to death, making his Court a 
hell of indecency and injustice, reviling men in coarse and 
brutal terms, jeering at suppliant women with foul and 


unmentionable jests. "Humanity could not offend so 
far as to deserve such punishment as he inflicted. A 
certain barbarous joy and pleasure grinned from his brutal 
soul through his bloody eyes, whenever he was sen- 
tencing any of the poor souls to death and torment ; so 
much worse than Nero, as when that monster wished he 
had never learned to write because forced to set his name 
to warrants for execution of malefactors, Jeffreys would 
have been glad if every letter he writ had been such a 
warrant, and every word a sentence of death. He 
observed neither humanity to the dead nor civility to the 
living. He made all the West an Aceldama, some 
places quite depopulated, and nothing to be seen in them 
but forsaken walls, unlucky gibbets, and ghostly carcases. 
The trees were laden almost as thick with quarters as 
leaves. The houses and steeples covered as close with heads 
as at other times frequently in that country with crows and 
ravens. Nothing could be liker hell than all those parts, 
nothing so like the devil as he. Caldrons hissing, 
carcases boiling, pitch and tar sparkling and glowing, 
blood and limbs boiling, and tearing, and mangling ; and he, 
the great director of all, and, in a word, discharging his 
place who sent him, the best deserving to be the late King's 
Chief Justice there, and Chancellor after, of any man that 
breathed since Cain or Judas." 

Such is the spectacle presented to posterity by the author 
of the Bloody Assizes, the book on which almost entirely 
rests Jeffreys' claim to exceptional disgrace. Into the truth 
of the latter part of his description it is needless to en- 
quire. A considerable quantity of executions, carried out 
according to the letter of the usual sentence in cases of 
high treason, was not likely to improve the aspect of the 
neighbouring country, more especially as it was the custom 
to hang people in their own particular part of the country, 
where the example of their swinging bodies or mouldering 
quarters might appeal as an awful example to their awe- 
stricken friends. And if those friends happened to be 
Dissenters or Whigs, as the author or authors of the 


Bloody Assizes undoubtedly were, the natural consequences 
of such a mode of punishment would be viewed in the 
light of a true Aceldama. 

It is the first part of the description with which this 
work should concern itself. The manner in which 
Jeffreys carried out his difficult and unpleasing 
duty, — this is the burden of the great accusation 
laid to his charge. The number he condemned to 
death — a very vexed question — seems to me immaterial. 
If he made up his mind to accept the Commission, he 
would be bound to inflict the only possible sentence for 
high treason on a considerable number of rebels who had 
been taken red-handed. Clemency was not in Jeffreys' 
day the accepted spirit in which to greet the vanquished 
adherents of an unsuccessful rising. The gaols were 
crammed with prisoners from Monmouth's army, and 
these gaols it would be his duty to deliver of their inmates. 
As soon as it was decided to punish them by the ordinary 
courts of law, an enormous array of gibbets and cauldrons 
was inevitable. The question which concerns the bio- 
grapher of Jeffreys is not so much the nature of his 
functions as the degree in which the Chief Justice by his 
fierce and brutal demeanour aggravated the horrors of an 
unpleasant situation. How far did he deride and exult 
over the prisoners ? What innocent men did he condemn ? 
Was his progress marked by drunkenness and shameless 
immorality ? Was he venal as well as brutal ? Was he 
a raging wild beast rather than a man ? These are the 
questions that have to be answered for or against Jeffreys, 
if we would see the man " truly limned and living " before 
our eyes, and not the distorted creation of his enemies' 

Now,the evidence from which the details given in Locke's 
Western Rebellion, and consequently Macaulay's and all 
the accepted narratives of the Bloody Assizes, are derived, 
is a book called the Bloody Assizes, published in London, 
1689, by one John Dunton, and republished at subsequent 
dates under other titles, such as the New or the JVestern 


Marty rologies. These books, besides containing the lives 
of Oates, Dangerfield and many of those executed for 
complicity in Monmouth's rebellion, include also a life of 
Jeffreys, and various scurrilous attacks levelled against him 
at the time of his fall. Though unquestioningly 
accepted by Macaulay and other historians, though the 
instances of Jeffreys' villainy with which they abound 
have been treated as if they were unimpeachably authentic 
by scrupulous writers, these books must be unhesitatingly 
pronounced unworthy of more than a most limited and 
suspicious credence. 1 

Dunton was a low-class publisher of obscene and sensa- 
tional literature, a man who, to use his own words, " had 
been infested with the itch of printing and had indulged 
his humour to excess." This excess, which in the depart- 
ment of the obscene had transcended the polite obscenity 
of his period, in political literature associated him with the 
violent and scurrilous section of the Whig party, and led 
him to publish such works as would excite the fanaticism 
of the sectaries or the violence of the Whig mobsmen. 
Accordingly, the Bloody Assizes is full of a kind of 
rampant salvationalism that finds expression in voluminous 
prayers of the most assured character, and heated attacks 
on the Popish murderers of Sir Edmundbury Godfrey and 
the Earl of Essex. 

The author of the greater part of these books was John 
Tutchin, " a man who was no better than a cheap penny- 
a-liner of the day." More than that, he was a writer 
whose venom cost him his life — he was thrashed to death 
by some Tories he had vilified in 1707 — and whose fate 
Jeffreys had endeavoured to anticipate by sentencing him 
during the Bloody Assizes to be whipped through all the 
market towns in Dorsetshire, a sentence which even in the 
hour of his fall the Judge saw no cause to regret. It 
would be idle to pretend that at the hands of such an 

1 Mr. A. L. Humphreys fully discusses the quality of these books 
in an article on the "Sources of History for Monmouth's Rebellion 
and the Bloody Assizes," published in vol. xviii. of the Proceedings 
of the Somersetshire Archaeological and Natural History Society. 1892. 


author, Jeffreys, whatever his guilt, could be expected to 
receive anything but the most unfair and perjured treat- 
ment. This he received more particularly from Tutchin, 
in a book called ironically the Merciful Assizes, which 
is entirely devoted to Jeffreys, and, on the authority of 
certain " secret memoirs " of an undivulged source, loads 
him with the coarsest abuse under a clumsy affectation of 
irony. The Bloody Assizes is a more decorous work 
than this, but no more reliable. If for our judgment on 
Jeffreys' conduct we were entirely dependent on the 
Bloody Assizes and its kindred publications, it would 
be impossible to form a rational idea of the man who 
struck such terror into the hearts of the Western prisoners. 
A work dictated by obvious motives of personal vengeance, 
and written for the delectation of religious and political 
enemies, cannot be allowed, even in the case of a Jeffreys, 
to possess any authentic value whatever. 

What we do know for certain at the opening of the 
Assizes amounts to this — Jeffreys was charged with a 
difficult task, unfitting in many respects to the office which 
he held ; his instructions were severe, mercy out of the 
question ; and he had left the Wells with a fit of the 
stone still on him, which increased in its violence as he 
proceeded on the circuit. The effect of this disorder upon 
Jeffreys' bearing as a judge becomes apparent for the first 
time at the trial of Baxter. Jeffreys' tone and language 
were always those of a passionate and irritable man, easily 
stirred to indignation by the presence of those he disliked, 
and regarding his seat on the Bench as a suitable eminence 
from which to defend his convictions and denounce those 
who were too openly opposed to them. But at Baxter's 
trial he passes the ordinary limits of his judicial excitement. 
If his treatment of Baxter be contrasted with that of 
Rosewell, the difference is manifest. Equally prejudiced 
against both, to the latter he is severe and sometimes 
sneering, but he hardly passes the bounds of judicial 
propriety as then understood. But to the former he is 
outrageous, he revels in denunciation, he mocks at the old 
man's worth, and taunts his respectability ; he delights in 


thrilling the hearts of the fearful Dissenters, and watches 
their horror-struck faces as he pours down his wrath on 
the head of their venerable leader. Allowing that Jeffreys' 
conduct may be somewhat exaggerated in the partisan 
reports of Baxter's trial, there still remains a peculiar 
change of tone, an increased wildness of fury of which 
hitherto we have merely seen the possibility, but which, 
in subsequent reports of unquestionable authenticity, we 
can contemplate in the perfected state. This change in 
Jeffreys is coincident with the acute development of the 
disease which brought him to an early grave ; and it is the 
agony of the disease, acting in conjunction with great 
powers of mind and a striking personality, that have made 
Jeffreys vivid and terrible where others would have been 
horrible and vulgar. 

The Assize commenced at the end of August, when 
Jeffreys opened the Commission at Winchester. Here 
there was only one serious case to be tried in connection 
with the rebellion, and that was the case of Alicia Lisle, 
who was indicted for high treason in harbouring and 
concealing one John Hicks, a Dissenting minister and 
follower of the Duke of Monmouth. Hicks had been 
with the Duke's army, and escaping after the defeat at 
Sedgmoor had been taken about three weeks later in 
Lady Lisle's house. With him at the time of his capture 
was a man called Nelthorp, also an adherent of Mon- 
mouth, who had been outlawed in 1683 for his connection 
with the Rye House Plot, but had returned to England 
under the Duke's standard. The prisoner, Lady Lisle, 1 
was the widow of one of Charles the First's Judges. She 
was seventy years of age and had, since the Restoration, 
conducted herself with becoming loyalty. 

Lady Lisle was indicted before Jeffreys and his four 
brethren on August 27th. Mr. Pollexfen, the advocate 
of Baxter and a noted Whig, led for the Crown. He had 
been appointed, presumably by Jeffreys with whom he 
was on terms of intimacy, to conduct the prosecutions of 

1 Her title as "Lady Lisle," by which she is generally known, is a 
courtesy one. 


the Western rebels. A man of sour disposition but a 
sound and honest lawyer, he has been severely censured by 
writers of both parties for consenting to act as leading 
counsel for the King on this occasion ; but it is difficult to 
see on what grounds. Whig though he was, he may well 
have disapproved of Monmouth's rebellion, and as an 
advocate he may just as well have prosecuted a large 
assortment of traitors as any other kind of offender. 

Pollexfen having opened the case, and Jeffreys having 
assured the prisoner that as they were all accountable to 
the Great Judge of Heaven and earth, so should she have 
a just and legal trial, the King's evidence was called. 
First came three witnesses who had been taken prisoners 
by Monmouth's soldiers. They swore that Hicks had 
visited them in their confinement and reasoned with them 
as to the legitimacy of the Duke's title to the throne. 
Hicks's complicity in the rebellion thus satisfactorily 
established, Pollexfen passed on to the evidence relating 
to Lady Lisle's guilt in harbouring the rebel. 

The principal witness the Crown relied on to prove 
Lady Lisle's complicity was a man of the name of Dunne. 
He had acted as Hicks's messenger, had carried his request 
for shelter to Lady Lisle, had brought back her invitation, 
and had then conducted Hicks and Nelthorp to Moyles 
Court, the residence of the prisoner. But Dunne was an 
unwilling witness. The Crown counsel were acquainted 
with the fact ; and, accordingly, Pollexfen, before putting 
him in the box, humbly desired his lordship to examine 
the witness with more than the customary strictness. He 
knew well enough the skill of the Chief Justice in 
wresting the truth from the recalcitrant ; and Jeffreys 
was not slow to prove himself worthy of the confidence 
reposed in him. Before Dunne had opened his mouth, 
Jeffreys in awful language exhorted him to speak the 
truth. " For, I tell thee," he concluded, " God is not to 
be mocked; and thou canst not deceive Him, though thou 
mayst us." His warning delivered, Jeffreys listened 
patiently while Dunne told, by the help of the Judge's 
questions, his own version of the affair. On Friday, July 


26th, he said, a short man with a black beard came to 
him at Warminster, where he lived, and asked him to go to 
Moyles Court, some twenty-six miles away, and desire 
Lady Lisle to entertain one Hicks. Dunne consented, 
and rode to Moyles Court the following day, Saturday. 
There he saw the prisoner, who consented to receive 
Hicks, and appointed the Tuesday evening following for 
his arrival. On Sunday Dunne returned to Warminster, 
and sent word to Hicks of Lady Lisle's invitation. Ac- 
cordingly, at eleven o'clock on the Tuesday morning, 
Hicks, "a full, fat, black man," Nelthorp, "a thin, black 
man," and Dunne, set out for Moyles Court, which, with 
the help of a man called Barter whom Dunne had em- 
ployed on the previous Saturday, they reached between 
nine and ten o'clock the same night. On arriving at the 
house a girl opened the door, Hicks and Nelthorp went 
in, and Dunne never saw them again till they were 
arrested. He himself, after eating some cake and cheese 
which he had brought with him from home, withdrew to the 
stable. And he swore that all the reward he had received 
for his pains in the affair had been a month's imprison- 

This was all Dunne said that he could remember. 
Jeffreys was quick to point out the absurdity of the 
story. " Thou seemest to be a man of a great deal of 
kindness and good nature ; for by this story, there was a 
man thou never sawest before, and because he only had 
a black beard and came to thy house, that black beard 
of his should persuade thee to go twenty-six miles, and 
give a man half-a-crown out of thy pocket to show 
thee the way, and all to carry a message from a man 
thou never knewest in thy life to a woman thou never 
sawest in thy life. That thou shouldest lie out by the 
way two nights, and upon this Sunday get home and 
there meet with the same black-bearded little gentleman 
and appoint these people to come to thy house upon 
the Tuesday ; and when they came entertain them three 
or four hours at thy house, and go back again so many 
miles with them, and have no entertainment but a piece 


of cake and cheese that thou broughtest thyself from 
home ; and have no reward, nor so much as know any of 
the persons thou didst all this for— is very strange " So 
strange that Jeffreys prepared to discuss the matter a little 
more closely with Master Dunne. In the most approved 
style of cross-examination the Chief Justice commenced 
by taunting Dunne with his peculiarly obliging disposition. 
He got from him that he was a baker by trade, and asked 
him if he baked bread at such easy rates as those at which 
he led rogues into lurking-holes: "But, I assure thee 
thy bread is very light weight: it will scarce pass the 
balance here. Dunne had said that the black-bearded 
man lent him the horse on which he first rode to Lady 
Lisle s. If he never knew Dunne before, "how came he 
to trust thee with his horse?" asked Jeffreys "The 
L*rd knows, my lord," replied Dunne. "Thou sayest 
right answered the Chief Justice, "the Lord only knows 
for by the little I know of thee I would not trust thee 
with two pence." 

The first lie that Jeffreys detected in Dunne's evidence 
turned on the connection between Hicks and the black 
bearded man. " Did not the black-bearded man first come 
to you, asked Jeffreys, " and employ you to go on this 
message ? and did not he know Hicks ? " " I cannot tell 
my lord," answered Dunne. Jeffreys pressed him " Did 
not he tell you Hicks desired you to go, and that he was in 
debt, and therefore desired to be concealed ? " " Yes my 
lord " blandly replied the witness, giving the lie direct to 
his first answer. "How came you to be so impudent 
then exclained the Judge, "as to tell me such a lie ? " 
"I beg your pardon, my lord." " You beg my pardon I 
1 hat is not because you told me a lie, but because I have 
round you in a lie." 

Jeffreys soon found him in another. Dunne had sworn 
that, on arriving at Moyles Court with Hicks and Nel- 
thorp, he had seen no one but a young girl, and that he 
had gone to the stable and unlatched its door by him- 
f.,- He now Emitted that Carpenter, Lady Lisle's 
bailiff, met them in the courtyard, and that it was Car 


penter who had conducted him to the stable and opened 
the door for him. On the discovery of this second false- 
hood the pent-up rage of Jeffreys, till now confined to 
a few brief exclamations of anger, broke out in the 
fulness of its power. " Why, thou vile wretch, didst thou 
not tell me just now that thou pluckest up the latch ? 
Dost thou take the God of Heaven not to be a God of 
truth, and that He is not a witness of all thou sayest ? 
Dost thou think, because thou prevaricatest with the 
Court here, thou canst do so with God above, Who knows 
thy thoughts ? And it is infinite mercy that for those 
falsehoods of thine, He does not immediately strike thee 
into hell ! Jesus God ! there is no sort of conversation or 
human society to be kept with such people as these are 
who have no other religion but only in pretence, and no 
way to uphold themselves but by countenancing lying and 
villainy ! " Turks, he said, had more title to an eternity 
of bliss than such people as these. " See," he cried, 
" how they can cant and snivel, and lie, and forswear 
themselves ; and all for the good old cause ! They will 
stick at nothing if they think they can but preserve a 
brother or sister-saint forsooth ! " For the moment 
Jeffreys had done with him : " Thou art a strange, 
prevaricating, shuffling, snivelling, lying rascal. Will the 
prisoner ask this person any questions ? " She answered : 
" No." " Perhaps her questions might endanger the 
coming out of the truth,"' sneered Jeffreys ; " but it 
carries a very foul face, upon my word." 

Barter, the man to whom Dunne had given half-a- 
crown to show him the way to Moyles Court, was the 
next witness. He did not prove unwilling. He said 
that when he showed Dunne the way to Moyles Court on 
the Saturday the latter brought a letter from Hicks 
to Lady Lisle ; that he went into the kitchen while 
Dunne delivered his message, and that, while he was 
waiting there, Lady Lisle came in with Dunne and spoke 
to him : and that then she turned away with Dunne, and 
he saw them laughing together and looking at him. 
When they got outside he asked Dunne what Lady Lisle 


had been laughing at ; Dunne replied that my lady had 
asked him if he, Barter, knew anything of the " concern," 
and that he had answered in the negative. 

Eventually the mystery of the affair had so weighed on 
Barter's mind that he had told all he knew to Colonel 
Penruddock, one of the King's officers, who, acting on his 
information, entered Lady Lisle's house early Wednesday 
morning and discovered the fugitives. Dunne, he swore* 
also informed him that he was to have a large booty for 
his services to Hicks, and that before the fugitives went 
to Moyles Court they had been ten days in his house. 
Both these facts Dunne strenuously denied. 

But the most important point in Barter's evidence, as 
going to show that Lady Lisle was aware from the first of 
the circumstances of her visitors, was the question which 
Barter swore that she had asked Dunne as to the former's 
knowledge of "the concern" that had brought Hicks 
to seek the shelter of her house. What concern did 
she mean ? Did she know that Hicks and Nelthorp 
were fugitives from Monmouth's army ? If the Crown 
could prove that she did, it would very materially 
strengthen their case. Jeffreys knew this well enough, 
and directed all his energies to getting from Dunne 
an admission that Lady Lisle knew her visitors to be 
fugitives from Sedgmoor. " Let my honest man, Mr. 
Dunne, stand forward a little," said Jeffreys at the con- 
clusion of Barter's evidence. " Did not you tell him 
(Barter) that you told my lady, when she asked whether 
he was acquainted with the concern, that he knew 
nothing of the business ? " Dunne admitted it. " Did 
you so ? Then you and I must have a little further 
discourse. Come now, and tell us what ' business ' was 
that ? and tell it us so that a man may understand and 
believe that thou dost speak the truth." Dunne only 
repeated the Judge's question. " Does your lordship ask 
what that business was ? " Jeffreys asked the question 
again ; Dunne paused. Twice Jeffreys repeated it ; 
Dunne only mused in silence. Jeffreys thought that 
perhaps he did not understand : " I will repeat it to thee 


again ; for thou shalt see what countryman I am by my 
telling my story twice over " (alluding to his Welsh 
extraction). Dunne at last answered that he could not 
remember what the business was that Lady Lisle had 
spoken of. " Be ingenuous ; tell the truth," urged 
Jeffreys. " Oh, how hard the truth is to come out of a 
lying Presbyterian knave ! " Then the Chief Justice 
dwelt at some length on the love of God for the truth 
which the witness had sworn to speak, and concluded : 
" I charge thee, therefore, as thou wilt answer it to that 
God of truth, and that thou mayest be called to do, for 
aught I know, the very next minute, and there thou wilt 
not be able to palliate the truth ; what was that busi- 
ness you and my lady spoke of?" For eight minutes 
after this last appeal Dunne continued silent ; at 
length he declared that he could not give an account 
of it. Jeffreys was aghast: "Oh, blessed God! was 
there ever such a villain upon the face of the earth ? 
To what times are we reserved ! Dost thou believe that 
there is a God ? " Dunne protested that he did. Jeffreys 
assured him in solemn language how that God's all-piercing 
eye looked into the hearts of all men, that God was 
omniscient and omnipresent, all-mighty and all-knowing, 
the searcher of hearts and trier of the reins, to whom all 
hearts are open and from whom no secrets are hid. 
" Now tell us what was the business you spoke of." But 
the witness made no answer. The Lord Chief Baron 
joined in the exhortations of the Chief Justice ; but Dunne 
only averted his head. Jeffreys was beside himself. 
He turned to the jury and asked them to observe the 
strange and horrible carriage of this fellow : " Oh, blessed 
Jesus ! " he cried, " what an age do we live in, and what 
a generation of vipers do we live among ! . . . . Thou 
wretch ! all the mountains and hills in the world heaped 
upon one another will not cover thee from the vengeance 
of the great God for this transgression of false witness 
bearing ! " "I cannot tell what to say, my lord," answered 
Dunne, at his wits' end before the wrath of the Judge. 
Jeffreys, seeing his confusion, put aside his anger and 



repeated his question as calmly as he could. Twice he 
asked it, and twice the witness remained silent as before. 
Jeffreys pleaded with him in a tone of mild remonstrance. 
Did he think he was serving the prisoner's interest by his 
obstinacy ? " Sure thou canst not think so ; such a sort 
of carriage were enough to convict her, if there were 
nothing else." When at length Dunne showed some signs 
of yielding, Jeffreys became quite gentle and fatherly : " It 
is not in my nature to desire the hurt of anybody, much 
less to delight in their eternal perdition ; no, it is out of 
tender compassion to you that I use all these words. ... If 
that soul of thine be taken awav, what is the body fit for, 
but, like a putrid carcase, to be thrust into and covered 
with the dust with which it was made ? " At last anxiety 
for his soul or the fatigue of long resistance opened the 
lips of Dunne, and the long-expected, eagerly-awaited 
reply came forth : " She asked me," he said, " whether I 
did not know that Hicks was a Nonconformist." 

Oh, lame and impotent conclusion ! Was ever moun- 
tain delivered of a smaller mouse ? " Dost thou 
think," exclaimed Jeffreys, " that after all this pain that I 
have been at to get an answer to my question, that thou 
canst banter me with such sham stuff as this ? " It was 
now late on this August evening. The candles had been 
lit in the court. " Hold the candle to his face," cried 
the Judge, " that we may see his brazen face." " My 
lord, I tell you the truth," urged Dunne. " Did she ask 
thee whether that man knew anything of a question she 
had asked thee, and that was only of being a Noncon- 
formist?" asked Jeffreys. "Yes, my lord, that was all." 
" That is all nonsense ; dost thou imagine that any man 
hereabouts is so weak as to believe thee?" "My lord, 
I am so baulked," pleaded Dunne, " I do not know what 
I say myself ; tell me what you would have me say, for I 
am cluttered out of my senses." " Why, prithee, man," 
answered Jeffreys, " there is nobody baulks thee but thine 
own self; thou art asked questions as plain as anything in 
the world can be ; it is only thy own depraved naughty 
heart that baulks both thy honesty and understanding, if 


thou hast any ; but I see all the pains in the world and all 
compassion and charity is lost upon thee, and therefore I 
will say no more to thee." But Jeffreys was careful to 
charge the Crown counsel to see that an indictment for 
perjury was preferred against Mr. Dunne. 

Pollexfen then called Colonel Penruddock, an officer in 
the King's army, whose father had been executed for 
organising a Royalist rising during the Protectorate. The 
Colonel had arrested Hicks, Nelthorp and Lady Lisle on 
the Wednesday morning, on information received from 
Barter. He had, he said, beset the house with soldiers, 
but could get no answer to his summons. At length 
Carpenter, the bailiff, came out and in reply to questions 
admitted that there were strangers in the house. Pen- 
ruddock commenced a search. Hicks and Dunne were 
found in the malt-house, the latter covered over with some 
sort of stuff. When Lady Lisle appeared Penruddock 
told her that she had done ill in harbouring rebels. She 
answered that she knew nothing of the matter. He asked 
her to deliver up any other who was concealed in the 
house. She denied that there was any other. The search 
was resumed, and Nelthorp discovered in a hole by the 


Barter, it also appeared, had told Penruddock that he 
believed Hicks and Nelthorp to be rebels, because Dunne 
had told him as much. This statement quite revived 
Jeffreys' interest in Dunne : " Did you say to Barter you 
took them to be rebels?" he asked. Dunne, thoroughly 
bewildered by this time or assuming to be so, could only 
repeat the question. " I take them to be rebels ! " he 
exclaimed. "You blockhead, I ask you, did you tell him 
so ? " " I tell Barter so ! " echoed Dunne. " Ay, is not 
that a plain question?" "Tarn quite cluttered out of 
my senses ; I do not know what I say." Jeffreys replied 
by ordering the candle to be held nearer to his nose ; " but 
to tell the truth would rob thee of none of thy senses, if 
ever thou hadst any ; but it would seem that neither thou 
nor thy mistress, the prisoner, had any, for she^ knew 
nothing of it neither, though she had sent for them thither." 

T 2 


If ever there had been any hope for Lady Lisle from the 
mercy of the Judge, that hope was fast dwindling away. 
Jeffreys had treated her with dignity and forbearance at 
first, as he treated even Oates before her. But the Chief 
Justice always decided on the merits of a case in the middle 
of it ; and if he was aggravated into a decision by perjury 
or impertinence, and that decision unfavourable to the 
accused, from that moment he treated those before him 
as already convicted, and it was not his fault if they did 
not get a very clear and immediate appreciation of what 
was passing in his mind. That in this particular case the 
prisoner happened to be an old lady of seventy was 
nothing to him ; all considerations of age or sex were lost 
in his raging disgust at the perjury of Dunne. 

Carpenter, the bailiff, and his wife were the last witnesses 
called by the Crown. Pollexfen described them both as 
unwilling ; and all that could be got from them of any 
importance was the fact that Lady Lisle had been in the 
room with Hicks and Nel thorp while they partook of 

Hardly had Carpenter concluded his evidence when the 
Court was startled by the announcement that Dunne had 
at last decided to tell all he knew. Whether on reflection 
he had decided to save his soul, or some of the Crown 
counsel had been painting to him the awful consequences 
of an indictment for perjury, founded on the misfortunes 
of Dr. Titus Oates in that respect, it was through a Mr. 
Rumsey, presumably one of the King's advocates, that the 
announcement came of Dunne's repentance. " Let him 
tell the truth and I am satisfied," remarked the Chief 
Justice. The material facts now revealed by Dunne 
were these : that when he went to Lady Lisle with 
Hicks's message, she asked him whether Hicks had been in 
the army, to which he replied that he did not know ; and 
that, on arriving at Moyles Court on the Tuesday night, 
Carpenter took Dunne to the stable where he put up his 
horse, and then conducted him to a room where he had 
supper with Hicks and Nelthorp in Lady Lisle's pre- 
sence. Pressed by Jeffreys, he also admitted that during 


supper the prisoner and her guests had talked of the 
army and the fighting. But Dunne insisted very strongly 
that he himself had never known that these men had been 
in the army, nor had kept them so much as one night in 
his own house. Jeffreys vainly tried to drag from him 
more precise details of the conversation during supper. 
Dunne said that he could only hope to remember more if 
he was given till the following morning to collect his 
bewildered thoughts. 

During his cross-examination of the witness, Jeffreys 
divulged the fact that he had himself examined Nelthorp 
in London before starting on circuit ; and that it was 
on the strength of some of the latter's admissions that 
he was in a position to appreciate the heinousness of 
Dunne's lying. "I would not mention any such thing 
as any piece of evidence to influence this case; but I 
could not but tremble to think, after what I knew, 
that any one should dare so much to prevaricate with 
God and man as to tell such horrid lies in the face 
of a Court." He assured Dunne that he prayed with as 
much earnestness as he would for his own soul that God 
would forgive him and the blessed Jesus mediate for 
him, and he was of opinion that all people " should be 
pressed to join with him " in his prayers ; though in the 
same breath he declared that it filled him with horror that 
such wretched creatures as Dunne should live upon the 
earth. But pity and indignation were equally wasted ; 
not a word more would Dunne utter, and Jeffreys was 
fain to give him up as a bad job. " Well, I see thou 
wilt answer nothing ingenuously ; therefore I will trouble 
myself no more with thee ; go on with your evidence, 
gentlemen." But the Crown had no more evidence. 
"What have you to say for' yourself ? " he asked, turning 
to Lady Lisle. 

The old lady began by protesting that she never knew 
that Hicks had been in the army, but had thought him 
to be a Presbyterian minister absconding to avoid warrants 
that were out against private preaching. At the word 
*' Presbyterian " Jeffreys broke into an access of rage. " But 


I will tell you there is not one of those lying, snivelling, 
canting Presbyterian rascals but, one way or the other, had 
a hand in the late horrid conspiracy and rebellion . . . 
Presbytery has all manner of villainy in it ; nothing but 
Presbytery could lead that fellow Dunne to tell so many 
lies as he has told here ; for show me a Presbyterian," he 
concluded, " and I will show you a lying knave." Lady 
Lisle pleaded that she abhorred the late rebellion. " I 
am sure you have great reason for it," sneered the Judge. 
She would have been ungrateful, she urged, for King 
James's kindness to her, if she had acted disloyally 
towards him. There is an incoherence of fury in the 
taunt Jeffreys flings at her in reply : " Oh, then ! 
Ungrateful ! Ungrateful adds to the load which was 
between man and man, and is the basest crime that any one 
can be guilty of." She protested that she had only 
come into the country five days before her arrest. " Nay, 
I cannot tell when you came into the country, nor do I 
care ; it seems you came time enough to harbour rebels." 
However, he allowed Lady Lisle to finish what she had to 
say ; but the poor lady might as well have addressed the 
furniture of the Court for all the impression she could 
make on the relentless Judge. 

Jeffreys' charge to the jury is extraordinary — even for 
him. He always considered a summing up as an 
opportunity for dwelling at length on general topics 
suggested by the circumstances of the case, and invariably 
prefaced his review of the evidence by a vigorous 
declaration of his general sentiments in regard to the 
parties concerned. In Lady Lisle's case he follows the 
same course, but in an exaggerated fashion. Whilst his 
language is fierce and heated to an unwonted degree, a 
tendency to repetition, which was always with him, is 
developed to an alarming extent, his appeals to God and 
Christ he utters at every turn with an intensity of passion 
that makes them appear rather a desperate summons to 
his aid than a reverend desire to co-operate in Their 
service. Over and over again, with growing fury, he 
denounces the connection between Dissent and rebellion ; 


and when at last he does come to the evidence he reviews 
it, contrary to his custom, hurriedly and confusedly, 
introducing irrelevant and prejudicial topics and then 
telling the jury to disregard them. It never seems to 
occur to him to dwell on the one point that might cause 
a difficulty in the minds of the jury, viz., the fact that 
Lady Lisle, was accused of harbouring a traitor whilst 
the alleged traitor was as yet unconvicted of ^treason. 
He ended by telling the jury that the guilt of the prisoner 
was " as evident as the sun at noonday." Now, 
whatever may be the opinion as to the guilt of Lady 
Lisle, hers was one of those cases in which there were 
a good many clouds to be dissipated by the help of the 
Judge before the jury could see the truth shining out in 
noontide brilliancy. 

It is almost impossible to convey an accurate impression 
of Jeffreys' charge by extract ; it should be read in its 
entirety. He repeatedly blessed God for His mercy in 
frustrating the rebellion, lauded the King for the 
declaration he had issued on his accession in which he had 
promised to preserve safe and inviolate the rights of the 
Established Church, lamented the impudence and 
profligacy of the Duke of Monmouth, and denounced 
the " gilded bait of religion and conscience " by which 
those hypocrites the Nonconformist parsons had deluded 
ten thousand into rebellion, to the ruin of their families, 
leaving in many cases their widows and babes in want and 
desolation. In such fashion had that wretch, Hicks, 
" whose soul was blacker in the eyes of God than ever his 
coat was," deluded the poor unfortunate gentlewoman at 
the bar. But, he concluded, after commenting on the 
evidence against her, " neither her age nor her sex are to 
move you, who have nothing else to consider but the fact you 
are to try. I charge you therefore, as you will answer at 
the bar of the last Judgment, where you and we must all ap- 
pear, deliver your verdict according to conscience and truth." 
Before leaving the box the jury asked Jeffreys if it was 
equally treason to harbour an unconvicted traitor. " It is 
all the same, that certainly can be no doubt," (sic) 


answered the Judge ; " for if Hicks had been wounded in 
the rebels' army and had come to her house and there 
been entertained, but had died there of his wounds, and so 
could never have been convicted, she had been nevertheless 
a traitor." 

But even with this assurance the jury seemed to find 
some difficulty in returning a verdict. As they did not 
come back into court immediately, Jeffreys grew 
impatient. He wondered that in such a plain case they 
stayed away so long ; if they did not come quickly, he 
should shut them up all night. In half an hour they 
returned ; but only to ask a question of the Court. 
They were not satisfied, the foreman said, that Lady 
Lisle ever knew Hicks to have been in the army. 
Jeffreys reminded them of the conversation during supper 
about the army and the fighting which Dunne had sworn 
to ; " and," he added, " did she not inquire of Dunne 
whether Hicks had been in the army? And when he 
told her he did not know, she did not say she would 
refuse him if he had been there, but ordered him to come 
by night, by which it is evident she suspected it." This 
was certainly clear enough ; but it did not resolve the 
minds of the jury. Lady Lisle endeavoured to seize the 
opportunity to say something more. u My lord, I 
hope " — she began. Jeffreys stopped her : " You must not 
speak now." For another quarter of an hour the jury 
laid their heads together, and then they gave in their 
verdict, " Guilty." " Look to her, gaoler," said the Clerk 
of Arraigns ; " she is found guilty of high treason, and 
prepare yourself to die." And then from the lips of Jeffreys 
there fell on the ears of the Court the awful words 
addressed to her reluctant jury : " If I had been among 
you, and she had been my own mother, I should have 
ound her guilty." 

On the following day, being Wednesday, the 28th of 
August, Alice Lisle was brought up to receive judgment 
of death. The Lord Chief Justice, in passing sentence, 
lamented to find a gentlewoman of quality and fortune 
involved with a herd of canting and whining fanatics, and 


deplored that in this little case so many perjuries had been 
added to the crime of treason ; " you ought to reflect 
upon whose account those perjuries were committed, and 
to lay them seriously to heart ; for ere long, in a few hours — 
deceive not yourself — you are to give an account at a 
greater bar for all your thoughts, words and actions. 
You would likewise do well to bethink yourself with all 
seriousness and remorse of your own false asseverations 
and protestations : that you upon your salvation should 
pretend ignorance in the business, when since that time, 
even since last night, there has been but too much dis- 
covered how far you were concerned." " No," he went 
on, alluding to information that had reached him since 
the adjournment of the Court ; " it is not unknown who 
were sent for upon the Monday night in order to have 
that rebellious, seditious fellow to preach to them, what 
directions were given to come through the orchard the 
back and private way, what orders were given for pro- 
vision, and how the horses were appointed to be disposed 
of." Let her make some recompense to public justice 
by discovering the truth. Then she was sentenced to be 
burnt alive, according to the law in such cases. 1 

" But," added Jeffreys, " when I left his Majesty, he 
was pleased to remit the time of all executions to me ; 
that wherever I found any obstinacy or impenitence, 
I might order the executions with what speed I should 
think best ; therefore, Mr. Sheriff, take notice you are to 
prepare for the execution of this gentlewoman this after- 
noon." Yet, he should not be leaving Winchester for an 
hour or two ; the prisoner should be given pen, ink and 
paper, and " if in the meantime you employ that pen, ink 
and paper and this hour or two well — you understand 
what I mean — it may be you may hear farther from us, 
in deferring the execution." 

Lady Lisle did not avail herself of the opportunities 
afforded her by the Judge for a full confession ; but, at the 
intercession of some divines, her execution was respited 

1 Until 1790 burning alive was the legal punishment for women 
convicted of higher or petty treason. 


for a week. That week was employed in efforts to ob- 
tain a remission of the sentence. On Sunday, the 30th, 
Lady St. John and Lady Abergavenny, both friends of 
the prisoner, addressed a letter to Lord Clarendon, the 
Lord Privy Seal. In it they assured him of Lady Lisle's 
constant loyalty, and begged him to represent it to the 
King in the hope of a reprieve. Clarendon did as he was 
requested, but James refused to have anything to do with 
the matter, " having left all to the Lord Chief Justice." 
On the following day a petition from the lady herself was 
presented to the King, praying him to alter the sentence 
from burning to beheading, and grant another four days' 
respite. But James was obdurate ; he would not reprieve 
her as much as one day, and would only alter the sentence 
if a precedent could be found for doing so. The precedent 
was found, and it was to the block and not the stake that 
Lady Lisle was led out on the following Wednesday after- 
noon. She died forgiving all her enemies, at the same 
time making certain accusations against some of them 
which, if founded, considerably enhance her charitable 

On the facts as given in evidence against her, few will 
deny that Lady Lisle was guilty of the offence laid to her 
charge. If she did not know that Hicks had been in 
Monmouth's army when Dunne brought her his message, 
which, as Jeffreys pointed out to the jury, is very unlikely, 
she certainly learnt it at supper on the Wednesday even- 
ing. It then became her duty either to send them away 
immediately from her house, or, if harshly inclined, to 
send word to the authorities that she had rebels under 
her roof, and to detain them till the arrival of the 
soldiers. But she preferred to do neither of these things. 
She concealed them during the night, and when the 
soldiers arrived in the morning, twice denied any know- 
ledge of their whereabouts. In this she may have acted 
from sudden fear or surprise ; but Dunne's determined per- 
jury, his obstinate endeavours to avoid telling all he really 
knew, would certainly make it appear as if the discovery 
of the whole truth would have been very detrimental to 


the prisoner. His second story, incomplete as it was, told 
more against her than the first, and. might have told still 
more if Dunne had not been so anxious to save his own 
skin. If Barter is to be believed, Dunne well knew and 
had himself harboured the fugitives, and, from his whisper- 
ing with Lady Lisle in Barter's presence, would seem to 
have acquainted her with their real circumstances. But 
without Barter's evidence, Dunne's admissions, coupled 
with Lady Lisle's suspicious conduct, were quite sufficient 
to justify in the mind of a Judge and jury a verdict of 
"guilty." To justify, but not to recommend. The 
nature of the offence and the circumstances of the prisoner 
were such as, we should think, ought to have inclined a 
Judge and jury to a proper exercise of mercy. The jury 
was evidently desirous of taking such a view, but the 
Judge would not allow it. He was determined to carry 
the case to its bitter end, and refused to be turned aside 
by any humane considerations. 

In this Jeffreys was not less merciful than any of his 
brethren would have been. As soon as Lady Lisle was 
placed in the dock on a charge of treason, her conviction and 
sentence were certain at the hands of any Judge on the 
bench. The evidence was quite strong enough to warrant 
a verdict of " guilty " ; and her age and sex were not such 
potent considerations in those days as they are now. 
Women fared no better, if not worse, than men at the 
hands of the law, and Judges saw no reason to treat them 
with any less severity. The reluctance of the jury in all 
probability arose from the fact that they were previously 
acquainted with the high character of the lady in her own 
county, and were the more inclined to sympathise with 
her by the harsh conduct of the Judge. The actual con- 
viction of Lady Lisle, apart from its inadvisability and his 
personal bearing at the trial, cannot be charged as a crime 
against Jeffreys, as Hallam and others would have us 
believe. Whatever his personal conduct, he did not 
procure the conviction of a woman innocent of the crime 
for which she was indicted. 

But it has been said that he deliberately violated the 


law in order to obtain a conviction, by directing the 
jury to treat Hicks as a traitor, though he had never 
been legally convicted as such. Sir James Stephen 
demurs to this. After carefully examining the authori- 
ties that have been cited against Jeffreys, and which 
he shows to have been rather unfairly used by one 
writer, he says : " I think that this is another of the 
numerous instances in which there really was no definite 
law at all, and in which the fact that a particular course 
was taken by a cruel man for a bad purpose has been 
regarded as proof that the course taken was illegal." 
A process of reasoning similar to this suggested by Sir J. 
Stephen may have led Lord Campbell to assert that " there 
was the greatest difficulty even to show that Hicks had 
been in the rebellion " — the fact was never even questioned 
at the trial, and three witnesses were called who proved it 
beyond a doubt — may have persuaded Hallam to declare 
that Lady Lisle's conviction was without evidence, and in- 
duced Burnet, who was absent from England at the time, 
and whose account of the trial contains glaring misstate- 
ments, to state that the jury brought her in three times 
" not guilty." 

It was certainly a cruel severity that selected Lady Lisle 
as a fitting object for exemplary punishment, and a blind 
severity also ; for such a punishment must have aroused 
horror and disgust rather than wholesome fear. If there 
was reason for such an act, that reason lay in the fact that 
at the commencement of Jeffreys' " campaign," the King 
desired to give signal and alarming proof of his deter- 
mination to visit the sin of rebellion not only upon the 
poor and ignorant, but upon the gentry of the West who 
had aided or encouraged the rebels. Not having in their 
hands any person of birth or influence in the neighbour- 
hood whose guilt could at that time be satisfactorily 
established, the Government was obliged to make the best 
use they could of the old gentlewoman of seventy, whose 
sympathy with the rebel fugitives had been so unfortun- 
ately discovered. 

Her fate had been determined before Jeffreys left 


London ; she had been marked out as the first victim ; 
and Nelthorp had been already examined before the 
Chief Justice in order to prepare the case against her. 
Fully convinced of her guilt, Jeffreys took his seat on 
the bench at Winchester. He knew what Dunne could 
say if he chose, and anticipated the case would be a 
" little " one, as he phrased it. But suddenly he found 
himself confronted with gross and obstinate perjury ; the 
agonies of his disease, of which we shall find him openly 
complaining at Dorchester, were upon him ; his aggra- 
vated temper saw in Dunne a very type of the impious 
hypocrisy of Presbyterianism ; he smelt out a conspiracy of 
" the saints " to baulk truth and justice, and in the coma- 
tose old lady in the dock discovered a secret participator 
in their lies and their rebellions. With the religious 
violence of some mediaeval tyrant butchering in the name 
of God and Christ, he called on Heaven to witness the 
canting villainy that beset him at every turn, and in an 
access of physical and mental torture carried out with 
superfluous brutality the superfluously brutal task that had 
been allotted to him. 1 

1 Woolych, in his Memoirs of Judge Jeffreys, says that Jeffreys' 
frequent exclamations to God and his imprecations of Divine 
wrath against Dunne for his perjuries were deliberately used by the 
judge for the purpose of frightening the witness by the repetition of 
expressions he would have heard in the Dissenting places of worship 
he was in the habit of attending. I cannot agree with this tribute 
to the Judge's ingenuity. Jeffreys' religious outbursts have little 
kindred with the familiar terms in which the Dissenters of his day 
addressed God and Jesus. Jeffreys calls upon God as a great and 
awful Power, far removed from the knowledge and familiarity of 
men, and not as a kind friend who is waiting to shake him by the 
hand as soon as he can get free of his body and reach that blessed 
paradise which a fortunate inability to conform has made his joyous 
birthright for all eternity. Jeffreys' appeals to Heaven are often 
terrible, sometimes shocking to the ears of a milder generation, but 
never impertinent or ludicrous. Jeffreys was not ignorant of his 
weakness in this respect. He once remarked in the course of a 
trial at which he presided : " God knows how often all of us have 
taken the great name of God in vain, or have said more than becomes 
us and talked of things we should not do." 


THE "BLOODY ASSIZES" {continued) 

The report of the trial of Lady Lisle is the only 
reliable account left to us of any of the trials at which 
Jeffreys presided on this Western Circuit. Henceforth 
we have to depend almost entirely upon the accounts of 
the various prisoners and their sufferings given in the 
Bloody Assizes and the Western Martyrology, works 
of no authority, written to consecrate the glorious lives 
and deaths of those who fought and died for the true 
Protestant religion, and to denounce the followers of 
Antichrist who shed their innocent blood. It is obvious, 
as has been already pointed out, that little or no reliance can 
be placed on works of this kind, except so far as they are 
corroborated by external evidence, of which, unfortunately, 
we possess verv little. 

From Winchester the Judges went on to Salisbury. 
There they found little work to detain them ; and on 
Thursday, September 3rd, they arrived at Dorchester, 
where some three hundred prisoners were awaiting 
trial. In the life of Jeffreys attached to the Bloody 
Assizes, we have a more detailed account of the proceed- 
ings at Dorchester than at any other town on the circuit ; 
for it was here that John Tutchin, alias Thomas Pitts, the 
author of the Bloody Assizes, was tried and sentenced 
to be whipped by Jeffreys. 

On Friday, the 4th, he tells us, the Chief Justice 
attended Divine Service ; and when the Sheriff's chaplain 


in his sermon spoke of mercy, the Judge was seen to laugh. 
From church Jeffreys proceeded to the court, hung all in 
red by his orders, and delivered his charge to the grand jury. 
To the general dismay, he declared the scope of his 
Commission was to prosecute not only those who had 
actually served under the Duke's banner, but all those 
who had abetted, aided and assisted him. We can well 
believe that some of the Somersetshire and Devonshire 
gentry who had accompanied the Judge on to the bench 
and were expecting a visit from him in a week's time, did 
not relish this intelligence. As soon as Jeffreys had 
finished his charge, he adjourned till eight o'clock on 
Saturday morning. 

At Dorchester, Jeffreys and Pollexfen, seeing the large 
number of prisoners that had to be disposed of, conceived 
it necessary that some steps should be taken to shorten 
the length of the proceedings. If every prisoner pleaded 
" not guilty," they would never get away in time for the 
next Assize. The Judges now began to experience the ill 
effects of the clumsy procedure which the sending of a 
judicial Commission involved in such cases as they had 
to try. Most of the prisoners were men taken red- 
handed in the act of rebellion, who might just as well 
have been shot or hanged straight away ; but once they 
came before a court of law, they had the right to plead 
" not guilty " and put themselves on their trials, and if 
deprived of that right, they were being unjustly dealt 
with. But Jeffreys was not going to be bothered about 
that ; in the cases of such notorious villains, the strict 
rules of law might well be waived in favour of the public 
convenience. Accordingly, on Saturday morning, the 
Chief Justice, on taking his seat, informed thirty prisoners 
against whom the grand jury had found true bills, that if 
any put themselves on their trials and were found guilty, 
they would be executed immediately, and insinuated that 
those who pleaded guilty at once might expect favour. 
But the thirty preferred to be tried, with the result that 
twenty-nine were found guilty, sentenced to death, and 


thirteen ordered to be executed on Monday. Tutchin 
says, that of these thirteen two were innocent men, con- 
victed on worthless evidence by the menaces of the Chief 
Justice. We have only his evidence for this statement ; 
and as he was in prison at the time, he could not have 
been present at their trials, though he may have heard 
about them from other prisoners. One, Matthew Bragg, 
an attorney, was, he says, convicted on the evidence of a 
woman of ill fame, "to whom the Lord Chief Justice was 
wonderfully kind," 1 and, what would be little better to 
Tutchin, that of a Roman Catholic gentleman. Bragg 
was of the true persuasion. He said on the scaffold he 
was not the first who was martyred, but he was so much a 
Christian as to forgive his enemies ; and was then " trans- 
lated," as Tutchin has some hope to believe, from earth 
to Heaven. Smith, constable of Chardstock, was con- 
victed on similar evidence to Bragg. Having reflected 
on the nature of the evidence given against him, Jeffreys 
thundered at him : " Thou villain ! methinks I see thee 
already with a halter about thy neck ; thou impudent 
rebel, to challenge these evidences that are for the King! " 
And so the narrative is filled out with other instances of 
Jeffreys' fury and the glorious carriage of the martyrs too 
numerous to repeat. It is difficult to know which to 
wonder at the most, — the pointed brutalities of Jeffreys, 
about smelling Presbyterians forty miles off and easing the 
parish of aged almsmen, or the prolific prayers and dying 
speeches of the Protestant martyrs. Though executed in 
different localities, there would seem to have been a very 
complete staff of reporters at the service of their friends, to 
take down in full the martyrs' utterances ; and if there is 
a suspicious similarity of style in all of them, this must be 
set down to the unanimity of sentiment induced by a 
common fate and a common religion. 

Whether Tutchin's account is truthful or not, those 
prisoners who were tried on that Saturday at Dorchester, 

1 In the Merciful Assizes Tutchin gave scurrilous rein to his purely 
imaginary ideas of the Chief Justice's private morality. 


came before a Judge almost prostrate with the agony 
caused by a severe attack of the stone. If their carriage 
was as confidently godly as their speeches would almost 
invariably imply, woe betide them ! the crown of martyr- 
dom so earnestly desired, would be theirs with a vengeance. 
Late in the evening the Judge returned to his lodgings 
almost incoherent with pain. He had to write to the 
Secretary of State, Sunderland, an official account of his 
day's work. With that he encloses a private letter to the 
Minister, with whom he was on terms of close friendship 
and alliance. It is written at ten o'clock at night, in an 
unsteady and illegible hand that tells its own story. 

" I most heartily rejoice, my dearest, dearest Lord, to 
learn of your safe return to Windsor. I this day began 
with the trial of the rebels at Dorchester, and have de- 
spatched ninety-eight ; but am at this time so tortured 
with the stone, that I must beg your Lordship's inter- 
cession to his Majesty for the incoherence of what I have 
advertised to you and his Majesty and the trouble of ; 
and that I may give myself for much ease by your Lord- 
ship's favour as to make use of my servant's pen to give a 
relation of what has happened since I came here." 

And then he concludes with this agonised declaration of 
his devotion to his friend — 

" My dearest Lord, may I ever be tortured by the 

stone if I forget to approve myself, my dearest Lord, 

" Your most faithful and devoted servant, 

"Jeffreys. 1 
"Dorchester, io, night." 

Once more the wretchedness of the suffering man finds 
vent in a postscript. 

" For God's sake make all excuses and write at leisure 
a word of comfort." 

This letter is dated September 5th ; but in a dav or 

1 The originals of these letters written by Jeffreys on the western 
circuit are preserved in the Record office. See Appendix III. 



two such comfort was to come to my Lord Jeffreys as 
should go a mighty way to relieve, if anything could, his 
body's agony. For on that same September 5th, at his 
house at Wroxton in Oxfordshire, the Lord Keeper North 
had passed away. At six o'clock on the following evening 
his faithful brothers, Dudley and Roger, coming to Lord 
Sunderland's house where the King was dining, delivered 
up into his Majesty's hands the great Seal of England. 
The King rose immediately and went to the Council, and 
Mr. Evelyn and Sunderland's other guests fell to guessing 
who should succeed the dead Minister. There were few 
among them who did not make their guess in favour of 
the afflicted judge at Dorchester. 

It was not till the 7th that Jeffreys received the good 
news. He immediately wrote off to Sunderland asking 
him to press his interests with the King, though, from the 
expressions in his letter, he had apparently already received 
from the Secretary some intimation of James's intention to 
confer on him the vacant office. 

" Give me leave, my dearest Lord, with more 
opportunities than ordinary to beg your Lordship's 
patronage and protection ; it's that station that (next to 
his Majesty) I will owe to your Lordship's favour, and 
desire no longer to continue in any condition than to show 
my gratitude more than I can speak it. I heartily beseech 
your Lordship to render my most humble duty and 
thankfulness to his Majesty for his most gracious thought 
of me, and assure him I will to the utmost approve 
myself his most loyal and faithful servant, and my 
dearest Lord, 

" Your Lordship's most entirely devoted " 

" Jeffreys." 

In the meantime the Chief Justice was doing all he 
could to show his devotion to his master's service by 
his proceedings at Dorchester. Pollexfen had hit on a 
surer way of curtailing the King's business. Jeffreys' 
insinuations proving hardly effective, two officers were 
sent into the prison with instructions to tell the prisoners 


that those of them who pleaded guilty might expect mercy. 
The names of those who consented to do so were taken 
down, so that, if in the meantime they relented of their 
decision, the officers could give evidence to the Court of 
their previous plea. This method proved most effective ; 
few preferred the certain fortune of a trial, and Jeffreys 
was able to dispose by sentence of death of some 292 
rebels. The promises of mercy were not fallacious, how- 
ever ; of these 292 only 74 at the highest calculation 
actually suffered. 1 

Among the 74 were two prisoners whose cases have 
aroused a good deal of sympathy, not because there was any 
doubt about their guilt, but on account of their youth and 
personal attractions. One was Mr. Christopher Battiscomb, 
the other William Hewling. Hewling and his brother 
Benjamin had both held commands in Monmouth's army. 
William was twenty years of age. He is the very type 
of the misguided youth, bursting with uncontrollable 
religious excitement, who easily falls a prey to the exhorta- 
tions of unthinking or unscrupulous fanatics. His descrip- 
tion of how he came to join Monmouth is characteristic. 
" God by His Holy Spirit did suddenly seize upon his 
heart when he thought not of it, in his retired abode in 
Holland, as it were secretly whispering in his heart ' Seek 
ye My Face,' enabling him to answer his call, and to 
reflect upon his own soul, shewing him the evil of sin." 
With an assured spirit he sends word from the scaffold to 
his brother and sister that he is gone to Christ and will 
quickly meet them again in the glorious Mount Sion 
above. When one finds useful young men in such a state 
of mind as this, it is easy to sympathise with the indig- 
nation felt by Jeffreys towards the ministers of religion 
who had wrought upon their feelings to such a deplorable 
extent ; and it becomes easier still if we bear in mind the 
fact — which cannot be too strongly insisted upon, even at 
the risk of repetition — that to Jeffreys, to all Tories and 

1 In quoting the figures of those tried and sentenced during the 
" Bloody Assizes," I have relied on those given in Roberts's Life of 
the Duke of Mon?noutk, which seems to be on the whole the most 

U 2 


to the prelates of the Church of England, this language, 
this fanaticism had only forty years past gone hand in 
hand with civil war and sanctified in glory the murder of 
a King. To-day, if not rhetorically or sentimentally 
minded, we can regard the fate of the Hewlings and other 
promising young men with a melancholy equanimity. 
Some few may be still inclined to shed tearful periods over 
their sad fates, a pleasure from which no one would willingly 
debar them ; but whatever we do, we must not forget that 
two hundred years ago most sensible men would consider 
the punishment of the Hewlings as well-merited and neces- 
sary, whilst to a vigorous hater of cant and sedition like 
Lord Jeffreys, it would give, to put it mildly, satisfaction. 
Mr. Battiscomb, who suffered with William Hewling, 
had also served in the Duke's army. He was " very 
much a gentleman," according to his friends, but " not 
that thin sort of animal that flutters from tavern to play- 
house and back again all his life " ; he was not unlike 
Monmouth in appearance, and not displeasing to the fair 
sex ; in short, a most exemplary and altogether perfect 
young man. He was a barrister and had been arrested 
on suspicion at the time of the Rye House conspiracy. 
Jeffreys, according to Tutchin, railed and foamed at him, 
and he was condemned. He was very spiritual at the last, 
equally certain that a celestial paradise and a heavenly 
Jerusalem were awaiting him. Jeffreys is accused of 
having repulsed with a foul jest a young woman who came 
to beg Battiscomb's life. This incident gives Tutchin the 
opportunity for penning some indifferent lines, beginning — 

"Harder than thine own native rocks! 
To let the charming Silvia kneel 
And not one spark of pity feel ; 
Harder than senseless stones and stocks ! " 

Later on Jeffreys is described as " by some Welsh wolf in 
murders nurst," and the poem dies meaningless away. 

Like some of the stories about Kirke and his treatment 
of women, this anecdote of Jeffreys is either a modernised 
version of some older anecdote, or the invention of Tutchin's 
prurient mind which could never find one single fact worthy 


of the name to establish the charges of personal immorality 
or indecency he was perpetually levelling against Jeffreys. 
The only authentic testimony of the Judge's behaviour 
to suppliant women comes from Hannah Hewling. 
When she came to him to beg her brother's life, Jeffreys 
treated her with the greatest politeness and respect. 

One other notable prisoner was tried at Dorchester, a 
youth of very different kidney from Hewling and 
Battiscomb. This was John Tutchin, who has been 
already described as the author of The Bloody Assizes. 
He had come over from Holland with Monmouth, but had 
escaped prosecution by calling himself "Thomas Pitts." 
Jeffreys, however, found out his real identity. Angry at 
being so outwitted, and well aware of all the particulars 
of his past conduct, the Chief Justice put him on his trial. 
Tutchin says he could have escaped if he would have 
given evidence against certain Hampshire gentlemen whom 
the Government desired to implicate in the rebellion. In 
any case, on his appearance at the bar, Jeffreys hailed him 
as a rebel from Adam, one of a family that never had any 
loyalty : " I understand you are a wit and a poet ; pray, 
sir, let you and I cap verses ! " But Tutchin discreetly 
declined the invitation. He knew, he said, upon what 
ground he stood, and when he was overmatched. That 
he most certainly was. Jeffreys sentenced him to be 
imprisoned for seven years, and once a year to be whipped 
through every market town in Dorsetshire. On hearing 
the sentence many ladies in court burst into tears. 
Jeffreys turned to them : " Ladies, if you did but know 
what a villain this is as well as I do, you would 
say this sentence is not half bad enough for him." The 
Clerk of Arraigns represented to the Judge that there 
were so many market towns in Dorsetshire, that the 
sentence would amount to whipping once a fortnight, and 
that the prisoner was very young. " Aye," replied 
Jeffreys, " he's a young man but an old rogue ; and all 
the interest in England sha'n't reverse the sentence that I 
have passed upon him." 

But Jeffreys did ultimately mitigate the sentence of 


whipping, when the Deputy Sheriff of Devonshire assured 
him that there were many market towns by charter 
which were in reality little better than villages. In the 
meantime Tutchin petitioned the King in a rather im- 
pertinent fashion that he might be hanged instead of re- 
ceiving such a whipping. " He must wait in patience," 
was Sunderland's answer. At length a timely attack of 
small-pox procured him a pardon, for which, he adds, his 
friends paid money to Jeffreys. But the account is not 
very clear on the latter point, and in his subsequent inter- 
view with the Judge in the Tower of London, Tutchin 
did not mention the circumstance, though he discussed the 
justice of his sentence. Tutchin's version of his suffer- 
ings in the Western Martyrology is curiously confused 
and lacking in precise detail considering how fully he 
should have been able to relate the circumstances and how 
great the ills he pretends to have endured. 

It is, perhaps, on the whole a misfortune that Tutchin 
was not executed according to his request, along with so 
many better men. He was in every way a contemptible 
character, and only used his life to write a vile play and 
scurrilous attacks on the Tories, for one of which he was 
thrashed to death at the age of forty-four. His only public 
service was to afford by his pamphlet The Foreigners the 
opportunity to Defoe for his True-born Englishman, for 
which service Pope has sufficiently rewarded him in the 
couplet — 

"Careless on high stood unabashed Defoe, 
And Tutchin, flagrant from the scourge, below." 

Tutchin had the good taste to visit Jeffreys when the 
dreaded Chancellor was a prisoner in the Tower, and, in a 
Christian spirit that comes well from such a true Protestant 
martyr, to tell the fallen minister that he was glad to see 
him there. But it is satisfactory to know, on Tutchin's 
own authority, that, even in the hour of his humiliation, 
Jeffreys did not regret the sentence he had passed upon 
him. " You were a young man," he said, " and an enemy 
to the Government, and might live to do abundance o 


mischief." In taking such a view of his character, Jeffreys 
was perfectly correct, and he was not the only person 
who considered whipping to death none too little for John 
Tutchin. As to the actual sentence passed on him by 
Jeffreys, it is to be remembered that whippings of extreme 
severity were, as Lingard points out, frequent in those 
days, and gave a good deal of pleasure to the public, 
especially if the culprits were women. But it was, 
perhaps, a mistake to bestow on so poor a rascal as Tutchin 
a punishment that would have raised him to the dignity 
of an Oates. 

From Dorchester about September 12th, the Judges set 
out for Exeter. During the journey the accidental dis- 
charge of a pistol among his suite is said to have con- 
siderably infuriated the Chief Justice, but in the county 
of Devonshire he found few prisoners on whom to vent 
his wrath. The deficiency of business at Exeter was 
more than atoned for at Taunton, where Jeffreys found 
526 prisoners awaiting trial. Somersetshire had been 
Monmouth's principal recruiting ground, and Taunton 
and Wells between them could make up a calendar of 
over a thousand prisoners. 

At Taunton, out of the 526, some 144 were executed, 
and 284 transported. On the subject of transportation 
Jeffreys wrote to the King. In those days it was con- 
sidered lawful that prisoners taken in rebellion who had 
been spared the extreme penalty and sentenced to trans- 
portation, should be given to favoured individuals as gifts 
or rewards for loyalty, to be either ransomed at their 
profit, or sold by them to West Indian planters as little 
better than slaves. James had bestowed quantities of 
these prisoners on his friends at the Court, and Jeffreys 
now wrote to put in a humble plea on behalf of the loyal 
gentry of the West, who would seem to have been sadly 
neglected in this respect. " If," he wrote, " your Majesty 
orders these prisoners to be disposed of as you have already 
designed, persons that have not suffered in your service 
will run away with the booty, and I am sure your Majesty 
will be perpetually perplexed with petitions for recom- 


penses for sufferers as well as rewards for servants." And 
he continues : " Had not your Majesty been pleased to 
declare your gracious intentions (in the matter of these 
prisoners) to them that served in the soldiery, and also to 
the many depressed families ruined by this late rebellion, 
I should not have presumed to have given your Majesty 
this trouble." Setting aside the unpleasantness of this 
method of rewarding adherents, Jeffreys is to be com- 
mended for his attempt to turn the stream of reward 
into its proper channel, and for his courage in remons- 
trating with the King himself, however submissive the 
terms he employed. It is also to be observed from his 
letter that Monmouth's adherents were not the only 
sufferers by the rebellion, as most historians would seem 
to persuade us. The true Protestant rebels had managed 
in their short reign of glory to do a good deal of damage 
to the property of the Papists and the loyal Churchmen 
and Tories in their neighbourhood. 

At Taunton Jeffreys condemned the elder Hewling, 
Benjamin. He went to his death exuberantly joyful and 
with full assurance of the eternal heaven awaiting him. 
So great was the confidence of these martyrs in their 
ultimate salvation, that " some of the most malicious in 
Taunton, from whom nothing but railing was to be 
expected," were heard to say that " these persons had left 
a sufficient evidence that they were now saints in heaven." 
The fact that the horses refused to draw the sledge which 
was to convey Hewling to the scaffold, was accounted by 
many a miracle. 

Another sufferer was one Simon Hamlyn. He was said 
to have been convicted on perjured evidence concocted 
against him by a Justice who hated him for a Dissenter. 
After his conviction the Justice repented of his sin, and 
told Jeffreys that the conviction had been wrongly ob- 
tained. "You have brought him on," replied the Judge, 
" if he be innocent, his blood be upon you ; " and the 
Justice departed into outer darkness. 

One other case at Taunton deserves notice. A youth 
named William Jenkins was condemned and executed for 


having fought in Monmouth's army. Sunderland had 
written to Jeffreys on September 12th, asking him to 
show favour to Jenkins if he could do so without pre- 
judice to the King's service. Apparently Jeffreys did not 
see his way to accede to Sunderland's request, and Jenkins 
was hanged. Roberts, in his Life of Monmouth, a very care- 
ful and useful work in many respects, observes : " It really 
appears that Jeffreys delighted in blood," and quotes 
Jenkins's execution, in spite of Sunderland's intercession, 
as the illustration of the Judge's bloodthirsty disposition. 
Why Jeffreys should have imperatively yielded to Sunder- 
land's request does not appear. He may well have con- 
sidered that Jenkins's pardon would have been an unfair 
exercise of clemency prejudicial to his Majesty's service ; 
and in the absence of all details as to the merits of the 
case except that Jenkins had fought in the rebel army, 
the case may quite as well be cited as an example of 
Jeffreys' unwillingness to allow any personal consideration 
to interfere with the strict administration of justice accord- 
ing to his principles. But to say that because he refused 
to oblige Sunderland, he appears a rejoicer in blood, is a 
childish inference. 

It is generally stated that after leaving Taunton, 
Jeffreys went on to Wells, but in his letter to the King, 
quoted above, and written from Taunton, September 1 9th, 
he writes that he leaves for Bristol on Monday, and then 
goes to Wells. Monday was the 21st, and the same day, 
after a long and tiresome journey, he opened the Com- 
mission at Bristol. The 21st of September was a terrible 
day for the Mayor and Aldermen of that fat city. 
There were no prisoners to be tried for the rebellion, 
but there was a mighty ill-reckoning to be settled be- 
tween the Corporation and the Lord Chief Justice. Not 
only were most of the Aldermen factious Whigs enough, 
who were only restrained by want of numbers from 
opening their gates to Monmouth, but a practice of 
kidnapping had grown up among these greedy merchants. 
Not content with the customary profits to be made 
out of such criminals as had their sentences of death 


commuted to transportation, the Mayor and Aldermen had 
increased their gains by terrifying petty criminals whose 
offences were not legally punishable by death, into an 
idea that they would be hanged, and so inducing them 
to pray for transportation as a merciful alternative. By 
this device the city merchants were enabled to send out 
annually large consignments of prisoners to work their 
West Indian estates. Jeffreys, hearing of this practice, 
had made inquiry into it, and fully resolved of its pre- 
valence, determined to teach these avaricious magistrates 
a wholesome and never-to-be-forgotten lesson. As he 
left Taunton a fit of the stone had seized on him with in- 
creased violence. His torments being cruelly aggravated 
by the unevenness of the road from Taunton to Bristol, the 
Chief Justice by the time he arrived at his destination was 
in a condition of temper, which the sight of the kidnap- 
ping magistrates, coming out to receive him in their red 
robes of office, soon worked into a state of raving fury. 
No sooner had he taken his seat on the Bench, the court 
thronged with an expectant audience, the red-robed kid- 
nappers seated apprehensively on each side of him, than he 
flew at the throat of the city of Bristol. By the mercy 
of God, he began, he was come to this city, the second in 
the kingdom. " Gentlemen, I find here are a great many 
auditors who are very intent, as if they expected some 
formal or prepared speech ; but assure yourselves, we come 
not to make neither set speeches, nor formal declamations, 
nor to follow a couple of puffing trumpeters, for, Lord, 
we have seen these things twenty times before." All the 
stately efforts of the Corporation to be summed up as a 
" couple of puffing trumpeters " ! A woful day indeed for 
Bristol ! After casually remarking that women governed 
and bore sway in the city, he continued ominously : " For 
points and matters of law I shall not trouble you, but only 
mind you of some things that have lately happened, and 
particularly in this city — for I have the kalendar of this 
city in my pocket ; " and, he went on, if he did not ex- 
press himself in formal and set terms, they might put it 
down to the pain of the stone and the bad roads. 


Then, in violent and disjointed language, full of paren- 
theses and repetitions — five times he uses the expression 
" rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft " — he denounced 
the conspiracies of the past and praised the excellence of 
the King, though he went so far as to describe James " as 
a King, I will assure you, that will not be worse than his 
word — nay (pardon the expression), that dare not be 
worse than his word." If this expression was carried to 
Whitehall, it cannot have been very much to James's 

The Chief Justice then addressed himself to Bristol in 
particular. He told the city he was afraid there were 
too many rebelliously inclined within its walls — " your 
Tylys, your Roes and your Wades — men started up like 
mushrooms — scoundrel fellows, mere sons of dunghills ! 
these men, forsooth, must set up for liberty and property. 
... I have brought a brush in my pocket, and I shall be 
sure to rub the dirt wherever it is, or on whomsoever it 
sticks. Gentlemen, I shall not stand complimenting with 
you, I shall talk with some of you before you and I part. 
I tell you, I tell you I have brought a besom, and I will 
sweep every man's door, whether great or small." First 
he fell upon the Trimmers of the City. Trimmers, he 
said, were merely base-spirited Whigs. " These men stink 
worse than the worst dirt you have in your city ; these men 
have so little religion," he sneered, " that they forget that 
he that is not for us is against us. But enough of com- 
plimenting ! Come, come, gentlemen, to be plain with 
you, I find the dirt in the ditch is in your nostrils. Good 
God ! where am I ? In Bristol ? I find you need a 
commission once a month at least. The very magistrates, 
that should be the ministers of justice, fall out with one 
another to that degree that they will scarce dine with 
each other ; whilst it is the business of some cunning men 
that lie behind the curtain to raise divisions amongst them, 
and set them together by the ears and knock their logger- 
heads together ; yet I find they can agree for their 
interests. Or if it be but a kid in the case (for I hear 
the trade of kidnapping is in much request in this city), 


they can discharge a felon or a traitor, provided they 
will go to Mr. Alderman's plantation at the West 
Indies. Come, come, I find you stink for want of 

He then reprimanded the Aldermen for showing favour 
to Dissenters in the administration of justice. He did 
not spare the clergy, " amongst whom he heard there were 
differences," " those that ought to preach peace and unity 
to others." "Gentlemen, these things must be looked into." 
Then, turning to the Mayor and Aldermen, who sat by 
his side : " Sir, Mr. Mayor, you I mean, kidnapper, and 
an old Justice of the Peace on the Bench (alluding to one 
of the Aldermen), I do not know him, old knave ; he 
goes to the tavern for a pint of sack, he will bind people 
servants to the Indies in the tavern. A kidnapping 
knave ! I will have his ears off" before I go forth out of 
town. Well, read that paper ! " (addressing the Town 
Clerk, who read a case in which the Mayor had tried to 
send a pickpocket to Jamaica). Jeffreys resumed : 
" Kidnapper, you, I mean ! Sir, do you see the 
keeper of Newgate ? If it was not in respect of the 
sword which is over your head, I would send you to 
Newgate, you kidnapping knave, you are worse than the 
pickpockets that stand there (pointing to the bar). I 
hope you are men of worth. I will make you pay 
sufficiently for it." With that he charged the Grand 
Jury to find true bills for kidnapping against the Mayor and 
certain of the Aldermen, and as soon as the jury had done 
so, ordered the accused to come from the Bench in their 
robes and their fur, and plead at the bar like common 
criminals. If the astonished Mayor hesitated on the way, 
or slackened his pace, the Chief Justice bawled and jeered 
at him, " See how the kidnapping rogue looks ! " with 
other taunting expressions. When finally he departed 
from Bristol, he took with him a list of the offending 
citizens, with a view to their further prosecution. 

Among the proscribed was Sir Robert Cann, a loyal 
Alderman, who, without participating in the illegal traffic 
of his colleagues, had sat by in silence whilst it was carried 


on. The old gentleman hurried up to London after the 
Chief Justice in great trepidation, and went at once to the 
house of his son-in-law, who happened to be Sir Dudley 
North, the brother of the late Lord Keeper, to beg 
him to intercede with Jeffreys. This Dudley consented 
to do. Taking with them Roger, who, being at the bar 
and a King's Counsel, might the better plead with the 
Judge, the three went to Jeffreys' house. They were 
shown into his presence, and Roger did his best to 
extenuate Sir Robert's share in the matter. For 
some time Jeffreys stared at them and dwelt on the 
enormity of the offence and the necessity of exemplary 
punishment. At last, however, he was melted and, 
turning to Sir Robert, said : " For these two gentlemen's 
sakes I pardon you for this time ; but go your way and 
sin no more lest a worse thing come unto you." 

Poor old Sir Robert never really recovered the distress of 
mind induced by his alarming predicament. He gave up 
sherry for small beer at a time when his constitution was 
too matured to endure such a signal change of diet, and 
died soon after his return to Bristol. But being a Tory, 
he has not been accounted among the martyrs to Jeffreys' 

The fact that a loyal Tory like Sir Robert Cann was 
included in the intended prosecution of the Bristol kid- 
nappers goes to show that Jeffreys' attack on them was 
not a purely political move. The Chief Justice was well 
known for his skill in detecting abuses and for the vigour 
he always showed in denouncing those whom he found 
guilty of trickery or dishonesty. But he was not often 
in the habit of using such language as that in which he 
rated the Mayor and Aldermen. He has himself, however, 
furnished the explanation for his peculiar freedom of 
expression on that occasion, which those who have ever 
suffered as he did will thoroughly appreciate. Those who 
have not, must exercise their imaginations. 

On September 22nd, Jeffreys wrote to Sunderland an 
account of his proceedings at Bristol. 


" I am just now come," he writes, " my most honourable 
Lord, from discharging my duty to his most sacred Majesty, 
in executing his commission in this his most factious 
city, for, my Lord, to be plain, on my true affection and 
honour to your lordship and my allegiance and duty to my 
Royal Master, I think this city worse than Taunton." 
Though " harassed by the day's fatigues and mortified 
with a fit of the stone," he acquaints the King with his 
proceeding against the Mayor and Aldermen, and begs 
his Majesty not to be surprised into a pardon to any man 
though he pretend much to loyalty — this looks like an 
allusion to Cann — but to wait until he himself has the 
honour to kiss his hand. " I will pawn my life," he goes 
on, " and what is dearer to me, my loyalty, that Taunton 
and Bristol and the county of Somerset too shall know 
their duty both to God and their King before I leave 
them, and in a few days don't despair to perfect the work 
I was sent about." For the particulars of Taunton 
Assizes he refers Sunderland to Lord Churchill who was 
present there. He has received his Majesty's commands 
as to the disposal of the transported convicts, and they 
were evidently not to his liking, for, he adds, " the 
messengers seem to me too impetuous for a hasty com- 
pliance. And now, lest, my dearest Lord, you should be 
afflicted by further trouble as I am at this time by pain, 
I will only say that I am " — and then he is Lord 
Sunderland's most dutiful, grateful, &c, &c. servant, 

There now remained but one city that required to be 
further taught its duty to God and the King, and that 
was the city of Wells. Here there were some 500 for trial, 
of whom 99 were executed and 283 transported. Here also 
Jeffreys is said to have frightened to death one of the maids 
of Taunton by the fierceness of his glance. Among the con- 
demned prisoners was Mr. Charles Speke, brother of Hugh 
Speke whose trial before Jeffreys with Laurence Braddon has 
been already described. Coming of a Whig family who had 
received Monmouth with encouragement — his brother 


John fought in his army — the fact that Charles Speke had 
shaken hands with the Duke was quite enough to hang 
him. It is also said that Jeffreys and Jones, the Chief 
Justice of the Common Pleas, coveted the disposal of a 
legal office held by Speke. Not that, in suffering death 
for so small a trespass, Speke was being treated with ex- 
ceptional severity. At Taunton one man was tried for 
saying he would not go to church till Monmouth came, 
another for expressing a hope as a well-wisher that 
Monmouth was not dead, another for saying he was for 
Monmouth and God and would fight for the former as 
long as he lived. I do not find that any of these men 
were hanged, but shaking hands is a step further than 
mere lip worship. 

One other case of importance was tried by Jeffreys at 
the city of Wells. The culprit was John Coad, described 
by Macaulay as an " honest God-fearing carpenter." 
This honest God-fearing man had deserted from the 
King's army and joined the Duke's colours, " less than 
which argument " he says in his Memorandum of God' s 
Wonderful Providence to him " was enough to make the 
lion's whelp, Jeffreys, to roar against, yea, to damn me." 
He was not unreasonably condemned to death by the 
" bloody hero " of a Judge ; but, not being of the stuff 
of which martyrs are made, he tried to bribe an officer 
to get him transported instead. The attempt failed; but, 
" Jehovah-Jireh being on his side " he contrived to change 
sentences with a fellow prisoner who was tired of life and 
willing to exchange transportation for death. And so 
this honest God-fearing man was preserved from the fury of 
" the bloody Popish Judge, the merciless monster Jeffreys." 
A carpenter of this vehemently religious type might 
nowadays be esteemed honest and God-fearing among 
intemperate sectarians, and would certainly be considered a 
harmless nuisance among sober people, but in the seven- 
teenth century he was, in the eyes of the Government, a 
dangerous rebel who was better out of the way. In either 
century he deserved to be hanged or shot as a deserter. 

So ended the " Bloody Assizes." From Wells Jeffreys 


returned to London, and on October 3rd, he and his 
brother Judges kissed the King's hand and publicly re- 
ceived his thanks for their services. In the meantime, on 
September 28th, his Majesty, "taking into consideration 
the many eminent and faithful services which the Right 
Honourable George Lord Jeffreys of Wem, Lord Chief 
Justice of England, had rendered the Crown, as well in 
the reign of the late King of ever blessed memory as 
since his Majesty's accession to the throne, was pleased 
this day to commit to him the custody of the great Seal 
of England, with the title of Lord Chancellor." Charles 
II. had told North when he gave him the Seal that he 
would find it heavy. The story goes that a boon com- 
panion over a bottle of wine, gave Jeffreys a similar 
warning, to which the new Chancellor jestingly replied : 
" No, I'll make it light." Perhaps, if Charles had given 
the warning, Jeffreys would not have laughed it aside so 
easily ; at any rate, as things turned out the King's prog- 
nostication would have been nearer the truth than the 
Judge's thoughtless jest. Jeffreys had coveted the seal as 
eagerly as North ; both were comparatively young when 
they received it, North forty-five, Jeffreys thirty-seven ; 
but they both died within four years of taking office, 
considerably the worse for their precious trophy. 

Before leaving the " Bloody Assizes," one or two facts 
remain to be considered. 

The Government was vastly strengthened in public 
estimation by the suppression of the rebellion. To 
all sensible men it had appeared as the vain and un- 
worthy adventure of a weak man, led on to his doom 
by a set of mischievous fanatics. The Church viewed it 
with bitter hostility and publicly rejoiced in its destruc- 
tion ; they called it the " Dissenting Rebellion " and 
warmly supported the civil authorities in taking severe 
measures against the Nonconformists. The Bishop of 
Exeter, Dr. Lamplugh, a devoted loyalist, directed his 
clergy to publish a document drawn up by the county 
magistrates, in which the Dissenters are spoken of as 
a " pestilent faction, as impenitent, hardened sectaries, 


schismatics or rebels," the mischievous seducers of the 
unwary ; the sword of justice is to be kept still un- 
sheathed — this was in October — that the nation may not 
again experience the fatal effects of too much lenity. 
It would be instructive after this to know the Bishop 
of Exeter's opinion of Jeffreys. If the Bloody Assizes 
is to be as implicitly believed as it has been hitherto 
by the most distinguished historians of the period, the 
parsons were no whit better, in fact rather worse, than 
Jeffreys, and should have been included in their in- 
dignant censures. " But the greatest persecutors and 
insulters of these poor people," writes the author of 
the Martyrologies, "were the country parsons." They 
did not preach to the spirits in prison, but they re- 
viled them. One of them, when he heard some con- 
demned persons in prayer just before their execution, 
said : " These fellows will pray the devil out of hell ; 
and the prison was seldom free from black-coats." 
Another clergyman of the Church of England, he writes, 
ordered a boy, whom Jeffreys had condemned to be 
whipped, to be flogged a second time over because a 
merciful gaoler had not laid it on hard enough the first 
time ; and on the second occasion the boy was nearly 
beaten to death. 

But it is really better on the whole, considering the many 
respectable interests involved, that the Bloody Assizes 
should not be treated as too serious an authority, even at 
the risk of over-indulging "Judge Jeffreys." It would be 
wiser to accept the testimony of Archdeacon Echard, who 
admits that the conduct of the Western prisoners tended 
rather to exasperate their Judges than to move them to 
compassion. The comment of an anonymous author of a 
pamphlet written against the Whigs, is also instructive. 
" I have indeed sometimes thought that in Jeffreys' 
Western Circuit, justice went too far before mercy was 
remembered, though there was not a fourth part executed 
of what were convicted. But when I consider in what 
manner several of these lives then spared were afterwards 


spent, I can but think a little more hemp might have 
been usefully employed upon that occasion." 

A question that has been warmly discussed is the rela- 
tive share of the King and Jeffreys in the cruelties of 
the Western Assizes. Jeffreys, at the time of his im- 
prisonment in the Tower, pleaded that he had not been 
severe enough according to his instructions, and was 
snubbed on his return to London for being too lenient. 
James, on the other hand, when he was anxious after his 
flight to conciliate public opinion, said that he was not 
aware of the lengths to which Jeffreys had gone, and had 
suffered in the public estimation from the excessive 
conduct of the Chief Justice. As to Jeffreys' plea it 
may be said, that if by his acts he fell short of the 
royal commands, by the severity of his personal behaviour 
he more than atoned for any remissness in other re- 
spects. That he did act on very particular instructions 
is proved by his own letters and his frequent reports 
of his proceedings. James's plea is easily disposed of. 
A King who writes delightedly of his Judge's assize 
as a " campaign," who will only remit the burning of 
Alice Lisle if he can be satisfied of a precedent for doing 
so, and whom Lord Churchill described to Hannah 
Hewling as the equal in compassion to a piece of marble, 
was not likely to be very distressed at any of Jeffreys' 
proceedings. But Thomas, Earl of Ailesbury, is the most 
damaging witness against James. A loyal Tory, the Earl 
was shocked at the severities practised in the West, and 
personally protested against them to the King himself. 
James's replies not being very satisfactory, the Earl 
bluntly remarked : " Your Majesty ought to turn out the 
Justice (Jeffreys) and Mr. Percy Kirke, and that will show 
the world your true abhorrence." Better advice could 
not have been given ; but Kirke remained a Brigadier- 
General and the Justice was made Lord High Chancellor 
of England. Comment is superfluous. James's plea of 
ignorance is either a falsehood on his part or a myth 
invented by his friends. 


The truth is that James II. and Lord Jeffreys were a 
most unfortunate combination to be entrusted with the 
suppression of a rebellion ; they reacted fatally on one 
another. The cold implacability of the one was supple- 
mented by the " great and fiery passion " of the other ; 
the still resentment of the King was augmented by the 
loud and mocking virulence of the Judge. Those who 
escaped the fiery darts of Jeffreys were shattered against 
the marble of James's heart. 

And what rewards, as an earnest Judge and loyal 
servant, did Jeffreys receive for his work in the West ? 
He received £1,416 ioj". from the Crown Solicitors, 
presumably as circuit expenses, the office of Lord Chan- 
cellor, and Mr. Edmund Prideaux. Mr. Prideaux was 
given to Jeffreys, as Azariah Primly was " given " to Mr. 
Nephir, and the Taunton maids to the Queen's maids of 
honour — that is to say, as a prisoner whose friends could 
ransom him by paying the money to the person to whom 
he had been "given." Prideaux was an ardent supporter 
of the country party and the Dissenters ; but, though no 
doubt fully sympathising with Monmouth he had re- 
mained peaceably at home during the rebellion. His 
house had been visited by some of the Duke's soldiers, 
one of whom drank a health to his leader ; but nothing 
more could be proved against him. However, he was 
arrested, released on heavy bail and then re-arrested and 
lodged in the Tower in close confinement. Jeffreys had 
threatened to hang him, and the Judge's agents did all 
they could to rake up evidence against him. Jeffreys was 
determined to make the most of his gift ; the stronger the 
evidence against Prideaux, the heavier could be the price 
demanded for a pardon. In vain Mrs. Prideaux applied 
to the King. The answer came back that the " King had 
given him to Jeffreys." £7,000 were offered to the Judge ; 
he only replied that he wondered how any one could speak 
for so vile a person who deserved to be hanged. £10,000 
were offered and declined. At last £15,000 were paid, 
subject to £240 discount on prompt payment ; and Pri- 

x 2 


deaux was released. Jeffreys purchased some property in 
Leicestershire with the profits of the negotiation. 

The immorality of Prideaux's treatment is so obvious 
and has been so repeatedly dwelt upon, that there is 
no need to enforce it. It was the natural outcome of 
the prevailing idea that injustice was fair dealing to- 
wards those disaffected to the Crown, an idea which 
causes a painful impression when it is found upon the 
judgment-seat. Ministers and courtiers and maids of 
honour may traffic in pardons with comparative decency ; 
but a Lord Chief Justice, whatever his political antipathies, 
should avoid such incongruous barter. If, however, his 
financial position is in any way difficult, the sense of 
incongruity would no doubt become less obtrusive. 

Jeffreys should have remained in his doctor's hands, 
instead of going the Western Circuit. He was not in a fit 
state of health to administer justice, especially on such a 
rough and extensive scale as that designed in the King's 
Commission. Though, substantially, little injustice may 
have been done, and one may be inclined to agree with the 
author of the Caveat, that none too much hemp was 
employed in the proceeding, Jeffreys, by the awful in- 
tensity which his passionate disposition acquired in the 
agony of his body, so aggravated the well-merited dis- 
tresses of the rebels as to make it easy for such as Tutchin 
to bestow on them the crown of martyrdom and load the 
Chief Justice with coarse and virulent abuse. This abuse 
has lived and been his portion for two hundred years ; it 
has been literally and authoritatively accepted by the most 
popular historians, and out of it has sprung the Jeffreys 
of still more popular romance. It is not the object of 
this work to demolish this figure, to destroy one of the 
most cherished bogies of fireside history ; but if there 
exists a real and living Jeffreys, a human being and not a 
monstrous puppet dressed up to frighten children and 
confiding adults, the true purposes of history may be in 
some slight measure served by an attempt to reduce the 
monster to human proportions. 



1685, 1686 

The conferment of the Chancellorship on Jeffreys was 
the zenith of his career. He had reached the highest 
honour in his profession, his power was feared and 
acknowledged, and he belonged to a Government that 
recent events had made the strongest since the Restoration. 
How in three years that Government fell, its opportunities 
wasted by a rash and obstinate King, how his Chancellor 
fell with him to die in misery and disgrace, these are well- 
known facts of history. The period has been treated by 
more than one master of the art of historical narrative ; 
and nothing but a painful sense of inferiority is likely to 
accrue from any attempt to reproduce more than its 
general features in so far as they may concern the career of 
Jeffreys. In his history these years are a period of anti- 
climax. To a certain extent the Chancellor passes behind 
the curtain, his acts and thoughts are hidden from our 
view. The nature of his new office does not bring him 
into the same public prominence as that of the Chief 
Justiceship ; his appearance in the pages of the State 
Trials are few and far between ; his performances as a 
Judge are entirely limited to his equity jurisdiction in the 
Court of Chancery, and his part in the Government is 
played in the Council Chamber or the King's closet. 
Contemporary memoirs and the despatches ot Barillon 
afford an occasional evidence of the Chancellor's share in 


the counsels of the King ; but under his own hand or out 
of his own mouth there is the scantiest testimony to his 
motives or his conduct. 

If it were possible to describe briefly the policy pursued 
by the Chancellor during the reign of James II., it would 
be that of absolute obedience to the King's conception of 
his own prerogative, even when that obedience conflicted 
with his most cherished principles. He has himself said that 
in pursuing this line he did his best to serve as much as 
possible the interests of the Church of England, to which 
with his last breath he protested his devotion ; but so far 
these assurances have met with little credit. No doubt, 
like Sunderland, with whom at first he seems to have 
worked, he aimed at keeping his own power above all 
things, and hoped by devotion to the King to secure it. 
But at the end of the reign he certainly used his influence 
to persuade James to restore things to the condition in 
which they were at his accession to the throne ; and on 
more than one occasion he is found withstanding or openly 
disapproving some of James's extreme measures. Perhaps 
for that reason his position was frequently insecure, for 
James always expected the blindest obedience from his 
followers. Rumours of his fall were frequently abroad 
throughout the reign. But he weathered the storms, and, 
if James had not been so thoroughly irrational, might 
have ridden safely into port and died quietly in his bed, 
Lord Chancellor of England. But, hopelessly committed 
to the King's cause, the King at his flight left him behind ; 
and, baulked in his own efforts to escape, he fell into the 
hands of his enemies, from whose resentment he was only 
extricated by a timely death. 

The voices of Jeffreys' admirers were not silent on his 
elevation to the Chancellorship. The contemplation of 
his picture threw one poet into signal raptures. He sings — 

"An aspect open and a brow that's clear, 
Without the flattering, sly, insidious leer, 
A front that's awful ; yet a friend may see 
The truest signs of affability." 

Jeffreys as ^LortL LJi eaieeUon 

antra c/aCnimgm the possession 

of the (Oarl of (CJankervillt . 


And then in lines that might have been well applied to the 
prisoners in the West — 

"An eye so keen, what villain can have sense 
Pierced by its terror to plead innocence ? " 

Jeffreys is the " bulwark of the nation's laws " and has 
done more for England than Solon or Lycurgus did for 
Athens or Sparta. 

But to Joshua Barnes, M. A., a Senior Fellow of Emmanuel 
College, Cambridge, may be allotted the highest place 
among Jeffreys' worshippers. His Pindaric Congratulation 
begins — 

" Great Jeffreys, yet not half so great as good, 
How little was thy worth once understood, 

How lay it unrevealed 
Like a rich gem in dirty mines concealed, 
When by the mobile so much abused ! " 

But Mr. Barnes had not gone far enough in simile, he 
corrects himself to some purpose — 

" Or rather then, how was thy virtue known 
And dreaded by the vice-empoisoned town, 
Who thee (as sinful Jews the Saviour once) refused." 

Not satisfied with invoking the story of Christ as a fitting 
comparison for Jeffreys' want of public recognition, he 
next addresses the King, and informs him that in spite of 
his many noble qualities his greatest praise will be that he 
was Jeffreys' friend. Then he returns to the Chancellor, 
with a metaphor borrowed from the destruction of the 
octopus — 

" Well did thy wisely pruning hand, 
Lop off the suckers of the Western land." 

And concludes by declaring that monarchy shall endure 
against all storms, " till Jeffreys' fame's asleep and Time 
itself is past." 

It would be interesting to know what snug preferment 
Joshua Barnes received for these modest compliments to 
the Lord Chancellor, and what the latter thought of 
a production of this kind. An anonymous and violently 
hostile writer says that Jeffreys loved flattery, and enjoyed 


nothing better than to be surrounded by sycophants to 
whom he could hold forth on Philosophy and Mathematics. 
Jeffreys on Mathematics strikes one as rather a pleasant 
conceit ! 

But Jeffreys' Chancellorship was not celebrated only 
in terms of congratulation. The author of The Dream 
writes in a very different strain ; the Jesuits are caballing 
to root out English heresy — 

"Immediately they pitch'd upon a rule, 
How to suppress it by a forward fool, 
A bawling, blundering, senseless tool, 
Whose mouthing at Whitechapel first began, 
Who regularly to his greatness ran 
Thro' all the vile degrees of treachery, 
And now usurps the Court of Equity." 

Or the author of the True Englishman, 1686, possibly 
Mr. Tutchin, whose denunciatory style is always con- 
spicuous for a certain merciless vigour — 

"Let a lewd Judge come reeking from a wench 
To vent a wilder lust upon the Bench ; 
Bawl out the venom of his rotten heart, 
Swell'd up with envy, over act his part. 
Condemn the innocent by laws ne'er framed, 
And study to be more than doubly damn'd." 

Tasteful productions of this kind were always present to 
remind the Chancellor that he was not universally beloved 
and admired, whatever his sycophants might assure him. 

But there were things more serious than flattering 
rhapsody or frantic abuse awaiting the attention of the 
new Chancellor. Early in October Jeffreys issued his first 
batch of judicial appointments. A new Chief Justice of the 
King's Bench had to be appointed in his own place, and a 
puisne Judge in the same Court to supply the place of Mr. 
Justice Walcot, recently deceased. The man selected as 
Lord Chief Justice of England was Sir Edward Herbert, 
son of a former Sir Edward Herbert who had been Lord 
Chancellor to Charles II. during his exile. Herbert was 
not a strong lawyer, but he was honest and loyal, highly 
respected by those politically opposed to him, and known 


to have strong views as to the extent of the royal pre- 
rogative. The second appointment, in which Jeffreys 
would have had more influence, was not so respectable. 
Mr. Baron Wright, the Chancellor's shady dependent, 
was promoted from the Court of Exchequer to fill 
Walcot's seat in the King's Bench. Sir Edward Nevil, a 
loyal Tory, succeeded Wright in the Exchequer. 

According to custom, on October 23rd Jeffreys took 
his place in the Court of Chancery with the usual pomp. 
Rochester and Clarendon, the Lord Treasurer and Lord 
Privy Seal, Sunderland and other peers accompanied the new 
Chancellor into court, and stayed while he heard his first 
motion. Later in the day the new Chancellor delivered 
the customary address to the new Chief Justice on 
admitting him to his office. He first thanked the Bar 
for the kind assistance they had always given him while 
he had held that office ; " they did not," he said, " prate 
impertinently to please the audience ; for if we met any 
such, they were sure to meet with a rebuke." He then 
exhorted Herbert : " Be undaunted and courageous ; be 
sure to execute the law to the utmost of its vengeance 
upon those that are known — and we have reason to 
remember them — by the name of Whigs ! and you are 
likewise to remember the snivelling Trimmers ! For you 
know," he continued, reverting to a quotation he had 
already used in his address at Bristol, " what our Saviour 
Jesus Christ says in the Gospel, that ' They that are not 
for us are against us '." Herbert was also to be kind and af- 
fectionate to the Bar and the inferior magistrates, " though, 
perhaps," with regard to the latter, they have not arrived 
to that perfection in the knowledge of the law which is a 
good fortune of a particular education in the profession." 
" In fine, sir," he concluded, " as the sum of all your duty, 
fear God and honour the King; but," with one last stroke 
at the Whigs, " use your utmost authority for the sup- 
pression of those that are given to change." His duty 
discharged, the Chancellor afterwards dined with the new 
Chief Justice at Serjeants' Inn. 


A few nights later he had the pleasure of dining with 
his old friend Alderman Sir Robert Jeffreys, the " Great 
Smoker," who had so kindly helped his young namesake 
in his early days and had just been elected Lord Mayor 
of London for the ensuing year. The Chancellor's in- 
fluence had probably helped to secure Sir Robert's 
election. His power in the City appears to have been 
unlimited. The outgoing Mayor, Sir James Smith, had 
complained bitterly to Reresby of Jeffreys' haughtiness 
and authority ; he said that the City had no access to or 
communication with the King save through the medium of 
the powerful favourite ; but, he added, his haughtiness 
would undo him, for Smith meant to acquaint the King 
in due season with his Chancellor's arrogant behaviour. 

In the Court of Chancery Jeffreys soon discovered a 
great deal that was unsatisfactory or dishonest, for in 
November he committed to the Fleet prison a registrar, 
two or three clerks and a lawyer or two, and sus- 
pended a Master in Chancery from his place. It may 
be that the lawyer in question was the same of whom 
Roger North relates an amusing anecdote. A petition 
had been presented in Chancery against a City attorney, 
charging him with some abuse of his functions, and an 
affidavit was produced before Jeffreys in which it was stated 
that the attorney, on hearing that he was to be brought 
before the Chancellor, had exclaimed : " My Lord Chan- 
cellor? I made him!" meaning thereby that he had 
given Jeffreys work in his early days. The affidavit was 
read to Jeffreys. "Well," said my Lord Chancellor, 
" then I'll lay my maker by the heels ; " and the attorney 
was immediately sent to gaol. About the same time his 
lordship gave the College of Physicians a bit of his mind 
for not surrendering their Charter into the King's hands 
with becoming zeal. 

On November 20th Jeffreys, at the King's direction, 
prorogued the Parliament, which had not proved satis- 
factory, and never met again during the reign ; so that in 
this Parliament, Jeffreys made his only appearance as a 


member of the House of Lords. Ralph, a very hostile 
historian, says that Jeffreys was a complete failure as a 
parliamentary speaker, because he adopted an Old Bailey 
style of oratory which the Lords resented. But there is no 
report of the debates from which we can form any judgment 
of Jeffreys' style ; he was probably sensible enough to adapt 
it to the occasion. His conduct at Lord Delamere's trial 
before the peers in the following year showed him very 
well able to hold his own with dignity and firmness before 
that august body. 

That trial had been fixed to take place in January, 
1686. Delamere, the Mr. Booth of the Parliament of 
1680, is described by Lord Ailesbury as a "man of 
implacable spirit against the King and Crown, and of a 
most sour temper of mind." There can be little doubt 
that he was deep in the Whig designs, and that he was 
ready to utilise his influence in Cheshire against the 
Government, if a suitable opportunity occurred ; in 1688 
he was one of the first to join William of Orange with an 
armed force drawn from that county. The Government 
determined to include him in the prosecutions they 
instituted against one or two of the most dangerous 
Whigs, after the suppression of Monmouth's rebellion. 
Cornish had already suffered, and Delamere was, if it were 
legally possible, to share a similar fate. As a peer he had 
the right to be tried by his peers ; but since Parliament 
was not sitting in January he was summoned before the 
Court of the Lord High Steward, which, for judicial 
purposes, took the place of the full House of Lords when 
Parliament was prorogued or dissolved. This Court 
consisted of a certain number of peers who were sum- 
moned by the Lord High Steward to act as " triers " on 
the particular occasion. The Lord High Steward was 
himself appointed only for the purpose of the trial, at the 
conclusion of which he broke his staff as a sign that his 
Commission was at an end. He did not vote with the 
lords " triers " in giving their verdict, but acted as Judge 
of the Court, with the assistance of the ordinary common 


law Judges. The Lord Chancellor was almost invariably 
the peer chosen to act as Steward, and in this case the 
King appointed Lord Jeffreys. It was singular that 
Jeffreys should have been Delamere's Judge. It will be 
remembered that it was Lord Delamere, then Mr. Booth 
and a member of the House of Commons, who, in 1680, 
had described in such indignant terms Jeffreys' conduct 
as Chief Justice of Chester, declaring that he behaved like 
a jack-pudding, and blessing God that he, Mr. Booth, 
was not a man of such principles and behaviour. The 
strange chances of seventeenth-century politics had oddly 
reversed the positions of the two men. Booth had been 
Jeffreys' Judge five years before, when the Recorder was 
punished by the indignant Commons; now, Jeffreys, Lord 
High Chancellor of England and a peer of the realm, sat 
in judgment on Lord Delamere. 

And Jeffreys bore himself worthily in these altered 
circumstances. He neither forgot the dignity of his high 
office nor the respect due to himself as holding that office. 
His enemies have said that he was overawed by the 
presence of his fellow peers, and behaved well because he 
was afraid to behave otherwise. On the contrary, he 
showed equal firmness in dealing with the prisoner or 
his peers when thy attempted to usurp or meddle with 
his proper functions. The trial itself is not interesting. 
Delamere was charged with organising a rising in Chester 
to co-operate with Monmouth on his landing. The 
evidence against him depended almost entirely on the 
testimony of a witness named Saxon, who was shown to be 
clearly perjured ; and Delamere was acquitted. 

At the beginning of the trial the prisoner put in a plea 
to the effect that, as Parliament was only prorogued and 
not dissolved, it was still " continuing " and so he ought 
to be tried by the whole House of Peers, and not in the 
Court of the Lord High Steward. After hearing Lord 
Delamere and the Attorney-General argue the point, 
Jeffreys as Judge of the Court pronounced the plea to be 
" frivolous." Delamere cunningly endeavoured to insinu- 


ate that Jeffreys was slighting the privilege of the peers. 
" My Lord, I hope the privilege of the peers of England 
is not frivolous." Jeffreys answered him : " Pray, good my 
lord, do not think that T should say any such thing that the 
privilege of the peers is frivolous. As I would not 
willingly mistake you, so I desire your lordship would not 
misapprehend or mirepresent me, I spoke not at all of 
the peers' privilege, but of your plea." Jeffreys' patience 
encouraged Delamere to be presumptuous. " I hope, 
your Grace," he went on, " will be pleased to advise with 
my lords the peers here present, it being upon a point of 
privilege." But Jeffreys was quick to teach his lordship 
his place : " Good my lord, I hope you, that are a 
prisoner at the bar, are not to give me direction who I 
should advise with or how I should demean myself here." 
Delamere was wise enough to see his mistake and made 
suitable apologies. However, as he still tried to continue 
the argument, Jeffreys was obliged to silence him : " My 
lord, you must pardon me ; I can enter into no further 
interlocutions with your lordship." 

Later in the course of the trial the question arose 
whether the Court could adjourn in the middle of the 
case until the following morning. Jeffreys consulted the 
Judges, and came to the conclusion that he could not 
allow an adjournment, as the legal right to do so 
seemed doubtful. The peers claimed the right to decide 
the question for themselves, as it was a matter concerning 
their privilege. Jeffreys positively refused to admit their 
claim. " My lords, I confess I would always be very 
tender of the privileges of the peers wherever I find them 
concerned ; but truly I apprehend, according to the best 
of my understanding, that this Court is held before me. 
It is my warrant that convenes the prisoner to the bar. 
It is my summons that brings the peers together to try 
him, and so I take myself to be Judge of the Court." 
Lord Campbell quotes this very proper assertion of the 
High Steward's authority as an instance of Jeffreys' 
habitual arrogance. 


In concluding his short charge to the peers, Jeffreys 
expressed his dissatisfaction with Saxon's evidence. The 
King, who was present during the trial, was much enraged 
against the lying witness, and threatened him with Oates' 
fate. The same month Parliament was further prorogued 
till May. 

James was now bent on getting the judgment of his 
courts of law in favour of his power of dispensing with the 
penal laws against the Catholics. He wished, when next 
he met the Parliament, to be fortified with a legal decision 
in his favour. Accordingly, Jeffreys was instructed 
to sound the Judges as to their opinions on this 
question, and, following out the " reductio ad absurdum " 
method in judicial decisions which had always been 
employed as long as the King held the right of dismissing 
his Judges at will, to remove those whose opinions were 
contrary to the royal claim. Two puisnes, Levinz and 
Gregory, were already known to be unfavourable, and 
were removed without being consulted at all. Their 
places were filled by Serjeant Bedingfield, the timorous 
person who had been scared by Jeffreys out of accepting a 
judgeship at the hands of Lord Keeper North, and 
Thomas Jenner, the Recorder of London, of whom 
Rosewell at his trial had spoken with not unmerited 

In the midst of these proceedings the Lord Chancellor 
was temporarily incapacitated for work by a severe 
and almost fatal attack of the stone, from which he was 
only delivered by some kind of operation ; for, says Luttrell, 
" he is since, by the use of means, pretty well recovered." 
The peculiar severity of the attack was partly due to hard 
drinking, in itself a consequence of the disease. Jeffreys 
once admitted that he was compelled to drink a good deal 
of punch to alleviate his sufferings. But about this time 
he seems to have passed the strict limits of punch. A 
round of entertainment had followed his acceptance of the 
Seal, and entertainments in those days were no light 
matter to a hard drinker in indifferent health. One or two 


of the Chancellor's guests on these occasions are familiar 
to posterity, and have left records of their visits to his 
house. Twice we find Jeffreys inviting Evelyn to dinner, 
for the two seem to have been on excellent terms, although 
the diarist entertained an unfavourable opinion of the Chan- 
cellor's public character. Sir John Reresby also dined with 
him twice. On the second occasion Sir John was rather 
scandalised because the Chancellor, after " having drank 
smartly at table, which was his custom," called into the 
room, Mountford, the handsome actor, who was afterwards 
murdered by Lord Mohun. The Chancellor made 
Mountford, who was an excellent mimic, plead a feigned 
cause in which he gave imitations of all the 
most celebrated lawyers to the intense delight of 
their distinguished head. Any form of mockery was 
always a pleasure to Jeffreys ; and, the more successful he 
became, the more he indulged in his love of it. But it 
was an imprudent indulgence, as his friend Reresby thought, 
" since nothing can get a man more enemies than to 
deride those whom he ought to support." 

But the climax to Jeffreys' round of conviviality occurred 
at a party or " debauch of wine," as Reresby terms it, at 
Alderman Duncomb's, where the Lord Chancellor and 
Rochester, the Lord Treasurer, a son of the great Clarendon 
and the chief supporter of the Church of England in the 
Ministry, drank to such an extent that they stripped to 
their shirts and were only prevented by an accident from 
getting on a signpost in their semi-nude condition to drink 
the King's health. As this was in the month of January, 
a chill probably put the finishing touch on Jeffreys' 
indisposition. Little wonder that at the beginning of 
February his life was despaired of. Barillon writes that 
the King was deeply troubled at the Chancellor's illness, 
saying that the loss of such a Minister would be hard to 
repair ; Jeffreys was certainly not declining in favour at 
this date. But James was spared so serious a loss. By 
the 1 2th of February Jeffreys was sufficiently recovered to 
take his seat again in the Court of Chancery. That day 


he heard his friend Mr. Evelyn's great cause, and granted 
him a re-hearing. Six lawyers appeared for Evelyn and 
three against him, of whom one was Finch, " the 
smooth-tongued solicitor." Jeffreys never liked the 
" smooth-tongued " gentleman, and had had some 
smart passages with him as Chief Justice. On this 
occasion, writes Evelyn, Jeffreys reproved Finch in a great 
passion, on a very small occasion. But, the virtuous 
diarist continues, " Blessed be God for His great goodness 
to me this day. " 

During March Jeffreys retired to his country house at 
Bulstrode, to regain his strength, which, he writes, has been 
very much impaired by his long and severe illness, the 
cause of which is still troubling him. He was back in 
London by the 25th, when he writes a very friendly letter 
to Lord Clarendon, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. 
Clarendon and his brother Rochester were at the head of 
the Church party ; and for that reason, Jeffreys was no 
doubt anxious to retain their esteem and support. 
Clarendon seems to have rather mistrusted the Chancellor's 
friendly sentiments, though he was not above making 
pretty considerable use of him in his legal affairs when it 
was convenient to do so. In the letter of the 25 th, 
Jeffreys informs Clarendon of the King's intentions as to 
some of the Irish Judges, and concludes : " I would be 
glad to receive your lordship's commands how to steer 
myself and those affairs as may be most suitable to your 
Excellency's inclinations," and sends his and his wife's 
humble duty to Lady Clarendon. 

The King was now fully occupied with the preparations 
for the Dispensing judgment ; and in April Jeffreys sounded 
the Judges as to their intentions. He was in all probability 
not sorry to find that one of the first to prove unwilling 
was Jones, the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. He 
was a fellow-countryman of Jeffreys, and they seem to 
have been jealous of one another. Jones had hitherto 
been a firm and severe supporter of the Government, but 
he could not stomach the Dispensing power. He told the 


King he might find twelve judges of his opinion, but not 
twelve lawyers. He was dismissed. Montagu, the Chief 
Baron, and Nevil, a " puisne," shared the same fate. 
Another of the Judges was only too glad to find in the 
Dispensing power a good cause for retiring from the Bench. 
This was old Sir Job Charleton, who, in 1680, had been con- 
soled against his will for giving up the Chief Justiceship of 
Chester to Jeffreys by a Judgeship in the Common Pleas. 
He took his quietus with peculiar satisfaction, for he was 
at the same time restored to his old place at Chester and 
given a baronetcy. He lived until 1697, to the age of 83, 
in full enjovment of his honours. 

Mr. Justice Bedingfield was promoted to Jones's place, 
Baron Atkyns to Montagu's, and the other vacancies were 
filled up by the faithful and reliable. The most interesting 
of the new appointments was that of Christopher Milton, 
the younger brother of the poet, as a Baron of the 
Exchequer. He had been all his life as consistent an 
adherent of the royal house as his brother of the Protector, 
and later in life he had gone to the extreme of Roman 
Catholicism. His religious belief was, in all probability, 
the chief cause of his elevation to the Bench, for he was 
seventy-one at the time of his appointment, and in two 
years was given a writ of ease in consideration of his age. 
A quiet easy man, he survived some five years in 
retirement in the country. 

Another dismissal, brought about by the Dispensing 
affair, must have given the Chancellor considerable satis- 
faction. " Smooth-tongued " Mr. Solicitor Finch was 
removed, and Thomas Powys, an able and faithful lawyer, 
succeeded to his place. 

As soon as everything had been conveniently settled, Sir 
Edward Hales, a Roman Catholic officer in the army, 
defended the test action as to the King's right of 
Dispensation, before the Court of King's Bench ; and 
Chief Justice Herbert gave judgment in his favour. He 
said he had consulted the twelve Judges, who, with one 
exception, were in favour of the King's right. The one 



exception was Mr. Justice Street ; but it has been sug- 
gested, though on no very clear evidence, that his dissent 
from his brethren was collusively given, in order to lend 
an air of spontaneity to the judgment. 

James now turned his attention to the Church of 
England, and with that began the real difficulties of 
Jeffreys' position. As a lawyer and a Tory he had good 
grounds for believing in and upholding the right of 
Dispensation. Jones's reply to James about judges and 
lawyers sounds well, but it is by no means irrefutable. 
In strict law there was quite as much to be said in favour of 
the Dispensing power as against it ; and the refusal of some 
of the Judges to assent to it was imputed by many to a fear 
of being called to account by a future Parliament for such 
an assent, rather than to their loyalty towards what they 
conceived to be the true principles of English law. But 
when James, as head of the Church of England, began to 
exercise his power in a way detrimental to the welfare of 
that Church, Jeffreys was thrown into an uncomfortable 
state of hesitation between his devotion to his King and 
his devotion to his Church. On the one side stood 
Sunderland, on the other Rochester, both friends of the 
Chancellor, and statesmen with whose respective aims he 
had sympathised. But Sunderland had now thrown in his 
lot with the Jesuitical cabal that ruled the King, and was 
bent on driving Rochester from office. Jeffreys must 
either stop with the Lord President or go with the Lord 
Treasurer. He preferred to stop. Office was a protection 
to him ; he had hosts of enemies, whom his mocking 
tongue and violent opinions had made him ; he knew 
that, if he fell, his fall would be deep and complete. As 
long as he retained some sort of power he could keep them 
at bay. Therefore, resignation was impossible to him ; 
he must continue to act obediently and entirely in the 
service of the King, for there was no half obedience with 
James. All he could do for that Church, from whose 
communion he never departed for one instant, greatly as 
such a step might have served his interests with the King, 


was to mitigate as much as possible the excesses of the 
King's obstinacy, and hope in time to be able to prevail 
with saner measures when James should have realised the 
hopelessness of his attempt. But such a line of policy, if 
necessary and the best in his circumstances, could have 
been neither pleasant nor satisfying to his self-respect, 
though it can hardly be called perfidious. Much as he 
himself would have loathed the appellation, Jeffreys 
"trimmed" at this critical juncture, and continued 
" trimming," till James, too late, partially came to his 
senses. But trimming is not perfidy, or what would 
become of many honourable reputations ? In not resign- 
ing his office at this time, Jeffreys was violating no 
principle of ministerial responsibility ; for, as Lingard puts 
it, " it did not enter into the minds of the statesmen of 
this period that it might be a duty to resign office, rather 
than lend the sanction of their names to measures which 
they condemned." And his office was at no time made 
intolerable to him, or his person slighted, as in the case 
of North. He had to perform many unpleasant duties, 
but he was always well treated ; and, if his place in 
the King's favour was at times imperilled, he received 
continued marks of the royal esteem throughout the reign. 

But it must not be imagined that Jeffreys was merely 
the submissive instrument of his master. In the Council on 
more than one occasion he withstood the King, and for 
the time proportionately declined in his good graces. 
It is significant that rumours of his fall are always 
coincident with these occasions. 

The first of these is in the April of 1686, when Claren- 
don writes from Dublin that he hears the Chancellor 
is tottering in favour. Now, about this time, Herbert, 
the Chief Justice, had declared to the King his views as 
to the Dispensing power, whereupon Jeffreys, whether 
from a desire to discredit the Chief Justice, in whom he 
saw a possible rival, or on purely professional grounds, 
stated certain legal objections to Herbert's view. Ulti- 
mately he dropped his objections, and the affair proceeded ; 

y 2 


but his momentary hesitation was quite sufficient to shake 
him in the King's esteem. 

In May he is found again resisting his Majesty. 
Much to James's annoyance the Protestant refugees who 
had left France on the revocation of the Edict of Nantes 
had, on their arrival in England, been warmly welcomed 
by the prelates and clergy of the English Church. The 
King now declared to the Council that a paper, written 
in French by Claude in favour of the reformed Protestants 
and widely read in England, was to be publicly burnt at 
the hands of the common hangman. Jeffreys rose and 
opposed this senseless insult, on the ground that though 
it would be legal to prosecute any one who had printed 
the paper in an English translation, it was an extra- 
ordinary measure to burn a paper, written in French and 
printed in a foreign country, which contained nothing 
against the English Government. James interrupted him : 
" I have made up my mind to this ; dogs defend each 
other if one is attacked, says the English proverb. I 
think Kings should do the same ; besides, I have my own 
reasons for not allowing a libel of this kind against the 
King of France." The Councillors were silent. But, 
says Barillon, " I have no doubt they would all have 
supported the Chancellor's objections." Louis XIV. was 
of the same opinion, and considered James's act needlessly 
indiscreet and dangerous. 

In spite, however, of this act of resistance, Jeffreys 
could count on the Royal favour within certain limits. 
In July he obtained for his elder brother Thomas, who 
was the King's Consul at Alicant in Spain, the honour of 
knighthood. Thomas seems to have been a very worthy 
man, with a real affection for his brother, which the latter 
did not sufficiently repay, at least in the matter of letter- 
writing. Soon after his knighthood Sir Thomas returned 
to Spain, where he was regarded with great awe and 
respect on account of his ancient Welsh descent. On 
his way back he sends the Chancellor a letter of farewell 
from the " Three Kings," Deal. He writes that he has 


been in a storm so terrible and tormenting that " it was 
by God's infinite mercy I did not burst." Luckily, the 
captain put in to shore, and Thomas was able to go to bed. 
" For God's sake," he writes, " let me have a line from 
you now and then, which will be the only comfort of 
my life." He sends his duty to his father, and adds : 
" My hearty thanks for all your favours, and I shall daily 
pray the Almighty God to grant you perfect health." l 

A service which Jeffreys tried to do his younger brother, 
James, was not so successful. The latter had been made, 
in 1682, no doubt through the then Serjeant Jeffreys' 
interest, a Prebendary of Canterbury Cathedral, though 
at the time only thirty-three years of age. About June 
of 1686 the bishoprics of Chester and Oxford fell vacant 
by the deaths of their holders. As early as the October 
of the previous year, Dr. James Jeffreys had been specu- 
lating on the possibility of succeeding to the former see. 
Mr. Shakerley, a confidential agent of the Chancellor's 
in the county palatine, writes to Jeffreys, October 24th, 
1685, that the Bishop is now very ill and not expected 
to live, asks him to acquaint Dr. James with the income 
of the see, and promises to keep the Chancellor in- 
formed of the changes in the Bishop's condition. When 
at length the Bishop died, both the Archbishop of Can- 
terbury and the Lord Chancellor did their best to bring 
about the nomination of Dr. Jeffreys ; but the King, if he 
could not appoint Papists to the vacant sees, was de- 
termined to appoint those Popishly inclined. To Chester 
he declared his intention of appointing the very question- 
able Cartwright, Dean of Ripon ; to Oxford, Dr. Parker, 
the Archdeacon of Canterbury, a dignitary of very sus- 
picious orthodoxy. Dr. Jeffreys, fearing that Chester 
might slip through his grasp, centred his hopes on the less 
exalted dignity of Archdeacon of Canterbury, which would 
be vacant by Parker's promotion. But the Chancellor 
felt it his duty to discourage even these more modest 

1 The domestic correspondence quoted in the latter part of this 
work is in the possession of Mr. M. R. Jeffreys. 


aspirations. " As to your desire on the promotion of Dr. 
Parker," he writes to his brother, " there will be no 
opportunity offered. As to other hopes" — he alluded 
no doubt to Chester, — " which I guess you are more 
often saluted with, I hope you will be wise enough to 
leave them to my management and discretion, and not to 
be too much corrupted by your own humour, or that, 
that you know I think is worse, of your guardian the 

D , thereby to prevent that advantage that your 

friends think you deserve, and I shall always be willing 
to promote." He adds that his brother Thomas, who had 
been lately troubled with his own unhappy distemper, is 
better, and hopes to see James at Tunbridge Wells 
whither he goes the next week. 

Dr. Jeffreys' hopes were finally crushed by the official 
nomination of Cartwright to the vacant see of Chester, at 
the end of the month. The Chancellor was sufficiently 
annoyed by the nomination to make certain formalities of 
the Bishop's appointment, over which he had some control, 
as tedious and troublesome as he could, until reproved by 
the King ; and Sancroft, the Archbishop, who had warmly 
espoused the cause of Dr. Jeffreys, tripped and fell down 
at Cartwright's consecration. It was mortifying to 
good Churchmen to see that in his ecclesiastical appoint- 
ments James was going to consider the interests of 
Romanism before those of the Church of England. 
In the meantime poor Dr. Jeffreys was persistently pressing 
his brother to do something for him in the general distri- 
bution of perferment ; but his efforts were uniformly 
unsuccessful. In September the Chancellor wrote to him, 
through Sprat, the Bishop of Rochester, what he called 
a "peremptory answer" to the Doctor's importunity, 
told him the King had promised him a bishopric soon, 
but that he must be content and submit to his hard 
fortune in the Chester affair, " as some of his friends 
had had to do before him." To console him, he added 
that his successor at Canterbury was already nominated. 
But it all came to nothing, and Dr. James never profited 


further by his brother's advancement. The Chancellor 
was far too orthodox to be allowed much influence in 
the King's ecclesiastical appointments. 

During the affair of the Bishopric of Chester, Jeffreys 
was fully occupied with the institution of the Eccle- 
siastical Commission. According to Burnet, Jeffreys 
originally suggested the Commission to James as a means 
of reviving his sunken favour. Lord Campbell has blindly 
followed Burnet's lead, and succeeded in making his 
account of this part of Jeffreys' life a remarkable instance 
of historical distortion. Quoting from "King John " the 
King's rebuke to Hubert, " How oft the sight of means 
to do ill deeds makes ill deeds done ! " he places Jeffreys 
in the character of Hubert, and declares that if James had 
only been resisted by a firm and virtuous Minister, and 
not unscrupulously supported in his insane measures by a 
slave of the Court, he might have continued to reign 
prosperously. Anybody with the slightest knowledge of 
James's obstinate and arbitrary disposition will see how 
false is such a caricature of the situation ; and there is 
enough evidence that Jeffreys, far from inciting and 
hounding the King on to his ruin, was rather a reluctant 
follower who would have gladly got out of the business, if 
any other agreeable course had been open to him. Burnet's 
account is a misstatement, because, in the first place, as 
far as we know, Jeffreys was not at this time sunk in 
favour ; and in the second place, the King was the first to 
decide on making use of an Ecclesiastical Commission. 
Jeffreys, when it was first mooted, doubted its legality, 
and twice took the opinions of the Judges on the question. 
But as soon as the Commission was decided upon, 
Jeffreys certainly entered into it with complete devotion, 
and accepted the principal place upon it. Whether he 
knew that he would be dismissed if he refused to comply, 
or whether he hoped, by sitting on it, to be able indirectly 
to make it as little objectionable as possible, it is impossi- 
ble to say ; he was in all probability swayed by a variety 
of motives. A seat on the Commission was an awkward 


predicament for a friend of the Church of England, though 
Rochester himself was one of its original members. The 
others were the Archbishop Sancroft, who never took his 
seat, Sunderland, the Bishops of Durham and Rochester, and 
Chief Justice Herbert. But Jeffreys was the essential mem- 
ber ; no sitting, no quorum was complete without him ; he 
was, as Ranke puts it, in some sort a Vicar-General of the 
Church, but Vicar-General under a Roman Catholic King ; 
and there lay the absurdity of the whole proceeding. 

The first case before the Commission was that of Dr. 
Henry Compton, Bishop of London. James had issued 
an order, as head of the Church, forbidding the English 
and Romish priests to preach on controversial topics relat- 
ing to their respective beliefs. Dr. Sharp, rector of St. 
Giles's, had disobeyed this order. Accordingly James, 
who wanted to test the loyalty of the Bishop, ordered 
Compton to suspend the preacher. Compton replied that 
he could not do so until he had heard and examined into 
Sharp's case. For this act of disobedience he was sum- 
moned before the Commissioners on August 4th. 

The Bishop began by asking the Chancellor for a copy 
of the Commission. Jeffreys replied the Commissioners 
could not grant that, and added : " It is upon record, all 
the coffee-houses have it for a penny a piece, and I doubt 
it not but your lordship has seen it." The Bishop appar- 
ently took offence at the remark about the coffee-houses, 
for Jeffreys afterwards assured the Bishop that he had 
never intended to imply that his lordship was a haunter 
of coffee-houses : " I abhorred the thoughts of it, and 
intended no more by it but that it was common in the 
town." The Bishop asked for an adjournment to prepare 
his defence, and suggested the beginning of the next legal 
term. " Ha ! that is unreasonable," answered the 
Chancellor. " His Majesty's business cannot admit of 
such delays ; methinks a week should be enough ! What 
say your lordships ? Is not a week enough ? " Their 
lordships agreed that it was ; and the Commission adjourned 
till Monday, the 9th. 


After a week spent by Jeffreys at Tunbridge Wells, 
the Bishop met the Commissioners again in the Council 
Chamber at Whitehall. As he showed a further inclina- 
tion to quarrel with the legality of the Commission, 
Jeffreys told him that such a course was futile ; " we 
are well assured of the legality of it, otherwise we 
would not be such fools as to sit here." The Bishop 
asked for a further postponement, and was given a 

On the 23rd, counsel were heard on behalf of the 
Bishop, and on September 6th he was suspended from 
exercising his functions by order of the Commissioners. 
Rochester and Jeffreys were both in favour of giving the 
Bishop time to carry out the King's orders in his own 
fashion, but Sunderland insisted that they must first 
ascertain the King's wishes in the matter. It is needless 
to guess what these were, and Compton was accordingly 
suspended. But it is evident from his conduct that 
Jeffreys was not prepared to go to the same lengths as 
Sunderland in seconding the dangerous measures of James, 
and that he did not wish to make an arbitrary use of the 
powers given to him by the Commission, to the detriment 
of the Church of England. If Jeffreys had possessed any 
real control over James's policy, it would have been at 
least wiser. But Jeffreys never had any real influence 
with the King. A blind and unquestioning obedience 
and a readiness to embrace the Romish faith were the 
only things that impressed James with a man's value as 
a counsellor. 

The year 1686 closed in a full tide of Roman Catholic 
prosperity. As Lord Chancellor, Jeffreys had to lend a 
hand in the advancement of the King's co-religionists. 
Richard Allibone, a fiery Romish barrister, who had 
boasted that he was going to do fine things in a great 
place, took his first step in that direction, by his appoint- 
ment as one of the King's Counsel, accompanied by the 
honour of knighthood, in October. In November, orders 
were sent to the Inns of Court to call nine Roman Catho- 


lie gentlemen to the Bar, and in the same month Allibone 
and a Papist named Brent were made justices of the 
peace. It must have been with very mixed feelings of 
pleasure that Jeffreys carried out the King's commands in 
these respects. But what if he should be ordered to per- 
form similar services in the course of Nonconformist ad- 
vancement ? That would be a sore trial indeed to the 
doctrine of passive obedience that was the unavoidable 
keynote of his Chancellorship. 



The year 1687 was the most harassing period of Jeffreys' 
political career. It was the year in which James gave wildest 
scope to his unfortunate principles of government ; it was a 
year of slight and oppression to the Church of England, 
and the year in which the hopeless Whigs and the 
despondent Tories were driven to seek the aid of William 
of Orange. Jeffreys was obliged to bow to the will of 
the King in co-operating in measures odious to his con- 
victions and his prejudices, and could merely wait and 
watch for the hour when James should to some extent 
awake to the impracticable folly of his schemes. The 
Chancellor saw clearly the fatal drift of the King's policy ; 
but he knew that no counsel, however sincere or dis- 
interested, could prevail over James's set purpose, until 
a stern necessity should compel him to turn back. All 
Jeffreys could do was to cling to the Seal through thick 
and thin, until a time should come when he might regain 
power and influence by some new shuffle of the cards. 

Jeffreys lost a strong supporter in the Cabinet by the 
dismissal of Rochester at the beginning of the year. An 
argument by opposing divines in the King's presence had 
failed to wean the Treasurer from his allegiance to the 
English Church, and James felt it his painful duty to 
dispense with his services. Rochester's departure left 
Jeffreys practically the only adherent of the Church in the 


Cabinet, and he had neither power nor influence enough to 
be of much avail. 

About this time the Chancellor moved from his house 
in Queen Street to one which he had built in Westminster, 
overlooking the Park. He added to it a cause-room, 
where he could hold his judicial sittings without going to 
Westminster Hall. Certain rather significant circum- 
stances attended the Judge's change of residence. Mr. 
Pitts, who built the house for him, was never paid a 
farthing of his money. He had built it on a promise 
from Jeffreys that the latter would obtain for him from 
the King a grant of the land on which the house was 
erected, at a nominal rent. But Jeffreys had promised 
more than he could perform. It appears that Sir Ed- 
ward Hales, the Catholic officer who had defended the 
test case on the Dispensing power and was later appointed 
Lieutenant of the Tower, had rented a small portion of 
the same land from Pitts, and had only paid him half a 
year's rent. Hearing that Pitts only held the land on 
Jeffreys' promise, Hales saw a good way of getting out of 
paying any rent at all. He went to the King, and, being 
a greater favourite than the Chancellor, prevailed on James 
to refuse Jeffreys the grant of the land. If Jeffreys ever 
intended to indemnify Mr. Pitts for his disappointment, 
his fall occurred before he had time to carry his good 
intentions into effect. Accordingly the unfortunate Pitts 
lost by his own account some £2,006 15^., cost of build- 
ing Jeffreys' house, and at the end had neither the land nor 
the house to show for it. There can be no doubt that in 
the latter part of the reign, Jeffreys occupied a very 
secondary position among the King's friends, due to his 
continued adherence to the English Church. Apostasy 
was the way to the King's heart, and that was a way 
Jeffreys never would follow. Perhaps if he had, Mr. Pitts 
would not have been so severe a loser by the royal caprice. 
Hales's behaviour does not appear so glorious an instance 
of the moral regeneration wrought by conversion as to 
induce many followers. 

The greatest blow to Jeffreys' self-esteem fell in April, 


with the publication of the Declaration of Indulgence. 
James, anxious to secure support in his schemes for his 
fellow Catholics, determined to grant to the Dissenters the 
same reliefs and privileges as had been already accorded to 
the Papists. By his declaration of April 4th he suspended 
all penal laws relating to ecclesiastical affairs, and allowed 
freedom of worship to every form of religion in the 
country. Not content with granting religious freedom to 
the Nonconformists, James admitted them to municipal 
offices and the Privy Council. The very men whom 
Jeffreys had denounced and punished were now put into 
places of consequence, and the men of his own party 
politely expelled. In the City of London, the seat 
of his power, the Chancellor saw his old Tory friends and 
supporters, Sir William Pritchard, Sir John Moor and 
Sir Robert Jeffreys, turned out of their places as Aldermen. 
Sir Peter Rich, the Tory candidate in the famous Sheriffs' 
election, was removed from the office of Chamberlain, and 
Mr. Loades, of the lemons, reigned in his stead. Men who 
had been put in by royal prerogative at the time of 
the " Quo Warranto " now made way, by royal prerogative, 
for the factious and the fanatic. Anabaptists and 
Quakers held civic office ; the City Companies were filled 
with hot Dissenters, whilst violent Tories were coldly left 
out ; and, greatest horror of all ! a Presbyterian was 
chosen Lord Mayor for the ensuing year. The bestowal 
on the Chancellor of the Lord Lieutenancy of Shropshire 
can have afforded little consolation to his spirits amidst so 
much that was heartrending and ignominious. 

Further legal changes, some of them not quite so sor- 
rowful to Jeffreys, had become necessary early in the year. 
Herbert, the Chief Justice of the King's Bench, and the 
pliant Wythens had hesitated before ordering the execution 
of one of James's soldiers, who had been condemned to 
death for desertion from the colours. The King would 
tolerate no hesitation even among his most devoted or 
slavish adherents ; Herbert and Wythens were quickly 
made acquainted with the royal displeasure. Very 


opportunely Bedingfield, the Chief Justice of the Com- 
mon Pleas, had died while receiving the Sacrament in 
Lincoln's Inn Chapel (February), and the office had 
only been filled up five days by the promotion of Mr. 
Justice Wright. Herbert and Wright now simply changed 
places, and Wythens received his quietus. The latter 
had not expected that his independence would meet with 
such a summary reward. He was unbuttoning his doublet 
one night, " very well content with himself and his 
conscience," when his quietus came to disturb his self- 
congratulation and remove him from the Bench. Beyond 
being excepted from the Bill of Indemnity at the 
Revolution, his public career ended on this eventful night. 
His domestic troubles brought him as a suitor before the 
Courts in 1690, and he died at his seat in Kent, in 1704. 

In Herbert's removal men saw the strong arm of 
Jeffreys, for Herbert had been high in the royal favour, 
and was just as well out of the Chancellor's way. The 
Chief Justice himself expected that his removal to the 
Common Pleas was only a step in his descent back to the 
Bar ; but he was happily deceived, holding his new office 
during the remainder of James's reign. Jeffreys' strong 
arm was likewise shown in the appointment of Mr. 
Justice Wright to succeed Bedingfield in the Common 
Pleas, and afterwards as successor to Herbert in the 
Chief Justiceship of the King's Bench. Whatever 
the political exigencies, Jeffreys' patronage of Wright 
cannot be justified, for the man was as incompetent 
as he was disreputable. Jeffreys originally favoured 
him as a means of slighting North, and probably 
continued his patronage because he saw that Wright 
had neither the character nor the ability to become 
a possible rival. From the point of view of Jeffreys' 
security in the Chancellorship Wright was a more comfort- 
able Chief Justice of the King's Bench than Herbert. 
And as the Judges were daily becoming more and more 
automatic, Wright was as good as anybody else. Barillon 
says that Wright was appointed because there was no 


Papist fit to hold the office, a reason not very complimen- 
tary to the Papists. Wright was perhaps aware of the 
uncertainty of Protestant tenure, for he soon began to hold 
out signs of becoming a Roman Catholic. He had also 
married as his third wife a daughter of Scroggs, a circum- 
stance that may have been considered in his favour. 

One of the vacancies in the King's Bench was filled by 
the Papist Allibone, so that now he had got his oppor- 
tunity of doing fine things in a great place ; and it is only 
fair to add that he did his best to keep his word, proving a 
most vehement advocate of arbitrary measures and a public 
and punctual attendant at mass. But he made a very poor 
Judge, or he might have had still greater opportunities for 
doing fine things. 

At the end of April, Jeffreys, as President of the 
Ecclesiastical Commission, had the Vice-Chancellor and 
Delegates of his old University of Cambridge before him. 
They had been summoned for refusing to obey the King's 
mandate to grant academical degrees to a Benedictine 
monk. Peachell, the Vice-Chancellor, made a poor 
defence, which evoked smiles from Jeffreys. Some of the 
Delegates were too eager to assist the Vice-Chancellor by 
interruptions. Dr. Cook was particularly zealous. " Nay, 
good Doctor," says Jeffreys, stopping him, " you never 
were Vice-Chancellor yet ; when you are, we may consider 
you ; " and to a young Delegate who suddenly made quite 
a long speech : " Nay, look you now, that young gentle- 
man expects to be Vice-Chancellor too ; when you are, sir, 
you may speak ; but till then it will become you to forbear." 
Dr. Smoult was also reproved : "Is that Dr. Smoult in 
court?" asked Jeffreys. Smoult had been alluded to as 
the representative of a body of petitioners against the 
mandate. Smoult appeared : " And pray, sir, who are 
you," asked Jeffreys, " that you should be thought fit to 
represent a whole House ? Why should they choose you 
rather than anybody else ? " to which Smoult could give 
no very convincing answer. In the end Peachell was 
deprived of the Vice-Chancellorship and the headship of 
his College ; " and because," added Jeffreys, " the Com- 


missioners have a tenderness for the College for which all 
along you have shown little regard, my lords are pleased 
to appoint that the revenues of your headship shall go to 
the College." The Delegates he dismissed with his 
favourite caution : " Go your way and sin no more, lest a 
worst thing come unto you." 

In June the University of Oxford was represented 
before the Commission. The Fellows of Magdalen 
College, ordered by the King to elect one Farmer as their 
President, rejected him as a man of disreputable character, 
and chose instead Dr. Hough, one of their own number. 
Summoned before the Commission they justified to the 
Commissioners their rejection of Farmer, but were told 
they ought not to have elected any one else without the 
King's permission. One incident occurred which roused 
something of the old Jeffreys. One of the Fellows, Dr. 
Fairfax, a "grave" Doctor, says Macaulay, "hinted some 
doubts as to the validity of the Commission," whereupon 
the Chancellor " roared at him like a wild beast." But 
in this instance Macaulay's account is rather inflammatory, 
and the facts are better left to speak for themselves. The 
great historian's treatment of the affair is instructive. It 
would be interesting in the first place to know what 
evidence there is for the "gravity" of Fairfax. Instead 
of his " hinted doubts " as to the Commission, Luttrell 
says Fairfax was "very bold there." "In the Verney 
Correspondence Fairfax is described as " arguing with great 
heat : " and the only report in the State Trials gives his 
" gentle hint " as expressed in an abrupt desire to know 
by what authority the Commission sat. At the hands of 
Macaulay and others, Jeffreys has more than atoned for 
his own bad character by the beautiful traits and charac- 
teristics which these authors have generously bestowed on 
his victims or opponents in order to heighten his own 
iniquity. It is not said in the report that Jeffreys " roared 
like a wild beast." His words are perfectly coherent, 
and in no way justify a comparison which, unless it be 
suitable to the occasion, becomes an unmeaning effort at 


The real circumstances of the Fairfax incident are these. 
The Fellows had put in a kind of half-submission to the 
King, from which Fairfax alone dissented. He desired to 
give his reasons for doing so to the Commissioners. Jeffreys 
seems to have thought that Fairfax meant to submit fully, 
and readily gave him permission ; " ay, this looks like a 
man of sense and a good subject ; let's hear what he'll 
say." But Fairfax, instead of submitting, began a legal 
argument. Jeffreys, annoyed at his disappointment, 
snubbed him by telling him he was a doctor of divinity, 
not of law. Fairfax lost his temper, and asked by what 
authority the Commission sat, which was a bold question, 
to say the least of it. Then Jeffreys lost his temper, but 
not his sense of humour, and cried : " Pray, what com- 
mission have you to be so impudent in court ? This man 
ought to be kept in a dark room. Why do you suffer 
him without a guardian ? Pray, let the officers seize him." 
Fairfax's question certainly deserved a reprimand as an 
impertinence, and, if it was academically urged, would go a 
long way to account for Jeffreys' irritation. But, be that 
as it may, an account which puts all the blame on the 
Lord Chancellor is manifestly unfair. 

The affair of Magdalen College was the occasion of 
Jeffreys' last recorded appearance as President of the 
Ecclesiastical Commission. Except in his passage with 
Fairfax Jeffreys acted with conspicuous moderation 
towards those who appeared before the Commissioners. 
He always asserted, even with his dying breath, that he 
had accepted his place on the Commission with a view of 
reviving and not destroying the Church. If that was the 
case he was making a most impossible attempt to reconcile 
principle and interest, and one foredoomed to failure as 
long as James II. was in the enjoyment of unrestrained 
authority. But his conduct in the past and his wavering 
influence in the present obliged the Chancellor to make 
the best of a state of affairs which he may well have 
hoped would soon prove too extravagant even for James. 

In August the King and Queen went on a progress 



through the West, and Jeffreys accompanied them part of 
the way. At Marlborough some unpleasantness occurred 
over the royal lodgings; and Jeffreys was said to. have 
taken down the Queen's bed and put his own into her 
room. When they got to Bath the Queen told her 
husband, who sent Lord Dover to Jeffreys, to discharge 
him from his office and the Court. A good deal of this is 
probably gossip, and that exaggerated ; but the Queen was a 
bad-tempered lady, and some misunderstanding about the 
beds may have arisen. In any case, Jeffreys was declining 
in favour, and at the end of the year his position was 
becoming one of great anxiety. 

His own conduct must partially account for it. He 
had let it be known that he had not signed the Declaration 
of Indulgence. He had been put with Sunderland and 
others on a Board of "regulators " for municipal elections 
and the appointment of magistrates. As the Board was 
expected to act in the interests of the Papists and Dissenters 
he showed little zeal in the enterprise, and evaded as much 
as possible the orders given him. This behaviour brought 
down a reprimand from the King, and he promised to be 
more careful in future. The rumour spread that Jeffreys 
was to be turned out of the Cabinet, that he was to be 
shelved as a Vicar-General, and Allibone of all people to be 
Chancellor in his stead. 

In December, in the midst of these difficulties, an 
incident occurred as surprising as it was odious to the 
Lord Chancellor. Sawyer, not being considered thorough- 
going enough, had been removed from the Attorney- 
Generalship, and Powys, the Solicitor, promoted into his 
place ; while to the astonishment of all men the vacant 
office of Solicitor-General was conferred on William 
Williams, Esquire, of Gray's Inn, late Speaker of the 
House of Commons. This man had been the Whig 
Speaker of the Parliament of 1680, and the ardent Whig 
advocate who defended all the Whig prisoners and causes 
from 1680 until the death of Charles II. As recently 
as the May of 1686, he had been fined by the Govern- 


ment £10,000 for publishing Dangerfield's Narrative 
during his Speakership. And yet this same man was now 
James the Second's Solicitor-General, sworn to support 
the King at the most arbitrary period of his reign. There 
has been seldom in the history of political apostasy a case 
so glaring. Barillon writes of it quaintly. Williams 
" wishes to atone for his past conduct. There are people 
who think that it is not a thing to be proud of." 
The appointment filled Jeffreys with misgiving. The 
proximity of this unblushing Welshman to the Great Seal, 
his old opponent sprung up all of a sudden to confront 
him, evidently prepared to stop at nothing to accomplish 
his ambitious aims, — disturbing considerations of this kind 
were an awful addition to the discomforts of his present 
situation. A severe attack of the stone, which entirely 
prostrated him at the end of the year, may have been in 
some part a fruit of his mental troubles. 

While the Chancellor is lying sick of the stone and the 
strangury, the days of his life and his power already 
numbered, it may be well to sum up what is known to 
posterity of the personality of this remarkable man. As 
an introduction to the subject one cannot do better than 
quote Roger North's description of the Chancellor in its 
entirety. North was an eye-witness of Jeffreys' conduct 
on the Bench, a prejudiced witness certainly and very un- 
reliable where his prejudices are concerned. But, when he 
writes of what he must have seen with his own eyes and 
when he succeeds in presenting us with one of the most vivid 
contemporary portraits that have ever been handed down 
to posterity, it is safe to assume that the singular intensity 
of the picture is to a large extent due to the realism of its 

" I will subjoin," he begins, " what I have personally 
noted of the man, and some things of indubitable report 
concerning him. His friendship and conversation lay 
much among the good fellows and humourists, and his 
delights were accordingly drinking, laughing, singing, 
kissing, and all the extravagances of the bottle. He had a 

z 2 


set of banterers for the most part near him ; as in old time 

great men kept fools to make them merry. And these 

fellows abusing one another and their betters were a regale 

to him. And no friendship or dearness could be so great 

in private which he would not use ill and to an extravagant 

degree in public. No one that had any expectations from 

him was safe from his public contempt and derision, which 

some of his minions at the Bar bitterly felt. Those above 

or that could hurt or benefit him, and none else, might 

depend on fair quarter at his hands. When he was in 

temper and matters indifferent came before him, he became 

his seat of justice better than any other I ever saw in his 

place. He took a pleasure in mortifying fraudulent 

attorneys, and would deal forth his severities with a sort 

of majesty. He had extraordinary natural abilities, but 

little acquired beyond what practice in affairs had supplied. 

He talked fluently and with spirit, and his weakness was 

that he could not reprehend without scolding ; and in such 

Billingsgate language as should not come out of the mouth 

of any man. He called it 'giving a lick with the rough 

side of his tongue.' It was ordinary to hear him say : 

* Oh, you are a filthy lousy knitty rascal ! ' with much 

more of like elegance. Scarce a day passed that he did 

not chide some one or other of the Bar when he sat in the 

Chancery ; and it was commonly a lecture of a quarter of 

an hour long. And they used to say : ' This is yours ; 

my turn will be to-morrow.' He seemed to lay nothing 

of his business to heart, nor care what he did or left 

undone ; and spent in the Chancery Court what time he 

thought fit to spare. Many times on days of causes at his 

house, the company have waited five hours in a morning, 

and after eleven he hath come out inflamed and staring 

like one distracted. And that visage he put on when he 

animadverted on such as he took offence at, which made 

him a terror to real offenders, whom also he terrified with 

his face and voice, as if the thunder of the day of judgment 

broke over their heads ; and nothing ever made men 

tremble like his vocal inflections." 


If this is a true description of Jeffreys he must have 
possessed a very genius for the terrible. Many men 
before and since have been strong in their language, 
passionate in their characters, loving and exulting in the 
sense of power ; but there is not one who by a singular 
combination of mental and physical attributes has risen to 
such a height of majestic violence, scaring the hearts of 
men by an awfully brilliant and wayward exercise of voice, 
language and demeanour, as George Lord Jeffreys. 
North's description is of course exaggerated in parts ; for 
instance, he says " filthy, knitty and lousy " were words 
frequently used by Jeffreys. In the many verbatim 
reports of Jeffreys' language which are preserved in the 
volumes of the " State Trials," I doubt if any of these 
words are to be found in his mouth. His frantic charge 
at Bristol is the only approach to anything like unpleasant- 
ness in his style of oratory. As to the details of his 
private life, North admits that he writes by report ; and 
therefore requires corroboration. Moreover, to a man 
of North's timid, proper, almost effeminate character, 
Jeffreys would appear very much more terrible in his 
moments of excitement than to men of more robust 
constitution, accustomed to judicial strong language and 
judicial displays of temper when they were less restrained 
in their expression than they are now. His judgments on 
Jeffreys' personal character are even less reliable than his 
testimony to his personal bearing ; for the man who failed 
to perceive the moral defects of Lord Keeper North 
would hardly detect the better qualities of Lord Chancellor 
Jeffreys. It must also be borne in mind that North's 
account describes Jeffreys in the last years of his life, 
when he was suffering with ever-increasing frequency 
the torments of a disease which powerfully affected 
his temper, and emphasised to a painful degree the 
less pleasing features of his character. As to the more 
pleasing features the entire absence of friendly testimony 
either from relatives or friends leaves us in darkness. 
Charitable surmise, however, will be a safer guide in 


this respect than Roger North. And if ever there was 
need of charity, if ever that virtue was required to display 
its utmost fortitude, would it not be in the service of 
" Judge Jeffreys " ? 

But whatever North's exaggerations, there can be no 
doubt that the Court of Chancery was an anxious place to 
barristers and solicitors during the Chancellorship of Lord 
Jeffreys — more particularly to such barristers or solicitors 
as had been neglectful or dishonest in their duties. Jeffreys 
took a stern view of the duty of a Judge towards those 
who practised before him, and was always prepared to give 
very good reason for exercising a sharp authority in his 
courts. Some measure of his unpopularity was probably due 
to the many rogues he had exposed and the abuses he had 
checked. There was a great deal of the Augean stable 
about the Court of Chancery in Jeffreys' day, and he 
undertook the ungrateful role of a raging Hercules at his 
own peril. He added to the unpopularity of his conduct 
by meting out to Trimmers and other of his political 
bites noire s the same denunciations that he poured on 
the heads of fraudulent attorneys. But, whatever he did 
in the way of terrifying and denouncing his fellow men, 
he did well ; and that is the best that can be said for him. 

Jeffreys' reputation as a lawyer has never been seriously 
disputed, and may be safely left in the hands of those 
competent to judge. Sir James Stephen, in his careful 
review of the State Trials, has done more, perhaps, than 
any one to relieve it from unjust aspersions, and to reduce 
to the category of exploded shells Mr. Justice Foster's 
assertion that he was the worst Judge that ever disgraced 
Westminster Hall. Sir Joseph Jekyll, the Master of the 
Rolls, a weighty and learned lawyer, who was a student at the 
Temple during Jeffreys' time as Chief Justice and Chan- 
cellor, denied to Speaker Onslow the truth of Burnet's 
statement that Jeffreys was not learned in the law ; and 
Onslow himself — also a contemporary — says " he had 
great parts, and made a great Chancellor in the business of 
that Court. In more private matters he was thought an 


able and upright Judge wherever he sat," though he admits 
his violence where Crown or party was concerned. Such 
of Jeffreys' legal decisions as are preserved bear out the 
opinions of these excellent judges, if confirmation was 
necessary in the face of such authorities. 1 And that he 
should have done equally well as Chief Justice and Chan- 
cellor, in the Courts of Common Law and Equity proves 
that, if his reading was not extensive, his genius as a lawyer 
more than atoned for any deficiencies in his early studies. 

The domestic life of the Chancellor was careless and 
extravagant. His second wife seems to have shared her 
husband's laxity in household expenditure ; and his eldest 
son, on his death, soon dissipated the remains of what 
should have been a fine estate. In spite of the large 
sums of money that passed through his hands and the 
quantity of landed property he had acquired, Jeffreys died 
with mortgages on some of his lands for money lent. 
The Chancellor was a Bohemian in his tastes, for most of 
his money was presumably spent in entertainments. He 
loved conviviality, and that of the boisterous and inebriate 
kind that prevailed amongst the fast livers of the day. 
Like many great men he preferred the society of his 
inferiors in mind to that of his equals ; he loved to reign 
among a company of dependents who fed and drank at his 
table, and who would swallow his wine and his sneers 
with equal composure. From his tongue the servile 
guests learnt to reckon in jibes and mocks the price 
of what his hand had given. But behind his back the 
sponging crew snuffled their resentment, and, in the hour 
of his fall, unanimously deserted him. Bitterly enough in 
that day Jeffreys learnt to reckon his true friends ; for, 
strange to say, these lavish hosts never quite realise that 
the way to the hearts of their guests, if they have any, is 
never found through their stomachs, and are surprised in 
the evil hour to find that the spongers have moved on 
like the immortal Hatter from the exhausted board to a 

1 See his judgment in the case of the East India Company v. 
Sandys. State Trials, Vol. X. 


fresh cup and platter at another man's table. In the hour 
of his prosperity, Jeffreys, impetuous and wilful, would 
never lend an ear to any word of caution, or he might 
have listened to the sage counsel of his good brother 
Thomas. Shortly before the Chancellor's ruin, Sir 
Thomas writes from Spain to the Prebendary at 
Canterbury : « I wish he (the Chancellor) would trust less 
to those who so much frequent his table, who are but 
mere spies and promoters of debauchery, and thereby dive 
into such things as may prove his overthrow. But who 
dare to give counsel when that of a brother is despised ? 
I pray continually to the Amighty to direct him and 
to defend him against their malice." Surely if prayers 
could have averted the evil day in the Chancellor's 
career, they would have been those of this good brother. 

Jeffreys' personal appearance at this time is thus de- 
scribed : " He was of stature rather above a middle sort 
than below it ; his complexion inclining to fair ; his face 
well enough, full of a certain briskness, though mixed with 
an air a little malicious and unpleasant." His later por- 
traits bear out this description. The young and handsome 
face that belongs to the picture in the National Portrait 
Gallery has become rather fuller with the natural changes 
of ten years' difference in time, ten years of hard living 
and political excitement ; the expression, perhaps, slightly 
mocking and sinister. But there remains the same 
attractive refinement of face and figure; and the large full 
eyes with their long marked eyebrows one can imagine 
capable of dire expressions. There are no traces of the 
bloated looks of the habitual drunkard which have been 
so long associated with the mention of Jeffreys' name, no 
marks of the suffering of four or five years of his painful 
disorder, unless they have been politely filled in by the 
courtly artist. It is a face which contradicts the extreme 
malice of his enemies, but at the same time, by the not 
altogether pleasant curl of the lip and a certain staring 
hardness in the eye, affords some reason for the virulence 
of their hate. 



The Chancellor lay sick and ill at the beginning of 
the new year. In February, Clarendon, who had left office 
at the same time as his brother but was still bent on an 
endeavour to reconcile the King and the Church, called at 
the Chancellor's house, but could not see him. He was 
asleep, his servant said ; he had been in the Court of 
Chancery a little while in the morning, but was still much 
indisposed in health. 

The sickness and apparent disfavour of the Chancellor 
stirred his enemies to open attacks on his peace of mind. 
But he still had sufficient vigour to resist them. The 
estimable Bishop of Chester, Cartwright, in a drunken 
humour, revenged himself on the Chancellor for his op- 
position to his election by calling him a traitor in the 
King's presence ; but he found Jeffreys was not so sunk 
as to be unable to vindicate himself, and received a stern 
rebuke from James. In a less exalted sphere nine men 
were prosecuted in the courts of law for speaking words 
reflecting on the Lord Chancellor. 

And now, with his recovery to health, began the 
real tussle between Jeffreys and the apostate Williams. 
At the end of May the Seven Bishops petitioned 
the King that he would not insist on their reading the 
Declaration for liberty of conscience in their churches. 
On the 8 th of June they appeared before the Privy 


Council and were committed to the Tower charged with 
delivering and publishing a seditious libel against the 
King. Jeffreys all along opposed these proceedings ; 
Williams vehemently supported them. It was said that if 
they were successful, the latter would receive the Seal as 
the reward of his apostasy. James always rejoiced more 
over the recovery of one lost sheep than all the faithful of 
the flock put together, and Williams was more than a lost 
sheep ; he had come in spontaneously from a hostile fold, 
a cause of great rejoicing and worthy of all confidence. 
The trial of the Bishops was to be a measure of James's 
strength. He had now gone so far in his arbitrary career 
that it seemed as if nothing could stop him ; and if a 
verdict was secured in this case, he might regard his power 
as a thing assured. The birth of the Prince of Wales at 
which Jeffreys with the other Councillors was present at 
the foot of the poor Queen's bed, only determined James 
in his rash course, instead of inclining him to forbearance. 
But Jeffreys saw the danger of the step ; he hated these 
attacks on the Church, which he believed must end in 
disaster, and hoped, for more reasons than one, that Sir 
William Williams might be wrong and my Lord 
Chancellor right as to the issue of the approaching trial. 
The acquittal of the Bishops would check the King's 
folly and Sir William's advance upon the Seal. The 
partisans of the King, however, have accused' Jeffreys as 
the instigator of the proceedings against the Bishops. 
Jeffreys certainly advised the King in the matter of the 
prosecution in his official capacity as Lord Chancellor, 
giving his opinion as to the best legal means for effecting 
his purpose. But according to the conception of minis- 
terial ethics prevalent in Jeffreys' day, such counsel in his 
official capacity would be quite consistent with a private 
disapproval of the proceeding. And there is strong 
evidence that Jeffreys did disapprove and was suspected of 
doing so by the King. On June 14th he told Clarendon 
how much he disliked the business, and sent through him his 
professions of service to the Bishops. He said that James 


had at one time thought of dropping the affair, but had been 
advised to the contrary ; " some men would hurry him to 
his destruction." Two days before the trial Clarendon 
called on the Chancellor and found him much troubled ; 
he said the Bishops being brought to a public trial would 
be of ill consequence to the King's affairs; but it would be 
found that he had acted an honest part in the matter. 
" As for the Judges," he characteristically added, " they 
are most of them rogues." 

On the 27th the famous trial took place in the Court 
of King's Bench, and Williams did all he could to 
obtain the conviction of the Bishops. After the Judges' 
charges, the jury retired for the night to consider their 
verdict. It was ten o'clock when the Court sat again the 
following morning. Jeffreys had already taken his seat 
in the Court of Chancery, which was on the opposite side 
of the Hall to the King's Bench. As the verdict of 
" Not guilty " was given, a shout was raised in the Court 
which soon spread throughout Westminster Hall. Jeffreys 
heard it, and quickly learnt the cause. He was seen to 
smile and hide his face in his nosegay ; it had happened 
as he had prophesied, and Mr. Solicitor would not receive 
the Seal. On July 5th he was able to tell Clarendon 
that the King was a little troubled that the Bishops had 
been brought to trial, and seemed in a milder temper. 
Now, he said, was the time when all honest men should 
come back to Court. 

Not that Jeffreys had entirely recovered favour by the 
issue of the trial. Williams had been made a Baronet, 
and the Chancellor experienced some further unpleasant- 
ness from the conduct of his cousin, Sir John Trevor. 
Trevor, it will be remembered, had alone defended Jeffreys 
before the Parliament of 1680, and Jeffreys had not 
forgotten his services. Soon after his appointment as 
Chancellor he had procured for Trevor the Mastership 
of the Rolls. But " Squinting Jack," who was not an 
amiable or attractive person, was supposed by many to be 
scheming to supplant his benefactor. In July matters 


came to a head, and hot words passed between the Master 
and the Chancellor. But the difference was patched up, 
and a better understanding arrived at between the two 
heated Welshmen. 

So anxious and harassed had the Chancellor been of 
late that he had quite forgotten his brother in Spain. 
Sir Thomas had written to Jeffreys asking him to get him 
appointed Envoy Extraordinary to the King of Spain in 
succession to Lord Lansdowne, but had received no 
answer. On July 5th he writes to Dr. James complain- 
ing bitterly of his neglect. He knows, he writes, my 
lord is busy and worried, but in the nine months of his 
absence he might have found time to write a word ; he 
has been " snubbed in his affairs," and all because he had 
trusted to my lord. Whether James expostulated with 
the Chancellor or not, Jeffreys did at last write to Sir 
Thomas and told him a piece of family good news. On 
July 2 1 st Jeffreys' eldest son, John, the heir to his title, 
had married a daughter of the Earl of Pembroke. Her 
mother had been a De Querouaille and a sister of the 
Duchess of Portsmouth, Charles the Second's mistress. The 
Duchess had been one of Jeffreys' early patrons, so that 
the union of his son with her niece was peculiarly fitting. 
Jeffreys was much cried out against at the time, because, 
just before the marriage, he gave judgment in the Court 
of Chancery in favour of his future daughter-in-law 
in a suit instituted to determine whether a certain sum of 
money was to go to Lord Pembroke's creditors or to his 
daughter. Lord Pembroke was very angry at Jeffreys' 
decision, and said he had done a scandalous thing in 
judging the case at all under the circumstances. But 
Jeffreys had purposely at the hearing of the cause called in 
to his assistance the Master of the Rolls and two of the 
best of the common law Judges, Powell and Lutwyche ; 
and his decision was twice confirmed after the Revolution 
in spite of strenuous efforts on the part of the Pembroke 
family to upset it. 

Sir Thomas was delighted at the Chancellor's letter 


and the news it contained, which, he writes to Dr. James, 
will strengthen my lord's interest at Court and the 
establishment of his family. The following passage 
would suggest that Jeffreys' second wife had not been a 
very good mother to his family by his first, or that at any 
rate one of them did not hit it off with her stepmother : 
" There is only wanting that poor Sally (Jeffreys' daughter 
Sarah by his first marriage, who afterwards married a 
Captain Harnage in the Marines) be accommodated, which 
I hope you will be assistant in, for she is a mighty modest 
pretty girl, and I daresay will make a good wife ; and if 
this were effected I should be much at ease, and so would 
my lord, I am sure ; for the rest, I know the mother will 
take good care of them and thereby lessen ours." Thomas 
goes on to express his grave misgivings as to the future. 
The Chancellor's failing health, the uncertainty of the 
royal favour, and the political outlook combine to make 
him anxious. He realises that my lord has a very diffi- 
cult game to play, and hopes he has settled his estates 
on "Jacky" (the eldest son John, afterwards Lord 

Sir Thomas's letter was written at the end of September, 
but in the meantime his gloomy prognostications had 
been partially dispelled, and the Chancellor's position at 
Court considerably strengthened. Sunderland shared 
Jeffreys' opinion that things had been carried too far, and 
after the acquittal of the Bishops the two Ministers had 
begun to urge on the King the advisability of summoning 
the Parliament. James heard their advice unwillingly, 
for he knew that such a step would involve the surrender 
of those cherished objects for which he had fought so 
determinedly in the past. But the pressure of external 
events forced him to listen to more moderate counsels, 
and to restore to favour the Minister whom he had pre- 
viously been ready to remove in favour of the blushing 
convert, Williams. Jeffreys' idea that " the King should 
set all things on the foot they were at his coming to the 
Crown," was the only possible remedy for the King's 


affairs, and if James had acted promptly on this advice 
he might have saved his throne. But his fatal want 
of pliancy — the saving characteristic of his brother — his 
clumsy adherence to an impossible conception, made him 
shuffle and waver where he should have moved with 
obedience and decision, and the opportunity was lost. 
Three months of fatal irresolution destroyed his cause, and 
with it his Chancellor. 

At first, Jeffreys was full of hope, and much was ex- 
pected from the King's altered demeanour. In July he 
received a mark of royal favour in being recommended to 
the University of Oxford as their new Chancellor. Un- 
fortunately, or fortunately, the recommendation arrived 
too late, and the University had already chosen the Duke 
of Ormond. With many protestations of respect and 
devotion, the Vice-Chancellor wrote to Jeffreys deeply 
regretting the accident. At another time the matter 
might have been pressed further, but at this juncture it was 
allowed to drop. In August Jeffreys was so far restored 
in the royal grace that the King and Queen accepted an 
invitation to dine with him on the 22nd, at Bulstrode. 
Clarendon dined with him there a few days before their 
Majesties, and Jeffreys told him how great his hopes were 
that the King would be moderate when Parliament met. 
Driving back with his guest after dinner, the Chancellor 
let out freely on public affairs. He abused the Judges, of 
whose capacities he would be only too well aware, calling 
them a thousand fools and knaves, and his protege Wright 
a " beast." Justifiable as may have been the Chancellor's 
indignation against the unfortunate gentlemen, it was not 
kind to upbraid them in this unruly fashion, especially as a 
few months before they had shown their gratitude for 
their appointments by presenting the Lord Chancellor 
with their portraits. How Wright had particularly 
offended him, except by his general unworthiness, it is 
difficult to tell ; perhaps he had been designing for the 
Chancellorship. However, Jeffreys' after-dinner utter- 
ances must not be taken too seriously. Later in the drive 


he grew merry, and told Clarendon that he had to be 
cautious at home, as there were Papists and spies among 
his own servants. 

As the rumours of the Dutch preparations against 
England assumed a definite shape, the King yielded 
further to Sunderland and Jeffreys. On September 21st 
he published a declaration that in the new Parliament to 
meet in November, the Church of England should be 
made secure again and Roman Catholics excluded from the 
House of Commons. This declaration was penned by the 
Chancellor himself. Jeffreys was at the same time com- 
manded to restore all the " honest old aldermen," his 
friends in the City who had been turned out for Dis- 
senters, and many Deputy-Lieutenants and Justices of the 
Peace who had shared a similar fate. Jeffreys was de- 
lighted at these measures, but they proved less significant 
than he had hoped. The King still wavered. Three 
days after James had told the Chancellor that all things 
were to be as at the beginning of his reign, the latter 
complained to Clarendon that some rogues had changed 
the King's mind, that he would yield in nothing, and that 
now, as Jeffreys sneeringly remarked, " the Virgin Mary 
was to do all." Father Petre still held the King in 
the grasp of his false subtleties. 

But there was no time to be lost if James would listen 
to reason. William of Orange had set sail for England 
with fleet and army. The London mob was up and 
attacking the Popish chapels. Sir William Williams' 
windows were smashed, and reflecting inscriptions fixed 
over his door. To quiet the City, Jeffreys persuaded the 
King to restore to it its old Charter ; and in his state coach 
and full robes of office, attended by his mace and purse, 
the Lord Chancellor drove to the Guildhall on October 
4th, amid the huzzas of the populace. There he delivered 
the Charter to the Aldermen. On his way back, how- 
ever, he was hooted. The mob was quick to let him 
know that it was the Charter not the Chancellor they had 
huzzaed a little while before. On the 6th he again went 


into the City, and ordered Sir John Chapman to act as 
Lord Mayor until a new one should be chosen according 
to the Charter. On the nth Chapman was duly elected 
to the Mayoralty, and on the 29th Jeffreys dined with 
him at the customary banquet. Chapman had a great 
awe for the Lord Chancellor, which well nigh proved fatal 
to the unfortunate man the next time Jeffreys partook 
of his hospitality. On October 23rd the new legal term 
began, and the last Judge appointed by Jeffreys took his 
seat on the Bench. This was Thomas Stringer, whose 
son had married the Chancellor's daughter Margaret. 

On the 30th of October Sunderland, finding his advice 
unacceptable to the King, resigned his office. But Jeffreys 
remained. He must stand or fall with James. There 
was no hope for him otherwise. If he could still fix the 
reluctant King to a Parliament and join with Clarendon 
in bringing about some arrangement between James and 
the party of William of Orange, he might escape from 
the graver difficulties of the situation ; and, though he can 
hardly have hoped to have continued to hold office, he 
might have been gently laid aside in return for his present 
services in the cause of peace. But it would only be as 
the representative or under the protection of James that 
he could hope for a prosperous issue to his embarrass- 
ments. As soon as the protection of the King was 
withdrawn from him, he would be at the mercy of count- 
less enemies who thirsted for his disgrace. He must try 
all he could to force the King to keep his promise of a 
Parliament. But at the beginning of November in the 
midst of growing alarms, the Chancellor was again 
prostrated by another severe attack of his old complaint. 
Meanwhile events were hurrying to a conclusion. 

On November 5th William had landed at Torbay. 
With each fresh news of the Prince's good fortune the 
violence of the mob increased. Popish monasteries and 
chapels were broken into, and the soldiers had to be sent 
for to disperse the rioters. On the 17th James left for 
Salisbury. He had some plan of resisting the Prince by 


arms, but he found his troops disaffected and unreliable, 
his most trusted officers treacherous. On the 26th he 
returned to Whitehall. On the 27th he held a Council, 
when Jeffreys and Clarendon urged the calling of the 
Parliament. On the 28th, the last day of term, Jeffreys 
announced in the Court of Chancery the King's intention to 
summon Parliament, the writs for which were to be issued 
immediately. But Jeffreys could place no firm reliance 
in the King's unwilling promises. He had learnt by this 
time that nothing could be hoped from James's good sense. 
A courtier meeting him asked him what were the heads of 
the Declaration recently issued by the Prince of Orange. 
He answered that he did not know. " But," he added, 
" I am sure mine is one, whatever the rest are." He had 
already begun to pack up his things and interview his 
tradesmen. Thirty-five thousand guineas and a great 
deal of silver were already shipped on a collier that they 
might be ready to be carried beyond the sea. 

In the early days of December the King sent for the 
Chancellor to Whitehall, for he wanted to have the Seal 
near him. Jeffreys was to leave his house at Westminster 
and occupy Father Petre's lodgings in the Palace. Dis- 
appointed in the hope of French aid and unable to endure 
the consequences of his rashness, James had now resolved on 
flight. On Saturday, December 8 th, Jeffreys sat for the 
last time in the Court of Chancery, and the same day 
delivered up the Seal to the King. At two o'clock in the 
morning of the nth (Tuesday) the King and Sir Edward 
Hales secretly left Whitehall, carrying with them the 
Great Seal, but not its Keeper 

Jeffreys had been left behind, to shift for himself as 
best he could. In the course of Monday he had dis- 
appeared, no one knew whither. His plans had probably 
been already laid in anticipation of the need of sudden 
flight. Whether he had actually secured a vessel to carry 
him from England is uncertain ; the accounts differ. He 
had at any rate laid aside his gold frog-button gown which 
he wore as Chancellor, and his beaver hat with its diamond- 

A A 


buckled hatband, and was dressed in fur cap, seaman's 
neckcloth and a rusty coat. He is also said to have shaved 
his eyebrows. Disguise was imperative ; the news of the 
King's flight had spread like wildfire. The same night 
the mob, several thousands strong, gutted a chapel in 
Lincoln's Inn, and attacked the house of the Spanish 
Ambassador. Jeffreys well knew the peril in which he 
stood if he should fall into the hands of the excited rabble. 
In his seaman's attire he reached Wapping sometime 
during the Tuesday, and bargained with the master of a 
coal vessel bound for Hamburg to take him with him on 
his voyage. The master agreed, and Jeffreys went on 
board to wait for a favourable tide. The delay was fatal. 
The mate of the vessel guessing his identity, or suspicious 
at the more than ordinary treasure which had been brought 
on board with the stranger, gave information to the 
authorities. Some constables were sent to search the ship, 
but the fugitive fearing discovery had changed to another 
vessel. They followed him thither, only to find that he 
had gone ashore. Landing at King Edward's Stairs, they 
traced him to a peddling alehouse, the "Red Cow," in Anchor 
and Hope Alley, kept by a Mr. Porter, presumably the 
master of the collier in which Jeffreys was to have sailed. 
It was between one and two on the Wednesday afternoon 
that the constables arrived at the alehouse. They searched 
the lower part of the taven without result. They went 
upstairs, and there, on a bed between two blankets, 
begrimed and in a seaman's habit, lay the Lord Chancellor 
of England. They asked him if he was the Chancellor. 
He answered, " I am the man." 1 

1 It may have been that among those who discovered him in this 
sorry plight was the solicitor whom, according to North's story, J effreys 
had so terrified in the Court of Chancery that he could never forget 
the awful face of the Judge, and who on this eventful 12th of Decem- 
ber was said to have recognised the Chancellor as he sat drinking in 
the Wapping tavern. The London Mercury is the only one of the 
contemporary broadsides describing the Chancellor's capture which 
mentions this incident of the solicitor, and gives his name as Burnham. 
Very possibly Mr. Burnham was present at the taking of Jeffreys, 


From the " Red Cow," the constables took their prisoner 
to the house of a Captain Jones, master of a ship. Jones 
sent for a coach. Jeffreys was put into it, and, guarded by 
blunderbuses and followed by a howling mob, carried to the 
house of Sir John Chapman, the Lord Mayor, in Grocers' 
Hall. As they drove along Jeffreys begged the chief 
of the constables to keep him from the fury of the people, 
and a man was put in front of him on his lap to receive 
the mire and dirt flung by the angry rabble. One who stood 
by as the coach passed said : " There never was such joy ; 
they longed to have him out of the coach, had he not had 
good guard." By the time they reached the Hall, 
Jeffreys had been given an old hat in place of the seaman's 
cap. As he alighted from the coach, he hung his head 
and seemed to be weeping. The Lord Mayor was at dinner 
when they brought to him the fearful and dishevelled 
prisoner. The sight of the fallen man, the once great and 
awful Chancellor now a terrified and weeping suppliant at his 
feet, is said to have so shocked the unfortunate Mayor that 
as he knelt in an access of sympathy to kiss the hand of 
the once powerful Minister he was seized with some kind 
of convulsion or fit, of which he soon died. " But yet," 
says Bramston, with some humour, " he committed the 
prisoner to the Tower." In any case the frightened 
Mayor had not lost his power of speech. A clamouring 
mob filled the courtyard, crying that Jeffreys should be 
brought out to them. Some even broke into the Hall, 
and with drawn swords threatened the Lord Mayor that 
he should answer with his life if he suffered the prisoner 
to escape. Three times Chapman had to go out and plead 
for patience, while he sent to the Lords of Council to 
know their pleasure as to Jeffreys' disposal. Jeffreys 
himself, anxious to escape his raging enemies, offered to 
help the Mayor in his distress by drawing a warrant for 
his own committal to the Tower. At length an order 
came from Whitehall. It began : " Whereas the Lord 

and was able, from his terrible experience in Chancery, to identify 
him immediately. 

A A 2 


Jeffreys was seized and brought to the house of the Lord 
Mayor, and was there in great danger by the insults of the 
people ; to secure him, therefore, from the said violence, and 
at his desire, to the Lord Lucas (the Lieutenant of the 
Tower) to remove him to the Tower, the following 
order was made, &c, &c." Under this warrant and the 
guard of two companies of the trained bands, and amidst 
fierce cries of "Vengeance! Vengeance ! Justice ! Justice !" 
from a raging mob, George Lord Jeffreys was conveyed 
that same afternoon from Grocers' Hall to the Tower of 

" That evening," writes Sir Edmund King, "the mobile 
extremely violent and ungovernable. Dr. Oates, I am told, 
is dressed in all his doctor's robes again, and expects 
liberty quickly." 


Dec. 1688— April 1689 

Lord Jeffreys on arriving at the Tower was lodged 
at the house of a warder named Bull. On the Sunday 
following his capture, the Tower church was thronged 
with people anxious to catch a sight of the fallen Minis- 
ter, " but he came not out." It was rumoured that the 
prisoner had pen, ink and paper, and was busy drawing 
up petitions and disclosures for the Prince of Orange. A 
deputation of lords was sent to examine him. They asked 
him certain questions as to the fate of the Seal and the 
formalities connected with the discharge of his office. 
Jeffreys answered them briefly, and at the same time took 
the opportunity of returning his humble thanks to the 
lords for the care they had taken in preserving him from 
the violence of the rabble. The Mercury of the 15 th 
informed the public that the Lord Chancellor's portrait 
had been taken down from the place it occupied in the 
Guildhall, and that the Lord Mayor was pretty well 
recovered again. But the timid Chapman died three 
months later of apoplexy. 

And now that the fierce Judge, the unholy terror of 
the Whigs and the Dissenters, was safely lodged within 
the walls of the Tower, the pent up fury of his enemies 
broke forth in streams of abusive literature. Discoveries 
and Confessions, Examinations and Preparations for his 
Trial were issued by various publishers ; some dully ironical, 


others, after a feeble attempt at restraint, coarsely 
defamatory. One gives a facetious sketch of Jeffreys' 
last will and testament, in which he gives orders for i^ 
ells of cambric to be cut up into handkerchiefs to dry all 
the wet eyes at his funeral, and half a pint of burnt claret 
for all the mourners in the kingdom. The hand of 
Tutchin is traceable in a letter to the Lord Chancellor, 
exposing to him the sentiments of the people. The 
author advises Jeffreys to cut his throat, and concludes 
with an offer of kind assistance : " I am your lordship's 
in anything of this nature. From the little house over 
against Tyburn, where the people are almost dead with 
expectation of you." 

Another probable emanation from the pen of Tutchin 
is the humble petition of the widows and fatherless 
children in the West of England, 1 in which the widows 
and fatherless children repeat the foul answer said to have 
been made by Jeffreys to the lover of Mr. Battiscomb, 
when she begged his life at the Judge's hands. The 
elegy upon Dangerfield, which is bound up with these 
two in the Western Martyrology, is more vigorous ; it 
opens with an exhortation to the perjurer's ghost : — 

" Go then, mount on ! Wing through the midway air ! 
And Godfrey's hovering shade shall meet thee there ! " 

" No well-wrote story, no romance can yield, 
A greater, nobler name than Dangerfield." 

The good Protestant author compares the punishment 
of Dangerfield to that of Christ : — 

"Thy master thus, thus thy Lord Jesus died, 
He must be scourged before he's crucified ; 
Though milder Jews far more good nature have, 
They forty stripes, Jeffreys four hundred gave." 

1 Woolrych and Lord Campbell have treated this as a genuine 
petition, but the tone of its language altogether contradicts such a 
supposition. As it is found in Tutchin's books, I should conclude it 
to be the work of that author or another of Dunton's scribblers. 


Lucifer, " shaking the scaly horror of his tail," is repre- 
sented as participating with Jeffreys in his cruelty to the 
martyr. At the conclusion of the elegy, Dangerfield's 
ghost addresses Jeffreys personally. He comes to haunt 
and plague the fallen Judge, his body putrid with gore, 
his " dangling eyeball," alluding to Francis's attack on 
him, " rolling about in vain, never to find its proper seat 
again." Behind him follows the ghastly train of the 
Western victims ; hovering o'er him they " fright back 
the sickly day " — 

" Each at thy heart a bloody dagger aims, 
Upward to gibbets point, downward to endless flames." 

The Triumph of Justice gives a disgusting account of 
Jeffreys' deposition at the birth of the Prince of Wales. 
But the Chancellor's " Address and Confession to both 
Houses of Parliament " is spirited and amusing. It is in 
the form of a soliloquy by the imprisoned Chancellor 
— u What a damned fool I was that I did not run away 
in time ! Could not I have had the wit of Petre, and put 
my ten thousand pound bag of guineas under my arm 
and troop to Brussels ? A dull beast to stay to be thus 
noosed ! Now, Petre, Pope and Judges, with your dis- 
pensing scarlet, where are you to assist me ? You will be 
damned before you'll help me at a dead lift. I see, I see 
now, I was a dull ass. Out upon it, to be thus outwitted ! 
.... Was it for this I perverted justice, and did things 
contrary to the law of God and man ? Oh, Hub ! Bub ! 
Bub ! Boo ! What shall I do now ? A Parliament ! 
A Parliament ! . . . . Curse my fortune that ever I 
should have been born in a time of printing ! They put 
my name in capital letters, they have out my titles too, 
and seem to care no more for me than for Balaam's ass ! 
My purse and mace will not protect me ; my purse will 
serve to put my head in, after it is off ; and my mace 
will serve to stick it on afterwards ! " Visions of his sins 
rise before his eyes; he thinks on Job iv. 8. "God 
Almighty will be my Judge, from whom there is no appeal. 


[ have little to say in vindication of myself, for if I did 
never so much, there is none would believe it, my crimes 
are so evident plain and notorious." 

The following delicately expressed sentiments, conveyed 
in a " Letter of Advice " to Lady Jeffreys, will fittingly 
conclude the literature of Jeffreys' downfall. " Though 
his lordship is provided with two or three suits of stout 
armour, these rebels are plaguy impudent fighting fellows, 
and will not fall before his lordship's usual shot of rogues, 
rascals and villains. Therefore he had better make other 
preparations, not a suit of armour for his conscience, for 
that is so hardened to be as proof against all bullets as 
against honour, justice, religion or humanity." Lady 
Jeffreys is exhorted to provide her husband with a large 
quantity of clean linen, " lest he should stink in his 
Majesty's nostrils as he does already in God's." 

The vulgar malignity of these effusions not only testifies 
to the extraordinary sentiments of hatred felt by a certain 
section of the populace towards Lord Jeffreys, but 
they help us to appreciate how thoroughly well-deserved 
was the severity with which Jeffreys invariably treated 
factious scribblers whilst he sat on the Bench. 

The silence and solitude of his deserted chamber in the 
Tower tell a far more tragic story of the Chancellor's 
fall than the noisy scurrility of the hack writers. The 
passionate gratitude which the prisoner evinced towards 
the few who visited him in his affliction, the sense that 
he was coldly forsaken by many of those on whose 
friendship he thought he might have counted in the hour 
of distress, — sentiments such as these betray the anguish of 
his soul, and afford to posterity some idea of the man's 
misery. Whatever his errors or his sins, he now 
suffered an atonement bitter enough to have satisfied all 
enemies, save such a stony and untruthful Whig as Old- 
mixon 1 The griefs of his mind were augmented by the 
mortal ailment of his body. His days were clearly 
numbered, and to the few who visited him he spoke as 
1 See his account of Jeffreys in his History of England. 


one prepared to die. There were some members of that 
Church to which, whatever his guilt, he had always adhered, 
who sought him out in his loneliness, and spoke to him of 
the forgiveness of the God whose name had been ever on 
his lips when mercy was farthest from his heart. Not that 
Jeffreys' religion had been ever insincere, the cant of an 
oily hypocrite. His Christianity was mediaeval in its 
spirit, a Christianity that exercised no controlling force 
over his passions and desires, but which went along with 
them as a rather unpleasing handmaid in their accomplish- 
ment, and was only transformed into a moral power when 
the things of this earth had been dissolved in hopeless 
ruin. To all who came he expressed a sense of his guilt. 
Some things, such as the punishments of Tutchin and 
Lady Lisle, he could not acknowledge to be undeserved. 
He protested that in the West he had not acted up to the 
severity of his instructions ; whilst in other matters he 
complained that he had to bear the guilt of those who 
were at that very moment the idols of the nation. 

Of the real measure of the responsibility of Jeffreys and 
of his partners in these transactions that have been so 
shocking to later generations, posterity will never be in a 
position to judge. Nor is it important to be able to decide 
on the respective guilt of the several participators. In 
the hour of retribution, those who are accused are always 
curiously ready to apportion blame among their con- 
federates. But the testimony of such is worthless. Widely 
different characters, acting from a variety of motives and 
under circumstances of thought and time which we can 
with difficulty reconstruct, brought about an alarming 
crisis in the history of the nation. To the accomplish- 
ment of this crisis the Whigs and Tories, by the intem- 
perance of their political conduct, were equal contributors. 
As far as political morality goes, in the choice of means 
and an enlightened appreciation of their opponents, in 
freedom from prejudice and the grievous assaults of party 
passion, Shaftesbury and Russell and Sidney can hardly 
be accounted more temperate and scrupulous than Charles 


or Sunderland or Jeffreys. Fortunately for England, the 
uncompromising fatuity of James II. put a speedy end to 
the most merciless party struggle recorded in the history 
of our country. 

This struggle was accompanied by actions so appalling to 
the modern mind that it gave up trying to understand them, 
and wrote them down as the deeds of human monsters, or 
" wild beasts." Calmer views have at length prevailed. 
The complexity of motives, frequently so trivial and momen- 
tary as to elude not only the investigation of the historian 
but the recollection of the actor himself, will on impartial 
reflection be admitted to have played its customary part 
in the actions of the so-called good and bad men of 
history alike, and the " wild beast " school of moral 
investigation has been relegated to the religious tract. In 
order to judge the real moral obliquity of such a man as 
Jeffreys and the real infamy of his deeds, one can but 
reduce him to human proportions, endeavour to enter 
into the spirit of his age and present him by the side of 
and in his relations with the other characters in his story, 
and leave to those who can more fitly determine than his 
biographer the exact degree of moral reprobation of 
which he is deserving. But men should not be too swift 
to pass a sweeping condemnation even on such a man as 
Jeffreys ; for if they do so by modern standards and 
without a due appreciation of the difference between the 
present and the past, they may commit an impertinence. 

The career of Jeffreys ended in disastrous failure. That 
it should have so ended was wholesome and necessary, 
wholesome because Jeffreys was the incarnation of a 
glaring vice in our political constitution, inevitable be- 
cause he was a man of excessive character placed in a 
preposterous situation. The judge-politician is a con- 
tradiction in terms. The coldest and most subtle of men 
would have found it difficult in times of revolution and 
the violent alternations of party victory to have saved 
himself from disaster in so anomalous a position. But a 
judge whose genius lay in transport, in the unmeasured 


denunciation and mockery of poKtical opponents, in the 
unsparing flagellation of cant and scurrility, at a time 
when cant and scurrility were encouraged to do their 
worst, was foredoomed to perish in the fray. 

In Jeffreys' circumstances a judge could only be an 
instrument in the hands of a higher power, to be used as an 
executioner to emphasize a political victory, and to be got 
rid of as soon as he had performed his unpopular office. 
If Charles II. had lived, he would in all probability have 
thrown Jeffreys overboard as soon as the Whigs had been 
sufficiently punished and intimidated. James adhered to 
his Chancellor not only because he was his brother's in- 
tellectual inferior, but because the two men had become 
necessary to each other in the throes of a desperate 
situation. Jeffreys' part in the drama of history has been 
that of a dependent. But by the sheer genius of his 
personality, by that great gift of character by which alone, 
whatever their moral excellence or infamy, men can hope 
to survive in the pages of history, which unites in the 
interest of posterity a Savonarola and a Borgia, he has 
raised his transgressions out of the dull obscurity of 
ordinary misbehaviour, and lent to the deteriorating cir- 
cumstances of his situation an eloquence, an intensity, and 
a vigour of performance that exalt him above the fleeting 
mediocrity of a Scroggs, a Laubardemont or a Fouquier- 

One of Jeffreys' earliest visitors in the Tower, not a 
divine nor bent on a charitable mission, was Mr. John 
Tutchin. According to his account, he got a glass of 
wine out of the prisoner, but no expression of regret for 
the sentence Jeffreys had passed upon him. Tutchin 
made up for his disappointment by a revenge worthy of 
his character and his intelligence. He sent the Judge a 
barrel which looked to be full of oysters, but on being 
opened was found to contain a halter. No doubt a 
very good joke to Mr. John Tutchin ! 

Two Bishops visited Jeffreys, White of Peterborough 


one of the Seven Bishops, and Frampton, the pious and 
eloquent Bishop of Gloucester. Besides these, Dr. Sharp, 
then Dean of Norwich and afterwards Archbishop of 
York, took pity on his loneliness. " What ! dare you 
own me now ? " asked Jeffreys of the Dean as he entered 
his room. Frampton has left a striking picture of his first 
interview with Jeffreys. Though scarcely acquainted with 
the ex-Chancellor, the Bishop out of a Christian friendliness 
went to see him in his prison. " I found him sitting in 
a low chair, with a long beard, and a small pot of water, 
weeping with himself ; his tears were very great ones. I 
told him not to weep for hardships, but for past sins, in 
which case his tears were more precious than diamonds." 
Jeffreys replied : " My lord, all the disgrace I have 
suffered hitherto I can bear, and by God's grace will 
submit to whatever more shall befall me, since I see so 
much of the goodness of God in sending you to me ; you, 
that I never in the least deserved anything from, for you 
to visit me when others who had their all from me 
desert me. It can be no other than the motion of God's 
spirit in you. I thank you for your fatherly advice, and 
desire your prayers that I may be able to follow it ; and 
beg you would add to this the friendship of another visit 
at what time I would receive the Sacrament." 

When Frampton paid his first visit to Jeffreys the 
end was very near. Four months of suffering had done 
their work on a sick body and a mind as morbidly sensitive 
to the miseries of disgrace as it had been in the past weak 
to yield to the over-confidence of a too easy success. His 
utter desolation, the fury of his enemies, the neglect and 
treachery of many of those he had thought his friends, 
entirely shattered the remains of his enfeebled constitution. 
In the infatuation of his principles and his power he had 
not realised how terribly after his fall he would be made 
to suffer the utmost miseries of disgrace ; and how his 
passionate conduct in the past made him a convenient 
peg on which others, as responsible as himself, might 
hang their responsibilities. Now that he was shut up in 


the Tower, a victim to popular resentment, so mortally 
sick that he might be safely left to die without a hearing, 
he found that some of his colleagues, taking advantage of 
his enforced silence, were making their peace with the 
new Government at the expense of the imprisoned 
Chancellor. On the back of the sinking man, already 
overweighted by his own burden, they cast the load of 
their transgressions, and Jeffreys was too weak and helpless 
to resist the outrage. 

From his first entrance into the Tower he had been 
tormented with stone and rheumatism ; all human aid was 
powerless to check the progress of his maladies. He was 
seen by those around him to be fast wasting away ; he 
could take little or no food ; nothing but small quantities 
of sack or punch gave him any comfort in his sufferings. 
Men said in the town that he was drinking himself to death ; 
but one who was always with him during his imprisonment 
told Archdeacon Echard that this was untrue. Jeffreys 
himself complained to Dr. Sharp that people said he had 
given himself up to drink ; whereas he assured the Doctor 
he had only taken punch to alleviate the pressure of the 
stone and gravel. At the beginning of April he was 
unable to digest a bit of salmon for which he had ex- 
pressed a fancy ; indeed, a poached egg was the only form 
of nourishment he could retain. 

It must have been early in April that Dr. Frampton 
first saw him. A few day's after Frampton's visit, on 
Monday, April 15th, Jeffreys made his will, and received 
the Sacrament at the Bishop's hands, in the presence of his 
wife and children. His will is preserved in Somerset 
House, and is an important document, for it contains the 
only words written by Jeffreys himself in defence of his 
past conduct that remain to posterity. 

It begins : — 

" I, George Lord Jeffreys of Wem, being heartily 
penitent for my sins, and begging forgiveness for the same, 
I give and submit my soul to God who gave it, and my 
body to the grave to be decently and privately buried." 


Jeffreys had apparently already executed a deed poll in 
which he disposed of all his property in favour of his wife 
and children. But in his will, " for many reasons " 
he curtails the allowance he had given by deed to his 
eldest son, John, during his minority to any sum not 
exceeding ^80. John, a brilliant but reckless youth who 
dissipated his inheritance, may have offended his father, 
or perhaps, under the influence of his new wife and 
relations, had neglected him during his confinement. It 
may be that the following passage in one of Sir Thomas 
Jeffreys' letters refers to some misconduct of John's. 
Writing of the Chancellor's many troubles, he says, " And 
I have heard that the nearest relation hath been much 
wanting in his obligation ; so he hath, poor man, a very 
hard game to play." 1 

He bequeathed forty shillings to all the men and maids 
in his service over and above wages due. 

And then comes a list of those few of his friends who 
visited him in his distress, to whom he makes small 
bequests as a mark of his gratitude for their devotion. 
To the Bishops of Gloucester and Peterborough, forty 
shillings to buy them rings ; to Dr. Sharp, Dr. Scott, the 
Dean of St. Asaph and Mr. Hesketh of St. Hallows, 
twenty shillings for the same purpose. To his executors 
and trustees, of whom the chief were Sir Robert Clayton, 
one of his oldest friends and a noted Whig, whom 
Jeffreys is said to have saved from prosecution at the time 
of the Rye House Conspiracy, and Henry Pollexfen, the 
eminent advocate, ten pounds to buy mourning. 

His wife's relatives had not been wanting in kindness, 
for there are three Bludworths among the recipients of 
these tokens of his gratitude, and forty shillings are also 
bestowed on Lady Moor, presumably the wife of the Lord 
Mayor who had served the Court so loyally at the time 

1 John, second Lord Jeffreys, died without male issue, in 1702 
when the title became extinct. The Judge's five other sons had died 
in infancy. His only child who reached maturity besides those already 
alluded to was his daughter Mary by his second wife, who married 
Charles Dive, Esq. 


of the Sheriffs' elections, and on Sir Thomas Stringer, 
the last Judge appointed by Jeffreys before his fall. 

Whatever coldness may have arisen between Jeffreys and 
his cousin Trevor, the former seems anxious that it 
should be forgotten. He leaves his cousin forty shillings 
to buy a ring, " which I desire his kind acceptance 
thereof." And if he has omitted to mention any of those 
who have shown him kindness in his affliction, he begs his 
executors to make good his omission, as they shall think fit. 
He desires to be buried in Aldermanbury Church, " as 
near as may be to my former wife and children, and at 
about ten of the clock at night, without escutcheons and 
all funeral pomp and show, and with few persons 

And then he adds the following words, which speak for 
themselves, and must be left to the judgment of his fellow 
men : — 

" I was in hopes, notwithstanding my long indisposition 
of body, I might by the blessing of Almighty God have 
recovered so much strength as to be able to have 
vindicated myself if called to account, and made out that 
I never deserved to lie under the heavy censures I now do. 
1 am sure I would have excused myself from having 
betrayed that Church of which I have lived and died a 
member, I mean the Church of England, which I take to 
be the best Church in the world ; and in the words of a 
dying man, I declare I never contrived the Ecclesiastical 
Commission, and never acted thereon save in order to the 
service, not overthrow of that Church. And I do charge 
all my children, upon the blessing of a dying father, they 
be steady to the commands I have given them of being 
firm even to death to the principles of that holy Church." 

Jeffreys had three more days to live. Dr. James 
Jeffreys had been unable to see his brother in the Tower. 
He was himself lying mortally sick at Canterbury, where 
he died in September. On April 1 8th Edward Jennings, 
one of his lordship's executors, wrote from the Tower of 
London to the Prebendary at Canterbury : " And it 


happened according to my expectations ; for this morning, 
about four o'clock, it pleased God to deliver him out of 
all his troubles and miseries. He was taken with a 
looseness on Saturday, which continued upon him till 
yesterday with great violence. And I did not think it was 
possible for him, when I came in to him on Monday, to 
continue so long. He was very sensible to the last, and 
had his speech till a quarter of an hour of his death, 
which he was apprehensive on Monday was approaching. 
And then he made his will, which was prepared by his 
directions. This being over he gave his family many 
pious admonitions and exhortations in moving and 
passionate expressions, and continued very devout to the 
time of his death. I suppose he will be interred privately 
Saturday or Sunday night in the Tower. So it will be 
necessary you should come up Saturday if possible." 

On the Saturday or Sunday the body of Lord Jeffreys 
was buried in the Tower of London. Three years later 
Queen Mary ordered the remains of George Lord 
Jeffreys to be delivered over to his friends and relations, to 
bury him as they should think fit ; and the following year, 
1693, the body of the Chancellor was laid by the side of 
his first wife in Aldermanbury Church, according to the 
directions in his will. 



Woolrych's "Memoirs of Judge Jeffreys." 1827. 

"Life and Death of George Lord Jeffreys," prefixed to the "Bloody 

"An Impartial History of the Life and Death of George Lord 

Jeffreys." 1693. 
"The Unfortunate Favourite." 1689. 
"Life and Character of the late Lord Chancellor Jeffreys." 1725. 

(Very abusive.) 
There are lives of Jeffreys in Campbell's "Lives of the Lord Chan- 
cellors," Foss's "Judges of England," and Roscoe's "Eminent 

British Lawyers." 
The general histories of Macaulay, Ranke, Lingard, Hallam, Ralph, 

Mackintosh, Burnet, Echard, Oldmixon, Dalrymple. 
Diaries and Memoirs of Pepys, Evelyn, Reresby, Luttrell, Lord 

Clarendon, Lord Ailesbury, Henry Sidney, Bramston, Kiffin, 

Bishop Cartwright. 
Hatton Correspondence (Camden Society). 
The Ellis Correspondence and the Clarendon and Rochester 

Sir James Stephen's " History of the Criminal Law," vol. i. 
Howell's " State Trials," vols. vii. — xii. 
Campbell's "Lord Chancellors" and " Chief Justices." 
Foss's "Lives of the Judges." 
Pike's " History of Crime," vol. ii. 
Roger North's "Lives of Sir Francis and Dudley North," his 

"Autobiography" and "Examen." 
Clarke's "Life of James II." 
Roberts's "Life of the Duke of Monmouth." 
L'Estrange's " Brief History of the Times." 
Willis-Bund's " State Trials," vol. ii. 

Lives of Rosewell, Archbishop Sharp, Baxter, Philip Henry. 

B B 


The "Bloody Assizes," "Western Martyrology," and "Merciful 

Assizes." 1689 — 1705. 
Locke's "Western Rebellion." 

Journals of House of Commons — Prideaux's Petition, March 1, 1689. 
Appendices to Reports of Historical MSS. Commission (Morrison, 

Verney, Dartmouth, Throckmorton, Duke of Rutland, Beach, 

London Gazette. 
Pennant's Wales. 
Nicholl's Leicestershire. 
Lipscomb's Buckinghamshire. 
Burke's " Extinct Peerages." 
Seyer's Memoirs of Bristol. 
Harleian Miscellany. 
Grey's Parliamentary Debates. 
Sydney's "Social Life in England, 1660 — 1690." 
Account of the Flight, Discovery and Apprehending of George Lord 

Jeffreys, 1688. (In British Museum.) 
An Account of the Manner of Taking the Lord Chancellor. (In the 

Bodleian Library.) 
A Full Account of the Apprehending of the Lord Chancellor at 

Wapping. (In the Bodleian Library.) 
London Mercury, December 15, 1688. 
Ballad Society Publications. 
Poems on Affairs of State, 1702. 
In the British Museum Library a great number of pamphlets will be 

found under the general headings of " L'Estrange," "Popish 

Plot," " Oates," and " Rye House Plot." 
It is hardly necessary to add that in a work of this kind the 
"Dictionary of National Biography" has been of constant service. 
Other authorities will be found to be referred to in the text. 



Lord Chancellors, or Keepers of the Great Seal. 

Heneage Finch, Earl of Nottingham (L. C.) 1673 — 1682 

Sir Francis North (L. K.), (created Lord Guilford, 1683) . 1682 — 1685 
George Lord Jeffreys (L. C.) 1685—1688 

Lord Chief Justices of the King's Bench. 

Sir Matthew Hale 167 1 — 1676 

Sir Richard Rainsford 1676 — 1678 

Sir William Scroggs 1678 — 1681 

Sir Francis Pemberton 1681 — 1683 

Sir Edmund Saunders Jan. — June, 1683 

Sir George Jeffreys (created Lord Jeffreys of Wem 

1685) 1683— 1685 

Sir Edward Herbert 1685 — 1687 

Sir Robert Wright 1687— 1688 

Lord Chief Justices of the Common Pleas. 

Sir Francis North 1675 — 1682 

Sir Francis Pemberton Jan. — Sept., 1683 

Sir Thomas Jones 1683 — 1686 

Sir Henry Bedingfield 1686 — 1687 

Sir Robert Wright April 16 — April 21, 1687 

Sir Edward Herbert 1687— 1688 

Lord Chief Barons of the Exchequer. 

Hon. William Montagu 1676 — 1686 

Sir Edward Atkyns 1686 — 1688 

B B 2 


Recorders of London. 

Sir John Howel 1668 — 1676 

Sir William Dolben 1676— 1678 

Sir George Jeffreys 1678 — 1680 

Sir George Treby 1680— 1683 

Sir Thomas Jenner 1683 — 1686 

Sir John Holt 1686— 1687 

Serjeant Tate 1687 

Sir Bartholomew Shower .... 1687 — 1688 

Sir George Treby (re-appointed) Dec, 1688 


Sir Francis North 1673 — 1675 

Sir William Jones 1675 — 1679 

Sir Creswell Levinz .... 1679— 168 1 

Sir Robert Sawyer 1681 — 1687 

Sir Thomas Powys 1687 — 1689 


Sir Francis North 1671 — 1673 

Sir William Jones 1673 — 1674 

Sir Francis Winnington I0 ^4 — 1679 

Hon. Heneage Finch 1679 — 1686 

Sir Thomas Powys 1685— 1687 

Sir William Williams 1687 — 1688 



Of 6***' k** K r/fa'v^Ju* jCis tup 
'h «*w. A 4^£*& i^A^ jJ^jj 

fieri «U/4«r : Ji '?&•/' 

Fac-simile of a letter from Lord Jeffreys to the Earl of Sunderland, written 
from Dorchester, September 5, 1685, and preserved in the Record Office. 

[See page 289. 


Abergavenny, Lady, 282 
Ailesbury, Thomas, Earl of, 234, 

246, 306 
Allibone, Richard, 329, 330 ; Judge 

of King's Bench, 335, 338 
Anglesey, Earl of, 86, 146, 177 
Argyle, Duke of, 173, 250 
Armstrong, Sir Thomas, 166; his 

trial, 206-210 
Arnold, Matthew, 3, 13 
Ashburnham, Sir Denny, 73 
Ashby, Mr., 61, 70, 88 
Ashurst, Sir R., 251 
Atkyns, Sir Edward, Chief Baron 

of Exchequer, 321 
Atkyns, Sir Robert, Judge of 

Common Pleas, 68, 91, 101, 106 
Atwood, William, 251 

Barillon, 319, 324, 339 
Barnardiston, Sir Samuel, trial of, 

200, 201 
Barnes, Gabriel, 229 
Barnes, Joshua, M.A., 311 
Barter, evidence of, 271, 272 
Bates, Dr., 251 

Battiscombe, Christopher, 292 
Baxter, Richard, 150; trial of, 251, 

256, 266 
Bedingfield, Serjeant, 219; Judge 

of Common Pleas, 318; Chief 

Justice of Common Pleas, 321, 

Bedloe, William, 57, 62, 90, 91 
Bellasis, Lord, 60 
Berkeley, Countess of, 151, 152 
Berkeley, Earl of, 152, 154 
Berkeley, Lady Henrietta, 1 51-15 5 
Bertie, Mr. Justice, 68 
Best, Elias, 123 
Bludworth, Sir Thomas, 31, 104 

Booth, Henry, afterwards Lord 

Delamere (see Delamere), 123, 

Box, Mr., 147 
Bradbury, Mr., 213 
Braddon, Laurence, trial of, 192- 

Bradshaw, case of, 40 
Bragg, Matthew, 288 
Burnet, Gilbert, 128, 167, 168, 188, 

189, 229, 284, 327, 342 

Campbell, Lord, 3-6, 14, 29, 79, 81- 
83, 98, 154 {note), 182, 284, 327, 

Cann, Sir Robert, 300, 301 
Carr, Henry, trial of, 112, 113 
Cartwright, Dr., Bishop of Chester, 

325, 326, 345 
Castlemaine, Earl of, 238 
Catherine of Braganza, Queen of 

England, 87, 88 
Chapman, Sir John, 131, 352, 355, 

Charles II., King of England, 16, 

25, 30, 31, 49, 5o, 82, 86, 92, 103, 

no, 116, 122, 126, 130, 157, 164, 

170, 182, 192, 207, 208, 215, 216, 

219, 220, 228, 229, 304 
Charleton, Sir Job, Chief Justice of 

Chester, no; Judge of Common 

Pleas, in, 320 
Chiffinch, William, 22 
Churchill, John (afterwards Duke 

of Marlborough), 248, 302, 306 
Clarendon, Henry Hyde, Earl of, 

282, 313, 320, 345, 350, 351, 353, 
Clay, Mr., 240 
Clayton, Sir . Robert, 12, 19, 24, 

104, 116, 125, 131, 366 
Coad, John, 303 



Coleman, Edward, 49 ; trial of, 

Coke, Lord, 2, 240 
Colledge, Stephen, trial of, 134-144 
Compton, Dr., Bishop of London, 

case of, 328, 329 
Corker, James, trial of, 87-96 
Cornish, Alderman, 225 
Cradock, Mr., 233 
Cromleholme, Dr., Master of St. 

Paul's, 4 

Danby, Earl of, 16, 26, 27, 28, 29, 

49, 50,51, 84 
Dangerfield, Thomas, 97 ; trial of, 

250, 251,358 
Davenport, Laurence, 240 
Defoe, Daniel, 294 
Delamere, Lord (see Booth), trial 

of, 315, 3i8 
Disney, William, 257 
Dolben, Sir William, Recorder of 

London, 29 ; Judge of King's 

Bench, 31, 152, 153, 158, 159 
Doleman, Sir Thomas, 95 
Doughty, Philip, case of, 11 5-1 17 
Dover, Earl of, 338 
Dryden, John, 4, 183 
Dubois, Mr., 147 
Dugdale, Stephen, 135, 139, 145 
Duncomb, Alderman, 319 
Dunne, James, 268-271, 272-275, 

276, 277 
Dunton, John, 264-265 
Durham, Dr. Crewe, Bishop of, 328 

Echard, Archdeacon, 305, 365 
Edwards, the boy, 192, 193 
Essex, Earl of, 165, 191, 
Evelyn, John, 87, 183, 246, 290, 

319, 32o. 
Exeter, Bishop of, Dr. Lamplugh, 


Fairfax, Dr., Fellow of Magdalen 
College, Oxford, 336, 337 

Farrar, Mrs., 226, 227 

Fenwick, John, 68, 88 

Ferguson, Robert, 165, 258 

Feversham, Earl of, 260 

Filmer, Sir Robert, 174 

Finch, Hon. Heneage, Solicitor- 
General, 136, 150, 213, 239, 241, 
320, 32 1 

Fitzharris, case of, 133 
Fogarty, 61, 
Foster, Mr. Justice, 342 
Frampton, Dr., Bishop of Glou- 
cester, 364 
Francis, Mr., 251 

Giles, trial of, 1 14 

Godfrey, Sir Edmundbury, 50, 80 

Goodenough, Under- Sheriff, 148 

Gregory, Baron, 318 

Grey of Wark, Lord, trial of, 1 50- 

155, 160, 165 
Grove, John, 60, 61 ; trial of, 68-77 
Guilford, Lord (see Francis North) 

Hackett, Mr., 233 
Hale, Sir Matthew, 8, 13, 14, 254 
Hales, Sir Edward, 321, 332, 353 
Halifax, Earl of, 86, 164, 187, 230 
Hallam, Henry, his " Constitutional- 
History," 283, 284 
Hamlyn, Simon, 296 
Hampden, John, trial of, 1 87-191, 

Harcourt, William, 62, 88, 90 
Harnage, Captain, 347 
Harris, Benjamin, trial of, 105, 106, 


Hawley, Captain, 196 

Hayes, Joseph, trial of, 228 

Haynes, 138 

Henry, Philip, 2, 3, 150 

Herbert, Sir Edward, Chief Justice 

of King's Bench, 312, 313, 321, 

322, 328, 333 ; Chief Justice of 

Common Pleas, 334 
Hewling, Benjamin, 296 
Hewling, Hannah, 293, 306 
Hewling, William, 291 
Hicks, John, 267, et seq. 
Hill, Sir Roger, 233 
Hipkins, Mary, case of, 41-43 
Hollovvay, James, case of, 206, 207 
Holloway, Serjeant, 136 ; Judge of 

King's Bench, 171, 178 
Howard, " Colonel," 60, 61 
Howard of Escrick, Lord, 165, 166, 

173-174, 187, 188,190 
Howel, Recorder of London, 24 
Huntingdon, Earl of, 237 
Hyde, Chief Justice, 38 



Ireland, Margaret (see Mrs. John 

Sir Thomas, 2 

William, trial of, 68-77, 2 35> 

Ivy, Lady, case of, 212-214, 236 

James, Duke of York, afterwards 
James II., 25, 29, 60, 102, 103, 
io 9, 155) 156, 164, 192, 211, 212, 
216, 217, 218 ; King of England, 
231, 234, 258, 261, 282, 290, 306, 
310, 319, 322, 324, 325, 329, 332, 

338, 345-347,350, 35', 352, 353 
Jeffreys, George (/'Judge Jeffreys") 
Birth and parentage, 1 ; educated 
at Shrewsbury School, 3 ; at St. 
Paul's and Westminster, 4 ; at 
Trinity College Cambridge, 6 ; 
student at Inner Temple, 7-10 ; 
his portrait, 1 1 ; friendship with 
Sir M. Hale. 13; his first mar- 
riage, 18; Common Serjeant, 20 ; 
connection with Chiffinch, 22 ; 
letter to Sir R. Browne, 24, and 
to Lord Danby, 27 ; Solicitor- 
General to Duke of York, and 
Knighted, 29 ; Recorder of Lon- 
don, 30; second marriage, 31 ; 
at the trial of Muggleton, 36 ; 
address to prisoners at Old 
Bailey sessions, Christmas, 1678, 
40-45 ; appears for Crown at Cole- 
man's trial, 58 ; his speech in 
sentencing Ireland,Pickering and 
Grove, 77-79 ; made Serjeant-at 
Law, 84 ; passes sentence on 
Langhorne and the five Jesuits, 
85-86 ; at Wakeman's trial, 91, 
92, 94, 96 ; effect of trial on his 
position, 101-104; prosecutes 
Benjamin Harris, 106, and 
Francis Smith, 107 ; first 
" Abhorrer," 109; Chief Justice 
of Chester and King's Serjeant, 
in; prosecutes Carr, 112; his 
passage with Baron Weston, 
114; Doughty's case, 11 5-1 17; 
trial of F Smith, 118; incident 
of Elias Best, 121 ; Commons 
address to the King for his re- 
moval, 125 ; resigns Recorder- 
ship, 126 ; put into the Militia 

and Lieutenancy of the City, 
131 ; Chairman of Middlesex 
Sessions, 131 ; passages with 
Oates at Colledge's trial, 140- 

141 ; his speech for the Crown, 

142 ; at Hick's Hall, 146 ; 
created a Baronet, 147 ; visit to 
Chester, 148-150; prosecutes 
Lord Grey of Wark, 153-154; 
his growing influence at Court, 
156; proposed as Chief Justice 
of King's Bench, 164 ; speech 
against Lord W. Russell, 167- 
168 ; appointed Lord Chief 
Justice of England, 170; at 
Sidney's trial, 172, et seq. ; con- 
demns him to death, 179-181 ; 
shocks Evelyn, 183 ; Settle's 
Panegyric of him, 183; Bishop 
Lloyd's letter, 184 ; his power 
in the City, 186 ; tries Hampden, 
187, Braddonand Speke, 191, and 
Sir S. Barnardiston, 200 ; goes on 
Western Circuit, 204 ; passage 
with Serjeant Maynard, 205 ; 
condemns Armstrong, 207 ; tries 
Lady Ivy's case, 242 ; receives 
ring from the King, 215 ; pro- 
cures surrenders of Charters, 
216 ; opposes North at Council, 
217; procures Judgeship for 
Wright, 219; tries case of" Prit- 
chard v. Papillon, 222, and of 
Rosewell, 225 ; effect of the 
King's death and accession of 
James II. on his position, 232; 
at the Bucks Election, 233 ; tries 
Oates, 234-247 ; created Baron 
Jeffreys of Wem, 248 ; tries Dan- 
gerfield and Baxter, 250; sets out 
on the " Bloody Assizes," 257 ; at 
Winchester, 267 ; his examination 
of Dunne at Lady Lisle's trial, 
268 et seq. ; at Dorchester, 286 ; 
letters to Sunderland, 289, 290 ; 
tries Tutchin, 293 ; at Exeter and 
Taunton, 295 ; letter to the King, 
295 ; at Bristol, 297 ; his charge, 
298-300 ; letter to Sunderland, 
302 ; at Wells, 302 ; appointed 
Lord Chancellor, 304 ; his treat- 
ment of Prideaux, 307 ; verses 
addressed to him on his appoint- 
ment as Chancellor, 310-312 ; 



his speech to Chief Justice 
Herbert, 313 ; tries Lord Dela- 
mere, 315; his indisposition, 
319; the Dispensing Judgment, 
320 ; opposes the King, 324 ; 
tries to procure Bishopric for 
his brother, 325 ; President of 
Ecclesiastical Commission, 328 ; 
builds a new house, 332 ; his 
behaviour to the Cambridge 
Delegates, 335, and to Doctor 
Fairfax, 336 ; his declining favour 
and the rise of Williams, 338 ; R. 
North's description of him, 339, 
340 ; his legal attainments, 342 ; 
his private life, 343 ; his personal 
appearance, 344 ; the trial of 
the Seven Bishops, 346, 347 ; 
marriage of his son, 348 ; his 
return to favour, 350 ; his fruitless 
attempts to control the King, 351, 
353 ; his flight and capture, 354- 
356 ; attacks on him after his 
fall, 358, 359 ; his visitors in the 
Tower, 363 ; his will, 365-367 ; 
his death and burial, 368 
Jeffreys, Alderman Sir Robert, 11, 

131, 3H, 333 

Mrs. George, afterwards Lady, 

first wife of Judge, 18, 19, 

- — Lady, second wife of Judge, 31, 

3 2 , 343) 360 
Mr. John, father of Judge, 1, 


Mrs. John, mother of Judge, 2 

John, eldest brother of Judge, 

John (second Lord Jeffreys), 

eldest son of Judge, 348, 349, 

James, brother of Judge, Pre- 
bendary of Canterbury, 2, 6, 

325, 326, 348, 367 
Margaret, daughter of Judge 

(Mrs. Stringer), 352 
Sarah, daughter of Judge (Mrs. 

Harnage), 349 
Thomas, brother of Judge, 2, 

3-4, 325, 344, 348, 349 
Jekyll, Sir Joseph, 342 
Jenkins, Sir Leoline, Secretary of 

State, 149, 182, 205 
William, 296 

Jenner, Thomas, Recorder of Lon- 
don, 226 ; Baron of Exchequer, 

Jennings, Edward, 367 

Sir W., 138 

Johnson, Dr., 162 

Brothers, case of, 45 

Jones, Sir Thomas, Judge of King's 
Bench, 65, 107-109, 122, 136, 
137 ; Chief Justice of Com- 
mon Pleas, 170, 303, 320 

Sir William, Attorney-General, 

58, 59, 104, 124, 172 

Lady (see second Lady Jeffreys) 

Kelyng, Chief Justice, 38 
Kirke, Colonel, 260, 261, 306 

La Chaise, Pere, 57, 60, 63 

Langhorne, Richard, 60, 85, 86 

L'Estrange, Roger, 57, 67 

Levinz, Sir Creswell, Attorney- 
General, 104, 136 ; Judge of Com- 
mon Pleas, 257, 318 

Lisle, Alice, trial of, 267-285 

Lloyd, Sir Philip, 92 

Dr. William, Bishop of St. 

Asaph, 184 

Loades, Mr., 244, 333 

Locke, John, 4 

Louis XIV., 25, 50, 122, 130, 324 

Lucas, Lord, 356 

Lutwyche, Mr. Justice, 348 

Macaulay, Lord, 34, 35, 39, 40, 

246, 256, 303, 336 
Marshall, William, trial of, 87-96 
Mary, Oueen of England, wife of 
William III., 368 

of Modena, Queen of James II., 

Masters, Mr., 138 
Matthews, Mrs., 208, 209, 210 
Maynard, Serjeant, 58, 205, 223 
Mayo, Mrs., 237 
Messenger, case of, 38 
Milton, Christopher, Baron of 

Exchequer, 321 
Momford, case of, 44 
Monmouth, Duke of, 105, 148, 149, 

166, 178, 207, 208, 231, 250, 256, 

257, 258, 262 
Montagu, Chief Baron, 68, 72, 238, 

257, 273, 320 



Moor, Sir John, 148, 333 

Lady, 366 

Mountford, W., 319 

Muggleton, Lodowick, trial of, 35- 

Mary, 37 

Neesham, Sarah (see Mrs. George 

Nelthorp, Richard, 267, 269, 277, 

Nevil, Sir Edward, 313, 320 

Norreys, Lord, 136 

North, Hon. Dudley, 147, 148, 249, 
290, 301 

Sir Francis, Chief Justice of 

Common Pleas, 8, 9, 13, 14, 
20, 91, 94, 99, 104, 127, 136, 
137, 143; Lord Keeper, 157, 
164; Lord Guilford, 170,216- 
222, 230, 248-250, 290, 304 

Hon. Roger, S-10, 13, 14, 20, 

34, 52, 80, 126, 136,215,222, 
239,290, 3oi,339,34i 

Nottingham, Earl of, Heneage 
Finch, Lord Chancellor, 92, 157 

Oates, Titus, 49, 56, 57, 60-62, 68- 
72, 80, 88-90, 92, 97, 135, 139- 
141,145,165,211,212,229; trials 
of, 234-247, 356 

Oldmixon, 360 

Onslow, Speaker, 342 

Ormond, Duke of, 61 

Papillon, Mr., case of, 147, 222- 

Parker, Dr., Bishop of Oxford, 325 
Peachell, Dr., Vice-Chancellor of 

Cambridge, 335 
Pemberton, Sir Francis, Serjeant- 
at-Law, 15, 58 ; Judge of King's 
Bench, 91, 95, 101, 106; Chief 
Justice of King's Bench, 133, 152, 
154, 158 ; Chief Justice of Com- 
mon Pleas, 159, 166, 169, 170 
Pembroke, Earl of, 348 
Penruddock, Colonel, 272, 275 
Petre, Father, 351 
Phipps, Constantine, 251, 253 
Pickering, Thomas, 60, 61 ; trial of, 

Pike, Mr., 43 

Pilkington, Sir Thomas, 146, 155 
156, 160 

Pitts, Moses, 332 

Plunket, Dr., trial of, 133 

Pollexfen, Henry, 251, 252,267, 287, 
290, 366 

Portsmouth, Duchess of, 16, 25, 26, 
29, 31,84, n6, 117, 348 

Powell, Mr. Justice, 348 

Powis, Lord, 60 

Powys, Sir Thomas, Solicitor-Gen- 
eral, 321 ; Attorney-General, 338 

Prideaux, Edmund, 262, 307 

Pritchard, Sir William, case of, 
222-224, 333 

RAINSFORD, Sir Richard, Chief Jus- 
tice of King's Bench, 35, 36, 37, 51 
Ratcliffe, Sir Thomas, 61 
Raymond, Mr. Justice, 136 
Reeve, John, 35 
Reresby, Sir John, 215, 319 
Rich, Sir Peter, 147-148, 333 
Richardson, Captain, Keeper of 

Newgate, 66, 68, 76, 209 
Rochester, Earl of,Laurence Hyde, 
164, 187, 313, 319, 322, 328, 

33 1 

John Wilmot, Earl of, 117 

Rosewell, Thomas, trial of, 224-228, 

225, 226 
Rotherham, John, 251, 253 
Rumley, William, trial of, 87-96 
Rumsey, Mr., 276 
Russell, Lord William, 1 23, 1 34, 162, 

163, 165 ; trial of, 166-168 
case of, 40 

St. John, Lady, 282 

Sancroft, Dr., Archbishop of Can- 
terbury, 325, 326, 328 

Saunders, Sir Edmund, Chief Jus- 
tice of King's Bench, 159, 160, 

Sawyer, Sir Robert, Attorney-Gen- 
eral, 88, 90, 91, 136, 146, 150, 164, 
166, 167, 189, 190, 228, 239, 338 

Scott, Dr., Dean of St. Asaph, 366 

Scroggs, Sir William, Serjeant-at- 
Law, 3, 16, 25, 32 ; Chief Justice 
of King's Bench, 50-53, 55, 59, 
64-67, 70-76, 82, 93-100, 105- 
107, 112, 113, 122, 133, 171, 236 

Settle, Elkanah, 183 

3 8o 


Shaftesbury, Earl of, 28, 86, 99, 

103, 106, 146, 148 
Sharp, Dr., Rector of St. Giles's 

and Dean of Norwich, 328, 364, 

365, 366 
Shute, Mr., 146 
Sidney, Algernon, 161, 162, 165 ; 

trial of, 17 1- 1 82, 184 
Sidney, Henry, 86 
Smith, Aaron, 136, 173, 199 
Smith, Francis, first trial of, 107- 

109; second trial, 1 18-120 
Smith, Sir James, 314 

"Narrative," 135, 137, 139,144 

W., 239 

Mr., of Chardstock, 288 

Smoult, Dr., 335 
Southwell, Sir Robert, 62 
Speke, Charles, 262, 302 

Hugh, trial of, 192, 200 

Sprat, Dr., Bishop of Rochester, 

326, 328 
Stayley, trial of, 55 
Stephen, Sir James, his History of 

Criminal Law, 53-55, 114, 163, 

284, 342 
Street, Mr. Justice, 257, 322 
Stringer, Sir Thomas, Judge of 

King's Bench, 352, 366 
Sunderland, Earl of, 85, 156, 164, 

216, 218, 230, 233, 249, 289, 290, 

294, 297, 302, 310, 313, 322, 329, 

351 352 
Swift, Dean, 167, 168 

Talbot, Sir John, 227 
Temple, Sir William, 86 
Thompson, Mr., 152 
Treby, Sir John, Recorder of Lon- 
don, 127, 166 
Trevor, Sir John, M.P., 32, 125, 
249, 347, 348, 366 

Tudor, Earl of Hereford, 1 

Turberville, 135, 137, 139, 144 
Turner, Mr., 154 

Tutchin, John, 265, 266, 286, 288, 
292; trial of, 293-295, 312, 358, 

Twisden, Mr. Justice, 30 
Twyn, case of, 38 

Wakeman, Sir George, 61 ; trial 

of, 87-96, 238 
Walcot, Mr. Justice, 171, 241, 312 
Wall, Mrs., n 5-1 17 
Wallop, Mr., 152, 153, 160, 187-191, 

193-195, 198,203, 225, 245, 251,, 

Ward, Mr., 223 
Ward, Sir Patience, 161 
West, Robert, 165 
Weston, Mr. Baron, 114, 115, 122 
Wharton, Mr., 177, 233 
Whitebread, Thomas, 68 
White, Dr., Bishop of Peterborough, 

Williams, Lord Justice Vaughan, 3 
Williams, William, Speaker of 

House of Commons, 107, 108, 

122, 152, 153, 160, 161, 187-191, 

198, 202, 211, 237, 251, 253; 

Solicitor-General, 338, 339, 346, 

347, 35i 

Winnington, Sir Francis, 58, 113 

Wood, Anthony, author of "Athenae 
Oxonienses," 99 

Woolrych, Humphry, " Memoirs of 
Jeffreys," 285 (note) 

Wright, Sir Robert, Serjeant-at- 
Law, 219; Baron of Exchequer, 
220, 221, 257 ; Judge of King's 
Bench, 313 ; Chief Justice of 
Common Pleas andKing'sBench, 

334, 35° 
Wyndham, Mr. Justice, 219 
Wythens, Sir Francis, M.P., 109, 

112,122; Judge of King's Bench, 

159, 171, 176, 178, 183, 201, 232, 

245, 257, 333, 334 

YORK, Duke of (see James) 




020 693 709 9