« AnteriorContinuar »
ancient family of the Coopers of Wimbourn St. Giles's, in the county of Dorset.
We shall, in the first place (laying aside all his other virtues) treat of the loyalty of this noble peer, in the words of the late author; saith he, Could we have taken a view of the inside of this noble peer, we might have seen his heart full of loyalty to his prince, love to his country, and zeal for the protestant religion; the settlement of which can only secure us from the attempts of his majesty's, and his people's enemies. With what admirable policy did he influence and manage the councils in the late times, in what he was concerned in, during the interregnum, towards his majesty's interest, and with what admirable subtlety did he turn the stream of their counsels; and with unwearied diligence did he tug at the helm of state, till he had brought in his great master, the king, into his kingdoms again, in prosperity and safety, to the joy of all good subjects?
His house was a sanctuary for distressed loyalists, and his correspondency with the king. Friends, though closely managed, as the necessity of those times required, are not unknown to those that were the principal managers of his majesty's affairs at that time. This made the late usurper, Oliver Cromwell, so jealous of him, whose arbitrary government he withstood to the utmost of his power. And we find that Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper was accused before the Rump Parliament, in the year 1659, for keeping intelligence with the king, and having provided forces in Dorsetshire, to join with Sir George Booth, in attempting to bring in our noble king, that now is, to his rightful throne; and also his concurrence with General Monk, in that important juncture, if we remember that his regiment was one of the first that declared for a free parliament, and General Monk, in March 1659, so zealous was he in putting all his strength to turn the great wheel of state.
And, at the time of his majesty's restoration, as a most signal testimony of his majesty's good opinion of his former actions, he was advanced to be one of the first rank in his majesty's most honourable privy-council, and was placed above his royal brother, the Duke of Gloucester, even General Monk himself, whom the king used to call his political father: and, three dayes after his majesty's coronation, he was created Baron Ashley of Wimbourn St. Giles's, and also Lord Cooper of Paulet, and, at last, another mark of royal favour, in the year 1672, he was made Earl of Shaftsbury. For his wise administration in his majesty's affairs, he was made Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, some time after that, made Lord High-chancellor of England, about the beginning of the year 1672, which place he executed with the greatest judgment and equity imaginable. Thus having briefly traced this great minister of state, in these mighty employments under his great and good master, the king, I shall take some notice of his relinquishment of that high employment, and what happened to him since.
About November 1673, his majesty was pleased to send for the Lord Chancellor to Whitehall, where he resigned the Great Seal of England to his majesty, and was dismissed from being treasurer of
VOl. IX. E
the Exchequer. In the afternoon of the same day, the Earl of Shafts. bury was visited by Prince Rupert, with other great lords, at Exeter House, where they gave his lordship thanks for his faithful and honourable discharge of that great employment. Thus this great minister of state, to the universal satisfaction of all good men, being raised to that high degree of interest in his master's favour, without a murmur, laid all his honour at his majesty's feet, and was observed not to abate of the chearfulness of his temper, upon the loss of all these temporal and honourable employments. I shall conclude this part of his life, with a character that a late author gave of him:
His choice sagacity
'Straight solv'd the knot that subtle lawyers ty'd,'And, through all fogs, discern'd the oppressed side;
'Banish'd delays, and so this noble peer
'Became a star of honour in our sphere;'A needful Atlas of our state.'
On the sixteenth of February, 1676, this earl was sent prisoner to the tower, by the order of the House of Lords; there were, at the same time, committed several other lords, for maintaining, That the then parliament was dissolved, and ought not to sit any longer; where he continued prisoner about a year's time, and, after submit, ting himself to his majesty and the parliament, he was discharged, by acknowledging his fault. A little after his releasement, this parliament was prorogued, and after dissolved. Now was the wicked plot of the Jesuits and Papists discovered by the great fidelity of Dr. Oates, which convinced both king, lords, and commons, and all the nation in general, of a damnable, treasonable, popish design, to murder our king, with the rest of the nobility and gentry, and to reduce the Protestant church to Romish idolatry, and the state to a Catholick slavery.
On the seventh of March, 1678, another parliament met at Westminster. This parliament did, like noble patriots, endeavour to give a check to the bloody popish designs a foot, and passed many excel, lent votes for that purpose; many members acquitted themselves, in their speeches, like men of high sense of the miseries the nation was like to be involved in. This house carried up their impeachments to the House of Lords, against the Lord Powis, Stafford, Arundel, Lord Peters, Lord Bellasis, for high-treason, and other high crimes: but I shall forbear mentioning any farther, only instance how this noble peer was struck at in that hellish design. I shall refer the reader to what hath been already published in print, only note two or three things of some persons, that made attempts on the life of this noble peer; first, by Dangerfield, who had a great sum offered him, to have murdered the Earl of Shaftsbury, on whom the rage of the bloody Romish party was now so great, that they left no base and unwarrantable action unattempted, to rob him of his life; some were hired to stab or pistol him; others to swear treason against him; or any other way the devil put in their heads. Another design against
this noble peer, was to have been acted by a woman, called Madam Cellier, a popish midwife; who attempted that cursed design, under the pretence of a visit to the earl, and under pretence of her paying her thanks for favours received through his means; but she had a consecrated dagger under the skirt of her gown, ready to have expressed her gratitude, by opening the veins of this protestant peer's heart.
Is then loyal innocency, and protestant integrity, armour of proof against poisons, pistols, and poniards? No; the Catholick gallantry stops not here, but pursues this noble peer with forgery of his hand, and other little sham-plots. What base and villainous acts the bloody papists used, to destroy the Earl of Shaftsbury, by many endeavours to have stabbed him, as hath been deposed by many persons, to whom the parliament, as well as the nation, have given belief? I shall instance one more of their mischievous practices in this kind. There was a gentleman, who was a commander of a regiment of horse in the late king's army, and lost all for his sake, and his present majesty's, writ to this noble peer about a remedy against the gout, which he used to be afflicted with very much. This letter was intercepted, and (the person then living in the French king's dominions) after adding to it an account, That the writer was able to furnish the earl with forty-thousand soldiers from France, to oppose the Duke of York's interest; it was then conveyed to some of the French king's ministers, who, they suppose, would send a copy hither; but, by a strange providence, the original was returned into the gentleman's own hands.
Nor were they yet wanting in throwing dirt, and slandering this noble peer in his reputation, which faculty they are famous at; for now a pacquet of base libels and treasonable reflections were, by the penny-post, sent to a printer, and copies of the same dispersed about the parts of Westminster. All of venomous and malicious slanders and imputations, tending to the taking away the life of the Earl of Shaftsbury, and divers other peers of honourable account; but the printer, detesting such a design, published an invitation to any person that would discover the author or publisher of that in. famous libel. And now we are got into such a bog of plots,'sham. plots, perjurers, subornations, as the histories of no age can parallel. In October, during the sessions of the last parliament, it is remarkable, that Francisco de Faria, interpreter to the Portuguese ambassador, amongst other mattersrelating to the plot, gave information to the bar of the House, that he was tempted to kill the Earl of Shaftsbury, by throwing a hand-grenado into his coach, as he passed the road into the country. But, to sum up all, several methods, that were invented to be executed against the life of this peer, were innumerable, by these jesuited crew, who set all their inventions and engines on work, to make away the Earl of Shaftsbury. He was the beam in their eye, and the clog that hindered the motion of their cursed designs. What have they not attempted to make him distaste. ful to the king, through the foulness of their treasons on him? As was made appear before the king and council in October 1681, that Fitzgerard told Mr. Haines, that he the said Fitzgerard possessed
his majesty, and had given it under his hand and seal, that the late plot was a presbyterian plot, and invented by the Earl of Shaftsbury, on purpose to extirpate the royal family, and to dethrone his present majesty, and turn England into a commonwealth, or else to set the crown upon the earl's own head, with more such wicked and treasonable matter; a further account you may have in his trial.
But a new parliament was summoned to appear at Oxford, where things of as high nature were agitated, as ever came before the con. side-ration of a parliament, no less than the preservation of the king's majesty's person, the protestant religion, and the good of the people of England; all which now was invaded by the bloody designs of the papists, but, being very hot about the business of Fitzharris, and things of the like nature, it pleased his majesty to dissolve them. Some time after Fitzharris was tried and executed, the Earl of Shaftsbury was again committed to the tower of London; the circumstances of his examination, and acquittal, would take too much room here to be recited. To finish this tragical story, only I cannot omit, that, on the fifteenth of August, 1681, Mrs. Fitzharris gave a deposition on oath, that her husband, a little before his execution, not only told her, what great offers he had made him, if he would have charged that treasonable and infamous libel (which he was executed afterwards for) on this noble peer and the Lord Howard; and that he advised her to do it to save his life; though he protested at the same time, that they were wholly innocent. She likewise deposed, that a certain gentleman assured her, that she should have what money she pleased, if she would accuse the earl and the Lord Howard, as the authors of the said libel. But they having tampered with so many, on account of this baffled design, that it was impossible but their consult must take wind, especially when we consider, they were a people, that, either to supply their necessities, or to feed their ambition, or, more probably, through irresistible fatality, had blabbed and discovered the secrets of holy mother, and had spoke so unseasonably in her tip, that they had spoiled her game. What se. curity could these Romish sophisters have, but that their corked vessel would prove leaky again? I shall give one memorable passage, said to have passed between the Earl and one of the popish lords, soon after his commitment. The story is this: meeting, accidentally, with one of the popish lords, he was asked by him, What his lordship did there, and that he little thought to have his good company? To which the Earl of Shaftsbury replied, That he had lately been sick of an ague, and was come there to take some Jesuit's powder. It was said, during the whole time of his lordship being in the tower, he remained very chearful, beyond what could have been expected from a person labouring under such extreme pains and diseases. During the earl's imprisonment, many made it their bu. siness to detract and vilify him; and it was their mode to drink his health at an hempen-string, and call him Tony Tapskin, and King of Poland. After the earl's trial, it is reported he arrested one Baines, one of the witnesses for a conspiracy, also several others; but, being not suffered to have his trial against them in London and Middlesex, he remitted the same till another opportunity. Thus hare we given a brief account of the most remarkable things relating to this great peer, to this time; after which he lived very private at his house in Aldersgate-street, till the beginning of the month of November, when, it is reported, he left England, and landed at Brill in Holland, where he was nobly entertained by the States, and, as some say, hath put into their stock a considerable sum of money.
But, amongst the rest, let us take cognisance of his deportment, in the time of his seeming affliction. He was little or nothing dismayed at the contrary current, which opposed the stream of his aspiring mind, which was a generous and magnanimous spirit in him; for, indeed, he was as much befriended by unexpected favours abroad, as afflicted by domestick troubles in his own native soil. His reception in Holland was, unquestionably, very kind, as doubtless was appertinent to a person of his parts. It is not to be doubted, but the many transactions happening in his time, had recorded him there, as well as in other countries, for a politician, and so was he received by them. His deportment there was such, that he obliged all that came near him, indulged all that knew him, and, at his death, left no man without an obligation of a memento. It was much to be taken notice of, that, during the time of his illness, he rather seemed to be of better composure in mind, than ordinary, as seeming to embrace his malady with a kind of welcome, that might transmute his soul into that endless happiness, which he had been so long labouring for. He seemed to covet after that continual blessing, which alone makes happy, and rejoiced at his approaching change. O happy is that man, who, like an undaunted champion, can boldly look upon the pale messenger of grim death without terror, when no astonishment comes to amaze the drooping senses; but, on the contrary, if filled with comfort, at the perfect assurance of a better state, by the help and assistance of a blessed change; no peace like a quiet mind, no comfort like the peace of conscience, nor no conquest like the victory over sin. Thrice happy is that man, whom the thoughts of death cannot terrify. Then let us all labour so to live here, that we may assure ourselves of an inheritance hereafter, that shall furnish our souls with joys everlasting, that have no end. But when he perceived, that his fatal hour was most certainly approaching, with a most heavenly frame, he prepared himself to meet with that unwelcome messenger, taking great and particular care of his menial servants, that will imprint a memorial in their now bleeding hearts. So having settled affairs in his house, according to his own mind and will, he recommended his soul to him that gave it, in the following words and manner:
'O most gracious and merciful Lord God, who, out of thy in
* finite mercy and goodness, hast preserved and protected me through
*an ocean of trouble and perplexity, yea, and brought me out of '.a labyrinth of danger, which, without thine assistance, I could
*never have waded through; and now, since by thy mercy I am 'made sensible of thy unspeakable love to me in this my last hour,
*I beseech thee, with an unfeigned desire to have mercy upon my