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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Such as Thomas Winter and Robert Catesby


severity in the treatment of

the Catholics. James I appeared to feel himself insulted if any one threw a doubt on his wish to allow the laws to operate in both directions. And as the Parliament which was so zealously Protestant was expected to reassemble in the autumn of 1605, the laws against the Catholics began to be applied without forbearance. A renewed persecution was first set on foot against the priests, who it is true were not punished with death, at least in the vicinity of the Court, but were thrown into prison, where they not infrequently succumbed to the rough treatment which they had undergone. But even the laity daily suffered more and more from the violence of the spies who forced their way into their houses. They complained loudly and bitterly of the insecurity of their position, which had already gone so far that often no tenants could be found for their farms; and they considered that the least evil, for to-day they lost their possessions, to-morrow they would lose their freedom, and the day after their life.[333] There had now for a long time been two parties among them, one of which submitted to what was inevitable, while the other offered a violent resistance. With the fresh increase of oppression, the latter party obtained the upper hand. They mocked at the hope, in which men indulged themselves, of a change of religion on the part of the King, who on the contrary was in their view an irreclaimable Protestant, and assumed an air of clemency to the Catholics, only to draw the rein tighter
hereafter. A brief from the Pope exhorted them to acquiesce: but even the Pope could not persuade them to allow themselves to be sacrificed without further ceremony. Some of the most resolute once more applied to the Spanish court at this time as they had done before. But in that quarter not only had peace been concluded, but the hope of effecting a close alliance with England had been conceived. A deaf ear was turned to all their applications.

While they were thus hard pressed and desperate, the thought of helping themselves had, if not originated, at least ripened, in the breast of one or two of the boldest of them. They conceived a plan which in savage recklessness surpassed anything which was devised in this epoch so full of conspiracies.

Among the families which sheltered the mission-priests on their arrival in England, and who were moved by them to throw off their reserve in the profession of Catholicism, the Treshams and Catesbys were especially prominent in Northamptonshire. They belonged to the wealthiest and most important families in that county; and the penal laws had borne upon them with especial severity. The Winters of Huddington, who also were very zealous Catholics, were related to them. It is easy to understand, how the young men who were growing up in this family, such as Thomas Winter and Robert Catesby, acknowledging no duty to the Protestant government, retorted the oppression which they experienced from it with bold resistance and schemes of violence. In these they were joined by two brothers of the same way of thinking, John and Christopher Wright, stout and soldier-like men, belonging to a family which came originally from York. They all participated in the attempt of the Earl of Essex, for above all things they were eager for the overthrow of the existing government: and Robert Catesby was set at liberty only on payment of a heavy fine, which he could hardly raise by the sale of one of the most productive of the family estates. They were among those who, when Queen Elizabeth lay on her death-bed, proclaimed most loudly their desire for a thorough change, and were arrested in consequence.[334] They had expected toleration at least from the new government: as this was not granted them they set to work at once on new schemes of insurrection. Christopher Wright was one of those


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