The barons were now in a most critical situation, under the ban of the Pope, and with an army of desperadoes arrayed against them. But, with invincible courage, they deterınined to defend to the last extremity & cause which concerned not only the liberties of England, but their own lives and fortunes. They agreed to choose Louis, the son of the king of France, for their king, and, with his assistance, to maintain the contest against John. The papal legate forbade Louis to enter England ; but the offer of a crown was too tempting, and he sailed from Calais with six hundred and eighty ships well furnished with troops. He landed at the Isle of Thanet, took Rochester, and marched to London, where the barons received him with acclamations. Nearly all the southern counties of England were soon reduced, and John's forces maintained themselves in the North, where they were distressed by an invasion of the Scots. The country now suffered all the desolations of a civil war, when it was happily released from its calamities by the death of the king. Having made an intemperate meal of peaches and new ale, he fell into a dysentery, of which he died at Newark, on the 19th of October, 1216.

His successor, Henry the Third, confirmed the Great Charter, and it has remained, ever since, the foundationstone of the English Constitution.


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ONE of the most extraordinary events in the history of England is that commonly known by the name of the Gunpowder Treason and Plot; in which case the king and parliament of England had a narrow escape, by a singular accident, from a most diabolical scheme of destruction. This plot was the work of a small number of fanatical Roman Catholics, who undertook to wreak their revenge on James the First and his government for not showing indulgence to their religion. The records of history afford few instances of more daring and wanton depravity.

The Catholics had expected great favor and indul. gence on the accession of James the First, he being the



son of Mary, queen of Scots, who was a rigid Romanist, and having himself shown some partiality to that religion in his youth. But they soon discovered their mistake, and were at once surprised and enraged to find James on all occasions expressing his resolution of strictly executing the laws enacted against them, and of persevering in the policy of his predecessor. These declarations determined them upon desperate measures, and they at length formed a plan to destroy the king and both houses of parliament at a blow. The scheme was first broached by Robert Catesby, a gentleman of an ancient family in England, who conceived that a train of gunpowder might be so placed under the parliamenthouse as to blow up the king and all the members at

He suggested the subject to Thomas Percy, a descendant of the illustrious house of Northumberland, who approved the project, and readily joined in it. Thomas Winter was next intrusted with the dreadful secret ; and he went over to Flanders in quest of Guy Fawkes, an officer in the Spanish service, with whose zeal and courage the conspirators were thoroughly acquainted. When they enlisted any new zealot into their plot, the more firmly to bind him to secrecy, they always put him upon oath, employing the Eucharist, the most sacred rite of religion, to enforce it. Every tender feeling, and all emotions of pity, were banished from their breasts ; and Desmond and Garnet, two Jesuits, superiors of the order, absolved their consciences from every scruple.

How horrid soever the contrivance might appear, yet every member of the league seemed faithful and secret; and about two months before the sitting of parliament,


in 1605, they hired a house in Percy's name, adjoining that in which the parliament were to assemble. Their first intention was to cut a passage under the parliament-house, from that which they occupied, and they set themselves laboriously to the task ; but when they had pierced the wall, which was three yards in thickness, they were surprised to find that the parliament-house was vaulted underneath, and that a magazine of coals was usually kept there. From their disappointment on this account they were soon lieved by information, that the coals were then selling off, and that, after their removal, the vault would be let to the highest bidder. They therefore seized the opportunity of hiring the place, and bought the remaining quantity of coals then stored in it. The next thing was to carry thither thirty-six barrels of gunpowder, which had been purchased in Holland ; and the whole was covered with the coals, and with fagots brought for that purpose.

Then the doors of the cellar were boldly flung open, and everybody was admitted, as if it contained nothing dangerous.

Confident of success, they now began to settle the remaining part of their project. The king, the queen, and Prince Henry, the king's eldest son, were all expected to be present at the opening of the parliament. The king's second son, by reason of his tender age, would be absent, and it was resolved that Percy should seize or assassinate him. The Princess Elizabeth, likewise a child, was kept at Lord Harrington's house in Warwickshire, and Sir Everard Digby was to seize her, and immediately proclaim her queen.

The 5th of November, the day for the sitting of parliament, now approached. Never was treason more secret, or ruin, apparently, more inevitable; the hour was expected with impatience, and the conspirators gloried in their anticipated triumph. The dreadful secret, though communicated to above twenty persons, had been religiously kept during the space of nearly a year and a half; but, when all the motives of piety and justice were too weak, a feeling of private friendship saved the kingdom. Sir Henry Percy, one of the conspirators, conceived the design of saving the life of Lord Monteagle, his intimate friend and companion, who was also of the same religion with himself. About ten days before the meeting of parliament, this nobleman, upon his return to town, received a letter from a person unknown, and delivered by one who fled as soon as he had done his message. The letter was to this effect : “ My Lord, stay away from this parliament; for God and man have concurred to punish the wickedness of the times. And think not slightly of this advertisement, but retire yourself into your country, where you may expect the event in safety. For, though there be no appearance of any stir, yet I say they will receive a terrible blow this parliament, and yet they shall not see who hurts them. This counsel is not to be contemned, because it

may good, and can do you no harm ; for the danger is past as soon as you have burned the letter."

The contents of this mysterious letter surprised the nobleman to whom it was addressed; and though inclined to think it a foolish attempt to frighten and ridicule him, yet he judged it safest to carry it to Lord

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