THE tyranny by which our hardy ancestors suffered themselves to be governed by the alternate victorious houses of York and Lancaster, was, by the revolutionists who chose William of Orange for their king, regarded with a mixed emotion of pity and contempt. Their descendants, in the beginning of the nineteenth century, though aided by the strong light of reason, seem, if not actually, to have bared their backs to the rod of tyranny, and have surely fitted their necks to the yoke of oppression. Well may it be observed: that like the Romans, who had passed their zenith, Britons are degenerating into the subjection of "a junto of little lawyers," as the patriot Whitbread calls them, who, while they accumulate burthens upon us, make us dance and sing in jubilee rejoicing for the long reign that has wrought so wonderful a change in the very nature of Englishmen.
The case now introduced, we by no means consider as a deviation from the original design of this Work; on the other hand, we anticipate the increased approbation of our readers, on their being presented with whatever may convey information on any branch of the extensive and perilous subject on which we are pledged, not only to show examples of its pains and punishments, but to add and explain the authority and power by which they are inflicted.
In the reign of King Edward VI. a rebellion happened on account of the alteration of religion, and the rebels being defeated, Sir William Kingston, Provost Marshal, was cruel enough to make a jest of men in misery, by virtue of his office. One Bowyer, Mayor of Bodmin, having been among the rebels, not willingly, but by constraint, Sir William sent him word, he would dine with him on a certain day, for whom the mayor provided an hospitable entertainment. A little before dinner the provost took the mayor aside, and whispered in his ear, that there was to be an execution that afternoon, and ordered him to have a gallows set up over against his own door. The mayor obeyed his command; and after dinner the provost took the mayor by the hand, and desired him to lead him to the place of execution, which, when he saw, he asked him, "If he thought the gallows was strong enough?" "Yes," says the mayor. "Well then," replied Sir William, "get up and try, for it is provided for you!" "I hope, Sir," answered the mayor, "you are not in earnest?" "By my troth," says the provost, "there is no remedy, for you have been a busy rebel." And accordingly, without delay, or liberty to make a defence, the mayor was executed.
A miller, near Bodmin, at the same time, who had been very active in the rebellion, hearing the provost was at Bodmin, and fearing lest he should visit his house, told a stout young fellow, his servant, that he had occasion to go from home, and if any gentleman should enquire for him, he should tell him, that HE was the miller. The provost, not long after, came and asked for the miller; the servant came out and said as he was ordered; upon which the provost commanded his myrmidons to seize him, and hang him up. The poor fellow hearing this, cried out, "I am not the miller, but the miller's man." "Nay friend," says the provost, "I will take thee at thy word. If thou art the miller, thou art a busy knave, and a rebel, and deservest to be hanged; if thou art not the miller, thou art a false, lying knave, and cans't never do thy master better service than to hang for him." And he ordered him instantly to be hanged on the next tree.
Many reigns after this period, we find in the page of history, that France was governed by a monarch of a far different disposition to those of the sanguinary houses of York and Lancaster. The circumstance we allude to is as follows: Chabot, admiral in the reign of Francis I. of France, was nobly descended, had done his country great service, and was highly in favour with his prince; but decaying in time, and the king having charged him with misdemeanors of a long service he had done in Piedmont, and in the defence of Marseilles against the emperor, gave his royal master some indecent language, and dared him to try him by law, for all the offences he alleged against him. Hereupon the king issued out a commission to the chancellor Poyet, as president, and to others, judges, to bring the admiral to a trial for his life, upon an information, and indictment preferred against him by the royal advocate. The chancellor was a man of unlimited ambition; and hoping to please the king in these proceedings against the admiral, inveigled some of the judges, by artifice and cunning, others by threatenings, and the rest by fair promises; and though nothing could be proved against the admiral, that merited the king's displeasure, yet the chancellor subscribed, and by his arts procured others to subscribe, to the confiscation of his estate, the forfeiture of his offices, and his liberty, though he could not prevail on them to the taking away his life. The king, abhorring falsehood in so great a magistrate, and though to any that should complain of hardships put upon the admiral, he might be answered, that he was tried as he desired, by the law and customs of his country, and by the judges of parliament; yet the king made all his passions give way to justice, and restored the admiral to his honour, his estate, his offices, and his liberty; and caused the wicked chancellor Poyet, to be indicted, arraigned, and degraded.