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as Penn believed in a plot. Sir William Temple thought there was a plot.
England was in a temper to receive with eagerness a story of intrigue. The fears of every good Protestant were fed with rumours of the royal apostasy; and the only cordial friend of the reigning house, the King of France, was known to be a bigoted servant of his church. Some vague idea got abroad that Louis had supplied the court with money. Charles was suspected of a secret leaning towards the religion of his wife and his mistresses, and the Duke of York was an avowed and obstinate Catholic. Contrary to the wishes of Parliament, James had married an Italian; should there be issue of this alliance, there was a fear that a line of Catholic princes might succeed him. Thus, the feeling of the country was alarmed; and wild as were the stories told by Oates, they found a willing audience in the streets.
On seeing how much was made of Oates by men of rank and fashion, Bedloe, Dangerfield, and other scoundrels, brought out newer, more astounding tales. The wiser people only laughed at these impostors; but the affair of Coleman and the murder of Godfrey gave such colour to the charge as made it dangerous to express in public any doubt as to the plot.
ALGERNON SYDNEY (1678-1679).
Sydney and Penn were anxious to have the alleged plot sifted to the quick; Sydney to uncover Royalist intrigues, and Penn to Batisfy his mind about the Jesuits. Sydney looked for a convenient seat. Penn could not go into the House of Commons, but he used his pen to help in what he felt to be his country's need. He issued one address to Quakers. Fearing, in the general consternation, lest some might be led astray, he exhorted them not to be drawn out of their sober course by rumours of plots and conspiracies, but to stand aloof, discharging their duties, in the perilous times which were at hand. He wrote a second address to Protestants of every denomination. These duties done, he wrote a tract entitled 'England's great Interest in the Choice of a new Parliament,' composed with a view to promote the choice of wise and liberal members at the approaching poll.
In the address to Protestants of every party, Penn reviewed the moral question. He began by showing the fallacy of vicarious virtue. If the people would be honestly governed, they must be honest themselves. Vice is the disease of which nations die. No just government ever perished— no unjust government ever long maintained its power. Virtue is the life of society. All history proves it; but if immorality is the chief destroyer of nations, unwise policy is only a little less injurious than active vice. Foremost among errors of policy is the attempt to interfere with thought. Act, not thought, is the proper subject of law. A man's conception of such abstractions as fate, freewill, election, and the like, is not a thing to punish. No less mischievous is the fallacy of measuring conduct by belief The test of faith is practice. He who acts well believes well. Morality is debased when tested from above. Virtue may be necessary to the state of grace, but grace is not indispensable to virtue. It is a grand mistake to disparage morality under pretence of looking to higher things.
'England's great Interest in the choice of a new Parliament' was political. Sydney and he were much together at this time; and Sydney's hand is traceable in the pamphlet. Sydney was a frequent and cherished guest at Worminghurst. 'All is at stake!' says Penn. 'The times demand the utmost wisdom. The new Parliament will have the gravest duties:—to investigate the plot and punish its authors; to impeach corrupt and arbitrary ministers of state; to detect and punish representatives who have sold their votes to shorten the duration of parliaments; and, finally, to ease Dissenters from the galling cruelties of the Conventicle Act and other similar acts. Such work required bold and able men.' In sketching his man for the day, he had Sydney chiefly in his mind. • The man for England should,' he urged, 'be able, learned, well affected to liberty; one who will neither buy his seat nor sell his services; he must be free from suspicion of being a pensioner on the court; he should be a person of energy and industry, free from the vices and weaknesses of town gallants; a respecter of principles, but not of persons; fearful of evil, but he should be courageous in good; a true Protestant; above all, a man unconnected by office and favour with the court.'
The writs were issued. Sydney was proposed for Guildford. Penn was at his side.
Hitherto Penn had taken no part in politics. His moral sense was hurt by scenes of low corruption—by the eating and drinking, by the revelries and disorders, by the insolence of officials, by the envy, malice, and uncharitableness to which elections then gave rise. But in the interests of his friend these scruples went for nothing. For Sydney and his cause Penn would have done much more than give a few weeks to canvassing electors, making liberal speeches, and quoting the great charters of our liberty. But government was little pleased to see him acting as the friend of Sydney, and the government had power to make him feel the King's displeasure. His account was still unsettled. Neither principal nor interest of the debts owing to his father had been paid; and it was evident that any settlement of his claim would rest on the good will of Charles and James. It was his interest therefore to be well at court. But he was acting with Sydney; a man who had borne arms against the Stuarts in his ardent youth, and in his riper manhood still avowed himself a partisan of the Commonwealth. To lie under suspicion of republicanism was enough to ruin any public man. When Sydney's hope of sitting for Guildford became known, the Court prepared to oppose his candidature with all its power; but Penn paid no respect to this hostility, and boldly put in peril the chief part of his worldly fortune rather than stand apart.
The day of election drawing nigh, the Court party became very active. Colonel Dalmahoy was sent to stand as 'a King's friend;' the mayor and recorder of the town were bought; bribery, treating, intimidation, all the baser practices, were brought to bear on Guildford. Soldiers were discharged from service on promising to vote for Dalmahoy. Nonresidents were sought. Paupers were made to tender votes. To make the Commonwealth-men odious, Penn was accused of being a Jesuit, Sydney was branded as a regicide. For upwards of three weeks the town was a scene of disorder. Both parties feasted their supporters; for the sternest virtue of that age was held to be compatible with cakes and ale.
At length the day of election came. In spite of everything the Court could do, Sydney had promises of a majority of votes. Penn went with his friend