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BLASPHEMY AND HERESY (1669).
Though Arlington was backed by Charles, he knew that he had gone too far, unless he could complete his task. He had induced his Majesty to let the thing go on by putting Penn's proceedings in a comic light, and making Charles believe that ten or twelve days in a dark and wintry vault would bring that youngster to his knees. Charles knew how Admiral Penn himself had winced and fainted in the Tower. If Penn's young spirit could be broken, Arlington was safe; for if the writer of 'The Sandy Foundation Shaken' were brought to own his fault, admit the charge of blasphemy, and beg Lord Arlington to intercede for him, the Admiral could not afterwards resent the injury of his commitment to the Tower.
Arlington's first care was to make the world believe that Penn was not a prisoner of the State; that Bishop Henchman, whose authority was touched, had been the mover; and that Penn would have to answer for his crime before the Consistorial court. Some persons were deceived by Arlington's reports; among these persons Penn himself. One day a servant from the Navy Gardens, who was suffered to attend him in his chamber, said the rumour in the city was that my Lord of London was exceedingly angry with him, and had answered some who spoke about the charge of blasphemy, 'Penn shall either recant or die a prisoner.' Penn was staggered for a moment; he was only twenty-four years old; and Arlington had led him to expect release from day to day. Then turning to his servant, he replied, * Now all is well.' He knew the worst, and rose to meet it like a man. 'I wish,' he added, ' they had told me so before, since the expecting of release put a stop to some business.' Penn was much deceived about the prelate. Henchman was not present when the Council signed his order of commitment, nor was any other officer of the Church, save Charles, as born Defender of the Faith. This born Defender of the Faith was not much versed in sacred lore; but if he had one serious purpose in his brain, it was that men should not be troubled in his kingdom for affairs of faith. He stood in need of much indulgence, and he tried to keep his creed a secret from the world. To rouse religious passion was alike against his humour and his interest. Not a single case of blasphemy had been tried since he began to reign. But Arlington was in a strait, and Charles imagined that the easiest way to pull him through it was to frighten the young gentleman in the Tower ; to pardon his offence without the scandal of a public trial; and, on due submission, to restore him, cured of his ridiculous whimsies, to his father's
house. But Charles, like Arlington, was apt to count his victories before his adversary's sword was down.
'Thou mayst tell my father,' said the prisoner to his servant, 'my prison shall be my grave before I will budge one jot. I owe my conscience to no mortal man. I have no fear. God will make amends for all.' The Admiral was lying in a sick bed, unable to attend the meetings of his board, and only strong enough at intervals to crawl across the bridge and see his son. Court feuds were running high; the Admiral's friends were losing ground; and Coventry, his closest comrade, was unlikely to retain his seat. The state of parties vexed him. At the Navy Board his rivals were intriguing to get rid of him. He dared not hope for new commands at sea His health was breaking fast. On every side he saw the twilight closing round his house.
To lend some show of fairness to his seizure of Penn's 'Sandy Foundation Shaken,' Arlington, who heard that Vincent was engaged in printing a reply to that pamphlet, called 'The Foundation of God Standeth Sure,' despatched an officer to the house of Thomas Johnson, printer, with instructions to seize the copies of Vincent's book; Vincent had no more thought of asking for a license than Penn had done, and the Secretary had a legal right to seize his papers, carry him to a justice of the peace, and have him tried for breach of law. Tom Widdower, the King's messenger, who went to search Johnson's premises, found the types and papers gone; they had been carried oft' the previous night; but Widdower got a clue to their hiding-place in the cellars of William Burden, one of Johnson's friends. A fortnight after Charles had been pleased to order Penn to be kept a prisoner in the Tower, and Derby in the Gatehouse, Widdower was authorized to take the bodies of Johnson and Burden into his custody, to seize all copies he could find of Vincent's book, and bring the two prisoners, with their types, before one of his Majesty's principal Secretaries of State. No search was made for Vincent. After nine days had been spent by Burden and Johnson in the messenger's house, the men were liberated on petition to the King, and not a second word was said about this printing of unlicensed books. The book itself was out. When Vincent heard of Johnson's types being seized, he found a second printer, got his work set up, and in a week 'The Foundation of God' was scattered far and wide in the religious world. This pamphlet bore no license from the Bishop of London, and it had no printer's name affixed. It was a product of the secret press; yet no proceedings were commenced by Arlington, and Vincent paid no visit to his Majesty's Secretary of State.
Days, weeks, passed by. The winter wore away, and Penn sat waiting in his dungeon for the royal mood to change. From time to time the King sent down some person skilled in fence to search his mind. These persons found him very gentle in his ways, but not inclined to yield in what was now the central point. They told the King that Penn had given them 'reasonable, good satisfaction;' but his Majesty wanted more than Penn could give. The weeks of his imprisonment grew months. In March, his friend, Sir William Coventry, was brought into the Tower a prisoner, on a charge of challenging the Duke of Buckingham to fight. Coventry, a Privy Councillor, was lodged in Raleigh's old prison, the Brick tower, on the northern wall, where he remained for sixteen days, and then, completely broken in his spirit, made a full submission, and retired a ruined man. From time to time adroit and learned persons came to visit Penn; but these divines could say no more than that they found him in a 'reasonable' state of mind. The Admiral, who heard of these reports, resolved to make an effort for his son's relief. For ten weeks he had been unable to attend the Navy Board; but on the thirtieth day of March, he went in person to Whitehall, where he presented a petition to the King, and took the seat which he had held so long. In his petition he expressed his sorrow for those failings of his son which had incurred his Majesty's displeasure; but while he admitted that the youth had fallen away from his Church, and so provoked the King to anger, he expressed a confident hope that God would bring him back to true religion, and a full conviction that he would do nothing to the prejudice of his Majesty's crown and government. He referred to the 'reasonable satisfaction' which his son had given and begged his Majesty to set him free.