Ely, who was still permitted by the government to reside in the palace, now no longer his own, and who had, but a short time before, called heaven to witness that he detested the thought of inviting foreigners to invade England. One good opportunity had been lost; but another was at hand, and must not be suffered to escape. The usurper would soon be again out of England. The administration would soon be again confided to a weak woman and a divided council. The year which was closing had certainly been unlucky; but that which was about to commence might be more auspicious.
In December a meeting of the leading Jacobites was held. The sense of the assembly, which consisted exclusively of Protestants, was that something ought to be attempted, but that the difficulties were great. None ventured to recommend that James should come over unaccompanied by regular troops. Yet all, taught by the experience of the preceding summer, dreaded the effect which might be produced by the sight of French uniforms and standards on English ground. A paper was drawn up which would, it was hoped, convince both James and Lewis that a restoration could not be effected without the cordial concurrence of the nation. France, — such was the substance of this remarkable document, — might possibly make the island a heap of ruins, but never a subject province. It was hardly possible for any person, who had not had an opportunity of observing the temper of the public mind, to imagine the savage and dogged determination with which men of all classes, sects and factions were prepared to resist any foreign potentate who should attempt to conquer the kingdom by force of arms. Nor could England be governed as a Roman Catholic country. There were five millions of Protestants in the realm: there were not a hundred thousand Papists: that such a minority should keep down such a majority was physically impossible; and to physical impossibility all other considerations must give way. James would
- My account of this conspiracy is chiefly taken from the evidence, oral and documentary, which was produced on the trial of the conspirators. See also Burnet, ii. 69, 70, the Appendix to Dalrymple's Memoirs, Part II. Book vi, and the Life of James, ii. 441. Narcissus Luttrell remarks that no Roman Catholic appeared to have been admitted to the consultations of the conspirators.