Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/373

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Saint James's Square, and all but succeeded in carrying off his magnificent plate and jewels. Another gang made an attempt on Lambeth Palace.[326] When stately abodes, guarded by numerous servants, were in such danger, it may easily be believed that no shopkeeper's till or stock could be safe. From Bow to Hyde Park, from Thames Street to Bloomsbury, there was no parish in which some quiet dwelling had not been sacked by burglars.[327] Meanwhile the great roads were made almost impassable by freebooters who formed themselves into troops larger than had before been known. There was a sworn fraternity of twenty footpads which met at an alehouse in Southwark.[328] But the most formidable band of plunderers consisted of two and twenty horsemen.[329] It should seem that, at this time, a journey of fifty miles through the wealthiest and most populous shires of England was as dangerous as a pilgrimage across the deserts of Arabia. The Oxford stage coach was pillaged in broad day after a bloody fight.[330] A waggon laden with fifteen thousand pounds of public money was stopped and ransacked. As this operation took some time, all the travellers who came to the spot while the thieves were busy were seized and guarded. When the booty had been secured the prisoners were suffered to depart on foot; but their horses, sixteen or eighteen in number, were shot or hamstringed, to prevent pursuit.[331] The Portsmouth mail was robbed twice in one week by men well armed and mounted.[332] Some jovial Essex squires, while riding after a hare, were themselves chased and run down by nine hunters of a different sort, and were heartily glad to find themselves at home again, though with empty pockets.[333]

The friends of the government asserted that the marauders were all Jacobites; and indeed there were some appearances which gave colour to the assertion. For example, fifteen butchers,