Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/572

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

There were then no printed newspapers except the London Gazette. But since the Revolution the newsletter had become a more important political engine than it had previously been. The newsletters of one writer named Dyer were widely circulated in manuscript. He affected to be a Tory and a High Churchman, and was consequently regarded by the foxhunting lords of manors, all over the kingdom, as an oracle. He had already been twice in prison; but his gains had more than compensated for his sufferings, and he still persisted in seasoning his intelligence to suit the taste of the country gentlemen. He now turned the Lancashire plot into ridicule, declared that the guns which had been found were old fowling pieces, that the saddles were meant only for hunting, and that the swords were rusty reliques of Edge Hill and Marston Moor.[542] The effect produced by all this invective and sarcasm on the public mind seems to have been great. Even at the Dutch Embassy, where assuredly there was no leaning towards Jacobitism, there was a strong impression that it would be unwise to bring the prisoners to trial. In Lancashire and Cheshire the prevailing sentiments were pity for the accused and hatred of the prosecutors. The government however persevered. In October four Judges went down to Manchester. At present the population of that town is made up of persons born in every part of the British Isles, and consequently has no especial sympathy with the landowners, the farmers and the agricultural labourers of the neighbouring districts. But in the seventeenth century the Manchester man was a Lancashire man. His politics were those of his county. For the old Cavalier families of his county he felt a great respect; and he was furious when he thought that some of the best blood of his county was about to be shed by a knot of Roundhead pettifoggers from London. Multitudes of people from the neighbouring villages filled the streets of the town, and saw with grief and indignation the array of drawn swords and loaded carbines which surrounded the culprits. Aaron Smith's arrangements do not seem to have