Front Page Titles (by Subject) An authentic Narrative of the late Proceedings and cruel Execution at Thorn; with two Letters written upon that Occasion by Britannicus, in the London Journal. To which is prefixed, An Account of the Rights and Privileges of the City of Thorn. A - A Collection of Tracts, vol. 2
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An authentic Narrative of the late Proceedings and cruel Execution at Thorn; with two Letters written upon that Occasion by Britannicus, in the London Journal. To which is prefixed, An Account of the Rights and Privileges of the City of Thorn. A - John Trenchard, A Collection of Tracts, vol. 2 
A Collection of Tracts. By the Late John Trenchard, Esq; and Thomas Gordon, Esq; Vol. II. (London: F. Cogan, 1751).
Part of: A Collection of Tracts, 2 vols.
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An authentic Narrative of the late Proceedings and cruel Execution at Thorn; with two Letters written upon that Occasion by Britannicus, in the London Journal. To which is prefixed, An Account of the Rights and Privileges of the City of Thorn.
TO give a particular Account of Prussia, and the Privileges of its Cities, I must begin from the first Institution of those Knights who conquered it. This happened about the Year 1100, or very little after; but so inconsiderable was the Foundation, that no Notice was taken of them till the Year 1190 or 91, when an Expedition to the Holy Land was undertaken by Richard I. of England, and Philip of France; but these Actions are foreign to my present Purpose. I shall just observe, that these Knights were called Fratres Hospitii Hierosolymitani, for their great Hospitality; Mariani, for their Devotion to the Virgin Mary; Teutonici, from their Nation, being all Germans; Equites Cruciferi, from their Arms; and are still known by the Name of the Teutonic Order.
About the Year 1203, another Order of Knights, called Ensiferi, appeared in the North; and in 35 Years, the whole Time of their Duration, they took from the Danes, Revel, Estonia, and all that belonged to them in Livonia. But finding the Enemy too strong for them, and the second Great Master being dead, they proposed calling in to their Assistance the powerful Teutonic Order, which was upon the Point of being quite driven out of Palestine, as not having sufficient Forces to withstand the Saracens. These readily embraced the Offer, and in the Year 1238, they were united in the Presence of the Pope, retaining the Name of the Teutonic Order.
Prussia was at this Time inhabited by Heathens, who were very troublesome to Conradus, Duke of Masovia, who called the Teutonics to his Assistance; and they readily engaged in a War against the Pagans: But notwithstanding all their Bravery, and several Crusadoes that were raised in their Favour, they were 53 Years before they conquered all Prussia, and extirpated the Natives; but at length they effected it, and all that Tract of Land became subject to the great Master of that Order.
But in Process of Time, these Knights, corrupted by Wealth and Power, grew very degenerate, and exercised such Tyranny over the People, that Prussia was ripe for a Revolt; and Uladislaus Jagello, the brave King of Poland, having in a pitched Battle, overthrown the Knights, the most adjacent Parts of the Kingdom shook off the Yoke they groaned under, and put themselves under that Monarch’s Protection; and all Prussia had done the same, had not the Pope interposed between them; and by his Mediation it was agreed, that seventy Towns and Castles, which were specified, should be delivered to the King of Poland, and the remaining Part of Prussia should be held by the Teutonic Order, as a Fief of the Kingdom of Poland. In which State it continued till 1657, when all that Tract called Ducal Prussia, was, with Sovereign Power, transferred to the illustrious House of Brandenburgh, and that Part called Royal Prussia was to remain to the Crown of Poland; which, however, was not at that Time wholly under its Subjection, some Part of it, particularly Thorn, being then taken from them by Sweden.
The Knights of this Order, or at least the Remains of them who were under a Heer-Meister, were obliged to retire to Livonia, where they again carried on several Wars. After the Reformation of Martin Luther, they accepted the Confession of Augsburg, as did the greatest Part of Prussia; and the full and free Exercise of their Religion was granted them, provided they would tolerate the Roman Catholics amongst them; but the Knights being at last worsted by their Neighbours, were obliged to seek the Protection of the neighbouring Potentates. The Town of Revel, with Part of Estonia, made Peace with Sweden, and paid Homage to Ericus, whilst the Heer-Meister and the Marquis of Brandenburg did the same to the King of Poland, for themselves and all those Places which had formerly belonged to them, and which, as fast as they could be recovered from the Enemies, should also appertain to the Crown of Poland, and Great Dutchy of Lithuania; but upon Condition, that the King and his Successors should maintain them in the Confession of Augsburg, and not suffer any Innovations to be made therein; but should confirm to all the Provinces their Privileges, Laws and Liberties in Temporal and Spiritual Things, &c. This Pacta Subjectionis being concluded, was sworn to on both Sides, at a Dyet held at Wilna, the 28th of November, in the Year 1561, and is confirmed by every King of Poland in the Oath he takes at his Election, when the Maintenance of the established Religion in the several Parts of his Dominions, is solemnly promised.
In the War between Charles Gustavus of Sweden, and John Casimir, King of Poland, some Part of Polish Prussia was conquered; amongst others, the Swedes took Thorn in the Year 1655; but the King dying, and his Successor being but five Years old, the Treaty which had been begun in his Life-time was renewed, and the Monastery of Oliva pitched upon for the Place, where it was at length concluded, and signed the 3d of May, 1660, between the Poles and Swedes as Principals, and the Emperor and Elector of Brandenburgh as Allies, each Party becoming Guarantee for the whole Treaty. The King of France too appeared as Mediator and Guarantee; but the Emperor refusing to accept him as such, he was not named in the Treaty exchanged with his Imperial Majesty. It was at the same time stipulated, that at the Exchange of the Ratifications, each treating Party should have the Liberty of naming other Guarantees, by which means the Elector of Hanover also became one.
By this Treaty, Thorn and the other conquered Places were restored to Poland, with this Covenant* , “That the Towns of Polish Prussia, which, during this War, have been in the Emperor and the King of Sweden’s Power, shall likewise preserve all their Rights, Liberties and Privileges, in Matters Ecclesiastical and Civil, which they had enjoyed before this War (in preserving the free Exercise of the Catholic and Protestant Religion, as they had before the War) and his Polish Majesty shall have, for the future, the same Goodness he formerly had for them, and defend with the same Care the Territories of those Towns, their Magistrates, Communities, Citizens, Inhabitants, and Subjects. They shall likewise have Power given them to repair and rebuild the public and private Edifices ruined by the War, &c.
The City of Thorn is governed by a President, a Vice-President, a Burgrave, a Vice-Burgrave, and the City Council, who, according to their Charter, ought all of them to be Lutherans: They dispose of the Command of the Militia, and the Officers too should be Lutherans; but they are to tolerate the Roman Catholics amongst them. There has, since the Reformation, been a very fine College there, where the Lutheran Youth of Poland in general, used to be educated, the best Churches of the Place were theirs, even since the Peace of Oliva, that is, within these 65 Years: But they have been, by Degrees, very much encroached upon by the Roman Catholics, especially by the Jesuits, who having got a College there also, seduce as many of the Lutheran Youth as they can: Nor do they care by what Means they compass their Ends; for if they can but once excite a Quarrel, they are sure to get by it; for though the Mob should do no Mischief, they’ll take Care to do enough, and lay it upon them.
The Poles are very great Bigots; and having now intirely subjected these Towns, which at first only put themselves under the Protection of the King, they use them in a very arbitrary Manner; and if a religious Difference arises, they have generally no Regard to Justice or Treaties, but sacrifice all that dare oppose the Catholics. By these Means Thorn has suffered more than once; and the Jesuits, who are never accused of being over conscientious, know how to make the best Use of this Spirit of Bigotry, and to acquire new Possessions, and new Riches, which they have no Title to. An Example of which was seen in this last Commotion; for though it was evidently known, that the College of the Jesuits, with all their Furniture, &c. was not worth above 30,000 Florins at most, yet they offered to swear the Damage they had sustained at 30,600. The Commissioners, after having examined into the Mischief done, allowed them 22,000, which was about double of what they really suffered, whether from the Mob or themselves, besides which, the Vice-President’s House and Gardens, adjoining to the College, was given to them.
In the other Differences that have happened between the Jesuits and the unhappy Lutherans, the latter, tho’ always the least guilty, have always been punished, and the former rewarded; but this was never done in so flagrant a Manner before: Till now they contented themselves with fining them, or taking a Church at a Time; but by this last Judgment against the Protestants, they have deprived them of their Rights, Estates, Religion, and Lives.
That what I here suggest has real Foundation, and that the Jesuits themselves were the original Contrivers and Fomenters of this Tumult, with this View, appears clearly from the Letters of the Kings of Denmark and Prussia; and that the Roman Clergy have been at all Times capable of such a Conduct, is also undeniably evident, from a Letter written by Sir Henry Neville, Ambassador in France, to Secretary Cecill.
“There happened upon Corpus Christi Day last at Limoges, a Matter which doth easily discover the Passion and Malice yet remaining in the Popish Side here against the Protestants. Certain Priests themselves went into the Church in the Night, and broke down some Images, and (as they say) cast the Sacrament about the Church. In the Morning the People assembling, a great Exclamation was made by the Priests of this Outrage, and some principal Men of the Religion in that Town, charged by Name to be the Doers of it. The People by and by grew in Fury, and would have proceeded to the present Execution of them, taking Arms, as I am informed, for that Purpose, and the other Side arming themselves likewise for their own Defence. Monsieur de Salignac, Governor of the Town, arriving and examining the Matter, found that one of the Religion was charged by Name to have been an Actor in it, who had been in his Company all that Night: Whereupon, suspecting the Matter, he caused some of the principal Accusers to be severely examined, and namely, one offered to depose that he had seen this Man there, whom Monsieur de Salignac knew to be absent; and threatening him with the Torture, drew the Confession from him of the whole Practice, and that they had done it to the Intent to have moved the People to a Sedition, and to have cut the Throats of them of the Religion: Hereupon some of them were apprehended, and some fled. What Justice will be done hereupon is much expected. This Matter will be disguised, I am sure, to your Honour, by the French Ambassador; but this is the Truth of it, as I received it from Monsieur de Bellievre, of whose Sincerity I find more Cause daily to believe than in Monsieur de Villeroy’s; who, when I was with him at Constans, denied that there was any such Matter at all, and since hath sought to disguise it to me as much as he could, suppressing all that toucheth the Priests.” Winwood’s Coll. Vol. I. p. 55. Ann. 1599.
The Behaviour of the Roman Catholics in Poland upon this Occasion, is very remarkable, and agreeable to the Conduct of this worst Part of their Clergy; for the Letters from Warsaw, Cracow, Lemberg, and other Places in Poland say, that the dreadful Execution at Thorn, has filled both the Romish Clergy and common People with extraordinary Joy; and as there is no other Popish Country, where People of Distinction, as well as the Vulgar, pay more Reverence and Devotion to Images than they do in the abovesaid Kingdom, some are still of Opinion, that this Execution, as severe as it was, is no sufficient Atonement for the Prosanation of such an Image as that of the holy Virgin.
But we hope there will soon be some effectual Methods taken to redress these unhappy Sufferers at Thorn; for besides the Letters inserted in the following Papers, it is assured that the King of Great Britain has written to the King of Poland with his own Hand, on their Behalf; and from Berlin we have Advice, that his Prussian Majesty having been informed, that the Roman Catholics, notwithstanding their enormous and unheard of Proceedings at Thorn, are still going on with their Persecutions, and labouring at the total Oppression of the Protestant Citizens of that Town, has sent to his Polish Majesty at Dresden another Letter, in much stronger Terms than the former, concluding that his Polish Majesty would be pleased to interpose and exert his Royal Authority to put a Stop to these farther Proceedings; in Default whereof, he says, he must expect to see this Affair redressed in another Manner, and with great Eclat.
An authentic Narrative of the late Proceedings and cruel Execution at Thorn.
THE Tumult at Thorn, and the Proceedings thereupon, have made so much Noise in the World, and the Affair so nearly concerns the Protestant Interest and the Reformed Religion in general, that it is highly requisite an authentic Account of it should be delivered down to Posterity, and every original Piece preserved that relates to it.
This Affair was long talked of, before we could come at any real Account of it. The first Piece which can be called authentic, was that which was sent by the Council of that City to the King of Poland, and is as follows:
ON the 16th of July, (O. S.) the ordinary Procession being arrived at St. James’s Church-yard, which Church had been taken from the Lutherans, contrary to the Peace of Oliva, there were there a great Number of the Citizens Children to see the Procession pass, with their Hats under their Arms, according to Custom; but a Student of the Jesuits College, not satisfied with that Mark of Civility and Respect, would needs have them kneel down, and gave them bad Language and Blows. About two Hours after the Procession, the same Student, with several of his Comrades, came again, and insulted several other young People, without the least Provocation on their Part; but in the End, this troublesome young Man was seized by the Soldiers of the Garison, and brought to the Guard, after he had wounded several Citizens with Stones. Next Day the Students got together again, and meeting one of the Citizens whom they had abused the Day before, they would oblige him to get their Comrade set at Liberty; but the Man had the good Fortune to get out of their Hands, and went for Safety to his own House, whither they pursued him Sword in Hand. In the mean time, the President of the City had given Orders for setting the Student at Liberty, at the Request of the Rector of the Jesuits College; but another Student being likewise carried to the Guard-Room, his Comrades would oblige the President to set him at Liberty also, which he refused to do till he had spoke to the Rector. Upon this the outragious Students ran furiously to the Guard-Room, to rescue their Comrade; but being repulsed, they sought to revenge themselves upon a Townsman, whom they pursued Sword in Hand to the Burgrave’s House, where he took Shelter. After that, they attacked a Lutheran Student, who was at the Door of his Lodgings in his Night-Gown; whom they dragged by the Hair as far as their own College, threw him into the Canal, and beat him severely: Which done, they sallied out with Sabres in their Hands, and wounded several People that came to the Student’s Assistance; but the President having sent thither the Town-Guard, they were obliged to betake themselves to their College. The President, at the same time, reclaimed the Lutheran Student, but the Rector would not let him go till the Student of his College was set at Liberty first. Whilst this Exchange was making, some of the Trained-Bands of the Town were ordered to post themselves before the Jesuits College, to protect them from the enraged Populace; but when the Students fired upon them, and threw Stones from within, it was not possible to restrain the People, who forced open the Gate, and were doing what they could to revenge the Students Cruelty; when in that very Instant, the Town-Clerk, who had got the Lutheran Student set at Liberty, came and obliged them to retire. It was then thought that the Riot was over; but the Guards that were posted before the College had scarce marched off, when the Students from within fired again, and threw Stones at the People, who forced open the Gate again, plundered the College, and committed great Disorders, till a Detachment of the Garison and Trained Bands came to the Jesuits Assistance, and dispersed the People, &c.
To invalidate this Account, the Jesuits drew up another, which they also dispatched to Court, which ran thus:
A faithful and true Catholic Account of the horrid Tumult, and most barbarous Profanation of the Chapels, and sacred Oratories, together with the overthrowing of the Altars, pulling down and afterwards sacrilegiously burning, in the open Street, the Images of our Saviour, the most blessed Virgin, and other Saints, accompanied with infinite Blasphemies and Mockeries; and lastly, of the pillaging of the whole College of the Jesuits at Thorn, committed by the Hereticks of the same City, on the 27th of July 1724.
LEST the Heretics should, according to their Custom, excuse and palliate, by artful Lies and Calumnies, their impious Attempts and Outrages, we shall here give the Reader a short, but faithful, Account of what has passed. But first of all it will be necessary to lay down a fundamental Caution, sufficient to enervate and invalidate any Accounts that come from Heretics, on what Head soever. This Caution is grounded upon the very Principles of their Faith: By which it will appear, that even in worldly Affairs, infinitely more Credit is to be given to a Catholic Evidence or Writing, than to those of the Dissenters; since the Roman Catholics assert and believe, that they are able, and ought, on Pain of eternal Damnation, to keep God’s Commandments, whereof the following is not the least, Thou shalt not bear false Witness (much less in Writing, because it descends to Posterity) against thy Neighbour, were he even a Jew: Which Commandment the Catholics hope and strive, with the Grace of God, to observe; whereas the Heretics are of a quite different Opinion, maintaining an Impossibility to keep God’s Commandments, and consequently the abovesaid. For which Reason, the Observance of God’s Laws is what troubles them the least: Nay, they are justly afraid, that the more they strive to act and to live up to God’s Commands, the more they trespass upon their System of Faith, by obstinately resisting God’s pre-necessitating Will, by which they are actuated and forcibly influenced in all their Doings, whether good or bad; insomuch, that should they tell any Truth, or do any Good, through their own Choice and Free-will, they would (in their Opinion) betray a Diffidence as to the only saving Faith, and detract from the Fulness of Christ’s Satisfaction, and his infinite Merits.
On the 27th of July last, being one of the holy Virgin’s Festivals, when the holy Sacrament was carried in Procession round about St. James’s Church, a mean Lutheran Burgher came to gaze at it with his Hat on, and uttered several Blasphemies, with an Intent to provoke the Catholics; for which a Student of the Jesuits, being fired with a holy Zeal and Indignation, chastised him only by pulling off his Hat. No sooner was the Procession over, but the Lutherans gathering together in the abovesaid Church-yard, without regard to that sacred Place, and the Church Immunities, fell upon the said Student, beat him barbarously, and dragged him, covered with Blood, to the Guard-House, where this Avenger of God’s Honour was ignominiously kept till the next Day: Upon which some Catholic Students, according to their Duty, went peaceably to the Burgrave of the City, most humbly desiring him to release the Prisoner, assuring him withal, that he should appear when required. But they were answered, Let those who committed him release him. Then they went to the President of the City, who having likewise given them a frivolous Answer, they followed the Burgrave’s Advice, and applied themselves to the Burgher, whom they desired, in a civil manner to get the Student set at Liberty, since he had been the Occasion of his Confinement, engaging for his Appearance before any competent Court; but instead of complying, the said Burgher got one of those interceeding innocent Students also committed, without the least Cause or Offence given. The Students being thus baffled, went again to the President, in order to sollicit the Release of their Comrade, who was last committed; but the President’s Domestics, far from admitting them, laughed at them, and forcibly turned them out of Doors with opprobrious Language. When the Catholics perceived that nothing would do, and being no longer able to bear the Injuries this Uncatholic City had done them, and especially of late, when a Student of a noble Family was seized in his Chamber at Midnight, almost undressed, to the great Disgrace of the Catholic Nobility, and from thence kicked down Stairs, and hurried away to Prison, where he was kept all Night; and though his Innocence appeared next Day, he could never obtain any Satisfaction for the Affront given him. The Jesuit Students and the Nobility, having often met with such premeditated Treatments from the Lutherans, and being afresh irritated by what happened last, they seized and carried away a Lutheran Student, though without the Knowledge of the Fathers Jesuits, and brought him into their College; however, without any Design to return the same ill Usage, but only in View to exchange this Dissenting Student for the two Catholics under Arrest, assuring him that he should be set free again without any farther Molestation. But then it was that the Mob rose, not so much by the Connivance, as by the Instigation of the Magistrates, the Gates being purposely shut sooner that Day than usual, having for their Leader the Town-Clerk, who excited the People to break the Windows of the College, instead of demanding the Lutheran, who would have been immediately delivered: By which it was evident, that they aimed not so much at having the Lutheran Student released, as to shew their Fury and long premeditated Vengeance against the Jesuits, for having brought over so many Lutherans to the Catholic Church. Afterwards they broke open the Doors, whilst the City Guards which were come up, far from checking them, encouraged them, in Hopes of sharing in the Booty, in case of Resistance: But seeing that the Aggressors were in no Danger from those within the Schools and the College, who were only armed with religious Innocence, they withdrew, by Order of one of the Consuls, who did not so much as give the least Rebuke to the Aggressors. Whereupon the enraged Mob seeing their Censor gone, and their Crime countenanced, rushed furiously into the Schools, broke and overturned whatever they found in their Way, and afterwards forced open the Chapel and Oratories, where they demolished the Altars, hewed down the sacred Statues, and tore and hacked to Pieces the Images, and especially that of the holy Virgin; and what is most abominable, dragged to the public Square before the Schools, the Statues of the blessed Virgin, of St. Xaverius, Casimir, and others, where they burnt them openly, impiously exulting and leaping all the while over the Fire, borrowing these blasphemous Words from the Jews and Heathens, Now, now, Woman, save thyself! since the Papists boast so much of the Help thou offerdest them; and then scoffingly cried out, Vivat Jesus, Maria, Joseph! And not contented with having thus insulted the greatest Saints, they returned a second Time to the College; where having with still greater Fury forced the Gates, they beat and abused most cruelly all those of the holy Order that came in their Way; most of which were obliged to hide themselves in Holes and under the Roof to save their Lives, whilst those Miscreants were busy in breaking open their Cells, and carrying away their Goods: Which done, they forced open the Chapel Door, which was curiously carved, with their Hatchets, cut to Pieces all the Images of Saints, and vented their unbounded Fury even upon two Crucifixes, one of which was split with an Ax, and the other stabbed with Swords and shattered with their Fire-arms. Having now nothing left to demolish and to rob, they went to find out God’s Servants to put them to Death; upon which the Commandant of the City, whose Assistance was till then vainly implored, under Pretence that his Men were to be employed against the Enemy, and not against the Citizens, being informed of the utmost Danger the Fathers and others of the College were in, thought fit to appease the Tumult at Midnight, by forcing out of the College those impious Wretches: Without which Succours, though they came very late, all the Jesuits, and even all the Roman Catholics of that Heretic City, would probably have lost their Lives. How they have behaved themselves in the following Days, and what they have done after more mature Deliberation; how they braved afterwards the King and the Senate’s Authority; and how they almost renewed the Sedition when the Crown Troops were sent against them, is sufficiently known, and shews a premeditated Conspiration against the Catholics; which, however, we refer to the Judgment of those who have the supreme Judicature and Power in their Hands. As for us, we pray heartily for their Repentance, and that they may be converted, and return to the Communion of their Forefathers, and so live.
[Thus far the Jesuits Account.]
I shall observe here, that this Tumult happened much about the Time when they were chusing Nuncios for the Dyet; or, to give the English Reader a juster Idea, Members of the Polish Parliament; and these, as well as their Electors, the Jesuits thought necessary to spirit up beforehand in their Cause: Every Sunday they appeared in the Pulpits, and filled the Minds of their Hearers with the Danger of the Catholic Church, and the Peril they were in amongst false Brethren. Their Discourses produced the desired Effect; as will be seen when I come to speak of the Dyet.
But lest any Time should be lost, they dispatched other Emissaries to Court to deny and confute all the Protestants might say; and with such Success there, that Commissioners were appointed to go to the City and examine into the Matter, in order to make the Report; but these did not consist of an equal Number of Catholics and Lutherans, as the Nature of the Cause required, but was a Commission wholly composed of Papists, Men whom the Jesuits knew they could very well depend upon.
Alarmed at the News of this Commission, the Lutherans immediately dispatched an Express to Court, to desire that the Persons appointed to examine into this Affair, might be half Lutherans and half Papists; but in the mean time the Commissioners proceeded, and soon dispatched their Business.
The Report being made, Instructions were given to the Assessorial Tribunal, or High Court of Justice, to proceed to the Trial of the Protestants of Thorn; the Attorney-General was ordered to prosecute, and the Jesuits sent in their Depositions.
The Lutherans now saw a Storm gathering against them, and began to apprehend the Consequences of it; but yet they flattered themselves, that when brought to a Trial, they should be honourably acquitted, it being their Right and Privilege to be tried by a Commission, one half of which should be composed of Protestants; but they only flattered themselves, that Regard would be had to Right. The Assessorial Tribunal consisting also of all staunch Roman Catholics, were the Persons ordered to take Cognizance of the Affair, and Sentence was soon passed upon the Magistrates and others, and that in a very extraordinary manner; for far from being present at their Trials, they did not so much as know the Day when they were to come on; nor was the Cause judged upon the Place, or in the County where the Fact was committed; the Criminals, as they were deemed, being at that Time exercising their Office, or at least in their own Houses at Thorn, whilst the Prosecution against them was carrying on at Warsaw.
The Sentence or Decree pronounced by the Assessorial Tribunal on this Occasion, was, that the President and Vice-President should lose their Heads, for not having endeavoured to appease the Tumult, as they were by their Offices obliged; and that their Estates should be confiscated to defray the Charges the Town had been at on this Occasion.
Gerard Thomas, Burgrave, and Quinmerman, Vice-Burgrave, both Lords of Thorn, were declared infamous, and incapable hereafter of holding any Place of Trust, and were also to be imprisoned, and to pay a certain Fine for Neglect of their Duty, in not having pacified the Tumult: And two Officers of the Garison of Thorn were fined and committed to the Tower, because they did not hinder the Populace firing again upon the Jesuits College.
Harder, Moab, and Thirteen more specified in the Sentence, were condemned to lose their Heads, as having been the first Aggressors in the Jesuits College; and some others accused of having burnt the sacred Image of the Virgin Mary, were sentenced to have their Right Hands cut off, then to be quartered, and their Bodies to be burned under the Gallows.
The Church of St. Maria belonging to the Lutherans, was by the same Sentence taken away from them, and given to the Roman Catholics, and the Lutherans ordered to buy Plate for the Altar to be there erected. The Lutheran College, to which all the Protestant Youths of Poland and Lithuania used to be sent, is to be removed a League out of Town. The Town is to pay the Jesuits for the Damage they have received in the Tumult. The Magistrates and Council of Thorn, which were all Lutherans, according to their Constitution, are for the future to consist of half Protestants and half Papists, and all the Officers must henceforward be Roman Catholics. Several other Citizens were sentenced to be whipt and imprisoned, and to pay a Fine, which is to be employed in erecting a Pillar in the Place where the Image of the Virgin Mary was burnt, for a perpetual Memorial.
The Nuncios of the Dyet, as I before observed, had been spirited up in this Cause, and that to such a Degree, that when they assembled, they refused entering upon any Affair, till the Jesuits should have received Satisfaction, and the City of Thorn be punished for the Riot; and this certainly hastened the Sentence.
The Dyet not content that this Decree was given by the Assessorial Tribunal, fearing lest it should be mitigated, ordered it to be brought before them; although it was an Affair that they had not the least to do with, nor was it their Business to take any Cognizance of it: But notwithstanding all this, it was brought before them, and they unanimously (the only Instance of their Unanimity during their six Weeks sitting) confirmed it into a Law. The whole Resolutions of the Dyet consisted but of four Articles; and This, which was the Third, was much longer than the Two first, though they related to the Safety and Protection of the Kingdom. I am not willing to quote Authorities, without inserting them at length, and therefore shall give my Readers a Translation of this Article.
III. ‘As the Inhabitants of Thorn, in Defiance of the Constitutions, and the Decrees of our serene Predecessors, and even in Contempt of all Laws both Divine and Human, have, by the Connivance of their Superiors, and upon a slight Occasion, lifted up their insolent Hands against the Persons and Places dedicated to God, wherein they have behaved themselves with the greatest Boldness and Assurance, because the like Disorders passed formerly with Impunity; insomuch, that the orthodox Religion, the public Safety, and the Liberty of the Church, have not only suffered great Violence, but, which is yet more scandalous, the Laws are become contemptible.
‘And forasmuch as it highly concerns us, and the States of the Republic, that our Subjects and Inhabitants should live peaceably, and mutually support one another; therefore, to the End, that instead of so manifest Contempt of God and the whole Cœlestial Hierarchy, sacred Persons and Gods upon Earth should be reverenced and respected according to the divine Will, and that the Laws of the Kingdom be likewise maintained, the Decree issued from our Assessorial Tribunal at the Instances of our Sollicitor-General, and the Reverend Fathers the Jesuits of the College of Thorn, against the Magistrates of the said City, the Seditious and Ringleaders of the Tumult, shall be forthwith executed in its full Extent: We hereby strictly charge our Crown Generals to assist the Commissaries appointed to execute that Sentence, to furnish and to march as many Troops as will be necessary for that Purpose, but without departing from the Military Discipline established by the new Law.”
When this Decree came down to Thorn, it very much surprized its Inhabitants; but there was Time enough left for his Prussian Majesty and the other Protestant Princes to interpose, and stop the Execution of the Sentence; and immediately accordingly the Kings of Prussia and Denmark dispatched Expresses to his Polish Majesty, with the following Letters.
The King of Prussia’s Letter to the King of Poland.
WE cannot forbear acquainting your Majesty how deeply we have been afflicted by the severe Sentence lately passed and published against the Inhabitants of Thorn, on account of the unhappy Tumult arisen there. Nothing indeed could more move our Compassion, than to see these poor People of our Communion proceeded against, not only with Fire and Sword, under the Pretence of avenging God’s Honour, but also with taking away their Church and School, and overturning the Constitution of that City, in order to compleat the Oppression of the Protestant Inhabitants. Had the City of Thorn been guilty of an open and avowed Rebellion against your Majesty, and even of the highest Crimes, what harder Decree than this could have been pronounced against them? But as the whole Matter in Question turns upon inflicting Punishments for a Tumult raised by the Populace against some wretched Jesuits, though the same Tumult has been maliciously occasioned and fomented by the same your Majesty cannot but judge, according to your great Wisdom, that the severe Punishment determined by the Sentence, bears no manner of Proportion with the Excess committed; and that it is against all Reason, that for the Sake of a few People’s Miscarriage, so many Innocents should suffer, and a whole Town be ruined. Nay, all the reasonable World will naturally conclude, as it is too manifest by the numberless Circumstances of this Affair, that such a terrible Sentence, far from being founded upon an impartial Administration of Justice, intirely proceeded from a venomous Hatred on account of their Religion, inflamed by all the Artifices and false Suggestions of the Jesuits; and that they boldly laid hold of this Opportunity to take away the Lives and Estates of the poor Dissenters at Thorn, and even to deprive them at once of their Rights and Privileges. Your Majesty’s Justice and Propension to protect Innocence oppressed, being so well known, we hope you will never permit the Execution of such a bloody Sentence, by which the Glory of your Majesty’s Reign would be for ever tarnished. We therefore most earnestly desire your Majesty to put a Stop to that Execution, and to have the whole Affair a-new and thoroughly examined by an impartial Commission, composed of just and moderate Members of both Religions; to admit the Impeached to plead and defend their Innocence; and if any be found guilty, to shew rather Mercy than the strictest Justice; and especially to protect and maintain that City in their Privileges and Liberties; but above all, to prevent the Effusion of so much Christian Blood, which cannot be spilt without the greatest Cruelty. Your Majesty will not take it amiss that we concern ourselves so far for that City, since we are bound in Conscience to do it, in an Affair which affects those that are of the same Communion with us; besides, that we are fully intitled by the Peace of Oliva to stand up for the Preservation of that City, and all that has been stipulated for them, as well as for the other Cities of Polish Prussia, by the Instrument of the said Treaty, and to defend them as far as it is requisite. We are likewise convinced, that the other Powers concerned in the Peace of Oliva, and particularly the Guarantees, cannot see with Indifference, the said Treaty of Peace thus infringed and invalidated by the abovementioned Execution. On the other hand, your Majesty may be assured, that you will highly oblige as well Us as all other Protestant Powers in Europe, by taking under your Protection this poor City, almost reduced to Despair, and preserving it from the utter Ruin it is threatned with, and which may be attended with dangerous Consequences. We refer Us to what our Major-General and Envoy Extraordinary Van Schwrin, and his Brother our Counsellor of Finances, &c. will have the Honour to represent further to your Majesty on that Head. In Expectation of a favourable and so much desired Declaration, We remain, &c.
Berlin,Nov. 28. 1724.
Frederick-William, King, &c.
The King of Denmark’s Letter to the King of Poland.
YOUR Majesty will undoubtedly call to mind the several Representations we have made to you, and to the Republic of Poland, in a brotherly and cordial Manner; and among others, those we have made by our last Letter of the 14th of June, in favour of those of our Communion in Poland and Lithuania, who are called Nonconformists, and who are daily oppressed by the Romish Clergy.
We flattered ourselves, that our Intercessions would have engaged your Majesty to put a Stop to those unheard-of Proceedings, to protect their Churches, to cause those that have been taken from them since the Peace of Oliva to be restored, to maintain them in the peaceable Exercise of their Religion, and to redress all their other Grievances; and we founded our Hopes upon your Majesty’s known Equity.
But we have seen with Grief, that not only your Majesty and the Republic of Poland have entirely disregarded our just Representations, but also that they continue to take away their Churches; and that they are more and more endeavouring, under any Pretext and by indirect Means, to deprive them entirely of their Rights and Privileges, confirmed to them by the fundamental Law of the Kingdom of Poland.
Our Concern increased beyond Expression, when we saw the dreadful Sentence of the last Assessorial Tribunal of Warsaw against the poor City of Thorn and its Protestant Inhabitants, by which several Persons of Note and others have not only been condemned to one of the most cruel and infamous Deaths, on account of a Tumult and some Excesses of the Populace against the Jesuits, but their Church moreover taken from them, their Schools demolished, the Form of their Regency subverted; in a Word, their Privileges so dearly bought and confirmed by the Peace of Oliva, destroyed, and all without other Ground than the false Depositions of the Jesuits, and the Declarations of Witnesses of the same Stamp with the Jesuits, without giving the Accused a sufficient Time to prepare for their Defence, nor so much as a Hearing; having thus being condemned in such a hasty and tumultous manner, that few Instances can be produced of such a Partiality and Injustice.
This affords us ground to believe, that the Jesuits have themselves raised this Tumult, with a View to have an Opportunity to deprive at once the Protestants in a most horrid manner of their Lives, Honours, Estates and Privileges: The rather, since the Hatred of the Roman Clergy is grown to such a Pitch, that unless God interposes, the Protestant Religion will be utterly extinguished in all Poland and Lithuania, notwithstanding the Precautions taken to assure their Liberties and Privileges, as well by the fundamental Laws of the Kingdom of Poland, as by the Capitulations confirmed at the Election of successive Kings, and even by your Majesty in a most solemn manner, and by the most sacred Oaths.
Your Majesty will easily judge, that we cannot see, without the deepest Concern and Compassion, all those unprecedented Persecutions against those of our Communion: And we hope your Majesty will have Regard to the just Prerogatives of that poor City, and take to Heart the sad Condition it is reduced to, by reversing the unjust Sentence of the Assessorial Tribunal of Warsaw, and by establishing an impartial Tribunal, composed of just and moderated Members of both Religions, in order to examine a-new and determine that Affair.
By so acting, your Majesty will not only do a Work acceptable to God, who can no ways delight in the bloody Sacrifice of so many innocent Persons, and who has reserved to himself alone the Power over Consciences; but you will likewise prevent your Glory from being tarnished by the Execution of so many valuable Persons, whose Blood would cry to Heaven for Vengeance And by relieving those of our Communion, your Majesty will give us a signal Proof of your Friendship towards us, which will engage us to shew, on all Occasions, that we are with Attachment, &c.
These Intercessions produced no Effect, for about the Beginning of December, Prince Lubomirsky came before Thorn with 2400 Men, of the Crown Troops, which were posted in all the Avenues; after which, he sent a Detachment of 150 Dragoons into the City, to secure all such as were specified in the Decree issued out of the Court of Chancery at Warsaw. Mess. Rosner and Czarnich, one the President, and the other Vice-President, were seized in the Morning in the Church, during divine Service. The Dragoons having thus executed their Orders, Prince Lubomirsky entered the City with 800 Men, and ordered presently a Scaffold to be erected. The City Council would have made an Appeal to the King, but the Prince opposed it; however, three or four Expresses were dispatched, one of which was sent to the King, with most submissive Representations and Entreaties to grant a Respite, to get Time for the Protestant Powers to interpose their good Offices; urging withal, that the Clemency the Emperor has of late shewed to the City of Hamburgh, might serve as a Precedent for that of Thorn; and the rather since by the Tumult at Hamburgh, where the Imperial Ambassador’s Hotel and Chapel were demolished, the Majesty of the Emperor was struck at; whereas the Tumult at Thorn was only attended by some Disorders committed in the College of the Jesuits; and yet his Imperial Majesty contented himself with laying a Fine upon the City of Hamburgh, and obliging the Magistrates to send a solemn Deputation to Vienna to ask Pardon. But the Jesuits fearing these Representations should take Effect, engaged Prince Lubomirski to dispatch likewise an Express to the Court, not only to prevent the suspending of the Execution, which was fixed on the 15th of December, but to get Leave to have it done eight Days sooner; in which having succeeded according to their Wishes, it was performed on the 7th, when ten Persons were executed: The Particulars of which are as follow:
At One o’Clock in the Morning, the Cavalry entered the City, and surrounded the old Town House: At Five o’Clock M. Rosner, First President, was conducted thither from his own House by twenty Soldiers, and immediately beheaded in the Inner Court by the Light of Flambleaux. At Eight o’Clock the Infantry were posted at the four Avenues of the Market, in the Middle whereof the Scaffold was erected; and an Hour after Mess. Masout, Hermets, Becker, Marty, and Meus, were publickly beheaded, their Right Hands having been first cut off. Soon after, Mess. Karoefe, Haffen, and Schulten underwent the like Execution upon the same Scaffold, with this Addition, that their Bodies were afterwards burnt under the Gallows. A Butcher’s Boy, who closed that bloody Scene, had his noble Parts torn from him, and slapped in his Face, before he was beheaded, whose Body was afterwards quartered. At three o’Clock in the Afternoon, the Commissioners who had assisted at this horrid Execution, went to the great Lutheran Church of St. Maria, accompanied by some Bernardine and Carmelite Friars, to take Possession of it; and the next Day they sung Te Deum in it, assisted by the Jesuits and the other Roman Clergy of that City, to give solemn Thanks for having their Vows accomplished.
M. Czarnich, Vice-President of Thorn, has obtained his Pardon from the King of Poland, but he loses his Place, and his House adjoining to the Jesuits College is confiscated for the Benefit of those Fathers; besides which, he is to pay a considerable Sum of Money. A Citizen named Heyder who in the Tumult had returned one of the Students of the Jesuits a Slap on the Face, and stood condemned to die for it, is likewise pardoned, after having abjured the Lutheran Religion. M. Rosner, the President, might have saved his Life on the same Condition, but he manfully preferred Death, which he suffered like a true Martyr. Since the Execution of the 7th, several Citizens have been whipped. The Writings of the Lutheran Ministers, who have made their Escape from Thorn, have been burnt by the common Hangman at the four Corners of the Town House. The Keys of the great Lutheran Church having been delivered, tho’ with Protestation, into the Hands of the Commissioners, they gave the same on the Day of the Execution, to the Bernardine Fryars, who consecrated that Church the next Day; so that the Lutherans were obliged to perform divine Service in the House where the Elders meet. The Jesuits had drawn up and given in an Account of the Damage they pretend to have suffered in that Tumult, amounting to 30620 Florins; but the Palatine Rebinski, one of the Commissioners, reduced it to 22000 Florins, half of which Sum has been already paid down, and the rest assigned upon the Revenues of the City Lands. This done, the Commissioners made the Inventory of all the Effects of the President who had been beheaded.
They tell us, at the same time, that the King of Poland would willingly have moderated this Sentence, and spared the Lives of those who suffered, had he not been prevented by the Precipitation of the Commissioners of the Assessorial Tribunal, who hastened the Execution, and had it performed eight Days sooner than was at first intended: And to prove this, they quote a Letter written by him to those Magistrates of Thorn, who had petitioned in behalf of the Vice-President, and of which the following is a Copy.
THE Contents of your most humble Intercession in favour of John Henry Czernick, Vice-President Burgomaster, dated the 9th Instant, have been respectfully communicated to us: As we take much at Heart the sad Condition which the good City of Thorn has been reduced to by the late Tumult, after having been otherwise exposed to great Calamities, we had heartily wished that the Conjunctures could have permitted to pronounce, in our Name, a less rigorous Sentence, or at least to moderate it in its Execution: And the Pardon we have granted of our own Accord, even before your Letter of Intercession arrived, will shew you, that we are rather inclined to act according to the Impulses of our fatherly Tenderness, than conformably to the Rigour of Justice.
But those who do not judge so favourably of his Polish Majesty’s good Intentions in this Case, on the other hand alledge, that he has punished some of them further than he had need; strict Orders having been sent to the Magistrates of Dantzick, not to give the Fugitives of Thorn any Shelter, Lodging, or any other Assistance in their City; but on the other hand, to arrest and deliver them up into the Hands of Justice.
What may be the Consequence of such a severe Execution is not yet known: But the King of Prussia thought this Affair so much concerned every Protestant Power, that, not content with barely writing to the King of Poland, he dispatched Expresses to the Courts of Great Britain, Denmark, and Sweden, with Letters to the several Monarchs, with which I shall close this Piece.
The King of Prussia’s Letter to the King of Great Britain.
[N. B. This is the same with those written to their Danish and Swedish Majesties, save only that in the Letter to the King of Denmark, the last Paragraph is left out, and that the same Paragraph in that to the King of Sweden, has the Word Compaciscent instead of Guarantee.
YOUR Majesty cannot be ignorant of the most dreadful Sentence issued from the last Assessorial Tribunal of Warsaw against the poor City of Thorn, and its Protestant Inhabitants, by which several considerable Persons, and others of the same Communion, on Account of a Tumult raised by the Populace against the Jesuits, and the Excesses committed on that Occasion, have been condemned to a rigorous and most infamous Death; the City deprived of their Church and School; the whole Constitution of their Magistracy overturned; and, in a word, all their Privileges, acquired at so dear a Rate, and confirmed to them by the Treaty of Oliva, taken from them; and all this upon the false Reports of the Jesuits, and the Evidence they have suborned to make their Relation more plausible, and without so much as giving the Impeached a due Hearing for their Defence; the whole being carried on in so unjust and crying a Manner, that few Precedents of such cruel Injustice can be produced. The Fury of the Romish Clergy in Poland is come to such a Height, that they are now endeavouring not only at the total Ruin of the City of Thorn, but likewise at the utter Extirpation of all the Dissenters in that Kingdom, which they do not scruple to boast publickly of: Accordingly, certain Constitutions tending thereto were ready prepared, and would have been published, had the last limited Dyet been brought to its designed End, whereby the Remainder of the Protestant Churches in Poland and Lithuania had been at once destroyed.
The Constitutions of the Kingdom of Poland, and especially the Pacta Conventa, or the Capitulations which the Republic makes with the Kings at their Election, and particularly those made and corroborated by the most solemn Oaths by the present King, concerning the Protection of the Dissenters, are indeed couched in Terms so binding and advantageous to them, that nothing more could be desired; but no Manner of Regard is had to it, and the Court of the King of Poland, by an unaccountable Connivance and Relaxation, gives the Romish Clergy in Poland such a Latitude in all their projected Persecutions against the Protestants, that if God Almighty does not interpose by some extraordinary Ways and Means, nothing can be expected from it but the Loss of all the Protestant Churches still subsisting in Poland and Lithuania. In short, this Affair is come to that Pass, that it is not possible for the Protestant Powers in Europe, and particularly your Majesty, who has already given so many glorious Instances of your indefatigable Care for the Preservation of God’s Church, to look on the total Oppression of those of their Communion, without being moved with the deepest Compassion, and animated to an equally pious and glorious Endeavour to rescue and protect oppressed Innocence. As for my Part, I am ready and willing, as bound in Conscience, faithfully to assist your Majesty in every Thing which you will judge fit and expedient for this End, and to contribute the utmost of my Power towards it. I have also wrote a Letter to his Polish Majesty, in favour of the City of Thorn, of which I send your Majesty a Copy here inclosed: But as I am apprehensive that my Intercession alone, without being backed and seconded by your Majesty, will not be powerful enough to avert the great Calamity that City, and all the Protestants in Poland and Lithuania are threatened with, I leave it to your Majesty’s great Wisdom, whether it would not be proper to send an express Minister to Poland, and to take other convenient Measures in behalf of this distressed People. I have already ordered my Ministers in Poland to act in such Case in Concert with your Majesty’s Minister, in order to prevent the Effusion of so much innocent Christian Blood; to preserve and maintain that City in their Constitution, Privileges and Liberties, and to procure some Relief to the rest of the Protestants in Poland and Lithuania.
Your Majesty, by being a Guarantee of the Treaty of Oliva, is every way intitled to concern yourself, in a particular Manner, for the City of Thorn, and the Preservation of their Rights and Privileges; which leaves me no manner of Doubt that your Majesty will magnanimously resolve it, and do all that will be requisite on this Occasion. I remain, &c.
FREDERICK WILLIAM, R.
Berlin,Dec. 2. 1724.
Two Papers written byBritannicus,upon Occasion of the foregoing cruel Execution at Thorn, and printed in the London Journal.
THERE is nothing more observable in human Nature, than that Forgetfulness and Insensibility of the greatest Evils which is seen to come upon Men (even of those Evils which have threatened Ruin to themselves, and every Thing that is dear to them) when a little Distance of Time or Place has intervened, and they have found themselves for a Season at Ease from the immediate Apprehensions of them. What one Man or Woman was there amongst us, who, in the Year 1688, did not start at the Dread of Popery, and of the Methods of Support which constantly attend it, and were then understood to be inseparable from it? But, as the Years have run on, and Ease and Freedom with them, and Opportunities been given, of dressing it up in a more pleasing, or less horrible Gain [Editor: word?] the Impression is almost worn away in some, and in others, even a Discontent at the Expence and Trouble of keeping it out, is sprung up in the Room of it. Thus again, it struck Protestants to the Heart once, to see whole Families, and numerous Crowds of unhappy Men and Women, driven from their native Country, where they lived under a warm Sun, and in a fruitful Abundance, and forced to seek Refuge in the Charity and Hospitality of other Nations: But a Tract of Time has had its Course since, and all this can be now looked upon with a much more calm and sedate Temper. It pleases Providence therefore, at several Intervals of Time, to permit Appearances and Facts, which may either keep us awake, if we are so; or, if we are not, may rouse us up from a Sleep, which, if it continues, must be a Sleep unto Death and Destruction. I own, I have Enthusiasm enough to lead me to interpret what has passed abroad at Thorn in some such Manner as this. The Protestant World seems to be in a Lethargy. It is Goodness in the Governor of all Things, to alarm and shock it into some Sense of those Evils, which are never far removed from it, and ever going forward, in the Contrivance of some Men, against it. Here, therefore, is an Instance presented before its Eyes, of the implacable Malice and great Power of its greatest Enemies, and a flagrant Proof of what all are to expect, wherever the same Powers, and the same Malice, can prevail. And if Men will not be roused by such Terrors as these, they have nothing to blame but their own wilful and mad Stupidity.
Far be it from any of us to imagine, that Tumults and Seditions, Uproars and Outrages, should not be severely judged; and every Man concerned in them punished, in Proportion to the Part he bore in the Guilt, and this let the Pretence be what it will. No Zeal for, or against, any thing in Religion, can justify the Breach of all or any of the Duties of social Life. Nay, I will say, such Evils are rather aggravated, by making what was designed for the Peace and Quiet of the World, the Instrument and Occasion of Violence and Disorder. Did any Protestants therefore break into the temporal Rights and Privileges of others, moved by a mistaken and misapplied Zeal, who would have blamed a due Punishment of the Persons concerned? Did others provoke them to this, by any improper Behaviour, let those also suffer something, or else let it pass as some Mitigation of the other. This is not the Point. The Particulars which give the greatest Apprehension, and raise the most uneasy Sensations, are these: The Power and Interest which the Jesuits, upon every Occasion, shew themselves to have, and which they, in a particular Manner, have made too manifest in this Affair: The Sentence and Manner of executing it, enough to strike Horror into every Heart, that comes to the Knowledge of it, and to make every Ear tingle that hears it: The Consequences of it, beyond the Punishment of either the real or supposed Delinquent: The Evidence from the whole, that the great View was to the diminishing, and, in Time, extinguishing, not only that particular Branch of Protestantism, but every Thing that presumes to exalt itself against arbitrary Decisions and implicit Obedience.
The Society of Jesuits were the chief and original Movers of this Tragedy: And that they have Interest enough in States and Kingdoms, to display such Scenes when they please, is but a melancholy Consideration to any Protestants or Freemen, who have ever heard of that Name. That every Member of that Society is of the same fiery Make, or inflexible Bigotry, it is rash and groundless to imagine. But that, speaking of them as a Body, they are the worst, the most terrible, the most to be dreaded by all who value any Rights, whether Religious or Civil; for this we have the Testimony of the very best of the Romish Communion, both for Temper and Learning, to bear us out, besides the Experience of many Facts to appeal to. That there is a certain and established Difference between some Members of that Church and others, is not to be denied or disowned; though, whether any of them can be truly such, and not be liable to the Commands of their Superiors, even so far as as to be put off from the Bias of all their Good-nature, and to extinguish every Spark of their natural or religious Humanity, for the Propagation of their Sect, I will not now enquire. But it is certain, that there is thus far a Difference, that many of them have not such a blind Bigotry, as to be perpetually busy in the forming and carrying on those Schemes of pernicioas Ruin and Destruction, in which others take a Delight to be the first and principal Designers and Actors. Amongst the latter, none more remarkable than those who have honoured themselves with the sacred Name of Jesus: not in order to imitate his unbounded Love, but under so good a Title to cover, if possible, from unwary Eyes, their own contrary Temper, and opposite Schemes of Action. From small Beginnings, this Society has raised itself to an immense Bigness and Power. Their Reputation was high some time ago, for the Learning and Knowledge of some of their Members; and these gained them Access into many Places where their other Qualities would not have done it. But as all Knowledge and Enquiry into any Truths, become suspected as dangerous to a Religion which hates the Light, because that which makes manifest is Light; and because one Truth may unfortunately lead to another not so harmless: This Path to Reputation and Interest has been rather shut up of late Years, and they have (after Riches, and all the Strength Riches can procure, have flowed in upon them) chose to gain Ground by a greater Zeal, a hotter Bigotry, a more unlimited and voluntary Obedience to the Holy See, and a more determined Laboriousness in the extensive Propagation of the Romish Profession, than any other Sect of that vast Body has been able to do. When this Society therefore gains Ground, and shews its Strength, amongst the Rulers of this World, all Protestants, and every Soul that has a Feeling of what the Freedom of social Creatures, and the Happiness of rational Creatures, in any Degree mean, must mourn at the Sight, and esteem it an Appearance of a growing Evil, which threatens them all with the same Miseries, which it executes upon some, as fast as Power and Opportunity shall give Leave. Whoever they are that come into such Hands, have no Remedy left but cursed Hypocrisy, or uneasy Patience, under the inexpressible Discipline of hardened Hearts and darkened Understandings.
The Sentence, and the Manner of the Execution of it at Thorn, was worthy of such Movers, and agreeable to those who had Interest enough to bring it about. But here, what shall we believe? The Jesuits have already begun their After-game; and putting all their Strength upon the Weakness of others, would persuade the World that the Suffering Part is not at all to be credited in their Relation either of the Crime or the Punishment, and that for this Reason, because they are Heretics. This impudent Reason, stupid as it is, may move their own Partizans, and weigh with Bigots and Slaves. But I am speaking to others; and I affirm, that we are justified, even in thinking the worst we can think (in this Case) of the triumphant Side, and the most favourably of the other, from this very low and mean Proceeding, from this senseless Reason given, merely to prevent every one of their own Religion asking a Question about the Truth of the Facts. The Crime, I may conclude, was not quite so great as a Papist himself is made to think it, and the Punishment much greater than the Crime, even to a Degree sufficient to raise an universal Horror; because the Society which managed the whole, the Society so famous for Sincerity and Truth, claim to themselves the sole Privilege of telling the whole Story, and of being believed in what they say. The poor Lutherans must not be regarded, because they are Heretics. Thus, I say, they may deal with their own Scholars and Slaves, if there are any Slaves enough to bear it.
But the Facts in the public Face of the World speak enough, without intirely relying on the Relations of either Party concerned. A Tumult raised, and in this popular Tumult Outrages committed, as it is too often and almost always seen; the Magistrates not able to compose this so soon as it ought to have been; for, as to their Will to do it, Interest and Self-Preservation, and the certain Prospect of Punishment, are Demonstrations of it; the Jesuits, the Sufferers, prosecute the Complaint; a terrible Sentence is obtained; an Army is sent to protect the Execution of it; when there were some Hopes, upon humble Submissions, to obtain so small a Favour as a Respite, the General is engaged by these cruel Men, to cut off all Hope of that, and by his Letters to procure an Order to proceed to the Execution eight Days before the Day appointed in the Sentence; a Circumstance, I believe, hardly heard of in any other Case, and intirely to be ascribed to the restless Zeal of this Society, and their Impatience to bear the Thought of even a Possibility of Mercy: Thus, before any Interposition from other Powers could be, several of the chief Magistrates are destroyed; insulting Cruelties added to the Execution of some others; and (what adds to the Pageantry, and makes the whole look like a Work of Zeal for their Church, and not of a due Sense of their Privileges invaded) some mean Persons saved from Death, merely on Account of the changing their Religion, and the brave Man who died first, tempted and tortured with that wicked Offers, whilst a cruel Death stared him in the Face. This was adding Insult to Cruelty, and a much greater inward Barbarity to the external Terror of the Sword. This, and the other Proceedings, Banishments, Confiscation of Goods, Alteration of the governing Council, seizing the Lutheran Churches, and instating the Romanists in them.
What are all these Excesses of Rigour, but strong Presumptions that the whole Scene was originally laid with this very View; and that those who have had Interest to profit so enormously by a Tumult, had Cunning and Power enough in the Town, to nurse and cherish and provoke it into what at last it came to? But this is only a Surmise, perhaps weak and without Ground. I need it not. What appears is alone sufficient to create Horror in the best Part of the Romanists themselves, and once more to shew all Protestants their Danger, their Interest, and their Duty. I shall proceed upon this Subject in the next Paper.
IN speaking of the Affair at Thorn (which has lately made so much Noise in the World, and I hope will make a great deal more) one hardly knows either where to begin or where to leave off. I have already considered the chief and original Movers of that Tragedy, and the terrible Sentence procured against the Protestants, and the cruel Execution of it. I will now go on to some other Points, arising from this Subject, of the utmost Importance to all who love, or hope for, Freedom in Religion, or Happiness in Civil Life; two Things which constant Experience has shewn to be so inseparable from one another, as infallibly to flourish and decay, to live and die together.
The Consequences of this Scene of Power without Mercy, ought to be thought of by every Protestant, as they extend much beyond the Punishment of those unhappy Men at Thorn, who fell under the Rage and devouring Fury of it. And thus, I think, is it to be taken by all who differ from the Church of Rome, that, when they see so much Power in the Hands of the Jesuits, they see it in the Hands of Persons determined to use it to their Destruction, hardened in all the Paths that can lead to it, and devoted, more than any other Body in the World, in Heart and Soul, to the good Work of propagating their own Faction, and enlarging the Bounds of their own Church, by all the Methods that the Wit of Man can invent, and the Strength of Man can execute. I know how natural it is for Protestants in Great Britain, who have been long at Rest, and out of all View of the Scene of such Actions, to think inwardly with themselves, we are at a Distance from the Influence of this Matter, we are sorry for the Sufferings of miserable Men; but hope this Affair does not nearly touch us, under a Constitution like ours, and in our Situation, fenced round, as we are, by the natural Bulwark of the Sea, from the rest of the World. But let not any one thus think or say, What is this to us? Give me Leave to affirm, that it is of the most concerning Consequence to us all, from the highest to the lowest, from the Prince upon the Throne to the meanest of his Subjects. And as, abroad, the Calvinist as well as the Lutheran is touched by it, so, at home, from the most rigid Churchman to the most distant Quaker, through all the intermediate Differences of moderate Men, Latitudinarians, Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists, every Church, and every Man, whether orthodox or heretical, whether regular or irregular, is intimately concerned in this Affair. Nay, abstractedly from all Considerations of Religion, every Man who has the least Sense of civil Liberty, the least Regard to the Happiness of himself or his Fellow-creatures in human Society, must think himself interested in it.
Every Advance, and every Step which the Power of such Bigotry makes in the World, is an Advance and a Step towards the total Suppression and Ruin of every one of these, and of all other Denominations distinct from those who are Slaves to Rome. You cannot think that such Policy and such Zeal mixed together, confine their Views within the narrow Bounds of a single Town, or that it can be any sufficient Satisfaction to the Bigotry of Jesuitism, to get the better of the Lutherans at Thorn. Alas! these are but poor Morsels for such Appetites. It is every Town and every Country, every Church and every Kingdom of the known World, that they make the constant Care and Burthen of their religious Ambition. They pant after us all in the Bowels of their tender Mercies, which are as cruel as Cruelty itself, and can never be at rest till our Hearts or our Tongues (for it is much one to them which of the two they procure) till our Religion, or our Estates, are all theirs. Unlike all other Sects, and all other Bodies in the same Communion, they are never diverted, either by Learning or Devotion, either by their own private Studies, or pious Exercises, from the one main constant View of subjugating all to the Faith, not of Jesus, but of the Society of Jesus. To this Design they have consecrated all their Labours, and from this they are never known to decline. When we see them therefore, powerful in the Cabinets of Princes, and successfully dextrous in recommending themselves to the mighty Men of this World, by their Intrigues, and by their Interest in managing the Bigotry of those under them; if we forget or deny that this touches us, that this is so much gained against us, that this points very terribly at every Protestant, and every Christian in Europe, who is the Disciple of Christ, and not of Rome: If we forget this, I say, we forget ourselves, and what we are, and what our Interest is, and what our only Hope and Desire ought to be. Every successful Exercise of Power is an Accession of more; and every Act of Violence, not redressed, gives Strength and Encouragement to proceed to others. A Terror and Feebleness is thus struck into the opposite Parts, and Spirits and Vigour are added to the Oppressors: And when they find their Strength, and that they can shew it effectually in the Destruction of some they hate, what shall hinder them, as Power and Time come on together, from exerting the same upon all others whom they equally hate, and are equally sworn to destroy from off the Earth?
But we of this Nation have still a nearer Concern in this Affair, if all religious and civil Rights are of any Concern to us. Every Advance of the Power of Bigotry abroad, threatens us with a Popish Pretender at home; and, together with him, all the Train of his Attendaats, Superstition and Cruelty. None such fast Friends to his Cause; none so unmoveable in the Prosecution of it; none so desperate in what they once admit into their Hearts, as that Society which was the Mover of this Tragedy we have now been speaking of. Every Experiment, therefore, of their Strength, tends, by Degrees, to shake the Throne of our King, and to weaken our future Hopes of Happiness under the succeeding Branches of his Family, as it paves the Way to every thing contrary to a Protestant Establishment. And this, methinks, should weigh with all Protestants who would not be miserable, whether they have the same Notions of Happiness with others, or not. The Point to such Persons is not, whether they love their present Superiors, or whether they perfectly approve of their Administration; but whether they can bear all the Miseries of Popish Bigotry, and will choose to exchange Liberty for Chains, Property for arbitrary Will, the Ease and Security of a Subject of a Protestant Prince, and of a Member of a Protestant Church, for the fiery Operations of Jesuitism, and the Cruelties of Thorn, and indeed of every other Place where the same Zeal has had the same Room to display itself. This should be no light Consideration to the most discontented Protestant amongst us, who is one truly and sincerely; that, as a Protestant, he is not concerned in any the least Accession of Power to that Popish Interest abroad, which, if it increases, will, sooner or later, end in a Popish Interest, and a Popish Settlement here; and that, as the Pretender (who is to reap the Benefit of this) is as famous for determined Bigotry, as the Body of Jesuits themselves, let him but once get Footing here, by what Means they please (even by the Help of Protestant Hands lifted up against themselves) yet still it can end in nothing but the Administration of those whom his own Bigotry will point out to his Choice, that is, in nothing but the same Measures of Ruin and Devastation, by which the same Bigotry has ever worked, and ever will work, till human Nature be totally altered. And if they can have any Comfort in such a View, much Good may it do them! But let them sometimes, in the Midst of it, cast their Eyes abroad upon the Protestants at Thorn, and think within their own Breasts, whether, if they themselves ever come within the Sphere of Action of the same Body, they will not feel the same destructive Force, and be swallowed up in the same Whirlpool. Let not a little Prejudice, or the imaginary Want of something we may wish for, extinguish all common Sense, or take away all Regard to ourselves, and our latest Posterity.
But we must not leave this Affair here. If Protestants do not learn some good Lesson from it, besides a Zeal against an implacable Enemy, it is, if I may say so, an Act of Providence lost upon them. They have, many of them, been often very busy in interpreting Providences: Here is one that may very easily be understood; but, perhaps, as many others have been, it will be applied by the Multitude only to their Neighbours, and not to themselves. The Cruelties at Thorn, which you are so moved at, should make you cast your Thoughts upon that Spirit which is the Cause of them; and those Thoughts should make you abhor and fly from the first Motions, the least Beginnings, of that Temper in yourselves. Inward Censures of one another, on Account of religious Differences; hard Sentences and Judgments of private Men against one another; the Violence of Words; the Refusal of mutual Communications of Friendship; the calling in worldly Assistances to aggrieve or hurt or ruin one another, in any Degree, or in any Instance; these are the Motions of the same Spirit, going on from one Degree to another, till it ends in the open Avowal of Fire and Faggot, Swords and Gibbets. These, whenever they are seen amongst Protestants, are the Strength of your Enemies, the only Defences of their Barbarities, and the only Arguments by which they can cover or excuse their own Practices. Take from them these Arms, and you leave them utterly indefensible in that Conduct, which God and Nature, Reason and Revelation, all condemn. The Outrage of Persecution did not begin all at once, but grew up by slow Degrees. If it had not, the Notion of it could not have been borne by any human Mind. First, it was only a mental Uneasiness at those who differed. Then it proceeded to verbal Declarations, at which it stopped but a short Time. For when it was once come to hard Words, it was natural to proceed to Blows, almost as soon as the Balance of Power weighed on one Side more than the other. Moderate Penalties were the first Essays; but when they had no other Effect but to provoke the Spirits of Opposers, Punishments too great for human Nature easily to think of, succeeded in their Place. And upon these now the Popish Interest rests itself.
God be thanked, the Protestant World is generally come to a much greater Sense of the Duty of mutual Love and Forbearance than once was experienced in it. But when by such an Instance as this at Thorn, their Sense is again quickened, and they are called upon to see and acknowledge the Deformity of the Spirit of Cruelty, made keen by religious Differences, it is their Duty to search to the Root of the Matter, to guard against the first Motions of such a Spirit amongst themselves, and to implant in their Souls the contrary Temper of universal Charity; from the mere Want of which, such unspeakable Evils have come upon human Society, and such inexcusable Scandals upon the Christian Name.
[* ]Treaty of Oliva, Art. 2. p. 3. Puffen. de Reb. Sue.