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After the Restoration, Mr. Kiffin, as might be supposed, be. came a very obnoxious character, both on account of the religious opinions he professed, and the ample estate with which Providence had favoured him. For about six months, he enjoyed tolerable repose; but the Princess of Orange dying, a plot was laid to his charge, which, if it had taken effect, would have been attended with the loss of his property and life. A letter was forged from Taunton, to this effect. i That the Princess of Orange being now dead, they were ready to put their design in execution; and that Mr. Kiffin, according to his promise, was to provide, and send down powder, match, bullet, &c for they believed the word, That one of them should chase a thousand.” This letter being put into the hands of the government, Mr. Kiffin was seized on a Saturday, at midnight, and carried to the guard at Whitehall. There he continued the whole of the next day, subject to many taunts and threats of the soldiers, and not suffered to speak with a single person. In the evening, he was ordered before General Monk, and others of the council, who questioned him upon the contents of the said letter. Mr. Kiffin alleged his ignorance of the person, from whom it was said to be written, and expressed his abhorrence of every attempt to disturb the peace of the kingdom. After examination, he was remanded: into custody of the soldiers. On the following day, he was taken under a guard of soldiers to Serjeants’ Inn, to be examined before Lord Chief Justice Foster. Mr. Kiffin having obtained liberty to speak for himself, told his lordship, that the very contents of the letter would prove it a forgery.” Proving this to his lordship's complete satisfaction, the judge looking stedfastly at the lieutenant colonel, whose prisoner he was, expressed great anger at so malicious a proceeding, and discharging Mr. Kiffin, told him, he was perfectly satisfied of his innocence; and that, if he could find out the authors of the letter, he would punish them severely.
Not long after this narrow escape, Mr. Kiffin was apprehended on . a Lord's-day, at a meeting in Shoreditch. Being taken before Sir. Tho. Bide, he was committed to the New-Prison, together with several other persons, but, after four days, was released. Another attempt was made to injure him in the business of the Hamburgh Company, but it ended in his favour. Indeed, so apparent was his innocence, that the King ever afterwards entertained a good opinion of him, as did several members of the council.' Lord Arlington told him, that in every list he received, of disaffected persons, proper to be secured, his name was inserted; yet the King would never believe any thing against him. The Lord Chancellor Clarendon, also, stood very much his friend,
" About a year after this event, Mr. K. was again seized at mid. night by one of the messengers of the council, at the instance of the Duke of Buckingham Being conveyed to York-house, he continued there under a guard of soldiers till the next night ; when he was convened before the Duke, who charged him with having hired two men to kill the King, and in case they failed, with an intention of doing the business himself. Though Mr. K. was conscious of his innocence, yet he was not a little terrified at the treatment he met with ; but it pleased the Lord to comfort and strengthen him for the
day of trouble. On the following day, Lady Ranelagh paid him a visit, and inquiring into his case, advised him to write a letter to the Lord Chancellor, to acquaint him with his circumstances, and offered to deliver it herself. She accordingly gave it into the hands of the Chancellor, who informed her that no such charge had been made before the council, but he would acquaint the King with it the next day. This he punctually performed, and an order was made for his discharge, without the payment of fees.
Mr. Kiffin now thought that the storm was blown over ; and understanding how much he was indebted to the kindness of the Lord Chancellor, went to his house the next morning to pay his acknowledgments.
In the mean time, however, the Duke had lodged his charge against Mr. K. and he was remanded to prison, but admitted to bail through the good offices of the Chancellor.
• Some time after, some soldiers broke into his house, ransacked his papers, and carried him prisoner to the guard at the Exchange. Sir Tho. Player, the commander, after asking him several questions, said, that he had a special order to secure him, but if he would pass his word to be forth coming when sent for, he would let him go. To this Mr. Kiffin consented, and, afterwards, enjoyed a long interval of peace.
The laws against Nonconformists being executed with severity, Mr. Kiffin was apprehended at a meeting, and prosecuted for the penalty of forty pounds, which he deposited in the hands of the officer. But finding a flaw in the proceedings, he obtained a verdict in his fayour, though it cost him thirty pounds. It had, however, this good effect, that many poor persons, who were prosecuted upon the same account, were now relieved, the informers being afraid to proceed against them. About 1682, he was again prosecuted for fifteen meetings, in the peralty of £800. The informers managed their matters co secretly as to get the record for the money in court before Mr. K. was acquainted with the transaction, But it happened that there were some errors in this record also; and Mr. K, having some friends in court, they moved, that the cause should be heard before an order was made to amend them. In the mean time, Mr. K. being informed of the particulars, employed able counsel; and after several hearings, the informers let the suit drop. '. In 1684, when the discovery of the Popish Plot, gave the court an opportunity of sacrificing those noble patriots Lord W. Russel, and Algernon Sidney, strong attempts were made to involve Mr. Kiffin in the common ruin. But nothing to his prejudice could be extracted from the witnesses. At this time several persons Aled to Holland; and among others, Sir Tho. Armstrong, who was outlawed. Some of his friends having transmitted him money by means of exchequer bills, the court got scent of it ; and the offence being laid at the door of Mr. Jos. Hayes, Mr. Kiffin's son-in-law, he was appre. hended, and tried for his life. Hayes, whose circumstances were ruined by this affair, narrowly escaped the halter, which the court, under Charles II., earnestly desired to be put about his neck.
Upon his return home from this trial, in which it may be sup
posed he took considerable interest, Mr. Kiffin found a packet of letters, which had been left at his house by some unknown person about half an hour before. Upon his opening them, he found one directed to the Lord Chief Justice Jeffries, and another to himself, full of threats and treasonable expressions. As he could not but suspect some malicious design, he immediately sent them to Jeffries, whose clerk told Mr. Kiffin's servant, that he knew the handwriting. This still further strengthened his suspicions; and it is not a little surprising that he never heard any thing further concerning them.
Some particulars above related, will convince the reader, that Mr. K. was in great favour with his sovereign, and with some of the most considerable persons about his court. Perhaps it may be difficult to account for this circumstance, unless we suppose his skill as a merchant, and the property he acquired, hadany weight. His principles, certainly, were not in his favour, he being a Dissenter of the most obnoxious sort. Though we cannot vouch for the authenticity of the following anecdote, it is too curious to be omitted.--King Charles II., it is well known, was often in want of money, to defray the expences of his pleasures, and would sometimes condescend to borrow of bis subjects. On one of these occasions, it was currently reported, that he sent to Mr. Kiffin, to borrow of him 40,0001. Mr. Kiffin apologized for not having it in his power to lend his Majesty so much, but told the messenger, that if it would be of any service, he would present him with 10,0001. which was accepted ; and Mr. Kiffin used afterwards to say, that in so doing, he had saved 30,0001. It is certain that Mr. Kiffin had much interest with the King, and was often a successful advocate at court, for his persecuted brethren.
King Charles II. dying in Feb 1684-5, was succeeded by his * brother, James II. In the summer of that year, the Duke of Monmouth landed at Lyme, and setting up his standard, invited the people to take up arms against the gloomy tyrant. But this ill-judged expedition, soon afterwards, cost him his head. Among the unfortunate persons who attached themselves to his cause, were two grandsons of Mr. Kiffin, Benj. and W. Hewling; the latter of whom accompanied the Duke from Holland, whither he had been sent to complete his education. These interesting youths being taken prisoners, were conveyed to London, and lodged in Newgate. It having been reported, that the King meant to make examples only of a few, and leave his officers to make the best bargains they could for the remainder, Mr. Kiffin offered, through a great personage, £3000 for the lives of his grandsons. But he missed the right door; for Judge Jeffries getting scent of these contracts, in which he was not included, was provoked to the greater cruelty, insomuch that but few escaped. Among the sufferers were these unfortunate youths. During their confinement, and at the place of execution, they behaved in the most resigned, yet dignified manner; and met their deaths with the most Christian fortitude. The fintiness of the King's heart cannot be more strikingly Illustrated than in the fate of these two brothers. When their sister, Hannah Hewling, presented a petition to him on
I their behalf, she was introduced by Lord Churchill, afterwards Duke of Marlborough. While waiting in the anti-chamber for admittance, Lord Churchill, standing near the chimney-piece, assured her of his most hearty wishes for the success of her petition ; “ But, Madam, said he, I dare not flatter you with any such hopes, for that marble is as capable of feeling compassion as the King's heart.”
.6 Mr. K. was personally known to the marble-hearted James, who, no less than his brother Charles, was disposed to favour him. Having arbitrarily deprived the city of its old charter, and determined to put some Dissenters into the magistracy, he sent to Mr. K. to attend him at court. When he went thither in obedience to the King's command, he found many lords and gentlemen. The King immediately coming up to him, addressed him with all the little grace of which he was master. He talked of his “ favour to the Dissenters,” in the court style of the season; and concluded with telling Mr. K. " he had put him down as an alderman in his new charter :"_“ Sire,” replied Mr. K. “ I am a very old man, and have withdrawn myself from all kind of business for some years past, and am incapable of doing any service in such an affair, to your Majesty or the city ;besides, Sire," continues the old man, fixing his eyes stedfastly upon the King, while the tears ran down his cheeks, the death of my grandsons, gave a wound to my heart, which is still bleeding, and never will close, but in the grave!" The King was deeply struck by the manner, the freedom, and the spirit of this unexpected rebuke. A total silence ensued, while the galled countenance of James seemed to shrink from the horrid remembrance. In a minute or two, however, he recovered himself enough to say, “ Mr. Kiffin, I shall find a balsam for that sore," and immediately turned about to a 'lord in waiting.. . Mr. K. was now placed in a very awkward situation, from which there were no means of escape. Through some lords and gentlemen about the court, he interceded with the King to reverse his appoint. ment, but without effect. Upon this he resolved to take the advice of able counsel, who told him his danger was very great. That if he accepted the office, it would cost him 500l. ; but if he refused, he might be fined from 10 to 30,0001. according to the pleasure of the judge. He, therefore, thought it better to comply. Mr. Kiffin was, also, put into the commission of the peace, and made one of the lieutenancy. But he meddled very little with civil concerns. During the nine months he continued alderman of Cheap Ward, he was held in great respect, and studied to promote the welfare of the city. At length he was discharged from the troublesome office.
• Mr. Kiffin continued in the exercise of his ministry, with various colleagues, to a good old age. Like the great apostle of the Gentiles, he passed through evil report and good report ; and though greatly reviled by some men on account of the unpopularity of his opinions, yet this very circumstance occasioned his being held in high reputation by others. Though Mr. Kiffin spent the chief part of his life in a storm, it was his happiness to die in peace. This event took place Dec. 29, 1701, in the 86th year of his age.' Vol. I. pp. 407–28.
[To be concluded in the next Number:]
Art. XVI. SELECT LITERARY INFORMATION.
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