Declaration of Sir John Fenwick, January 28, 1697

In 1696 Sir George Barclay and Robert Charnock planned to kidnap (and possibly kill) the Prince of Orange. It is not certain to what extent this project was known to King James II and his ministry. Sir John Fenwick, Baronet, (who seems not to have been privy to the details of the plot) was arrested by the Prince of Orange. Fenwick's statement implicated a number of men in the Prince of Orange's own ministry. Fenwick was attainted, the law requiring the evidence of two witnesses in cases of treason being dispensed with. On January 28, 1697, he was beheaded on Tower Hill.

At his execution Fenwick delivered to the sheriffs of London and Middlesex a paper containing the following declaration. There are several printed versions of the text which vary slightly from one another: A True Copy of the Paper Delivered by Sir John Fenwicke, Baronet (London: Printed by J. Orme for R. Bentley and A. Bosvile, 1697; Wing F723); An Account of the Behaviour of Sir John Fenwick at His Execution on Tower Hill (London: Printed for John Salusbury, 1697; Wing A248) - missing the second-to-last paragraph with its mention of King James and his family; A Full Answer Paragraph by Paragraph to Sir John Fenwick's Paper (London: Printed for Richard Baldwin, 1697; Wing F2339) - with a Whiggish commentary.

Speaking nor writing was never my talent. I shall therefore give a very short, but faithful account, first of my religion, and next what I suffer most innocently for, to avoid the calumnies I may reasonably expect my enemies will cast upon me when dead, since they have most falsely and maliciously aspersed me whilst under my misfortunes.

As for my religion: I was brought up in the Church of England, as it is established by Law, and have ever professed it; though I confess I have been an unworthy member of it, in not living up to the strict and excellent rules thereof, for which I take shame to myself, and humbly ask forgiveness of God. I come now to die in that Communion, trusting as an humble and hearty penitent to be received by the mercy of God, through the merits of Jesus Christ my Saviour.

My religion taught me my loyalty, which, I bless God, is untainted; and I have ever endeavoured, in the station wherein I have been placed, to the utmost of my power, to support the Crown of England in the true and lineal course of descent without interruption.

As for what I am now to die, I call to God to witness, I went not to that meeting in Leadenhall Street with any such intention as to invite King James by force to invade this nation; now was I myself provided with either horse or arms, or engaged for any number of men, or gave particular consent for any such invasion, as is most falsely sworn against me.

I do also declare in the presence of God, that I knew nothing of King James' coming to Calais, nor of any invasion intended from thence, till it was publicly known; and the only notion I had that something might be attempted was from the Thoulon Fleet coming to Brest.

I also call God to witness, that I received the knowledge of what is contained in those papers that I gave to a great man that came to me in the Tower, both from letters and messages that came from France; and he told me, when I read them to him, that the Prince of Orange had been acquainted with most of those things before.

I might have expected mercy from that Prince, because I was instrumental in saving his life. For when, about April 1695, an attempt formed against him came to my knowledge, I did, partly by dissuasions and partly by delays, prevent that design, which, I suppose, was the reason that the last villainous project was concealed from me.

If there be any persons whom I have injured in word or deed, I heartily pray their pardon, and beg of God to pardon those who have injured me, particularly those who with great zeal have sought my life and brought the guilt of my innocent blood upon the nation, no treason being proved against me.

I return my most hearty thanks to those noble and worthy persons who gave their assistance by opposing this bill of attainder, without which it had been impossible I could have fallen under the sentence of death. God bless them and their prosperity, though, I am fully satisfied, they pleaded their own cause while they defended mine.

I pray God to bless my true and lawful Sovereign King James, the Queen, and the Prince of Wales, and restore him and his posterity to this throne again, for the peace and prosperity of this nation, which is impossible to prosper till the government is settled upon a right foot.

And now, O God, I do with all humble devotion commend my soul into thy hands, the great Maker and Preserver of men, and Lover of souls, beseeching thee that it may be always dear and precious in thy sight, through the merits of my Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

J. Fenwicke

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