Jack Sheppard eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 601 pages of information about Jack Sheppard.

The gallant woollen-draper was now in his thirty-sixth year.  He had a handsome, jolly-looking face; stood six feet two in his stockings; and measured more than a cloth-yard shaft across the shoulders—­athletic proportions derived from his father the dragoon.  And, if it had not been for a taste for plotting, which was continually getting him into scrapes, he might have been accounted a respectable member of society.

Of late, however, his plotting had assumed a more dark and dangerous complexion.  The times were such that, with the opinions he entertained, he could not remain idle.  The spirit of disaffection was busy throughout the kingdom.  It was on the eve of that memorable rebellion which broke forth, two months later, in Scotland.  Since the accession of George the First to the throne in the preceding year, every effort had been made by the partisans of the Stuarts to shake the credit of the existing government, and to gain supporters to their cause.  Disappointed in their hopes of the restoration of the fallen dynasty after the death of Anne, the adherents of the Chevalier de Saint George endeavoured, by sowing the seeds of dissension far and wide, to produce a general insurrection in his favour.  No means were neglected to accomplish this end.  Agents were dispersed in all directions—­offers the most tempting held out to induce the wavering to join the Chevalier’s standard.  Plots were hatched in the provinces, where many of the old and wealthy Catholic families resided, whose zeal for the martyr of their religion (as the Chevalier was esteemed), sharpened by the persecutions they themselves endured, rendered them hearty and efficient allies.  Arms, horses, and accoutrements were secretly purchased and distributed; and it is not improbable that, if the unfortunate prince, in whose behalf these exertions were made, and who was not deficient in courage, as he proved at the battle of Malplaquet, had boldly placed himself at the head of his party at an earlier period, he might have regained the crown of his ancestors.  But the indecision, which had been fatal to his race, was fatal to him.  He delayed the blow till the fortunate conjuncture was past.  And when, at length, it was struck, he wanted energy to pursue his advantages.

But we must not anticipate the course of events.  At the precise period of this history, the Jacobite party was full of hope and confidence.  Louis the Fourteenth yet lived, and expectations were, therefore, indulged of assistance from France.  The disgrace of the leaders of the late Tory administration had strengthened, rather than injured, their cause.  Mobs were gathered together on the slightest possible pretext; and these tumultuous assemblages, while committing the most outrageous excesses, loudly proclaimed their hatred to the house of Hanover, and their determination to cut off the Protestant succession.  The proceedings of this faction were narrowly watched by a vigilant and sagacious administration.  The government

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Jack Sheppard from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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