Though Fawkes kept silence as to the mine, he did not keep silence on the desperate character of the work on which he had been engaged.
Continuing The Gunpowder Plot,
our selection from What the Gunpowder Plot Was by Samuel R. Gardiner published in 1897. The selection is presented in five easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in The Gunpowder Plot.
Place: House of Lords, London
Fawkes stated that after coming back to England he “came to the lodging near the Upper House of Parliament,” and “that Percy hired the house of Whynniard for £12 rent, about a year and a half ago”; that his master, before his own going abroad, i.e., before Easter, 1605, “lay in the house about three or four times.” Further, he confessed “that about Christmas last,” i.e., Christmas, 1604, “he brought in the night-time gunpowder [to the cellar under the Upper House of Parliament].” Afterward he told how he covered the powder with fagots, intending to blow up the King and the Lords; and, being pressed how he knew that the King would be in the House on the 5th, said he knew it only from general report, and by the making ready of the King’s barge; but he would have “blown up the Upper House whensoever the King was there.”
[5: The words between brackets are inserted in another hand.]
He further acknowledged that there was more than one person concerned in the conspiracy, and said he himself had promised not to reveal it, but denied that he had taken the sacrament on his promise. Where the promise was given he could not remember, except that it was in England. He refused to accuse his partners, saying that he himself had provided the powder, and defrayed the cost of his journey beyond sea, which was only undertaken “to see the country, and to pass away the time.” When he went, he locked up the powder and took the key with him, and “one Gibbons’ wife, who dwells thereby, had the charge of the residue of the house.”
Such is that part of the story told by Fawkes which concerns us at present. It is obvious that Fawkes, who, as subsequent experience shows, was no coward, had made up his mind to shield as far as possible his confederates, and to take the whole of the blame upon himself. He says, for instance, that Percy had only lain in the house for three or four days before Easter, 1605, a statement, as subsequent evidence proved, quite untrue; he pretends not to know, except from rumor and the preparation of the barge, that the King was coming to the House of Lords on the 5th, a statement almost certainly untrue. In order not to criminate others, and especially any priest, he denies having taken the sacrament on his promise, which is also untrue.
What is more noticeable is that he makes no mention of the mine, about which so much was afterward heard, evidently — so at least I read the evidence — because he did not wish to bring upon the stage those who had worked at it. If indeed the passage which I have placed in square brackets be accepted as evidence, Fawkes did more than keep silence upon the mine. He must have made a positive assertion — soon afterward found to be untrue — that the cellar was hired several months before it really was. This passage is, however, inserted in a different hand from the rest of the document. My own belief is that it gives a correct account of a statement made by the prisoner, but omitted by the clerk who made the copy for Coke, and inserted by some other person. Nobody that I can think of had the slightest interest in adding the words, while they are just what Fawkes might be expected to say if he wanted to lead his examiners off the scent. At all events, even if these words be left out of account, it must be admitted that Fawkes said nothing about the existence of a mine.
Though Fawkes kept silence as to the mine, he did not keep silence on the desperate character of the work on which he had been engaged. “And,” runs the record, “he confesseth that when the King had come to the Parliament House this present day, and the Upper House had been sitting, he meant to have fired the match and have fled for his own safety before the powder had taken fire, and confesseth that, if he had not been apprehended this last night, he had blown up the Upper House when the King, Lords, Bishops, and others had been there, and saith that he spake for and provided  those bars and crows of iron, some in one place, some in another, in London, lest it should be suspected, and saith that he had some of them in or about Gracious Street.” Fawkes here clearly takes the whole terrible design, with the exception of the mine, on his own shoulders.
[6: Inserted in the same hand as that in which the words about the cellar were written. It will be observed that the insertion cannot serve anyone’s purpose.]
[7: Gracechurch Street.]
Commissioners were now appointed to conduct the investigation further. They were: Nottingham, Suffolk, Devonshire, Worcester, Northampton, Salisbury, Mar, and Popham, with Attorney-General Coke in attendance. This was hardly a body of men who would knowingly cover an intrigue of Salisbury’s. Worcester is always understood to have been professedly a Catholic; Northampton was certainly one, though he attended the King’s service, while Suffolk was friendly toward the Catholics; and Nottingham, if he is no longer to be counted among them, was at least not long afterward a member of the party which favored an alliance with Spain, and therefore a policy of toleration toward the Catholics.
[8: On July 20-30, 1605, Father Creswell writes to Paul V that Nottingham showed him every civility “that could be expected from one who does not profess our holy religion.”]
Before five of these commissioners — Nottingham, Suffolk, Devonshire, Northampton, and Salisbury — Fawkes was examined a second time on the forenoon of the 6th. In some way the Government had found out that Percy had had a new door made in the wall leading to the cellar, and they now drew from Fawkes an untrue statement that it was put in about the middle of Lent, that is to say, early in March, 1605. They had also discovered a pair of brewer’s slings, by which barrels were usually carried between two men, and they pressed Fawkes hard to say who was his partner in removing the barrels of gunpowder. He began by denying that he had had a partner at all, but finally answered that “he cannot discover the party, but” — i.e., lest — “he shall bring him in question.” He also said that he had forgotten where he slept on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday in the week before his arrest.
[9: The “cellar” was not really hired till a little before Easter, March 31st.]
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