A Plot to Overthrow the Government

Guy Fawkes
November 4, 2014
Author Article

The Gunpowder PlotIt was a terrorist plot, that would have struck at the heart of government, had it succeeded, and would have set back the cause of freedom and religious liberty by a century. Or maybe you take the opposite view – because one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. The Head of State was due into the Parliament that evening, to welcome the country's politicians back, after their recess, and open the next session for business. But in the basement, the terrorist cell were plotting to blow up the building, killing many of the politicians, and, in particular, assassinating the Head of State.

Their motivation, as is the case with many terrorists, was religious, as well as political. Their religion had not had power for decades, though a sizable minority wanted to return the country to the arms of the international politician who led the religion. And such views can lead to fanaticism, and fanaticism can lead to terrorism. And as is also often the case, there were a number of foreiign governments, who wanted to see this country's government overturned by violence, or by whatever means it would take.

The plot had been meticulously planned for months. But they were not careful enough. One of the plotters wives was concerned about what she had overheard, and wrote an anonymous letter to a member of parliament, who she admired, to warn him to stay away from the State opening. This alerted the politician, and the letter was subsequently shown to the Head of State, who ordered an investigation.

In order to thwart the plot, they allowed it to continue unawares. But on the night of November 4th, one of the minor members of the terrorist cell was guarding the explosives under the parliament building, when law enforcers surprised him. He was arrested. The rest of the plotters fled, but, within a couple of days, they were caught, and two of them were shot. The others were arrested and taken back to the capital. The plotters were tried and found guilty of treason. They were executed by hanging – though the terrorist found in the basement escaped the gallows by jumping off the platform and breaking his neck.

The following January, parliament passed the Observance of 5th November Act, the date on which the assassination and bombing would have taken place. Church bells were rung on this day, and sermons against the terrorists were preached, for many years to come. And still to this day, in that country, the ordinary folk remember, remember the 5th of November; gunpowder, treason and plot. They celebrate by lighting a bonfire, and burning an effigy of the basement terrorist. This tradition continues to this day, 409 years later – though most of the people have forgotten why they celebrate.

The country is England. The year was 1605. The Head of State was King James I (and VI of Scotland). The terrorists were all Roman Catholics. And the name of the basement terrorist was Guido (Guy) Fawkes.

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