by Mowbray Morris
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And so winter passed into spring, and still Claverhouse found no work more worthy of him than patrolling the country, arranging for his men's quarters, examining suspected persons, and endeavouring to persuade the Government to leave him not entirely penniless. More than once he sent word to Edinburgh that he believed something serious was afoot. "I find," he writes to Linlithgow on April 21st, "Mr. Welsh is accustoming both ends of the country to face the king's forces, and certainly intends to break out into open rebellion." This Welsh is a famous figure in Covenanting history. Grandson to a man whose name was long held in affectionate memory by his party as that of the "incomparable John Welsh of Ayr," and great-grandson to no less a hero than John Knox himself, he was on his own account a memorable man. He had inaugurated the first conventicle, and had ever since been zealous in promoting them and officiating at them among the wild hills and moorlands of the western shires, till his name had become a byword among the soldiers for his courage in braving and his skill in evading them. But though one of the most resolute and indefatigable of the ministers of the Covenant, he was also one of the most moderate and sensible. Had no one among them been more eager than he to carry the war into the enemy's country there had been no Bothwell Bridge. And, indeed, we shall find him seriously taken to task by the more extreme of the party as a backslider from the good cause for his endeavour to avert that disastrous affair.

Yet Claverhouse was right. Something very serious was soon to be afoot. During the last few weeks the Covenanters had been notoriously growing bolder. They did not always now, as hitherto, content themselves with evading the soldiers: they became in their turn the aggressors. More than once an outlying post of Claverhouse's men had been fired upon; and on one occasion a couple of the dragoons had been savagely murdered in cold blood. Even Wodrow found himself forced to own that about this time "matters were running to sad heights among the armed followers of some of the field meetings." But the trouble did not arise through John Welsh. It came through a servant of the Crown who had been a sorer plague to his countrymen than a myriad of disaffected ministers.

On May 5th, Lord Ross[22] from Lanark, and on the 6th Claverhouse from Dumfries, sent in their despatches to the commander-in-chief at Edinburgh as usual. It is clear that neither of them had at that time heard any rumour of an event which had happened a few days previously at no very great distance from their quarters. On May 2nd the Primate of Scotland had been dragged from his carriage as he was driving across an open heath three miles out of Saint Andrews, and murdered in open day before the eyes of his daughter.

James Sharp, Archbishop of Saint Andrews, was at that time probably the best-hated man in Scotland. Like all renegades he was in no favour even with his own party, though Lauderdale found after trial that he could not dispense with his support. Even the moderate Presbyterians, who regarded the uncompromising Covenanters as the real cause of their country's troubles, looked askance upon Sharp, as the man whom they had chosen out of their number to save them and who had preferred to save himself. By the Covenanters themselves he was assailed with every form of obloquy as the Judas who had sold his God and his country for thirty pieces of silver, and who had hounded on the servants of the King to spill the blood of the saints. Yet his murder was but an accident. Eleven years before an attempt had, indeed, been made upon his life by one Mitchell, a fanatical and apparently half-witted preacher, who was after a long delay put to the torture and finally executed on a confession which he had been induced to make after a promise from the Privy Council that his life should be spared. It is said that Lauderdale would have spared him, but Sharp was so vehement for his death that the Duke dared not refuse.

The chief promoters of the Archbishop's murder were Hackston of Rathillet, Russell of Kettle, and John Balfour of Burley, or, more correctly, of Kinloch. These three men were typical of the class who at this time began to come to the front among the Covenanters, and by their incapacity, folly, and brutality discredited and did their best to ruin a cause whose original justice had been already too much obscured by such parasites. It is impossible to believe that they, or such as they, were inspired by any strong religious feelings. Hackston and Balfour were men of some fortune, who had been free-livers in their youth, and were now professing to expiate those errors by a gloomy and ferocious asceticism. Both had a grudge against Sharp. Balfour had been accused of malversation in the management of some property for which he was the Archbishop's factor, and Hackston, his brother-in-law, had been arrested as his bail and forced to make the money good. Russell, who has left a curiously minute and cold-blooded narrative of this murder,[23] was a man of headstrong and fiery temper. They had all those dangerous gifts of eloquence which, coarse and uncouth as it sounds to our ears, was, when liberally garnished with texts of Scripture, precisely such as to inflame the heated tempers of an illiterate peasantry to madness. It is important to distinguish men of this stamp from the genuine sufferers for conscience' sake. The latter men were, indeed, often wrought up by their crafty leaders to a pitch of blind and brutal fury which has done much to lessen the sympathy that is justly theirs. But they were at the bottom simple, sincere, and pious; and they can at least plead the excuse of a long and relentless persecution for acts which the others inspired and directed for motives which it would be difficult, perhaps, to correctly analyse, but assuredly were not founded on an unmixed love either for their country or their faith. Stripped of the veil of religious enthusiasm which they knew so well how to assume, men of the stamp of Sharp's murderers were in truth no other than those brawling and selfish demagogues whom times of stir and revolution always have brought and always will bring to the front. There need, in these days, be no difficulty in understanding the characters of men who dress Murder in the cloak of Religion and call her Liberty.

Every child knows the story of the tragedy on Magus Moor. It will be enough here to remind my readers, once more, that it was no preconcerted plan, but a pure accident—or, as the murderers themselves called it, a gift from God. The men I have named, with a few others, were really after one Carmichael, who had made himself particularly odious by his activity in collecting the fines levied on the disaffected. But Carmichael, who was out hunting on the hills, had got wind of their design and made his way home by another route. As the party were about to separate in sullen disappointment, a messenger came to tell them that the Archbishop's coach was in sight on the road to Saint Andrews. The opportunity was too good to be lost. Hackston was asked to take the command, but declined, alleging his cause of quarrel with Sharp, which would, he declared, "mar the glory of the action, for it would be imputed to his particular revenge." But, he added, he would not leave them, nor "hinder them from what God had called them to." Upon this, Balfour said, "Gentlemen, follow me;" and the whole party, some nine or ten in number, rode off after the carriage, which could be seen in the distance labouring heavily over the rugged track that traversed the lonely expanse of heath. How the butcher's work was done: how Sharp crawled on his knees to Hackston, saying, "You are a gentleman—you will protect me," and how Hackston answered, "Sir, I shall never lay a hand on you": how Balfour and the rest then drew their swords and finished what their pistols had begun; and how the daughter was herself wounded in her efforts to cover the body of her father—these things are familiar to all.

From May 6th to 29th no letters from Claverhouse have survived; but on the latter date he sent a short despatch from Falkirk, announcing his intention of joining his forces with Lord Ross to scatter a conventicle of eighteen parishes which, he had just received news, were about (on the following Sunday) to meet at Kilbryde Moor, four miles from Glasgow. The following Sunday was June 1st, on which day Claverhouse was indeed engaged with a conventicle; but in a fashion very different from any he had anticipated.


[15] It is said that he used to tend these curls with very particular care, attaching small leaden weights to them at night to keep them in place,—a custom which, I am informed, has in these days been revived by some dandies of the other sex.

[16] This very much bears out Burnet's complaint against the Episcopal clergy in Scotland, which has been so strenuously denied by Creichton. "The clergy used to speak of that time as the poets do of the golden age. They never interceded for any compassion to their people; nor did they take care to live more regularly, or to labour more carefully. They looked on the soldiery as their patrons; they were ever in their company, complying with them in their excesses; and, if they were not much wronged, they rather led them into them than checked them for them."—"History of My Own Time," i. 334.

[17] "The Laird of Lag," by Lieut.-Col. Fergusson, pp. 7-11.

[18] His "History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland" was first published in 1721.

[19] This confusion was first pointed out by Aytoun in an appendix to the second edition of his "Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers."

[20] Claverhouse to Linlithgow, December 28th, 1678. These letters are all quoted from Napier's book. I have thought it better to give the date of the letter than the reference to the page.

[21] Claverhouse to Linlithgow, February 24th, 1679.

[22] George, eleventh Lord Ross, was joined with Claverhouse in the command of the western shires. He had married Lady Grizel Cochrane, daughter of the first Earl of Dundonald, and aunt of the future Lady Dundee.

[23] Printed in Sharpe's edition of Kirkton's "History of the Church of Scotland." It differs in some, but not very important, points from the account printed in the same volume from Wodrow's manuscripts.


The die was now fairly cast. In a general rising lay the only hope of safety for Sharp's murderers. Desperate themselves, they determined to carry others with them along the same path, and by some signal show of defiance commit the party to immediate and irretrievable action. The occasion for this was easily found. May 29th, the King's birthday, had been, as already mentioned, appointed as a general day of rejoicing for his restoration. This had from the first given offence as well to those members of the Presbyterian Church who saw in his Majesty's return no particular cause for joy, as to those more ascetic spirits who objected on principle to all holidays. May 29th was therefore hailed as the day divinely marked, as it were, for the purpose on hand, a crowning challenge to the King's authority.

The business was put in charge of Robert Hamilton, a man of good birth and education, but violent and rash, without any capacity for command and, if some of his own side may be trusted, of no very certain courage. With him went Thomas Douglas, one of the fire-breathing ministers, Balfour and Russell and some seventy or eighty armed men. Glasgow had been originally chosen for the scene of operations; but a day or two previously a detachment of Claverhouse's troopers had marched into that city from Falkirk, and the little town of Rutherglen, about two miles to the west of Glasgow, was chosen instead.

On the afternoon of the 29th Hamilton and his party made their appearance in Rutherglen. They first extinguished the bonfire that was blazing in the King's honour; and, having then lit one on their own account, proceeded solemnly to burn all the Acts of Parliament and Royal Proclamations that had been issued in Scotland since Charles's return. A paper was next read, containing a vigorous protest against all interferences of the English Government with the Presbyterian religion, and especially those subsequent to the Restoration. This paper, which was styled the Declaration and Testimony of some of the true Presbyterian party in Scotland, was then nailed to the market-cross of the little town, and the party withdrew. All this, be it remembered, was done within only two miles of the royal forces, some of whom, it is said, were actually spectators of the whole affair at scarce musket-shot's distance. It was fortunate for the party that Claverhouse was not in Glasgow at the time.

He was then in Falkirk, from which place he had, as we have seen, written to Linlithgow on the very day of the Rutherglen business of a rumour he had heard of some particular gathering appointed for the following Sunday, June 1st. Though he did not believe it, he thought it well to join forces with Ross in case there might be need for action. This was done at Glasgow on Saturday; and at once Claverhouse set off for Rutherglen to inquire into the affair of the 29th. As soon as he had got the names of the ringleaders he sent patrols out to scour the neighbourhood for them. A few prisoners were picked up, and among them one King, a noted orator of the conventicles, formerly chaplain to Lord Cardross, whose service he had left, it is said, on account of a little misadventure with one of the maid-servants. The troops halted for the night at Strathavon, and early next morning set off with their prisoners for Glasgow. On the way Claverhouse determined on "a little tour, to see if we could fall upon a conventicle," which, he ingenuously adds, "we did, little to our advantage."

During his search for the Rutherglen men he had heard more of the plans for Sunday. It was clear something was in the air, and report named Loudon Hill as the place of business, a steep and rocky eminence marking the spot where the shires of Ayr, Lanark, and Renfrew meet. To Loudon Hill accordingly Claverhouse turned his march, and soon found that rumour had for once not exaggerated.

Two miles to the east of the hill lies the little hamlet and farm of Drumclog, even now but sparsely covered with coarse meadow-grass, and then no more than a barren stretch of swampy moorland. South and north the ground sloped gently down towards a marshy bottom through which ran a stream, or dyke, fringed with stunted alder-bushes. On the foot of the southern slope, across the dyke, the Covenanters were drawn up; and the practised eye of Claverhouse saw at a glance that they had gathered there not to pray but to fight. "When we came in sight of them," he wrote to Linlithgow, "we found them drawn up in battle upon a most advantageous ground, to which there was no coming but through mosses and lakes. They were not preaching, and had got away all their women and children."[24] They were ranged in three lines: those who had firearms being placed nearest to the dyke, behind them a body of pikemen, and in the rear the rest, armed with scythes set on poles, pitchforks, goads and other such rustic weapons. On either flank was a small body of mounted men. Hamilton was in command: Burley had charge of the horse; and among others present that day was William Cleland, then but sixteen years old, and destined ten years later to win a nobler title to fame by a glorious death at the head of his Cameronians in the memorable defence of Dunkeld.

As usual, it is impossible to estimate with any exactness the strength of either side. According to one of their own party, who was present, the Covenanters did not exceed two hundred and fifty fighting men, of whom fifty were mounted and the same proportion armed with guns. These numbers have been accepted, of course, by Wodrow, and also by Dr. Burton. But within a week this handful had, on Hamilton's own testimony, grown to six thousand horse and foot; and though, no doubt, the success at Drumclog would have materially swelled the Covenanting ranks, if they were only two hundred and fifty on that day, the most liberal calculation can hardly accept the numbers said to have been gathered on Glasgow Moor six days later. Probably, if we increase the former total and diminish the latter, we shall get nearer the mark; but it is impossible to do more than conjecture. Sharpe, in the fragment printed by Napier, rates Hamilton's force at six hundred. Claverhouse's own estimate was "four battalions of foot, and all well armed with fusils and pitchforks, and three squadrons of horse." His experience was more likely to serve him in such matters than the untrained calculations of men who were, moreover, naturally concerned to magnify the defeat of the King's troops as much as possible; while it is clear from the tone of his own despatch, which is singularly literal and straightforward, that he had no wish, and did not even conceive it necessary, to excuse his disaster. But here again the estimate helps us little, owing to the vague use of the terms battalion and squadron. For the same reason we can but guess at the strength of the royal force. In the writings of the time Claverhouse's command is indiscriminately styled a regiment and a troop. It is certain that he was the responsible officer, so that, whatever its numerical strength, he stood to the body of men he commanded in the relation that a colonel stands to his regiment. But it is probable that his regiment, with those commanded by Home and Airlie, were practically considered as the three troops of the Royal Scottish Life Guards of whom the young Marquis of Montrose was colonel. From a royal warrant of 1672, it appears that a troop of dragoons was rated at eighty men, exclusive of officers, and that a regiment was to consist of twelve troops. But it is hardly possible that this strength was ever reached. From a passage in the third chapter of Macaulay's history it does not seem as if the full complement of a regiment of cavalry can have much exceeded four hundred men; but, I repeat, the indiscriminate use of the terms troop and regiment, battalion and squadron, makes all calculations theoretical and vague.[25] Scott puts the King's forces at Drumclog at two hundred and fifty men; and, as a detachment had been left behind in garrison with Ross's men at Glasgow, this is probably not over the mark, if Macaulay's estimate of a regiment be correct. He also, in the report Lord Evandale makes to his chief, rates the Covenanters at near a thousand fighting men, which would probably tally with Claverhouse's estimate. But, whatever the strength of either side may have been, it is tolerably certain that the advantage that way was on the side of the Covenanters.

The description of the fight in "Old Mortality" is an admirable specimen of the style in which Scott's genius could work the scantiest materials to his will. All contemporary accounts of the fray are singularly meagre and confused; and, indeed, the art of describing a battle was then very much in its infancy. It is difficult, from Claverhouse's own despatch, to get more than a general idea of the affair, which was probably after the first few minutes but an indiscriminate melee. No doubt it was his consciousness of some lack of clearness that inspired his apologetic postscript: "My Lord, I am so wearied and so sleepy that I have written this very confusedly." The flag of truce, which in the novel Claverhouse sends down under charge of his nephew Cornet Graham to parley with the Covenanters, was of Scott's own making, though it seems that a couple of troopers were despatched in advance to survey the ground. Nor does Claverhouse mention any kinsman of his, or any one of his name, as having fallen that day: the only two officers he specifies are Captain Blyth and Cornet Crafford, or Crawford, both of whom were killed by Hamilton's first fire. But though Claverhouse mentions no one of his own name, others do. By more than one contemporary writer one Robert Graham is included among the slain. It is said that while at breakfast that morning in Strathavon he had refused his dog meat, promising it a full meal off the Whigs' bodies before night; "but instead of that," runs the tale, "his dog was seen eating his own thrapple (for he was killed) by several." Another version is, that the Covenanters, finding the name of Graham wrought in the neck of the shirt, savagely mangled the dead body, supposing it to be that of Claverhouse himself.[26]

But to come from tradition to fact. The affair began with a sharp skirmish of musketry on both sides. To every regiment of cavalry there were then joined a certain proportion of dragoons who seem to have held much the position of our mounted infantry, men skilled in the use of firearms and accustomed to fight as well on foot as in the saddle. A party of these advanced in open order down the hill to the brink of the dyke and opened a smart fire on the Covenanters, who answered with spirit, but both in their weapons and skill were naturally far inferior to the royal soldiers. Meanwhile, some troopers had been sent out to skirmish on either flank, and to try for a crossing. This they could not find; but, unable to manoeuvre in the swampy ground, found instead that their saddles were emptying fast. Then Hamilton, seeing that his men were no match at long bowls for the dragoons, and marking the confusion among the cavalry, gave the word to advance. By crossings known only to themselves Burley led the horse over the dyke on one flank, while young Cleland followed with the bulk of the foot on the other. Claverhouse thereupon called in his skirmishers, and, advancing his main body down the hill, the engagement became general. But in that heavy ground the footmen had all the best of it. The scythes and pitchforks made sad work among the poor floundering horses. His own charger was so badly wounded that, in the rider's forcible language, "its guts hung out half an ell;" yet the brave beast carried him safely out of the press.[27] The troopers began to fall back, and Burley, coming up on sound ground with his horse, flung himself on them so hotly that the retreat became something very like a rout. Claverhouse, to whose courage and energy that day his enemies bear grudging witness, did all that a brave captain could, but his men had now got completely out of hand. "I saved the standards" (one of which had been for a moment taken) "and made the best retreat the confusion of our people would suffer." So he wrote to Linlithgow, but he made no attempt to disguise his defeat. He owns to having lost eight or ten men among the cavalry, besides wounded; and the dragoons lost many more. Only five or six of the Covenanters seem to have fallen, among whom was one of Sharp's murderers. This does not speak very well for their opponents' fire; but then we have only the testimony of their own historians to go by. Claverhouse himself could say no more than that "they are not come easily off on the other side, for I saw several of them fall before we came to the shock."

Pell-mell went the rout over the hill and across the moorland to Strathavon, through which the Life Guards had marched but a few hours before in all their bravery. As their captain passed by the place where his prisoner of the morning, John King, was now lustily chanting a psalm of triumph, the reverend gentleman called out to him, with audacity worthy of Gabriel Kettledrummle, "to stay the afternoon sermon." At Strathavon the townspeople drew out to bar their passage, but the fear of their pursuers lent the flying troopers fresh heart: "we took courage," writes Claverhouse, "and fell to them, made them run, leaving a dozen on the place." Through Strathavon they clattered, and never drew rein till they found themselves safe in Glasgow among their own comrades.

Fortunately the pursuit had slackened, or it might have gone ill with the garrison in Glasgow. Claverhouse's men had no doubt fine tales to tell of the fury of the Whig devils behind them; and had Hamilton been strong enough in cavalry to enter the town at the heels of the flying troopers it is not likely that he would have met with much opposition. The pursuit, however, did not follow far. Thanksgivings had to be made for the victory, and the prisoners to be looked to. All these, according to Wodrow, were let go after being disarmed; but Hamilton himself tells a very different tale. His orders had been strict that there should be no quarter that day; but on his return from the pursuit he found that his orders had been disobeyed. Five prisoners had been dismissed, and were already out of his reach: two others were waiting while their captors debated on their fate. Then Hamilton, furious that any of "Babel's brats" should be let go, slew one of these with his own hand, to stay any such unreasonable spirit of mercy, "lest the Lord would not honour us to do much more for him."[28]

That night the Covenanting captains stayed at Lord Loudon's house, where, though the master had deemed it prudent to keep out of the way, they were hospitably entertained by her ladyship. The next morning they continued their march to Glasgow.

Claverhouse was ready for them. The town was too open a place to be properly barricaded, but he had caused some sort of breastwork to be raised near the market-cross as cover for his men, and patrols had been out since daybreak to watch Hamilton's movements. That worthy was reported to be dividing his men into two bodies, one of which presently marched on the town by the Gallowgate bridge, while the other took a much longer route by the High Church and College. It was thus possible to deal with the first before the latter could come to its assistance. This was very effectually done. About ten in the morning the attack was made by way of the bridge, led by Hamilton in person.[29] But the welcome which met them from the barricades was too warm for the Covenanters. They broke and fled at the first fire, Claverhouse and Ross at the head of their men chasing them out of the town. Meanwhile, their comrades, descending the hill on the other side, saw what was going on, and, having no mind for a similar welcome, turned about and made off by the way they had come. The two parties joined and halted for a while at the place they had occupied on the previous night; but when they heard Claverhouse's trumpets sounding again to horse they fell back to Hamilton Park, where it was not thought prudent to follow them.


[24] Claverhouse to Linlithgow, June 1st, 1679. This is the famous despatch which Scott says was spelled like a chambermaid's. The original is now among the Stow Manuscripts in the British Museum.

[25] Cannon's "Historical Records of the British Army" (Second Dragoons): Macaulay's History, i. 305-8.

[26] Russell's account of Sharp's murder, Kirkton, p. 442. See also Creichton's Memoirs, though the captain was not present at the fight, having remained in garrison at Glasgow. In a Latin poem, "Bellum Bothuellianum," by Andrew Guild, now in the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh, are the following lines:

"Tum rabiosa cohors, misereri nescia, stratos Invadit, laceratque viros: hic signifer, eheu! Trajectus globulo, Graemus, quo fortior alter Inter Scotigenas fuerat, nec justior ullus: Hunc manibus rapuere feris, faciemque virilem Foedarunt, lingua, auriculis, manibusque resectis Aspera diffuso spargentes saxa cerebro."

The passage is quoted at length in the notes to "Old Mortality." Sharpe, in his notes to Kirkton, says, on the authority of Wodrow, that Cornet Graham was shot by one John Alstoun, a miller's son, and tenant of Weir of Blackwood. This is not correct. There was a Cornet Graham so killed, but not till three years after Drumclog.

[27] "With a pitchfork they made such an openeing in my rone horse's belly." Sir Walter, following tradition, has mounted Claverhouse on a coal-black charger without a single white hair in its body, a present, according to the legends of the time, from the Devil to his favourite servant. See also Aytoun's fine ballad "The Burial March of Dundee":

"Then our leader rode among us On his war-horse black as night; Well the Cameronian rebels Knew that charger in the fight."

[28] Kirkton, 444, note.

[29] It was reported by some of his own party that as his men entered the town Hamilton withdrew into a house at the Gallowgate to wait the issue. But it would be no more fair to take this report for truth than it would be to assume that Claverhouse really forbad burial to the dead Whigs, that the dogs might eat them where they lay in the streets. There was too much quarrelling in the Covenanting camp to allow us to take for granted all their judgments on each other when unfavourable; and at Drumclog Hamilton seems by all accounts to have borne himself bravely enough, whatever he may have done subsequently.


There is no letter from Claverhouse in this year, 1679, later than that reporting the defeat at Drumclog. There was, indeed, no occasion for him to write. As soon as the news of his defeat and the attack on Glasgow had reached the Council, orders were at once sent for the forces to withdraw from the latter place and join Linlithgow at Stirling. After Bothwell Bridge had been won he was sent again into the West on the weary work that we have already seen him employed on. But during the intervening time his independent command had ceased. At the same time there is no reason to suppose that he was in any disgrace for the defeat at Drumclog. He had committed the fault, not uncommon, as military history teaches, with more experienced leaders than Claverhouse, of holding his foe too cheaply: he had committed this fault, and he had paid the penalty. There is some vague story of a sealed commission not to be opened till in the presence of the enemy, and when opened on the slope of Drumclog containing strict orders to give battle wherever and whenever the chance might serve. But the story rests on too slight authority to count for much. His own temperament would have made him fight without any sealed orders; and, indeed, he had not long before written to Linlithgow that he was determined to do so on the first occasion, and had warned his men to that effect. The wisdom of his resolve is clear. Disgusted with their work, discontented with the hardness of their fare and the infrequency of their pay, in perpetual danger of their lives from unseen enemies, his soldiers were getting out of hand. Claverhouse was the sternest of disciplinarians; but the discipline of those days was a very different thing from our interpretation of the word. It was more a recognition by the soldier of the superior strength and possibilities of his officer, than trained obedience to an inevitable law. When they once had satisfied themselves that their captain was unable to bring the enemy to book, was unable even to provide them with proper rations and pay, no love for the flag would have kept them together for another hour. It was essential for Claverhouse to show them that he and they were more than a match for their foes whenever and in whatever form the opportunity came. Unfortunately for him it came in the form of Drumclog, and the proof had still to be given.

But it is abundantly clear that no stain was considered to rest either on his honour or his skill. The only ungenerous reference to his discomfiture came a few years later in the shape of a growl from old Dalziel against the folly of splitting the army up into small detachments at the discretion of rash and incompetent leaders. Claverhouse was removed from his independent command only because the circumstances of the moment made it necessary. When it was found necessary to despatch a regular army against the insurgents (as, for all their provocation, they must after Drumclog be styled), he took his proper place in that army as captain of a troop in the Royal Scottish Life Guards. When the brief campaign had closed at Bothwell Bridge, and, worst fortune for him, affairs had resumed their original complexion, he went back to his old position.

It will be necessary, then, to supply this gap in Claverhouse's correspondence by a brief review of the state of things from the battle of Drumclog to the date of his new commission.

The garrison of Glasgow had, as we have seen, joined Linlithgow at Stirling. There they lay for a day or two till orders were received from the Council for the whole army, which only numbered about eighteen hundred men in all, to fall back on Edinburgh. In the capital the greatest consternation reigned. The first proceeding of the Council was to proclaim the rising "an open, manifest, and horrid rebellion," and all the insurgents were summoned to surrender at discretion as "desperate and incorrigible traitors." Having thus satisfied their diplomatic consciences they wisely proceeded to more practical measures. The militia was called out, horse and foot, in all the Lowlands, save in the disaffected shires. For those north of the Forth the rendezvous was at Stirling, for those south on the links of Leith. Each man was to bring provisions with him for ten days. The magistrates were ordered to remove all the powder and other munitions of war they could find in the city to the Castle. An armed guard was stationed night and day in the Canongate, and another in the Abbey. Finally, a post was sent to London on Linlithgow's advice to urge the instant despatch of more troops, and two shillings and sixpence a day of extra pay was promised to every foot soldier.

They were not disturbed in their preparations. The Covenanters were too busy with their own affairs to take much heed what their enemies might be doing. They did, indeed, march into Glasgow, but beyond shooting a poor wretch whom they vowed they recognised as having fought against them on the 2nd, and possibly indulging in a little looting, they did nothing. They did not stay long in the town. Plans they seem to have had none, nor any settled organisation or discipline. Moving restlessly about the neighbourhood from village to village and from moor to moor, their preachers exhorted and harangued as much against each other as against Pope or Prelate, and their leaders quarrelled as though there were not a King's soldier in all Scotland, nor Claverhouse within a dozen miles of them eager for the moment to strike. There was no lack of arms among them, and their numbers seem at this time to have been not far short of eight thousand. But no men of any position or influence in the country had joined them with the exception of Hamilton; and his authority, whether the story of his cowardice at Glasgow be true or not, was not what it had been at Rutherglen and Drumclog. The preachers seemed to have exercised the only control over the rabble; and such control, as was natural, seems rarely to have lasted beyond the length of their sermons, which, indeed, were not commonly short. As the Covenanters (to keep to the distinguishing name I have chosen) were an extreme section of the Presbyterians, so now the Covenanters themselves were divided into a moderate and an extreme party. The chiefs of the former, or Erastians as their opponents scornfully termed them, were John Welsh and David Hume. Of Hume there is no particular account, but Welsh we have met before. Though he had been under denunciation as a rebel ever since the Pentland rising (in which he had, indeed, borne no part), he had never given his voice for war; and, though assuredly neither a coward nor a trimmer, had always kept from any active share in the proceedings of his more tumultuous brethren. His plan, and the plan of the few who at that time and place were on his side, was temperate and reasonable. They asked for no more than they were willing to give. Against the King, his government, and his bishops they had no quarrel, if only they were suffered to worship God after their own fashion. Though they themselves had not accepted the Indulgence, they were not disposed to be unduly severe with those who had. In a word, they were willing to extend to all men the liberty they demanded for themselves. Had there been more of this wise mind among the Covenanters—among the Presbyterians, one may indeed say—though it is hardly possible to believe that Lauderdale and his crew would not still have found occasion for oppression, it would be much easier to find sympathy for the oppressed.

On the other side, Hamilton himself, Donald Cargill, and Thomas Douglas were the most conspicuous in words, while Hackston, Burley, and the rest of Sharp's murderers were, of course, with them. Hamilton and Douglas we know. Cargill, like Douglas, was a minister: he had received a good education at Aberdeen and Saint Andrews, but had soon fallen into disgrace for the disloyalty and virulence of his language. In a sermon on the anniversary of the Restoration he had declared from his pulpit that the King's name should "stink while the world stands for treachery, tyranny, and lechery."[30] In this party all was confused, extravagant, fierce, unreasoning. What they wanted, what they were fighting to get, from whom they expected to get it, even their own historians are unable to explain, and probably they themselves had no very clear notions. They talked of liberty, by which they seem to have meant no more than liberty to kill all who on any point thought otherwise than they did: of freedom, which meant freedom from all laws save their own passions: of the God of their fathers, and every day they violated alike His precepts and their practice. To slay and spare not was their watchword; but whom they were to slay, or what was to be gained or done when the slaying was accomplished, no two men among them were agreed. For the moment the current of their fury seems to have set most strongly against the Indulgence and those who had accepted its terms. A single instance will show pretty clearly the state of insubordination into which those unhappy men had fallen. It was announced that one Rae, a favourite expounder on the moderate side, was about to preach on a certain day in camp. Hamilton, who still retained the nominal command, sent him a letter bidding him not spare the Indulgence. To this Rae, who does not seem himself to have been in any position of authority, made answer that Hamilton had better mind what belonged to him, and not go beyond his sphere and station.[31] It would not be difficult to draw a parallel between the condition of the Covenanting camp at that time and the so-called Irish Party of our own time. Indeed, if any body will be at the trouble to examine the contemporary accounts of Hamilton and his followers, and particularly their language, much of which has been faithfully chronicled by their admirers, they will be surprised to find how closely the parallel may be pushed.

Meanwhile, on the other side preparations went briskly forward. A strong detachment of regular troops was at once despatched from London, with the young Duke of Monmouth himself in command. Great pains have been taken both by contemporary and later writers to explain the reason of this appointment. It was designed, they have said, to render him unpopular in Scotland. It is certainly possible that he might have been sent to Scotland to get him out of the way of his admirers in England, who just at that time were somewhat inconveniently noisy in their admiration. But the appointment does not seem to need any very subtle explanation. Monmouth was the King's favourite son. He had served his apprenticeship to the trade of war in the Low Countries, and under such captains as Turenne and William of Orange. He was popular with the people for his personal courage, his good looks, his pleasant manners, and above all for his Protestantism—a matter with him possibly more of policy than principle, but which served among the common people to gain him the affectionate nickname of The Protestant Duke, and to distinguish him in their eyes as the natural antagonist to the unpopular and Popish James. With all his faults Monmouth was no tyrant, and Charles himself was rather careless than cruel. This appointment, therefore, was taken in Scotland to signify a disposition on the King's part to employ gentle means if possible with the insurgents, and as such was not altogether approved of. Gentle means were not much to the taste of the presiding spirits of the Council-Board at Edinburgh, whose native ferocity had certainly not been softened by the fright and confusion of the last few days. It was particularly requested, therefore, that Dalziel might be named second in command, who might well be trusted to counteract any unseasonable leniency on Monmouth's part. Fortunately for the insurgents the old savage did not receive his commission till the day after the battle.

Monmouth left London on June 15th and reached Edinburgh on the 18th. He at once took the field. Montrose commanded the cavalry, Linlithgow the foot: Claverhouse rode at the head of his troop under his kinsman, and the Earls of Home and Airlie were there in charge of their respective troops: Mar held a command of foot. Many other Scotch noblemen and gentlemen of position followed the army as volunteers. Some Highlanders and a considerable body of militia made up a force which has been put as high as fifteen thousand men, but probably did not exceed half that number.

The near approach of the royal troops only increased the quarrelling and confusion in the insurgent camp, which was pitched now at Hamilton. Some friends at Edinburgh had sent word to them that Monmouth might be found not indisposed to treat; and that it would be best for them to stand off for a while, and not on any account be drawn into fighting. But the idea of treating only inflamed the more violent. On the 21st a council was called which began in mutual recrimination and abuse, and ended in a furious quarrel. Hamilton drew his sword, vociferating that it was drawn as much against the King's curates and the minions of the Indulgence as against the English dragoons, and left the meeting followed by Cargill, Douglas and the more violent of his party. Disgusted with the scene, and convinced of the hopelessness of a cause supported by such men, many left the camp and returned to their own homes. Welsh and the moderate leaders resolved to take matters into their own hands. On the morning of the 22nd Monmouth had reached Bothwell. His advance guard held the little town about a quarter of a mile distant from the river: his main body was encamped on the moor. Shortly after daybreak he was surprised by a visit from Welsh, Hume and another of their party, Fergusson of Caitloch. Monmouth received them courteously, and heard them with patience while they read to him a paper (known in Covenanting annals as the Hamilton Declaration) they had drawn up detailing their grievances and their demands. The first were indisputable: the second were, as has been said, moderate. Monmouth was, however, forced to answer that he could not treat with armed rebels. If they would lay down their arms and surrender at discretion, he promised to do all he could to gain them not only present pardon but tolerance in the future. Meanwhile, he said, they had best return to their camp, report his message, and bring him back an answer within half an hour's time. They returned, only to find confusion worse confounded, and their own lives even in some danger from the furious Hamilton.

The half-hour passed, and no further sign of submission was made. Monmouth bid the advance be sounded, and the Foot Guards, commanded by young Livingstone, Linlithgow's eldest son, moved down to the bridge. Just at that spot the Clyde is deep and narrow, running swiftly between steep banks fringed on the western side with bushes of alder and hazel. The bridge itself was only twelve feet wide, and guarded in the centre with a gate-house. The post was a strong one for defence, and had there been any military skill, or even unity of purpose, among the defendants, Monmouth would have had to buy his passage dear. Hackston of Rathillet had thrown himself with a small body of determined men into the gate-house, while Burley, with a few who could hold their muskets straight, took up his post among the alder-bushes. The rest stood idly by while their comrades fought. For about an hour Hackston held the gate till his powder was spent. He sent to Hamilton for more, or for fresh troops, but the only answer he received was an order to retire. He had no choice but to fall back on the main body, which he found at that supreme moment busily engaged in cashiering their officers, and quarrelling over the choice of new ones. The English foot then crossed the bridge: Monmouth followed leisurely at the head of the horse, while his cannon played from the eastern bank on the disordered masses of the Covenanters. A few Galloway men, better mounted and officered than the rest of their fellows, spurred out against the Life Guards as they were filing off the narrow bridge, but were at once ordered back by Hamilton. The rest of the horse in taking up fresh ground to avoid the English cannon completed the disorder of the foot—if, indeed, anything were wanted to complete the disorder of a rabble which had never known the meaning of the word order; and a general forward movement of the royal troops, who had now all passed the bridge, gave the signal for flight. Hamilton was the first to obey it, thus, in the words of an eye-witness, "leaving the world to debate whether he acted most like a traitor, a coward, or a fool."[32] Twelve hundred of the poor wretches surrendered at discretion: the rest fled in all directions. Monmouth ordered quarter to be given to all who asked it, and there is no doubt that he was able considerably to diminish the slaughter. Comparatively few fell at the bridge, but four or five hundred are said to have fallen, "murdered up and down the fields," says Wodrow, "wherever the soldiers met them, without mercy." Mercy was not a conspicuous quality of the soldiery of those days; and the discovery of a huge gallows in the insurgents' camp, with a cartload of new ropes at the foot, was not likely to stay the hands of men who knew well enough that had the fortune of war been different those ropes would have been round their necks without any mercy. But it is clear that Monmouth was able to save many. When Dalziel arrived next day in camp and learned how things had gone, he rebuked the Duke to his face for betraying his command. "Had I come a day sooner," he said, "these rogues should never have troubled his majesty or the kingdom any more."[33]

There is no authority for attributing to Claverhouse himself any particular ferocity. We may be pretty sure that the Covenanting chroniclers would not have refrained from another fling at their favourite scapegoat could they have found a stone to their hand; but as a matter of fact, in no account of the battle is he mentioned, save by name only, as having been present with his troop in Monmouth's army. The fiery and vindictive part assigned to him by Scott rests on the authority of the most amazing tissue of absurdities ever woven out of the inventive fancy of a ballad-monger.[34] He had no kinsman's death to avenge, and he was too good a soldier to directly disobey his chief's orders, however little they may have been to his taste.

There is, moreover, positive evidence to the contrary. Six years after the battle one Robert Smith, of Dunscore, who had been among the rebel horsemen at Bothwell, deposed that as they, some sixteen hundred in number, were in retreat towards Carrick, he saw the royal cavalry halted within less than a mile from the field, and this was considered by the fugitives to have been done to favour their escape. "For," he went on, "if they had followed us they had certainly killed or taken us all." It is clear, therefore, that whatever Claverhouse might have done had he been left to himself, or whatever he may have wished to do—what he did do was, in common with the rest of the army, to obey his superior's orders.


[30] "Lives of the Scots Worthies," p. 383.

[31] Wodrow, iii. 93.

[32] Wodrow, iii. 107.

[33] Creichton, pp. 37-8.

[34] See some doggrel verses on the battle in "The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," in which Claverhouse is represented as posting off to London from the field of battle and, by means of false witnesses, bringing Monmouth to the scaffold as a traitor who had given quarter to the King's enemies. Sir Walter, of course, knew very well what he was about; but it did not seem to him necessary to write fiction with the nice exactness of the historian; nor was he, happily for us, of that scrupulous order of minds which conceives that a cruel wrong has been done to the reputation of a man who has been in his grave for nearly a century and a half by employing the colours of tradition to heighten the pictures of fancy.


Could Monmouth's influence have lasted, their defeat at Bothwell Bridge might have turned out well for the Covenanters. As soon as he had led his army back into quarters, he hastened to London, where he so strongly represented the brutal folly and mismanagement of Lauderdale's government, that he prevailed upon the King to try once more the effect of gentler measures. An indemnity was granted for the past, and even some limited form of indulgence for the future. But the unexpected return of the Duke of York from Holland put an end to all these humane counsels. Monmouth was himself soon again in disgrace; and Lauderdale, though his power was now past its height, was still strong enough to mould to his own will concessions for which the time had now perhaps irrevocably gone.

The twelve hundred prisoners from Bothwell were marched in chains to Edinburgh, and penned like sheep in the churchyard of the Grey Friars, the building which barely forty years before had witnessed the triumphant birth of that Covenant which was, if ever covenant of man was, assuredly to be baptized in blood. Two of them, and both ministers, were immediately executed: five others, as though to appease the cruel ghost of Sharp, were hanged on Magus Moor: of the rest, the most part were set at liberty on giving bonds for their future good behaviour, while the more obstinate were shipped off to the plantations.

Claverhouse was now sent back to his old employment. Though none of his own letters of this time have survived, it is clear from an Order of the Privy Council that shortly after the affair at Bothwell he was again entrusted with the control of the rebellious shires. There is unfortunately no record of his own by which it is possible to check the vague charges of Wodrow, who wisely declines to commit himself to particulars on the ground that "multitudes of instances, once flagrant, are now at this distance lost," while not a few, he candidly admits, "were never distinctly known." In the rare cases in which he becomes more specific in his complaints, he does not make it clear that the offences were committed in Claverhouse's presence, nor even that they were always committed by soldiers of his troop—"the soldiers under Claverhouse" seem to stand with him for all the royal forces then employed in the western shires. That what he calls "spulies, depredations, and violences" were committed on Claverhouse's authority may be freely granted: they were precisely such as a strict obedience to the letter (and no less to the spirit) of his commission would have enjoined—the levying of fines, the seizure of arms, horses, and other movable property from all suspected of any share in the rebellion who would not absolve themselves by taking the oath of abjuration, and from all resetters, or harbourers, of known rebels. It would be idle to refuse to believe that many unjust and cruel acts were not committed at this time, as we know they were committed subsequently, merely because they cannot be succinctly proved. It is unlikely that Claverhouse himself wasted over-much time on sifting every case that was brought in to him by his spies; and where he was not himself present—and it must be remembered that he was not the only officer engaged in this service, and also that his own soldiers were often employed under his lieutenants on duties he was personally unable to attend to—it is hard to doubt that much wild and brutal work went on. The whole case, in short, except in a very few instances (which will be examined elsewhere), is one solely of hearsay and tradition; and it is no more than common justice in any attempt to define Claverhouse's share in it, to give him the benefit of the doubt where it is not directly contrary to the proved facts and the evidence of his despatches. For Claverhouse, it should be also and always remembered, may be implicitly trusted to speak the truth in these matters, for the simple reason that he was not in the least ashamed of his work. We may well believe that it was not the work he would have chosen; but it was the work he had been set to do; and his concern was only to execute it as completely as possible. He was a soldier, obeying the orders of his superiors, for which they and they only were responsible. That their orders matched with his feelings, religious as well as political, for Claverhouse was as thorough in his devotion to the Church as he was in his devotion to the Crown, mattered nothing. The whole question was to him one of military obedience. Sorely as he may have chafed at the order, he halted his troopers on the banks of the Clyde when Monmouth's trumpets sounded the recall, with the same readiness and composure that he showed in leading them to the charge down the slopes of Drumclog; and he would have led them against his brothers-in-arms Ross or James Douglas, had they turned rebels, as straightly and keenly as he led them against Hamilton and Burley. At the same time both his letters and his actions show that he did his best to discriminate between the ringleaders and the crowd: between the brawling demagogues or the meddlesome priests and the honest ignorant peasants, whose only crime was that they wished to worship God after a fashion the Government chose to discountenance. It is not necessary to assume that he was moved thereto by any softness of heart: common-sense, and a sense, too, of justice, would suffice to show him where to strike. And it will hereafter be seen that, where his commission was large enough, he more than once exercised a discretion not entirely to the taste of the more thorough-going zealots of the Edinburgh Council-board.

The only distinct evidence we have of him at this time is contained in the aforesaid Orders of Council. From these it appears that he had been charged by the Scottish Treasury with appropriating the public moneys to his use. He had been appointed for his services trustee to the Crown of the estate of one Macdowall of Freugh, an outlawed Galloway laird; and of this estate it was alleged that he would render no accounts, nor of the fines he had been commissioned to levy on the non-abjuring rebels. With characteristic fearlessness Claverhouse went straight to London, and in a personal interview satisfied Charles of his innocence, who forthwith ordered him to be reinstated in his commission and all the privileges belonging to it.[35] It is clear, however, that during the greater part of the year 1680 Claverhouse was suspended from both his civil and military employments, and this will account for the duty of punishing the authors of the Sanquhar Declaration devolving not upon him, but upon his lieutenant, Bruce of Earlshall.

The prime mover of the Sanquhar Declaration was Richard Cameron, who had now become the head of the extreme party, henceforth to be known by his name—a name which still survives as that of a distinguished regiment of the British army. It was framed in much the same language and to much the same purpose as its predecessor of Rutherglen, though it would not be right to degrade Cameron to the level of Hamilton and his ruffianly associates. It took its title from having been fixed to the market-cross of Sanquhar, a small town in Dumfriesshire, on June 22nd, 1680. Exactly a month later Claverhouse's troopers (though, as I have said, not commanded by Claverhouse himself) came upon the Cameronians in a desolate spot among the wilds of Ayrshire, known as Aird's Moss. Richard Cameron was killed at the first charge: Donald Cargill and Hackston of Rathillet were made prisoners. Both were taken to Edinburgh and executed, the latter with circumstances of needless barbarity.

Though Claverhouse was reinstated in his commission, he does not appear to have been actively employed during the year 1681, the second year of the Duke of York's administration in Scotland, and the year also of the Test and Succession Acts, which were destined to cost another Argyle his head. Early in 1682 the Duke of York returned to England, to which fact Wodrow attributes "a sort of respite of severities," notwithstanding that Claverhouse was once more commissioned for his old work in the West, and with even ampler authority than before. In addition to his military powers, he was appointed Sheriff of Wigtownshire and Deputy-Sheriff of Dumfriesshire and the Stewartries of Kirkcudbright and Annandale; and he was also specially invested with a commission to hold criminal courts in the first-named shire and to try delinquents by jury. His letters to Queensberry[36] begin in February 1682, and from this time onward his actions become easier to follow. These letters give a very full and fair idea of his method of procedure, and in one of them is a passage worth quoting as evidence how far that method as yet deserved the hard epithets which have been so freely lavished on it. The despatch is dated from Newton in Galloway, March 1st, 1682.

"The proposal I wrote to your Lordship of, for securing the peace, I am sure will please in all things but one,—that it will be somewhat out of the King's pocket. The way that I see taken in other places is to put laws severely, against great and small, in execution; which is very just; but what effects does that produce, but more to exasperate and alienate the hearts of the whole body of the people; for it renders three desperate where it gains one; and your Lordship knows that in the greatest crimes it is thought wisest to pardon the multitude and punish the ringleaders, where the number of the guilty is great, as in this case of whole countries. Wherefore, I have taken another course here. I have called two or three parishes together at one Church, and, after intimating to them the power I have, I read them a libel narrating all the Acts of Parliament against the fanatics; whereby I made them sensible how much they were in the King's reverence, and assured them he was relenting nothing of his former severity against dissenters, nor care of maintaining the established government; as they might see by his doubling the fines in the late Act of Parliament; and in the end told them, that the King had no design to ruin any of his subjects he could reclaim, nor I to enrich myself by their crimes; and therefore any who would resolve to conform, and live regularly, might expect favour; excepting only resetters and ringleaders. Upon this, on Sunday last, there was about three hundred people at Kirkcudbright Church; some that for seven years before had never been there. So that I do expect that within a short time I could bring two parts of three to the Church. But when I have done,—that is all to no purpose. For we will be no sooner gone, but in comes their Ministers, and all repent and fall back to their old ways. So that it is vain to think of any settlement here, without a constant force placed in garrison. And this is the opinion of all the honest men here, and their desire. For there are some of them, do what they like, they cannot keep the preacher from their houses in their absence, so mad are some of their wives."

His remedy was to raise a hundred dragoons for a permanent garrison: the Crown was to pay the soldiers, and the country would find maintenance for the horses, he bearing his own part as "a Galloway laird," which he was as trustee of Macdowall's estate. The command of this new force he was willing to undertake without any additional pay.

It does not seem that this remedy was ever sanctioned; but at any rate Claverhouse so managed matters that a month later he was able to report to the Council that all was "in perfect peace."

"All who were in the rebellion are either seized, gone out of the country, or treating their peace; and they have already so conformed, as to going to the Church, that it is beyond my expectation. In Dumfries not only almost all the men are come, but the women have given obedience; and Irongray, Welsh's own parish, have for the most part conformed; and so it is all over the country. So that, if I be suffered to stay any time here, I do expect to see this the best settled part of the Kingdom on this side the Tay. And if these dragoons were fixed which I wrote your Lordship about, I might promise for the continuance of it.... All this is done without having received a farthing money, either in Nithsdale, Annandale, or Kirkcudbright; or imprisoned anybody. But, in end, there will be need to make examples of the stubborn that will not comply. Nor will there be any danger in this after we have gained the great body of the people; to whom I am become acceptable enough; having passed all bygones, upon bonds of regular carriage hereafter."[37]

For these services Claverhouse was summoned to Edinburgh to receive the thanks of the Council, to whom he presented an official report of his proceedings which is no more than a summary of his letters to Queensberry.[38]

It was not likely that a man so uniformly successful and of such high spirit would be able to steer clear of all offence to men, who probably felt towards him much as Elizabeth's old courtiers felt towards the triumphant and masterful Raleigh. Nor, conscious of his own powers and confident in the royal favour, is it probable that he was always at much pains to avoid offence, for, though neither a quarrelsome nor a wilful man, he had his own opinions, and was not shy of expressing them when he saw fit to do so. With all his constitutional regard for authority and his soldier's respect for discipline, Claverhouse would suffer himself to be browbeaten by no one. In those jealous intriguing days a man who could not fight for his own hand was bound to go down in the struggle. Claverhouse was now to give a signal proof that he both could and would fight for his when the need came.

The Dalrymples of Stair had been settled in Galloway for many generations. Sir James, the head of the house, was one of the first lawyers of the day, and had held the Chair of Philosophy in the University of Glasgow: the son, Sir John (afterwards to earn an undying name in history as prime mover in the Massacre of Glencoe), was heritable Baillie in the regality of Glenluce. There had been bad blood between them and Claverhouse for some time past. The father had not profited sufficiently by his studies either in law or philosophy to recognise the folly of a man in disgrace venturing to measure swords with one of fortune's favourites. And Sir James at the time of his quarrel with Claverhouse was in disgrace. At the close of 1681 he had been dismissed from the office of President of the Court of Session for refusing the Test Act; and for some while previously he had been coldly regarded for his advocacy of gentler measures than suited Lauderdale and his creatures. The Dalrymples were strict Presbyterians; and though the men were too cautious to meddle openly with treasonable matters, their womenfolk were notoriously in active sympathy with the rebels. All through Claverhouse's letters of this time run allusions to some great personage whom it might be wise to make an example of, and he himself had taken an early opportunity of impressing on Sir James the necessity of caution.[39] But the latter would not be warned. He set himself against Claverhouse at every opportunity, both openly and in secret. He wrote long querulous letters to Edinburgh, complaining of the latter's disrespect. Finally, when he found it prudent to leave the country for a while, his son carried the business to a height by bringing a formal charge against Claverhouse of extortion and malversation. The latter saw his opportunity, and at once carried the war into the enemy's country. He preferred a specific bill of complaint against Sir John, in the course of which it came out that he had been offered a bribe both by father and son not to interfere with their hereditary jurisdictions; and, notwithstanding the exertions of Sir George Lockhart and Fountainhall, the most eminent counsel of the Scottish bar, utterly defeated him on every point. The Court found that Sir John Dalrymple had been guilty of employing rebels and of winking at treasonable practices: of not exacting the proper fines by law ordained for such misdemeanours: of stirring up the country-folk against the King's troops; and, finally, of grossly misrepresenting Claverhouse to the Council. For these offences he was sentenced to pay a fine of five hundred pounds and the whole costs of the proceedings, and to be imprisoned in the Castle of Edinburgh till the money should be paid. Claverhouse, on his side, received not only a full and most complimentary acquittal from all his adversary's charges, but also a signal proof of the royal favour in the presentation to a regiment of cavalry raised especially for this purpose. His commission was dated December 25th, 1682, and in the following March he was sent into England with despatches from the Council to the King and the Duke of York, who was still nominally Commissioner for Scottish Affairs.[40]

Hitherto Claverhouse may be said to have stood conspicuous among the men of his time for his persistent refusal to enrich himself at the public cost. He had certainly had many opportunities, as had a still more famous captain after him, of wondering at his own moderation, yet his enemies had been unable to bring home to him a single instance of malpractice. But we have now come to an episode in his life for which an extremely virtuous or an extremely censorious moralist might, were he so minded, find occasion to re-echo the popular epithet of rapacious. Claverhouse was in no sense of the word an avaricious man; but, like all sensible men, he had a strong belief in the truth of the maxim, the labourer is worthy of his hire. He had laboured long and successfully; and the time, he thought, had now come for his hire.

Lauderdale was dying, and from every side the vultures were flocking fast to their prey. In those days politicians looked for promotion mainly to the death or disgrace of their comrades, and the death of any powerful statesman generally meant the disgrace of his family. All parties were now busy in anticipation over the rich booty that was so soon to come into the market. His brother and heir, Charles Maitland of Hatton, was attacked before the breath was out of the old man's body. Among the many lucrative posts he enjoyed, the most lucrative was that of Governor (or General, as the style went) of the Scottish Mint. At the instigation of Sir George Gordon of Haddo, who had become in quick succession President of the Court of Session, Lord Chancellor, and Earl of Aberdeen, a Commission was appointed to inquire into the state of the coinage, with the result that Maitland (by this time Earl of Lauderdale, for the dukedom began and ended with his brother) was declared to have appropriated to his own use no less than seventy thousand pounds of the revenue. In the general division of spoil which this verdict gave signal for, Claverhouse saw no reason why he should go empty away. Eleven years previously, when the old statesman was at the height of his evil power, his brother had been appointed Constable of Dundee and presented with the estate of Dudhope, lying conveniently near to Claverhouse's few paternal acres. A bargain, which would have seemed in those days no disgraceful thing to any human being, was accordingly struck between Claverhouse and the various claimants for the dead man's shoes. Queensberry, though but lately advanced to a marquisate, had set his heart upon a dukedom: the Chancellor was in want of money to support his new honours. And there were other petitioners for the good offices of the ambassador to Whitehall: Huntly and the Earl Marischal and Sir George Mackenzie had each marked his share of the general prize. To one and all Claverhouse promised his services; and they on their part were to advance by all means in their power his designs on the fat acres of Dudhope. All this, no doubt, sounds very contemptible to us now, who manage these matters so much more circumspectly; but it must be remembered that Lauderdale, though his offence was probably greatly exaggerated, and though a large part of the fine in which he had been originally cast was in fact remitted, had certainly been guilty of gross carelessness, if not of actual malversation; while Claverhouse on his pact offered to pay, and did pay, whatever sum might be legally fixed as due for his share of the booty.[41]

All these bargains were in time brought to a successful issue. Claverhouse was in England from the beginning of March to the middle of May. He was with the Court at Newmarket, Windsor, and London, always in high favour, but at the former place finding the King more eager for his company at the cockpit and race-course than in the council-chamber.[42] Early in May he returned to Scotland, and shortly after his return he took his seat at Edinburgh as a Privy Councillor. This was his present reward: Dudhope and the Constabulary were to follow later, with Queensberry's and Huntly's dukedoms and the other honours. But Dudhope was not destined to drop into his lap. The Chancellor, whom he counted as his particular friend, had played him false. Lauderdale's fine had been reduced by Charles from seventy thousand pounds to twenty thousand, sixteen thousand of which were granted to the Chancellor and four thousand to Claverhouse. But should Lauderdale and his son agree to assign to the Chancellor under an unburdened title the lands and lordship of Dundee and Dudhope, then the whole sum was to be remitted, Lauderdale binding himself to discharge the fines inflicted on his subordinates. Power was also given to Claverhouse to redeem this property from the Chancellor at twenty years' purchase; and it seems also to have been privately agreed between them that the purchase-money was not to be exacted, on condition of the former buying certain other lands in the neighbourhood that the latter wished to dispose of. But the crafty Chancellor saw an easier and quieter way to get hold of his money. For the sum of eight thousand pounds he privately relinquished all his rights to Lauderdale, thus leaving the latter free to deal with Claverhouse on his own terms. This bit of sharp practice was effected in August 1683; and it was not till the following March that the business was finally settled, after a long and tedious wrangle before the Court, in the course of which Claverhouse seemed to have found occasion to speak his mind pretty sharply to the Chancellor. On the question of the former's right to demand Dudhope on the terms of twenty years' purchase Lauderdale had to give way; but on the other question of clearing the title he was so difficult to deal with that the King himself had to interfere; and not till a peremptory order had gone down from Whitehall, cancelling the royal pardon till all the terms of the original agreement had been satisfactorily settled, was the affair finally closed, the title cleared, and Claverhouse established as master of the long-coveted estate.

It was not till the autumn of 1684 that Claverhouse found himself master of Dudhope and Constable of Dundee. Meanwhile one of the few domestic events of his life that have come down to us had taken place. On June 10th he had been married to the Lady Jean Cochrane, granddaughter to the old Earl of Dundonald.

This young lady was the daughter of William, Lord Cochrane, by Catherine, daughter of the Presbyterian Earl of Cassilis and sister to that Lady Margaret Kennedy whom Gilbert Burnet had married. Her father had died before Claverhouse came on the scene, leaving seven children, of whom Jean was the youngest. Her mother, whose notoriously Whiggish sympathies had brought both her husband and father-in-law into suspicion, was furiously opposed to the match; though worldly prudence may have touched her heart as well as religious scruple, for Claverhouse, though he had risen fast and was marked by all men as destined to rise still higher, was hardly as yet perhaps a very eligible husband for the pretty Lady Jean. But in truth it was a strange family for him to seek a wife in, and many were the whispered gibes the news of his courtship provoked at Edinburgh. Was this strong Samson, men asked, to fall a prey at last to a Whiggish Delilah? Hamilton, whose own loyalty was by no means unimpeachable, and who was no friend to Claverhouse, affected to be much distressed by the Lady Susannah's partiality for the young Lord Cochrane, and made great parade of his disinclination to give his daughter to the son of such a mother without the express consent of the King; and this Claverhouse chose to take as a hit at him, who had not thought it necessary to ask any one's permission to choose his own wife. Affairs were still further complicated by the backslidings of Sir John Cochrane, Lady Jean's uncle, a notorious rebel who was then in hiding for his complicity with Russell and Sidney, and was even suspected of knowing something of that darker affair of the Rye House. Claverhouse was furious at the gossip. "My Lord Duke Hamilton," he wrote to Queensberry,

"has refused to treat of giving his daughter to my Lord Cochrane, till he should have the King and the Duke's leave. This, I understand, has been advised him, to load me. Wherefore I have written to the Duke, and told him that I would have done it sooner, had I not judged it presumption in me to trouble his Highness with my little concerns; and that I looked upon myself as a cleanser, that may cure others by coming amongst them, but cannot be infected by any plague of Presbytery; besides, that I saw nothing singular in my Lord Dundonald's case, save that he has but one rebel on his land for ten that the lords and lairds of the south and west have on theirs; and that he is willing to depone that he knew not of there being such. The Duke is juster than to charge my Lord Dundonald with Sir John's crimes. He is a madman, and let him perish; they deserve to be damned that own him. The Duke knows what it is to have sons and nephews that follow not advice. I have taken pains to know the state of the country's guilt as to reset; and if I make it not appear that my Lord Dundonald is one of the clearest of all that country, and can hardly be reached in law, I am content to pay his fine. I never pleaded for any, nor shall I hereafter. But I must say I think it hard that no regard is had to a man in so favourable circumstances—I mean considering others—upon my account, and that nobody offered to meddle with him till they heard I was likely to be concerned in him.... Whatever come of this, let not my enemies misrepresent me. They may abuse the Duke for a time, and hardly. But, or long, I will, in despite of them, let the world see that it is not in the power of love, nor any other folly, to alter my loyalty."

And again on the same day:

"For my own part, I look upon myself as a cleanser. I may cure people guilty of that plague of Presbytery by conversing with them, but cannot be infected. And I see very little of that amongst those persons but may be easily rubbed off. And for the young lady herself, I shall answer for her. Had she not been right principled, she would never, in despite of her mother and relations, made choice of a persecutor, as they call me."[43]

The young lady seems to have been well-favoured, though it is not easy to learn much from the female portraits of those days, which are all very much of a piece. What else she may have been it is impossible to say. She is a name in her husband's history and nothing more, and in the few stormy years that were yet to run for him she could not well have been much more. However, she seems to have been well pleased with her handsome lover; and, in spite of her mother's opposition, the marriage was pushed briskly forward. The contract was signed at Paisley on June 10th, and on the following day the marriage was celebrated at the same place. Lady Catherine's is not among the signatures; but there is to be seen the almost illegible scrawl of the old grandfather and of Euphrame his wife, a daughter of Sir William Scott of Ardross. The bride's eldest brother, whose own marriage with the Lady Susannah Hamilton was soon to follow, and her cousin John, son of the outlaw of Ochiltree, were also among the witnesses; and for the bridegroom, his brother-in-arms Lord Ross[44] and Colin Mackenzie, brother of the Lord Advocate, Sir George of Rosehaugh. The lady's jointure was fixed at five thousand merks Scots (something over two hundred and seventy pounds of English money), secured on certain property in Forfarshire and Perthshire; while she on her side brought her husband what in those days was reckoned a very comfortable fortune for a younger child.[45]

The marriage was made under an evil star. Hardly had the blessing been spoken when word came down in haste from Glasgow that the Whigs were up. Since the Sanquhar Declaration and the deaths of Cameron and Cargill, the Covenanters had been comparatively quiet. The work of pacification had indeed not slackened, but rather taken a fresh departure in the appointment of a Court of High Commission, or Justiciary Circuit, which in the summer of 1683 was held in the towns of Stirling, Glasgow, Ayr, Dumfries, Jedburgh, and Edinburgh. Claverhouse was expressly ordered to attend the justices in their progress as captain of the forces, except at places where the Commander-in-Chief would naturally be present. But though the discovery of the Rye House Plot had just then stirred the kingdom to its centre, and given fresh energies both to the Government and its enemies, only three men suffered during this circuit, of whom two were convicted murderers. In each town members of the gentry as well as of the common people flocked to take the Test; some to clear themselves of suspicion, others only to air their loyalty, but all, in the words of the report, cheerfully. Where time, moreover, was asked for consideration, it was granted on good security. But from the end of July, 1683, to the day of his marriage, Claverhouse seems to have been occupied almost entirely with his duties as Councillor at Edinburgh, and only to have left the capital for brief tours of inspection through the western garrisons.

But with the day of his marriage came a change. On the previous Sunday news had been brought to Glasgow of an unusually large and well-armed conventicle to be held at Blacklock, a moor on the borders of Lanarkshire and Stirlingshire. Dalziel (who was in church when the message came, but who did not suffer his duty towards God to interfere with his duty towards man) put the soldiers on the track at once; but for the next eight-and-forty hours the country from Hamilton northwards to the ford of Clyde was scoured in vain. The Covenanters marched fast, and the country folk, many of them probably still fresh from the Test, kept their secret well. Claverhouse was sent for in haste from Paisley. He was in the saddle and away before the bridal party could recover from their first shock of surprise. But even Claverhouse was foiled. His lieutenant, however, had better luck. Colonel Buchan, as he was returning to Paisley by way of Lismahago, came upon an ambuscade of two hundred Covenanters, whose advanced post fired on and wounded one of the soldiers.[46] "They followed the rogues," wrote Claverhouse to Queensberry, "and advertised Colonel Buchan; but before he could come up, our party had lost sight of them. Colonel Buchan is yet in pursuit and I am just taking horse. I shall be revenged some time or other of this unseasonable trouble these dogs give me. They might have let Tuesday pass." This despatch was written from Paisley on the morning of the 13th, while fresh horses were being saddled. By noon he was off again, and for the next three days rode fast and far, leaving "no den, no knowl, no moss, no hill unsearched." He could track his game from Aird's Moss to within two miles of Cumnock town, and thence on towards Cairntable. But there all traces of them had vanished.

"We could never hear more of them. I sent on Friday night for my troop from Dumfries, and ordered them to march by the Sanquhar to the Muirkirk, to the Ploughlands, and so to Streven. I sent for Captain Strachan's troop from the Glenkens, and ordered him to march to the old castle of Cumloch, down to the Sorne, and through the country to Kilbryde, leaving Mauchline and Newmills on his left, and Loudon-hill on his right. By this means they scoured this country, and secured the passages that way. Colonel Buchan marched with the foot and the dragoons some miles on the right of my troop, and I, with the Guards and my Lord Ross and his troop, up by the [Shaire?]. We were at the head of Douglas. We were round and over Cairntable. We were at Greenock-head, Cummer-head, and through all the moors, mosses, hills, glens, woods; and spread in small parties, and ranged as if we had been at hunting, and down to Blackwood, but could learn nothing of those rogues. So the troops being extremely harassed with marching so much on grounds never trod on before, I have sent them with Colonel Buchan to rest at Dalmellington, till we see where these rogues will start up. We examined all on oath, and offered money, and threatened terribly, for intelligence, but we could learn no more."[47]

The "rogues" were to start up soon and with a vengeance. On a day in July (the date is not specified) a party of troopers were escorting sixteen prisoners to Dumfries. They were Claverhouse's men, but their captain was not with them. At Enterkin Hill, a narrow pass with a deep precipice on either side, a rescue was attempted by a considerable body of men,—English Borderers, it was whispered. Some of the prisoners escaped: others were killed in the scuffle or broke their necks over the precipice: only two were brought into Edinburgh: a few of the soldiers were also killed. This audacious affair spurred the Government on to new energies. The garrisons were increased through all the western shires. Claverhouse, with Buchan for his second in command, was put in charge of all the forces in Ayrshire and Clydesdale, and a special civil commission was added to their military powers.

At length, towards the end of August, there was a lull, and the master of Dudhope was able at last to enjoy the society of his bride and the pleasures of a country life. But of the latter he soon grew weary. "Though I stay a few days here," he wrote to Queensberry on August 25th, "I hope none will reproach me of eating the bread of idleness." That, at least, is a reproach his worst enemies have never tried to fasten on him. To be doing something was, indeed, a necessity of his existence; and his duties as Constable soon furnished him with something to do. In the Tolbooth of Dundee lay a number of poor wretches whom the hard laws of the time had sentenced to death for various offences, the gravest of which did not rise above theft. It was within the Constable's power to order them at any moment for execution; and doubtless some of those who have meddled with his life, had they been aware of this circumstance in it, would have risked the conclusion that he did so. Yet, strange as it may seem, he exerted himself to save the prisoners. And he exerted himself so successfully that not only was the capital sentence reprieved to such milder punishment as he might order, but the same license was granted to him for dealing with all future criminals of the same class.[48]


[35] "We have spoken to him about it," runs the royal Order, "and he doth positively assert that while he was in Scotland he received not one farthing upon that account" (Napier, ii. 238). The two Orders are dated respectively February 3rd and 26th, 1681.

[36] The Marquis of Queensberry was then Lord Treasurer, and practically, since Lauderdale's disgrace, first Minister of Scotland.

[37] Claverhouse to Queensberry, April 1st, 1682.

[38] A copy of this report was printed in the Aberdeen Papers (1851) from the original in Claverhouse's own hand: Napier, ii. 276.

[39] "Here in the shire I find the lairds all following the example of a late great man, and still a considerable heritor here among them; which is, to live regularly themselves, but have their houses constant haunts of rebels and intercommuned persons, and have their children baptized by the same; and then lay all the blame on their wives; condemning them, and swearing they cannot help what is done in their absence." Claverhouse to Queensberry, March 5th, 1682.

[40] Napier, ii. 285-309.

[41] "I must beg your Lordship's assistance in that business of the lands of Dudhope. My Lord Chancellor designs nothing but to sell it, and buy lands in the north, seeing he is to get Stirling Castle to dwell in. Wherefore I desire leave to ask the house of Dudhope, and the Constabulary, and other jurisdictions of Dundee belonging to my Lord Lauderdale; and I offer to buy forty chalders of victual from my Lord Chancellor lying about it [meaning the land bearing so much, at a valuation], though I should sell other lands to do it. I have no house, and it lies within half-a-mile of my land; and all that business would be extremely convenient for me, and signify not much to my Lord Chancellor, especially seeing I am willing to buy the land. I would take this for the greatest favour in the world, for I cannot have the patience to build and plant." Claverhouse to Queensberry, March 20th, 1683.

[42] "It is hard to get any business done here. I walked but nine miles this morning with the King, besides cock-fighting and courses." Claverhouse to Queensberry, Newmarket, March 9th, 1683.

[43] Both these letters were written from Edinburgh, May 19th, 1684.

[44] William, twelfth Lord Ross, son of the one previously mentioned.

[45] Napier, ii. 385-393. The contract was first printed in the volume of Claverhouse's letters edited by George Smythe for the Bannatyne Club in 1826. That volume contains also portraits of the bride and bridegroom, a drawing of which was made by Sharpe for Napier. The portrait of the latter is the one known as the Leven portrait, now in possession of Lady Elizabeth Cartwright. The portrait of Lady Jean is from a picture then belonging to the editor. There is also an engraving of a mourning ring belonging to the editor's grandmother, Catherine Cochrane, wife of David Smythe of Methven, said to have been given to her by her father, Lady Dundee's brother. The ring contains a lock of Dundee's hair, on which the letters V.D. are worked in gold, with a Viscount's coronet above. The motto is "Great Dundee for God and me. J. Rex." One child was born of the marriage in April 1689, and he died three months after his father fell at Killiecrankie. Lady Dundee married secondly William Livingstone, afterwards Lord Kilsyth, of whom mention will be made elsewhere. A son was born also of this marriage, but in the autumn of 1695 both mother and child were killed by the fall of a house in Holland. Lord Kilsyth was "out in the Fifteen," and died an outlaw at Rome in 1733, after which the title became extinct. Napier (iii., Appendix 2) gives a curious account of the opening of Lady Dundee's coffin more than a hundred years after her burial in the family vault at Kilsyth Church.

[46] "So when we came to Streven (Strathavon), I left the command to Colonel Buchan, and desired him to return the troops to their quarters; but, in his march, to search the skirts of the hills and moors on the Clydesdale side; which he did, and gave me an account that, going in by the Greenock-head, he met a man that lives down on Clydeside, that was up buying wool, who told him that on Lidburn, which is in the heart of the hills on the Clydesdale side, he had seen a great number of rebels in arms, and told how he had considered the commanders of them. One of them, he said, was a lusty black man with one eye, and the other was a good-like man, and wore a grey hat. The first had on a velvet cap. But before he (Colonel Buchan) could come near the place, a party of foot, that he had sent to march on his right, fell accidentally on them. Four of our soldiers going before to discover, were fired on by seven that started up out of a glen, and one of ours was wounded. They fired at the rebels, who, seeing our party of foot making up, and the horse in sight, took the alarm, and gained the hills, which was all moss." Claverhouse to the Archbishop of Saint Andrews (Alexander Burnet), Paisley, June 16th, 1684.

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