by Mowbray Morris
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

[47] Claverhouse to the Archbishop, Paisley, June 16th, 1684.

[48] "Privy Council Register," Edinburgh, September 10th, 1684: Napier, ii. 410.


I propose now to examine, with more care than there has yet been occasion for, those charges of wanton and illegal cruelty which have for close upon two centuries formed the basis of the popular—I had almost written the historical—conception of the character of Claverhouse. I have used the words "illegal cruelty" because Claverhouse is not only commonly believed to have far surpassed all his contemporaries in his treatment of the Scottish Covenanters, but to have even gone beyond the sanction of a law little disposed to be illiberal in such matters. Some reason has, I trust, been already shown for at least reconsidering the popular verdict. But as we are now approaching that period of his life when, for a time all too short for his own reputation, Claverhouse at last found free play for those eminent abilities which none have denied him, it will be well, before passing into this larger field, to be finally rid of a most tiresome and distasteful duty. The controversial element is, I fear, inseparable from this part of the subject, but I shall endeavour to do with as little of it as possible.

Although the significant title of "the Killing Time" seems to have been occasionally used in Scotland during the subsequent century to cover the whole period from Lauderdale's administration to the Revolution, yet the phrase was originally and more properly applied to the years of James's reign alone. The most notorious of the acts attributed to Claverhouse were, as a fact, committed within that time; but it will be more convenient not to adhere too rigidly to chronological sequence, and to take the charges rather in order of their notoriety and of the importance of those who have assumed them to be true. Following this order, the two first on the list will naturally be the death, by Claverhouse's own hand, of John Brown, and the deaths, by drowning on the sands of Solway Firth, of the two women, Margaret Maclachlan and Margaret Wilson—popularly known as the Wigtown Martyrs.

An attempt has been made to prove that this last affair is a pure romance of Covenanting tradition. It has never been disputed that the women were tried for high treason (that is to say, for refusing to abjure the Covenant and to attend Episcopal worship) and condemned to death; but it has been denied that the sentence was ever carried into effect, on the strength of a reprieve granted by the Council at Edinburgh before the day of execution. That a reprieve, or rather a remand, was granted is certain, as the pages of the Council register remain to this day to testify. But it is not so certain that the decision of the Council at Edinburgh ever reached the magistrates at Wigtown; and that, if it did reach them, they at least paid no attention to it, remained for upwards of a century and a half the fixed opinion of all writers and readers of history. The women were sentenced on April 18th, 1685: the remand is dated April 30th, but the period for which it was to run has been left blank, pending the result of a recommendation for full pardon with which it was accompanied: the sentence was executed on May 11th—in Wodrow's words, "a black and very remarkable day for blood in several places."

It will be sufficient to indicate where the arguments employed to discredit this affair may be found.[50] They do not practically amount to more than this—that as a reprieve was certainly granted in the Council Chamber at Edinburgh, the execution could not possibly have taken place on the sands of the Solway. The case is indeed one which those who will accept nothing that cannot be proved with mathematical certainty will always find reasons for doubting; but at least they must have read the history of those times to little purpose if they can accept such an argument as conclusive. For the rest, it will be enough to say that the story first found its way into print in 1687, and that it was more circumstantially repeated in 1711, when the records of the Kirk Session of the parish of Penninghame were published by direction of the General Assembly. At that time Thomas Wilson, a brother of the younger sufferer, was still alive, with many others to whom the Killing-Time was something very much more than a tradition. In 1714 (possibly to a later date, but certainly in that year) a stone in Penninghame churchyard still marked the grave of Margaret Wilson, and told the story of her death.[51] The ruins of the church may still be seen, but the stone has long ago gone to join the dust that was once the bones of Margaret; and an obelisk, raised within our own times on the high ground outside the busy little seaport, now serves in statelier, if less vital, fashion to recall to the traveller the memory of the Martyrs of Wigtown. It is difficult to believe that a story so well and widely recorded, and so firmly implanted in the hearts of so many generations of men, can have absolutely no foundation in fact.[52] It is indeed possible that time has embellished the bald brutality of the deed, though the graphic narrative of Macaulay is practically that which Wodrow took from the records of Penninghame. But that the two women were drowned in the waters of the Blednock on May 11th, 1685, is surely a fact as well authenticated as any in the martyrology of the Scottish Covenant.

There is, as I have said, an excellent reason for not dragging my readers through the obscure and barren mazes of this controversy; and like all good reasons it is a very simple one. Claverhouse was present neither at the trial nor the execution. He had, indeed, no more to do with the deaths of these two women than Cameron, who had been five years in his grave, or Wodrow, who was but five years old. It is true that one of his family was present, but this was his brother, David Graham, Deputy Sheriff of Galloway, and but lately made one of the Lords Justices of Wigtownshire. Macaulay does not directly name Claverhouse as concerned in this affair; but it is one out of five selected by the historian as samples of the crimes by which "he, and men like him, goaded the Western peasantry into madness"—a consummation which, it may be observed in passing, had been effected twelve years before Claverhouse had drawn sword in Scotland. It is not certain that Macaulay believed the Graham who sat in judgment on these women to have been John Graham of Claverhouse. But it is certain that the effect of his narrative has been, in the minds of most English-speaking men, to add this also to the long list of mythical crimes which have blackened the memory of the hero of Killiecrankie.[53]

But over the other affair there rests no shadow of doubt. That Claverhouse, and he alone, is responsible for the death of John Brown stands on the very best authority, for it stands on his own. It is not, indeed, certain that he shot the man with his own hand. This is Wodrow's story, and as usual he gives no authority for it. "With some difficulty," he writes,

"he was allowed to pray, which he did with the greatest liberty and melting, and withal in such suitable and scriptural expressions, and in a peculiar judicious style, he having great measures of the gift as well as the grace of prayer, that the soldiers were affected and astonished; yea, which is yet more singular, such convictions were left in their bosoms that, as my informations bear, not one of them would shoot him or obey Claverhouse's commands, so that he was forced to turn executioner himself, and in a fret shot him with his own hand, before his own door, his wife with a young infant standing by, and she very near the time of her delivery of another child. When tears and entreaties could not prevail, and Claverhouse had shot him dead, I am credibly informed the widow said to him, 'Well, sir, you must give an account of what you have done.' Claverhouse answered, 'To men I can be answerable, and as for God, I'll take him into my own hand.' I am well informed that Claverhouse himself frequently acknowledged afterwards that John Brown's prayer left such impressions upon his spirit that he could never get altogether worn off, when he gave himself liberty to think of it."[54]

Patrick Walker, the pedlar, writing a very few years after Wodrow (whom he notices only to abuse for his inaccuracy and backsliding), and professing to have got his version from the wife, tells a different tale. "Claverhouse," he says, "ordered six soldiers to shoot him. The most part of the bullets came upon his head, which scattered his brains upon the ground." Of any refusal, or even disinclination, on the part of the soldiers to obey their orders there is not a word. Then we have Claverhouse's own report to Queensberry, written two days later from Galston, a village between Kilmarnock and Ayr.

"On Friday last, amongst the hills betwixt Douglas and the Ploughlands, we pursued two fellows a great way through the mosses, and in end seized them. They had no arms about them, and denied they had any. But being asked if they would take the abjuration, the eldest of the two, called John Brown, refused it; nor would he swear not to rise in arms against the King, but said he knew no king. Upon which, and there being found bullets and match in his house, and treasonable papers, I caused shoot him dead; which he suffered very unconcernedly. The other, a young fellow and his nephew, called John Brownen, offered to take the oath, but would not swear that he had not been at Newmills in arms, at rescuing of the prisoners. So I did not know what to do with him. I was convinced that he was guilty, but saw not how to proceed against him. Wherefore, after he had said his prayers, and carabines presented to shoot him, I offered to him that, if he would make an ingenuous confession, and make a discovery that might be of any importance for the King's service, I should delay putting him to death, and plead for him. Upon which he confessed that he was at that attack of Newmills, and that he had come straight to this house of his uncle's on Sunday morning. In the time he was making this confession the soldiers found out a house in the hill, under ground, that could hold a dozen of men, and there were swords and pistols in it; and this fellow declared that they belonged to his uncle, and that he had lurked in that place ever since Bothwell, where he was in arms.... He also gives account of those who gave any assistance to his uncle; and we have seized thereupon the goodman of the uppermost Ploughlands, and another tenant about a mile below that is fled upon it.... I have acquitted myself when I have told your Grace the case. He has been but a month or two with his halbert; and if your Grace thinks he deserves no mercy, justice will pass on him; for I, having no commission of justiciary myself, have delivered him up to the Lieutenant-General, to be disposed of as he pleases."[55]

It is singular that neither Wodrow nor Walker makes any mention of this nephew, whose presence on that day, taken in connection with his share in the affair at Newmills,[56] puts the uncle in rather a different light. There happen also to be one or two affairs known about this John Brown which are worth noting. For instance, his name is found on a list of proscribed rebels and resetters of rebels, appended to a royal proclamation of May 5th, 1684, which will naturally account for his "having been a long time upon his hiding in the hills," as Wodrow ingenuously confesses. In other words, this Brown was an outlaw and a marked man. He was by profession a carrier—"the Christian carrier," his friends called him, for the fervour and eloquence of his preaching, which was remarkable even in a neighbourhood where the gift of tongues was not uncommon. A carrier is an extremely useful channel of communication; and, in fact, there can be really no doubt that Brown had been for some time engaged in practices which the most iniquitous Government in the world could hardly be blamed for thinking inconvenient. It has been suggested that Claverhouse was at that time especially on the watch to intercept all communication between Argyle and Monmouth, and that Brown was employed in carrying intelligence between the rebel camps. Macaulay refuses this suggestion. He points out with perfect truth that both Argyle and Monmouth were at that time in Holland. But when he goes on to say that there was no insurrection in any part of our island, he goes rather too far. The western shires of Scotland had been in a state of insurrection ever since the Pentland rising, if there be any meaning in the word at all. And, though it is true that on May 1st (the day of Brown's death) Argyle was in Holland, it is no less true that on the second he had left Holland for Scotland; that since April 21st the Privy Council had been well informed of his designs; that measures had been taken for putting the whole kingdom in a state of defence against him; and that arrests had been already made on account of treasonable correspondence with him.[57] But the question is not one of probabilities, and moreover against these probabilities it may be very fairly urged that Claverhouse's own despatch proves that the nephew's confession and the discovery of the underground armoury were not made till after the uncle's death. Nor is there any word in this despatch to show that Claverhouse had any previous knowledge of Brown or was acting on particular information. The real question, and the only question, is, was Claverhouse legally—not morally, that belongs to another part of the case—was he legally justified in ordering the man to be shot? To this there can be but one answer, so long as the phrase "legal justification" bears the meaning it has hitherto borne for those who use the English tongue: both by the spirit and the letter of his commission he was justified in what he did. By the law of the Government whose servant Claverhouse then was, the death of John Brown on that Ayrshire moor was as lawful an act as the death on the scaffold of any prisoner to-day found guilty by a jury of his countrymen. In October, 1684, the Covenanters had published a declaration, drawn up by Renwick, of their intention to do unto all their enemies whom they could lay hands on, civil no less than military, as their enemies had done and should do unto them; and the deliberate murder of two troopers of the Life Guards in the following month had shown (what, to be sure, can have needed very little proof) that this was no idle threat.[58] An Act, therefore, was hastily passed to the effect that, "Any person who owns or will not disown the late treasonable declaration on oath, whether they have arms or not, be immediately put to death, this being always done in the presence of two witnesses, and the person or persons having commission to that effect." With the severity, the folly, or the injustice of such a law we are not for the moment concerned. The fact remains that such was the law; and Claverhouse transgressed no jot of it in ordering John Brown to death. It was no question of form of religion: it was no question of previous misconduct. The man would not take the oath; and he was accordingly shot in the presence of the requisite number of witnesses by the order of a competent authority.

On the truth of the details given both by Wodrow and Walker it is impossible to form any conclusion. Wodrow gives no authority for his version. "I am well informed," he says, "I am credibly informed," and so on; but the sources of his information he nowhere gives. Walker is more communicative; he, as we have seen, professed to have learned his story from Brown's wife; but no statement of Walker's can be accepted for absolute truth, and his uncertainty about even the names of his witnesses does not add the stamp of conviction to their testimony.[59] Beyond the bare fact that the man was shot in the presence of Claverhouse nothing is certain. On the rest of the story each must make up his mind as seems best to him.

With the death of Peter Gillies and John Bryce Claverhouse is not directly charged by Wodrow. Walker, however, quotes an epitaph said to have been inscribed on the grave of these men, who, with three others, were hanged, without trial, at Mauchline by

"Bloody Dumbarton, Douglas, and Dundee, Moved by the devil and the Laird of Lee."

These lines must have been composed some years after the event, inasmuch as the men were hanged on May 6th, 1685, and the patent of Claverhouse's peerage bears the date November 12th, 1688. This proves, what indeed few people can have doubted, that the damning testimony of "The Cloud of Witnesses" wants at least the weight of contemporary evidence. An authority, however, for this particular epitaph can be traced back to 1690, when Alexander Shields published his martyrology.[60] "The said Claverhouse," he wrote, "together with the Earl of Dumbarton and Lieut.-General Douglas, caused Peter Gillies, John Bryce, Thomas Young (who was taken by the Laird of Lee), William Fiddisone, and John Buiening to be put to death upon a gibbet, without legal trial or sentence, suffering them neither to have a Bible nor to pray before they died."[61] Defoe has evidently followed Shields;[62] but Walker, though he quotes the aforesaid epitaph, does not himself implicate Claverhouse.

Wodrow does not appear to have heard any of these stories. He names only Gillies and Bryce, quoting from the indictment, which does not specify the other sufferers, to show that the men were tried before General Drummond and a tribunal of fifteen soldiers on May 5th, and hanged on the following day. We have already seen that a few days previously Claverhouse had sent a prisoner for trial to this same General Drummond, because he had himself at that time no commission to try prisoners. Unless, therefore, we are ready to suppose that officers were in the habit of sitting on a jury with their own troopers, or to believe that within three days a change had taken place in Claverhouse's position of which there is no record either in his own letters or in any other existing document, we must accept Wodrow's narrative as the true one, and exonerate Claverhouse from all responsibility for the deaths of Gillies and his unfortunate fellow-sufferers.

Two cases yet remain of the five cited by Macaulay. With one of these—the case of the three men shot near Glasgow for refusing to pray for the King—no writer has ever pretended to implicate Claverhouse personally; but with the other he is directly concerned. Andrew Hislop was the son of a poor widow in whose house a proscribed Covenanter had lately died. This was discovered by one Johnstone of Westerhall, an apostate Presbyterian, and, like most of his class, particularly bitter against his former associates. He turned the woman with her younger children into the fields, pulled down her house, and dragged the eldest son before Claverhouse, then marching through that part of the country. So Macaulay tells the story, following for once the "Cloud of Witnesses" rather than Wodrow. According to the latter, Claverhouse found Hislop wandering about the fields, and carried him before Westerhall, "without any design, as appeared, to murder him." Westerhall voted for instant death, while Claverhouse pleaded for the lad, and only yielded at last on the other's insistence, saying: "The blood of this poor man be upon you, Westerhall. I am free of it." He thereupon ordered the captain of a Highland company, then brigaded with his own men, to provide a firing-party; but the Highlanders angrily refused, and the troopers had to do the work. Both versions, it will be seen, agree in representing Claverhouse as inclined to mercy but overborne by Westerhall. The question remains, how was it that the former, a masterful man and not easy to be silenced when he was in the right, could not save this poor lad if he had a mind to do so?

The answer is in truth not easy to find. The explanation that Westerhall was at that particular time superior in authority to Claverhouse will hardly serve. It is true that the latter had just then no civil jurisdiction at all, either to condemn or pardon—no commission of justiciary, as he wrote to Queensberry. He had been since the close of the previous year in disgrace at headquarters, in consequence of a quarrel between him and the Treasurer, arising out of some action of Colonel James Douglas, the latter's brother, of which Claverhouse seems to have expressed his disapproval rather too warmly. His name had accordingly been removed from the list of Privy Councillors soon after James's accession, and himself deprived of all his civil powers. His punishment did not indeed last long, nor was it allowed to affect his military rights. An order for his restoration to the Council had been signed on the very day of Hislop's death (though he did not take his seat again till July), but his civil powers had not been renewed. Westerhall was one of those who had in the previous year been empowered by royal commission to try prisoners, and his commission was still running when Claverhouse was disgraced. But on April 20th General Drummond was appointed to the supreme authority in all the southern and western shires, and his appointment was expressly declared to cancel all other civil commissions previously granted. Unless, therefore, some particular reservation had been made in Westerhall's favour, of which there is no existing record, he had no more jurisdiction than Claverhouse, and both were equally guilty of breaking the law. It was, indeed, still open to Claverhouse to act as he had acted with John Brown—to put the abjuration oath, and, on its being refused, to order the recusant to instant execution. There is no mention by any of the Covenanting writers that this oath was offered to Hislop. But unless it was, it is difficult to see how either Westerhall or Claverhouse could have been empowered to kill him. Nor is it likely that the latter, knowing well how many sharp eyes were on the look-out in Edinburgh to catch him tripping, would have ventured on so flagrant a breach of the law. It must also be remembered that neither Wodrow nor Walker, nor any writer on that side, has charged Claverhouse with exceeding the law. They cry out against the cruelty of the deed, but on its unlawfulness they are silent. We must suppose, therefore, that Hislop's case was the case of John Brown: he had refused the oath, and was therefore liable to death. But we cannot suppose that if Claverhouse had stood firm he could not have saved the lad's life. It is absurd to believe that at the head of his own soldiers, with another captain of the same way of thinking by him, such a man as Claverhouse was not strong enough to carry his own will against one who had not even the powers of an ordinary justice of the peace. We must, therefore, conclude that he was unwilling at that time to run the risk of further disgrace by any charge of unreasonable leniency to rebels. Like Pilate, he was willing to let the prisoner go; but, like Pilate again, he preferred his own convenience, and the prisoner was put to death.

On Defoe's list of victims murdered, as he calls it, by Claverhouse's own hand is the name of Graham of Galloway. The young man, he says, being pursued by the dragoons, had taken refuge in his mother's house; but being driven out thence was overtaken by Claverhouse and shot dead with a pistol, though he offered to surrender and begged hard for his life. Shield so words his version of the story as to make it doubtful whether the shot was fired by Claverhouse himself. In the "Cloud of Witnesses" it is not even made certain that Claverhouse was present. At the close of the year in which this alleged murder was committed Sir John Dalrymple brought his action against Claverhouse. It is not likely that so shrewd a lawyer would have overlooked such a chance as this, a case of murder committed in his own country; for murder it would certainly have been, were Defoe's story true. In 1682 military executions had not been sanctioned by law; and for a soldier to shoot a man offering to surrender would have been as clear a case of murder as was the butchery on Magus Moor. Yet throughout Dalrymple's indictment is no hint of any such offence. Claverhouse is accused of oppression by excessive fines and illegal quartering of troops, of malversation, and so forth; but of taking man's life unlawfully there is no single word.

Another of Defoe's victims is Matthew Mekellwrath. Claverhouse, he says, riding through Camonel in Carrick, saw a man run across the street in front of the soldiers, as though to get out of their way, and instantly ordered him to be shot, without any examination. In the "Cloud of Witnesses" an epitaph is quoted to show that the man was shot for refusing the abjuration oath.

Next we find four men dragged out of a house at Auchencloy, on Dee-side, where they had met for prayer, and shot before the door, without any examination. Defoe gives the names of the four as John Grier, Robert Fergusson, Archibald Stuart, and Robert Stuart. Shields substitutes for Archibald Stuart the name of James Macmichael. In "The Cloud of Witnesses" only Grier, Robert Stuart, and Fergusson are named. In Wodrow's pages the four men become eight: of these four, as given by Shields (Macmichael, however, being spelt Macmichan), were shot at once: two more, Smith and Hunter, were carried to Kirkcudbright and hanged after a form of trial: two, unnamed, got safe away. "It may be," adds Wodrow, "the rescue of some prisoners at Kirkcudbright by some of the wanderers, a little before this, was the pretext for all this cruelty."

It may indeed have been so, and something more than a rescue of prisoners may have helped. The affair on Dee-side took place December 18th, 1684. On the 11th of the same month (just after Renwick's proclamation of war) a party of men, headed by James Macmichael, murdered Peter Peirson, minister of Carsphairn, at his own door. Wodrow cannot shirk this fact: he finds it detestable, and generally denounced and disowned by the more respectable of the Covenanters; but he also manages to find as many excuses for it as he conveniently can in the provocation given by the victim. Peirson, he says, was "a surly, ill-natured man, and horridly severe." He was of great service to Lagg in ferreting out rebels, used to sit in court with him to advise him of the prisoners' characters, and generally make himself obnoxious to the Covenanters. He was also accused of leaning to popery, and is said on one occasion to have openly defended the doctrine of purgatory; on another he maintained Papists to be much better subjects than Presbyterians—as, indeed, from the Government's point of view they certainly were. How far Peirson deserved this character we cannot surely tell. The fact of his being hated by the Covenanters is not necessarily to his discredit; but we may assume that he was not conciliatory in his speech, that he meddled more in civil matters than became his cloth, and, in short, was probably made much after the same pattern as some of the chosen vessels of the Covenanting tabernacle. He lived alone in his manse, without even a servant, but took care always to have his firearms handy. The accounts of the murder vary a little in detail. One says that he was killed in a scuffle arising out of his furious and unprovoked treatment of a deputation which waited on him at midnight, to request him to come outside and speak with some friends who meant him no harm—a request which in the circumstances he can hardly be blamed for having received with some degree of suspicion. But the most authentic version represents him as shot dead the instant he opened his door. Macmichael fired the shot, and the man who called Peirson out was Robert Mitchell, nephew to James Mitchell, who was hanged five years previously for an attempt on Sharp's life.[63]

A week later, on December 18th, a party of Covenanters more than one hundred strong burst into Kirkcudbright ("the most irregular place in the kingdom," Claverhouse used to call it), killed the sentry who challenged them, broke open the gaol, set all the prisoners free, and then marched victoriously off, beating the town drum, with such of their rescues as would go with them, and all the arms they could lay hands on.

It is clear, then, from a comparison of the dates and names, that the men killed at Auchencloy were no innocent folk met together for prayer, but certainly included Peirson's murderer, and probably some of those concerned in the rescue at Kirkcudbright, as the place where they were surprised was but a few miles from that town. Moreover, it appears from another account that, so far from these men having been shot unresistingly, they were part of a larger force which had only been dispersed after a sharp skirmish.[64]

One more instance, and this part of my business will be done. Defoe names Robert Auchinleck as shot by Claverhouse without examination for not answering his challenge, the man, as was subsequently discovered, being too deaf to hear what was said to him. There is no mention elsewhere of Robert Auchinleck; but Shields includes in his list a man called Auchinleck, of Christian name unknown, who was killed in similar circumstances; and Wodrow gives a different version of the death of one William Auchinleck, both assigning the act to one Captain Douglas, who was marching from Kirkcudbright with a company of foot.[65]

These instances have been chosen as the most notorious and the most circumstantially recorded of the indictments made against Claverhouse. Of the traditions that gathered in the following century about his name I have taken no notice, nor of the vague charges brought by writers of still later date on no better authority than those traditions.[66] It was inevitable that as time wore on these floating legends would be gathered to one common head, and that the most important figure would be selected to bear the sins of all. It is of course possible that many and more damning instances might be added to the foregoing list, of which the record has now perished. But the most that can be done is to take what the counsel for the prosecution have brought forward, and to examine it as strictly as can now be possible.

It must always be difficult to reconsider with absolute impartiality any verdict that has been generally accepted for close upon two hundred years. On the one hand, there is a not unnatural disinclination for the trouble necessary to re-open a case already heard and judged: on the other, is a most natural inclination to take every fresh fact discovered, or every old blunder detected, as of paramount importance. The explorer in strange lands is too apt to take every mole-hill for a mountain. And when the verdict is one that has been endorsed by Macaulay, he must be a bold man indeed who thinks to upset it. Nevertheless, something has, I hope, been done to bear out my belief that Claverhouse has been too harshly judged. No attempt has been made to gloss over or conceal any crime that can be brought fairly home to him. The case of Andrew Hislop (a far blacker case than the more notorious one of John Brown) has been left as it stands, so far as the imperfect evidence enables us now to judge it. If that one case be held enough to substantiate the general verdict, if nothing can be set against it, there is no more to be said—save that, if this be justice, many a better man than Claverhouse must go to the wall.

One thing, at least, should be clear. He was no capricious and unlicensed oppressor of a God-fearing and inoffensive peasantry, but a soldier waging war against a turbulent population carrying arms and willing to use them. I have nowhere tried to soften the bitter tale of folly, misrule, and cruelty which drove those unhappy men into rebellion, nor to heighten by a single touch their responsibility for their own misfortunes. I have not tried to find excuses for the men whose orders Claverhouse obeyed, nor arguments to show that in the circumstances such orders were inevitable. But I have tried to show that in no single instance, of which the record is complete, did he go beyond the letter of his commission, and that in more than one instance he construed its spirit with a mildness for which he has never yet been given credit.

But nothing will avail to save him in the eyes of those who maintain that the law of human morality is fixed and immutable, and that men of every age and every country can only be judged, and must be judged, by the eternal laws of right and wrong. They, of course, will not allow the excuse that he was a soldier obeying the orders of his superior officers, even should they be disposed to admit that he did no more than that. The orders, they will say, were cruel and unjust: he should have refused to obey them. But is this unswerving standard possible as a gauge of human actions? Who then shall be safe? There are offences which, in Coleridge's happy phrase, are offences against the good manners of human nature itself. The man who committed such offences in the reign of Chedorlaomer was no doubt as guilty as the man who should commit them in the reign of Victoria. But are the offences which can be fairly laid to Claverhouse's account of such a kind? His most able and his bitterest accuser pronounces him to have been "rapacious and profane, of violent temper and obdurate heart." Yet every attempt of his enemies to convict him of extortion or malversation broke signally down. The decorum of his life and conversation was allowed even by the Covenanters; and it is recorded as a notable thing that, however disturbed or thwarted, he was never known to use profane language. The imperturbable calm of his temper is said by one of their own party to have at once exasperated and terrified those who were brought before him far more than the brutal fury of men like Dalziel and Lag.[67] His heart was indeed hard to those whom he regarded as plotters and murderers, traitors to their King and enemies of the true religion. He was indeed in his own way as much a fanatic as the men whom he was empowered to crush. His devotion to the Crown and to the Protestant faith was a passion as deep and sincere as that which moved the simple peasants of the West to find the gospel of Christ in the horrible compound of blasphemy and treason which too often made up the eloquence of the Conventicles. But his hardness, if not tempered with mercy, was at least guided by more justice than was common among his colleagues. He both advocated and practised the policy of distinguishing between the multitude and their ringleaders. The just punishment of one of the latter might save, he said, many of the former;[68] and his entreaty for the prisoners whom he found under sentence of death at Dundee proves that his actions were dictated by no vulgar thirst for blood. When judged by the general manners of the age, the circumstances of the time and his position, I do not believe him to have been cruel by nature or careless of human life. The standard of military morals in vogue two hundred years ago cannot be weighed by that in vogue to-day. The humanity of one generation is not the humanity of the next. Wellington was certainly not a cruel man, and he certainly was a most strict disciplinarian. Yet it is well known that many things were done during the Peninsular campaign which no general now would dare to pass unpunished, which no soldier now would even dare to do; and it is quite possible that eighty years hence our descendants will read with horror of the deeds done by their grandsires among the rocky passes of Afghanistan or on the burning sands of Egypt. I do not claim for Claverhouse that he was gentle, merciful, or humane beyond his time, though I believe him to have had as large a share of those qualities as any of his contemporaries would have displayed in similar circumstances. But I do claim for him that his faults were the faults not of the man but of his age; and I maintain that his age cannot in such matters be tried by the standard of this.


[49] I have been much indebted in this chapter to an anonymous pamphlet entitled "A Note to the Pictorial History of Scotland, on Claverhouse," apparently printed at Maidstone; but when, or on whose authority, I have been unable to discover. It was sent to me by an equally nameless benefactor.

[50] Napier, iii. Appendix 3, and his "Case for the Crown": Blackwood's Magazine, December 1863. On the other side see Barton, vii. 255: Macmillan's Magazine, December 1862; and a pamphlet by the Rev. Archibald Stewart, "History Vindicated in the case of the Wigtown Martyrs," 2nd ed. 1869.

[51] According to "The Cloud of Witnesses," first published in 1714, the epitaph ran as follows:

"Murdered for owning Christ supreme Head of his Church, and no more crime But her not owning Prelacy, And not abjuring Presbytery. Within the sea, tied to a stake, She suffered for Christ Jesus' sake."

The stone on which these lines were inscribed covered, according to the same authority, "the body of Margaret Wilson, who was drowned in the water of the Blednock upon the 11th of May, 1684 [5], by the Laird of Lagg."

[52] In Colonel Fergusson's most entertaining chapter of family history, "The Laird of Lagg," he mentions an old lady, still alive in 1834, who remembered her grandfather's account of the execution, which he declared he had himself witnessed: "There were cluds o' folk on the sands that day in clusters here and there, praying for the women as they were put down."

[53] Charles Kingsley, for example, wrote in "Alton Locke" of "the Scottish Saint Margaret whom Claverhouse and his men bound to a stake."

[54] Wodrow, iv. 244.

[55] Claverhouse to Queensberry, May 3rd, 1685. Napier, i. 141; and iii. 457.

[56] "John Inglis, captain of a troop of dragoons, lying in garrison at Newmills, in the West, a house belonging to the Earl of Loudon, having taken some of these fanatics prisoners, and though he had power to execute them, yet keeping them alive, some of their desperate comrades breaks in upon the garrison and rescues them, to their great shame; for which Inglis was degraded, and his place was given to Mr. George Winrahame, a bigot Papist." Fountainhall, quoted by Napier, iii. 457. This Winrahame may be the Winram who had to do with the Wigtown Martyrs. According to "The Cloud of Witnesses,"

"The actors of this cruel crime Was Lagg, Strachan, Winram, and Grahame."

A letter more or less in a name was of no account in the cacography of those times.

[57] "The new reign was not to remain long undisturbed; before the end of April there was the apprehension of a great civil war, and in May the news came that it had begun both in England and Scotland." These are Burton's words (vii. 258), and no one can accuse Burton of undue partiality to James or his government. See also Aytoun's Appendix to his "Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers," which, however, was written before the publication of Napier's book had proved Claverhouse's responsibility for the death of John Brown.

[58] Wodrow, iv. 148-9. He prints the declaration in full from a copy in Renwick's own handwriting. The following extracts will give some idea of it: "We have disowned the authority of Charles Stuart (not authority as God's institution, either among Christians or heathens) and all authority depending upon him, for reasons given elsewhere (disclaiming all such things as infer a magistratical relation betwixt him and us); and also we have declared war against him, and his accomplices such as lay out themselves to promote his wicked and hellish designs.... We do hereby declare unto all that whosoever stretcheth forth their hands against us ... by shedding our blood actually, either by authoritative commanding, such as bloody counsellors ... especially that so-called justiciary, generals of forces, adjutants, captains, lieutenants, and all in civil and military power, who make it their work to embrue their hands in our blood, or by obeying such commands, such as bloody militia men, malicious troopers, soldiers, and dragoons; likewise such gentlemen and commons who, through wickedness and ill-will, ride and run with the foresaid persons ... we say all and every one of such shall be reputed by us enemies to God and the covenanted work of reformation, and punished as such, according to our power and the degree of their offence.... Let not any think that (our God assisting us) we will be so slack-handed in time coming to put matters in execution as heretofore we have been, seeing we are bound faithfully and valiantly to maintain our covenants and the cause of Christ."

[59] For example, in the earliest edition of the pamphlet containing his version of this affair ("The Life of Peden") an "old singular Christian woman named Elizabeth Menzies" is mentioned as the first neighbour who came to condole with Mrs. Brown. In later editions Elizabeth Menzies becomes Jean Brown. The wife also is sometimes Isabel and sometimes Marion. Walker's "Biographia Presbyteriana" is a collection of tracts published by him at different times, of which this "Life of Peden" is the earliest and the best.

[60] "A Short Memorial of the Sufferings of the Presbyterians."

[61] This Buiening is called Bruning in "The Cloud of Witnesses," and may be the Brownen of Claverhouse's letter, that is to say, the nephew of John Brown.

[62] "It seems somebody had maliciously told this Graham they were of the Whigs who used the field meetings, upon which, without any trial or other sentence than his own command, his soldiers fetched them all to Mauchline, a village where his headquarters were, and hanged them immediately, not suffering them to enter into any house at their coming, nor at the entreaty of the poor men would suffer one to lend them a Bible, who it seems offered it, nor allow them a moment to pray to God." Defoe's "Memoirs of the Church of Scotland" were first published in 1717, a few years before Wodrow's History. Elsewhere in the same work he states that Claverhouse had "among the rest of his cruelties barbarously murdered several of the persecuted people with his own hands," also that "this man is said to have killed above a hundred men in this kind of cold blood cruelty." But Defoe's qualifications for a historian of those times are, to say the least, uncertain. He mentions Cameron and Cargill as alive and busy in 1684, four years after one had died fighting at Aird's Moss, and the other on the scaffold at Edinburgh.

[63] Wodrow, iv. 197; Napier, i. 89. I have called this the most authentic version because it professes to have come from the murderers themselves. It is to be found in a letter to Wodrow (printed by Napier) now in the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh. The date is 1715, and the writer, who only signs his initials, J.C., calls Wodrow "cousin." "I give you the account," he writes, "from the best information it's possible to be got, viz., from Robert Dun, in Woodheade of Carsphairn, and John Clark, then in that parish, now in Glenmont, in the parish of Strathone, anent the curate's death of Carsphairn, which they had from the actors' own mouths." Wodrow adds a little touch of his own—"Mr. Peirson with fury came out upon them with arms"—and is silent on the fact of Mitchell's presence.

[64] Fountainhall's "Historical Notices," and a letter to Queensberry from Sir Robert Dalzell and others, quoted by Napier, ii. 427-8.

[65] Wodrow, iv. 184.

[66] For example, the story told of Claverhouse sparing a man's life for the sport his capture had afforded, but ordering his ears to be shorn off. This may be found in a book called "Gleanings among the Mountains, or Traditions of the Covenanters," published at Edinburgh, in 1846, by the Rev. Robert Simpson, of Sanquhar. The same gentleman is responsible for an earlier volume, "The Times of Claverhouse," in which the Covenanters are described as a class of "quiet and orderly men," maintaining the standard of their gospel in "the most peaceful and inoffensive way." In neither volume is any authority offered for these stories: even the evidence of time and place is rarely vouchsafed.

[67] Walker's "Biographia Presbyteriana:" Lochiel's Memoirs.

[68] See ante, p. 92: also Napier, ii. 360, for a letter to the Lord Chancellor, June 9th, 1683. "I am as sorry to see a man die, even a Whig, as any of themselves. But when one dies justly, for his own faults, and may save a hundred to fall in the like, I have no scruple."


Both in Scotland and England events were now moving fast to their inevitable conclusion, but of Claverhouse's part in public affairs there is for the next three years little record. Only two of his letters have survived between May, 1685, and October, 1688, when the disastrous march into England began. From one of these it is clear that his restoration to favour at Whitehall had not improved his position at Edinburgh. Gratitude was not then a common virtue among public men. Claverhouse had done for his colleagues all that he had promised. The recollection of their debt to him, and the unlikelihood of their being able to increase it, did not serve to endear to them this successful soldier of fortune, who had indeed helped them to their ambition, but who had thereby shown a dangerous capacity for helping himself. At the head of these malcontents was, of course, Queensberry, though, as the King had shown himself determined not to lose the services of his brilliant captain, it was necessary for the Treasurer to give his jealousy a guarded form. He complained to Dumbarton (then commanding the forces in Scotland) that Claverhouse had misused some of his tenants, though in what manner is not clear. There is a letter from Claverhouse expressing in respectful terms his regret at Queensberry's annoyance, which he declares to have been founded on misapprehension of the facts.

"I am convinced (he writes) your Grace is ill-informed; for, after you have read what I wrote to you two days ago on that subject, I daresay I may refer myself to your own censure. That I had no desire to make great search there, anybody may judge. I came not from Ayr till after eleven in the forenoon, and went to Balagen with forty heritors again night. The Sanquhar is just in the road; and I used these men I met accidentally on the road better than ever I used any in these circumstances. And I may safely say that, as I shall answer to God, if they had been living on my ground I could not have forborne drawing my sword and knocking them down. However, I am glad I have received my Lord Dumbarton's orders anent your Grace's tenants, which I shall most punctually obey; though, I may say, they were safe as any in Scotland before."[69]

The previous letter here referred to has been lost; but it is probable that the complaint originated in Claverhouse's summons to these heritors, or small proprietors, to take arms in the King's service, as they were bound to do. Men will mostly follow their master's lead. The Treasurer's tenants knew well, we may be sure, how little love their master bore for the imperious soldier, and were no doubt somewhat saucy in their remonstrances; and sauciness Claverhouse would not brook from any man alive, whatever his quality.

But Queensberry and his crew had to nurse their grudge in secret. Much as the knowledge may have chafed them, they knew well that Claverhouse was the one man on whom they could depend for wise counsel and prompt action in emergency. A few weeks before this matter of the tenants he had received an urgent despatch from Edinburgh, signed by "his affectionate friends and servants" of the Council, authorising him to take what steps he thought best for disposing the troops. Argyle was on the sea, and the Campbells were mustering fast to their chief's call. Measures had already been taken in the northern shires. Athole had been appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Argyleshire, and held Inverary with a large force of his Highlanders. The Gordons, under their new-made Duke, were guarding the sea-board of Invernessshire. Glasgow was occupied by a strong body of militia. Ships of war watched the Firth of Clyde. To keep the Western Lowlands and the Border quiet was Claverhouse's charge. It is unnecessary to remind my readers what followed. Within little more than a month from his landing in Scotland Argyle stood upon the scaffold in Edinburgh; and a fortnight later Monmouth closed his short unhappy life on Tower Hill.

In this same despatch Claverhouse was told that the King had raised him to be a brigadier of both horse and foot, that James Douglas had received the same promotion, and that the latter's commission bore priority of date. He wisely took no notice of this slight,—for, comparing the weight of his services to the Government with the services of Douglas, a slight it undoubtedly was, and was meant to be. He knew that it did not come from the King, and he was much too prudent and too proud to let the others see that he was annoyed by a stupid insult he was powerless to resent. But there exists a letter from Secretary Murray to Queensberry which makes the business very clear. It is worth quoting as significant of the petty intrigues in which men of rank and position were not then ashamed to indulge.

"The King ordered two commissions to be drawn, for your brother and Claverhouse to be brigadiers. We were ordered to see how such commissions had been [drawn?] here, and in Earl Middleton's office we found the extract of one granted to Lord Churchill, another to Colonel Worden, the one for horse, the other for foot. So Lord Melfort told me the King had ordered him to draw one for your brother for the foot and Claverhouse for the horse. I told him that could not be; for by that means Claverhouse would command your brother. To be short, we were very hot on the matter. He said he knew no reason why Colonel Douglas should have the precedency, unless that he was your brother. I told him that was enough, but that there was a greater, and that was, that he was an officer of more experience and conduct, and that was the King's design of appointing brigadiers at this time. He said Claverhouse had served the King longer in Scotland. I told him that was yet wider from the purpose, for there were in the army that had served many years longer than Claverhouse, and of higher quality, and without disparagement to any, gallant in their personal courage. By this time I flung from him, and went straight to the King and represented the case. He followed, and came to us. But the King changed his mind and ordered him to draw the commissions both for horse and foot, and your brother's two days' date before the other; by which his command is clear before the other. I saw the commissions signed this afternoon, and they are sent herewith by Lord Charles Murray. Now, I beseech Your Grace, say nothing of this to any; nay, not now to your brother. For Lord Melfort said to Sir Andrew Forrester, that he was sure there would be a new storm on him. I could not, nor is [it] fit this should have been kept from you; but you will find it best for a while to know or take little notice, for it gives him but ground of talking, and serves no other end."[70]

But these jealous fellows were not to have it all their own way. In the autumn of the same year Claverhouse was summoned to London with Balcarres to be heard on a complaint he had in his turn to make against Queensberry. Early in the spring he had been peremptorily ordered to discharge a bond he had given to the Treasury for fines due from delinquents in Galloway. He answered that his brother (then Deputy-Sheriff of that shire) was collecting the fines, and requested more time for payment. On being told that he might take five or six days, he replied that, considering the difficulty of collection and the distances to be travelled, they might as well give him none. "Then," answered Queensberry, "you shall have none."[71] Claverhouse had many times applied for leave to be heard in his own defence; but Murray had hitherto persuaded the King to answer that no audience could be granted to him until he had made his peace with the Treasurer and been restored to his seat at the Council. But the name of Queensberry was not now the power it had been at Whitehall. It is difficult to believe that he was much more concerned with religion than Lauderdale; but he was, at any rate by profession, a staunch Protestant, and there were those among his colleagues ready to take every advantage of this passport to James's disfavour. It was determined to hear what Claverhouse had to say for himself. He was summoned to London, graciously received by the King, and pleaded his cause so effectually that the Treasurer was ordered to refund the money.

Claverhouse and Balcarres returned to Edinburgh on December 24th. With them came the Chancellor Perth and his brother, John Drummond, the new Lord Melfort. The brothers were in James's best books, for they had recently professed themselves converted to the Roman Catholic faith by the convincing logic of the papers found in Charles's strong-box and made public by the King.[72] But they were not so popular in Edinburgh. The new year opened with something very like a No Popery riot. Lady Perth was insulted on her way home from mass by a baker's boy. The Privy Council ordered the lad to be whipped through the Canongate, but the 'prentices rose to the rescue of their comrade. The guard was called out: there was firing, and some citizens fell. There was disaffection, too, among the troops: one soldier was arrested for refusing to fire on a Protestant: another was shot for threatening to run his sword through a Papist. In the Council Perth moved that one Canaires, minister at Selkirk, should be arraigned for preaching against the Pope; but he found no man on his side except Claverhouse, who, though Protestant to the backbone, had no mind to see his King insulted under the cloak of religion. James's famous scheme of Universal Toleration was soon found to be what every sensible man had foreseen—a scheme of toleration for his own religion and of persecution for all others.

But the history of the next three years, with its wretched tale of violence and folly, of oppressions that broke the hearts of the loyal, and concessions that only moved the scorn of the mutinous, may be read elsewhere. The last appearance of Claverhouse on the scene is at the Council in February, 1686, where he supports Perth in his motion to bring the indiscreet minister to book, till he appears again in his proper character as a soldier commanding the cavalry of the Scottish contingent on its march south to join the army of England. We know, however, that in that same year, 1686, he was promoted to be Major-General, and in March, 1688, was made Provost of Dundee. We must now pass to the memorable autumn of the latter year.

In September, 1688, a despatch in James's own hand was sent down to the Council at Edinburgh announcing the imminent invasion of England by the Prince of Orange. Perth, still Chancellor and a Papist, was told to do nothing without consulting Balcarres and Tarbat. Their advice was unquestionably the best that could have been given for James and the worst for England; for, had it been followed, instead of the short Highland campaign of the following year, that began at Killiecrankie and ended at Dunkeld, there would in all probability have been civil war throughout the kingdom. They advised that the regular troops under Douglas and Claverhouse, now between three and four thousand strong, should be augmented by a force of twelve thousand raised from the Highland clans and the militia, and that these troops should be distributed along the Border and through the northern shires of England. Preparations were at once begun to this effect. The chiefs of the great clans were ordered to hold their claymores ready: the castles of Edinburgh and Stirling were munitioned for war: the militia was called out in every county, and volunteers enrolled in every town. In the midst of the bustle arrived a second despatch from James, ordering the regular troops to march at once for England to join the army under Feversham. This foolish order was Melfort's doing, urged by his secretary, Stewart of Goodtrees, who, after having been concerned in all the most notorious plots of the last twenty years, and actually condemned to death for his share in Argyle's rebellion, had now blossomed into an Under-Secretary of State. Remonstrance was useless. "The order," wrote Balcarres, "was positive and short—advised by Mr. James Stewart at a supper, and wrote upon the back of a plate, and an express immediately despatched therewith."

And so "with a sorrowful heart," he goes on to remind the exiled King, "they began their march—three thousand effective young men—vigorous, well-disciplined and clothed, and, to a man, hearty in your cause, and willing, out of principle as well as duty, to hazard their lives for the support of the Government as then established both in Church and State."[73] The loyalty of some of these fine fellows was, however, destined soon to suffer a change in the disturbing atmosphere of England.

The full strength of the Scottish contingent was three thousand seven hundred and sixty-three men. Douglas was in command, with Claverhouse under him at the head of the cavalry, which mustered eight hundred and forty-one sabres, including his own regiment, Livingstone's troop of Life Guards, and Dunmore's dragoons, a regiment which, as the Scots Greys, has since earned a reputation second to none in the British Army. The infantry was made up of Douglas's own regiment of Foot Guards, now the Scots Guards: Buchan's regiment, now the Twenty-first of the Line, or, to give them their latest title, the Royal Scots Fusiliers; and Wauchope's regiment:—two thousand nine hundred and twenty-two men in all.[74] They left Scotland in the beginning of October, the foot marching by way of Chester, the horse by way of York, on London. Early in November they reached the capital, where they lay for a few days: Claverhouse, with his own regiment and the Horse Guards, being quartered in Westminster, the dragoons in Southwark, and Douglas, with his Foot Guards, in Holborn. On the tenth of the month they marched for Salisbury, where the King's army was now gathered. During the march Claverhouse received the last and most signal proof of favour James was to give him. On November 12th he had been created Viscount of Dundee.

In the royal camp all was confusion and doubt. William was at Axminster, and not a single enemy was in his rear. Many of the great English houses had already joined him, and each hour brought news to Salisbury of fresh disaffection in every part of the kingdom. James was at first anxious to fight, but Feversham warned him that, though the men were steady, few of his officers could be depended on. Before leaving London the King had called his chief captains together and offered passes to all who were desirous to leave him for the Prince of Orange, "to spare them," he said, "the shame of deserting their lawful sovereign." All were profuse in professions of loyalty, and among them were Churchill, Grafton, and the butcher Kirke. Churchill, we know, continued these professions up to the eleventh hour. On the evening of the 24th James held a council of war, in which Churchill's voice was loudest for battle. That night he left Salisbury for Axminster, and Grafton went with him. Some of the Scottish officers stood firm, but not all. Dumbarton offered to lead his regiment alone against the enemy. Dundee urged James to do one of three things: to fight the Prince, to demand from him in person his business in England, or to retire into Scotland with his faithful troops. But the King still hesitated, and while he hesitated the moment passed. Kirke, who commanded the advance guard at Warminster, flatly refused to obey the orders sent him from Salisbury, and a rumour spread that he had gone over to William with all his men. The King broke up the camp and began his retreat to London; and before he had got farther on his way than Andover, Ormonde and Prince George had joined the deserters, taking with them young Drumlanrig. Douglas did not himself go over; but one of his battalions did, without any attempt on his part to stop them. He had sounded Dundee on the expediency of making terms for themselves with William; but as he had done so under an oath of secrecy, Dundee felt himself bound in honour to keep silence, and we may suppose made it a part of the bargain that Douglas should stay where he was.

James left no orders behind him, and after his retreat the movements of his army are somewhat confused. Dundee marched his cavalry to Reading, where he was joined by Dumbarton. Thence they were ordered to Uxbridge to consult with Feversham on the chances of a battle. But hardly had they got there when the latter received orders to disband the army, and heard at the same time of the King's flight from London. The Scottish troops clamoured for Dundee to lead them back to their country. He marched them to Watford, and while there, it is said, received a letter from William, who had now advanced to Hungerford, bidding him stay where he was and none should harm him.[75] According to Balcarres, Dundee made at once for London on the news of the King's flight, and was still there on his return. But the fact is that few of these contemporary writers descend to dates, and it is almost impossible therefore to track any one man's movements through those troubled days. It is, however, certain that a meeting of the Scottish Council was summoned in London by Hamilton at some period between James's first flight and his return, and that Dundee attended it. That Hamilton meditated declaring for William is certain, and that he would have taken all his colleagues with him, except Dundee and Balcarres, is probable; but the King's sudden return to Whitehall postponed matters for a time.

James reached London from Rochester on the afternoon of Sunday, December 16th. William was then at Windsor, and James expressed a wish to meet him in London, offering St. James's Palace for his quarters. William sent an answer that he could not come to London while there were any troops there not under his command. On the 17th a council was held at Windsor, with Halifax in the chair, to determine what should be done with James. William himself would not be present. It was decided that James must, at any rate, leave London, and the decision was brought to him that night as he lay asleep in bed. No resistance was possible, had any been intended. The Dutch had occupied Chelsea and Kensington early in the afternoon; and when Halifax, Shrewsbury, and Delamere arrived with their message from Windsor, three battalions of foot, with some troops of horse, were bivouacked in St. James's Park, and Dutch sentinels were posted at Whitehall.

Early on the morning of the 17th Dundee and Balcarres had waited on the King. None were with him but some gentlemen of his bedchamber. Balcarres told him that he had orders from his colleagues to promise that, if the King would give the word, an army of twenty thousand men should be ready within four-and-twenty hours. "My lord," replied James, "I know you to be my friend, sincere and honourable: the men who sent you are not so, and I expect nothing from them." It was a fine morning, and he said he should like a walk. Balcarres and Dundee attended him into the Mall. When they had got there the King asked them, how came they still to be with him when all the world had forsaken him for the Prince of Orange? Both answered that their fidelity to so good a master would be ever the same, and that they had nothing to do with the Prince of Orange. "Will you two," then asked the King, "say you have still attachment to me?" "Sir," was the answer, "we do." "Will you give me your hands upon it as men of honour?" They did so. "Well," said the King, "I see you are the men I always took you to be; you shall know all my intentions. I can no longer remain here but as a cypher, or to be a prisoner to the Prince of Orange, and you know there is but a small distance between the prisons and the graves of kings. Therefore I go for France immediately; when there you shall have my instructions—you, Lord Balcarres, shall have a commission to manage my civil affairs, and you, Lord Dundee, to command my troops in Scotland."

They then parted. On the next morning, the morning of the 18th, in dark and rainy weather, the royal barge was ready at Whitehall stairs, under an escort of boats filled with Dutch soldiers. Halifax, with his colleagues from Windsor, attended the King to the water-side. Dumbarton, Arran, and a few others followed him down the river, and stayed by him during the few painful days he lingered at Rochester. At dawn of the 23rd James left England for ever.

Dundee stayed on in London. His regiment had been disbanded, and the rest of the Scottish forces, after a spirited but futile attempt to take matters into their own hands, had settled quietly down under their new colonels, some of the most doubtful ones being sent out of harm's way to Holland. Dunmore had thrown up his command, and his dragoons were now in the charge of Sir Thomas Livingstone. Schomberg was placed, to their intense disgust, at the head of Dumbarton's infantry, once James's favourite regiment. Some of his old troopers, however, still kept by the captain whom they had known as Claverhouse.

Hamilton and his party pressed William to exempt from the general amnesty certain members of the Scottish Council whom they named as particular and unscrupulous instruments of James's tyranny, and unsafe to be let go at large. But the Prince with his usual good sense refused to drive any man into opposition: the past even of the most guilty should, he said, be forgotten till he was forced to remember it. Against Dundee and Balcarres he had been especially warned. He remembered both well: Balcarres had married a lady of his family, and Dundee had fought by his side. He asked them both to enter his service. They refused, and Balcarres, plainly avowing the commission entrusted to him by James, asked if, in such circumstances, he could honourably take service with another. "I cannot say that you can," was the answer, "but take care that you fall not within the law, for otherwise I shall be forced against my will to let the law overtake you." Dundee was told that if he would live quietly at home, no allegiance should be exacted from him and no harm done to him. He answered that he would live quietly, if he were not forced to live otherwise. Early in February the two friends left London for Edinburgh.[76]


[69] Claverhouse to Queensberry, June 16th, 1685.

[70] Napier, iii. 464: this Murray was Alexander Stuart, Earl of Murray, descendant and heir of the famous Regent. He declared himself a convert to the Church of Rome at the same time as Perth and Melfort.

[71] Napier, iii. 435: quoted from Fountainhall.

[72] Burnet, ii. 341.

[73] The memoirs of Colin Lindsay, third Earl of Balcarres, were presented to James at Saint Germains in 1690. The edition I have used is that printed for the Bannatyne Club in 1841 by the late Lord Crawford, from a transcript made by James, the son of the writer, and great-grandfather of Lord Crawford. The editions previously printed in 1715 and 1754, and in Walter Scott's edition of Somers's Tracts published in 1814, contain many passages not to be found in the first transcript, and declared, by its latest editor, to reflect the opinions and sentiments of the copyist rather than those of the original author.

[74] Cannon's "Historical Records of the British Army:" Napier, iii. 475-76. Claverhouse's own regiment was disbanded early in the following year. The first colonel of the Greys, then officially known as "The Royal Regiment of Scots Dragoons," was Dalziel, Lord Charles Murray (afterwards created Earl of Dunmore) serving as captain under him. Dalziel died in 1685, and was succeeded in the command by Dunmore. Napier gives the muster-roll of Claverhouse's regiment for May, 1685. It consisted of six troops, of which the colonel, as the custom then was, commanded the first in person, the other captains being Lords Drumlanrig, Ross, Airlie, Balcarres, and William Douglas; hardly the men, perhaps, to sanction the pranks of Macaulay's Apollyons and Beelzebubs. Napier also quotes an amusing passage in a letter from Athole to Queensberry, which, as he says, may recall memories of a certain historic injunction of later times, "to take care of Dowb." Athole had been superseded in his command of the Life Guards by Montrose, and when the latter fell sick, made interest with Queensberry to be reinstated. "As you will oblige me," the passage runs, "pray remember Geordie Murray [who held a commission in the regiment], but not in wrath."

[75] Creichton.

[76] It is not clear that Dundee had an audience of William. Macaulay says in one place that he was not ungraciously received at Saint James's, and in another that he employed the mediations of Burnet. Both statements are of course compatible with each other. The latter rests on Burnet's own authority; but for the former I can find none in any of the writers from whom Macaulay has taken his narrative of these days. Dalrymple's words are, "Dundee refused without ceremony," which may mean anything. It is, I think, not improbable that William employed Burnet to sound Dundee, and that the good bishop, among whose qualities tact was not pre-eminent, managing the matter clumsily, met with an unceremonious refusal for his pains. The point, however, is of no importance. It is clear enough that William, would have been glad to see both men in his service, and that they both declined to enter it. As Macaulay has called Dundee's conduct disingenuous, apparently on Burnet's authority, it may be well to give the bishop's own words. "He [Dundee] had employed me to carry messages from him to the King, to know what security he might expect if he should go and live in Scotland without owning his government. The King said, if he would live peaceably, and at home, he would protect him: to this he answered, that, unless he was forced to it, he would live quietly." "History of My Own Time," iii. 29. Macaulay's paraphrase is as follows. "Dundee seems to have been less ingenuous. He employed the mediation of Burnet, opened a negotiation with Saint James's, declared himself willing to acquiesce in the new order of things, obtained from William a promise of protection, and promised in return to live peaceably. Such credit was given to his professions, that he was suffered to travel down to Scotland under the escort of a troop of cavalry." "History of England," iv. 281. I do not think the text quite bears out the commentary; and indeed elsewhere in the chapter Macaulay seems inclined to allow more credit to these professions. The "escort" under which Dundee was "suffered to travel" consisted of his own troopers, who had followed him from Watford to London, and stayed with him to the end.


All eyes were now turned to Scotland. England had practically accepted William, and although the terms of acceptance were still in some quarters kept open to question, there was no longer fear that the final answer would have to be given by the sword. In Scotland the case was different. Many of the great nobles and other dignitaries had indeed professed themselves in favour of William, but political morality, a custom nowhere in those days very rigidly observed, may be said to have been honoured by Scottish statesmen almost wholly in the breach. No man trusted his neighbour, and his neighbour was perfectly aware of the fact. It was impossible to say what an hour might not bring forth; and in this flux of things no man could guarantee that the Whigs of to-day would not be the Jacobites of to-morrow. Hamilton was the recognised leader of the Whigs, Athole of the Jacobites. Both were great and powerful noblemen. The influence of Hamilton was supreme in the Western Lowlands: only Mac Callum More could muster to his standard a larger gathering than the lord of Blair, and the glory of Mac Callum More was now in eclipse. Yet Hamilton had been one of James' Privy Councillors, and had not declared for William till the Dutch guards were at Whitehall. His son Arran and his brother Dumbarton were both on the other side: Arran had accompanied James to Rochester, and Dumbarton had refused to hold his commission under the Prince of Orange. Athole had more than once coquetted with the Whigs, and his present Jacobitism was shrewdly suspected to be due to the coolness with which his advances had been received: his son Lord Murray, who had married a daughter of Hamilton, had declared for William. These great noblemen had indeed the satisfaction of feeling that, however the die might fall, their titles and estates were at least secured. But the wisdom of their family arrangements did not increase their reputation with their parties. The Duke of Gordon held the castle of Edinburgh for James; and, though the Duke was a weak creature, his position was strong. The bulk of the common people were undoubtedly Whigs: the bishops, and the clergy generally, were, if not exactly Jacobites, undoubtedly Tories.

There were religious troubles of course to swell the political ones. When the news of James's flight reached Edinburgh, Perth had been imprudently induced to disband the militia, and the Covenanters had been quick to take advantage of the imprudence. The Episcopal clergymen were rabbled throughout all the western shires. Their houses were sacked, and themselves and their families insulted and sometimes beaten: the churches were locked, and the keys carried off in triumph by the pious zealots. In Glasgow the Cathedral was attacked, and the congregation pelted through the streets. In Edinburgh Holyrood Palace was carried by storm: the Catholic chapel, which James had built and adorned with great splendour, was gutted, and the printing-press, employed to publish tracts in favour of the Catholic religion, was broken up. Perth fled for his life, but was overtaken at sea, carried back and lodged in Stirling Castle, followed by the threats and curses of the mob. Such was the temper of the Scottish nation when the Convention of Estates, summoned by William, met at Edinburgh on March 14th, 1689.

The Act depriving the Presbyterians of the franchise had been annulled, and the elections had gone strongly in favour of the Whigs. Hamilton had been chosen President by a majority of forty votes over Athole, whereupon twenty ardent Jacobites went straightway over to the other side. The next thing to be done was to get rid of Gordon. It was impossible, they said, for a free Parliament to deliberate under the shadow of hostile guns. Two of his friends, the Earls of Lothian and Tweeddale, were accordingly sent to the Duke with a message from the Convention, offering him favourable terms of surrender. He asked a night for consideration; but during the night he was also visited by Dundee and Balcarres. They showed him the commissions entrusted to them by James, and told him that if things did not go better for their party they had resolved to exercise their power of summoning a new Convention to Stirling. At his request Dundee also gave him a paper guaranteeing his action in holding the castle as most necessary to the cause. On the following day, when the earls returned, Gordon told them he had decided not to surrender his trust except upon terms too extravagant to be seriously considered. He was accordingly summoned in form by the heralds: guards were posted round the castle, and all communications between it and the town declared treasonable. The Duke replied by a largess of money to the heralds to drink King James's health, telling them that they should in common decency have turned the King's coats they wore on their backs before they came to declare the King's subjects traitors.

Meanwhile a messenger had arrived with a sealed despatch for the Estates from James. It seemed strange both to Dundee and Balcarres that the message had not been to them, or at least accompanied by a letter informing them of its purport; but they had no suspicion of its contents, and willingly agreed to the terms on which the Whigs consented to hear it read. These terms were, that the Convention was a legal and free meeting, and would accept no order to dissolve until it had secured the liberty and religion of Scotland. The vote was passed, and the letter was read, to the consternation of the Jacobites and the delight of the Whigs. Of all the foolish acts committed by James the despatch of this letter was, in the circumstances, the most foolish. Not a word did it contain of any intention to respect the religion or the liberty of men whom it still professed to address as subjects. Pardon was promised to all who should return to their allegiance within a fortnight: to all others punishment was threatened in this world, and damnation in the next. Nothing was wanting to heighten the imprudence. The letter was in the handwriting of Melfort, who was equally odious to both parties; and it had been preceded by one from William expressed in terms as wise and moderate as the others were headstrong and foolish. But the feeling of the more temperate Jacobites will best be shown in the account Balcarres himself gave to his master of the effect produced by this fatal epistle. "When the messenger was announced," he wrote,

"His coming was joyful to us, expecting a letter from your Majesty to the Convention, in terms suitable to the bad situation of your affairs in England, and as had been advised by your friends before we left London; and so assured were they of their advices being followed, that they had encouraged all the loyal party, and engaged many to come to the Convention, in hopes such full satisfaction would be given in matters of religion and liberty, that even most of those who had declared against you would return to their duty. But, as in place of such a letter as was expected, or letters to particular persons, as was advised, came a letter from your Majesty to the Convention, without any copy to show your friends, in terms absolutely different from those we had agreed upon, and sent to your Majesty by Mr. Lindsay from London. Upon other occasions such a letter might have passed, if there had been power to have backed it, or force to make good its reception; but after the Parliament of England had refused to read a letter from your Majesty because of the Earl of Melfort's countersigning it [and considering] that England had made the Prince of Orange their King, and that it was known you had none to sustain your cause but those who advised letters of another strain, it was a fault of your advisers hardly to be pardoned.... Crane was brought in and the letter read, with the same order and respect observed upon such occasions to our Kings; but no sooner was it twice read and known to be Earl Melfort's hand and style, but the house was in a tumult—your enemies in joy and your friends in confusion. Glad were your enemies to find nothing so much as promised of what we had asserted should be done for their satisfaction, [they] having much feared many of their party would have forsaken them if your Majesty's letter had been written in the terms we advised from London. Mr. Crane could give no account why the advice of your friends was not followed, but Mr. Lindsay made no secret of it after he came back from St. Germain's, but informed us that, after he had delivered to [the] Earl of Melfort the letters and advices of your friends at London to your Majesty, his Lordship kept him retired, and he was not suffered to attend you—fearing that what he had written to your Majesty relating to his Lordship might spoil his project of going to Ireland with you. We had observed at London the great aversion men of all professions had at his being employed, and we knew he was in no better esteem in his own country, which made us entreat your Majesty to leave him in France, and some, upon his own account, advised his not coming over, knowing the danger he might be in; but his Lordship either suppressed our letters or gave our advices another turn than was intended, by which all our hopes of succeeding in the Convention vanished, nor was ever seen so great an alteration as was observed at the next meeting after your letter was read, which made all your friends resolve to leave Edinburgh and to call a Convention of Estates at Stirling, as your Majesty had given the Archbishop of St. Andrews, the Viscount of Dundee, and myself the power to do this by a warrant sent by Mr. Brown from Ireland."

Dundee was anxious to be gone. He saw that the game was up in the Convention, and there were other reasons. For many days past troops of strange, fierce-looking men, carrying arms but half-concealed beneath their plaids, had been flocking into Edinburgh. These were the men of the hill-sides and moorlands of the West, the wild Western Whigs, who feared and hated the name of Claverhouse more than anything on earth. Their leader was William Cleland, a survivor from the fields of Drumclog and Bothwell, a brave and able young man, of good education and humane above his fellows, but who, it was well known, was burning to have vengeance upon Dundee. Some of these men had been heard to mutter that the tables were turned now, and "bloodly Clavers" should play the persecutor no more. Word was brought to Dundee that a plot was on foot to assassinate him and Sir George Mackenzie, the most hated of all James's lawyers. Whether the rumour were true or not, it was at least too probable to be disregarded. Dundee laid the matter before Hamilton, offered to produce his witnesses, and demanded that these armed strangers be ordered to leave the town. Hamilton (who was, in fact, responsible for their presence) answered that the Convention had more important matters to think of, that the city could not be left defenceless to Gordon and his rebellious garrison, and, it is said, twitted Dundee with imaginary fears unbecoming a brave man.

A meeting of the Jacobites was held. It was decided to call a fresh Convention at Stirling. Mar, who held the castle there, professed himself staunch, and Athole promised to have a force of his Highlanders in readiness. This was on Saturday, March 16th: it was determined to leave Edinburgh on the following Monday.

When Monday came Athole proposed to wait another day. As his co-operation was of the greatest importance, his proposal was accepted. But Dundee would wait no longer. In vain Balcarres told him that his haste would ruin all their plans. He answered that he would take no action without the agreement of the rest, but in Edinburgh he would stay no longer. He had made an appointment for that day with some friends outside the walls, and he could not break it. His troopers had been in readiness since an early hour, and Dundee returning to his lodgings gave signal to mount. The streets were thronged with scowling faces, but they shrank to right and left as those stern riders came clattering down the Canongate. A friend called from the crowd to know whither they went. Dundee raised his hat from his head and answered: "Wherever the spirit of Montrose shall direct me." When clear of the walls he led his men to the left up the Leith Wynd and along the bank of the North Loch, the ground now occupied by the busy and handsome thoroughfare known as Prince's Street. The road to Stirling winds beneath the Castle rock, and as the cavalcade came on, their leader saw the Duke on the ramparts, making signals to him for an interview. Dundee dismounted, and scrambled up the steep face of the rock. What passed between them is not clearly known. Balcarres says Dundee told the Duke of the design for Stirling, and once more prayed him to stand firm. But it seems clear that Dundee had by that time abandoned all hopes of a fresh Convention, and it is doubtful whether he had any definite plan in his mind. Dalrymple's report of the conversation seems more likely to be the true one. According to him Dundee pressed the Duke to come north with him, leaving the castle to the charge of the Lieutenant-Governor, Winram, a man who had made himself too odious to the people to leave room for any doubt of his fidelity to James. But these bold ventures were not to the Duke's taste: his courage was of that sort which shows best behind stone walls: and his answer was ingeniously framed to conceal his timidity under a show of discipline. "A soldier," he said, "cannot in honour quit the post that is assigned to him."

Meanwhile the city was in an uproar. A number of people had gathered round the foot of the rock to stare at the strange sight. The watchers from the city magnified this idle crowd into a hostile force. A messenger came in haste to the Convention with the news that Dundee was at the gates with an army, and that the Duke of Gordon was preparing to fire on the town.

Hamilton, who, while affairs were still in the balance, had behaved with unexpected moderation, now gave loose to his temper. The time had come, he said, for all good friends of order to see to their safety when enemies to their liberties and religion were taking arms. There was danger within as well as without. The traitors must be kept close; but true men had nothing to fear, for thousands were ready to start up in their defence at the stamp of his foot. He then ordered the room to be locked, and the keys to be laid on the table. The drums beat to arms: the town-guard, and such force of militia as was still in the city, fell in; while from garrets and cellars the Westland men came thronging into the streets, with weapons in their hands, and in their faces fury and fear of their terrible enemy. After a time, as the news came that Dundee had ridden off northward and that all seemed quiet in the castle, the tumult subsided. The doors of the Parliament House were opened, and the members came out. Hamilton and his party were greeted with loud cheers: threats and execrations no less loud assailed the few and downcast Jacobites. From that memorable day the friends of William had nothing more to fear in the capital of Scotland. For a while, indeed, some show of opposition was still maintained, faintly stimulated by the arrival of Queensberry from London. But he had come too late. His power was no longer what it had been; nor were his professions of loyalty regarded by men like Balcarres as above all suspicion. For Queensberry had been wise with the wisdom of Hamilton and Athole. The great House of Douglas was prudently divided against itself, and come what might it should not fall. And Athole now, after with great show of bravery urging Gordon to fire on the town, had grown somewhat less than lukewarm, while Mar, the Governor of Stirling Castle, put an end for ever to any thoughts of a fresh Convention in that city by boldly declaring for William. The hopes and the hearts of the Jacobites had gone northward with Dundee; and in truth there was not at this moment a brave company of either.

Dundee did not draw rein in Stirling. He galloped through the town, across the bridge, and on by Dunblane, where he stayed the night, to his own home at Dudhope, where his lady was then waiting her confinement. The only man of his own quality who had ridden with him from Edinburgh was George Livingstone, Lord Linlithgow's son, whose troop of Life Guards had been taken from him in the general re-arrangement of regiments that had followed the fiasco of Salisbury; and he had left his companion on the road to make for Lord Strathmore's house at Glamis. For a week of unwonted quiet, the last he was to know on earth, Dundee rested at Dudhope. Then his enemies found him. On the morning of the 26th Hamilton's messengers appeared before his gates, summoning him to lay down his arms and return to his duty at the Convention, on pain of being proclaimed traitor and outlaw. Dundee replied by a letter which, as it has been styled both disrespectful and disingenuous, it is worth while to print in full.

"Dudhope, March 27th, 1689.

"May it please your Grace:—The coming of an herald and trumpeter to summon a man to lay down arms that is living in peace at home, seems to me a very extraordinary thing, and, I suppose, will do so to all that hear of it. While I attended the Convention at Edinburgh I complained often of many people being in arms without authority, which was notoriously known to be true; even the wild hill-men; and no summons to lay down arms under the pain of treason being given them, I thought it unsafe for me to remain longer among them. And because a few of my friends did me the favour to convey me out of the reach of these murderers, and that my Lord Livingstone and several other officers took occasion to come away at the same time, this must be called being in arms. We did not exceed the number allowed by the Meeting of Estates. My Lord Livingstone and I might have had each of us ten; and four or five officers that were in company might have had a certain number allowed them; which being, it will be found we exceeded not. I am sure it is far short of the number my Lord Lorn was seen to march with. And though I had gone away with some more than ordinary, who can blame me when designs of murdering me was made appear? Besides, it is known to everybody that, before we came within sixteen miles of this, my Lord Livingstone went off to his brother, my Lord Strathmore's, house; and most of the officers and several of the company went to their respective homes or relations. And, if any of them did me the favour to come along with me, must that be called being in arms? Sure, when your Grace represents this to the Meeting of the States, they will discharge such a groundless pursuit, and think my appearance before them unnecessary. Besides, though it were necessary for me to go and attend the meeting, I cannot come with freedom and safety, because I am informed there are men-of-war and foreign troops in the passage; and till I know what they are and what are their orders, the Meeting cannot blame me for not coming. Then, my Lord, seeing the summons has proceeded on a groundless story, I hope the Meeting of States will think it unreasonable I should leave my wife in the condition she is in. If there be anybody that, notwithstanding of all that is said, thinks I ought to appear, I beg the favour of a delay till my wife is brought to bed; and in the meantime I will either give security or parole not to disturb the peace. Seeing this pursuit is so groundless, and so reasonable things offered, and the Meeting composed of prudent men and men of honour, and your Grace presiding in it, I have no reason to fear further trouble.

"I am, may it please your Grace, your most humble servant,


"I beg your Grace will cause this read to the Meeting, because it is all the defence I have made. I sent another to your Grace from Dunblane with the reasons of my leaving Edinburgh. I know not if it be come to your hands."

The letter was read to the Convention on the following day, and on Saturday, March 30th, John Graham, Viscount of Dundee, was proclaimed traitor with all the usual ceremonies. Thrice was his name called within the Parliament House, and thrice outside its doors, and thrice with sound of trumpet at the market-cross of the good town of Edinburgh.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse