"Duncan Forbes was born," observes a modern writer, "of parents who transmitted their estate to his elder brother, and to all their children an hereditary aversion to the house of Stuart, which they appear to have resisted from the very commencement of the civil wars, and upon the true grounds on which that resistance ought to have been made." By a singular fortune the hereditary estates of Culloden and Ferintosh had been ravaged, the year after the Revolution, by the soldiers of Buchan and Cannon, on account of the Jacobite principles of the owners. A liberal compensation was made in the form of a perpetual grant of a liberty to distil into spirits the grain of the Barony of Ferintosh,—a name which has become almost as famous as that of Culloden. It was the subsequent fate of Culloden to witness on its Moors the total destruction of that cause which its owners had so long resisted and deprecated.
Duncan Forbes, who, during a course of many years, was bound by an inexplicable alliance with Lovat, was at this period about thirty years of age. He had already attained the highest reputation for eloquence, assiduity, and learning at the Scottish bar, and during his frequent opportunities for display before the House of Lords. But it was his personal character, during a period of vacillating principles, and almost of disturbed national reason, which obtained that singular and benignant influence over his fellow-countrymen for which the life of Duncan Forbes is far more remarkable, far more admirable, than for the exercise of his brilliant and varied talents. He had "raised himself," observes the same discriminating commentator on his life and correspondence, "to the high station which he afterwards held by the unassisted excellence of a noble character, by the force of which he had previously won and adorned all the subordinate gradations of office." He adorned this unenvied and unsullied pinnacle of fame by virtues of which the record is ennobling to the mind. "He is," observes another writer, "in every situation, so full of honour, of gentleness, of kindness, and intrepidity, that we doubt if there be any one public man in this part of the empire, or of the age that is gone, whose qualities ought to be so strongly recommended to the contemplation of all those who wish to serve their country."
It was in such society as this that Lord Lovat, by a rare fortune, was brought, after his long and disgraceful exile. It was to such a home of virtue, of intelligence, of the purest and best affections, that he was introduced after a long course of contamination in the lowest scenes of French corruption, which had succeeded an equally demoralising initiation into the less graceful vices of the Court of George the First. The inestimable privilege came too late in one sense. Lord Lovat had gained nothing but wariness by the lapse of years; but the benefit to his worldly condition was considerable.
From this time until a few years before the insurrection of 1745, Lord Lovat may be regarded as a jealous partisan of the house of Hanover. No doubt, a general survey of the state of society in Scotland would, independent of his own personal views, have satisfied him that in such a course was the only chance of permanent safety. The wretchedness of the state of things at that period, can scarcely be adequately comprehended by those who live in times when liberty of opinion is universally an understood condition of civilized intercourse.
It is difficult for any person who lives now to carry himself back, by reading or conversation, into the prospects or feelings of the people of Scotland about a hundred years ago. The religious persecutions of the Stuarts had given a darker hue to the old austerity of their Calvinism. The expectation of change constantly held out by that family divided the nation into two parties, differing on a point which necessarily made each of them rebels in the eyes of the other; and thus the whole kingdom was racked by jealousies, heart-burnings, and suspicions. The removal, by the Union, of all the patronage and show of royalty, spread a gloom and discontent, not only over the lower, but over the higher ranks. The commencement of a strict system of general taxation was new, while the miserable poverty of the country rendered it unproductive and unpopular. The great families still lorded it over their dependants, and exercised legal jurisdiction within their own domains; by which the general police of the kingdom was crippled, and the grossest legal oppression practised. The remedy adopted for all these evils, which was to abate nothing and to enforce everything under the direction of English counsels or of English men, completed the national wretchedness, and infused its bitterest ingredient into the brim full cup.
The events of the year 1715 present but a feeble exemplification of the truth of this description compared with the annals of 1745, for the first Rebellion was, happily, soon closed.
Lord Lovat did not hesitate long on which side he should enlist himself; and the intelligence that his rival, Mackenzie of Fraserdale, had taken up arms in favour of the Chevalier, decided his course. On the fifth of November he assembled all those of his clan who were still faithful to him, and who had been warned of his approach by his friends. He was received among them with exclamations of joy; and, hearing that a body of Mackintoshes, a Jacobite clan, were marching to reinforce Sir John Mackenzie, who commanded the castle at Inverness, he marched forward with his adherents to intercept them, and to prevent their joining what he then called "the rebel garrison."
The citadel of Inverness, built in 1657 by Oliver Cromwell, and called Oliver's Fort, stood on the east bank of the river Ness, and was a regular pentagon, with bastions, ramparts, and a moat; the standard of the Protectorate, with the word "Emmanuel" inscribed upon it, had formerly been displayed upon its ramparts. It was calculated to hold two thousand men, and was washed on one side by the river. As a fortress it had many inconveniencies; approaches to it were easy, and the town afforded a quarter for an enemy's army. In 1662 it had been partly dismantled by Charles the Second, because it was the relic of usurpation, and constituted a check upon the adjacent Highlanders, who were then considered loyal. It is said by one who saw it after the Restoration to have been a very superb work, and it was one of the regular places for the deposition of arms at the time of the Rebellion of 1715. Subsequently it was much augmented and enlarged, and bore, until its destruction after the battle of Culloden, the name of Fort George, an appellation now transferred to its modern successor on the promontory of Ardesseil.
It was against this important fortress that Lord Lovat now marched with as much zeal and intrepidity as if he had been fighting in the cause of that family for whom his ancestors had suffered. He proceeded straight to Inverness, and placing himself on the west side of the town despatched a party of troops to prevent any supply of arms or provisions from approaching the castle by the Firth. Forbes of Culloden lay to the east, and the Grants, to the number of eight hundred, to the south side of the town. Sir John Mackenzie finding himself thus invested on all sides, took advantage of a spring tide that came up to the town and made the river navigable, to escape with all his troops; and Lord Lovat immediately gained possession of the citadel. The fame of this inglorious triumph has, however, been divided between Lovat and Hugh Rose of Kilravock, whose brother, in pursuing the Jacobite guard to the Tolbooth, was shot through the body. But whoever really deserved the laurel, Lord Lovat profited largely by his dishonest exertions in a cause which he began life by disliking, and ended by abjuring.
On the thirteenth of November Lord Lovat was joined by the Earl of Sutherland; and, leaving a garrison in Inverness, the two noblemen marched into the territory of the Earl of Seaforth, where they intimidated the natives into submission. Lord Lovat also despatched a friend to Perth, where the main portion of the Jacobite army lay, to claim the submission of his clansmen, who were led by his rival, Mackenzie of Fraserdale. They complied with his summons to the number of four hundred, and Lovat, after entering Murray and Strathspey, and exacting obedience to the King's troops in these districts, prepared to attack Lord Seaforth, who was threatening to invest Inverness. But Duncan Forbes, who was then serving with the army, restrained the ardour of his neighbour, and hostilities were terminated in the North without further bloodshed.
Lord Lovat was quickly repaid for his exertions. From George the First he received three letters of thanks, and an invitation to go to Court; and in March, 1716, a remission of the sentence of death which had been passed upon him, received the royal signature. He was appointed governor of Inverness, with a free company of Highlanders. What, perhaps, still more gratified his natural thirst for vengeance was the fate of his rival, the husband of Amelia Lovat, Mackenzie of Fraserdale, who was attainted of high treason, and whose life-interest in the lands and barony of Lovat were forfeited and escheated to the Crown. To complete the good fortune of Lovat, the King was graciously pleased, in June, 1716, to make him a present of the forfeited lands; and Lovat immediately took possession of the estate, and entered his claim to the honours and dignities which were appended to the lands. It was now that he added another motto to the arms of the Frasers, and struck out the quarterings of the Bisset family, which had been made a plea for his adversary. The ancient Frasers, or Frizells, had for their motto "Je suis prest," to which this honour to their house now added the words, "Sine sanguine victor," denoting that he had come peaceably to the estate.
He was now the undisputed Lord Lovat; hitherto he had borne, generally, the convenient name of Captain Fraser, given to him in his military capacity; and it appears, in spite of all his boastings, that he had scarcely been called by any other title at the French Court than that of Fraser of Beaufort. He had now an admirable opportunity of obliterating the remembrance of his past life, and of conciliating good opinion by the consistency and regulation of his present conduct. Notwithstanding his crimes his clansmen turned towards him gladly; his neighbours were willing to assist him in the support of his honours, and he enjoyed what he had never before experienced, the confidence of his Sovereign.
Lord Lovat began his season of prosperity by litigations, which lasted between twelve and fourteen years. His first aim was to set aside the pretensions of Hugh Fraser, the son of Mackenzie of Fraserdale, who claimed the title of Lord Lovat after his father's death; and also, by virtue of settlements, asserted rights to the estate. The contest was finally decided by the House of Lords in favour of Lord Lovat's enjoying the honours and lands during his life, the fee remaining with Fraserdale, who died in 1755.
Vexatious and expensive suits occupied the period between 1715 and 1732, when they were brought to a final conclusion.
Lovat now assumed a state corresponding to his station, and suitable to the turn of his mind for display. Not only the lands, heritages, tenements, annual rents, &c., of the unfortunate Mackenzie of Fraserdale were bestowed on him for his services in suppressing what in the deed of gift was termed "the late unnatural rebellion in the north of Scotland;" but also the "goods, jewels, gear, utensils and domecills, horses, sheep, cattle, corn," and, in short, whatsoever had belonged to the Mackenzies, together with five hundred pounds of money, which had fallen into the King's hands. It was, indeed, some time before all this could be accomplished, as the correspondence between Lord Lovat and his friend Duncan Forbes sufficiently shows.
"Inverness, the 5th March, 1716.
"My Dearest General,
"I send you the inclosed letter from the name of Macleod, which I hope you will make good use of; for it's most certain, I keep'd the M'Leods at home, which was considerable service done to the Government. The Earle went off from Cullodin to Cromarty last night; and tho' he got a kind letter from Marlbrugh, congratulating him on his glorious actions, yet he was obliged to own to General Wightman, that his Lordship would have got nothing done in the North without my dear General and me. I wish he may do us the same justice at Court: if not, I am sure, if I live, I will inform the King in person of all that passed here since the Rebellion. The Earle's creatures openly speak of the Duke of Argyle's being recalled. I could not bear it. You know my too great vivacity on that head. I was really sick with it, and could not sleep well since. I expect impatiently a letter from you to determinal my going to London, or my stay here, where I am very well with General Wightman, but always much mortified to see myself the servant of all, without a post or character. I go to-morrow to Castle Grant to take my leave of my dear Alister Dow. Your brother is to follow and to go with Alister to London this week. I find the Duke was gone before you could be at London. I hope, my dear General, you will take a start to London to serve his Grace, and do something for your poor old corporal; and, if you suffer Glengarry, Frazerdale, or the Chisholm, to be pardoned, I will never carry a musquet any more under your command, though I should be obliged to go to Affrick. However, you know how obedient I am to my General's orders. You forgot to give the order, signed by you and the other depicts, to meddle with Frazerdale's estate for the King's service. I intreat you send it me, for —— is afraid to meddle without authority. Adieu, mon aimable General; vous savez que je vous aime tendrement; et que je suis mille fois plus a vous qu'a moy-meme pour la vie.
In another letter, he observes—"The King has been pleased, this very day, to give me a gift of all Fraserdale's escheat." Still, however, one thing was wanting; the rapacious Lovat had not obtained his former enemy's plate; General Wightman had taken possession of it as from the person with whom it was deposited; and he was celebrated for his unwillingness to part with what he had gained. At last, however, the greediness of Lovat was appeased if not satisfied by a present from General Cadogan of the plate which he had taken, belonging to Fraserdale; and by a compromise with General Wightman, Lovat paying the General one-half of the value of the plate which was worth only one hundred and fifty pounds. Thus were the remains of the unhappy Jacobites parcelled out among these military plunderers.
During this year, the avocations of Lord Lovat's turbulent leisure were pleasingly varied by the cares of a love suit. The young lady who was persuaded to link her fate to his, was Margaret, the fourth daughter of Ludovick Grant, of Grant; she is said to have been young and beautiful. But several obstacles retarded for awhile her union with Lord Lovat. In the first place, he was not wholly unmarried to the Dowager of Lovat, who was still alive. The family of Athole had, it is true, annulled that marriage, yet there were still legal doubts and difficulties in the way of a fresh bond. Lord Lovat was now, however, according to his own report to his "dearest General" at Culloden, in high favour with King George and the Prince of Wales; and to them he broached the subject of his marriage.
"I had a private audience of King George this day; and I can tell you, dear General, that no man ever spoke freer language to his Majesty or to the Prince than I did." "They still behave to me like kind brothers; and I spoke to them both of my marriage, they approve of it mightily, and my Lord Islay brother of the Duke [of Argyle], is to make the proposition to the King; and, so that I believe it will do, with that agreement that my two great friends wish and desire it."
He could, however, do nothing except in a sinister manner; nor was there ever one motive which sprang from a right source. Again he thus addresses Duncan Forbes:—
"I spoke to the Duke and my Lord Islay about my marriage, and told them that one of my greatest motifs to that design, was to secure them the joint interest of the North." This must have been a pleasing consideration for the young lady, but that which follows is scarcely less promising and agreeable.
"They [the Duke and Lord Islay] are both to speak of it to the King; but Islay desired me to write to you, to know if there would be any fear of a poursuit of adherence from that other person [the Dowager Lady Lovat], which is a chimirical business, and tender fear for me in my dear Islay. But when I told him that the lady denyed, before the Justice Court, that I had anything to do with her, and that the pretended marriage is declared nul (which Islay says should be done by the Commissarys only), yet, when I told him that the witnesses were all dead who were at the pretended marriage, he was satisfyed that they could make nothing of it, though they would endeavour it."
This letter, which shows in too clear colours how unscrupulous even men of reputed honour, such as Lord Islay, were on some points in those days, seems to have removed all obstacles; and, during the following year (1717), Lord Lovat was united to Margaret Grant. Her father was the head of a numerous and powerful clan, and this marriage tended greatly to increase the influence of Lord Lovat among the Highlanders. Two children, a son and a daughter, were the result of this union. Prosperity once more shone upon the chieftain of the Frasers; and he now restored to his home, Castle Downie, all the baronial state which must so well have accorded with that ancient structure. The famous Sergeant Macleod, in his Memoirs, gives a graphic account of his reception at Castle Downie by Lord Lovat, where the old soldier repaired to seek a commission in the celebrated Highland company, afterwards called the Highland Watch.
"At three o'clock," says the biographer of Macleod, "on a summer's morning, he set out on foot from Edinburgh; and about the same hour, on the second day thereafter, he stood on the green of Castle Downie, Lord Lovat's residence, about five or six miles beyond Inverness; having performed in forty-eight hours a journey of a hundred miles and upwards, and the greater part of it through a mountainous country. His sustenance on this march was bread and cheese, with an onion, all which he carried in his pocket, and a dram of whiskey at each of the three great stages on the road,—and at Falkland, the half-way house between Edinburgh, by the way of Kinghorn and Perth. He never went to bed during the whole of this journey; though he slept once or twice for an hour or two together, in the open air, on the road side.
"By the time he arrived at Lord Lovat's park the sun had risen upwards of an hour, and shone pleasantly, according to the remark of our hero, well pleased to find himself in this spot, on the walls of Castle Downie, and those of the ancient abbey of Beaulieu in the near neighbourhood. Between the hours of five and six Lord Lovat appeared walking about in his hall, in a morning dress, and at the same time a servant flung open the great folding doors, and all the outer doors and windows of the house. It is about this time that many of the great families of the present day go to bed.
"As Macleod walked up and down on the lawn before the house, he was soon observed by Lord Lovat who immediately went out, and, bowing to the Sergeant with great courtesy, invited him to come in. Lovat was a fine-looking tall man, and had something very insinuating in his manners and address. He lived in the fullness of hospitality, being more solicitous, according to the genius of the feudal times, to retain and multiply adherents than to accumulate wealth by the improvement of his estate. As scarcely any fortune, and certainly not his fortune, was adequate to the extent of his views, he was obliged to regulate his unbounded hospitality by rules of prudent economy. As his spacious hall was crowded by kindred visitors, neighbours, vassals, and tenants of all ranks, the table, that extended from one end of it nearly to the other, was covered at different places with different kinds of meat and drink—though of each kind there was always great abundance. At the head of the table the lords and lairds pledged his Lordship in claret, and sometimes champagne; the tacksmen, or demiwassals, drank port or whiskey-punch; tenants, or common husbandmen, refreshed themselves with strong beer; and below the utmost extent of the table, at the door, and sometimes without the door of the hall, you might see a multitude of Frasers, without shoes or bonnets, regaling themselves with bread and onions, with a little cheese, perhaps, and small beer. Yet amidst the whole of the aristocratic inequality, Lord Lovat had the address to keep all his guests in perfectly good humour. 'Cousin,' he would say to such and such a tacksman or demiwassal, 'I told my pantry lads to hand you some claret, but they tell me you like port or punch best.' In like manner to the beer drinkers he would say, 'Gentlemen, there is what you please at your service; but I send you ale because I understand you like ale.' Everybody was thus well pleased; and none were so ill bred as to gainsay what had been reported to his Lordship.
"This introduction was followed by still further condescension on the part of Lord Lovat. He looked at the veteran who had served in Lord Orkney's regiment, under Marlborough, at Ramilies and Malplaquet, with approbation.
"'I know,' said his Lordship, 'without your telling me, that you have come to enlist in the Highland Watch; for a thousand men like you I would give an estate.' Donald Macleod then, at Lovat's request, related his history and pedigree,—that subject which most delights the heart of a Highlander. Lord Lovat clasped him in his arms, and kissed him, and then led him into an adjoining bedchamber, where Lady Lovat then lay, to whom he introduced the Sergeant. Lady Lovat raised herself in her bed, called for a bottle of brandy, and drank prosperity to Lord Lovat, to the Highland Watch, and to Donald Macleod. 'It is superfluous to say,' adds the Sergeant, 'that in this toast the lady was pledged by the gentlemen.'"
In contradiction to this attractive account of Lord Lovat's splendour and hospitality we must quote a very different description, given by the astronomer Ferguson. Lord Lovat's abode, according to his account, boasted, indeed, a numerous feudal retinue within its walls, but presented little or no comfort. It was a rude tower with only four apartments in it, and none of these spacious. Lord Lovat's own room served at once as his place for constant residence, his room for receiving company, and his bedchamber. Lady Lovat's bedchamber was allotted to her for all these purposes also. The domestics and a herd of retainers were lodged in the four lower rooms of the tower, a quantity of straw constituting their bed-furniture. Sometimes above four hundred persons were thus huddled together here; the power which their savage and ungrateful chieftain exercised over them was despotic; and Ferguson himself had occasionally the pleasurable sight of some half dozen of them hung up by the heels for hours, on a few trees near the house.
The pretended loyalty of the chief to the exiled family constituted a strong bond of union between Lovat and his followers; and having them once under his command, "that indefinable magic by which he all his life swayed those who neither loved nor esteemed him," to borrow Mrs. Grant's expression, caused them afterwards to follow his desperate fortunes. "He resembled, in this respect," says the same admirable writer, "David when in the cave of Adullam, for every one that was discontented, and every one that was in debt, literally resorted to him." Lovat, once settled in the abode of his ancestors, did all that he could do to efface the memory of the past, and to redeem the good opinion of his neighbours. One thing he alone left undone,—he did not amend his life. Crafty, vindictive, gross, tyrannical, few men ever continued long such a career with impunity.
He was long distrusted by the good of both parties; by the one he was regarded as a spy of Government, by the other as one whose Jacobite loyalty was only a pretext to win the affections of the honest and simple Highlanders. Yet, at last, he succeeded in obtaining influence, partly by his real talents, partly by his artifices and knowledge of character. "When one considers," observes Mrs. Grant, "that his appearance was disgusting and repulsive, his manners, except when he had some deep part to play, grossly familiar, and meanly cajoling, and that he was not only stained with crimes, but well known to possess no one amiable quality but fortitude, which he certainly displayed in the last extremity, his influence over others is to be regarded as inexplicable." Although the most valuable possessions of his family were on the Aird, the chief centre of his popularity was in Stratheric, a wild hilly district between Inverness and Fort Augustus. There he was beloved by the common people, who looked upon him as a patriot, and there he made it his chief study to secure their affections, often going unlooked for to spend the day and night with his tenants there, and banishing reserve, he indulged in a peculiar strain of jocularity perfectly suited to his audience. His conversation, composed of ludicrous fancies and blandishments, was often intermingled with sound practical advice and displays of good sense. The following curious account of his table deportment, and ordinary mode of living, is from the pen of Mrs. Grant of Laggan, who was well acquainted with those who had personally known Lord Lovat.
"If he met a boy on the road, he was sure to ask whom he belonged to, and tell him of his consequence and felicity in belonging to the memorable clan of Fraser, and if he said his name was Simon to give him half-a-crown, at that time no small gift in Stratheric; but the old women, of all others, were those he was at most pains to win, even in the lowest ranks. He never was unprovided with snuff and flattery, both which he dealt liberally among them, listened patiently to their old stories, and told them others of the King of France, and King James, by which they were quite captivated, and concluded by entreating that they impress their children with attachment and duty to their chief, and they would not fail to come to his funeral and assist in the coranach keir. At Castle Downie he always kept an open table to which all comers were welcome, for of all his visitors he contrived to make some use;—from the nobleman and general by whose interest he could provide for some of his followers, and by that means strengthen his interest with the rest, to the idle hanger-on whose excursions might procure the fish and game which he was barely suffered to eat a part of at his patron's table. Never was there a mixture of society so miscellaneous as was there assembled. From an affectation of loyalty to his new masters Lovat paid a great court to the military stationed in the North; such of the nobility in that quarter as were not in the sunshine, received his advances as from a man who enjoyed court favour, and he failed not to bend to his own purposes every new connection he formed. In the mean time the greatest profusion appeared at table while the meanest parsimony reigned through the household. The servants who attended had little if any wages; their reward was to be recommended to better service afterwards; and meantime they had no other food allowed to them but what they carried off on the plates: the consequence was, that you durst not quit your knife and fork for a moment, your plate was snatched while you looked another way; if you were not very diligent, you might fare as ill amidst abundance as the Governor of Barataria. A surly guest once cut the fingers of one of these harpies when snatching his favourite morsel away untasted. I have heard a military gentleman who occasionally dined at Castle Downie describe those extraordinary repasts. There was a very long table loaded with a great variety of dishes, some of the most luxurious, others of the plainest—nay, coarsest kind: these were very oddly arranged; at the head were all the dainties of the season, well dressed and neatly sent in; about the middle appeared good substantial dishes, roasted mutton, plain pudding and such like. At the bottom coarse pieces of beef, sheeps' heads, haggiss, and other national but inelegant dishes, were served in a slovenly manner in great pewter platters; at the head of the table were placed guests of distinction, to whom alone the dainties were offered; the middle was occupied by gentlemen of his own tribe, who well knew their allotment, and were satisfied with the share assigned to them. At the foot of the table sat hungry retainers, the younger sons of younger brothers, who had at some remote period branched out from the family; for which reason he always addressed them by the title of 'cousin.' This, and a place, however low, at his table, so flattered these hopeless hangers-on, that they were as ready to do Lovat's bidding "in the earth or in the air" as the spirits are to obey the command of Prospero."
"The contents of his sideboard were as oddly assorted as those of his table, and served the same purpose. He began,—'My lord, here is excellent venison, here turbot, &c.: call for any wine you please; there is excellent claret and champagne on the sideboard. Pray, now, Dunballock or Killbockie, help yourselves to what is before you; there are port and lisbon, strong ale and porter, excellent in their kind;' then calling to the other end of the table,—'Pray, dear cousin, help yourself and my other cousins to that fine beef and cabbage; there is whiskey-punch and excellent table-beer.' His conversation, like his table, was varied to suit the character of every guest. The retainers soon retired, and Lovat (on whom drink made no impression) found means to unlock every other mind, and keep his own designs impenetrably secret; while the ludicrous and careless air of his discourse helped to put people off their guard; and searchless cunning and boundless ambition were hid under the mask of careless hilarity."
But darker deeds even than these diversified the pursuits of a man who had quitted the prisons of Angouleme and of Saumur only to wreak, upon his own faithful and trusting clansmen, or his neighbours, as well as his foes, the vindictive cruelty of a nature utterly depraved, not softened even by kindness, still less chastened by a long series of misfortunes.
Lovat's re-establishment at the head of his clan seems to have intoxicated him, and the display of his power to have risen into a ruling passion. Above all, he boasted of it to Duncan Forbes, whose endurance of this wretched ally's correspondence lasted until the pretended friendship was succeeded by avowed treachery to the Government to which he had professed such gratitude, and to the King and Prince whom he was wont to call "the bravest fellows in the world."
In accordance with this spirit of self-glorification was Lovat's erection of two monuments,—filial piety dictating the inscription on one of them, that dedicated to his father, and his own audacious vanity assisting in the composition of the tribute to his own virtues.
It was his Lordship's favourite boast that at his birth a number of swords which hung up in the hall of his paternal home leaped themselves out of their scabbards, denoting that he was to be a mighty man of arms. The presage was not fulfilled, but Lord Lovat's ingenuity suggested the following means of imposing upon the credulity of his simple clansmen, by the composition of an epitaph which he erected in the old church of Kirkhill, a few miles from Castle Downie.
TO THE MEMORY OF
THOMAS LORD FRASER, OF LOVAT,
Who chose rather to undergo the greatest hardships of fortune than to part with the ancient honours of his house, and bore these hardships with undaunted fortitude of mind.
This monument was erected by
SIMON LORD FRASER OF LOVAT, HIS SON.
Who, likewise, having undergone many and great vicissitudes of good and bad fortune, through the malice of his enemies, he, in the end, at the head of his clan, forced his way to his paternal inheritance with his sword in his hand, and relieved his kindred and followers from oppression and slavery; and both at home and in foreign countries, by his eminent actions in the war and the state, he has acquired great honours and reputation.
Hic tegit ossa lapis Simonis fortis in armis, Restituit pressum nam genus ille suum: Hoc marmor posuit cari genitoris honori, In genus afflictum par erat ejus amor.
Sir Robert Munro, who was killed at the battle of Falkirk, being on a visit to Lord Lovat, went with his host to see this monument. "Simon," said the brave and free-spoken Scotsman, "how the devil came you to put up such boasting romantic stuff?" "The monument and inscription," replied Lovat, "are chiefly for the Frasers, who must believe whatever I require, their chief, of them, and then posterity will think it as true as the Gospel." Yet he did not scruple, when it suited his purpose, to designate his clansmen, the lairds around him, as "the little pitiful barons of the Aird;"—this was, however, when writing to his friends of opposite politics to the Frasers, generally to Duncan Forbes.
The devotion of his unfortunate adherents can hardly be conceived in the present day. In the early part of his career, before his rapacity, his licentiousness, and falsehood were fully known, one may imagine a fearless and ardent young leader, of known bravery, engaging the passions even of the most wary among his followers in his personal quarrels: but it is wonderful how, when the character of the man stood revealed before them, any could be found to lend their aid to deeds which had not the colour of justice, nor even the pretence of a generous ardour, to recommend them to the brave. But Lovat was not the only melancholy instance in which that extraordinary feature in the Highland character, loyalty to a chieftain, was employed in aiding the darkest treachery, and in deeds of violence and cruelty.
For many years, Lovat revelled in the indulgence of the fiercest passions; but he paid in time the usual penalty of guilt. His name came to be a bye-word. Every act of violence, done in the darkness of night,—the oppressions of the helpless, the corruption of the innocent,—every plot which was based upon the lowest principles, were attributed to him. His vengeance was such, that while the public knew the hand that dealt out destruction, they dared not to name the man. The hated word was whispered by the hearth; it was muttered with curses in the hovel; but the voice which breathed it was hushed when the band of numerous retainers, swift to execute the will of the feudal tyrant, was remembered. His power, thus tremblingly acknowledged, was fearful; his wrath, never was appeased except by the ruin of those who had offended him. With all this, the manners of Lord Lovat were courteous, and, for the times, polished; whilst beneath that superficial varnish lay the coarsest thoughts, the most degrading tastes. His address must have been consummate; and to that charm of manner may be ascribed the wonderful ascendancy which he acquired even over the respectable part of the community.
Something of his ready humour was displayed soon after Lord Lovat's restoration to his title, in his rencontre with his early friend, Lord Mungo Murray, in the streets of Edinburgh. Lord Mungo had sworn to avenge the wrongs and insults inflicted by Lord Lovat on himself and Lord Saltoun, whenever he had an opportunity. Seeing Lord Lovat approaching, he drew his sword and made towards him as fast as he could. Lord Lovat, being near-sighted, did not perceive him, but was apprised of his danger by a friend who was walking with him; upon which his Lordship also drew, and prepared for his defence. Lord Mungo, seeing this, thought proper to decline the engagement, and wheeled round in order to retire. The people crowded about the parties, and somewhat impeded Lord Mungo's retreat; upon which Lord Lovat called out to the people, "Pray, gentlemen, make room for Lord Mungo Murray," Lord Mungo slank away, and the affair ended without bloodshed.
An affair with the profligate Duke of Wharton, was very near ending more fatally. Lord Lovat, during the year 1724, happening to be in London, mingled there in the fashionable society for which his long residence in France had, in some measure, qualified him. In the course of his different amusements, he encountered one evening, at the Haymarket, the beautiful Dona Eleanora Sperria, a Spanish lady who had visited England under the character of the Ambassador's niece. His attentions to this lady, and his admiration of her attractions, were observed by the jealous eye of the Duke of Wharton, who immediately sent him a challenge. Lord Lovat accepted it, replying, that "none of the family of Lovat were ever cowards," and appointing to meet the Duke with sword and pistol. The encounter took place in Hyde-park. They first fired at each other, and then had recourse to the usual weapon, the sword. Lovat was unlucky enough to fall over the stump of a tree, and was disarmed by Wharton, who gave him his life, and what was in those days perhaps even still more generous, never boasted of the affair until some years afterwards.
Lovat lived, however, chiefly in Scotland. Four children were born to writhe under his sway; the eldest, Simon, the Master of Lovat, gentle, sincere, of promising abilities, and upright in conduct, suffered early and late from the jealousy of his father, who could not comprehend his mild virtues. This unfortunate young man was treated with the utmost harshness by Lord Lovat, who kept him in slavish subjection to his own imperious will, and treated him as if he had been the offspring of some low-born dependant, instead of his heir. Still, those who were well-wishers to the Lovat family, built their hopes upon the virtues of the young Master of Lovat, and they were not deceived. Although forced by his father to quit the University of St. Andrews, where he was studying in 1745, and to enter into the Rebellion, he retrieved that early act by a subsequent respectability of life, and by long and faithful services.
But there was another victim still more to be pitied, and over whose destiny the vices of Lord Lovat exercised a still more fatal sway than on those of his son. The story of Primrose Campbell is, perhaps, the saddest among this catalogue of crimes and calamities.
She was the daughter of John Campbell, of Mamore, and the sister of John Duke of Argyle, the friend and patron of Duncan Forbes; and she had been, by Lovat's introduction, for some time a companion of his first wife. Lord Lovat, about the year 1732, became a widower. He then cast his eyes upon the ill-fated Miss Campbell, and sought her in marriage. The match was of great importance to him, on account of the family connection; and Lord Lovat had reason to believe, that whatever the young lady might think of it, her friends were not opposed to the union. She was staying with her sister, Lady Roseberry, when Lovat proffered his odious addresses. She to whom they were addressed, knew him well: for she entertained the utmost abhorrence of her suitor, and repeatedly rejected his proposals. At last, he gained her consent to the union which he sought, by the following stratagem. Miss Campbell, while residing still with her sister in the country, received a letter, written apparently by her mother, and, beseeching her immediate attendance at a particular house in Edinburgh, in which she lay at the point of death. The young lady instantly set out, and reached the appointed place: here, instead of beholding her mother, she was received by the hated and dreaded Lovat. She was constrained to listen to his proffers of marriage; but she still firmly refused her assent. Upon this, Lord Lovat told the unhappy creature that the house to which she had been brought was one in which no respectable woman ought ever to enter;—and he threatened to blast her character upon her continued refusal to become his wife. Distracted, intimidated by a confinement of several days, the young lady finally consented. She was married to the tyrant, who conveyed her to one of his castles in the North, probably to Downie, the scene of his previous crimes. Here she was secluded in a lonely tower, and treated with the utmost barbarity, probably because she could neither conceal nor conquer her disgust to the husband of her forced acceptance. Yet outward appearances were preserved: a lady, the intimate friend of her youth, was advised to visit, as if by accident, the unhappy Lady Lovat, in order to ascertain the truth of the reports which prevailed of Lord Lovat's cruelty. The visitor was received by Lovat with extravagant expressions of welcome, and many assurances of the pleasure which it would afford Lady Lovat to see her. His Lordship then retired, and hastening to his wife, who was secluded without even tolerable clothes, and almost in a state of starvation, placed a costly dress before her, and desired her to attire herself, and to appear before her friend. His commands were obeyed; he watched his prisoner and her visitor so closely, that no information could be conveyed of the unhappiness of the one, or of the intentions of the other. This outrageous treatment, which Lord Lovat is reported, also, to have exercised over his first wife, went on for some time. Lady Lovat was daily locked up in a room by herself, a scanty supply of food being sent her, which she was obliged to devour in silence. The monotony of her hapless solitude was only broken by rare visits from his Lordship. Under these circumstances, she bore a son, who was named Archibald Campbell Fraser, and who eventually succeeded to the title. In after years, when he frowned at any contradiction that she gave him, Lady Lovat used to exclaim, "Oh, boy! Dinna look that gate—ye look so like your father." These words spoke volumes.
The character of the lady whose best years were thus blighted by cruelty, and who was condemned through a long life to bear the name of her infamous husband, was one peculiarly Scotch. Homely in her habits, and possessing little refinement of manner, she had the kindest heart, the most generous and self-denying nature that ever gladdened a house, or bore up a woman's weakness under oppression. The eldest son of Lord Lovat, Simon, was a sickly child. His father, who was very anxious to have him to his house, placed him under Lady Lovat's charge; and, whenever he went to the Highlands, left her with this pleasing intimation, "that if he found either of the boys dead on his return, he would shoot her through the head." Partly through fear, and partly from the goodness and rectitude of her mind, Lady Lovat devoted her attentions so entirely to the care of the delicate and motherless boy, that she saved his life, and won his filial reverence and affection by her attention. He loved her as a real parent. The skill in nursing and in the practical part of medicine thus acquired, was never lost; and Lady Lovat was noted ever after, among those who knew her, as the "old lady of the faculty."
Family archives, it is said, reveal a tissue of almost unprecedented acts of cruelty towards this excellent lady. They were borne with the same spirit that in all her life guided her conduct,—a strict dependance upon Providence. She regarded her calamities as trials, or tests, sent from Heaven, and received them with meek submission. In after years, during the peaceful decline of her honoured life, when a house near her residence in Blackfriars Wynd, Edinburgh, took fire, she sat calmly knitting a stocking, and watching, occasionally, the progress of the flames. The magistrates and ministers came, in vain, to entreat her to leave her house in a sedan; she refused, saying, that if her hour was come, it was in vain for her to think of eluding her fate: if it were not come, she was safe where she was. At length she permitted the people around her to fling wet blankets over the house, by which it was protected from the sparks.
She seems, however, to have made considerable exertions to rid herself from an unholy bond with her husband. Like many other Scottish ladies of quality, in those days, her education had been limited; and it was not until late in life that she acquired the art of writing, which she then learned by herself without a master. She never attained the more difficult process of spelling accurately.
She now, however, contrived to make herself understood by her friends in this her dire distress: and to acquaint them with her situation and injuries, by rolling a letter up in a clue of yarn, and dropping it out of her window to a confidential person below. Her family then interfered, and the wretched lady was released, by a legal separation, from her miseries. She retired to the house of her sister, and eventually to Edinburgh. When, in after times, her grand nephews and nieces crowded around her, she would talk to them of these days of sorrow. "Listen, bairns," she was known to observe, "the events of my life would make a good novel; but they have been of sae strange a nature, that I'm sure naebody wad believe them."
But domestic tyranny was a sphere of far too limited a scope for Lord Lovat: his main object was to make himself absolute over that territory of which he was the feudal chieftain; to bear down everything before him, either by the arts of cunning, or through intimidation. Some instances, singular, as giving some insight into the state of society in the Highlands at that period, have been recorded. Very few years after the restitution of his family honours had elapsed, before he happened to have some misunderstanding with one of the Dowager Lady Lovat's agents, a Mr. Robertson, whom her Ladyship had appointed as receiver of her rents. One night, during the year 1719, a number of persons, armed and disguised, were seen in the dead of night, very busy among Mr. Robertson's barns and outhouses. That night, the whole of his stacks of corn and hay were set on fire and entirely consumed. Lord Lovat was suspected of being the instigator of this destruction; yet such was the dread of his power, that Mr. Robertson chose rather to submit to the loss in silence than to prosecute, or even to name, the destroyer.
A worse outrage was perpetrated against Fraser of Phopachy, a gentleman of learning and character, and one who had befriended Lord Lovat in all his troubles, and had refused to join with Fraserdale in the Rebellion of 1715. Mr. Fraser had the charge of Lord Lovat's domestic affairs, more especially of his law contests, both in Edinburgh and in London. When accounts were balanced between Lord Lovat and Mr. Fraser, it was found that a considerable sum was due to the latter. Among his other peculiarities Lord Lovat had a great objection to pay his debts. As usual, he insulted Fraser, and even threatened him with a suit. Mr. Fraser, knowing well the man with whom he had to deal, submitted the affair to arbitration. A Mr. Cuthbert of Castlehill was chosen on the part of his Lordship; the result was, a decision that a very considerable sum was due to Fraser. Lord Lovat was violently enraged at this, and declared that Castlehill had broken his trust. Not many days afterwards, Castlehill Park, near Inverness, was invaded by a party of Highlanders, armed and disguised; the fences and enclosures were broken down, and a hundred of his best milch-cows killed. Again the finger of public opinion pointed at Lovat, but pointed in silence, as the author of this wicked attack. None dared to name him; all dreaded a summary vengeance: his crimes were detailed with a shudder of horror and disgust; their author was not mentioned.
Lord Lovat, moreover, instantly commenced a law-suit against Fraser, in order to set aside the arbitration. This process, which lasted during the lifetime of the victim, was scarcely begun when one night Fraser's seat at Phopachy, which, unhappily, was near the den of horrors, Castle Downie, was beset by Highlanders, armed and disguised, who broke into the house and inquired for Mr. Fraser. He was, luckily, abroad. The daughters of the unfortunate gentleman were, however, in the house; they were bound to the bed-posts and gagged; and, doubtless, the whole premises would have been pillaged or destroyed, had not a female servant snatched a dirk from the hands of one of the ruffians; and although wounded, defended herself, while by her shrieks she roused the servants and neighbours. The villains fled, all save two, who were taken, and who, after a desperate resistance, were carried off to the gaol at Inverness; they were afterwards tried, and capitally convicted of housebreaking, or hamesaken, as it is called in Scotland, and eventually hung. It appeared, from the confession of one of these men to a clergyman at Inverness, that the same head which planned the destruction of Mr. Robertson's stacks had contrived this outrage, and had even determined on the murder of his former friend, Mr. Fraser. But the hour was now at hand in which retribution for these crimes was to be signally visited upon this disgrace to his species.
One more sufferer under his vile designs must be recorded, the unhappy Lady Grange. In that story which has been related of her fate, and which might, indeed, furnish a theme for romance, she is said to have ever alluded to Lord Lovat as the remorseless contriver of that scheme which doomed her to sufferings far worse than death, and to years of imbecility and wanderings. The subtlety of Lord Lovat equalled his fierceness; it is not often that such qualities are combined in such fearful perfection. He could stoop to the smallest attentions to gain an influence or promote an alliance: a tradition is even believed of his going to the dancing-school with two young ladies, and buying them sweeties, in order to conciliate the favour of their father, Lord Alva.
His habitual cunning and management were manifested in his discipline of his clan. It was his chief aim to impress upon the minds of his vassals that his authority among them was absolute, and that no power on earth could absolve them from it; that they had no right to inquire into the merits or justifiableness of the action they were ordered to engage in; his will ought to be their law, his resentment a sufficient reason for taking his part in a quarrel, whether it were right or wrong.
One can hardly conceive that it could be requisite for the Frasers to give any fresh proof of their obedience and fealty; yet it seems to have required a continual effort on the part of Lord Lovat to establish his authority and to keep up his dignity among the Frasers. The reason assigned for this is, that though they were his vassals, tenants, and dependants, yet they must be brought to acknowledge his sovereignty; otherwise, when on some emergency he might require their assistance, they might assume their natural right of independence, and refuse to rise. It was Lord Lovat's policy, therefore, to discourage all disposition in his clansmen to enter trade or to go to sea and seek their fortunes abroad, lest they should both shake off their dependence on him, and also, by emigrating, diminish the broad and pompous retinue with which he chose to appear on all occasions. It was therefore his endeavour to check industry, to oppose improvement, to preach up the heroism of his ancestors, who never stooped to the meannesses of commerce, but made themselves famous by martial deeds. "Never," thus argued the chieftain, "had those brave men enervated their bodies and debased their minds by labours fit only for beasts or stupid drudges. Should not the generous blood which flowed in their veins still animate the brave Frasers to deeds of heroism?"
Notwithstanding all these exalted sentiments, the chief, who was set upon this pinnacle of power, hesitated not to retain a hired assassin for the purpose of executing any of his dark projects. Donald Gramoach, a notorious robber, was long in the employ of Lovat, who lavished large sums upon him. At length, in the year 1742, this man was apprehended, lodged in Dingwall Gaol; and being convicted of robbery, was sentenced to be hanged. Lord Lovat immediately despatched a body of his Highlanders to rescue the prisoner; but the magistrates were aware of his intentions; the prison was doubly guarded, and the culprit met with his due punishment.
Lord Lovat had long thrown off the mask of courtesy, and had laid aside the arts of fawning to which he had had recourse before his claims to the honours and estates had been fully acknowledged. His tenants now felt the iron rule of a merciless and necessitous master; for Lord Lovat's expenditure far exceeded his means and revenue. He raised his rents, and many of the farmers were forced to quit their farms; but his vassals by tenure were even more ruinously oppressed by suits of law, compelling them to make out their titles to their estates; if they failed in so doing, he insisted on forfeiture or escheate; and, in some instances, these suits were so expensive that it was almost wiser to relinquish an estate, than to be plundered in long and anxious processes.
At last, to prevent their utter ruin, the gentlemen who held lands under Lord Lovat determined upon resistance; after twenty-seven years of bondage they resolved to free themselves. They met together, and unanimously resolved to unite their arms, and to deliver themselves by their swords; to this extremity were reduced these brave and devoted adherents, who had blindly rushed into every crime and every danger at the command of their ungrateful chieftain. Their resolution alarmed the tyrant; he ordered the suits against his vassals to be stopped, and excused, as well as he could, and with his usual odious courtesy, the severities into which he had been led. He was playing a desperate game; and the adherence of these unhappy dependants was soon to be put to the test.
His oppression of his stewards and agents was consistent with the rest of his conduct. They could rarely induce him to settle his accounts; and if they ventured to ask for sums due to them, he threatened them with actions at law. He was all powerful, and they were forced to submit. His inferior servants were treated even still more oppressively. If they wished to leave his Lordship's service, or asked for their wages, he alleged some crime against them, which he always found sufficient witnesses to prove. They were then sent off to the cave of Beauly, a dismal retreat, about a mile from his castle, where they were confined until they were reduced to submission. That such enormities should have been tolerated in a land of liberty, seems almost incredible; but the slavery of the clans, the poverty and ignorance of the people, the vast power and influence of the chief, account, in some measure, for this degrading bondage on the one hand, this absolute monarchy on the other.
This long-endured course of tyranny had not tended to humble the heart of him who indulged in such an immoderate exercise of power. The ambition of Lord Lovat, always of a low and personal nature, increased with years. He watched the state of public affairs, and built upon their threatening character a scheme by which he might, as he afterwards said, "be in a condition of humbling his neighbours."
His allegiance was henceforth given to the Jacobites, and his fidelity, if such a word could ever be used as applied to him, seems actually to have lasted two years,—that is from 1717 to 1719, when a Spanish invasion was undertaken in favour of the Pretender. To that Lord Lovat promised to lend his aid, and wrote to Lord Seaforth, promising to join him. But the invasion was then defeated, and Lovat continued to enjoy royal favour at home. On this occasion the letter which Lord Lovat had written to Lord Seaforth, was shown to Chisholm of Knoebsford before it was delivered, and an affidavit of its contents was sent up to Court. Upon Lord Lovat becoming acquainted with this, he immediately got himself introduced at Court, possibly with a view to deceiving the public mind. Lady Seaforth having asked some favour from him, he refused to grant it, unless she would return that letter, which had been addressed to her son. With his usual cunning he had omitted to sign the letter, which he thought could not therefore be fixed upon him. Upon receiving it back, Lovat showed it to a friend, who remarked that there was enough in it to condemn thirty lords. He immediately threw it into the fire.
During many years of iniquity, Lord Lovat had preserved, to all appearance, the good will of Duncan Forbes. That great lawyer had been Lovat's legal advocate during the long and expensive suits for the establishment of his claims, and had generously refused all fees or remuneration for his exertions. The letters addressed by Lovat to him breathe the utmost regard, and speak an intimacy which, as Sir Walter Scott observes, "is less wonderful when we consider that Duncan Forbes could endure the society of the infamous Charteris." Lovat's expressions of regard were frequently written in French. "Mon aimable General:" he writes to Mr. John Forbes, also, the President's elder brother.—"My dear Culloden." "Your affectionate friend, and most obedient and most humble servant."
To the President, whom he always addressed with some allusion to his brief military service,—"My dear General." "Your own Lovat." In 1716 such professions as these are made to Mr. John Forbes.
"My dearest Provost (we must give you your title, since it is to last but short), my dear General's letter and yours are terrible; but I was long ere now prepared for all that could happen to me on your illustrious brother's account: I'll stand by him to the last; and if I fall, as I do not doubt but I will, I'll receive the blow without regret. But all I can tell you is this, that we are very like to see a troublesome world, and my Generall and you will be yet useful; and I am ready to be with you to the last drop, for I am yours eternally, Lovat." His frequent style to the President was thus,—"The most faithfull and affectionat of your slaves." It is indeed evident, in almost every letter, what real obligations Lovat received from both Culloden and his brother; and how strenuously they supported his claim against Fraserdale.
At the hospitable house of Culloden he was a frequent guest,—"a house, or castle," says the author of "Letters from the North," written previous to the year 1730, "belonging to a gentleman whose hospitality knows no bounds. It is the custom of that house, at the first visit or introduction, to take up war freedom, by cracking his nut, as he terms it; that is, a cocoa-shell, which holds a pint, filled with champagne, or such other sort of wine as you shall chuse. You may guess, by the introduction, of the contents of the volume. Few go away sober at any time; and for the greatest part of his guests, in the conclusion, they cannot go at all."
"This he partly brings about artfully, by proposing, after the public healths (which always imply bumpers), such private ones as he knows will pique the interest or inclination of each particular person of the company, whose turn it is to take the lead, to begin it in a brimmer; and he himself being always cheerful, and sometimes saying good things, his guests soon lose their guard, and then—I need say no more."
In this hospitable house, a strange contrast to the penuriousness and despotic management of Castle Downie, Lord Lovat was on the most intimate footing. His professions of friendship to the laird were unceasing. "I dare freely say," he observes in one of his characteristic letters, "that there is not a Forbes alive wishes your personal health and prosperity more than I do, affectionate and sincerely; and I should be a very ungrateful man if it was otherways, for no man gave me more proofs of love and friendship at home and abroad than John Forbes of Colodin did.
"As to carrying your lime to Lovat, I shall do more in it than if it was for my own use. I shall give the most pressing orders to my officers to send in my tenants' horses; and to show them the zeal and desire that I have to serve you, I shall send my own labouring horses to carry it, with as much pleasure as if it was to build a house in Castle Downie."
Even his wife and his "bearns" are "Colodin's faithful slaves—" "I'll never see a laird of Culodin I love so much," he declares in another letter;—in which, also, he reminds Mr. Forbes of a promise that he "will do him the honour, since he cannot himself at this time be present, to hold up his forthcoming child to receive the holy water of baptisme, and make it a better Christian than the father. I expect this mark of friendship from my dear John Forbes of Culodin."
Yet all these professions were wholly forgotten, when Lord Lovat, being fairly established in his honours, no longer deemed the friendship of the Forbes family necessary to him. An occasion then occurred, in which Mr. Forbes's "grateful slave" showed the caprice inherent in his nature. Forbes of Culloden had long been the representative of Inverness, chiefly through the interest of Lord Lovat; but when Sir William Grant came forward to oppose the return of Forbes, to the dismay of that gentleman, Lord Lovat turned round, and, upon the plea of consanguinity, used his interest in favour of the new candidate. The disappointment resulting from this defeat is said to have preyed upon the spirits of the worthy Laird of Culloden, and to have caused his death.
The decline of this alliance between the Forbes family and Lord Lovat, was the prelude to greater changes.
In order to repress the local disturbances in the Highlands, Government had adopted a remedy, well termed by Sir Walter Scott, "of a doubtful and dangerous character." This was the raising of a number of independent companies among the Highlanders, to be commanded by chieftains, and officered by their sons, by tackmen, or by Dnihne vassals. At the period when those great military roads were formed in the Highlands between the year 1715 and 1745, these companies were better calculated, it was supposed, to maintain the repose of a country with which they were well acquainted, than regular troops. But the experiment did not succeed. The Highland companies, known by the famous name of the Black Watch, traversed the country, it is true, night and day, and tracked its inmost recesses; they knew the most dangerous characters; they were supposed to suppress all internal disorders. But they were Highlanders. Whilst they looked leniently upon robberies and outrages to which they had been familiarized from their youth, they revived in their countrymen the military spirit which the late Act for disarming the clans had subdued. Upon their removal from the Highlands, and their exportation to Flanders, the mischief became apparent; and no regular force being sent to the Highlands in their stead, those chieftains who were favourable to the exiled family, found it easy to turn the restless temper and martial habits of their clansmen to their own purposes.
Lord Lovat was one of those who thus acted. The Ministry, irritated by his patronage of Sir William Grant's interests, in preference to those of Forbes, at the election for Inverness, suddenly deprived him of his pension in 1739, and also of the command of the free company of Highlanders. This was a rash proceeding, and contrary to the advice of President Forbes. Lord Lovat, who had caused his clansmen to enter his regiment by rotation, and had thus, without suspicion, been training his clan to the use of arms, soon showed how dangerous a weapon had been placed in his hand, and at how critical a period he had been incensed to turn it against Government.
He had long been suspected. Even in 1737, information had been given of his buying up muskets, broadswords, and targets, in numbers. When challenged to defend himself from the imputation of Jacobitism by a friend, he insisted upon the services he had done in 1715 as a reason why he should for ever be free from the imputation of disloyalty; and he continued to play the same subtle part, and to pretend indifference to all fresh enterprises, to his friends at Culloden, as that which he had always affected.
"Everybody expects we shall have a war very soon," he writes to his friend John Forbes in 1729—"which I am not fond of; for being now growne old, I desire and wish to live in peace with all mankind, except some damned Presbyterian ministers who dayly plague me." Yet, even then he was engaged in a plot to restore the Stuarts. In 1736, when he was Sheriff for the county, he received the celebrated Roy Stuart, who was imprisoned at Inverness for high treason, when he broke out of gaol, and kept him six weeks in his house; sending by him an assurance to the Pretender of his fidelity, and at the same time desiring Roy Stuart to procure him a commission as lieutenant-general, and a patent of dukedom.
This was the secret spring of his whole proceeding. It is degrading to the rest of the Jacobites, to give this double traitor an epithet ever applied to honourable, and fervent, and disinterested men. The sole business of Lovat was personal aggrandizement; revenge was his amusement.
Henderson, in his "History of the Rebellion," attributes to Lord Lovat the entire suggestion of the invasion of 1745. It is true that the Chevalier refused to accede to the proposal made by Roy Stuart of an invasion in 1735, not considering, as he said, that the "time for his deliverance was as yet come." But, after consulting the Pope, it was agreed that the present time might be well employed in "whetting the minds of the Highlanders, and in sowing in them the seeds of loyalty that so frequently appeared." In consequence of this, Lord Lovat's request was granted; a letter was written to him from the Court, then at Albano, giving him full power to act in the name of James, and the title of Duke of Fraser and Lieutenant-General of the Highlands was conferred upon the man who seems to have had the art of infatuating all with whom he dealt.
Lord Lovat immediately changed the whole style of his deportment. He quitted the comparative retirement of Castle Downie; went to Edinburgh, where he set up a chariot, and lived there in a sumptuous manner, though with little of those ceremonials which we generally associate with rank and opulence. He now sought and obtained a very general acquaintance. Few men had more to tell; and he could converse about his former hardships, relate the account of his introduction to Louis the Fourteenth, and to the gracious Maintenon. He returned to Castle Downie. That seat, conducted hitherto on the most penurious scale, suddenly became the scene of a plenteous hospitality; and its lord, once churlish and severe, became liberal and free. He entertained the clans after their hearts' desire, and he kept a purse of sixpences for the poor. As his castle was almost in the middle of the Highlands, it was much frequented; and the crafty Lovat now adapted his conversation to his own secret ends. He expatiated to the Highlanders, always greedy of fame, and vain beyond all parallel of their country, upon the victories of Montrose on the fields of Killicrankie and Cromdale.
"Such a sword and target," he would say to a listener, "your honest grandfather wore that day, and with it he forced his way through a hundred men. Well did I know him; he was my great friend, and an honest man. Few are like him now-a-days;—you resemble him pretty much."
Then he began to interpret prophecies and dreams, and to relate to his superstitious listeners the dreams their fathers had before the battle, in which they fought. He would trace genealogies as far back as the clansmen pleased, and show their connection with their chieftains. They were all his "cousins and friends;" for he knew every person that had lived in the country for years.
Then he spoke of the superiority of the broad-sword and target over the gun and the bayonet; he sneered at the weakness of an army, after so many years of peace, commanded by boys; he boasted of the valour of the Scots in Sweden and France; he even unriddled the prophecies of Bede and of Merlin. By these methods he prepared the minds of those over whom he ruled for the Rebellion; but in the event, as it has been truly said, "the thread of his policy was spun so fine that at last it failed in the maker's hand."
The shrewdness of Lovat's judgment might indeed be called in question, when he decided to risk the undisturbed possession of his Highland property for a dukedom and prospect. But there were many persons of rank and influence who believed, with Prince Charles Edward, that "the Hanoverian yoke was severely felt in England, and that now was the time to shake it off." "The intruders of the family of Hanover," observes a strenuous Jacobite, "conscious of the lameness of their title and the precariousness of their tenure, seem to have had nothing in view but increasing their power, and gratifying their insatiable avarice: by the former, they proposed to get above the caprice of the people; and by the latter, they made sure of something, happen what would." "Abundance of the Tories," he further remarks, "had still a warm side for the family of Stuart; and as for the old stanch Whigs, their attachment and aversion to families had no other spring but their love of liberty, which they saw expiring with the family of Hanover: they had still this, and but this chance to recover it. In fine, there was little opposition to be dreaded from any quarter but from the army,—gentlemen of that profession being accustomed to follow their leaders, and obey orders without asking any questions. But there were malcontents among them, too; such as were men of property, whose estates exceeded the value of their commissions, did by no means approve of the present measures."
Upon the whole the conjuncture seemed favourable, and Lord Lovat, whose political views were very limited, was the first to sign the association despatched in 1736, according to some accounts, by others in 1740, and signed and sealed by many persons of note in Scotland, inviting the Chevalier to come over to that country. His belief was, that France had at all times the power to bring in James Stuart if she had the will; that, indeed, was the general expectation of the Jacobites.
"Most of the powers in Europe," writes Mr. Maxwell, "were engaged, either as principals or auxiliaries, in a war about the succession to the Austrian dominions. France and England were hitherto only auxiliaries, but so deeply concerned, and so sanguine, that it was visible they would soon come to an open rupture with one another; and Spain had been at war with England some years, nor was there the least prospect of an accommodation. From those circumstances it seemed highly probable that France and Spain would concur in forwarding the Prince's views."
Influenced by these considerations, Lovat now became chiefly involved in all the schemes of the Chevalier. In 1743, when the invasion was actually resolved upon, Lovat was fixed upon as a person of importance to conduct the insurrection in the Highlands. Nor did the failure of that project deter him from continued exertions. During the two succeeding years, and until after the battle of Preston Pans, he acted with such caution and dissimulation, that, had his party lost, he might still have made terms, as he thought, with the Hanoverians.
In the beginning of the year 1745, Prince Charles despatched several commissions to be distributed among his friends in Scotland, with certain letters delivered by Sir Hector Maclean, begging his friends in the Highlands to be in readiness to receive him, and desiring, "if possible, that all the castles and fortresses in Scotland might be taken before his arrival." On the twenty-fifth of July, the gallant Charles Edward landed in a remote corner of the Western Highlands, with only seven adherents. Lord Lovat was informed of this event, but he continued to play the deep game which his perfidious mind suggested on all occasions. He sent one of his principal agents into Lochaber to receive the young Prince's commands, as Regent of the three kingdoms, and to express his joy at his arrival. He sent also secretly for his son, who was then a student at the University of St. Andrews, and compelled him to leave his pursuits there, appointing him colonel of his clan. Arms, money, and provisions were collected; and the fiery cross was circulated throughout the country.
Such proceedings could not be concealed, and the Lord Advocate, Craigie, wrote to Lord Lovat from Edinburgh, in the month of August, calling upon him to prove his allegiance, referring to Lovat's son as well able to assist him, and asking his counsels on the state of the Highlands. The epistle alluded to a long cessation of any friendly correspondence between the Lord Advocate and Lord Lovat.
It was answered by assurances of loyalty. "I am as ready this day (as far as I am able) to serve the King and Government as I was in the year 1715, &c. But my clan and I have been so neglected these many years past, that I have not twelve stand of arms in my country, though I thank God I could bring twelve hundred good men to the field for the King's service if I had arms and other accoutrements for them." He then entreats a supply of arms, names a thousand stand to be sent to Inverness, and promises to engage himself in the King's service. He continues,—"Therefore, my good Lord, I earnestly entreat that as you wish that I would do good service to the Government on this critical occasion, you may order immediately a thousand stand of arms to be delivered to me and my clan at Inverness, and then your Lordship shall see that I will exert myself for the King's service; and if we do not get these arms immediately, we will certainly be undone; for these madmen that are in arms with the pretended Prince of Wales, threaten every day to burn and destroy my country if we do not rise in arms and join them; so that my people cry hourly that they have no arms to defend themselves, nor no protection or support from the Government. So I earnestly entreat your Lordship may consider seriously on this, for it will be an essential and singular loss to the Government if my clan and kindred be destroyed, who possess the centre of the Highlands of Scotland, and the countries most proper, by their situation, to serve the King and Government."
"As to my son, my Lord, that you are so good as to mention, he is very young, and just done with his colleges at St. Andrews, under the care of a relation of yours, Mr. Thomas Craigie, professor of Hebrew, who I truly think one of the prettiest, most complete gentlemen that I ever conversed with in any country: and I think I never saw a youth that pleased him more than my eldest son; he says he is a very good scholar, and has the best genius for learning of any he has seen, and it is by Mr. Thomas Craigie's positive advice, which he will tell you when you see him, that I send my son immediately to Utrecht to complete his education. But I have many a one of my family more fitted to command than he is at his tender age; and I do assure your Lordship that they will behave well if they are supported as they ought from the Government."
This artful letter, wherein he talks of sending his son to Utrecht, when he was, at that time, by threats and persuasion driving him into the field of civil war, is finished thus:—
"I hear that mad and unaccountable gentleman" (thus he designates the Prince) "has set up a standard at a place called Glenfinnin—Monday last. This place is the inlet from Moydart to Lochaber; and I hear of none that joined him as yet, except the Camerons and Macdonells."
But this masterpiece of art could not deceive the honest yet discerning mind of him to whom it was addressed.
Since the death of Mr. Forbes, the President had resided frequently at Culloden, now his own property; his observing eye was turned upon the proceedings of his neighbour at Castle Downie, but still appearances were maintained between him and Lovat. "This day," writes the President to a friend, "the Lord Lovat came to dine with me. He said he had heard with uneasiness the reports that were scattered abroad; but that he looked on the attempt as very desperate; that though he thought himself but indifferently used lately, in taking his company from him, yet his wishes still being, as well as his interest, led him to support the present Royal Family; that he had lain absolutely still and quiet, lest his stirring in any sort might have been misrepresented or misconstrued; and he said his business with me was, to be advised what was to be done on this occasion. I approved greatly of his disposition, and advised him, until the scene should open a little, to lay himself out to gain the most certain intelligence he could come at, which the situation of his clan will enable him to execute, and to prevent his kinsmen from being seduced by their mad neighbours, which he readily promised to do."
Consistent with these professions were the letters of Lovat to the President.
"I have but melancholy news to tell you, my dear Lord, of my own country; for I have a strong report that mad Foyers is either gone, or preparing to go, to the West; and I have the same report of poor Kilbockie; but I don't believe it. However, if I be able to ride in my chariot the length of Inverness, I am resolved to go to Stratherrick next week, and endeavour to keep my people in order. I forgot to tell you that the man yesterday assured me that they were resolved to burn and destroy all the countries where the men would not join them, with fire and sword, which truly frights me much, and has made me think of the best expedient I could imagine to preserve my people.
"As I know that the Laird of Lochiel has always a very affectionate friendship for me, as his relation, and a man that did him singular services, and as he is perfectly well acquainted with Gortuleg, I endeavoured all I could to persuade Tom to go there, and that he should endeavour in my name to persuade Lochiel to protect my country; in which I think I could succeed; but I cannot persuade Gortuleg to go; he is so nice with his points of honour that he thinks his going would bring upon him the character of a spy, and that he swears he would not have for the creation. I used all the arguments that I was capable of, and told him plainly that it was the greatest service he could do to me and to my country, as I knew he could bring me a full account of their situation, and that is the only effectual means that I can think of to keep the Stratherrick men and the rest of my people at home. He told me at last he would take some days to consider of it until he comes out of Stratherrick; but I am afraid that will be too late. I own I was not well pleased with him, and we parted in a cooler manner than we used to do."
In all his letters he characterizes Charles Edward, to whom he had just pledged his allegiance, as the "pretended Prince." His affectation of zeal in the cause of Government, his pretence of an earnest endeavour to arrest the career of the very persons whom he was exciting to action, his exertions with my "cousin Gortuleg," and his delight to find that "honest Kilbockie," whom he had been vilifying, had not stirred, and would do nothing without his consent, might be amusing if they were not traits of such wanton irreclaimable falsehood in an aged man, soon to be called to an account, before a heavenly tribunal, for a long career of crime and injury to his neighbours.
If any further instance of his duplicity can be read with patience, the following letter to Lochiel, who, according to Lovat, had a very affectionate friendship for him, affords a curious specimen of cunning.
"I fear you have been over rash in going ere affairs were ripe. You are in a dangerous state. The Elector's General, Cope, is in your rear, hanging at your tail with three thousand men, such as have not been seen here since Dundee's affair, and we have no force to meet him. If the Macphersons will take the field I would bring out my lads to help the work; and 'twixt the two we might cause Cope to keep his Christmas here; but only Cluny is earnest in the cause, and my Lord Advocate plays at cat and mouse with me; but times may change, I may bring him to Saint Johnstone's tippet. Meantime look to yourselves, for ye may expect many a sour face and sharp weapons in the South. I'll aid when I can, but my prayers are all I can give at present. My service to the Prince, but I wish he had not come here so empty-handed. Siller would go far in the Highlands. I send this by Evan Fraser, whom I have charged to give it to yourself; for were Duncan to find it, it would be my head to an onion. Farewell!
"Your faithful friend, "LOVAT."
"For the Laird of Lochiel. "Yese."
But perhaps the most odious feature in this part of Lovat's career was his treachery to Duncan Forbes, whose exertions had placed his unworthy client in possession of his property, and whose early ties of neighbourhood ought, at any rate, to have secured him from danger. A party of the Stratherric Frasers, kinsmen and clansmen of Lovat's, attacked Culloden House, as there was every reason to believe with the full concurrence of Lovat. Forbes, who was perfectly aware of the source whence the assault proceeded, appeared to treat it lightly, talked of it as an "idle attempt," never hinting that he guessed Lovat's participation in the affair, and only lamenting that the ruffians had "robbed the gardener and the poor weaver, who was a common benefit to the country." Lovat, as it has been sagaciously remarked, the guilty man, took it up much more knowingly.
This tissue of artifice was carried on for some weeks; first by a vehement desire to have arms sent in order to repel the rebels, then by hints that the inclinations of his people, and the extensive popularity of the cause began to make it doubtful whether he could control their rash ardour. "Your Lordship may remember," he wrote to Forbes, "that I had a vast deal of trouble to prevent my men rising at the beginning of this affair; but now the contagion is so general, by the late success of the Highlanders, that they laugh at any man that would dissuade them from going; so that I really know not how to behave. I really wish I had been in any part of Britain these twelve months past, both for my health and other considerations." The feebleness of his health was a point on which, for some reasons or other, he continually insisted. It is not often that one can hear an aged man complain, without responding by pity and sympathy.
"I'm exceeding glad to know that your Lordship is in great health and spirits: I am so unlucky that my condition is the reverse; for I have neither health nor spirits. I have entirely lost the use of my limbs, for I can neither walk nor mount a horseback without the help of three or four men, which makes my life both uneasy and melancholy. But I submit to the will of God." This account, indeed, rather confirms a tradition that Lord Lovat, after the separation from his wife, sank into a state of despondency, and lay two years in bed previous to the Rebellion of 1745. When the news of the Prince's landing was brought to him, he cried out, "Lassie, bring me my brogues.—I'll rise too."
At length, this wary traitor took a decisive step. His dilatoriness had made many of the Pretender's friends uneasy, and showed too plainly that he had been playing a double game. He was urged by some emissaries of Charles Edward "to throw off the mask," upon which he pulled off his hat and exclaimed "there it is!" He then, in the midst of his assembled vassals, drank "confusion to the white horse, and all the generation of them." He declared that he would "cut off" in a moment any of his tenants who refused to join the cause, and expressed his conviction that as sure as the sun shined his "master would prevail."
This was in the latter part of the summer: on the twenty-first of September the battle of Preston Pans raised the hopes of the Jacobites to the highest pitch, and Alexander Macleod was sent to the Highland chieftains to stimulate their loyalty and to secure their rising. Upon his visiting Castle Downie he found Lovat greatly elated by the recent victory, which he declared was not to be paralleled. He now began to assemble his men, and to prepare in earnest for that part which he had long intended to adopt; "but," observes Sir Walter Scott, "with that machiavelism inherent in his nature, he resolved that his own personal interest in the insurrection should be as little evident as possible, and determined that his son, whose safety he was bound, by the laws of God and man, to prefer to his own, should be his stalking-horse, and in case of need his scape-goat."
Lord President Forbes, who had been addressing himself to the Highland chieftains, exhorting the well-affected to bestir themselves, and entreating those who were devoted to the Pretender not to involve themselves and their families in ruin, expostulated by letter with Lord Lovat upon the course which his son was now openly pursuing, pointing out how greatly it would reflect upon the father, whose co-operation or countenance he supposed to be impossible. The letters written on this subject by Forbes are admirable, and show a deep interest not only in the security of his country, but also in the fate of the young man, who afterwards redeemed his involuntary errors by a career of the highest respectability.
"You have now so far pulled off the mask," writes the President, "that we can see the mark you aimed at." "You sent away your son, and the best part of your clan," he adds, after a remonstrance full of good sense and candour, "to join the Pretender, with as little concern as if no danger had attended such a step. And I am sorry to tell you, my Lord, that I could sooner undertake to plead the cause of any one of those unhappy gentlemen who are actually in arms against his Majesty; and I could say more in defence of their conduct, than I could in defence of your Lordship's."
Can any instance of moral degradation be adduced more complete than this? The implication of a son by a father, who had used his absolute authority to drive his son into an active part in the affairs of the day?
"I received the honour of your Lordship's letter," writes Lovat, in reply, "late last night, of yesterday's date; and I own that I never received any one like it since I was born; and I give your Lordship the thousand thanks for the kind freedom you use with me in it; for I see by it that for my misfortune of having ane obstinate stubborn son, and ane ungrateful kindred, my family must go to destruction, and I must lose my life in my old age. Such usage looks rather like a Turkish or Persian government than like a British. Am I, my Lord, the first father that had ane undutiful and unnatural son? or am I the first man that has made a good estate, and saw it destroyed in his own time? but I never heard till now, that the foolishness of a son, would take away the liberty and life of a father, that lived peaceably, that was ane honest man, and well inclined to the rest of mankind. But I find the longer a man lives, the more wonders, and extraordinary things he sees.
"Now, my Lord, as to the civil war that occasions my misfortune; and in which, almost the whole kingdom is involved on one side or other. I humbly think that men should be moderate on both sides, since it is morally impossible to know the event. For thousands, nay, ten thousands on both sides are positive that their own party will carry; and suppose that this Highland army should be utterly defeat, and that the Government should carry all in triumph, no man can think that any king upon the throne would destroy so many ancient families that are engaged in it."
Upon the news of the Pretender's troops marching to England, the Frasers, headed by the Master of Lovat, formed a sort of blockade round Fort Augustus; upon which the Earl of Loudon, with a large body of the well-affected clans, marched, in a very severe frost during the month of December, to the relief of Fort Augustus. His route lay through Stratherric, Lord Lovat's estate, on the south side of Loch Ness. Fort Augustus surrendered without opposition; and the next visit which Lord Loudon paid was to Castle Downie, where he prevailed on Lord Lovat to go with him to Inverness, and to remain there under Loudon's eye, until his clan should have been compelled to bring in their arms. Lord Lovat was now very submissive; he promised that this should be done in three days, and highly condemned the conduct of his son. But he still delayed to surrender the arms; and, at last, found means, in spite of his lameness which he was always lamenting, to get out of the house where he was lodged by a back passage, and to make his escape to the Isle of Muily, in Glenstrathfarrer. Here he occupied himself in exciting all the clans, especially his own Frasers, to join in the insurrection. A scheme having been submitted to the Duke of Cumberland, for the prevention of all future disturbances by transporting all those who had been found in arms to America, Lord Lovat had this document translated into Gaelic, and circulated in the Highlands, in order to exasperate the natives against the Duke, and to show that that General intended to extirpate them root and branch. Unhappily, the event did not serve to dispel those suspicions. This manifesto, as it was called, was read publicly in the churches every Sunday.
The march of the rebels to Inverness drove Lord Loudon to retire into Sutherland early in 1746, and President Forbes had accompanied him in his retreat. It was, therefore, again practicable for Lord Lovat to return to his own territory; and we find him, before the battle of Culloden, alternately at Castle Downie, or among some of his adherents, chiefly at the House of Fraser of Gortuleg, from which the following letter which exemplifies much of the character of Lovat, appears to have been written.
"March 20, 1746.
"My dearest Child,
"Gortulegg came home last night, with Inocralachy's brother; and the two Sandy Fairfield's son, and mine: and I am glad to know, that you are in perfect health, which you may be sure I wish the continuance of. I am sure for all Sandy's reluctance to come to this country, he will be better pleased with it than any where else; for he has his commerade, Gortuleg's son, to travell up and down with him; I shall not desire him to stay ane hour in the house but when he pleases.
"My cousin, Mr. William Fraser, tells me that the Prince sent notice to Sir Alexander Bennerman, by Sir John M'Donell, that he would go some of these days, and view my country of the Aird, and fish salmon upon my river of Beauly, I do not much covet that great honour at this time as my house is quite out of order, and that I am not at home myself nor you: however, if the Prince takes the fancy to go, you must offer to go along with him, and offer him a glass of wine and any cold meat you can get there. I shall send Sanday Doan over immediately, if you think that the Prince is to go: so I have ordered the glyd post to be here precisely this night.