The History of England from the Accession of James II. - Volume 3 (of 5)
by Thomas Babington Macaulay
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The question, having slept during eighteen years, was suddenly revived by the Revolution. Different classes, impelled by different motives, concurred on this point. With merchants, eager to share in the advantages of the West Indian Trade, were joined active and aspiring politicians who wished to exhibit their abilities in a more conspicuous theatre than the Scottish Parliament House, and to collect riches from a more copious source than the Scottish treasury. The cry for union was swelled by the voices of some artful Jacobites, who merely wished to cause discord and delay, and who hoped to attain this end by mixing up with the difficult question which it was the especial business of the Convention to settle another question more difficult still. It is probable that some who disliked the ascetic habits and rigid discipline of the Presbyterians wished for an union as the only mode of maintaining prelacy in the northern part of the island. In an united Parliament the English members must greatly preponderate; and in England the bishops were held in high honour by the great majority of the population. The Episcopal Church of Scotland, it was plain, rested on a narrow basis, and would fall before the first attack. The Episcopal Church of Great Britain might have a foundation broad and solid enough to withstand all assaults.

Whether, in 1689, it would have been possible to effect a civil union without a religious union may well be doubted. But there can be no doubt that a religious union would have been one of the greatest calamities that could have befallen either kingdom. The union accomplished in 1707 has indeed been a great blessing both to England and to Scotland. But it has been a blessing because, in constituting one State, it left two Churches. The political interest of the contracting parties was the same: but the ecclesiastical dispute between them was one which admitted of no compromise. They could therefore preserve harmony only by agreeing to differ. Had there been an amalgamation of the hierarchies, there never would have been an amalgamation of the nations. Successive Mitchells would have fired at successive Sharpes. Five generations of Claverhouses would have butchered five generations of Camerons. Those marvellous improvements which have changed the face of Scotland would never have been effected. Plains now rich with harvests would have remained barren moors. Waterfalls which now turn the wheels of immense factories would have resounded in a wilderness. New Lanark would still have been a sheepwalk, and Greenock a fishing hamlet. What little strength Scotland could under such a system have possessed must, in an estimate of the resources of Great Britain, have been, not added, but deducted. So encumbered, our country never could have held, either in peace or in war, a place in the first rank of nations. We are unfortunately not without the means of judging of the effect which may be produced on the moral and physical state of a people by establishing, in the exclusive enjoyment of riches and dignity a Church loved and reverenced only by the few, and regarded by the many with religious and national aversion. One such Church is quite burden enough for the energies of one empire.

But these things, which to us, who have been taught by a bitter experience, seem clear, were by no means clear in 1689, even to very tolerant and enlightened politicians. In truth the English Low Churchmen were, if possible, more anxious than the English High Churchmen to preserve Episcopacy in Scotland. It is a remarkable fact that Burnet, who was always accused of wishing to establish the Calvinistic discipline in the south of the island, incurred great unpopularity among his own countrymen by his efforts to uphold prelacy in the north. He was doubtless in error: but his error is to be attributed to a cause which does him no discredit. His favourite object, an object unattainable indeed, yet such as might well fascinate a large intellect and a benevolent heart, had long been an honourable treaty between the Anglican Church and the Nonconformists. He thought it most unfortunate that one opportunity of concluding such a treaty should have been lost at the time of the Restoration. It seemed to him that another opportunity was afforded by the Revolution. He and his friends were eagerly pushing forward Nottingham's Comprehension Bill, and were flattering themselves with vain hopes of success. But they felt that there could hardly be a Comprehension in one of the two British kingdoms, unless there were also a Comprehension in the other. Concession must be purchased by concession. If the Presbyterian pertinaciously refused to listen to any terms of compromise where he was strong, it would be almost impossible to obtain for him liberal terms of compromise where he was weak. Bishops must therefore be allowed to keep their sees in Scotland, in order that divines not ordained by Bishops might be allowed to hold rectories and canonries in England.

Thus the cause of the Episcopalians in the north and the cause of the Presbyterians in the south were bound up together in a manner which might well perplex even a skilful statesman. It was happy for our country that the momentous question which excited so many strong passions, and which presented itself in so many different points of view, was to be decided by such a man as William. He listened to Episcopalians, to Latitudinarians, to Presbyterians, to the Dean of Glasgow who pleaded for the apostolical succession, to Burnet who represented the danger of alienating the Anglican clergy, to Carstairs who hated prelacy with the hatred of a man whose thumbs were deeply marked by the screws of prelatists. Surrounded by these eager advocates, William remained calm and impartial. He was indeed eminently qualified by his situation as well as by his personal qualities to be the umpire in that great contention. He was the King of a prelatical kingdom. He was the Prime Minister of a presbyterian republic. His unwillingness to offend the Anglican Church of which he was the head, and his unwillingness to offend the reformed Churches of the Continent which regarded him as a champion divinely sent to protect them against the French tyranny, balanced each other, and kept him from leaning unduly to either side. His conscience was perfectly neutral. For it was his deliberate opinion that no form of ecclesiastical polity was of divine institution. He dissented equally from the school of Laud and from the school of Cameron, from the men who held that there could not be a Christian Church without Bishops, and from the men who held that there could not be a Christian Church without synods. Which form of government should be adopted was in his judgment a question of mere expediency. He would probably have preferred a temper between the two rival systems, a hierarchy in which the chief spiritual functionaries should have been something more than moderators and something less than prelates. But he was far too wise a man to think of settling such a matter according to his own personal tastes. He determined therefore that, if there was on both sides a disposition to compromise, he would act as mediator. But, if it should prove that the public mind of England and the public mind of Scotland had taken the ply strongly in opposite directions, he would not attempt to force either nation into conformity with the opinion of the other. He would suffer each to have its own church, and would content himself with restraining both churches from persecuting nonconformists, and from encroaching on the functions of the civil magistrate.

The language which he held to those Scottish Episcopalians who complained to him of their sufferings and implored his protection was well weighed and well guarded, but clear and ingenuous. He wished, he said, to preserve, if possible, the institution to which they were so much attached, and to grant at the same time entire liberty of conscience to that party which could not be reconciled to any deviation from the Presbyterian model. But the Bishops must take care that they did not, by their own rashness and obstinacy, put it out of his power to be of any use to them. They must also distinctly understand that he was resolved not to force on Scotland by the sword a form of ecclesiastical government which she detested. If, therefore; it should be found that prelacy could be maintained only by arms, he should yield to the general sentiment, and should merely do his best to obtain for the Episcopalian minority permission to worship God in freedom and safety, [276]

It is not likely that, even if the Scottish Bishops had, as William recommended, done all that meekness and prudence could do to conciliate their countrymen, episcopacy could, under any modification, have been maintained. It was indeed asserted by writers of that generation, and has been repeated by writers of our generation, that the Presbyterians were not, before the Revolution, the majority of the people of Scotland, [277] But in this assertion there is an obvious fallacy. The effective strength of sects is not to be ascertained merely by counting heads. An established church, a dominant church, a church which has the exclusive possession of civil honours and emoluments, will always rank among its nominal members multitudes who have no religion at all; multitudes who, though not destitute of religion, attend little to theological disputes, and have no scruple about conforming to the mode of worship which happens to be established; and multitudes who have scruples about conforming, but whose scruples have yielded to worldly motives. On the other hand, every member of an oppressed church is a man who has a very decided preference for that church. A person who, in the time of Diocletian, joined in celebrating the Christian mysteries might reasonably be supposed to be a firm believer in Christ. But it would be a very great mistake to imagine that one single Pontiff or Augur in the Roman Senate was a firm believer in Jupiter. In Mary's reign, every body who attended the secret meetings of the Protestants was a real Protestant: but hundreds of thousands went to mass who, as appeared before she had been dead a month, were not real Roman Catholics. If, under the Kings of the House of Stuart, when a Presbyterian was excluded from political power and from the learned professions, was daily annoyed by informers, by tyrannical magistrates, by licentious dragoons, and was in danger of being hanged if he heard a sermon in the open air, the population of Scotland was not very unequally divided between Episcopalians and Presbyterians, the rational inference is that more than nineteen twentieths of those Scotchmen whose conscience was interested in the matter were Presbyterians, and that not one Scotchman in twenty was decidedly and on conviction an Episcopalian. Against such odds the Bishops had but little chance; and whatever chance they had they made haste to throw away; some of them because they sincerely believed that their allegiance was still due to James; others probably because they apprehended that William would not have the power, even if he had the will, to serve them, and that nothing but a counterrevolution in the State could avert a revolution in the Church.

As the new King of England could not be at Edinburgh during the sitting of the Scottish Convention, a letter from him to the Estates was prepared with great skill. In this document he professed warm attachment to the Protestant religion, but gave no opinion touching those questions about which Protestants were divided. He had observed, he said, with great satisfaction that many of the Scottish nobility and gentry with whom he had conferred in London were inclined to an union of the two British kingdoms. He was sensible how much such an union would conduce to the happiness of both; and he would do all in his power towards the accomplishing of so good a work.

It was necessary that he should allow a large discretion to his confidential agents at Edinburgh. The private instructions with which he furnished those persons could not be minute, but were highly judicious. He charged them to ascertain to the best of their power the real sense of the Convention, and to be guided by it. They must remember that the first object was to settle the government. To that object every other object, even the union, must be postponed. A treaty between two independent legislatures, distant from each other several days' journey, must necessarily be a work of time; and the throne could not safely remain vacant while the negotiations were pending. It was therefore important that His Majesty's agents should be on their guard against the arts of persons who, under pretence of promoting the union, might really be contriving only to prolong the interregnum. If the Convention should be bent on establishing the Presbyterian form of church government, William desired that his friends would do all in their power to prevent the triumphant sect from retaliating what it had suffered, [278]

The person by whose advice William appears to have been at this time chiefly guided as to Scotch politics was a Scotchman of great abilities and attainments, Sir James Dalrymple of Stair, the founder of a family eminently distinguished at the bar, on the bench, in the senate, in diplomacy, in arms, and in letters, but distinguished also by misfortunes and misdeeds which have furnished poets and novelists with materials for the darkest and most heartrending tales. Already Sir James had been in mourning for more than one strange and terrible death. One of his sons had died by poison. One of his daughters had poniarded her bridegroom on the wedding night. One of his grandsons had in boyish sport been slain by another. Savage libellers asserted, and some of the superstitious vulgar believed, that calamities so portentous were the consequences of some connection between the unhappy race and the powers of darkness. Sir James had a wry neck; and he was reproached with this misfortune as if it had been a crime, and was told that it marked him out as a man doomed to the gallows. His wife, a woman of great ability, art, and spirit, was popularly nicknamed the Witch of Endor. It was gravely said that she had cast fearful spells on those whom she hated, and that she had been seen in the likeness of a cat seated on the cloth of state by the side of the Lord High Commissioner. The man, however, over whose roof so many curses appeared to hang did not, as far as we can now judge, fall short of that very low standard of morality which was generally attained by politicians of his age and nation. In force of mind and extent of knowledge he was superior to them all. In his youth he had borne arms: he had then been a professor of philosophy: he had then studied law, and had become, by general acknowledgment, the greatest jurist that his country had produced. In the days of the Protectorate, he had been a judge. After the Restoration, he had made his peace with the royal family, had sate in the Privy Council, and had presided with unrivalled ability in the Court of Session. He had doubtless borne a share in many unjustifiable acts; but there were limits which he never passed. He had a wonderful power of giving to any proposition which it suited him to maintain a plausible aspect of legality and even of justice; and this power he frequently abused. But he was not, like many of those among whom he lived, impudently and unscrupulously servile. Shame or conscience generally restrained him from committing any bad action for which his rare ingenuity could not frame a specious defence; and he was seldom in his place at the council board when any thing outrageously unjust or cruel was to be done. His moderation at length gave offence to the Court. He was deprived of his high office, and found himself in so disagreeable a situation that he retired to Holland. There he employed himself in correcting the great work on jurisprudence which has preserved his memory fresh down to our own time. In his banishment he tried to gain the favour of his fellow exiles, who naturally regarded him with suspicion. He protested, and perhaps with truth, that his hands were pure from the blood of the persecuted Covenanters. He made a high profession of religion, prayed much, and observed weekly days of fasting and humiliation. He even consented, after much hesitation, to assist with his advice and his credit the unfortunate enterprise of Argyle. When that enterprise had failed, a prosecution was instituted at Edinburgh against Dalrymple; and his estates would doubtless have been confiscated had they not been saved by an artifice which subsequently became common among the politicians of Scotland. His eldest son and heir apparent, John, took the side of the government, supported the dispensing power, declared against the Test, and accepted the place of Lord Advocate, when Sir George Mackenzie, after holding out through ten years of foul drudgery, at length showed signs of flagging. The services of the younger Dalrymple were rewarded by a remission of the forfeiture which the offences of the elder had incurred. Those services indeed were not to be despised. For Sir John, though inferior to his father in depth and extent of legal learning, was no common man. His knowledge was great and various: his parts were quick; and his eloquence was singularly ready and graceful. To sanctity he made no pretensions. Indeed Episcopalians and Presbyterians agreed in regarding him as little better than an atheist. During some months Sir John at Edinburgh affected to condemn the disloyalty of his unhappy parent Sir James; and Sir James at Leyden told his Puritan friends how deeply he lamented the wicked compliances of his unhappy child Sir John.

The Revolution came, and brought a large increase of wealth and honours to the House of Stair. The son promptly changed sides, and cooperated ably and zealously with the father. Sir James established himself in London for the purpose of giving advice to William on Scotch affairs. Sir John's post was in the Parliament House at Edinburgh. He was not likely to find any equal among the debaters there, and was prepared to exert all his powers against the dynasty which he had lately served, [279]

By the large party which was zealous for the Calvinistic church government John Dalrymple was regarded with incurable distrust and dislike. It was therefore necessary that another agent should be employed to manage that party. Such an agent was George Melville, Lord Melville, a nobleman connected by affinity with the unfortunate Monmouth, and with that Leslie who had unsuccessfully commanded the Scotch army against Cromwell at Dunbar. Melville had always been accounted a Whig and a Presbyterian. Those who speak of him most favourably have not ventured to ascribe to him eminent intellectual endowments or exalted public spirit. But he appears from his letters to have been by no means deficient in that homely prudence the want of which has often been fatal to men of brighter genius and of purer virtue. That prudence had restrained him from going very far in opposition to the tyranny of the Stuarts: but he had listened while his friends talked about resistance, and therefore, when the Rye House plot was discovered, thought it expedient to retire to the Continent. In his absence he was accused of treason, and was convicted on evidence which would not have satisfied any impartial tribunal. He was condemned to death: his honours and lands were declared forfeit: his arms were torn with contumely out of the Heralds' book; and his domains swelled the estate of the cruel and rapacious Perth. The fugitive meanwhile, with characteristic wariness, lived quietly on the Continent, and discountenanced the unhappy projects of his kinsman Monmouth, but cordially approved of the enterprise of the Prince of Orange.

Illness had prevented Melville from sailing with the Dutch expedition: but he arrived in London a few hours after the new Sovereigns had been proclaimed there. William instantly sent him down to Edinburgh, in the hope, as it should seem, that the Presbyterians would be disposed to listen to moderate counsels proceeding from a man who was attached to their cause, and who had suffered for it. Melville's second son, David, who had inherited, through his mother, the title of Earl of Leven, and who had acquired some military experience in the service of the Elector of Brandenburg, had the honour of being the bearer of a letter from the new King of England to the Scottish Convention, [280]

James had intrusted the conduct of his affairs in Scotland to John Graham, Viscount Dundee, and Colin Lindsay, Earl of Balcarras. Dundee had commanded a body of Scottish troops which had marched into England to oppose the Dutch: but he had found, in the inglorious campaign which had been fatal to the dynasty of Stuart, no opportunity of displaying the courage and military skill which those who most detest his merciless nature allow him to have possessed. He lay with his forces not far from Watford, when he was informed that James had fled from Whitehall, and that Feversham had ordered all the royal army to disband. The Scottish regiments were thus left, without pay or provisions, in the midst of a foreign and indeed a hostile nation. Dundee, it is said, wept with grief and rage. Soon, however, more cheering intelligence arrived from various quarters. William wrote a few lines to say that, if the Scots would remain quiet, he would pledge his honour for their safety; and, some hours later, it was known that James had returned to his capital. Dundee repaired instantly to London, [281] There he met his friend Balcarras, who had just arrived from Edinburgh. Balcarras, a man distinguished by his handsome person and by his accomplishments, had, in his youth, affected the character of a patriot, but had deserted the popular cause, had accepted a seat in the Privy Council, had become a tool of Perth and Melfort, and bad been one of the Commissioners who were appointed to execute the office of Treasurer when Queensberry was disgraced for refusing to betray the interests of the Protestant religion, [282]

Dundee and Balcarras went together to Whitehall, and had the honour of accompanying James in his last walk, up and down the Mall. He told them that he intended to put his affairs in Scotland under their management. "You, my Lord Balcarras, must undertake the civil business: and you, my Lord Dundee, shall have a commission from me to command the troops." The two noblemen vowed that they would prove themselves deserving of his confidence, and disclaimed all thought of making their peace with the Prince of Orange, [283]

On the following day James left Whitehall for ever; and the Prince of Orange arrived at Saint James's. Both Dundee and Balcarras swelled the crowd which thronged to greet the deliverer, and were not ungraciously received. Both were well known to him. Dundee had served under him on the Continent; [284] and the first wife of Balcarras had been a lady of the House of Orange, and had worn, on her wedding day, a superb pair of emerald earrings, the gift of her cousin the Prince. [285]

The Scottish Whigs, then assembled in great numbers at Westminster, earnestly pressed William to proscribe by name four or five men who had, during the evil times, borne a conspicuous part in the proceedings of the Privy Council at Edinburgh. Dundee and Balcarras were particularly mentioned. But the Prince had determined that, as far as his power extended, all the past should be covered with a general amnesty, and absolutely refused to make any declaration which could drive to despair even the most guilty of his uncle's servants.

Balcarras went repeatedly to Saint James's, had several audiences of William, professed deep respect for his Highness, and owned that King James had committed great errors, but would not promise to concur in a vote of deposition. William gave no sign of displeasure, but said at parting: "Take care, my Lord, that you keep within the law; for, if you break it, you must expect to be left to it." [286]

Dundee seems to have been less ingenuous. He employed the mediation of Burnet, opened a negotiation with Saint James's, declared himself willing to acquiesce in the new order of things, obtained from William a promise of protection, and promised in return to live peaceably. Such credit was given to his professions that he was suffered to travel down to Scotland under the escort of a troop of cavalry. Without such an escort the man of blood, whose name was never mentioned but with a shudder at the hearth of any Presbyterian family, would, at that conjuncture, have had but a perilous journey through Berwickshire and the Lothians, [287]

February was drawing to a close when Dundee and Balcarras reached Edinburgh. They had some hope that they might be at the head of a majority in the Convention. They therefore exerted themselves vigorously to consolidate and animate their party. They assured the rigid royalists, who had a scruple about sitting in an assembly convoked by an usurper, that the rightful King particularly wished no friend of hereditary monarchy to be absent. More than one waverer was kept steady by being assured in confident terms that a speedy restoration was inevitable. Gordon had determined to surrender the castle, and had begun to remove his furniture: but Dundee and Balcarras prevailed on him to hold out some time longer. They informed him that they had received from Saint Germains full powers to adjourn the Convention to Stirling, and that, if things went ill at Edinburgh, those powers would be used, [288]

At length the fourteenth of March, the day fixed for the meeting of the Estates, arrived, and the Parliament House was crowded. Nine prelates were in their places. When Argyle presented himself, a single lord protested against the admission of a person whom a legal sentence, passed in due form, and still unreversed, had deprived of the honours of the peerage. But this objection was overruled by the general sense of the assembly. When Melville appeared, no voice was raised against his admission. The Bishop of Edinburgh officiated as chaplain, and made it one of his petitions that God would help and restore King James, [289] It soon appeared that the general feeling of the Convention was by no means in harmony with this prayer. The first matter to be decided was the choice of a President. The Duke of Hamilton was supported by the Whigs, the Marquess of Athol by the Jacobites. Neither candidate possessed, and neither deserved, the entire confidence of his supporters. Hamilton had been a Privy Councillor of James, had borne a part in many unjustifiable acts, and had offered but a very cautious and languid opposition to the most daring attacks on the laws and religion of Scotland. Not till the Dutch guards were at Whitehall had he ventured to speak out. Then he had joined the victorious party, and had assured the Whigs that he had pretended to be their enemy, only in order that he might, without incurring suspicion, act as their friend. Athol was still less to be trusted. His abilities were mean, his temper false, pusillanimous, and cruel. In the late reign he had gained a dishonourable notoriety by the barbarous actions of which he had been guilty in Argyleshire. He had turned with the turn of fortune, and had paid servile court to the Prince of Orange, but had been coldly received, and had now, from mere mortification, come back to the party which he had deserted, [290] Neither of the rival noblemen had chosen to stake the dignities and lands of his house on the issue of the contention between the rival Kings. The eldest son of Hamilton had declared for James, and the eldest son of Athol for William, so that, in any event, both coronets and both estates were safe.

But in Scotland the fashionable notions touching political morality were lax; and the aristocratical sentiment was strong. The Whigs were therefore willing to forget that Hamilton had lately sate in the council of James. The Jacobites were equally willing to forget that Athol had lately fawned on William. In political inconsistency those two great lords were far indeed from standing by themselves; but in dignity and power they had scarcely an equal in the assembly. Their descent was eminently illustrious: their influence was immense: one of them could raise the Western Lowlands: the other could bring into the field an army of northern mountaineers. Round these chiefs therefore the hostile factions gathered.

The votes were counted; and it appeared that Hamilton had a majority of forty. The consequence was that about twenty of the defeated party instantly passed over to the victors, [291] At Westminster such a defection would have been thought strange; but it seems to have caused little surprise at Edinburgh. It is a remarkable circumstance that the same country should have produced in the same age the most wonderful specimens of both extremes of human nature. No class of men mentioned in history has ever adhered to a principle with more inflexible pertinacity than was found among the Scotch Puritans. Fine and imprisonment, the sheers and the branding iron, the boot, the thumbscrew, and the gallows could not extort from the stubborn Covenanter one evasive word on which it was possible to put a sense inconsistent with his theological system. Even in things indifferent he would hear of no compromise; and he was but too ready to consider all who recommended prudence and charity as traitors to the cause of truth. On the other hand, the Scotchmen of that generation who made a figure in the Parliament House and in the Council Chamber were the most dishonest and unblushing timeservers that the world has ever seen. The English marvelled alike at both classes. There were indeed many stouthearted nonconformists in the South; but scarcely any who in obstinacy, pugnacity, and hardihood could bear a comparison with the men of the school of Cameron. There were many knavish politicians in the South; but few so utterly destitute of morality, and still fewer so utterly destitute of shame, as the men of the school of Lauderdale. Perhaps it is natural that the most callous and impudent vice should be found in the near neighbourhood of unreasonable and impracticable virtue. Where enthusiasts are ready to destroy or to be destroyed for trifles magnified into importance by a squeamish conscience, it is not strange that the very name of conscience should become a byword of contempt to cool and shrewd men of business.

The majority, reinforced by the crowd of deserters from the minority, proceeded to name a Committee of Elections. Fifteen persons were chosen, and it soon appeared that twelve of these were not disposed to examine severely into the regularity of any proceeding of which the result had been to send up a Whig to the Parliament House. The Duke of Hamilton is said to have been disgusted by the gross partiality of his own followers, and to have exerted himself, with but little success, to restrain their violence, [292]

Before the Estates proceeded to deliberate on the business for which they had met, they thought it necessary to provide for their own security. They could not be perfectly at ease while the roof under which they sate was commanded by the batteries of the Castle. A deputation was therefore sent to inform Gordon that the Convention required him to evacuate the fortress within twenty-four hours, and that, if he complied, his past conduct should not be remembered against him. He asked a night for consideration. During that night his wavering mind was confirmed by the exhortations of Dundee and Balcarras. On the morrow he sent an answer drawn in respectful but evasive terms. He was very far, he declared, from meditating harm to the City of Edinburgh. Least of all could he harbour any thought of molesting an august assembly which he regarded with profound reverence. He would willingly give bond for his good behaviour to the amount of twenty thousand pounds sterling. But he was in communication with the government now established in England. He was in hourly expectation of important despatches from that government; and, till they arrived, he should not feel himself justified in resigning his command. These excuses were not admitted. Heralds and trumpeters were sent to summon the Castle in form, and to denounce the penalties of high treason against those who should continue to occupy that fortress in defiance of the authority of the Estates. Guards were at the same time posted to intercept all communication between the garrison and the city, [293]

Two days had been spent in these preludes; and it was expected that on the third morning the great contest would begin. Meanwhile the population of Edinburgh was in an excited state. It had been discovered that Dundee had paid visits to the Castle; and it was believed that his exhortations had induced the garrison to hold out. His old soldiers were known to be gathering round him; and it might well be apprehended that he would make some desperate attempt. He, on the other hand, had been informed that the Western Covenanters who filled the cellars of the city had vowed vengeance on him: and, in truth, when we consider that their temper was singularly savage and implacable; that they had been taught to regard the slaying of a persecutor as a duty; that no examples furnished by Holy Writ had been more frequently held up to their admiration than Ehud stabbing Eglon, and Samuel hewing Agag limb from limb; that they had never heard any achievement in the history of their own country more warmly praised by their favourite teachers than the butchery of Cardinal Beatoun and of Archbishop Sharpe; we may well wonder that a man who had shed the blood of the saints like water should have been able to walk the High Street in safety during a single day. The enemy whom Dundee had most reason to fear was a youth of distinguished courage and abilities named William Cleland. Cleland had, when little more than sixteen years old, borne arms in that insurrection which had been put down at Bothwell Bridge. He had since disgusted some virulent fanatics by his humanity and moderation. But with the great body of Presbyterians his name stood high. For with the strict morality and ardent zeal of a Puritan he united some accomplishments of which few Puritans could boast. His manners were polished, and his literary and scientific attainments respectable. He was a linguist, mathematician, and a poet. It is true that his hymns, odes, ballads, and Hudibrastic satires are of very little intrinsic value; but, when it is considered that he was a mere boy when most of them were written, it must be admitted that they show considerable vigour of mind. He was now at Edinburgh: his influence among the West Country Whigs assembled there was great: he hated Dundee with deadly hatred, and was believed to be meditating some act of violence, [294]

On the fifteenth of March Dundee received information that some of the Covenanters had bound themselves together to slay him and Sir George Mackenzie, whose eloquence and learning, long prostituted to the service of tyranny, had made him more odious to the Presbyterians than any other man of the gown. Dundee applied to Hamilton for protection, and Hamilton advised him to bring the matter under the consideration of the Convention at the next sitting, [295]

Before that sitting, a person named Crane arrived from France, with a letter addressed by the fugitive King to the Estates. The letter was sealed: the bearer, strange to say, was not furnished with a copy for the information of the heads of the Jacobite party; nor did he bring any message, written or verbal, to either of James's agents. Balcarras and Dundee were mortified by finding that so little confidence was reposed in them, and were harassed by painful doubts touching the contents of the document on which so much depended. They were willing, however, to hope for the best. King James could not, situated as he was, be so ill advised as to act in direct opposition to the counsel and entreaties of his friends. His letter, when opened, must be found to contain such gracious assurances as would animate the royalists and conciliate the moderate Whigs. His adherents, therefore, determined that it should be produced.

When the Convention reassembled on the morning of Saturday the sixteenth of March, it was proposed that measures should be taken for the personal security of the members. It was alleged that the life of Dundee had been threatened; that two men of sinister appearance had been watching the house where he lodged, and had been heard to say that they would use the dog as he had used them. Mackenzie complained that he too was in danger, and, with his usual copiousness and force of language, demanded the protection of the Estates. But the matter was lightly treated by the majority: and the Convention passed on to other business, [296]

It was then announced that Crane was at the door of the Parliament House. He was admitted. The paper of which he was in charge was laid on the table. Hamilton remarked that there was, in the hands of the Earl of Leven, a communication from the Prince by whose authority the Estates had been convoked. That communication seemed to be entitled to precedence. The Convention was of the same opinion; and the well weighed and prudent letter of William was read.

It was then moved that the letter of James should be opened. The Whigs objected that it might possibly contain a mandate dissolving the Convention. They therefore proposed that, before the seal was broken, the Estates should resolve to continue sitting, notwithstanding any such mandate. The Jacobites, who knew no more than the Whigs what was in the letter, and were impatient to have it read, eagerly assented. A vote was passed by which the members bound themselves to consider any order which should command them to separate as a nullity, and to remain assembled till they should have accomplished the work of securing the liberty and religion of Scotland. This vote was signed by almost all the lords and gentlemen who were present. Seven out of nine bishops subscribed it. The names of Dundee and Balcarras, written by their own hands, may still be seen on the original roll. Balcarras afterwards excused what, on his principles, was, beyond all dispute, a flagrant act of treason, by saying that he and his friends had, from zeal for their master's interest, concurred in a declaration of rebellion against their master's authority; that they had anticipated the most salutary effects from the letter; and that, if they had not made some concession to the majority, the letter would not have been opened.

In a few minutes the hopes of Balcarras were grievously disappointed. The letter from which so much had been hoped and feared was read with all the honours which Scottish Parliaments were in the habit of paying to royal communications: but every word carried despair to the hearts of the Jacobites. It was plain that adversity had taught James neither wisdom nor mercy. All was obstinacy, cruelty, insolence. A pardon was promised to those traitors who should return to their allegiance within a fortnight. Against all others unsparing vengeance was denounced. Not only was no sorrow expressed for past offences: but the letter was itself a new offence: for it was written and countersigned by the apostate Melfort, who was, by the statutes of the realm, incapable of holding the office of Secretary, and who was not less abhorred by the Protestant Tories than by the Whigs. The hall was in a tumult. The enemies of James were loud and vehement. His friends, angry with him, and ashamed of him, saw that it was vain to think of continuing the struggle in the Convention. Every vote which had been doubtful when his letter was unsealed was now irrecoverably lost. The sitting closed in great agitation, [297]

It was Saturday afternoon. There was to be no other meeting till Monday morning. The Jacobite leaders held a consultation, and came to the conclusion that it was necessary to take a decided step. Dundee and Balcarras must use the powers with which they had been intrusted. The minority must forthwith leave Edinburgh and assemble at Stirling. Athol assented, and undertook to bring a great body of his clansmen from the Highlands to protect the deliberations of the Royalist Convention. Every thing was arranged for the secession; but, in a few hours, the tardiness of one man and the haste of another ruined the whole plan.

The Monday came. The Jacobite lords and gentlemen were actually taking horse for Stirling, when Athol asked for a delay of twenty-four hours. He had no personal reason to be in haste. By staying he ran no risk of being assassinated. By going he incurred the risks inseparable from civil war. The members of his party, unwilling to separate from him, consented to the postponement which he requested, and repaired once more to the Parliament House. Dundee alone refused to stay a moment longer. His life was in danger. The Convention had refused to protect him. He would not remain to be a mark for the pistols and daggers of murderers. Balcarras expostulated to no purpose. "By departing alone," he said, "you will give the alarm and break up the whole scheme." But Dundee was obstinate. Brave as he undoubtedly was, he seems, like many other brave men, to have been less proof against the danger of assassination than against any other form of danger. He knew what the hatred of the Covenanters was: he knew how well he had earned their hatred; and he was haunted by that consciousness of inexpiable guilt, and by that dread of a terrible retribution, which the ancient polytheists personified under the awful name of the Furies. His old troopers, the Satans and Beelzebubs who had shared his crimes, and who now shared his perils, were ready to be the companions of his flight.

Meanwhile the Convention had assembled. Mackenzie was on his legs, and was pathetically lamenting the hard condition of the Estates, at once commanded by the guns of a fortress and menaced by a fanatical rabble, when he was interrupted by some sentinels who came running from the posts near the Castle. They had seen Dundee at the head of fifty horse on the Stirling road. That road ran close under the huge rock on which the citadel is built. Gordon had appeared on the ramparts, and had made a sign that he had something to say. Dundee had climbed high enough to hear and to be heard, and was then actually conferring with the Duke. Up to that moment the hatred with which the Presbyterian members of the assembly regarded the merciless persecutor of their brethren in the faith had been restrained by the decorous forms of parliamentary deliberation. But now the explosion was terrible. Hamilton himself, who, by the acknowledgment of his opponents, had hitherto performed the duties of President with gravity and impartiality, was the loudest and fiercest man in the hall. "It is high time," he cried, "that we [should find] the enemies of our religion and of our civil freedom are mustering all around us; and we may well suspect that they have accomplices even here. Lock the doors. Lay the keys on the table. Let nobody go out but those lords and gentlemen whom we shall appoint to call the citizens to arms. There are some good men from the West in Edinburgh, men for whom I can answer." The assembly raised a general cry of assent. Several members of the majority boasted that they too had brought with them trusty retainers who would turn out at a moment's notice against Claverhouse and his dragoons. All that Hamilton proposed was instantly done. The Jacobites, silent and unresisting, became prisoners. Leven went forth and ordered the drums to beat. The Covenanters of Lanarkshire and Ayrshire promptly obeyed the signal. The force thus assembled had indeed no very military appearance, but was amply sufficient to overawe the adherents of the House of Stuart. From Dundee nothing was to be hoped or feared. He had already scrambled down the Castle hill, rejoined his troopers, and galloped westward. Hamilton now ordered the doors to be opened. The suspected members were at liberty to depart. Humbled and brokenspirited, yet glad that they had come off so well, they stole forth through the crowd of stern fanatics which filled the High Street. All thought of secession was at an end, [298]

On the following day it was resolved that the kingdom should be put into a posture of defence. The preamble of this resolution contained a severe reflection on the perfidy of the traitor who, within a few hours after he had, by an engagement subscribed with his own hand, bound himself not to quit his post in the Convention, had set the example of desertion, and given the signal of civil war. All Protestants, from sixteen to sixty, were ordered to hold themselves in readiness to assemble in arms at the first summons; and, that none might pretend ignorance, it was directed that the edict should be proclaimed at all the market crosses throughout the realm, [299]

The Estates then proceeded to send a letter of thanks to William. To this letter were attached the signatures of many noblemen and gentlemen who were in the interest of the banished King. The Bishops however unanimously refused to subscribe their names.

It had long been the custom of the Parliaments of Scotland to entrust the preparation of Acts to a select number of members who were designated as the Lords of the Articles. In conformity with this usage, the business of framing a plan for the settling of the government was now confided to a Committee of twenty-four. Of the twenty-four eight were peers, eight representatives of counties, and eight representatives of towns. The majority of the Committee were Whigs; and not a single prelate had a seat.

The spirit of the Jacobites, broken by a succession of disasters, was, about this time, for a moment revived by the arrival of the Duke of Queensberry from London. His rank was high and his influence was great: his character, by comparison with the characters of those who surrounded him, was fair. When Popery was in the ascendent, he had been true to the cause of the Protestant Church; and, since Whiggism had been in the ascendent, he had been true to the cause of hereditary monarchy. Some thought that, if he had been earlier in his place, he might have been able to render important service to the House of Stuart, [300] Even now the stimulants which he applied to his torpid and feeble party produced some faint symptoms of returning animation. Means were found of communicating with Gordon; and he was earnestly solicited to fire on the city. The Jacobites hoped that, as soon as the cannon balls had beaten down a few chimneys, the Estates would adjourn to Glasgow. Time would thus be gained; and the royalists might be able to execute their old project of meeting in a separate convention. Gordon however positively refused to take on himself so grave a responsibility on no better warrant than the request of a small cabal, [301]

By this time the Estates had a guard on which they could rely more firmly than on the undisciplined and turbulent Covenanters of the West. A squadron of English men of war from the Thames had arrived in the Frith of Forth. On board were the three Scottish regiments which had accompanied William from Holland. He had, with great judgment, selected them to protect the assembly which was to settle the government of their country; and, that no cause of jealousy might be given to a people exquisitely sensitive on points of national honour, he had purged the ranks of all Dutch soldiers, and had thus reduced the number of men to about eleven hundred. This little force was commanded by Andrew Mackay, a Highlander of noble descent, who had served long on the Continent, and who was distinguished by courage of the truest temper, and by a piety such as is seldom found in soldiers of fortune. The Convention passed a resolution appointing Mackay general of their forces. When the question was put on this resolution, the Archbishop of Glasgow, unwilling doubtless to be a party to such an usurpation of powers which belonged to the King alone, begged that the prelates might be excused from voting. Divines, he said, had nothing to do with military arrangements. "The Fathers of the Church," answered a member very keenly, "have been lately favoured with a new light. I have myself seen military orders signed by the Most Reverend person who has suddenly become so scrupulous. There was indeed one difference: those orders were for dragooning Protestants, and the resolution before us is meant to protect us from Papists." [302]

The arrival of Mackay's troops, and the determination of Gordon to remain inactive, quelled the spirit of the Jacobites. They had indeed one chance left. They might possibly, by joining with those Whigs who were bent on an union with England, have postponed during a considerable time the settlement of the government. A negotiation was actually opened with this view, but was speedily broken off. For it soon appeared that the party which was for James was really hostile to the union, and that the party which was for the union was really hostile to James. As these two parties had no object in common, the only effect of a coalition between them must have been that one of them would have become the tool of the other. The question of the union therefore was not raised, [303] Some Jacobites retired to their country seats: others, though they remained at Edinburgh, ceased to show themselves in the Parliament House: many passed over to the winning side; and, when at length the resolutions prepared by the Twenty Four were submitted to the Convention, it appeared that the party which on the first day of the session had rallied round Athol had dwindled away to nothing.

The resolutions had been framed, as far as possible, in conformity with the example recently set at Westminster. In one important point, however, it was absolutely necessary that the copy should deviate from the original. The Estates of England had brought two charges against James, his misgovernment and his flight, and had, by using the soft word "Abdication," evaded, with some sacrifice of verbal precision, the question whether subjects may lawfully depose a bad prince. That question the Estates of Scotland could not evade. They could not pretend that James had deserted his post. For he had never, since he came to the throne, resided in Scotland. During many years that kingdom had been ruled by sovereigns who dwelt in another land. The whole machinery of the administration had been constructed on the supposition that the King would be absent, and was therefore not necessarily deranged by that flight which had, in the south of the island, dissolved all government, and suspended the ordinary course of justice. It was only by letter that the King could, when he was at Whitehall, communicate with the Council and the Parliament at Edinburgh; and by letter he could communicate with them when he was at Saint Germains or at Dublin. The Twenty Four were therefore forced to propose to the Estates a resolution distinctly declaring that James the Seventh had by his misconduct forfeited the crown. Many writers have inferred from the language of this resolution that sound political principles had made a greater progress in Scotland than in England. But the whole history of the two countries from the Restoration to the Union proves this inference to be erroneous. The Scottish Estates used plain language, simply because it was impossible for them, situated as they were, to use evasive language.

The person who bore the chief part in framing the resolution, and in defending it, was Sir John Dalrymple, who had recently held the high office of Lord Advocate, and had been an accomplice in some of the misdeeds which he now arraigned with great force of reasoning and eloquence. He was strenuously supported by Sir James Montgomery, member for Ayrshire, a man of considerable abilities, but of loose principles, turbulent temper, insatiable cupidity, and implacable malevolence. The Archbishop of Glasgow and Sir George Mackenzie spoke on the other side: but the only effect of their oratory was to deprive their party of the advantage of being able to allege that the Estates were under duress, and that liberty of speech had been denied to the defenders of hereditary monarchy.

When the question was put, Athol, Queensberry, and some of their friends withdrew. Only five members voted against the resolution which pronounced that James had forfeited his right to the allegiance of his subjects. When it was moved that the Crown of Scotland should be settled as the Crown of England had been settled, Athol and Queensberry reappeared in the hall. They had doubted, they said, whether they could justifiably declare the throne vacant. But, since it had been declared vacant, they felt no doubt that William and Mary were the persons who ought to fill it.

The Convention then went forth in procession to the High Street. Several great nobles, attended by the Lord Provost of the capital and by the heralds, ascended the octagon tower from which rose the city cross surmounted by the unicorn of Scotland, [304] Hamilton read the vote of the Convention; and a King at Arms proclaimed the new Sovereigns with sound of trumpet. On the same day the Estates issued an order that the parochial clergy should, on pain of deprivation, publish from their pulpits the proclamation which had just been read at the city cross, and should pray for King William and Queen Mary.

Still the interregnum was not at an end. Though the new Sovereigns had been proclaimed, they had not yet been put into possession of the royal authority by a formal tender and a formal acceptance. At Edinburgh, as at Westminster, it was thought necessary that the instrument which settled the government should clearly define and solemnly assert those privileges of the people which the Stuarts had illegally infringed. A Claim of Right was therefore drawn up by the Twenty Four, and adopted by the Convention. To this Claim, which purported to be merely declaratory of the law as it stood, was added a supplementary paper containing a list of grievances which could be remedied only by new laws. One most important article which we should naturally expect to find at the head of such a list, the Convention, with great practical prudence, but in defiance of notorious facts and of unanswerable arguments, placed in the Claim of Right. Nobody could deny that prelacy was established by Act of Parliament. The power exercised by the Bishops might be pernicious, unscriptural, antichristian but illegal it certainly was not; and to pronounce it illegal was to outrage common sense. The Whig leaders however were much more desirous to get rid of episcopacy than to prove themselves consummate publicists and logicians. If they made the abolition of episcopacy an article of the contract by which William was to hold the crown, they attained their end, though doubtless in a manner open to much criticism. If, on the other hand, they contented themselves with resolving that episcopacy was a noxious institution which at some future time the legislature would do well to abolish, they might find that their resolution, though unobjectionable in form, was barren of consequences. They knew that William by no means sympathized with their dislike of Bishops, and that, even had he been much more zealous for the Calvinistic model than he was, the relation in which he stood to the Anglican Church would make it difficult and dangerous for him to declare himself hostile to a fundamental part of the constitution of that Church. If he should become King of Scotland without being fettered by any pledge on this subject, it might well be apprehended that he would hesitate about passing an Act which would be regarded with abhorrence by a large body of his subjects in the south of the island. It was therefore most desirable that the question should be settled while the throne was still vacant. In this opinion many politicians concurred, who had no dislike to rochets and mitres, but who wished that William might have a quiet and prosperous reign. The Scottish people,—so these men reasoned,—hated episcopacy. The English loved it. To leave William any voice in the matter was to put him under the necessity of deeply wounding the strongest feelings of one of the nations which he governed. It was therefore plainly for his own interest that the question, which he could not settle in any manner without incurring a fearful amount of obloquy, should be settled for him by others who were exposed to no such danger. He was not yet Sovereign of Scotland. While the interregnum lasted, the supreme power belonged to the Estates; and for what the Estates might do the prelatists of his southern kingdom could not hold him responsible. The elder Dalrymple wrote strongly from London to this effect, and there can be little doubt that he expressed the sentiments of his master. William would have sincerely rejoiced if the Scots could have been reconciled to a modified episcopacy. But, since that could not be, it was manifestly desirable that they should themselves, while there was yet no King over them, pronounce the irrevocable doom of the institution which they abhorred, [305]

The Convention, therefore, with little debate as it should seem, inserted in the Claim of Right a clause declaring that prelacy was an insupportable burden to the kingdom, that it had been long odious to the body of the people, and that it ought to be abolished.

Nothing in the proceedings at Edinburgh astonishes an Englishman more than the manner in which the Estates dealt with the practice of torture. In England torture had always been illegal. In the most servile times the judges had unanimously pronounced it so. Those rulers who had occasionally resorted to it had, as far as was possible, used it in secret, had never pretended that they had acted in conformity with either statute law or common law, and had excused themselves by saying that the extraordinary peril to which the state was exposed had forced them to take on themselves the responsibility of employing extraordinarily means of defence. It had therefore never been thought necessary by any English Parliament to pass any Act or resolution touching this matter. The torture was not mentioned in the Petition of Right, or in any of the statutes framed by the Long Parliament. No member of the Convention of 1689 dreamed of proposing that the instrument which called the Prince and Princess of Orange to the throne should contain a declaration against the using of racks and thumbscrews for the purpose of forcing prisoners to accuse themselves. Such a declaration would have been justly regarded as weakening rather than strengthening a rule which, as far back as the days of the Plantagenets, had been proudly declared by the most illustrious sages of Westminster Hall to be a distinguishing feature of the English jurisprudence, [306] In the Scottish Claim of Right, the use of torture, without evidence, or in ordinary cases, was declared to be contrary to law. The use of torture, therefore, where there was strong evidence, and where the crime was extraordinary, was, by the plainest implication, declared to be according to law; nor did the Estates mention the use of torture among the grievances which required a legislative remedy. In truth, they could not condemn the use of torture without condemning themselves. It had chanced that, while they were employed in settling the government, the eloquent and learned Lord President Lockhart had been foully murdered in a public street through which he was returning from church on a Sunday. The murderer was seized, and proved to be a wretch who, having treated his wife barbarously and turned her out of doors, had been compelled by a decree of the Court of Session to provide for her. A savage hatred of the judges by whom she had been protected had taken possession of his mind, and had goaded him to a horrible crime and a horrible fate. It was natural that an assassination attended by so many circumstances of aggravation should move the indignation of the members of the Convention. Yet they should have considered the gravity of the conjuncture and the importance of their own mission. They unfortunately, in the heat of passion, directed the magistrates of Edinburgh to strike the prisoner in the boots, and named a Committee to superintend the operation. But for this unhappy event, it is probable that the law of Scotland concerning torture would have been immediately assimilated to the law of England, [307]

Having settled the Claim of Right, the Convention proceeded to revise the Coronation oath. When this had been done, three members were appointed to carry the Instrument of Government to London. Argyle, though not, in strictness of law, a Peer, was chosen to represent the Peers: Sir James Montgomery represented the Commissioners of Shires, and Sir John Dalrymple the Commissioners of Towns.

The Estates then adjourned for a few weeks, having first passed a vote which empowered Hamilton to take such measures as might be necessary for the preservation of the public peace till the end of the interregnum.

The ceremony of the inauguration was distinguished from ordinary pageants by some highly interesting circumstances. On the eleventh of May the three Commissioners came to the Council Chamber at Whitehall, and thence, attended by almost all the Scotchmen of note who were then in London, proceeded to the Banqueting House. There William and Mary appeared seated under a canopy. A splendid circle of English nobles, and statesmen stood round the throne: but the sword of state as committed to a Scotch lord; and the oath of office was administered after the Scotch fashion. Argyle recited the words slowly. The royal pair, holding up their hands towards heaven, repeated after him till they came to the last clause. There William paused. That clause contained a promise that he would root out all heretics and all enemies of the true worship of God; and it was notorious that, in the opinion of many Scotchmen, not only all Roman Catholics, but all Protestant Episcopalians, all Independents, Baptists and Quakers, all Lutherans, nay all British Presbyterians who did not hold themselves bound by the Solemn League and Covenant, were enemies of the true worship of God, [308] The King had apprised the Commissioners that he could not take this part of the oath without a distinct and public explanation; and they had been authorised by the Convention to give such an explanation as would satisfy him. "I will not," he now said, "lay myself under any obligation to be a persecutor." "Neither the words of this oath," said one of the Commissioners, "nor the laws of Scotland, lay any such obligation on your Majesty." "In that sense, then, I swear," said William; "and I desire you all, my lords and gentlemen, to witness that I do so." Even his detractors have generally admitted that on this great occasion he acted with uprightness, dignity, and wisdom, [309]

As King of Scotland, he soon found himself embarrassed at every step by all the difficulties which had embarrassed him as King of England, and by other difficulties which in England were happily unknown. In the north of the island, no class was more dissatisfied with the Revolution than the class which owed most to the Revolution. The manner in which the Convention had decided the question of ecclesiastical polity had not been more offensive to the Bishops themselves than to those fiery Covenanters who had long, in defiance of sword and carbine, boot and gibbet, worshipped their Maker after their own fashion in caverns and on mountain tops. Was there ever, these zealots exclaimed, such a halting between two opinions, such a compromise between the Lord and Baal? The Estates ought to have said that episcopacy was an abomination in God's sight, and that, in obedience to his word, and from fear of his righteous judgment, they were determined to deal with this great national sin and scandal after the fashion of those saintly rulers who of old cut down the groves and demolished the altars of Chemosh and Astarte. Unhappily, Scotland was ruled, not by pious Josiahs, but by careless Gallios. The antichristian hierarchy was to be abolished, not because it was an insult to heaven, but because it was felt as a burden on earth; not because it was hateful to the great Head of the Church, but because it was hateful to the people. Was public opinion, then, the test of right and wrong in religion? Was not the order which Christ had established in his own house to be held equally sacred in all countries and through all ages? And was there no reason for following that order in Scotland except a reason which might be urged with equal force for maintaining Prelacy in England, Popery in Spain, and Mahometanism in Turkey? Why, too, was nothing said of those Covenants which the nation had so generally subscribed and so generally violated? Why was it not distinctly affirmed that the promises set down in those rolls were still binding, and would to the end of time be binding, on the kingdom? Were these truths to be suppressed from regard for the feelings and interests of a prince who was all things to all men, an ally of the idolatrous Spaniard and of the Lutheran bane, a presbyterian at the Hague and a prelatist at Whiteball? He, like Jelin in ancient times, had doubtless so far done well that he had been the scourge of the idolatrous House of Ahab. But he, like Jelin, had not taken heed to walk in the divine law with his whole heart, but had tolerated and practised impieties differing only in degree from those of which he had declared himself the enemy. It would have better become godly senators to remonstrate with him on the sin which he was committing by conforming to the Anglican ritual, and by maintaining the Anglican Church government, than to flatter him by using a phraseology which seemed to indicate that they were as deeply tainted with Erastianism as himself. Many of those who held this language refused to do any act which could be construed into a recognition of the new Sovereigns, and would rather have been fired upon by files of musketeers or tied to stakes within low water mark than have uttered a prayer that God would bless William and Mary.

Yet the King had less to fear from the pertinacious adherence of these men to their absurd principles, than from the ambition and avarice of another set of men who had no principles at all. It was necessary that he should immediately name ministers to conduct the government of Scotland: and, name whom he might, he could not fail to disappoint and irritate a multitude of expectants. Scotland was one of the least wealthy countries in Europe: yet no country in Europe contained a greater number of clever and selfish politicians. The places in the gift of the Crown were not enough to satisfy one twentieth part of the placehunters, every one of whom thought that his own services had been preeminent, and that, whoever might be passed by, he ought to be remembered. William did his best to satisfy these innumerable and insatiable claimants by putting many offices into commission. There were however a few great posts which it was impossible to divide. Hamilton was declared Lord High Commissioner, in the hope that immense pecuniary allowances, a residence in Holyrood Palace, and a pomp and dignity little less than regal, would content him. The Earl of Crawford was appointed President of the Parliament; and it was supposed that this appointment would conciliate the rigid Presbyterians, for Crawford was what they called a professor. His letters and speeches are, to use his own phraseology, exceeding savoury. Alone, or almost alone, among the prominent politicians of that time, he retained the style which had been fashionable in the preceding generation. He had a text of the Old Testament ready for every occasion. He filled his despatches with allusions to Ishmael and Hagar, Hannah and Eli, Elijah, Nehemiah, and Zerubbabel, and adorned his oratory with quotations from Ezra and Haggai. It is a circumstance strikingly characteristic of the man, and of the school in which he had been trained, that, in all the mass of his writing which has come down to us, there is not a single word indicating that he had ever in his life heard of the New Testament. Even in our own time some persons of a peculiar taste have been so much delighted by the rich unction of his eloquence, that they have confidently pronounced him a saint. To those whose habit it is to judge of a man rather by his actions than by his words, Crawford will appear to have been a selfish, cruel politician, who was not at all the dupe of his own cant, and whose zeal against episcopal government was not a little whetted by his desire to obtain a grant of episcopal domains. In excuse for his greediness, it ought to be said that he was the poorest noble of a poor nobility, and that before the Revolution he was sometimes at a loss for a meal and a suit of clothes, [310]

The ablest of Scottish politicians and debaters, Sir John Dalrymple, was appointed Lord Advocate. His father, Sir James, the greatest of Scottish jurists, was placed at the head of the Court of Session. Sir William Lockhart, a man whose letters prove him to have possessed considerable ability, became Solicitor General.

Sir James Montgomery had flattered himself that he should be the chief minister. He had distinguished himself highly in the Convention. He had been one of the Commissioners who had tendered the Crown and administered the oath to the new Sovereigns. In parliamentary ability and eloquence he had no superior among his countrymen, except the new Lord Advocate. The Secretaryship was, not indeed in dignity, but in real power, the highest office in the Scottish government; and this office was the reward to which Montgomery thought himself entitled. But the Episcopalians and the moderate Presbyterians dreaded him as a man of extreme opinions and of bitter spirit. He had been a chief of the Covenanters: he had been prosecuted at one time for holding conventicles, and at another time for harbouring rebels: he had been fined: he had been imprisoned: he had been almost driven to take refuge from his enemies beyond the Atlantic in the infant settlement of New Jersey. It was apprehended that, if he were now armed with the whole power of the Crown, he would exact a terrible retribution for what he had suffered, [311] William therefore preferred Melville, who, though not a man of eminent talents, was regarded by the Presbyterians as a thoroughgoing friend, and yet not regarded by the Episcopalians as an implacable enemy. Melville fixed his residence at the English Court, and became the regular organ of communication between Kensington and the authorities at Edinburgh.

William had, however, one Scottish adviser who deserved and possessed more influence than any of the ostensible ministers. This was Carstairs, one of the most remarkable men of that age. He united great scholastic attainments with great aptitude for civil business, and the firm faith and ardent zeal of a martyr with the shrewdness and suppleness of a consummate politician. In courage and fidelity he resembled Burnet; but he had, what Burnet wanted, judgment, selfcommand, and a singular power of keeping secrets. There was no post to which he might not have aspired if he had been a layman, or a priest of the Church of England. But a Presbyterian clergyman could not hope to attain any high dignity either in the north or in the south of the island. Carstairs was forced to content himself with the substance of power, and to leave the semblance to others. He was named Chaplain to their Majesties for Scotland, but wherever the King was, in England, in Ireland, in the Netherlands, there was this most trusty and most prudent of courtiers. He obtained from the royal bounty a modest competence; and he desired no more. But it was well known that he could be as useful a friend and as formidable an enemy as any member of the cabinet; and he was designated at the public offices and in the antechambers of the palace by the significant nickname of the Cardinal, [312]

To Montgomery was offered the place of Lord Justice Clerk. But that place, though high and honourable, he thought below his merits and his capacity; and he returned from London to Scotland with a heart ulcerated by hatred of his ungrateful master and of his successful rivals. At Edinburgh a knot of Whigs, as severely disappointed as himself by the new arrangements, readily submitted to the guidance of so bold and able a leader. Under his direction these men, among whom the Earl of Annandale and Lord Ross were the most conspicuous, formed themselves into a society called the Club, appointed a clerk, and met daily at a tavern to concert plans of opposition. Round this nucleus soon gathered a great body of greedy and angry politicians, [313] With these dishonest malecontents, whose object was merely to annoy the government and to get places, were leagued other malecontents, who, in the course of a long resistance to tyranny, had become so perverse and irritable that they were unable to live contentedly even under the mildest and most constitutional government. Such a man was Sir Patrick Hume. He had returned from exile, as litigious, as impracticable; as morbidly jealous of all superior authority, and as fond of haranguing, as he had been four years before, and was as much bent on making a merely nominal sovereign of William as he had formerly been bent on making a merely nominal general of Argyle, [314] A man far superior morally and intellectually to Hume, Fletcher of Saltoun, belonged to the same party. Though not a member of the Convention, he was a most active member of the Club, [315] He hated monarchy: he hated democracy: his favourite project was to make Scotland an oligarchical republic. The King, if there must be a King, was to be a mere pageant. The lowest class of the people were to be bondsmen. The whole power, legislative and executive, was to be in the hands of the Parliament. In other words, the country was to be absolutely governed by a hereditary aristocracy, the most needy, the most haughty, and the most quarrelsome in Europe. Under such a polity there could have been neither freedom nor tranquillity. Trade, industry, science, would have languished; and Scotland would have been a smaller Poland, with a puppet sovereign, a turbulent diet, and an enslaved people. With unsuccessful candidates for office, and with honest but wrongheaded republicans, were mingled politicians whose course was determined merely by fear. Many sycophants, who were conscious that they had, in the evil time, done what deserved punishment, were desirous to make their peace with the powerful and vindictive Club, and were glad to be permitted to atone for their servility to James by their opposition to William. [316] The great body of Jacobites meanwhile stood aloof, saw with delight the enemies of the House of Stuart divided against one another, and indulged the hope that the confusion would end in the restoration of the banished king, [317]

While Montgomery was labouring to form out of various materials a party which might, when the Convention should reassemble, be powerful enough to dictate to the throne, an enemy still more formidable than Montgomery had set up the standard of civil war in a region about which the politicians of Westminster, and indeed most of the politicians of Edinburgh, knew no more than about Abyssinia or Japan.

It is not easy for a modern Englishman, who can pass in a day from his club in St. James's Street to his shooting box among the Grampians, and who finds in his shooting box all the comforts and luxuries of his club, to believe that, in the time of his greatgrandfathers, St. James's Street had as little connection with the Grampians as with the Andes. Yet so it was. In the south of our island scarcely any thing was known about the Celtic part of Scotland; and what was known excited no feeling but contempt and loathing. The crags and the glens, the woods and the waters, were indeed the same that now swarm every autumn with admiring gazers and stretchers. The Trosachs wound as now between gigantic walls of rock tapestried with broom and wild roses: Foyers came headlong down through the birchwood with the same leap and the same roar with which he still rushes to Loch Ness; and, in defiance of the sun of June, the snowy scalp of Ben Cruachan rose, as it still rises, over the willowy islets of Loch Awe. Yet none of these sights had power, till a recent period, to attract a single poet or painter from more opulent and more tranquil regions. Indeed, law and police, trade and industry, have done far more than people of romantic dispositions will readily admit, to develope in our minds a sense of the wilder beauties of nature. A traveller must be freed from all apprehension of being murdered or starved before he can be charmed by the bold outlines and rich tints of the hills. He is not likely to be thrown into ecstasies by the abruptness of a precipice from which he is in imminent danger of falling two thousand feet perpendicular; by the boiling waves of a torrent which suddenly whirls away his baggage and forces him to run for his life; by the gloomy grandeur of a pass where he finds a corpse which marauders have just stripped and mangled; or by the screams of those eagles whose next meal may probably be on his own eyes. About the year 1730, Captain Burt, one of the first Englishmen who caught a glimpse of the spots which now allure tourists from every part of the civilised world, wrote an account of his wanderings. He was evidently a man of a quick, an observant, and a cultivated mind, and would doubtless, had he lived in our age, have looked with mingled awe and delight on the mountains of Invernessshire. But, writing with the feeling which was universal in his own age, he pronounced those mountains monstrous excrescences. Their deformity, he said, was such that the most sterile plains seemed lovely by comparison. Fine weather, he complained, only made bad worse; for, the clearer the day, the more disagreeably did those misshapen masses of gloomy brown and dirty purple affect the eye. What a contrast, he exclaimed, between these horrible prospects and the beauties of Richmond Hill! [318] Some persons may think that Burt was a man of vulgar and prosaical mind: but they will scarcely venture to pass a similar judgment on Oliver Goldsmith. Goldsmith was one of the very few Saxons who, more than a century ago, ventured to explore the Highlands. He was disgusted by the hideous wilderness, and declared that he greatly preferred the charming country round Leyden, the vast expanse of verdant meadow, and the villas with their statues and grottoes, trim flower beds, and rectilinear avenues. Yet it is difficult to believe that the author of the Traveller and of the Deserted Village was naturally inferior in taste and sensibility to the thousands of clerks and milliners who are now thrown into raptures by the sight of Loch Katrine and Loch Lomond, [319] His feelings may easily be explained. It was not till roads had been cut out of the rocks, till bridges had been flung over the courses of the rivulets, till inns had succeeded to dens of robbers, till there was as little danger of being slain or plundered in the wildest defile of Badenoch or Lochaber as in Cornhill, that strangers could be enchanted by the blue dimples of the lakes and by the rainbows which overhung the waterfalls, and could derive a solemn pleasure even from the clouds and tempests which lowered on the mountain tops.

The change in the feeling with which the Lowlanders regarded the highland scenery was closely connected with a change not less remarkable in the feeling with which they regarded the Highland race. It is not strange that the Wild Scotch, as they were sometimes called, should, in the seventeenth century, have been considered by the Saxons as mere savages. But it is surely strange that, considered as savages, they should not have been objects of interest and curiosity. The English were then abundantly inquisitive about the manners of rude nations separated from our island by great continents and oceans. Numerous books were printed describing the laws, the superstitions, the cabins, the repasts, the dresses, the marriages, the funerals of Laplanders and Hottentots, Mohawks and Malays. The plays and poems of that age are full of allusions to the usages of the black men of Africa and of the red men of America. The only barbarian about whom there was no wish to have any information was the Highlander. Five or six years after the Revolution, an indefatigable angler published an account of Scotland. He boasted that, in the course of his rambles from lake to lake, and from brook to brook, he had left scarcely a nook of the kingdom unexplored. But, when we examine his narrative, we find that he had never ventured beyond the extreme skirts of the Celtic region. He tells us that even from the people who lived close to the passes he could learn little or nothing about the Gaelic population. Few Englishmen, he says, had ever seen Inverary. All beyond Inverary was chaos, [320] In the reign of George the First, a work was published which professed to give a most exact account of Scotland; and in this work, consisting of more than three hundred pages, two contemptuous paragraphs were thought sufficient for the Highlands and the Highlanders, [321] We may well doubt whether, in 1689, one in twenty of the well read gentlemen who assembled at Will's coffeehouse knew that, within the four seas, and at the distance of less than five hundred miles from London, were many miniature courts, in each of which a petty prince, attended by guards, by armour bearers, by musicians, by a hereditary orator, by a hereditary poet laureate, kept a rude state, dispensed a rude justice, waged wars, and concluded treaties. While the old Gaelic institutions were in full vigour, no account of them was given by any observer, qualified to judge of them fairly. Had such an observer studied the character of the Highlanders, he would doubtless have found in it closely intermingled the good and the bad qualities of an uncivilised nation. He would have found that the people had no love for their country or for their king; that they had no attachment to any commonwealth larger than the clan, or to any magistrate superior to the chief. He would have found that life was governed by a code of morality and honour widely different from that which is established in peaceful and prosperous societies. He would have learned that a stab in the back, or a shot from behind a fragment of rock, were approved modes of taking satisfaction for insults. He would have heard men relate boastfully how they or their fathers had wreaked on hereditary enemies in a neighbouring valley such vengeance as would have made old soldiers of the Thirty Years' War shudder. He would have found that robbery was held to be a calling, not merely innocent, but honourable. He would have seen, wherever he turned, that dislike of steady industry, and that disposition to throw on the weaker sex the heaviest part of manual labour, which are characteristic of savages. He would have been struck by the spectacle of athletic men basking in the sun, angling for salmon, or taking aim at grouse, while their aged mothers, their pregnant wives, their tender daughters, were reaping the scanty harvest of oats. Nor did the women repine at their hard lot. In their view it was quite fit that a man, especially if he assumed the aristocratic title of Duinhe Wassel and adorned his bonnet with the eagle's feather, should take his ease, except when he was fighting, hunting, or marauding. To mention the name of such a man in connection with commerce or with any mechanical art was an insult. Agriculture was indeed less despised. Yet a highborn warrior was much more becomingly employed in plundering the land of others than in tilling his own. The religion of the greater part of the Highlands was a rude mixture of Popery and Paganism. The symbol of redemption was associated with heathen sacrifices and incantations. Baptized men poured libations of ale to one Daemon, and set out drink offerings of milk for another. Seers wrapped themselves up in bulls' hides, and awaited, in that vesture, the inspiration which was to reveal the future. Even among those minstrels and genealogists whose hereditary vocation was to preserve the memory of past events, an enquirer would have found very few who could read. In truth, he might easily have journeyed from sea to sea without discovering a page of Gaelic printed or written. The price which he would have had to pay for his knowledge of the country would have been heavy. He would have had to endure hardships as great as if he had sojourned among the Esquimaux or the Samoyeds. Here and there, indeed, at the castle of some great lord who had a seat in the Parliament and Privy Council, and who was accustomed to pass a large part of his life in the cities of the South, might have been found wigs and embroidered coats, plate and fine linen, lace and jewels, French dishes and French wines. But, in general, the traveller would have been forced to content himself with very different quarters. In many dwellings the furniture, the food, the clothing, nay the very hair and skin of his hosts, would have put his philosophy to the proof. His lodging would sometimes have been in a but of which every nook would have swarmed with vermin. He would have inhaled an atmosphere thick with peat smoke, and foul with a hundred noisome exhalations. At supper grain fit only for horses would have been set before him, accompanied by a cake of blood drawn from living cows. Some of the company with which he would have feasted would have been covered with cutaneous eruptions, and others would have been smeared with tar like sheep. His couch would have been the bare earth, dry or wet as the weather might be; and from that couch he would have risen half poisoned with stench, half blind with the reek of turf, and half mad with the itch, [322]

This is not an attractive picture. And yet an enlightened and dispassionate observer would have found in the character and manners of this rude people something which might well excite admiration and a good hope. Their courage was what great exploits achieved in all the four quarters of the globe have since proved it to be. Their intense attachment to their own tribe and to their own patriarch, though politically a great evil, partook of the nature of virtue. The sentiment was misdirected and ill regulated; but still it was heroic. There must be some elevation of soul in a man who loves the society of which he is a member and the leader whom he follows with a love stronger than the love of life. It was true that the Highlander had few scruples about shedding the blood of an enemy: but it was not less true that he had high notions of the duty of observing faith to allies and hospitality to guests. It was true that his predatory habits were most pernicious to the commonwealth. Yet those erred greatly who imagined that he bore any resemblance to villains who, in rich and well governed communities, live by stealing. When he drove before him the herds of Lowland farmers up the pass which led to his native glen, he no more considered himself as a thief than the Raleighs and Drakes considered themselves as thieves when they divided the cargoes of Spanish galleons. He was a warrior seizing lawful prize of war, of war never once intermitted during the thirty-five generations which had passed away since the Teutonic invaders had driven the children of the soil to the mountains. That, if he was caught robbing on such principles, he should, for the protection of peaceful industry, be punished with the utmost rigour of the law was perfectly just. But it was not just to class him morally with the pickpockets who infested Drury Lane Theatre, or the highwaymen who stopped coaches on Blackheath. His inordinate pride of birth and his contempt for labour and trade were indeed great weaknesses, and had done far more than the inclemency of the air and the sterility of the soil to keep his country poor and rude. Yet even here there was some compensation. It must in fairness be acknowledged that the patrician virtues were not less widely diffused among the population of the Highlands than the patrician vices. As there was no other part of the island where men, sordidly clothed, lodged, and fed, indulged themselves to such a degree in the idle sauntering habits of an aristocracy, so there was no other part of the island where such men had in such a degree the better qualities of an aristocracy, grace and dignity of manner, selfrespect, and that noble sensibility which makes dishonour more terrible than death. A gentleman of this sort, whose clothes were begrimed with the accumulated filth of years, and whose hovel smelt worse than an English hogstye, would often do the honours of that hovel with a lofty courtesy worthy of the splendid circle of Versailles. Though he had as little booklearning as the most stupid ploughboys of England, it would have been a great error to put him in the same intellectual rank with such ploughboys. It is indeed only by reading that men can become profoundly acquainted with any science. But the arts of poetry and rhetoric may be carried near to absolute perfection, and may exercise a mighty influence on the public mind, in an age in which books are wholly or almost wholly unknown. The first great painter of life and manners has described, with a vivacity which makes it impossible to doubt that he was copying from nature, the effect produced by eloquence and song on audiences ignorant of the alphabet. It is probable that, in the Highland councils, men who would not have been qualified for the duty of parish clerks sometimes argued questions of peace and war, of tribute and homage, with ability worthy of Halifax and Caermarthen, and that, at the Highland banquets, minstrels who did not know their letters sometimes poured forth rhapsodies in which a discerning critic might have found passages which would have reminded him of the tenderness of Otway or of the vigour of Dryden.

There was therefore even then evidence sufficient to justify the belief that no natural inferiority had kept the Celt far behind the Saxon. It might safely have been predicted that, if ever an efficient police should make it impossible for the Highlander to avenge his wrongs by violence and to supply his wants by rapine, if ever his faculties should be developed by the civilising influence of the Protestant religion and of the English language, if ever he should transfer to his country and to her lawful magistrates the affection and respect with which he had been taught to regard his own petty community and his own petty prince, the kingdom would obtain an immense accession of strength for all the purposes both of peace and of war.

Such would doubtless have been the decision of a well informed and impartial judge. But no such judge was then to be found. The Saxons who dwelt far from the Gaelic provinces could not be well informed. The Saxons who dwelt near those provinces could not be impartial. National enmities have always been fiercest among borderers; and the enmity between the Highland borderer and the Lowland borderer along the whole frontier was the growth of ages, and was kept fresh by constant injuries. One day many square miles of pasture land were swept bare by armed plunderers from the hills. Another day a score of plaids dangled in a row on the gallows of Crieff or Stirling. Fairs were indeed held on the debatable land for the necessary interchange of commodities. But to those fairs both parties came prepared for battle; and the day often ended in bloodshed. Thus the Highlander was an object of hatred to his Saxon neighbours; and from his Saxon neighbours those Saxons who dwelt far from him learned the very little that they cared to know about his habits. When the English condescended to think of him at all,—and it was seldom that they did so,—they considered him as a filthy abject savage, a slave, a Papist, a cutthroat, and a thief, [323]

This contemptuous loathing lasted till

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17     Next Part
Home - Random Browse