Tales of a Grandfather, by Walter Scott

Chapter 52

THE efforts made by Monmouth obtained an indemnity which was ill-observed, and a limited indulgence which was speedily recalled; and instead of the healing measures which were expected, severe inquisition was made into the conduct of the western proprietors, accused of favouring the insurrection, and that of the gentlemen who had failed to give attendance in the King’s host, when assembled to put it down. The excuses made for this desertion of duty were singular enough, being, in many cases, a frank confession of the defaulters’ fear of disquiet from their wives, some of whom invoked bitter curses on their husbands, if they took either horse or man to do prejudice to the fanatics who were in arms. To these excuses the court paid no heed, but fined the absentees heavily, and even threatened forfeiture of their lands.

The mild influence of Monmouth in the administration of Scotland lasted but a short while; and that of Lauderdale, though he was now loaded with age as well as obloquy, in a great measure revived, until it was superseded by the arrival in Scotland of James, Duke of York, the King’s brother, and heir presumptive of the throne.

We have already said that this prince was a Catholic, and indeed it was his religion which had occasioned his exile, first to Brussels, and now to Scotland. The King consented to his brother’s banishment as an unavoidable measure, the utmost odium having been excited against all Catholics, by the alleged discovery of a plot amongst the Papists, to rise upon and massacre the Protestants, depose the King, and put his brother on the throne. The whole structure of this story is now allowed to have been gross lies and forgeries, but at this period, to doubt it was to be as bad as the Papists themselves. The first fury of national prejudice having begun to subside, James was recalled from Brussels to Scotland, in order to be nearer Ins brother, though still at such a distance as should not again arouse the jealousy of the irritable Protestants.

The Duke of York was of a character very different from his brother Charles. He had neither that monarch’s wit nor his levity, was fond of business, and capable of yielding strict attention to it, and, without being penurious, might be considered as an economist. He was attached to his religion with a sincerity honourable to him as a man, but unhappy for him as a prince destined to reign over a Protestant people. He was severe even to cruelty, and nourished the same high idea of the divine right of kings, and the duty of complete submission on the part of subjects, which was the original cause of his father’s misfortunes.

On the Duke of York’s arrival in Scotland, he was received with great marks of honour and welcome by the nobles and gentry, and occupied the palace of Holyrood, which had long been untenanted by royalty.(24th Nov. 1679) He exerted himself much to conciliate the affections of the Scottish persons of condition; and his grave and lofty, yet courteous manners, suited well the character of a people, who, proud and reserved themselves, willingly pay much respect to the etiquette of rank, providing those entitled to such deference are contented to admit their claims to respect in return.

The Duke of York, it is said, became aware of the punctilious character of the Scottish nation, from a speech of the well-known Tom Dalziel. The Duke had invited this old cavalier to dine in private with him, and with his Duchess, Mary of Este, daughter of the Duke of Modena. This princess chose to consider it as a derogation from her rank to admit a subject to her table, and refused to sit down to dinner if Da1ziel should remain as a visitor. “ Madam,” “aid thy undismayed veteran, “ I have dined at a table where your father might have stood at my back.” He alluded to that of the Emperor of Germany, whom the Duke of Modena must, if summoned, have attended as an officer of the household.

The spirit of the answer is said to have determined James, while holding intercourse with the Scottish nobles and gentry, to exercise as much affability as he could command or affect, which, with the gravity and dignity of his manners, gave him great influence among all who approached his person. He paid particular attention to the chiefs of Highland clans, made himself acquainted with their different interests and characters, and exerted himself to adjust and reconcile their feuds. By such means, he acquired among this primitive race, alike sensible to kind treatment, and resentful of injury or neglect, so great an ascendency, that it continued to be felt in the second generation of his family.

The Duke of York, a Catholic and a prince, was in both capacities disposed to severity against fanatics and insurgents; so that his presence and interference in Scottish affairs increased the disposition to severity against Presbyterians of every shade and modification. But it was on his return, after a short visit to London, during which he had ascertained that his brother’s affection for him was undiminished, that he ventured to proceed to extremities in suppressing nonconformists.

The doctrines promulgated by the more fierce and unreasonable insurgents, in their camp at Hamilton, were now adopted by the numerous and increasing sect, who separated their cause entirely from that of the moderate Presbyterians. These men disowned altogether the King’s authority and that of the Government, and renounced the title of all pretenders to the throne, who would not subscribe to the Solemn League and Covenant, and govern according to its principles. These doctrines were chiefly enforced by two preachers, named Cargill and Cameron, from the last of whom their followers assumed, or acquired, the title of Cameronians.

Richard Cameron laboured and died in a manner not unworthy of his high pretensions, as the founder of a religious sect. He continued in open resistance after the battle of Bothwell bridge; and on the 22d of June, 1680, occupied the little burgh of Sanquhar with a small party of armed horsemen, and published a paper, or Testimony, formally disowning the authority of the King, and proclaiming that, by injustice and tyranny, he had forfeited the throne. After this bold step, Cameron, being closely pursued, roamed through the more desolate places of the counties of Dumfries and Ayr, with a few friends in arms, of whom Hackston of Rathillet, famous for his share in the death of Archbishop Sharpe, was the principal.

But, on 22d July, 1680. while lying at a desolate place, called Airs moss,1 they were alarmed with the news, that Bruce of Earlshall was coming upon them with a superior force of infantry and dragoons. The Wanderers resolved to stand their ground, and Cameron pronounced a prayer, in which he three times repeated the pathetic expression, “ Lord, spare the green and take the ripe.” He then addressed his followers with great firmness, exhorting them to fight to the very last, “ For I see,” he added, “ heaven’s gates open to receive all such as shall die this day.”

Rathillet divided their handful of twenty-three horse upon the two flanks of about forty half-armed infantry. The soldiers approached, and charged with fury. Cameron and eight others were killed on the spot.1 Of the royalist party, twenty-eight were either there killed, or died of their wounds shortly after. Rathillet fought with great bravery, but was at length overpowered, struck down, and made prisoner.

In the barbarous spirit of the age, the seizure of Hackston was celebrated as a kind of triumph, and all possible insult was heaped on the unhappy man. He was brought into Edinburgh, mounted on a horse without a saddle, and having his face to the tail. The head and hands of Richard Cameron were borne before him on pikes. But such insults rather arouse than break the spirits of brave men. Hackston behaved with great courage before the Council. The Chancellor having upbraided him as a man of libertine habits, “ While I was so,” he replied, “ I was acceptable to your lordship; I only lost your favour when I renounced my vices.” The Archbishop’s death being alleged against him as a murder, he replied that Heaven would decide which were the greatest murderers, himself, or those who sat in judgment on him. He was executed with circumstances of protracted cruelty. Both Ills hands were cut off before execution, and his heart torn from his bosom before he was quite dead. His head, with that of Cameron, was fixed on the Netherbow port, the hands of the former being extended, as if in the act of prayer. One of the enemies of his party gave Cameron this testimony on the occasion: “ Here are the relics of a man who lived praying and preaching, and died praying and fighting.”

Daniel, or Donald Cargill, took up the banner of the sect, which had fallen from Cameron’s dying hand. He avouched its tenets as boldly as his predecessor, and at a large conventicle of Cameronians, held in the Torwood, September 1680, had the audacity to pronounce sentence of excommunication against the King, the Duke of York, the Dukes of Monmouth, Lauderdale, and Rothes, the Lord Advocate, and General Dalziel. This proceeding was entirely uncanonical, and contrary to the rules of the Scottish Presbyterian church; but it assorted well with the uncompromising spirit of the Hill-men, or Cameronians, who desired neither to give favours to, nor receive favours from, those whom they termed God’s enemies.

A high reward being put upon Cargill’s head, he was, not long afterwards, taken by a Dumfriesshire gentleman,1 and executed, along with four others, all disowning the authority of the King.(27th July, 1681) The firmness with which these men met death, tended to confirm the good opinion of the spectators;2 and though the Cameronian doctrines were too wild to be adopted by men of sense and education, yet they spread among the inferior ranks, and were productive of much mischief.

Thus, persecution, long and unsparingly exercised, drove a part of an oppressed peasantry into wild and perilous doctrines; dangerous, if acted upon, not only to the existing tyranny, but to any other form of government, how moderate soever. It was, considering the frantic severity of the Privy Council, a much greater wonder that they had not sooner stirred up a spirit of determined and avowed opposition to their government, than that such should now have arisen. Nevertheless, blind to experience, the Duke of York, who had now completely superseded Lauderdale in the management of Scottish affairs, continued to attempt the extirpation of the Cameronian sect, by the very same violent means which had occasioned its formation.

All usual forms of law, all the bulwarks by which the subjects of a country are protected against the violence of armed power, were at once broken down, and officers and soldiers received commissions not only to apprehend, but to interrogate and punish, any persons whom they might suspect of fanatical principles; and if they thought proper, they might put them to death upon the spot. All that was necessary to condemnation was, that the individuals seized upon should scruple to renounce the Covenant-or should hesitate to admit, that the death of Sharpe was an act of murder — or should refuse to pray for the King — or decline to answer any other ensnaring or captious questions concerning their religious principles.

A scene of this kind is told with great simplicity and effect by one of the writers of the period;1 and I am truly sorry that Claverhouse, whom, at the time of the Revolution, we shall find acting a heroic part, was a principal agent in this act of cruelty. Nor, considering the cold-blooded and savage barbarity of the deed, can we admit the excuse either of the orders under which he acted, or of the party prejudices of the time, or of the condition of the sufferer as a rebel and outlaw, to diminish our unqualified detestation of it.

There lived at this gloomy period, at a place called Preshill, or Priesthill, in Lanarkshire, a man named John Brown, a carrier by profession, and called, from Ins zealous religious principles, the Christian Carrier. This person had been out with the insurgents at Bothwell bridge, and was for other reasons amenable to the cruelty of the existing laws. On a morning of May, 1685, Peden, one of the Cameronian ministers, whom Brown had sheltered in his house, took his leave of his host and his wife, repeating twice,-” Poor woman! a fearful morning-a dark and misty morning!”-words which were afterwards believed to be prophetic or calamity. When Peden was gone, Brown left his house with a spade in his hand for his ordinary labour, when he was suddenly surrounded and arrested by a band of horse, with Claverhouse at their head. Although the prisoner had a hesitation in his speech on ordinary occasions, he answered the questions which were put to him in this extremity with such composure and firmness, that Claverhouse asked whether he was a preacher. He was answered in the negative. “ If he has not preached,” said Claverhouse, “ mickle hath he prayed in his time.-But betake you now to your prayers for the last time” (addressing the sufferer), “ for you shall presently die.” The poor man kneeled down and prayed with zeal; and when he was touching on the political state of the country, and praying that Heaven would spare a remnant, Claverhouse, interrupting him, said, “ I gave yon leave to pray, and you are preaching.”-(< Sir,” answered the prisoner, turning towards his judge on his knees, “ you know nothing either of preaching or praying, if you call what I now say preaching: “-then continued without confusion. When his devotions were ended, Claverhouse commanded him to bid good-night to his wife and children. Brown turned towards them, and, taking his wife by the hand, told her that the hour was come which he had spoken of, when he first asked her consent to marry him. The poor woman answered firmly,-” In this cause I am willing to resign you.”-“Then have I nothing to do save to die,” he replied; “ and I thank God I have been in a frame to meet death for many years.” He was shot dead by a party of soldiers at the end of his own house; and although his wife was of a nervous habit, and used to become sick at the sight of blood, she had on this occasion strength enough to support the dreadful scene without fainting or confusion, only her eyes dazzled when the carabines were fired. While her husband’s dead body lay stretched before him, Claverhouse asked her what she thought of her husband now. “ I ever thought much of him,” she replied, “ and now more than ever.”-” It were but justice,” said Claverhouse, ” to lay thee beside him.”-” I doubt not,” she replied, “ that if you were permitted, your cruelty would carry you that length. But how will yon answer for this morning’s work? “-” To man I can be answerable,” said Claverhouse, “ and Heaven I will take in my own hand.” He then mounted his horse and marched, and left her with the corpse of her husband lying beside her, and her fatherless infant in her arms. “ She placed the child on the ground,” says the narrative with scriptural simplicity, “ tied up the corpse’s head, and straighted the limbs, and covered him with her plaid, and sat down and wept over him.”

The persecuted and oppressed fanatics showed on all occasions the same undaunted firmness, nor did the women fall short of the men in fortitude. (11th May, 1685) Two of them, of different ages, underwent the punishment of death by drowning; for which purpose they were chained to posts within the flood mark, and exposed to the fury of the advancing tide; while, at the same time, they were offered rescue from the approaching billows, the sound of which was roaring in their ears, if they would but condescend so far as to say, God save the King. “ Consider,” said the well-meaning friends around them, “ it is your duty to pray even for the greatest sinner.”-” But we are not to do so,” said the elder female. “ at the bidding of every profligate.” Her place of execution being nearer the advancing” tide, she was first drowned; and her younger companion having said something, as if she desired the King’s salvation, the bystanders would have saved her;1 but when she was dragged out of the waves, half strangled, she chose to be replunged into them, rather than abjure the Covenant. She died accordingly.

But it was not the common people and the fanatics alone who were vexed and harassed with unreasonable oaths. Those of higher rank were placed in equal danger, by a test oath, of a complex and puzzling nature, and so far inconsistent with itself, that while, on the one hand, the person who took it was to profess his full belief and compliance with the Confession of Faith adopted by the Scottish Church in the first Parliament of King James VI, he was in the next clause made to acknowledge the King as supreme head of the Church; a proposition entirely inconsistent with that very Confession which lie had just recognised. Nevertheless, this test was considered as a general pledge of loyalty to be taken by every one to whom it should be tendered, under pain of ruinous fines, confiscations, and even death itself. The case of tile Earl of Argyle was distinguished, even In those oppressive times, for its peculiar injustice.

This nobleman was the son of the Marquis who was beheaded at the commencement of this reign, and he himself, as we have already mentioned, had been placed in danger of losing life and lands, by a most oppressive proceeding on the obsolete statute of leasing-making. He was now subjected to a severer storm. When the oath was tendered to him, as a privy counsellor, he declared he took it so far as it was consistent with Itself, and with the Protestant religion. Such a qualification, it might have been thought, was entirely blameless and unexceptionable. And yet for having added this explanation to the oath which he was required to take, Argyle was thrown into prison, brought to the bar, tried and found guilty of high treason and leasing-making. It has been plausibly alleged that Government only used this proceeding, to wring from the unfortunate Earl a surrender of his jurisdictions; but, very prudently, he did not choose to trust Ills life on so precarious a tenure. He was one of the few peers who still professed an attachment to the Presbyterian religion; and the enemies who had abused the laws so grossly to obtain his condemnation, were sufficiently likely to use the advantage to the uttermost. He escaped from the Castle of Edinburgh, (20th Dec. 1681) disguised in the livery of a page, holding up the train of Lady Sophia Lindsay, his step-daughter, and went over to Holland. Sentence of attainder was immediately pronounced. His honours, estate, and life were forfeited in absence; his arms were reversed and turn; his posterity incapacitated; and a large reward attached to his head.

This extravagant proceeding struck general terror, from its audacious violation of justice, while the gross fallacy on which it rested was the subject of general contempt. Even the children educated in George Heriot’s Hospital (a charity on a plan similar to that of Christ Church in London), turned into ridicule the proceedings on this iniquitous trial. They voted that their yard dog was a person under trust, and that the test, therefore, should be tendered to him. Poor Watch, you may believe, only smelt at the paper held out to him, on which the oath was printed, and would pay no more attention to it. Upon this, the paper was again offered, having been previously rubbed over with butter, which induced the mastiff to swallow it. This was called taking the test with a qualification, and the dog was adjudged to he hanged as a leasing-maker and perverter of the laws of the kingdom.

The gross violence of these proceedings awakened resentment as well as fear. But fear was at first predominant. Upwards of thirty-six noblemen and gentlemen, attached to the Presbyterian religion, resolved to sell their property in Scotland, and remove themselves to America, where they might live according to the dictates of their conscience. A deputation of their number, Lord Melville, Sir John Cochrane, Baillie of Jerviswood, and others, went to London to prepare for this emigration. Here the secret was imparted to them, of an enterprise formed by Monmouth, Shaftesbury, Lord Russell, and Algernon Sidney, to alter the government under Charles II.; and, at all events, to prevent, by the most forcible means, the Duke of York’s ascent to the throne, in case of the King’s death. The Scottish malecontents abandoned their plan of emigration, to engage in this new and more adventurous scheme. Walter Scott, Earl of Tarras, brother-in-law of the Earl of Monmouth, undertook for a rising in the South of Scotland; and many of his name and kindred, as well as other gentlemen of the Borders of Scotland, engaged in the plot. One gentleman who was invited to join, excused himself, on account of the ominous sound of the titles of two of the persons engaged. He did not, he said, like such words as Gallowshiels and Hangingshaw. Besides the Scottish plot, and that which was conducted by Russell and Sidney in London, there were in that city some desperate men, of a subordinate description, who proposed to simplify the purpose of both the principal conspiracies, by putting the King to death as he passed by a place called the Ryehouse. This last plot becoming public, was the means of defeating the others. But although Campbell of Cessnock, Baillie of Jerviswood, and some conspirators of less consequence, were arrested, the escape of most of the persons concerned partly disappointed the revenge of the Government. The circumstances attending some of these escapes were singular.

Lord Melville was about to come to Edinburgh from his residence in Fife, and had sent his principal domestic, a Highlander, named MacArthur, to make preparations for his arrival in town. The Justice–General was friendly to Lord Melville. He had that morning issued warrants for his arrest, and desired to put him on his guard, but durst take no steps to do so. Happening to see Lord Melville’s valet on the street, he bent his eyes significantly on him, and asked, “ What are you doing here? Get back, you Highland dog I” The man began to say he was making preparations for his master coming to town, when the Justice again interrupted him, saying, angrily, “ Get home, you Highland dog! “ and then passed on. MacArthur was sensible of the dangerous temper of the times, and upon receiving such a hint, slight as it was, from such a man, he resolved to go back to his master. At the Ferry he saw a party of the guards embarking on the same voyage. Making every exertion, lie got home time enough to alarm his Lord, who immediately absconded, and soon after got over to Holland.

Sir Patrick Hume of Polwarth, afterwards Lord Marchmont, had a still more narrow escape. The party of guards sent to arrest him had stopped at the house of a friend to the Government to get refreshments, which were amply supplied to them. The lady of the house, who secretly favoured the Presbyterian interest, connected the appearance of this party, and the inquiries which they made concerning the road to Polwarth castle, with some danger threatened to Sir Patrick Hume. She dared not write to apprize him, and still less durst she trust a messenger with any verbal communication. She therefore wrapt up a feather in a blank piece of paper, and sent it over the hills by a boy, while she detained the military party as long as she could, without exciting suspicion. In the mean time, Sir Patrick received the token, and his acute apprehension being rendered yet more penetrating by a sense of danger, he at once comprehended that the feather was meant to convey a hint to him that he should fly.

Having been long peculiarly odious to the Government, Sir Patrick could think of no secure retreat above ground. A subterranean vault in Polwarth churchyard, being that in which his ancestors were buried, seemed the only safe place of refuge. The sole light admitted into this dreary cell was by a small slit at one end. A trusty domestic contrived to convey a bed and bedclothes to this dismal place, and here Sir Patrick lay concealed during the strict search which was made for him in every direction. His daughter, Grizell Hume, then about eighteen years of age, was intrusted with the task of conveying him food, which could only be brought to the vault at midnight. She had been bred up in the usual superstitions of the times, about ghosts and apparitions, but the duty which she was discharging to her father banished all such childish fears. When she returned from her first journey, her mother asked her if she was not frightened in going through the churchyard. She answered, that she had felt fear for nothing excepting the minister’s dogs (the manse1 being nigh the church), which had kept such a barking as to alarm her for a discovery. Her mother sent for the clergyman next morning, and by pretending an alarm for mad dogs, prevailed on him to destroy them, or shut them up.

But it was not enough to have a faithful messenger; much precaution was also necessary, to secure secretly, and by stealth, the provisions for the unfortunate recluse, since, if the victuals had been taken openly, the servants must naturally have suspected the purpose to which they were to be applied. Grizell Hume used, therefore, to abstract from the table, as secretly as she could, a portion of the family dinner. Sir Patrick Hume was fond of sheep’s head (being a good Scotsman in all respects), and Grizell, aware of her father’s taste, had slipt into her napkin a large part of one which was on the table, when one of her brothers, a boy too young to he trusted with the secret, bawled out, in his surprise at the disappearance of the victuals, “ Mamma, look at Grizzy-while we were supping the broth, she has eaten up all the sheep’s head!”

While in this melancholy abode, Sir Patrick Hume’s principal amusement was reading and reciting Buchanan’s translation of the Psalms. After lurking in his father’s tomb. and afterwards in his own house, for three or four weeks, he at length ventured abroad, and through many dangers made his escape to Holland, like other fugitives.

In the mean time, Baillie of Jerviswood, though in a very infirm state of health, was brought to that trial from which Polwarth and others had escaped so marvellously. This gentleman had been offered his life, on condition of his becoming a witness against Lord Russell; a proposal which he rejected with disdain, saying, those who uttered it knew neither him nor his country. It does not appear that there was the slightest evidence of the Scottish gentlemen having any concern in the scheme for assassinating the King; but there is no doubt that they had meditated an insurrection, as the only mode of escaping the continued persecution of the Government.

When Baillie received sentence of death, he only replied, “ My Lords, the sentence is sharp, and the time is short; but I thank God, who has made me as fit to die as you are to live.” (Dec. 24,1684) He suffered death with the same firmness; his sister-in-law, a daughter or Warriston, had voluntarily shared his imprisonment, and supported Ins exhausted frame during his trial. She attended his last moments on the scaffold, and with Roman fortitude witnessed the execution of a horrid sentence. It is worthy of mention, that the son and heir of this gentleman afterwards married the same young lady who so piously supported her father, Sir Patrick I? Hume, while concealed in the tomb.1 No other person was executed for accession to what was called the Jerviswood Plot; but many gentlemen were tried in absence, and their estates being declared forfeited, were bestowed on the most violent tools of the Government.

Upwards of two thousand individuals were denounced outlaws, or fugitives from justice. Other persons, obnoxious to the rulers, were exorbitantly fined. One of these was Sir William Scott of Harden, from whose third brother your mother is descended. This gentleman, in his early years, had been an active member of the Committee of Estates, but was now upwards of seventy, and much retired from public life1. But his nephew, Walter, Earl of Tarras, was deeply concerned in the Jerviswood plot; more than one of Harden’s sons were also implicated, and hence he became obnoxious to the Government. He attended only on the Indulged, that is, licensed preachers, and had kept himself free of giving any offence that could be charged against him. The celebrated Richard Cameron was for some time his chaplain, but had been dismissed as soon as he declared against the Indulgence, and afforded other symptoms of the violent opinions of his sect. But the Privy Council had determined that husbands should be made responsible for the penalties and fines incurred by their wives. Lady Scott of Harden had become liable for so many transgressions of this kind; that the sum total, amounting to almost two thousand pounds, was, with much difficulty, limited to fifteen hundred, an immense sum for a Scottish gentleman of that period; but which was extorted from this aged person by imprisonment in the Castle of Edinburgh.

Whilst these affairs were going on in Scotland, the Duke of York was suddenly recalled to London by the King, whose health began to fail. Monmouth, his favourite son, had been obliged to retire abroad, in consequence of the affair of the Ryehouse plot. It was said that the King still nourished a secret wish to recall his son, and to send the Duke of York back to Scotland. But if he meditated such a change of resolution, which seems rather improbable, fate left him no opportunity to execute it.

Charles II. died of a stroke of apoplexy, which summoned him from the midst of a distracted country, and a gay and luxurious court, on the 6th of February, 1685, in the fifty-fourth year of his age.

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