Tales of a Grandfather, by Walter Scott

Chapter 49

Of Charles the Second, who thus unexpectedly, and as it were by miracle, was replaced on his father’s throne, in spite of so many obstacles as within even a week or two of the event seemed to render it incredible, I have not much that is advantageous to tell you. He was a prince of an excellent understanding, of which he made less use than he ought to have done; a graceful address, much ready wit, and no deficiency of courage. Unfortunately, he was very fond of pleasure, and, in his zeal to pursue it, habitually neglected the interests of his kingdom. He was very selfish too, like all whose own gratification is their sole pursuit; and he seems to have cared little what became of friends or enemies, providing he could maintain himself on the throne, get money to supply the expenses of a luxurious and dissolute court, and enjoy a life of easy and dishonourable pleasure. He was good-natured in general; but any apprehension of his own safety easily induced him to be severe and even cruel, for his love of self predominated above both his sense of justice and his natural clemency of temper. He was always willing to sacrifice sincerity to convenience, and perhaps the satirical epitaph, written upon him at his own request, by his witty favourite, the Earl of Rochester, in not more severe than just —

“Here lies our Sovereign Lord the King,

Whose word no man relies on;

Who never said a foolish thing,

And never did a wise one.”

After this sketch of the King’s character, we must return to Scotland, from which we have been absent since Monk’s march from Coldstream, to accomplish the Restoration.

This great event was celebrated with the same general and joyful assent in Scotland which had hailed it in the sister country. Indeed the Scots, during the whole war, can hardly be said to have quitted their sentiments of loyalty to the monarchy. They had fought against Charles I, first to establish Presbytery in their own country, and then to extend it into England; but then even the most rigid of the Presbyterians had united in the resistance to the English invasion, had owned the right of Charles the Second, and asserted it to their severe national loss at the battle of Dunbar. Since the eventful overthrow, the influence of the Church of Scotland over the people at large had been considerably diminished, by disputes among the ministers themselves, as they espoused more rigid or more moderate doctrines, and by the various modes in which it had been Cromwell’s policy to injure their respectability, and curb their power. But the Presbyterian interest was still very strong in Scotland. It entirely engrossed the western counties, had a large share of influence in the south and midland provinces, and was only less predominant in the northern shires, where the Episcopal interest prevailed.

The Presbyterian church was sufficiently alive to their own interest and that of their body, for they had sent to Monk’s army, ere it had reached London, an agent or commissioner to take care of the affairs of the Scottish Church in any revolution which should take place in consequence of the General’s expedition.

This agent was James Sharpe, famous during his life, and still more in his deplorable death. At this time he was a man competently learned, bold, active, and ambitious, displaying much zeal for the interest of the Church, and certainly by no means negligent of his own. This Master James Sharpe quickly found, while in London, that there was little purpose of establishing the Presbyterian religion in Scotland. It is true, that King Charles had, on his former expedition into Scotland, deliberately accepted and sworn to the Solemn League and Convent, the principal object of which was the establishment of Presbytery of the most rigid kind. It was also true, that the Earl of Lauderdale, who, both from his high talents, and from the long imprisonment which he had sustained ever since the battle of Worcester, had a peculiar title to be consulted on Scottish affairs, strongly advised the King to suffer his northern subjects to retain possession of their darling form of worship; and though he endeavoured to give this advice in the manner most agreeable to the King, ridiculing bitterly the pedantry of the Scottish ministers, and reprobating the uses made of the Covenant, and in so far gratifying and amusing the King, still he returned to the point, that the Covenant and Presbyterian discipline ought not to be removed from Scotland, while the people continued to partial to them. They should be treated, he argued, like froward children, whom their keepers do not vex by struggling to wrest from them an unfitting plaything, but quietly wait to withdraw it when sleep or satiety makes it indifferent to them.

But the respect due to the King’s personal engagement, as well as the opinion thus delivered by this worldly-wise nobleman, were strongly contested by those Cavaliers who professed absolute loyalty and devotion to the King, and affected to form their political opinions on those of Montrose. They laid upon the Presbyterian Church the whole blame of the late rebellion, and contended that the infamous transaction of delivering up Charles the First to the Parliamentary forces, was the act of an army guided by Presbyterian counsels. In short, they imputed to the Church of Scotland the whole original guilt of the war, and though it was allowed that they at length joined the royal cause, it was immediately added that their accession only took place when they were afraid of being deprived of their power over men’s consciences, by Cromwell and his independent schismatics. The King was then reminded, that he had been received by the Presbyterians less as their prince than as a passive tool and engine, whom they determined to indulge in nothing save the name of a Sovereign; and that his taking the Covenant had been under a degree of moral restraint, which rendered it as little binding as if imposed by personal violence. Lastly, the King was assured that the whole people of Scotland were now so much delighted with his happy restoration, that the moment was highly favourable for any innovation either in church or state, which might place the crown firmer on his head; that no change could be so important as the substitution of Episcopacy for Presbytery; and that the opportunity, if lost, might never return.

The King himself had personal reasons, though they ought not to have entered into such a discussion, for recollecting with disgust the affronts and rigorous treatment which he had received from the Presbyterian leaders, before the battle of Dunbar had diminished their power. He had then adopted a notion that Presbytery was not a religion “for a gentleman,” and he now committed to Lord Middleton, who was to be his High Commissioner and representative in the Scottish Parliament, full powers to act in the matter of altering the national religious establishment to the Episcopal model, as soon as he should think proper.

This determination was signing the doom of Presbytery as far as Charles could do so; for Middleton, though once in the service of the Covenanting Parliament, and as such opposed to Montrose, by whom he was beaten at the Bridge of Dee, had afterwards been Major–General of the Duke of Hamilton’s ill-fated army, which was destroyed at Uttoxeter in 1648, and ever since that period had fought bravely, though unsuccessfully, in the cause of Charles, maintaining at the same time the tenets of the most extravagant Royalism. He was a good soldier, but in other respects a man of inferior talents, who had lived the life of an adventurer, and who, in enjoying the height of fortune which he had attained, was determined to indulge without control all his favourite propensities. These were, unhappily, of a coarse and scandalous nature. The Covenanters had assumed an exterior of strict demeanor and precise morality, and the Cavaliers, in order to show themselves their opposites in every respect, gave into the most excessive indulgences in wine and revelry, and conceived that in doing so they showed their loyalty to the King, and their contempt of what they termed the formal hypocrisy of his enemies. When the Scottish Parliament met, the members were, in many instances, under the influence of wince, and they were more than once obliged to adjourn, because the Royal Commissioner was too intoxicated to behave properly in the chair.

While the Scottish Parliament was in this jovial humour, it failed not to drive forward the schemes of the Commissioner Middleton, and of the very violent Royalists, with a zeal which was equally imprudent and impolitic. At once, and by a single sweeping resolution, it annulled and rescinded every statute and ordinance which had been made by those holing the supreme authority in Scotland since the commencement of the civil wars; although in doing so, it set aside many laws useful to the subject, many which had received the personal assent of the Sovereign, and some that were entered into expressly for his defence, and the acknowledgment and protection of his right. By a statute subsequent to the Act Rescissory, as it was called, the whole Presbyterian church government was destroyed, and the Episcopal institutions, to which the nation had shown themselves so adverse, were rashly and precipitately established. James Sharpe, to whom allusion has already been made, who had yielded to the high temptations held out to him, was named Lord Bishop of Saint Andrews, and Primate of Scotland, and other persons, either ancient members of the Episcopal Church, or new converts to the doctrines which seemed a sure road to preferment, were appointed Prelates, with seats in Parliament, and who afterwards attained great influence in the councils of the nation.

It may seem wonderful that such great changes, and in a matter so essential, should have been made without more violent opposition. But the general joy at finding themselves delivered from the domination of England; the withdrawing the troops, and abandoning the citadels by which Cromwell had ruled them, as a foreign conqueror governs a subdued country; and the pleasure of enjoying once more their own Parliament under the authority of their native prince, had a great effect, amid the first tumult of joy, in reconciling the minds of the Scottish people to the change even of the form of religion, when proposed and carried through as the natural consequences (it was pretended)of the restoration of royal power.

The Scottish nobility, and many of the gentry, especially the younger men, had long resented the interference of the Presbyterian preachers, in searching out scandals and improprieties within the bosoms of families; and this right, which the clergy claimed and exercised, became more and more intolerable to those who were disposed to adopt the gay and dissolute manners which distinguished the Cavaliers of England, and who had for some time regarded with resentment the interference and rebukes with which the Presbyterian clergy claimed the right of checking their career of pleasure.

The populace of the towns were amused with processions, largesses, free distribution of liquor, and such like marks of public rejoicing, by which they are generally attracted. And I cannot help mentioning as remarkable, that on 23d April, 1661, Jenny Geddes, the very woman who had given the first signal of civil broil, by throwing her stool at the Dean of Edinburgh’s head, when he read the service-book on the memorable 23d July, 1637, showed her conversion to loyalty by contributing the materials of her green-stall, her baskets, shelves, forms, and even her own wicker-chair, to augment a bonfire kindled in honour of his Majesty’s coronation, and the proceedings of his Parliament.

There were many however, in Scotland, who were very differently affected by the hasty proceedings of Middleton and his jovial Parliament, of whose sentiments I shall have much to say hereafter.

The greatest evil to be apprehended from the King’s return, was the probability that he might be disposed to distinguish the more especial enemies of himself and his father, and perpetuate the memory of former injuries and quarrels, by taking vengeance for them. Charles had indeed published a promise of indemnity and of oblivion, for all offences during the civil war, against his own or his father’s person. But this proclamation bore an exception of such persons as Parliament should point out as especially deserving of punishment. Accordingly, those who had been actively concerned in the death, or, as it may well be termed, the murder of Charles I, were, with one or two others, who had been peculiarly violent during the late times, excepted from pardon; and although but few were actually executed, yet it had been better perhaps to have spared several even of the most obnoxious class. But that is a question belonging to English history. In order that Scotland might enjoy the benefit of similar examples of severity, it was resolved also to bring to trial some of the most active persons there.

Among these, the Marquis of Argyle, whom we have so often mentioned, was by far the most considerable. He had repaired to London on the Restoration, hoping to make interest with the King, but was instantly arrested, and imprisoned in the Tower, and afterwards sent down to Scotland to try. There was a strong desire, on the part of the Cavalier party, that Argyle should be put to death, in revenge for the execution of Montrose, to whom, you must remember, he had been a deadly and persevering enemy. Undoubtedly this powerful nobleman had been guilty of much cruelty in suppressing the Royalist party in the Highlands; and had, probably, been privately accessary to Montrose’s tragical fate, though he seemed to hold aloof from the councils held on the subject. But it was then greatly too late to call him into judgment for these things. The King, when he came to Scotland, after Montrose’s execution, had acknowledged all that was done against that illustrious loyalist as good service rendered to himself, had entered the gate of Edinburgh, over which the features of his faithful general were blackening in the sun, and had received, in such circumstances, the attendance and assistance of Argyle as of a faithful and deserving subject. Nay, besides all this, which in effect implied a pardon for Argyle’s past offences, the Marquis was protected by the general Act of Remission, granted by Charles in 1651, for all state offences committed before that period.

Sensible of the weight of this defence, the Crown counsel and judges searched anxiously for some evidence of Argyle’s having communicated with the English army subsequently to 1651. The trial was long protracted, and the accused was about to be acquitted for want of testimony to acts of more importance that that compulsory submission which the conquering Englishmen demanded from all, and which no one had the power to refuse. But just when the Marquis was about to be discharged, a knock was heard at the door of the court, and a despatch just arrived from London was handed to the Lord Advocate. As it was discovered that the name of the messenger was Campbell, it was concluded that he bore the pardon, or remission of the Marquis; but the contents were very different, being certain letters which had been written by Argyle to General Monk, when the latter was acting under Cromwell, in which he naturally endeavoured to gain the general’s good opinion, by expressing a zeal for the English interest, then headed and managed by his correspondent. Monk, it seems, had not intended to produce these letters, if other matter had occurred to secure Argyle’s condemnation, desirous, doubtless, to avoid the ignominy of so treacherous an action; yet he resolved to send them, that they might be produced in evidence, rather than that the accused should be acquitted. This transaction leaves a deep blot on the character of the restorer of the of the English monarchy.

These letters, so faithlessly brought forward, were received as full evidence of the Marquis’s ready compliance with the English enemy; and being found guilty, though only of doing that which no man in Scotland dared refuse to do at the time, he received sentence of death by beheading.

As Argyle rose from his knees, on which he had received the sentence, he offered to speak, but the trumpets sounding, he stopped till they ended; then he said, “This reminds me that I had the honour to set the crown upon the King’s head” (meaning at the coronation at Scone), “and now he hastens me to a better crown than his own!” Then turning to the Commissioner and Parliament, he added, “You have the indemnity of an earthly king among your hands, and have denied me a share in that, but you cannot hinder me from the indemnity of the King of Kings; and shortly you must be before his tribunal. I pray he mete not out such measure to you as you have done to me, when you are called to account for all your actings, and this among the rest.”

He faced death with a courage which other passages of his life had not prepared men to expect, for he was generally esteemed to be of a timorous disposition. On the scaffold, he told a friend that he felt himself capable of braving death like a roman, but he preferred submitting to it with the patience of a Christian. The rest of his behaviour made his words good; and thus died the celebrated Marquis of Argyle, so important a person during this melancholy time. He was called by the Highlanders Gillespie Grumach, or the Grim, from a obliquity in his eyes, which gave a sinister expression to his countenance. The Marquis’s head replaced on the tower of the Tolbooth that of Montrose, his formidable enemy, whose scatted limbs were now assembled, and committed with much pomp to an honourable grave.

John Swinton of Swinton, representative of a family which is repeatedly mentioned in the preceding series of these tales, was destined to share Argyle’s fate. He had taken the side of Cromwell very early after the battle of Dunbar, and it was by his councils, and those of Lockhart of Lee, that the Usurper chiefly managed the affairs of Scotland. He was, therefore, far more deeply engaged in compliances with Cromwell than the Marquis of Argyle, though less obnoxious in other respects. Swinton was a man of acute and penetrating judgment, and great activity of mind; yet, finding himself beset with danger, and sent down to Scotland in the same ship with Argyle, he chose, from conviction, or to screen himself from danger, to turn Quaker. As he was determined that his family should embrace the same faith, his eldest son, when about to rise in the morning, was surprised to see that his laced scarlet coat, his rapier, and other parts of a fashionable young gentleman’s dress at the time, were removed, and that a plain suit of grey cloth, with a slouched hat, without loop or button, was laid down by his bedside. He could hardly be prevailed on to assume this simple habit.

His father, on the contrary, seemed entirely to have humbled himself to the condition he had assumed; and when he appeared at the bar in the plain attire of his new sect, he declined to use any of the legal pleas afforded by the act of indemnity, or otherwise, but answered according to his new religious principles of non-resistance, that it was true he had been guilty of the crimes charged against him, and many more, but it was when he was in the gall of wickedness and bond of iniquity; and that now, being called to the light, he acknowledged his past errors, and did not refuse to atone for them with his life. The mode of his delivery was at once so dignified and so modest, and the sight of a person who had enjoyed great power, placed under such altered circumstances, appears to have so much affected the Parliament before whom he stood, that his life was spared, though he was impoverished by forfeiture and confiscation. The people in his own country said, that if Swinton had not trembled, he would not have quaked; but notwithstanding this pun, his conversion seems to have been perfectly sincere. It is said, that he had a principal share in converting to the opinions of the Friends, the celebrated Robert Barclay, who afterwards so well defended their cause in the “Apology for the people called, in scorn, Quakers.” Swinton remained a member of their congregation till his death, and was highly esteemed among them.

The escape of Judge Swinton might be accounted almost miraculous, for those who followed him through the same reign, although persons chiefly of inferior note, experienced no clemency. Johnstone of Warriston, executed for high treason, was indeed a man of rank and a lawyer, who had complied with all the measures of Cromwell and of the following times. But it seemed petty vengeance which selected as subjects for capital punishment, Mr Guthrie, a clergyman, who had written a book imputing the wrath of Heaven against Scotland to the sins of Charles I and his house, and a man called Govan, merely because he had been the first to bring to Scotland the news of Charles’s death, and had told it in terms of approbation.

An act of oblivion was at length passed; but it contained a fatal clause, that those who might be entitled to plead the benefit of it, should be liable to certain fines, in proportion to their estates. The imposition of those fines was remitted to a committee of Parliament, who secretly accepted large bribes from those who were the most guilty, and inflicted severe penalties on such as were comparatively innocent, but who disdained to compound for their trespasses.

A transaction of a description still more daring, shows the rapacious and reckless character of the commissioner Middleton, in the strongest light.

The Marquis of Argyle, as I have already said, had been executed, and his son succeeded to the title of Earl of Argyle only. He had repaired to London, in order to make some interest at court, and had been persuaded that some of the minions of Lord Clarendon, then at the head of affairs, would, for a thousand pounds, undertake to procure for him that minister’s patronage and favour. Argyle upon this wrote a confidential letter to Lord Duffus, in which he told him, that providing he could raise a thousand pounds, he would be able to obtain the protection of the English minister; that in such case he trusted the present would prove but a gowk storm; and after some other depreciating expressions concerning the prevailing party in the Scottish Parliament, he added, that “then the King would see their tricks.”

This letter fell into the hands of Middleton, who determined, that for expression so innocent and simple, being in fact the natural language of a rival courtier, Argyle should be brought to trial for leasing-making; a crime, the essence of which consisted in spreading abroad falsehoods, tending to sow dissension between the King and the people. On this tyrannical law, which had been raked up on purpose, but which never could have been intended to apply to a private letter, Argyle was condemned to lose his head, and forfeit his estate. But the account of such a trial and sentence for a vague expression of ill-humour, struck Charles and his privy council with astonishment when it reached England, and the Chancellor Clarendon was the first to exclaim in the King’s presence, that did he think he lived in a country where such gross oppression could be permitted, he would get out of his Majesty’s dominions as fast as the gout would permit him. An order was sent down, forbidding the execution of Argyle, who was nevertheless detained prisoner until the end of Middleton’s government, — a severe penalty for imputing tricks to the royal Ministry. He was afterwards restored to his liberty and estates, to become at a later period a victim to similar persecution.

It was by driving on the alteration of church government in Scotland, that Middleton hoped to regain the place in Charles’s favour, and Clarendon’s good opinion, which he had lost by his excesses and severity. A general act of uniformity was passed for enforcing the observances of the Episcopal church, and it was followed up by an order of council of the most violent character, formed, it is said, during the heat of a drunken revel at Glasgow.(1st Oct. 1662) This furious mandate commanded that all ministers who had not received a presentation from their lay patrons, and spiritual induction into their livings from the prelates, should be removed from them by military force, if necessary. All their parishioners were prohibited from attending upon the ministry of such nonconformists, or acknowledging them as clergymen. This was at one stroke displacing all Presbyterian ministers who might scruple at once to become Episcopalians.

It appeared by this rash action, that Middleton entertained an opinion that the ministers, however attached to Presbyterianism, would submit to the Episcopal model rather than lose their livings, which were the only means most of them had for the support of themselves and families. But to the great astonishment of the commissioners, about three hundred and fifty ministers resigned their churches without hesitation, and determined to submit to the last extremity of poverty, rather than enjoy comfort at the price of renouncing the tenets of their church. In the north parts of Scotland, in the midland counties, and along the eastern side of the Borders, many or most of the clergy conformed. But the western shires, where Presbytery had been ever most flourishing, were almost entirely deprived of their pastors; and the result was, that a number equal to one-third of the whole parish ministers of Scotland, were at once expelled from their livings, and the people deprived of their instructions.

The congregations of the exiled preachers were strongly affected by this sweeping change, and by the fate of their clergymen. Many of the latter had, by birth or marriage, relations and connexions in the parishes from which they were summarily banished, and they had all been the zealous instructors of the people in religion, and often their advisers in secular matters also. It was not in nature that their congregations should have seen them with indifference suddenly reduced from decent comfort to indigence, and submitting to it with patience, rather than sacrifice their conscientious scruples to their interest. Accordingly, they showed, an almost every case, the deepest sympathy with the distresses of their pastors, and corresponding indignation against the proceedings of the Government.

The causes also for which the clergy suffered, was not indifferent to the laity. It is true, the consequences of the Solemn League and Covenant had been so fatal, that at the time of the Restoration none but a few high-flying and rigid Presbyterians would have desired the reestablishment of that celebrated engagement. It depended only on the temper and moderation of the Court, to have reduced what was once the idol of all true Presbyterians, to the insignificance of an old almanack, as it had been termed by the Independents. But there was great difference between suffering the Covenant to fall into neglect, as containing doctrines too highly pitched and readily susceptible of misrepresentation, and in complying with the Government by ridiculing as absurd, and renouncing as odious, a document, which had been once so much respected.

The Parliament, however, commanded the Solemn League and Covenant to be burned at the Cross of Edinburgh, and elsewhere, with every mark of dishonour; while figures, dressed up to resemble Western whigamores, as they were called, were also committed to the flames, to represent a burning of Presbyterianism in effigy. But as those who witnessed these proceedings could not but recollect, at the same time, that upon its first being formed, the same Covenant had been solemnly sworn to by almost all Scotland, — nobility, gentry, clergy, burgesses, and people, with weeping eyes, and uplifted hands, and had been solemnly taken by the King himself, and a very large proportion of the statesmen, including the present Ministers, — it was natural they should feel involuntary respect for that which once appeared so sacred to themselves, or to their fathers, and feel the unnecessary insults directed against it as a species of sacrilege.

The oaths, also, which imposed on every person in public office the duty of renouncing the Covenant, as an unlawful engagement, were distressing to the consciences of many, particularly of the lower class; and, in general, the efforts made to render the Covenant odious and contemptible, rather revived its decaying interest with the Scottish public.

There was yet another aggravation of the evils consequent on the expulsion of the Presbyterian clergy. So many pulpits became vacant at once, that the prelates had no means of filling them up with suitable persons, whose talents and influence might have supplied the place of the exiled preachers. Numbers of half-educated youths were hastily sent for from the northern districts, in order that they might become curates, which was the term used in Scottish Episcopal Church for a parish priest, although commonly applied in England to signify a clergyman hired to discharge the duty of another. From the unavoidable haste in filling the vacancies in the church, these raw students, so hastily called into the spiritual vineyard, had, according to the historians of the period, as little morality as learning, and still less devotion than either. A northern country gentleman is said to have cursed the scruples of the Presbyterian clergy, because, he said, ever since they threw up their livings, it was impossible to find a boy to herd cows — they had all gone away to be curates in the west.

The natural consequences of all these adverse circumstances were, that the Presbyterian congregations withdrew themselves in numbers from the parish churches, treated the curates with neglect and disrespect, and seeking out their ancient preachers in the obscurity to which they had retired, begged and received from them the religious instruction which the deprived clergymen still thought it their duty to impart to those who needed and desired it, in despite of the additional severities imposed by the government upon their doing so.

The Episcopal Church Courts, or Commission Courts, as they were termed, took upon them to find a remedy for the defection occasioned by the scruples of the people. Nine prelates, and thirty-five commissioners from the laity, of whom a bishop, with four assistants, made a quorum, were intrusted with the power of enforcing the acts for the preservation of the newly reestablished Episcopal Church. These oppressive ecclesiastical courts were held wherever there was a complaint of nonconformity; and they employed all the rigours of long imprisonment, heavy fines, and corporal punishment, upon those who either abandoned the worship of their own parish church, or went to hear the doctrine of the Presbyterian clergy, whose private meetings for worship were termed conventicles.

These conventicles were at first held in private houses, barns, or other buildings, as was the case in England, where (though in a much more moderate degree, and by milder measures) the general conformity of the church was also enforced. But as such meetings, especially if numerously attended, were liable to be discovered and intruded upon by peace-officers and soldiers, who dispersed them rudely, sometimes plundering the men of their purses, and the women of their cloaks and plaids, the Scottish Presbyterians had recourse to an expedient of safety, suggested by the wild character of their country, and held these forbidden meetings in the open air, remote alike from observation and interruption, in wild, solitary, and mountainous places, where it was neither easy to find them, nor safe to disturb them, unless the force which assailed the congregation was considerable.

On the other hand, the Privy Council doubled their exertions to suppress, or rather to destroy, the whole body of nonconformists. But the attention of the English ministers had been attracted by the violence of their proceedings. Middleton began to fall into disfavour with Charles, and was sent as governor to Tangier, in a kind of honourable banishment, where he lost the life which he had exposed to so many dangers in battle, by a fall down a staircase.

Lauderdale, who succeeded to his power, had much more talent. He was ungainly in his personal appearance, being a big man, with shaggy red hair, coarse features, and a tongue which seemed too large for his mouth. But he possessed a great portion of sense, learning, and wit. He was originally zealous for the Covenant, and his enemies at court had pressed forward the oaths by which it was to be renounced with the more eagerness, that they hoped Lauderdale would scruple to take them; but he only laughed at the idea of their supposing themselves capable of forming any oath which could obstruct the progress of his rise to political power.

Being now in full authority, Lauderdale distinctly perceived that the violent courses adopted were more likely to ruin Scotland, than to establish Episcopacy. But he also knew, that he could not retain the power he had obtained, unless by keeping on terms with Sharpe, the Primate of Scotland, and the other bishops, at whose instigation these wild measures were adopted and carried on; and it is quite consistent with Lauderdale’s selfish and crafty character, to suppose that he even urged them on to farther excesses, in order that, when the consequences had ruined their reputation, he might succeed to the whole of that power, of which, at present, the prelates had a large share. The severities against dissenters, therefore, were continued; and the ruinous pecuniary penalties which were imposed on nonconformists, were raised by quartering soldiers upon the delinquents, who were entitled to have lodging, meat, and drink, in their houses, and forage to their horses, without any payment, till the fine was discharged. These men, who knew they were placed for the purpose of a punishment in the families where they were quartered, took care to be so insolent and rapacious, that if selling the last article he had of any value could raise money, to rid him of these unwelcome guests, the unfortunate landlord was glad to part with them at whatever sacrifice.

The principal agents in this species of crusade against Calvinism, were the soldiers of the King’s horse-guards, a body raised since the restoration, upon the plan of the French household troops, the privates of which were accounted gentlemen, being frequently the younger sons of men of some pretension to family; cavaliers by profession, accustomed to practise the debauchery common among the dissolute youth of the period, and likely, from habit and inclination, to be a complete pest and torment to any respectable house, in which they might be quartered. Other regiments of horse, upon the ordinary establishment, were raised for the same purpose.

The west of Scotland, in particular Dumfriesshire, Ayrshire, and Galloway, were peculiarly harassed, as being more averse to the Episcopalian establishment, or, as the Council termed it, more refractory and obstinate than any others. For the purpose of punishing those nonconformists, Sir James Turner was sent thither with a considerable party of troops, and full commission from the Privy Council to impose and levy fines, and inflict all the other penalties, for enforcing general compliance with the Episcopal system. Sir James was a soldier of fortune, who had served under David Lesley, and afterwards in the army of Engagers, under the Duke of Hamilton. He was a man of some literature, having written a treatise on the Art of War, and some other works, besides his own Memoirs. Nevertheless, he appears, by the account he gives of himself in his Memoirs, to have been an unscrupulous plunderer, and other authorities describe him as a fierce and dissolute character. In such hands the powers assigned by the Commission were not likely to slumber, although Sir James assures his readers that he never extorted above one-half of the fine imposed. But a number of cooperating circumstances had rendered the exercise of such a commission as was intrusted to him, less safe than it had hitherto been.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00