Tales of a Grandfather, by Walter Scott

Chapter 55

THE necessity of explaining the nature and progress of the Revolution of England, without which it would be impossible for you to comprehend what passed in the northern part of the kingdom, has drawn us away from the proper subject of this little book, and makes it necessary that we should return to our account of Scottish affairs during the time that these important events were taking place in England.

We have mentioned the discontents which existed among King James’s most zealous friends in Scotland, on account of his pressing the revocation of the Test, and that several of the crown officers, and crown lawyers, and even two or three of the judges, had been displaced for demurring to that measure, the vacancies being filled with Catholics or Presbyterians. You have also been told, that by this false policy, James lost the affection of his friends of the Episcopal church, without being able to conciliate his ancient enemies, the nonconformists.

Thus stood matters in Scotland, when, in September 1688, King James sent down to his council in Scotland, an account of the preparations making in Holland to invade England. Upon this alarming news, the militia were ordered to be in readiness; the Highland chiefs were directed to prepare their clans to take the field; and the vassals of the crown were modelled into regiments, and furnished with arms. These forces, joined to the standing army, would have made a considerable body of troops.

But unanimity, the soul of national resistance, was wanting. The Scottish Royalists were still so much attached to the Crown, and even to the person of James, that, notwithstanding the late causes of suspicion and discord which had occurred betwixt them and the King, there remained little doubt that they would have proved faithful to his cause. But the Presbyterians, even of the most moderate party, had suffered so severely at James’s hand, both during his brother’s reign, and his own, that it was hardly to be expected that a few glances of royal favour, to which they appeared to be admitted only because they could not be decently excluded from the toleration designed for the benefit of the Catholics, should make them forget the recent terrors of the storm. Several of the gentry of this persuasion, however, seemed ready to serve the King, and obtained commissions in the militia; but the event showed that this was done with the purpose of acting more effectually against him.

The Earl of Perth endeavoured to ascertain the real sentiments of that numerous party, by applying to them through the medium of Sir Patrick Murray, a person who seemed attached to no particular sect, but who was esteemed by all. This gentleman applied to such leading Presbyterian ministers as were in Edinburgh, reminding them of the favours lately shown them by the King, and requesting they would now evince their gratitude, by influencing their hearers to oppose the unnatural invasion threatened by the Prince of Orange. The clergymen received the overture coldly, and declined to return an answer till there should be more of their brethren in town. Having in the interim obtained information, which led them to expect the ultimate success of the Prince of Orange, they sent as their answer to the Earl of Perth, through Sir Patrick Murray, “ that they owned the King had of late been used as Heaven’s instrument, to show them some favour; but being convinced that he had done so, only with a design to ruin the Protestant religion, by introducing dissension among its professors of different denominations, and observing, that the persons whom he voluntarily raised to power, were either Papists, or persons popishly inclined, they desired to be excused from giving any farther answer, saving that they would conduct themselves in this juncture as God should inspire them.”

From this answer, it was plain that James was to expect nothing from the Presbyterians; yet they remained silent and quiet, waiting the event, and overawed by the regular troops, who were posted in such places as to prevent open insurrection.

The disaffection of the English soldiery having alarmed James’s suspicions, he sent orders that his Scottish army should be drawn together, and held in readiness to march into England. The Scottish administration answered by a remonstrance, that this measure would leave the government of Scotland totally defenceless, and encourage the disaffected, who could not but think the affairs of King James were desperate, since he could not dispense with the assistance of so small a body of troops. To this remonstrance the King replied by a positive order, that the Scottish army should advance into England.

This little army might consist of six or seven thousand excellent troops, commanded by James Douglas, brother to the Duke of Queensberry, as General-inchief, and by the more celebrated John Graham of Claverhouse, recently created Viscount of Dundee, as Major–General. The former was secretly a favourer of the Prince of Orange’s enterprise. Viscount Dundee, on the other hand, was devotedly attached to the cause of King James, and redeemed some of his fiercer and more cruel propensities, by the virtue of attaching himself to his benefactor, when he was forsaken by all the world besides. It is said, that the march was protracted by Douglas, lest the steadiness of the Scottish army should have served as an example to the English. At length, however, they reached London, where the Viscount of Dundee claimed a right to command, as eldest Major–General; but the English officers of the same rank, whether out of national jealousy, or that Dundee’s obtaining so high a rank might have interfered with their private schemes, positively refused to serve under him. It is said, that, in the event of his obtaining this command, his design was to assemble such English troops as yet remained faithful, and, at the head of these and the Scottish army, to have marched against the Prince of Orange, and given him battle. But this scheme, which must have cost much bloodshed, was defeated by the refusal of the English officers to light under him.

King James, amidst the distraction of his affairs, requested the advice of this sagacious and determined adherent, who pointed out to him three courses. The first was, to try the fate of war, by manfully fighting the Prince of Orange. The second alternative was, to meet him in friendship, and require to know his purpose. The third was, to retire into Scotland, under protection of the little army which had marched to support him. The King, it is said, was inclined to try the third alternative; but, as he received intelligence that several Scottish peers and gentlemen were come post to London, to wait on the Prince of Orange, he justly doubted whether that kingdom would have proved a safer place of refuge than England. Indeed, he presently afterwards heard, that one of Douglas’s battalions had caught the spirit of desertion, and gone over to the Prince.

Shortly after this untoward event, Dundee, with such of his principal officers as adhered to the cause of James, received assurances of the King’s disposition to hazard battle, and were commanded to meet him at Uxbridge, to consult upon the movements to be adopted. When the Scottish officers reached the place appointed, instead of meeting with the King, they learned that their misguided Monarch had fled, and received the fatal order to disband their forces. Dundee, with the Lords Linlithgow and Dunmore, shed tears of grief and mortification. In the uncertainty of the times, Dundee resolved to keep his forces together, until he had conducted them back into Scotland. With this view he took up his quarters at Watford, intending to retreat on the ensuing morning. In the mean while, the town’s-people, who did not like the company of these northern soldiers, raised a report during the course of the night that the Prince of Orange was coming to attack them, hoping, by this false alarm, to frighten the Scottish troops from the place sooner than they intended. But Dundee was not a person to be so easily startled. To the great alarm of the citizens, lie caused his trumpets sound to arms, and taking up a strong position in front of the town, sent out to reconnoitre, and learn the Intentions of the Prince of Orange. Thus the stratagem of the citizens of Watford only brought on themselves the chance of a battle in front of their town, which was most likely to suffer in the conflict, be the event what it would.

But the Prince of 0range knew Dundee’s character well. He had served his early campaigns under that Prince, and had merited his regard, not only by a diligent discharge of his duty, but also by rescuing William at the battle of Seneff in 1674, and remounting him on his own horse, when that of the Prince was slain under him.1 Dundee had left the Dutch service, on being disappointed of a regiment.

Knowing, therefore, the courage, talent, and obstinacy of the Scottish commander, the Prince of Orange took the step of assuring the Viscount of Dundee, that he had not the least purpose of molesting him, and that, understanding he was at Watford, and was keeping his men embodied, he had to request he would remain there till further orders. When the news of the King’s return to London was rumoured, Dundee went to assure his old master of his continued attachment, and to receive his orders; and it is said he even, in that moment of universal despair, offered to assemble the dispersed troops of the King, and try the fate of war. But James’s spirit was too much broken to stand such a hazard.

On James’s final flight to France, and the decision of the Convention, elevating the Prince and Princess of Orange to the throne, Dundee would no longer retain his command, but retired to Scotland, at the head of a body-guard of twenty or thirty horse, who would not quit him, and without whose protection he could not perhaps have passed safely through the southern and western counties, where he had exercised so many severities. The Scottish army, or what remained of it, was put under the command of General MacKay, an officer attached to King William, and transferred to the service or the new Monarch, though there were many amongst them who cast a lingering eye towards that of their old master.

In the mean time, the Revolution had been effected in Scotland, though not with the same unanimity as in England. On the contrary, the Episcopalians throughout the kingdom, in spite of all the provocations which they had received, could not prevail upon themselves to join in any measures which should be unfavourable to James’s interest, and would probably have appeared in arms in his cause, had there been any one present in Scotland to raise and uphold the exiled monarch’s banner.

The Scottish prelates, in particular, hastened to show, that in the extremity of King James’s misfortunes, they had forgotten their rupture with him, and had returned to the principles of passive obedience, by which their church was distinguished. On the 3d November, the whole of their number, excepting the Bishops of Argyle and Caithness, joined in a letter to the King, professing their own fixed and unshaken loyalty, promising their utmost efforts to promote among his subjects an intemerable and steadfast allegiance, and praying that Heaven would give the King the hearts of his subjects and the necks of his enemies.

But the defenceless state in which King James’s Scottish government was left, after the march of Douglas and Dundee into England at the head of the regular forces, rendered the good wishes of the bishops of little service. It soon began to appear that the Scottish Presbyterians were determined to avail themselves of an opportunity for which the chiefs amongst them had long made preparations. The Earls of Glencairn, Crawford, Dundonald, and Tarras, with several other persons of consideration, encouraged the rising of the Presbyterians, who, hastily assuming arms, appeared in different parts of the country, in open opposition to the Government.

These desultory forces might have been put down by the militia; but a manoeuvre of the Earl of Athole, whose connexion with the Earl of Derby had procured him admission into the secrets of the Revolution, prevented the adherents of King James from having this support. Lord Tarbat concurred in the sentiments of Athole, and both being members of the Privy Council, had an opportunity of carrying their purpose into execution. When the news reached Scotland, that the army of King James was disbanded, and the King had fled, these two noblemen persuaded the Chancellor, Perth, and other Catholics or zealous Jacobites in the Privy Council, that, as there was now no chance of coming to a decision by force of arms, it was their duty to disband the militia, as their services could not be needed, and their maintenance was a burden to the country.

The Earl of Perth, who appears to have been a timorous man, and of limited understanding, was persuaded to acquiesce HI this measure; and no sooner had he parted with the militia, his last armed defence, than his colleagues made him understand that he being a Papist, incapacitated by law from holding any public office, they did not think themselves in safety to sit and vote with him as a member of government. And, while the Protestant part of his late obsequious brethren seemed to shun him as one infected with the plague, the rabble beat drums in the streets, proclaimed him traitor, and set a price upon his head. The late Chancellor’s courage could not withstand the menace, and he escaped from the metropolis, with the purpose of flying beyond seas. But being pursued by armed barks, he was taken, and detained a prisoner for more than four years.

In the mean time, an act of violence of a decided character took place in Edinburgh. Holyrood House, the ancient palace of James’s ancestors, and his own habitation when in Scotland, had been repaired with becoming splendour, when he came to the throne. But it was within its precincts that he had established his royal chapel for the Catholic service, as well as a seminary of Jesuits, an institution which, under pretext of teaching the Latin language, and other branches of education gratis, was undoubtedly designed to carry on the work of making proselytes. At Holyrood House a printing establishment was also erected, from which were issued polemical tracts in defence of the Catholic religion, and similar productions. The palace and its inmates were on all these accounts very obnoxious to the Presbyterian party, which now began to obtain the ascendency.

The same bands, consisting of the meaner class of people, apprentices, and others, whose appearance had frightened the Chancellor out of the city, continued to parade the streets with drums beating, until, confident in their numbers, they took the resolution of making an attack on the palace, which was garrisoned by a company of regular soldiers, commanded by one Captain Wallace.

As the multitude pressed on this officer’s sentinels, he at length commanded his men to fire, and some of the insurgents were killed. A general cry was raised through the city, that Wallace and his soldiers were committing a massacre of the inhabitants; and many of the citizens, repairing to the Earl of Athole and his colleagues, the only part of the Privy Council which remained, obtained a warrant from them for; the surrender of the palace, and an, order for the King’s heralds to attend in their official habits to intimate the same. The city guard of Edinburgh was also commanded to be in. readiness to enforce the order; the trained bands were got under arms, and the provost and magistrates, with a number of persons of condition, went to show their good-will to the cause. Some of these volunteers acted a little out of character. Lord Mersington, one of the Judges of the Court of Session, lately promoted to that office by James II., at the time when he was distributing his favours equally betwixt Papist and Puritan, attracted some attention from his peculiar appearance; he was girt with a buff belt above five inches broad, bore a halbert in his hand, and (if a Jacobite eyewitness speaks truth) was “ as drunk as ale and brandy could make him.”

On the approach of this motley army of besiegers, Wallace, instead of manning the battlements and towers of the palace, drew up his men imprudently in the open court-yard in front of it. He refused to yield up his post, contending, that the warrant of the Privy Council was only signed by a small number of that body. Defiance was exchanged on both sides, and firing commenced; on which most of the volunteers got into places of safety, leaving Captain Wallace and the major of the city guard to dispute the matter professionally. It chanced that the latter proved the better soldier, and finding a back way into the palace, attacked Wallace in the rear. The defenders were at the same time charged in front by the other assailants, and the palace was taken by storm. The rabble behaved themselves as riotously as might have been expected, breaking, burning, and destroying, not only the articles which belonged to the Catholic service, but the whole furniture of the chapel; and, finally, forcing their way into the royal sepulchres, and pulling about the bodies of the deceased princes and kings of Scotland. These monuments, to the great scandal of the British Government, were not closed until ten or twelve years since, before which time, the exhibition of the wretched relics of mortality which had been dragged to light on this occasion, was a part of the show offered for the amusement of strangers who visited the palace.

This riot, which ascertained the complete superiority of the Presbyterian party, took place on the 10th December, 1688. The houses of various Catholics, who then resided chiefly in the Canongate, were mobbed, or rabbled, as was then the phrase, their persons insulted, and their property destroyed.

But the populace contented themselves with burning and destroying whatever they considered as belonging to Papists and Popery, without taking any thing for their own use.

This zeal for the Protestant cause was maintained by false rumours that an army of Irish Catholics had landed in the west, and were burning, spoiling, and slaying. It was even said they had reached Dumfries. A similar report had produced a great effect on the minds of the English during the Prince of Orange’s advance to the capital. In Scotland it was a general signal for the Presbyterians to get to arms; and, being thus assembled, they, and particularly the Cameronians, found active occupation in expelling from the churches the clergy of the Episcopal persuasion. To proceed in this is work with some appearance of form, they, in most cases, previously intimated to the Episcopal curates that they must either leave their churches voluntarily, or be forcibly ejected from them.

Now, since these armed nonconformists had been, to use their own language, for nearly twenty years “ proscribed, forfeited, miserably oppressed, given up as sheep to the slaughter, intercommuned, and interdicted of harbour or supply, comfort or communion, hunted and slain in the fields, in cities imprisoned, tortured, executed to the death, or banished and sold as slaves; “ and, as many of them avowed the same wild principles which were acted upon by the murderers of Archbishop Sharpe, it might have been expected that a bloody retaliation would take place as soon as they had the power in their own hands. Yet it must be owned that these stern Cameronians showed no degree of positive cruelty. They expelled the obnoxious curates with marks of riotous triumph, tore their gowns, and compelled them sometimes to march in a mock procession to the boundary of their parish; they plundered the private chapels of Catholics, and destroyed whatever they found belonging to their religion; but they evinced no desire of personal vengeance; nor have I found that the clergy who were expelled in this memorable month of December, 1688, although most of them were treated with rudeness and insult, were, in any case, killed or wounded in cold blood.

These tumults would have extended to Edinburgh; but the College of Justice, under which title all the different law bodies of the capital are comprehended, assumed arms for maintaining the public peace, and resisting an expected invasion of the city by the Cameronians, who threatened, in this hour of triumph, a descent on the metropolis, and a second Whigamores’ Raid. This species of civic guard effectually checked their advance, until, not being supposed favourable to the Prince of Orange, it was disbanded by proclamation when he assumed the management of public affairs.

Scotland may be said to have been, for some time, without a government; and, indeed, now that all prospect of war seemed at an end, men of all parties posted up to London, as the place where the fate of the kingdom must be finally settled. The Prince of Orange recommended the same measure which had been found efficient in England; and a Convention of the Scottish Estates was summoned to meet in March, 1689. The interval was spent by both parties in preparing for a contest.

The Episcopal party continued devoted to the late King. They possessed a superiority among the nobility, providing the bishops should be permitted to retain their seats in the Convention. But among the members for counties, and especially the representatives of burghs, the great majority was on the side of the Whigs, or Williamites, as the friends of the Prince of Orange began to be called.

If actual force were to be resorted to, the Jacobites relied on the faith of the Duke of Gordon, who was governor of the castle of Edinburgh, on the attachment of the Highland clans, and the feudal influence of the nobles and gentry of the north. The Whigs might reckon on the full force of the five western shires, besides a large proportion of the south of Scotland. The same party had on their side the talents and abilities of Dalrymple, Fletcher, and other men of strong political genius, far superior to any that was possessed by the Tories. But if the parties should come to an open rupture, the Whigs had no soldier of reputation to oppose to the formidable talents of Dundee.

The exiled King having directed his adherents to attend the Convention, and, if possible, secure a majority there, Dundee appeared on the occasion with a train of sixty horse, who had most of them served under him on former occasions. The principal Whigs, on their part, secretly brought into town the armed Cameronians, whom they concealed in garrets and cellars till the moment should come for their being summoned to appear in arms. These preparations for violence show how inferior in civil polity Scotland must have been to England, since it seemed that the great national measures which were debated with calmness, and adopted with deliberation in the Convention of England, were, in that of North Britain, to be decided, apparently, by an appeal to the sword.

Yet the Convention assembled peaceably, though under ominous circumstances. The town was filled with two factions of armed men, lately distinguished as the persecuting and the oppressed parties, and burning with hatred against each other. The guns of the castle, from the lofty rock on which it is situated, lay loaded and prepared to pour their thunders on the city; and under these alarming circumstances, the peers and commons of Scotland were to consider and decide upon the fate of her crown. Each party had the deepest motives for exertion.

The Cavaliers, or Jacobites, chiefly belonging by birth to the aristocracy, forgot James’s errors in his misfortunes, or indulgently ascribed them to a few bigoted priests and selfish counsellors, by whom, they were compelled to admit, the royal ear had been too exclusively possessed. They saw, in their now aged monarch, the son of the venerated martyr, Charles I., whose memory was so dear to them, and the descendant of the hundred princes who had occupied the Scottish throne, according to popular belief, for a thousand years, and under whom their ancestors had acquired their fortunes, their titles, and their fame. James himself, whatever were the political errors of his reign, had been able to attach to himself individually, many both of the nobility and gentry of Scotland, who regretted him as a friend as well as a sovereign, and recollected the familiarity with which he could temper his stately courtesy, and the favours which many bad personally received from him. The compassion due to fallen majesty was in this case enhanced, when it was considered that James was to be uncrowned, in order that the Prince and Princess of Orange, his son-in-law and daughter, might be raised to the throne in his stead, a measure too contrary to the ordinary feelings of nature not to create some disgust. Besides, the Cavaliers generally were attached to the Episcopal form of worship, and to the constitution of a church, which, while it supported with credit the dignity of the sacred order, affected not the rigorous discipline and vexatious interference in the affairs of private families, for which they censured the Presbyterians. Above all, the Jacobites felt that they themselves must sink in power and influence with the dethronement of King James, and must remain a humbled and inferior party in the kingdom which they lately governed, hated for what had passed, and suspected in regard to the future.

The Whigs, with warmer hopes of success, had even more urgent motives for political union and exertion. They reckoned up the melancholy roll of James’s crimes and errors, and ridiculed the idea, that he who had already suffered so much both in his youth and middle age, would ever become wiser by misfortune. Bigotry and an extravagant and inveterate love of power, they alleged, were propensities which increased with age; and his religion, they contended, while it would readily permit him to enter into any engagements which an emergency might require, would with equal ease dispense with his keeping them, and even impute it as a merit that he observed no faith with heretics. The present crisis, they justly argued, afforded a happy occasion to put an end to that course of open encroachment upon their liberty and property, of which the Scottish nation had so long had to complain; and it would be worse than folly to sacrifice the rights and liberties of the people to the veneration attached to an ancient line of princes, when their representative had forgotten the tenure by which he held the throne of his fathers. The form of the Presbyterian Church, while it possessed a vital power over the hearts and consciences of the worshippers, was also of a character peculiarly favourable to freedom, and suitable to a poor country like that of Scotland, which was unable to maintain bishops and dignitaries with becoming splendour. A great part of the nation had shown themselves attached to it, and disposed to submit to the greatest hardships, and to death itself, rather than conform to the Episcopal mode of worship ; and it was fitting they should have permission to worship God in the way their consciences recommended. The character of William afforded the most brilliant arguments to his partisans in the Convention. He had been from his youth upward distinguished as the champion of public freedom, his zeal for which exceeded even his ambition. He was qualified by the doctrines of toleration, which he had deeply imbibed, to cure the wounds of nations distracted by civil faction, and his regard for truth and honour withstood every temptation to extend his power, which the unsettled circumstances of the British kingdoms might present to an ambitious prince. Distracted by these various considerations, the Scottish Convention met. The first contest was for the nomination of a president, (14th March) in which it is remarkable that both the contending parties made choice of candidates, in whom neither could repose trust as faithful partisans. The Marquis of Athole was proposed by the Jacobites, to whose side he now inclined, after having been, as I have shown you, the principal actor in displacing James’s Scottish administration, and chasing from Edinburgh that King’s Chancellor, the Earl of Perth. The Wigs, on the other hand, equally at a loss to find an unexceptionable candidate, set up the Duke of Hamilton, although his future conduct was so undecided and dubious as to make them more than once repent of their choice.

The Duke of Hamilton attained the presidency by a majority of fifteen, which, though not a very predominating one, was sufficient to ascertain the superiority of the Whigs, who, as usual in such cases, were immediately joined by all those whom timidity or selfish considerations had kept aloof, until they should discover which was the safest, and likely to be the winning side. The majorities of the Whigs increased therefore upon every question, while the Jacobite party saw no remedy but in some desperate and violent course. The readiest which occurred was to endeavour to induce the Duke of Gordon, governor of the castle, to fire upon the town, and to expel the Convention, in which their enemies were all-powerful. The Convention, on the other hand, by a great majority, summoned the Duke to surrender the place, under the pains of high treason.

The position of the Duke was difficult. The castle was strong, but it was imperfectly supplied with provisions; the garrison was insufficient, and many among them of doubtful fidelity; and as every other place of strength throughout the kingdom had been surrendered, to refuse compliance might be to draw upon himself the unmitigated vengeance of the prevailing party. The Duke was therefore uncertain how to decide, when the Earls of Lothian and Tweeddale came to demand a surrender in the name of the Convention; and he at first offered to comply, on obtaining indemnity for himself and his friends. But the Viscount of Dundee, getting access to the castle while the treaty was in dependence, succeeded in inspiring the Duke with a share of his own resolution; so that when the commissioners desired to know the friends for whom he demanded immunity, he answered by delivering to them a list of all the clans in the Highlands; which being interpreted as done in scorn, the two earls returned so indignant, that they scarce could find words to give an account of their errand to the Convention.

Soon after, the Duke of Gordon was solemnly summoned by two heralds, in their ceremonial habits, to surrender the castle; and they at the same time published a proclamation, prohibiting any one to converse with or assist him, should he continue contumacious. The Duke desired them to inform the Convention, that he held his command by warrant from their common master; and, giving them some money to drink King James’s health, he observed, that when they came to declare loyal subjects, traitors, with the King’s coats on their backs, they ought in decency to turn them.

But though Dundee had been able to persuade the Duke to stand a siege in the castle, he could not prevail upon him to fire on the town; an odious severity, which would certainly have brought general hatred upon him, without, perhaps, having the desired effect of dislodging the Convention. This scheme having failed, the Jacobites resolved upon another, which was to break up with all their party, and hold another and rival Convention at Stirling. For this purpose it was proposed that the Earl of Mar, hereditary keeper of Stirling Castle, should join them, in order that they might have the protection of the fortress, and that Athole should assist them with a body of his Highlanders. These noblemen entered into the plan; but when it came to the point of execution, the courage of both seems to have given way, and the design was postponed.

Whilst affairs were in this state, Dundee, provoked alike at the vacillation of his friends, and the triumph of his — enemies, resolved no longer to remain inactive. He suddenly appeared before the Convention, and complained of a plot laid to assassinate himself and Sir George MacKenzie, the late King’s advocate,-a charge which was very probable, since the town was now filled with armed Cameronians, who had smarted so severely under the judicial prosecutions of the lawyer, and the military violence of the soldier. Dundee demanded that all strangers should be removed from the town; and when it was answered that this could not be done without placing the Convention at the mercy of the Popish Duke of Gordon and his garrison, he left the assembly in indignation, and returning to his lodgings, instantly took arms and mounted his horse, attended by fifty or sixty armed followers. The city was alarmed at the appearance of this unexpected cavalcade, so formidable from the active and resolute character of its leader; and the Convention, feeling or pretending personal alarm, ordered the gates of their hall to be locked, and the keys to be laid upon the table. In the mean time, the drums beat to arms, and the bands of westland-men, who had been hitherto concealed in garrets and similar lurking-holes, appeared in the streets with their arms prepared, and exhibiting, in their gestures, language, and looks, the stern hopes of the revenge which they had long panted for.

While these things were passing, Dundee, in full view of friends and enemies, rode at leisure out of the city, by the lane called Leith Wynd, and proceeded along the northern bank of the North Loch, upon which the New Town of Edinburgh is now situated. From thence, turning under the western side of the castle, he summoned the Duke of Gordon to a conference at the foot of the walls, and for that purpose scrambled up the precipitous bank and rock on which the fortress is situated. So far as is known respecting this singular interview, Dundee’s advice to the Duke was, to maintain the castle at all risks, promising him speedy relief.

The people of Edinburgh, who witnessed from a distance this extraordinary conference, concluded that the castle was about to fire upon the city, and the spectators of Dundee’s exploit were mistaken for his adherents: while the Jacobite members of the Convention on their part, unarmed and enclosed among their political enemies, were afraid of being massacred by the armed Whigs. The Convention, when their alarm subsided, sent Major Bunting with a party of horse to pursue Dundee and make him prisoner. That officer soon overtook the Viscount, and announced his commission; to which Dundee only deigned to answer, that if he dared attempt to execute such a purpose, he would send him back to the Convention in a pair of blankets. Bunting took the hint, and suffering the dreaded commander and his party to pass unmolested, returned in peace to the city. Dundee marched towards Stirling, and in consequence of his departure, the other friends of King James left Edinburgh, and hastened to their own homes.

So soon as this extraordinary scene had passed over, the Convention, now relieved from the presence of the Jacobite members, resolved upon levying troops to defend themselves, and to reduce the castle. The Cameronians were the readiest force of whose principles they could be assured, and it was proposed to them to raise a regiment of two battalions, under the Earl of Angus, eldest son of the Marquis of Douglas, a nobleman of military talents, as colonel, and William Cleland, as lieutenant-colonel. This last had been one of the commanders at Drumclog, and, besides being a brave gentleman, was a poet, though an indifferent one, and more a man of the world than most of the sect to which he belonged.

Some of the more rigid Covenanters were of opinion, that those who possessed their principles had no freedom (to use their own phraseology) to join together for the defence of a Convention, in which so many persons were in the possession both of places and power, who had been deeply engaged in the violent measures of the last reign; and they doubted this the more, as no steps had been taken to resume the obligations of the Covenant. But the singular and most unexpected train of events, which had occasioned their being called to arms to defend a city, where they had never before been seen openly save when dragged to execution, seemed so directly the operation of Providence in their favour, that, giving way for once to the dictates of common sense, the Cameronians agreed to consider the military association now proposed as a necessary and prudential measure, protesting only that the intended regiment should not be employed either under or along with such officers as had given proofs of attachment to Popery, Prelacy, or Malignancy. They also stipulated for regular opportunities of public worship, and for strict punishment of unchristian conversation, swearing, and profligacy of every sort; and their discipline having been arranged as much to their mind as possible, eighteen hundred men were raised, and, immediately marching to Edinburgh, assumed the duty of defending the Convention, and blockading the garrison in the castle.

The Cameronians were soon, however, relieved by troops more competent to such a task, being a part of the regular army sent down to Scotland by King William, in order to give his party the decided superiority in that kingdom. Batteries were raised against the castle, and trenches opened. The Duke of Gordon made an honourable defence, while, at the same time, he avoided doing any damage to the town, and confined his fire to returning that of the batteries, by which he was annoyed. But the smallness of his garrison, the scarcity of provisions, the want of surgical assistance and medicines for the wounded, above all, the frequency of desertion, induced the Duke finally to surrender upon honourable terms; and in June he evacuated the fortress.

The Convention, in the mean time, almost entirely freed from opposition within their own assembly, proceeded to determine the great national question arising out of the change of government. Two letters being presented to them, one from King James, the other on the part of the Prince of Orange, they opened and read the latter with much reverence, while they passed over with little notice that of his father-in-law, intimating by this that they no longer regarded him as a sovereign.

This was made still more manifest by their vote respecting the state of the nation, which was much more decisive than that of the English Convention. The Scots Whigs had no Tories to consult with and satisfy by a scrupulous choice of expressions, and of course gave themselves no trouble in choosing between the terms abdication or forfeiture. They openly declared that James had assumed the throne without taking the oaths appointed by law; that he had proceeded to innovate upon the constitution of the kingdom, with the purpose of converting a limited monarchy into one of despotic authority; they added, that he had employed the power thus illegally assumed, for violating the laws and liberties, and altering the religion of Scotland; and in doing so, had FORFEITED his right to the Crown, and the throne had thereby become vacant.

The forfeiture, in strict law, would have extended to all James’s immediate issue, as in the case of treason in a subject; but as this would have injured the right of the Princess of Orange, the effects of the declaration were limited to King James’s infant son, and to his future children. In imitation of England, the crown of Scotland was settled upon the Prince and Princess of Orange, and the survivor of them, after whose decease, and failing heirs of their body, the Princess Anne and her heirs were called to the succession.(11th April, 1689) When the crown was thus settled, the Convention entered into a long declaration, called the Claim of Rights, by which the dispensing powers were pronounced illegal; the various modes of oppression practised during the last two reigns were censured as offences against liberty, and Prelacy was pronounced an insupportable grievance.

These resolutions being approved of by the new sovereigns, they began to assume the regal power, and fixed an administration. The Duke of Hamilton was named High Commissioner, in reward of his services as President of the Convention; Lord Melville was made Secretary of State, and the Earl of Crawford President of the Council. Some offices were put into commission, to serve as objects of ambition to those great men who were yet unprovided for; others were filled up by such as had given proofs of attachment to the Revolution. In general, the choice of the Ministry was approved of; but the King and his advisers were censured for bestowing too much confidence on Dalrymple, lately created Viscount Stair, and Sir John Dalrymple, his son, called Master of Stair. A vacancy occurred for the promotion of the Earl of Stair in a singular manner.

Sir George Lockhart, an excellent lawyer, who had been crown counsel in Cromwell’s time, was, at the period of the Revolution, President of the Court of Session, or first judge in civil affairs. He had agreed to act as an arbiter in some disputes which occurred between a gentleman named Chiesley, of Dalry, and his wife. The President, in deciding this matter, had assigned a larger provision to Mrs Chiesley than, in her husband’s opinion, was just or necessary; at which Dalry, a man headlong in his passions, was desperately offended, and publicly threatened the President’s life. He was cautioned by a friend to forbear such imprudent language, and to dread the just vengeance of Heaven. “ I have much to reckon for with Heaven,” said the desperate man, “ and we will reckon for this amongst the rest.” In pursuance of his dreadful threat, Chiesley, armed for the purpose of assassination, followed his victim to the Greyfriar’s church, in which Sir George usually heard divine service; but feeling some reluctance to do the deed within the sacred walls, he dogged him home, till he turned into the entry to his own house, in what is still called the President’s Close. Here Chiesley shot the Judge dead; and disdaining to save his life by flight, he calmly walked about in the neighbourhood of the place till he was apprehended. He was afterwards tried and executed.

The office of the murdered President (a most important one, being the head of the supreme civil court) was conferred upon Lord Stair, and that of King’ Advocate, equivalent to the situation of Attorney General in England, was given to his son, Sir John Dalrymple, who was afterwards associated with Lord Melville in the still more important situation of Secretary of State. Both father and son were men of high talent, but of doubtful integrity, and odious to the Presbyterians for compliances with the late government.

Besides his immediate and official counsellors, King William gave, in private, much of his confidence to a clergyman named Carstairs, who was one of his chaplains. This gentleman had given strong proof of his fidelity and fortitude; for, being arrested in Charles II.‘s time, on account of his connexion with the conspiracy called Jerviswood’s Plot, he underwent the cruel torture of the thumbikins, which, as I before told you, were screws, that almost crushed the thumbs to pieces. After the success of the Revolution, the Magistrates of Edinburgh complimented Carstairs, then a man of importance, with a present of the instrument of torture by which he had suffered. The King, it is said, heard of this, and desired to see the thumbikins. They were produced. He placed his thumbs in the engine, and desired Carstairs to turn the screw. “ I should wish to judge of your fortitude,” said the King, “ by experiencing the pain which you endured.” Carstairs obeyed, but turned the screws with a polite degree of attention not to injure the royal thumbs. “ This is unpleasant,” said the King, “yet it might be endured. But yon are trifling with me. Turn the engine so that I may really feel a share of the pain inflicted on you.” Carstairs, on this reiterated command, and jealous of his own reputation, turned the screws so sharply, that William cried for mercy, and owned he must have confessed any thing, true or false, rather than have endured the pain an instant longer. This gentleman became a particular confident of the King, and more trusted than many who filled high and ostensible situations in the state. He was generally allowed to be a man of sagacity and political talent, but his countrymen accused him of duplicity and dissimulation; and from that character he was generally distinguished by the nickname of Cardinal Carstairs.

But while King William was thus considering the mode and selecting the council by which he proposed to govern Scotland, an insurrection took place, by means of which the sceptre of that kingdom was wellnigh wrested from his gripe. This was brought about by the exertions of the Viscount Dundee, one of those extraordinary persons, by whose energies great national revolutions are sometimes wrought with the assistance of very small means.


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