Tales of a Grandfather, by Walter Scott

Chapter 57

THE Viscount of Dundee was one of those gifted persons upon whose single fate that of nations is sometimes dependent. His own party believed, that, had he lived to improve the decisive victory which he had so bravely won, he would have soon recovered Scotland to King James’s allegiance. It is certain, a great many of the nobility only waited a gleam of success to return to the Jacobite side; nor were the revolutionary party so united amongst themselves as to have offered a very firm resistance. The battle of Killiecrankie, duly improved, would, unquestionably, have delivered the whole of Scotland north of the Forth into the power of Dundee, and rendered even Stirling and Edinburgh insecure. Such a flame kindled in Scotland, must have broken many of King William’s measures, rendered it impossible for him to go to Ireland, where his presence was of the last necessity, and have been, to say the least, of the highest prejudice to his affairs.

But all the advantages of the victory were lost in the death of the conquering general. Cannon, who succeeded to the chief command on Dundee’s decease, was a stranger to Highland manners, and quite inadequate to the management of such an army as that which chance placed under his command. It was in vain that the fame of the victory, and the love of plunder and of war, which made part of the Highland character, brought around him, from the remote recesses of that warlike country, a more numerous body of the mountaineers than Montrose had ever commanded. By the timidity and indecision of his opponent, MacKay gained time enough to collect, which he did with celerity, a body of troops sufficient to coop up the Jacobite general within his mountains, and to maintain an indecisive war of posts and skirmishes, which wearied out the patience of the quick-spirited Highlanders.

Cannon attempted only one piece of service worthy of mention, and in that he was foiled. In the extremity of the alarm which followed the defeat of Killiecrankie, the Earl of Angus’s newly raised regiment of Cameronians had been despatched to the Highlands. They had advanced as far as Dunkeld, when Cannon for once showed some activity, and avoiding MacKay by a rapid and secret march, he at once surrounded, in the village and castle of Dunkeld, about twelve hundred of this regiment, with more than double their own forces.(21st August) Their situation seemed so desperate, that a party of horse who were with them retired, and left the Cameronians to their fate.

But the newly acquired discipline of these hardy enthusiasts prevented their experiencing the fate of their predecessors at Bothwell and Pentland. They were judiciously posted in the Marquis of Athole’s house and neighbouring enclosures, as also in the churchyard and the old cathedral; and with the advantage of this position they beat off repeatedly the fierce attacks of the Highlanders, though very inferior in numbers. This success restored the spirits of the King’s troops, and diminished considerably that of the Highlanders, who, according to their custom, began to disperse and return home.

The Cameronian regiment lost in this action their gallant Lieutenant–Colonel, Cleland, and many men. But they were victorious, and that was a sufficient consolation.

You may have some curiosity to know the future fate of this singular regiment. The peculiar and narrow-minded ideas of the sect led many of them to entertain doubts of the lawfulness of the part they had taken. The Presbyterian worship had indeed been established as the national church since the Revolution, but it was far from having attained that despotic authority claimed for it by the Cameronians, and therefore, although, at the first landing of the Prince of Orange, they had felt it matter of duty to espouse his cause, yet they were utterly disgusted with the mode in which he had settled the state, and especially the Church of Scotland.

What they in their enthusiasm imputed to King William as matter of censure, ought in reality to be considered as most meritorious. That wise and prudent monarch saw the impossibility of bringing the country to a state of quiet settlement, if he kept alive the old feuds by which it had been recently divided, or if he permitted the oppressed Presbyterians to avenge themselves as they desired upon their former persecutors. He admitted all persons alike to serve the state, whatever had been their former principles and practice; and thus many were reconciled to his government, who, if they had felt themselves endangered in person and property, or even deprived of the hope of royal patronage and official situation, would have thrown a heavy weight into the Jacobite scale. William, upon these principles, employed several persons who had been active enforcers of King James’s rigorous measures, and whom the Cameronians accounted God’s enemies and their own, and deemed more deserving of severe punishment and retaliation, than of encouragement and employment.

In church affairs, King William’s measures were still less likely to be pleasing to these fierce enthusiasts than in those which concerned the state. He was contented that there should be in Scotland, as in Holland, a national church, and that the form should be Presbyterian, as the model most generally approved by his friends in that kingdom. But the King was decided in opinion that this church should have no power either over the persons or consciences of those who were of different communions, to whom he extended a general toleration, from which the Catholics alone were excluded. owing to the terror inspired by their late strides towards predominant superiority during the reign of James II. The wisest, the most prudent, and the most learned of the Presbyterian ministers, those chiefly who, having fled from Scotland and resided in the Netherlands,” had been enlightened on this subject of toleration, were willingly disposed to accommodate themselves to the King’s inclination, and rest satisfied with the share of authority which he was willing to concede to the national church.

But wise and moderate opinions had no effect on the more stubborn Presbyterians, who, irritated at the kirk’s being curbed of her supreme power; and themselves checked in the course of their vengeance upon their oppressors, accounted the model of King William’s ecclesiastical government an Erastian establishment, in which the dignity of the church was rendered subordinate to that of the state. There were many divines, even within the pale of the church, whose opinions tended to this point, and who formed a powerful party in the General Assembly. But the Cameronians in particular, elated with the part, both in suffering and acting, which they had performed during the late times, considered the results of the Revolution as totally unworthy of the struggle which they had maintained. The ministers who were willing to acquiesce in a model of church government so mutilated in power and beauty as that conceded by King William, they termed a hive of lukewarm, indifferent shepherds, who had either deserted their flocks and fled, to save themselves during the rage of persecution, or who, remaining in Scotland had truckled to the enemy, and exercised their ministry in virtue of a niggardly indulgence from the tyrant, whilst they themselves endured want and misery, and the extremities of the sword and gallows, rather than renounce one iota of the doctrine held by the Presbyterian Kirk of Scotland in the time of her highest power in 1640. They considered the General Assembly held under the authority of King William, as an association in which the black hand of defection was extended to the red hand of persecution, and where apostates and oppressors, leagued together, made common cause against pure Presbyterian government and discipline.

Feeling thus indisposed towards the existing government, it followed as a matter of course, that the Cameronians, if they did not esteem themselves actually called upon to resist King William’s authority, from which they were withheld by some glimmering of common sense,-which suggested, as the necessary consequence, the return of their old enemy James,-neither did they feel at liberty to own themselves his subjects, to take oaths of allegiance to his person and that of his queen, or to submit themselves, by any mark of homage, to a sovereign, who had not subscribed and sworn to the Solemn League and Covenant.

Although, therefore, this extreme party differed among themselves, to what extent they should disclaim the King and the Government, yet the general sense of their united societies became more and more scrupulous, concerning the lawfulness of serving in the Earl of Angus’s regiment; and while they continued to own these soldiers as brethren, and hold correspondence with them, we observe that they hint at the introduction of some of the errors of the time, even into this select regiment. Card-playing, dice, and other scandalous games, but in particular the celebration of King William’s birth-day, by rejoicing and drinking of healths, greatly afflicted the spirit of the general meeting of the more rigorous of the party, who held such practices as an abomination. It is probable, therefore, that the regiment of Cameronians received from this time few recruits out of the bosom of the party whose name they bore. They were afterwards sent to serve on the Continent, and behaved courageously at the bloody battle of Steinkirk, in 1692, where they lost many men, and amongst others their colonel, the Earl of Angus, who fell fighting bravely at their head. During these campaigns the regiment became gradually more indifferent to their religious duties. At last, we learn that their chaplain and they became heartily weary of each other, and that while the preacher upbraided his military flock with departing from the strictness of their religious professions, the others are said to have cursed him to his face, for having been instrumental in inducing them to enter Into the service. In latter times this regiment, which is still called the 26th, or Cameronian regiment, seems to have differed very little in its composition from other marching regiments, excepting that it was chiefly recruited in Scotland, and that, in memory of the original principles of the sect out of which it was raised, each soldier was, and perhaps is still, obliged to show himself possessed of a Bible when his necessaries are inspected.

During the course of the winter 1689–90, King James made an effort to reanimate the war in the Highlands, which had almost died away, after the repulse of the Highlanders at Dunkeld. He sent over General Buchan, an officer of reputation, and who was supposed to understand the Highland character and Highland warfare. The clans again assembled with renewed hopes; but Buchan proved as incapable as Cannon had shown himself the year before, of profiting by the ardour of the Highlanders.

With singular want of caution, the Jacobite general descended the Spey, as far as a level plain by the river-side called Cromdale, where he quartered his army, about eighteen hundred men, in the hamlets in the vicinity.1 Sir Thomas Livingstone, an excellent old officer, who commanded on the part of King William, assembled a large force of cavalry, some infantry, and a body of the clan Grant, who had embraced William’s interest. The general’s guide on this night’s march was Grant of Elchies, who conducted him from Forres, down the hill above castle Grant, and through the valley of Auchinarrow, to the side of the Spey, opposite to the haugh of Cromdale. Elchies then, with the advanced guard of Grant, forded the broad and rapid river. He next killed, with his own hand, two of the Highlanders, outposts or sentinels, and led his own party, with Sir Thomas Livingstone and his cavalry, through a thicket of beech-trees, and thus surprised Buchan and his army asleep in their quarters. (1st May, 1690) They fought gallantly, notwithstanding, with their swords and targets, but were at length compelled to take to flight. The pursuit was not so destructive to the defeated party as it would have been to the soldiers of any other nation, if pursued by the cavalry of a successful enemy. Light of foot, and well acquainted with their own mountains, the Highlanders escaped up the hills, and amongst the mists, with such an appearance of ease and agility, that a spectator observed, they looked more like men received into the clouds, than fugitives escaping from a victorious enemy.

But the skirmish of Cromdale, and the ruin of King James’s affairs in Ireland, precluded all hopes on the part of the Jacobites, of bringing the war in the Highlands to a successful termination. A fort near Inverlochy, originally erected by Cromwell, was again repaired by Livingstone, received the name of Fort William, and was strongly garrisoned, to bridle the Camerons, MacDonalds, and other Jacobite clans. The chiefs saw they would be reduced to maintain a defensive war in their own fastnesses, and that against the whole regular force of Scotland. They became desirous, therefore, of submitting for the present, and reserving their efforts in behalf of the exiled family for some more favourable time. King William was equally desirous to see this smouldering fire, which the appearance of such a general as Montrose or Dundee might soon have blown into a destructive flame, totally extinguished. For this purpose, he had recourse to a measure, which, had it been duly executed, was one of deep policy.

The Earl of Breadalbane, a man of great power in the Highlands, and head of a numerous clan of the Campbells, was intrusted with a sum of money, which some authors call twenty, and some twelve thousand pounds, to be distributed among the chieftains, on the condition of their submission to the existing Government, and keeping on foot, each chief in proportion to his means, a military force to act on behalf of Government, at home or abroad, as they should be called upon. This scheme, had it succeeded, would probably have rendered the Highland clans a resource, instead of a terror, to the Government of King William. Their love of war, and their want of money, would by degrees have weaned them from their attachment to the exiled King, which would gradually have been transferred to a Prince, who led them to battle, and paid them for following him.

But many of the chiefs were jealous of the conduct of the Earl of Breadalbane in distributing the funds intrusted to his care. Part of this treasure the wily earl bestowed among the most leading men; when these were bought off, he intimidated those of less power into submission, by threatening them with military execution; and it has always been said, that he retained a very considerable portion of the gratuity in his own hands. The Highland chiefs complained to Government of Breadalbane’s conduct, and, to prejudice the earl in the minds of the Ministry, they alleged that he had played a double part, and advised them only to submit to King William for the present, until an opportunity should occur of doing King James effectual service. They also charged Breadalbane with retaining, for his own purposes, a considerable part of the money deposited in his hands, to be distributed in the Highlands. Government, it is said, attended to this information, so far as to demand, through the Secretary of State, a regular account of the manner in which the sum of money placed in his hands had been distributed. But Breadalbane, too powerful to be called in question, and too audacious to care for having incurred suspicion of what he judged Government dared not resent, is traditionally said to have answered the demand in the following cavalier manner:—” My dear Lord, The money you mention was given to purchase the peace of the Highlands. The money is spent-the Highlands are quiet, and this is the only way of accompting among friends.”

We shall find afterwards, that the selfish avarice, and resentment of this unprincipled noblemen, gave rise to one of the most bloody, treacherous, and cruel actions, which dishonour the seventeenth century. Of this we shall speak hereafter; at present it is enough to repeat, that Breadalbane bribed, soothed, or threatened into submission to the Government, all the chiefs who had hitherto embraced the interest of King James, and the Highland war might be considered as nearly, if not entirely ended. But the proposed measure of taking the clans into the pay of Government, calculated to attach them inalienably to the cause of King William, was totally disconcerted, and the Highlanders continued as much Jacobites at heart as before the pacification.

There remained, however, after the Highlands were thus partially settled, some necessity of providing for the numerous Lowland officers who had joined the standard of Dundee, and who afterwards remained with his less able successors in command. These individuals were entitled to consideration and compassion. They amounted to nearly a hundred and fifty gentlemen, who sacrificing their fortune to their honour, preferred following their old master into exile, to changing his service for that of another. It was stipulated by the treaty that they should have two ships to carry them to France, where they were received with the same liberal hospitality which Louis XIV. showed in whatever concerned the affairs of King James, and where, accordingly, they received for some time pay and subsistence, in proportion to the rank which they had severally enjoyed in the exiled King’s service.

But when the battle of La Hogue had commenced the train of misfortunes which France afterwards experienced, and put a period to all hopes of invading England, it could not be expected that Louis should continue the expense of supporting this body of Scottish officers, whom there was now so little prospect of providing for in their own country. They themselves being sensible of this, petitioned King James to permit them to reduce themselves to a company of private soldiers, with the dress, pay, and appointments of that rank, assuring his Majesty that they would esteem it a pleasure to continue in his service, even under the meanest circumstances, and the greatest hardships.

James reluctantly accepted of this generous offer, and, with tears in his eyes, reviewed this body of devoted loyalists, as, stript of the advantages of birth, fortune, and education, they prepared to take upon them the duties of the lowest rank in their profession. The unhappy Prince gave every man his hand to kiss,-promised never to forget their loyalty, and wrote the name of each individual in his pocket-book, as a pledge, that when his own fortune permitted, he would not be unmindful of their fidelity.

Being in French pay, this company of gentlemen were of course engaged in the French service; and wherever they came, they gained respect by their propriety of behaviour, and sympathy from knowledge of their circumstances. But their allowance, being only threepence a-day, with a pound and a half of bread, was totally inadequate not only for procuring their accustomed comforts, but even for maintaining them in the most ordinary manner. For a time, they found a resource in the sale of watches, rings, and such superfluous trinkets as had any value. It was not unusual to see individuals among them laying aside some little token of remembrance, which had been the gift of parental affection, of love, or of friendship, and to hear them protest, that with this at least they would never part. But stern necessity brought all these relics to the market at last, and this little fund of support was entirely exhausted.

After its first formation this company served under Marshal Noailles, at the siege of Rosas, in Catalonia, and distinguished themselves by their courage on so many occasions, that their general called them his children; and, pointing out their determined courage to others, used to say, that the real gentleman was ever the same, whether in necessity or in danger.

In a subsequent campaign in Alsace, they distinguished themselves by their voluntary attempt to storm a fortified island on the Rhine, defended by five hundred Germans. They advanced to the shore of that broad river under shelter of the night, waded into the stream, with their ammunition secured about their necks for fear of its being wetted, and linked arm-inarm, according to the Highland fashion, advanced into the middle of the current. Here the water was up to their breasts, but as soon as it grew more shallow, they untied their cartouch-boxes, and marching ashore with their muskets shouldered, poured a deadly volley upon the Germans, who, seized with a panic, and endeavouring to escape, broke down their own bridges, and suffered a severe loss, leaving the island in possession of the brave assailants. When the French general heard of the success of what he had esteemed a desperate bravado, he signed himself with the cross in astonishment, and declared that it was the boldest action that ever had been performed, and that the whole honour of contrivance and execution belonged to the company of officers. The place was long called L’Ile d’Ecossais, the Scotsmen’s Island, and perhaps yet retains the name.

In these and similar undertakings, many of this little band fell by the sword; but the fate of such was enviable compared with that of the far greater part who died under the influence of fatigue, privations, and contagious diseases, which fell with deadly severity on men once accustomed to the decencies and accommodations of social life, and now reduced to rags, filth, and famine. When, at the peace of Ryswick, this little company was disbanded, there remained but sixteen men out of their original number; and only four of these ever again saw their native country, whose fame had been sustained and extended by their fidelity and courage.

At length the last faint embers of civil war died away throughout Scotland. The last place which held out for King James was the strong island and castle in the frith of Forth, called the Bass. This singular rock rises perpendicularly out of the sea. The surface is pasture land, sloping to the brink of a tremendous precipice, which on all sides sinks sheer down into the stormy ocean. There is no anchorage ground on any point near the rock; and although it is possible, in the present state of the island, to go ashore (not without danger, however), and to ascend by a steep path to the table-land on the top of the crag, yet, at the time of the Revolution a strong castle defended the landing place, and the boats belonging to the garrison were lowered into the sea, or heaved up into the castle, by means of the engine called a crane. Access was thus difficult to friends, and impossible to enemies.

This sequestered and inaccessible spot, the natural shelter and abode of gannets, gulls, and sea fowl of all descriptions, had been, as I have before noticed, converted into a state prison during the reigns of Charles II. and James II.; and was often the melancholy abode of the nonconformists, who were prisoners to Government. When the Revolution took place, the Governor of the Bass held out from 1688 to 1690, when he surrendered the island and castle to King William. They were shortly after recovered for King James by some Jacobite officers, who, sent thither as prisoners, contrived to surprise and overpower the garrison, and again bade defiance to the new Government. They received supplies of provisions from their Jacobite friends on shore, and exercised, by means of their boats, a sort of privateering warfare on such merchant vessels as entered the frith. A squadron of English ships-of-war was sent to reduce the place, which, in their attempt to batter the castle, did so little damage, and received so much, that the siege was given up, or rather converted into a strict blockade. The punishment of death was denounced by the Scottish Government against all who should attempt to supply the island with provisions; and a gentleman named Trotter, having been convicted of such an attempt, was condemned to death, and a gallows erected opposite to the Bass, that the garrison might witness his fate. The execution was interrupted for the time by a cannon-shot from the island, to the great terror of the assistants, amongst whom the bullet lighted; but no advantage accrued to Trotter, who was put to death elsewhere. The intercourse between the island and the shore was in this manner entirely cut off. Shortly afterwards the garrison became so weak for want of provisions, that they were unable to man the crane by which they launched out and got in their boats. They were thus obliged finally to surrender, but not till reduced to an allowance of two ounces of rusk to each man per day. They were admitted to honourable terms, with the testimony of having done their duty like brave men.

We must now return to the state of civil affairs in Scotland, which was far from being settled. The arrangements of King William had not included in his administration Sir James Montgomery and some other leading Presbyterians, who conceived their services entitled them to such distinction. This was bitterly resented; for Montgomery and his friends fell into an error very common to agents in great changes, who often conceive themselves to have been the authors of those events, in which they were only the subordinate and casual actors. Montgomery had conducted the debates concerning the forfeiture of the crown at the Revolution, and therefore believed himself adequate to the purpose of dethroning King William, who, he thought, owed his crown to him, and of replacing King James. This monarch, so lately deprived of his realm on account of his barefaced attempts to bring in Popery, was now supported by a party of Presbyterians, who proposed to render him the nursing father of that model of church government, which he had so often endeavoured to stifle in the blood of its adherents. As extremes approach to each other, the most violent Jacobites began to hold intercourse with the most violent Presbyterians, and both parties voted together in Parliament, from hatred to the administration of King William. The alliance, however, was too unnatural to continue; and King William was only so far alarmed by its progress, as to hasten a redress of several of those grievances, which had been pointed out in the Declaration of Rights. He also deemed it prudent to concede something to the Presbyterians, disappointed as many of them were with the result of the Revolution in ecclesiastical matters.

I have told you already that King William had not hesitated to declare that the National Church of Scotland should be Presbyterian; but, with the love of toleration, which was a vital principle in the King’s mind, he was desirous of permitting the Episcopalian incumbents, as well as the forms of worship, to remain in the churches of such parishes as preferred that communion. Moreover, he did not deem it equitable to take from such proprietors as were possessed of it, the right of patronage, that is, of presenting to the Presbytery a candidate for a vacant charge; when, unless found unfit for such a charge, upon his life and doctrine being enquired into by formal trial, the person thus presented was of course admitted to the office.

A great part of the Presbyterians were much discontented at a privilege, which threw the right of electing a clergyman for the whole congregation into the hands of one man, whilst all the rest might be dissatisfied with Ills talents, or with his character. They argued also, that very many of these presentations being in the hands of gentry of the Episcopal persuasion, to continue the right of patronage, was to afford such patrons the means of introducing clergymen of their own tenets, and thus to maintain a perpetual schism in the bosom of the church. To this it was replied by the defenders of patronage, that as the stipends of the clergy were paid by the landholders, the nomination of the minister ought to be left in their hands; and that it had accordingly been the ancient law of Scotland, that the advowson, or title to bestow the church-living, was a right of private property. The tendency towards Episcopacy, continued these reasoners, might indeed balance, but could not overthrow, the supremacy of the Presbyterian establishment, since every clergyman who was in possession of a living, was bound to subscribe the Confession of Faith, as established by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, and to acknowledge that the General Assembly was invested with the full government of the church. They further argued, that in practice it was best this law of patronage should remain unaltered. The Presbyterian church being already formed upon a model strictly republican, they contended, that to vest the right of nominating the established clergy in the hearers, was to give additional features of democracy to a system, which was already sufficiently independent both of the crown and the aristocracy. They urged, that to permit the flocks the choice of their own shepherd, was to encourage the candidates for church preferment rather to render themselves popular by preaching to soothe the humours of the congregation, than to exercise the wholesome but unpleasing duties, of instructing their ignorance, and reproving their faults; and that thus assentation and flattery would be heard from the pulpit, the very place where they were most unbecoming, and were likely to be most mischevous.

Such arguments in favour of lay patronage had much influence with the King; but the necessity of doing something which might please the Presbyterian party, induced his Scottish ministers, — not, it is said, with William’s entire approbation, — to renew a law of Cromwell’s time, which placed the nomination of a minister, with some slight restrictions, in the hands of the congregation. These, upon a vacancy, exercised a right of popular election, gratifying unquestionably to the pride of human nature, but tending to excite, in the case of disagreement, debates and strife, which were not always managed with the decency and moderation that the subject required.

King William equally failed in his attempt to secure toleration for such of the Episcopal clergy as were disposed to retain their livings under a Presbyterian supremacy. To have gained these divines, would have greatly influenced all that part of Scotland which lies north of the Forth; but in affording them protection, William was desirous to be secured of their allegiance, which in general they conceived to be due to the exiled sovereign. Many of them had indeed adopted a convenient political creed, which permitted them to submit to William as King de facto, that is, as being actually in possession of the royal power, whilst they internally reserved and acknowledged the superior claims of James as King de jure, that is, who had the right to the crown, although he did not enjoy it.

It was William’s interest to destroy this sophistical species of reasoning, by which, in truth, he was only recognised as a successful usurper, and obeyed for no other reason but because he had the power to enforce obedience. An oath, therefore, was framed, called the Assurance, which, being put to all persons holding offices of trust, was calculated to exclude those temporizers who had contrived to reconcile their immediate obedience to King William, with a reserved acknowledgment that James possessed the real title to the crown. The Assurance bore, in language studiously explicit, that King William was acknowledged, by the person taking the oath, not only as king in fact, but also as king in law and by just title. This oath made a barrier against most of the Episcopal preachers who had any tendency to Jacobitism; but there were some who regarded their own patrimonial advantages more than political questions concerning the rights of monarchs, and in spite of the intolerance of the Presbyterian clergy (which, considering their previous sufferings, is not to be wondered at), about a hundred Episcopal divines took the oaths to the new Government, retained their livings, and were exempted from the jurisdiction of the courts of Presbytery.


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