THE period of Queen Anne’s demise found the Jacobites, for a party who were both numerous and zealous, uncommonly ill prepared and irresolute. They had nursed themselves in the hope that the dark and mysterious conduct of Oxford was designed to favour his purpose of a counter-revolution; and the more open professions of Bolingbroke, which reached the Jacobites of Scotland through the medium of the Earl of Mar, were considered as pointing — more explicitly to the same important end.
But they were mistaken in Oxford’s purpose, who only acted towards them as it was in his nature to do towards all mankind; and so regulated his conduct as to cause the Jacobites to believe he was upon their side, while, in fact, his only purpose was to keep factions from breaking into extremities, and to rule all parties, by affording hopes to each in their turn, which were all to be ultimately found delusive.
Bolingbroke, on the other hand, was more sanguine and decided, both in opinion and action; and he would probably have been sufficiently active in his measures in behalf of King James, had he possessed the power of maturing them. But being thus mocked by the cross fate which showed him the place of his ambition at one moment empty, and in the next all access to it closed against him, he was taken totally unprepared; and the Duke of Ormond, Sir William Windham, and other leaders of the Jacobite party, shared the same disadvantage. They might, indeed, have proclaimed King James the Third in the person of the Chevalier de St George, and trusted to their influence with the Tory landed gentlemen, and with the populace, to effect an universal insurrection. Some of them even inclined to this desperate measure; and the celebrated Dr Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester, offered to go to Westminster in his rochet and lawn sleeves, and himself to perform the ceremony. This, however, would have been commencing a civil war, in which, the succession of the house of Hanover being determined by the existing law, the insurrectionists must have begun by incurring the guilt of high treason, without being assured of any force by which they might be protected. Upon the whole, therefore, the Jacobites, and those who wished them well, remained, after the Queen’s death, dejected, confused, and anxiously watchful of circumstances, which they did not pretend to regulate or control.
On the contrary, the Whigs, acting with uncommon firmness and unanimity, took hold of the power which had so lately been possessed by their opponents, like troops who seize in action the artillery of their enemy, and turn it instantly against them. The privy counsellors who were of that party, imitating the determined conduct of the Dukes of Somerset and Argyle, repaired to the Council, without waiting for a summons, and issued instant orders for the proclamation of King George, which were generally obeyed without resistance. The assembled Parliament recognised King George I. as the sovereign entitled to succeed, in terms of the act regulating the destination of the crown. The same proclamation took place in Ireland and Scotland without opposition; and thus the King took legal and peaceable possession of his kingdom. It appeared, also, that England’s most powerful, and, it might seem, most hostile neighbour, Louis XIV., was nowise disposed to encourage any machinations which could disturb the Elector of Hanover’s accession to the crown. The Chevalier de St George had made a hasty journey to Paris, upon learning the tidings of Queen Anne’s death; but far from experiencing a reception favourable to his views on the British crown, he was obliged to return to Lorraine, with the sad assurance that the monarch of France was determined to adhere to the Treaty of Utrecht, by an important article of which he had recognized the succession of the House of Hanover to the Crown of Great Britain. It is more than probable, as before hinted, that there had been, during the dependence of the treaty, some private understanding, or perhaps secret agreement with Bolingbroke, which might disarm the rigour of this article. But it was evident that the power of the minister with whom such an engagement had been made, if indeed it existed in any formal shape, was now utterly fallen; and the affairs of Britain were, soon after King George’s accession, intrusted to a ministry, who had the sagacity to keep the French King firm to his engagement, by sending to Paris an ambassador, equally distinguished for talents in war and in diplomacy, and fur warm adherence to the Protestant line.
This eminent person was John Dalrymple, the second Earl of Stair, whose character demands particular notice amongst the celebrated Scotsmen of this period. He was eldest surviving son of the first Earl, distinguished more for his talents than his principles, in the reigns of King William and Queen Anne, infamous for his accession to the massacre of Glencoe, and unpopular from the skill and political talent which he displayed in favour of the Union, in carrying which through the Scottish Parliament he was a most useful agent. According to the prejudiced observations of the common people, ill fortune seemed to attend his house. He died suddenly during the dependence of the Union treaty, and vulgar report attributed his death to suicide, for which, however, there is no evidence but that of common fame.
A previous calamity of a cruel nature had occurred, in which John, his second son, was the unfortunate agent. While yet a mere boy, and while playing with fire-arms, he had the great misfortune to shoot his elder brother, and kill him on the spot. The unhappy agent in this melancholy affair was sent off by the ill-fated parents, who could not bear to look upon him, to reside with a clergyman in Ayrshire, as one who was for ever banished from his family. The person to whose care he was committed was fortunately a man of sound sense, and a keen discriminator of character. The idea he formed of the young exile’s powers of mind induced him, by a succession of favourable reports, mixed with intercession, warmly to solicit his pupil’s restoration to the family, of which he afterwards became the principal ornament. It was long before he could effect a reconciliation; and the youth, when this was accomplished, entered into the army with the advantages of his rank, and those arising out of early misfortune, which had compelled him to severe study. He was repeatedly distinguished in the wars of Marlborough, and particularly at Ramilies, Oudenarde, and Malplaquet. Lord Stair rose in rank in proportion to his military reputation, but was deprived of his command when the Tory ministers, in the latter end of Queen Anne’s reign, new modelled the army, to the exclusion of the Whig officers. Upon the accession of George I. he was appointed a lord of the bed-chamber, a privy counsellor, and commander of the Scottish forces in the absence of the Duke of Argyle. Shortly after that great event, the Earl of Stair was, as we have already mentioned, sent to Paris, where he held for several years the situation of ambassador extraordinary, and where his almost miraculous power of acquiring information enabled him to detect the most secret intrigues of the Jacobites, and to watch, and even overawe, the conduct of the court of France, who, well disposed as they were to encourage privately the undertakings of the Chevalier St George, which public faith prevented them from countenancing openly, found themselves under the eye of the most active and acute of statesmen, from whom nothing seemed to remain concealed; while his character for courage, talent, and integrity, made it equally impossible to intimidate, deceive, or influence him. It may be added, that his perfect knowledge of good breeding, in a nation where manners are reduced almost to a science,1 enabled Lord Stair to preserve the good-will and favour of those with whom he treated, even while he insisted upon topics the most unpalatable to the French Monarch and his ministers, and that in a manner the most courteous in style, though most unyielding in purpose. It may be believed that large sums in secret service money were lavished in this species of diplomacy.
Lord Stair was always able, by his superior information, to counteract the plots of the Jacobites, and, satisfied with doing so, was often desirous of screening from the vengeance of his own court the misguided individuals who had rashly engaged in them. It was owing to the activity of this vigilant diplomatist that George I. owed, in a great measure, the neutrality of France, which was a very important addition to the security of his new throne. To return to our history:— George I., in the fifty-fifth year of his age, thus quietly installed in his British dominions, landed at Greenwich on the 17th of September, six weeks after the death of his predecessor, Queen Anne. The two great parties of the kingdom seemed in appearance equally disposed to receive him as their rightful monarch; and both submitted to his sway, though with very different hopes and feelings.
The triumphant Whigs were naturally assured of King George’s favour towards those who had always shown themselves friendly to his title to the throne; and confident of the merit they might claim, were desirous of exerting their influence, to the utter disgrace, discomfiture, and total suppression, of their political opponents. The Tories, on the other hand, thought it still possible, while renouncing every plan of opposing the accession of King George, to present themselves before him in such a manner as might command regard; for the number, quality, and importance of a party, which comprised a great majority of the established clergy, the greater part of both the universities, many, if not the largest portion of the lawyers, and the bulk of the proprietors of the soil, or what is called the landed interest, rendered their appearance imposing. Though dejected and humbled, therefore, by their fall from power, they consoled themselves with the idea, that they were too numerous and too important to be ill received by a Sovereign whose accession they had not opposed, and whom, on the contrary, they had shown themselves willing to acknowledge in the capacity of their monarch, disproving, as they might be disposed to think, by their dutiful demonstrations, any rumours which might have reached his Majesty of the disaffection of many among them to his person.
It would certainly have been the best policy of the newly enthroned monarch, to have received and rewarded the services of the Whigs, without lending himself to the gratification of their political enmities. There was little policy in taking measures which were likely to drive into despair, and probably into rebellion, a large party among his subjects; and there might have been more wisdom, perhaps, as well as magnanimity, in overlooking circumstances which had occurred before his accession in receiving the allegiance and dutiful professions of the Tories, without attaching any visible doubts to their sincerity-in becoming thus the King of Great Britain, instead of the chief of a party-and by stifling the remembrance of old feuds, and showing himself indifferently the paternal ruler of all his subjects, to have convinced any who remained disaffected, that if they desired to have another prince, they had at least no personal reason for doing so.
We cannot, however, be surprised that George I., a foreign prince, totally unacquainted with the character of the British nation, their peculiar constitution, and the spirit of their parties,-which usually appear, when in the act of collision, much more violent and extravagant than they prove to be when a cessation of hostilities takes place, should have been disposed to throw himself into the arms of the Whigs, who could plead their sufferings for having steadily adhered to his interest; or that those who had been his steady adherents should have found him willingly inclined to aid them in measures of vindictive retaliation upon their opponents, whom he had some reason to regard as his personal enemies. It was a case, in which to forgive would have been politic as well as magnanimous; but to resent injuries, and revenge them, was a course natural to human feeling. The late Ministers seemed for a time disposed to abide the shock of the enmity of their political rivals. Lord Oxford waited on the King at his landing, and, though coldly received, remained in London till impeached of high treason by the House of Commons, and committed to the Tower. Lord Bolingbroke continued to exercise his office of Secretary of State until he was almost forcibly deprived of it. An impeachment was also brought against him. His conscience probably pleaded guilty, for he retired to France, and soon after became Secretary to the Chevalier de St George. The Duke of Ormond, a nobleman of popular qualities, brave, generous, and liberal, was in like manner impeached, and in like manner made his escape to France. His fate was peculiarly regretted, for the general voice exculpated him from taking any step with a view to selfish aggrandisement. Several of the Whigs themselves, who were disposed to prosecute to the uttermost the mysterious Oxford and the intriguing Bolingbroke, were inclined to sympathise with the gallant and generous cavalier, who had always professed openly the principles on which he acted. Many other distinguished persons of the Tory party were threatened with prosecutions, or actually subjected to them; which filled the whole body with fear and alarm, and inclined some of the leaders amongst them to listen to the desperate counsels of the more zealous Jacobites, who exhorted them to try their strength with an enemy who showed themselves implacable, and not to submit to their ruin without an effort to defend themselves. A large party of the populace all through the country, and in London itself, renewed the cry of “ High Church for ever,” with which were mingled the names of Ormond and Oxford, the principal persons under prosecution. Among the clergy, there were found many who, out of zeal for their order, encouraged the lower classes in their disorderly proceedings; in which they burnt and destroyed the meeting-houses of dissenters, pillaged the houses of their ministers, and committed all those irregularities by which an English mob is distinguished, but whose vehemence of sentiment generally evaporates in such acts of clamour and violence.
There were, however, deeper symptoms of disaffection than those displayed in the empty roar and senseless ravage of the populace. Bolingbroke and Ormond, who had both found refuge at the court of the Pretender to the crown, and acknowledged his title, carried on a secret correspondence with the Tories of influence and rank in England, and encouraged them to seek, in a general insurrection for the cause of James III., a remedy for the evils with which they were threatened, both personally and as a political party. But England had been long a peaceful country. The gentry were opulent, and little disposed to risk, in the event of war, their fortunes and the comforts which they procured them. Strong assistance from France might have rendered the proposal of an insurrection more acceptable; but the successful diplomacy of Lord Stair at the Court of Louis destroyed all hopes of this, unless on a pitifully small scale. Another resource occurred to the Jacobite leaders, which might be attained by instigating Scotland to set the example of insurrection. The gentry in that country were ready for war, which had been familiar to them on many occasions during the lives of their fathers and their own. They might be easily induced to take arms — the Highlanders, to whom war was a state preferable to peace, were sure to take the field with them — the Border counties of England were most likely to catch the flame, from the disposition of many of the gentry there,-and the conflagration, it was expected, might, in the present humour of the nation, be extended all over England. To effect a rising, therefore, in Scotland, with a view to a general insurrection throughout Great Britain, became the principal object of those who were affected by, or who resented, the prosecutions directed with so much rigour against the members of Queen Anne’s last ministry.
John, eighteenth Lord Erskine, and eleventh Earl of Mar, whom we have repeatedly mentioned as Secretary of State during the last years of Queen Anne, and as the person to whom the distribution of money among the Highland clans, and the general management of Scottish affairs, was intrusted by her Ministry, was naturally considered as the person best qualified to bring his countrymen to the desired point. Mar had not felt any difficulty in changing from the Whig principles which he professed at the time of the Union, — on which occasion he was one of the Scottish Secretaries of State,-to the Tory principles of Bolingbroke, which he now professed. We do him, therefore, no wrong in supposing, that he would not have sturdily rejected any proposal from the court of George I. to return to the party of Whig and Low Church. At least it is certain, that when the heads of the Tory party had determined to submit themselves to George I., Lord Mar, in following the general example, endeavoured to distinguish himself by a display of influence and consequence, which might mark him as a man whose adherence was worth securing, and who was, at the same time, willing to attach himself to the new Sovereign. In a letter addressed to King George while in Holland, and dated 30th August, 1714, the Earl expresses great apprehension that his loyalty or zeal for the King’s interests may have been misrepresented to his Majesty, because he found himself the only one of Queen Anne’s servants whom the Hanoverian ministers at the court of London did not visit. His lordship then pleads the loyalty of his ancestors, his own services at the Union, and in passing the Act of Succession; and, assuring the King that he will find him as faithful a subject and servant as ever any of his family had been to the preceding royal race, or as he himself had been to the late Queen; he conjures him not to believe any misrepresentations of his conduct, and concludes with a devout prayer for the quiet and peaceful reign of the Monarch, in disturbing which he himself was destined to be the prime instrument.
But it was not only on his individual application that the Earl of Mar expected indemnity, and perhaps favour, at the court of George I. He desired also to display his influence over the Highlanders, and for that purpose procured a letter, subscribed by a number of the most influential chiefs of the clans, addressed to himself, as having an estate and interest in the Highlands, conjuring him to assure the Government of their loyalty to his Sacred Majesty, King George, and to protect them, and the heads of other clans who, from distance, could not attend at the signing of the letter, against the misrepresentations to which they might be exposed; protesting, that as they had been ready to follow Lord Mar’s directions in obeying Queen Anne, so they would be equally forward to concur with him in faithfully serving King George. At the same time, a loyal address of the clans to the same effect, drawn up by Lord Grange, brother to Mar, was forwarded to and placed in the hands of the Earl, to be delivered to the King at his landing. Lord Mar attended at Greenwich accordingly, and doubtless expected a favourable reception, when delivering to the new Monarch a recognition of his authority on the part of a class of his subjects who were supposed to be inimical to his accession, and were certainly best prepared to disturb his new reign. Lord Mar was, however, informed that the King would not receive the address of the clans, alleging it had been concocted at the court of the Pretender; and he was at the same time commanded to deliver up the seals, and informed that the King had no farther occasion for his services.
On the policy of this repulse it is almost unnecessary to make observations. Although it might be very true that the address was made up with the sanction of the Chevalier de St George and his advisers, it was not less the interest of George I. to have received, with the usual civility, the expressions of homage and allegiance which it contained. In a similar situation, King William did not hesitate to receive, with apparent confidence, the submission of the Highland clans, though it was well understood that it was made under the express authority of King James II. A monarch whose claim to obedience is yet young, ought in policy to avoid an immediate quarrel with any part of his subjects who are ready to profess allegiance as such. His authority is, like a transplanted tree, subject to injury from each sudden blast, and ought, therefore, to be secured f corn such, until it is gradually connected by the ramification of its roots incorporating themselves with the soil in which it is planted. A sudden gust may in the one case overturn, what in the other can defy the rage of a continued tempest. It seems at least certain, that in bluntly, and in a disparaging manner, refusing an address expressing allegiance and loyalty, and affronting the haughty courtier by whom it was presented, King George exposed his government to the desperate alternative of civil war, and the melancholy expedient of closing it by bringing many noble victims to the scaffold, which during the reign of his predecessor had never been stained with British blood shed for political causes. The impolicy, however, cannot justly be imputed to a foreign Prince, who, looking at the list of Celtic names, and barbarously unpronounceable designations which were attached to the address, could not be supposed to infer from thence, that the subscribers were collectively capable of bringing into the field, on the shortest notice, ten thousand men, who, if not regular soldiers, were accustomed to a sort of discipline which rendered them equal to such. There were many around the King who could have informed him on this subject; and, to their falling to do so, the bloodshed, and concomitant misfortunes of the future civil war, must justly be attributed.
The Earl of Mar, thus repulsed in his advances to the new Monarch, necessarily concluded that his ruin was determined on; and, with the desire of revenge, which was natural at least, if not justifiable, he resolved to place himself at the head of the disaffected party in Scotland, encouraging them to instant insurrection, and paying back the contumely with which his offer of service had been rejected, by endangering the government of the Prince at whose hands he had experienced such an insult. It was early in August, 1715, that the Earl of Mar embarked at Gravesend, in the strictest incognito, having for his companions Major-general Hamilton and Colonel Hay, men of some military experience. They sailed in a coal-sloop, working, it was said, their passage, the better to maintain their disguise, landed at Newcastle, hired a vessel there, and then proceeded to the small port of Elie, on the eastern shore of Fife, a county which then abounded with friends to the Jacobite cause. The state of this province in other respects offered facilities to Mar. It is a peninsula, separated from Lothian by the frith of Forth, and from the shire of Angus by that of Tay; and as it did not, until a very late period, hold much intercourse with the metropolis, though so near it in point of distance, it seemed like a district separated from the rest of Scotland, and was sometimes jocosely termed the “ Kingdom of Fife.” The commonalty were, in the beginning of the 18th century, almost exclusively attached to the Presbyterian persuasion; but it was otherwise with the gentry, who were numerous in this province to a degree little known in other parts of Scotland. Its security, during the long wars of former centuries, had made it early acquainted with civilisation. The value of the soil, on the sea-coasts at least, had admitted of great subdivision of property; and there is no county of Scotland which displays so many country-seats within so short a distance of each other. These gentlemen were, as we have said, chiefly of the Tory persuasion, or, in other words, Jacobites; for the subdivision of politicians termed Whimsicals, or Tories attached to the House of Hanover, could hardly be said to exist in Scotland, though well known in South Britain. Besides their tenants, the Fife lairds were most of them men who had not much to lose in civil broils, having to support an establishment considerably above the actual rents of their estates, which were, of course, impaired by increasing debts: they were, therefore, the less unwilling to engage in dangerous enterprises. As a party affecting the manners of the ancient Cavaliers, they were jovial in their habits, and cautious to omit no opportunity of drinking the King’s health; a point of loyalty which, like virtue of other kinds, had its own immediate reward. Loud and bold talkers, the Jacobites had accustomed, themselves to think they were the prevailing party; an idea which those of any particular faction, who converse exclusively with each other, are usually found to entertain. Their want of knowledge of the world, and the total absence of newspapers, save those of a strong party leaning, whose doctrines or facts they took care never to correct by consulting any of an opposite tendency, rendered them at once curious and credulous. This slight sketch of the Fife lairds may be applied, with equal justice, to the Jacobite country gentlemen of that period in most counties of Scotland. They had virtues to balance their faults and follies. The political principles they followed had been handed down to them from their fathers; they were connected, in their ideas, with the honour of their country; and they were prepared to defend them with a degree of zeal, which valued not the personal risks in which the doing so might place life and property. There were also individuals among them who had natural talents improved by education. But, in general, the persons whom the Earl of Mar was now desirous to stir up to some sudden act of mutiny, were of that frank and fearless class who are not guilty of seeing far before them. They had already partaken in the general excitation caused by Queen Anne’s death, and the approaching crisis which was expected to follow that important event. They had struggled with the Whig gentry, inferior in number, but generally more alert and sagacious in counsel and action, concerning the addresses of head-courts and the seats on the bench of justices. Many of them had commissioned swords, carabines, and pistols, from abroad. They had bought up horses fit for military service; and some had taken into their service additional domestics, selecting in preference men who had served in some of the dragoon regiments, which had been reduced in consequence of the peace of Utrecht. Still, notwithstanding these preparations for a rising, some of the leading men in Fife, as elsewhere, were disposed to hesitate before engaging in the irretrievable step of rebellion against the established government. Their reluctance was overcome by the impatience of the majority, excited by the flattering though premature rumours which were actively circulated by a set of men, who might be termed the Intelligencers of the faction.
It is well known, that in every great political body there are persons, usually neither the wisest, the most important, or most estimable, who endeavour to gain personal consequence by pretending peculiar access to information concerning its most intimate concerns, and who are equally credulous in believing, and indefatigable in communicating, whatever rumours are afloat concerning the affairs of the party, whom they encumber by adhering to. With several of these Lord Mar communicated, and exalted their hopes to the highest pitch, by the advantageous light in which he placed the political matters which he wished them to support, trusting to the exaggerations and amplifications with which they were sure to retail what he had said. Such agents, changing what had been stated as probabilities into certainties, furnished an answer to every objection which could be offered by the more prudent of their party. If any cautious person objected to stir before the English Jacobites had shown themselves serious-some one of these active vouchers was ready to affirm, that every thing was on the point of a general rising in England, and only waited the appearance of a French fleet with ten thousand men, headed by the Duke of Ormond. Did the listener prefer an invasion of Scotland,-the same number of men, with the Duke of Berwick at their head, were as readily promised. Supplies of every kind were measured out, according to the desire of the auditors; and if any was moderate enough to restrain his wish to a pair of pistols for his own use, he was assured of twenty brace to accommodate his friends and neighbours. This kind of mutual delusion was every day increasing; for as those who engaged in the conspiracy were interested in obtaining as many proselytes as possible, they became active circulators of the sanguine hopes and expectations by which they, perhaps, began already to suspect that they had been themselves deceived. It is true, that looking abroad at the condition of Europe, these unfortunate gentlemen ought to have seen, that the state of France at that time was far from being such, as to authorize any expectations of the prodigal supplies which she was represented as being ready to furnish, or, rather, as being in the act of furnishing. Nothing was less likely, than that that kingdom, just extricated from a war in which it had been nearly ruined, by a peace so much more advantageous than they had reason to expect, should have been disposed to afford a pretext for breaking the treaty which had pacified Europe, and for renewing against France the confederacy under whose pressure she had nearly sunk. This was more especially the case, when, by the death of Louis XIV.,(1st August,1715) whose ambition and senseless vanity had cost so much blood, the government devolved on the Regent Duke of Orleans. Had Louis survived, it is probable that, although he neither did nor dared to have publicly adopted the cause of the Chevalier de St George, as was indeed evident by his refusing to receive him at his court; yet, the recollection of his promise to the dying James IL, as well as the wish to embarrass England, might have induced him to advance money, or give some underhand assistance to the unhappy exile. But, upon Louis’s death, the policy of the Duke of Orleans, who had no personal ties whatever with the Chevalier de St George, induced him to keep entire good faith with Britain-to comply with the requisitions of the Earl of Stair-and to put a stop to all such preparations in the French ports, as the vigilance of that minister had detected, and denounced as being made for the purpose of favouring the Jacobite insurrection. Thus, while the Chevalier de St George was represented as obtaining succours in arms, money, and troops, from France, to an amount which that kingdom could hardly have supplied, and from her inferiority in naval force, certainly must have found it difficult to have transported into Britain, even in Louis’s most palmy days, the ports of that country were even closed against such exertions as the Chevalier might make upon a small scale by means of his private resources.
But the death of Louis XIV. was represented in Scotland as rather favourable, than otherwise, to the cause of James the Pretender. The power of France was now wielded, it was said, by a courageous and active, young prince, to whose character enterprise was more natural than to that of an aged and heart-broken old man, and who would, of course, be ready to hazard as much, or more, in the cause of the Jacobites, than the late monarch had so often promised. In short, the death of Louis the Great, long the hope and prop of the Jacobite cause, was boldly represented as a favourable event during the present crisis.
Although a little dispassionate enquiry would have dispelled the fantastic hopes, founded on the baseless rumour of foreign assistance, yet such fictions as I have here alluded to, tending to exalt the zeal and spirits of the party, were circulated because they were believed, and believed because they were circulated; and the gentlemen of Stirlingshire, Perth, Angus, and Fifeshire, began to leave their homes, and assemble in arms, though in small parties, at the foot of the Grampian hills, expecting the issue of Lord Mar’s negotiations in the Highlands.
Upon leaving Fifeshire, having communicated with such gentlemen as were most likely to serve his purpose, Mar proceeded instantly to his own estates of Braemar, lying along the side of the river Dee, and took up his residence with Farquharson of Invercauld. This gentleman was chief of the clan Farquharson, and could command a very considerable body of men. But he was vassal to Lord Mar for a small part of his estate, which gave the Earl considerable influence with him; not, however, sufficient to induce him to place himself and followers in such hazard as would have been occasioned by an instant rising. He went to Aberdeen, to avoid importunity on the subject, having previously declared to Mar, that he would not take arms until the Chevalier de St George had actually landed. At a later period he joined the insurgents. Disappointed in this instance, Mar conceived, that as desperate resolutions are usually most readily adopted in large assemblies, where men are hurried forward by example, and prevented from retreating, or dissenting, by shame, he should best attain his purpose in a large convocation of the chiefs and men of rank, who professed attachment to the exiled family. The assembly was made under pretext of a grand hunting match, which, as maintained in the Highlands, was an occasion of general rendezvous of a peculiar nature. The lords attended at the head of their vassals, all, even Lowland guests, attired in the Highland garb, and the sport was carried on upon a scale of rude magnificence. A circuit of many miles was formed around the wild desolate forests and wildernesses, which are inhabited by the red deer, and is called the tinchel. Upon a signal given, the hunters who compose the tinchel begin to move inwards, closing the circle, and driving the terrified deer before them, with whatever else the forest contains of wild animals who cannot elude the surrounding sportsmen. Being in this manner concentrated and crowded together, they are driven down a defile, where the principal hunters lie in wait for them, and show their dexterity by marking out and shooting those bucks which are in season. As it required many men to form the tinchel, the attendance of vassals on these occasions was strictly insisted upon. Indeed, it was one of the feudal services required by the law, attendance on the superior at hunting being as regularly required as at hosting, that is, joining his banner in war; or watching and warding, garrisoning, namely, his castle in times of danger.
An occasion such as this was highly favourable; and the general love of sport, and well-known fame of the forest of Braemar for game of every kind, assembled many of the men of rank and influence who resided within reach of the rendezvous, and a great number of persons besides, who, though of less consequence, served to give the meeting the appearance of numbers. This great council was held about the 26th of August, and it may be supposed, they did not amuse themselves much with hunting, though it was the pretence and watchword of their meeting.
Among the noblemen of distinction, there appeared in person, or by representation, the Marquis of Huntly, eldest son of the Duke of Gordon, the Marquis of Tulliebardine, eldest son of the Duke of Athole; the Earls of Nithsdale, Marischal, Traquair, Errol, Southesk, Carnwath, Seaforth and Linlithgow; the Viscounts of Kilsythe, Kenmuir, Kingston, and Stormount; the Lords Rollo, Duffus, Drummond, Strathallan, Ogilvy, and Nairne. Of the chiefs of clans, there attended Glengarry, Camp bell of Glendarule, on the part of the powerful Earl of Breadalbane, with others of various degrees of importance in the Highlands. When this council was assembled, the Earl of Mar addressed them in a species of eloquence which was his principal accomplishment, and which was particularly qualified to succeed with the high-spirited and zealous men by whom he was surrounded. He confessed, with tears in his eyes, that he had himself been but too instrumental in forwarding the Union between England and Scotland, which had given the English the power, as they had the disposition, to enslave the latter kingdom. He urged that the Prince of Hanover was an usurping intruder, governing by means of an encroaching and innovating faction; and that the only mode to escape his tyranny was to rise boldly in defence of their lives and property, and to establish on the throne the lawful heir of these realms. He declared that he himself was determined to set up the standard of James III., and summon around it all those over whom he had influence, and to hazard his fortune and life in the cause. He invited all who heard him to unite in the same generous resolution. He was large in his promises of assistance from France in troops and money, and persisted in the story that two descents were to take place, one in England, under the command of Ormond, the other in Scotland, under that of the Duke of Berwick. He also strongly assured his hearers of the certainty of a general insurrection in England, but alleged the absolute necessity of showing them an example in the north, for which the present time was most appropriate, as there were few regular troops in Scotland to restrain their operations, and as they might look for assistance to Sweden as well as to France.
It has been said that Mar, on this memorable occasion, showed letters from the Chevalier de St George, with a commission nominating the Earl his lieutenant-general and commander-inchief of his armies in Scotland. Other accounts say, more probably, that Mar did not produce any other credentials than a picture of the Chevalier, which he repeatedly kissed, in testimony of zeal for the cause of the original, and that he did not at the time pretend to the supreme command of the enterprise. This is also the account given in the statement of the transaction drawn up by Mar himself, or under his eye, where it is plainly said, that it was nearly a month after the standard was set up ere the Earl of Mar could procure a commission. The number of persons of rank who were assembled, the eloquence with which topics were publicly urged which had been long the secret inmates of every bosom, had their effect on the assembled guests; and every one felt, that to oppose the current of the Earl’s discourse by remonstrance or objection, would be to expose himself to the charge of cowardice, or of disaffection to the common cause. It was agreed that all of them should return home, and raise, under various pretexts, whatever forces they could individually command against a day, fixed for the 3d of September, on which they were to hold a second meeting at Aboyne, in Aberdeenshire, in order to settle how they were to take the field. The Marquis of Huntly alone declined to be bound to any limited time; and in consequence of his high rank and importance, he was allowed to regulate his own motions at his own pleasure.
Thus ended that celebrated hunting in Braemar, which, as the old bard says of that of Chevy Chace, might, from its consequences, be wept by a generation which was yet unborn.1 There was a circumstance mentioned at the time, which tended to show that all men had not forgotten that the Earl of Mar, on whose warrant this rash enterprise was undertaken, was considered by some as rather too versatile to be fully trusted. As the castle of Braemar was overflowing with guests, it chanced that, as was not unusual on such occasions, many of the gentlemen of the secondary class could not obtain beds, but were obliged to spend the night around the kitchen fire, which was then accounted no great grievance. An English footman, a domestic of the Earl, was of a very different opinion. Accustomed to the accommodations of the south, he came bustling in among the gentlemen, and complained bitterly of being obliged to sit up all night, notwithstanding he shared the hardship with his betters, saying, that rather than again expose himself to such a strait, he would return to his own country and turn Whig. However, he soon after comforted himself by resolving to trust to his master’s dexterity for escaping every great danger. “ Let my lord alone,” he said; “ if he finds it necessary, he can turn cat-inpan with any man in England.”
While the Lowland gentlemen were assembling their squadrons, and the Highland chief’s levying their men, an incident took place in the metropolis of Scotland, which showed that the spirit of enterprise which animated the Jacobites, had extended to the capital itself.
James Lord Drummond, son of that unfortunate Earl of Perth, who, having served James VII. as Chancellor of Scotland, had shared the exile of his still more unfortunate master, and been rewarded with the barren title of Duke of Perth, was at present in Edinburgh; and by means of one Mr Arthur, who had been formerly an ensign in the Scots Guards, and quartered in the Castle, had formed a plan of surprising that inaccessible fortress, which resembled an exploit of Thomas Randolph, or the Black Lord James of Douglas, rather than a feat of modern war. This Ensign Arthur found means of seducing, by money and promises, a sergeant named Ainslie, and two privates, who engaged, that, when it was their duty to watch on the walls which rise from the precipice looking northward, near the Sally-port, they would be prepared to pull up from the bottom certain rope-ladders prepared for the purpose, and furnished with iron grapplings to make them fast to the battlements. By means of these, it was concluded that a select party of Jacobites might easily scale the walls, and make themselves masters of the place. By a beacon placed on a particular part of the Castle, three rounds of artillery, and a succession of fires made from hill to hill through Fife and Angus shires, the signal of success was to be communicated to the Earl of Mar, who was to hasten forward with such forces as he had collected, and take possession of the capital city and chief strength of Scotland. There was no difficulty in finding agents in this perilous and important enterprise. Fifty Highlanders, picked men, were summoned up from Lord Drummond’s estates in Perthshire, and fifty more were selected among the Jacobites of the metropolis. These last were disbanded officers, writers’ clerks and apprentices, and other youths of a class considerably above the mere vulgar. Drummond, otherwise called MacGregor, of Bahaldie, a Highland gentleman of great courage, was named to command the enterprise. If successful, this achievement must have given the Earl of Mar and his forces the command of the greater part of Scotland, and afforded them a safe and ready means of communication with the English malecontents, the want of which was afterwards so severely felt. He would also have obtained a large supply of money, arms, and ammunition deposited in the fortress, all of which were most needful for his enterprise. And the apathy of Lieutenant–Colonel Stewart, then deputy-governor of the castle, was so great that, in spite of numerous blunders on the part of the conspirators, and an absolute revelation on the subject made to Government, the surprise had very nearly taken place.
The younger conspirators who were to go on this forlorn hope, had not discretion in proportion to their courage. Eighteen of them, on the night appointed, were engaged drinking in a tippling house, and were so careless in their communications, that the hostess was able to tell some person who enquired what the meeting was about, that it consisted of young gentlemen who were in the act of having their hair powdered, in order to go to the attack of the castle. At last the full secret was intrusted to a woman. Arthur, their guide, had communicated the plot to his brother, a medical man, and engaged him in the enterprise. But when the time for executing it drew nigh, the doctor’s extreme melancholy was observed by his wife, who, like a second Belvidera or Portia, suffered him not to rest until she extorted the secret from him, which she communicated in an anonymous letter to Sir Adam Cockburn of Ormiston, then Lord Justice–Clerk, who instantly despatched the intelligence to the castle. The news arrived so critically, that it was with difficulty the messenger obtained entrance to the castle; and even then the deputy-governor, disbelieving the intelligence, or secretly well affected to the cause of the Pretender, contented himself with directing the rounds and patrols to be made with peculiar care, and retired to rest.
In the mean time, the Jacobite storming party had rendezvoused at the church yard of the West Kirk,(8th Sept.) and proceeded to post themselves beneath the castle wall. They had a part of their rope ladders in readiness, but the artificer, one Charles Forbes, a merchant in Edinburgh, who ought to have been there with the remainder, which had been made under his direction, was no where to be seen. Nothing could be done during his absence; but, actuated by their impatience, the party scrambled up the rock, and stationed themselves beneath the wall, at the point where their accomplice kept sentry. Here they found him ready to perform his stipulated part of the bargain, by pulling up the ladder of ropes which was designed to give them admittance. He exhorted them, however, to be speedy, telling them he was to be relieved by the patrol at twelve o’clock, and if the affair were not completed before that hour, that he could give no further assistance. The time was fast flying, when Bahaldie, the commander of the storming party, persuaded the sentinel to pull up the grapnel, and make it fast to the battlements, that it might appear whether or not they had length of ladder sufficient to make the attempt. But it proved as indeed they had expected, more than a fathom too short. At half past eleven o’clock, the steps of the patrol, who had been sent their rounds earlier than usual, owing to the message of the Lord Justice–Clerk, were heard approaching, on which the sentinel exclaimed, with an oath, “ Here come the rounds I have been telling you of this half hour; you have ruined both yourself and me; I can serve you no longer.” With that he threw down the grappling-iron and ladders, and in the hope of covering his own guilt, fired his musket, and cried “ Enemy!” Every man was then compelled to shift for himself, the patrol firing on them from the wall. Twelve soldiers of the burgher guard, who had been directed by the Lord Justice–Clerk to make the round of the castle on the outside, took prisoners three youths, who insisted that they were found there by mere accident, and an old man, Captain MacLean, an officer of James VII., who was much bruised by a fall from the rocks. The rest of the party escaped alongst the north bank of the North Loch, through the fields called Barefoord’s Parks, on which the New Town of Edinburgh now stands. In their retreat they met their tardy engineer, Charles Forbes, loaded with the ladders which were so much wanted a quarter of an hour before. Had it not been for his want of punctuality, the information and precautions of the Lord Justice–Clerk would have been insufficient for the safety of the place. It does not appear that any of the conspirators were punished, nor would it have been easy to obtain proof of their guilt. The treacherous sergeant was hanged by sentence of a court-martial, and the deputy-governor (whose name of Stewart might perhaps aggravate the suspicion that attached to him) was deprived of his office, and imprisoned for some time.
It needed not this open attack on the castle of Edinburgh, or the general news of Lord Mar’s Highland armament, and the rising of the disaffected gentlemen in arms throughout most of the counties of Scotland, to call the attention of King George’s Government to the disturbed state of that part of his dominions. Measures for defence were hastily adopted. The small number of regular troops who were then in Scotland were concentrated, for the purpose of forming a camp at Stirling, in order to prevent the rebels from seizing the bridge over the Forth, and thereby forcing their way into the Low country.
But four regiments, on the peace establishment, only mustered two hundred and fifty-seven men each; four regiments of dragoons were considerably under two hundred to a regiment-a total of only fifteen hundred men at the utmost.
To increase these slender forces, two regiments of dragoons, belonging to the Earl of Stair, with two regiments of foot quartered in the north of England, were ordered to join the camp at Stirling with all possible despatch. The foot regiments of Clayton and Wightman, with the dragoons of Evans, were recalled from Ireland. The six thousand auxiliary forces with whom the Dutch had engaged, in case of need, to guarantee the succession of the House of Hanover, were required of the States, who accordingly ordered the Scotch regiments in their service to march for the coast, but excused themselves from actually embarking them, in consequence of the French ambassador having disowned, in the strongest manner, any intent on the part of his court to aid the factions in England by sending over the Pretender to Britain, or to assist those who were in arms in his behalf. The Dutch alleged this as a sufficient reason for suspending the shipment of these auxiliaries.
Besides these military measures, the Ministers of George I. were not remiss in taking such others as might check the prime cause of rebellions in Scotland, namely, that feudal influence possessed by the aristocracy over their vassals, tenants, and dependents, by which the great men, when disgraced or disappointed, had the power of calling to arms, at their pleasure, a number of individuals, who, however unwilling they might be to rise against the Government, durst not, and could not, without great loss and risk of oppression, oppose themselves to their superior’s pleasure. On the 30th of August, therefore, an act was passed for the purpose of encouraging loyalty in Scotland, a plant which of late years had not been found to agree with the climate of that cold and northern country, or at least, where found to luxuriate, it was of a nature different from that known by the same name at Westminster. This statute, commonly called the Clan Act, enacted, 1. That if a feudal superior went into rebellion, and became liable to the pains of high treason, all such vassals holding lands under him, as should continue in their allegiance, should in future hold these lands of the Crown. 2. If a tenant should have remained at the King’s peace while his landlord had been engaged in rebellion, and convicted of treason, the space of two years gratuitous possession should be added to that tenant’s lease. 3. If the superior should remain loyal and peaceful while the vassal should engage in rebellion, and incur conviction of high treason, then the fief, or lands held by such vassal, shall revert to the superior as if they had never been separated from his estate. 4. Another clause declared void such settlements of estates and deeds of entail as might be made on the 1st day of August, 1714, or at any time thereafter, declaring that they should be no bar to the forfeiture of the estates for high treason, seeing that such settlements had been frequently resorted to for the sole purpose of evading the punishment of the law. This remarkable act was the first considerable step towards unloosing the feudal fetters, by which the command of the superior became in some measure the law of the vassal. The clause concerning settlements and entails was also important, and rendered nugatory the attempts which had been frequently made to evade the punishment of forfeiture, by settlements made previous to the time when those who granted the deeds engaged in rebellion. Such deeds as were executed for onerous, causes, that is, for value of some kind received, were justly excepted from the operation of this law.
There was, moreover, another clause, empowering the crown to call upon any suspected person or persons in Scotland to appear at, Edinburgh, or where it should be judged expedient, for the purpose of finding bail, with certification that their failure to appear should subject them to be put to the horn as rebels, and that they should incur the forfeiture of the liferent escheat. Immediately afterwards, summonses were issued to all the noblemen and gentlemen either actually in arms, or suspected of favouring the Jacobite interest, from the Earl of Mar and his compeers, down to Rob Roy MacGregor, the celebrated outlaw. The list amounted to about fifty men of note, of which only two, Sir Patrick Murray, and Sir Alexander Erskine, thought proper to surrender themselves. Besides these general measures, military resistance to the expected rebellion was prepared in a great many places, and particularly in borough-towns and seaports. It is here to be remarked, that a great change had taken place among the bulk of the people of Scotland, from the ill-humour into which they had been put by the conclusion of the Union treaty. At that time, such were the effects of mortified pride, popular apprehension, and national antipathy, that the populace in every town and country would have arisen to place the Pretender on the throne, notwithstanding his professing the Catholic religion, and being the grandson of James VII., of whose persecutions, as well as those in the time of his predecessor, Charles II., the Presbyterians of the west nourished such horrible recollections. Accordingly, we have seen that it was only by bribing their chiefs, and deceiving them by means of adroit spies, that the Cameronians, the most zealous of Presbyterians, who disowned the authority of all magistrates who had not taken the Solemn League and Covenant, were prevented from taking arms to dissolve the Union Parliament, and to declare for the cause of James III. But it happened with the Union, as with other political measures, against which strong prejudices have been excited during their progress: the complication of predicted evils were so far from being realized, that the opponents of the treaty began to be ashamed of having entertained such apprehensions. None of the violent changes which had been foretold, none of the universal disgrace and desolation which had been anticipated in consequence, had arisen from that great measure. The enforcing of the Malt Tax was the roost unpopular, and that impost had been for the time politically suspended. The shopkeepers of Edinburgh, who had supplied the peers of Scotland with luxuries, had found other customers, now that the aristocracy were resident in London, or they had turned their stock into other lines of commerce. The ideal consequence of a legislature of their own holding its sittings in the metropolis of Scotland, was forgotten when it became no longer visible, and the abolition of the Scottish Privy Council might, on calm reflection, be considered as a national benefit rather than a privation. In short, the general resentment excited by the treaty of Union, once keen enough to suspend all other motives, was a paroxysm too violent to last — men recovered from it by slow degrees, and though it was still predominant in the minds of some classes, yet the opinions of the lower orders in general had in a great measure returned to their usual channel, and men entertained in the south and west, as well as in many of the boroughs, their usual wholesome horror for the Devil, the Pope, and the Pretender, which, for a certain time, had been overpowered and lost in their apprehensions for the independence of Scotland. In 1715, also, the merchants and better class of citizens, who began to entertain some distant views of enriching themselves by engaging in the commerce of the plantations, and other lucrative branches of trade, opened up by the Union, were no longer disposed to see any thing tempting in the proposal of Mar and his insurgents, to destroy the treaty by force; and were, together with the lower classes, much better disposed to listen to the expostulations of the Presbyterian clergy, who sensible of what they had to expect from a counter-revolution, exerted their influence, generally speaking, with great effect, in support of the present Government of King George. The fruits of this change in the temper and feelings of the middling and lower classes, were soon evident in the metropolis and throughout Scotland.
In Edinburgh, men of wealth and substance subscribed a bond of association, in order to raise subscriptions for purchasing arms and maintaining troops; and a body of the subscribers themselves formed a regiment, under the name of the Associate Volunteers of Edinburgh. They were four hundred strong. Glasgow, with a prescient consciousness of the commercial eminence which she was to attain by means of the treaty of Union, contributed liberally in money to defend the cause of King George, and raised a good regiment of volunteers. The western counties of Renfrew and Ayrshire offered four thousand men, and the Earl of Glasgow a regiment of a thousand at his own charge. Along the Border, the Whig party were no less active. Dumfries distinguished itself, by raising among the inhabitants seven volunteer companies of sixty men each. This was the more necessary, as an attack was apprehended from the many Catholics and disaffected gentlemen who resided in the neighbourhood. The eastern part of Teviotdale supplied the Duke of Roxburgh, Sir William Bonnet of Grubet, and Sir John Pringle of Stitchel, with as many men as they could find arms for, being about four companies. The upper part of the county, and the neighbouring shire of Selkirk, were less willing to take arms. The hatred of the Union still prevailed amongst them more than elsewhere, inflamed, probably, by the very circumstance of their vicinity to England, and the recollection of the long wars betwixt the kingdoms. The Cameronian preachers, also, had possessed many speculative shepherds with their whimsical and chimerical doubts concerning the right of uncovenanted magistrates to exercise any authority, even in the most urgent case of national emergency. This doctrine was as rational as if the same scrupulous persons had discovered that it was unlawful to use the assistance of firemen during a conflagration, because they had not taken the Solemn League and Covenant. These scruples were not universal, and assumed as many different hues and shades as there were popular preachers to urge them; they tended greatly to retard and embarrass the exertions of Government to prepare for defence in these districts. Even the popularity of the Reverend Thomas Boston, an eminent divine of the period, could not raise a man for the service of Government out of his parish of Ettrick.
Notwithstanding, however, partial exceptions, the common people of Scotland, who were not overawed by Jacobite landlords, remained generally faithful to the Protestant line of succession, and showed readiness to arm in its behalf. Having thus described the preparations for war, on both sides, we will, in the next Chapter, relate the commencement of the campaign.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:54