Tales of a Grandfather, by Walter Scott

Chapter 87

BEFORE giving a farther account of the effect produced on Scotland and its inhabitants by the Disarming Act, the Jurisdiction Act, and other alterations adopted into the law of Scotland, in consequence of the insurrection of 1745, we may take some notice of the melancholy conclusion of Charles Edward’s career, which had commenced with so much brilliancy. There are many persons like this unfortunate Prince, who, having failed in an effort boldly made and prosecuted with vigour, seem afterwards to have been dogged by misfortune, and deprived, by the premature decay of the faculties they once exhibited, of the power of keeping up the reputation gained at the beginning of their career.

On his first arrival in France, with all the eclat of his victories and his sufferings, the Chevalier was very favourably received at Court, and obtained considerable advantages for some of his followers. Lochiel and Lord Ogilvie were made lieutenant-colonels in the French service, with means of appointing to commissions some of the most distinguished of the exiles who had participated in their fate. The Court of France also granted 40,000 livres a-year for the support of such Scottish fugitives as were not provided for in their military service.

This allowance, however liberal on the part of France, was totally insufficient for the maintenance of so many persons, accustomed not only to the necessaries but comforts of life; and it is not to be wondered at, that many, reduced to exile and indigence in his cause, murmured, though perhaps with injustice, against the Prince, whose power of alleviating their distresses they might conclude to be greater than it really was.

An incident which followed, evinced the same intractability of temper which seems to have characterised this young man in his attempt to regain the throne of his ancestors. When the French Government, in the winter of 1748, were disposed to accede to a peace with England, it was an indispensable stipulation, that the young Pretender, as he was styled, should not be permitted to reside within the French territories. The King and ministers of France felt the necessity of acceding to this condition if they would obtain peace; but they were desirous to do so with all the attention possible to the interest and feelings of Charles Edward. With this purpose, they suggested to him that he should retreat to Friburg, in Switzerland, where they proposed to assure him an asylum, with a company of guards, a large pension, and the nominal rank and title of Prince of Wales. It is not easy to say with what possible views Charles rejected these offers, or from what motive, saving the impulse of momentary spleen, he positively refused to leave France. He was in a kingdom, however, where little ceremony was then used upon such occasions. One evening as he went to the opera, he was seized by a party of the French guards, bound hand and foot, and conveyed first to the state prison of Vincennes, and from thence to the town of Avignon, which belonged to the Pope, where he was set at liberty, never to enter France again.

To this unnecessary disgrace Charles appears to have subjected himself from feelings of obstinacy alone; and of course a line of conduct so irrational was little qualified to recommend him as a pleasant guest to other states.

He went first to Venice with a single attendant; but upon a warning from the Senate, he returned to Flanders.

Here, about the year 1751, he admitted into his family a female, called Miss Walkinshaw. The person whom he thus received into his intimacy had connexions, of which his friends and adherents in Britain were extremely jealous. It was said that her sister was a housekeeper at Leicester House, then inhabited by the Prince of Wales; and such was the general suspicion of her betraying her lover, that the persons of distinction in England who continued to adhere to the Jacobite interest, sent a special deputy, called Macnamara, to request, in the name of the whole party, that this lady might be removed from the Chevalier’s residence, and sent into a convent, at least for a season. The Prince decidedly put a negative upon this proposal —

“Not,” he said, “that he entertained any particular affection or even regard for Miss Walkinshaw, but because he would not be dictated to by his subjects in matters respecting his own habits or family.” When Macnamara was finally repulsed, he took his leave with concern and indignation, saying, as he retired — “By what crime, sir, can your family have drawn down the vengeance of Heaven, since it has visited every branch of them through so many ages?”

This haughty reply to a request, reasonable and respectful in itself, was the signal for almost all the Jacobite party in England to break up and dissolve itself; they were probably by this time only watching for an opportunity of deserting with honour a cause which was become hopeless.

Before this general defection, some intrigues had been set on foot in behalf of Charles, but always without much consideration, and by persons of incompetent judgment. Thus the Duchess of Buckingham, a woman of an ambitious but flighty disposition, took it upon her at one time to figure as a patroness of the House of Stewart, and made several journeys from England to Paris and also to Rome, with the affectation of making herself the heroine of a Jacobite revolution. This intrigue, it is needless to say, could have no serious object or termination.

In 1750, the Jacobite intrigues continued to go on, and the Prince himself visited London in that year. Dr King, then at the head of the Church of England Jacobites, received him in his house. He assures us, that the scheme which Charles had formed was impracticable, and that he was soon prevailed upon to return to the continent. Dr King at this time draws a harsh picture of the unfortunate Prince; he represents him as cold, interested, and avaricious, which is one frequent indication of a selfish character. This author’s evidence, however, must be taken with some modification, since the Doctor wrote his anecdotes at a time when, after having long professed to be at the head of the nonjuring party, he had finally withdrawn from it, joined the Government, and paid his duty at court. He is therefore not likely to have formed an impartial judgment, or to have drawn a faithful picture, of the Prince whose cause he had deserted. In 1752, the embers of Jacobitism threw out one or two sparks. Patrick, Lord Elibank, conducted at this time what remained of a Jacobite interest in Scotland; he was a man of great wit, shrewdness, and sagacity; but like others who are conscious of great talent, often both in his conduct and conversation chose the most disadvantageous side of the question, in order to make a more marked display of his abilities.

The Honourable Alexander Murray, one of Lord Elibank’s brothers, a very daring man, had devised a desperate scheme for seizing upon the Palace of St James’s and the person of the King, by means of sixty determined men. There was a second branch of the conspiracy which should have exploded in Scotland, where there were no longer either men or means to accomplish an insurrection. MacDonell of Lochgarry, and Dr Archibald Cameron, brother to Lochiel, were the agents employed in this northern part of the plot. The latter fell into the hands of the Government, being taken upon the banks of Loch Katrine, and sent prisoner to London. Dr Cameron was brought to trial upon the Bill of Attainder, passed against him on account of his concern in the Rebellion 1745, and upon that charge he was arraigned, condemned, and put to death at Tyburn, June 1753. His execution for this old offence, after the date of hostilities had been so long past, threw much reproach upon the Government, and even upon the personal character of George the Second, as sullen, relentless, and unforgiving. These aspersions were the more credited, that Dr Cameron was a man of a mild and gentle disposition, had taken no military share in the Rebellion, and had uniformly exercised his skill as a medical man in behalf of the wounded of both armies. Yet since, as is now well known, he returned to Scotland with the purpose of again awakening the names of rebellion, it must be owned, that whatever his private character might be, he only encountered the fate which his enterprise merited and justified.

The Honourable Alexander Murray ventured to London about the same period, where a proclamation was speedily issued for his arrest. Having discovered that the persons on whose assistance he had relied for the execution of his scheme had lost courage, he renounced the enterprise. Other wild or inefficient intrigues were carried on in behalf of Charles down to about 1760; but they have all the character of being formed by mere projectors, desirous of obtaining money from the exiled Prince, without any reasonable prospect, perhaps without any serious purpose, of rendering him effectual service.

A few years later than the period last mentioned, a person seems to have been desirous to obtain Charles’s commission to form some interest for him among the North American colonists, who had then commenced their quarrels with the mother country. It was proposed by the adventurer alluded to, to make a party for the Prince among the insurgents in a country which contained many Highlanders. But that scheme also was entirely without solid foundation, for the Scottish colonists in general joined the party of King George. Amidst these vain intrigues, excited by new hopes, which were always succeeded by fresh disappointment, Charles, who had supported so much real distress and fatigue with fortitude and firmness, gave way both in mind and body. His domestic uneasiness was increased by an unhappy union with Louisa of Stohlberg, a German princess, which produced happiness to neither party, and some discredit to both. Latterly, after long retaining the title of Prince of Wales, he laid it aside, because, after his father’s death in 1766, the courts of Europe would not recognise him as King of Great Britain. He afterwards lived incognito, under the title of Count D’Albany. Finally, he died at Rome upon the 31st of January, 1788, in his 68th year, and was royally interred in the cathedral church of Frescati, of which his brother was bishop.

The merits of this unhappy Prince appear to have consisted in a degree of dauntless resolution and enterprise, bordering upon temerity; the power of supporting fatigues and misfortunes, and extremity of every kind, with firmness and magnanimity; and a natural courtesy of manner highly gratifying to his followers, which he could exchange for reserve at his pleasure. Nor, when his campaign in Scotland is considered, can he be denied respectable talents in military affairs. Some of his partisans of higher rank conceived he evinced less gratitude for their services than he ought to have rendered them; but by far the greater part of those who approached his person were unable to mention him without tears of sorrow, to which your Grandfather has been frequently a witness. His faults or errors arose from a course of tuition totally unfit for the situation to which he conceived himself born. His education, intrusted to narrow-minded priests and soldiers of fortune, had been singularly limited and imperfect; so that, instead of being taught to disown or greatly modify the tenets which had made his fathers exiles from their throne and country, he was instructed to cling to those errors as sacred maxims, to which he was bound in honour and conscience to adhere. He left a natural daughter, called Countess of Albany, who died only a few years since. The last direct male heir of the line of Stewart, on the death of Charles, was his younger brother, Henry Benedict, whom the Pope had created a cardinal. This Prince took no other step for asserting his claim to the British kingdoms, than by striking a beautiful medal, in which he is represented in his cardinal’s robes, with the crown, sceptre, and regalia, in the background, bearing the motto, Voluntate dei non desiderio populi, implying a tacit relinquishment of the claims to which, by birth, he might have pretended. He was a Prince of a mild and beneficent character, and generally beloved. After the innovations of the French Revolution had destroyed, or greatly diminished, the revenues he derived from the church, he subsisted, singular to tell, on an annuity of L.4000 a-year assigned to him by the generosity of the late King George the Third, and continued by that of his royal successor. In requital of their bounty, and as if acknowledging the House of Hanover to be the legitimate successors of his claims to the crown of Britain, this, the last of the Stewarts, bequeathed to his present Majesty all the crown jewels, some of them of great value, which King James the Second had carried along with him on his retreat to the Continent in 1688, together with a mass of papers, tending to throw much light on British history. He died at Rome, June 1807, in the 83d year of his age. Having now finished my account of the House of Stewart, extinguished in the person of its last direct male heir, I return to notice the general effects produced in Scotland, by the laws adopted for the abolition of the hereditary jurisdictions, and prohibition of the Highland dress and arms. On the first point, no dissatisfaction was expressed, and little was probably felt, excepting by a few landed proprietors, who might conceive their dignity diminished by their power over their tenants being abridged and limited. But it was different with the Disarming Act, which was resented by the Highlanders as a deadly insult, and which seemed for a considerable time rather to increase than allay the discontent, which it was the desire of the Government to appease.

Indeed, when the state of the Highlands is considered, we cannot be surprised, that for the space of ten years at least, it should have been wilder than it was before the insurrection. The country was filled with desperate men, whom their education to the use of arms, as well as the recent scenes of civil war, had familiarized to rapine and violence, and the check, such as it was, which the authority of the chiefs extended over malefactors, was entirely dissolved by the downfall of their power. Accordingly, the criminal records of that period are full of atrocities of various kinds, perpetrated in the Highlands, which give a strange idea of the disorderly state of the country. Tradition also delights to enumerate, among the sons of vulgar rapine, the names of Sergeant Mor Cameron and others, depredators of milder mood, and whose fame might rank with that of Robin Hood and his merry archers, as friends and benefactors to the poor, though plunderers of the rich. The sword of justice was employed in weeding them out; and if frequent examples of punishment did not correct the old depredators, it warned the young from following their footsteps. But the race of Forty-five men, as they were called, who supplied this generation of heroes, became in time old, and accustomed to peaceful habits. Government also had, by the Act of Attainder, which forfeited the lands of those engaged in the rebellion, acquired very large estates in the Highlands, which had previously belonged to. the Jacobite chiefs. More wise than their predecessors in 1715, instead of bringing this property to sale, they retained it under the management of a Board of Commissioners, by whom, after the necessary expenses were defrayed, the surplus revenue was applied to the improvement of Scottish arts and manufactures, and especially to the amelioration of the Highlands. The example of agriculture and successful industry, which was set on foot under the patronage of these commissioners, was imitated by those Highlanders, who, excluded from the rough trade of arms, began to turn a late and unwilling eye to such pursuits. The character of the natives, as well as the face of the country, underwent a gradual change; the ideas of clanship, which long clung to the heart of a Scottish Highlander, gradually gave way under the absence of many chiefs, and the impoverishment of others. The genius of the Earl of Chatham, about the same time also, opened a fresh career to the martial spirit of the Highlanders, by levying regiments for the service of Government in Canada, where they behaved themselves in a distinguished manner; while, in the mean time, the absence of the most inflammable part of a superabundant population greatly diminished the risk of fresh disturbances. Many persons also, who had served in their youth in the campaigns of Prince Charles, now entered this new levy, and drew the sword for the reigning monarch, whose generosity readily opened every rank of military service to his ancient enemies. I will give you one instance among many: The commission of a field officer, in one of these new regiments, being about to be bestowed on a gentleman of Athole, a courtier who had some desire to change the destination of the appointment, told his late Majesty [George III.] of some bold and desperate actions which the candidate for military preferment had performed on the side of Charles Edward, during the insurrection of 1745. “ Has this gentleman really fought so well against me?” said the good-natured and well-judging monarch; “ then, believe me, he will fight as well in my cause.” So the commission kept its original destination.

Such instances of generosity, on the part of the Sovereign, could not hut make proselytes among a warm-hearted people like the Jacobites, with whom George the Third became personally popular at an early period of his reign. With an amiable inconsistency, many of those who had fought against the grandfather would have spent the last drop of their blood for the grandchild, and those who even yet refused to abjure the right of the Pretender, showed themselves ready to lay down their lives for the reigning monarch.

While a good understanding was gradually increasing between the Highlanders and the Government, which they had opposed so long and with so much obstinacy, the management of the forfeited estates in the Highlands was so conducted as to afford the cultivators a happy and easy existence; and though old men might turn back with fondness to the recollection of their younger days, when every Highlander walked the heath with his weapons rattling around him, the preference must, upon the whole, have been given to a period, in which a man’s right needed nothing else to secure it than the equal defence of the law. In process of time, it was conceived by Government that the period of punishment by forfeiture ought, in equity as well as policy, to be brought to a close, and that the descendants of the original insurgents of the year 1745, holding different tenets from their unfortunate ancestors, might be safely restored to the enjoyment of their patrimonial fortunes. By an Act of Grace accordingly, dated 24th George III. chap. 37, the estates forfeited for treason, in the year 1745, were restored to the descendants of those by whom they had been forfeited. A long train of honourable names was thus restored to Scottish history, and a debt of gratitude imposed upon their representatives to the memory of the then reigning monarch. To complete this Act of Grace, the present King [George IV.] has, in addition to the forfeited property returned by his father, restored, in blood, such persons descended of attainted individuals as would have been heirs to Peerages, had it not been for the attainder; — a step well chosen to mark the favour entertained by his Majesty for his Scottish subjects, and his desire to obliterate all recollection that discord had ever existed between his royal house and any of their ancestors.

Another feature of the same lenient and healing measures, was the restoring the complete liberty of wearing the Highland dress, without incurring penalty or prosecution, by 22d George III. chap. 63. This boon was accepted with great apparent joy by the natives of the Highlands; but an effectual change of customs having been introduced during the years in which it was proscribed, and the existing generation having become accustomed to the Lowland dress, the ancient garb is seldom to be seen, excepting when assumed upon festive occasions.

A change of a different kind is very deeply connected with the principles of political economy, but I can here do little more than name it. Clanship, I have said, was abolished, or subsisted only as the shadow of a shade; the generality of Highland proprietors, therefore, were unwilling to support, upon their own estates, in the capacity of poor kindred, a number of men whom they no longer had the means of employing in military service. They were desirous, like a nation in profound peace, to discharge the soldiers for whom they had no longer use, and who, indeed, could no longer legally remain under their authority. The country was, therefore, exposed to all the inconveniences of an over population, while the proprietors were, by the same circumstance, encumbered by the number of persons whom, under the old system, they would have been glad to have enrolled in their clan-following. Another circumstance greatly increased the multitude of Highlanders, whom this new state or things threw out of employment.

The mountainous region of the north of Scotland contained large tracts of moorland, which was anciently employed, chiefly, if not entirely, for the rearing of black cattle. It was, however, found at a later period, that these extensive pastures might, with much better advantage, be engaged in the feeding of sheep; but to this latter mode of employing them, the Highlanders are by nature and education decidedly averse and ill qualified, being as unfit for the cares of a shepherd, as they are eminently well acquainted with those of the rearer of cattle. The consequence was, that as the Highlands began to be opened to inhabitants from the Lowlands, the sheep farmers of the southland mountains made offers of large rents to the proprietors of these store-farms, with which the Highland tenant was unable to enter into competition; and the latter, deprived at once of their lands and their occupation, left the country in numbers, and emigrated to North America and other foreign settlements.

The author can well recollect the indignation with which these agricultural innovations were regarded by the ancient Highlanders. He remembers hearing a chief of the old school say, in sorrow and indignation, the words following: “When I was a young man, the point upon which every Highland gentleman rested his importance, was the number of MEN whom his estate could support; the question next rested on the amount of his stock of BLACK CATTLE; it is now come to respect the number of sheep; and I suppose our posterity will enquire how many rats or mice an estate will produce.”

It must be allowed that, in a general point of view, this change was a necessary consequence of the great alteration in the system of manners, and that therefore it was an inevitable evil. It is no less true, that the humanity of individual proprietors bestowed much trouble and expense in providing means to enable those inhabitants who were necessarily ejected from their ancient pastures and possessions, to obtain new occupation in the fisheries, and other modes of employment, to which their energies might be profitably turned. Upon the great estate of Sutherland in particular, the Marquis of Stafford incurred an outlay of more than L.100, 000 in providing various modes of employment for Highland tenants, who might be unfit to engage in the new system of improved farming, while two years’ free possession of their old farms without rent, in order to furnish funds for their voyage, was allowed to those who might prefer emigration.

But many other Highland proprietors neither possessed the means nor the disposition to await with patience the result of such experiments, and the necessary emigration of their followers was attended with circumstances of great hardship. It is, however, a change which has taken place, and has had its crisis. The modern Highlanders, trained from their youth to the improved mode of agriculture, may be expected to maintain their place in their native country, without experiencing the oppressive rivalry of the south country farmers, which a change of times has done much to put a stop to. The late introduction of steam navigation, by facilitating the communications with the best markets, presents an important stimulus to the encouragement of industry, in a country almost every where indented by creeks and salt water lakes, suitable to the access of steam vessels. We may therefore hope, in terms of the Highland Society’s motto, that a race, always renowned in arms, will henceforward be equally distinguished by industry.

With the Highlands we have now done, nor are their inhabitants now much distinguished from those of the rest of Scotland, except in the use of the Gaelic language, and that they still retain some vestiges of their ancient feelings and manners. Neither has any thing occurred in Scotland at large to furnish matter for the continuation of these narratives. She has, since 1746, regularly felt her share in the elevation or abasement of the rest of the empire. The civil war, a cruelly severe, yet a most effectual remedy, had destroyed the seeds of disunion which existed in the bosom of Scotland; her commerce gradually increased, and, though checked for a time by the American war, revived after the peace of 1780, with a brilliancy of success hitherto unexampled. The useful arts, agriculture, navigation, and all the aids which natural philosophy affords to industry, came in the train of commerce. The shocks which the country has sustained since the peace of 1815, have arisen out of causes general to the imperial kingdoms, and not peculiar to Scotland. It may be added also, that she has not borne more than her own share of the burden, and may look forward with confidence to be relieved from it as early as any of the sister kingdoms.

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