5th of August

St Memmius or Menge, first bishop and apostle of Chalons-sur-Marne, end of 3d century. St Afra and her companions, martyrs, 304. The Dedication of St Mary ad Nives, about 435.

Died. – Xerxes I., king of Persia, murdered by Artabanus 465 B.C.; Louis III. of France, 882 A.D.; John, Earl of Gowrie, slain at Perth, 1600.


It is little known that the 5th of August was once observed as a holiday, exactly in the same manner as the 5th of November, and for a cause of the same nature. On that day, in the year 1600, King James, then ruling Scotland alone, narrowly escaped death at the hands of two conspirators of his own people – the Earl of Gowrie, and his brother Alexander Ruthven. It was a strange confused affair, which the death of the two conspirators prevented from being thoroughly cleared up; and there have not been wanting individuals, both at the time and since, to doubt the reality of the alleged design against the king. It is, however, not difficult for an unprejudiced person to accept the conspiracy as real, and to comprehend even its scope and drift.

The king, on that August morning, was mounting his horse at Falkland, to go out a-hunting – his almost daily practice – when Alexander Ruthven, who was a youth barely twenty, came up and entered into private conversation with him. The young man told a wild-looking story, about a vagrant Highlander who knew of a secret treasure, and who might be conversed with at Gowrie House, in Perth. The king’s curiosity and love of money were excited, and he agreed to go to Perth after the hunt. He then rode from the field in company with Ruthven, followed by some of his courtiers, to one of whom (the Duke of Lennox) he imparted the object in view. It appears that Lennox did not like the expedition, and he told the king so; but the king, nevertheless, proceeded, only asking the duke to have an eye upon Alexander Ruthven, to keep close, and be ready to give assistance, if needful.


The king and his followers, about a dozen in number, came to Gowrie House in time for the early dinner of that age, and, after the meal was concluded, he allowed himself to be conducted by Alexander Ruthven through a series of chambers, the doors of which the young man locked behind him, till they came to a small turret closet, connected with an upper room at the end of the house, where James found, instead of the man with ‘the pose’ he had expected, one completely armed, a servant of the earl. Ruthven now clapped his hat upon his head, and snatching a dagger from the armed man, said to the king: ‘Sir, ye maun be my prisoner! Remember on my father’s deid [death]!’ alluding to the execution of his father for a similar treason to this, sixteen years before. the king remonstrated, shewing that he, as a minor at the time, was not concerned in his father’s death, and had of his own accord restored the family to its rank and estates; and he asked meekly of the young man what he aimed at by his present proceedings. Ruthven said he would bring his brother to tell w3hat they wanted: meanwhile the king must promise to stay quietly there till he returned. During his brief absence, the king induced the armed man to open one of the windows, looking to the neighbouring street; and while the man was proceeding to open the other, which looked to the courtyard below, Ruthven rushed in, crying there was no remede, and attempted to bind the king’s hands with a garter. A struggle ensued, in which the armed servant gave the king some useful help, and James was just able to get near the window, and call out ‘Treason!’ It appeared from the deposition of the servant, that he had been placed there by his master, without any attempt to prepare him for the part he was to play, or to ascertain if he could be depended upon. In point of fact, the sight of the king and of Alexander Ruthven’s acts filled him with terror. He opened the door, and let in Sir John Ramsay, one of the royal attendants, who immediately relieved his struggling master by stabbing Ruthven, and thrusting him down the stair. As the conspirator descended, wounded and bleeding, he was met by two or three others of the king’s attendants coming up upon the alarm, and by them was despatched, saying as he fell: ‘Alas! I had not the wyte [blame] of it!’

Immediately after the king left the dining-room, an officer or friend of the Earl of Gowrie had raised a sudden report among the royal attendants, that their master was gone home – was by this time past the Mid Inch (an adjacent public green) – so that they all rushed forth to follow him. The porter, on being asked by some of them if the king had gone forth, denied it; but the earl called him liar, and insisted that his highness had departed. It was while they were hurrying to mount and follow, that the king was heard to cry ‘treason!’ from the turret-window. The earl now drew his sword, and, summoning his retinue, about eighty in number, to follow him, he entered the house, and appeared in the room where his brother had just received his first wound. The four gentlemen of the royal train, having first thrust the king for his safety into the little closet, encountered the earl and the seven attendants who entered with him, and in brief space Gowrie was pierced through the heart by Ramsay, and his servants sent wounded and discomfited down stairs. Soon after, the Earl of Mar and some other friends of the king, who had been trying for some time to force an entrance by the locked-up gallery, came in, and then James knelt down on the bloody floor, with his friends about him, and returned thanks to God for his deliverance.

It was a wild and hardly intelligible scene. Gowrie and his brother were accomplished young men, in good favour at court, and popular in Perth; they had the best prospects for their future life; it seemed unaccountable that, without giving any previous hint of such a design, they should have plunged suddenly into a murderous conspiracy against their sovereign, and yet been so ill provided with the means of carrying it out successfully. Yet the facts were clear and palpable, that the king had been enticed, first to their own town of Perth, and then into a remote part of their house, and there murderously assaulted. evidence afterwards came out, to shew that they had been led to frame a plan for the seizure of the royal person, though whether for the sake of the influence they could thereby exercise in the government, or with father’s death, cannot be ascertained. It also appeared that, at Padua University, whence they were only of late returned, they had studied necromancy, which they continued to practise in Scotland. It seems not unlikely that they were partly incited by some response, paltering with them in a double sense, which they conceived they had obtained to some ambitious question. Their attainder – nay, the attainder of the whole family – followed. The people generally rejoiced in the king’s deliverance, and his popularity was manifestly increased by the dangers he had passed. Yet a few of the clergy professed to entertain doubts about the transaction; and one of eminence, named Robert Bruce, underwent a banishment of thirty years rather than give these up. His spirit has reappeared in a few modern writers, of the kind who habitually feel a preference for the side of a question which has least to say for itself. That a king, constitutionally devoid of physical courage, should have gone with only a hunting-horn hanging from his neck, and a handful of attendants in the guise of the chase, to attack the like of a powerful noble in his own house, and in the midst of armed retainers and an attached burgal populace; that he should have adventured solitarily into a retired part of his intended victim’s house, to effect this object, while none of his courtiers knew where he was or what he was going to do; meets an easy faith with this party; while in the fact of Alexander Ruthven coming to conduct the king to Perth, in the glaring attempt of the earl, by false reports and lies, to send away the royal train from his house; were armed, while the king was not; and in the clear evidence which the armed man of the turret-chamber gave in support of the king’s statements; they can see no manner of force. Minds of this kind are governed by prejudices, and not by the love of truth, and it is vain to reason with them.

On this Day in Other Sources.

The saint of the parish was Oswald, a Northumbrian king, who showed great zeal in propagating the form of professed Christianity with which he was acquainted, but was slain at Oswestry on the 5th of August, 642, and canonized after his death. The ancient church, standing within Turnberry manor, was, for several centuries, called Kirkoswald of Turnberry. Originally it belonged, by gift of Duncan, who became Earl of Carrick, to the monks of Paisley, but seems to have been granted to them on the condition, which they did not fulfil, of their establishing in Carrick a monastery of their order; and the monastery of Crossraguel being founded by Duncan a little before his death, the church was transferred to the monks of that abbey, and continued to be a vicarage under them till the Reformation.

– Gazetteer of Scotland, Kirkoswald, pp.189-190.

On [the] 5th of August this same year [1213], Adam, Abbot of Melrose, was elected Bishop of Caithness; and was consecrated in the following year, by William [de] Malveisin, [Arch]bishop of St. Andrews.

– Historical Works, pp.19-38.

It was, perhaps, some time before the province was reduced sufficiently to bear the experiment of another tithe-gathering bishop. At least, we hear of none intermediate between John (who is supposed to have died of the effects of his mutilation) and Adam, who was elected Bishop of Caithness on the [5th] of August 1213, and consecrated by the Bishop of St. Andrews on the day of St. Mamertus.

– Sketches, pp.70-85.

[Piero] Strozzi, [brother to Leone] Prior of Capua, is this year sent by the French King with 16 galleys to Scotland; he arrives at St. Andrews, and enters the town, in spite of all the opposition [those] of the castle could make. The Regent, [James, Earl of Arran, Lord Hamilton,] now blocks up the castle both by sea and land; and shortly thereafter has it rendered to him, on condition to have their lives saved, if so it should please the French King; so that on the 5th day of August [1547], the castle being rendered, the [brother to the] Prior of Capua ships himself, and with him 15 prisoners for France, with the best of all the moveables of the castle.

– Historical Works, pp.275-340.

The 5th day of August, this year [1599], the King’s majesty escaped the treacherous and bloody hands of John [Ruthven], Earl of Gowrie, and of his brother Alexander, who had invited him to Perth to see a great treasure they had found; they were both killed by John Ramsay, one of his majesty’s pages, and Thomas Erskine, and the innocent King preserved.

This year, his majesty commanded the 5th day of August, [forever] hereafter to be kept as a holy day, with preaching and prayer, and [thanksgiving] for his majesty’s preservation from the treason of Gowrie, his brother and accomplices.

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.

The most remarkable event was the mysterious Gowrie Conspiracy (August 5, 1600).* The young Earl of Gowrie and his brother Alexander Ruthven, sons of the Gowrie who suffered in 1584, appeared to have formed a plan to entrap the king, and by the possession of his person, to work out some project for placing themselves at the head of affairs. James was induced to visit their house at Perth by a tempting story about a man who knew of a concealed treasure. After dinner, he was conducted by Alexander Ruthven into a solitary room at the end of a long gallery and put into the hands of an armed man. At the same time a false alarm was given to his attendants that he had left the house and was riding homeward. While they were hurrying to their horses in the courtyard, the king had a struggle with Ruthven, who first attempted to bind, and then to poniard him. With great difficulty, and not without the exercise of considerable presence of mind, he succeeded in giving an alarm to his attendants; one of whom, named John Ramsay, rushed to his rescue, and slew the two brothers on the spot.

Aug. 5. – In the midst of a time unmarked by great events, great excitement was caused by the attempt of the Earl of Gowrie and his brother upon the king’s liberty of life, at Perth. James Melville notes that ‘a little before or hard about the day of this accident, the sea at an instant, about low-water, debordit and ran up aboon the sea-mark, higher nor at any stream-tide, athort all the coast-side of Fife, and at an instant reteired again to almaist low-water, to the great admiration of all, and skaith done to some.’

– Domestic Annals, pp.124-176.

*  While Balfour’s ‘Historical Works‘ is great for accounts of incidents and events, the dates and years could be erroneous on occasion, leaving other sources to give a slightly more reliable placing of events in history.

In the year 1600 the Gowrie Conspiracy caused great excitement throughout the land. On the 5th of August, when the king was hunting at Falkland, Alexander Ruthven, the Earl of Gowrie’s brother, came to him and requested him to go to Gowrie House at Perth, and see a man whom he had seized the night before with a pot of foreign gold pieces under his cloak. The king at first refused to go, but his love of money and mystery got the better of him, and when the hunt was over her went, not alone as Ruthven wished, but with an escort of twenty horsemen. When dinner was over Ruthven conducted the king up to a corner turret where there was a man in armour. Ruthven took the man’s dagger and said to the king, “Sir, you must be my prisoner; remember on my father’s death.” The king remonstrated, and Ruthven said he sought not his life, but a promise which he should make to Gowrie. After exacting a promise from the king not to raise an alarm, Ruthven went to fetch his brother, but hearing an attempt being made by the king and the man to open the window, he returned, sprang upon the king, and tried to bind his hands, but was prevented by the man. The king struggled to the turret window and shouted for help. His attendants rushed in, and Sir John Ramsay stabbed Ruthven, whose body was thrown down the stair. When Ramsay came to the bottom of the stair he found Gowrie and five others attempting to ascend to avenge the death of Ruthven, but Ramsay gave Gowrie “ane dead stroke,” and the tragedy was ended. There was an uproar in Perth, where Gowrie was provost, but the king escaped down the river in a boat. 

– A History of Scotland, Chapter XV.

… Whilst James [VI.] was employed in diplomatic endeavours to strengthen his right to succeed Elizabeth, and at a time when all parties concurred in promoting his interest, when the church had ceased to interfere with the exercise of his authority, and when the feuds among the nobility were gradually subsiding, an incident occurred, which has never properly been explained, and which had nearly deprived the king of his life, and involved the whole island in civil war. This was what has been called the Gowrie conspiracy, the principal actors in which, were the Earl of Gowrie, and his brother Alexander Ruthven, sons of that Earl of Gowrie who was put to death in 1584 for treason. It has been very generally disputed whether any plot existed against the king. The clergy at the time expressed more than doubts upon the subject; and did not hesitate to charge James with a plot against the Ruthvens. What motive the young men could have to destroy the king, has been a question often asked; and it has been equally often said, that if a plot indeed existed on their part, it was one of the worst constructed upon record. James himself published a narrative of the circumstances which occurred, and the following account is the substance of his statements. On the 5th of August, 1600, he was at his palace of Falkland, enjoying his favourite amusement of hunting. At an early hour in the morning he had mounted, with his suite, and was proceeding in search of game, when he met Alexander Ruthven, who with great confusion but earnestness manner informed him that he had seized a suspicious fellow, who had under his cloak a large pot full money, and that he had detained him for his Majesty’s examination. To one so needy as James always was, money was an irresistible bait; besides that he conceived the person to be an agent of the pope or the king of Spain. Though not altogether satisfied, he was persuaded by his informer to ride without attendants to the Earl of Gowrie’s house at Perth, where the bearer of the treasure was alleged to be kept in custody. They entered the castle by a private way, and ascended a dark staircase to a small obscure room, where they found a man standing, armed at all points. Ruthven now suddenly altered his behaviour, and told the king that as he had slain his father, he must now die to expiate the offence. James reasoned with him, defended his conduct, and so far staggered his opponent, that he left the room; but he soon returned, denouncing death to the king, and, endeavouring to tie his hands, held a dagger at his breast. The armed man who had been reasoned by the king into an agony of terror, stood trembling by, when James, exerting his utmost strength, over-powered Ruthven, and gained a window, whence he called to his attendants, who forced their way in, relieved the king, and put both the Earl of Gowrie and his brother to death. Such was the tale told by the king, but it met with slow and unwilling belief. The Ruthvens are represented as talented and learned young men, of popular and engaging manners. The Earl was looked upon as rising to be the head of the popular party, and was beloved by all, especially by the clergy, who cordially disliked James for his exertions to curb the unconstitutional power which they had assumed. With great difficulty the clergy were persuaded to publish from their pulpits the king’s narrative of the plot; but at length all acquiesced except Robert Bruce, who had been honoured with officiating at the coronation of the queen. That sturdy and implacable demagogue, in spite of all the king’s arguments, absolutely refused his assent to the royal tale, and was banished into England for his scepticism. Parliament was more courtly in its powers of belief, and immediately proceeded to attaint and forfeit the estates of the Ruthvens; declaring the name to be infamous, and appointing an annual day of thanksgiving to be held for the king’s escape.

– Gazetteer of Scotland, Fifeshire.

On the 5th of [August, 1602], [Sir Robert Ker] had a like grant of the town of Kelso. These and the other estates of the monastery, except the patronage of twenty of the churches belonging to it, which he gave up to the king in 1639, are still enjoyed by his descendant, the Duke of Roxburgh.

– Scotland Illustrated, pp.101-104.

The king pursued his progress by Glasgow, Paisley, Hamilton, and Dumfries, passing across the Border to Carlisle on the 5th of August [1617], amidst the general regrets of his subjects. It was remarkable how much peace and good feeling prevailed amongst the people during the royal visit.

– Domestic Annals, pp.177-227.

The year 1706, before the assembling of the last Parliament, in the old hall, was peculiarly favourable to any attempt for the then exiled House of Stuart to regain the throne; for the proposed union with England had inflamed to a perilous degree the passions and the patriotism of the nation. [On 5th] August the equivalent money sent to Scotland as a blind to the people for their full participation in the taxes and old national debt of England, was pompously brought to Edinburgh in twelve great waggons, and conveyed to the Castle, escorted by a regiment of Scottish cavalry, as Defoe tells us, amid the railing, the reproaches, and the deep curses of the people, who then thought of nothing but war, and viewed the so-called equivalent as the price of their Scottish fame, liberty, and honour.

In their anathemas, we are told that they spared not the very horses which drew the waggons, and on the return of the latter from the fortress their fury could no longer be restrained, and, unopposed by the sympathising troops, they dashed the vehicles to pieces, and assailed the drivers with volleys of stones, by which many of them were severely injured.

“It was soon discovered, after all,” says Dr. Chambers, “that only £100,000 of the money was specie, the rest being in Exchequer bills, which the Bank of England had ignorantly supposed to be welcome in all parts of Her Majesty’s dominions. This gave rise to new clamours. It was said the English had tricked them by sending paper instead of money. Bills, payable 400 miles off, and which if lost or burned would be irrecoverable, were a pretty price for the obligation Scotland had come under to pay English taxes.”

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.157-166.



Auld Scotland, thou’rt o’er cauld a hole 

   For nursin’ siccan vermin; 

But the very dogs in England’s Court 

   Can bark and howl in German. 

                                             – JACOBITE SONG. 

Is there that bears the name o’ Scot 

But feels his heart’s bluid rising hot 

To see his puir auld mither’s pot 

   Thus dung in staves, 

And plundered o’ her hindmost groat 

   By gallows knaves? 

                                             – BURNS. 

   The Scottish Estates or Parliament, unlike the English and Irish Legislatures, consisted of a single Chamber, but it was not a whit more representative of the people on that account. The baronial Estate dominated the House, and the vast mass of Scotsmen with good reason looked to the democratic Kirk for political light and leading, rather than to an assembly in which their hereditary enemies were so strongly entrenched. Still, there were not lacking genuine patriots in the Scottish Parliament, whose notions of liberty were of an exceedingly modern and enlightened type. 

   At the head of these stood the celebrated Fletcher of Saltoun. He was a Republican of the old Roman school, with a strong aversion to monarchy. He exerted himself to reduce the prerogative of the Crown to the merest shadow, and Bills were actually passed providing that, on the death of Queen Anne, the Scottish officers of State and the judges of the Supreme Court should be appointed, not by the Crown, but by the Parliament of Scotland. It was, moreover, decreed that a Scottish ambassador should be present at every treaty made with any foreign power by the joint Sovereign of the two nations. In a word, the ‘country’ or patriotic party were extreme Federalists at a time when not one of the framers of the justly vaunted Federal Constitution of America was yet born. 

   And that Fletcher, Lord Belhaven, and their followers were entirely in the right there can be no earthly doubt. A federal union would have secured to both countries all the advantages which have flowed from the existing incorporating union, without any of the serious drawbacks which it will be easy to show have accrued more particularly to the less powerful nationality. 

   Had a federal compact been struck between England and Scotland in 1707, it is not too much to say that the example would have been followed by the Legislatures of England and Ireland in 1800 or earlier, and that there would be no interminable Home Rule agitation to-day. But the gross selfishness of the English Ministry, and the habitual treason of the Scottish nobles, were enough to ruin the most promising cause imaginable, and they did so… 

   The Court or Unionist party consisted of aristocratic placemen and parasites of the most odious character, ready to sell their country at any moment, and to thank God that they had a country to sell. Chief of these was the Duke of Queensberry, Lord High Commissioner, aided by the Earl of Mar, sarcastically known as ‘Bobbing John,’ by reason of his numerous political infidelities. Add to these schemers the Earl of Stair, ‘the Curse of Scotland,’ with the blood of Glencoe on his hands and it would be hard to produce a trinity of more crafty and unscrupulous rogues in or out of Scotland. 

   Then came a small but well-disciplined band of band of trimmers, led by the Marquis of Tweeddale, known as the ‘Squadrone Volante,’ or Flying Squadron, from the uncertainty of their movements, which, however, were but too obviously governed by self-interest. The Flying Squadron held the balance of power, and their adhesion to the Court party at critical moments was fatal to the cause of Scottish independence. That the members were bought was a firm article of belief with every patriotic Scotsman: but the evidence which exists, it must be confessed, is much less damning than that which made so many Irish legislators for ever infamous nearly a century later. 

   ‘The Treaty of Union,’ says Mr Lecky, ‘as it was finally carried, was drawn up with great skill and with much consideration for the interests of the weaker nation. It provided that the Land-tax should be so arranged that when England contributed £2,000,000, Scotland should only contribute £48,000, or less than a fortieth-part; that, in consideration of the heavy English debt, by which the taxation of the whole island would be increased, an equivalent of about £400,000 should be granted to Scotland and applied to the payment of her small debt of £160,000; to making good her losses in assimilating her coinage to that of England; to the restitution of the money lost by the Darien Company; and, if any surplus remained, to the encouragement of her manufactures, and also that she should enjoy an exemption of a few years from some temporary taxes.’ 

   The ‘Equivalent’ was to be repaid out of Scottish revenue within a period of fifteen years. In so far as England was concerned, it was a mere ‘accommodation;’ in so far as the recipients were concerned, it was a skilfully administered bribe, the consideration for which was the independence of Scotland. 

   What became of the money? The stockholders in the Darien Company, the wealthiest men in the whole country – if any Scotsman can then be said to have been wealthy – received £232,000 to compensate them for their losses, in that memorable enterprise. 

   The Commissioners themselves pocketed £30,000 for their services, and a further sum of £20,500 was distributed among thirty-two Members of Parliament, Pees and Commoners, in the name of arrears of salaries. 

   Of the amounts known to have been paid to members who professed to sustain personal loss by the Union, no account was kept. We are, consequently, unable to do what is so easy in the case of Ireland’s Unionist Judases – viz., to stamp individual traitors with indelible infamy. 

   But these sums, it may be said, were too small to constitute effective bribes, and, in ordinary circumstances, such no doubt would have been the case. The condition of Scotland, however, at the time of the Union was unspeakably desperate. Largely through the shameful perfidy and open hostility of William III. and his jealous English advisers, she had lost nearly the whole of her available capital in the Darien Scheme; and England, though united to her for a century by the link of the Crown, sternly forbade her to trade with the colonies, or even to import colonial produce in Scottish ships after it had paid duty in England. 

   Nor was this all. England was frequently at war with some of Scotland’s best continental customers, whose ports in consequence were closed to her. She suffered from wars in which she had no interest, and over which she had no control. 

   Trade even with England itself was severely hampered. In the ten years preceding the Union the value of Scottish goods imported into England only twice exceeded £100,000. By the Navigation Act the shipping trade of the smaller country with the greater was literally extinguished. 

   At the Union the annual revenue of Scotland was only about one-thirty-sixth that of England – viz., £160,000 to £5,691,000. In truth, Scotland’s big sister had inhumanly starved her out, and, not content with the injury, mocked at the very poverty she had created. 

   Scotland’s more enterprising sons had but one outlet left for their energies – they became Dugald Dalgettys wherever the clash of arms resounded in Europe. At the very moment the Treaty of Union was being negotiated nothing would have delighted the great bulk of the Scottish population more than a declaration of war with England… 

   Nor were there lacking more formidable foes to the Treaty of Union than disorderly city mobs. The stern sect of the Cameronians was soon in arms under Cunningham of Ecket, and officer of no small experience and ability. They rode into Dumfries, and, drawing up round the town cross, burned the Articles of Union, and repudiated the authority both of the Treaty Commissioners and of Parliament. It was resolved, with the aid of the Jacobites, to disperse the latter body by force. On a given day, Cunningham was to march on Edinburgh from Hamilton with seven or eight thousand troops, while the Athole Highlanders were to capture Stirling, and thus keep open communication between the Cameronian leaders of the south and the Jacobite chiefs of the north. 

   When all was in readiness for the execution of this notable project, the treachery of the Duke of Hamilton ruined everything. As recognised head of the Nationalist party, he sent messengers into the west country, indefinitely postponing the rising, and the favourable moment for striking an effective blow was consequently lost. ‘This I may assert,’ says Lockhart of Carnwath, ‘that had not the Duke of Hamilton taken this course, the Parliament had at once been sent a-packing, and the projected Union demolished.’ 

   In great alarm at the threatening aspect of affairs, the Lord High Commissioner and his advisers determined to adjourn Parliament – a step which would have given all the seething elements of opposition to the Union time to combine and arm. The English Ministry promptly recognised the danger and urged their Scottish confederates to persevere, promising, if necessary, to furnish them with military aid from England and Flanders… 

   The orator of the Nationalists was Lord Belhaven, a single-minded patriot, whose burning words sank deep into the hearts of his countrymen of every degree:- ‘What hinders us,’ he cried, in an agony of apprehension, ‘to lay aside our divisions; to unite cordially and heartily together in our present circumstances, when our all is at stake? Hannibal is at our gates. Hannibal is come within our gates. Hannibal is come the length of this table. He is at the foot of this throne. He will demolish this throne if we take no notice. He will seize on these regalia. He will take them as our Spolia opima and whip us out of this House, never to return again. For the love of God, then, – for the safety and welfare of our ancient kingdom, whose sad circumstances I hope we shall yet convert into prosperity – we want no means if we unite.’ 

   Most true. To unity of national purpose there was but one hindrance, and that hindrance was embodied in the one sinister word – ‘Equivalent.’ ‘When they’ (the Unionists), says Sir Walter Scott – high Tory, but true Scotsman – ‘united with the degradation of their country the prospect of obtaining personal wealth and private emoluments, we cannot acquit them of the charge of having sold their own honour and that of Scotland.’ It is simply amazing how a man of genius like Scott, who knew so well the ineradicable baseness and depravity of the feudal nobles of his country, should have done so much to make these ‘hyenas’ look picturesque if not positively respectable in the eyes of posterity. 

   The skill and effrontery with which the head of the hereditary hyenas, his Grace of Hamilton, the premier peer of Scotland, at every critical moment in the Union negotiations betrayed the national cause, of which he professed to be the ardent custodier, were almost unrivalled in the record of perfidious state-craft. 

   Five hundred of the most influential and reputable gentlemen in all Scotland, without distinction of party, met in Edinburgh, and drew up a warm remonstrance to the Lord High Commissioner, demanding the postponement of the Treaty till such time as the Queen should reply to a national petition praying her to summon a new Parliament to consider the question, inasmuch as the existing chamber had no mandate from the people to give up the independence of Scotland, or in any way to modify its constitution. This very reasonable remonstrance hyena Hamilton undertook to present; but when the appointed day arrived, he insisted on the insertion of an entirely irrelevant clause, settling the Crown on the House of Hanover. To this, of course, no conscientious Jacobite could possibly agree, and so the project of remonstrance was brought to nought. 

   One more exhibition of Hamiltonian perfidy, and all was lost. A protest was drawn up, by way of amendment to Article XXII., assigning Scotland her very inadequate proportion of representatives in the United Parliament. It declared that ‘the members of a legislature are mere temporary administrators of their trust, and not the owners or masters of a people. They are not entitled to bargain away the nation they represent, or make it cease to exist. Therefore, the minority entertaining these sentiments would now secede from the others, protesting against what it was designed to do, and in their secession would consider themselves the centre of a new Scottish Parliament.’ 

   Article XXII. was duly reached but no Hamilton appeared to table the protest. the premier peer, the guardian of Scottish honour, could not come to the House that day, so severe were his grace’s sufferings from – toothache! So his grace explained by messenger. His dupes hastened to his lodgings, and upbraided him with ‘double-dealing.’ He thereupon accompanied them to the House, and then, in the most innocent manner, asked who had been chosen to move the protest. He would, if absolutely necessary, second it. 

  When too late, the patriotic minority beheld the snake in the grass manifestly uncoiled before their eyes. But they were undeceived too late. The grand opportunity of secession was lost, and the vital article of the treaty passed. 

   After a formal vote, the minority, enraged at the high treason of their leader, ceased to struggle with the inevitable. they retired, and on the 16th of January, 1707, the Lord High Commissioner gave the Royal Assent to the Treaty of Union and Scotland, in many respects the most distinctly marked political organism in Europe, ceased to be a nation. 

   The benediction was fittingly pronounced by hyena Lord Seafield, the Chancellor, in the heartless words, ‘There’s an end o’ an auld sang.’ 

   How different the ‘sang’ which the great Wizard of the North puts into the mouth of ‘the Bruce of Bannockburn,’ in the ‘Lord of the Isles:’- 

‘O, Scotland! shall it e’er be mine 

To wreak thy wrongs in battle line; 

To raise my victor head an see 

Thy hills, thy dales, thy people free? – 

That glance of bliss alone I crave, 

Betwixt my labours and the grave.’ 


– Reynolds’s Newspaper, Sunday 5th August, 1888.

– Treaty of Union Articles, How the Duke of Hamilton Helped Scotland into a Worse Situation.

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