[Narratives from Criminal Trials Contents]
THE historian of “the sufferings of the Church of Scotland, from the Restoration to the Revolution,” filled two dense folio volumes with the materials which he had collected on the subject, and they overflowed into some ancillary works of biography and general gossip. There is no intention on the present occasion to offer any full account, however much abbreviated, of so large and teeming a subject. It is intended only, without entering into the history of the period or the many conflicts, local or general, by which the country was disturbed, to stand, as it were, in the supreme courts of judicature in Edinburgh, and observe any very noticeable peculiarities which the contest there assumed.
The Restoration commenced with judicial proceedings which too accurately foreshadowed what was to follow. The English indemnity, ill kept even in its letter, could not be held to extend to Scotland; and men who had been embittered by adversity, and were swollen with the uncharitable pride of political triumph, had too many opportunities for crushing their enemies. The first and most illustrious victim was Argyle. That he should be selected, if there were to be victims, was not wonderful. His head was the natural reprisal for that of Montrose. Though he had professed friendship for monarchy, had not been an ostensible adherent of Cromwell, and materially aided the Restoration, yet in the height of his career he had been the great leader of that cause before which Charles I. had fallen, and the sanctity of the monarchical system had been desecrated. Beyond this, however, there was another and more dangerous element in his position – he possessed vast estates which ought to go into the hands of loyal men.
His trial was by parliamentary attainder – a method of arraignment in which it is not necessary to follow any fixed law. The records of the proceedings would be doubtless interesting, but they have been destroyed. A curious incident of the trial, noticed by Burnet, has created much discussion. Monk, “by an inexcusable baseness,” as the historian calls it, searched among his private papers, and found letters which were used to inculpate the accused. The evidence was finished ere they reached Edinburgh, and the debate on its tenor had begun. But Burnet says, “It was a mad roaring time, full of extravagance; and no wonder it was so, when the men of affairs were almost perpetually drunk.” Forms were not permitted to interfere with the objects of those in power, and these letters were read, and allowed their due weight. This statement has been often contradicted, as a malicious fiction of Burnet, to bring discredit on the memory of the great king-restorer; but it has been proved by the professional notes of Sir George Mackenzie.1
The execution of Argyle, had it even been followed by other purely political acts of vengeance, might have had less effect upon the minds of the people had he not been accompanied by other victims, whose fate pierced deeper towards the heart of the Presbyterian party. The great statesman fell in the political contest like the warrior in battle; but to sacrifice a popular clergyman, was a sort of aggression on peaceful society beyond the legitimate operations of war. There was another victim, too, whose political conduct – though he had been a hard worker in politics – was believed not to be his crime, and whose death left the unfortunate impression that he was slain because he was too sincerely and devoutly religious for wicked men to permit him to live. This was Archibald Johnston of Warriston one of the most remarkable and strangely contrasted characters of that restless age. He was from the beginning, the legal adviser of the Covenanters, and many of the documents with which they baffled or bearded Charles I. and his advisers were drawn by his dexterous pen. Burnet, who was his nephew, gives many anecdotes of his perseverance and sagacity. Among these, he mentions a curious and rather incredible intrigue for the ruin of the covenanting party, before the treaty of Ripon. Lord Saville recommended the covenanting army to reject any offers of a treaty by the king, and march straight into England, where they would be joined by the leaders of the parliamentary party. The signed assurance of this recommendation by many of the leaders of the parliamentary party was sent to Scotland, inclosed in a hollow cane carried by a pedlar. This curious document was placed in Warriston’s hands, but he believed it to be a forgery. “The king,” says Burnet, “pressed my uncle to deliver him the letter, who excused himself upon his oath; and, not knowing what use might be made of it, he cut out every subscription, and sent it to the person for whom it was forged. The imitation was so exact, that every one, when he saw his hand simply by itself, acknowledged that he could not have denied it.”
In the treacherous calm which followed the treaty of Ripon, Warriston basked in the royal sunshine, and was loaded with honours and emoluments, political and professional. He was one of those who, in that age, so strangely mixed up with the highest religious fanaticism, worldly objects pursued with worldly sagacity. When the Covenant was adopted, and he and its other supporters had the vessel of the state entirely in their hands, the reign of the Deity on earth was fulfilled, by his servants being raised to power and dignity, and they had but to go manfully on performing his work, and steadfastly and relentlessly crushing all opposition, whether in thought or deed. But a stronger spirit of the same kind had been raised up in Oliver Cromwell, who also had his view of the holy work to be performed, and of his own peculiar fitness for it. Warriston met him at Dunbar. The lawyer was one of the unprofessional advisers, or rather leaders, of the army who trusting in the possession of a power above that of earthly generals, made old Leslie commit his fatal blunder, and drew from Cromwell the exclamation that the Lord had delivered them into his hands. The practical sagacity which had beaten Charles I. in council, was no match for Cromwell in the field.
A man of Warriston’s character was now sore tried between his religious impulses and his practical character. The Covenant no longer carried all before it, and those who relied on the arm of the flesh would require to side either with the new monarch, Charles II., who was accepted as king in Scotland, or with the more triumphant party of Cromwell. A considerable body of the Presbyterians drew aside under the name of Remonstrants, who would take neither side, or touch the unclean thing in co-operating either with malignants or sectaries. Among the multitude of documents by Warriston and his friends, preserved by the zealous Wodrow,2 there is one in which the covenanting lawyer appears to have put a case to himself in his dilemma, starting thus:
“When God’s covenanted people entrusts God’s covenanted interest to the power of God’s anti-covenanted enemies, though upon pretence to fight against ane other anti-covenanted enemy – whether a conscientious Covenanter can lawfully concur with such a party in such a cause, or may lawfully abstain, and rather give testimony by suffering against both parties and causes as sinful and prejudicial to God’s honour and interest?”
While the Remonstrants, however, had taken up the decided position of enmity to both the temporal parties, Warriston trimmed, or took credit for doing so. In the parliament or committee of estates of 1650, all present were called upon “to give their declaration, on their honour and truth, that they were neither contrivers, carriers on, or voters to the western remonstrance, which was done, all disclaiming it. Warriston did grant that he did see it, was at the voting of it, but refused to give his vote therein. He denied that he was accessory to the contriving of it at first.”3 Yet his concurrence with the Remonstrants, and his subsequent adherence to Cromwell, formed the grounds of accusation against him.
This last act of backsliding does not seem to have occurred until the lapse of several years, in which the busy politician must have grown sick in idleness, close beside the field which the Protectorate government opened for the exertion of energetic spirits. He had a mission to perform to the government in 1657, and Cromwell, finding him a man after his own heart, and exactly of that clear, energetic, determined character which he desired in his helpers, laid all proper snares for his seduction. He accepted of the offers – was named a commissioner for the administration of justice in Scotland, and bad a seat as Lord Warriston in Cromwell’s House of Peers.
This defection, as it made him doubly hateful in the pure royalist party, was sorely mourned over by the equally distinct covenanting party. Wodrow, in his private note-book, records that Warriston “used to say, before he would submit to the English, he would take his wife and ten children and beg. However, he was prevailed with to go to London, and there fell. He had a numerous family, and the public was much in his debt, and there was no other way to get his debts paid but by taking a place; and so, with reluctancy, he took a place under Cromwell. Mr. James Guthrie and he were never very intimate after he complied with the English. Before that, they were continually almost writing one another; and Warriston used to write strange letters to Mr. Guthrie. He spoke of strange motions in his body before manifestations, which he used to term ‘the sign of his coming in my flesh.’ ”4
These notices may seem alien to the matter of his trial and condemnation; but, in reality, it was not for any specific offence that he was condemned, but for being the person of the character and history which these notices develop. To these we may add the following, from the gossiping note-book of Wodrow, as curious indications of a mind mixing up religion with a relish of the pursuits of this world. It was told by one “who was his acquaintance, though but young.” “He was with him at hawking many times, and has known him, when the hawks were gone off, sit down at the back of a hill to pray. He used to come down in the season of lavrocking [lark snaring], very early, to Craufordlaw, and call out him and his brethren, then youths; and when nets and all were ready against break of day, he would have said, ‘Lads, now is all cords, &c., ready?’ When they said ‘Yes,’ he would have said, ‘Then go away and sain yourselves,’5 and they behoved to go, and then to their sport.”6 Wodrow mentions an instance where Warriston prayed for fourteen hours, and another where, in the abstraction of his mind during devotion, his wife, exhausted, fell in a swoon beside him, “and continued some time in it, and the servants, observing, lifted her up and put her in bed – all this was done beside him, and he knew nothing of it till all was over and duty ended.”7
The proceedings against him were carried on in his absence. As they were held in parliament, where the rules, binding on the courts of law, were not acknowledged, this was not so remarkable a feature as we shall find that it afterwards became when it was extended to the Court of Justiciary. The same course, indeed, had been followed by Warriston himself, and his fellows, in the condemnation of Montrose. For the like reason of the all-potency of parliament to condemn whomsoever it held in hostility, the accusation was brief and imperfectly explicit. He was charged with adopting the manifesto of the remonstrant party, called “the causes of God’s wrath;” with holding appointments “under the hand and seal of the bloody usurper, Oliver Cromwell,” and “sitting and acting in the years 1657, 1658, and 1659, upon ane call from the murderer and usurper, or his son, as one of the peers of England in a pretended House of Lords newly set up by the usurper, and by his sitting and acting as president of a pretended committee of safety set up by the murderers and usurpers.”8
Warriston was condemned to death on May 15th, 1661. On the first indications of proscription he fled abroad, and skulked hither and thither in Germany and the Low Countries. At length it was rumoured that he had passed into France. A professional spy, a countryman of his own, known by the apt nickname of Crooked Murray, was employed to unearth him. The spy was fortunate enough to fall on the track of his wife, and by skilfully dogging her steps, came on the hiding-place of the proscribed statesman. The despotic government of France readily gave up a refugee of this class – he was taken to the Tower and sent to Scotland for execution, in 1663. There was a pertinacity and long-sustained malice in this act of political vengeance, which deepened the original darkness of its hue.
Old age, or hardship, or some other calamity, had strangely broken down the once strong spirit of the veteran statesman. Burnet says, that a physician employed to attend him had weakened his system by deleterious drugs and excessive bleeding. However it occurred, it is certain that his spirit was broken; he made sport to the Philistines, and appeared an abject, fawning creature to those who had quaked before the bold and dexterous leader. An uncharitable but not mendacious observer thus painted the closing scenes:
“Being brought into the council-house of Edinburgh, where the chancellor and others waited to examine him, he fell upon his face roaring, and with tears entreated they would pity a poor creature who had forgot all that was in the Bible. This moved all the spectators with a deep melancholy; and the chancellor, reflecting on the man’s former esteem, and the great share he had in all the late revolutions, could not deny some tears to the frailty of silly mankind. * * *
“At his execution he showed more composure than formerly, which his friends ascribed to God’s miraculous kindness for him; but others thought that he had only formerly put on this disguise of madness to escape death in it, and that, finding the mask useless, he had returned not to his wit, which he had lost, but from his madness, which he had counterfeited.”9
The other sacrifice to the happy Restoration was of a nature still more likely to show the people of Scotland that the new government was not only going to take vengeance on its enemies, but to oppress all those whose opinions it disliked. This was the Rev. James Guthrie, a man of good birth, education, and talent. “Mr. Guthrie,” says Wodrow, “was at first of the Episcopal way, and so far engaged in it that he courted one of the bishop’s daughters. I have not heard the particular way how he was brought off from that way.”10 But the historian of the sufferings afterwards discovered that he had been directed into the right path by the ministrations of precious Mr. Samuel Rutherford.
Burnet’s character of Guthrie is pithy and brief. “He was a resolute and stiff man;” and Mackenzie, in his sometimes expressively circuitous manner, says, “It was to be regretted that a more tractable and quiet person had not the keeping of his great parts and carriage, for he was both the secretary and champion of his party.” The very terms of the accusation against him seem the reflection of his restless spirit, importing not so much a specific charge of criminality as the possession and employment of faculties which made their owner a nuisance to such a monarch as King Charles. It was set forth that he did “contrive, complot, counsel, consult, draw up, frame, invent, spread abroad or disperse, speak, preach, disclaim or utter divers and sundry vile seditious and treasonable remonstrances, declarations, petitions, instructions, letters, speeches, preachings, declamations, and other expressions tending to the vilifying and contemning, slander and reproach of his majesty, his progenitors, his person, majesty, dignity, authority, prerogative royal, and government.”
One may almost read, in his rigid pale face, his thin resolute lips, and small, deep-set, glittering eyes, one of those entirely self-satisfied bigots, whose path before them is the clear and simple one of doing God’s work on earth, according to their notion of what it is, and allowing no feelings of respect for other opinions, and no regard for charity, the public safety, or self-preservation, to interfere with the performance of their holy functions. With Guthrie the Covenant was a truth, all else a lie that must be put down and trodden under foot into the mire, whether it arose in the person of a malignant monarch or a sectarian lord-protector. With such a character it was the nature of Cromwell to deal. The protector would have outdone him in religious zeal of his own kind, would have claimed to himself the prerogative of representing the Deity with a degree of fervour and resoluteness that would have far outblazed the fervency even of the fiery divine; and all the time would have held the vehement Presbyterian’s hand from doing mischief, with a gentle but firm grasp. To put such a man ignominiously to death like the “mere Irish,” who fell upon the bloody sod like savages, without a testimony in any intelligible tongue, would never have entered the dreams of the sagest of usurpers.
In truth, Cromwell’s dealing with the Scottish clergy was one of his master-strokes of policy. Individually, and in their smaller ecclesiastical corporations, he did not restrain them. They might rage against each other, or against papists, prelatists, and sectaries as they willed. They were divided into two parties, at least; and these two, fighting local battles, in which the one was victorious here, the other there, frittered away the general strength of the body. One only restraint he laid on them; he would not permit them to meet in any general assembly where pitched battles might be fought, and the victorious party represent the aggregate strength of the whole body. He extinguished the assembly, without bustle or conflict. When the reverend gentlemen, full of debate, were proceeding one morning to their usual place of conflict, they found the doors guarded by troopers, and the whole revolution was accomplished. The Whig government of George II., nearly a century afterwards, adopted the same policy with the English Church; and there are not wanting politicians who attribute to the virtual extinction of the convocation the preservation of the great institution which it represented.
In professing to descend to particulars, the articles of accusation against Guthrie charged him with drawing the Remonstrance, and composing the pamphlet called “The causes of God’s wrath.” The former is characteristically set forth thus:
“You did compile and draw up a paper, commonly called the ‘Remonstrance,’ and presented or caused present the same to his majesty’s committee of estates at Perth, upon the 22nd of October, wherein most treasonably you utter and belch forth a great many damnable and execrable leasings, slanders, and reproaches against his majesty’s dearest father, of eternal memory, and others his majesty’s noble progenitors, their persons, majesty, dignity, authority, and government; and also you not only disclaim his majesty’s authority over you, and disown him in the exercise of his royal power and government, in the right whereof his majesty and his predecessors were invested by God, and in possession by a series of one hundred and eight progenitors,11 but also most treasonably reproach others, his majesty’s good subjects, for doing the same; and most impiously held forth, that the main and great cause of the sufferings of his majesty’s people under the tyranny and oppression of the bloody usurper, is the owning of his majesty’s interest in this his ancient kingdom, and the purpose of restoring his majesty to his throne and government of his kingdom of England, from which most wretchedly and godlessly you aver that his majesty was most justly removed; wherein also are many more bitter and ignominious reflections, seditions, treacherous and treasonable expressions, tending to the contempt and disdain, slander and reproach of his majesty, his progenitors, in person, majesty, dignity, authority, and government.”
Guthrie was a great meddler in those little personal collusions with Charles II., which made him pronounce Presbyterianism no religion for a gentleman. The dissipated prince, who was seeking a throne by the same kind of disagreeable compliance which our secondary dramatists represent as the marital path to fortune, had to endure long exhortations, chiefly directed against his own sins and those of his father. He had to accept that Covenant which did not correspond with his belief, and, far worse, was eminently revolting to his taste; and he had to join the obdurate clergy in a penitential day of fasting for his sins as an anti-Covenanter. If he chucked under the chin the pretty prim daughter of any of the covenanting worthies while the procession issued from the long dreary Church service, there must be a special rebuke thereanent. All these things his soul abhorred, and afterwards, when catching butterflies with Mrs. Nell, or feeding his ducks in the park, leaning on the shoulder of gorgeous Louise de Tremouille, the recollection of his sojourn among the Covenanters in Perthshire probably crossed his mind like a dreary dream.
All these humiliations Guthrie would inflict with grim satisfaction. It was said, too, that by his indulgence in ecclesiastical fulminations, he had made one unrelenting enemy. The profligate statesman, Middleton, had mixed himself up with the plan of aiding the royal cause by an army of Highlanders – malignants, if not Papists, every one of them. The commission of the general assembly passed an act of excommunication against him. It remained only that it should be solemnly thundered from the pulpit, and this congenial task was assigned to Guthrie. Before he went to church, a young nobleman called on the divine with a letter so urgent as to demand attention even on the Sabbath. It was a desire that the denunciation of excommunication might be postponed, and it was said to come from a person of authority – according to some accounts, from Charles himself. The divine received the letter drily – declined to enter on the subject until the service was over – and desired the messenger to accompany him to church. When there, to his horror, he heard the sentence fulminated with all its concomitant denunciations. It would be delivered with eminent satisfaction, and there was something in the circumstances that would gratify the kind of austere jocularity in which Guthrie and his brethren sometimes indulged. But it was generally believed that this practical sally cost him his life.
At his trial, Guthrie defended himself gallantly. Burnet follows up the character of the “resolute and stiff” man by saying, that “when his lawyers offered him legal defences he would not be advised by them, but resolved to take his own way. He confessed and justified all that he had done, as agreeing to the principles and practices of the kirk.” He was sentenced to be hanged at the cross, his head to be placed over the west bow, and “that presently his arms be delated out of the book of heraldry, and torn in pieces by the lion-herald at the market-cross of Edinburgh, and there to be left torn and renversed.”12 This chivalrous penalty might seem inapplicable to a covenanting divine, but Guthrie belonged to one of those families of the moderate Scottish gentry which boast of a fabulous antiquity, and Wodrow speaks of him sealing letters with his coat armorial, and making apt allusions to it just before his death.
The same affectionate pen has drawn the deportment and conduct of the condemned man in warm colours. The account may be found in the history of the sufferings, but in a more fresh and unpremeditated shape in his note-book, and it will not be surprising if, in quoting a sentence or two, the original version not intended for publication be preferred.
“When he was put out, and his judges debating about his sentence, while he was among the crowd of macers, soldiers, and others of that kidney, who were cursing and swearing about him, he declared to my author’s informer, he had never nearer communion with God, or sweeter raptures upon his spirit, than at that very time when he knew they were debating where to place his head and the quarters of his body. My author’s informer tells him, that his countenance seemed shining when he came out after the sentence, and he was in the greatest composure and sedateness that could be.
“It is said, and he told it himself, that after he had taken the covenant, when he came out to the street – I think it was St. Andrew’s – he met the hangman in his robe. It stunned him a little, and he began to think upon the providence, and came to this resolve with himself: ‘This I have been about may be my death; but though it should be so, I resolve to stand by it.’
“When Mr. Guthrie was in prison, I remember to have heard my father tell, he (then a student) got in to him, and he spoke a little to him and said, ‘There is a dark cloud coming on, and the Lord is about to sweep this land with the besom of destruction; but, Jacob, be not discouraged from following your books; you may live to see the cloud over, and be afterwards useful;’ and indeed he was so – signally.
“Upon Monday, when the Marquis of Argyle came out of his room to go to the scaffold, he called at Mr. Guthrie’s room to bid him farewell. Mr. Guthrie came near him, and when he took him by the hand, he said, ‘My lord, God has been with you; He is with you, and God will be with your lordship; and such is my love to your lordship, that were I not under a sentence, I could die this day for your lordship;’ and then they embraced one another and parted – shortly to meet in a better place.”13
In another part of this zealous collector’s notebook occurs this picturesque incident, which carries one back to the Bollandists, and their lives of the early saints:
“When he mounted the scaffold and had prayed a little time, he went up two or three steps of the ladder – because of the weakness of his head he was unable to go any further or higher; and being well enough seen and heard, he delivered his speech to the people, which was with such a heavenly air and majesty appearing in his countenance, which did shine as if he had been half in heaven already, as some (my father) then present thought; which left such impressions on them, that they thought they never saw more of God at the most solemn communion they ever were at.
“When he went further up the ladder, and the executioner was ready to do his office, his last words, which he uttered with a cheerful countenance and elevated voice, were those of the prophet Habbakuk: ‘Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my holy one? I shall not die, but live.’ After he was taken down, his head was severed from his body with an axe. It was observed that there was a vast effusion of blood that flowed from his body, which was presently put into a coffin and carried to the old kirk aisle, where it was dressed by a number of ladies of good quality. Some of them took their napkins and dipped them in the blood; and when Sir Archibald Primrose, the register, challenged one of them, Mrs. Janet Erskine (married after to Sir Thomas Burnet, doctor of medicine), for so doing, saying, ‘It was a piece of the superstition and idolatry of the Romish Church to preserve the relics of the saints,’ it was answered – They intended not to abuse it into superstition and idolatry, but to hold up the bloody napkin to heaven in their addresses, that the Lord might remember the innocent blood that was spilt. In the time that the body was a-dressing, there came in a pleasant young gentleman, and poured out a bottle of rich ointment on the body, which filled the whole church with a noble perfume. One of the ladies says, ‘God bless you, sir, for this labour of love which you have shown to the slain body of a servant of Jesus Christ.’ He, without speaking to any, giving them a bow, removed, not loving to be discovered.”14
It would not do to leave this tragic incident, and its influence on parties and religious opinion in Scotland, without recording the terrible omen which, in the belief of the Presbyterians even of later times, haunted the statesman who had put the martyr to death, attaching itself to the symbol of his pomp and Power.
“It was very confidently asserted at this time, that some weeks after Mr. Guthrie’s head had been set up in the Nether Bow-port, in Edinburgh, the commissioner’s coach coming down that way, several drops of blood fell from the head upon the coach, which all their art and diligence could not wipe off. I have it very confidently affirmed, that physicians were called and inquired if any natural cause could be assigned for the blood dropping so long after the head was put up, and especially for its not washing out of the leather, and they could give none. This odd incident beginning to be talked of, and all other methods being tried, at length the leather was removed, and a new cover put on. This was much sooner done than the wiping off the guilt of this great and good man’s blood from the shedders of it and this poor nation.”15
So dawned the happy Restoration on the Presbyterians of Scotland.
These condemnations, so immediate on the accession of Charles II., have been dwelt on at some length, because they are the key-note of all that followed. They offered a bloody defiance to an enthusiastic party, and it was accepted. In subsequent times, when the Covenanters were turbulent, unreasonable, and, where they had the opportunity, tyrannical, all arose out of the thoughtless tyranny that accompanied the Restoration. Had he not been thus made a martyr, Guthrie would afterwards have passed among the Presbyterians themselves for a pig-headed zealot, who could see nothing in a rational and common-sense light. He and the historian who dwells so fondly on his memory, could not have endured each other had they been contemporaries; for Wodrow, though an admirer of zeal, was moderate, prudent, and, as the extreme party deemed, “sinfully complying” in practice. Between him and such as Guthrie, in church courts, there would have been ceaseless bickering, and they would have probably insinuated charges of infidelity against each other – a not uncommon resource of angry theologians.
In fact, whether from the effect of Cromwell’s rule, or from other causes, the majority of the Presbyterians were at the time of the Restoration far from being violent zealots. Many of their clergy were good, easy men, content to do their pastoral work in peace, who would not have looked with any abstract horror on the prospect of being deans and bishops. Ten years of the suppression of polemical violence had made the fanatical remonstrant party a small, almost obsolete body of men, not attacked, but little noticed, of whom their more sensible brethren were reflecting that it was well they were so few, – and if let alone they would doubtless gradually die out. They might have been what their representatives, the Cameronians, became in the eighteenth century – a sect which, by the way, has still, though the fact is not generally known – an attenuated existence in Scotland. The same tiredness of political convulsions that made politicians desire the quiet of the Restoration, would have made the general body of the clergy content to subscribe to articles of peace in religion. Had it not been for the long array of persecutions which the execution of Warriston and Guthrie began, it is no extravagant supposition that Scotland might have gradually slid into a moderate hierarchy, such as Knox and his friends had laid down, and that the country might have been remarkable for religious peace and toleration. When Sharpe was sent to London as the representative of the Presbyterians, it would have astonished no one had he given up some points, and agreed to a moderate episcopacy. What subjected him to the charge of foul perfidy was, that while professing extravagant covenanting zeal, he made his arrangements for returning to his Presbyterian constituents as their archbishop. It was this flagrant act, not his mere partiality for episcopacy, that created an enmity between him and his old friends, increasing so fervidly, that at last they sought each other’s lives – and took them.
The lukewarmness of his brethren was spoken of in Guthrie’s dying address. “Many of the Lord’s people,” he said, “do sadly complain of the fainting and silence of many watchmen, and it concerneth them to consider what God calleth for at their hands in such a day; silence now in a watchman, when he is so much called to speak, and give his testimony upon the peril of his life, is doubtless a great sin. The Lord open the mouths of his servants to speak with all boldness, that covenant-breaking may be discovered and reproved, and that the kingdom of Jesus Christ may not be supplanted, nor the souls of his people destroyed without a witness! I have but a few more words to add. All that are profane amongst you, I exhort them to repentance, for the day of the Lord’s vengeance hasteneth and is near; but there is yet a door of mercy open to you, if ye will not despise the day of salvation. All that are maligners and reproachers, and persecutors of godliness and of such as live godly, take heed what ye do: it will be hard for you to kick against the pricks. You make yourselves the butt of the Lord’s fury, and his flaming indignation, if you do not cease from and repent of all your hard speeches and ungodly deeds. All that are natural, and indifferent, and lukewarm professors, be zealous and repent, lest the Lord spue you out of his mouth. You that lament after the Lord, and mourn for all the abominations that are done in this city and in the land, and take pleasure in the stones and dust of Sion, cast not away your confidence, but be comforted and encouraged in the Lord. He will appear to you in joy. God hath not cast away his people nor work in Britain and Ireland. I hope it shall once more revive by the power of his spirit, and take root downward, and bear fruit upward, and of this I am now confident. There is yet a holy seed and precious remnant, whom God will preserve and bring forth; but how long or dark our night may l be I do not know – the Lord shorten it for the sake of his chosen.”
Such a testimony, sealed as it was, could not fail to draw the forces off on either side, expanding the precious remnant, by driving either into its ranks or those of the enemy, all who heretofore had been “indifferent and lukewarm professors.” And such a result could not have been more aptly driven on than by the measures of that reckless government. In fact, the statesmen of the Restoration – if the name of statesmen can properly be applied to them – were no more guided by thought and policy, than Masaniello and his followers, or any French revolutionists, who, collectively or individually, have lost head, and have ridden recklessly on the wings of prosperity, blindly forgetful of the future. They were mad with the excitement of sudden and unexpected success. They were drunk, not merely with political excitement, but, if we may believe the statement of Burnet already alluded to, they worked in council and parliament under the actual intoxication of strong drink. Some of their most important proceedings bear yet a hue of tipsy recklessness. To save all debates and difficulties, an act was passed for annulling everything that had taken place in the Scottish parliament since 1648. This was found so easy and pleasant a way of getting rid of all discussion, that by a wide step further, an “act rescissory,” as it was termed, was passed, clearing away all that had been done in legislature since the disputes between Charles I. and his Scottish subjects began. Thus, at one sweep, the statute-book was cleared of everything back to the year 1633. In the general ruin were swept away, not only the offensive acts for the furtherance of the Covenant, but everything that had been done to facilitate the administration of justice and the internal organisation of the country for nearly thirty years. The wheat was torn up with the tares; but this gave little concern to such reckless men as Middleton and Lauderdale. Out of very necessity, they were obliged afterwards, from year to year, to restore morsels of the system they had so recklessly thrown away. But the trouble and torment, with the many other inconveniences of a separate discussion on each of the acts which they wished to get rid of, were spared. The idea looks very like a tipsy inspiration. Of the rapidity with which it was carried through, there is evidence extant in the following letter, by Middleton, to the lord clerk register, with whom lay the function of preparing the acts of parliament, and who could do much to facilitate or interrupt any project for rapid or fraudulent legislation:
“Edinburgh, March 27, 1661.
“My Lord, – The act that is now before you is of the greatest consequence imaginable, and is like to meet with many difficulties if not speedily gone about. Petitions are preparing, and if the thing were done it would dash all these bustling oppositions. My lord, your eminent services done to his majesty in this parliament cannot but be remembered to your honour and advantage. I am so much concerned, because of the great help and assistance I have had from you, that I cannot, without injustice and ingratitude, be wanting in a just resentment.16
“Now, I am more concerned in this than I was ever in a particular. The speedy doing is the thing I propose, as the great advantage, if it be possible to prepare it to be presented to-morrow, by ten o’clock in the forenoon, to the articles, that it may be brought into the parliament to-morrow, in the afternoon. The reason of this haste shall be made known to you at the meeting, by,
“Your most affectionate servant,
It would be an intrusion on the province of history, and would lead to fuller details than can find room in these volumes, to take more than an outline glance of the steps for the establishment of an Episcopal hierarchy which followed this act. The act rescissory reconciled the conscience of the king and of his agents to the engagement to preserve the system of church government as by law established. Since the acts establishing Presbyterianism had been swept away, the system by law established was Episcopacy. Had matters rested here, and had moderate people found an excuse in gentle and insidious measures for lapsing into compliance, the bloody history of the persecutions would not have remained to be written. In connexion, however, with the execution of Argyle, Warriston, and Guthrie, with the impeachment of that bright and vehement light of the Church, Samuel Rutherford, who died before proceedings could be followed up against him, and with minor punishments inflicted on people of smaller note, the following state of matters requires to be kept distinctly in view.
The remnant of the old covenanting party were intolerant of everything that diverged from their standards by a shade of difference. Their opposition was a war of extermination; they were prepared to go to the death, not only for the peaceful exercise of their own religion, but for the right of compelling entire submission to their own church government, – which was Christ’s form of church government, and therefore the true one, wherefrom all divergence was a sin that should be punished. Even Principal Bailey – a man of high scholarship and accomplishments, a graceful courtier, a skilful diplomatist, versed in all those ways of the world which rub off the harsh excrescences of the rural polemic mind – wrote distinctly and conclusively against the great sin of toleration, and held it the mission of his own Church to abolish prelacy and sectarianism in England or wherever else they found it, and establish and enforce the true religion. A coarser follower, the author of “A Brief Account of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland,” characterised the Episcopal clergy generally as “Godless miscreants of the true Egyptian brood; infamous parricides; infamous varlets; the devil’s instruments; savage beasts in human shape; a graceless untoward generation of prelatists, who use nothing but hectoring for reason, and cursing for argument; ungodly Episcopal brutes; the generation of vipers,” &c. The remnant so inspired was not prepared to submit in any shape to the government of an uncovenanted king. It denied the right of Charles to reign, and denied the legality of every act of whatever character which the government attempted to perform.
What should have been the fitting treatment of such men it might be hard to say. But the scandal of the government at this time, was its treatment of those who had no sympathy with them. There was a determination to abandon all moderation and tolerance, and to compel people at once and unreservedly to adopt every point of Episcopalianism, or go over to the violent Covenanters. It was not merely that the moderate party were outraged by the immediate legislative establishment of Episcopacy, but that, by a pertinacious and pestilent inquisitorial system, every one was driven into a corner as it were, and compelled to give in his adhesion to the new order of things spiritual and temporal. No man was permitted to be silent and let matters take their course. Each one was required to make his testimony. A more diabolically perverse plan could not have been adopted for driving moderate men into the camp of the intolerant Covenanters; and so it worked.
Thus, among the earliest requisitions, men who had perhaps subscribed the Covenant, and rather wished to forget it, or who had a leaning to the Presbyterian worship, but no decided objection to an infusion of ceremony in its plain ritual, or of hierarchy in its institutions, were required by act of parliament to take the following declaration:
“I do sincerely affirm and declare, that I judge it unlawful to subjects, upon pretext of reformation or any other pretext whatsoever, to enter into leagues and covenants, or to take up arms against the king or those commissioned by him; and that all those gatherings, convocations, petitions, protestations, and erecting or keeping of council-tables, that were used in the beginning, and for the carrying out of the late troubles, were unlawful and seditious; and particularly, that those oaths, whereof the one was commonly called the ‘national covenant’ (as it was sworn and explained in the year 1638, and thereafter), and the other entitled ‘a solemn league and covenant,’ were and are in themselves unlawful oaths, and were taken by and imposed upon the subjects of this kingdom against the fundamental laws and liberties of the same; and that there lyeth no obligation upon me or any of the subjects, from the said oaths, or either of them, to endeavour any change or alteration of the government, either in Church or State, as it is now established by the laws of the kingdom.”
A man of high spirit, though but moderately attached to the Covenant, would repudiate such a servile test, and was driven from point to point until he drew the sword. For those even who complied, other and more stringent tests were in preparation. It is perhaps the most offensive feature of the system, that compliance was not always desirable. A herd of hungry placemen and partisans lay waiting for fines and forfeitures, and were determined by some means or other to have them.
An act was passed, requiring from all the clergy compliance with Episcopal collation, and the other arrangements of the new hierarchy; and at the same time, according to the policy which stopped every outlet by which conscience or fanaticism might escape, laws were made against private assemblages for worship, which now become stigmatised as conventicles. The slightest infusion of political prudence would have at least suggested that the former act should be but gradually enforced, so that the state, with its great powers, should close with individuals, and fight the clergy in detail. Such a policy, however, did not suit the reckless statesman of the time. An act of council was passed at Glasgow, for immediately testing the clergy in these terms:
“Several ministers have not only contravened the foresaid acts of parliament, but, in manifest contempt of his majesty’s royal authority – albeit, they have justly forfeited their rights to the benefices, modified stipends, and others, continue to exercise their function of the ministry at their respective churches as of before; therefore, they prohibit and discharge all ministers who have contravened the foresaid act of parliament, concerning the benefices and stipends, to exercise any part of the function of the ministry at their respective churches in time coming, which are hereby declared to be vacant; and that none of their parishioners, who are liable in any part of their stipends, make payment to them of this instant crop, and year of God, 1662, or in time coming, as having no right thereunto; and that they do not acknowledge them for their lawful pastor in repairing to their sermons, under the pain of being punished as frequenters of private conventicles and meetings. And command and charge the said ministers to remove themselves and their families out of their parishes betwixt and the first day of November, next to come, and not to reside within the bounds of their respective presbyteries.”
It was a peculiarity of this act of council, that it was passed at Glasgow, where Middleton was enjoying the hospitality of the Archbishop of the West. In this, and other features, it had an unpremeditated, undigested aspect. Wodrow tells us, that the council assembled in the College Hall, and were called by the citizens “The Drunken Meeting;” and Kirkton, a contemporary annalist, who was probably his authority, says: “The report was, being convened at Glasgow, there was never a man among them but he was drunk at the time, except only Lee. But when they were set, the commissioner propounds the case on the bishop’s overture, which all approve except the Lord Lee. He told them they would all be mistaken. That proclamation would only lay the country desolate, and increase the hatred to bishops, and confusion among the people; and that they would find the young ministers would suffer more than loss of stipend, before they would acknowledge bishops; and both sides pawned the reputation of their judgment upon the success of the proclamation.”18
The effect of enforcing the proclamation was at once visible. Three hundred and fifty clergymen resigned their temporalities, and came forth from the fleshpots of Egypt to feed their hungering flocks with true spiritual manna. But they were not allowed that outlet which the permission to secede and form a voluntary unendowed communion infers. Their ministrations, in any shape were rendered illegal; and thus, as it afterwards was exemplified in the priests of La Vendée, a band of spiritual combatants was set in array – a holy army of martyrs, whose grand duty in life, to be pursued through all perils and privations unto death itself, was to band and discipline the popular mind against the profligate and tyrannical government. Then came the conventicles, and the armed dispersals and conflicts, with which most readers of history are familiar.
One thing yet, however, was wanting to drive every one without exception either into prelacy or rebellion. The parish church might be conspicuous and accessible; but the persecuted remnant could seek for their place of devotion the recesses of those mountain-ranges from which few parts of Scotland are far distant. To pursue them in these retreats was a difficult task, never entirely successful. To solve this difficulty, and draw them off from conventicles, it was resolved that the people should be compelled to attend the Established Church. An act was passed “against separation and disobedience to the ecclesiastical authority,” popularly named “the bishops’ drag-net.” It levied penalties, according to a scale of rank, on all who should “ordinarily and wilfully withdraw and absent themselves from the ordinary meetings in their own parish church for divine worship on the Lord’s-day.” Subsequently, as the covenanting, like every other religious enthusiasm, found its warmest supporters in the female sex, the husbands of women who attended conventicles were made penally liable for their conduct.
In 1664 was appointed that form of tribunal which is ever a name of dread to the lovers of freedom civil and religious – an ecclesiastical commission. It was established, avowedly, because the High Court of Parliament, the Court of Justiciary, the Privy Council, and the local courts, were insufficient to deal with the vast amount of judicial business created by the ceaseless imprisonments and other penalties. The terms of the commission inform the reader of the character of its proceedings, as well as if he perused a specific account of them. For the sake of form and appearance, it will be seen that it is first levelled against Roman Catholics. Wodrow generally characterises this feature in the proclamations and other documents as a very laudable one, but complains that it was never enforced; – so did the lamenter over the persecutions of his brethren lament that other people were not persecuted. The commission were authorised –
“To summon and call before them, at whatsoever place and time they shall appoint, all Popish traffickers, intercommuners with, and resetters of, Jesuits and seminary priests; all who say or hear mass, all obstinate contemners of the discipline of the Church, or for that cause suspended, deprived, or excommunicated; all keepers of conventicles; all ministers, who, contrary to the laws and acts of parliament or council, remain or intrude themselves on the function of the ministry in these parishes and bounds inhibited by these acts; all such who preach in private houses or elsewhere, without license from the bishop of the diocese; all such persons who keep meetings at fasts, and the administration of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, which are not approven by authority; all who speak, preach, write, or print to the scandal, reproach, or detriment of the estate or government of the Church or kingdom as now established; all who contemn, molest, or injure the ministers who are obedient to the laws; all who do not orderly attend divine worship, administration of the word, and sacraments performed in their respective parish churches by ministers legally settled for taking care of these parishes in which those persons are inhabitants; all such who, without any lawful calling, as busy-bodies, go about houses and places for corrupting and disaffecting people from their allegiance, respect, and obedience to the laws; and, in general, without prejudice to the particulars above-mentioned, all who express their disaffection to his majesty’s authority, by contravening acts of parliament or council in relation to Church affairs.”
The social torture created throughout the country by this accumulated and complex system of judicial machinery, led to the well-known rising in the West, which was put down in the field of Pentland by the grim old bearded fanatic of royalty, Dalyell of Binns. The originators of the insurrection were mere peasants, trusting, like the followers of Joan of Arc, in the guidance of an inspiration that was to lead them to success. Believing that they wielded no mere earthly sword, they advanced on Edinburgh with all the confidence with which the warrior priest, Arnaud, led the Waldenses across the Alps to their valleys in Piedmont, but with very different success.
In the trials which followed, there were some noticeable features. Thus, on the 5th of December, 1664, it was ingeniously pleaded for some of the captives on trial before the Court of Justiciary, that “being in arms when taken, and being modelled into an army, and having obtained quarter from the king’s general, they ought to be judged by the law of nations observed in war, by which it is evident that those who get quarter are safe.”19
To this it was answered by the crown, that the terms of surrender only saved them from immediate slaughter on the spot; and that the law of nations, in which belligerent parties respected certain general restraints in dealing with each other, does not apply to rebels taken in arms.
There is no doubt that such a principle is absolutely necessary for the support of any established government, good or bad. There may be many reasons for being merciful to armed opponents; and in great civil conflicts, such as those of the Roses, or of the Royalist and Parliamentary party in the seventeenth century, it may be right that the parties should agree to cede to each other the privileges and courtesies of national enemies. But a system which spares all insurgents on their submission, would be an encouragement to continuous turbulence wherever slight chances of success opened, and would sacrifice more lives than it would save. He who draws the sword against a settled government, must make up his mind to pay in his own person the highest penalty of defeat.
Another remarkable feature of the judicial proceedings which followed this rising, was the trial of several men who could not be apprehended and produced at the bar. Parliament, as we have already seen, had done thus to Johnston of Warriston; but parliament was in use to claim a general omnipotence, and the power of redressing any evil in any manner it might deem fit. It is an old sound rule of the tribunals of free and civilised countries, that people cannot be accused and convicted in their absence. There can be no security for the justice of a judgment given otherwise than face to face with the accused. In his absence, his judges are spared that check on gross injustice which is supplied by his presence, however much he may be bullied and browbeaten. Had the confronting been often dispensed with, it would have become the practice, in tyrannical and profligate times, for all state offenders to be thus accused and condemned in their absence, the judgment giving the public executioner a right to slay the convict wherever he might be found.
Even if there were no chance of such profligate and revengeful acts, it is a sound policy that a court of law should not be permitted to condemn any but those it can lay hands on. If the ministers of justice are not strong enough to apprehend, they should not be permitted to condemn. Sentences of death against persons out of their reach are not the firm administration of justice, but impotent denunciations of violence, sure to create, instead of overcoming, turbulence. This view is followed in international law, which acknowledges no blockade by a belligerent power, unless it commands a sufficient armament to enforce the cordon.
So strictly had the presence of the accused been established by the constitution of Scotland as indispensable, that, adhering to the letter of the law, when forfeitures were passed on dead traitors, the accused was represented in a manner with which modern judges would be inclined to dispense. At the forfeiture of Logan of Restalrig, charged as an accomplice in the Gowrie conspiracy, his bones were deposited at the bar, that justice might be done on them. But in these proceedings against the dead, those who were really affected by them were heard. The actual sufferers were the kindred and representatives whose estates were forfeited. They might appear before the court, and defend their interest; but living persons, brought under judgment in their absence, could make no defence – they could only plead to the charge by appearing at the bar. True, they were conscious of guilt – the reason of their flight and concealment – but this did not render less flagitious the departure from one of those stern rules of justice, which, founded on no reciprocity with the accused, are the property of the public at large.
The court of session was consulted when this flagrant departure from sound judicial practice was adopted. The criminal judges were in perfectly safe hands; their friends of the civil court were quite prepared to countenance the novelty, and give it the weight of their name. The concurrence practically illustrated that reading of the text – “in multitude of counsellors there is safety,” which holds the safety to be all to the counsellors, whose personal responsibility is lessened by the increase of their numbers. It stands, by the way, to the credit of Sir George Mackenzie, the lord-advocate who earned the unenviable title of “the bloody Mackenzie,” that he declined, in his work on the criminal law, to give his sanction to these judgments in absence. “It hath been often found,” he says, “that men have been absent rather out of fear of a prevailing faction or corrupt witnesses, or by inadvertence, or not being truly cited, or by being violently detained, than out of a consciousness of guilt; yet, since so judicious a person proposed this overture, and since council session and parliament have fortified it by their authority, I submit my judgment to their determinations.”20
These trials became, at the same time, loathfully conspicuous by the profuse use of torture. It was not introduced, unfortunately, for the first time. We have seen too much of it in the Witchcraft cases, when, being supposed to be exercised on people scarcely human in their constitution, it moved little more compassion, in any ordinary breasts, than inflictions on mere animal beings. But now were men subjected to the torture for expressing what the sympathising multitude counted the glorious truths of the Gospel. Among the first of the series, it was given forth that Hugh Mackail, a young visionary enthusiast, but well connected and highly educated, and the brother of the first Scottish scientific man of his time, had borne the torture with a holy rapture, and had welcomed death with such exclamations of ecstatic delight, as the people could find no parallel for out of Holy Writ. Nor while the enthusiasts canonised him, could rational friends of civil and religious liberty forget that he suffered rather for a zealous sermon, than for any violent or criminal acts.
The ample histories of the period must be referred to for the harassing system of military quarterings and exactions of fines practised throughout the country, and for the strangely savage device of bringing down the host of Highland freebooters to exercise their plundering functions on the offending districts. The harassing proceedings against persons intercommuned, or held criminally excommunicated, so that to have intercourse with them or afford them the charities of life was penal, are matters of a technically legal character, yet they hardly come within the scope of these pages, which find more matter legitimately their own than they can well contain. Nor can that curious device by which the government “took out lawburrows,” or swore the peace against the inhabitants of whole districts, receive the explanation which its strange nature might well deserve.
We may, perhaps, find the story of the times most expressively told by passing over a few years, and finding in the criminal trials marks of the influence which the persecution had exercised on the national character. Most conspicuous of all these effects is the ferocious, murderous enmity excited against the persecutors, and concentrating its violence on the apostate Sharpe.
It was in July, 1668, that a nearly successful attempt was made to assassinate the primate. He was stepping into his coach on the high street of Edinburgh, in bright daylight, when a man, muffled in a cloak, stepped up and discharged a pistol. He missed the archbishop, but a bullet shattered the arm of the Bishop of Orkney. The man walked deliberately away along the street, untouched – a remarkable testimony to the execration in which Sharpe was held. His narrow escape roused some feeling of sympathy towards the prelate, whose own relentlessness had isolated him, and Burnet says, he “thought it decent to go and congratulate on this occasion.” The historian says: “He was much touched with it, and put on a show of devotion upon it. He said, with a very serious look, ‘My times are wholly in thy hands, O thou God of my life.’ This was the single expression, savouring of piety, that ever fell from him in all the conversation between him and me.” The isolated man seems to have been conscious that even the minions of the law could not be counted on for very fervent aid in the pursuit of this dreadful enemy; and he seems, with a self-relying firmness which was part of his character, to have taken the matter in his own hands. He had accurately noted, even in the moment of danger and confusion, the assassin’s features, and carefully impressed the note on his memory.
Six years had passed over, when the archbishop’s attention was attracted by the features of a man who kept a small shop, or stall, close to the archiepiscopal residence, and seemed to watch the prelate with a sinister eye every time he passed by. The more he examined this man’s face, the more clearly did it identify itself with that of the assassin. At length he got his brother, Sir William, and some of his attendants, to seize the man, who was found armed with a brace of pistols, heavily loaded. Now, it was not the object of the archbishop, or those who felt themselves in like peril, merely to inflict punishment in this case, but to find out the real man who held a design against his life. No sufficient testimony to the fact could be found; and unless the prisoner were brought to make a confession, and a true confession showing the whole extent of the prelate’s danger – not a mere involuntary admission under torture – the desired object would not be accomplished. According to contemporary accounts, Sharpe got a friend to negotiate with the prisoner, engaging for his pardon should he confess, denounce his accomplices, and give full information of the extent of the conspiracy against the archbishop. The man, however, whose name was Mitchell, knowing that he was in treacherous hands, would admit nothing beyond a general accession to the insurrection in the West, unless he had official assurance of safety. The council next endeavoured to extract the truth, but, as the clerk of the council, Primrose, justly observed, “It would be a strange force of eloquence to persuade a man to confess and be hanged,” and the council engaged that his life should be secured. To conduct the negotiation with him, the lord-chancellor took him apart. In a subsequent narrative of the proceedings, given by Mitchell himself, he said, “My confession was made upon oath, and promise made to me upon life and safety – and, indeed, the promise made to me by my lord-chancellor was in these words:- ‘Upon my great oath and reputation, if I be chancellor I shall save your life; and if ye will not confess, the council will take another way to make it out.”21 This narrative, whether it be entirely true or not, gives a curious glimpse into the terrible inquisitorial scenes which then passed within the walls of the secret council. By his own account, Mitchell was an obstinate, impracticable fanatic. The commissioner asking him, “But what ailed you at my Lord St. Andrew’s?” – pointing at him with his finger; he answered, “The grievous oppression and horrid blood shed of my brethren, and the eager pursuit after my own – as it appears this day to your grace and to all his majesty’s honourable privy council.” He then proceeded to a systematic vindication of his attempt, showing in broad, expressive characters, that utter perversion which the horrors of the times had created of rational notions on social and moral duty – a perversion which, disorganising and displacing all civilised sentiments of charity and citizenship, substituted for them the hatred and pugnacity of the original savage. He considered that he and the archbishop were two enemies, each seeking the other’s life, and entitled, like hostile soldiers, to lie in ambush for each other, and use every opportunity to slay. He proceeded thus:
“I, being a soldier, and having laid down arms, but being still up in my own defence, and having no other end nor quarrel with any man but according to my apprehension of him;” so arguing he shows that his war with Sharpe lay in this, that the archbishop endeavoured to destroy the Covenant, to which he and his brethren were bound by sacred ties; while he, on his part, levied a war of extermination against prelacy; “and I being a declared enemy to him on that account, and he to me in like manner – never found myself obliged, either by the law of God or nature, to set a sentry at his door for his safety; but as he was always to take his advantage, as it appeareth, so, I of him to take any opportunity offered. Moreover, we being in no terms of capitulation, but on the contrair, I, by his instigation, being excluded from all grace and favour, thought it my duty to pursue him on all occasions.” He then, with perverse ingenuity, alludes to his own seizure, without any warrant, by Sir William Sharpe and the primate’s menials, as a perfectly natural act of hostility, and just the counterpart of his own, showing that the two enemies lost no opportunity against each other. “I, not knowing him until five or six of his brothers and his servants were laying fast hold on me, they being armed of purpose, desired I would excuse him, seeing what he had done was on his brother’s account; which excuse I easily admitted, seeing that he thought himself obliged to do what he did to me, without law or order, in the behalf of his brother; – much more was I obliged to do what I did in the behalf of many brethren whose oppression was so great, and whose blood he caused to be shed with such abundance.”
Mitchell, after having made his confession to the council, was conveyed into the Court of Justiciary for trial. Burnet says, that “the judge, who hated Sharpe, as he went up to the bench passing by the prisoner, said to him, ‘Confess nothing, unless you are sure of your limbs as well as your life.’ ” Whether from such advice or not, Mitchell refused to repeat his confession in the Court of Justiciary. On this the privy council revoked the assurance of safety. The manner in which this revocation stands recorded on the council-books is important in history, as certain members of the privy council denied that any assurance of safety had been granted, and against one of them proceedings were maintained for perjury on the ground of this denial.
The only minute of the council which bears upon the matter, is dated 12th March, 1674. It first states Mitchell’s refusal to confess, and then contains the following narrative:
“But all haveing reteired, apart with one of the said committy he did then confesse upon his knees he was the person – upon assurance geven him by one of the committy as to his lyfe, who had warrand from the lord commissioner and councel to geve the same, – and did, thereafter, freely confess, before all the lords that was upon the said committy, that he shott the said pistoll at the said archbishop; and did subscrybe his confession in presence of the said committie, which is also subscrybed by them. And thereafter, the said Mr. James, in presence of the lord commissioner, his grace, and council, did renew and adhere to the said confession, both as to his accession to the rebellion, and the attempt foresaid, and acknowledged he made the said attempt because he thought the said archbishop had a hand in troubling and prosecuting those that were in the rebellion.”22
The act of council then mentions the refusal of Mitchell to repeat his confession in the Court of Justiciary, and announces that he must be deemed to have forfeited the benefit of which confession was a condition, and the law must be free to take its course.
We resume Mitchell’s own account of his treatment, and follow him into the Court of Justiciary. He mentions, incidentally, a feature of that tribunal, so odiously recalling the half-fabulous annals of the Vehm-Gericht and the Inquisition, that it is difficult to believe it a true description of a British tribunal. He describes “the lords justiciaries obscuring themselves by putting their hands upon their faces, and leaning upon their elbows upon the table.” Doubtless, the very event that brought Mitchell before them taught them how expedient it was that the executors of the odious laws that desolated the country should not be recognisable; but, surely, anything more humiliating to the position of a bench of British judges, than that they shrank from the eye of the accused, could scarcely be recorded. Equally revolting are the allusions to the torture. The ugly instruments stood near at hand, in the court-room. The accused still refusing to confess, the president points to them, and says, “Ye see what is upon the table before ye – I shall see if that can cause ye do it.” To which it was answered, “By that torture ye may cause me blaspheme God, as Saul did compel the saints; you may, by that torture, cause me to speak amiss of your lordship – to call myself a thief, a murderer, a warlock, and what not, and then panel me upon it. But if ye shall, my lords, put me to it, I hereby protest before God and your lordship, that nothing extorted from me by torture shall be made use of against me in judgment, nor have any force against me in law, or any other person whomsoever.” He said, according to the odd logic which seems to have governed his actions, that whatever they fairly proved against him he would not deny; but “ ‘I am so much a man – yea, and a Scotsman, that I never held myself obliged, either by the law of God or nature, or by the law of nations, to become my own accuser.’ Then said my lord depute-treasurer to the preses, ‘He hath the devil’s logic, and sophisticates like him.’ ” They pointed to the boot, saying, “You see what is before you – say either yea or not;” but he remained unconfessed. He went to the torture, quoting Scripture vigorously in support of his tortuous logic, and dividing his discourse into parts of which, as a specimen, we may take the “secondly – my lord-advocate hath been hinting at the sinfulness of lying upon any account. It is answered, my lords, that not only lying is sinful, but also a pernicious speaking of the truth is a horrid sin before God, while it tendeth to the shedding of innocent blood, as witnesseth that of Doeg, Ps. LII. compared with 1 Sam. xxii., 29;23 but what my lord-advocate hath forged against me is false, so that I am standing upon my former ground, viz., the preservation of my life and the lives of others, so far as it lies in my power, the which I am expressly commanded to do by the Lord of Hosts.” The same pertinacious sophistication seems to have been ever at his command, for one of the witnesses at his trial said, that he “inquired at him how he or any man could be accessory to so impious an act as to kill a man in cold blood who had not wronged him; he said it was not in cold blood, for the blood of the saints was reeking at the Cross of Edinburgh.”
Thus was he depicting, in tempting colours, the value of the history which he defied torture or persuasion to extract from him. In fact, Sharpe and his fellows were discontented with the brief, simple confession made to the privy council. They believed that Mitchell had a band of fellow-conspirators, towards whom they desired to find a clue; and such hints only excited their avidity. The torturing extracted nothing of moment, for the victim was released at an early stage of the infliction, by insensibility; long confinement having, by its own peculiar inflictions, greatly reduced the extent of his torturable strength. The expected value of the information to be elicited from him, may account for the long-protracted proceedings. He was apprehended in 1674; the torture was administered in 1677; it was not until the 7th of January, 1678, that, all efforts to extort a satisfactory elucidation being vain, he was finally tried for the offence committed ten years previously.
The indictment intimates that Mitchell had at one time professed to be a clergyman – he is called “one who professed to be of the reformed religion, and who did profess to be and serve as a chaplain in several families.” The indictment, after stating how “God of his goodness having preserved the archbishop, whom you intended to murder, you did by the said shot grievously wound the Bishop of Orkney, to the great hazard and danger of his life;” – goes on to argue, in a fashion which the Covenanters would probably hold to be a solemn mockery in the abettors of the Duke of York, that the attempted assassination was an imitation of the devices of Popery, and “that it cannot be instanced that any of the Protestant religion was guilty of any attempt upon the ground of religion; and that the worst of men being ashamed to commit such villanies – for covering of the same and for their security, doth take the opportunity of darkness and solitude, in corners and solitary places. Your malice was so implacable, that you were prodigal of your own life, to be master of the life of the said archbishop; and in the high street of Edinburgh, and in the daylight and in the face of the sun, and before many witnesses near or at a little distance from the said coach, where you could not but expect to be presently seized upon, you did devote yourself and did adventure to commit the said most villanous and wicked attempt.”
At this trial occurred a great scandal against the Scottish statesmen of the reign of Charles II. Whether certain corporeal inflictions be just punishment or tyrannical persecution, may be a matter of dispute; but a lie, told for the purpose of procuring a conviction in a court of justice, is denounced by every system professing to be a code of morality. To get a confession and a betrayal of accomplices from Mitchell, had now become hopeless. All that could be accomplished was the conviction of the solitary victim. But if there were any who could identify the man who, in open day, had fired at two prelates in the chief street of the capital, there were none who would do so. The only means, therefore, of convicting Mitchell was by making evidence of his confession before the privy council. It would be awkward, however, to adduce the condition of safety with which that confession was accompanied. That condition was inserted in the minutes of the privy council, as they have been quoted above; the minute still bears the mark of dirty fingers, as if Wodrow, and other sympathisers with the suffering remnant, had curiously manipulated and examined it when the transactions of the secret conclave came to light after the Revolution. Mitchell was defended by George Lockhart – a brave, eloquent man, whose knowledge as a lawyer, and formidable capacity in using it, endowed him with the safety of feared and respected power even in those terrible times, and elicited from Sir George Mackenzie, the high Tory and crown lawyer, a few expressive sentences of praise on the democratic supporter of Presbyterianism. Lockhart demanded that the minutes of the privy council, as they are quoted above, should be produced in evidence. The demand was overruled. A little document, containing the confession in simple terms, was given in. The statesmen who had received it attested it as the confession of Mitchell. Each of them was then cross-questioned on the accompanying condition, and each flatly denied that it had been conceded.
Thus the Earl of Rothes, the chancellor, being interrogated, “depones that he did not at all give any assurance to the panel for his life; and the panel never sought such assurance from him.” Hatton, the next witness, seemed somewhat to have evaded the question: “Depones he was present when Mr. James Mitchell made that confession, and his lordship first heard him make it verbally, and then he saw him subscribe it also; and at that time there was nothing spoken of any assurance; but when the panel was asked by some of the committee upon what account he committed that fact, at first he seemed unwilling to answer, but thereafter said it was because the bishop was an enemy to the good people, or godly people, in the west.” The burly and brutal Duke of Lauderdale, less circuitous than his brother, simply stated that “he heard no assurance given to him, and did not give him any assurance, nor gave commission to any others to give him any assurance.” The next witness is “James, Archbishop of St. Andrew’s.” He alone identified the prisoner. His evidence, recorded with a lumbering incrustation of titles, was – “Depones, his grace saw him at the council-bar, in presence of his majesty’s commissioner and the council, acknowledge his confession made before the committee, and heard him adhere thereto and renew the same; and there was no assurance of life given him, nor any sought for him then. Depones that his grace himself did never give him any assurance, nor give warrant to any others to do it; only he promised, at his first taking, that if he would freely confess the fault, and express his repentance for the same at that time, without further troubling judicatories therein, his grace would use his best endeavour to favour him.” His denial of the promise of safety was adduced against Sharpe by those who murdered him on Magus Moor. Mitchell was convicted, and suffered the usual fate in the Grass-market.24
This trial was peculiar, from an attempt subsequently made to arraign one of the statesman-witnesses for perjury, on account of his testimony. This somewhat courageous effort was made in parliament by a member, William Noble, of Dunnotter, who brought his charge, in imitation, apparently, of an English impeachment, before the lords of the articles, in 1681. He did not require to demand the production of the council-record, having in his possession a letter written by Hatton, in which the assurance of life was distinctly mentioned. The lords of the articles dismissed the arraignment, but the object of the accuser was so far gained, in the discussion of conduct that could ill stand inquiry. That dishonour which is more fatal to a statesman than profligacy or cruelty, was proclaimed; and it was remembered and spoken of, even by members of the council, that the lord chancellor had garnished the proposal for sparing Mitchell’s life with an indecent joke.
The trial of Mitchell shows that the fate of Archbishop Sharpe, so well known to all who read the history of the period, was not an incidental outrage, but the realisation of a deep-felt hatred, which had been working its way, for many years, into the habits of a people not naturally bloody or treacherous. One requires to be in the confidence, as it were, of the popular mind of the period, through the perusal of letters and private diaries, to form a just conception of the light in which the head of the Church was viewed by the people. It was not merely that he was a selfish, haughty, tyrannical man; from such an early estimate he came to be looked on as something superhumanly wicked – a walking embodiment of the great spirit of evil. The people at large, including the Presbyterian clergy, believed in many dark tales of diabolical agency, in which Sharpe was depicted busy with his fellow-demons. A few of these are scattered over Wodrow’s note-book. The archbishop is described as one day busy in the privy council, getting up prosecutions against the Pentland rebels. He desires a certain paper, necessary for making out a conclusive case, but he has left it behind him in his cabinet in St. Andrew’s. He sends a servant for it, directing him to the particular cell in the cabinet where it is to be found. The man left at Edinburgh at ten o’clock of a summer morning, and was in the archiepiscopal palace about four o’clock in the afternoon.
“When he opened the closet-door, and looked in, he saw the bishop sitting at a table near the window, as if he had been reading and writing, his black gown and tippet, and his broad hat – just as he had left him at Edinburgh, which did surprise the fellow at first, though he was not much terrified; for being of a hardy, frolic temper, or a little hollowed, as we call it, he spoke to him merrily, thus:- ‘Ho, my lord, well ridden, indeed! I am sure I left you Edinburgh, at ten o’clock, and yet you are here before me. I wonder that I saw you not pass by me.’ The bishop looked over his shoulder at him, with a sour and frowning countenance, but spoke not a word; so that the footman runs down stairs, and tells the secretary, or chamberlain, that the bishop was come home. He would not believe him. He averred he saw him in his closet, and that he was very angry; and desired the chamberlain to come up-stairs, and he would see him likewise. So they came both up-stairs; but before they were fully up, they both saw the bishop, standing upon the stair-head, staring upon them with an angry look, which affrighted them in earnest.”
The vision, however, vanished. The serving-man found the paper, and returning with it to Edinburgh, there saw the bishop, as he had left him, and told the story of the doppel ganger. “Upon which the bishop, by threats and promises, enjoins him secrecy.”25 There is a mystery and pleasant undefinedness; in this story another which stands beside it is more distinct. The archbishop is presiding at the trial of a witch, and is, as usual, for harsh measures. Janet, the accused, says she is not a friend, but an enemy, of the powers of darkness; and hints that it would be well were others equally hostile to them. Driven at bay, we are told that “she only dropped one word to the bishop. ‘My lord,’ says she, ‘who was you with, in your closet, on Saturday night last, betwixt twelve and one o’clock?’ ” Upon which the bishop changed his countenance, and turned black and pale, and then no more was said. When the council rose up, the Duke of Rothes called Janet into a room, and inquired at her privately who that person was who was with the bishop? She refused, at first; but he promising, upon his word of honour, to warrant her at all hands, and that she should not be sent to America, she says, “My lord, it was the mickle black devil.”26
After the murder, some trinkets, found on the old man’s person, were deemed to be cabalistic or magical symbols; and it was heard, with horror, that among them was a bee, enclosed in a box – doubtless, the lost man’s familiar spirit.
The attempts to bring to justice the archbishop’s murderers cannot be adduced under the head of “Proceedings against the Covenanters,” as persecution on purely religious grounds. But this cluster of events was the climax of the war with the Covenanters; and the very measures which caused and followed it, became inextricably interwoven with the system of religious persecution. This created the black spirit of vengeance which caused the deed, and it tried to avenge it on those who had no further concern with its perpetrators than the possession of the same religious creed. The unhappy determination to block up every outlet for over-heated opinions or impracticable enthusiasm, was worked out under the shadow of investigations regarding the murder; and it was not sufficient that one who was an object of suspicion had no apparent or possible concern in it – he must be driven by question after question, until, if he had a particle of spirit or honesty in him, he must say something offensive. It was not enough that he abhorred the murder or the principles which suggested it; he must go further back to the root of evil opinions, and abhor abstract fundamental doctrines of many complex kinds, under pain of being counted something like an accessary to assassination. It may be interesting to notice the shape in which this memorable historical crime is described in the indictment against Hackston of Rathillet.
“Ye and your accomplices did, upon the 3rd day of May, 1579, cruelly, sacrilegiously, and inhumanly assault the said archbishop, when he was travelling securely in his own coach to St. Andrew’s, within two miles of the said city; and upon Magus Moor did most wickedly and furiously discharge several shots of pistols, carbines, hakbuts, and muskets, upon the said coach, within whilk the said archbishop and his daughter were for the time; and his grace having opened the coach door, and came forth to you, and falling down upon his knees begging mercy or time to recommend his soul to God, and pray for you his murderer – so cruel, inhuman, and sacrilegious were ye, that, without pitying his grey hairs or the shrieks of his weeping daughter, or respecting his character or office, ye did most furiously and cruelly give the said archbishop many bloody, mortal, and cruel wounds on his head and other places in his body, and left him dead and murdered upon the place in a most cruel and lamentable manner.”27
The paragraphs which follow contain the statement of particulars whence guilt of the murder is inferred, and the first items deserve attention, as they are extremely characteristic of the sweeping principle on which the penal laws were then administered. “And in token of your guilt of the foresaid horrid, impious, and sacrilegious murder, ye did not compear in the town of St. Andrew’s, upon the 13th day of the said month of May, 1679, nor in the town of Cupar upon the 16th day of the said month,” &c. This formidable inference arose out of a proclamation by the privy council. It spoke of the horrid assassination and parricide, as a deed to “spread horror and amasement in all the hearts of such as believe that there is a God or a Christian religion – a cruelty exceeding the barbarity of pagans and heathens, amongst whom the officers and ministers of religion are reputed to be sacred, and are, by the respect borne to the Deity which they adore, secured against all bloody and execrable attempts.” Suggesting means for apprehending the assassins, the proclamation proceeds to state, that “in respect there is a company of vagrant and skulking ruffians, who, to the great contempt of all government, do ride through this our kingdom, killing our soldiers, deforcing such as put our laws in execution, and committing such horrible murders, who might be easily discovered, if all such amongst whom they converse did, according to their duty, endeavour to apprehend them or give notice where they haunt or resort.”28 The proclamation proceeding to notice that several of the assassins were known to belong to the shire of Fife; special days and places are appointed, at which the inhabitants within a certain surrounding area are to assemble, to be examined by the sheriff, “with certification to such of the said tenants, cottars, servants, and others aforesaid as shall be absent, they shall be reputed as accessory to the said crime – and the masters if they produce them not, or if hereafter they shall harbour any who do not compear, they shall be reported favourers of the said assassination.”
A further effort was made, on this exhaustive system, to get at persons who might be implicated in the crime. On a day appointed, all the males upwards of sixteen years old were to be assembled in each presbytery. The clergy were to be present, and mark off all those who were not reputed attenders of the Established Church. Each one of these was to be compelled to show, by sufficient testimony, how he was occupied between the hours of ten o’clock in the morning and three in the afternoon on the day of the murder. “That such as cannot prove a good account of themselves in manner foresaid, be secured, and their goods seized and secured till the issue of their trial: that such as shall be absent the said day, be holden as probably guilty of the horrid act,” &c.
It is characteristic of the war of utter extermination between the people and the law, that, with all these stringent measures, and while the country swarmed with soldiers, the main perpetrators of the murder were never caught, though their deed was, in the words of the proclamation, rendered remarkable “by the unmasked boldness of such as durst openly, with bare faces, in the midst of our kingdom, at mid-day, assemble themselves together to kill, on our highway, the primate of our kingdom.” The assassination was witnessed by several people; the men engaged in it were well known; and there was a party of soldiers so near, that they might have seen the horsemen following the lumbering coach, or heard the shots. That, under all these difficulties, the murderers should have escaped, was of course attributed to the special intervention of Providence shielding those who were executing God’s righteous judgment upon Judas. Hackston, of Rathillet, was the only man connected with the trial who was seized; and he was a negative accomplice, looking on apart, half shrouded in his cloak, and stoically contemplating that act of solemn retribution, in which he declined to embrue his own hands, but which he would deem it sacrilegious to interrupt. Sharpe, recognising him as a gentleman of good descent and liberal education, appealed to him for protection; but the only assurance he received was, “I will not lay a hand on you.” It may be interesting to have the pen-and-ink sketches of the party, given in the evidence against Hackston. He was himself described as “a tall, slender man, black haired and black visaged, who had a brownish grey horse and a velvet cap; and for arms, a carbine, holster-pistols, and a broadsword.” John Balfour, of Kinloch, or Burleigh, was “a laigh (or short), broad man, round, ruddy face, dark brown hair.” He was accompanied by his relation, “George Balfour, in Gilston, who is a broad, brownish sett man, black curling hair, lean faced, who had a white horse, and was armed with two side-pistols and a sword.” Another of the party, Andrew Gillan, weaver, in Balmerinoch, was characteristically described as “a little, broad, black man, broad, curling, bushy beard, who rode upon a white horse – who had three side-pistols on his right side, and ane sword.” This witness drew his sketches with discrimination, whether they were quite accurate or not. He next describes the “two Henrysons,” who are “young, slender men – both young, fair men; the youngest, fairest and tallest, and the eldest slenderest.” These sketches seem embodied types of the characters which the persecution had made of the men of the period: the dark ruffian, who genially took to bloodshed as his natural calling; and his gentler coadjutor, driven into the companionship of evil by his warm sympathies and overwrought enthusiasm.
The most interesting member of that band, however, if not of the whole Scottish army of martyrs, was Hackston, of Rathillet – a man made for better things than brutal murder or stolid fanaticism. As we sometimes see a fine genius glimmering through the overwhelming down-pressure of degraded habits, and think what it might have been had it not been overwhelmed in the moral ruin – this man, in the fierce fanatic and the abettor of murder, yet affords glimmerings of a character that, in less unhappy days, might have produced the accomplished statesman, the powerful rhetorician, or the brave and honoured military leader.
The Presbyterian biographers speak of him as having been dissolute in his youth – a gay deceiver, with high qualities of body and mind – with fortune and social position, all turned to evil ends. Their previous immorality does not, certainly, make men less ardent in their new vocation when they become fanatics; but the biographers of those whose sanctity has assumed the deep and formidable character of Hackston’s, are apt to complete the antithesis of the picture, by making out their early immorality to have been on an equally great and sometimes equally dangerous scale – one of the many elements in which the Bollandist Lives of the Saints and the covenanting martyrology are very like each other. While he was in confinement, he wrote a simple and soldier-like account of his flight, his attempt to defend himself, and his capture – to which it is impossible to refuse a general belief. The party had taken to the wilds, after the affair of Bothwell Bridge, and slept all night on a moor, sending their scouts to endeavour to ascertain their position. “One day,” he says, “after we had gotten some meat, we came to a piece grass and lay down, and presently we were all alarmed that they were upon us; and so, making ready, we saw them coming fast on – and that about three or four hours in the afternoon: and each one resolving to fight, I rode off and found a strength for our advantage, and drew up quickly eight horse on the right hand with R.D., and fifteen on the left hand with me, being no more; the foot not being forty, and many of them ill armed, in the midst. The enemy advanced fast – about one hundred and twelve, well armed and horsed – who sending about twenty dragoons on foot to take the wind of us, we sent a party on foot to meet them, and the rest advanced immediately after, when our horse fired, and wounded and killed some, both horse and foot. Our horse advanced to their faces, and we fired on each other. I being foremost, and finding the horse behind me broken, I then rode in amongst them, and went out at a side without being wounded. I was pursued by several, with whom I fought a good space; but at length I was stricken down, with three on horseback behind, me and receiving three wounds on the head, and falling, submitted to them. They gave us all testimony of brave, resolute men.” Dalyel, whose Russian training made him more consistently savage than his coadjutors, threatened, he said, to roast him.
Even in the formal proceedings of the privy council and Court of Justiciary, the usual terms of righteous abuse, with which all allusion to the ordinary uneducated fanatics was decorated, is suppressed or modified towards Hackston, as if in courtesy to his talents and social reputation; and yet he bearded them in a manner that might have irritated more gentle beings than Rothes and Lauderdale, flinging back in their teeth the accusation of murder – denouncing them as the slayers of God’s people – the inspired of the devil, and the instruments of his malignity, against whom he, David Hackston, denounced the wrath of God. It is curious to see the symptoms of his retaliatory conflict gleaming through the formal minutes of the Justiciary Court. His refusal to plead is entered in these terms: “He refused to answer concerning the murder of the late Bishop of St. Andrew’s, and says the causes of his declinement are, because they have usurped the supremacy of the Church, belonging alone to Jesus Christ, and have established idolatry, perjury, and other iniquities; and in prosecuting their design – in confirming themselves in this usurped right – have shed much innocent blood. Therefore the said David, adhering to Christ, his rights, and kingly office over the Church, declines them that are his open enemies and competitors for his crown and power, as competent judges; refuses, as formerly, to sign this his declaration, dated from his own mouth, whereupon his majesty’s advocate takes instruments and requires the commissioners of justiciary to sign the same.”29
We may imagine how great a torrent of truculent matter was uttered, when so much of it was permitted to pass through the formal sluice of the official record. We have many other and more exuberant accounts of this discussion; – as, for instance, in the work called “The Cloud of Witnesses,” which says, he “told them they were all bloody murderers, for all the power they had was derived from tyranny; and that these years bygone, they have not only tyrannised over the Church of God, but have also grinded the faces of the poor, so that oppression, bloodshed, perjury, and many murders, were to be found on their skirts.” The Marquis of Montrose, giving testimony before the Justiciary Court as to the admissions made by Hackston to the council, said that he “refused to answer whether the archbishop’s murder was a murder, but said to the council that he wished that God, by a stroke of his justice, might decide betwixt the council and him, which of them were the greatest murderers.” According to “the testimony of that worthy gentleman, David Hackston, of Rathillet,” he said, in answer to the same question, that “he thought it no sin to despatch a bloody monster.” It is said in the same document, that when the privy council wished to push him further in the personal application of his doctrine, they received an answer which showed that fanaticism had not entirely burnt out of him the capacity to come forward like a man of this world. Being asked, “if he were at liberty and had the power to kill any of the king’s council, and murder them as he did the Bishop of St. Andrew’s, whether he would do it, yea or not?” he said “that he had no spare time to answer such frivolous and childish questions.”
On the royal authority he was, however, according to this account, sufficiently explicit. He is asked “what he would declare as to the king’s authority;” and says, “that authority that disowns the interest of God, and sets itself in opposition to Jesus Christ, is no more to be owned; but so it is – the king’s authority is now such; therefore it ought not to be owned.” One of those men whom he hated most of all, the bishops, seems to have borne his rough handling somewhat meekly. “Being interrogated by the Bishop of Edinburgh what he would answer to that article of the confession of faith, that difference of religion doth not make void the magistrate’s right and authority, he answered, he would not answer any perjured prelate. The bishop replied, he was in the wrong to him, because he never took the Covenant; therefore he was not perjured and so deserved not that name.”
Hackston, however, was not the man to ward off discussion by a petulant remark, or evade his testimony. The question was well put, and might have staggered one less self-assured. But he shattered the difficulty by that strongest of all logic – I am right and my opponent wrong – or as it may be otherwise expressed, I am the representative of God, and you are the servants of the devil. When pressed on the conformity of his principles and actions with the Covenant, in its acknowledgment of the authority of the civil magistrate in matters temporal, he said: “That question was answered long ago by the solemn league and Covenant, which binds us only to maintain and defend the king in the defence of the true religion; but now the king having stated himself an enemy to religion, and all that will live religiously, therefore it is high time to shake off all obligation of allegiance to his authority.”
He told the council that he was prepared to seal his testimony, not only with his blood, but with all the tortures they could imagine. He had the premonitions of his fate as he was conveyed to Edinburgh after his capture, and describes his entry by the foot of the Canongate, where the magistrates were, “setting me on a horse, with my face backward, and the other three bound on a goad of iron, and Mr. Cameron’s head carried on a halbert before me, and another head in a sack, which I knew not, on a lad’s back; and so we were carried up the street to the parliament, close where I was taken down, and the rest loosed – all was done by the hangman.” The martyrologists of the Covenant luxuriate in the horrors of his protracted death. That there should be mercy for such a person, even in a much more humane administration of justice, was out of the question. It was as necessary to slay him, as it is to amputate the fractured and mortifying limb. But, looking back at the beginning of these miseries, one can see a time when, if statesmen had not been drunk with success, and reckless of consequences, if they had avoided needless blood-letting, and set themselves conscientiously to govern the Scottish people according to their nature, the history of the country must have been so different from what it was, that Sharpe, at the time of these tragic events, might have been a powerful and somewhat respected Churchman, not without some shred of Episcopal decoration; while Hackston, of Rathillet, might have been a loyal scholarly gentleman, drinking his reverend friend’s health, and making speeches for the preservation of the happy Constitution in Church and State.
While such were the bloody scenes developed in the temporal part of the contest, as it might be termed, the spiritual leaders of the people were driven, by the diabolical influence of persecution, to enchain them to a fanaticism which grew ever darker as the contest went on. The Covenant, and other early fundamental charters of Presbyterianism, were found insufficient to satisfy the stern demands of these men; they must have a new testimony, more distinctly marking out the people of God, and denouncing the enemy. At the head of this movement was Mr. Donald Cargill, one of those whose purposes, like steel hardened in the fierce fire of persecution, were of a relentless firmness, calculated to inspire in their panegyrists of later and gentler times a kind of awe-stricken admiration. Wodrow tells us, that for twenty or thirty years before his death, he “was never under doubts as to his interest – and the reason was made known to him in ane extraordinary way.” In his youth, we are told that “he was naturally hasty and fiery;” that “he fell into deep exercise,” and, beset by doubts and difficulties, attempted to commit suicide. Having repeatedly encountered obstacles to his intentions, “he takes on a resolution to take a time or place where nothing could stop; and goes out early one morning, by break of day, to a coal-pit; and when he comes to it, and none at all about, he comes to the brink of it to throw himself in; and just as he is going to jump in, he heard ane audible voice from heaven, ‘Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee,’ and that stopped him; and he said to my father, after that he never got leave to doubt of his interest,” meaning, of his certain salvation.30 When sown in soil of this character, it might be predicted what crop the dragon’s teeth of persecution would bear.
Cargill was early among the hunted; but he appears to have been a man of untiring restlessness and agility, who was not to be easily caught. On the 3rd of June, 1680, information was brought to the proper officers that he and a companion named Hall were lurking in a small tavern at Queensferry. When an attempt was made to capture them, they offered a stout resistance, and Cargill escaped with many severe wounds, which did not prevent him from preaching a fierce sermon to an excited multitude, among the moors, so soon as the pursuit slackened sufficiently to let him stop and take breath. On the person of Hall there was found a document attributed to Cargill, which became known as the Queensferry Covenant. It does not seem to have been widely dispersed, or to have become a bond of union; and wise statesmen would have put it aside and studied it, watching external manifestations of its existence or influence, before taking any public proceedings about it. But this was not the policy of the still reckless men of that age. They seemed to rejoice at the discovery of something so violent and denunciatory, and to indulge in a hope that a large class would be found implicated in it, and liable to punishments and forfeitures. There was a hot pursuit after Cargill and his coadjutor, Cameron – who owes it to that pursuit, and his apprehension and cruel death, that a small remnant of Cameronians yet rally round his name. But not content with striking at the sources of the manifesto, the crown brought it up against persons charged as adherents of its principles, delighted with such an opportunity of proving that the king and the government had a large body of irreconcilable enemies. The document, it is true, was stringent and bitter enough. Like all the covenanting manifestoes, it had, with a good deal of circumlocution, the stern singleness of purpose pertaining to an infallible announcement of the will of the Deity. One of its articles may be taken as a specimen of its pervading tone:
“We shall endeavour to our utmost the extirpation of the kingdom of darkness, and whatsoever is contrair to the kingdom of Christ, and especially idolatry and Popery, in all the articles of it, as we are bound in our national Covenant – and superstition, will-worship, and prelacy with its hierarchy, as we are bound in our solemn league and Covenant; and that we shall, with the same sincerity, endeavour – God giving us assistance – the overthrow of that power that hath established that prelacy and erastianism over the Church, and exercises such a lustful and arbitrary tyranny over the subjects, seeking again to introduce idolatry and superstition in these lands, contrary to our Covenants; and, in a word, that we shall endeavour the extirpation of all the works of darkness, and the relics of idolatry and superstition – which are both much enlarged in our times – and execute righteous judgments impartially, according to the word of God and degree of wickedness, upon the committers of these things – but especially blasphemy, idolatry, atheism, sorcery, perjury, uncleanness, profanation of the Lord’s-day, oppression, and malignancy; that being thus zealous for God, he may delight to dwell among us!”
Those who had the misfortune to differ in opinion with the adherents of such a document, would probably meet with little mercy in the execution by them of righteous judgment, according to God’s word and the degree of wickedness. And it must be admitted that, so far as the fabricators of such a declaration were concerned, there has scarcely been å government in any country that would not be incensed by it. It did not shrink from naming the monarch as the head and source of all the evils. It spoke of the “hand of our kings” being against the purity and power of religion and godliness, and degenerating from virtue into tyranny and rejection of God’s will; “so that it can no longer be called a government, but a lustful rage, exercised with as little right reason, and with more cruelty, than in beasts; and they themselves can no longer be called governors, but public grassators and public judgments, which all men ought as earnestly to labour to be free of, as of sword, famine, or pestilence raging amongst us.”
This was accompanied with another document, bearing a title in which the high and denunciatory assumptions of its adherents chime strangely with the statement of their existing lowliness. It was called “The declaration and testimony of the true Presbyterian, anti-prelatick, and anti-erastian persecuted party in Scotland.” It was, if scarcely so sweepingly self-assured in its claims of infallibility, more personally offensive to the royal brothers even than the Queensferry Covenant. It stated as among the causes of God’s controversy against his people, that they had not disowned the king, and men of his practice, “as enemies to our Lord and his crown, and the true Protestant and Presbyterian interest in these lands, our Lord’s espoused bride and Church;” and the document proceeded very emphatically to make up for such an omission. This paper was solemnly adopted by a few men met together in arms, under the auspices of Cameron, and received, from the place where they met, the name of the “Sanquhar Declaration.”
Soon after the discovery of these documents, in September, 1680, Cargill, who had led a life of hidings and narrow escapes, of fighting and preaching, addressed a large assembly in the Torwood. There, choosing for his text, 1 Corinthians, v., 13, – “But them that are without, God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person,” – he proceeded solemnly to the excommunication of all his enemies, beginning with Charles II., thus: “I, being a minister of Jesus Christ, and having authority and power from Him, do, in His name and in His spirit, excommunicate Charles II., king, &c.; and that upon the account of these wickednesses: for his high mocking of God, in that, after he had acknowledged his own sins, his father’s sins, his mother’s idolatry, and had solemnly engaged against them in a declaration, &c.; he hath, notwithstanding of all this, gone on more avowedly in these sins than all that went before him,” and so on. After enumerating all his “apostacies and perjuries,” he descended into the too well-established licentiousness of the king’s private life, with more explicit distinctness of phraseology than modern readers are sometimes accustomed to. Not quite content with thus emphatically denouncing the real scandals of the palace, he brought against the royal brothers still blacker charges than history has thought fit to preserve as worthy of credit.
Cargill proceeded, leisurely denouncing each of his enemies; and there is, with considerable over-colouring, something not far from a true picture in his reasons of denunciation in each instance – as, for example, in that of Lauderdale:
“Next, I do, by the same authority, &c., excommunicate John, Duke of Lauderdale, for his dreadful blasphemy – especially that word to the Prelate of St. Andrew’s, ‘sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool;’ his atheistical drolling on the Scriptures of God; scoffing at religion and religious persons; his apostacy from the Covenant and Reformation, and his persecuting thereof, after he had been a professor, pleader, and pressor thereof; for his perjury in the business of Mr. James Mitchell:” all followed by an expressive description of his private vices.
Cargill felt that his proceedings in this matter were not entirely free of technical difficulties. Excommunication by an authorised judicatory, being a solemn measure, productive to those on whom it is inflicted of awful consequences, ought to be awarded with judicial solemnity, and after such necessary preliminaries as may enable the accused to exculpate himself. It was beyond denial, that this condemnation of the king savoured of haste, if not of injustice, as he ought to have had an opportunity of defending himself before the awful tribunal which condemned him. Conscious of such objections, after he had finished the sentence, he pronounced an elaborate vindication of it, commencing thus: “I think, none that acknowledge the word of God, the power deputed to the Church, and the reason and nature of that power, can judge this sentence to be unjust. The pretence of its being informal, without warnings, admonitions, &c., is fully answered in that those men have placed themselves above the admonitions of ministers, have repelled all due warnings, and wickedly put to cruel deaths the servants and ministers of Christ who have with freedom and boldness adventured to give them warnings and admonitions, and shut up all access from us that remain to do the like; and as for proof of the facts I have here charged upon them, it needeth none, the deeds being notour and known, and the most of them such as themselves do avow, and, to their shame, boast of. And as the causes are just, and such as for which the ministers of Christ have, in all ages, proceeded to the like sentence; so, it being now done by a minister of the Gospel, and in such a manner as the present circumstances of the Church of Christ, with respect to the present cruel persecutions, will admit, the sentence, likewise, is undoubtedly just also. And there are no powers on earth – either of kings, princes, magistrates, or ministers of the Gospel – can, without the repentance of the persons openly and legally appearing, reverse these sentences on any such account.”31 All this may seem so grotesque and preposterous, that some readers will hardly believe that one capable of putting these sentences together, could have done so for any other than some burlesque purpose. But it was sober truth, in so far as earnestness is concerned. No judge pronouncing sentence, no great ecclesiastical dignitary performing his official function, could ever be more serious than Cargill; for if he possessed not the authority of poor crawling man for what he did, had he not the command of the Lord of Hosts? – was he not also vested with the superhuman power of enforcing it – without which, that command would not have been given? According to a credible account of these transactions,32 he preached on the ensuing Sunday at Fallowhill, in the parish of Livingstone, and in his sermon said: “I know I am, and will be, condemned by many, for what I have done in excommunicating these wicked men; but, condemn me who will, I know that I am approven of God, and am persuaded that what I have done on earth is ratified in heaven.”
Possibly, a reader of these extravagancies might call to recollection vaticinations of street preachers, passed by him in his homeward journeys from the social board, to which they have a considerable resemblance. But between the two there is all the difference of the fundamental and the superficial. Wherever people insane, or on the borders of insanity, exist, there are ridiculous exhibitions with solemn names. Those who develop them are a very small number, living in a fantastic world of their own. They scarcely clog the ordinary revolving-wheel of existence – the surrounding world looks at them with grave pity – the passing policeman lets them alone, unless they make an obstruction. But in Cargill’s time, long years of ferocious oppression had driven the madness into the heart of the people. They were not looking at a fantastic farce, but were ready to fight for the arguments addressed to them by the preacher, who, in his turn, bore a death of protracted torture in justification of what he said to them. Honest Wodrow found himself somewhat perplexed in dealing with this matter of Cargill. Living under the peaceful supremacy of Presbyterianism after the Revolution, he was not disposed to abandon any of the spiritual prerogatives assumed by the pastors of his own persuasion; and yet, flourishing under a government which gave him his own way, and being a man of tolerably cautious walk in life, with much theoretical partiality towards religious martyrs, and much practical reliance on the Duke of Argyle and other powerful statesman of his day, he did not feel himself called on to record his entire approbation of Cargill. If, however, the belief that a miracle is done for a human being, be a testimony in favour of his acts, Wodrow has afforded that testimony. He describes the hunted prophet caught at last by a party of soldiers, and brought in great triumph into Glasgow, where multitudes came to gaze on him. Thither, among the rest, came the archbishop’s factor, named John Nisbet, “an hater of godlyness and the truly religious, a besotted druncard and mocker at piety.” “This profligate wretch,” says the historian, “addressed himself to Mr. Cargill in a way of mocking, and said: ‘Mr. Donald, will you give us one word more.’ ” This, it seems, was a sarcastic allusion to an iterative habit of Cargill in his “pathetic, serious way of preaching.” Being a hard hit, it behoved to be effectually answered by a shaft from Cargill’s peculiar quiver; and so Wodrow solemnly tells us what follows: “Mr. Cargill looked on him a little with regret and sorrow, and then addressed him thus: ‘Mock not, lest your bands be made strong; the day is coming when you shall not have one word to say, though you would.’ This came very shortly to pass. Not many days after, the Lord was pleased to lay his hand upon that ill man. At Glasgow, where he lived, he fell suddenly ill, and for three days his tongue swelled; and though he seemed very earnest to speak, yet he could not command one word, and died in great torment and seeming terror.”33
It was not difficult to find sufficient materials for a charge of treason against Cargill and his companions; for they had not only issued their formidable denunciations, but had assisted in several skirmishes against the royal troops. There is, however, in the indictment, a peculiar and significant feature. The time was seen to be approaching, when those statesmen who were still to bask in the sunshine of royal patronage, must add to their other services that of becoming Roman Catholic. Some supple minds were already practising a little pliancy. Others, of more rugged nature, who had lent themselves cheerfully enough to the forfeitures and persecutions of the fanatics, were bracing themselves against compliance. To show beforehand their determination, it became a favourite practice with them to place the Covenanters and the Jesuits in the same category. So, in the indictment it is set forth, “You, the said Mr. Donald Cargill, have drunk in popish and jesuitical principles of exaucterating and killing of kings; and to make them the better take with your zealous and ignorant disciples, ye did most treasonably excommunicate your sovereign, &c., and ye have by the contagion poisoned and infected many poor and ignorant people, and has given occasion to popish emissaries to co-operate with you in this detestable and antichristian work.”34
In his examination before the council, Cargill, as might be expected, boldly justified his acts, being restrained only by one consideration – that where they were of a purely spiritual character, such as the excommunication of the king, he felt himself not called on to answer regarding them to a temporal tribunal. “Being interrogate if he thinks the killing the Archbishop of St. Andrew’s was a murder, declared that he cannot give his sense thereof; but declares that the Scripture saith, the Lord giving a call to a private man to kill, he might do it lawfully, and instances the case of Phineas and Jael.”35
Cargill was executed, along with several others, and all left behind them solemn testimonies. The character of these documents may be easily inferred from their antecedents; but they were becoming, if possible, more exclusive and rabidly denunciatory of everything that in the slightest degree diverged from the protesting martyrs’ little fagot of opinions. One of them, named William Cuthil, seaman at Borrowstounness, not content with a denunciation of the severities of the time, went back to Cromwell’s toleration, as being in point of principle quite as wicked; nay, he seemed to look upon those who endured the existence of toleration, and did not strive against it even unto the death, as persons whose wicked laxness in this matter was the cause of all the evils of the land. So, of twelve solemn testimonies which he bequeathed from the bloody scaffold, one is
“Against the unfaithfulness, connivance, and compliance of ministers and others, at the wickedness perpetrated in the land during the time of Cromwell’s usurpation; for, as I am informed, few testified against him for trampling all the interests of Jesus Christ under his feet, in giving a toleration to all sectaries which was to set up their threshold beside Christ’s, and their altars beside the Lord’s, in a land covenanted to God, never to suffer the like, and lying under the same bonds.”36 It is, perhaps, scarcely possible for unreasonable fanaticism to go further than this.
It is hardly within the province of these notices, to give an account of those trials which were directed entirely against political offenders connected with the Ryehouse plot, and the other insurrections of the period. It may be, however, noticed, in passing, as one of the later points of persecution, that profligate statesmen took advantage of the confusions and struggles of the times, to fall upon enemies whom they desired to strike or pillage. The fate of Argyle was a signal and appalling instance of these attempts. He had been restored to a great portion of the family estates – he had become a powerful courtier, holding several high offices. He was sunning himself unconsciously in his prosperity, when a plot was laid for his ruin. A test was appointed to be taken by men in office, which was of the most contradictory character; since it represented the contending elements, within the government, of those who were determined to stand by Protestanism, and those who were prepared to veer to Popery. Argyle offered an explanation of the principles on which he took this test, and found himself, to his astonishment, a prisoner charged with high treason, on a quaint old act against misinterpreting the king’s statutes. It was not his life, however, but his estates and offices, that were wanted, as the Duke of York afterwards magnanimously boasted; and though he was condemned to death, it is difficult to believe that the sentence would have been executed. It served more than one purpose, however. It drove the marquis to rebellion; and when he was apprehended, it rendered a trial and conviction for the rebellion unnecessary.
Against Campbell of Cessnock, who was understood to be a loyal man, proceedings were instituted, on the ground of mere casual remarks which he was said to have dropped to certain fugitives from the battle of Bothwell Bridge. If there was truth in a report mentioned by Fountainhall, the motives for this prosecution had not even the respectability of political hatred or religious intolerance, but were of the very basest order; “for it was reported, that Perth and the treasurer-depute, his brother, had assured the king and Duchess of Portsmouth that they had sufficient grounds whereon to forfeit Cessnoch, and that one of her sons by the king was to get the gift of his forfeiture.”37 A hard forensic battle was fought, to exclude the testimony of two witnesses by whom the accusation was to be proved. Campbell’s counsel offered to show that they were bribed, and had a concocted tale to support. The objections were not sustained; but, whether from the revelations made by the counsel, or from some other cause, an occurrence took place which sends one ray of cheerful light into this dark history. It will be safer to take the account of the scene given by Fountainhall, a lawyer, who appears to have witnessed it, than that of Wodrow. It is said:
“This was about eleven o’clock at night; and when the king’s advocate and that party thought all was fixed and sure, the Divine Providence, that overrules all from above, snatched the prey out of their teeth at this time.” Then, describing the way in which the witnesses, Ingram and Craufurd, had been trained to their task, he says: “When it came to the finish, by a miraculous consternation, both Ingram and Craufurd did not remember that Cessnock had used any such expressions to them as were libelled,” &c. “Upon this,” he continues, “the mobile in the court gave a great shout, at which the king’s advocate and justice-general stormed, and said these were very disloyal and indecent exclamations, the like whereof had never been seen in Scotland, but was Shaftesbury’s way in England, in carrying on his business with the ignoramus juries, and to dash, terrify, and confound the king’s evidence and witnesses.”38 Those who had set their hearts on his estates, however, were not to be disappointed, and they carried a forfeiture against him in Parliament.
While the more remarkable trials of Covenanters are to be found in the comparatively long reign of Charles II., the sword was by no means sheathed at the accession of his brother. Although, in the course of his projects for the accomplishment of ulterior ends, King James had to relax the persecuting laws, there is no doubt that he was a dark and obdurate fanatic, who would have made a Donald Cargill had he been driven to the mountains, or a Charles IX. had he reigned in France on St. Bartholomew’s eve. During his administration in Scotland, he had instigated many of the harshest measures; and there are grounds for believing in the truth of that revolting peculiarity attributed to him by Burnet, who says he enjoyed being present at the infliction of torture, and readily superintended the operation when the other members of the privy council sought excuses for retiring. A certain zealous Covenanter, John Shields, wrote a book called “A Hind let Loose; or, an Historical Representation of the Testimonies of the Church of Scotland for the interest of Christ.” It was published in the year 1687, and therefore must have appeared under the protection of the proclamation of indulgence. On that very document he offers the following commentary: “The Duke of York, succeeding in his late proclamation, would make the world believe that it never was his principle, nor will he ever suffer violence to be offered to any man’s conscience, nor use force or invincible necessity against any man on account of his persuasion:- smooth words, to cover the mischiefs of his former destructions, and the wickedness of his future designs!”
And to justify his evil opinion, he thus pithily describes the opening of the new reign: “Immediately upon his mounting the throne, the executions and acts prosecuting the persecution of the poor wanderers were more cruel than ever. There were more butchered and slaughtered in the fields, without all shadow of law or trial, or sentence, than in all the former tyrant’s reign; who were murdered without time given to deliberate upon death, or space to conclude their prayers, but either in the instant when they were praying shooting them to death, or surprising them in their caves, and murdering them there without any grant of prayer at all.”39
Doubtless, to Shields, the indulgence to prelatists, erastians, and sectaries, was a principle no less unjustifiable and intolerable than the persecution of the chosen people. But if we had not ample concurring evidence of the persecuting disposition of the author of the proclamations of indulgence, the terms in which these documents were adapted to Scotland contain internal condemnatory evidence, justifying the suspicions of those who took his offers of toleration for a treacherous device. The Declaration of Liberty of Conscience, published in Scotland, bore to be “by our sovereign authority prerogative royal and absolute power, which all our subjects are to observe without reserve;” and it contained this significant distinction: “We allow and tolerate the moderate Presbyterians to meet in their private houses, and there to hear all such ministers as either have or are willing to accept of our indulgence allenerly, and none other. It is our royal will and pleasure that field-conventicles, and such as preach or exercise at them, or shall anywise assist or connive at them shall be prosecuted according to the utmost severity of our laws;” – a qualification standing in lively contrast to the ample and lauditory concessions made in the same document to the Roman Catholics, who “shall in, all things be as free in all respects as any of our Protestant subjects whatsoever.”40
It was impossible for so diabolical a system to have been in active operation for more than a quarter of a century, without leaving deep marks on the national character. Those who can make themselves acquainted with men through the medium of books, will see in the history of the troubles how a frank, open, unsuspicious people became leavened with that exclusive, sullen, spiritual self-sufficiency which courted the fierce raillery of Burns, and occasionally overshadows the advanced civilisation and improved freedom of the nineteenth century. The sectarianism of Scotland – the peculiar propensity in each person to get within some narrow sheepfold, where, seeking refuge for his own peculiar opinions, he anathematises and excommunicates all the world beyond – was the not unnatural fruit of the long dreary sojourns among misty mountains, and the lurking in caves, where the idola specús were the reflecting man’s sole companions.41 The habits of thought and feeling so violently engrafted on the moral constitution of a people, are not speedily eradicated.
But it was not merely on the religious bearing and belief of the people that the long period of tyrannous anarchy produced its baneful influence. Besides those who inflicted, and those who resisted for conscience sake, the general confusion and the relaxation of all social influences produced a class who were neither led by religion nor by law, but followed their own profligate will. The law taught them that the Presbyterians and their clergy were criminals; the Covenanters told them that the laws were made by wicked men, who ought to be slain rather than obeyed. The Episcopal clergy, and, still more, those Presbyterians who accepted of the partial indulgence, were thus marked off for the insults and inflictions of a lawless and uneducated rabble. “I have known,” says Kirkton, “some profane people, if they had committed an error at night, thought affronting a curate to-morrow a testimony of their repentance.”42 It is evident, too, from the pages of Wodrow – though more is indicated than told – that there was much worldly wickedness among those who professed to be zealous for the Covenant.43 If there be truth in the terrible picture which Fletcher of Saltoun gave of the vagrancy and crime in Scotland in the reign of King William, it must be attributed to the same prolific source of social evil.44
To the same cause may, in some measure, be attributed the development of a political profligacy 80 eccentric and incomprehensible as to baffle the calculations of the most sagacious statesmen, and distract the theories of historical philosophers. Bodies of men, influenced by irrational prejudices and obdurate enmities, were turned by designing and profligate leaders into political courses that seemed the most unnatural and improbable; and such factious phenomena were developed, as that a zealous revolutionist, who did not get the place he wanted, might immediately be found at the head of the ultra-Covenanters in a plot to restore the Pretender.
That incomprehensible, protean political intriguer, called Ferguson the Plotter, was an immediate fruit of the penal laws against the Covenanters.45 He was one of their clergy, and was indicted along with Spreul, an apothecary, for fighting at Bothwell Bridge. Managing in some way to evade the prosecution, he connected himself with the projects for maintaining that Charles II. was privately married to the mother of the Duke of Monmouth. It was he who cast an apparent stain on the projects of Russell and Sydney, by framing under their shadow the assassination-plot for the murder of the king and the duke. He was Monmouth’s evil genius, almost dragging him to the fatal field of Sedgemure. He plotted for the Prince of Orange; and when William was on the throne, re-plotted for the Jacobites, in conjunction with his old friends the Covenanters; and he was deeply embarked in the Jacobite intrigues of Queen Anne’s reign. Few have, perhaps, so restlessly moved every available engine of political mischief; but he was, after all, merely the representative of a reckless spirit of political morality, inculcated on its children by a government which, beginning in haughty recklessness, both about the feelings and the welfare of the people, became, by an almost insensible transition, their scourge and curse.
1 Speaking of the risks attending the use of documents as conclusive against those whose signature they bear, Sir George says, “And yet the Marquess of Argyle was convict of treason upon letters written to him by General Monk; these letters being only subscribed by him, and not autograph, and the subscription having been proved per comparationem literarum, which were very hard in other cases, seeing comparatio literarum, is but a presumption, and men’s hands are ofttimes easily imitated, and one man’s write will differ from itself at several occasions.” – Laws and Customs of Scotland, p. 524.
2 In the Advocates’ Library.
3 Balfour’s Hist. Works, iv., 169.
4 Analecta, ii., 159.
5 Sanctify yourselves, or pray.
6 Analecta, ii., 159. The context of this anecdote is a little confused, and it might possibly apply to the Rev. James Guthrie, who is mentioned further on.
7 Analecta, p. 135.
8 Scots Acts, vii., Appendix, p. 70.
9 Sir George Mackenzie – Memoirs of the Affairs of Scotland, p. 134.
10 Analecta, iii., 158.
11 This number is exaggerated to the extent of more than doubling what authentic history indicates; but it is in accordance with the old fabulous historians, whose catalogue of kings it was a matter of state policy to support untouched. When the English antiquary, Bishop Lloyd, docked the list, Sir George Mackenzie told him, that had he been a Scotsman, he would have instituted criminal proceedings against him as prosecutor for the crown.
12 For all the proceedings against Guthrie, see Scots Acts, vii., Appendix, pp. 34-74.
13 Analecta, ii., 138.
14 Analecta, i., 108.
15 History of the Sufferings, b. i., ch. ii.
16 Meaning reciprocation.
17 Baillie’s Letters and Journals, iii., 586.
18 Kirkton – Secret and True History, p. 150.
19 Abridgment of Records of justiciary, MS., Ad. Lib.
20 Laws and Customs in Matters Criminal, p. 59.
21 State Trials, vi., 1215.
22 This, which is taken literatim from the MS. Record, agrees entirely in substance with the contemporary accounts, the accuracy of which has been often questioned.
23 See State Trials, vi., 1229; but this chapter of Samuel has not 29 verses.
24 28th July, 1681.
25 Analecta, i., 104.
26 Ib., 105.
27 State Trials, x., 813.
28 State Trials, x., 824.
29 State Trials, x., 833.
30 Analecta, i., 69.
31 State Trials, x., 874-6.
32 Crookshank’s History of the Church of Scotland, from the Restoration to the Revolution. The historian states, that it is not his province “either to condemn or vindicate” them; and then proceeds: “Had not the persons against whom the sentence was pronounced, been guilty of all that was laid to their charge? Was not Mr. Cargill an approved minister of the Gospel? Can it be said that kings and princes are not subject to the censures of the Church?” II., 108.
33 History, iii., 279. In Wodrow’s Note-Book there are many such anecdotes, in which a sneer on the qualities or capacities of any gifted clergyman, is sure to be followed by a signal judgment called down by his denunciations. Wodrow generally appends to these instances, by way of warning, the apposite scriptural precept: “Touch not his anointed, and do his prophets no harm.” One of these judgments is peculiarly curious. There was a powerful popular preacher, called David Williamson, on whom was made the song, well known in Scotland, of “Dainty Davie,” in commemoration of an act of scandalous gallantry which recommended him to the sympathising applause of Charles II. “I am well informed,” says Wodrow, “that Mr. David Williamson, when he was, a little after the Revolution, supplying at Aberdeen, was much hated by the Jacobites and Episcopals there, who put all the obloquy and affronts upon him they could. Particularly on Sabbath, when he was going to preach, they hounded out a poor profane man to meet him in the public street, and sing and dance on the Sabbath. Whether he had a fiddle playing, also, I do not mind; but the tune he sang, in dancing before him, was ‘Dainty Davie.’ Mr. Williamson was grieved at the profanation of the Sabbath, and said to somebody with him, ‘Alas! for that poor man – he is now rejecting the last offer he is ever to have of Christ.’ The wretch came not to church, and before night died in a few minutes.” – Analecta, iv., 45.
34 State Trials, x., 871.
35 Ibid., p. 884.
36 State Trials, x., 906.
37 Historical Notices, ii., 521.
38 Historical Notices, ii., 521.
39 “Hind let Loose,” p. 200.
40 Kennet’s Hist., iii. 449.
41 A characteristic little anecdote has been told, which may be held to illustrate the spirit of sectarianism carried to its extreme development. At the time when the Secession Church was divided into the Burgher and Anti-Burgher communion, some schoolboys are supposed to have got access to a Burgher meeting-house, where they amused themselves with the game of hide-and-seek in the pews and pulpit. The beadle or officer, dreading possible injury to the property, darts among the unsuspicious urchins, and captures a prisoner. While he is deliberating how to deal with him, a voice comes from a fellow-urchin of the opposite sect, to this effect, “Hit him hard, hit him hard – his father’s an Anti-Burgher.”
42 History of the Church of Scotland, p. 163.
43 Take the following instance, which reminds one of Ireland in later times: “Three foot-soldiers, of Captain Maitland’s company, had been sent to quarter upon a countryman near Lowdon-hill, because he had not paid the cess. They continued there near ten days. The man in the house being sick, they were not altogether so outrageous as many of their gang used to be. The wife, or woman-servant, had, during that time, threatened them that if they left not the house, they might come to repent it; but they were not much careful about that, and answered, they came by orders, and behoved either to have their errand or orders to go away. One of the three went down to Newmills, upon Saturday, and stayed all night; whether he was any way conscious to the design, or only affrighted by the warning, was not known. But upon Sabbath morning, April 20, five horsemen, and about as many foot, came, about two o’clock in the morning, and rudely knocked at the barn-door where the remaining two soldiers were lying. They taking it to be their comrade come from Newmills, one of them rose in his shirt, and opened the door. He was saluted with reproachful words, ‘Come out you damned rogues,’ and was shot through the body, and fell down dead, without speaking one word. The other got up, upon this, to put to the door, and received a shot in the thigh from the same hand. The assassin alighted from his horse, and came in upon the soldier, who grappled a little with him, till another came up and knocked him down. He was perfectly dammished with the stroke; and when he recovered his senses, he thought it convenient to lie still in the place as dead. The murderers came into the barn, and took away the soldiers’ arms and clothes, and in a little went off.” – Hist., b. iii., ch. i.
44 He calculates the vagrants – certainly exaggerating – at 100,000; and his description of their character, however appalling, is supported by indications from other quarters. He calls them “vagabonds, who have lived without any regard or subjection either to the laws of the land, or even those of God and Nature;” and says: “No magistrate could ever discover, or be informed, which way one in a hundred of these wretches died, or that ever they were baptized. Many murders have been discovered among them; and they are not only a most unspeakable oppression to poor tenants – who, if they give not bread, or some kind of provision, to perhaps forty such villains in one day, are sure to be insulted by them, – but they rob many poor people who live in houses distant from any neighbourhood.” – Second Discourse on the Affairs of Scotland.
45 The author has had an opportunity of giving, elsewhere, an account of this singular man.