OF 1715 AND 1745.
BY MRS. THOMSON,
"MEMOIRS OF THE COURT OF HENRY THE EIGHTH," "MEMOIRS OF SARAH, DUCHESS OF MARLBOROUGH," ETC.
LONDON: RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET, Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty. 1845.
Printed by S. & J. BENTLEY, WILSON, and FLEY, Bangor House, Shoe Lane.
In completing two volumes of a work which has been for some years in contemplation, it may be remarked that it is the only collective Biography of the Jacobites that has yet been given to the Public. Meagre accounts, scattered anecdotes, and fragments of memoir, have hitherto rather tantalized than satisfied those who have been interested in the events of 1715 and 1745. The works of Home, of Mr. Chambers, and the collections of Bishop Forbes, all excellent, are necessarily too much mingled up with the current of public affairs to comprise any considerable portion of biographical detail. Certain lives of some of the sufferers in the cause of the Stuarts, printed soon after the contests in behalf of those Princes, are little more than narratives of their trials and executions; they were intended merely as ephemeral productions to gratify a curious public, and merit no long existence. It would have been, indeed, for many years, scarcely prudent, and certainly not expedient, to proffer any information concerning the objects of royal indignation, except that which the newspapers afforded: nor was it perfectly safe, for a considerable time after the turbulent times in which the sufferers lived, to palliate their offences, or to express any deep concern for their fate. That there was much to be admired in those whose memories were thus, in some measure, consigned to oblivion, except in the hearts of their descendants; much which deserved to be explained in their motives; much which claimed to be upheld in their self-sacrifices, the following pages will show. Whatever leaning the Author may have had to the unfortunate cause of the Stuarts, it has not, however, been her intention only to pourtray the bright ornaments of the party. She has endeavoured to show that it was composed, as well as most other political combinations, of materials differing in value—some pure, some base, some noble, some mean and vacillating.
As far as human weakness and prejudice can permit, the Author has aimed at a strict scrutiny of conduct and motives. In the colouring given to these, she has conscientiously sought to be impartial: for the facts stated, she has given the authorities.
It now remains for the Author publicly to acknowledge the resources from which she has derived some materials which have never before been given to the Public, and for which she has to thank, in several instances, not only the kindness of friends, but the liberality of strangers.
A very interesting collection of letters, many of them written in the Earl of Mar's own hand, and others dictated by him, is interwoven with the biography of that nobleman. These letters were written, in fact, for the information of the whole body of Jacobites, to whom they were transmitted through the agent of that party, Captain Henry Straiton, residing in Edinburgh. They form almost a diary of Lord Mar's proceedings at Perth. They are continued up to within a few hours of the evacuation of that city by the Jacobite army. For these curious and characteristic letters, pourtraying as they do, in lively colours, the difficulties of the General in his council and his camp, she is indebted to the friendship and mediation of the Honourable Lord Cockburn, and to the liberality of James Gibson Craig, Esq.
To the Right Honourable the Earl of Newburgh, the descendant and representative of the Radcliffe family, her sincere and respectful acknowledgments are due for his Lordship's readily imparting to her several interesting particulars of the Earl of Derwentwater and his family. She owes a similar debt of gratitude to the Viscount Strathallan, for his Lordship's communication to her respecting the House of Drummond. To the Honourable Mrs. Bellamy, the descendant of Viscount Kenmure, she has also to offer similar acknowledgments, for information respecting her unfortunate ancestor; and for an original letter of his Lordship; and she must also beg to express her obligations to William Constable Maxwell, Esq., and to Mrs. Constable Maxwell, of Terregles, the descendants of the Earl of Nithisdale, for their courteous and prompt assistance. To James Craik, Esq., of Arbigland, Dumfriesshire, she is indebted for a correspondence which continues, as it were, an account of that family during the later part of the year 1745. To Sir Fitzroy Grafton Maclean, Bart., she owes the account of his clan and family, which has been printed for private circulation. She is also grateful to a descendant of the family of Lochiel, Miss Mary Anne Cameron, for some interesting particulars of the burning of Achnacarry, the seat of her ancestors.
In some of these instances the information derived has not been considerable, owing to the total wreck of fortune, the destruction of houses, and the loss of papers, which followed the ruthless steps of the conquering army of the Duke of Cumberland. Most of the hereditary memorials of those Highland families who engaged in both rebellions, perished; and their representatives are strangely destitute of letters, papers, and memorials of every kind. The practice of burying family archives and deeds which prevailed during the troubles, was adopted but with partial advantage, by those who anticipated the worst result of the contest.
In recalling with pleasure the number of those to whom the Author owes sincere gratitude for kindness and aid in her undertaking, the name of Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, Esq. renews the remembrance of that store of antiquarian information from which others, far more worthy to enjoy it than herself, have owed obligations. The Author has also most gratefully to acknowledge the very kind and valuable assistance of Archibald Macdonald, Esq., of the Register Office, Edinburgh, to whom she is indebted for several original letters; and of Robert Chambers, Esq., to whose liberality she is indebted for several of her manuscript sources, as well as some valuable advice on the subject of her work. To Dr. Irvine, Librarian of the Advocate's Library, Edinburgh, the Author offers, with the most lively pleasure, her sincere acknowledgments for a ready and persevering assistance in aid of her undertaking. Again, she begs to repeat her sense of deep obligation to Mr. Keats, of the British Museum, the literary pilot of many years' historical research.
LONDON, October 27, 1845.
The history of the Jacobites properly begins with the brave and conscientious men who followed James the Second to France, or fought and bled for him in the United Kingdom. Of the few nobles whom that Monarch had distinguished by his friendship when Duke of York, or graced with his favours when King, three only in Scotland remained attached openly to his interests: these were the Duke of Gordon, the Lord Balcarras, and Claverhouse of Dundee, who may be regarded as the parents of the Jacobite party in Scotland. "The other nobles of the late King's party," remarks a great historian, "waited for events, in hopes and in fears, from the Old Government and the New, intriguing with both, and depended upon by neither."
Upon the death of Dundee, a troop of officers who had fought under the standard of that great General, and who had imbibed his lofty opinions and learned to imitate his dauntless valour, capitulated, and were suffered to leave the country and retire to France. Their number amounted to a hundred and fifty: they were all of honourable birth, and glorying in their political principles. At first these exiles were pensioned by the French Government, but, upon the close of the civil war, those pensions ceased. Finding themselves a burden upon King James, they formed themselves into a body-guard, which was afterwards incorporated with the French army. It may fairly be presumed that this remnant of Dundee's army, four of whom only returned to Scotland, were instrumental during their abode in France in maintaining a communication between the Court of St. Germains and their disheartened countrymen who had remained in their Highland homes. Abroad, they supported their military character as soldiers who had fought under Dundee: they were always the foremost in the battle and the last to retreat, and were distinguished by a superiority in order and discipline, no less than by their energy and courage.
There can be no doubt but that the majority of the great landholders in England, as well as the Highland chiefs, continued, through the reign of William and Mary, disposed to high Tory views; and that had not the popular cry of the Church being in danger aided the designs of the Whigs, the Highflyers, or rigid Tories, would not have remained in quiescence during that critical period, which resembled the settling of a rushing current of waters into a frothing and bubbling pool, rather than the calm tenour of a gently-flowing stream. Throughout the distractions of his reign, it was the wise policy of William the Third to balance parties; to bestow great posts upon moderate men; to employ alternately persons of different opinions, and by frequent changes in his Ministry, to conciliate the good-will of both factions;—and this was all that that able Monarch could effect, until time should extinguish political animosity.
Queen Mary, educated in Tory principles, and taught by her maternal uncle, the Earl of Rochester, to consider every opposition to the Sovereign's will as rebellion, was scarcely regarded in the light of an enemy to the doctrine of passive obedience and non-resistance, notwithstanding her unfilial conduct; and it is remarkable that, during her life, great favour was shown at Court to the Highland partisans of James the Second; distinctions were as much avoided as it was possible; and the personal prepossessions of the Queen were supposed to be on the side of the High Church Tories.
During the reign of Anne, notwithstanding the coalition of Godolphin, Marlborough, and other leaders of the moderate Tories with the Whigs, and the reputation and glory which their combined abilities and characters obtained, a conviction was still prevalent that the heart of the Queen was disposed to the restoration of the ancient race, and that her days would not close before a design to secure the succession to her nephew would be matured, and the Act of Succession, which was chiefly the offspring of Whig policy, should be set aside. There was, doubtless, not only in the mind of Anne, but in that of her sagacious predecessor, an apprehension that after the death of the last of their dynasty, the succession would again be fiercely disputed. Impressed with this conviction, it was a favourite scheme of William to invite the child, who afterwards, under the name of the Chevalier St. George, was the hero, in dumb show, it must be acknowledged, of the Insurrection of 1715, to receive his education in England under his kingly care; to be bred up a Protestant; and to make that education the earnest of his future succession. The proposal was rejected by James the Second, to the great prejudice of his son's interests, and to the misfortune, it may be presumed, of the British nation. For one can scarcely suppose a more perfect combination of all the qualities calculated to form a popular Monarch, in this country, than the natural abilities of the Stuart race, perfected under the able guidance of so reflective a ruler—so accomplished a general—so consummate a statesman, as William. The education which that Monarch had planned for the young Duke of Gloucester shows how enlarged and practical were his views of the acquirements necessary for a Sovereign: it presents a scheme of tuition which, if it may be deemed not wholly adapted to the present day, was on the most comprehensive and liberal scale. But James, acting, at all events, with the consistency of a sincere believer, returned, as Dalrymple expresses it, "slowly and sadly to bury the remembrance of his greatness in the convent of La Trappe;" and all future attempts on the part of his posterity to recover the throne of their ancestors were frustrated by the hollowness of French professions of friendship.
The tranquil demeanour of the Jacobite party during the reign of Anne may seem surprising, when we consider the avowed favour and protection which were held out by Louis the Fourteenth to the royal exiles of St. Germain. During the lifetime of James, who considered that he had exchanged the hope of an earthly for that of a heavenly Crown, there was little to wonder at in this inactivity and apparent resignation. Had it not been for the influence of an enthusiastic, high-minded, and fascinating woman, the very mention of the cause would probably have died away in the priest-thronged saloons of St. Germains. To Mary of Modena the credit is due—if credit on such account is to be assigned—for maintaining in the friends of her consort, for instilling in the breast of her son, a desire of restoration;—that word, in fact, might be found, to speak metaphorically, written in her heart. To her personal qualities, to her still youthful attractions, to her pure mind, and blameless career of conjugal duty—to the noble, maternal ambition which no worthy judge of human motives could refuse a tribute of pity and admiration—to her disregard of low and unworthy instruments to advance her means, as in the case of Lovat, even the warmest partisans of the Revolution were forced to do justice. The disinterested and sagacious Godolphin is said to have done more: he is supposed to have cherished such a respectful enthusiasm for the young mother who thus supported the claims of her son, as might have become the chivalric Surrey. Whatever were the fact, during the existence of Anne, the payment of a dowry to Mary of Modena, the favourable understanding between her son, as he grew up to man's estate, and the English Court, the small reward offered for his apprehension, the conniving at the daily enlistment of men in his service, and the indulgence shown to those who openly spoke and preached against the Revolution, were certain indications and ample proofs that had the Queen's life been prolonged, some effectual steps would have been taken to efface from her memory the recollection of her early failure of duty to King James, and to satisfy the reproaches of her narrow, though conscientious mind. That such was the fact, the declaration or manifesto of the Chevalier, dated from Plombieres, August 2, 1714, and printed in French, English, and Latin, attests; and the assertion was confirmed by a letter from the Duke of Lorrain to the English Government. This favourable disposition on the part of Anne proves that she gave no credence to the report of the supposititious birth of the Prince; although, in her youthful days, and when irritated against her step-mother, she had entered into the Court gossip on that subject, with all the eagerness of a weak and credulous mind.
Nourished in secret by these hopes, the Jacobites in England constituted a far more important party than our historians are generally willing to allow. The famous work entitled, "English Advice to the Freeholders of Great Britain," supposed to be written by Bishop Atterbury, was extensively circulated throughout the country: it tended to promote an opposition cry of "the Church in danger!" by insinuating that the Whigs projected the abolition of Episcopacy. It was received with great enthusiasm; and was responded to with fervour by the University of Oxford, which was inflamed with a zeal for the restoration of the Stuarts; and which displayed much of the same ardour, and held forth the same arguments that had stimulated that seat of learning in the days of Charles the First. To these sentiments, the foreign birth, the foreign language, and, above all, the foreign principles of the King added considerable disgust: nor can it be a matter of surprise that such should be the case. It appears, nevertheless, extraordinary that the opposition to so strange an engrafting of a foreign ruler should not have been received with greater public manifestations of dislike than the unorganized turbulence of Oxford under-graduates, or the ephemeral fury of a London populace.
In Scotland a very different state of public feeling prevailed. In England men of commerce were swayed in their political opinions by the good of trade, which nothing was so likely to injure as a disputed succession. The country gentlemen were, more or less, under the influence of party pamphlets, and were liable to have their political prejudices smoothed down by collision with their neighbours. Excepting in the northern counties, the dread of Popery prevailed also universally. The remembrance of the bigotry and tyranny of James the Second had not faded away from the remembrance of those whose fathers or grandfathers could remember its details. In the Highlands of Scotland the memory of that Monarch was, on the other hand, worshipped as a friend of that noble country, as the Stuart peculiarly their own, as the royal exile, whose health and return, under various disguises, they had pledged annually at their hunting-matches, and to whose youthful son they transferred an allegiance which they held sacred as their religion.
Nor had James the Second earned the devotion of the Highland chieftains without some degree of merit on his own part. The most incapable and unworthy of rulers, he had yet some fine and popular qualities as a man; he was not devoid of a considerable share of ability although it was misapplied. His letters to his son, his account of his own life, show that one who could act most erroneously and criminally, did, nevertheless, often think and feel rightly. His obstinate adherence to his own faith may be lamented by politicians; it may be sneered at by the worldly; but it must be approved by all who are themselves staunch supporters of that mode of faith which they conscientiously adopt. In private society James had the power of attaching his dependents; and perhaps from a deeper source than that which gave attraction to the conversation of his good-natured, dissolute brother. His melancholy and touching reply to Sir Charles Littleton, who expressed to him his shame that his son was with the Prince of Orange:—"Alas! Sir Charles! why ashamed? Are not my daughters with him?" was an instance of that readiness and delicacy which are qualities peculiarly appropriate to royalty. His exclamation at the battle of La Hogue, when he beheld the English sailors scrambling up the sides of the French ships from their boats—"None but my brave English could do this!" was one trait of a character neither devoid of sensibility, nor destitute of certain emotions which appear incompatible with the royal patron of Judge Jeffries, and with the enemy of Monmouth.
During his residence, when Duke of York, at Holyrood, accompanied by Anne Hyde, when Duchess of York, James became extremely popular in Edinburgh; in the Highlands his hold of the affections of the chieftains had a deeper origin. The oppressor of the English had endeavoured to become the emancipator of the chieftains. The rigour of the feudal system, which was carried to its utmost extent in the Highlands, although softened by the patriarchal character of the chiefs, was revolting to the chieftains or landholders under the yoke of some feudal nobleman or chief; and they became ambitious of becoming direct holders from the Crown. It was a scheme of James the Second to abolish this system of infeudation, by buying up the superiorities,—a plan, the completion of which was attempted by William the Third, but defeated by the avarice and dishonesty of those who managed the transaction. The chieftains, however, never forgot the obligation which they owed to James: they refused all offers of emolument or promotion from his successor; and they adhered to the exiled King with a loyalty which was never shaken, and which broke forth conspicuously in the Insurrection of 1715. "The Highlanders," says Dalrymple, "carried in their bosoms the high point of honour without its follies."
Without entering into the various reasons which strengthened this sentiment of gratitude and allegiance; without commenting upon the partly patriarchal nature of the clan system, and the firm compact which was cemented between every member of that family by a common relationship of blood; it is sufficient to remark, that to a people so retired, in many parts insulated, in all, apart from daily intelligence, far away from communication with any whose free disquisitions might possibly stake their opinions, it was not surprising that the loyalty to James should continue unalloyed during two successive reigns. It burned, indeed, with a steady though covered flame. The Insurrection of 1715, which seems, in the pages of history, to break forth unexpectedly, was long in being organized. From Anne's first Session of Parliament until the completion of the Union, Scotland was in a state of ferment, and violent party divisions racked civil society. In 1707, the famous Colonel Hooke was sent to the northern parts of Scotland from France, to sound the nobility and chieftains with respect to their sentiments, to ascertain the amount of their forces, and to inquire what quantity of ammunition and other warlike stores should be necessary to be sent from France. A full account of affairs was compiled, and was signed by fifteen noblemen and gentlemen, amongst whom the Duke of Athole, who aspired, according to Lockhart, to be another General Monk, was foremost in promoting the restoration of the youthful son of James the Second. This mission was followed by the unsuccessful attempt at invasion on the part of James, in 1708; when, according to some representations, there was a far more reasonable prospect of success than at any later period. The nobility and gentry were, at that time, well prepared to receive the royal adventurer; the regular army was wholly unfit, either in numbers or ammunition, to oppose the forces which they would have raised. The very Guards, it is supposed, would have done duty on the person of James Stuart the night that he landed. The equivalent money sent to Scotland to reward the promoters of the Union, was still in the country, and a considerable part of it was in the Castle of Edinburgh; and a Dutch fleet had recently run aground on the coast of Angus, and had left there a vast quantity of powder, shot, and cannon, and a large sum of money, which might have been secured. England was, at this time, distracted with jealousies and factions; and although the great Marlborough was then in the vigour of his youth, ready to defend his country, as well as to extend her dominions, there were suspicions that the General was not wholly adverse to the claims of James Stuart.
How far these expectations might have been realised, it is difficult to say. The French newspapers had proclaimed the preparations for invasion, and Louis the Fourteenth had taken leave of James, wishing him a prosperous voyage, and expressing, as the highest compliment, "the hope that he should never see him again," when a slight, accidental indisposition disturbed the whole arrangement. The royal youth was taken ill with the measles; upon which the French troops which had embarked at Dunkirk disembarked. A fatal delay was occasioned; and the French fleet, after an ineffectual voyage, went "sneakingly home," "doing," as one of the most active Jacobites remarks, "much harm to the King, his country, and themselves."
Such was the fate of the attempt, in 1708, to place James Stuart on the throne of his ancestors; and it will readily be believed that the ill-starred endeavour did not add to the probable success of any future enterprise. Scarcely had the accession of George the First, an event which a certain historian denominates "a surprising turn of Providence," taken place, than the removal of Lord Bolingbroke from office announced to the Tory party that they had lost their best friend at Court. Upon this intelligence reaching the Highlands, many of the Jacobites took up arms; but this hasty demonstration of good will to their cause was instantly suppressed. The Chevalier was, nevertheless, proclaimed King in the night time, and three noblemen, the Duke of Gordon, the Marquis of Huntley, and Lord Drummond, were kept prisoners in their own houses. In the middle of November, the Chevalier's Declaration, asserting his right and title to the Crown of England, was sent by a French mail to many persons of rank in this country. For some months the country was in a state of ferment, such as, perhaps, had never been witnessed since the days of the Great Rebellion. The Jacobites were centered in Oxford, but Bristol was also another of their strongholds; the course of justice was impeded there by riots; and every effort was made, both there and elsewhere, to influence the elections, which were carried on with a degree of venom and fury, exasperated by the cry of "the Church in danger!"
In February, 1715, the Duke of Argyle, Commander-in-Chief of his Majesty's forces in Scotland, received information that a vessel containing arms and ammunition had landed in the Isle of Sky, and that five strangers had disembarked there, and had instantly dispersed themselves throughout the country. This was the first positive indication of the combination, which already comprised most of the ancient and respected names in Scotland. This confederacy, as it may be called, had existed ever since the peace of Utrecht, under the form of the Jacobite Association. In 1710, the formation of the October Club had shewed plainly the bias of the country gentlemen, who, according to a judge of men's motives who was rarely satisfied, "did adhere firmly to their principles and engagements, acting the part of honest countrymen and dutiful subjects."
About the month of May, the report of James Stuart's intended invasion of Scotland, and particulars of the preparations made for it in England, Scotland, and France, became public. Measures were, of course, instantly taken to guard the coasts of England and Scotland, and to augment land forces. The Habeas Corpus Act was suspended in England, and in Scotland. An Act, passed in 1701, for preventing wrong imprisonments, and against undue delay in trials, was also suspended from the twenty-third of July, 1715, until the twenty-fourth of the ensuing January. A fleet, under the command of Sir George Byng, was ordered to cruise in the Downs; and the most active and vigilant measures were taken in order to put the nation into a position of defence. The former intended invasion of 1708 was not forgotten, and it acted like a warning voice to the English Ministry. A Whig Association was framed among persons of rank and influence; and in Edinburgh a body of volunteers was formed, who might daily be seen exercising in the Great Hall of the College.
Meantime the Jacobites were increasing in strength. During the last six years collections had been made in the continental nations, purporting to be for a "gentleman in distress," and the amount was said to have exceeded twelve millions. Of this sum, one hundred thousand pounds was entrusted to the Earl of Mar.
The whole scheme of the insurrection was matured, and the Chevalier had been proclaimed King in different towns in Scotland, when the death of Louis the Fourteenth cast such a damp over the spirits of the party, that there ensued a consultation as to the expediency of their separating and returning to their homes. In this emergency, unhappily for the brave and ardent men whom he had assembled at Braemar, the influence of the Earl of Mar, and the arguments which his sanguine spirit suggested, prevailed; and the assembled chiefs parted, only to meet again at their appointed places of rendezvous.
The scheme of the Insurrection of 1715 embraced three different movements. In the north, the Earl of Mar was to possess himself of all the rich coasts of Fife, and also to maintain, in the name of James the Third, the northern counties, which, with few exceptions, were soon under the control of the insurgents. An attempt was made upon the southern parts of Scotland, by sending Brigadier Mackintosh, with a strong detachment of men, to cross the Firth of Forth, and to land in the Lothians, there expecting to be joined by friends on the borders and from England. In the west, a rising of the south-country Scots, under the command of Lord Kenmure, was projected; whilst in Northumberland the English Jacobites, headed by Mr. Forster, with a commission of General from Lord Mar, and aided by the Earl of Derwentwater, was to give the signal and incentive to the adherents of James in the sister Kingdom, as well as to co-operate with the Scottish forces under the commands of Brigadier Mackintosh and Viscount Kenmure. An attack upon Edinburgh was also concerted.
Such is the outline of a plan of an insurrection to the effect of which the Earl of Mar declared the Jacobites had been looking for six and twenty years. How immature it was in its conception—how deficient in energy and union was its execution—how unworthy was its chief instrument—how fatal to the good and great were its results—and, by a singular fortune, how those who least merited their safety escaped, whilst the gallant and honest champions of the cause suffered, will be fully detailed in the following pages. Let it be remembered that the task of compiling these Memoirs has been undertaken with no party spirit, nor with any wish to detract from the deep obligations which we owe to those who preserved us from inroads on our constitution, and oppression in our religious opinions. It has been, however, begun with a sincere wish to do justice to the disinterested and the good; and, as the task has proceeded, and increased information on the subject has been gained, it has been continued with a conviction that, whatever may be the nature or merits of the abstract principles on which it was undertaken, the Insurrection of 1715 forms an episode in the history of our country as creditable to many of the ill-fated actors in its tragic scenes, as any that have been detailed in the pages of that history.
LONDON, October 28, 1845.
 Rapin. Dissertation on the Origin and Government of England, vol. xiv. p. 423.
 See Introduction to the Memoirs of Cameron of Lochiel, p. 22.
 Lockhart, vol. i. p. 239.
 Lockhart, vol. i. p. 324.
 Reay, p. 187.
THE FIRST VOLUME.
PAGE JOHN ERSKINE, EARL OF MAR (with a Portrait) 1
JAMES RADCLIFFE, EARL OF DERWENTWATER (with a Portrait) 224
THE MASTER OF SINCLAIR 282
CAMERON OF LOCHIEL 313
MEMOIRS OF THE JACOBITES.
JOHN ERSKINE, EARL OF MAR.
"The title of Mar," observes Lord Hailes, "is one of the Earldoms whose origin is lost in its antiquity." It existed before our records, and before the era of general history: hence, the Earls of Mar claimed always to be called first in the Scottish Parliament in the roll of Earls, as having no rival in the antiquity of their honours.
From the time of Malcolm Canmore, in the year 1065, until the fourteenth century, the family of De Mar enjoyed this Earldom; but on the death of Thomas, the thirteenth Earl of Mar, in 1377, the direct male line of this race ended. The Earldom then devolved upon the female representatives of the house of De Mar; and thence, as in most similar instances in Scotland, it became the subject of contention, fraud, and violence.
Isabel, Countess of Mar and Garioch, the last of the De Mar family, was won in marriage by a singular and determined species of courtship, formerly common in Scotland; the influence of terror. The heiress of the castle of Kildrummie, and a widow, her first husband, Sir Malcolm Drummond, having died in 1403, her wealth and rank attracted the regards of Alexander Stewart, the natural son of Robert Earl of Buchan, of royal blood. Without waiting for the ordinary mode of persuasion to establish an interest in his favour, this wild, rapacious man appeared in the Highlands at the head of a band of plunderers, and planting himself before the castle of Kildrummie, stormed it, and effected a marriage between himself and the Countess of Mar. Alexander Stewart, in cooler moments, however, perceived the danger of this bold measure, and resolved to establish his right to the Countess and to her estates by another process. One morning, during the month of September 1404, he presented himself at the Castle gate of Kildrummie, and formally surrendered to the Countess the castle, its furniture, and the title-deeds kept within its chests; thus returning them to her to do with them as she pleased. The Countess, on the other hand, holding the keys in her hand, and declaring herself to be of "mature advice," chose the said Alexander for her husband, and gave him the castle, the Earldom of Mar, with all the other family estates in her possession. She afterwards conferred these gifts by a charter, signed and sealed in the open fields, in the presence of the Bishop of Ross, and of her whole tenantry, in order to show that these acts were produced by no unlawful coercion on the part of her husband. The said honours and estates were also to descend to any children born in that marriage. Some of her kindred listened resentfully to the account of these proceedings of Isabel of Mar.
The next heir to the Earldom, after the death of Isabel, was Janet, grand-daughter of Gratney, eleventh Earl of Mar. This lady had married Sir Thomas Erskine, the proprietor of the Barony of Erskine, on the Clyde, the property of the family during many ages; and she expected, on the death of the Countess of Mar, to succeed to the honours which had descended to her by the female line. By a series of unjust and rapacious acts on the part of the Crown, not only did Robert, Lord Erskine, her son, fail in securing his rights, but her descendants had the vexation of seeing their just honours and rights revert to the King, James the Third, who bestowed them first upon his brother, the accomplished and unfortunate John Earl of Mar, who was bled to death in one of the houses of the Canongate, in Edinburgh; and afterwards, upon Cochrane, the favourite of James the Third. The Earldom of Mar was then conferred on Alexander Stewart, the third son of King James; and after his death, upon James Stewart, Prior of St. Andrews, who had a charter from his sister, Queen Mary, entitling him to enjoy the long contested honour. But he soon relinquished the title, to assume that of Moray, which had also been bestowed upon him by the Queen: and in 1565 Mary repaired the injustice committed by her predecessors, and restored John Lord Erskine to the Earldom of Mar.
The house of Erskine, on whom these honours now descended, has the same traditional origin as that of most of the other Scottish families of note. In the days of Malcolm the Second, a Scottish man having killed with his own hand Enrique, a Danish general, presented the head of the enemy to his Sovereign, and, holding in his hand the bloody dagger with which the deed had been performed, exclaimed, in Gaelic, "Eris Skyne," alluding to the head and the dagger; upon which the surname of Erskine was imposed on him. The armorial bearing of a hand holding a dagger, was added as a further distinction, together with the motto, Je pense plus, in allusion to the declaration of the chieftain that he intended to perform even greater actions than that which procured him the name which has since been so celebrated in Scottish history. The crest and motto are still borne by the family.
This anecdote has, however, been rejected for the more probable conjecture that the family of Erskine derived its appellation from the estate of Erskine on the Clyde: yet it is not impossible but that tradition may, in most cases, have a deeper source than we are willing to allow to it. "There are few points in ancient history," observes a modern writer, "on which more judgment is required than in the amount of weight due to tradition. In general it will be found that the tradition subsisting in the families themselves has a true basis to rest upon, however much it may be overloaded with collateral matter which obscures it."
But that which ennobled most truly the first Earl of Mar, of the house of Erskine, was his own probity, loyalty, and patriotism. Destined originally to the church, John, properly sixth Earl of Mar, carried into public life those virtues which would have adorned the career of a private individual. In the melancholy interest of Queen Mary's eventful life, it is consolatory to reflect on the integrity and moderation of this exemplary nobleman. Too good and too sensitive for his times, he died of a broken heart, the result of that inward and incurable sorrow which the generous and the honest experience, when their hopes and designs are baffled by the selfish policy of their own party. "He was, perhaps," says Robertson, "the only person in the kingdom who could have enjoyed the office of Regent without envy, and have left it without loss of reputation."
From the restoration of John Earl of Mar to his family honours, until the reign of Charles the First, the prosperity of this loyal and favoured family increased, interrupted indeed by some vicissitudes of fortune, but by no serious reverses, until that period which, during the commotions of the Great Rebellion, reduced many of our proudest nobility to comparative poverty.
Among other important trusts enjoyed by the family of Erskine, the government of the Castle of Edinburgh, and the custody of the principal forts in the kingdom, attested the confidence of their Sovereigns. To these was added by Mary Queen of Scots, the command of the Castle of Stirling, and the still more important charge of her infant son. To these marks of confidence numerous grants of lands and high appointments succeeded,—obligations which were repaid with a fidelity which impoverished the family of Erskine; and which produced, towards the close of the seventeenth century, a marked decline in their fortunes, and decay of their local influence.
John, ninth Earl of Mar, the grandfather of the Jacobite Earl, suffered severely for his loyalty in joining the association at Cumbernauld, in favour of Charles the First. He afterwards raised forces at Brae-Mar for the King's service, for which he was heavily fined by the Parliament, and his estates were sequestrated. During all this season of adversity he lived in a cottage at the gate of his house at Alloa, until the Restoration relieved him from the sequestration.
His son Charles, who raised the first regiment of Scottish Fusileers, and was constituted their Colonel, began life as a determined Royalist; but disapproving of the measures of James the Second, he had prepared to go abroad when the Prince of Orange landed in England. He appears afterwards to have pursued somewhat of the same wavering course as that of which his son has been accused, and, joining the disaffected party against William, he was arrested, but afterwards released. The heavy incumbrances upon his estates, contracted during the civil wars, were such as to oblige him to sell a great portion of his lands, and to part with the ancient Barony of Erskine, the first possession of the family. This necessity may almost be considered as an ill omen for the future welfare of a family; which never seems to be so utterly brought low by fortune, as when compelled to consign to strangers that from which the first sense of importance and stability has been derived.
Under these circumstances, certainly not favourable to independence of character, John, eleventh Earl of Mar of the name of Erskine, and afterwards Lieutenant-general to the Chevalier St. George, was born at Alloa, in Clackmannan, where his father resided. He was a younger son of a numerous family, five brothers, older than himself, having died in infancy. His mother, the Lady Mary Maule, eldest daughter of George Earl of Panmure, gave birth to eight sons, and a daughter. Of the sons, the Earl of Mar and his brothers, James Erskine of the Grange, afterwards the husband of the famous and unfortunate Lady Grange; and Henry, killed at the battle of Almanza in 1707, alone attained the age of manhood. The only sister of Lord Mar, Lady Jean, was married to Sir Hugh Paterson of Bannockburn, in Stirlingshire.
The Earl of Mar succeeded to the possession and management of estates, heavily encumbered, in 1696. His qualities of mind and person, at this early period of his life, were not eminently pleasing. His countenance, though strongly marked, had none of the attributes of intellectual strength. In person he is said to have been deformed, although his portrait by Kneller was skilfully contrived to hide that defect; his complexion was fair: he was short in stature. In his early youth the Earl is declared by historians who were adverse to the Stuarts, to have been initiated into every species of licentious dissipation, by Neville Payne: and the young nobleman is characterized as "the scandal of his name." Although his ancestors had been devotedly attached to the interests of the exiled family, yet, it was to be shewn how far Mar preferred those interests to his own, or upon what principles he eventually adopted the cause of hereditary monarchy, which had already brought so much inconvenience, and so many losses to his father and grandfather.
The first political prepossessions of the young Earl must certainly have been those of the Cavaliers; such was the name by which the party continued to be called who still desired the restoration of James the Second, and fervidly believed in the fruition of their hopes. His father had indeed, to use the words of Lockhart of Carnwath, "embarked with the Revolution;" but had given tokens of his deep contrition for that act, so inconsistent with his hereditary allegiance. But the unformed opinions of the young are far more easily swayed by events which are passing before their eyes than by the cool reasonings of the closet; and the inclinations of the Earl of Mar's childhood were likely soon to be effaced by the state of public affairs. The later occurrences of the reign of William the Third were calculated not only to repress the spirit of Jacobitism, but to shame even the most enthusiastic of its partisans out of a scheme which the sagacity of William had defeated, and which his wisdom had taught him to forgive. It was in the year 1696, just as the Earl of Mar succeeded to his title, that the projected invasion of the kingdom, and the scheme of assassinating the King, were defeated:—that William, hastening to the House of Commons, gave to the nation an account of the whole conspiracy. The House of Commons, without rising from their seats, then "declared that William was their rightful king, and that they would defend him with their lives." It was at this important aera that James the Second, after long waiting at Calais, and casting thence many a wishful look towards England, returned to St. Germains, "to thank God that he had lost his country, because it had saved his soul." The hopes of the Cavaliers were thus wholly extinguished: and to these circumstances were the first observations of the youthful Earl of Mar doubtless directed.
His guardians, seemingly desirous of retrieving the affairs of the family, had endeavoured to imbue his mind with Revolution principles; and the famous association which acknowledged the title of William to the throne of England, framed about this time, was signed by many who became in after life the friends of the Earl of Mar. This was precisely the period when that political profligacy, too justly charged upon the leading men in this country, and which induced them, under the impression that the exiled family would be eventually restored, to correspond with the Court of St. Germains, was tranquillized, although not eradicated by the great policy and forbearance of William. That single reply of William's to Charnock, who had trafficked between France and England with these negotiations, and who offered to disclose to the King the names of those who had employed him;—these few words, "I do not wish to hear them," did more to soothe discontents, and to repress the violence of faction, than the subsequent executions in the reign of George the First.
The Earl of Mar, left as he was at the early age of fourteen to his own guidance, very soon displayed a remarkable prudence in his pecuniary affairs, and a desire to repair by good management the fortunes of his family,—a point which he accomplished, to a certain extent. His dawning character shewed him to be shrewd and wary, but possessing no extended views, and disposed to rest his hopes of elevation and distinction upon petty intrigues, rather than to look upon probity and exertion as the true basis of greatness. His great talent consisted in the management of his designs, "in which," remarks one who knew him well, "it was hard to find him out when he desired to be incognito; and thus he shewed himself to be a man of good sense, but bad morals."
On the 8th of September, 1696, the Earl of Mar took his seat in the Scottish Parliament, protesting, as his forefathers had done, against any Scottish Earl being called before him in the Roll. He became a frequent, but indifferent speaker in Parliament; but his continual activity, and the address which he soon acquired as the fruit of experience, together with the position which he held, as one generally understood to be well affected to the new order of things, yet of sufficient importance to be gained over to the other side, soon made him an object for party spirit to assail.
During the reign of William, the Earl of Mar continued constant to the side to which he had declared himself to belong. His pecuniary embarrassments, acting upon a restless, ambitious temper, rendered it difficult to a man weak in principle to retain independence of character: and it must be avowed, that there are few temptations to depart from the road of integrity more urgent than the desire to raise an ancient name to its original splendour. No encumbrances are so likely to drag their victim away from integrity as those by which rank is clogged with poverty.
In April, 1697, Lord Mar was chosen a privy councillor; and shortly afterwards invested with the Order of the Thistle; and the command of a company of foot bestowed upon him. On the death of William his fortune was rather improved than deteriorated, although he continued to attach himself to the Revolution Party, who, it was generally understood, were very far from being acceptable to the Queen. "At her accession," declares a Jacobite writer, "the Presbyterians looked upon themselves as undone; despair appeared in their countenances, which were more upon the melancholic and dejected than usual." The management of Scottish affairs was, nevertheless, entirely in the hands of the advocates of the Revolution; and one of their greatest supporters, the Duke of Queensbury, was appointed High Commissioner of the Scottish Parliament, notwithstanding the representations of some of the most powerful nobility in Scotland.
To the party of this celebrated politician the Earl of Mar attached himself, with a tenacity for which those who recollected the hereditary politics of the Erskine family, could find no motives but self-interest. James, Duke of Queensbury, was, it is true, the son of one of the most active partisans of the Stuart family, to whom the house of Queensbury owed both its ducal rank and princely fortune. Possessed of good abilities, but devoid of application, and with the disadvantage to a public man of being of an easy, indolent temper, this celebrated promoter of the union between Scotland and England, had acquired, by courtesy, and by a long administration of affairs, a singular influence over his countrymen. His character has been written with a pen that could scarcely find sufficient invectives for those politicians who, in the opinion of the writer, were the ruin of their country. The Duke of Queensbury falls under the heaviest censures. "To outward appearance," says Lockhart, "he was of a gentle and good disposition, but inwardly a very devil, standing at nothing to advance his own interest and designs. Though his hypocrisy and dissimulation served him very much, yet he became so well known, that no man, except such as were his nearest friends, and socii criminis, gave him any trust; and so little regard had he to his promises and vows, that it was observed and notorious, that if he was at any pains to convince you of his friendship, and by swearing and imprecating curses on himself and family to assure you of his sincerity, then, to be sure, he was doing you underhand all the mischief in his power."
These characteristics must be viewed as proceeding from the pen of a partisan; nor can we wonder at the contrariety of opinion which prevails respecting any public man who proposes a great and startling measure. Honours, places, and a pension were showered down upon this most fortunate of ministers; and his career is remarkable as having been cheered by the favour of four sovereigns of very different tempers. In his early youth, after his return from his travels, the Duke of Queensbury was appointed a Privy Councillor of Scotland by Charles the Second. He held the same post under James the Second, but resigned it in 1688. The reserved and doubting William of Orange placed him near his person, making him a Lord of the Bedchamber, and captain of his Dutch guard; eventually he became Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, and—to abridge a list of numerous employments and honours—Lord High Commissioner of Scotland. So far had Queensbury's fortunes begun with the Stuarts and continued under the House of Orange. It appeared unlikely that the successor of William—she who in her first speech announced that her heart was "wholly English," to mark the distinction between herself and the foreigner who had sat on the throne before her,—would adopt as her own representative in Scotland the favourite of William; yet she continued Queensbury in that high station which it was believed none could fill so adequately in the disturbed and refractory kingdom of Scotland.
During the early years of Queen Anne's reign, and in the season of his own comparative prosperity, the young Earl of Mar entered into his first marriage, at Twickenham, with Lady Margaret Hay, daughter of John Earl of Kinnoul. The wife whom he thus selected was the daughter of a house originally adverse to the principles of the Revolution. William Earl of Kinnoul, in the time of James the Second, had remained at St. Germains with that monarch. But the same change which had manifested the political course of Lord Mar, had been apparent in the father of Lady Margaret Hay. The Earl of Kinnoul was afterwards one of the Commissioners for the Union, and supported that treaty in Parliament; yet, when the Rebellion of 1715 commenced, this nobleman was one of the suspected persons who were summoned to surrender themselves, and was committed a prisoner to Edinburgh Castle. His daughter, the Countess of Mar, was happily spared from witnessing the turmoils of that period. Married in her seventeenth year, she lived only four years with a husband whose character was but partially developed, when, in 1707, she died at the age of twenty-one, having given birth to two sons. She was buried at the family seat at Alloa Castle, an ancient fortress, built in the year 1300, one turret of which still remaining rises ninety feet from the ground. Seven years intervened before Lord Mar supplied the place of his lost wife by another union.
His days were, indeed, consumed in public affairs, varied by the improvement of his Scottish estates, embellishing the tower of Alloa by laying out beautiful gardens in that wilderness style of planting which the Earl first introduced into Scotland. He had the reward of seeing his efforts succeed, the gardens of Alloa being much eulogized and visited. This was by no means Lord Mar's only recreation; architecture was his delight, and he introduced into London the celebrated Gibbs, who, out of gratitude, eventually bequeathed a large portion of his fortune to the children of the Earl. It is refreshing to view this busy and versatile politician in this light before we plunge into the depths of those intricate politics which form the principal features of his life.
It was during the year 1703 that a political association or club was framed consisting of the chief nobility and gentlemen of fortune and afterwards known by the name of the Squadrone Volante. They acquired distinguished popularity and influence by the patriotic character of the measures which they introduced into the Scottish Parliament; and by their professions of being free from any court interest, they gained the confidence of the country. They were firm friends of the Revolution party, great sticklers to the Protestant succession, forming a separate band distinct from the Whigs, yet opposed to the Cavaliers, or, as they were afterwards called, Jacobites. The power of the Squadrone was, in a great measure, the result of those jarring counsels in the Scottish Parliament, which only coalesced upon one theme,—independence of England—interference of "foreign" or English counsels, as they were termed. This combination was headed by the Duke of Montrose, the Marquis of Tweedale, and several other Scottish noblemen, to whom adhered thirty commoners.
During the existence of this association, the celebrated "Queensbury affair," as it was usually called, involved the temporary disgrace of the Duke of Queensbury, and first brought to view those convenient doctrines of expediency which afterwards formed so marked a feature in the character of Lord Mar.
The "sham plot," as it is called by Jacobite writers, was a supposed intended invasion of Great Britain, disclosed to the Duke of Queensbury by Simon Fraser of Beaufort, afterwards Lord Lovat; whose very name seems to have suggested to his contemporaries, as it has since done to posterity, the combination of all that is subtle, treacherous, and base, with all that is dangerous, desperate, and remorseless in conduct.
This tool of the court of St. Germains came over from France, in company with John Murray, who was sent to watch his proceedings, and also to aid his object in procuring the promises of the most distinguished Highland chieftains to the furtherance of the projected invasion of England. The assistance of Captain Murray was conjoined on this occasion, the fidelity of that gentleman having been ascertained by the court of St. Germains; whilst there existed not a human being who did not instinctively distrust Beaufort: to Mary of Modena, who far more ardently desired the restoration of the Stuarts than her consort James, he was peculiarly obnoxious.
The exiled Queen's fears proved well founded, for no sooner had Beaufort landed in England, than he formed the scheme of converting this secret enterprise into a means of obtaining reward and protection from the Duke of Argyle, whose mediation with the Duke of Queensbury he required for private reasons; he therefore notified his arrival to Argyle, who had been his early and hereditary friend, offering at the same time to make great disclosures, if he had previous assurances of remuneration.
Such is the account of most impartial writers, and more especially of those who lean to the Whig party: but, by the Jacobites, the very existence of a conspiracy to invade England at this time was denied, and the whole affair was declared to be a scheme of the Duke of Queensbury's to undermine the reputation of the Cavaliers, and "to find a pretence to vent his wrath, and execute his malice against those who thwarted his arbitrary designs," for the completion of a treaty of union between Scotland and England, which had been in contemplation ever since the days of William the Third.
After much deliberation the Duke of Queensbury was induced to have several communications with Fraser of Beaufort, and to listen to the information which he gave, all of which the Duke transmitted to Queen Anne, although he concealed the name of his informant. In consequence of Fraser's disclosures, several persons coming from France to England were apprehended on suspicion of being engaged in the Pretender's service, and an universal alarm was spread, as well as a distrust of the motives and proceedings of Queensbury, who thus acted upon the intelligence of an avowed spy, and noted outlaw, like Fraser. A temporary loss of Queensbury's political sway in Scotland was the result, and a consequent increase of power to the Squadrone Volante.
It was at this juncture that the Earl of Mar came forward as the advocate of the Duke of Queensbury's measures, and the opponent of the Squadrone Volante, who had now completely fixed upon themselves that name, from their pretending to act by themselves, and to cast the balance of contending parties in Parliament. The opposition of Lord Mar to the Squadrone was peculiarly acceptable to the Tories, or Cavaliers, who had recently applied to that faction to assist them in the defence of their country against the Union, but who had been greeted with an indignant and resolute refusal.
The Earl of Mar therefore appeared as the champion of the Cavaliers, and for the first time won their confidence and approbation. "He headed," writes the bitter and yet truthful Lockhart, "such of the Duke of Queensbury's friends as opposed the Marquis of Tweedale and his party's designs; and that with such art and dissimulation, that he gained the favour of all the Tories, and was by them esteemed an honest man, and well inclined to the royal family. Certain it is, he vowed and protested as much many a time; but no sooner was the Marquis of Tweedale and his party dispossessed, than he returned as a dog to the vomit, and promoted all the court of England's measures with the greatest zeal imaginable." The three parties in the Scottish Parliament, according to the same authority, consisted of the Cavaliers,—that remnant of the Jacobite party which remained vigorous, more especially in the Highlands, since the days of Dundee,—of the Squadrone, "or outer court party," and of the present court party, consisting of true blue Presbyterians and Revolutioners. With the interests of the latter party the Earl of Mar was undoubtedly engaged.
Scotland was at this time, and continued for several years, racked with dissensions regarding the Treaty of Union. No one can form an adequate idea of the heartburnings, feuds, parties, and tumults, by which that great measure was preceded, and followed, without looking into the contemporary writers, whose aim it ever is to heighten the picture of passing events; whereas the calm historian subdues it into one general effect of keeping.
The Earl of Mar took a prominent part in seconding the treaty; no man's commencement of a career could be more opposed to its termination than that of this politician of easy virtue. The Duke of Queensbury was for some time so hated in Scotland as scarcely to venture to appear there, but contented himself with sending the Duke of Argyle as commissioner, and "using him as the monkey did the cat in pulling out the hot roasted chesnut." But when he was, after an interval, reinstated in power, Lord Mar was again his devoted ally. The influence of the Duke over every mind with which he came into collision was, indeed, almost irresistible. "I cannot but wonder," remarks the indignant Lockhart, "at the influence he had over all men of sense, quality, and estate; men that had, at least many of them, no dependance on him, yet were so deluded as to serve his ambitious designs, contrary to the acknowledged dictates of their own conscience."
In 1706, in the beginning of the session of Parliament, the Earl of Mar presented the draught of an Act for appointing Commissioners, to treat of an Union of the two kingdoms of Scotland and England. Thus was he the instrument of first presenting to the Scotch that measure so revolting to their prejudices, so singularly distasteful to a proud and independent people. It is impossible to judge how far Lord Mar was convinced of the expediency of the Treaty, or whether he was, in secret, one of those who feigned an affection for the measure, whilst, in their hearts, they wished for the preponderance of the votes against it. The Treaty of Union was espoused by those in whose opinions Lord Mar had been nurtured,—and originally, according to De Foe, it had been mooted by William the Third, who declared that this Island would never be easy without an union. "I have done all I can in that affair," he once observed; "but I do not see a temper in either nation that looks like it: it may be done, but not yet."
The Treaty, retarded by many interests, clashing between nations, but, more especially, by the burning recollections of massacred countrymen in the blood-stained valley of Glencoe, was now brought into discussion just when the Earl of Mar was at that age when a thirst for gain, or an ambition to rise is unquenched, in general, by disappointment. Differing in one respect from many Cavaliers, in being of a family strictly Protestant, Lord Mar had not the inducement which operated upon the Catholics, in their undiminished, ardent desire to restore the young Prince of Wales to the throne. Differing, again, in another respect from many of the Jacobites, Lord Mar had not the tie of a personal knowledge of the exiled King to fix his fidelity; or, what was considered far more likely to have sealed his, or any adherent allegiance, he had enjoyed no opportunities of cultivating the favour of the enthusiastic, bigoted, and yet intelligent Mary of Modena, whose exertions for her family kept alive the spirit of Jacobitism during the decline of her royal devotee and the childhood of her son. Lord Mar seems to have been reared entirely in Scotland, and he might perhaps come under the description given by the eloquent Lord Belhaven of a Whig in Scotland:—"A true, blue Presbyterian, who, without considering time or power, will venture all for the Kirk, but something less for the State;" but that his subsequent conduct contradicts this supposition.
The Treaty struggled on through a powerful and memorable opposition. It is a curious instance of Scottish pride, that one of the objections made to the Commissioners appointed to treat of the Union, was, that there were six or eight newly-raised families amongst them, and but few of the great and ancient names of Hamilton, Graham, Murray, Erskine, and many others. Never was there so much domestic misery and humiliation, abroad, for poor Scotland, as during the progress of this Treaty. The fame of Marlborough, and the fortunes of Godolphin, were now at their zenith; they were considered as the great arbiters of Scottish affairs,—the Queen being only applied to for the sake of form. These two great statesmen treated the Scottish noblemen to whom the Cavaliers entrusted the success of their representations, with a lofty insolence, which galled the proud Highlanders, and went to their very hearts.
"I myself," writes the author of Memoirs of Scotland, "out of curiosity, went sometimes to their levees, where I saw the Commissioners, the Duke of Queensbury, the Chancellor, the Secretary, Lord Mar, and other great men of Scotland, hang on near an hour; and when admitted, treated with no more civility than one gentleman pays another's valet-de-chambre; and for which the Scots have none to blame but themselves, for had they valued themselves as they ought to have done, and not so meanly and sneakingly prostituted their honour and country to the will and pleasure of the English Ministry, they would never have presumed to usurp such a dominion over Scotland, as openly and avowedly to consult upon and determine in Scots' affairs."
At home, the spirit of party ran to an extent which cannot be called insane, because the interests at stake were those dearest to a high-spirited people. "Factions," exclaimed Lord Belhaven, "in Parliament, are now become independent, and have got footing in councils, in parliaments, in treaties, in armies, in incorporations, in families, among kindred; yea, man and wife are not free from them." "Hannibal, my Lord," he cried, in one of what Lockhart calls his long premeditated harangues, "Hannibal is at our gates; Hannibal is come the length of this table; he is at the foot of this throne: he will demolish the throne; if we take not notice, he will seize upon these regalia; he'll take them as our spolia opima, and whip us out of this House, never to return again."
In order to understand the effect of the Act of Union upon the hopes of the Jacobite party, it is necessary to take into consideration the following facts. The Act of the English Parliament, by which the Crown had been settled on Queen Mary and her sister, extended only to the Princess Anne and her issue. After the death of the Duke of Gloucester, and about the end of the reign of William the Third, another settlement was made, by which the Crown was settled on the House of Hanover; but no similar Act was passed in Scotland. And at the beginning of Queen Anne's reign, and until after the Union, the Scottish Parliament were legally possessed of a power to introduce again the exiled family into Great Britain.
During the course of the negotiations for the Treaty of Union, the Earl of Mar formed an alliance with the celebrated Duke of Hamilton. In the consideration of public affairs at this period, it may not appear a digression to give some insight into the character of one who headed the chief party in the Scottish Parliament, and with whom the Earl of Mar was, at this period of his life, in frequent intercourse.
James Duke of Hamilton was at this period nearly fifty years of age. His youth had been passed in the gay court of Charles the Second, as one of the Gentlemen of the Bedchamber of that monarch,—an office which he only relinquished to become Ambassador Extraordinary to France, where he remained long enough to serve in two campaigns under Louis the Fourteenth. Upon the death of Charles the Second, Louis recommended the young nobleman, then termed Earl of Arran, strongly and essentially to James the Second, who made him Master of his Wardrobe, and appointed him to other offices.
Under these circumstances it is not surprising that in the honest and warm feelings of the Duke of Hamilton, affection for the Stuarts should form a principal feature. He had the courage to adhere firmly to James the Second, amid the general obloquy, and to accompany the monarch on his abdication to his embarkation at Rochester. "I can distinguish," he said, at a meeting of the Scottish nobility in London, over which his father, the Duke of Hamilton presided, "between the King's popery and his person. I dislike the one, but have sworn to do allegiance to the other, which makes it impossible to withhold that which I cannot forbear believing is the King my master's right: for his present absence in France can no more affect my duty, than his longer absence from us has done all this while."
Notwithstanding these professions, upon the unfortunate conclusion of the affair of Darien, the Earl of Arran, after twice encountering imprisonment upon account of the Stuarts, esteemed it his duty to his country to take the oaths to King William, in order to qualify himself to sit in Parliament.
The character of the Duke of Hamilton presents a favourable specimen of the well-principled and well-intentioned Scotchman, with the acknowledged virtues and obvious defects of the national character. He was disinterested in great matters, refusing many opportunities of worldly advantage, and bearing for the first eight years of his public career, a retirement which is always more galling to an ambitious temper than actual danger; yet, it was supposed, and not without reason, that, whilst his heart was with the Cavaliers, or country party, the considerations of his great estate in England occasioned a lukewarmness in his political conduct, and broke down his opposition to the Union. Wary and cautious, he could thus sacrifice his present hopes of a distinction which his talents would have readily attained, to his adherence to a lost cause; but his resolution failed when the sacrifice of what many might deem inferior interests, was required.
The Duke soon formed a considerable party in the Parliament; and his empire over the affections of his countrymen grew daily. To those to whom he confided, the Duke was gracious and unbending; but a suspicion of an insult recalled the native haughtiness attributable to his house. "Frank, honest, and good-natured," as he was esteemed by Swift, and displaying on his dark, coarse countenance, the characteristics of good sense and energy, the Duke was a bitter and vindictive foe—characteristics of his age, and of a nation undoubtedly prone to wreak a singular and remorseless revenge on all who offend the hereditary pride, or militate against the prejudices of its people.
Endowed with these qualities, the whole career of James Duke of Hamilton was a struggle between his love for his country, and his consideration for what he esteemed its truest interests, and his desire to support the claims of the royal family of Stuart. His political career has been criticised by writers of every faction; but it must be judged of as having taken place in times of peculiar difficulty, and a due credit should be given to the motives of one who displayed, during the greater portion of his life, forbearance and consistency. "Had not his loyalty been so unalterable," writes Lockhart, "and that he would never engage in King William's and his Government's service, and his love to his country induced him to oppose that King and England's injustice and encroachments on it, no doubt he had made as great a figure in the world as any other whatsoever, and that either in a civil or military capacity." "The Duke of Hamilton's love for his country," observes a contemptuous, anonymous assailant, "made him leave London, and follow King James, who had enslaved it. His love to his country had engaged him in several plots to restore that prince, and with him, tyranny and idolatry, poverty and slavery." Upon the odious principle of always seeking out for the lowest and the most selfish motive that can actuate the conduct of men,—a principle which is thought by weak and bad minds to display knowledge of the world, but which, in fact, more often betrays ignorance,—another part of his conduct was misjudged. The reluctance of the Duke of Hamilton, in 1704, to nominate a successor to the throne of England, before framing the treaty touching "the Commerce of Scotland and other Concerns," was ascribed by many to the remote hope of succeeding to the Crown, since, in case of the exclusion of the Princess Sophia and her descendants, his family was the next in succession, of the Protestant Faith. Such was one of the reasons assigned for the wise endeavour which this nobleman exerted to prevent an invasion of the kingdom by James Stuart during the reign of Anne, and such the motive adduced for his advice to the Chevalier to maintain terms of amity with his royal sister. It was the cause calumniously assigned of his supposed decline in attachment to the exiled family.
But, notwithstanding the inference thus deduced, the Duke of Hamilton continued to enjoy, in no ordinary degree, popular applause and the favour of Queen Anne, until his tragical death in 1712 occurring just before the Rebellion of 1715, spared him the perplexity of deciding on which side he should embark in that perilous and ill-omened insurrection.
This celebrated statesman,—one who never entered into a new measure, nor formed a project, ("though in doing thereof," says Lockhart, "he was too cautious") that he did not prosecute his designs with a courage that nothing could daunt,—now determined to win over the Earl of Mar from the Duke of Queensbury. The Duke of Hamilton was the more induced to the attempt, from the frequent protestations made by the Earl of Mar of his love for the exiled family; and he applied himself to the task of gaining this now important ally with all the skill which experience and shrewdness could supply. Hamilton was considered invincible in such undertakings, and was master of a penetration which no one could withstand. "Never was," writes Lockhart, "a man so qualified to be the head of a party as himself; for he could, with the greatest dexterity, apply himself to, and sift through, the inclinations of different parties, and so cunningly manage them, that he gained some of all to his." But the Duke met in Lord Mar with one equally skilled in diving into motives, and in bending the will of others to his own projects. In the encounter of these two minds, the Duke is said to have been worsted and disarmed; and the Earl of Mar, by his insinuations, is suspected to have materially influenced the conduct of that great leader of party. "I have good reason to suppose," says Lockhart, "that his Grace's appearing with less zeal and forwardness in this ensuing than in former Parliaments, is attributable to some agreement passed between them two."
For the effect of his newly-acquired influence over the Duke of Hamilton, and for his other services in promoting the Union, the Earl of Mar was amply rewarded. During the Parliament of 1705, he was constituted one of the Commissioners of that Treaty, his name being third on the list. In 1706, he was appointed one of the Secretaries of State for Scotland; and afterwards, upon the loss of that office, in consequence of the Union between the two countries, he was compensated by being made Keeper of the Signet, with the addition of a pension. Those who were the promoters of the Treaty must have required some consolation for the general opprobrium into which the measure brought the Commissioners. The indignant populace converted the name of "Treaters" into Traitors: the Parliament Close resounded with "very free language," denouncing the "Traitors." That picturesque enclosure, since destroyed by fire, was crowded by a vehement multitude, who rushed into the outer Parliament House to denounce the Duke of Queensbury and his party, and to cheer the Duke of Hamilton, whom they followed to his residence in Holyrood House, exhorting him to stand by his country, and assuring him of support. The tumults were, indeed, soon quelled by military force; but the deliberations of Parliament were carried on at the risk of summary vengeance upon the "Traitors:" and the eloquence of members was uttered between walls which were guarded, during the whole session, by all the military force that Edinburgh could command. The Duke of Queensbury was obliged to walk "as if he had been led to the gallows," through two lanes of musqueteers, from the Parliament House to the Cross, where his coach stood; no coaches, nor any person who was not a member, being allowed to enter the Parliament Close towards evening: and he was conveyed in his carriage to the Abbey, surrounded both by horse and foot guards.
On the 1st of May, 1707, the Articles of Union were ratified by the Parliament of England. That day has been set down by the opponents of the measure as one never to be forgotten by Scotland,—the loss of their independence and sovereignty. Superstition marked every stage of the measure as happening upon some date adverse to the Stuarts. On the fourth of November the first Article of the Union was approved; on a fourth of November was William of Orange born. On the eighth of January the Peerage was renounced; on an eighth of January was the warrant for the Murder at Glencoe signed. The ratification of the Article of Union was on the sixteenth of January. On a sixteenth of January was the sentence of Charles the First pronounced. The dissolution of the Scottish Parliament took place upon the twenty-fifth of March, according to the Old Style, New Year's Day: that concession might therefore be esteemed a New-year's Gift to the English.
Finally,—The Equivalent, or Compensation Money, that is, "the price of Scotland," came to Edinburgh on the fifth of August, the day on which the Earl of Gowrie designed to murder James the Sixth.
The discontents and tumults which attended the progress of the Union ran throughout the whole country, and pervaded all ranks of people. Yet it is remarkable, that the nobility of Scotland should have been the first to fail in their opposition to the measure; and that the middle ranks, together with the lowest of the people, should have been foremost to withstand what they considered as insulting to the independence of their country. The very name and antiquity of their kingdom was dear to them, although there remained, after the removal of James the First into England, little more than "a vain shadow of a name, a yoke of slavery, and image of a kingdom." It was in vain that the Duke of Hamilton had called, in the beginning of the debates on this measure, upon the families of "Bruce, Campbell, Douglas," not to desert their country: the opposition to the Union was bought over, with many exceptions, with a price;—twenty thousand pounds being sent over to the Lords Commissioners to employ in this manner, twelve thousand pounds of which were, however, returned to the English Treasury, there being no more who would accept the bribe. The Earl of Mar and the Earl of Seafield had privately secured their own reward, having bargained "for greater matters than could be agreed upon while the kingdom of Scotland stood in safety."
Amidst the resentment of the Scotch for their insulted dignity, it is amusing to find that this Union of the two countries could be deemed derogatory to English dignity; yet Dean Swift, among others, considered it in that light. "Swift's hatred to the Scottish nation," observes Sir Walter Scott, "led him to look upon that Union with great resentment, as a measure degrading to England. The Scottish themselves hardly detested the idea more than he did; and that is saying as much as possible."
Swift vented his wrath in the verses beginning with these lines:
"The Queen has lately lost a part Of her entirely-English heart, For want of which, by way of botch, She piec'd it up again with Scotch. Blest Revolution! which creates Divided hearts, united states! See how the double nation lies Like a rich coat with skirts of frize: As if a man in making posies, Should bundle thistles up with roses!"
That the conduct of Lord Mar throughout this Treaty was regarded with avowed suspicion, the following anecdote tends to confirm: Lord Godolphin, at that time First Lord of the Treasury, wishing to tamper with one of a combination against the Queensbury faction, sent to offer that individual a place if he would discover to him how the combination was formed, and in what manner it might be broken. But the gentleman whose fidelity he thus assailed, was true to his engagements; and returned an indignant answer, desiring the Lord Treasurer's agent "not to think that he was treating with such men as Mar and Seafield."
At this time the Earl of Mar was said to be in the full enjoyment of Lord Godolphin's confidence, and to have been one of those whom the treasurer consulted, in settling the government of Scotland. The rumour was not conducive to his comfort or well-being in his native country; and the Earl appears to have passed much more time in intrigues in London than among the gardens of Alloa.
It was not long before the effects of the general discontent were manifested in the desire of the majority of the Scottish nation to restore the descendant of their ancient kings to the throne, and even the Cameronians and Presbyterians were willing to pass over the objection of his being a Papist. "God may convert the Prince," they said, "or he may have Protestant children, but the Union never can be good." The middle orders openly expressed their anxiety to welcome a Prince to their shores, whom they regarded as a deliverer: the nobility and gentry, though more cautious, yet were equally desirous to see the honour of their nation, in their own sense of it, restored. Episcopalians, Cavaliers, and Revolutionists, were unanimous, or, to use the Scots' proverb, "were all one man's bairns." This state of public feeling was soon communicated to St. Germains, and Colonel Hooke, famous for his negotiations, was, according to the writer of the Memoirs, "pitched upon by the French King, and palmed upon the court of St. Germains, and dispatched to sound the intentions of the principal Scottish nobility." This agent arrived in Scotland in the month of March, 1707. The paper containing assurances of aid to James Stuart was signed by sixteen noblemen and gentlemen; but the Earl of Mar was, at that time, engaged in a very different undertaking, and was in close amity with Sunderland, Godolphin, and the heads of the Whig party.
The spring of 1708 discovered the designs of Louis, and the news of great preparations at Dunkirk spread consternation in England. At this juncture, the first in which the son of James the Second was called upon to play a part in that drama of which he was the ill-starred hero, the usual fate of his race befel him. He came to Dunkirk hastily, and in private, intending to pass over alone to the Firth of Forth. He was attacked by the measles; at a still more critical moment of his melancholy life, he was the victim of ague: both of them ignoble diseases, which seem to have little concern with the affairs of royalty. The delay of the Prince's illness, although shortened by the peremptory commands of the French King to proceed, was fatal, for the English fleet had time to make preparations. A storm drove the French fleet northwards; in the tempest the unfortunate adventurer passed the Firth of Forth and Aberdeen; and although the fleet retraced its course to the Isle of May, it was only to flee back to France, daunted as the French admirals were by the proximity of Sir George Byng and the English fleet, who chased the enemy along the coasts of Fife and Angus. It was shortly after this event that the Pretender, upon whose head a price of a hundred thousand pounds was set by the English Government, first assumed the title of Chevalier of St. George, in order to spare himself the expense of field equipage in the campaign in Flanders.
The conduct of the Earl of Mar, in relation to conspiracy, has been alluded to rather than declared by historians. He is supposed not to have been, in secret, unfavourable to the undertaking. He was, nevertheless, active in giving to the Earl of Sunderland the names of the disaffected with whom he was generally supposed to be too well acquainted. Many of those who were suspected were brought to London, and were in some instances committed to prison, in others confined to their own houses. On this occasion the advice of the great Marlborough was followed, and the guilty were not proceeded against with more severity than was necessary for the Queen's safety. The same generous policy was in after times remembered, in mournful contrast with a very different spirit.
It was the ill-fortune of Mar to give satisfaction to none of those who had looked on the course of public affairs during the recent transactions; nor was it ever his good fortune to inspire confidence in his motives. Some notion may be formed of the thraldom of party in Scotland by the following anecdote:—
In 1711-12 the Queen conferred upon the Duke of Hamilton a patent for an English dukedom; but this, according to a vote of the House of Lords, did not entitle him to sit as a British Peer. Indignant at being thought incapable of receiving a grace which the King might confer on the meanest commoner, the Scotch Peers took the first opportunity of walking out of the House in a body, and refusing to vote or sit in that House. In addition to the affront implied by their incapacity of becoming British Peers, it was more than hinted that it would not be advisable for the independence of the House if the King could confer the privileges of British Peers upon a set of nobles whose poverty rendered them dependent on the Crown.
Just when this offensive vote of the House was the theme of general conversation, Dean Swift encountered the Earl of Mar at Lord Masham's. "I was arguing with him, (Lord Mar)," he writes, "about the stubbornness and folly of his countrymen; they are so angry about the affair of the Duke of Hamilton, whom the Queen has made a Duke of England, and the Lords will not admit him. He swears he would vote for us, but dare not, because all Scotland would detest him if he did; he should never be chosen again, nor be able to live there."
The Earl of Mar continued to be one of the Representative Peers for Scotland, having been chosen in 1707, and rechosen at the general elections in 1708, 1710, and 1713.