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.
THE SECOND VOLUME.
PAGE WILLIAM MAXWELL, EARL OF NITHISDALE (with a Portrait of the Countess of Nithisdale) 1
WILLIAM GORDON, VISCOUNT KENMURE 71
WILLIAM MURRAY, MARQUIS OF TULLIBARDINE 92
SIR JOHN MACLEAN 124
ROB ROY MACGREGOR CAMPBELL 155
SIMON FRASER, LORD LOVAT (with a Portrait) 208
MEMOIRS OF THE JACOBITES.
WILLIAM MAXWELL, EARL OF NITHISDALE.
It is happily remarked by the editor of the Culloden Papers, with regard to the devotion of many of the Highland clans to the exiled family of Stuart, that "it cannot be a subject requiring vindication; nor," adds the writer, "if it raise a glow on the face of their descendants, is it likely to be the blush of shame." The descendants of William Maxwell, Earl of Nithisdale, have reason to remember, with a proud interest, the determined and heroic affection which rescued their ancestor from prison, no less than the courage and fidelity which involved their chief in a perilous undertaking, and in a miserable captivity.
The first of that ancient race, who derived their surname from the Lordship of Maxwell, in the county of Dumfries, was Robert de Maxwell of Carlaverock, who, in 1314, was killed at the battle of Bannockburn, fighting under the banners of King James the Third. From that period until the seventeenth century, the house of Maxwell continued to enjoy signal proofs of royal favour; it was employed in important services and on high missions, extending its power and increasing its possessions by intermarriages with the richest and noblest families in Scotland. An enumeration of the honours and privileges enjoyed by this valiant race will show in how remarkable a degree it was favoured by the Stuarts, and how various and how forcible were the reasons which bound it to serve that generous and beloved race of Scottish monarchs.
Herbert, who succeeded John de Maxwell, was one of the Commissioners sent by Alexander the Second to England, to treat for a marriage with one of the daughters of that crown; and, having concluded the negotiation favourably, was endowed with the office of Lord Great Chamberlain of Scotland, which he held during his life-time, and which was afterwards bestowed on his son.
Eustace de Maxwell, in the time of Robert de Bruce, was among those patriots who adhered to the Scottish King. The Castle of Carlaverock, one of the most ancient possessions of the brave Maxwells, stands a memento, in its noble ruins, of the disinterested loyalty of its owners.
The remains of Carlaverock afford but a slight notion of its former strength. The importance of its situation is, however, undoubted. Situated on the south borders of the Nith, near to Glencapel Quay, it constituted a stronghold for the Scottish noble, who scarcely feared a siege within its walls, and when the army of Edward advanced to invest it, refused to surrender; "for the fortress was well furnished," says Grose, "with soldiers, engines, and provisions."
But this defiance was vain; after sustaining an assault, Carlaverock was obliged to capitulate; when the generosity of Edward's measures excited the admiration of all humane minds. The troops, only sixty in number, were taken into the King's service, as a token of his approval of their brave defence; they were then released, ransom free, and received each a new garment, as a gift from the King.
Carlaverock was, some time after, retaken by the Scotch, and Sir Eustace de Maxwell resumed his command over the garrison. It was again invested by King Edward; but, on this occasion, Eustace drove the English from the attack, and retained possession of the fortress.
Afterwards, of his own free will, he demolished the fortress, that no possession of his might favour the progress of the enemy. He was rewarded by several grants of lands, and twenty-two pounds in money.
In the fifteenth century, Herbert de Maxwell marrying a daughter of the Maxwells of Terregles (Terre Eglise), the son of that marriage was ennobled, and was dignified by the title of Lord de Maxwell. His successor perished at Flodden, but the grandson of the first Lord had a happier fortune, and was entrusted by James the Fifth to bring over Mary of Guise to Scotland, first marrying her as the King's proxy.
The house of Maxwell prospered until the reign of James the Sixth; by whom John, Lord Maxwell, was created Earl of Morton, and made Warden of the Marches: but a reverse of fortune ensued. From some court intrigue, the Warden was removed from office, and his place supplied by the Laird of Johnstones; all the blood of the Maxwells was aroused; a quarrel and a combat were the result; and, in the scuffle, the new-made Earl of Morton was killed. The injury was not forgotten, and John, who succeeded the murdered man, deemed it incumbent upon him to avenge his father. In consequence, the Laird of Johnstone soon fell a sacrifice to this notion of honour, or outbreak of offended pride. The crime was not, however, passed over by law; the offender was tried, and executed, in 1613, at the Cross in Edinburgh; and his honours were forfeited. But again the favour of the Stuarts shone forth; the title of Morton was not restored, but Robert, the brother of the last Earl of Morton, was created Earl of Nithisdale, and restored to the Lordship of Maxwell; with precedency, as Earl, according to his father's creation as Earl of Morton.
This kindness was requited by a devoted loyalty; and, in the reign of Charles the First, the Earl of Nithisdale suffered much, both by sequestration and imprisonment, for the royal cause.
In 1647, in consequence of failure of the direct line, the title and estates of the Nithisdale family devolved on a kinsman, John Lord Herries, whose grandson, William, the subject of this memoir, proved to be the last of the Maxwell family that has ever enjoyed the Earldom.
He was served heir male, and of line male and entail of his father, on the twenty-sixth of May, 1696; and heir male of his grandfather, the Earl of Nithisdale, on the sixteenth of the same month. At his accession to his title, the Earl of Nithisdale possessed no common advantages of fortune and station. "He was allied," says the Scottish Peerage, "to most of the noble families in the two kingdoms." His mother, the Lady Lucy, was daughter to the Marquis of Douglas; his only sister, Lady Mary Maxwell, was married to Charles Stewart, Earl of Traquair; and he had himself wedded a descendant of that noble and brave Marquis of Worcester who had defended Ragland Castle against Fairfax.
In addition to these family honours, Lord Nithisdale possessed rich patrimonial estates in one of the most fertile and luxuriant counties in Scotland. The Valley of the Nith, from which he derived his title, owned his lordship over some of its fairest scenes. Young, rich, and happily married, he was in the full sunshine of prosperity when, in the year 1715, he was called upon to prove the sincerity of that fidelity to the house of Stuart for which his family had so greatly suffered, and for which it had been so liberally repaid.
It is remarkable that the adventurers in the unfortunate cause of the Chevalier St. George were, with rare exceptions, men of established credit, men who had vast stakes in their country, and who had lost no portion of their due consideration in the eyes of others by extravagance or profligacy. This fact marks the insurrection of 1715, as presenting a very different aspect to that of other insurrections raised by faction, and supported by men of desperate fortunes. So early as the year 1707, it appears by Colonel Hooke's secret negotiations in favour of the Stuarts, that the bulk of the Scottish nobility had their hearts engaged in the cause, and that their honour was pledged to come forward on the first occasion. In the enumeration given by one of the agents employed in traversing the country, Lord Nithisdale and his relatives are mentioned as certain and potent allies. "In Tweedale," writes Mr. Fleming to the Minister of Louis the Fourteenth, "the Earl of Traquair, of the house of Stuart, and the Laird of Stanhope are powerful. In the shires of Annandale, Niddesdale, and Galloway, are the Earl of Niddesdale, with the Viscount of Kenmure, the Laird of Spinkell, with the numerous clan of the Maxwells; and there is some hope also of the Earl of Galloway; Thus the King's party is connected through the whole kingdom, and we are certain of being masters of all the shires, except Argyleshire, Clydesdale, Renfrew, Dumbarton, and Kyle." "An affair of this nature," adds Mr. Fleming, "cannot be communicated to all the well affected; and it is a great proof of the zeal of those to whom it is trusted, that so many people have been able to keep this secret so inviolably." Such was the commencement of that compact which, held together by the word of Scotchmen, was in few instances broken; but was maintained with as scrupulous a regard to honour and fidelity by the poorest Highlander that ever trod down the heather, as by the great nobleman within his castle hall.
Among the list of the most considerable chiefs in Scotland, with an account of their disposition for or against the Government, the Earl of Nithisdale is specified by contemporary writers as one who is able to raise three hundred men, and willing to employ that force in the service of the Pretender.
In the resolution to carry the aid of his clansmen to the service of either side, the chieftain of that day was powerfully assisted by the blind devotion of the brave and faithful people whom he led to battle. Unhappily, the influence of the chief was often arbitrarily, and even cruelly exerted, in cases of doubtful willingness in their followers.
It will be interesting to scrutinize the motives and characters of those who occupied the chief posts in command, upon the formation of this Southern party in favour of the Chevalier. Although some of these chiefs have obtained celebrity in history, yet their efforts were sincere; their notions of patriotism, be they just, or be they erroneous, deserve a rescue from oblivion; their sufferings, and the heroism with which they were encountered, show to what an extent the fixed principle to which the Scotch are said ever to recur, will carry the exertions, and support the fortitude, of that enduring and determined people.
To William Gordon, Viscount Kenmure and Baron of Lochinvar, was entrusted, in a commission from the Earl of Mar, the command of the insurgents in the south of Scotland. This choice of a General displayed the usual want of discernment which characterized the leaders of the Rebellion of 1715. Grave, and as a contemporary describes him, "full aged;" of extraordinary knowledge in public affairs, but a total stranger to all military matters; calm, but slow in judgment; of unsullied integrity,—endowed, in short, with qualities truly respectable, but devoid of energy, boldness, and address, yet wanting not personal courage, there could scarcely have been found a more excellent man, nor a more feeble commander. At the head of a troop of gentlemen, full of ardour in the cause, the plain dress and homely manners of Lord Kenmure seemed inappropriate to the conspicuous station which he held; for the exercise of his functions as commander was attended by some circumstances which required a great combination of worldly knowledge with singleness of purpose.
George Seaton, the fifth Earl of Wintoun, was another of those noblemen who raised a troop of horse, and engaged, from the very first commencement of the rebellion, in its turmoils. The family of Seaton, of which the Earl of Wintoun was the last in the direct line, "affords in its general characteristics," says a celebrated Scottish genealogist, "the best specimen of our ancient nobility. They seem to have been the first to have introduced the refined arts, and an improved state of architecture in Scotland. They were consistent in their principles, and, upon the whole, as remarkable for their deportment and baronial respectability, as for their descent and noble alliances."
In consequence of so many great families having sprung from the Seatons, they were styled "Magnae Nobilitatis Domini;" and their antiquity was as remarkable as their alliances, the male representation of the family, and the right to the honours which they bore, having been transmitted to the present Earl of Eglintoun, through an unbroken descent of seven centuries and a half.
The loyalty of the Seatons was untainted. The first Earl of Wintoun had adopted as one of his mottoes, "Intaminatis fulget honoribus," and the sense of those words was fully borne out by the testimony of time. The Seatoun Charter Chest contained, as one of their race remarked, no remission of any offence against Government, a fact which could not be affirmed of any other Scottish family of note. But this brave and ancient house had signal reason for remaining hitherto devoted to the monarchs of the Scottish throne.
Four times had the Seatons been allied with royalty: two instances were remarkable. George Seatoun, second Earl of Huntly, married the Princess Annabella, daughter of James the First, and from that union numerous descendants of Scottish nobility exist to this day: and George, the third Lord Seaton, again allied his house with that of Stuart, by marrying the Lady Margaret Stuart, daughter of the Earl of Buchan, and granddaughter of Robert the Second. In consequence of these several intermarriages, it was proverbially said of the house of Seaton, "the family is come of princes, and reciprocally princes are come of the family." And these bonds of relationship were cemented by services performed and honours conferred. The devotion of the Seatons to Mary, Queen of Scots, has been immortalised by the pen of Sir Walter Scott. George, the seventh Lord Seaton, attended on that unhappy Princess in some of the most brilliant scenes of her eventful life, and clung to her in every vicissitude of her fate. He, as Ambassador to France, negotiated her marriage with the Dauphin, and was present at the celebration of the nuptials. He afterwards aided his royal mistress to escape from Lochleven Castle, in 1568, and conducted her to Niddry Castle, his own seat. When, in gratitude for his fidelity, Mary would have created him an Earl, Lord Seaton declined the honour, and preferred his existing rank as Premier Baron of Scotland. Mary celebrated his determination in a couplet, written both in French and in Latin:
"Il y a des comtes, des rois, des ducs aussi, Ce't assez pour moy d'estre Signeur de Seton."
The successor of Lord Seaton, Robert, judged differently from his father, and accepted from James the Sixth the patent for the Earldom of Wintoun; distinguishing the new honour by a courage which procured for him the appellation of "Greysteel."
George, the fifth Earl of Wintoun, and the unfortunate adherent to the Jacobite cause, succeeded to the honours of his ancestors under circumstances peculiarly embarrassing. His legitimacy was doubted: at the time when his father died, this ill-fated young man was abroad, his residence was obscure; and as he held no correspondence with any of his relations, little was known with regard to his personal character. In consequence partly of his absence from Scotland, partly, it is said, of an actual hereditary tendency, a belief soon prevailed that he was insane, or rather, as a contemporary expresses it, "mighty subject to a particular kind of caprice natural to his family."
The Viscount Kingston, next heir to the title of Wintoun, having expressed his objections to Lord Wintoun's legitimacy, the young man, in 1710, took steps to establish himself as his father's heir. Two witnesses were produced who were present at the marriage of his parents, and bonds were found in the family chests, designating Lord Wintoun as "our eldest lawful son," by Dame Christian Hepburn Countess of Wintoun, "our spouse." This important point being established, Lord Wintoun served himself heir to his father and became the possessor of the family estates, chiefly situated in East Lothian, their principal residence being the palace of Seaton, so recognized in the royal charters, from its having been the favourite resort of royalty, the scene of entertainment to Mary of Scots, and her court, and the residence of Charles the First, when in Scotland in 1633. It was afterwards the place of meeting for the Jacobite nobles, and their adherents.
Differing from many of his companions in arms, Lord Wintoun was a zealous Protestant; but without any regard to the supremacy of either mode of faith, it appears to have been a natural consequence of his birth and early associations that he should cling to the house of the Stuarts. One would almost have applied to the young nobleman the term "recreant," had he wavered when the descendant of Mary Stuart claimed his services. But such a course was far from his inclination. It was afterwards deemed expedient by his friends to plead for him on the ground of natural weakness of intellect; "but," says a contemporary, "Lord Wintoun wants no courage, nor so much capacity as his friends find it for his interest to suggest." He was forward in action, and stimulated the military ardour of his followers, as they rushed with their ancient cry of "Set-on" to the combat. The earliest motto borne on these arms by the Seatons, "Hazard, yet forward," might indeed be mournfully applied to all who engaged in the hopeless Rebellion of 1715.
Lord Wintoun, like Lord Derwentwater, was in the bloom of his youth when he summoned his tenantry to follow him to the rendezvous appointed by Lord Kenmure. He took with him three hundred men to the standard of James Stuart; but he appears to have carried with him a fiery and determined temper,—the accompaniment, perhaps, of noble qualities, but a dangerous attribute in times of difficulty.
Robert Dalzell, sixth Earl of Carnwath, was another of those Scottish noblemen whose adherence to the Stuarts can only be regarded as a natural consequence of their birth and education. The origin of his family, which was of great antiquity in the county of Lanark, but had been transplanted into Nithisdale, is referred to in the following anecdote. In the reign of Kenneth the Second, a kinsman of the King having been taken and hung by the Picts, a great reward was offered by Kenneth, if any one would rescue and restore the corpse of his relation. The enterprise was so hazardous, that no one would venture on so great a risk. "At last," so runs the tale, "a certain gentleman came to the King, and said, 'Dalziel,' which is the old Scottish word for 'I dare.' He performed his engagement, and won for himself and his posterity the name which he had verified, and an armorial bearing corresponding to the action."
To James the First and to Charles the First the Dalziels owed their honours, and had the usual fortune of paying dearly for them, during the Great Rebellion, by sequestration, and by the imprisonment of Robert, first Earl of Carnwath, after the battle of Worcester, whither he attended Charles the Second. Undaunted by the adversities which his house had formerly endured, Robert Dalzell, of Glenae, sixth Earl of Carnwath, again came forward in 1715 to maintain the principles in which he had been nurtured, and to assist the family for whom his ancestors had suffered. During his childhood, the tutor of this nobleman had made it his chief care to instil into his mind the doctrine of hereditary right, and its consequent, passive obedience and non-resistance. At the University of Cambridge, young Dalzell had imbibed an affection for the liturgy and discipline of the Church of England; whilst his attainments had kept pace with the qualities of his heart, and the graces of his deportment. He was, in truth, a young man of fair promise, and one whose fate excited great interest, when a sombre tranquillity had succeeded to the turbulence of rebellion. Gentle in his address, affable, kind-hearted, Lord Carnwath had a natural and ready wit, and a great command of language, to which his English education had doubtless contributed. He was related by a former marriage between the families to the Earl of Wintoun, whose troop was commanded by Captain James Dalzell, the brother of Lord Carnwath. This young officer had served in the army of George the First, but he threw up his commission at the beginning of the Rebellion,—a circumstance which saved him from being shot at Preston as a deserter.
Robert Balfour, fifth Earl of Burleigh, was among the chiefs who, shortly after the outbreak, avowed their adherence to the Pretender's party. He was one of the few Jacobites whose personal character has reflected discredit upon his motives, and disgraced his compeers: his story has the air of romance, but is perfectly reconcilable with the spirit of the times in which Lord Burleigh figured.
When a very young man he became attached to a girl of low rank, and was sent abroad by his friends in hopes of removing his attachment. Before he quitted Scotland, he swore, however, that if the young woman married in his absence, he would kill her husband. Upon returning home, he found that the unfortunate object of his affections had been united to Henry Stenhouse, the schoolmaster at Inverkeithing. The threat had not been uttered without a deep meaning: young Balfour kept his word, and hastening to the school where Stenhouse was pursuing his usual duties, he stabbed him in the midst of his scholars. The victim of this murderous attack died twelve days afterwards.
Nearly eight years had elapsed since the crime had been perpetrated, and the wretched murderer had encountered, since that time, his trial, in the Court of Justiciary, and had received sentence of death by beheading; but he escaped from prison a few days previously, by exchanging clothes with his sister. He was then a commoner; but in 1714, the title of Lord Burleigh, and an estate of six hundred and ninety-seven pounds yearly, devolved upon him. When the Rebellion broke out, his restless spirit, as well, perhaps, as the loss of reputation, and the miseries of reflection, impelled him to enter into the contest.
Such were the principal promoters of the insurrection in the south of Scotland; they were held together by firm bonds of sympathy, and their plans were concerted in renewed conferences at stated periods.
The twenty-ninth of May was, of course, religiously observed by this increasing and formidable party. During the previous year (1714) the Jacobite gentry had met at Lochmaben, under pretence of a horse-racing; and, although it does not appear that the Earl of Nithisdale was among those who assembled on that occasion, yet several of his kinsmen attended. The plates which were the prizes had significant devices: on one of them were wrought figures of men in a falling posture; above them stood one "eminent person," the Pretender, underneath whom were inscribed the words from Ezekiel, xxi. 27, "I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is, and I will give it him." When the races were ended, Lord Burleigh, then Master of Burleigh, led the way to the Cross of Lochmaben, where, with great solemnity, drums beating, and colours displayed, those there colected drank to "their King's health;" the Master of Burleigh giving the toast, and uttering an imprecation on all such as should refuse to pledge it. These meetings had been continued for several years, and, during the reign of Queen Anne, without any molestation from Government. Lord Nithisdale took a decided part in all these measures, and was one of those who were considered as entirely to be trusted by the Earl of Mar, with regard to the projected arrival of the Pretender in Scotland. On the sixth of August, 1715, that project was communicated by Mar to the Earl of Nithisdale, through the medium of Captain Dalzell, who was despatched likewise to Lord Kenmure, and to the Earl of Carnwath. Lord Nithisdale obeyed the summons, and met the great council of the Jacobite nobles at Braemar, where the decisive and irrevocable step was taken.
Lord Nithisdale, in common with the other members of what was now termed the Jacobite Association, had been diligently preparing the contest. Meetings of the Association had been frequent, and even public. The finest horses had been bought up at any cost, with saddles and accoutrements, and numbers of horse-shoes. Many country gentlemen, who were in the habit of keeping only two or three saddle-horses at a time, now collected double the number; and a suspicion prevailed that it was the intention of some, who were Jacobites, to mount a troop. But no seizure had been made of their property in the last reign, there being few justices of the peace in Dumfriesshire, nominated by Queen Anne, who were not in the service of the Chevalier. Trained bands were, however, soon raised by the well-affected gentry of the county for the protection of the neighbourhood; and Nithisdale was traversed by armed bands,—Closeburn House, then the residence of Sir Thomas Kirkpatrick, being a frequent point of union for the friends of the Hanoverian interests to assemble. At Trepons, in the upper part of Nithisdale, was the first blood drawn that was shed in this disastrous quarrel, Mr. Bell of Nimsea, a Jacobite gentleman, being there shot through the leg by one of the guards, on his refusing to obey orders. The occurrence was typical of the remorseless cruelty which was afterwards exhibited towards the brave but unfortunate insurgents.
By a clause in the act "for encouraging loyalty in Scotland," passed on the thirtieth of August, power was given to the authorities to summon to Edinburgh all the heads of the Jacobite clans, and other suspected persons, by a certain day, to find bail for their good conduct. Among the long list of persons who were thus cited to appear, was the Earl of Nithisdale. Upon his non-appearance, he was, with the rest, denounced, and declared a rebel. This citation was followed by an outbreak on the part of Lord Kenmure and his followers, simultaneous to that on which the Northumberland Jacobites had decided. And the borders now became the chief haunts of the insurgents, who continued moving from place to place, and from house to house, in order to ripen the scheme which involved, as they considered, their dearest interests.
The loyal inhabitants of Dumfries were engaged, one Saturday, in the solemnities of preparation for the holy sacrament, when they received intimation of a plot to surprise and take possession of the town on the following sabbath, during the time of communion. This project was defeated by the prompt assembling of forces, notwithstanding that Lord Kenmure, with one hundred and fifty-three horsemen, advanced within a mile and a half of the town, on his march from Moffat. Upon being advised of the preparations made for defence, this too prudent commander addressed his troops, and said, "that he doubted not there were, in the town, as brave gentlemen there as himself, and that he would not go on to Dumfries that day." He returned to Lochmaben, where, on the following Thursday, the Pretender's standard was proclaimed: Lochmaben is a small market-town about fifteen miles from Dumfries; it served for some time as the head-quarters of the Jacobite party. "At their approach," relates the historian of that local insurrection, "the people of that place had put their cattle into a fold to make room for their horses; but the beasts having broken the fold, some of them drew home to the town a little before day; and a townsman, going to hunt one of 'em out of his yeard, called on his dog nam'd 'Help.' Hereupon the sentries cried 'Where?' and apprehending it had been a party from Dumfries to attack them, gave the alarm to the rebels, who got up in great confusion."
Lord Kenmure, attended by the Jacobite chiefs, and Lord Nithisdale, soon quitted the town of Lochmaben; and proceeding to Ecclefechan, and thence marching to Langholme, reached Hawick on the fifteenth of September, and determined on proceeding from that place into Teviotdale. Meantime measures were taken by the Duke of Roxburgh, who was Lieutenant Governor of Dumfriesshire, to prevent the Castle of Carlaverock being made available for the Jacobite forces. The Duke gave orders that the back bridge of the isle should be taken off, and a communication thus cut off between the Papists in the lower part of Galloway and the rebels in the borders. The inhabitants of the parish of Carlaverock were also strictly watched, being tenants, mostly, of the Earl of Nithisdale; and the same precaution was taken with regard to his Lordship's tenantry in Traquair, Terregles, and Kirkcunyean; yet, according to the statement of Mr. Reay, a most violent partisan against the Jacobites, the humble dwellers on these estates were but little disposed to follow their chieftain, who took, so the same account declares, "only two or three domestic servants with him." This, however, is contradicted by the assertion of Mr. Patten, who specifies that Lord Nithisdale was followed by three hundred of his tenantry; and also by the expectations which were founded, upon a close survey and scrutiny, by the agents of the Chevalier before the outbreak.
Lord Nithisdale had now taken a last farewell of the beautiful and smiling country of his forefathers; with what bright hopes, with what anticipations of a successful march and a triumphant return he may have quitted Terregles, it is easy to conjecture. Unhappily his enterprise was linked to one over which a man, singularly ill-fitted for the office of command, presided: for it was decreed that the Jacobite forces, under the command of Lord Kenmure, should proceed to the assistance of Mr. Forster's ill-fated insurrection in the north of England.
The history of that luckless and ill-concerted enterprise has been already given. The Earl of Nithisdale was taken prisoner after the battle of Preston, but little mention is made of his peculiar services at that place.
Lord Nithisdale was, with other prisoners of the same rank, removed to London. The prisoners of inferior rank were disposed of, under strong guards, in the different castles of Lancaster, Chester, and Liverpool. The indignities which were wreaked upon the unfortunate Jacobites as they entered London have been detailed in the life of Lord Derwentwater. Amid the cries of a savage populace, and the screams of "No warming pan," "King George for ever!" an exclamation which proves how deeply the notion of spurious birth had sunk into the minds of the people, the Earl of Nithisdale was conducted, his arms tied with cords, and the reins of his horse taken from him, with his unfortunate companions, into the Tower. He arrived in London on the 9th of December, 1715.
Of the manner in which the State prisoners of that period were treated, there are sufficient records left to prove that no feeling of compassion for what might be deemed a wrong, but yet a generous principle of devotion to the Stuarts, no high-toned sentiment of respect to bravery, nor consideration for the habits and feelings of their prisoners, influenced the British Government during that time of triumph. The mode in which those unfortunate captives were left in the utmost penury and necessity to petition for some provision, after their estates were escheated, plainly manifests how little there was of that sympathy with calamity which marks the present day.
But if the State prisoners in London were treated with little humanity, those who were huddled together in close prisons at Preston, Chester, Liverpool, and the other towns were in a still more wretched condition.
In the stores of the State Paper Office are to be found heartrending appeals for mercy, from prisoners sinking under dire diseases from too close contiguity, or from long confinement in one apartment. Consumption seems to have been very prevalent; and in Newgate the gaol fever raged. For this rigorous confinement the excuse was, that it had been found impossible to give the prisoners air, without risk of escape. In Chester, the townspeople conspired to assist the poor wretches in this endeavour; and perhaps, in regard to those of meaner rank, the authorities were not very averse to the success of such efforts, for the prisons were crowded, and the expense of even keeping the unfortunate captives alive began to be a source of complaint on the part of Government.
The great majority of the prisoners of the north were country gentlemen, Roman Catholics, from Cumberland and Northumberland,—men who were hearty and sincere in their convictions of the righteousness of their cause—men, whose ancestors had mustered their tenantry in the field for Charles the First. To those whose lives were spared, a petition was recommended, and taken round for signature, praying that their sentence of death or of imprisonment might be exchanged for transportation. But, whether these high-spirited gentlemen expected that another insurrection might act in their favour, or whether they preferred death to a final farewell, under circumstances so dreadful, to their country, does not appear. They mostly refused to sign the petition, which was offered to them singly: and the commandant at Preston, Colonel Rapin, in his correspondence with Lord Townshend, expresses his annoyance at their obstinacy, and expatiates on the inconvenience of the numbers under his charge at Preston. At length, after Captain John Dalzell, brother to the Earl of Carnwath, had signed the petition, a large body of the prisoners were ordered to be transported without their petitioning, and to be put in irons. They were hurried away to Liverpool, to embark thence for the Colonies, gentlemen and private soldiers mingled in one mass; but orders were afterwards sent by Lord Townshend to detain the gentlemen. Three hundred and twenty-seven prisoners had, however, been already shipped off. Those who remained were not permitted to converse, even with each other, without risk,—one Thomas Wells being appointed as a spy to write to the Jacobites, and to discourse with them, under the garb of friendliness, in order to draw out their real sentiments.
From this digression, which may not be deemed irrelevant, since it marks the spirit of the times, we return to the unhappy prisoners in the Tower, which was now thickly tenanted by the fallen Jacobites.
Lord Nithisdale had the sorrow of knowing that many of his friends and kinsmen were in the same gloomy and impenetrable fortress to which he had been conducted. It is possible that the Jacobite noblemen were not hopeless; and that remembering the clemency of William the Third to those who had held a treasonable correspondence with the Court of St. Germains, they might look for a similar line of policy from the reigning monarch.
It must be acknowledged, however, that Government had been greatly exasperated by acts of violence and of wanton destruction on the part of the Jacobites throughout the country; and that the general disaffection throughout the North, and, in particular, the strong Tory predilections at Oxford, must have greatly aggravated the dangers, and consequently, in a political view, have enhanced the crimes of the Chevalier's adherents. "The country," writes Colonel Rapin to Lord Townshend, "is full of them [the Jacobites], and the same spirit reigns in London."
"Oxford," writes an informant, under the name of Philopoliticus, "is debauched by Jacobitism. They call the Parliament the Rump; and riots in the street, with cries of 'Down with the Rump!' occur daily." Even the fellows and heads of the colleges were disposed to Jacobite opinions; and the Jacobites had expected that the city would become the Chevalier's head-quarters as it had been that of Charles the First.
But that which hastened the fate of the Earl of Nithisdale and of his friends, was the landing of James Stuart, at Peterhead, in Scotland, on the twenty-second of December,—an event which took place too late for his friends and partisans, and fatally increased the calamities of those who had suffered in his cause. On Monday, the ninth of January, he made his public entry into Perth, and, on the same day, the reigning monarch addressed his Parliament.
"Among the many unavoidable ill consequences of this Rebellion," said the King, "none affects me more sensibly than that extraordinary burden which it has, and must, create to my faithful subjects. To ease them as far as lies in my power, I take this first opportunity of declaring that I freely give up all the estates that shall become forfeited to the Crown by this Rebellion, to be applied towards defraying the extraordinary expense incurred on this occasion." As soon as a suitable address had been returned by both Houses, a debate concerning the prisoners taken in rebellion ensued, and a conference was determined on with the House of Lords. Mr. Lechmere, who was named to carry up the message to the Lords, returned, and made a long and memorable speech, concerning the rise, depth, and extent of the Rebellion; after which it was resolved, nemine contradicente, to impeach the Earl of Derwentwater, William Lord Widdrington, William Earl of Nithisdale, Robert Earl of Carnwath, George Earl of Wintoun, William Viscount Kenmure, and William Lord Nairn, of high treason.
The same evening, a committee was appointed to draw up articles of impeachment; and so great was the dispatch used, and so zealous were the committee, that in two hours the articles were prepared, agreed to, and ordered to be engrossed with the usual saving clause. During this time, the Lords remained sitting, and before ten o'clock the articles were presented before that assembly.
On the following day, the prisoners were conducted before the Bar of the House, where the articles of impeachment were read to them, and they were desired to prepare their replies on the sixteenth day of the month. Thus only six days were allowed for their answers; upon application, however, two days more were granted. The prisoners were allowed to choose counsel, and also to have a free communication with any persons, either peers or commoners, whom they might name.
On the twenty-first of January, the King again addressed his Parliament, and referred to the recent landing of the "Pretender" in Scotland. The reply of the two Houses to this speech emphatically declares, "that the landing of the Pretender hath increased their indignation against him and his adherents, and that they were determined to do everything in their power to assist his Majesty, not only in subduing the present Rebellion, but in destroying the seeds and causes of it, that the like disturbance may never rise again to impair the blessings of his Majesty's reign."
On the ninth of February the six impeached lords were brought, at eleven in the morning, to the Court erected in Westminster Hall, wherein both Lords and Commons were assembled. The ceremonial of opening this celebrated Court was conducted in the following manner:—
The Lords being placed on their proper seats, and the Lord High Steward on the woolsack, the Clerk of the Crown in the Court of Chancery, after making three reverences to the Lord Steward, presented, on his knees, the King's commission; which, after the usual reverences, was placed on the table. A proclamation for silence was then heard. The High Steward stood up and addressed the Peers, "His Majesty's commission is going to be read; your Lordships are desired to attend."
The Peers hereupon arose, uncovered themselves, and stood while the commission was being read. The voice of the Sergeant-at-arms exclaimed, "God save the King!" The Herald and Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, after three reverences, kneeling, then presented the White Staff to his Grace, the High Steward; upon which his Grace, attended by the Herald, the Black Rod, and Seal Bearer, removed from the woolsack to an armed chair which was placed on the uppermost step but one next to the throne.
The Clerk of the Crown ordered the Serjeant-at-arms to make another proclamation for silence; and amidst the stillness, the Lieutenant of the Tower brought in, amid an assembly of their compeers, his prisoners. Lord Wintoun was alone absent; for he had obtained a few days of delay.
The Earl of Nithisdale pleaded guilty, with his companions in misfortune. On Thursday, the nineteenth of January, when called upon for his answer, his defence was couched in the following terms: "It is with the greatest confusion," he began, "the said Earl appears at your Lordships' Bar, under the weight of an impeachment by the Commons of Great Britain for high treason." He went on to declare that he had ever been a zealous assertor of the liberties of his country, and never engaged in any design to subvert the established Government and good laws of the kingdom.
When summoned by those who were entrusted with the administration of the government in Scotland to Edinburgh, he did, he alleged, not obey the summons, being assured that if he went thither he would be made a close prisoner. He was therefore forced to abscond; for being at that time in ill-health, a confinement in Edinburgh Castle would have endangered his life. The Earl also stated that he had remained in privacy, until several of the persons mentioned in the impeachment had appeared in arms very near the place where they had lain concealed. He then "inconsiderately and unfortunately" joined them, with four domestics only, and proceeded in their company to the places named in the indictment; but knew nothing of the intended insurrection until the party "were actually in arms." After some expressions, stating that he was deeply sensible of his offence, he confessed, with "a sorrow equal to his crime," that he was guilty; "but referred to his hopes of mercy, grounded on his having capitulated at Preston, where he performed the duty of a Christian in preventing effusion of blood; and on his reliance on his Majesty's mercy."
On being further asked by the Lord High Steward whether he had anything to say "why judgment should not pass upon him according to law," Lord Nithisdale recapitulated the points in his answer in so weak a voice, that the Lord Steward reiterated the former question: "Have you pleaded anything in arrest of judgment?" "No, my Lord, I have not," was the reply.
The Earl of Nithisdale received the sentence of condemnation with the other Lords; and, like them, had the misery of hearing his doom prefaced by a long and admired harangue. The sentence was then pronounced in all its barbarous particularities; the law being in this, as the Lord High Steward declared, deaf to all distinctions of rank, "required that he should pronounce them." But his Grace intimated the most ignominious and painful parts of the sentence were usually remitted.
Lord Nithisdale, unlike Lord Widdrington and Lord Kenmure, who had referred in terms of anguish to their wives and children, had made no appeal on the plea of those family ties, to which few of his judges could have been insensible. He returned to the Tower, under sentence of death, to be saved by the heroism of a woman; according to some accounts, of his mother; but actually, by the fearless, devoted affection of his wife.
Winifred, Countess of Nithisdale, appears, from her portrait by Kneller, to have conjoined to an heroic contempt of danger a feminine and delicate appearance, with great loveliness of countenance. She was descended from a family who knew no prouder recollection than that their castle-towers had been the last to welcome the unhappy Charles the First in the manner suited to royalty. Her mother was the Lady Elizabeth Herbert, daughter of Edward, the second Marquis of Worcester, and author of "The Century of Inventions." Lady Nithisdale was therefore the great-granddaughter of that justly honoured Marquis of Worcester whose loyalty and disinterestedness were features of a character as excellent in private life, as benevolent, as sincere, as it was conspicuous in his public career. Yet, so universal, so continual has been the popular prejudice against Popery in this country, that even the virtues of this good man could scarcely rescue him from the imputation, as Lord Clarendon expresses it, of being "that sort of Catholics, the people rendered odious, by accusing to be most Jesuited."
The maternal family of Lady Nithisdale were, therefore, of the same faith with her husband, and, like his family, they had suffered deeply for the cause of the Stuarts; and it is remarkable that, with what some might deem infatuation, many descendants of those who had seen their fairest possessions ravaged, their friends and kindred slain, should be ready to suffer again. It is impossible for any reasoning to dispel the idea that this must be a true and fixed principle, independent, in many noble instances, of the hope of reward,—a far less enduring motive, and one which would be apt to change with every change of fortune.
Lady Nithisdale, on her father's side, was descended from the Herberts of Powis Castle, who were ennobled in the reign of James the First. She was the fourth daughter of William, Marquis of Powis, who followed James the Second, after his abdication, to France, and was created by that monarch Duke of Powis, a title not recognised in England. The titular Duke of Powis, as he is frequently called in history, chose to remain at St. Germains, and was at length outlawed for not returning within a certain period. He died at St. Germains in 1696. Upon the death of her father, Lady Winifred Herbert was placed with her elder sister, the Lady Lucy, in the English convent at Bruges, of which Lady Lucy eventually became Abbess. A less severe fate was, however, in store for the younger sister.
Under these adverse circumstances, so far as related to the proper maintenance of her father's rank in England, was Winifred Herbert reared. How and where she met with Lord Nithisdale, and whether the strong attachment which afterwards united them so indissolubly, was nurtured in the saloons of St. Germains, or in the romantic haunts of Nithisdale, we have no information to decide, neither have the descendants of the family been able even to ascertain the date of her marriage.
It is not improbable, however, that, before his marriage, Lord Nithisdale visited Paris and Rome, since the practice of making what was called "the grand tour" not only prevailed among the higher classes, but especially among the Jacobite nobility, many of whom, as in the case of Lord Derwentwater, were educated abroad; and this is more especially likely to have been the case in the instance of Lord Nithisdale, since, as Lady Nithisdale remarks in her narrative, her husband was a Roman Catholic in a part of Scotland peculiarly adverse to that faith, "the only support," as she calls him, "of the Catholics against the inveteracy of the Whigs, who were very numerous in that part of Scotland."
In her participation of those decided political opinions, which were inbred in Lady Nithisdale, she appears not to have departed from that feminine character which rises to sublimity when coupled with a fearless sacrifice of selfish considerations. It was the custom of the day for ladies to share in the intrigues of faction, more or less. Lady Fauconbridge, the Countess of Derwentwater, Lady Seaforth, all appear to have taken a lively part in the interests of the Jacobites. The Duchess of Marlborough was, politically speaking, extinct; but the restless love of ascendancy is never extinct. The fashionable world were still divided between her, and the rival whom she so despised, Catherine Sedley, Duchess of Buckingham.
But Lady Nithisdale, living in the North, and possibly occupied with her two children, remained, as she affirms, in the country, until the intelligence of her lord's committal to the Tower brought her from her seclusion years afterwards; she writes thus to her sister, the Lady Lucy Herbert, Abbess of the English Augustine Nuns at Bruges, who had, it seems, requested from her an account of the circumstances under which Lord Nithisdale escaped from the Tower.
"I first came to London," Lady Nithisdale writes, "upon hearing that my lord was committed to the Tower. I was at the same time informed that he had expressed the greatest anxiety to see me, having, as he afterwards told me, no one to console him till I came. I rode to Newcastle, and from thence took the stage to York. When I arrived there, the snow was so deep that the stage could not set out for London. The season was so severe, and the roads so bad, that the post itself was stopped: however, I took horses and rode to London, though the snow was generally above the horses' girths and arrived safe without any accident."
After this perilous journey, the determined woman sought interviews with the reigning Ministers, but she met with no encouragement; on the contrary, she was assured that, although some of the prisoners were to be saved, Lord Nithisdale would not be of the number.
"When I inquired," she continues, "into the reason of this distinction, I could obtain no other answer than that they would not flatter me. But I soon perceived the reasons, which they declined alleging me. A Roman Catholic upon the frontiers of Scotland, who headed a very considerable party, a man whose family had always signalized itself by its loyalty to the royal house of Stuart, would," she argued, "become a very agreeable sacrifice to the opposite party. They still," so thought Lady Nithisdale, "remembered the defence of the castle of Carlaverock against the republicans by Lord Nithisdale's grandfather, and were resolved not to let his grandson escape from their power."
Upon weighing all these considerations, Lady Nithisdale perceived that all hope of mercy was vain; she determined to dismiss all such dependance from her mind, and to confide in her own efforts. It was not impossible to bribe the guards who were set over the state prisoners: indeed, from the number of escapes, there must either have been a very venal spirit among the people who had the charge of the prisoners generally, or a compassionate leaning in their favour.
Having formed her resolution, Lady Nithisdale decided to communicate it to no one, except to her "dear Evans," a maid, or companion, who was of paramount assistance to her in the whole affair.
Meantime, public indications of compassion for the condemned lords, seemed to offer better hopes than the dangerous enterprise of effecting an escape.
On the eighteenth of February, orders were sent both to the Lieutenant of the Tower and to the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex for the executions of the rebel lords. Great solicitations had, meantime, been made for them, and the petitions for mercy not only reached the Court, but came down to the two Houses of Parliament, and being seconded by some members, debates ensued. That in the Commons ended in a motion for an adjournment, carried by a majority of seven only, and intended to avoid any further interposition in that House. Many who used to vote with the Government, influenced, says a contemporary writer, by "the word mercy, voted with the contrary party." In the House of Peers, however, the question being put, whether the petitions should be received and read, it was carried by a majority of nine or ten voices.
But the sanguine hopes of those who were hanging upon the decisions of the Lords for life or death, were again cruelly disappointed. After reading the petitions, the next question was, whether in case of an impeachment, the King had power to reprieve? This was carried by an affirmative, and followed by a motion to address his Majesty, humbly to desire him to reprieve the lords who lay under sentence of death. These relentings, and the successive tides of feeling displayed in this high assembly, prove how divided the higher classes were on the points of hereditary monarchy, and others also at issue; but the Whig ascendancy prevailed. There was a clause introduced into the address, which nullified all former show of mercy; and the King was merely petitioned "to reprieve such of the condemned lords as deserve his mercy; and that the time of the respite should be left to his Majesty's discretion." This clause was carried by five votes only.
To the address the following inauspicious answer was returned from King George: "That on this, and other occasions, he would do what he thought most consistent with the dignity of his Crown, and the safety of his people."
This struggle between the parties ended, says the author of the Register, "in the execution of two of these condemned lords, and the removal of some others from their employments, that had been most solicitous for their preservation."
The objects of this petty tyranny could well afford to succumb under the workings of that mean and revengeful spirit, whilst they might cherish the conviction of having used their efforts in the true spirit of that Christianity which remembers no considerations of worldly interest, when opposed to duty. Lady Nithisdale's relation of this anxious and eventful day, the twenty-third of February, is far too animated to be changed in a single expression. She had refused to remain confined with Lord Nithisdale in the Tower, on the plea of infirm health; but actually, because she well knew that she could better aid his cause whilst herself at liberty. She was then forbidden to see her husband; but by bribing the guards, she often contrived to have secret interviews with him, until the day before that on which the prisoners were condemned.
"On the twenty-second of February, which fell on a Thursday, our general petition was presented to the House of Lords, the purport of which was to interest the Lords to intercede with his Majesty to pardon the prisoners. We were, however, disappointed. The day before the petition was to be presented, the Duke of St. Albans, who had promised my Lady Derwentwater to present it, when it came to the point, failed in his word. However, as she was the only English Countess concerned, it was incumbent on her to have it presented. We had but one day left before the execution, and the Duke still promised to present the petition; but for fear he should fail, I engaged the Duke of Montrose to secure its being done by one or the other. I then went in company with most of the ladies of quality then in town, to solicit the interest of the Lords as they were going to the House. They all behaved to me with great civility, but particularly the Earl of Pembroke, who, though he desired me not to speak to him, yet he promised to employ his interest in my favour, and honourably kept his word, for he spoke very strongly in our behalf."
"The subject of the debate was, whether the King had the power to pardon those who had been condemned by Parliament: and it was chiefly owing to Lord Pembroke's speech that it was carried in the affirmative. However, one of the Lords stood up and said that the House could only intercede for those who should prove themselves worthy of their intercession, but not for all of them indiscriminately. This salvo quite blasted all my hopes, for I was assured that it was aimed at the exclusion of those who should refuse to subscribe to the petition, which was a thing I knew my lord would never submit to; nor, in fact, could I wish to preserve his life on those terms. As the motion had passed generally, I thought I could draw from it some advantage in favour of my design. Accordingly I immediately left the House of Lords, and hastened to the Tower, where, affecting an air of joy and satisfaction, I told the guards I passed by, that I came to bring joyful tidings to the prisoners. I desired them to lay aside their fears, for the petition had passed the House in their favour. I then gave them some money to drink to the Lords and his Majesty, though it was trifling; for I thought if I were too liberal on the occasion, they might suspect my designs, and that giving them something would gain their good will and services for the next day, which was the eve of the execution."
On the following day Lady Nithisdale was too much occupied in preparations for her scheme to visit the Tower; the evening of the eventful twenty-third of February arrived; and when all things were put in readiness, this resolute and well-judging woman threw herself upon the confidence of one in whose power she was, to a certain degree, and whose co-operation she could only secure by such a proceeding. She sent for the landlady of the house in which she lodged, and told her that she had made up her mind to effect Lord Nithisdale's escape, since there was no chance of his being pardoned. She added those few but thrilling words: "This is the last night before his execution!" While she spoke, perhaps, the condemned nobleman was supplicating on his knees to God for that mercy which was withheld by man. Imagination paints the despondency of Lord Derwentwater; the calm and dignified sorrow of the justly pitied Kenmure.
Lady Nithisdale then made a request calculated to alarm a woman of an ordinary character; but she seems to have understood the disposition of the person whom she thus addressed.
"I told her that I had every thing in readiness, and that I trusted she would not refuse to accompany me, that my lord might pass for her. I pressed her to come immediately, as we had no time to lose." This sudden announcement, which a less sagacious mind might have deemed injudicious, had the effect which Lady Nithisdale expected; the undertaking was one of such risk, that it could only be an enterprise of impulse, except to her whose affections were deeply interested in the result. The consent of Mrs. Mills was carried by storm, as well as that of another coadjutor, a Mrs. Morgan, who usually bore the name of Hilton, to whom Lady Nithisdale dispatched a messenger, begging her to come immediately. "Their surprise and astonishment," remarks Lady Nithisdale, speaking of these, her two confidantes, "made them consent, without ever thinking of the consequences." The scheme was, that Mrs. Mills, who was tall and portly, should pass for Lord Nithisdale; Mrs. Morgan was to carry concealed the bundle of "clothes that were to serve Mrs. Mills when she left her own behind her." After certain other preparations, all managed with infinite dexterity and shrewdness, these three heroines set out in a coach for the Tower, into which they were to be admitted, under the plea of taking a last leave of Lord Nithisdale. Lady Nithisdale, even whilst her heart throbbed with agitation, continued to support her spirits. "When we were in the coach;" she relates, "I never ceased talking, that they her companions might have no leisure to repent.
"On our arrival at the Tower, the first I introduced was Mrs. Morgan (for I was only allowed to take in one at a time). She brought in the clothes which were to serve Mrs. Mills when she left her own behind her. When Mrs. Morgan had taken off what she had brought for my purpose, I conducted her back to the staircase; and in going I begged her to send my maid to dress me, that I was afraid of being too late to present my last petition that night if she did not come immediately. I dispatched her safe, and went partly down stairs to meet Mrs. Mills, who had the precaution to hold her handkerchief to her face, as is natural for a woman to do when she is going to take her last farewell of a friend on the eve of his execution. I had indeed desired her to do so, that my lord might go out in the same manner. Her eyebrows were rather inclined to be sandy, and my lord's were very dark and very thick. However, I had prepared some paint of the colour of hers, to disguise his with; I also brought an artificial head-dress of the same coloured hair as hers, and I painted his face and his cheeks with rouge to hide his long beard, which he had not had time to shave.
"All this provision I had before left in the Tower. The poor guards, whom my slight liberality the day before had endeared me to, let me go quietly out with my company, and were not so strictly on the watch as they usually had been; and the more so, as they were persuaded, from what I had told them the day before, that the prisoners would obtain their pardon. I made Mrs. Mills take off her own hood, and put on that which I had brought for her. I then took her by the hand and led her out of my lord's chamber; and in passing through the next room, in which were several people, with all the concern imaginable I said, 'My dear Mrs. Catherine, go in all haste, and send me my waiting-maid; she certainly cannot reflect how late it is. I am to present my petition to-night, and if I let slip this opportunity I am undone, for to-morrow is too late. Hasten her as much as possible, for I shall be on thorns till she comes.' Everybody in the room, who were chiefly the guards' wives and daughters, seemed to compassionate me exceedingly, and the sentinel officiously opened me the door. When I had seen her safe out, I returned to my lord and finished dressing him. I had taken care that Mrs. Mills did not go out crying, as she came in, that my lord might better pass for the lady who came in crying and afflicted; and the more so, as he had the same dress that she wore. When I had almost finished dressing my lord in all my petticoats except one, I perceived it was growing dark, and was afraid that the light of the candles might betray us, so I resolved to set off. I went out leading him by the hand, whilst he held his handkerchief to his eyes. I spoke to him in the most piteous and afflicted tone, bewailing bitterly the negligence of Evans, who had ruined me by her delay. Then I said, 'My dear Mrs. Betty, for the love of God, run quickly and bring her with you; you know my lodging, and if you ever made dispatch in your life, do it at present: I am almost distracted with this disappointment.' The guards opened the door, and I went down stairs with him, still conjuring him to make all possible dispatch. As soon as he had cleared the door I made him walk before me, for fear the sentinel should take notice of his walk, but I continued to press him to make all the dispatch he possibly could. At the bottom of the stairs I met my dear Evans, into whose hands I confided him. I had before engaged Mr. Mills to be in readiness before the Tower to conduct him to some place of safety, in case we succeeded. He looked upon the affair as so very improbable to succeed, that his astonishment, when he saw us, threw him into such a consternation that he was almost out of himself; which Evans perceiving, with the greatest presence of mind, without telling him anything, lest he should mistrust them, conducted him to some of her own friends on whom she could rely, and so secured him, without which we certainly should have been undone. When she had conducted him and left him with them, she returned to Mr. Mills, who had by this time recovered himself from his astonishment. They went home together; and having found a place of security, they conducted him to it. In the mean time, as I had pretended to have sent the young lady on a message, I was obliged to return up stairs and go back to my lord's room in the same feigned anxiety of being too late, so that everybody seemed sincerely to sympathise in my distress. When I was in the room, I talked as if he had been really present. I answered my own questions in my lord's voice, as nearly as I could imitate it. I walked up and down as if we were conversing together, till I thought they had time enough thoroughly to clear themselves of the guards. I then thought proper to make off also. I opened the door and stood half in it, that those in the outward chamber might hear what I said, but held it so close that they could not look in. I bade my lord formal farewell for the night, and added, that something more than usual must have happened to make Evans negligent on this important occasion, who had always been so punctual in the smallest trifles, that I saw no other remedy than to go in person. That if the Tower was then open, when I had finished my business, I would return that night; but that he might be assured I would be with him as early in the morning as I could gain admittance into the Tower, and I flattered myself I should bring more favourable news. Then, before I shut the door, I pulled through the string of the latch, so that it could only be opened in the inside.
"I then shut it with some degree of force, that I might be sure of its being well shut. I said to the servant as I passed by (who was ignorant of the whole transaction), that he need not carry in candles to his master till my lord sent for them, as he desired to finish some prayers first."
Thus ended this singular, successful, and heroic scheme. It was now necessary that the devoted Lady Nithisdale should secure her own safety.
She had, it seems, been bent upon proffering a last petition to King George, in case her attempt had failed. She drove home to her lodgings, where a friend, named Mackenzie, waited to take her petition. "There is no need of a petition," were the words that broke from the agitated woman; "my lord is safe, and out of the Tower, and out of the hands of his enemies, though I know not where he is." Lady Nithisdale then discharged the coach which had brought her to her lodgings, a precaution which she always observed for fear of being traced,—never going in the same vehicle to more than one place. She sent for a chair, and went to the Duchess of Buccleugh, who had promised to present her petition, having taken her precaution against all events. The Duchess expected her, but had company with her; and Lady Nithisdale barely escaped being shown into the room where her friend was with her company. She, however, excused herself, and, sending a message to her Grace, proceeded to the residence of the Duchess of Montrose. "This lady had ever," said Lady Nithisdale, "borne a part in my distresses;" she now left her company to see and console the wife of the rebel lord, of whom, she conjectured, Lady Nithisdale must have taken, that night, a last farewell. As the two friends met, the Duchess, to her astonishment, found her visitor in a transport of joy; "she was extremely shocked and frightened," writes Lady Nithisdale; "and has since confessed to me that she thought my troubles had driven me out of myself." She cautioned Lady Nithisdale to secrecy, and even to flight; for the King had been extremely irritated by the petition already sent in by Lady Nithisdale. The generous Duchess was, among those who frequented the Court, the only person that knew Lady Nithisdale's secret. After a brief interview, Lady Nithisdale, sending for a fresh chair, hurried away to a house which her faithful attendant Evans had found for her, and where she was to learn tidings of Lord Nithisdale. Here she learned that Lord Nithisdale had been removed from the lodging to which he had at first been conducted, to the mean abode of a poor woman just opposite the guard-house. Here the former Lord of Carlaverock and of Nithisdale met his wife. Lady Nithisdale hurries over the meeting, but her simple account has its own powers of description.
The good woman of the house had, it seems, but one small room up a pair of stairs, and a very small bed in it. "We threw ourselves on the bed that we might not be heard walking up and down. She left us a bottle of wine and some bread, and Mrs. Mills brought us some more in her pockets the next day. We subsisted on this provision from Thursday till Saturday night, when Mr. Mills came and conducted my lord to the Venetian Ambassador's. We did not communicate the affair to his Excellency, but one of the servants concealed him in his own room till Wednesday, on which day the Ambassador's coach-and-six was to go down to Dover to meet his brother. My lord put on a livery, and went down in the retinue, without the least suspicion, to Dover; where Mr. Michel (which was the name of the Ambassador's servant) hired a small vessel, and immediately set sail for Calais. The passage was so remarkably short, that the captain threw out this reflection,—that the wind could not have served better if the passengers had been flying for their lives, little thinking it to be really the case.
"Mr. Michel might have easily returned without suspicion of being concerned in my lord's escape; but my lord seemed inclined to have him with him, which he did, and he has at present a good place under our young master. This is an exact and as full an account of this affair, and of the persons concerned in it, as I could possibly give you, to the best of my memory, and you may rely upon the truth of it. For my part, I absconded to the house of a very honest man in Drury Lane, where I remained till I was assured of my lord's safe arrival on the Continent. I then wrote to the Duchess of Buccleugh (everybody thought till then that I was gone off with my lord) to tell her that I understood I was suspected of having contrived my lord's escape, as was very natural to suppose; that if I could have been happy enough to have done it, I should be flattered to have the merit of it attributed to me; but that a bare suspicion without proof, would never be a sufficient ground for my being punished for a supposed offence, though it might be motive sufficient for me to provide a place of security; so I entreated her to procure leave for me to go about my business. So far from granting my request, they were resolved to secure me if possible. After several debates, Mr. Solicitor-General, who was an utter stranger to me, had the humanity to say, that since I showed such respect to Government as not to appear in public, it would be cruel to make any search after me. Upon which it was resolved that no further search should be made if I remained concealed; but that if I appeared either in England or Scotland, I should be secured. But this was not sufficient for me, unless I could submit to see my son exposed to beggary. My lord sent for me up to town in such haste, that I had not time to settle anything before I left Scotland. I had in my hand all the family papers, and I dared trust them to nobody: my house might have been searched without warning, consequently they were far from being secure there. In this distress, I had the precaution to bury them in the ground, and nobody but myself and the gardener knew where they were. I did the same with other things of value. The event proved that I had acted prudently; for after my departure they searched the house, and God only knows what might have transpired from those papers! All these circumstances rendered my presence absolutely necessary, otherwise they might have been lost; for though they retained the highest preservation after one very severe winter, (for when I took them up they were as dry as if they came from the fire-side,) yet they could not possibly have remained so much longer without prejudice."
Lord Nithisdale went to Rome, and never revisited his native country; indeed, the project of the Rebellion of 1745, and the unceasing efforts and hopes by which it was preceded on the part of the Jacobites, must have rendered such a step impracticable to one who seems to have been especially obnoxious to the house of Hanover.
His escape, according to Lady Nithisdale, both infuriated and alarmed George the First, "who flew into an excessive passion," as she expresses it, on the news transpiring; and exclaimed that he was betrayed, and that it could not have been done without a confederacy. He instantly dispatched messengers to the Tower, to give orders that the prisoners who were still there, might be the more effectually secured. He never forgave Lady Nithisdale; and the effects of his powerful resentment were such, as eventually to drive her for ever from England.
Inexperienced, young, a stranger in the vast metropolis, Lady Nithisdale was now left alone, to skulk from place to place that she might avoid the effects of the royal displeasure. She absconded to the house of an "honest man" in Drury Lane, where she remained in concealment until she heard of her husband's safe arrival on the Continent. A report, meantime, prevailed of her having been the means of Lord Nithisdale's escape; and it was generally believed that she had gone with him. To the surprise of the Duchess of Buccleugh, Lady Nithisdale one day appeared before her, the object of that sudden and perhaps undesired visit being to obtain, by the influence of the Duchess, leave to quit London; and to disseminate, through her Grace, a belief that the safety of Lord Nithisdale was not procured by his wife's means. It must have been one of the most aggravating circumstances to that noble and affectionate being, to have employed so much artifice in the conduct of this affair; but, if ever artifice be allowable, it is when opposed as a weapon to tyranny. Besides, Lady Nithisdale had now not only her own safety to consider; she had to protect the interests of her son.
Those whom she had mortally offended were eager to punish her courage by imprisonment.
The Solicitor-General, however, showed a more compassionate spirit than his employers, and in the course of several debates in the House of Commons, submitted that if Lady Nithisdale paid so much respect to Government as not to appear in public, it would be cruel to make any farther search after her. It was therefore decided that unless the lady were seen in England or Scotland, she should be unmolested; but if she were observed in either of those countries, she should be secured. This might be a decision of mercy, but Lady Nithisdale could not submit to it, unless she left her son's estate to be ruined by waste and plunder. Hurried as she had been to London, she had found time only to make one arrangement, which proved to be of the utmost importance.
"I had in my hands," she relates, "all the family papers, and dared trust them to nobody. My house might have been searched without warning, consequently they were far from being secure there. In this distress I had the precaution to bury them in the ground, and nobody but myself and the gardener knew where they were: I did the same with other things of value. The event proved that I had acted prudently to save these papers."
Lady Nithisdale determined to return, at all risks, to Scotland; and it was, perhaps, from her care in concealing the important documents to which she refers, that the estates were not escheated. She soon put into execution the heroic determination, of which she made no boast. Her journey was full of perils; not only those incident to the time and season of the year, but the great risk of being betrayed and discovered. Little respect was paid, in that reign, when truly the spirit of chivalry was extinguished, to the weaker sex. Ladies, active and instrumental as they were in political intrigues, if found out, were made to pay the penalty of their dissaffection with hard imprisonment; or, if at large, wandered from place to place, conscious that the eye of the law pursued their footsteps. Lady Seaforth, the wife of one of the rebel lords, was reduced to necessity, even of the common necessaries of life; and Lady Widdrington and her children shared the same cruel privations.
Believing herself, also, to be an object of peculiar dislike to George the First, Lady Nithisdale's courage in braving the royal displeasure a second time, certainly appears to border upon folly and a rash temerity. But she knew well that if she could once reach the land of the Maxwells, the strict respect paid to the head of the clan, and the remarkable fidelity of all ranks of the Scotch to those who trust to their honour, would there prove her safeguard. The great danger was in making the journey. But the young heroic Countess dismissed all fear from her mind, and prepared for her enterprise.
"In short," she thus prefaces her narrative, "as I had once exposed my life for the safety of the father, I could not do less than hazard it once more for the fortune of the son. I had never travelled on horseback but from York to London, as I told you; but the difficulties did not arise now from the severity of the season, but the fear of being discovered and arrested. To avoid this, I bought three saddle-horses, and set off with my dear Evans and a very trusty servant, whom I brought with me out of Scotland. We put up at all the smallest inns on the road, that could take in a few horses, and where I thought I was not known; for I was thoroughly known at all the considerable inns on the northern road. Thus I arrived safe at Traquhair, where I thought myself secure, for the lieutenant of the county being a friend of my lord's, would not permit any search to be made after me without sending me previous notice to abscond. Here I had the assurance to rest myself two whole days, pretending that I was going to my own house with leave from Government. I sent no notice to my house, that the magistrates of Dumfries might not make too narrow enquiries about me. So they were ignorant of my arrival in the country till I was at home, where I still feigned to have permission to remain. To carry on the deceit the better, I sent to all my neighbours and invited them to come to my house. I took up my papers at night and sent them off to Traquhair. It was a particular stroke of providence that I made the dispatch I did, for they soon suspected me, and by a very favourable accident, one of them was overheard to say to the magistrates of Dumfries, that the next day they would insist on seeing my leave from Government. This was bruited about, and when I was told of it, I expressed my surprise that they should be so backward in coming to pay their respects; 'but,' said I, 'better late than never: be sure to tell them that they shall be welcome whenever they choose to come.'
"This was after dinner, but I lost no time to put everything in readiness with all possible secrecy; and the next morning before day-break, I set off again for London with the same attendants, and, as before, put up at the smallest inns and arrived safe once more."
The report of her journey into Scotland had preceded Lady Nithisdale's return to London; and, if we may credit her assertions, which are stated with so much candour as to impart a certain conviction of their truthfulness, their King was irritated beyond measure at the intelligence. Orders were immediately issued for her arrest; and the Monarch protested that Lady Nithisdale did whatever she pleased in spite of him; that she had given him more trouble than any other woman in Europe. Again driven into obscurity, Lady Nithisdale took the opinion of a very celebrated lawyer, whose name she does not specify, and, upon his opinion, determined to retire to the Continent. The reasons which her legal adviser assigned for this counsel was, that although, in other circumstances, a wife cannot be prosecuted for saving her husband, yet in cases of high treason, according to the rigour of the law, the head of a wife is responsible for that of a husband. Since the King was so incensed against Lady Nithisdale there could be no answering for the consequences, and he therefore earnestly besought her to leave the kingdom.
Lady Nithisdale, conscious of the wisdom of this recommendation, and wearied, perhaps, of a life of apprehension, determined to adopt the plan recommended.
It is evident that she joined Lord Nithisdale at Rome, whither he had retired; for the statement which she has left concludes in a manner which shows that the devoted and heroic wife had been enabled to rejoin the husband for whom she had encountered so much anxiety, contumely, and peril. Her son, it appears, also accompanied her, from her reference to "our young Master," meaning the Master of Nithisdale; since, when she wrote, the Prince Charles Edward could not be endowed with that appellation, his father being then alive. Her narrative is thus concluded:—
"This is the full narrative of what you desired, and of all the transactions which passed relative to this affair. Nobody besides yourself could have obtained it from me; but the obligations I owe you, throw me under the necessity of refusing you nothing that is in my power to do. As this is for yourself alone, your indulgence will excuse all the faults which must occur in this long recital. The truth you may, however, depend upon; attend to that and overlook all deficiencies. My lord desires you to be assured of his sincere friendship. I am, with the strongest attachment, my dear sister, yours most affectionately,
Little is known of the Earl of Nithisdale after his escape to Rome, where he died in 1744. He thus lived through a period of comparative quiet, till his native country was again on the eve of being embroiled in a civil war, more replete with danger, sullied by greater crimes, and more disastrous to his native country, than the short-lived struggle of 1715. An exile from his Scottish possessions, Lord Nithisdale possibly implanted in the mind of his own son that yearning to establish the rights of the Stuarts which appears not to have been eradicated from the hearts of the Scottish Jacobites until their beloved and royal race had become lineally extinct.
The descendants of William, Earl of Nithisdale, have never been able to ascertain where his Lordship is buried. His noble and admirable wife died at Rome, as well as her husband; but her remains were brought to this country, and they are deposited at Arundel Castle.
John Maxwell, who assumed the title of Earl of Nithisdale, appears to have remained absent from Scotland until the troubles of 1745 began. It was probably on the death of his father in 1744, that he returned to take possession of the family estates,—that this, the representative of the family of Maxwell, ventured to appear in Dumfriesshire.
The following correspondence which passed between the Earl of Nithisdale, popularly so called, and his friend, Mr. Craik, of Arbigland in Dumfriesshire, is a curious commentary upon the motives and reasons which actuated the minds of the Jacobites in the second attempt to re-establish the Stuart family. The first letter from Mr. Craik is dated October the thirteenth, 1745, when Edinburgh Castle was blockaded by Charles Edward, who was publishing his manifestoes from the saloons of Holyrood House. The answer from Lord Nithisdale is written in reply to one of remonstrance addressed to him by his friend. There is no date, but it is obviously written at Edinburgh.
The remonstrances from Mr. Craik were instantly dispatched, to avert, if possible, any decided step on the part of Lord Nithisdale. The arguments which it contains shew the friendly intention of the earnest writer. Lord Nithisdale had, in his former letter, challenged his friend to assign his reasons for dissuading him from the enterprise.
LETTER FROM MR. CRAIK TO LORD NITHISDALE.
"My waiting for a safe hand to convey this to you has prevented my answering yours of the thirteenth sooner. It must give me great pleasure that you have not determined to engage in the present enterprize, which from several apparent symptoms I had reason to apprehend; and if you stick by your promise of doeing nothing rashly (fitt only for desperados indeed!) in a matter of such moment, I shall be sett at ease from the anxiety I felt on your account.
"In mine which gave occasion to yours, I really had no intention to enter into the merits of the cause: all I meant was, to make experiment how far my interest with you could prevail to keep you undetermined till meeting, when I might promise myself more success in reasoning upon the subject, than while you remained in town, where the spirit of the place, the people you converse with, the things you hear and see, all unite to inflame your passions and confound your understanding. But since it has, beyond my intention, engaged you to explain your sentiments at large, and to call upon you to give my opinion, and since I suppose your arguments contain all that can be said by those of the party who would be thought to judge coolly and act reasonably at this juncture, I shall, with the freedom and openness of a friend, consider them as they lye before me in yours; and if I am forced to exceed the limits of a letter, you may blame yourself, who drew me in. You tell me you are ready to believe; I agree in opinion with you, that as matters are come to this length, it's now greatly to the interest of Scotland to wish success to the undertaking, and that nothing but the improbability of success should hinder every Scotsman to join in it. This tho' a verrie material point, you take for granted without assigning a single reason; but as I know it is one of their delusive arguments, now much in use where you are, and the chief engine of the party to seduce well-meaning men to concur in the ruin of the constitution and their country, I shall give you what I apprehend you must mean by it in the most favourable light it will bear; and then from an impartial stating of the fact as it truely stands, leave yourself to judge how far an honest man, a wise one, and a lover of his country, can justify either to himself or the worlde, his being of this opinion. The meaning of your argument I take to be this: that by the unaccountable success of the enterprize and the tame submission of the people in general, if the scheme misgive all Scotland becomes involved in the guilt, and may expect the outmost severitys this Government and the people of England can afflict them with; but on the other hand, should the undertaking be crowned with success, as Scotesmen have the merit of it, they must become the peculiar favourites of the family they have raised to the throne, and reap all the advantages they can promise themselves from a grateful and generous prince. I hope I have done justice to your argument, allow me allso to do justice to facts and truth.
"The people of Great Britain having found, from repeated experiments, how precarious their libertys were in the hands of the princes who founded their title to govern them in hereditary right,—that however absurd the pretence was in itself, no example could make them forego a claim which so much flattered their ambition, and upon which only, with any shew of reason, arbitrary power and tyranny can be built at last,—determined to secure (as far as human prudence can) the possession of that inestimable blessing to themselves and posterity by fixing the royal power in a family whose only title should be the free choice of the people, and who, should they attempt, would be restrained from inslaving those they governed, and would not only act most absurdly, but might reckon upon having the same voice of the people against them.
"The maxims by which our hereditary princes conducted themselves, were sufficiently felt to the sad experience of our forefathers; thank God we were reserved for happier times! History will inform you of their repeated and unwearied attempts to subvert the constitution and inslave a free people. Their sacrifizing the interest of the nation to France, their violating their oaths and promises, their persecutions and their schemes to establish a religion which in its nature is inconsistent with the toleration of any other, though reasons of state may make it wink at this on particular occasions,—but should I descend to particulars, it would lead me beyond the limites I have prescribed myself.
"The present family have now reigned over us these thirty years, and though during so long a time they may have fallen into errors, or may have committed faults, (as what Government is without?) yett I will defy the most sanguin zealot to find in history a period equal to this in which Scotland possessed so uninterrupted a felicity, in which liberty, civil and religious, was so universally enjoyed by all people of whatever denomination—nay, by the open and avowed ennemys of the family and constitution, or a period in which all ranks of men have been so effectually secured in their property. Have not trade, manufactures, agriculture, and the spirit of industry in our country, extended themselves further during this period and under this family than for ages before? Has any man suffered in his liberty, life, or fortune, contrary to law? Stand forth and name him if you can. Tho' the King's person, his family, his government, and his ministers, have been openly abused a thousand times in the most scurrilous and reproachful terms, could it ever provoke him to one arbitrary act or to violate those laws which he had made the rule of his government? Look into the reigns of the James's and the Charles's, and tell me wither these divine and hereditary princes were guided by the same spirit of mildness and forgivness?