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Claverhouse

The following is from Claverhouse by Mowbray Morris:

Chapter VIII

Both in Scotland and England events were now moving fast to their inevitable conclusion, but of Claverhouse's part in public affairs there is for the next three years little record. Only two of his letters have survived between May, 1685, and October, 1688, when the disastrous march into England began. From one of these it is clear that his restoration to favour at Whitehall had not improved his position at Edinburgh. Gratitude was not then a common virtue among public men. Claverhouse had done for his colleagues all that he had promised. The recollection of their debt to him, and the unlikelihood of their being able to increase it, did not serve to endear to them this successful soldier of fortune, who had indeed helped them to their ambition, but who had thereby shown a dangerous capacity for helping himself. At the head of these malcontents was, of course, Queensberry, though, as the King had shown himself determined not to lose the services of his brilliant captain, it was necessary for the Treasurer to give his jealousy a guarded form. He complained to Dumbarton (then commanding the forces in Scotland) that Claverhouse had misused some of his tenants, though in what manner is not clear. There is a letter from Claverhouse expressing in respectful terms his regret at Queensberry's annoyance, which he declares to have been founded on misapprehension of the facts.

"I am convinced (he writes) your Grace is ill-informed; for, after you have read what I wrote to you two days ago on that subject, I daresay I may refer myself to your own censure. That I had no desire to make great search there, anybody may judge. I came not from Ayr till after eleven in the forenoon, and went to Balagen with forty heritors again night. The Sanquhar is just in the road; and I used these men I met accidentally on the road better than ever I used any in these circumstances. And I may safely say that, as I shall answer to God, if they had been living on my ground I could not have forborne drawing my sword and knocking them down. However, I am glad I have received my Lord Dumbarton's orders anent your Grace's tenants, which I shall most punctually obey; though, I may say, they were safe as any in Scotland before."[69]

The previous letter here referred to has been lost; but it is probable that the complaint originated in Claverhouse's summons to these heritors, or small proprietors, to take arms in the King's service, as they were bound to do. Men will mostly follow their master's lead. The Treasurer's tenants knew well, we may be sure, how little love their master bore for the imperious soldier, and were no doubt somewhat saucy in their remonstrances; and sauciness Claverhouse would not brook from any man alive, whatever his quality.

But Queensberry and his crew had to nurse their grudge in secret. Much as the knowledge may have chafed them, they knew well that Claverhouse was the one man on whom they could depend for wise counsel and prompt action in emergency. A few weeks before this matter of the tenants he had received an urgent despatch from Edinburgh, signed by "his affectionate friends and servants" of the Council, authorising him to take what steps he thought best for disposing the troops. Argyle was on the sea, and the Campbells were mustering fast to their chief's call. Measures had already been taken in the northern shires. Athole had been appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Argyleshire, and held Inverary with a large force of his Highlanders. The Gordons, under their new-made Duke, were guarding the sea-board of Invernessshire. Glasgow was occupied by a strong body of militia. Ships of war watched the Firth of Clyde. To keep the Western Lowlands and the Border quiet was Claverhouse's charge. It is unnecessary to remind my readers what followed. Within little more than a month from his landing in Scotland Argyle stood upon the scaffold in Edinburgh; and a fortnight later Monmouth closed his short unhappy life on Tower Hill.

In this same despatch Claverhouse was told that the King had raised him to be a brigadier of both horse and foot, that James Douglas had received the same promotion, and that the latter's commission bore priority of date. He wisely took no notice of this slight,—for, comparing the weight of his services to the Government with the services of Douglas, a slight it undoubtedly was, and was meant to be. He knew that it did not come from the King, and he was much too prudent and too proud to let the others see that he was annoyed by a stupid insult he was powerless to resent. But there exists a letter from Secretary Murray to Queensberry which makes the business very clear. It is worth quoting as significant of the petty intrigues in which men of rank and position were not then ashamed to indulge.

"The King ordered two commissions to be drawn, for your brother and Claverhouse to be brigadiers. We were ordered to see how such commissions had been [drawn?] here, and in Earl Middleton's office we found the extract of one granted to Lord Churchill, another to Colonel Worden, the one for horse, the other for foot. So Lord Melfort told me the King had ordered him to draw one for your brother for the foot and Claverhouse for the horse. I told him that could not be; for by that means Claverhouse would command your brother. To be short, we were very hot on the matter. He said he knew no reason why Colonel Douglas should have the precedency, unless that he was your brother. I told him that was enough, but that there was a greater, and that was, that he was an officer of more experience and conduct, and that was the King's design of appointing brigadiers at this time. He said Claverhouse had served the King longer in Scotland. I told him that was yet wider from the purpose, for there were in the army that had served many years longer than Claverhouse, and of higher quality, and without disparagement to any, gallant in their personal courage. By this time I flung from him, and went straight to the King and represented the case. He followed, and came to us. But the King changed his mind and ordered him to draw the commissions both for horse and foot, and your brother's two days' date before the other; by which his command is clear before the other. I saw the commissions signed this afternoon, and they are sent herewith by Lord Charles Murray. Now, I beseech Your Grace, say nothing of this to any; nay, not now to your brother. For Lord Melfort said to Sir Andrew Forrester, that he was sure there would be a new storm on him. I could not, nor is [it] fit this should have been kept from you; but you will find it best for a while to know or take little notice, for it gives him but ground of talking, and serves no other end."[70]

But these jealous fellows were not to have it all their own way. In the autumn of the same year Claverhouse was summoned to London with Balcarres to be heard on a complaint he had in his turn to make against Queensberry. Early in the spring he had been peremptorily ordered to discharge a bond he had given to the Treasury for fines due from delinquents in Galloway. He answered that his brother (then Deputy-Sheriff of that shire) was collecting the fines, and requested more time for payment. On being told that he might take five or six days, he replied that, considering the difficulty of collection and the distances to be travelled, they might as well give him none. "Then," answered Queensberry, "you shall have none."[71] Claverhouse had many times applied for leave to be heard in his own defence; but Murray had hitherto persuaded the King to answer that no audience could be granted to him until he had made his peace with the Treasurer and been restored to his seat at the Council. But the name of Queensberry was not now the power it had been at Whitehall. It is difficult to believe that he was much more concerned with religion than Lauderdale; but he was, at any rate by profession, a staunch Protestant, and there were those among his colleagues ready to take every advantage of this passport to James's disfavour. It was determined to hear what Claverhouse had to say for himself. He was summoned to London, graciously received by the King, and pleaded his cause so effectually that the Treasurer was ordered to refund the money.

Claverhouse and Balcarres returned to Edinburgh on December 24th. With them came the Chancellor Perth and his brother, John Drummond, the new Lord Melfort. The brothers were in James's best books, for they had recently professed themselves converted to the Roman Catholic faith by the convincing logic of the papers found in Charles's strong-box and made public by the King.[72] But they were not so popular in Edinburgh. The new year opened with something very like a No Popery riot. Lady Perth was insulted on her way home from mass by a baker's boy. The Privy Council ordered the lad to be whipped through the Canongate, but the 'prentices rose to the rescue of their comrade. The guard was called out: there was firing, and some citizens fell. There was disaffection, too, among the troops: one soldier was arrested for refusing to fire on a Protestant: another was shot for threatening to run his sword through a Papist. In the Council Perth moved that one Canaires, minister at Selkirk, should be arraigned for preaching against the Pope; but he found no man on his side except Claverhouse, who, though Protestant to the backbone, had no mind to see his King insulted under the cloak of religion. James's famous scheme of Universal Toleration was soon found to be what every sensible man had foreseen—a scheme of toleration for his own religion and of persecution for all others.

But the history of the next three years, with its wretched tale of violence and folly, of oppressions that broke the hearts of the loyal, and concessions that only moved the scorn of the mutinous, may be read elsewhere. The last appearance of Claverhouse on the scene is at the Council in February, 1686, where he supports Perth in his motion to bring the indiscreet minister to book, till he appears again in his proper character as a soldier commanding the cavalry of the Scottish contingent on its march south to join the army of England. We know, however, that in that same year, 1686, he was promoted to be Major-General, and in March, 1688, was made Provost of Dundee. We must now pass to the memorable autumn of the latter year.

In September, 1688, a despatch in James's own hand was sent down to the Council at Edinburgh announcing the imminent invasion of England by the Prince of Orange. Perth, still Chancellor and a Papist, was told to do nothing without consulting Balcarres and Tarbat. Their advice was unquestionably the best that could have been given for James and the worst for England; for, had it been followed, instead of the short Highland campaign of the following year, that began at Killiecrankie and ended at Dunkeld, there would in all probability have been civil war throughout the kingdom. They advised that the regular troops under Douglas and Claverhouse, now between three and four thousand strong, should be augmented by a force of twelve thousand raised from the Highland clans and the militia, and that these troops should be distributed along the Border and through the northern shires of England. Preparations were at once begun to this effect. The chiefs of the great clans were ordered to hold their claymores ready: the castles of Edinburgh and Stirling were munitioned for war: the militia was called out in every county, and volunteers enrolled in every town. In the midst of the bustle arrived a second despatch from James, ordering the regular troops to march at once for England to join the army under Feversham. This foolish order was Melfort's doing, urged by his secretary, Stewart of Goodtrees, who, after having been concerned in all the most notorious plots of the last twenty years, and actually condemned to death for his share in Argyle's rebellion, had now blossomed into an Under-Secretary of State. Remonstrance was useless. "The order," wrote Balcarres, "was positive and short—advised by Mr. James Stewart at a supper, and wrote upon the back of a plate, and an express immediately despatched therewith."

And so "with a sorrowful heart," he goes on to remind the exiled King, "they began their march—three thousand effective young men—vigorous, well-disciplined and clothed, and, to a man, hearty in your cause, and willing, out of principle as well as duty, to hazard their lives for the support of the Government as then established both in Church and State."[73] The loyalty of some of these fine fellows was, however, destined soon to suffer a change in the disturbing atmosphere of England.

The full strength of the Scottish contingent was three thousand seven hundred and sixty-three men. Douglas was in command, with Claverhouse under him at the head of the cavalry, which mustered eight hundred and forty-one sabres, including his own regiment, Livingstone's troop of Life Guards, and Dunmore's dragoons, a regiment which, as the Scots Greys, has since earned a reputation second to none in the British Army. The infantry was made up of Douglas's own regiment of Foot Guards, now the Scots Guards: Buchan's regiment, now the Twenty-first of the Line, or, to give them their latest title, the Royal Scots Fusiliers; and Wauchope's regiment:—two thousand nine hundred and twenty-two men in all.[74] They left Scotland in the beginning of October, the foot marching by way of Chester, the horse by way of York, on London. Early in November they reached the capital, where they lay for a few days: Claverhouse, with his own regiment and the Horse Guards, being quartered in Westminster, the dragoons in Southwark, and Douglas, with his Foot Guards, in Holborn. On the tenth of the month they marched for Salisbury, where the King's army was now gathered. During the march Claverhouse received the last and most signal proof of favour James was to give him. On November 12th he had been created Viscount of Dundee.

In the royal camp all was confusion and doubt. William was at Axminster, and not a single enemy was in his rear. Many of the great English houses had already joined him, and each hour brought news to Salisbury of fresh disaffection in every part of the kingdom. James was at first anxious to fight, but Feversham warned him that, though the men were steady, few of his officers could be depended on. Before leaving London the King had called his chief captains together and offered passes to all who were desirous to leave him for the Prince of Orange, "to spare them," he said, "the shame of deserting their lawful sovereign." All were profuse in professions of loyalty, and among them were Churchill, Grafton, and the butcher Kirke. Churchill, we know, continued these professions up to the eleventh hour. On the evening of the 24th James held a council of war, in which Churchill's voice was loudest for battle. That night he left Salisbury for Axminster, and Grafton went with him. Some of the Scottish officers stood firm, but not all. Dumbarton offered to lead his regiment alone against the enemy. Dundee urged James to do one of three things: to fight the Prince, to demand from him in person his business in England, or to retire into Scotland with his faithful troops. But the King still hesitated, and while he hesitated the moment passed. Kirke, who commanded the advance guard at Warminster, flatly refused to obey the orders sent him from Salisbury, and a rumour spread that he had gone over to William with all his men. The King broke up the camp and began his retreat to London; and before he had got farther on his way than Andover, Ormonde and Prince George had joined the deserters, taking with them young Drumlanrig. Douglas did not himself go over; but one of his battalions did, without any attempt on his part to stop them. He had sounded Dundee on the expediency of making terms for themselves with William; but as he had done so under an oath of secrecy, Dundee felt himself bound in honour to keep silence, and we may suppose made it a part of the bargain that Douglas should stay where he was.

James left no orders behind him, and after his retreat the movements of his army are somewhat confused. Dundee marched his cavalry to Reading, where he was joined by Dumbarton. Thence they were ordered to Uxbridge to consult with Feversham on the chances of a battle. But hardly had they got there when the latter received orders to disband the army, and heard at the same time of the King's flight from London. The Scottish troops clamoured for Dundee to lead them back to their country. He marched them to Watford, and while there, it is said, received a letter from William, who had now advanced to Hungerford, bidding him stay where he was and none should harm him.[75] According to Balcarres, Dundee made at once for London on the news of the King's flight, and was still there on his return. But the fact is that few of these contemporary writers descend to dates, and it is almost impossible therefore to track any one man's movements through those troubled days. It is, however, certain that a meeting of the Scottish Council was summoned in London by Hamilton at some period between James's first flight and his return, and that Dundee attended it. That Hamilton meditated declaring for William is certain, and that he would have taken all his colleagues with him, except Dundee and Balcarres, is probable; but the King's sudden return to Whitehall postponed matters for a time.

James reached London from Rochester on the afternoon of Sunday, December 16th. William was then at Windsor, and James expressed a wish to meet him in London, offering St. James's Palace for his quarters. William sent an answer that he could not come to London while there were any troops there not under his command. On the 17th a council was held at Windsor, with Halifax in the chair, to determine what should be done with James. William himself would not be present. It was decided that James must, at any rate, leave London, and the decision was brought to him that night as he lay asleep in bed. No resistance was possible, had any been intended. The Dutch had occupied Chelsea and Kensington early in the afternoon; and when Halifax, Shrewsbury, and Delamere arrived with their message from Windsor, three battalions of foot, with some troops of horse, were bivouacked in St. James's Park, and Dutch sentinels were posted at Whitehall.

Early on the morning of the 17th Dundee and Balcarres had waited on the King. None were with him but some gentlemen of his bedchamber. Balcarres told him that he had orders from his colleagues to promise that, if the King would give the word, an army of twenty thousand men should be ready within four-and-twenty hours. "My lord," replied James, "I know you to be my friend, sincere and honourable: the men who sent you are not so, and I expect nothing from them." It was a fine morning, and he said he should like a walk. Balcarres and Dundee attended him into the Mall. When they had got there the King asked them, how came they still to be with him when all the world had forsaken him for the Prince of Orange? Both answered that their fidelity to so good a master would be ever the same, and that they had nothing to do with the Prince of Orange. "Will you two," then asked the King, "say you have still attachment to me?" "Sir," was the answer, "we do." "Will you give me your hands upon it as men of honour?" They did so. "Well," said the King, "I see you are the men I always took you to be; you shall know all my intentions. I can no longer remain here but as a cypher, or to be a prisoner to the Prince of Orange, and you know there is but a small distance between the prisons and the graves of kings. Therefore I go for France immediately; when there you shall have my instructions—you, Lord Balcarres, shall have a commission to manage my civil affairs, and you, Lord Dundee, to command my troops in Scotland."

They then parted. On the next morning, the morning of the 18th, in dark and rainy weather, the royal barge was ready at Whitehall stairs, under an escort of boats filled with Dutch soldiers. Halifax, with his colleagues from Windsor, attended the King to the water-side. Dumbarton, Arran, and a few others followed him down the river, and stayed by him during the few painful days he lingered at Rochester. At dawn of the 23rd James left England for ever.

Dundee stayed on in London. His regiment had been disbanded, and the rest of the Scottish forces, after a spirited but futile attempt to take matters into their own hands, had settled quietly down under their new colonels, some of the most doubtful ones being sent out of harm's way to Holland. Dunmore had thrown up his command, and his dragoons were now in the charge of Sir Thomas Livingstone. Schomberg was placed, to their intense disgust, at the head of Dumbarton's infantry, once James's favourite regiment. Some of his old troopers, however, still kept by the captain whom they had known as Claverhouse.

Hamilton and his party pressed William to exempt from the general amnesty certain members of the Scottish Council whom they named as particular and unscrupulous instruments of James's tyranny, and unsafe to be let go at large. But the Prince with his usual good sense refused to drive any man into opposition: the past even of the most guilty should, he said, be forgotten till he was forced to remember it. Against Dundee and Balcarres he had been especially warned. He remembered both well: Balcarres had married a lady of his family, and Dundee had fought by his side. He asked them both to enter his service. They refused, and Balcarres, plainly avowing the commission entrusted to him by James, asked if, in such circumstances, he could honourably take service with another. "I cannot say that you can," was the answer, "but take care that you fall not within the law, for otherwise I shall be forced against my will to let the law overtake you." Dundee was told that if he would live quietly at home, no allegiance should be exacted from him and no harm done to him. He answered that he would live quietly, if he were not forced to live otherwise. Early in February the two friends left London for Edinburgh.[76]

Chapter IX

FOOTNOTES:

[69] Claverhouse to Queensberry, June 16th, 1685.

[70] Napier, iii. 464: this Murray was Alexander Stuart, Earl of Murray, descendant and heir of the famous Regent. He declared himself a convert to the Church of Rome at the same time as Perth and Melfort.

[71] Napier, iii. 435: quoted from Fountainhall.

[72] Burnet, ii. 341.

[73] The memoirs of Colin Lindsay, third Earl of Balcarres, were presented to James at Saint Germains in 1690. The edition I have used is that printed for the Bannatyne Club in 1841 by the late Lord Crawford, from a transcript made by James, the son of the writer, and great-grandfather of Lord Crawford. The editions previously printed in 1715 and 1754, and in Walter Scott's edition of Somers's Tracts published in 1814, contain many passages not to be found in the first transcript, and declared, by its latest editor, to reflect the opinions and sentiments of the copyist rather than those of the original author.

[74] Cannon's "Historical Records of the British Army:" Napier, iii. 475-76. Claverhouse's own regiment was disbanded early in the following year. The first colonel of the Greys, then officially known as "The Royal Regiment of Scots Dragoons," was Dalziel, Lord Charles Murray (afterwards created Earl of Dunmore) serving as captain under him. Dalziel died in 1685, and was succeeded in the command by Dunmore. Napier gives the muster-roll of Claverhouse's regiment for May, 1685. It consisted of six troops, of which the colonel, as the custom then was, commanded the first in person, the other captains being Lords Drumlanrig, Ross, Airlie, Balcarres, and William Douglas; hardly the men, perhaps, to sanction the pranks of Macaulay's Apollyons and Beelzebubs. Napier also quotes an amusing passage in a letter from Athole to Queensberry, which, as he says, may recall memories of a certain historic injunction of later times, "to take care of Dowb." Athole had been superseded in his command of the Life Guards by Montrose, and when the latter fell sick, made interest with Queensberry to be reinstated. "As you will oblige me," the passage runs, "pray remember Geordie Murray [who held a commission in the regiment], but not in wrath."

[75] Creichton.

[76] It is not clear that Dundee had an audience of William. Macaulay says in one place that he was not ungraciously received at Saint James's, and in another that he employed the mediations of Burnet. Both statements are of course compatible with each other. The latter rests on Burnet's own authority; but for the former I can find none in any of the writers from whom Macaulay has taken his narrative of these days. Dalrymple's words are, "Dundee refused without ceremony," which may mean anything. It is, I think, not improbable that William employed Burnet to sound Dundee, and that the good bishop, among whose qualities tact was not pre-eminent, managing the matter clumsily, met with an unceremonious refusal for his pains. The point, however, is of no importance. It is clear enough that William, would have been glad to see both men in his service, and that they both declined to enter it. As Macaulay has called Dundee's conduct disingenuous, apparently on Burnet's authority, it may be well to give the bishop's own words. "He [Dundee] had employed me to carry messages from him to the King, to know what security he might expect if he should go and live in Scotland without owning his government. The King said, if he would live peaceably, and at home, he would protect him: to this he answered, that, unless he was forced to it, he would live quietly." "History of My Own Time," iii. 29. Macaulay's paraphrase is as follows. "Dundee seems to have been less ingenuous. He employed the mediation of Burnet, opened a negotiation with Saint James's, declared himself willing to acquiesce in the new order of things, obtained from William a promise of protection, and promised in return to live peaceably. Such credit was given to his professions, that he was suffered to travel down to Scotland under the escort of a troop of cavalry." "History of England," iv. 281. I do not think the text quite bears out the commentary; and indeed elsewhere in the chapter Macaulay seems inclined to allow more credit to these professions. The "escort" under which Dundee was "suffered to travel" consisted of his own troopers, who had followed him from Watford to London, and stayed with him to the end.


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