Home eBooks Index eBooks by Author Glossary Search eBooks


The following is from Claverhouse by Mowbray Morris:

Chapter IX

All eyes were now turned to Scotland. England had practically accepted William, and although the terms of acceptance were still in some quarters kept open to question, there was no longer fear that the final answer would have to be given by the sword. In Scotland the case was different. Many of the great nobles and other dignitaries had indeed professed themselves in favour of William, but political morality, a custom nowhere in those days very rigidly observed, may be said to have been honoured by Scottish statesmen almost wholly in the breach. No man trusted his neighbour, and his neighbour was perfectly aware of the fact. It was impossible to say what an hour might not bring forth; and in this flux of things no man could guarantee that the Whigs of to-day would not be the Jacobites of to-morrow. Hamilton was the recognised leader of the Whigs, Athole of the Jacobites. Both were great and powerful noblemen. The influence of Hamilton was supreme in the Western Lowlands: only Mac Callum More could muster to his standard a larger gathering than the lord of Blair, and the glory of Mac Callum More was now in eclipse. Yet Hamilton had been one of James' Privy Councillors, and had not declared for William till the Dutch guards were at Whitehall. His son Arran and his brother Dumbarton were both on the other side: Arran had accompanied James to Rochester, and Dumbarton had refused to hold his commission under the Prince of Orange. Athole had more than once coquetted with the Whigs, and his present Jacobitism was shrewdly suspected to be due to the coolness with which his advances had been received: his son Lord Murray, who had married a daughter of Hamilton, had declared for William. These great noblemen had indeed the satisfaction of feeling that, however the die might fall, their titles and estates were at least secured. But the wisdom of their family arrangements did not increase their reputation with their parties. The Duke of Gordon held the castle of Edinburgh for James; and, though the Duke was a weak creature, his position was strong. The bulk of the common people were undoubtedly Whigs: the bishops, and the clergy generally, were, if not exactly Jacobites, undoubtedly Tories.

There were religious troubles of course to swell the political ones. When the news of James's flight reached Edinburgh, Perth had been imprudently induced to disband the militia, and the Covenanters had been quick to take advantage of the imprudence. The Episcopal clergymen were rabbled throughout all the western shires. Their houses were sacked, and themselves and their families insulted and sometimes beaten: the churches were locked, and the keys carried off in triumph by the pious zealots. In Glasgow the Cathedral was attacked, and the congregation pelted through the streets. In Edinburgh Holyrood Palace was carried by storm: the Catholic chapel, which James had built and adorned with great splendour, was gutted, and the printing-press, employed to publish tracts in favour of the Catholic religion, was broken up. Perth fled for his life, but was overtaken at sea, carried back and lodged in Stirling Castle, followed by the threats and curses of the mob. Such was the temper of the Scottish nation when the Convention of Estates, summoned by William, met at Edinburgh on March 14th, 1689.

The Act depriving the Presbyterians of the franchise had been annulled, and the elections had gone strongly in favour of the Whigs. Hamilton had been chosen President by a majority of forty votes over Athole, whereupon twenty ardent Jacobites went straightway over to the other side. The next thing to be done was to get rid of Gordon. It was impossible, they said, for a free Parliament to deliberate under the shadow of hostile guns. Two of his friends, the Earls of Lothian and Tweeddale, were accordingly sent to the Duke with a message from the Convention, offering him favourable terms of surrender. He asked a night for consideration; but during the night he was also visited by Dundee and Balcarres. They showed him the commissions entrusted to them by James, and told him that if things did not go better for their party they had resolved to exercise their power of summoning a new Convention to Stirling. At his request Dundee also gave him a paper guaranteeing his action in holding the castle as most necessary to the cause. On the following day, when the earls returned, Gordon told them he had decided not to surrender his trust except upon terms too extravagant to be seriously considered. He was accordingly summoned in form by the heralds: guards were posted round the castle, and all communications between it and the town declared treasonable. The Duke replied by a largess of money to the heralds to drink King James's health, telling them that they should in common decency have turned the King's coats they wore on their backs before they came to declare the King's subjects traitors.

Meanwhile a messenger had arrived with a sealed despatch for the Estates from James. It seemed strange both to Dundee and Balcarres that the message had not been to them, or at least accompanied by a letter informing them of its purport; but they had no suspicion of its contents, and willingly agreed to the terms on which the Whigs consented to hear it read. These terms were, that the Convention was a legal and free meeting, and would accept no order to dissolve until it had secured the liberty and religion of Scotland. The vote was passed, and the letter was read, to the consternation of the Jacobites and the delight of the Whigs. Of all the foolish acts committed by James the despatch of this letter was, in the circumstances, the most foolish. Not a word did it contain of any intention to respect the religion or the liberty of men whom it still professed to address as subjects. Pardon was promised to all who should return to their allegiance within a fortnight: to all others punishment was threatened in this world, and damnation in the next. Nothing was wanting to heighten the imprudence. The letter was in the handwriting of Melfort, who was equally odious to both parties; and it had been preceded by one from William expressed in terms as wise and moderate as the others were headstrong and foolish. But the feeling of the more temperate Jacobites will best be shown in the account Balcarres himself gave to his master of the effect produced by this fatal epistle. "When the messenger was announced," he wrote,

"His coming was joyful to us, expecting a letter from your Majesty to the Convention, in terms suitable to the bad situation of your affairs in England, and as had been advised by your friends before we left London; and so assured were they of their advices being followed, that they had encouraged all the loyal party, and engaged many to come to the Convention, in hopes such full satisfaction would be given in matters of religion and liberty, that even most of those who had declared against you would return to their duty. But, as in place of such a letter as was expected, or letters to particular persons, as was advised, came a letter from your Majesty to the Convention, without any copy to show your friends, in terms absolutely different from those we had agreed upon, and sent to your Majesty by Mr. Lindsay from London. Upon other occasions such a letter might have passed, if there had been power to have backed it, or force to make good its reception; but after the Parliament of England had refused to read a letter from your Majesty because of the Earl of Melfort's countersigning it [and considering] that England had made the Prince of Orange their King, and that it was known you had none to sustain your cause but those who advised letters of another strain, it was a fault of your advisers hardly to be pardoned.... Crane was brought in and the letter read, with the same order and respect observed upon such occasions to our Kings; but no sooner was it twice read and known to be Earl Melfort's hand and style, but the house was in a tumult—your enemies in joy and your friends in confusion. Glad were your enemies to find nothing so much as promised of what we had asserted should be done for their satisfaction, [they] having much feared many of their party would have forsaken them if your Majesty's letter had been written in the terms we advised from London. Mr. Crane could give no account why the advice of your friends was not followed, but Mr. Lindsay made no secret of it after he came back from St. Germain's, but informed us that, after he had delivered to [the] Earl of Melfort the letters and advices of your friends at London to your Majesty, his Lordship kept him retired, and he was not suffered to attend you—fearing that what he had written to your Majesty relating to his Lordship might spoil his project of going to Ireland with you. We had observed at London the great aversion men of all professions had at his being employed, and we knew he was in no better esteem in his own country, which made us entreat your Majesty to leave him in France, and some, upon his own account, advised his not coming over, knowing the danger he might be in; but his Lordship either suppressed our letters or gave our advices another turn than was intended, by which all our hopes of succeeding in the Convention vanished, nor was ever seen so great an alteration as was observed at the next meeting after your letter was read, which made all your friends resolve to leave Edinburgh and to call a Convention of Estates at Stirling, as your Majesty had given the Archbishop of St. Andrews, the Viscount of Dundee, and myself the power to do this by a warrant sent by Mr. Brown from Ireland."

Dundee was anxious to be gone. He saw that the game was up in the Convention, and there were other reasons. For many days past troops of strange, fierce-looking men, carrying arms but half-concealed beneath their plaids, had been flocking into Edinburgh. These were the men of the hill-sides and moorlands of the West, the wild Western Whigs, who feared and hated the name of Claverhouse more than anything on earth. Their leader was William Cleland, a survivor from the fields of Drumclog and Bothwell, a brave and able young man, of good education and humane above his fellows, but who, it was well known, was burning to have vengeance upon Dundee. Some of these men had been heard to mutter that the tables were turned now, and "bloodly Clavers" should play the persecutor no more. Word was brought to Dundee that a plot was on foot to assassinate him and Sir George Mackenzie, the most hated of all James's lawyers. Whether the rumour were true or not, it was at least too probable to be disregarded. Dundee laid the matter before Hamilton, offered to produce his witnesses, and demanded that these armed strangers be ordered to leave the town. Hamilton (who was, in fact, responsible for their presence) answered that the Convention had more important matters to think of, that the city could not be left defenceless to Gordon and his rebellious garrison, and, it is said, twitted Dundee with imaginary fears unbecoming a brave man.

A meeting of the Jacobites was held. It was decided to call a fresh Convention at Stirling. Mar, who held the castle there, professed himself staunch, and Athole promised to have a force of his Highlanders in readiness. This was on Saturday, March 16th: it was determined to leave Edinburgh on the following Monday.

When Monday came Athole proposed to wait another day. As his co-operation was of the greatest importance, his proposal was accepted. But Dundee would wait no longer. In vain Balcarres told him that his haste would ruin all their plans. He answered that he would take no action without the agreement of the rest, but in Edinburgh he would stay no longer. He had made an appointment for that day with some friends outside the walls, and he could not break it. His troopers had been in readiness since an early hour, and Dundee returning to his lodgings gave signal to mount. The streets were thronged with scowling faces, but they shrank to right and left as those stern riders came clattering down the Canongate. A friend called from the crowd to know whither they went. Dundee raised his hat from his head and answered: "Wherever the spirit of Montrose shall direct me." When clear of the walls he led his men to the left up the Leith Wynd and along the bank of the North Loch, the ground now occupied by the busy and handsome thoroughfare known as Prince's Street. The road to Stirling winds beneath the Castle rock, and as the cavalcade came on, their leader saw the Duke on the ramparts, making signals to him for an interview. Dundee dismounted, and scrambled up the steep face of the rock. What passed between them is not clearly known. Balcarres says Dundee told the Duke of the design for Stirling, and once more prayed him to stand firm. But it seems clear that Dundee had by that time abandoned all hopes of a fresh Convention, and it is doubtful whether he had any definite plan in his mind. Dalrymple's report of the conversation seems more likely to be the true one. According to him Dundee pressed the Duke to come north with him, leaving the castle to the charge of the Lieutenant-Governor, Winram, a man who had made himself too odious to the people to leave room for any doubt of his fidelity to James. But these bold ventures were not to the Duke's taste: his courage was of that sort which shows best behind stone walls: and his answer was ingeniously framed to conceal his timidity under a show of discipline. "A soldier," he said, "cannot in honour quit the post that is assigned to him."

Meanwhile the city was in an uproar. A number of people had gathered round the foot of the rock to stare at the strange sight. The watchers from the city magnified this idle crowd into a hostile force. A messenger came in haste to the Convention with the news that Dundee was at the gates with an army, and that the Duke of Gordon was preparing to fire on the town.

Hamilton, who, while affairs were still in the balance, had behaved with unexpected moderation, now gave loose to his temper. The time had come, he said, for all good friends of order to see to their safety when enemies to their liberties and religion were taking arms. There was danger within as well as without. The traitors must be kept close; but true men had nothing to fear, for thousands were ready to start up in their defence at the stamp of his foot. He then ordered the room to be locked, and the keys to be laid on the table. The drums beat to arms: the town-guard, and such force of militia as was still in the city, fell in; while from garrets and cellars the Westland men came thronging into the streets, with weapons in their hands, and in their faces fury and fear of their terrible enemy. After a time, as the news came that Dundee had ridden off northward and that all seemed quiet in the castle, the tumult subsided. The doors of the Parliament House were opened, and the members came out. Hamilton and his party were greeted with loud cheers: threats and execrations no less loud assailed the few and downcast Jacobites. From that memorable day the friends of William had nothing more to fear in the capital of Scotland. For a while, indeed, some show of opposition was still maintained, faintly stimulated by the arrival of Queensberry from London. But he had come too late. His power was no longer what it had been; nor were his professions of loyalty regarded by men like Balcarres as above all suspicion. For Queensberry had been wise with the wisdom of Hamilton and Athole. The great House of Douglas was prudently divided against itself, and come what might it should not fall. And Athole now, after with great show of bravery urging Gordon to fire on the town, had grown somewhat less than lukewarm, while Mar, the Governor of Stirling Castle, put an end for ever to any thoughts of a fresh Convention in that city by boldly declaring for William. The hopes and the hearts of the Jacobites had gone northward with Dundee; and in truth there was not at this moment a brave company of either.

Dundee did not draw rein in Stirling. He galloped through the town, across the bridge, and on by Dunblane, where he stayed the night, to his own home at Dudhope, where his lady was then waiting her confinement. The only man of his own quality who had ridden with him from Edinburgh was George Livingstone, Lord Linlithgow's son, whose troop of Life Guards had been taken from him in the general re-arrangement of regiments that had followed the fiasco of Salisbury; and he had left his companion on the road to make for Lord Strathmore's house at Glamis. For a week of unwonted quiet, the last he was to know on earth, Dundee rested at Dudhope. Then his enemies found him. On the morning of the 26th Hamilton's messengers appeared before his gates, summoning him to lay down his arms and return to his duty at the Convention, on pain of being proclaimed traitor and outlaw. Dundee replied by a letter which, as it has been styled both disrespectful and disingenuous, it is worth while to print in full.

"Dudhope, March 27th, 1689.

"May it please your Grace:—The coming of an herald and trumpeter to summon a man to lay down arms that is living in peace at home, seems to me a very extraordinary thing, and, I suppose, will do so to all that hear of it. While I attended the Convention at Edinburgh I complained often of many people being in arms without authority, which was notoriously known to be true; even the wild hill-men; and no summons to lay down arms under the pain of treason being given them, I thought it unsafe for me to remain longer among them. And because a few of my friends did me the favour to convey me out of the reach of these murderers, and that my Lord Livingstone and several other officers took occasion to come away at the same time, this must be called being in arms. We did not exceed the number allowed by the Meeting of Estates. My Lord Livingstone and I might have had each of us ten; and four or five officers that were in company might have had a certain number allowed them; which being, it will be found we exceeded not. I am sure it is far short of the number my Lord Lorn was seen to march with. And though I had gone away with some more than ordinary, who can blame me when designs of murdering me was made appear? Besides, it is known to everybody that, before we came within sixteen miles of this, my Lord Livingstone went off to his brother, my Lord Strathmore's, house; and most of the officers and several of the company went to their respective homes or relations. And, if any of them did me the favour to come along with me, must that be called being in arms? Sure, when your Grace represents this to the Meeting of the States, they will discharge such a groundless pursuit, and think my appearance before them unnecessary. Besides, though it were necessary for me to go and attend the meeting, I cannot come with freedom and safety, because I am informed there are men-of-war and foreign troops in the passage; and till I know what they are and what are their orders, the Meeting cannot blame me for not coming. Then, my Lord, seeing the summons has proceeded on a groundless story, I hope the Meeting of States will think it unreasonable I should leave my wife in the condition she is in. If there be anybody that, notwithstanding of all that is said, thinks I ought to appear, I beg the favour of a delay till my wife is brought to bed; and in the meantime I will either give security or parole not to disturb the peace. Seeing this pursuit is so groundless, and so reasonable things offered, and the Meeting composed of prudent men and men of honour, and your Grace presiding in it, I have no reason to fear further trouble.

"I am, may it please your Grace, your most humble servant,


"I beg your Grace will cause this read to the Meeting, because it is all the defence I have made. I sent another to your Grace from Dunblane with the reasons of my leaving Edinburgh. I know not if it be come to your hands."

The letter was read to the Convention on the following day, and on Saturday, March 30th, John Graham, Viscount of Dundee, was proclaimed traitor with all the usual ceremonies. Thrice was his name called within the Parliament House, and thrice outside its doors, and thrice with sound of trumpet at the market-cross of the good town of Edinburgh.

About the same time happened a still more untoward thing. James was now in Ireland. He had learned how matters had gone in Scotland, and conceived that the moment for action had come. A commission was accordingly despatched to Dundee, constituting him Lieutenant-General and Commander-in-Chief in Scotland, together with a letter in James's own hand, informing him that five thousand foot and three hundred horse would presently be at his disposal. There were letters also from Melfort both to Dundee and Balcarres. Either by the folly or the knavery of the messenger the papers fell into the hands of Hamilton, who read them to the Convention. As usual, Melfort's letters were in the most foolish and violent language. "You will ask no doubt," he wrote to Dundee, "how we shall be able to pay our armies; but can you ask such a question while our enemies, the rebels, have estates to be forfeited? We will begin with the great and end with the small ones." To Balcarres he wrote in the same strain. "The estates of the rebels will recompense us. You know there were several lords whom we marked out, when you and I were together, who deserved no better fate. When we get the power, we will make these men hewers of wood and drawers of water." No man was mentioned by name, so that each man was at liberty to take these threats for himself. "You hear," cried Hamilton, "you hear, my lords and gentlemen, our sentence pronounced. We must take our choice, to die, or to defend ourselves." There was a terrible uproar, the new Whig recruits being among the loudest in their exposition of the dangers to which their love for their religion and their country was likely to expose them. Leven was ordered with two hundred of his new regiment to arrest both Dundee and Balcarres.[77] The latter was taken easily enough, and clapped into the Tolbooth. But Dundee got wind of his danger, and was off before the soldiers could reach Dudhope. He went northward still, to Glen Ogilvy, his wife's jointure-house, in the parish of Glamis, not far from the old historic castle of Macbeth; and thither Leven did not think it prudent to pursue him.

Chapter X


[77] During the first alarm raised by Dundee's departure the Convention had passed an order to raise and arm a regiment of eight hundred men, and had given the command to Leven. It is said that the men were found within two hours. See "An Account of the Proceedings of the Estates in Scotland," London, 1689.

Copyright © Scotland from the Roadside 2019