Up to the 31st August, no certain intelligence had been
received at Edinburgh of the movements of the Highlanders; but in the evening of that day
the inhabitants were thrown into a state of great alarm by receiving intelligence of the
march of the Highland army into Athole, and of the ominous departure of Cope for
Inverness. Instantly the drum beat to arms, and the town-council having met, they ordained
that the keys of the city should be lodged with the captain of the city guard, and ordered
sentries to be placed at each of the gates, and the city guard to be augmented. As an
additional security, Hamilton's dragoons, then quartered in the vicinity of the city, were
kept under arms that night. The repairs of the city walls were commenced; orders were
issued to place cannon on them, and to throw up a ditch on the north side of the castle,
and arms were sent from the city magazine to Leith to arm its inhabitants. These
preparations, and the hurry and bustle with which it may be supposed they were attended,
may appear ludicrous when contrasted with the result; but the public functionaries were
bound to put the city in as defensible a state as their means would admit of, and without
the least possible delay.
It would have been perhaps fortunate for the honour of the city, if on the present
occasion the civic authorities had been allowed, in conjunction with the committee which
had been named, to follow out such measures as they might have deemed necessary for
defending the city; but, unluckily, there existed a party consisting of ex-magistrates and
councillors, who, by the course they adopted, brought dissension among the citizens. This
party, at the head of which was ex-provost Drummond, "a zealous loyalist, and one of
the most valuable municipal chiefs whom Edinburgh had possessed", had been succeeded
in the town-council by Stewart, the then provost, and his friends, who, for five years,
had kept possession of the municipal government, to the entire exclusion of Drummond and
his party. Desirous of regaining their lost power, they availed themselves of the present
opportunity, the elections being at hand, to instil distrust of the existing magistracy
into the minds of the town-council as Jocobitically inclined, and as indifferent to the
preservation of the city from the rebels. And indeed it appears that Stewart showed
himself incapable of performing effectually the responsible duties of his office at this
important juncture. The opposition party, partly, no doubt, to ingratiate themselves still
farther with the electors, the majority of whom were Whigs, and warmly attached to the
government, really showed greater zeal in organising measures for the defence of the city.
They presented, on the 6th of September, a petition to the provost, signed by about 100
citizens, praying that they, the subscribers, might be authorised to form themselves into
an association for the defence of the city, - that they might be allowed to name their own
officers, - and that an application should be made by the provost to General Guest, for a
supply of arms from the castle for their use.
This petition was laid before an extraordinary meeting of the council next day, and the
law officers of the crown having given their opinion that the council could legally
authorise an arming of the inhabitants for the contemplated purpose, they acceded to its
prayer, with the exception of that part which craved that the volunteers should have the
nomination of their own officers, a privilege which the provost reserved to himself, in
virtue of his office of chief magistrate. To ascertain the names of the citizens who were
willing to serve as volunteers, a paper was lodged, on the 9th of September, in the
Old-church aisle, and all loyal persons were invited by handbills to subscribe: 418
persons joined this association, and were supplied with arms from the castle.
Simultaneously with the formation of the association, the magistrates exerted themselves
to raise the regiment they had petitioned for, the warrant for which was received by the
provost on the 8th of September; but their efforts were ineffectual, not being able, after
a week's recruiting, to raise 200 men. This paltry force, however, was named the Edinburgh
regiment, to distinguish it from the volunteer association.
Hitherto the repairs of the city wall had been steadily progressing, and, to the great
scandal of the more religious part of the inhabitants, no cessation took place even upon
the Sunday; but although the persons employed upon the walls might plead necessity in
justification of their work on the day of rest, they seem to have overlooked that
necessity on the 10th of September, the day when the city elections commenced. So great
was the anxiety of all classes to ascertain the names of the craftsmen sent up by the
different incorporations to the council to represent them, that a total suspension of
every business took place, and the magistrates, who felt little difficulty in procuring
men to work upon the Sunday, now saw the works almost entirely deserted by the artificers
employed upon them.
A few days after receipt of the intelligence of the march of the Highlanders into the low
country, Captain Rogers, an aid-de-camp of Sir John Cope, arrived at Edinburgh from
Inverness, with instructions to General Guest to send down a number of transports to
Aberdeen to carry his men to the southern shores of the Frith of Forth. These vessels
sailed from Leith roads on the 10th, under convoy of a ship of war, and their return was
expected with the greatest anxiety by the inhabitants of Edinburgh, who were continually
looking up to the weather-cocks to ascertain the direction of the wind.
The volunteers being officered and organised, were regularly drilled twice every day.
Cannon were brought up from Leith and mounted on the walls, and the defensive works were
proceeded with under the superintendence of Maclaurin, the celebrated mathematician, who
had furnished the designs.