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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
State of public feeling


On the evening of Sunday the 22d of September, the day after the battle of Preston or Gladsmuir, as that affair is named by the Highlanders, Charles returned to Holyrood House, and was received by a large concourse of the inhabitants, who had assembled round the palace, with the loudest proclamation. His return to the capital had been preceded by a large portion of his army, which, it is said, made a considerable display as it marched up the long line of street, leading from the Watergate to the castle, amid the din of a number of bagpipes, and carrying along with it the enemy's standards, and other trophies of victory which it had taken upon the field.

Apprehensive that the alarm, which Cope's disaster would excite in the city, might obstruct the public worship on the Sunday, Charles had sent messengers on the evening of the battle, to the dwelling-houses of the different ministers, desiring them to continue their ministrations as usual; but although the church bells were tolled at the customary hour, next morning, and the congregations assembled, one only of the city clergymen appeared, all the rest having retired to the country. The minister who thus distinguished himself among his brethren on this occasion was a Mr Hog, morning lecturer in the Tron church. The two clergymen of the neighbouring parish of St. Cuthbert's Messrs Macvicar and Pitcairn, also continued to preach as usual, and many inhabitants of the city went to hear them. No way dismayed by the presence of the Highland army, they continued to pray as usual for King George; and Mr Macvicar even went so far in his prayers, as to express a hope that God would take Charles to himself, and that instead of an earthly crown, he would "give him a crown of glory". Charles is said to have laughed heartily on being informed of Mr Macvicar's concern for his spiritual welfare. To induce the ministers to return to their duty, the prince issued a proclamation on Monday, repeating the assurances he had so often given them, that no interruption should be given to public worship; but that, on the contrary, all concerned should be protected. This intimation, however, had no effect upon the fugitive ministers, who, to the great scandal of their flocks, deserted their charges during the whole time the Highlanders occupied the city.

In the first moment of victory, Charles felt a gleam of joy, which for a time excluded reflection; but when, after retiring from the battle-field, he began to ruminate over the events of the day, and to consider that it was British blood that had been spilt, if we can trust his own words, his spirit sunk within him. "If I had obtained this victory", says he to his father, in the letter already quoted, "over foreigners, my joy would have been complete; but as it is over Englishmen, it had thrown a damp upon it that I little imagined. The men I have defeated were your majesty's enemies, it is true, but they might have become your friends and dutiful subjects when they had got their eyes opened to see the true interest of their country, which you mean to save, not to destroy". For these reasons he was unwilling that the victory should be celebrated by any public manifestations, and on being informed that many of the inhabitants of Edinburgh intended to testify their joy on the occasion by some public act, the prince, in the same proclamation which enjoined the clergymen to return to their charges, prohibited "any outward demonstration of public joy".

The news of the prince's victory was received every where, by the Jacobites, with the most unbounded delight. Unable any longer to conceal their real sentiments, they now publicly avowed them, and like their predecessors, the cavalier, indulged in deep potations to the health of "the king" and the prince. But this enthusiasm was not confined to the Jacobites alone. Many persons whose political creed was formerly doubtful, now declared unequivocally in favour of the cause of the prince; whilst others, whose sentiments were formerly in favour of the government, openly declared themselves converts to an order of things which they now considered inevitable. In short, throughout the whole of Scotland the tide of public opinion was completely changed in favour of the Stuarts. The fair sex, especially, displayed an ardent attachment to the person and cause of the prince, and contributed not a little to bring about the change in public feeling alluded to. Duncan Forbes has well described this strong revolution in public feeling. "All Jacobites, how prudent so ever, became mad; all doubtful people became Jacobites; and all bankrupts became heroes, and talked of nothing but hereditary rights and victory; and what was more grievous to men of gallantry, and if you will believe me, much more mischievous to the public, all the fine ladies, if you will except on or two, became passionately fond of the young Adventurer, and used all their arts and industry for him in the most intemperate manner".

In England the news of the prince's victory created a panic, causing a run upon the bank, which would have been fatal to that establishment, had not the principal merchants entered into an association to support public credit by receiving the notes of the bank in payment. Scotchmen were everywhere looked upon with distrust by their southern neighbours, and the most severe reflections were indulged in against the Scottish nation. Sir Andrew Mitchell, writing to President Forbes, notices with deep regret this feeling against his countrymen: "The ruin of my country, and the disgrace and shame to which it is, and will continue to be, exposed, have affected me to that degree, that I am hardly master of myself. Already every man of our country is looked on as a traitor, as one secretly inclined to the Pretender, and waiting but an opportunity to declare. The guilty and the innocent are confounded together, and the crimes of a few imputed to the whole nation". Again, "I need not describe to you the effects the surrender of Edinburgh, and the progress the rebels made, had upon this country. I wish I could say that they were confined to the lower sort of people; but I must fairly own that their betters were as much touched as they. The reflections were national; and it was too publicly said that all Scotland were Jacobites; the numbers of the rebels and their adherents were magnified for this purpose; and he that in the least diminished them was called a secret Jacobite".

Elated by the news of the victory of Preston, a party of armed Highlanders entered Aberdeen on the 25th of September, seized the provost, and carrying him the the cross, held their drawn swords over his head, till they proclaimed the Chevalier de St. George. They then requested him to drink the health of "the king", but having refused to do so, they threw a glass of wine into his breast. Not wishing to have his loyalty put a second time to such a severe test, the provost left the city, not thinking himself safe, as he observes, "in the way of those who had used him in so unreasonable and odd a manner".

With the exception of the castles of Edinburgh and Stirling, and a few insignificant forts, the whole of Scotland may be said to have been now in possession of the victor. Having no longer an enemy to combat in North Britain, Charles turned his eyes to England; but against the design which he appears to have contemplated, of an immediate march into that kingdom, several very serious objections occurred. If the prince could have calculated on a general rising in England in his favour, his advance into that kingdom with a victorious army, before the government recovered from the consternation into which it had been thrown by the recent victory, would have been a wise course of policy; but it would have been extremely rash, without an absolute assurance of extensive support from the friends of the cause in England, to have entered that kingdom with the small army which fought at Gladsmuir, and which, instead of increasing, was daily diminishing, by the return of some of the Highlanders to their homes, according to custom, with the spoils they had collected. There were indeed, among the more enthusiastic of the prince's advisers, some who advocated an immediate incursion into England; but by far the greater part thought the army too small for such an undertaking. These urged that although the success which had attended their arms would certainly engage a number of friends, who either had not hitherto had an opportunity of joining, or had delayed doing so, because they saw little or no appearance of success, yet it was prudent to wait for such aid, - that French succours might now be depended upon, since the prince had given convincing proofs of his having a party in Scotland, - that, at any rate, it was better to remain some little time at Edinburgh, till they saw what prospects there were of success, and that in the mean time the army would be getting stronger by reinforcements which were expected from the north, and would be better modelled and accoutred. The latter opinion prevailed, and Charles resolved to make some stay in Edinburgh.

Alluding to this resolution, Mr Maxwell observes, "Those who judge of things only by the event, will condemn this measure, and decide positively that if the prince had marched on from the field of battle, he would have carried all before him. As the prince's affairs were ruined in the end, it is natural to wish he had done any thing else than what he did. Things could hardly have turned out worse, and there was a possibility of succeeding. But to judge fairly of the matter, we must have no regard to what happened, but consider what was the most likely to happen. The prince had but 3,000 men at the battle, where he had 100 at least killed and wounded. He might reckon upon losing some hundreds more, who would go home with the booty they had got, so that he could not reckon upon more than 2,500 men to follow him into England, where he had no intelligence, nor hopes of being joined, nor resource in case of a misfortune. But what would the world have said of such an attempt had it miscarried!".

According to the Chevalier Johnstone, the prince was advised by his friends, that as the whole of the towns of Scotland had been obliged to recognise him as regent of the kingdom, in the absence of his father, his chief object should be to endeavour by every possible means to secure himself in the government of Scotland; and to defend himself against the English armies, which would be sent against him, without attempting for the present to extend his views to England. There were others who strongly advised Charles to annul the union between Scotland and England, as an act made during the usurpation of Queen Anne, by a cabal of a few Scots peers, and to summon a Scottish parliament, to meet at Edinburgh, to impose taxes in a legal manner, and obtain supplies for his army. This party assured the prince that these steps would give great pleasure to all Scotland, and that the tendency of them would be to renew the ancient discord between the two countries, and that the war would thereby be made national: they informed him, that, so far from being prepared to run an immense risk, for the sake of acquiring England, they wished for nothing more than to see him seated on the throne of Scotland. As the chief object of his ambition, however, was to obtain the crown of England, he rejected the proposal made to him, to confine his views to Scotland.


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