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Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Conduct of the government


No event was less expected on the part of the goverment than the landing of Charles Edward. A flying report had, indeed, been spread in the Highlands in the beginning of summer, that the prince was to come over in the course of that season; but no person, not in the secret of his design, could have imagined that Charles had any intention to risk his person without being accompanied by a sufficient body of troops, and no disposition appeared on the part of France to assist him.

The report alluded to was first communicated in a letter from "a gentleman of consideration in the Highlands" to Lord President Forbes, who, on the 2d July, showed it to Sir John Cope, the commander-in-chief in Scotland. Little credit was, however, attached to the report, either by the writer of the letter or by the president. Cope, though equally increduoous, considered it his duty to communicate the report to the Marquis of Tweeddale, the secretary of state for Scotland; and to provide against any contingency that might occur, he proposed that the forts of Scotland should be well provided, and that arms should be transmitted for the use of the well-affected clans. In an answer which the marquis wrote upon the 9th, he ordered Cope to keep a strict watch upon the north, but informed him, that, as the measures he proposed were considered by the lords of the regency acting in behalf of the king during his majesty's absence in Hanover, as likely to create alarm, they had declined to enter into them.

But the lords of the regency were soon aroused from their supineness by advices from abroad that the French court was meditating an invasion of Great Britain, and that the eldest son of the Pretender had left Nantes in a French man-0of-war, and, according to some accounts, was actually landed in Scotland. On the 30th of July, the Marquis of Tweeddale wrote to Sir John Cope, communicating to him the news which had just been received, and despatched letters of the same date to Lord Milton, the Justice Clerk, and to the Lord Advocate, with similar intelligence, and enjoining them to keep a strict look out, - to concert what was proper to be done in the event of a landing. - to give the necessary ordersfor making the stictest inquiry into the truth of the intelligence, - and to transmit to the marquis, from time to time, such information as they were able to collect. The Lords Justices, however, without waiting for a return to these letters, issued, on the 6th of August, a proclamation, commanding all his majesty's officers, civil and military, and all other loving subjects of his majesty, to use their utmost endeavours to sieze and secure the son of the Pretender, promising at the same time a reward of 30,000 to any one who should seize Prince Charles, and "bring him to justice".

The express sent by the Marquis of Tweeddale reached Edinburgh on the 3d of August, but the advices which had been received in London had preceded it. The Lord President, in a letter written the day before to Mr Pelham, mentions the alarm which, in a state of profound tranquility, these advices had created. The report, however, of the prince's intended visit was discredited by the President, who considered the "young gentleman's game" to be then "very desperate" in Scotland, the President believing that there was not "the least apparatus for his reception, even amongst the few Highlanders who were expected to be in his interest". As, however, where there was so much at stake, the President wisely judged that no report respecting the prince's movements, however improbable, was to be disregarded, he resolved to make his acustomed journey to the north a little earlier than usual, to the end that, though, as he himself observes, his "fighting day" were over, he might give countenance to the friends of government, and prevent the seduction of the unwary, should the report turn out well-founded. On the 8th of August, Forbes wrote the Marquis of Tweeddale, stating that the Lord Advocate and Sir John Cope had informed him of the advices which had been received from abroad, but expressing his disbelief of the report, which he considered "highly improbable". "I consider the report improbable", he observes, "because I am confident that young man cannot with reason expect to be joined by any considerable force in the Highlands. Some loose lawless men of desperate fortunes may indeed resort to him; but I am persauded that none of the Highland gentlemen, who have ought to lose, will, after the experience with which the year 1715 furnished them, think proper to risque their fortunes on an attempt which to them must appear desperate; especially as so many considerable families amongst themselves have lately uttered their sentiments; unless the undertaking is supported by an invasion on some other part of his majesty's dominions". To provide against any emergency which might arise in the north, his lordship proposed first, that a sufficient number of arms should be lodged in the forts in the Highlands, with directions by whom, and to whom they might be delivered out, - a proposal the same in substance as that made by Sir John Cope; and secondly, that money or creidt should be lodged in the hands of confidential persons in the north, for the use of the public service. This last mentioned measure he considered the more necessary, as it could not be expected, as he observed, that private individuals would come forward with money, when they recollected that several gentlemen, who, in the year 1715, had advanced large sums out of their pockets for the public service, had not even been repaid, far less rewarded by the government.

The Lord President, though a man of sound judgement, and gifted with a considerable portion of political foresight, was in this instance deceived in his speculations; and Lord Tweeddale, perhaps misled by the President, on whose personal knowledge of the state of the Highlands he placed great reliance, adopted the same views. In an answer to the President's letter, which the marquis wrote on the 17th of August, he thus expresses himself: "I own I have never been alarmed with the reports of the Pretender's son's landing in Scotland. I consider it was a rash and desperate attempt, that can have no other consequence than the ruin of those concerned in it".


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