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Domestic Annals of Scotland
Reign of William III: 1695 - 1702 Part 3


1696, Apr
Two young men, Matthew M’Kail, son of an advocate of the
same name, and Mr William Trent, writer, hitherto intimate friend; quarrelled about a trifling matter, and resolved to fight a duel. Accompanied by John Veitch, son of John Veitch, ‘presentee of the signator,’ and William Drummond, son of Logie Drummond, youths scarcely out of their minority, they went two days after—a Sunday having intervened—to the park of Holyrood Palace, and there fought - it does not appear with what weapons— but both were slain on the spot; after which the seconds absconded.

July
A preacher named John Hepburn, who had been called to the parish of Urr in Galloway, before the regular establishment of the church in 1690, continued ever since to minister there and in the neighbouring parish of Kirkgunzeon, without any proper authority. Enjoying the favour of an earnest, simple people, and cherishing
scruples about the established church, he maintained his ground for several years, in defiance of all that presbyteries, synods, and general assemblies could do for his suppression. Holding a
fast amongst his own people (June 25, 1696), he was interrupted by a deputation from the presbytery of Dumfries, but nevertheless persisted in preaching to his people in the open air, though, as far as appears, without any outward disorderliness. It affords a curious idea of the new posture of Presbyterianism in Scotland, that one of the deputation was Mr William Veitch, a noted sufferer for opinion in the late reign.

The Privy Council took up this affair as a scandalous tumult and riot, and had Mr Hepburn brought before them, and condemned to give bond under a large forfeiture that he would henceforth live in the town of Brechin and within two miles of the same—a place where they of course calculated that he could do no harm, the inhabitants being so generally Episcopalian. Meanwhile, he was laid up in the Old Tolbooth, and kept there for nearly a month. There were people who wished to get in to hear him. There were individuals amongst his fellow-prisoners also anxious to listen to his ministrations. The Council denied the necessary permission. We hear, however, of Mr Hepburn preaching every Sunday from a window of his prison to the people in the street. He was then conducted to Stirling Castle, and kept in durance there for several months. It was three years before he was enabled to return to his Galloway flock. The whole story reads like a bit of the history of the reign of Charles II. misplaced, with presbyteries for actors instead of prelates.

Sep
A crew of English, Scots, and foreigners, under an Englishman named Henry Evory or Bridgman, had seized a ship of forty-six guns at Corunna, and had commenced in her a piratical career throughout the seas of India and Persia. Having finally left their ship in the isle of Providence, these pirates had made their way to Scotland, and there dispersed, hoping thus to escape the vengeance of the laws which they had outraged. The Privy Council issued a proclamation, commanding all officers whatsoever in the kingdom to be diligent in trying to
catch the pirates, ‘who may probably be known and discovered by the great quantities of Persian and Indian gold and silver which they have with them,’ a bundred pounds of reward being offered for apprehending Bridgman, and fifty for each of the others.

Sep
Since the Reformation, there had been various public decrees for the establishment of
schools throughout Scotland; but they had been very partially successful in their object, and many parishes continued to be without any stated means of instruction for the young. The Presbyterian or ultra-Protestant party, sensible how important an ability to read the Scriptures was for keeping up a power in the people to resist the pretensions of the Romish Church, had always, on this account, been favourable to the maintenance of schools whereby the entire people might be instructed. Now, that they were placed securely in ascendency, they took the opportunity to obtain a parliamentary enactment ‘for settling of schools,’ by virtue of which it was ordered that the heritors (landowners) of each parish in the realm should ‘meet and provide a commodious house for a school, and settle and modify a salary to a schoolmaster, which shall not be under one hundred nor above two hundred merks {£5, 11s. 1d.and £11, 2s 2d] It was thus made a duty incidental to the possession of land in each parish, that a school and schoolmaster should be maintained, and that the poorest poor should be taught; and, in point of fact, the community of Scotland became thus assured of access to education, excepting in the Highlands, where the vast extent of the parishes and other circumstances interfered to make the act inoperative. The history of the commencement of our parochial school establishment occupies but a page in this record; but the effects of the measure in promoting the economic and moral interests of the Scottish people are indefinite. It would be wrong to attribute to that act solely, as has sometimes been done, all the credit which the nation has attained in arts, in commerce, in moral elevation, and in general culture. But certainly the native energies have been developed, and the national moral character dignified, to a marked extent, through the means of these parish schools - an effect the more conspicuous and, unmistakable from the fact of there having been no similar institution to improve the mass of society in the sister-kingdom.

Oct 15
It is a rather whimsical association of ideas, that Sir David
Dunbar, the hero of the sad story of the Bride of Baldoon —the bridegroom in the case—was an active improver of the wretched rural economy of his day. Some years before his unfortunate death in 1682, he had formed the noted park of Baldoon, for the rearing of a superior breed of cattle, with a view to the demands of the market in England. It was, as far as I can lean, the first effort of the kind made in Scotland, and the example was not without imitation in various parts of the southwestern province of Scotland.

Andro Sympson, in his gossiping .Deseription of Galloway, written before the Revolution, speaks of the park of Baldoon as a rich pastoral domain, of two and a half miles in length and one and a half in breadth, to the south of the river Blednoch. It ‘can,’ he says, ‘keep in it, winter and summer, about a thousand bestial, part whereof he [Sir David Dunbar] buys from the country, and grazeth there all winter, other part whereof is his own breed; for he hath nearly two hundred milch kine, which for the most part have calves yearly. He buys also in the summer-time from the country many bestial, oxen for the most part, which be keeps till August or September; so that yearly he either sells at home to drovers, or sends to St Faith’s, and other fairs in England, about eighteen or twenty score of bestial. Those of his own breed at four year old are very large; yea, so large, that, in August or September 1682, nine-and-fifty of that sort, which would have yielded betwixt five and six pound sterling the piece, were seized upon in England for Irish cattle; and because the person to whom they were intrusted had not witnesses there ready at the precise hour to swear that they were seen calved in Scotland, they were, by sentence of Sir J. L. and some others, who knew well enough that they were bred in Scotland, knocked on the head and killed.’

The estate of Baldoon having, by the marriage of the heiress, Mary Dunbar, come into the possession of Lord Basil Hamilton, a younger son of the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton, we now find that young nobleman petitioning the Privy Council for permission to import from Ireland ‘six score young cows of the largest breed for making up his lordship’s stock in the park of Baldoon,’ he giving security that he would import no more, and employ these for no other end.

The example of the Baldoon park was followed by the Laird of Lochnaw and other great proprietors, and the growing importance of the cattle-rearing trade of Galloway is soon after marked by a demand for a road whereby the stock might be driven to the English market. In June 1697, the matter came before the Privy Council. it was represented that, while there was a customary way between the burgh of New Galloway and Dumfries, there was no defined or made road. It was the line of passage taken by immense herds of cattle which were continually passing from the green pastures of the Galloway hills into England—a branch of economy held to be the main support of the inhabitants of the district, and the grand source of its rents. Droves of cattle are, however, apt to be troublesome to the owners and tenants of the grounds through or near which they pass; and such was the ease here. ‘Several debates have happened of late in the passage of droves from New Galloway to Dumfries, the country people endeavouring by violence to stop the droves, and impose illegal exactions of money upon the cattle, to the great damage of the trade; whereby also riots and blood-sheds have been occasioned, which had gone greater length, if those who were employed to carry up the cattle had not managed with great moderation and prudence.’

On a petition from the great landlords of the district, James Earl of Galloway, Lord Basil Hamilton, Alexander Viscount of Kenmure, John Viscount of Stair, Sir Andrew Agnew of Lochnaw, Sir Charles Hay of Park, &c., a commission was appointed by the Privy Council ‘to make and mark a highway for droves frae New Galloway to Dumfries,’ holding ‘the high and accustomed travelling way betwixt the said two burghs.'

Amongst Sir David Dunbar’s imitators, it appears that we have to class Sir George Campbell of Cessnock, in Ayrshire, so noted for his sufferings under the late reign. The parks of Cessnock had formerly been fnrnished with ‘ane brood of great cattle’ and a superior breed of horses, both from Ireland; but, on the unjust forfeiture of the estate, the stock had been taken away and destroyed, so that it was ‘entirely decayed out of that country.’ Sir George, to whom the estate had been restored at the Revolution, obtained, in March 1697, permission from the Privy Council ‘to import from Ireland sixty cows and bulls, thretty-six horses and mares, and six score of sheep, for plenishing of his park.’ Soon after, the Council recalled the permission for the sheep.

Oct
The rolls of parliament and the books of the Privy Council contain about this time abundant proofs of the tendency to manufacturing enterprise. Sir John Shaw of Greenock and others were encouraged in a proposed making of salt ‘after a new manner.’ There was a distinct act in favour of certain other enterprising persons who designed to make ‘salt upon salt.’ John Hamilton, merchant-burgess of Edinburgh, was endowed with privileges for an invention of his for mills and engines to sheel and prepare barley. James Melville of Halhill got a letter of gift to encourage him in a manufacture of sail-cloth. Inventions for draining of mines are frequently spoken of.

William Morison of Prestongrange was desirous of setting up a glass-work at a place within the bounds of his estate, called Aitchison’s Haven or New Haven, ‘for making of all sorts of glass, as bottles, vials, drinking, window, mirror, and warck [?] glasses.’ ‘In order thereto, he conduced with strangers for carrying on the said work, who find great encouragement for the same, within the said bounds.’ On his petition, this proposed work, with the workmen and stock employed, was endowed by the Privy Council (April 27, 1697) with the privileges accorded to manufactories by acts of parliament.

Connected with Prestongrange in this business was a French refugee named Leblanc, who had married a Scotchwoman, and got himself entered as a burgess and guild-brother of Edinburgh, designing to spend the remainder of his life in the country of his adoption. It was his part to polish the glass for the making of mirrors, an art never before practised in Scotland; and this business he carried on in a workshop in the Canongate. It was found, however, that ‘the glasses must have mailers and bead-pieces of timber, and sometimes persons of honour and quality desired also tables, drawers and stands agreeable to the glass for making up a suit.’ Leblanc offered to employ for this work the wrights of the corporation of the Canongate; but they plainly acknowledged that they could not execute it. He was obliged to employ wrights of Edinburgh. Then came forth the same Canon-gate wrights, with complaints of this infraction of their rights. It was a plain case of the dog in the manger—and the consequence was the stoppage of a branch of industry of some importance to the community. On Leblanc’s petition, the Privy Council gave him permission to make up the upholstery work connected with his mirrors, on the simple condition of his making a first offer of it to the wrights of the Canougate.

One George Sanders had obtained, in 1681, an exclusive privilege, for seventeen years, for a work for the twisting and throwing all sorts of raw silk; but he never proceeded with the undertaking. ‘Joseph Ormiston mid William Elliot, merchants,’ proposed (June 1697) to set up such a work, which they conceived would be useful in giving employment to the poor, and in opening a profitable trade between Scotland and Turkey; also in ‘advancing the manufactories of buttons, galloons, silk stocking; and the like.’ They designed ‘to bring down several families who make broad silks, gold and silver thread, &c.,’ and entertained ‘no doubt that many of the Norwich weavers may be encouraged to come and establish in this country, where they may live and work, at easy rates.’ On their petition, the adventurers had their proposed work invested by the Privy Council with the privileges and immunities of a manufactory.

On the 22d February 1698, David Lord Elcho, for himself and copartners, besought the favour of the Council for a glass-work which they proposed to erect at Wemyss. They were to bring its strangers expert in the art, and did not doubt that they would also afford considerable employment to natives and to shipping; besides which, they would cause money to be kept at home, and some to come in from abroad. They asked no monopoly or ‘the exclusion of any others from doing their best, and setting up in any other part of the kingdom they please;’ all they craved was a participation in the privileges held out by the acts of parliament. Their petition was cordially granted.

Viscount Tarbat and Sir George Campbell of Cessnock, ‘being resolved to enter into a society for shot-casting, whereby not only the exportation of money for foreign shot will be restrained, but also the product of our own kingdom considerably improved,’ petitioned (February 1698) for and obtained for the said society all the privileges accorded by statute to a manufaetory for nineteen years.

It was well known, said a petition in September 1698, ‘how much the burgh of Aberdeen and inhabitants thereof had in all times been disposed to the making of cloth and stuffs, stockings, plaids, and all other profitable work in wool.’ It therefore appeared reasonable to certain persons of that burgh—Thomas Mitchell, John Allardyce. Alexander Forbes, John Johnstone, and others—that a woollen manufactory should be set up there, and they petitioned the Privy Council for permission to do so, and to have the usual privileges offered by the statute; which were granted.’

In 1703, a cloth manufactory was in full operation at Gordon’s Mills, near Aberdeen, under the care of Mr William Black, advocate. Though established but a year ago, it already produced broad cloths, druggets, and stuffs of all sorts, ‘perhaps as good in their kind as any that have been wrought in this kingdom.’ Mr Black had French workmen for the whitening and scouring of his cloths, and boasted that he had created a new trade in supplying the country people with sorted fleece-wool, ‘which is a great improvement in itself.’ Amongst his products were half-silk serges, damasks, and plush made of wool, which looks near as fine as that made of hair.’ Unlike most enterprisers in that age, he desired to breed up young people who might afterwards act up factories of the same kind, ‘which,’ he said, ‘will be the only way to bring our Scots manufactories to reasonable prices.’ But he did not propose to do this upon wholly disinterested principles. He petitioned parliament to make a charge upon the county of Aberdeen, for the support of boys working at his manufactory, during the first five years of their apprenticeships; and his desire was in a modified manner complied with.

About the same time, William Hog of Harcarse had a cloth manufactory at his place in Berwickshire, where he ‘did make, dress, and lit as much. red cloth as did furnish all the Earl of Hyndford’s regiment of dragoons with red cloaths this last year, and that in a very short space.’

It would appear that up to 1703 there was no such thing in Scotland as a work for making earthenware; a want which, of course, occasioned ‘the yearly export of large sums of money out of the kingdom,’ besides causing all articles of that kind to be sold at ‘double charges of what they cost abroad.’ William Montgomery of Maebie-hill, and George Linn, merchant in Edinburgh, now made arrangements for setting up ‘a Pot-house and all conveniences for making of laim, purslane, and earthenware,’ and for bringing home from foreign countries the men required for such a work. As necessary for their encouragement in this undertaking, the parliament gave them an exclusive right of making laim, purslane, and earthenware for fifteen years.’

Dec 1
On a low sandy plain near the mouth of the Eden, in Fife, in sight of the autique towers of St Andrews, stands the house of Earlshall, now falling into decay, but in the seventeenth century the seat of a knightly family of Bruces, one of whom has a black reputation as a persecutor, having been captain of one of Claverhouse’s companies. The hall in the upper part of the mansion—a line room with a curved ceiling, bearing pictures of the virtues and other abstractions, with scores of heraldic shields—testifies to the diginty of this family, as well as their taste. Some months before this date, Andrew Bruce of Earlshall had granted to his son Alexander a disposition to the corns and fodder of the estate, as also to those of the ‘broad lands of Leuchars;’ aad Alexander had entered into a bargain for the sale of the produce to John Lundin, younger of Baldastard, for the use of the army. Against this arrangement there was a resisting party in the person of Sir David Arnot of that Ilk.

Sir David, on the day noted, came with a suitable train to Earlshall, and there, with many violent speeches, proceeded to possess himself of the keys of the barns and stables; caused the corns to be thrashed; brought his own oxen to eat part of the straw; and finally forced Earlshall’s tenants to carry off the whole grain to Pitlethie. The produce thus disposed of is described as follows: ‘The Mains [home-farm] of Earlshall paid, and which was in the corn-yard at the time, six chalders victual, corn, and fodder, estimat this year [1697] at fourteen pounds the boll, is ane thousand three hundred and forty-four pounds Scots; and nine chalders of teind out of the lands of Lenehars-Bruce corn and fodder, estirnat at the foresaid price to two thousand and sixteen pounds.’

The Privy Council took up this case of ‘high and manifest oppression and hangstrie,’ examined witnesses on both sides, and then remitted the matter to the Court of Session.

A similar ease of violently disputed rights occurred about the same time. John Leas had a tack from the Laird of Brux in Aherdeenshire for a piece of land called Croshlachie, and finding it a prosperous undertaking, he was ‘invyed’ in it by Mr Robert Irving, minister of Towie. The minister frequently threatened Leas to cause the laird dispossess him of his holding, possibly expecting to harass him out of it. Leas stood his ground against such threats; but, being simple, he was induced to let Mr Irving have a sight of his ‘assedation,’ which the minister no sooner got into his hands, than he tore it in pieces. A few weeks after, May 8, 1693, Irving came to Croshlachie, and causing men to divide the farm, took possession of one part, put his cattle upon it, and pulled down two houses belonging to Leas, who was thus well-nigh ruined.

Still unsatisfied with what he had gained, Irving came, in March 1694, with Roderick Forbes, younger of Brux, whom he had brought over to his views, and made a personal attack upon Leas, as he was innocently sowing his diminished acres. ‘Tying his hands behind his back, [Irving] brought him off the ground, and carried him prisoner like a malefactor to his house.’ While they were there preparing papers which they were to force him to subscribe, Leas ‘did endeavour to shake his hands lowse of their bonds; but Mr Robert Irving came and ordered the cords to be more severely drawn, which accordingly was done.’ He was detained in that condition ‘till he was almost dead,’ and so was compelled to sign a renunciation of his tack, and also a disposition of the seed be had sown.

On a complaint from Leas coming before the Privy Council, Irving and young Brux did not appear; for which reason they were denounced rebels. Afterwards (June 16, 1698), they came forward with a petition for a suspension of the decreet, alleging that they had come to the court, but were prevented from appearing by accident. ‘It was the petitioners’ misfortune,’ they said, ‘that the time of the said calling they were gone down to the close, and the macers not having called over the window, or they not having heard, Maister Leas himself craved [that] the letters might be found orderly proceeded.’ On this petition, the decreet was suspended.

In August 1697, we are regaled with an example of female ‘bangstrie’ in an elevated grade of society. It was represented to the Privy Council that the wife of Lumsden of Innergellie, in Fife—we may presume, under some supposed legal claim—came at midnight of the 22d July, with John and Agnes Harper, and a few other persons, to the house of Ellieston, in Linlithgowshire— ostensibly the property of the Earl of Rutherglen—which was fast locked; and there, having brought ladders with them, they sealed the house, and violently broke open the windows, at which they entered; after which they broke open the doors. Having thus taken forcible possession of the mansion, they brought cattle, which they turned loose, to eat whatever fodder the place afforded.

On the petition of the Earl of Rutherglen, this affair came before the Council, when, the accused lady not appearing, the Lords gave orders that she and her servants should be cast out of the house of Ellieston, and that John and Agnes Harper should pay a hundred pounds Scots as damages, and to be confined (if caught) until that sum was paid.’

1697
Jean Douglas, styled Lady Gleubucket, as being the widow of the late Gordon of Glenbucket, had been endowed by her husband, in terms of her marriage contract with a thousand pounds Scots of free rent out of the best of his lands ‘nearest adjacent to the house.’ At his death in 1693, she centered on the possession of the mains and house of Glenbucket, and uplifted some of the rents, out of which she did aliment her eight children till May [1696],' when an unhappy interruption took place in conscquence of a dispute with her eldest son about their respective rights.

According to the complaint afterwards presented by the lady—though it seems scarce credible - she was coming south to take advice regarding her affairs, when her son, Adam Gordon, followed her with an armed force, and, on her refusal to comply with his request that she would return, avowed his determination to have her back, though he should drag her at a horse’s tail. Then seizing her with violence, he forced her to return to Glenbucket, three miles, and immured her there as a prisoner for thirty days, without attendance or proper ailment; indeed, she could have hardly eaten anything that was offered for fear of poison; and ‘if it had not been for the charity of neighbours, who in some part supplied her necessity, she must undoubtedly have starved.’ The young man meanwhile possessed himself of everything in the house, including the legal writings of her property; he left her and her children no means of subsistence, ‘yea, not so much as her wearing clothes,’ and she ‘was glad to escape with her life.’ He also proceeded to uplift her rents.

The lady craved redress from the Privy Council, which seems to have become satisfied of the truth of her complaint; but what steps they took in the case does not appear.’

1696, Dec 12
Every now and then, amidst the mingled harmonies and discords proceeding from the orchestra of the national life, we hear the deep diapason of the voice of the church, proclaiming universal hopeless wickedness, and threatening divine judgments. At this time, a solemn fast was appointed to be held on the 21st of January next, to deprecate ‘the wrath of God,’ which is ‘very visible against the land, in the judgments of great sickness and mortality in most parts of the kingdom, as also of growing dearth and famine threatened, with the imminent hazard of ane invasion from our cruel and bloody enemies abroad; all the just deservings and effects of our continuing and abounding sins, and of our great security and impenitency under them.’

Dec 23
It was while the public mind was excited by the complicated evils of famine and threatened invasion, that an importation of atheistical books was found to have been made into Edinburgh, and several young men were denounced to the authorities as having become infected with heterodox opinions. At a time when every public evil was attributed to direct judgment for sins, we may in some faint degree imagine how even an incipient tendency to irreligion would be looked upon by the more serious-minded people, including the clergy, and how just and laudable it would appear to take strong measures for the repression of such wickedness. We have to remember, too, the temper of Sir James Stenart, the present public prosecutor. One delinquent—John Fraser— had, upon timely confession and penitence, been lightly dealt with; but there was another youthful offender, who, meeting accusation in a different frame of mind, at least at first, was to have a different fate.

Thomas Aikenhead, a youth of eighteen, ‘son to the deceest James Aikenhead, chirurgeon in Edinburgh,’ was now tried by the High Court of Justiciary for breach of the 21st act of the first parliament of Charles II., ‘against the crime of blasphemy,’ which act had been ratified by the 11th act of the fifth session of the parliament of the present reign. It was alleged in the indictment that the young man had, for a twelve-month past, been accustomed to speak of theology as ‘a rhapsody of feigned and ill-invented nonsense,’ calling the Old Testament Ezra’s fables, and the New the history of the Impostor Christ, further ‘cursing Moses, Ezra, and Jesus, and all men of that sort.’ ‘Likeas,’ pursued this document, ‘you reject the mystery of the blessed Trinity and say it is not worth any man’s refutation, and you also scoff at the mystery of the incarnation of Jesus Christ....as to the doctrine of redemption by Jesus, you say it is a proud and presumptuous device . . . . you also deny spirits....and you have maintained that God, the world, and nature, are but one thing, and that the world was from eternity. . . . You have said that you hoped to see Christianity greatly weakened, and that you are confident it will in a short time be utterly extirpat.’

Aikenhead, though impenitent at first, no sooner received this indictment in prison, than he endeavoured to stop proceedings by addressing to the Lords of Justiciary a ‘petition and retraction,’ in which he professed the utmost abhorrence of the expressions attributed to him, saying he trembled even to repeat them to himself and further avowing his firm faith in the gospel, in the immortality of the soul, in the doctrine of the Trinity, and in the divine authority of Scripture. He alleged, like Fraser, that the objectionable expressions had only been repeated by him, as sentiments of certain atheistical writers whose works had been put into his hands by a person now cited as a witness against him, and ‘who constantly made it his work to interrogate me anent my reading of the said atheistical principles and arguments,’ ‘May it therefore please your Lordships,’ said the petitioner in conclusion, ‘to have compassion on my yonng and tender years (not being yet major), and that I have been so innocently betrayed and induced to the reading of such atheistical books . . . . that I do truly own the Protestant religion . . . . and am resolved, by the assistance of Almighty God, to make my abhorrence of what is contained in the libel appear to the world in my subsequent life and conversation . . . . to desert the diet against me.’ This appeal, however, was in vain.

The case was conducted by Sir James Steuart, the king’s advocate, aud Sir Patrick Hume, the king’s solicitor.

The witnesses were three students, and a ‘writer,’ all of them about twenty years of age, being the companions of the culprit, and one of them (named Mungo Craig) known to be the person who had lent Aikenhead the books from which he derived the expressions charged in the indictment. It was proved by the ample depositions of these young men, that Aikenhead had been accustomed to speak opprobriously of the Scriptures and their authors, as well as of the doctrines of Christianity; by Mungo Craig alone it was averred that he had cursed Jesus Christ, along with Moses and Ezra. Thus there was not full proof against the accused on the principal, point of the statute charged upon—namely, the cursing of God or any other person of the blessed Trinity. The jury nevertheless unanimously found it proven ‘that the panel, Thomas Aikenhead, has railed against the first person, and also cursed and railed our blessed Lord, the sccond person, of the holy Trinity.’ They further found ‘the other crimes libelled proven—namely, the denying the incarnation of our Saviour, the holy Trinity, and scoffing at the Holy Scriptures.’ Wherefore the judges ‘decern and adjudge the said Thomas Aikenhead to be taken to the Gallowlee, betwixt Leith and Edinburgh, upon Friday the eighth day of January next to come, and there to be hanged on a gibbet till he be dead, and his body to be interred at the foot of the gallows.’

It struck some men in the Privy Council that it was hard to take the life of a lad of eighteen, otherwise irreproachable, for a purely metaphysical offence, regarding which he had already expressed an apparently sincere penitence; and this feeling was probably increased when a petition was received from Aikenhead, not asking for life, which he had ceased to hope for, but simply entreating for delay of a sentence which he acknowledged to be just, on the gronnd that it had ‘pleased Almighty God to begin so far in His mercy to work upon your petitioner’s obdured heart, as to give him some sense and conviction of his former wicked errors . . . . and he doth expect . . if time were allowed... through the merits of Jesus, by a true remorse and repentance, to be yet reconciled to his offended God and Saviour.’ I desire, he said, this delay, that ‘I may have the opportunity of conversing with godly ministers in the place, and by their assistance be more prepared for an eternal rest.’

Lord Anstrnther and Lord Fountainhall, two members of the Council, were led by humane feeling to visit the culprit in prison. ‘I found a work on his spirit,’ says the former gentleman, ‘and wept that ever he should have maintained such tenets.’ He adds that he desired for Aikenhead a short reprieve, as his eternal state depended on it. ‘I plead [pleaded] for him in Council, and brought it to the Chancellor’s vote. It was told it could not be granted unless the ministers would intercede.... The ministers, out of a pious, though I think ignorant zeal, spoke and preached for cutting him off. . . . our ministers being,’ he adds, generally of a narrow set of thoughts and confined principles, and not able to bear things of this nature.’ It thus appears that the clergy were eager for the young man’s blood, and the secular powers so far under awe towards that body, that they could not grant mercy. The Council appears in numberless instances as receiving applications for delay and pardon from criminals under sentence, and so invariably assents to the petition, that we may infer there having been a routine practice in the case, by which petitions were only sent after it was ascertained that they would probably be complied with. There being no petition for pardon from Aikenhead to the Council after his trial, we may fairly presume that he had learned there was no relaxation of the sentence to be expected.

As the time designed for his execution drew nigh, Aikenhead wrote a paper of the character of a ‘last speech’ for the scaffold, in which he described the progress of his mind throughout the years of his education. From the age of ten, he had sought for grounds on which to build his faith, having all the time an insatiable desire of attaining the truth. He had bewildered himself amongst the questions on morals and. religion which have bewildered so many others, and only found that the more be thought on these things the further he was from certainty, he now felt the deepest contrition for the ‘base, wicked, and irreligious expressions’ he had uttered—’ although I did the same out of a blind zeal for what I thought the truth.’ ‘Withal, I acknowledge and confess to the glory of God, that in all he hath brought upon me, either one way or other, he hath done it most wisely and justly. Likeas I bless God I die in the true Christian Protestant apostolic faith.’ He then alluded in terms of self-vindication to aspersions regarding him which had been circulated in a satire by Mr Mungo Craig, ‘whom I leave,’ said he, ‘to reckon with God and his own conscience, if he was not as deeply concerned in those hellish notions for which I am sentenced, as ever I was: however, I bless the Lord, I forgive him and all men, and wishes the Lord may forgive him likewise.’ Finally, he prayed that his blood might ‘give a stop to that raging spirit of atheism which hath taken such a footing in Britain both in practice and profession! Along with this paper, he left a letter to his friends, dated the day of his execution, expressing a hope that what he had written would give them and the world satisfaction, ‘and after I am gone produce more charity than [it] hath been my fortune to be trysted hitherto with, and remove the apprehensions which I hear are various with many about my case." [The above account of the prosecution of Aikenhead is derived from Howell’s State Trials, in which there has been printed a collection of documents on the case, collected by John Locke.]

There was at that time in Edinburgh an English Nonconformist clergyman, of Scottish birth, named William Lorimer, who had come to fill the chair of divinity at St Andrews. While Aikenhead was under sentence, Mr Lorimer preached before the Lord Chancellor and other judges and chief magistrates, On the Reverence due to Jesus Ghrist, being a sermon apropos to the occasion; and we find in this discourse not one word hinting at charity or mercy for Aikenhead, but much to encourage the audience in an opposite temper. It would appear, however, that the preacher afterwards found some cause for vindicating himself from a concern in bringing about the death of Aikenhead, and therefore, when he published his sermon, he gave a preface, in which he at once justified the course which had been taken with the youth, and tried to shew that he, and at least one other clergyman, had tried to get the punishment commuted. The prosecution, he tells us, was undertaken entirely on public grounds, in order to put down a ‘plague of blasphemous deism’ which had come to Edinburgh. The magistrates, being informed of the progress of this pestilence among the young men, had two of them apprehended. ‘One [John Fraser] made an excuse . . . . humbly confessed that it was a great sin for him to have uttered with his mouth such words of blasphemy against the Lord; professed his hearty repentance. . . and so the government pardoned him, but withal ordered that he should confess his sin, and do public penance in all the churches in Edinburgh. And I believe the other might have been pardoned also, if he had followed the example of his companion; but he continued sullen and obstinate, I think for some months; and the party were said to be so very bold and insolent, as to come in the night and call to him by name at his chamber-window in the prison, and to tell him that he had a good cause, and to exhort him to stand to it, and suffer for it bravely. This influenced the government to execute the law.’

With regard to efforts in favour of Aikenhead, Mr Lorimer’s statement is as follows: ‘I am sure the ministers of the Established Church used him with an affectionate tenderness, and took much pains with him to bring him to faith and repentance, and to save his soul; yea, and some of the ministers, to my certain knowledge, and particularly the late reverend, learned, prudent, peaceable and pious Mr George Meldrum, then minister of the Tron Church, interceded for him with the government, and solicited for his pardon; and when that could not be obtained, he desired a reprieve for him, and I joined with him in it. This was the day before his execution. The chancellor was willing to have granted him a reprieve, but could not do it without the advice of the Privy Council and judges; and, to shew his willingness, he called the Council and judges, who debated the matter, and then carried it by a plurality of votes for his execution, according to the sentence of the judges, that there might be a stop put to the spreading of that contagion of blasphemy."

Mr Lorimer’s and Lord Anstruther’s statements are somewhat discrepant, and yet not perhaps irreconcilable. It may be true that, at the last moment, one of the city clergy, accompanied by an English stranger, tried to raise his voice for mercy. It is evident, however, that no very decided effort of the kind was made, for the records of the Privy Council contain no entry on the subject, although, only three days before Aikenhead’s execution, we find in them a reprieve formally granted to one Thomas Weir, sentenced for housebreaking. The statement itself, implying a movement entirely exceptive, only makes the more certain the remarkable fact, derived from Lord Anstruther’s statement, that the clergy, as a body, did not intercede, but ‘spoke and preached for cutting him off,’ for which reason the civil authorities were unable to save him. The clergy thus appear unmistakably in the character of the persecutors of Aikenhead, and as those on whom, next to Sir James Steuart, rests the guilt of his blood.

The Postman, a journal of the day, relates the last moments of the unhappy young man. ‘He walked thither [to the place of execution - a mile from the prison] on foot, between a strong guard of fusiliers drawn up in two lines. Several ministers assisted him in his last moments; and, according to all human appearance, he died with all the marks of a true penitent. When he was called out of the prison to the City Council-house, before his going to the place of execution, as is usual on such occasions, he delivered his thoughts at large in a paper written by him, and signed with his own hand, and then requested the ministers that were present to pray for him, which they did; and afterwards he himself prayed, and several times invocated the blessed Trinity, as he did likewise at the place of execution, holding all the time the Holy Bible in his hand; and, being executed, he was buried at the foot of the gallows!

1697, Jan 16
There had been for two years under process in the Court of Session a case in which a husband was sued for return of a deceased wife’s tocker of eight thousand merks (£444, 8s 10d), and her paraphernalia or things pertaining to her person. It came on this occasion, to be debated what articles belonging to a married woman were to be considercd as paraphernalia, or jocalia, and so destined in a particular way in case of her decease. The Lords, after long deliberation, fixed on a rule to be observed in future cases, having a regard, on the one hand, to ‘the dignity of wives,’ and, on the other, to the restraining of extravagances. First was ‘the mundus or vestitus muliebris—namely, all the body-clothes belonging to the wife, acquired by her at any time, whether in this or any prior marriage, or in virginity or viduity; and whatever other ornaments or other things were peculiar or proper to her person, and not proper to men’s use or wearing, as necklaces, earrings, breast-jewels, gold chains, bracelets, &c. Under child-bed linens, as paraphernal and proper to the wife, are to be understood only the linen on the wife’s person in childbed, but not the linens on the child itself; nor on the bed or room, which are to be reckoned as common movables; therefore found the child’s spoon, porringer, and whistle contained in the condescendence [in this special case] are not paraphernal, but fall under the communion of goods; but that ribbons, cut or uncut, are paraphernal, and belong to the wife, unless the husband were a merchant. All the other articles that are of their own nature of promiscuous and common use, either to men or women, are not paraphernal, but fall under the communion of goods, unless they become peculiar and paraphernal by the gift and appropriation of the husband to her, such as a marriage-watch, rings, jewels, and medals. A purse of gold or other movables that, by the gift of a former husband, became properly the wife’s goods and paraphernal, exclusive of the husband, are only to be reckoned as common movables quoad a second husband, unless they be of new gifted and appropriated by him to the wife again. Such gifts and presents as one gives to his bride before or on the day of the marriage, are paraphernal and irrevokable by the husband during that marriage, and belong only to the wife and her executors; but any gifts by the husband to the wife after the marriage-day are revokable, either by the husband making use of them himself; or taking them back during the marriage; but if the wife be in possession of them during the marriage or at her death, the same are not revokable by the husband thereafter. Cabinets, coffers, &c., for holding the paraphernalia, are not paraphernalia, but fall under the communion of goods. Some of the Lords were for making anything given the next morning after the marriage, paraphernalia, called the morning gjft in our law; but the Lords esteemed them man and wife then, and [the gift] so irrevokable.'

Jan 20
John, late Archbishop of Glasgow, having applied to the king for permission to go to Scotland ‘for recovery of his health,’ obtained a letter granting him the desired liberty under certain restrictions. On the ensuing 16th of March, there is an ordinance of the Privy Council, appointing the town of Cupar, in Fife, and four miles about the same, as the future residence of the ex-prelate, provided he give sufficient caution for keeping within these bounds, and entering into no contrivance or correspondence against the government.

On the 15th of April, the archbishop, having fonnd no ‘convenient lodging for his numerous family in Cupar,’ was permitted, on his petition, to reside in the mansion of Airth, under the same conditions. Two months later, this was changed to ‘the mansion-house of Gogar, near to Airth, within the shire of Clackmannan,’ The archbishop does not appear to have been released from his partial restraint till February 1701.


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