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General History of the Highlands
1691 - 1702


DURING 1690 and 1691 the Jacobites caused the government much trouble and anxiety by their ceaseless plotting to get up an insurrection, in which they were to be assisted by supplies from France. Many men, professedly loyal to King William, gave, from various motives, their secret countenance to these attempts; and the Highlanders especially proved a galling and distracting thorn in the side of the government. As early as 1690, Lord Tarbet, (subsequently Earl of Cromarty,) proposed a scheme for the quieting of the Highlands, which Lord Breadalbane offered to carry into execution; but it was at the time abandoned. In 1691, however, negotiations were again renewed, and, as has been seen, Breadalbane was intrusted with a sum of money to distribute among the chiefs, or rather to buy up the claims which Argyle and other superiors had over their feudal vassals, and which was the real cause of the strife and dissatisfaction existing in the Highlands. The Secretary of State, Sir John Dalrymple, known as the Master of Stair, son of the Earl of Stair, appears latterly to have been at the bottom of the scheme, and was certainly most anxious that it should be successfully and speedily carried out, having at first apparently no thought of resorting to measures of cruel severity.

Not much appears to have resulted from the meeting which Breadalbane had with the chiefs at Achallader; indeed, he showed very little of an earnest desire for conciliation, as his threatening conduct induced Alexander Macdonald, or MacIan, of Glencoe, to leave the meeting abruptly for his own safety. Between Breadalbane, who was a Campbell, and Macdonald much bad blood appears to have existed; indeed, nothing but the bitterest hatred was cherished by the whole tribe of the Macdonalds to the Campbells, as the latter had from time to time, oftener by foul than by fair means, ousted the former from their once extensive possessions. The Macdonalds of Glencoe especially, still considered the lands and property of the Campbells as their own, and without hesitation supplied their wants out of the numerous herds of the latter. It was some recent raid of this sort which roused the wrath of Breadalbane; and on poor Macdonald’s head lighted all the blame and the punishment of the ineffectual negotiation. What became of the money has never been clearly ascertained; but much can be inferred from Breadalbane’s answer when asked afterwards by Lord Nottingham to account for it, "The money is spent, the Highlands are quiet, and this is the only way of accounting among friends."

Like many of his contemporaries, Breadalbane attached himself openly to King William’s government only because it was for the time the winning side; while at the same time he professed secretly to be attached to the interest of the exiled King James. He told the Highland chiefs that in urging them to enter into terms with the government, he had their own interests and those of King James at heart; for there being then "no other appearance of relief, he thought they could not do better than sue for a cessation, which would be a breathing to them, and give thorn time to represent their circumstances to King James." A contemporary characterises him as being "cunning as a fox; wise as a serpent; but as slippery as an eel. No government can trust him but where his own private interest is in view."

As the chiefs did not seem in any hurry to come to terms, a proclamation was issued, in August 1691, requiring them to take the oath of allegiance before the 1st of January 1692, threatening all those who did not comply with "letters of fire and sword." This had the proper effect, as, one by one, the chiefs swore fealty to the government, Macdonald of Glencoe, from pride or some other reason, being the last to comply with the terms of the proclamation. The difficulty in getting the chiefs to come to terms, and thus allowing the government to pursue its other schemes without anxiety, seems at last to have irritated Sir John Dalrymple so much against them, that latterly he eagerly desired that some, and especially the various tribes of Macdonalds, might hold out beyond the time, in order that an example might be made of them by putting into execution the penalty attached to the non-fulfilment of the terms of the proclamation. In a letter to Breadalbane of Dec. 2d, he thinks "the clan Donald must be rooted out and Lochiel," and is doubtful whether the money "had been better employed to settle the Highlands, or to ravage them." In another written on the following day he mentions with approval Breadalbane’s "mauling scheme," artfully rousing the latter’s indignation by speaking of the chiefs’ ungratefulness to him, using at the same time the significant phrase delenda est Carthago. He and Breadalbane seemed however likely to be cheated of their vengeance, for even the obstinate and hated Mac Ian himself, after holding out to the very last day, hastened to fulfil the requirements of the proclamation, and thus place himself beyond the power of the strong arm of the law.

On the 31st of December, 1691, Glencoe made his way to Fort-William, and presented himself to Colonel Hill the governor, asking him to administer the required oath of allegiance. The Colonel, however, declined to act, on the ground, that according to the proclamation, the civil magistrate alone could administer them. Glencoe remonstrated with Hill on account of the exigency of the case, as there was not any magistrate whom he could reach before the expiration of that day, but Hill persisted in asserting that it was out of his power to act in the matter. He, however, advised Glencoe to proceed instantly to Inverary, giving him at the same time a letter to Sir Cohn Campbell of Ardkinglass, sheriff of Argyleshire, begging him to receive Glencoe as "a lost sheep," and to administer to him the necessary oaths. Hill also gave Glencoe a letter of protection, and an assurance that no proceedings should be instituted against him under the proclamation, till he should have an opportunity of laying his case before the king or the privy council.

Glencoe left Fort-William immediately, and so great was his anxiety to reach Inverary with as little delay as possible, that although his way lay through mountains almost impassable, and although the country was deeply covered with snow, he proceeded on his journey without even stopping to see his family, though he passed within half a mile of his own house. On arriving at Inverary, Sir Colin Campbell was absent, and he had to wait three days till his return, Sir Cohn having been prevented from reaching Inverary sooner, on account of the badness of the weather. As the time allowed by the proclamation for taking the oaths had expired, Sir Colin declined at first to swear Glencoe, alleging that it would be of no use to take the oaths; but Glencoe having first importuned him with tears to receive from him the oath of allegiance, and having thereafter threatened to protest against the sheriff should he refuse to act, Sir Colin yielded, and administered the oaths to Glencoe and his attendants on the 6th of January. Glencoe, thereupon, returned home in perfect reliance that having done his utmost to comply with the injunction of the government, he was free from danger.

Shortly after this, Campbell transmitted to Colin Campbell, sheriff-clerk of Argyle, who was then in Edinburgh, the certificate of Glencoe’s oath on the same paper with other certificates, sending at the same time the letter which he had received from Hill. Campbell showed this paper with Hill’s letter to several privy councillors, among whom was the Earl of Stair, all of whom were of opinion that the certificate could not be received without a warrant from the king. Instead, however, of laying the matter before the privy council, or informing Glencoe of the rejection of the certificate, that he might petition the king, Campbell gave in the paper to the clerks of the council with Glencoe’s certificate "delete and obliterate."

Whether this was done at the instigation of Secretary Dalrymple, it is impossible to say; but it is not improbable that this man—who, a few weeks before, had exulted that as the winter was the only season in which the Highlanders could not escape, they could easily be destroyed "in the cold long nights "—was not an indifferent spectator to Campbell’s proceedings. In fact, it appears that the secretary contemplated the total extirpation of the clans, for, in a letter to Sir Thomas Livingston, commander of the forces in Scotland, dated January 7th, he says, "You know in general that these troops posted at Inverness and Inverlochie, will be ordered to take in the house of Innergarie, and to destroy entirely the country of Lochaber, Lochiel’s lands, Keppoch’s, Glengarie’s, and Glencoe," and he adds, "I assure you your power shall be full enough, and I hope the soldiers will not trouble the government with prisoners." The Macdonalds were chiefly marked out by him for destruction, and after saying, in a letter of the 9th, that he could have wished that they "had not divided’ on the question of taking the oath of indemnity, he expresses his regret to find that Keppoch and Glencoe were safe. When he heard two days after from Argyle, that Glencoe had not managed to take the oaths within the time prescribed, he expressed a joy which might be called fiendish, and set himself busily to take proper advantage of the opportunity." Delenda est Carthago.

That no time be lost in enforcing the penalties in the proclamation, now that the time allowed for taking the oath of allegiance had expired, instructions of rather an equivocal nature, signed and countersigned by the king on the 11th of January, were sent down by young Stair to Sir Thomas Livingstone, enclosed in a letter from the secretary of same date. By the instructions, Livingston was ordered "to march the troops against the rebels who had not taken the benefit of the indemnity, and to destroy them by fire and sword;" but lest such a course might render them desperate, he was allowed to "give terms and quarters, but in this manner only, that chieftains and heritors, or leaders, be prisoners of war, their lives only safe, and all other things in mercy, they taking the oath of allegiance, and rendering their arms, and submitting to the government, are to have quarters, and indemnity for their lives and fortunes, and to be protected from the soldiers." As a hint to Livingston how to act under the discretionary power with which these instructions vested him, Dalrymple says in his letter containing them, "I have no great kindness to Keppoch nor Glencoe, and it is well that people are in mercy, and then just now my Lord Argyle tells me that Glencoe hath not taken the oath, at which I rejoice. It is a great work of charity to be exact in rooting out that damnable sect, the worst of the Highlands."

The purport of this letter could not be understood; but lest Livingston might not feel disposed to imbrue his hands in the blood of Glencoe and his people, additional instructions bearing the date (in Stair's handwriting) of January 16th, and also signed and countersigned by King William, were dispatched to Livingston by the Master of Stair, ordering him to extirpate the whole clan. In the letter containing these instructions, Dalrymple informs Livingston that "the king does not at all incline to receive any after the diet but in mercy," but he artfully adds, "but for a just example of vengeance, I entreat the thieving tribe of Glencoe may be rooted out to purpose." Lest, however, Livingston might hesitate, a duplicate of these additional instructions was sent at the same time by Secretary Dalrymple to Colonel Hill, the governor of Fort William, with the letter of an import similar to that sent to Livingston. From the following extract it would appear that not only the Earl of Breadalbane, but also the Earl of Argyle, was privy to this infamous transaction. "The Earls of Argyle and Breadalbane have promised that they (the Macdonalds of Glencoe) shall have no retreat in their bounds, the passes to Rannoch would be secured, and the hazard certified to the land of Weems to reset them; in that case Argyle's detachment with a party that may be posted in Island Stalker must cut them off."

Preparatory to putting the butchering warrant in execution, a party of Argyle's regiment, to the number of 120 men, under the command of Captain Campbell of Glenlyon, was ordered to proceed to Glencoe, and take up their quarters there, about the end of January or beginning of February. On approaching the Glen, they were met by John Macdonald, the elder son of the chief, at the head of about 20 men, who demanded from Campbell the reason of his coming into a peaceful country with a military force; Glenlyon and two subalterns who were with him explained that they came as friends, and that their sole object was to obtain suitable quarters, where they could conveniently collect the arrears of cess and hearth-money, - a new tax laid on by the Scottish parliament in 1690, - in proof of which, Lieutenant Lindsay produced the instructions of Colonel Hill to that effect. They thereupon received a hearty welcome, and were hospitably entertained by Glencoe and his people till the fatal morning of the massacre. Indeed, so familiar was Glenlyon, that scarcely a day passes that he did not visit the house of Alexander Macdonald, the younger son of the chief, who was married to Glenlyon's niece, the sister of Rob Roy, and take his "morning drink", agreeably to the most approved practice of Highland hospitality.

If Secretary Dalrymple imagined that Livingston was disinclined to follow his instructions he was mistaken, for immediately on receipt of them he wrote Lieutenant-colonel Hamilton, who had been fixed upon by the secretary to be the executioner, expressing his satisfaction that Glencoe had not taken the oath within the period prescribed, and urging him, if he wished to approved himself to the government, to execute his commission with the utmost rigour, and "not to trouble the government with prisoners." In the meantime, the Master of Stair was taking every precaution that the deed should be done suddenly and effectively, and accordingly, on the 13th of January he wrote two letters, one to Livingston, and the other to Hill, urging them on. Addressing the former, he says, "I am glad Glencoe did not come in within the time prefixed; I hope what is done there may be in earnest, since the rest are not in a condition to draw together help. I think to harry (plunder) their cattle and burn their houses is but to render them desperate lawless men to rob their neighbours, but I believe you will be satisfied, it were a great advantage to the nation that thieving tribe were rooted out and cut off; it must be quietly done, otherwise they will make a shift for both their men and their cattle." And in his letter to Hill he says, "Pray, when the thing concerning Glencoe is resolved, let it be secret and sudden, otherwise the men will shift you, and better not meddle with them than not to do it to purpose, to cut off that nest of robbers who have fallen in the mercy of the law, now when there is force and opportunity, whereby the king's justice will be as conspicuous and useful as his clemency to others. I apprehend the storm is so great that for some time you can do little, but so soon as possible I know you will be at work, for these false people will do nothing, but as they see you in a condition to do with them."

In pursuance of these fresh instructions from the secretary, Hill, on the 12th of February, sent orders to Hamilton, forthwith to execute the fatal commission. Accordingly, on the same day, Hamilton directed Major Robert Duncanson of Argyle's regiment to proceed immediately with a detachment of that regiment to Glencoe, so as to reach the post which had been assigned him by five o'clock the following morning, at which hour Hamilton promised to reach another post with a party of Hill's regiment. Whether Duncanson, who appears to have been a Campbell, was averse to take an active personal part in the bloody tragedy about to be enacted, is a question that cannot now be solved; but it may have been from some repugnance to act in person that immediately on receipt of Hamilton's order, he despatched another order from himself to Captain Campbell of Glenlyon, then living in Glencoe, with instructions to fall upon the Macdonalds precisely at five o'clock the following morning, and put all to the sword under seventy years of age.

Glenlyon appears to have been a man equal to any kind of loathsome work, especially against a Macdonald; one who

"Could smile, and murder while he smiled."

With this sanguinary order in his pocket, and with his mind made up unhesitatingly and rigorously to execute it, he did not hesitate to spend the evening of the massacre playing at cards with John and Alexander Macdonald, the sons of the chief, to wish them good night at parting, and to accept an invitation from Glencoe himself to dine with him the following day. Little suspecting the intended butchery, Glencoe and his sons retired to rest at their usual hour; but early in the morning, while the preparations for the intended massacre were going on, John Macdonald, the elder son of the chief, hearing the sound of voices about his house, grew alarmed, and jumping out of bed threw on his clothes and went to Inverriggen, where Glenlyon was quartered, to ascertain the cause of the unusual bustle which had interrupted his nocturnal slumbers. To his great surprise he found the soldiers all in motion, as if preparing for some enterprise, which induced him to inquire at Captain Campbell the object of these extraordinary preparations at such an early hour. The anxiety with which young Macdonald pressed his question, indication a secret distrust on his part, Campbell endeavoured by professions of friendship to lull his suspicions, and pretended that his sole design was to march against some of Glengarry's men. As John Macdonald, the younger son of Glencoe, was married to Glenlyon's niece, that crafty knave referred to his connexion with the family of Glencoe, and put it to the young man, whether, if he intended anything hostile to the clan, he would not have provided for the safety of his niece and her husband. Macdonald, apparently satisfied with this explanation, returned home and retired again to rest, but he had not been long in bed when his servant, who, apprehensive of the real intentions of Glenlyon and his party, had prevented Macdonald from sleeping, informed him of the approach of a party of men towards the house. Jumping immediately out of bed he ran to the door, and perceiving a body of about 20 soldiers with muskets and fixed bayonets coming in the direction of his house, he fled to a hill in the neighbourhood, where he was joined by his brother Alexander, who had escaped from the scene of carnage, after being wakened from sleep by his servant.

The massacre commenced about five o'clock in the morning at three different places at once. Glenlyon, with a barbarity which fortunately for society has few parallels, undertook to butcher his own hospitable landlord and the other inhabitants of Inverriggen, where he and a party of his men were quartered, and despatched Lieutenant Lindsay with another party of soldiers to Glencoe's house to cut off the unsuspecting chief. Under the pretence of a friendly visit, he and his party obtained admission into the house. Glencoe was in bed, and while in the act of rising to receive his cruel visitors, was basely shot at by two of the soldiers, and fell lifeless into the arms of his wife. The lady in the extremity of her anguish leaped out of bed and put on her clothes, but the ruffians stripped her naked, pulled the rings off her fingers with their teeth, and treated her so cruelly that she died the following day. The party also killed two men whom they found in the house, and wounded a third named Duncan Don, who came occasionally to Glencoe with letters from Braemar.

While the butchery was going on in Glencoe's house, Glenlyon was busily doing his bloody work at Inverriggen, where his own host was shot by his order. Here the party seized nine men, whom they first bound hand and foot, after which they shot them one by one. Glenlyon was desirous of saving the life of a young man about twenty years of age, but one Captain Drummond shot him dead. The same officer, impelled by a thirst for blood, ran his dagger through the body of a boy who has grasped Campbell by the legs and was supplicating for mercy.

A third party under the command of one Sergeant Barker, which was quartered in the village of Auchnaion, fired upon a body of nine men whom they observed in a house in the village sitting before a fire. Among these was the laird of Auchintriaten, who was killed on the spot, along with four more of the party. This gentleman had at the time a protection in his pocket from Colonel Hill, which he had received three months before. The remainder of the party in the house, two or three of whom were wounded, escaped by the back of the house, with the exception of a brother of Auchintriaten, who having been seized by Barker, requested him as a favour not to despatch him in the house but to kill him without. The sergeant consented, on account of having shared his generous hospitality; but when brought out he threw his plaid, which he had kept loose, over the faces of the soldiers who were appointed to shoot him, and thus escaped.

Besides the slaughter at these three places, there were some persons dragged from their beds and murdered in other parts of the Glen, among whom was on old man of eighty years of age; in all, 38 persons were slaughtered. The whole male population under 70 years of age, amounting to 200, would in all likelihood have been cut off, if, fortunately for them, a party of 400 men under Lieutenant-colonel Hamilton, who was principally charged with the execution of the sanguinary warrant, had not been prevented by the severity of the weather from reaching the Glen till eleven o'clock, six hours after the slaughter, by which time the whole surviving male inhabitants, warned of their danger and of the fate of their chief and other sufferers, had fled to the hills. Ignorant of this latter circumstance, Hamilton, on arriving at the pass, appointed several parties to proceed to different parts of the Glen, with orders to take no prisoners, but to kill all the men that came in their way. They had not, however, proceeded far when they fell in with Major Duncanson's party, by whom they were informed of the events of the morning, and who told them that as the survivors had escaped to the hills, they had nothing to do but burn the houses, and carry off the cattle. They accordingly set fire to the houses, and having collected the cattle and effects in the Glen, carried them to Inverlochy, where they were divided among the officers of the garrison. That Hamilton would have executed his commission to the very letter, is evident from the fact, that an old man, above seventy, the only remaining male inhabitant of the desolate vale they fell in with, was put to death by his orders.

After the destruction of the houses, a heart-rending scene ensued. Ejected from their dwellings by the devouring element, aged matrons, women with child, and mothers, with infants at their breasts and followed by children on foot, clinging to them with all the solicitude and anxiety of helplessness, were to be seen wending their way, almost in a state of nudity, towards the mountains in a quest of some friendly hovel, beneath whose roof they might seek shelter from the pitiless tempest and deplore their unhappy fate. But as there were no houses within the distance of several miles, and as these could only be reached by crossing mountains deeply covered with snow, a great number of these unhappy human beings, overcome by fatigue , cold, and hunger, dropt down and perished miserably among the snow.

While this brutal massacre struck terror into the hearts of the Jacobite chiefs, and thus so far served the immediate object of the government, it was highly prejudicial to King William. In every quarter, even at court, the account of the massacre was received at first with incredulity, and then with horror and indignation; and the Jacobite party did not fail to turn the affair to good account against the government, by exaggerating, both at home and abroad, the barbarous details. The odium of the nation rose to such a pitch, that had the exiled monarch appeared at the head of a few thousand men, he would, probably, have succeeded in regaining his crown. The ministry, and even King William, grew alarmed, and to pacify the people he dismissed the Master of Stair from his councils, and appointed a commission of inquiry to investigate the affair.

As for the Master of Stair, at whose door the chief blame of the infamous transaction was laid by the commission of inquiry, and who is popularly considered to have been a heartless and bloodthirsty wretch, he could not understand the indignant astonishment expressed on all hands at what he considered a most patriotic, beneficial, and in every respect highly commendable proceeding. He considered that he had done his ungrateful country excellent service in doing a little to root out a band of pestilential banditti, whom he regarded in as bad a light as the Italian government of the present day does the unscrupulous robbers who infest the country, or as the American government did the bloodthirsty Indians who harassed the frontiers. Letters of "fire and sword" against the Highlanders were as common, in the days of the Stewarts, as warrants for the apprehension of house-breakers or forgers are at the present day. They were looked upon as semi-civilised aborigines, characterised by such names as "rebellious and barbarous thieves, limmers, sorners "etc.; and the killing of a Highlandman was thought no more of than the killing of a "nigger" was in the slave-states of America. In various acts of the privy council of Scotland, the clan Gregor is denounced in the above terms, and was visited with all the terrors of "fire and sword". "their habitations were destroyed. They were hunted down like wild beasts. Their very name was proscribed." We have already referred to, in its proper place, a mandate from King James V in 1583, against the clan Chattan, in which he charges his lieges to invade the clan "to their utter destruction by slaughter, burning, drowning, and otherways; and leave no creature living of that clan, except priests, women and bairns." Even Captain Burt, in the beginning of the next century writes of the Highlanders as if they were an interesting race of semi-barbarians, many of whom would cut a man's throat for the mere sake of keeping their hands in practice. In a letter of the 5th. March, 1692, after referring to the universal talk in London about the transaction, dalrymple says, "All I regret is, that any of the sort got away; and there is a necessity to prosecute them to the utmost." Again, writing to Colonel Hill in April of the same year, he tells him that "as for the people of Glencoe, when you do your duty in a thing so necessary to rid the country of thieving, you need not trouble yourself to take the pains to vindicate yourself. When you do right, you need fear nobody. All that can be said is, that, in the execution, it was neither so full nor so fair as might have been." Indeed we think that any one who examines into the matter with unbiassed and cool mind, which is difficult, cannot fail to conclude that neither private spite nor heartless bloodthirstiness actuated him in bringing about the transaction; but that he sincerely thought he was doing his country a service in taking the only effectual means of putting down a public pest and a hindrance to progress.

Had the clan been proceeded against in open and legitimate warfare, resulting in its utter extinction, the affair might have occupied no more than a short paragraph in this and other histories. There can be no doubt that what gives the deed its nefarious stamp, is the fiendishly deliberate and deceitful way in which it was accomplished, in violation of laws of hospitality which are respected even by cut-throat Arabs. And after all it was a blunder.

As to whether King William knew the full significance of the order which he signed, and what was the extent of his knowledge of the circumstances, are points which can never be ascertained. It is mere meaningless declamation to talk of it as a foul and indelible blot on his character and reign. "The best that can be done for the cause of truth, is to give the facts abundantly and accurately. The character of the revolution king is one of the questions which political passion and partizanship and not yet let go, so that reason may take it up. And with those who believe that, by his very act of heading the revolution which drove forth the Stewarts, he was the man to order and urge on the murder of an interesting and loyal clan, it would be quite useless to discuss the question on the ground of rational probabilities."

Though the nation had long desired an inquiry into this barbarous affair, it was not until the 29th. April, 1695, upwards of three years after the massacre, that a commission was granted. A commission had indeed been issued in 1693 appointing the Duke of Hamilton and others to examine into the affair, but this was never acted upon. The Marquis of Tweeddale, lord high chancellor of Scotland, and the other commissioners now appointed, accordingly entered upon the inquiry, and, after examining witnesses and documents, drew up a report and transmitted it to his majesty. The commissioners appear to have executed their task, on the whole, with great fairness, although they put the very best construction on William's orders, and threw the whole blame of the massacre upon Secretary Dalrymple.

The report of the commissioners was laid before the parliament of Scotland on the 24th. June which decided that the execution of the Glencoe-men was a murder, resolved nemine contradicente, that the instructions contained in the warrant of the 15th. January, 1692, did not authorise the massacre. After various sittings on the subject, "the committee for the security of the kingdom" was appointed to draw up an address to the king on the subject of the massacre, which being submitted to parliament on the 10th. of July, was voted and approved of.

No active measures in the way of punishing either principals or subordinates, however, were taken in consequence of the findings of the commission and the recommendations of parliament, except that Breadalbane, who they found had laid himself open to a charge of high treason, was imprisoned for a few days in Edinburgh castle. A curious and interesting incident came out during the sitting of the commission, tending to show that Breadalbane was conscious of a very large share of guilt, and was fully aware of the heinous and nefarious character of the bloody transaction. Some days after the slaughter, a person sent by Breadalbane's steward waited upon Glencoe's sons, and told them that if they would declare that his lordship had no concern in the slaughter, they might be assured that the earl would procure their "remission and restitution."

As the surviving Macdonalds, who on their humble petition and promise of good behaviour were allowed to return to the glen, had been reduced to great poverty and distress by the destruction of their property, and as they had conducted themselves with great moderation under their misfortunes, the estates solicited his majesty to order reparation to be made to them for the losses they had sustained in their properties. Whether the "royal charity and compassion" invoked by the estates in behalf of these unfortunate people were ever exercised does not appear; but it is highly probable, that this part of the address was as little heeded as the rest. In fact, the whole matter was hushed up, and it now lives in the page of history as a sad and somewhat inexplicable blunder, which has rendered the memories of those who contrived it and those who executed it, for ever infamous.

These measures of the government, conciliatory and threatening, seem to have had the effect for the time of suppressing open hostility at least among the Highlanders; but from the nature of that people, and the method in which government treated them, we can readily believe that their obedience was none of the heartiest, and that they would be glad any moment to join in an attempt to oust King William and restore King James. During the whole of William’s reign his peace of mind was being continually disturbed by rumours and discoveries of plots, and by threats of a hostile descent on this country from France. In all these the Highland chiefs had their fair share, and were ready to receive with open arms any hostile expedition which might be fortunate enough to effect a landing on their coasts.

The stirring events of the last fifty years, in which the Highlanders played a conspicuous part, appear to have been the means of drawing their attention somewhat away from their hereditary clan-quarrels, and thus rendering their destructive internal strifes less frequent. But now that there was no external outlet for their belligerent propensities, they appear again to have resumed their old clan feuds. "To be at peace, unless they were disarmed and overawed, was not in their nature; and neither the law nor the military power of the nation was then on a scale sufficient to have accomplished these ends. We even find those chiefs who had ingratiated themselves with the government, obtaining, though not so readily as formerly, the writs known by the savage name of ‘letters of fire and sword’ against their enemies. These were licenses for civil war, giving the sanction of government aid and encouragement to one side in the conflict. They authorised the favoured clan to burn, waste, and slay, far and wide within the territory of their enemies, setting forth—such were the words of style used by the clerks of the privy council who prepared these terrible documents—’ that whatever slaughter, mutilation, blood, fire-raising, or other violence’ may be done by the persons holding the letters, shall be held ‘laudable, good, and warrantable service to his majesty and his government.’ There is little doubt that the readiness with which these warrants were issued in earlier times, arose from the view that it was a good thing to encourage the Highlanders in slaying each other, and doubtless, even for a few years after such an event as Glencoe, such a feeling would linger in the usual official quarters. Though it was professed that no one could obtain letters of fire and sword but a litigant who could not enforce his just claims, it would be generally a vain task to examine the relative merits of the two sides, expecting to find one of them. in the right. Any mitigation which the horrors of such a system may have received in later times, would be from the garrison of Fort-William being associated in arms with the holders of the letters."

The materials for the internal history of the Highlands at this period are scanty; doubtless there were many petty strifes carried on between hostile clans, and many cattle-lifting raids made by the Highland borderers upon their lowland neighbours, but no records of these appear to have been kept.

Shortly after the Glencoe massacre, a scheme appears to have been proposed to the king by Breadalbane for utilizing the Highlanders "in case of any insurrection at home, or invasion from abroad." The gist of it was that the Highland chiefs should be ordered to raise a body of 4,000 men, who would be so disciplined that they would be ready to be called out when required, and who were to be commanded by "some principal man in the Highlands," who would have the pay of a general officer. This "principal man," Breadalbane doubtless meant to be himself, as he suggests that the second in command should be Lochiel, who he said was ambitious to serve his majesty, and was a Protestant. Forty subordinate officers were to be appointed, Breadalbane wisely suggesting that these should be of Highland extraction, and that the soldiers themselves should be allowed to use their own apparel, their own arms, and to be disciplined after their own fashion. As will be afterwards seen, government appears to have acted on this or some similar proposal, and organized a few independent Highland companies. We give below the number of men which, according to Breadalbane’s estimate, each of the chiefs to which the proposal referred could raise. It is probably considerably below the number of men capable of bearing arms, who were at the command of the various chiefs named.

List of chieftains to which the proposals relate:

The Earl of Seaforth, 200
The Viscount of Tarbat, 50
The Lord Lovat, 150
The Earl of Sutherland, 100
The Lord Reay, 50
The Laird of Ballingoun, 100
The Laird of Fouls, 50
The Laird of Straglasse, 20
The Laird of Glenmoriston, 30
The Laird of M’Intosh, 100
M’Pherson of Clunie,
The Laird of Kilravock, 150
The Laird of Grant, 200
The Laird of Balindaloch, 20
The Duke of Gordon, 300
The Earl of Mar, 200
The Marquis of Atholl, 800
The Laird of Ashintullie, 30
The Laird of Weem, 50
The Laird of Garntully, 50
The Laird of Strowan, 20
The Earl of Perth, 150
The Earl of Murray, 100
The Earl of Monteath, 100
The Marquis of Montrose, 150
The Laird of Less, 50
The Laird of Macfarlane, 30
The Earl of Argyle, 500
The Earl of Breadalbane, 250
The Laird of Calder, 100
The Laird of M‘Lean, 100
The Laird of Lochiel, 150
The Captain of Clanronald, 100
Sir Donald M’Donald, of Sleat, 100
The Laird of M’Leod, 100
The Laird of Glengary, 100
The Laird of M’Finzone, 30
M’Donald of Keppoch, 50
The Laird of Appin, 50
The Tutor of Appin, 30
The Laird of Lochbuy, 30

It is about this time that the famous Robert Macgregor, better known as Rob Roy, first emerges into notice. The details of his life will be found in the account of the Clan Macgregor, in Part Second of this work.

During this reign, and shortly after the hushing-up of the Glencoe affair, there came into prominence another character, destined to play a far more important part in the history of the Highlands and of the country generally, than Rob Roy, whom he resembled in the unscrupulous means he took to attain his ends, but whose rude but genuine sense of honour and sincerity he appears to have been entirely devoid of. This was the notorious Simon Fraser, so well known afterwards as Lord Lovat. He was born, according to some authorities, in the year 1670, but according to himself in 1676, and was the second son of Thomas Fraser, styled of Beaufort, near Inverness, fourth son of Hugh, ninth Lord Lovat. Simon’s mother was dame Sybilla Macleod, daughter of the chief of the Macleods. He was educated at King’s College, Aberdeen, where he is said highly to have distinguished himself, and to have taken the degree of Master of Arts. "One can easily believe that Simon, with his brain ever at work, and his ambition ever on the stretch, would let no one outstrip him. . . . His subsequent full and free use of the French indicates an aptitude for languages seldom equalled, and his tone of writing and speaking was that of a scholar, always when he thought fit that it should be so." In 1695, he was induced to leave the university, just as he was about to enter upon the study of law, and accept a company in a regiment raised for the service of King William, by Lord Murray, son of the Marquis of Athole, whose daughter was married to the then Lord Lovat, Simon’s cousin. Simon, who pretended the most inviolable loyalty to the exiled King James, gives as his excuse for accepting this commission, that it was only that "he might have a regiment well trained and accoutred to join King James in a descent he had promised to make in the ensuing summer." While in Lord Murray’s regiment, he, in 1696, entered into a plan for surprising Edinburgh castle, and holding it in the interest of James, but this was stifled by the decisive victory at La Hogue.

In 1696, Simon accompanied his cousin Lord Lovat, who appears to have been of a "contracted understanding," and Lord Murray, to London, and while there, endeavoured to worm himself into the colonelcy of his regiment, but was checkmated by Murray, whom with the house of Athole, he thenceforth regarded as his enemy.

Lord Lovat died in September 1696, immediately after his return from London, on which Thomas of Beaufort assumed the family title, and Simon that of Master of Lovat. To render his claims indisputable, Simon paid his addresses to the daughter of the late lord, who had assumed the title of baroness of Lovat, and having prevailed on her to consent to elope with him, would have carried his design of marrying her into execution, had not their mutual confidant, Fraser of Tenechiel, after conducting the young lady forth one night in such precipitate haste that she is said to have walked barefooted, failed in his trust, and restored her to her mother. The heiress was then removed out of the reach of Simon’s artifices by her uncle, the Marquis of Athole, to his stronghold at Dunkeld. Here it was determined that to put an end to dispute, she should be married to the son of Lord Saltoun, the head of a branch of the Fraser family in Aberdeenshire. As Simon saw in this match the ruin of all his hopes, he determined at all hazards to prevent it. As Saltoun and Lord Mungo Murray were returning, October, 1697, from Castle Dounie, the residence of the late lord’s widow, they were met at the wood of Bunchrew, near Inverness, by Simon and his followers, and immediately disarmed and carried to Fanellan, a house of Lord Lovat’s, before the windows of which a threatening gallows was erected. They were detained here about a week, when, on a report that Lord Murray and the red coats were coming against him, Captain Fraser sent the fiery cross and coronach through the country of his clan, and immediately had at his command a body of 500 armed men. With this small army, Fraser, accompanied by his prisoners, proceeded to Castle Dounie, of which they took possession, sentinels being placed in all the rooms, particularly Lady Lovat’s. The prisoners, after being detained for some time in the Island of Angus in the Beauly river, were dismissed.

Burton very justly remarks, that the whole of these wild acts were evidently the result of a series of impulses. What followed appears to have been equally unpremeditated .and the result of pure impulse. Simon determined to atone to himself for the loss of the daughter by forcibly wedding the mother, whom he himself describes as a widow "old enough to be his mother, dwarfish in her person, and deformed in her shape." For this purpose her three waiting maids were carried by force out of the room, and about two in the morning one of them was brought back and found her lady "sitting on the floor, her hair dishevelled, her head reclining backwards on the bed, Donald Beaton pulling off the lady’s shoes, and the Captain holding burning feathers and aqua-vitae to her nose, her ladyship being in a swoon." A mock marriage was performed between Simon and Lady Lovat, by a wretched minister of the name of Munro, and the lady’s clothes having been violently pulled off her, her stays being cut off with a dirk, she was tossed into the bed, to have the marriage consummated with violence. Notwithstanding that the bagpipes were kept playing in the next room, the poor lady’s cries were heard outside the house. In the morning the lady was found to be so stupified with the brutal treatment she had received that she could not recognise her dearest friends.

These violent proceedings caused much consternation in the country, and the Athole family immediately set about to obtain redress, or rather revenge. Letters of fire and sword and of intercommuning were passed against the whole of the Frasers, and the Marquis of Tulliebardine organised a force to carry these threats into execution. "On the whole, the force brought against him cannot have been very large; but in Simon’s own history of his conflicts and escapes, the whole affair assumes the aspect of a very considerable campaign, in which his enemies, spoken of as ‘the several regiments of cavalry, infantry, and dragoons,’ are always defeated and baffled in an unaccountable manner by some handful of Frasers." There does not appear to have been any downright skirmish, the only approach to such a thing being a meeting that took place at Stratherrick between the Frasers and the .Atholemen under the two Lords Murray, in which the latter threw themselves on the mercy of Simon, who made them, after the manner of the ancient Romans, pass through the yoke, and at the same time swear by a fearful oath never again to enter the Lovat territories.

In June, 1698, proceedings were commenced in the court of justiciary against Fraser and his accomplices, and in September they were condemned, in their absence, to be executed as traitors.

In 1699, died old Fraser of Beaufort, at the house of his brother-in-law Macleod of Dunvegan Castle in Skye, and his son thenceforth assumed the title of Lord Lovat. He appears for some time to have led a wandering life, subsisting on pillage and the occasional contributions of the attached mountaineers.’ Tired of this kind of life, he, at the recommendation of Argyle, who had endeavoured to secure favour for him at head-quarters, sued for a pardon, which King William granted for all his proceedings except the rape. He was willing to stand trial on this last head, and for this purpose appeared in Edinburgh with a small army of 100 followers as witnesses; but as the majority of the judges were prejudiced against him, he found it prudent again to take refuge in his mountains. He was outlawed, and finding his enemies too powerful for him, he fled to France in 1702, and offered his services to King James.

These details show, that amid the growing civilization and rapid progress of the country generally, the Highlanders were yet as barbarous and lawless as ever; the clans still cherishing the same devotion to their chiefs, and the same readiness, in defiance of law, to enter into an exterminating mutual strife. The government appears to have given up in despair all hopes of making the Highlanders amenable to the ordinary law of the country, or of rooting out from among them those ancient customs so inconsistent with the spirit of the British constitution. All it apparently aimed at was to confine the lawless and belligerent propensities of these troublesome Celts to their own country, and prevent them from taking a form that would be injurious to the civilized Lowlanders and the interests of the existing government generally. "From old experience in dealing with the Highlanders, government had learned a policy which suited temporary purposes at all events, however little it tended to the general pacification and civilisation of the people. This was, not to trust entirely to a Lowland government force, but to arm one clan against another. It seemed a crafty device for the extermination of these troublesome tribes, and a real practical adaptation of Swift’s paradoxical project for abolishing pauperism, by making the poor feed upon each other. But practised as it had been for centuries, down from the celebrated battle of the antagonist clans on the Inch of Perth, yet it never seemed to weaken the strength or abate the ferocity of these warlike vagrants, but rather seemed to nourish their thirst of blood, to make arms and warfare more familiar and indispensable, and to add every year to the terrors of this formidable people, who, in the very bosom of fast civilizing Europe, were as little under the control of enlightened social institutions, and as completely savage in their habits, as the Bosgesman of the East, or the Black-foot Indian of the West."


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