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The History of Glasgow
Volume 2 - Chapter XV - Archbishop John Spottiswood


WHILE the prelates appointed in Scotland in the early days of James VI. can be regarded as little more than nominal occupants of their office, installed to legalize the transfer of church property to another set of owners, and while most of them justified their popular nickname of "tulchans" [A tulchan was the stuffed image of a calf set up in a byre to induce the cows to allow themselves to be more easily milked.] by easy compliance with the mercenary designs of those who placed them in the episcopal chair, an entire change took place when the king crossed the Border to ascend the English throne. Strengthened by the public opinion and the might of his southern kingdom, and freed from the domination of the ministers of the kirk, James became as anxious to gather together and restore the revenues and powers of the Scottish hierarchy as he had previously appeared willing to disperse them. Perhaps the best example of the change of policy is to be seen in the case of the archbishopric of Glasgow.

The circumstances of the appointment of Archbishop John Spottiswood have already been narrated. [Chapter ix. supra.] The appointment of the five successive "tulchan" archbishops had all been more or less questionable from the Catholic and ecclesiastical point of view, for Archbishop Beaton, the pre-Reformation holder of the see, was still alive in France, and had never resigned his office. But when, at "Burleigh House by Stamford town," on his migration south, the king received news of the death of Beaton, the way was opened for an appointment which no one could question. John Spottiswood, minister of Calder, in Midlothian, whom he forthwith designated to the vacant archbishopric, was a man in every way suited to fill the dignified post in that most difficult time, and he was destined in his own person to see from beginning to end the drama of the efforts of James VI. and Charles I. to establish episcopacy as the order of the national church of Scotland. He came from the inner circle of the Presbyterian Kirk. His father, John Spottiswood, was superintendent of Lothian, one of the six "Johns" of the Scottish Reformation, and a Reformer who was on friendly terms with Queen Mary. The son himself had been a student under Andrew Melville at Glasgow, where he took his degree in 1581 at the age of sixteen. Licensed to preach before he was twenty, he was ordained almost immediately to a parish in the Merse, and in 1586 was a member of the General Assembly. In 1590 he became minister of his father's parish of Calder, and eight years later married a daughter of David Lindsay, minister, of Leith, afterwards Bishop of Ross. His attitude on church policy having commended him to the court he was in 1602 sent as chaplain of the embassy of the Duke of Lennox to France, and in the following year was one of the Scottish clergy chosen to accompany King James on his migration to England.

On receiving news of the death of Archbishop Beaton the king not only designated Spottiswood to be Archbishop of Glasgow, but made him a privy councillor and sent him back to escort the queen to England. [Priv. Coun. Reg. vii. pp. 44 et seq.] The queen made him her almoner, and in that office he accompanied her and her children to the south.

Though he bore the high-sounding title of an archbishop, Spottiswood found himself in very straitened circumstances, and certainly unable to support a position at the English court, very little being left available for return to him of the once ample revenues of the Glasgow archbishopric. [Burton, v. 446-9, vi. 9-13, 94-99.] To help in the difficulty, the king gave him a pension of £80 in English money, [Crawford, 16o-195.] and ordered that such temporalities as were still available should be restored to him. Accordingly an Act of the Scottish Parliament was passed in 1606 rescinding the Act of Annexation of 1587, and restoring to the bishops the honours and privileges, lands and other properties, belonging to their bishoprics, under the burden of maintaining the ministers serving the cure of the kirks. All persons who had acquired lands or teinds of bishoprics since the Act of Annexation were ordained to have their deeds renewed and ratified by the bishops, and to pay them the grassums, entries, and renewals of their feus. It was specially provided, however, that, as the feuars of the barony of Glasgow were numerous, and mostly too poor to pay the cost of renewing their infeftments, they were relieved from the obligation of doing this, and were to receive from the archbishop a ratification which was to be held as valid and effectual. Conform to this Act we find Spottiswood in the following year granting to Sir George Elphinstone of Blythswood a charter of the six-pound land of old extent of Gorbals and Bridgend, with half the five merk lands of Woodside, the New Park of Partick, and the lands of Nether Newton, Meikle Cowcaldanis, and part of the moss of Meikle Govan, which lands Sir George and his predecessors had possessed beyond the memory of man, and held by ancient as well as by new infeftments granted by the king after the Act of Annexation, and which the king had erected into the free barony of Blythswood—all for an annual sum of £8 5s. 4d. in money and some payments in kind. At the same time the archbishop constituted Sir George and his heirs hereditary bailies and justiciars of these lands. [Great Seal. Reg. 1609-20, p. 201, No. 540.] As the Act, however, specially excepted the gifts and pensions granted to the Duke of Lennox, and Sir George, Sir James, and Sir Archibald Erskine, it is to be feared that only a moiety of the ancient possessions of the archbishops of Glasgow returned to the hands of Archbishop Spottiswood. [Act. Part. V. 281-4.] That the king did not entirely divest himself of the annexed possessions of the archbishopric is shown by the fact that in 1609 he granted to James Hamilton, merchant burgess, a feu of a dwelling and pertinents to the south-east of the old manse of the Vicars Choral on the north side of the cathedral for a yearly duty of 10s. 8d. [Great Seal Register, 1609-20, p. 51, No. 138.] Matters were perhaps made a little better by the charter granted in 16o8, by which the parsonage and vicarage of Glasgow, resigned by David Wemyss, were suppressed and united indissolubly to the archbishopric. [Great Seal Register (1593-1608), p. 761, No. 2084.] Spottiswood granted a tack of the teind sheaves and other teinds of the parsonage and of the teind herring and other teind fish of the vicarage to James, Master of Blantyre, and his heir, for life and for thirty-eight years afterwards, for an annual rent of three hundred merks and the cost of repairing the kirks and other burdens. [Charters and Documents, i. Abstract, p, 62.]

Another Act of Parliament on 24th June, 1609, restored the archbishops and bishops of the realm to their former authority and dignity, privileges and jurisdictions, and especially to the jurisdiction of commissariats and the administration of justice in all spiritual and ecclesiastical causes in their bounds. [Act. Part. iv. 430.] The powers thus conferred were to involve Spottiswood in the one act which has left a stain on his memory.

Meanwhile the archbishop exerted himself to further more than one of the projects of the king. In July, 1604, he was one of the Scottish commissioners appointed to report on the suggested union of the parliaments of Scotland and England, and on 6th December he signed the articles. Had the union taken place then it might have expedited by a hundred years the developments of modern times; but the age was not ripe, and the project was allowed to lapse by reason of lack of interest on both sides.

In 1604 also he was appointed a Lord of the Articles—the permanent committee appointed by the Scottish Parliament to carry on its business while the ordinary members occupied themselves more to their pleasure and profit with their own affairs at home. He was re-elected to this office by successive parliaments, and it enabled him to bring greater influence to bear in supporting the king's measures for establishing episcopal government in the Church of Scotland. In 1605 and 1606 he was in close correspondence with James on the subject, and it was partly as a result of his activities that the six ministers who most vigorously opposed the king's policy were sent into exile. A serious blow was struck at presbyterian church government when in 1606 the General Assembly was induced to appoint him perpetual moderator of the presbytery, and that action was backed up by an order of the Privy Council to the presbytery in 1607 to obey the ordinance within twenty-four hours, under pain of being treated as rebels. The effect of these proceedings was of course to place the presbytery largely under the control of the archbishop, a substantial step towards the complete establishment of episcopacy. By these acts Spottiswood aroused extreme resentment and indignation in the presbyterian party.

These feelings were certainly not allayed when a General Assembly, held in Spottiswood's own city of Glasgow in June, 16io, and it may be presumed under the direct influence of the archbishop, passed Acts declaring (1) that the calling of General Assemblies belonged to the king, by virtue of his royal prerogative; (2) that synods should be held in every diocese twice a year, and that the archbishop or bishop of the diocese should preside; (3) that no sentence of excommunication or absolution 'should be passed without the knowledge of the bishop; (4) that presentations should be directed to the archbishop or bishop, and that, if he found the presentee qualified, he should take the assistance of the ministers of the district, and perfect the act of ordination; (5) that the bishop should suspend or deprive ministers with the advice and cooperation of the other ministers of the bounds; (6) that on admission to a kirk the minister should take the oath of obedience to the king and the ordinary; (7) that bishops should visit their dioceses themselves, or by a substitute when the bounds were too extended; (8) that weekly exercises of doctrine should be held by ministers at their accustomed meetings, the bishop or deputy being moderator; (9) that no minister should, in the pulpit or in private exercise, argue against or disobey the acts of this assembly, under pain of deprivation, or discuss in the pulpit the party or unparty of ministers. [Calderwood, vii. 99-103. Spottiswood, iii. 206-7. Ratified by Act, 1612, c. i. Act. Part. iv. 469.]

The last of these provisions was a real drawing of the teeth of the ministers, whose dearest privilege for forty years had been that of inveighing from the pulpit against anything or anyone they chose and in any language they chose. The other ordinances amounted to nothing more or less than a virtual full establishing of episcopacy and a placing of the entire control of the church in the hands of the bishops. Nor was there much comfort in two further provisions: (1) that in all things bishops should be subject to the General Assembly, and, when found culpable, might, with the king's consent, be deprived; (2) that no one should be eligible as a bishop who was under forty years of age, and had not taught as a minister for ten years. As the General Assembly could only be called and dismissed by the king, its veto upon bishops was of little value, and Spottiswood himself had been no more than thirty-eight when appointed archbishop.

To sustain a position of increasing importance the archbishop in the following year, 1611, partially repaired the Bishop's Castle of Glasgow, and resided within its walls. He also began the roofing of the cathedral with lead. In the impoverished state of the archbishopric it may appear strange that he was able to do so much. But apparently he exploited all available resources. Of these an instance may be cited.

In 1613, for a payment of 2,000 merks (£66 13s. 4d. sterling) he granted the burgh a lease for nineteen years of all the bishop's customs of the tron and harbour, [Council Records, i. 337.] and in the following year he conveyed these customs to the town absolutely for an annual feu-duty of £50 Scots with £16 13s. 4d. of augmentation, altogether 100 merks or £5 11s. 1d. sterling. [Inventory of Writs and Evidents (1696), p. 34. B.C. c. 8, No. 5.] As these customs had already been conveyed to the college by Archbishop Boyd, trouble shortly arose. To protect itself the town obtained from the college a charter of the customs at the same rate of feu-duty as it was paying to the archbishop, then for its relief it obtained from the archbishop a bond by which he undertook either to obtain a renunciation from the college or to refund the money which had been paid to himself. [Charters and Documents, vol. i. pt. ii. pp. 295, 296, No. xcvi.] Apparently in the end the case went against the archbishop, for in 1617 the king confirmed the charter of the college to the town. [Inventory of Writs (as above), No. 9.]

While he made attempts of this kind to secure again the ancient revenues of the archbishopric, Spottiswood appears to have succeeded in recovering the right to appoint the provost and bailies of Glasgow. - This right had been exercised down to 1595 by Walter Stewart, commendator of Blantyre, as Lord of Glasgow, [Burgh Records, i. 170.] and had passed to the Duke of Lennox along with the superiority of the burgh and lands of the archbishopric. Thus, on 6th October, 1601, we find Aulay MacAulay of Ardincaple presenting a missive "fra my Lord Duikis grace, lord of Glasgw, superiour, and having power of the nominatioune of the provost and bailleis of Glasgw," desiring the bailies and council to admit Sir George Elphinstone of Blythswood to the provostship, which order the bailies and council duly carried out. [Burgh Records, i. 225.] But on 19th September, 1607, the archbishop in person presented a letter from the king, restoring to the archbishop the privilege of electing the magistrates, and, this being agreed to, the archbishop appeared with the Duke of Lennox in the council on 6th October, and nominated John Houston of Houston to be provost, with three others to be bailies. Houston, in taking office, gave his oath of fidelity to the king and the archbishop. [Burgh Records, i. 268, 269, 270.] The town council then elected consisted of twelve merchants and eleven craftsmen, with George Hutcheson as common procurator, Thomas Pettigrew as master of works, and Alexander Pollok as treasurer, and four days afterwards-there were added Ninian Anderson as deacon-convener, James Lightbody as convener, and William Symmer as Dean of Guild. [Burgh Records, i. 272.]

But while he thus reserved to himself the ancient right of the Archbishops to appoint the magistrates of the city, Spottiswood used his influence with the king to secure for Glasgow a very notable rise in rank and importance. It was at his "express and earnest request" that James, on 8th April, 1611, granted a charter conveying to the provost, bailies, council, and community the burgh and city of Glasgow, with all its privileges and possessions, and at the same time erecting it into a free royal burgh, all for an annual payment to the Archbishop and his successors of sixteen merks Scots (11s. 1½d. stg.). [Great Seal Register, vi. P. 170, No. 462. Charters and Documents, pt. ii. pp. 278-283.] It was no doubt also on his initiative that, two years later, in recognition of the city's expense in maintaining the cathedral and the bridge, the king conveyed to the magistrates the "tennandry of Ratounraw," between forty and fifty acres in extent, which had formerly been the separate property and jurisdiction of the Sub-dean of the metropolitan church. This must be regarded as the first extension of the city. [Ibid., 1609-1620, p. 351, No. 965.]

Partly through the personal favour with which he was regarded by King James, and partly through his own moderation and courtesy, Spottiswood appears to have held his position with wide general acceptance. In those difficult times the fact spoke eloquently for his enlightenment and good sense. His difficulties were not lessened by a circumstance which has been mostly lost sight of by later historians.

Though the Reformation had done away with the hierarchy and services of the Roman Church in Scotland, it is not to be supposed that the beliefs and usages of that Church had been rooted entirely out of the minds of the people. The session and presbytery records of those times are full of sentences against persons who continued to celebrate Yule and follow other "superstitious practices" of the older time. People who called themselves Protestants were still naturally under the influence of the traditional feelings and opinions of their forefathers, and kept up customs which had become interwoven with their social and domestic life. On Midsummer Eve many still kept up the kindling of bonfires. At All-Hallows Eve or "Hallowe'en" they practised many ancient rites of augury—rites, though they did not know it, of a faith older even than the Roman Church itself. At Yule and New-Year's Day men and women dressed up and went guisering to the houses of their neighbours. On Sunday people were still found holding market, or fishing or taking in their crops. In 1597 a Glasgow elder was fined and ordered to make repentance on the pillar for drying bear and making a haystack on the Lord's Day. Glasgow citizens still believed that a crucifix painted on their houses brought good luck. [MS. Presbytery Records, 16th Aug. 1597, 28th Aug. 1599, 29th Oct. 1600, etc.] So-called Protestants were to be found going upon pilgrimage and washing themselves in holy wells. [Ecclesiastical Records of Aberdeen, 1606, p. 50, 1608, p. 61.] Fines and penances fared to eradicate altogether the rustic merriment, folksong, and other customs which had made Scotland a lightsome land in the days of the Roman priesthood. Reformers like the Wedderburns of Dundee did their best to alter the outlook of the people by converting the gay old songs into serious hymns—"I gude and godlie ballates"; while others sought to discredit the old regime by setting the ancient cathedral music to ribald songs like "We're a' noddin'" and "John Anderson my Jo." Persons who absented themselves from the services of the kirk were fined, and eavesdroppers were employed to go about the streets and report inadvertent remarks. [Ecclesiastical Records of Aberdeen, 1606, p. 50. Cunningham, i. pp. 480-81.] Under such compulsions to seriousness there were doubtless many who looked back with a sigh for the "brave old days," and among these the secret missionaries of the Roman Church found a fertile soil for their propaganda. There was reason to believe that many of these missionaries were at work in the country, and the fear of popery was still strong in the minds of the ministers of the kirk. In the parliament held at Edinburgh in August, 1607, an Act was passed against the sayers and hearers of mass. [Acts of Parliament, iv. p. 371.] There is reason to believe that the king himself was panicky on the subject, perhaps not without reason, as the Guy Fawkes plot of 1605 would seem to show. In 1614 the zeal against popery of the civil and ecclesiastical authorities in Scotland received a spur in the shape of a letter from James urging severe measures against all persons "infected with that leprosie."

Among the authorities moved to action by that letter the chief was Archbishop Spottiswood. Among persons believed to be travelling in the country in the interest of Rome was one John Ogilvy. A Scotsman by birth, as his name implied, he had been twenty-two years on the continent, and on coming to Glasgow he had been well received by a number of the citizens. The bruit, however, went about that he was a "Jesuit and messe priest," and as such he was arrested and examined about the beginning of October, 1614, at the instance of the archbishop. It was an unhappy business, which was to throw the single shadow of obloquy on Spottiswood's career. Ogilvy's arrest having been reported to the king and Privy Council, the archbishop and three others were appointed justices to try the case.

The trial began in Edinburgh on 8th December, but was afterwards transferred to Glasgow, where Ogilvy was imprisoned, first in the archbishop's palace and afterwards in the tolbooth at the cross. [Ogilvie's "Relatio," published three months after his death. Macgeorge, 3rd ed. appendix.] A formidable commission was appointed to try the case. It consisted of the provost and bailies, with the archbishop and six assessors, of whom one was Sir Walter Stewart, bailie-deputy of the regality. There was also a jury, of which Sir George Elphinstone was chancellor. As in other cases of religious persecution, Ogilvy was tried, not for what he had done or said, but for what he believed. To make him confess he was kept without sleep for several nights, and it was upon what he stated to be his views under that ordeal that he was tried. The king sent down two questions to be categorically answered—"Whether the Pope could excommunicate and depose the king?" and "Whether it be no murther to slay his majesty being so excommunicated and deposed by the Pope?" The archbishop tried to leave a loophole by the manner in which he put the questions, but Ogilvy answered honestly, saying he would give his life for the doctrine of his church, should it decide these questions in the affirmative.

On 28th February, 1615, the trial took place in the tolbooth, the crime averred being high treason for declining the king's authority, alleging the supremacy of the pope, and hearing and saying mass. The jury found the accused guilty, and on he same afternoon he was led over the street and hanged at the cross, termed the forum or market-place in the contemporary account. His body was afterwards buried in the ground set apart for malefactors on the north side of the cathedral. [Pitcairn, Criminal Trials, iii. 330-352. Privy Council Reg. x. 284-6, 304-7. Spottiswood, iii. 222-6. Calderwood, vii. 193, 196.]

While Ogilvy lay in prison some thirteen or fourteen of the inhabitants of Glasgow were also tried before a court consisting of the archbishop and three members of the Privy Council, under a commission from the king, and were convicted of the crime of hearing mass and entertaining a mass priest. "The bruit went that they were to be beheaded, drawn, and quartered; but they were in no danger." [Calderwood, vii. 193.]

Ogilvy is said to have been the only Roman Catholic priest put to death for his religion in Scotland after the Reformation, and considering the lateness of his time and the active interest taken in the case by the king and Privy Council, his trial and execution would appear to have had rather a political than a religious motive. The presbyterian Calderwood approved of the action, but the prime mover was certainly Archbishop Spottiswood, and it is to be regretted that his occupation of the see of Glasgow should have closed with such an act. Two months afterwards the primacy became vacant by the death of Archbishop Gledstanes, and Spottiswood was transferred to St. Andrews. [Great Seal Reg. 1609-1620, p. 453, No. 1237.]

After he had thus passed out of direct connection with the city of Glasgow, the archbishop played a part of increasing importance in the affairs of Scotland. In 1616 he purchased the estate of Dairsie, and in that and the two following years presided at the meetings of the General Assembly. In 1632 he subscribed a thousand merks to the library of Glasgow University, but deferred payment till changed circumstances put it out of his power. In 1633 he crowned Charles I. at Holyrood; in 1634 he took an active part in the prosecution of the second Lord Balmerino, sentenced to death for petitioning against episcopacy; in 1635 he was appointed Chancellor of Scotland, and secured the erection of the bishopric of Edinburgh; in 1637 he was present in St. Giles' when the new Dean of Edinburgh essayed to read the liturgy, and it was he who called upon the magistrates to suppress the ensuing riot. Finally he was present at the momentous General Assembly held at Glasgow in 1638, when episcopacy was abolished and he was deposed and excommunicated; and twelve days afterwards he died of sickness and grief. By the king's command he was buried in Westminster Abbey near the grave of James VI. His History of the Church and State of Scotland remains a work of much value for the light it throws on the movements of his own time. One of sons, Sir John Spottiswood of Dairsie, was a gentleman of the bedchamber to James VI.; the other, Sir Robert Spottiswood of Pentland, became lord president of the Court of Session, and, joining the wars of Montrose, was taken prisoner at the battle of Philiphaugh in 1645, and executed afterwards in cold blood by the Covenanters. [It was Archbishop Spottiswood who in 1611 built a castle on the bank of the Kelvin, at Partick, to serve as a country seat for the archbishops of Glasgow, as the former country seat at Lochwood to the east of the city had been demolished as already mentioned. In the following year his financial position was further improved by King James appointing him Commendator of the Abbey of Kilwinning, whereby he enjoyed the spiritualities of that foundation.—Chalmers, Caledonia, iii. 629.]


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