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The History of Glasgow
Volume 2 - Chapter XXI - The Civil War


IT seems not a little curious to reflect that while the notary public, George Hutcheson, and his brother Thomas, were quietly laying the foundations of their almshouse for the aged and their school for the youth of Glasgow, that city and the whole of Scotland should be preparing to play a vigorous and warlike part in the great rebellion against Charles I. In England that king had all but gained his purpose, the establishment of absolute monarchy. After several angry and heated collisions he had dissolved Parliament at Westminster in 1629, and for many years had continued to govern the country south of the Tweed by his own royal prerogative. The courts of Star Chamber and High Commission, acting on the authority of the king alone, and under the direction of his arbitrary minister, Strafford, had by unheard-of tyranny and cruelties reduced the nation to a state of fear and passive obedience. At the same time, by levying the so-called "ship money" throughout the kingdom, Charles made himself independent of a House of Commons' vote of supplies. In these circumstances it was an act of the sheerest folly on the part of the king to attempt such a provocative act as the forcing of Archbishop Laud's liturgy on the people of Scotland. The riot in St. Giles' Cathedral, the signing of the National Covenant, and the deposition of the bishops by the General Assembly at Glasgow in 1638 were the immediate results.

With something like a common impulse the country prepared to defend its liberties by force of arms. Even before the holding of the General Assembly which abolished episcopacy, Glasgow was purchasing pikes and muskets in Flanders, and training sixty young men in their use. [Burgh Records, i. 389, 390.] It became known that the king was taking steps to establish his authority by force of arms. He had ordered supplies of weapons from Holland for 2,000 horse and 14,000 foot, had secured Carlisle and Berwick as bases for operations, and was trying to raise 200,00o for the expenses of an invasion of the north.

As early as the month of March the king had collected an army of 20,000 men at York, and sent a fleet of nineteen ships of war, under the Duke of Hamilton, into the Firth of Forth. These preparations were avowedly for the purpose of forcing the king's will in the matter of church government on the people of Scotland.

Nor was episcopacy without friends in Scotland itself. In particular a majority of the people of Aberdeen refused to sign the National Covenant, and, headed by the Marquess of Huntly, were prepared to defend their opinions. In this crisis there came to the front, as usually happens in a great national emergency, a notable personage.

Mugdock Castle, a few miles to the north-west of Glasgow, had for a considerable period been the chief seat of the Grahams, Earls of Montrose. James Graham, head of the house at this time, had signed the National Covenant, and was one of the most active leaders of the Covenanting party. With a sum of twenty-five dollars he had headed a subscription to meet the expenses of resisting the royal aggression. He also headed a committee of Covenanting ministers sent to Aberdeen to induce the people there to adopt the Covenant. That mission resulted only in wordy warfare between the clerics of the two parties, and, as a more effective method of dealing with the "malignants" of the north before the menace of Charles himself in the south became formidable, an army of between three and four thousand men was raised and placed under the command of Montrose. [Hill Burton, vi, 233-236.]

Already the hint of possible hostilities was attracting back to Scotland numbers of the soldiers of fortune, younger sons of Scottish families, among whom it had been the fashion to seek a livelihood and perhaps distinction in the wars of Gustavus Adolphus. Most notable of these, General Alexander Leslie, made his way over from Sweden "in a small bark," thus avoiding interference from the English warships on the coast. [Spalding's Memorials, i. 130.] He was appointed Montrose's chief of staff, and soon had the army of the Covenant in good fighting order.

While this was being done, Montrose learned that a party of the Aberdeenshire Covenanters, who were to meet at Turriff, was to be broken up by a strong force of Gordons under the Marquess of Huntly, who had been named the King's lieutenant in the north. With the energy for which he afterwards became famous, Montrose, with a small force, not two hundred strong, made his way by drove roads and unfrequented paths through the mountains to the place, and had his men posted behind the churchyard wall as a breastwork before Huntly appeared. On finding matters in this position the Chief of the Gordons, though at the head of a force of two thousand men, found it judicious to retire. Montrose then with his whole army marched on Aberdeen, took possession of the city, and levied ten thousand merks from the inhabitants. [Spalding's Memorials, i. 154-172.] On that occasion this brilliant general made the mistake of his life. Seizing Huntly, to whom he had given a safe-conduct to come into Aberdeen, he carried him a prisoner to Edinburgh. This action was never forgiven by the great noble of the north, and at a later day, when his help might have made all the difference between success and failure to the enterprise of Montrose, he stood aloof, or gave him only half-hearted support.

Two months later, in June, 1639, the king having appointed Huntly's second son his lieutenant in the north, and the Royalists having drawn to a head at Aberdeen, Montrose was sent there again, defeated their forces between Muchalls and Dunnottar, forced the Bridge of Dee, and took possession of the city. In these transactions the Glasgow general gave ample evidence of the able strategy and amazing energy which were to distinguish his short but brilliant career on the Royalist side a few years later. In that short first campaign of his in the north the earliest blows were struck of the great Civil War which was to ruin so many noble houses in both kingdoms, and to bring the head of Charles I. himself to the block.

Glasgow, meanwhile, had not confined itself to the housing of the General Assembly which threw down the gauntlet to the king, and to providing the leader who struck the first warlike blows. In December, 1638, it spent £1,888 8s. 8d. in the purchase of a hundred muskets, thirty pikes, and four hundredweight of powder, and in March, 1639, it paid £600 and 16o dollars for a further supply of muskets, powder, and match brought by the provost from Edinburgh. In February the town council ordered that every burgess of the city should provide himself with arms, under a penalty of zo, and in April it resolved to raise and pay a company of one hundred men for the army which was being raised to oppose the king's invasion of Scotland. This company was raised by tuck of drum sent through the city streets, and George Porterfield, member of a well-known Glasgow family, was appointed its captain. [Burgh Records, i. 395-399.] The city was also divided into eight quarters, each with a captain and sergeant to train its inhabitants in the use of arms, and within the next few weeks, with resolution and energy, additional forces were raised and further sums were spent on arms and stores. [Ibid. i. 400-401.]

Throughout the country the popular party was equally active. Since the accession of James VI. to the English throne the strongholds of Scotland had been allowed to fall into a defenceless state. These were seized in March by the Covenanters. The castles of Edinburgh, Dunbarton, Dalkeith, Stirling, Hamilton, and Douglas were thus in their hands. At the same time Leith and the little Fifeshire ports were fortified against the English fleet, 30,000 stands of arms were provided, and an army of 20,000 men was embodied and actively drilled. [Burton, vi. 258.] A proclamation from the king denouncing under the penalties of treason all who should not accept its terms was refused publication at Edinburgh, the authorities there pointing out that such penalties could only be awarded by Parliament or the Courts of Justice after trial and proof. [Burnet's Memoirs.] On 20th May the Scots army paraded under General Alexander Leslie on the links at Leith, a striking evidence of the Covenanters' determination and efficiency, and next day the march was begun towards the Border. It was by no means only an army of the common people. Its "crowners," or colonels, were nearly all noblemen. Montrose led a regiment of over 1,500 men, and the Glasgow company marched under Lord Montgomery. [Baillie's Letters, i. 211.]

At Dunglass the Scottish leaders were met by a proclamation from the king, who was now with his army at Newcastle. He declared that he had no intention of invading Scotland if his subjects of that realm showed timeous obedience. On the other hand, if the Scots came within ten miles of the Border they would be regarded as invaders of England, and attacked by the English forces. [Burton, vi. 263.] Desiring not to precipitate hostilities the Scottish army entrenched itself on Duns Law, while Charles advanced with his troops to Berwick. From the king's army it could be seen that Leslie, with the skill of a practised soldier, had chosen a position which closed all roads into Scotland, and it was known that his army was in much better fighting order than the English levies. Faced with certainty of defeat if he attacked, Charles came to terms. As a result of a conference in which the king himself took part, it was arranged that a free Assembly and a free Parliament should be held in Edinburgh in August, and that meanwhile both armies should be disbanded and the royal fortresses restored by the Covenanters to the king. It was well known that the new free Assembly and free Parliament to be called by the king would do exactly the things which had been done by the Glasgow Assembly which had defied his authority, but the arrangement "saved the face" of Charles and allowed of a peaceful settlement.

It was while these negotiations were going on that Montrose, who had been despatched to the north, fought the battle at Muchalls and forced the Bridge of Dee as already mentioned. Thus the first round of the Civil War had been fought, and it had not been won by Charles.

During the negotiations Glasgow continued its, military preparations with the utmost vigour. The eight compa in es of its inhabitants were drilled weekly by their captains. A second battalion, under John Anderson, a cordiner and former bailie, was sent on active service. On 13th June the inhabitants were ordered by sound of drum to bring all their silver plate into a common stock, and walls with gates were built at the most vulnerable approaches to the town. By reason of the peace that was patched up with the king these defences were not immediately required, but they sufficiently showed the temper of the citizens. [Burgh Records, i. 401-2.] Equally significant, when the Assembly met in Edinburgh and re-enacted with the king's authority the proceedings of the Glasgow Assembly of the previous year abolishing episcopacy, was the speech of one of the Glasgow ministers, old Mr. John Bell, who was one of its members: "My voice nor my tongue cannot express the joy of my heart to see this torn-down kirk restored to her beauty. The Lord make us thankful. Lord, bless His Majesty and Commissioner." [Peterkin's Records, 250-252; Burton, vi. 273.]

Following the abolition of episcopacy the town council of Glasgow, on 1st October, 1639, elected its own provost and three bailies. [Burgh Records, i. 405.] Thus for the second time the town appeared to have been freed from the overlordship of its bishops.

But no era of peace had dawned upon the country. The king's assent to the abolition of prelacy had been obtained by force, and certain acts and letters which came to light showed that the assent was not sincere. [Burnet's Memoirs, 150-154.] On the other hand the Scottish Parliament was discovered making overtures for help to France. [Burton, vi. 288.] The Scottish report of the treaty with Charles was publicly burned by his order in London. The king did not attend the Scottish Parliament as he had promised, and tried to stop its proceedings by again and again adjourning it. In the end, on 2nd June, 1640, it met, and ignored his order for further prorogation. When it sent Lord Dunfermline and Lord Loudon to Court to explain the position they were refused an audience, and Lord Loudon was thrown into prison. In these circumstances both sides prepared for war. [Burton, Vi. 292; Act. Pan. V. 2S9, 260.]

Leslie again got together the army of the Covenant at Dunglass—twenty thousand foot and twenty-five hundred horse. At Coldstream, on 20th August, 1640, Montrose leading the van, the Tweed was crossed, and at Newburn, five miles above Newcastle, with the help of some cannon made of tin cores, leather, and rope, Leslie forced the passage of the Tyne. [Burton, i. 304.]

Meanwhile, the proceedings in Glasgow were probably typical of those in other burghs throughout the country. On 14th March the drum was sent through the streets warning the citizens to have their arms in readiness. On 11th April the town council ordered the purchase of forty additional muskets and twenty pikes. On the 25th Henry Gibson was paid £40 for drilling the townsfolk. And on the 29th a general muster was held, men who failed to appear being fined £40. [Burgh Records, i. 411, 412.] On 2nd May George Porterfield was "continowit capitane to goe out with the first companie," and £95 9s. 1d. was disbursed "for outreiking of -allevin sojers to the commoun service." On 27th May Patrick Bell, the late provost, was authorized to attend the meeting of Parliament, and, in case the king should prorogue it again, was empowered to support the majority of members in continuing to sit and transact business "for the publict good and preservatioun of thair religioun, liberties, lyfis, and estaitis." [Ibid. 412-413.] Through Patrick Bell, also, the town council contributed sixteen thousand merks (£888 17s. 4d.) "for the commoun effaires of the countrie." [Ibid. i. 411.] On 9th June a roll was made up of all persons in the city capable of bearing arms, and on the 13th it was resolved to despatch 144 men with their officers under Captain Porterfield, who was given for the pay of his men the sum of £1,000 and promised another £1,000 within ten days. [Ibid. 414.]

Besides the young men of the city who thus went upon active service, there appears to have been a body of mercenaries employed by the town. In the Burgh Records several references to "the colonel" appear, and on 22nd June the city treasurer was reimbursed the sum of £518 13s. given by him " to the colonel for payment of the sojoris of fortoun" during the five months past. There are orders given for "stenting " or taxing the citizens to raise the sum required by the authorities in Edinburgh. On 16th July a second company is sent to the Border as a reinforcement for "Capitane Porterfield." Two days later, a troop of thirteen horsemen are fitted out and provided with a month's pay. And on 16th August there are further measures taken for collecting the silver plate and gold of the citizens, as well as voluntary contributions and loans of money "for the commoun cause." [Burgh Records, i. 415-416.] The list of those who thus lent money is headed by Thomas Hutcheson of Lambhill with three thousand merks. [Ibid. i. 419.] For the silver work and money then raised and conveyed to Edinburgh by the provost Glasgow got two "actis" signed by lords of the Committee of Estates. [Ibid. 421.] The town also spent £239 12s. on eight score pairs of shoes sent to its company on active service. For the clothes for its soldiers it received a warrant from the Committee to take the cost out of the rents of the bishop and non-Covenanters. [Ibid. i. 424.]

As in wars in more recent times the town's soldiers on active service were provided with comforts by their relatives and friends at home. As some had no friends to do this for them, and, finding themselves "miskennit or neglectit," might be inclined to grudge and so prove less reliable, the magistrates on 12th December sent £108 to be distributed among them.

It will be seen from these details that Glasgow was put to large expense and very great trouble by the effort to secure the form of public worship which the nation desired. That the expense and trouble were undertaken willingly is shown by the fact that no record exists of any resistance or refusal to cooperate among the citizens, and by the promptitude and energy with which the arrangements were carried out.

In England the Scottish army, after capturing Newcastle and occupying Durham, had taken position along the line of the river Tees, which divides Durham county from Yorkshire, and on 4th September sent a humble supplication to the king, who was then at York, asking him to redress the Scottish grievances. [Gardiner, ix. p. 201.] The request was made more urgent by the fact that the invading army was levying its support from the counties of Northumberland and Durham at the rate of £850 per day. It was further backed up by the news of the successive surrender to the Covenanters of the castles of Dunbarton, Edinburgh, and Caerlaverock. [Ibid. 207.] Under these circumstances the king called a "great council" of the English peers to meet at York, and from that council sixteen commissioners were sent to treat with commissioners of the Scots at Ripon. [Burton, vi. 309.] The eight Scottish commissioners on 21st October agreed to an armistice on condition of a payment of £26,000 for the support of their army, and further discussion of the matters in dispute was transferred to London, [Gardiner, ix. 209-214.] where large audiences attended the preaching of the Scottish ministers. [Clarendon, i. 190, ed. 1843, p. 76.]

Harassed by the Scottish demands and the difficulty of raising money in England, Charles was forced to call a Parliament, and the historic assembly afterwards known as the Long Parliament met at Westminster on 3rd November. That Parliament voted £140,000 for the maintenace of the Scottish and English armies in the north, and instead of providing the supplies desired by the king for the prosecution of his own schemes of compulsion, took up consideration of English grievances, and impeached the king's ministers, the Earl of Strafford, Archbishop Laud, and the Lord Keeper Finch. [Gardiner, ix. 235-236, 249.] On 11th May, 1641, Strafford was executed on Tower Hill.

By the treaty with the Scots, which was concluded on 7th August, the king was to ratify the Acts of the Scottish Parliament which had sat in 1640 without his authority, while the authors of the late troubles in both countries were to be punished. At the same time England agreed to pay the Scots an indemnity of three hundred thousand pounds. The Covenanters, having thus secured the objects for which they had taken up arms, disbanded their army. [Act. Parl. V. 337 et seq.]

While these events were taking place in England, the Covenanters were using stern measures to stamp out the remains of episcopacy in the north. General Munro, another old soldier of Gustavus Adolphus, with a thousand scalliwag followers, "daily deboshing, drinking, night-walking, and bringing sundry honest women servants to great misery," plundered the "malignants" of Aberdeen and the district, using such excruciating tortures as that of the wooden horse to enforce his exactions. [Spalding's Memorials, i. 275, 352.] At the same time, Argyll, securing a "commission of fire and sword," and raising a Highland army of four thousand men, swept the central Highlands and the Braes of Angus, and destroyed the lands and houses of the Covenanters' enemies and his own. It was during this campaign that the future head of the Covenanting party destroyed the Bonnie House of Airlie, as commemorated in the well-known ballad, showing his zeal by himself taking hammer in hand and defacing the carved work of lintels and doorways "till he did sweat." [Spalding, i. 291.]

These were the circumstances in Scotland when King Charles, harassed and driven to desperation by the proceedings of the English Parliament at Westminster, bethought himself of escaping for a time to the north. In the Scottish Parliament which he attended, however, his chagrin was probably not less. The Estates no longer met in the dingy old tolbooth of Edinburgh, but in the hall of the handsome building still known as the Parliament House, and in that hall, now the foyer of the supreme Law Courts of Scotland, Charles had to listen and give assent to Act after Act passed in his name, which must have torn his heart with every sentence. He also found it necessary to confer honours on those who had been his most active enemies. General Leslie was created Earl of Leven, and Argyll was made a Marquess. At the same time he accomplished one thing which was to have the effect four years later of very nearly turning the tide of fortune in his favour. He secured the adherence of the gallant young Earl of Montrose. That chief of the Grahams, then twenty-eight years of age, had probably begun to weary of the intolerance of the Covenanters, and perhaps may have felt some chagrin at the superseding of himself in command of the army by his former chief of staff, General Leslie. There may also have been an increasing antagonism to Argyll, then coming to a foremost place in the counsels of the Covenanting party, and fated to be his bitterest enemy to the end. Lastly he had come into personal touch with Charles, and had seen reason to support his cause. The change over of Montrose was in no way different from that of the men in the English Parliament of the same time, who, after voting for the abolition of the Star Chamber and the impeachment of Strafford, became foremost among the Cavaliers. [Macaulay, vol. i. chap. i.]

The Scottish Parliament ended its sittings on 7th November, 1641, having effected many great changes in the affairs and government of Scotland, and Charles hastened south to the second session of the Long Parliament, which had opened in October. The people of the northern kingdom had been pacified by the king's concessions, and in the south, notwithstanding fearful news of a Catholic rising and massacre of Protestants in Ireland, matters were in a fair way of settling into an ordered system. The two great parties of Cavaliers and Roundheads were nearly equal, and it looked as if the king's party were in the way of securing a majority, when Charles made the crucial unpardonable mistake of his life. He sent the Attorney-General to impeach Pym, Hampden, and other leaders of the Roundhead party of high treason at the bar of the House of Lords, and he went in person with an armed force to arrest the leaders of that party within the House of Commons itself. These acts of high-handed folly and treachery threw the whole country at once into an uproar. During the night London rose in arms ; the gates of the king's palace were besieged by angry multitudes, and presently Charles was forced to leave his capital, never to return till the day of a terrible reckoning arrived, when he came to be tried for his life and to lay his head on the block outside the window of his palace of Whitehall. The signal had been given for the beginning of that devastating and long drawn out conflict, the Civil War.


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