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The History of Glasgow
Volume 2 - Chapter XXIV - Glasgow under the Covenant


BY the policy which it had followed in making terms with the Marquess of Montrose Glasgow incurred the enmity of the Presbyterian clergy, and was made to suffer in a variety of ways. Not only was the regular election of provost, magistrates, and council interfered with, nominees of the Covenanting party being thrust into office against the persons duly chosen, to the serious dislocation of the city's affairs and derogation of its dignity. [Burgh Records, ii. 82, 83.] And not only was the heavy payment of £20,000 Scots demanded, as already mentioned, by General Leslie and enforced by Parliament, the amount having to be borrowed from private lenders by the magistrates for the purpose; [Ibid. ii. 79, 80.] but the citizens were made to dig a great trench round the town through their lands and yards, [Baillie's Letters, ii. 89.] a work in which all the inhabitants were ordered to take part at their own expense, on pain of being considered disaffected and punished accordingly. [Burgh Records, ii. 93.] A great garrison was also billeted on the town, Boo foot and a troop of dragoons, with magazines and victuals, ammunition, and arms, [Act. Part. VI, i. 490.] the provost, George Porterfield, being required to provide for their maintenance as much at a time as 2000 bolls of meal and large sums of money. [Act. Part. VI. i. 594, 655; Burgh Records, ii. 97, 110.] In December, 1646, the city petitioned to be relieved of the garrison and its maintenance, and Parliament appointed a committee to consider the matter. [Burgh Records, ii. 109; Act. Parl. 1646, C. 78.] But shortly afterwards Parliament ordered the city to pay 3000 merks, the balance of a sum of 10,000 which had been ordered to be paid to the officers of General Baillie's and the Earl of Cassillis's regiments, and also to provide quarters for the baggage horses of these regiments then quartered in the town. For this the Town Council had to borrow the 3000 merks on bond. [Act. Parl. VI. i. 681; Burgh Records, ii. 111, 112.] Besides these burdens, Glasgow had to pay its share, £1530, of the month's pay of the army which overthrew Montrose at Philiphaugh. [Burgh Records, ii. 112.]

The magistrates made a spirited stand against Parliament's invasion of their right to elect their successors, and, against strong odds, put their own nominees into office in the following year, 1646. [Ibid. ii. 100.] But the Covenanting ministers took action against this "insolence" of disaffected persons, who, it appears, lay under the censure of the kirk for "compliance with James Graham." George Porterfield, the Covenanting provost, who had been thrust upon the city in the previous year, with his town clerk, John Spreull, carried a complaint to Edinburgh, and, as a result, the legitimate election was overturned, and Porterfield, SpreuIl, and their friends were replaced in office, while James Bell and Colin Campbell, the leaders of the party who had attempted to vindicate the city's freedom, were called to the bar of Parliament, found guilty of "scandalizing" the commissioners of the kirk, and clapped into prison in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh. [Act. Part. VI. i. 625; Burgh Records, ii. 102-107. Mr. Harry Gibson, the town clerk ousted by Spreull, apparently brought an action against the Town Council for deprivation of office, and was awarded 3000 merks damages by the Lords of Council and Session. This sum Spreull agreed personally to pay, but in return procured a letter infefting himself in the clerkship and all emoluments for fifteen years. At the same time Spreull was refunded his expenses in the action and presented with the handsome douceur of a half year's salary. The entire transaction was a notable piece of jobbery (Burgh Records, ii. 121).]

This interference of the Presbytery and General Assembly of the kirk in political and municipal affairs in Glasgow was typical of what was happening throughout the country. The ideals of Calvinism upon which John Knox had modelled the Scottish Church at the Reformation were those of the Old Testament rather than of Christianity, and now, armed with the powers of the Solemn League and Covenant, the ministers of that Church were setting themselves to dominate the affairs, not only of private life, but of the nation, after the fashion of the prophets of early Israel. We have already seen how, by means of a committee, they even attempted to direct the action of troops in the field at the battle of Kilsyth. An attempt of the same kind, attended by still more disastrous results, was that which, a little later, was to give victory into Cromwell's hands at the battle of Dunbar, and lay the whole of Scotland at the Protector's feet. Meanwhile Glasgow had to submit to the officious interference of kirk ministers and a Presbytery who took it upon themselves to arraign the magistrates and censure them for "compliance with the enemy," Montrose, and who, when these magistrates sought to interview the Presbytery while "sitting in judgment," declared themselves to be "insolently affronted, menaced, and upbraided."  [Burgh Records, ii. 103; Act. Parl. 1646, C. 31.]

In the same temper, assuming the role of the ancient prophets in their dealings with the kings of Israel, these Covenanting ministers endeavoured to impose their- dictation upon the king himself. Things had been going badly with the fortunes of Charles, and in the end of April, 1646, disguised as a servant, with cropped hair and beard, he had left Oxford, and made his way to the Scottish camp before Newark. There he was met by the demand that he must sign the Solemn League and Covenant, and order the establishment of Presbyterianism in England and Ireland, and on refusing this demand he was made a prisoner and carried to the headquarters of the Scottish army at Newcastle. [Burton, vi. 404; Britane's Distemper, 193. 194.] Charles then once more approached the English Parliament, but was met by it with nineteen propositions, which also included a demand for the establishment of Presbyterianism. These he likewise refused, and the Scottish army, seeing its work was done, transferred the custody of Charles to the English Parliament, along with the various towns and places of strength which it had garrisoned, and on 11th February, 1647, had withdrawn every soldier across the Tweed. As recoupment for its maintenance during the year's campaign in England in the interest of the English Parliament it agreed to accept a sum of £400,000, which was paid in instalments. [Gardiner, Civil War, iii. 180-183.]

The king made his journey southward from Newcastle amid much rejoicing, touching sufferers from the " king's evil," or scrofula, as he went. At Nottingham the parliamentary general, Fairfax, when he met him, kissed his hand; and it looked as if Charles, even without making the concessions which he hated, would very shortly be in full enjoyment of his prerogatives again. A moderate amount of tact and good judgment only was needed on his part; but Charles was not a tactful king. At Holmby House, which he reached on 16th February, he made some unguarded statements which alienated the House of Commons. The Commons accordingly, along with a committee of the Scottish Parliament, proceeded once more to press him for a formal agreement to their demands. It was not till 12th May that he saw his way to agree, and, like all this luckless king's concessions, the agreement came too late.

The army had of late become strongly imbued with the tenets of Independency, a method of church government, or rather lack of government, looked on with much disfavour by the Presbyterians of Scotland and the English House of Cornmons. Parliament accordingly tried to supersede Fairfax, and passed a resolution that no one who did not sign the Solemn League and Covenant could hold a commission. The pay of the army was allowed to fall into arrears, and, a crowning blow, it was decided to disband the troops. At all this the army was furious, and matters were not helped when it became known that the king was to be removed to Scotland, the headquarters of Presbyterianism, whence another Scottish army was to be brought south to enforce the acceptance of the Covenant. In this emergency a meeting of officers was held at Cromwell's house on 31st May, the day before the army was to be disbanded, and it was resolved to seize the person of the king. Early in the morning of 2nd June, accordingly, one Joyce, an ex-tailor, now a cornet of Fairfax's guard, appeared armed with pistols in the king's bedroom at Holmby House, and informed Charles that he must please go with him. "Where is your commission?" asked the unhappy king. "Yonder," said the cornet, pointing to his troop of horse in the courtyard. "It is written in legible characters," answered Charles, and prepared to leave with his captor. [Gardiner's Civil War, iii. 251-274.] Next, on 6th August, the army occupied London, and proceeded to "purge" the House of Commons of most of its Presbyterian members.

Even then the king might have secured peace by coming to terms with the army leaders, Cromwell, Ireton, and the others. But while he temporized with them, first at Hampton Court and afterwards at Carisbrooke Castle in the Isle of Wight, he entered into a secret treaty with the Scottish Commissioners, by which he agreed to confirm the Solemn League and Covenant, establish Presbytery, and concur in the suppression of the Sectaries or Independents. In return the Commissioners "engaged" to restore the king by force of arms. The duplicity of Charles becoming known to Cromwell and Ireton through letters intercepted between him and the queen, they determined that he could. never again be trusted with any share in the government. The guards at Carisbrooke Castle were doubled to prevent his escape, and commissioners were sent to the Scottish Parliament at Edinburgh to induce it to refrain from sending an army into England on his behalf. [Gardiner, V. 28-56; Harrison's Cromwell, 117-118.]

The treaty with Charles, known as "the Engagement," was supported by the moderate party in Scotland, at whose head was the Marquess of Hamilton, and was resisted violently by the ministers and the extreme party led by the Marquess of Argyll. These extremists declared that Charles had not conceded enough, that he must not only take the Covenant and become a Presbyterian himself, but must compel all others in Scotland and England to do the same. [Burnet, 33; Cunningham, ii. 63.] The ministers denounced from their pulpits all traffic with "an uncovenanted king," and kirk-session records then and afterwards relate the punitive measures taken against all who favoured the Engagement. [MS, minutes of Kilmarnock kirk-session.]

Meanwhile public feeling in England veered round once more to the side of the king. London was strongly in his favour; Parliament, at the demand of Scotland, agreed to negotiate with him; Wales rose in insurrection; a strong body of Cavaliers mustered in the north; the fleet declared for him ; Berwick and Carlisle were surprised; Chester, Pembroke, and Colchester were held by the royalists; and outbreaks took place in the southern counties. In March and May, 1648, attempts, which, however, did not succeed, were made to secure the escape of Charles. If, in these circumstances, the Scottish Parliament had placed an army at once in the field under an able and energetic leader like Montrose, the whole troubles of the country might have been brought to an end by the reinstatement of the king on the basis of a limited monarchy. It was not, however, till 23rd May that Hamilton secured from the Scottish Parliament an order to raise 30,000 men, with himself as commander-in-chief, and though by the adjournment of Parliament on 9th June he was left in supreme authority, many delays were allowed to take place.

Hamilton and his party, certainly, had to overcome serious hindrances placed in their way by the ministers and extremists of the Covenanting faction. In Glasgow, indeed, a revolution had to be effected in the city's government before the required levies could be secured. The magistrates who had been placed in office at the instance of the Covenanting extremists in 1645, after the fall of Montrose, were of course opposed to the sending of any help to the king. Accordingly, when the requisition reached them to furnish a certain number of fighting men, they took up the role of conscientious objectors. First they sent Spreull, the town clerk, and one of the burgesses to Hamilton to request the county committee to relieve them from the quartering and maintenance of soldiers in the town. [Burgh Records, ii. 131.] This having proved ineffectual they, a month later, on 23rd May, addressed a formal "supplication" to the same committee, setting forth that, "after serious and particular diligence used to know the mind of this burgh," they found "a general unwillingness to engage in this war through want of satisfaction in the lawfulness thereof." They further declared that they did not find themselves "satisfied in our consciences concerning the lawfulness and necessity of this present engagement, so that we may give our concurrence therein without sin against God." They stated that they were about to address Parliament on the subject, "for further clearing of their lordships' proceedings to the satisfaction of all the well affected," and they begged that delay might be granted till the answer of Parliament should be given. [Burgh Records, ii. 134. This supplication probably expressed the sentiment of, and was no doubt drawn up by, the Covenanting town clerk, John Spreull. In consequence he was imprisoned and deprived of office with the magistrates, and there are no entries in the burgh records from 27th May till 13th June, when William Yair was appointed in his place.] Parliament replied by summoning the provost, magistrates, and Town Council in a body to Edinburgh, and committing them to the Tolbooth for disobedience. [Ibid. ii. 135.]

At the same time the eight wards of Glasgow sent memorials to Parliament declaring their willingness to obey the orders as to raising troops. [Act. Parl. 1648, 147.] On the strength of this the magistrates and Council who had been ousted in 1645 were replaced in office. At the same time Sir James Turner was sent to Glasgow and soon broke down resistance. "I shortly learned to know," he says, "that the quartering of two or three troopers and half a dozen muskets was an argument strong enough in two or three nights time to make the hardest headed Covenanter in the town to forsake the kirk and to side with the Parliament." [Turner's Memoirs, 53-55. This old soldier of fortune from the wars of Gustavus is said to have been the model for Dugald Dalgety in Scott's Legend of Montrose. In 1666, while commanding the forces in Dumfries, he was captured by the Covenauters of the Pentland Rising, and carried about with them till their defeat at Rullion Green. He spent his last years and died in the old Baronial Hall in Gorbals, in which Sir George Elphinstone of Blythswood also died, and which was acquired along with the estate of Gorbals itself by Glasgow Corporation in 1650 (Burgh Records, ii. 182).] A few days after the reinstatement of Provost James Bell and his bailies, John Lymburner was appointed captain of the town's company, with James Moresoune, litster, as lieutenant, and John Bell as ancient or ensign, all the male inhabitants were paraded on the Green for enlistment, and the considerable stock of pikes, muskets, swords, colours, and ammunition in the Tolbooth was got out and furbished up. [Burgh Records, ii. 141, 142.]

In consequence of these and similar delays in various parts of the country, it was not till 8th July, 1648, that the Duke of Hamilton crossed the Border and entered Carlisle. The Scottish army numbered only 10,500 men, a third of the force he had expected to lead. Not one man in five could handle pike or musket, there was no artillery, and the soldiers were short of provisions. [Burnet's Memoirs, 355.] On 17th August the force had reached Preston—a place destined to have so many fatal memories for the Stewarts—when it was attacked by Cromwell with a veteran army of 8600 men, and piecemeal, in a scattered fight which lasted for several days, was defeated with heavy loss. On 22nd August Hamilton capitulated at Uttoxeter, under assurance, he and all with him, of life and safety. [Gardiner, iv. 3192.] Nevertheless he was arraigned before the same court that tried the king, and was executed on 9th March, 1649. Of the other prisoners, numbers were shipped as slaves to Barbados, Virginia, or Venice. [Gardiner, iv. 192, 193.] In this way some of the Glasgow prentice lads who marched to the Border under Captain Lymburner may have seen more of the world than they had dreamed of, or had any desire to know.

The overthrow of Hamilton and his "Engagers" at Preston had an instant effect in Scotland. Lord Eglinton, a zealous Covenanter, gathered a large body of men at Mauchline in Ayrshire, and marched upon Edinburgh in what was known as the "Whigamore's Raid"; Leslie undertook to form a new army of the Covenant; and Argyll brought a strong force of his Highlanders out of the west. The remnant of the Engagers retired from the capital, Argyll formed a new Committee of Estates with himself at its head, and Cromwell marched to Edinburgh. The English general was lodged in Moray House in the Canongate, and feasted in the Castle. He subscribed the Solemn League and Covenant, and demanded that no person who had been accessory to the Engagement should be "employed in any public place or trust whatsoever." [Burton, vi. 420 ; Carlyle's Cromwell, ii. 223 el seq.] Following this, Argyll's party, protected by two regiments of English cavalry, passed an act on 27th September by which the provost, magistrates, and Council of Glasgow, who had favoured the Engagement, were deposed, and the body of extreme Covenanters who had preceded them were restored to office. [Burgh Records, ii. 149.]

The party of the Engagement, which had thus held power in the city for no more than three months, were perhaps not unwilling to be relieved of their task. Amid all their arduous labours of raising funds and fitting out soldiers they had had to contend with the worst outbreak of pestilence ever known in the city, and to support large numbers of poor, unable, in consequence of it, to earn a living. [Ibid. ii. 145-147.] The political disability extended even to office-bearers of the Trades House, and, a complaint being made to the Deacon Convener against one John Wilson, "pretendit deacon" of the cordoners, that individual was duly expelled, and a more righteous person installed in his place. [Burgh Records, 153.]

An outstanding result of the new turn of affairs was to place the whole concerns of the nation, public and private, under the domination of the ministers of the kirk. The civil power existed for little else than to enforce the enactments of the church courts; every kirk-session became an inquisition ferreting out the most private relationships of the people; even kirk elders were exhorted to spy and report upon each other's conduct; and in consequence an atmosphere of sanctimonious hypocrisy grew up which was still prevalent a century and a half later, when Robert Burns wrote his scathing satire, "Holy Willie's Prayer." [MS. kirk-session records of Kilmarnock and other parishes.] As might be expected, the Glasgow burgh records of the period are largely concerned with affairs of the kirk. In October,1648, it was agreed to divide the Cathedral into an inner and outer kirk with a wall of stone. In December it was "inacted and concludit be all in ane voyce" that each of the town's ministers should "in all tyme comeing" have a yearly stipend of one thousand pounds. And on the kirk-session's request the Town Council agreed that Fergus's Aisle, the most sacred place in the Cathedral, being the ground consecrated by St. Ninian in the fourth century, in which St. Mungo buried the holy Fergus at his first coming to Glasgow, be reserved as a burial-place for the ministers, their wives, and children. [Burgh Records, ii. 152, 155, 156.]

Among these transactions in which the Town Council associated itself closely with affairs of the kirk, was one carried through by George Porterfield, the provost of the Covenanting faction, and John Spreull, his town clerk. Both of these individuals were very good business men. Porterfield, who had come into notice first as captain of the Glasgow company in the Earl of Leven's first army, was provost, evidently with much acceptance, for a number of years, and was the successful commissioner for the city on many occasions requiring shrewdness and address, while Spreull, as we have already seen, and as there will be occasion to show later, was an adroit administrator in his own interests as well as in the interests of the community. The transaction in which the two were associated at this period which has had most enduring effect was the settlement of the arrangements regarding the High Church or Cathedral. On 7th December, 1647, the two had been deputed to get the king's grant of the spiritual revenues of the archbishopric confirmed by the lords of exchequer. To these, in their somewhat depleted form, had lately been annexed, for support of the dignity of the Protestant archbishopric, the revenues of the parsonage and vicarage. This enterprise Porterfield and Spreull carried through with much wisdom.

They secured in February, 1648, a charter under the Great Seal, conveying these revenues to the town for the support of a minister to serve the cure in place of the archbishop, for the repair of the High Kirk, and for the support of the schools and hospitals. The Crown retained the right of appointing the High Church minister, while the magistrates and councillors undertook to support the minister so appointed, and also to pay the other ministers of Glasgow certain stipends, six chalders to the minister of the Barony and five chalders to the minister of the new kirk at the Tron. [Glasgow Charters and Documents, ii. 418-423; Great Seal Register, 1634-51, p. 917, No. 5928.]

Meanwhile in England the final attempts at negotiations between the king and his Parliament were taking place. At Newport, liberated on parole, Charles negatived all efforts to arrive at terms. The officers then took the matter up, but with similar result, and on discovering that the king was preparing to escape they carried him on 1st December to Hurst Castle, and confined him as a prisoner. [Gardiner, iv. 259-260.] In rapid succession followed the last acts of the tragedy—the "Remonstrance of the Army," the military occupation of Westminster, the exclusion of members of Parliament, and the trial of the king. No attention was paid to the protests of the Scottish Parliament, and Charles was beheaded in front of his own palace of Whitehall on the afternoon of 30th January, 1649. [Ibid. iv. 293-313.]


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