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The History of Glasgow
Volume 2 - Chapter XXV - Under the Covenant


WHATEVER may have been the quarrel between the Scots and Charles I. on matters of Church government, it was no part of the desire of the people of Scotland to abolish kingly rule. No sooner, therefore, was news of the execution of the king received in Edinburgh than arrangements were made to proclaim his elder son as Charles II. This was done in the capital on 5th February, 1649. [Act. Parl. VI, pt, ii. 157.] In the Glasgow Burgh Records nothing whatever is said of the execution of Charles I., and it is only on 10th February that an entry appears stating that the order for proclamation of Charles II. had been received late on the previous night. Immediately, at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, the whole Council marched two by two to the Cross in "ane comelie maner," and, standing on it uncovered, listened while the proclamation was made "with the gritest solempnitie." Afterwards all the bells of the city were rung till twelve o'clock.

The young king was then on the Continent, at The Hague, and commissioners were sent over to offer him the Crown of Scotland on condition that he should accept the National Covenant and Solemn League and Covenant, and give absolute compliance to the will of the Scottish Parliament and the General Assembly. After a year's bargaining, and the forlorn attempt to take the Crown by force of arms which ended in the capture and execution of the Marquess of Montrose, Charles agreed to the terms, and landed near the mouth of the Spey on 16th June, 1650. Meanwhile, within a month of proclaiming Charles II., the Scottish Parliament had handed a protest to the English House of Commons, which presently led to a rupture and war between the two countries. [Act. Parl. VI. pt. ii. 276.]

Glasgow was now to be called upon to stand the brunt of the Civil War, as it had not been called upon to do before, and the story of its fortunes during the three years that followed forms one of the darkest chapters in its annals. These troubles befell the city at a time when it was not too well prepared to meet them, and one can only conclude that it was upheld in the ordeal by a strong sense of the righteousness of the cause in which its blood and its treasure were spent and its other sufferings were incurred. For some previous three years, from 1645 till 1648, it had suffered from an infliction of pestilence which not only cut off many of its citizens and taxed its resources to the utmost, but which induced large numbers of people to leave the city in the hope of escaping the scourge. During those years considerable numbers of the poorer folk, suspected of contact with the disease, had had to be supported in temporary quarters on the Gallowmuir to the east of the city. The patience of the people had also been sorely tried by the requisitions of men for the keeping of a constant watch in all quarters of the burgh for the exclusion of plague-infected persons. At the same time the means and youth of the town had been depleted by the repeated levies of money and troops required for the sending of army after army into England, first to oppose Charles I., and afterwards to rescue him. [Burgh Records, ii. 144, 146, 151.]

In these circumstances, it might be concluded, Glasgow was in no condition to respond to the demands for men, horses, arms, provisions, and money for a new campaign. There were, however, at the head of the city's affairs at that time two men whose zeal for the Covenant was matched by extraordinary city fathers to grant him an engagement with many unusual advantages, emoluments, and powers for fifteen years. In June, 1652, apparently because his own friends were no longer dominant, and an English military governor was in charge of the town, he deserted his office, though again and again desired by the magistrates to continue. In consequence the Town Council appointed its faithful servant, William Yair, to be town clerk, and rescinded all acts, contracts, and promises made with Spreull. Thereupon the latter, going to Edinburgh and becoming one of the Clerks of the Court of Session, returned with a decree of the High Court ordering the Town Council to continue him in his office and emoluments, and allow him to act by deputy, for the period of years of the agreement he had originally secured. Evidently to a great show of zeal for matters of religion, or rather of Church government, Spreull united a very shrewd faculty for attending to his own interests. [Burgh Records, ii. 121, 227, 243, 275, 295. Of the use Spreull made of his reinstatement, and his activities during the following years, some account will be found in Chap. xxvii. infra, page 323.]

Two months after the execution of Charles I., and while the new political troubles between the Presbyterian Government of Scotland and the Independent or Sectarian Government of Oliver Cromwell in England were brewing, Glasgow Town Council, under Porterfield as provost and Spreull as town clerk, carried out its great enterprise of purchasing the lands of Gorbals and Bridgend on the south side of the river. These lands had been rented from the archbishops by the Elphinston family from an early period. In 1579, after the Reformation, the rent was converted into a feu-duty. In 1595 their owner, George Elphinston, resigned these lands, with his other property of Blythswood, on the west of the city, and obtained a precept of chancery erecting the whole into a free barony, the barony of Blythswood. [Mr. John Ord names his interesting and valuable monograph "The Story of the Barony of Gorbals"; but Gorbals by itself was never a barony.] He acquired also the barony of Leyis and the New Park of Partick, and was knighted by King James VI. In 1634, when Sir George was forced to part with all his possessions, these were acquired by Robert, Viscount Belhaven, representative of the well-known family, Douglas of Mains, near Milngavie. Two years later Lord Belhaven conveyed the lands to Robert Douglas of Blackerstoun and Susana his wife. [Charters and Documents, i. 495.] Robert Douglas in turn was knighted, but the glories of baronial possession and knighthood appear to have been as fatal to the fortunes of Sir Robert Douglas as they had been to his predecessor, Sir George Elphinston. The magistrates and Town Council had in 1635 offered to buy the lands of Gorbals and Bridgend from Lord Belhaven at the price of 100,000 merks (£5555 11s. 1d. stg.), but the negotiations had failed. [Burgh Records, ii. 29, 31.] In 1648 these negotiations were renewed, with George Porterfield as chief negotiator. [Ibid. ii. 18. ] The money belonging to Hutchesons' Hospital was now available, and the rumour had got about that Blackerstoun was anxious to sell the land. After a year's bargaining the town agreed to pay Sir Robert 120,000 merks, with 2000 merks to his lady—in all the sum of £6777 15s. 6d. sterling—for Gorbals and Bridgend. One half of the lands was acquired on behalf of Hutchesons' Hospital, one-fourth on behalf of the Trades Hospital, and one-fourth for the town itself, the town retaining to itself the superiority and the heritable offices of bailiary and justiciary. [Ibid. ii. 157, 158, 182, 184-185.] Of the price, half was to be paid at Whitsunday and half at the following Martinmas. Meanwhile, however, war broke out, and because of the successive levies made upon the city a difficulty was found in raising the money. Fifty thousand merks were paid to Sir Robert in June, [Ibid. ii. 189.] but the great disaster of the war, the defeat of the Scottish army by Cromwell at Dunbar, intervened. In September the town was still owing Sir Robert 70,000 merks, with 2100 merks of interest. [Ibid. ii. 212.] In 1653 the town found still greater difficulty in raising the money. [Burgh Records, ii. 262.] Even part of the funds of Hutchesons' Hospital, which had been lent to the Marquess of Argyll and the laird of Lamont, could not be got in. [Ibid. ii. 288.] It may have been this long delay which brought Sir Robert Douglas to ruin, but in November, 1654, he appears to have been pressed by his creditors, and to have urged the city to pay its debt. In reply the town clerk was instructed to write a somewhat tart letter, stating that "the bargain had not been so profitable to the town as to justify his making so much din over the balance still owing, but that he would be provided for at the magistrates' best convenience." [Ibid. ii. 301.]

Meanwhile a bailie (afterwards two) for Gorbals had been added to the number of Glasgow magistrates, the territory had been divided between the city itself, the Trades House, and Hutchesons' Hospital, and the magistrates had pledged the city's portion as security for the £20,000 borrowed at the time of the wars of Montrose. [Ibid. 195, 277, 281. A full account of the known history of Gorbals is given in the History of Hutchesons' Hospital by Dr. W. H. Hill. The price paid by the Trades House for its quarter share of Gorbals was 31,000 merks, equal to £1743 12s. sterling. This was divided into thirty-one shares of 1000 merks each, which were taken up in varying proportions by the different Incorporations or Trades. How extremely profitable the transaction turned out may be judged from the fact that from the six shares purchased for 6000 merks (£333 6s. 8d. sterling) by the Incorporation of Malt-men, the annual revenue from feu-duties to-day is not less than £000.—Chronicles of the Maltnien Craft in Glasgow, 75.]

Another enterprise of the city at the same period was the setting up of a municipal factory and waulkmill in Drygait. The undertaking may have been suggested by an "Inglis clothiar" who visited the town in the spring of 1650. At any-rate, an agreement was made with him "for the erecting of the manufactorie and placeing him thairin." The salary of this Simon Pitchersgill was to be £45 sterling, and he received £5 sterling in advance on 23rd March. Forthwith a lavish expenditure began on the work. Orders were given for work-looms and the making of a mill lade; an advance of £500 was made for the purchase of mill furnishings in Holland; authority was given for the purchase of £z000 or £1200 worth of wool, and the agent bought £2000 worth. In May, 1651, Edward Robieson was employed to sell the cloth and collect accounts, but each piece before being sold was to be inspected and measured by a committee. By November of that year difficulties had arisen. It was suggested that a new salesman might be engaged, or that the mill should confine itself to the weaving of cloth after it was ordered. In April, 1652, the undertaking had evidently proved a failure. The town drummer was sent round to intimate that the manufactory would be leased to the highest bidder, and a committee was appointed to take stock and make up an account of the money that had been spent on the enterprise and the amount of cloth sold. At last, in April, 1653, when the city fathers had grown tired of the risk, expense, and trouble of the undertaking, the shrewd Simon Pickersgill secured a lease of the factory for himself. Thus ended an interesting early effort at municipal trading on the part of Glasgow. [Burgh Records, ii. 185, 186, 187, 188, i99, 200, 207, 215, 224, 225, 264.]

While these adventures were being undertaken the city was passing through two of the most serious crises in its history. On 3rd July, 1650, Charles II. had arrived at the mouth of the Spey. On the 16th, Cromwell, fresh from his bloody career in Ireland, crossed the Tweed with an army of 16,000 trained veterans, with cavalry and artillery, to oppose him. Immediately Glasgow found itself busy with the raising of troops and money and the provision of arms. The Town Council appointed a captain (Peter Johnston) and eight lieutenants; a hundred and fifty foot were raised; a hundred swords were bought at six merks each; and the townsmen were "stented" or taxed for a sum of 9000 merks. By way of encouragement to enlist it was agreed that all who came forward, if they were not

already burgesses, should be made freemen of the city. [Burgh Records, ii. 188-191.] On the 2nd September an order was given by the Town Council for "1200 bisket breid" to be sent east to the town's soldiers, but the provision probably never reached them. During that night the Scottish army practically committed suicide.

For a month and a half, acting on the defensive under the capable leadership of David Leslie, it had successfully countered all Cromwell's attempts to reach Edinburgh, and on and September the English general found himself completely checkmated. Hemmed between the hills and the sea near Dunbar, with his army on the point of starvation, he was contemplating the difficult task of embarking his troops on shipboard and escaping by water. Had the army of the Covenant held to its position for another day it seems certain that the campaign would have been decided in its favour, and the whole later history of the kingdom directed into a different channel. [Carlyle's Cromwell, ii. 164-180.] On that evening, however, Cromwell, anxiously watching the Scottish lines in their unassailable position on the Doon Hill, was startled and delighted to see them begin to move.

The facts were these. Throughout the campaign, following the example of the Jewish prophets of old, a committee of ministers and zealots had accompanied the Scottish army, interfering with its leader's policy and its personnel. This committee, of which John Spreull, the Glasgow town clerk, was probably a member, [Burgh Records, ii. 191, 208.] had "purged" the army of thousands of its most experienced officers and men because they did not conform exactly to the theological views of the strictest of the Covenanters. In place of the veteran officers thus cashiered the committee had intrusted command, if we may rely upon an English Royalist onlooker, to "ministers' sons, clerks, and such other sanctified creatures, who hardly ever saw or heard of any sword but that of the Spirit—and with this, their chosen crew, made themselves sure of victory." [Sir Edward Walker, 162-164; Hill Burton, vii. 17-21; Arnot's Edinburgh, 4to, P. 133.] In this temper the committee became impatient of Leslie's cautious tactics. Looking down upon the English encamped in the park of Broxmouth, and believing themselves inspired, they demanded that the army of the Covenant should no longer provoke the Almighty by its lack of faith, but should at once descend "against the Philistines at Gilgal." An hour or two sufficed to prove the folly of this proceeding. When the sun rose over the North Sea on the morning of 3rd September, and Cromwell saw that the Scots had left their fastness and were taking position on the level plain, he exclaimed that "God had delivered them into his hands," and at once ordered an attack. Two regiments in Leslie's van fought bravely, and were cut to pieces. The rest, undisciplined levies, almost immediately broke and fled. Three thousand were slain and nearly ten thousand captured, with the whole baggage, artillery, and ammunition, including some two hundred colours and fifteen thousand stand of arms. [Carlyle's Cromwell, ii. 191, 192.]

Adopting a different policy from that which he had pursued in Ireland, Cromwell after his victory showed a disposition to deal leniently with the country. It is true that large numbers of the prisoners of war were shipped as slaves to Venice and the plantations, and when news of the battle reached Glasgow the greatest alarm prevailed. The town's charters and other papers were sent for security first to Evandale Castle at Strathaven, and afterwards to Carrick Castle on Loch Goil, [Burgh Records, ii. 194, 197, 283.] and when Cromwell himself shortly after the battle paid a visit to the city most of the magistrates and ministers pusillanimously abandoned their charge and fled to the castle on the Little Cumbrae. [Ibid. ii. 194, 201; Baillie's Letters, iii. 129.]

Of the number, however, one dauntless spirit remained at his post. Zachary Boyd, or "Mr. Zacharias," as he is called in the Town Council minutes, appears to have been notable at once for the keenness with which he insisted on the just payment of his dues and for his generosity towards both the city and the university. [Burgh Records, ii. 36, 253, 259, 305. A full account of Zachary Boyd's career will be found in The Glasgow Poets, p. 9.] His career was typical of the Scottish clergy of the better class in his time. A scion of a good Scottish family, he had graduated at St. Andrews, and been regent of the University of Saumur in France before he became minister of the barony of Glasgow in 1623. On the day after the Scottish coronation of Charles I. in 1633 he met the king in the porch of Holyrood and addressed him in a Latin panegyric. He afterwards, however, signed the Covenant, and stigmatised as "a beastly fool" everyone who drew a sword for the king. He is still popularly believed to have versified the entire Bible, and burlesque verses of uncertain origin are quoted as from that source; but his poetical Work, Zion's Flowers, consists really of only twenty-three episodes, and some passages, like the temptation of Joseph by Potiphar's wife, possess no little merit. He was one of the earliest Scottish authors to express himself in Southern English, and his Last Battel of the Soul in Death affords a vigorous example of the prose of its time. He was thrice elected Dean of Faculty, thrice Rector of the University, and thrice a member of the Assembly's Commission of Visitation. On his death he left £20,000, with his books and MSS., to the college, which has not yet, however, fulfilled his injunction to print his poems. According to a popular tradition, when he was making his last will and testament his young second wife suggested that he should leave something to Mr. Durham, minister of the Inner High Church. To this Zachary with grim humour replied, "I'll leave him naething but what I canna keep frae him, and that's your bonnie sel'." And sure enough, the minister of the barony was little more than eight months dead when she married Mr. Durham.

Cromwell paid his visit to Glasgow in the middle of October, six weeks after the battle of Dunbar. Preparations were being made by the magistrates, at the instance of George Porterfield, to fortify the bishop's castle, [Burgh Records, ii. 194.] and it is said that the Protector was warned not to enter the city by Castle Street, as it was proposed to blow up the stronghold as he passed. He accordingly came in by the Cowgait, now Queen Street, and took up his lodging in the house of Colin Campbell in Salt-market, afterwards known as Silvercraigs' Land. [Burgh Records, iii. 138. Silvercraig's estate on Loch Fyne came into practical possession of Colin Campbell's son, Robert, for a debt in 1669.]

For a considerable number of years his host had been one of the most outstanding men in Glasgow. He was elected the burgh's commissioner to Parliament in December, 1644, and treasurer to Hutchesons' Hospital five days later. [Ibid. ii. 75.] When his name was put forward in October, 1645, for election as Dean of Guild, it was rejected by Provost Porterfield and his bailies as that of a person who had been implicated in the dealings with the Marquess of Montrose, [Ibid. 83. ] and in December, 1646, he was specially indicted before Parliament by the General Assembly, the Glasgow Synod, and the magistrates of the city for having, along with the old provost, magistrates, and Council, dared to protest to the Presbytery against its high-handed action, and headed "ane unnecessarie and unorderlie convocatioune of the multitud of the citie of Glasgow" to back the protest. For this, Campbell and James Bell, the provost he supported, were warded in Edinburgh Tolbooth for a time. [Act. Parl. 1646, c. 31.] Notwithstanding the offended pretensions of the presbytery, the substantial merchant of the Saltmarket continued to perform a foremost

and trusted part in the town's affairs. At the next turn of fortune's wheel, under the Duke of Hamilton's Government, in June 1648, he was elected provost, and though, following the failure of Hamilton's Engagement, he was ousted in the following October, and Porterfield took the provostship, he was to come into his own again at the Restoration. [Burgh Records, ii. 140, 150, 152.] When the magistrates purchased the lands of Gorbals from Sir Robert Douglas of Blackerstoun, Colin Campbell appears to have acquired from the same owner the lands of Blythswood to the west of the burgh, for in January, 1650, the Town Council minutes record that an agreement had been made "with Coline Campbell for his lands of Blythiswoode" to pay twelve bolls meal and three bolls bear by way of teinds. From that day to this Campbell and his descendants have been owners of Blythswood, and since the date when the stout merchant burgess received Cromwell under his roof the Campbells of Blythswood have entertained more of the royal and state visitors to the city than have been entertained by any other hosts. [Colin Campbell was evidently a connoisseur in good ale. In 1655 he was fined forty pounds for bringing barrels of that beverage into the city, and so depriving the common good of the sums which should have been paid to the town's mills for grinding the malt for brewing the liquor (Burgh Records, ii, 309).]

Not a great deal is recorded of Cromwell's visit to the city. Baillie in one of his letters states that he himself, when he fled with the ministers and magistrates, "left all my family and goods to Cromwell's courtesy, which indeed was great; for he took such a course with his sojours that they did less displeasure at Glasgow nor if they had been at London, though Mr. Zachary Boyd railed on them all to their very face in the High Church." [Letters, iii. 129.] On Sunday, 13th October, the Protector attended service in the Lower Church of the Cathedral, then the place of worship of the barony congregation. The chair in which he sat is still preserved there, as well as the pulpit from which Zachary Boyd preached on the occasion. So fierce did the preacher become in denouncing the errors and heresies of the English leader and his party, whom he banned as sectarians and malignants, that the officer sitting behind Cromwell more than once asked to be allowed to pull "the insolent rascal" out of the pulpit. Cromwell, however, told him the minister was one fool and he another, and bade him sit still, as he would deal with the orator himself. [The incident from an independent source is recorded by Sir Walter Scott in Tales of a Grandfather, ch. xlvi.] The tradition runs that he invited Boyd to sup with him in the Saltmarket, and concluded the hospitalities there by engaging in family worship, in which he kept the minister of the barony on his knees by a prayer of three hours' duration. His purpose seems to have been served, for it is said that Zachary Boyd's tone was afterwards much mitigated towards Independency and its adherents.


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