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The History of Glasgow
Volume 2 - Chapter XXIX - The Policy of Conciliation


IN pursuance of the policy of conciliating the extremists of the Presbyterian party, King Charles in 1669 appointed Robert Leighton, Bishop of Dunblane, to the vacant archbishopric of Glasgow. Perhaps the most sincerely Christian of all the Scottish clergy of his time, Leighton had a record which might have convinced the most irreconcilable that the Government desired to meet them at least halfway. The scion of a family which possessed the estate of Ulyshaven, near Montrose, he was the son of a man who had suffered grievously under the persecution of the Star Chamber in the early days of Charles I. His father, Alexander Leighton, was a doctor of medicine, professor of moral philosophy at Edinburgh, and sometime minister in London. For a virulent tract, Sion's Plea against the Prelacie, he was condemned in 1630 to have his nostrils slit, his ears cut off, and his face branded, to be twice scourged and pilloried, to pay a fine of 10,000, and to be imprisoned for life in the Fleet. [Glasghu Facies, i. 196; Gibson, Hist. Glasgow, 67.] He was released, however, by the Long Parliament in 1640, and became Keeper of Lambeth House in 1642. When these cruelties were perpetrated upon his father, the future Archbishop of Glasgow was a young man of nineteen. Of a saintly disposition from his youth, he spent some of his most impressionable years in France, where he was deeply influenced by the piety of the Jansenists. In 1641 he was inducted to the parish of Newbattle, and soon became famous for the writing and speaking of pure and beautiful English. He approved heartily of the National Covenant of 1638, but disapproved both of the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 and of the intolerant way in which it was forced upon the people. When ordered, with the other Scottish clergy, to censure the Engagement for the release of Charles I., he handed the order to his precentor to read. In 1653 he was a member of the General Assembly which was dispersed by Cromwell's soldiers, and in the same year he was on the point of resigning his charge, on account of the tyranny of the kirkmen, when he was appointed Professor of Divinity and Principal of Edinburgh University. On the restoration of episcopacy in 1661 he accepted the new order of things. Religion, he declared, did not consist in external matters, either of government or worship. Accordingly, along with Archbishop Sharp and Archbishop Fairfoul, he was ordained in the episcopal communion, and, having been persuaded by the king to accept a bishopric, was consecrated in `Westminster Abbey and appointed Bishop of Dunblane. In the direction of that smallest of the Scottish bishoprics he urged upon his clergy the exercise of reverence in public worship, the preaching of plain and useful sermons, and the cultivation of holiness in heart and life. In political affairs he urged the fullest toleration, even for Roman Catholics, Quakers, and Baptists, and so deeply did he disapprove of the repressive measures used against the Covenanters that, in 1665, he went to London, and handed his resignation to the king. Charles, however, would not accept the resignation of a man he had such good reason to esteem, and, moved by the strength and manner of the protest, promised to institute a milder policy. The Pentland Rising of the following year, with its serious threat to the peace of the country, interfered with the fulfilment of this promise; but in 1669, when conciliation again seemed practicable, and Archbishop Burnet had been dismissed, Leighton, as the chief advocate of the policy, was appointed to the vacant archbishopric of Glasgow.

In his new position, armed with increased authority, Leighton proceeded to do his best for compromise between the warring factions of churchmen and ministers in his diocese and in Scotland. And there can be no doubt that had there been more of the spirit of Christianity in the country, and less clerical arrogance and intolerance, the serious troubles and bloodshed which were to follow might have been altogether avoided. As it was, on the strength of the Indulgence, of which Leighton was supposed to have been the author, some forty of the outed ministers were replaced in their parishes. These were the men of moderate views, who set the teaching of their flocks and the interests of religion above mere questions of church government. But the extremists dubbed them "King's curates," and accused them of a sordid desire to enjoy the loaves and fishes. In many cases the houses of the conforming ministers were broken into, the ministers and their wives dragged from bed and ill-treated, and their goods destroyed and stolen. [Wedrow, Hist. ii. 146, 159.]

Leighton bent his whole endeavour to bring about a settlement by reasonable compromise. The spirit in which he approached his task is well illustrated by his treatment of the Town Council of Glasgow. In the autumn of 1670, as Leighton had not yet been invested, the king himself sent a letter to the magistrates commanding them to reappoint to the office of provost William Anderson, the existing holder of the post, and in 1671 another royal command to the same effect, signed by Lauderdale, was received and complied with. [Burgh Records, ii. 143, 156.] No reason is given for the latter exercise of royal authority, but probably the Government desired to be absolutely certain that such an important office in the disaffected west country should be in the hands of a man whose loyalty was unquestioned. When the Town Council met, however, on 1st October, 1672, for the election of magistrates, a letter was delivered to them from Archbishop Leighton at the castle, desiring, "for certaine consideratiounes moving him therto," to know whom the Town Council and burgesses, or the majority of them, wished to be appointed for the coming year. In the upshot William Anderson, the existing provost, was nominated by the Council and duly appointed by the archbishop, who also appointed as bailies the two persons nominated by the Merchants and one nominated by the Trades. [Burgh Records, iii. 162-4.]

The spirit in which he approached the malcontents in the matter of church government was equally irreproachable. With the king's approval he drew up proposals for an accommodation in the most liberal terms. Nothing more liberal, in fact, could well have been suggested. The proposals amounted to a return to the system set up after the Reformation by Knox himself. The only difference was that the holder of the supervisory office, who was known in Knox's church as a superintendent, was, under the arrangement proposed by Leighton, to be called a bishop. No oath of canonical obedience was to be required from the clergy, and the whole government of the kirk was to be placed in the hands of the synods and presbyteries, with the bishops acting merely as permanent moderators. [Wodrow, ii. 181.] At the same time the Indulgence was revised and enlarged and provision was made for the maintenance of outed ministers who accepted the Indulgence, but whose places had meanwhile been filled. [Burton, vii. 178, 179.] In support of these proposals Leighton sent a number of the most eloquent and popular preachers through the disaffected western district, and himself made a circuit of the archdiocese, endeavouring to gain over the discontented folk by personal appeal and Christian gentleness. His efforts, however, came to nothing. Gilbert Burnet, who was one of the preachers sent round, describes how, as soon as they were gone, a set of "hot preachers" went about declaring that the devil was never so formidable as when he appeared as an angel of light. [Burnet's Hist. i. 535.]

The leading ministers were summoned to a conference at Edinburgh, and for five months the interviews and efforts for peace went on, but all without effect. Leighton's advances and concessions were met merely with suspicion and abuse. One Stirling, a minister at Paisley, declared, "There is none of them all hath with a kiss so betrayed the cause and smitten religion under the fifth rib," then, referring to the bishops in general, proceeded, "And therefore I shall rake no more into this unpleasant dunghill of the vilest vices which they and their brethren in iniquity (whom, not naming here, doth not except from their part of the charge of ambition, pride, sensuality, idleness, covetousness, oppression, persecution, dissimulation, perjury, treachery, and hatred of godliness and good men) have heaped together in their own persons." [Naphtali, etc., postscript, 341-2, quoted in Stephen's Church of Scotland, ii. 645.]

At the end of the five months of conferences and debates it became clear that the extremists would be content with nothing but the placing of absolute domination in their hands, and Leighton was forced to give up his attempt. "You have thought fit," he said, "to reject our overtures, without assigning any reason for the rejection, and without suggesting any healing measures in the room of ours. The continuance of the divisions, through which religion languishes, must consequently lie at your door. Before God and man I wash my hands of whatever evils may result from the rupture of this treaty. I have done my utmost to repair the temple of the Lord, and my sorrow will not be embittered by compunction should a flood of miseries hereafter rush in through the gap you have refused to assist me in closing". [Pearson's Life of Leighton, xci.]

It was in January, 1671, that Leighton's efforts to reconcile the extremists of the west country thus came to an unhappy end. Almost immediately another factor came into play. The war with the Dutch, which had been ended by the Treaty of Breda in 1667, again broke out. It at once becomes evident from the proceedings of the Privy Council that the Government feared collusion between the disaffected folk of the west and the enemy. The Lords of the Privy Council seem to have felt that they were sitting upon a powder magazine which at any moment might explode beneath them. Already in 1666 they had had the lesson of the Pentland Rising, fomented by the preaching of the conventiclers, whose career had only been stopped at the gates of Edinburgh itself. And no longer past than November, 1670, an incident had occurred which shook the reliance of the king's ministers upon the loyalty even of their own soldiers. News apparently reached the capital that the garrison at Glasgow had mutinied on the pretext that their pay was in arrears. At this news Colonel Borthwick's company, quartered in the Canongate, seized its colours and a quantity of ammunition, took an oath to stand by each other, and set out for the west to join the mutineers. The seriousness with which the Privy Council regarded the outbreak is shown by the vigour of the measures taken to meet it. The gates of Edinburgh were shut, the militia companies were called out, and orders were sent to the Duke of Hamilton at Hamilton and the Earl of Linlithgow at Stirling to raise forces, march on Glasgow, and intercept the mutineers. At the same time the magistrates of Glasgow were instructed to pay the soldiers in the city their arrears of pay. [Privy Council Register under date.] As a result of their prompt and energetic measures the rebellion was nipped in the bud. The Glasgow magistrates at once paid the soldiers their arrears, amounting to 600 sterling, [Burgh Records, W. 147.] and any chance of outbreak was stopped by the arrival of Lord Linlithgow in the city. [Ibid. iii. 151.] Then, on hearing that all was quiet in the west, the Edinburgh company returned to its quarters, and, after negotiations, laid down its arms in the Abbey Close.

After two occurrences of this kind the Government was bound to take all measures possible for the suppression of seditious oratory and armed gatherings of disaffected persons. The fact that the weapons carried by the conventiclers were mostly imported from Holland was itself a disquieting circumstance. Many of the disaffected, indeed, had gone to live in Holland. Among these was George Porterfield, the late provost of Glasgow, and John Spreull, the late town clerk, and the suspicion that a treasonous correspondence was carried on with these persons is shown by the fact that the Privy Council intercepted and preserved some of the letters addressed to them. The terms of these letters would certainly be open to a treasonous interpretation in any court of law at the present day. [Privy Council Register, iii. 643.]

The fear that the conventicles were political rather than religious gatherings is shown by an order of the Privy Council to the Archbishop and the Provost of Glasgow on 3rd June, 1669, regarding a conventicle held in the city. The order instructs them "to take trial what persons were present at the said conventicle, what qualities and fortunes they are of, and how they are affected to the present Government." [Privy Council Register under date.] The Privy Council records speak of conventicles as meetings held "under the pretence of the exercise of religion," and term them "the seminaries of rebellion." [Ibid. iii. 626.] A specimen of the eloquence used on these occasions is afforded by a letter of John Carstairs, one of the ministers, which was passed from hand to hand with much acceptance at the time. "It seems," concluded this letter, "it is coming to a pitched battle between Michael and his angels, and the dragon and his angels there. O, angels of Michael, fight, stand fast, quit yourselves like men, under the colours and conduct of such a captain-general, and so noble and renowned a quarrel, wherein and in whom it were better (if possible) to be ruined than to reign with his enemies, if all Caesars." [Wodrow, Hist. ii. 154, note.]

In view of the dangers of the situation, and in order to counter them at first hand, Lauderdale came down to Scotland in 1672, and proceeded to deal with matters in a firmer way. The Privy Council Register from the time of his arrival becomes full of orders against conventicles. In particular, an order was sent to the Glasgow magistrates "in view of divers conventicles having been held within the burgh and barony, and that some outed ministers resident there do not attend public ordinances —to put the late Acts of Parliament and Council against conventicles into execution, to call the accused persons before them, and fine and otherwise punish them." [Privy Council Register, 22nd Feb. 1672.] People were not forbidden to hold worship in their own families, and to include their guests. [Ibid. iii. p. 30.] The injunctions were directed against the gathering of disaffected folk in larger numbers, "upon pretext of worship," against the performance of baptisms and marriages by unauthorized persons, and against the offering of affronts and injuries to loyal and peaceable ministers, and forcing them by threats and ill-usage to leave their churches. [Ibid. iii. 157.] The concessions offered by Leighton had been taken by the extremists for signs of weakening on the part of Government, and the number of armed conventicles had increased. [At the very time when Leighton was making his offers of accommodation three great armed conventicles were held for the purpose of intimidating the Government. Stephen's Church of Scotland, ii. 637.] The measures adopted to vindicate authority had now therefore to be made correspondingly severe.

In these circumstances, disappointed by the failure of his own generous attempts at conciliation, and reluctant to be a party to the acts of repression adopted by the Government, Leighton resigned his archbishopric. Acceptance of the resignation was delayed by the king in the hope that Leighton would change his mind, and on information reaching Glasgow that the archbishop intended to retire an incident occurred which shows the esteem in which he was held by the people of his diocese. A deputation from the merchant rank waited upon the Town Council, to represent how through his Christian carriage and the moderation and discretion of his rule the whole city had lived peaceably and quietly under his administration, and to urge that representations should be made to the Government for his retention in office. [Burgh Records, iii. 167.] The resignation, however, became effectual about the end of 1673, and Alexander Burnet, who had previously filled the post, was restored to the archbishopric. [Butler's Life of Leighton, pp. 500-1.]

That Leighton's relations with Glasgow were of the most cordial description is shown by the fact that on 15th March, 1573, he lent the Town Council the sum of 400 sterling, "to bear interest only from the following Whitsunday." [Burgh Records.] During the next ten years he lived in retirement in Sussex, and it must have been with grief that he learned there of events in Scotland like the murder of Archbishop Sharp and the battles of Drum-clog and Bothwell Bridge in 1679. In 1684 the king wrote to him that he was resolved to try once more what clemency would effect, and asked him to go north and do what he could to further this policy. But on proceeding to London for an interview on the subject, he was seized with pleurisy and died next day at an inn. Among his benefactions he founded bursaries at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, bequeathed, a sum to St. Nicholas' Hospital in the latter city, and left his library of over fifteen hundred volumes to the clergy of Dunblane, in whose keeping it may still be seen. [Ibid. 25th Aug. 1677.]

Among the local events at Glasgow itself during Leighton's years of office were several of more than temporary interest. On an October morning in 1670 the Blackfriars Kirk in High Street was struck by a thunderbolt and destroyed. [M'Ure, ed. 1830, p. 50; Law's Memorials, p. 53.] Five years previously, on 4th March, 1665, it was reported to the Town Council that Glasgow Bridge, then a structure over three centuries old, had been damaged by frost. Two years later it was reported that the south end was decayed. It was not, however, till two years later still, in 1669, that orders were given for its repair, and in consequence of the long delay the south arch appears to have collapsed. In July, 1671, the "south bow" was ordered to be taken down; in October there was a purchase of timber for the purposes of repair; in November the provost went to London to secure a contribution to the work from the Government, and in December an agreement was made with a mason to build a gate at the south end of the bridge. [Burgh Records, iii. under dates.]

At the same period also two cases occurred in which the traders of Glasgow found themselves aggrieved by the system of monopolies granted by the Crown, which were a mischievous custom of the time. In 1671 the Privy Council received a protest from Robert Sanders, stationer and bookseller in Glasgow, and several of the same trade in Edinburgh, against Andrew Anderson, a printer in Edinburgh, who had procured a monopoly of book production from the king. Anderson, with certain friends, had come to Glasgow, and by threats and promises had induced Sanders's employees to desert their work. Sanders urged that the monopoly of King's Printer should apply only to the printing of Acts of Parliament and official documents. After hearing the parties the Privy Council took somewhat this view. Anderson got a monopoly of printing the Confession of Faith, the Catechism, and such books of divinity and school books as were used or read by public authority; but Sanders was allowed to complete the printing and issue of a New Testament in black letter which he had then in hand. Anderson was further ordered to restore the journeymen and apprentices he had carried off from Sanders's printing office. [Privy Council Register, 1671, p. 424.]

Another grievance was a gift which had been made by the king to Sir John Watson, of 3s. 6d. on every pound of tobacco imported. The day of the great Glasgow Tobacco Lords had not yet come, but the tobacco trade of the city was evidently already important enough to enlist the attention of the Town Council, and accordingly an agent was sent to Edinburgh to prevent if possible the king's gift from passing the Seals and becoming effective. [Burgh Records, iii. 3rd Jan. 1672.]

Still another intromission of the Privy Council with the mercantile affairs of Glasgow was an order to two Glasgow merchants, Patrick Gemmell and John Walkinshaw. The Fishing Company—the national corporation already described in these pages, [Supra, page 206. To this company Charles II. himself subscribed L5000, and undertook that all its materials should be free from customs and excise. Its stock amounted to £25,000.—Sir G. Mackenzie's Alem. Affairs Scot. p. 183.] probably revived to compete with the Dutch, then our enemies—wished to send a cargo of herring to Danzig, and the two Glasgow merchants had refused to charter their ship, the Dolphin, for the purpose. Their reason is not stated, but most probably it was the remuneration offered. The Privy Council in any case took the part of the Fishing Company, and ordered the shipowners to carry the cargo. [Privy Council Register, 16th Feb. 1671.] The monopoly which had been granted to the Fishing Company was indeed found to be ruinous to an important Glasgow trade and a serious obstacle to development, and in July, 1677, a deputation was sent to Edinburgh to urge the Duke of Lauderdale to put some restriction on the powers and exactions of the royal corporation, and secure some liberty to the burgesses to carry on their business of salting herring. [Burgh Records, iii. 238.]

The proportional importance of the city as regards the burghs and landward parts of Lanarkshire at that time may be judged by the fact that of the fifty-two soldiers to be supplied for the Dutch war by the shire and its burghs Glasgow had to furnish "between nine and ten." At the same time the city had to provide six seamen for the royal navy. [Burgle Records, 6th April and 11th May, 1672.]

The city also was progressing in the appliances of civil life. Hackney carriages had been introduced in London in 1634, but no notice of their appearance in Glasgow occurs till 1673. On 15th March of that year the Town Council authorized the provost to agree with a coachman to serve the town with "haickna choches," and on 2nd June the town paid 200 merks to John Taylor, the coachman, for his first year's wage.

A beginning also was made of the splendid art collection of the city of a later day by a commission sent to the Dean of Guild, when in London in June, 1670, to procure portraits of Charles I. and Charles II. For the latter, still in the city's possession, and showing the Merry Monarch as "every inch a King," the Town Council paid the very moderate sum of £25 sterling. [Burgh Records, iii. 136, 239.]

A pleasant side of the point of view of the city fathers is also shown by an entry in the minutes of the Town Council, in those evil years of war abroad and discontent at home, directing that the fines collected by the magistrates in their courts were to be spent in apprenticing poor boys to regular trades in the burgh. [Ibid. 28th Sept. 1672, 24th Sept. 1674.]

At the same time there was a dark background to the life of the city, of which little is heard. There was in existence no habeas corpus Act under which a prisoner could demand to be either brought to trial or set free, and in the dungeons of the Tolbooth many prisoners must have languished in almost hopeless captivity. On 15th February, 1666, for instance, a petition was presented to the Privy Council by one William Drew, begging to be either tried or liberated, as he had lain in Glasgow jail for five years on a charge of murder brought against him by Stirling of Keir.

For six months also in 1672 the city was scourged with smallpox. Hardly a family escaped, and over eight hundred deaths occurred. [Chambers, Domestic Annals, ii. 347.]

Perhaps, however, the darkest shadow which lay upon the public and private life of that time was the widespread popular belief in witchcraft. From the date of the Reformation, and throughout the greater part of the seventeenth century, this belief assumed the character of a mania which became virulent in successive waves. It had its foundation in the belief in the existence of a personal devil, which was one of the doctrines most strongly inculcated by the preachers of that age. [The comparative strength of the belief in witchcraft and the measures taken regarding it in Catholic, Anglican, and Calvinistic countries is very fully discussed by Sir Walter Scott in Demonology and Witchcraft, viii.] With this fearful personage it was possible to make a bargain by renouncing one's Christian baptism and performing certain loathsome rites. The bargain was such a poor one that it is not a little surprising to find anyone believing in it. In return for one's immortal soul one acquired no greater advantages than the power to ride through the air on straws and broomsticks, to assume the shape of dogs or hares, and to play mischievous tricks upon one's neighbours—steal their cows' milk, afflict them with disease, or even bring about their death. No doubt often some poor creature found it profitable to give out that she possessed the powers of a witch, and, on being questioned by the judges, even without torture, many accused persons, old and young, avowed a compact with Satan, and described in detail the incidents in which they had taken part with him. So far can ignorant people be influenced by hallucination, vanity, or excessive religious zeal for self-condemnation. The popular belief in witchcraft, however, opened the door for countless cases of cruelty and injustice, in which the so-called witches and wizards were clearly the victims of popular fear and suspicion, or personal spite and revenge. One of the most outstanding cases of the latter kind occurred in the neighbourhood of Glasgow.

Sir George Maxwell of Pollok was a well-known supporter of the city's enterprise, and was a chief shareholder in the great whale-fishing company which had blubber-boiling works at Greenock and a candle and soap factory in the city's Candleriggs. One night in December, 1676, when staying in Glasgow,' Sir George was seized with sudden illness—a violent heat accompanied with severe pain.

While he lay ill at Pollok House, a young vagrant woman, Janet Douglas, seemingly deaf and dumb, appeared there, and by signs led the patient's sister and daughter to believe that his sickness had its origin in a cottage in the village at hand. With two men-servants she led the way to the cottage of one Janet Mathie, whose son had lately been imprisoned for stealing the laird's fruit. While the woman was induced to step to the door, the girl put her hand behind the chimney, and took out a wax figure wrapped in a linen cloth. Hurrying away with this to Pollok House, she showed it to the two ladies, who found two pins sticking in its right side and one in the shoulder. The pins were taken out, and that night Sir George began to mend. A few days afterwards, when he was told the story, he had Janet Mathie arrested and imprisoned at Paisley.

In the following month he was ill again, his face assuming the leaden hue of death. At this the dumb girl again appeared, with the information that Janet Mathie's son had made a new image of clay, with which he was practising evil arts against the laird. Two gentlemen went with her, and, acting under her directions, found an image with pins sticking in it under the bolster of a bed. John Mathie and his sister Annaple were at once arrested, and Sir George began to recover his health.

At first the young man denied all knowledge of the images, but when witch-marks were found on his body he and his sister made a confession, describing witch-meetings in their mother's house, and implicating other three women. These three were arrested, and one of them made a confession. Then followed descriptions of the devil—"a man dressed in black, with hoggars over his bare feet, which were cloven," also of meetings at which young Mathie renounced his baptism, and at which Satan helped in the making of the images. In the upshot the four older women and young Mathie were hanged at Paisley, while Janet Douglas recovered her speech, and became a sort of public heroine, people flocking to see her. She then proceeded to further witch-findings, secured the burning of five or six other women, and the imprisonment of more. She herself led a dissolute, idle life, till the Privy Council took her in hand, secluded her for a time in Canongate Tolbooth, and finally shipped her overseas. [Chambers, Domestic Annals, ii. 376.]


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