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The History of Glasgow
Volume 2 - Chapter XXXIII - Rebellion and Revolution


THE Netherlands were, in the latter part of the seventeenth century, the chief rival of this country in colonizing enterprise and naval power. Since the days of Charles I. they had afforded an asylum to discontented and disinherited persons from England and Scotland alike. [Coltness Collections. Chambers's Domestic Annals, ii. 540.] Charles II. himself had found a retreat there while he waited an opportunity to recover the double crown from the Government of Oliver Cromwell. The Netherlands also were the arsenal from which the weapons were obtained which were used against the Government troops at the battles of Rullion Green, Drumclog, Bothwell Bridge, and Ayr's Moss. Accordingly, the arms and men were both ready there when the accession of Charles II.'s brother, the Duke of York and Albany, as King James VII. and II., seemed to offer a favourable opportunity for another attempt. The new king was a Roman Catholic, and for that reason unpopular, and the discontented elements at Amsterdam and the Hague resolved to seize the chance to effect a revolution without delay. Within three months of the beginning of the new reign two strong and fully equipped expeditions sailed from the Dutch ports.

The Earl of Argyll, as we have seen, had pleaded lack of means as a reason for refusing to repay the money borrowed by his father from Hutchesons' Hospital and the Town Council of Glasgow. But lack of means did not prevent him from fitting out a formidable expedition, with ships and men and ample munitions of war, for a more definite attempt than had yet been made to overthrow the Government of Scotland. And thus, while the Duke of Buccleuch and Monmouth, son of Charles II. and Lucy Walters, with certain pretensions to legitimacy and a claim to the throne, landed with a force in the south-west of England, Argyll, at the head of an equally threatening array, disembarked in leis own country, near the disaffected southwestern district of Scotland. The story of that ill-starred campaign is told with fullness and, for him, unusual fairness by Lord Macaulay in his history of that time.

Had the Earl been a leader of military ability, like the two Leslies or Montrose, he might easily have raised an army of formidable size and determined character from among the Covenanters of Renfrewshire, Ayrshire, and Galloway, and might have opened another campaign like that of forty years earlier which resulted in the overthrow and execution of Charles I. The very real apprehensions of the Government as to such a possibility are shown by the fact that, at the news of Argyll's rebellion, some two hundred Covenanter prisoners then in Edinburgh were sent to safer keeping in the strong northern fortress of Dunnottar. [Wodrow, iii. 322.]

But Argyll was no general. Leaving his munitions, with a small garrison, on one of the islands at the mouth of Loch Ridden in the Kyles of Bute, he proceeded, with a force of some eighteen hundred men, to cross Loch Long and march upon Glasgow. After fording the Water of Leven at Balloch, however, the rebels came in sight of a strong body of Government troops posted in the village of Kilmaronock. Argyll was for giving instant battle, but the expedition was really under the control of a committee of which Sir Patrick Hume of Marchmont was the leading spirit, and on his advice it was determined to delay till night, and then, crossing the Kilpatrick Hills, give the redcoats the slip, and endeavour to reach the objective at Glasgow, where, it was expected, strong reinforcements would join the rising. But the night was dark, the guides mistook the track, and among the bogs and in the darkness many of the Highlanders took the opportunity of going home. In the morning at Kilpatrick the Earl found his force reduced to five hundred men. Perceiving further attempt to be hopeless, he disbanded his company, and, crossing the Clyde, changed clothes with a peasant. He had made his way as far as Inchinnan, when his appearance excited suspicion, and he was seized by some rustics. He is said to have betrayed himself by the exclamation "Unhappy Argyll!" and as a result found himself under strong guard that night in the tolbooth of Glasgow. Thence, almost immediately, he was conveyed to Edinburgh, where, on the warrant of a bygone sentence, he was executed on 30th June.

How Argyll expected to find support or reinforcements in Glasgow is difficult to understand. It is true that while he, with three other officers and "ane poor Dutchman," "being all wounded," lay in the tolbooth, the magistrates expended the sum of £55 2s. Scots on dressing their wounds and furnishing them with drugs. [Burgh Records, 10th Aug. 1685.] But that was no more than a matter of common humanity. On the accession of King James the magistrates had sent the new monarch a most loyal address. [Ibid. 13th March.] At the news of Argyll's sailing past the Orkneys, three regiments of Lothian and Angus militia had been quartered in the town, and the city fathers had themselves equipped a body of eleven militiamen who were on service for forty-four days. [Ibid. 10th Aug.]

Argyll's invasion was the last armed attempt of any size made against the Government by the Covenanters in the West of Scotland. Lord Macaulay has justly said of it, what might be said of the earlier efforts of the Covenanters at Dunbar and Bothwell Bridge, "What army commanded by a debating club ever escaped discomfiture and disgrace?" Nevertheless the alarm which it caused was not the less profound. The Privy Council protested against the withdrawal of troops to meet Monmouth's invasion in the south, declaring that not many of the rebels had been captured, and that there remained "a vast number of fanaticks ready for all mischief upon the first occasion." [Reg. Priv. Coun., 3rd Series, vol. xi.]

At the end of July, a month after Argyll's rebellion had been suppressed, the prisoners, eight score and seven in number, who at the outbreak of hostilities had been sent for safe keeping to Dunnottar, were brought south again, and tried by the Lord President of the Court of Session and four earls at Leith. Among those who took the oath of allegiance and were set free were two Glasgow men, John Marshall and David Fergusson; but the greater number, remaining refractory, were sent to the plantations. [Woodrow, iii. 326.]

It is instructive here to note that, while so many of the Covenanters were being shipped out of the country, the Government did not object to another much greater body of Dissenters coming in. The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes by the Government of Louis XIV. is said to have brought some fifty thousand French Protestant refugees into this country. A colony of these settled in Edinburgh, where a large building, known as Little Picardy, was erected for their accommodation, and where they established a cambric factory. [Maitland's History of Edinburgh, p. 215. The spot is commemorated in the name of Picardy Place.] And no doubt some of them, like the Huguenot refugees from the Massacre of St. Bartholomew a hundred years before, made their way to Glasgow and the West, to help the prosperity of the country by their skill and industry. [Names like Verel and Pettigrew (Petit croix ?), to be found in the Glasgow Directory to-day, probably date from one of these immigrations.] In particular the paper-making industry in Glasgow was started by one of these refugees. Coming to Scotland with his little daughter after the Revocation of the Edict, Nicholas Desham made a living for a time by picking up rags in the Glasgow streets, and in time saved enough i o start a paper mill close by the old bridge of Cathcart, where the work continued to be carried on till near the end of the nineteenth century.

The rebellions of Argyll and Monmouth could not but give the last spear-prick to the exasperation of King James. In the proclamations of each of these leaders—probably both drawn up by "Fergusson the Plotter"—he had even been accused of poisoning his brother, the late king. It was too much to expect that the Government should not take the strongest measures to punish and prevent a repetition of such dangerous treasons. Accordingly, while Judge Jeffries was sent down to visit with retribution the supporters of Monmouth in the south-west of England, measures were redoubled to stamp out the embers of rebellion in the south-west of the northern kingdom. In the one case the result was the "bloody assizes" of the notorious English judge, and in the other the "killing times" which have left so dark a stain in the Scottish annals. The Covenanters in their day of power had been not less ruthless, and they were to be equally ruthless again; [In their treatment of prisoners after the defeat of Montrose at Philiphaugh, for instance, and in the "rabbling out" of the episcopal clergy and their families after the Revolution. Two hundred of these episcopal clergy were rabbled out in the south-west of Scotland alone.] but two blacks do not make a white, and the fines and torturings and military executions of those "killing times" make one of the most distressing chapters in the history of the country.

The King himself, though so far away as Whitehall, took a much more direct and intimate part in the actual government of Scotland than might be believed in the twentieth century. Of this an illuminating illustration is afforded by an episode in which two of the provosts of Glasgow were concerned.

In October 1682 John Barnes was nominated by Archbishop Ross to fill the provostship, and he was appointed again in 1684. Barnes appears to have been a man of rude energy and determination, for he proceeded to fill up certain vacancies in the Town Council on his own initiative, without the usual process of nomination by the existing members; and, in spite of protest by the previous provost, John Bell, he made good the appointments, and had one of his nominees, who was not even a burgess, appointed a magistrate by the Archbishop. Also, towards the end of his term of office in September 1684, the Town Council was called upon to pay £6 9s. sterling to one Allan Glen for a horse he had newly bought that died at Edinburgh, "being bursten ryding thither be the provost." By that time Barnes appears to have been in financial difficulties, and, as Archbishop Ross had been translated to St. Andrews to fill the place of Archbishop Burnet, who died on 24th August, he apparently resolved to play the part of the unfaithful steward, and make the most of his opportunities before being superseded in the provost-ship. The Town Council minutes of 26th September record a spate of payments. The keeper of the tolbooth clock and chimes had his salary raised from £5 to £10 sterling. A contract, at what looks a very high price, was given to Robert Boyd for building a wall to protect the new washing-green on the north side of the Cathedral and a bridge beyond the Cowcaddens. John Waddrop, a tanner, was forgiven a debt of 950 merks in consideration of a number of hides that had been taken from his tanning pits to protect houses from a recent fire in Gallowgate. £100 Scots was given to Robert Stirling in consideration of loss he had sustained in carrying on the Sub-Dean's mill. John Cumming received £10 sterling on the plea that his tack of the Green had proved unprofitable through few graziers pasturing their cattle there. £725 10s. was paid to Bailie Anderson for plenishing and coal and candle supplied for "the general's" lodging. In view of the agreement that the librarian at the University should be appointed every four years alternately by 'the college authorities and the Town Council, Mr. James Young, Professor of Humanity, who within a year had received the appointment from the college, was granted the post for the next term of four years, three years in advance. The town clerk, George Anderson, in addition to his expenses for various errands on the town's business, was given a douceur of £480 for his pains, while three clerks in his office received £18o of a gratuity for their "extraordinar pains." Bailie Graham was paid £223 Scots, of which £40 were for expenses in attending Archbishop Burnet's funeral, and the rest "for drink spent in his hous be the magistratis wpon the touns accompt since the twenty eight of June last." And William Stirling, bailie depute of the regality, and John Johns, procurator fiscal of the commissariat of the city, received £25 sterling, for their pains and service and "their discretioun to the toun and inhabitantis." Most glaring of all, a new tack of the teinds of the Barony was arranged with Archbishop Ross, entailing a greatly increased sum to be paid by the city to the prelate, while the deed previously signed by Ross was ordered to be delivered up to him. As there was no time to lose over this transaction, John McCuir, writer, was sent post haste through the country to secure the signatures of the dean and chapter to this document. Finally, Provost Barnes himself had apparently been borrowing considerable sums from the city funds. His debt amounted to £1706 12s. 6d. This sum the magistrates and Council very complaisantly agreed to make over to him as a gift, "taking in their consideration the great pains and trowble the provest hes bein at in ryding and doing the touns affairis these twa yeiris." At the same time, probably to make the transaction appear less extraordinary, John Wallace, the deacon-convener, was forgiven a similar debt of £80, "for his pains and ryding in the touns affairis." [Burgh Records, 26th, 27th, and 29th Sept. 1684.]

Two days after the last of these transactions another provost, John Johnstone of Clathrie, was appointed, and within a month the new Town Council proceeded to deal actively with these abuses.

Provost Johnstone was a man of substance, the laird of considerable estates in Nithsdale, and one of the "venturers" who fitted out the Glasgow privateer George for action in the war with the Dutch of that time. It was no doubt through his Dumfriesshire connection that he was known to the new Archbishop, Alexander Cairncross, who had been minister of Dumfries before being appointed, through the influence of the Duke of Queensberry, first to the Bishopric of Brechin, and, later in the same year, to the Archbishopric of Glasgow. All these three Dumfriesshire men, the Duke, the Archbishop, and the Provost, were to be visited presently with the royal displeasure for their lack of complaisance in the arbitrary actions of King James.

Meanwhile the Provost lost no time in showing that he had a mind of his own. On 27th October the Town Council, in view of the heavy load of debt with which the city was burdened, resolved to appoint no regular physician for the poor, stopped the payment of money to pensioners, and resolved that the magistrates should be empowered to give no more than half a dollar at a time to any poor person. It also considered certain abuses of power perpetrated by the late magistrates, who had given judgment in actions for debt and had exacted fines without proper trial and sentence in court, and it ordered that no magistrate should determine anything between the town's people above the value of forty shillings Scots, without proof and sentence in a proper court. Next, on 4th November the Council dealt with the gift of £1706 12s. 6d. that had been made to Provost Barnes, declared it to be exorbitant and without precedent, and instructed the town's treasurer to pursue Barnes for payment of the amount of his bond. [The action was decided against Barnes by the Court of Session on 3rd March.—Morrison's Dictionary of Decisions, p. 2515.]

Provost Johnstone, further, went to Edinburgh and con- sulted Sir George Lockhart and the other legal advisers of the town with regard to the other gratuitous payments made by the late magistrates and Council—payments which were bluntly termed embezzlement. Last and most important of the matters regarding which this high legal advice was taken was the new bond granted to Archbishop Ross for 20,000 merks for the tack of the Barony teinds. By the advice of Sir George Lockhart and the other lawyers, and with the approval of the Town Council, an action was raised for the reduction of this tack, the plea being that 20,000 merks was an exorbitant grassum for a tack of teinds not worth 500 merks a year, and it was averred that the tack had been negotiated by Barnes "for his own ends when he was put in by the archbishop to be provost, and when he was bankrupt."

In this action Johnstone appears to have made some statements against Archbishop Ross which gave offence to that prelate. The latter complained to King James, who took the statements as an insult to the established order, and by a letter dated Whitehall, 19th March, 1686, directed the Privy Council to take action in the matter. [Fountainhall's Decisions, 17th June, 1686.] In consequence Johnstone was arrested, tried by a committee of the Privy Council with witnesses, and found guilty "of being accessory to the giving in of a defamatory bill of suspension to the Lords of Session against the Lord Archbishop of St. Andrews, and of uttering calumnious and injurious expressions at several times against His Grace in relation to the said bill." Therefore, in pursuance of a letter from the King, the Privy Council turned him out of the magistracy, ordered him on his knees at the bar to crave pardon of the Archbishop, committed him to the tolbooth, and directed that, after liberation, he should repair to Glasgow and acknowledge his crime to the Archbishop. At the same time he was mulcted in the expenses of the action, including £7 sterling to the Lords Secretaries on account of the letters sent down by the King. [Reg. Priv. Coun. 25th June, 1686.] Next day, in obedience to an order from the Privy Council, and the necessary letter from Archbishop Cairncross, the Glasgow Town Council turned Johnstone out of the provost-ship and reinstalled John Barnes to act as provost till the next election. [Burgh Records of date.]

The imprisonment of the unlucky provost did not last long. On 30th June, on the plea that his health was suffering in prison, and upon the intercession of Archbishop Ross himself, he was set free, and ordered to compear before the magistrates and Town Council of Glasgow before 10th July, and crave pardon in terms of the decreet, under a penalty of a thousand merks in case of failure. [The proceedings against Johnstone are detailed in a paper read by Mr. Andrew Roberts before Glasgow Archeological Society, 16th Jan. 1890 (Transactions, new series, ii. 34-43).] Accordingly, on 5th July, Johnstone duly attended before the city fathers, and did "crave pardon for his cryme and injurie done to his Grace the Archbishop of St. Andrews." Obviously the Town Council had dramatic moments among its experiences.

The arbitrary action of King James in thus displacing Provost Johnstone, and installing an individual more complaisant to his purposes, was not the last high-handed exercise of the royal authority which Glasgow was to experience. On the eve of a new election of magistrates in that year, James sent a letter to the Scottish Council ordering the suspension of all elections in royal burghs till his further pleasure should be known, and directing the existing councils to continue meanwhile in the exercise of their authority. Two months later another royal letter came down to the Privy Council, directly nominating not only the provost, magistrates, and town council for the coming year, but also the dean of guild, deacon-convener, and deacons and visitors of each of the trades, "being such whom his Majesty judges most loyall and ready to promote his service." By this means Barnes was directly appointed to another term of office. [Burgh Records, 25th Sept. and 18th Nov. 1686.]

Archbishop Cairncross was directed to attend at the tolbooth and see that these instructions were duly carried out. Such an instruction was itself an infringement of the rights and authority of the archbishopric which could hardly fail to rankle in the mind of the prelate. Arbitrary royal acts of this kind, which were rapidly alienating the general loyalty of the country, were to exhibit one of their first sinister results in the case of the Glasgow archbishop. Along with his patron, the Duke of Queensberry, Cairncross ventured to express disapproval of certain of the decrees issued by James on the royal authority alone, without consent of parliament, and was forthwith deprived of his archbishopric. At the same time the Duke was deprived of his offices as Lord Justice-General and Lord High Treasurer of Scotland.

The mandates of which Queensberry and the Archbishop disapproved were those by which James sought to show favour to members of his own communion, the Church of Rome. In order to do this with a show of fairness, James had to include in his indulgences the people hitherto denounced as conventiclers. By the most notable of these proclamations he "suspended all penal and sanguinary laws made against any for nonconformity to the religion established by law in this our ancient kingdom," and allowed all men "to meet and serve God after their own way and manner, be it in private houses, chapels, or places purposely hired or built for that use." [Wodrow, iv. 226-227.] This royal act, in which they found themselves indulged along with Roman Catholics .and Quakers, greatly incensed the Covenanters, who had no wish to see toleration for any form of worship but their own. Yet it had certain solid results in Glasgow. Upon its permission the presbyterians in Glasgow proceeded to build two great public meeting-houses, one at Merkdailly on the south side of Gallowgate, which ceased to be used in 1690, the other between the New Wynd and Mains Wynd, south of Trongate, which was rebuilt as the Wynd Church about 1760. [McUre's Hist. ed. 1830, pp. 6o, 6i. Burgh Records, 28th Sept. 1687, note. At the Reformation, when Glasgow had a population of little over 4000, the city had one church, the Cathedral, with one minister. In 1687 a second minister was appointed as a colleague. Next the old church of St. Mary and St. Anne, now the Tron Church, was restored, and a third minister was appointed in 1592. Three years later a fourth minister was appointed and in 1599 took charge of the landward part of the parish, then separated from the city part, and named the Barony Parish. Its congregation worshipped in the Lower Church of the Cathedral. In 1622, further accommodation being required, the old church of the Blackfriars monastery in High Street was repaired, to become known as the Blackfriars or College Church. In 1648 another congregation was installed in the Cathedral, and became known as the "Outer High," as it worshipped in the nave. This, after removal in 1836, became St. Paul's, as the Wynd Church, founded in 1687, became St. George's. Of the city's later churches, St. David's (the Ramshorn) dates from 1720, St. Andrews from 1740, St. Enoch's from 1780, St. John's from 1817, and St. James's, purchased from the Methodists in 1820.]

Meanwhile the town, in addition to its own considerable debt, found itself called upon to raise z2oo sterling per annum as a tax payable to the King, with other dues and charges which brought the amount up to £1600 sterling, a very large sum, in the value of money at that time, to be raised by a small community. The stent-masters were therefore sent round to collect a tax, and the order was given to sell by auction the houses and warehouses belonging to the city at "Newport, Glasgow," as well as the stores and houses which had been bought by the town from the defunct Fishing Society. [Burgh Records, 20th Jan. 1687. The town had had great trouble in taking over the assets of the old Fishing Company—the ill-judged State enterprise initiated by Charles I. (see supra, page 206). See Burgh Records, 1683, pp. 327, 331, 343, 344, 346.] To help the town's finances the King granted a right to the magistrates to levy excise duties upon ale and wine—four pennies Scots upon every pint of ale, two merks upon every boll of malt, twenty shillings on every barrel of mum beer, fifty pounds on every tun of French, Spanish, or Rhenish wine, and fifty pounds on every butt of brandy, aquavito, or strong waters, sold or consumed within the city. Rapture at the royal grant seems to have gone to the heads of the city fathers, as the liquor itself might have done, and they wrote a letter of thanks to the King in probably the most abject terms ever employed by a Scottish Town Council. This precious epistle began: " May it please your most sacreed Majestie,—In the deepest sense of gratitude, wee most humblie prostrat ourselves at your royall feet, acknowledgeing your Majesties clemencie and bountie towards this your city of Glasgow in rescuing it from sinking under inevitable ruine." Further on it proceeds, " For our pairt, who by your Majesties nomination represent your authoritie here, wee shall, under the prudent conduct and unspotted loyall example of the most reverend archbishop your Majestie hath bein graciouslie pleased now to nominat for ws, witness to the world our fervent zeal against all your adversaries," etc. [Burgh Records, 28th Feb. 1687. The archbishop mentioned was Cairn-cross' successor, John Paterson, previously Bishop of Edinburgh, who owed his promotion to the ardour with which he served the wishes of the Court and his endeavours to move Parliament to meet the King's desires for removal of the laws against Catholics. Book of Glasgow Cathedral, 197.] By such a letter Provost Barnes no doubt felt that he had fairly earned the King's favour, which again continued him in the post of chief magistrate when the time for election once more came round in 1687.

Troubles were now, however, thickening round the head of James himself. The birth of a royal prince on 16th June, 1688, was celebrated at Glasgow with every demonstration of loyalty. Seven barrels of gunpowder and a large supply of French wine were expended in rejoicings for the arrival of that "Prince of Scotland and Waillis." [Ibid. 3rd Aug. 1688.] The prince's birth, nevertheless, rather increased than diminished the public discontent, for it promised a perpetuation of the Catholic menace with which the country was threatened by the religion and policy of King James, and which, it had been hoped, would come to an end if the King's elder daughter Mary, wife of the Protestant Prince of Orange, succeeded to the throne.

The rapidly growing seriousness of the situation is reflected in events at Glasgow. Early in October, on the rumour of serious trouble impending, the city offered to raise ten companies of a hundred and twenty men each for the service of the King, and the offer was promptly accepted on behalf of the Privy Council by the chancellor, the Earl of Perth. Three days later a complete list of officers for the companies, including the new provost, Walter Gibson, was drawn up, and on 13th November strict orders were issued and penalties prescribed regarding any who should neglect their duty when called upon to mount guard in the city or who should fail to appear "sufficientlie armed with ane sufficient fyrelock and ane sword." [Burgh Records, 13th and 16th Oct. and 13th Nov. 1688.]

But already, on 5th November, William of Orange had landed at Torbay. In the days that followed, King James had seen his armies fall away from him, his friends go over to the invader, even his daughter Anne desert him; and on the night of 22nd December he had himself finally fled to France. The Revolution which James had brought about by his own obstinacy and folly, had effectively taken place.


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