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The History of Glasgow
Volume 3 - Chapter I - After the Revolution: Glasgow a Free Burgh


WHEN, in the last days of 1688, James VII and II fled to France, and his elder daughter Mary and his nephew William of Orange seated themselves on the throne, considerable disturbance took place in Scotland. On the two previous occasions when revolution was in the air Glasgow had been the centre of events. The General Assembly of 1638, which abolished Episcopacy and began the uprising against Charles I, was held in Glasgow Cathedral; and the meeting of the Privy Council in 1662, which enforced acknowledgment of the bishops, and "outed" some three hundred and fifty ministers who would not conform to the law, took place in the fore hall of Glasgow College. When, at the Revolution, the process was once again reversed, and the Covenanters and Presbyterians became the dominant party, the Parliament House in Edinburgh was the headquarters of action. Nevertheless, Glasgow, as the headquarters of the west country, which was the stronghold of the Covenant, became the scene of significant happenings.

The signal was given when the declaration of the Prince of Orange of 10th October, 1688, was proclaimed at Glasgow, Irvine, Ayr, and other western burghs. A few weeks afterwards, on 30th November, the young Earl of Loudoun and other students of Glasgow University burned the effigies of the Pope and the archbishops of St. Andrews and Glasgow without opposition. [Wodrow, iv. 472.] Ten days later the serious riot occurred in Edinburgh, when the mob stormed Holyroodhouse, killed fourteen soldiers of the garrison, and plundered and destroyed the Abbey chapel, which had been refitted for Roman Catholic services by King James. [Ibid. 474.] From Christmas onwards there was constant mob action against the Episcopal clergy, and this lawlessness was chiefly conspicuous in the western parts of the country, where the popular feeling could be most easily inflamed against the "curates," as the parish ministers were nicknamed, who had conformed to the law and accepted ordination by the bishops. Some three hundred of these ministers were "rabbled out," often with circumstances of great cruelty. [Chambers, Domestic Annals, iii. 6.] Several of the acts which took place in Glasgow and its neighbourhood are detailed in two letters by the Rev. John Sage, one of the ministers of the city at the time. [Sage was appointed by the Town Council 23rd August, 1684. See Hist. Glasg. ii. 402.] Mr. Russell, minister of Govan, was assaulted in his own house by a number of men, who cruelly beat his wife and daughter, carried off the poor's box, and threatened him with more severe treatment if he ever preached in the parish church again. A similar party attacked the manse of Cathcart. Mr. Finnie, the minister, was from home, but they thrust his wife, with her four or five young children out of the house, threw out all the furniture, and only after much entreaty allowed her and her children to shelter from the inclemency of the weather in an outhouse. The same outrage was perpetrated upon Mr. Boyd, the minister of Carmunnock, and his family, as also on Mr. Milne, minister of Cadder, to the north of the city. Mrs. Ross, wife of the minister of Renfrew, was expelled from her house, with her infant only three days old; and in the absence of Mr. Stirling, minister of Baldernock, a party of armed Cameronians surrounded his manse, declared to his wife that they would "cut off her Popish nose," and with most indecent language put her and her servants in terror for their lives. Similar treatment was meted out to the minister of the Barony parish, and within the city itself the clergy with their wives and children were placed in the utmost hazard. [An Account of the Persecution of the Church in Scotland and The Case of the Present Afflicted Clergy in Scotland, quoted in the History of the Scottish Episcopal Church from the Revolution to the Present Time, by John Parker Lawson, M.A., pp. 66, 89.] A mob of zealots even broke into the Cathedral itself during service, assaulted the magistrates and congregation, and wounded a number of persons.

The Quakers in Glasgow were also subjected to the roughest hooliganism. In their petition to the Privy Council they remarked that "it was matter of surprise that those who had complained most" of oppression under King James "should now be found acting the parts of their own persecutors against the petitioners [the Quakers]." In Glasgow "their usage had been liker French dragoons' usage, and furious rabbling than anything that dare own the title of Christianity." That usage included "beating, stoning, dragging, and the like, from the rabble." Even the magistrates, they complained, connived at the outrage. On 12th November, "being met together in their hired house for no other end under heaven than to wait upon and worship their God," a company of Presbyterian church elders, "attended with the rude rabble of the town, haled them to James Sloss, bailie, who, for no other cause than their said meeting, dragged them to prison, where some of them were kept the space of eight days." Meanwhile their meeting house was plundered and the seats were carried off. [Reg. Priv. Coun; Chambers's Domestic Annals, iii. 58.]

Many of the ministers in the West of Scotland were still worse treated. The minister of Kilmarnock was kept exposed to the winter cold for several hours without covering, while his beadle was made to tear his gown to pieces from his shoulders, and his Book of Common Prayer, as a work "full of superstition and idolatry," was burned in the market place. The minister of Ballantrae was struck in the face with the butt of a musket and thrust at with a sword, while his wife, then in a delicate condition, was rudely assaulted. The minister of Kells was tied almost naked to a cart in the market place at four in the morning, and would have perished but for the kindness of a poor woman. The family of the minister of Keir were expelled from their house, and the furniture thrown after them, though three of the children were dangerously ill. Two of them died in consequence. And the minister of Kilpatrick Easter was struck and abused, had his furniture smashed, and was thrust out of doors with his family. [Domestic Annals, iii. 67, 68.]

That the ministers of the Glasgow churches were not even worse treated by the "rabblers" was due partly perhaps to the fact that there was a strong military force in the city at the time. One of the last acts of the Government of James VII. had been to accept the offer of the magistrates of Glasgow to raise ten companies of a hundred and twenty men each, "for the service of the King and securing the peace of the city," and the appointment of officers and raising of the companies had been immediately proceeded with. [Burgh Records, 13th and 16th Oct., 1688. Among the captains of companies was the Provost, Walter Gibson, famous as the originator of the red herring industry, and John Walkinshaw, younger of Barrowfield, who, with his youngest daughter, Clementina, was afterwards to play a conspicuous part in Jacobite history.] Three months later this Glasgow regiment, probably as a result of the Revolution then taking place, refused to obey the magistrates, who thereupon ordered its disbandment. At the same time, however, they appointed a town guard of sixty men, to go on duty nightly "for preventing of stealling and accidentall lyre." [Ibid. 23rd Jan., 1689.]

Two months later still, on 22nd March, 1689, by order of Parliament, one of the magistrates, John Anderson of Dowhill, brought from Stirling Castle to Glasgow four thousand muskets, one thousand picks, a hundred barrels of powder, "with match and bandoliers conform," and a hundred chests of ball. These were lodged in the Tolbooth, and the Dean of Guild was ordered, in case of necessity, to draw together the fencible men in the town, and keep watch and ward for the security of the citizens. [Act. Parl. ix. p. 18.]

Shortly afterwards, further to secure the keeping of the peace, the Earl of Argyll's and the Earl of Glencairn's regiments were quartered in Glasgow. Trouble presently arose with these. Their pay having fallen into arrears, they threatened to take free quarters unless the magistrates advanced the money. The demand, however, was complied with on the Earls' security, and the trouble ceased. [Burgh Records, 10th Aug., 1689.]

It is not generally known how near Scotland came to having its episcopal system of church government continued under William and Mary. The weight of opinion in the country was pretty evenly divided between prelacy and presbyterianism, and if the bishops of Scotland had decided promptly to support the new Government, as the majority of the English bishops did, it seems quite probable that William would have continued episcopacy as the established church of the realm, in the same way as he did in England, with liberty to dissenters to worship after their own fashion. [According to Jupiter Carlyle, the Presbyterian minister of Inveresk a hundred years later, two-thirds of the people of Scotland at the Revolution were Episcopal.—Autobioggraphy of Alexander Carlyle, p. 249. Hist. Scot. Epis. Church, pp. 45, 91, 98 ; Cook's Host. Ch. of Scot. iii. 419, 420, 422, 432.]

But Dr. Rose, Bishop of Edinburgh, had been sent south, at news of the landing of the Prince of Orange, with an address of allegiance to King James. It was while he was on the way that the flight of James and the assumption of the government by William took place, and when the bishop had an interview with the Prince, he could only respond to the latter's approach in a half-hearted fashion. When the bishop was announced William came a few steps forward from his company, and said, "My Lord, are you going for Scotland?" "Yes, Sir," replied the bishop, "if you have any commands for me." "I hope," said the Prince, "you will be kind to me, and follow the example of England." To this the bishop could only reply, "Sir, I will serve you so far as law, reason, or conscience shall allow rne." Whereupon William instantly turned from the bishop in silence, and mingled with his friends, and Dr. Rose immediately retired. [Hist. Scot. Epis. Church, pp. 44, 91 ; Stephen's Hist. of Ch. of Scotland, iii. 378 and on.]

That interview probably decided the ecclesiastical destiny of Scotland. Events then followed rapidly in the Scottish settlement. On 7th January, 1690, William called all the Scottish noblemen and gentlemen in London to meet him at St. James's, and asked their advice regarding the northern kingdom. Next day they tendered an address. In consequence a convention of the Scottish Estates was summoned in Edinburgh, and on 11th April that convention offered the crown of Scotland to William and Marv, abolished episcopacy, and rescinded the forfeiture of Argyll. [Wodrow, W. 476; Act. Parl. Scot. ix. 37.]

The tables were now effectively turned, and the Covenanters were not slow to visit upon their opponents all the rigours of which they had complained so bitterly when these were dealt out to themselves.

It is curious to note how closely history repeated itself then in Scotland within the space of a few years. Where the Governments of Charles II. and James VII. had to deal with the hostile risings of the Covenanters, backed by the country's enemies in Holland, which culminated in the battles of Rullion Green, Drumclog, Bothwell Bridge, and Ayr's Moss, and the futile invasion by Argyll, the Government of King William had to deal with the Jacobite rising under Viscount Dundee, backed by the hoped-for support of France and Ireland, which came to a head at the battle of Killiecrankie. Almost the same measures of precaution and repression followed in each case. By King William's Government large numbers of "suspect persons" of all ranks were thrown into prison, where they were kept without trial for years in the most dreadful circumstances. The Privy Council Registers of the time are full of petitions from these unfortunate persons, praying to have the conditions of their captivity relieved. Chambers in his Domestic Annals recounts the cases of a number of distinguished men who were thus crowded in the miserable dungeons of Edinburgh Tolbooth and other gaols and strongholds throughout the country. [Vol. iii. p. ii.] Among them was Captain John Slezer, author of that interesting work, the Theatrum Scotiae, which contains the earliest pictures we possess of the city of Glasgow. A still more notable prisoner was the Archbishop of Glasgow, John Paterson. He had used his utmost endeavours to secure the concurrence of the bishops and the consent of Parliament to King James's wishes for the removal of the penal laws against nonjurors. But as the King's proposal was to afford liberty not only to Presbyterians, but to Independents and Roman Catholics as well, it was anathema to the Covenanters, and the Archbishop was kept a close prisoner in Edinburgh Castle for many months, without being able even to talk with his friends. He was not released till January 1693. [Domestic Annals, iii. 12.]

These events brought about an opportunity for the further widening of the liberties of Glasgow. Hitherto the town had held the status of a community on the Church lands, for which the bishops and archbishops had secured the privileges, successively, of a burgh of barony, a burgh of regality, and a royal burgh. The method of appointing the provost and magistrates had been for the Town Council to present to the archbishop chosen lists or leets of suitable burgesses, and for the archbishop to select from these the individuals who should act as provost and bailies, or magistrates, for the ensuing year. Two of the bailies were chosen from the merchants' guild and one from the crafts. The newly-appointed magistrates and those of the two preceding years then met, along with certain co-opted persons to fill up vacancies, and elected thirteen merchants and twelve craftsmen to be councillors for the year. The Town Council was therefore a close corporation, nominating its successors, mostly out of its own number, from Michaelmas till Michaelmas. More than once, during the seventeenth century, the king or the archbishop had broken through this arrangement, and had ordered the appointment of a provost, magistrates, and council who could be relied upon to support certain political views. King William did this now. Shortly after his accession he ordered an election of the bailies, dean of guild, treasurer, and town council by the poll of all burgesses bearing burden, "skott and lott," but excluding honorary burgesses, town's servants, pensioners, and beadsmen, or licensed beggars, the persons so elected to continue in office till the usual election period at the following Michaelmas. This election, singularly before the age in its method, duly took place on 3rd July. The magistrates and council then, perceiving the king's attitude, proceeded to turn the situation to account by asking for a valuable concession. A commission was drawn up, directing John Anderson, Younger, of Dowhill, one of the most capable members of council, to proceed to London and petition King William and Queen Mary to grant the city the free election of its own magistrates, in the same way as other royal burghs of the kingdom. [Burgh Records, 26th Aug., 1689.] Anderson proved his ability by securing from the king at Hampton Court, within a month, a preliminary letter authorising the town to choose its own provost and magistrates for the following year, and on the strength of this the bailies and council carried out their first free election under the new regime on 1st October, 1689. At that election Dowhill himself was chosen provost. A more formal letter of gift, secured at Kensington on 4th January following, continued the privilege through all time coming. This duly passed the Great Seal, and was confirmed by Act of Parliament on 14th June, and the first election under its authority took place on 30th September, 1690. [Act. Par!. Scot. ix. p. 153; Burgh Records, 30th Sept., 1690.] For the carrying through of his purpose the provost spent 145 days in London, and his expenses over the business amounted to £3673 Scots. [Burgh Records, 1st Feb., 1691. Particulars of the negotiations regarding the free election of magistrates are given in the Leven and Melville Papers (Bannatyne Club), pp. 74, 85, 86, 142-4, 237-8.]


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