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The History of Glasgow
Volume 3 - Chapter XI - Glasgow in "the '15"


ALL other actions necessary for carrying on the affairs of the city were now to be called upon to give place to the first and supreme duty of all good government, an effort to protect the community from the threatened attack of an outside enemy.

On 1st August, 1714, Queen Anne died. Had her half-brother James been of a more energetic and enterprising disposition, or had he been inclined to adopt the Protestant faith, he might have made an immediate bid for the throne, which would not have been without some prospects of success. But he was none of these things. He let the psychological and vital moment pass. Thenceforth he was to be no more than "the Chevalier" or "the Pretender," according to the politics of the parties who made use of his name. His second cousin, the Elector of Hanover, great-grandson of James VI., and a Protestant, was duly proclaimed in Scotland on 4th August as King George I., and landed at Greenwich to assume the crown on 17th September.

When the royal proclamation was made in Glasgow an incident occurred which brought some discredit on the city. Part of the crowd present on the occasion made its way to a church where the English liturgy was used, and tore it down. The outrage was brought to the notice of the Lords of the Regency, who directed the Lord Advocate to make strict enquiry into the matter, as outrages of the kind had been frequent of late in the west of Scotland; but the perpetrators were never discovered. [Hill Burton, viii. 252.] Among the Jacobites the incident was cited as an evidence of the intolerance of the Hanoverian party, while by the supporters of the Government it was declared to be a put-up affair, designed to throw discredit on the party of King George. Possibly it was nothing but a late demonstration of the Covenanters' intolerance of Episcopacy. Similar riotous outrages took place at the same time in England. There, however, it was the Jacobite mob which burned the chapels of dissenters and plundered the houses of their ministers. [Tales of a Grandfather, iii. chap. vi.]

Almost immediately, however, the city fathers had the possibility of much more serious trouble to consider.

From the first, Glasgow had made quite clear its intention to support the Protestant succession to the Crown in the person of King George. In April 1714, when it was reported that the Elector's son, Prince George Augustus, was about to visit Britain, the magistrates had sent him a loyal letter with a burgess ticket conferring the freedom of the city, and on 16th August, after his father's accession, the Prince had graciously accepted the gift, writing from Hanover in French, and signing himself "George, Duke of Cambridge." Next, on 1st October, a fortnight after his landing in this country, the city sent King George himself a loyal address.

By the month of August in the following year the country had become full of the rumours of coming rebellion. The Earl of Mar, indignant that the seals of office as Secretary of State for Scotland had been taken from him and given to the Duke of Montrose, and alarmed at the coldness with which his too effusive protestations of loyalty were received at court, had fled, disguised as a seaman, in a coal gabbart to Scotland, and summoned the Highland chiefs to a great hunting at Braemar, to consider plans for a rising.

On the very day, the 26th of August, on which that gathering was held, with all its menace to the House of Hanover, the Provost of Glasgow reported the issue of a very pretty compliment which the city had paid to the Princess of Wales. Following the expressions of regard which had already passed between the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Town Council, the magistrates had taken occasion to send the Princess a gift of some pairs of the best plaids manufactured in the city. These plaids were presented in person by Mr. Smith, the city's member of Parliament, who was introduced into the royal presence by the Duke of Montrose. The gift was most graciously received by Her Royal Highness, a fact duly reported to the Town Council, both by the Duke and the member of Parliament.

It has been customary for narrators of this incident to set it down as nothing better than an astute device to advertise the city's wares; but there can be little question that, in view of the circumstances, it was something more disinterested, a gesture and assurance of loyalty when such a gesture and assurance were most needed, and most likely to be desired. If proof of this were required it is furnished by another gesture of the magistrates and Town Council reported at the same meeting. In view of "a designed invasion from abroad, signified by his Majesty's royal proclamations," the magistrates had called a meeting of the citizens "to concert measures most proper for their own security and the defence of his Majesty, and his government, and of our religion, laws, and liberties." At that meeting it had been resolved to address King George with an offer to provide a regiment of five hundred men, with ten captains and other officers, and to maintain it for sixty days at the city's expense. The offer had been presented to the King by the Duke of Montrose, and had been "very graciously received as a seasonable testimony of the city of Glasgow's singular zeal and affection." His Majesty, however, intimated that he did not desire to put the city to so heavy a charge, and believed that his own arrangements already made would sufficiently secure the safety of the kingdom. [Burgh Records, 26th Aug. 1715. In his letter on this occasion the Duke both began and ended by addressing the provost as "My Lord." Lord Townshend still more pointedly used the term.]

Almost immediately, nevertheless, the situation assumed a more serious aspect. On 6th September the Earl of Mar raised the standard of "James VIII. and III." in his own country on the upper Dee. The Jacobite gentry in the east and north of Scotland were known to be raising their vassals. And a plan was actually formed, and all but proved successful, for the surprise and capture of Edinburgh Castle. But for the folly of some of the conspirators and the treachery of others, the wall of the fortress above the sally port where Dundee had climbed to interview the Duke of Gordon on a memorable occasion twenty-six years before, would have been scaled, and the stronghold, with its great store of arms, ammunition, and treasure, secured for the Jacobite rebels.

The attempt was made on 8th September. On that same day the Duke of Argyll, as commander-in-chief and general of the army in Scotland, attended to receive his final instructions from King George at St. James's, and next morning set off to take command of the forces in North Britain. These, he found, amounted to no more than 1800 menófour regiments of foot of 257 men each, and four of cavalry of 200 men each. These General Wightman had wisely concentrated at Stirling, the key of the passage between the north of Scotland and the south; and the Duke, who arrived at Edinburgh on 14th September, at once began to collect reinforcements.

The place upon which he set most reliance in this matter, and the town to which he made his first appeal, was Glasgow. Immediately on reaching the capital he wrote a friendly letter to the Provost, saying he understood that the city had "a considerable number of well-armed men ready to serve his Majesty," and asking that a body of 500 or 600 be sent to Stirling under such officers as the magistrates and council might think fit to entrust with the command. [Hill Burton, viii. 273.]

The city promptly responded, and despatched a regiment of ten strong, well-officered companies, numbering between 600 and 700 men, under Colonel Blackadder, which reached Stirling on the 19th. This welcome reinforcement was cordially welcomed by the Duke, who reported the city's loyal promptitude to the King, with the result that the Provostónamed "my lord" in all these communications from the Courtóreceived a special letter of royal approval. [Burgh Records, 12th Oct. 1715.]

In the Duke's own letter of thanks he made the suggestion that the fencible men of the towns and districts round Glasgow should be embodied and brought together in the city. Again the magistrates took prompt action, and sent out letters to the neighbouring towns. Paisley was the first to respond and send in a contingent. It was followed by Kilmarnock, which had been alarmed by the sudden appearance on Sunday, 18th September, of two Glasgow citizens who vividly pictured the sudden descent of the Highland clans on the west country. In consequence, next morning, at daybreak, the townsmen met, and despatched a body of 220 men, who were followed, a day later, by the Earl of Kilmarnock, at the head of his tenantry, 130 strong. [Hill Burton, viii. 273.]

To complete the arming of the Glasgow men at Stirling and of others willing to serve, Provost Bowman procured an order from Argyll and brought four hundred firelocks and cartridge boxes from Edinburgh Castle. [Burgh Records, 12th Oct. 1715.] Otherwise the equipment and maintenance of the Glasgow contingent, which remained on garrison and field duty at Stirling for ten weeks, were paid for by the city. To meet this immediate expense the Town Council, after consulting the Merchants and Trades Houses, borrowed the sum of 0o sterling. [Burgh Records, 29th Oct. 1715.]

But the payment of its armed force was not the only expense forced upon the city by the Jacobite rising. On the advice of the Duke of Argyll, lines of entrenchment were hastily drawn round the town, substantial barricades were erected, and cannon were mounted for the defence of the place. After the defeat of the Jacobite army at Sheriffmuir, also, the city was burdened with the maintenance of 353 prisoners in the Bishop's Castle. These prisoners, it appears, required a guard of no fewer than one hundred men. [Ibid. 12th Dec. 1715.]

In the actual fighting at the battle of Sheriffmuir on Sunday, 13th November, the Glasgow levies suffered no loss. Though their able commander, Colonel Blackadder, declared them fit for action in the field, they were, greatly to his chagrin, appointed to the charge of keeping Stirling bridge. [Life of Colonel Blackadder, ch. xix.] The duty, though not exciting, was important enough, for it safeguarded the only avenue of retreat to Argyll's force, which was no more than four thousand strong, should it be overpowered by Mar's Highland army, at least three times its size.

As all the world knows, however, even the victorious right wing of the Highland army never swung further south than Dunblane. Though the Glasgow contingent remained in arms for another month, it saw no further service. By the middle of December Argyll's army was reinforced by British regiments, 6000 strong, which had been serving in Holland, and the Glasgow levies were allowed to go home.

Under the expert military direction of Colonel Maxwell of Cardoness the city kept up its preparations for defence till 9th February. There was the possibility to be guarded against of a raid by the Macgregors and other clansmen of the near Highlands. These clansmen had made an actual threatening demonstration on Loch Lomondside, where a military expedition had to be organised against them by the inhabitants of Dunbarton.1 And it had been necessary to maintain a garrison at the house of Gartartan, near Aberfoyle, to check any descent through the western passes. [Hill Burton, viii. 281; Irving's Dunbartonshire, p. 231. Hill Burton, Viii. 274.]

It was not till the month of February that all danger was deemed over. By that time the colourless "James VIII. and III.," who had landed seasick at Peterhead, too late to be of any use, had sailed again for France with his futile general, the Earl of Mar, leaving their followers to shift for themselves, and Argyll, marching to Aberdeen, had dispersed the last of the Jacobite army without firing a shot. That was on 8th February, 1716. On the 9th Glasgow ceased military precautions, and upon parting with Colonel Maxwell of Cardoness, presented him, as a token of gratitude for his services, with a silver tankard "weighting fourty eight unce thirteen drop, at seven shillings starline per unce, and a set of suggar boxes, weighting ninetein unce fourtein drop, at eight shillings per unce, and a server wing weighting thirty one unce and twelve drop at six shilling and four pence per unce." [Burgh Records, 12th March, 1716.] The entire cost of the gift, according to the council minutes, was £35 1s. 9d. sterling, and it was accompanied with an expression of the town's "favour and respect" for the colonel's good service.

This, however, was merely an item in the expense entailed upon the city by Mar's rebellion. Long lists of payments made by the burgh treasurer for various services, losses, and the like, appear from time to time in the council's minutes. There are charges for cartage of stones for the barricades, and cartage of the volunteers' baggage to Stirling, £16 16s. for the funeral of Walter Therms, who died at Stirling of his wounds, freight of the great guns from Port-Glasgow, express from the Highlands with news that the clans were in arms, express to Ayr with an officer sent to Ireland with orders for the regiments there to come to Scotland, tools and labour at the trenches, watching the guns at night, straw and water barrels for the prisoners at the castle, 5000 flint stones sent to Stirling; ale, coal, and candles for the town's guards; firelocks and bayonets, large quantities of gunpowder, etc. Besides the amount paid by the inhabitants for the subsistence of the six hundred volunteers sent to Stirling, the expenditure amounted to £19,987 12s. 4d. Scots, or £1665 13s. 2d. sterling. [Ibid. 23rd Dec. 1717.]

As might be expected, Glasgow itself was not without sympathisers with the Jacobite cause. Or perhaps, as in all wars, there were persons in the city willing to make profit out of supplying arms to the enemy. At any rate, in May 1715, three months before the rebellion broke out, it came to the knowledge of Provost Aird that arms were being put on board a vessel at the Broomielaw for shipment to the Highlands. Going in person to the harbour he found there, about to be shipped on board a boat of which, significantly, a Highlander named Macdonald was master, three chests of firelocks, bayonets, and pistols. These the Provost promptly confiscated, and lodged in the Tolbooth, and, when the Jacobite rising presently took place, they were used to equip certain of the Glasgow volunteers sent to join Argyll's forces at Stirling. [Ibid. 16th Feb. 1716.]

Altogether Glasgow must be held to have come with ample credit out of the trying emergency of the first Jacobite rebellion.


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