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Significant Scots
John Graham


GRAHAM, JOHN, viscount of Dundee GRAHAM, JOHN, viscount of Dundee, was the elder son of Sir William Graham of Claverhouse, an estate with an old castle attached near Dundee. The family of Claverhouse was a branch of that of Montrose, and the mother of the subject of his memoir was lady Jean Carnegie, third daughter of John, first earl of Northesk. Young Graham was educated between 1660 and 1670, at St Andrews university, where he distinguished himself by a proficiency in mathematics, by an enthusiastic passion for Highland poetry, and the zeal inherited from his family in behalf of the then established order of things in church and state. His abilities recommended him to the attention of archbishop Sharpe, whose death he afterwards revenged by so many severities. He commenced his military career as a volunteer in the French service, and when the British war with Holland was concluded, became a cornet in the guards of the prince of Orange, whose life he saved at the battle of Seneff, in the year 1674; a service for which he was rewarded by receiving a captain’s commission in the same corps. One of the Scottish regiments in the service of the States shortly after becoming vacant, from the favour of the prince, and his interest with the court of England, Graham was induced to offer himself as a candidate for it. It was, however, carried against him, in consequence of which he determined to abandon the Dutch service, and in 1677 returned to Scotland, bringing with him particular recommendations from the prince of Orange to king Charles, who appointed him captain to the first of three troops of horse which he was raising at that time for enforcing compliance with the established religion. Of all who were employed in this odious service, captain Graham was the most indefatigable and unrelenting. His dragoons were styled by the less serious part of the people, the ruling elders of the church; and recusancy was the great crime they had it in charge to repress. Conventicles, as they were called, the peaceable assemblies of the people in the open fields, to hear from their own ministers the word of God, were the objects against which Clavers, as he was called in contempt, had it in charge to wage an exterminating warfare; and to discover and bring to punishments such as frequented them, he spared not to practise the most detestable cruelties. But though the subject of this memoir was the most forward and violent, he was not the sole persecutor of the field preachers and their adherents. In every quarter of the country, particularly in the shire of Fife, and in the southern and western counties-there was a Sharp, an Earlshall, a Johnston, a Bannatyne, a Grierson, an Oglethorpe, or a Main, with each a host of inferior tyrants, who acted under him as spies and informers—in consequence of whose procedure no man was for a moment safe in his life or his property, either in house or in field, at home or abroad. Arms, of course, were necessarily resorted to by the sufferers, and a party of them falling in by accident with the primate Sharpe, in the beginning of May, 1679, put him to death, which excited the fears, and, of course, the rage of the whole of the dominant party to the highest pitch of extravagance; and in pursuit of the actors in that affair, and to put down all conventicles by the way, Claverhouse and his dragoons, with a party of foot, were immediately sent to the west.

Meanwhile a party in arms had assembled in Evandale, to the number of eighty persons, with Robert Hamilton of Preston at their head, and came to Rutherglen, on the 29th of May, the anniversary of the restoration - extinguished the bonfires that were blazing in honour of the day—and having burned the act of supremacy, the declaration, &c., published at the market cross of that burgh, a short testimony against all these acts, since known by the name of the Rutherglen Declaration, returned to Evandale. Sermon having been announced by some of their preachers on the approaching Sunday, June the first, in the neighbourhood of Loudon hill; Claverhouse, who it appears was either in Glasgow or its neighbourhood at the time, and had information both of what they had done and of what they intended to do, followed almost upon their heels, and on Saturday the 31st of May, surprised and made prisoners in the neighbourhood of Hamilton, Mr John King, and seventeen persons on their way to join the meeting at Loudon-hill. Tying his prisoners together, two and two, and driving them before him like cattle, to be witnesses to the murder of their brethren, he hasted on Sunday morning early, by the way of Strathaven, to surprise them before they should have time to be fully assembled. The service, however, was begun by Mr Thomas Douglas, who had been an actor in the publication of the Rutherglen Declaration on the preceding Thursday, before he could come up; and having notice of his approach, about fifty horsemen, and from one hundred and fifty to two hundred foot left the meeting, and met their persecutors at Drumclog, where, being united in heart and mind, and properly conducted, they in a few minutes routed the royal troops. Claverhouse himself narrowly escaped, with the loss of his colours, between thirty and forty of his men, and all his prisoners. Of the country people there were not above three killed and but few wounded. Claverhouse fled with the utmost precipitation to Glasgow, where he had left the lord Ross with a number of troops; and, had the covenanters pursued him, they might have been masters of the city the same day. They waited, however, till next day, before they attacked Glasgow, and the streets having been barricaded, they were repulsed with considerable loss by the troops, who were thus enabled to fight under cover. As the countrymen took up ground at no great distance, and as their numbers were rapidly augmenting, Claverhouse and lord Ross did not think it prudent to attempt keeping possession of Glasgow, but on the 3d of June, retreated towards Stirling, carrying along with them in carts a number of the wounded countrymen that had fallen into their hands, and on Larbert muir, in the neighbourhood of Falkirk, were joined by a body of the king’s forces under the earl of Linlithgow. Still they did not think themselves a match for the covenanters, and wrote to the council that it was the general sense of the officers, that his majesty should be written to for assistance from England without loss of time.

The duke of Monmouth was in consequence appointed to the command of the army; the whole of the militia were called out, and two regiments of dragoons under Oglethorpe and Main, then in summer quarters in the north of England, ordered to join them. On the 17th, Monmouth arrived at Edinburgh. He joined the army, which had been increased to upwards of ten thousand men, on the 19th, and on Sunday the 22d, confronted the poor insurgents in their original encampment upon Hamilton muir, and instead of making preparations to receive an enemy, quarrelling about the manner in which their grievances should be stated, or whether they were to supplicate or to fight; yet a part of the countrymen, with some pieces of cannon, stationed to defend the passage of Bothwell bridge, behaved with the coolness of veteran troops. After having maintained the unequal conflict for upwards of an hour, this little band of heroes were obliged to retreat for the want of ammunition. Monmouth’s whole force crossed by the bridge, and it was no longer a battle but a disorderly rout, every individual shifting for himself in the way he thought best. Claverhouse requested that he might be allowed to sack and to burn Glasgow, Hamilton, Strathaven, and the adjacent country, for the countenance they had given to the rebels, as he termed them, but in reality for the sake of spoil, and to gratify a spirit of revenge for the affront he sustained at Drumclog. This, however, the duke had too much humanity to permit. But he had abundant room for satiating his revenge afterwards, being sent into the west with the most absolute powers; which he exercised in such a manner as has made his very name an execration to this day.

In 1682, Claverhouse was appointed sheriff of Wigton, in which office his brother, David Graham was joined with him the year following. To particularize the murders and the robberies committed by the brothers, in the exercise of their civil and military callings, would require a volume. Ensnaring oaths and healths, Claverhouse himself had ever at his finger ends; and if any refused these, they were instantly dragged to prison, provided there was a prospect of making any thing out of them in the way of money; otherwise they had the advantage of being killed on the spot, though sometimes not without being victims of the most refined cruelty. This was particularly the case with regard to John Brown styled the Christian Carrier, whom Claverhouse laid hold of in a summer morning in 1685, going to his work in the fields. Intending to kill this innocent and worthy person, the persecutor brought him back to his own house, and subjected him to a long examination, before his wife and family. Being solidly and seriously answered, he tauntingly inquired at his prisoner if he was a preacher; and in the same spirit, when answered in the negative, remarked, "If he had never preached meikle, he had prayed in his time;" informing him at the same time that he was instantly to die. The poor unoffending victim addressed himself to the duty of prayer, along with his family, with all the fervour of a devout mind in the immediate prospect of eternity, and thrice by Claverhouse was interrupted by the remark, that he had got time to pray, but was beginning to preach. With one simple reply, that he knew neither the nature of praying nor preaching, the good man went on and concluded his address, without the smallest confusion. He was then commanded to take farewell of his wife and children, which he did with the most resigned composure, blessing them individually and wishing all purchased and promised blessings, along with his own, to be multiplied upon them. A volley from six of the troopers then scattered his head in fragments upon the ground; when Claverhouse, mounting his horse, as if to insult the sorrows of the woman whom he had wickedly made a widow, asked her what she thought of her husband now. "I thought ever much of him," was the reply "and now as much as ever." "It were justice," said he, "to lay thee beside him." "If ye were permitted," said the much injured woman, "I doubt not but your cruelty would carry you that length; but how will you make answer for this morning’s work? " "To man I can be answerable," said the audacious tyrant, "and for God, I will take him in mine own hand;" and putting spurs to his horse, galloped off, leaving the woman with her bereaved babes, and the corpse of her murdered husband, without a friend or neighbour that was not at some miles distance. The poor woman, borrowing strength from her despair, meantime set down her infant on the ground, gathered and tied up the scattered brains of her husband, straighted his body, wrapping it up in her plaid, and, with her infants around her, sat down and wept over him. Claverhouse had, in the year previous to this, been constituted captain of the royal regiment of horse, was sworn a privy counsillor, and had a gift from the king of the estate of Dudhope, and along with it the constabularyship of Dundee, then in the hands of Lauderdale, upon paying a sum of money to the chancellor.

On the accession of James VII. he was left out of the privy council, on pretence, that having married into the family of Dundonald, it was not fit that he should be intrusted with the king’s secrets. He was very soon, however, restored to his place in the council, had the rank of a brigadier-general bestowed on him in 1686, and some time afterwards, that of major-general. On the 12th of November, 1688, being then with the king in London, he was created a peer, by the title of viscount of Dundee and lord Graham of Claverhouse. This was a week after William prince of Orange had landed to reverse the order of things under which his lordship had reaped so much honour and preferment. When his majesty withdrew to Rochester, Lord Dundee strongly dissuaded him from leaving the kingdom, promising to collect ten thousand of his disbanded soldiers, to march through England, driving the prince of Orange before him. Happily for the country, and perhaps for Dundee, his advice was not taken, and still meditating mischief, he came to Edinburgh, bringing a troop of sixty horse along with him, which had deserted from his regiment in England. The westland men, however, who had come into the city of Edinburgh to protect the convention, till regularly authorized troops should be raised, had their eye upon him, as one who ought to be called to account for the many slaughters he had committed; and suspecting that he intended by the help of his dragoons, to add that of the lords Crawford and Cardross to the number, they mounted guard upon the lodgings of these two noblemen. This seemed to give great uneasiness to the lord Dundee, who in the convention which he attended only for a few days, was always putting the question, what was meant by bringing in the rabble; which not being answered to his lordship’s mind, he thought it prudent to retire from the city. General Mackay with fifteen troops of horse, by orders from the convention, pursued him through the shires of Perth, Angus, Aberdeen, Buchan, Banff, Moray, and Nairn. On the 1st of May, 1689, Dundee, with one hundred and fifty horse, joined Macdonald of Keppoch, who with nine hundred men had invested Inverness, partly because they had proclaimed the prince of Orange king, and partly for assisting the M’Intoshes, with whom he was at odds. The town, however, compromised the matter by a gift to Keppoch of two thousand dollars, Dundee acting the part of a mediator between them. He offered himself in the same character to M’Intosh; but the chieftain refused to submit to his dictation, for which they drove away his cattle, and divided them,—part to the use of the army, and part to Keppoch’s tenants. After having subsisted upon this booty along with Keppoch for upwards of six weeks, he, with his hundred and fifty horse, came unexpectedly upon the town of Perth, where he made some prisoners, seized upon a number of horses, and appropriated nine thousand marks of the king’s cess and excise. From Perth he marched upon Dundee, but the citizens shut their gates against him; and, unable to force an entrance, he turned aside to his own house at Dudhope. After occupying this mansion two nights he returned to Keppoch, whence, after a residence of six weeks, he marched into Badenoch to meet general Mackay and the laird of Grant, who had an army of nearly two thousand foot and upwards of two hundred horse. Mackay and Grant, though superior in numbers, retreated before him till they had passed Strathbogie. Dundee pursued with great ardour till he came to Edinglassy, where he learned that Mackay had received considerable reinforcements: after resting a few days, he returned to Keppoch. Here, besides recruits from Ireland, he was joined by Macdonald of the Isles with five hundred men, by Macdonald of Glengary, the captain of Clanronald, Sir John Maclean, Cameron of Lochiel, and others, each with a body of retainers eager to be led against the Sassenach, for the sake of their expatriated sovereign. Thus reinforced with an army of two thousand five hundred men, he advanced upon Blair in Athol. General Mackay being at Perth, hasted to meet him with an army of three thousand foot and two troops of horse. Marching through the pass of Killicranky, he found Dundee with his army posted on an eminence, ready to attack him as he emerged from that dangerous defile. Having little choice of position, Mackay drew up his men in line, three deep, as they could clear the defile, having a narrow plain before them, and behind them the craggy eminences they had just passed, and the deep and rapid water of Tummel. Dundee’s army was formed in dense masses, according to their clans, on an opposite eminence; whence about an hour before sunset they descended, in their shirts and doublets, with the violence of their own mountain torrents; and, though they received three fires, which killed a great number of them, before they reached Mackay’s lines, their attack was such as in the course of a few minutes threw nearly his whole force into irretrievable confusion. One or two of his regiments happily stood unbroken; and while he hasted with these to secure an orderly retreat, Dundee rode up at full speed to lead on the Macdonalds, to complete the victory: but as he was pointing them on to the attack, a random shot struck him below the armpit, and he fell from his horse mortally wounded. He was carried into a neighbouring cottage, where he died the same night, July 27, 1689. In his grave were buried the fruits of his victory, and for a time the best hopes of his party, who, while they eulogized his character in the language of unmeasured panegyric, could not help seeing that the cause of legitimacy, in Scotland, perished with him. It is hardly necessary to remark, that this anticipation was fully justified by the event.

Lord Dundee was married to the honourable Jean Cochrane, third and youngest daughter of lord William Cochrane, brother to the earl of Dundonald, by whom he had issue one son, who died in infancy. Of his character, after the brief detail which we have given of his actions, it is scarcely necessary to speak more particularly. That he was free from many of the debasing vices which disgraced the greater part of his associates, we have seen no reason to doubt; but if he was less sensual, he was more haughty, more perseveringly active, and more uniformly and unrelentingly cruel in the exercise of those illegal powers which he was called upon by a most unprincipled court to exercise, than all his coadjutors put together.


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